Cassie Kautzer: Reflections… September 7, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Spread the word about NOAA’s Mission and Vision to the next generation of scientists!
Geographical Area: Monitor Elementary – Springdale, AR
Date: September 7, 2014

Temperature & Weather: 80° F, Mostly Sunny  (Maybe the coolest day Arkansas has had in weeks!)

Science & Technology Log

In college, Professor Susan Foster, taught me about being a lifelong learner.  I had heard this term before – but never took to heart what it meant.  She talked about my learning inspiring my students learning.  She made me think about how I got my students attention, and planning where I wanted that attention to go.  I am a LIFE LONG LEARNER, and my biggest hope would be to inspire the same yearn for learning in my students!

I want my students to be as excited and enthralled by this experience as I was.  They were the forethought in all of my blogs: what would interest them? What would make an impact? What would create more inquiries and questions?

Monitor Mallard at the helm - driving the ship and inspiring the students of his school to think of a career at sea.

Monitor Mallard at the helm – driving the ship and inspiring the students of his school to think of a career at sea.

I know that I have learned a lot more about NOAA and their goals and responsibilities as sea!  The Teacher at Sea Program, in particular, aims to support NOAA related environmental literacy, outreach, and educational initiatives.   The TAS program also wants to support workforce retention within NOAA, and has a goal to recruit and retain a highly adaptable, technically competent and diverse workforce.

My personal goals from experiences aboard Rainier are to inspire students to want to learn more about SCIENCE!!!  Specifically, I want to interest them more in: the Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, Technology, Hydrography, or NOAA and NOAA Corps.  My students will not be limited by the location in which they live.  I want them to see the ample opportunities available if their interests lie in marine life: NOAA Corps, Engineering, Vessel Assisting, Hydrography (Oceanography, Geography, Geology, GIS, etc), Food Sciences, Technology, etc.

My experiences working and living with the crew of NOAA ship Rainier have inspired me to “spread the word”.

I would like to thank:

  • CO EJ Van Den Ameele, XO Holly Jablonski, and all the NOAA Corps Officers for making me feel welcome and guiding me through my adventure.
  • The Survey Techs for answering my never ending questions about hydrography, the necessary computer technology, and the constant processing of data.
  • The Engineers for keeping the ship going while I was living aboard J, asking questions about my students (the next generation of engineers!), and trying to help me understand the innerworkings of the ship.
  • The Coxwains for bravely attempting to (safely) teach me a little bit about driving a boat, and keeping me apprised of wildlife sightings in the area.
  • The Vessel Assistants, Stewards, and all other crew for being friendly, making me feel welcome, keeping me well fed, keeping me safe, and letting me/ showing me how to help throughout our time at sea.

Personal Log

I write this last entry, as the first, from my couch in Northwest Arkansas – this time, with a whole new perspective.

My puppy, Bella, attacks her new Kodiak Bear as I reflect on my time in and around Kodiak, aboard the Rainier.

My puppy, Bella, attacks her new Kodiak Bear as I reflect on my time in and around Kodiak, aboard the Rainier.

Almost three and a half weeks ago, I boarded an airplane (three actually) from Northwest Arkansas to Kodiak, Alaska.  As I was stepping aboard the NOAA ship Rainier, 112 ten-year-olds were preparing to step into my science classroom for the first time.  What were they feeling?  What were they thinking?  I felt much like I expect new students do on the first day of school, and wondered the same types of questions: Would people be nice to me?  Who would I sit by?  Would I be smart enough?  Would I miss my home and my family?  Would I make friends?  Would I UNDERSTAND?

That last question is the one that almost bit me… because the first few days aboard the Rainier, it was as if everyone was speaking a foreign language.  Everyone was speaking English, of course, but it was the language of Science… the language of NOAA… the language of Ships… the language of the Sea!  There were acronyms, abbreviations, and generally dissimilar words from my usual daily vernacular.  Suddenly rack means bed, mess means cafeteria, port means left, aft means back, FOO is the Field Operations Officer, DTON is a Danger to Navigation, C-deck somehow describes the location of my room, and the man in charge is “CDR EJ Van Den Ameele – Commanding Officer” – so I should address him as…??? I had NO Idea!  All the while, inside my head I am wondering “What am I supposed to be doing right now?”

After a day or two all of my nerves began to ease, as I began to figure things out.  I also found that asking a quick question would often get me not only the information I needed, but the introduction to a new person.  And I say all I did above, not because the Rainier and its crew didn’t take good care of me: they took excellent care of me!  They introduced me all around, they gave me tours, gave me several days on each assignment, talked me through things, checked on me, fed me really well, and answered, answered, and re-answered all of my questions!

