Mary Cook, January 6, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 6, 2005

Location: Latitude 53°10.14’S, Longitude 70°54.40’W

Sunrise 0525
Sunset 2212

Question of the Day

How do penguins feed their young?

Quote of the Day

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1

Science and Personal Log

Today has been a wonderful day. Vickie, Jackie and I traveled about one hour northwest of Punta Arenas to the Otway Fjord where a colony of about 10,000 Magellanic penguins are busily tending their young. These little black and white flightless birds are amazing! I found out that penguins live 25-30 years and always come back to the place where they were born for the mating season. They usually have one or two offspring. Males and females take turns watching and feeding the little ones. They swim for food every eight hours and dive 30 to 35 meters deep. Couples are always the same and they come back to the colony only for the reproduction season. They arrive at this site in mid-September to court and prepare their nests. Before courting they go through a period of fasting. (These birds are serious about family life! Maybe we could learn something from them.) The first days of October, they mate and lay their eggs. In November, they incubate their eggs and nearing the first of December the eggs hatch. They dig holes called burrows for their babies in the soft grassy plains just off the beach. In January and February the young ones lose their fuzzy gray down and develop feathers. This is when they make their first trips to the sea and begin to swim. In mid-March and April, they leave and move to the coast of Brazil and the Atlantic Islands.

This morning it was cold and blustery as we followed the winding trails through the grassy plains right in amongst the penguin burrows. Believe it or not, it sleeted while we were out there. A parent was always nearby and usually standing guard at the entrance of the burrow as the fat little baby was lazily stretched out with its head peeking through the hole. At this time in their development the babies are almost as large as the adults. A few of the males were standing tall with their wings outstretched and braying like donkeys. The Magellanic penguins sound remarkably like donkeys! Near the beach we stood behind a “penguin blind” and watched them marching single file toward the ocean and diving into the waves. If it hadn’t been so bone-chilling cold, I could’ve stood there and just watched those penguins for hours on end. While on land the penguins are cumbersome but in water they are agile and great swimmers. It looked like some of them where trying to catch a wave! South American surfer dudes.

Other than the penguins, we saw wild rheas, sheep, gulls, geese, ducks, and a few UFBs (unidentified flying birds).

After our incredible visit to the penguins, we returned to Punta Arenas. Punta Arenas has a population of 110,000 and is the capital of the Magellanic and Antarctic Region XII. According to the guide book, Punta Arenas is Patagonia’s most important city and makes a living from coal mining, wool production, petroleum, fishing, and serves as a center for cargo ships. I’ve seen all of these industries in just the short time I’ve been here. My favorite place to visit in the city of Punta Arenas has been the very charming Plaza Muñoz Gamero with its huge, gnarled cedar trees surrounding the bronze statue of Magellan. Another intriguing gadget is the 1913 German clock near the waterfront that has a complete meteorological instrumentation and hands showing the moon’s phases and a zodiac calendar.

Well, I’ve put it off as long as possible but it’s time to go pack. Tomorrow morning I’ll bid farewell to the RONALD H. BROWN.

What a grand finale today has been for this “Teacher at Sea”!

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, January 5, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 5, 2005

Location: Latitude 53°49.76’S, Longitude 71°39.22’W
Time:
0900

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 7.66
Water Temperature (Celsius) 8.94
Relative Humidity (percent) 87.33
Air Pressure (millibars) 987.72
Wind Direction (degrees) 270.59
Wind Speed (knots) 6.27
Cloud Cover 8/8 Stratus
Sunrise 0526
Sunset 2218

Question of the Day

What is the ozone layer?

