Eric Koser: A Walk Through Ship Rainier, July 7, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22 – July 9, 2018


Mission:
Lisianski Strait Survey

Geographic Area: Southeast Alaska

Date: July 7, 2018: 1400 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 49°11.7′          Long: 123°38.4′
Skies: Broken
Wind: 16kn at 120°
Visibility: 10+ miles
Seas:  2ft
Water temp: 15.5°C
Air Temp: 17.6°C Dry Bulb, 15.6°C Wet Bulb

Science and Technology Log

NOAA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1968 launch of Ship Rainier and Ship Fairweather this past spring.  These two vessels together have provided 100 years of hydrographc service.  Its amazing to consider this vessel has been cutting through the waves for 50 years!

It took a few days for me to get familiar with the layout of Ship Rainier.  Let me take you on a video tour of several sections of the ship and welcome you aboard.

First some orientation.  The decks are identified with letters – where A represents the lowest level and G is the highest level.  “A deck” is actually a collection of tanks and bilge areas…the work of the engineering team mostly takes place on B deck in the engine room.  The ship also uses numbers to address areas of the ship – starting with 01 at the bow and 12 at the stern.  This way, any location on the ship can be identified by an address.

So lets get started on a tour…

Often, work days start with a meeting on the Fantail of this ship. This is on the D deck – the deck with most of the common spaces on board.

Fantail

This is a diagram of the fantail.

Fantail Safety Briefing

A typical morning safety briefing before a busy day of launches.

We’ll start our walk at the base of the stairs on the starboard side of the front of the fantail.  You’ll see the green coated bollards on several decks.  These are used for tying off the ship when in port.  The large yellow tank is gasoline for the outboard motors.  It is setup to be able to jettison over the side in a fire emergency.

Next, we’ll walk in the weather tight door amidships (center) of the front of the fantail. As we walk forward, notice the scullery (dishwashing area) on the left side followed by the galley (kitchen). To the right is the crew mess (eating area). Continuing ahead, we’ll walk through the DC ready room (Damage Control) and into the wardroom (officers eating area) and lounge.

Next, we’ll start in the Ward room and proceed up the stairs to the E deck. Here we’ll walk by several officers quarters on either side of the hall. Then we’ll turn and see a hallway that goes across the E deck and is home to FOO’s (Field Operations) and XO’s (Executive Officer’s) offices.   Then we’ll step out onto the deck and walk towards the deck on the bow (the front of the ship).

Starting once again at the fantail, now we’ll proceed up the steps to the E deck.  This is the level where the davits are mounted (small cranes) that support the launches (small boats).  After passing the base of the davits, we stop into the boat shop.  This is where engineering maintains the engines of all of the launches on board Rainier.   Next we walk up to the F level and turn towards the stern to see the launches from alongside.  Notice, also, the large black crane in the center of the deck that is used for moving additional equipment and launches.  Finally, we’ll walk all the way up the port side to the fly bridge on the G level.  Here you’ll see “Big Eyes”, my favorite tool on the ship for spotting things in the distance.  As I turn around you’ll see the masts and antennas atop this ship for communications and navigation.  The grey post with the glass circle on it is the magnetic compass –  which can actually also be viewed from the bridge below with a tube that looks up from the helm position.  You might also notice this where the kayaks are stored – great for an afternoon excursion while at anchor!

Here is a quick look in the plot room that is also located on the F deck just aft of the bridge.  This is one of two places where the hydrograph scientists work to collect and process the data collected with the MBES systems.

In the front of the ship on the F deck is the bridge.  This is the control center for the ship and the location of the helm.  There is more detail on the bridge in an earlier post.  The sound you hear is a printer running a copy of the latest weather updates.

Finally, visit my C-03 stateroom.  My room has two bunks and plenty of storage for two people’s gear.  There are four staterooms in this cluster that share two heads (bathrooms).  The orange boxes on the wall are EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Devices).  These are located throughout the ship and provide a few minutes of air to allow escape in the event of fire.  Notice at the top of the steps were back to the hallway and steps just outside of the lounge on D level.

The entire engineering department is not included in these videos and exists mostly on the B level.  Please see my second blog post for more detail on engineering systems and several photos!

Personal Log

Sunday, July 8, 1000 hrs.
We’re coming around the northwestern most point of Washington State this morning and then turning south for the Oregon Coast.  The ship is rolling a bit in the ocean swells.  I’ve come to be very used to this motion.  Last night we had a chance to go ashore in Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands for a few hours.  I was surprised just how ‘wobbly’ my legs felt being back on solid ground for a while.  My ship mates tell me this is how it is the first few times back ashore after being at sea!

This has been a great experience – one of plenty of learning and a real appreciation for the work accomplished by this team.  I look forward to drawing in all I can in the last day on the ocean.

