Victoria Cavanaugh: Questions & Answers with the Ship’s Crew, April 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Victoria Cavanaugh
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 16-27, 2018

MissionSoutheast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: April 22, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 48° 25.012′ N
Longitude: 122° 44.039′ W
Sea Wave Height: 1-3 feet
Wind Speed: 10-20 knots
Wind Direction: NE
Visibility: 14.1 km
Air Temperature: 14oC  
Sky:  Scattered Clouds

Science and Technology Log

As NOAA Ship Fairweather began its northward journey through the Inward Passage, I took advantage of a few days at sea to conduct interviews with crew from each of the various departments onboard: deck crew, engineers, officers, stewards, and survey technicians.  Through the interview process I realized just how much goes in to making Fairweather  successful.  Two themes arose again and again in conversations: First, the crew of the Fairweather loves what they do — the crew’s commitment and passion for being at sea was unanimous. . .and contagious.  Second, Fairweather is family.

Enjoy the five interviews below, the first of which is with a Edward Devotion School alum. . .


An Interview with AB Carl Coonce, Fairweather Deck Crew & Devotion School Alum (1971-1974)

AB Carl Coonce at the Helm

AB Carl Coonce at the Helm

Carl on bridge

AB Carl Coonce & Devotion School Alum on Fairweather’s Bridge

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m an able-bodied seaman or AB. My permanent job is to take care of the ship. Some duties include maintaining the ship’s cleanliness, ensuring the security of the vessel, and steering the ship.

Q: Why is your work important?

A: Without AB’s, the ship can’t be driven. AB’s also maintain the security of the ship and watch out for the safety of the ship’s personnel. AB’s work on the upkeep of the ship’s inside and outside condition, checking to prevent rust and other damage. The AB’s ready the equipment for different missions and load and unload equipment, too. Finally, the AB’s help with the officers’ work, with surveying, and with engineering.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I love being at sea. I love being able to see different sunrises and sunsets every day. I see things most people only see on TV or in pictures. For example, I’ve seen two rainbows cross before at sea. Sometimes rainbows are so close when you are at sea that you can almost reach out and touch them. Every day at sea is a new adventure.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I mostly work as a helmsman (driver) up on the bridge (which is like the front seat of the car/ship). A helmsman is the person who drives the ship. A helmsman keeps watch, looking for any potential dangers such as things floating in the water, other ships, and certain parts of land (such as sand bridges). Another important part of my job is to understand how to read maps and use all of the radar and other navigational equipment up on the bridge.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: Sleep!

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I always wanted to come to sea because my father was a sailor. I took a different route for a long time, but about 15 years ago I started my ocean career. I guess it was in my blood. It was hard to get started because I knew nothing about ships and what was required in the beginning. I went online and researched shipping companies and sent my resume out to a few hundred companies. I received a call from NOAA and began my sea career in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on a fishing vessel, NOAA Ship Albatross. By the way, Albatross is actually where the NOAA Teachers at Sea Program started.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I didn’t expect to be around the same people 24/7. You are always with the people with whom you work and your boss. Eventually, though, it becomes like a family.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: I would tell other people that NOAA is a wonderful job for people interested in going to sea. When you start off, you can go out to sea for a few weeks at a time. With NOAA, you have a chance to see and do things that you don’t get to do on commercial boats. You also are able to see new parts of the country. I’ve seen the east and west cost. The benefits are outstanding. Aside from traveling, I also have three months of vacation each year, something I would probably not have with a desk job, even after many years.

Q: How did you become interested in communicating about science?

A: When I was on the east coast, I was on NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow out of Newport, Rhode Island. A group of scientists came onboard, and we sailed up by Newfoundland. We sent a special net nearly three miles down into the ocean. The most memorable thing was catching a fish that was about 2.5 feet long, incredibly white, paper thin, and had bright red fins. The scientists told me that this fish only lives two miles down. Experiences like this are once in a lifetime. That was one of the most exciting and memorable trips I’ve had with NOAA.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: Don’t take the sea for granted. There is a mystery for the sea. We know more about the moon than we do about the oceans. There is so much to learn at sea. Even after fifteen years at sea, there is so much more to learn about the ocean. It is never the same. There is always something new to see. I’m still amazed by some of the things I’ve seen at sea, even if I’ve seen them over and over again. For example, hearing the sound of the glaciers hitting the water is unforgettable. Seeing the different colors of the ocean, you realize there is so much more than green and blue. Once you think you’ve learned it all, the ocean changes again on you.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I’d probably be back in Boston working as a chef. I went to school for culinary arts, but I think I’d be miserable if I wasn’t at sea.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: When I’m home, I like to work in my backyard. I like to work on my garden. I also like to work out.

Q: What is your favorite memory as a student at the Edward Devotion School?

A: I loved growing up in Brookline. It was a wonderful town to grow up in. I really feel now that being a kid at Devotion School was one of the happiest parts of my life. There is so much history at the Devotion School. Even after having traveled all around the country with NOAA, I love going back home to Boston and Brookline. Boston and Brookline are my favorite places. I still keep in touch with five of my friends from school in Brookline. We’ve been hanging out together for over thirty years. My friendships from grade school and later at Brookline High are still tremendously important to me today.


An Interview with HST Bekah Gossett, Fairweather Hydrographic Survey Technician

HST Bekah Gossett

HST Bekah Gossett

IMG_20180422_134940

The View from the Plot Room

Bekah's sheet on Yakutat Bay project

One of HST Gosset’s Projects from Last Season: Notice the Green Plot Lines and Surrounding Glaciers

A Finished Sheet from Last Season

A Finished Sheet from Last Season: Notice the Contrasting Depths (69 fathoms on a Previous Chart v. 94 fathoms Based on Sonar Data)

Comparing Updated Charts with a Historic One

Comparing Updated Charts with an Outdated One (Green Represents Data Matched, Blue/Red Show One Data Set is Deeper/Shallower than the Other)

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: My role on the ship is to acquire and process data that gives us information about the depth of the seafloor.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: This work is important because it contributes to updating and creating charts (maps) that are navigationally significant for US mariners to keep them safe and to support them economically. And, it’s cool!

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I really like working on the small boats (the launches) and working in Alaskan waters is great. It is a really open and good learning environment for this field of work. I have learned a whole lot in just a year and a half. This goes beyond hydrography. I’ve learned a lot about others and myself and about working with people.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I do most of my work in the plot room and on the launches. During the field season, we’re on the launches almost every day. The plot room is the data processing room where there are lots of computers. It is adjacent to the bridge, the central and most important location on the ship.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: A computer!

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would create something with lidar (lasers) or a super sonar. Lidar is used on planes or drones to scan and provide data back. Lidar on launches would help us get data quicker.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I studied art in school, but then I switched to science. I’ve always liked ocean sciences. I decided to pursue an ocean career when I was 19.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I run the ship store, which is never something I expected to be doing. The ship stores sells snacks, candy, soda, and ship swag for the crew to keep morale high.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: I usually explain the ship’s mission as updating and correcting nautical charts. Sometimes we have different projects. Last year, for example, we were searching for a ship that sunk in Alaska in February 2017. We found it!

Q: How did you become interested in communicating about science?

A: When I was in college studying geology, I realized exactly how important it is to communicate science, because there is a lot of knowledge there that we can all learn from and use.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: There are a lot of different things one can do. There are many different degrees from engineering, to environmental science, to biology. You can study ocean science, but you don’t have to. Any science can be applied in the ocean. It is not just science. You can learn about many different careers in oceans. Engineers and deck crew are great fields to pursue. You could also be a steward and travel a lot.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I would probably be working for an environmental agency, but I would probably not be very happy. I might be at home with my dog.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I like to paint. I also have a ukulele. I also love to read.


An Interview with EU Tommy Meissner, Fairweather Engineer

EU Tommy Meissner

EU Tommy Meissner Hard at Work in Fairweather’s Boat Shop

EU Tommy Meissner in Navy

First Assignment: In the Navy, Onboard the USS Forrestal, The World’s First Supercarrier at 1,060 Feet Long in 1990

 

IMG_20180422_195404

EU Tommy Meissner: An Engineer & His Electric Guitar

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m a utility engineer. I stand watch on the main engines and  check all of the propulsion equipment. I do maintenance on the small boats. I work on air conditioning, refrigeration, heating, etc. I am jack-of-all-trades.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: There is always something too hot or too cold, something leaking or blocked. There is always too much of something or not enough of something else. That is really the challenge of the job.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: The travel aspect is the best thing about my job. I can go anywhere in the world I want to go, whenever I want to go. The oil field in Mexico is opening back up, and so now there is lots of work available.

From a work aspect, it is challenging to understand why a piece of equipment isn’t working. Fixing the engines. . .or anything really. . . is all about following a process, working methodically. It feels good to be able to fix the boat and keep it in the water.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I do most of my work in the boat shop on the small boats on E-Deck. That’s where all the maintenance is performed while the launches are in the davits (the machines that put the boats in the water). When underway, I spend eight hours a day in the machine room, but when in port I work mostly in the boat shop. Eight hours a day, four hours a watch. In addition to the two watches, I usually do at least two hours of overtime a day. During a watch, I walk around, checking all the machines, pumps, generators, boilers, air conditioners, fridge, freezer, etc.

