Lisa Battig: Launching the Small Boats, September 1, 2017

Teacher at Sea

Lisa Battig

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 

August 28 – September 8, 2017

 

Mission: Arctic Hydrographic Survey final leg

Geographic Area of Cruise: Brevig Mission, Alaska
Latitude  65 19.2N,  Longitude 166 30.7W

Date: September 1, 2017

Weather from the Bridge:  extremely variable today!!

  • Morning: overcast, 6-8 knot winds, 41 degrees
  • Afternoon: partially cloudy skies, 2 knot winds, 48 degrees
  • Late afternoon: full cloud cover, rain squalls, 10-14 knot winds, 41 degrees

 

Science and Technology Log

Thursday’s science was a bit different. Two boats went out to do some final surveying and follow up in Port Clarence and Grantley Harbor. Because the area of Grantley harbor to be surveyed was in less than 4 meters of water, an Ambar jet boat was used with a single beam sonar mounted aft on the port side. The second boat that went out was one of the small launches for use as a dive boat for NOAA trained divers (https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/diving-program). The goal of the dive boat was to dive on a particular location in Port Clarence that was giving a strange image that must have been coming from a man-made structure. The sonar showed a grid pattern roughly 100m x 60m with lines 7-8m apart on the long axis and 5-6m apart on the short axis. The team felt strongly that they needed to understand what was there in order to determine if it was safe for anchoring. I’ll follow up more on this later…

I went out with the team on the Ambar. As is the case with all the small launches, the Ambar is brought down from the boat deck to the breezeway deck for loading before the actual release.

Ambar at breezeway

Ambar jet boat at the breezeway deck, loading supplies. You can see parts of the davit where it was previously cradled on the boat deck above.

All gear, materials, food (long days out there!!) and people embark prior to the final drop to the water and the actual launch. This takes a team of a dozen or so people working in coordination. Prior to the start of launch, a safety officer is required on deck to oversee the process. This might be the CO (Commanding Officer), XO (Executive Officer) or Operations Officer. Most of the other personnel involved are a part of the deck crew, including the coxswain (who drives the small launches).  A davit operator handles the control of the boat via cable(s) all the way down. The bosun (boatswain) on the breezeway deck is directing commands to the operator using hand signals. Several hands are securing the craft with ropes against the side of the ship. All of these moves have to happen in perfect coordination for the safety of everyone and the protection of the Ambar and Fairweather. Personal protective equipment is worn by all parties throughout. This includes a flotation vest or jacket and a hard hat which you can see on those on the boat in the image to the left.

Five of the other six small launches on the Fairweather undergo a similar process. Each is housed in a davit cradle and each has one or more cables to control the craft during its descent toward the waterline. The davits all shift their cradling position while the cables lift to assist in the release of the craft. Once the craft is entirely free of the cradle, it is slowly lowered down the side of the vessel to the breezeway deck for loading as described above. One boat, though, has a really cool option. This is the FRB or Fast Rescue Boat. This craft can actually be launched by the driver, which is a requirement of any FRB.

Boat on fantail

Workboat on the fantail – note the three lines attached, two at the stern and one at the bow. These are handled expertly by the deck crew during launch to keep her true.

The final craft is a workboat which is housed on the fantail. It is not used for surveying, but will often be employed as passenger transport. It is also used for pick up and drop off of material that may be used on land, such as the HorCon station discussed in my previous post. This craft is not seated in a davit cradle and is instead launched through the use of a very large crane (see image below). The crane is attached to the launch at a center point connected with three lines.

Crane on Fairweather

Crane on the Fairweather boat deck centered between four small launch davits.

The craft is moved from the position on the fantail to either the port or starboard side level with the deck and lowered to the water before loading. For this reason, it is much more difficult to keep it completely horizontal and not hitting the deck and doing damage to the Fairweather.

So back to the Ambar and what we were actually doing in Grantley Harbor. Much of the harbor is quite shallow and when a team had been in there previously, they felt that there may be some irregularity to the otherwise uniform seafloor. They had been getting some interference and scattering on the side scan. They wanted to understand why and also to get a complete picture of the harbor seafloor. With the Ambar and the single beam sonar, there is little to no danger of doing damage in extreme shallows since the equipment is not on the underside of the boat and the Ambar itself can be beached as there are no propellers.

Single beam on Ambar

Single beam sonar in its mount on the stern of the Ambar. It is in the down position as it will be when launched tomorrow.

 

 

 

We took the boat into the shallows with the single beam sonar to take measurements along lines to as shallow as 2m. While surveying in the shallows, we found that there were sea grasses growing and according to the Operations Officer who was on board, that may have been the reason for the interference. Regardless, we continued to survey a regular pattern in order to have good data for future charts. During this time, I was given the opportunity to drive the Ambar… which showed me how much more difficult staying a straight line course is than the coxswains make it look.