Who is On Board?

Mike Alfidi

This is our cox’n Mike Alfidi at the helm of Launch RA-3.

This is augmenter Mike Alfidi.  Mike has been a cox’n (boat driver) here on Rainier for about two years now, and has quite a bit of past experience in the Navy.  Mike is a part of the deck department.  His primary duties here are driving small boats and handling equipment on the decks.  As an “augmenter,” he makes himself available to NOAA to be placed as directed on ships needing his skills.

One of the things Mike loves about his work is getting to see beautiful places like Southeast Alaska.  And, he appreciates updating charts in high traffic areas like the harbor at Pelican.  He loves to be a part of history – transitioning survey data from the old lead line to the much more accurate MBES.  One of the toughest parts, he says, is riding our rough seas and plotting in less trafficked areas.  He did a great job of piloting our launch just as the hydro scientists needed to collect the data we were after!

 

 

Eric Koser: The Impact of the Work

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Koser
Aboard Ship Rainier
June 22-July 9
Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK
July 4, 2018: 1000 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 55°57.7’          Long: 133°55.7’
Skies: Clear
Wind Light and variable
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: <1 ft
Water temp: 7.2°C
Air Temp: 14.1°C Dry Bulb, 12.5°C Wet Bulb

Pelican Harbor

The harbor at Pelican, Alaska.

The Impact of the Work
“We’re a part of history!” This notion, shared by a colleague on a launch yesterday, brings home the importance of the work of this team and NOAA’s Hydrographic Branch. Lisianski Inlet was last surveyed in 1917 by lead line! The charts of the inlet were old and not likely accurate. This week – fresh data has been collected by Ship Rainier and her launches to bring the next century of mapping tools below their shores.

Pelican Harbor in the town of Pelican, Alaska was last surveyed between 1970 and 1989.–until we surveyed it yesterday with Rainier Launch RA-3. Our team drove in and out between each of the docks in the harbor, carefully pinging sound waves off of the floor of the harbor to construct a new digital map of the bottom.

Pelican Guys

Guys on a mission…walking to pickup the HorCon.

Pelican HorCon

This is the Horizontal Control station, or HorCon, setup on the breakwater at Pelican before we took it down.

Part of our task yesterday, in addition to conducting MBES survey from our launch, was to dock in Pelican and retrieve our HorCon (a GPS reference radio setup on land that we have used there all week). As we walked through the very small town carrying two car batteries in backpacks, a pair of antennas, tripods, and other gear back to the launch – surely people were interested in what we were up to. Several people stopped to chat as we made our way from the pier, along the boardwalk, and down to the docks to go back to our launch. People asked who we were – and if we were the NOAA team that was in town. There was much appreciation expressed to NOAA for the work being done in the inlet to update the nautical charts. Here in Pelican, the water is the primary mode of transport. Accurate nautical charts provide security and safety.

 

 

 

Pelican

Here is a bit of history on the city!

Main Street, Pelican, Alaska

Main Street, Pelican, Alaska

 

Pelican

It’s a comfortable place, here in Pelican!

There are no roads to Pelican. A few cars are in town – to pull trailers and move equipment. But the primary mode of land transport is four-wheelers. The ‘main street’ is really a raised boardwalk that runs along the rocky shore – and is the heartbeat of the community.   Folks that live up or down the inlet from the town get there in small launches – there are no roads. A ferry comes to Pelican twice a month and is how cars and trucks come and go here. A seaplane comes through a few times a week—often bringing tourists in and out – and the mail. It’s a beautiful spot centered in a small inlet on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pelican Seaplane

The fastest transportation in many parts of Alaska.

Pelican House

A house up the shoreline from Pelican.

Science and Technology Log

It’s mission accomplished for Lisianski Inlet!

Nautical charts are broken up into sheets. And within each sheet, areas are broken down into smaller polygons for data collection. Each launch (small boat), as well as the ship itself, can bring in multibeam data with the equipment mounted on each hull to complete plotting polygons and eventually complete sheets.

The hydrographic survey team is working away today in the plot room and on “the holodeck” of Ship Rainier (an office area on the top of the ship behind the plot room) processing the data we have collected the past several days. A combination of ship and launch multibeam data in addition to bottom samples and shoreline updates have been collected. Now the work of the scientists continues and becomes data processing.

Holideck

Part of the hydrographic team on the holodeck.

As the data is combined, it is reviewed and refined to make a complete picture of the survey area. Once the team on the ship has completed their work, the data goes to the Pacific Hydrographic Branch of the Office of Coast Survey of NOAA. Here, the PHB team reviews that data again and assures it meets the specifications and standards needed to become finalized for use.