Quote of the Day

“A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner.” English proverb

Science and Personal Log

Today, I interviewed Victoria Carpenter. Vickie is an Able Bodied (AB) Seaman and she has a variety of duties aboard this ship. These duties include watch-stander, deckhand, winch operator, securing the ship for departure and darkening the ship. Darkening the ship means that she makes sure all portholes on the ship are closed at night so that the light from inside the ship’s rooms doesn’t shine out and reflect off the water which blinds the bridge crew. We all want the bridge crew to be able to see because they’re driving the ship! Vickie grew up in southern California with three brothers. She now resides in Vancouver, Washington. Vickie has traveled around the world. Really. She’s been to Asia, Africa, Europe, North and South America, and Australia. And she’s ridden a bicycle from coast to coast in the United States. It seems to me that she has done just about everything from being a Girl Scout Leader, to a berry picker, to a camp director, to an Outward Bound leader, and even a tour guide!

She will be attending the AB to Mate School for 19 weeks later this year. Besides getting a raise, becoming a Mate will enable her to plot charts and steer the ship.

Vickie says she loves the sea and the seagoing life. She considers Ernest Shackleton, the great explorer of Antarctica, to be her inspiration. Vickie is a true adventurer and I’ve loved listening to her stories.

For some reason, I awoke at 0430 this morning. I’m not sure why I stirred at such an early hour but it could have something to do with the fact that we have been in the famed Straits of Magellan since 0200. I most certainly did not want to sleep through it. So I was out at first light. Reggie, the watch-stander called me and said that the seals were putting on a show, so up I headed to the bridge. There were seals frolicking all about! These remind me of dolphins in the way they come up out of the water. We were passing through the Tortuoso Passage. According to the Chilean pilot Luis Holley, Tortuoso means “very difficult” in Spanish. To me it sounds like torturous. A torturous passage. This is the place where the Atlantic Ocean currents meet the Pacific Ocean currents. All this water converging in a narrow canal makes for a difficult place to transit. At this junction back in early navigation days the current actually pushed ships aground. That would definitely be torturous in my book. I was intrigued that we could really see the current. It was a place of choppy waters called the “the cross tide” and when the ship encountered the current, it slid sideways a little bit! Whoa!

One of the bays on this route is called Seno Ballena which means whale fjord. The pilot explained this to be a place where whales come to have their babies. A whale nursery! We saw two whales that flipped their flukes (tails) up in the air. It’s a nice feeling to watch whales just living their lives.

Shortly thereafter, the RONALD H. BROWN with all its inhabitants rounded the southern-most tip of the continent! It’s called Cape Froward and has a huge steel cross perched on the point which is covered with gnarly looking trees.

We’ve just arrived in Punta Arenas and Captain Wright called an “all hands” meeting. At the meeting the Chilean pilots awarded us certificates documenting our passage through the Straits of Magellan! It has a map tracing our route and says that I am a “certified explorer of the Straits of Magellan”. ? Signed and sealed by the Chilean pilots!

Les Cruise, the medic reminded everyone to wear sunscreen, long sleeves, and hats because we are under the “hole” in the ozone layer. Punta Arenas has one of the highest occurrences of skin cancer per capita than any city in the world.

This is a very attractive small city. It is situated on the coast with only a few tall buildings and has low, rounded mountains as a backdrop. The main square is a tree-lined park with a central statue of Ferdinand Magellan. The statue also has a native South American on it whose foot is projecting from the base. It is said that if you rub his big toe then you’ll return to Punta Arenas someday. That big toe is shiny smooth! Well, here’s a question for you. Do you think I rubbed the colossal toe? You know the answer to that question. The Punta Arenas downtown is European quaint and bustling with people shopping, relaxing, and going somewhere. Ice cream must be a popular treat. It seems that everyone has a cone. I even saw a sign in a store window that said “Do not enter with ice cream.” I love ice cream, but when I’m wearing three layers and a muffler scarf, I prefer hot chocolate. There are tour offices that offer excursions to penguin colonies, trekking in Patagonia or boat rides to glaciers. Tomorrow morning will be my last full day here, and I’ve decided to check out the penguins. I’ll let you know how they’re doing in my next log installment!

