Katie Sard: Happy Hydro from Start to Finish, August 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Sard
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 29, 2013-August 15, 2013

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise:  Shumagin Islands, AK
Date:  August 25, 2013

Weather Data from Newport, OR:
GPS location:  44°38’12.63” N, 124°3’12.46”W
Sky condition: OVC
Air temperature:  10.6°C

The sun rising as we finished our transit back to Kodiak.

The sun rising as we finished our transit back to Kodiak.

Science and Technology Log

During my final days aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier, I began to understand the big picture of all that goes in to hydrographic survey.  While we were transiting from the Shumagin Islands back to the Coast Guard Base in Kodiak, the scientists invited me to sit in on a survey review meeting.  During the meeting I listened as the Commanding Officer (CO), the Chief Survey Technician, the Field Operations Officer (FOO), the sheet manager, and others went over the Descriptive Report for a project that had been completed on a previous leg in Behm Canal.  It was interesting to listen to the conversation and actually understand what these researchers were talking about!  I felt as though it was appropriate for me to attend this meeting on my final day on the ship, as this truly is the last step for the scientists on board before the chart and attached data are sent off the ship to the Pacific Hydrographic Branch where the data is further processed in order to ensure accuracy of the data.  As I have now participated in most parts of the survey process, allow me to show you a step-by-step explanation of hydrographic survey from start to finish.

Step One:  Getting to the Survey Location

Several NOAA Corps Officers on the bridge while coming in to port in Kodiak.

Several NOAA Corps Officers on the bridge while coming in to port in Kodiak.

It takes a dedicated and skilled team to safely navigate the ship to the correct survey location.  It is also important that the FOO conducts a survey meeting to review the plan of the leg with the research crew.  When I sat in on this survey meeting at the start of the leg the crew discussed what has been accomplished to date, which sheets we would be focusing on during this leg, and any technical issues that needed to be reviewed with the team.

Step Two:  Setting up Vertical and Horizontal Control Stations

Brandy Geiger (left) and Bill Carrier (right) work on equipment that was set-up on Bird Island as a vertical and horizontal control station.

Brandy Geiger (left) and Bill Carrier (right) work on equipment that was set-up on Bird Island as a vertical and horizontal control station.

Before data can be collected, it is necessary to have a reference of where the data is being collected.  As I discussed in a previous post, tidal gauges are set-up prior to survey in order to guarantee accurate water depths.  The NOAA Ship Rainier is currently setting up a tidal gauge near Cold Bay, Alaska so that they may begin working in their upcoming survey location.  You can track the Rainier at http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/

Step Three:  Running Shoreline Verification

Before the launches (small boats) are able to get data close to the shore, it is important for the skiff to visually check the shoreline to make sure that there are no major hazards to navigation.  The shoreline crew is responsible for marking any dangers, and getting close enough to shore to decide where the sheet limits should be set.  These sheet limits dictate how close the shoreline and rock formations are that the launches need to survey.

Step Four:  Data Collection on Ship and Launches

This is the time when the hydrographers and ship crew can begin “coloring in the lines” by filling in designated polygons with sonar data.  The hydrographers are in charge of determining where the ship or launch needs to be driven in order to gather the required data using navigation software on the ship called HYPACK.  They are also responsible for taking Conductivity Temperature Depth (CTD) measurements in order to apply accurate sound speed profiles to the data.  The deck department and the NOAA Corps officers are responsible for following the plan laid out by the hydrographers in order to navigate the ship to gather data.  This takes attention to detail, because if the ship goes off course, data is missed for a certain area creating a “holiday”, or a gap in the data.  If a holiday is created it means that the crew has to go back and get the missing data later.  Nobody likes a holiday as it costs time and money to fix.  While data is being collected, the hydrographers are in charge of keeping an acquisition log that is a detailed record of everything that is taking place during a specific survey.  The team uses a program called Seafloor Information Systems (SIS) in order to collect the sonar data on the ship.  On the launches, HYPACK serves a dual function as the navigation software and the sonar software.

Randy (left) and Brandy (right) working on ship survey by monitoring the systems, drawing lines for navigation, and ensuring that good data is being collected.

Randy (left) and Brandy (right) working on ship survey by monitoring the systems, drawing lines for navigation, and ensuring that good data is being collected.

Left - Releasing the CTD from one of the launches. Right - Controlling the CTD as it is dropped from the surface to the bottom.

Left – Releasing the CTD from one of the launches.
Right – Controlling the CTD as it is dropped from the surface to the bottom.

Step Five:  Processing and Cleaning the Data

This was one of the most interesting parts of the process as you begin to see the data come to life.  The “lines” of data that are collected using the Konsberg sonar unit are brought over to a program called CARIS.  Certain correctors such as sound velocity and the predicted tides are added to the data in CARIS as well.  While each processing step is being completed, the hydrographer is responsible for making notes in the acquisition log.

Here is an example of some lines of data that have been added into the processing software.

Here is an example of some lines of data that have been added into the processing software.

Next it is important to “clean” the data.  This is done by moving carefully over each line of data to filter out any noise that shouldn’t be there.  When the data has been cleaned it can then be added to the project file for the sheet manager.  This way the hydrographer that is in charge of that specific sheet of data can see what progress has been made and what steps are still required for the work to be completed.

Here is an example of data that needs to be cleaned.  Notice how the data jumps around rather than showing one continuous ocean floor.

Here is an example of data that needs to be cleaned. Notice how the data jumps around rather than showing one continuous ocean floor.

Step Six:  Writing the Descriptive Report (DR) and Conducting a Survey Review

The Descriptive Report (DR) seems to be the most tedious part of the process.  This is the report that is included with the sheet when it is sent to the Pacific Hydrographic Branch for review and further processing.  It thoroughly explains things like the area surveyed, how data was acquired, and results and recommendations.  After a DR is thought to be complete, the ship conducts an internal review.  This is what I got to sit in on during my last day on the ship.  After it has met the expectations of the Chief Survey Technician, the FOO, and the CO, the project can then be sent off the ship to the Pacific Hydrographic Branch before being sent on to the Marine Chart Division (MCD) where the charts are finalized.

This is an image of all of the work that has been completed in the Shumagin Islands by the Rainier.  The colored sections have been completed, and you can see the polygons that need to be finished.

This is an image of all of the work that has been completed in the Shumagin Islands by the Rainier during this field season. The colored sections have been completed, and you can see the polygons that need to be finished.

Like I said in my previous blog post, the scientific process is not easy.  These scientists and crew work tirelessly to ensure that they are producing quality work that can be utilized for safe navigation.  I appreciate their efforts, and I want to thank them for their long hours and their attention to detail.

