Helen Haskell: Mud Volcano, Morale and Moving On, June 24, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Helen Haskell

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 5 – 26, 2017

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

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

Date: June 24, 2017

Weather Data

Wind:  20 knots

Visibility: 6 nautical miles

Barometer:  1016.0 hPa

Air temperature: 13.2C

Cloud cover: 100%

Location: Gulf of Alaska, 58°58.3N, 138° 49.7W

 

Science and Technology Log

In the last final week of this long three week leg, survey work on Fairweather has been varied. As data collection for this area has drawn to a close, it has been late nights for the sheet managers, who are making sure all of the holidays (the areas of missing data) are collected, crosslines are accomplished in all areas, and that they have what they need to do a complete report of the area.

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Some of the Fairweather crew getting ready to launch small boats for the last data acquisition.

Earlier this week the ship completed an additional smaller project out in the Alaskan gulf. Fairweather was tasked with collecting hydrographic data on a subsurface mud volcano that has been discovered southwest of Ketchikan near the Queen Charlotte –Fairweather fault system.  Sailing during the day to the location, the surveying began late evening.  Rather than using the small launches, Fairweather’s sonar was used.  The survey area was quite large and the boundary extended to the edge of Canadian waters. Just as with the small launches, casts had to be done to factor in the water’s salinity and temperature in order to get accurate data. The water column profiling measurement device for Fairweather is located on the stern and once launched can be operated electronically, by hydrographers.

 

Hydrographers were divided into shifts, working two four hour shifts, throughout the 24 hour data acquisition period.  From 12am-4am, hydrographers Hannah Marshburn and Drew Leonard, and I, check on the quality of data acquisition and monitored the related software.  As we sailed over the vent of the volcano hundreds of meters below the surface, the sonar picked up gas releases, probably methane, coming from the vent.  This volcano is potentially part of a volcanic field in this area.  I am excited to read and learn more about these mud volcanoes on the active fault in this area and to integrate it into my geology class at school.  For more information about mud volcanos in this region, visit https://eos.org/articles/active-mud-volcano-field-discovered-off-southeast-alaska

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Drew Leonard and Hannah Marshburn observe the sonar at work

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The mud volcano (within the elevated red area; the white triangle is our ship

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Possible methane plumes ‘caught’ by the sonar

Life and work on a ship requires the crew here to learn many things, both about the scientific mission and methodology but also about the ship itself and the safety protocols. NOAA provides training for crew in many different forms, some in situ, some electronically, and others during the non field-season in the form of  land-based workshops. Here on Fairweather, workbooks are provided to prepare officers and survey techs to help qualify them as Hydrographers-In-Charge (HIC).  Individuals work through these books and hand-on trainings to increase their understanding of the mission, the science content, their ability to work with survey systems, launches, field equipment and to serve as backup coxswains on the launches if necessary.

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The work

In wrapping up the work in the area west of Prince of Wales Island, one last task was to dismantle the Base Station that the hydrographers had set up at the beginning of the project. The Base Station houses a GPS and receiver that transmits the data to the ship.  

 

Back on the ship, a route was planned by the NOAA Corps officers  and charted both electronically and on the paper charts.  It was time for Fairweather to say goodbye to this region of Alaska and to begin the journey north.

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ENS Linda Junge plots the route to the Gulf of Alaska and beyond on the chart

While June 21 is a date associated with the solstice, it is also World Hydrography Day.  In 2005, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution on oceans and law of the sea, and encouraged entities/nations to work with the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). The idea is to increase knowledge of and promote safe marine navigation.  As a result, World Hydrography Day was formed and is used as a method to increase knowledge and understanding of hydrography to the general public. Currently only about 10% of the world’s oceans and 50% of the coastal waterways have been directly measured. Much of the rest of the world is dependent on estimates from satellite gravity based measurements or has no data.  Most people tend not to think about the role hydrography and knowledge of the seafloor plays in our day to day live. While there is the obvious correlation with safe navigation, seafloor knowledge is important for laying cables and pipelines, to develop maritime boundaries and to help make predictions of what tsunamis waves and hurricanes would do.  World Hydrography Day 2017 celebrates the 96th anniversary of the IHO.  To celebrate this day, other than continuing to acquire data for the project, the crew gathered together to watch a film from 1976 of Fairweather in Alaska conducting hydrography. While much of the technology has changed and the ship retrofitted, there was a lot of familiarity with the ship and with the job being done.  

Personal Log

Being on a ship for weeks at a time, working everyday can take its toll.  Over the last couple of days I can see in the faces of the survey crew that, just like the end of a school year, while there still a lot to do before ‘the end’ and people are tired, they are looking forward to a change of pace with their upcoming time in port. The ship is scheduled to be in Kodiak for over a week, allowing for mid-season repairs to be completed. Meanwhile the hydrographers will continue to work on data from this leg and look ahead to the upcoming ones; the deck crew will continue the multitude of tasks that always need to be done; the engineers will continue to fix, clean and monitor the launches, the engines and the myriad of equipment on the ship.  The NOAA Corps officers will continue their rotation of duties. The stewards will continue to provide food for everyone.  It’s the field season. Everyone is still busy, but there will be off-duty time on land and opportunities to explore the area.

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The Finer Things Club for this leg: (L, clockwise) with LT Manda, ENS Junge, Coxswain/deck crew Nick Granazio, XO Gonsalves, Hydrographers Hannah Marshburn and Steve Eykelhoff

One important concept that is apparent on Fairweather is keeping an eye on everyone’s welfare and well being.  Part of the XO’s (Executive Officer) role is to help with morale of all the crew, and to this end, the MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) group is key in regular small events.  When the ship is in port, optional excursions are arranged and transportation is available to and from the town during evenings and weekend hours. On Sunday evenings, Sundae Sunday happens at 7pm where people come together to have ice cream; The Finer Things Club happens once per leg, and foods such as cheese and crackers, olives and chocolate are served; on World Hydrography Day, the MWR group arranged a ‘holiday hunt’ on the ship with prizes, and ‘hydrography/Fairweather charades’ was played that evening after we had watched the 1976 Fairweather film. Each evening the Fairweather ship’s store opens and folk can purchase their favorite soda or chocolate bar, or in my case, a Fairweather hoodie.

 

It will take three days approximately to get to Kodiak. Rather than going directly across the Gulf of Alaska from Southeast Alaska, Fairweather moved north through Tlevak Strait, which includes a rather narrow section of water with islands and rocks close on both sides.  Having had several weeks of cloud and rain, we were graced with clear blue skies and a warm evening as we headed north. Whales swam in the distance and small islands covered in vegetation rose vertically out of the water. On route we were able to stop for several hours in Warm Springs Bay on Baranof Island. Here the crew were able to explore on land for a while, hike to hot springs and a lake, and take in some more of the beauty of Alaska.  It was an incredible blue sky morning (only the third so far this summer according to the locals) , snow was on the peaks around us and bald eagles sat in the nearby trees.  

 

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Morale and wellness also come in the form of good food. During my time here on I have been fed excellent food three times a day by the stewards, Ava Speights, Ace Burke, Tyrone Baker and Rory Bacon.  The other day I was able to sit down with Ava, acting Chief Steward, and ask her about her job and how the food is planned and prepared for. She was busy making a menu for the upcoming legs of Fairweather and ordering food that would be shipped to Kodiak, and later on, shipped to Nome.    She discussed how the budget works and the lead time needed to get produce and supplies to these northern regions.   

As my time on Fairweather is coming to an end, I realize that each day contains new normals, and that, after over three weeks here, there will be several transitions to go through such as being back on land and not on a rolling ship, not having food made for me and dishes washed for me, and leaving cloudy cool 50°F weather and cloudy skies to heat waves in New Mexico.   I am taking back with me a large amount of new knowledge and ideas that I can integrate into my classroom and school.  I am also taking back life-changing memories and hopefully long term connections with people from Fairweather and a desire to come back to Alaska.  I know that once I get back to New Mexico more questions will come forth and the Fairweather crew should be prepared to be hearing from me as I figure out how best to use the science in the classroom and in my community.  It’s a little bittersweet leaving, knowing that the crew have four months or more of the field season, and that by the time they head back to dry dock for the winter, that we will be over halfway through the first semester of the next school year.  I am really thankful to everyone on board for teaching me so much and making this an incredible adventure for me.  

 

Word of the day: Turnover:  Part of the nature of ship life,  I have discovered is that crew come and go. The NOAA Corps officers have an approximate two year stint on a ship before a three year rotation on land.  Deck crew, stewards and engineers are often on ships for multiple seasons, but can apply to move locations and transfer to other ships.  ‘Augmenters’ are crew from all departments who come on to ships for one or two legs at a time to fill in when a ship is short-staffed or someone has taken vacation.  At the end of each leg, people leave the ship and new people join the ship.  The only certain thing here is that there is and always will be staffing changes.  

