Dana Clark: Alaskan Launches, Tides and Bears, Oh My! June 28, 2014

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Clark

Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 23 – July 3, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographical area of cruise: South Coast of Kodiak Island

Date: June 28, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 51° 12.83′ N, Longitude – 152° 29.54′ W, Sky Condition – 1/8 clouds, Present Weather – clear, Visibility – 10 nautical miles, Wind – 8 knots, Temperature – 21° C

Science and Technology Log

Dana Clark with Primary Antenna
Dana Clark with Ens. Joe Brinkley repairing horizontal control station, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska

Each day when I participate in hydrographic surveys I always tell the boat that today we need to see a bear. Recently, one launch survey crew saw a bear swimming in the water and it stopped and looked at them before swimming off to the land. This was my ideal situation. So yesterday I participated in a hydrographic survey and the driver got real excited for me when in the middle of a transit, he yelled that he thinks he sees two bears on the shore. As we use binoculars to see them we confirm that we have now seen…two horses! This sighting was by all accounts very interesting to the crew since no one knew that there would be wild horses on an island in Alaska. However, the day’s sightings of wild cows and horses did nothing for this Texan.

Bear chewed solar panels
Bear chewed solar panels, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska

Today, I did something different. I went with a survey group out in an orange work boat called an Ambar. This boat is different than the launches because it is a jet boat, which means it has an impeller versus an exposed propeller. This way, it can bring us right up to shore.

We had a two-fold purpose, first to repair a horizontal control station, HorCon for short, and then to make tide observations. The HorCon station logs GPS (Global Positioning System) data. The station has a GPS atenna and recording unit, radio modem antenna for remote communications, car batteries to power everything, and solar panels to charge the batteries.The antennas are on a fixed tripod. For this piece of equipment, the higher the better! It allows us to achieve better horizontal and vertical positioning for our multi-beam data. It tracks the satellites overhead, the same as our survey launches do, but since it is in a known position we can use these data to remove any atmospheric interference.

We hike a large cliff and at the top is the HorCon station. As we crest the hill, it is Joe in the lead, then Joy, then me. Joe says stop, there’s a bear on the ridge, and it’s only about 200 feet away! We quickly gather together to look bigger to the bear and it decides to amble away over the ridge. Then, two baby cubs that we hadn’t seen go following behind her! My day is made perfect. When we get to the horizontal control station we find out it wasn’t working because the bear had chewed the solar panels and pulled a cord out of the primary antenna. Check out the huge bite mark in the picture above! Joe repaired the cord, made sure the other solar panels were still connected, and we had the station up and communicating.

Dana Clark Tide Observations
Dana Clark reading water level off the tide staff, Japanese Bay, Alaska

First mission accomplished then off to do tide observations. Mostly, this consist of sitting on the beach and recording the current water level every six minutes. It was a beautiful sunny day and Japanese Bay, Alaska was the ideal place to be. On shore there is a gauge, tripod and antenna with a wire that attaches to an orifice underwater. There also is a staff in the water with measurements on it. A constant flow rate of air is maintained in the orifice underwater so we can measure the pressure of the water column. More pressure = higher tide. Just think, at higher tide there is more water pushing down on it, hence more pressure. The gauge correlates pressure values with how much tide we are actually seeing. So we take staff observations over two hours and every six minutes we take a minute of readings of how high the water is on the staff. We then download the data from the gauges and compare it to our visual data. It’s important to go out every week to get readings and make sure no bear or storm has bothered it.

Why do tide observations every week? The scientists here often see tide ranges in Alaska from -5 feet to +25 feet. They need to know the correct tidal effects so when they take depth readings with the multi-beam sonar they can adjust those depths to remove tide and chart the soundings at MLLW (Mean Lower Low Water), which is the chart datum. This is because the water level is changing every day with tides and they need to be accurate. This is real important in shallow areas.

Scientist of the Day

Tami Beduhn
Tami Beduhn in Barrow, Alaska, 2012. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fairweather

Today I would like you to meet Tami Beduhn, a Chief Survey Technician for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. She is the head of the whole hydrographic  survey department here on the Fairweather! She is not in NOAA Corps but is a wage mariner, which means she is getting sea time assigned to the Fairweather in order to get her Able Seaman credentials and she is not part of the uniformed services.

She’s here because she wants to be on this ship doing the work she does and her CO, CDR Zezula, sure is glad she’s here. He says, “Tami is technically outstanding, incredibly dedicated, and has a strong work ethic. She is the bedrock of the science, especially with a lot of new people this year, and I rely on her leadership to guide and mentor as well as maintain the high quality Fairweather is known for.”

As the chief survey technician, she manages the survey department and is responsible for quality assurance and control of hydrographic data aboard the ship. The highlight of her job is training the new recruits. Tami believes the key to a good hydrographer is having a good attitude, good computer and math skills, and a willingness to learn. And they must enjoy teamwork since living on a ship is like having a family that works together. Tami graduated from North Carolina State University with a BS in Marine Science and a Concentration in Geology and came straight to NOAA. Here’s a woman who’s at the forefront of her field, all at the age of 27 years old!

Personal Log

What a great day I had today! I saw a bear with her two cubs, two orcas, and three bald eagles! Here is a poor quality shot of the bear with her cubs below her and a little to the left. Below that is a bald eagle. The third picture  is me on top of the hill after fixing the HorCon station. You can click on any picture in my blogs to see it full size. And after checking out the pictures, make sure to vote in the poll below. The weather is perfect and I even got a little sunburned today. Life is good being a hydrographer in Alaska in the summertime!

Brown bear and her cubs
Brown bear and her cubs, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska


Cape Kaguyak
Bald Eagle, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska
Dana Clark Cape Kaguyak, Alaska
Dana Clark on top of Cape Kaguyak, Alaska


Question: What is this? Plant or animal? Answer in the poll below.

Japanese Bay, Alaska

4 Replies to “Dana Clark: Alaskan Launches, Tides and Bears, Oh My! June 28, 2014”

  1. Super blog and photos! It’s so interesting. Have you read the article about your trip in the Saturday (6-28-14) Metro section of the Dallas Morning News? It was great. I’m sure they’d love to run your photos in a follow-up article when you return.

    1. I did see the nice article in the Dallas Morning News. NOAA has actually linked the news releases on my blog page under the In The News tab. Thanks for reading and glad you like the blogs!

  2. Dana, I sure am excited reading your blog! I am headed out on the Fairweather next (July 5)! Reading your blog has been helping me prepare and making me even more excited for this amazing learning opportunity! Thanks for sharing so much information with us!

    1. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog posts. You will find both the people and the experience wonderful. I look forward to reading your blog next week!

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