Sandra Camp, Beam Me Up, JJ!, June 22, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 22, 2015

Weather Data: partly cloudy, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds ENE 10-15 KT (knots), seas SE 3-5 ft., air temperature 88° F, water temperature 79° F

Science and Technology Log

Chief Engineer

Chief Engineer James Johnson, “JJ,” in his domain on the engineering deck

Science is not just happening with the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division’s fish survey aboard the Hi’ialakai, science is happening all the time all over the ship. Today I was fortunate enough to go on a tour of the engineering deck with the ship’s Chief Engineer, James Johnson (“JJ”), to take a look at some of the technology and machinery that keep this ship running. Engineering is so huge, it requires its very own deck. On this deck, there is the propulsion room, the shaft alley, and the control room, just to name a few. Besides the engines and rudders and propulsion equipment that keep the ship running literally, there are so many things that have to function properly on a daily basis, because life on board depends on them. We need fresh water for showers, scientist gear cleaning stations, drinking, cleaning, and cooking. We have air conditioning so the temperature is comfortable on board. The galley needs refrigeration to keep food fresh and power for cooking. There must be an efficient system for disposing of waste. There are washing machines and electric gym equipment, and a host of other things that all need to work on the ship. All of that takes place in the Chief Engineer’s domain.

Steering Controls

In a worst-case-scenario, the ship could be steered from engineering.

One of the interesting things I learned on my tour is that the ship uses about 2,000 gallons of fresh water on a daily basis. After 10 days at sea, we have used about 20,000 gallons of fresh water all together. Where does all that fresh water come from? The ocean! The engineering deck contains a machine called the Watermaker. It uses reverse osmosis to desalinate seawater. This device is capable of producing 3,000 gallons of fresh water a day. It is pretty amazing.

There is so much going on in the engineering deck, I found it a bit overwhelming. I am amazed that one person (with a small army of helpers) could know how to run all of that different equipment, and to know how to fix it all if anything goes wrong. I know JJ has had many years to develop his skills, but I am still very impressed.

Interview with the Captain!

I have been very impressed with the professional and efficient way the Hi’ialakai is run, particularly with its attention to safety. This is all to the credit of CDR Daniel M. Simon, the commanding officer of the ship. He was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to sit down with me and talk about what it’s like to be a NOAA Corps officer and the captain of a NOAA ship.

CDR Daniel M. Simon

CDR Daniel M. Simon

What are your primary responsibilities?

Overseeing the overall safety of the ship and the completion of the mission. I ensure that navigation routes are safe and take care of any issues driving the ship. I work with the chief scientists to make sure the mission is completed as safely as possible.

What do you love most about your job?

There are two things I love most: First, the adventure of it all. We are getting to see parts of Hawaii most people never get to see. Earlier this year, we were in Samoa, and last year we had a mission in the Marianas. Second, organizing and managing everything and seeing it all come to fruition.

What kind of education do you need to have this job?

In order to become a NOAA Corps officer, you need a four-year college degree in math, science, or engineering. After that, you can apply to be an officer. I have so far worked for 14 years as a NOAA Corps officer. I spent time on research vessels as an ensign and as an executive officer. I worked in many different capacities in those positions and gained experience that was valuable to becoming commanding officer of the Hi’ialakai, the position they have assigned me to here. I did not always want to be the captain of a ship. I did not have any experience with the ocean before applying to NOAA Corps; it was all new to me. Even though my background was in science, it had nothing to do with a ship. I looked at it as a treasure trove of new information to learn. NOAA sent me to dive school, and I had never even snorkeled before!

Do you have any advice for young people interested in your line of work?

Get the education. College degrees open a lot of doors. Have an open mind, be open to learning new things, and be willing to try new things. I still learn new things every day. Love learning because it never ends. Recruiters are looking for these things: open-mindedness, love of learning, and the ability to handle yourself.

Personal Log

Today, I got to go up to the bridge and see what the command center of the ship is like. Besides a nice view, they have a lot of special equipment up there that helps them navigate the ship and keep an eye on the small boat operations taking place on a daily basis. I learned how to plot the ship’s location on a nautical chart using both GPS coordinates and visual fixed-point references. They even let me steer the ship.