Fact of the day:  On our journey north of Tlevak Strait, Fairweather was using fuel at the rate of 0.15mpg.   We’ve seen a couple of much larger cruise ships recently and an even larger container ship. Estimate their fuel consumption!

What is this?:

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Acronym of the day:

MWR group – Morale, Welfare and Recreation group

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 3

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

DECK CREW

Tim Martin, Chief Boatswain, aboard the OREGON II, left his home near the Missouri River in Missouri for a life at sea and has never looked back.  Like many young people from the Central United States, he joined the Navy as a way to travel and see the rest of the world.  He was stationed on Whidbey Island in Washington State and when he left the Navy he became a commercial fisherman working out of Seattle to fish the in Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Tim left the west coast and the world of commercial fishing to join NOAA and worked for several years on ships out of NOAA Woods Hole Station in Massachusetts.   Eventually, through connections he made on the job, he was able to transfer to the Southeastern Fisheries group.  He has worked on several ships, but has been on the OREGON II for 12 years.  Tim likes his job for the variety and activity it provides, as well as opportunities to apply his mind to ways to make things work better or more smoothly.  He attributes much of the good working atmosphere on the ship to the stability of many crew members who have worked together for years.   As a long-time civilian mariner with NOAA he appreciates the importance of believing in what you are doing and being committed to being successful.

But, Tim Martin is not so one dimensional that you can know him as just a mariner.  Talking with him I learned that he is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes in literature.  He devours everything from travel accounts to true adventure, biographies, and historical accounts of exploration and settlement of the world.  He has traveled broadly and uses his reading time to continue to learn about the places he has visited.  He is a licensed diver and enjoys the underwater world as much as sailing on the surface of the sea.   I was fascinated to learn that he has dived to authentic pirate wrecks…quite a change from his underwater beginnings in the dark and brackish Pascagoula River.  Tim is a great example of someone who recognizes that his only limits are the ones he sets for himself.  That is a great legacy to leave for his family.

Chris Nichols, Lead Fisherman, got into marine work for the adventures.  Growing up he read classics like “Captains Courageous” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” His years as a Boy Scout helped empower him with a can-do attitude that kept him from quitting when things got difficult.  After a mediocre high school career and his childhood years in West Palm Beach, Florida, hanging around the docks and fishing, his quest for travel and adventure led him first to commercial fishing and then to join the Navy.

After six years in the service, including training in water rescue, Chris left the Navy and started classes for work in the merchant marine industry.  As he worked toward earning his 100 ton master rating he discovered that using math, which had seemed unimportant and boring in high school, was critical for navigation.  Applying the things he was studying to real world problems made learning important.  The life-style structure of his military years helped him move fairly seamlessly into the shift work that became his routine aboard merchant ships.  The travel fed his sense of exploration and adventure.

Now, after 20 years working either on NOAA ships or for companies that contracted with NOAA, Chris still loves his job and his life style.  His experience in the merchant marine gave him the background to understand working on ships from the viewpoint of the wheel house and the deck.  He patiently explained to me that the job titles of people working on the deck crew are just positions for which eligible Able Bodied Seamen were hired.  They are not classification by skill or experience; they are job descriptions.  Each survey watch requires 3 crew members on deck to work equipment and support the scientists in deployment and retrieval of lines. Cooperation and communication are the most critical skills needed by everyone on the ship for success in carrying out their mission.

“NOAA has recently been experiencing a lack of interested, qualified applicants,” Chris told me.  “I think many young people lack the sense of adventure that makes life at sea attractive.”  He certainly demonstrates that desire for adventure: his eyes light up and an infectious grin spreads across his face as he talks about the places he’s been and the places he still wants to go.

The whole deck crew, including Chris Rawley, Mike Conway, Chuck Godwin, and James Rhue, are a lively, hard-working bunch.  They do their jobs, they have some fun doing them sometimes, and they like what they are doing.  Every time I was around them I could hear John Fogarty’s song “Rambunctious Boy” playing in my head and I ended up smiling and humming along!

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The Deck Crew – Chris Nichols, Mike Conway, Tim Martin, James Rhue, and Chris Rawley

ENGINEERS

Thirty-six years ago Rich Brooks took the advice of his high school math and history teachers and enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  The strict structure of the Academy helped him develop his study habits and learn the discipline needed to raise from a low C student a B+ student who took pride in his work.  He graduated with a degree in Marine Engineering, but spent time as a substitute teacher while deciding where he wanted to go with his career.  Currently he holds 3 chief engineer licenses: steam, motor and gasoline and is qualified to operate any watercraft.

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Richard Brooks

Eventually he started working on ships, spending a number of years in the Merchant Marine.   He worked on merchant transport ships contracted to our government to support Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Persian Gulf. For 10 years he worked on independent oil tankers on the West Coast, transporting oil and gasoline to and from various ports. He has been a 1st Engineer for NOAA for 2 years.

Rich enjoys the travel and adventure that are part of his career.  He likes visiting different cities and has been through both the Suez and Panama Canals in his travels.  It has been a long journey around the world from his childhood home in Haverhill, Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama where he made his home base for the last 25 years.  He is proud that his work as an engineer has influenced his son to pursue a career in engineering, following his father’s example of hard work and sacrifice as the way to get ahead in life. Rich hopes to see more young people turn to careers in engineering, knowing as he does that the average age of marine engineers in this country is 58 years which means there will be openings for young people as they complete their training.  As for him, when he retires several years in the future he looks forward to moving closer to his father in Florida, going fishing and playing golf.

 

THE PEOPLE I MISSED INTERVIEWING:

My roommate, Chrissy Stepongzi, is a marine biologist and the person of whom I saw the least on this cruise.  She knows her job and was always eager to answer questions.  We just did not see each other often to talk because of being on opposite shifts and sharing the room.  She slept while I worked and visa-versa.  I appreciated her quick smile and well-developed sense of humor and wish we had been able to get better acquainted.

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The Night Crew before a shift change – Trey, Chrissy, Lydia, and Toni

Fisherman Mike Conway has been working on ships for a long time.  He loves the ocean and loves the travel.  His willingness to make sure I learned and got opportunity to see things was really helpful and made me feel welcome.  Mike was always willing to grab my iPad and take pictures so I could be in them and he was the one that made sure I got to see the sky at night and appreciate the beauty of being on the ocean in one more way.

Fisherman Chris Rawley, quick to grin, but slow to talk, took some effort to get to know.  Chris was a fisherman on our shift and helped with everything from running the crane to pulling lines to wrestling sharks.  He was “born under a wandering star,” and loves to travel.  He’s a gypsy at heart.

James Rhue is another fisherman working on the deck crew.  He too was with the night shift so we didn’t cross paths often.  When we did talk he could always answer my questions and made me feel welcome.

Mike, Chris, and James are pictured in the Deck Crew photo above.

Mary Stratford was filling in on the deck crew this cruise.  She lives in Puerto Rico where she is a ceramic artist, but much of her life has been spent working in jobs that allow her to see the world.  Mary was helpful and friendly and always interesting to talk to.

2nd Engineer Darnell Doe, the quiet, friendly guy I ate breakfast with most mornings.  We shared a little conversation and watch the news over a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee.  I never turned out into a formal interview and didn’t take notes on our casual conversations.

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2nd Engineer Darnell Doe

3rd Engineer Sam Bessey was filling in a temporary vacancy.  He is a recent graduate of an academy in Maine and worked the opposite shift of mine so we had a few chances to talk a little, but not enough to call an interview.  I do know he wants to head for Hawaii and try to find work there after this cruise, but will head home to Maine to see family first.  Good luck in your new career Sam.

Roy Tolliver was our tech person.  I most often saw him walking from place to place on the decks, checking on electronic equipment and trying to troubleshoot computer problems when they arose.  Roy has worked on ships for many years and has been many places around the world.

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Roy Tolliver and Sam Bessey on the flying bridge as we moved into the harbor at Gulfport

O C Hill, Listed on the staff roster as a “wiper” was another one of the people who kept the ship running.  Our interactions were limited to friendly smiles and greetings.  When folks work in the engine room it is hard to find a time to talk with them, especially if shifts don’t match.

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Otha (O.C.) Hill

Valerie McCaskill, our cook and one of the most important people on the ship.  I know she has a daughter she was eager to get home to see.  I know she had very little warning that the previous cook would not be on this voyage so she had to step in in a hurry.  I know that she has a beautiful smile and makes legendary macaroni and cheese!  She kept us very happy!

Chuck Godwin would normally be working on this ship as a skilled fisherman on the deck crew, but he worked in the kitchen with Valerie this trip to fill an important empty spot and keep us all well-fed.  His irrepressible sense of fun and lively conversation kept us all hopping.  His career has spanned time in the Coast Guard as well as years with NOAA.  His is a proud new grandpa.

