Sandra Camp: Aloha from San Francisco! June 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Soon to be aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: Friday, June 5, 2015

Personal Log

ocean and bay
The Golden Gate Bridge between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay

My name is Sandra Camp, and I teach math and science to 5th graders at Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco in northern California. San Francisco is located on a peninsula, which means it is surrounded by water on three sides. On the eastern part of the city lies San Francisco Bay. The western side is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. The famous Golden Gate Bridge spans the divide between these two large and important bodies of water.


tide pools
Me exploring tide pools


The Pacific is sometimes called the “Mother of all Oceans” because it is the largest ocean on our planet. Although we have many beautiful beaches here, in San Francisco the Pacific Ocean is much too cold for humans to swim in. Even though I can’t swim in it, I do love to go tide pooling along the Pacific Ocean, looking for tiny sea creatures when the tide goes out like sea stars, crabs, and anemones.


sea star
Sea star in tide pool


elephant seals
Elephant Seals
kelp forest
Kelp Forest – photo courtesy of NOAA

Being surrounded by so much water makes us care a great deal about the health of the world’s oceans and the plants and animals that live there. In our part of the Pacific Ocean, there are giant kelp forests. We are also home to many different kinds of marine animals, such as sea otters, harbor seals, elephant seals, crabs, sea lions, bat rays, and sharks. When there are healthy populations of these creatures living off the coast of northern California, it indicates that our part of the Pacific Ocean is healthy.

I am very excited, because in about a week I will be visiting a different part of the Pacific Ocean, a part where the ocean is warm enough to swim in! Hawaii is a chain of islands located in the northern Pacific Ocean.  Unlike San Francisco, islands are surrounded on all sides by water, and because the ocean water there is warmer, it allows coral reefs to grow.  I will be flying to Honolulu, Hawaii where I will board the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Ship Hi’ialakai at its home port in Pearl Harbor. Do any of you know what Pearl Harbor is famous for?  If so, write your answer to me in the comments section of this blog.  As a Teacher at Sea, I will spend 10 days aboard the ship while scientists conduct reef fish surveys around the main Hawaiian Islands. This means that they will be studying the fish that normally live in the coral reefs around the islands. If there are healthy populations of these fish in the reefs, then that means the coral reefs are healthy. If not, then that indicates the reefs are having problems. Here is a picture of the Hi’ialakai. Its name means “embracing pathways to the sea” in Hawaiian.

The Hi’ialakai – photo courtesy of NOAA

It takes a lot of people to run a ship this big.  Stay tuned, because in addition to the scientists, I will introduce some of the people who work aboard the ship to you in my upcoming blogs.

Science and Technology Log

coral polyps
Coral Polyps – photo courtesy of NOAA

What exactly is a coral reef, anyway? Coral reefs are ecosystems located in warm, shallow ocean water that are home to a very diverse amount of sea creatures, including fish, crabs, turtles, octopus, sharks, eels, and shrimp. Reefs are structures that are made from the skeletons of colonies of tiny animals called coral. The individual animals that make up the colonies are called polyps.  Polyps usually have a cylindrical-shaped body with a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end.  The polyps use these tentacles to catch tiny animals that drift by called zooplankton, which they eat for food.


coral reef
Coral Reef – photo courtesy of NOAA


The coral polyps have a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae help corals build their skeletons, and the corals provide the algae with protection and compounds they need for photosynthesis. Coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals on Earth! Sadly, coral reefs around the world are in danger because of human factors like pollution, over-fishing, and global warming.


Scientist Diving – photo courtesy of NOAA

Most of the scientific work aboard the Hi’ialakai will be conducted by scientists who are scuba diving. While they are under the water, scientists can take pictures of the ocean floor and the coral reefs, as well as count the number of reef fish they find. The information they gather will help them determine if the reefs around Hawaii are healthy places for animals to live. I will be sharing a lot more about the work they do with you in the blogs I write while I am aboard the Hi’ialakai.


Did You Know?

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is over 1400 miles long! Even though coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals and are home to so many diverse species, they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor.

Important Words

peninsula – a body of land surrounded on three sides by water

symbiotic – a relationship between two different species that benefits them both

polyp – the individual body of a coral animal, which is shaped like a cylinder, and has a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end

zooplankton – tiny aquatic animals

31 Replies to “Sandra Camp: Aloha from San Francisco! June 5, 2015”

    1. Yes, Nicole! There are lots of them just an hour south of San Francisco at a place called Ano Nuevo. You should ask your parents to take you there!

  1. Hey Ms.Camp! In your blog you ask what Pearl Harbor is famous for.
    Pearl Harbor is famous because the Japanese army bombed it in 1941, which made the U.S participate in World War 2.

    1. Hello Joanna! You are correct about Pearl Harbor, and I am not at all surprised that you are the first one with an answer. 🙂 I will try to post a photo of one of the sunken ships from that time in my next blog.

  2. Have you seen any rainbows and what is some advice on keeping the coral reef in good condition on a visit to Hawaii?

    1. Hi, Dylan! I have not seen any rainbows yet, but I will keep my eyes open. I will ask the scientists their opinions on keeping coral reefs healthy, but I know there are a few things humans can do: don’t touch coral or take samples when you are snorkeling or diving; don’t feed the fish; and don’t pollute the water. I will tell you more about it in later blogs as I learn more.

  3. Luckily, I do not usually suffer from motion sickness. I didn’t even take any medication beforehand. I am, however, having difficulty walking down the hallways in a straight line!

  4. You are lucky Ms.Camp! Every time I get on a boat, I get as sick as a dog! I wish I didn’t.😖

    1. Don’t feel badly, Joanna. Many people, including divers, get sea sick on boats. The medical officer gave sea sickness medicine to anyone on board who wanted it before we left. The dive master is wearing a special patch behind her ear that prevents sea sickness.

  5. And maybe it is a bad idea to run into a shark,but maybe you’ll see a pod of yellow and blue dolphins!hahaha!Get it?

    1. Since I am not a certified diver, I cannot go scuba diving. I went out today on a small boat with the divers, however, and hopefully it will be nice enough soon so that I can snorkel while they dive. Yes, they have found some corals and some fishes. Wait until you see how we get off the big ship and onto the small boats! I will show you in the next blog.

    1. Wow, you are right, Nicole! I just checked out, and it showed me exactly where the Hi’ialakai is right now. You are a very smart kid. 🙂

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