Cindy Byers: Above the Queen Charlotte Fault, May 2, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cindy Byers
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 29 – May 13, 2018

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: May 2, 2018

Weather From the Bridge

Latitude: 54°41.2 N
Longitude: 134°15.3 W
Sea Wave Height: 5 feet
Wind Speed: 7 knots
Wind Direction: 330°
Visibility: 2 nautical miles
Air Temperature: 9.9°C  
Sky:  Complete Cloud Cover

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Ship Fairweather is now 46 miles off the southeast coast of Alaska, mapping the ocean floor over a fault. This a transform boundary, so it is a strike slip fault.  It is the boundary between the North American and Pacific plates.  The United States Geologic Survey (USGS) has hired NOAA to survey the ocean floor in this area called the Queen Charlotte fault. The entire section of the fault is called the Queen Charlotte – Fairweather fault (named for Mount Fairweather, just like the ship’s name.)  It runs for over 1,200 kilometers from Yakatat, Alaska to the north and British Columbia to the south. This is a part of a long fault along this plate boundary that is called the San Andreas fault when it is on land in California

The last time this particular area was surveyed was for the creation of navigational charts, between 1900 and 1938, but without accuracy or data density that the multibeam sonar being used today has.  Once this portion is surveyed, the entire fault will have been mapped.  The mapping has been done by the USGS, the Canadian Geologic Survey, and NOAA.

Queen Charlotte Fault
The Queen Charlotte Fault

The photo above shows the features of the sea floor.  It is set  on top of a navigational chart.  You can see the numbers on the old chart that represent depth reading.   The data collected today shows depth for the entire area mapped and the features on the sea floor.

Looking at what NOAA Ship Fairweather has already mapped, the fault is very distinct as are the channels that have been offset by past seismic activity.  These channels were created from runoff as the glaciers receded from this area 17,000 years ago.  Using the offset measurements and the time since the canals where formed, scientists have given a slip rate of 5.5 centimeters per year to this area of the fault. This makes it one of the fastest moving continental – ocean transform boundaries.

Mapping

 

NOAA ship Fairweather has sonar that was built for detecting hazards for surface navigation, but it is capable of surveying to several kilometers in depth. The survey team has figured out how map at these great depths up to 2,100 meters.  It involves going slowly over the area, and gathering richer data by going over part of the previous survey lines. This is much like painting a wall, where the painter overlaps their brushstrokes so there are not gaps in the coverage. The multibeam solar is also directed in a narrow band, at this depth, for more accurate data.

Bridge Computer
The blue squiggly lines show where mapping is happening. The other colors are where we have been.

Why do you think this information is wanted by geologists?

The fault has produced at least seven earthquakes with a magnitude greater than 7.  An 8.1 magnitude earthquake was generated from this fault near British Columbia in 1949.  To date, it is the largest Canadian earthquake recorded. In 1958, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake above Lituya, Alaska created a massive underwater landslide which produced a tsunami sending water 525 meters (1700 feet feet) up a mountainside.  More recently in 2012, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake was measured from this fault, and in 2013, Craig, Alaska was hit with a magnitude 7.5 earthquake.

Surveyors computer These five screens are used by the survey team when the multibeam sonar is in use.
These five screens are used by the survey team when the multibeam sonar is in use.

Scientists want to know more about this fault, which could cause further damage to areas of southeast, Alaska.  From the seabed mapping, geologists hope to better understand the slip rate and the intervals between earthquakes.

Personal Log

I have been so impressed with the people on NOAA Ship Fairweather.  Everyone has been so welcoming and kind.  This small group of people living in small quarters could be difficult for many people, but everyone here is so enthusiastic about the mission and their jobs.  They are very open to sharing what they know with me, including explaining the science and technology of the equipment and how the ship functions.

It has been really fun learning about this fault and the surrounding underwater topography.  Being able to see the sea bottom as we continue over it is amazing!

I am so happy I will get a chance to share this science with my students.  I hope they noticed, as they read this post,  the highlighted terms and concepts that we learned this year about faults and earthquakes.

Did you know?

I found a term that was new to me, tectonic geomorphology.  It is the study of the interaction between active plates and land process, and how these shape landscapes.

 

 

Information used in this post can partly from:

“A Closer Look at an Undersea Source of Alaskan Earthquakes.” Earth and Space Science, vol. 99, no. 2, 2018, pp. 1–6.

