It’s deployment day! After months of preparation and days of practice, this buoy is finally going in the water!
The sheer volume of stuff that’s involved is mind boggling. There’s the buoy itself, which is nearly 3 meters (approximately 9 feet) tall; one meter of that sits below the surface. There’s 16 MicroCats (which are instruments measuring temperature, salinity and depth of the water) attached to over 350 meters of chain and wire. Then there’s another 1,800 meters of wire and 3,600 meters of two different types of line (rope) — heavy nylon and polypropylene. Then there’s 68 glass balls, for flotation. After that, there’s another 35 meters of chain and nylon line. Attached to that is an acoustic release, which does exactly what it sounds like it does — if it “hears” a special signal, it detaches from whatever is holding it down. In this case, that’s a 9,300 pound anchor. (The acoustic release and the glass balls make sure that all the instruments on the mooring line can be recovered.) All in all, nearly 6,000 meters — three and a half miles — of equipment and instrumentation is going over the stern of the Hi’ialakai. The length of the mooring line is actually longer (approximately one and a quarter times longer) than the ocean is deep where the buoy is being deployed. This is done so that if (or when) the buoy is pulled by strong winds or currents, there is extra “space” available to keep the buoy from getting pulled under water.
Take a look at the diagram of the WHOTS-14 buoy. It’s easy to assume that the everything goes into the water in the exact same order as is shown on the diagram — but the reality of deployment is actually very different.
First, the MicroCats that are attached to the first 30 meters of chain (6 of them) go over the side. Approximately the first five meters of chain stay on board, which is then is attached to the buoy. After that, the buoy is hooked up to the crane, and gently lifted off the deck, over the side, and into the water. Then, the remaining ten MicroCats are attached, one by one, to the 325 meters of wire and, one by one, lowered into the water. Then the additional 3,400 meters of wire and nylon line are slowly eased off the ship and into the ocean. After that, the glass balls (two-foot diameter spheres made of heavy glass and covered by bright yellow plastic “hats”) are attached and join the rest of the mooring line in the ocean. Finally, after hours of hard work, the end of the mooring line is attached to the anchor. Then, with a little help from the ship’s crane, the anchor slides off the stern of the ship, thunks into the water, and slowly starts making its way to the bottom.
4:18PM HAST: Splashdown! The anchor is dropped.
From the morning-of preparations to the anchor sliding off the Hi’ialakai’s stern, deploying the WHOTS buoy took 9 hours and 41 minutes.
Another item to file under Things You Never Think About: Velcro is awesome. Ships — all ships, even one the size of the Hi’ialakai — frequently move in unexpected, jarring ways. (If you’ve never been on a ship at sea, it’s a bit like walking through the “Fun House” at a carnival — one of the ones with the moving floors. You try to put your foot down, the floor drops a few inches underneath you, and you’re suddenly trying to walk on air.) For this reason, it’s important to keep everything as secured as possible. Rope and straps are good for tying down things that can stay in one place, but something like a laptop, which needs to be mobile? Velcro!
Did You Know?
Not all line is created equal. Aside from obvious differences in the size and color, different lines have different purposes. The heavy nylon line (which is white; see the picture in slideshow of the line being deployed) is actually able to stretch, which is another safety precaution, ensuring that the buoy will not be pulled under water. The light blue polypropylene line, called Colmega, floats. In the picture to the left, you can see a light blue line floating in the water, stretching off into the distance. It’s not floating because it’s attached to the ship — it’s floating all by itself!
Geographic Area: Northwest Hawaiian Island Chain, Just past Mokumanamana (Necker Island)
Date: July 20, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Science and Technology Log:
As promised in Blog Post #3, I mentioned that “Thing number four we deliberately throw overboard” would have a dedicated blog post because it was so involved. Well, grab some popcorn, because the time has arrived!
Thing number 4 we deliberately throw over the side of a ship does not get thrown overboard very often, but when it does, it causes much hubbub and hullaballoo on the ship. I had the unique opportunity to witness one of only ten ocean noise sensors that are deployed in US waters come aboard the ship and get redeployed. These sensors are found all over US waters – from Alaska to the Atlantic. One is located in the Catalina Marine Sanctuary, and still others are hanging out in the Gulf of Mexico, and we are going to be sailing right past one! To see more about the Ocean Noise Sensors, visit the HICEAS website “other projects” tab, or just click here. To see where the Ocean Noise Recorders are, click here.
The Ocean Noise Sensor system is a group of 10 microphones placed in the “SOFAR” channel all over US waters. Once deployed, they collect data for two years in order to track the level of ocean noise over time. It’s no secret that our oceans are getting louder. Shipping routes, oil and gas exploration, and even natural sources of noise like earthquakes all contribute to the underwater noise that our cetacean friends must chatter through. Imagine sitting at far ends of the table at a dinner party with a friend you have not caught up with in a while. While other guests chat away, you and the friend must raise your voices slightly to remain in contact. As the night progresses on, plates start clanging, glasses are clinking, servers are asking questions, and music is playing in the background. The frustration of trying to communicate over the din is tolerable, but not insurmountable. Now imagine the host turning on the Super Bowl at full volume for entertainment. Now the noise in the room is incorrigible, and you and your friend have lost all hope of even hearing a simple greeting, let alone have a conversation. In fact, you can hardly get anyone’s attention to get them to pass you the potatoes. This is similar to the noise levels in our world’s ocean. As time goes on, more noise is being added to the system. This could potentially interfere with multiple species and their communications abilities. Calling out to find a mate, forage for food, or simply find a group to associate with must now be done in the equivalent din of a ticker-tape parade, complete with bands, floats, and fire engines blaring their horns. This is what the Ocean Noise Sensor is hoping to get a handle on. By placing sensors in the ocean to passively collect ambient noise, we can answer two important questions: How have the noise levels changed over time? To what extent are these changes in noise levels impacting marine life?
Many smaller isolated studies have been done on ocean noise levels in the past, but a few years ago, scientists from Cornell partnered with NOAA and the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) and the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab to streamline this study in order to get a unified, global data source of ocean noise levels. The Pacific Marine Environmental Lab built a unified sound recording system for all groups involved in the study, and undertook the deployments of the hydrophones. They also took on the task of processing the data once it is recovered. The HICEAS team is in a timely and geographical position to assist in recovery of the data box and redeploying the hydrophone. This was how we spent the day.
The recovery and re-deployment of the buoy started just before dawn, and ended just before dinner.
Our standard effort of marine mammal observation was put on hold so that we could recover and re-deploy the hydrophone. It was an exciting day for a few reasons – one, it was definitely a novel way to spend the day. There was much to do on the part of the crew, and much to watch on the part of those who didn’t have the know-how to assist. (This was the category I fell in to.)
At dawn, an underwater acoustic command was sent to the depths to release a buoy held underwater attached to the hydrophone. While the hydrophone is only 1000m below the surface seated nice and squarely in the SOFAR channel, the entire system is anchored to the ocean floor at a depth of 4000m. Once the buoy was released, crew members stationed themselves around the ship on the Big Eyes and with binoculars to watch for the buoy to surface. It took approximately 45 minutes before the buoy was spotted just off our port side. The sighting award goes to CDR Stephanie Koes, our fearless CO. A crewmember pointed out the advancement in our technologies in the following way: “We can use GPS to find a buried hydrophone in the middle of the ocean…and then send a signal…down 4000m…to a buoy anchored to the ocean floor…cut the buoy loose remotely, and then actually have the buoy come up to the surface near enough to the ship where we can find it.” Pretty impressive if you think about it.
The buoy was tied to the line that is attached to the hydrophone, so once the buoy surfaced, “all” we had to do was send a fast rescue boat out to retrieve it, bring the buoy and line back to the ship, bring the crew safely back aboard the ship, hook the line up through a pulley overhead and back to a deck wench, pull the line through, take off the hydrophone, pull the rest of the line up, unspool the line on the wench to re-set the line, re-spool the winch, and then reverse the whole process.
