Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska (Kodiak to Yakutat Bay)
Weather Data from the Gulf of Alaska: Lat: 59º 18.59’ N Long: 146º 06.18W
Air Temp: 14.8º C
We made it to Prince William Sound the other day, but I was asleep by the time we got all the way up. The part I did see, near the entrance, was pretty, but fog and clouds blocked the majority of the view. One of the beaches we attempted to fish by had what looked like an old red train car washed up on it. We wondered where it came from and how it got there!
We are sailing the last few transects of the trip now and headed towards a small bay, called Broken Oar Bay, near Yakutat. Once we arrive, we need to calibrate the instruments used for collecting data and compare the results to the start of the trip. This will let the scientists know that their instruments are stable and making consistent measurements.
While calibrating we may have an opportunity to get a glimpse of the Hubbard Glacier at the head Yakutat Bay. The Hubbard Glacier is approximately 6 miles wide and when it calves, makes icebergs 3-4 stories tall. Fingers crossed we get to see it!
On a side note, I have been drawing while on the boat. Here are some photos!
Science and Technology Log:
The majority of my time has been spent above deck with the science and deck crews. Yesterday, I took the opportunity to head down below and learn some of the ways Oscar Dyson is kept running smoothly.
There are several areas/rooms that hold different types of equipment below deck. One of the largest rooms is the engine room, where not 2 or 3, but 4 engines are located. At night, 2 of the engines are needed since the ship sails slowly for camera drops. During the day, when traveling along the transects and fishing, 3 engines are used. Engines 1 and 2 are larger with 12 cylinders and 3 and 4 are smaller with 8 cylinders. These engines are attached to generators. The engines give moving force to the generators, which they then convert into kilowatts/power and as a result, power everything on board. Also, I learned that the boat has at least 2 of every major piece of equipment, just in case!
The engine room also stores the water purification system, which Darin had mentioned to me the other day. He knew the ship converted seawater into potable water, but wasn’t exactly sure how the process worked. Here is a brief summary.
Seawater is pumped onto the boat and is boiled using heat from the engine.
Seawater is evaporated and leaves behind brine, which gets pumped off of the ship.
Water vapor moves through cooling lines and condenses into another tank producing fresh water.
The water is then run through a chemical bromide solution to filter out any left over unwanted particles.
The finely filtered water is stored in potable water holding tanks.
The last step before consumption is for the water to pass through a UV system that kills any remaining bacteria or harmful chemicals in the water.
After the engine room, Kyle and Evan took me one level deeper into the lower engine room. There are a few other lower areas but, being a bit claustrophobic, I was happy we didn’t explore those. The lower engine room (or shaft alley) holds the large rotating shaft which connects directly to the propeller and moves the ship. It was neat to see!
We rounded out the tour in a workshop that holds most of the tools on board. The engineers help fix things from engines to air conditioners to plumbing. This week I may even be able to see them do some welding work.
Did you know?
If a large piece of equipment needs to be replaced, they do not take it apart and lug it to the upper deck and off the boat. Instead, they cut a giant hole in the side of the ship and get the parts in and out that way. I had no idea!
Mission: South East Fishery-Independent Survey (SEFIS)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean, SE US continental shelf ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC (35°30’ N, 75°19’W) to St. Lucie Inlet, FL (27°00’N, 75°59’W)
On board off the coast of South Carolina – about 50 miles east of Charleston (32°50’ N, 78°55’ W) – after a slight change of plans last night due to the approaching tropical depression.
Date: July 24, 2019
Weather Data from the Bridge: Latitude: 32°50’ N Longitude: 78°55’ W Wave Height: 3-4 feet Wind Speed: 15 knots Wind Direction: Out of the North Visibility: 10 nm Air Temperature: 24.6°C Barometric Pressure: 1011.8 mb Sky: Cloudy
Science and Technology Log
Life and science continue aboard NOAA Ship Pisces. It seems like the crew and engineers and scientists are in the groove. I am now used to life at sea and the cycles and oddities it entails. Today we had our first rain along with thunderstorms in the distance. For a while we seemed to float in between four storms, one on the east, west, north, and south – rain and lightning in each direction, yet we remained dry. This good thing did indeed come to an end as the distant curtains of rain closed in around us. The storm didn’t last long, and soon gathering the fish traps resumed.
