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.