Dana Clark: Alaska Goodbye, July 2, 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: July 2, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 56° 56.7′ N, Longitude – 153° 41.5′ W, Sky Condition – 1/8 clouds, Present Weather– clear, Visibility– 10+ nautical miles, Wind– 5 knots, Temperature– 16.1° C Science and Technology Log

Dana Clark
Dana Clark and ENS Joe Brinkley aboard a skiff returning to the Fairweather after tide observations

Today is my last full day on the Fairweather and tomorrow I will be departing when we dock in Seward, Alaska. I could not have asked for a better final day! But first, yesterday I went out on a launch to survey a near shore polygon. Let me explain. A project is the survey area that the Fairweather is tasked with, in this case, Sitkinak Strait. The project is then broken down into sheets which are areas to cover each day. The sheets are divided into areas called polygons and each day, the launches will be tasked with surveying specific polygons. Yesterday, our polygon was very close to shore. This was difficult because the rocks and vegetation could be hazards. The surveyor in charge, Pat, had to be in constant communication with our launch driver Rick so that they could maneuver safely as we used the multi-beam sonar to scan the area. Since we were so close to shore I kept a steady scan of the landscape for bears. I did this not because we were too close and in danger from a bear, but just because I wanted to see one. We accomplished our task and finished our polygons and did not see a bear, but we did see a brown fox walking along the black sand beach!

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle, Japanese Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska

Now, for today. I did tide observations in Japanese Bay and as we were setting up I snapped this picture of a bald eagle in flight with prey in its claws, possibly some kind of rodent since it appears to have a tail! (Click on the picture to see it better) We took tide observations which were interesting today for three reasons. First, the tide level was totally different than it was last week when I took measurements. If you look at the two pictures below, one from June 28th and the other from today, July 2nd, you can see how much lower the tide is. Look at how close to the staff I was today and how far away last week. The water actually went lower than the tide staff today! Earth Science is so interesting.

Dana Clark Tide Observations
Dana Clark reading water level off tide staff, Japanese Bay, Alaska, June 28, 2014
Dana Clark reading water level off the tide staff
Dana Clark reading water level off tide staff, Japanese Bay, Alaska. July 2, 2014

Now, the second and third reason I found tide observations so cool today did not have anything to do with the tides. It was all about the animals. And no, it did not involve a bear. Second reason it was interesting was the bald eagle in the picture above. I just love how I was able to capture it with its wings spread so majestically. It has a nest in the tree that it was flying into. Since it was carrying lunch in its claws, I thought maybe it was taking food to the nest to feed baby eagles. What do you think? Now, third reason tide observations in Japanese Bay were so cool today was because of swimming deer! I know I should have led with that but I knew it would be pretty awesome to put a swimming deer video into the middle of my blog. The video is a little jumpy because I was fighting the waves in  a small boat called a skiff. Check out the video! 

Before I thought to start videotaping I was able to capture a picture of them swimming!

Swimming Deer
Swimming Deer. Japanese Bay, Kodiak Island, Alaska.

Scientist of the Day Today I would like you to meet Shauna Glasser, a First Assistant Engineer for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. It’s old hat for Shauna to travel wherever the Fairweather may take her. Growing up, she moved so many times that college was the first school she went to for four years in a row! Even though she moved often she still managed to be successful in her academics. She received a BA in Marine Engineering Technology from California Maritime Academy but it was by chance that she even enrolled there. As a senior in high school she received a postcard in the mail from this college.

Shauna Glasser
Shauna Glasser, First Assistant Engineer on the Fairweather

Knowing nothing about the school, Shauna decided to visit the school for a week long introduction program to see their campus and curriculum. She knew she wanted to be a marine biologist and she enrolled. However, before college began, her math teacher from high school recommended she take a summer class in chemical engineering. Shauna always excelled in math and she really liked the engineering, but not so much the chemical side. She soon switched paths from marine biology and became a marine engineering major.