Personal Log

I find myself unable to fully express my gratitude to the crew of the Rainier for my time with them.  They allowed me to ask endless questions, they welcomed me into their close-knit community, and they provided me with an experience of a lifetime.  I am extremely thankful for this opportunity, and I wanted to be sure to offer my appreciation.

It has been over a week since I’ve been back in Newport, Oregon, and I’ve had a great time reliving my Teacher at Sea (TAS) experience with family, friends, coworkers, and students.  While we were transiting from the Shumigans, Christie Reiser, a Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician on board gave me an awesome video that she had made with several crew members.  The video gives a tour of the Rainier, and I thought it would be a nice to share it on my blog as a way to show people where I spent my 18 days at sea.

Here is the link for the video that Christie made:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=59OqG9tB1RU

Just Another Day at the Office

In this section I usually do a detailed interview with one crew member.  As this is my last blog post, I wanted to be sure to include all of the other interviews that I had while on the ship.  For each of these interviews I have included a snapshot of the conversation that I had with each person.  While I wasn’t able to interview everyone on board, I can say for a fact that each person I met had a unique story.  I was particularly fascinated by the various pathways that people have taken in order to become part of the Rainier crew.  Enjoy!

RosemaryJackson

JohnStarlaRandy

Did You Know…

The NOAA Teacher at Sea community has created a Did You Know website.  Click on the following link to check out an assortment of things you might not have known:  http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/dyk/#box23_text

Farewell

Thank you for following my blog and for sharing this experience with me.  Thanks again to the crew of the Rainier for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity.  I’ve learned so much from this experience, and I plan to take the knowledge I’ve gained and pass it along to my students, friends, and community members.

The crew signed this flag and gave it to me as a departing gift.

The crew signed this flag and gave it to me as a departing gift.

Best wishes to the crew of the Rainier, good luck with the rest of your field season, and happy hydro!

TAS Katie Sard

Katie Sard: My Tidal Adventure and a Look into the Power Behind This Mighty Ship, August 13, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Sard
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 29, 2013-August 15, 2013

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise:  Shumagin Islands, AK
Date:  August 9-13, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
GPS location:  54°49.910’N, 159°46.159’W
Sky condition:  OVC
Visibility:  5 nm
Wind: 10 kt, 135 true
Water temperature:  7.2°C
Air temperature:  11.0°C

Science and Technology Log

At the beginning of my time aboard the Rainier I couldn’t believe it when one of the hydrographers told me that it takes almost two years for the data that we are collecting right now to go into print.  After spending time with the scientists trying to understand the process, I have a better idea of why the data can take up to 24 months to appear on a chart.  There are numerous things to take into account: variables that need to be controlled for, inclement weather that may restrict completing data collection, limited personnel to process the data, reports that need to be written to accompany the data, and so on.  The point being is that it is not as simple as surveying the ocean floor and making a chart.

The FOO, Meghan McGovern, leads a morning safety meeting prior to sending out the launches.

The FOO (Field Operations Officer), Meghan McGovern, leads a morning safety meeting prior to sending out the launches.

The tides are one important variable that hydrographers must control for when they are collecting data. Tides constantly cause the depths of the water to change, but it is important for the charts to show the shoalest (most shallow) depth possible for safe navigation.

Notice how one low tide is lower than the other low tide.

Notice how one low tide is lower than the other low tide.

It’s not practical to only conduct surveys during low tides, so the data must be corrected to take water depth to a universal constant.  For most of the charts, NOAA uses Mean Lower Low Water as the control.  To explain Mean Lower Low Water, I have to review a bit about the tides themselves.  Most places, including Alaska, experience semidiurnal tides meaning that in one day, there are two high tides and two low tides.  If you look at the two low tides in one day, one of the two will be lower than the other one.   An average should be taken of the “lower low” water levels for 19 years.   This is how long the earth, sun, and moon to go through their various orbital eccentricities.  Typically, it is not reasonable to have a gauge installed for 19 years so by acquiring one 30 day cycle of tide data we are able to get approximately 90% of the solution and the remaining 10% is solved for using “primary stations” (ones which have a 19 year record) that are nearby.  This calculated average of the lower low tides is called the Mean Lower Low Water and all data is corrected to this value.

Before the water depth can be corrected to Mean Lower Low Water, the tides must first be measured.  The National Water Level Observation Network has stations all over the United States which give data on how to figure out local tide conditions.  The closest one to use in the Shumagins is at Sand Point on Popof Island.  In order to verify that the tides are being accurately predicted, the crew on the Rainier installs their own tidal gauge to verify the tidal data.

The tide station that the Rainier crew installed on Bird Island.

The tide station that the Rainier crew installed on Bird Island.

A tide gauge is installed on the sea floor near the coast line by divers.  It must be fairly deep so that it is always covered by water.  In order to verify that the tide gauge is working, a tide staff is installed nearby for the crew to take visual water level measurements every week for 3 hours in 6 minute increments. They use this manually collected data and compare it to the tide gauge to make sure that the gauge is functioning accurately and also to ensure that the gauge has not moved relative to the land after it has been installed.

One of the five benchmarks that was cemented into the bedrock at the tide station on Bird Island.

One of the five benchmarks that was cemented into the bedrock at the tide station on Bird Island.

It is a complicated process to install one of these tidal gauges, and they have to be calibrated to that Mean Lower Low Water.  In order to assure that we have a reference point on land, benchmarks are put in near the tide gauge. These benchmarks should be able to be utilized for centuries by anyone who wished to come back to set-up a tide gauge.

Last Friday I was assigned to the skiff (small boat) as part of the crew of people who would go observe the tide staff and complete other necessary tasks at the tide gauge station on Bird Island.  It was a 30 minute ride in the skiff from the ship, and when we got the island, the coxswain pulled the boat next to the rocks so we could quickly transfer ourselves and our gear onto the island.  A total of five benchmarks had been put into the bedrock during the last visit to Bird Island, and it was our job to verify the location of each benchmark.

I had the important job of pointing at the benchmarks to note their locations for the pictures.  The benchmark is embedded in the bedrock near my left hand.

I had the task of pointing at the benchmarks to note their locations for the pictures. The benchmark is embedded in the bedrock near my left hand.

We took GPS locations, measured from benchmark to benchmark, and took pictures with detailed notes telling where each of the five was located.  If something happened to the primary benchmark, there would be four back-ups that could be used to reference the location of the tide gauge.  It was also the responsibility of our crew to do the 3 hour tide staff observations, but bad weather only allowed us to complete one hour of data collection before we were required to return to the ship.

LT Mike Gonsalves takes a GPS location while sitting on one of the five benchmarks.

LT Mike Gonsalves takes a GPS location while sitting on one of the five benchmarks.

