David Altizio May 24-26 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Altizio
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
May 17 – May 27, 2010

NOAA ship Fairweather
Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE Alaska,
from Petersburg, AK to Seattle, WA
Dates: Monday, May 24 and Tuesday, May 25,
Wednesday, May 26

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Hassler Harbor
Time: 0800 on 5/24
Latitude: 550 13.06’ N
Longitude: 1310 27.15’ W
Clouds: Light drizzle
Visibility: 8 miles
Position: Inside Passage
Winds: Light with variable directions
Time: 0800 on 5/25
Waves: Less than one foot Latitude: 52024.5’N
Dry Bulb Temperature: 11.20C
Longitude: 128030.0’W
Wet Bulb Temperature: 10.00C
Clouds: Mostly Cloudy
Barometric Pressure: 1006.4 mb
Visibility: 10 + miles
Tides (in feet):
Winds: 10 knots from the NE
Low @ 0439 of 0.1
Waves: One to three feet
High @ 1055 of 13.1
Dry Bulb Temperature: 11.00C
Low @ 1637 of 2.2
Wet Bulb Temperature: 10.10C
High @ 2254 of 16.4
Barometric Pressure: 1009.1 mb
Sunrise: 0422
Sunset: 2105

Science and Technology Log

On Monday we were testing one of the multi‐beam sonar transmitters that had not been working properly on the Fairweather, in Hassler Harbor near Ketchikan, AK. In order to verify that the device is working properly the ship went back and forth over an area that has previously been mapped from all different directions. This is called patch testing. Ideally you are looking for no difference in the data from one test to another test.

Me,at the helm,driving the Fairweather.
Me, practicing using the line throwing device.

While on board Monday, we also practiced using a line throwing device. This piece of equipment can be used for ship to ship rescue operations, or to get a line onto a pier if needed, or for other rescue operations. The device is powered by 3000 lbs. of compressed air. Today we only fired a test line, but the real one can travel almost 200 meters. Being prepared and knowing what to do in the case of an emergency is extremely important while out at sea. Not only was I allowed to use the device, but so was anyone else on board who had not learning how to use it properly.

Marine aneroid barometer measures air pressure.
Digital anemometer showing wind speed and wind direction.

I have also been collecting and recording the weather data from the bridge of the ship. These observations are made every hour. There are many different meteorological instruments on the Fairweather. The atmospheric pressure is recorded using an aneroid barometer. The dry and wet bulb temperature readings were taken off of a sling psychrometer, just outside of the bridge. The wind direction and wind speed were taken from a digital anemometer and verified using the vectors of the wind direction and the heading of the ship. The visibility, wave height and the cloud cover are estimated visually by observing them from the bridge of the ship.

One of the ship’s officers, tracking our plot by hand on the chart.
Me taking the temperatures off of a psychrometer outside of the bridge.

I was also given the opportunity to man the helm and drive the Fairweather, for about 10 minutes as we headed south towards British Columbia, Canada. The bridge of the Fairweather has a many different screens, monitors, sensors and gauges. In order to see where we are going there are digital charts, which have our path projected on them. Also, some of the ship’s officers will verify our position along our course by hand. The depth to the bottom is determined by a fathometer, which works by using SONAR, not as complex as the multi‐beam mapping but more similar to a fish finder. In many maritime activities the depth is measured in fathoms. One fathom is approximately 1.8 meters or 6 feet. Knowing where you are and where other vessels are is extremely important.

Some of the Fairweather’s navigation systems.
Digital fathometer, measuring depth to the bottom using SONAR

The Fairweather has enough beds to hold a maximum of 58 crew members. The ships personnel is divided between: NOAA Corps officers, survey, deck, engineers, stewards,  electronics technician and visitors. There are almost 15 NOAA officers on the Fairweather, including the CO (commanding officer), XO (executive officer), FOO (field operations officer), and all the way thru captain lieutenant commander, 3rd mate, lieutenant, and ensigns. The survey group has approximately 10 people including the chief survey technician, senior, regular, and assistants.