Shauna has been with NOAA for five years and has worked her way up in the job. As first assistant engineer she is the person on the ship directly under the chief engineer. There are eight people who report under first assistant engineer. The engineers do all the maintenance on the ship and they keep it running. Shauna says that this is a job that is in high demand. The Fairweather, along with two other ships in the fleet, will actually be docked at port starting July 7th because they are in need of more engineers aboard. The ships can’t run without them! This young engineer has risen to a leadership role in her field and sees being a chief in her future. Shauna says, “Go for it! Ask questions, be yourself, think smart, and you can do it!”

Personal Log

NOAA Ship Fairweather
NOAA Ship Fairweather, July 1, 2014

My day today is ending just as magical as it began with several more animal sightings. We are underway to Seward, Alaska where I will say goodbye to the wonderful crew of the Fairweather. As we got underway we had a fire drill and then a little while later, an abandon ship drill. As the crew at my drill station were standing on the port side of the ship wearing our life jackets, hats, and in possession of our survival suits, a pod of orcas swam by spouting from their blowholes. They play and blow as they pass by our ship. Then, after dinner I am working on this blog and take a break and go to the bridge to see what’s going on. There were pods of orcas to the port side and humpback whales a mile north of us. The humpbacks were spouting and breaching. I have an out of focus picture of a whale going straight up in the air. It looks like it’s pirouetting. The crew on the bridge said that this was a large sighting of whales and everyone was excited.

Dana Clark on the Fairweather
Dana Clark at the helm of the Fairweather with Jim Klapchuk

I begin looking at the equipment on the bridge and asking questions when I was asked if I would like to steer the ship. Nervously I said yes. They explained that it was currently on a type of ship auto pilot which they would turn off and I would take the helm, similar to a steering wheel on a car, and I would be in control of the ship’s path. Jim Klapchuk, an Able Seaman on the Fairweather, showed me what to do. I would be at the helm and would continue in the correct direction by looking at my gyroscopic compass and my rudder angle indicator. The gyroscopic compass would tell me my heading, which was 030° which would keep me going north-east. The rudder angle indicator would move every time I moved the wheel because turning the wheel turned the rudder and the rudder changes the course of the ship. Keeping this lesson in mind, they turned off the auto pilot and I was steering the 231 foot ship on a heading for Seward! I kept constantly looking at the numbers and trying to keep it at exactly 030°. After a short while, the boat felt like it was swaying a bit so I gave the helm back to Jim and they set it back to auto. What a way to end my science adventure!

Fairweather navigational chart
Fairweather navigational chart that shows route from Kodiak Island heading to Seward, Alaska

A warm thank you to all the crew aboard the Fairweather. I have learned so much and will take back to my classroom a new excitement along with tons of science. Terms like hydrographic, surveys, hydrographer, polygon, launch, CTD, gyroscopic compass, swells, tides, charts, cartographer and many more will be introduced. I have also enjoyed getting to know you and hearing about your lives. You are a talented group. And I learned to play cribbage – thanks Tim and Charlie!

Question: But first, an answer to the last plant or animal poll. It appears that all of you know what a jellyfish looks like because you voted animal. Thanks for voting and thanks for following my blog. There are a lot of jellyfish here in the Gulf of Alaska and I will leave you with a few of my favorite shots. It’s amazing how each one looks so different. Which is your favorite? Vote in the poll below!

Bright purple jelly fish
Bright purple jellyfish
White jelly fish
White jellyfish
Japanese Bay, Alaska
Yellow and white jellyfish
Pink jellyfish
Pink jellyfish
Orange jellyfish
Orange jellyfish

Dana Clark : Alaska in 3D, June 30, 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 30, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 56° 34.74′ N, Longitude – 154° 02.21′ W, Sky Condition – 1/2 clouds, Present Weather – clear, Visibility – 10+ nautical miles, Wind – 15 knots, Temperature – 10° C

Science and Technology Log

I had a great day yesterday on the launch gathering more hydrographic survey data. We had a pretty, sunny day with calmer waves until the afternoon. Then the wind and waves picked up and we were tossed around a bit. It didn’t help that we had to survey an area called Whirlpool Point that is nicknamed “the washing machine”! Here is an 18 second clip as we entered the washing machine until I had to turn off the camera so I could hold on with both hands. Note that at the beginning, she says she’s stopping logging the data and you’ll see why!  


