Kaci Heins: September 19-21, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mrs. Heins at the Helm

Weather Data From The Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 4 miles
Wind: 20 kts
Waves: 0-1 feet
Temperature
Dry Bulb: 11.7 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1000.1 millibars
Latitude: 55 degrees North
Longitude: 133 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

Launch Lowered Into The Water

Today was the first day that the survey launches left the Rainier to install and recover benchmarks and a tidal gauge.  The weather was not great and the crew had a lot of work to do so I was not able to go with them this time.  A benchmark is a small brass disk with information inscribed on it that relates to the station it represents. The benchmark holds the height of the datum.  The purpose of setting a tide gauge is to measure the water level. The water level information is used to reduce the bathymetric data acquired to the chart datum (mean lower-low water, MLLW).   Finding benchmarks has become quite popular through the hobby of geocaching.  This is where participants use latitude and longitude within Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a way to hunt down “treasures” hidden by other participants.  This also includes finding benchmarks.


I’ve been trying to head up to the bridge as much as I can to learn as much as I can during this Teacher at Sea experience.  The first time I went up at night I had no idea about the environment that the officers work in on the bridge.  At night the officers on the bridge actually work in complete darkness.  All of the computer screens have dimmers or red filters so that the least amount of light affects their eyes in the darkness.  The reason it is so dark is because the officers need to be able to see the lighted navigation buoys to stay on course and to spot the lights of other ships that are heading in our direction.  There are also one or two deck personnel that are lookouts either on the flying bridge or bow to keep watch for ships, lights, and other objects that could potentially be a hazard to the Rainier.  A flying bridge is usually an open area above an enclosed bridge where the ship’s officers have a good view of everything around the front and sides of the ship.  We are traveling through the Inside Passage off the Southeastern coast of Alaska, which is extremely narrow in some places along the way.  This means that it is very important that the officers know exactly where they are and what is around them.

Personal Log

Anchor's Away!

I have been able to do some other neat tasks on the ship while the majority of the crew were out on their launches.  We finally were able to find a place to anchor at Ulloa Channel because we had a good “bite” with the anchor–it is protected somewhat from the weather we are dealing with, and it is close to our tide station.  They also let me run out some chain for the anchor and I was able to practice using the crane on the ship.  However, the best part so far has been being at the helm, or the steering gear of the ship.  I will admit I was pretty nervous the first time I grabbed the wheel because it was at night so I couldn’t see hardly anything.  Today, the officer of the deck (OOD) let me at the helm again because we were in open water.  When I am at the helm I have to watch my gyro-heading, which shows me true North, and my magnetic compass, which is more of a back up if the electronic gyro-heading fails.  If I have a heading of 150 then I have to make tiny adjustments or corrections to try and stay on or close to that number as possible.  Even when I make the tiniest adjustment I can see how much the ship moves.  I did start getting the hang of it and one officer even said he had never seen a visitor do so well!

One other item that I will mention in this blog is that the weather in Alaska during this time of year is overcast, rainy, and cold.

Beautiful Scenery Along the Inside Passage

However, going into this I had an idea of what to expect and I enjoy the fact that I get to see the non-glamorous side of this type of work.  It does not matter if it is rainy, cold, what you are wearing, or what you look like because there is a job to do.  It has been overcast every day, but the pine trees are amazing shades of green and the pictures do not do them justice.  We have also had 15 foot waves and 115 knot wind (this is the same as a category 3 hurricane!).  The wind didn’t bother me as much as the waves did.  I thought it was fun for the first 30 minutes, but then I had to lie down for a while because I wasn’t feeling too well.  I never threw up, but it did become uncomfortable.  Now that we are anchored and have stopped moving I feel funny because my body has been used to moving around so much for the past three days.  I sure hope I don’t get land sickness when I am done with this cruise!

Student Questions Answered: Here are student questions answered about feeding so many people on a boat over 3 weeks time.

Animals Seen

Puffins

Questions of the Day

We experienced 115 knot winds Monday night.  What category hurricane would that be the equivalent to?  Use the website if you need help.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/sshws.shtml


Susan Smith, June 8, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Smith
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 1-12, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical area of cruise: Trocadero Bay, Alaska; 55°20.990’ N, 33°00.677’ W
Date: June 8, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: Dry Bulb:  13.9°C (57°F); Wet Bulb: 12.2C (54°F)
Cloudcover: Overcast 8/8
Wave Height: 0-1
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 325, 4 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 0-1
Sea water temperature: 12.2°C (54°F)

Tide Gauge

Tide Gauge

Science and Technology Log 

Before I explain the science we did today, I will answer the question posed on log number 3: What is a patch test and why is it run? A patch test is used to find offsets in sonar setup (continuous errors) and timing errors. It is done whenever physical alterations occur with the sonar. Such problems can occur when it is mounted skewed, or not in perfect line with the ship.

