Monday started with my alarm beckoning my eyes to open at 4:15am. I found my right pointer finger hitting snooze not once, but twice, only to finally move myself from the medium of a dreamlike state to a stand-up position at 4:36. I made it to the galley for breakfast and a safety brief for the 3102 launch.
Today I will be joining COXSWAIN Tom Bascom and HIC Matt Vanhoy to perform near-shore surveying on sections that have both holidays and missed information. Holidays do not mean we will be scanning for Santa’s missing sleigh, or find Columbus’s ship Santa Maria run aground, but rather areas that have been previously surveyed and unfortunately recorded absolutely no information. Holidays occur sometimes due to rough seas, oxygen, as well as possible rocky ocean floors.
After Tom, Matt, and I were lowered in the 3102 by the davit and help of the TJ crew, we went to Fisher Island and began the slow mowing movements of surveying. The ride to Fisher Island was incredibly bumpy and the entire deck was wet from the swells pushing up at the bow. Currently there are winds upwards of 16 knots and a chill in the air. Vanhoy is below deck in the surveying room and Bascom is manning the boat. Me, well, I am observing for now and loving the chaotic changing seas. After about 2 hours on deck with Tom I went below to the survey room… that lasted about 20 minutes. I became really sea sick and returned to deck with Tom. Matt told me that he often gets sea sick while surveying on the launches and will come up to the stern, puke, and continue on through the day (wow). When you are on a launch the motions of the ocean are magnified and you can feel the movements much more so than on the ship.
While we were passing by the massive houses located on Fisher Island, Tom commented that unless there is love inside the homes, they are like the numerous clam shells we find already emptied and eaten by fish and gulls. He said that peace and happiness is not a large house, but the land that surrounds the home. Tom has been on the open waters for the past 30 years and has found solace in simplicity. He is a determined individual who presses on and is concerned with following protocol and ensuring the safety of those around him.
After lunch we finished our survey sections and still had 3 hours before needing to return so went around the area and collected bottom samples. Bottom samples (BS) is probably the most fun thing I have been able to help with on the ship. We used a device called the Van Veen Grab system and lowered it into the water. When we thought the Sampler was in contact with the ocean floor we pulled a few times up and down on the line and then hoisted the grabber to the deck.
The bottom samples are taken for the fisheries division as well as for ships that are interested in areas that they will be able to anchor in. For the most part we pulled samples of course sand and broken clam shells (I hope this is no reflection of Fisher Island). The further away from the shore line we went the more courser the sand became as well the more rocks we sampled. Most of the rocks were metamorphic and consisted of marble and a little quartzite. This surprised me given the location. I though most of the rocks would be sedimentary based on the surrounding topography and surface features.
I appreciate Tom and Matt taking the time to review and connect me into each process. Tom taught me how to drive the launch… that was really FUN. With all of the monitors it was hard to discern between reality and a glamorous video game. Radar showed me where I was going, and a survey map outlined the areas I was trying to move to in order to take the next bottom sample. Watching everything at once is not easy to do because you also have to pay attention to the waters. The shoals (shallow waters) often have “pots” which are lobster traps placed everywhere. The pots have a cage on the bottom of the ocean floor and a huge buoy at the surface so you can locate them and steer clear of them.
Upon returning to the ship, I watched yet another amazing sunset and Matt take the survey data from the ship and upload it on the ship’s network while Tom and ENS Norman hosed down the salt from the deck and prepped the 3102 for a new day.
Frank said an interesting thing today that resonated with a feeling that I have been unable to define. He said that when you are working at sea, every day is a Monday. This specific survey trip is 12 days long, which translates to 11 Monday’s and one Friday. That means there are no weekends, time is not longitudinal, rotational, or accompanied by changing scenery (going from home to the subway to school…all different backdrops). One day drips into the next, sparked by small things that you note as change and reference with a new day. We even had to vote on whether to observe daylight savings this weekend, or pretend it did not exist until we landed in New London on Friday.
