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?

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?

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?

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?