However, I say all I did above because of my students.  It is not often I get the chance to walk in their shoes.  As their teacher, I feel like I know them- and understand them- because I have been teaching for years, have had many of their siblings, and of course, once went to elementary school myself.  I never walked in their shoes though.  I never experienced everyone speaking to me in a language I am not very familiar with.  I never experienced an organizational (family) structure I was not familiar with.   I never had so many tools and systems of information that I didn’t know what to do with.  My biggest take away from this experience is UNDERSTANDING – the understanding that I do not truly understand what each student feels when they are: new to the school or class, don’t speak any of the language, haven’t been to a school like Monitor or a district like Springdale before.  It is with this realization that I will approach my students tomorrow – with an even more open heart and mind, more patience, and more tools and strategies in my belt – just in case I need them!

My homeroom students, "bubbling" over with excitement  (I hope)!  I can't wait to meet them tomorrow - and only hope they are as inspired by me as I am by them!

My homeroom students, “bubbling” over with excitement (I hope)! I can’t wait to meet them tomorrow – and only hope they are as inspired by me as I am by them and their questions/comments/emails throughout my journey.

Cassie Kautzer: So Much to Say – So Little Time! September 2, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Kupreanof Strait
Date: September 2, 2014

Temperature & Weather: 12.8 ° C (55° F), Mostly Sunny, WINDY (NNW winds, 20-25 kt)

Science & Technology Log

This morning I woke up excited because it was to be our first day conducting Hydrographic Survey with the ship!  Something I didn’t realize prior to my arrival on the Rainier, not only are the launch boats set up with multibeam sonar under the hull, but so is the ship.  Having sonar on the ship is very beneficial in deep water, where the ship is able to cover a wider swath.  It was also beneficial today when the winds were high and the water a little rougher than usual and we had to cancel our launch boat data collection for safety.  (As a side note, I think it is again important to note that safety is a leading factor in operations on the Rainier.  I noticed today on the bottom of the POD (Plan of the Day), just above the rules, it says, “Operations are subject to change at any time.  NEVER shall the safety of life or property be compromised for data acquisition.”)  So, with no extra risks being taken on the launches, Rainier herself set off to ‘mow the lawn’ through the depths of Kupreanof Strait!

Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of Rainier

Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of Rainier (NOAA.gov)

Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of a Survey Launch

Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of a Survey Launch (NOAA.gov)

I quickly discovered there was a bit more to keep track of when conducting hydro survey from the ship.  For starters, instead of the three computer monitors that one watches on the Launch, there were seven on the ship!  Another difference was in communication.  On a Launch, the HIC and Coxswain can communicate directly with each other.  On the ship communication takes place through walkie-talkies, because elements of data acquisition are taking place in several locations throughout the ship. The HIC and those on Survey Watch are in the Plot Room on the F-deck of the ship, logging data and monitoring all aspects of the survey.

One room closer to the bow on F-deck is the Bridge, or command center.  The Bridge is where someone is at the helm, steering the ship, and trying to follow the line of data the survey technicians have put in place.  Finally, deck hands are on the Fantail (back of the ship), prepared to drop the MVP (Moving Vessel Profiler) instead of the CTD (device that measures Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) used on the launch.  To use the CTD, the Launch has to come to a complete stop in the water.  Stopping completely in a ship as big as the Rainier is not as easy, so instead of the CTD, the MVP is deployed from the back of the ship while the ship is in motion.  Looking like a fish, the MVP trails out about 44 meters behind the ship, about 5 meters below the surface, and can be dropped to take a cast (measure the water’s sound velocity profile) as needed, all via computer control.

I (the TAS - Teacher at Sea), sit at Hydro Watch  with HSST Starla Robinson, as Rainier surveys through Kupreanof Strait

I (the TAS – Teacher at Sea), sit at Hydro Watch with HSST Starla Robinson, as Rainier surveys through Kupreanof Strait

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Amidst our data acquisition today, we had a Man Overboard Drill.  The alarm bell sounded in three long blasts – the signal for man overboard.  ALL crew quickly headed to their assigned muster stations.  An announcement was made that the man overboard (Oscar, a life sized doll wearing a life jacket) was seen off the port (left) side of the ship. Within seconds of reaching my muster, the Flying Bridge, several crew had located the man overboard.  It is important once  you have eyes on the man overboard, to point directly at them, and to keep your eyes on them at all times.  Just as an example, our Field Operations Officer (FOO), Russ Quintero, had me close my eyes and spin around a couple of times.  Even with others pointing at the man overboard, it took me a couple minutes to locate him again.  I readily understood why it is important you don’t take your eyes of the person, for you may not find them again.

FOO Russ Quintero has eyes on the 'man overboard' during our safety drill.

FOO Russ Quintero has eyes on the ‘man overboard’ during our safety drill.