The highlight of yesterday (and tied for 1st place in “cool things so far”) was a tour of the engine room lead by First Assistant Engineer, Steve Clement. This tour was amazing and mind-blowing. We descended into the bowels of the ship to explore the engine rooms and its inner workings. I think it rivals the Large Hadron Collider in complexity.
I kept thinking, if Steve left me down here I would surely get lost and never be found. Steve’s knowledge is uncanny – it reminded me of the study where the brains of London cab drivers were scanned and shown to have increased the size of their hippocampus. (An increase to their memory center apparently allows them to better deal with the complexities of London’s tangled streets.) And you’re probably thinking, well, running a massive ship with all its pipes and wires and hatches and inter-related, hopefully-always-functioning, machinery is even harder. And you’re probably right! This is why I was so astounded by Steve’s knowledge and command of this ship. The tour was close-quartered, exceptionally loud, and very hot. Steve stopped at times to give us an explanation of the part or area we were in; four diesel engines that power electric generators that in turn power the propeller and the entire ship. The propeller shaft alone is probably 18 inches in diameter and can spin up to 130 rpm. (I think most of the time two engines is enough juice for the operation). Within the maze of complexity below ship is a smooth running operation that allows the crew, scientists, and NOAA Corps officers to conduct their work in a most efficient manner.
I know you’ve all been wondering about units in the marine world. Turns out, students, units are your friend even out here on the high seas! Here’s proof from the bridge, where you can find two or three posted unit conversion sheets. Makes me happy. So if you think that you can forget conversions and dimensional analysis after you’re finished with high school, guess again!
Speaking of conversions, let’s talk about knots. Most likely the least-understood-most-commonly-used unit on earth. And why is that? I have no idea, but believe me, if I were world president, my first official action would be to move everyone and everything to the Metric System (SI). Immediately. Moving on.
Back to knots, a unit used by folks in water and air. A knot is a unit of speed defined as 1 nautical mile/hour. So basically the same exact thing as mph or km/hr, except using an ever-so-slightly-different distance – nautical miles. Nautical miles make sense, at least in their origin – the distance of one minute of longitude on a map (the distance between two latitude lines, also 1/60 of a degree). This works well, seeing as the horizontal lines (latitude) are mostly the same distance apart. I say mostly because it turns out the earth is not a perfect sphere and therefore not all lines are equidistant. And you can’t use the distance between longitude lines because they are widest at the equator and taper to a point at the north and south pole. One nautical mile = 1852 meters. This is equal to 1.15 miles and therefore one knot = 1.15 miles/hour.
This next part could double as a neato fact: the reason why this unit is called a “knot” is indeed fascinating. Old-time mariners and sailors used to measure their speed by dropping a big old piece of wood off the back of the boat. This wood was attached to some rope with knots in it, and the rope was spun around a big spool. Once in the water the wood would act kind of like a water parachute, holding position while the rope was let out. The measuring person could then count how many evenly spaced knots passed by in a given amount of time, thus calculating the vessel’s speed.
The scientists on board have been incredibly helpful and patient. Zeb is in charge of the cruise and this leg of the SEFIS expedition. Brad, who handles the gear (see morning crew last post), is the fishiest guy I’ve ever met. He seriously knows everything about fish! Identification, behavior, habitats, and most importantly, how extract their otoliths. He’s taught me a ton about the process and processing. Both Zeb and Brad have spent a ton of time patiently and thoroughly answering my questions about fish, evolution, ecology, you name it. Additionally, NOAA scientist Todd, who seeks to be heroic in all pictures (also a morning crew guy), is the expert on fish ecology. He has been exceptionally patient and kind and helpful.
The fish we’re primarily working with are in the perches: Perciformes. These fish include most of your classic-looking fish. Zeb says, “your fish-looking fish.” Gotcha! This includes pretty much all the fish we’re catching except sharks, eels, and other rare fish.
Plenty of exciting animals lately. Here’s a picture of those spotted dolphins from the other day.
The weather has been great, apart from yesterday’s storm. Sunrises and sunsets have been glorious and the stars have been abundant.
We found a common octopus in the fish trap the other day. The photo is from crew member Nick Tirikos.
I’m missing home and family. I can’t wait to see my wife and son.
That tropical depression fizzed out, thankfully.
Neato Facts =
Yesterday we caught a shark sucker in the fish trap. I was excited to see and feel their dorsal attachment sucker on top of their head.
