Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log: CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) Test Cast  

The “Package”

The “Package”

We learned what to do to help the scientists today. In other words, all science personnel were trained in CTD Data Acquisition Procedures. “The package,” is what we send down to the bottom, about 5600 meters, more than three miles deep.  The package, or CTD, is mostly a rosette of 23 cylinders, (specially machined thick PVC tubes). It is deployed, or lowered, overboard. A winch, a machine run by trained sailors, does this lowering. It has a strong wire and pulley to lift and put the package into the ocean.  Once on the surface of the ocean, the CTD was lowered to 10 meters, to get the air out of the system.  The distance of 10 meters is where the atmospheric pressure doubles.  The CTD is then returned to the surface.  We bring it back to the surface after getting all the bubbles out, in order to mark the winch line to zero so they know how far away the bottom is.  Not only is the winch line zero, but the software begins at a good water only profile level as well. All the tubes are open in the rosette on the way down so they do not burst with the pressure and they can collect water at various depths on the way back up from the bottom.  On the way down water passes right through the open tubes.  The procedure for lowering the package with the commands is given by the survey crew to the winch operator. They are simple and brief, explained Jonathan Shannahoff, the Chief Survey Technician, who along with the Chris Churylo, the Chief Electronics Technician, are in charge of the use of all the electronic equipment onboard.

So we followed a very detailed procedure of lowering the package to the depth of 2,000 meters and popped the tubes, closed the tubes on the rosette, thus collecting water samples at the depth of 2,000 meters.  This was a test cast.  It was brought to the surface and we practiced taking various samples from the water.  Kim got to do the salinity and nutrient samples and Vince got to work with Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis, CFC Project Lead, and Julia O’Hern, post-graduate CFC analyst, with the trace element samples.  Each type of sample has a procedure to follow to make sure it is done in the same manner so no mistakes are made with the data.  The first actual data collection casts will be coming up on Monday. We expect to do 55 or so casts and make more than 20 samples from each cast. Yes, today was all practice. We labeled vials and sample bottles to make them more orderly. The scientific process requires that you replicate experiments, which means that someone else can do the same thing as we do under similar conditions and get the same results.  Without that procedural similarity, reliability of data is compromised.  In other words, if you don’t do the same thing you did the last time you did it, you may not get the same conclusions.

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Interview with Captain Gary Petrae 

When you enter the bridge of the RON BROWN, you probably will meet Captain Gary Petrae. Captain Petrae has spent over 27 years with the NOAA Corps. He joined NOAA after graduating from Florida Institute of Technology where he majored in physical oceanography.  Captain Petrae chose NOAA because he likes adventures and loves a challenge. His favorite ports are Barbados W.I., Kodiak AK, and San Diego, CA.  When he’s not on duty, he catches up on paperwork, reads, and watches movies.  He encourages all his staff and crew to stop and relax and he tries to practice this daily himself.

CAPT Petrae really enjoys his commission, but does admit that the family separation is difficult. He encourages anyone to join NOAA and you can apply with a college degree to the commissioned corps, or in an entry-level position with a high school diploma.  A great benefit for NOAA employees is that you can live on-board a ship, (don’t have to pay rent), eat three meals a day and you can see the world. This is CAPT Petrae’s first command upon the RON BROWN which is a class one research vessel that travels all over the world.  The RON BROWN measures 274 feet stem to stern, is 52.5 feet wide, and needs 20 feet of water in which to operate.  The RON BROWN uses diesel fuel and has six generator motors.  The ship makes its own water using an evaporation system. The RON BROWN is scheduled to go to Brazil later in the year, and CAPT Petrae with his love of adventure is ready to go!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

You have asked, what is it like on the ship? The cabin I’m in has two bunks and two wall cabinets with closet space and drawers and one tall metal Chester drawer all of which I share with my cabin mate Ho, a doctoral student from the UK.  I have the bottom bunk and I work the noon-midnight watch.  He has the midnight to noon watch, which means each of us gets the room to ourselves for the time we’re not on watch.  We share the bathroom that has a fixture and shower stall with our adjacent cabin.  When we use it we lock both entry doors and remember to unlock them when we leave.  There is a sink with a mirror in each cabin as well.  The room has two sofa-like chairs and a stool that can be used like a desk chair next to the Chester drawers that has a pullout section that acts like a desktop. In each double size bunk there are drapes around three sides since one side faces the metal wall.  They shield the light in either direction because there is a bunk light with an outlet inside.  All in all the cabins are practical and spacious and we are in charge of keeping them neat and tidy.  Speaking of tidy, I did my laundry today two decks below.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. The weather is beautiful.  I’ve spent the last two days doing interviews, taking pictures and forming friendships on board the RON BROWN.  Yesterday I was trained in CTD collection procedures and really felt like a scientist as I got to take samples.  I’ll be processing salinity samples as well as non-organic nutrients.  The ship has stopped rocking and rolling so seasickness is at bay.  Today I really go to work, collecting samples as my shift is from noon to midnight.  The crew and officers have been very helpful and friendly. It’s been going really well, and it’s nice to have a fellow teacher on board!

