NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
July 8 – August 10, 2010
Mission: TOA (Tropical Ocean Atmosphere) Cruise
Geographical area of cruise: Equatorial Pacific (120Ε W Long – 95Ε W Long)
Date: Sunday, 11 July 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Cloud cover: 6/8 (75%)
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind speed: 12 knots at 320Ε
Barometric pressure: 1015.2 mb
Air temperature: 18.6ΕC (65.5ΕF) Ocean is relatively calm with 2 – 4 foot seas
Science and Technology Log
We left the San Diego Naval Base at approximately (0830 hours) 8:30 am Friday morning (9 July) under a gray and overcast sky with the temperature in the low 60’s. Our original departure date was delayed one day to repair one of the ship’s cranes that had some mechanical problems (specifically it was a problem with the anti-two-block, a device that prevents the crane operator from hoisting too much of the cable up and jamming the cable into the boom arm).
After the problem was resolved to the captain’s satisfaction we pulled away from the pier and headed for the fueling station that is near the entrance to San Diego harbor. Fueling took several hours. First the ship slowly approached the fueling pier and maneuvered in close enough for heaving lines to be tossed from the deck to the fueling team. Large mooring lines were then pulled over and the ship was secured to the pier. At this point one of the ship’s cranes raised a gangway off the deck and lowered it into place between the ship and the pier where it was secured with flexible mounts to allow the ship to rise and fall while fueling took place.
With fueling complete we left the harbor and headed out to sea at about 1730 hours (5:30 pm) toward our first target buoy located at approximately 33.5ΕNorth latitude and 120ΕWest longitude. This buoy is near South Santa Rosa Island, California and is in water with a depth of approximately 1021 meters (3350 feet) and took us the better part of the night and half the following morning to reach. The buoy measures general weather and sea conditions: Air & Sea temperatures, wave height, wind direction and speed (both average and maximum gusts), and atmospheric pressure. The buoy is also fitted with a GPS unit. All of the sensors transmit to a satellite every hour and the data is uploaded to an internet site where there is public access at the NDBC (National Data Buoy Center). The purpose of our visit to the buoy was to replace the payload. The payload is an electronic circuit box about the size of a breadbox. It contains the hardware and software that controls the buoy’s sensors. After the payload was replaced the system was checked by verifying the output three times. After completed we began our long cruise (7 days) to the 110ΕW longitude line. We will begin working on the TOA buoys at 8Ε north of the equator and work our way to the 8Ε south buoy. This will involve repairing some buoys that have been damaged and completely replacing others that have been lost.
As I mentioned earlier the ship’s departure was delayed one day. I therefore, rented a room in a hotel for one night in downtown San Diego. As I was checking into the hotel at the main desk the building began to quietly rumble, the counter shook, the floor moved, and the lights above us began to sway somewhat. Those of us who were standing at the counter looked at each other with wide eyes when we realized we were in the middle of an earthquake! Fortunately the quake only lasted for a few seconds and little if any damage was done. Later that night I was watching the news in my room and the reports stated that the earthquake had a magnitude of 5.4 and more than likely took place along the San Jacinta fault – a fault that runs approximately parallel to but east of the famous San Andreas Fault. The next day (Friday) we boarded the ship in the late morning and I helped here and there with loading the last minute supplies (especially numerous cases of ice cream!) My state room is small but comfortable. I have a head (bathroom) that I share with the state room next to me. That room is occupied by the assistant steward, Mike.
Earlier in the day I was feeling somewhat seasick so I went up on deck to get some fresh air. While there I noticed a dolphin swimming about 200 yards from the ship parallel to us. I kept him in sight for several minutes until he final faded from view. In addition, as we were all in the mess having dinner, one of the crew announced from the bridge that whales were spotted off the port side of the ship. I went up to take a look a bit later and could see them spouting – although they were too far to identify the species.