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Valerie McCaskill and Chuck Godwin in the galley of NOAA Ship OREGON II

That I did not get to know everyone on the ship is my loss.  Everyone that I met was friendly and helpful.  It was a true pleasure to meet and work with these great people.

Nichia Huxtable: Life on board, you won’t be bored!, May 6, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Nichia Huxtable

Aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

April 28-May 9, 2016

Mission: Mapping CINMS                                                                                                           Geographical area of cruise: Channel Islands, California                                                 Date: May 6, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 2-3 ft swells; storm clouds over land, clear at sea

Science and Technology Log

Dismantling the REMUS 600 AUV for its trip home

Goodbye, AUV. Until we meet again.

The AUV is no longer my favorite thing on Shimada. As I write this, it is being dismantled and packed into shipping boxes for its return trip home to Maryland. To keep a long, sad story short, the AUV had a big electrical problem that was fixed, but when the scientists turned it on for a test run, a tiny $6 lithium battery broke open and oozed all over the motherboard. Game over for the AUV. So now my favorite thing on Shimada is the ice cream.

Personal Log

Enough about science and technology for now. I bet you’re really wondering what it’s like day in and day out on board Shimada. Well, my intrepid future NOAA crew members, this blog post is for you! We’ll start what’s most important: the food.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the same time everyday. The food is prepared in the galley and everyone eats in the mess. Beverages, cereal, yogurt, fruit, snacks, the salad bar, and ice cream are available 24 hours a day, so there is no need to ever be hungry. Not all ships are the same, however. In one of the many anecdotes told to me by master storyteller Fabio Campanella, an Italian research ship he once worked on served fresh bread and authentic pizza everyday…sign me up for that cruise!

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Unlike the AUV, the ice cream freezer never disappoints

Next, you’re probably wondering where everyone sleeps. Sleeping quarters are called staterooms and most commonly sleep two people, although larger staterooms might sleep four. Each stateroom has its own television and a bathroom, which is called a head. As you can see in the photo, the bunks have these neat curtains that keep out the light in case your roommate needs to get up at 1 a.m. for the night-shift.

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Working in the Acoustics Lab on Shimada

The Shimada has lots and lots of work and storage rooms, each serving a different function. There is a wet lab, dry lab, chem lab, and acoustics lab for doing SCIENCE (woohoo!), as well as a tech room for the computer specialist (called an ET), storage lockers for paint, cleaning supplies, and linens, plus other rooms full of gear and machinery. There’s also a laundry room, so you can take care of your stinky socks before your roommate starts to complain!

Trash on board is separated into recyclable bottles and cans, food waste, and trash. The food waste is ground up into tiny pieces and dumped in the ocean outside of the sanctuary, while the trash is INCINERATED! That’s right, it’s set on fire…a really, really, hot fire. Ash from the incinerator is disposed of onshore.

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Shimada‘s incinerator

Another important part of the ship is the bridge. Operations occur 24 hours a day, so the ship never sleeps. Officers on the bridge must know what is happening on the ship, what the weather and traffic is like around the ship, and they must make sure to properly pass down this information between watches. The bridge has radar to spot obstacles and other ships, a radio to communicate with other ships, and a radio to communicate with the crew and scientists.

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Looking for wildlife on the NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

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Bridge on the Shimada

Last, but not least, is the lounge that comes complete with surround-sound, a big screen TV, super-comfy recliners, and about 700 movies, including the newest of the new releases.

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Wish this was my living room!

Did you know? 

A female elephant seal was once recorded diving underwater for two continuous hours (they usually stay underwater for 1/2 hour); the deepest recorded dive was by a male and was 5,141ft.

Stay tuned for the next post: Multibeam? You Mean Multi-AWESOME!

Tom Savage: Meet the Staff and Scientists, June 18, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Savage
On Board NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
June 10 – 19, 2015

Meet the Staff and Scientists

Mission: Cetacean and Turtle Research
Geographic area of Cruise: North Atlantic
Date: June 18, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 15 C
Wind speed: 5 knots
Wind direction: coming from the North West
Relative humidity: 90%
Barometer: 1009 millibars

Personal Log

My journey has come to a conclusion, and we are one hour from docking at the naval base in Newport, RI. What a privilege it is to be a part of this scientific mission. The substantial photos, videos, data and experiences will greatly enhance my physical and earth science curriculum and further my goal of getting students interested in fields of science. This journey has reinforced my position that a nation cannot advance and improve the quality of life without scientific research.

I would like to thank the scientists on board during this cruise, Mr. Pete Duley and Dr. Danielle Cholewiak

 

Teacher & Chief Scientist

Me, Pete Duley and Danielle “Dani” Cholewiak

Science and Technology Log

Every job aboard a research vessel is mission critical, and one is not more important than the other. During this excursion, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the crew and scientists that made this tour a success.

 

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Executive Officer (XO), Patrick Murphy, NOAA Corps

Pat began his career studying Physics at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington and earned a master’s degree in oceanography while attending Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. When asked how he got involved in the NOAA Corps, he mentioned there were two well defined career paths as an oceanographer: NOAA or teaching. He advises students who are considering the NOAA Corps to build operational leadership skills and to demonstrate that you can work in a team and complete a job when assigned.

A few of his favorite places he has visited while employed with the NOAA Corps: Farallone Islands Ca, Alaska bays and inside passages when hiding from storms, and Dutch Harbor located among the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

 

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Julianne, Acoustician

Julianne is a recent graduate of Oregon State University and received a BS in zoology, and she is currently working on her master’s degree. Her path with NOAA started as a recipient of the Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship Program. This program provides students with scholarship money and paid internships with the goal of fostering multidisciplinary training opportunities within NOAA. After graduating from Oregon State University, Julianne worked in Alaska at a remote salmon hatchery, Snettisham Hatchery. She is currently an acoustician with NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center as a research analyst focusing on real-time acoustic tracking of baleen whales and the North Atlantic right whale migratory corridor project.

 

Genevieve, Research Analyst

Genevieve was also a NOAA Hollings scholar and worked on North Atlantic Right Whale calling behavior across seasons. Genevieve joined NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries acoustics team as a research analyst focusing on baleen whale acoustics and as an elementary school educational outreach program at the center. She is working on her doctorate in Environmental Biology with a focus on baleen distributions and migrations.

 

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Hillary, whales specialist for Fisheries and Oceans, Canada.

Hilary became interested in whales at the age of five. “My mom was always super interested in the ocean and we went whale watching often.” She studied marine biology with a focus on seal acoustics. Getting on a boat to see and study marine animals is what she enjoys most about her job.

When asked about advice for students who want to study marine biology. “Get experience whenever you can, especially if you have the opportunity to work in a lab. Having experience is crucial. Volunteering with a professor who is studying seals led me to an avenue in whale biology.”

 

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Dennis, Chief Steward

Prior to joining NOAA, Dennis had a career with the Navy for 20 years. Dennis has one of the most important jobs on the ship, keeping everyone fed. He is absolutely amazing!  While I was on duty on the Fly Bridge, around four in the afternoon, aromas from the galley drifted to the Fly Bridge.  It was a nightly contest to guess what would be served in the galley. His cooking is so unique that all of our guesses were incorrect; we went 0/5 that week. One night, steak was served for dinner and it was the best steak I have ever had.  Thanks Dennis!

 

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Marjorie , Research Fishery Biologist

Marjorie works for NOAA’s Northeast Fisheries Science Center. Her job focuses on collecting data from commercial fishing operations. This data provides valuable information on determining if certain fish populations can maintain a healthy marine mammal population.

She earned an undergraduate degree in Natural resources from University of Massachusetts, Amherst.  She is currently working on a doctorate in Marine Biology from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth.

Best wishes to all !

Tom

Robert Ulmer: The Company You Keep, June 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Robert Ulmer

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

Underway from June 15 to July 3, 2013

Current coordinates:  N 56⁰40.075’, W 134⁰20.96’

(southeast of Point Sullivan in Chatham Strait)

Mission:  Hydrographic survey

Geographical area of cruise:  Southeast Alaska, including Chatham Strait and Behm Canal, with a Gulf of Alaska transit westward to Kodiak

Log date:  June 25, 2013

Weather conditions:  Misty rain under a blanket of thick clouds and fog, 13.76⁰C, 84.88% relative humidity, 1001.09 mb of atmospheric pressure, very light variable winds (speed of less than 1.5 knots with a heading between 344⁰ and 11⁰)

  • Remember that headings on a ship are measured around a full 360⁰ circle clockwise from north.  Therefore, 344⁰ and 22⁰ are only 38⁰ apart directionally.
NOAA Ship Rainier, S-221, underway in Behm Canal

The operation of NOAA Ship Rainier, S-221, requires the cooperation of a large, hard-working, and multi-talented crew.

