NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
May 17 – May 27, 2010
NOAA ship Fairweather
Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE Alaska, from Petersburg, AK to Seattle, WA
Dates: Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18
Weather Data from the Bridge
Position: Petersburg to Ketchikan
Time: 0800 on 5/18
Latitude: 550 18.4’ N
Longitude: 1310 29.1’ W
Visibility: 10 miles
Winds: 10 knots from the NE Waves: Less than one foot
Dry Bulb Temperature: 13.50C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 13.00C
Barometric Pressure: 1004.0 mb
Tides (in feet):
High @ 0358 of 15.8
Low @ 1038 of ‐1.5
High @ 1711 of 13.6
Low @ 2246 of 3.9
Science and Technology Log
The main purpose of the Fairweather is to conduct hydrographic surveys which measure the depth and bottom configuration along SE Alaska. This work assists in the production of nautical charts and ensures safe navigation in the U.S. The surveys also identify sea‐floor materials, dredging areas, cables, pipelines, wrecks and obstructions. The Fairweather supports a variety of activities such as port and harbor maintenance (dredging), coastal engineering (beach erosion and replenishment studies), coastal zone management, and offshore resource development. Hydrographic surveys are conducted primarily by using side scan and multibeam sonar. SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) uses sound waves to find and identify objects in the water and determine water depth.
Side scan sonar is most useful to locate sea‐floor features and possible obstructions, but does not provide depth information. While multi‐beam sonar systems emit sound waves directly beneath the ship’s hull to produce fan‐shaped coverage of the sea floor. These systems measure and record the time elapsed between the emission of the signal to the sea floor or object and back again. Multi‐beam sonar produces a “swath” of soundings (i.e., depths) to ensure full coverage of an area.
Safety is hugely important while out at sea. Today we performed two safety drills, a fire/emergency situation, and an abandon ship drill. During the first drill I reported to the mess hall (dining area), and a fire was supposedly going in the paint room. When more help was needed I and one of the engineers scurried to the bow (front) of the ship and climbed down a hatch to help determine if the “fire” was spreading. Moments after that we tested two of the ship’s fire hoses, which definitely work. A little while later another alarm sounded signaling an abandon ship drill. For this I needed to go to my room and get my survival suit, and life vest, and then reported to my life raft. Practicing these drills is vital to life at sea. The officers of the Fairweather also become firefighters and we all need to communicate and work together to ensure everyone’s safety.
Let me start off by saying that I feel like I have won a science teacher lottery. I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to represent New Rochelle High School, and be part of a science research cruise. My first two days in SE Alaska have been absolutely amazing. I flew from New York to Seattle, and then on to Anchorage, AK. I spent one night there and then in the morning flew to Petersburg, with a brief stop at the Juneau airport. Once on the ground in Petersburg I was met and picked up by the Executive Officer (XO) and a Junior Officer (JO). Within two minutes of being on the ground I was asked if I would like to play softball. I told him I could be considered “a ringer”.
The setting was truly surreal. There were snow capped mountains in all directions, and I spotted my first bald eagle of my trip. We played 7 innings on a gravel ballfield; with members of both the Fairweather and its sister ship The Rainier, which is being serviced currently. I smacked the ball around pretty good and almost made a sliding catch in the outfield. Once the game was over (we lost), I went to dinner with some of the ships officers. After a long night in town, I finally made it to the Fairweather. We spent most of Monday at the dock, waiting for the tide to come up. The first stretch of the journey is a place called Wrangell Narrows. As the name implies it is a very narrow stretch of water and it is best for a ship the size of the Fairweather to pass at high tide. The first few hours of the trip were absolutely beautiful. From the time on the ship until now I must have seen over a dozen bald eagles, almost too many to count. From there we entered Sumner Strait, and then went through Snow Pass and into Clarence Strait. Next, after dark (the sun does not set until 9 p.m., and it is not dark until an hour or so after that), we cruised through Nicholls Passage and in the morning through Tongass Narrows and into the port of Ketchikan.
Dinner the first night was delicious; I had roasted eggplant ragout over polenta, with roasted broccoli on the side. Yum. I have heard people onboard say that the Fairweather has the best food in the NOAA fleet and I already agree. After a long nights sleep, our first day of work started. At 0800 there was a safety briefing on the stern (back) of the ship. The two survey teams were launched from the ship. Those who stayed onboard went into Ketchikan to get almost 30,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel. For dinner the second night I had Halibut with a curried corn sauce, mushroom risotto, and snap peas. Again it was great. In my next log I will show you some of the ships facilities.
Animals Seen Today
Bald Eagles – so many I lost count, at least a dozen
A few people said that bald eagles in Alaska are as common as pigeons in New York. A few seals while in Petersburg
Many other birds while out at sea