Story Miller, July 22, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Story Miller
NOAA Ship: Oscar Dyson

Mission: Summer Pollock III
Geographical Area: Bering Sea
Date: July 22, 2010
Black-legged Kittiwake

Time: 0754 AKST
Latitude: 58°31N
Longitude:175°45W
Wind: 13-20 knots (approx. 14.96 – 23.02 mph)
Direction: 239° (SW)
Sea Temperature: 8.28°C (approx. 46.9°F)
Air Temperature: 8.03°C (approx. 46.5°F)
Barometric Pressure (mb): 1017
Wave Height: 4 feet
Sea Swells: 6 feet
Combined Wave Height: 10 – 12 feet

Scientific Log 

This afternoon, we conducted a test with a drogue which is like a large sea anchor. Sea anchors allow a boat that is simply sitting in the water to not drift so far with the waves. This drogue will stabilize the camera of an experimental trawl net device, called a Cam-Trawl, and prevent it from fluttering when it is photographing the fish. The Cam-Trawl was designed by Kresimir Williams. Currently the objective of this new device is to observe the fish we see in the backscatter which are the animals we can see in the echosounder

(See Figure 1).

Figure 1: Image of the echo sounder in the acoustics lab. The image on the top in the blue is representing a swarm of jellyfish. Jellyfish tend to be best seen using the 18 kHz transducer.

In short, the ship’s hull has transducers that send pings of sound energy down through the ocean and when they hit some object, such as the bottom of the ocean or a fish, some of the energy in the sound ping is returned to the ship and received by our echo sounding system in the acoustics lab of the ship.

When we locate a group of fish we want to study with the echo sounder, we have two primary methods of collecting data from the fish. The device we use the most is the AWT(Aleutian Wing Trawl) net and the other is an 83-112 bottom trawl net. The AWT is used for catching fish located at midwater depths and the other, as stated in the name, trawls the sea floor. To imagine the shape of these devices in the water, imagine a large funnel with a catch sack on the end. The beginning portion of these nets, nearest to the boat, has large meshes and its primary function is to funnel the fish toward the catch sack. As fish move farther down the net, the meshes get smaller until they reach the catch sack, which we call the codend, and once in there, the fish cannot escape. We then pull them to the surface and begin collecting data, such as size and species. The largest drawback to these methods is that the fish caught in the net will most likely die. To understand why, think of a diver in the deep ocean. If the diver comes up too fast, the body cannot adjust to the pressure fast enough as air expands, potentially causing lungs to rupture. For the fish, bringing them up too quickly causes their swim bladders to rupture. Rockfish tend to have their stomachs inverted out of their mouth. While killing the fish for research is unfortunate, it is one of the few ways we can learn about their patterns of behavior, health, and diversity.

Chris Wilson in the process of attaching buoys to stabilize the Cam-Trawl

The Cam-Trawl is an innovative experimental design that may help reduce the killing of fish and allow us to collect data from endangered or nearly extinct fish species. For example, many Rockfish species off the west coasts of California, Washington and Oregon are endangered and as a result, we do not want to catch them in our nets because we would most likely kill them. The Cam-Trawl would remedy that and would allow us to receive continuous data at each depth along its path. The other trawls catch all the fish in their path which means the collection of fish is mixed and we cannot tell the depth at which they were originally swimming or which species was at what depth. To picture how the Cam-Trawl works underwater, imagine a funnel again, except this time, there is no codend attached. At the end of the funnel, the stereocamera is positioned to photograph the fish that pass through the funnel. The resolution of the fish photos is much more advanced than what we have ever had before. This sampling technique is supposed to give us a better resolution of what we are able to “see” using acoustics (echo sounder) than the traditional midwater (AWT) and bottom trawls (83-112).

 
Personal Log:

Sleeping at sea was a new experience for me. The seas were only four to eight feet high which are marginal compared to the conditions this ship experiences in the winter months. Overall, I enjoyed being rocked to sleep but my 0330h alarm was not as pleasant. My room is located four flights of stairs below the bridge deck and I’ve been told it is one of the better places to be because the rocking of the boat is not as intense. The rooms are pretty cozy as space is limited but there is room for a desk, two closets and a bathroom (called a head on a ship) that reminds me of the sizes found in European hotels. I have the top bunk and each has a curtain that wraps around the entire bed so that if your roommate has a different shift than you, the light to the main room won’t be a disturbance. Of course, since I have lived in Alaska for two years, I have become accustomed to sleeping in bright conditions.

Something the non-boating community may not realize is that on a ship, it is very important that there is a night crew and a day crew operating. On the bridge where the main controls of the ship are located, there must always be a NOAA Corps Officer, with qualifications to drive the ship, on watch 24/7. However, all crews, with the exception of the kitchen, on the ship are operating around the clock. For example, there are always engineers operating in case there is some type of mechanical issue and scientists operate because there are still fish in the ocean and their behavior needs to be observed at all times.

Me trying on my “Gumby” Suit during the fire drill

The entire crew participated in a fire drill and abandon ship drill yesterday so that all hands on the ship knew where to muster for a head count and to learn how to operate the life rafts in case the ship was sinking. Additionally we needed to learn how to get into our survival suits (Gumby Suits). My first experience putting on the suit was during a field trip onto this vessel with my seventh and eighth grade students in May so I was aware of the cozy fit! Fire and abandon ship drills are practiced once a week when the ship is underway, which is very important as the crew onboard are not just NOAA employees but also in charge of fighting fires and responding to any onboard emergencies. So, if you want to be a fireman and a scientist and cannot choose, perhaps serving aboard a NOAA ship would be right up your alley!
To end my day (remember bedtime for me is early as my alarm is set for 0330) I had a “late” supper of sushi, spring rolls, meatloaf, and for dessert a fabulous set of s’mores! Who says you can’t have them on the ship?
 

Animals Observed:
Northern Fulmar
Crested Auklets
Tufted Puffin
Black-legged Kittiwake
Orcas

Something to Ponder:

When we are asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” usually we say one occupation – firefighter, actor, scientist, teacher, soldier, waitress. However, most jobs require many skills. For example, the scientists on board put a variety of skills into practice and as mentioned in the Scientific Log, scientist Kresimir Williams engineered the Cam-Trawl which employed his knowledge of the biological sciences (fish/oceanography), physical science (how to deploy the device without it breaking), and photography! So for my students, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Michele Brustolon, July 10, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 10, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1400
Latitude: 59.12N
Longitude: 174.02W
Cloud Cover: 5/8
Wind: 17 knots
Air Temperature: 8.00 C/ 460 F
Water Temperature: 7.00 C/ 450 F
Barometric Pressure: 1006.9 mb

Science and Technology Log

Weather, weather everywhere!
Aside from weather helping you decide what to wear for the day, weather is critical on board a research vessel. Each hour the bridge collects the same data that is then input into the AMVER Sea system and sent to NOAA Weather. Some of the information included is: time, latitude, longitude, cloud cover, air and water temperatures, wind, barometric pressure, visibility, and swell height. This helps determine our exact location (check out shiptracker.noaa.gov) as well as the weather at sea and also weather inland. It is not uncommon for marine weather systems to move inland. This information also helps us understand long term climate changes, precipitation, and ocean currents.

Exactly where are we?
The latitude and longitude help determine the position of the ship and the time is recorded to understand how the ship is moving and in what direction. This allows the scientists to follow the transects to conduct their research. If I told you at 1500 hours (3pm) our mark was 58.00N and 171.48W, you would be able to pinpoint our location on a map. Our latitude so far on this trip (July 7th) has been in the range of 56.12N-58.69N depending on the transect that we are following and the longitudes’ range is between 170.01W-171.48W.

Transect lines for Leg II onboard Oscar Dyson

It’s cloudy again?
It tends to be quite cloudy and foggy here in the Bering Sea and cloud cover is measured in eighths of the sky. For example, on July 6th the cloud cover at 1500 hours was 7/8 which means that 87.5% of the sky was filled with clouds. Cloud type and location can help predict the type of weather. The majority of our days have been 8/8 or 100% cloud cover with stratus clouds and lots of moisture in the air.

Stratus Clouds

This is definitely not the heat wave they are getting back home!
This brings us to air temperature and wind. The temperature is always taken on the windward side of the ship because this is the side of the ship in the stream of air fresh from the sea that has not been in contact with or passed over the ship. There are two types of thermometers in each case on the deck in front of the bridge. The dry bulb measures the air temperature and the wet bulb has a muslin wick which absorbs heat from the thermometer. The temperature difference between the two, called the depression of the wet bulb, can help determine what the percent humidity is by referring to the humidity chart. Wind can affect these readings which is why there are thermometers on either side of the bridge. The wind direction is logged as the same direction from which the sea waves are coming. Average temperature through July 7th for Leg II has been 5.680C/420F with winds averaging 10.29 knots.

The weather mentioned has been the trend for Leg II; however, this could be changing by the end of the week…stay tuned!

Wet and dry bulb thermometers

Hold on tight!