 Staff positioned in the water

Staff positioned in the water

The Patch Test checks pitch, roll, and yaw. The ship is run out from the shore and back into shore, along the same line. The computer has all offsets set to zero. A swath is sliced at the edge so the computer is looking at the outer beams from the side. With a roll offset it must be changed from an X pattern to a single, flat line. With a pitch offset, a nadir view is taken, the angle is adjusted until the two lines (one out from shore, one into shore) form a single straight line.  Yaw also has two lines offset so they must be combined to one line configured identical to the two lines. The Patch Test takes approximately one to two hours to complete.

Susan with level rod

Susan with level rod

Today I was involved in obtaining data relevant to tides. We used a tide gauge, levels, GPS, and a staff placed in the water, with a nitrogen being pumped under it. The tide gauge measures the unit of pressure it takes for a nitrogen bubble to be squeezed out. The greater the amount of water covering it the greater pressure is required to release a bubble. To get water depth, someone reads the staff water level and continually records this information for three hours. This will enable us to know the difference in the pressure gauge readings and the staff water level. A Global Positioning System (GPS) is used to determine where the staff is by getting a good constellation (satellites in orbit) reading.

Benchmark set in concrete

Benchmark set in concrete

It was my job to hold a level rod on the primary benchmark location while someone else recorded measurements using the surveyor’s level (The level rod is measured in centimeters). The surveyor’s level has three lines, or stadia, inside the level. These lines are read as upper, middle, and lower. I placed a smaller bubble level against the rod to make sure it was straight up and down. Once my location was recorded a second person, also holding a level rod, placed hers on a staff (a triangular wood structure) set in the water. The surveyor’s level was disturbed, then a second reading was taken at the staff, and a second reading was taken at my benchmark. If the numbers did not match within a certain range, or historical data, the measurements had to be repeated.

 

Rainier pulling into dry dock

Rainier pulling into dry dock

We went through this process for five benchmarks. These benchmarks were placed in specific locations based on elevation and stability of the ground above high tide level.  This procedure is completed to ensure the benchmarks and the staff have not been moved, by either human disturbance or a natural occurrence, such as an earthquake. As a side note, in some locations these benchmark rods have had to be drilled down 125 feet. In the Arctic they may be drilled 25 feet into the permafrost. When drilling the holes for the benchmarks care must be given to ensure the surface is smooth, not skewed, or at an unusual angle.

Sometimes a temporary benchmark, called a turtle, must be used. This is a small, heavy, circular piece of equipment, which can be placed anywhere solid. The person holding the staff can turn all the way around it to allow for different measurements. All data collected in this activity are sent to NOAA’s tides office. 

Personal Log 

After viewing the ship’s photography server I have become interested in what actually goes on in the dry dock. The dry dock is in Seattle where the ship goes for repairs, restoration, and refitting. After the launches and other things are removed from the ship it goes to the dry dock. Gates close off the ends. On the floor of the dock are blocks for the ships hull to sit on, placed exactly in line for this particular ship. Divers go down to check for precise placement before the water is drained. The ship is tied to the dock to stabilize it (prevent it from tilting or falling off the blocks) and if you are not off the ship before it goes into dry dock you are not getting off anytime soon! On the hull are numbers used to identify the ship’s sections. When it is being retrofitted the workers must know where each section came from so the ship can be put back together correctly.

Rainier pulling into dry dock

Rainier pulling into dry dock

Night welding goes on very late

Night welding goes on very late

Compare the truck size to the ship

Compare the truck size to the ship

Tape where the symbol and number were painted

Tape where the symbol and number were painted

Underside of ship on the blocks; the black hole is on for anchor storage

Underside of ship on the blocks; the black hole is on for anchor storage

Water filled dock so ship can depart

Water filled dock so ship can depart

Dry dock operations can take from two months to over a year, depending on the work needing to be done. Crew stays on board as long as possible. When berths are being refurbished they stay in local hotels. Other personnel either work on other NOAA ships or go to other project sites. (All dry dock photographs courtesy of Rainier picture server)

For more information visit these sites:

http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/shipbuildingrepair/drydocking.html http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dry_dock (has history of ancient dry docks) 