Watching the crew work on this process was impressive at least, and a fully orchestrated symphony at best. There were many tyings of knots and transfers of lines, and all crew members worked like the well-seasoned deck crew that they are. Chief Bos’n Chris Kaanaana is no stranger to hauling in and maintaining buoys, so his deck crew were well prepared to take on this monumental task.
Much of the day went exactly according to plan. The buoy was safely retrieved, the hydrophone brought on board, the lines pulled in, re-spooled, and all sent back out again. But I am here to tell you that 4000m of line to haul in and pay back out takes. A Long. Time. We worked through a rainstorm spooling the line off the winch to reset it, through the glare of the tropical sun and the gentle and steadfast breeze of the trade winds. By dinner time, all was back in place, the buoy safely submerged deep in the ocean waters, waiting to be released again in another two years to repeat the process all over again. With any luck, the noise levels in the ocean will have improved. Many commercial vessels have committed to adopting “quiet ship” technology to assist in the reduction of noise levels. If this continues to improve, our cetacean friends just might be able to hear one another again at dinner.
So, I guess it’s pretty fair to say that once you’re a teacher, you’re always a teacher. I could not fully escape my August to May duties onboard, despite my best efforts. This week, I found myself on the bridge, doing a science experiment with the Wardroom (These are what all of the officers onboard as a group are called). How is this even happening, you ask? (Trust me, I asked myself the same thing when I was in the middle of it, running around to different “lab groups” just like in class.) Our CO, CDR Koes, is committed to ensuring that her crew is always learning on the ship.
If her staff do not know the answer to a question, she will guide them through the process of seeking out the correct answer so that all officers learn as much as they can when it comes to being underway – steering the ship, preparing for emergencies, and working with engineers, scientists, and crew. For example, I found out that while I was off “small-boating” near Pilot Whales, the Wardroom was busy working on maneuvering the ship in practice of man overboard scenarios. She is committed to ensuring that all of her staff knows all parts of this moving city, or at a minimum know how to find the answers to any questions they may have. It’s become clear just how much the crew and the entire ship have a deep respect and admiration for CDR Koes. I knew she was going to be great when we were at training and word got out that she would be the CO of this Leg on Sette and everyone had a range of positive emotions from elated to relieved to ecstatic.
As part of this training, she gives regular “quizzes” to her staff each day – many of them in good fun with questions for scientists, crew, engineers, and I. Some questions are nautical “things” that the Wardroom should know or are nice to know (for example, knowing the locations of Material Safety Data Sheets or calculating dew point temperatures), some questions are about the scientific work done onboard, while others are questions about personal lives of onboard members.
It has been a lot of fun watching the Wardroom and Crew seek out others and ask them where they live while showing them their “whale dance” to encourage sightings. It has exponentially increased the interactions between everyone onboard in a positive and productive way.
The other teaching element that CDR Koes has implemented is a daily lesson each day from Monday to Friday just after lunch. All NOAA Officers meet on the bridge, while one officer takes the lead to teach a quick, fifteen minute lesson on any topic of their choosing. It could be to refresh scientific knowledge, general ship operations, nautical concepts, or anything else that would be considered “good to know.”
This sharing of knowledge builds trust among the Wardroom because it honors each officer’s strong suits and reminds us that we all have something to contribute while onboard.
I started attending these lunchtime sessions and volunteered to take on a lesson. So, this past Tuesday, I rounded up some supplies and did what I know best – we all participated in the Cloud in a Bottle Lesson!
The Wardroom had fun (I think?) making bottle clouds, talking about the three conditions for cloud formation, and refreshing their memories on adiabatic heating and cooling. It was a little nerve wracking for me as a teacher because two of the officers are meteorologists by trade, but I think I passed the bar. (I hope I did!)
It was fun to slide back into the role of teacher, if only for a brief while, and served as a reminder that I’m on my way back to work in a few weeks! Thanks to the Wardroom for calling on me to dust up my teacher skills for the upcoming first weeks of school!
Facebook Asks, DeSchryver Answers
I polled all of my Facebook friends, fishing (ha ha, see what I did there?) for questions about the ship, and here are some of the questions and my answers!
Q: LC asks, “What has been your most exciting moment on the ship?”
It’s hard to pick just one, so I’ll tell you the times I was held at a little tear: a) Any sighting of a new species is a solid winner, especially the rare ones b) The first time I heard Sperm Whales on the acoustic detector c) The first time we took the small boat out for UAS operations….annnndddd d) The first time I was on Independent Observation and we had a sighting!
Q: JK asks, “What are your thoughts on the breakoff of Larsen C? And have there been any effects from the Alaskan quake and tsunami?”
We’re actually pretty isolated on board! Limited internet makes it hard to hear of all the current events. I had only briefly heard about Larsen C, and just that it broke, not anything else. I had no clue there was a quake and tsunami! But! I will tell a cool sort of related story. On Ford Island, right where Sette is docked, the parking lot is holding three pretty banged up boats. If you look closely, they all have Japanese markings on them. Turns out they washed up on Oahu after the Japan Tsunami. They tracked down the owners, and they came out to confirm those boats were theirs, but left them with NOAA as a donation. So? There’s tsunami debris on Oahu and I saw it.
Q: NG asks, “Any aha moments when it comes to being on the ocean? And anything to bring back to Earth Science class?”
So many aha moments, but one in particular that comes to mind is just how difficult it is to spot cetaceans and how talented the marine mammal observers are! They can quite literally spot animals from miles away! There are a lot of measures put in place to help the marine mammal observers, but at the end of the day, there are some species that are just tougher than nails to spot, or to spot and keep an eye on since their behaviors are all so different. And as far as anything to bring back to our class? Tons. I got a cool trick to make a range finder using a pencil. I think we should use it!
Q: MJB asks, “Have you had some peaceful moments to process and just take it all in?”
Yes. At night between the sonobuoy launches, I get two miles of transit time out on the back deck to just absorb the day and be thankful for the opportunities. The area of Hawai’i we are in right now is considered sacred ground, so it’s very powerful to just be here and be here.
Q: SC asks, “What souvenir are you bringing me?”
Well, we saw a glass fishing float, and we tried to catch it for you, but it got away.
Q: LC asks, “What’s the most disgusting ocean creature?”
Boy that’s a loaded question because I guarantee if I name a creature, someone out there studies it for a living. But! I will tell you the most delicious ocean creature. That would be Ono. In sashimi form. Also, there is a bird called a Great Frigate bird – it feeds via something called Klepto-parasitism, which is exactly how it sounds. It basically finds other birds, harasses them until they give up whatever they just caught or in some cases until it pukes, and then it steals their food. So, yeah. I’d say that’s pretty gross. But everyone’s gotta eat, right?
Q: KI asks, “Have you eaten all that ginger?”
I’m about two weeks in and I’m pretty sure I’ve eaten about a pound. I’m still working on it!
Q: HC asks, ”Have you seen or heard any species outside of their normal ocean territory?”
Sort of. Yesterday we saw Orca! They are tropical Orca, so they are found in this area, but they aren’t very common. The scientific team was thinking we’d maybe see one or two out of the entire seven legs of the trip, and we saw some yesterday! (I can’t say how many, and you’ll find out why in an upcoming post.) We have also seen a little bird that wasn’t really technically out of his territory, but the poor fella sure was a little far from home.
Q: JPK asks, “What kinds of data have you accumulated to use in a cross-curricular experience for math?”
We can do abundance estimates with a reasonably simplified equation. It’s pretty neat how we can take everything that we see from this study, and use those numbers to extrapolate how many of each species is estimated to be “out there.”
Q: AP asks, “What has surprised you about this trip?”
Many, many things, but I’ll mention a couple fun ones. The ship has an enormous movie collection – even of movies that aren’t out on DVD yet because they get them ahead of time! Also? The food on the ship is amazing. We’re halfway through the trip and the lettuce is still green. I have to find out the chef’s secret! And the desserts are to die for. It’s a wonder I haven’t put on twenty pounds. The crew does a lot of little things to celebrate and keep morale up, like birthday parties, and music at dinner, and shave ice once a week. Lots of people take turns barbecuing and cooking traditional foods and desserts special to them from home and they share with everyone. They are always in really high spirits and don’t let morale drop to begin with, so it’s always fun.
