Texas A & M- Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering
Wage Mariners-civil service federal employee (nonmilitary)
Do you have any plans for future education?
Currently investigating at master’s programs in Nuclear Engineering
Engineering aboard Fairweather
How did you find out about your current position at NOAA?
I met a NOAA recruiter at a job fair at Texas A & M, submitted resume and 3 weeks later I got the call! After that the lengthy background check and physical for Federal employees, I came to work at NOAA aboard Fairweather.
1) When you were a child, what was your dream career?
I wanted to be an astronaut when I was young. I looked into aeronautical engineering and attended a Federal Service academy – the United States Merchant Marine Academy. My Dad is an engineer and contractor, so I grew up on job sites and always had the mindset of math and science. I knew my career would be something in the STEM field
2) What was your
favorite subject in school?
My favorite class was
differential equations. Why I like
engineering so much is everything is one big puzzle, and differential equations
is like one big puzzle.
3) Why is what you do important to on the ship?
Engineers on ships are
essentially the lifeblood of the ship, we keep the ship moving. We are the electricians, plumbers, the
mechanics, and even the firefighters.
The ship can’t go anywhere without engineers!
4) What would you tell an elementary school student about your work that is important to you?
I enjoy solving the puzzles. When something goes wrong, I enjoy finding out why something is not working and then solving the problem. That is what is so rewarding — figuring out what is wrong and fixing it!
5) Where do you do most of your work?
In the engine room. That’s where I spend my 8-hour shifts. The engineering room is on A & B deck — the 2 bottom-most levels of the ship. That is where most of the mechanisms that run the ship are located.
6) What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?
A crescent wrench! Mine is handy because it can measure and tell
you the exact size of the nut which makes things a lot easier!
7) If you could invent any tool to make your
work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?
I would invent a tool
that could reach bolts at odd angles.
Like a magnetic wrench that could adjust to the size bolt head you need
and could bend around the odd angles and apply torque when I need it.
8) What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect?
I never expected to be in Alaska!
9) How could teacher help students understand and appreciate NOAA engineering opportunities?
I think it would be
valuable to have better understanding of what we engineers do! It’s a
really cool job, with a really good salary, and very few people know there are
positions like this available.
10) What is your favorite part of your day when you are working and why?
Every day is a little
different, you are never doing the same thing over and over again. Something is always breaking and needs
11) What was your favorite book growing up?
My favorite book
series when I was growing up was Junie B. Jones! I come from Florida and loved Jacques Cousteau.
He inspired me to become a scuba diver
12) What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
I would be still be
working on a boat!
13) Do you have an outside hobby?
I love camping and hiking, I’ve hiked 40 miles
of the Appalachian Trail and
would like to hike the rest!
Latitude: 56º 58.03 N Longitude: 151º 26.26W Wind Speed: 17 knots Wind Direction: 120º Air Temperature: 13º Celsius Barometric Pressure: 1010.5 mb Depth of water column 565 m Surface Sea Temperature: 12.9º Celsius
Science & TechnologyLog
Ever heard of oilers? I hadn’t until I got to know Daniel Ruble, a member of the engineering crew on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.
Daniel is originally from Chicago but now calls Virginia home. After serving our country for 20 years in the Marine Corps, a friend mentioned that it was always good to have a Mariner’s Document (a license from the Coast Guard) “just in case.” Years later, he finally decided to put it to use, and got a job with NOAA in 2014. He started doing deck work, but his interest and experience in mechanical engineering eventually led him to the NOAA engineering crew. He is what they call an “oiler.” Oilers maintain, clean, and oil the ship’s engine, including the motors, gears, and compressors. Daniel has worked on every class of NOAA vessel (Oceanographic and Atmospheric Research, Charting and Hydrographic, and Fisheries Research) and all but one of the NOAA ships.
Daniel and the other engineers onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson are easy to spot as they often have bulky, protective ear coverings either on or nearby. That is because the engine room is VERY LOUD. When I was given a tour, I was first given ear coverings, and much of the explanation about what I was seeing had to come later as it was too difficult to hear each other. I was told that seeing the engine room is like looking under the hood of your car. Just imagine your car’s engine magnified 1000 times.
The engineering crew is responsible for all of the internal systems of the ship. Without them, the ship wouldn’t run, and there would be no power or water. The engineering room actually makes all of the water we use onboard by distilling saltwater into potable (drinkable) water. Here’s how it works.
Saltwater is boiled using energy from the ship itself. Hot engine steam is passed through an evaporation unit, causing the saltwater to boil. The saltwater steam rises and then travel through a water separator which prevents any droplets of saltwater from passing through. After the steam becomes pure water, it is then carried away by a distillate pump. It is then safe for drinking and showering.
Each of the two evaporators on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson can distill between 600-900 gallons of water per day, depending upon how fast the ship is moving. On an average day, the ship uses 800-1000 gallons!
Latitude: 57º 9.61 N Longitude: 152º 20.99W Wind Speed: 15 knots Wind Direction: 210 º Air Temperature: 12º Celsius Barometric Pressure: 1013 mb Depth of water column 84 m Surface Sea Temperature: 12º Celsius
Welcome to a tour of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.
Your tour guide today is the Room
Allow me to explain.
When I am not a Teacher at Sea on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, I am the special education preschool teacher in Room 11 at Nevada Avenue Elementary School in Canoga Park, California. My classroom has a classroom bear (made of construction paper) that “hides” every night when the students go home. In the beginning of the year, he is sort of easy to find, but as the year progresses, he is harder and harder to find. By the end of the year, only a paw or an ear might be showing!
thing my students want to do every morning is look for the bear. When they find it, they excitedly explain where
it is. Speech and language are things we work on in class all the time, and the
bear gives us something fun to talk about! For some students, a single word might
be the goal. Other students may be working on putting a few words together, or
even enough to make a sentence. It’s
also a great time for them to learn prepositional words or phrases to describe
where the bear is hiding, such as next to, under, beneath, or on top of.
Now it’s YOUR turn. I hope you have fun touring the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson with the Room 11 Bear and finding him in the photos where he decided to hide in a tricky spot. He is in EVERY picture.
Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau
Date: June 1, 2019
Latitude: 28°19.3’ N
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Wind Speed: 11 knots
Wind Direction: 195
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Air Temperature: 28°C
Barometric Pressure: 1012.5
Making the Engines Run
Engines on this ship are run with marine grade diesel. Before the diesel can be put through the engine it must be cleaned of any impurities. A centrifuge system is used to spin the diesel at a very fast pace in a circle. As the diesel spins any impurities are flung out leaving behind the purified fuel. If the fuel is not purified before it is put through the engines, they will gunk up and not function properly. NOAA Okeanos Explorer has 4 engines. Currently we are running 3 of them and the fourth one is the backup. There is also a fifth generator that can serve as a backup if needed. There are roughly 180,000 gallons of diesel on the ship and roughly 2,200 gallons of fuel are used per day. In order to make the engine work, air in the engine is compressed causing the air to heat up. Then you spray fuel into the compressed air and the heat of their air causes an explosion leading to the process of combustion. In order to determine if complete combustion is occurring and the engine fuel is clean of impurities you look at the exhaust. If the exhaust is clear it means you are seeing full combustion and the fuel is clean. If the exhaust is not clean, black for example, it means that combustion is not complete or the fuel is dirty.
Cooling the Engines
The engines must run at a temperature below 200°F. When these engines run they create heat so to keep them at a temperature under 200°F you need to cool them off using a heat exchanger. A heat exchanger is a series of pipes that run hot substances past cooler substances. These substances do not come into contact with one another, but are piped past one another. The heat transfers to the cooler substance through the series of pipes thus cooling the previously hot substance. On this ship, oil is used to lubricate the pistons on the engine, but it also serves a coolant. The oil is then cooled via freshwater called jacket water and the freshwater is cooled via seawater taken from the ocean. The ocean surface water is 74°F when it enters the ship and leaves the ship at roughly 84°F.
However where does this heat go? The first law of thermodynamics, The Law of Conservation of Energy, tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred or converted. So why not convert this heat energy into some of use? Well guess what. The engineers on Okeanos Explorer do just that. Some of the heat goes into the seawater used to cool the jacket water and some of the heat is used in the desalination system.
Remember we left off with desalination in the previous blog. They use the heat coming off the engines to heat the saltwater, evaporate it, and retrieve the freshwater. However, if you remember these engines must run below 200°F and in order to boil water you must be at a temperature of 212°F. I know many of you are probably thinking salt in water actually lowers the boiling point, but really the opposite is true. Salt actually increases the temperature needed to boil water. However, it is minimal so it won’t affect your pasta too much. Feel free to add that pinch of salt like a true chef.
In order to boil water with 200°F of temperature or less we need to change the pressure of the system. This is done through a vacuum that decreases the pressure in the system allowing water to boil at a lower temperature. It is similar to when you go hiking in the mountains (less pressure than when you are at sea level) and go to boil water. It boils quicker because less heat is needed since the pressure is lower. So by changing the pressure in the system to one that would be seen at a higher altitude, engineers are able to use the heat from the engines to boil the salt water on the ship, allowing us to have access to freshwater for drinking, bathing, and cooking purposes. Pretty ingenious right?
Now hopefully you were paying attention in the first paragraph when I talked about how much fuel is on board and how much is used each day. As fuel is used, the weight on the ship will change affecting stability. A ship with weight is more stable in the water than a ship will little to no weight. Therefore as fuel weight is lost it must be replaced. One gallon of diesel weighs approximately 7 pounds. So if we are using 2200 gallons a day we are losing 15,400 pounds of weight. How do the engineers accomplish the task of adding more weight? What is all around us weighing 8.6 pounds per gallon??? Seawater! Yes! So ballast tanks are filled with seawater to add weight to the ship that is removed when fuel is used.
Ballast water is taken in through a filtration system before it even reaches its holding tanks (separate than the fuel tanks). The water first passes through a filter to remove large particles (such as larger pieces of plant material or debris) and then passes through a UV system that will kill any organisms. When the ballast water is released from their holding tanks in order to allow more fuel to come on board, the water must pass through the UV system once more to make sure nothing alive (plants, animals, bacteria, etc.) is getting into the water.
This purification of ballast water occurs to prevent invasive species from entering new areas. An invasive species is a plant or animal that is from somewhere else and is introduced through human actions. When these species establish in a new area and begin to outcompete native species, affect human health, and become costly to remove, they are classified as invasive.
Where I live on Lake Erie several species such as zebra and quagga mussels, round goby, and spiny water flea have all been introduced from ballast water from ships coming from the inland lakes of Eurasia. These ships would need to dump their water when they entered the shallower river ports of the Great Lakes, spurring a silent invasion. All four species are negatively affecting native populations of important species and are costly to manage. Then same is happening along the East Coast with species such as European green crab.
I would like each of you reading this blog to learn more about a species introduced to U.S. waters, whether they be fresh or salt, through ballast water. Feel free to let me know which organism you chose to learn more about in the comments section of the blog.
Today was a really special day at sea. It was my 30th birthday. I could not have imagined a more amazing place to turn 30. I spent the day learning all about the engine systems on board, out on the bow enjoying the breeze and sunshine while looking for ocean critters, and was treated to the sweetest cake ever. It was so kind of the chefs on board to make me a cake for my birthday. It was a red velvet cake (my favorite) with chocolate frosting and decorated with chocolate pieces and white icing. We had it with some chocolate raspberry swirl ice cream. Truly a wonderful celebration with my new friends.
I spent the hour before sunset enjoying a nice yoga and meditation session before the most amazing sunset we have seen at sea yet. The clouds and sun put on the most spectacular display of color. Afterwards I learned more about the happenings of the mission control room (basically the mapping hub for the ship). I learned how we launch equipment to collect water column data and how we clean the data removing noise. I will be writing a blog on the mapping mission soon.