Q:  What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: The first thing I always grab is a pipe wrench. It is always good to have one nearby. A pipe wrench is a tool that we use to take apart plumbing and to loosen and tighten any connections. I am pretty well known on this boat for unclogging restrooms and showers.

Q:  If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would want a third hand! There is always a time when you need another person. It would be helpful to have one more hand to do work more efficiently. There are lots of times when I can’t reach or need that extra hand.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I’ve been sailing since 1990. I joined the Navy in 1989. All my life I’ve liked being around boats and on the water. Even though I lived around the water when I was little, I never had the opportunity to go to sea, so it was something I dreamed about for when I was older. Living in Fort Lauderdale, I saw the Navy come through and watched all the ships. I thought it would be cool.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I had no idea where I would be going when I joined NOAA. Before I said yes to the job, they gave me the choice to go on the Fairweather or the Rainier. Initially, I wondered about Alaska. Nome, Alaska is as far away from home for me as Dubai. I had never been so far west.  Alaska has been great, though.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: Everyone I talk to doesn’t seem to know what NOAA is. NOAA has various missions, mapping the bottom of the ocean, studying coral reefs, fish ecology (understanding how many tuna are in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and what species of fish are on the reef off  North Carolina). I don’t think people know enough about NOAA.

Q: What recommendations do you have for a young person interested in pursuing an ocean career?

A: I would study oceanography and math and science if you want to go to sea.  Decide what type of career you would like; there are so many options at sea.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: If I wasn’t working for NOAA, I would go back to South Carolina and work in building or construction. I prefer NOAA!

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

I play guitar and teach guitar. I was always a metal head.


An Interview with 2C Carrie Mortell, Fairweather Steward

2C Carrie Mortell

2C Carrie Mortell Serving a Delicious Meal in Fairweather’s Galley

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I work in the galley (kitchen), which is very, very busy. It is kind of like the heart of the ship.   We work to feed everyone, make sure everything is kept clean, etc. There is a lot to do! We work twelve hours everyday. Many people think the galley is just cooking, but there is a lot more to the galley such as keeping track of massive amounts of stores (supplies), keeping everything fresh, and more.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: Keeping the mess deck (dining area) clean and keeping people happy and healthy with good meals is key. We boost morale. People look forward to sitting down and having a good meal at sea. We try to take peoples’ requests and keep the crew satisfied.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I love being at sea. I love to cook. I like to see people happy and satisfied. I always try to keep upbeat. We all have to live together, so it is important to keep morale up. We’re like a big family at sea.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I spend most of my day in the galley.   All of the stewards cook. We rotate every week. One week, one cook is in the galley, and then we switch into the scullery (where dishes are cleaned).

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: My hands!

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: Another pair of arms to help cook. It is really, really busy in the galley!

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: Well, I used to commercial fish. I have always loved being on the ocean. I grew up around fishing people. When I was little, I always wanted to live in a lighthouse. I also like being able to go to different places. It is exciting to always get to travel when at sea. I loved the French Polynesian Islands, where I traveled with NOAA. I worked out of Hawaii for about eight years, so I spent a lot of time sailing around the Pacific, visiting Guam, Sonoma, the Marshall Islands, and crossing the equator several times.   On the East Coast, I enjoyed sailing Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. I also love Alaska, so sailing on Fairweather is great! Eventually, I want to move back to Alaska.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I really love cooking, which is what I get to do everyday. I feel really passionate about my job. There isn’t anything I didn’t expect. You do have to really like what you do, though, at sea.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: All the ships do different missions. NOAA Ship Fairweather, for instance does mapping. Another NOAA ship I worked on put out buoys for tsunamis. NOAA helps keep oceans clean. NOAA also works with fisheries and brings many scientists out to sea to study the population of our oceans. NOAA even has gone on rescue missions for aircraft and other ships in distress.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: First, you should love the sea. It is hard sometimes if you have a family. Sometimes you miss out on important events, but if you pick a ship in the right area, you can see your family more often. Sometimes, NOAA isn’t what people expect. It is really hard work, but I love it. There are lots of different departments and jobs on the ship though, so it is possible to find something you love.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I definitely would be working in culinary arts somewhere.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I love to write, paint, draw, crochet, and read. I’ve always dreamed of writing children’s books. I used to tell my children stories, especially scary ones which they loved.


An Interview with ENS Linda Junge, Fairweather Junior Officer

ENS Linda Junge on the Bridge

ENS Linda Junge on the Bridge

ENS Linda Junge

ENS Linda Junge Leading a Navigation Briefing, Explaining Fairweather’s Course for the Inside Passage

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m a junior officer (JO).

Q: What’s the process for becoming a JO?

A: The process to apply to become a JO is much like applying to graduate school. You write essays, get three to five letters of recommendation, fill out the application, and have an interview. You need a BS in a field relating to NOAA’s mission, which can be pretty much any math or science field (geology, physics, calculus, engineering, biology, environmental sciences, etc.). Then you attend BOTC (Basic Officer Training Class), which is held at the Coast Guard Academy along with their officer candidate school. Another way to become a JO is to transfer in if you were formerly enlisted. BOTC for JO’s lasts five months, and we have lots of navigation classes.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: NOAA Ships have three main categories: oceanography, hydrography, and fisheries. The major job of JO’s on ships is driving, we’re like bus drivers for science. When we are underway, 50% of my work is navigation, driving the ship, and deck stuff. 30% is collateral duties, extra administrative things to make the ship run such as thinking about environmental compliance and working as a medical officer. 20% (which can fluctuate) is focused on hydrographic survey, driving small boats or helping with survey sheets, managing an area, collecting data, and being sure data is processed on time.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I really enjoy knowing that I’m keeping people safe while they are sleeping. I really enjoy traveling. I really enjoy the sense of family that comes from living on a ship.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: All of the navigation is done from the bridge. The rest of the work is desk work. Any ship needs lots of administrative work to make it run. It’s like a space ship, a hotel, a restaurant, a family. To make all of those things run you need cooks, plumbers, etc., you need a lots of admin. It is like a government-run hotel. There is lots of compliance to think about. It’s a JO’s job to make sure everything is done correctly and all is well taken care of because it is paid for and continues to be paid for by tax payers. Everyone who serves aboard a ship has documented time of when you have been on the ship, sea-service letters. A commercial ship may have human resources (HR), and yeomen (arranges paperwork for travel, keep everything supplied and running, stocked, etc.), pursers (who manage money and billable hours), but all of these tasks are done by JO’s on Fairweather.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: Red lights. At night, it is dark on the bridge. We can’t destroy our night-vision, so we use red lights, which are gentle on the eyes and don’t affect one’s night vision. It’s important to be able to see the charts as well as to maintain night vision while keeping watch.

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would hire someone to be the yeomen to make sure we never ran out of pens, always had travel vouchers, made sure copiers ran, and helped with all the other random jobs.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: Before I did this, I was a fisheries observer. I was a biologist who went out to sea. I always loved standing on the bridge and hearing the stories. I loved not commuting, not having to go to the office. I loved casting out to sea, working hard, and then, pulling in, tying up, and feeling a huge sigh of relief that the crew worked hard and arrived safely back in port. It stuck with me, I enjoyed that, and I decided to pursue a career with NOAA.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: All the administrative stuff!

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: NOAA is everywhere, and sometimes people don’t appreciate that. NOAA produces weather reports and regulates fisheries in Alaska, where I’m from. NOAA could do a better job of advertising to the public its many pursuits.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: There are many cool internships on research vessels. The commercial sector will always take people looking for adventure. If you don’t make a career of it, that’s fine. At the worst, you learn something new about yourself while having a really cool experience. That is not such a bad thing.  I highly recommend giving an ocean job a try.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I would probably be in grad school. I would study city planning.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I like walking. I like being in the woods.


Personal Log

While most of the crew spends days working on the bridge (navigation), the plot room (data analysis), in the galley (preparing meals), or in the engine room/boat shop (keeping everything running smoothly), there are a lot of other areas on the ship that help make Fairweather feel more like home.  Below are some pictures of such key places:

The Ship's Gym

The Ship’s Gym Next to the Engine Room

Ship's Movie Theater

The Ship’s Movie Theater. Some Nights the Crew Gathers to Watch Films Together or Play Games.

Ship's library

The Ship’s Library – Lots of Science Fiction and Suspense!

Ship's Mailroom

The Ship’s Mailroom – Mail is Sent to Each Port; One of the Many Things to Look Forward to in a New Destination.

Conference room

The Ship’s Conference Room Where Navigation Briefings and Safety Meetings Are Held

The Ship's Laundry Room

The Ship’s Laundry Room

Ship's store

The Ship’s Store – Candy & Snacks – Treasures at Sea

The Ship's Store - Swag!

The Ship’s Store – Swag

Berth

A Berth (or Living Space) on the Ship Shared by Two Members of the Crew. Note the Bunk Beds & Curtains. The Crew Works Various Shifts 24/7.


Did You Know?

