NOAA Teacher At Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 15–July 3, 2013
Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Alaska, including Chatham Strait and Behm Canal, with a Gulf of Alaska transit westward to Kodiak
Log date: June 28, 2013
Current coordinates: N 56⁰40.038’, W 134⁰20.908’ (southeast of Point Sullivan in Chatham Strait)
Weather conditions: 13.53⁰C and falling, scattered cumulus clouds with intermittent light rainfall, 81.05% relative humidity, 1019.55 mb of atmospheric pressure, breezy with gusts of wind out of the NNW at 10 to 15 knots
Explorer’s Log: The layout of the ship
An explorer who doesn’t make himself familiar with his new surroundings is truly no explorer at all, and he might just as well stay home. Why would you venture forth if not to witness the events and items along the way?
For the past few days, NOAA Ship Rainier has been continuing its mission to complete a detailed and thorough survey of the sea floor along Chatham Strait, a channel used by many nautical vessels in their transit of the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska. So, aside from noticing the appearance and disappearance of some rock features in the rising and falling tides and the daily incremental reduction of snow as it melts on the high mountaintops nearby in the relative warmth of early summer, most of what I see from the deck of the ship and from the smaller launch vessels is the same topography in every direction that I’ve seen for the past week, along with occasional clouds, whales, otters, birds, and other boats. The scenery beyond the rails is very beautiful, but the temporary respite from faster passage to any new geographic destination also has given me a chance to take a few photos of the space around me: the ship herself.
However, instead of writing nautical miles* of text to talk you through a verbally descriptive tour of the entire vessel, I’ve posted a bunch of captioned photos that will give you some view of what I see while wandering around my current home away from home.
* Before we begin the tour, a brief note: In case you’ve ever wondered (as I have!), a nautical mile is a unit of length approximately equal to one minute (1/60 of a degree, and there are 360 degrees in a circle) of latitude measured along any meridian or about one minute of arc of longitude measured at the equator. Because our understanding of the exact shape of Earth has evolved from a perfect circle into that of an ellipsoid since Eratosthenes of Cyrene calculated the circumference of his perfectly round model of the planet (and assigned the first latitudes and longitudes), the definition of nautical mile has changed over time. To address the variation in actual one-minute arc lengths around Earth, the definition of a nautical mile has been standardized by international agreement to be 1,852 meters (approximately 6,076 feet). A statute mile, by comparison, evolved both in etymology and in length-definition from the Latin term mille passuum (“one thousand paces”), commonly used when measuring and marking distances marched by Roman soldiers across Europe. Healthier and better-fed soldiers often took longer strides, and so their “miles” were longer than the miles marched by less-healthy counterparts. To address this variation, most countries eventually agreed to standardize the statute mile at its current length of 5,280 feet (about 1,609 meters).
Now for some snapshots from NOAA Ship Rainier:
I aligned the photos to give you a more authentic feel of passing waves. Oh, I hope that you didn’t get seasick! If you did, just head to the dispensary on D deck near the bow amidships, and then go on deck and look at the horizon so that your inner ears and your eyes can agree about which way actually is up.
Now that you’ve seen many random angles in no particular order — but — maybe you also need a tour to put the whole package together into a meaningful map of NOAA Ship Rainier. Fortunately, HAST Christiane Reiser created a video of just such a tour for visitors, and you can watch it here.
… And now you’re ready to come aboard!
Remember always that half the fun of the journey is getting there… but the other half is actually being somewhere. So look at the scenery in the world around you — wherever you happen to be — as you keep exploring, my friends.
Did You Know?
Before you board a seagoing vessel, you’d better be able to talk the talk. People on ships have a vernacular that can sound like a foreign language if you’re not familiar with the terminology, so here’s a list of some key words worth knowing before you come aboard, with definitions and descriptions from a glossary of terms provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, a partner agency of NOAA with regard to training crew members and making nautical travels safer:
- Starboard: The right side of the ship when facing forward. The name is a very old one, derived from the Anglo-Saxon term steorbord, or steering-board. Ancient vessels were steered not by a rudder amidships, but by a long oar or steering-board extended over the vessel’s right side aft. This became known, in time, as the steering-board side or starboard.
- Port: The left side of the ship when facing forward. The original term was “larboard,” but the possibility of confusing shouted or indistinct orders to steer to larboard with steering to starboard at a crucial moment was both obvious and serious. The term was legally changed to ‘port’ in the British Navy in 1844, and in the American Navy in 1846. The word ‘port’ was taken from the fact that ships traditionally took on cargo over their left sides (i.e., the side of the vessel facing the port). This was probably a holdover from much earlier times when ships had steering-boards over the right side aft; obviously, you couldn’t maneuver such a vessel starboard side to the pier without crushing your steering oar.
- Wings: Extensions to either side of the ship. Specifically, the port and starboard wings of the bridge are open areas to either side of the bridge, used by lookouts and for signaling.
- Bow: The forward end of any vessel. The word may come from the Old Icelandic bogr, meaning “shoulder.”
- Stern: The rear of any vessel. The word came from the Norse stjorn, meaning “steering.”
- Deck: What you walk on aboard ship.
- Below: Below decks, as in “going below to C Deck,” never “down.”
- Fore: An adverb, meaning “toward the bow.”
- Aft: An adverb, meaning “toward the stern.”
- Boat: Any small craft, as opposed to a ship, which carries boats.
- Ship: A general term for any large, ocean-going vessel (as opposed to a boat). Originally, it referred specifically to a vessel with three or more masts, all square-rigged.
- Stateroom: An officer’s or passenger’s cabin aboard a merchant ship, or the cabin of an officer other than the captain aboard a naval ship. The term may be derived from the fact that in the 16th and 17th centuries, ships often had a cabin reserved for royal or noble passengers.
- Stack: The ship’s funnel on an engine-powered vessel.
- Bridge: The control or command center of any power vessel. The term arose in the mid-19th century, when the “bridge” was a structure very much like a footbridge stretched across the vessel between or immediately in front of the paddle wheels.
- Galley: The ship’s kitchen, where food is prepared. The origin is uncertain but may have arisen with the ship’s cook and helpers thinking of themselves as “galley slaves.” (A galley was originally a fighting ship propelled by oars rowed by slaves, from the Latin galea.)
- Mess: Part of the ship’s company that eats together, (such as the officers’ mess) and, by extension, the place where they eat.
- Head: The bathroom.
- Ladder: On shipboard, all stairs are called “ladders.”