Hold on. I just read more about these guys and turns out that sucking disc is their highly modified dorsal fin! That is the most neato fact so far. What better way to experience the power of this evolutionarily distinct fish than to stick it to your arm?! The attachment mechanism felt like a rubber car tire that moved and sealed against my skin. (Brad calls them sneakerheads).
Geographic Area of Cruise: Bering Sea and Bristol Bay, Alaska
Date: July 23, 2019
Weather Data from Home Latitude: 41°42’25.35″N Longitude: 73°56’17.30″W Wind: 2 knots NE Barometer: 1011.5 mb Visibility: 10 miles Temperature: 77° F or 25° C Weather: Cloudy
Science and Technology Log
As you can tell from 1) the date of my research cruise and 2) my latitude and longitude, I am no longer in Alaska and I am now home. For my final NOAA Teacher at Sea post, I am pleased to show you the results of the hydrographic survey during the Cape Newenham project. The bathymetric coverage (remember that bathymetry means the topography underwater or depth to the bottom of oceans, seas and lakes) is not final as there is one more leg, but it is pretty close. Then the hard part of “cleaning up” the data begins and having many layers of NOAA hydrographers review the results before ever being placed on a nautical chart for Cape Newenham and Bristol Bay. But that day will come!
Part II – Careers at Sea Log, or Check Out the Engine Room and Meet an Engineer
This is Klay Strand who is 2nd Engineer on the Ship Fairweather. He’s been on the ship for about a year and a half and he graciously and enthusiastically showed three of us visiting folk around the engine room towards the end of our leg. It was truly eye-opening. And ear-popping.
Before I get to the tour, a little bit about what Engineering Department does and how one becomes an engineer. There are currently nine engineers on the Ship Fairweather and they basically keep the engines running right. They need to check fluid levels for the engine (like oil, water and fuel) but also keep tabs on the other tanks on the ship, like wastewater and freshwater. The engine is on the lower level of the ship.
Klay Strand’s path to engineering was to go to a two-year trade school in Oregon through the JobCorps program. Strand then worked for the Alaskan highway department on the ferry system and then he started accruing sea days. To become a licensed engineer, one needs 1,080 days on a boat. Strand also needed advanced firefighting training and medical care provider training for his license. There are other pathways to an engineering license like a four-year degree in which you earn a license and a bachelor’s degree. For more information on becoming a ship’s engineer, you can go to the MEBA union, of which Strand is a member. On Strand’s days off the ship, he likes to spend time with his niece and nephews, go skydiving, hike, and go to the gun range.
The following photos are some of the cool things that Klay showed us in the engine room.
Now that I’ve been home for a few days, I’ve had a chance to reflect on my time on NOAA Ship Fairweather. When I tell people about the experience, what comes out the most is how warm and open the crew were to me. Every question I had was answered. No one was impatient with my presence. All freely shared their stories, if asked. I learned so much from all of them, the crew of the Fairweather. They respected me as a teacher and wondered about my path to that position. I wondered, too, about their path to a life at sea.
My first week on the ship, I spent a lot of time looking out at the ocean, scanning for whales and marveling at the seemingly endlessness of the water. Living on the water seemed fun and bold. As time went by, I could tell that I may not be cut out for a life at sea at this stage of my life, but I sure would have considered it in my younger days. Now that I know a little bit more about these careers on ships, I have the opportunity to tell my students about living and working on the ocean. I can also tell my educator colleagues about the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program.
Though I loved my time on the Ship Fairweather, I do look forward to seeing my West Bronx Academy students again in September. I am so grateful for all I learned during my time at sea.
Did You Know?
If you are interested in finding out about areas of the ocean that are protected from certain types of human activity because of concerns based on habitat protection, species conservation and ecosystem-based marine management, here are some links to information about Marine Protected Areas. Marine Protected Areas are defined as “…any area of the marine environment that has been reserved by federal, state, territorial, tribal, or local laws or regulations to provide lasting protection for part or all of the natural and cultural resources therein.” Did you know that there are over 11,000 designated MPAs around the world?
