NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
October 31, 2011 – November 11, 2011
Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, between Montauk, L.I. and Block Island
Date: October 31, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Temperature 14 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 12.0 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb: 8.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1228.4 millibars
Latitude: 41°71’58” ° North
Longitude: 072°0’07” ° West
Science and Technology Log
Good Morning Thomas Jefferson! Today I woke up and felt very spritely. Even though we were still docked I was excited to see a new city and leave Connecticut’s shores by noon. I started by walking around New London and learning about its
Halloween Morning on Thames RIver Harbor. Thomas Jefferson is on the left and a U.S. Coast Guard ship is on the right.
history. New London is a mariners town and is home to a Naval submarine base as well as the United States Coast Guard Academy. New London was also home to the Eastern shores largest whaling industry in the 1700’s.
After having a glimpse of New London (only 2.5 hours north of NYC) I returned to the Thomas Jefferson and watched as the ship readied herself to leave the dock and begin yet another survey (mapping the ocean floor) of the ocean floors. While I watched the deck hands, officers, and surveyors ready the ship I asked random shipmates who exactly worked aboard the Thomas Jefferson. Based on our conversation I was able to make the following chart. This chart breaks down the five basic groups that are aboard the Thomas Jefferson. The only person I did not account for is the amazing ET (Electronics Technician), Mike, who helps with all computer and system related problems (there are enough aboard to keep him busy 24/7.
Who works on the Thomas Jefferson:
Stewards (Kitchen Crew)
Dave cooking a tasty dinner.
Tom repainting the exterior of ship.
Surveying crew (Frank, Matt, FOO Mike, and XO Denise)
Ivan and Otis manning watch.
NOAA Corp Officers
Ensign Anthony on constant alert in the bridge.
|Let’s start with the cooking crew, because food is the best place to begin any conversation. . Dave, Nester, and Ace are the stewards for this journey and make incredibly tasty meals…even vegetarian ones for me and Shaina (Shaina is on an internship with NOAA while she attends College in Seattle). The kitchen on a ship is also called the “galley.”
||The deck department works by maintaining the ship. The tasks include chipping and painting (this is important because the sea water is constantly chemically eroding the surface of the ship) moving the launches in and out of the TJ, and keeping the ship balanced as a whole.
|| The “surveyors…” this team is quite large and essential to the ship because they conduct and perform all of the seafloor mapping (hydrographic surveying). The surveyors work around the clock and continually modernize old nautical charts to be used commercially and for recreation purposes.
||The mechanical engineers or “the heart of the ship.” The ME’s maintenance the engine, electricity, sewage, water, and keep all life lines to the ship running. There are multiple positions in the ME department:CME (Chief Mechanical Engineer), licensed engineers, JUE (junior unlicensed engineers) oilers, wipers, GVA (General Vessel Assistants).
||The officers are essentially the supervisors or parents of the ship. The officers “run” the ship in respect to giving directions, deciding where TJ will go, how fast she (all ships are referred to as she) should go, and pull the stops when things aren’t going well or need to be revised.
What is a scientific research vessel?
So, let’s break it down. The Thomas Jefferson specifically is used to map sea floors, however it can be called to plane crashes (they saved a pilot last year off of the Florida keys!!) when they go down in the area or ship wrecks. The Thomas Jefferson, or TJ, has three deployable ships (small ships that can be moved from the larger ship to the ocean). Two of the deployables are hydrographic survey launches named 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 (aptly named for their position on the ship) and the FRV (fast rescue vessel). The 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 are used daily to map areas that have shoal bottoms (shoal=ship term used for shallow). Sadly the 31-0-1 is awaiting a new multibeam scanner so instead is used for small missions like going ashore to pick up mail (this is
very exciting for the crew) or retrieving tidal data from instruments that lost power from our Nor’Easter last weekend (this is also exciting because it allows you to go onto land). TJ is 208ft long (just short of a block). Thomas Jefferson was the first President to realize the importance of surveying and safe navigation. Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter was a land surveyor and was able to emphasize the importance of national surveying to his son. Thomas Jefferson commissioned the first surveying crew through the U.S. Government and as a result NOAA named their ship after him.
A scientific research vessel basically means I am not on a cruise ship, and unfortunately there is no swimming pool, or drinks with little umbrellas. Instead it is like a business office on the water. Everybody is working all of the time. The only difference is that everyone eats and sleeps in the same place they work. Everybody works in 4 hour “watches.” If you are the 4-8 watch that means you work from 4am-8am and 4pm to 8pm everyday. Though this watch may not interest you, I love it because you are able to observe the sunrise and sunset each day.
Red skies at night a sailors delight, Red skies in morning a sailors warning. (SUNSET)
Other watches are from (8am-12pm and 8pm to 12am) and (12am-4am and 12pm-4pm). Imagine waking up at school, eating breakfast going to school for four hours (let’s say 4am-8am), taking a break and going back to school again for another 4 hours (4pm-8pm) and then going to sleep only to wake up the next morning to start anew. On a research vessel work is achieved and performed 24/7. I can wake up any hour and move throughout the ship to find the “new crew” that are on just beginning their new watch.