 

Victoria Cavanaugh: Navigating the Inside Passage, April 24, 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 24, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 50° 10.002′ N
Longitude: 125° 21.685′ W
Sea Wave Height: 7 feet
Wind Speed: 5 knots or less
Wind Direction: Variable
Visibility: 14 km
Air Temperature: 9oC  
Sky:  Mostly Sunny

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Ship Fairweather has begun its transit to Alaska for the heart of the field season which means transiting the famous Inside Passagea roughly two day voyage through a stretch of nearly a thousand islands between Washington State and Alaska.  The more protected waterways of the Inside Passage provided a smooth, calm ride.  I took advantage of the transit to spend more time on Fairweatherbridge in order to learn a bit about navigation.

Magnetic North v. True North
Magnetic North v. True North

One thing that quickly became clear on the bridge of Fairweather is that for many navigational tasks, the crew has at least three ways of being able to obtain needed information.  For example, navigational charts (maps) show two compasses: magnetic and true north.  The inner circle represents the magnetic compass, which in reality points 17 degrees right of true North and is dependent upon the pull of the Earth’s magnetic core.  Because the magnetic compass can be offset by the pull of the ship’s magnetic fields (the ship is made of steel, after all), Fairweather’s compass is actually readjusted each year.  During our Inside Passage transit, a specialist came aboard near Lopez Island to reset the ship’s magnetic compass.

Magnetic Compass
The Ship’s Magnetic Compass Located on the Flying Bridge (Top Deck)
Mirrors
A Series of Mirrors Allows the Crew to Read the Magnetic Compass from the Bridge

The ship’s magnetic compass is located on the flying deck, just above the bridge.  So, to be able to read the compass from the bridge, the crew looks through a series of mirrors above the helm. Notice that next to the mirrors, is a digital display that reads “78.”  This is an electrical reading from the gyrocompass.  The gyrocompass reflects “true North” also referred to as geographical North.

Gyrocompass
The Gyrocompass is Secured in a Closet on D Deck Near the Galley
Auxiliary Compass
An Auxiliary Compass, Connected to the Gyrocompass, is Located Right Off the Bridge on Both Port and Starboard

When at sea, a crew member on the bridge takes “fixes” every fifteen minutes, both day and night.  To take a fix, the crew member uses an auxiliary compass and chooses three landmarks on shore as points.  The crew member then lines up the viewfinder and records the degree of the line formed between the ship and the given point.

Focusing the auxilliary compass
The Crew Focuses the Auxiliary Compass on a Landmark on Shore. This Allows for a Reading on the Gyrocompass.

Next, the crew member plots the three points on the chart using triangles (similar to giant protractors).  The point where the three lines intersect is the ship’s current location.  Though technically, the crew could just plot two points ashore and look for where the lines intersect, but as a way of triple checking, the crew chooses three points.  Then, if a line doesn’t intersect as expected, the crew member can either retake the fix or rely on the other two points for accuracy.

Plotting the Course
The Crew Use Triangles to Plot Their Course
Verifying location
A Crew Member Uses a Compass to Verify Our Current Location, Measuring and Checking Latitude and Longitude

In addition to using the two aforementioned compasses to determine the ship’s location, the open seas often mean majestic night skies.  Some of the crew members told me they  also look to the stars and find the Big Dipper and North Star.  A central theme on the bridge is being prepared: if both compasses malfunction, the crew can still safely guide Fairweather along its course.

Original Navigation System
The Original Navigation System: The Night Sky
Location display
The Ship’s Location Also Displayed Electronically above the Helm

In addition to being able to take fixes and locate constellations in the night sky, modern day technology can make the crew’s job a bit easier.  The ship’s latitude and longitude is continually displayed by an electronic monitor above the helm via GPS (Global Positioning System).  Below, the ship’s Electronic Navigation System (ENS) essentially acts as Google Maps for the sea.  Additionally, the ENS provides a wealth of data, tracking the ship’s speed, wind, and other contacts.

Electronic Navigation System
The Electronic Navigation System – Sort of Like Google Maps for the Ship!

Next to the ENS on the bridge is the ship’s radar, which shows other vessels transiting the area.  Similar to ENS, the radar system also provides information about the ship’s speed and location.

Radar screen
The Ship’s Radar Is Yet Another Navigational Tool
Electronic Wind Tracker
The Electronic Wind Tracker above the Helm

Wind matters in navigation.  The force and direction of the wind can affect both currents and the ship’s route.  Winds may push the ship off course which is why taking fixes and constantly monitoring the ship’s actual location is critical in maintaining a given route.  The wind can be monitored by the weather vane on the bow, the electronic wind tracker above, or on the ENS below.  Additionally, a crew member demonstrates a wheel, used for calculating and recalculating a ship’s course based on the wind’s influence.

