Kaci Heins: September 19-21, 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: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mrs. Heins at the Helm

Weather Data From The Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 4 miles
Wind: 20 kts
Waves: 0-1 feet
Dry Bulb: 11.7 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1000.1 millibars
Latitude: 55 degrees North
Longitude: 133 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

Launch Lowered Into The Water

Today was the first day that the survey launches left the Rainier to install and recover benchmarks and a tidal gauge.  The weather was not great and the crew had a lot of work to do so I was not able to go with them this time.  A benchmark is a small brass disk with information inscribed on it that relates to the station it represents. The benchmark holds the height of the datum.  The purpose of setting a tide gauge is to measure the water level. The water level information is used to reduce the bathymetric data acquired to the chart datum (mean lower-low water, MLLW).   Finding benchmarks has become quite popular through the hobby of geocaching.  This is where participants use latitude and longitude within Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a way to hunt down “treasures” hidden by other participants.  This also includes finding benchmarks.

I’ve been trying to head up to the bridge as much as I can to learn as much as I can during this Teacher at Sea experience.  The first time I went up at night I had no idea about the environment that the officers work in on the bridge.  At night the officers on the bridge actually work in complete darkness.  All of the computer screens have dimmers or red filters so that the least amount of light affects their eyes in the darkness.  The reason it is so dark is because the officers need to be able to see the lighted navigation buoys to stay on course and to spot the lights of other ships that are heading in our direction.  There are also one or two deck personnel that are lookouts either on the flying bridge or bow to keep watch for ships, lights, and other objects that could potentially be a hazard to the Rainier.  A flying bridge is usually an open area above an enclosed bridge where the ship’s officers have a good view of everything around the front and sides of the ship.  We are traveling through the Inside Passage off the Southeastern coast of Alaska, which is extremely narrow in some places along the way.  This means that it is very important that the officers know exactly where they are and what is around them.

Personal Log

Anchor's Away!

I have been able to do some other neat tasks on the ship while the majority of the crew were out on their launches.  We finally were able to find a place to anchor at Ulloa Channel because we had a good “bite” with the anchor–it is protected somewhat from the weather we are dealing with, and it is close to our tide station.  They also let me run out some chain for the anchor and I was able to practice using the crane on the ship.  However, the best part so far has been being at the helm, or the steering gear of the ship.  I will admit I was pretty nervous the first time I grabbed the wheel because it was at night so I couldn’t see hardly anything.  Today, the officer of the deck (OOD) let me at the helm again because we were in open water.  When I am at the helm I have to watch my gyro-heading, which shows me true North, and my magnetic compass, which is more of a back up if the electronic gyro-heading fails.  If I have a heading of 150 then I have to make tiny adjustments or corrections to try and stay on or close to that number as possible.  Even when I make the tiniest adjustment I can see how much the ship moves.  I did start getting the hang of it and one officer even said he had never seen a visitor do so well!

One other item that I will mention in this blog is that the weather in Alaska during this time of year is overcast, rainy, and cold.

Beautiful Scenery Along the Inside Passage

However, going into this I had an idea of what to expect and I enjoy the fact that I get to see the non-glamorous side of this type of work.  It does not matter if it is rainy, cold, what you are wearing, or what you look like because there is a job to do.  It has been overcast every day, but the pine trees are amazing shades of green and the pictures do not do them justice.  We have also had 15 foot waves and 115 knot wind (this is the same as a category 3 hurricane!).  The wind didn’t bother me as much as the waves did.  I thought it was fun for the first 30 minutes, but then I had to lie down for a while because I wasn’t feeling too well.  I never threw up, but it did become uncomfortable.  Now that we are anchored and have stopped moving I feel funny because my body has been used to moving around so much for the past three days.  I sure hope I don’t get land sickness when I am done with this cruise!

Student Questions Answered: Here are student questions answered about feeding so many people on a boat over 3 weeks time.

Animals Seen


Questions of the Day

We experienced 115 knot winds Monday night.  What category hurricane would that be the equivalent to?  Use the website if you need help.