My time aboard the Hi’ialakai is quickly drawing to a close. I am very grateful for the opportunity to come aboard and be part of this mission. I learned so many new things every single day, that I have enough material for at least 20 more blogs! Unfortunately, I will be unable to write them. I would like to thank the Coral Reef Ecosystem Division and the rest of the science team conducting the mission for letting me learn about and share their very important research. I would also like to thank the crew and the officers for being friendly and making my short stay here a pleasant one, and particularly the captain for keeping us all safe.

Aloha Honolulu

A last view of the Oahu coastline as our ship pulls in to Pear Harbor

Sandra Camp: To Bubble, or Not to Bubble . . . That Is the Question, June 21, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 21, 2015

Weather Data: partly cloudy, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds ENE 5-10 KT (knots), seas SE 2-4 ft., air temperature 83° F, water temperature 82° F

Science and Technology Log

In order to get the most accurate fish count, divers try to be as inconspicuous as possible. One concern that scientists have, however, is that the bubbles created by breathing out of an open-circuit scuba tank may scare timid fish away, thereby causing a survey to not be as accurate as it possibly could. In order to address this issue, scientists on this cruise are testing out the possibility of using closed-circuit rebreathers (CCRs) to conduct fish surveys instead of traditional scuba gear. Because rebreathers do not produce any bubbles, it is believed that scientists have a better opportunity to observe marine life in its natural habitat as it is not scared away by the bubbles and noise produced by open-circuit devices.

This is how a closed-circuit rebreather works: After circulating to your lungs, the air in a CCR is circulated back into the rebreather to be used again. It functions by passing exhaled air through a “scrubber” that removes the carbon dioxide and then adds small amounts of oxygen to the recirculated air to maintain the proper pressure of oxygen. The device gets its name from the fact that you are basically rebreathing the same air over and over. Because divers are not exhaling air into the water, no bubbles are created.


“Are you wearing the gear, or is the gear wearing you?” -Raymond Boland

On this cruise, divers are testing out rebreathers to use for fish surveys by doing two separate dives at the same sites: one using an open-circuit scuba, and the other using a CCR. They perform fish surveys in the same location using both devices, and then the data they gather is put into a computer system. After scientists have done this many times (at least 30), they can start to compare the data to see if more fish are visible while using a closed-circuit system rather than an open-circuit one.

Interview with a Computer Specialist

I know many of you are very interested in computers. You enjoy using them, and some of you even dream of having a career working with computers in the future. Well, did you know that you could be a computer specialist AND work on a ship? Yes, you can. You can travel the world and also be a techie. May I introduce Kevin Trick, the Data Management Specialist for the Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey 2015.

Kevin Trick

Kevin Trick next to the server

What are your primary responsibilities?

Making sure the data collected by the scientists is properly handled and stored on computer systems so that it can be used for scientific purposes. I work in the NOAA offices at Pearl Harbor, and spend about 50 days a year at sea. I also fly to American Samoa to do consulting with the scientists at the Department of Management Wildlife Resources.

What do you love most about your job?

Doing something that helps humans survive for the foreseeable future. I help scientists study how humans are impacting the natural environment to inform policy and decision-making. The data is the only thing that will live on after we are gone.

What kind of education do you need to have this job?

A BA in computer science and/or data management. I have 20 years of experience working with computers. I learned by taking care of the computers in all my previous jobs and moving my way up. I worked for the Department of Fish and Wildlife before NOAA. I am currently working on a degree in Marine Science—it is never too late to learn!

Do you have any advice for young people interested in your line of work?

Find out what you really want to do: programming, managing data, systems analysis, etc. and focus your studies on that. Find a skill you love to do and keep following that—never give up.

Personal Log

Louise Giuseffi

Louise Giuseffi

I’m sorry to tell you all, but I’ve been murdered. I was killed on the bow of the ship with a data sheet, tricked there by a person whose name I will not mention with the promise of seeing dolphins; a shameful way, in my opinion, to use such majestic creatures. I was the seventh person aboard the Hi’ialakai to lose their life. There are only 3 scientists left. Who will be the last one standing? (I hope it’s not Kevin!) We have been playing a game called “The Culling,” which is basically a shipboard version of the game Clue. Everyone draws a name, a location on the ship, and a murder weapon. In order to “kill” the person whose name you drew, you have to be in that location with them holding the murder weapon. My money is on Louise for the winner. She is a master with the hula-hoop.