“All of us have in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea – whether it is to sail or to watch it – we are going back from whence we came.” – John F. Kennedy
NOAA Teacher at Sea Alexandra (Alex) Miller, Chicago, IL Onboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada May 27 – June 10, 2015
Mission: Rockfish Recruitment and Ecosystem Assessment Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast Date: June 3, 2015
Air Temperature: 13.3°C
Water Temperature: 14.8°C
Sky Conditions: Partly Cloudy, I could still see some stars
Wind Speed (knots/kts), Direction: 5.5 kts, NNE
Latitude and Longitude: 43°29’84”, 124°49’71”
Later on Monday, once all the night-shifters had risen from their beds and were beginning to get ready for the bongos and mid-water trawls, I took a tour of the engines with marine engineer and NOAA crewmember, Colleen. We started in the control room. With up to four engines operating at any one time, Colleen says it’s a relief that computer systems help to automate the process. As part of her four-year degree program at Seattle Maritime Academy, she learned how to operate the engines manually as well, but I think we can all agree computers make life easier.
Before moving on to the actual engine room, Colleen made sure I grabbed some ear protection. For a one-time visit they’re probably more for my comfort than to protect from any real damage, but because she’s working with the engines every night, it’s important to protect against early-onset hearing loss. Once the plugs were in, we were basically not going to be able to talk so Colleen made sure that I knew everything I was going to see before we proceeded.
First, we made our way past the fresh water tanks. I was really curious about how we get fresh water on the ship, since we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The Shimada produces freshwater using two processes. Reverse osmosis produces most of the water, using high pressure to push the seawater across a membrane, a barrier that acts like a filter, allowing the water molecules to pass through but not the salt. This is an energy intensive process, but the evaporators use the excess energy produced by the engines to heat the seawater then pass it through a condensing column which cools it, and voilá, freshwater!
Next, we came to the four diesel engines. Four engines. These four engines are rarely all on at one time but never will you find just one doing all the work. That would put too much strain on and probably burn out that engine. While they burn diesel fuel, like a truck, instead of using that energy to turn a piston like the internal combustion engine of that same truck, they convert that energy to electricity. That electricity powers the two motors that ultimately make the ship go.
A ship the size of the Shimada requires a lot of power to get moving, but Colleen tells me it gets decent mileage. Though the ship’s diesel tank can hold 100,000 gallons, there’s only about 50,000 gallons in the tank right now and the ship only needs to refuel every couple of months.
After a quick pass by the mechanics for the rudder, the fin-shaped piece of equipment attached to the hull that controls the direction the ship is traveling we arrived at our last stop: Shaft Alley. Those two motors I told you about work together to turn a giant crankshaft and that crankshaft is attached to the propeller which pushes water, making the ship move. When I was down there the ship was on station, where it was holding its location in the water, so the crankshaft was only turning at 50 RPM (rotations per minute).
It was a pleasure getting a tour from Colleen!
Throughout the night, the Shimada revisits the same transect stations that it visited during that day, but uses different nets to collect samples at each station. To the right, you can see a map of the stations; they are the points on the map. Each line of stations is called a transect. Looking at the map it’s easy to see that we have a lot of work to do and a lot of data to collect.
Why does this have to happen at night? At night, the greatest migration in the animal kingdom takes place. Creatures that spend their days toward the bottom layers of the ocean migrate up, some as far as 750 m (almost 2,500 ft)! Considering they’re tiny, (some need to be placed under the microscope to be reliably identified) this is relatively very far. And they do it every day!
To collect data on these organisms, three types of nets are used, two of which are not used during the day. Along with the surface-skimming neuston (which is used during the day), the bongo net, so named because it has two nets and looks like a set of bongo drums, and the Cobb trawl which is a very large net that needs to be deployed off the stern (back of the boat).
The operation of the bongo net is similar to the neuston, it is lowered off the starboard (when facing the bow, it’s the right side) side of the boat. Dropping down to 100 m below the surface and then coming back up, the bongo is collecting zooplankton, phytoplankton and fish larvae. The samples are poured from the cod-end into a strainer with a very fine mesh and since the water is full of those tiny bits, the straining can take a bit of time and some tambourine-like shaking.
These samples are then fixed (preserved) in ethanol and they will be analyzed for diversity (how many different species are present) and abundance (how many individuals of each species is present). The bongo is the net of choice for this survey because once scientists go to process the data, the double net provides a duplicate for each data point. This is important for statistical purposes because it ensures that the area that is sampled by one side of the net is similar enough to the area sampled by the other side of the net.