Measuring from one benchmark to the next.

Measuring from one benchmark to the next.

LT Mike Gonsalves begins taking tide staff observations.

LT Mike Gonsalves begins taking tide staff observations.

It constantly impresses me how many variables these scientists need to control for in order to get accurate depths to place on the charts.  I have only received a snapshot of the work that goes into one of these projects during my time aboard the Rainier.  I have begun to see a problem when so many people of this generation expect instant results and instant gratification. From now on it will be important for me to show my students that the scientific process is slow and arduous, but the overall results are impressive when you learn to appreciate and understand the steps that it takes to get there.

Personal Log

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to visit the engine room as the ship was getting underway.  Evan McDermott , a 1st Assistant Engineer on board, was kind enough to let me to follow him through the heart of the ship.  As we walked and ducked under the various equipment, I began to realize just how naïve I am about how the ship is powered.  As I began to observe and ask questions, I realized just how much time and effort it takes to get the ship in motion.IMG_4312

When I first went down to the engine room they had just turned the pumps on.  These pumps are used to help turn the rudders.  Each time the pumps are powered on, it is required that the engineers do a steering test.  I went with Joshua Parker, a GVA (General Vessel Assistant) in the engineering department on board, as he showed me how to complete the steering test with the rudder.

GVA Josh Parker helps to show me around the engine room.

GVA Josh Parker helps to show me around the engine room.

While we were anchored, the engines were powered down and we were running the basic functions of the ship with two generators which stay on 24 hours a day while the ship is underway.  When I came back to the engine room it was time to turn the engines on, and Evan walked me through how to do this.  Really all I did was push two buttons that he showed me, but it was neat to hear the engines come to life.

The two 12-cylinder engines that we have on board.

The two 12-cylinder engines that we have on board.

While I was in the engine room, I remembered several of the questions my students had when the CO came to speak to my class last year.  I seemed to remember a lot of students asking questions about the fuel that the Rainier uses.  I decided to do some investigating by asking some of my own questions.  It turns out that the ship is able to carry a total of 103,000 gallons of fuel at a time.  On a typical 18 day leg, the ship will burn about 30,000 gallons of fuel.  Evan pulled up a detailed Microsoft Excel sheet and showed me how they keep track of the fuel being used.  He showed me that while underway the ship typically burns about 2,000 gallons each day, but if the ship is anchored it is more like 600 gallons.

Something else I learned while in the engine room was how this ship uses fuel as ballast.  Normally on a ship, ballast is water that is taken in to help keep the ship balanced.  The Rainier has 17 fuel tanks all around the ship, and one of the reasons for this is to give the ship stability.

A diagram of the 17 fuel tanks on the Rainier.  Notice how they are low as they help with the stability of the ship.

A diagram of the 17 fuel tanks on the Rainier. Notice how they are low as they help with the stability of the ship.

For this reason, it is important that the fuel is burned in a certain order based on which tank it is in.  Once the engineers decide that they need to use fuel from a certain tank, it is transferred into two settlers.  This is where the water is allowed to settle out of the fuel before it is purified and transferred to the day tanks.  These two-day tanks are where the two engines suck fuel from directly.

The last thing that grabbed my attention in the engine room was the process on how the sewage is filtered.  I know it sounds gross, but it is such a simple chemical reaction that I feel compelled to share it!  The machine that is responsible for this treatment uses salt water and DC current.  The current is run through the water and breaks the salt (NaCl) into the ions Na+  and Cl.  The Cl ions go on to reform with the OH ions from the water forming sodium hypochlorite.  This substance acts to kill the bacteria in the sewage.  Chemistry at work!

Just another Day at the Office

Evan McDermott, 1st Assistant Engineer

Evan McDermott

Evan McDermott

After touring the engine room, I sat down with Evan to talk about his job and how he came to work for NOAA as a 1st Assistant Engineer.  He told me that he graduated from Massachusetts Maritime Academy with a BS in Marine Engineering as well receiving his US Coast Guard license.  I didn’t know what a Maritime Academy was until I came aboard the Rainier, so I asked him how he originally heard about this field.  Evan told me that in high school he went through a unique program where he spent two days each week doing marine engineering outside of his school.  A guidance counselor told him more about the benefits of  marine engineering, and that’s when Evan decided to apply to Massachusetts Maritime Academy.

During our conversation, Evan told me that what he enjoys most about his job is the variety of hands-on work that he gets to be involved in, and he also enjoys the scenery here in Alaska.  He is required to stand watches in the engine room for two 4-hour shifts while the ship is underway, and he also plays a supervisory role.  The engineering department on the ship is mostly responsible for the maintenance and operations.  I asked him to share the advice he would give to students hoping to get into this field of work, and he said that it is important to keep up on your math to become a marine engineer!  Evan told me that the Maritime Academy was a tough four years of his life, but that his hard work has paid off as he has now secured this job with NOAA.

Evan appreciates the fishing that is available in Alaska, and when not on the ship he enjoys snowboarding.

Your Questions Answered!

A friend from my high school, Derek Cusimano, works with similar technology that is being utilized on the Rainier.  I was excited to see the questions he had for me, and also to realize that I actually understood how to answer some of the more technical questions.  First he asked about the program that is used to collect and process the data on board.  It is my understanding that on the ship, Hypack is the navigation software that is used.  The bridge sees this screen, and the hydrographers use it to draw the lines to show where the ship needs to be navigated in order to collect the data.  Seafloor Information Systems (SIS) is the sonar software for the EM710.  Finally, CARIS is the software that is used to process the data once it is collected.

Derek also asked me about what positioning the crews use for their surveys.  The tidal gauges that I discussed in this post are used for vertical control, as the water moves up and down with the tides.  The scientists also have to take into account horizontal control.  They need to accurately be able to tell where their position is, because without that information the water depths that we are gathering with the sonar are useless.

ENS Bill Carrier and HST Brandy Geiger work to set-up part of the horizontal control station on Bird Island.

ENS Bill Carrier and HST Brandy Geiger work to set-up part of the horizontal control station on Bird Island.

Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) is used from the Coast Guard station in Kodiak Alaska to gain accurate latitude and longitude.  However, the Rainier crew also installs their own GPS  base stations to correct the GPS positions acquired on the ship and launches during “post processing”.  For this project, a GPS base station was installed on Bird Island near the tide gauge and data is down loaded via a VHF radio.  These stations listen to all GPS signals and correct the locations for each satellite down to the decimeter.  This allows the Rainier to correct their GPS positions to have an accuracy of just a few centimeters.