More of the Fairweather’s navigation systems.

Digital readout of ship’s GPS (global positioning system) for precise latitude & longitude, speed in knots, and heading in degrees.

The deck group has 12 people and they help to maintain the deck areas, drive the launch boats, and help out in the anchoring and docking processes. There are 10 engineers who  make sure the ship is running properly. There are three stewards (cooks) who are amazing and make sure everyone is fed very well. There are 2 electronics technicians, and anywhere from two to five visitors, such as teachers at sea, technology support, mission/NOAA related personnel.

My stateroom on the Fairweather’s.
Fairweather’s store.

The Fairweather was originally commissioned in October 1968, deactivated in 1989 but a critical backlog of surveys for nautical charts in Alaska was a motivating factor to reactivate it in August 2004. The home port for the Fairweather is Ketchikan, AK and it operates mostly in Alaskan coastal waters. It is designed and outfitted primarily for  conducting hydrographic surveys in support of nautical charting, but is capable of many other missions in support of NOAA programs. The ship is equipped with the latest in hydrographic survey technology – multi‐beam survey systems; high‐speed, high‐resolution side‐scan sonar; position and orientation systems, hydrographic survey launches,  and an on‐board data‐processing server. It is 232 feet long, with a beam of 42 feet. It weighs 1,591 tons and the hull is made of welded steel. The Fairweather has a range of 6,000 autical miles, can stay at sea for 30 days, and has an average cruising speed of 12 knots.

The galley (kitchen) on the Fairweather.
Dish washing station on the Fairweather.
Mess hall (dining area) on the Fairweather.
One of the food storage areas on the Fairweather.

The staterooms on the Fairweather are fine for two people to live in. There is a bunk bed, dresser/desk area, closets, sink, small refrigerator, and a TV. The food on the Fairweather is really good, not just for being at sea, but really good with a lot of different options. There is also a small store where you can buy candy, soda and clothing with logos and images of the ship. There is a small workout room that people do use to keep active. There are three different food storage areas, one for dry goods, a refrigerated area, and a freezer. The Fairweather also has laundry facilities and a sick bay.

Laundry room on the Fairweather.
Fairweather at Customhouse Cove.

Personal Log

It is hard to believe that we are already heading south towards Seattle, WA. I have really enjoyed my time onboard the Fairweather and will never forget these experiences. Being a Teacher at Sea is amazing and I highly recommend it. I have seen so many different and new things that I can now add to my “teacher toolbox”.

On Monday, being able to learn how to use the line throwing device was very cool, but that was not the highlight of my day. I was also given the opportunity to man the helm, and drive the Fairweather for about 10 minutes. It is amazing that a ship this big is so responsive to small changes in the angle of the rudders. It was sort of like driving a really big car, in the sense that when you turn the wheel right the ship goes right and turning left makes the ship go left. There is a lot to do when at the helm. You have to make sure that we are following the correct heading, going the proper speed, not heading towards any other vessels or obstructions such as logs or other debris, and in water that is deep enough for the ship. As much fun as it was it was a little nerve racking, my palms were definitely sweaty.

Along the Inside Passage

I did have the help of four other NOAA officers to assist me and help me know what to do. It is not only up to the person at the helm to make decisions about what to do or which course to follow. The Fairweather is definitely a place where the junior officers are being trained and learning what to do in all types of situations. This aspect of helping and learning was prevalent in many aspects of what I observed while onboard the Fairweather and was great to see.

A while after I manned the helm, the seas got a little rougher as we went through Dixon entrance which marks the boundary between SE Alaska and British Columbia Canada. Here we were exposed to ocean swell from the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska. I was very glad this did not go on for too long. I made the mistake of trying to write this log while the ship was rocking and rolling a little bit. Not such a good idea. One of the officers told me to put down the computer, go out on the stern (back) of the ship, and look at land along the horizon. Being outside in the fresh air, while looking at land made me feel much better.

The sick bay on the Fairweather.