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 9, 2006

Teachers at Sea aboard the Ronald H. Brown

Teachers at Sea aboard the Ronald H. Brown

We sail today.  After spending the entire day traveling from San Francisco to Barbados by way of Miami, we arrived in Bridgetown. We heard screeching critters at the Grand Barbados Hotel. We learned that they were tiny frogs that sounded like squawking tropical birds. We took a taxi to the port, about 20 minutes on the other side of the island, after meeting Chief Scientist, Dr. Molly Baringer, also called “Dr. Molly.”

Docked among cruise liners (which are huge hotel-like pleasure ships), we were greeted aboard the NOAA ship, RONALD H. BROWN, by Ensign Jackie Almeida, serving as OOD, Officer of the Deck. The OOD is the captain’s delegate like when the principal has to go to a meeting the AP (assistant principal) is in charge.  Everyone welcomed us and made us feel right at home.  After stowing our gear and being directed to where the cabin linens (bed sheets, pillows and towels) and galley (where we eat meals) were, we made our way to Bridgetown and back by foot.  One of the main sources of income for Barbados is selling things to travelers, otherwise called tourism.  They made money by our visit. It cost $1.40 Barbados for postcard postage.  We passed a fish processing area not far outside of the closed port facilities where Mahi Mahi, otherwise known as “Caribbean Dolphin” by the locals was being prepared for market.  They are not real dolphins, since they are fish, and not marine mammals.

The harbor pilot and his assistant boarded the ship yesterday when our ship was moved.  We were invited to view the ship maneuverings from the bridge, where the officers navigate and drive the ship in the front, or bow, of the ship.  Junior Officer Ensign James Brinkley invited us to the bridge at the request of the Captain Gary Petrae.  If you thought parallel parking looked difficult by car, the captain explained a ship doesn’t have any brakes, which makes it harder.  He made it look easy.  We will continue to take photos and interview officers, crew, and scientists and help out where we can.  We will be sending logs periodically to keep you informed of our journey and help make the science we are learning more accessible in school and home.

Everyone enjoys seeing critters like monkeys and dolphins, but this expedition is primarily about chemistry, currents and climate, non-living, or abiotic, features of the seas. Coming up soon are fire and abandon ship drills.  Fire and emergency drills are held weekly at sea because shipboard personnel must rely solely on themselves in the event of an emergency.  In some cases help may be days away, so ships at sea will render assistance to other vessels located in proximity.  Later we will be conducting a test run of the CTD. The CTD is a conductivity, temperature and density reading at various depths from instruments on a line that extends from the surface of the sea to the ocean floor. Stay tuned for more data.

Assignment – Maritime flags are a very important way for ships to communicate to each other. For example, when a ship wants a harbor pilot to help it navigate its way through the harbor, they’ll hoist (put up) a blue and gold pilot flag.  We all use flags in our daily lives—the American Flag, California Flag, and we use flags to start races.  Describe one flag that you know of. Describe its markings and state the purpose for the flag or what it means.

Vince Rosato—Personal Log 

At the airport after getting up around 3:30 a.m. Kim and I were in line and an agent asked me to get into a “special” line.  No, it was not the express line.  As others walked by, one said, “Are you in the penalty box?”  I said, “I was chosen–perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket.” Anyway, I was run through a glass container and puffed with air jets which sensed nothing but my cologne and was passed along to our delayed flight and Kim’s enjoyment.  On the journey here the wife of a former Minister of Trinidad watched out for us. That was memorable because she attempted to get us quick passage to our connection at Miami after our arrival terminal was switched due to our delayed flight.

Kimberly Pratt—Personal Log 

Hi all! It’s great to be in Barbados!  The students and I really worked hard to get ready for the trip. In class they decorated their Styrofoam cups (for a later experiment), signed the stickers for the drifter buoy we’ll be deploying later and most importantly, they all made me going away cards!  I was really touched (they love to see me cry). It’s beautiful here.  The weather has been warm and tropical.  The flight was long, and I met a wonderful lady named Nora.  The next day I went to the ship and checked in.  Today, we sailed and we’ll be motoring straight away for two days.  I haven’t felt really sick, so that’s good news.  It’s nice to be traveling with another teacher this time around.  My e-mail on board the ship is kim.pratt@rbnems.ronbrown.omao.noaa.gov