I have really enjoyed being out on the small boats with the scientists as they complete their dives. It is exciting to see how the work is done, how the small boats maintain constant communication with the Hi’ialakai, and how the coxswains maneuver the boats and take care of the divers. It is also nice just to be out on the water, to feel the rock of the boat, to see the island coastline, and to do a bit of snorkeling so I can also see some cool fish.

Did You Know?

The clown triggerfish has some stunning markings -photo courtesy of NOAA

The clown triggerfish has some stunning markings -photo courtesy of NOAA

There are many different species of triggerfish, some of which are native to the Hawaiian Islands. They have very sharp teeth to help them eat their diet of shelled animals. In order to hide from predators, triggerfish “trigger” their fins to extend so that they can lock themselves into small openings to keep safe.

Sandra Camp: What’s the Most Adorable Fish? June 19, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 19, 2015

Weather Data: partly cloudy, isolated showers, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds NE 10-15 KT (knots), seas SE 4-6 ft., air temperature 86° F, water temperature 79° F

Science and Technology Log

So how exactly do marine biologists conduct fish surveys under water? If you are a student in my class, you know that science cannot be conducted all random and willy-nilly. There has to be a standardized procedure in which different variables are controlled in order to ensure the data you collect is meaningful. Some of the variables that are controlled during scientific dives are location, depth, and time.

dive site map

This map shows the survey sites around the island of Hawaii. – photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

Location: In order to ensure that scientists get an accurate overview of the health of an island’s reefs, sites from around the entire perimeter of the island are chosen. It would not tell scientists very much if they decided to survey, say, only the eastern side of an island, or only two different sites on the island. As an example, here is a map of the areas that will be visited around the island of Hawaii. On this map, daily survey areas around the island are indicated by red rectangles, as seen on the inset map. The larger map shows each individual dive site in one of those areas. Which area is shown on the large map? Each site is given an identifying number and a code for depth.

Depth: Again, scientists would not get a very accurate picture of the health of the coral reefs if they only conducted dives at the same depth. A variety of diving depths are chosen, and these depths are recorded as shallow, moderate, or deep:

shallow: up to 20 ft

moderate: 21-55 ft

deep: 56-80 ft.

Can you tell me how shallow, moderate, and deep are coded on the map above?

Time: After divers descend to their survey sites, they take a benthic photograph so they can later confirm what type of reef habitat it is. Then they count the fish they see in their location for a certain amount of time. It would not be a “fair” count if one diver counted fish for 10 minutes, while another one counted fish for 20 minutes. For this particular research cruise, pairs of divers (you never dive alone) go under water, stand in one spot, and count the fish they see in a 15 meters diameter cylinder for 30 minutes. The Random Sea Survey graphic here shows how these surveys are conducted. This type of survey is called a Stationary Point Count Survey.


How a Stationary Point Count Survey is conducted – photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

Form Fail

I was on the boat called Metal Shark. Woops!

Every day, each boat completes a Dive and Navigation Information Form. On this form, the boat crew notes the date and number for each site visited. GPS is used to record the latitude and longitude of the site. Ryan, one of the coxswains, taught me how to use the GPS to identify and record latitude and longitude for dive sites. In addition, after the dive is complete, divers complete some information about the site, such as what kind of benthic (floor) cover it has. Here is a picture of a properly completed form, not to be confused with my team’s form, which was a FAIL today (But it was the divers’ section that was not complete, not mine!). Kevin Lino, the scientist being interviewed in today’s blog, completed this excellent example. He is in charge of this whole operation, so his form should be perfect, shouldn’t it?

Dive Nav Sheet

This is an example of the correct way to fill out a Dive & Navigation Form – photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

Interview with a Scientist

Kevin Lino is a Marine Ecosystems Research Coordinator for NOAA’s CRED (Coral Research Ecosystem Division), and the Project Leader for this cruise, the Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey. He is the man running the show here, and I can vouch that he is very capable and very good at his job.

Kevin Lino

Kevin Lino in his native habitat -photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

What are your primary responsibilities? Coordinating operations and logistics for field efforts, primarily conducting reef fish diver surveys. I do pre-planning, documentation, paperwork, certification of divers, surveys, post cruise activities, plus act as dive master and boat instructor.