I awoke yesterday and had the same breakfast I have had for the past week (still tasty, thanks Ace!!); however, there was nothing to punctuate why this day was indeed Saturday and not Friday. Mike the E.T. sat at the same table he had the day before and piled one condiment after the next onto his breakfast until perfection was reached, just as he has done each prior day. I smiled and laughed and told jokes with each of the crew members just as I have each day since I arrived.
The mess hall is like an accordion. It acts as a center piece that brings all of us together. After each meal the crew disappears back to the their stations. In this 208ft ship 36 members find their space and focus moving back to our stations to perform our individual duties. When meals begin anew we are pulled back together to resonate until we move away yet again. This center piece is essential otherwise we would continue with our duties whether it be Tuesday evening or Sunday morning. I enjoyed thinking about Frank’s sentence. This idea spoke of time not in hours or minutes, but as a continuum. Time on the TJ is marked with very simplistic relatively small changes that many of us would not pay attention to in our regular New York lives. A small conversation that sparks ideas, or subtle nuances that you begin to discover in an individual especially while sharing silence together, or a new smell that is adrift in the air that allows you to remember Tuesday from Friday (remember Tuesday when we smelled…). A series of simplistic small moments allows you to mark one day from the next.
There is a lovely gentleman named Tom who has been on numerous ships for over 30 years. He told me his line of work suits him best because he likes being able to keep to himself and if he was unable to work on ships he would be a hermit high on a hill (just a little joke). He has marked time by haircuts or noticing his shirt is slowly falling apart, or having to shave. He does not speak in days, just marked events. His longest time at sea without seeing land was 167 days…
Yesterday, Saturday…I mean Sunday, was marked by a small rock dove staring at me from the deck while I was standing on the bridge as I normally do with Joe and Tony during the 4-8 shift. The dove landed on the steal guard rail and then nestled in an incredibly small nook located in the bow next to the front mast and remained with the ship for the next two hours. It puffed its feathers to a measurable extension and settled in with the rest of the TJ crew. This dove punctuated my day and allowed me to differentiate time from Saturday.
There is constant conversation involved with seeing family, returning home, having creature comforts in hand’s reach, and kissing a wife, husband, or missed child. However many of the crew have also spoken of how even though time away from the ship is welcomed, after a while, they miss these days. Working with and on the ocean takes a certain kind of someone. These individuals tend to have patience, perseverance, and motivation to live on a ship and continue with focus each Monday. Each crew member on the TJ seems very much at ease and almost in a Zen-like state. From what I have observed there is no bitterness or disgruntled workers roaming the ship. Everyone here has served on multiple ships and is self-contained. Silence marks most of the day and conversations occur naturally when the tides are right.
For the last three days I have spoken with every surveyor on the ship at length to understand each stage of the nautical chart making process. I want to know the history, the importance, and most importantly the science. There are many stages and processes that go into the eventual updated chart (this process can take upwards of 1.5 years depending on the layout, and how well the data was accurately retrieved). I have been learning about this information and shooting videos bit by bit in order to make an introduction to hydrographic surveying for those that are following (thanks mom). November 3-5 have been my devoted days to understanding these new ideas. I will hopefully finish with the editing and have the video published soon.
Until then, smooth sails with no gales.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese and two pancakes (coffee of course!)
