Jill Stephens, June 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 29, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge: 
Position: 55°13.516’N  161°22.812’W
Scattered clouds with 10 miles visibility
Wind: 195° at 14 knots
Pressure at sea level: 1023 mbar
Temperature: Sea; 7.8°C  Dry bulb; 13.3°C; Wet bulb; 11.1°C

Assistant Survey Technician, Todd Walsh, and I release the bottom sample that was collected from the sea floor.

Assistant Survey Technician, Todd Walsh, and I release the bottom sample that was collected from the sea floor.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was another awesome day at sea.  The ship picked up the anchor at 0830 to begin our move to a new anchorage. The plan for the day called for bottom sampling while in transit to the new anchorage. Bottom sampling is used to determine the composition of the sea floor.  The bottom sampler is attached to a winch with the cable run through a boom to move the sampling device over the starboard side of the ship. The bottom sampler has a bucket that is designed to close when it hits the bottom, collect a sample of the material on the seafloor, and then it is brought back to the surface.  The bucket must be secured and locked in place prior to lowering it to the bottom. The operation requires two people manning the device and examining the specimen and another person operating the winch.

The bottom sampler is ready to be deployed to collect a seafloor specimen.

The bottom sampler is ready to be deployed to collect a seafloor specimen.

The bottom sampler is opened once it is back on deck and examined by survey technicians.  The sediment is observed for color and felt to determine texture elements.  Most of the samples examined today were determined to be green sticky mud or volcanic ash and broken shells. This form of sampling provides information about the seafloor that will be of importance to ships that might consider anchoring in the area.  Samples are sometimes collected for more extensive study.

While the people on the fantail are examining the sea floor samples, personnel in the plot room prepare to enter the information into the computer.  The plot room crew enters the GPS location into the computer plus all descriptive data regarding the samples from the sampling crew. If the sampler returns to the surface in the open position, the sample is determined to be unsuccessful and is repeated.

Sitting in with a night processor allowed the opportunity to review data collected during the day and clean out noise that prevents the computer from selecting the best representation of the sea floor.

Sitting in with a night processor allowed the opportunity to review data collected during the day and clean out noise that prevents the computer from selecting the best representation of the sea floor.

Personal Log 

Working the bottom sampler and feeling the sea floor sediment was exciting for me.  I thoroughly enjoy working with soils to determine various characteristics, so this activity was right up my alley.  Although the sampler itself can be managed by one person, it is easier and safer for two people to operate the sampler while a third person operates the winch and boom. My partner and I worked together very efficiently and processed between five and ten samples during one shift.  The shifts were divided into one and a half hour periods. I was lucky enough to get two sampling shifts and one shift in the plot room recording the data.

After dinner, I was able to work with one of the night processors to convert and clean data that was collected on one of the launches during the day.

Animal Sightings

A baby crab and a worm were found in some of our bottom samples.

Findings in the bottom sample

Findings in the bottom sample

Jill Stephens, June 28, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 28, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: 55°08.501’N  161°41.073W
Visibility: 10+ nautical miles
Wind: 250° at 12 knots
Pressure: 1024.1 mbar
Temperature: Sea 8.3°C;  Dry bulb 10.0°C;  Wet bulb 7.8°C

The device that collects the information for the Moving Vessel Profiler is referred to as the “fish.”

The device that collects the information for the Moving Vessel Profiler is referred to as the “fish.”

Science and Technology Log 

The day began a bit overcast as Shawn Gendron, Manuel Cruz, Dennis Brooks and I set out in RA 4. Manuel is working on his HIC qualification, so he ended up running the equipment and the boat quite a bit today. The process involved in attaining the Hydrographer in Charge certification takes approximately one year to complete.  To become HIC qualified, you must complete the HIC workbook and demonstrate proficiency in all areas of hydrography covered by NOAA in addition to demonstrating boat handling skills. (I could probably get a few things checked off myself!) Manuel handled the first cast by himself, then allowed me to help with the second cast, and complete the third cast on my own.

The MVP can be controlled with buttons located on a handheld wand.  See it my hands?

The MVP can be controlled with buttons located on a handheld wand. See it my hands?

The data retrieved from the casts was good and so there was not a need for any recasts. We have been trying to perform a cast at the beginning, middle and end of the day to provide adequate information regarding depth, temperature, and salinity.  It is also necessary to take casts from various locations within the work area in order to accumulate necessary information to integrate with the raw data from the multi-beam sonar to depict the contour of the sea floor. We were supposed to use the MVP, Moving Vessel Profiler, today instead of the CTD.  When we attempted to start the equipment, an alarm sounded and would not shut down.  The computer also lost communication with the “fish.” (The fish is the data collection device that is placed in the water.) The MVP is similar to the CTD, except that it has a different top and is attached to a cable that extends beyond the stern of the boat.  The MVP collects the same information as a CTD, but instead of a snapshot at selected locations, it can provide continuous depth, conductivity, and temperature readings by automatically taking repeated casts.

