Carol Schnaiter, Water? June 17, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – 21, 2014

SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Gulf of Mexico

June 17, 2014

Winds 10-15 knots

Mostly sunny

Waves 2- 4 feet

NOAA Ship Tracker ( for our location

Enjoying the waves!
Enjoying the waves on the ship!

Science and Technology Log

You may wonder how a ship with 30 people can have enough drinking water for a cruise for 15 days. The ship leaves port with about 7,000 gallons of fresh water. Each day the ship uses over 1000 gallons of water, which means in about six or seven days the fresh water will be used up.

In order to have fresh water for drinking, washing, and cooking the NOAA Ship Oregon II uses two desalinators in a process called reverse osmosis.  This means it uses pressure to push the water through a very fine mesh that does not allow the salt to pass through.

Simply said, reverse osmosis is removing salt from the seawater. This also takes out the other minerals and chemicals that are found in the water. It changes undesireable water into water free of contaminants and changes it into water we can use.

making fresh water
Here is the machine that makes the seawater safe for us to drink.

This process of reverse osmosis is not only used on this ship, but it is also used in space, at water treatment plants, at ice making plants, in the dairy industry, and even in making maple syrup.

Careers Spotlight today- more on the crew.

CO Nelson
Here is CO Nelson in charge of the ship.

Master Dave Nelson – The NOAA Ship Oregon II is led by Master (same as Commanding Officer) Dave Nelson. He is a Civilian Merchant Mariner and he is the overall commander of the ship, which means he supervises the work of all the other officers and the crew.

There are only two civilian Masters in the entire NOAA fleet. The other CO’s are all members of the NOAA Corps.

Master Nelson has been sailing for the past 35 years. After high school he worked on commercial fishing-shrimping ships, then in the 80’s worked on oil rig supply ships. This is when a ship takes supplies out to the oil rigs.

On Jan. 4, 1993, he joined the NOAA fleet as a fisherman on deck. He has worked nearly every job on the ship, which is a great advantage when anything goes wrong on the ship. With promotions he was able to move up in ranks. He was the 1st Mate (or second in command) for three years.

Master Nelson said studying for the USCG Master’s license was difficult since he had been out of school for a long time, but with his experience and studying he was able to pass the test the first time and earned his Master’s or Mate’s license. This allowed him to move up to be the Commanding Officer.

He said the best part of this job is the security and when things go well. The most difficult part is when there are problems, because everything goes back to being his responsibility.

XO (Executive Officer) LCDR Eric Johnson

XO Eric Johnson
XO LCDR Eric Johnson

We all have heard about the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine Corps, but did you know there are two other Active Duty Uniformed services? The US Public Health Service and the NOAA Corps! If you wanted to learn more about the NOAA Corps, LCDR Johnson is the person for you.

LCDR Johnson has a wealth of information about the history of the NOAA Corps and in speaking to him, you can see why he was a recruiter for the NOAA Corps.  He is a NOAA Corps Officer along with three other NOAA Corps Officers on the ship. LCDR Johnson is originally from Maryland, and has been a NOAA Corps officer since 2002. He has a BS in Marine Biology from the University of Maryland and a MPA in Maritime Affairs from American University.

The NOAA Corps has formally been in existence since 1970, but before that it can be traced back to 1807, when it was a civilian organization used to do nautical surveys for President Thomas Jefferson.

The NOAA Corps is one of two uniformed services (other is the US Public Health Service) that have only commissioned officers, with no enlisted members. The NOAA Corps is under the US Dept. of Commerce and focuses on researching the oceans and atmosphere.

LCDR Larry Thomas enjoys the traveling and life onboard the ship and his future goal is to become a CO of a ship.

LTJG Larry Thomas is a NOAA Corps officer. He has gone through basic training and has had over 150 days of training with the CO and XO. He explained that with the NOAA Corps you are assigned sea and land duties. This means you will be at sea for 2-3 years and then be transferred to a land duty for 3 years. After that you are transferred back to sea for 2-3 years and again back to land for 3 years. This rotation happens four times if you stay with the NOAA Corps the full 20 years.