Within just a few minutes after the alarm, the jet boat was lowered down and deployed with a small crew, including our rescue swimmer.   Oscar was recovered and brought safely back to the ship!  Then, after the drill, the entire crew met in the mess to discuss, question, and comment.  Overall, a successful drill was completed, and I again was appreciative at the attention paid to safety for all of us aboard!

Personal Log

Tomorrow will be my last full day on Rainier while she is working underway.  I will spend my last day out on the water, on a launch boat, trying to use what I have learned to be most helpful in the acquisition of our survey data, and of course, trying to observe and enjoy all the beauty and majesty Alaska has to offer!

We will be docked again, at the US Coast Guard Base in Kodiak in a few days.  Until then, I will enjoy my adventure living on Rainier, enjoy my learning journey, and enjoy the time I have left with all of my new friends!

It was just a little bit windy today...

It was just a little bit windy today…

Proud display of colors on  the fantail.

Proud display of colors on the fantail.

Cassie Kautzer: High Tide, Low Tide , August 30, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Terror Bay
Date: August 30, 2014

Temperature & Weather:  10 ° C (50° F), Cloudy, Windy (NNW winds, 5-10 kt)

Science & Technology Log

NOAA ship Rainier anchored in Japanese Bay.

NOAA ship Rainier anchored in Japanese Bay.

Since my last blog, we have come and gone from Japanese Bay, and moved on to Terror Bay.  As we were coming into Terror Bay through a narrow passage, we all got a dangerous reminder about how important hydrographic survey work is.

The nautical charts used to map our route into Terror Bay showed a depth of 25 Fathoms (150 feet), at a specific point we were traveling over.  The actual depth at that point, however, was only 7 Fathoms (42 feet).  That is only one third of the depth that was charted.  The Rainier’s draft is slightly over 14 feet (the depth from the waterline to the bottom of the Rainier’s hull, or bottom), so we were safe traveling over the 7 Fathom location.  Seeing this big of a DTON (Danger to Navigation) from the nautical charts to the actual depth, however, could be a cause for alarm.  How many other measurements are wrong?  Can we safely get the ship back out of Terror Bay?  With these thoughts in mind, one Launch boat was sent out today to survey and recon (explore/inspect) Terror Bay and ensure that we have a safe path out!

While a Launch Boat surveys, many other crew members have been busy installing and leveling new tide gauges in Terror Bay.  Tides are the daily rise and fall of the oceans, caused by the Sun and Moon’s gravitational pulls on Earth’s oceans.  The difference between low tide and high tide is the tidal range.  (The world’s biggest tidal range can be observed in Bay of Fundy, Canada.  At Bay of Fundy, high tide can be as much as 53 feet higher than low tide- all in a matter of six hours.  (onegeology.org)

high tide low tide

tidal range

Gauging sea level is trickier than just sticking a ruler or tape measure in the water because ocean waters don’t have one steady level.  Tides and currents constantly flow up and down, causing tides and water levels to be very important for hydrographic survey and other work at sea.  Hydrographic surveys are conducted at all different levels of tides.  This means shoal areas, rocks, shipwrecks, and other hazards are surveyed and recorded at all different levels of tides.  After hydrographers survey an area, they bring all the recorded data back to the ship for processing.  In processing, the depth around any hazards or dangers to navigation must be corrected based on the changing water levels.  In order to determine the necessary changes due to tides, tide stations are set up near survey areas.

A tide gauge and horcon station (horizontal control) is being set up in Terror Bay.  (Photo by Barry Jackson)

A tide gauge and horcon station (horizontal control) is being set up in Terror Bay. (Photo by Barry Jackson)

To set up a tide station, a team needs to go ashore near the area to be surveyed and explore- looking for good, stable, permanent places (like bedrock) to install tide gauges and a tide staff.  After an area is identified, a team is sent to install benchmarks.  Benchmarks for tides are like those that can be found at national landmarks and mountain peaks. Tidal benchmarks are multipurpose: they provide a frame of reference to ensure the tide staff and tide gauge orifice are stable (not moving relative to the land), they allow for comparison data in later years if we return to survey or work in this area again, and they provide stability data (the Earth’s surface, including under the oceans, is constantly changing).

Senior Survey Tech Barry Jackson drill into bedrock, preparing to install a benchmark.

Senior Survey Tech Barry Jackson drill into bedrock, preparing to install a benchmark.

Here is a benchmark cemented into bedrock near the shore line.

Here is a benchmark cemented into bedrock near the shore line.

Along with installing benchmarks, a tide staff must be set up.  A tide staff is large meter stick used for both leveling of benchmarks and for taking readings on water depth over an extended period of time.  After all instruments for the tide station are set up, the tide staff must be observed for several hours.  While observing, the water level must be measured with the tide staff and recorded every six minutes.  This data will then be compared with the data gathered by the tide gauge instruments, and hopefully, will match.

Cheif Survey Tech Jim Jacobson and Assistant Survey Tech Thomas Burrow install the Terror Bay tide staff during low tide.