The rest of the trip towards Seattle has been very nice. The seas have not been too rough, and I am really enjoying the scenery as we go through the inside passage of British Columbia, Canada. Coming home and going back to New Rochelle High School will definitely be a change from the last two weeks. I will never forget the places, people and the science I have been exposed to in my time on the Fairweather in SE Alaska. We are now in the Puget Sound, and Seattle is almost in sight and I am ready to be home, back in New York.
Signing out, David Altizio Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson: Day 21, March 21, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002

Lat: 1.5°S
Long: 95°W
Seas: 5-8 ft.
Visibility: unrestricted
Weather: mostly cloudy with isolated rainshowers
Sea Surface Temp: 82-86°F
Winds: SE 10-15 knots
Air Temp: 83-70°F

Today was a day of mostly rainshowers, in actuality, with intermittent spurts of sun. The skies were pretty dramatic. The day was a pretty typical day at sea on the KA. The crew members were all doing their chores around the ship. The scientists spent the morning in preparation. Brian could be found splicing nylon cord together, Nuria was inputting data, etc. There is a buoy already outfitted on board, ready to be deployed after the ship leaves the Galapagos and continues to move northward on the 95°W line.

We had some delightful visitors this afternoon – a group of porpoises slowly made their way from the port side forward of the bow, to the bow, and then slowly drifted off to starboard. This occurred while the scientists were visiting the buoy at 2°S 95°W, so the ship was stopped. Once again, the bearings in the anemometer on this buoy were shot, so the scientists switched the anemometer with a new working one. It was a quick trip out and back and the ship continues to make very good time. We will be getting into the Galapagos much earlier than expected (Saturday morning). The cliche is true, eh? All good things must come to an end, for this Teacher at Sea anyway.

Question of the Day: 

This will be the last real question of the day, since I will only be at my noaa.gov email address until early Saturday morning. So, I’ll make you think. Starting at the 8°N point on the 110°W line and traveling down to the 8°S point on the 110°W line, and then traveling east to the 95°W line and going north to the equator, how many nautical miles is that? Keep in mind that 1° is about equal to 60 nautical miles. Get out the pencil and paper and go for it!!

Answer of the Day: 

I even stumped Cmdr Tisch on this one! We’ve decided a round number on what it costs to run the Ka’imimoana every day is about $20,000. It’s difficult to tell exactly. I did find out about how much fuel they use every day. Give up? About 2200 gallons. Fill ‘er up!

Til tomorrow,
🙂 Dana

Dana Tomlinson: Day 9, March 9, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Saturday, March 9, 2002

Lat: 5°N
Long: 110°W
Seas: E/NE 2-5 ft.
Visibility: unrestricted
Weather: partly, occasionally mostly cloudy
Sea Surface Temperature: 78-82°F
Air Temp: 87-76°F

Today, we did our first recovery/deployment of a buoy. What a fascinating 6 hour process. I was very impressed by the way the entire crew worked together as a team to make this complicated, and potentially dangerous, process happen.

At first light, two scientists (Brian and Nuria) motored out to the buoy (which was about 10 miles from where it should have been) from the Ka’imimoana in a small craft. They tied the buoy to a rope which was winched up back on deck. The buoy was then pulled to the ship and carefully hoisted aboard (in 6-8 ft swells with about 15 knot winds). It was placed over a hole in the deck so that Raye could scrape the barnacles off from below. (more barnacle talk tomorrow) It was missing its anemometer – lost at sea! Then the scientists started to winch in the wire which holds, at regular intervals, the thermometer pods, or Thermisters, which have been on this buoy for the past year collecting temperature data. After those are cut off, all of the 500 m (one spool) of wire is spooled. (We found a mass of fishing line that was snagged on the wire. This probably helps to account for why the buoy was 10 miles off. The fishing boat that was attached to the line probably pulled it.) Then comes 5-6 spools of white nylon rope to pull up. Then, there’s another 50 m of nylon rope, at the end of which is an acoustic coupler – a device that automatically releases the anchor line from the anchor by remote. Done with recovery!