There is a lot of lingo aboard!  Here are some terms helpful to know for navigating a ship:

Aft: towards the back of the ship

Bow: the front of the ship

Bridge: the navigation or control room at the front/top part of the ship

Decka floor/level on a ship

Flying Bridge: the top-most deck of the ship that provides unobstructed views

Fantail: area towards the back of the ship

Galley: the ship’s kitchen

Hands: a popular way to refer to the crew or people working aboard the ship

Head: the bathroom on a ship

Helm: the “steering wheel” of the ship

Hull: the outside sides/bottom of the vessels

Mess: dining area on the ship

Scullery: where dishes are washed

Starboard: to the right of the ship

Stores:  the supplies kept in the hull that the crew will need while away at sea for a long time

Stern: the back of the boat

Port: to the left of the ship

Challenge Question #3: Devotion 7th Graders – Create a scale drawing of your ideal research or fishing vessel!  Be sure to include key areas, such as those shown above.  Remember that your crew will need space to eat, sleep, navigate, research, work, and relax. At a minimum, include the plan for at least one deck (or floor).  Include your scale factor, show conversions and calculations, and label each area using some of the vocabulary included above.  Needs some ideas?  Check out this link to NOAA’s Marine Vessels for some inspiration.

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 3

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

DECK CREW

Tim Martin, Chief Boatswain, aboard the OREGON II, left his home near the Missouri River in Missouri for a life at sea and has never looked back.  Like many young people from the Central United States, he joined the Navy as a way to travel and see the rest of the world.  He was stationed on Whidbey Island in Washington State and when he left the Navy he became a commercial fisherman working out of Seattle to fish the in Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Tim left the west coast and the world of commercial fishing to join NOAA and worked for several years on ships out of NOAA Woods Hole Station in Massachusetts.   Eventually, through connections he made on the job, he was able to transfer to the Southeastern Fisheries group.  He has worked on several ships, but has been on the OREGON II for 12 years.  Tim likes his job for the variety and activity it provides, as well as opportunities to apply his mind to ways to make things work better or more smoothly.  He attributes much of the good working atmosphere on the ship to the stability of many crew members who have worked together for years.   As a long-time civilian mariner with NOAA he appreciates the importance of believing in what you are doing and being committed to being successful.

But, Tim Martin is not so one dimensional that you can know him as just a mariner.  Talking with him I learned that he is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes in literature.  He devours everything from travel accounts to true adventure, biographies, and historical accounts of exploration and settlement of the world.  He has traveled broadly and uses his reading time to continue to learn about the places he has visited.  He is a licensed diver and enjoys the underwater world as much as sailing on the surface of the sea.   I was fascinated to learn that he has dived to authentic pirate wrecks…quite a change from his underwater beginnings in the dark and brackish Pascagoula River.  Tim is a great example of someone who recognizes that his only limits are the ones he sets for himself.  That is a great legacy to leave for his family.

Chris Nichols, Lead Fisherman, got into marine work for the adventures.  Growing up he read classics like “Captains Courageous” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” His years as a Boy Scout helped empower him with a can-do attitude that kept him from quitting when things got difficult.  After a mediocre high school career and his childhood years in West Palm Beach, Florida, hanging around the docks and fishing, his quest for travel and adventure led him first to commercial fishing and then to join the Navy.

After six years in the service, including training in water rescue, Chris left the Navy and started classes for work in the merchant marine industry.  As he worked toward earning his 100 ton master rating he discovered that using math, which had seemed unimportant and boring in high school, was critical for navigation.  Applying the things he was studying to real world problems made learning important.  The life-style structure of his military years helped him move fairly seamlessly into the shift work that became his routine aboard merchant ships.  The travel fed his sense of exploration and adventure.

Now, after 20 years working either on NOAA ships or for companies that contracted with NOAA, Chris still loves his job and his life style.  His experience in the merchant marine gave him the background to understand working on ships from the viewpoint of the wheel house and the deck.  He patiently explained to me that the job titles of people working on the deck crew are just positions for which eligible Able Bodied Seamen were hired.  They are not classification by skill or experience; they are job descriptions.  Each survey watch requires 3 crew members on deck to work equipment and support the scientists in deployment and retrieval of lines. Cooperation and communication are the most critical skills needed by everyone on the ship for success in carrying out their mission.

“NOAA has recently been experiencing a lack of interested, qualified applicants,” Chris told me.  “I think many young people lack the sense of adventure that makes life at sea attractive.”  He certainly demonstrates that desire for adventure: his eyes light up and an infectious grin spreads across his face as he talks about the places he’s been and the places he still wants to go.

The whole deck crew, including Chris Rawley, Mike Conway, Chuck Godwin, and James Rhue, are a lively, hard-working bunch.  They do their jobs, they have some fun doing them sometimes, and they like what they are doing.  Every time I was around them I could hear John Fogarty’s song “Rambunctious Boy” playing in my head and I ended up smiling and humming along!

the-deck-crew-chris-nichols-mike-conway-tim-martin-james-rhue-and-chris-rawley

The Deck Crew – Chris Nichols, Mike Conway, Tim Martin, James Rhue, and Chris Rawley

ENGINEERS

Thirty-six years ago Rich Brooks took the advice of his high school math and history teachers and enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  The strict structure of the Academy helped him develop his study habits and learn the discipline needed to raise from a low C student a B+ student who took pride in his work.  He graduated with a degree in Marine Engineering, but spent time as a substitute teacher while deciding where he wanted to go with his career.  Currently he holds 3 chief engineer licenses: steam, motor and gasoline and is qualified to operate any watercraft.

richard-brooks

Richard Brooks

Eventually he started working on ships, spending a number of years in the Merchant Marine.   He worked on merchant transport ships contracted to our government to support Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Persian Gulf. For 10 years he worked on independent oil tankers on the West Coast, transporting oil and gasoline to and from various ports. He has been a 1st Engineer for NOAA for 2 years.

Rich enjoys the travel and adventure that are part of his career.  He likes visiting different cities and has been through both the Suez and Panama Canals in his travels.  It has been a long journey around the world from his childhood home in Haverhill, Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama where he made his home base for the last 25 years.  He is proud that his work as an engineer has influenced his son to pursue a career in engineering, following his father’s example of hard work and sacrifice as the way to get ahead in life. Rich hopes to see more young people turn to careers in engineering, knowing as he does that the average age of marine engineers in this country is 58 years which means there will be openings for young people as they complete their training.  As for him, when he retires several years in the future he looks forward to moving closer to his father in Florida, going fishing and playing golf.

 

THE PEOPLE I MISSED INTERVIEWING:

My roommate, Chrissy Stepongzi, is a marine biologist and the person of whom I saw the least on this cruise.  She knows her job and was always eager to answer questions.  We just did not see each other often to talk because of being on opposite shifts and sharing the room.  She slept while I worked and visa-versa.  I appreciated her quick smile and well-developed sense of humor and wish we had been able to get better acquainted.

night-crew-before-shift-change-trey-chrissy-lydia-and-toni

The Night Crew before a shift change – Trey, Chrissy, Lydia, and Toni

Fisherman Mike Conway has been working on ships for a long time.  He loves the ocean and loves the travel.  His willingness to make sure I learned and got opportunity to see things was really helpful and made me feel welcome.  Mike was always willing to grab my iPad and take pictures so I could be in them and he was the one that made sure I got to see the sky at night and appreciate the beauty of being on the ocean in one more way.

Fisherman Chris Rawley, quick to grin, but slow to talk, took some effort to get to know.  Chris was a fisherman on our shift and helped with everything from running the crane to pulling lines to wrestling sharks.  He was “born under a wandering star,” and loves to travel.  He’s a gypsy at heart.

James Rhue is another fisherman working on the deck crew.  He too was with the night shift so we didn’t cross paths often.  When we did talk he could always answer my questions and made me feel welcome.

Mike, Chris, and James are pictured in the Deck Crew photo above.

Mary Stratford was filling in on the deck crew this cruise.  She lives in Puerto Rico where she is a ceramic artist, but much of her life has been spent working in jobs that allow her to see the world.  Mary was helpful and friendly and always interesting to talk to.

2nd Engineer Darnell Doe, the quiet, friendly guy I ate breakfast with most mornings.  We shared a little conversation and watch the news over a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee.  I never turned out into a formal interview and didn’t take notes on our casual conversations.

darnelle-doe

2nd Engineer Darnell Doe

3rd Engineer Sam Bessey was filling in a temporary vacancy.  He is a recent graduate of an academy in Maine and worked the opposite shift of mine so we had a few chances to talk a little, but not enough to call an interview.  I do know he wants to head for Hawaii and try to find work there after this cruise, but will head home to Maine to see family first.  Good luck in your new career Sam.

Roy Tolliver was our tech person.  I most often saw him walking from place to place on the decks, checking on electronic equipment and trying to troubleshoot computer problems when they arose.  Roy has worked on ships for many years and has been many places around the world.

roy-tolliver-and-sam-on-the-flying-bridge-as-we-moved-into-the-harbor-at-gulfport-mississippi

Roy Tolliver and Sam Bessey on the flying bridge as we moved into the harbor at Gulfport

O C Hill, Listed on the staff roster as a “wiper” was another one of the people who kept the ship running.  Our interactions were limited to friendly smiles and greetings.  When folks work in the engine room it is hard to find a time to talk with them, especially if shifts don’t match.

wiper-otha-hill

Otha (O.C.) Hill

Valerie McCaskill, our cook and one of the most important people on the ship.  I know she has a daughter she was eager to get home to see.  I know she had very little warning that the previous cook would not be on this voyage so she had to step in in a hurry.  I know that she has a beautiful smile and makes legendary macaroni and cheese!  She kept us very happy!