It’s July 10 and we are still waiting for the big seas to hit us. (not that I am complaining about calm weather!) The swells have gotten larger and the wind definitely picked up yesterday. The strongest wind recorded yesterday was 26 knots while on my shift. There is still a chance for NW sustained winds up to 25 knots and 10 foot seas before the weekend is up. Part of the reason for calmer seas yesterday was that we were so far north and the low pressure system was to the south of us. It was actually the farthest north I have ever been, and we will go even farther north before it is time to head back to Dutch Harbor.

Weather forecast

Personal Log

While we have had some quiet days, the fishing has been picking up. Unfortunately, the fish seem to be accessible more for the night crew than our shift. For example, we may fish once in a twelve hour shift, but the night crew may fish 2-3 times! We did have a couple of fishing mornings where there was enough time for a quick coffee and piece of toast and then on to the wet lab. Let me paint a picture for you… its 0430, the four of us (Abigail, Katie, Rebecca, and I) are keeping the beat to the tunes on the iPod of choice for the day in our full foul weather gear while we sort, sex, weigh, and find the lengths of pollock. It’s quite the jam session- all before breakfast! It may seem like a strange way to start the day, but it’s pretty cool!

Pollock on the sorting table
Processing Pollock: we record data about length, weight, stomachs, and otoliths.

Another benefit to having the day shift is that I was able to experience sunset as I looked west (off the port side of the ship) from my stateroom at 0330 and by the time we finished fishing at 0645, the sun was rising! Between 0400 and 0700 is one of the quieter times during my shift. It is a good time to get laundry done, regroup for the day, and one of the most peaceful places to go is the bridge. As you finish climbing the stairs you enter the darkness of the bridge; no fluorescent or incandescent lights staring you in the face. Even the headlamps worn and the covered monitors are red. I found myself closing my eyes and rocking as the boat swayed back and forth. Definitely a different atmosphere then being in the wet lab processing fish. This of course all changes after breakfast when more people are up for their shift. I find it amazing how many different environments there are on one ship throughout a day.

Sunset: 0400
Sunrise: 0645
The bridge at sunrise

Another new experience for me occurred by the time I made it to the Acoustics lab on Friday morning. The echo sounder was already in the water collecting data. The advantage of this single transducer is that it has the ability to be dropped closer to the fish (about 50m) to allow for more precise data. It still functions like the transducers that are on the centerboard of the ship: sending “pings” or sound waves and recording target strength. The transducers that do not interfere with the echo sounder continue to collect the same data but from farther away (around 80m), and then the two sets of data can be compared. There is also a small CTD that is attached to the unit. To make it even better, I was able to see the North Star and the moon while on the deck where the echo sounder comes on board!

The echo sounder

This might be too much excitement for some of you, but like I said before I need things to do. This brings me to the new challenge on the ship; Ensign Amber Payne spearheaded a “European Challenge of the Century.” It is a series of exercise challenges that include all members on board the Oscar Dyson. Now, this challenge continues throughout this season which ends in October, so the scientists (that’s me!) were randomly placed on teams to contribute while onboard. Even before the challenge, Abigail, Katie, Rebecca, and I have made a habit of heading to one of the two gyms to rip it up while blasting tunes. That’s right- two gyms on this ship! You can chose to run, bike, row, lift, and there are plenty of other options as well. Even though the gym has become part of my daily routine and running on a boat MUST burn more calories than on land, I don’t think it has been enough with Ray’s cooking. It’s like eating out at your favorite restaurant EVERY day!

Animals seen
Chrysaora melanaster
pollock (1-2 years)
fulmars
murres
puffin

Word of the day
guile: deceit

New Vocabulary
barometric pressure: the downward force that the atmosphere exerts per unit of a certain area.
swell height: measure of wind waves generated locally; vertical distance between trough and crest
muslin wick: plain woven cotton fabric
humidity: the amount of moisture in the air
gale force winds: strong winds between 28-47 knots
target strength: strength of the sound waves returning after reaching the fish

Deborah Moraga, June 27, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Log: Deborah Moraga
NOAA Ship: Fulmar
Date: July 20‐28, 2010

Mission: ACCESS
(Applied California Current Ecosystem Studies)
Geographical area of cruise: Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones and Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries
Date: June 27,2010

Weather Data from the Bridge
Start Time: 0700 (7:00 am)
End Time: 1600 (4:00 pm)
Position:
Line 10 start on western end: Latitude = 37o 20.6852 N; Longitude = 122o 56.5215 W
Line 10 end on eastern end: Latitude = 37 o 21.3466 N; Longitude = 122o 27.5634 W
Present Weather: Started with full could cover and cleared to no cloud cover by mid day
Visibility: greater than 10 nautical miles
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wave Height: 0.5 meters
Sea Water Temp: 14.72 C
Air Temperature: Dry bulb = 14 C Barometric Pressure: 1013.2 mb

Science and Technology Log
We left Half Moon Bay at 0700 (7:00 am) to survey line 10. We traveled out to about 30 miles offshore then deployed the Tucker trawl.

Tucker Trawl
Tucker Trawl

When the team deploys the Tucker trawl the goal is to collect krill. They are relying on the echo‐sounder to determine where the krill are located in the water column. The echo‐sounder sends out sound waves that bounce off objects in the water and works much like a sophisticated fish finder. Dolphins hunt for their prey in much the same way. A computer connected to the echo‐sounder is used to display the image of the water column as the sound waves travel back to the boat. By reading the colors on the screen the team can determine the depth of krill.

Collecting krill
Collecting krill
Collecting krill
Collecting krill
Collecting krill
Collecting krill

The scientists send weights (called messengers) down a cable that is attached to the Tucker trawl as it is towed behind the boat. Once the messenger reaches the end of the line where the net is located, it triggers one of the three nets to close. Triggering the nets this way allows for the researchers to sample zooplankton at three different depths.

image of water column on computer screen
Image of water column on computer screen
When the cod‐ends of the nets were brought onboard Jaime Jahncke (scientist for PRBO Conservation Science) examined the contents. Some of the organisms that were collected were…
When the cod‐ends of the nets were brought onboard Jaime Jahncke (scientist for PRBO Conservation Science) examined the contents. Some of the organisms that were collected were.

• Thysanoessa spinifera – a species of krill

• Crab megalopa larvae
Euphausia pacifica – a species of krill

Nicolle von der Heyde, June 25, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nicolle Vonderheyde
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 14 – July 2, 2010

Nicolle von der Heyde
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Friday, June 25, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1000 hours (10 am)
Position: latitude = 27°53.9 N longitude = 093º 51.1 W
Present Weather: 5/8 cloudy (cumulonimbus/cumulus clouds)
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind Direction: E Wind Speed: 4 knots
Wave Height: 1 foot
Sea Water Temp: 30.5°C
Air Temperature: dry bulb = 29.2°C, wet bulb = 26.3°C

Science and Technology Log

Video from the camera array
Video from the camera array
Echo Sounder
Echo Sounder

The technology on this ship is amazing! The picture on the left is video of what the camera array filmed yesterday. The fish just swim around and sometimes they even come right up to the camera like they are “kissing” it. Then they back away and swim off. It’s beautiful to watch. The picture on the right is the EK60 Echo Sounder. The red line that you see shows the bottom of the seafloor. The blue above the red line is the water itself and the white specks that you see are fish. The most recent reading is located on the right side of the screen. The echo sounder sends a “ping” to the computer and that “ping” is a fish. Sometimes we can see definite shark outlines in the images below our ship. If you look at the bottom right hand corner of the echo sounder photo, you will see a large white speck along the red line. This indicates a large fish (possibly a shark) trolling the bottom of the ocean. When we came upon the dead sperm whale, the Electronics Technician (ET) came to the lab and told us there were a lot of “large fish,” most likely Mahi Mahi or even sharks, swimming under the ship.

Techonology on the Pisces
Techonology on the Pisces

The Pisces would not be able to operate without the engineers who make sure that everything onboard is functioning properly, including the 4 massive diesel generators that power the ship, the freshwater generators that convert seawater into fresh drinking water, and the hydraulics that power the cranes to lift the cameras in and out of the water. Chief Engineer Garet Urban leads the team of engineers, oilers, and electrical experts who take care of all the mechanical issues on board the ship.

First Engineer, Brent Jones, took us on a tour of the very impressive engine room on the lower deck of the Pisces. He showed us the incinerator which burns all the trash, oil filters, and other waste at a temperature of 1200°C (2192°F). Paper, plastic, and aluminum is brought back to shore and recycled. Before entering the engine room, we were told to put in earplugs because the sound can damage your eardrums. In addition to not being able to hear a thing inside the engine room, the heat is incredible! The engineers need to be careful to stay hydrated while working in these conditions.

Engine Room
Engine Room
Generators in the Engine Room
Generators in the Engine Room

The Pisces is powered by 4 diesel fuel generators which generate electricity that drives two large electric motors. The photo above on the right shows one of the generators in yellow. The engineers are constantly monitoring the mechanics of the ship to make sure everyone on board has a safe and productive voyage while conducting scientific research on board.

