Tom Savage: What Other Scientific Data is Collected Besides Ocean Floor Mapping? August 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

 

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 22, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude  55   44 N
Longitude – 165  23.04  W
Air temperature: 8 C
Dry bulb   8 C
Wet bulb  8 C
Visibility: 0 Nautical Miles
Wind speed: 9 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 1008.4  millibars
Cloud Height: 0 K feet
Waves: 1 feet

Sunrise: 7:10 am
Sunset: 11:01 pm

 

Science and Technology 

There are other data being collected besides ocean floor mapping using the Bottom sampler.  Ocean floor samples are collected at many positions along the track line.

This is quite a gizmo, at the end is a metal scoop that collects soil samples once it hits the ocean floor. On both sides of the pole near my right hand, there is two underwater lights that is activated prior to deployment and a GoPro placed in a waterproof compartment.  The camera is operated from a wireless connection and the remote control device  is attached by Velcro to your wrist, just like a watch.  The device weighs around 35 pounds.

Bottom Sampler
Bottom Sampler – photo by Megan Shapiro

Once the sample is retracted and emptied on the deck, the size of the aggregate is measured using a scale and recorded. Why is this information useful ?  This data will be used used by mariners when assessing the best place to deploy an anchor. An ocean bottom containing a muddy composition is preferred as it helps to keep in place both the anchor and chain. Below is a sample we retrieved off of Point Hope, Alaska.   Using the bottom sample below, what are your thoughts, is this an ideal located to drop anchor?

Ocean Sample Scale
Bottom sample compared to Ocean Sample Scale ~ photo by Tom

 

Dropping an anchor for a ship is not a 5 minute job.  I recall fishing with my cousin in his small boat when I was in elementary school; we would arrive at an ideal location to catch lake bass and toss our anchor overboard. It was nothing fancy, a large plastic bucket filled with sand.  With the rope attached, we lowered the bucket “anchor” tie it off with some slack and for the most part it kept us from moving.  Anchoring a large 1,500 ton ship requires around 30 minutes to secure and the ocean depth would determine the amount of chain to use.  The anchor weighs 3,000 lbs and 400 – 700 feet of chain is deployed; this depends on the ocean depth. This brings the total weight of anchor and chain to around 48,000 pounds.  The anchor itself does not secure the ship, it is the combined weight of the chain and anchor.  After the chain is deployed, officers monitor the ships movement to ensure the anchor is not dragging using ECDIS, which uses a GPS feed that tracks the ship’s movement. Interesting fact, the Fairweather can hold 100,000 gallons of fuel, for ship stability purposes the fuel supply never gets below 40,000 gallons.

Personal Log

During the past few days, the sea has been a bit rough, but I love it especially at night, falling asleep is so much easier. It looks like Wednesday, I will be deploying the drifter buoy, stay tuned there will be an entire blog dedicated to it, including how to login and track its movement!. So far on this cruise I have not been able to view the constellations at night, the big obstacle is the fog.  Remember, the sun sets at around 11:30 pm and because of our latitude, it does not get very dark at night.  The other big issue has been the weather the past few days, mostly overcast and fog. As we transit to Kodiak Island, the weather forecast does not mention much about the sun, though we are in Alaska on the water!

Something else interesting to note; recall a few blogs ago I discussed relative humidity as a comfort gauge? It is the dew point temperature that meteorologist use for predicting rainfall, if the dew point temperature is 75 and the air temp is 76 F near the surface rain is almost guaranteed. Cruising in the Unga Strait within the Aleutian Islands today, the cloud deck is roughly currently at 1,000 feet. It is at that location where the dew point and air temperature match and cloud formation begins. This is what we call the LCL, lifting condensation level.

Last night I was talked into played the bass guitar for the first time, playing with the band on board.  They brought me up to par quickly, it was fun! I left the singing to the professionals, our deck hand Kyle and the XO (Executive Officer) Mike!

Until next time, happy sailing !

Tom

Cindy Byers: Mapping in the ice! May 11, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cindy Byers
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 29 – May 13

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: May 11, 2018

Weather from the Bridge:

Latitude:57°43.3 N
Longitude:133°35.5 W
Sea Wave Height: 0
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wind Direction: variable
Visibility:3 nautical miles
Air Temperature: 11.5°C
Sky:100% cloud coverage

Cindy on Flydeck
Me ready to get on a launch with a float coat and hard hat

 

Science and Technology Log

The area that NOAA Ship Fairweather is surveying is Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm.  These are fjords, which are glacial valleys carved by a receding (melting) glacier.  Before the surveying could begin the launches(small boats) were sent up the fjords, in pairs for safety, to see how far up the fjord they could safely travel.  There were reports of ice closer to the glacier. Because the glacier is receding, some of the area has never been mapped. This is an area important for tourism, as it is used by cruise ships.  I was assigned to go up Endicott Arm towards Dawes Glacier.

Starting to see ice
Starting to See Ice in Endicott Arm
launch at Dawes Glacier
A Launch at Dawes Glacier

Almost as soon as we turned into the arm, we saw that there was ice. As we continued farther, the ice pieces got more numerous. We were being very careful not to hit ice or get the launch into a dangerous place.  The launch is very sturdy, but the equipment used to map the ocean floor is on the hull of the boat and needs to be protected. We were able to get to within about 8 kilometers of the glacier, which was very exciting.

IMG_8954
Dawes Glacier

The launches have been going out every day this week to map areas in Tracy Arm.  I have been out two of the days doing surveying and bottom sampling. During this time I have really enjoyed looking at the glacial ice.  It looks different from ice that you might find in a glass of soda. Glacial ice is actually different.  It is called firn.  What happens is that snow falls and is compacted by the snow that falls on top of it. This squeezes the air out of of the snow and it becomes more compact.  In addition, there is some thawing and refreezing that goes on over many seasons. This causes the ice crystals to grow. The firn ends up to be a very dense ice.

ice on Endicott Arm
Ice in Endicott Arm

 

Glaciers are like slow moving rivers.  Like a river, they move down a slope and carve out the land underneath them. Glaciers move by interior deformation, which means the ice crystals actually change shape and cause the ice to move forward, and by basal sliding, which means the ice is sliding on a layer of water.

 

The front of a glacier will calve or break off.  The big pieces of ice that we saw in the water was caused by calving of the glacier.  What is also very interesting about this ice is that it looks blue. White light, of course, has different wavelengths. The red wavelengths are longer and are absorbed by the ice.  The blue waves are shorter and are scattered. This light does not get far into the ice and is scattered back to your eyes. This is why it looks blue.

Blue Ice 2
Blue Glacial Ice

blue ice

Meltwater is also a beautiful blue-green color.  This is also caused by the way that light scatters off the sediment that melts out of the glacial ice.  This sediment, which got ground up in the glacier is called rock flour.

green blue water Endicott
This is the green-blue water from glacial melt water
waterfall in Endicott Arm
Waterfall in Endicott Arm

 

Mapping and bottom sampling in the ice

NOAA Ship Fairweather has spent the last four days mapping the area of Tracy Arm that is accessible to the launches.  This means each boat going back and forth in assigned areas with the multibeam sonar running. The launches also stop and take CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) casts.  These are taken to increase the accuracy of the sound speed data.

Rock Sample
Rocks and a sediment chart from a bottom sample

Today I went out on a launch to take bottom samples. This information is important to have for boats that are wanting to anchor in the area. Most of the bottom samples we found were a fine sand.  Some had silt and clay in them also. All three of these sediment types are the products of the rocks that have been ground up by ice and water. The color ranged from gray-green to tan. The sediment size was small, except in one area that did not have sand, but instead had small rocks.

The instrument used to grab the bottom sediment had a camera attached and so videos

Bottom Sampler
The Bottom Sampler

were taken of each of the 8 bottom grabs. It was exciting to see the bottom, including some sea life such as sea stars, sea pens and we even picked up a small sea urchin.  My students will remember seeing a bottom sample of Lake Huron this year. The video today looked much the same.

 

Personal Log

I have seen three bears since we arrived in Holkham Bay where the ship is anchored.  Two of them have been black. Today’s bear was brown. It was very fun to watch from our safe distance in the launch.

I have really enjoyed watching the birds too.  There are many waterfowl that I do not know. My students would certainly recognize the northern loons that we have seen quite often.  

 

I have not really talked about the three amazing meals we get each day. In the morning we are treated to fresh fruit, hot and cold cereal, yogurt, made to order eggs, potatoes, and pancakes or waffles. Last night it was prime rib and shrimp.  There is always fresh vegetables for salad and a cooked vegetable too. Carrie is famous for her desserts, which are out for lunch and dinner. Lunches have homemade cookies and dinners have their own new cake type. If we are out on a launch there is a cooler filled with sandwich fixings, chips, cookies, fruit snacks, trail mix, hummus and vegetables.  

 

The cereal and milk is always available for snacks, along with fresh fruit, ice cream, peanut butter, jelly and different breads.  Often there are granola bars and chips. It would be hard to ever be hungry!

IMG_5382
Kayaking, see the ship in the background?
IMG_5384
Three Kayakers – me in the center

Helen Haskell: Bottom Sampling! June 17, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Helen Haskell

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 5 – 26, 2017

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska – West Prince of Wales Island

Date: June 17, 2017

Weather Data (on day of bottom sampling –June 14th)

Wind:  27 knots from the west (110° true)

Visibility: 10 nautical miles

Barometer:  1005.3 hPa

Air temperature: 9.4°C

Cloud: 100% cover, 1000’

Location

54°54.4’N  132°52.3’W

 

Science and Technology Log 

IMG_2004
Hollings Scholar Carly LaRoche, TAS Helen Haskell, and LT Damian Manda with a bottom sample.

