NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
October 4 – 17, 2014
Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Kodiak Island, Alaska
Date: Tuesday, October 7, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 0.77 °C
Wind Speed: 12 knots
Latitude: 60°07.098′ N
Longitude: 149°25.711′ W
Science and Technology Log
Our departure from Seward was originally scheduled for today, but the ship is having some repairs done, so our expected departure is now Wednesday or Thursday. In case you were wondering, this doesn’t delay my return date. Regardless of the fact that we are not underway, there is still so much to learn and do.
Yesterday, I met with Christie, one of the survey techs, and learned all about the Rainier’s mission. The main mission of the ship is to update nautical charts. Up-to-date charts are crucial for safe navigation. The amount of data collected by Rainier if vast, so although the main mission of the Rainier is updating nautical charts, the data are also sent to other organizations who use the data for a wide variety of purposes. The data have been used for marine life habitat mapping, sediment distribution, and sea level rise/climate change modeling among other things. In addition to all of that, Rainier and her crew sometimes find shipwrecks. In fact, Rainier and her crew have found 5 shipwrecks this season!
Simplified, hydrographic research involves sending multiple sonar (sound) beams to the ocean floor and recording how long it takes for the sound to come back. You can use a simple formula of distance=velocity/time and divide that by two because the sound has to go to the floor and back to get an idea how deep the ocean is at a particular spot. This technique would be fine by itself if the water level weren’t constantly fluctuating due to tides, high or low pressure weather systems, as well as, the tilt of the ship on the waves. Also, the sound travels at different speeds according to the water’s temperature, conductivity and depth. Because of this, the data must be corrected for all of these factors. Only with data from all of these aspects can we start to map the ocean floor. I have attached some pictures of what data would look like before and after correction for tides.
I was also given a tour of the engine room yesterday. Thanks, William. He explained to me how the ship was like its own city. In this city, there is a gym, the mess (where you eat), waste water treatment, a potable (drinkable) water production machine, and two engines that are the same type of engines as train engines. Many of my students were interested in what happens to our waste when we are aboard the ship. Does it just get dumped into the ocean? The answer is no. Thank goodness! The waste water is exposed to bacteria that break down the waste Then, salt water is used to produce chlorine that further sterilizes the waste. After those two steps, the waste water can be dumped. The drinking water is created by evaporating the water (but not the salt) from salt water. The heat for this process is heat produced by the engine. William also explained that there are two of everything, so if something fails, we’ll still be alright.
Sunday, I drove from Anchorage to Seward. The drive was so beautiful! At first, I was surrounded by huge mountains that were vibrant yellow from the trees whose leaves were turning. Then, there was snow! It was actually perfect, because the temperature was at just the right point where the snow was melted on the road, but it had blanketed the trees. Alaska is as beautiful as all of the pictures you see. The drive should have been about 2.5 hours, but it took me 3.5 hours, because behind each turn the view was better than the previous turn, so I had to stop and take pictures. I took over 100 pictures on that drive. Once I arrived in Seward, I was given my first tour of the ship and then I had some time to explore Seward.
Yesterday (the first official day on the job), I learned so much. Getting used to the terminology is the hardest part. There are acronyms from everything! Immersion is the best way to learn a foreign language, and I have been immersed in the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) language. There is the CO (Commanding Officer), XO (Executive Officer), FOO (Field Operations Officer), TAS (Teacher at Sea or Me!), POD (Plan of the Day) and that is just the tip of the iceberg. I also had to learn all of the safety procedures. This involved me getting into my bright red survival suit and learning how to release a lifeboat.
Today, I am going on a dive launch. The purpose of this launch is to help some of the divers get more experience in the cold Alaskan waters. I will get to ride on one of the smaller boats and watch as the Junior Officers scuba dive.
Did You Know?
NOAA Corps is one of the 7 branches of the U.S. uniformed services along with the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC).