Barney Peterson: Spreads Like A Ripple, July 1, 2016

Field studies of salmon habitat with 4th grade students

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Barney Peterson

(Soon to be) Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13-28, 2016

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 1, 2016

Spreads Like a Ripple

“Yep, sounds exciting, but you teach about Pacific Salmon, so how useful is learning about Hammerhead Sharks in the Gulf of Mexico really going to be?” my friend asked.

Her reaction was not unusual. I am a 4th grade teacher with 26 years of experience in the Everett Public Schools in Washington State. I have put some serious thought into using my Teacher At Sea experiences to open eyes and minds to the world around us. I think the possibilities are endless.

My first Teacher at Sea assignment was summer 2006 aboard NOAA ship, RAINIER, on a hydrographic survey mission in the Shumagin Islands, Gulf of Alaska. From this I developed lessons on making contour maps using sticks and a sounding box. I grew my understanding of how weather systems that develop in the Gulf of Alaska influence our weather in Puget Sound. I used that knowledge to help students understand relationships between geography, weather and climate. I learned about birds, mammals and fish in the ocean food chain and inserted that learning into helping students understand the life cycle of the salmon we raise in our classroom.

In 2008 I had the opportunity to share a Teacher in the Air experience with fellow TASA Dana Tomlinson from San Diego, California. We flew with a winter storm research crew from Portland, Oregon; traveling 1800 miles out over the Pacific Ocean and back tracking developing weather systems. We created lessons that helped students understand the importance of using accurate global positioning information to follow low pressure systems as they moved across the ocean toward the west coast of North America. We put together a unit to help them understand how air pressure, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction are measured and how that data is used to understand and predict weather patterns. My students still use those lessons as we participate in the GLOBE program, sending data in every day of the school year.

That was then, and this is now:

Field studies of salmon habitat with 4th grade students
Field studies of salmon habitat with 4th grade students

At school, I have students use globes and inflatable Earth Balls to track from the Arctic Ocean through every other ocean and back to the Arctic without taking their pointer-fingers off ocean surface. Then they start to get it… the connections: there is really just one big ocean! We learn about the water cycle and I challenge them to explain “where the water comes from.” We learn about food webs and energy flow. Our salmon studies teach them about producers, consumers and decomposers. They get the idea of cycles and systems and how all parts must work together. They learn to consider what happens when one step of a cycle fails or one part of a system is missing. We learn about organisms labeled “indicator species” that help scientists track changes in the health of ecosystems.

True, all of this is presented with a focus on where we live in the Pacific Northwest. But…that is just one place on the edge of our one ocean. Time comes to broaden the view. There are many life cycles depending upon the continual efficient functioning of Earth’s systems. Since there is just one ocean, nothing really happens in isolation. The same kinds of events that disrupt life cycles in one place will certainly disrupt them in another.

In August I will be aboard the NOAA ship, OREGON II, in the Gulf of Mexico. Our mission is to investigate and gather data about Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks and Red Snapper. They share an ecosystem and participate in the same food web. They are subject to consequences of the same environmental changes and catastrophes that happen in other parts of our ocean.

Drop a pebble into the water anywhere and ripples spread until they reach the outermost boundaries. We all share one ocean. Where does the ripple stop?

Karolyn Braun, November 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: November 1, 2006

Plan of the Day: Arrive in Kwajalein, RMI

TAS Braun assists in driving the KA’IMIMOANA
TAS Braun assists in driving the KA’IMIMOANA

In many of my past journal entries I have talked about El Niño or ENSO, so what is it?  Well El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather around the globe. Among these consequences is increased rainfall across the southern tier of the US and in Peru, which has caused destructive flooding, and drought in the West Pacific, sometimes associated with devastating brush fires in Australia. Observations of conditions in the tropical Pacific are considered essential for the prediction of short-term (a few months to 1 year) climate variations.  To provide necessary data, NOAA operates and assists in the TAO buoy project, which measure temperature, currents and winds in the equatorial band. These buoys daily transmit data, which are available to researchers and forecasters around the world in real time.

In normal, non-El Niño conditions the trade winds blow towards the west across the tropical Pacific. These winds pile up warm surface water in the west Pacific, so that the sea surface is about 1/2 meter higher at Indonesia than at Ecuador.  The sea surface temperature is about 8 degrees C higher in the west, with cool temperatures off South America, due to an upwelling of cold water from deeper levels.  This cold water is nutrient-rich, supporting high levels of primary productivity, diverse marine ecosystems, and major fisheries.  Rainfall is found in rising air over the warmest water in the west Pacific, and the east Pacific is relatively dry.

The track of the KA’IMIMOANA for TAS Braun’s science cruise.
The track of the KA’IMIMOANA for TAS Braun’s science cruise (in light blue).

During El Niño, the trade winds relax in the central and western Pacific leading to a depression of the thermocline in the eastern Pacific, and an elevation of the thermocline in the west.  This reduces the efficiency of upwelling to cool the surface and cut off the supply of nutrient rich thermocline water to the euphotic zone.  The result is a rise in sea surface temperature and a drastic decline in primary productivity, the latter of which adversely affects higher trophic levels of the food chain, including commercial fisheries in this region.  The weakening of easterly trade winds during El Niño is also evident.  Rainfall follows the warm water eastward, with associated flooding in Peru and drought in Indonesia and Australia. The eastward displacement of the atmospheric heat source overlaying the warmest water results in large changes in the global atmospheric circulation, which in turn force changes in weather in regions far removed from the tropical Pacific.

Unfortunately, NOAA recently issued an unscheduled EL NIÑO advisory due to El Niño conditions that developed in the tropical Pacific and are likely to continue into early 2007. Ocean temperatures have increased remarkably in the equatorial Pacific during the last two weeks. “Currently, weak El Niño conditions exist, but there is a potential for this event to strengthen into a moderate event by winter,” said Vernon Kousky, NOAA’s lead El Niño forecaster.

During the last 30 days, drier-than-average conditions have been observed across all of Indonesia, Malaysia and most of the Philippines, which are usually the first areas to experience ENSO-related impacts.  This dryness can be expected to continue, on average, for the remainder of 2006. Also, the development of weak El Niño conditions helps explain why this Atlantic hurricane season has been less active than was previously expected.  El Niño typically acts to suppress hurricane activity by increasing the vertical wind shear over the Caribbean Sea region.  However, at this time the El Niño impacts on Atlantic hurricanes are small.

So for the past month I have been on the cutting-edge research that assists physical scientists with data that will create ENSO forecast models to improve our understanding of underlying physical processes at work in the climate system.  On our way into Kwajalein, I got to steer the ship.  Didn’t go very straight but not bad for my first time.  I want to give a HUGE thank you to Commanding Officer Mark Pickett; Executive Officer Robert Kamphaus; Field Operations Officer Rick Hester; the Junior Officers, the science team and the crew of the KA’IMIMOANA for the amazing opportunity I’ve had the honor to experience.

Karolyn Braun, October 31, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: Tropical Atmosphere Ocean Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: American Samoa
Date: October 31, 2006

Plan of the Day: Transit to Kwajalein, RMI; Science Wrap-up meeting; Celebrate Halloween.

TAS Karolyn Braun, Junior Officer Rebecca Waddington, Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward show off their Halloween costumes.
TAS Karolyn Braun, Junior Officer Rebecca Waddington, Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward show off their Halloween costumes.

Did you know Halloween originated as a Pagan festival among the Celts of Ireland and Great Britain with Irish, Scots, Welsh and other immigrants transporting versions of the tradition to North America in the 19th century? Most other Western countries have embraced Halloween as a part of American pop culture in the late 20th century. The term Halloween, and its older spelling Hallowe’en, is shortened from All-hallowsevening, as it is the evening before “All Hallows’ Day” (also known as “All Saints’ Day”). The holiday was a day of religious festivities in various northern European Pagan traditions, until Popes Gregory III and Gregory IV moved the old Christian feast of All Saints Day to November 1.

Many European cultural traditions hold that Halloween is one of the liminal times of the year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent (e.g. Catalan mythology about witches, Irish tales of the Sídhe).  The American tradition of “trick-or-treating” dates back to the All Souls’ Day parades in England. During this time, poor citizens would beg for food and families would give them pastries called “soul cakes.”  They gave them these cakes if they promised to pray for their dead family members.

Handing out soul cakes was encouraged by the church as a way to replace the ancient practice of leaving food and wine for roaming spirits.  The practice, which was referred to as “going a-souling” was eventually taken up by children who would visit the houses in their neighborhood and be given ale, food, and money.  Today, they receive candy instead. So there you have it!

So the day began as usual with breakfast, a work out, and helping the officers on board create their costumes.  Then I went down to the galley and made Halloween cookies, cupcakes and caramel apples with Don and Carrie, the Stewards.  During the afternoon, I packed some then Phoebe, Rebecca and I dressed up for dinner and a little fun of handing out candy to everyone onboard. A good time had by all!

Karolyn Braun, October 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 30, 2006

Plan of the Day: Transit to Kwajalein, RMI

TAS Braun suits up in fire gear.
TAS Braun suits up in fire gear.

Well, we are on our third day of overcast and rain.  Our sailing path has taken us into the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).  The ITCZ is an area of low pressure that forms where the Northeast Trade Winds meet the Southeast Trade Winds near the earth’s equator. As these winds converge, moist air is forced upward.  This causes water vapor to condense, or be “squeezed” out, as the air cools and rises, resulting in a band of heavy precipitation around the globe. This band moves seasonally, always being drawn toward the area of most intense solar heating, or warmest surface temperatures.  It moves toward the Southern Hemisphere from September through February and reverses direction as the Northern Hemisphere warms during its summer that occurs in the middle of the calendar year. However, the ITCZ is less mobile over the oceanic longitudes, where it holds a stationary position just north of the equator.  In these areas, the rain simply intensifies with increased solar heating and diminishes as the sun moves away. An exception to this rule occurs when there is an ENSO event, during which the ITCZ is deflected toward unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Pacific.

Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy some of TAS Braun’s cooking.
Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy scrabble

So what else did I do today…well I will tell you!  The morning I spent creating a Halloween costume out of duct tape, line, painter’s tape and rags from the Bosun’s locker. It sounds a bit odd I know but it will all come together!  After lunch, the afternoon was full of fire drill and abandoned ship drill excitement.  During the fire drill, the scenario was that a fire broke out in the aft steering access tunnel.  As scientists, we assist the officers in closing vents and act as runners for DC central, Damage Control.  Patrick and I had to carry 5-gallon barrels of fire-fighting foam around the ship to the fire fighters, and we had to fetch air tanks as the fire reflashed. Very crazy stuff.  When the drill was suspended, the fire fighters were wet head to toe from sweat, shaky and drained from the adrenaline that was flowing through them.  At the day’s end, and after a little air drying, I was able to try one of the fire suits on and got a hint of what they go through during a drill or a real fire. The suit was heavy and hot and that was before I had the tanks, mask and helmet on.  I applaud anyone who has had the privilege to call himself or herself a firefighter. That evening I made a Happy Halloween banner I hung in the mess while some of the others continued on with game night!

Karolyn Braun, October 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 29, 2006

Chief Scientist, Patrick A’Hearn replaces a rain gauge and sea surface salinity sensor on a TAO buoy.
Chief Scientist, Patrick A’Hearn replaces a rain gauge and sea surface salinity sensor on a TAO buoy.

Plan of the Day: Repair TAO buoy 8N/International Date Line and Transit to Kwajalein, RMI

Today was our last TAO buoy of the cruise. I was able to go on the repair and assist the Chief Scientist, Patrick A’Hearn in a rain gauge and a sea surface salinity sensor replacement.  Let’s talk TAO buoys.

Development of the Tropical Atmosphere Ocean (TAO) array was motivated by the 1982-1983 El Nino event, the strongest of the century up to that time, which was neither predicted nor detected until nearly at its peak. The event highlighted the need for real-time data from the tropical Pacific for both monitoring, prediction, and improved understanding of El Nino. As a result, with support from NOAA’s Equatorial Pacific Ocean Climate Studies (EPOCS) program, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory,  (PMEL) began development of the ATLAS (Autonomous Temperature Line Acquisition System) mooring.  This low-cost deep ocean mooring was designed to measure surface meteorological and subsurface oceanic parameters, and to transmit all data to shore in real-time via satellite relay.  The mooring was also designed to last one year in the water before needing to be recovered for maintenance.  In August of 1996, the KA’IMIMOANA was commissioned and dedicated to servicing the TAO array east of 165E.

braun_log23aThe TAO surface buoy is a 2.3 m diameter fiberglass-over-foam toroid, with an aluminum tower and a stainless steel bridle.  When completely rigged, the system has an air weight of approximately 660 kg, a net buoyancy of nearly 2300 kg, and an overall height of 4.9 m.  The electronics tube is approximately 1.5 m long, 0.18 m diameter, and weighs 27 kg.  The buoy can be seen on radar from 4-8 miles depending on sea conditions.

Moorings are deployed in water depths between 1500 and 6000m.  To ensure that the upper section of the mooring is nearly vertical a nominal scope of 0.985 (ratio of mooring length to water depth) is employed on the moorings in water depths of 1800 meters or more.

Karolyn Braun, October 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 28, 2006

Crewmembers enjoy some tournament games will the ship is in transit.
Crewmembers enjoy some tournament games will the ship is in transit.

Plan of the Day: Transit to 8N/International Date Line and Work on Cruise Report.

I woke up very sleepy. I think I am winding down myself.  My batteries are slowly running out. I started writing my End of Cruise report for the Field Operations Officer and cleaned up the stateroom.

At the day’s end was tournament games all around.  I played sequence and darts, and lost both. Chris, one of the deck hands taught me a short splice and an eye splice.

I assisted the ET guys with updating my Intranet webpage, and I watched a movie with the Chief Scientist, Patrick.  All in all, a pretty uneventful day.

Karolyn Braun, October 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii and American Samoa
Date: October 27, 2006

Plan of the Day 

So we have one more TAO buoy to visit to conduct a repair on, and then we are on our way to Kwajalein. Everyone and everything is quieting down some.  We have a bunch of tournaments going on: Backgammon, Darts, Sequence, Scrabble, Poker and Cribbage. I signed up for darts and sequence. Should be

The XO grills dinner for the crew.
The XO grills dinner for the crew.

fun. At least it is something to do during our three-day transit to Kwajalein.

Well after a hot and humid workday, the officers of the KA’IMIMOANA celebrated a successful cruise by having a BBQ for everyone onboard. The Executive Officer was the star chef of the evening, grilling up shrimp kabobs, ribs, steak, chicken and burgers. The stewards made yummy salads.  Overall it was a nice evening out on the fantail—the first real evening where everyone sat, ate and had conversation. Normally in the galley everyone is either tired, in need of a shower, or wants some quiet time.  After dinner I played a game of darts, which I lost but was still fun. And I watched a movie: Yours, Mine and Ours. 

Saw a nice looking shark so today’s lesson: SHARKS!

Sharks are amazing fish that have been around since long before the dinosaurs existed.  They live in waters all over the world, in every ocean, and even in some rivers and lakes.  Unlike bony fish, sharks have no bones; their skeleton is made of cartilage, which is a tough, fibrous substance, not nearly as hard as bone.

There are many different species of sharks that range in size from the size of a person’s hand to bigger than a bus. Fully-grown sharks range in size from 7 inches (18 cm) long (the Spined Pygmy shark), up to 50 feet (15 m) long (the Whale shark).  Most sharks are intermediate in size, and are about the same size as people, 5-7 feet (1.5-2.1 m) long.  Half of the 368 shark species are less than 39 inches (1 m) long.

Enjoying dinner on the fantail of the ship
Enjoying dinner on the fantail of the ship

Sharks may have up to 3,000 teeth at one time. Most sharks do not chew their food, but gulp it down whole in large pieces. The teeth are arranged in rows; when one tooth is damaged or lost, another replaces it.  Most sharks have about five rows of teeth at any time.  The front set is the largest and does most of the work.

When some sharks (like the Great White or the Gray Reef shark) turn aggressive prior to an attack, they arch their back and throw back their head.  This places their mouth in a better position for taking a big bite. They also move their tail more acutely (probably in preparation for a chase). Sharks do not normally attack people, and only about 25 species of sharks have been known to attack people. Sharks attack fewer than 100 people each year.  Many more people are killed by bees or lightning.

The largest sharks are decreasing in numbers around the world because of being hunted by people. The Great White shark, the Basking shark, and the Whale shark are all waning. The Great White is protected along the coast of California and South Africa.

Are you interested in learning more about sharks?  Browse the Internet, there is tons of information out there.  The more you learn, the more you know and knowledge is power!

Karolyn Braun, October 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 26, 2006

TAS Braun shows off her eggs benedict
TAS Braun shows off her eggs Benedict

Plan of the Day 

Woke up and was in the kitchen at 5:30 a.m. The Breakfast menu: Pancakes Omelets Sausage Bacon Eggs Benedict Breakfast potatoes Fritata Breakfast Sandwiches.

It was the first time I made Eggs Benedict and I tell you the sauce is a killer. You have to continually whisk the melted butter while adding the egg yolks. If you don’t, the mixture separates and you lose your sauce.  I thought all was lost, but I was able to bring it back and ended up making one mean Eggs Benedict! Everyone seemed happy with his or her breakfast to order.  As soon as breakfast was over we cleaned up and started preparing for lunch.  I thought working with the deck crew was hot and sweaty work but the kitchen blew that out of the water.

Mexican Fiesta Lunch menu: Pork Green Chili Veggie Fajita Refried beans Super Nachos Beef Fajitas  And all the fixings Lunch went well and things slowed up after everyone left. We cleaned the kitchen and started preparing for dinner but it was at a more leisurely pace. For dinner I made garlic chicken with spinach noodles, Steak with Spanish rice and some leftovers from lunch.  I finished my day around 5:30 when I took a much-needed shower and a 20-minute power nap. Woke up to watch them drop the anchor to the TAO buoy at 8N.170W. Is it bedtime yet?

I have to give the stewards of all the NOAA ships lots of credit. They work long hard days, and from my experience, always with a smile.

Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy some of TAS Braun’s cooking.
Some crewmembers of the KA’IMIMOANA enjoy some of TAS Braun’s cooking.

Karolyn Braun, October 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 25, 2006

TAS Braun enjoys her birthday dinner with the crew.
TAS Braun enjoys her birthday dinner with the crew.

Plan of the Day 

This morning started off with lots of Happy Birthdays! Yes today I am turning another year older….wow. Can’t believe I am leaving my 20’s behind and welcoming the 30’s!  Well today was pretty relaxing. At breakfast the crew gave me the Birthday hat to wear.

I had to wear it all day, so I did. I spooled a few lines when we started the recovery of the 4N TAO buoy then talked to my parents on the phone….Hi mom and dad!  I spent a half hour in the pool. Very nice afternoon for a swim.  After my swim, I got ready for dinner.  The Stewards made my favorite dinner: Pork chops and mashed potatoes with applesauce.  YUMMY! They also sang and made a birthday cake for me.  It was a very nice birthday here on the KAIMIMOANA.

Brett Hoyt, October 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 25, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  150º
Wind speed:  5 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2ft
Swell wave height: 4-6 ft
Sea level pressure: 1017.1 millibars
Sea temperature:  16.7ºC or ºF
Air temperature:  17.9ºC or ºF
Cloud type: Stratus

Reggie Glover – Engine Utility Man (“Oilier”) helping keep the ship running smooth. Thanks Reggie!
Reggie Glover – Engine Utility Man (“Oilier”) helping keep the ship running smooth. Thanks Reggie!

The Crew 

For the past 3 weeks we have been highlighting the scientists and their work.  The other unsung heroes of this cruise are the ship’s crew.  These tireless workers work 7 days a week and are on call 24 hours a day. They are up before dawn and go to bed well after sunset. They feed us three square meals a day (they are excellent chefs) and provide us even with the water we drink and bath with.  Without our crew the research does not happen. For this we thank you.

Being a crewmember on a research vessel such as the RONALD BROWN has many hardships. You can’t go to the movies (they show two every night—not always your choice but you can request a movie to be played) or head to the mall (they do have a ship’s store—by the way I’ve seen bigger closets), but it’s our mall, and for this Dave, we thank you for running it. You can’t go for a walk in the park or even stroll down a neighborhood street. Your work place is also your home and you can’t leave either.  But ………………for all these sacrifices how many of you can say you have really seen the world?  For most of us, our “world” may only be the country we live in or perhaps the neighborhood we played in as a child.  To you I ask, have you ever seen the sunset in Fiji or the glaciers in the Straits of Magellan?  Have you ever visited a land that has not seen any rainfall in over 150 years?  Have you ever gazed upon the heads of Easter Island or experienced 45ft waves in the Bearing Sea?  If not, then you have not seen the world.  It is because of this unique attraction for the world and all that is in it, that many people choose the life of a sailor.

Any one like big diesel engines?  Jim Reed inspects the heart of the ship. The RON BROWN has six of these huge diesel engines connected to very large electric generators that in turn feed enough electricity to power the two 3000 horsepower engines that turn the propellers.
Any one like big diesel engines? Jim Reed inspects the heart of the ship, which has six of these huge diesel engines connected to very large electric generators that feed enough electricity to power the two engines that turn the propellers.

Today we will visit with Reggie Glover on board the RONALD H. BROWN.  Reggie is a friendly, always there with a smile, genuinely kind man of 34 years of age.  He has been a seaman for the past 3 years and has served on numerous ships.  He got his start washing dishes for the Military Sealift Command.  He was a civilian who worked on ships that supplied U.S. Naval ships. In only 2 and a half years he has worked his way up to “wiper.” Upon leaving the Sealift Command and joining NOAA, he changed jobs to become an “Engine Utility Man.”  His past jobs have included truck driver, hotel employee, and fast food worker.  When I asked Reggie why he decided to go to sea he replied, “College isn’t for everyone” and his career at sea provided an excellent opportunity to achieve financial freedom. “Money is good, there is tons of overtime, you don’t have to pay rent, and meals are provided. Your paycheck is all yours to save or to spend.”

Reggie has not always had it “easy.” Just before going to sea he was temporarily homeless.  The sea provided a new career and a fresh start. When I asked Reggie what message he wanted to tell students he replied, “Come out to sea with a goal in mind, stick with it, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.  If your life isn’t going the way you want, perhaps a job at sea would be an alternative to jail, homelessness, or even college.”  Reggie goes on to say that joining NOAA’s workforce provides many opportunities to advance your skills and education.  NOAA has sent Reggie to Engine Utility School and Refrigeration School and he is planning on taking welding school this fall. He is currently working towards his 3AE (third assistant engineer).

One of the benefits he has enjoyed the most has been the free travel in seeing the world and meeting different people in it.  After visiting with Reggie I can sense he has his goals and will achieve them through his persistence and dedication to a job well done.

If you like to know more about a career at sea, check out the NOAA Fleet and Marine operations website, Automated commerce employment, and Vessel employment opportunities.

Please contact the Marine Operations Center – Atlantic at (757) 441-6206, or Marine Operations Center – Pacific at (206) 553-4548, if you have any questions.

The Teacher 

This is my final log and I would like to thank all those folks at NOAA who saw fit to send me half way around the world for the journey of a lifetime and a chance to participate in one of the most worthwhile projects any teacher could hope to imagine.  I would also like to thank Dr. Bob Weller and all the crew from Woods Hole who took time to answer my questions and make me feel like one of the team.  (Love to scrape those barnacles!) I would like to thank the captain and his crew for keeping us safe and making me feel very much at home 5,000miles from home.  And, I would like to personally thank Lt. (JG) Jackie Almeida for her input and edits on my Teacher at Sea logs and for her help in making my job easier.  If you are a teacher and would like the experience of a lifetime, go to the Teacher at Sea website and apply today.

Karolyn Braun, October 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 24, 2006

A pilot whale breeches the surface of the water.
A pilot whale breaches the surface of the water.

Plan of the Day 

Well it was a long early morning. I was awoken at 2 a.m. to prepare for the 300 CTD profile. By the time I was finished and all was said and done, it was time for the next one. We sailed by the TAO buoy and all looked well so we went ahead and conducted the CTD and deployed the AOML. My last CTD for the day was the 1230 profile at 2.5N/170W.  Eric from MBARI will be doing the evening one.  I walked on the treadmill for an hour then made a nice salad for lunch.  I honestly don’t eat this much on my own.  It’s easy to eat when every meal is made for you.  One can easily gain weight out here. I did some knot tying and rested a bit but did not want to nap, as I would not sleep tonight.  We saw another pod of Pilot whales off the port bow playing in the water. Snapped a few good photos.

Lets talk about whales shall we?  Whales are mammals, and there are five distinct groups of marine mammals: Pinnepeds, which include seals, sea lions, fur seals and walruses;  Sea Otters; Cetaceans containing whales, dolphins and porpoises; Sirenians which consist of dugongs and manatees; and Polar Bears.  So what does it mean to be a marine mammal?  Well like all mammals, they are warm-blooded, they have at least a few hairs on their bodies, and they nourish their young with milk.  These mammals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act that was enacted in 1979, which made it illegal to “take” any marine mammal.  The term “take” includes harass, hunt, capture, collect, or kill, or attempt to do the same.  “Harass” denotes the act of pursuit, torment, or annoyance that has potential to disturb marine mammals.  In1994 it was amended to strengthen the definition of harass and included feeding.

Pilot whales have been hunted for many centuries, particularly by Japanese whalers.  In the mid-1980s the annual Japanese kill was about 2,300 animals.  This had decreased to about 400 per year by the 1990s. Killing by harpoon is still relatively common in the Lesser Antilles, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Hundreds or perhaps thousands are killed each year in longline and gillnets.  However, due to poor record-keeping it is not known how many kills are made each year, and what the effect this has on the local population. Female pilot whales mature at 6 years of age and a length of about 3.5 m.  Males mature much later when 12 years old and 5 m in length.  Mature adult males, which are generally larger than females, can weigh as much as 3 tons.  At birth, calves weigh slightly over 200 lbs. They are born after a pregnancy of 16 months, and are weaned at around 20 months of age.

Pilot whales have strong social cohesiveness; it is rare to see a single individual.  Even when being driven ashore by whalers, they would stay together as a group.  Groups typically contain animals of both sexes and many different ages.  The males may compete for breeding privileges, forming a hierarchy that excludes smaller males.  Large assemblages may also be composed of smaller, close-knit groups, which are stable over time.  Pilot whales are some of the noisiest whales in the ocean. Their group structure requires social communication, and they orient to prey objects by echolocation.  Vocalizations include a wide variety of whistles and clicks.

Brett Hoyt, October 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 24, 2006

Data from Bridge 

Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  140º
Wind speed:  4 knots
Sea wave height: 0-1ft
Swell wave height: 6-8 ft
Sea level pressure:  1018.5 millibars
Sea temperature:  18.1ºC or 64 ºF
Air temperature:  18.7ºC or 65 ºF
Cloud type: stratus

Deployment of the new tsunami buoy began at 6am on October 23.  The scientists deployed the buoy first and then plan to deploy the Bottom Pressure Recorder (BPR).  The reason for this is that the BPR must be located close enough to the buoy for the acoustic communication from the BPR to reach the surface buoy.  As there are only a few instruments from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on the buoy, this deployment process only took a few hours instead of most of the day.  They plan on letting the buoy settle for many hours before they deploy the BPR.  One of the challenges for the tsunami buoy is that unlike the Stratus 7 buoy which had a “watch circle” (the distance the buoy could wander) of over 3 miles, the tsunami buoy has a watch circle of no more than 1,500 meters.  This difference is that you don’t want the buoy wandering out of range of the Bottom Pressure Recorder transmitter.  To achieve this, the scientists must make the mooring line exactly the right length.  The day before they deployed the buoy the scientists measured the contours of the ocean floor and knew precisely how deep the water was. At the last minute, the scientists from the Chilean Navy cut and spliced a piece of mooring line to exactly the right length.  (See photo)

The Scientists 

Here a scientist from the Chilean Navy is seen splicing in an eye into the line after it was cut to length.  This process ensures that the buoy stays in the right location and does not wander too far.
Here a scientist from the Chilean Navy is seen splicing in an eye into the line after it was cut to length. This process ensures that the buoy stays in the right location and does not wander too far.

The Machine 

The Chilean Government's tsunami buoy on station in the South Pacific.  This is only one half of the warning equation.
The Chilean Government’s tsunami buoy in the South Pacific. This is only half of the warning equation.
The Bottom Pressure Recorder (BPR) with its anchor attached.
The Bottom Pressure Recorder (BPR) with its anchor attached.

The Experiment 

There was no experiment.

Classroom Activities 

There is no classroom activity, as creating your own tsunami in the classroom would be way too messy.

Karolyn Braun, October 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 23, 2006

The drifter buoy sets sail for its long journey on the sea.
The drifter buoy sets sail for its long journey on the sea.

Plan of the Day 

Very busy day. Was up bright and early to conduct the 600 CTD profile.  Had some breakfast and did some cleaning around the stateroom.  Around 9 a.m.  I updated my KA’IMIMOANA intranet webpage. I am glad I learned how to use the Frontpage program as it may come in handy. I went and sat in the ‘pool’ for a bit before lunch, but overall had a lazy morning.

After a light lunch we conducted a 4000m CTD cast, which took about 4 hours then deployed the AOML drifter buoy, the third of three that ASCC has adopted. The modern drifter is a high-tech version of the “message in a bottle”.  It consists of a surface buoy and a subsurface drogue (sea anchor), attached by a long, thin tether.  The buoy measures temperature and other properties, and has a transmitter to send the data to passing satellites.  The drogue dominates the total area of the instrument and is centered at a depth of 15 meters beneath the sea surface.  The drifter sensors measure data such as sea surface temperature, average the data over a window (typically 90 seconds), and transmit the sensor data at 401.65 MHz.  Each drifter transmitter is assigned a Platform Terminal Transmitter (PTT) code, often referred to as the drifter ID. These Bouys are deployed by NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory or AOML.

While Tonya completed the CTD cast, I got to help the ship’s deck crew with a little Bosun Locker Clean-up. There was a pod of about 100 or so Pilot whales that crossed our path. Very cool to see! I got in a workout, then at 6 p.m. it was time to do another CTD profile.

Karolyn Braun, October 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 22, 2006

The crew of the KA’IMIMOANA conduct an abandon-ship drill.
The crew conduct an abandon-ship drill.

Science and Technology Log 

We are still a little behind schedule this morning.  We’re preparing the next TAO buoy for deployment later on in the week, and I’m getting ready for my busy schedule of CTD profiles. After our 930 CTD was up and secure on deck, we had an abandon-ship drill.  Those are always fun. Mike and Joe, the ET guys instructed us on the use of the emergency VHF radio, the EPIRB, Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons the PEPIRB, Personal Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons and the SARTS, Search and Rescue Transponder System.  Our drill was over in time to enjoy a nice lunch, after which we were back outside getting ready to clean one of the lockers when we had a scenario fire drill.  The scenario was that a fire broke out in the paint locker.  We all had to report to muster to be accounted for.  Once we did that, I assisted by bringing out the hose to the grated deck and made sure certain vents were closed.  The drill was definitely adrenaline pumping, but I am glad we haven’t had a real one onboard.

After the drill was said and done, I had to conduct a CTD profile.  It was supposed to be short and sweet but turned out to be a little longer than expected due to something wrong with the winch speed and another fuse blowing.  I don’t think the computer likes me.   The CTD was finally finished and we steamed off towards the next buoy to conduct a dive operation to repair some fittings on the TAO buoy.  I got in a work out and a nap before my late CTD at 2300.  What a day.

Brett Hoyt, October 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 22, 2006

Jeff Lord using an acoustic transmitter to talk to the acoustic release.  This machine also tells the scientists the range to the release that helps them in finding it.
Jeff Lord using an acoustic transmitter to talk to the acoustic release. This machine also tells the scientists the range to the release that helps them in finding it.

Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  130º
Wind speed:  19 knots
Sea wave height: 4-6ft
Swell wave height: 5-7 ft
Sea level pressure:  1019.7 millibars
Sea temperature:  17.3ºC or 63ºF
Air temperature:  18.0ºC or 64ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus, and stratus

Note: 

All day on the 21st was spent traveling to the Chilean tsunami buoy approximately 300 miles off the coast of Chile.  During this time, the Woods Hole group was busy retrieving data from their instruments from Stratus 6.  Many of the instruments collect data all year long and store it on flash memory cards.  When recovered one year later, this data is then downloaded onto computers for later analysis. We arrived late in the day on October 22 at the tsunami site and immediately started the process of recovering the old buoy. As you can see, scientists work day and night to get the job done. I really have never seen a group of harder working people.

Jorge Araya and Alvaro Vera, members of the Chilean Navy, looking for the yellow glass balls which were released over an hour ago and take that long to reach the surface.  Work vests were required but not hard hats for this part of the operation.  Both have over 12 years with the Chilean Navy.
Jorge Araya and Alvaro Vera, members of the Chilean Navy, looking for the yellow glass balls which were released over an hour ago and take that long to reach the surface. Work vests were required but not hard hats for this part of the operation. Both have over 12 years with the Chilean Navy.

The Machine

The glass balls are attached to the Bottom Pressure Recorder, or BPR, and float to the surface leaving the anchor on the bottom of the ocean.

Jorge Gaete, a civilian contractor for the Chilean Navy for the past 2 years, helps with the deployment of the tsunami buoy.
Jorge Gaete, a civilian contractor for the Chilean Navy for the past 2 years, helps with the deployment of the tsunami buoy.
Capturing the yellow flotation balls that have brought the BPR to the surface for recovery.
Capturing the yellow flotation balls that have brought the BPR to the surface for recovery.

The second part of the tsunami warning system is the recovery of the buoy.  This buoy receives the signal from the BPR and quickly transmits the warning via satellite to the Chilean authorities who in turn warn the public.  This recovery was done at night.  Without the vast array of sensors found on the Stratus 7 buoy, this recovery progressed quickly and was completed within 30 minutes.

Hooking lines to the tsunami buoy for a quick recovery.
Hooking lines to the tsunami buoy for a quick recovery.

The Experiment

There is no experiment today; however, I will try to explain how the system works. When a tsunami is triggered by an underwater earthquake the BPR detects the increase in pressure on the bottom of the ocean due to the increase in the height of the water column above the sensor. When I asked Alvaro how this worked when sea swell was 6-7 ft at times and waves could reach a height of 45ft he explained that the pressure is sharp and abrupt. This is indicated by a very short wave (period) of energy passing through the open ocean. In open ocean the height of a huge tsunami wave is so short a ship would hardly know one has passed by.  It is only when this wave heads into shallow water that the wave becomes deadly.

The BPR immediately after recovery, without its anchor that remains on the bottom of the ocean.
The BPR immediately after recovery, without its anchor that remains on the bottom of the ocean.

hoyt_log9ww

Classroom Activities

Please share with your students the DART tsunami warning system.

My next log will cover the deployment of a new warning system.

Karolyn Braun, October 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 21, 2006

braun_log15Plan of the Day 

The alarm went off at 2 a.m. Am I crazy or what?  I pulled myself out of bed to go view the Orionid meteor shower.  What is a meteor you may ask? Well a “meteor shower,” also known as a “meteor storm,” is a celestial event where a large number of meteors are seen within a very short period of time.  These meteors are small fragments of cosmic debris entering Earth’s atmosphere at extremely high speeds, leaving streaks of light that very quickly disappear. Most of the small fragments of cosmic debris are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all fragments are burned up and never hit the earth’s surface.  Fragments which do contact earth’s surface are called meteorites.  These events are one of the few astronomical phenomena where everyday people, equipped with only their eyes, can experience the beauty of astronomy at its best.  There are approximately ten mornings each year when the meteor activity is exceptional.  What about the other 355 nights per year?  Well, these are the nights when the activity is so sparse one can barely stay awake. YAWN! The Orionid meteor shower is active throughout October and the first week of November.  This shower is produced by the inbound particles of the famous Halley’s Comet, which last passed through the inner solar system in 1986.  The Earth passes closest to the comet’s orbit on October 21.  At this time the Earth actually only skims the outer fringes of the debris field produced by Halley’s Comet. The Orionids can still produce a very entertaining display of celestial fireworks, especially when viewed from rural locations.  When seen near maximum activity, an observer can count 15 to 25 Orionid meteors per hour.  I was lucky to see 30 or more on my hour observation.  Definitely worth losing sleep over!

The morning came and went and around 1330 as I assisted the Electronic Technicians with the TAS intranet web page.  I learned how to use FrontPage too so it was worth the time and effort.  I also helped spool some of the line for the TAO buoy retrieval and fed the line to deploy it. It was a long day but the work got done.  Today’s Buoy retrieval was last minute so it will make the ship behind schedule.  But only time will tell.

Karolyn Braun, October 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 20, 2006

TAS Braun contacts the winch to bring up the CTD carousel.
TAS Braun contacts the winch to bring up the CTD carousel.

Plan of the Day 

Well after a long and fun-filled three-day transit we arrived safely at our new longitude line, 170W, to follow.  The ship was buzzing early with preparations to retrieve the TAO buoy. Mother ocean is VERY calm with a small swell but smooth as velvet.  Why is that you ask? Well, the winds cause waves on the surface of the ocean (and on lakes).  The wind transfers some of its energy to the water, through friction between the air molecules and the water molecules. Stronger winds (like storm surges) cause larger waves.  You can make your own miniature waves by blowing across the surface of a pan of water.

Waves of water do not move horizontally, they only move up and down (a wave does not represent a flow of water).  You can see a demonstration of this by watching a floating buoy or a bird bob up and down with a wave; it does not, however, move horizontally with the wave. So the lack of waves makes things easier on the boat but tough on the fantail spooling, as there is little breeze to keep cool. By 800 the buoy was secured and the spooling fun begun. We finished spooling the line and prepped for the deployment just as lunch was beginning. Perfect timing.  After a full belly and some much needed rest indoors we deployed the “Samoan Legend” buoy and spent the next three and half hours releasing the line before dropping anchor.  We finished conducting a 3000m CTD and released an ARGO when Mr. Moon greeted us.  Another wonderful day in paradise…Good night!

Karolyn Braun, October 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 19, 2006

TAS Braun displays her creative buoy artwork.
TAS Braun displays her creative buoy artwork.

Plan of the Day 

Paint designs on TAO buoys; Go for a swim in the “pool”

Today was our last day of transit before we arrived at our destination of 8S/170W. After breakfast I got my paints out and spent literally all day painting the three buoys we will be deploying in the next few weeks. I enjoyed myself.  I created an Aloha Buoy with plumeria flowers; a Samoan Buoy with a Samoan designed fish, turtle, shark, ray and an island scene; and my third one is of a fisherman trying to lure an octopus with a lure made of a large cowry shell that resembles a rat (isumu). The Samoan legend about the octopus (fe’e) and the rat comes into the picture.

TAS Braun relaxes in the KA’IMIMOANA’s “pool.”
TAS Braun relaxes in the KA’IMIMOANA’s “pool.”

Gather round, story time: It all started with a sightseeing canoe trip on the ocean by an owl, a snail and a rat.  Their canoe started to sink, so the owl escaped by flying away, the snail sank with the canoe to the bottom of the ocean (goto uga), and the rat tried to swim to shore but he had a long way to go. He saw an octopus and called for help.  The octopus agreed and swam to shore with the rat on his head. When they got to shore, the rat jumped off and thanked the octopus for saving his life and said that he left a little present on the octopus’s head.  When the octopus realized that there was a rat dropping on his head, he became extremely angry and told the rat, “If I ever see you again, I’ll kill you.”  To this day, the octopus is mad about this and is still looking for the rat.  Whenever a fisherman uses this rat shape lure he is sure to bring an octopus home.

After my lunch break I went to relax in our ‘pool’ on the bow before returning to finish up the painting. It was fun and everyone seemed to get a laugh at my paintings.  I was exhausted by the end of the day but it was worth it.  Tomorrow starts another busy week with buoy ops, CTD’s, late nights and early mornings so I am enjoying the slow pace. OK this is enough for the day.  Till tomorrow.

Brett Hoyt, October 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 19, 2006

Dan Wolfe, senior scientist at NOAA, at his workstation on board the research vessel the RONALD H. BROWN.
Dan Wolfe, senior scientist at NOAA, at his workstation on board

Weather from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction:  130º
Wind speed:  20 knots
Sea wave height: 5-7ft
Swell wave height: 3-4 ft
Sea level pressure: 1020.4 millibars
Sea temperature:  19.4ºC or 66 ºF
Air temperature:  19.2ºC or 66ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Scientists 

Today we will be interviewing Dan Wolfe, a senior meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA for short.  Standing an imposing 6’3”, it seemed only fitting that our next scientist should be studying the heavens.  Mr. Wolfe is a 30-year veteran of NOAA and has been a scientist for the past 31 years.  Mr. Wolfe entered the Coast Guard in 1969 immediately after graduating high school.  He was initially assigned to the Coast Guard icebreaker “Glacier” transferring to the oceanographic unit where he staged scientific experiments.  He traveled to the Arctic and it was there that he discovered his soon to be life long passion for the atmosphere and all that is in it. Mr. Wolfe was a trained scuba diver while stationed on the Glacier. After leaving the Coast Guard he attended Metropolitan State College where he earned his degree in meteorology.  He has the distinction of being the first student to graduate in meteorology at this college.  It was while at Metropolitan College that Mr. Wolfe became a coop student working for NOAA. After earning his degree he went to work for NOAA as a meteorologist where for the next 30 years he has become one if its leading atmospheric scientists.  After seven years on the job he decided that he wanted to know more and enrolled at Colorado State University where he earned his masters degree.

This is a radiosonde, which measures relative humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and winds as it passes through the atmosphere and radios its data back to the scientist.
This is a radiosonde, which measures relative humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and winds as it passes through the atmosphere and radios its data back

Mr. Wolfe is one of the few individuals who has worked in BOTH the Arctic (North) and the Antarctic (South) (not just Antarctica but actually at the South Pole). His work has taken him to the depths of the Grand Canyon and to the Arctic more times than he cares to remember.

One of his more exciting job assignments with NOAA is managing a 1,000-ft research tower just off of I25 north of Denver Co.  When I asked Mr. Wolfe what message he would like to give to upcoming scientists he replied, “Kids should seek out paid/or unpaid internships while in high school. Look for internships within your community in careers that you think you might like.  This gives you the opportunity to try a job before investing money and time in college in a future you may not enjoy. If you try a job and discover you don’t like it, try something else until you find something you do like.  Be sure to give the job a chance though.”

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, releasing a radiosonde off the aft deck
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, releasing a radiosonde

The Machine 

One important scientific instrument used by a meteorologist is the radiosonde (pronounced radio sond). This device measures relative humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and winds by utilizing the global positioning satellite system.  The radiosonde is battery activated then secured to a large helium balloon.  It is then released where it begins its ascent into the upper atmosphere, measuring humidity, temperature, and pressure sending these data back to the scientist via a digital radio frequency. Depending on the balloon used, these radiosondes can obtain heights in excess of 6 miles. The atmospheric data collected on this cruise will be shared with other scientists to help improve global weather computer models.

The Experiment 

There is no experiment as these data are transmitted via satellite link immediately after the flight is finished to the National Center for Environmental Prediction to be fed into their continuously running forecast models.

Classroom Activities 

Elememtary K-6: 

Ask the students, “What is weather?”  “Why is it important to predict the weather?” Have the students take a piece of drawing paper and divide it into four equal parts.  In each part have the students draw and color four different types of weather common to where they live.  Example could be sunny, rainy, partly cloudy, and snow.

Middle School:  

Why do we use calibrated thermometers to measure air temperature?   Ask students to answer on paper whether the classroom is hot, warm, cool, or cold and to estimate the actual temperature of the room.  Then compare the students’ answers to the actual temperature.  Then discuss the importance of a “standard.”  Without this “standard” scientists around the world would have no way of communicating what the atmosphere is doing.

Please examine the High School for more activities

High School: 

Everyday we hear on the radio, television, or newspaper that it will be sunny, partly cloudy, partly sunny, etc.  How do meteorologist arrive at this? Today we will learn how.

Divide the sky into eight parts.  Examine each part and count how many squares have clouds. There is no hard and fast rule on what to do with partially filled boxes

No squares having clouds-Clear or Sunny 

One to two squares having clouds-Mostly Clear or Mostly Sunny 

Three or four squares having clouds-Partly Cloudy or Partly Sunny 

Five, Six, or Seven squares having clouds-Mostly Cloudy 

Eight squares having clouds-Overcast or Cloudy Take the sky photo below and print it out. Draw a grid like the one above on top of the sky photo. Have the students write down what they think the day is.  Then compare the student’s answers. Is this an exact science?

Have your teacher take photos of the weather in your area and do your own.

hoyt_log8w

Karolyn Braun, October 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 18, 2006

TAS Braun using the Fluorometer to test CTD water samples.
TAS Braun using the Fluorometer to test CTD water samples.

Plan of the Day 

Transit; TAO buoy painting; Testing CTD samples using the Fluorometer

Woke up at 5am to get a head start on the painting. I’d rather work in the morning before the sun comes up.  I finished painting the white strips before breakfast so the crew could flip the buoys over to paint the red on the bottoms before the end of the day. I spent most of my day in front of the Fluorometer testing the CTD water samples.

Ok Learning time: To calculate chlorophyll you need to use the following equation: Chl (ug 1 ) = F*Ve((Fo-Fa)/S)Vf Where F = fluorometer calibration factor

Fo = total fluorescence

Fa = Fluorescence after acid

Ve = extract volume (acetone extract; 10ml)

Vf = filtration volume (volume of filtered seawater in liters; 0.528L

S = sensitivity To obtain Fo we need to fill the cuvette, a test tube-like glass beaker, and place into the Fluorometer.  Record data. Then add 3 drops of 10% HCL to cuvette while still in the fluorometer.  Re-read the fluorescence at the same sensitivity setting.  Record data. Making sure in between samples the cuvette is cleaned with acetone. In completing the equation, we discovered that out here most of the chlorophyll is deeper than in most places.  Let’s get to the basics. The ocean can be divided into five broad zones according to how far down sunlight penetrates:

  • The epipelagic, or sunlit, zone: the top layer of the ocean where enough sunlight penetrates for plants to carry on photosynthesis.
  • The mesopelagic, or twilight, zone: a dim zone where some light penetrates, but not enough for plants to grow.
  • The bathypelagic, or midnight, zone: the deep ocean layer where no light penetrates.
  • The abyssal zone: the pitch-black bottom layer of the ocean; the water here is almost freezing and its pressure is immense.
  • The hadal zone: the waters found in the ocean’s deepest trenches.

Plants are found where there is enough light for photosynthesis; however, animals are found at all depths of the oceans though their numbers are greater near the surface where food is plentiful.  So why is more chlorophyll found deeper the further you travel away from the equator?  Well my hypothesis is because all the nutrients are found in the deep cold layers of the midnight zone.  Near the equator and near coastlines upwelling occurs so the nutrients are brought up to the sunlit zone. As you go further away from the equator less and less upwelling occurs so the phytoplankton is unable to thrive in this sunlit zone. The phytoplankton will grow deep enough in the twilight zone to obtain the nutrients, yet shallow enough where photosynthesis can occur.  I also think that like land plants, too much sun can reduce the growth of the phytoplankton.

Chlorophyll fluorescence is often reduced in algae experiencing adverse conditions such as stressful temperature, nutrient deficiency, and polluting agents.  Phytoplankton photosynthetic efficiency is one of the biological signals that rapidly reacts to changes in nutrient availability as well as naturally occurring or anthropogenically introduced toxins (contaminants).  The results can be used as an indicator of system wide change or health.  I finally finished the samples around 3 p.m. Got in a work out, watched a movie and was off to bed but not before we retarded our clocks 1 hour.  We are now entering my normal time zone.  So close to American Samoa yet so far away•

Brett Hoyt, October 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 18, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge October 18 
Visibility: 12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction: 120º
True Wind speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 2-4ft
Swell wave height: 3-5 ft
Sea level pressure: 1021.6 millibars
Sea temperature: 19.3ºC or 67ºF
Air temperature: 22.5ºC or 72ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

We are going to use a different format for today because it is recovery day!

On October 16th we deployed the Stratus 7 buoy. The second part of this cruise is the recovery of the Stratus 6 buoy that was deployed approximately one year ago. To ensure a continuous record, a new buoy is installed at the same time the old one is recovered. Today, October 18th, is the recovery of the Stratus 6 buoy. Please compare and contrast the photos of October 16th (Deployment) with that of October 18th (Recovery).

The Stratus 6 Buoy one year after it was deployed.  The nearest Land is 600 miles to the east.  These birds are feeding off the marine life this buoy collects in the waters around the mooring.
The Stratus 6 Buoy one year after it was deployed. The nearest Land is 600 miles to the east. These birds are feeding off the marine life this buoy collects in the waters around the mooring.
Recovering of the Stratus 6.  Can you spot the Scotsman?  Hint: He’s the one in the cowboy hard hat.
Recovering of the Stratus 6. Can you spot the Scotsman? Hint: He’s the one in the cowboy hard hat.
 Instruments waiting deployment for Stratus 7.
Instruments waiting deployment for Stratus 7.
Stratus 6 instruments one year after deployment covered in barnacles.  What would two years of deployment look like?
Stratus 6 instruments one year after deployment covered in barnacles. What would two years of deployment look like?
Gooseneck barnacles from the Stratus 6 buoy.
Gooseneck barnacles from the Stratus 6 buoy.
Damage to a current meter caused by fisherman’s gear.  Of the 8 meters, 6 were fouled. Here we have entanglement of the current metering fans by fishermen’s lights. They use these lights on their lines to attract fish to their hooks at night.  Once the entanglement occurs data cannot continue to be gathered.
Damage to a current meter caused by fisherman’s gear. Of the 8 meters, 6 were fouled. Here we have entanglement of the current metering fans by fishermen’s lights. They use these lights on their lines to attract fish to their hooks at night. Once the entanglement occurs data cannot continue to be gathered.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, scraping barnacles off one of the sensors from     Stratus 6. “ I’ve got to talk to my travel agent.”
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, scraping barnacles off one of the sensors from Stratus 6. “ I’ve got to talk to my travel agent.”
Remember the glass balls from Stratus 7?  Here are the glass balls from Stratus 6.  It took them over one hour to reach the surface after the acoustic release was activated.  They are not in the nice neat line as we had in deployment.
Remember the glass balls from Stratus 7? Here are the glass balls from Stratus 6. It took them over one hour to reach the surface after the acoustic release was activated. They are not in the nice neat line as we had in deployment.
Anyone like puzzles?
Anyone like puzzles?
The acoustic release, one year after being sent 13,000 ft to the bottom of the ocean.  Scientists sent a signal to this release to let go of one side of the chain.  Should one release fail, they could trigger the other release.
The acoustic release, one year after being sent 13,000 ft to the bottom of the ocean. Scientists sent a signal to this release to let go of one side of the chain. Should one release fail, they could trigger the other release.
Dr. Weller, leading by example, cleaning the equipment free of barnacles.  Remember in an earlier posting when he stated he was a “hands on scientist”?
Dr. Weller, leading by example, cleaning the equipment free of barnacles. Remember in an earlier posting when he stated he was a “hands on scientist”?

Karolyn Braun, October 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 17, 2006

TAS Braun paints one of the TAO buoys to ready it for deployment.
TAS Braun paints one of the TAO buoys to ready it for deployment.

Science and Technology Log 

Plan of the Day: Transit TAO buoy painting

Today started our first of a three-day transit to latitude 170W.  In the morning I did some knot tying and research on the theory of active fluorescence.  I will be assisting Eric from the Monterey Bay Aquarium on testing the water samples we have been collecting from the past CTDs using an Active Fluorometer.  Active fluorescence methods utilize the relationship between chlorophyll fluorescence and photosynthesis.  I will go into more detail tomorrow.

I painted the TAO buoys in the afternoon to get them ready for deployment on our next line. I was able to paint all the orange before the rain came but will have to paint the white tomorrow.  The weather couldn’t figure out what it wanted to do.  One minute the sun was blazing hot the next it was overcast the next raining then back to the sun again.  I drank a lot of water but felt really dehydrated, so no work out today.  I am going to drink plenty of water and go to bed early.

Karolyn Braun, October 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 16, 2006

Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward and TAS Karolyn Braun show off their ARGO tattoos by the ARGO floats before deployment.
Junior Officer Phoebe Woodward and TAS Karolyn Braun show off their ARGO tattoos by the ARGO floats before deployment.

Science and Technology Log 

Well my morning started with a cloudy sunrise, which quickly turned to a nice rain shower. With very low visibility, the winds and waves picked up again, so the ship was pitching and rolling. More learning: Pitching is where the bow and stern move up and down, and rolling is where the vessel will move from one side to another.

While in transit I practiced my knot tying with Jeff and Chris, two of the deck crew, and Carrie, one of the cooks let me borrow her handbook of knots. I am learning!  We had an on-time arrival to the TAO buoy at 8S/155W. The RHIB was sent out to retrieve it; it was secured on deck and lines were spooled in. We were able to take a half dinner break and then it was back to work. The new buoy was deployed into the water and the lines were fed out. We worked until about 7:15 then conducted a CTD and deployed our ARGO float. I even got a workout in. All in a days work.  

Brett Hoyt, October 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 16, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 060º
Wind speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 3-4ft
Swell wave height: 5-6 ft
Sea level pressure: 1020.8 millibars
Sea temperature: 19.3ºC or 66ºF
Air temperature: 19.1ºC or 66ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

We are going to use a different format for today because it is Deployment Day! Today was deployment day for the entire crew and the best way to tell this story is in pictures. So let’s begin.

Before scientists deploy a buoy they must measure how deep the ocean is. This is the actual bathymetric (bottom measure) read out of the target site for Stratus 7.
Before scientists deploy a buoy they must measure how deep the ocean is. This is the actual bathymetric (bottom measure) read out of the target site for Stratus 7.
This is the map of the bottom of the ocean. Please note the scale in meters on the left as well as + marks the spot. Can you see the pattern the boat is making?
This is the map of the bottom of the ocean. Please note the scale in meters on the left
as well as + marks the spot. Can you see the pattern the boat is making?
With over 4,400 m (13,000 ft) of cable it takes a full crew to stage the cable.
With over 4,400 m (13,000 ft) of cable it takes a full crew to stage the cable.
Jeff Lord making final preparations for the dozens of instruments to be deployed beneath the buoy.  What an amazing man.  “What would we do without you?”
Jeff Lord making final preparations for the dozens of instruments to be deployed beneath the buoy. What an amazing man. “What would we do without you?”
Lifting the Stratus 7 Buoy off the ship.  This process takes the cooperation of about a dozen individuals to do.
Lifting the Stratus 7 Buoy off the ship. This process takes the cooperation of about a dozen individuals to do.
Stratus 7 off the side ready to have the instruments deployed under it.
Stratus 7 off the side ready to have the instruments deployed under it.
Jeff attaching a current meter (Invented and patented by Dr. Weller) to the bottom of the buoy.  It weights about 160lb and there are eight of them.  Please note the safety equipment Jeff is wearing.  SAFETY FIRST!
Jeff attaching a current meter (Invented and patented by Dr. Weller) to the bottom of the buoy. It weights about 160lb and there are eight of them. Please note the safety equipment Jeff is wearing. SAFETY FIRST!
Dr. Weller operating the winch (it has over 2.5 miles of cable on it!) and supervising the deployment operation.
Dr. Weller operating the winch (it has over 2.5 miles of cable on it!) and supervising the deployment operation.
Attaching glass balls (they are located inside the yellow plastic housings which protect them from chipping), which are at the very end of the 13,000 feet of cable just above the acoustic release, which in turn attaches to the anchor.  These hollow glass balls can withstand pressures in excess of 5,300 lb/sqin.
Attaching glass balls (they are located inside the yellow plastic housings which protect them from chipping), which are at the very end of the 13,000 feet of cable just above the acoustic release, which in turn attaches to the anchor. These hollow glass balls can withstand pressures in excess of 5,300 lb/sqin.
This is the acoustic release (actually two) that attaches the buoy mooring line to the anchor. One year from now an acoustic signal will be sent down 13,000ft to trigger the chain to be released.  The reason they use two is that if one fails the release will still take place and the mooring line will begin its ascent to the surface with the help of the glass balls.
This is the acoustic release (actually two) that attaches the buoy mooring line to the anchor. One year from now an acoustic signal will be sent down 13,000ft to trigger the chain to be released. The reason they use two is that if one fails the release will still take place and the mooring line will begin its ascent to the surface with the help of the glass balls.
Everything is just moments before release.  This anchor weighs 9,000lbs and will take over 45 minutes to fall to the bottom of the ocean.  All the instruments are attached, glass balls secured, and the acoustic release in place.  Drum roll please………………….
Everything is just moments before release. This anchor weighs 9,000lbs and will take over 45 minutes to fall to the bottom of the ocean. All the instruments are attached, glass balls secured, and the acoustic release in place. Drum roll please…………………. The anchor is deployed!
Stratus 7 on station in the South Pacific Ocean helping scientist understand this big blue planet we call home.
Stratus 7 on station in the South Pacific Ocean helping scientist understand this big blue planet we call home.

Karolyn Braun, October 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 15, 2006

TAS, Karolyn Braun enjoying the fresh air
TAS, Karolyn Braun enjoying the fresh air before deploying a drifter buoy

Plan of the Day 

Well today I woke up at 5 a.m. to watch the sunrise as we sailed past Malden Island. It was only two miles away…Beautiful.  We were so close I could see the waves breaking on its sandy beaches. From doing some research, and thanks to the Chief Scientist, I found that Malden was formerly known as Independence Island. It is a low, arid, uninhabited island in the central Pacific Ocean, about 39 km² in area.  It is one of the Line Islands belonging to Republic of Kiribati. The island is chiefly notable for its “mysterious” prehistoric ruins (of Polynesian origin), its once-extensive deposits of phosphatic guano (exploited by Australian interests from c. 1860-1927), its use as the site of the first British H-bomb tests (Operation Grapple, 1957), and its importance as a protected area for breeding seabirds.

At the time of its discovery, Malden was found to be unoccupied, but the remains of ruined temples and other structures indicated that the island had at one time been inhabited. At various times these remains have been speculatively attributed to “wrecked seamen”, “the buccaneers”, “the South American Incas”, “early Chinese navigators”, etc.  In 1924 the Malden ruins were examined by an archaeologist from the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, K.P. Emory, who concluded that they were the creation of a small Polynesian population, which had resided there for perhaps several generations some centuries earlier.

Screen shot 2013-04-05 at 11.30.41 PMMalden was reserved as a wildlife sanctuary and closed area, officially designated the Malden Island Wildlife Sanctuary, on 29 May 1975, under the 1975 Wildlife Conservation Ordinance. The principal purpose of this reservation was to protect the large breeding populations of seabirds. The Wildlife Conservation Unit of the Ministry of Line and Phoenix Islands Development, headquartered on Kiritimati, administers the sanctuary. There is no resident staff at Malden, and the occasional visits by foreign yachtsmen and fishermen cannot be monitored from Kiritimati.  A fire in 1977, possibly caused by visitors, threatened breeding seabirds, and this remains a potential threat, particularly during periods of drought.  There were 4 small buildings and some telephone poles visible but all looked very desolate.

The ship stopped, we conducted a CTD and were off for our next TAO buoy about five hours away. The winds picked up, so consequently the seas have picked up as well, so we are not traveling as fast—only about 10 knots.  We are leaving the doldrums and entering the trade winds.  Let me explain some. The Earth is a spinning globe where a point at the equator is traveling at around 1100 km/hour, but a point at the poles is not moved by the rotation.  This fact means that projectiles moving across the Earth’s surface are subject to Coriolis forces that cause apparent deflection of the motion.

Since winds are just molecules of air, they are also subject to Coriolis forces.  Winds are basically driven by Solar heating. Solar heating on the Earth has the effect of producing three major convection zones in each hemisphere.  If solar heating were the only thing influencing the weather, we would then expect the prevailing winds along the Earth’s surface to be either from the North or the South, depending on the latitude. However, the Coriolis force deflects these wind flows to the right in the Northern hemisphere and to the left in the Southern hemisphere.  This produces the prevailing surface winds (See figure).

The doldrums occur at the equator as the winds from the N.E. trade winds and the S.E. trade winds cancel each other out and everything becomes calm. Ok enough of the science for now. After we did a TAO visit, a CTD was conducted and I threw in my second Adopt-a-Drifter Buoy. I ended up taking a nap after all was said and done.  With the swell getting bigger, so was my upset stomach.  I woke up in time for dinner but didn’t eat much.  I did some schoolwork and was off to bed.  I am hoping tomorrow is better.

Brett Hoyt, October 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 15, 2006

Dr. Robert Weller sitting on the aft deck
Dr. Robert Weller sitting on the aft deck

Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility:  12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction:  110º
Wind speed:  11 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3 ft
Swell wave height: 3-5 ft
Sea level pressure: 1016.8 millibars
Sea temperature:  18.6ºC or 65 ºF
Air temperature:  18.2ºC or 64ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Scientists 

Today we will visit with Dr. Robert (Bob) Weller.  Dr. Weller is the lead scientist for this scientific cruise and upon whose shoulders the success or failure of this expedition rests.  Dr. Weller is an easy going, soft-spoken, easy to approach, modest, and very intense man with a passion for understanding the climate of the earth and all the processes within it.  Many times scientist possess a great mind for academic excellence yet they fail at relating to people. Dr. Weller is the exception, possessing a brilliant mind, keen insight and intuition, and superb people management skills.  It is exactly these qualities that have enabled him to lead such important and ground breaking research on climate and climate studies He understands that the success of a cruise depends on getting people (sometimes of various nationalities, on our cruise five) to work together to accomplish great things.

The Stratus 7 Buoy on station in the South Pacific Ocean just after being deployed from the ship
The Stratus 7 Buoy on station in the South Pacific just after being deployed

Dr. Weller began at an early age to feel the pull of science.  He entered college initially to be a biochemist but something happened.  In the middle of college he accepted a job with an oceanographer and from that time on he knew that a new career was in order. He graduated in 1972 with a degree in engineering and applied physics.  He continued on and five years later in 1978 earned his doctoral degree in oceanography.

Upon earning his doctoral degree he accepted a position working at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has been there ever since.  How many people do you know who have stayed at the same job for 28 years!  Dr. Weller finds himself at sea 2-3 months out of the year.  He is a self-described scientist who likes to do things “hand on” (he’s not afraid to get dirty–please see the photo of him on deck and in his hard hat). When I asked him how long he has been a lead scientist he modestly replied” I don’t know if I’m there yet.” When I asked him what one message he would like to send to you future scientists he stated “ Kids and future scientists should be less concerned about outer space and more concerned about the planet we currently live on”.  He wants kids to think about the things you can do about the temperature of the oceans and the role they play in the wellbeing of our planet we call home.

The anchor for the buoy
The anchor for the buoy

The Machine 

Today we will examine the reason we all went to sea, the Stratus 7 Buoy.  This buoy sends real time data from a fixed location off the coast of Chile.  The buoy system maintained by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) out of Woods Hole Massachusetts plays an extremely critical role in understanding weather patterns that have worldwide implications.  These buoys are highly sophisticated weather and climate data-gathering stations. The data collected from these stations is used to check the accuracy of powerful computer simulations that are used to predict climate change.

The Stratus 7 buoy replaces the aging Stratus 6 buoy that has been on station for over a year. There has been a Stratus buoy in this location since 2000.  Dr. Weller stated that in years past buoys would not be on station for years at a time but rather for days at a time.  Most did not exceed 40 days.  Through trial and error, research and innovation, the life at sea for a buoy has been extended into the years.  Concerned about waste and pollution in the oceans, most buoys are serviced, refitted, and given a new life year after year.  Some might wonder about the cost, sometimes in excess of $1million dollars, of the buoy programs.  The economic payoff is immense.  It is buoys like these and the data that they collect that help scientists predict the absence or presence of El Nino. This has a huge and direct agricultural impact upon coastal states and to a lesser degree states far removed from the oceans.  Do you have droughts or floods out of the norm in your area? The cause could be ocean related.

Hundreds of pounds of chain!
Hundreds of pounds of chain!

The Stratus Buoy can make the following measurements: -precipitation -wind speed and direction -air temperature -relative humidity -barometric air pressure -long wave radiation (radiation given off by a hot body) -short wave radiation (incoming energy from the sun) -sea surface temperature. The buoy not only transmits this data real time but also stores much more detailed information on flash cards.  These cards are collected and taken back to the laboratory for further study. In addition to all the above surface instrumentation there is over 5,000 lbs of sub surface measuring instruments.  These include current velocity, salinity, and temperature.  These instruments are located at various depths down to 2,500ft. For example there will be 8 current velocity-measuring instruments at 8 different depths.

Cool facts 

-You probably wonder how this million-dollar instrument is powered.  Wind, solar, high powered lithium batteries, nope none of the above. It is powered by 1,650 D cell alkaline batteries. Exactly the ones you would use in a flashlight in your house.

-The mooring line (the line connected to the anchor) will be over 12,000 feet long

-The anchor is a cast iron weight that weighs over 9,000 pounds. -This anchor will take over 45 minutes to make it’s journey to the bottom of the ocean

-The buoy will have over 5,000lbs of instruments hanging from the bottom of it

The Experiment 

There is no direct experiment with the stratus buoy. The data collected by it is used by scientists world wide to generate new ideas, hypothesis, and conclusions. As stated earlier this data is used to help climatologists improve computer models and check them for accuracy.

Dozens of instruments to be deployed directly beneath the buoy 800 meters worth that’s over 2,400 feet of instruments!
Dozens of instruments to be deployed directly beneath the buoy 800 meters worth that’s over 2,400 feet of instruments!

Classroom Activities 

Elememtary K-6: Items needed- Styrofoam cup or similar floating device, small piece of string and a metal washer some rubber cement or other flexible glue, some round toothpicks and a large tub of water.  Have the students decorate their cup using markers, plastic straws, aluminum foil, or anything else that the kids might think would make their buoy look scientific. Put the string through the bottom of the cup making as small as hole as possible (the point of a compass or the toothpicks work well) tie the string to a toothpick on the inside of the cup and let the toothpick rest on the bottom inside the cup.  Place a small dab of glue on both the inside and outside of the string to keep the water from entering the cup.  With the string dangling from the bottom outside of the cup tie on the washer or other object for weight. Ask the kids what scientific information their buoy collects.

Middle School:  

Items needed- volt-ohm meter, glass beaker, two small copper wires, 500ml of distilled water, and some common table salt.

Salinity of the oceans seawater is of concern to scientists and is one of the tests conducted by the Stratus 7 Buoy. The way scientists test for salinity is called a conductivity test.  That is they measure the conductivity of seawater.  Have the student pour 250ml of distilled water into a glass beaker.  Place two small copper wires on opposite sides of the beaker and submerged in the water.  Be sure that at least 1cm of wire is exposed copper and in the water.  Set the voltmeter to ohms and get a reading and record it.  Add .5 grams of salt and mix well.  Test the conductivity again.  Keep adding salt in .5-gram increments.  Does the readings change? If so how?  Are the numbers getting larger or smaller? If so why?

High School: 

Items needed- volt-ohm meter, glass beaker, two small copper wires, 250ml of distilled water, and some common table salt, and sugar.

Salinity of the oceans seawater is of concern to scientists and is one of the testes conducted by the Stratus 7 Buoy. The way scientist test for salinity is called a conductivity test. That is they measure the conductivity of seawater.  Have the student pour 250ml of distilled water into a glass beaker.  Place two small copper wires on opposite sides of the beaker and submerged in the water.  Set the voltmeter to ohms and get a reading and record it.  Add .5 grams of salt and mix well.  Test the conductivity again. Keep adding salt in .5-gram increments. Does the readings change? If so how? Are the numbers getting larger or smaller? If so why?

Now run the test with sugar. What are your results?  Was there a change? Now change the temperature of the solution by heating or chilling with ice.  Does this make a difference in your readings?

Lead a class discussion on what each instrument of the stratus buoy does and why it is important to scientists.

Karolyn Braun, October 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

The sun setting on the southern Pacific Ocean.
The sun setting on the southern Pacific Ocean.

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 14, 2006

Plan of the Day 

Today has been a day of much needed rest. I awoke at midnight to conduct the 1 a.m. CTD profile, which went extremely well.  Once my head hit the pillow I was out, awaking around 8 a.m.  I checked my email and tried to read some but fell asleep and woke-up around 11a.m.  I went outside to see if any help was needed and they told me not to worry about it so I decided to complete some schoolwork that needed to be done. I felt like I was at the office without my students.  I miss them a lot; they definitely make my life interesting.  I have been getting several emails from them, which make my day.  I ended my evening with a CTD profile and I was off to bed.

Karolyn Braun, October 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 13, 2006

KA’IMIMOANA crewmembers make repairs to a TAO buoy.
KA’IMIMOANA crewmembers make repairs to a TAO buoy.

Science and Technology Log 

Well, last night I had conducted the 9:30 p.m. CTD profile solo.  Everything was running smoothly, I remembered all the steps, and the CTD was in the water.  The winchman was waiting for directions, and then we saw ERROR, ERROR, and the computers froze…. AAHHH! But I remained calm and called the Chief Scientist out of bed who called the Chief Electronic Technician (CET). By the time the CET arrived the XO (Executive Office) Robert, was in the lab as well. Come to find out, a fuse had blown. But the CET changed the fuse, and I completed the CTD profile.  Before I knew it, it was 11 p.m.

I awoke to the Bridge calling me for my 5 a.m. wake-up call to conduct the 1.5N/155W CTD profile. This cast went like clockwork.  I was even ahead of schedule.  I know it’s silly, but I am really excited to sail over the equator.  It’s something I have always wanted to do. I have done it by plane many times, but it’s a lot different sailing over it.

I was asked if I wanted to go on the TAO buoy repair.  So of course I said YES! A chance to get off the ship and cruise in the RHIB boat to climb on a TAO buoy in the middle of know where—who would pass that up? It was a beautiful day and while waiting for my time to assist with the repair, I saw sharks and tons of fish.  Absolutely beautiful! Also while waiting, Jeff, a GVA, or general vessel assistant, taught me how to tie a bowling knot and a Tug bowling knot. Not as easy as it looks, but Jeff made it easy to learn. After the repair, I had some lunch and got in a work out in time for the .5S/155W CTD cast. Everyday is such a blessing out here.

Brett Hoyt, October 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 13, 2006

This is a Sea Surface Drifter.  The students of Burlington Elementary School in Billings Mt adopted this drifter.  It was deployed off the coast of Chile
This is a Sea Surface Drifter. The students of Burlington Elementary School in Billings Mt adopted it, deployed off the coast of Chile

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  160º
True Wind speed:  7 knots
Sea wave height: 0-1ft
Swell wave height: 5-7 ft
Sea level pressure: 1015.1 millibars
Sea temperature:  20.7ºC or 69.2ºF
Air temperature:  21.0ºC or 69.8ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Scientists 

We will not highlight a scientist today, as the star of our show is the floats and drifters.

The Machine 

Today we will examine the Argo Floats and drifters. The two machines do basically the same measurements but in different layers of the ocean. The drifters that we are deploying during the Stratus 7 cruise measure sea surface temperature (SST) and transmit that temperature and their location as they drift with the upper ocean currents.  This tells scientist how warm or cold the water is and how the currents in the ocean move about.  The reason scientists use drifters is that even though satellites are fairly good at acquiring sea surface temperatures some, at present, cannot penetrate cloud cover and all need the drifter data to improve their accuracy.  By using the hundreds of drifters scattered throughout the globe, scientist can use this data to improve the current computer models of global climate condition and get real-time data to use in their work.

This is an Argo float. It will spend most of its life in the very deep ocean (up to 6,000ft deep) and come to the surface every 10days to send off its data.  It is approximately 4 •••ft to 5 ft long and weighs about 30 lbs.
This Argo float will spend most of its life in the very deep ocean (up to 6,000ft deep) and come to the surface every 10 days to send off its data. It weighs about 30 lbs.

Argo floats lead an active life traveling very little compared to surface drifters.  The reason for this is that floats spend most of their time in extremely deep and very slow-moving ocean waters. Some deep ocean water takes thousands of years to make their cycles through the oceans systems.  These floats descend to about 1,500m to 2,000m (approximately 4,500ft to 6,000ft) and every 10 days a bladder inflates and it rises to the surface taking measurements along the way; at the surface it transmits its data back to the scientists thousands of miles away. These floats are built to last about 4 years.

The Experiment 

No experiment with the drifters and floats.

Classroom Activities 

Mr. Hoyt and Jeff Lord are examining a drifter adopted by the Burlington Elementary Research Team (B.E.R.T.).  We all wish BERT a pleasant journey as he travels the Pacific Ocean.
Mr. Hoyt and Jeff Lord are examining a drifter adopted by the Burlington Elementary Research Team (B.E.R.T.). We all wish BERT a pleasant journey as he travels the Pacific Ocean.

Elememtary K-6: 

Since measuring environmental temperatures is one of the primary functions of the drifters and floaters, lead the students in a discussion of:  What is hot? What is cold? What can we use to measure temperature?  Do students have a temperature?

Middle School:  

The thousands of drifters are used to get real time readings of sea surface temperatures worldwide. Start by asking the students what is the temperature of our classroom.  After they give you the answer ask them if it is that temperature everywhere in the classroom.  Have them devise a way to check their theory.  Why is it the same/different around different parts of the room? Hint: This hint is for the classroom teacher and will be found at the bottom of this posting.

High School: 

This is the drogue chute that is deployed in the water beneath the drifter to stabilize its deployment with the ocean currents.
This is the drogue chute that is deployed in the water beneath the drifter to stabilize its deployment with the ocean currents.

Students should go to the Datastreme Oceans website to explore some of the cool findings available to the public.

Thought Experiment provided by Dr. Weller: 

How does an Argo float rise to the surface and later sink to a desired depth?

Middle School hint: 

Have the students set about 20 cups or glasses, filled with water, in various locations around the room.  Be sure the containers are covered to reduce cooling due to evaporation.  Let the water stabilize overnight.  The next day, have the students take temperature readings at the different “sites”.  Compare the different readings around the room.  Are they all the same or are they different.  Lead the students in a discussion on the reasons for their results. Can they make any predictions about tomorrow’s readings? Do the readings change over the weekend?  (Most schools turn down the heat on the weekend). Have each class post their findings so that other “scientists” from other classes can be compared with their own.  Maybe 1st period is different from 7th period.

High School Hint: 

The ocean is stratified–the seawater is denser the deeper you go.  This is because it is colder and sometimes saltier at depth.  The density of the float depends on the ratio mass/volume.  The float has a reservoir of oil inside that is pumped into or taken back from an external inflatable rubber bladder.  Filling or emptying the bladder changes the volume of the float while its mass remains the same, so the float can change its density, allowing it to become buoyant enough to float to the surface or to adjust itself to match the density of seawater at 1,500m.

hoyt_log4d

Karolyn Braun, October 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 12, 2006

TAS Braun assists in recovering spools of line for a buoy.
TAS Braun assists in recovering spools of line for a buoy.

Science and Technology Log 

What a fabulous night sky! More stars than expected and the ocean is flat and smooth, a small swell of 2ft. Well I didn’t attend the 1 a.m. CTD, but I did do the 5 a.m. CTD profile. I was half asleep; I completed the preparation, the cast and the recovery with no worries, but forgot some steps, so I am thankful that the Chief Scientist was awake to remind me.  A BIG Fa’afetai Lava (“Thank you” in Samoan) to you Patrick.  After the CTD we ate breakfast; I have never had such an assortment of food for breakfast since college, only here the food is better! Hats off to our two cooks, Carrie and Don.  They are in the kitchen all day to provide the crew with balanced and healthy meals.

We arrived at the TAO buoy around 9 a.m. and sent a team out on the RHIB to connect to the buoy and drag it to the stern (back of the ship).  The sun was out, there was very little cloud cover and the ocean was still very calm.  It was beautiful enough just watching over the side of the ship, but while they were bringing it in we saw whales off in the distance. The buoy was recovered, and all hands were back onboard so the spooling began (see photo). Before anything else could happen, we had a man-overboard drill.  I definitely feel safe on the ship as the crew is prepared for anything in a moment’s notice!

After 8 spools of line were recovered, the new buoy could then be set up and released.  If a line needed repairing, it got spliced together; if not, the 8 spools got reconnected and fed into the ocean. At the end of the last line, a huge anchor was attached, and it sank into the ocean to finish the job (around 5 p.m.).  A CTD was completed and everyone was pretty exhausted and ready for a shower and good meal and sleep—not necessarily in that order.

Brett Hoyt, October 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction:  185º
Wind speed:  9 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3ft
Swell wave height: 3-4 ft
Sea level pressure: 1011.9 millibars
Sea temperature:  23.9ºC or 75.0ºF
Air temperature:  21.0ºC or 69.8ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

Dr. Byron Blomquist (seated) and graduate student Mingxi Yang (standing) beside the Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS.
Dr. Byron Blomquist (seated) and graduate student Mingxi Yang (standing) beside the Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS.

The Scientists 

As I mentioned yesterday, today I will begin to introduce the scientists, their equipment, and their experiments. Today I would like to introduce to you Dr. Byron Blomquist (lead scientist) and graduate student Mingxi (pronounced ming-she) Yang, both from the University of Hawaii. They plan to study the exchange of gases between the ocean and the atmosphere.

Dr. Blomquist is a quiet, soft-spoken, and self-professed tinkerer. He began his love of science at an early age with a fascination for all things living. He took a great interest in bugs, snakes, birds, and other animals and insects.  He stated that Biology was his favorite subject. Dr. Blomquist has a few interesting facts about himself he is willing to share with us; one is that he works in Hawaii however he lives in Colorado and the other is that he finished high school in only three years! 

Mr. Hoyt standing in front of Dr. Blomquist’s portable lab.  Please note the wires leaving the lab to the left of the photo.
Mr. Hoyt standing in front of Dr. Blomquist’s portable lab. Please note the wires leaving the lab to the left of the photo.

The other scientist is graduate student Mingxi Yang, we just call him Ming for now but someday we will have to address him as Dr. Yang as he plans on earning his doctorate degree. Ming is a very intelligent and self-confident graduate student from the University of Hawaii. Ming originally was born in Beijing China, when at the age of 14 his family moved to Massachusetts. He originally was going to get a degree in chemistry when in his junior year in college he accepted a summer internship with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It was during these 12 weeks that Ming decided that he could impact the world in a more positive way by switching majors and getting a degree in Oceanography.

Here is a view of the mast at the front of the ship where Dr. Blomquist’s instruments are located.  Because his instruments are so sensitive, no smoking will be allowed on the bow (front) of the ship during the experiment.  The mast is over 20m high that is over 60ft!
Here is a view of the mast at the front of the ship. Because the instruments are so sensitive, no smoking will be allowed on the bow. The mast is over 20m high that is over 60ft!

The Machine 

The Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS for short is one of only three that exist worldwide. Dr. Blomquist built this machine from scratch.  Many of the components and circuit boards were custom designed and built specifically for this machine.  If cool and shiny is your thing and you have $300,000 in your piggy bank then you might be able to get Dr. Blomquist to build you one.  What cool scientific discovery you make with it is up to you.  Many students envision that science takes place only in large land based laboratories, but they would be wrong. Below is the portable (you might need a big truck or ship) laboratory that Dr. Blomquist and Ming brought with them.  It’s sort of like a camper without the wheels.

The Experiment 

We have read about man-made global warming and generally believe that this is not good for the earth and its climate.  Scientists also believe that the main source of global warming is the buildup of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Since it would be impossible to measure everywhere on the earth at the same time scientists use powerful computers to create models (computer programs) to predict what is happening over the entire earth.  The Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS measures a gas, which in computer models is similar to carbon dioxide.  What Dr. Blomquist and Ming are doing is collecting data to compare with model predictions to improve current computer models of the climate.  What they are looking for is the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean. Liquids can and do absorb gasses.  To illustrate this open up a can of soda pop. The bubbles you see are the gas carbon dioxide leaving the liquid.  The ocean both absorbs and releases carbon dioxide, and therefore plays an important role in climate regulation.

The Teacher 

I spent my day interviewing scientist and preparing for upcoming interviews with other scientist.  Tomorrow we enter international waters and the experiments can begin.  I will also begin drifter watch. My watch time will be from 8am to 12 noon and 8pm to 12 midnight.  I will provide more details tomorrow and discuss drifters and how they are used.

Classroom Activities 

Elememtary K-6: 

Because of the complexity of this experiment we will have no classroom activity but perhaps you could enjoy a bubbly beverage of your choice.

Middle School:  

How many liquids could you list that have dissolved gases in them that are commonly found in the home.  What gases do you think they are?  Are they harmful to the planet?

High School: 

How many liquids could you list that have dissolved gases in them that are commonly found in the home.  What gases do you think they are?  Are they harmful to the planet?

We will continue to visit with some of the scientists and find out more on what experiments are being conducted on this Stratus 7 cruise and why.

Mr. Hoyt “driving” the ship.  The two controls I am holding are how the ship is steered. The ship has no rudder and the pilot need only to rotate these controls to turn the propellers in a different direction. Much like turning the motor on a small boat.
Mr. Hoyt “driving” the ship. The two controls I am holding are how the ship is steered. The ship has no rudder and the pilot need only to rotate these controls to turn the propellers in a different direction. Much like turning the motor on a small boat.

Scott Dickison, September 30-October 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Scott Dickinson
Onboard Research Vessel Shearwater
September 30 – October 11, 2006

Mission: Quantitative Finfish Abundance
Geographical Area: Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas
Date: September 30 – October 11, 2006

Santa Barbara, seen from the ship
Santa Barbara, seen from the ship

Prologue 

The cruise that I participated on was a multi-part project that spanned several weeks. I came on board for the final, and most interesting part of the project. Those parts you can read about in my log entries, however some background and technical information may be useful to better understand the operation.

The cruise took place onboard the NOAA R/V Shearwater. The project was called a Quantitative Finfish Abundance and Exploration of the Channel Islands Marine Protected Areas. A cooperative Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) study with the California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Applied Research and Exploration, and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

When I arrived, the bulk of the work had been completed and it was time for the experimental portions of the project to take place. These experiments were designed to ensure the reliability, precision, and accuracy of the quantitative data collected by ROV survey. The basic operations involved live boating the ROV along predetermined track lines. That is, the RV Shearwater would proceed along a predetermined line on the surface that the ROV was also independently operating on at the ocean floor. The ROV had a range of 50 meters from the stern of the RV Shearwater. The ROV pilot had on-screen-display (OSD) from the video cameras mounted on the ROV, as well as an OSD that displayed the ROV position relative to the mother ship. This display is generated with the use of a sonar beacon mounted on the ROV and a sonar receiver lowered over the side of the mother ship.

On to the logs…

Deploying the ROV
Deploying the ROV

Saturday 9/30

Arrive at the R/V Shearwater. Got the lay of the land.

Sunday 10/1

Head out of the Santa Barbara Harbor in transit to Santa Cruz Island to pick up the research crew. With the team of scientists on board, we head out for our destination of East Point on Santa Rosa Island for the first deployment of the ROV.

The weather turned on us, with the winds blowing and the rain pounding. The seas got rough and the going was slow. This being the first day out, the sea legs had yet to be adjusted. This was the cause for a quick retreat to the head…

Finally made it to our testing location. Weather was dismal as the ROV was launched. Today’s mission was to “paint” fish with lasers mounted along side the ROV camera.  This was a very interesting procedure designed to measure fish length. Essentially capturing a fish on video and “painting” it with two laser dots at the known distance of 11 cm. Total fish length can then be calculated either by determining fish camera fish length and laser dot space, or by using the screen width and the fish length in comparison.

This day I became umbilical tender and hydraulic operator for launching and retrieving the ROV. I also observed the underwater video and fish painting process. This was a very interesting day becoming part of the crew and assisting in the work. Due to a couple of technical issues, we returned to Santa Barbara for the night.

Watching and operating the launch
Watching and operating the launch

Monday 10/2 

While crewmembers were working on correcting the technical issues, I assisted others with setting up lines for the next set of experiments. This required setting up vinyl covered steel cables at a length of 110 meters and marking them with colored flags every 10 meters that would be easy to view through the ROV cameras. These cables were also set up with loops on each end for linking together, or for securing weights. The cables were then spooled for ease of deployment and stowed for later use.

The technical issues as well were repaired and again we set out to sea. This day’s destination was Anacapa Island. With some sonar scanning, a sight was selected for the next sets of experiments, to determine accuracy of transect distance precision across the spatial dimension.

For this experiment, the 110 meter cables were laid across the bottom with high relief profiles.  This distance of cable would provide a length of 100 meters to run with the ROV. Divers also swam the line and took depth readings along the cable. The cable ran up and down over rocks and various substrates that are considered fish habitat. The concept being that there were more lineal feet of fish habitat in this relief than straight line distance.  The ROV recorded this distance, but this was a means to determine if those recordings were an accurate measurement.

The sight we were working was spectacular. We were on the southern tip of Anacapa Island. The shoreline of the island was shear rocky cliffs. The cliffs are a major nesting and roosting sight for the endangered California Brown Pelicans, they were everywhere both on the cliffs and circling in the sky. The area was also populated with sea lions. They were very amusing swimming around the boat and with their barks echoing off the cliffs of the island.  After the work here was done, we headed north for a protected cove to drop anchor for the night.

Brown pelican nesting area on the high cliffs
Brown pelican nesting area on the high cliffs

Tuesday 10/3

This day we headed back toward Anacapa to continue the track line experiments. Another shallow depth sight was selected toward the North end of the island. The same procedures were used here laying out the cable lengths that were then checked by divers and then run with the ROV.

The water was thick with small baitfish that was being fed on by schools of Bonita. This was a sight to see, and was particularly amusing to see the pelicans dive-bombing into the water also feeding on the baitfish.  This went on for most of the day.  Operations went well today and when complete the gear was collected and stowed. We headed off to another protected cove for the nights anchorage.

Wednesday 10/4 

We continued the track line experiments today. Work was going well so we started preparations for the next upcoming experiment. The preparations consisted of setting up fish models of various sizes and securing weights to then to enable deployment of them floating various heights off the bottom.  The fish models were constructed of a flat piece of neoprene with color copied pictures of the local significant fish species laminated and attached to the sides.

The sight of the day was a pod of dolphins leaping out of the water and splashing around in some sort of frenzy. We assumed the must have been feeding, but were not really close enough to tell exactly what was going on. Today’s tasks went well and I went out on the Avon to retrieve the cables and the divers. With all back onboard, we headed off to the nights anchorage.

On the zodiak
On the zodiac

Thursday 10/5 

Today we set out for a deep water site to continue the track line experiment. The previous sites had been in the 10 to 20 meter depth zones. Today we would run the track line experiment in a 50 meter depth zone.  This posed a different set of circumstances.  The tracking cable was spooled into a basket for deployment. It was then deployed skillfully and precisely by the well experienced deck officer. With the cable in place, the ROV was launched to run the line. This depth was to deep to send divers down, so the ROV did all the work.  Tracking went well and the ROV was brought back on board.

Recovery of the gear was a bit more difficult.  We had to haul back the cable and weights with a power winch as opposed to winding it back by hand in shallow water. After we got about half of the length back, it got jammed and snapped so fast my head spun. At least the experiment was completed.

After gathering and comparing the ROV data with the diver collected data it was apparent that the ROV collected nearly identical data to the diver collected data. This experiment seemed to be a success. ROV use and procedures seemed to be a reliable means to determine transect distance across the spatial dimension by my observations. Naturally the collected data would be reviewed later by the scientists on board to accurately determine the results.

Full moon rising
Full moon rising

During the day we continued to prepare the fish models for deployment tonight. With the track line experiments complete, we headed for a location suitable for the fish model experiment. This experiment was conducted in the evening to simulate the light conditions in the typical habitat depth of 50 meters.  The point of the experiment was to determine the accuracy of fish length as determined by ROV survey. The ROV survey used both paired lasers and distance sonar to determine fish length. When these procedures are utilized on fish models of known length, the scientists could determine if the process could be accurate when video capturing wild fish in the test zone.

As we arrived at the experiment location, the sun was setting and a most beautiful full moon was rising over a distant horizon. Divers were used to strategically deploy the models to simulate populations of wild fish.  The ROV was deployed and ran the line of fish models while video capturing the images. Tonight I had an opportunity to pilot the ROV. I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity and spent some time observing some flat fish scurrying about the bottom as I waited for the divers to collect the fish models. Soon all was complete, the divers came back on board, and we recovered the ROV safely.  We remained at this location for the night, it was quite beautiful.

Friday 10/6…the final day.  

Today was a public relations day. We returned to Anacapa and met up with the California Dept. of Fish and Game boat, the R/V Garibaldi. They had brought some local writers and reporters out to cover the project. We still went on with the normal operations of surveying fish populations. It was another great day on board the NOAA  R/V Shearwater as a participant in the Teacher at Sea Program! Back to Santa Barbara we cruised.

dickison_logsf

Karolyn Braun, October 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 11, 2006

TAS Braun holds up the catch of the day, a mahi mahi!
TAS Braun holds up the catch of the day, a mahi mahi!

Science and Technology Log 

Today has been a busy and exciting one. Last night’s CTD I did on my own but with Tonya, the Chief Survey Tech looking over my shoulder to see if I made any mistakes.  This morning I was on my own—an excellent cast and recovery (if I do say so myself) with no problems occurring. Once the CTD was secure, we prepared the ARGO buoy, which was deployed by slowly lowering it into the water. After the bottom filled with water, we disconnected it from the line and away it went., By the time the AOML buoy was deployed, the CTD cast was finished and the water samples for the chlorophyll project were complete, it was breakfast time.  After having some oatmeal, I tried to nap but it was such a glorious morning I couldn’t bear to be inside.  I stood staring out into what seems like a never-ending ocean thinking how fortunate I am to have been chosen for this program—not only for the experiences I have had already or for the knowledge I am going to go home with, but also for the amazing people I have been able to get to know who work on this vessel day in and day out to ensure all projects run smoothly.

At 11:00 we were preparing for a visit to the TAO buoy at 5N/155W. This buoy did not need to be recovered as it was still in excellent working order.  The Chief Scientist, Patrick, viewed the buoy and no repairs were needed either.  While the boat was sailing around the buoy at a slow pace, some of us tried our hands at fishing off the back for some dinner.  We caught a nice Mahi Mahi…YUM!  The CTD was just about to begin so all lines had to come in and it was down to business.  The CTD went effortlessly, and after that, I deployed my first AOML buoy.  The Marine Science Program at the American Samoa Community College has adopted three Adopt-a-Drifter buoys with this program.  Very exciting!

After all the excitement I got in a nice workout and a much needed shower.  After dinner tonight we have another CTD and the fun will be over until tomorrow morning.

Brett Hoyt, October 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 11, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  220º
Wind speed:  12 knots
Sea wave height: 3-4ft
Swell wave height: 3-5 ft
Sea level pressure: 1012.9 millibars
Sea temperature:  25.5ºC or 77.9ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Commanding Officer of the RONALD H.BROWN, CAPT. Gary Petrae
The Commanding Officer of the RONALD H.BROWN, CAPT. Gary Petrae

The Ship and Crew 

I am presently on board the NOAA ship RONALD H. BROWN.  This ship was commissioned in 1997 and is 274 feet in length (just 16 feet shorter than a football field) and 52 feet wide. The ship displaces 3,250 tons and has a maximum speed of 15 knots.  Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN (RHB) is Gary Petrae.  Captain Petrae has just celebrated his 28th year serving in the NOAA Officer Corps. The RHB is the fifth ship Captain Petrae has served on and the second ship he has commanded in his tenure with NOAA. We are truly lucky to have such an experienced captain at the helm.  When you are thousands of miles out to sea, you entrust your life to the captain and crew. One of the interesting facts about a ship at sea is that someone must be at the helm 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Now the captain cannot be there all the time so he turns over the job of “driving” the ship to one of his other officers. 

They take “watches” which in this case are four hours in duration.  During a recent trip to the bridge (this is what they call the command center for the ship) I was fortunate enough to visit with the Officer Of the Deck (OOD for short) Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Lt (JG). Jackie Almeida.  She stands approximately 5’0” with reddish/brown hair and a confidence that fills the bridge. Her bright eyes and effervescent personality quickly put me at ease. She earned her degree in meteorology and joined the NOAA Officer Corps. When she finishes her assignment with the RHB she will join the NOAA hurricane hunters and be advancing our knowledge of these deadly storms.

Ltjg. Jackie Almeida On the bridge of the RONALD H. BROWN
Ltjg. Jackie Almeida on the bridge

The Scientists 

The scientists are spending the day checking and rechecking their equipment making sure that when the crucial time comes all will go well.

The Teacher 

I spent the day observing the scientist preparing equipment and rechecking systems.  I am trying to remember all the safety information that was delivered on the first day. Just like in school, we have safety drills so that in the event something goes wrong everyone knows what to do. We practice fire drills just as you do in school. We also have abandon ship drills.  Below you can see me modeling the latest fashion in survival suits.  The crew calls them “Gumby suits.” 

Classroom Activities 

Mr. Hoyt “looking good” in his survival suit.  Hey kids, wouldn’t your teacher look good in this suit?
Mr. Hoyt “looking good” in his survival suit. Hey kids, wouldn’t your teacher look good in this suit?

Elememtary K-6 

Today’s activity is to give the students an idea of the ship that I’m on.  The teacher will need at least 650 ft of string (you can tie shorter rolls together) and as long a tape measure as you can find (a 100ft one works best).  This activity would be best done on the playground or any other large open space.  Have student-A hold one end of the string and measure out 274 feet in a straight line.  Then have student-B hold the string loosely and run the string back 274 feet to a different student-C but even with student-A. Now have students A and C move 52 feet apart and finish up with student A holding both the beginning and end of the length of string-Do not cut the string as you will need to keep letting out more string as you complete the next part.  Now have the rest of your class hold the string 52 feet apart between the two long lengths of string working your way up to student B remembering that the ship comes to a point (the bow). Go to this website for complete drawings.

Middle School  

At the beginning of this log, I mentioned that the Ronald H. Brown displaces 3,250 tons. What does this mean?  Can you use the concept of water displacement to measure other objects? Hint.

High School 

The ship travels at a maximum speed of 15 knots.  Approximately how long would it take for the ship to sail at maximum speed from Panama City to 25 degrees south latitude and 90 degrees west longitude off the coast of Chile?  How many nautical miles would be traveled?  How many land miles would that be? Hint.

Here, a scientist is checking an acoustic release mechanism.  They lowered it to 1,500 m or approximately 4,500 feet to test it. It will eventually be located 4,000 m beneath the surface or approximately 12,000 ft!
A scientist is checking an acoustic release mechanism. They lowered it to 1,500 m to test it. It will eventually be located 4,000 m beneath the surface!

On my next few postings we will be visiting with some of the scientist and finding out more on what experiments are being conducted and why.

Karolyn Braun, October 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 10, 2006

TAS Braun displays what the pressure of water will do to Styrofoam cups!
TAS Braun displays what the pressure of water will do to Styrofoam cups!

Science and Technology Log 
Plan for the day
1:00 Deep CTD 8N/155W
7:30 Early Ops Retrieve and Deploy TAO buoy
23:00 CTD 7N/155W

It has been a rainy, cloudy morning. The swells have been the largest I have seen since the cruise started, so we have been really lucky. It wasn’t due to these waves that I couldn’t sleep, but for fear I wouldn’t wake up in time for the 1 a.m. CTD cast. When preparing the CTD frame and cylinders, I placed a mesh bag with about 25-styrofoam cups in it.  I wrote my students’ names on them and will present them when I make my presentation to my students and colleagues at the American Samoa Community College about my trip.  We were able to go down only to 3000m, as we needed to make up for lost time with the last CTD cast.  But it still made a BIG difference to the Styrofoam cups.  We finished up with the cast around 5 a.m. and took a small nap as the first buoy retrieval and deployment was at 7:30.

The deck crew and scientists work as a team to recover the TAO buoy and place it on deck. After the buoy is secure, the two-mile of line is spooled in which takes a LONG time.  The rain has finally developed into a light drizzle.  This allowed me to go on deck and take a few photos. My mission was to watch and learn from this recovery and deployment so that for the next one I can help where needed.  The new TAO buoy was deployed into the ocean and the two-mile line and anchor followed.  This whole process took up the morning and most of the afternoon.  I ended up helping out with the spooling lines preparation for the deployment.  I am not one to sit around and watch.  Next up, a CTD cast tonight. YIPEE!

Brett Hoyt, October 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 10, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  240º
True Wind speed:  11 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3ft
Swell wave height: 4-5 feet
Sea level pressure:  1010 millibars
Sea temperature:  28.7 ºC or about 84 º F
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

Mr. Hoyt on the RONALD H. BROWN leaving Panama passing under The Bridge of the Americas
Mr. Hoyt on the RONALD H. BROWN leaving Panama passing under The Bridge of the Americas

The Cruise Mission 

The overall mission of this cruise is to replace two moorings anchored off the northern coast of Chile. First we will retrieve the Stratus 6 buoy, which has been actively sending weather and ocean data for the past year.  We then will deploy the Stratus 7 buoy approximately 800 miles from land.  This mooring consists of a buoy that contains numerous meteorological sensors that collect data on relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, precipitation, short- and long-wave solar radiation, temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean and sea surface temperature.  The buoy serves as an extremely accurate weather station, one of few such stations in the open ocean.

Secondly, we will replace a tsunami (a potentially dangerous large wave of water) warning buoy belonging to the Chilean Navy Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service.  This buoy provides Chile with warning of approaching tsunamis.

The Teacher 

Masked Boobie- these birds fly in front of the ship for hundreds of miles seeking fish.  They will occasionally land on the ship to rest.
Masked Boobies fly in front of the ship for hundreds of miles seeking fish and occasionally land on the ship to rest.

Let me introduce myself—I’m Brett Hoyt, a NOAA Teacher at Sea.  NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program is open to all teachers K-16 who would like the opportunity to experience first hand working side by side with some of the planet’s top scientists conducting cutting-edge research. If you would like to apply or just know more about the Teacher, go here.

I will be bringing into your classroom the day-to-day happenings that are happening on board the NOAA research ship the RONALD H. BROWN.  Please feel free to email me (hoytbk@gmail.com) with any questions you might have about the program, the research, the scientists or any question in general about the ocean.  I will try to answer as many as I can.  In return, I will from time to time pose questions for you or your class to tackle.  I will give hints as to where you might find the answer.

Questions of the Day 

Elememtary K-6:  How much of the earth is covered by Water?  How much is covered by Land? Hint.

Middle school: What chemical compound makes up water? Are the elements solid, liquid, or gas? Hint.

High School: Why is the ocean blue?  Are all oceans blue?  Why or Why not? Hint.

On my next posting I will be giving you a tour of some of the staff and equipment on board the ship.

Karolyn Braun, October 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 9, 2006

TAS Braun helps to cast the CTD off the deck of the KA’IMIMOANA.
TAS Braun helps to cast the CTD off the deck of the KA’IMIMOANA.

Science and Technology Log 

Plan for the day:
2:00 CTD 11N/155.5W
9:30 CTD 10N/155.5W
17:30 CTD 9N/155.5W

A beautiful morning: partly cloudy, calm waters and a wonderful 83 degrees. The day started out busy: laundry, breakfast, getting ready for the 9:30 a.m. CTD cast.  After watching the CTD yesterday and going over the commands, I felt confident to cast the CTD; however, we conducted several practice runs before we actually cast the CTD. That definitely was reassuring as I was new, and so was the crane operator. The CTD was launched successfully—next stop 1000 meters. I helped set up the computers to fire the 24-containers at various depths, from 1000m to surface, and collect salinity, conductivity and temperature readings from the brain of the CTD. After the CTD reached the surface, we secured the CTD back on deck and proceeded to collect water for chlorophyll sampling.

As we were collecting the water, we had a man overboard drill.  That was very unexpected but exciting to watch the crew of the ship work so well together. My afternoon was spent filling 20 five-gallon containers with seawater for use in a chemistry lab off island. Currently I have some down time before the next CTD in a few hours.  I am going to work out in the gym for a bit and get my Styrofoam cups ready for the 4000m CTD cast.

Karolyn Braun, October 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 8, 2006

During an orientation, TAS Braun and part of the crew of the KA’IMIMOANA are lowered into the ocean in a RHIB.
During an orientation, TAS Braun and part of the crew of the KA’IMIMOANA are lowered into the ocean in a RHIB.

Science and Technology Log 

Sunday is no day for rest on a ship. The day started out slow. I attended the science meeting where I learned where everyone was from and what projects I will be working on.  The CTD casts will be conducted at each mooring site between 08-degreesN and 08  degrees S. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is conducting Chlorophyll and nutrient sampling.  They are using the water obtained in the canisters from the CTD.  The Global Drifter Center at NOAA requests deployment of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) Surface Drifters on an ancillary basis.  I am lucky enough to be participating in the Adopt-A-Drifter Program in which my students will be able to follow several buoys to plot which current they are in and where they are positioned.  I will have an update on this when I deploy my first one.  Very excited!  In addition, The Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory (PMEL) will be deploying Argo profiling CTD Floats.  These conduct similar experiments to the CTD on board.  However, these floats are individual canisters that send the information they collect to satellites.  The ship has no further obligation to the CTD float.

I worked out for an hour and then we had a RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) orientation for when we go out and fix TAO buoys.  This was followed by a CTD cast orientation to get ready for the first CTD that evening.  It was a 1000m depth cast with various cylinders capturing water at various depths from 1000 to surface.  Once the CTD was safely on deck and everything secure, I was able to collect water samples for chlorophyll testing. The water needed for chlorophyll testing was at depths of 200m, 150m, 100m, 80m, 60m, 40m, 20m, 10m and at the surface.  I used small filters and a vacuum funnel to have the allotted amount of water flow over the filter.  Once this was finished the filter was placed in a separate tube with 10ml of acetone for use at a later date.  Stay tuned to find out more!

 

Karolyn Braun, October 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karolyn Braun
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
October 4 – 28, 2006

Mission: TAO Buoy Array Maintenance
Geographical Area: Hawaii
Date: October 7, 2006

NOAA Ship KA’IMIMOANA docked in Honolulu.
NOAA Ship KA’IMIMOANA docked in Honolulu.

Monday, October 2, 2006 – Wednesday, October 4, 2006 

After a long red-eye flight from American Samoa, NOAA Officer Rebecca Waddington greeted me at the Honolulu International Airport.  As the sun came up, we drove to pier 45. As I made my way onto the ship, I was introduced to the crew: The NOAA officers, the deck crew, the engineer crew, the scientists, and the doctor. The next few days were filled with walking around Honolulu and getting used to ship life.

Thursday, October 5, 2006 

The sun was just above the horizon and already the KA’IMIMOANA was buzzing with movement as the crew was getting ready for an on-time departure. The horn sounded as we sailed out of the harbor. The plan of the day was to conduct a helicopter emergency drill and then return to the fueling dock for a six-hour fueling session. Half way through with fueling, we were informed that our departure was going to be delayed till Friday morning due to some electrical difficultly with the alarm systems.

A helicopter emergency drill.
A helicopter emergency drill.

Friday, October 6, 2006 

All systems were go as we headed out of the fueling harbor at noon. The ocean was calm but there was an uneasiness in some of the crew as it is believed to bad luck to sail on a Friday.

All new hands onboard attended a safety lecture where we learned what to do in case of: man-overboard, fire and collision, or abandoned ship emergency.  A while later an abandoned ship drill was conducted. All hands had to grab their assigned gear and meet at their designated safety boat. Our “gumby suits” had to be put on and whistles checked, after which we were able to dress down without PFDs (Personal Floatation Device) on to await further instructions. As the sunset an amazing full moon rose to fill the night sky. What a wonderful night!

Saturday, October 7, 2006 

The morning started with my assisting one of the researchers with fixing a CTD.  The Conductivity, Temperature & Depth instrument measures the conductivity and temperature of water, which will assist in obtaining the amount of salinity.  Using the salinity and the temperature, the density of the water can be determined.  In turn, knowing the densities of the ocean, scientists can determine currents.  The main CTD instrument is surrounded by 14 or so Niskin Bottles.  These bottles collect water at a certain depth to be used in a variety of other tests on ship or on land. All new hands onboard watched a “HAZMAT: Your Right to Know” video and then the ship’s familiarization video. That afternoon we had a fire drill. All scientists meet in the galley unless the fire is in the galley, and then we meet on the boat deck and act as runners for the ship’s crew; if any vents need to be closed or boundaries need to be checked, it’s all part of a team.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Karolyn Braun, tries on her “gumby suit.”
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Karolyn Braun, tries on her “Gumby suit.”
Dr. Braun assists in repairing a CTD instrument.
Dr. Braun assists in repairing a CTD instrument.

Noah Doughty, September 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard Research Vessel Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 22, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Good
Wind direction and speed: ESE at 7kts
Swell direction and height: NW at 4-6’
Seawater temperature: 56.4
Sea level pressure: 1013.3 millibars
Cloud cover: 8/8

NOAA Teacher at Sea Noah Doughty with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) R/V WESTERN FLYER in the background.
TAS Noah Doughty with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute R/V WESTERN FLYER in the background.

Science and Technology Log 

Dr. Rock and Kristof Richmond of Stanford University left the ship late yesterday afternoon, wrapping up the image collection for the photo-mosaic.  Leaving with them was John Geoghegan, a writer for the Smithsonian Air and Space Magazine and the Naval History Magazine. Joining the expedition are Scott Rayder, NOAA Chief of Staff, Richard G. Van Treuren, representing the Naval Airships Association, and Tim Thomas from the Maritime Museum of Monterey.

Today’s activities were devoted to groundtruthing side-scan sonar anomalies located away from the two main debris fields. This is accomplished by simultaneously moving the ROV and the WESTERN FLYER from site to site, a process that would take the better part of an hour depending on the distance being traveled. The transition provided me with an opportunity to briefly operate the “Science Cam”, the seat were you get to operate the zoom, angle and focus of the HDTV camera.  Most of the anomalies were shallow depressions in the muddy bottom with two large sonar hits turning out to be old fish traps.  We did find one large artifact resembling an imploded fuel cell quite a ways from the main debris fields. 

Today is the last day of the expedition and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Program, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing experience.  Finally I would like to thank the ROV Pilots of the Tiburon and the crew of the WESTERN FLYER for providing insightful answers and explanations to a number of questions.

NOAA Chief of Staff (left), Scott Rayder, and TAS Noah Doughty
NOAA Chief of Staff (left), Scott Rayder, and TAS Noah Doughty

Noah Doughty, September 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard Research Vessel Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 21, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge
Visibility: Good
Wind direction and speed:  NWxW 24kts
Swell direction and height: NW 6’-8’
Seawater temperature: 55.7oF
Sea level pressure: 1019 millibars
Cloud cover: 2/8

Science and Technology Log 

Work at the USS MACON wreck site continues, alternating between mosaic work and survey work depending on water conditions at the bottom.  Today’s log will profile two members of the expedition whose jobs provide a context for the information being gathered.

Erica Burton works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and is responsible for operating VARS, which stands for Video Annotation and Reference System.  VARS is a database that allows screen images to be captured, logged, and georeferenced with annotated notes. For the MACON expedition these notes list the possible identity of the artifacts. In addition to the captured image, VARS also records the time stamp in the video and a geographical location. All the images and video captured are archived at MBARI (the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute), and later, in conjunction with the National Marine Sanctuary Program, staff will process and interpret to produce a final photo-mosaic poster that will be made available to the public. Burton, who has a background in marine biology, also notes that the USS MACON wreckage provides an artificial hard-bottom habitat in an otherwise soft-bottom habitat, and the organisms observed are primarily soft-bottom fishes with occasional encrusting organisms on the wreckage.

Erica Burton, on the left, operates VARS (Video Annotation and Reference System), and works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Lee Murai, on the right, is the expedition’s GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst, and comes from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.
Erica Burton, on the left, operates VARS (Video Annotation and Reference System), and works for the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Lee Murai, on the right, is the expedition’s GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst, and comes from Moss Landing Marine Laboratories.

Lee Murai is a Geological Oceanography student at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and is the GIS (Geographical Information System) analyst.  Through GIS software he is able to spatially organize the data collected on this expedition and compare it to the 1990 and 1991 expeditions. Types of data collected in the past include side-scan sonar, multi-beam bathymetry, and waypoints collected by Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and manned submersibles.  For this expedition he is working closely with the Stanford University team to assist with the photomosaic collection procedure. The GIS map posted on day 1 was provided by Murai. Compare that to the low-resolution image tiles posted today.  While the use of GIS is relatively new to the field of marine archeology, it is generally used in marine environments to provide geologic and biologic habitat characterization maps.

This image, created with low-resolution copies of the image files, shows a Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk (plane #4 in the GIS map on the Day 1 log).  High-resolution tiles will be fused into the final photo-mosaic.  The nose of the plane is in the lower left.
This image, created with low-resolution copies of the image files, shows a Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk (plane #4 in the GIS map on the Day 1 log). High-resolution tiles will be fused into the final photo-mosaic. The nose of the plane is in the lower left.

Jenny Holen, September 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 20, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 2 miles off Keauhou, Hawaii
Depth: 77.75 m or 233 feet
Water Visibility: Clear & gorgeous
Water Temperature: 26.61 C
Salinity: 34.59 PSU
Wind Direction: 223.02, south-west
Wind Speed: 4.01 knots
Air Temperature: 26.5 C
Cloud Cover: rain clouds in distant above islands hills

Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise aboard the SETTE.
Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise.

Science & Technology Log

Yesterday, the routine was very similar to Monday. The NOAA ship was 45 miles out, performing plankton tows from 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m. We did not catch much billfish larva or eggs, but we did catch a lot, I repeat, a lot of little fish.  We were even catching baby tropical fish that must have got caught on the giant seaward current that runs offshore of the big island. Unfortunately, I got very sea sick “again” mid afternoon, and wasn’t able to do much but take photographs of the plankton.  I did how ever, get some “killer” microscopic photography shots and some very cool, short videos of live plankton species in action.

OSCAR ELTON SETTE traveled through the night and we finally got back to the Kona coastline, about 1-2 miles offshore, where it was calm. I, finally, got to sleep that night without being seasick! In the morning, the island rose out of the mist and exposed beautiful hues of tropical greens against the dashing blue sky and crystal clear turquoise waters. Today, sadly our last day, we are performing plankton tows amongst the coastal “slicks.” Now what is a slick you ask?  Well, according to Russell, one of the lead scientists with us from La Jolla, California, the slicks are formed due to wind currents coming off the island that gently push down on the water’s surface forming a glassy phenomenon amongst a rippling environment.  Here, due to the stillness and protection, millions of larva fish and some human trash harbor.  The fishermen who are catching baitfish usually troll their nets through here.  The interesting aspect that Russell talks about behind these slick communities is that they “are aged.”  Some are very young because the spot has been recently open, and some are more mature and older because nothing has bothered them.

TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net
TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net

Today, we hunt through these slicks in hopes of finding billfish marlin eggs and larva. We hit one slick that gave us a bunch! Then we spent the rest of the day getting nothing, and hunting for that original slick. I got many more photographs with my Olympus Mic-D microscope of which both Bob and Russell got copies. One fun thing the scientist and I did today was “pose” in the laboratory for National Geographic pictures taken by David the author of Archapelago. We were still searching for eggs in the newly caught plankton and doing our work, he just made the station and set-up look good.  It would be SO cool to end up in an article of National Geographic. That I’ll have to show off and frame!  At 3 p.m., I left the ship in view of waving hands and smiling faces from all the crew.  It was sad, but what an unforgettable experience I have had these past four days.

Personal Log 

After being sick for the last 2 days, barely being able to walk through the ship to my room, let alone type on a computer, I finally took some Bonnie medicine from the ships nurse, Sarah. After three days out at sea, doing the same thing every day, every hour, I start to realize the required monotony and dedication of scientific research. In order to accomplish a desired goal of finding out a particular question, such as which billfish eggs and larva turn into which adult species; a lot of repetitive analysis and trials must be done in order to come to a clear consensus or even obtain part of an answer to the overall question. Having been a tall ship sailor for two years, my mind wonders to historical maritime scientific expeditions, such as the three-year voyage of H.M.S. Challenger in the 1800’s; John Steinbeck’s journey through the Sea of Cortez; Darwin’s five-year Galapagos voyage on the H.M.S Beagle; and even to Nathanial Bowditch grasping celestial navigation with no background experience out at sea.  These men not only had to endure environmental changes of heat, wind and rain while trying to collect scientific samples, but also had to compensate research time versus sailing obligations when seas became rough, or duty called. Imagine, instead of simply taking pictures of the plankton found (with your Mic-D microscope), you had to literally draw each organism with only a magnifying glass as an aid.

It is just incredible how far we, as mankind, have come towards uncovering the mysteries of the ocean within only the past 200 or so years.  Yet, it is even more astounding to know how much we have yet to still uncover.  Imagine a plate showing only a 10% sliver of a colorful picture underneath. There is no way we would be able to guess what the picture is displaying. This is our world’s ocean knowledge.  There is so much work to be done and to discover that it is essential for the next generation and the one after that to know that they can still be a Jacques Cousteau or a Charles Darwin, discovering and revealing secrets only the giant whales can see.  Imagine marveling at a newly discovered specimen in admiration of the diversity of the sea.  As with all maritime sailors, ocean goers, and even pirates, the ocean is our home.  I had an opportunity on the NOAA ship OCSAR ELTON SETTE to simply look closer at it and view its secrets for just a brief moment along the great span of time.

TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.
TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.

Question of the Day 

“How does a Hawaiian sunset make a green flash?”

According to Karl Mangels the Commanding Officer of the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE, a green flash is due to an angle refraction of light from the sun as it is setting.  Only to be seen in the tropics during clear skies, the angle at which we are positioned on the earth compared to where the sun is creates a light refraction where we see a green spot were the sun just set. Kind of like the colors of rainbow’s and rain.  In accordance with Hilo’s Bishop Museum, “as our atmosphere bends the sun’s rays, they are also dispersed or broken up into different colors.” Green flashes are thus the result of “colored arcs of light above and below the bright orange disk of the sun.”

Noah Doughty, September 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 20, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Fair
Wind direction and speed: calm
Swell direction and height: WNW 8-9’
Seawater temperature: 56.1oF
Sea level pressure: 1023.0 millibars
Cloud cover: 8/8

Principal Investigators, left to right: Chris Grech (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell (NMSP).
Principal Investigators, left to right: Chris Grech (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell (NMSP).

Science and Technology Log 

As the mosaic work continued on the sea floor I was able to briefly pull the three Principal Investigators (PI) away from the action to ask questions regarding the history of the MACON and the eventual plans for the wreck site. The three PI’s are Chris Grech, of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Robert Schwemmer, West Coast Regional Maritime Heritage Program Coordinator based out of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS), and Bruce Terrell, a Senior Archeologist for NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program.  Their answers are summarized below:

Question 1: Has the condition of the wreckage changed since the first visit in 1991? 

GRECH: Yes.  There is more sediment on the bottom than before.  Some of the smaller pieces of debris are no longer visible. Meaning they have been moved, covered up, or corroded. Overall the major features are still there, the Sparrowhawk’s and the Maybach’s engines.

Question 2: What technology is being employed this time that wasn’t employed before? 

GRECH: We are using a High Definition camera and HMI lights on the Tiburon. The

Underwater image of the Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 port wing.  Note it is still possible to make out the Navy Star painted on the wing fabric.
Underwater image of the Curtiss Sparrowhawk F9C-2 port wing. Note it is still possible to make out the Navy Star painted on the wing fabric.

HMI lights are high-powered underwater lights.  We know the position of the Tiburon relative to the WESTERN FLYER through the use of USBL (Ultra Short Base Line) technology. Central to the effort is the Stanford Control System, which provides computer aided ROV control enabling us to create the site photo-mosaic. At the same time we are using GIS (Geographical Information System) technology to create a map tied to geographical coordinates. The Stanford Control System and GIS software is run separately but their use is closely linked. Finally, the WESTERN FLYER is able to maintain her position through Dynamic

Positioning, a system where a GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinate is set and the ship is automated to maintain that position.

Question 3: What might eventually happen to the wreck site in terms of protection policy? 

TERRELL/SCHWEMMER:  The MACON already has the ultimate protection regimen.  The wreckage is within the boundaries of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, and the Sanctuary has a clearly defined mandate to protect archeological resources.  The US Navy still owns the MACON and the Navy has its own legislation to protect submerged vessels and aircraft.  Last, the wreck site is within State of California waters and so is protected by state law.  From the data gathered on this cruise we will do three things. First is to generate a report on the project that will go to the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, who provided much of the funding.  Second will be an archeological assessment that will go to the National Marine Sanctuary Program and to peers.  This assessment will include management recommendations regarding the values and needs of the wreck site. Third will be to begin the process to nominate the MACON to the National Register of Historic Places.  This is a one to two year process. 

Noah Doughty, September 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 19, 2006

Weather Report from the Bridge 
Visibility: Poor
Wind direction: Variable from the northwest
Wind speed: Light airs
Sea wave height: 3-5’
Seawater temperature: 56.1o F
Sea level pressure: 1022 millibars
Cloud cover: 7/8

Dr. Steve Rock (left) and Ph.D student Kristof Richmond (Right), from Stanford University.
Dr. Steve Rock (left) and Ph.D student Kristof Richmond (Right), from Stanford University.

Science and Technology Log 

Today the photomosaic team from Stanford University, Dr. Steve Rock and Ph.D. student Kristof Richmond, stepped up to direct underwater operations.

Currently there are two known debris fields. The larger field contains the Curtiss F9C-2 Sparrowhawk airplanes, five of the eight Maybach Engines and remnants of the galley.  The second debris field contains the bow end of the MACON with identifiable artifacts from the officer’s quarters and the mooring mast receptacle.  A third debris field, containing the tail section, is speculated to exist but has never been found.  In spite of some challenges we managed to mosaic both of the known fields.

The photo-mosaic will be created using a control system designed by the Stanford team to pilot the Tiburon along a series of parallel transect lines, a pattern playfully called “mowing the lawn.”  As the ROV travels above the seafloor along its transect line, a High Definition Camera periodically captures images that are assembled to create the photo-mosaic.  Due to the low light and at times murky conditions, the camera can’t be more than a few meters off the sea floor. Imagine trying to create a picture of your local soccer or football field by walking the entire field holding a camera at arm’s length facing straight down.

Tomorrow we will continue the photo-mosaic efforts!

Jenny Holen, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 18, 2006

Weather Data From Lab 
Location: 40 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii
Depth: 4099 meters or 12,297 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.21 C
Salinity: 34.77 PSU
Wind Direction: 335.29 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 11.54 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.6 C
Cloud Cover: Cloudy

NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.
NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.

Science & Technology Log 

The plankton tows have not been as successful as the chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, would have liked. Few billfish larva and eggs have been found, and more are needed to generate a genetic analysis sample.  Bob believes this might be due to an eddy that is forming about 45 miles off shore, swooping the plankton out there. As we slowly start to migrate offshore, we are still obtaining plankton samples every hour until sunset.  Today, instead of helping to look for billfish eggs, I took microscopic plankton photographs with my Mic-D microscope given to me by NOAA’s South East Plankton Monitoring Network program, in South Carolina.  These individual plankton species photographs will be a get asset to the lesson plans I am generating from this research expedition of which could ultimately be used by teachers all over the world through NOAA’s website.