The next question comes from my 2-year old nephew Ollie Burgeson.  He wanted to know what I was eating on the ship.  My answer to him is a little bit of everything!  I can’t say that I’ve had the same meal twice while out at sea.  Meals are at 0700, 1130, and 1700, and each day a menu is posted that tells what will be available for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The stewards also provide a stocked ice cream freezer and other snacks 24 hours a day.  Many know that I eat mostly vegetarian food, and each meal there is always a vegetarian option which several crew members and I enjoy.  While out on the launches, the coolers are packed full of food for the crew of each boat.  Sandwiches, fresh fruit, chips, and dessert are all included on the launches.

Did You Know…

humpbackwhale_noaa_large

Photo courtesy of NOAA.

On Sunday I saw at least a dozen whales while I was looking out over the waters of the Shumagins.  The ship was anchored while the launches were out gathering data.  It was such a clear day that I decided to spend time on the bridge whale watching.  It didn’t take long before I saw several breach in the distance.  I was told by some of the crew that I was observing humpback whales, Megaptera novaeangliae.  I didn’t know much about them, so I decided to do a bit of research.  Here are some of the interesting things I learned about humpback whales:

  • Humpback whales can be found in all major oceans from the equator to sub-polar latitudes
  • The humpback whale’s lifespan is about 50 years
  • They eat mostly krill, plankton, and small fish
  • Humpback whales can consume up to 3,000 pounds of food per day
  • Females are typically longer than males, and they can reach up to 60 feet in length
  • Newborns weight about 2,000 pounds and adults can grow to be between 50-80,000 pounds

Katie Sard: A Brief History, and the “Simple” Science of Sonar, August 9, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Sard
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 29-August 15, 2013

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise:  Shumagin Islands, AK
Date:  August 5-8, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
GPS location:  54°49.402’N, 159°33.182’W
Sky condition: Overcast (OVC)
Visibility: 5 nm
Wind: 210 true, 15 kts
Water temperature: 8.3°C
Air temperature: 11.0°C

The NOAA Ship Rainier.  This has been my home for the past 12 days!

The NOAA Ship Rainier. This has been my home for the past 12 days!

Science and Technology Log

While I was speaking with ENS Rosemary Abbitt, a Junior Officer on board, she used an analogy to describe the amount of information that she takes in every day while on the job.  She said that it is like trying to get a drink from a fire hose.  I thought that this was fitting as each day as a Teacher at Sea I am constantly trying to take in and process the huge amount of new information I am learning.  I have jumped in to the heart of hydrographic surveys, but in this post I would like to take a step back and look at a brief history of how the use of sonar has evolved.

Before coming on the Rainier, I knew that the use of sonar on ships had something to do with sound waves traveling in the water in order to map the ocean floor.  After gathering information from the crew, and a bit of my own research, I found out that sonar actually stands for Sound Navigation and Ranging.  I also found out that sound waves travel better in water as compared to radar or light waves, so that is why they are used for this type of work.

The top-side unit of the sonar system that is used on board.  This machine acts as the "brain" of the sonar system.

The top-side unit of the sonar system that is used on board. This machine acts as the “brain” of the sonar system.

The NOAA Ship Rainier is equipped with a Kongsberg EM710 Multibeam Sonar System which falls in the category of active sonar.  The system emits acoustic signals into the water, and when the sound bounces off of an object it returns an echo to the sonar transducer.  By determining the time between emission and reception, the range and the orientation of the object can be determined.  The range of an object is equal to the sound speed times the travel time divided by two.

On the left you can see the machine that is used to drag the MVP in the water behind the ship while we are surveying.  On the right, the MVP is ready to go in the water.

On the left you can see the machine that is used to drag the MVP in the water behind the ship while we are surveying. On the right, the MVP is ready to go in the water.

It is extremely important that the hydrographers using this technology have accurate measurements for sound speed.  The Rainier is equipped with a Moving Vessel Profiler (MVP) which generates sound speed profiles.  These profiles include information such as temperature, salinity, depth, and most importantly, sound speed.  These measurements are applied to real-time sonar data in order to make sure that these variables are controlled for.

Sonar was first used during World War I as a way of detecting submarines.  The US Coast and Geodetic Survey were the first to use sonar to map deep water areas in the 1920s.  As I discussed in a previous post, lead line surveys were the primary way to gather bathymetric data up until that point.  It astounds me to see all of the technology on board, but it also leaves me wondering where we’ll be in another 10 to 20 years.  I suppose only time will tell what new technologies will allow for the continued exploration of our Ocean!

Personal Log

The beauty of Alaska has truly come to life for me in the last few days.  Last night, the CO was kind enough to take a group of people to a nearby beach on Chernabura Island.  From time to time he will do this, and the crew calls these events “Beach Parties”.  It took me several minutes to gain my land legs as my body has acclimated to life on a ship.  I walked the beach, but I soon turned to hike up one of the peaks that I had been seeing from a distance for so many days.

My footsteps on the beach at Chernabura Island.  It's crazy to think how few people have walked on this land.

My footsteps on the beach at Chernabura Island. It’s crazy to think how few people have walked on this land.

The hike up to the top was HARD!  The ground beneath my feet was not solid earth, but rather soft, boggy terrain that required a great deal of energy to hike through.

The view from a stop along the way. Looking out over Chernabura Island.

The view from a stop along the way. Looking out over Chernabura Island.

When I made it to the top I could not believe my eyes.  The beauty of this untouched land was overwhelming, and I realized how very lucky I am to be on this wonderful adventure.

A hidden lake in the background at the top of the ridge on Chernabura Island.

A hidden lake in the background at the top of the ridge on Chernabura Island.

The ship in the distance from the top of the ridge on Chernabura Island.

The ship in the distance from the top of the ridge on Chernabura Island.

Just another Day at the Office…

Christie Reiser, Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician

Christie Reiser

Christie Reiser

I began getting to know Christie while I was out on my first launch with her last week.  Before this time, I had heard her mentioning that she is currently doing an internship with NOAA.  This immediately caught my attention as I am always interested in how students are able to involve themselves with real-world organizations such as NOAA.  As I began interviewing her I found out that she is working on her bachelor’s degree through the University of Colorado with hopes of someday becoming a physical scientist.  She began her internship with NOAA last field season, and she is now a permanent employee while also completing her internship.  Before her current school work she obtained an associates degree in business marketing and worked for an oil company as an executive assistant.  During that time, her boss asked if she wanted to learn Geographic Information Systems (GIS) for her work, and so she was signed up for a crash course which allowed her to begin using the software to make maps.  Unfortunately, she was laid off but during this time she was able to move to Europe because she has dual nationality in Germany. While overseas, she spent a year working as an apprentice in a saddlery in Austria.  When she came back to the states, she decided to go back to school at the University of Colorado.  She enjoyed her previous GIS experience, so she began her work in the geography department which led her to the internship with NOAA.

Christie told me that has truly enjoyed her time in Alaska.  She loves seeing the marine life and getting to know the people she works with so well.  Her favorite part of the work is the night processing where she is able to work directly with the data in order to see the sea floor come to life.  When asked what advice she would give a young person trying to break into this field, she said that she would recommend waiting to go to college until you are ready.  Wait to find something that makes you happy and that you have a passion for.

When not on the ship, Christie enjoys leather working, saddle making, and book binding.

Your Questions Answered!

One question that I’ve had from several people has to do with the morale of the crew.  These people are out to sea for 18 days at a time, and so people wanted to know if it gets depressing out here.  Also, it was asked if there is  good comradery and banter among the crew?

In response, I can say this; life at sea is not for the shy or the meek.  While there are many amazing advantages to this type of work it definitely takes a certain type of person.  As far as the morale of the crew, from my perspective it seems like field season up here means time to get business done.  Everyone has important tasks to be completed, and most of the time people are busy with work.  Operations run 24 hours, and the point of being here is to gather the data. However, it’s not all work and no play.  Morale on the ship is important, and I’ve heard many people speak of the crew as a second or extended family.  I don’t know any other job where you work, live, and share space 24 hours a day with the same people.  I’ve noticed that people on the ship really look forward to meals.  It is one of the small pleasures of life at sea and it is a time to gather with everyone and take a break.  The universal struggle on board is the time away from home. Nobody wants to be away from their loved ones, but the crew on the Rainier work as hard as possible to make life at sea enjoyable.

My Aunt Kathy wanted to know if I have seen any whales.  The ship has had to navigate around pods of whales, but it seems to be whenever I am busy with something else.  Yesterday the crew called me to the bridge as they had been seeing a lot of whale activity.  Of course, as soon as I got my camera out, there wasn’t a whale in sight.  However, last night I was walking on Chernabura Island during the beach party, and I saw a pod of whales out in the distance.  I saw four of five spouts, but they were too far to get a picture.

The first sunset I've seen since being on board.

The first sunset I’ve seen since being on board.

Did You Know…

Here are a few ship specific terms that I have learned during my time aboard the Rainier:

To come about – to turn the ship around

Aft – the back of the ship

Helm – ship’s steering equipment, found on the bridge

Pitch – the forward and backward rise and fall of the ship as it moves

Leeward – the side of an island or a ship that is sheltered from the wind

Also, when making a call to another vessel, it is important to say the call sign of the vessel you are calling for first followed by your own call sign.  When I was out on RA-6 doing survey launches, I had to call the Rainier to give hourly updates.  In a previous blog I told you that the call sign for the Rainier is WTEF, but they typically shorten it when out on surveys to just ET.  In this case when I was calling for the ship I would say, “Echo Foxtrot this is RA-6.”  The OOD would respond with, “RA-6 this is Echo Foxtrot go ahead.”  This type of universal communication system is one of the ways that the team aboard the Rainier maintains safety while at sea.

Katie Sard: Setting up for Survey, August 4, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Sard
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 29 – August 15, 2013

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 1-4, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
GPS location: 55°02.642’N, 159°57.359’W
Sky condition:  Overcast (OVC)
Visibility: 7 nm
Wind: 180° true, 8 kts
Water temperature: 8.3°C
Air temperature:  12.0 °C

Science and Technology Log

In my last post I talked mostly about the science needed for safely navigating the ship to our survey area in the Shumagin Islands.  Now that the surveying has begun, I’d like to use this post to talk about the actual logistics of the surveys that are being completed.  These surveys are the reason that we are in Alaska, and it takes quite a bit of planning and coordination to make sure that accurate data is collected.  The hydrographers are looking for features to put on the chart (map) such as depth, rocks, shoals, ledges, shipwrecks, islets (small islands), and kelp beds.

One of the massive kelp beds that we recorded while out on a survey launch.

One of the massive kelp beds that we recorded while out on a survey launch.

The last time most of this area was surveyed was back in the early 1900s.  Lead lines were used in order to gather data about the depth of the sea.  While accurate, this method only gave information on discrete points along the ocean floor.  This resulted in charts being left with large amounts of white space which represents areas that have never before been surveyed.

You can see the sea depth measurements on this chart are in a neat line where I've highlighted in red.  These are the lead line measurements that were taken in the early 1900s.

You can see the sea depth measurements on this chart are in a neat line where I’ve highlighted in red. These are the lead line measurements that were taken in the early 1900s. You can also see the large amounts of white space that haven’t yet been charted.

Here is a comparison of the type of data that would be gathered from a lead line versus multi-beam sonar. (Credit http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/mcd/learnnc_surveytechniques.html)

The sonar technology on the ship allows us to gather data which can be classified as full-bottom coverage.  That means that we have data on every inch of ocean floor that we cover rather than just one point along the way.

Now let’s get to the heart of survey!  The overall survey area here in the Shumagins is broken down into what the team refers to as sheets.  The Commanding Officer (CO) informed me that the reason they call them “sheets” is because back before the use of computers in surveying, hydrography would be done on a small boat and all the positions would be hand-plotted on a sheet of fine cotton paper.  The size of this “sheet” of paper and the scale of the survey dictated how big the survey would be. Anyways, each sheet has a sheet manager that is responsible for the data collected in that area.  Each sheet is then broken down even further into several polygons which represent specific areas to be surveyed on that sheet.  Meghan McGovern, the Field Operations Officer (FOO) on this ship, explained to me that while the ship itself is running sonar to collect data 24 hours a day only two launches can be sent out at a time to do additional surveys.  This is because the ship does not have the manpower to run the entire ship plus all four small survey launches.  However, it is hard on the crew to run continuous 24 hour operations on the ship, so every so often the ship will anchor and four survey launches can be sent out to gather data during the day.  I asked which method is preferred and Megan told me that it really depends on the area that needs to be surveyed.  Sometimes it can be more beneficial to anchor and send out all four launches if a lot of data needs to be collected on areas close to the shore.  In that case, the ship is not able to navigate as closely to the shoreline as the small launches are.

Before the launches can be sent out to gather data close to shorelines, benchmarks must be set and tidal gauges must be taken in order to measure the actual water level based on the varying tides.  This has not been done during my time in the Shumagins because they were done on the previous leg.  (For more information visit TAS Marvin’s blog to understand how she helped set-up benchmarks in the Shumagins.) Shoreline verification must also be completed by the small skiff (boat) in order to visually mark any dangers that may be hazardous to the launches while they are surveying.  I am hoping to do shoreline verification while I am here, but for now this area has already been done.

This shows several rocks that would need to be noted through shoreline  verification before sending the launches out.

This shows several rocks that would need to be noted through shoreline verification before sending the launches out.

