NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
October 4 – 17, 2014
Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Kodiak Island, Alaska
Date: Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 3.82 °C
Wind Speed: 6.1 knots
Latitude: 60°07.098′ N
Longitude: 149°25.711′ W
Science and Technology Log
The launch that I participated in on Tuesday was awesome! We went to an area called Thumb’s Cove. I thought the divers must be crazy, because of how cold it was. When they returned to the boat from their dive, they said the water was much warmer than the air. The water temperature was around 10.5°C or 51°F while the air temperature was hovering right above freezing. One diver, Katrina, took an underwater camera with her. They saw jellyfish, sea urchins, and sea stars.
The ride to and from the cove was quite bouncy, but I enjoyed being part of this mini-adventure! Later that day, we did what is called DC (Damage Control) familiarization. Basically, we practiced what do in case of an emergency. We were given a pipe with holes in it and told to patch it with various objects like wooden wedges. We also practiced using a pump to pump water off of the ship if she were taking on water. Safety drills are also routine around here. It’s nice to know that everyone expects the best, but prepares for the worse. I feel very safe aboard Rainier.
Today, I got a chance to meet with the CO (Commanding Officer), and he explained the navigational charts to me. Before the ship leaves the port, there must be a navigation plan which shows not only the path the ship will take, but also the estimated time of arrival to various points along the way. This plan is located on the computer, but also, it must be drawn on a paper chart for backup.
This illustrates again how redundancy, as I discussed in my last blog post, is a very important part of safety on a ship. Every ship must have up-to-date paper charts on board. These charts get updated with the information collected from the hydrographic surveys. The ocean covers more than 70% of our planet which is why Rainier‘s mission of mapping the ocean is so important. There are many areas in Alaska where the only data on the depth of the water was collected before sonar technology was used. In fact, some places the data on the charts comes from Captain Cook in the 1700s! If you look at the chart below the water depth is measured in fathoms. A fathom is 6 feet deep. Places that are less than 1 fathom deep have a 05 where the subscript indicates how deep the water is in feet.
Today, I also spoke with the AFOO (Acting Field Operations Officer), Adam, about some work that he had been doing on Rainier‘s sister ship NOAA Fairweather. One project they are working on is connecting hydrographic data to fish distribution and abundance mapping. Basically, they want to find out if it is possible to use sonar data to predict what types of fish and how many you will find in a particular location
They believe this will work, because the sonar produces a back scatter signature that can give you an idea of the sea floor composition (i.e. what it is made of). For instance, they could tell you if the sea floor is rocky, silty, or sandy using just sonar, as opposed to, manually taking a bottom sample. If this hydrographic data is integrated with the data collected by other NOAA ships that use trawl nets to survey the fish in an area, this would allow NOAA to manage fisheries more efficiently. For example, if you have map that tells you that an area is likely to have fish fry (young fish) of a vulnerable species, then NOAA might consider making this a protected area.
On Tuesday, I had a little extra time in the afternoon, so I decided to ride my bike down to the Alaska SeaLife Center which is a must-see if you ever find yourself in Seward. There were Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina), Stellar Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus), Puffins (Genus Fratercula), Pacific Salmon (Genus Oncorhynchus) and much more. I really appreciated that the SeaLife Center focused on both conservation and on organisms that live in this area. A local high school even had their art students make an exhibit out of trash found on the beach to highlight the major environmental issue of trash that finds its way to the ocean.
Can you think a project we could do that would highlight a main environmental concern in Eastern Tennessee? I also thought is was really interesting to see the Puffins dive into the water. The SeaLife Center exhibit explained about how Puffin bones are more dense than non-sea birds. These higher density bones are an adaptation that helps them dive deeper.
I officially moved into the ship today. Prior to that, I was staying at a hotel while they were finishing up repairs. We are expected to get underway on Friday afternoon. I am staying in the princess suite! It is nice and cozy. I have all of the essentials. I have a desk, bunk beds, 2 closets, and one bathroom (head).
Did You Know?
Junior Officers get homework assignments just like you. At the navigation briefing today, the CO (Commanding Officer) told the Junior Officers what that they needed to review several documents before going through the inside passage (a particularly tricky area to navigate). He is expecting them to lead different parts of the next navigation briefing, but he isn’t going to tell them which part they are leading until right before. Therefore, it is important that they know it all! It’s a little like a pop quiz and presentation in one.
Word of the Day
Bathymetry – the study of the “beds” or “floors” of bodies of water.