Science and Technology Log On a NOAA ship, similar to a military vessel, everyone has specific titles. It would be like calling your principal or mom a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) followed by their last name. Comparably on a ship there are tons of acronyms like (f.y.i., a.k.a, or my favorite o.m.g.). However, the acronyms the shipmates use are for titles and instead of fun text phrases they are based on status and certification. Ship acronym/name examples: CO: Commanding Officer XO: Executive Officer FOO: Field Operations Officer Ensign: “Fresh Meat” or Junior Officer Boatswain (Bosun): a Wage Mariner in charge of equipment and the crew GVA: General Vessel Assistant Today was full of events. I awoke at around 6:02am and went outside to breathe in the fresh air and watch the day break. After eating yet another delicious breakfast in the mess hall (cafeteria…we aren’t that messy) I was told by the FOO Davidson I would be going out on my first launch. I was placed on the 3102 which unfortunately does not currently have any hydrographic equipment (we hope to obtain a scanner this weekend sent from a Pacific Ocean NOAA ship). Today our mission is to go to the shores of Montauk, Long Island and retrieve data from a tidal instrument that was logging the daily tidal changes. Normally these instruments can be accessed via satellites, however the most recent Nor’ Easter compromised the instruments and made its information inaccessible via the internet. BGL Rob (BoatswainGroup Leader) normally would be taking the helm (steering wheel of boat) and Frank (surveyor) and Ensign Storm’n Norman also came along. Ensign Norman is currently learning how to navigate a small ship for a new license so took the helm while BGL Rob supervised (she needs to log so many hours behind the helm before sitting for the exam). All four of us piled into the 3102 while a massive davit (hydraulic lift) placed the 3102 from the TJ into the Atlantic Ocean. The technology behind the davit blew me out of the water (not really), but it was pretty amazing. The ship was moving 5.8 mph (you walk about 1.5-2mph) while 3102 was being lifted out of the water. Boatswain Rob gave great tips to Ensign Norman; however, Ensign Norman was confident and very much in control of 3102 and did a fantastic job driving us to and from Montauk. Once we arrived at Montauk, Frank opened the weather station and a huge amount of water poured out (probably why it wasn’t transmitting data). It took quite a while to get the information downloaded on the computer we brought, because the system was out of date with current technology (so interesting how fast technology moves). While Frank was on the phone with an engineer stationed in Seattle I walked along the dock and met a lovely gentleman named Joe and his dog, Lil’ Sugar. Joe was also a captain of a ship and ferried people to and from Block Island. Joe was a very warm gentle soul who spoke of his years at sea and all of the unique experiences he has been fortunate to have on multiple vessels. Currently Joe works as a Captain for a whale watching company (apparently Right Whales are migrating). After my lovely chat with Joe and quick walk around I returned to the group.
Upon returning Frank had found a note in a bottle that a woman named “Karen” had thrown into the ocean and washed ashore in Montauk. We presumed Karen was from somewhere in Connecticut (based on the cell phone number). We called her number, but she did not retrieve her phone. I will say for all of you wistful bottle throwers. If you do this, make sure you use glass (it doesn’t break down to little plastic bits that fish mistakenly eat for food) and be imaginative with your note (I am not advocating for anyone to throw a bottle into the ocean). Karen’s was very plain and gave little background or visual. It was more fun talking with the group and imagining all of the personality and character she may have had (most of this was based on the jar she placed the note in…it was a Trappist Preserves jelly jar). Trappist Preserves usually retails for $27.00 and is hand-made by monks in an Abbey located in Massachusetts.
When I returned to the TJ I spent the rest of the day (almost 6 hours) in the acquisition room, located on the bridge, with Kimberly the Great. Kimberly is a seasoned surveyor (meaning she has been aboard the TJ for seven years) and was able to break down each surveying screen in an incredible way. (Read Nov. 3-4 for a break down of Hydrographic surveying)
Personal Log Breakfast: 2 fried eggs, oatmeal, 1 hashbrown Lunch: Deli sandwich with coffee Dinner: Vegetarian “chicken” patty with tomato sauce and cheese, and corn Dessert: Chocolate Cake (Happy Belated birthday XO!!!)
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Temperature 14 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 12.0 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb: 8.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1228.4 millibars
Latitude: 41°71’58” ° North
Longitude: 072°0’07” ° West
Science and Technology Log
Good Morning Thomas Jefferson! Today I woke up and felt very spritely. Even though we were still docked I was excited to see a new city and leave Connecticut’s shores by noon. I started by walking around New London and learning about its
history. New London is a mariners town and is home to a Naval submarine base as well as the United States Coast Guard Academy. New London was also home to the Eastern shores largest whaling industry in the 1700’s.