Personal Log

Every week the ship is required to conduct emergency drills. Yesterday after dinner, the alarm sounded 6 short bursts and an announcement came on saying, “This is a drill…abandon ship, proceed to your muster stations…this is a drill.” We had to go to our rooms and grab our PFD’s (personal flotation devices), survival suits, a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat. We then proceeded to the 0-1 deck where two officers were in charge of making sure that everyone on their list was present and accounted for. After attendance was taken the drill was over; however Melinda and I wanted to try on the survival suits because no matter who you are, you can’t help but look and feel silly in what the crew refers to as a “Gumby suit” – for obvious reasons. Two of the officers joined us in this cumbersome and entertaining task.

Emergency Drill
Emergency Drill
Melinda Storey and I in our Gumby Suits
Melinda Storey and I in our Gumby Suits
Getting into my gumby suit
Getting into my gumby suit

Never has the routine of an emergency drill seemed more significant than the next morning, shortly after arriving in the lab, when the general alarm sounded and an announcement came on saying, “This is NOT a drill…smoke has been detected near the bow thrusters on the lower deck…repeat, this is NOT a drill.” It took a second for me to register that this was a real emergency and we all quickly moved to the conference room – the muster station for the scientific party. On the way into the room, I smelled something burning and heard in my head the ominous words of one of the scientists during a previous fire drill, “One of the worst things that can happen at sea is a fire.” Now I was nervous. The Chief Scientist called the bridge to let them know that we were all accounted for and asked if we could move because we smelled smoke. We moved to the main deck and waited…not very long actually. Within a matter of minutes an announcement signaled that the fire was secure and we were free to carry on with our business.

The bow thrusters had overheated and fortunately, someone was working near them when the smoking started. Because the ship conducts fire drills on a regular basis, including the simulation of putting out specific types of fires, everyone knew where to go and the crew had the smoking under control very quickly. It was reassuring to know that the crew is so prepared to handle emergencies at sea. I will never again complain about the routine task of emergency drills, especially at school. Preparation and planning is the key to keeping everyone safe.

Patricia Schromen, August 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Schromen
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
August 19-24, 2009 

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Pacific Coast
Date: Thursday, August 22, 2009

Bringing in the nets requires attention, strength and teamwork.
Bringing in the nets requires attention and teamwork.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet
17 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

In Science we learn that a system consists of many parts working together. This ship is a small integrated system-many teams working together. Each team is accountable for their part of the hake survey. Like any good science investigation there are independent, dependent and controlled variables. There are so many variables involved just to determine where and when to take a fish sample.

Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.
Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.

The acoustic scientists constantly monitor sonar images in the acoustics lab. There are ten screens displaying different information in that one room. The skilled scientists decide when it is time to fish by analyzing the data.  Different species have different acoustical signatures. Some screens show echograms of marine organisms detected in the water column by the echo sounders. With these echograms, the scientists have become very accurate in predicting what will likely be caught in the net. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) is responsible for driving the ship and observes different data from the bridge. Some of the variables they monitor are weather related; for example: wind speed and direction or swell height and period. Other variables are observed on radar like the other ships in the area. The topography of the ocean floor is also critical when nets are lowered to collect bottom fish. There are numerous sophisticated instruments on the bridge collecting information twenty four hours a day. Well trained officers analyze this data constantly to keep the ship on a safe course.

Here come the hake!
Here come the hake!

When the decision to fish has been made more variables are involved. One person must watch for marine mammals for at least 10 minutes prior to fishing. If marine mammals are present in this area then they cannot be disturbed and the scientists will have to delay fishing until the marine mammals leave or find another location to fish. When the nets are deployed the speed of the boat, the tension on the winch, the amount of weight attached will determine how fast the nets reach their target fishing depth.  In the small trawl house facing the stern of the ship where the trawl nets are deployed, a variety of net monitoring instruments and the echo sounder are watched. The ship personnel are communicating with the bridge; the deck crew are controlling the winches and net reels and the acoustic scientist is determining exactly how deep and the duration of the trawl. Data is constantly being recorded. There are many decisions that must be made quickly involving numerous variables.

Working together to sort the squid from the hake.
Working together to sort the squid from the hake.

The Hake Survey began in 1977 collecting every three years and then in 2001 it became a biannual survey. Like all experiments there are protocols that must be followed to ensure data quality. Protocols define survey operations from sunrise to sunset. Survey transect line design is also included in the protocols. The US portion of the Hake survey is from approximately 60 nautical miles south of Monterey, California to the US-Canada Border. The exact location of the fishing samples changes based on fish detected in the echograms although the distance between transects is fished at 10 nautical miles. Covering depths of 50-1500 m throughout the survey. Sampling one species to determine the health of fish populations and ocean trends is very dynamic.

Weighing and measuring the hake is easier with automated scales and length boards.
Weighing and measuring the hake.

Personal Log 

Science requires team work and accountability. Every crew member has an integral part in making this survey accurate.  A willing positive attitude and ability to perform your best is consistently evident on the Miller Freeman. In the past few days, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to assist in collecting the data of most of the parts of this survey, even launching the CTD at night from the “Hero Platform” an extended grate from the quarter deck.

Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.
Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.

Before fishing, I’ve been on the bridge looking for marine mammals.  When the fish nets have been recovered and dumped on the sorting table, I’ve sorted, weighed and measured fish. For my first experience in the wet lab, I was pleased to be asked to scan numbers (a relatively clean task) and put otoliths (ear bones) into vials of alcohol. I used forceps instead of a scalpel. Ten stomachs are dissected, placed in cloth bags and preserved in formaldehyde. A label goes into each cloth bag so that the specimen can be cross referenced with the otoliths, weight, length and sex of that hake. With all the high tech equipment it’s surprising that a lowly pencil is the necessary tool but the paper is high tech since it looks regular but is water proof.  It was special to record the 100th catch of the survey.

Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.

Questions for the Day 

How is a fish ear bone (otolith) similar to a tree trunk? (They both have rings that can be counted as a way to determine the age of the fish or the tree.)

The CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) unit drops 60 meters per minute and the ocean is 425 meters deep at this location; how many minutes will it take the CTD to reach the 420 meter depth?

Think About This: The survey team directs the crane operator to stop the CTD drop within 5 meters of the bottom of the ocean.  Can you think of reasons why the delicate machinery is never dropped exactly to the ocean floor?  Some possible reasons are:

  • The swell in the ocean could make the ship higher at that moment;
  • An object that is not detected on the sonar could be on the ocean floor;
  • The rosetta or carousel holding the measurement tools might not be level.

Launching the CTD is a cooperative effort. The boom operator works from the deck above in visual contact. Everyone is in radio contact with the bridge since the ship slows down for this data collection.

Retrieving the CTD
Retrieving the CTD

John Schneider, July 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 14, 2009

Position 
Shumagin Islands

Here I am in the data acquisition chair.
Here I am in the data acquisition chair.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: light overcast
Wind: light & variable
Sea State: gentle swells

Science and Technology Log 

Today I spent quite a few hours in the plot room learning about the methods being used on Fairweather for recording bathymetric data. In the picture below and to the right you are looking forward at the starboard side of the Plot Room.  From the left are Chief Survey Tech Lynn Morgan, Survey Tech Dave Franksen, survey crew members Damian Manda and Gabriel Schmidbauer.  Dave is in the chair that I’m occupying in the shot above.

At first, it’s a baffling array of monitors and programs and people.  There are 11 stations for survey personnel in the plot room and it is operating 24/7 when we are under way. In the adjacent compartment are the FOO (Field Operations Officer) and the CST (Chief Survey Technician.)   The FOO on the Fairweather is LT Matt Ringel. The future FOO is LT Briana Welton (who will become the FOO when LT Ringel rotates off the ship); and the CST is Lynn Morgan. While the crew is quite casual in addressing one another, there are three individuals who are addressed by their titles. Commanding Officer Doug Baird is addressed as “CO,” Executive Officer David Zezula is “XO,” and LT Ringel is “FOO.” Everyone else on board is addressed by casual names.  These three officers and the CST are integral to getting our mission accomplished.

More data acquisition!
More data acquisition!

I’ll address the monitors I’m viewing from top to bottom and left to right. Once you’ve sat in the chair it’s not terribly difficult to follow what’s being displayed . . . but a novice like me isn’t able to decode issues that pop up sometimes.  Though I sat a 4hour watch, for the vast majority of that time I had an experienced tech (Will Sauter) very close to help when it was needed. The top right monitor is a closed-circuit TV monitor of the ship’s fantail1 (aft deck.) This is where the remote MVP is deployed from (The MVP is the ship’s equivalent of the CTDs2 we deploy from the launches.)  It’s on the starboard quarter and is deployed with a couple of mouse clicks from the chair. Its mouse is the white one to the right and its keyboard is the white one.

