Robert Oddo, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 28.21oC
Relative Humidity 78.32%
Sea Surface Temperature 27.62oC
Barometric Pressure 1019.42 inches
Latitude 23 41.483 N Longitude 80 40.363 W

My last sunset from the Ronald Brown
My last sunset from the Ronald Brown

Personal Log 

I just finished watching my last sunset on the Ronald Brown and it is time that I reflect a little on this entire NOAA Teacher at Sea experience.  The cruise gave me a first-hand look at some of the important work that atmospheric scientists and physical oceanographers examine.  I discovered that the ocean system is huge and scientists around the world are compiling information about the ocean so we can better understand it.  This work is like putting one of those big 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles together. The more pieces that you are able to put together, the better you understand how the pieces fit into the entire picture.  Also because the system is so large, it takes the collaborative effort of many different scientists to really get some sort of understanding about what is happening. This cruise would never have been possible without the crew, the scientist and the NOAA Corp officers working as a team. There was science happening 24 hours and everyone did his or her part.

Sitting at my desk in the computer lab
Sitting at my desk in the computer lab

I feel particularly lucky to be selected as the Teacher at Sea on this cruise and I would like to thank everyone that made it possible.  The crew, the scientists, the NOAA Corp officers were friendly, helpful and always willing to explain things about the ships operation and the science that was happening on the ship. Thank you to the Teacher at Sea support staff that helped with logistics and information pertaining to the cruise.  Special thanks go to than Dr. Rick Lumpkin, the chief scientist, for coordinating the cruise, explaining the science, and reviewing sea logs and Field Operations Officer, Nicole Manning for reviewing sea logs and coordinating things.

Finally thank you to all the people that followed along with this adventure. It was always nice to see how many people were viewing the journal and photos. The questions were great and thanks for all the emails. The impacts that these experiences have on teachers and their students have implications that are far reaching. This has really been a special summer for me and thank you to everyone that made it possible.

Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Robert Oddo, August 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: August 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 28.71oC
Relative Humidity 77.91%
Sea Surface Temperature 27.94oC
Barometric Pressure 1020.21 inches
Longitude 70 01.463 W Latitude 19 23.205 N

Everyone anxiously awaiting arriving in San Juan (left) and the Capital Building (right)
Everyone anxiously awaiting arriving in San Juan (left) and the Capital Building (right)

Personal Log 

After being on the ship for 25 days, people were happy to have a day in San Juan, Puerto Rico as the ship refueled. We pulled into the Coast Guard station in Old San Juan around 9:00 am and then had the next 24 hours to explore. I got a chance to roam around town sample the local cuisine and visit a few historic spots.  Visited the capital building, the Castillo San Cristobol, and San Fillipe de Morro Fort.

The narrow streets of Old San Juan (left) and Fillipe de Morro Fort (right)
The narrow streets of Old San Juan (left) and Fillipe de Morro Fort (right)

We pulled out of the harbor at approximately 4:00pm on 8/7 and now are steaming to our final destination Key West.  It is a bit quieter on the ship now since 9 of the scientists departed in Puerto Rico.  The rest of the scientists are staying on to help unload their equipment in Key West.

Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Robert Oddo, August 3, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: August 3, 2009

Preparing to haul in a buoy
Preparing to haul in a buoy

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 28.03oC
Relative Humidity 78.65%
Sea Surface Temperature 28.005oC
Barometric Pressure 1018.02 inches
Latitude 19 23.243 N Longitude 52 34.624 W

Science and Technology Log 

We deployed our last CTD and last buoy a few days ago. Two XBTs are deployed daily but that is nothing compared to the 10-12 we were doing a few weeks ago. The atmospheric group is still sending up radiosondes and ozonesondes but it seems now that most of the scientists are wrapping up their work and trying to take a preliminary look at the data they collected. The analysis will really begin when they get back to their labs once we return to land.  In the meantime, the work of packing things up has begun.

Here I am giving my science seminar
Here I am giving my science seminar

We are now steaming directly toward San Juan, Puerto Rico. The crew has begun to stack all the equipment that will be eventually unloaded on the fantail of the ship.  We will be arriving in Puerto Rico on the August 6th to refuel, and then we will be off to Key West on August 7th for the final leg of this cruise. It was my turn a few days ago to give the nightly science seminar.  I talked about teacher-researcher collaboration, which included the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program and other programs I have participated in.