After our return to the ship, the MVP system was reviewed by the Field Operations Officer. The operating instructions were reviewed and it was determined that some key steps were not represented correctly.  These omissions were corrected. The launches all have laptops that are being used to convert files from Hypack into Caris. Converting the files on board the launch allows hydrographers and survey technicians the opportunity to review the seafloor surfaces searching for areas of incomplete coverage.  Shawn converted some files and gave me the opportunity to practice cleaning away errant returns or “noise.”

The unit pictured above is one of the two desalination systems for the ship.

The unit pictured above is one of the two desalination systems for the ship.

Personal Log 

Tonight after supper, Mary Patterson, (Teacher at Sea from Texas), and I went on a tour of the engine room with one of the engineers.  I knew that the engines for this ship would be massive, but was unprepared for just how massive they are.  NOAA Ship Rainier was put into commission in 1968 and still has her original engines.  The engineers pride themselves on the excellent maintenance that has enabled the engines to continue to perform well.

All of the ship’s power and freshwater originates in the engine room.  The ship has two generators that can be used to provide electrical power to the entire ship. Electrical outlets, radar, sonar, computers, and lights are among the items that use the power supplied by the generators. Normally, only one of the generators operates at a time and sometimes when in port, the ship is able to connect to shore power and shut down both generators. 

A necessity aboard ship is a continuous supply of potable water.  The ship has two desalination systems located in the engine room.  Sea water is taken into the system under pressure and exposed to heat within the unit.  The evaporated water is collected in trays and sent on to be treated with purification elements.  The salt residue is then returned to the sea.  Each unit has the capacity to produce approximately 150 gallons of fresh water per hour.

Question of the Day 

How does the desalinization technology of 1968 compare to desalinization technology today?

Jill Stephens, June 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 23, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: 55°08.576’N  161°41.010’W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky: broken clouds
Wind: 230° @ 10 knots
Sea: 0-1 feet
Pressure: 1009.3 mbar
Temperature:  Sea 6.1°C; Dry Bulb 8.9°C; Wet Bulb 7.8°C

The CTD sits near the surface for two minutes to acclimate to the environment and begin collecting data.  The instrument is then lowered to the bottom and retrieved using the winch.

The CTD sits near the surface for two minutes to acclimate and begin collecting data.

Science and Technology Log 

Ian Colvert, Martha Herzog, and Matt Abraham are my team for today.  We are working in area that has not had any survey lines run yet. We are the first to explore what lies beneath the water!  The survey that we are conducting today will involve running long lines instead of filling in polygons. The long survey lines provide the survey techs with an idea of what to expect for the area and assist them in planning the polygons that will be covered later.  If rocks are known to exist, these first lines go near to them in an effort to determine bottom features at a safe distance.

The Reson froze twice today for some reason, but was able to start right up again.  This issue was brought up at the daily meeting and it appears to have happened on another launch as well.  (The ship is in frequent contact with the company and will have a solution to this problem quickly.)

The instrument is then lowered to the bottom and retrieved using the winch.

The instrument is then lowered to the bottom and retrieved using the winch.

Personal Log 

I was able to pilot the launch for a complete line today.  I am proud to say that after learning to orient the boat using the information on the screen, I did a good job.  After the first cast of the CTD, Martha and Ian let me go ahead and perform the next two casts of the day.  The data collected from the casts was good, so we did not have to perform any recasts.

Ian made a couple of movies of the Reson data today that I will be able to take back to my classroom. I went ahead and took pictures of the side scan display to show students. I am going to go ahead and use my digital camera to make a movie of the side scan screen.  Hopefully, it will work.

In the area that we surveyed today, there is a huge, interestingly shaped rock. As we passed by the rock, we noticed light colored areas along the rock. These light colored areas were seals. It was an impressive sight!

Animal Sightings 

More than 30 seals

The light brown areas near the base of the rock are actually seals.

The light brown areas near the base of the rock are actually seals.

 

Jill Stephens, June 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position 55° 10.089’N 161° 52.801’W
Broken cloud cover
Wind variable and light
Pressure 995.9
Temperature: Sea; 6.1°C;  Dry Bulb; 8.3°C; Wet Bulb; 7.8°C

The Reson monitor displays the sonar return captured by the receiver on the bottom of the boat.

The Reson monitor displays the sonar return captured by the receiver on the bottom of the boat.

Science and Technology Log 

The launch leaves the ship every day to go to spots within the survey area to collect data regarding the bottom for depth, possible anchorage sites and potential navigational hazards.  Our boat was responsible for covering the long area referred to as the fairway, which is necessary in this uncharted area so that the launches can transit to and from the working areas safely, and move on to another area upon completion.