Q: TS asks, “What’s the most exciting thing you’ve done?”
I’ve done lots of exciting things, but the one thing that comes to mind is launching on the small boat to go take photos of the pilot whales. Such a cool experience, and I hope we get good enough weather to do it again while we’re out here! Everything about ship life is brand new to me, so I like to help out as much as I can. Any time someone says, “Will you help with this?” I get excited, because I know I’m about to learn something new and also lend a hand.
It is easy to get wrapped up in the day- to-day cruise activities that are involved in maintaining the buoy array and the ship. Lest we forget, I wanted to spend a little time in this log discussing the overall purpose that has led to the investment of all this technology, science, and financial resources.
This cruise (and many others that follow on a regularly scheduled basis) maintains the TAO buoy array. TAO stands for Tropical Atmosphere and Ocean. The buoy array is located at approximately 15 degree intervals from 95 degrees West Longitude (just west of the Galapagos Islands) across the Pacific to 135 degrees East Longitude (north of the Island of New Guinea). In addition, the buoys are placed north and south of the equator at 8 degrees, 5 degrees, 2 degrees with one buoy positioned on the equator itself.
These buoys measure a variety of ocean and atmosphere conditions: Air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, rainfall, and relative humidity. They also measure water temperature and conductivity. The buoys generally transmit their data hourly. Besides the huge amount of information that is collected over time that can be used to study atmospheric and oceanographic weather conditions, the TAO array also has a very specific goal – to collect data to increase our understanding the El Niño/La Niña cycle, otherwise known as the Southern Oscillation.
Most people have at least heard of the El Niño phenomenon but, other than knowing that it somehow affects weather patterns, many are ata loss when asked to actually explit. The El Niño is a cyclic weathphenomenon that affects a very large portion of the globe. In its simplest form it is a shifting of warm Pacific Ocean water from the western part of the basin (near New Guinea, Indonesia, and northern Australia) across the equatorial Pacific toward the South American Continent near Peru/Ecuador.
In normal climate years the Trade winds (the Trade winds are easterly winds) and ocean currents (specifically the Equatorial current – a west flowing current) work together to keep the warm equatorial waters in the western Pacific piled up near New Guinea & Indonesia). These warm waters produce huge amounts of evaporation pumping massive amounts of moisture into the atmosphere in this part of the globe. This moisture returns to the earth in the form of the monsoons and rainy seasons so typical for that part of the world.
During an El Niño cycle the Trade Winds and currents weaken allowing the warm western Pacific water to move east across the basin relocating the warm water nearer the South American continent. This rearrangement of ocean water – warm water to the east and colder water to the west – tends to suppress the rainy seasons and monsoons in the western Pacific and brings huge amounts of moisture and storms to the eastern Pacific. Hence, countries, such as New Guinea, India, Indonesia, and others in the region, which depend on the rain and moisture, are left dry and often experience significant drought conditions. These droughts place many people’s livelihoods and even their lives in danger due to starvation and economic loss.
On the other side of the ocean those countries in the eastern Pacific (from Peru north through California) will often have their coasts battered by large storms causing huge amounts of destruction and loss of life. In addition, in the interior they often experience heavy rains in areas that are normally mildly arid. This produces disastrous and lethal flash floods and mud slides. In those areas with little or no sanitation removal, poor or non-existent sewage treatment systems, in combination with compromised drinking water delivery systems can be followed by deadly outbreaks of typhoid and cholera and other life threatening diseases.
With these awful potential consequences, knowing when conditions for an El Niño cycle are in their early stages would be very helpful. The TAO array acts like an early warning system. During the Cold War the United States depended heavily on the DEW (Distant Early Warning) line in northern Canada, Alaska, and Greenland. This was a series of radar stations that looked north over the pole to identify a launch of nuclear missiles soon after they left the ground from the former Soviet Union. The idea being that it would give the U.S. as much time as possible to prepare for the strike and to prepare a response. In a similar way the TAO array is a distant early warning system that registers the changes in ocean temperature and current direction as the warm water of the El Niño moves east across the Pacific. This information gives the countries affected by an El Niño time to prepare for all the possible problems they might experience. The system is expensive to maintain but, much like hurricanes, if you know it is coming well ahead of time preparations can save millions or billions of dollars and thousands of lives.
Yesterday I spent some time with Tonya Watson (the SST) in the wet lab. She explained the operation of the Autosal and ran a few samples. This machine indirectly measures the salinity of sea water by actually measuring the conductivity of the sample. I hope to explain this in some detail in a future log. Later in the day one of the crew members, Frank Monge, caught a very large and brilliantly colored, Mahi mahi. We are hoping to see more marine life as we get closer to the Galapagos Islands. The water will be shallower and warmer and I hope to be able to spot some whales. The weather conditions have continued to remain cool, mostly in the 70’s, with mixed clouds, wind, and sunshine. I am grateful that the cooler than normal temperatures have been the rule for this cruise.
We have our last buoy of the 155 West line in the water and the anchor is set. Today began with a ride for Rick over the old buoy where he was responsible for removing an old loop of rope in order to put on the shackle and line that the tow line would be attached to.
You would think that cutting a three-eights nylon line would be pretty easy, and you would be right if that line wasn’t attached to a rocking, slime covered buoy floating in the middle of an ocean that is over 5000 meters deep.
It would also have helped if my knock-off Leatherman had a sharper blade.Anyway, Al and I went out the buoy on the RHIB and got a pretty good spray here and there as you can see from the water drops on some of the images.
Once we were on the buoy Al removed the ‘Bird” and handed to the support crew in the RHIB.If it weren’t for these men and women we (the scientists) would not be able to collect the data.This is science on the front lines and it takes a dedicated and well-trained crew to make the endeavor of science one that produces meaningful, valid, and important data.
Once the ‘Bird’ is off the buoy and the towline is attached it is time to go back to the KA to pick-up the towline so that the buoy can be recovered and the next phase of the process can begin, deployment of the new buoy that will replace this one.
During the recovery Art and Rick often work as a team spooling the nylon because it takes two people to re-spool the line in a way to prevent tangles, one person to provide the turning and another to be the ‘fair lead’.
The fair lead actually has the harder job because they have to keep constant eye on the line as it spools.With seven spools of nylon all over 500 meters and the 700 meters of Nilspin recovery is a team effort by everyone.
Like the recovery, the deployment is a team effort and many hands make the work easier for everyone.But at this point of the cruise Art and Rick can pretty much handle the nylon line individually, but work as a team to move the empty spools and reload the spool lift with full spools. Deployment of this buoy ended just about 4:30 PM with the anchor splashing and some deck clean up then it was out of the sun and into the air-conditioned comfort of the ship for some clean clothes and good food.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown July 11 – August 10, 2009
Mission: PIRATA (Prediction and Research Moored Array in the Atlantic) Geographical area of cruise: Tropical Atlantic Date: July 30, 2009
Weather Data from the Bridge
Outside Temperature 25.50oC
Relative Humidity 87%
Sea Surface Temperature 25.75oC
Barometric Pressure 1017.3 inches
Latitude 20 09.721 N Longitude 33 34.806 W
Science and Technology Log
On the 28th of July we did our 34th CTD and changed out our third buoy and started to steam west back towards the states. We have a break now from our 12-hour shifts and only have one more buoy to change out and only one more CTD to deploy. I wanted to write about a couple of things that I have noticed over the last couple weeks when sampling that I thought were noteworthy. The seawater we collect from 1500 feet down in the ocean, even though we are in the tropics, is still very cold. It is about 4 degrees C or 39 degrees F while the sea surface temperature is around 26 degrees C or 79 degrees F.
Another thing that is really cool is that when we are doing CTDs at night the lights from the ship attract squid and you can watch the squid chasing flying fish at the surface. The last thing that is strange, is that every once in a while even though we are hundreds of miles away from land, a butterfly or dragonfly darts around the ship. You just wonder where they have come from.Every night around 8 pm, there is meeting of all the scientists onboard. We usually get a weather briefing and then someone will give a seminar on the work they are doing. There are many links between the work that each scientist is doing on this ship and this is an important way to share ideas, get feedback and create new questions.