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, January 4, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 4, 2005

Location: Latitude 49°28.60’S, Longitude 74°26.42’W
Time: 0835

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 10.34
Water Temperature (Celsius) 11.83
Relative Humidity (percent) 74.17
Air Pressure (millibars) 997.56
Wind Direction (degrees) 226.45
Wind Speed (knots) 6.89
Cloud Cover: 8/8 Low Stratus
Precipitation: Steady rain
Sunrise 0559
Sunset 2205

Question of the Day

What does NOAA stand for?

Quote of the Day

“Midwesterners make some of the best sailors.” Tim Wright, Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN.

Science Log

Today I’ve conducted several interviews of the ship’s officers, merchant marines, and Chilean channel pilots. I’d like to thank each person for giving their time and for being enthusiastic and open in sharing about themselves and their work.

Interview: Captain Tim Wright

Captain Wright shares with us that growing up as a boy in land-locked Kirkwood, Missouri he loved to read about the ocean and romanticized about becoming a sea-faring man. He joined the Navy at 18 and served in the Vietnam War. After his time in the service he went to the University of Washington and obtained a degree in Physical Oceanography. Captain Wright achieved this rank in October of 2003 and has been the Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN since February, 2004. Captain Wright says that his most important duties are the safety and security of the crew and ship. His responsibility is a 24 hour a day job for navigation and safe overside operations. Captain Wright shares that his most enjoyable time with NOAA was when he worked three years in Paris for the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission. It was a time when he could have his family living with him. Another very enjoyable time was his stint as the Captain of the KA’IMIMOANA, a NOAA ship stationed in Pearl Harbor. They deployed buoys along the equatorial Pacific. Captain Wright says he loves his work and wouldn’t dream of having any other career. He highly recommends oceanography and the seafaring life for the person who enjoys the outdoors, adventures, and challenges.

Interview: Navigator Jeffery Shoup

Navigator and Bridge Officer Jeffery Shoup grew up with two older sisters in Oak Park, Illinois. He obtained a Chemistry/Chemistry and Physics Education degree from “Miami of Ohio” in Oxford, Ohio. He considers his responsibilities to be standing watch, driving the ship and laying out the trackline for the scientists. After the scientists turn in a statement telling him where they want to go to do their projects, Mr. Shoup maps out a safe and efficient course for the ship. He has been with NOAA for three years and considers this cruise to be the highlight. Since he left Charleston, he has traveled through the Panama Canal and the Straits of Magellan will be great place to get off the ship. He has also been to the Canary Islands and Iceland. Mr. Shoup says that persons who aspire to the seafaring lifestyle should be independent, self sufficient and able to get along well with others. He says the only negative thing about going to sea is that the family relationships suffer because of your absence for long periods of time. This is Jeffery Shoup’s last cruise. He’s taking a new position in Maryland to work for Search and Rescue Satellite (SarSat). This is where they receive messages from beacons on ships and aircraft in distress. The SarSat beacons use GPS to locate the needy vessel and then personnel proceed with the rescue.

Interview: Ensign Silas Ayers

Junior Officer Silas Ayers grew up in Pennsylvania as one of five children. He has been with NOAA for one year. Before that, he served three years in the Army and attended school for eight years at Westchester University in Pennsylvania where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Earth and Space Education and a Master’s Degree in Physical Science.

Ensign Ayers says that he chose this career and way of life to gain real world experiences to become better equipped for a teaching career. He considers his responsibilities on the ship to be ship safety, damage control, and property accountability. Mr. Ayers says the most fascinating experience for him has been the personalities aboard the ship. “I’m a ‘people’ person not a ‘place’ person.” The human dynamics involved in living aboard a seagoing vessel are fascinating to him.

