Brandy Hill: Chat with Chief Engineer and My First Tuna Catch, June 28, 2018


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 – July 6, 2018


Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 28, 2018


Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 28° 50.7’ N

Longitude: 093° 34.4’ W

Visibility: 10+ nm

Sky Condition: 4/8

Wind: 12 kts


Sea Water: 29.6° C

Air: 29.3° C



Science and Technology Log

This afternoon I spent an hour with Chief Marine Engineer, Thom Cleary. As promised, he gave me a tour of the Engine Room. Thom arrived on the Thomas Jefferson in 2011 and has worked not only on maintaining operations, but greatly improving them. When asked about his favorite ship mechanism, he responded with one that is not his favorite but of which he is most proud. The Thomas Jefferson, along with most other ships, typically used to rid greywater and sewage by offloading into the ocean. The EPA states that ships must be at least one nautical mile from land or people in the water and three nautical miles from aquaculture (2018). With hydrographic survey operations taking place in “no discharge” areas (close to shore), this could complicate and/or slow down the Thomas Jefferson’s progress.

Realizing the inefficiency and in an effort to improve, Thom investigated other options. It was decided that a fuel storage tank would be converted to hold more wastewater. After a long wait period, the new method was installed. Within the first season 38,000 gallons of sewage was stored and discharged to a shore treatment facility. Today, the tanks have gone almost two months without release into the Gulf of Mexico. This improvement has allowed hydrographic operations to continue without interruption, conserves fuel, and increases efficiency.

Renovations to the Thomas Jefferson did not stop there. Originally constructed in 1991, the ship has room for many other improvements. Thom and team advocated for all natural lubricants (rather than petroleum), switched all light fixtures to LEDs, and adjusted the ballast system. In 2016 the roughly 122,000 gallon ballast system changed from using sea to municipal water. This now allows the ship to move from multiple coastal waters without concern for carrying invasive species in the ballast tanks. In addition, the new waste water tank was strategically placed in the center of the ship to help with stability.

Ballast diagram
Ballast diagram showing invasive species risk. (CC)

Thom is an innovator and self-described incorrigible tinkerer. Many of these changes would not have been made without his (and team’s) desire and advocacy to make things better. When I asked if these upgrades were standard on ships, he mentioned that the Thomas Jefferson is a trailblazer.

Chief Engineer Thom Cleary
Chief Engineer Thom Cleary and the desalination/ reverse osmosis system. The RO typically operates at 650 psi (with 900psi maximum potential) and pushes sea water through a membrane creating potable water for the ship.


Personal Log

CO (Commanding Officer) authorized a launch on one of the boats. After some mishaps with a fuse, the crew performed multiple safety checks and we were cleared to go. Mission: collect survey data near a stationary platform. CO’s comfort level to obstructions with the main ship is a half-mile, so having the smaller launch boats is helpful when surveying areas like this.

Launch Boat Approach
The launch boat crew from left to right: Lt. Klemm, Kevin Brown, Pat Osborn, and Brandy Hill (below deck).


Survey area near the stationary platform. The ship to the left is a supply vessel.

While cruising out to the survey area, I spoke with Pat Osborn, part of the Thomas Jefferson’s deck crew and our survey line driver for the day. Pat has two years of training and was explaining that he is still learning parts of his job. (Everyone on the ship wears multiple hats.) He spoke highly of his job and appreciated the multi-dimensional relationship between CO and the crew. Pat explained that CO is not expected to be an expert in all areas of the ship- there are safety checks (such as preparing for the launch) where the CO asks lead crew members to evaluate and sign-off prior to action. Every mission I’ve observed and attended has proceeded in this manner. It is a highly respectful and safe environment.

Chief Survey Technician, Allison Stone, awaiting launch boat arrival.
Launch Return to Ship
Patrick Osborn approaching ship Thomas Jefferson with the launch boat.
Kevin Brown lowers the CTD while the boat is stationary. A CTD captures the salinity, temperature, depth, and concentration of particles in the water column. This information is used for analyzing the survey data. On the ship, this information is collected using an MVP which allows the ship to stay in motion.

As soon as we had the survey equipment set up and running, survey technician Kevin Brown brought out a fishing pole. I hadn’t realized that we could fish while out on the boat! We proceeded to catch and release about 10 tuna (likely False Albacore and Bonito). Kevin reeled in two, then passed the pole to me. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to real in a fish. I was reading that they can stay on the line and swim up to 40 mph!

Brandy reeling
Brandy Hill’s active line power stance.
False Albacore
Brandy Hill and her first fishing boat catch, False Albacore.


 + Witnessed hard work and precision paying off- the launch boat survey data had an error of 0.0006 meters. The data is highly accurate!

+ Drove “the survey line” on the launch boat. (More of an explanation coming soon.)

+ Reeled in a beautiful, tough fish.

Note: After the seasickness subsided, I’ve decided to leave out the “Valleys” category. I’m having a great time.

Diane Stanitski: Day 18, August 28, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 18: Wednesday, August 28, 2002

The FOO (Field Operations Officer)’s quote of the day: 

“Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
– William Shakespeare

Weather Log:
Here are our observations at 0900 today:
Latitude: 3°39.88’S (into the Southern Hemisphere!)
Longitude: 140°00.36’W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 100°
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 4-5′
Swell wave height: 6-8′
Sea water temperature: 27.1°C
Sea level pressure: 1011.7 mb
Cloud cover: 2/8, Cumulus, Cirrus

Hurricane Genevieve lives!