There is down time on the ship and I wrote about the movies earlier. We have a ping-pong table set up in the main lab where we play in our spare time. Since we are so far from any land, safety is very important on the ship. We have fire drills and abandon ship drills weekly. After the drill there is a briefing and the safety officer discusses some of the safety equipment the ship has and its use. Today we went out to the fantail and the officers demonstrated how to use flares and smoke signals.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown March 9 – 28, 2006
Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data Geographical Area: Bahamas, West Indies Date: March 20, 2006
Science and Technology Log
On Saturday, we deployed two buoys. A buoy is a floating object that sends science information to scientists. They can have numbers, colors, lights, or whistles on them. The buoys we sent off are a drifting buoy and an ARGO buoy.
A drifting buoy is the size of a basketball and sends its position in the ocean to a satellite where scientists can measure current speed by using its location and by tracking it around. Because it has a sock on it, it’s a good measure of current and it is not affected by the wind. The buoys can last a long time unless they are damaged or destroyed by a ship, run into land, or are stolen by a pirate. There are currently 1,468 drifting buoys worldwide and they cost more than $1500 each. Cabello, Searles and Key Biscayne Community School jointly adopted two of the buoys deployed. Students signed stickers that were attached to the buoy and sent out to sea. To track the buoy, here.
The second buoy that was deployed was an ARGO buoy. The ARGO is interesting because it acts like a little submarine. The ARGO is launched off the ship, floats on the surface, then sinks to certain depth, gathering information on temperature, pressure, salinity, latitude and longitude. The ARGO, acting like a submarine, stays at a certain depth for a while, gathering information, then fills its bladder and rises to the surface, collecting information on the way up. At the surface, the ARGO sends all the information to a satellite for the scientists to use in their labs. To picture a bladder, think of “Professor” from Sponge Bob. Professor fills up with air and floats (like the bladder filling), exhales his air and sinks (like the bladder emptying). This ARGO was special because it had a large sticker from the New Haven Unified School District. So New Haven is literally traveling all over the ocean! To track the ARGO buoy go here.
Interview with Lieutenant Commander, Priscilla Rodriguez, US Public Health Service
On the RON BROWN you will find the Medical Officer, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), Priscilla Rodriguez. Officer Rodriguez actually is a part of the United States Public Health Service that overlooks the public health system for the whole country and sets the standard for health care. LCDR Rodriguez is a Physician Assistant and her assignment onboard the RON BROWN will last for two years. The most common illness on board a ship is seasickness and LCDR Rodriguez is on the lookout for crew or scientists who are not showing up for meals or who look a little “green.” She explains that your brain and inner ear need to get used to the movement of the ship and once they do you’re okay. In the meantime you may feel nauseous or tired. LCDR Rodriguez has a lot of responsibility on board the ship. She’s responsible for the health care of everyone and if someone gets extremely ill, she has to advise the Captain on whether to go into shore, or get a Coast Guard helicopter to come out and pick him or her up, which is very expensive. LCDR Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and presently calls New York City her home where she has just made a cooking video. When she’s not working on the ship, she enjoys playing the guitar or flute, drawing and making videos. She’s currently developing “podcasts” for the Internet and has been interviewing subjects on the ship. In the future, she would like to return to work with AIDS patients in underdeveloped countries and do everything she can to help the world.
Assignment: Draw a picture of what the ARGO buoy does. (How it acts like a submarine). Label each movement – sinks, stays at the same level, and rises. Draw a picture of what you think the ARGO buoy looks like. (Hint: Long, thin, black tube).
Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt
It’s good to be writing logs again. I’ve been having amazing conversations with all the scientists onboard. They’ve been very generous with their time. A special thanks to Dr. Molly for our “up top” chats. Today the scientists from the United Kingdom are working on recovering a sub-surface mooring, so we’ve got time to work on logs, interviews and answer e-mail. Last night I saw squid in the moonlight: one was approximately 1.5 ft, and another was approximately 2.5 ft. They were chasing and eating flying fish! Also fish that look like little swordfish were jumping around. It was a virtual circus! Hello to everyone! Students, keep writing! Make it a good day!
Personal Log – Vince Rosato
New Haven Unified School District, Searles 4th graders and Cabello 5th graders got some press recently. Thanks to fellow teachers for the article and to the Argus newspaper and Educational Service Center Information Officer, Rick LaPlante, for the favorable text. We’ll have another chance to thank ANG for newspapers in education and for the many businesses that sponsor Book Bucks. I’m glad so many in the class are participating in this reading reward program. I also heard the bus is confirmed for our “Reading is Cool” Sharkie field trip to the Hewlett Packard HP Pavilion, home of the Sharks hockey team. It’s always good hearing from you so keep those emails coming and good luck with Book Bucks! In my spare time I’m getting pictures with Juliet around the ship and reading John Climatus’, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.
Rodrigo Castro and Carolina Cisternas are research technicians from the University of Concepcion in Concepcion, Chile. They joined the cruise at Panama City and have been taking ocean water samples every 60 nm. Their samples are run through 0.7 and 0.2 micron filters. They capture and freeze particulate organic mater by this process and take it back to the lab at the university. The samples are analyzed for the presence of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen. These samples are then used as biomarkers to help determine the circulation of ocean water. A second analysis will be going on to locate the gene associated with nitrogen-fixing organisms. This is new ground for the scientists at the university.
Upwellings are areas where deep ocean water comes to the surface. According to Rodrigo and Carolina there are four significant areas of upwelling along the Chilean coast. The two most northerly are found at 20 degrees south and 24 degrees south. These are active year round and are slow and steady with no significant seasonal fluctuation. Another at 30 degrees south is moderate in nature with some seasonal variation, being more active during the summer. The most southerly is at 36 degrees south and is strong September to April. However it mostly disappears the rest of the year. Upwelling zones are recognizable because of their cooler water temperature. They also have increased nutrients that are brought up from the deep and a higher amount of chlorophyll due to increased photosynthetic activity. Some fish species are found in greater abundance in these zones due to increased nutrients extending into more food availability.
The RONALD H. BROWN is under way. We are steaming in an easterly heading on the leg of the cruise that will take us to Arica, Chile. It is a bit of a challenge for me, as we are no longer headed into the direction of the swells; instead, we are crossing them at a 30-degree angle, which makes for more oscillations in the movement of the ship. My tummy is being challenged.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown September 25 – October 22, 2005
Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific Date: October 14, 2005
Weather Data from Bridge
Temperature: 19 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1016 mb
Relative Humidity: 70%
Clouds cover: 8/8, stratocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 120 degrees
Wind speed: 16kts.
Wave height: 3 – 4’
Swell wave height: 4 – 5’
Swell direction: 120 degrees
Seawater Temperature: 18.3 degrees C
Salinity: 35 parts per thousand
Ocean depth: 4364 meters
Science and Technology Log
A big day today! We managed to deploy the Stratus 5 buoy. It was basically the reverse of our retrieval. The buoy was tipped up 45 degrees and the top 35 meters of instruments were hooked together. Next the mooring was attached to the buoy and it was placed in the water with a crane. This phase was done off of the portside of the fantail. We held the wire that was attached to the buoy and let it swing out behind the ship. Then using a large winch we would play out more of the cable, stop, secure the line, and then attach the next instrument. Consider the fact that if we were to lose hold of the mooring we could lose the whole works into 4000 + meters of ocean water. It’s not like working on land where if you drop something, you say whoops and pick it up again. If that happens on the ship the thing you drop may well go over the side. Serious Whoops!