The chart of the area is “painted” with color depicting the depth of the area based upon the return form the sonar.  The goal is to “paint” your assigned area.  The numbers in the lower right of the screen indicate the depth in meters.

The chart of the area is “painted” with color depicting the depth of the area based upon the return form the sonar. The goal is to “paint” your assigned area. The numbers in the lower right of the screen indicate the depth in meters.

The inside of the cabin of the launch reminds me of Star Wars. There are pieces of electronic equipment everywhere!  One of the survey team members sits in the command center to monitor and control the Reson collection and additional software that displays a 3-D image of the sea floor surface. As the coxswain pilots the boat over the surface of the water, low frequency sonar is emitted from the transducers.  The sonar hits the sea floor and is then bounced back to a receiver on the underside of the boat.  The pings are recorded by the equipment and stored in the computer. 

The CTD is attached to a cable operated by a winch.  The CTD acclimates to the water surface temperature before being lowered steadily to the bottom.  The equipment is raised to the surface using the winch and then brought aboard.  The CTD is connected to the computer for data retrieval.

The CTD is attached to a cable operated by a winch. The CTD acclimates to the water surface temperature before being lowered steadily to the bottom. The equipment is raised to the surface using the winch and then brought aboard. The CTD is connected to the computer for data retrieval.

There are factors that affect the accuracy and quality of the information.  Boat speed, conductivity of the water, pitch and roll, yaw, and tides must be accounted for in order obtain usable data. There is equipment on board that collects the pitch, roll, yaw, and geographic position information to correct merge with the data to make corrections.  The CTD apparatus is placed into the water while the boat is stopped. The cast of the CTD will collect salinity, temperature, and pressure information at depths from the surface to the bottom. This information is also sent to the computer to provide a more accurate reading of the sonar data received by the Reson system.  Casts of the CTD must be made a minimum of every four hours to account for any changes between points in the survey area.

Personal Log 

Here I am manning the computers onboard the launch used to collect sonar depth and bottom information in the Pavlof Islands, Alaska.

Here I am manning the computers onboard the launch used to collect sonar depth and bottom information in the Pavlof Islands, Alaska.

Shawn, Todd, and Dennis were on my launch today. Once the equipment was powered up and the software programs selected, I was able to sit at command center and control collection and storage of data. The raw data is merged with the corrective information and submitted to Caris, another software program that also creates models of the findings. We were using a laptop to merge the data and begin field processing of the data. I was able to assist with this process too.

Two whales surfaced near the survey launch early in the morning near Bluff Point in the Pavlof Islands.

Two whales surfaced near the survey launch early in the morning near Bluff Point in the Pavlof Islands.

Animal Sightings 

This morning was a great day to see whales!! We spotted 5 blows!  We were then able to see the whales breach the surface at a distance.  Three of the whales moved closer to us. There were two adults and a juvenile. The juvenile was very playful and kept poking his head above the surface.  The two adults came closer to the launch and we were able to get some great shots of their bodies!! On the way back to the ship, we saw four more blows. Total sightings of whales: 9 Puffins as always are out there. They are very strange, somewhat silly birds…. 

New Vocabulary Gain: how hard an object is listening to the sound emitted by the sonar Sound Speed: speed at which sound is able to travel (This will vary in water depending upon the factors like salinity and temperature.)

Absorption: refers to how much of the sound is absorbed by the medium and varies with the medium’s composition and other factors including temperature. 

Jill Stephens, June 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 17, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: Anchored, Bluff Point, AK; 53° 10.087’ N, 161° 52.801’ W
Visibility 10 nautical miles
Wind 060 at 6 knots
Temperature 8.3° C dry bulb, 7.8° C wet bulb
Barometric pressure 995.7
Sea Temperature 5.6° C

Science and Technology Log 

This morning everyone was abuzz with excitement because today we were to send out the launches and begin to survey the area in the Pavlof Islands that has not yet been charted! The data that we will be collecting during this survey, such as depths and hazards to navigation, will eventually end up on nautical charts.

Here I am driving the launch.  It is essential to hold a steady course while collecting data for the surveys and tests.

Here I am driving the launch. It is essential to hold a steady course while collecting data for the surveys and tests.

Deploying the launches is a fascinating thing to watch. The davits on our ship rely upon gravity, (Newton’s Laws in action…).  The boats are attached with cables and the weight of the launch is used to lower it to the water. As the cable is slowly released, deckhands man lines to assist in guiding the launches slowly toward the water. The crew and their gear are loaded from one of the lower decks and then the launch is lowered the rest of the way to the cold Alaskan water.  Once the launch is in the water, the cables are released from the launch.