Dana Clark and CTD
Dana Clark getting ready to deploy the CTD

In this top picture you can see me getting ready to lower the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) into the water. After about 5-7 minutes the CTD is raised and then connected to the launch’s onboard computer which uses special software to download the data from the cast. In the picture below you can see Pat Berube showing me how to connect it to the computer. Once we gather this along with the multi-beam sonar data, the day’s work is saved to a hard drive and turned in to the evening processing crew.

Pat Berube showing Dana Clark CTD connection
Pat Berube showing Dana Clark how to connect the CTD for data download

They take the raw data from the launches hard drive, copy it to the ship’s network, and convert it to a format that is readable by the mapping software. They apply correctors like sound velocity from the CTD, tide, and the vessel’s motion data to correct the multi-beam soundings in processing. Let me show you what some of their digital terrain models (DTM) look like. When you have a DTM of the seafloor, it shows the morphology of the seafloor in a range of colors and shows features like rocky areas, sand waves, and seismic faulting. These are statistical representations of all the multi-beam sonar soundings.

Below you will see two examples of the the seafloor generated by Pat Berube, a NOAA hydrographer, that show a 3D base surface. The first one just has the 3D multi-beam base surface. The second one is the same but it also has a chart draped over it. The chart ends up being the final product with the new soundings shown on it. Look at the bottom left model and you will see a reef in the bottom right, a green trench with rocks in it in the middle and at the top yellow area are sand ripples. The large round black spot in the middle is an island and the smaller black circle to the right of it is a small group of rocks. There is also another trench on the left in blue. The colors are added to see the features better. The numbers on the chart on the right are fathoms, which show the depth. Click on each to bring up a larger high resolution picture.

3D model of the seafloor
3D model of the seafloor, NW of Aiaktalik Island, Alaska. Photo courtesy of Pat Berube and NOAA
3D model of seafloor with chart
3D model of seafloor with chart overlay, NW of Aiaktalik Island,  Alaska. Photo courtesy of Pat Berube and NOAA







In the two pictures below it shows the actual land features of the island that is the black circle in the 3D map above and the rock outcropping that is represented by the small black circle to the right. These pictures show how what we see when surveying transfers to what we see on the charts.

Small island
Small island NW of Aiaktalik Island, Alaska


Rock outcropping
Rock outcropping NW of Aiaktalik Island, Alaska.







Scientist of the Day

Today I would like you to meet Cathleen Barry, a Cartographer for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. Cathleen is someone who makes maps, more specifically, navigational charts. And she fell into this field of work in the most unusual way. She was a recent graduate of California State University, Northridge, with a BS in Earth Science. She has loved maps since she was a child, but little did she know then that she would end up drawing maps for a living! Working as a beginning Cartographer in the Marine Geophysics department on campus, her professor tasked her with making a poster to advertise a NOAA expedition to the Arctic.

Cathleen Barry, NOAA Cartographer
Cathleen Barry, NOAA Cartogropher aboard the Fairweather, 2012. Photo courtesy of Cathleen Barry

The Marine Geophysics department was looking for graduate students to participate in a geophysical cruise to the Bering Sea aboard the NOAA Ship Discoverer, a 100 meter oceanographic research vessel. When the poster was complete she drew ten lines on it for sign-ups, and after thinking about it, she decided to put her name on the first line. They needed a cartographer to map during this trip and a career was born!

This career has sure evolved over the years. When Cathleen started out, cartographers drew with pen and ink on drafting paper and now it’s all computer generated. Her job is to use the bathymetric and features data collected to update America’s nautical charts. Earth’s crust is very dynamic and the seafloor changes all the time! When she retires, maybe around 2020, she will say goodbye to a field she has loved for over 30 years.

