Lisa Kercher, June 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 24, 2006

Ron Walker, our experienced driver, maneuvers our boat through the turns.

Ron Walker, our experienced driver, maneuvers our boat through the turns.

Science and Technology Log

The crew is working hard to finish sheet B, which is full of completed polygons, with a few remaining to be worked on. Launch 1018 went to work on three of those areas today. Captain Ron drove us to our destination and ENS Wendy Lewis started the computer system. Two of the areas we were assigned were low water areas that can only be navigated by an experienced cox’n. Good thing Ron was heading up our boat. He is as experienced as they come. To start our work we had to lower our transducer, which enables us to send out sonar beams that bounce off the ocean floor. Those beams bounce back to show the shape of the ocean floor.  We deployed our CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) device three different times to get accurate readings on the conditions of the ocean that might affect our data collection. Surprisingly, we completed our assignment early and got to head in for lunch.

Humpback whales breach near the ship

Humpback whales breach near the ship

Personal Log 

Today was whale day! Captain Ron promised me whales and he delivered even before we heading out this morning.  As we stood on the fantail of the ship for the morning meeting, Ron pointed out a humpback breeching off in the distance!  Then as we cruised at 8 knots surveying our area, a large humpback put on a great show for us!  He surfaced again and again, showing off his immense tail fins. What a large splash he made!  I was able to watch him for nearly thirty minutes and captured some great video of the spectacular scene.  I had yet to see the grand prize of Alaskan marine life: the Orca, but whale day wasn’t over yet. As we idled off the northwest corner of Andronica Island completing our data for the day, a small pod of orcas came to play between our boat and the coast. I could see the white patch on their side and their characteristic dorsal fin. I was so thrilled!  Again, I had an amazing day out in the Alaskan seas. Am I really going to have to leave here?!?

Big splash from a humpback off Andronica Island

Big splash from a humpback off Andronica Island

Lisa Kercher, June 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

 My title for the day was “Gadget Girl.”    I assisted the survey team by finding the bearing and horizontal distance  to the feature in question.

My title for the day was “Gadget Girl.” I assisted the survey team by finding the bearing and horizontal distance to the feature in question.

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 23, 2006

Science and Technology Log

This trip is just so amazing! It blows my mind that I keep having more and more exciting days and great adventures! What if work really was like this?!?! These people have great jobs! Boats left at 6:30 this morning, but we were back just in time for lunch. ENS Jon French, survey technicians Stephanie Mills and Grant Froelich, and I boarded the Ambar 2302, which is a small open craft and headed to a location called The Haystacks and Whaleback: two interesting islands.  We were doing shoreline survey, which is basically going in to verify or disprove what an airplane has already surveyed from above. This is called LIDAR (laser imaging detection and range). There are areas marked that might have a feature such as a rock that we have to check out and basically make sure it is there! I got to be gadget girl and when we found something, we had to log it by tracking it on a DGPS (differential global positioning system) satellite system, taking a picture, determining the bearing and finding the horizontal distance with a laser. The DGPS system is much more accurate than a standard GPS system.  As the other survey techs manned the computer and DGPS system I had to quickly do the other three things.  I had all three gadgets hanging from my neck and had to use them to give the techs the precise readings. Talk about nervous!

 Jon and Stephanie work on the data from the cabin of the Ambar boat.

Jon and Stephanie work on the data from the cabin of the Ambar boat.

Personal Log 

Stellar Sea Lions sun and play on Whaleback.

Stellar Sea Lions sun and play on Whaleback.

I saw two bald eagles on the top of one of the Haystacks and two more on Whaleback. They were so pretty.  I captured some short video of them flying.  Video on the boat is a little tricky though as I learned today…too much up and down motion! Then I saw a cute little seal quickly scurry for the water as we scared him from his spot on the rocks and also a sea otter and one big behemoth sea lion! He barked and smiled at us as we passed.  Then on Whaleback, which was a sea lions heaven, just a small short island that looked like the top of a whale’s back surfacing out of the water (hence the name), I saw about 40 more sea lions! They were noisy and smelly, but so cool. I watched them move like they were doing the worm. And they fought with each other and barked and splashed in the water. We watched them for 30 minutes as we were finishing our work, taking a break and snacking, before we headed back.  On the way back, like I said, the waves were fierce.

