Staci DeSchryver: A Brief Lesson on All the Things We Deliberately Throw Over the Side of the Ship, July 12, 2017

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Staci DeSchryver

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

July 6 – August 2, 2017

 

Mission:  HICEAS Cetacean Study

Geographic Area:  Hilo Coast, Hawaii

Date:  July 12, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Location:  22 deg 38.0 min N, 159 deg 33.9 min W

Cloudy with rain squalls all around

Visibility: 10 nmi

Wind: E @ 23 kts

Pressure: 1019.1mb

Waves: 2-3 ft

Swell:  60 degrees at 3-5 ft

Temp: 27 degrees

Wet Bulb Temp: 24 degrees

Dewpoint: 26 degrees

Relative Humidity:  96%

 

Science and Technology Log

Today, we will be exploring all of the equipment we deliberately toss over the stern of the ship.  There are a number of different audio recorders that the HICEAS and other teams use to detect various species while underway.  Chief scientist Erin Oleson gives a great perspective when she says that, “We pass through this particular area for this study only one time.  Just because we may not see or hear an animal, it certainly doesn’t mean it’s not there, or that it won’t come by this area at a later time.”  In order to compensate for the temporal restrictiveness of the ship being in one spot at one time, the team will periodically launch buoys over the side to continue the listening process for us.  Some buoys are designed to last a few hours, some report the information real-time back to the ship, some are anchored to the ocean floor, some drift around, and all serve different needs for the scientific team.

Thing we deliberately throw off the ship #1:  Sonobuoys

Since arriving on the ship, I have been recruited to “Team Sonobuoy” by the acoustics team for deployments!  It is my job to program and launch two sonobuoys on a set schedule created by the scientific team.   Sonobuoys are designed to pick up low-frequency sounds from 0 – 2 KHz, most often made by baleen whales.  The sonobuoy will send information back to the ship in real-time.  Once launched over the side, the sonobuoy will drift in the ocean, listening for these low frequency noises.  They are a temporary acoustic tool – lasting anywhere from 30 mins to 8 hours of time.  Most of the buoys are set to record for 8 full hours.  After the pre-set recording time is up, the float on the buoy pops, and the buoy is no longer active.  It is my job to launch two sonobuoys, and then monitor the signal coming back to the ship via VHF until we are too far away to detect the frequency coming back to us.  This usually happens between 2 and 3 miles after launch.   The recordings are sent onshore for processing.  Fun fact: sonobuoys were originally developed by the Navy to listen for enemy submarines!  The scientists thought they would be a handy tool for baleen whales, and picked up the technology.  We have deployed sonobuoys almost every evening of the cruise.

Thing we deliberately throw off the ship #2:  DASBRs

DASBRs, or Digital Acoustic Spar Buoy Recorders, are floating recorders launched at certain waypoints in the ocean.  The word “spar” simply means that the buoy floats vertically in the water.  There are two types of DASBRs, one records from 0 – 128 KHz, and one goes all the way from 0 – 144 KHz.  Now, these particular buoys get launched, but they don’t get anchored.

DeSchryver_connecting buoy to DASBR

Shannon and Jen connect the buoy to the DASBR before deployment

Inside the DASBR is a transmitter that shows the location of the buoy so that the scientific team can recover them at a later time.

DeSchryver_Eric waits DASBR

Erik waits to deploy the DASBR at the proper GPS location.

So, in effect, this is a buoy we deliberately throw off the ship only to bring it back on after a predetermined amount of time.  These recorders do not transmit back to the ship.  They store all of the data on the  DASBR, which is why recovery of the DASBRs is so important.  A DASBR that does not get recovered keeps all of its secrets as it floats along in the ocean.  We can track DASBRs real time, and they follow interesting patterns as they float freely in the ocean – some track in a given direction along with the current, while others corkscrew around in the same area.  So far, we have deployed 4 DASBRs in the first 8 days of the cruise.

Things we deliberately throw off the ship #3:  HARPS

HARPS, or High Frequency Acoustic Recording Packages, are the third type of microphone deployed off the ship.  HARPS record all sounds between 0 and 100 KHz. They last far longer than both sonobuoys and DASBRS in terms of time out on the water. They are limited not by data storage, but by battery power.  HARPS are deployed at one location and are anchored to the ocean floor.  Small yellow floats rise to the surface to alert ships and other traffic to their presence.  They are a little easier to find when it comes to recovery, since they have a GPS known location and are secured to the ocean floor, but they are a little more difficult to wrangle on to the back deck of the ship when recovered and deployed, since there is an anchor associated with them.

