Dana Clark: Alaska Awaits, June 19, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Clark

(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 23 – July 3, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Kodiak to Seward, Alaska

Date: June 19, 2014

Personal Log

Hello, I am Dana Clark and I am writing this from my home in Dallas, Texas as I prepare to leave hot temperatures behind for the cool waters off the coast of Alaska. I teach Science to 6th and 8th grade girls at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. I can’t wait to share this experience with all the wonderful young ladies at our school. Our campus was the first all-girls public school in the great state of Texas. We have grades 6-12 and just celebrated our 10th anniversary. I have been fortunate to be one of the two original science teachers at Irma Rangel. Our students are trailblazers and are part of a group of six public all-girls schools in Texas that emphasize mathematics, science, and technology. In May, we graduated our sixth class of seniors and I’m proud to say we have had 100% of our students accepted to a four-year college or university. Go Panthers!

I was thrilled when I was selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea and actually did a little shout and dance when I found out I was going to Alaska. (I know, the dance part is pretty scary to those who know me!) I love our oceans and the amazing ecosystem under the surface that many people don’t get to experience or know. I haven’t always been a science person. I never thought I could do science well and in college, I avoided taking a science class until my advisor told me I needed to take two science classes in order to graduate. She recommended an Oceans class for non-science majors and I was fascinated at this whole new world that opened up to me underwater. Check out what my children saw under the surface!

Stingray Grand Caymen
Christina and Will with very large stingray by Grand Cayman, Caribbean, 2005.

After that, I used all my elective classes for Earth Science classes and the rest is history. I am a science teacher that loves teaching about our dynamic Earth and the wonders from the oceans to the atmosphere. Being on a ship in Alaska doing hydrographic surveys sounds very exciting to me; first, because Alaska is a place I’ve never gotten to visit and second, because I’ve never gotten do any science with hydrography. Many of you are probably wondering, what are hydrographic surveys and why is she excited about them?

Hydrographic surveys basically means mapping the seafloor. We will use sonar, which is an acronym for sound navigation and ranging. The sonar we will use sends beams to the seafloor and measures the depth by interpreting the time it takes for the sound waves to go from the ship to the sea floor and back to the ship. It also shows lots of details of the sea floor. Click here to learn more about hydrographic surveys and sonar. Only a very small percentage (possibly less than 5%) of our ocean’s floor has been mapped this way. This work is important because we need to know depth for safe navigation for all the fishing boats, oil ships, and recreation cruises in Alaskan waters. We also want to know what makes up the seafloor. For example, when fishermen use trawl nets that go along the seafloor, their nets can get torn up if they are in a rocky area. I will not only participate in mapping the seafloor, but I’ll probably also survey shorelines on a small boat called a launch,  go on shore and set a tidal benchmark, and help navigate the ship! I will be on the large ship Fairweather. Stay tuned to my blog to find out what I do each day.

NOAA Ship Fairweather
NOAA Ship Fairweather with Mount Fairweather in the background. Photo courtesy of NOAA.


What am I doing to get ready for my trip? First, I celebrated my birthday with my two children, Christina and Will. Guess where we had dinner!

Birthday dinner with Dana Clark
Dana Clark celebrates her birthday with her children before leaving for Alaska as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.

I am checking off my packing list and trying to figure out if I will need thermal underwear or not, how to get more storage space on my iPhone, and where my winter gloves are. On second thought, do I even own a pair of winter gloves? I live in Dallas, Texas but next time I post it will be from Alaska! Off in two days to begin my scientific exploration of our oceans and map the seafloor. I’m looking forward to sharing much more with you soon.

Question: Most of my students wanted me to see and post a picture of a polar bear. What do you think the odds are that I will see a polar bear in the Gulf of Alaska by Kodiak Island? Let me hear from you below.


4 Replies to “Dana Clark: Alaska Awaits, June 19, 2014”

    1. Great question! Thankfully, it did not impact our ship’s research. I addressed the Alaskan 8.0 earthquake and tsunami in my blog of June 24th so check there for further information.

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