Chuck Godwin would normally be working on this ship as a skilled fisherman on the deck crew, but he worked in the kitchen with Valerie this trip to fill an important empty spot and keep us all well-fed.  His irrepressible sense of fun and lively conversation kept us all hopping.  His career has spanned time in the Coast Guard as well as years with NOAA.  His is a proud new grandpa.

valerie-mccaskill-and-chuck-godwin-in-the-galley-of-noaa-ship-oregon-ii

Valerie McCaskill and Chuck Godwin in the galley of NOAA Ship OREGON II

That I did not get to know everyone on the ship is my loss.  Everyone that I met was friendly and helpful.  It was a true pleasure to meet and work with these great people.

Carol Schnaiter, Near the End, June 20, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – 21, 2014

Mission: Groundfish Survey

A beautiful day

A beautiful day!

Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Friday, June 20, 2014

Weather: Partly cloudy. Winds 5-10 knots. Waves 1 meter

Science and Technology:

Collecting plankton is a very important activity for the scientists on the ship. Everyday and night they collect the very tiny plants and animals we refer to as plankton. Plankton is very important because it supplies the world with oxygen and it is the beginning of many food chains.

Plankton

This is what we collect using the bongo nets.

The bongo nets are used to collect the plankton from the water. There are two bongo drums connected together and lowered into the water. Each one has a cylinder container connected to the end of the net with holes covered with mesh so that the water can flow out, but the mesh catches the plankton.

Tiny plants and animals that drift in the ocean currents flow into the nets. When the nets are brought back onto the ship, they are rinsed so that nothing is lost. The material collected is then rinsed into sieves and into jars with preservatives. The scientists that use the plankton for research decide which preservatives will be added. Sometimes it is in ethanol and sometimes in formalin, it is up to the scientists at the lab. All of these jars are sent to the lab on land and sometimes the material may be sent to labs in Poland to be examined.

To know how far the nets need to be lowered the scientists work with the deck crew and the bridge. Everyone makes sure the nets go very deep into the water, but that the nets do not touch the bottom. If they did touch the ocean floor there is a good chance that the nets would be damaged.

They also need to monitor how much water flows through the nets while the nets are in the water. To do this there are small flow meters connected to the nets. Before the nets go into the water, the numbers on the flow meter are put into the computer. After the nets come back up the numbers are again entered into the computer. Looking at the difference between these two numbers let the scientist know how much water flowed through the nets.

Flow meter on bongo net

Here is the flow meter on the bongo net.

The main reason plankton surveys are conducted is to collect samples for estimating the number and place where fish larvae can be found.

When we are doing the CTD, we must give the weather conditions: cloud cover, height of waves, and the color of the water.

Here I am checking the sky and water.

Careers:  The people behind the scenes

The Chief Steward Walter Coghlan is a delightful person to watch in the kitchen and a lifesaver for me while I was under the weather. Walter has been with NOAA since 2008 and with his 21 years in the Navy, this Saturday, June 21st, will mark the 30th year at sea for him.

In the Navy, Walter was on various ships such as the USS Lexington and USS John F Kennedy. He even was a cook on a mine sweeper during the war. In the Navy he was a Culinary Specialist, he said that while on the USS John F Kennedy, President Ronald Reagan (everyone near Amboy and Dixon knows who that is) came aboard and asked for Walter to make fried chicken.
Walter also completed Finishing School for Chefs and for three years he served as the chef at the White House. This was when President George Bush was in office.

On the ship he has a budget of $10,000 per month to feed over thirty people three meals a day and provide snacks. His day starts around 4:30 AM and ends around 6:30 PM. He is certified as a Chief Cuisine and he is a superb chef. His future goal is to retire in one year and spend time with his family.

Chief Steward and 2nd cook

Chief Steward Walter and 2nd Cook Steve in the kitchen.

2nd Cook is Steve Daley. Steve is on his first trip on the NOAA Ship Oregon II. He is a augmenter, which means he is a sub and fills in where and when he is needed.

Steve is a Army veteran where he was a cook for eleven years. After the Army, Steve worked at the Pennsylvania Dept. of Correction where he taught culinary classes for 20 years.
Steve is also a wonderful chef and working in the small kitchen space must be difficult at times.

You can believe me when I say that eating on this ship was as good as eating at a fancy restaurant at home!

Engineers:
Sean Pfarrer is the Chief Marine Engineer on the NOAA Ship Oregon II. Due to my schedule the only time I saw Sean was when he was eating, so I was not able to interview him.

Richard Brooks

1st Engineer Richard Brooks

1st Engineer is Richard Brooks. He just joined the NOAA team on this trip and will be with NOAA for two years. Before that he was an engineer on the big oil tankers. He talked about being on the big oil tankers and pointed out the differences between them. He explained how some of the tankers are so big they can not go close to land and smaller tankers will either take fuel to them or from them. It is amazing how much information he has about the different ships.

Richard would sometimes make a trip through the wet lab after our catch to see  what we caught.

 

Down in the engine room.

Down in the engine room.

 

David Carlise

2nd Engineer David Carlise

2nd Engineer is David Carlise. David was in the Coast Guard for four years. He has traveled all over the world on ships and had many stories of his adventures to share with us. After leaving the Coast Guard, David was a Commercial Fisherman for 17 years where he was the captain. He was a Merchant Marine and was the engineer for a cargo boat, tub boat, and a tanker. He will be getting off in Galveston and flying to the state of Oregon for his next assignment on another ship.

 

 

Ship's electrical panel

Ship’s electrical

JUE Jerry Britt

Junior Engineer Jerry Britt

Junior Engineer (JUE) Jerry Britt joined NOAA in 2010, He was in the Navy for 20 years in charge of 40 guys as an engineer.On the NOAA Ship Oregon II, Jerry could be called the maintenance man, he fixes everything mechanic. He gave Robin and I a tour of the engine room, it is very noisy and very hot down there, but amazing to see what makes the ship sail! Jerry explained how everything works down below our feet. The electrical board is huge! And seeing the crank shaft of the engine was really cool!

Wiper Otha Hill

Wiper Otha Hill

Wiper Otha Hill, also known as OC, has been with NOAA since 1984. He has worked on the ship Oregon II for 18 years and worked on four other NOAA ships. One of the ships was a weather ship in Chile! He has also worked on Union Ships in the engineering dept., built ships for four years, was a welder and a Junior Engineer and spent six years working on big ships.

As the Wiper, Otha, cleans, paints, and assists with everything that needs something done to it in the engine room area.

These are the people that have very important jobs on this ship. When the shower drain is plugged or the air conditioning goes out, everyone is looking for these men!

Mike and Chuck

Mike and Chuck bringing in the nets.

Personal:

There are signs that my sea adventure is winding down. The water is green, I am seeing more oil rigs, and Ensign Laura Dwyer opened the ship’s store!

Ship's store

Ensign Laura Dwyer opens the ship’s store!

Even on the NOAA Ship Oregon II you can shop!

Today the dolphins were back following the ship. They came right up to the stern of the ship, it was amazing watching them slap the water to let the other dolphins know where the fish were!

 

 

Frigatebird

Frigate bird

The other night and again today we saw Frigate birds flying near the ship. Some say that seeing this bird will bring you good luck….hope so! The Frigate (Fregata) is a seabird that can have a wingspan of over 2 meters. They are a large bird, closely related to the pelicans. For more information check out this website: http://a-z-animals.com/animals/frigatebird/

I cannot wait to share my photos and everything that I have learned. The various species of fish, that you can only tell apart by looking at that one little dot on the bottom of their body or because their eyes are closer together that the other fish (that is the same shape and color and looks just like them) or the shrimp and crabs that are so numerous it has taken me this entire trip to look over the books in the dry lab with their names and information.

Chrissy and me

My bunkmate, Chrissy and me.

Even though my bunkmate, Chrissy Stepongzi and I did not spend a lot of time together (we worked opposite shifts), I can say she was there when I was sick and has a great sense of humor. She graduated with a Major in Biology and worked as a high school sub for two years. For Chrissy the best part of this job is being on the ship and when she is on land she likes to spend time with her cat and dog.

Yes, I have picked up fish of all sizes and shapes. Yes, I can tell if they are a boy or girl. Yes, I have taken the heads off of shrimp. Yes, I have had wet feet for over ten hours everyday. AND yes, I have survived. I do miss my family, my dog (Ginger) and all the students at Central, but I would come back to this ship in a minute!

The Night Shift

The Night Shift-Taniya, Andre, me, and Robin (Photo by Kim Johnson)

I feel so fortunate to have been selected for this and even more fortunate to have been able to sail on the NOAA Ship Oregon II with everyone. Kim Johnson went above and beyond to make sure I was involved and learning something new everyday….thanks! And Taniya, Andre, and Robin will forever make me laugh when I think back on how much time we spent together…the work, the songs, the stories, have all made lasting memories!