DeSchryver_HARP

The HARP in the Wet Lab undergoing repairs before launch.

On this cruise we have both recovered and deployed HARP systems.  The HARPS also store information within  the HARP, so recovery is important to the scientific team because the data does not get transmitted in real time back to any computers.

Things we deliberately throw off the ship #4:  Ocean Noise Sensors

There are data recorders that record the level of noise in the ocean over time.  We are currently on our way to pick one of these recorders up, complete some maintenance on it, and re-deploy it.  This will be a full day commitment for the scientific team and the crew, so I’m going to keep you guessing on this one until we actually complete this part of the operation.  We have many hands working together both on the ship and between organizations to make the ocean noise-monitoring program effective and cohesive, so this section of “Things we deliberately throw off the ship” will get its own blog post in the future as we complete the haul in, maintenance, and re-deployment.  Stay tuned.

 

Personal Log

Team.  You’ll never guess what I did.  I.  Drove. The Ship.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I drove the ship, and – AND – I didn’t hit anything while I did it!  What’s better is that I didn’t tip anyone out of their chairs while I made turns, either!  This is cause for much celebration and rejoicing among scientists and crew alike.  The Commanding Officer, CDR  Stephanie Koes invited me, “Spaz the TAS” up to the bridge for a little steering lesson two days ago, in which I happily obliged.  ENS Fredrick gave me a little mini-lesson on the onboard radar systems, which were picking up rain just off our starboard side.

I also learned of the existence of the many GPS positioning systems and navigation systems onboard.  The NOAA Marine and Aviation Operations, or OMAO, is not lost on system redundancies.  From what I can surmise, there are two of everything on the bridge in order to ensure the NOAA OMAO’s number one priority – safety. Everything on the bridge has a backup, or in many instances, a preferential option for each officer responsible for the bridge at any given time.  Some systems are fancy and new, while others maintain tradition on the bridge.  For example, a bell will still chime every half hour to remind the watch stander to record weather data on the bridge and a navigational fix on a paper chart.  ENS Fredrick says that the bell is an older maritime system, but is very handy when things get busy on the bridge –  the bell ringing is a perfect audio cue for him to stop what he’s doing and get to the logbook to record the weather.

Turning a giant ship sounds difficult, but in reality, it’s really difficult.  The actual act of turning doesn’t take much – a simple flip of a switch to take the ship off what I termed “cruise control” and a turn of the wheel (which by the way looks exactly like a smaller version of the ship wheels you see in all of the fabulous movies – I’m looking at you, Goonies) and an eye on the bearing angle (the compass direction in which the ship is headed).  But here’s the real issue – this moving city technically has no brakes.   So as the ship begins to turn, the driver has to pull the rudder back in the opposite direction before the bearing angle is reached, otherwise the bearing angle gets overshot.  If you turn the wheel too far one way or the other too quickly, the ship responds by  “leaning into” the turn at a steep angle.

DeSchryver_driving ship

This is me not running in to things while steering the ship with ENS Fredrick!

This sounds like it might be fun until the chef downstairs rings the bridge and chews the driver out for making the cheesecake fall off the galley countertop.  Then the driver must take the heat for ruining the cheesecake for everyone else on the ship waiting quite impatiently to eat it.  Thankfully, I tipped no cheesecakes.  That would make for a long month onboard being “that guy who turned the ship too hard and ruined dessert for everyone.”  I’m pretty sure had I not had the direction of ENS Fredrick as to when and how far to turn the rudder, I’d be in the dessert doghouse.

Another fabulous part of turning the ship is that I got to use the radio to tell the flying bridge (and anyone else who was listening) that I had actually turned the ship and it was correctly on course.  Luckily I had been listening to the radio communication for a few days and put on my best radio voice to make said announcements.  I think my performance was middling to above average at least, and fully qualified to speak on the radio without sounding too unfortunate at best.  However, there was one element of driving the ship that made me terrified enough to realize that I probably am not quite ready to hack the job – everything else that is going on up on the bridge while you are keeping the ship on-course.

