Richard Chewning, June 21st, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Chewning
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 4 – 24, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak) to eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: June 21st, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: northeast of Dutch Harbor, Bering Sea
Time: 1100 hours
Latitude: N 54 45.610
Longitude: W 167 06.540
Cloud Cover: cloudy
Wind: 35 knots
Temperature: 6.2 C
Barometric Pressure: 1000.8 mbar

Science and Technology Log

Throughout this cruise I have been continually impressed with the engineering of the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson both in terms of modernization and capacity. State of the art technology can be found throughout the ship from the bridge to the engine room. Computer touch screens are used to control such operations as navigation on the bridge, power management in the engine room, and data entry in the wet lab. Junior engineer Walter Daniel summed up the advanced look and feel of the ship well; in comparison to the many vessels he has encountered in his career, he likened the Dyson to the Starship Enterprise of the science fiction franchise Star Trek. Even though the Dyson is one of the most technologically advanced fisheries vessels in the world, the engineers still get their fingers dirty from time to time. Although most of the equipment in the engine room can be adjusted with the simple touch of a button, flip of a switch, or turn of a knob, the Dyson’s veteran engineers still carry a screwdriver and wrench in their back pocket. Fred Ogden, first assistant engineer, told me he always likes to be prepared to bypass the computers and be able to make an adjustment by hand if needed, and you need to have the right tools for the job at hand. Recognizing that sometimes a person needs to get back to basics and that one should always be prepared, Fred says he never goes fishing without packing his sextant. Tracing its origins to the days of Sir Isaac Newton, the sextant is a tool used for navigation that only needs a clear view of the sky and horizon to work!

Diesel fuel centrifuges

At full power, the Dyson can reach 15.0 knots or a little more than 17 miles per hour. A knot is a unit measurement of speed roughly equal to 1.151 miles per hour. Four diesel generators capable of 3,017 horse power turn the Dyson’s shaft and prop. Horse power is a unit of measurement of power. To give you some perspective, modern cars typically only have 125 to 200 horsepower. To ensure these generators operate as efficiently and cleanly as possible, diesel is first cleaned using powerful centrifuges (machines that rotate very quickly to separate oil from the fuel). Fuel is also filtered twice more in each engine using filters. By burning clean fuel, the Dyson reduces pollution output and increases the life of the generators. Most of the oil and dirty water can be filtered on board to remove the impurities and reused.

Two of the Dyson’s powerful diesel generators

The Dyson also has two desalinization machines. What is desalinization and why is it important? ‘Desalinization’ is easy to subdivide and define to reveal its meaning. ‘De-’ is a prefix that means removal or reversal. ‘Salin’ is a French root word that means salt. ‘-zation’ is a noun suffix meaning an action, process, or result of making. If you put the parts together, desalinization means the process of removing salt. Desalinization machines produce fresh water by removing the salt from seawater. The importance of fresh water on a ship at sea cannot be overstated. Fresh water is essential to the crew of the Dyson for drinking, food preparation, waste management, and washing. Fresh water is also used to remove the heat from the generators in the engine room and to cool living spaces throughout the ship. The generators give off so heat much in fact there is never a shortage of hot water for the crew!

The desalinization machine

After touring the engineering spaces of the Dyson, I was surprised to see several work stations comprising of work benches and many hand tools dedicated to servicing equipment and fabricating new parts while at sea. Any one of these machine shops would satisfy any suburban Mr. Fix-it! In addition to these work stations, the Dyson also has numerous storage cabinets and cubby holes located throughout the ship storing everything from screws and zip ties to transistors and electronic circuit boards. The extent to which technology has permeated the Dyson is revealed by the maze of wires found overhead in every room and passageway. The many wires and pipes snaking from one room to another remind me of a giant circulatory system. The Dyson has two rotating Electronic Technicians, Vincent Welton and Stephen Macri, and an Engineering Electronics Technician, Terry Miles, whose job is to keep all these technologically advanced electronics in good working order.

Personal Log

Amber and Sarah keeping a sharp lookout on the bridge
CO Hoshlyk at the helm during 2pt anchoring in Three Saints Bay

One of my favorite places on the Dyson is the bridge. The bridge of the Dyson is the command and control center for the entire ship. The bridge not only allows the NOAA Corps officers to safely navigate the Dyson but allows communication with the entire ship, nearby boat traffic, and the shore. Utilizing radar, electronic charts, magnetic compasses, GPS, sonar, advanced radio and communication equipment, and various weather instruments, the bridge provides a wealth of information at one’s fingertips. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) carefully monitors the numerous screens and readouts on the bridge control panels and keeps a sharp eye on the surrounding seas. While I have become familiar with several of the main systems on the bridge and can deduce a great deal about the Dyson’s current location and movement, I recognize there is much to learn to safely navigate and operate the ship. I am comforted when resting in my rack knowing there are skilled and experienced hands on the bridge 24 hours a day!

Ensign Payne maneuvering from starboard control station

Located five stories above the water, the bridge has a fantastic view. The bridge is wide and open and has windows in every direction. The bridge provides a great view of the operation of the ship and the surrounding seas. I am most impressed with the layout of the bridge. The ship can be controlled from any one of four stations located around the bridge. The bridge is laid out like a capital T: a central control station located in the middle of the bridge, a station positioned on both the port (left) and starboard (right) sides of the bridge, and a station located aft (back) facing the rear of the ship. This allows the OOD to pilot the vessel while keeping a close eye on deployments/operations being conducted anywhere on the Dyson. For example, when conducting an Aleutian wing trawl off the stern (back) of the vessel, the OOD can transfer control to the aft station and pilot the Dyson while facing backwards!

In addition to the view, the bridge is also fun to visit as there is always someone to talk to and usually fun music playing quietly in the background. Recently, I have enjoyed watching the bow crash through 15-20 foot waves as we continue running each transect of our acoustic trawl survey.

Richard holding a sea star, better known as a starfish

While the weather continues to make deployments challenging, we have still managed to fish a few times. Interesting bycatch from these trawls includes seastars and brittle stars from the Tucker trawl and Pacific cod and sturgeon poacher from the Aleutian wing trawl.

A Pacific cod

Did you know?

The summer solstice marks the longest day and the shortest night of the year. The word solstice comes from the Latin word ‘sol’ meaning ‘sun’ and the word ‘stice’ meaning ‘to stand still’. As summer days lengthen (meaning the sun rises earlier and sets later each day), the sun’s path through the sky takes the sun higher and higher above the horizon forming a greater and greater arc. At a certain point, the sun reaches its highest point. At this point the sun seems to stand still before slowly falling back to the horizon with each passing day. This point when the sun reaches its highest arc in the sky is called the summer solstice. The earth’s tilt on its axis causes the sun to travel slightly different paths through the sky each day and causes the sun’s rays to fall with varying intensity on different regions of the earth. Over the period of one year (one orbit of the sun by the earth), this variation in sunlight explains why the earth has four seasons: summer receives the most direct rays, winter receives the least direct rays, and spring and fall are times of transition between these two extremes. The summer solstice always falls around June 21st in the northern hemisphere (above the equator). With the Dyson surveying southeast of Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea, the sun will rise at 6:30 AM and will set at 11:50 PM on June 21st. If you were standing at the North Pole during the summer solstice, you would experience 24 hours of sunlight (the sun would never dip below the horizon!) while 24 hours of darkness would be observed at the South Pole.

A sturgeon poacher