17 Replies to “Kaci Heins: September 19-21, 2011”

  1. hello
    i have a felling that you havent gotten sea sick? well i was wondering if you have steered the acule ship, not the little ones but the big one? also could you ask one or maby more scientist how they got into this sea stuff and are they glad they wanted to become awsome scientist?

    ellie S.
    P.S. i am a science freek

    1. Hi Ellie!
      I have not actually gotten “sick”, but I have had to lay down because I wasn’t feeling great in 15 foot seas. I have been at the helm twice now to steer the “big” ship. It was a lot of fun, but you really have to focus. I will be working on a video in response to your question about the scientists. Stay tuned!

  2. Hi Mrs. Heins!
    I was wondering if it is hard to sleep on a boat?Also, have you been in any storms?I hope you have a great rest of the time on the ship!


    1. Hi Drew! I have found it hard to sleep on the boat so far. I think it is because it isn’t my normal bed and we have already been hit by a couple of nasty storms. Besides the movement of the boat when we are underway, there are a lot of new noises to get used to, which sometimes wake me up. No matter how much sleep I do (or don’t) get, I am still ready and excited each morning to see what new things I get to learn that day. To answer your second question – Yes! We have been hit by two storms already and we expect another bad one tonight. The Captain said this storm started as a typhoon over by Japan and has been working its way over the Pacific. These boats are like floating tanks though so I never worry if a storm is going to hit us or not. The first storm that hit us had category 3 hurricane winds! (Around 115 knots!) Keep the questions coming!

  3. Hi Mrs. Heins, Its Gwyn! I was wondering is the boat what you expectid? Also, what is your favorite animal that you have seen? I can’t belive the winds! Hope your having an OUTSTANDING time!

    1. Hi Mrs.Heins! I have a few more questions. What is the most suprising thing that you have learned about the hydrographic survey? Also, the project is really cool, have you done anything like that on the boat? Hope to hear from you soon!

      1. Hi Gwyn!
        Im glad you like the project!!! It is very similar to what we do on the ship except you are using skewers and we are using super expensive sonar technology! The most surprising thing that I have learned is how much of what you learn in school is used on this ship. Math, science, geography, and language arts are used so much throughout the day. They use reading and writing to log items and for their reports, math is used all day every day, geography is used every day, and science is everywhere!! It is really neat to live in this environment and see all the different departments using similar skills. It is also very noisy on the ship with all the motors and things running. Thanks for your question!

  4. Mrs. Heins
    Michaela and I were wondering just what is a Hydrographic Survey, and what is the difference in dry buld and wet bulb Temp.? Sounds like your trip has been very exciting wish we could be along.
    Michaela and Ronnie

    1. Hello Martin Family!
      Check out my newest blog to answer the hydrographic survey question. The video should help out too! The reason they have a wet and dry bulb to determine the state of humid air. Wet bulb temperature is the lowest temperature that can be reached by the evaporation of water only. It actually has cloth wrapped around the bottom of it called a “sock”. The bottom of the sock is in a small container of water so it wicks the water up around the bulb. It is similar to the temperature that you feel when your skin is wet and is exposed to moving air. Unlike the dry bulb temperature, wet bulb temperature is an indication of the amount of moisture in the air. I will try to post a picture of the thermometers on the ship in relation to your question.

    1. Hi Nora,
      It was more nervousness than difficult using the helm. I wanted to to a good job, but that is tough when you have never done it before. It takes a lot of focus to steer such a big ship. You have to make tiny adjustments and be careful not to over correct. The best way to learn is to do it for about 10 minutes so you can get the feel of the ship and then it becomes much easier. Also, during the day is much easier than at night in my opinion. : )

  5. hey Mrs.Heins, are you having a great time? Also i was wondering how soft or rough is the Ocean floor, is it lumpy or smooth,and is it surprisingly deep or shallow?

  6. Welcome Home Mrs. Heins! I missed you and I am sorry I didnt get my packet all done but you will see them tomorrow!:)

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