Explorer’s Log:  The crew of NOAA Ship Rainier

Especially as we leave the confines of childhood, society views us, at least in part, by our intentional decisions about which people make up our circle of friends and our group of colleagues.  Certainly such outside judgments can be unfair when based only on short-term glimpses, predisposed biases, or moments misunderstood for lack of context, but I think that long-term observations of our personal associations can provide meaningful information about us.

With Ai Wei Wei's zodiac sculptures in Washington, DC

With Ai Wei Wei’s zodiac sculptures in Washington, DC

With the crew after the 5K race at O'Leno State Park

After the 5K race at O’Leno State Park

My closest circle of friends – intentionally – is populated by a rich gumbo of personalities, ideas, ideals, physiques, insights, humors, tastes, preferences, and behaviors, all of which serve to stimulate my mind, activate my creativity, enrich my soul, entertain my spirit, and motivate my direction.  In other words, they are the scaffolding that supports me and the team that carries me along through so many parts of my own explorations.  Jasmine’s appreciation of intelligence and beauty, Collin’s sharp wit, Reece’s focused intensity, Dad’s analysis, Mom’s honesty, Lisa’s support, Grandma Madeline’s generosity, Aunt Marilyn’s and Uncle Marc’s welcome, Aunt Lynn’s spunkiness, Cheryl’s cool, Dillon’s quiet observation, Jack’s vision, Teresa’s organization, Bob’s perspective, Katy’s goodness, Chris’s enthusiasm, Emilee’s wonder, Kyle’s repartee, Casey’s lyricism, Will’s genuineness, Rien’s kindness, Tyler’s motivation, Zach’s creativity, Brian’s investment in service, Matt’s passion for justice, Gary’s sense of direction, Tommy’s helpfulness, Silas’s wordsmithery, Loubert’s jocularity, Jonathan’s love….

And then add the brilliant and rich colors and flavors and voices of my larger group of friends and acquaintances:  the teachers, administrators, students, and neighbors who daily contribute their own stories and wisdoms to my experiences, and the result – again, intentionally – is very nearly a portrait of me… or at least the me that I aspire to become in my own journeys.

(For my varied generations of readers, think of the Magnificent Seven, the Fellowship of the Ring, and/or the Order of the Phoenix.  This is my posse.)

In other words, we often are judged and almost always are defined by the company we keep.

Wedding celebration

Wedding celebration

The NOAA Ship Rainier is no exception.  Beyond the mechanical body of the ship herself, the personnel here are the essence of the vessel that carries them.

Acting CO Mark Van Waes maintains a vigilant lookout on the bridge

Acting CO Mark Van Waes maintains a vigilant lookout on the bridge.

Smart and funny, resourceful and dedicated, skilled and hard-working, the crew members of NOAA Ship Rainier are an impressive bunch, all of whom have enriched me in the short time that I’ve been aboard, and all of whom do their jobs and interact in ways that produce superb results.  And the wholeness of their shared strengths, talents, and personalities is far greater than the sum of their individual aspects, as always is the case when a team is well-assembled.

MB_2, Red Bluff Bay, Chatham Strait, Alaska, June 23, 2013

One of the NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers appreciates the beauty of Southeast Alaska.

For more than 150 (and sometimes more than 250!) days per year, the men and women aboard ships in the NOAA fleet sacrifice time away from their own homes, friends, and families – and regularly that remoteness isolates them from news, television, phone, and internet for days or weeks at a time – in service to the public at large through their assigned missions at sea.  Currently, nearly four dozen crew members serve aboard Rainier in several departments, each of which serves its own set of functions, but all of which are unified by their shared mission, like the instrumental sections of an orchestra in the production of a symphony.

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, sharply outfitted aboard ship in their navy blue ODUs (operational dress uniforms), is one of the seven uniformed services in the United States government.  For this leg of the mission, the officers  aboard Rainier serve under Acting Commanding Officer (ACO) Mark Van Waes and Executive Officer (XO) Holly Jablonski to perform three sets of functions:  administrative, navigational, and participatory.  As the administrators of the ship, the officers are responsible for everything from payroll to purchases, and communications to goodwill.  In the navigational capacity, the officers are responsible for charting the courses to be traveled by the ship and moving the vessel along those courses, sometimes with helm in hand and sometimes by giving the command orders to effectuate those maneuvers.  Finally, aboard Rainier and her sister hydrographic vessels, the junior officers are trained members of the hydrographic survey team, participating at all levels in the gathering and processing of data regarding the floor of the sea.  Ultimately, the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps members work to define the missions of Rainier and oversee the execution of those missions.

NOAA Commissioned Officers and Third Mate Carl VerPlanck of the Deck Department navigate NOAA Ship Rainier

NOAA Commissioned Officers and Third Mate Carl VerPlanck of the Deck Department navigate NOAA Ship Rainier.

Deck Department

Members of the Deck Department let go the anchor on the bow

Members of the Deck Department let go the anchor on the bow.

Beyond the uniformed NOAA Corps crew members, Rainier also employs many highly-skilled civilian merchant mariners who work around the clock to support the officers in the duties of navigation and sailing of the ship while it is underway.  Essentially, while following the decisive command orders of the Officer Corps, the Deck Department handles the endless details involved in steering the ship and its smaller boats, along with deploying and anchoring those vessels.  Under the departmental leadership of Chief Boatswain (pronounced “bosun”) Jim Kruger, the members of the Deck Department all hold various levels of U.S. Coast Guard ratings in navigational watch-standing and deck operations, and their experiences and proficiencies earn them respect with regard to many facets of decision-making and operations on the bridge.

(The NOAA Corps and the Deck Department together have been responsible for the passage of NOAA Ship Rainier through the waterways of Southeast Alaska during my weeks aboard.  To see a cool video of NOAA’s travel through Alaska’s Inside Passage made using stop-motion photography by Ensign John Kidd, click here.)

Survey and Deck Department members work together to prepare for the day's launches

Survey and Deck Department members work together to prepare for the day’s launches.

Survey Department

The members of the Survey Department aboard NOAA Ship Rainier are civilian scientists (working hand-in-hand with survey-trained NOAA Corps officers) who have been trained in the specialized work of conducting surveys of the sea floor using single-beam sonar, multi-beam sonar, tidal gauges and leveling devices, CTD devices (to gather data about conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water column), and several very highly-technical components of computer hardware and software packages.

Only the highest point of this 150-meter-wide rock remains above the water line at high tide.

Can you see the horizontal lines on this rock formation? They are caused by cyclical changes in the elevation of the sea water as a result of tidal forces. Only the highest point (around where the bald eagle is perched) of this 150-meter-wide set of rocks (extending beyond the boundaries of this image in both directions several times the width of what this photograph shows) remains above the water line at high tide. However, the portions that become submerged remain extremely dangerous to seagoing vessels, which is why the work of the Survey Department is so important.

From Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technicians (HASTs) upward through the ranks to Chief Survey Technician (CST) Jim Jacobson, they are superb problem-solvers and analysts with undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees in the cartography, biology, geography, systems analysis, and many other fields of scientific expertise, and one survey technician aboard Rainier is an experienced mariner who transferred into the Survey Department with a broad educational background ranging from the humanities to computer science.  The members of the Survey Department spend countless hours gathering, cleaning, analyzing, and integrating data to produce nautical charts and related work products to make travel by water safer for everyone at sea.

Two-dimensional slice of data

The Survey Department compiles raw sonar and quantitative data from the ship and the launch vessels and first converts those data into a graphic file that looks like this…

... which becomes this ...

… which is a slice of this image …

Soundings

… which then goes through this sounding selection stage before eventually being finalized into a nautical chart for public use.

Physical Scientists

 NOAA physical scientist Kurt Brown joins Rainier in surveying the sea floor of Chatham Strait


NOAA physical scientist Kurt Brown joins Rainier in surveying the sea floor of Chatham Strait.

One or two physical scientists join the ship’s crew for most of the field season from one of two NOAA Hydrographic offices (in Seattle, Washington and Norfolk, Virginia), where their jobs consist of reviewing the hydrographic surveys submitted by the ships to make sure that they meet NOAA’s high standards for survey data, and compiling those surveys into products used to update the approximately 1000 nautical charts that NOAA maintains.  The ship benefits from the physical scientists’ time on board by having a person familiar with office processing of survey data while the surveys are “in the field,” and also by receiving an extra experienced hand for daily survey operations.  The physical scientists also get a refresher on hydro data collection and processing along with a better understanding of the problems that the field deals with on a daily basis, and they bring this up-to-date knowledge back to the office to share with coworkers there.