Watch standers are notoriously good at keeping data.  They record every move the ship makes.  If the mammal and bird team go off effort due to weather or too high of a Beaufort state, the bridge records it.  They also record when they go back on effort. They log every turn and adjustment the ship makes.  They log every time we deploy a CTD or any kind of buoy.  I watched the watch stander on the bridge take a phone call, make a turn, log the turn, put the mammal team off-effort, put the mammal team back on-effort, take a request on the radio and record weather data all in a span of about two minutes.  It seemed like everything was happening all at once, and he managed it all like it was just another day in the office.  For him, it was.

To be a member of the NOAA OMAO means that you must be willing to learn, willing to make mistakes, willing to follow orders, willing to be flexible, and willing to be one heck of a multi-tasker.  I, for one, went quickly cross-eyed at all of the information processing that must happen up on the bridge during an officer’s shift. Thankfully, I didn’t go cross-eyed while I was trying to turn the ship.  That would have been bad, especially for cheesecakes.  I’m thinking that if I play my cards right, I can enlist as a “backup ship driver” for future shifts on Oscar Elton Sette.  I figure you never know when you might need someone fully unqualified to steer a giant moving city in a general direction for any given amount of time.  But I think I can do it if I do it like the NOAA Corps – taking everything one turn at a time.

Cetacean and Fish Species Seen:

Risso’s Dolphins

Striped Dolphins

Melon-Headed Whales

Blainsville Beaked Whales

Sperm Whale

False Killer Whales

Kogia – unidentified (These are either pygmy Sperm Whales or Dwarf Sperm Whales)

Flying Fish

Wahoo or Ono (Ono in Hawaiian means “tasty” – the name was confirmed as I enjoyed a few pieces of Ono sashimi last night at dinner)

 

Seabirds spotted as of July 14:

White Necked Petrel

Juan Fernandez Petrel

Hawaiian Petrel

Black-Winged Petrel

Cook’s Petrel

Pycroft’s Petrel

Bulwer’s Petrel

Wedge-Tailed Shearwater

Christmas Shearwater

Newell’s Shearwater

Band-rumped Storm Petrel

Red-Tailed Tropic Bird

White-Tailed Tropic Bird

Masked Booby

Brown Booby

DeSchryver_brown footed booby

A juvenile Red-Footed Booby takes a two day rest on Sette‘s Mast.

A juvenile Red-Footed Booby who has taken up residence on the mast of the ship for two full days and pretends to fly from the mast – highly entertaining.

 

Red-Footed Booby

Great Frigatebird

Brown Noddy

Sooty Tern

Grey-Backed Tern

White Tern

Ruddy Turnstone

Sanderling

Japanese Quail

 

 

Mary Cook: Day 11 at Sea, March 29, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
43.5°F
Pressure: 1028 millibars
Speed: 5.3 knots
Location: N 58°52.089’, W 136°05.272’

Science and Sea Stories Log

This afternoon, as science work continues all around, I took a short walk up to the ship’s bridge and chatted with Captain Mike and First Mate Scotty. They gave me a bit of history of the ship.

Pic of Ship Showing Bridge

R/V Norseman II

 

 

The R/V Norseman II is privately owned and based out of Seattle.

In 2007 it was converted from an Alaskan king crab boat into a scientific research vessel, especially equipped for Arctic conditions. Oceanography and marine mammal research have been the focus of the voyages, which usually occur between April and November. This is the first time they’ve had work in Glacier Bay. Scotty ranks Glacier Bay as one of his top five most beautiful places to see along the Alaskan coast!

The ship’s bridge is where they pilot the ship. It has windows all around for the best view possible.

 

Ships Bridge

The ship’s bridge is white with LOTS of windows!

The Captain has a big comfy chair that sits up tall and allows him to have a good command of the ship. He can see the radar and bathymetry monitors, the navigational chart and has good access to the ship’s phone.

On this cruise, Captain Mike works the 7-7 night shift because the ROV deployment off the back of the ship is a delicate and precise operation. The ship’s wheel and a giant compass are also on the Bridge. The wheel is wooden and old-fashioned looking but it really works and can be used to steer the ship in an emergency.

Mary at the Helm

Mary at the helm!

During our conversation, I asked Captain and Scotty to share an interesting sea story. At first they didn’t think they had anything to say. I think everyone has a story. So eventually they began to reminisce.