How She Moves:
OKAY, so the motion of the ocean (known to me as seasickness). The motion is kind of like being on the subway and not holding onto anything. If the subway moves back and forth on a ship that would be called the roll (like you rocking from right to left foot), if we were able to take a subway car and move it up and down that would be known as the heave, if you took the subway car and just tipped it up in the front (bow) and down in the front (bow) this would be known as the pitch and last but not least if you swung the subway car through turn after turn, right to left to right to left again this would be known as the yaw or side to side from port to starboard. Depending on the weather or if you are anchored (when the ship lets down a chain connected to a huge weight that is pushed into the sand) you can have ALL FOUR motions going at the same time. Last night while we were anchored offshore, the TJ was rock’n and roll’n and we had yaw, roll, heave, and pitch all while moving in a circle around the anchor…and I sadly was able to see my dinner twice in one evening!
Do I need to go to college to work on a ship?
Some of the positions require technical skills in surveying that can not be acquired without going to college, however the majority of the positions are trades that can be taught in a semester or year-long course. Many of the wage mariners aboard did not attend college, but instead attended a maritime school for one semester to one year depending on their rank. Many of the mechanical engineers were trained either in the Navy or at a trades school as well. There is a maritime school in NYC between Hunts Point and Queens (click on purple/blue mariners school). If you are interested in becoming a NOAA Corps Officer you will have to graduate from a four-year college/university with a major in any science discipline. The NOAA Corps Officer training program is also located in NYC.
Interested in NOAA ship jobs: http://www.sunymaritime.edu/Academics/Continuing%20Education/index.aspx
Learn more about NOAA: http://www.corpscpc.noaa.gov/flash/recruit_video.html
NOAA Student Scholarships: http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/noaa_student_opps.html
Breakfast: 2 fried eggs, oatmeal
Lunch: mac n’ cheese with beans
Dinner: Tofu curry
Date: November 01, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Clouds: 3/8 Cumulus
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: NW 21Knots.
Temperature 13.9 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 13.5 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb: 10.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1626.8 millibars
Latitude: 41°08’39” ° North
Longitude: 072°05’43” ° West
Science and Technology Log
First quarter moon
It is late at night and I am sitting on my bunk bed (top bunk) or crouching rather against the wall. I was given sheets and a pillow from NOAA to use for my trip, however I brought a small blanket my sister bought for me ages ago. It is true, creature comforts bring smiles and happiness in the quietest moments. My curtains are swaying back and forth, my coat sways to the same rhythm and there is a small creak from my bathroom door trying to break free from its steal holds. I just came from outside to breathe in one last crisp breath of air and peak at the first quarter moon shining on the Atlantic waters. It is amazing to look upwards or in any direction above the horizon and observe the celestial nighttime stars brilliantly held in the sky. Tonight there are no skyscrapers or brownstones blocking my view.
Sunset from the bridge.
At night-time, when we anchor, I find the best position for me to be in, is laying down (or crouching). This seems the only time my food wants to fight gravity. We have had smooth sailing thus far (with exception to this evening).
Today I was able to observe and listen to multiple meetings in the “plot room.” The plot room consists of all of NOAA’s hydrographic surveyors. Some surveyors were plotting today’s scan while others scoured through old data looking for areas on the most recently made map that were missing information and identifying features on the maps such as rocks, piers, sunken ships, and other interesting features.
True shape of Earth with daily changing tides (shape of Earth is called an Oblate Spheroid, not a circle)
While in the plot room I spent much of my time with James as he amazingly went through all of the many areas of surveying. One of the major issues of mapping the seafloor is finding the “true depth” of the ocean. The ocean rises and falls each day due the gravitational effects from the moon (tides). NOAA and the hydrographic surveyors must take this tidal change into account in order to determine the “REAL” depth of the ocean. The surveyors must also account for the motions of ship lifting the beam when it is yawing, pitching, heaving, or rolling.
Halfway through my lecture with James the Thomas Jefferson sounded its bell for a fire drill. In school during fire drills everybody vacates the building, however on a boat it is important for “All hands on deck.” This is when everyone comes to specific areas they have been assigned to on the deck (mine is the bridge or second level). I met John and Kurt who are also visiting the Thomas Jefferson and we stood in the cold for about one hour as the deck crew pulled three different fire hoses from below and shot them into the water in order to test if they work. Initially this black brackish water shot out because the hoses had been sitting for so long, but eventually the hoses streamed clear salt water.
Myself and Ivan in our "Gumby" suits.
Upon going inside from the fire drill another bell rang loud and clear calling all persons to deck for a mandatory “man-over-board” drill. When there is a man/woman overboard everyone is to wear their pfd (personal flotation device or life vest) a warm hat, and bring along their immersion suit (also known as a gumby suit). I did not know we were supposed to wear a hat, so I looked like the only one trying to not follow orders…whoops. After the drill I had to try on my gumby suit with Ivan, and wished I could have worn it for Halloween. The “Gumby” suit floats and is incredibly warm, so if the boat goes down you do not necessarily need a life raft in order to stay warm and afloat.
When I returned to the plot room James had found a ship wreck and was cleaning the image. When the surveyors clean the images they remove fish, seaweed, or anything that takes away from the seafloor map.
Ship Wreck from aerial view (viewed from above).
Shipwreck profile (from the side). The grey stuff in back is a school of fish that will eventually be removed from the image.
There is an exercise room on deck and I went running after dinner today. It was really hard to run because not only are you on a machine that is moving, but the machine is located on a boat that is moving. Even though I was able to run 3 miles, I felt like I had run 5 miles while trying to fight the motions of the ship. It felt like I was exercising while standing on a roller coaster that was moving.
Breakfast: Grits and scrambled eggs
Lunch:Veggie Lasagna, green beans, Veggie Chili
Dinner:Veggie chili, potatoes
Dessert: Strawberry shortcake (I had mine without the strawberries…delicious)