To the left of Chernabura Island you can see the two polygons (V and X)  we were responsible for surveying.

To the left of Chernabura Island you can see the two polygons (V and X) we were responsible for surveying.

After the shoreline verification has taken place the actual data collection can begin.  I have been out in a launch two times since we reached our survey area.  The first time we were surveying polygons V (Victor) and X (X-ray) on the west coast of Chernabura Island.  I learned a great deal from the crew about the survey system on the small launch.  While I was on this launch I was allowed to drive.  It turns out it is hard to drive a boat in a nice, neat line.  Yesterday I was able to go out for a second time on a survey launch, and this time we collected near shore data on the east side of Near Island.

You can see the highlighted area was clearly marked on the boat sheet as "TAS Driven" to indicate to the hydrographer why the lines weren't exactly straight!

You can see the highlighted area was clearly marked as “TAS Driven” to indicate to the hydrographer why the lines weren’t exactly straight!

The launch runs a system that is very similar to the ship in order to collect bathymetric data.  The screen, that is projected to the Hydrographer in Charge (HIC) and the coxswain (driver), shows a swath of the area where data has been collected.

Here is what the HIC and the coxswain see as the data is being gathered.  Notice the red arrow I've inserted to show the "colored in" areas that represent where the data has been collected.

Here is what the HIC and the coxswain see as the data is being gathered. Notice the red arrow I’ve inserted to show the “colored in” areas that represent where the data has been collected.

On the screen it looks as though the ship is driving back and forth coloring in the lines as data is collected.  Once all of the data has been collected on the launch, it is saved to an external hard drive and brought back to the ship for night processing.  I haven’t observed night processing yet, but I plan to do that in the upcoming days.

I will hold off on more detail now and wait until next time to give you the science behind the detailed sonar that is being used during these surveys.

Personal Log

Yesterday was one of my favorite days on my adventure so far.  I went with three other people on one of the small launches called the RA-6.  While I was on the launch I had the responsibility of doing the radio communication back to the ship for a check-in each hour to let them know our position and what we had accomplished up to that point.  The sun was peeking through the clouds, and I was finally able to see the majestic islands that are surrounding us.  These islands have no trees, but their sharp cliffs and the mystical lenticular clouds that hovered above them captured my attention each time we drove close.

The lenticular clouds forming over the land near where we were surveying.

The lenticular clouds forming over the land near where we were surveying.

The birds out here are the only animals that can be observed and they include gulls, muirs, and puffins.  Each time we drove near a puffin I couldn’t help but laugh as they scuttled quickly away in the water.  Some of them seemed to have eaten too many fish to be able to lift themselves into the air.

My free time on the ship has been mostly spent at meals and in the wardroom.  Each night the ship shows three different movies that run on the cable channels throughout the ship, and a mix of people tend to gather in the wardroom to sit and watch the shows together.  I have also had the unique experience of using the elliptical machine several times while on board.

This is the wardroom where I watch movies with various crew members some evenings.

This is the wardroom where I watch movies with various crew members some evenings.

If you have ever used an elliptical machine, you know that normally when you step off the machine it feels like you are still in motion.  Add that feeling to the swaying of the ship and it makes for a strange type of vertigo!

The ship even has a small "gym" where the crew can work out while out at sea.

The ship even has a small “gym” where the crew can work out while out at sea.

Laura McCrum, a past student of mine, told me in a recent email to remember that knowledge is not confined to age…and she made sure to clarify that she wasn’t calling me old!  I am so grateful for this unique experience where I am able to continue my education each and every day in order to expand my knowledge base.  I hope that this experience will not only benefit me but also my students, coworkers, and community members as well.

Just Another Day at the Office

I wanted to start this section of my blog as a way to highlight a different member of the crew during each post.  These people go to work each day in such a unique environment that I thought it was important to share a piece of their stories.

Carl VerPlanck, 3rd Mate

The first time I saw Carl was on the bridge while the ship was departing from port.  He is the navigation officer responsible for creating routes, updating charts and publications, and maintaining a certain decorum on the bridge.  Carl also helps to train junior officers in the art of navigation.  He conducts underway watches and drives the launches while helping to train others to do the same.

Carl VerPlanck

Carl VerPlanck

When asked about how he got to be in the position that he holds today, Carl told me that he grew up in Indiana and received his GED when he was 18 before moving to Alaska to work on a fishing boat.  Having no prior experience on boats, he worked in a fish processing plant in Naknek, Alaska until he was able to start as a General Vessel Assistant (GVA) with NOAA.  He eventually worked his way up the rank as an Ordinary Seaman (OS), followed by an Able-bodied Seaman (AB) until he received his 3rd Mate certification.  He currently holds his 2nd Mate certification, and he plans to hold this position in the future.

While I was talking with him, Carl told me that the best part about his job was that he loves working in Alaska.  He has a sense of exploration while doing these surveys, and he likes the feeling that anything could be down there on the sea floor.  I asked him to share the advice that he would give a young person trying to break into the field of an ocean related career and he said that you shouldn’t be afraid to broaden the scope of what you might be good at or what your interests are.  Never miss a chance to take hold of an opportunity, and don’t be afraid to consider a non-traditional pathway.

I ended our conversation by asking Carl what he would be doing if he wasn’t currently working for NOAA, and he said he was sure he would still be in the maritime community in some way.  Besides working for NOAA I found out that Carl enjoys taking flying lessons and he is currently working toward getting his pilot’s license.  He has a home in Seattle where he lives, when not underway, with his wife and his 1 1/2 year old son.

Your Questions Answered!

I love getting questions via comments and emails, and so I wanted to do these questions justice by providing prompt answers.  So here we go…

My first question was from Kirsten Buckmaster, a fellow teacher at INMS.  She asked me if I have any specific duties from day to day on the ship.  As a Teacher at Sea it is really up to me to insert myself into the everyday schedule of the ship.  The Field Operations Officer (FOO) and the Commanding Officer (CO) sat down with me at the start of the leg and asked me what I was interested in doing while on board, and I told them that I was eager to do a little bit of everything.  Each day the FOO posts the Plan of the Day (POD), and this tells you what specific tasks are going to be done for the day.  Each day I look for my name on the POD to understand if I have any specific responsibilities.  Some days it is up to me to go observe on the bridge or in the plot room.  I am hoping to help with the deck department before my time is over, as well as try to better understand what the engineers do.

Plan of the Day (POD) for Saturday.  If you look to the left you can see my name under RA-6.

Plan of the Day (POD) for Saturday. If you look to the left you can see my name under RA-6.

