Christopher Faist: Endless Horizon, July 26, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Faist
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
July 20 — August 1, 2011

Mission: Cetacean and Seabird Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: July 26, 2011

Weather Data
Air Temp:  20 ºC
Water Temp: 20 ºC
Wind Speed: 3 knots
Water Depth: 4141 meters

Science and Technology Log

To quantify sea conditions, scientists use the Beaufort Scale.  Calm waters with no wind is a Beaufort state of zero but when the wind speed increases and white caps start to form the Beaufort state raises to a 4.  Good observation conditions for sighting marine mammals fall between sea state 0-3.  When the white caps form it gets difficult to distinguish between a white cap and a dolphin splash, decreasing our chances of seeing all the animals in our survey area.

Today, the sighting conditions were good with the sea state varying from a 1-3 over the course of the day.  While the conditions were good we did not see any animals for hours.  This was surprising to many of the scientists so we looked more closely at the conditions in the water to investigate the lack of sightings.

Bongo Net

Bongo Net being deployed

Three times a day (morning, noon and night) a system of nets with a probe attached is deployed to sample the water under the ship.  The net is called a Bongo net, due to its dual net design that looks similar to a Bongo drum.  The net is made of a fine mesh that catches small animals swimming below the ship.  The probe, attached to the net, is called a CTD, which stands for conductivity, temperature and depth.  Scientists can use the combination of the animals found in the net and the readings from the CTD to make conclusions about the productivity of the waters around the ship.  The data collected at our noon deployment gave great insight into our lack of visual and acoustic sightings.

During our noon Bongo net deployment an interesting phenomenon was seen in the data.  First, the nets that typically collect animals were nearly empty.  Secondly, the CTD data showed very little change in water density between the surface and 200m.  This lack of change tells scientists that there is very little mixing of the ocean currents in this area of the North Atlantic.  Mixing usually causes colder, nutrient rich water to move toward the surface supplying animals with the oxygen and nutrients they need to grow and reproduce quickly.  When mixing is absent small animals are not as abundant eliminating the food source for the rest of the food chain.  With no food, dolphins and whales move out of the area to more fertile waters.  Hopefully, we will move to more productive areas and increase our cetacean sightings.

Personal Log

Chris Processing Bongo

Chris Processing the Bongo Sample

We have been at sea for 5 days now.  I have figured out my routine and I am really enjoying being away from land.  Surprisingly for a ship, internet speeds are quick, DirectTV is crystal clear and the laundry facilities are efficient.  (It pays to be on one of the newer, technologically advanced ships in NOAA’s fleet. )  The food has been outstanding and I am making some new friends.  Getting up early, 5am, may bothersome, but the sunrises and clear air have made the mornings a great part of the day.  After dinner the crew has a variety of games to pass the time including ladder golf, bean bag toss and darts.  If you think these games are challenging on land, adding the roll of the ship adds a new level of difficulty.

Jennifer Fry, July 28, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 28, 2009

Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines

Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed:  17 knots
Wind direction: 345° from the north
Visibility: 8 nautical miles /clear
Temperature: 16.8°C (dry bulb); 11.6°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.5°C
Wave height: 3-5 ft.
Air pressure: 1012.9 millibars
Weather note: Millibars is a metric unit used to measure the pressure of the air.

Science and Technology Log 

Weather Instruments and Predicting Weather 

Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.

Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.

Everything that happens out at sea is dependent upon the weather forecasts.  Throughout history man has used a variety of instruments to acquire accurate weather information.  The Miller Freeman is equipped with state of art weather reporting instruments. Every 3 hours weather data is sent to the National Weather Service to help predict the weather at sea.  Once again accuracy in reporting data is paramount.

Global Position: The Miller Freeman has several methods by which to determine longitude and latitude, which is our position in the ocean or on land.  There are 2 G.P.S. systems on the bridge, a magnetic compass, a gyro compass, and radar. These instruments help determine the ship’s position.

True north: The actual location of a point on the earth related to the north pole.

A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west

A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west

Magnetic north: Caused by the magnetic pull on the earth.  Magnetic north heading is different depending on where you are on the earth, for instance, Magnetic north in Oregon has a variation of 16.45°east from true north. Southern California has a variation of 13.3° east from true north.

Temperature: Measured by a thermometer, units used are Celsius. Dry bulb: Measures air temperature.  Wet bulb:  Uses a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. The dry and wet temperatures together give the dew point and help to determine humidity.

Wind Speed: Measured in knots using an anemometer, or estimated by using the Beaufort scale. The Beaufort scale uses observations of the sea surface, and the effects of wind on people or objects aboard ship to estimate the wind speed.

Wind Direction: Is measured by what direction in which the wind is coming.

Cloud Height/Type: Is measured visually.

Cloud Type: Is measured visually using a variety of names of clouds depending on their patterning and altitude.

Magnetic compass

Magnetic compass

Visibility: Is measured by estimating how much of the horizon can be seen.

Wave Direction: measured visually from the direction the wave comes.

Wave Height: The vertical distance between trough (bottom of the wave) and crest (top of the wave) and is usually measured in feet.

Swell Direction/ Height: Measured visually usually in feet.

Personal Log 

I have enjoyed my time on the bridge of the Miller Freeman immensely.  I have a better understanding of the weather instruments used onboard and am getting better at spotting whales and identifying birds. I want to thank the entire NOAA Corps Officers who have taught me so much about how navigation and weather work aboard the Miller Freeman.

Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National Weather Service.

Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments
to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National
Weather Service.

An anemometer, which measures wind speed

An anemometer, which measures wind speed