One behemoth sea lion smiles at us as we  drive by!

One behemoth sea lion smiles at us as we drive by!

After getting lifted off the boat and getting nailed back down and slamming my back and tailbone! I decided to ride the rest out in the cabin. As I made my way back there Grant, my tour guide of spotting whales, pointed out some HUMPBACKS! Yippee. We idled and watched them surface and resurface. They were very, very far away, but looked so huge, so I can’t image what they would have looked like close up! They jumped so high and straight out of the water and splashed so hard back down. There might have been three or four! Soooooo awesome!  So that was my day.  Again, so amazing! I loved it! I then took a long hot shower when we returned, followed by a yummy lunch and a long nap! This stuff is tiring! Working over the summer and teachers just don’t go together!

Question of the Day 

The tides determined our window for collecting shoreline data today.  We were given the time window of 5:30 to 10:30 am. This is the time during the day when there is a negative tide. This makes it much easier for boats to see features in the water that would not normally be exposed during a high tide situation. The west coast experiences semidiurnal tides. This is different from the tides on the east coast, which are called diurnal.  Can you describe the differences between the two types of tides?

Bald eagles

Bald eagles

Lisa Kercher, June 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

Grant shows me the ropes of driving the boat

Grant shows me the ropes of driving the boat

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 21, 2006

Science and Technology Log

Launch 1018 set out just after 8:00 am this morning. I was teamed with FOO (Field Operations Officer) Jennifer Dowling, SST (Senior Survey Technician) Grant Froelich, and ENS Wendy Lewis.  We began our day by doing something called a PATCH TEST. This test is done to determine the allowable error of the data that is collected when moving the boat back and forth over a target such a rock just below the water’s surface. The test includes a pitch test, a roll test and a heading test. Each test collects information about the boat as it makes its way through the water.

I work hard to pull in the CTD which was resting about 150 feet below on the ocean floor.

I work hard to pull in the CTD which was resting about 150 feet below on the ocean floor.

As we passed over the large rock that we were observing under the water, a clear picture of it popped up on the screen in front of us. It was neat to see an underwater picture of a feature that was collected using echo sounding. The MBES (multi beam echo sounder) transducer is able to send out hundreds of signals and receive them back to create an accurate picture of things below the water’s surface.  It is quite amazing.

Midway through the day we returned to the FAIRWEATHER to a picnic lunch on the fantail. This was a fun way to send time bonding with the team I was working with that day. We then set out again for more hydrography work on the SW point of Cape Devine. I was able to do a CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) cast all by myself.  I had carefully watched others deploy the CTD throughout the week and I had assisted on several aspects of the cast, but I was excited to be able to put what I had learned into practice. The CTD has to be turned on for three minutes to warm up, and then it must sit in the water for two minutes just below the surface to properly calibrate.  After that it is time to lower it to the bottom of the ocean floor to gather data, followed by quickly pulling it back to the boat. It is definitely fun, but hard work at the same time. The CTD device is by no means light! So today I drove the boat!  Ok, really I just sat in the driver’s seat while SST Grant Froelich taught me how he operates the vessel.  We weren’t even moving!

A beautiful day in Alaska

A beautiful day in Alaska

Personal Log 

Today is World Hydrography Day and what an amazing day for it! This is by far my best day here so far! They just keep getting better and better! Absolutely beautiful weather in Alaska today! Clear skies, sun, and warm temperatures made my outlook on the day wonderful! I saw my first whale today! It was amazing. There were two off the bow of our boat during the launch. I only saw a small part of their bodies and their puffs of water from their blowholes, but it was my first sighting and what I had been waiting for!  I also captured some amazingly beautiful pictures of two very large bald eagles resting on the navigation light on Andronica Island. Then to top it all off, when we returned from our launch and settled down to eat dinner, someone reported whales directly off the stern of the FAIRWEATHER playing in the Korovin Bay. I snapped some pictures as I watched them surface again and again.  I am in awe of the exquisite wildlife that is all around me here in Alaska!