Suzanne Acord: Learning the Ropes off the Kona Coast, March 24, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Suzanne Acord
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
March 17 – 28, 2014

Mission: Kona Area Integrated Ecosystems Assessment Project
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands
Date: March 24, 2014

Weather Data from the Bridge at 14:00
Wind: 7 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Weather: Hazy
Temperature: 24.3˚ Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Trawl Operations on the Sette

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Monitoring the acoustics station during our trawl operations.

Trawling allows scientists to collect marine life at prescribed depths. Our highly anticipated first trawl begins at 21:06 on March 23rd. Hard hats, safety vests, and extremely concerned crew members flock to the stern to prepare and deploy the trawl net. Melanie is our fearless trawl lead. Once we bring in our catch, she will coordinate the following tasks: Place our catch in a bucket; strain the catch; weigh the total catch; separate the catch into five groups (deep water fish, cephalopods, crustaceans, gelatinous life, and miscellaneous small life); count the items in each group; weigh each group; measure the volume of each group; take photos of our catch; send the entire catch to the freezer.

Our trawling depth for this evening is 600 meters. This is unusually deep for one of our trawls and may very well be a hallmark of our cruise. We are able to deploy the net with ease over our target location, which is located within the layers of micronekton discussed in an earlier blog. The depth of the net is recorded in the eLab every 15 minutes during the descent and ascent. Once the trawl is brought back up to the stern, we essentially have a sea life sorting party in the wet lab that ends around 05:00. Our specimens will be examined more thoroughly once we are back in Honolulu at the NOAA labs. Throughout this cruise, it is becoming clearer every day that a better understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants can allow us to improve ocean management and protection. Our oceans impact our food sources, economies, health, weather, and ultimately human survival.

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Science Party Interview with Gadea Perez-Andujar

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

Ali and Gadea anticipate the raising of the HARP.

The University of Hawaii and NOAA are lucky to have Gadea, a native of Spain, on board the Sette during the 2014 IEA cruise. She initially came to Hawaii to complete a bachelor’s degree in Marine Biology with Hawaii Pacific University. While a HPU student, she studied abroad in Australia where she received hands-on experience in her field. Coursework in Australia included fish ecology and evolution and coral reef ecology, among other high interest courses. Between her BA and MA, Gadea returned to Spain to work on her family’s goat farm. She couldn’t resist the urge to return to Hawaii, so she left her native land yet again to continue her studies in Hawaii. Gadea is now earning her master’s degree in marine biology with the University of Hawaii. In addition to her rigorous course schedule, she is carrying out a teaching assistantship. To top off her spring schedule, she volunteered to assist with Marine Mammal Operations (MMO) for the 2014 IEA cruise. She assists Ali Bayless, our MMO lead, during small boat deployments, HARP operations, and flying bridge operations.

Gadea’s master’s studies have increased her interest in deep water sharks. More specifically, Gadea is exploring sharks with six gills that migrate vertically to oxygen minimum zones, or OMZs. This rare act is what interests Gadea. During our IEA cruise, she is expanding her knowledge of the crocodile shark, which has been known to migrate down to 600-700 meters.

Once her studies are complete in 2015, Gadea yearns to educate teachers on the importance of our oceans. She envisions the creation of hands-on activities that will provide teachers with skills and knowledge they can utilize in their classrooms. She believes teacher and student outreach is key. When asked what she appreciates most about her field of study, Gadea states that she enjoys the moment when people “realize what they’re studying can make the world a better place.”

Personal Log

Morale in the Mess 

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can't wait to try this tonight at dinner.

Jay displays a cake just baked by Miss Parker. I can’t wait to try this tonight at dinner. We will also be eating Vietnamese soup, salad, and macaroni and cheese with scallops.

The mess brings all hands together three times a day and is without a doubt a morale booster. Hungry crew members can be found nibbling in the mess 24/7 thanks to the tasty treats provided by Jay and Miss Parker. Jay and Miss Parker never hesitate to ensure we are fed, happy, and humored. It is impossible to leave the galley without a warm feeling. A few of my favorite meal items include steak, twice baked potatoes, a daily fresh salad bar, red velvet cookies, and Eggs Benedict. Fresh coffee, juice, and tea can be found 24/7 along with snacks and leftovers. At the moment, my shift spans from 15:00 to 00:00, which is my dream shift. If we need to miss a meal, Jay ensures that a plate is set aside for us or we can set aside a plate for ourselves ahead of time.

Did you know?

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Merlin Clark-Mahoney gives me a tour of the engineering floor.

Did you know that NOAA engineers are able to create potable water using sea water? The temperature of the water influences the amount of potable water that we create. If the sea water temperature does not agree with our water filtration system, the laundry room is sometimes closed. This has happened only once for a very short period of time on our cruise. NOAA engineers maintain a variety of ship operations. Their efforts allow us to drink water, shower, do laundry, enjoy air conditioning, and use the restroom on board–all with ease.

Robert Ulmer: The Company You Keep, June 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Robert Ulmer

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

Underway from June 15 to July 3, 2013

Current coordinates:  N 56⁰40.075’, W 134⁰20.96’

(southeast of Point Sullivan in Chatham Strait)

Mission:  Hydrographic survey

Geographical area of cruise:  Southeast Alaska, including Chatham Strait and Behm Canal, with a Gulf of Alaska transit westward to Kodiak

Log date:  June 25, 2013

Weather conditions:  Misty rain under a blanket of thick clouds and fog, 13.76⁰C, 84.88% relative humidity, 1001.09 mb of atmospheric pressure, very light variable winds (speed of less than 1.5 knots with a heading between 344⁰ and 11⁰)

  • Remember that headings on a ship are measured around a full 360⁰ circle clockwise from north.  Therefore, 344⁰ and 22⁰ are only 38⁰ apart directionally.
NOAA Ship Rainier, S-221, underway in Behm Canal

The operation of NOAA Ship Rainier, S-221, requires the cooperation of a large, hard-working, and multi-talented crew.

Explorer’s Log:  The crew of NOAA Ship Rainier

Especially as we leave the confines of childhood, society views us, at least in part, by our intentional decisions about which people make up our circle of friends and our group of colleagues.  Certainly such outside judgments can be unfair when based only on short-term glimpses, predisposed biases, or moments misunderstood for lack of context, but I think that long-term observations of our personal associations can provide meaningful information about us.

With Ai Wei Wei's zodiac sculptures in Washington, DC

With Ai Wei Wei’s zodiac sculptures in Washington, DC

With the crew after the 5K race at O'Leno State Park

After the 5K race at O’Leno State Park

My closest circle of friends – intentionally – is populated by a rich gumbo of personalities, ideas, ideals, physiques, insights, humors, tastes, preferences, and behaviors, all of which serve to stimulate my mind, activate my creativity, enrich my soul, entertain my spirit, and motivate my direction.  In other words, they are the scaffolding that supports me and the team that carries me along through so many parts of my own explorations.  Jasmine’s appreciation of intelligence and beauty, Collin’s sharp wit, Reece’s focused intensity, Dad’s analysis, Mom’s honesty, Lisa’s support, Grandma Madeline’s generosity, Aunt Marilyn’s and Uncle Marc’s welcome, Aunt Lynn’s spunkiness, Cheryl’s cool, Dillon’s quiet observation, Jack’s vision, Teresa’s organization, Bob’s perspective, Katy’s goodness, Chris’s enthusiasm, Emilee’s wonder, Kyle’s repartee, Casey’s lyricism, Will’s genuineness, Rien’s kindness, Tyler’s motivation, Zach’s creativity, Brian’s investment in service, Matt’s passion for justice, Gary’s sense of direction, Tommy’s helpfulness, Silas’s wordsmithery, Loubert’s jocularity, Jonathan’s love….

And then add the brilliant and rich colors and flavors and voices of my larger group of friends and acquaintances:  the teachers, administrators, students, and neighbors who daily contribute their own stories and wisdoms to my experiences, and the result – again, intentionally – is very nearly a portrait of me… or at least the me that I aspire to become in my own journeys.

(For my varied generations of readers, think of the Magnificent Seven, the Fellowship of the Ring, and/or the Order of the Phoenix.  This is my posse.)

In other words, we often are judged and almost always are defined by the company we keep.

Wedding celebration

Wedding celebration

The NOAA Ship Rainier is no exception.  Beyond the mechanical body of the ship herself, the personnel here are the essence of the vessel that carries them.

Acting CO Mark Van Waes maintains a vigilant lookout on the bridge

Acting CO Mark Van Waes maintains a vigilant lookout on the bridge.

Smart and funny, resourceful and dedicated, skilled and hard-working, the crew members of NOAA Ship Rainier are an impressive bunch, all of whom have enriched me in the short time that I’ve been aboard, and all of whom do their jobs and interact in ways that produce superb results.  And the wholeness of their shared strengths, talents, and personalities is far greater than the sum of their individual aspects, as always is the case when a team is well-assembled.

MB_2, Red Bluff Bay, Chatham Strait, Alaska, June 23, 2013

One of the NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers appreciates the beauty of Southeast Alaska.