Everything is packed and ready to go
Everything is packed and ready to go

Personal Log 

I have found it important to get some exercise everyday on the ship.  I try to work out everyday in the ships fitness room.  It has a rowing machine, treadmill, elliptical, bike and some free weights. You usually can find me there in the mornings before I get to work in the lab.

Getting in a morning workout
Getting in a morning workout
Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Robert Oddo, July 30, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 30, 2009

Deploying a buoy
Deploying a buoy

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 25.50oC
Relative Humidity 87%
Sea Surface Temperature 25.75oC
Barometric Pressure 1017.3 inches
Latitude 20 09.721 N Longitude 33 34.806 W

Science and Technology Log 

On the 28th of July we did our 34th CTD and changed out our third buoy and started to steam west back towards the states. We have a break now from our 12-hour shifts and only have one more buoy to change out and only one more CTD to deploy. I wanted to write about a couple of things that I have noticed over the last couple weeks when sampling that I thought were noteworthy. The seawater we collect from 1500 feet down in the ocean, even though we are in the tropics, is still very cold. It is about 4 degrees C or 39 degrees F while the sea surface temperature is around 26 degrees C or 79 degrees F.

Nightly Science Seminar
Nightly Science Seminar

Another thing that is really cool is that when we are doing CTDs at night the lights from the ship attract squid and you can watch the squid chasing flying fish at the surface.  The last thing that is strange, is that every once in a while even though we are hundreds of miles away from land, a butterfly or dragonfly darts around the ship. You just wonder where they have come from.  Every night around 8 pm, there is meeting of all the scientists onboard. We usually get a weather briefing and then someone will give a seminar on the work they are doing. There are many links between the work that each scientist is doing on this ship and this is an important way to share ideas, get feedback and create new questions.

Personal Log 

There is down time on the ship and I wrote about the movies earlier.   We have a ping-pong table set up in the main lab where we play in our spare time. Since we are so far from any land, safety is very important on the ship. We have fire drills and abandon ship drills weekly. After the drill there is a briefing and the safety officer discusses some of the safety equipment the ship has and its use.  Today we went out to the fantail and the officers demonstrated how to use flares and smoke signals.

A little ping pong in the main lab (left) and flare demonstration (right)
A little ping pong in the main lab (left) and flare demonstration (right)
Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

 

Robert Oddo, July 25, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 25, 2009

The Brown seen from a small boat
The Brown seen from a small boat

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 26.94oC
Relative Humidity 81.85%
Sea Temperature 27.84oC
Barometric Pressure 1013.74 inches
Latitude 13o 07.114N Longitude 23o 00.000W

Science and Technology Log 

I have continued to help out on the 11:30 am to 11:30 pm watch with CTDs and XBTs. Why do so many CTDs and XBTs? The scientists on board are developing a subsurface profile of the water temperature, salinity and density. Based on these data, models can be constructed and refined that can help us better understand what is happening in the Tropical Atlantic.

 Removal of radiometer and anemometer from buoy
Removal of radiometer and anemometer from buoy

The Brown arrived at the second buoy that needed to be serviced on July 24th. I was lucky enough to get on the small boat sent out to take some equipment off the buoy before it was pulled up on the boat. Once at the buoy, the radiometer and the anemometer were removed.  An acoustic message is then sent from the Brown to release the anchor on the buoy. The buoy is then attached to a rope from the Brown and pulled up onto the fantail. All the instrumentation and sensors below the buoy are pulled up on the Brown and exchanged. I attached a picture of the buoy to the right so you get an idea of all the instrumentation that is attached to these buoys. I could not believe all the fish that were around the buoy.  Apparently, the buoy creates a small  ecosystem, where all kinds of marine organism congregate.  Algae and small crustaceans attach to the buoy and some of the cables that are underneath. Small fish eat the algae and crustaceans, larger fish eat the smaller fish and before you know it you have a food web.  Some of the fish are huge. Yellow fin tuna, triggerfish and mahi mahi.  This actually causes a big problem.  Fishermen come out to these buoys and damage the buoy instrumentation when they are fishing and we end up losing valuable data.

This figure shows all the instrumentation attached to the buoy.
This figure shows all the instrumentation attached to the buoy.