Two whales play in the Korovin Bay, just off the stern of the FAIRWEATHER.  What a treat!

Two whales play in the Korovin Bay, just off the stern of the ship. What a treat! 

Question of the Day 

The bald eagles in Alaska are abundant. Unfortunately this wasn’t always the case. The population of bald eagles decreased in the past. Fortunately now the numbers of bald eagles are on the rise again. What chemical has been linked to the decrease in the bald eagle population? What was done about the use of this chemical in order to attempt to raise the numbers of bald eagles again?

Two bald eagles sit on the top of the navigational light on Andronica Island.  A beautiful scene as we took a break from our work!

Two bald eagles sit on the top of the navigational light on Andronica Island. A beautiful scene as we took a break from our work!

Lisa Kercher, June 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

Emily pulls in the CTD.

Emily pulls in the CTD.

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 19, 2006

Science and Technology Log

The morning began at 7:00 with a delicious breakfast to fuel me up for what lie ahead. I was on the POD (plan of the day) to go out on a small launch boat.  How exciting! My only hesitation was knowing that I would be out on a small boat for 8 hours and I might just have to pee!  Regardless of my worriers, shortly after the 8:00 safety briefing, Launch 1010 was put in the water and myself, ENS Jonathan French, and boatmen Emily Evans and Ron Walker boarded with our gear for the day! We headed south of Andronica Island, where the FAIRWEATHER had been anchored for the night, and began our hydrography work. Each launch is equipped with the same technology that the FARIWEATHER has, making it easy to collect more data at one time.  As we located the polygon where we were assigned to work, we dropped the CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) device into the water.

Jon and Emily watch the computers to monitor our work

Jon and Emily watch the computers to monitor our work

Jon and Emily quickly processed the data and then we began making passes through the polygon collecting data from the bottom of the ocean using the MBES (multi beam echo sounder) that is located on the underside of the boat. This equipment provides a picture of what the ocean floor looks like and locates any features such as rocks and rough terrain by bouncing beams of sound to the bottom of the ocean floor and then receiving them back. The speed at which the beams return and the length at which they travel is combined with the data that is collected from the CTD to get an accurate representation of the surface of the ocean bottom. I was able to run the equipment for a short time as Jon looked over my shoulder. It was  not too difficult! I was excited to learn later that night, after our work was processed that we collected very clean data that they survey team was very happy with! Good work team!

 I work the computer system, logging data as we cruise through our polygon

I work the computer system, logging data as we cruise through our polygon

Personal Log 

I could not believe how absolutely gorgeous it was in Alaska today! The skies were clear, the wind was calm and the temperature was warmer than it has been since arriving here! I even got to sunbathe on the launch for a short while as we cruised back to the FAIRWEATHER at the end of our workday. I got to see lots of wildlife on the launch and on Andronica Island.  While surveying today and yesterday we had to travel at precise speeds to acquire the most accurate data. While on Launch 1010 today we surveyed at 8 knots, completed our roll test at 7 knots, and yesterday while surveying on the FAIRWEATHER we cruised at 10 knots. Convert each of these speeds to miles per hour to get a better idea of how fast were we moving through the water in each instance.

Stellar Sea Lions sun on a small island southwest of Andronica Island.

Stellar Sea Lions sun on a small island southwest of Andronica Island.

A black oystercatcher comes close to our campfire on Andronica Island.  We were invading his habitat.

A black oystercatcher comes close to our campfire on Andronica Island. We were invading his habitat.

The remains of a sea urchin were washed up on the beach of Andronica Island.

The remains of a sea urchin were washed up on the beach of Andronica Island.

Lupine, a beautiful purple flower, grew wild all over the banks of Andronica Island.
Lupine, a beautiful purple flower, grew wild all over the banks of Andronica Island.

Lisa Kercher, June 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

LCDR E.J. Van Den Ameele

LCDR E.J. Van Den Ameele, XO of the Fairweather

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 18, 2006

Ship Crew

The ship’s Executive Officer (XO) is LCDR E.J. Van Den Ameele. The XO is responsible for the administration of the ship. He is synonymous with the principal of a school! He supervises each department, supervises the officers, and handles the budget, logistics, and personnel.