What do you love most about your job? Fish! I’m a fish nerd, and have been since I was a kid. I was obsessed with sharks as a kid, and loved what Shark Week used to be: real information, not dramatized. Tiko and the Shark was a movie I loved as a kid. I grew up fishing and spending time on boats. Growing up, I had a goal to dive with every species of shark on Earth. I have so far dived with 38. Most of the rest are deep-water sharks, and I would need a submarine to see them.

Hawaiian Morwong

Hawaiian morwong: check out its cute little lips! -photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

Do you have a favorite fish? Yes! My favorite fish is the Hawaiian Morwong because it is ADORABLE. My favorite shark is the Mako shark. It is like a miniature Great White shark. It is the fastest shark in the ocean. It has perfect aerodynamics because it is built for speed. It hunts the fastest fish in the ocean: the sailfish.

What kind of education do you need to have this job? I studied biology as an undergrad. I took summer classes in ocean environments and elective courses in marine biology. In college, I also took diving courses.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in your line of work? Study science and math, get in the water, volunteer and help out at places like the Marine Mammal Center, beach/ocean clean ups, and meet other biologists.

Personal Log

Driving the HI-2

Coxswain Sandra Camp

Today during small boat operations, our coxswain, Rich (possibly the nicest person I have ever met), let me drive the boat HI-2. There is a lot to maneuvering a boat through swells and protectively around divers. Rich makes it look easy, but it isn’t! I am hoping that before I leave, they will let me try talking on the radio and hook or unhook one of the small boats as they are launched.

Did You Know?

Hawaiian Morwong 2

Hawaiian Morwong -photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries

The Hawaiian Morwong, that adorable little fish, has very strong pectoral fins that they use to prop themselves up on the bottom of the sea floor. They eat by pressing their thick, fleshy lips to the bottom, sucking in sand and detritus, and then filtering out small invertebrates.


Sandra Camp: A Day in the Life of a Marine Biologist, June 17, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 17, 2015

Weather Data: mostly cloudy, showers, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds east 10-15 KT (knots), air temperature 80° F, water temperature 80° F

Science and Technology Log

Days at sea begin early for the scientists aboard the Hi’ialakai. There are push-ups on the bow at 0630 (not mandatory), followed by breakfast at 0700. After breakfast, everyone meets outside on the deck at 0730 for a meeting about the day’s diving. Safety procedures are always reviewed during this meeting.

Morning Meeting

Morning meeting at 0730 in the fantail

Afterwards, the divers suit up, get their gear together, and get ready to board small boats, which will take them to the day’s scheduled diving sites. The way the small boats are lowered into the water with their passengers and gear from the larger ship is nothing less than a carefully orchestrated ballet of synchronized movement, line management, and communication.  The chief boatswain (“bosun” for short), the senior crewman of the deck department, is in charge of this process.  You can see him in the first photo, operating the crane.  Anyone on deck during this time must wear a hardhat for safety purposes.  You would not want to get hit in the head with moving cranes, hooks, or cables!

First, the small boats are lifted from the upper deck with a crane and lowered over the side of the ship.

Then, gear and passengers are loaded onto the boat, and it is carefully lowered into the water. Lines are released. and the boat drives away.

After that, the coxswain, the driver of the boat, takes the divers to the first survey site of the day. As we learn in class, a very important part of any scientist’s job is to gather evidence and data. Three to four groups of divers in separate small boats will gather data from 5-7 different sites each per day. After this project is complete, scientists will have gathered data from hundreds of different sites around the main Hawaiian islands.  At each site, they do fish counts and benthic (sea floor) analysis. They estimate the amount of coral present on the sea floor, and then list fish by their species and quantity. Each diver takes a clipboard with a waterproof piece of paper attached to it on which they record their data. They also carry waterproof cameras with them, as well as a small extra tank of oxygen called a RAS (Redundant Air System) that they can use in case their tank runs out of air.

After data is recorded for several different sites, the small boats return to the ship no later 1700, which makes for a very long day out on the water. Dinner is from 1700-1800, and afterwards, scientist divers head to the dry lab, where all the computer equipment is located, to enter the data they gathered on fish during their surveys.