Below you can see video of the bongo net after it’s been hauled back. Scientists are spraying it down to make sure all organisms collect in the cod-end.
Once the bongos are done, comes the real action of the night shift. The mid-water trawls take 15 minutes. I’ve become really great at communicating with the bridge and survey technicians who are operating the nets so that I can record data for the beginning and ending of the trawls. Once the catch is on deck, the survey technicians empty the cod-end into a strainer. The scientists prepare to sort, count and measure the species of interest. If the catch is large or particularly diverse, this can be a significant task that requires all hands on deck.
With four trawls a night, some with 30-50 minutes transit time with nothing to do in between, fatigue can set in and make the work hard to finish. To make it through the night, it takes great senses of humor and playful personalities. A little theme music doesn’t hurt either. The scientists of the night shift, under the direction of Toby Auth, a fisheries biologist with Pacific State Marine Fisheries Commission working as a contractor to NOAA and Chief Scientist Ric Brodeur, are Brittney Honisch, a marine scientist with Hatfield Marine Science Center, Paul Chittaro, a biologist with Ocean Associates working as a contractor to NOAA, Tyler Jackson, a fisheries science graduate student, and Will Fennie.
The data collected during these trawls provides a snapshot of the ecosystem. This data will help NOAA Fisheries Service understand the health of the ocean ecosystem as well as how large certain populations of commercially important fish are such as hake and rockfish.
In the meantime, it provides for some late night fun. Over the course of the nights that I’ve spent in the wet lab, we have uncovered some bizarre and fascinating creatures.
A Leptocephalus larvae of deep sea eel.
A heteropod (Pterotracheoidea sp.)
A tiny larval octopus (Octopus sp.)! I will call him Squishy and he will be my Squishy.
A Praya siphonophore.
A Medusafish (Centrolophidae sp.)
Krill (Euphausiids) with phytoplankton in their stomachs (green).
Shortbelly (Sebastes jordani) and canary rockfish (Sebastes pinniger), actual rockfish! In juvenile form.
Clockwise from right: Mature hake, young lanternfish, King-of-the-Salmon, curlfin turbot, poacher.
Moon jelly (Aurelia labiata)
Will holds a Pacific mackerel (Trachurus symmetricus)
The flat ones are larval Pacific sanddabs (Citharichthys sordidus) and the long skinny ones are larval anchovies (Engraulis mordax).
But in my opinion the real star of the trawls was the young female dogfish. A dogfish is a type of shark. I know what you’re thinking and no, she did not try to bite us. But dogfish do have two spines, one at the base of each dorsal (back) fin. We all fell in love, but, ultimately, had to say goodbye and return her to the sea.
Thank you for your patience as I’ve gathered the images and video to make this and future posts as informative as possible. Stay tuned for Episode 5 coming soon!
First off, a heartfelt CONGRATULATIONS to the first 8th grade class at Village Leadership Academy. I wish I could be there when you walk across that stage on June 4th.
Little did I know when I started hanging out with the scientists of the night shift that it would become a way of life. Each night I managed to stay up later and later and finally last night I made it through all four catches and almost to 0800, the end of the night’s watch. After dinner (some call it “breakfast”), I slept a full eight hours, and it felt completely normal to be greeted with “Good Morning!” at 3:30 in the afternoon.
Speaking of the night’s watch, I’m really grateful that someone was able to get one of my favorite TV shows last Sunday. And Game 7! The Blackhawks are in the finals! Even though I can’t call anyone back home to discuss my theories or that amazing goal by Seabrook in the third period, I can email and it feels like I’m missing less.
The only person I can’t email is my cat, Otto! I can’t wait to snuggle him until he scratches me.
Question of the Day:
Comment with answers to these questions and I’ll shout your name out in the next post!
What is your favorite animal we have seen so far?
Thanks to Paul Chittaro for assisting in the use of iMovie for this post!
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II August 13 – 30, 2007
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean Date: August 22, 2007
Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temp: 18.7
Water temp: 17
Wind direction: 75
Wind speed: 15kts.
Sea wave height. 2 ft.