Interview: Jim Melton

Mr. Jim Melton is a pilot, a lookout and a deckhand. He is a merchant marine and works under the Department of Commerce. Mr. Melton grew up in Florida and has been going out to sea since he was about three years old. He graduated from the University of Florida in 1970. Mr. Melton has a colorful and exciting life of doing all sorts of work such as pipefitting, welding, grooming ski resort slopes, farming, being a real working cowboy, and of course all kinds ship work. He shares that his most fascinating experiences have been at sea. He loves it. But he also shares that it’s not the life for everyone. It’s lonely and hard on relationships. The sad part for a father at sea is not being there to raise your kids. He considers his father to be his inspiration because he was a hard worker, a jack-of-all-trades, and an adventurer.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Luis Holley

Mr. Luis Holley of Reñaca, Chile has been a Patagonian Channels and Magellan Straits pilot for 4.5 years. Before that he was in the Chilean Navy for 33 years and retired at the rank of Captain. Mr. Holley shared with me that before one becomes a pilot he must have certain credentials. These credentials include being an advanced Captain in the Chilean Navy or the Chilean Merchant Navy. He said that they often use the channels for navigation and military exercises. If one has the credentials then that person may apply to the Chilean Coast Guard for the position of pilot. The Coast Guard puts them through a three week course of simulations and real navigation through the passages. There are only 88 channel pilots.

Interview: Chilean Pilot Alex Waghorn

Mr. Alex Waghorn has been a pilot for the Patagonian Channels and the Magellan Straits for three years. He makes 18-20 passes through here per year. Mr. Waghorn shared with me that to become a pilot for these channels you must be ever vigilant, memorize charts and become very familiar with the passageways. He said overconfidence is dangerous and he treats every trip just as if it were his first time.

Personal Log

I awoke at 0530 in eager anticipation of passing through the English Narrows. It is a cold, foggy, rainy morning. I can see my breath. It’s cold enough that even the “die-hards” have to come in to warm up and get a cup of hot chocolate. The English Narrows are narrow. We were so close to the land, I could see the individual leaves of the trees! Just this morning in the span of one hour, I saw more waterfalls cascading down the mountains and plunging into the sea than I’ve ever seen in my entire life! I started to count them, but as the ship rounded every bend, there were more and more of them, so I just gave up on the count and enjoyed the view. I’ve never been anywhere like this before.

There’s something I’ve come realize about the RONALD H. BROWN: this is a boatload full of map-lovers! I’ve never been so surrounded with people, like myself, who love to read maps. They are magnetically attracted to maps. And when they’re reading a map, it’s like they’re being transported to that place and can visualize it as though they are really there.

It’s ironically funny that yesterday, I was on the bridge and I spied a new and different kind of map. So I strolled over to get a closer look. It was a detailed chart of the Patagonian Channels and the Straits of Magellan! I smiled and said, “I want a map like that!” Ensign Ayers said, “You and everyone else on this ship.” I realized I wasn’t the only person who had an interest in that map. I soon discovered that these maps are printed especially for the Chilean pilots who guide ships safely through these passageways. Hopefully, there’s a way to get my hands on a copy.

Now, wouldn’t that be something? ?

This evening as I sit here and ponder all the day’s happenings, I think about the remoteness of this place. How we’re one little ship seemingly in the middle of nowhere. The land and water and sky are beautiful and cold and cloudy and ………….. empty of people. I look at those massive, worn, eroded mountains with snow and blue-hued glaciers and realize that I can’t even fathom the magnitude of the powers that have formed them. It causes me to recognize my place. The reality is I’m weak and small and made of dust. And that I have absolutely no jurisdiction over the driving forces behind the natural cycle of Earth. The Earth is essential for my fleshly existence but I’m not at all essential for Earth’s existence.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, January 3, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 3, 2005

Location: Latitude 45°49.53’S, Longitude 75°03.22’W
Time: 0930

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 11.90
Water Temperature (Celsius) 13.55
Wind Direction (degrees) 343.52
Wind Speed (knots) 5.85
Relative Humidity (percent) 66.50
Air Pressure (millibars) 1016.06
Cloud Cover 6/8 Altocumulus
Sunrise 0615
Sunset 2152

Question of the Day

What is phytoplankton?