Engineering Department

Oiler Byron Doran of the Engineering Department chooses the right tools for the job.

Oiler Byron Doran of the Engineering Department chooses the right tools for the job.

The Engineering Department is a combination of U.S. Coast Guard licensed Engineering Officers (CME, 1AE, 2AE, and 3AE) and unlicensed engineering personnel (Junior Engineer, Oiler, and GVA).  Their work is concerned with the maintenance of the physical plant of the ship — everything from stopping leaks to making mechanical adjustments necessary for Rainier‘s proper and efficient running in the water.  The engineers are skilled craftsmen and craftswomen who wield multiple tools with great dexterity as needs arise.

Electronics Technicians

Electronics Technician (ET) Jeff Martin hard at work

Electronics Technician (ET) Jeff Martin is hard at work.

The Electronics Technician aboard NOAA Ship Rainier (some ships have a larger department) has the important role of making sure that the many computerized systems — both hardware and software — are properly networked and functional so that navigation and survey operations can proceed effectively and efficiently.  Having trained on radar equipment with the U.S. Navy “back in the days of glass tubes,” ET Jeff Martin is an expert’s expert, adept at prediction and troubleshooting, and skilled at developing plans for moving systems forward with the ship’s mission.

Steward Department

Chief Steward Doretha Mackey always cooks up a good time and a great meal.

Chief Steward Doretha Mackey always cooks up a good time and a great meal.

Chief Steward Kathy Brandts and GVA Ron Hurt keep the crew happily well-fed.

Chief Steward Kathy Brandts and GVA Ron Hurt keep the crew happily well-fed.

The Steward Department runs the galley (the ship’s kitchen) and currently is composed of four crew members aboard Rainier.  Specifically, they are responsible for menu preparation, food acquisition, recipe creation, baking, and meal preparation for the 40+ people who must eat three meals (and often have snacks) spread across the entire day, both underway and at port, including special meals for away-from-the-galley groups (like launch vessels and shore parties), when local goods (like fish, fruits, and vegetables) are available, and/or for crew members or guests with dietary restrictions.  An army moves on its stomach.  The meals aboard this ship, by the way, show great diversity, technique, and nutritional value, including grilled fish and steaks, vegetarian casseroles, curried pastas, homemade soups, fresh salads, and a wide variety of delicious breakfast foods, snacks, and desserts.

Second Cook Floyd Pounds works to prepare a meal for the crew.

Second Cook Floyd Pounds works to prepare a meal for the crew.

So those are the current citizens of the seagoing vessel NOAA Ship Rainier, harmonizing within a common chord, travelers who together explore the seas by working together to achieve their unified mission.  They are the excellent company that I keep on this leg of the exploration.

As you endeavor upon your own journeys, remember always to choose your company wisely so that your efforts are supported when challenging, insulated when vulnerable, motivated when difficult, and celebrated when successful.  And once you are surrounded by those good people, keep exploring, my friends.

Even the sea otters take some time to relax and enjoy one another's company.

Sea otters enjoy one another’s company along their way.

Personal Log:  Enjoy yourself along the way

Although they all work long, hard hours at their many assigned tasks, members of the team aboard NOAA Ship Rainier also enjoy one another’s company and occasionally get to have a good time.  Sharing an isolated, moving home barely 70 meters long with four dozen people for several weeks at a time guarantees social interaction, and the sounds of testimonies of laughter and friendship regularly fill the air in and around the ship, both among the workstations and away from the ship.

Ensign Theresa Madsen and Second Assistant Engineer Evan McDermott, my exploration partners in Red Bluff Bay

Ensign Theresa Madsen and Second Assistant Engineer Evan McDermott, my exploration partners in Red Bluff Bay

One of Carl's many catches

One of Carl’s many catches

Since joining the crew of Rainier just a week and a half ago – and beyond the many exciting excursions that are simply part of the regular jobs here – I already have been invited to join various smaller groups in exploring a town, dining in a local eatery, watching a movie, climbing a glacier, fishing in the waters of Bay of Pillars, walking on a beach, and kayaking through beautiful Red Bluff Bay past stunning waterfalls, huge mountains, and crystal-clear icy streams, including a spontaneous hike into the deep and wild, verdant and  untrammeled woods above the shore, following uncut paths usually trod only by deer and bears on their way to the frigid water running down from the snow-capped peaks high above.

Evan replaces his socks after walking through the stream

Evan replaces his socks after walking through the frigid stream.

Evan takes the lead hiking into the woods (armed with bear spray and an adventurer's spirit)

Evan takes the lead hiking into the woods, armed with bear spray and an adventurer’s spirit!

Truly, the people aboard Rainier know how to enjoy the gift of life.  And I feel honored, flattered, privileged, and happy to be included among these new friends on their great adventures.

Beautiful waterfall in Red Bluff Bay

A beautiful waterfall that Theresa, Evan, and I explored in Red Bluff Bay

Stacey Jambura: We’re All in This Together! July 20, 2012

Stacey Jambura
July 6 – July 17, 2012
.
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Current Geographical Area: Waterloo, Iowa 
Date: July 20, 2012
.

Science and Technology Log

Crew of the NOAA Ship Oregon II

It is no small feat to conduct a research survey for NOAA. It takes many individuals with many different strengths to ensure a safe and successful cruise. From the captain of the ship who is responsible for the safety of the ship and the crew, to the stewards who ensure the crew is well fed and well kept, every crew member is important.

I interviewed many of the crew members to get a better idea of what their jobs entail and what they had to do to become qualified for their jobs. I complied all of the interviews into a video to introduce you to some of the Oregon II’s crew.

Safety Aboard the Oregon II

While out at sea, safety is a critical issue. Just as schools have fire and tornado drills, ships have drills of their own. All crew members have a role to fulfill during each drill. Emergency billets (assigned jobs during emergencies) are posted for each cruise in multiple locations on the ship.

Emergency Billets

Emergency Billets

Abandon Ship Billets

Abandon Ship Billets

Fire on a ship is a very critical situation. Because of this, fire drills are performed frequently to ensure all crew recognize the alarm, listen to important directions from the captain, and muster to their assigned stations. (To muster means to report and assemble together.) One long blast of the ship’s whistle signals a fire. (Think of someone yelling “Firrreee!!!”) Each crew member is assigned to a location to perform a specific duty. When the fire whistle is blown, some crew members are in charge of donning fire fighting suits and equipment, while others are in charge of making sure all crew have mustered to their stations.

Immersion Suit

Donning My Immersion Suit

Another drill performed on the ship is the abandon ship drill. This drill is performed so that crew will be prepared in the unlikely event that the they need to evacuate the ship. Seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast signals to the crew to abandon ship. Crew members must report to their staterooms to gather their PFDs (personal flotation devices), their immersion suits, hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Once all emergency equipment is gathered, all crew meets on the deck at the bow of the ship to don their shirts, pants, hats, immersion suits, and PFDs. All of this gear is important for survival in the open ocean because it will keep you warm, protected, and afloat until rescue is achieved.

The last drill we perform is the man overboard drill. This drill is performed so that all crew will be ready to respond if a crew member falls overboard. If a crew member falls overboard, the ship’s whistle is blown three times (think of someone shouting “Maann Overr-boarrrd..!). If the crew member is close enough, and is not badly injured, a swimmer line can be thrown out. If the crew member is too far away from the ship or is injured, the RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) will be deployed and will drive out to rescue the crew member. The crew member can be secured to a rescue basket and lifted back onboard the ship.

Man Overboard

Chris Nichols and Tim Martin performing a man overboard drill.
(photo courtesy of Junie Cassone)

Man Overboard Drill

Man Overboard Drill

Safety Equipment

Donning my hard hat

It is important to practice allof these drills so that everyone can move quickly and efficiently to handle and resolve the problem. All drills are performed at least once during each cruise.

Daily safety aboard the Oregon II is also important. When any heavy machinery is in operation, such as large cranes, it is important that all crew in the area don safety equipment. This equipment includes a hard hat and a PFD (personal flotation device). Since cranes are operated at least once at every sampling station, this safety equipment is readily available for crew members to use

Personal Log

July 20th

At the bow of the Oregon II

At the bow of the Oregon II
(photo courtesy of Junie Cassone)

I have now returned home from my grand adventure aboard the Oregon II. It took a few days for me to recover from “stillness illness” and get my land-legs back, but it feels nice to be back home. I miss working alongside the crew of the Oregon II and made many new friends that I hope to keep in touch with. Being a Teacher at Sea has been an experience of a lifetime. I learned so much about life at sea and studies in marine science. About half way through the cruise I had started to believe this was my full-time job! I am eager to share this experience with students and staff alike. I hope to spark new passions in students and excitement in staff to explore this opportunity from NOAA.