Once all of the instruments were attached we started paying out nylon and polypropylene line. This was accomplished by using an H-bit to run the line through. The line was in 4’ x 4’ x 4’ boxes and trailed out into the ocean as the ship moved forward at just over one knot. When we got to the end of the line it was time to attach the new acoustic releases so that this buoy can be recovered next year. Then it was time for the big splash. The mooring was attached to the anchor which was made up of three iron disks, twelve inches thick and three feet in diameter. The anchor’s weight is 9000 pounds. The anchor was sitting on a steel plate and the stern of the fantail. A crane picked up the forward edge of the plate and tipped the anchor into the ocean. The splash from the six-foot drop to the water went twenty feet in the air. The anchor started the trip to the bottom dragging all of the mooring and the buoy. The falling anchor pulled the buoy at about four knots towards the anchor location. Excited cheers went up on the fantail. The Stratus 5 buoy had been successfully deployed!
Instruments Deployed (top 450 meters)
Deployed on the mooring line beneath the buoy: MICRO CAT temperature, salinity SEA CAT temperature, salinity Brancker temperature, salinity VMCM direction, velocity of water flow NORTEK acoustic Doppler current profiler T-POD temperature logging device SONTEK acoustic Doppler current meter RDI ADCP acoustic Doppler current profiler (125 m) SDE 39 temperature logging device Acoustic release just above the anchor
On the buoy: (this information is transmitted 4 times a day) Atmospheric pressure, Air temperature, Wind speed and direction, Relative humidity, Precipitation, Long wave radiation, Short wave radiation, Sea surface temperature and salinity.
You may notice that many of the instruments on the mooring measure the same thing. This redundancy is intentional guaranteeing verifiable data. There are two complete meteorological systems on the buoy.
Response to Student Questions
Does the stratus layer extend to the land?
After questioning the senior scientists about this the answer is yes. We are at about 20 degrees south. Here there is a daily fluctuation in the cloud cover. It often dissipates during the afternoon as a result of warming by the sun. Apparently the coast of northern Chile often has a cloud layer that also dissipates during the day. This can be low-lying enough to be fog. As you travel a few miles inland and up in elevation you are no longer under the stratus layer.
Does the stratus layer affect El Nino?
Ocean and atmosphere constantly influence each other. I have to do more inquiry to give a solid answer to this question.
Note: There is some confusion about the labels being used for the buoy and the cruise. This is the sixth Stratus Project cruise which is deploying the fifth Stratus buoy. Hence, the Stratus 6 cruise is recovering the Straus 4 buoy and deploying the Stratus 5 buoy.
We are holding on station today as the data from the Stratus 4 buoy is downloaded and analyzed. I helped out on the fantail for a couple of hours today. We were rearranging the positions of the Stratus 4 and 5 buoys. These are large, heavy devices that can only be moved by crane and winches. The buoy waiting for deployment is now on the portside of the fantail, is strapped down, activated, and awaiting deployment. The buoy we retrieved yesterday is tucked in next to the starboard side crane. This doesn’t sound like a big thing, but each buoy is very heavy and the deck is moving up and down six feet and rocking side to side every few seconds. We go slowly and are very deliberate.
Jeff Lord is setting up for deployment of the Stratus 5 buoy and its array of instruments. The buoy will be launched, followed by the mooring and its attached instruments, and lastly the 9000-pound anchor will be deployed over the stern of the ship. Before this a Sea Beam survey of the ocean floor has to be accomplished to help Dr. Weller choose the site of the Straus 5 deployment. I am continuously amazed by the thorough planning that has been done for this venture.
I’m sitting on the foredeck of the BROWN as I write this entry. It’s once again a partly sunny day and I am sitting out of the wind enjoying the sunshine. I realize that I haven’t seen a jet contrail since we crossed the equator. Yesterday I did see a whale spout at about of a quarter mile out and there was a fishing boat about four miles away. Except for a few birds the view is of ocean and sky. We had an abandon-ship drill Tuesday and the captain announced that the nearest land is some Argentine islands over 400 miles away. We are out there.
The throbbing heart of the RONALD H. BROWN is the engine room and the associated systems. Last night Assistant Engineer Wayne Smith gave me a tour. I was impressed with the complexity and effectiveness of the systems.
The core of the power is six Caterpillar diesel engines. These function as electric generators for the ship’s systems. The three largest of these are dedicated to the propulsion of the ship. The ship is propelled and maneuvered by two aft thrusters and one bow thruster. The thrusters are propellers that have the ability to be rotated 360 degrees. Each thruster is driven by and independent Z-Drive that is actuated by an electric motor and shaft. Under normal sailing only the two aft thrusters are in use. The bow thruster is engaged when the ship is maneuvering into dock or holding a position. As I write, we are holding position 0.25 nautical miles from the Stratus buoy. By engaging the Dynamic Positioning System a location for the ship is established via GPS and a computer controls the direction and rpm of the thrusters. This allows the BROWN to hold a position without having to drop anchor. I was surprised to learn that this ship has no rudder—it is steered via the Z-Drive of the thrusters.
Since the BROWN is a research vessel it has on board many sophisticated electronic instruments. The current running through its wires is like our household current, about 115 volts. Because of the sensitive nature of some of the equipment there are outlets labeled “clean power”. This current runs through a secondary motor which ensures that there will be no power spikes that could damage electronic equipment.
Ventilation is very important and there are several air conditioning systems that control the temperature in most of the ship. Different areas have independent thermostats so the ship is quite comfortable. The science labs are generally kept quite cool. Freshwater is supplied by using heat from the engines to evaporate seawater. The condensed steam is run through bromine filters to ensure no bacteria in the water tanks. The water is extremely soft, having no salts in it. Wayne chuckled at the idea of people buying bottled water to drink on ship because the water provided is as pure as water gets.
The NOAA research vessel RONALD H. BROWN was launched in 1997. It is the largest ship in the fleet and provides a state of the art research platform. The versatility and capabilities of this ship and expertise of the crew allow up to 59 people to sail for extended periods of time and perform sophisticated oceanographic and atmospheric research. I feel privileged to be along on the Stratus 6 cruise.
Wow! I can see my shadow. This is cause for staying out on deck. We have been sailing under overcast skies since we crossed the equator. I’m sitting out on the bench on the 03 deck beneath the Bridge. There’s a breeze blowing from the southeast but I’m comfortable in a light jacket and shorts. It has been a surprise to be traveling in tropical waters with overcast skies and cool temperatures. It makes me realize that we get a lot of sunny days in Wyoming.
At 1415 today we had a meeting outlining the program for tomorrow. Jeff Lord from WHOI is coordinating the buoy recovery program. He is very organized and has gone through step by step how it will be done. It will be a very interesting, very busy day tomorrow. It is very important to the success of this cruise that we recover all of the instruments and buoy safely. At 0640 the acoustic release will be activated and the floats attached to the mooring will be released from the anchor. The depth here is 4400 m and it will take the floats about 40 minutes to reach the surface. This will be a major operation involving everyone on the ship.
After Dr. Lundquist and I have a successful radiosonde launch we return to the computer terminal and watch the measurement data come in. My favorite display is a color-coded graph showing temperature, dew point, and relative humidity graphed against the altitude of the radiosonde. The main area of study is taking place where we are in the eastern Pacific off the coast of northern Chile. In this area there is a large, semi-permanent layer of stratus clouds. The effects these clouds have on the ocean temperature, and vice versa, is one of the reasons for choosing this area to study.
As the balloon ascends from the ship the temperature cools at the dry adiabatic rate. The dew point goes down but not as rapidly. Usually at an elevation of about 600 meters the dew point and temperature intersect. On the same screen green line showing relative humidity hits 100% as we would expect. This marks the base of the cloud layer.
As the radiosonde ascends another 200 to 400 meters the temperature shoots way up, as much as 8 degrees C. This indicates the top on the cloud layer where the sun is shining brightly. As the balloon continues to ascend the temperature once again cools consistently at the dry adiabatic rate. It’s about negative forty degrees C at an altitude of 20 kilometers. In this part of the atmosphere the relative humidity approaches zero and the dew point stays well below the air temperature. This suggests the upper air is descending and is stable. The bottom 800 meters is referred to as a marine boundary layer.
Despite the constant cloud cover there is very little precipitation in this area. Temperatures at the ocean level are surprisingly cool as evidenced my most of the crew wearing long pants and jackets or sweatshirts. Atmospheric and oceanic data in this area are very sparse. One goal of the Stratus Project is to gather more information so we can better understand the interrelationships between ocean and atmosphere.