From PHB, the data is passed to two places. One is the NCEI (National Center for Environmental Information) office. They archive all of the raw and processed data including the digital surfaces themselves and the descriptive reports written by the hydrographers here.

The data also goes to the Marine Chart Division, an office of NOAA Coast Survey. Here is where the nautical charts are produced in both ENC and RNC (electronic and paper versions). It is this branch that publishes the data for use by mariners and the general public. Anyone can see the charts at nauticalcharts.noaa.gov (try the “Chart Locator”).

Nautical Chart

Here is a finished chart we are using to navigate today. Notice the two buoys in purple and green on the chart, and the narrow space between them.

Flybridge Approach

This is the view from the flybridge as we approach these same two buoys that are indicated on the chart.

 

Who is on board?

Tyanne

Tyanne Faulkes is a hydrographic scientist with NOAA.

During this leg of the trip, we have a visiting scientist from NOAA’s is here on board. Tyanne Faulkes works as a physical scientist for the Pacific Hydrographic Branch of NOAA. She is a part of the team that processes the data from the hydro teams on NOAA Ship Rainier and NOAA Ship Fairweather. Her job is to assure that the data meets NOAA’s specifications–so that they can provide evidence of dangers of navigation and accurate depth information for all mariners.

Tyanne loves to be involved in making maps of the sea floor – and getting to see things others have not seen before! She loves that NOAA provides data for free to scientists around the world. Her job includes not only desk work, but also opportunities to make many mapping trips to understand where the hydro data comes from. Ms Faulkes has a bachelors degree in geography and GIS. It was a paid internship just out of college with NOAA that initially brought her to this work. And – she has a ton of fun with what she does. As a kid, Tyanne loved oceanography. Her GIS education tied well with the internship – and it all came together to take her where she is today!

Tyanne Mountains

When she’s not chasing the bottom of the oceans, Tyanne also loves to climb mountains!

She some advice to students – “Learn how to code!”

“Building Python scripts is a very powerful tool to allow us to automate the data review process. Being able to write the code – or at least understand the basic concepts that put it together – allows one to be much more efficient in your work!”

Understanding the concept of an algorithm that can save one hours of work is a very good asset. “I wish in college someone would have taught me how to do this!” One easy example is a bulk file renaming tool that the launch teams use. After collecting 50 some separate files of data in a day, this tool will take the individual file names and append any number of things to the filenames – all automatically.

Want to get involved? Next week, Tyanne and her team at NOAA’s Western Regional Center at Sand Point in Seattle, WA are hosting an annual camp for middle school and high school students! Students from across the US can apply to come to this camp each summer and have great experiences learning all about oceans and hydrography! Check it out on the web: NOAA Science Camp – Washington Sea Grant.

 

Eric Koser: Navigation + Hydrography = Great Charts! July 1, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Koser
Aboard Ship Rainier
June 22-July 9
Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK
July 1, 2018: 0900 HRS

 

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 58°06.8’          Long: 136°32.0’
Skies: Broken
Wind 10 kts at 220°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: 1 ft
Water temp: 7.2°C
Air Temp: 11.6°C Dry Bulb, 10.9°C Wet Bulb

Science and Technology Log

Aboard Ship Rainier, it takes a team to manipulate this ship. But first, much planning must occur to prepare for each day!

The FOO (Field Operations Officer) creates the plan for each day. Each evening, around dinner time, the FOO publishes the POD (Plan of the day) for the next day for everyone aboard. Here is a portion of July 1’s POD developed by FOO Ops Officer Scott Broo:

7.1.18 RA POD

The “Plan of the Day” for July 1, 2018. Notice the shoreline window indicates the best time for the launches to work.

Today at 0515 was M/E Online.  This is when the Engineering Department starts both 12 cylinder diesel locomotive engines–after being prepped and inspected ahead of time.

Next the Deck Department “weighed the anchor” at 0600 to get underway. Note – this term refers to when the ship holds the weight of the anchor – as it is pulled OUT of the water so we can get underway.

The principal work of Ship Rainier is hydrographic mapping. All operations here focus on creating the best charts possible of the ocean floor. As we are logging (using the MBES to take data from the ship), the plot department communicates to the bridge to indicate where they need the ship to go. The bridge can view a computer display showing the current plots the hydro team is working on – and uses this and the guidance of the hydrographic team to direct the ship. Over time, the ship covers the area of the current sheet while the hydro team captures the data from the MBES. As the process proceeds, the whole sheet gets ‘painted’ by the MBES so we have a complete chart of the bottom.

MBES Data

This display in the plot room shows the hydrographers the incoming MBES data in real time. Note the line of travel of the ship in the center pointing WestSouthWest as this sheet is ‘painted.’ Various colors represent different relative depths.