If you have ever taken a look at a nautical map, other than just depths listed on it, there will be symbols and definitions that provide information to help with safety and knowledge of the area.  For example, asterix-like symbols represent rocks, and a branch-like symbol represents kelp. Also written on the maps is information about the seafloor and what it is composed of, such as gravel, sand, or bedrock.  Here in southeast Alaska, off the coast of Prince of Wales Island, much of the data that is currently on the charts was collected over 100 years ago.  Fairweather’s mission is to collect new information to allow these charts to be updated, and this includes information on the seafloor too.

The other day I was tasked with joining a survey crew to conduct bottom sampling.  The assigned bottom sample locations are provided by the Operations branch at headquarters. The sheet managers adapt the locations if they think there are better locations that will provide information for anchoring or to help characterize different regions in the area.  With less than glassy water conditions on a windy and rainy day, the boats were launched and we moved to our first sample area.

IMG_0252
A bottom sampler

The technology behind sampling is a little more antiquated than other parts of the research I’ve seen. It involves hooking up a self-closing scoop like device to a rope, and lowering it in to the water until it hits the seafloor.  Ideally, the trigger is released when it hits the seafloor and it closes. With closed scoops, the bottom sampler is winched up, ideally full of whatever material is located on the seafloor in that immediate location.  There were three different styles of these bottom samplers and we quickly had a firm favorite that seemed to work the best.  Easing the boat in the swell to the location, the coxswains, Dennis and Denek, would keep the boat in position so we did not tangle the rope in the motor.  We could tell from the rope going slack when the bottom sampler had hit the sea floor, and a mechanical winch made the return journey easy.

 

Dumping the contents in to a bucket we were able to see the diversity of the seafloor in just a few samples.  Occasionally rocks or shells would get stuck in the mechanism and we’d have to repeat the procedure, but overall we had tremendous success.

IMG_1863
Carly, Denek, the coxswain and me getting some respite from the rain

There are international protocols to follow in collecting bottom samples. These allow for communication and consistency of data on navigational charts.  In general, the main medium of the sample is described, such as sand, mud or pebbles, and an adjective used to describe it, such as broken, sticky or soft. Color is also assigned to the sample as well as appropriate size of the grains (fine, medium or coarse).  Symbols are used for all this data: For example, ‘the sample is mostly fine brown sand with mud and a little bit of broken shell’ would be written fne br S M brk Sh.  Protocols indicate that if sampling is attempted three times in one location and it doesn’t work then ‘unknown’ is documented in that location.

IMG_1926
Success in our sampling

At each of the sampling locations, we marked the spot on the chart and took latitude and longitude coordinates. We also documented additional observations we had about the sample, including findings that were not included as data choices. For example, in our second sampling site we found what we thought initially were mammal hairs.   Several sites later we struck ‘gold’ again, finding what appeared to be more hairs in a mud matrix. Upon reflection and discussion, it’s possible they are more likely decomposing kelp fibers.  It would be interesting to have the samples analyzed to identify what these fibers/hairs come from.   We also found whole clamshells as well as having a sample that only contained water. Our thoughts with the water only samples were that perhaps we were hitting bedrock rather than failing on obtaining any kind of sediments.  We also observed that in the more sheltered bays, the samples were very odiferous dark mud. In both of these occasions, the landscape surrounding the bay was heavily logged, and it would be interesting to see if there were correlations between the logging and the dark sediments, perhaps containing higher levels of carbon material washed in from terrestrial sources. In one of these areas, documentation from 100 years ago suggested that at that time, the seafloor was gravel.

 

Personal Log

The bottom-sampling day was challenging day weather wise, both for the coxswains and the science crew, but very rewarding.  Due to the rough seas it wasn’t a good day to collect sonar data, and on days like this, other parts of the total data collection are put in to place.  Part of our work that day was to also do crosslines (sonar data verification) but the water conditions were too hazardous in certain directions of travel, and so it was decided that we should focus on bottom samples.   To be frank, this was my favorite day as a Teacher At Sea so far. Truth be told, I was reminded that I quite enjoy sticking my hand in a bucket of mystery ‘goop’ and trying to figure out what it is composed of.  The diversity of samples was completely surprising and finding hair samples, twice, completely intriguing.  It was great also to observe upcoming OPS officer, LT Damian Manda at work logging the data, and realize again, the role technological knowledge plays a role in the success of this research. And, thank you to Coxswain Dennis Brooks for taking most of the photos for this blog entry.

 

IMG_2047
Me and Carly at the end of the day

 

Word of the day:

Hollings Scholarship Program: this NOAA program provides undergraduate students with a ten week internship at a NOAA facility and academic assistance, as well as an orientation and symposium. For more information: http://www.noaa.gov/office-education/hollings-scholarship

Fact of the day:

Backscatter is the intensity of acoustic energy received by the sonar after interacting with the seafloor. Backscatter data can be used to help determine the surface of the seafloor.  In softer areas, perhaps a surface of mud, returns a weaker signal, but a harder surface, such as bedrock returns a stronger signal.  Hollings scholar Carly LaRoche from American University is on the boat for several legs this summer and is collecting and analyzing backscatter data in the area. Bottom sampling of the area is allowing Carly to compare the backscatter data with the sediments collected to see if there are correlations.

What is this?

IMG_0270

(Answer from previous blog: part of the vertical struts of an old pier at a former salmon canning factory.)

Acronym of the day: Used in bottom sampling

NATSUR:  Nature of surface  -example: mud, gravel, coral

NATQUA: Qualifying terms for NATSUR -example: sticky, soft, calcareous

John Schneider, August 4-6, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: FISHPAC
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: August 4-6, 2009

That’s 11:00 – PM!  Almost sunset
That’s 11:00 – PM! Almost sunset

Position
Bering Sea, AK

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: Nice
Barometer: Steady (falling slightly on the 6th after we were already close enough to Dutch to not feel the unsettled weather.)
Wind: light and variable
Temperature: 8.6º C
Sea State: < 3 feet

Personal Note 

For about half an hour after the photo above, I just sat on E-Deck and watched the sun set. As I write this and look at the picture, I’m sadly realizing that this incredible month is rapidly drawing to a close. While I miss my sons and dog, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I wish it could continue.

Science and Technology Log 

Sunset on the Bering Sea
Sunset on the Bering Sea

While we were anchored up behind Hagemeister Island near Hagemeister Strait, I learned this island is named after Captain Leonty Andrianovich Gagemeister, a Russian Naval Commander in the early 1800’s. The island is undeveloped and has no permanent residents. It would have been fantastic to take a launch over to it, but there was a lot of work to be done on board the Fairweather. At 1400 hrs on the 4th, Dr. McConnaughey gave a one-hour briefing on the FISHPAC and EFH work his team has been working on. The briefing was voluntary, but as you can see, almost everyone on board was there.

The crew listens to Dr. McConnaughey’s presentation about the FISHPAC research.
The crew listens to Dr. McConnaughey’s presentation about the FISHPAC research.

Actually, Dr. McConnaughey could have finished in an hour, but the crew had so many questions – really good questions – that the ensuing discussions lasted another hour. Even afterwards, conversations at dinner were reflective of the seminar.  Once again, the collegial atmosphere on board the Fairweather was evident.  It was great to listen to and watch the physical scientists going back and forth with the biology folks in interpreting each others’ results and parameters. At 1000 hours on the 5th, we weighed anchor and got under way.  It took a few hours to get back to where we had ceased survey and sampling operations two days earlier and we picked right up where we left off. The weather was quite nice and we got the remaining samples done in just a couple of hours.

Electronics Technician Mike Hilton
Electronics Technician Mike Hilton

When we had finished that part of the work, there was enough time left on the mission to resurvey some anomalies that had been observed several years ago. The Fairweather had documented several “mud volcanoes” or “mud plumes” in Bristol Bay and the CO wanted to verify their presence. In order to do so, Launch 1018 was deployed for several hours to try to find the anomalies with the Multi-Beam sounder on board, knowing, however, that bottom structures like this are sometimes transient in nature. They were looking for a 3 meter high “cone-shaped” mound, but instead found a depression about two meters deep.  Perhaps the previous party had misinterpreted the side-scan data.  This is the type of ambiguity that calls for continued surveying, research and the development of new technologies.

E.T. Phone Home 
This leg has been a real busy one for Electronics Technician Mike Hilton. When we first arrived in Dutch prior to the leg, he had to go up into the satellite dome and reconfigure some of the internal settings in order to get internet and satellite access for the ship.  We had actually lost that capacity during the rough night on the last day of the Shumagin leg. When we first lost internet (all the computers aboard are connected to a LAN) and folks were a little impatient, there was an announcement on board something like this, “Attention on the Fairweather, for those of you suffering acute internet withdrawal symptoms, the ET recommends you lay to the lounge and take out a couple of books and read them!”  Without Mike, the ship would be severely handicapped.

Andy in the control room
Andy in the control room

Motorin’ 
During my time on the Fairweather, I was privileged to be given an under way tour of the engine room by Andy Medina (you remember Andy – with that big halibut!)  Fairweather’s main propulsion plant is a pair of General Motors Electro Motive Division 12-567 CLR engines. I realize this sounds long winded, but what the model designation indicates is that the engine (remember, we have 2 mains– port and starboard) has 12 cylinders each of which is 567 cubic inches in size. In comparison, a 2009 Mustang has an option for a 282 cubic inch V-8. That means that EACH of Fairweather’s cylinders is about double the size of the whole engine in a new Mustang! Further translation – Fairweather’s main engines have the equivalent of 48 Mustangs of engines!!! They are HUGE!  By the way, the Electro Motive Division is the division of GM that makes engines for Locomotives! 