So the following are some sea stories that various ones on the ship were willing to share with me.

Captain Mike’s Sea Story

 

Captain at the Helm

Captain Mike

Captain Mike’s story occurred many years ago when he captained his 2nd fishing vessel.

The Captain began his story by saying, “Never make the mistake of letting the ship’s owner tell you where you are going to go and how to operate the vessel.”

We departed Kodiak, Alaska headed for Unimak Pass. The forecast was not good. I wanted to pull in to Sand Point and wait it out. Because he wanted to start fishing, the owner said, “It’ll be fine to keep on going.”

When we got to Sanak Island it was blowing a steady 80 knots with heavy freezing spray. The boat was getting heavier and heavier with ice building up on it. I couldn’t see out of the windows. There was ice on the inside of the windows about ½ inch thick. We went from Sanak Island to West Anchor Cove. It took me 12 hours to go only 8 miles.

The scanner on the radar broke so it was just going in circles. We spent the whole night trying to get to safety. I wanted to go up in a little cluster of crab boats. The owner, on the other hand, wanted to go up in the bay. But that’s where the williwaws were blowing. (A williwaw is a downdraft from the mountains— a sudden blast of wind descending from snow and ice fields to the sea.) Ten inches of ice built up all over the boat. I could barely steer the boat. We were all very glad to make it to the anchorage. It took the crew five days to beat off all the ice from the boat. I have a very healthy respect for ice. It puts the fear of God in you. When we finally made it to our fishing spot, the fishing was great!

Mate Scotty’s Sea Story

Mate Scotty

Mate Scotty

We were in the Arctic doing a walrus study with the US Fish and Wildlife. There was a thick fog and we were slowly navigating through the ice. The walrus were very skittish and we were wondering why. As we rounded a corner, suddenly there appeared a big polar bear! I heard the Inupiat interpreter yell, “Nanuk!” A polar bear!

(Inupiat interpreters work with us because of their vast knowledge of the ice and the animals.) Nanuk means polar bear in the Inupiat language.

Now we knew why the walrus were acting so nervous.

The bear crawled up on the ice and shook himself off. He jumped from one piece of sea ice to another, then back into the water.

To be able to see an animal in its natural habitat was really something!

Scientist/Diver Amanda’s Sea Story

Amanda and Mary in ships bow

Mary and Amanda on the ship’s bow

Amanda’s story is set in the Southern Ocean near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Amanda and two other researchers were returning to station from their fieldwork under the sea ice. They were riding in a Piston Bully, which is a specially designed vehicle on tracks for gripping the terrain on snowy, icy conditions. The visibility was terrible with the wind blowing the snow all around. Even though the station was less than four football fields away, they couldn’t see it. Amanda was sitting in the back of the vehicle watching for the guiding flags placed every 100 feet leading to the station. But she saw none. In that situation, protocol is to stop and wait out the storm. The driver kept driving even though he couldn’t see where he was going. Suddenly, the backend of the Piston Bully dropped into a huge crack in the ice! The doors in the back were wedged shut! Amanda automatically went for the emergency roof hatch. She couldn’t get it open! Something heavy had been stowed on top of it. The others had escaped but she was trapped! Everyone was fearful that the ice crack would open up and swallow the Piston Bully with Amanda inside.

In a frantic adrenalin surge, Amanda kicked the hatch with all her might! The heavy equipment flew off as the hatch opened. Thankfully, Amanda crawled out to safety. The group waited out the blizzard for the next six hours in a nearby fishing hut.

Pison Bully fallen into ice crack in Antarctica

The Piston Bully fallen into a crack in Antarctica. Photo courtesy Amanda Kelley.

Personal Log

I really am enjoying the great sea stories of the people assembled on board this ship! They are such adventuresome characters doing things I’ve only read about or watched in movies or documentaries. From living at the bottom of the ocean in Hydrolab, diving in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica, riding out the storm, fending off aggressive sea lions, working in the Alvin submersible, to exploring and making discoveries of the unknown—all are so interesting and awe-inspiring! I hope you enjoy their sea stories too!

Stay tuned for more tomorrow…

Mary Cook, December 18, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 18, 2004

Location: Latitude 22°16.32’S, Longitude 86°10.94’W
Time: 8:30 am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.46
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.81
Relative Humidity (percent) 69.46
Air Pressure (millibars) 1016.99
Wind Direction (degrees) 123.54
Wind Speed (knots) 15.73
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.20
Sunrise 07:57
Sunset 21:27 (9:27 pm)

Question of the Day

What does a psychrometer measure?