The plankton samples that we got today were almost the same as they were yesterday, nothing too new. However, I did get some background information on why this particular study is so crucial to the future survival of large billfish, such as Marlin.  Currently, some scientists believe that blue Marlin may be migrating between Hawaii and South America, but others are still not sure. Hawaii is a nursery ground for the larval and probably juvenile stages. Adults are migratory and apparently have a magnetic sense that allows them to migrate across to South America where there may be higher food nutrients. The importance behind obtaining this knowledge is to help conserve the declining population due to commercial and sport fisheries. If we knew where the mothers primarily spawn and if there are resident verses transient populations, than we could gain a better grasp of their overall ecology, life cycle, and habitat range. Unfortunately, the farther away from the island you go to get this valuable data the less protected you are from wind and large waves. Hence, at about lunchtime I got extremely seasick and was out of commission for the rest of the day.  I hope enduring all of the rocking and rolling will give rise to better plankton samples tomorrow!

Recommended books:

G. Wrobel & C. Mills.  1998. Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates.

Monterey Bay  Aquarium Publisher, California.  (ISBN0-930118-23-5)

D.L. Smith.  1977. A Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine

Invertebrate Larvae. Kendall/Hunt Pub.  Company, Iowa. (ISBN0-8403-1672-0)

Personal Log 

Once again, I am amazed to witness and be part of a science research expedition that portrays through every member of the ship, from the cooks to the deck hands and Bridge Officers, the enthusiasm and positive attitude for the current research at hand.  Everyone here is extremely helpful, especially when I got sea sick and ending up hurling in a bucket in the kitchen. The professionalism is evident by everything they do, which gives an air of importance towards the research being done.  I wish more people, teachers, and high school to college students could participate in an experience like this.  It takes the illusion of scientists being a far away myth to being a regular Joe who cares about the environment and the conservation efforts towards the animals it holds.

Another cool thing about this trip is that the author from the acclaimed book Archipelago (the North West Hawaiian Islands) is here on the ship taking photographs of all the unique plankton we are catching for a National Geographic article.  I think that is amazing to know that not only is this research voyage being documented by NOAA scientists, but that the world will get to see and learn about plankton through journal media.  Education is the key to conservation.

NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations (less seawater) which will be viewed underneath microscopes aboard the SETTE.
NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations which will be viewed underneath microscopes.

Interview for the Day 

Today I interviewed one of the head scientists of the plankton cruise.  His name is Michael Musyl working with NOAA through the University of Hawaii in Oahu in conjunction with the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR).  Michael had always had an interest in fisheries ever since he was a kid, fishing from a fishing pole. He took his education career after high school to Northern Illinois where he got his B.S. in zoology. After which, Mike did a five-year masters program in fisheries Biology from the University of South Dakota, to then go on and get his PhD from New  England in Freshwater fish population genetics.  He then used his knowledge and experience with the Arizona Fish and Game department for two years and then taught college biology and ecology for one year at the University of New Orleans.

Mike decided to go get a post doctorate from South Carolina in molecular genetics of blue fish tuna and ended up working with NOAA on electric tagging of pelagic fish and sharks through the University of Hawaii.  Mike is currently studying the post release  survivability of these fish through archival tagging which broadcast the information to satellites. He is also studying the post release mortality of fish captured in long line nets, to see how long they live after being rescued.

A typical year of work for Mike is answering emails, collaborating with fellow scientists around the world, developing and maintaining research projects, analyzing data obtained from research expeditions, writing about four to five papers for journal publications, and spending about 50% of his time on ships like OSCAR ELTON SETTE obtaining project data. Life as a scientist is busy, as well as exciting!

Noah Doughty, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Noah Doughty
Onboard NOAA Ship Western Flyer
September 18 – 22, 2006

Mission: USS Macon Wreck Archeological Expedition
Geographical Area: California Coast
Date: September 18, 2006

The science crew in the Control Room of the WESTERN FLYER as we watch video from the Tiburon.
The science crew in the Control Room of the WESTERN FLYER as we watch video from the Tiburon.

Greetings from the sunny coast of California!

Today aboard ship we began to survey the wreck site of the USS MACON, a US Navy Dirigible and its Sparrowhawk airplanes. The MACON, a rigid airship referred to as a “flying aircraft carrier,” sunk off the coast near Big Sur, just south of Monterey, on February 12, 1935. The goal of the survey is to create a photo-mosaic image of the wreckage.  To accomplish this we are using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) called the Tiburon. Much of today’s operations centered on getting the ROV into the water early with the camera at a 45-degree angle to capture as many images of the wreck area as possible. Plus it enabled the scientists and historians on boat to get a feeling for the condition of the wreckage.  Altogether we found all four of the airplanes, each in a different state of decomposition, but some parts remarkably well preserved (we could make out part of a star painted on one wing). One of the things the scientists did was to make a GIS map of the wreck site.

The real work begins tomorrow when researches from Stanford University begin a two-day project to create the photo-mosaic of the area.

GIS map of the MACON wreckage, see the next page.  Outlines indicate approximate location of various objects.
GIS map of the MACON wreckage. Outlines indicate approximate location of various objects.

Jenny Holen, September 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 17, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 4 miles out, between Kailua-kona and Keahou
Depth: 1266 meters or 3798 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.15 C
Salinity: 34.62 PSU
Wind Direction: 270 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 6.69 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.9 C
Cloud Cover: Hazy

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast

Science & Technology Log 

Anything short of “amazing” would not justify the unique beauty and wonder which ocean plankton hold.  Working side by side with professional scientists, Erick, Michael, Bob, and Ryan, brought the prospective of importance and dedication we all must exude in the hunt for rare billfish eggs and larva mixed among the ocean’s nursery.  In a jar, surface plankton simply resembles muck from the bottom of your toilet.  Up close however, the characteristics, colors, and movements planktonic organisms portray immediately demand the respect of awe and wonder. Are they microscopic aliens floating around silently in the vast ocean realm?

Underneath the microscope, in search for the rare billfish eggs and larva, the multitudes of diverse and crazy looking creatures emerge unfathomably from what seems an empty ocean of just water.  “What is this?” “What’s this called?” and “I’ve found a baby crab!” come jutting from my mouth like I was a small child seeing something for the first time.  The excitement of being up close to the species that up-hold the entire ocean food web was exuberating.

The research schedule for the day was simple, unlike what we were looking at: drop the large green plankton net into the water, go back to the “cold” lab and examine the last sample catch under the microscopes, reel in the plankton net, and begin again – all within one hour, every hour, from sunrise to sunset.  At dark, just to spice up things, we would throw over board a super bright light in hopes of attracting more crazy looking phototactic organisms.  Our results for the first night include a poisonous male box puffer fish with bright blue spots, some healthy squid, small larval fish and some crazy little crabs that swirled around the light faster than a merry-go-around.

This is the front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae onboard the SETTE.
The front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae

To compare the microscope analysis for the day revealed much more: salp larva, jellyfish, blue copepods, bright pink krill, hairy polychate worms, snail larva, a lot of circular golden diatoms, many clear gelatinous organisms, a never before seen crab larva with feathers attached to each leg elbow for swimming, shrimp larva with heads like hammerheads, clear fish eggs and larva, but no marlin or billfish eggs or larva. However, the other scientist did find some. It must be experience!

Personal Log 

I got picked up about 11 am on Sunday at the Honokohou harbor fuel dock. It was a beautiful afternoon with a light westerly breeze, shimmering turquoise toned tropical waters, and a warmth that felt like a Northface goose-down jacket in the winter. The small boat ride to the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE was bumpy and rough leaving my backside sore for the rest of the day. I met everyone aboard, all of whom generated a true aloha spirit and seem to love what they do.  I was put to work right away underneath a microscope looking at moving plankton on a rolling ship – talk about seasickness!  After working with the scientists and crew for just one day, I’ve realized that this particular research area is still vastly unknown and much help is needed in marine fisheries research.  This leaves many upcoming marine ecology students a big job in the search for plankton knowledge. Hence the age old saying, the ocean is our last undiscovered frontier.  I love this thought because it means there is still so much more work to done and many more people can join in the treasure hunt, which hopefully will inspire those students dreading their biology and chemistry classes.

TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab onboard the SETTE.
TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab

Question of the Day 

“How does one go about getting a job aboard a NOAA research boat?”

1) Small Boat Driver: applied two years ago when he was a full-time fisherman in Hawaii and didn’t get the job, then reapplied a year later and a position opened up for an experienced fisherman.

2) Assistant Scientist: Went to college and studied fish population counts and after working with a similar company for a few years applied when a job positioned open.

Possible NOAA Ship Positions: Bridge Officers, Engineering Officers, Deckhand and crew, Electronics department, Stewards (cooks), Survey department, Scientists, Teacher at Sea. (Note everyone works together and helps towards the success of the current mission).

Moral of the story: Be persistent, dedicated, and determined with a positive view and you can obtain anything you desire, including becoming part of a NOAA research study.

Jill Carpenter, September 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 14, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 180
Wind speed: 14 kts
Sea wave height: 2ft.
Swell wave height: 7 ft./9 sec. from 90o
Seawater temperature: 16.8oC
Sea level pressure: 1018.7mb
Cloud cover: PC

Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.
Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.

Science and Technology Log 

The trip is winding down and we will be in port in a few hours. I am writing this final log in the early hours of the morning of my last night shift.  We will soon be approaching Cape Cod Canal, and our time of arrival into Woods Hole is scheduled for 9:30 this morning. On last night’s shift, we passed the time taking CTD measurements and logging the events. Unfortunately, no trawls were completed since we didn’t come upon a location with an abundance of fish. Tonight we began with a trawl. As with the last trawl, the majority of our catch was redfish.  We also caught Atlantic herring, northern shrimp, anchovies, pearlsides, silver hake and red hake, short fin squid, several dogfish and a goosefish. The catch from the trawl was sorted by species, just as before.  The individual species were weighed and measured.  Again, we took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length. Additional information was again gathered on the herring including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data.

I was also able to interview a few more of the crewmembers on the ship. Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove (otherwise known as Captain) has worked his way up to his Commander position during his 17 years experience with NOAA.  Richard has a degree in Marine Biology and has loved the ocean from the time he was a child.  His extensive background experiences include being a satellite oceanographer for the NOAA Hurricane Center, working for the National Marine Sanctuary on oil spill cleanups, and serving the Peace Corps as a fisheries officer in Antigua.  As commanding officer of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II, his job involves overseeing the entire ship, supervising officers, and safely completing missions.  He claims the best part of his job is working with the crew, which he thinks of as his family at sea, although he admits it is still tough being away from his real family.  As one can imagine, the job of commanding officer comes with a great amount of responsibility.  Richard is in charge of a $12 1/2 million ship and a crew of 34 people.  Pretty intimidating!

Jill Carpenter in her survival suit
Jill Carpenter in her survival suit

He has a great deal of fond memories and stories of rough seas, though he recalls one humorous incident in particular.  He was once on board a ship off the coast of Alaska when the seas were 25-30 ft. It was so rough that all the crew could do was ride out the seas; the cooks weren’t even able to make a meal!  On a dare from the other crew members, Richard tried jumping up to touch his back to the ceiling, but mistimed his jump and ended up being slammed to the floor when the ship descended quickly and the ceiling pushed him down.  He was stunned, but otherwise okay.  This legendary stunt is still spoken of amongst Richard’s seafaring friends.  Richard recommends taking many classes in science and math if one is interested in commanding a ship.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois has experienced a lot of rough weather during his six years at sea aboard NOAA ships. He has many responsibilities aboard the DELAWARE II.  A lead fisherman splits a 24 hour shift with the boatswain, and their duties are to operate the machinery on deck, such as the nets, winches and crane.  Pete is responsible for the fishermen’s and scientists’ safety on deck while machinery is operating.  He also oversees the deployments and recoveries of scientific instruments such as the CTD sensor. Additional duties of a lead fisherman include general maintenance of the ship, such as loading and unloading stores and equipment.  Mr. Langlois also serves as third mate of the ship.  A third mate is in charge of the track lines of the ship and acts as a representative of the captain.

One of the first things that Pete recommends for future sailors is to try spending time aboard a ship to see if you like it.  It is also necessary to get your Able Seaman Certificate which is issued by the U.S Coast Guard. One path to pursuing your career is through a maritime academy, such as the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  He claims there is a high demand for all positions aboard ships, and it is important to get experience at sea in order to get an Able Seamen or Captain’s license.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II

Personal Log

Although I am sad for the trip to be over, I am looking forward to returning home to my family, friends, and classroom and sharing my experience with them.  This trip has been invaluable to me in so many ways.  I have met many amazing people, I have participated in recording ocean data, and I have seen how much thought, effort and talent goes into a fisheries research vessel.  I am fortunate to have completed 3 mid-water trawls while on board. Being able to see and touch the fish that we are studying was amazing.  I gained hands-on knowledge and experience, and I began to see the species not as slimy and gross fish, but as a necessary tool for progressing our understanding of ocean species.

The crew of the DELAWARE II has been nothing but welcoming and accommodating to me.  I appreciated all of their care, time and patience with me as I learned about life on board a scientific research ship. Their sincere good natures and the humorous spirits will always be remembered by me.  I can now better understand the wisdom shared by our Chief Scientist, Bill Michaels, about how people and teamwork are to be greatly appreciated. People are such a large part of what make a job enjoyable.  It is easy to see that the entire crew of the DELAWARE II enjoy their jobs and each other’s company. They make an unbelievably great team. Thanks to all of the crewmembers of the DELAWARE II. I will never forget you or my experiences on board.  My students will surely benefit from my gained knowledge for years to come.  Thanks again for sharing a slice of your lives with me.  I’ve been inspired by all of you.

Jill Carpenter, September 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction:  60 degrees
Wind speed: 17 knots
Sea wave height: 5 feet
Swell wave height: ~ 1f
Seawater temperature: 17.3oC
Sea level pressure: 1029.1 mb
Cloud cover: PC (partly cloudy)

TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with a lumpfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Science and Technology Log

On Sunday, the DELAWARE II steamed out of the Great Harbor.  Our first stop was Cape Cod Bay, and then we continued to the Gulf on Maine. It’s great to be at sea! My first night on the night shift felt very productive to me.  I worked with fisheries biologists Dr. Jech and Karen to rig up the monofilament (fishing line) so we could attach the copper spheres beneath the hull in order to complete calibrations of the acoustic system.  As explained in an earlier log, calibrations are required for each survey to ensure data quality and to verify that the equipment is working properly. We were mostly successful, but a few events slowed our progress, such as having to reposition the ship because of fixed gear (lobster traps) in the water near us.  Once we located the copper spheres in each of the remote-controlled downriggers in order to move the copper sphere in all directions within the beam.  After we worked out all the bugs during the first calibration, the system worked smoothly for the two remaining frequency calibrations.  When we finished, we disassembled the downriggers and put away the gear.

We finished our first shift by deploying a Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) sensor and keeping track of it in the Event Log book and computer program.  A CTD is an instrument that is equipped with devices which measure the salinity and temperature of the water and the depth of the instrument.  Connected to a cable and winch system, it is lowered into the water within meters of the ocean floor, all the while taking measurements and sending data to computers on deck.  A profile of salinity and temperature is taken at the end of each transect, or path, that the ship makes and also before a trawl is completed.

TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl
TAS Jill Carpenter with two redfish caught with a mid-water trawl

Deploying a CTD is a joint effort on the part of the officers on the bridge, the fishermen and the scientists. Communication takes place via walkie-talkies to synchronize the deployment time.  While the officers on the bridge maintain the location of the ship and watch out for traffic, the fishermen are deploying the CTD instrument and the scientists are logging the event, recording information such as time of deployment and the latitude and longitude of the deployment. My second night on the night shift was also very eventful.  We had begun a series of transects, which basically means that the ship zigzags back and forth across the ocean in order to take CTD measurements and locate large schools of fish for the purpose of trawling, or catching fish for biological sampling. Twice during the night, in the middle of parallel transects, we completed trawls.  The High Speed Midwater Rope Trawl (HSMRT) is a funnel-shaped net attached to wires, also known as trawl warps, which are spooled onto winches located on the aft deck of the ship. The HSMRT is used to collect biological samples.  The decision on where to trawl rests with the scientists as they interpret acoustic data, so if the acoustic system shows that there is a large collection of objects (hopefully fish) below the surface, a trawl may be completed.  Trawling is also a group effort between the officers, the fishermen, and the scientists.  The net is set out and retrieved by the fishermen who control the depth of the net and monitor its performance.  The officers on the bridge work with the fishermen during the trawl to ensure its success.

The catch from the trawls is sorted by species. Then the individual species are weighed and measured.  The catch from our first trawl included redfish, Atlantic herring, lumpfish, and northern shrimp.  We then took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length.  Because herring is the primary focus of this survey, additional information was also gathered on this species including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data. This is done by using a stylus to press the buttons on the computer screen to enter the catch information.  The scales used for weighing the fish and the measuring boards automatically send their information into the computer system.  The data is saved and later will be analyzed by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught with a mid-water trawl for the Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
TAS Jill Carpenter with a basket of redfish caught for the Herring Hydroacoustic Survey

Personal Log

I apologize for not writing in a few days. As I predicted, the shift work is taking a bit of a toll on me, and I haven’t been sleeping well during the day due to slight seasickness.  It is such a strange feeling to be lying in bed and rocking back and forth. Sometimes the boat pitched so much that my stomach got butterflies, just like when you ride a roller coaster and go down a steep hill. I had to keep getting up and sitting on one of the decks so I could see the horizon and get some fresh air.  Our stateroom has no windows, so there is no way of telling what the conditions are outside.  I had to laugh at myself when I went up to the bridge, expecting to see a ferocious storm and high sea swells, only to find blue skies and slightly choppy waters. A combination of Dramamine, ginger root tablets, and Saltine crackers also helped to calm my stomach.

This past night of sleeping (rather, day of sleeping) went much better.  I seemed to be used to the motion of the ship, and I fell asleep right away.  It helped to wedge myself in between the wall and my bag to keep from rocking back and forth so much.  I feel rested and much more confident to handle the seas.  It was forecasted that Hurricane Florence would make our ride a bit rough, though she is passing several hundred miles from our location and seas have been much calmer than expected, which is fine with me!  Even so, I can now see why we had to spend time tying down equipment so it wouldn’t slide or roll. When the ship was docked, it was hard to imagine it moving so much to necessitate securing items so well, but the need was evident to me after this shift.  Several times during the night, the ship rolled side to side so much that even heavy items fell over and off tables.  The chairs we were sitting in kept sliding back and forth, and we had to hang on to the tables to keep from moving around! It was wild. I loved it! I tried to get a picture, but I had to hang on instead!

Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.
Removing otoliths (ear bones) from a redfish. Otoliths are used by scientists to age a fish.

I was proud of myself when we completed our trawls and I had to handle the fish. It was rather disturbing to see the eyes and stomachs of the fish bulge out because of the change in pressure. We had to be careful when picking up the redfish because of the prickly spines sticking out of their fins. I was a little apprehensive to feel the fish through my gloves, and I was very grossed out at the thought of picking up a slimy, dead fish, but I tried to put that aside so that I could be of some help, at least.  The biologists I was working with jumped right in and weren’t squeamish at all.  After all, this is part of their job and the focus of their research. I tried to be brave and handle the fish confidently and without shrieking just as they did, but I still looked a bit wimpy.  The important thing, though, is that I tried something new and walked away with an invaluable learning experience. Cutting apart a herring to examine its insides was a little over my limit, but I tried it anyway and now I am glad that I did. I figured that it’s not every day that I have the chance to dissect a fish in the name of research.

I spoke with Mrs. Nelson the other day, and she said I have a bright group of fifth graders awaiting my return.  I can’t wait to show all of you my pictures and share this incredible learning experience with you.

Question of the Day

When weighing fish on board the ship, it is necessary to “tare” the scale.  This means that if a fish is being weighed in a bucket, we must first put the empty bucket on the scale, and then we need to reset the scale so it measures to zero kilograms.  After that, we place the fish in the bucket and put it back on the scale.

Why do you think it is important for scientists to tare a scale when weighing objects that are in containers?

Jill Carpenter, September 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 9, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 3 nautical miles
Wind direction: 240 degrees
Wind speed: 15 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell wave height: no swell
Seawater temperature: 19.4 degrees Celsius
Sea level pressure: 1016.2 millibars
Cloud cover: hazy skies 1/8

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels on the aft deck

Science and Technology Log

Today, the DELAWARE II left the port and steamed out into the waters of Vineyard Sound for the day. It was exciting to finally get underway.  While out at sea, the AFTV underwent additional testing and troubleshooting. I was able to work the joystick which controls the video camera on the front of the AFTV and enter information into the Event Log program to document the beginning and end of the AFTV deployment.  We steamed back to Woods Hole for the evening, and our scheduled time of departure is tomorrow at noon. Once we leave tomorrow, we should be out to sea for the remainder of the cruise. Additionally, I was able to interview two other members of the crew. The Chief Scientist aboard this mission is Fisheries Research Biologist Bill Michaels.  He has worked for NOAA and been a chief scientist for 27 years. He started as a co-op student at the Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Bill’s parents knew he would grow up to be a scientist when they saw him spending his time collecting feathers and examining flowers as a six-year old. He has extensive training in marine and fisheries biology and has been in charge of the National Marine Fisheries acoustic program working on advanced sampling techniques for almost 10 years.  Bill has logged over 2000 days at sea and has been a part of many different research boats in many different countries! Bill believes that by incorporating advanced technologies into cruise operations, we will be able to provide more accurate, cost-effective and timely scientific information in order to meet NOAA’s goals. 

Mr. Michaels says the best parts about his job are the diversity associated with the work and the teamwork involved.  Because of these, he has enjoyed every day of his career.  Although he loves working with new technologies such as his new Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle, he has come to enjoy working with people more and more, especially with scientists from other countries. Bill shared with me that he once went overboard during winter temperatures, though he wouldn’t say if it was by accident or on purpose!  Some of his more challenging voyage experiences include being out to sea with 25 ft waves, having to sleep in a fish bin, and being on a foreign boat that was infested with cockroaches.  Bill’s advice to someone who would like to become a scientist is to focus on all subjects, not just biology and math.  He says that you can’t be a good biologist by studying only biology.  He advises future biologists to understand people, value teamwork, appreciate different cultures, learn new technologies, and study from a variety of disciplines, ranging from geology to English and foreign languages.

TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board
TAS Jill Carpenter (far right) with NOAA Program and Management specialist Jeannine Cody, Chief Scientist Bill Michaels, and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles on board

I also spoke with my roommate and NOAA Program and Management Analyst, Jeannine Cody. She works in the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Office of Management and Budget in the Program Planning and Budget Formulation Division.  She serves a liaison to NMFS’ Office of Science and Technology, the Ecosystem Observations Program, and the Climate and Ecosystems Productivity Program.  She also tracks all of NMFS’ research and development activities at their six Science Centers. Each year, the President of the United States submits a budget request asking Congress for money to support NOAA activities. It’s kind of like asking for an allowance and then telling your parents the reason why you need the money.  In Jeannine’s line of work, telling the reasons why money is needed is called a budget justification. Each fiscal year (Oct 1 through Sept 30) she works on budget justifications for NOAA’s fisheries research programs.  This involves talking to a scientist to understand his/her plans for research in the upcoming year and writing a summary about the need for the activity, the cost of the activity, and the benefits to the country. She says that although her job description changes day to day, she spends much of her time responding to questions from the Department of Commerce, the Office of Management and Budget and from Congressional staff. 

I found it interesting that Jeannine first became interested in working in marine biology while watching Jacques Cousteau’s TV show as child.  Later, she volunteered to work with National Museum of Natural History curator Dr. Clyde Roper after watching a Discovery Channel program on giant squid.  She’s proud to say that one of her reference letters for graduate school had a giant squid at the top of the letterhead!  Ten years later, Jeannine’s back where she started as a research collaborator in the Museum’s Division of Fishes.

Sunset from Cape Cod Bay
Sunset from Cape Cod Bay

She says the best part of her job is when her efforts are successful in getting funding for NMFS’ programs. “It’s nice to know that you’re a part of a larger effort to understand the oceans and marine life,” says Jeannine.  To prepare for a NMFS career in program planning and budget formulation, Jeannine recommends a biological degree, such as one in fisheries science, marine biology, environmental biology, or environmental policy.  You should be comfortable working with numbers and asking a lot of tough questions. Jeannine spends a lot of time writing, creating slideshow presentations, designing websites and talking to different groups, therefore good communication skills will help as well. Internships, fellowships and volunteering on NMFS cruises are also great ways to know how NMFS works.

Personal Log

What a beautiful day! It was a wonderful experience to be steaming on board the ship.  It was a warm, sunny day, although it was considerably cooler when we got away from land. Today was the first day that I was able to get weather and sea measurements from the bridge. I am hoping to become independent in reading the instruments that take these measurements by the time we return.

On the return trip, I was able to sit up on the flying deck (which is the top level deck) and watch as we pulled back in to the harbor at Woods Hole. The view was incredible and made me feel so far away from Virginia!  Don’t worry, I am still planning on returning to school on the 18th! I am sure once we begin with the more intense work load that comes with trawling and completing biological sampling, paired with the overnight (6 PM to 6 AM) watch that I have been assigned to, I will be looking forward to returning to my own bed soon enough!

Question of the Day

A seafaring riddle for you: What is alive without breath, As cold as death, Never thirsty, never drinking, All in mail but never clinking?

Jill Carpenter, September 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 8, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.
Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych charting the route the ship will take.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was spent on last minute performance testing to verify that the ship’s instrumentation is working properly.  Crewmembers finished tying down equipment, the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle was tested and adjusted with minor protective modifications, and the Scientific Computer System was finished being set up.  The DELAWARE II is scheduled to depart tomorrow at noon. I was also able to interview several of the crewmembers on board the ship.  Each person has such an interesting story and so much knowledge to share. The first person that I had a chance to interview was Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych.  He has many duties on board the ship.  As a navigation officer, he is responsible for all the charts used to navigate the ship. He starts the navigation process by creating a route on the computer, then transfers and double checks the route on the paper charts. Mark is on his first sea tour which has mostly been in the northern Atlantic Ocean.  His favorite part about his job is that he gets to draw on big pieces of paper and that he has the opportunity to see some wonderful sunsets. Navigation Officer Frydrych has additional duties on board the DELAWARE II as well. Another title he holds is Junior Officer where he inventories and periodically checks the safety equipment like the fire extinguishers and escape hatches.

TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.
TAS Jill Carpenter and Fisheries Biologist Karen Bolles with a subsample of herring collected from a midwater trawl.

For anyone interested in becoming an officer aboard a NOAA ship, Mark recommends pursuing a scientific or engineering degree.  He says that computer experience and math classes would also be helpful.  Mark would eventually like to be trained as a NOAA Corps pilot. The other person that I was able to speak with was fisheries biologist Karen Bolles.  Her research involves using morphometrics (analysis of shape) to examine body shape differences among Atlantic herring spawning groups in the northwest Atlantic Ocean (stock discrimination).  This will help improve the accuracy of our herring stock assessments and harvesting strategies. Using computer programs, Karen analyzes differences among groups of herring, using characteristics such as mouth length. Because herring spawning groups mix during non-spawning time, these findings can be used to determine proportions of different spawning stock herring that may constitute research and commercial catches.

Karen’s research has taken her from mid-Atlantic waters north to the Bay of Fundy in Canada. She has also been a scientific member on research vessels operating off Iceland and in the Great Barrier Reef region of Australia. Karen has survived some challenging voyages at sea, including a two-week cod survey trip around the island of Iceland that took place during extremely rough winter weather where nobody on board spoke English!

TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter working hard aboard NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

When talking with Ms. Bolles, it is very evident that she is passionate about her job. She says that she loves the feeling of helping to improve fisheries management and stock assessments.  She especially enjoys using digital image analysis systems to measure morphometric characteristics, but her main passion is working with fishermen to gain knowledge and to fine-tune her fish sampling designs.  One thing about the field of marine biology that was surprising to her in the beginning was the amount of math and statistics that is used to analyze biological data.  Karen’s advice for individuals pursuing experience in the marine science field is to get involved with volunteer opportunities, independent studies, and internships that come your way.  She stresses the importance of hands-on experience, understanding how to work with large data sets and spreadsheets, and good writing skills.

Personal Log

I am very excited to get out on the open water and begin to use the equipment to conduct surveys and take measurements.  I am also a little anxious to put to use all that I have been learning; I hope I can remember how to enter all the information accurately.  See, even teachers get worried before a test! I am enjoying talking with each of the crewmembers.  I feel fortunate to be on a cruise with such a good group of people!

Question of the Day

The fish that the DELAWARE II will be studying are classified as pelagic fish, which means that they live in the top layer of the ocean away from the seashores or ocean floor.  1. Why do you think that most of the oceans creatures live in the top layer of the ocean?  2. Research to find what percentage of sea life lives in this zone.

Jill Carpenter, September 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 7, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the AFTV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was a very exciting day aboard the DELAWARE II. Scientists and crewmembers worked together to deploy the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV) into the water for the first time in order to complete initial testing.  The AFTV was delivered to the NOAA pier yesterday and loaded on the aft deck of the DELAWARE II.  Chief Scientist Bill Michaels explained to me how he designed the AFTV in collaboration with Deep Sea Systems International.  This new piece of scientific research equipment utilizes the latest underwater technology to improve measurements in support of NOAA’s strategic goals (e.g., Essential Fish Habitat, Stock Assessment Improvement Plan).  The AFTV is presently configured for verification of acoustic targets in the water column during NOAA’s Herring Acoustic Survey (RV DELAWARE II cruise DE200615). The AFTV provides a universal platform in which acoustical, optical and environmental sensors are integrated. The AFTV electronics convert these data to ethernet signals that are transmitted through the 2000 m of fiberoptic cable to a laptop providing network ready information.  For example, real-time underwater video images during cruise operations can be viewed from a computer on land provided satellite transmission.  The advantage of this towfish is that new technologies, such as newly developed sensors, can be readily plugged into the towbody’s ethernet-based electronics to accomplish various cruise objectives.  The AFTV can be reconfigured during future cruises for marine habitat classification (video mosaics and acoustic classification of the seafloor).

Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.
Intricate knot work is used to protect scientific equipment.

We also had the chance to learn how to use the Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS). This computerized system is used for electronically recording data from the biological sampling that will be completed on board.  Nancy McHugh, a fisheries biologist and FSCS administrator from the Northeast Fisheries Science Center, showed us how to operate the system and record our information accurately.  In the past, data had to be hand-recorded, and errors were not caught until months later.  Nowadays, using the FSCS allows us to digitally record measurement data, such as lengths and weights, in real time and gives us the advantage of computer-audited data which flags the scientists for potential errors.

Afterwards, Dr. Jech explained the ship’s Scientific Computer System (SCS) located on the bridge of the ship. This PC-based system continuously collects information from more than a hundred sensors on board. Information about the ship’s location and route, weather conditions, ocean conditions and biological sampling is gathered, recorded and synchronized on these computers.  We also practiced entering data into computers using the SCS Event Log program which documents all operational events, such as each time the scientists lower sensors into the water or collect fish samples.

Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Jill Carpenter, Teacher at Sea, on the bow

Personal Log

It was great to witness the experimental launching of a new piece of scientific equipment.  I think my fifth graders would be really excited to witness firsthand this underwater vehicle being placed in the water. It looks like a large yellow plastic box with metal pipes that make up the frame.  Attached to the back are “wings” that help to stabilize it, and in the front are spotlights and video equipment to take pictures of fish. It is controlled by joysticks and computers on board the ship. It is like an underwater robot.  Very cool! I think it is also an invaluable learning experience for me to see the process of scientific experimentation happening right here on board the ship. Between the calibrations, setting up the Scientific Computer System, and launching the AFTV, I have witnessed scientists and crewmembers informally using various scientific methods to find better solutions and problem solve when the unexpected arises.

Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.
Sailboats, Woods Hole, MA.

It is exciting to see science experiments happening every day, with real people in a real-life context, instead reading about it from a worksheet or having that intangible image in my mind of a mad scientist in a white lab coat stirring a beaker of something bubbling.  Science is accessible to everybody!  You don’t have to be in a fancy laboratory or have the latest equipment.  It can be done inside or out, on a boat or in your backyard. Science encompasses so many fields and is available to anyone with a curious mind.  I am excited to share this realization with my students and make science more real to them.

Question of the Day

Two words that I am using aboard the ship are “starboard” and “port”.  What do these two words mean?  Where do they come from, and why are they important to use when on board a ship? 

Jill Carpenter, September 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 6, 2006

The Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.
The AFTV is a new submersible designed to use acoustic and optic sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.

Weather Data from Bridge
Docked in Woods Hole for calibration and Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle testing—no weather data.

Science and Technology Log

It has been a busy day aboard the DELAWARE II as we are preparing to get underway on Friday or Saturday. The uncertainty about our departure date is due to the set-up and system testing of the Advanced Fisheries Towed Vehicle (AFTV). The AFTV is a recently constructed submersible vehicle that is designed to use acoustical and optical sensors to verify sonar data and evaluate habitat.  Because the AFTV has not previously been set up on the ship, performance tests may require more than one day.  The ship will remain in Woods Hole until the AFTV system is ready.

This morning, we began with a continued effort to calibrate the hydroacoustic systems using the copper sphere attached to the downriggers with fishing line. We were successful in placing the copper sphere in the hydroacoustic beam, but again had to postpone our efforts due to seaweed interference.  We now plan on completing the calibrations in Cape Cod Bay. The remainder of the morning and afternoon was spent helping to load and organize additional supplies on board.  A lot of thought goes into securing items on the ship in order to prevent them from falling or rolling around when we are at sea.

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels and Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove aboard the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

The more I see scientists and crewmembers securing equipment, the more concerned I become about maintaining my balance on board the ship. In the Northeast Fisheries Science Center’s “Manual for First-time Sailors,” the advice is to use your life preserver to “wedge” yourself against your bunk rail to avoid being tossed around when sleeping.  From the preparations I am witnessing aboard the ship, it looks like I will be taking this advice! My work day finished with helping Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech secure computer equipment to the ship. We did this by using wood boards, screws and tape to attach equipment to immobile objects.  I found it comical to tape down the computer keyboards.  This ship may be pitching more than I expect! I learned a bit of ship trivia that I found interesting.  A ship’s foghorn is used to communicate many messages.

The following are the meanings of some sound patterns of a ship’s foghorn: 1 prolonged blast = the ship is leaving the port; 1 prolonged blast every 2 minutes = the ship is steaming (traveling) through fog; 1 prolonged blast followed by 2 short blasts every 2 minutes = the ship is fishing in fog; 5 short blasts = danger, get out of the way! 1 prolonged blast followed by 3 short blasts = the ship is leaving the dock in reverse

Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.
Research Fisheries Biologist Dr. Mike Jech securing computer equipment to prepare for sailing on board the DELAWARE II.

Personal Log

It amazes me how much preparation and behind-the-scenes work goes into getting ready for a fisheries research trip.  Everyone is hurrying around the ship, completing last-minute duties and running tests on electronic equipment.  They have all been very friendly and patient with me; I am looking forward to getting to know and working with the entire crew of the DELAWARE II.

I spent the evening typing logs and adjusting the size of my digital pictures to fulfill space requirements on emails.  I find it challenging and somewhat time consuming to “translate” all of the scientific explanations into language that is more friendly to a room of elementary school students (and to myself as well!). I am grateful to several members of the crew for their input and suggestions on the wording of certain complex concepts. My evening ended with a walk into the village of Woods Hole.  I find Woods Hole such an interesting and charming little town.  Located on the southwest corner of Cape Cod, Woods Hole has developed into a world leader in marine and fisheries research.  This scientific community is the home of the world renowned Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and the Northeast Fisheries Science Center (NEFSC), each contributing great advances to the field of marine science research.

TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.
TAS Jill Carpenter holding a damage control plug used to plug a hole in the hull of a ship.

Don’t worry, Hutchison Farm Elementary, I haven’t forgotten about you! I am sure there is just as much hustle and bustle going on there during the first week of school!  I am anxious to see each one of you; I know I can expect a very mature and intelligent group of fifth graders.  Thanks so much for being on your best behavior for Mrs. Nelson! I have been sleeping like a rock on board the ship.  I am  appreciating these restful nights now because I don’t know if I can count on a peaceful night sleep once we are out to sea! The food is also very good, and I am becoming known for my big appetite. The chefs, Dennis and John, are excellent cooks.  I look forward to each meal they serve.  Looks like I won’t be losing any weight!

Question of the Day 

1. The NOAA scientists and crewmembers need to bring many materials on board with them when they go to sea. If they forget something, they will not be able to return to get it, and there are no stores in the middle of the ocean.

a. What would you bring to sea with you if you were going for a week?

b. What would you absolutely need to bring with you?

c. What if you could only bring 10 items?  What would they be?

d. What if you were only able to bring 5 items? What would they be?  Two items?

My stateroom, or bedroom, on board the DELAWARE II
My stateroom, or bedroom, on board 
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA
Butterfly on NOAA pier, Woods Hole, MA

Jill Carpenter, September 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 5, 2006

NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
NOAA ship DELAWARE II.

Weather Data from Bridge
Weather data not collected while in port

Science and Technology Log

I arrived in Woods Hole, Massachusetts yesterday evening. After a short walk through town, I came upon the Northeast Fisheries Science Center building and NOAA pier where the DELAWARE II was docked.  For the next 10 days, this vessel will be completing part 1 of a 3-leg Hydroacoustic (water-sound) Survey, and I will be a part of it!  I will bring back the knowledge and experiences that I gain and share these with my classroom of fifth grade students in South Riding, Virginia. The DELAWARE II is a stern trawler ship, which means that it is designed to catch fish and other sea life in nets from the rear (stern) of the ship.  The ship was built in 1968, is 155 ft long, and displaces 600 tons of water.

Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.
Harbor scene in Woods Hole, MA, taken from aboard the DELAWARE II.

The purpose of this survey is to estimate the number of certain species of northwest Atlantic pelagic (mid-water) fish.  The ship will use technologies such as multifrequency and omni (all) directional sonar to provide information about the fish.  We will also take select samples of certain species for biological data, such as weight, length, age, and prey items (stomach contents). 

After breakfast, my roommate and I helped research fisheries biologist Dr.Mike Jech and herring biologist Karen Bolles load equipment needed for the trip.  Some of the supplies loaded were computer equipment, tool boxes, life vests, and equipment for collecting and measuring fish, such as large plastic baskets, measuring boards, and waterproof labels.

About mid-morning, we shifted piers from the NOAA pier to the neighboring Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) pier.  The first goal, before getting underway, was to calibrate the sonar systems on board.  We needed to calibrate to make sure the system is working properly and to maintain consistency and standardize this survey to all previous hydroacoustic surveys. This helps scientists to find the fish they are researching and obtain important information about them such as behavior and size of the schools.

Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port
Jill Carpenter aboard the Delaware II in port

The calibration is accomplished by lowering a copper sphere, which is about the size of an orange, below the hull of the ship so that it is in the hydroacoustic beams.  The acoustic beam is shaped like a flashlight beam. This process should be performed at slack tide (when the water is moving the least) so we have the most control of the sphere. The copper ball will bounce an echo back to the ship, and the scientists can translate that data into information that will make sense to them. It took patience to calibrate the sonar system.  First, Mike, Karen and I worked to position the copper sphere so that it was in the sonar beams.  This was done by using downriggers (which are like large fishing reels) and fishing line to lower and adjust the copper sphere below the hull. We eventually had to postpone the calibration because of the high amount of seaweed that interfered with the echo from the sphere. I also had the opportunity to receive a tour of the fore deck of the boat.  Navigation Officer Mark Frydrych showed me around the bow and explained some of the equipment to me, such as the hawse pipe (the tube where the anchor chain drops down) and the wildcat (the drive that lifts the anchor chain and anchor. Also, I learned that rope on board a ship is called “line”.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.
Lead fisherman Pete Langlois helping load cargo that will be used Leg 1 of a Hydroacoustic Survey.