That’s me next to the port main engine
That’s me next to the port main engine

Fairweather also has two generators, each putting out 330 kilowatts of electricity and an additional diesel engine just for the bow thruster. Also, four more small diesels on the launches and a few outboards for the skiff and we have a pretty complex engineering need.  Not only do they keep the engines running, but they are responsible for heating and cooling, waste water and sewage treatment (there’s a treatment system on board) and making fresh water. To keep all this running smoothly – as our mission is dependent on them all running flawlessly – two engineers stand each watch in a “4 and 8” rotation meaning they work for 4 hours and are off for 8 and we sail with a minimum of 8 members in the engineering department. (This is the standard watch schedule for officers and survey techs also.) There needs to be a member of the engineering department in the control room at all times while we are under way.

When I arrived in the control room for Andy to give me my tour, we could not leave because the other engineer on watch was on a short break and he was not permitted to leave the control room.  After we chatted for 3 or 4 minutes, Mitchell came down and we went through the engine department.  It took about half an hour and my eyes glazed over after only the first few minutes!  There is SO MUCH stuff going on in there that it’s amazing the guys can keep track of it all.

Personal Log 

As we headed back towards Dutch Harbor, I was again treated to a “whale show.”  I wish there had been someone on E-Deck with me to take pictures because although I had both my still and video cameras, I could only use one at a time.  In any event, I shot almost an hour of video and hope I got some good footage.  I think I may have even gotten a breach!  If so I’ll post it on my blog or perhaps NOAA will allow me one extra post as an “epilogue.”

I may be smiling on the outside . . .
I may be smiling on the outside . . .

John Schneider, August 2-3, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: FISHPAC
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: August 2-3, 2009

Position
Bristol Bay, AK

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: Low pressure
Barometer: falling rapidly afternoon of the 3rd (as low as 994 mB)
Wind: building through the 3rd to 45 kts
Low Temperature: 8.6º C
Sea State: 10-15 feet afternoon of the 3rd 

I was wondering when . . . It’s now!!!
I was wondering when . . . It’s now!!!

Science and Technology Log 

One of the aspects of hydrographic surveying and research out of sight of land for extended periods of time is that the days and nights blur into an uninterrupted continuum.  At breakfast today, LT Andrews said, “It’s Tuesday.” I said, “Is it?” and he responded that “It’s always Tuesday at sea.”  I asked “Why not Wednesday, at least then it’s ‘hump day’ to the weekend?”  He answered that sometimes it seems you’re never closer to anything.  It was a fun exchange, but as the FISHPAC leg continues, I am realizing that the idea is spot-on accurate.  Coupling the “sameness” of the days, with the fact that the ship is on 24-hour operations, it’s easy to get confused!

SeaBoss on the deck. In the background, the wave tops are being blown off the waves!
SeaBoss on the deck. In the background, the wave tops are being blown off the waves!

We’re using SeaBoss to grab samples every three to five hours and I’m learning about some of the relationships between bottoms and infauna.  Significant, however, is the fact that almost regardless of sea state, SeaBoss gets deployed. I say “almost” for a reason. Legs 9 and 10 of the FISHPAC survey (as shown on a previous log) are in a North Easterly direction. Two days ago we received a weather update anticipating a strong low pressure system approaching.  As we went through the day of the 3rd, the barometer was falling rapidly, the wind ramped up continuously and seas grew to 10-15 feet. By early afternoon it became impossible to deploy SeaBoss safely and the CO ordered us to suspend operations and head for Hagemeister Island in order to anchor behind it.

Notice to the right of the SeaBoss – that’s a wave breaking onto the fantail!
Notice to the right of the SeaBoss – that’s a wave breaking onto the fantail!

We arrived there at 2000 hours (8 pm) and anchored. I took about a 10 minute video of the waves and the ship getting tossed around. I’ll try to post it when I get home next week. In the early 1800’s, Sir Francis Beaufort devised a scale to estimate wind speed based on the appearance of the ocean’s surface.  It is a scale from 1-12 that correlates the appearance of the ocean surface with wind speed.  It is called, appropriately enough, the Beaufort Scale and we experienced a solid 7 on the scale.

Personal Log 

Commissioned mariners
Commissioned mariners

Exhausting but exhilarating! Anyone who takes the majesty and power of the sea for granted should undergo a thorough psychological exam! The officers on the Fairweather are commissioned mariners.  In order to join the NOAA Corps of officers, one needs to be less than 42 years old and a college graduate. It is preferred that the undergraduate major be in the  physical sciences, math, engineering or computer science. These are exceptionally qualified uniformed servicemen and women of the United States.  A career with NOAA as an officer is rewarding and in service to the nation. It is a career I will certainly discuss with my future students.

Something to Think About 

Just about everybody has heard of Latitude and Longitude, but what do they mean and how are they measured?

John Schneider, August 1, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: FISHPAC
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: August 1, 2009

Position
Bristol Bay, AK

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: nice all 3 days
Barometer: steady
Wind: light and variable
Temperature: low  7.0º C
Sea State: < 3-4 feet

This is the bottom sample after it has come straight from the water and into the collection bin.
This is the bottom sample after it has come straight from the water and into the collection bin.

Science and Technology Log 

We have made about 30 stops along the tracklines for bottom samples as described in a prior log. When the SeaBoss comes to the surface, the scientists check to see if it grabbed an adequate sample.  Sometimes it will strike the bottom at a bad angle, land on a rock, release prematurely or catch a big piece between the halves of the grabber and lose the sample on the way up.  But on the 90% of deployments that are successful, the sample is emptied into a large bin and taken to the sifting table.  It is washed with salt water and the critters within the sample are collected.

The bottom sample has been moved from the collection bin into a sifter box.
The bottom sample has been moved from the collection bin into a sifter box.

It looks pretty gross when you pull it up and the scientists estimate how full the sampler was, how deep it went into the bottom and describe the color and texture of the sediment.  All of these criteria go into the evaluation of the bottom. This is the sample in the sifter box.  The screen at the bottom has a 1 millimeter mesh which allows anything less than 1 mm to be washed through and overboard. It can take anywhere from 2-6 minutes to screen out the sample depending on the sediment grain size.

After it has been sifted out, the bottom sample reveals all the things it was hiding.
After it has been sifted out, the bottom sample reveals all the things it was hiding.

This is a screened sample from a relatively shallow grab (probably <150 feet.) One of the interesting things that Dr. McConnaughey and his team have determined is that the wave energy in the Bering Sea in the winter extends down to almost 250 feet!  This wave action carries away the finer sediments which leaves a coarser bottom.  The coarse bottom has interstitial spaces that allow for animals to burrow and survive.  The “cashew-looking” critters are members of the Phylum Echinodermata, Class Holothuroidea (Sea Cucumbers). They represented a significant portion of several of our samples.

By establishing this correlation between sediment and animals present, and integrating that with gut analyses done on other ships catching target species at other times and cross-referencing that information with hydrographic survey information, it may be possible in the future to be able to predict what species will inhabit what areas.  This type of data is absolutely essential to maintain a sustainable yield in the fishery and avoid depletion of the resource. It is environmental stewardship at the highest level.

Personal Log 

Starboard breezeway in the dark
Starboard breezeway in the dark

I’ve been very fortunate in my life that this is my third time out to sea for more than just a day or so. The first time was almost 30 years ago in grad school in California (about 2 weeks), the second time in January of 1991 going from SC to the US Virgin Islands (a week) and not these legs with the Fairweather.  One of the things I had forgotten was how dark it gets at sea at night.  Even though dawn this leg is about 0615 and sunset is around 2300, we have been conducting 24-hour ops for most of the time.  So we’ll be deploying the SeaBoss at all hours.  I took one of these pictures with a flash and then turned the flash off and took the second.  No explanation necessary. IT’S REAL DARK!  SCARY DARK! As you can see, there’s plenty of light on the fantail to work, but outside our little orb of light, it’s real dark!

Weston Renoud and Adam Argento deploying the MVP fish.
Renoud and Argento deploying the MVP fish.

Questions for You to Investigate 

The conversion formula for changing ºC to ºF is really quite simple.   ºF = 1.8 (ºC) + 32. For example, 10ºC would be converted thus: ºF = 1.8 (10 ºC) + 32 → 18 + 32 → 50ºF

By the way, 10ºC is a warm day here!

Something to Think About 

This line is laid out in a figure 8. Why would this be a good way to have a line arranged if it has to be paid out gradually rather than in a coil?

The next couple days should be interesting. CO says we have some weather coming!

schneider_log16dd

John Schneider, July 27-29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: FISHPAC
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 27-29, 2009

Position
In transit to Bristol Bay, AK

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: highly variable in the Bering Sea
Barometer: falling on the second day
Wind: Ranging from light and variable to 35 kts
Low Temperature: 7.0º C
Sea State: initially <1-2 feet up to 8 feet on the evening of the 29th

The sheet above shows legs 5-10 of FISHPAC in the Bering Sea, AK
The sheet above shows legs 5-10 of FISHPAC in the Bering Sea, AK

What Is FISHPAC? 

