Jennifer Fry: March 10, 2012, Oscar Elton Sette

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship, Oscar Elton Sette
March 12 – March 26, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Study
Geographical area of cruise: American Samoa
Date: March 10, 2012

Pago Pago

Personal Log:

The Rotary Club of Pago Pago, American Samoa was chartered in 1969

When we first arrived in town I met up with family friend, Steve Watson who had emigrated  to  Samoa 35 years ago.  When I met up with Steve,  he  invited me to join him at the monthly Rotary International Club of Pago Pago.

After a lovely lunch we listened to the business at hand presented by the members.  Rotary International is a philanthropic organization that helps local groups in need.  Current projects that the club is working on include helping build the school playground at the local Montessori School,  an annual scholarship given to a deserving senior in high school , and  donating to   relief efforts in the Philippines after their recent devastating earthquake.

The rotarians’ guiding principles are included in the Four-Way Test.

The Four-Way Test

The test, which has been translated into more than 100 languages, asks the following questions:

Of the things we think, say or do

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

While listening to the various speakers, Steve leaned over and asked, “Do you want to be a guest speaker?” I nodded and found myself in front of Pago Pago’s businessmen and women excitedly talking about the upcoming NOAA research vessel’s scientific experiments being conducted offshore in American Samoa.  Included in my brief presentation was the variety of scientific research including:

  • Studies of microplastics
  • A variety of fishing with the aid of fishing reels and tackle and trawl nets
  • Plankton studies and collection
  • Photographing  and data collection of fish species for later research

Everyone was so supportive and welcoming.

Here’s a bit about Rotary International of Pago Pago.  The chapter began meeting in October 1969.

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

  • FIRST. The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;
  • SECOND. High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying of each Rotarian’s occupation as an opportunity to serve society;
  • THIRD. The application of the ideal of service in each Rotarian’s personal, business, and community life;
  • FOURTH. The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

For more information about Rotary International go to:  www.rotary.org

Kathryn Lanouette, July 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathryn Lanouette
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 21-August 7, 2009 

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: July 22, 2009

Looking back on Unalaska, AK

Looking back on Unalaska, AK

Weather Data from the Ship’s Bridge 
Visibility: 3 nautical miles
Wind direction: 288.27 degree (N, NW)
Wind speed: 20 knots
Sea wave height: 8-10 feet
Air temperature: 7.4 ˚C
Seawater temperature: 6.8 ˚C
Sea level pressure: 29.3 inches Hg and rising
Cloud cover: 8/ 8, stratus

Science and Technology Log 

It will take about 2 ½ days of non-stop sailing until we reach the fish survey starting area. Before that research gets underway, I’ve been spending a lot of time getting to know my way around the ship and learning about life at sea. My favorite part of the ship to spend time has been the bridge, the navigation and operations base for the entire ship. From the bridge, I’ve been able to learn more about the weather and birds that live at sea. Every hour, the weather is recorded using the boat’s instruments. This weather is then relayed to NOAA’s National Weather Service. Using the Oscar Dyson’s data, the National Weather Service is better able to predict and model weather patterns, increasing their forecast’s accuracy for this remote region. As the waves kicked up a lot on Tuesday evening, I learned about the Beaufort Scale of Wind Force.

Using estimated wave speed and wave height, you can calculate the severity of the weather. On Tuesday evening, we were sailing through a Force 7 on the scale, a gale with wave heights of 13.5 to 19 feet and a wind speed of 28-33 knots (aprox. 35-37 mph) with gusts up to 45 knots (aprox. 50 mph) Luckily, the waves have calmed down a lot by Wednesday evening because the lower pressure system has passed us to the east.

A Northern Fulmar (Courtesy Aaron Lang, USFWS)

A Northern Fulmar (Courtesy Aaron Lang, USFWS)

In addition to fisheries research, there are two bird observers from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). For almost 16 hours each day, they observe and record information about the seabirds that they see flying within 300 m of the boat. Seabirds spend most of their lives living out on the open seas, looking for food. A lot is known about their cliff nesting areas by the water because these locations are relatively easier to access. Much less is known about their time spent at sea. The information gathered here helps scientists learn more about the birds that inhabit the Bering Sea. By looking at their data from prior years, they can sea how different birds are affected by human caused events (like oil spills, global warming, and commercial fishing) and non-human caused events like volcanic eruptions. All their research is part a bigger research program called the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP).  As one seabird was flying close to the boat, I noticed it had a slender tube on top of its bill. It turns out that this bird was a Northern Fulmar, part of a group of birds called “tube-noses.” This tube enables the birds to drink saltwater, a cool adaptation to life at sea.