Positive Quote of the Day

For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Jesus Christ

Science and Technology Log

Today Diane and I journeyed up to the bridge struggling against the strong winds and the lurching of the ship. We interviewed Ensign Silas Ayers and “Pirate” Jim Melton. Silas gave us instruction on ship safety and navigation. He said the two most important things in navigation are: don’t hit anything and don’t run aground. Silas showed us how they plot the ship’s course on a map/chart and all the navigational instrumentation. The RONALD H. BROWN has radar that ranges up to 96 miles but it is set for 24 miles at this time. The radar is used to detect other ships that might be in our path. He also showed us the autopilot computer and controls. They can set the coordinates and the ship will drive itself!!! Of course someone has to stay on the bridge at all times, because as everyone knows computers have glitches that could cause a malfunction. That could be a disaster. Something that I find fascinating is that this ship can hover in one place! It’s officially called dynamic auto positioning. They set all the thrusters at a specific setting and the ship stays in one place. He then explained the ship’s lights. The ship has a red light on the port side and a green light on the starboard side. These lights reveal our ship’s location to other ships and enable them to ascertain our heading by watching the movement of our lights.

There’s another series of light signals that communicate the ship’s condition. For example, when we hover to do a CTD cast, the ship displays a set of red/white/red lights that tell other ships we are unable to make quick maneuvers. There’s also a set of lights that means man overboard. Another cool thing on the bridge was the spinning window. Yep. I said spinning window. It wasn’t spinning today but it can spin. (I hope they weren’t pulling my leg.) The purpose of the spinning window is to reduce ice buildup on the glass.

“ Pirate” Jim Melton shared with us the lookout duties. He keeps a watch that scans the horizon constantly. Jim uses an alidade. An alidade is a telescopic instrument that has a special swiveling balance that can compensate when the ship rolls, pitches, or yaws.

I looked through the alidade and saw a line across my field of vision. Jim said that they use that line as a reference point and they can determine the size of the ocean swells. Everyone working on the bridge must also report the complete weather data to NOAA every hour.

Before we finished, I sat in the captain’s chair and scanned the horizon for whales and other ships at sea!

Late this afternoon, Diane and I continued working on the children’s book. Bruce Cowden, the illustrator, is producing artwork faster than we’re writing the story! So we’re feverishly trying to catch up. It’s fun writing with Diane. She has a bright mind and she has a genuine excitement for atmospheric and oceanic science.

Tonight at “6:00 Science on the Fantail”, we interviewed meteorologist Dan Wolfe of the Environmental Technologies Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado and Frank Bradley physicist/ meteorologist of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization. They have been studying clouds, precipitation and humidity, as well as launching radiosondes (weather balloons) 4-6 times a day. Dan explained how the radiosondes work. The instrument package records temperature, pressure, and humidity as the helium-filled balloon ascends into the sky. The radiosondes have a GPS antenna that transmits its location and another transmitter that communicates the data being collected back to the computer in the lab. All of this information is compiled to help develop a “picture” of the atmosphere in this region which has never been thoroughly studied. This information can then be used in making models for more accurate weather prediction.

Frank Bradley shared with us his work which has been in collaboration with Dr. Bob Weller and Dr. Chris Fairall for the past 20 years. Frank showed us the somewhat “old fashioned” Assman psychrometer that he uses to take the wet bulb and dry bulb temperature readings several times a day. A psychrometer’s temperature readings can be used to determine relative humidity. Frank says that he uses this low-tech instrument because nothing can go wrong. This psychrometer’s readings are then used as a validation of the high tech instruments on board. Frank said that he has studied air-sea interaction, the interface of the ocean and the atmosphere, for many years and considers it a very important area for developing better models to predict the weather.

Personal Log

Wow! I really liked the bridge! It is cool. I don’t know why they wouldn’t let me drive the ship. I mean, come on, we’re out in the middle of the biggest ocean on Earth. What could I run into? And there’s no ground in sight. Actually, there’s nothing in sight. So I’d be satisfying the two most important rules of ship navigation and safety: don’t hit anything and don’t run aground. It seems though, that I remember something about needing a license to drive. I’m not sure.