Personal Log 

Once the buoy is pulled up onto the ship, the fish that were around it looked for a place to go. Sometimes they come under the ship. We threw a few fishing lines in after the buoy was pulled up on the fantail and the tuna were biting like crazy. We caught a few that afternoon and had them for lunch the next day!!

 

 

 

 

Got one!  It’s tuna for lunch!
Got one! It’s tuna for lunch!
Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Robert Oddo, July 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 23, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Outside Temperature 26.77oC
Relative Humidity 74.89%
Sea Temperature 27.64 oC
Barometric Pressure 1013.98 inches
Latitude 07o 59.993 N Longitude 22o 59.767W

Science and Technology Log 

We arrived at the first buoy two days ago and exchanged the “package” which is kind of like the brains of the buoy. Four people went out with a small boat and exchanged the package.  This is not an easy task since you have to climb off the small boat onto the buoy in what can be pretty rough seas and change instruments. We also deployed the “CTD” for the first time.  After the deployment, we collected seawater from various depths for salinity and dissolved oxygen analysis.  We also are deploying XBTs every 10 nautical miles on a 24 hours schedule as the ship steams along its course.  There are two shifts. I am on the 12 noon to 12 midnight shift.  The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph) is dropped from a ship and measures the temperature as it falls through the water. Two very small wires transmit the temperature data to the ship.  When it gets to about 1500 meters, the small wire is cut and the operation is over. By plotting temperature as a function of depth, the scientists can get a picture of the temperature profile of the ocean at a particular place.

Preparing to service a buoy (left) and recovered buoy on deck (right)
Preparing to service a buoy (left) and recovered buoy on deck (right)

Yesterday, we got to the second buoy and had to pretty much exchange it with a new package, sensors and an anchor. This took over 8 hours to do and takes a lot of manpower.  The buoy is actually pulled up on the deck as well as the instrumentation below the buoy and then new instruments, buoy and an anchor are deployed. If this is not done exactly right, everything can be destroyed.

Personal Log 

Wow, there is a lot of action right now on the ship.  The atmospheric scientists are releasing sondes, collecting dust and smoke samples, and measuring incoming solar radiation at different wavelengths. There are people getting instrumentation ready for the next buoys we are steaming towards. People are deploying CTDs, XBTs, and drifters.  Behinds the scenes the crew lends all kinds of support, from preparing food, working the winches and cranes, navigating through the ocean and working in the engine room It is really teamwork that makes this all work and not any one person could do all of this work. There are a lot of very dedicated people onboard this ship and all their hard work make this work!!

Here I am deploying an XBT (left) and collecting seawater samples from the CTD (right)
Here I am deploying an XBT (left) and collecting seawater samples from the CTD (right)
Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan

Robert Oddo, July 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 14, 2009

Deploying a radiosonde
Deploying a radiosonde

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 26.01oC
Relative Humidity 89.26
Sea Surface Temperature 28.3oC
Barometric Pressure 1015.9 inches
Latitude 8o 53.96 N Longitude 48o 05.43 W

Science and Technology Log 

We released our first radiosonde this morning.  These balloons have instruments attached to them that will measure atmospheric pressure, temperature and relative humidity as they go up into the atmosphere.  As the balloon rises, it expands as the atmospheric pressure outside the balloon decreases. After about 2 hours the balloon bursts and falls back into the ocean. Four of this particular type of radiosonde will be released every day.  This data is used as input for weather prediction models, weather and climate change research, input for air pollution models and ground truth for satellite data.

Radiosonde is off!
Radiosonde is off!

We also deployed our first global drifter this afternoon. A surface drifter consists of a buoy and a sea anchor. The drifters have sensors that can measure sea surface temperature and the ocean current.  Information is collected by the sensors and uploaded to a passing satellite and then transmitted back to Earth where all the information from all the drifters give us a better picture of what is happening out in the ocean. Drifters are deployed from hurricane hunter aircraft so we can better predict and understand hurricanes. Data from drifters was used to determine where floating debris would be found shortly after the disappearance of Air France flight 447 on May 31, 2009.  For more information on the NOAA Global Drifter Program, visit their website.  

Personal Log 

The drifter buoy is deployed.
The drifter buoy is deployed.