Quote of the Day

“Dream no small dreams for they have no power to move men.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Science Log

This afternoon I interviewed Co-chief Scientist, Julio Sepúlveda, an oceanography graduate student from the University of Concepción. Julio did his Master’s thesis work for eight months at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. In April, he’s leaving for Germany to spend three years continuing his education toward a PhD. in marine organic geochemistry. Julio has been kind enough to further explain the work they’ve been doing onboard the RONALD H. BROWN. The Chilean group of scientists include Pamela Rossel, Sergio Contreras, Rodrigo Castro, Alejandro Avila, and Luis Bravo. He says that their work has two parts: the water column process and the sedimentary record. The water samples and the sediment traps give a “picture of the moment”. They conducted the transect of samples starting at the shallow coastal waters and moving into the deeper offshore waters. These samples will provide a gradient of the nutrient concentrations at the Bay of Concepción which is part of an active upwelling location. To put it simply, they are looking at how the phytoplankton (plant-like microscopic organisms) uses the nutrients in the water. In particular they are looking at the nitrogen stable isotopes (nitrogen atoms with different masses) and their concentrations. They are trying to see how this is related to El Niño which greatly affects Chile and many places around the world. Julio explained that normally the upwelling brings cooler water containing nutrient-rich materials up to the surface. During El Niño events, the upwelling brings warmer, less nutrient-rich waters to the surface. This changes many things including the weather. The causes of El Niño are multi-varied air-sea fluxes that are not fully understood. In the last ten years the scientific community has been especially interested in knowing the possible influence of global warming in the El Niño variability. It seems that its frequency is changing and several articles indicate that El Niño is occurring more often. So their research provides a few “pixels” for capturing the entire “picture” of El Niño.

The second part of their research involves the core samples. The purpose of the core sampling is to collect the layers of sediments on the ocean floor. Julio described the layers to be like pages in a history book. Each layer tells the “story” of what was going on in the water at that location during that time. They are also looking at the degradation of the organic matter in the core samples. So, Julio says the water samples tell us about the present and the core samples tell us about the past. Using these methods of research, it is their intention to better understand the history of El Niño and better predict future El Niño events.

Personal Log

This morning we entered the fjords! Several of us were up and outside on the deck at 0630, “ooohing” and “aaahing”, taking pictures even though it’s very cold and windy out there. It is an irresistible attraction. We’re passing by the peninsula Tres Montes and we’re headed for the Bay of Tarn. All morning we’ve been sailing by emerald forest-covered mountains and black craggy rocks that have been eroded into peculiar shapes by the waves relentlessly smashing against them. The clouds are ominous and hanging low. The albatross are soaring with wings spread wide. An occasional whale sends a plume of spray into the air. I want these scenes to be indelibly saturated into my mind’s eye. I never want to forget this. No dwellings. No other ships. It’s just us. Just us and the birds and the whales. It’s good. It’s all good.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, January 2, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: January 2, 2005

Location: Latitude 41°47.12’S, Longitude 73°33.42’W
Time: 0830

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Pressure (millibars) 1012.81
Relative Humidity (percent) 93.61
Wind Direction (degrees) 354.55
Wind Speed (knots) 7.03
Air Temperature (Celsius) 14.46
Water Temperature (Celsius) 11.62
Sunrise 0624
Sunset 2132

Question of the Day

What is a fjord?

Quote of the Day

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” King Solomon

Science Log

It’s raining! I haven’t seen rain since last year. The sky is thick with dark, billowing clouds and gray mist. Occasionally a patch of bright blue breaks through. But it only takes a few minutes until it’s eclipsed by a rain cloud. The land on both sides of the channel is shrouded in the mist and looks mysteriously enchanting. Only a few people onboard have ever been this way before and everyone is excited. Even these salty sailors are energized. Seals are popping up and playing all around. It looks like they’re chasing each other. We’ve passed a couple of small fishing villages and there are some ferryboats in the channel. The Chilean pilot told me that we’re in a very interesting place because of the strong current. Our ship is traveling against a three knot current at this time and they’ve brought more engines online just in case we need them. He said the current can get as high as eight knots! I heard Captain Wright say that the last time he was through here the ship was going with the current and traveling at 21 knots!