Personal Log

When I first caught sight of the DELAWARE II, my new home for the next 10 days, I was in awe. It looked to me like a ship that you would see on the Discovery Channel!  It has so much technical equipment on board, and the ship seems so large when you are standing next to it on the pier. It was a different story when I got on board!  The hallways are more narrow than I am used to, and my room is only about 7’ x 10’ but sleeps 4 people!  I have quickly become used to the size of the interior of the ship and have learned how to maneuver quickly around the passageways.

I am most fearful of becoming seasick while on board.  I keep my motion-sickness medicine and wristbands with me at all times.  I am still a little worried, though, since I can already feel the ship rocking and we haven’t even let the port yet!

Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.
Chief Scientist Bill Michaels (right) with his new Advanced Fisheries Towing Vehicle, used for the first time on this hydroacoustic survey. It uses fiberoptic cables to send real-time images to the ship’s computer.

I have been thinking of my students today and wondering how their first day of fifth-grade is going. I am looking forward to returning and getting to know each one of you!  I hope your year is off to a good start and I am eager to share my experience with all of you! Take care of Mrs. Nelson!

Question of the Day

1. How old is the DELAWARE II?

2. What does it mean to “displace” water?  Can you think of a time when you have displaced water?

3. I learned that lengths of chain are measured in “shots” instead of feet or meters.  A shot is 90 feet of chain. If 5 shots of chain are needed to be released in order for the anchor to touch bottom, how much chain will that be?

Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA
Sunset from the NOAA pier in Woods Hole, MA

Barney Peterson, August 31, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 31, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
(Weather data is not recorded on the Bridge when the ship is in port)

Question of the Day: Who are the Teachers at Sea?

Personal Log 

The sunset behind St. Augustine.
The sunset behind St. Augustine.

Start to finish, my NOAA Teacher at Sea assignment has been an incredible learning experience.  From the moment at the Seward, Alaska, railroad station when OS Dennis Brooks bounced up to me and asked, “Are you the teacher?” everything has been new, exciting, and memorable.  His mini-travelogue about Resurrection Bay, delivered as we bounced over the mud puddles of the dock area, got me to looking and thinking right away.

Out of the car, up the gangway, and onto the ship I was herded to where my first official greeting was from petite, feisty Ensign Meghan McGovern.  She grabbed my heaviest bag, put up a brief struggle about letting me carry the smaller one, and set off on a whirlwind flight down three decks to my quarters.  Up one level, turn this way, turn that way, off to the stern, open the doors, point out supplies, hear the words, and learn the jargon ….what had I gotten myself into?  What was it going to be like to be a Teacher At Sea?

Well…the REAL teachers at sea were the officers and crew of the NOAA ship RAINIER! -ENS McGovern, Jennings, Eldridge, and Smith who sensed my perplexity and tactfully and adroitly filled in the gaps:  What is this or that?  Why or why not? Who?  What?  When? Where?  Why? -LT Ben Evans, Field Operations Officer, who was always bursting with enthusiasm as he explained the scientific mission of the RAINIER.

-ENS Olivia Hauser, quiet, calm, and friendly who made me feel so at home about everything

-ENS Sam Greenaway who guessed that I didn’t know, explained away the puzzles, and then (with a twinkle in his eye) added just a little extra twist to see if I would fall for it! (About those whales Sam…)

-The Hydrographic Survey Crew: Erin, Shawn, Marta, Nick, and Matt …ask them any question and I got as much time as I needed for answers, explanations, and demonstrations; Nick and Matt who kept me on my toes with open-ended discussions about the purpose and future of education

-Amy and Amanda …just a little less new to the ship than I am, but willing to try to make things clearer and easier whenever they can

-Hydrographer Bonnie Johnston, always happy and friendly and with endless good ideas about how to take some of the science from this trip back to teach in my class

-The Deck and Engine crews…lively, ornery, spicy, and eminently lovable:  -Meghan G. and Leslie who actually taught me how to splice rope! -Jodie and Ben A. who always found a way to make me feel welcome, special, and not at all in the way; Jodie who tried to teach me to steer the survey boat and didn’t laugh when I was a dismal failure -Steve, Jimmy, and Dennis…smiles and teasing and lots of answers to even my dumbest questions; Steve with wildlife books and information and pictures to share anytime -Muzzy, Puppy, Keegan, Kelsen, Mikey, Chris, and Josh…prototypes for John Fogerty’s “Rambunctious Boy,” full of fun and attitude and hard, hard workers who made the running of the ship make sense -Erik who taught me how to put on my survival suit…and didn’t laugh -Joe – my personal guide for the long-awaited tour of the engine room… “What makes it go Joe?” -Carl – the guy who left the Midwest for a life at sea and who shared his enthusiasm for everything marine with a big smile and endless courtesy -Umeko…the new kid on the block, an intern learning the ropes and the rules and really eager to share her knowledge and explore new things…sorry we never saw enough of the stars for you to teach me how a sextant works…

-The Galley crew: Do and Floyd, who just kept smiling and telling me where things go, how to get what I need, and filling me up with way more good food than I needed; Raul who caught more fish with less fuss than anyone I’ve ever met before

-Gary…”right click, no, right click, no right click”…the very patient IT who helped me to figure out the server, email, the internet, and to get these journal entries off to NOAA

-Executive Officer Julia Neander…career NOAA Corps officer, scientist, literary critic, mom, and the person who always tried to make sure things were going right for me…taught me to kayak, went out for hikes, took great pictures, reviewed my journals, took time for good conversations, and made sure I got included in all the memorable things…she even taught me how to butcher a halibut!

-Last, but not least, Captain Guy Noll – quiet, thoughtful, sometimes serious, sometimes not, who shared his knowledge of Alaska and the ocean and history and fishing and who always showed a sense of the importance of his job and his personal commitment to it.

These were the real “Teachers” at sea: the people who helped make each day memorable and worthwhile as they took time to teach me.

Just what did they teach me?  Well, I learned about life aboard a ship, planning and following through on those plans to accomplish big jobs, multi-beam sonar, working with data to make information useable, navigation and the importance of good charts, steering on water in a straight line (or not), the importance of understanding the basic science behind their job so it makes sense to use equipment correctly, the geology of the Aleutian Islands and the Ring of Fire, Alaskan wildlife, and lots more.

At this point, my mind is so full that I probably don’t realize how much I have learned.  I do know that I am coming away from this last three weeks with new ideas and attitudes to share in my classroom and with my teaching colleagues.  I know that I will encourage other teachers to apply for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. I know that my experiences have reinforced my belief that learning by doing helps learners make sense of new experiences and ideas.

My assignment from NOAA involved recording my experiences to share on the Teacher at Sea web page. This task has been particularly valuable for helping me to clarify what I was learning and to store ideas for use with my students.  Being a Teacher at Sea has given me a chance to be immersed in applied learning as the student instead of the teacher. I have a refreshed perspective on how it feels to walk into a new classroom with new classmates and an unknown teacher in charge.  When I walk into my classroom to meet my new students in five days I hope that this insight will help me start the year off comfortably, kindly, and meaningfully for that room full of young minds.

I thank NOAA for the opportunity to be part of a unique and wonderful educational experience. Besides learning about the life and science aboard NOAA ship RAINIER, I have a new appreciation for how important it is that I do my job in the classroom well.  Helping develop the curiosity and exploration skills of young learners seems even more critical after spending three weeks with a group of amazing people who are using those skills and attitudes in such a dynamic and impressive way.

To Captain Guy Noll, Executive Officer Julia Neander, and the wonderful officers and crew aboard RAINIER, my heartfelt thanks for all you have done to make my experience so remarkable.  My memories of RAINIER and being Teacher at Sea will bring joy to my life for a long time to come.

Footnote: There are others in the crew of RAINIER, not mentioned specifically, that I just never got the chance to get to know for whatever reason:  Time was short, schedules didn’t mesh, we didn’t move in the same orbits at the same times, the stars didn’t align…  Whatever the reasons, I’m sure the loss is mine because everyone on the ship has been so great. Sorry I missed you guys…next time, OK? 

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 30, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10-12 nautical mile
Wind direction: 3.7 o
Wind speed:  8.5 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 18.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.2 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

There was a spectacular sunrise this morning and then, during our next-to-last station Steve pointed out a sun dog in the sky above us. We’ve got one more station left to do – in Cape Cod Bay and then we’ll sail through the Cape Cod Canal and back to port at Woods Hole, about a day and a half early.  We will have completed 138 stations in total.  It will all turn into a set of numbers put out on the Web, at some point, and, when I see them, I’ll now know what went into producing them.

Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.
Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The photo contest entries are up.  The “kids” watch came up with several entries and some of them are pretty cute.  I especially like the one of me, with a shrimp on my shoulder, on the cover of Time magazine, labeled “Teacher of the Year” and the caption “Teacher discovers the oceans are teeming with life.”  I still think we’ve got a good shot at winning. Voting opens at 1100 and closes at 1600.  The suspense is killing me!  It’s been a wonderful trip and there’s a lot about this life that I’ll miss including the constant and ever-changing beauty of the sea; the clean, fresh air; the spectacular sunrises; the 3 meals a day cooked for me; but, most of all, the camaraderie with an interesting and fun-loving group of people.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

All the photos are up and the competition is over with.  It’s great what the other group has come up with.  There’s a picture of Tamara and Karen peaking over the bongo nets, Don getting eaten up by the grab and Jerry “pickled” inside of a sample jar.  So far, we have no idea who’s going to win. I love our picture of Tony as a fairy.  As soon as you know Tony, though, that makes the picture all the more entertaining.

We’re almost off the boat.  I’m going to miss the crew terribly, especially Tony, Mike, Steve, Tim, Lino and Orlando.  Okay, I admit it…I’ll miss every single person A LOT!  =) I’ll miss talking with Kurt (XO/CO) and the rest of the officers, Tracy and Alicea.  It’s terrible that I miss these people already…especially because I haven’t left yet.

As soon as we get into port, many of the crew will head off to their homes.  It’s difficult on them because they are away from land for such a long period of time.  Respect is definitely deserved for these men and women who dedicate such a large part of their lives to helping forward knowledge of the oceans and its inhabitants.  I promised Orlando a picture of the Ling Cod I caught (my first fish ever) the week before I came out.  Although there is quite a bit of distance between all of us, I’ll give it my all to keep in touch with everyone when I get home.

Barney Peterson, August 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 30, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 nm
Wind :  light airs
Seawater temperature: 10.5°C
Sea level pressure:  1002.2 mb
Cloud cover: Cloudy

Nagai Island cliffs rising steeply from the water
Nagai Island cliffs rising steeply from the water

Science and Technology Log 

The Aleutian Range is a chain of mountains extending 1600 miles west from Mt Spurr, opposite Anchorage on Cook Inlet, to Attu Island at the northern edge of the Pacific Ocean. There is something like 80 active volcanoes in the range which forms the northern part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. That would be exciting enough if it was the whole story of the land here, but there is even more.  Earthquake activity in the last 100 years has proven that movement along the tectonic plates of the earth’s crust continues to shape the land. As we sailed out of Seward on Resurrection Bay for a brief stop near the entrance to Prince William Sound, islands rose steeply out of the ocean, covered with thick evergreen trees from shoreline to summit.  The exposed shoreline was mainly cliffs and the beaches were slim and rocky.  The landscape looked like little chunks of the Pacific Northwest that I am used to seeing.

White sand beach and dunes on Nagai Island.
White sand beach and dunes on Nagai Island.

That all changed as we turned west and moved out through the Shelikov Straight on our way to our survey site at Nagai Island. Suddenly the only familiar feature was the color of the rocks! The islands pointed straight up from the water’s edge.  Most cliffs were rocky and broken with folds and bends in the bands of color. Some rocks were cross-hatched with breaks and gouges that showed how hard the sea and the weather have worked to break them down.  The crowns of these islands looked smooth and green with no tall evergreen trees in sight. Just when I had adjusted to seeing cobbled beaches and abrupt cliffs, we discovered a beautiful white sand beach backed by wind-formed dunes and covered with driftwood. At this point the weather cleared, the skies turned blue, and the beach was reflected in clear aquamarine blue waters that reminded me of the Caribbean.

We worked our way around Nagai Island, surveying water depths and noting how the cliffs that rose above the water seemed to plunge downward below the surface at the same angles we saw above it.  When there were rocks on the bottom, they were big, chunks that had broken off from the cliffs above and tumbled out as far as their weight could carry them.  Our bottom surveys showed areas of thick black mud and shell, made from weathering and erosion of the cliffs at the water’s edge.

Olga Island rising abruptly from the sea.
Olga Island rising abruptly from the sea.

Farther out the chain we stopped at Dolgoi Island in the Pavlof Islands group. Here the islands were even more barren looking.  Not even scrub alder shrubs seemed able to survive on the slopes and few flowers bloomed in the thick mat of mosses and heath that covered the crowns of the peaks.  These islands were more rounded at the tops with some softer contours, but just as abrupt as they poked above the sea.  The beaches at Dolgoi and Olga Islands were mostly large boulders covering just a few meters before sea grasses and then thick low brush took over. We sailed east again, back to Mitrofania Island; a place that looks like it hasn’t changed since dinosaurs roamed the earth!  Here the cliffs were abrupt, high, and split by deep cuts.  Every possible surface was covered by bright green brush.  The waters around the island were full of shoals and the cliff bases were laced with caves and cracks. Sudden breaks in the sharp cliffs showed where larger streams have worn away softer rocks to form valleys as they plunged to the sea. These gentler slopes allow pools and drops in the stream that are perfect for spawning salmon and developing juveniles before they head into the ocean. Small bays at the mouths of streams have captured coarse black sand to form narrow beaches.  Beaches that didn’t have the protection of bays were long strips of rounded rock, driftwood, and sea grasses.

TAS Peterson exploring the shoreline of Mitrofania Island by kayak.
TAS Peterson exploring the shoreline of Mitrofania Island by kayak.

So what have I learned about the geologic processes that formed this area?  Well I know that we saw fossils in some of the rocks.  Fossils are not something one would expect to find in volcanic rock. Much of the rock in the exposed cliffs shows thick bands of color in strange folds and twists.  The soil on the islands is not deep and rich.  Excepting for the one white sand beach that we saw, most sand was course and black echoing the color of the rocks around it. I did a little research in the ship’s library to clarify the geology for my own understanding. According to Introductory Geography & Geology of Alaska, a textbook published in 1976 and written by L.M. Anthony and A.T. Tunley, this is the scoop:*

Flanking the igneous cones of the Aleutian Range are uplifted sediments, mostly marine, dating back to Paleozoic time…rich in fossils and petroleum bearing shale….the Aleutian Range area consists of many high and active volcanoes of Cenozoic age that have uplifted adjacent sedimentary rock of relatively older age. 

And as for the soil and vegetation, Anthony and Tunley write: Lithosolic soil is characterized by recent and imperfect weathering…rocky soils with thin, irregular coverings of soil material. Some support only lichens and mosses.  Better-developed lithosols have heath shrubs and dwarf trees growing on them…These soils are also common to fresh moraines, beach sands, windblown dunes, and volcanic ash deposits.  In Alaska, lithosols are found in the Alaska Range, Brooks Range, Coastal Range, and on Kodiak Island and the Aleutian Islands. Elsewhere they are found in the Andes, Alps, and in the mountains of Asia. 

To me, all of that means that the volcanoes in the Aleutian Range represent relatively young features on the surface that have forced their way up through the older layers of rock. Those older layers can be seen clearly in the folded and bent sides of the island cliffs. Earthquakes continue as the tectonic plates slip over and under each other and the volcanoes that rumble to life along the edges of those active plates release pent-up heat and pressure from deep within the earth.

Credits: Introductory Geography and Geology of Alaska, Anthony, Leo Mark, and Tunley, Arthur “Tom”, Polar Publishing, Anchorage, 1976 

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 29, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: o
Wind speed:  20-25 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3’
Swell wave height: 4-6’
Seawater temperature: 14 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.2 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

The rain has stopped but it’s a very foggy day here in the Gulf of Maine – not unusual for this area, according to the officers.  I visited the bridge early this morning before dawn and Acting XO Jason Appler mentioned the “cabin fever” that can result from sailing through fog for days on end. We were hoping to see the beautiful coast of Maine but we may pass without ever catching a glimpse if this fog keeps up.

On the second station of our watch, in addition to the bongos, we used another plankton net which extends from a rectangular frame.  It’s called a neuston net and it’s towed right at the surface, partly in and partly out of the water.  The object of this tow is to catch lobster larvae which, according to Jerry, are often found clinging to seaweed drifting at the surface. We’re doing this sampling for a student who is considering studying the distribution of lobster larvae for a thesis.

Jerry reminded me of two terms I learned at some point in the past but had forgotten.  Meroplankton  are animals that are residents of the plankton for only part of their lives, e.g., larvae of fish, crustaceans, and other animals.  Holoplankton is made up of jellyfish, copepods, chaetognaths, ctenophores, salps, larvaceans, and other animals that spend their entire lives in the plankton.

Jerry has a copy of the book The Open Sea by Sir Alister Hardy, a classic work of biological oceanography.  As only one example of his many marine expeditions, Hardy served as Chief Zoologist on the R.R.S. Discovery when it voyaged to Antarctica in the 1920’s. The first half of the book is devoted to plankton and the second half to fish and fisheries. Both parts contain a number of his beautiful watercolors of the animals discussed, painted from freshly caught specimens and all the more remarkable for the fact that they were done on a rocking ship!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The seas got pretty bouncy this evening. I had been feeling pretty cocky about my “sea legs” but was getting a little uneasy. However, I did cope without any problems.  I don’t really understand seasickness and I get the feeling no one else does either.  I wonder how often and for how long one has to be at sea before their sea legs become permanent.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

It’s like riding a bucking bronco out here on the ocean.  Walking, by itself, is forcing me to improve my coordination.  I love it. I’m only worried about how I’ll be on land…last time I was swaying back and forth for a few hours. I think Karen got quite a kick out of that.

We’re still taking pictures for the contest.  It’s difficult being creative, especially because we’re limited on what we have for resources.  We’ve got one picture that I hope turns out well. One of Tracy’s good friends sent her the picture of the Brady Bunch.  I’ve been trying to work the picture so that our shift’s faces are in place of the original cast.  The only one that truly looks in place is Wes, he actually looks natural!  We’re having such a great time!

We all climbed into our survival suits again and took pictures on the stairs.  Believe me when I say that sitting on the stairs in those “Gumby” suits, is a very difficult task.  Wes was holding all of us up. Tracy had a hold of the side and I was propped up in between them.  Alicea was very ready to jump forward in case we were to all start the journey downstairs a bit too quickly. I’m still having an amazing time.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: 116 o
Wind speed: 15 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 13.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.6 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

Science and Technology Log 

This is the first rainy day we’ve had.  It’s pretty chilly as well and not all that pleasant working on deck so we were delighted when the “kids” watch came on (our watch is known as the “geezer” watch) and got us out of doing an EPA station.  I can’t imagine doing this in January. It’s a great day to stay indoors which is what I’ve been doing as much as possible – working on lesson plans and the Power Point on this trip, and reading.  I did help Jerry do a collection for a WHOI scientist who is looking at the bacterium that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.  That involved filtering 2 L of seawater through progressively smaller filters and then washing the filtrate off the finest filter into a bottle of medium in which the bacterium, Pseudo-nitzchia, will grow.

I had some nice conversations with crewmembers today.  Chief Boatswain Tony Vieira came from Portugal with his family at the age of 17.  After working construction for a few years, he began commercial fishing with his brother and fished for 18 years.  Ten years ago he was happy to give up that difficult and dangerous profession to work for NOAA. Although he plans to retire before long, Tony says he won’t want to stay away from the ocean for long and will probably look for opportunities to fill in on ships now and then.

We pulled up a heteropod with the bongos (not exactly in them) yesterday or the day before. It’s a gastropod that’s modified for a planktonic existence. Unfortunately, it was somewhat mangled so we didn’t get a complete picture of what one looks like.  It would be wonderful to see some of these animals in their natural element.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

“Alexa, call the bridge.” I froze for a second as if I had just been called to the principal’s office. Going to a phone, ENS Chris Skapin told me he had a project for me and I was to carry a very large box to the bridge. As Wes and I scrambled to find a very large box, we speculated the many different activities I was about to be a part of.  As soon as I walked in, the men talked in unusually quiet whispers.  After several minutes, I figured out why.  Acting XO Jason Appler had made quick friends with a small bird fluttering around the bridge. A sigh of relief came from me as we hunted down the small creature.  After attempting to feed and give water to the small bird, he was let free.  Unfortunately, as Mike Conway pointed out, few birds that are not adapted to sea-life can survive so far out to sea.

I finally got up to the bridge.  Kurt showed me how everything works, radar and all the other navigation programs.  All the crew told me that if I want to see some sort of marine life, to go up to the bridge when XO Jason Appler is there.  About ten minutes after I was up on the bridge with Skapin and Appler, we saw a humpback whale come completely out of the water. There was a huge pod swimming about 100 m away.

Jerry added another station to break up our steam time; we had had one six-hour steam which we were all looking forward to. It seems like we might be getting in earlier than I expected, maybe now I’ll have extra time to hang out with Tracy and Alicea before we all have to leave. I can’t believe my three weeks are almost over!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I don’t think I’ve spent so many days without a to-do list in years.  I can see some of the appeal of the mariner’s life.  Things are a bit simpler out here.

Barney Peterson, August 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind:  light airs
Seawater temperature: 9.4˚C
Sea level pressure:  1015.8 mb
Cloud cover: partly cloudy

CB Jimmy Kruger modeling the use of the line thrower with the help of AS John Anderson.
CB Jimmy Kruger modeling the use of the line thrower with the help of AS John Anderson.

Science and Technology Log 

This morning provided me an example of some of the training that goes on for the entire crew aboard the RAINIER.  We all assembled in the Crew’s Mess for remarks from the Captain about plans for the next few days, followed by 1.5 hours of training on the use of three different kinds of safety equipment.  We started with a manufacturer’s video and then moved to the fantail for demonstrations.

The first equipment we looked at is the PLT Line Thrower, a device that uses pressurized air to send a projectile attached to a light line up to 250 meters long.  The line is attached to a missile-shaped projectile on one end that is aimed at a target in the water. The business end of the PLT, containing the compressed air cylinder, is braced firmly against the ship to help absorb the strong recoil. The device is pointed toward the target at an angle of about 27˚ and the trigger is depressed, firing the projectile up and out so it will (hopefully) fall past the target, dropping the line where it is easy to reach. Demonstrations showed that firing is the simplest part of the operation.  Retrieving the line by pulling it into neat coils in a bucket is tricky. The line is then rinsed to remove the salt water, hung up to dry thoroughly, and stuffed neatly back into the tube for the next use. Even with the help of a pneumatic line stuffer the process is a bit like putting an earthworm back into its hole.

CB Kruger demonstrating fire suppression foam on the fantail of the RAINIER.
CB Kruger demonstrating fire suppression foam on the fantail of the RAINIER.

On RAINIER the PLT is stored mounted on the wall in the Chief’s mess.  There are four bright orange projectile tips, the loaded line tube, and the compressed air cylinder.  Each cylinder contains enough air for about four shots before it needs to be refilled at the compressor. Chief Boatswain Jimmy Kruger also demonstrated use of the foam fire suppression equipment.  Hooked into the ship’s fire hose system, an extra line siphons a solution to mix with the water and form a thick layer of foam when sprayed out through the high-pressure nozzle. This foam would be used on fires such as burning liquids. CB Kruger demonstrated using a solution made with dishwashing detergent.  The actual firefighting foam is made with non-toxic chemicals with high surface tension so very thick foam is produced.  Cleanup involves a thorough wash down of the area to dilute the foam and clean the surfaces it covered. When the foam was used to fight a fire at sea, the water from the wash-down is captured and stored in the bilges and removed into tanks for treatment when the ship reaches port.  Only in the case of a dire emergency would it be release into the ocean.

CME Brian Smith showing the three types of de-watering pumps.
CME Brian Smith showing the three types of de-watering pumps.

There are a number of possible causes for areas being flooded on a ship, but all of them need the same response:  stop the flooding and “de-water” the space.  Chief Marine Engineer Brian Smith demonstrated three types of de-watering pumps and discussed the specific uses of each one. First was the big diesel pump, capable of pumping 250 gallons per minute (about 14,000 gallons per hour).  It is only used where the pump engine can be outside so exhaust fumes are dispersed easily.  The pump itself is immersed as deeply as necessary in the water and has a check valve to prevent backflow if the engine is suddenly stopped. This pump would be used for large-scale work on a major problem. Next, CME Smith showed us the 440 Volt electric pump, capable of clearing about 200 gallons per minute (12,000 gallons per hour) and designed for use inside.  The ship has several special electrical outlets for using this pump.  It is designed for use in compartments flooded by leaks or firefighting.  He emphasized the need to wear protective rubber (electrical) gloves, rubber boots, and have the pump sitting on a rubber mat.  This pump is very efficient and very quiet.

Intern Umeko Foster watching spawning salmon on Mitrofania Island.
Intern Umeko Foster watching spawning salmon on Mitrofania Island.

The final pumps that CME Smith demonstrated were 5 horsepower gasoline engines, much like those used for lawn mowers, and operated the same way.  With a choke and a recoil pull-rope starter, they seemed comfortably familiar compared to the higher-tech larger pumps.  These little pumps are stored in two different places on the ship, should be used outside in well ventilated spaces, and are capable of moving about 100 to 150 gallons of water per minute.  At one time the crew of RAINIER took one of the pumps to help out a fishing boat that was taking on water and needed assistance.  These little pumps are the most portable of the three types and the simplest to use. Throughout all of these equipment demonstrations, crew members were invited to try things out and there was practice time after the talks ended.  Safety was always very strongly emphasized.

Both CB Kruger and CME Smith gave very clear information about where safety equipment is stored and how to clean it up and put it away ready for the next use. All Officers and crew were required to attend this briefing excepting for those on watch on the Bridge.

I finally got a clear look at the top of Mt Veniaminof.
I finally got a clear look at the top of Mt Veniaminof.

Personal Log 

We are anchored near Mitrofania Island in a beautiful little bay.  The land angles sharply up from the ocean into tall, rugged cliffs covered by bright green brush.  It looks, as the Captain says, “…like the Land of the Lost.”   The crew hopes to have time to do some fishing here for an hour or so because this has been a good place to catch salmon in the past. I hope to get a chance to go out in the kayak again. This place begs to be explored!

(Six hours later) I spent a couple of hours out in the kayak this afternoon with Umeko Foster, the intern from Cal Maritime.  We paddled over to a small bay where a stream comes into the salt water and found eagles and seals feeding on salmon heading upstream to spawn.  The seals became more interested in watching us than in fishing.  We got out and hiked around to watch the salmon, the eagles flew off, and the seals kept peeking at us from the water just off shore. The beach was littered with salmon carcasses.  There were some rusting iron eyebolts in two large boulders on the shore that led us to believe that there may have been a fish trap anchored here at some time in the past. The weather has been beautiful, clear and calm, and I keep hoping to get a look at the top of the large volcano to the north on the Alaska Peninsula.  So far the top has been covered with clouds moving in from the Bering Sea to the northeast.

Question of the Day 

What is a shield volcano and how is it different from other types of volcanoes?

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 27, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction 36 o
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1025.6 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we launched a drifter buoy that will transmit its position to a satellite so our students can monitor it via a website. Tamara Browning, the other teacher on board, wrote her school’s name on it and I wrote Garrison Forest School and drew a paw print for the GFS Grizzlies. The buoy consists of a small flotation device – about a foot in diameter or a little larger – which contains the electronics and is tethered to a part that looks like a wind sock but will be underwater where it will catch water currents as opposed to wind. Jerry picked a launching spot in the channel where the Labrador Current enters the Gulf of Maine. He says it may stay in the Gulf of Maine and circle around or it may exit with the outgoing current.  It is designed to last for over 400 days. It will fun to have my students follow it and plot its course on a map.

JE Orlando Thompson gave us a tour of the engine room this morning.  He took us into the air-conditioned booth which overlooks the room and contains the control panels.  Orlando explained that the center part of the console controls the main engines (there are 2), the left portion controls the power supply for the ship, and the right side is for the trawl engine which is used when trawling or dredging.  He said that the fuel for each day is first purified to remove sediments and then put into the day tank.  The emergency generator, which is located behind the bridge, has its own fuel tank.  The ship runs on diesel fuel. Down on the floor of the engine room, he showed us the transmission and the shaft that runs aft to the propeller.  The ship moves forward when the blades of the propeller are adjusted to the right pitch. To stop the forward motion during sampling, the pitch is changed. Orlando, who was originally from Panama, learned his craft in the Navy where he served on aircraft carriers that he says make the ALBATROSS IV look like a toy.

Personal Log – Karen Myers 

We finally saw whales today! Well, maybe not whole whales but we did see spouts, flukes, and tails. Ensign Chris Daniels identified them as Right Whales by their divided, v-shaped spouts.  One reason that whalers called this species “Right” whales is that they are slow and sluggish and so were easier to catch up with and kill

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tracy, Alicea and I all sleep through breakfast and lunch so we meet in the galley for cereal and toast around 12:00. Unfortunately, we missed the whales that showed up around 10 a.m. Apparently there were several pods swimming around the boat, one off the port side, one off the starboard side and one off the portside of the fantail.  I’m still trying to understand the different terminology.  Don Cobb stated that there were probably close to 40 whales total in the three different pods.

Karla is definitely a trooper. For her sampling, she has to be working for sixteen hours straight, however, there have been days when she’s been awake for over 24.  It’s great to be in a group of close girls.  Tracy and Alicea are very welcoming, friendly and personable. In such confined spaces, that’s a blessing to find two women who are so agreeable.  There’s no pettiness, nor competition.

Life at sea is simpler than on land, I think, though you have to be able to find ways to keep yourself occupied and still find times to simply sit back and enjoy the frontier around you. I’ll spend time writing to home and my friends, talking to the various crew members, scientists and officers, reading, journaling my opinions and interpretations, and relaxing on the hurricane deck looking out to the sea.  It’s very calm and laid back here.  I think I like it here…

We’re having a cook-out tonight!  Well, actually, it’s a pseudo-cookout because we left the propane tank at port. It’s basically an onboard barbeque which everyone gets together for (assuming that we’re not on station at the time).  Tracy says, “Nothing beats eating dinner right on the ocean as the sun starts going beneath the clouds.”  Following, Alicea said, “We takes a beating, but we keeps on eating.”

Ten minutes before we arrive at each station, the bridge sends an announcement over the intercom.  Depending on the officer manning the bridge, a variety of calls can be decreed onboard. Ensign Chris Daniels (now nicknamed the Nascar driver), however, gave all the calls in one, “10 minutes to station, 10 minutes to CTD, 10 minutes to bongos, 10 minutes to bottom grab, 10 minutes to the longest station of the cruise.”  Unbeknownst to the shift at the time, it was indeed the longest station and took over two hours on station due to problems with the CTD and bottom grab.  As Alicea put it, “We should kindly ask the bridge to keep their comments to themselves [so they stop jinxing us]!”

Barney Peterson, August 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 27, 2006

Intern Umeko Foster exploring the coastline of Cushing Bay on Mitrofania Island.
Intern Umeko Foster exploring the coastline of Cushing Bay on Mitrofania Island.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10+ nm
Wind :  light airs
Seawater temperature: 11.1˚C
Sea level pressure:1017.0 mb
Cloud cover: partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

The personnel aboard the RAINIER are from a wide variety of backgrounds and locations. They come from the southern states, America’s Heartland, cowboy country, the east coast, and the Pacific Northwest.  Many now call Seattle, RAINIER’s homeport, their home.  What follows are brief profiles with some officers and crew members that I spent time with on the ship.

AS Leslie Abrahamson and I talked while she was splicing lines (working on ropes to keep the ends from fraying or unraveling).  That is a fairly specialized skill and Leslie had ample time to practice while working for several years on Tall Ships. She was a teacher for over 5 years working with high school aged youths, in programs including  widely respected Outward Bound. Following graduation from high school in Long Island, New York, Leslie attended Stanford University in Palo Alto, California to study theater arts. At the end of her 3rd year she went to Shanghai and spent six months discovering the joys of outdoor life: hiking, camping, and trekking.  Meeting new people and having new experiences helped form her into an adventurous, self-reliant young woman.  She returned, finished college, got into SCUBA diving and boats, and began working on dive and whale watching boats. After working 24/7 with high school students in expeditionary learning projects, Leslie was ready for a change. She was hired as an Able Bodied Seaman working for NOAA.  Leslie has been accepted for graduate school and is considering an advanced degree in marine affairs and coastal zone management, but the training opportunities through NOAA are really attractive to her right now. She is enjoying working in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Survey Technician Matt Boles (right) locating tide gauge markers on Olga Island.
Survey Technician Matt Boles (right) locating tide gauge markers on Olga Island.

Umeko Foster is a second-year intern aboard RAINIER from California Maritime Academy. Raised in southern California, Umeko is looking forward to the challenges and opportunities of working aboard ships, either with NOAA or in merchant shipping. She spent this summer and last learning first-hand about living and working aboard an ocean-going vessel.  Umeko has worked in a variety of jobs aboard RAINIER. I most often found her standing watch on the bridge, or working on deck duties around the ship. She has worked on the hydrography survey launches, but hasn’t acquired specialized knowledge of the highly technical equipment used in surveying.  Her background at the Maritime Academy will qualify her as a 3rd Mate for work on ships.

Survey Technician Matt Boles comes from Tennessee.  With an Associate degree in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) he joined NOAA 18 months ago to gain some practical experience in that field before committing to a 4 year study program. One of the things that influenced his decision was his experience in an internship he did in 2004: the teamwork and positive attitudes of the crew he worked with made him want to become a part of the organization.  Matt feels that being in Alaska, far from his family has helped him to become more aware of possibilities and to develop a new set of values about environmental stewardship. His internship aboard the fisheries ship was his first ocean experience and gave him an appreciation for a new part of the world.

TAS Peterson with Lt. Ben Evans atop Olga Island.
TAS Peterson with Lt. Ben Evans atop Olga Island.

He has fine-tuned his goals toward a degree in aerospace science so he will be able to use his skills in remote sensing surveying in other applications such as aerial survey work.  He is strongly motivated toward helping people learn more about the world we live in and how to live in it wisely, hopefully avoiding future tragedies like the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  Matt, who got married just three months ago, says the hardest parts of his life at sea are being away from family for long periods of time and the lack of physical activity space aboard ships. As a musician (bass guitar player), outdoor enthusiast, and with a strong interest in aviation, Matt likes to spend his free time actively.  There isn’t much room to hike on the ship.

AS Leslie Abrahamson splicing lines aboard NOAA ship RAINIER.
AS Leslie Abrahamson splicing lines aboard NOAA ship RAINIER.

Personal Log 

I got a really good workout today. I went ashore on Olga Island with Field Operations Officer Ben Evans and Survey Technician Matt Boles.  Our job was to locate and document five brass survey monuments for positioning a temporary tide gauge on the Island next season. I served as photographer and we all scrambled around on the rocks looking for the brass plates fixed onto the rocks.

When we finished documenting locations we took a few minutes to climb to the top of the island for the view. ST Boles and I went straight up through the brush at about a 50˚angle and met Lt Evans on top.  He had found a better slope and walked right up. There was a pair of Bald Eagles circling and calling above the summit and the view was wonderful. After taking pictures we headed back down. Who would have ever thought I would be climbing like this in rubber boots?

You have to love these “XtraTuf’s!”

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction: 3 o
Wind speed: 16 kts
Sea wave height: 1-2 ’
Swell wave height: 2 1/2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1024 mb
Cloud cover: 1/8

Science and Technology Log 

Today we sampled at the deepest station of the trip – 350 m. We had to do what they call a “double dipper” because the bongos are never lowered any deeper than 200 m since pretty much any organisms of interest to Fisheries are with 200 m of the surface.  But the CTD is still lowered all the way to within 5-10 m of the bottom in order to get a complete hydrographic profile.

Karla Heidelberg is engaged in real cutting edge research in microbial genetics.  Now at the University of Southern California, she has worked with the J. Craig Venter Institute which is in the midst of an ambitious program to provide a genomic survey of microbial life in the world’s oceans.  This survey is producing the largest gene catalogue ever assembled and will provide scientists worldwide with an opportunity to better understand how ecosystems function and to discover new genes of ecological importance.  The survey is based on collections made during a circumnavigation of the globe by the sailing yacht Sorcerer II between September 2003, and January 2006.  But this expedition didn’t allow for sampling of the same areas over time.  So, with the help of an NSF grant and NOAA ship time, Karla is sampling and resampling areas in the Gulf of Maine.  When she takes samples, she pumps 200-400 L of water on board and filters it through a series of filters, first to eliminate the zooplankton and phytoplankton, and then to separate the various components of the microbial community.  The filters are frozen while on board ship and then, back in the lab, they’re subjected to an enzyme treatment to remove everything but the DNA. The DNA is then nebulized to break it into small fragments and the fragments are cloned.  The fragments are reassembled and sequenced.  As poorly understood as the ocean in general is, the microbial life of the ocean is a true frontier!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I love sitting out on one of the decks gazing at the sea.  Of course, I’m always hoping to see a whale or a Giant Ocean Sunfish but even though I’ve been pretty unsuccessful at spotting anything, I find it very calming to watch the ocean.  I’m amazed when I look at it that there are painters who are skillful enough to recreate the complex patterns on a canvas.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Well our shift worked extremely hard today, hard enough that we all fell asleep within 10 minutes of a post-shift movie.  We got hit with station after station during our 12 hour period. It’s fascinating, though, to be looking at the organisms that come up in the grab or bongo nets. I’m not very familiar with the different scientific classifications of animals, but I certainly have an appreciation for what the ocean holds.  As Karla said, we’re seeing what 1% of the Earth has ever seen before.  We’re truly in undiscovered territory.

Like the rainforest, there are many species that have yet to be discovered.  At ISEF, my father and I went to an IMAX theatre to watch Deep Blue Sea in 3D.  The VPR (Video Plankton Recorder) showed images just like what we saw on the big screen. I live on the coast, yet I had no idea what was in the ocean.  In fact, people come from all over to whale watch in Gold Beach.  Yet I have never seen a whale, nor have I seen a dolphin.

I go home in six days and head back to school in eight.  I’m getting pretty fond of being out here now, and the idea of sitting in a classroom reading from textbooks isn’t as appealing. I do miss discussions with my teachers (i.e. Ms. Anthony (Calculus); Coach Swift (American Gov’t); Mr. Lee (Honors English II)) though.  Anyway, we’re coming on shift now. So I’d best be off to work.

Barney Peterson, August 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 25, 2006

Blue Mussels at the water line on Nagai Island.
Blue Mussels at the water line on Nagai Island.

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 nm
Wind direction:  177˚ true
Wind speed:  20 kts
Sea wave height: 0 – 1 ft
Seawater temperature: 8.9˚ C
Sea level pressure: 1007.2 mb
Cloud cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Many of the islands off the Alaska Peninsula rise straight up out of the sea, looking barren and lonely. This is not the case, however, if you train your eyes to see. True, there are no human inhabitants, and few land mammals, but the shores and the water around them teem with life.

If you are fortunate enough to spend time in a kayak along the shoreline of the islands you will see some of the near-shore marine creatures.  The bases of the cliffs on Nagai Island were covered by bands of Blue Mussels right at the tide line. On rare occasions, when the waves are small and the wind is calm, you can spot Leather Stars on the rocks with the barnacles, Dunce Cap Limpets, and a variety of winkles.

Gulls on the rocks at Nagai Island.
Gulls on the rocks at Nagai Island.