Calculating Wind and Direction
A Crew Member Holds a Wheel for Calculating Wind and Direction
Speaker System
An Old-Fashioned Speaker System on the Bridge

On the bridge, multiple ways of being able to perform tasks is not limited to navigation alone.  Communicating quickly on a ship is important in case of an emergency. Fairweather is equipped with various communication systems: a paging system, an internal telephone line, cell phones, satellite phones, etc.

Phone Systems
A Collection of Bells and Phone Systems for Contacting Various Parts of the Ship

Personal Log

Just before leaving Puget Sound, I had the chance to go kayaking for a few hours with two of the crew members.  We had great luck; not only was the water placid, but harbor seals played for nearly an hour as we paddled around one of many coves.  It was neat to see Fairweather from yet another perspective.

Kayaks
Kayaks are Secured for Seas on the Flying Bridge – The Hardest Part Is Carrying the Kayaks Up and Down Several Docks to Be Able to Launch Them
Launching Kayaks
A Bit Tricky: Launching Kayaks from a Launch
Approaching Fairweather in Kayaks
Approaching Fairweather in Kayaks
Wide Open Waters of Puget Sound
Wide Open Waters of Puget Sound
Ready to Explore
Ready to Explore
Harbor Seals
Harbor Seals Played in the Water Around Our Kayaks
IMG_20180421_140958
Incredibly Calm Waters in Puget Sound Made for Picturesque Reflections

 

 

Did You Know?

The Inside Passage is a series of waterways and islands that stretches from Puget Sound, just north of Seattle, Washington on past Vancouver and British Columbia and up to the southeastern Alaskan panhandle.  In British Columbia, the Inside Passage stretches over more than 25,000 miles of coast due to the thousand or so islands along the way.  In Alaska, the Inside Passage comprises another 500 miles of coastline.  Many vessels choose the Inside Passage as their preferred coast as it is much more protected than the open waters of the Pacific Ocean to the immediate west.  Nonetheless, rapidly changing tidal lines, numerous narrow straits, and strong currents make navigating the Inside Passage a challenging feat.  In addition to frequent transit by commercial vessels, tugboats, and barges, the Inside Passage is also increasingly popular among cruise ships and sailboats.  On average it takes 48-60 hours to navigate.

IMG_20180424_131729
Approaching Open Waters as the Fairweather Leaves British Columbia and Enters the Alaskan Portion of the Inside Passage
Glassy Reflection
A More Protected Stretch of the Inside Passage Creates a Glassy Reflection
Crew on Anchor Watch
Crew on Anchor Watch on the Inside Passage as We Approach Seymour Narrows. Note the Weathervane on the Bow.
Snowy Peaks Along the Inside Passage
Snowy Peaks Along the Inside Passage
Late Afternoon View
Enjoying a Late Afternoon View from Fairweather’s Fantail
Islands
Some of the Many, Many Islands along the Inside Passage
Blackney Passage
Blackney Passage
tugboat and barge
A Tugboat Pulls a Barge Near Lopez Island

 

Late Afternoon
Late Afternoon on the Inside Passage as Seen from Starboard, F Deck
Mountain view
Impossible to Get Tired of These Views!

Challenge Question #4: Devotion 7th Graders – NOAA and NASA collaborated to produce the National Weather Service Cloud Chart which features explanations of 27 unique cloud types.  Clouds can tell sailors a great deal about weather.  Can you identify the type of clouds in the ten above pictures of the Inside Passage?  Then, record your observations of clouds for five days in Brookline.  What do you notice about the relationship between the clouds you see and the weather outside?  What do you think the clouds in the pictures above would tell sailors about the upcoming weather as they navigated the Inside Passage?  Present your observations as journal entries or a log.

A Bonus Challenge. . .

Just outside the bridge on both the Fairweather‘s port and starboard sides are little boxes with two thermometers each.  What is the difference between dry and wet temperatures?  Why would sailors be interested in both measurements?

Two thermometers
Two thermometers, labeled “Dry” and “Wet”, with different readings

 

 

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.

Victoria Cavanaugh: Patch Tests in Puget Sound, April 20, 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 20, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 47° 44.116′ N
Longitude: 122° 32.070′ W
Sea Wave Height: 1 foot or less
Wind Speed: 5-8 knots in the AM, then less than 5 knots in PM
Wind Direction: SSE, variable
Visibility: 16.1 km
Air Temperature: 8oC  
Sky:  Scattered Clouds

Science and Technology Log

For the past two days, NOAA Ship Fairweather has been anchored in Port Madison,  part of Puget Sound off the coast of Seattle, Washington.  The crew is currently stopped for a few days in Puget Sound before heading north to Alaska in order to complete the yearly Hydrographic Systems Readiness Review (HSRR).  During HSRR, the survey techs test all of the hydrographic survey equipment that will be used during the field season.  It’s essential to test and calibrate the equipment at the start of the season in order to ensure the data accuracy for upcoming projects.