Scientist Interview

While we were out at diving sites today, I had the opportunity to interview Jonatha Giddens, one of the divers on the boat. Jonatha is a graduate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has an undergraduate degree in coral reef fish ecology, and she is currently studying the effects of an introduced grouper (a species of fish that is not native to Hawaii) on the local marine ecosystem for her Ph.D.

Jonatha Giddens

Jonatha warming up after a dive

What are your primary responsibilities? Being part of the fish team, scuba diving, doing fish surveys, and entering the data collected during the day into computer systems at night.

What do you love most about your job? Being on the water!

What kind of education do you need to have this job? An undergraduate degree in marine biology

Do you have any advice for young people interested in your line of work? Get involved with research as early as possible. Find out what kind of research is going on in your area, and volunteer. Do summer internships at places that are farther away. You learn so much just by jumping into it.

Jonatha followed her passion and learned all she could about it. Now she has won an award from ARCS (Achievement Rewards for College Scientists) for her work in conservation ecology. ARCS is a foundation organized and run entirely by women to encourage female leadership in STEM careers. Go Jonatha!

Personal Log

Ninja Snorkeler

Don’t mess with this snorkeler!

I can sometimes go snorkeling while the divers are completing surveys, as long as I stay far enough away from them that I do not interfere with their work (they do no want me to scare the fish away).  I have to wear a knife strapped to my leg while snorkeling, in case I become tangled in fishing net or line (or in case there is a shark!).  Again, it is all about safety on the Hi’ialakai.

Did You Know?

The underwater apparatus held by Raymond Boland in the above photo is a stereo camera. It is composed of two separate cameras encased in waterproof housing. When a diver uses it to photograph a fish, two simultaneous pictures are taken of the fish. NOAA scientists calibrate the images using computers to get an accurate measure of the length of fish.

New Terms

chief boatswain – the person in charge of the deck department

coxswain – a person who steers a ship’s boat and is usually in charge of its crew.

benthic – relating to, or occurring on, the bottom of a body of water

Sandra Camp: Who You Gonna Call? Katie Mahaffey! June 16, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 16, 2015

Weather Data: partly cloudy, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds east 10-15 KT (knots), air temperature 79° F, water temperature 77° F

Science and Technology Log

During science class this past year, we spent some time studying solutions. We learned what solutes and solvents are, and how to tell when solutions become saturated. We made several saturated solutions ourselves, and even made a supersaturated solution by heating up a solvent so it would dissolve more solute.

One of the things we read about related to the study of solutions was decompression sickness, or “the bends,” a condition that can affect scuba divers if they are not careful. Just like heat, pressure can also allow liquids to become supersaturated. Henry’s Law states that the greater the pressure, the more gas will dissolve in a liquid. Because water pressure is greater the deeper under water you go, a diver’s blood can become supersaturated with gases from the air, such as nitrogen gas. If the diver ascends, or comes up, too quickly, the pressure is decreased too quickly and the nitrogen gas comes out of solution in the form of bubbles (like what happens when you release the pressure on a can of soda by opening it). These bubbles can cause fatigue, joint pain, tingling or numbness, a red rash on the skin, respiratory problems, heart problems, dizziness, blurred vision, headaches, confusion, nausea, or unconsciousness. This condition can be prevented by rising to the surface very slowly after a dive, so that the nitrogen gas is released gradually. Sometimes, however, for different reasons, a diver ascends too quickly and then she/he needs . . . Katie Mahaffey!

recompression chamber

Here is Katie, standing beside the recompression chamber.

Katie’s official position is NOAA Program Support Specialist. She is the ship’s dive master, and she runs the recompression chamber in case any of the divers get decompression sickness. This chamber will help alleviate a diver’s symptoms of decompression sickness by returning them to pressures similar to those under water and gradually decreasing that pressure so the body has time to adjust. I interviewed Katie about her job:

What are your primary responsibilities? Training scientists, engineers, NOAA officers, and technicians on how to dive for NOAA. NOAA has its own policies and procedures for diving, which are important to follow so that everyone can work together well. She also operates the recompression chamber on board the Hi’ialakai, and works with the ship’s medical officer and DMTs (diving medical technicians) to make sure things run smoothly.