It really takes a team on the bridge to control the ship when underway. The bridge is the control room of the ship.

Bridge Location

The bridge is the room with all the windows (in the blue box) just below the fly bridge.

Imagine standing on the bridge (the room where the driving happens) and noticing who is there. From port (left) to starboard (right) we have: Navigator, Lee Helm, Helm, Lookout, and OOD.

The Bridge

Here the lookout, the JOOD (junior officer on deck), the OOD, and the helmsman (left to right) are on the bridge.

Bridge Diagram

This snippet from the ship’s plans illustrates locations of tools on the bridge.

The navigator’s job is to always be aware of where the ship is and where she is to be heading. The lee helmsperson operates the controls for the engine speed and the pitch of the props [forward or backwards]. The helmsperson turns the wheel to control the rudders or sets the helm in autopilot to steer a fixed bearing. The lookout maintains awareness of all other vessels around the ship and any potential obstacles in the ship’s path. The OOD orchestrates the whole team and is directly responsible for the motion of the ship. The OOD gives commands for any changes that are to happen to the course of the ship – and also communicates with Plot to know where they need the ship to go to create the charts.

Lee Helm

The lee helm is the control panel for the engines located on the bridge. The propeller pitch is controlled by the levers at the center. The bow thruster is controlled by the lever on the right.

The Helm

The helm is the ship’s steering control. The current bearing is show at the top and bottom and the auto pilot bearing is on the display at the center.

Radar

The radar displays what is around us. The yellow indicates land (we were anchored in a bay at the time of this photo). Radar also senses other vessels in the water. Two radar units run at two different ranges all the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Personal Log

Shoreline from Launch

This is a shoreline view from launch RA-7 as we were charting features along Lisianski Inlet.

The wildlife in this part of Alaska is great and easy to find. We’ve seen humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, eagles, gulls, deer, and bears. Last night as we were anchored at the end of the inlet I watched a grizzly bear on shore. I was able to use the large mounted binoculars on the flybridge affectionately called “big eyes” to take photos. I watched the bear move along the shore as a pair of eagles flew overhead.

Here are a few of the wildlife photos I’ve taken the past several days!

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Here is a video of the same bear lumbering along the shoreline in the evening.

Shore Bear

Questions to Ponder

Why do you suppose the shoreline window for launch boats to conduct hydrographic surveys matches up to the times of the lowest tide of the day?

What role does the tide play in creating accurate charts of the sea floor?

How can a ship or launch make an accurate map of the seafloor if the vessel is constantly changing pitch, yaw, and role as it moves in the waves?
[There is a system to account for this!]

Who can access the charts created by NOAA?  Anyone!
The United States is the only country to provide freely available navigational charts to anyone.  Visit charts.noaa.gov to see what these look like!

Eric Koser: Hydrography 101 – and the Tools to Make it Happen, June 28, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22 – July 9, 2018

Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey

Geographic Area: Southeast Alaska

Date: June 28, 2018: 0900 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 57°52.59′ Long: 133°38.7′
Skies: Broken
Wind 1 kt at variable
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: calm
Water temp: 5.6°C

Science and Technology Log

Long Line Boat

A typical longline fishing boat. The fishing lines get spread out behind the boat from the large booms on either side.

The ultimate focus of Rainier is to assure accurate navigational charts are available to all mariners. This task is critical to the safety of many industries. About 80% of all the overseas trade in the US (by weight) is moved over water. Here in SE Alaska, it appears the largest industry is commercial fishing. Many boats fish both with nets and long lines to catch halibut, rockfish, cod, and several varieties of salmon.

Another major industry here is certainly tourism. As we conduct our work, we often see very large cruise ships. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to be in a narrow inlet surrounded by mountains, ice, and wildlife and then come across a large ship.  We passed the brand new ship Norwegian Bliss around 11 PM on our transit to Tracy Arm. This ship is 1,082 feet long, carries a crew of 2,100 people and has a guest capacity of 4,004 people! The safe navigation of all of these vessels depends upon the accuracy of charts produced by NOAA.

Norwegian Bliss

The cruise ship Norwegian Bliss as we passed her port to port in the evening.

The freely available charts offered by NOAA are created with three essential steps. First, the bulk of the depth data in this area is measured with MBES (Multi-Beam Echo Sounder). This creates a three-dimensional digital image of the bottom.

Secondly, important features to navigation that are shallow are best identified by our launches which travel along the shorelines and inspect for rocks, ledges, and other potential dangers. The locations of features are identified by GPS location and charted digitally by hydrographers on each launch.

Thirdly, bottom samples are collected by launch crews to confirm the type of material present on the bottom.

