NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007
Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 16, 2007
Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Speed: calm
Sea Wave Height: none
Cloud cover: Partly Cloudy
Science and Technology Log
Today’s mariner word: Athwart (pronounced a-thwart) Athwart is a directional word that means “across.” The ship’s “hallway” is the known as the athwartship passageway! Two other directional words are important to know too, “fore” indicates forward, and “aft” indicates the rear part of the ship. Today was a training day. It was fun learning all sorts of new words (or learning about new contexts for the some of the words I already know. There is something really fun about getting out our your world (most of mine spent on land) and voyaging into some one else’s. Moving just beyond your “comfort zone” makes you appreciate that no matter how much you know there is always something worth learning.
Ships are well-run organizations. There is a chain of command for communication purposes that ensures that even in the most difficult situations, someone knows what should be done, in what order, where it needs to happen, and when. This is a good arrangement in case of an emergency, but also to help the ship run smoothly as it prepares to travel or when it is underway.
An example of this happened today when I heard the announcement “All hands on deck for stores.” Which means, “okay everyone, the food and supplies for our next voyage are here and we need to bring them onboard.” They are brought from the dock to the ship’s deck, from the ship’s deck to elevator, and from the elevator to the correct storerooms a few levels below the main deck. We made a “fire line” and worked together passing the boxes from one person to another. Everyone helped-out and in a short period of time, an entire truckload of supplies to feed and maintain 60 people for a 16-day voyage were stored. (Many hands make light work. Many well-organized and hard-working hands make it VERY light work.)
I learned about the hand’s (people who work on the ship) schedules and assignments in order to learn when and where I can expect to see people, and what they will most likely be doing. I studied the ship’s diagrams and found the library on my own! I don’t think I will need to leave breadcrumbs anymore to find my way around. I leaned about Emergency Escape Breathing Devices; what they are, how they work, and how to use them. There are, in short, carbon dioxide scrubbers! I also learned about the RAINIER’s procedures, by reading a binder labeled “Standing Orders,” which provided good background on how everyone on board is expected to work, what to do in case of an emergency, and what emergency communication sounds like.
The CO (Commanding Officer) spent time explaining how to get additional information for my logs. The FOO (yes, sounds as it is spelled) Field Operations Officer was very helpful in providing me information about how work is planned, how to get additional graphics resources for my lessons, and what to learn about so I would have a great cruise. He also asked me what I wanted to get from my experience. XO (Executive Officer) made sure I had provided them with the information they needed for emergency contacts. The Junior officers are also very professional, helpful and informative. Chief Electronic – passwords and email account, and then there are two hands that helped train me on how and when to use my safety equipment and wear my survival suit.
We were underway by 1800 hours (6pm), and watching the crew get the ship underway was organized and efficient. Try to imagine what it would be like to coordinate, simultaneously, 60 crew members that each have a task, switching power supplies, testing systems, starting engines, testing the bow thruster, lowing a skiff for off-boat rope management, managing the ropes from the dock to the boat, raising the skiff back onto the ship while underway using a crane, while lowering the ropes and stowing them properly below deck. Meanwhile the officers are navigating busy ship channels (4 cruise ships in the bay, a gill net fishing boat, and ferries.). Did I mention that dinner needed to be served to the entire crew during 1700 hours? This team of people is amazing.
I could picture many of my students having a great time as a crewmember on this research vessel. I hope that I can bring back enough information to help my students see themselves as researchers, mariners, merchant marines, or join the NOAA Officers corp.
Question of the Day
What is the distance in nautical miles (nm) between Juneau and the entrance to Peril Strait? If we travel at 10 knots, how long will it take us to get there?