Richard Coburn, July 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Coburn
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 16 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: July 16, 2007

Weather Data from the bridge

Temperature: 56 degrees
Wave height: negligible
Cloud: Cloudy and Fog
Visibility: ¼ mile or less

Personal Log 

The commute from Hartford, Connecticut to Juneau, Alaska was very long. I began my journey by saying good bye to my wife and three young daughters; they understood for the next three weeks, I was starting an awesome adventure.  The plane took off from Bradley international airport at 12:10 p.m. and we headed to Detroit Michigan.  Laid over in Detroit for an hour and then transferred to another flight to Seattle, Washington. In Seattle I transferred to an entirely different airline to arrive in Ketchikan, Alaska from there we flew to Juneau, the time in Alaska was 1:35 am very dark yet comfortably warm. My travel plans were quite clear but a bit complicated.  I boarded a flight to Detroit, then to Seattle, next to Ketchikan, Alaska and finally Juneau, Alaska.

The ship is equipped with two General Motors EMD diesel engines that transmit 1,200 horse power each. These engines are forty years old and they still run reliably and are kept remarkably clean
The ship is equipped with two General Motors EMD diesel engines that transmit 1,200 horse power each. These engines are forty years old and they still run reliably and are kept remarkably clean

The first thing I learned was that while the tickets indicate the gate to arrive in, and where to board the next plane, these are only best guesses, often changes happen at airports so flexibility and vigilance is critical. Airports handle all sorts of air traffic with myriad of travel conditions.  If one flight is delayed it impacts others and causes shifts in the gates.  The gate often changes so it is wise to check the ticket (which was printed hours earlier) to ensure it still has valid information on it. Changes happen and it is better to be safe by checking (at the individual airport gate) rather than wait in the wrong area and miss a flight.

In Seattle, I discovered the information on the ticket was inaccurate I had to move via subway to the new gate.  The plane then was delayed due to weather conditions in Ketchikan; we boarded an hour and a half later than scheduled.  We touched down in Juneau at 12:05am but I was still operating on east coast time (it is four hours later on the east coast). Obviously I was very tired. When we arrived many of the passengers were surprised to discover that their luggage had not been placed on the plane.  I was among those without luggage.  Should this happen to you, I recommend the following.

First, do not panic, while I was getting upset, I had to keep my emotions in check.  There is much the clerk can do to help me but I first must provide the details, if I expressed my frustration and dissatisfaction with them (I noticed other passengers doing this) it would only make matters worse.  They collected my information and I headed to the motel.  I was trying to problem solve my situation by imaging different scenarios in the event that my luggage was not found.  One of my major concerns was could I find size fourteen boots in Juneau, Alaska on a Sunday afternoon.

Starboard Engine with one valve cover removed
Starboard Engine with one valve cover removed

Eureka!  My luggage was found and within a few hours it was delivered to me at the hotel intact. Now on to the ship! The ship is very large and stable. Here is a link to show you some of the particulars of the RAINER.

Science and Technology Log 

Ship Info 

  • The RAINER has a cruising Speed of 12.5 knots
  • Range is 5898 Nautical miles
  • Fuel capacity is 107,000 gallons
  • Fuel type #2 Diesel
  • Fuel consumption 120 gallons per hour

I have been given a tour of the engine room by my roommate Chris Zacharias; he works as an oiler in the engine room.

Chris Zacharias, my bunkmate, gave me a tour of the engine room.

Chris works maintaining the equipment on the smaller launches as well as working primarily in the engine room but he has responsibilities located all around the ship.  Interestingly enough this is normal procedure for the entire crew.  While on land we have individual who specialize in only one thing.  Out on the open ocean it is not uncommon for the folks to do many different tasks; in fact everyone has to develop an intuition and recognition of the inter-dependence of the entire community.  Chris was kind enough to show me the engine room.  He did so with an obvious pride, he has pride in his work and he demonstrates this pride with his enthusiasm for his work aboard the RAINIER.

The first thing that struck me was how clean the engine room was. Everything was stowed away and neat.  The apparent care and planning as well as tremendous attention to detail was evident every where I looked. All the surfaces are painted and clearly marked. Even the piping has tags on them.  All the valves are labeled for easy recognition.  There is no visible grease or grime anywhere. Click the following link to get more info about the engine room.