While on the bridge, I saw that our planned course will take us right by the San Felix islands. It’ll be the first land I’ve seen since December 5! I wonder what that will feel like?

As we near the end of the cruise and it seems almost all the work is done, everyone is reading guidebooks about Valparaiso and planning some excursions. Even though I’m not ready to get off the ship, I am feeling a little excited about seeing a new place. I just love to go to new places and I’ve heard that Valparaiso is one of Chile’s most beautiful cities. Diane and I are deciding what to do during our two days there. One day we want to see the city and another day we want to drive toward the Andes Mountains and get glimpse of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in all of the Americas!

Yeah! Another adventure awaits!

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Kirk Beckendorf, July 10, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
Date:
July 10, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude- 42 26.72 N
Longitude- 70 01.99 W
Air Temperature 16.5 C
Air Pressure 1013 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface- Northeast

Daily Log

How can you become an officer on a NOAA ship?

The RONALD H. BROWN is run by a crew of 24. The stewards make sure we are well fed, the engineers keep the ship’s generators running, the deck hands manage the deck equipment, the survey tech runs the science monitoring equipment and the officers run the ship. The BROWN is fairly new– it was launched in 1996. Specifically built for ocean going research, it can work in the deep ocean and in shallower water along the coast. It is well suited to be used to study either the ocean or the atmosphere. About 9 months out of the year it can be found out on the ocean doing research. After our NEAQS research cruise ends in August, the BROWN and its crew will still be out at sea doing other research until next March. That is a long time away from home for the crew.

To get a job as an officer on one of NOAA’s ships, a person needs to have at least a Bachelors degree with specific requirements in math and science. There are physical fitness requirements as well. Once accepted a person must then attend a special mariner’s training school. Of course once you become an officer on a ship there is still lots of on the job training.

Today Lt. Liz Jones gave me a tour of the bridge. The ship does not have a propeller like many ships and it does not have a big wheel to steer the ship like you see in the movies. Instead of a propeller it has three thrusters. Each is kind of like a funnel turned sideways where the water goes in the big end and gets forced out the little end pushing the ship in the opposite direction. The three thrusters can be rotated individually and in a complete circle to push the ship in any direction. Even in an ocean current it can stay in one spot by using the thrusters. They can also be loud. The bow thruster is next to my stateroom. Sometimes it keeps me awake when it is turned on an off during the night. Instead of the big wheel, there are a couple of ways to maneuver the ship. On the bridge are three levers, one for each thruster. In some situations when you don’t want to worry about three different levers there is a joy stick that can be used to control the ship.

Lt. Jones said one of the main jobs a person has when on the bridge is to constantly be aware of the surroundings. Looking for other ships, keeping an eye on the weather and watching the charts to know the water depth are all extremely important. The BROWN can run on autopilot to make sure it maintains its course or position even if winds, waves or currents are pushing it in another direction. Even though the bridge is loaded with state of the art electronic equipment like GPS, radars, autopilot and depth finders the crew on watch still uses paper charts and binoculars so that they are not dependant on the electronics.

Questions of the Day

What is the NOAA Corps?

Which side of the ship is starboard and which side is port?

Which end of the ship is the bow and which is aft?

Leyf Peirce, July 8, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Leyf Peirce
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 6 – 15, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 8, 2004

Time: 09:00
Latitude: N 55°41.71
Longitude: W 158°03.81
Visibility: < 1 foot
Wind direction: 230
Wind speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 0 – 1 feet
Swell wave height: 0 – 2 feet
Sea water temperature: 10.0 °C
Sea level pressure: 1021.3 mb
Air temperature: 10.0 °C
Cloud cover: fog

Science and Technology Log

As I am typing my journal entry, I learn there are several good pictures on the network server of the RAINIER and its crew. Here is just one that I found:

Peirce 7-8-04 Rainier

NOAA Ship RAINIER underway. Credit: NOAA.