The cliffs of the islands provide nesting spots for shaggy-looking Tufted Puffins and their sleeker looking relatives, Horned Puffins.  These funny little birds have very dense bones compared to others that spend most of their time in the air.  They spend much of their lives in or on the water (they dive in and “fly” underwater…using their wings to swim after fish.) The heavy, stubby Puffins look awkward as they struggle to fly off the water, and on land they sometimes dive off rocks and cliffs to help launch themselves into the air. They spend much of their lives at sea, returning to land only for nesting and breeding. Other common birds on the cliffs and rocky shores are Double-crested Cormorants (snooty looking as they sit on the rocks with their beaks pointed straight up in the air), gulls of several types, Sooty Shearwaters, and Black Oystercatchers. When you spot a large group of birds diving and swooping at the water it is a pretty good signal that there is a “bait ball” of herring or other small fish near the surface and the birds are feeding on them while the fishing is easy.

Bald Eagles soaring over Olga Island.
Bald Eagles soaring over Olga Island.

If you are lucky enough to get ashore for a hike through the thick brush you will probably discover Water Pipits and Northern Waterthrush flitting from branch to branch, watching you curiously.  There are the seeds of grasses and lots of berries for them to eat along with the many small creatures from the water’s edge. High on the cliffs of some islands we spotted Bald Eagles riding the thermal air currents. The only land mammal that I saw on any of the islands where we worked was an Arctic Ground Squirrel slipping into the grass above the beach. It was about 14 inches long and golden-brown.  There are lots of grasses, roots, and berries for them to eat. They live in burrows in the thick mats of roots and shallow soil that cover large areas of the islands.  At first it seemed strange that there were no larger mammals to see, but we were a long way from the mainland and the only way animals can get to the islands is by swimming.  Bears, moose, foxes, sheep, goats and other larger animals have no reason to swim that far for a place to live.

Two Sea Otters looking at the ship curiously.
Two Sea Otters looking at the ship curiously.

Sea Otters live mostly in the water.  Their bodies are much better designed for life in the sea than on land. With their webbed feet and thick fur they are clever fishers, strong swimmers, and comical to watch.  We often saw otters near the shoreline, floating on their backs among the kelp beds. They are very curious and would sometimes slowly move closer to give us a good looking-over before diving and finding a more private place to do their eating. By watching the water near the shoreline carefully, we sometimes spotted sea lions or seals. There has been a marked decrease in the number of sea lions seen in the last few years, but there are still some in these waters.  Both seals and sea lions eat fish and like to find places to feed on salmon as they head inshore to spawn.  They are curious just like the otters and sometimes get fairly close to the ships, survey boats, or kayaks to see what humans are doing.

Seals peeking at TAS Peterson near Mitrofania Island.
Seals peeking at TAS Peterson near Mitrofania Island.

It was always a treat when someone spotted whales. This area is home to several kinds and, while fairly easy to spot, they are very hard to photograph. On our first night out we saw misty gray plumes above the water and spotted Sei Whales as they surfaced and dove. Two days later we watched Humpbacked Whales feeding among the diving birds near Nagai Island where we were surveying. Seeing those groups of birds is a signal to watch for whales feeding too. Another time we saw the dorsal fins of Orcas off in the distance, but they never got close enough to try for pictures. The crew on our ship took advantage of every opportunity to go fishing.  An announcement would come over the PA system, “Fishing to commence in 5 minutes and continue for 15 minutes” and we would know we were right over a really good spot. Every fisherman who wasn’t on duty at that moment would quickly get a line over the side. Those of us who aren’t fishermen would be on hand to help land the monsters they hoped to catch!  At the end of the prescribed time another announcement would signal lines in and the excitement would be over until the next time.  (There were opportunities to fish on several evenings when we were anchored for a day or two of survey work in the same area.  During the daytime, it is all business and the only fish I spotted were Moon Jellyfish in the water beside the ship.)

A large halibut caught by Lt. Ben Evans.
A large halibut caught by Lt. Ben Evans.

These waters are particularly good for halibut and I saw folks catch all sizes. They prefer fish about 30 to 40 pounds for the best eating, but love to hook a big one, 100 pounds or more, for the thrill of bringing it in.  I helped ENS Evans land an 80 plus pound halibut, and it was a lot of work! I also got to help with filleting and freezing the fish, and that is a job too, but the taste of fresh halibut is worth it! We saw lots of other fish too. On our first night out we anchored in a small bay where the Pink salmon were jumping all around us. Two days later our survey boat was surrounded by Pink salmon and one of the crew caught one that evening. This is right at the start of the fall spawning time for the Pinks and the end of the Coho season, so there were plenty of fish around. When the fishermen had their lines down deep after halibut, they also caught Yelloweye Rockfish, Sea Bass, and Ling Cod. All of these are good eating so, if they are large enough to keep, they get cleaned and used. Most of the fishermen vacuum-pack their fish to take home, but we ate quite a bit of fresh fish too. Two other sea creatures that were caught while I have been aboard were a 4.5 foot Spiny Dogfish shark and a Big Skate. I saw one Kelp Greenling when we took a look at the bottom with a remote underwater camera.  Every once in a while I would see a silver flash dangling from the beaks of gulls or puffins or jumping from the water as a school of herring swam past.

Although living and working aboard the RAINIER doesn’t leave lots of time for bird watching, whale watching, or fishing, everyone finds ways to make those activities parts of their everyday routine as often as possible.  Their ability to spot the wildlife, and their eagerness to share it with me, has helped to make my time on the RAINIER an even better experience.

Tim Van Dyke with a Yelloweye Rockfish he caught on his birthday!
Tim Van Dyke with a Yelloweye Rockfish he caught on his birthday!

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction 90o
Wind speed:  12-13 kts
Sea wave height 2’
Swell wave height 3-4’
Seawater temperature 20.4C
Sea Level Pressure: 1018 mb
Cloud cover: 4/8

Science and Technology Log 

We’re finally on the famous George’s Bank. It’s been a busy day – we had 7 stations on our watch, including 2 EPA stations.  It’s a lovely day, a little chilly, with a brisk wind.

I asked Jerry earlier in the cruise why George’s Bank has historically been such a productive area for fisheries. He explained that, first of all, it’s shallow so fish can spawn there and sunlight can penetrate the water column, providing energy for phytoplankton.  Steve said he’s seen a picture from the 1900’s of guys playing baseball on the shoals in the middle of the Bank.  Secondly, there’s a gyre-like water movement, probably resulting from the Labrador Current meeting the Gulf Stream, so it’s rich in nutrients and the fish that hatch there tend to be kept there by the current.  I’ve also heard about the “Hague Line” that was established by the International Court in the Hague to divide George’s Bank between Canada and the U.S.  Steve talked about how fisherman fish right along it. It’s great to get the perspectives of someone like Jerry whose views are those of a scientist well versed in fish and fisheries and Steve who has a wealth of knowledge from fishing this area.

I had a nice visit on the bridge this morning with Acting CO Kurt Zegowitz and Ensign Chad Meckley. Chad told me that the ALBATROSS IV doesn’t have a rudder – it’s steered by something called a Kort Nozzle which is essentially a large metal open-ended cylinder around the propeller.  When it is turned, it directs the outwash which makes the ship turn. Jerry suggested that it may be better for fishing boats because the nets sometimes get caught on a rudder.  However, this ship is not as maneuverable as it would be with a rudder.

I also got some more information on life in the NOAA Corps.  It seems like a pretty attractive job for a young person. Kurt spent his first sea duty in Hawaii and had a wonderful experience. Chad is thinking about what kind of billet he hopes to be assigned to for his shore duty, which will come after the ALBATROSS IV is decommissioned.  Kurt showed me a list of NOAA Corps billets – both at sea and on land and a list of the individuals in the Corps and where they are currently stationed.  I was pleased to see how many women are in the Corps.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey

I’ve become good friends with my new watch-mates; we have a lot of fun together.  From after-shift meetings at 3 a.m. to ‘Cake Breaks,’ Alicea, Wes, Tracy and I have really come together as a team.  I’ve never been too fond of group projects, most of the time because it leads to one person doing all of the work.  However, our shift has selected specific job roles that we trade off to ease the constant work load and maximize efficiency.

I’ve been talking to a wide variety of people through email, from my science teacher to friends from ISEF to family abroad.  I’m hoping to have a new puppy waiting at home when I get there. We used to have a Keeshond (Dutch Barge dog) named Dutch.  I’m hoping for a Tervuren or Husky, but it’s ultimately up to my parents because he/she will stay with them when I head over to school.  I encourage anyone I know who has a dog to watch the Dog Whisperer w/ Cesar Milan (Animal planet).

I’ve only been up since 11 a.m. (we go to bed after 3 a.m.) so not much has occurred today. Both shifts will be getting hit with stations rapidly today.  We might have close to 8 stations in just a single shift.  Still no whale sightings, but we’re not giving up hope. Last night, a sea of fish rode next to us on the boat. These fish (juveniles about 8 inches long), would jump about 3 feet out and across the water.  It was pretty neat. I’m going to get lunch and start piling on my gear.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I can’t believe how comfortable I feel aboard ship now.  At first I was at loose ends about how to fill the free time, especially since it comes in chunks of unpredictable length.  But now, between writing logs, writing emails, working on the photo contest, making up a Power Point on my experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea, talking to people on board, and trying to spend some time on the bridge or the hurricane deck watching for whales, the day just zips by.

Barney Peterson, August 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  8 nm
Wind direction:  300˚ true
Wind speed:  15 kts (gusts to 50 kts)
Sea wave height: 2 ft
Seawater temperature: 9.4˚C
Sea level pressure:  1003.5 mb
Cloud cover: Cloudy

Seaman Surveyor Erik Davis signals “Stop” with a closed fist while boat RA-3 is being lowered to the water.
Seaman Surveyor Erik Davis signals “Stop” with a closed fist while boat RA-3 is being lowered to the water.

Science and Technology Log 

One very important aspect of working on the RAINIER is communication.  To get the job done everyone needs to communicate clearly and effectively.  This extends into every part of working and living on the ship. Communication is by voice, flags, and hand signals. People talk face-to-face, by radio, bells, Public Address system, posted notices, and by email.  For every form of communication there are certain “right” ways to participate.

Voice communication is much more formal on the bridge where orders and responses have to do with running the ship. When a command is given by the Conning Officer or the Officer of the Deck, it is repeated by the person to whom it was given followed by the response, “aye.” That person then repeats the command again to indicate it has been accomplished, and the person who gave the order acknowledges that by saying “Very well.” Since there are often at least two people carrying out different commands on the bridge at the same time, it is very important that this procedure is followed so the person in charge knows that orders have been heard and followed.

When members of the Deck, Engine, Survey, or Galley crews address the NOAA Corps officers and department heads on the ship, they call them by rank and name, or just by rank. The Commanding Officer is always addressed as “Captain” or “CO,” and the Executive Officer is always addressed as “XO” or by rank and last name.  Department heads should be addressed as “Chief.”  This formality helps avoid confusion in following the chain of command, the organization that keeps the ship running smoothly.

Flags are used as signals to people off the ship about what is going on.  At anchor a Union Jack is flown on the bow from the jack staff.  A black “anchor ball” is raised on the forward bow stay (line), and the Stars and Stripes flies from the aft mast.  The ship’s commission pennant always flies from the forward mast.  When the ship is refueling, a red flag is flown from the forward mast on the port side.  When the ship is under way, a smaller-sized Stars and Stripes and the NOAA service flag are flown.  Our nation’s flag is always flown from the aft mast and the service flag is on the forward mast.  Other special flags are flown when certain VIPs come on board and are taken down when they leave.

TAS Peterson in her survival suit during an Abandon Ship drill. The wind was gusting up to 30 knots so we reported to our indoor donning stations.
TAS Peterson (right) in her survival suit during an Abandon Ship drill. The wind was gusting up to 30 knots so we reported to our indoor donning stations.

The ship’s radios are used for important voice communication.  The protocol is for the speaker to give the call sign (code) for the person to whom they are speaking, followed by their own identifying call sign. Communication via radio is very direct, in as clear language as possible, and never uses the civilian law-enforcement 10-code language.  To indicate that a person has received and will comply with a message, the response is “Roger.” These radio communications are very important on the RAINIER during the day when survey boats are working away from the ship on hydrographic surveying.  It is important for the boats and the ship to stay in touch for both safety and efficiency.

When survey boats are being lowered or raised to the ship or when the anchor is being raised crew members reinforce voice communication with specific hand signals as well. When launches (survey boats) are being raised and lowered a closed fist means “Stop!”  The index finger on a closed hand pointing up or down shows the direction for winches to move the boat. Different signals are used for operating the cranes on the bow and stern of the ship, using the thumbs, and different motions of the hands with either the index finger, or the first two fingers extended. It is important for all crewmembers to understand the signals and watch for them because machinery is sometimes noisy, making it hard to clearly hear voice commands.

It is very important for everyone on the ship to learn the bell signals that are used.  They are to alert the officers and crew to emergencies and they demand immediate responses.  Upon coming aboard the ship, each person is given a safety briefing and assigned emergency muster stations for response during drills and emergencies.  When the alarm bell rings (or the ship’s whistle sounds) 7 short and 1 long, followed by the announcement “Prepare to Abandon Ship” on the PA system, all personnel report immediately to their Abandon Ship stations wearing a jacket, long pants and a hat, and carrying their survival suit and whatever specific supplies have been put on the personal assignment.  At least once each cruise there is a drill when everyone dons their survival suits and checks whistles, zippers and lights to be sure they are working.

The Fire/Emergency signal is a continuous sounding of the ship’s bell (or whistle) for at least 10 seconds, followed by an announcement about the specific emergency.  All personnel must immediately report to their muster stations wearing their floatation (Mustang) coats.  The person in charge at a muster station accounts for each person and reports that all are or are not accounted for.  The radio is used to dispatch particular crews to their assigned Fire/Emergency responsibilities.  Dismissal is by 3 short whistle blasts or bells followed by the announcement “Secure from fire/emergency.”

Three long bells or whistle blasts followed by the announcement “Man Overboard, port/starboard side!” is the signal for all personnel to report to Man Overboard muster stations immediately.  This enables roll to be taken to identify who is missing and emergency recover procedures to be initiated. All of these signals, whether for drills or actual emergencies, are taken very seriously. Everyone practices the drills at least once per week so that the ship’s personnel can respond immediately with the least possible confusion.

The other two forms of communication used on the ship are posted notices and email messages.  Each person on the ship has an email account with a NOAA address.  The CO regularly posts bulletins of general interest such as the weather forecast, general orders, or information from fleet headquarters on policy and procedures.  Officers and crew use the email for interpersonal communications and it is also available for limited personal use. There are notices posted regularly on the ship’s bulletin boards that all personnel are responsible for reading. These include the Plan of the Day (POD: work schedule and assignments) and more general schedules such as hours the store and the dispensary are open. The menus for meals are posted in the mess and the movies being shown are listed each evening.

Each of these forms of communication is very important to the people aboard the RAINIER. It is impressive to see how well they work.  Nobody mumbles or takes shortcuts. I have not heard anyone answer “uhn-hunh” or “uhnt-unh” nor have I seen anyone respond to another person with headshakes or shrugs.

Personal Log 

Today the weather was windy and wet as a low pressure system passed over us.  The storm actually started last night and got pretty rough.  We were anchored in a sheltered bay so we didn’t get the worst of the winds.  Even so, there were gusts up to almost 60 knots. I woke up several times hearing the anchor chain rub loudly against the hull as the wind spun the ship around. The movement of the ship was pleasant to sleep to.

This seemed like a great morning to catch a nap as I had been up really late last night cleaning fish. I had just settled in to sleep when the Fire/Emergency bell sounded.  (At first I thought recess was over!) I jumped off my bunk, grabbed my coat and hat, and was half-way outside when they announced we should disregard the bell, there was no emergency.  About an hour later, the bell rang again and it was an F/E drill for real so I grabbed my Mustang coat and sped to my muster station on the fantail.  We were outside in the very fresh air for about 20 minutes while they accounted for all personnel and completed the steps of drill.

Just after lunch there was an Abandon Ship drill and we were told to report to our “indoor donning” areas to put on survival suits and check that all parts worked properly.  I struggled into my “Gumby” suit, stretched on my fleece hat, blew on my signaling whistle and flipped my strobe light on and off.  Everything worked fine.  Those suits are very warm when you are inside and I was really happy to take it off and repack it into its carrying bag.

Question of the Day 

What is the temperature of the water in degrees Fahrenheit in the Gulf of Alaska if the daily log reports it at 9.4˚Celsius?

Barney Peterson, August 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 22, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Wind direction:  light airs*
Wind speed:  light airs*
Seawater temperature: 11.1˚C
Sea level pressure: 1012.0
Cloud cover: cloudy

* “light airs” means there is little or no wind

A lead weight is fastened to the end of the bottom sampler.
A lead weight is fastened to the end of the bottom sampler.

Science and Technology Log 

The major reason for the hydrographic surveys that NOAA is doing is to produce very accurate charts so vessels can navigate safely in U.S. waters.  To add to the usefulness of the water depth information, survey teams also take bottom samples at selected locations.  The results of these samples allow mariners to know where they are most likely to find good bottom so their anchors will hold firmly when dropped.

Bottom sampling is much lower tech than the hydrographic surveys. It involves the computer only to record the information that is gathered.  Actual samples are taken by lowering a sampling device on a nylon rope.

The device works like a clamshell with two bowl-shaped halves that are attached and hinged at the top and scoop together and then hold the sample as it is retrieved from the bottom.  The halves are pried apart and set with a spring-loaded trigger that sticks down to the level of the edge of the open halves. When the sampler hits bottom, pressure against the trigger by the bottom surface makes the sides snap shut, hopefully scooping a sample of the bottom as they come together. To be sure that the sampler goes right to the bottom and is not dragged away from the target area by currents, there is a lead weight fastened to it just below where the rope is attached.

This looks and sounds simple, and usually it works every time.  However some kinds of materials scoop and hold more easily than others.  On some casts the sampler may not descend straight down so the trigger doesn’t strike hard enough to spring the sides closed.  Other times the bottom surface may just not scoop: rock size may be too large or the surface may be too hard.

Analyzing the bottom sample.
Analyzing the bottom sample.

After the operator thinks the sampler has struck bottom and sprung shut, it is raised, either by pulling up the line hand-over-hand, or by hooking the line into an electric winch.  As the sampler reaches the side of the survey boat, the operator grabs it and brings it on deck to hold it over a bucket while it is emptied.  Ideally, as the sampler is opened its contents rest firmly in the two halves. Sometimes the bottom material is runny mud or sand and gushes out through the operator’s hands as they open the sampler.  The sampler is always opened slowly to get the best results possible.

Once the bottom sample is visible, it is evaluated according to a rating sheet and characterized by description. Examples might be: “green sticky mud,” or “coarse black sand and broken shell.”  There is a chart that describes the texture of each particle type to help surveyors characterize them as uniformly as possible.  For example, “pebbles” means specifically very small rocks (less than 5 mm) that have been smoothed by the action of water and sand. Later, these characterizations are “cleaned up” into more exact terms and coded into the information on the survey sheets for each particular area.  As with depth measurements, each sample site is identified very accurately by GPS coordinates so that it will appear in exactly the right location on navigation charts.

Personal Log 

This evening the XO and I got a ride on the skiff (small, light boat) over to the shoreline south of our anchorage. It was a “wet” landing…meaning we jumped out into the water and waded ashore because the beach had such a gentle slope that the boat couldn’t get in any closer.

Crowberry, Fireweed, and Lupine grow abundantly at Mist Harbor.
Crowberry, Fireweed, and Lupine grow abundantly at Mist
Harbor.

We left our life jackets by a log on the narrow, rock beach and climbed up a steep bank about 20 feet to a field of beautiful wildflowers.  The whole area was covered with a heather-like plant called Crowberry that had lots of dark, purplish-blue berries.  Sticking up through that were blooming spikes of Fireweed and Lupine.  Mixed with those were the bright green of ferns, bright red bunchberries, and a shrub like our salal that I couldn’t find a name for.

Hiking across this “field” was much more difficult than it looked.  The ground beneath the thick vegetation was full of lumps and channels.  Root masses of the plants were raised a foot or more

from the rest of the surface so we had to pick our way carefully to avoid plunging into holes.  The ground felt soft and spongy, but it was not slippery.  We hiked across the narrow neck between our bay and Mist Harbor on the other side of the island.

Mist Harbor consists of a very sheltered body of water, protected from the open sea by a think finger of steep, rocky beach that almost totally walls it off.  There is a lot of seaweed and rocks are covered by barnacles and mussels.  Right above the rocky beaches there is very thick grass about 3 ••• to 4 feet tall that is very hard to get through. In many places the grass covers piles of old fishing nets, drift logs, ropes, floats, and other trash that has washed ashore over the years.

We hiked around the perimeter of the harbor as far as we could. There was an orange float out in the center that is supposed to be for a research project by the Fish and Wildlife Service out of Homer, Alaska.  On the southwest side of the bay we found Salmonberries growing on the cliff.  A little careful climbing earned us both a good handful to feast on. Yum!  These salmon berries have a little different leaf than the ones I know back home and the ripe berries are dark red instead of orange.  The flavor was the same.

As it started to get late, we hiked back and radioed to the ship for our skiff to come back and get us. On the way back across the land we spotted a small land mammal, probably a Pika.  It was the first land mammal I have seen in these islands because they are so far from the mainland that most creatures would not deliberately swim to get to them.  They look like they should be populated by bears, foxes, and goats, but actually they are havens for many kinds of birds.

Question of the Day 

What is the state flower for Alaska?

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 22, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Wind direction 270 o
Wind speed: 5.5 kts
Sea wave height 1-2’
Swell wave height 2’
Seawater temperature 19 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.4 mb
Cloud cover: 6/8, Cumulus, Cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve done 4 stations on our watch and that’s it for today because we’re heading back into port to exchange personnel. We expect to dock around 4 p.m. and then leave Wednesday morning around 11.

I went up to the bridge to get weather data today and came away again with a wealth of information from Captain Steve Wagner.  He explained the difference between sea waves and swell waves.  Swell waves are generated by distant weather systems and tend to have longer wavelengths. Sea waves are created by local winds – they’re more like chop.  There can be swells coming from different directions and this is the source, he said, of the belief among surfers that every third wave is a bigger wave.  If there are swells approaching a beach from two different directions, sometimes they’ll come together in constructive interference, resulting in a wave that’s larger than either and other times they’ll cancel each other out in destructive interference.  It may be every third wave that they come together or it may be every fifth wave or whatever.  They estimate the heights of the waves and the swells visually.  Seawater temperature is measured by a hull sensor.  Cloud cover is also measured visually by dividing the sky into 8th’s and estimating how many 8th’s are made up of clouds.  Visibility is measured visually as well but confirmed, if possible, by radar or land sightings. For instance, right now Martha’s Vineyard is visible and they know the distance to the island so that can help them come up with a visibility number. If they’re out at sea and there’s nothing to use as a marker and the horizon appears crisp, they post a 10-mile visibility.  They send all their weather data to the National Weather Service every 3 hours.  They have a book–the same one with the Beaufort Scale ratings–that has pictures of cloud formations, each with a number and letter to identify it so they can use that for their reports.

He also explained that when they’re estimating visibility, they have to take into account “height of eye” which is how far above the water they are when they’re looking out.  For Steve Wagner on this ship, it’s about 26 feet because the bridge is about 20 feet above the water and Steve himself is 6 feet tall.  That affects the visibility distance and there’s a formula they can use which takes the square root of height of eye and multiplies by 1.17 to correct the visibility figure.

We also discussed the fact that US offshore charts use fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet) while the charts of harbors, which have shallower water and so require greater resolution, use feet. Canadian charts use meters.  So a mariner has to be aware of what measurement the chart he’s looking at uses. He said the Spanish have their own fathom which is less than 6 feet.

I find it fascinating that there’s such a combination of information from high-tech sources like GPS and low-tech sources like the human eye used in piloting, navigation, and weather prediction.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I got very said news via email yesterday.  A woman who worked in the business office at my school and was an experienced horsewoman was killed in a riding accident.  The service was today. I’ll look for a sympathy card and send it to her family while we’re in port.

Alexa, Tamara, and I are going on a shopping trip to Falmouth.  I have a list of things to buy including a deck chair, if I can find one. No one here seems to object to the concept of deck chairs but there are only 3 on the whole ship and they’re in much demand.  If I can find a cheap, lightweight one in Falmouth, I’ll buy it and then just donate it to the ship when I leave, along with the book Cod by Mark Kurlansky which I finished and passed on to Jerry Prezioso and my cache of granola bars if there are any left (which there almost certainly will be).

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 21, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a beautiful day – clear and a bit blustery and the water is a beautiful deep blue.  We’re off the coast of Long Island, heading back towards Woods Hole where we’re expected to arrive about 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, spend the night there and exchange some personnel, and leave the next day to head north.  It’s been a very quiet watch – we had two stations in rapid succession starting about 2:30 a.m. and then had a long steam – for about 7 hours and then one more station.  So there’s been lots of free time to fill with reading, working on crossword and Sudoku puzzles, checking email, sunning on the bow, using the exercise equipment, etc.

Barney Peterson, August 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 21, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Wind direction:  light airs*
Wind speed:  light airs*
Seawater temperature: 11.1˚C
Sea level pressure: 1012.0
Cloud cover: cloudy

* “light airs” means there is little or no wind

Science and Technology Log 

I have now been out on the survey boats twice and am scheduled to go out again this afternoon. Each survey boat is set up a little differently and some work better in shallower depths than others. They use the same basic systems to create profiles of the ocean bottom.  The survey technicians and NOAA Corps officers have been great at explaining how their equipment works. On the hull (bottom) of each survey boat is a transducer, a device that sends and receives pulses of sound waves. As the sound waves strike the seabed they bounce back to the receiver. Those that come back soonest are those that bounce off objects closest to the sonar device.

However, as the sound waves are transmitted straight down into the water, they spread out from the transducer in a cone shape.  This means that waves on the outer edges of the cone normally travel farther before returning than do the ones that go straight down.  The waves that come back to the receiver first show the tops of objects that are closer to the boat. This works fine for objects straight down, but remember, the waves that are on the outside of the cone travel a little farther and take a little longer to reach things.  That means that they may strike against the tops of higher objects, but they will still take a little longer to return than echoes from objects of the same height that are directly under the receiver.

This is where the sophisticated software comes into translating the echoes that the transducer receives. When the survey boats begin work, and every four to six hours after that, the crew uses a device called a CTD to read the temperature and conductivity of the water all the way to the seabed under the boat.  Both temperature and chemical make-up of the water affect how fast sound waves can travel through it.  Knowing how fast the sound waves can be expected to travel helps the receiver understand whether echoes are  coming back from the tops of rocks (or fish, whales, shipwrecks, etc.), from straight down under the boat, or from the edges of the cone.

Screen shot 2013-04-08 at 4.16.45 PM

There are other considerations to analyzing the echoes too.  It is important to have information on the height of the waves and the swell of the water at the time readings are being made.  (Remember the sound waves are sent out from the bottom of the boat and the boat is floating on the top of the water.) This way the echo patterns analysis can take into account whether the boat is leaning a little to the right or left as it goes up or down with the swell of the water.  That lean affects the angle at which the beam is aimed to the seabed from the bottom of the boat.  The level of the sea surface changes with the tides, so the software also figures in the lowest level that probably will occur due to changes of tide. This is all linked to the time that surveys are made, (because tides change with the time of day, month, and year) the date and the exact geographical position for each bit of information is very important.  This depends upon satellite and GPS technology.

The transducers send out pings faster or slower (pulse rate) and with a stronger or weaker signal, depending upon how deep the water is in the main area of the survey.  The power is set higher for deeper water.  The cone of the beam spreads out wider in deeper water so the resolution, or focus, is not as great.  This is acceptable because objects that are hazards to navigation are generally sticking up from the bottom in shallower water.  (Something sticking up 2 meters from the bottom in water 50 meters deep would still be 48 meters below the surface at its highest point.  That same object in 10 meter water would only allow 8 meters of clearance for ships on the surface.)

There are many other considerations to using the sonar information for making good charts. Every day I have the opportunity to ask a few more questions and learn a little more about this technology.

Personal Log 

This evening I got to go out in a kayak with the XO.  We paddled away from the ship and followed the shoreline north around the island until we entered the next bay.  The waves were small, but sometimes there was a pretty good gust of wind so I really had to pay attention as I was getting used to the feel of the little boat.  About 100 yards from the ship a sudden gust caught my hat and took it off into the water.  We were not able to recover it. On the cliffs above the second bay we spotted Bald Eagles and gulls of several kinds.  One of the eagles was really concerned about what we were doing and either circled over us or sat on the high bluff and watched us the whole time we were in the area.  Its mate flew back and forth through the area calling to it as it watched us.

We were hoping to see a waterfall that we had heard came down the side into this bay, but we never did sight it. The shoreline was beautiful with steep rock walls or narrow rocky beaches and mountains rising right up from the edge.  The hillsides look like they would be smooth and easy to walk on, but the vegetation is actually thick, deep, brush and provides very uneven footing.

Our return to ship was much faster than the trip out because the wind was at our back and pushing us all the way.

Question of the Day 

How were most of the islands in the Aleutian Chain formed?

Barney Peterson, August 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 20, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Wind direction:  295˚ (true)
Wind speed:  10 Kts
Sea wave height: (not recorded)
Sea wave direction: (not recorded)
Seawater temperature: 9.4 ˚C
Sea level pressure:  1004.5 mb
Cloud cover: Partly Cloudy
Temperature  Dry: 15.6˚C Wet:  13.3˚C

CDR Guy Noll on the bridge of NOAA ship RAINIER.
CDR Guy Noll on the bridge of NOAA ship RAINIER.

Science and Technology Log 

It is extremely important for the officers and crew to understand how their ship works.  By understanding what happens when the engines are given a particular setting, or the rudder is moved a certain amount, those running the ship can move, steer, and stop with quite a lot of precision. The RAINIER is 231 feet long, 42 feet at its widest (beam) and displaces 1800 tons. If you think about the football games you may have seen, you can imagine what it looks like when a very large player is running down the field and tries to stop quickly:  his feet may freeze on the spot, but the force of his own moving weight keeps his body going for a ways. It is the pressure of his feet on the solid ground that helps him stop at all. Trying to stop the ship is like that, except that water is not solid and so provides less resistance to movement.  With nothing solid for the ship to push against it takes a while to lose speed and momentum.

Turning works much the same way.  Once the rudder is moved, the ship may begin to change direction, but its weight is still aimed the way it was originally going so there are no crisp rightangle turns. The officers on the bridge have to plan ahead so they begin their turn early and cut their speed when necessary to end up in the right spot at the right time. Out on the open ocean this is not often a big issue…there is lots of room to maneuver and turns are often just gentle bends in the line of travel.  Here, where we are working in the islands of the Alaskan Peninsula, distances between land masses are smaller, rocks and shoals are more common, and the depth sometimes changes quite a lot due to the way the land has been formed.  It becomes very important to be able to plan ahead and move carefully around obstacles while still keeping the ship safely in deep water.  Learning how carefully we have to steer helps me to understand how important the hydrographic mapping we are doing is.  We are helping to develop very accurate charts showing water depths to make navigation safer.

Personal Log 

I am really enjoying my time aboard the RAINIER.  Every morning seems to bring a new adventure. The weather has been remarkable, especially since higher winds and rougher seas have been forecast several times.  We have had three days of beautiful sunrises.  Two of those days had sunshine all day as well. Yesterday it got windy and there were showers and last night winds rose to 30 knots. Today it was sunny again with broken clouds and fairly light winds.  The crew says this is unusually good weather for this place at this time of year.  I am going to enjoy it while we have it.

Question of the Day 

What does it mean when I say that the ship has a displacement of 1800 tons?

Barney Peterson, August 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 19, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8 n.m.
Wind direction:  240° C
Wind speed:  8 knts
Seawater temperature: 10° C
Sea level pressure:  1012.3 mb
Cloud cover: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Friday I got to spend time on the bridge while the ship was moved from one anchorage to another less than a mile away.  The reason for the move was to anchor in a more protected spot as the forecast is for higher seas and stronger winds.  When weather readings are taken and data is sent, the ship also receives a forecast to help the captain plan for the safety of his vessel and crew. To know where to anchor the captain must understanding the geology and topography of the islands where we are working as well as knowing about the surface of the earth under the water.

Our first anchorage was chosen because the water was moderately deep and there was room for the ship to turn on the anchor chain as the wind and tides moved us.  The second anchorage was chosen because the prediction was for winds from the southwest.  We moved deeper into a bay surrounded by mountains between one and two thousand feet tall.  There was protection from the predicted winds and room for the ship to maneuver.

This diagram show the cone-shaped pattern that the chain will move in as the ship swings around at anchor.
The cone-shaped pattern that the chain will move in as the ship swings around at anchor.

We weighed anchor from our first anchorage. LT Evans took down the flags and the anchor ball (showing the anchor is down) was lowered. With one man working the winch and another carefully watching the anchor chain, the raising process was begun on a command from the bridge. Ensigns McGovern and Greenway were on duty along with Able Seaman Leslie Abramson.  Captain Noll was there to observe and I was invited up to watch by Executive Officer Julia Neander. The anchor was raised slowly and the chain fed into a locker under the deck in the bow of the ship. We gathered speed and moved to our new anchorage with Ensigns McGovern and Greenway using the ship’s radar to move us according to a predetermined route.

As we approached the new spot, the speed was cut, and finally the engines were reversed to stop us in just the right place.  While we were moving all personnel on the bridge watched attentively, sometimes with binoculars, for any indications of problems.  There was a large kelp bed to the starboard side of the anchorage, an indication of shallow water and rocks on the bottom.  This was something we needed to miss.

Finally the command was given to drop the anchor.  Ensign McGovern ordered that they release five “shots” of chain, thinking that this would reach bottom if the depth in this area was what they thought it would be. The survey boats had not covered this area, so charts did not show depths. A shot of chain is equal to 90 feet. At five shots the anchor had not yet settled on the bottom so McGovern ordered an additional five shots.  When eleven shots were out, we began moving the ship slowly with the engines to try and set the anchor. This would be apparent when the bow observer could see heavy tension on the chain and those aboard the ship should have felt a slight tug….we didn’t.

After trying several time, the captain determined that the anchor was not on a good surface and was dragging. This could be very dangerous if the wind rose as predicted because the bay we are in is fairly narrow and there would not have been much time to take action to keep the ship a safe distance from the shoreline.  The order was given to raise the anchor again.

As the chain came up we could smell the foul mud from the bottom.  Bits of mud and slime were caught in the links and had to be washed off with a hose and nozzle so the chain locker wouldn’t be dirty and smell awful.  The captain brought me a sample of the stuff…heavy gray-green-black clay with bits of shell and plants in it. (The smell reminded me of pulling my boots out of the middle of a swamp…rotting stuff!  I was happy to toss the mud overboard and wash off my hands.)

The captain picked another spot a few ship-lengths from this one and the ship was moved slowly.  Then anchor was lowered again with more than eleven shots of chain being released before the anchor settled on the bottom.  This time, as we gently powered up the engines the man on the bow called out “Light tension….Medium….Heavy and holding.”  At that point even I felt the slight dip that signaled that the anchor had set.

There is always someone on the bridge on watch, 24 hours a day.  If the anchor were to drag tonight, the watch would call the captain, waking him if necessary.  They would make a decision about what to do to keep the ship and crew safe.

Of course, once the anchor was down, the person in charge on the bridge had to calculate the distance the ship would move as it swung on the anchor with a chain eleven shots long.  There is a chart for this. The pattern is an inverted cone with the anchor being at the point and the bow of the ship at the circumference of the base of the cone.  (In real life the chain droops a bit from its own weight so the lines aren’t totally straight.)  It is important to calculate this carefully and to know that the water all the way around the cone is deep enough that the ship can swing without danger of striking any underwater objects such as rocks or sunken ships.

Question of the day: If the anchor chain is eleven shots long, how far is the ship above the ocean floor when the chain is extended straight up?

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 18, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I visited the bridge this morning and plan to go back again for another visit because there’s so much to learn there. There’s an amazing amount of equipment up there and Captain Steve Wagner made an attempt to explain some of it to me.  There are two radar units of different frequencies. The higher frequency unit is a 3 cm unit (I assume 3 cm is the wavelength) and has greater resolution so it can be used when entering harbors, for instance.  The other is a 10 cm unit that can cover a larger area.  They have to have two of every instrument in case one malfunctions.  They have the same program – NobelTec – as Jerry uses. It shows the charts for all the areas we are cruising through.  On the chart, our course is plotted and every station is marked with a square that becomes a star when you click on it. The ship appears as a little green, boat-shaped figure that the program calls the SS Minnow (after the boat in Gilligan’s Island).  The program can tell you the distance to the next station and the ETA (estimated time of arrival) as well as the time to reach the station.  You can zoom in or out and scroll around. It shows depths in fathoms.  The program works with a GPS unit to monitor position.  On another monitor, they get online weather information.  The site on the screen had a graphic which shows the area we’re heading into marked all over with the little icons used in weather maps to show wind speed and direction. It was easy to see the low-pressure system which I’d heard was weakening off the coast of South Carolina.  They also get weather data through a little machine called a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex), similar to a FAX, that prints out a continuous strip of paper about 4 inches wide and gives weather data for various segments of the coast, e.g., Fenwick Island to Cape Hatteras or Cape Hatteras to Murrells Inlet. The information comes from stations at several points along the coast.  The machine checks the accuracy as it prints out and gives an error rate at the top right.  If it’s too high, it stops and starts over. I can sympathize with Captain Wagner when he talks about how difficult it is to keep up with the new technology.  I feel the same way as a teacher. The big difference is that he has lives in his hands.  At the same time, he adds that the technology available makes his job much easier.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Dolphins…enough said. The most amazing thing is seeing a massive pod of dolphins riding the wake less than 25 feet directly below you.  Tamara, Karen, Barbara, Jerry and I all clambered around the bow of the deck desperately snapping photos and avoiding wet paint as we safely peered over the edge. ENS Chris Daniels spied several areas with dolphins and flying fish and quickly pointed every spot out as he tried many different ways to get our attention.

We did another EPA station, which we do every five stations.  A great many of the crew joined us after our shift to play a game of ‘Set’; there were about 8 people pulling, pushing, and looking either dazed or confused at the visual card game.  I’ve been learning a lot about life on the East Coast and oceanography from Carly Blair, URI graduate student, while she sunbathed outside on the Hurricane deck.  Many activities occur out on the Hurricane deck like exercising on several of the available machines, sunbathing, whale watching, etc. It’s good to know that we still have our fun after working shift.

The two people who I admire extremely at this point are Don Cobb and Jon Hare, both East Coast natives. They are so knowledgeable on every subject that arises and work probably more than 18 hours a day.  Don came out to teach Barbara and me the procedures for each test and he spent an extra shift answering all questions and supervising our actions. Jerry taught me most of the computer and paperwork, and I was pretty confused for a while. Later that night, I sat in with Jon as he ran everything.  Every step of the way, he’d pause and explain how the system works and how to operate it. It’s something I appreciate beyond words.

I can’t believe how many great people are concentrated into such a small area.  I just don’t want to head home soon.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I agree with Alexa – the dolphins were inspiring!  It’s amazing that they can swim faster than the ship – twice as fast, according to Jon.  I feel like I’m getting to know the people on the ship better and they’re an entertaining bunch.  They work so hard – Tim Monaghan just told us that someone figured out that a mariner works 7 years longer in a lifetime than an onshore worker because they work round the clock 7 days a week.  It makes my life seem awfully easy by comparison!

Barney Peterson, August 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 18, 2006

wet and dry bulb thermometer
Wet and dry bulb thermometer

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction:  220˚
Wind speed:  light 0 – 2 knots
Sea wave height: 0 – 1’
Seawater temperature: 9.4 ˚C
Sea level pressure:  1017 mb
Cloud cover: cloudy (8/8)

Science and Technology Log 

Wednesday I spent time on the bridge, observing what happens when the ship is traveling at sea. My classes at James Monroe Elementary have participated in the GLOBE program, acquiring and sending weather data daily to be used to form a picture of conditions around the world.  It was particularly interesting to me to learn that the crew of NOAA ships take much the same readings hourly and report them every 4 – 6 hours to the National Weather Service to help develop the predictions that help us all guide our day to day lives.  I was especially impressed that the readings I saw were made using traditional instruments, not an automated electronic weather device.