 

 

Ambar driving lines

Yep. The outlined line is my line. I am reasonably proud that I actually manage to make it from one side to another. But even that was with a WHOLE lot of coaching!!

Upon return to the Fairweather, the Ambar is reattached to the cable and brought back up to the breezeway deck. Ropes are again used in coordination to keep the boat steady as it is lifted, much the reverse of what was described above. At that point all materials are unloaded and all the people disembark. The Ambar is then hoisted back up into the davit cradle.

When I’m back in an area with lots of bandwidth, I’ll create a video post to show just how cool the launches of small boats really is…


Personal Log

Shipboard life on a NOAA vessel is quite different from life on land. First, because the ship is a twenty four hour operation, people are needed at all hours. Many of the positions on NOAA vessels run on a 4 hours on, 8 hours off cycle. Some positions have recently shifted to 4 on, 4 off, 4 on, 12 off to afford greater lengths of time for sleep. When you are on the lower decks, it is also easy to lose track of time – and of course when you’re in Alaska during summer, it’s still light out at 10 o’clock. There are auroras to potentially be seen in the wee hours and multibeam surveying that happens through the night. There are always people up and about doing things – so the ship is a busy place at all times.

And with this in mind, I have to admit I have not been doing a great job getting to sleep. But I do sleep well on the ship, the rocking is the best cure for insomnia I’ve ever experienced. And I have been eating incredibly well – and I mean INCREDIBLY well. Mealtimes are the same each day, so that’s a great help. I will talk more about the food and the kitchen in a future post. Fortunately, with all that good eating, there’s a gym on board, so I’ve been able to work some of it off. There’s also laundry on board and a lounge with lots of movies. I like it. And waking up to the ocean and a lovely sunrise each morning makes the tiredness not really matter much.

Little and Big Diomede 2

Light early in the eastern sky – the sun comes up all around you this far north. It’s truly lovely.

 

As a part of NOAA’s mission, we had the opportunity to go ashore at a small town at Port Clarence called Brevig Mission. It is a town of almost 400, most of whom are native to Alaska. While ashore, we were able to spend time talking with the people, purchasing some of their handcrafts and fish, and even visiting the school. The people live simple lives. They still hunt walrus, seal and whale and those foods are the staple of their diet through the frozen winter months. I found it fascinating that they use all of the parts of the animals – the items that I purchased were from seal and walrus.

ornaments from Brev Mis

On the left is an ornament made of seal fur and on the right is a pendant of walrus tusk.

 

 

The CO (Commanding Officer) also arranged for ship tours for people from the town. The folks were taken in the Ambar out to the Fairweather in small groups and shown around. It was fun speaking afterward with those who went – there was a lot of excitement! I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to go to the town. They have a crazy history (see the “Did you know?” section below.)

Brev Mis Fam on ATV

Mom with her two little girls down near the water on their ATV. This is the most common form of transport around Brevig Mission.

 


Did You Know?

Cross commemorating Brev Mis 1918 flu victims

This cross memorializes all of the residents of Brevig Mission who died in the 1918 flu. It now lays on the ground aside the mass grave. All of the names and ages of the victims are listed.

Brevig Mission was hit hard by the 1918 Spanish Flu, perhaps in percentage mortality, the hardest hit place in the world. Of the 80 residents of Brevig Mission, 72 succumbed to the flu and died in a 5 day period. It was absolutely devastating. One of the current residents shared with me that reaching 400 is encouraging to the town and everyone there believes that the town is continuing to grow.

Mass grave Brev Mis 1918 flu victims

This is the location of the mass grave from the 72 flu victims of the 1918 Spanish Flu. It is a sobering place.

In 1997, the lungs of a well-preserved victim in the mass grave were shipped to a molecular pathology lab in Washington, D.C. and the flu virus was reconstructed. The evidence showed that it was a bird flu (similar to the avian flus which plague our world today) but incredibly virulent as it passed from birds to humans. You can read more about the findings here. (http://www.gi.alaska.edu/alaska-science-forum/villager-s-remains-lead-1918-flu-breakthrough)

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Paige Teamey: November 2, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea Paige Teamey Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson October 31, 2011 – November 11, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, between Montauk, L.I. and Block Island Date:  November 2, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Clouds: clear
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: SW 5 knots
Temperature 13.9 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 13.5° Celsius
Wet Bulb:  10.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1626.8 millibars
Latitude: 41°08’39″ ° North
Longitude: 072°05’43″ ° West

 Current Celestial View of NYC:

 Current Moon Phase:

 Current Seasonal Position (make sure to click on “show earth profile):

 http://www.astroviewer.com/  http://www.die.net/moon/ http://esminfo.prenhall.com

OR

http://www.learner.org/

Science and Technology Log On a NOAA ship, similar to a military vessel, everyone has specific titles.  It would be like calling your principal or mom a CEO (Chief Executive Officer) followed by their last name.  Comparably on a ship there are tons of acronyms like (f.y.i., a.k.a, or my favorite o.m.g.). However, the acronyms the shipmates use are for titles and instead of fun text phrases they are based on status and certification. Ship acronym/name examples: CO: Commanding Officer XO: Executive Officer FOO: Field Operations Officer Ensign: “Fresh Meat” or Junior Officer Boatswain (Bosun): a Wage Mariner in charge of equipment and the crew GVA: General Vessel Assistant Today was full of events.  I awoke at around 6:02am and went outside to breathe in the fresh air and watch the day break.   After eating yet another delicious breakfast in the mess hall (cafeteria…we aren’t that messy) I was told by the FOO Davidson I would be going out on my first launch.  I was placed on the 3102 which unfortunately does not currently have any hydrographic equipment  (we hope to obtain a scanner this weekend sent from a Pacific Ocean NOAA ship). Today our mission is to go to the shores of Montauk, Long Island and retrieve data from a tidal instrument that was logging the daily tidal changes.  Normally these instruments can be accessed via satellites, however the most recent Nor’ Easter compromised the instruments and made its information inaccessible via the internet.  BGL Rob (Boatswain Group Leader) normally would be taking the helm (steering wheel of boat) and Frank (surveyor) and Ensign  Storm’n Norman also came along.  Ensign Norman is currently learning how to navigate a small ship for a new license so took the helm while BGL Rob supervised (she needs to log so many hours behind the helm before sitting for the exam).  All four of us piled into the 3102 while a massive davit (hydraulic lift) placed the 3102 from the TJ into the Atlantic Ocean. The technology behind the davit blew me out of the water (not really), but it was pretty amazing.  The ship was moving 5.8 mph (you walk about 1.5-2mph) while 3102 was being lifted out of the water.

Boatswain Rob gave great tips to Ensign Norman; however, Ensign Norman was confident and very much in control of 3102 and did a fantastic job driving us to and from Montauk.  Once we arrived at Montauk, Frank opened the weather station and a huge amount of water poured out (probably why it wasn’t transmitting data).  It took quite a while to get the information downloaded on the computer we brought, because the system was out of date with current technology (so interesting how fast technology moves). While Frank was on the phone with an engineer stationed in Seattle I walked along the dock and met a lovely gentleman named Joe and his dog, Lil’ Sugar.  Joe was also a captain of a ship and ferried people to and from Block Island.  Joe was a very warm gentle soul who spoke of his years at sea and all of the unique experiences he has been fortunate to have on multiple vessels.  Currently Joe works as a Captain for a whale watching company (apparently Right Whales are migrating).   After my lovely chat with Joe and quick walk around I returned to the group.

Message in a bottle found on Montauk Beach.

Upon returning Frank had found a note in a bottle that a woman named “Karen” had thrown into the ocean and washed ashore in Montauk.  We presumed Karen was from somewhere in Connecticut (based on the cell phone number).  We called her number, but she did not retrieve her phone.   I will say for all of you wistful bottle throwers.  If you do this, make sure you use glass (it doesn’t break down to little plastic bits that fish mistakenly eat for food) and be imaginative with your note (I am not advocating for anyone to throw a bottle into the ocean).  Karen’s was very plain and gave little background or visual.  It was more fun talking with the group and imagining all of the personality and character she may have had (most of this was based on the jar she placed the note in…it was a Trappist Preserves jelly jar).  Trappist Preserves usually retails for $27.00 and is hand-made by monks in an Abbey located in Massachusetts.

Kimberly the Great in front of Acquisition Screen locate off of the Bridge.

Kimberly the Great in front of Acquisition Screen locate off of the Bridge.

When I returned to the TJ I spent the rest of the day (almost 6 hours) in the acquisition room, located on the bridge, with Kimberly the Great.  Kimberly is a seasoned surveyor (meaning she has been aboard the TJ for seven years) and was able to break down each surveying screen in an incredible way.  (Read Nov. 3-4 for a break down of Hydrographic surveying)

Davey Jones Shadow??? Skull and bones shadow in the acquisition room.

Personal Log Breakfast:  2 fried eggs, oatmeal, 1 hashbrown Lunch:  Deli sandwich with coffee Dinner:  Vegetarian “chicken” patty with tomato sauce and cheese, and corn Dessert:  Chocolate Cake (Happy Belated birthday XO!!!)