After our shift ended, my roommate and I ventured to the bridge to learn about piloting a vessel at night. We learned what equipment they rely on and how they manage their night vision. And then the most spectacular part of the whole night! The stars! Wow! It looks like someone through glitter (plastic free glitter preferably) into the sky. I have never seen so many stars in my life. We saw the Milky Way, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, North Star, Jupiter and so many other constellations. It was a wonderful end to a great birthday day.
Did You Know?
Even numbered locations (such as muster stations or staterooms) on ships are located on the port (left) side of the ship and odd numbered locations are located on the (starboard) right side of the ship.
Different ways to measure are used at sea. You can see some measurement conversions below.
1 nautical mile = 1.151 statute mile
1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 1.151 statute mile per hour
Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau
Date: May 31, 2019
Latitude: 28°29.0’ N
Longitude: 079°34.1’ W
Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Wind Direction: 155
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Air Temperature: 27.6 °C
Barometric Pressure: 1013.7
Science and Technology Log
Today and tomorrow I am learning all about the who and how of making the ship go. Ric Gabona, the Acting Chief Marine Engineer, has been teaching me all about the mechanics of powering the ship, managing waste, and providing clean drinking water. Today I will focus on two aspects of making it possible to live on a ship for weeks on end. First, I will teach you about waste management. Second, I will explain how freshwater is made to support cooking, drinking, cleaning, and bathing needs. In conjunction, all of these systems contribute to our comfort on board but also our safety.
Waste on board has many forms and it all must be handled in some way or it can lead to some pretty stinky situations. The main forms of waste I will focus on include human waste and the waste that goes down the drains. The waste is broken down into two categories. Black water and gray water. Gray water is any water that goes down the drain as a result of us washing dishes, our hands, or ourselves. Gray water is allowed to be discharged once we are 3 miles from shore. The water does not need to be treated and can be let off the ship through the discharge valve. Black water is water that is contaminated with our sewage. It can be discharged when we are 12 miles from shore. Black water goes into a machine through a macerator pump and it gets hit with electricity breaking the solid materials into smaller particles that can be discharged into the ocean.
Discharge of gray or black water has its limitations. These discharge locations follow strict rules set in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The CFR are set by the federal government and the regulations tell you where (how far from shore) you are allowed to discharge both gray and black water. However, sometimes Okeanos Explorer is in areas where black water cannot be discharged so the black water must be turned into gray water. At this point, once the black water has been mashed it will pass through a chlorine filter that will treat any contamination and then the waste can be discharged. However, there are places where nothing can be discharged such as Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i. When in these no discharge areas the ship will store the gray and black water and then discharge when regulated to do so.
It is important to follow these regulations because as Ric says, “We are ocean stewards.” It is important that ships such as Okeanos Explorer be able to explore the ocean while making the smallest environmental impact as possible. The engineers and other ship and science mission personnel are dedicated to reducing our impact as much as possible when out at sea.
Water makes up 60% of the human body and is vital for life. However, 71% of the water on earth is saltwater, not able to be taken up by humans, making it challenging to access freshwater unless you live near an inland freshwater system like where I come from up in Ohio along the Great Lakes. While out at sea, we have no access to freshwater and we cannot store freshwater from land on the ship so we must make it. On Okeanos Explorer freshwater is made using two types of systems, reverse osmosis and desalination. Reverse osmosis is used by seabirds to turn saltwater into freshwater. Saltwater passes through a semipermeable membrane allowing the smaller water particles to pass through while leaving the larger salt particles and other impurities behind. If you are seabird, you excrete this salt by spitting it out the salt glands at the top part of your bill or if you are a ship out through a separate pipe as brine, a yellow colored super salty liquid. The other method on the ship used to make water is desalination. Desalination is the process of boiling salt water, trapping the water that evaporates (freshwater), and then discharging the salty water left behind. The engineers could use a separate boiling system to heat the salt water however they have a much more inventive and practical way of heating the water. But before I can let you know of their ingenious solution we must learn how the engines run. Oops! Sorry, I need to go. Need to switch my laundry. So sorry. We will explore ship movement and the engines in the next blog. Stay tuned…
I really enjoyed learning all about the mechanics of operating the ship. It takes lots of very skilled people to make the equipment work and I love the ingenuity of the machines and those who run them. Space is limited on a ship and I am just fascinated by how they deal with the challenges of managing waste and making freshwater 50 plus nautical miles from coast for up to 49 people. Today was a great learning day for me. I do not know much about engines, wastewater treatment, and water purification systems so I really learned a lot today. I now have one more puzzle piece of ship operations under my belt with many more to go.
Aside from my lesson in thermodynamics, combustion, chemistry, physics, and other sciences that I have not touched since college, I learned about the safety operations on the vessel. Today we practiced a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. We learned where we need to go on the ship should one of these events ever occur and which safety gear is needed. I donned my immersion suit and PFD (Personal Flotation Device) to make sure they fit and all the pieces/parts work. Being in the ocean would be a bad time to realize something isn’t right. Donning the safety suit was a funny situation for all movement is super restricted and you feel like a beached whale trying to perform Swan Lake on point shoes.
with some help from my friends we were all able to get suited up in case an
emergency should arise.
look forward to another sunset at sea, some yoga on the deck, and seeing a
spectacular star display.
Did You Know?
Eating an apple a day while at sea can keep seasickness at bay.
Different terms are used to describe items, locations, or parts of the ship. As I learn new words I would like to share my new vocabulary with all of you. If there is a ship term you want to know more about let me know and I will find out!
Mess Deck: Space that crew eat aboard ship
Fantail: Rear deck of a ship
Pipe: Announcement on the ship via a PA system
Muster: Process of accounting for a group of people. Used in safety drills on a ship such as a fire or abandon ship drills.
Stateroom: Sleeping quarters on the ship
Abeam: On the beam, a relative bearing at right angles to the ship’s keel
Bearing: The horizontal direction of a line of sight between two objects
Animals Seen Today
1 flying fish
Whales (Too far away to tell what they were but we saw their spouts!)
My first day onboard was spent following around 2nd Engineer Will Osborn. Will is an officer in the Merchant Marines, and a NOAA Augmentation Pool Engineer assigned to the Oregon II. He invited me to follow him around and learn how the engineers prepare the ship for sea. One of the duties of the engineers is to check the liquid levels of each of the tanks prior to sailing. They do this by performing soundings, where they use a weighted measuring tape and a conversion chart to determine the number of gallons in each of the tanks.
2nd Engineer Will Osborne performing a sounding on deck
Performing a sounding on the dirty oil tank
The engineering team then prepared the ship to sail by disconnecting shore power and turning on the engines aboard ship. I got to flip the switch that disconnects the ship from shore power. I followed the engineering team as they disconnected the very large cable that the ship uses to draw power from shore. I then got to follow 2nd Engineer Will as he turned on the engines aboard ship.
Once we set sail, the science team met and discussed how longline surveys would work. I am on the day shift, which is from noon to midnight. We got the rest of the day, after onboard training and group meetings, to get used to our new sleep schedule. Because I was on the day shift, I stayed up and got to watch an amazing sunset over the Gulf.
Our second day out, we set our first two longlines. The first one was set before shift change, so the night shift crew bated the hooks and set the line. My shift brought the line in, and mostly got back unbaited hooks. We got a few small Atlantic Sharpnose (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) sharks on the line, and used those to go over internal and external features that differentiated the various species we might find.
After the lines were in, it was time for safety drills. These included the abandon ship drill, which required us to put on a submersion suit, which is affectionately referred to as a Gumby suit. You can see why below. It was as hard to get into as it looks, but it will keep you warm and afloat if you end up in the water after you abandon ship.
I have learned a few rules of the boat on my first days at sea. First, always watch your head. The stairwells sometimes have short spaces, and you have to make sure not to hit them on your way up. Second, always keep a hand free for the boat. It is imperative at sea that you always have a hand free, in case the boat rocks and you need to catch yourself. Third, mealtimes are sacred. There are 31 people aboard the boat, with seating for 12 in the galley. In order for everyone to get a chance to sit down and eat, you can’t socialize in the galley.
Did You Know?
In order for the crew to have freshwater to drink, the Oregon II uses a reverse osmosis machine. They create 1000-1200 gallons of drinkable water per day, running the ocean water through the reverse osmosis generator at a pressure of 950 psi.
Quote of the Day
And when there are enough outsiders together in one place, a mystic osmosis takes place and you’re inside.
Weather Data From the Bridge Lat: 56°59.4’, Long:135°53.9’
Wind 19 kts at 340°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: 3-4’ with swells of 2-3’
Water temp: 9.4°C
Science and Technology Log
Rainier and her sister ship Fairweather celebrated their 50th anniversary together this past March. The bell on the bow of each ship is now plated in gold to celebrate the event.
This vessel has quite a physical plant below deck maintained by the competent team in the Engineering Department. For propulsion, there are two V-12 Diesel Locomotive Engines. After bathing the valves in fresh oil, each engine is started with compressed air at the press of a button. Once up and running, the Rainier’s engines often run for several days at a time. There is no “transmission” on this vessel. Instead, the two propellers utilize what is called ‘variable pitch’. When the pitch is set to zero, the props spin but push water neither back or forward – and thus don’t force the ship to move. When the prop pitched is increased in a forward direction – up to a pitch of 10, the ship is pushed forward. Of course, this is really the water pushing the ship forward as the propellers push the water backward. A pitch of “10” means that for each single rotation of the prop, the blades will move water ten feet back. When reverse is desired, the props can each pitch back to a maximum of ‘6’. Now the water is pushed forwards by the prop so the water can push the ship backward.
As there are two engines and two propellers, the Rainier’s crew can run one prop forwards and the other backward to turn the vessel around nearly in place. This could be called a ‘split 6’ – where one prop is pitched forward 6 to match the other prop’s pitch backward of 6.
Another device the crew can use to manipulate the ship in the water is called a ‘bow thruster’. This is an open tube from port (left) to starboard (right) near the bow of the ship underwater. There is a propeller mounted in this open tube which is powered by a separate engine. The engineering team can have the bow thruster system up and running in just a matter of minutes when called on by the bridge to prepare for its use! By pushing water to one side, the water pushes the bow the other way. This is a great tool to maneuver this large vessel in tight spaces.
In addition to the two engines plus the bow thruster, there are several other important systems maintained on The Rainier. There are a pair of 4000 Watt diesel electric generators to provide electricity. There is a water purification system – to isolate salt from seawater and make clean drinking water and a wastewater treatment plant to process waste. There are air compressors to supply the ship’s systems.
There are 45 individuals on board this ship – and they pull together into five teams to make operations happen on board. The NOAA Corps is responsible for the administration and navigation of the ship. The Deck crew handles all things on the surface of the ship including handling all lines, cranes, and davits (to manipulate the launches—small boats). The Engineering Crew is responsible for all the mechanical systems on board. The Electronics Department handles all instrumentation and wiring on the ship. The Stewards run the ever important galley – keeping the entire group well fed. All of this supports the work of the survey team of Hydrographers, the team of scientists that are mapping the sea floor.
I’ve enjoyed both finding my way around the ship and getting to know the crew. These people work as a team!
I came in early enough to enjoy a few days exploring Sitka, Alaska. This is a small port town that is really the first city in Alaska. Russians originally settled here in 1799 and eventually sold the city to the US in 1867. Sitka is a beautiful place to explore – being primarily a port for commercial and private fishing operations.
We’ve just left port this afternoon [Monday] as we transit to Lisianski Strait to being the hydrographic mission of this leg. We’ll arrive there late tonight/early Tuesday morning to collect data first from the Rainier itself. The experience on the ocean has been great thus far, and I look forward to much more!
