Kaci Heins: September 16-18, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011

Me in front of the Rainier.

Weather Data From The Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 9 miles
Wind: North North West 11 knots (One knot = 1.15 miles)
Waves: Wind waves 1-2 feet
Temperature Wet Bulb: 11.9 degrees Celsius
Dry Bulb: 12.1 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1017.2 millibars
Latitude – 50 degrees North
Longitude – 125 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

We will not be to our hydrographic survey destination until Tuesday so I thought I would write about the science of keeping this large research vessel heading in the right direction.   My second day on the Rainier I was able to head up to the bridge today to see how the ship is run.  The bridge is where NOAA Commissioned Officers command the ship, or make and execute decisions to keep the ship safe and on course.  There is at least one officer of the deck (OOD) and one helmsman on the bridge, but they don’t want too many more than that because it starts to get too crowded.  Since I was one more body in the room I tried to stay towards the back to make observations and ask questions when the officers were not busy.

This was a neat experience for me because I am able to see science, social studies, math, and language arts all being used at the same time.  Many of the officers carry notebooks with them to write down important information almost like science notebooks.

Officer Gonsalves' notebook.

There are also deck logs, which are legal records of everything that happens on the boat from spills to when the CO comes up on the bridge.  Commands between officers are verbally given  and then repeated to ensure that the correct orders were given and that there is confirmation that they were received.  There is also a lot of math being used on the bridge as distances are calculated, calibrations are made, and speed is documented.  For social studies and science, sunrise and sunset data is collected for the logs based on latitude and longitude for our position.  This can be important for when they need a lookout, for the deck log, and to overall know what to expect so that they can have the resources they need.  For science, we had to collect data each hour about the current weather.  The weather data above is what I collected with one of the officers this morning on the bridge.  The barometer is an instrument that measures

Nautical Chart of the Inside Passage

the atmospheric pressure.  This means if the barometric pressure drops then there is probably a storm coming.  This information is really important for the officers to know so that they can make decisions in regards to how to keep the ship and its occupants safe.

There is also a lot of technology in the bridge.  First, there is the radar which is a backup in case the GPS (Global Positioning System) happens to fail.  GPS and the radar are two separate pieces of technology, but are both helpful with navigation.  There are two radars that the ship uses.  They are X and S band radar.  Both of the radar help produce a picture of the surrounding area, which is helpful for imaging traffic and hazards.  However, radar does not give the ship’s position. The S band radar has a wavelength of 10cm, which allows it to penetrate rain better, but does not have great resolution.  X band radar has a 3 cm wavelength which has great resolution, but it cannot travel as far.  GPS is used for the positioning of the boat as we travel to do our work.

Personal Log

My travel day from Flagstaff to Seattle went really well yesterday as we headed up for our first stop at Ulloa Channel. No flights were delayed and no lost luggage. When I first saw the Rainier I was so excited! It is a fairly large. Rainier is a ship with five 30-foot survey launches and two small boats.  I had a thorough tour of the boat where I got to see everything from the bridge to the engine room. All of the crew have been very welcoming and helpful as well. My room is nice and so is my roommate Andrea.

My State Room

I actually expected to have less room and storage than we actually have. It reminds me a lot of a college dorm including the fact I have the top bunk! The scenery here is so beautiful with all the green pine trees next to the ocean. However, it is pretty cold! I’m so glad I brought my hat, gloves, and winter coat!

Immersion Suit Training!

Safety is very important on all the NOAA ships so I have been getting all of my trainings and briefings today before we left Seattle. I have to wear closed-toe shoes all the time on the ship unless I am in my stateroom. I have to be careful going up and down the stairs, (they are really steep), making sure to pick my feet up higher when I go through doorways, and overall being mindful that I don’t put myself or others in a dangerous situation. I then had to make sure my hard hat fit well and I had to put on my Immersion Suit. An Immersion Suit is also known as a survival suit in case we happen to go overboard.  These suits are made of  neoprene, which is a waterproof material, and can significantly improve your chances of survival in the event that we end up in the ocean.  My suit has a flashlight, it is BRIGHT orange, and it has a whistle so that I could be easily spotted in an emergency.  Today during our abandon ship drill we had to meet at our location, check to make sure everyone was there, and then put on our survival suits.  Even though we may look silly when we are wearing these, it is so important that we know exactly what we need to do in this particular emergency.  The last thing they want on the boat is for people to panic.  Finding our drill locations through practice and wearing the suits prepares us for what to expect so that we can calmly react in these situations.  I am very glad that I had the trainings and the drills so that I know exactly how to respond if it were are in a real-life situation.

Animals Seen Today

Orca off the port side of the Rainier.

Blue Heron

Canadian Geese

Sea Otter


Question of the Day

3 Replies to “Kaci Heins: September 16-18, 2011”

  1. Hi, it’s great you got to go on the Rainier and go up to the bridge to see how it works. Both Anna and I think it’s so cool that you got to see an orca/killer whale next to the boat. Anna and I were wondering if you could take some pictures underwater for us.

    Thanks, SHAWNA MOORE

    1. Hi Shawna! It was amazing to see an Orca whale! I couldn’t believe my eyes because I have only seen whales in theme parks. It was so refreshing to see some in the wild! I missed a huge pod of dolphins that day too, but I was so glad to see the whale. I have now been up to the bridge many times to take weather data and learn more about how the officers navigate the ship and use the maps. It has actually been a lot of work, but really fun. Stay tuned for the next post later in the week!

      1. Hey!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How are you? Are you sea sick, or is it just amazing to be out at sea?

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