The Magnusen-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Management Act includes the broad designation of “Essential Fish Habitat” (EFH) as including myriad parameters which are to be considered for all life stages of the managed species. Included in them are bottom type, epifauna and infauna, grain size, and organic debris. Additionally, studies are to span the life cycles of those species.  There is an enormous amount of historical data relating to commercial fisheries catches, but the data have not been assembled as a whole and screened for accuracy.  Additionally, there has been virtually no search for correlations within the data. Dr. Bob McConnaughey is engaged in seeking correlations between bottom characteristics, managed species and sorting through extant records in the search for utilizing sonar data to anticipate species presence in the Bering Sea.  The phrase I’ve heard is “using bottom characteristics as proxy for prey identification.” Earlier cruise results can be viewed here.  It would take a long time to describe all that they do at the Alaska Fisheries Service Center, so what I highly recommend is that you spend a while at their site.

Science and Technology Log 

SeaBoss on deck
SeaBoss on deck

In addition to searching for correlations between trawl catch data and bottom characteristics, Dr. McConnaughey and his team are trying to determine if sound data (Multi-beam Echo Sounders and Side Scan Sonar) can be used in anticipating what species will likely be present in a given area. There are 69 managed commercial species in Alaska alone, which represent an enormous proportion of the commercial US catch, and if technology and research can be gained here, it can conceivably be applied elsewhere.  The Alaskan fisheries have also not been subjected to as much commercial fishing as, say, the coast of New England due to the remote, harsh and generally newly populated area which is Alaska. Commercial fishing here is, for the most part, less than 50 years old compared to the hundreds of years off the East Coast.

SeaBoss being deployed. It is suspended from the J-Frame and swung outboard. Tending the SeaBoss can be hazardous so crew members are tethered to the deck.
SeaBoss being deployed. It is suspended from the J-Frame and swung outboard. Tending the SeaBoss can be hazardous so crew members are tethered to the deck.

Alaska has over 45,000 miles of coastline, contains 70% of the United States continental shelf, and 28% of the Exclusive Economic Zone (a 200 mile legal designation) yet much of that area has never been properly surveyed. With the prospect of a warming climate and potential northerly relocation of commercially viable species, it is essential to document as much of this area as possible before long-term damage may be inflicted on it. In order to evaluate the EFH parameters, one of the tools the FISHPAC team uses to gather bottom samples is an apparatus called the SeaBoss (Sea Bed Observation System.)

SeaBoss on the way up--it can be seen as deep as about 5 to 10 meters
SeaBoss on the way up–it can be seen as deep as about 5 to 10 meters

SeaBoss allows the team to gather a 0.1m2 bottom sample, descending and forward looking video and still pictures taken just before it hits the bottom. SeaBoss gets deployed twice at each site.  The first sample is brought up and dumped into a sieve with a 1mm grid size.  It is then gently hosed off with seawater to clear away the inorganic materials and large particles.  The remaining biomass is put into containers with formalin solution for 2 days and then put into an alcohol solution to prevent decay.  Those samples will be quantified back in the lab in the Seattle area. With the second sample from roughly the same bottom area, samples are taken of the bottom material itself from the surface and from a couple of centimeters below the surface.  These, too, will be quantitatively evaluated back in the lab for grain sizes present and the proportions of those grain sizes in the sample. For background information on the SeaBoss, go here.

Jim Bush in the bosun’s chair.  Rick Ferguson (l) and Chief Bosun Ron Walker assisting.
Jim Bush in the bosun’s chair. Rick Ferguson (l) and Chief Bosun Ron Walker assisting.

Personal Log 

Before we left Dutch Harbor, we took on fuel (about ¼ of a load – only 22,000 gallons!) We took on ship’s stores (food.) 100+ gallons milk, 25 cases produce, a couple hundred pounds of meat (beef, chicken, pork, lamb,) scores of loaves of bread, and numerous cases of ice cream as well as other things.  It took several hours to stow it all away.  We also took on about 10 pallets of scientific gear for the FISHPAC team.  One of the more interesting scenes was watching AB Jim Bush rigging the A-Frame for deploying some of the equipment off of the fantail.

Questions for You to Investigate 

Check out the web sites I listed, there’s some really cool stuff on them.

New Terms/Phrases 

Biomass – organic matter created by living things epifauna – living animals on the surface of the bottom infauna – living animals in the bottom quantitatively – using numerical values

 

John Schneider, July 9, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 9, 2009

Position 
Shumagin Islands

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Barometer: 1022.3
Wind: light & variable
Temperature: 12.1ºC
Sea State: <1 foot

This top of this picture shows the area that has been surveyed, and the bottom half has not been surveyed yet.
This top of this picture shows the area that has been surveyed, and the bottom half has not been surveyed yet.

Science and Technology Log 

While part of the survey crew was doing more bottom sampling, launches 1010 and 1018 were deployed to acquire other data from areas ranging between 5 and 15 miles away.  The launch deployments today were for 8 hours and the chefs prepare to-go lunches for the crews. The Fairweather is well-suited to its task here in the Shumagins.  The crew is experienced at this and it shows. While the launches are away gathering data close to shorelines, the ship sails backand-forth across wide swaths of open ocean using the multi-beam sonar to document depth.  Some members of the crew call this “mowing the lawn” which is a perfect analogy (I like to think of it more like a Zamboni cutting the ice in a hockey rink!)

The swath covered by the multi-beam sonar can extend to 75º up from vertical on each side of the ship. As you can see in the picture, the top half of the screen is green. This is an area that has been surveyed with Multi-Beam Echo Sounders (MBES).  The white at the bottom is bottom that has not been surveyed. Fairweather is sailing a course from East to West on the screen and the MBES is sweeping a path indicated on the screen in orange. The colors are significant – they represent different depths. (If you look closely you can see a color bar on the left of the screen. Red=shallow, blue=deep.) the number on the right is the depth in meters.  Fairweather does all its bathymetry (<Greek bottom/depth + measure) in meters as they are the units of scientific analysis. Hopefully in the next few days I’ll get to have a better understanding.  Right now it kind of glazes over  . . . too much input! 

Deck Maintenance

Look Carefully - Blue writing!
Look Carefully – Blue writing!

A ship the size of the Fairweather (230 feet, 7 decks) has an enormous amount of maintenance required just to keep it ship-shape. The permanent crew of AB’s (Able Bodied Seaman,) engineers, stewards and officers keep the Fairweather spotless and running flawlessly. This morning there was need for a modification to a pulley used to deploy the bottom sampler.  It was constructed in a short amount of time. The marine environment is merciless on steel and the ship is constantly being stripped of old paint, primed and repainted.  Doing this requires that the old finish be removed with a “needle gun” which is a compressed air powered tool consisting of a 1.5cm diameter head of about 25 “needles.” The “needles” are more like 1 mm flathead finishing nails that bounce on the surface like mini-jackhammers.

By impacting the surface thousands of times a minute, old paint is loosened from the underlying steel and chips off. The really cool aspect of this is that the underlying steel isn’t even dented!  When I started on this piece of steel it was painted with one layer of primer and two layers of white paint.  Now it’s down to bare metal and the markings from the original construction of the davit are clearly legible! After being stripped, a coat of anti-oxidation paint is applied, then primer, then one or more coats of paint. The crew never stops and the condition of the Fairweather is a testament to their diligence.

Personal Log 

The weather is absolutely perfect. It is sunny, warm, calm seas.  I’m sure it can be (and probably will be) worse at some time during the trip, but for now everyone is soaking it all in!  The Fairweather has a ship’s store with some snacks, necessities, T-shirts and other items.  It’s open periodically (announced on the PA) and I’ll be sure to hit it up before leaving Dutch Harbor (but I’ve got to get to an ATM – they don’t take American Express.)  😉

Animals (or other cool stuff!) Observed Today 

Whales about a mile off the bow – not close enough to see well – brittle stars, tube worms, more coral(!) and the daily dose of sea birds. This morning there was a bit of time when some fog was rolling over a mountain island about 10 miles away and it looked like the fog was just cascading over the top from the other side.  Gorgeous!

Jill Stephens, June 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 29, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge: 
Position: 55°13.516’N  161°22.812’W
Scattered clouds with 10 miles visibility
Wind: 195° at 14 knots
Pressure at sea level: 1023 mbar
Temperature: Sea; 7.8°C  Dry bulb; 13.3°C; Wet bulb; 11.1°C

Assistant Survey Technician, Todd Walsh, and I release the bottom sample that was collected from the sea floor.
Assistant Survey Technician, Todd Walsh, and I release the bottom sample that was collected from the sea floor.

Science and Technology Log 

Today was another awesome day at sea.  The ship picked up the anchor at 0830 to begin our move to a new anchorage. The plan for the day called for bottom sampling while in transit to the new anchorage. Bottom sampling is used to determine the composition of the sea floor.  The bottom sampler is attached to a winch with the cable run through a boom to move the sampling device over the starboard side of the ship. The bottom sampler has a bucket that is designed to close when it hits the bottom, collect a sample of the material on the seafloor, and then it is brought back to the surface.  The bucket must be secured and locked in place prior to lowering it to the bottom. The operation requires two people manning the device and examining the specimen and another person operating the winch.

The bottom sampler is ready to be deployed to collect a seafloor specimen.
The bottom sampler is ready to be deployed to collect a seafloor specimen.

The bottom sampler is opened once it is back on deck and examined by survey technicians.  The sediment is observed for color and felt to determine texture elements.  Most of the samples examined today were determined to be green sticky mud or volcanic ash and broken shells. This form of sampling provides information about the seafloor that will be of importance to ships that might consider anchoring in the area.  Samples are sometimes collected for more extensive study.

While the people on the fantail are examining the sea floor samples, personnel in the plot room prepare to enter the information into the computer.  The plot room crew enters the GPS location into the computer plus all descriptive data regarding the samples from the sampling crew. If the sampler returns to the surface in the open position, the sample is determined to be unsuccessful and is repeated.