Bruce, the boatswain is now on constant anchor alert. There are many potential hazards when traveling the narrow channels so all hands must be prepared for anything.

I’ve been standing outside in a sheltered place under the ladderways for about an hour. At first it didn’t seem cold but as time went by I felt the chilly dampness in my muscles and had to zip up my jacket and put on my hood.

Something I’ve learned about this ship is that even when the scientists aren’t actively conducting research projects, science is always going on aboard the RONALD H. BROWN. At the top of every hour they always record the weather data, which includes about 50 entries, and then send it in to the National Weather Service every six hours. If the ship is within 200 miles of the coast of the United States or Canada or within 300 miles of a named tropical storm or hurricane they report every three hours. They record the ship’s location and speed, plus wind factors, temperatures, pressure, clouds, precipitation, wave size and directions, swells, and presence of ice. It seems to me that everything is written in code. They have the “Ship’s Synoptic Code Ready Reference” lying nearby and make use of it when filling out the charts. This information is entered into the National Weather Service computers and used for weather forecasting.

Personal Log

There’s a festive atmosphere throughout the entire ship. Everyone’s smiling and walking with a little extra spring in their step. These seasoned sailors are like little kids on Christmas morning, their eyes sparkling with anticipation. They’re out on the deck with their binoculars looking over the pastoral scenes of green rolling hills dotted with colorful houses and farms and churches connected by winding dirt roads. One of them said, “Just give me ten acres with a little house and I could settle down and live right here.” Several nodded in agreement. Then they spotted the big snow-capped mountains in the distance! Their dreams of settling down seemed to evaporate into thin air as their attention had been captured by the majestic and forbidding.

Our course is taking us through the Gulf of Corcovado and we’re just now passing the volcanic mountain for which the gulf is named. The pointy, snow-capped mountain is Mt. Corcovado and it stands 2300 meters in elevation which is about 7000 feet high.

The water is so smooth in this gulf that I can barely tell the ship is moving. It’s great! Seasickness is but a distance memory.

Officer Ayers just told me that I missed a fabulous display of bioluminescence last night about 0200. I said that I’d just stay up all night tonight so I could see that for myself. Then watch-stander Melton says, “Oh, now you want to be awake and out at 0600 tomorrow because we’ll be entering an extremely narrow channel. You can’t be sleeping through that.”

Decisions. Decisions.

Whales on the starboard bow! I ran out and saw three waterspouts and one tail. Pretty cool.

Tomorrow, my students and co-workers will be returning to school from their Christmas break. I hope they’ve all had a good vacation and come back with renewed energy and smiles. I can’t help thinking about them and wishing they could be out here in this never-ending, ever-unfolding story of exploration.

Until tomorrow,

Mary

Mary Cook, December 30, 2004

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

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 30, 2004

Location: Latitude 36°21.31’S, Longitude 72°59.65’W
Time: 9:15

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 14.33
Water Temperature (Celsius) 14.81
Air Pressure (millibars) 1015.24
Cloud Cover 3/8
Cloud Type: Stratus
Wind Direction (degrees) 325.6
True Wind Speed (knots) 1.26
Sunrise 636
Sunset 2112

Question of the Day

What is a light year?