For more than 150 (and sometimes more than 250!) days per year, the men and women aboard ships in the NOAA fleet sacrifice time away from their own homes, friends, and families – and regularly that remoteness isolates them from news, television, phone, and internet for days or weeks at a time – in service to the public at large through their assigned missions at sea.  Currently, nearly four dozen crew members serve aboard Rainier in several departments, each of which serves its own set of functions, but all of which are unified by their shared mission, like the instrumental sections of an orchestra in the production of a symphony.

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, sharply outfitted aboard ship in their navy blue ODUs (operational dress uniforms), is one of the seven uniformed services in the United States government.  For this leg of the mission, the officers  aboard Rainier serve under Acting Commanding Officer (ACO) Mark Van Waes and Executive Officer (XO) Holly Jablonski to perform three sets of functions:  administrative, navigational, and participatory.  As the administrators of the ship, the officers are responsible for everything from payroll to purchases, and communications to goodwill.  In the navigational capacity, the officers are responsible for charting the courses to be traveled by the ship and moving the vessel along those courses, sometimes with helm in hand and sometimes by giving the command orders to effectuate those maneuvers.  Finally, aboard Rainier and her sister hydrographic vessels, the junior officers are trained members of the hydrographic survey team, participating at all levels in the gathering and processing of data regarding the floor of the sea.  Ultimately, the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps members work to define the missions of Rainier and oversee the execution of those missions.

NOAA Commissioned Officers and Third Mate Carl VerPlanck of the Deck Department navigate NOAA Ship Rainier

NOAA Commissioned Officers and Third Mate Carl VerPlanck of the Deck Department navigate NOAA Ship Rainier.

Deck Department

Members of the Deck Department let go the anchor on the bow

Members of the Deck Department let go the anchor on the bow.

Beyond the uniformed NOAA Corps crew members, Rainier also employs many highly-skilled civilian merchant mariners who work around the clock to support the officers in the duties of navigation and sailing of the ship while it is underway.  Essentially, while following the decisive command orders of the Officer Corps, the Deck Department handles the endless details involved in steering the ship and its smaller boats, along with deploying and anchoring those vessels.  Under the departmental leadership of Chief Boatswain (pronounced “bosun”) Jim Kruger, the members of the Deck Department all hold various levels of U.S. Coast Guard ratings in navigational watch-standing and deck operations, and their experiences and proficiencies earn them respect with regard to many facets of decision-making and operations on the bridge.

(The NOAA Corps and the Deck Department together have been responsible for the passage of NOAA Ship Rainier through the waterways of Southeast Alaska during my weeks aboard.  To see a cool video of NOAA’s travel through Alaska’s Inside Passage made using stop-motion photography by Ensign John Kidd, click here.)

Survey and Deck Department members work together to prepare for the day's launches

Survey and Deck Department members work together to prepare for the day’s launches.

Survey Department

The members of the Survey Department aboard NOAA Ship Rainier are civilian scientists (working hand-in-hand with survey-trained NOAA Corps officers) who have been trained in the specialized work of conducting surveys of the sea floor using single-beam sonar, multi-beam sonar, tidal gauges and leveling devices, CTD devices (to gather data about conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water column), and several very highly-technical components of computer hardware and software packages.

Only the highest point of this 150-meter-wide rock remains above the water line at high tide.

Can you see the horizontal lines on this rock formation? They are caused by cyclical changes in the elevation of the sea water as a result of tidal forces. Only the highest point (around where the bald eagle is perched) of this 150-meter-wide set of rocks (extending beyond the boundaries of this image in both directions several times the width of what this photograph shows) remains above the water line at high tide. However, the portions that become submerged remain extremely dangerous to seagoing vessels, which is why the work of the Survey Department is so important.

From Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technicians (HASTs) upward through the ranks to Chief Survey Technician (CST) Jim Jacobson, they are superb problem-solvers and analysts with undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees in the cartography, biology, geography, systems analysis, and many other fields of scientific expertise, and one survey technician aboard Rainier is an experienced mariner who transferred into the Survey Department with a broad educational background ranging from the humanities to computer science.  The members of the Survey Department spend countless hours gathering, cleaning, analyzing, and integrating data to produce nautical charts and related work products to make travel by water safer for everyone at sea.

Two-dimensional slice of data

The Survey Department compiles raw sonar and quantitative data from the ship and the launch vessels and first converts those data into a graphic file that looks like this…

... which becomes this ...

… which is a slice of this image …

Soundings

… which then goes through this sounding selection stage before eventually being finalized into a nautical chart for public use.

Physical Scientists

 NOAA physical scientist Kurt Brown joins Rainier in surveying the sea floor of Chatham Strait


NOAA physical scientist Kurt Brown joins Rainier in surveying the sea floor of Chatham Strait.

One or two physical scientists join the ship’s crew for most of the field season from one of two NOAA Hydrographic offices (in Seattle, Washington and Norfolk, Virginia), where their jobs consist of reviewing the hydrographic surveys submitted by the ships to make sure that they meet NOAA’s high standards for survey data, and compiling those surveys into products used to update the approximately 1000 nautical charts that NOAA maintains.  The ship benefits from the physical scientists’ time on board by having a person familiar with office processing of survey data while the surveys are “in the field,” and also by receiving an extra experienced hand for daily survey operations.  The physical scientists also get a refresher on hydro data collection and processing along with a better understanding of the problems that the field deals with on a daily basis, and they bring this up-to-date knowledge back to the office to share with coworkers there.

Engineering Department

Oiler Byron Doran of the Engineering Department chooses the right tools for the job.

Oiler Byron Doran of the Engineering Department chooses the right tools for the job.

The Engineering Department is a combination of U.S. Coast Guard licensed Engineering Officers (CME, 1AE, 2AE, and 3AE) and unlicensed engineering personnel (Junior Engineer, Oiler, and GVA).  Their work is concerned with the maintenance of the physical plant of the ship — everything from stopping leaks to making mechanical adjustments necessary for Rainier‘s proper and efficient running in the water.  The engineers are skilled craftsmen and craftswomen who wield multiple tools with great dexterity as needs arise.

Electronics Technicians

Electronics Technician (ET) Jeff Martin hard at work

Electronics Technician (ET) Jeff Martin is hard at work.

The Electronics Technician aboard NOAA Ship Rainier (some ships have a larger department) has the important role of making sure that the many computerized systems — both hardware and software — are properly networked and functional so that navigation and survey operations can proceed effectively and efficiently.  Having trained on radar equipment with the U.S. Navy “back in the days of glass tubes,” ET Jeff Martin is an expert’s expert, adept at prediction and troubleshooting, and skilled at developing plans for moving systems forward with the ship’s mission.

Steward Department

Chief Steward Doretha Mackey always cooks up a good time and a great meal.

Chief Steward Doretha Mackey always cooks up a good time and a great meal.

Chief Steward Kathy Brandts and GVA Ron Hurt keep the crew happily well-fed.

Chief Steward Kathy Brandts and GVA Ron Hurt keep the crew happily well-fed.

The Steward Department runs the galley (the ship’s kitchen) and currently is composed of four crew members aboard Rainier.  Specifically, they are responsible for menu preparation, food acquisition, recipe creation, baking, and meal preparation for the 40+ people who must eat three meals (and often have snacks) spread across the entire day, both underway and at port, including special meals for away-from-the-galley groups (like launch vessels and shore parties), when local goods (like fish, fruits, and vegetables) are available, and/or for crew members or guests with dietary restrictions.  An army moves on its stomach.  The meals aboard this ship, by the way, show great diversity, technique, and nutritional value, including grilled fish and steaks, vegetarian casseroles, curried pastas, homemade soups, fresh salads, and a wide variety of delicious breakfast foods, snacks, and desserts.

Second Cook Floyd Pounds works to prepare a meal for the crew.

Second Cook Floyd Pounds works to prepare a meal for the crew.

So those are the current citizens of the seagoing vessel NOAA Ship Rainier, harmonizing within a common chord, travelers who together explore the seas by working together to achieve their unified mission.  They are the excellent company that I keep on this leg of the exploration.

As you endeavor upon your own journeys, remember always to choose your company wisely so that your efforts are supported when challenging, insulated when vulnerable, motivated when difficult, and celebrated when successful.  And once you are surrounded by those good people, keep exploring, my friends.

Even the sea otters take some time to relax and enjoy one another's company.

Sea otters enjoy one another’s company along their way.

Personal Log:  Enjoy yourself along the way

Although they all work long, hard hours at their many assigned tasks, members of the team aboard NOAA Ship Rainier also enjoy one another’s company and occasionally get to have a good time.  Sharing an isolated, moving home barely 70 meters long with four dozen people for several weeks at a time guarantees social interaction, and the sounds of testimonies of laughter and friendship regularly fill the air in and around the ship, both among the workstations and away from the ship.