Sitting in with a night processor allowed the opportunity to review data collected during the day and clean out noise that prevents the computer from selecting the best representation of the sea floor.
Sitting in with a night processor allowed the opportunity to review data collected during the day and clean out noise that prevents the computer from selecting the best representation of the sea floor.

Personal Log 

Working the bottom sampler and feeling the sea floor sediment was exciting for me.  I thoroughly enjoy working with soils to determine various characteristics, so this activity was right up my alley.  Although the sampler itself can be managed by one person, it is easier and safer for two people to operate the sampler while a third person operates the winch and boom. My partner and I worked together very efficiently and processed between five and ten samples during one shift.  The shifts were divided into one and a half hour periods. I was lucky enough to get two sampling shifts and one shift in the plot room recording the data.

After dinner, I was able to work with one of the night processors to convert and clean data that was collected on one of the launches during the day.

Animal Sightings

A baby crab and a worm were found in some of our bottom samples.

Findings in the bottom sample
Findings in the bottom sample

Susan Smith, June 9, 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 9, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: Dry Bulb: 12.2° (54°F); Wet Bulb: 11.1° (52°F)
Cloud Cover: Overcast 8/8
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind direction: 315, 08 kts.
Sea Wave Height: 0-1
Sea Water Temperature: 12.8°C (55°F)

A digital nautical chart
A digital nautical chart

Science and Technology Log

Question: What might an empty bottom sampler indicate? There might be a hard bottom, so it is not a good place to try to anchor.

Today we took bottom samples in ten locations. The objective of bottom sampling is to update historical data and look for good anchor locations. This chart has five locations where we took bottom samples. They are shown where the stars are. The red symbol depicts our launch driving from one point to the next.

Bottom Sampler with claw
Bottom Sampler with claw

There are many houses, and what appeared to be summer hotels, in this area, so they must have accurately charted information. When we performed our bottom sampling, the bottom sampler was affixed to a rope which we dropped over the side of the launch. Some times a weight is put on the rope so it will hit bottom with more force. After we tried three times and the claw was not closed we put a weight on and it closed from then on.When the sampler hit the bottom the claw of the sampler shut, trapping whatever was in that locale. We then brought the rope back up and opened the sampler to observe its contents.

Susan sending the sampler down with Shawn’s help
Susan sending the sampler down with Shawn’s help

We found the following materials:

  1.  43 feet deep: nothing in three tries- must be a hard bottom
  2.  50 feet deep: very densely packed green, sticky mud
  3.  47 feet deep: same as number 4
  4. 168 feet deep: big rocks only
  5. 130 feet deep: fine, green, sticky mud
  6.  47 feet deep: piece of black plastic (like a coffee stirrer), very fine black silt
  7. 37.5 feet deep: black sand with kelp
  8. 2. 168 feet deep: black, sticky mud
  9. 1. 100 feet deep: grey sand, three rocks of varying sizes
  10. small rocks Of these samples, green, sticky mud indicated the best locations for anchoring.
An ensign plotting the course
An ensign plotting the course

Personal Log 

We departed Trocadero Bay in the late morning. As we headed toward Glacier Bay for our tour on Wednesday we had our abandon ship and fire drills. When we did not complete the series of three drills (man overboard drill is the third one), I asked what the chances were of having this third drill. As it was explained to me we generally have the man overboard drill if we are ahead of our dead reckoning. When asked what that is I was told, “If we are where we are supposed to be when we are supposed to be there”. Here’s the dictionary definition of dead reckoning-  Dead Reckoning: 1. calculation of one’s position on the basis of distance run on various headings since the last precisely observed position, with as accurate allowance as possible being made for wind, currents, compass errors, etc.; 2.one’s position as so calculated.

On the chart times of arrival are written in pencil so adjustments can be made.
On the chart times of arrival are written in pencil so adjustments can be made.

This was important because were to pick up a National Park Service guide for our tour into Glacier Bay and we could not be early. A man overboard drill takes a great deal of time, because the ship must go back to its position when someone fell overboard. This entails making a huge circle with a ship that is 231 feet long, 42 feet wide, and has a displacement of 1,800 tons.  As you can imagine just the turning around alone takes a considerable amount of time.

For more information on the NOAA Ship Rainier (S-221) go here. 

Susan Smith, June 4, 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 4, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: light
Temperature 11.1 C (52 F)
Cloud Cover: FEW 1/8-2/8

A nautical chart indicating underwater cables
A nautical chart indicating underwater cables

Science and Technology Log: Bottom Sampling 

This morning I spent time in the Plot Room, and on the Fantail, involved in bottom sampling. The Plot Room has nine work stations with at least two screens per technician. The airplane symbol is the location of the Rainier and the colored dots show locations of bottom sampling areas. One purpose bottom sampling serves is to determine areas suitable for anchoring.

The clamp shell being retrieved
The clamp shell being retrieved

The chart to the right shows there is an underwater cable area (pink dotted lines) from which we cannot take samples, because it could accidently get damaged, thus rendering residents without power. The numbers shown on these When the ship takes bottom samples, from the Fantail, it uses a spring loaded clamp shell device. It is attached to an A frame and uses a winch to lower it into the sea by cable. The operator calls out the depth, using a cable counter, as it is lowered into the water and when it raised. This enables the plot room to know when a sample is coming and it verifies the information received remains accurate.  The numbers on these charts indicate water depth in fathoms (1 fathom=6 ft.). As you can see there are drastic dropoffs in some locations. 

Identifying the samples: small coarse pebbles
Identifying the samples: small coarse pebbles

If the cable is not straight down, the ship must move around it, avoiding the screws (propellers) at all costs. When the clamp hits bottom it scoops up the debris under it immediately and is brought back to the surface. When the sample arrives at the top it is shaken to release a majority of the water. Then it must be dismantled to see the solid matter inside. This is a two person job, as it is heavy and impossible to control for just one person. One holds the spring loaded clamp shell, the other takes off the sample section by pulling on either side of the device.

Identification chart for the samples
Identification chart for the samples

Because safety is always an issue the clamp must be kept from swinging once the collection unit is removed. The items found in the sampler are placed on the chart (shown to the right) to make sure identification is accurate. The chart is divided into sand, gravel, and pebbles. Each type of rock found is divided further into fine, medium, and coarse. This information is relayed to the plot room where someone labels the survey chart in the appropriate location. In the first four samples green, sticky mud was identified near the coastline of Ladrones Island, Madre de Dios Island, and on the southwestern arm of the Prince of Wales Island. These were deep areas where people are not likely to anchor their boats. In the sixth sample we were in fairly shallow water and sampled gritty sand and small pebbles.

This sample was full of sand and some pebbles.
This sample was full of sand and some pebbles.

Sometimes the water arrives only with living things in the sampler. Samples eight through ten provided us with living things. Shells with little creatures inside were found in one sampling, and in another the only item was a black sea star. Finally after three such samples in the same location we moved on to the next location. This is a somewhat tedious process when the samples do not provide a great deal of useful data. However, that in itself gives sufficient information as to what is NOT in a location. Now imagine being charged with this assignment is an area where surveys have either never been done, or it has been decades since the previous survey. Remarkably the survey charts are fairly accurate, even from when lead weights and ropes were used to survey. NOAA certainly has a daunting task when it comes to surveying Alaska.

Personal Log 

This sample had only a little black sea star!
This sample had only a little black sea star!

Yesterday, and today, allowed me the opportunity to see the technical aspects of the Rainier’s mission. Small sections of the oceans and bays are meticulously mapped and charted for use by recreational boaters, the fishing industry, large shipping companies, and the military. Without the information gleaned by the people and ships of the NOAA Corps our waters would continue to go uncharted, perhaps unused, and remain hazardous to all. I am amazed at the patience needed for this work, but it is well worth their efforts to provide the necessary tools to keep our waterways safe for everyone.

Jack on the bow
Jack on the bow

I was discussing interesting things I noticed on the Rainier with several of the officers. Did you know there are two flags we fly on the NOAA ships? There is the Jack, a flag with the 50 stars and blue field, and the Stars and Stripes, our nation’s flag. When it is flown on a ship it is called an Ensign. The Jack is flown on the Jackstaff (origin 1865-1895) located on the ship’s bow. The Ensign is flown on the fantail while in port or anchored at sea. I suppose I have now become a student of vexillology, the scholarly study of flags. 

Debbie Stringham, July 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debbie Stringham
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 5 – 15, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 14, 2005

NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER docked at US Coast Guard Station, Kodiak, AK.
NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER docked at US Coast Guard Station, Kodiak, AK.

Weather Data 

Location: U.S. Coast Guard Dock, Kodiak, AK
Latitude: 57 48.6′ N
Longitude: 152 21.9′ W
Visibility: 10 nm
Sky Description: partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

The ship has reached Kodiak, AK and has docked at the U.S. Coast Guard Station. Preparations are already underway for an inspection and the departure of crew members and arrival of returning or new crew members. The next leg will focus on fisheries research so preparations of the winches for nets is underway.

I’m a little wistful in returning to shore. I’ve grown accustomed to the rocking of the ship and have thoroughly enjoyed my entire experience aboard the FAIRWEATHER. I’m amazed at the autonomy of the ship and the crew aboard. I’m walking away with valuable and useful information that can be applied in laboratory experiments in the classroom and can hardly wait to implement them.

Kodiak, AK
Kodiak, AK

Tonight, I spend my last night aboard the ship and tomorrow morning depart for a day ashore Kodiak and then a long flight home. What an amazing experience this has been!

