NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 10 – 19, 2013
Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico, leaving from Pascagoula, MS
Date: July 11, 2013
Weather and Location:
Time: 17:24 Greenwich Mean Time (1:24 p.m. in Rockville, MD)
Speed (knots): 9.70
Water temperature: 28.30 degrees Celsius
Salinity (PSU = Practical Salinity Units): 33.14
Air temperature: 30.80 degrees Celsius
Relative Humidity: 64%
Wind Speed (knots): 6.55
Barometric Pressure (mb = millibars): 1015.13
Depth (m) = 172.50
Science and Technology Log
Weather and Location Vocabulary
Some of the weather and location terms will be unfamiliar to you, so I will give some explanation and background.
Latitude: imaginary lines that run horizontally (think of the horizon) on a map or globe and are sometimes called parallels because they are always the same distance from each other. To remember which direction the lines run, think of the rungs of a ladder (ladder-tude). They begin at zero at the equator and continue to 90 degrees at each pole. Each degree is equivalent to about 69 miles.
Longitude: imaginary that run vertically. They are also called meridians. Longitude lines are not parallel because they meet at the north and south poles. Zero degrees longitude is found at Greenwich, England, and the meridians meet at 180 degrees in the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line.
Knots: another way to measure speed, like miles-per-hour, often used by mariners. It is equal to one nautical mile, 2,000 yards, and approximately 1.151 mph. The word knots dates back to the days when sailors would toss a log, attached to a rope knotted at regular intervals, off the stern of a ship. The sailors would count the number of knots that passed through their hands in a certain period of time, and that number was used to express the ship’s speed. Students (and parents) who have visited St. Mary’s City have seen exactly how this works!
Celsius: a way to measure temperature. The freezing point for Celsius is 0 degrees, and the boiling point is 100 degrees. Alternatively, the freezing point for Fahrenheit is 32 degrees, while the boiling point is 212 degrees. Celsius can be converted to Fahrenheit by multiplying the starting degrees Celsius by 9, then dividing that number by 5. The last step is to add 32, and your answer is the equivalent degrees in Fahrenheit.
Salinity: the amount of dissolved salt in the water. It is measured in PSU, which stands for Practical Salinity Units. Ocean water normally is made up of 3.5% salt, and contains 35 PSUs. The salinity of the water affects the electrical conductivity of the water (how well electricity can pass through water).
About the Oregon II
Oregon II is forty-six years old, having been launched in February 1967. It is 170 feet long and 34 feet wide, with a welded steel hull. Oregon II weighs 703 tons with all of its equipment on board. The ship has a cruising speed of 12 knots, and is capable of traveling 7,810 nautical miles, and staying out for 33 days. It was built for NOAA as a science ship and contains an oceanographic wet lab, a specimen lab, an instrumentation lab, and a hydrographic lab. With sleeping space for 31 people, up to twelve are usually scientists. Scientists include Teachers at Sea, college student volunteers, interns, and other volunteers. To learn more about the ship, visit the Oregon II website. You may also track our progress by visiting http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/shiptracker.html and choosing Oregon II.
Getting ready for departure
I arrived in the small town of Pascagoula, Mississippi on Monday night. On Tuesday morning I received an email from Kim, the chief scientist, letting me know that a welcome aboard meeting was scheduled for 12:30 the next day, but that a crucial piece of equipment, the J frame, was broken and we would be unable to leave before it was fixed. Either way, I was going to “check in” to my cabin on the ship on Tuesday afternoon, and hope our departure would not be delayed.
I met one of the scientists, Alonzo, on Tuesday afternoon and he gave me a tour of Oregon II, as well as NOAA’s (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association) National Marine Fisheries Service, Pascagoula Lab. I met many people, from the unit leader of the trawl surveys, to the receptionists, who do much more than answer telephones. There were the plankton scientists, the marine mammal specialists, and the seafood inspection scientists, to name a few. The NOAA building was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina several years ago. After working out of trailers for about four years, the staff in Pascagoula moved into a beautiful new building overlooking The Pascagoula River.
The ship, though, was of even greater interest to me, since I would be spending ten days aboard her. As we approached the gangplank, I saw that the J frame, normally attached to the side of the ship, was dismantled on the dock. Things were not looking too hopeful. In spite of that, I was excited to see the rest of the ship. We saw the bridge, where the ship’s master, also referred to as the commanding officer (CO), and the NOAA Corps officers who pilot the ship spend a lot of time. The stern of the boat (the rear) is where much of the science work is done. The outriggers, a pair, sit high up on the ship, towards the back, and can be extended out to the sides for the groundfish collection. As we walked inside from the stern, we saw the wet lab, where fish and sea life are measured and sorted, and the dry lab, where much of the data is recorded.
Certain personnel onboard are important enough to have a private cabin (the master and the chief scientist, for example). Most of us, however, share a cabin with one other person, usually someone who works an opposite shift. For example, I am working the noon to midnight shift, and my roommate works the midnight to noon shift. This works to give us each a little bit of privacy and quiet while we are trying to sleep. As you can see, the beds are like little nooks built into the walls, and have heavy curtains to keep the light out if you are sleeping. There is actually plenty of storage space for our clothes. As you might expect, everything that opens has a hook or a locking mechanism on it. When the seas are rough, you don’t want drawers flying open!
Those of you who know me won’t be surprised that one of my favorite spots onboard is the galley! It only seats twelve, so with twenty-nine people onboard, the general policy is to “eat it and beat it”. There is a “chief steward” and a “second cook”, who make delicious meals and keep the galley stocked with snacks! Of course they do much more than that.
Wednesday morning there was much to do to be prepared for departure. Imagine going on a vacation to the beach for a week, but being unable to make a trip to the grocery store, drug store, mall, or even the doctor if someone gets sick. You must think of everything you need for ten days and bring it with you. The galley had to be stocked, as well as all paper products needed in other areas of the ship. The repaired (we hoped) J frame had to be re-installed, everyone who had not yet boarded and settled in had to arrive, cars had to be moved and people shuttled back, science materials had to be loaded and stored, and many other little things had to be done.
At 12:30 p.m. we met in the crew’s lounge for a welcome aboard meeting, still assuming an on-time departure. The J frame had been installed and was being tested. At that time I met the other scientists, volunteers, and an intern. At 2:00 we all went out to the well of the boat to wave to those seeing us off, and we actually started to slowly pull away from the dock a little after 2:30. The tropical storm, Chantal, was at the back of the minds of many of us, and we would be heading in her direction. I knew, though, that if the storm looked like a problem, we would find a safe place to wait her out. We were on a NOAA ship, after all.
Did you know?
Did you know that the bridge uses sonar, radar, AIS (Automatic Identification System), GPS, a magnetic compass, and electronic and paper charts to navigate to new locations? Charts are similar to maps, but include much more information such as the contours of the land below the water, obstructions in the water, buoys, oil rigs, rocks, and shoals.
Questions for my students:
If the Oregon II is 170 feet long, about how many meters long is it?
If the water temperature is 28 degrees Celsius, what is the temperature measured in Fahrenheit?
We will be collecting plankton on this leg of the mission. How do you think we will preserve the plankton in order to get it back to the scientists?
What questions do you have for me? I’ll do my best to answer them in my next blog entry.
Thank you for visiting my blog. I hope you will check back in a few days for an update!