Did You Know?
Sitka is the largest city, by area, in the United States in terms of land area! It occupies 2870 square miles yet has only a population of about 9,000 people—located mostly on the port location of Sitka.
The Rainier holds about 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel that is located in several tanks below deck. The weight of the fuel serves as ballast to help keep the ship stable while at sea! Fuel can be shifted between tanks to adjust the trim [front or back tilt] and list [port or starboard tilt] of the ship. Typically Rainier refuels when the tanks reach about half full.
Mission: Conduct ROV and multibeam sonar surveys inside and outside six marine protected areas (MPAs) and the Oculina Experimental Closed Area (OECA) to assess the efficacy of this management tool to protect species of the snapper grouper complex and Oculina coral
Geographic Area of Cruise: Continental shelf edge of the South Atlantic Bight between Port Canaveral, FL and Cape Hatteras, NC
Date: May 19, 2018
Weather from the Bridge Latitude: 29°55.8590’ N Longitude: 80°16.9468’ W Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet Wind Speed: 18.1 knots Wind Direction: 210.6° Visibility: 1 nautical mile Air Temperature: 25.3°C Sky: Overcast
Science and Technology Log
Extra Operations- Zodiac Hurricane Fast Rescue Boat:
Occasionally these Fast Rescue Boats are used for more than real emergencies and drills, practicing the pick-up of a man-overboard and rescue diver missions, in the case of day 2 of my trip on NOAA Ship Pisces, a camera replacement part became necessary. When a small crew change is needed or to pick up a repair part for an essential item, instead of bringing the ship to dock, the FRB (Fast Rescue Boat) is sent in.
The LF or Lead Fishermen, Farron “Junior” Cornell was the FRB coxswain (driver/operator of a ship’s boat). His navigation skills were developed by working in the hydrographic division that performs regular bathymetry readings using these vessels on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, making him a very capable pilot of this small watercraft in the NOAA fleet. The FRB has seating for 6, with 2 aft of console, 1 forward of engine cover, 2 sitting on foredeck on engine cover and 1 prone on deck by stretcher.
Some other specs on the boat includes the following: Length overall=6.81 meters including jet Beam overall=2.59 meters Fuel capacity=182 litres (48 US Gal) Bollard Pull ~600 kg/5884 N Endurance (hours @ 20 knots)~6.75 hours Max Horse Power=235kW, 315 hp At Light Load Operation Displacement = 2150 kg/4750 lbs Full Speed ~32 knots Fuel System =48 US gallon tank
Zodiac Hurricane H638 DJ, USCG Approved Fast Rescue Boat (FRB) with Miranda Hoist System
Zodiac Hurricane H638 DJ, USCG Approved Fast Rescue Boat (FRB) with Miranda Hoist System
Zodiac Hurricane H638 DJ, USCG Approved Fast Rescue Boat (FRB) with Miranda Hoist System
Engine Room Tour Pictures and Learnings:
Daily Duties: Freshwater Needs– Reverse Osmosis and Evaporators
Freshwater is necessary for a variety of reasons beyond drinking water for the crew. It is used for laundry, cooking, showers and on NOAA Ship Pisces, to fill the ballast water tanks. Approximately 31 gallons of freshwater is used on average per person per day, with 29 people on board for 12 days, totaling nearly 11,000 gallons by the end of the trip. One method to supply this freshwater supply is through reverse osmosis. Osmosis is the diffusion of water across a membrane.
Normally water moves, without an energy input from high to low concentrations. In reverse osmosis, water is moved in the opposite direction of its natural tendency to find equilibrium. The force at which water wants to move through the membrane is called its osmotic pressure. To get water to move against the osmotic pressure another force must be applied to counteract and overcome this tendency. Sea water is found in abundance and can be forced across a semi-permeable membrane leaving the ions on one-side and the freshwater to be collected into containment chambers on the other side. Technology has impacted this process by discoveries of better semi-permeable membranes that allow for faster and larger amounts of sea-water to be moved through the system. Pisces uses reverse osmosis and a back-up freshwater system of 2 evaporators. When the temperatures are high (as they were in the first few days of the cruise) the evaporators are the go-to system and make for tasty drinking water.
Evaporators take in sea water and distill the liquid water using waste heat collected from the engines that raises the temperature of water in the pipes. This temperature provides the energy that forces the liquid freshwater to vaporize and enter its gaseous phase, then under pressure this vapor is condensed and can be collected and separated from the brine that is removed and discharged.
Wastewater:There are different types of water that can be used for different tasks aboard a ship. Typically gray water (which is relatively clean wastewater from showers and sinks but may contain soaps, oils, and human hair/skin) is placed in the MSD (Marine Sanitation Device), which is similar to a septic system. Black water is wastewater from toilets, or any water that has come into contact with fecal matter and may carry potential disease carrying pathogens. Black water is also treated in the MSD. This black water sewage is first subjected to a macerator pump that breaks the fecal matter into smaller pieces, enzymes are added to further decompose and before disposal a bit of chlorine is added to ensure no bacteria remain alive. This water can be disposed of into the ocean if the ship is over 12 miles offshore. If the ship is within 12 miles the sewage must be either stored in containment system on board the vessel or taken to dock and disposed of by an in-shore treatment facility. For more information on the regulations for wastewater disposal while at sea see the Ocean Dumping Act.
Ballast Water and New Regulations: Ballast water tanks are compartments used to hold water to provide stability for the ship. This balance is necessary for better maneuverability and improved propulsion through the water. It can allow the crew to compensate and adjusts for changes in the ships cargo load or fuel/water weight changes over the course of a trip. Historically this water has been drawn up from the surrounding sea water to fill the tanks. Unfortunately, in the not so distant past, the ballast water from one location on the globe has been deposited into another area along with it, all of it foreign plants, animals and microbiota. This act led to the introduction of a host of exotic and non-native species to this new area, some of which became invasive and wreaked havoc on the existing ecosystems. Today there are a host of case studies in my students’ textbook like the Zebra Mussels (Dreissena polymorpha) and the European Green Crabs (Carcinus maenas) that were introduced in this way that resulted in devastating impacts both environmentally and economically to the invaded area.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) passed new regulations in September of 2017 calling for better management of this ballast water exchange. Ballast Water Management Convention 2017.
Another high tech approach to this problem has been the development of a sea-water filtration systems, but these carry a heavy price tag that can range anywhere from $750,000 to $5 million.
The engine room area is staffed by 7 crew members. Back-up systems and the amount of en route repair necessary to keep the ship running and safe was apparent in the engine room. There were redundancies in the engines, HVAC, hydraulics, and fuel systems. Spare parts are stored for unexpected breaks or other trouble-shooting needs. The control panels throughout the tour had screens that not only allowed a check of every level of function on every system on the ship, there was another screen that demonstrated the electrical connections on how all these monitoring sensors were wired, in case a reading needed to be checked back to its source.
Pictured here is a diesel engine on NOAA Ship Pisces. Pisces has 4 of these on board: 2 bigger engines that are CAT model 3512 vs. 2 smaller engines that are CAT 3508. When the ship is going at full steam they use 3 of 4 to provide power to turn the shaft, and when they need less power, they can modify their engine choices and power, therefore using less fuel. CAT engines are models 3512 and 3508 diesel driven at provide 1360 KW and 910 KW, respectively. There is also an emergency engine (CAT model 3306) on board as well providing 170 kw of power.
The pressurized fluid in these pipes are used to move devices. Pisces is in the process of converting certain hydraulic systems to an organic andbiodegradable “green” oilcalled Environmentally Acceptable Lubricants (EALs).
This area is command central. I decided to focus on only a few features for this blog from a handful of screens found in this room that monitor a variety of sensors and systems about both the ships conditions and the environmental factors surrounding the ship. Commanding Officer CDR Nicholas Chrobak, NOAA demonstrated how to determine the difference on the radar screen of rain scatter vs. another vessel. In the image the rain gives a similar color pattern and directionality, yet the ship appeared more angular and to have a different heading then those directed by wind patterns. When clicking on the object or vessel another set of calculations began and within minutes a pop-up reading would indicate characteristics such as CPA (closest point of approach) and TCPA (Time of Closest Point Approach) as seen in the image.
Scanned Maps and monitors help to prevent collisions
ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System)
These safety features let vessels avoid collisions and are constantly being calculated as the ship navigates. GPS transponders on the ships send signals that allow for these readings to be monitored. ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display and Information System) charts provide a layered vector chart with information about the surrounding waters and hazards to navigation. One screen image displayed information about the dynamic positioning system.
Paths and positions can be typed in that the software then can essentially take the wheel, controlling main propulsion, the bow thruster and rudder to keep the ship on a set heading, and either moving on a desired course or hold in a stationary position. These computer-based navigation systems integrate GPS (Global Positioning System) information along with electronic navigational charts, radar and other sailing sensors to ensure the ship can navigate safely while effectively carrying out the mission at hand.
The Mess Deck and Galley:
This location serves up delicious and nutritious meals. Not only do the stewards provide the essential food groups, they provide vegetarian options and make individual plates for those that may miss a meal during shift work.
Dana Reid, who I interviewed below, made me some amazing omelets on the trip and had a positive friendly greeting each time I saw him. I decided a few days into the cruise to start taking pictures of my meals as proof for the nature of how well fed the crew is on these adventures.
crab legs was one of my favorites- I went back for seconds
Breakfast of champions
Every day there was some sort of fish choice
chicken fried steak and the gumbo were especially tasty
Omelettes to order
There were occasional green things on my plate
Menu items for each day posted on NOAA Ship Pisces
Menu Screen on the Mess Deck
Each day a new screen of menus appeared on the ship’s monitors, along with other rotating information from quotes, to weather to safety information.
Today a possible shipwreck is evident on the sonar maps from the previous night’s multibeam readings. If weather permits, the science team plans to check out the unknown structure en route to the next MPA. This scientific study reminds me of one of the reasons I fell in love with science. There is that sense of discovery. Unlike pirates and a search for sunken gold, the treasure to be found here is hopefully a diversity of fish species and thriving deep coral communities. I found myself a bit lost during the discussions of fishing regulations for these areas designated as MPAs (Marine Protected Areas). I had always thought ‘protected’ would mean prohibitive to fishing. So I did a little research and will share a little of the basics learned. And I hope someday these regulations will become more restrictive in these fragile habitats.
The MPA , “marine protected area” definition according to the implementation of an Executive Order 13158 is “…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.” But what that actually means in terms of the size of the area and approach to conservation, or the level protection and the fishing regulations seems to vary from location to location. The regulations are governed by a variety of factors from the stakeholders, agencies and scientists to the population numbers and resilience of the habitat to distances offshore.
For more information on MPAs visit https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/mpa.html
What’s My Story? Dana Reid The following section of the blog is dedicated to explaining the story of one crew member on Pisces.
What is your specific title and job description on this mission? Second Cook. His job description includes assisting the Chief Steward in preparing meals and maintaining cleanliness of the galley (kitchen), mess deck (tables picture where crew eats), scullery (part of the kitchen where dishes get washed) fridge/freezer and storage areas.
How long have you worked for NOAA? 5th year
What is your favorite and least favorite part of your job? His favorite part of this job is getting a chance to take care of people, putting a smile on people’s faces and making them happy. His least favorites are tasks that involve standing in the freezer for extended periods of time to stock and rotate foods. In addition he mentioned that he isn’t too fond of waking up very early in the morning.
When did you first become interested in this career and why? His initial food as a career-interest started when he was in high school working for Pizza Hut. He later found himself working for 2 years cooking fried chicken for Popeyes. His interest in the maritime portion of his career also began right after high school when he joined the Navy. In the Navy he worked in everything from the galley to a plane captain and jet mechanic. During his time in the Navy he worked on 5 different carriers and went on 9 different detachments including Desert Storm. After hurricane Katrina in 2006 he found himself interested in finding another job through government service and began working on a variety of NOAA’s vessels.