One of the people in the pilot house logs weather every hour on the hour. There is an outside station on the starboard wall of the pilot house.  This gives a temperature reading and allows them to calculate relative humidity.  That is the difference between how much moisture is in the air, and how much total moisture the air is capable of holding.  It may be expressed as a percentage, or decimal number. For hourly reporting, the relative humidity is not recorded and it is calculated automatically by when the “Big Weather” is submitted to National Weather Service.  Both temperature of the air and sea water are read in ˚Fahrenheit and converted to ˚Celsius for reporting.

An anemometer  measures wind speed.
An anemometer measures wind speed.

Wind speed is read from an anemometer mounted on the ship’s mast.  This reading is a bit trickier if we are under way. When the ship is moving, the ship’s speed is subtracted from the anemometer reading to give a corrected wind speed.  (Otherwise, the reading is like what you would get running while holding a pinwheel in front of you…much faster air movement than what is actually happening.) There is a wind vane mounted on the front of the ship and also an electronic gauge for reading wind direction.

The barometer (at left) is used for reading air pressure. It is located on the back wall of the pilot house and always gets a gentle tap before a reading is taken. This measurement is important because trends up or down in air pressure give clues to developing weather systems.  The pressure is recorded in milibars.  The ship’s barometer is shown at left. Some measurements involve using experience and personal judgment as well as instruments.  These are the ones for wave height, swell height, cloud cover amount, cloud height, and visibility. The accuracy of these readings depends upon the experience and care of the person making them.  The sea wave and swell can be estimated by careful observation, which seems to become second nature to the crew because they are exposed to them all the time.  They are recorded in feet.  The direction of the swell is always shown as the direction in which the swell is going. It can be measured using a device mounted on the deck outside the pilot house.

A barometer reads air pressure.
A barometer reads air pressure.

Cloud cover is measured in eighths.  The observer divides the sky, calculates by observation how many eighths of the sky are covered by clouds, and reports that fraction. Likewise, a person must be a careful observer to note the kind of clouds they are seeing and where they mostly appear in the sky. There is a cloud chart available that shows pictures of cloud types and tells the altitudes at which they are commonly formed.  This is a great help. (The cloud chart is shown at the right.) When there are low clouds, and there is land nearby, the observer can check the elevation of a point of land and judge the elevation of the lowest clouds as they appear against that point. Another measurement that may sometimes have to be an experienced estimate is visibility.  Again, if land is visible, the observer tells how far away she/he can clearly see according to landmarks and the distances on charts or the ship’s radar screens.  It is a lot harder to make this judgment when the ship is at sea, with no landmarks to help.  That is when experience is especially important.  One aid in this case is that the known distance to the horizon, due to the curvature of the earth, is eight nautical miles.  That means that if the observer can see clear to the horizon, visibility is at least 8nm.

This day I watched Able Bodied Seaman (AB) Jodi Edmond take weather readings and report “Big Weather” to the National Weather Service using the internet.

A cloud chart on the NOAA’s National Weather Service Web site.
A cloud chart on the NOAA’s National Weather Service Web site.

Personal Log 

I am running about a day behind writing and submitting my logs.  There is so much to do and see that I forget to spend enough time writing.  I am using the personal journals that my students gave me at the end of the school year to record my impressions and thoughts every evening.  Those act as memory-joggers when I sit down at the computer to do my formal writing.

Everyone aboard the RAINIER is very friendly and helpful.  I am still making a few wrongs turns or selecting the wrong stairs to get to where I need to go. The officers and crew are great about pointing me in the right direction and giving me clues to help me remember how to find where I need to be when.

Every afternoon the orders for the next day are posted in several spots throughout the ship.  These list the survey boats that will be going out, and their crews and assignments.  The list also tells about responsibilities on board ship…both for the officers and the crew.  These are called the Plan of the Day (POD) and are important for everyone to read when they are posted.

Question of the Day 

How is wind direction normally reported: do we tell the direction from which the wind comes, or the direction toward which it is blowing?

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 17, 2006

Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.
Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.

Science and Technology Log 

0200–I made it up for our watch and helped Alexa with the first plankton tow.  She’s already like a pro.  They call the sampling device “bongos,” I guess because it consists of two big stainless steel open-ended shallow cylinders which look somewhat like bongo drums to which are attached the two long, conical plankton nets. The mesh openings are 335 μm. They’re towed for about 5 minutes.  This time they also did two baby bongos which are for a University of Connecticut researcher who wants to look at the genetics of plankton on either side of the edge of the continental shelf. Jerry tells me this apparatus is considered to be superior to the old plankton nets which were towed from a bridle because it was thought the bridle scared away some plankton that were mobile enough to avoid it.  Now the bridle is between the two nets which act to balance one another out and give a two-for-one sample.  They use one for zooplankton and one for fish larvae.  The samples are sent to Poland where they’re sorted and it takes almost a year to get the data back.  The bongos are attached to a big boom which is operated from the winch booth which sits above the aft deck.  They’re lowered over the port side and the ship is maneuvered so the wind is coming toward the port side so that the ship doesn’t get blown over the nets.  Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps with the sampling, points out that in rough weather, that also means that the seas are coming over the port side as you’re working.  He says they’ve been out when the seas are breaking over the bow and over the entire superstructure onto the aft deck!

Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso explained the sampling track to me.  They have the entire sampling area from the North almost up to the Bay of Fundy south to Hatter divided into what they call “strata” which are areas of continuous depth readings.  Each one is numbered and for each sampling trip (4, sometimes 5, per year), the computer randomly generates several stations within that stratum. From what he says, there has been a lot of discussion of the best way to sample to get a complete and accurate picture.  The original program was called MarMap which was started in the 70’s.  It used a grid pattern and sampled at the same stations every time.  The criticism of that was that some areas never got sampled so significant information could have been missed.

We’ve had an extremely busy shift.  We’re in an area off of Delaware Bay where “gliders” have been deployed. They are instruments that look like torpedoes and are programmed to work autonomously, moving back and forth across this area at varying depths and sending out data on salinity. John Hare is using that data to decide where we’ll do stations that will help to delimit the line between shelf water and slope water.  So we’ve done a number of stations in rapid succession.

We’ve also been testing a VPR, Video Plankton Recorder, which uses a camera and rotating strobe light to take pictures of plankton. The VPR takes as many as 20 pictures per second. A computer program then selects the images that can be identified.  The VPR would be used to supplement the bongos.  It reveals the depth at which the particular organisms occur which can’t be determined from the bongo samples.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I’m relieved that my seasickness has passed.  I’m still finding that life at sea is somewhat of a challenge for me.  But I do like sleeping on a rocking ship.  I’m surprised by how much I miss my family – it’s different only being in touch by email and not being able to hear their voices.  I’m enjoying getting to know the various people on the ship – everyone is so kind and they all have such interesting backgrounds.  It’s such a different life that people live at sea! I’m impressed by the dedication of the scientists – they are serious about getting every station right, in spite of having done the procedure over and over again for years. Not only the scientists, but also Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps us get the equipment over the side and back in again, is meticulous about never missing a step.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tamara, Karen and I interviewed Ensign Chad Meckley about his career path in NOAA corps. After coming out of the Merchant Marine Academy and completing BOTC training (a two-year course packed into four months), Meckley has begun working on the ALBATROSS IV to complete his sea-experience requirement . He describes his BOTC training as similar to drinking through a fire hose.

Karen and I are so lucky to come aboard to such a great crew.  I finally know everyone’s names and I believe most know mine.  Originally, I was quite scared of what this experience might be like because I know very little about the macro/micro organisms which we are observing. Secondly, I’ve never been to the East Coast before nor flown on a plane by myself for close to 10 hours. I miss my family quite a lot; I’d never really been this far away nor for such a long period of time.  Being completely out of contact for a week or more is quite difficult, but I know I’ll see them soon.  Fortunately, I’ve been adopted by a whole new family aboard ship just like at ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) last May.

The crew and scientists aboard are amazing!  There’s so much to learn, not just from the scientists, but the officers and crew.  These men and women have hands-on experience with a huge variety of subjects. I’m getting to learn from top field-experts in ways textbooks cannot convey.  Additionally, I’m improving my understanding of science, technology, engineering, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Everything is going smoothly with the weather, especially because it’s hurricane season.  There are beautiful sunsets and sunrises.  It’s just a great overall experience, something that no one should pass up. I get back on the 2nd of September, drive another 6 hours home, and then have one day off before school but, it’s all worth it.  I’ve been requested to interview as many of the officers, crew and scientists as possible in the allotted time.  During the work shift, I found I can handle several of the procedures alone, though I’m constantly afraid of making a mistake.  So far, I’ve heard I’m the youngest to ever sail aboard so I’m attempting to learn quickly and earn my keep.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

13:47 — I’ve lost the past day to seasickness. All the other visitors/females on board have also been sick except for Alexa who is amazing.  We are on the midnight to noon shift with Jerry. I missed the whole shift but Alexa worked the whole shift.  Barbara and Carly are barely functioning. Tamara and I are still hurting.  Everyone is very kind and encouraging. Think I’ll head back to bed for now.

 

Candice Autry, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Candice Autry
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 7 – 18, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 16, 2006

“Experiences on the Fast Rescue Boat” 

TAS Candice Autry prepares to use the CTD instrument which collects water information related to conductivity, temperature, and depth.
Candice Autry prepares to use the CTD instrument which collects water information related to conductivity, temperature, and depth.

Science and Technology Log 

Today I had the opportunity to go out on the Fast Rescue Boat (FRB) to use the conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) instrument in various places in the harbor.  The CTD looks like a simple white tube; however, the capabilities of the CTD are far from simple!  This devise provides essential data for scientists. Three of us boarded the small FRB, loaded the CTD, and were off to our locations. The first observation noted is that being on the fast rescue boat is a different boating experience compared to the launches and the THOMAS JEFFERSON. The “fast” part of the description is fitting; the boat moves quickly!  The main function of the CTD is to collect data about how the conductivity and temperature of water changes relative to depth. Conductivity and temperature information is important because the concentration of the salt of the seawater can be determined by these two changing variables.

Candice Autry holds the CTD instrument. We collected information from three locations; once in the morning and then again in the afternoon.
Candice Autry holds the CTD instrument. We collected information from three locations; once in the morning and then again in the afternoon.

The CTD devise can also help surveyors determine the speed of sound in the water. The information from the CTD is used in conjunction with multi-beam sonar providing accurate data about the depths of obstructions on the seafloor. The metal frame seen in the picture on the outside of the mechanism is called a rosette.  We attached a rope to the rosette of the CTD, turned it on to collect data, held the devise in the water for two minutes for adjustment, then lowered the instrument down to the bottom of the seafloor. Once the CTD hits the bottom of the seafloor, the rope is pulled back up, the devise is put back into the fast rescue boat, turned off, and it is off to the next location to collect data.  We deployed the CTD in three different locations in the morning and three different locations in the afternoon. At each place where data collection occurred, the location was recorded by using a global positioning system.  Back on the THOMAS JEFFERSON, the information that the CTD collected is downloaded to a computer where specialized software is used to understand the data.

Personal Log 

All of the experiences on the THOMAS JEFFERSON have been interesting and fun.  Tomorrow I will be helping some of the crew on the deck of the ship.  Exposure to saltwater often causes rust to occur; a ship requires constant maintenance!  I am also realizing that this adventure will be over soon, with less than two days left. Until tomorrow…..

A closer view of the CTD.
A closer view of the CTD.
Senior Surveyor Peter Lewit shares the chart used as a guide for the launches to collect data. The red lines in the white area of the chart represent the paths the launches took to collect data using side scan sonar and multi-beam sonar technologies.
Surveyor Peter Lewit shares the chart used to collect data. The red lines in the white area represent the paths the launches took.

Barney Peterson, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 16, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 234˚
Wind speed: 0 – 3 knots
Sea wave height: 1’
Seawater temperature: 11.7˚C
Sea level pressure: 1011.8 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8 Height: 2000 -3000’ Type: Stratus

My first view of the NOAA ship RAINIER at the dock in Seward, AK.
My first view of the NOAA ship RAINIER at the dock in Seward, AK.

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday I spent time in the Plot Room learning about the technology used to survey the surface of the earth underneath the ocean (bathymetry).  For each survey the computers must  have accurate, real-time information about the behavior of the ship on the sea surface (pitch, roll, speed) because all of this can affect the accuracy of sonar readings.  The sonar (sound waves) is beamed from the bottom of the survey vessel and spreads out in a cone shape to the undersea surface. Bottom features that stick up closer to the sea surface reflect sonar waves and return echoes sooner so they show up as more shallow spots.  Echoes from deeper places take longer to return, showing that the bottom is farther away at those places.

The data from each day’s survey is downloaded into computers in the Plot Room.  Survey technicians review the data line by line to be sure it all fits together and to “clean up” any information that is questionable.  They use information about the temperature and conductivity of the water where the survey was taken to understand how fast the sonar waves should be expected to travel. (This information is critical for accuracy and is collected every 4 to 6 hours by a device called the CTD.  The CTD is lowered from the ship and takes readings at specified depths on its way down through the water.)

Ensign Megan McGovern and crew partner in full firefighting bunker gear for our first Fire/Emergency Drill.
Ensign Megan McGovern and crew partner in full firefighting bunker gear for our first Fire/Emergency Drill.

When survey work is in deep water, it is done from the ship using equipment that can cover a wider area in less detail.  The launches are used for shallow water work where it is more important to navigation to have finer detail information on water depths and underwater features of the earth surface. Bonnie Johnston, a survey technician, spent about an hour explaining how the system works and showing me how they clean up data before it is sent off for the next stage of review, on its way to becoming part of a navigational chart.  Computers used have two screens so survey technicians can see a whole survey line of data and look closely at information on tiny spots at the same time without losing their place on the big screen.  This helps to judge whether changes of depth are accurate according to trends on the sea bottom, or spikes that show an error in the echoes received by the sonar. The software also allows them to see data as 2-D, 3-D, color models, and to layer information to give more complete pictures.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to begin our actual survey work in the Shumagin Islands.  In between making new surveys the technicians are kept very busy working with the data they have on hand. There are many steps to go through to insure accuracy before data is ready to use for charts.

This is the 4.5 foot dogfish shark caught by a crewmember.  This shark has no teeth even though it looked ferocious.  released it after taking pictures.
This is the 4.5 foot dogfish shark caught by a crewmember. This shark has no teeth even though it looked ferocious. released it after taking pictures.

Personal Log 

My first two days aboard the RAINIER have been a swirl of new faces and places.  The only name I knew for sure before I arrived was Lt. Ben Evans who had exchanged email with me about the gear I would need. I was met at the Seward RR station by and welcomed onto the ship by Ensign Megan McGovern.  She gave me a quick tour of the ship, including where to put my gear. I felt like a mouse in a maze: up and down steps, around blind corners, and through doorways. It has been much easier so far to find my way than I thought it would be.  Reading books that use nautical terms has helped give me a background to understand port, starboard, fore, aft, head, galley, bridge, fantail, and flying bridge. Now I just need to remember where they all are.

Monday was taken up with a safety briefing, checking out equipment such as my flotation coat, personal flotation device (life jacket) for use in survey boats, hard hat, and immersion suit.  I spent several hours reading Standing Orders that all persons aboard must read before being allowed to stay. I talked with the medical officer, and discovered where to eat and the times meals are served. Tuesday we had a Fire/Emergency Drill at about 1030 (10:30 am) for which I reported as fast as I could to my assigned station on the fantail.  We were checked off on a list and some crew members practiced with fire fighting equipment.

Just as we finished that drill, the Executive Officer called an Abandon Ship Drill.  Everyone rushed to quarters to get immersion suits, hats and any assigned emergency gear before reporting to muster stations.  Again we were checked off and all accounted for before anyone could return to what they were doing before. These drills are an important part of shipboard life. They are required once a week and always within 24 hours of the ship sailing from port.

I am sleeping and eating well.  The food is like camp and so are the bunk beds.  So far I have seen lots of salmon: the stream in Seward was full of migrating Coho (silvers); the sea at Twin Bays was alive with jumping Pinks. Monday night one crew member, fishing from the fantail while we were anchored, caught and released a 4.5’ dogfish (shark).  The next day someone caught an 8 lb. silver.  There are sea lions, otters, gulls, eagles, puffins and dolphins to watch. I hate to close my eyes to sleep because I know I will miss seeing something wonderful.

Question of the Day 

What is the speed of sound through air?  Does sound travel faster or slower through water?

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We’re still at the dock in Woods Hole.  NOAA inspectors delayed the ALBATROSS IV’s departure for a day. We’re due to leave at 2 p.m. today.  Weather is overcast and windy.

The science crew consists of Jerry Prezioso, Chief Scientist, who is from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service; Jon Hare, also of NMFS; Don Cobb of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Barbara Sherman, who is a secretary at EPA in Narragansett and is out for a week as a volunteer; Carly Blair, a graduate student from URI; Alexa Carey, a student from Gold Beach, OR; Tamara Brown, a middle school teacher from Teaneck, NJ; and me.  I’ve met most but not all of the ship’s crew.  There are three NOAA Corps officers: Ensign Chad Meckley, Ensign Chris Daniels and Ensign Chris Skapin. We learned that the NOAA Corps is the seventh branch of the uniformed services, responsible for operating NOAA’s ships and planes.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail
Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail

The plan is to cruise south, perhaps as far as Cape Hatteras.  NMFS will be doing plankton tows and testing a video camera for surveying plankton.  EPA is taking water samples to test for a variety of nutrients and sediment samples to test for heavy metals and benthic organisms.  We’ll come back to WH on 8/23 to exchange personnel and then head north up to the Gulf of Maine and possibly as far as the Bay of Fundy near Nova Scotia, Canada.

Candice Autry, August 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Candice Autry
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 7 – 18, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 15, 2006

Crew members prepare the launches to collect data using side-scan and multi-beam sonar
Crew members prepare the launches to collect data using side-scan and multi-beam sonar

Weather 
AM: SW winds 15-20 knots, Seas 1-2 feet
PM: W winds 10-15 knots, Seas 1-2 feet  Chance of showers

Science and Technology Log: Data Collection Begins! 

We have made it to our destination after a thirty-hour journey. It is exciting to get started with data collection, I am curious what is on the bottom of a busy harbor.  After a brief safety meeting that kicks off the morning, we prepare to go out on the launches to begin the process of making a chart that will provide information about obstructions in navigable waters. The teamwork of the crew of the THOMAS JEFFERSON is inspiring to watch, each with a specific duty communicating and working together so that launches are safely deployed.  Today two launches will collect data using side-scan sonar and multi-beam sonar technologies.

The launch is ready to start collecting data. Typically, a launch has a driver, another person to look out for water traffic, and a surveyor who observes the data being collected and who manipulates the computers connected to the "fish" below the launch.
The launch is ready to collect data. Typically, a launch has a driver, a person to look out for water traffic, and a surveyor who observes the data being collected and manipulates the computers connected to the “fish” below the launch.
Bernard Pooser behind the wheel of the launch. The route he drives in the harbor is very specific, and he must follow careful ‘driving lines’ that the surveyor also sees on one of the four computer screens inside of the launch.  This job is much easier said than done, a real challenge!
Bernard Pooser driving the launch in the harbor. The route is very specific and he must follow careful ‘driving lines’ that the surveyor also sees on one of the four computer screens inside of the launch. This job is much easier said than done!
Senior Surveyor Peter Lewit prepares to collect data utilizing side scan sonar. Side-scan sonar provides a picture that shows light and dark images that provide high-resolution images of obstructions on the seafloor.
Senior Surveyor Peter Lewit prepares to collect side scan sonar data, which provides light and dark high-resolution images of obstructions on the seafloor.

The launch I am on today utilizes side-scan sonar, which incorporates sound navigation and ranging that is used for searching for objects on the seafloor. This technology transmits sound energy, which sends a beam from the “fish” (the instrument underneath the launch) that bounces off the seafloor and other objects. Once the sound energy hits the floor, it then bounces back to the fish in the form of an echo. These beams are sent in a fan-shaped pattern that sweeps the seafloor from underneath the launch to approximately 75 meters from either side of the boat (although distances can reach 100 meters).  The strength of the echo is recorded as a “picture” that can be seen on a computer screen.  If there is an object on the bottom of the seafloor, such as a protrusion, the return signal will be strong and will create a dark image on the screen.  If the return signal has a weak return, then the image on the computer will look light.  A tire on the seafloor, or a barge that has sunk is easily seen and depicted! These images are fascinating.

Surveyor Doug Wood observes computer screens where data is being collected. The green triangle is showing multi-beam sonar data.
Surveyor Doug Wood observes computers where data is being collected.

The benefit of side-scan sonar allows for high-resolution of what is on the seafloor. The only drawback of side-scan sonar technology is that the depth of these obstructions cannot be ascertained. Determining the depth of an obstruction is where multi-beam sonar is applied.  Multi-beam sonar utilizes fan-shaped sonar that records depths.  This is done by recording the time it takes for the acoustic signal to travel from the receiver to the seafloor (or object on the seafloor) back to the receiver. The receiver is often referred to as a transducer. The multi-beam sonar transducer is attached underneath the launch.  The combination of side scan sonar and multi-beam sonar create for specific data that can be shared so that navigable waters are safe.

Personal Log: “I have my sea legs!” 

I must admit I was a bit nervous about being seasick!  Our thirty-hour journey was difficult for me for only about three hours, right at the beginning of the trip.  I am very happy for a short experience with seasickness! After getting my sea legs, it is interesting to realize that one can adapt quickly. Often I felt like I was being rocked to sleep as we made our way to our destination through the waves of the ocean. After being on a ship for a couple of days, experiencing land is an interesting sensation. I missed moving around on water and felt as if I were on water even though I was on land! I do not really miss being on land at all.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Candice Autry, enjoys pudding while taking a break from observing data collection using side-scan sonar. The Statue of Liberty is in the background!
Candice Autry, enjoys pudding while taking a break from observing data collection. The Statue of Liberty is in the background!

Candice Autry, August 7-12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Candice Autry
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 7 – 18, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 7 -12, 2006

“Ships have many pieces of complicated equipment!” 

The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON awaits a necessary part for the crane that lifts the fast rescue boat, then we set sail
The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON awaits a part for the crane that lifts the fast rescue boat, then we set sail

Personal Log 

Hello, greetings from Teacher at Sea Candice Autry.  I teach science to middle school students at a wonderful school called Sheridan School in Washington, DC.  I have been given the great opportunity to sail with the crew on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. Our cruise has been delayed several days due to unforeseen problems with some of the complex and necessary equipment on the ship.  It is important to be flexible with any kind of change, so these past few days have given me the opportunity to explore the ship as we wait for final repairs. The objectives of this particular ship primarily involve hydrographic surveys.  Hydrography is the science that has to do with measuring and describing physical characteristics of bodies of water and the shore areas close to land. Thanks to hydrographic surveys, ships, ferries, pleasure boats, and other vessels can safely navigate in busy waters without hitting any obstructions on the bottom of a harbor.

A functioning crane on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON lifts the necessary fast rescue boat (FRB) aboard.
A crane lifts the necessary fast rescue boat aboard.

Hydrographic surveys can also locate submerged wrecks in deep waters; examples include unfortunate events such as shipwrecks out at sea as well as plane crashes over the ocean. These surveys are done by using technology that involves side scan sonar and multi-beam sonar technology. The combination of these two types of technologies can create a clear picture of a barrier on the ocean floor and the depth of the obstruction.

The THOMAS JEFFERSON holds several smaller boats including two launches (one launch is visible in the picture, it is the gray boat) that have this sonar technology located underneath the vessel. The instrument that collects data is often called a “fish.”  The data can be seen on a computer screen so that the surveyors can view the data being collected.  Once we reach our destination, we will use these launches, one equipped with a fish that uses multi-beam sonar technology and the other with a fish that uses side scan sonar to create a chart of what is on the bottom of a very busy harbor!

Seaman Surveyors Doug Wood and Peter Lewit interpret hydrographic data in the survey room
Seaman Surveyors Doug Wood and Peter Lewit interpret hydrographic data in the survey room
Staterooms are comfortable and cozy!
Staterooms are comfortable and cozy!
One of the workrooms aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
One of the workrooms aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
 A closer look at the navigational equipment on the bridge
A closer look at the navigational equipment on the bridge

Jacquelyn Hams, August 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jacquelyn Hams, and ENS Olivia Hauser on board NOAA ship RAINIER
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jacquelyn Hams, and ENS Olivia Hauser on board NOAA ship RAINIER

Personal Log 

Our sail is coming to an end and I can truly say that I will take what I learned back to the classroom.  The navigation part of the Oceanography class I teach will be based on skills I learned from navigators aboard the RAINIER. My thanks go to ENS Sam Greenaway, RAINIER Navigation Officer who began answering questions and helping me the first day at sea.  I would also like to extend special thanks to ENS Nathan Eldridge, RAINIER Junior Officer, for his assistance in plotting courses and letting me use his personal navigation instruments. A note to my students: Do not attempt to contact these officers for assistance.  They are probably busy at sea again!

On this cruise, I gained knowledge from unsuspected sources which is always a sign of a good educational experience. Umeko Foster, a Cal Maritime Intern aboard the RAINIER, taught me to not just to use a sextant, but how to read the degrees and minutes properly! Matt Boles took the time to make sure that I had a portion of a chart that could be used in the classroom as a teaching tool. Matt’s video interview will be added to this website in the future.

A lot of people work hard to make sure the ship functions properly. The cooks, survey technicians, engineering crew, and deck crew knew my name and made me feel at home. Many of them have been interviewed and videotaped in my logs.  ENS Olivia Hauser, RAINIER Junior Officer, allowed me to room with her for this leg of the cruise.  I can’t say enough good things about her personality and adaptability.  There is a good reason that she is Morale Officer aboard the RAINIER.

So here is my Top 10 List of things to know about the NOAA Ship RAINIER.

Number 10:  You can always find someone to eat ice cream with – even in the middle of the night.

Number 9:  If someone on the ship says he or she caught a fish “this big” believe them.  I have pictures.

Number 8:  You have to be a seasoned crewmember to understand what is being said over the ship’s PA system.

Number 7:  Mandatory drills seem to occur following afternoon breaks.  Afternoon breaks always include yummy treats prepared by the cooking staff.  Coincidence – I think not!

Number 6:  If your room is opposite the fan room, beware.  Someone checks it every hour and during the night it sounds like the door to your room is opening and closing and then you hear the footsteps walking down the hall.  It’s really creepy until you get used to it!

Number 5:  If the PA system goes off twice a day, and you hear a loud groan or grunt into the microphone, the Ship’s Store is open.

Number 4:  Never get instructions in tying knots from more than one person on the ship.

Number 3:  Always get to dinner early if you want pie or cake.

Number 2:  If you hear bells, are told to report to the fantail or get in a survey boat, grab a float coat. Almost everything you do on the RAINIER requires wearing a float coat.

Number 1:  This is the number one thing I learned aboard the RAINIER, about ships and ocean voyages in general, that will stay with me forever.  It is really difficult to spot a person in the water – even with binoculars on the bridge.  I vow to wear bright colors and carry a loud horn when sailing in the future.

My Top 10 list contains a little inside humor, but I am very serious in thanking the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for selecting me, and the crew of the RAINIER for hosting my cruise.

Kim Wolke, August 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 10, 2006

Seal Rocks are a group of islets.  The largest stands at 287 feet and has an arch through it.
Seal Rocks are a group of islets. The largest stands at 287 feet and has an arch through it.

Final Log 

We’re about three hours from arriving in Seward. I’m looking forward to being on land again. Although I’ve enjoyed my time on the RAINIER, I can say that ship life is not a way of life for me. ☺  As we make our approach to Resurrection Bay, there’s some beautiful scenery and lots of little islets are popping up. It’s as if we’re being greeted by them.  It also serves as a sign for me that land is near.

I’ve been quite impressed at how well things run aboard the ship.  Everyone is very hard working—the deckhands, the engineers, the electrician, the cooks, the hydrographic technicians, and the officers. People are where they need to be when they need to be there. Many of the people have crazy schedules, even when we’re anchored. There are always people awake and working in some capacity 24/7 on the ship. Engineers need to be on watch in the engine room food preparation for the day and don’t finish until about 7pm!  Even when we dock in Seward in a few days, people will still be working to maintain and secure the ship.

Deckhands aboard NOAA ship RAINIER prepare the lines for our arrival in Seward, AK
Deckhands aboard NOAA ship RAINIER prepare the lines for our arrival in Seward, AK

I’d like to thank NOAA for providing me the opportunity to be a Teacher at Sea.  It has been a wonderful experience that I will be taking back to my classroom and my colleagues. I am especially thankful to the officers and crew of the RAINIER for being so open, friendly, welcoming, accommodating, and helpful. They all made the time on board a pleasure. I learned a tremendous amount from them.  They were all very giving of their time, even when they were busy and tired.

I’ve met great people these past few weeks.  I’ve had many laughs and excellent conversations along the way. Everyone I’ve had the opportunity to talk with and get to know has such interesting stories to tell about themselves, their travels, and life in general. Some of them are very good storytellers and instigators (no names mentioned Dennis Brooks). There is such a variety of walks of life on the ship.  I feel lucky to have gotten to be a part of their world for this short time.  When we get to Seward, some of the crew will be leaving the RAINIER for new jobs and life endeavors.  I wish them the best.  To all aboard the RAINIER, I wish safe travels.

Jacquelyn Hams, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 9, 2006

ENS Meghan McGovern on left, and ENS Olivia Hauser on right, RAINIER Junior Officers, looking at unmarked buoy sighted by officers on bridge of the RAINIER
ENS Meghan McGovern and ENS Olivia Hauser, Jr Officers, looking at unmarked buoy sighted on the bridge

Weather 
Weather: Foggy, cloudy
Visibility: 1.5 nm
Wind direction: 130
Wind speed: 6 knots
Swell Waves direction: 260
Swell height: 1-2 ft
Seawater temperature: 11.7 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1014,9 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 12.8 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 12.2 degrees C

Personal Log 

I continue to work on activities that can be incorporated into my classes.  The RAINIER is underway to Seward, Alaska. There is some excitement on the bridge after lunch, when an unmarked buoy is sighted on the port side of the ship. Several officers come to the bridge to observe and the buoy is marked on the chart.  As it turns out, this is not a “find” and was updated on the Notice to Mariners put out by NOAA.

After dinner, fog moves in and the RAINIER sounds the fog horn.  As a sailor, I don’t like fog. I am comforted by the fact that I am aboard a large ship with good radar system to detect approaching ships. The fog begins to lift a little and the last day of the cruise, like the first day, is marked by seeing humpback whales.

If this had truly been a “find”, the buoy would have been penciled in and added by NOAA.
If this had truly been a “find”, the buoy would have been penciled in and added by NOAA.

Linda Depro, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 9, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

The dredge caught a monster lobster today.  The scientists seemed to think it was more than twenty years old. When held up it was the size of an adult’s length from shoulders to knees, and two hands were needed to hold it!  A spiny dogfish (looks like a shark) was also caught. I held it to have my picture taken and I plan to hang it on my classroom door! Otherwise the catches were the usual—some with lots of rocks, some with sand, others with many star fish or skates.  All these fantastic sea creatures that I have only seen in books have become part of my life here on board the ALBATROSS IV.  The star fish and hermit crabs are my favorites, skates are cool to look at and pick up by the tail and put in the bucket, goosefish (known as monk fish in the grocery store) have a face that “only a mother could love”, and the scallops, even though I’ve seen thousands of them are each a little different.

Personal Log 

Sunset was beautiful again tonight and the moon is spectacular.  With my binoculars the craters were very clear. A lone seagull followed us for a while; his white body against the black sky would have inspired me to write a poem if I were a poet.  Hard to believe the adventure is coming to an end, and what an adventure it was.  The crew has been super, very kind, and willing to talk and answer questions.  The scientists have an important job collecting and recording data; they are an interesting group to work with.  Thanks to all for making my time on the ALBATROSS IV the adventure of a lifetime.

Kim Wolke, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 9, 2006

Weather from the Bridge
Skies:
Cloudy (CL)
Visibility:
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
Waves:
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

Port-side engine on the NOAA ship RAINIER
Port-side engine on the NOAA ship RAINIER

Science and Technology Log

Since I’ve been aboard the RAINIER, I’ve wondered how the ship has been able to go for so long on fuel and water given that we are at sea for 19 days.  I also wanted to know what happens to all of the sewage we’ve been creating. I spoke with 1st Assistant Engineer Glen Quintino and General Vessel Assistants (GVA) Chris Zacharias and Milton Ellison from the Engineering Department to find out.  There are 2 engines on the ship, one on the starboard side and one on the port side. The engines run on diesel fuel.  There are 26 diesel fuel tanks on the ship with a total capacity of approximately 114,000 gallons.  Since there’s a lot of added weight from the fuel, as it’s used, the fuel needs to be moved around from tank to tank to keep the weight evenly distributed. Although the RAINIER does not use all of the fuel on a leg as long as this one, they do re-fuel when they get into port.

One of the two evaporators on the NOAA ship RAINIER which processes salt water into fresh water
One of the two evaporators on the NOAA ship RAINIER which processes salt water into fresh water

Fresh water is made on board the ship.  There are two water tanks, each with a capacity of about 8000 gallons. Salt water is pumped into the ship from below and heated to a very high temperature in the evaporator in order to evaporate the water and leave the solid salt behind. Once the salt is removed and disposed of, the desalinated water is then further purified by the addition of bromine and used as fresh water on the ship for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  I’ve been drinking it since I arrived and it’s great!  The toilets do not use freshwater; they use salt water to flush everything out.  Any of the sewage waste created aboard the ship is also treated. The sewage is literally electrocuted using a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD).  Between the salt in the sewage water and the electricity, sodium hypochloride (essentially chlorine) is created.  The treated sewage is placed in a holding tank and then pumped into the sea.

The Marine sanitation Device (MSD) which treats the sewage produced aboard the NOAA ship RAINIER
The Marine sanitation Device (MSD) which treats the sewage produced aboard the NOAA ship RAINIER

Who’s Who On the RAINIER? 

In the Engineering Department, the 1st Assistant Engineer is Glen Quintino.  Currently a resident of Seattle, WA, Glen is originally from California.  He has been with NOAA for six years, first working on the NOAA Ship McARTHUR before joining the RAINIER.  Glen went to a trade school in Denmark to study being a machinist.  He then worked for a company that made non-ferrous propellers, oil filters, and ship windows before joining NOAA in 1998. Glen was recently married in February 2006.

Engineering GVA Chris Zacharias and GVA Milton Ellison were both in the Navy in their former lives, each for 10 years. Chris is from Kansas where he still resides with his wife. Milton is originally from Tennessee, however, his residence is currently Michigan where his wife’s family is from.  Milton has been with NOAA and on the RAINIER for 4 months.  His prior experience was working in Engineering on commercial vessels in the Great Lakes area.

Many of the crewmembers, like Glen, Chris, and Milton, are married or have significant others at home.  Almost everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that one of the most challenging parts of their job is to be away from their loved ones for extended periods of time, especially the ones on board who are newlyweds.

RAINIER's First Assistant Engineer, Glen Quintino
RAINIER’s First Assistant Engineer, Glen Quintino

Personal Log 

We continue our journey back to Seward, AK traveling at approximately 13 knots.  It feels like we’re speeding compared to the speeds we were going for the past few weeks.  Although cloudy, the water is still amazingly calm which I am very grateful for.  It seems we may have left the blue skies and sunshine back in the Shumagin Islands since the extended forecast for the Seward area calls for rain or showers.  We’re currently scheduled to actually arrive early in Seward if the weather and mechanics of the ship cooperate. I’m looking forward to being back on land and checking out Seward before I depart for Anchorage Friday evening and a short excursion up to Denali National Park before flying home next Monday.  Keeping my fingers crossed and eyes open for more animals!

Jacquelyn Hams, August 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 8, 2006

Weather
Cloudy Visibility: 6 nm
Wind direction: Light
Wind speed: AIRS
Wave direction: 200
Swell height: 2-3ft.
Seawater temperature: 8.9 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1018.0 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 12.2 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 12.2 degrees C

Personal Log

We are anchored in East Bight and I continue to work on lesson plans. We are scheduled to get underway today for Seward. I am excited because I can spend two days in Seward seeing glaciers and fjords. Although, the weather has changed and it is cloudy and overcast, there is an up side to the weather. Geologic features that are often obscure when the sun is shining show up when the weather is overcast and more contrast is provided. I take the opportunity to showcase another basic geologic feature that is well exposed.

Here is a scenic view of part of the Shumagin Islands.  The Haystacks formation is in the center of the photograph.
A scenic view of part of the Shumagin Islands and the Haystacks formation
This is a type of drainage pattern is known as radial.  The drainage originates from a central point and occurs on elevated features such as volcanoes.
This is a type of drainage pattern is known as radial. The drainage originates from a central point and occurs on elevated features such as volcanoes.

Patti Conner, August 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 8, 2006

Data: (collected very early morning, 3AM) 
Air temperature = 18 C0 (65 F0 )
Water temperature = 18.9 C0 (68 F0)
Weather = rain
Depth of trawl = 98 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.28 ppm
Wind speed = 18 knots

Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk
Two-shelled mollusks and a one-shelled mollusk

Science and Technology Log 

We have been very busy collecting samples of scallops and fish.  We are weighing and measuring the scallops.  Some of the dredge amounts are huge so we collect all the scallops and take a sub-sample and weigh and measure those.  Another sample of scallops is cleaned, measured and frozen to determine the age of the scallops which is done at a lab on shore. We collect cancer crabs and starfish and count them as they eat scallops and we want to see the amount of predation. We are covering all 24 hours so there is a day watch from noon to midnight, and there is a night watch (mine) from midnight to noon.  When you eat a scallop, you are eating the abductor muscle.  This muscle can be quite large in a Sea Scallop which allows it to “swim” across the ocean floor and not creep along like a clam does.

Personal Log 

Two days ago the weather was warm and sunny.  I was lucky enough to see whales. I have never seen a whale out of captivity before and it was beautiful to see.  This morning there were very heavy rains and lightning. It didn’t take long for that weather front to move on. I am tired as my body is still adjusting to the work schedule. The work is also very physical as much of what we are sampling ends up back in the ocean.  We are collecting, shoveling, measuring and cleaning all the time. A few more day and we’ll be back to port at Woods Hole.  I will be returning to finish teaching summer school on Monday.  I can’t wait to be in the classroom and see my students again.

Answer to last log: The picture was the internal structures of a scallop, a two-shelled mollusk. The black dots were eyes. I read that the eyes are fairly complex structures with retinas, lenses, and a large nerve fiber.

Kim Wolke, August 8, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 8, 2006

TAS Kim Wolke raising the American flag on the fantail of NOAA ship RAINIER
Kim Wolke raising the American flag on the fantail of NOAA ship RAINIER

Weather from the Bridge
Skies:
Cloudy (CL)
Visibility:
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
Waves:
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

Winding Down 

I’ve been keeping a running list of the Alaskan wildlife that I’m seeing along this excursion.  Some of the animals I’ve mentioned already are the puffins, bald eagles, Orcas, and Dall’s porpoise.  Occasionally while out in a kayak or survey boat or on a beach along the coastline I’ve also spotted harbor seals.  Their adorable little faces will emerge from the beneath the water and bob around, almost appearing at first to be kelp floating in the water.  While kayaking I’ve also seen two hauled out on rocks where they were almost mistaken for pieces of logs washed ashore.  They are very quiet and easily disturbed if you get too close.

A harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) on a rock.
A harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) on a rock.

