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.

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!

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!

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

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.

 

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

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 good people skills.  On the ship, many people rely on each other to carry out a task successfully.