To deploy the new buoy, it’s not exactly a reverse process because the buoy goes in first, followed by the line and then anchor last. The buoy (with anemometer!) gets hoisted over the side by crane and released with the wire on board attached to it. The wire starts getting released and the Thermisters are attached to the line at their intervals, then the rest of the wire is released and then the many spools of nylon rope. Then the acoustic coupler is attached and finally the anchors are carefully placed into the water. The ship then motors back to the buoy, which has floated over a mile away, to make sure it has ended up in the correct location and is floating properly upright. The scientists have purposefully deployed the anchor at a certain location knowing that the anchor will pull the buoy back some, but not all of the way. The barnacle talk will wait for tomorrow since the buoy explanation took so long! Stay tuned!!

Question of the Day: 

At the end of the url for this website and on every buoy we recover and deploy, it says “TAO.” What does TAO stand for?

Answer of the Day: 

Mr. Whitham’s class in San Diego was the first to respond with the correct answer. To change Celsius into Fahrenheit, one must take the Celsius number, multiply it by 9/5 and then add 32. C x 9/5 + 32 = F So, 27.6C is about 81F. (A hint that an Australian friend of mine told me is, if the Celsius number is in the 20’s or higher, just multiply the Celsius number by 3 and you’re close enough. In this case, pretty darn close!!).

Til tomorrow,
🙂 Dana

Dana Tomlinson: Day 6, March 6, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Wednesday, March 6, 2002

Latitude: 11°N
Longitude: 110°W
Seas: 2-5 ft.
Visibility: unrestricted
Weather: cloudy

Today was not as nice as it has been this week, but it still beats winter in Chicago (which I did for several years). And people from Chicago, please don’t write me that I hate Chicago – it’s one of my most favorite places. I have very fond memories of living there. Anyway, the seas have kicked up a bit, the ship is a’rocking and a’rolling and the weather is cloudy and humid. But life goes on here on the working laboratory that is the Ka’mimoana.

The significant event of the day was our first real CTD cast. I’ve written about these for the last few days, but today I want to really explain it because its scientific work is significant to the entire planet. Once again, CTD stands for Conductivity Temperature Depth. These are all things that are tested by this machine, and more. The machine itself is a steel frame that has 14 cylinders that hold from 4 to 5 liters of sea water that is captured at different depths in the ocean. There are numerous steps in the process of collecting the water – it’s not nearly as simple as it sounds.

First, the computers need to be set up. Then the machine itself has to have the bottles set properly to “fire” later. Then the winch operator and the CTD survey tech work together to lower the machine into the ocean down to 1000 meters. Once there, the survey tech “fires” off the first bottle by a computer key stroke – this snaps closed the top and bottom of the cylinder, thereby capturing the water at that depth. The winch hauls the machine up to 800 meters and it happens again. It happens again at 600m, 400m, 200m, 150m, 100m, 60m, 40m, 25m, 10m and surface. Then, the machine is hauled out by the winch operator (assisted by the survey tech in a life vest who is harnessed to the ship so she doesn’t fall overboard) and put back on deck. Before the machine is cast, when it is at depth and when it is at the surface, numerous statistics are notated such as SST (sea surface temperature) and SSS (sea surface salinity).

At this point, the survey tech shuts down the machines and the computers are done. Then the survey tech goes outside, fills up glass bottles with samples of the sea water from every depth that will be tested in a salinometer later. The machine is hosed down, tied down, and left for the next cast 6 hours later. The information collected from this machine taken over time (and NOAA has been doing these for years now) helps scientists to predict the El Niño and La Niña conditions which can wreak havoc world-wide.

Question of the Day: 

What is a thermoclime? (thanks to Ben Moore, NOAA scientist)

Answer of the Day: 

I guess I’m going to have to make these harder because all sorts of people got this one! Believe it or not, Vanessa P. of San Diego was the first one again to answer it! An anemometer is a device that measures wind speed and direction. Several of them are on board for deployment on the voyage.

Til tomorrow,
🙂 Dana