NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 3 – 14, 2019
Mission: Kodiak Island Hydrographic Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Kodiak Island, Alaska
Date: June 10, 2019
Time: 1932 hours
Location: Saltery Cove, Kodiak Island
Weather from the Bridge:
Latitude: 57°29.1359’ N
Longitude: 152°44.0488’ W
Wind Speed: 17.2 knots
Wind Direction: N (353 degrees)
Air Temperature: 12.13° Celsius
Water Temperature: 9.44° Celsius
Science and Technology Log
For my second time out on a launch, I was assigned to a shoreline survey at Narrow Cape and around Ugak Island (see chart here). Survey Tech Audrey Jerauld explained the logistics of the shoreline survey. First, they try to confirm the presence of charted features (rocks) along the shore. (As you may remember from my last post, a rock is symbolized by an asterisk on the charts.) Then, they use the small boat’s lidar (LIght Detection And Ranging) to find the height of the rocks. Instead of using sound pulses, as with sonar, lidar uses pulses of laser light.
Once a rock was identified, Audrey photographed it and used the laser to find the height of the rock to add to the digital chart. The launch we used for the shoreline survey was RA-2, a jet boat with a shallow draft that allows better access to the shoreline. We still had to be careful not to get too close to the rocks (or to the breakers crashing into the rocks) at certain points around Ugak Island. The line parallel to the shore beyond which it is considered unsafe to survey is called the NALL (Navigable Area Limit Line). The NALL is determined by the crew, with many factors taken into account, such as shoreline features, marine organisms, and weather conditions. An area with many rocks or a dangerously rocky ledge might be designated as “foul” on the charts.
I must pause here to emphasize how seriously everyone’s safety is taken, both on the small boats and the ship itself. In addition to strict adherence to rules about the use of hard hats and Personal Flotation Devices in and around the launches, I have participated in several drills during my stay on the ship (Man Overboard, Fire and Emergency, and Abandon Ship), during which I was given specific roles and locations. At the bottom of each printed Plan of the Day there is always a line that states, “NEVER shall the safety of life or property be compromised for data acquisition.” Once more, I appreciate how NOAA prioritizes the wellbeing of the people working here. It reminds me of my school district’s position about ensuring the safety of our students. No institution can function properly where safety is not a fundamental concern.
Career Focus – Marine Engineer
Johnny Brewer joined the Navy in 1997. A native of Houston, Texas, many of his family members had served in the military, so it seemed natural for him to choose a similar path after high school. The Navy trained him as a marine engineer for a boiler ship. Nearly 15 years later he went into the Navy Reserve and transitioned to working for NOAA.
Working as an engineer requires mental and physical strength. The Engineering Department is responsible for maintaining and updating all of the many working parts of the ship–not just the engine, as you might think! The engineers are in charge of the complex electrical systems, plumbing, heating and cooling, potable water, sewage, and the launches used for daily survey operations. They fix everything that needs to be fixed, no matter how large or small the problem may be.
Johnny emphasized how important math is in his job. Engineers must have a deep understanding of geometry (calculating area, volume, density, etc.) and be able to convert measurements between the metric and American systems, since the ship’s elements are from different parts of the world. He also described how his job has given him opportunities to visit and even live in new places, such as Hawaii and Japan. Johnny said that when you stay in one place for too long you can become “stuck in a box,” unaware of the world of options waiting for you outside of the box. As a teacher, I hope that my students take this message to heart.
In my last post I introduced Kimrie Zentmeyer, our Acting Chief Steward. In our conversation, she compared the ship to a house, the walls of which you cannot leave or communicate beyond, except by the ship’s restricted wi-fi, while you are underway. I would like for my readers (especially my students) to imagine living like this, confined day in and day out to a single space, together with your work colleagues, without family or friends from home. How would you adjust to this lifestyle? Do you have what it takes to live and work on a ship? Before you answer, consider the views from your back porch!
Word of the Day
bulkhead – a wall dividing the compartments within the hull of a ship
Q & A
Are there other NOAA ships working in Alaska?
Yes! NOAA Ship Fairweather is Rainier’s sister-ship and is homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska. Also, the fisheries survey vessel, NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson is homeported in Kodiak, not far from where we are currently located.
What did you eat for dinner?
This evening I had sauteed scallops, steamed broccoli, and vegetable beef stew. And lemon meringue pie. And a cherry turnover. And ice cream.