LT Jennifer Dowling

LT Jennifer Dowling

Field Operations Officer (FOO) LT Jennifer Dowling is the project manager for the activities that go on when conducting hydrography operations.  She describes some of her duties. “I am the liaison between the ship and scientists when they are aboard conducting their own missions. I determine what my resources are (qualified personnel, working boats, up-to-date equipment and software), and create daily plans to accomplish each mission.  I evaluate all data once it is processed and submit it to the CO who will send it off for final evaluation and publication. I also keep candy at my desk to lure junior officers and survey techs over so that I may give them jobs to do!”

 

Junior Officers (JOs) include ENS Jonathan French, ENS Matthew Glazewski, ENS Wendy Lewis, and ENS Allison Martin. Their duties include maintaining weather and deck logs, assisting in training the crew, planning for emergencies on board, acting as an Officer of the Deck (OOD), assisting with positioning of beacons and lights, and most importantly NAVIGATING THE SHIP!

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Left to right: ENS Jonathan French, ENS Matthew Glazewski, ENS Wendy Lewis, and ENS Allison Martin

ENS Glazewski, a 2005 graduate of Penn State University, recalls, “like many people from PA, I always thought of Alaska as the little inset on the map of the US.  After moving here and driving around on the FAIRWEATHER, I’ve realized just how amazingly huge Alaska is, and how each area of the state has its own personality, climate, wildlife, terrain, and rugged beauty.”

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ENS Allison Martin

ENS Allison Martin shares a memorable moment of her job, saying, “one of my duties on board is Assistant Horizontal Control Officer. Basically, this means that when we have a project that includes a beacon or another Aide to Navigation (ATON) we must get a precise position of it for the charts. In order to do this Grant Froelich and I get to climb up, often very tall, rocks or structures to reach the light. On our last project in the Gulf of Esquibel (near Ketchikan, AK), we got to climb up a 105-foot tall rock. That’s 10 stories high! It was a lot of fun.”

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Chief Survey Tech, Lynn Morgan

Chief Survey Tech, Lynn Morgan describes her job: “My position as chief is to run the survey department and to ensure that the survey equipment is available and in good working order.  Most of our acquisition and processing of data is on computers, so there is a lot of installing and troubleshooting of software. Standard operating procedures are necessary to ensure quality data is collected and submitted, so the survey department maintains documentation on our procedures and trains new survey personnel and junior officers.”

Lynn shares a personal story about her life on the ship. “One of the most rewarding aspects of this job for me personally, besides getting to learn about hydrography from really sharp people, is that I’m getting to see what life was like for my father when he was on this ship 20 years ago. He was in the NOAA Corps and still works for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, so it’s a lot of fun to chat with him now about ‘ship stuff’ and to be able to relate to what he was doing when he wasn’t  home.”

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Electronics Technician (ET) Richard Conway

Electronics Technician (ET) Richard Conway can be seen doing all kinds of necessary jobs around the boat from repairing computers to establishing communications for the ship. “After several weeks of being on board and learning the layout of my sate room, I found out that I could navigate in my room in the dark without turning the light on. Well one night I went to the bathroom and being I did not want any bright lights in my eyes, I navigated my way in the dark. After flushing the toilet I suddenly saw all these green and white sparks start flashing in the bowl. ‘Oh no, what did I do?’ Being half asleep, my first thought was I had accidentally knocked something electrical into the toilet so I turned on the lights. I saw nothing…nada, zippo.  By then my brain was more awake and I remembered the FAIRWEATHER uses seawater to flush its toilets.  What I was seeing were the little critters, phytoplankton and zooplankton, that give off bioluminescence when excited. In this case it was the agitation from flushing. So I turned off the lights and waited for my eyes to adjust. I then flushed several more times, each time enjoining the light show.  Don’t tell anybody but I was pretending I was at a 4th of July fireworks show complete with Oooooo and Ahhhhh sound effects!”