The data acquisition monitors
The data acquisition monitors

To the left of the closed-circuit TV monitor is the control screen for the MVP.  It indicates how deep the “fish” (the sensor) is, the tension on the line, how far behind the ship it is, the GPS accuracy, who is capturing data on the watch and about 20 other parameters.  Whenever something is going that involves the ship or its operations, the bridge must be apprised so the Officer of the Watch is on the same page as the survey and boat teams.  You key the intercom to the bridge and say something like, “Bridge, we’d like a cast, please.”  And they will respond “yes,” “OK,” “affirmative” or something along those lines.  Then we follow with “fish is deployed,” “fish on the bottom” and “fish is back.”  The MVP gets a sound-velocity-in-water throughout the water column.  It can vary by as much as 10 m/s which affects the recorded distance.

The graphic display of the Multi-Beam Echo Sounder called the beam “cone”
The graphic display of the Multi-Beam Echo Sounder called the beam “cone”

The far monitor you see below is a graphic display of the beam-spread from the 8111 Multi-Beam Echo Sounder.  The sounder can cover an angle of 150º (which is 75º to either side of the Nadir3.) Ideally, this line should show blue dots across from one point of the cone to the other.  As you can see, the left side is a bit higher than the right. This could indicate either that the ship is rolling or the bottom is sloped.  The control for adjusting the beam is the left roller ball in the top picture. (The right one is for a different MBES.) The next 3 displays are all controlled with the black keyboard and mouse on the lower shelf in my lap. The left monitor of these three displays technical data about the ship and MBES. One of the devices integrated into the system is an Inertial Motion Sensor which quantifies the amount of roll4, pitch5 and yaw6.

This screen depicts various graphic displays of data.
This screen depicts various graphic displays

Having this information allows the raw data to be corrected for some environmental factors.  Also in the display are accuracy and precision indicators for the GPS positions, personnel on watch, logging verification to begin and cease, and more. The next display is broken into four subordinate windows. On the top left and center are visuals on the nadir beams directly under the ship.  It seemed a bit odd not to simply include the nadir in the bottom half of the display, but the bottom half is processed a bit differently and needs to be segregated. One of the Officers (ENS Patricia Raymond) actually got a screen capture of what appear to be whales directly below the ship. I swear you can identify flukes and fins, but maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part. I’d have included it here, but there’s just the one copy in plot.  The top right in this display shows a minimized version of the path we’re “mowing.”  You can see the most recent data in green. Finally, on the bottom, are the side-scan views of the bottom. In this particular shot it’s kind of interesting with what appear to be the remains of glacial moraines and scour on the seafloor. 

This display shows technical data about the ship and Multi-Beam Echo Sounder.
This display shows technical data about the
ship and Multi-Beam Echo Sounder.

The last screen, on the far right, is the screen showing our progress on the polygon. The recently scanned area shows up in a different color than those previously scanned and every time you update the plot, the colors begin anew.  Fairweather frequently uses about a 50% overlap to ensure redundancy of data points. On the lower right side of this screen is a graphic of the beams under the ship.  It usually looks very much like the image of the “cone” displayed above. The “70.55” indicates the depth (in S.I. Units of meters) and the top right indicates the status of whether we are logging/retaining the data or if it is just reading it. We don’t log when the ship is turning because the data points get too spread out on the outside of the turn. 

This screen depicts various graphic displays of data.
This screen shows the ship’s progress on the polygon.

Personal Log 

At first glance, it seems that mastering all of this would be daunting, but the ease and confidence that are displayed by the team show that it can be done. Again, the Professional Learning Community idea comes into play as they collectively debug issues and plan for future advancements in the technology even as they are using what is current. Listening to the technical banter and seeing how that much brainpower is focused on a task is really cool. Having spent most of the day in plot, it was real nice to spend the (endless) evening just watching the ocean around me.  When the sun sets at 2315 (11:15 pm) it’s cool.  When it sets at 2313 behind a mountain island off the coast of Alaska it’s unbelievable!

Questions for You to Investigate 

  • How are your inner ears similar to the Inertial Motion detector?
  • How are your semicircular canals contributors to seasickness?

New Terms/Phrases 

  1. Fantail – The aft deck on the ship.  It’s where the majority of overboard work is done
  2. CTD’s – Conductivity/Temperature and Depth sensors
  3. Nadir – The beam that runs the shortest distance to the bottom
  4. Roll – the left/right rocking of the ship
  5. Pitch – the front/back rocking of the ship
  6. Yaw – the swinging of the ship to either side of its course (picture a wagging tail)
Just another day in Paradise!
Just another day in Paradise!

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly, September 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly
Onboard NOAA Ship David Jordan Starr
September 8-22, 2008

Mission: Leatherback Use of Temperate Habitats (LUTH) Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Ocean –San Francisco to San Diego
Date: September 15, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 3720.718 N Longitude: 12230.301
Wind Direction: 69 (compass reading) NW
Wind Speed: 12.0 knots
Surface Temperature: 15.056

Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering during the day
Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering during the day

Science and Technology Log 

A lot of physical science is involved in oceanographic research.  An understanding of wave mechanics is utilized to obtain sonar readings. This means that sound waves of certain frequencies are emitted from a source.  The concepts to understand in order to utilize acoustic readings are:

  1. Sound and electromagnetic waves travel in a straight line from their source and are reflected when they contact an object they cannot pass through.
  2. Frequency is defined as the number of waves that pass a given point per second (or another set period of time).  The faster the wave travels, the greater the number of waves that go past a point in that time. Waves with a high frequency are moving faster than those with a low frequency. Those waves travel out in a straight line until they contact an object of a density that causes them to reflect back.
  3. The speed with which the waves return, along with the wavelength they were sent at, gives a ‘shadow’ of how dense the object is that reflected the wave, and gives an indication of the distance that object is from the wave source (echo sounder). As jellyfish, zooplankton and other organisms are brought up either with the bongo net or the trawl net, examinations of the acoustic readings are done to begin to match the readings with organisms in the area at the time of the readings.  On the first leg of the survey, there were acoustic patterns that appeared to match conditions that are known to be favorable to jellyfish.  Turtle researchers have, for years, observed certain characteristics of stretches of ocean water that have been associated with sea nettle, ocean sunfish and leatherbacks. Now, by combining acoustic readings, salinity, temperature and chlorophyll measurements, scientists can determine what the exact oceanographic features are that make up ‘turtle water’.
Computer generated images showing acoustic scattering at night.
Computer images of acoustic scattering at night.

Acoustic data, consisting of the returns of pulses of sound from targets in the water column, is now used routinely to determine fish distribution and abundance, for commercial fishing and scientific research. This type of data has begun to be used to quantify the biomass and distribution of zooplankton and micronekton. Sound waves are continuously emitted from the ship down to the ocean floor. Four frequencies of waves are transmitted from the echo-sounder.  The data is retrieved and converted into computerized images. Both photo 1 and photo 2 give the acoustic readings. The “Y” axis is depth down to different depths, depending on the location.  The frequencies shown are as follows for the four charts on the computer screen; top left is 38kHz, bottom left is 70 kHz, top right is 120kHz and bottom right is 200 kHz.  In general the higher frequencies will pick up the smallest particles (organisms) while the lowest reflect off the largest objects. Photo 1 shows a deep-water set of images, with small organisms near the surface. This matches the fact that zooplankton rise close to the surface at night.  Photo 2 gives a daylight reading.

A Leach’s storm petrel rests on the trawl net container.
A Leach’s storm petrel rests on the trawl net container.

It is more difficult to interpret.  The upper one-fourth is the acoustic reading and the first distinct horizontal line from the top represents the ocean floor.  Images below that line are the result of the waves bouncing back and forth, giving a shadow reading.  But the team here was very excited: for this set of images shows an abundance of organisms very near the surface. And the trawl that was deployed at that time resulted in lots and lots of jellyfish.  They matched.  Periodically, as the acoustic data is collected, samples are also collected at various depths to ‘ground truth’ the readings.  This also allows the scientists to refine their interpretations of the measurements.  The technology now can give estimates of size, movement and acoustic properties of individual planktonic organisms, along with those of fish and marine mammals.  Acoustic data is used to map the distribution of jellyfish and estimate the abundance in this region. By examining many acoustic readings and jellyfish netted, the scientists will be able to identify the acoustic pattern from jellyfish.

Karin releases a petrel from nets he flew into.
Karin releases a petrel from nets he flew into.

The sensor for the acoustic equipment is mounted into the hull, with readings taken continually.  Background noise from the ship must be accounted for, along with other types of background noise. Some events observed on board, such as a school of dolphins being sighted, can be correlated (matched) to acoustic readings aboard the ship.  Since it is assumed that only a portion of the dolphins in a pod are actually sighted, with the remaining under the surface, the acoustic correlation gives an indication of population size in the pod.  The goal of continued acoustic analysis is to be able to monitor long term changes in zooplankton or micronekton biomass. This monitoring can then lead to understanding the migration, feeding strategies and monitor changes in populations of marine species.

A Wilson’s warbler rests on the flying deck.
A Wilson’s warbler rests on the flying deck.