Cheif Survey Tech Jim Jacobson and Assistant Survey Tech Thomas Burrow install the Terror Bay tide staff during low tide.

ENS Micki Ream reads measurements from the tide staff during higher tide.

ENS Micki Ream reads measurements from the tide staff during higher tide.

While benchmarks and a tide staff are being installed, often another team is working to install the tide gauge.   Tide gauge stations are instruments used to measure the change in sea level, over time.  They are powered by solar panels and include tubing and a sensor that must be secured under the water by a dive team.  The sensor, or orifice, must be placed on the seafloor, and anchored there, where it will always be underwater, even in low or negative tide.  The sensor uses air pressure, from a pump on shore, to measure the water depth.

Dive Master ENS Katrina Poremba and Diver ENS Micki Ream work to weight down the orifice tubing and anchor the sensor to the seafloor.

Dive Master ENS Katrina Poremba and Diver ENS Micki Ream work to weight down the orifice tubing and anchor the sensor to the seafloor.

Once everything is set up, a team will do a leveling run to measure the height of the benchmarks relative to the tide staff.  Meter sticks are held level at each of the benchmarks.  One person then reads a top, middle, and bottom thread measurement from each benchmark through a special vertical level on a tripod (kind of like a telescope).   Benchmarks are measured and compared from A to B, B to C, C to D, D to E, and the primary benchmark to the tide staff.  Then, these are all read again in a backwards run to double check and hopefully close the deal.

Assistant Survey Tech Eli Smith sets up for a level run while ENS Micki Ream prepares for data collection.

Assistant Survey Tech Eli Smith sets up for a level run while ENS Micki Ream prepares for data collection.

This is the level, put on the tripod, that allows Hydrographers to take vertical thread measurements from each benchmark.

This is the level, put on the tripod, that allows Hydrographers to take vertical thread measurements from each benchmark.

Survey work nearby can now begin, because hydrographers will have the appropriate tides data to make necessary corrections to the depth measurement gathered by the survey launches in the area!

Personal Log

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For My Students

Find out more about TIDES *here*

Cassie Kautzer: TEAMWORK! SAFETY FIRST! August 27, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Enroute to Japanese Bay
Date: August 27, 2014

Temperature & Weather:  10.5° C (51° F), Cloudy, Rainy

Science & Technology Log

The past week/ week and a half, docked alongside the US Coast Guard pier in Kodiak – it was easy to see people settle into a routine.  This morning, however, we are preparing to leave the Coast Guard base – there is something in the air. Without it being spoken, it is clear both the NOAA Corps officers and the wage mariners are excited to get underway.  THIS is what they signed up to do!

The Rainier is 231 feet in length, with a breadth (width) of 42 feet. She cannot be run by a single person – it takes a team, a large team, to operate her safely.  Aboard the Rainier there is a crew of NOAA Corps Officers, including Commanding Officer CDR Van Den Ameele (CO), Executive Officer LCDR Holly Jablonski (XO), Field Operations Officer LT Russ Quintero (FOO) and a number of Junior Officers. There is also a full staff of Surveyors, Stewards, Deck Hands, Engineers, a Chief Electronics Tech (ET) and an Electronics Eng. Tech (EET).  All of the people on the Rainier’s nearly 50 member crew take on more than one job and help with whatever is asked of them.  It takes a team of people to drive the ship, a team to deploy launch boats, a team to process survey data, a team level tide gauges, a team to keep the boat in good maintenance, etc…

This is the Crew Board for all team members currently aboard the Rainier.  ENS Micki Ream updates the crew board each leg.

This is the Crew Board for all team members currently aboard the Rainier. ENS Micki Ream updates the crew board each leg.

This morning, in preparation for getting underway, all NOAA Corps officers met for a Nav (navigation) Briefing, to go over the Sail Plan, to make sure all necessary parties were prepared and informed.  NOAA Corps is one of seven uniformed services in the United States.  Its commissioned officers provide NOAA with “an important blend of operational, management, and technical skills that support the agency’s science and surveying programs at sea, in the air, and ashore.” (www.noaa.gov)  The Sail Plan, prepared today by Junior Officer, ENS Cali DeCastro, includes step-by-step guidelines for sailing to our next destination.  For each location or waypoint along the route, the sail plan gives a course heading (CSE), Latitude and Longitude, distance to the that point (in Nautical Miles), the speed (in knots) the ship will be cruising at to get to that point, and the time it will take to get there.   Today we are headed to Japanese Bay, and our cruise to get there is about 98 Nautical Miles and will take us almost 9 hours.

As seen from the fantail (back of the ship) - TEAMWORK!  SAFETY FIRST!

As seen from the fantail (back of the ship) – TEAMWORK! SAFETY FIRST!