Visibility: 7 nm
Science and Technology Log
Woke to the sound of engines warming up. We were docked in Woods Hole having arrived at 6 p.m. on Tuesday to exchange scientists. Scientist Joe Kane who supervised my shift was departing and a new scientist, Betsy Broughton, was joining us. Yesterday, the crew and scientists were very excited for the chance to get on land. Many joined their families who live nearby. I met my husband for dinner at a location about half-way between here and my home. It was great seeing him. The DELAWARE II would be departing Woods Hole at 6a.m. The water was very calm and the morning light just beautiful. Everyone seemed recharged for the final leg of our cruise. After an early morning walk, I got on the exercise bike for a while.
Today I had a tour of the engine room, a place I had observed engineers entering with earphones but hadn’t seen. I followed Engineer Chris O’Keefe down a ladder into a very warm and noisy engine room. It is huge and very clean. We first went into the office/control room where it was quiet and he showed me the many dials, switches, and screens that monitor the different systems of the ship. There is one engine, two generators for producing electricity, and another generator in the bow to run the bow thrusters and hydraulic winches. There is also a system for making fresh water from sea water, utilizing a heat exchanger. Cool salt water condenses the steam to form fresh water, which is then chlorinated. The ship has about 10 fuel tanks and can carry 70,000 gallons of fuel. There is also a machine shop below with tools and some space to work. I am very impressed with the organization of materials, cleanliness of the space and the size of the engine. There is a lot to keep track of down here, and it is well organized and clean.
As we left Woods Hole, we passed north of Martha’s Vineyard and I noticed a light house with an orange ladder next to it. I recalled that a friend of mine, Marty Nally, was going to be restoring this lighthouse at this time. Right is a photo of the lighthouse with the orange ladder, Marty must be nearby! The CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth) unit that we use can work for about 90 times before it needs a battery change. It is close to 60 stations and Jerry decided to change the batteries. He and Betsy (our new scientist on board) did this today during a calm moment.
My first plankton sample was done at around 9 p.m., and loaded with amphipods, tiny crustaceans that have little hook-like structures on their legs that make them very hard to remove from the nets. Our midnight sample was about the same. We were collecting at an area called Nantucket Shoals, east of Nantucket. It is shallow and has a hard bottom. I was surprised to get on deck to see at least 15 lights from fishing boats, fairly evenly spaced in a long line. I heard that we had to change our collection site a bit due to the position of all of these boats. I was quite tired and went to sleep at about 12:30 until 2:20 a.m. when I thought we would be at our next station. I discovered that it would not be happening on our shift and went to sleep. One thing about this ship, there is always noise, humming of some piece of equipment. Headphones are very helpful in blocking it out…whether there is music, a book on tape, or just no noise. It looks like tomorrow will be a much busier night, so I hope to stock up on some rest tonight!
Location: In transit to Shumagin Island collection, due to anchor at NW Egg Island Date: Friday, July 09, 2004
Latitude: N 55 degrees 26.60’
Longitude: W 159 degrees 33.97’
Visibility: <1 mile
Direction: 221 degrees
Wind Speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft
Swell wave height: 1-2 ft
Seawater temperature: 10.6 deg C
Sea level pressure: 1016.0 mb
Cloud Cover: 8/8
Weather: 11.7 deg C, fog cover most of the day, some clearing into high cloud cover.
Plan of Day:
1200 stop ship hydro and begin transit to Shumagin Is, specifically Egg Island for anchorage. Anchor set for 2100 or earlier.
Science and Technology Log
The local patch that was being surveyed is too large to finish in one pass. The RAINIER had already done a few lines during their previous legs and on this pass we got about 10- 12 lines surveyed. They will steam back by here to finish the patch at a later date. Tomorrow is set for the first of 5 days of small boat launches and survey. Because I will be aboard a launch I was run through some basic boat safety this afternoon. I was also given an engine room tour and simple explanation and spoke with some crewmembers about standing watch. The XO showed me some books that might be of interest for my curriculum planning and also my general knowledge.
Small Boat Safety and Etiquette
The launches are put in the water around 0800 and will stay out doing survey work till 1600 or so. There will be a complement of people aboard: the coxswain who drives the boat and in charge of safety, three officers from the ship who will run the program and collect data and myself. The launches are stored on the gravity davits along the ship. The boats will be lowered to deck level where the crew will get on board and then the boat is lowered to the water and unhooked. Getting on board the launch you must wear the Mustang survival coat and a hard hat. Nothing is to be in your hands while you board, so all other material need to be near the rail and will be handed over once you are onboard. One of the most dangerous times on the ship are launching and taking up the smaller boats. You are required to wear positive flotation at all times and since the Mustang jacket is bulky and warm, I was issued a float vest. We are launching number 5 and number 3 boats tomorrow.