As I write this I am on my watch in the main science lab. I’m preparing to launch a Drifter in about 15 minutes and I will launch a weather balloon at 13:00. It’s really fun to throw things into the ocean and release balloons into the atmosphere and see where they go.
Our ETA at the Stratus mooring site is 17:30. We are approaching the end of southerly leg of our cruise. There are about six days of work scheduled at the buoy site. It should be interesting.
I’ve been working with the meteorological team from NOAA in Boulder, Colorado. I’ve been teamed with Dr. Jessica Lundquist to manage the 13:00 weather balloon launch. Balloons are launched four times a day at intervals of six hours. A balloon carries an instrument called a radiosonde to a height often exceeding 20 kilometers. Eventually the balloon ruptures and the instrument and spent balloon fall to earth.
When preparing a radiosonde we take the battery pack and add water to activate it. As the battery is soaking, the sonde is attached to the computer interface/radio receiver, and it is activated and calibrated. It is necessary to have real-time weather measurements to input into the sonde so it has a comparison to ensure accuracy. A radio transmitting frequency is selected then the sonde is detached from the interface and attached to the battery. While it is still in the lab, we make sure that data is being transmitted. If all of this goes correctly the radiosonde is set to launch.
We take the activated radiosonde out to the staging bay, which looks a bit like a garage. There are two overhead doors, a workbench, and bottles of helium. We inflate the balloon with helium to a diameter of about five feet. When it is inflated we close the balloon with a zip-tie, then attach the radiosonde by its hook, and close it with another zip-tie. We call the Bridge and let them know we are about to launch a balloon.
Now comes the tricky part, walking out on the fantail of the rolling ship carrying a large balloon in one hand and the radiosonde in the other. Today there 16-knot winds coming from the SE and a wind generated by the ship’s speed of an additional 10 knots from due south. To complicate matters further, the superstructure of the ship blocks the wind and creates erratic eddies. We check the wind direction and decide on which corner of the fantail will give us the cleanest launch. Walking aft, the balloon is buffeted by the wind. It pulls and pushes you in various directions while you try to maintain balance on the heaving deck. When you reach the railing, you hold your hands out and release the balloon and radiosonde. If it clears the A frame and the other equipment you stand and watch your balloon ascend until it enters the cloud layer and disappears. We call the Bridge and let them know the balloon is away.
Now we return to the Lab to check that our sonde is sending out data. Measurements of temperature, relative humidity, and atmospheric pressure are taken and sent back every two seconds. The GPS tracking device allows us to know wind speed, wind direction, altitude, and location of the radiosonde. The measurements of temperature and relative humidity allow the computer to calculate the dew point. Data streams in until the balloon reaches an elevation where the atmospheric pressure of about 30, the balloon fails and the radiosonde falls to earth. Tomorrow: More about radiosonde information.
Questions to Consider
-What is an eddy?
-What will happen to the volume of the balloon as it rises in the atmosphere?
-Why does atmospheric pressure decrease as elevation increases?
-What is the relative humidity when dew point and air temperature are the same?
-What is the adiabatic rate?
-What is a temperature inversion?
I am a Pollywog. Yes, that’s right. I’m one of those slimy little creatures with a spherical body and a tail. At least that’s what the Shellbacks tell us. A pollywog is a person who has never sailed across the equator and gone through the ceremony and initiation to move onward. Shellbacks are people who have been through these rites. I made the mistake of admitting that I don’t know what a Shellback is. I fear that admission will come back to haunt me. Initiation is approaching. I don’t know what I’ll have to do. I’ll keep you posted.
Evanston High School, your adopted Drifter is in the water!
Lara Hutto is a Research Associate II at Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. She and I deployed our Drifter Buoy off the port side stern of the fantail at 19:01 UTC (the time at the Prime Meridian) on October 6, 2005. Our Drifter serial number is 54410.
To: Heltzel’s Oceanography/Meteorology students: The NOAA decals you signed were placed on the dome of our drifter. All of your names and the name of Evanston High School are floating freely in the eastern Pacific off the west coast of Peru. You should be able to track it on the Drifter web page. Should anyone find it they will be able to identify who adopted Drifter 54410.
Update: the EHS drifter is streaming in data from the eastern Pacific. Check it out here. I can’t access this website from the ship but Kevin O’Brien of NOAA says that data is being sent by our adopted drifter. Check it out and let me know what you find.
Science and Technology Log
Drifters are a wonderful tool for gathering information about earth’s oceans. They have a spherical top which provides flotation and contains the electronics of this device. These include a temperature probe for measuring the surface seawater temperature and a GPS tracking signal. This device is battery powered and is regularly sending out information on seawater temperature and location.
When deployed a fabric tube (sock) extends downward to a depth of between 10 and 15 meters. This is attached to the floating sphere by cable. The sock reduces the effect of winds and surface waves on the movement of the Drifters. The data is gathered via satellite and plotted. This helps us figure out movements of the ocean waters at the surface.
Compared to many of the instruments that are attached to the Stratus mooring, Drifters are simple. They are easily deployed because the unit activates itself once it hits the water. A magnet is attached to the dome and it holds the switch in an off position. Once the magnet is removed, the switch is activated and The Drifter is on the job. The magnet is attached with water-soluble glue so once in the water the glue dissolves, the magnet falls off, and the Drifter is activated. The sock is also rolled up and held in position with water-soluble tape. Once in the water this also dissolves and the sock extends downward. The ingenious design of Drifters makes them very easy to deploy. These are sent out with any type of ship so Drifters have been placed in many of the world’s oceans. Life expectancy on a Drifter is one to two years.
Questions to Consider
How might the information gathered from Drifters be useful?
What are some ways that the oceans and the atmosphere affect one another?
My quarters are in the low part of the ship. I have no natural light to tell whether it is night or day. As I lay in my bunk I can hear the sounds of the ship pushing downward through the waves. Sometimes it sounds like gurgling water, sometimes like something solid is striking the hull, other times like the sound of rapids on a river. When I’m nearly asleep I imagine I am at home in Wyoming and the sounds I hear are of a raging blizzard outside my window. I go on deck of the RONALD H. BROWN and look at the tropical eastern Pacific waters. Toto, this definitely isn’t Wyoming!
The science team from the Upper Ocean Processes Group is busy preparing instruments to be deployed on the mooring of the Stratus 5 Buoy. Each instrument must be physically examined to ensure that it is properly mounted in its rack. Then these instruments are awakened to make sure that they are working properly. They are hooked up to a computer so that their operation and calibration can be tested.
Today I had a look at a mechanical current meter. These were designed by Senior Scientist, Dr. Bob Weller as part of his Doctoral work at Scripps Institute. The instrument is housed in an aluminum cylinder that is 2 feet long and 7” in diameter. The canister is water tight utilizing two interior rubber seals. Extending from one end is a 3’ long PCV mast that has two propeller mounts on it. At each mount are two sets of propellers on either side of the hub. The two mounts are set at 90 degrees to one another. When water flows through the propellers revolutions are measure and the data is stored in a chip inside the canister. The number of revolutions per given unit of time gives the velocity of the current. Having two sets of propellers set at 90-degree angles allows the direction of the current to be determined.
There is also a second type of current meter that uses measurements of sound waves to determine current velocity. Several of these will be deployed on the mooring along with the mechanical current meters. Using two types of instruments allows the team to compare results. The mechanical units have been used for about 20 years and they are known to be reliable and accurate. Placing the acoustic velocity meter nearby will help determine the accuracy of these devices.
Questions to Consider
Why are all the instrument cases cylindrical in shape?
Why is a “sacrificial zinc anode” placed on each end of the mechanical current meter?
How could the direction of a current be determined using two sets of propellers at 90- degree angles to one another?