It is important to note that nautical miles and knots at sea are different than linear miles and miles per hour on land.  Nautical miles are based on the circumference of the Earth, and are equal to one minute of latitude.  (http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/nauticalmile_knot.html)  Think about the Earth and what it would look like if you sliced it in half right at the Equator.  Looking at one of the halves of the Earth, you could then see the equator as a full circle.  That circle can be divided into 360 degrees, and each degree into 60 minutes.  One minute of arc on the Earth is equivalent to one nautical mile.  Nautical miles are not only used at sea, but also in the air, as planes are following the arc of the Earth as they fly.  1 nautical mile = approximately 1.15 miles.  A knot is a measurement of speed, and one knot is equivalent to 1 nautical mile per hour.

It is also important to be aware of all the safety procedures on board.  There is a lot to keep track of – but the Rainier is well prepared for any kind of emergency situation.  Prior to departing the Coast Guard Base this morning, our emergency alarms and bells were tested.  Emergency bells and whistles are used during a Fire Emergency, an Abandon Ship situation, or a Man Overboard situation.

In any situation, every crew member has an emergency billet assignment.  This assignment tells you where to muster (meet), what to bring, and what to do – dependent on the situation.  For fire and emergency, abandon ship, and man overboard each person has a different assignment.  Within 24 hours of setting sail, the entire crew does safety drill practice (We did this in the early afternoon today!)  For fire and emergency both the general alarm bell and the ship’s whistle will continuously sound for ten seconds; for an abandon ship situation, seven short blasts on the ship’s whistle and general alarm bell will sound, followed by one prolonged blast; and for a man overboard there will be three prolonged blasts of the ship’s whistle and general alarm.

Safety is not only a concern in emergency situations – it is at the forefront of all operations aboard the ship.  Proper safety equipment is donned at necessary times, especially when working on deck or on the survey launches.  Personal Floatation Devices (PFD) are worn anytime equipment is being deployed or handled over the side along with safety belts and lines for those handling equipment over the side.   Every crew member is issued a hard hat and must be worn by everyone involved in recovery or deployment of boats and other equipment.   Closed toed shoes must be worn at all times by all crew and crew must be qualified to handle specific equipment. Everyone is also issued an Immersion Suit (survival suit), affectionately nicknamed a Gumby Suit!  The Immersion suit is a thermal dry suit that is meant to keep someone from getting hypothermia in an abandon ship situation in cold waters.

In my "Gumby" Immersion Suit during our Abandon Ship Drill.  This suit is a universal, meaning it can fit people of many sizes, including someone much much taller than me.  Do I look warm?  (Photo courtesy of Vessel Assistant Carl Stedman.)

In my “Gumby” Immersion Suit during our Abandon Ship Drill. This suit is a universal, meaning it can fit people of many sizes, including someone much much taller than me. Do I look warm? (Photo courtesy of Vessel Assistant Carl Stedman.)

Personal Log

Believe it or not – I have made a lot of connections from the Rainier to my school.  At the bottom of our daily POD’s (Plan Of the Day), the last reminder is, “Take care of yourself.  Take care of your shipmates.  Take care of the ship!”  The environment here has not only made me feel welcome, but safe as well.

I even felt safe when they let me man the helm (steer the ship).  Out of picture, Officer LTJG Adam Pfundt and Able Seaman Robert Steele guide me through my first adventure at the helm!

I even felt safe when they let me man the helm (steer the ship). Out of picture, Officer LTJG Adam Pfundt and Able Seaman Robert Steele guide me through my first adventure at the helm!

 

For my Students

Here is a wildlife update.  I saw Whales today!  I think there were Humpback Whale.  I saw quite a few blowing out near the ocean service.  I marked three in my graph because I only saw three jumping and playing in the water!

graph (2)

Some questions to reflect on…

  1. Why is teamwork important? What can you do to be a good team member?
  2. Can you make any connections between the mission and rules I am learning on the ship and the mission and rules you are learning at school?

Cassie Kautzer: It’s All About the Survey! August 24, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Woody Island Channel, Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 24, 2014

Temperature & Weather:  12° C  (54° F), Cloudy with Drizzly Rain

Science & Technology Log

Survey work continues today (Yes- even on the weekend) in the Woody Island Channel.  While it is easy for me to see why this area is navigationally significant, it made me think about how one would identify which areas need to be surveyed.  The National Ocean Service compiles data and prioritizes areas in need of surveying.  Examples can be seen here for NOAA’s survey priorities in and around Alaska.

Using the areas of critical priority the Hydrographic Surveys Division (HSD) writes project instructions.  Project instructions include all necessary data and guidelines, including: project name, project number, assigned field unit (ship), assigned processing branch, planned acquisition time, purpose and location of survey, and necessary supporting documents.  On the project instructions, the Hydrographic Surveys Division also splits the assigned survey areas into sheets, or manageable sections.