Next I had a question from one of my students Mr. Zachary Doyle.  Zach asked me if I was getting seasick.  Luckily, it turns out that I am not prone to sea sickness…yet.  The POD gives the weather forecast, and the FOO makes sure to let the crew know if we are going to have any inclement weather.  If I know the ship is going to be rockin’ and rollin’ I will take Dramamine which helps to prevent sea sickness.  Also, the launches get shaken around a bit more so if I know I’m going out on a launch I will take some medicine the night before just in case.

Finally, my grandmother-in-law Liz Montagna asked me about the waves.  I’ve learned out here that we need to be aware of two important things: sea wave height and swells.  In simple terms, a swell is a wave that is not generated by the local wind.  They are regular, longer period waves generated by distant weather systems.  The wave height can be measured from the waves caused by the wind in the area where they are created.  Luckily we haven’t had waves breaking on the deck.  Liz also asked about who does the housekeeping.  In my stateroom the answer is my roommate and I.  We are responsible for keeping our living quarters neat and tidy.  The deck department is mostly in charge of the rest of the ship.  Each day I have met people in the passageways (halls) sweeping, mopping, and doing other necessary tasks to keep the ship looking good.

I love questions so please keep them coming!  Remember you can post a comment/question on the blog or email me at katie.sard@lincoln.k12.or.us .

All is well in Alaska!

TAS Sard

Did You Know…

I didn’t know how the Shumagin Islands got their name so I did some investigating.  It turns out that Vitus Bering was the man who led an expedition to the islands in 1741.  Nikita Shumagin was one of the sailors on this mission, but he unfortunately died of scurvy and was buried on Nagai Island.

Katie Sard: The Science Needed to Get the Data, July 31, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Sard
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 29 – August 15, 2013

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of the Cruise:  Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
GPS location:  54°52.288’N, 159°55.055’W
Sky condition:  Overcast (OVC) with Fog (FG)
Visibility:  Less than 2 nautical miles (nm)
Wind: 120 degrees true, 13 knots (kt)
Sea level pressure:  1009.7 millibar (mb)
Sea wave height:  1 foot (ft)
Swell waves:  180 degrees true, 3 ft
Water temperature:  9.4°C
Air temperature:  12.2°C

Science and Technology Log

From the moment I stepped on to the NOAA Ship Rainier in port at the Coast Guard Base in Kodiak three days ago, it was apparent to me that this ship functions in order to acquire information.  Hours upon hours of teamwork, dedication, money, and precise planning go in to making sure this ship gets to the right spot, functions properly, and has the correct instrumentation to collect the data.  My goal for this post is to share with you all of the science that goes into making sure that this ship is able to perform the overall mission of doing hydrographic surveys.

A view of the bow of the ship from the flying bridge as we began to get underway.

A view of the bow of the ship from the flying bridge as we began to get underway.

First perhaps I should give a brief background of what a hydrographic survey is and why they are done.  The NOAA Ship Rainier uses sonar in order to collect information about the ocean floor.  Each time the ship, or any of the survey launches (smaller boats), use this sonar, they are surveying the area for hydrographic information.

Two of the launches had to get rearranged into their standard locations on the ship as we left port.  They had been switched around while at port for maintenance.

Two of the launches had to get rearranged into their standard locations on the ship as we left port. They had been switched around while at port for maintenance.

This information is then processed and used to create nautical charts which NOAA produces for navigational purposes.  These nautical charts contain information on ocean floor depth, but they also give detailed information on areas that may be hazardous to those navigating the waters in that area.  I will stop there for now on the hydrographic surveys because the surveys have only just begun today on the ship.  The ship has been in transit the past two days, meaning that we have been moving from port to our survey area.   Little did I know how much science it takes to even get the ship to the survey area where the hydrographic surveys can begin.

If you are one of my students reading this blog, you may know how I say that science is everywhere.  One of my students even asked me this past year, “Mrs. Sard, are you like ALWAYS thinking about science?”  Well it turns out that science IS everywhere on this ship.  I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with several different crew members in my first few days, and they’ve been eager to explain the many functions of the ship and the crew.  What is important to understand is that there are several departments that all must work together in order to allow the ship to function properly.  Here is a brief breakdown of each department and what their main tasks are:

Wardroom – These are mostly members of the NOAA Corps which is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.  Besides managing and operating the ship, these dedicated workers also function as scientists and engineers.

Survey – These are the scientists that are mostly in charge of the hydrographic data.  They collect, process, and manage the information that is collected during the surveys.

Engineers – These people have the important task of keeping the ship in functioning order.  They do things like maintain the engine room and respond to any mechanical type issues.

Electronics Technician (ET) – This crew is in charge of the technology on board the ship.  They ensure that things like the computers, internet, and phones are all up in working condition.

Steward – This department is tasked with the job of feeding the crew members.  (They do a great job, and I think I might actually gain weight while out a sea because I cannot say no to the delicious food they prepare!)

Part of the galley where the food is served and we eat three delicious meals each day!

Part of the galley where the food is served and we eat three delicious meals each day!

Deck – The deck crew members are responsible for things like driving the small launches, maintaining the ship’s equipment, and so on.

Visitors – These would be people, like me, who are only on board the ship temporarily.  They have a specific purpose that usually falls within one of the other departments.

Navigating the Ship

Now that you are aware of the overall goal of the ship, and you are familiar with the departments, let me discuss the science that is needed to get the ship where we need to go.  It was an overwhelming and exciting feeling to be on the bridge of the ship while we were getting underway.  The Officer On Deck (OOD) was giving orders to both the helmsman, who marked his orders down on a marker board, and the “lee helm” or engine controls operated by ENS Poremba. The third mate was acting as the navigator and had precisely mapped out the route for safely and efficiently departing the Coast Guard base.

You can see part of the route that the navigator has mapped out for the ship.

You can see part of the route that the navigator has mapped out for the ship.

The Commanding Officer (CO) was overseeing all that was happening, along with several other officers.  I was in awe of how smoothly everything came together, and how efficiently the people worked together as a team.  LT Gonsalves eloquently said that the ship is like a “floating city” and that all of the pieces must come together in order for it to function.

As I awoke yesterday, after our first night out at sea, I could hear the fog horn coming from the bridge.  I decided to go and observe again to see how things were functioning out at open sea.  ENS Wall showed me how to do a GPS fix to make sure that we are following the plans laid out for navigation.

Ens Wall taking a GPS fix that he showed be how to do!

Ens Wall taking a GPS fix that he showed be how to do!

These are taken about every fifteen minutes.  He used the current chart that was laid out as well as electronic GPS measurements and plotted them on the chart with a compass.  He then marked the latitude and longitude with the time to show that we were on course at that moment.