After having a glimpse of New London (only 2.5 hours north of NYC) I returned to the Thomas Jefferson and watched as the ship readied herself to leave the dock and begin yet another survey (mapping the ocean floor) of the ocean floors. While I watched the deck hands, officers, and surveyors ready the ship I asked random shipmates who exactly worked aboard the Thomas Jefferson. Based on our conversation I was able to make the following chart. This chart breaks down the five basic groups that are aboard the Thomas Jefferson. The only person I did not account for is the amazing ET (Electronics Technician), Mike, who helps with all computer and system related problems (there are enough aboard to keep him busy 24/7.
Who works on the Thomas Jefferson:
Stewards (Kitchen Crew)
NOAA Corp Officers
Let’s start with the cooking crew, because food is the best place to begin any conversation. . Dave, Nester, and Ace are the stewards for this journey and make incredibly tasty meals…even vegetarian ones for me and Shaina (Shaina is on an internship with NOAA while she attends College in Seattle). The kitchen on a ship is also called the “galley.”
The deck department works by maintaining the ship. The tasks include chipping and painting (this is important because the sea water is constantly chemically eroding the surface of the ship) moving the launches in and out of the TJ, and keeping the ship balanced as a whole.
The “surveyors…” this team is quite large and essential to the ship because they conduct and perform all of the seafloor mapping (hydrographic surveying). The surveyors work around the clock and continually modernize old nautical charts to be used commercially and for recreation purposes.
The mechanical engineers or “the heart of the ship.” The ME’s maintenance the engine, electricity, sewage, water, and keep all life lines to the ship running. There are multiple positions in the ME department:CME (Chief Mechanical Engineer), licensed engineers, JUE (junior unlicensed engineers) oilers, wipers, GVA (General Vessel Assistants).
The officers are essentially the supervisors or parents of the ship. The officers “run” the ship in respect to giving directions, deciding where TJ will go, how fast she (all ships are referred to as she) should go, and pull the stops when things aren’t going well or need to be revised.
What is a scientific research vessel?
So, let’s break it down. The Thomas Jefferson specifically is used to map sea floors, however it can be called to plane crashes (they saved a pilot last year off of the Florida keys!!) when they go down in the area or ship wrecks. The Thomas Jefferson, or TJ, has three deployable ships (small ships that can be moved from the larger ship to the ocean). Two of the deployables are hydrographic survey launches named 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 (aptly named for their position on the ship) and the FRV (fast rescue vessel). The 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 are used daily to map areas that have shoal bottoms (shoal=ship term used for shallow). Sadly the 31-0-1 is awaiting a new multibeam scanner so instead is used for small missions like going ashore to pick up mail (this is
very exciting for the crew) or retrieving tidal data from instruments that lost power from our Nor’Easter last weekend (this is also exciting because it allows you to go onto land). TJ is 208ft long (just short of a block). Thomas Jefferson was the first President to realize the importance of surveying and safe navigation. Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter was a land surveyor and was able to emphasize the importance of national surveying to his son. Thomas Jefferson commissioned the first surveying crew through the U.S. Government and as a result NOAA named their ship after him.
A scientific research vessel basically means I am not on a cruise ship, and unfortunately there is no swimming pool, or drinks with little umbrellas. Instead it is like a business office on the water. Everybody is working all of the time. The only difference is that everyone eats and sleeps in the same place they work. Everybody works in 4 hour “watches.” If you are the 4-8 watch that means you work from 4am-8am and 4pm to 8pm everyday. Though this watch may not interest you, I love it because you are able to observe the sunrise and sunset each day.
Other watches are from (8am-12pm and 8pm to 12am) and (12am-4am and 12pm-4pm). Imagine waking up at school, eating breakfast going to school for four hours (let’s say 4am-8am), taking a break and going back to school again for another 4 hours (4pm-8pm) and then going to sleep only to wake up the next morning to start anew. On a research vessel work is achieved and performed 24/7. I can wake up any hour and move throughout the ship to find the “new crew” that are on just beginning their new watch.