Answer from Previous Day 

Believe it or not, the Indonesian tsunami and Alaska 1964 earthquake are important to hydrographic survey. Plates shifting near Indonesia created the large tsunami that traveled so far and decimated so many villages. The 1964 earthquake, also caused by shifting plates, creating likewise devastating effects. This impacts hydrographic survey, because the navigation charts printed before 1964 would not show the rise in sea floor of over 30 feet that occurred because of the shifting plates!

Debbie Stringham, July 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debbie Stringham
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 5 – 15, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 13, 2005

Stringham photographing tsunami buoy recovery.
Stringham photographing tsunami buoy recovery.

Weather Data 

Location: in transit
Latitude: 52 44.1’N
Longitude: 156 45.3’W
Visibility: 10 nm
True Wind Speed: 10 kts.
True Wind Direction: 270
Sea Wave Height: none
Swell Wave Height: 6 ft.
Swell Wave Direction: 220
Sea Water Temperature: 11.0 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1008.0
Sky Description: partly cloudy
Dry Bulb Temperature: 14.0 C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 12.5 C

Operations in progress
Operations in progress

Science and Technology Log 

Last night, the ship received word that a tsunami buoy had gotten loose and needed to be retrieved in waters to the south. So, heading to the farthest waters south that the FAIRWEATHER has seen since March, the ship made its way to the last known location of the buoy. I stood watch on the bridge from 0400 until 0800 and no sight of the buoy had been taken on RADAR or by person. At about 0830, the buoy was spotted and operations to retrieve it were commenced. A smaller vessel with four crew members was launched to aid in the retrieval and the A- frame on the fantail was rigged to pull the large instrument aboard. By 0930 the buoy was captured and hoisted onto deck and by 1030 it was securely fastened to the fantail. The issue of pulling aboard several thousand meters of the buoy’s rope took several more hours after that. Whew!

The December 26, 2004 Indonesia tsunami “traveled at 700 kilometers per hour to rear up like a hydra onto shores, sweeping away some 225,000 lives and millions of livelihoods across 12 nations,” Madhusree Mukerjee reported in the March 2005 issue of Scientific American. That historic tsumani event raised a lot of concern regarding the early warning systems that are in place for tsunami events. Unlike the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean is known to have a well established warning system in place, but efforts are being taken to ensure that we know as much as possible about possible tsunamis in the Pacific Ocean. Tsunami buoys are located extensively along the major coastlines of countries neighboring the Pacific Ocean and the data collected from those buoys is carefully analyzed and recorded.

Ships similar to the FAIRWEATHER, in the NOAA fleet, usually perform routine maintenance and retrieval of buoys. The FAIRWEATHER has been looked at for this purpose, but never actually engaged in the process. This is the first time the FAIRWEATHER has taken part in tsunami buoy retrieval.

Question of the Day 

What do the 2005 Indonesian tsunami, the Alaska 1964 earthquake, and hydrographic survey have in common?

Answer from Previous Day 

The best types of sea floor to anchor a ship are mud/clay or sandy, mud combinations. Firm sand is okay, but loose sand, soft mud, rocks, and grassy/kelp areas should be avoided.

Debbie Stringham, July 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debbie Stringham
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 5 – 15, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 12, 2005

Stringham on shore, Eagle Harbor, Shumagin
Stringham on shore, Eagle Harbor, Shumagin

Weather Data 

Location: Eagle Harbour, Shumagin Islands, AK
Latitude: 55 06.8’ N
Longitude: 160 06.9’ W
Visibility: 10 nm.
True Wind Speed: 16 kts.
True Wind Direction: 340
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: none
Swell Wave Direction: none
Sea Water Temperature: 12.0 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.5 mb
Sky Description: Partly Cloudy
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.5 C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 12.5 C

Science and Technology Log 

View from vessel during bottom sampling operations.
View from vessel during bottom sampling operations.

Today, is a quiet day aboard the FAIRWEATHER. There are no vessel launches to join, but it is a good opportunity for me to work on lesson plan ideas. I’ve been most interested in the bottom sampling operations and why it is important to understand the nature of the sea floor for anchorage. I found a very helpful seaman text that should provide good direction for a lesson plan.

Earlier in the leg, a crew member and survey tech exchanged with a member of a contractor for NOAA that acquisitions hydrographic data using airplanes. The airplanes essentially have two beams, one that hits the top of the water and one that penetrates to the sea floor. The data is then compared and the difference between them equals the water depth. The survey tech said that there are some benefits and limitations to the use of airplanes.

Benefits are that it can collect data much more quickly than our ship. Our ship travels at ten knots, but the airplane can fly over a hundred knots and cover many more miles. The airplane can also collect data in shallow water and pinpoint water depth over shallow rocks whereas the ship cannot. Also, Surveyors do not have to stay at sea for weeks at a time and can go home to dry land at the end of the day.

On the other hand, limitations of the airplane include lower resolution because the plane is flying so fast. Choppy seas or kelp forests impede data collection, as is true for data acquisition from the ship as well, and the planes cannot collect data from deep waters.

Question of the Day 

What type of sea floor is best for anchoring one’s ship?

Answer from Previous Day 

Understanding atmospheric sciences is important in navigating ships because the weather affects the ship’s course and ability to conduct business or research every day. Understanding such basic concepts as weather fronts, air mass characteristics, large scale wind systems (ie.  Polar Easterlies), and weather phenomenon (ie. hurricanes) can be life saving when out at sea.

Shumagin Islands, AK. Islands, AK.
Shumagin Islands, AK. Islands, AK.

Debbie Stringham, July 11, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debbie Stringham
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 5 – 15, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 11, 2005

Weather Data

Shumagin Islands, AK --on shore in Eagle Harbor.
Shumagin Islands, AK –on shore in Eagle Harbor.

Location: Shumagin Islands, AK
Latitude: 55 17.7’ N
Longitude: 160 32.1’ W
Visibility: 8 n.m.
True Wind Speed: 12 kts.
True Wind Direction: 190
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: none
Swell Wave Direction: none
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.0 mb
Sky Description: Cloudy, Drizzle
Dry Bulb Temperature: 11.5 C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 10.0 C

Daily Log 

Returning to ship due to stormy seas.
Returning to ship due to stormy seas.

Last night, some of the crew, including myself, went ashore while anchored in Eagle Harbor. I was eager to learn of the geology of the Shumagin Islands, but have had no opportunity to take samples from shore. It is not so much the composition of the rocks that I’m interested in as the process and time frame of which they formed. I collected both rounded pebbles from the beach and oxidized, angular fragments from a cliff face. I’m extremely impressed by the magnitude of folding, faulting, and glaciation process that are apparent–even from the deck of the ship many miles away. Upon inquiring, I have discovered that there is only one crew member who has any geologic text on the area and she is not on board for this leg.

This morning, I was once again assigned to a launch that would collect bottom samples, but the unfortunate event of well-developed seas and high winds drove us back to the ship. Our sunny weather for the past two days is definitely at an end and our bottom sampling is postponed until further notice.

On this leg, the ship does not have any tide stations to install, but I inquired as to how that affects data collection anyway. Tide stations are used as vertical control on water depths. The Chief Survey Technician said that local tidal data is collected from a primary station on Sand Point and vertical corrections are made to the hydrographic survey data as it is collected. If the data were not corrected to the Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW), the depths displayed on hydrographic charts could mislead ships navigating in shallow waters.

Question of the Day 

Why is knowledge of atmospheric sciences helpful in navigating ships?

Answer from Previous Day 

SONAR stands for Sound Navigation and Radar. Essentially, the purpose is to emit sound waves and capture their echo as they bounce off of the sea floor or other objects to determine shape, position, and/or location. Marine organisms use a similar type feature to detect prey.

Debbie Stringham, July 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debbie Stringham
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 5 – 15, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 10, 2005

“FISH” Collects sound velocity data while vessel is moving.
“FISH” Collects sound velocity data while vessel is moving.

Weather Data 

Location: Eagle Harbour, Shumagin Islands, AK
Latitude: 55 06.8’ N
Longitude: 160 06.9’ W
Visibility: 10 nm.
True Wind Speed: 16 kts.
True Wind Direction: 340
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: none
Swell Wave Direction: none
Sea Water Temperature: 12.0 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.5 mb
Sky Description: Partly Cloudy
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.5 C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 12.5 C

Science and Technology Log 

This morning, I assisted a survey technician entering the bottom sampling data we collected on yesterday’s launch. I also read through training materials about the SeaBat Mutlibeam Survey System and learned  how the system works.

“FISH” winch. Instrument attached collects sound velocity data.
“FISH” winch. Instrument attached collects sound velocity data.

Basically, there are six parts to the system: the multibeam sonar, data acquisitioning software, beacon receiver, SeaBird Water “FISH” winch. Instrument attached collects sound velocity data. Column Profiler, Velocity Probe, and data processing software. When activated, the system generates “pings” that are transmitted through the water column. Those “pings” collide with targets and return echo signals to the receiver. The hydrophones convert the pressure from the echo into an electrical signal. The signal is amplified and the software processes it and displays the information on the computer.

In order to understand SONAR, one must also understand sound. Sound is produced by a vibrating source that causes compression waves which are detectable pressure changes. The speed of the propagation depends on the medium it is traveling through. For instance, sound travels about 390 meters per second in air and 1500 meters per second in water. The velocity of sound in water is dependent on three main factors: salinity, temperature, and pressure.