What is one of the most interesting places you have visited? He found the culture and terrain of Oahu one of his most interesting. He enjoys hiking and Hawaii, Alaska and Seattle have been amazing places to visit.
Do you have a typical day? Or tasks and skills that you perform routinely in this job? He spends the majority of his time prepping (washing and chopping) vegetables and a majority of his time washing dishes. In addition he is responsible for keeping beverages and dry goods stocked.
Questions from students in Environmental Science at Camas High School
How is cooking at sea different from cooking on land? He said that he needs to spend more effort to keep his balance and if in rough weather the ship rocks. This impacts his meal making if he is trying to cook an omelet and if mixing something in keeping the bowl from sliding across the prep table. He mentioned that occasionally when baking a cake that it might come out lopsided depending upon the angle of the ship and timing of placement in the oven.
What do you have to consider when planning and cooking a meal? He plans according to what meal of the day it is, breakfast, lunch or dinner. The number of people to cook for, number of vegetarians and the part of the world the cruise is happening in are all factored in when planning and making meals. For example, when he has been in Hawaii he’d consider cooking something more tropical – cooking with fish, coconut and pineapple; if in the Southeast they tend to make more southern style cooking, sausage/steak lots of greens; if in the Northeast more food items like lobster and clam chowder make their way onto the menu.
What is the best meal you can make on the ship, and what is the worst? He said he makes a pretty good Gumbo. He said one of his weakness is cooking with curry and said that the Chief Steward is more skilled with dishes of that flavor.
How many meals do you make in a day? 3; In addition he hosts occasional special events like ice cream socials, banana splits or grilling party with smoker cooking steaks to hamburgers on the back deck.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Cathrine Prenot Aboard Bell M. Shimada July 17-July 30, 2016
Mission: 2016 California Current Ecosystem: Investigations of hake survey methods, life history, and associated ecosystem
Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast from Newport, OR to Seattle, WA
Date: Thursday, July 21, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge Lat: 46º18.8 N
Lon: 124º25.6 W
Speed: 10.4 knots
Wind speed: 12.35 degree/knots
Barometer: 1018.59 mBars
Air Temp: 16.3 degrees Celsius
Science and Technology Log
The ship’s engineering staff are really friendly, and they were happy to oblige my questions and take me on a tour of the Engine Rooms. I got to go into the ‘belly of the beast’ on the Oscar Dyson, but on the tour of the Shimada, Sean Baptista, 1st assistant engineer, hooked us up with headsets with radios and microphones. It is super loud below decks, but the microphones made it so that we could ask questions and not just mime out what we were curious about.
I think the job of the engineers is pretty interesting for three main reasons.
One, they get to be all over the ship and see the real behind-the-scenes working of a huge vessel at sea. We went down ladders and hatches, through remotely operated sealed doors, and wound our way through engines and water purifiers and even water treatment (poo) devices. Engineers understand the ship from the bottom up.
Second, I am sure that when it is your Job it doesn’t seem that glamorous, but an engineer’s work keeps the ship moving. Scientists collect data, the Deck crew fish, the NOAA Corps officers drive the ship, but the engineers make sure we have water to drink, that our ‘business’ is treated and sanitary, that we have power to plug in our computers (the lab I am writing in right now has 6 monitors displaying weather from the bridge, charts, ship trackers, and science data) and science equipment.
Finally, if something breaks on the ship, engineers fix it. Right there, with whatever they have on hand. Before we were able to take the tour, 1st Assistant Engineer Baptista gave us a stern warning to not touch anything—buttons, levers, pipes—anything. There is a kind of resourcefulness to be an engineer on a ship—you have to be able to make do with what you have when you are in the middle of the ocean.
The engineers all came to this position from different pathways—from having a welding background, to being in the navy or army, attending the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, or even having an art degree. The biggest challenge is being away from your family for long periods of time, but I can attest that they are a pretty tight group onboard.
In terms of the science that I’ve been learning, I’ve had some time to do some research of some of the bycatch organisms from our Hake trawls. “Bycatch” are nontargeted species that are caught in the net. Our bycatch has been very small—we are mostly getting just hake, but I’ve seen about 30-40 these cute little fish with blue glowing dots all over their sides. Call me crazy, but anything that comes out of the ocean with what look like glowing sparkling sapphires is worthy of a cartoon.
So… …What is small, glows, and comprises about 65% of all deep-sea biomass? Click on the cartoon to read Adventures in a Blue World 3.
The weather is absolutely beautiful and the seas are calm. We are cruising along at between 10-12 knots along set transects looking for hake, but we haven’t seen—I should say “heard” them in large enough groups or the right age class to sample. So, in the meanwhile, I’ve taken a tour of the inner workings of the ship from the engineers, made an appointment with the Chief Steward to come in and cook with him for a day, spent some time on the bridge checking out charts and the important and exciting looking equipment, played a few very poor rounds of cornhole, and have been cartooning and reading.
I was out on the back deck having a coffee and an ice cream (I lead a decadent and wild life as a Teacher at Sea) and I noticed that the shoreline looked very familiar. Sure enough—it was Cannon Beach, OR, with Haystack Rock (you’ll remember it from the movie The Goonies)! Some of my family lived there for years; it was fun to see it from ten miles off shore.
Did You Know?
One of the scientists I have been working with knows a lot about fish. He knows every organism that comes off the nets in a trawl down to their Genus species. No wonder he knows all the fish—all of the reference books that I have been using in the wet lab were written by him. Head smack.
My sister (thank you!) does my multi media research for me from shore, as I am not allowed to pig out on bandwidth and watch lots of videos about bioluminescence in the ocean. This video is pretty wonderful. Check it out.
If you want to geek out more about Lanternfish, read this from a great site called the Tree of Life web project.
Interested in becoming a Wage Mariner in many different fields–including engineering? Click here.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Vincent Colombo Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson June 11 – 30, 2015
Mission: Annual Walleye Pollock Survey Geographical area of the cruise: The Gulf of Alaska Date: June 29, 2015
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Wind Speed: 10.7 knots
Sea Temperature: 9.6 degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 10.5 degrees Celsius
Air Pressure: 1008.8 mb
The NOAA Vessel Oscar Dyson is named after the late Oscar E. Dyson. His placard reads the following:
A Friend of Fisheries
Oscar promoted research and effective management
to sustain Alaska’s fisheries for future generations.
Science and Technology Log:
If you read the link under my page: http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/2015/Vincent*Colombo/ship , it will tell you all about the ship, Oscar Dyson. This ship is nothing less than a modern marvel of technology. Luckily my fellow teacher at sea, Nikki Durkan and I got to experience the science of this ship first hand. Our Chief engineer, Mr. Alan Bennett took us for a tour of the inner workings of this ship.
Our tour started with a look at the Ship’s control panel. From this set of computers and controls, everything, and I mean everything on the ship can be controlled.
From there, we went into the main engine room. One may recognize the Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, which in part of the poem says:
“Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere,
Nor any drop to drink.”
Not the case on the Oscar Dyson, because the heat from the engines is used to distill up to 1,000 gallons of freshwater each day!
The ship also uses an Ultra Violet filter to kill all the undesirables in the water just in case.
From there, we got to travel through water tight doors into the rear of the ship. These doors are intimidating, and as our Chief Engineer said, in case there is a loss of power, the door can be bypassed so no one is trapped under the ship.
Here you can see one of the massive winches used for the trawl net the ship uses to catch fish. One winch is over 6 foot in diameter and has a thousand meters of steel cable. I wonder if it will fit on the front of a Jeep…
Those winches are no joke. The ship also has a bunch of hydraulic pumps ready and able to bring those trawl nets in fast if need be. Each of these hydraulic pumps has 1,000 gallons of fluid ready to retrieve a net in a hurry if the need exists.
One really cool thing I learned was that in case the ship had a major issue and could not be steered from the bridge, there is a way to use the ship’s heading underneath for someone to manually operate the rudder.
From there we got a tour of the remainder of the ship.
The Oscar Dyson creates ALOT of energy. Here is a read out for one of the many generators on board. Take a look at the Amps produced.
A ship this big also has multiple fuel tanks. Here the engineers can choose which tank they want to draw from. Interesting also is the engineers have ballast tanks to fill with water to compensate for the fuel the ship uses. Alan also showed us the log book for this, as ships taking on ballast water can be an environmental issue. The crew of the Oscar Dyson follows this protocol as set forth by the United States Coast Guard. You can learn more about that protocol by clicking here
Our last stop was seeing the bow thruster. It was a tight space, but the bow thruster can actually power the ship if the main engine loses power.
Here are some other pictures from the tour:
After our tour, it was back to business as usual, the Walleye Pollock Survey. Our Chief Scientist spends countless hours analyzing the acoustics data then sampling the fish.
The Walleye Pollock which we are studying is a very integral part of the Alaskan ecosystem, as well as a highly monetary yielding fishery. One thing I noticed almost immediately is the color change between juveniles and adults. It is theorized that as the fish get older, they move lower in the water column towards the bottom, thus needing camouflage. Take a look at this picture that shows a mature Walleye Pollock and it’s juvenile counterparts.
You can learn more about the life cycle of Pollock by clicking here.
Here is another site with some useful information on Pollock, click here.
Working on the deck of the Oscar Dyson is no laughing matter. What is required to step on deck? A hard hat, float coat, and life jacket. Watching the deck crew, controlled by the lead fisherman, is like watching an episode of Deadliest Catch… just without the crabs. Giant swells that make the boat go up and down while maintaining a solid footing on a soaking wet deck is no joke. My hat is off to our hard working deck crew and fisherman.
The best part about fishing, is it is just that, fishing. NOAA sets the standard when reducing by-catch (fish you do not want to catch), but sometimes a fish’s appetite gets the best of him/her.
Fishing has always been apart of my life. My Grandfather always said, “If the birds are working, you will find the fish.” A good piece of advice… Look for circling gulls and chances are a group of bigger fish has some bait fish balled up under the surface.
Meet the Scientist:
On board the Oscar Dyson this part of the Walleye Pollock survey is scientist Tom Weber. Tom lives in Durham, New Hampshire and is here to test new custom acoustic equipment. Tom is married to his wife Brinda and has two sons, Kavi and Sachin.
Tom has a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Ocean Engineering from the University of Rhode Island. He attained his PhD in Acoustics from Penn State in State College, PA. Currently Tom is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of New Hampshire. He also is a faculty member of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping (CCOM for short). Both places of employment are located in his hometown of Durham, New Hampshire.
Tom has been affiliated with NOAA and their projects since 2006 and is here to test a custom Acoustic Transducer (a piece of technology that sends out a signal to the ocean floor) and sonar transceiver. As he explained to me, this technology sends out a multi-band frequency and the echo which returns could potentially identify a species of fish hundreds of meters below the boat. He is also here to study Methane gas seeps found along the convergent boundary in the Aleutian Islands. Methane gas seeps are of particular curiosity on this trip because of their unique properties.
On a side note, Tom saw the first grizzly bear of our trip just hanging out on one of the many coastlines we have passed. He said being on the Oscar Dyson is “Not like being in Beaver Stadium, but the ship moves as much as your seats do during a game.” When I asked Tom for any words of advice, he said: “Never name your boat after a bottom fish.” Apparently that is bad luck.
Tom loves working side by side with the scientists on this study and is ecstatic to see this new technology being used on this survey.
