John Schneider, August 2-3, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: FISHPAC
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: August 2-3, 2009

Bristol Bay, AK

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: Low pressure
Barometer: falling rapidly afternoon of the 3rd (as low as 994 mB)
Wind: building through the 3rd to 45 kts
Low Temperature: 8.6º C
Sea State: 10-15 feet afternoon of the 3rd 

I was wondering when . . . It’s now!!!
I was wondering when . . . It’s now!!!

Science and Technology Log 

One of the aspects of hydrographic surveying and research out of sight of land for extended periods of time is that the days and nights blur into an uninterrupted continuum.  At breakfast today, LT Andrews said, “It’s Tuesday.” I said, “Is it?” and he responded that “It’s always Tuesday at sea.”  I asked “Why not Wednesday, at least then it’s ‘hump day’ to the weekend?”  He answered that sometimes it seems you’re never closer to anything.  It was a fun exchange, but as the FISHPAC leg continues, I am realizing that the idea is spot-on accurate.  Coupling the “sameness” of the days, with the fact that the ship is on 24-hour operations, it’s easy to get confused!

SeaBoss on the deck. In the background, the wave tops are being blown off the waves!
SeaBoss on the deck. In the background, the wave tops are being blown off the waves!

We’re using SeaBoss to grab samples every three to five hours and I’m learning about some of the relationships between bottoms and infauna.  Significant, however, is the fact that almost regardless of sea state, SeaBoss gets deployed. I say “almost” for a reason. Legs 9 and 10 of the FISHPAC survey (as shown on a previous log) are in a North Easterly direction. Two days ago we received a weather update anticipating a strong low pressure system approaching.  As we went through the day of the 3rd, the barometer was falling rapidly, the wind ramped up continuously and seas grew to 10-15 feet. By early afternoon it became impossible to deploy SeaBoss safely and the CO ordered us to suspend operations and head for Hagemeister Island in order to anchor behind it.

Notice to the right of the SeaBoss – that’s a wave breaking onto the fantail!
Notice to the right of the SeaBoss – that’s a wave breaking onto the fantail!

We arrived there at 2000 hours (8 pm) and anchored. I took about a 10 minute video of the waves and the ship getting tossed around. I’ll try to post it when I get home next week. In the early 1800’s, Sir Francis Beaufort devised a scale to estimate wind speed based on the appearance of the ocean’s surface.  It is a scale from 1-12 that correlates the appearance of the ocean surface with wind speed.  It is called, appropriately enough, the Beaufort Scale and we experienced a solid 7 on the scale.

Personal Log 

Commissioned mariners
Commissioned mariners

Exhausting but exhilarating! Anyone who takes the majesty and power of the sea for granted should undergo a thorough psychological exam! The officers on the Fairweather are commissioned mariners.  In order to join the NOAA Corps of officers, one needs to be less than 42 years old and a college graduate. It is preferred that the undergraduate major be in the  physical sciences, math, engineering or computer science. These are exceptionally qualified uniformed servicemen and women of the United States.  A career with NOAA as an officer is rewarding and in service to the nation. It is a career I will certainly discuss with my future students.

Something to Think About 

Just about everybody has heard of Latitude and Longitude, but what do they mean and how are they measured?

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