Linda Armwood, April 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Armwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 25 – May 5, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date: April 29, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 200 °
Wind speed:  15 kt
Sea wave height: 1 ft.
Swell wave dir: 280
Swell wave height: 2-3 ft.
Seawater temp: 7.2
Sea level pressure: 1016.6mb
Present weather: Overcast
Temperature:  °C~ 8.2dry/6.5wet

Science and Technology Log 

My assignment today was to work with the benchmark descriptions and level run team.  The responsibility of the team is to accurately and completely describe the benchmarks.  The description must include the following items:

  • directions for location
  • exact location relative to other structures including the tide gauge
  • sketch of location
  • latitude and longitude
  • above datum of tabulation in meters
  • date of establishment/recovery
  • photograph of benchmark
  • statement that benchmark disk is flush in raised concrete

The team is also responsible for completing the level run assignment.  The purpose of the level run is to level the primary benchmark to the staff stop.  This procedure provides the elevation of the staff stop. In helping with the level run, I assisted the Tides Director in the recording of rod readings. These measurements are read in three parts: top thread, middle thread and bottom thread.  Ideally, thread intervals should be equal.  However, if the thread intervals are not equal, they must be within 2 to be an acceptable reading.  Many of our readings were acceptable upon the first recording.  For the few readings that were not acceptable, the software in the I-Pod associated with the 3 stadia leveler would indicate as such.  Readings were redone accordingly.

In addition to providing assistance to the Tides Director as a recorder, I participated in holding the rod at benchmark locations for level readings.  The indication that the rod would be level is when the surveyor succeeds in moving the rod so that the bubble inside the gauge would sit on the center circle. The tide staff observation was my third assignment for the day.  The completion of these observations provides you with the elevation of your orifice to your staff stop. The tide gauge is located on the pier leg facing the benchmarks.  The boat was placed in a vantage spot that enabled a survey tech and I to monitor and record the tide height every 6 minutes for three hours.  This recorded data would later be compared to the data received by the tide gauge set-up on the pier.

Personal Log 

It was great to get out of the bitter, cold, sleeting weather conditions to the warmth of the ship. The food on the FAIRWEATHER is absolutely delectable!

Question of the Day 

Environmental Science and Geospatial Semester Students 

In which two months are the largest tidal ranges?

Mrs. Armwood

Linda Armwood, April 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Armwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 25 – May 5, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date: April 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 190 °
Wind speed:  13 kt
Sea wave height: 1 ft.
Swell waves dir: 310
Swell waves height: 2 ft.
Seawater temp: 7.3
Sea level pressure: 1012.4mb
Present weather: Mostly cloudy
Temperature:  °C~ 6.5dry/5.0wet

NOAA divers preparing to install a tide gauge at Noyes Island, AK

NOAA divers preparing to install a tide gauge at Noyes Island, AK

Science and Technology Log 

The project’s first priority for the day was to get the tide gauge installed and to set tidal benchmarks.  The tides party consisted of three onshore crews: the reconnaissance and planning team; the benchmark recovery and installation team; and the dive and install team.  I was assigned to the dive and install team boat in order to observe the divers install the tide gauge. I did not observe the underwater installation below the pier; however, the secure installation of the above water equipment was a major undertaking!  The tide gauge installation involves the proper placement of the following items:

  • satellite antenna
  • gps antenna
  • hydro gauge
  • solar panel
  • 12-volt battery
  • nitrogen cylinder
  • nitrogen regulator

I assisted in drilling with the benchmark recovery and installation team.  The historic benchmark was located about 15 feet from the low water line and the next four benchmark locations were set at 200 feet apart from one another in somewhat of a straight line from the historic benchmark.  Benchmarks are important because they represent permanent marks of the land leveling system.  The tidal gauge will automatically read water pressure which it then converts to depth every six minutes over the next 30 days in order to determine the constituents of the tide-generating force. Determining these constituents allows the survey technicians to form possible hypotheses related to ranges, heights, rates and future directions of tides.

Ensign Matthew Glazewski drills to establish a benchmark on Noyes Island, AK.

Ensign Matthew Glazewski drills to establish a benchmark on Noyes Island, AK.

Personal Log 

At the time of this writing, the weather was as stated above; however, during the tides party the weather was miserable with intermittent showers of sleet followed by sunshine and overcast.  The kindness extended to the crew by the Noyes’ Island caretaker will be remembered.

Question of the Day 

Environmental Science and Geospatial Semester Students 

Give some possible non-human factors that may have an effect on the decision-making of tide gauge location.

Mrs. Armwood

The Tidal Party recovered this historic benchmark recovered from Noyes Island, AK

The Tidal Party recovered this historic benchmark recovered from Noyes Island, AK