Personal Log 

I have to admit that living on a ship with all of these people can be quite challenging, but so enjoyable at the same time. It is almost like teaching middle school! They all make me laugh all the time! The camaraderie on board is great. We often sit at meals joking around and sharing stories.  Everyone is of varying ages and backgrounds and from different parts of the United States, so they have many interesting experiences to share and a wealth of knowledge to pour out. Each night there are movies to watch and it is fun to get together with the others onboard to hangout in the evening after all your work is complete. There is a very apparent team effort when on the FAIRWEATHER which is very important for completing tasks that are as cutting edge as the research that these scientists are doing!  I am grateful to those aboard the FAIRWEATHER for making me feel so welcome and teaching me so much that I will be able to take back to use in my science classroom!

Lisa Kercher, June 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

Assistant Survey Technician Stephanie Mills and Physical Scientist Megan Palmer prepare the CTD for deployment

Assistant Survey Technician Stephanie Mills and Scientist Megan Palmer prepare the CTD for deployment

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 17, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Today was an intense day of hydrography survey work! I received an introductory course to all the survey research that is done on the ship. The morning began with computer system problems – something that took teamwork and troubleshooting to fix. The system that logs data as the ship moves through the water was unable to track the ships movements. It was a team effort to get the system up and working again, but they were eventually successful.  As the ship moved through the Gorman Strait collecting data using a transducer that send multiple beams to the ocean floor the technicians were able to show me how they read and interpret that data. It is a complex process with many computer screens and complicated programs.

I assist in sending the CTD line to the bottom of the ocean

I assist in sending the CTD line to the bottom of the ocean

I am glad I was not in charge! Every few passes through the Gorman Strait we were also required to take a sample of the conditions of the ocean floor. A machine called an MVP (moving vessel profiler) is used to do that. Unfortunately this piece of equipment would not cooperate with us either and we were forced to use the manual version of the MVP called a CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) device. Each instrument does the same thing in sampling the conditions on the ocean floor, but the benefit of the MVP is that the ship is not required to stop to collect data when using it, hence the name moving vessel profiler. The CTD on the other hand cannot be trusted to give accurate data while the ship is in motion. It is also operated manually; therefore several people need to be on hand to assist in its deployment into the water. I was able to help in this task. By the end of the day we had nearly finished surveying the Gorman Strait and completed several CTD deployments leaving us with a lot of data that needed to be processed later that evening.

Megan and I bring the CTD safely back to the ship.

Megan and I bring the CTD safely back to the ship.

Personal Log 

It was very interesting and fun to be part of the scientific research that went on today by surveying the Gorman Strait. I truly felt like I was accomplishing something of value, something that Alaskan fisherman and the cruise line industry will be able to use for years to come. It was great to be part of a team, working together to complete a task, just the way science students work in the laboratory to complete lab activities.

Question of the Day 

After acquiring the data from the CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) device, we were able to produce a graph comparing the sound velocity (the speed at which sound travels) and the depth of the water. We found that as we lowered the CTD further into the water (increased the depth) the sound velocity decreased.  What type of relationship does sound velocity have to depth?  What would you expect to happen to the sound velocity as you raise the CTD out of the water (decrease depth)?

In the O-Lab, Stephanie and Megan begin to process the data that we collected.

In the O-Lab, Stephanie and Megan begin to process the data that we collected.

Lisa Kercher, June 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

Back in beautiful Homer, AK, boats are  constantly coming and going

Back in beautiful Homer, AK, boats are constantly coming and going

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Last night we spent time in port back in Homer, AK. I had to opportunity to explore the small town but unfortunately did not take my camera with me. What was I thinking!?! This morning we left port and began our journey towards the Shumagin Islands where we will be conducting hydrography studies. The greatest part of today’s leg so far was the amazing volcano that I got to see. We passed by the St. Augustine volcano before noon. This area is known for its volcanoes and small earthquakes.

A view from under the pier

A view from under the pier

The Saint Augustine volcano! Notice the steam coming out of the top and the deep trenches down the side of the mountain.

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Question(s) of the Day 

  1.  Of the three types of geologic plate boundaries: convergent, divergent, and transform fault; deduce what type(s) of boundary must be near the St. Augustine volcano and this area of Alaska?
  2.  When was the last time that the St. Augustine volcano erupted?