What do you love most about your job? Getting to travel for work and seeing different places. Although she lives in Seattle, her job has taken her to visit Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary in Georgia, Key West, Panama City, and Kodiak, Alaska. And now, Hawaii!

What kind of education do you need to have this job? After graduating college, Katie went to commercial diving school, which teaches people to dive for applications like underwater welding and working in caissons. As an intern at NOAA, she completed all NOAA scuba dive training. She also trained to be an EMT (emergency medical technician). She says that NOAA is very good about providing training for their staff. All you have to do is ask.

Do you have any advice for young people interested in your line of work? It is important to have a strong scientific background, especially physics, anatomy, and physiology. (As a side note, don’t worry if you think you can’t dive because you get seasick. Katie is an expert on diving, but she does get sea sick! She simply wears a patch that provides her body with medicine to prevent motion sickness.)

recompression chamber

Katie was kind enough to let me sit inside the recompression chamber.

Personal Log



As I stated in my first blog, the mission of this cruise is to survey the coral reefs around the main Hawaiian Islands to see if they have healthy populations of reef fish living among them. The first island we visited was Molokai. Two of the divers saw a hammerhead shark that day.

From the deck of the ship, I saw a place on the island that locals say is shaped like a shark: Kalaupapa, a former colony for people suffering from Hansen’s Disease, formerly known as leprosy. In the past, Hansen’s disease spread easily and was incurable, so people thought the best way to deal with it was to separate those infected from the rest of the population. Because Kalaupapa is a peninsula surrounded on 3 sides by water, and cut off from the rest of Molokai by huge sea cliffs, it was thought to be a good location to place people suffering from this disease.

Beginning in 1866, people with the disease were shipped to this location to live without basic amenities, such as buildings, food, shelter, and fresh water. The first arrivals had to fend for themselves and lived in caves or shacks built out of sticks and leaves. In 1873, Father Damien deVeuster, a Catholic priest from Belgium, arrived and worked hard to improve life for the residents of Kalaupapa. Although Hansen’s Disease has since been cured, a few former patients choose to remain there, and still live in Kalaupapa today.

Work Board

What do scientists do at 06:30 in the morning?

Here is a picture of the daily work board. On it is written the times for important meetings, the names of the divers and what boats they will be working from, and other information important to the mission. As you can see, there is a Photo of the Day that gets posted on the NOAA CRED (Coral Reef Ecosystem Division) Facebook page. Yesterday, one of my photos was the winner of the Picture of the Day, and this morning, I was presented with the prize of a huge lollipop. You might also notice that I will be taking head shots of the science team for a poster we will be creating. Another important event is “8-Minute Abs,” led nightly by Paula, one of the scientist-divers. My abs are a bit sore!

Did You Know?

Hammerhead sharks seem to have their eyes in a strange place, but it actually improves their ability to see prey. They are found in temperate and tropical waters all over the world, and can sometimes be seen prowling around reefs for food.

New Terms

caisson – a large, watertight chamber which is open at the bottom that lets workers carry out construction under water

Sandra Camp: Safety First, June 15, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 15, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge: partly cloudy, scattered showers, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds east 10-15 KT (knots), temperature 78° F

Science and Technology Log

We often talk about safety during science class: how to properly handle tools, materials, and equipment, how to work cooperatively with other people, and how to protect ourselves from accidents. Just like safety is very important during science class, it is essential when doing science anywhere else in the world. In my first day aboard the Hi’ialakai, I have discovered that NOAA ships take safety very seriously. Because the scientific mission of this cruise primarily involves diving, safety is extra important because there are many ways divers’ lives can be at risk. All safety procedures have to be thoroughly reviewed before any diving is allowed to happen. We started the morning of my first day aboard ship by rotating through three different safety stations. Here is what we learned at each station:


Back-boarding in action

Gear Check: Katie Mahaffey, the ship’s Program Support Specialist and dive master, inspected everyone’s diving gear to make sure that it operates correctly. If any equipment is malfunctioning, it can cause serious problems for a diver. She also showed everyone where to store their diving gear. Although I will not be diving, I was given a locker to store my snorkeling gear, my life jacket, and my hard hat (life jackets and hard hats are two very important pieces of safety equipment on ships).