The MBES systems aboard Rainier and the launches come from Kongsberg Maritime. Two transducers (devices that transmit and receive) work in tandem. The transducer that is oriented front to back sends out an array of sound signals in a wide beam. The width of the beam on the sea floor depends directly on the depth – deeper water allows the beam to spread farther before reflecting. The transducer that is oriented side to side in the water receives a narrow swath of the ‘pings’ of sound that were transmitted. The time it takes any ping to get to the bottom and reflect back to the ship is recorded. The greater the time, the larger the depth.

MBES on a launch

This shows the position of the MBES on the bottom of one of several launches.

MBES transducers

This is the pair of MBES transducers on a launch, looking from the bow towards the stern.

Hydro Sonar

This image, courtesy of NOAA, depicts an MBSS beam below the ship and the mapped results off the stern.

A couple of issues provide challenges to this technique. One, the speed of sound in water depends on several factors. The salinity (concentration of salt in the water),  the conductivity (how easily electricity passes through the water), and the temperature each fluctuate as the depth changes and affect the speed of the sound waves. As hydrographers receive data, the system has to account for these changes in speed to produce an accurate depth measurement. One way to do this is with a static CTD sensor. This device is lowered from the launches all the way to the bottom as it measures the speed of sound in the water.  It provides a set of three charts as the depth changes which are used to adjust the time data from the MBES accordingly. There is also a version of the CTD, called a MVP (Moving Vehicle Profiler or ‘fish’), that can be pulled behind Rainier as we are moving and take dynamic data.

Here is a NOAA article on hydrographic surveying.  Here is further explanation of MBSS.

Deploying Depth Profiler

Here the crew lowers the profiler “fish” into the water.

Speed Profiler Data

These three plots represent the speed of sound, temperature, and salinity (from left to right) vs. depth (on the vertical axis).

A second issue is GPS signal drift. Over time, the location information can shift slightly. To account for this potential problem, the scientists place a HORCON (Horizontal Control) station onshore in the area where they are mapping. I described this tool in my previous post.

Another interesting technology that is currently being developed is called “backscatter” mapping. Here scientists look not only at the time it takes the sound waves to bounce back to the transducer, but also at the quality of the return signal. Different materials on the seafloor reflect the sound differently – hard surfaces like rocks have a sound signature that is much different than soft surfaces like silt or plants. NOAA is continually improving the tools they use to learn!

Here is an example of the chart that we are updating in Tracy Arm.

Personal Log

I had a chance to take the helm yesterday! It’s interesting how sensitive the steering on this large vessel really is. The rudders are able to turn from “amidships” or their center position, up to about 35° to either side. But while traveling at about 8 knots, we tend to use a maximum of about 5° of rudder to alter the ship’s direction. While at the helm, we keep close track of the heading (compass bearing) of the ship as indicated by the gyro compass and magnetic compass on board. Then we provide steering input to hold the ship to the course ordered by the CONN. I had the chance to help steer around several icebergs as we transited into Tracy Arm. Careful attention to detail – and willingness to promptly follow commands make for success!

Helm

My opportunity to take the helm of Rainier.

I also took an opportunity to head out in a kayak from the ship where we are anchored! Two of my new colleagues and I paddled across this bay and had a great chance to look very closely at pieces of ice. The ice is really beautiful and forms many interesting shapes. The quiet of the bay – hearing only the distant waterfalls, birds, and our paddling was beautiful!

Iceberg

This piece of ice drifted through Tracy Arm from the glacier. It was temporarily ‘grounded’ on the bottom by the receding tide.

It’s crazy to consider the ice we were seeing may have been formed thousands of years ago in the glacier – and it just now melting as it floats away.

Did You Know?

President Thomas Jefferson signed a mandate in 1807 ordering a survey of the nation’s coasts. This fundamental task is always ongoing, with 95,000 miles of US Coastline.

About 90% of any floating piece of ice will be submerged below the salt water.  Because the density of frozen fresh water just slightly less than salt water, the ice floats very low in the water!  Read more here!

Who is Onboard?

I’d like you to meet HST (Hydrographic Survey Technician), Amanda Finn! Ms. Finn has been with NOAA since last September – and started working aboard NOAA Ship Rainier in October of 2017. As an HST, Amanda works with the team of hydrographers to collect MBES data from either the ship or any of the launches. Amanda graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2016 with a bachelor of science degree in GeoSciences and a minor in Oceanography. At the end of her college experience, she knew that seafloor mapping was her passion but wasn’t sure how to make that into a job. But it all came together when she found NOAA through a friend of a friend!

HST Amanda Finn

HST Amanda Finn with recently acquired depth data for Lisinaski Inlet!