Ensign Theresa Madsen and Second Assistant Engineer Evan McDermott, my exploration partners in Red Bluff Bay

Ensign Theresa Madsen and Second Assistant Engineer Evan McDermott, my exploration partners in Red Bluff Bay

One of Carl's many catches

One of Carl’s many catches

Since joining the crew of Rainier just a week and a half ago – and beyond the many exciting excursions that are simply part of the regular jobs here – I already have been invited to join various smaller groups in exploring a town, dining in a local eatery, watching a movie, climbing a glacier, fishing in the waters of Bay of Pillars, walking on a beach, and kayaking through beautiful Red Bluff Bay past stunning waterfalls, huge mountains, and crystal-clear icy streams, including a spontaneous hike into the deep and wild, verdant and  untrammeled woods above the shore, following uncut paths usually trod only by deer and bears on their way to the frigid water running down from the snow-capped peaks high above.

Evan replaces his socks after walking through the stream

Evan replaces his socks after walking through the frigid stream.

Evan takes the lead hiking into the woods (armed with bear spray and an adventurer's spirit)

Evan takes the lead hiking into the woods, armed with bear spray and an adventurer’s spirit!

Truly, the people aboard Rainier know how to enjoy the gift of life.  And I feel honored, flattered, privileged, and happy to be included among these new friends on their great adventures.

Beautiful waterfall in Red Bluff Bay

A beautiful waterfall that Theresa, Evan, and I explored in Red Bluff Bay

Staci DeSchryver: Don’t Hate, Just Calibrate! August 9, 2011

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 Strait  57 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.

krill

Marshmallow has been very helpful on the trip. Here he is counting krill. I don't have the heart to inform him that these krill have already been counted.

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.

downrigger

Here you see Cat and I showing off the downrigger - the piece of equipment that holds the calibration spheres under the ship.

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.

downriggers ii

Here, the chief scientist, Chris Wilson, double checks our superior downrigging work!

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.

Personal Log

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.

engine rm

Here is just ONE of the four massive engines on the ship!

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.

door signs

Here is one of the door signs on the ship, which act like a "you are here" sign on a map. The first number tells us what floor we are on. The second number tells us what area of the ship we are in. The third number tells us whether we are port, starboard, or in the center of the ship.

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.

Becky Moylan: Careers on the Ship, July 11, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Becky Moylan
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
July 1 — 14, 2011


Mission: IEA (Integrated Ecosystem Assessment)
Geographical Area: Kona Region of Hawaii
Captain: Kurt Dreflak
Science Director: Samuel G. Pooley, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist: Evan A. Howell
Date: July 11, 2011

Ship Data

Latitude 1940.29N
Longitude 15602.84W
Speed 5 knots
Course 228.2
Wind Speed 9.5 knots
Wind Dir. 180.30
Surf. Water Temp. 25.5C
Surf. Water Sal. 34.85
Air Temperature 24.8 C
Relative Humidity 76.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1013.73 mb
Water Depth 791.50 Meters
Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Science Center (NOAA): Mike

Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Science Center (NOAA): Mike

Deputy Director of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (NOAA): Mike Seki

Duty: I oversee all operations at the Pacific Islands Science Center. That includes all operation: four research divisions, administration and information technology, science operations. Under science operations the Science Center has about 30 small boats (12 to 30 feet) and the Oscar Elton Sette ship (224 feet) to support the mission…

What do you like about the job?  It allows me to see how it all comes together; all facets of the science and how we accomplish our mission.

Experience/ Education: I have BS in biology and have worked with NOAA for 31 years. While working, I went back to school to get my masters and PHD.  In today’s world, to be credible, you really need to have an education. Most of our research scientists have a PHD.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Trying to do what we can with limited resources. We have to prioritize and that involves making tough decisions.

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Captain (CO) Commanding Officer: LCDR Kurt Dreflak, NOAA

Duty: I have responsibility for the whole ship; safety, operations, moral, everything.

What do you like about the job?  I like it best when everyone works together and all the pieces fall into place. We get a chance to see things most people don’t. It‘s a unique opportunity that we shouldn’t take for granted.

Experience/ Education: I obtained a BS in geosystems in environmental management, worked as a geologist at an environmental consulting firm, and have forked for NOAA for 12 years.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

There are things you don’t have any control over.

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Executive Officer (XO): Chief Mate Richard (Pat) Patana

Duty: Second in command after Commanding Officer. I do the administrative work for the ship.

What do you like about the job? I like the NOAA mission, and the job pays well.

Experience/ Education: I am a licensed Captain. I am from Alaska and used to be a commercial long line fisherman in Alaska, Canada, and the West Coast catching shrimp, halibut, and salmon. Then I worked with charter fishing boats.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

The administrative duties.

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS

LCDR (Lieutenant Commander): Hung Tran, USPHS

Duty: Medical officer- Emergency medical care on the ship.

I actually work for the United States Public Health Service.

What do you like about the job?  Meeting new people

Experience/ Education: Eight years of schooling in Chicago, IL. I use to work for the Bureau of Prisons in Honolulu.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The ship is kind of like a “mini-jail”. We are out to sea for long periods and you can’t go anywhere. The confinement can be hard.

What is the most common reason for seeing the doctor at sea?  Sea sickness and headaches.

 

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT Colin Little, NOAA

Field Operations officer (OPS): LT  Colin Little, NOAA

Duty: A liaison between scientists and command officer (CO)

What do you like about the job? I was trained as a scientist, so I like to use that background to better understand where the scientists are coming from and what they want to do, then use the information to relay it to the Captain (CO).

Experience/ Education: I have a BA in biology and a Masters in evolutionary biology.  I have worked my way up to this position by doing various jobs. I work onshore and on the ship at sea. We get transferred every few years, so I will be going to Oregon next.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?Being away from home.

Navigation Officer: LTJG Mike Marino, NOAA

Navigation Officer: LTJG Mike Marino, NOAA

Scientists:

Chief Scientist: Evan

Chief Scientist: Evan

Chief Scientist: Evan Howell

Duty: Directs the operations of the scientists, coordinates activities working with the OPS to make sure the bridge understands what the scientists are trying to accomplish, and writes report on progress.

What do you like about the job?  Although it is tough while we’re going through the process of gathering data, to me it is very satisfying in the end to have something that people can use to further studies of the ecosystem.

Experience /Education:  I have a PHD; however, I didn’t have it when I began the job with NOAA. What’s important for this position is to be able to organize all the different studies, communicate with the scientists and know when to push or back off. You need to be able to see the “big picture” of the project and keep it going forward.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? It is kind of like a juggling act keeping everything going smoothly. There are so many activities happening at the same time, it is sometimes very challenging.

 

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Research Fishery Biologist: Donald

Duty: Research projects dealing with oceanography. (For example; protected species, turtles and larval transports). On this cruise, I am helping lead the midwater trawling operations.

What do you like about the job?  The variety. You don’t get bored with one thing. I tend to get bored working on just one thing at a time.

Experience/ Education:  I got my masters in biological oceanography, went to work at NOAA, and then went back to school for my PHD.

Can you explain the hardest part your job?  Short deadlines and not enough time.

PhD Students

PHD Students: Both up nights supervising the trawls, organizing, recording data, and writing reports.

Johanna: She is working on her PHD through UH in oceanography. Johanna has been working closely with Donald researching larval transport.

John: He is also working on his PHD in preparative biology through the Museum of Natural History in New York. His specialty is studying mictophids.

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

 

Scientist (on ship)/Science Operation Lead (on land): Noriko

Duty: My primary duty is to serve as the PIFSC Vessel Coordinator, and to oversee the science portion of the NOAA Marine Natural Monuments Program. My group also handles permits, and makes sure our internal programs are properly in compliance with NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act- 1969. On the ship I am working acoustics.

What do you like about the job?  Overseeing a great team of people that help PIFSC scientists go out into the field to conduct important research.

Experience/Education:  I got my BS degree, became a survey technician, and then went back to school for my masters in environmental management.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  Coordinating with people outside of our structure can be challenging. We work with the US Fish and Wildlife, the State of Hawaii, Guam and Samoa, the Marianas, and other sections of NOAA.

Stewards

Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)

Stewards

Stewards (Clementine, Jay, and Jeff)

What do you like about the job?

Chief Steward: Clementine: My passion is cooking. So I enjoy my job. I can put any kind of food I want out here. The sky’s the limit!

2nd Cook: Jay: I love being on the ocean and living in Hawaii. And I enjoy working with Clementine who is a native of Samoa. She teaches me about Polynesian and Asian cuisine.

Experience/Education:

Clementine:  I used to run my own business in America Samoa. It was a catering business called Mai Sei Aute which means “my hibiscus flower” in Samoan. I catered to a private school named Pacific Horizon, with 130 students and did all the work myself; cooking, delivering, and cleaning. The way I got this job is a long story.  I started out on the ship called Ka’imimoana. My husband heard one of the cooks left, so I flew over to Hawaii and was working two weeks later. Then I moved over to the OES seven years later.

Jay: I’m from Rhode Island and graduated from Johnson and Wales University where I earned a BS in culinary arts.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Long hours! We work 12-14 hours a day while at sea with no days off.  If we are at sea 30 days, we work 30 days. Another thing is you don’t always have your own room. Sometimes you share with another person.

Deck and Engineering Departments

Harry

Harry

Chief Engineer: Harry

Duty: I am responsible for the engineering department on board the ship. That includes the engine room, hydraulic, electric, all the equipment, and the propulsion plant that keeps the ship underway.