The first part of HSRR began Thursday morning. Because NOAA Ship Fairweather spent winter at dock in Yaquina Bay, barnacles and algae were able to grow plentifully on the ship’s bottom, making it their home.  The dive team deployed to check the Fairweathers hull and clean off the sonar transducers, removing any biofouling (sea life that had built up on the ship’s bottom) from the winter in port.

 

On Thursday afternoon and Friday, the next phase of HSRR began.  On Friday, I was able to spend most of the day on the survey launches as a few of the survey techs conducted patch testing (a process for precisely determining an orientation of the launch’s sonar).  NOAA Ship Fairweather has four 28-foot launches, and I spent the morning on 2808, and then the afternoon on 2806.  When working on projects in relatively shallow waters, the Fairweather deploys these launches to collect data more efficiently as four launches can work on a project simultaneously.

Safety Meeting Before Launches Deploy
Safety Meeting Before Launches Deploy
One of the Launches is Lowered from F Deck (the 6th Deck Up)
One of the Launches is Lowered from F Deck (the 6th Deck Up)
One of the Launches Being Lowered into Puget Sound
One of the Launches Being Lowered into Puget Sound
A Launch Begins Patch Tests
A Launch Begins Patch Tests

The launches are driven by a coxswain, often a NOAA officer or deck hand, while a Hydrographer-in-Charge (HIC) plans track lines for the vessel to run.  Sometimes, a coxswain-in-training or HIC-in training will also join the launch.  As part of HSRR, the HIC chose a few track lines for the launch to run, and the coxswain, drove the launch back and forth on the lines at various speeds.  While we ran the track lines, the HIC was able to gather data by sending an acoustic ping from the sonar which reflects off the seafloor and is then recorded when it returns to the sonar.  The two-way travel time of the pin is measured, which (when coupled with the speed of sound through the water) can be used to calculate the water depth.

The Coxswain Helps Deploy the CTD
The Coxswain Helps Deploy the CTD
The Coxswain's Seat
The Coxswain’s Seat
The HIC Readies the Launch as We Pull Away from NOAA Ship Fairweather
The HIC Readies the Launch as We Pull Away from NOAA Ship Fairweather
The HIC and HIC-in-Training Prepare the CTD
The HIC and HIC-in-Training Prepare the CTD
The HIC Checks Data Being Collected as the Launch Runs Patch Tests
The HIC Checks Data Being Collected as the Launch Runs Patch Tests

While in Port Madison, the crew will send all four of the Fairweatherlaunches out to run the same track lines and to ensure the data collected by each launch matches.  At night, after the HIC’s have gathered data, the survey techs spend hours in the plot room, looking at the day’s data and checking for any discrepancies.  The survey techs correct any errors in the data and the saved changes are sent back to each launch’s computing system.  This is known as calibrating.  By running patch tests and calibrating the launches to one another, survey techs are able to guarantee that data collected throughout the season is precise, no matter which launch is used for a given area.

The CTD Up Close: The Powerful Little Machine that Measures the Speed of Sound!
The CTD Up Close: The Powerful Little Machine that Measures the Speed of Sound!

Data Being Collected from the CTD on the Launch Monitor: Conductivity (Salinity), Temperature, and Depth (Pressure)

The CTD Stands Ready to Be Deployed on the Launch's Deck
The CTD Stands Ready to Be Deployed on the Launch’s Deck

Before and after running the patch tests, the crew deploys a CTD  The CTD measures the conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water.  The survey techs are interested in the CTD readings because this information helps them assess the speed of sound (or the sonar waves) in a given body of water.  In turn, knowing the speed of sound and the amount of time the CTD takes to reach the ocean floor, allows survey techs to calculate ocean depths.  (The classic distance equation, d=rt!)