Personal Log 

Several small birds have stopped in over the week, taking refuge on the Jordan. Many bird species make long migrations, often at high altitude, along the Pacific flyway.  Some will die of exhaustion along the way, or starvation, and some get blown off their original course.  Most ships out at sea appear to be an island, a refuge for tired birds to land on.  They may stay for a day, a week, or longer. Their preferred food source may not be available however, and some do not survive on board.  Some die because they are just too tired, or perhaps ill, or for unknown reasons. We have had a few birds, and some have disappeared after two days.  We hope they took off to finish their trip. Since we were in site of land all day today, it could be the dark junco headed to shore. ‘Our’ common redpoll did not survive, so he was ‘buried at sea’, with a little ceremony.  About half an hour ago, a stormy petrel came aboard.  He did not seem well, but after a bit of rest, we watched him take off.  We wish him well.

Words of the Day 

Acoustic data: sound waves (sonar) of certain frequencies that are sent out and bounce off objects, with the speed of return an indication of the objects distance from the origin; Echo sounder: device that emits sonar or acoustic waves Dense or density: how highly packed an object is  measured as mass/volume; Distribution: the number and kind of organisms in an area; Biomass:  the combined mass of a sample of living organisms; Micronekton: free swimming small organisms; Zooplankton: small organisms that move with the current; Pacific flyway: a general area over and next to the Pacific ocean that some species of birds migrate along.

Animals Seen Today 
Leach’s Storm-petrel Oceanodroma leucorhoa
Herring gull Larus argentatus
Heermann’s gull  Larus heermanni
Common murr  Uria aalge
Humpback whale  Megapterea novaeangliae
California sea lion Zalophus californianus
Sooty shearwater Puffinus griseus
Brown pelican Pelecanus occidentalis
Harbor seal Phoca vitulina
Sea nettle jellies Chrysaora fuscescens
Moon jellies Aurelia aurita
Egg yolk jellies Phacellophora camtschatica 

Questions of the Day 
Try this experiment to test sound waves.  Get two bricks or two, 4 inch pieces of 2 x 4 wood blocks. Stand 50 ft opposite a classroom wall, and clap the boards together. Have others stand at the wall so they can see when you clap. Listen for an echo.  Keep moving away and periodically clap again. At some distance, the sound of the clap will hit their ears after you actually finish clapping. With enough distance, the clap will actually be heard after your hands have been brought back out after coming together.

  1. Can you calculate the speed of the sound wave that you generated?
  2. Under what conditions might that speed be changed?
  3. Would weather conditions, which might change the amount of moisture in the air, change the speed? 

Chuck Gregory, August 23, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 23, 2007

“Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading. I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0614h Sunset = 1944h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0400h (3.7 ft.) & 1631h (4.7 ft.); Low @ 1018h (1.2 ft.) & 2320h (1.0 ft.); Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Flood: 0120h (1.0 kt.), 1344h (1.7 kts.); Ebb: 0744h (1.1 kts.), 2028h (1.4 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: SE winds 10 kts., seas 3-5 ft., PM: S winds 10-15 kts., seas 204 feet.

Today is my last full day on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  My goal today is to clean up any loose ends before I leave the ship tomorrow: laundry, catch up on my log, take a few extra photos, etc.

Chris Van Westendorp, the TJ’s FOO
Chris Van Westendorp, the TJ’s FOO

Like the previous three days the sky is gray.  I can’t even see Manhattan.  Fortunately, the seas have calmed and I am quite sure the launches will be deployed.  I am not scheduled to be on a launch, but Andy is going out. He switches between two full days of launch duty, and then two days of watch duty: 0330h to 0730h, and 1530h to 1930h.  They do keep him busy. For lunch I had chicken tacos and lasagna. A brief note on Chief Steward Dave – he sure must like to cook chicken. It was served to us often and in a variety of styles.  All in all, Dave and his crew do an excellent job of feeding us and deserve a commendation.  There was always something to eat, and no one left the Mess Deck hungry.

I also found time to go up to the bridge and chat with Megan Nadeau.  Megan is from Lewiston, Maine and gave me a good interview.  After two years at the University of New Hampshire, Megan graduated from the University of Maine with a B.S. degree in Marine Science. She seems to really enjoy her role on the THOMAS JEFFERSON, and has a nice career plan ahead of her. The Field Operations Officer – affectionately referred to as “The FOO” – Chris Van Westendorp, joined us on the bridge and I was able to interview him as well.  Chris has quite an experienced past that includes years on a Navy submarine and a degree in Marine Science. As I noted in a previous log entry, the interview is pretty straight forward, except the last question about who will play you in my Hollywood blockbuster. Those I interviewed almost always paused when I asked this question. Some of the answers I got were funny, others quite revealing.

At the end of the day I did a little more computer work, ate dinner, exercised, and began the packing process. I even washed and dried my sweaty exercise cloths.  After a little “White Fang” I was asleep by 2230h. 

Chuck Gregory, August 22, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 22, 2007

To penetrate and dissipate these clouds of darkness, the general mind must be strengthened by education.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0613h Sunset = 1945h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey) and take first Dramamine
0800h Deploy Launches – I’ll be on the 3101 this time!
1145h Take second (and last!) Dramamine
TBD Commence underway check-off; Light off main engine, ship underway/anchor
TBD Mail pick-up (boat TBD)
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0259 (3.7 ft.), 1532 (4.6 ft.); Low @ 0911h (1.3 ft.) & 2225h (1.5 ft.); currents in Sandy Hook Channel Flood: 0018h (1.0 kt.), 1243h (1.7 kts.); Ebb: 0648h (1.1 kts.), 1937h (1.3 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: NE winds 15-20 kts., seas 5-8 ft., PM: E winds 10-15 kts., seas 5-8 feet.

Cox'n Pooser driving a launch
Cox’n Pooser driving a launch

What a day! When I awoke it was apparent that the launches would be deployed on schedule (0800h). Once again the sky was gray, but the wind and sea was calm enough for us to get work done. After breakfast (oatmeal and Dramamine) we met in the Survey area for a safety brief.  I was assigned to be on launch 3101 with Cox’n Pooser, Cox’n-in-Training “House” and Survey Tech Scott. Launch 3101 is only equipped with a MultiBeam Echo Sounder.  We were the first to be deployed, and Bob Schwartz filmed the launch before joining the 3102 to continue his video work.

Our morning on the 3101 began simple enough.  Pooser was training House to drive the launch around the inner Sandy Hook harbor area. It was House’s first time on a NOAA launch, and, while he was quite eager to learn, the rough sea and his lack of experience showed. Pooser spent a long time instructing him on operating the launch and how to “drive lines” (that’s NOAA speak for keep the launch on the correct survey heading).  Scott was all set up to gather data, but stayed very patient while House would attempt to drive a line and have to repeat the track because he veered off course.  Scott and I joked that House was drawing a “double helix”.  But House persisted and his skills soon improved.  From the perspective of this novice, it was not a good sea for the first-timer.

Towing the Fast Response Boat (FRB)
Towing the Fast Response Boat (FRB)

After about an hour of “drawing double helixes”, Pooser grabbed the wheel and began knocking off the lines like a veteran. It was about then that we first saw the FRB (Fast Rescue Boat) leave the THOMAS JEFFERSON on a mail run to the Sandy Hook Coast Guard Station.  When the FRB got about half way to shore we noticed that it suddenly stopped in the water. We heard over the radio that their engine was smoking and she was dead in the water.  Bummer!  Since we were the nearest boat (about 300 yards away), we motored over and began the process of towing them back to the TJ.

FOO Chris, Ensign Megan G., and Chief Buck were on the FRB, and they hung on as we slowly motored back to the TJ.  We passed their lines to the crew on the ship and waited until we were told they were safe and secure.  Then we were back to doing lines. After lunch the TJ called and asked us to go to the Sandy Hook Coast Guard Station and retrieve mail.  The Sandy Hook Coast Guard Station is a nice facility with a great location. But the biggest thrill of all (for me at least) was setting foot on solid land!  Yes, I thoroughly enjoyed our brief sojourn on land (about 15 minutes).  (Now if only I could have a beer!!) We picked up two packages and, once again, went back to the 3101 and driving lines. 

We were surveying in shallow water close to the Coast Guard Station.  Pooser really showed his skill driving the launch in these close conditions.  This was a good learning experience for House. When in shallow water there is always a threat of running the expensive MBES into the seafloor. Pooser got as close as he could (only 7-8 feet deep!), but reached a point where he had to tell Scott that we couldn’t get any nearer to land even though the plan called for it. Pooser suggested we return at high-high tide.  There is no doubt about it, while the survey technician directs the data gathering, the Cox’n is in charge of the boat and everyone’s safety.

We stayed out driving lines in the Sandy Hook area until 1730h.  Most of the lines were short and taken as quality control (QC) checks for the existing data.  When I spoke to Pete last night, he explained to me how there were questionable sections of the data, and additional QC lines were needed.  Pete pointed out to me that these were usually areas on the grid where the Side Scan Sonar (SSS) and/or the MBES missed (e.g., the launch hit a wake and heaved a little too much).  And it was Pete’s job to look over all the data and determine where these “holidays” were located. Another important part of our survey work is getting 200% coverage of the area.  In short, the launches pass over the survey area twice, staggering their tracks to optimize the overlap. So, while it’s easy to see how well the launches contribute to the survey work, it is just as important (if not more so) to understand how all that data is checked and double-checked (and triple-checked!) before it is submitted as a report.

