NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
February 15 – March 5, 2012
Mission: Western Boundary Time Series
Geographical Area: Sub-Tropical Atlantic, off the Coast of the Bahamas
Date: February 19, 2012
Weather Data from the Bridge
Position: 26 deg 30 min MN Latitiude & 71 deg 55 min Longitude
Windspeed: 15 knots
Wind Direction: South (bearing 189 deg)
Air Temperature: 23.2 deg C / 74 deg F
Atm Pressure: 1013.9 mb
Water Depth: 17433 feet
Cloud Cover: 30%
Cloud Type: Cumulus
With some minor travel changes in Seattle and a redeye flight into Charleston, South Carolina I arrived at NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown at about 10:30 am Tuesday morning – tired but grateful. We left port mid-morning the next day and headed south/southeast. On the way out of port we were treated to a dolphin escort – five or six dolphins surfed our bow wave for half an hour or more. I share a stateroom with another teacher, David Grant. My stateroom is comfortable and I will be sleeping on the upper bunk – a somewhat tight fit and something I haven’t done since my brother and I were sharing a room while we were in junior high school.
The Ron Brown is the largest ship in the NOAA fleet. She was commissioned in 1997 and is named in honor of Ronald H. Brown, Secretary of Commerce under the Clinton Administration who died in a plane crash on a trip to Bosnia. With a length of just under 280 feet the Ron Brown has ample deck space for hauling all the various amounts of materials and equipment needed for a research cruise. The ship’s captain is Captain Mark Pickett, the Executive Officer is Lieutenant Commander Elizabeth Jones, the operations officer is Lieutenant James Brinkley, the medical officer is Lieutenant Christian Rathke, with Ensign Aaron Colohan, and Ensign Jesse Milton making up the remaining officers. The entire ship’s complement is divided up between the NOAA Corps crew members, the merchant marines, and the science staff. For this trip we have approximately 50 people on board including the crew and the scientists. From the science group there are four of us that will be dividing up the CTD watch: David Grant, Shane Elipot, Aurélie Duchez, and myself. As I mentioned earlier, David Grant is my Teacher at Sea colleague for this cruise. He hails from Sandy Hook, New Jersey which is considered the most northern sandy beach in the state. David teaches a variety of science courses at a community college. Shane & Aurélie are from France (although they both currently work in the UK for the Natural Environment Research Council).
After the Brown got underway we had the first of many drills. All of the science crew met in the main lab where one of the NOAA Corps officers, ENS Jesse Milton, reviewed the proper use of the rescue breathing apparatus, the Gumby suit, and the PFD (personal flotation device). When the meeting was over we had three practice drills: Fire/Emergency, Abandon ship, and Man Overboard. Each of these emergency situations has their own alarm bell pattern and all those aboard have particular responsibilities and particular muster stations to which they are to report.
A Fire/Emergency is identified by a long (10 seconds or more) continuous alarm bell. When the bell sounds everyone is to move to their assigned stations. The science crew is to go to the main lab and await instructions. If the main lab is actually where the fire or emergency is located our second muster point is the mess.
A series of short blasts (at least 6) followed by a long continuous blast indicates Abandon ship. When this alarm sounds you are to drop whatever you are doing return to your stateroom and retrieve your PFD and Gumby suit and report to your muster station. In addition to the life saving articles, you should be wearing long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a hat (to protect you from exposure while drifting at sea in the life boat). For this emergency situation I am to report to fire station 15 with a number of other members of the crew and be ready to load into a lifeboat.
Three long alarm bells announce a man overboard. During this emergency different groups of people are assigned different positions around the ship to look for and point to the person who has gone overboard. When the floating person is spotted, all those on deck are to indicate the overboard person’s position by pointing with their outstretched arm. A person floating in the water produces a very low profile and can be very difficult to see from a small boat bouncing in the waves. If the rescue team has trouble locating the floating person they can look up at the ship and see where all the spotters are pointing. This can direct them toward the overboard person’s location.