How She Moves:
OKAY, so the motion of the ocean (known to me as seasickness). The motion is kind of like being on the subway and not holding onto anything. If the subway moves back and forth on a ship that would be called the roll (like you rocking from right to left foot), if we were able to take a subway car and move it up and down that would be known as the heave, if you took the subway car and just tipped it up in the front (bow) and down in the front (bow) this would be known as the pitch and last but not least if you swung the subway car through turn after turn, right to left to right to left again this would be known as the yaw or side to side from port to starboard. Depending on the weather or if you are anchored (when the ship lets down a chain connected to a huge weight that is pushed into the sand) you can have ALL FOUR motions going at the same time. Last night while we were anchored offshore, the TJ was rock’n and roll’n and we had yaw, roll, heave, and pitch all while moving in a circle around the anchor…and I sadly was able to see my dinner twice in one evening!
Do I need to go to college to work on a ship?
Some of the positions require technical skills in surveying that can not be acquired without going to college, however the majority of the positions are trades that can be taught in a semester or year-long course. Many of the wage mariners aboard did not attend college, but instead attended a maritime school for one semester to one year depending on their rank. Many of the mechanical engineers were trained either in the Navy or at a trades school as well. There is a maritime school in NYC between Hunts Point and Queens (click on purple/blue mariners school). If you are interested in becoming a NOAA Corps Officer you will have to graduate from a four-year college/university with a major in any science discipline. The NOAA Corps Officer training program is also located in NYC.
Clouds: 3/8 Cumulus
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: NW 21Knots.
Temperature 13.9 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 13.5 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb: 10.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1626.8 millibars
Latitude: 41°08’39” ° North
Longitude: 072°05’43” ° West
Science and Technology Log
It is late at night and I am sitting on my bunk bed (top bunk) or crouching rather against the wall. I was given sheets and a pillow from NOAA to use for my trip, however I brought a small blanket my sister bought for me ages ago. It is true, creature comforts bring smiles and happiness in the quietest moments. My curtains are swaying back and forth, my coat sways to the same rhythm and there is a small creak from my bathroom door trying to break free from its steal holds. I just came from outside to breathe in one last crisp breath of air and peak at the first quarter moon shining on the Atlantic waters. It is amazing to look upwards or in any direction above the horizon and observe the celestial nighttime stars brilliantly held in the sky. Tonight there are no skyscrapers or brownstones blocking my view.
At night-time, when we anchor, I find the best position for me to be in, is laying down (or crouching). This seems the only time my food wants to fight gravity. We have had smooth sailing thus far (with exception to this evening).
Today I was able to observe and listen to multiple meetings in the “plot room.” The plot room consists of all of NOAA’s hydrographic surveyors. Some surveyors were plotting today’s scan while others scoured through old data looking for areas on the most recently made map that were missing information and identifying features on the maps such as rocks, piers, sunken ships, and other interesting features.
While in the plot room I spent much of my time with James as he amazingly went through all of the many areas of surveying. One of the major issues of mapping the seafloor is finding the “true depth” of the ocean. The ocean rises and falls each day due the gravitational effects from the moon (tides). NOAA and the hydrographic surveyors must take this tidal change into account in order to determine the “REAL” depth of the ocean. The surveyors must also account for the motions of ship lifting the beam when it is yawing, pitching, heaving, or rolling.
Halfway through my lecture with James the Thomas Jefferson sounded its bell for a fire drill. In school during fire drills everybody vacates the building, however on a boat it is important for “All hands on deck.” This is when everyone comes to specific areas they have been assigned to on the deck (mine is the bridge or second level). I met John and Kurt who are also visiting the Thomas Jefferson and we stood in the cold for about one hour as the deck crew pulled three different fire hoses from below and shot them into the water in order to test if they work. Initially this black brackish water shot out because the hoses had been sitting for so long, but eventually the hoses streamed clear salt water.
Upon going inside from the fire drill another bell rang loud and clear calling all persons to deck for a mandatory “man-over-board” drill. When there is a man/woman overboard everyone is to wear their pfd (personal flotation device or life vest) a warm hat, and bring along their immersion suit (also known as a gumby suit). I did not know we were supposed to wear a hat, so I looked like the only one trying to not follow orders…whoops. After the drill I had to try on my gumby suit with Ivan, and wished I could have worn it for Halloween. The “Gumby” suit floats and is incredibly warm, so if the boat goes down you do not necessarily need a life raft in order to stay warm and afloat.