O2 and Back-boarding: At this station, we learned what to do in case there is some kind of accident in the water and a diver becomes injured. We were trained on how to administer oxygen from a tank of emergency O2 and on how to strap an injured diver onto a backboard for safe transport. Both of these items are carried on the small boats that take divers out each day in case of an emergency.

DEAP and EPIRB: DEAP stands for Diving Emergency Action Plan. Each team of divers is supposed to know and follow NOAA’s plan for emergencies while diving. An EPIRB is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. It is a handy device that can send out a signal that can be used to help locate a diver’s position in the water in case she/he becomes separated from the boat.

emergency billet

My Emergency Billet

That was not the end of the safety training! We also practiced some emergency drills. Just like we have fire and earthquake drills at school, ships have emergency drills they practice so everyone can react quickly in the event of an emergency. Each type of emergency on a ship is indicated with a different signal on the ship’s horn. This information is located on each person’s emergency billet. Here is a picture of mine:

In the comments section below, I would like you to write what the signal is for abandon ship!


immersion suit

Here I am in my immersion suit.

Today, we went through a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. As you can see on my billet, in the case that we have to abandon ship, I have to muster (gather together with others) by life raft 1 on deck 03. When you abandon ship, you not only have to muster at your designated spot so that the ship’s crew can account for everyone, you also have to put on an immersion suit. This suit is designed to protect you in case you have to be in water a long time, and it makes you look like a red Gumby.

Personal Log

Diamond Head

The view from the top of Diamond Head is amazing.

Before I boarded the Hi’ialakai in Pearl Harbor, I got to have a few adventures on Oahu.  First, I hiked from my hotel in Waikiki to the top of Diamond Head.  Diamond Head is the crater of an extinct volcano, and there is a fantastic view of Honolulu and the coastline from the top.  It was a long, hot, and sweaty uphill hike, but at the end of it, I ran into one of my lovely students who is vacationing with her family in Hawaii, and went swimming with her at her hotel’s pool.  Hello, Emogene!


Emogene and Ms. Camp after going down the water slide

Princess of Kauai

The Princess of Kauai

It was also a state holiday while I was there, King Kamehameha Day, which honors Kamehameha the Great, the king who first established the unified kingdom of Hawaii. There was a parade that day to celebrate. Here is a picture of the Princess of Kauai from the parade.

Before the ship left dock, I also had a little time to look around Pear Harbor. Joanna correctly wrote that Pearl Harbor is famous because the Japanese attacked it, which ultimately caused the United States to become involved in World War II. It was a very sad and tragic moment in our history, and there are several memorials to the lives that were lost on the sunken ships around the harbor. Here is a picture of the USS Utah sunken ship and memorial, which is close to where the Hi’ialakai is docked:

USS Utah

Here is a photo of the shipwreck of the USS Utah, as I promised to Joanna.

Soon after I came aboard, I had to get to know my way around the ship and learn some important words that indicate location on a ship. These words are used on all ships, no matter what their affiliation.


The Hi’ialakai at dock on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor

port: the left side of a ship

starboard: the right side of a ship

bow: the front of a ship

stern: the back of a ship

forward: toward the front, or bow, of a ship

aft: toward the back, or stern of a ship

galley: ship’s kitchen

mess: dining area

stateroom: the room where you sleep

head: the bathroom

Thankfully, I have not suffered from any sea-sickness, but it has been a challenge trying to walk in a straight line!

Did You Know?

The word SCUBA in scuba diving stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Most divers use an open-circuit scuba, where the diver’s exhaled carbon dioxide is vented into the water in the form of bubbles (like when you blow out from your nose under water in a pool). Scientists are concerned that these bubbles may scare away the fish they are trying to study and count while they are under water, so on this trip, some divers will be trying out rebreathers. Rebreathers are designed so that when a diver exhales, the gas is circulated back into the apparatus instead of being exhaled into the water. No bubbles!

Important Words

billet – the place you are assigned to stay on a ship, like a bunk

muster – to assemble or gather for inspection

immersion – under water

The answer to the previous poll was:  Corals get their various colors from the algae that live inside them.