Amanda was performing at her first harp concert (another skill!) when she met a relation of a hydrographer who works on a NOAA ship! Based on her experience, her advice to students is: “When things don’t seem to be going the way you want, take time to focus on something else you like instead. In good time, things will work out!”

One positive challenge Amanda shares working here on a hydro ship is developing an understanding of systems integration. Many different pieces must come together to create the finished charts. The people aboard Rainier make the experience very positive!  The passion for seeking the unknown is the drive to continue!

 

Eric Koser: Let the Science Begin! June 27, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Koser
Aboard Ship Rainier
June 22-July 9
Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK
June 27, 2018: 1500 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 57°52.9’          Long: 133°33.8’
Skies: Overcast
Wind 15 kts at 011°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: Calm
Water temp: 3.9°C

Science and Technology Log

Rainier Hat

This insignia cap is worn by the NOAA Corps members on the ship.

Let the science begin! We departed from Sitka about 1300 on Monday enroute for Lisianski Inlet. Getting out to sea has been a wonderful experience. Ship Rainier is truly run by a dedicated team of people. I have been able to spend quite a bit of time on the bridge – first watching and then participating with the Junior Officers on the deck. It quickly became obvious to me that this is a teaching operation. The hands on the deck represent a variety of experience levels, quite by design. More experienced NOAA Corps Officers coach Junior Officers through each procedure that happens on the Bridge. It’s a great example of a team based ‘on the job’ teaching system!

On the bridge there is always an OOD (Officer On the Deck) that is in charge of operations. This person then helps to administrate the work of the CONN (responsible for the conduct of the vessel), the helm, the lee helm, the lookouts, and the navigator. The CONN gives commands to the others on the team, which are then repeated back to assure clarity.

Chart Table

This is the chart table where the Navigator works on the bridge of the ship.

The first task I learned was to plot our course on the charts. The CO (Commanding Officer—in charge of the entire ship) selects waypoints for an upcoming course in a digital mapping suite called Coastal.   Coastal sets a series of digital paths that each include a compass bearing (direction in degrees) and range (distance in nautical miles) between each waypoint. Then the navigator takes this same series of points and plots them by hand in pencil on the series of chart {the nautical term for maps]. Each point is a pair of latitude and longitude points plotted as a small square. Given the expected cruising speed, the navigator can also estimate future positions of the ship, which are referred to as “dead reckoning” and are plotted with a half circle.

 

 

 

Sheet Route

A route that I plotted on our charts.

Coastal

A view from the Coastal software of a route.

Periodically the navigator measures the location of the ship either digitally with GPS or by measuring distances to adjacent land features with radar. A pair of dividers is used to plot these distances on the sheet as small triangles and confirm the current location of the ship. By these methods, the navigator assures the ship is on the planned track and/or adjusts the track accordingly.

The person at the helm (the steering wheel) is directed by the CONN to point the ship at the necessary bearing. As changes are needed to the bearing, the person at the helm responds to the CONN’s commands to adjust.

In Lisianski Inlet the team of hydrographers started collecting data with the multibeam sonar system around midnight Tuesday morning. As we traveled along the entire length of the Inlet overnight, this initial data was collected. When we arrived at the small town of Pelican, AK (pop. 88) a crew on a launch (small boat deployed from Rainier) traveled in and set up a HORCON (Horizontal Control) reference station. This is a high precision satellite receiver. It provides a very accurate way to measure potential drift in satellite indicated GPS over time. After taking data from the ship, the latitude and longitude are corrected with data from the HORCON.

Launch RA

This is one of several small(er) boats called “Launches” that are used for surveying.

Ship Rainier

This is a view of our ship from the launch.

After this initial work was complete at Lisianski, we began transit to Tracy Arm Fjord. While the multibeam sonar work was completed here last week, three crews deployed in launches to ‘proof’ the shoreline information on the charts. This is essentially confirming and updating the existence and location of particular features (rocks, ledges, etc).

Tracy Arm

This was the view as we approached the glacier at the end of Tracy Arm.

Launch Team

NOAA Hydrographer Amanda Finn and I together on the launch.

At this point, the hydrographers are processing much of the data obtained in the past few days. Additional data will be collected tomorrow morning. Then in the evening we’ll transit back to Lisianski to begin further work there.

Ship among ice.

The ship parked here while the launches moved closer to the ice.

Glacial Ice

The glacial ice shows a beautiful blue color.

Ice Blue

Different pieces of ice appear slightly different colors.

Personal Log

Every member of the team on this vessel has a job to do. Every member matters. The success of the entire operations depends upon the teamwork of all. There is a positive sprit among the group to work together for the tasks at hand.