When I returned to the plot room James had found a ship wreck and was cleaning the image. When the surveyors clean the images they remove fish, seaweed, or anything that takes away from the seafloor map.
There is an exercise room on deck and I went running after dinner today. It was really hard to run because not only are you on a machine that is moving, but the machine is located on a boat that is moving. Even though I was able to run 3 miles, I felt like I had run 5 miles while trying to fight the motions of the ship. It felt like I was exercising while standing on a roller coaster that was moving.
Breakfast: Grits and scrambled eggs
Lunch:Veggie Lasagna, green beans, Veggie Chili
Dinner:Veggie chili, potatoes
Dessert: Strawberry shortcake (I had mine without the strawberries…delicious)
NOAA Teacher at Sea Paige Teamey Aboard NOAA Thomas Jefferson October 31, 2011 – November 11, 2011
Greetings, my name is Paige Teamey and I will be sailing on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson as part of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program. I am a graduate ofWheaton College with a double major inPhysics and Environmental Science. I am a native Oregonian, but have called Brooklyn, NY home for the last eight years. I love the outdoors and have had many opportunities to explore upstate New York and observe a side of the east coast that is raw and beautiful. I have a great love for being outside and spending as much time as I can with my family.
I have lived and taught high school earth science, anatomy and physiology, forensics, experimental design, and material science for the past seven years at Brooklyn Academy High School. I deeply enjoyed the students I taught as well as the faculty and community that existed at the school and in the neighborhood of Bed-Stuy.
I departed from Brooklyn Academy this year to follow a passion and help provide students at a younger age access to science and engineering with Iridescent. Iridescent is a non-profit science and engineering educational organization located in Hunts Point, NY where our vision is to use science, technology and engineering to develop persistent curiosity and to show that knowledge is empowering. Iridescent is a community-based educational outreach organization that supports student growth through lifelong mentorships and community sharing, development, and learning.
Hunts Point is located on a peninsula and is home to the largest food distribution site in the world as well as the largest fish market in the world outside of Japan. Hunts Point receives enough food annually by ship to feed 30 million people in and around New York City. Hunts Point is atidal strait located between the Bronx River and the East River. Each ship that travels from their homeland bringing products to NYC relies on nautical charts in order to steer around shallow areas, especially at low tides (check out the current moon phase today). On my voyage with NOAA, I will learn how to conduct seafloor mapping (hydrographic surveying) of Block Island in order to update and generate nautical maps.
95% of our oceans have yet to be explored!!! Humans have only researched, taken data, and “observed” 5% of our Earth’s watery shores. Gene Feldman an oceanographer and earth explorer stated it best by describing the ocean as a really a hard place to work in the following statement,
70% of our world contains OCEANS.
“In many ways, it’s easier to send a person to space than to the bottom of the ocean. The ocean is dark and cold. In space, you can see forever. Deep in the ocean, you can’t see much. Your light can’t shine very far.”
Life exist in a very small slice on land when compared to the enormous depths of our oceans.
Life on land occurs in a very thin layer from just below the ground to the tops of our tallest trees (about 1 mile or 20 blocks) . In the ocean life occurs in every layer where some areas are more than seven miles deep (140 blocks). NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is an amazing organization that has hundreds of scientists and engineers exploring and learning about our oceans everyday. NOAA shines new light on our oceans unexplored worlds everyday.
For the students and families following my journey Shine your light!! Be curious with a passion. Keep your eyes open to the skies, below your feet, into the wind, with every step to school/work or while sitting in silence… question everything. I look forward to bringing you answers and videos to any questions or any interests you have about my journey. Click on the words when they are highlighted purple/blue in order to learn more.
You can follow my journey and adventures in this blog and daily ship position via theNOAA Ship Tracker. Just click on the hyperlink, enter the ship tracker and select the Thomas Jefferson from the drop down menu on the right side of the screen.