Meet the NOAA Corps Officer:
Meet Lieutenant Carl Rhodes, the Oscar Dyson’s Operations Officer, and acting Executive Officer for this part of the Walleye Pollock Survey. LT Rhodes is from Bayfield, Colorado and joined the NOAA Corps to use his degree in science. LT Rhodes has a Bachelors degree in Marine Science with an Associates Degree in Small Vessel Operations from Maine Maritime Academy in Castine, Maine. LT Rhodes also has a Masters of Science in Facilities Management from Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
His job as Operations Officer on board the Oscar Dyson includes:
Ensuring all scientific operations are conducted safely and efficiently.
Act as a liaison between all members of the ship’s crew and scientific parties.
Record and observe all scientific missions during the day.
His extra duties as acting executive officer include:
Managing the ship’s personnel and human resources
Taking care of payroll and travel requests
Supervising junior officers and crew members
Hands down, the best job of all not mentioned above is driving the boat! All officers stand watch (aka drive the boat) for two, four hour shifts a day. Not to mention all the other work they are required to do. Being a NOAA Corps officer is no easy job. LT Rhodes has the goal to one day be the Captain of a NOAA research vessel.
In his free time, LT Rhodes enjoys scuba diving, climbing mountains, hiking, camping, biking, photography, and flying drones. LT Rhodes shared with me how he has overcome many obstacles in his life. His words of advice to any student are: “Anyone can get anywhere if they try hard and really fight for it.”
LT Rhodes and all the rest of the crew of the Oscar Dyson have not had a day off yet on this research cruise, and work 12 hour shifts around the clock. Seeing this first hand has given me much respect for the type of work NOAA does!
Did You Know?
Seafood is a billion dollar industry in Alaska, with more than half of U.S. commercially captured fish caught in the state nicknamed “The Last Frontier.” According to Alaska’s Department of Labor and Workforce, around 32,200 people fished commercially in Alaska in 2011, averaging 8,064 people per month. Salmon harvesting represents half of all fishing jobs in Alaska, with ground fish and halibut following in second and third place, respectively, according to the state’s labor bureau. Read more here.
Thanks for reading my blogs! I am hooked on Alaska and would love to come back! I will see you all soon in Delaware!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow May 19 – June 3, 2015
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast
Date: June 2, 2015
Chief Engineer Tour of Engine Room!
SCHEMATICS- Drawn by John
Chief Engineer John Hohmann took me on a tour of the Engine room here on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. It was fascinating to learn all of the components that make this type of research vessel work. The electrical components, the seawater distillation apparatus, biological sewage treatment, etc. It was an amazing tour. The Bigelow has a diesel-electric drive system using four diesel generators to power to two electric motors. The motors turn one shaft which rotates the propeller. Overall rated horsepower for main propulsion is 3017hp.
The most fascinating part for me was the Evaporator.
Distillation is the production of pure water from sea water by evaporation and re-condensing. Distilled water is produced as a result of evaporating sea water either by a boiling or a flash process. This evaporation enables the reduction of the 32 parts per thousand of dissolved solids in sea water down to the one or two present in distilled water. The machine used is called an ‘evaporator’, although the word ‘distiller’ is also used.
The vacuum in the evaporation machine reduces the pressure to 30 inches of Hg or Mercury to boil water at 180F instead of 212 F
The sea water from the ship’s services is first circulated through the condenser and then part of the outlet is provided as feed to the evaporation chamber. Hot diesel engine jacket water or steam is passed through the heater nest and, because of the reduced pressure in the chamber, the sea water boils. The steam produced rises and passes through a water separator, or demister, which prevents water droplets passing through. In the condensing section the steam becomes pure water, which is drawn off by a distillate pump. The sea water feed is regulated by a flow controller and about half the feed is evaporated. The remainder constantly overflows a weir and carries away the extra salty water or brine. A combined brine and air ejector draws out the air and brine from the evaporator.
They need to make their own electricity on board ranging from 110 Volts for phones and computers to 750 Volts for some of the ship propulsion motors. Each of those require various circuit breakers seen below.
NOAA Teacher At Sea Amy Orchard Aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster September 14 – 27, 2014
Mission: Deep Habitat Classification Geographical area of cruise: Tortugas Ecological Reserve and surrounding non-reserve area Date: September 21 & 22, 2014
Weather: September 22, 2014 20:00 hours
Latitude 24° 25.90 N Longitude 83° 80.0 W
Few clouds, clear
Wind speed 10 knots
Air Temperature: 28.5° Celsius (83.3° Fahrenheit)
Sea Water Temperature: 29.9° Celsius (86° Fahrenheit)
CLICK ON THE SMALL PHOTOS TO MAKE THEM LARGER
All week we have had the privilege of using the Remotely Operated Vehicle. This model is the Mohawk 18. It has two cameras, one that provides still photographs and the other takes high-definition video. Both are geo-referenced so we know exactly which latitude and longitude we are working.
It has an amazing maneuverability and gets around, over and under things quite quickly. The footage is sent back up aboard in real time via a long fiber optic umbilical cord.
This amazing piece of equipment has allowed us to see down to depths that the divers would not have been able to reach. It has also allowed us lengthy bottom times that the divers would not have been able to sustain. Most of the divers have been trained to dive with double air supply tanks, which affords them more bottom time, but the ROV can stay down for hours and hours at a time. The only limitation is the stress it puts on the pilots. Jason and Lance, our pilots, said that a four hour dive is about all they can run at a time without getting extremely crossed-eyed and need a break! However, they are troopers and we have been doing multiple ROV dives each day, some lasting up to 4 hours.
Here are some fun things we have seen.
The last ROV dive of our day (& this cruise) was to a 56’ shrimp boat wreck which was down 47 meters (154 ft) just along the boundary of the North Reserve. We saw nine Goliath Groupers (Epinephelus itajara) all at once. Groups of these fish are often seen on wrecks, but the scientists were a bit surprised about the high density on such a small boat. Due to over fishing of the Goliath Grouper, about twenty years ago, a moratorium was placed on fishing them and they were being considered for Endangered Status. After just 10 years, a significant increase in population size was observed. It’s still illegal to bring them over board but they are not on the Endangered Species list. Juveniles live in the mangroves but adults live in deeper waters where our scientists were able to observe them with the ROV.
During the last 6 days we spent 14 hours and 20 minutes underwater with the ROV. The entire time was recorded in SD and the scientists recorded the most significant events in HD. They also sat at the monitors the entire time snapping still shots as often as they saw things they wanted photos of. 957 digital stills were taken. The longest dive was 4 hours and 10 minutes. Our deepest dive was 128 meters (420 feet!)
The screen on the left shows the map of the area the ROV is surveying.
These maps were created by the Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) The ROV depends on the MBES as do the fish scientists. Without these maps, the ROV would not know where to dive and the fish scientists would not know where to conduct their research. The MBES gives the fish scientists a wider view of the terrain than they can get on their own by SCUBA diving in smaller areas.
The Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) uses SOund NAvigation and Ranging (Sonar) to create high-definition maps of the sea floor and it’s contours (as well as other objects such as shipwrecks) by shooting sound waves (from 512 sonic beams) down to the seabed and then listening as they reflect back up to the ship.
This is very similar to the way a topographic (topo) map represents the three-dimensional features (mountain and valleys) of the land above water. Instead of using contour lines to show variations in relief, MBS uses color to depict the bathymetry (submarine topography) Red shows the shallowest areas, purple the deepest.
Another important element of the MBES for the fish researchers is called backscatter. This byproduct of the sonar action wasn’t always collected. Not until advances in technology allowed for an understanding of how to gather useful information from the backscatter did technicians realized how valuable it can be. Backscatter is the amount of acoustic energy being received by the sonar after it is done interacting with the seafloor. It is now recognized that the information from backscatter can determine substrate type. Different types of substrate will “scatter” the sound energy differently. For example, a softer bottom such as mud will return a weaker signal than a harder bottom, like rock.
Layering together the multibeam data (which provides seafloor depth information and is computed by measuring the time that it takes for the signal to return to the sonar) with the backscatter, provides information which is especially helpful to fish researchers as it can assist them in classifying habitat type. This allows them to know where they might find the species of fish they are looking to study.
Tim Olsen, Chief Engineer, toured Camy and I through the engine room. It was overwhelming how many wires, cranks, moving parts and metal pieces there were. Tim and the other engineers are brilliant. I can not fathom what it takes to keep this 187 foot ship going with it’s multiple cranes, winches, engines, thrusters, small boats, air conditioners, toilets, kitchen appliances, etc.
I was most interested in the water systems. The ship makes all its own drinking water since salt water is non-potable and it would take a lot of storage space to carry fresh water (space its tight on a ship!) They have two systems. One is a reverse osmosis system which, using lots of pressure, moves sea water through a membrane to remove the salts. This system produces 1500 gallons of potable water a day. The second one is a flash distiller. In this system, seawater is heated by the engine and then pumped into a vacuum chamber where it is “flashes” into water vapor which is condensed and collected. The distilling system makes 1800 gallons a day aboard the Nancy Foster. Distillers, in some form, have been used on ships since the 1770s.
The other thing that caught my attention was the sewage treatment system. Earth Campers, this one is a bit smaller than the one we toured!
Of course, I also took a ride out in one of the small boats to assist the divers. Sometimes all I do is fill out the dive log and pull the buoys back into the boat but I really enjoy being out in the open ocean, feeling the sea spray in my face and watching the light move across the top of the water.
This week Tim has been coming around every now and then wearing his Domino King’s crown and cape, reminding us all to come challenge him to a game of Mexican Train (a fun dominos game).
Tim has won every tournament game on the Nancy Foster in the last three months and has the bling to show for it! Then tonight, to the surprise of all, one of the scientists, Mike, dethroned the king! This was the first time ever that a member of the science team has won the championship game.
Today was a fairly quiet day. Not too much science was done except setting out a few more fish traps.
We welcomed aboard NOAA’s Mary Tagilareni, Deputy Superintendent for Operations & Education and Beth Dieveney, Deputy Superintendent for Science & Policy as well as Lonny Anderson, our new dive master. From the FWC, Bill Sympson, Biological Scientist, as well as our conch biologists Bob Glazer, Associate Research Scientist and Einat Sandbank, Biological Scientist.
Lonny – dive master, Beth & Mary
newly arrived Bill with Jeff, Dani and Paul
Einat Sandbank – conch biologist
Bob Glazer – Conch expert
Also while in port, a few of the crew dived under the ship to check for any calcium carbonate secreting critters that may be growing on the transducer. While down there, they found some lobster pot line that had caught on the propeller.
To end the evening, a pod of dolphins can by again and Ensign Conor Maginn caught this video.
WORD OF THE DAY: Extirpated
BONUS QUESTION: Tell me about any Sonoran Desert species which were once being listed as Threatened or Endangered (or were being considered to be listed) and then had their populations recover.
Answer to the quiz from the last blog: Lion Fish are INVASIVE.
Geographical Area of Cruise: Bering Sea South of Russia
Date: July 20, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Speed: 15.11 kt
Air Temperature: 9.5 degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1016.9
Latitude: 5717.3530 N
Longitude: 17317.1393 W
Science and Technology Log:
Kresimir Williams, one of the scientists on board the Oscar Dyson, has been with NOAA for over ten years. He is a Fisheries Biologist. He was born in Switzerland and moved to Yugoslavia, now Croatia, a year and half later. Kresimir has always loved fish ever since he was a little boy. He as many as ten aquariums in his house growing up. He moved to the United States when he was 17 years old. His mother is from Croatia, and his dad is from the United States. Kresimir received his bachelor’s degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama with a degree in Biology and Marine Science. He received his Master’s degree from Auburn University, in Alabama with a degree in Aquaculture Fisheries. He continued his education at the University of Washington, where he earned his PhD in fisheries and aquatic sciences. He currently lives in Seattle with his wife and two children. Kresimir current interests include integrating new technologies into marine surveys.
