Sue Oltman: Moorings and More, May 10, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sue Oltman
Aboard R/V Melville
May 22 – June 6, 2012

Personal Log:

In a few days, I will be en route to Santiago, Chile and meet up with the Stratus  research team that I will spend about 3 weeks with.  The scientists are from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts.  After some preparation, the Melville will depart from the port of Valparaiso.

Moorings will be referenced many times, I expect – and that’s not something we  often encounter in landlocked Atlanta, GA.  When something is “moored” it is fastened or secured in place by a cable, rope or anchor. So a boat can be moored as an alternative to being tied to a dock in a marina. Obviously, there will not be any docks and marinas in the middle of the eastern tropical Pacific!

Stratus surface mooring

One of the moorings we will recover during this mission (photo courtesy of WHOI)

The scientific instruments involved in the Stratus project are integrated into buoys and into the cable that secures them to the ocean floor. These surface data buoys are moored and are sometimes just called moorings. There are buoys in the ocean that collect all kinds of data way beyond just temperature – wind direction and speed, salinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and more. Some provide early detection of potential tsunamis, a concern in this area – last month,Valparaiso experienced a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, and in Chile, earthquakes are no surprise.

Location map of Stratus project

The Stratus project focuses on a specific area in the open ocean. (image courtesy of WHOI)

Speaking of earthquakes, the largest earthquake ever recorded occurred in Chile in 1960. Technology and our ability to predict and warn has come a long way in the last 50 years! Stratus is using data to predict climate change – this cruise will be the 11th mission of the team to collect more data for this project. It is exciting to think of the potential this holds for us!
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Personal log:

NOAA survival suit

Here I am with the NOAA survival suit – in a San Diego museum!

Ship life is going to be different for me! I’ve learned that there are some similarities in rules to the Rock Eagle and Jekyll Island field trips I’ve taken with students! First of all, I will sleep in a bunk bed; next, I am only allowed to wear flip flops in my cabin – no open toed shoes on the deck of the ship. I’ll be expected to clean my room and my own bathroom before I leave the ship. Absolutely no swimming is permitted! One thing that will be different is that there will always be someone working around the clock – and that means someone will always be sleeping. Safety is of the utmost importance – one of the first things we will do is conduct a safety drill. Instead of a PFD, NOAA uses survival suits in case of emergency.
What do you want to know about the ship? Send me your question by leaving a comment.