When 1730h arrived, and it was time to return to the ship, Pooser let me take the wheel one last time.  We went full throttle and reached 20 knots before arriving at the ‘TJ’.  Pooser turned the wheel over to House and let him bring the 3101 to the vessel for a smooth retrieval. We cleaned the launch of our stuff, and were soon in the Mess Deck enjoying another meatloaf dinner.  Once again, after a full day on the water, meatloaf never tasted so good!  After dinner I called Roxann, went to the exercise room for a good 30 minute ride on the stationary bike, and checking on some more emails.

As a final note, I’ve learned that there are two times of the day to optimize the ship’s dial-up internet connection: before 0900h and after 2000h.  So, at 2000h I got on line and corresponded with a few folks. I was tired and was in bed by 2130h.  All in all, a good day full of new experiences.

Chuck Gregory, August 21, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 21, 2007

“Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0612h Sunset = 1947h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0730h Take first Dramamine
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1130h Take second Dramamine
TBD Commence underway checkoff; Light off Main Engine; Ship underway/anchor
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0205h (3.8 ft.) & 1438h (4.6 ft.); Low @ 0759h (1.3 ft.) & 2122h (1.4 ft.); Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0548h (1.1 kts.), 1840h (1.2 kts.); Flood: 1149h (1.7 kts.) & 0018h (1.0 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: E winds 10-15 kts., seas 4-6 ft., PM: NE winds 10-15 kts., seas 4-6 feet. AM/PM Showers & Drizzle.

One of the life rings on the TJ
One of the life rings on the TJ

As expected, we were greeted this morning with more wind and rain.  For now the launches are delayed two hours, but, from the looks of the sea, we’re assuming they will be canceled. While waiting for the final word I responded to a few e-mails.  My TAS log is up on the NOAA TAS website, and the pictures Eric and I sent look great thanks to Liz McMahon in the TAS office. At 0945h we heard that launch operations were canceled for the day.  So, I went down to exercise and found the room “crowded” – two others were using the equipment.  Since the stationary bike was in use I spent 20 minutes on the elliptical.

Since I have the time, I’d like to add a little note about life at sea and working on a NOAA ship. Many of the crew I spoke with love their jobs, but cite distance from home as the #1 downer of their NOAA job.  I can see why.  Phone calls and e-mails at the only real contact points with loved ones.  And if you think the dial up internet connection is slow, try sending a snail mail letter when the ship won’t be able to deliver your note to the post office for days. It takes the right attitude to stay on the ship for weeks, and you do need to keep your mind and body busy.  Like anything else, the work is hard but the rewards are great! Each night, when I go out on deck to phone Roxann, it’s common to see four or five crew members at some corner of the main deck phoning their families.  A sweet time to catch up with the folks at home, and informing the family that we are well and miss them.  I am on the THOMAS JEFFERSON for 12 days and really miss my beautiful wife.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to stay on the ship for three or four weeks!  Sometimes I wonder if even NOAA’s seasoned veterans get used to the time away?

While I’m at it, and on a lighter note, there is another item I sadly miss – a beer!  Roxann and I are so use to coming home after work and having a drink.  However, drinking aboard NOAA ships is forbidden (as it should be).  Maybe this is why some of the “boys” have a little toooo much when they go on leave. Feast or famine. So, when asked, “What is the first thing I will do when I get home?”  The answer is drink a beer. This rainy afternoon everyone on the ship went through two drills: fire & emergency (one long bell), and abandon ship (seven short bells followed by a long one). The CO and FOO coordinate these activities to keep us on our safety toes, and Bob Schwartz was filming both exercises.

For the fire & emergency drill my assignment is to muster (assemble) at the 02 Deck, port side. [That’s two floors above the main deck on the left side of the ship.] I was in my stateroom at the time and was able to grab my raincoat on my way out the door. It was a good thing as the 02 Deck was being lashed with wind and rain.  We stayed there about ten minutes – long enough for the fire team to put on their gear and respond to the mock fire. Immediately afterward, the abandon ship drill was held in the main deck hallway.  Most ship’s personal gathered with immersion (survival) suits and life jackets.  Those without suits acted as inspectors and waxed the zippers for ease of use. All in all, two good exercises.

When the drills were done we all assembled in the Mess for a debriefing – what went right and what could be improved.  Safety is paramount on a ship like the THOMAS JEFFERSON. As was stated during the debriefing, we are responsible for each other on the THOMAS JEFFERSON and we can’t rely on the local fire department to help us out.  The CO and FOO lead a brief discussion, and we soon returned to our task at hand. Dinner was ribs and duck. Good stuff. There are always potatoes or rice and a veggie to add to the meat.  And there is a salad bar for the “roughage”, plus dessert.  No one goes hungry on the THOMAS JEFFERSON.

After dinner Helen gave me a CD of four of NOAA’s sonar Power Point presentations.  While most of the sonar theory is over my head, I really wanted the cool pictures that make up most of the presentations.  I am sure to use these back at SMCC.  Thanks Helen! Another phone call to Roxann – all is well but cold at home – and I am ready to enjoy the evening. With only two plus days to go I need to be sure I have seen and experienced as much as possible. If only the weather would improve!

Tomorrow I am scheduled to be on launch 3101 – a first for me.  Good night!

Chuck Gregory, August 20, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 20, 2007

One man with courage is a majority.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0611h Sunset = 1948h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey) and take first Dramamine
0800h Deploy Launches
1145h Take second Dramamine
TBD Commence underway check-off; Light off main engine, ship underway/anchor
TBD Personnel transfer (boat TBD)
1545h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0116 (4.0 ft.), 1351 (4.6 ft.); Low @ 0705h (1.1 ft.) & 2014h (1.4 ft.); Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0447h (1.2 kts.), 1739h (1.2 kts.); Flood: 1059h (1.7 kts.) & 2324h (1.1 kts.); weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: E winds 10-15 kts., seas 3-4 ft., PM: NE winds 15-20 kts., seas 4-7 feet; AM/PM Rain.

“Captain” Chuck at the wheel of the TJ
“Captain” Chuck at the wheel of the TJ

Today is the day I drive the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  I am also scheduled  to be on one of the launches. But once again the sky is gray and the sea choppy. Given what happened the previous bad weather days, I doubt if the launches will go out today.  At least the ship will head out on its housekeeping voyage – 12 miles offshore to dump the “wet” trash. For some unexplained reason, I rose early and went down to the stationary bike for 20 minutes.  Then I showered and ate. As expected, today’s launch schedule was canceled during breakfast. And tomorrow’s launch schedule doesn’t look good either.

At 0800h I could hear The CO and Ensign Guberski prepping the ship to get us underway.  Engines warming, anchor chain clanging, and hull shuddering. At 0900h I made my way to the bridge where CO Schattgen was the Deck Officer, Ensign Megan Guberski was at the “Conn”, Ensign Andrew Ostapenko was navigating, Anthony was Helmsman, Tom was changing the engine speed on command, and Electrical Engineer Eric was there just in case.

Our outgoing course to get to the shipping channel was a bit tricky, so the CO told me I would take the wheel once the ship began a straight (and safe) course.  I was very OK with that. In the mean time, I observed the dynamics of the bridge: the CO was obviously in charge, the Conn (or controlling officer) was shouting out driving orders, the helmsman would repeat the command to make sure he heard it correctly, the navigator was giving advice to the Conn and charting the course, and everyone kept their eyes open. It went something like this: CO: “We need to go a little right.” Conn: “Right five degrees rudder” Helmsman: “Right five degrees rudder, aye” And when the rudder had moved its five degrees the Helmsman would say: “Rudder five degrees right.” The Conn would reply in an acknowledging way. Then you’d hear the Conn say: “Increase to ten.” Helmsman: “Increase to ten, aye.” Followed by “Rudder at ten right.” And so on. It was another classic example of teamwork and coordination.

Ensign Megan Guberski assists in prepping the ship to get underway
Ensign Megan Guberski assists in prepping the ship to get underway

I was at the helm for about 90 minutes.  We went straight out Sandy Hook Channel, past the channel buoys, and out into the open ocean.  Anthony was watching over my shoulder the entire time, and he was a great teacher.  He let me make a few small mistakes and corrected me when my mistakes threatened to get larger.  All in all, I thought I did a pretty good job in a choppy sea with a good wind. I was relieved as helmsman at 1145h by Mark.  I quickly went down to my stateroom and took another Dramamine.  The ship was rockin’ and rollin’ and I needed a little preventative maintenance.  I am a firm believer in fixing things before they break. Lunch was great, and then I took a little nap. On our way back to New York Harbor we picked up Bob Schwartz who will be taking video footage for a new NOAA Corp recruitment video.  Never a dull moment!  He will also take a little footage of me as Teacher At Sea.

This evening I watched sunset (what little there was), called Roxann, and spent 20 minutes on the stationary bike.  I was in bed by 2130h reading a new book; “White Fang” by Jack London.