I have received a couple of emails asking about the food on the ship.  We have three meals a day and there is quite a selection. For breakfast, you can have pancakes, eggs, sausage, oatmeal, fresh fruit or a selection of dry cereal.  For lunch, it really varies; today there was a salad, hot dogs, hamburgers and french fries.  Dinner also varies, but so far we have had fish, ribs, chicken and a salad. There is also a veggie option for each meal.  Coffee, tea and other beverages as well as some snack items are pretty much available 24 hours.

Our dining hall
Our dining hall
Tracking the cruise plan
Tracking the cruise plan

Robert Oddo, July 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 13, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 27.7oC
Relative Humidity 80.16
Sea Temperature 28.2oC
Barometric Pressure 1013.76 inches
Latitude 10o 21.11 N Longitude 52o 13.67 W

The replacement PIRATA Buoy
The replacement PIRATA Buoy

Science and Technology Log 

We have been steaming at full speed towards our first buoy. To the right you can see a picture of the replacement buoy that is on the back of the ship.  This buoy will be lowered into the water using cranes on the ship and then anchored in place. These buoys are anchored on the bottom of the ocean, which is very deep here in the Tropical Atlantic.  The ocean here right under this ship is 4,990 meters or 16,371 feet deep. That’s a lot of chain to attach to the anchor!!  A picture of the buoy instruments that will be redeployed are on the right.  There are other instruments that extend down into the ocean.

Personal Log 

Anchors for the buoys ATLAS buoy instruments that will be redeployed
Anchors for the buoys

I was wondering how we were going to deal with time as we traveled to the East.  A notice was put up yesterday telling us that we should change our clocks from 4 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time to 3 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time.  This ship has things going on 24 hours, so it is really easy to lose track of time and the day.

All in all, it is pretty comfortable on board and the people are very friendly. If you need to take a break from your work you can watch a video, read in the library, or sit out on the back deck of the ship.

Anchors for the ATLAS buoy instruments that to redeploy
Anchors for the ATLAS buoy instruments to redeploy
Cruise ship plan
Cruise ship plan
We change our clocks as we move east
We change our clocks as we move east

Robert Oddo, July 12, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 12, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temp 27.5o C(81.5F)
Relative Humidity 76.63
Sea Temp 28.22
Barometric Pressure 1015.15 inches
Latitude 11o42.80 North Longitude 56o 07.33 West
Traveling at 10.7 knots

Setting up the lab
Setting up the lab

Science and Technology Log 

There is a lot of unpacking and setup that has to be done on a scientific cruise like this one. Researchers were busy today getting schedules setup, equipment working and orienting themselves to their workspaces. We are now steaming directly to 0o, 23oW to service a buoy in the PIRATA backbone that has not been transmitting data since 21 June 2009.

Yesterday, I wrote about PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic). Another project that is also going on simultaneously is the Aerosol and Ocean Science Expedition (AEROSE).  Saharan dust storms are estimated to inject three billion metric tons of mineral aerosols a year into the troposphere. The aerosols impact precipitation, fertilize the ocean, and change the air quality and impact ecosystems in the Caribbean and the US eastern seaboard. Red tides, increased rates of asthma and changes in precipitation in the eastern Atlantic and Caribbean have been associated with this dust from the Sahara. The data collected from this cruise will help us understand better the impact of his Saharan dust on the Caribbean and the US eastern seaboard.

Here I am out on the back deck.
Here I am out on the back deck.

One must be prepared for emergencies at sea and today we had an abandon ship drill and a fire drill. There are 49 people aboard the Ronald H. Brown and it is important to know what do in case of an emergency and make sure everyone is accounted for.

Personal Log 

We got underway from Barbados yesterday afternoon and the seas were described as being a bit “lumpy”.  I noticed little by little people seemed to disappear and was wondering what was going on and then it hit me.  Nausea, cold sweats and not being to get comfortable at all.  I got real sleepy and found a spot in the library and crashed for a couple hours. There is really no place to go. I woke up around dinner, took some seasickness medicine and hung out for the rest of the evening. Believe me, I was not the only one trying to get their sea legs.  There were very few people around. It takes time for the body to adjust to the rocking of the boat and some adjust faster than others.  This morning, I feel much better.