From this picture, I can see that the aft most launch ship has been launched for survey, for there are 3 launch boats on either side of the ship. I talked further with the crew today about interesting characteristics of this ship, including a “field trip” with Lt. Kevin Slover to inspect the hulls of the launch boats to see the echo sounding devices. I learned that there are actually 3 different types of these devices: one with low resolution for very deep water, one for a little higher resolution of deep water, and one with high resolution for shallower water. These devices cost up to $25,000! I was able to get pictures of the three types; however I am not able to download them onto the computer yet. Lt. Slover also showed me more of the Caris program, the most recent computer program used to collect and analyze the data. I say most recent used, because these programs are constantly being changed and updated to be more accurate, user-friendlier, and display better graphics. One of the most interesting features of this program is not only its accuracy, but also the ability to look at the computer created images of the ocean floor from any angle. One of the images pulled up as an example showed a shipwreck off of the coast of Seward in about 38 meters of water. The details of this sunken ship were almost crystal clear! Of course, this is after the data has been corrected and cleaned. I hope to work more with this program as we start the launches tomorrow and Saturday.

I also spent some time on the bridge again today. There, I learned a few interesting trivia facts about this ship:

  • The RAINIER was built in 1968 along with 2 other identical ships, the MT. MITCHELL and the FAIRWEATHER, all specifically for NOAA; these three were commissioned in 1969
  • There are 2 main engines aboard this ship, both have 1200 Horsepower and they are the same type of diesel engines as those used in locomotives
  • To figure out the cloud height, one can apply the equation: (wet bulb temp – dry bulb temp)*126.3; there was some dispute on how accurate this is, but for today it works since the wet bulb temperature = dry bulb temperature, so the cloud cover, according to this equation, is at 0 feet which is true since we are in a cloud today with all of this fog
  • The boat was originally built to support 4 launch boats and 2 life rafts, however it was recently modified to have 6 launch boats on it; to counteract this weight up top, more ballast had to be added to the bottom

A launch boat also left today at 08:00 to conduct further hydrographic research, and the RAINIER maintains her course, “mowing the lawn” in a section of uncharted waters between Kodiak and the Shumagin Islands. Once this area is completed, we will head to the Shumagin Islands to anchor and send more launch boats throughout the next week before we return to Kodiak. This is such an adventure!

Personal Log

The foghorn blows every 2 minutes on this ship, and it acts as a great wake up call. This morning, the horn reminds me that we are sailing in a sea of uncharted and now seemingly invisible territory. I feel like an explorer thrown into the time of Captain Cook, half expecting to see a pirate ship emerge from the eerie blanket that surrounds us. However, the multitude of technology aboard this ship flaunts the modern times in which we live and, in doing so, destroys any hope of true exploration of the unknown. Still an explorer at heart, I also still find adventure in what we are doing. We are still conducting hydro research aboard the RAINIER, “mowing the lawn” across uncharted territory, so we are only moving at about 7 knots. A launch boat was also sent out today to investigate near by waters. As I sit here responding to emails and learning even more about how this ship works, I am anxious to see the data that is collected now be processed.

Question for the Day:

In talking with P.S. Shyla Allen and Lt. Kevin Slover, we discussed the rewards of this job—how does this work help society? Both agreed that one of the most rewarding, but somewhat scary, aspects of this job is being able to accurately chart and re-chart high traffic waters. They both said that there are often calls from local fisherman demanding more detailed and more accurate charts. P.S. Allen informed me that there is a group of retired U.S. Coast Guard members that will conduct their own charting research in order to expedite the charting process. While helpful, this is not always the most accurate information. However, I did begin thinking about ways to include local fisherman in the research; to ensure the data that they collect is more accurate. My question for the day is more of an engineering design problem and proposed solution defined:

Problem: Local fishermen travel the coastal waters along Alaska to make a living. However, these waters are poorly charted, if charted at all. As of now, fishermen use a “Hummingbird” device to measure the depth of water where they travel, but there is no electronic device that can record this data accurately, correct this data for margins of error, and combine this data to produce an accurate nautical chart aboard these fishing vessels. While boats such as the RAINIER have this capability, expanding the number of vessels capable of collecting and analyzing such data would expedite the nautical chart updating process.

Proposed Solution: Design, test, and implement a device that abides by the following parameters: not very expensive, accurate, maintains the same abilities as the multibeam echo sounding devices aboard the RAINIER, has the capability of communicating with the computers aboard the RAINIER to share information collected, and can be mounted on the fishing vessels in such a way that it will not alter steering or speed.

I asked Lt. Slover if there is much government funding for such engineering projects, and he assured me there is—most of the U.S.’s imported goods arrive by ship, so more accurate and up to date nautical charts are a large priority.