LTJG Larry Thomas has just returned from his land duty which took him to Alaska. He said it was beautiful there, but is glad to be back onboard the ship. He does not know where his next land assignment will be.

In order to be accepted into the NOAA Corps you must have at least a college undergraduate degree with an emphasis on science. LTJG Thomas graduated from college and was working on his Master’s Degree when he decided to apply for the NOAA Corps. He had worked on shrimping ships, which he said was very hot and hard work. He knows what the crew goes through each day.

Ensigns Pryor and Dwyer
The female officers onboard the ship.

The other two NOAA Corps officers on the Oregon II are Ensigns Rachel Pryor and Laura Dwyer. Ensign Pryor has been with the NOAA Corps since January 2013. She graduated from University of West Florida with a Major in Environmental Science and then received a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies. Ensign Pryor started working as a Fishery Observer in the NE for one year before applying and being accepted into the NOAA Corps. The best part for her is being underway and driving the ship, while the downside is working everyday-no vacation when you are at sea.

Ensign Dwyer graduated from college with a degree in International Studies. She then traveled and became a scuba diver instructor. When she returned home, she remembered hearing about the NOAA Corps from her father and applied. Ensign Dwyer was one of a small group that was accepted and completed the training. She is working on completing her hours required to be a qualified officer of the Deck (OOD) so she can stand her own watch and enjoys the traveling. She said everyone on the crew is very respectful to the females on the ship, and it feels like they are her big brothers.

Night Crew

There are three crew members that work the night shift with the four scientists. Their job is very important since they help with the recovery of the organisms. It is very interesting to listen to each of them tell where they are from, why they are here, and their future plans.

Night Crew
Mike, Chris, me and Chuck-the Night Crew! Photo by Robin Gropp

Lead Fisherman Chris Nichols has traveled the world on ships. After high school Chris joined the Navy and was active for six years. He then became a Merchant Mariner and has been doing that for the past 15 years. As the Lead Fisherman, he splits the 24 hour shift with the boatswain (Tim) and his duties include operating the machinery on deck: nets, winches, and cranes. He has many great stories of sailing.

Skilled Fisherman Mike Conway was in the Navy for four years and 25 years as a Merchant Mariner (water transportation worker) working with NOAA. He has been on hydrographic surveys, deep ocean surveys, and all over the world. His favorite place so far has been the Antarctica!

Skilled Fisherman Chuck Godwin graduated from college with a Major in History and earned his Master’s Degree in  Wild Life. He spent 10 years in the Coast Guard and has been with NOAA for 15 years. Chuck has been on three NOAA ships and said the best part of this job is the paycheck and the environment.

These three men have great stories of the sea. They make the 12 hours from midnight to noon go by very quickly!

They spend time discussing the world news, the next meal or what their plans are for the next port.

Personal Log

I really am a people person, I love to hear why people do what they do and this ship is so full of interesting people. The three night shift crew men all sound as if they should be teaching college level classes on world history. They all have great stories to share about the sea and have opinions on world matters that they share each night. The CO and four NOAA Corps officers that I spoke with are also very interesting and unique people. Each one has traveled a different road to be on the NOAA Ship Oregon II, yet they all work so well together. The ship had a minor engine problem today so we had to drop anchor while they worked on it. I sat on the stern of the ship and watched the waves. Funny, just over one week ago I was seasick and could not handle even the thought of waves and now I am loving the rocking motion of the ship.

The lab is so busy, both day and night, I really am learning so much and feel more like a scientist!

Now for the fun part of this blog…. here are so new pictures of what we caught!

One Reply to “Carol Schnaiter, Water? June 17, 2014”

  1. Interesting catches – not sure I’d like to meet up with any of them while I was in the water though!

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