Here I am practicing wearing my immersion suit.

Here I am practicing wearing my immersion suit.

Personal Log 

On Tuesday afternoon, as we left the protected bay of Dutch Harbor, we started sailing out towards the more open waters of the Bering Sea.  It was a strange feeling to see the Fox Islands, a smaller part of the Aleutian Island chain, slipping out of sight. Our next chance of seeing land will be as we get closer to Russia. Even then, it might be too cloudy. It is strange to think that I might not see land again for over two weeks. By 9pm on Tuesday night, I was sick as a dog, “hanging over the rails” if you will. But with some sleep and seasickness medicine, I am feeling a lot better today. Seems I have found my “sea legs” as food seems appealing once more and the boats rocking is becoming more of a lulling motion than a lurching one. Around noon on Wednesday, we had our first fire drill and abandon ship drill. As part of the drills, we had to practice putting on our immersion suits. In case we had to abandon ship for any reason, these suits would keep us warmer and more visible. I felt a bit like Gumby!

Animals Seen 
Northern Fulmar Black Legged Kittiwake Tufted Puffin Horned Puffin Black-Footed Albatross Laysan Albatross Murre

New Vocabulary 
Knots – units of speed, nautical miles per hour Nautical mile – 1.15 statute (regular) mile

Kristin Joivell, June 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristin Joivell
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 15 – July 1, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: June 27-28, 2009

The engine room is a busy, confusing, and crowded place, but the engineers know how to maintain every one of the machines.

The engine room is a busy, confusing, and crowded place, but the engineers know how to maintain every one of the machines.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Position: East of Big Koniuji Island
Clouds: clear
Visibility: 10+ miles
Wind: variable and light
Waves: less than 1 foot
Temperature: 11.2 dry bulb
Temperature: 9.0 wet bulb
Barometer: 1019.2

Science and Technology Log 

The engine room of the ship is a very important place.  If the machines located there aren’t working, the ship isn’t going to be going very far. I took a tour of engineering and explored the area with one of the engineers. The first impression that I got about the engine room is that you really need to be good with your hands and mechanically minded to work in this area. There are so many different machines that must be maintained, repaired, and monitored that it seems pretty overwhelming when you first walk in.  Even though much information about the machines is displayed on a master control board overlooking the engine room, it’s difficult to figure out where each of the machines is located. It’s almost like a whole other world under the floor where the majority of the crew works and lives.

Here I am climbing out of the engineering department using an escape trunk.  This pathway is centrally located for easy escapes.

Here I am climbing out of the engineering department using an escape trunk. This pathway is centrally located for easy escapes.

If there is a problem in engineering like a fire or water leak, there are self sealing doors to isolate and contain the problem.  The situation is contained to the lower levels of the ship and spread is limited and slow. The engineers can escape from the area using hatches. Crew members are very careful not to place anything on the escape hatches just in case an accident occurs.  Safety plays a big part in the engineering department and in the entire ship.  It is very important to follow certain procedures for everyone’s safety. The ship has two engines and two generators. Each of these pieces of machinery is large and extensive.  Much of the control panel is dedicated to information about their state. Interestingly enough, the two engines are actually train engines and the generators are from General Motors.  Both of these, especially the generators, seem to be larger versions of the same land based machines.  The engines have seven oil filters apiece. These, naturally, must be changed similar to your personal vehicle. Each of the oil filters is almost two feet long!  Many are kept in supply for maintenance purposes.

This is one of the unused oil filters for the main engines of the ship.  You can see other filters in the storage room as well.

This is one of the unused oil filters for the main engines of the ship. You can see other filters in the storage room as well.

But, the engineers are not just in charge of the engines, generators, and the other machines that make the ship move through the water.  They also must maintain, repair, and monitor the refrigeration, air conditioning, heating, electricity, and plumbing on the ship.  Additionally, they are in charge of keeping the five small boats on the ship operating correctly. The ship has two launches, two smaller boats, and one skiff. Each of these presents its own specific problems to maintain.  Each of the boats has an engine system that must be maintained.  They must be fueled and checked after each day’s work. Anything that breaks must be repaired immediately so that the work on the ship can continue on schedule.