Sena Norton, July 7, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sena Norton
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 6 – 15, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 7, 2004

Location: In transit to Shumagin Is. Via Shelikof Strait
Latitude: 57 43.2 N
Longitude: 154 58.4 W
Visibility: 10+
Wind Direction: 280 degrees
Wind Speed: 18 kt
Sea wave height: 2-4 ft
Swell wave height: 2-4 ft at 210 degrees
Seawater temperature: 10.6 C
Sea level pressure: 1020.1 mb
Cloud cover: PC 2/8
Weather: 12.2 C, sunny with moon visible straight off bow

Science and Technology Log

I learned about the NOAA Nautical Charting Program today. A nautical chart shows the marine environment in a visual format for navigation purposes primarily. Any mariner needs to have an ability to use fixed points to plot a course and know/avoid any underwater or other hazards along the way. Most charts show hazards, natural and dredged channels, water depth and other features that are needed for safe navigation. The National Ocean Services marine Chart Division is in charge of 1,000s of charts. Most mariners use these charts along with the U.S. Coast Pilot when ever they are out. When changes are charted a new chart is made. From the time the NOAA Ship RAINIER makes their readings it takes between 3-5 years to be produced in chart format and readily made available. New charts are asked to be made for uncharted, poorly charted or changed areas. The three hydrographic ships that NOAA maintains do on average 50 charting runs a season for updates. However, with the current backlog of changes only 200-300 items are updated a year. The cycle of a update goes as follows: first chart users relay needs, second the Hydrographic Surveys Division prioritizes the resources and produces survey instructions, third, a NOAA field unit travels to the location and conducts the hydro survey, fourthly, the data is examined at a on shore branch and prepared for application on new chart and finally the Marine Chart Division is complied and printed. NOAA is not the only team member on this mission; other important organizations provide data for new charts. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provide dredge and channels depths, U.S. Coast Guard maintains navigational aids, GPS beacons and other communication sources, while the Photogrammetry unit of NOAA complies aerial photos for shoreline and landmark additions.

The bridge is an important part of the overall ship function. The ship is driven from this location, the progress made is plotted and recorded and hourly logs are kept with various location and condition data. I take my condition and location directly from the ships log when I write these logs. Today there were a few ships on the radar and the officers wanted to make visual contact with them. I got to keep a lookout for the one off the port/south side of the ship with binoculars. The helm is where the ship is driven from and is kept on course with direction relation to the nautical chart and heading. Small adjustments have to be made from time to time to keep the correct bearing due to changed in sea swell and wind direction. The bridge is always manned 24 hours a day because of the importance of what is done there. We are making about 13 knots today with a friendly wind and hope to be anchored in the Shumagin Is. by tomorrow. We will commence the ships hydro at 0300 tomorrow morning to begin the surveying of the area.

Question of the Day:

How far is a fathom? 6 feet
How many people are on board? 74 crew/officers 5 visitors / 79 total

Day Activities:

  • Interviewed Chief Yeoman Paul and discussed his role/responsibilities on the ship. He in charge of bills, keeping track of expenses, ordering fuel and stores, personnel changes and promotions, a liaison between crew and command and manages expenses overall.
  • Visited the bridge and interviewed various officers and crew about bridge processes and equipment.
  • Wrote down some possible classroom curriculum options.
  • Discussed curriculum with fellow TAS, read some NOAA research and PR.
  • Downloaded some important pictures for use in curriculum/reports from ships computer network.
Personal Log
The night was a little rough with the swell height and wind direction and speed. They call my room the anti-gravity chamber and every once in awhile I could tell why. Today the rocking and rolling is much better and at times I think that I have my sea legs back. It is still unique to walk around on a ship that is bobbing; you get a different feeling when the deck is not where your foot thought it should be. I have put much thought into what I can turn this experience into as far as curriculum goes and my fellow TAS and I have been bouncing some ideas off of each other. There is much to say about the value of sharing this experience with a colleague as well as having the chance to discuss in general with that same colleague. I think that there is a professional connection being made thanks to the NOAA Teacher At Sea program! The science behind the survey process with help and that is a main goal to learn about, however there is something more to this experience that I haven’t put my finger on yet…give it some time…something that the sea is very well trained at allowing you to have.

For now,
S.