I’ve been welcomed to learn to chart our course. I had an opportunity today to operate the helm (steering). I went out on a launch today to visit waters that were yet uncharted as the glacier at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord is receding. It was incredible to see not only the beauty of the ice among the water, but to also witness from afar the calving of the glacier. A rumble like thunder accompanied the crashing of two small walls of ice into the ocean below as we watched from afar.

I enjoyed capturing many photos of the ice and the wildlife among it. Many harbor seals were relaxing upon chunks of glacial ice as we traveled through the Arm. The natural beauty of this area is best represented by a few photos.

An adult seal and pup

This adult seal was watching us closely with the pup.

Ice Dog?

What can you see in this ice? Might it resemble a dog?

Did You Know?

Junior Officers in the NOAA Corps learn in a 19 week program followed by 2 weeks at sea on a tall ship called Eagle.

There are approximately 320 commissioned officers in the NOAA Corps internationally.

NOAA Operates 16 Ships and 20 Aircraft!

Eric Koser: Getting Underway! June 25, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22 – July 9, 2018


Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey

Geographic Region: Southeast Alaska

Date: June 25, 2018, 1500 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 56°59.4’, Long:135°53.9’
Skies: Broken
Wind 19 kts at 340°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: 3-4’ with swells of 2-3’
Water temp: 9.4°C

Science and Technology Log

Rainier and her sister ship Fairweather celebrated their 50th anniversary together this past March. The bell on the bow of each ship is now plated in gold to celebrate the event.

This vessel has quite a physical plant below deck maintained by the competent team in the Engineering Department. For propulsion, there are two V-12 Diesel Locomotive Engines. After bathing the valves in fresh oil, each engine is started with compressed air at the press of a button. Once up and running, the Rainier’s engines often run for several days at a time. There is no “transmission” on this vessel. Instead, the two propellers utilize what is called ‘variable pitch’. When the pitch is set to zero, the props spin but push water neither back or forward – and thus don’t force the ship to move. When the prop pitched is increased in a forward direction – up to a pitch of 10, the ship is pushed forward. Of course, this is really the water pushing the ship forward as the propellers push the water backward. A pitch of “10” means that for each single rotation of the prop, the blades will move water ten feet back. When reverse is desired, the props can each pitch back to a maximum of ‘6’. Now the water is pushed forwards by the prop so the water can push the ship backward.

Prop Pitch Control

This is the variable prop pitch control system. Notice the silver digital actuator at the top which provides an electronic signal back to the bridge.

Push to Start

This is how the Engineering Department can start the engines.

As there are two engines and two propellers, the Rainier’s crew can run one prop forwards and the other backward to turn the vessel around nearly in place. This could be called a ‘split 6’ – where one prop is pitched forward 6 to match the other prop’s pitch backward of 6.

Rainier Engines

This is one side of one of Rainier’s two V-12 Diesel locomotive engines.

Another device the crew can use to manipulate the ship in the water is called a ‘bow thruster’.   This is an open tube from port (left) to starboard (right) near the bow of the ship underwater. There is a propeller mounted in this open tube which is powered by a separate engine. The engineering team can have the bow thruster system up and running in just a matter of minutes when called on by the bridge to prepare for its use! By pushing water to one side, the water pushes the bow the other way. This is a great tool to maneuver this large vessel in tight spaces.

In addition to the two engines plus the bow thruster, there are several other important systems maintained on The Rainier. There are a pair of 4000 Watt diesel electric generators to provide electricity. There is a water purification system – to isolate salt from seawater and make clean drinking water and a wastewater treatment plant to process waste. There are air compressors to supply the ship’s systems.

There are 45 individuals on board this ship – and they pull together into five teams to make operations happen on board. The NOAA Corps is responsible for the administration and navigation of the ship. The Deck crew handles all things on the surface of the ship including handling all lines, cranes, and davits (to manipulate the launches—small boats). The Engineering Crew is responsible for all the mechanical systems on board.  The Electronics Department handles all instrumentation and wiring on the ship. The Stewards run the ever important galley – keeping the entire group well fed. All of this supports the work of the survey team of Hydrographers, the team of scientists that are mapping the sea floor.

 

Personal Log

I’ve enjoyed both finding my way around the ship and getting to know the crew. These people work as a team!

I came in early enough to enjoy a few days exploring Sitka, Alaska. This is a small port town that is really the first city in Alaska. Russians originally settled here in 1799 and eventually sold the city to the US in 1867. Sitka is a beautiful place to explore – being primarily a port for commercial and private fishing operations.

Sitka Bridge

This bridge spans the main channel in Sitka.

Sitka Harbor

This is one of Sitka’s many harbors.

We’ve just left port this afternoon [Monday] as we transit to Lisianski Strait to being the hydrographic mission of this leg. We’ll arrive there late tonight/early Tuesday morning to collect data first from the Rainier itself. The experience on the ocean has been great thus far, and I look forward to much more!

departing Sitka

Here we are departing Sitka Monday afternoon – headed to the open Pacific to transit north.