Notice that the seawater temperature declined from 28.7 to 18.8 degrees C between yesterday and today. We crossed the equator last night so this must have something to do with it. I went to Doctor Weller and asked for an explanation:
At this latitude and at this season we are still under the influence of the southeast Trade Winds. Wave motion generates and moves at 90 degrees to the wind direction. Now the Coriolis Effect comes into play causing waves to deflect to the left in the southern hemisphere. That means that the prevailing wave direction is from northeast to southwest south of the equator.
As the winds move into the northern hemisphere wave movement is still at 90 degrees. However, now the Coriolis Effect causes waves to deflect to the right, from southwest to northeast. So this time of year the wave motion in the two hemispheres is 180 degrees to one another. As the surface waters move apart, deeper ocean water comes to the surface to fill the area evacuated by the surface wave motion. This water is coming from greater depths and is colder. This accounts for the lowering of the seawater temperature. Dr. Weller suggests that this action brings nutrients to the surface which should enhance feeding opportunities for marine life.
Vertical and horizontal motion of ocean water causes constant exchanges of heat energy. These exchanges are between water of different temperatures and also the atmosphere. Currents, waves, upwelling, evaporation, and winds are just some of the factors that influence heat exchanges on planet earth. These processes are critical to maintaining global climates. Dr. Weller’s Upper Ocean Processes Group seeks to better understand these relationships.
Ship Crew Activity
I went to the Bridge this morning to gather weather and sea condition data. The Officer of the Deck was LTJG Silas Ayers and the Watch Stander was Ordinary Seaman Phil Pokorski. The Bridge Officer always has a crewmember with them whose job it is to be lookout to scan the ocean and report what can be seen. This could be another ship, debris, or whales. The crewmember takes a sighting and determines the distance and bearing. Avoiding collision is an important job for the Officer of the Deck.
While there, the three of us engaged in a discussion of nautical measurements and their equivalencies. LTJG Ayers went to the Chart Room and extracted a reference book. Here are the values we found:
Nautical Mile = 6,076.11548556 feet, 1852 meters, 1.150779448 statute miles
League = 3 statute miles, 4830 meters
(As in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea)
Being a Jules Verne fan, I’ve often wondered how far 20,000 leagues really is. Now I know that it is 60,000 statute miles. But nowhere is the ocean nearly that deep. Phil then pointed out that Verne was referring to horizontal distance traveled while submerged in the Nautilus. Finally the title of his tale makes sense to me.
Starting last evening I was hearing a squeaking sound. At first I thought it was my deck shoes squeaking on the tile deck floors. Then I notice that even when I wasn’t moving the sound persisted. I was beginning to wonder if being at sea and wearing a motion sickness patch wasn’t causing me to be hallucinatory. I looked and looked for the source of the sound. I finally asked Dr. Weller if he could hear it and fortunately he said yes. It is the sound generated by the Sea Beam, the ocean floor profiler. I was relieved to know that if wasn’t just me hearing this sound.
Today Senior Scientist Bob Weller and Senior Engineer Assistant Paul Bouchard showed me the acoustic releases. These are devices that are placed on the tether that holds the Stratus Buoy to its anchor on the ocean floor. At the deployment location the ocean depth is 4425 meters (14,518 feet). The acoustic release will be placed 30 meters from the anchor. Attached to the tether will be 35 instruments placed at a particular distance from the buoy. Their attachment distance will determine the depth at which they are located and will allow scientists to gather data about conditions at these particular depths of the water column.
The job of the acoustic release is to detach the buoy and tether from the anchor. When we arrive at the currently deployed buoy a digitized acoustic signal will be sent through the water. The acoustic release will “turn loose” of the anchor and allow our team to retrieve the buoy and the instruments attached to the tether. This is important because some of the instruments contain a year’s worth of data that must be downloaded and analyzed. Another reason is the cost of the buoy itself, all of the instruments, and the cable and line that have held it to the anchor. These things are worth about $500,000 dollars and would be difficult to replace. All of the instruments can be refurbished and used again.
When we arrive at the currently deployed Stratus Buoy the acoustic release that was put in place last year will be activated. This should allow us to retrieve the system and replace it with the one we are carrying on board the ship. The acoustic releases we are carrying will be placed in the tether holding the new buoy and will not be activated until next year when that system is recovered. Acoustic releases are also used on drilling platforms and other objects tethered to the sea floor. These machines allow the objects tethered to be freed without the need to dive into the water and cut the line. These are an ingenious piece of technology that improves the safety and convenience of oceanographic research teams.
Ship Crew Activity
I had the opportunity to watch Boatswain Group Leader Cornell Hill making a line splice. He took the end of the line around a metal eye that is built with a groove on the outside. The line comes back on itself and Cornell braids the strands into the main part of the line. He has a knife with a spike on it to help lift the strands so he can braid it together. What results is a closed loop with metal lining at the end of the line. It’s very strong and is used as an attachment point. I have long wondered how this was done so it was very interesting to see the skillful way Cornell accomplished this feat.
Acoustic signal – a particular blend of frequency and pattern of sounds that sends a message through the water to instruct a device to perform its operation. Example is the signal sent to activate the acoustic release.
Acoustic Release – a device that releases a line when given the proper sound signal. Used in the tether system of the Stratus buoy.
Bosun – crew member in charge of deck operations
Line – rope Line Splice – Braiding stands of a line back into itself.
Tether – attachment to a fixed object. This may be a combination of cable, chain, line, or wire. Example is the attachment of the Stratus Buoy so that it doesn’t drift away.
Today I worked my first watch from 08:00 to 12:00. I was responsible for being present in the main science lab and monitoring our position and being aware of where the first deployment of instruments will occur. Since we are not yet allowed to deploy any instruments, it was a fairly slow day. We did receive training from Sergio Pezoa on how to calibrate and activate radiosondes. These are the instrument packages that send back information on its position, temperature, atmospheric pressure, and relative humidity. These instrument packages carry a water-activated battery and are attached to a helium balloon. They are released into the atmosphere at prescribed times and send back by radio the information they gather to the receiving unit. This continues until the balloon fails and the instrument package tumbles to earth. Radiosondes are the basis for most of the information about conditions in the upper troposphere. I’ll be working on the team that launches the weather balloons carrying these instrument packages.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown September 25 – October 22, 2005
Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment Geographical Area: Panama Canal Date: October 2, 2005
Science and Technology Log
We’ve been in port at Panama City. The whole idea of sailing from the Atlantic basin across part of the continent to the Pacific basin seems rather amazing. Seeing the locks in operation was fascinating. A tug helped us get into the correct position then four cables were attached, two forward and two aft. These cables were each fed out from a winch on railroad switch engines which were on tracks on either side of the lock.
The engines moved with us and kept tension on the cables so our ship stayed in the center of the lock. The locks are 1000 feet long so our 274’ vessel could fit in with another ship. Once we were in, the lower gate closed and water started to flow in from the base of the sidewalls of the lock. I was surprised at how rapidly the lock filled with water. The water largely flows in by gravity so little has to be pumped. Once we finished going through the three locks we were lifted to the level of the natural lake that acts as a critical part of the passage. This lake, which is filled by the abundant rainfall, provides water to fill the locks and has a navigable channel dredged across. On the western side is the infamous cut. Here the canal looks like it is a river going through a canyon although it has no current and the canyon is man-made. The ship descended through locks on the Pacific side and we docked at Panama City.
When I awoke on Saturday the deck crew and engineers were preparing to take on fuel. This is a ticklish business that requires a lot of attention. It’s the same principle as pulling into the local gas station except the hoses are 8” in diameter and get bolted together then bolted to the ship. We took on 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel which we will need for the next leg of our voyage to Arica, Chile. The RON BROWN can hold about 120,000 gallons of fuel. I was pleased that this wasn’t billed to my account.
This morning I went out for a walk around the compound where our ship is docked. This is a military compound with nicely kept grounds but around the edges the indigenous vegetation is showing itself. There were several pathways up into the trees where I got a sense of what the forest in Panama is like. “Green” and “busy” are two operative descriptors. In areas along the edge there were several beautiful plants in bloom. I also got to watch leaf-cutter ants carrying there booty back to their nests. These guys travel back and forth along the same path from the tree they are carving leaves from to their residence. It always reminds me of a safari through the jungle. I also saw an Agouti in an opening. I had only seen photos of this large rodent and I was excited to see one in the field. It was in the 80’s and very humid so I returned to the ship very damp.
