Britta Culbertson: Exploring the Oscar Dyson and Kodiak, AK Before Departure, September 3, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Britta Culbertson
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
September 4-19, 2013

Mission: Juvenile Walley Pollock and Forage Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge (for Sept 4th at 8:57 PM UTC):
Wind Speed: 5.11 kts
Air Temperature: 12.6 degrees C
Relative Humidity: 70%
Barometric Pressure: 1003.2 mb
Latitude: 57.78 N              Longitude: 152.43 W

Personal Log

Oscar Dyson
Oscar Dyson in Port – Kodiak, AK

My trip to Kodiak from Washington, DC was a long one.  I left DC early in the morning on September 2nd and I nearly missed my connection in Seattle after our flight left late from Reagan National Airport.  I tried to dash off the plane, lugging my suitcase and backpack, with only 10 minutes to get to my connecting flight before it was supposed to take off.  Fortunately, I know my way around SEA-TAC airport and with all of my escalator running experience from a year of DC living, I was able to get to my gate with 2 minutes to spare.  On the plane, I was reunited with the scientists for my cruise and off we flew to Anchorage.  Three and a half hours later, we arrived in Anchorage and from there it was just a one-hour flight to Kodiak Island where the NOAA ship the Oscar Dyson was in port.

While the ship was in port, we slept on board and I got used to the subtle rolls of the ship, which of course is nothing like when the ship is in motion.  After a long day of travel on Monday, we ate dinner in town and went straight to bed afterwards.  I spent the first day on the ship getting acquainted with the twists and turns of the hallways and the multiple staircases leading to different parts of the ship.  Interestingly, you can’t walk from bow to aft on the same level on the Dyson, which makes it kind of difficult to get a nice deck side stroll.

There are 8 people, including myself, on the science team and a total of 33 people aboard the ship.  I’m sharing a cabin with one of the scientists and we each have our own bunk with a small lamp and a curtain so we can close ourselves in and get some shut-eye.  Each stateroom (cabin) has a shower and toilet, which is pretty luxurious!  Once we get underway and get started working, I will work the noon to midnight shift and my roommate will work the midnight to noon shift.  That way we will each have time alone in the cabin when the other is working.

My stateroom on the Dyson
Private bathroom
Our private bathroom.
Mess Hall
Mess Hall (cafeteria) on the Dyson. Note the tennis balls and the tie downs on the chairs.

Science and Technology Log

Tuesday was our first full day in Kodiak and we started the day aboard the Dyson with a briefing about the scientific work that we would be doing during the cruise.  It was a bit overwhelming at first, because every term is completely new to me.  But because of the repetitive nature of the work we will be doing, everyone has assured me that once we get going, I will totally get the hang of it.  In short, one of the things we will be looking at is the year 0 pollock (those fish which haven’t had a first birthday yet).  The fish we collect during the survey will be analyzed back in Seattle to see how healthy they are.  From there, projections can be made about how many pollock will make it through the winter and survive until their first birthday.  Fish become vulnerable to the fishing when they reach year 3, so it’s important to understand the health of the young pollock now to set the numbers that can be caught by the fishing boats down the road.

Research boats are not like cruise ships.  There are few comfortable places to sit outside of the lounge and people are working around the clock on various shifts, so you have to be really quiet when walking through the hallways.  On board, there are automatically closing doors that slam shut during drills and emergencies, very steep staircases, and slippery floors. The Oscar Dyson has several labs below deck.  I will spend most of my time working in the wet lab processing the pollock that we collect.  There are computers on board and we also have internet, though the ship has to be going the right direction for us to be able to use it because otherwise the incoming signal gets blocked by the exhaust stack when the ship is at certain headings.

On Tuesday morning, we also had a short briefing about by Operations Officer Mark Frydrych, one of the NOAA Corps officers aboard the Dyson.  He described the general rules and regulations on board the ship.  Tomorrow (Wednesday) we head out to sea in the afternoon after the ship gets fueled.  We will have to travel for a few hours to get to our first station where the work begins.  I’m really looking forward to getting out to sea and starting to work on the project!

Did You Know?

Oscar Dyson
Oscar Dyson (Photo credit: NOAA)

“NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson R-224 supports NOAA’s mission to protect, restore and manage the use of living marine, coastal, and ocean resources through ecosystem-based management. Its primary objective is as a support platform to study and monitor Alaskan pollock and other fisheries, as well as oceanography in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The ship also observes weather, sea state, and other environmental conditions, conducts habitat assessments, and surveys marine mammal and marine bird populations.

Oscar Dyson, was launched at VT Halter Marine, in Pascagoula, Mississippi on October 17, 2003, and was commissioned May 28, 2005 in Kodiak, Alaska. Oscar Dyson is the first of four new fisheries survey ships to be built by NOAA. The ship, one of the most technologically advanced fisheries survey vessels in the world, was christened Oscar Dyson by Mrs. Peggy Dyson-Malson, wife of the late Alaskan fisherman and fisheries industry leader, Oscar Dyson. The ship is homeported in Mr. Dyson’s home town of Kodiak, Alaska.”

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