I want to thank all of the crew of the Oregon II for being so welcoming and including me as another crew member aboard the ship. I also want to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for offering me such a wonderful opportunity. I hope to be part of future opportunities offered by this program.

Amanda Peretich: Meet My “Mates”, July 19, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 30 – July 18, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bering Sea
Date: July 19, 2012

Location Data
Crowley pier, Dutch Harbor, Alaska

Personal Log
Today’s post is going to be about all of the people on board the Oscar Dyson for leg 2 of the pollock survey as I’ve spent the entire cruise with them. You’d think that being on a ship this size, I’d see all of these people all the time, but due to different shifts (the ship operates 24/7), sometimes I wouldn’t see people for days. I’ve really enjoyed working with and getting to know everyone, and hope that all of my questions and photos weren’t too annoying. This is a great group and I was absolutely blessed to spend 19 days on board with them. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I could and am extremely grateful for this amazing adventure. WARNING: this is a long post! There are 32 people on board (including myself), with so many good stories to tell and not enough time to tell them all.

Just a quick background on a few things:

Rankings and abbreviations in NOAA Corps (which are also the same as in the Navy)
ADM (admiral)
CAPT (captain)
CDR (commander)
LCDR (lieutenant commander)
LT (lieutenant)
LTJG (lieutenant junior grade)
ESN (ensign)

A somewhat incomplete flowchart showing the relationship between various organizations and departments related to NOAA

Flowchart

A somewhat incomplete flowchart showing the relationship between various organizations and departments related to NOAA

Now, onto the “bios” and fun facts, stories, or lessons learned …

1. CO (Commanding Officer): CDR Mark Boland
The CO is originally from Rapid City, South Dakota where he attended the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology to earn his degree in Electrical Engineering. He also earned a master’s degree in Engineering Management from the University of Anchorage, Alaska. Commander Boland joined NOAA Corps in 1990 and has worked his way up to the Commanding Officer over the years. When I first arrived in Dutch Harbor, I was out to dinner one night, had never met him, and he tells me that he’s found an article in one of those tourist magazines just for me. Okay, so I may not have had on an Alaska Ship Supply sweatshirt like everyone else, but I didn’t think I stuck out that much! He then tells me he’s the CO and I said “Oh, I’m the Teacher at Sea Amanda” to which he responds that he already knew that. The article? The difficulty of retaining teachers in rural areas of Alaska. A good read and sad truth.

2. XO (Executive Officer): 1st Mate Kris Mackie
Kris (often referred to as Mackie) has been on the OD since March 2011, following 13 years on the Miller-Freeman. He was born and raised in Ketchikan, AK, which is predominantly a fishing and logging community. He worked some odd jobs (like painting little Indian sculptures that were made in Korea and later sold as “authentic Alaskan totem poles”) and then worked at Alaska Ship and Dry Dock as a journeyman painter and sand blaster before working on the Miller-Freeman. The thing Mackie most misses is relationships (they are pretty hard to have when you spend so much time at sea) and says he will probably drive a boat another 15-20 years. His most memorable experience? Working in ice in the Alaskan waters. For students, Mackie recommends NOAA Corps because you can retire after 20 years or becoming an engineer because you can have both land and maritime assignments, both with good pay.

3. OPS (Field Operations Officer): LT Matt Davis
Matt (originally from Michigan) earned his B.S. in aerospace studies from Embry-Riddle in Arizona and his M.S. in math from Eastern Michigan. After joining NOAA Corps, he was assigned to the Miller-Freeman, based out of Seattle, WA. After 3 years, his land assignment was in the Channel Islands (off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA) to be in charge of operations for 2-3 small contractors. The OD is his second boat assignment and he has been here since January. Fun fact: Matt and Dave (see below) hiked in Akutan, Alaska during the last in-port between Leg 1 and 2 of this Pollock survey. They flew there in the amphibious “Grumman Goose”, which is an eight-seater sea plane that lands in the water and then goes right up on the dock because Akutan does not have a landing strip due to the steep terrain. Matt taught me an incredible amount of information during this cruise and I’m very much appreciative of everything I learned.

4. SO (Safety Officer): ENS Dave Rodziewicz
Dave grew up in the western suburbs near Chicago. He started off in the Coast Guard Academy for 2 years studying mechanical engineering before transferring to the University of Chicago Illinois to study Finance and Economics. After spending two years in an office analyzing stock, he joined NOAA Corps and actually wanted his ship billet in Alaska because it’s been “one big extended adventure”. In the future, he may do something with economics and an environmental focus, but for now he’s preparing for his shore duty (land billet) in Boulder, Colorado. Dave is very outdoorsy and most misses climbing. His favorite BOTC (Basic Officer Training Class) experience was “circumnavigating Manhattan” in small boats and his best adventure was hiking Grand Teton in Wyoming. Fun fact: Dave and Matt hiked in Akutan, Alaska right before we left for this leg of the survey (see more above with Matt Davis). During the trip, Dave actually got some sun and has a nice resulting farmer’s tan on his arms. Dave has also seen a large portion of the movies on board, tends to go for more of the thought-provoking movies (in my opinion), and is very knowledgeable about cinematic pictures.

5. Navigation and Medical Officer: ENS Chelsea Frate
Chelsea is originally from Connecticut and went to SUNY Maritime Academy in NY where she earned her B.S. in environmental science. She then went to BOTC and has been on the OD since December for her first ship assignment. She chose NOAA so that she could “sail on [her] license and utilize [her] major”. On board, she does medical, navigation, and environmental compliance. She most misses summer, even though she wanted to be in Alaska. She also misses tanning, but said that the highlights here are super cheap! The hardest part of her job is when the internet is slow and Facebook won’t load (and that she really does love her job). The one thing she does not want to ever do is dive school. Before we left Dutch, Chelsea invited me to go kayaking and she even joined me and Brian Kibler jumping in the freezing Alaskan waters at the end of our kayaking trip (for a very brief minute)!

6. JO (Junior Officer): ENS Libby Chase
Libby (who totally reminds me of my awesome friend Lesley) is fresh out of BOTC, just arriving on OD at the same time as me (although she’ll be here much longer than I will). She’s originally from “Bahh Haaabar” (Bar Harbor) and was appalled that I didn’t know that was in Maine. She has two dogs that she absolutely loves and totally misses. Libby is former Navy, having served 6 years on active duty (stationed in Oahu, Hawaii). During her next four years in the reserves, she went to Maine Maritime Academy and earned a B.S. in marine biology. She plans to stay in NOAA Corps until she retires (especially since she already has 7 years in with her Navy time). As a JO, she works 4 hours on the bridge, 4 hours off watch (where she reads manuals, standing orders, SOPs, etc.), 4 more hours on the bridge, and 12 hours off. Her favorite sea creature is the octopus (which is way better than any sort of crustacean according to her), and one of the other guys on board has nicknamed her Bright Eyes. I’ve also had plenty of fun on various scavenger hunts for EEBDs and fire extinguishers with Libby and plan to mail her a homemade otolith necklace as thanks when I get back to Maryland!

7. ENS Kevin Michael
Kevin is also straight out of BOTC (he was in the same BOTC class with Libby) but he’s originally from Arkansas. He went to Arkansas Tech University, where he has an associates in nuclear technology and a bachelors in mechanical engineering with a minor in math. After graduating in May 2011, he started a NOAA Corps application in June and then work as a nuclear engineer at Arkansas Nuclear One in August until he began BOTC in February 2012. Kevin is on OD for Leg 2 of the Pollock survey as a survey tech and should be working up on the bridge for Leg 3 before heading to Newport, Oregon to work at MOC-P (Marine Operations Center – Pacific) to await a final ship assignment. He’s a super hard worker and constantly doing something on board! Kevin didn’t see the ocean until he was almost 13 when he went to Padre Island, he drinks whole milk regularly, and he uses funny terms like “son of a bache” (Alexander Dallas Bache was important in NOAA Corps history). He’s also been enjoyable company in the fish lab during a majority of my shift and during meal times.

8. CME (Chief Marine Engineer) Brent Jones
Brent is from Kentucky but just recently moved to Delaware, where his wife lives while he’s at sea. He has worked for various companies over his lifetime, including Exxon shipping and then MSRC (Marine Spill Response Corporation), which is basically like the “firefighters” for an oil spill (such as the Exxon-Valdez incident). He then worked for Harrah’s Casino as their chief engineer. Harrah’s uses all in-house wiring, so it was a high stress job to keep everything up and running 24/7. Even though they worked 14 days on, 14 days off, they worked in 12 hour shifts and had to do 50 hours of unpaid community service (concerts, fights, etc.) each year. If there was a meeting on your off days, you still had to go in for it. Brent just came to the OD from the NOAA Pisces and stays very busy down in the engineering rooms. He also showed me all about the incinerator on board that they use to burn our trash. It can reach temperatures above 1200°C (2192°F) and will burn aluminum and such down to nothing but a little ash. Brent has been a USCG (U.S. Coast Guard) licensed chief marine engineer for 34 years. During his career, Brent has worked from Greenland to Punta, Chile and has seen 72 countries!