The launch that I went out on was running patch tests and collecting Reson data.  The patch tests are necessary to calibrate the multibeam sonar and measure any physical offsets that may induce errors into the acquired data. In order to accomplish this test, we collected data with the sonar by running lines over an area that was surveyed last year.  The sonar that is used to collect information about the depth and underwater objects can be either high or low frequency.  It was important for our boat to test both frequencies.  The frequency used depends upon factors such as the depth of the water.

Personal Log 

Having been on board ship for two days already, I am getting the feel for where everything is located and how meals work.  Now, I have also been introduced to the routine of launching and conducting surveys. Our coxswain allowed me to pilot the boat for one of the runs during our testing. My time on boats at home and on sailing excursions is paying off.

When I visited the bridge to write down the weather information, the officer on bridge watch, Ensign Andvick, was preparing to collect the hourly weather information.  I assisted in the collection of the required data and was excited to be able to learn where the weather instruments are located on the bridge.  I enjoy data collection, so I will time my visits to coincide with the hourly check of the weather, which becomes a part of the ship’s log.  While on the bridge, I also learned that there is some difficulty communicating by radio from the ship to launches in this area. The islands in this area are very high and mountainous, but in similar areas this difficulty has not been noticed. One possibility for the communications issue is that the mountains here have a higher concentration of iron that interferes with the signal.  (Sounds like an idea for a science fair project….). The launches have other methods to communicate with the ship and other launches such as satellite phones.

I had the opportunity to spend time in the plot room with fellow teacher at sea, Mary Patterson while the night processors were working on the data collected during the day.  We continue to meet and work with interesting and fabulous people.

New Vocabulary 

Coxswain: boat driver/operator — The coxswain is responsible for the operation of the boat and the safety of all occupants and equipment.

Jill Stephens, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Overcast
Visibility 10 nautical miles
Wind from 170° at 2 knots
Sea Temp 7.2° C
Air temperature: 13.3°C dry bulb; 10°C wet bulb
Pressure 1015.2 mb

Donning the survival suit is necessary if you are forced to abandon ship in cold water.  The suit must be donned quickly. This is not an easy task, but I was successful.  Now, please step aside so that I can make my way to life raft number 10 on the port side of the ship!

Donning the survival suit is necessary if you are forced to abandon ship. The suit must be donned quickly. This is not an easy task, but I was successful. Now, please step aside so that I can make my way to life raft number 10 on the port side of the ship!

Science and Technology Log 

Safety is of the utmost importance on all NOAA vessels at all times.  New crew members are required to go through safety training upon arrival.  The training covers important details that include breathing devices to use in a fire emergency, correct procedure for donning survival suits, entry into life rafts, and lowering and raising launches. Survival suits, life vests, hard hats, and float jackets were issued at our safety meeting. We were taken on an orientation of the ship, during which we were shown our muster stations for fire, man overboard, and abandon ship emergencies.

The training video depicting the deployment and recovery of the launches was fascinating from a physics standpoint. Although we will not be handling any of the lines or equipment, there is safety protocol to be followed during this activity.

Almost there!

Almost there!

Personal Log 

Everyone on board the ship has been very friendly and helpful. My roommate is NOAA Corps Ensign Marina Kosenko. The NOAA Corps is actually the smallest of the seven uniformed services.  She has been with NOAA since August of 2008. She was an astrophysics major at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she received a scholarship from NOAA that paid for her junior and senior year of college. She interned at a NOAA lab in Miami, Florida. While in Miami, she met a NOAA Corps officer that interested her in the NOAA Corps.  After receiving her BS, she applied to NOAA Corps, was accepted and went to training a year later in New York, New York.  Upon completion of the four month training program, she became an ensign and was assigned to the Rainier. Ensign Kosenko’s duties aboard the ship include assistant medical officer, assistant damage control officer, movie and morale officer, assistant sound velocity officer, discharge slip officer in addition to standing anchor watch, and 12-4 bridge watch when underway. During bridge watch she serves as Conn and ensures safe navigation of the ship with the assistance of the Officer of the Deck.

Ensign Kosenko has taken me under her wing and been a terrific roommate!  She is also teaching a great deal about many facets of her job.

This actually holds a life raft.

This actually holds a life raft.

Animal Sightings 

Hundreds of red jellyfish surrounded the ship after the engines were powered up and we prepared to get underway.

I counted 81 sea otters as we were leaving Kodiak.  The otters were extremely playful and most were swimming on their backs.  It was amazing to see so many of them wishing us bon voyage.

While up on the flying bridge, the deck above the bridge, we were watching for whales.  Steve Foye was very helpful in helping us to look for “blows”.  (Whales are spotted by seeing the water blown into the air, hence the term.)  Once we knew what to look for, they were easier to spot. Although we were too excited to count, there must have been between 15 and 20 sightings, but we were not close enough to see their bodies.