Sandra Camp: Aloha from San Francisco! June 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Soon to be aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: Friday, June 5, 2015

Personal Log

ocean and bay

The Golden Gate Bridge between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay

My name is Sandra Camp, and I teach math and science to 5th graders at Robert Louis Stevenson Elementary School in the Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco in northern California. San Francisco is located on a peninsula, which means it is surrounded by water on three sides. On the eastern part of the city lies San Francisco Bay. The western side is bordered by the Pacific Ocean. The famous Golden Gate Bridge spans the divide between these two large and important bodies of water.


tide pools

Me exploring tide pools


The Pacific is sometimes called the “Mother of all Oceans” because it is the largest ocean on our planet. Although we have many beautiful beaches here, in San Francisco the Pacific Ocean is much too cold for humans to swim in. Even though I can’t swim in it, I do love to go tide pooling along the Pacific Ocean, looking for tiny sea creatures when the tide goes out like sea stars, crabs, and anemones.


sea star

Sea star in tide pool


elephant seals

Elephant Seals

kelp forest

Kelp Forest – photo courtesy of NOAA

Being surrounded by so much water makes us care a great deal about the health of the world’s oceans and the plants and animals that live there. In our part of the Pacific Ocean, there are giant kelp forests. We are also home to many different kinds of marine animals, such as sea otters, harbor seals, elephant seals, crabs, sea lions, bat rays, and sharks. When there are healthy populations of these creatures living off the coast of northern California, it indicates that our part of the Pacific Ocean is healthy.

I am very excited, because in about a week I will be visiting a different part of the Pacific Ocean, a part where the ocean is warm enough to swim in! Hawaii is a chain of islands located in the northern Pacific Ocean.  Unlike San Francisco, islands are surrounded on all sides by water, and because the ocean water there is warmer, it allows coral reefs to grow.  I will be flying to Honolulu, Hawaii where I will board the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Ship Hi’ialakai at its home port in Pearl Harbor. Do any of you know what Pearl Harbor is famous for?  If so, write your answer to me in the comments section of this blog.  As a Teacher at Sea, I will spend 10 days aboard the ship while scientists conduct reef fish surveys around the main Hawaiian Islands. This means that they will be studying the fish that normally live in the coral reefs around the islands. If there are healthy populations of these fish in the reefs, then that means the coral reefs are healthy. If not, then that indicates the reefs are having problems. Here is a picture of the Hi’ialakai. Its name means “embracing pathways to the sea” in Hawaiian.


The Hi’ialakai – photo courtesy of NOAA

It takes a lot of people to run a ship this big.  Stay tuned, because in addition to the scientists, I will introduce some of the people who work aboard the ship to you in my upcoming blogs.

Science and Technology Log

coral polyps

Coral Polyps – photo courtesy of NOAA

What exactly is a coral reef, anyway? Coral reefs are ecosystems located in warm, shallow ocean water that are home to a very diverse amount of sea creatures, including fish, crabs, turtles, octopus, sharks, eels, and shrimp. Reefs are structures that are made from the skeletons of colonies of tiny animals called coral. The individual animals that make up the colonies are called polyps.  Polyps usually have a cylindrical-shaped body with a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end.  The polyps use these tentacles to catch tiny animals that drift by called zooplankton, which they eat for food.


coral reef

Coral Reef – photo courtesy of NOAA


The coral polyps have a symbiotic relationship with algae. The algae help corals build their skeletons, and the corals provide the algae with protection and compounds they need for photosynthesis. Coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals on Earth! Sadly, coral reefs around the world are in danger because of human factors like pollution, over-fishing, and global warming.



Scientist Diving – photo courtesy of NOAA

Most of the scientific work aboard the Hi’ialakai will be conducted by scientists who are scuba diving. While they are under the water, scientists can take pictures of the ocean floor and the coral reefs, as well as count the number of reef fish they find. The information they gather will help them determine if the reefs around Hawaii are healthy places for animals to live. I will be sharing a lot more about the work they do with you in the blogs I write while I am aboard the Hi’ialakai.


Did You Know?

The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is over 1400 miles long! Even though coral reefs are the largest structures built by animals and are home to so many diverse species, they cover less than one percent of the ocean floor.

Important Words

peninsula – a body of land surrounded on three sides by water

symbiotic – a relationship between two different species that benefits them both

polyp – the individual body of a coral animal, which is shaped like a cylinder, and has a mouth surrounded by tentacles at one end

zooplankton – tiny aquatic animals