He is a fisheries biologist for NOAA and works on fishery surveys investigating new technology to make the survey process more accurate and effective. Kresimir, along with fellow scientists Rick Towler and Scott McEntire, invented the camtrawl. The camtrawl is made up of two small industrial cameras, protected by water proof, pressure resistant housing. The cameras are attached to the trawl nets when deployed for fishing. The cameras continuously take pictures (about eight pictures per second) in the net. It photographs the animals as they swim through the net.
When the camtrawl is returned to the ship, the pictures can be downloaded for observation. Using two cameras in stereo, allows scientists, to accurately length the fish they observe. Looking at an object from two different perspectives allows you to see how far away an object is. If you close one eye and look at an object, it is harder to tell how far it is away, however, if you use both eyes you have better depth-perception. How will seeing the fish inside the net, in the ocean, help with the surveying process? The camtrawl will make the process more efficient and save time. Fewer people will be needed to conduct the surveys therefore reducing cost. It uses a non-lethal method of sampling the fish; the codend (the end of the trawl net that collects all the fish) can be left open allowing the fish to swim through easily, so the fish will not be captured and killed. And finally, it allows scientists to sample a greater range of animals sizes. Kresimir is still experimenting with the camtrawl and testing out its’ effectiveness. He is very enthusiastic about its prospects. I really enjoy viewing the pictures and seeing the fish on the monitor. I have attached a couple of my favorite pictures for you to view.
The Scientific Method in Action:
The Scientific Method is actively used in science careers and is very similar to the Engineering Design Process. It is a process that scientists follow to solve problems in order to test a theory or answer a need. In order for the camtrawl to be invented, Kresimir and Rick had to have an idea or question to get the process started. Next, the idea had to be constructed, researched, and tested (testing is the fun part) numerous times. During testing, data is collected and organized and then a conclusion can be generated based on the data. If the idea is not successful, then it is important to go back to the beginning, make changes, and experiment again. If the idea is successful, then all is good, however, there is always room for improvement. Scientists continue to test and retest until they get their expected results or prove themselves wrong and learn something totally new in the process.
Touring the Engine Rooms
I got the chance to tour the engine rooms at the bottom of the Oscar Dyson. First Engineer, Kyle Chernoff, graciously escorted me and explained how everything works. He received his bachelors degree in Marine Engineering at California Maritime University. After graduation he had to take a series of seven coast guard exams in order to be qualified to work as a marine engineer.
Besides the controls on the bridge, you can control the direction of the ship from the engine room. The ship has many back up motors and generators so that if one breaks down or a fire ensues, the ship can continue on its course. This is reassuring news for me and all of the 29 other crew aboard the ship. I had to wear ear plugs while walking through the generator room. It was extremely loud due to the noise the generators make to keep the ship running. One of the pieces of equipment, I found most interesting, was the evaporator. The Oscar Dyson has two. The evaporators use heat to remove the salt from the sea water and convert it into drinking water. During the process UV (ultraviolet) is used to kill any bacteria in the water to make it safe for drinking. As well as the evaporators, the ship has a special machine that removes any oil before water is released back into the ocean. This protects wildlife living in the ocean. What a great use of resources.
While on the bridge this week, I saw porpoises and whales. I did not get pictures because the ship moves fast and so do the animals. I had two gorgeous days, where the sun was out and I could feel the heat on my face. Even the foggy days are nice, however ominous. It rarely rained and the seas were relatively calm. Thankfully, I did not have to don my survival suit except during weekly drills. I participated in a really cool experiment on this trip. Alyssa, the survey technician, gave me two Styrofoam cups (the exact same size) and asked me to color them, in which, I did. The next morning during the scheduled CTD, Alyssa placed one of my cups into a small net bag and attached it to the CTD device. The bag was deployed to the bottom of the ocean floor. Once back on deck of the ship, she retrieved the cup and returned it to me. It looked the exact same with the exception that it shrunk. Really awesome! The air bubbles in the styrofoam cup and the pressure from the depth of the ocean cause this to happen. It would shrink even more if we were in deeper waters.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have learned so much. My voyage on the Bering Sea is quickly coming to an end. In a couple of days, I will board the small puddle jumper from Dutch Harbor to Anchorage and eventually end up in Delaware. The science team, NOAA Corps, and crew have been wonderful to work with during my time at sea. This has truly been an experience of a lifetime.
Getting to know the Crew:
NOAA Corps LT Greg Schweitzer, Executive Officer or XO
In my last blog, I introduced you to the Commanding Officer of the Oscar Dyson. Another vital member of the NOAA Corps and the crew of the Oscar Dyson, is the Executive Officer (XO), LT Greg Schweitzer. He is married and has four children. He has been with NOAA for seven years and was in the Air Force before that for 10 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in Meteorology and in Management. He received his Master’s Degree in Environmental Science. While not at sea, he resides with his family in Kentucky. He is second in command of the Oscar Dyson. He reports directly to the Commanding Officer and oversees the officers, stewards (cooks), engineers, deck crew, survey technicians, and scientists. He is in charge of the ship’s budget, time cards and attendance, discipline, and port-side logistics. He started his NOAA career, after a four month officer training, then aboard the NOAA ship Henry Bigelow for 2 ½ years out of Newport, Rhode Island. Because of his past military experience, he became an XO after only six years. This is his last leg at sea before he starts a new land assignment.
An experience he really enjoyed during his NOAA career, was working on his first land assignment in Fernandina Beach, Florida. He worked for NOAA’s Protected Resource Division. Part of the XO’s job was to go out, on a small boat, off the coast of Florida and Georgia, to help disentangle North Atlantic Right Whales. The XO describes the whales as curious animals that spend most of their time at the surface of the water. Because they like to hang out on the surface of the water, they easily get tangled in nets and crab pots. Right Whales are on the critically endangered list. In the past, they were hunted to almost extinction. They got their name because they are easy to see and catch, so therefore fishermen, called them the Right Whales to fish. There are approximately 350 North Atlantic Right Whales living at this time. They eat mainly plankton and krill. The Right Whales are migratory animals. They are located off the Florida-Georgia coast during the winter where they calve and then travel up the east coast to Cape Code in the summertime. They swim along the Atlantic Ocean, right outside of Delaware. Check out this website for more information on the North Atlantic Right Whales.
I asked the XO if he had any advice for my students. He said to remember that there is no perfect path and that students should be open to new opportunities and be willing to take on new adventures. He lived in Kentucky until he was out of high school. He never imagined he would ever leave. His Air Force and NOAA careers have given him opportunities, he might never had experienced. He also adds, that it is important to go out and contribute and remember that there is still a lot of unknown discoveries on our planet, just waiting to be explored.
Meet the Scientist: Carwyn Hammond
Title: NOAA Research Fisheries Biologist—10 years
Job Responsibilities: Commercial fishing gear research: she looks for ways to modify the fishing gear to reduce impacts to the seafloor habitat and reduce bycatch (animals caught in net other than intended; i.e. Dolphin caught in a crab fisheries net) of commercially important species. She works directly with commercial fisheries as well as helps conduct surveys for NOAA.
Education: Undergraduate Degree in Marine Resource Development at the University of Rhode Island; Master’s Degree in Fisheries at the University of Washington.
Hometown: She was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to Hancock, MA at the age of six.
Current Residence: Seattle, Washington
Why pursue this career? When deciding on a career, she asked, “What degree will let me play in the ocean?” and that is how she got started in the fisheries field of work.
Recently, she and her co-worker, Craig Rose, won the best paper award for their work on RAMP or Reflex Assessment Mortality Predictor. Medical doctors use RAMP to check patients’ vital signs or reflexes such as tapping your knee to see if your leg reacts or kicks. They applied this method to crabs. On crabs they check six different reflexes: flare (legs moving up and down), leg retraction (pulling on leg), chela (claws), eyes, mouth, and abdomen. Checking their vital signs allows scientists to help fishermen modify their fishing gear in order to reduce the mortality rate of their catch.
Good advice: I asked Carwyn, “What would you tell kids interested in pursuing a science career?”she responded, “follow your gut and never stop asking questions”.
Meet the Scientist: Dr. Mikhail A. Stepanenko
Title: Senior Biologist, Northern Pacific Fish Resources Laboratory, Russia
Job Responsibilities: In charge of pollock stock assessment and providing data for total allowable catch for Russia. Building a international relationship with the United States of America. He works closely with the New Fisheries Agreement between Russia, United States, Japan, Korea, and China, which works on improving fishery management for all fish. He works on both Russian and United States fishery vessels, including NOAA’s Oscar Dyson as part of the science team.
Home: Vladivostok, Russia where his wife currently lives. He has two daughters and four grandchildren, all of whom reside in the United States.
Why pursue this career? He has always had a dream to be a seaman and he loves sport fishing. He has an interest in animals and marine biology.
Mikhail has been working in the fisheries industry since graduating university in 1968.
New Riddle from theOscar DysonCrew: Why does a wet deck remind you of music?
Scroll to the bottom of my blog for the answer!
Did you know?
Did you know, during a new moon (the moon is not shining) out at sea, giant schools of anchovies glow on the ocean surface?
Did you know the Oscar Dyson uses 500,000 gallons of fuel a year?
NOAA Teacher at Sea Jennifer Petro Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces July 1 — 14, 2013
Mission: Marine Protected Area Surveys Geographic area of cruise: Southern Atlantic Date: July 7, 2013
Weather Data Air temperature: 27.°C (81.5°F)
Barometer: 1022.50 mb
Wind direction: 195°
Wind speed: 6.1 knots
Water temp: 26.6° C (79.3°F)
Latitude: 34 44.62 N
Longitude: 75 91.98 W
Science and Technology Log
Today we find ourselves off of the coast of northern North Carolina where we will be for the next few days. An exciting aspect about this cruise is that we will be multi-beam mapping (a blog about that very soon) and sending the ROV down for surveys in new areas off of North Carolina. For the past few days I have been working with the team from the Panama City Southeast Fisheries Science Center identifying fish. This can sometimes be a very difficult prospect when the ROV is flying over the fish at 2 knots. The team from SEFSC consists of Andy David, Stacey Harter and Heather Moe. David is a 23 year veteran of NOAA and has been working on the MPA project since 2004. Stacey has been working on this project since its inception as well. Heather is new to the team and is just coming off of a 1 year assignment with the NOAA Corps at the South Pole.
There are several major objectives of this survey cruise.
There are several major objectives of this survey cruise.
(1) To survey established MPAs to collect data to compare to previous years’ surveys.
An important aspect of these cruises is to establish the effectiveness of an MPA. In some MPAs there is usually no fishing allowed. This includes trolling. bottom fishing (hook and line) as well as all commercial methods of fishing. The MPAs we are studying are Type II MPAs where trolling is permitted. They are looking for seven specific target species.
According to Andy, these species have been chosen due to their commercial value. During each dive a record is taken as to the type of species seen. We are specifically looking for the target species but we are keeping track of ALL the species that we see. I think it is fantastic to see scientists get excited about seeing something new. So far we have seen Oceanic Sunfish (2), Redband Parrotfish, Tautog (a more northerly found fish), Longsnout Butterflyfish and one fish species that we have not identified yet. There is an emphasis on Lionfish counts to assist in gauging how the introduction of this invasive species is affecting the overall fish populations. In some areas the Lionfish numbers have increased dramatically over the years. Today we actually saw one try to eat a smaller fish! They are very abundant in some locations and not in others but they have been present in 95% of our dives.
(2) Survey outside of the MPAs.
You may ask “Why survey outside the area?” We want to know if the MPAs are indeed doing what they were designed to do: protect fish species. That was very evident in Jacksonville where the numbers and size of Gag Grouper and Scamp far exceeded the numbers and size outside the MPA.
(3) Survey new sites for possible MPA designation.