The OOD, John Kidd, went on to explain a bit more about the navigation of the ship including the gyroscope. Simply put, a gyroscope is an instrument used for measuring and maintaining orientation while out at sea, but it’s not as simple as it looks.  I noticed a sign that read “Gyro Error” and so I asked.  John went on to tell me that the gyro error is the difference between true north and what the gyro thinks is north.  The difference between true north and magnetic north is the combination of “variation” which is a function of local magnetic fields, and “deviation” which is the effect the magnetic fields aboard the boat have on the compass.  The steel ship itself and all of the electricity on board have some crazy magnetic fields that interfere.

Finally, I went up to the bridge this morning to quickly get the weather data that I needed for my blog.  What I thought would be a quick visit turned into a 30 minute conversation with the crew.  It was remarkable to see all of the data that is collected each hour dealing with the weather.  The conning officer is required to take the data once each hour and enter it into the computer.  They don’t simply look out and take a rough estimate of the weather.  It is a detailed process that takes a variety of instrumentation in order to get the quantified weather data that is needed.   All of the weather data is then sent off to  NOAA’s National Weather Service and is used to refine the local at-sea weather forecasts.

Weather data from the Bridge.  Hey INMS students - check out this data table! Data tables can be good!

Weather data from the Bridge. Hey INMS students – check out this data table! Data tables can be good!

I couldn’t help but smile at all of the science and math that was taking place in order to have safe navigation through the sea.  So much science goes in to making sure that the officers have accurate data in order to navigate the ship.  This is one of my goals as a TAS: I want to show my students how many different opportunities they have, and the possible fields of science that NOAA has to offer.

Personal Log

When I arrived in Kodiak on Saturday, Avery Marvin, the previous Teacher at Sea (TAS) was still on board for one night.  She took me on a tour of the ship, and gave me the low down on how everything functions.  Avery and I decided that before departing on Monday, we would take the day on Sunday to explore the island of Kodiak.  I couldn’t believe all of the wildlife I saw including the various creatures of the tide pools, bald eagles, sea otters, salmon, and so much more.

TAS Marvin (left) and myself (right) as we went tide pooling at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park.

TAS Marvin (left) and myself (right) as we went tide pooling at Fort Abercrombie State Historical Park.

I have been so impressed by the functionality of the ship.  Every inch of space is used, and the people on board truly understand what it means to work as a team.  Yesterday we had our safety drills including Fire/Emergency and Abandon Ship.  When the different alarms sounded, I was required to quickly get to my muster station where I was checked in and accounted for to the CO.  I also was asked to try on my immersion suit.  In all of the excitement, I wasn’t able to get a picture, but it was an experience to practice these drills.

The rack where I will be staying over the next three weeks.

The rack where I will be staying over the next three weeks.

The head or the bathroom in my room that I share with my roommate Martha.

The head or the bathroom in my room that I share with my roommate Martha.

I believe my body is starting to get accustomed to the constant movement of the ship. While sleeping in my rack (bed) at night, I can feel it as the ship sways back and forth.  At times the waves are large, but for the most part it feels as though I’m being rocked to sleep.

Please post comments, or email me at katie.sard@lincoln.k12.or.us if you have any questions or information that you would like me to blog about.  I’m looking forward to sharing more information on my experience with you next time!

Best wishes,

TAS Sard

Did You Know…

Each ship has it’s own call sign.  These signs are displayed on the ship by flags that each represent one letter in the alphabet, and they are international symbols that are used.  The call sign for the NOAA Ship Rainier is WTEF.

The flags for the call sign of the Rainier.  From top to bottom they read WTEF.

The flags for the call sign of the Rainier. From top to bottom they read WTEF.

To ensure clearness when reading off these letters, the military alphabet is used.  For example, if you were reading the call sign for the Rainier it would read Whiskey Tango Echo Foxtrot instead of just WTEF.

Katie Sard: Introductory Post, July 3, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Katie Sard
25 days until I am aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier
July 29 – August 15, 2013


Misson: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of the cruise:  Alaska Peninsula
Date:  July 3, 2013

 

Personal Log

Hello from Newport, Oregon!  I cannot begin to explain how excited I am for my upcoming Teacher at Sea (TAS) experience on the NOAA Ship Rainier. I have the privilege of working in a coastal community at Isaac Newton Magnet School (INMS) here in Newport.

Yaquina Bay Bridge

Although I don’t typically get to walk across the bridge each day on my commute, this is me as I made my way over the Yaquina Bay Bridge for the first time by foot!

I teach Integrated Science to blended classes of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students.  My daily drive to work consists of looking out across the Pacific Ocean and passing over the Yaquina Bay Bridge.  My students are one of a kind, and their budding interests in science motivate me to continue my own scientific education.

I moved to Oregon in June of 2011 with my husband so that he could pursue a PhD position at Hatfield Marine Science Center through Oregon State University.  We moved here from Chautauqua County in Western New York State.  Although I grew up on the “East Coast”, it wasn’t until moving to Oregon that I really began to appreciate our Ocean and what it means to be a member of a coastal community.  Ever since our move I’ve been on a mission to discover all that I can about the Ocean in order to help my students appreciate what an amazing resource it truly is.  While I was attending a teacher workshop recently, I read the following quote by David Sobel that said, “Give children a chance to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”  The demands of the upcoming generations are enormous, and I am dedicated to making sure that my students grow to be scientifically literate citizens of our world.  I know that my TAS experience will help me to help my students love their planet!

The NOAA Teacher at Sea program is giving me the opportunity to continue my scientific education, and to bring my knowledge back to my students, colleagues, and community members.  The ship’s mission will be to do hydrographic surveys out around the Shumagin Islands, and in and around Cold Bay on the Alaska Peninsula.

NOAA Survey Plans

Here is a map that I found to help me understand where exactly I will be visiting.

I’m nervous, excited, and eager for my journey to start as I’ve never been on a ship of this size, and I’ve never been out on the ocean for this duration of time.  Be sure to check out the link to the Ship to get more information on the NOAA Ship Rainier.

In the upcoming month before my cruise I will be traveling back to my home town in New York with my husband Nick and my dog Luna.

Lost Creek State Park

My husband Nick, my dog Luna, and myself at Lost Creek State Park near our house in Newport.

We will spend several weeks there before heading back cross-country on the 40+ hour road trip.  The next time you hear from me will be when I am aboard the NOAA Ship Rainier!  I hope that you help to shape my experience by interacting with my via this blog while I am aboard the ship!

Did You Know?

  • The NOAA Ship Rainier is named for Mount Rainier which is the tallest peak in the state of Washington.  It is the fourth tallest peak in the United States.

Here are a few interesting fishermen’s superstitions that I will keep in mind as I begin my journey:

  • It is bad luck to look back once your ship has left port.
  • It is said that disaster will follow if you step onto a boat with your left foot first.