Barbara Koch, October 3, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 39.72
Longitude -72.16
Speed 11.30 kts
Course 289.00
Wind Speed 25.11 kts
Wind Dir. 69.68 º
Surf. Water Temp. 19.78 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 33.94 PSU
Air Temperature 16.40 ºC
Relative Humidity 71.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1016.80 mb
Water Depth 121.67 m
Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010

Science and Technology Log

Safety is very important on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. We participated in a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship drill today. Each person on board is assigned a location to “muster” (gather) in case of emergencies. For a fire drill, all scientists are to carry their life vest and survival suit and muster in the lounge directly across from my stateroom. Life vests and survival suits are kept in the staterooms, so we are to grab those and get to the lounge as quickly as possible.

Fire drill
Fire drill

The fire drill began while the day watch was in the wet lab, one level below my stateroom. The scenario was that there was a “fire” on the 01 deck beside the lounge. That was right where my stateroom and the lounge were! Since we couldn’t get to our staterooms to gather our survival suits and life vests or muster in the lounge, due to the “fire,” we grabbed extra life vests and suits from the wet lab and mustered in the mess hall, which is near the wet lab.

Once everyone was accounted for during the fire drill, we moved out to the back deck of the ship for our Abandon Ship drill. Each person on board was assigned a life boat, and that is where we mustered for the Abandon Ship drill. First, we put on our life vests and made sure they were secured tightly. Next, we took off the life vests and put on our survival suits, which are often called “Gumby Suits” because they are large and look a lot like the animated Gumby character from the 1960’s. The survival suit is bright orange and is made out of neoprene. This makes the suit waterproof and very warm. The zipper and face flap are designed to keep water out, as well. Other features of the suits include reflective tape for greater visibility in the ocean, a whi8stle, a water-activated strobe light, a buddy line to attach to others, and an inflatable bladder behind the head to lift one’s head out of the water.

In my 'Gumby' suit
In my ‘Gumby’ suit

Boots and mittens are attached so that all one has to do is jump into the suit and zip it up. It’s not that easy, however. The arm cuffs are very tight, so it takes some strength to push your hands through. It also takes strength to pull the zipper all the way up to the center of your face. All personnel aboard the ship must be able to put this suit on and abandon ship in one minute. I was able to put my suit on in the allotted time, but we didn’t have to abandon the ship during the drill.

My stateroom
My stateroom

Personal Log

Living on a ship is an interesting experience. Space is at a premium, but the Henry B. Bigelow is actually quite comfortable. The scientists told me that this ship has a lot more amenities than some of the other research ships. My stateroom is small and narrow, but roommates are normally working on separate watches, so no one feels cramped or without personal space. You can see in this photo that the room has two bunk beds. Mine is on top, and it has been a fun challenge trying to get in and out of bed when the ship is rocking! I haven’t fallen yet! Each bunk has a curtain that can be pulled closed to darken your sleeping area, if you are sleeping during daylight hours. There is also a desk with latched drawers, so they don’t fly open when the ship is in rough waters. Bungee cords are attached to the walls and desks to hold chairs and large items in place, too. It’s important to keep everything tied down and in the locker so it doesn’t role around and get damaged, or make noise. I learned the importance of that my first night on rough seas when hangers were banging in my locker.

The Head
The Head

My stateroom also has its own “head” (bathroom). The term “head” comes from long ago when boats were powered by the wind. Sailors had a grated area at the front or “bow” of the boat where they could use the bathroom. It was at the front of the boat so bad odors would blow away from the rest of the ship. The figurehead was also attached at the front, so it became common practice to refer to that area as the “head.” The head in my room has a toilet that flushes, and is much nicer than the heads of days gone by, thank goodness!

These are all great amenities, but the best part of my stateroom is the view! First thing every morning, I pull back the curtain to see what’s going on outside. One morning I saw several dolphins jumping out of the water as they moved swiftly toward our ship. Most days, I’ve seen fog, rain, and roiling waves, but I still enjoy looking out and seeing nothing but water as far as the eye can see, and sometimes, a beautiful sunset.


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