There is a process that is followed when determining if an area is a suitable MPA candidate. What we are doing on this cruise is both mapping and surveying new areas that have been proposed as MPA sites. This is the ground level stage. The MPAs in the region that we are in are ultimately determined by the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
Data during the dives is collected in a few ways. There are several video monitors that we watch and we call out species that we see. A data keyboard, like the one Harbor Branch uses for invertebrates counts, is used to keep track of types and number of each species seen. During every dive a video from the camera on the ROV is recorded and species are highlighted and recorded on to the DVD. This data will be analyzed thoroughly back at the lab and then sent to the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council.
I am happy to announce that I have finally gotten my sea legs. It wasn’t as bad as I had envisioned but I was definitely concerned that it would be a major issue. We had some weather on Thursday, July 4 and that was the worst of it for me. I now hardly feel the vessel move. It has been fun over the past several days. We are in the lab most of the days so we only get to really see the crew at mealtimes and after dinner. The crew, from the CO to the engineers, are all great people. They are happy to answer questions, point you in the right direction and are quick to say hi and ask you about your day. Yesterday afternoon one of the engineers, Steve, gave us a tour of the engine room. All of the ship’s infrastructure is supported by this room. The engines run the generators for power, support the a/c, house the desalination filters (all the fresh water on board comes from salt water) as well as getting the boat from point A to point B. I was impressed!
Today after our last ROV dive, a school of Mahi mahi followed it (the ROV) up to the surface. The fishing was on! The crew brought out rods, reels and bait and the fishing commenced. Collectively we managed to land one bull or male and 2 smaller Mahi mahi. It was a nice diversion for all of us, scientists and crew, as we were back to work all too quickly. Fish tacos for dinner!
Fair weather and calm seas.
Did you know that…
Some grouper can grow to be so huge that when they open their mouths to feed, they create a suction that is powerful enough to inhale small prey.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Marsha Skoczek Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces July 6-19, 2012
Mission: Marine Protected Areas Survey Geographic area of cruise: Subtropical North Atlantic, off the east coast of Georgia. Date: July 15, 2012
Location: Latitude: 32.47618N
Longitude: 78.19054 W
Weather Data from the Bridge Air Temperature: 27.6C (81.7 F)
Wind Speed: 6 knots (6.9 mph)
Wind Direction: From the SE
Relative Humidity: 75 %
Barometric Pressure: 1018.3
Surface Water Temperature: 28.4C (83.12 F)
Science and Technology Log
In order for the scientists to find the fish they are studying on this cruise, they need to know where the areas of favorable habitat are located. Old nautical charts are not one hundred percent accurate–sometimes they can be hundreds of kilometers off. Early ocean floor mapping used long lines with a lead weight which was hung off the side of the ship. As the ship moved forward through the water, the long lines would get behind the ship making it very difficult to get an exact reading. It wasn’t until sonar came into general use during World War II, that it was discovered to be useful for bathymetric mapping.
Sonar works by sending a single sound wave to the ocean floor. As it reflects back toward the ship, a hydrophone listens for the return sound. The length of time it takes for that sound wave to return to the ship can be used to calculate the depth of the ocean in that location. The speed of sound in water travels at approximately 1,500 meters per sec (m/s) which is about five times faster than sound travels in air. The problem with single beam sonar is that the data only plots the one single line beneath the ship. It does not give the complete picture and gaps in data were often filled in using the readings taken around the area as an estimate.
So how is multibeam sonar different from single beam sonar? With multibeam sonar, it is just as the name implies–multiple sound beams are sent toward the ocean bottom. For the depths we are working on, the multibeam sonar on the Pisces sends out 70 beams of sound every .67 seconds. Within a fraction of a second, these “pings” are reflected off of the ocean bottom and back to the transducer. The time it takes for all 70 of those pings to return to the transducer determines the depth at each point. The echogram screen illustrates the bottom features in real time and will even pick up large schools of fish in the water column. As the ship continues to move up and down the survey lines, the raw data is collected. The distance between the survey lines is determined by the depth of the area to be mapped. To set the survey lines, we are using 1.5 times depth so, if the water depth averages 100 meters at the mapping location, the survey lines are set at 150 meters, (.08 nautical miles) apart. Tonight, the ocean depth at our mapping location is about 60 m so the survey lines are set at 90 meters (.05 nm) apart. The goal when laying out the survey lines is to overlap the previous lines by about 25%. This will insure a more complete picture.
It is not simple enough to just take the raw data from the return pings. The temperature, salinity and depth of the ocean in the mapping area can create slight variations in the return speed. Temperature, salinity and depth can influence the speed of the return signal, so we use the CTD to gather readings each morning as they are wrapping up the mapping for the night. This information along with the information on the ship’s roll, pitch, and yawl from the Position and Orientation System for Marine Vessels (POSMV) are plugged into software that helps process and clean up the data. From there, the data is converted into a “geo tif” file where it can be plugged into GIS mapping . The final product is a full color 3-dimensional image of the mapping area.
Ideally the scientists would have multibeam information for each of the sites they want to study that day. To make this happen, the night before the ROV dive the ship will make its way to the next day’s study area so the geographers can map all night. The survey lines are selected using bathymetry maps as well as looking at the existing multibeam maps of the area to see if there are any gaps that need to be filled in. The idea is to give the scientists as much information as possible so they can make informed decisions about where to study. Time on the ship is extremely expensive and they want to make sure they take full advantage of that time by finding the best habitats to study. Without the multibeam images, the scientists have to make a best guess as to where to map using old and possibly out of date information.
Today I took a tour of the Pisces’ engine room. Engineer Steven Clement was nice enough to show me around and explain everything for me. It is amazing to me how this ship is like its own little city. The ship creates its own electricity using diesel-powered generators. It takes four generators to power the ship at full speed which is about 15 knots. The engines are so loud that I had on double ear protection and it was still extremely loud to walk past them. Using all four engines all day would burn up 3,000 gallons of diesel fuel. The Pisces is capable of holding 100,000 gallons of fuel which should last the ship several months at sea. The electricity that is left over from powering the engines is used as the power supply for all of the electronics on board.
Other ways that the Pisces reminds me of a small city is the water. The ship creates its own drinking water with a reverse osmosis system complete with UV filter and is capable of producing 2.8 gallons per minute. It also has two hot water heaters attached to a compressor to keep the hot water pumped up into the pipes of the ship. I do have to say that the hot water on this ship is extremely hot!! There is no need to wait for hot water, it comes out instantly when I turn on the faucet. When I shower, I have the cold on full blast and just a smidge of hot water to get a normal temperature shower. Even our waste water is cleaned up in the Pisces’ own waste water treatment facility which uses microbes to break down the waste products before it is released back out to sea.
Other than pulling into port occasionally for fuel and supplies, the Pisces is really a self-contained vessel capable of cruising at sea for long periods of time.
Ocean Careers Interview
In this section, I will be interviewing scientists and crew members to give my students ideas for careers they may find interesting and might want to pursue someday. Today I interviewed Dr. Laura Kracker.
What is your job title? I am a Geographer with NOAA National Ocean Service in Charleston, South Carolina.
What type of responsibilities do you have with this job? Usually I work on projects using acoustics to map fish in the water column. Using fisheries acoustics, we can map the distribution of fish in an area and detect large schools as well. On this mission, I am using multibeam to map seafloor habitats.
What type of education did you need to get this job? I earned my Associate’s Degree in agriculture from Alfred College in New York. When my children were little, I stayed home with them. While I was home with them I earned my Bachelors in Painting. Then I went to work in a fisheries office for a couple of years before deciding to go back to college to get my Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Science from the University of Buffalo. I then continued on to my PhD in Geography and GIS, also from the University of Buffalo. My dissertation was on Using GIS to Apply Landscape Ecology to Fish Habitats. So I have combined all of my experiences to get me to where I am today.
What are some of your best experiences have you had with this job? I love being on a ship. I spend as many as 55 days a year on ships, often at the request of other scientists that need help with multibeam sonar. I love geography, it gives us a framework to put everything together, you can layer more and more information onto a map to find a complete picture.
What advice do you have for students wanting a career in marine biology? Get a broad foundation before you specialize. You don’t have to take a direct route to where you want to go.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier September 17 — October 7, 2011
Mission: Hydrographic Survey Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage Date: Friday, October 7, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Clouds: Partly Cloudy 1/8
Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles
Wind: 4 knots
Dry Bulb: 8.5 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1018.5 millibars
Latitude: 54.47 degrees North
Longitude: -132.32 degrees West
Science and Technology Log
Every day we tend to take for granted the simple things in life such as having electricity to power to charge our cell phones, to be able to turn on the water whenever we need a drink, or to make sure the toilets flush in the restroom. When we are on a ship at sea for a long period of time, it is important that all of these systems that impact of our daily life are functioning properly. We cannot take an extension cord and run it from the port to wherever we are heading so that we have electricity. The Rainier, like any other ship, is like a floating city and is self-sufficient in its abilities to generate its own electricity, create and store its own fresh water, process its own sewage, and still get to where it needs to go.
There are two 12 cylinder two-cycle diesel engines that power the ship. Each engine is geared independently to individual propeller shafts. This means that the ship can actually be steered by adjusting the pitch or “bite” of the propellers. The average speed for the Rainier from these engines is about 12 knots. Power is generated on the ship through two 415 kilowatt, 450 volt, 3 phase, 60 cycle generators, which are driven by the diesel engines. The generated voltage is stepped down through transformers to supply the 120-volt power for lighting, appliances, and electronic equipment on the ship. The heat rejection from the diesel engines is also used for the evaporators which help produce the ships water.
There are two water storage tanks that can hold up to 8390 gallons of water. This amount of water will only last us a couple of days because the ship uses about 2000 gallons of water a day. There are two flash type distilling plants that generate our potable water, which converts sea water into our fresh water for the ship. They are able to convert around 6000 gallons of fresh water a day for all of the needs of the ship. Hot water and steam for our needs are provided by two pressurized hot water boilers that use diesel fuel to heat the water up to around 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
All of these various systems and machinery are the lifeblood of the ship. They help provide the basic needs for the crew in order to survive for long periods of time at sea and for the ship to fulfill its mission. Without the engineers monitoring and maintaining the ships equipment we could not accomplish the tasks required of the ship . There is extensive amounts of hands-on experience and training that comes with this territory of keeping the ship alive. This training can come from collegiate academies, prior military service, trade schools, or wanting to come into an entry-level position to experience life at sea.
*Special thanks to Cliff Elsner for giving me an extensive tour of the engine room and helping me share this information about the heart of the ship.
It’s funny how a person adapts to their environment over time. I was so excited to be going to Alaska to take part in this experience, but I had no idea what it would be like or how much I would learn. Noises that were beyond annoying at the beginning of the trip become a constant humming that the Rainier shares each day. The vibrations and gentle sway that would keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, start to rock you to sleep each night in preparation for the days work ahead. However, there are times when she may want to rock, but the Pacific Ocean wants you to roll. Then there isn’t much sleep to be had. The weather would like to break the Rainier, but she is a floating fortress of steel that continues on knowing there is a job to be done. It is a constant rhythm with this ship. The waves keep time and rarely does anyone miss a beat. The pulse and the life of the ship stay in complete sync. With everyone doing their part we come to the finale as we finish the last day of work and pull into port. There is a welcomed intermission between journeys as we head into Ketchikan, Alaska.
I am so grateful for this experience to see Alaska, to see the wildlife, and to see what hydrographic surveying is all about. However, I never imagined I would meet so many wonderful people on this ship. Each person I came in contact with had wonderful characteristics, personalities, and skills to share. I admire what each person has to contribute from every department on the ship. If they were not here then the ship would not function to its fullest potential and complete its mission. I am thankful for each handshake, each ear to ear smile, the jokes played on each other and myself, the hearty laughter at dinner that keeps us all sane, the hugs of support, the high fives of accomplishment, but most importantly the many lessons that you have taught me that I will keep with me for a lifetime. I love this ship, I love this crew, and I loved this experience. Thank you to everyone that made this possible.