Chuck Gregory, August 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 19, 2007

“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0610h Sunset = 1950h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook High @ 0031h (4.2 ft.) & 1307h (4.7 ft.); Low @ 0627h (0.8 ft.) & 1913h (1.2 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0356h (1.3 kts.), 1638h (1.2 kts.); Flood: 1011h (1.8 kts.) & 2234h (1.3 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: NW winds 5kts., seas 1-2 ft., PM: S winds 10 kts., seas 2-3 feet.

Today’s goal: Conduct a few of those interviews. I’m not going out on the launches so I should have time to interview, do a little exercise and continue typing. The skies are overcast, but the seas are calm. I hope the calmness lasts throughout the day.

Ensign Andrew (Andy) Ostapenko on the bridge of the TJ
Ensign Andrew (Andy) Ostapenko on the bridge of the TJ

The interviews went well.  I was able to talk with CO Schattgen, my roommate Ensign Ostapenko, Senior Hydrographic Survey Technician Peter Lewit, Assistant Hydrographic Survey Technician Melody Ovard, Chief Electronics Technician Eric Thompson, and Chief Steward Dave Fare.  I’d like to do two or three more before my cruise is done. I was pretty impressed with myself when, once again, I exercised!  The exercise room is packed with a stationary bike, treadmill, free weights, and a few other pieces.  It’s never packed with users, and I was able to get right on the stationary bike for 20 minutes.  A note to anyone interested in going on a TAS cruise: take the time to exercise.  You can’t continue to eat three-plus square meals a day and not gain some serious weight.

While interviewing the CO, he again stated that tomorrow I would be able to steer the ship when we go out to sea to dump the “wet” trash.  He reviewed the equipment I would use (wheel, compass, etc.) and commands I would hear from the “Con” (or controller). He also went over my responses to the commands.  I am looking forward to this experience. Today ended with a light rain, a good dinner (turkey), and a bad movie (“Vacancy”).

Chuck Gregory, August 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 18, 2007

It takes time to persuade men to do even what is for their own good.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0609h Sunset = 1951h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook Low @ 0554h (0.6 ft.) & 1825h (1.0 ft.); High @ 1225h (4.8 ft.) & 0031h (4.2 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0314h (1.4 kts.), 1546h (1.3 kts.); Flood: 0925h (1.8 kts.) & 2146h (1.4 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: NW winds 15-20 kts., seas 3-5 ft., PM: NW winds 5-10 kts., seas 2 feet.

One of the jobs on the ship is coxswain, or “cox'n.”  Here, Cox’n Pooser drives a launch.
One of the jobs on the ship is coxswain, or “cox’n.” Here, Cox’n Pooser drives a launch.

Today is Saturday, but on the ship it’s difficult to tell the work week from the weekend.  Just like the previous five days, the launches are scheduled to go out, the data is scheduled to come in, and there is work to be done around the ship.  For now deploying the launches has been put on hold until the sea calms down.  It’s a windy morning, but crystal clear, cool and beautiful.

My one goal today is simple – do laundry!  The laundry and exercise rooms are at the bottom of the stairway I use to access my stateroom: laundry to the left and exercise to the right. The laundry room is well equipped with two washing machines and two dryers, soap, bleach and softener. And it is all free!  I was able to do two loads, read some side scan sonar material and use the stationary bike at the same time.  [A Teacher At Sea of many talents!].  Peter loaned me a good book on the basics of side scan sonar.  Its citation is: Fish, J.P. and H.A. Carr. 1990. “Sound Underwater Images: A guide to the generation and interpretation of side scan sonar data.”  Lower Cape Publishing, Orleans, MA. I am particularly interested in learning about the history and development of side scan sonar, its applications, and how to interpret the many images we are producing from the launches. In addition, I hope to use some of this information when I write up my lessons for my Teacher At Sea Internship.  So I read a few chapters of this book and took several pages of notes.

Chris, the FOO (Field Operations Officer) & Eric, the Chief Electronics Technician
Chris, the FOO (Field Operations Officer) & Eric, the Chief Electronics Technician

While I was eating lunch I learned that today’s launches will not be going out.  The wind is still strong and the seas to rough to risk deploying the launches.  And a choppy sea can result in poor data when the launches heave, pitch and roll.  [I won’t even get into the sea sickness issue.] Also, today the CO gave me a copy of one of NOAA’s latest publications: Stanitski, D.M., 2007.  “Teacher at Sea: Mrs. Armwood’s Hydrographic Adventure on the NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER.”  NOAA publication.  It’s a cute but accurate account of Linda Armwood’s trip to Alaska and her TAS internship work on the hydrographic survey.  At the time, Linda was a high school teacher from Richmond, Virginia. I can’t wait to read it!

As previously mentioned, one part of my internship assignment is coming up with 6-8 lessons that correspond with the science and research being done on the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. I am having a little trouble with this assignment because I have never written “lessons”.  As a community college teacher I have written lectures, labs, assignments, etc., but not lessons.  After looking over a few examples in the “Teacher At Sea” book, and some sent me from TAS Deputy Program Manager Elizabeth McMahon, I am going to assume that a “lesson” is similar to an “assignment” and work from there.  Goodness knows I have been exposed to enough interesting information to produce 6-8 assignments.  And I have 90 days to submit them after my cruise.

Another part of my internship is to do a few interviews of the ship’s crew.  I thought I’d interview at least one representative from each working group of ship personnel: an Executive Officer, a Junior Officer, a Survey Technician, a Deck Hand, someone  working in the Mess Hall, an Engineer, and the Electronics Technician.  Here are the questions I have so far:

  1.  Name and rank (or job title).
  2.  How long have you been working for NOAA?
  3.  What did you do prior to working for NOAA?
  4.  Describe your college education.
  5.  How did you “find” your NOAA position?
  6.  Describe your job on board the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.
  7.  What is the best part of your job?
  8.  What is the worse part of your job?
  9.  Immediately after my Teacher At Sea Internship I plan to turn my experience into a Hollywood blockbuster. What person do you want to act as you in this movie?

Well, I’ve got some side scan sonar notes to type, dinner to eat, and Roxann to call. Maybe I’ll even spend a little more time on the exercise bike and catch tonight’s movie “Disturbia”. Good night! 

Chuck Gregory, August 17, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 17, 2007

“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0608h Sunset = 1952h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches
1745h Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook Low @ 0523h (0.3 ft.) & 1743h (0.8 ft.); High @ 1143h (4.9 ft.) & 2347h (4.5 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0235h (1.6 kts.), 1501h (1.4 kts.); Flood: 0840h (1.9 kts.) & 2058h (1.6 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM & PM: NW winds 5-10 kts., seas 2-4 ft.

Rise and shine for me was about 0630h, but the stateroom phone rang at 0300h.  Andy was soon up and out for his 0330h watch.

Our stateroom is small, but air conditioned and cozy.  It is about 16 feet long and 8 feet wide. The bunks hold two comfortably (I’m on the bottom) and each bunk has a curtain to keep the light out and the sound low. There’s a light above each bunk and a small shelf that holds my reading material, glasses and clock.  Andy even has a porthole above his bunk. Today you can see Manhattan through the porthole.  The room has a sink with odd tasting hot and cold water. Above the sink is an empty medicine cabinet.  Two sets of drawers hold our cloths and “stuff”, and what doesn’t fit in the drawers finds a home in one of two lockers. We even have a phone, TV and a refrigerator.  Last but not least is our emergency equipment: survival suits, life jackets, and emergency escape breathing devices. (Let’s hope we never have to use them!).

As I have mentioned before, adjoining our stateroom is a shared toilet and small shower.  So far I am doing quite well remembering to lock and unlock that gal’s door.  Two Ensign Megans reside next door: Ensign Megan G. who received a Bachelor’s degree from Smith, and Ensign Megan N. who is from the great state of Maine (Lewiston) and an UMaine graduate with a degree in marine biology. My goal today is to keep going with my log and do some school work. Classes start three days after I return to Maine and there is little prep time between now and then.  In short, it should be a quiet day.

I even had time to e-mail Tom Long, our Lab Technician back at Southern Maine Community College (SMCC).  Tom keeps our equipment ‘happy’, and I asked him about our side scan sonar – make, model, etc.  It turns out we have an Imagenex SportScan and Tom would like more input on possible post-survey software.  None of the folks on the THOMAS JEFFERSON have heard of Imagenex, but they were eager to offer advice about possible software.

Here’s an exciting addition form the CO, Tod Schattgen: “[Today] the boats returned to the ship at 1545 on schedule as a rather intense thunderstorm was fast approaching from the west.  The deck and boat crews quickly stored the launches on deck as lightning began to strike closer and closer to the ship.  10 minutes later the winds picked up to 20 knots with gusts to 33 knots and a band of rain passed over the ship. Rob the deck hand got a photo of a lightning striking the water on his cell phone.”

I was down below and missed all this excitement.  Bummer!

Oh, well…After a phone call to Roxann and a little TV, I was asleep by 2215h.