Science and Technology Log:

I stayed up until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore last night. I finished the script and lesson plan for today’s broadcast with my graduate students in the Atmospheric Environment class. When I awoke at 0600, I realized that the fish bite test was already in progress on the fantail of the ship. I quickly prepared for my morning broadcast and then went outside to see if I could help place fish heads (mostly red snapper) on the lines that were being tested. The objective of the test was to qualitatively determine the fish-bite protection of a new armored mooring cable. The current cable that is used, nilspin, is very heavy while the cable to be tested is much lighter, but has a greater diameter. The test cable consists of a polyester core wrapped with electrical wires with up to two layers of special cloth armoring with a PE jacket. The cable diameter is ~221 mm. The test consisted of towing three 100 m cables (no armor, single, and double) simultaneously from the stern while the boat moved at 1-2 kts. Fish heads were attached every 3 meters to each cable. I was asked to take notes on the procedure since it was a new experiment and to use a multimeter to ensure that the lines were actually measuring electrical conductivity in case of a fish bite. Occasionally, I managed to assist with the deployment of the lines by helping place mesh bags alongside the line, opening the bag and inserting a partially frozen and slimy head of a fish, attaching the bag to the cable with wire ties, and then placing electrical tape over the wire tie and ends of the bags to keep them attached. It took approximately 2-1/2 hours to prepare the fish lines and deploy them. I really enjoyed it. There’s something exciting about having a group of people working together toward a common goal, especially when science is involved.

We started the broadcast soon after the fish bite test was running and I had the opportunity to interview a number of people on board who hadn’t been highlighted in a past broadcast. They were great! This was a more scientific webcast mostly focused on El Nino and the research conducted on the ship. I loved every minute and learned a great deal in the process. The video is 51 minutes long and can be accessed at on our videos page. Check it out when you have time.

I asked Lobo, our Chief Engineer, how portable water is created on the ship. He provided a great overview of the process. Seawater is converted into fresh water by vacuum distillation. In the end, the water is used for drinking, as process water, and for domestic purposes. The seawater to be distilled evaporates at a temperature of about 40°C (very low temperature for evaporation to occur) as it passes between the hot plates in an evaporator on board. The evaporating temperature corresponds to a vacuum of approximately 93%, which is maintained by the brine/air ejector. The vacuum serves to lower the evaporation temperature of the feed water. Having reach boiling temperature – which is lower than at atmospheric pressure – the feed water undergoes a partial evaporation, and the mixture of generated vapor and brine enters the separator vessel, where the brine is separated from the vapor and extracted by the combined brine/air ejector. The vapors that are generated pass through a demister where any drops of seawater that are entrained are removed and fall to the bottom of the distiller chamber. The vapors continue to the condenser where they condense to fresh water as they pass between cold plates. The freshwater that is produced is extracted by the freshwater pump and led to the freshwater tank. We can store approximately 3000 gallons of water on board.

I conducted a CTD test by myself for the first time tonight at 7:30 PM. Everything worked and we decided to test zucchini, a green pepper, a potato, and a round loaf of bread to see what happens to it when it’s submerged to the extreme pressure at 1000 meters below the water surface. When we finished the CTD cast where we sampled water at 1000m, 800 m, 600 m, 400 m, 200 m, 150, 100 m, 60 m, 40 m, 25 m, 10 m, and the surface, we brought the sampling cylinders up with the food. The potato looked and felt the same, the zucchini was squishy, the green pepper looked exactly the same but it had a crack on the side and was full of water. It must have burst on the way down and filled with water. In this case, the pressure would have been the same from the inside to the outside so no change in size took place. The bread looked like pita bread. It had been placed in plastic wrap, 2 zip-lock bags, and another plastic sleeve, but still managed to get wet. Interesting experiment.

Just after the CTD returned to the surface, I went to the starboard side of the ship to throw in an AOML, a device that measures water currents across the ocean surface (more on this tomorrow). AOMLs float away into the distance but transmit their data on a realtime basis. They are occasionally retrieved, but usually remain in the Pacific forever.

Personal Log:

I am receiving all of your emails – thank you! It’s great to hear that your first week of classes is going well. I will highlight several of your questions in tomorrow’s log!

Congratulations to Steve Osmanski who knew that the term “knot(s)” is a unit of maritime speed goes back to the days of sailing ships, when speed was measured by throwing a wooden device called a “chip log” over the stern of the ship. The chip log had a line attached with knots spaced along it. When the log was thrown overboard, a timing device (usually a 30-second sandglass) was turned and the number of knots that passed through the user’s hand as the line unreeled during the 30 seconds was the ship’s speed in nautical miles per hour. It was reported to the officer of the deck as so many “knots.” The distance between knots in a log line is calculated at 1.688 feet for every second in your timing interval; so a 30-second log line would have knots 50.64 feet (50 feet, 7 and 2/3rds inches, just about). Many of you answered this correctly, but Steve was first!

John and I played Yahtzee tonight in the third round of the match. I managed to win again so I move into the semi-final round.

Question of the day: How long is the Ka’imimoana? Check out Teacher at Sea web site for all the details.

Closer to land, but wishing I was further out to sea…