While underway there is a rotating watch schedule 4 on, 8 off, 4 on is its most simple explanation. An example watch schedule would be 0800 – 1200 on watch 1200 – 2000 off, 2000 – 2400 on again. So you work 8-12 on both sides of am and pm. Even though the routine is easy to remember it is very difficult on your body and your sleep schedule. The added hardship is the constant light this far north and the pitch black of your berth. For a visitor who has kept a normal sleeping routine you have a different perspective on just what is required for this ship to keep going 24 hours a day. There is a lot more upkeep then I expected and the watch standers are those people. While anchored most people go back to a normal 8 hour work shift, although some of those work shifts are at night there isn’t the constant change.
Engine Room Tour
The engine room tour was loud, even through earplugs and head phone like muffs that roar is amazing. You hear it throughout the ship but nothing compares to the pure sound when you are right next to it. The control room looks out over the two main engines. Each engine turns the port or starboard screw. Control over the engines can be given to the bridge but ultimately if the engineers need to control anything that comes from that area they are all powerful. There is fuel to keep moving to balance out the ships list, fresh water to make, generators to watch so as not to over load any of their out-puts. In a sense the engine room is the heart of the ship. Being self contained completely means that everything has to be running well. This ship even in port generates its own power and while out at sea is capable of making fresh water from salt water. I felt very much at home seeing as I have been in many engine rooms in my life with my father, I plan on going down there a few more times during my time on board.
Question of Day:
How long would it take to survey the entire patch? 8 days going 24 hours/day.
I did a lot of research today from the resources made available to me from the XO. Today was also a day I collaborated with my fellow TAS, something educators rarely get enough time to do. We bounced off a few adaptations of what we have already learned from our time on board. I hope to continue this process throughout my time onboard. No more seasick patch, I think that I am doing well and can handle the rolls. There is some crazy weather on the way too! If it chooses to run up into the Bering Strait we are okay but according to the XO, if the low pressure rides on the south side of the Aleutians it might get sketchy. The RAINIER would have to find a place to hole up and wait for the storm to pass because she is such a small, top-heavy ship. So I might just get a wild Alaskan ship ride after all.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown October 2 – 24, 2001
Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific Date: October 20, 2001
Latitude: 20º S Longitude: 85º W Air Temp. 19.7º C Sea Temp. 18.6º C Sea Wave: 4 – 6 ft. Swell Wave: 4 – 6 ft. Visibility: 8 – 10 miles Cloud cover: 7/8
Several students have asked about seeing the stars in the Southern Hemisphere. Well I hate to disappoint, but I haven’t seen one star on this voyage. There’s a good reason though (and it’s not because I’m in the lounge watching movies). One of the main reasons this cruise is in the Eastern Pacific is because a layer of stratus clouds almost always covers it. While that’s not good for stargazing it’s great for the atmospheric meteorologists on board. One theory is that the clouds have a cooling effect on the ocean by reflecting the solar radiation back upwards and letting little of it penetrate to the surface. But it really isn’t completely understood at this time.
Additionally the southeasterly winds in this in this area cause the surface water to move away from the coastline allowing deeper water to move up to the ocean surface, creating an upwelling current. Upwelling currents replenish the surface layers with nutrients which is why the fishing and marine life is so plentiful along the coast. The shifts in the temperature of masses of water, along with the effects of the clouds are what the scientists onboard are hoping to understand.
What I have learned on this cruise is that the study of climate is very complex and that this area is particularly important. The Eastern Pacific may hold the key to a better understanding of the processes that affect the climate of the entire globe.
The Chief Engineer Mike Gowan gave me a tour of the engine rooms today. He works down in the bottom of the ship and is responsible for overseeing all the major mechanics that keep the ship moving and habitable. There are 6 huge engines, air conditioning, water filtration, and sewage systems. It was really loud and we had to wear ear protection while we toured. He is assisted by Patrick,the Junior Engineer, and June, the “oiler”. (Isn’t it great to see women in the engineering room?!) Frankly I found it hard to conceive of working in that environment on a daily basis but they sure love it.
Question of the day: How long will it take the RON BROWN to travel from here to Arica (800 miles) averaging 13 knots/hour?