This image shows the project on the North side of Kodiak Island.  The project area is split into sheets.  Sheet 6 is highlighted in pink.  (Photo Courtesy NOAA and Project Instruction packet.)

This image shows the project on the North side of Kodiak Island. The project area is split into sheets. Sheet 6 is highlighted in pink. (Photo Courtesy NOAA and Project Instruction packet.)

This is a completed sheet from the North Kodiak project.

This is a completed sheet from the North Kodiak project.

Each sheet is then assigned to a Hydrographic Survey Technician (HST), a Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician (HSST), or a NOAA Corps Officer.  Usually, one person will be the sheet manager and another will be the sheet assistant.  The sheet manager is often teaching and guiding the sheet assistant, to train them to be able to do this work on their own in the future.   The sheet manager is also responsible for dividing the sheets into polygons. Polygons for hydro surveys are used to divide the survey into smaller sections.  When planning polygons, it is important for the sheet manager to follow specific guidelines- shapes cannot just be randomly drawn on a sheet or chart.  The deeper the water, the larger the polygon can be; the more shoal the area, the smaller the polygon should be.  Polygons should be drawn with the ocean contours, and should be planned for launch boats to run them from offshore to nearshore.  This is a safety step in that launches should be working from deeper areas up to shoaler areas near the shore.  As the boats move back in forth collecting data, it is as if they are mowing the lawn.  The boats always try to slightly overlap the last strip so that no data is missed.  If a small spot or strip of data is missed, its like that little area of grass that didn’t get mowed.  It is called a Holiday in the data, because we have to make a special trip back to gather data on that spot.

Hydro Senior Survey Tech  Brandy Geiger analyzes data and creates polygons for the sheet she is managing for the Woody Island Canal Survey.

Hydro Senior Survey Tech Brandy Geiger analyzes data and creates polygons for the sheet she is managing for the Woody Island Channel Survey.

Senior Tech Barry Jackson, Assistant Tech Dan Negrete, Senior Tech Brandy Geiger, Chief Tech Jim Jacobson, and Senior Tech Starla Robinson look over Woody Island Channel plans to prepare for survey.

Senior Tech Barry Jackson, Assistant Tech Dan Negrete, Senior Tech Brandy Geiger, Chief Tech Jim Jacobson, and Senior Tech Starla Robinson look over Woody Island Channel plans to prepare for survey.

Once plans are completed, the Field Operations Officer (FOO) can plan how many survey launch boats will be deploying, who will be aboard each, and what polygons they will aim to cover each day.  Aboard each launch a skilled coxswain (driver) and a Hydrographer in Charge (HIC) are needed.  There is almost always a third person on board, as it is best/safest to deploy boats with one person at the bow (front), one at the stern (back) and one in the driver’s seat.  Once on the water, the HIC and Coxswain have to cooperate and communicate to make an efficient and safe plan for the day.

Rainier Survey Launch - RA3.

Rainier Survey Launch – RA3.

Hydrographer in Charge (HIC) Starla Robinson and Seaman Surveyor Dennis Brooks look over multibeam data together, as they safely plan next steps to survey in shoal, rocky waters.

Hydrographer in Charge (HIC) Starla Robinson and Seaman Surveyor Dennis Brooks look over multibeam data together, as they safely plan next steps to survey in shoal, rocky waters.

Personal Log

Every day is an adventure!  I so enjoy learning – and it’s a good thing – because just about everything here is new to me!

Jellyfish!

Jellyfish!

Enjoying this beautiful evening- oceanside!

Enjoying this beautiful evening- oceanside!

Assistant Survey Tech Thomas Burrow [from Rogers, Arkansas :) ] processes multibeam data brought back from the launches.

Assistant Survey Tech Thomas Burrow [from Rogers, Arkansas 🙂 ] processes multibeam data brought back from the launches.

A black sand beach on the Kodiak Coast Guard Base.

A black sand beach on the Kodiak Coast Guard Base.

Observing from the observation deck as the Rainer gets underway.

Observing from the Flying Bridge as the Rainer gets underway.

For My Students

The survey says…

*What observations did you make in trying to answer the trivia question about what I found in the water?  Did you decide you saw Harbor Seal, Otter, Octopus, Plants, or Aliens?

You were actually seeing a plant/plants called kelp.  Kelp is a large brown seaweed that often has a long, tough stalk.  Kelp can often be found growing in and around shoal, rocky areas in the ocean.  A lot of kelp in the area is a warning to boats and other vessels that shallow areas or rocky obstructions may be near by, and caution is needed.

A new question for you:

1) What is a polygon?

2) What experiences have you had with the ocean?