The course we have taken since we departed from Bridgetown
The course we have taken since we departed from Bridgetown
Sunset from the back of the ship
Sunset from the back of the ship

Robert Oddo, July 11, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 11, 2009

NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown docked in Barbados
NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown docked in Barbados

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Air Temperature 27.6o C (81.7o)
Relative Humidity 82.6%
Sea Surface Temperature 28.4oC (83.1oF)
Atmospheric Pressure 1014.8

Science and Technology Log 

The Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic (PIRATA) is project that is monitoring the upper ocean and near surface atmosphere of the Tropical Atlantic.  This is done by the deployment and maintenance of moored buoys and meteorological stations across the Atlantic. One of the purposes of this cruise is to do maintenance work on some of the buoys. The last couple of days have been spent loading equipment onto the ship and preparing the ship for this mission.

One of the science labs with equipment ready to be unpacked
One of the science labs with equipment ready to be unpacked

There is an incredible amount of preparation for a cruise such as this one. Scientific equipment must be packed carefully, shipped to the location where the ship is docked, and then unloaded and set up. If you forget something you might not be able to collect some of the data that you hoped to obtain. The data collected from this array of buoys will lead to a better understanding of an area of the Atlantic which is the main development region of tropical cyclones that threaten the United States.

Personal Log 

Arrived in Barbados late on the night of July 9th. Got to the R. H. Brown early on the morning on the 10th. Spent most of the day getting situated and meeting members of the scientific team as well as the crew.  Berths are small but comfortable.  I was surprised at all the amenities on the ship.  There is wireless Internet, a ship store, movies at 5:30pm and 7:30pm, laundry and even an exercise room with free weights, and elliptical and a treadmill. We attended an orientation session this morning regarding ship procedures, safety and general life onboard the R. H. Brown. 

Picture of my berth.  I have the top bunk.
Picture of my berth. I have the top bunk.
 Practicing getting in and out of immersion suits
Practicing getting in and out of immersion suits 

Robert Oddo, July 15-20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Robert Oddo
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown 
July 11 – August 10, 2009 

Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic)
Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic
Date: July 15-20, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Outside Temperature 24.19 oC
Relative Humidity 78.87
Sea Temperature 24.28 oC
Barometric Pressure 1016.0 inches
Latitude 00o 12.5 N Longitude 23o 37.28W

The CTD
The CTD

Science and Technology Log 

We have been steaming at around 10 knots(approx 11.5 mph) 24 hours a day to our first buoy. The scientists on board are preparing equipment for the work that awaits them once we arrive at our first stop, 0 degrees 01.0 South latitude, 22 degrees 59.9 West.  Replacement tubes for the buoys are being readied and the “CTD” is being prepared for deployment.  The “CTD” is the name for a package of instruments that is lowered in the water that includes sensors that measure conductivity, temperature and the depth of the seawater. Conductivity and temperature are important since salinity can be derived from these values.  The CTD is connected to the ship by means of a cable through which real-time data can be sent back to scientists on the ship as the winch lowers and raises the CTD through the water. The metal frame around the CTD has a number of bottles attached to it that collect seawater samples at various depths.  This water then can be analyzed back in the laboratory when the CTD is brought back on board. 

We have deployed a number of drifters as we are making our way to the first stop.  For the last couple of days, we have not been allowed to collect any data as we traveled through the territorial waters of Brazil. On the night of July 19th we launched an ozonesonde. An ozonesonde transmits information to a ground receiving station information on ozone and standard meteorological quantities such as pressure, temperature and humidity. The balloon ascends to altitudes of about 115,000 feet (35 km) before it bursts.

Deployment of the ozonesonde
Deployment of the ozonesonde

Personal Log 

A few days ago, I toured the bridge of the ship. There is always one officer on the bridge and also a person on watch. Unfortunately there is not a big wheel like I imagined up there to steer the ship (I always wanted my picture at one of those big wheels). But there are a number of thrusters that you maneuver the ship with.  There are also a number of radar screens that enable one to see surrounding objects and well as computers that allow the ship to run on different auto pilot modes. Before a radiosonde or a buoy is launched, one needs to inform the bridge and the operation is logged in. You really get a unique perspective of the ship from up on the bridge.

I have spent hours on deck watching for signs of life out in the ocean. We did have a pod of dolphins of our bow one day, flying fish seem to be out there all the time and one day we believe we saw a pod of false killer whales (maybe).  I expected to see some birds, but so far not one.

Here I am at the helm of the Brown.
Here I am at the helm of the Brown.
Research cruise plan
Research cruise plan