We are preparing to depart on the next leg of the cruise. We expect to pull away about 17:30 after the Pilot comes on board. Twelve more members of the scientific team arrived yesterday so we now have our full complement. I have assigned my first “watch” tomorrow from 08:00 to 12:00. We will be trained on deployment of drifters and ARGOS buoys this evening. I also will be helping the meteorological team by launching weather balloons. We’re going to begin the scientific research tomorrow. Wow!
Things to pursue: Design of the Panama Canal, History of the Panama Canal, and Plants and animals of Panama
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana April 29 – May 10, 2005
Mission: Oceanographic Survey Geographical Area: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos Date: May 4, 2005
Plan of the Day
0400: 1.5N CTD
0830: 2N Recovery and deploy with CTD, AOML and ARGO
2215: 2.5N CTD
Latitude: 1 degree N
Longitude: 95 degrees W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 153 degrees
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Sea water temperature: 27.9 degrees C
Barometric pressure: 1013.2
Cloud cover: 5/8 cumulus, altocumulus
Science and Technology Log
Last night I ended up falling into bed, exhausted, around midnight. Jim and I spent almost an hour having a super fun conversation about river running in Idaho and the Grand Canyon—I had no idea that he and I were both guides on the main fork of the Salmon River in Idaho! It was a wonderful talk, and I hope to have the opportunity to chat more together.
It’s another buoy day; today we will be recovering a damaged buoy and deploying a new one in its place. Each TAO buoy is moored to the bottom of the ocean using Nilspin, which is steel cable surrounded by a protective plastic shield. Old railroad wheels are used as anchors for each buoy in the array. The Nilspin cable is also equipped with sensors at various depths; these sensors transmit data from the ocean to the surface of the buoy. Remember, these buoys constantly collect data on wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, barometric pressure, sea surface and subsurface temperature, salinity, water pressure and ocean currents. The data is gathered and transmitted via NOAA satellites, and is used by scientists all over the world who are studying the relationship between the Pacific Ocean and climatic changes.
Buoy recovery is a fairly labor intensive process that involves lassoing the floating toroid, craning it aboard, spooling in all of its cable, and cleaning the entire apparatus. Being submerged for 6 months at a time, the buoys acquire quite a collection of barnacles! Before a buoy can be recovered the anchor needs to be dropped; a sensing apparatus on its underside is responsible for detecting the “drop anchor” signal transmitted by the ship. In today’s case, the recovered buoy will be stored on deck until it is cleaned, painted, and outfitted with new instrumentation; it will then be standing by, ready to replace another buoy on the array if necessary. There was some excitement today during operations when the anchor release signal was not acknowledged by the buoy—the ship’s winch was very unhappy about having to haul up the additional 2.5 tons of anchor weight!
Deploying a buoy involves all of the same steps as recovery, but in the reverse order. First, one end of the spooled cable is attached to the bottom of the buoy’s 2.5m diameter base. The buoy is then lowered into the water and the cable is unspoooled. Finally, the anchor is dropped. The entire buoy lifting and lowering process is done with the large cranes and winches that the KA is equipped with.
All hands involved in the buoy ops functioned together like a well oiled machine. There is no doubt that everyone on board is familiar with their duties and responsibilities, and all know what needs to be done and precisely when it needs to happen in order for the procedure to be successfully executed. It is definitely impressive. Again today, all crew members were more than happy to include me in the excitement, and all were very patient with this rookie sea-goer! Thank you, everyone!
The weather here at the equator is much less humid than I expected. In fact, I find it quite pleasant; maybe because there is always a sea breeze blowing. The inside of the ship sometimes feels like a refrigerator, especially the computer and science labs which are kept cool to maintain the machines.
Teams are made and times are set; let the tournaments begin! For the remainder of the cruise we will be competing against each other in scrabble, cribbage, darts, poker, and a card game called Sequence. My first challenge is tonight at 6:30—Fred and I play cribbage. Personally, I can’t wait to see the dart competition as we rock and roll our way to Mexico!
Lat: 8°S Long: 105°W Seas: 4-7 ft Visibility: unrestricted Weather: mostly cloudy with isolated rainshowers Sea Surface Temp: Winds: E 10-15 knots Air Temp: 87-74°F
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Clem cooked up quite the corned beef and cabbage feast today. Hope all of you had fun too. We are presently transiting from the 110°W line to the 95°W line, so there are no scientific experiments going on now. Rather, there is a lot of preparation going on by the scientists for the work once we get to 95°W. Let me sum up for you what was done on the 110°W line.
Between Amy, Nuria and I (mostly Amy), 27 CTD’s were performed, 5 of them at almost the depth of the ocean (we stop 200m above the floor). 4 buoys were recovered and 4 new buoys were deployed. 2 buoys were visited and found to be fine. 1 buoy was visited and needed repairs, which were provided. The scientists saw the signatures of El Niño: warmer than normal sea surface temperatures by 1 degree, and a rainfall pattern that has shifted southward and south of the equator.
While the scientists are prepping for future work, the crew was getting their regular work done. And, in the further interest of safety (always #1 out here), we had a man overboard drill. We all mustered in our respective locations and watched out the window as a crew of four rescuers went out in the RHIB to retrieve the unfortunate soul adrift (a stuffed evacuation suit!). After bringing him/her aboard, they promptly took him/her to the Medical room where s/he was treated and released. All of this practice is great for honing the skills if they’re ever necessary. Let’s hope they never are.
Question of the Day:
When was the first NOAA buoy deployed in the Pacific Ocean?
Answer of the Day:
I will wait until I get emails again after the weekend. Keep writing!
Date: Tuesday, March 12, 2002 Lat: .5°S Long: 110°W Seas: 2-4 ft. Visibility: unrestricted Weather: partly to mostly cloudy Sea Surface Temp: 77-82°F Winds: N/NE 5 knots Air Temp: 88-76°F
As it turns out, the ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler) was rigged up to deploy when I went outside this morning. The scientists had determined a new method of having it enter the water so there would be even less likelihood of anything going wrong. And they did a great job, because it was a very easy deployment. Mission accomplished – there’s an ADCP successfully collecting data on the equatorial currents at 110°W for the next year.
There was even more excitement to come for me, however. I had the privilege of being the first Teacher at Sea to ever have a buoy dedicated to her school. At 1130 today, Cdr. Tisch, Chief Scientist McPhaden and I each signed a large NOAA sticker on which we had written “Emory Elementary School, San Diego CA.” The gentlemen placed it on the plastic covering of the instrumentation and when it was deployed at the equator 110°W, that sticker actually kept its face to us until we could no longer read it. What’s truly amazing is that very buoy was the very first buoy that NOAA ever deployed in 1979. Our school is very honored.
The deployment of the Emory buoy took quite a while today because of the many fairings that the crew had to put on the wire line that goes down 250m below the buoy. Tomorrow is also a busy day on board. We are doing several CTD casts (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth), and we will be going by the buoy at 2°S to check on it, but we’re not recovering it.
Question of the Day:
What is a fairing and what does it do?
Answers of the Days:
Due to the weekend, there are several questions to catch up on. Here we go:
From Friday: No one answered this one correctly, so I’m going to give it to you. GMT is Greenwich Mean Time. It is 7 hours ahead of us here in Mountain Time and it is where all time is based because it is the 0 degree line of longitude. In nautical letters, zero is Zulu, hence, Zulu time. So, if it’s 9pm here in Mountain time, in GMT it is 4am.
From Saturday:Ditto on no answer for this one (come on you guys!!). TAO stands for Tropical Atmosphere Ocean.
From Sunday: Karen R. in San Diego knows that MBARI stands for Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. And Vanessa P.(again!) in San Diego knows that pelagic means of the open ocean. And Brian R. in San Diego knows that chlorophyll is the green matter found in certain cells of plants, algae and some bacteria and it’s important because it changes light energy into chemical energy.