Personal Log

I have to tell you, typing a blog while my body gently sways from one side to the other is very strange. My abdominal muscles, gluteus maximus, and quadriceps are getting a workout as my muscles tighten to help me to to stay put! I do need the mini workout since the cooks here keep us well fed!

The weather here is so variable. The temperature on my last blog was 21° C and today it was 10° C with cold winds. I was glad I was not out on the launches today and was interested in working with the mapping on the ship until I heard and saw video of what was in the water today. The launches saw a large pod of about 40 orca whales playing about right by their boats! I was so bummed I missed it. Maybe tomorrow?! Then again, tomorrow I will be in a launch that is going to survey a section of the seafloor that has a possible shipwreck in it. Sunken treasure anyone?

Question: Which picture do you like better, the daytime picture of Joe and me on the crest of Cape Kaguyak (note the orange Ambar boat to the left and the white ship Fairweather anchored to the right) or the nighttime picture of the sunset from the flybridge of the Fairweather? You can click on pictures in my blogs to see them full size. Vote in the poll below!

Dana Clark, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska
Dana Clark and ENS Joe Brinkley atop Cape Kaguyak, Alaska
Sunset from the Fairweather
Sunset from the NOAA ship Fairweather, June 28, 2014

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

Dana Clark: Alaska’s Rocky Seafloor, June 26, 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 26, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 56° 45.40′ N, Longitude – 154° 9.99 W, Sky Condition – 7/8 clouds, Present Weather – clear, Visibility – 10 nautical miles, Wind – 3 knots, Temperature – 14° C

Science and Technology Log

Dana Clark on the fantail
Dana Clark on the fantail of the Fairweather

Each morning there is a meeting of the launch crew on the fantail, which is aft, which means the back deck of the boat. You need to wear your hard hat and your PFD which stands for Personal Flotation Device. It is really great that the life-jacket is embedded into the jacket. Wednesday I went out on a launch, a 28 foot boat, and attempted to collect hydrographic data. However, the weather did not cooperate. We were tossed around by winds of 30 knots, which is approximately 34.5 mph, and 5 foot swells and waves. I found out that swells are large scale rollers of water and waves are choppy. Swells have more amplitude, a lot of energy, are larger, and are driven by far off (can be thousands of nautical miles away) weather storms or very high or low pressure systems. Waves are surface wind driven, choppy, smaller, and have more pitch. You can have either one by itself or you can have both together, either going the same direction or cross-ways. Well, we had both swells and waves from different directions at the same time! The waves had whitecaps and the swells were just big! I couldn’t even get out my camera to take a picture because I was holding on to the rail in the cabin with both hands, trying not to fall or get in the way of the scientists as we pitched about. And, can you believe, no seasickness! We were called back to the ship after the current we measured registered at 5 to 5.5 knots, much too fast for us to put our CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) into the water. The professionals aboard the Fairweather put a premium on safety and knew it was time to call an inclement weather day and have the launches return. By the way, the picture at the left was taken on another day. How quickly the weather can change!

Mark Bradley NOAA Fairweather
Mark Bradley using multi-beam sonar 3D imaging to confirm uncharted rock in navigational waters