Chuck Gregory, August 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 16, 2007

The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0607h Sunset = 1954h
0000h Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage
0700h Breakfast and first Dramamine
0745h Launch safety brief (Survey)
0800h Deploy Launches (3101 & 3102) – I will be on 3102.
1100h Time for second Dramamine
1210h Lunch
1500h Third Dramamine
1745h Retrieve launches & dinner

Tides for Sandy Hook Low @ 0450h (0.1 ft.) & 1704h (0.5 ft.); High @ 1102h (5.0 ft.) & 2306h (4.8 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0158h (1.7 kts.), 1419h (1.5 kts.); Flood: 0757h (1.9 kts.) & 2013h (1.8 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: NE winds 5-10 kts., seas 2-4 ft.; PM: S winds 15-20 kts., seas 3-5 ft. Chance of PM showers and thunderstorms.

Chuck on board one of the hydrographic survey launches.  The launch is getting ready to be retrieved by the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON, thus the protective gear.
Chuck on board one of the hydrographic survey launches. The launch is getting ready to be retrieved by the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON, thus the protective gear.

Today is another 10 hour day on Launch 3102. We’ll be mostly surveying the area just off Sandy Hook beach. Sandy Hook beach is a nice stretch of sand that is half public beach and half private (read: nudist) beach.  I am sure the view of us running back and forth in front of the private beach was seen with as much curiosity as the view from #3102.

Ten hours is a long day on a 31’ launch. I was with Cox’n (Coxswain) Pooser and Survey Tech. Melody: two very competent people.  The seas were calm at first, but, as forecasted, wind and waves picked up as our day progressed.  Doing track lines on the open-ocean side of Sandy Hook only made the seas rougher, but when tracking took us into the lee of the harbor the seas calmed right down and all was good.

A little note on Dramamine.  With a history of seasickness, I made sure I had enough of this wonderful medication before I left Maine.  On days in the launch, my plan was to take one an hour before we left the ship, a second pill four hours later, and a third (if necessary) in the afternoon. Today this plan worked quite well.  At no time did I feel sea sick, even though the seas were 3-5 feet and the launch was bouncing up and down.  [Of course having an air conditioned cabin, staring at the horizon, and eating crackers is still recommended.]

Lunch was left over meatloaf sandwiches (I love left over meatloaf sandwiches!), yesterday’s beef and noodles (I love day old beef and noodles!), chips, juice, and cookies.  Needless to say, lunch was good!  It took us about 20 minutes to eat and get back to work. Our launch day ended around 1730h and we were back on the ship, as planned, by 1745h.  There was some concern with the cables used to deploy and retrieve the launches, so we were asked to use the wooded Jacob’s ladder to get back on the ship.  Actually kinda fun!

Dinner was tuna steak, beef steak, rice, and green beans.  A day working at sea in the fresh, salt air sure makes me hungry.  What’s new, Chuck!?!? I phoned Roxann, responded to a few e-mails, and decided to watch a movie and ‘veg’ for a little while before going to bed at 2130h.

Chuck Gregory, August 15, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 15, 2007

“Delay is preferable to error.” ~Thomas Jefferson

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0606h Sunset = 1955h 0000h
Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage 0745h
Launch safety brief (Survey) 0800h
Deploy Launches (3101 & 3102) 1745h
Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook Low @ 0416h (-0.1 ft.) & 1624h (0.4 ft.); High @ 1020h (5.0 ft.) & 2225h (5.2 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0120h (1.7 kts.), 1339h (1.6 kts.); Flood: 0717h (2.0 kts.) & 1930h (2.0 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: SW winds 10 kts., seas 2-4 ft.; PM: SW winds 10-15 kts., seas 2-4 ft.

My goal today is to improve my computer skills on the ship.  After an oatmeal breakfast I met with Eric, the ship’s Electronics Technician.  Eric was able to check out my laptop, get me a cable for the dial-up connection, and help me access NOAA charts for my Power Point Presentation. He was a huge help!

I am now able to catch up on my e-mails, surf the net, and get in touch with Teacher At Sea Coordinator, Elizabeth McMahon. Before I send out my log for day’s 1 & 2, I was asked to have Commander Schattgen (or his designee) review my material.  He was quick to read my e-mail log and add a few edits. Now it’s time so send it to Liz in Silver Spring.

The CO also added a few ideas for me to consider – being the helmsman when the ‘TJ’ heads out to sea for house keeping, observing the data acquisition and reporting process, and checking out a multibeam calibration test or patch test.  Since this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for my I ensured him I was open to anything…once! The rest of my day was spent getting all caught up with my computer work, and calling Roxann. I saw tomorrow’s POD and learned I will be once again heading out on Launch 3102 for 10 hours. The weather looks OK in the AM, but the wind and thunderstorms will pick up in the afternoon.  Now where did I put those Dramamine? I was in bed finishing up Cannery Row by 2100h.

Chuck Gregory, August 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 14, 2007

“For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.”  ~Thomas Jefferson

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0605h Sunset = 1956h 0000h
Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage 0700h
Took first Dramamine 0745h
Launch safety brief (Survey) 0800h
Deploy Launches (3101 & 3102) – I’ll be on the 3102 0830h
At first station of the day (somewhere between Coney Island, NY and Sandy Hook, NJ). Boot up computer systems and deploy multibeam. 0930h
Debug computer systems and we’re ready to track 1210h
Lunch and second Dramamine 1745h
Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook Low @ 0339h (-0.2 ft.) & 1543h (0.2 ft.); High @ 0938h (5.1 ft.) & 2145h (5.4 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0041h (1.7 kts.), 1257h (1.6 kts.); Flood: 0640h (2.0 kts.) & 1851h (2.2 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: N winds 10-15 kts., seas 2-3 ft.; PM: S winds 5-10 kts., seas 2-3 ft.

One of the two 31 foot launches aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  These launches are used to do the hydrographic survey work - side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder - in coastal areas.
One of the two 31 foot launches aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. These launches are used to do the hydrographic survey work – side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder – in coastal areas.

Today was a full day. After going to bed early (2030h) and rising early (0530h), I continued to bang away at my e-mails.  The internet connection on the ship is dial up and quite slow. Or is it my understanding of computers that’s slow?!?! Probably the latter. Either way, I’m finding it frustrating to communicate with the ship’s computers.  I’ll work on this tomorrow when I have the time. Breakfast was cereal and an English muffin.  Then I got ready for the 0745h safety briefing and launch deployment.  All went quite smoothly as I did my best to stay out of the way. Teamwork is huge on a vessel like the THOMAS JEFFERSON, and I was impressed by the teamwork effort to deploy and retrieve both launches. After the launch we were on our first station within 30 minutes.  We had to deal with the customary computer snafu, but it was quickly fixed and we were soon doing our tracklines.  Back and forth, east and west, forth and back, and west and east.  Bill was at the wheel, Taylor was at the computers, Megan G. assisted with both, and I just watched, asked questions, learned, and helped out wherever possible.

Chuck studying some of the side-scan sonar (SSS) data as it is relayed from the SSS 'towfish' to the launch's computer.
Chuck studying some of the side-scan sonar (SSS) data as it is relayed from the SSS ‘towfish’ to the launch’s computer.

To help matters, the day was beautiful: warm, light breeze, and subsiding seas. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. Three times during our day we stopped to do a CTD cast. They use a SBE 19Plus Seacat with a stainless cage and tethered to a line.  After two minutes of acclimating at the surface, Taylor would lower the CTD to the bottom and lift it back onto the boat. Then a computer cable was attached to the CTD, the CTD software booted up, and the data downloaded. Taylor and Megan taught me a lot about the launch computers and even let me attend to them for about an hour.  Setting up the computer programs for the SSS Fish and the MultiBeam Echo Sounder (MBES) was complicated to this novice, thus the initial delay.  There are screens to view the data as it is coming in from the side scan and another for the multibeam.  There are screens to view the files as they are filling with data, screens to view the launch’s tracks, and screens to measure heave, pitch, and roll.  And it was all fed into an on-board memory.  Wow!

The 3102 was strong, but cramped for four adults.  There were two comfortable seats on the boat – one for the coxswain and one for the survey tech – but we made the most out of every available space. Lunch was last night’s chicken made into sandwiches (not bad!), chips, chili, fruit, water, and cookies. There was other food to munch on and I found it hard not to eat with the sea air and full sun beaming down upon us.  So much for my “food plan.”  

Today I learned the importance of understanding computers, well planed navigation, and teamwork.  The tracklines were well laid out and followed.  Bill and Megan did a good job of maneuvering us around lower New York Harbor, as there were several recreational and commercial craft moving across the water.  At no time were we in any danger. The day went smoothly and there was even a time of boredom after lunch when the launch was on course, the data was streaming in, and the weather was hot and sunny. Life was good!

We returned to the THOMAS JEFFERSON at 1745h tired and starved! After a full day at sea that was one of the best meatloaf dinners I’ve ever had!!!  After dinner I returned to the ship’s computers, but continue to be frustrated as I try to get to my e-mails.  Tomorrow my sole mission is to meet with engineer Eric and tap his computer expertise.  For now I think I’ll call Roxann and go to bed early and do a little ‘Cannery Row’ reading.