 

Cassie Kautzer: Survey Methods! August 22, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Woody Island Channel, Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 22, 2014

Temperature & Weather:  11.5° C  (53° F), Cloudy, Rainy

Science & Technology Log

Today was ‘Day 4’ of surveying in the Woody Island Channel next to Kodiak, Alaska.  The Woody Island Channel is a very busy waterway leading ships, boats, and vessels of all sizes into Kodiak.  The problem at the moment is that much of the Woody Island Channel has shoals (shallow areas) and rocks.  This can be very dangerous, especially since the channel has not been surveyed or mapped since the 1940’s!  At that, in the 40s, surveyors were using Lead Lines to map the ocean floor.  Lead Lines were long ropes, marked with measurements, and with a weight at the end, that were thrown out to measure the depth of the water.  Lead Lines were considered very accurate for their time.  The problem with Lead Lines is that there was no way for surveyors to map the entire ocean floor–the lead line only gave a measurement of depth in one location (point) at a time.

Drawing of Lead Line Survey, formerly used to survey water depths one point at a time.

Drawing of Lead Line Survey, formerly used to survey water depths one point at a time.

Today, NOAA Hydrographers use Multibeam Echosounders.  A Multibeam Echosounder uses sonar to send out hundreds of sound pulses and measures how long it takes for those pulses to come back.  The multibeam echosounder is attached to the hull, or bottom, of the survey launches.  To find out how deep the ocean floor is in an area, depths are generated by measuring how much time it takes for each of hundreds of sound pulses to be sent out from the echosounder, through the water to the ocean floor and back again.  The sound pulses are sent out from the echosounder in an array almost like that of a flashlight.

Image shows swath of echosounding from the hull of the launch.  Different colora represent different depths. (Courtesy of NOAA)

Image shows swath of echosounding from the hull of the launch. Different colors represent different depths. (Courtesy of NOAA)

The deeper the water, the wider the swath (band of sound pulses).  The more shoal (shallow) the water, the smaller the swath.  Basically, a wider area can be surveyed when the water is deeper.  This means that surveying near shore, near rocky areas, and near harbors can be very time consuming.  These surveys do need to be completed, however, if they are in navigationally significant areas, like the Woody Island Channel that Rainier is surveying right now.

Image of hydrographic survey methods as they've changed over time.

Image of hydrographic survey methods as they’ve changed over time.

Technological advances over the years have made it more efficient and more accurate to survey the oceans.

Using multibeam sonar, the Rainier has surveyed thousands of linear nautical miles of ocean in the past couple of years.  In 2012 the Rainier was away from its home port in Newport, Oregon for 179 days–surveying 605 square nautical miles and 9,040 liner nautical miles.  In 2013 Rainier was away from its home port for 169 days – surveying 640 square nautical miles and 7,400 linear nautical miles.  It is NOAA’s goal to get 10,000 linear nautical miles surveyed each field season between all four of its Hydro ships: Rainier, Fairweather, Thomas Jefferson, and Ferdinand R. Hassler.  Several years, the Rainier has come close to this on its own!

Personal Log

I have spent the last four days out on the survey launches, gathering data, with a bunch of amazing people.  I have had the opportunity to drive a launch several times, with skilled Coxwain and Able Seaman Jeff Mays supervising me and helping me adjust to the differences in driving/steering a heavy boat versus driving my car at home.  Jeff always took back over when we got to a rocky area or area that was shoaling up quickly.  I am grateful to him, however, for the opportunity.  As with any skill that needs to be practiced, I got a little better each time I drove.  (Trying to steer in a straight line/path on the water when dealing with wind, water currents, waves, wakes from other boats, and the boats themselves is tough! At least for me.  Coxwains Dennis Brooks and Jeff Mays make it look easy, and always kept me feeling safe aboard the launch boats!)

Me, at the wheel of a survey launch.  (Photo courtesy of HST Jackson Barry)

Me, at the wheel of a survey launch. (Photo courtesy of HSST Barry Jackson )

For My Students

Below is an update on my Alaskan Wildlife sightings.  Remember, these are all animals I have been within 20 feet of (except for the bear).  Along with the wildlife in the graph below, I have also seen hundreds of birds from a distance and several romp of otter (large groups).

Wildlife I have seen thus far, graphed using Create A Graph (nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph)

Wildlife I have seen thus far, graphed using Create A Graph (nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph)

Can you help me identify the pictures below?  It can be quite difficult to identify creatures and “stuff” in the dark ocean waters.

IMG_0129IMG_0138

What is it?

What is it?

Cassie Kautzer: The Big Picture! August 19, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Woody Island Channel, Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 19, 2014

Temperature:  14°C  (~57°F), Mostly Sunny

Science & Technology Log

Plans have changed quite a bit since I first found out I would be joining the Rainier on the next leg of their mission.  Instead of heading to Cold Bay as originally planned for today, several highly skilled crew members are preparing to join the Fairweather, the Rainier’s sister ship, and help get her back to Seattle, Washington, as she is done for the field season.  Those crew members helping out will return to Kodiak and the Rainier next week, in time to head out and survey around the other side of Kodiak Island.  Until their return, the Rainier is staying “alongside”, (or docked) at the Coast Guard Base in Kodiak (the largest Coast Guard Base in the United States).