Today, it was wisely decided that I would be exposed to the science on the ship while the launches went out and the weather system finished passing through. I was able to learn from Mark Bradley who is a hydrographic survey technician. Some days he goes on the launches and uses the multi-beam echo sounder to map sections of the seafloor. Other times he works on the ship processing the data that has been collected and preparing the descriptive report. Today he was comparing old charts to the new survey soundings that a launch had previously recorded while they were picking up holidays during a low tide. Remember, holidays are where there are gaps in the data. While resurveying this holiday they saw a rock sticking out of the water so they came back later in the day during high tide and used the multi-beam sonar to get a depth measurement for the top of it. Mark then took this data and compared it to the old charts. The old charts didn’t even have this rock recorded! He used his 3D imaging and measured the rock at 83 meters wide and 30 meters tall. It was huge! At low tide, it stuck a meter out of the water. This rock was in navigational water and easily could have damaged or sunk a boat. Mark confirmed another nearby rock was 3 feet under the surface so if you were in a boat you wouldn’t see it. This second rock was a known rock; however, on the old chart it was at 42 feet below the surface, not 3 feet! So there is a great need to update our navigational charts since the old ones can be over 100 years old. Eventually, this chart he’s updating will be revised and published by NOAA Charting Division.

Kristin Golmon NOAA Fairweather
Kristin Golmon on the bridge of the Fairweather

Scientist of the Day

Today I would like you to meet Kristin Golmon, a Junior Officer for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. This Texan is a woman who is in charge! She is an ODD which stands for Officer of the Deck. Because the CO, the Commanding Officer cannot be on the bridge (the space that you command the ship from) all the time, an OOD directs the bridge when he is below, and is the direct representative of the CO. She drives the ship, does survey work, does administrative duties and currently she’s also working towards her coxswain qualification. Today she is in charge of the bridge, working on charts, communicating with the hydrographic survey launches, and recording the weather. Kristin has always been curious about how stuff works. In elementary school she invented a t-shirt folding machine out of cardboard. You would put a t-shirt on it and it would fold the shirt and you would pull the cardboard out! She always did well in math and science and had her parents, a geologist mom and a mathematician dad, as her role models. She attended Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and earned a BS in Engineering Science, a minor in Mathematics and another minor in Environmental Studies. She was a senior in college when she heard about NOAA Corps and liked their science mission. She also liked the idea of serving her country in a uniformed service.

Casey Marwine polar bear
Polar bear mom and her two cubs, Artic Ocean, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Casey Marwine.

Being a woman in charge has its challenges when working in a male dominated field but she has the respect of her peers and the CO. Currently, the head of NOAA is Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, a geologist and an astronaut who was the first American woman to walk in space. When asked what she liked best about her job, Kristin said that it’s a pretty cool experience being in charge of a ship, especially when going through narrow passages that take a lot of planning like the Inside Passage in Alaska. She also loved seeing polar bears, a mom and two cubs, while doing the Arctic Reconnaissance Survey!

Personal Log

Dana Clark Fairweather room
Dana Clark working in her stateroom on the Fairweather

Check out where I live on the ship.  This is my room, or as we call it aboard ship, my stateroom. Notice the hard hat and survival suit above the bed and the life jacket above the television! I also have a desk that folds up when I don’t need it.  It was a treat to have my own room. The shower and the head (what they call the bathroom) is across from my room. Also on the ceiling of the hallway outside my bedroom is an escape hatch! Then in the floor above is another hatch. This way I can safely get up to the upper decks if my hallway gets blocked or flooded.

Dana Clark Escape Hatch
Escape hatch in the hallway ceiling on the Fairweather


Question (or Answers): Today’s question will actually be answers! And speaking of polar bears, remember my question from my first blog when I asked you the question of what were the odds that I would see a polar bear? Well, the answer is none. The polar bears are much farther north and are found in the Artic region of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia. Unfortunately, I will not be seeing any polar bears. My poll last blog asked you to identify a picture as plant or animal. Many of you voted and it was a pretty split vote between the two! The picture is of bull kelp, a plant, and its scientific name is nereocystis. It can grow huge and I have seen some big ones here in Alaskan waters.

I will leave you with this shot of beautiful Kodiak, Alaska that I took from the ship. This is where we are anchored this week.

Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak, Alaska, June 2014

Dana Clark: Alaska and the Launch, June 24, 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 24, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 56° 45.35′ N, Longitude – 154° 10.0 W, Sky Condition – 7/8 clouds, Present Weather – clear, Visibility – 10 nautical miles, Wind – calm, Temperature – 13.8 C°

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday was my first day underway on NOAA Ship Fairweather. Before I could participate in all the cool science I had to complete all the safety training. I am now ready to survive any situation on ship since I have successfully completed a fire drill, abandon ship drill, donned my survival suit, and learned how to deploy a life raft. See how I look in my survival suit!

Survival Suit
Dana Clark in her survival suit

Before I tell you about all the great science we’re doing, I want to address the earthquake and tsunami that hit Alaska and was widely reported yesterday. There was an 8.0 earthquake near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, southeast of Little Sitkin Island that triggered a tsunami warning; however, only small waves hit the coastal communities. This was west of Kodiak Island and we were not affected by it. In speaking with the experts on the ship, they explained that we were safer on a ship than shore and a tsunami would roll under the ship. I wondered if it was normal to have these alerts since earthquakes happen everyday in Alaska, and veteran scientists on the Fairweather said that they had never had an earthquake with a tsunami warning before. What an exciting event on my first day!

NOAA Ship Fairweather
Launch boats returning to NOAA Ship Fairweather. Photo courtesy of Karen Hart

Today I was ready to go out on a launch. This is a 28 foot boat that uses a suite of hydrographic hardware and software, such as a multi-beam sonar to map assigned sections of the seafloor. I set out with Tim, who is a coxswain which means he is a small boat operator for commissioned vessels, Clint, who is a hydrographic senior survey technician and Joy, who is a hydrographic survey technician. And me, a Teacher at Sea! Our mission was to do cross lines of sonar mapping to check that there are no erroneous offsets between days of data. We also would pick up holidays, which are gaps in the data, and go over them with sonar. We are mapping South Kodiak Island this week and more specifically for today, we are mapping around Aiaktalik Island.

Lowering CTD
Dana Clark lowering the CTD in to the water

We begin by using a CTD which stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. This instrument measures conductivity, temperature, and pressure which can be used to derive the speed of sound throughout the water column. It will help to correct for refraction of the sound wave emitted from the sonar as it passes through varying layers of the water column. The multi-beam sonar sends out 512 beams at a rate of 4.5 pings per second. The number of beams is independent of water depth but the swath width is dependent on water depth. We then measure how long it takes for them to get to the bottom and back, which is called two-way travel time. The multi-beam sonar provides us with bathymetric data, which is simply a large density of depths used to generate a surface representing the seafloor. Then we record the measurements. In the picture below you will see Joy recording the data from the sonar.

Collecting Sonar Data
NOAA’s Joy Nalley collecting data aboard a launch

Scientist of the Day

Today I would like you to meet Joy Nalley, a Hydrographic Survey Technician for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. As a girl, she was always interested in science. She said she even spent most of her childhood playing in a large magnolia tree. Her love of nature continued as a teenager as she spent summers on the lake. She went to the University of Alabama where she earned a BS in Environmental Science, a Minor in Geology, and a Specialization in Hydrology. During school she earned experience in her field by working in a research position and an internship. After college she did another internship in order to gain experience. Her research participation along with the internships allowed her to get an interview and subsequent job with USGS which is the United States Geological Survey. There she was a hydrologic technician for two years. This meant that she studied the water and took data from the actual water. This job then lead to her current position with NOAA where she is a hydrographic survey technician. Now she takes data from the actual seafloor in order to map it. This is a relatively new field of science. There is a lot of seafloor to map since less than 5% has been mapped this way, hence making it a desirable career. Joy says that to go into her field you should be adventurous, want to work with cool people on a team, and have an interest in marine science; then this is the career for you!

Personal Log

I had a good first two days and survived rolling seas last night without feeling seasick. I think I have my sea legs on now! Since several of you are wondering, the food is very good. The cooks take good care of us here. I am also getting a lot of exercise going up and down the six decks on the ship and doing the survey work on the launch. I saw many animals while out on the launch today including a harbor seal, sea gulls, puffins, multiple giant jelly fish, and a bright purple jelly fish! What a great time I’m having doing science with such a wonderful group of highly trained, experienced, and interesting crew aboard the Fairweather! 