I helped repair one of the smaller boats that was not starting correctly.  First, the problem must be diagnosed.  So, we used a multimeter to get readings from electrical connections.  Salt water corrodes wires quickly. Even though engineer decided to try to clean the components with a wire brush and a knife to create better connections. We cleaned the existing corrosion, but the boat still did not start properly.  Next, the engineer predicted that the starter could be the problem since much of the connections to it were very rusty and dirty. We took out the starter and replaced it with a new one; the boat started!  It was a relief to be able to use the boat the next day.  Without the work of the engineers, the ship would have been short one boat for a period of time.  This would prevent work from being completed and put the ship behind schedule; a lot of money would be wasted on operations being incomplete.

I’m lending a hand to repair a boat engine.  The batteriesmust be disconnected for safety when working with the starter and other electrical equipment.

I’m lending a hand to repair a boat engine. The batteriesmust be disconnected for safety when working with the starter and other electrical equipment.

Personal Log 

Safety on the ship is something that is not taken lightly in engineering or anywhere else.  Drills are conducted periodically to ensure that crew members know what to do when an emergency occurs.  There are drills for fire, man overboard, and abandon ship.  For each drill, each person on board is assigned a meeting spot, called a muster, and function.  There are also alternate musters for each emergency in case the first muster is compromised in some way.

Fire drills are important to practice.  It’s interesting to note that even though the ship is surrounded by water, fire is one of the most difficult problems to deal with onboard.  The ship basically has mini fire stations set up throughout the ship to deal with the emergency.  Standard firefighting gear is located at these stations. Certain crew members are assigned to wear the turnout gear and operate the hoses or extinguishers during the drills.  Recently, a burned bag of microwave popcorn set off the fire alarm, so these alarms are sensitive!

Practicing the proper technique with a fire hose.  These hose stations are located in a variety of spaces all around the ship.

Practicing the proper technique with a fire hose. These hose stations are located in a variety of spaces all around the ship.

Another situation that can occur is when someone falls overboard.  Quick retrieval is very important especially here in Alaska due to the cold temperatures.  Different crew members are assigned to be lookouts during a man overboard drill to help with the location of the man overboard.  If you see someone when you are a lookout, you must point and alert the bridge to the person’s location to ensure a speedy retrieval. Life preservers are on hand at a variety of locations to throw to the person in the water. The ship also has a line launching device that you can use to shoot a line a lot further than humanly possible.  This device is powered by compressed air and shoots the line quite far from the ship.

The last resort in an emergency is to abandon the ship. Since the waters here are so cold, we must be ready to don our emergency suits.  I had the chance to practice putting on my suit during a drill.  The suit is made of special material that can protect you even in the coldest water.  Some of the material seemed similar to a thick wetsuit.  You must be able to don the suit quickly and efficiently. The feet are part of the suit, but the arms have tight seals and then you put on mittens separately.  There is even a cover for your face that only lets your eyes peek out. As I practiced putting mine on, I got very sweaty, so it seemed to be doing its job already.

Practicing using the line launching device.  This tool is helpful in getting help to a man overboard quickly and efficiently.

Practicing using the line launching device. This tool is helpful in getting help to a man overboard quickly and efficiently.

Create Your Own NOAA Experiment at Home 
The crew of a NOAA ship practices emergency drills and you can do these at home, too.  In the unlikely event of an emergency, your family can be well prepared and organized. It is always good to be prepared for an emergency; you think more clearly when well prepared.

Did you ever stop and wonder what you should do if your house is on fire?  How will you get out of the house?  You should have more than one way to get out just in case the first path is compromised.  Do you have a meeting place, or muster, for your family?  Where is it?  Who will bring the pets outside with the family?  Where will you call 911 from?  Remember, you shouldn’t call from your house if it is on fire; call from a neighbor’s house or cell phone outside your house. You can create an emergency plan for your family and have fire drills periodically.

What about if there is a homeland security emergency?  Who is going to pick you up from school?  Where will you go to wait for the emergency to be over? Do you have supplies like food and water ready?  Who will get the pets and bring them with you?  You can create a plan and have drills for this type of emergency as well.  That way, if something happens, nobody gets left behind and your family will be comfortable and secure.

Here I am in my emergency suit.  This suit can protect you even in the coldest waters.  Along with life preservers, hats, and coats, suits must be brought to life raft musters during abandon ship drills.

Here I am in my emergency suit. This suit can protect you even in the coldest waters. Along with life preservers, hats, and coats, suits must be brought to life raft musters during abandon ship drills.