Harbor seals (Phoca vitulina) are marine mammals most often associated with coastal waters. They periodically haul out of the water on sand and gravel beaches, reefs, sand bars, and glacial and sea ice to rest, give birth, and nurse their pups. Unlike many marine mammals, harbor seals do not make long annual migrations, however, they do move around considerably in a more localized area. At birth harbor seals weigh about 24 pounds. They gain weight rapidly during a month long suckling period. Average adults weigh 180 pounds.  Until about 5 years of age, there are approximately equal numbers of male and female harbor seals in a population. After that, mortality rates are much higher for the males, therefore female harbor seals becomes much more abundant.  Adapted to life in the sea, they can dive up to 600 feet (183 meters) and remain submerged for 20 minutes!  Some adaptations that allow for oxygen conservation in harbor seal are reduced peripheral circulation, reduced heart rate, and high levels of myoglobin (an oxygen binder). Harbor seals move under water by using their hind flippers for propulsion and their fore flippers as rudders. In Alaska harbor seals commonly eat walleye, pollock, Pacific cod, capelin, eulachon, Pacific herring, salmon, octopus, and squid.

The NOAA ship RAINIER in the distance in East Bight, Nagai Island, AK
The NOAA ship RAINIER in the distance in East Bight, Nagai Island, AK

Personal Log 

Today after all of the survey boats return we will begin our journey back to Seward, AK.  This leg of the RAINIER’S travels, as well as mine, are winding down.  All of the surveying is complete until the RAINIER leaves Seward, AK for its next leg early next week. I’ve already taken some meclizine to hopefully ward off any potential seasickness, as we will be underway for about 2 days once we take up the anchor.  It appears that with this end of surveying and the turning back of the ship there has also been a rather symbolic turn in the weather.  It has gone from incredible weather yesterday to a falling barometer, heavily cloudy skies, and a forecast calling for higher winds and waves.   I’m glad I went kayaking the past 2 days!

Jacquelyn Hams, August 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 7, 2006

TAS Jacquelyn Hams using a sextant
TAS Jacquelyn Hams using a sextant

Weather
Clear Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 290
Wind speed: 6 knots
Seawater temperature: 10.6 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1020.5 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 15.6 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 12.8 degrees C

Personal Log 

We are anchored in East Bight and I continue to work on lesson plans.  It is a beautiful clear day with many great photo opportunities.  I take advantage of the expertise of Intern Umeko Foster, who gives me a crash course in using the sextant.  I reluctantly admit to owning a sextant for many years and not using it to navigate. Umeko is an excellent teacher and for the first time I am able successfully move the sun to the correct position on the horizon! As a bonus, Umeko demonstrates the correct way to read degrees and minutes.  After dinner, Able Seaman Leslie Abramson drives the liberty boat to and from the beach so crew members can enjoy a little r and r. I ask Leslie to take me on a cruise to a nearby outcrop of rocks with many geologic structures.

Geologic structures are everywhere in this outcrop.  Save this picture to your desktop and enlarge it.  How many faults, dikes, sills, and folds do see?
Geologic structures are everywhere in this outcrop. Save this picture to your desktop and enlarge it. How many faults, dikes, sills, and folds do see?

Linda Depro, August 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 7, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a small world here on the ALBATROSS IV.  Chad Meckley is a 1996 Wilson High School graduate. Wilson is in Berks County and I live in Lancaster County, less than forty minutes away.  If you want to talk to Chad, look on the bridge.

Chad earned a geography/environmental science degree from Shippensburg University and moved to Colorado to be near the mountains.  After working several years in sales, Chad happened to be talking to a friend who knew about the NOAA Corps.  He applied, was accepted, and began training in February 2006.

We are on Leg 2 of the Sea Scallop Cruise and it is Chad’s third cruise with NOAA.  He enjoys being on the ocean and plans to continue his NOAA career.  Chad has two goals: to become Officer of the Deck (so he can command the ship) and to experience his first winter at sea.

It is evident that Chad enjoys what he’s doing; you can see it in his smile.  Best Wishes, Chad!

Last watch was not quite as busy as the night before.  We had two stations that were mostly Brittle Stars, very interesting little starfish.  They are a tannish color about the diameter of a coffee mug, with long thin arms that visibly move. When they were shoveled into laundry size baskets each time we had two baskets full, and that’s a lot of Brittle Stars!

Personal Log 

Yesterday, Sunday, was an absolutely, drop dead gorgeous day on the ocean.  The sun was out and the water was calm.  Whales were sighted, but in the distance.  I did see them surfacing and took pictures. Imagine a 4×6 all bluish-green and a fourth-inch dot of black. Sunset was working on spectacular, but just as the sun reached the water it went behind a layer of clouds. We are almost at full moon and the night time was just as beautiful in its own way.

Kim Wolke, August 7, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 7, 2006

Weather from the Bridge
Skies:
Cloudy (CL)
Visibility:
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
Waves:
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

Moonrise in Porpoise Harbor, Nagai Island, AK…. after 11pm!
Moonrise in Porpoise Harbor, Nagai Island, after 11pm!

Science & Technology 

Today has been the absolute best weather we’ve had since we left Kodiak.  The skies were clear, the water was calm, and the temperature was perfect!  This is after having a beautiful moonrise last night.  At 0700 I joined three other crewmembers for a few hours of shoreline surveying in the Porpoise Harbor area.  Shoreline surveys are different from the work we were doing previously. We needed to go out an hour earlier during the low low tide since rocks, ledges, and other shoreline features are more exposed at this time.  The purpose of our survey today was to confirm or disprove the existence of certain shoreline features that could not be verified by the LIDAR, such as the existence of rocks or islets.  Prior to the RAINIER doing their survey work, planes flew over the area using a technology called LIDAR, which stands for LIght Detection and Ranging. The distance to an object or surface is determined by the time delay between the transmission of a laser pulse and the detection of a reflected signal. This information helps in forming a model of the area.  The laser uses shorter wavelengths than radar would, therefore, a higher resolution image is produced.

TAS Kim Wolke operating the echosounder on a hydrographic survey of the Shumagin Islands in Alaska
TAS Kim Wolke operating the echosounder on a hydrographic survey of the Shumagin Islands in Alaska

The survey boat we were using today was equipped with a single-beam sonar system since we were in very shallow water.  The deeper water we were surveying on the other boats used a multi-beam system.  The boat went to designated areas and slowly moved in a series of figure 8s to get readings from the transducer mounted on the hull (bottom).  In addition to the readings being recorded on the computer system, an echosounder created a visual image of the soundings being received, called a “paper trace”.  My job was to operate the echosounder when we were logging data. Once we returned back to the ship, the data needed to be processed, similar to the processing of the data taken from the line surveys to eliminate any “noise”.

An immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) taking flight
An immature Bald Eagle taking flight

While we were out on the survey boat, we saw an immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a log on the coastline. The distinctive white head and tail of the adult Bald Eagle are not seen for 4-5 years on the immature eagles.  Bald Eagles, which are the symbol of our nation, are the second largest raptor (bird of prey) in the state of Alaska, with a wingspan of up to 7 ••• feet (2.3 m) and weights of 8 to 14 pounds (3.6-6.4 kg).  The Stellar Sea Eagle is the largest. The Bald Eagle is more abundant in Alaska than anywhere else in the United States. Their largest nesting densities occur along the islands of Southeast Alaska.  Bald Eagle nests are usually built close to water.  They will often use and rebuild the same next each year.  The male and female eagle work together to build their nest in early April and two to three eggs are usually laid by late April.  Once the chicks hatch after 35 days of incubation, they stay in the nest for another 75 days to grow and develop. The main diet of Bald Eagles is fish such as herring, flounder, pollock, and salmon as well as waterfowl, small mammals, sea urchins, clams, crabs, and carrion.

TAS Kim Wolke hoisting up the anchor ball as NOAA ship RAINIER anchors in East Bight of Nagai Island, AK
Kim Wolke hoisting up the anchor ball as the ship anchors in East Bight of Nagai Island, AK

Personal Log 

We moved the ship to the other side of Nagai Island again, this time to East Bight.  Each time we anchor, we need to hang out an anchor ball over the bow of the ship as a signal to other ships that we are anchored.  I had the opportunity to be the person to hoist up the anchor ball today. Like other things on the ship, there are certain traditions.  I had to actually wait for the anchor to begin being dropped before I could hoist up the anchor ball.

What amazing scenery surrounds us!  In mid-afternoon I went kayaking again with the acting CO, CDR Julia Neander. We were able to get close to the shoreline and discovered that there were little caves that went under the rocks in front of us.  It was tempting to explore further, but my better judgment restrained me from doing so.   There are such incredible geological formations in these rocks! As we paddled, many puffins circled around us and floated in the water. Not only did we see the horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata) today but there were also tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata). One easily recognizable difference in the two birds is the yellow tuft of feathers on each side of the tufted puffins head. Every time I tried to get a photo they’d all fly away!

CDR Julia Neander, acting Commanding Officer of RAINIER, kayaking in East Bight of Nagai Island
CDR Julia Neander, acting Commanding Officer of RAINIER, kayaking in East Bight of Nagai Island

Jacquelyn Hams, August 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 6, 2006

TAS Jacquelyn Hams uses a lead line to determine depth during a shoreline survey
TAS Jacquelyn Hams uses a lead line to determine depth during a shoreline survey

Weather
Cloudy Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: Light
Wind speed: AIRS
Swell Waves direction: 350
Swell height: 0-1
Seawater temperature: 10.0 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1018.5 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 15.0 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 12.2 degrees C

Science and Technology Log 

Today I go out on a small boat with Jim Jacobson, Chief Survey Technician, ENS Megan McGovern, RAINIER Junior Officer, Erin Campbell, Survey Technician, and Corey Muzzy, Seaman Surveyor and Coxswain to conduct a shoreline survey in Porpoise Harbor.  The objective of the shoreline survey is to verify some points which were identified by LIDAR (Airborne laser mapping) which may or may not be rocks along the shoreline. LIDAR is an emerging remote sensing technology that integrates the following three subsystems in to a single instrument mounted in a small airplane to rapidly produce accurate maps of the terrain beneath the flight path of the aircraft.

  • LIDAR (LIght Detection And Ranging) is similar to radar or sonar in that it transmits laser pulses to a target and records the time it takes for the pulse to return to the sensor receiver
  • Fixed reference systems
  • Global positioning satellite system (GPS).
Bathymetric chart reflecting points for investigation during shoreline survey
Bathymetric chart reflecting points for investigation during shoreline survey

LIDAR utilizes a pulsed laser rangefinder mounted in the aircraft.  While most LIDAR systems are designed to measure land elevations (“topographic LIDAR”), the technology can also measure water depths if designed with a light wavelength which will pass through water (“bathymetric LIDAR”).  Bathymetric LIDAR accurately measures the travel time for both the laser return from the sea surface and the return from the seabed.   If the speed of light is known and one corrects for angle, scattering, absorption at the water surface and other biases, the distance to the sea surface and seabed can be computed from these times.  The difference between these distances is the water depth.  In general, bathymetric LIDAR is less accurate and lower resolution than the multibeam sonar systems on RAINIER’s launches, but it can be much faster and safer in some areas.

This is a picture of a sonar image taken on the boat during shoreline survey. The spike on the image represents a rock.
This is a picture of a sonar image taken on the boat. The spike on the image represents a rock.

We have several LIDAR points to verify. RAINIER has been asked to investigate these points because they are around kelp which LIDAR cannot penetrate.  The boat is equipped with vertical beam echo sounders so that the bottom depth is known.  Once the boat reaches the point of investigation, the coxswain drives a star pattern around the point to make sure that all sides of the potential obstacle have been covered.  Lead lines are used to confirm depths close to the shoreline.

The presence of a rock is indicated by the peak in the sonar image on the left.  Depth of the recorder is 32.4 feet. We are able to survey all but three of our points until we have engine problems after crossing on the edge of a thick patch of kelp. Unfortunately, the engine will not start and we have to call for a tow. On the way back to the ship, I have yet another photo opportunity for some geology pictures.  Nagai Island lies within a major fault zone of the Aleutian Islands so many of the rocks are folded and uplifted into spectacular structures. The beds pictured in the photograph below were deposited according to the Principle of Original Horizontality; therefore they should be stacked on top of each other in a horizontal position. Look at them now!

ENS Megan McGovern, RAINIER Junior Office and Leslie Abramson, Able Seaman.
ENS Megan McGovern, RAINIER Junior Office and Leslie Abramson, Able Seaman.
Imagine the stress that tilted these beds to the current position.
Imagine the stress that tilted these beds to the current position.

Kim Wolke, August 6, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 6, 2006

Weather from the bridge
Skies:
Cloudy (CL)
Visibility:
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
Waves:
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

TAS Kim Wolke kayaking in Porpoise Harbor in the Shumagin Islands in Alaska
TAS Kim Wolke kayaking in Porpoise Harbor in the Shumagin Islands in Alaska

Today was an absolutely beautiful day here in the Shumagin Islands.  By afternoon the clouds cleared out and the blue skies and sunshine took over. The acting Commanding Officer (CO) Julia Neander invited me to go kayaking with her, which I eagerly said yes to. We paddled along the coastline right into seagull territory.  Although the sounds of the ship’s engines were fading, the screeching seagulls filled our ears.

We also encountered many horned puffins (Fratercula corniculata), which are the cutest and silliest looking birds. They appeared to have some nesting areas on the rocky cliffs which they were trying to distract us from locating since they kept circling above us and flying away from the cliffs.  Puffins typically stay out on the open sea through the winter but come to the land in late spring to breed.  They are better built for swimming than flying which is evident when you see them fly.  Under water their wings are used to propel them while their webbed feet are for maneuvering.  To get airborne, they must run along the water surface before taking off.  From land, they dive off cliffs to gain enough speed for flight, using their feet to help change direction.  Puffins feed in flocks, eating mainly fish and zooplankton.  They will dive straight into the water and continue their motion as they swim to get their next meal.

Seagulls perched on a rock in Porpoise Harbor
Seagulls perched on a rock in Porpoise Harbor

LT Ben Evans, the acting Executive Officer (XO), invited the other TAS, Jackie Hams, and me to dinner in the Wardroom this evening.  Traditionally, the Wardroom is where the officers eat. Upholding tradition, the officers on the RAINIER have their meals there.  There’s even a seating arrangement, also based on tradition.  I felt honored to be asked to eat with the officers since the rest of the crew eats in the Crew Mess, which is where I’ve had all of my meals as well. After dinner this evening, I joined three of the NOAA divers and AB Leslie Abramson, who was snorkeling, as they did a recreational dive close to the ship. Since I am not a NOAA diver I was only able to stay on the skiff as they went under water. The water temperature was relatively warm at 52 degrees Fahrenheit. The divers all wore dry suits while Leslie wore a rather thick wet suit (7mm).  Everyone wore a hood, booties, and gloves, all as protection from the cold water temperatures.

SST Erin Campbell and SS Corey Muzzey check each other’s dive equipment before a dive.
SST Erin Campbell and SS Corey Muzzey check each other’s dive equipment before a dive.
A horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata) sitting on a cliff on St. Paul Island, AK.  Picture taken by Mike Danzenbaker.
A horned puffin (Fratercula corniculata) sitting on a cliff on St. Paul Island, AK.

Who’s Who on the NOAA ship RAINIER? 

What I’ve recently learned and find very interesting is that there are several NOAA scuba divers onboard.  Being a recreational diver, I was curious to learn about the NOAA divers.  To become a NOAA diver, you need to complete the NOAA diver-training program through the NOAA Diving Program (NDP).  Most of the training takes place at the facility in Seattle, Washington, however, in January there is also a class held in Key West, Florida.

Currently, there are six NOAA divers aboard the ship. They are: LT Ben Evans, ENS Sam Greenaway, Seaman Surveyor (SS) Carl VerPlank, SS Corey Muzzey, Senior Survey Technician (SST) Erin Campbell, and Able Seaman (AB) Jonathan Anderson.  Another NOAA diver not on this leg is the 3rd Assistant Engineer Mike Riley. In the fall, ENS Nathan Eldridge, SS Eric Davis, and AB Leslie Abramson are going for their NOAA diver training, which takes place over a three-week period.  SST Campbell and ENS Greenaway will also complete their Dive Master training in the fall.

AS Leslie Abramson putting on her hood in preparation for snorkeling.
AS Leslie Abramson putting on her hood in preparation for snorkeling.

NOAA divers have various jobs depending upon their locations.  Divers can deploy and retrieve scientific instruments, document fish and marine animal behavior, perform emergency and routine ship repair and maintenance, and investigate submerged objects such as shipwrecks for nautical charting. Aboard the RAINIER, one of the common jobs of the divers is to install tide gauges 10-15 feet below water.

 

Jacquelyn Hams, August 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 5, 2006

Weather
Partly cloudy
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 231
Wind speed: 4 knots
Seawater temperature: 10 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1016.3 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 11.7 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 10.6 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

I continue working on lesson plans today related to sonar imagery.  The survey technicians suggest a basic guide to interpreting sonar imagery:  “Sound Underwater Images: A Guide to the Interpretation of Side Scan Sonar Data” by John P. Fish and H. Arnold Carr, published by American Underwater Search and Survey.

Able Seaman Leslie Abramson in background and Jodie Edmond in foreground preparing to raise the anchor
Able Seaman Leslie Abramson and Jodie Edmond preparing to raise the anchor

 

Linda Depro, August 5, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 5, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday was quite a day—many stations, lots of scallops, and BIG rocks.  I am amazed that the trawl net liner was not damaged.  Last night, though, a rock the size of a small car was hauled onto deck—that one did tear the liner.  It’s interesting to watch the winch drop it in the ocean.

My new special position (I’m still sorting, shoveling, and measuring) is taking the inclinometer, or bottom contact sensor, reading.  To you landlubbers, it’s a device attached to the trawl that gathers data and tells the scientists whether the net was parallel to the bottom of the ocean. So when the net comes up with very little the information from the inclinometer is helpful.

Here’s what I do. I have an optic shuttle (about the size of a hot dog) that I secure in the inclinometer located on the trawl.  Each part has sensors and when put together properly the inclinometer sends the data to the optic shuttle (like a zip) and when all information is received and a little green light flashed I take in into a computer and transfer the data onto the hard drive. It’s an important piece to the mission.

What I have been doing here is an example of how important hands-on learning really is for understanding and transfer. I could have read all about this experience (like you are with this journal), but until I held the fish, scrubbed the scallops, cut into a Monk fish to discover the ovaries, etc., I had no real understanding.  Amazing!

Personal Log 

The weather remains beautiful, the people are great, and the food is delicious.

Jacquelyn Hams, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 4, 2006

TAS Jacquelyn Hams and Steve Foye, Boatswain Group Leader on fantail
TAS Jacquelyn Hams and Steve Foye, Boatswain Group Leader on fantail

Weather
Partly cloudy
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 290
Wind speed: 5 knots
Seawater temperature: 10 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1013.2 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 12.8 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 12.26 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

Today I caught up with the TAS logs and began organizing lesson plans.  An Abandon Ship drill was held at 1515. I videotaped an interview with crew member Jodie Edmond, Able Seaman.

Jodie received an AA degree from a community college and has a very interesting background. She has driven boats for the Kenai Glaciers and Fjords Tour in Alaska and worked in several national parks. Jodie is studying for her captain’s license with NOAA’s support.

NOAA TAS Jacquelyn Hams
NOAA TAS Jacquelyn Hams
Jodie Edmond, RAINIER Able Seaman
Jodie Edmond, RAINIER Able Seaman

Linda Depro, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 4, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

If you are observant you will notice that I’m on my second Friday in a row.  Time is a hard thing to keep track of here on the ocean.  Last watch, Thursday I think, we entered Canadian waters. I was looking for a sign the said “Welcome to Canada”, but I must have missed it.

I am a scallop scrubber!  With each haul five scallops are chosen at random to gather in-depth data on (all other scallops are weighed and measured only).  The shells are scrubbed clean so the scientists on shore can determine the age.  Scallop shells are a little like a tree trunk. Age is determined by growth rings.  The larger scallops can be five years and older. The scallop is measured for length and weighed individually then opened. The sex is entered into the computer next.  Male scallops have a white gonad and females have a pink gonad.  The gonad is weighed, and then the muscle (what we would call the “scallop”) is cut out and weighed.  The shell is dried and numbered to match the data, bagged, and frozen.  Some scallops are very clean, but others can have barnacles, “weeds”, sponges, and/or slime (don’t know the scientific term!) growing on their shells. As a shell scrubber you get to know these things and the best way to remove them!!  Finally the whole station is hosed down for the next haul.

Personal Log 

The noise of the engines and the rocking of the ship are becoming second nature.  The weather has been kind and swells small.  I am really, really hoping that is stays this way.  Laundry is my goal for the morning.  The washer and drier are behind a metal door called a hatch. There are six dogs (big metal latches) that must be closed when the ship is at sea. I have opened and closed those six dogs so many times I’ve given them names: King, Lassie, Rin Tin Tin, Lady, Spot, and ToTo!  So many things to learn.

Patti Conner, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 4, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C(62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 19.2 C0 (66 F0)
Weather = hazy
Depth of trawl = 85 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.06 ppm
Wind speed = 10.56 knots

I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV
I am working in the Biology Lab which is located on the back deck of the ALBATROSS IV

Science and Technology Log 

The 12 hour shift is going very well. It is a little cooler out here than I expected, but the water temperature does affect the air. It is quite foggy today as we continue to travel northeast around Georges Bank. We have been in a little deeper water today, and have collected fewer scallops but we continue to bring in fish and many broken mollusk shells. Surprisingly, we brought up more algae than before even though the water is deeper. The main fish we are collecting are: Flounder, Hake, Skates, Sculpin, and Goosefish (also know as Monk Fish). I will be sending some pictures of the fish as well as some more invertebrate pictures.

Personal Log 

I miss being at home and respect those who are at sea working. It is demanding work, but when the sun rises over the water it is an impressive site and makes everything seem worthwhile. I wouldn’t care to be out here in the winter, but the boat and crew are except for a few weeks of the year. Next time we have a snow day, I’ll be thinking of my friends out here on the boat in howling winds. Today we had a little time between dredging so I was able to come up with several new labs for next year. My students will have a few new labs for our Under The Sea Unit. We will have some fish, and reptile (Sea Turtle) identifications to make using taxonomic keys. I am also working on a Squid dissection lab in addition to the Starfish dissection lab. Of course there will be a lab on Scallops (no, we are not going to eat them!).

Invertebrate identification from previous log = Echinoderms (Sunstars), and Vertebrate identification = Me! 

What invertebrate is this?  Look at the number of shells.  What are the small black spots?

connor_log3a

Jacquelyn Hams, August 3, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 3, 2006

TAS Jacquelyn Hams viewing sonar images on a survey boat
TAS Jacquelyn Hams viewing sonar images on a survey boat

Weather
Partly cloudy
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 305
Wind speed: 8 knots
Sea Wave height: 0-1 ft.
Seawater temperature: 11.1 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1002.2 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 14.4 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 11.1 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

The day begins with a Damage Control Meeting at 0830.  This is an all hands meeting for everyone aboard the ship. Safety is stressed aboard the RAINIER at all times.  All hands are shown equipment, patches, and fixes for damages resulting from water, electrical problems, and fire. We are also told where the equipment is stored.

A CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) sensor
A CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) sensor

After lunch I go out on one of the survey boats equipped with multibeam sonar for a hydrography survey. NOAA personnel on the boat are: ENS Jamie Wasser, Junior Officer, ENS Megan McGovern, Junior Officer, Carl Verplank, Seaman Surveyor, and Leslie Abramson, Able Seaman.  The goal of this leg of the cruise is to accurately chart the waters off Nagai Island, Alaska.  The boat I am on will survey the area of Northeast Bight.

In order to measure depth, the equation D=S*T is used.  The time it takes for the sound to bounce off the bottom and return is known.  In order to calculate the distance, the speed at which sound travels through the water must be known. To determine the speed at which sound travels through the water column, the RAINIER collects conductivity, temperature, and pressure data using a CTD sensor called a SEACAT. From these measurements depth and salinity can be derived.

View of radar screen at coxswain’s station on survey boat.
View of radar screen at coxswain’s station on survey boat.

This instrument is deployed into the water at least every four hours during multibeam acquisition. As sound travels through the water, it can be affected by differences in salinity, temperature, and pressure. Therefore, all soundings acquired by the CTD need to be corrected for these effects to accurately chart the survey area. The SEACAT is placed just below the water’s surface for two minutes to allow the sensor to obtain its initial readings. It is then lowered one meter per second through the water column until it reaches the seafloor. Then it is hoisted back to the surface. As the instrument runs through the water column, the sensor obtains conductivity, temperature, and pressure data. Once the SEACAT is aboard, it is connected to a computer.  The sensor data is downloaded using a special program. A survey technician or junior officer uses the program to analyze the data.

Leslie Abramson, Able Seaman and coxswain, steers the survey boat
Leslie Abramson, Able Seaman and coxswain, steers the survey boat

If the data looks reasonable, the launch or ship will begin or continue to acquire soundings. It is very important for the coxswain (person who is driving the boat) to steer the boat along the survey lines so that the final data will be accurate.  Leslie Abramson assists me while I attempt to steer the boat along the survey line. I find that it is easier to steer the RAINIER than a survey boat!

Personal Log 

I have been on the RAINIER for two weeks now, and have been observing how long the days are for the officers on board. After talking with ENS Olivia Hauser, RAINIER Junior Officer, certain things are now clear.  There are no other scientists aboard the RAINIER.  On other NOAA ships, scientists are hosted by the ship and plan and conduct the research operations. On the RAINIER, the officers are the hydrographers or scientists.  In addition to their regular duties, the officers have to plan survey lines, review them at the end of the day, and make plans for the next day.  In addition, they go out on the survey boats to view data acquisition. This makes for an incredibly long day and lots of responsibilities for the officers. I am impressed with their energy and dedication to the job. I had the opportunity to take the classic geology photographs shown below from the survey boat.

 Repeat display of Hy Pack navigation and chart at coxswain’s station
Repeat display of Hy Pack navigation and chart at coxswain’s station
A classic U-shaped glacial valley
A classic U-shaped glacial valley
Is this a cirque or a caldera?
Is this a cirque or a caldera?

Linda Depro, August 3, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 3, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Life happens here aboard ALBATROSS IV in twelve-hour intervals. My watch is from twelve noon until twelve midnight and the other watch is from twelve midnight until twelve noon.  I feel fortunate to have the “day watch” because at midnight I fall into bed dead tired and let the ocean rock me to sleep.  After breakfast I have time to write in my journal, read, do laundry, or sit and talk to the many interesting people who are aboard.  Lunch at 11:15 and then it’s off to work at 11:50.  If the stations are close together that means there is not much steam time and hauls can come in in 45 minutes or less.  So far that has been enough time to log all the data from the previous haul, freeze any biological samples to be worked up at the on shore lab, and clean up.  If steam time is longer I can read a book, get a snack (there is always fresh fruit out – I am a happy camper!), or eat dinner.

Personal Log 

Yesterday morning I was showering before breakfast.  As I was soaping I looked out the port hole that is in the shower. It was one of those “wow” moments.  Where else can a person take a shower with white caps splashing against the window?  I recounted my experience with the watch chief. She said, “Wait until the porthole is underwater.”  I certainly will be holding on the grab bars!

I’ve talked to the head cook and his assistant several times, both very kind men who obviously enjoy their jobs. Their food is excellent.  Each meal includes two entrees and many sides.  One lunch entree was unbelievable – blackened scallops prepared by using the scallops that had been part of the biological sampling in the wet lab.  Talk about fresh – and were they delicious!!

Kim Wolke, August 3, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 3, 2006

Weather from the Bridge
Skies:
Cloudy (CL)
Visibility:
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
Waves:
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

One of the many life rings
One of the many life rings

Safety 

We had a Damage Control (DC) training program this morning, run by Chief Boatswain Jim Kruger.  Damage control is another means of keeping the ship and the crew safe. If there was ever a fire, leaking pipe, flooding or any other emergency that puts the integrity of the ship in question, it’s important for the crew to know where the proper equipment is located and how to respond to such emergencies.  More detailed training is done on responding to various emergencies and using the equipment at other times.

I’ve mentioned in other logs how important safety is on the ship and how much it’s emphasized.  Some of the things I’ve identified since I’ve been onboard as part of the ship’s safety are: the wearing of hardhats and float jackets on the deck when deck work is being done, wearing safety glasses when working with paint and chemicals, wearing long pants and long sleeves on the deck, tying long hair back, fire hoses and fire extinguishers located all over the ship, eyewash stations, damage control lockers on various outside decks with equipment for emergencies, closing all hatch doors after you pass through them, storing all gear and equipment properly, as well as frequent safety drills (fire drills, abandon ship, and man overboard).

A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which supplies air if needed
A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), which supplies air if needed

All of the things done here on the ship are very similar to the types of safety precautions taken at school in the science classroom. Although a different environment, many of the same safety hazards exist.  The Boatswain Group Leader Steve Foye was telling me about some of the chemicals used on the ship.  Some of them were chemicals used in some of the chemistry labs we do!  He said there was no way he’d allow his workers to work without the proper safety attire and these are adults!

Personal Log 

Last night while I was standing on the bridge, I was given the opportunity to steer the ship for a little while which made me the helmsperson.  Another one of those experiences where it looks a heck of a lot easier than it really is.  It takes awhile to get the feel of the ship. I also had a chance to control the engines as we were anchoring. I was better at this task since the ship’s momentum didn’t effect what I was doing.

I’m learning that there’s a special language used aboard a ship. Aside from there being different names for parts of the ship, there’s also a special way to communicate. For example, while I was on the bridge as helmsperson and controlling the engines, I needed to repeat the directions given to me (ex. “all ahead 2, aye”) so the Officer on the Deck (OOD) knew I heard him. Once I completed a command, I needed to repeat the command again. The OOD then lets you know he/she heard you by saying “very well”. Sometimes commands came faster than I was completing them but as long as I was listening and we were communicating all was “very well”.

TAS Kim Wolke at the engine controls on NOAA ship RAINIER
TAS Kim Wolke at the engine controls
NOAA ship RAINIER'S engine control console on the bridge
NOAA ship RAINIER’S engine control console on the bridge

Jacquelyn Hams, August 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 2, 2006

TAS Jacquelyn Hams reads X-Band radar screen
TAS Jacquelyn Hams reads X-Band radar screen

Weather
Cloudy Visibility: 8 nm
Wind direction: 100
Wind speed: 7 knots
Seawater temperature: 10 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1011.8 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 10.6 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 10.0 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

I went to the Pilot House this morning to continue working on my navigating underway skills and discovered that the cruise plan had changed and that the ship will anchor in Eagle Harbor tonight.  I am given the two course plot accordingly. According to the weather report, we will run into some bad weather on route to Eagle Harbor.

Radar screen
The rain is shown by the heavy dotted areas and the ship is anchored in the center.

Personal Log 

Here are some photographs of daily activities aboard the NOAA Ship RAINIER.

Survey boats in the Northeast Bight
Survey boats in the Northeast Bight
Shawn Gendron, Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician, processing survey line data
Shawn Gendron, Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician, processing survey line data

Patti Conner, August 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patti Connor
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Atlantic
Date: August 2, 2006

Data: (collected mid-morning) 
Air temperature = 17 C0 (62.6 F0 )
Water temperature = 15.5 C0 (60 F0)
Weather = sunny, windy
Depth of trawl = 45.4 meters (remember, a meter and a yard are pretty close)
Water salinity = 31.54 ppm
Wind speed = 13.52 knots

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Patti Connor, helps to sort sea scallops aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.

Science and Technology Log 

Today we are sailing northeast of our sailing position yesterday. We are going to circle Georges Bank counterclockwise. Our dredges today were interesting. We continue to bring scallops in, but my watch team tells me there are more plentiful spots to come.  At one site, we found so many sand dollars that I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This particular species of sand dollar produces a very brilliant green colored pigment which stains everything (starfish, algae, fish and me!).  I am learning to identify the many species of starfish that we bring in.  One of my jobs is to count them at various sites by randomly selecting from the dredge material.  At one site, I was counting hundreds of them.  It’s amazing how well they can hide and are camouflaged in the algae.  Many of the scallops have thick red layers of red algae on them (remember that red algae can grow at deeper depths because the red pigment can trap the minimal amount of sunlight needed for photosynthesis), and they also can be found carrying Porifera (sponges) on them which also helps them to be camouflaged.

Personal Log 

I do love it out here. My inner ear and brain has adjusted to the perpetual motion of the boat. I have not had a problem with seasickness yet.  It has helped that the weather has been nice. I am also doing well with the midnight to noon work schedule.  It is a little funny to see the fog roll across the deck of the boat in the darkness of the night.  Sunrise is my favorite time as the light changes how everything looks, especially the dredge samples, and it is nice to see the waves and the great expanse of the water.

Yesterdays invertebrate sample: Starfish (phylum = Echinodermata).

Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!
Today’s invertebrate sample: starfish!

Jacquelyn Hams, August 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 1, 2006

Weather
Clear Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 200
Wind speed: 10 knots
Seawater temperature: 11.1 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1011.4 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 13.3 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 11.1 degrees C

Science and Technology Log 

I continue practicing navigation underway using radar and dead reckoning.  Three of the fixes I checked fall right on the ship’s course. A few others fall within an acceptable error.  The swells were a little rough so I take a break from the radar screen and charts until the late afternoon.

The NOAA Ship RAINIER anchors in Northeast Bight, Nagai Island for the night.

In the pilot house on the NOAA Ship RAINIER, from left to right, ENS Olivia Hauser, RAINIER Junior Officer,  ENS Megan McGovern, RAINIER Junior Officer,  Umeko Foster in foreground Intern, and Jacquelyn Hams, TAS on far right.
In the pilot house, from left to right, ENS Olivia Hauser, Jr Officer, ENS Megan McGovern, Jr Officer, Umeko Foster, and Jacquelyn Hams

Linda Depro, August 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Depro
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 31 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: Georges Bank, New England
Date: August 1, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

To quote that famous seaman, Popeye, “A sailor’s life for me!!”  I’m thinking about joining him and changing careers – this experience is fantastic.

The ALBATROSS IV is conducting the second leg of the Atlantic scallop survey, and we are in Georges Bank off the coast of New England.  In specific stations (areas of the ocean) the scientists are keeping data;  the number of scallops, their size, and weight, the number and kind of fish, the volume of the entire catch, and at specific stations the number of crabs, or the number of starfish.

The vessel steams to each station where the dredge is lowered and then AIV trawls for fifteen minutes.  The haul is brought in and emptied onto the aft deck where the scientists, volunteers, and me (teacher at sea) sort through and put the scallops and fish into different baskets. With that completed we go back and shovel all unneeded shells, sand, etc. into baskets that are recorded (for volume) and returned to the sea.  The scallops and fish are taken into the wet lab where they are counted, weighed, and measured.  Five random scallops are chosen to be individually surveyed.  The shells are scrubbed clean (one of my jobs) so their age can be determined later; each is measured, weighed, and opened. The sex of the scallop is recorded, the gonad weighed, and the abductor muscle weighed.  Finally the shell is numbered to correspond to the data (in a computer) for each.  The shells are bagged, marked, and frozen for later study.

Personal Log 

All my expectations about this adventure pale to the experience that it has been so far.  When Patti Connor (the other Teacher at Sea) and I saw the ALBATROSS IV for the first time we were awe-struck.  My excitement at that moment wiped away any worries or fears about the adventure. Tony, the first bo’sun, was on deck and welcomed us aboard.  He was the first, and with each new crewmember, from the steward to the engineer to the captain we met I felt more and more “at home.”

The staterooms hold three scientists; my bed is on the bottom of the bunk bed.  We have two portholes for light, a sink, two closets, and some storage drawers.  The head and shower are shared with the next stateroom.  The room is pretty much for sleeping and showering because I cannot go in while one roommate on the opposite watch is sleeping.  It is amazing how the roll of the boat puts me to sleep, and so far I have been sleeping quite well.

Sorting through the piles that are brought up from the bottom of the sea is very exciting.  Even those who have been doing this for a while are enthusiastic about the catch.  I am picking up REAL LIVE hermit crabs, flounder, scallops, crabs, starfish, sand dollars, and more!

Kim Wolke, August 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 1, 2006

Weather from the bridge
Skies:
Cloudy (CL)
Visibility:
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
Waves:
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

A pod of Orcas (Orcinus orca) seen off the NOAA ship RAINIER
A pod of Orcas (Orcinus orca) seen off the ship

Science and Technology 

I was out on another survey boat today from 0800 to 1630.  It was a long day since we were running rather long lines using the hull-mounted (on the bottom of the boat) Elac multi-beam echo sounder system, which is used to obtain full-bottom coverage in depths ranging from 40-400 meters. The other day when I was out the sonar used was called a Reson, which used to obtain full-bottom coverage in depths ranging from 4-150 meters. The lines took about 40 minutes each to do due to their lengths as well as the fact that we couldn’t go above 8 knots. The coxswain today, Ken Keys, allowed me to drive the boat for a while which I thoroughly enjoyed. Ken did a great job teaching me how to stay on the lines and turn from one line to another. I was very happy when I completed one line and made the turn to another one successfully with no help.

A minimum of 12 Orcas if you count the fins
A minimum of 12 Orcas if you count the fins

At about 2200 I was on the bridge chatting when Lieutenant (LT) Ben Evans opened the door and informed me that there were Orcas off the stern of the ship. Once I retrieved my camera, I joined some other crewmembers for about 20 minutes watching the pod (group) of Orcas swim through the cove which we are anchored in. There were at minimum 15 Orcas, maybe more.  It appeared that the pod was perhaps hunting salmon or some other fish.  Orcas are also known as killer whales, however, they are not really whales.  They are in fact the largest members of the dolphin family (Delphinidae).  They are called killer whales because they attack and consume whales or other large prey, such as sea lions and seals.  They’ve also been known to feed on river otters, squid, and several species of sea birds.  The Orcas we were watching displayed characteristic hunting behavior since they stayed in their pod and a smaller group hung back in shallower waters to possibly chase the fish into the deeper waters where the rest of the pod was. They often feed in this cooperative manner.

Personal Log 

Every job on the ship has so many details to it.  Initially one might think they could do the same job easily.  It has been quite an awakening for me to learn just how much goes in to all of the various jobs on the RAINIER. Everyone has been so patient and excellent at demonstrating and explaining things to me.  Many of them would be excellent classroom teachers.  Ken did a great job today getting me relaxed and comfortable with the task of driving the survey boat on the line.  Thank you Ken! •

Seeing the Orcas this evening was one of those moments where I stood back and just lived in the moment.  It was truly amazing.  Everyone on the ship that was watching was silent as we listened and watched the Orcas swim through the water, blow water out of their blowholes, flap their tails (tail lob), and occasionally jump straight up out of the water (called a spy hop).  Spectacular!

Who’s Who on the NOAA ship RAINIER? 

Since March 2004, Tonya Watson has been working for NOAA aboard the ship RAINIER. She originally began working in Engineering and in September 2005 she joined the Survey Department.  Currently she is a Hydrographic Junior Survey Technician (HJST). Recently she and her husband relocated their home to Phoenix, AZ, however, Tonya has been on the ship working since her move.

In her previous life, Tonya spent 4.5 years in the Navy working with passive sonar.  She has an A.A. degree from Shasta College in California and has studied biological oceanography at Chico State in California and Auburn University in Alabama.  Her Navy experience definitely helps her with the hydrographic survey work she is now doing with NOAA.

Tonya enjoys her work very much.  She really likes to go on the survey launches, seeing wildlife, being out on the ocean, and traveling to new places.  In her down time she likes to read, watch movies, listen to music, water ski, and bike ride.  Occasionally, Tonya says, the logistics of ship life and following strict schedules can be challenging.

There are some very important skills needed for the type of work Tonya does.  In her opinion, reading and writing skills are imperative.  Individuals need to be able to communicate effectively and fill out various forms.  In addition, keyboarding/computer skills are also needed. Individuals should be able to display self-discipline, be dependable, and have