Positive Quote of the Day

“The influence of each human being on others in this life is a kind of immortality.” John Quincy Adams

Science Log

Last night I went up to the bridge at about 2300 hours. Vickie, Jeff, and Jackie were stargazing in search of the Southern Cross. There it was, almost directly in front of the ship! It had just risen over the horizon and looked more like a baseball diamond than a cross. We also spotted Alpha and Beta Centauri. At about 4.3 light years away, these are among the closest stars to Earth other than our Sun. Vickie also pointed out Orion with his belt of stars and the seven sisters called Pleiades. I’m going to get out my textbook and read up on the Magellanic Clouds because I’m wondering if we can see those from here. Then Jackie looked over the edge of the ship in the wake and caught a glimpse of some momentary flashes of light! Bioluminescence! I stood there pressing my face against the window staring at the darkened waters waiting patiently for some more microorganisms to glow. Sure enough it happened. They looked like little sparks of lightening in a cloud. It happened several times. I’ll definitely be back on the bridge again in search of more wonders of the sea at night.

For this leg of the journey, I’ve been moved to a different stateroom. I’m now down below in the science quarters. The sounds are different down here. I can hear the water splashing up against the ship’s hull. It sounds like I’m in a perpetual carwash!

It’s a soothing sound, though. I slept like a bear in hibernation.

Today begins the science operations. Right now, the scientists are on the fantail preparing the drifting sediment trap with its radar-reflector, floaters and nighttime strobe light. We’ll deploy the instrument then leave it while we make a short transit to the next station for CTD casts and core sampling. Afterwards, we’ll return and retrieve the sediment trap. According to the work plan, we’ll do this same thing at six different locations across the continental shelf and slope off Concepción, Chile. Most of the CTD casts are in fairly shallow water with the deepest one going down to 980 meters. These scientists will be working 48 hours non-stop.

It’s beautiful here in the Bay of Concepción. The water is so smooth and glistening in the sunshine. We’re nearly surrounded by a crescent-shaped coastline and we can see houses, forests, and other ships. This afternoon, we saw several ghostly-white jellyfish pumping their way through the water. Jim pointed out little anchovies swimming nearby. Yum!

I spoke with Kevin Sullivan of the NOAA research branch in Miami and Jordan Watson from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. They patiently explained some of the science to me. And I really appreciate that.

This is how the drifting sediment trap works. After the instrument collects the sediments from the water near the surface and is retrieved, it will be set aside for a few hours to allow the sediments to settle to the bottom of the tubes. Then a lever is turned that empties the sediments into bottles containing a preservative. Sediments can be particles from the air like dust or particles from the ocean such as little deceased sea creatures called diatoms.

The Rhumor gravity core sampler is basically a one meter long hollow tube with heavy weights attached to the top. After being lifted by the winch, it is slowly lowered into the water. When the tube gets about 10 meters from the ocean floor it is lowered very quickly and gravity rams it into the mud. In this process, the mud layers fill the hollow tube and as the core sampler is raised the pressure closes a valve that keeps the mud from coming out.

I’ve noticed on the SeaBeam readout that the depth here is only about 100 meters. That’s a huge contrast to a couple of weeks ago when we were in waters with a depth of 5000 meters!

It is my understanding that the rationale for their research is to explore the effects of nitrogen distribution and how that affects the marine algae nutrient usage in the present day water column. They are conducting the sampling in this location because of the upwelling that occurs which brings nutrients to the surface and because there are algae present that utilize the nutrients in these upwelling plumes. Likewise, they are interested in evaluating the amount of nitrogen left in the sedimentary record. This will help scientists better understand the history of the oceans.

Personal Log

Today has been a quiet but interesting day. All the science was new to me so I had to pay attention and ask lots of questions. It’s very rewarding to have people around who are eager to share with me what they are doing and the significance of it all in the whole scheme of things. I’ve learned a tremendous lot and my brain is kind of tired. Plus, I miss my mentor. She’s got enough energy for two people! I did take some time to go to the ship’s bow and watch the water skim by and look around for animals. I saw lots of birds and jellyfish. I like watching jellyfish because I never see jellyfish in Arkansas. To me they are intriguing critters because they are transparent. I can see right through them!