Did You Know?

Sitka is the largest city, by area, in the United States in terms of land area! It occupies 2870 square miles yet has only a population of about 9,000 people—located mostly on the port location of Sitka.

The Rainier holds about 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel that is located in several tanks below deck. The weight of the fuel serves as ballast to help keep the ship stable while at sea! Fuel can be shifted between tanks to adjust the trim [front or back tilt] and list [port or starboard tilt] of the ship.  Typically Rainier refuels when the tanks reach about half full.

Eric Koser: Welcome– Its Almost Time! June 21, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 25 – July 9, 2018

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of navigable waters to develop and update navigational charts. At sea June 25 – July 9, 2018.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Lisianski Strait, along the SE coast of Alaska followed by transit of the Inside Passage to home port in Newport, OR.
Date: June 21, 2018, the Summer Solstice!

Weather Data from the Bridge [okay, the front porch at home!]:

44.1589° N, 94.0177° W
Current Weather: Light Rain, 70°F (21°C)
Humidity: 79%
Wind Speed: E 15 mph
Barometer: 29.81 in
Dewpoint: 63°F (17°C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi

Welcome!
It’s nearly time to embark on this adventure! I’ve always appreciated chances in life to explore and learn about different parts of the world. Recently I’ve enjoyed the book “One Earth, Two Worlds” by the Minnesota SCUBA diver Bill Mathies. I’m fascinated by the realm of underwater exploration. A large percentage of our planet has never even been seen by humans! NOAA’s hydrographic research vessels are in place around the world to map the ocean floor and promote safe navigation.

Science and Technology Log
I am Eric Koser and I live in southern Minnesota where I have worked with students learning about physics for 24 years. I teach at Mankato West High School, one of two mid-sized high schools in our river community of about 100,000 people. Mankato and North Mankato are the regional hub of south-central Minnesota. Our school district is home to about 9000 students K-12. Our community has particular strengths in manufacturing, education, and healthcare. Read more here at greatermankato.com!
I teach a variety of physics courses at West including AP Physics and Physics First at grade 9. I love to engage kids in learning physics by helping them to discover patterns and systems in nature. I really enjoy developing experiments and demonstrations to illustrate ideas. I also coach our YES! Team as a part of our Science Club here at West. Youth Eco Solutions is a program to support students to make positive energy and environmental based changes in their communities. These kids have tackled some big tasks – replacing styrofoam lunch trays with permanent trays, updating our building lighting’s efficiency, and systematically monitoring campus electrical usage.

Mankato West Scarlets

YESmn

Mankato Area Public Schools

Personal Log
My wife Erica and I have four kids that we love to support. They are currently ages 20, 18, 15, and 10 and always on the move. Our oldest, Josh, is an engineering and technical theater student at the U of MN. Our next, Zach, just graduated from high school and is rebuilding a small hobby farm and an 1800’s house to become his rural home. Ben is an avid photographer now working at a local photo studio shooting professionally for events. Meron is headed to fifth grade– she is our most social kid who loves being with her friends and our many pets here at home.

Team Koser

“Team Koser” – our immediate family.

Our summers often involve many days at ‘the lake’, a place we enjoy in northern Minnesota with extended family. We love to fish, swim, kayak and explore the water there. As a SCUBA diver, I’ve begun to explore below the surface of the water as well.

SCUBA MN

Lake diving in Minnesota can be chilly! – Photo by Ben Koser

MN Lake Sunset

Ben captures the last of this Minnesota lake sunset – photo by Eric Koser

This summer has also involved lots of construction on Zach’s farm as we bring a once gutted two-story house into a finished home.

MN Hobby Farm

Zach’s Minnesota Hobby Farm – photo by Eric Koser

In a few short days, I look forward to joining the NOAA Ship Rainier on a hydrographic survey of Lisianski Inlet on the SE coast of Alaska. I’ll meet up with the Ship in port at Sitka, Alaska.

NOAA Ship Rainier

NOAA Ship Rainier – Photo courtesy NOAA

The Rainier is a 231 foot long ship equipped with a variety of tools to digitally map the bottom of the ocean with the goal of updating and improving navigational charts. I look forward to meeting and working alongside the experts on Rainier while I learn everything I can about the important work that they do. I look forward to bringing questions and ideas to my students and community during and after this experience!

Questions!

The Rainier design specifications list a “draft” of 14.3 feet. What does this mean?

This ship displaces 1800 tons of water. What does this mean?

How could you determine the ‘footprint’ of the ship in the sea based on these two pieces of data? What is the average area of the footprint of this ship?