9. 1AE (1st Assistant Engineer) Tony Assouad
Tony is originally from Lebanon but went to school and college in Dubai. He worked for an oil company there for over 26 years, where he worked his way up from 3rd to 2nd to 1st and chief engineer. He has worked on LPG (liquid pressurized gas), crude oil, benzene, natural gas, and chemical ships. Fun fact: liquid pressurized gas is the same thing in lighters – think about how they work! Around 1990, he almost joined the army, but since the army couldn’t work it out for his wife to come from Dubai to live on base with him, he never signed on the dotted line. He’s been with NOAA for 6 years on 14 or 15 ships, where he goes to fill in for a missing 1AE or chief engineer position. His favorite part of ship life is when things are made easy. The coolest place he’s ever been is the south of France on one of the oil ships because it was near Monte Carlo, Nice, and the border to Italy.

10. 2AE (2nd Assistant Engineer) Vincente Fernando
Vincente is from the Philippines where he earned a bachelor’s degree in marine transportation with a marine engineering major. He has been on the OD since December 2011 after briefly working on the Pisces and Okeanos Explorer. He’s fairly new to NOAA after spending 20 years with the Norwegian JJ Ugland Company. Vincente actually has four engineering licenses: one in the US, one in the Philippines, one in Panama, and one in Norway! His job as the 2nd AE is to be in charge of fuel, generators, separators (water & fuel), boilers, and the noon reporting (of fuel consumption over the past 24 hours). He has a wife that lives in Pennsylvania and two kids that are a nurse practitioner and pharmacist.

11. 3AE (3rd Assistant Engineer) Robert Purce
Robert is always running around the ship on the opposite shift from me, so I didn’t get a chance to sit down and interview him. However, I did enjoy the conversations we’d have in the hallways and engineering spaces. You could always find him with a smile on his face.

12. EET (Engineering Electronics Tech) Terry Miles
Terry is another member of the engineering crew that is always running around working. He has two kids in their twenties, he’s incredibly smart, and he knows a ton about the OD. He’s always been that person to investigate how and why things work, so his job on board is right up his alley.

13. JUE Garry Guice
Ah yes, another engineer that was always moving around and hard to get a hold of on board. Garry is a great guy, fun to talk to, always looking out for people, and a hard-worker. He’s also a great pool player!

14. GVA (General Vessel Assistant) Joel Gabel
Joel (who grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan) served 6 years active duty in the Navy where he was discharged as a disabled American veteran. He worked in the automotive manufacturing plants for 18 years before heading back to college. He was hired in the engineering department in July 2011 as a general vessel assistant (GVA) on the OD and he is currently working towards a rating test for QMED (qualified member of the engineering department). The GVA position on NOAA ships is an entry level position in general (like a working apprentice for all departments aboard a ship). There are three departments a GVA can work in: deck, engineering, or steward, all with the potential to move up in rating and pay scale. On the Dyson, Joel is under the direction of a licensed engineer where he cleans the ship’s engineering spaces, fabricates items needed on occasion for the ship, makes rounds in all engineering spaces for anything out of place, and takes care of the ship’s sewage problems if they arise. Joel also employs some chemistry by treating the sewage with chlorine dosage tablets and measuring the pH level to determine if the effluent is good to pump overboard. He most misses being away from family and seeing his grandchildren grow up so quickly. He loves to take them out fishing on their lake and see the brightness in their eyes, but at least all of the kids and grandkids have wonderful stories of Joel working on a ship and fishing with them as a family. Joel is looking forward to taking off about two months after we arrive back in Dutch to go back home and see his family. He also plans to go back to college and finish a mechanical engineering degree.

15. Chief Scientist Neal Williamson
Neal said he was going to let me interview him before we got back to shore, but it never happened. Neal has been coming on the Dyson for the hydroacoustic research for quite some time. He taught me a ton about the scientific research going on and never hesitated to answer my million questions. Fun fact: I have taught Neal how to “Dougie” even if he didn’t approve our Shore Party to St. Matthews! It’s okay though because he’s been an amazing person to work under during this adventure J

16. Scientist Bill “Jackson” (name has been changed to protect his identity)
Bill is from Oregon and has been working in fisheries for more than 30 years. He actually works in field operations at both PMEL and AFSC and has been coming on the OD for quite some time. His best experience onboard was when he was on a Korean boat and his most interesting “find” was a kilo of hash off the east coast in a trawl (on a different ship). Bill likes to pass time sleeping, eating, playing cribbage, avoiding photos, and making a Steamboat Willie “woot woot” sound with the hand motion. Bill also tried to hide from me on multiple occasions, but I always found him!

17. Scientist Scott Furnish
Scott is originally from Spokane, WA but has lived in Seattle for 22 years. He is part of the midwater assessment half of MACE and serves as an IT specialist (and really also an electronics guy). His electronics training comes from his time with the Air Force reserves. After studying aviation maintenance at a community college, he worked as an aircraft mechanic for a few years. He joined NOAA in 1990. Scott typically comes on about 4 cruises a year and has plenty of side projects when he’s not working on the acoustics lab computers, hydrophones, transducers, cameras, and everything else. He most misses his family (wife and two kids) and his golden retriever. Scott is also pretty great at playing cribbage and does an excellent job of explaining things.

18. Scientist Denise McKelvey
Denise grew up in Oregon and has been working with NOAA “forever and a day”. She is a fish biologist with MACE in Seattle and completes about 4 ship trips during a season. She originally wanted to be an oceanographer but learned about tuna fishermen and decided she wanted to do some sort of science to help keep the fisheries going instead of just “research for research’s sake”. Denise has done a little bit of everything throughout her life and has an incredible thirst for knowledge. She always seems to be in a great mood, so you can’t help but smile around her. The first day I arrived in Dutch Harbor, she really wanted to go watch some locals fishing and find out all about their fish and what they were catching (which we did). She works on the opposite shift from me doing the same thing that Neal does during my shift so unless I stay up late, I don’t get to see her all too much. While on board, Denise most misses blueberries and straight from the market fresh produce.

19. Scientist Carwyn Hammond
Carwyn (who is also my awesome roommate that I rarely see because we are on opposite shifts on board) is originally from Brooklyn, NY but then moved to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and has been in Seattle for 11½ years. She has done a little bit of everything and knows a ton about everything it seems. She came out west as part of AmeriCorps to research salmon habitat restoration and continued with contract field work in salmon spawning surveys (snorkeling in glacial-fed rivers) and in electrofishing surveys. She works in conservation engineering on both NOAA ships and commercial vessels as part of her job and travels about 2 months a year for work and 1-2 months for fun. She specializes in fishing gear research, using camera and sonar to look at fish behavior in relation to gear and she would love to get on a boat someplace warm. Carwyn most misses her own bed and true free time when on board. She also has an amazing music selection on her iPod!

20. Scientist Anatoli Smirnov
Anatoli is from the Russian city of Vladivostok, where he is the head of the Pollock lab in the Pacific Scientists Oceanography and Fisheries Center. He spends about 3-5 months at sea, depending on the year, and will be on OD for all three legs of the Pollock survey this summer. In Russia, they do research on the other side of the International Date Line. Anatoli has been married for 34 years and has one daughter. His English skills are improving daily as he walks around with his Russian-English dictionary! His hobbies include fishing on the river for salmon and other freshwater fish and hiking. He’s also taught me a few phrases in Russian and how to properly sex pollock.

21. Science Intern Nate Ryan
Nate is originally from Iowa and is getting ready to start his fourth year at Lawrence University (population about 1,400) in Appleton, Wisconsin (which is apparently the home of cranes) where he is working to get his bachelors degree in biology. As part of an alumni placement program at Lawrence, Nate’s mentor (Anne Hallowed, the head of stock assessment and a senior scientist) landed him a summer internship at AFSC in Seattle, which is what allowed him to be on the OD for this leg of the pollock survey. Although school keeps him incredibly busy, Nate likes to read and hang out with friends. The coolest place he’s ever visited is Iceland (which, did you know, is not covered in ice). In the future, he might go to grad school, wants to go to China, and eventually “settle down someplace at some point”. I’ve definitely enjoyed playing both cribbage and rummy with Nate, even when I was losing. He also told me to make up something fun for his bio, so fact or fiction: Nate is an amazing scrapbooker!

22. Science Teacher at Sea Amanda Peretich
This whole blog is about me, so hopefully you’ve figured out who I am J If not, check out my first post on who I am!