NOAA Ship Rainier at the Coast Guard Base in Kodiak, AK.

NOAA Ship Rainier at the Coast Guard Base in Kodiak, AK.

While we are alongside, however, there is plenty of work to be done!  Some survey technicians are busy processing and analyzing data from past projects and surveys, while other techs are planning and preparing a survey around the Woody Island Channel, slightly Northeast of where we are currently docked.  The Woody Island Channel is an important one to get surveyed, as most of the maritime traffic (traffic on the water) coming into Kodiak, goes through the Woody Island Channel.

We will begin that survey work tomorrow, taking out several Launch boats (Survey Launches that are about 30 feet long, are carried aboard the Rainier and able to be deployed for survey missions) to begin gathering sounding data from the ocean floor  in that area.  While the survey technicians make their plans and preparations, I found myself thinking about the big picture: Why is NOAA here?  Why do we need scientists mapping the ocean floor?

To be honest, I had never heard of Hydrography before I applied for the NOAA Teacher as Sea program.  Hydrography is the science of mapping the ocean floor. I feel that I should have been aware of this, however, because Hydrography work affects all of our lives, even if we don’t live anywhere near the ocean (like those of us that live in Arkansas!  Here is how:

  • NOAA is responsible for producing nautical charts for all of our waters, including the territories. This is approximately 3.4 million square (nautical) miles of underwater territory and 95,000 linear (nautical) miles of shoreline.
  • Looking globally, only 5% of the oceans have been mapped with modern Sonar techniques. About half of the area that is charted, is from Lead Line Soundings (some dating back to the 1800’s).  And then there are places like the Arctic, that have never been mapped.
  • Today, commerce drives the use of our oceanic highways. More than ¾ of all goods and supplies in the United States are shipped and delivered across our oceans.  More than ½ our domestic oil comes by ship as well.  And, the grain that we export to countries around the world, goes by ship!

Without accurate survey information, these commercial ships, as well as any fishing or recreational vessels, cannot safely navigate (find their way) through different ocean routes.  Running into an unexpected feature (underwater landform, rocks, an old wreck (shipwreck), or other obstructions) can be very dangerous and costly to any ship.  Without updated nautical charts (maps), boats, ships, and vessels of any size face many unknown hazards as they try to navigate safely (often with goods we need) to their destination.  The Woody Island Channel that we will be surveying this week, is just three days in Kodiak, I have seen two freight ships, a Coast Guard Vessel near 300 feet long, and many small fishing vessels travel through this passage.

So the Big Picture?

THIS… is dangerous for people, and affects global commerce, import, exports, etc.   THIS is what hydrographers don’t want to happen:

This MV Miner ran ashore on these rocks on its way from Montreal to Turkey in 2011.  This is one thing NOAA hopes to prevent with updated nautical charts from hydrographic surveys.  (Courtesty of Canada's  TheStar.Com)

This MV Miner ran ashore on these rocks on its way from Montreal to Turkey in 2011. This is one thing NOAA hopes to prevent with updated nautical charts from hydrographic surveys. (Courtesty of Canada’s TheStar.Com)

Personal Log     

The first several days in Alaska have been amazing.  While we are alongside in Kodiak, I have been able to do some exploring after work each day! I have walked along the beach and hiked up into the mountains.

Me, atop Old Woman's Mountain, Kodiak Island, Alaska.  (Courtesy of ENS Micki Ream)

Me, atop Old Woman’s Mountain, Kodiak Island, Alaska. (Courtesy of ENS Micki Ream)

Alaska is beautiful – so majestic!  I have been fortunate enough to enjoy some beautiful weather, in the high 50s, and sunny most days!  This is rather unusual, they tell me- it is usually starting to cool down and get very rainy this time of year.  I told them I must have brought the warm weather with me from Arkansas!  I am going to try and enjoy it while it lasts, as I am sure I will not luck out to spend three weeks in the sunshine!

For My Students

Check out this graph of the wildlife I have seen thus far!  I am only tracking wildlife that I have seen UP CLOSE (within 20 feet – except for the bear – it would be dangerous to get that close to a bear)!

Wildlife I have seen thus far, graphed using Create A Graph (nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph)

Wildlife I have seen thus far, graphed using Create A Graph (nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph)

Oh kids, I am also wondering if you can tell me:

1. What is the difference between SQUARE miles and LINEAR miles?

2. What kind of tools do you think Hydrographers (or Hydrographic Surveyors) need to survey and map the ocean floor?