Well, I’m headed for the exercise room to rest my brain and work off that cake with chocolate icing that I ate for dessert. Then, after dark, up to the bridge for more stargazing in the Southern Hemisphere!

Until tomorrow,

Mary

p.s. Congratulations Brandon and Becky!

Mary Cook, December 29, 2004

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

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 29, 2004

Question of the Day

What is sediment?

Quote of the Day

“Rust never sleeps.” Dan Wolfe

Special Edition Log: Part 2

We’ve just left the port of Valparaiso and we’re underway, headed for the inside passages and the Straits of Magellan!!! I’ve looked on the ship’s course chart and it’s going to be a great voyage!! We’ll be sailing between islands and there’ll be land on both side of the ship. I expect to see lots of wildlife-hopefully penguins and an albatross or two.

Bruce, the boatswain and Jeff, the chief computer technician have set me up in the science office with a desk, Internet, a big, comfy chair and a phone. And I’ve just found someone’s secret stash of Dr. Pepper’s under my desk. Yep, things are looking good.

I wanted to share with you about the Easter Island Museum that we went to yesterday. This will be my personal interpretation of what I saw since most of the museum’s information was in Spanish.

Easter Island is a volcanic island situated in the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles off the coast of Chile. The indigenous people or Rapi Nui made huge monolithic statues called maori and placed them all around the island. These gods are thought have been put in place for protection and worship. The native people had four quarries from which they extracted the stones and carved the features. Then they slid them into place with wooden rails and ropes. There are only four of these statues outside of Easter Island and one of them stands in front this museum. The Rapi Nui had a complex and organized society led by a chief. They made pottery, arrowheads, harpoon heads, and jewelry. They were great fishermen. It appears as though they had a sophisticated system of ocean navigation with bamboo and seashell “maps” that indicated currents and islands. (I love maps. So seeing this was “way cool”!) Sometime during the 1700’s the first white man arrived. Some of the Rapi Nui were taken as slaves. Different diseases were introduced that spread rapidly throughout the island. And so this was the beginning of the end for their culture. Today, Easter Island is part of the country of Chile and the maori are being restored and preserved as a world heritage site. So, that’s my take on the fascinating museum of Easter Island loaded with its artifacts of history, mystery and intrigue.

Tonight, my plans are to stay up late and go hang out on the ship’s bridge and search the dark waters for bioluminescence. Wow, that’s a big word. Bioluminescence refers to microorganisms that emit light when disturbed. I’ve heard about bioluminescence in the ocean but I’ve never witnessed it. Silas says it’s there almost every night so, hopefully, tonight we’ll see the ocean glow!!!! In Arkansas, we have lightning bugs that flash a glowing, neon green light. When I was a kid I loved catching them and holding them gently in my fist to watch the rays of green light shine between my fingers. It was fascinating, but they smelled like, I don’t know, lightning bugs. Anyway, I’ve heard that the bioluminescence in the ocean can be red or blue or green! I can’t wait. If I don’t see any tonight, I’ll go back every night until those little rascals get disturbed enough to emit a sparkle.

Tomorrow, we begin the scientific work with the University of Concepcion. According to the plan, a drifting sediment trap will be deployed, a CTD rosette cast will be conducted, and a sediment core sample will be taken.

The sediment core sampler looks like a rocket. It’s a long narrow metal cylinder with fins on the bottom. But instead of going up into space, it’s going down into the ocean floor. Co-chief scientist, Julio says it will collect sediments that were laid down thousands of years ago. This will enable them to better understand the history of the ocean.

Before I sign off for the day, I’d like to thank Alvaro Vera of the Chilean Navy for his thoughtfulness and generosity extended toward us during our stay in Viña del Mar. Alvaro invited all the Stratus 5 scientific crew over to his house for a barbeque in celebration of a job well done and the good working partnership between the Chilean scientists and the American scientists. It was great food and great fun-another fine example of Chilean hospitality.

Until tomorrow,

Mary