I interviewed an Ensign on the crew this afternoon about the career paths she had taken to be a part of NOAA. She received her bachelor degree in Marine Studies with an emphasis in marine mammals. She was investigating the Peace Corps and the Navy when she came across NOAA and decided to enroll in their three month officer’s basic training. After three months of studying radar and navigation, she was assigned to the FAIRWEATHER for two years at sea. After her two years are complete, should she decide to continue, she will then be assigned to a three year term in a land-based position. In order to qualify for officer’s training, one needs a bachelor’s degree in any science or engineering related field.

Question of the Day 

What does SONAR stand for?

Answer from Previous Day 

Looking at the nature of the sea floor is important because of implications relating to anchoring, dredging, structure construction, pipeline and cable routing, and fisheries habitat.

Debbie Stringham, July 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debbie Stringham
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 5 – 15, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: July 9, 2005

Debbie Stringham pulling lines for bottom sampling
Debbie Stringham pulling lines for bottom sampling

Weather Data 

Location: Eagle Harbour, Shumagin Islands, AK
Latitude: 55 06.8’ N
Longitude: 160 06.9’ W
Visibility: 10 nm.
True Wind Speed: 16 kts.
True Wind Direction: 340
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: none
Swell Wave Direction: none
Sea Water Temperature: 12.0 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.5 mb
Sky Description: Partly Cloudy
Dry Bulb Temperature: 15.5 C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 12.5 C

Science and Technology Log 

Today, I was assigned to go on a bottom sampling launch. The purpose of these launches is to collect floor samples to determine the nature of the sea floor. The instrument used is called a bottom sampler and looks like a large heavy metal pipe about a foot in length and four inches in diameter. There is a large metal spring attached to the top of it along with a scooping mechanism that clamps shut when it hits the sea floor. On the other end, is an O-ring where a line can be strung through and attached to a pulley.

Bottom Sampling Device
Bottom Sampling Device

First, the designated sampling locations are decided by where they lie in relation to the coast. There are collection standards that regulate where sampling can occur and how often. If the region is deemed anchorage, then samples may be taken 1200 meters apart. If the region is not considered anchorage, then the samples need to be spaced 2000 meters apart. Using a Digital Terrane Model (DTM), the survey technician chooses an arbitrary point and fans out from there, choosing collection locations in accordance with the regulations above.

Once the bottom sampling is underway, the boat will use a Global Positioning System (GPS), to locate where a sample will be taken from. The survey technician will open the scooping mechanism and lower it over the side of the boat. When the bottom sampler hits the bottom, it will be brought back to the surface where the sample, if any, will be analyzed and recorded. If no sample is retrieved after three attempts, then the sea floor is recorded as hard. Survey technicians use abbreviated terms to describe the bottom samples. For example: crs S = coarse sand, brk Sh = broken shells, gy M = gray mud, med P = medium pebbles.

Question of the Day 

Why is looking at the nature of the seafloor material important?

Answer from Previous Day 

In the early days of sailing, the steering board (eventually to become starboard) was on the right hand side of the ship. And the side of the ship that was usually tied up to port was the left hand side. Sailors began calling the right side of the ship (when facing front) the starboard side and the left hand side of the ship port.

Mavis Peterson, June 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 29, 2005

Lat.:54 56.5’N
Long.:160 16.7’W
Visibility: 10+
wind direction: 308
wind speed: 10
Sea wave height: 1
swell wave height: 4
sea water temperature: 9.5
sea level temp.9.6
sea level pressure: 1013.6
cloud cover and type: mostly clear, few high cum. clouds

Science and Technology Log 

Today was another slow day. I spent some time on the bridge just observing and watching. I worked on some lesson plans, sat in on one interview with Matt, and looked at a lot of ocean. I observed a transmission of weather information to the National Weather Service and visited with John French a “weatherman,” as his degree is in atmospheric science.  He was very knowledgeable and we discussed the uses of the information that is being gathered on this ship and compared that to what other NOAA ships are doing. This ship gathers information and uses it to make charts and maps.  Some of the other NOAA ships serve as a platform for scientist to do their special projects. We also discussed the incredible differences in background that the crewmembers have. From past fishermen to specialists in several different areas, the combination gives the ship a well-rounded crew.

Personal Log 

Not much to report.  I spent my free time reading.  The rock and roll of the ship certainly is sleep-inducing. I don’t think any emails are getting through to me.

Mavis Peterson, June 28, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 28, 2005

Weather Data 

Lat.:55 o7.2 N
Long.: 160 07.4W
Visibility:  1
Wind direction: 123
True wind speed: .9 knts
Swell wave height: 1
Sea water temperature: 9.15 C
Dry bulb 19.8
Wet bulb 9.0
sea level pressure: 1011.5
Cloud cover and type: cumulus overcast

Science and Technology Log 

I was fortunate to sit with some of the crew at the breakfast table this morning and was able to take part in a discussion regarding what we were doing today.  This gave me an opportunity to ask some questions.  I’m getting the idea of the science that is taking place here, but conversation today helped me understand the connections that I have been missing.  For example there are about eight programs that are used on board to gather and process the data. There are four important data gathering devices that are merged together: The exact time, the GPS location, the motion of the ship and the sonar.  Interestingly, as in many computer programs there is a “Bug” that they call the “Midnight Bug” that causes them to sometimes, not always, lose data for about half an hour.  The question is whether to stop and circle around and pick up what was missed or to continue. There are pros and cons and are decided by those colleting the data.  The information gathered on this ship is processed quickly.  This is an advantage because if there is an error or discrepancy the ship has not already moved out of the area so they can adjust or redo immediately.  Of course this allows for accurate information to be gathered.

An aside on time:  All NOAA ships use the same Greenwich Time no matter what time zone they are in. This saves confusion when crossing time zones.  Midnight here, in this time zone is 4:00 in the afternoon.  That is then the beginning of a new day.  There are three ways the ship can gather bottom data. (1.) When the main ship is “hydroing” as we will be doing for the next few days, 24 hours a day the ship is sonarring the bottom in a wide swath in deep water. (2.) When the water is too shallow for the ship to hydro that is when the launches are sent out to do basically the same thing, although they use less power because the water is not as deep.  (3.) The third way of collecting information is by shoreline observations, using the flat-bottomed small boat and physically eyeballing the area, taking notes and pictures and entering that data into the programs when they return to the ship. I discovered today that although all the ships in the fleet that are doing the same type of science use the same programs, they may not be using them in exact manner.  I would liken this to the example that although all fourth grade teachers must meet the same state standards of curriculum, they don’t all approach the task in the same way. An example is how the scientists “draw lines” of an area to be hydroed.  The FAIRWEATHER marks off polygon areas that need to be scanned.  This can be done in any fashion, across-up and down or in any pattern as long as the whole area gets covered. Other ships opt to draw in lines to follow in a selected area.  If they can’t follow the lines because of swells, or whatever, then they are out of luck as far as surveying that day. However because we are scanning the channel with the ship today, we are following lines.

I am going to observe a training demonstration at 1:00 P.M. in the boiler room and then tour the boiler room.  The training session went as planned.  It was how to use the oxygen mask and how and when to use the fire extinguishers.

Personal Log 

I spent a couple of hours listening and asking questions of those present, and then I worked on some lesson plans after lunch.  I also spent a little while at the bridge.  It is a beautiful day, bright and sunny. I will be going out on one of the smaller boats tomorrow.  I spent the rest of the day answering emails and working on lesson plans.  These are pretty heavy concepts for fourth graders, but I am getting some ideas simplified to their level.

Mavis Peterson, June 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 26, 2005

Weather Data 

Lat.:55 o7.2 N
Long.: 160 07.4W
Visibility:  1
Wind direction: 123
True wind speed: .9 knts
Swell wave height: 1
Sea water temperature: 9.15 C
Dry bulb 19.8
Wet bulb 9.0
sea level pressure: 1011.5
Cloud cover and type: cumulus overcast

Science and Technology Log 

I spent the morning in the radar (chart?) room listening and taking in what I could of a training session on putting the physically captured information into a program called Pydro. Obstructions like new rocks are marked as primary or secondary, or for example a ledge with a rock together may be marked as primary.  There seems to be a lot of room for discretion by the person entering the information.  There are many folders of information such as AWAIS, which means there is a shipwreck feature.  There is an entry called reports that allows information to be included in sentence form.  This information will not show up on the finished product but is helpful to the cartographer that is actually making the final map.  It may make his work more accurate.  Yesterday I talked about the dotted line that might be drawn in that shows an area that is not navigable–I think I called it an obstruction line, in reality it is called a foul line. I was also given a Julian calendar which means the days are numbered 1-365.

We are pulling anchor and getting underway.  We will be leaving Eagle harbor for Sandpoint, which I have not found that on the map.  We pulled anchor at 1:30.  It is quite a process and again it is necessary that the crew is communicating effectively with one another. The crew uses some sort of sign language as well as radio communication with the bridge. It is necessary the bridge knows what is going on because they may have to move the ship in order to keep the anchor in the correct position for retrieving it.  The anchor is pulled up by a large motor and stored in a side well of the ship.  There are actually two anchors on this ship; the size of the ship dictates how many anchors it has.  I thought maybe they used both of them when anchoring in deep water, but was assured that using both was not done very often because of the motion of the water and the possibility of “braiding” the anchor lines is very real and an immense problem.  If for some reason they would use both anchors, there is a way to do it that puts the ship and the two anchors in sort of a “V” pattern and this would help with the braiding problem.  As the chain of the anchor was rolled onto the ship it was hosed off.

