NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006
Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 18, 2006
The ship’s Executive Officer (XO) is LCDR E.J. Van Den Ameele. The XO is responsible for the administration of the ship. He is synonymous with the principal of a school! He supervises each department, supervises the officers, and handles the budget, logistics, and personnel.
Field Operations Officer (FOO) LT Jennifer Dowling is the project manager for the activities that go on when conducting hydrography operations. She describes some of her duties. “I am the liaison between the ship and scientists when they are aboard conducting their own missions. I determine what my resources are (qualified personnel, working boats, up-to-date equipment and software), and create daily plans to accomplish each mission. I evaluate all data once it is processed and submit it to the CO who will send it off for final evaluation and publication. I also keep candy at my desk to lure junior officers and survey techs over so that I may give them jobs to do!”
Junior Officers (JOs) include ENS Jonathan French, ENS Matthew Glazewski, ENS Wendy Lewis, and ENS Allison Martin. Their duties include maintaining weather and deck logs, assisting in training the crew, planning for emergencies on board, acting as an Officer of the Deck (OOD), assisting with positioning of beacons and lights, and most importantly NAVIGATING THE SHIP!
ENS Glazewski, a 2005 graduate of Penn State University, recalls, “like many people from PA, I always thought of Alaska as the little inset on the map of the US. After moving here and driving around on the FAIRWEATHER, I’ve realized just how amazingly huge Alaska is, and how each area of the state has its own personality, climate, wildlife, terrain, and rugged beauty.”
ENS Allison Martin shares a memorable moment of her job, saying, “one of my duties on board is Assistant Horizontal Control Officer. Basically, this means that when we have a project that includes a beacon or another Aide to Navigation (ATON) we must get a precise position of it for the charts. In order to do this Grant Froelich and I get to climb up, often very tall, rocks or structures to reach the light. On our last project in the Gulf of Esquibel (near Ketchikan, AK), we got to climb up a 105-foot tall rock. That’s 10 stories high! It was a lot of fun.”
Chief Survey Tech, Lynn Morgan describes her job: “My position as chief is to run the survey department and to ensure that the survey equipment is available and in good working order. Most of our acquisition and processing of data is on computers, so there is a lot of installing and troubleshooting of software. Standard operating procedures are necessary to ensure quality data is collected and submitted, so the survey department maintains documentation on our procedures and trains new survey personnel and junior officers.”
Lynn shares a personal story about her life on the ship. “One of the most rewarding aspects of this job for me personally, besides getting to learn about hydrography from really sharp people, is that I’m getting to see what life was like for my father when he was on this ship 20 years ago. He was in the NOAA Corps and still works for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, so it’s a lot of fun to chat with him now about ‘ship stuff’ and to be able to relate to what he was doing when he wasn’t home.”
Electronics Technician (ET) Richard Conway can be seen doing all kinds of necessary jobs around the boat from repairing computers to establishing communications for the ship. “After several weeks of being on board and learning the layout of my sate room, I found out that I could navigate in my room in the dark without turning the light on. Well one night I went to the bathroom and being I did not want any bright lights in my eyes, I navigated my way in the dark. After flushing the toilet I suddenly saw all these green and white sparks start flashing in the bowl. ‘Oh no, what did I do?’ Being half asleep, my first thought was I had accidentally knocked something electrical into the toilet so I turned on the lights. I saw nothing…nada, zippo. By then my brain was more awake and I remembered the FAIRWEATHER uses seawater to flush its toilets. What I was seeing were the little critters, phytoplankton and zooplankton, that give off bioluminescence when excited. In this case it was the agitation from flushing. So I turned off the lights and waited for my eyes to adjust. I then flushed several more times, each time enjoining the light show. Don’t tell anybody but I was pretending I was at a 4th of July fireworks show complete with Oooooo and Ahhhhh sound effects!”
I have to admit that living on a ship with all of these people can be quite challenging, but so enjoyable at the same time. It is almost like teaching middle school! They all make me laugh all the time! The camaraderie on board is great. We often sit at meals joking around and sharing stories. Everyone is of varying ages and backgrounds and from different parts of the United States, so they have many interesting experiences to share and a wealth of knowledge to pour out. Each night there are movies to watch and it is fun to get together with the others onboard to hangout in the evening after all your work is complete. There is a very apparent team effort when on the FAIRWEATHER which is very important for completing tasks that are as cutting edge as the research that these scientists are doing! I am grateful to those aboard the FAIRWEATHER for making me feel so welcome and teaching me so much that I will be able to take back to use in my science classroom!