23. Senior Survey Tech Kathy Hough
Kathy grew up outside of Philadelphia, PA and went to the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Pursuing her interest in marine science, she earned her B.A. in Human Ecology and moved out west pretty much right after graduation. She worked on a bottlenose dolphin project in Monterey Bay, CA and then began working with NOAA in 1998. She originally worked for the Protected Resources Division under SWFSC where she began as a marine mammal observer. The coolest species she has seen is the North Pacific right whale outside of Kodiak because they are so endangered. While on board, she most misses her cat. Kathy is the Senior Survey Tech on the Oscar Dyson, so she makes sure all of the data going into the scientific computing system is working properly and assists the science party with any and all of the survey equipment.

Mercator

A mercator plot showing lines of longitude
(from http://www.colorado.edu/geography/gcraft/notes/mapproj/gif/mercator.gif)

24. CB (Chief Boatswain) Willie Sliney
Willie is originally from Miami, FL but has been fishing in Kodiak since 1980. He has been on the OD for 8 years as a plank owner. This means that he’s been on the ship since it was christened. The OD is the first of five in the FSV (fisheries survey vessel) class, and it is FSV 224. In 5th or 6th grade, Willie wrote a report on Kodiak, Alaska and decided he wanted to go there. So he joined the Coast Guard, which has an air station in Kodiak, and was able to travel all over Alaska for four years before he started in the fishing industry. Not only did Willie graciously allow me to operate the oceanic winch for a CTD and “shoot the doors” during a trawl, he also taught me one morning a little more about some major lines of longitude, also known as meridians.

The lines of longitude run up and down from the north to south pole on a globe. The degrees are related to the Greenwich mean time, which is at 0º. The international dateline (IDL) is at 180º. If you look on the map below, we started near 54ºN 166ºW. This standard map that we are most familiar with is called a Mercator projection because it has 0º in the middle and 180º on either side. Oh, and there are different maritime certificates and line crossing ceremonies that occur for things like crossing the equator (Order of the Shellback), crossing the Arctic Circle (Order of the Blue Nose), and crossing the IDL (Golden Dragon). They are scheduled to cross the IDL on the next leg of this survey!

25. LF (Lead Fisherman) Patrick Kriegh
Patrick grew up in Philadelphia and joined the Coast Guard for four years so he could get to Alaska. Now he calls Kodiak home and has been on OD for 5½ years. He knew the ship’s namesake Oscar & Peggy Dyson and was able to come on board as the lead fisherman. Before NOAA, he worked in commercial fishing and construction. Commercial fisherman will get their “cut” based on the size of their catch versus NOAA ships where you get paid a set amount regardless of any of that. Patrick thinks the show Deadliest Catch should really be called Dumbest Catch because it’s all drama and pretty unrealistic (a common idea on this boat). He’s also really into snowmobiling. Patrick showed me a good number of breathtaking photos from all of his outdoor adventures, and I am incredibly jealous of all that he’s been able to see. In line with some song, Patrick says “I’ve seen everything on the bottom of the sea because I dragged it across the deck and sorted it!” Patrick also celebrated his birthday during this in-port!

26. AB (Able Bodied Seaman) Rick Lichtenhan
Rick is an extremely hard worker and was on the noon to midnight shift. Although I never formally sat down to interview him, I was able to talk with him during mealtimes when I’d crash the “deck crew” table.

27. SF (Skilled Fisherman) James Deen aka Deeno
Deeno is from Seattle and has been aboard the OD since July 2011. His dad is a fisherman so he’s been on boats since he was 11 and started working as a deck hand when he was 13 or 14. After high school, he went to Seattle Maritime Academy to become an able bodied fisherman (or AB). Following his 90-day sea term internship on the OD, he stayed on as a SF. Deeno has two brothers (one older, one younger) and likes to play Xbox. People refer to him as Deeno, which makes me think of Dino the dinosaur from the Flintstones (only based on the name, not because he looks like a purple dinosaur)! He’s pretty quiet but that’s because he’s such a great listener. After this leg, he’s taking some vacation to travel around Denmark, Norway, and more with his girlfriend. Deeno was definitely a very enjoyable meal companion on the multiple occasions I crashed his table.

28. SF Jim Klapchuk
Jim is on parole from Michigan and has been on the OD for 2 years. This is more of a second career for him as he used to be a forest firefighter and worked in the Florida Everglades during the winters and in Fairbanks (the “Golden Heart” of Alaska) during the summers. In Florida, he would catch alligators that were in campgrounds and around people and transport them to different locations, similar to what is often done with black bears in the Smoky Mountain National Park in Knoxville, TN (where I’ve been living the past 6 years). They would also catch a lot of exotic animals when people would get them as pets and release them into the wild for one reason or another. He saw mostly pythons but some anacondas and more. They would take them to the park biologists to dissect and determine what they were eating and if their presence may be disrupting the natural ecosystem. Jim has also fished on the Great Lakes and first worked on the NOAA Fairweather (out of Ketchikan, AK) for 2 years. Oh, and completely kidding on him being a parolee – that’s what he had planned to tell me to mess with me, but decided against it J

29. GVA Brian Kibler aka Kibbles
Brian is from Seattle, WA and went to Seattle Maritime Academy with Deeno to get his AB after high school. He has only been on the OD for two months but after 90 days, he will have his AB. Brian grew up on boats and used to go fishing with his dad a lot. He’s very much into the outdoors, so he enjoys wakeboarding, camping, mountain biking, rocking climbing, snowboarding, surfing, and anything adventurous. He’d much rather take a girl indoor skydiving than to dinner and a movie for a first date, although he said the hardest part of ship life is that there are no women. Even though he says there’s not much in Dutch Harbor, the coolest place he’s ever been is Pyramid Peak (in Dutch). Someone told him that Dutch had a pretty girl behind every tree and when he arrived, he was like “where are all the trees?!” because there are truly only a handful of trees. Brian was one of the first people I met from the Dyson in the Anchorage airport while on standby on the way to the ship. Since our shifts overlapped for a large portion of time, I’ve definitely enjoyed hanging out with and getting to know him over the past few weeks.

30. ET (Electronics Tech) Vince Welton
Vince is originally from Oregon and he is the electronics tech on board. He literally deals with ANYTHING electronic: computers, radar, phones, internet, etc. He worked as a DOD employee for 13 years doing Doppler radar for the B1 aircraft in Oklahoma. He was also in active duty air force 4 years, mostly stationed in Carswell, TX, but having temporary duty in Guam as well. With NOAA, he works both on the boat and also on land (but communicating with someone else on board). He misses his wife of 14 years and hunting the most, but enjoys the solitude of ship life because it “fits [his] personality”. The best animal he ever killed was a 9-point rack elk. He also enjoys other outdoors-y things like gold panning and hiking. Vince also taught me why the internet on board is shoddy when we are travelling north between about 330º and 350º, which deals partly with the layout of the ship and partly with the curvature of the Earth that blocks the signal between the ship and the satellites. When it comes to communicating with others aside from online, we have access on board to MRSATB (data & phone), Iridium (just voice), and VOIP (voice over internet protocol). If you aren’t careful when dialing out on the VOIP, you could potentially call 911 from a Maryland number, but they can’t come help us in the Bering Sea!

31. CS (Chief Steward) Tim Ratclif
Tim, originally from Indiana, is an amazing chef (which is not to be confused with a cook). He went to Coast Guard cooking school in Petaluma, CA and cooked in the Coast Guard for 9 years. After that, he spent 10 years all over the place from Indiana to Las Vegas, in restaurants, hotels, casinos, and more. He’s been working with NOAA for the past year and has delighted ship crew with his delicious cooking on the Delaware, Okeanos Explorer, Ron Brown, and now Oscar Dyson. He makes scrumptious food “with buckets of love” and has taught me the big three seasonings: salt, pepper, and garlic. His clam chowder is also to die for. He really likes the show 24 and Dexter (amongst others), has a Harley-Davidson and a house in Myrtle Beach, Virginia, and doesn’t have a favorite meal. But if he was on death row, he’d request his last meal to have “local fresh grown asparagus because it takes three years to grow!” (yep, it does – I checked it out online) and a grilled steak. On board, he most misses his part chow, part Australian Sheppard dog Buffy (named after Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Tim is super sarcastic, but in a good way, and his cooking (and nagging/encouragement to try tons of food) ensured that I visited the gym on a regular basis!

32. 2nd Cook Adam Staiger
Adam could always be seen helping Tim out in the kitchen, washing dishes, or cleaning up in the galley. Between meals, you could often find him in the TV lounge either watching a movie or taking a nap.

blog crew photo

Photo with the Oscar Dyson crew and scientists on Leg 2 of the Pollock survey of the Bering Sea in July 2012