Answer to yesterday’s question about what happens to this information:  The completed maps are used by any ocean going vessels.  Because shorelines and the ocean floors change constantly, and because new technology is constantly being developed, this is an ongoing process that needs to be continually updated.  Charting the coastal waters was first begun under the direction of President Thomas Jefferson and has continued on to today. The first use of the information is for commerce and right behind that is the fisheries industry.  The information is available on a web page.  Some of the specialized equipment actually comes from those other countries, especially the Nordic countries.  The davits come from England.

Personal Log 

As I visit with Crewmembers, I have found that there is a great deal of turnover in this profession. NOAA ship personnel are required to spend two years at sea, then three years in offices, in places like Seattle, then another rotation at sea.  Many wage mariners choose to quit after the first five years.  Being at sea means making many sacrifices.  The FAIRWEATHER goes out on “legs” of about 10-12 days and then comes in at one of several ports for a couple of days. They are on the water over 200 (220?) days a year.  During the off-season they go to school to learn to use new equipment, and/or work on repairs for the ship.

I dropped one of my cameras on the way to the laundry room and parts fell everywhere.  Hopefully I found all the pieces and will try putting it back together later.  The LCD is not readable so I will use the other camera a lot.  I did my laundry this evening and while waiting I did some reading.  Some of the crew visited Sandpoint by launch.  I chose not to go. The last launch that returned about 12:30 a.m. had some trouble when they went to dock at the FAIRWEATHER. According to stories this morning the adrenaline was running a little high for a few minutes, but they managed to get the launch in safely, and there was no imminent danger involved.

Mavis Peterson, June 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 25, 2005

Weather Data 

Lat.: 55 07.2N
Long.:160 07.4W
Visibility:  3
Wind direction: Dir (true) 177
Wind speed: 7 knts
Sea water temperature: 9.15
Sea level pressure: 1011.9
Cloud cover and type: cumulus 5/8

Science and Technology Log 

Today I went out on the Ambar, a flat-bottomed boat that can get in quite close to the shore. It was a training session for one of the interns.  We had with us several pieces of equipment (that we had to set up) and a satellite map of the area, which showed major islands, rocks, and the shoreline. The point of the activity was to “ground truth” (my term) the area at low tide to add to what was already known from the satellite pictures.  According to the satellite pictures, boats would have been able to navigate around the large rocks and get into the shore while in reality what we saw was that there were many more obstructions, rocks and kelp beds that would be a hazard.  We not only took photographs of the obstructions, we added their positions to the map, made notes, and measured with the radar.  We also estimated visually and drew in a dotted line around the whole area of rocks and kelp a hazard line, which would keep boats out of that area.  All this information was recorded on a chart and on the weatherproof laptop computer and will be incorporated into the original map once we get back to the ship.  This activity certainly showed that even with extraordinary equipment, it is important to have scientists who know their business and can recognize when the naked eye observations are just as important as those picked up by the equipment.

Question of the Day: What happens when this is all recorded?  Do you just stay here and start over?

Personal Log 

I really enjoyed being out on the Ambar.  This day is what one would call a hands-on activity.  I have great respect for the scientists’ knowledge and dedication.  It gets cold out there and yet they go out day after day to do their work.  Living on board ship is also an interesting life style.  The crew is literally cut off from their family and any social interactions outside of the ship for two weeks at a time and then they may well be in ports that are not near their homes for the two or three days before they go out again.  Life on the ship is good however–great food, polite people, a lounge with many, many movies (although I don’t see many viewing them,) email services, and other necessities to make living here comfortable.  I have even managed to stay warm most of the time and the constant noise does not seem to be affecting me except for the fact that I can’t hear conversations very well sometimes.

Mavis Peterson, June 24, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 24, 2005

Weather Data 

Lat.:55 o7.2 N
Long.: 160 07.4W
Visibility:  1
Wind direction: 123
True wind speed: .9 knts
Swell wave height: 1
Sea water temperature: 9.15 C
Dry bulb 19.8
Wet bulb 9.0
sea level pressure: 1011.5
Cloud cover and type: cumulus overcast

Science and Technology Log 

We were in the launches on the water shortly after 8:00 A.M.  We are again headed out to scan around the Shumigan Islands.  I am with a different crew today, and the officer in training is doing the computer work under the guidance of a trained tech.  It is pretty much the same procedure as yesterday.  We travel to the position we want to scan, set up equipment, line up and begin scanning.  A basic map of the area that shows what has been scanned is on the computer as well as in a folder as hard copy.  The coxswain has a monitor that shows the same map.  It is interesting to note that the two GPS units travel through an “adjusting machine” that calculates and takes in consideration the pitch roll and yaw of the boat and thus makes a more accurate location measurement.  Today did not go quite as smoothly as yesterday.  There were more swells and our “rows” of scanning were more like ribbon candy than straight strips, but the area got covered.  The crew doing the work seems very efficient and followed procedures exactly.  This is very important.  An example would be if the radar and the GPS units were left on at the same time, the GPS units would be burned out.  A heavy fog bank moved in so we left without finishing the polygon we were scanning.

While on the bridge after dinner everyone suddenly noticed that the ship was listing by several degrees. Department heads began popping onto the bridge, full of concern.  It was soon discovered that the list is due to refueling of small boats, not a concern as it evened out when all were fueled.

Personal Log 

The seasickness seems to be gone for good.  I spent the evening on the bridge planning for our scientist interviews and just generally taking in information abut the usage of all the equipment.  Although we are anchored, readings on location are still taken on an hourly basis, to ensure that we are not drifting.  I read through a notebook listing about everything an officer needs to be signed off on in order to become an Officer on Duty or in charge of the bridge. They need to know the where and why of almost every room and equipment, procedures and all types of information such as how much and how many of many of everything.  It looks like an incredible amount to learn.

Question of the day: Who uses this information?

Mavis Peterson, June 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 23, 2005

Scientific Log 

This is my first day out on the launch.  The computer on the launch stays there all the time and is loaded with the programs that are needed.  The sonar scanning devices, GPS and radar are also on the launch. The launch makes sweeping rows across the chosen area to be scanned overlapping each row slightly to prevent “holes” in the information gathered. The operators keep a close watch on the depth and if it gets too shallow, they leave that area for the smaller shore boats to gather information on.  I am learning so much, and trying to decide how I can share this information with my fourth graders.  Surely reading maps and following directions accurately will be lessons.

Personal Log 

The sea air has gotten to me in more ways than one.  Not only did I feel the wave action this afternoon, but upon returning, I am very cold so I am retiring early tonight after writing some notes, and checking out tomorrow’s schedule.

Mavis Peterson, June 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 21, 2005

Weather Data
Lat.: 56 30.3’N
Long.: 156 21.4’W
Visibility: 10+
wind direction: 110
true wind speed: 16 knots
Sea wave height: 1
swell wave height: 175 Dir (true) 2ft.
seawater temperature: 10.3
sea level temp.: dry bulb 10 wet bulb 9
sea level pressure: 1014.4
cloud cover and type: cumulus nimbus overcast

Science and Technology Log

I arose before seven and after breakfast spent most of the morning in the chart room learning about the sonar testing. The sensors are attached to the bottom of the ship and fan out to each side. As the information is picked up by the sweeping action of the sonar, it is then transmitted to the computers, which have several programs to break down the information. The other piece of equipment that was used today was the “fish” or sound velocity profiler. It is an expensive piece of equipment that has many sensors in it that collect information that is relayed back to the computers. The fish is pulled behind the ship on a cable and taken down, for a dive reading, about every fifteen minutes to within about twenty-five meters from the ocean floor. This is a relatively new way of doing this test. It used to be that the ship would have to stop and they would physically have to drop and retrieve the fish do the test, read the results and then go at it again. This was a much slower process and often took a couple hours. The newer equipment usually works; however today they had to pull the fish in by hand, cranking it.

I spent the afternoon on the bridge. We saw a whale and some porpoises, but not close by. I just observe proceedings.

Personal Log

All day today, we were clipping right along rocking and rolling with the sea. I can’t imagine how sick I would have been if I had not gotten a patch. At least half of the crew are lying down and are as sick as I am. I was sitting in a chair at a computer on the bridge and on one heave, it rolled the chair right towards the door–just a little thrill. I went to my bunk early, got up for a few minutes at dinnertime and then was back down until ten. It seemed a little quieter, but I could not keep the chair at the table where I was writing, and the words on the page were jumping around like crazy so I called it a night.

I am paranoid about these tests they keep saying we will be doing. I keep my jacket at the ready and have a cheat sheet of where I am to go in my pocket.

Question of the day: What force causes the “fish” to go down when they want it to?

 

Mavis Peterson, June 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mavis Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 21 – July 9, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: June 20, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Departure time was 1:00 and we actually left dock at 1:20.  A beautiful day with puffy cumulus clouds in a bright blue sky.  Getting ready to go was quite a process.  Everything was tested. I watched as they checked the readouts on all the monitors throughout the ship. Equipment, like the rudder, the water and fire doors, were carefully checked.  A different flag was put out. Garbage was taken off the ship and the department heads were called to the bridge to check in with the captain.  The gangplank onto the deck and the anchor were lifted and we were off.

I was given a tour of the ship and places for me to be during different drills were pointed out. I received a “bunk card” on my door that explained the three alarms, what the alarm sounds would be, and what to have with me for each.

Once we reached deeper water, the rock and roll of the ship increased.  We were scanning our path, not because it was a work order, but because we were there.  The path we were taking was on the way to our work area and had not been scanned so they were making good use of their position. They had scanned a path on their way to this area last week, so now they were lined up right beside their old path.

Personal Log 

I spent most of the afternoon and evening familiarizing myself with the ship.  There are actually seven levels. My room is on level C.  It is small and very noisy but efficient.  I retired early, as laying down seemed to make me feel better.