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

Bull Kelp

Dana Clark: Alaska Awaits, June 19, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Clark

(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 23 – July 3, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Kodiak to Seward, Alaska

Date: June 19, 2014

Personal Log

Hello, I am Dana Clark and I am writing this from my home in Dallas, Texas as I prepare to leave hot temperatures behind for the cool waters off the coast of Alaska. I teach Science to 6th and 8th grade girls at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. I can’t wait to share this experience with all the wonderful young ladies at our school. Our campus was the first all-girls public school in the great state of Texas. We have grades 6-12 and just celebrated our 10th anniversary. I have been fortunate to be one of the two original science teachers at Irma Rangel. Our students are trailblazers and are part of a group of six public all-girls schools in Texas that emphasize mathematics, science, and technology. In May, we graduated our sixth class of seniors and I’m proud to say we have had 100% of our students accepted to a four-year college or university. Go Panthers!

I was thrilled when I was selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea and actually did a little shout and dance when I found out I was going to Alaska. (I know, the dance part is pretty scary to those who know me!) I love our oceans and the amazing ecosystem under the surface that many people don’t get to experience or know. I haven’t always been a science person. I never thought I could do science well and in college, I avoided taking a science class until my advisor told me I needed to take two science classes in order to graduate. She recommended an Oceans class for non-science majors and I was fascinated at this whole new world that opened up to me underwater. Check out what my children saw under the surface!

Stingray Grand Caymen
Christina and Will with very large stingray by Grand Cayman, Caribbean, 2005.

After that, I used all my elective classes for Earth Science classes and the rest is history. I am a science teacher that loves teaching about our dynamic Earth and the wonders from the oceans to the atmosphere. Being on a ship in Alaska doing hydrographic surveys sounds very exciting to me; first, because Alaska is a place I’ve never gotten to visit and second, because I’ve never gotten do any science with hydrography. Many of you are probably wondering, what are hydrographic surveys and why is she excited about them?

Hydrographic surveys basically means mapping the seafloor. We will use sonar, which is an acronym for sound navigation and ranging. The sonar we will use sends beams to the seafloor and measures the depth by interpreting the time it takes for the sound waves to go from the ship to the sea floor and back to the ship. It also shows lots of details of the sea floor. Click here to learn more about hydrographic surveys and sonar. Only a very small percentage (possibly less than 5%) of our ocean’s floor has been mapped this way. This work is important because we need to know depth for safe navigation for all the fishing boats, oil ships, and recreation cruises in Alaskan waters. We also want to know what makes up the seafloor. For example, when fishermen use trawl nets that go along the seafloor, their nets can get torn up if they are in a rocky area. I will not only participate in mapping the seafloor, but I’ll probably also survey shorelines on a small boat called a launch,  go on shore and set a tidal benchmark, and help navigate the ship! I will be on the large ship Fairweather. Stay tuned to my blog to find out what I do each day.

NOAA Ship Fairweather
NOAA Ship Fairweather with Mount Fairweather in the background. Photo courtesy of NOAA.


What am I doing to get ready for my trip? First, I celebrated my birthday with my two children, Christina and Will. Guess where we had dinner!

Birthday dinner with Dana Clark
Dana Clark celebrates her birthday with her children before leaving for Alaska as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.

I am checking off my packing list and trying to figure out if I will need thermal underwear or not, how to get more storage space on my iPhone, and where my winter gloves are. On second thought, do I even own a pair of winter gloves? I live in Dallas, Texas but next time I post it will be from Alaska! Off in two days to begin my scientific exploration of our oceans and map the seafloor. I’m looking forward to sharing much more with you soon.

Question: Most of my students wanted me to see and post a picture of a polar bear. What do you think the odds are that I will see a polar bear in the Gulf of Alaska by Kodiak Island? Let me hear from you below.