NOAA Teacher at Sea
Staci DeSchryver Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson July 26 – August 12, 2011
Mission: Pollock Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska Location: Barnabas Strait57 deg 22.630 N, 152 deg 24.910W Heading: 67.8 deg
Date: August 9, 2011
Weather Data From the Bridge Partly Cloudy Skies
Temp: 13.5 deg
Dewpoint: 6 deg
Barometric Pressure: 1020 mb, falling, then steady
Wind: 240 deg at 12kts
Seas: Calm stn model 08.11
Science and Technology Log
The start of my first official shift onboard the Oscar Dyson was an interesting one! We had lost some time (11 days) to some complications, so our cruise goals shifted a bit from the original plan. We had to focus on the most important aspects of the mission, and sacrifice carefully, as it wasn’t plausible to complete the entire mission in the time allotted. One of the major steps for completing the season was to do what is known as a calibration. In order to save time, we did the calibration on my first night out on the job!
Calibrations are typically done during the daytime because the fish are curious little beasts. During the day, they move lower in the water column, and therefore do not interfere with the calibration of the system, mainly because they are so far away they are oblivious to it. At night, however, they party at a shallower depth, and sometimes their acoustic signatures can mar the data collected during a calibration. It is critical to the scientists that they calibrate the acoustic system accurately, and if there is a school of fish swarming the calibration tools, well, it’s a big ‘ole mess. Given that we are on a shortened time schedule, it made practical sense to conduct the calibration overnight.
Why do we calibrate the acoustic transducer? Think of it like this. Have you ever baked cookies before and followed the directions to the letter, only to have them come out of the oven like crispy critters or balls of goo? Or, let’s say, you have a favorite recipe you use all the time, and you gave the recipe to a friend who makes the same cookies the same way, yet complains that they are overcooked? Well, one of the reasons that the recipe may have not turned out was because either your oven, or your friend’s oven was not properly calibrated. Let’s say, for example, the recipe calls to bake the cookies at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
If you turn the dial to 350 degrees, it is reasonable to expect that the oven is, in fact, 350 degrees. But there is an equal possibility that the oven is actually only 325, or maybe even 400 degrees. How would you double check to see if your instrument is off its mark? One solution is to heat the oven to 350, and use a meat or candy thermometer that you know has an accurate readout and then put the thermometer in the oven. If the candy thermometer reads out at 350, you can be certain that your oven really is 350 when you turn it on. If the candy thermometer reads out at 375, then you can be certain there’s an error in the readout of your instrument. Calibration corrects for those errors.
Calibration on this survey is important because scientists use information from the acoustic transducer to determine the types and abundance of organisms in the water column. If the instrument they use to make these predictions is off in any way, then all of the data they collect could be determined to be insufficient or unreliable. Calibration also ensures that acoustic measurements (and survey results) are comparable between different cruises, locations, and times.
Calibration is done much in the same way as an oven is calibrated. We take an object that has a known and reliable return rate on the acoustic transducer, and hang it below the ship. Then, the scientists will “ping” acoustic soundings off of the object and see how well the return matches up with the known return rate. If it’s off, then they can “tune” the transducers, much like a guitar is tuned.
It is only necessary to calibrate the transducers twice per survey – once at the beginning of the survey (one was done in June) and one at the end of the survey (which was now). When the transducer is calibrating, the ship must be as close to stationary as possible. This is why the lead scientist chose to do the calibration at night – we can’t calibrate and conduct assessment surveys at the same time. Therefore, it’s a one-pony show when the transducer is calibrating. Almost all other scientific field work ceases while the calibration is completed.
There are two materials used for calibration for this particular transducer on the Oscar Dyson. The first is Tungsten Carbide, and the second is pure Copper. These small, spherical objects are quite cleverly hung below the ship off of three downriggers attached to the port and starboard rails. In order to hang the spheres, the strings on either side of the ship must connect. In a sense, we ask the Dyson to “jump rope” to get the calibration sphere underneath the ship in the correct position.
Calibration takes about six to eight hours to complete. I got to help with setting the downriggers up, changing out the calibration spheres, and breaking down the equipment. As it turns out, the transducer only needed minor adjustments this time, which is pretty typical for the ship. However, it’s important to double check so that if there is a problem, it can be detected early and corrected.
Today, the chief engineer of the ship, Jeff, gave us a tour of the engine room. Holy cow, was that impressive! I don’t know what I was thinking when I thought that the guts of this beast were contained in one small room. They most decidedly are not. There are two whole decks below the lowest level I know of – and they are filled with all kinds of interesting equipment. We got to see all of the engines (there are 4 diesel generators), where the water is purified for consumption, and all of the internal components of the winch system that lowers and raises our fishing nets. As if that weren’t enough, we popped open a floor hatch, climbed down the ladder two flights, and got to stand right on the “skin” of the boat. Translation: The only thing separating my feet and the big blue sea was a thin little piece of metal. It was so cool. The ship is designed to be “acoustically silent” – like a stealth fighter, except they don’t call it stealth and we aren’t fighting enemies – we are hunting fish. Because of this, many of the larger pieces of equipment are hoisted up on platforms that silence their working parts. The ship has diesel-electric propulsion.
This means that there are four diesel generators that make electricity, which then gets split into two different forms – one type is for propulsion, and the other is for our lights and other conveniences. It sounds really complicated, and much of what the engineers do on board is quite complicated, but everything onboard is smartly labeled to help the engineers get the job done. I also learned today what the funny numbers on all of the passage doors mean. See the caption for a description.
One thing that Cat and I were discussing this morning while searching through binoculars in Alitak Bay for interesting woodland creatures was that we can go pretty much wherever we want to go on this ship. Everyone who works and lives here is so friendly and welcoming. They answer any of our questions (even the silly ones) and they all have such cool life stories. What’s better is that everyone is willing to share what they’ve learned, experiences they’ve had, and accomplishments they’ve achieved to make it here. I am aboard a utopian city bursting with genuine people who love what they do. Now, please understand that it’s not that I ever expected the opposite for even a single second. The science and technology is definitely neat, but the people who live and work here are what is making this trip a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Do you know….
Your Ship Superstitions?
1. Bananas on a boat are considered bad luck.
2. Black luggage for sailors is considered bad luck.
3. One should never whistle – especially on the bridge or in the wheelhouse – you may whistle up a storm.
4. To see a black cat before boarding is good luck.
5. Dolphins swimming along the ship are good luck.
6. Never sail on Friday – it’s unlucky.
7. Never sail on the first Monday in April – also unlucky.
8. Never say the word “Drown” on a ship, as it encourages the act.
9. Sailors should avoid flat-footed people – they are bad luck.
10. Never step onboard a ship with your left foot first.
NOAA Teacher at Sea John Taylor-Lehman Onboard R/V Savannah June 24 – July 1, 2011 NOAA Teacher at Sea: John Taylor-Lehman Ship: R/V Savannah Mission: Fisheries Survey Geographical area of the cruise: Continental Shelf off of Florida Date: 24 June 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Winds from the South at 10 mph
Barometric Pressure 29.93
Science and Technology Log
We departed on time from the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography dock at 0001 hours with 6 crew members, a compliment of 8 scientists and myself. The crew consists of Captain Raymond Sweatte, 1st Mate Michael Richter, Marine Technician John Bichy, 2nd Mate Kevin Holliday, Chief Engineer Richard Huguley, and Joel Formby. Though they have different titles, it became obvious from our discussions that their duties are often shared or overlap. This arrangement is necessary because the R/V Savannah is functioning 24 hours per day.
Because we are in transit to our first sampling site my interest has focused on the operators of the ship and how the ship functions.
Capt. Sweatte outlined for me the steps in his career that have led him to being Captain of this vessel. Though military training is one avenue to prepare for a commercial captain’s license he did not follow that path. He worked his way up through various jobs as an able bodied seaman second mate, first mate, and finally the captain with 1600 ton vessel certification. His training is ongoing through “continuing education” programs in fire safety, sonar, survival training, and first aid.
Chief engineer Richard Huguley gave me an interesting tour of the 4 compartments of the engine room. Water cooling systems, two 450 horse power Caterpillar brand engines, electrical and hydraulic system all have to be monitored and maintained during our cruise. Some systems are checked for pressure, temperature and fluid levels several times per day and around the clock. Engineer Richard Huguley had an interest in machines and an aptitude for mechanics at an early age. His skills have allowed him to have consistent employment in land based industrial enterprises and nautical work.
My apprehensions about seasickness have been unfounded… thus far. I’m using a Transderm patch with scopolamine. It is difficult however to tease out the exact reason for my relatively calm stomach. Is it the chemical? Is it the relatively calm seas (4-5 ft. waves last night and 2-3 ft. waves today)?
During the safety instructions last night a person was required to don the “survival suit” (also known as the “Gumby” suit). The attempt to don the suit quickly is always good for a laugh. Shelly, part of the science party, was our reluctant “volunteer” for the demonstration.
Shelly in the “Gumby” suit
Since we are in transit, there has been time to explore the ship, talk with science staff and crew, as well as enjoy the view of the Atlantic from the deck. Today I saw dolphins, barracuda, and flying fish, close to the ship and a submarine off in the distance.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Melinda Storey Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces June 14 – July 2, 2010
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
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.
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.
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.
All this technology on board makes me drool! The Pisces is certainly a beauty of the NOAA fleet. Each morning Chris Gledhill, our fishery biologist, looks at the video from the camera array and I’m hanging just over his shoulder watching all the coral and fish. It’s really interesting to see the fish swim by the camera and now I can even identify some of them. I never knew there was a type of coral called “wire coral.” It looks like curly-cue wire used in floral arrangements. One of our deck hands caught some on his fishing pole one night and when I held it, the coral moved! Wire coral is a living creature so, of course it moved!
What I thought was really funny was watching a big grouper swim by the camera and then we caught it on the Bandit Reel. Nothing like seeing your fish before you catch it! Here you can see Paul Felts and me holding the 21 pound grouper.
Just like school, the Pisces has drills – fire drills, man overboard drills, and abandon ship drills. It’s always good to be prepared. When we have an abandoned ship drill we have to put on our “Gumby Suit.” This survival suit would protect us by keeping us afloat and warm if we really had to go into the water. The Gumby Suit is not exactly the latest fashion but I would certainly want it if I have to abandon ship.
The day after this Abandon Ship drill, we had a REAL fire drill. Over the PA system we heard, “This is not a drill. This is not a drill.” The forward bow thruster was smoking. We “mustered,” or gathered, on the second deck, but when we got there we could really smell smoke. So, we were sent down to the main deck for precaution. Fortunately, we have an outstanding crew who fixed the problem immediately.
Muster – to gather
“Something to Think About”
While on the bridge last night, I heard on the radio another ship broadcast they were “taking on water.” What would you do if you were on a boat in the Gulf and it suddenly started taking on water?
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
Date: March 12, 2010
Shark! and HARP
We are into the last day of work before returning to Guam. The first set of BRUVs is being recovered as I write. We will have time for one more set (8) and then we’ll secure the equipment and head for home (home for me anyway―everyone else will still be far from home). Steve is getting great data on the fish populations on the west side of Saipan. As much as we like watching the fish, we got more excited to see a turtle checking the bait, a moray eel chewing on the bait bag, and yesterday, a large tiger shark cruising back and forth nudging the bait bag. Unfortunately, the video ended while the shark was still at the BRUV. When we brought it up, the bait bag was gone.