What do you like about the job?

It is a “hands on” type of job, and I enjoy repairing equipment.

Experience/ Education:

I spent 22 years in the Navy and obtained my Chief Engineer License through the Coast Guard.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Finding good qualified people is difficult. You can delegate the work, but not the responsibility. So if the employee I hire doesn’t do the job, I am responsible for getting it done.

Chief Boatswain: Kenji

Chief Boatswain: Kenji

Skilled Fisherman: Bruce

Skilled Fisherman: Bruce

Lead Fisherman: Doug

Lead Fisherman: Doug

Chief Boatswain: Kenji

Duty: Supervise the deck department

What do you like about the job? When everything runs smoothly

Education/Experience: I’ve worked for NOAA 24 years. Before that I was a commercial fisherman on an AKU Sampan.

Explain the hardest part of your job:  Rough seas make the work more difficult and dangerous.

What do you like about the job?

Bruce: Everything! I like working with the machines, the science, helping the environment, and the people. I like NOAA’s mission. And my boss; he’s the best boss I ever had. He has patience with us.

Ray: I love everything about my job. I like the fact that I am at sea and learn things every day and meet new people all the time. The science part of it opens up a whole new world to me. It is something that I wish everyone could experience.

Phil: I agree with NOAA’s mission of ocean management and conservation. This ship, in particular, is a nice place to work because of the people.

 Mills: Fishing

Fisherman: Ray

Fisherman: Ray

General Vessel Assistant: Phil

General Vessel Assistant: Phil

Experience/ Education:

Bruce: I have worked for NOAA for 10 years. Before that, I was a long line fisherman; mostly AHI. I also worked construction with heavy equipment.

Ray: I was in the Navy when I was young. Then I attended Prince George Community College in Maryland and Rets Electronic School in New Jersey. I had my own electronics business.  NOAA sends us to different places for training; for example Mitags (Maritime Institute of technology and graduate studies).

James

James

Skilled Fisherman: Mills

Skilled Fisherman: Mills

Phil: I have worked real estate appraisal for 20 plus years.  I used to have my own real estate appraisal business in Honolulu, worked for a bank doing appraisals, and also for the city and state. Right before this job, I worked on an import ship. Then I was trained by NOAA at the Hawaii Maritime Institute. They trained me on firefighting, lifesaving, and construction of ships, lookouts, and also personal responsibility.

Mills: I went to high school and college in South Carolina to get a degree in marine technology. Then I worked in Alaska for salmon hatcheries. I moved back to South Carolina and worked for the SCDNR (Dept. of Natural Resources). Five years ago, NOAA called me and asked if I could go to Dutch Harbor in two weeks, and I’ve been with them ever since. I started out working in the hydrographic side of things.

Mills

2nd Engineer Neil

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Bruce: Nothing really. I like my job.

Ray: Dealing with negativity issues and people conflicts.

Phil: I would say it has to be adjusting to the schedules. We don’t have a regular 8 hour on, 8 hour off schedule. It varies.

Mills: The hardest part is being away from the world; people, the social life. But then that is the best part of it also.

Coxswain: small boat operator

Coxswain: small boat operator

Coxswain: small boat operator: Jamie

Duty: I’m in charge of the Boating Safety Program and Instructor of Boating Courses for the scientific staff and I help the Pacific Science Center with research boats. There are 24 small boats.

What do you like about the job?: Being on the water and driving the boats

Experience/ Education: I received a degree in marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. Then I began doing field projects and became known to NOAA.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  Doing the certificates for boating courses along with paperwork and record keeping is my least favorite part of the job.

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

ET: Electronic Technician: Ricardo

Duty: I’m in charge of all the electronics, information technology, navigational system, communication system, sensors, and computer network.

What do you like about the job? I enjoy it when I get a chance to help others, like the time I was called ashore to help some people on a small island. I also like that I have a partner to share the job with. We switch every two months (onshore/offshore).  I am glad to be able to travel, the pay is good, and I like accomplishing things that make the ship look good.

Experience/ Education: I did not go to college, and barely finished high school. Then I joined the Air Force.  There is only one tech person, and that is me.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? Climbing the mast where the antennas are and writing weekly reports are things I could glad give to someone else.

Research Oceanographer:  Reka Domokos

Research Oceanographer: Reka Domokos

Research Oceanographer:  Reka Domokos

Duty: Works as an active acoustician for NOAA at the Pacific Fisheries Science Center in Honolulu.

What do you like about the job?

I like that in my job there is always something new, so I am always learning.  I like to look at the big picture to see how the different components of an ecosystem fit together and influence each other.  I like formulating hypotheses, and then test them to see if they hold.  I am also detail oriented so I enjoy writing computer scripts for my data analyses.  In addition, I like contributing to the “collective knowledge” by writing articles that summarized and describe my research and results.

Experience /Education:

I have a Ph.D. in physical oceanography. I attended Berkley for a BS in zoology, then UH Manoa for a masters in zoology and a masters in physical oceanography.  I also earned my Ph.D. at UH Manoa where I taught graduate courses in Zoology and Oceanography before working with NOAA.  I believe that sometimes more experience can be substituted for education when applying for a job.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?

Sitting in an office everyday can sometimes be hard, but spending a month, or sometimes more, a year at sea and going to conferences help to break the monotony.  I also have to take care of administrative duties as part of my job which is necessary but not enjoyable for me.


Aimee

Aimee

Aimee: This is a special case. Aimee was a previous Hollings Scholar who now works at the University of Michigan and is on the ship working co-op with NOAA in the acoustics department. She lives in Michigan and got her degree in Marine Science Biology, but would like to stay in Hawaii. Before boarding the ship she was researching wind farms and fish. She collects data so that they can see if the underwater wind turbines will affect the fish .

Survey Technician: Stephanie

Survey Technician: Stephanie

Survey Technician: Stephanie

Duty: Responsible for data collection from shipboard oceanographic sensors; CTD deployment and retrieval, water filtering for chlorophyll-a samples

What do you like about the job? I like the simple life on the ship. There are no roads with traffic and you don’t have to carry around your wallet or keys.

Experience/Education: I have my bachelor’s degree, and plan on going back to school this fall. I have worked for NOAA for two and a half years.

 

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Research Observers: Allan and Jessica

Mammal Observation-So far we have taken over 2700 photos and several tissue samples for researching dolphins and whales.

Allan: What do you like about the job?  I like being on the water and getting paid for it at the same time.

Allan and Jessica

Allan and Jessica

Experience/ Education: I earned my engineering degree, but didn’t use it.  I began volunteering for whale watching and doing volunteer work for the University of Hawaii coral reef research. I have lived in Hawaii for 14 years, but recently started spending half of my year in Montana, so that I can experience the four seasons.                                                                                                     

Dolphin

Dolphin

Can you explain the hardest part of your job? The toughest thing is not finding any dolphin or whale species. It makes a long day. If the water is rough, it is harder to see them. The best condition to spot them in is when it is smooth and calm.

Jessica: What do you like about the job?  I love small boats, being on the water, and finding less frequently seen species.

Experience/ Education: I attended Hawaii Pacific University and have a master’s in marine science. Right now I’m working a one year position for NOAA called the NIMB Fellowship.

Can you explain the hardest part of your job?  The same thing Allan said, coming home without seeing anything is disappointing.

Students:

 Laura

Laura

Laura: She is attending Stanford University as a senior, majoring in Earth Systems with an emphasis on Oceanography. It includes a wide range of classes, and she has had very interesting traveling experiences while learning. Right now on the OES, she is doing an internship working with the CTD process. This is a paid job with NOAA. Laura’s past experiences include sailing around Cape Cod, a trip to Australia for a Study Abroad Program, and a five-week trip to the Line Islands South of Hawaii. Her plan is to go to school a fifth year to earn a master’s degree while also working in the field.

Nikki

Nikki

Nikki: After this cruise, Nikki will have 82 days at sea under her belt. She started going out during high school in New Jersey. Her charter school had a vessel. Right now she is in the Hollings Scholar Program through NOAA. She applied and received a two year scholarship for her junior and senior year of college. She is attending the University of Miami. And when she finishes that, she has a conditional acceptance to attend RASMAS (University of Miami Science Grad School) where she wants to get her masters in Aquaculture.

Jonathan

Jonathan

Jonathan: Miami is Jonathan’s home and he is also in the Hollings Scholar Program. He is a senior majoring in Marine Science Chemistry. He would like to attend grad school, but needs to make up his mind what area to study because it becomes very specialized. His two choices are ocean acidification or biofuels. After the cruise he will be going to Washington DC to present what he has learned.

Meagan

Meagan

Meagan: She lives in Honolulu and attends University of Hawaii.  In December she will obtain her degree in Marine Biology. She has been employed with NOAA since Nov. 2010 working at the Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center with data collected around the N.Pacific Transition Zone. On this cruise she is helping with the acoustics.  Meagan also works at the Waikiki Aquarium educating others about marine life. She hopes to continue with NOAA and educating the public about conserving and protecting the ocean.

 

UH Marine Research Technician: Jennie Mowatt—

-Preparation and deployment of the Ocean Glider SG513