Data Being Collected from the CDT on the Launch Monitor
Data Being Collected from the CDT on the Launch Monitor

Conductivity refers to the ability of the given water sample to pass an electrical current.  Survey techs are interested in the conductivity, because the conductivity is another way to gauge the salinity (or “saltiness” of the water).  The more salt in a sample of ocean water, the greater the ocean water’s conductivity and the faster the sound waves travel.  Next is temperature.  Water closer to the surface is warmer, and thus, sound will travel faster closer to the surface.  Conversely, the cooler the temperature, the slower the sound waves travel.  The final measurement is depth, or pressure.  The deeper the water, the greater the pressure.  Greater depths increase the speed of the sonar waves.  The average speed of sound in the water is 1,500 m/s.  By comparison, the average speed of sound in air is about 340m/s.

Night Processing of Data in the Plot Room
Night Processing of Data in the Plot Room

After dinner, survey techs are assigned to night data processing.  I joined one of the survey techs, Ali, who was kind enough to explain how the launch data is analyzed.  One interesting note is the red light in the plot room.  The red light is used because the plot room is next to the bridge, where the officers and deck crew keep watch.  The red lights help the crew keep their eyes ready for night watch, so those processing data also work under red lights.

A "Painting" of Collected Data: Different Colors Represent Differing Depths
A “Painting” of Collected Data: Different Colors Represent Differing Depths

In the above photograph, notice the various colors representing the differing ocean depths.  In this case, red is shallower and purple is deeper.  Notice that as the survey tech, hovers over a datapoint with her mouse, the data collected by Fairweather launch 2807 is shown as a coordinate with a depth of 168.3 meters.  Creating a color “painting” of the data points is helpful because the changing colors help the survey techs understand the slope of the ocean floor; closer together colors mean a steeper slope or a sharp increase in depth, whereas larger swatches of the same color mean a flatter seafloor.

The green lines in the picture represent the “lines” that the launch ran, meaning the area where the coxswain drove back and forth in the boat at varying speeds.  Notice that there are two lines as the launches always run two lines to ensure accuracy.  As the launch is driven back and forth in the water, the transducers on the bottom of the launch emits multi-beam sonar, and sound waves ping off the ocean floor several times per second, sending sound waves back to the launch which are translated into millions of data points by the survey techs.

The survey techs use various computer programs and imaging software to analyze the data.  Above, the survey techs can look at a 3D cross-section of the data, which essentially looks like a virtual map of the sea floor.  In the bottom right corner, the survey tech compares two lines for accuracy, one with data points colored red, the other green.  When the lines line up exactly, precision is ensured.  The survey techs analyze the data to make sure the rocking of the boat in any direction (front/back, side-to-side, etc.) won’t interfere with mapping accuracy later in the season.  Finally, survey techs compare their work with each other to ensure precise calibration.

Personal Log

One of my favorite things about being onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather are the tremendous views every time I look outside.  Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular.  We’ve had some really great weather over the last few days, and though it has been a bit chilly, the skies have been fairly clear.

Sunset in Port Madison
Sunset in Port Madison
Mount Rainier at Sunset
Mount Rainier at Sunset
Pulling Up the Anchor in Port Madison Shortly After Sunrise
Pulling Up the Anchor in Port Madison Shortly After Sunrise
Brainbridge Island, Washington
Brainbridge Island, Washington
Two of the Crew Checking the Anchor Line Angle During Anchor Recovery
Two of the Crew Checking the Anchor Line Angle During Anchor Recovery
Puget Sound
Puget Sound
Mount Olympia National Park
Mount Olympia National Park

 

Did You Know?

On nautical charts (or maps), units of measurement vary.  Ocean depths can be marked in feet, meters, or fathoms. Fathoms, like knots, is another term steeped in nautical history.  When sailors used to measure ocean depths by hanging rope over the side of a vessel, they would pull in the line, looping the rope from hand to hand.  The distance of the rope from one outstretched hand to another (a sailor’s wingspan) became known as a fathom.

Challenge #2  – Devotion 7th Graders: Measure your wingspan, the distance from one outstretched hand to another.  Then measure four other friends, classmates, or family members’ wingspans.  What is the median wingspan for you and your friends?  What is the mean wingspan for you and your friends?  What is the mean absolute deviation for your collective wingspans?  One fathom is equal to 1.8288 meters or 6 feet.  If one fathom is the average sailor’s wingspan, how do your wingspans compare?  Present your findings on a 8.5x11inch paper as a mini-poster.  Include illustrations and calculations.

 

 

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Victoria Cavanaugh: Newport, Oregon Bound!, April 12, 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 12, 2018

Weather Data from My Classroom at School

Latitude: 42.3306° N
Longitude: 71.1220° W
Sea Wave Height: N/A
Wind Speed: 16 km/h
Wind Direction: SW
Visibility: 14.5km
Air Temperature: 5.6oC  
Sky:  Scattered Clouds

Personal Log

Greetings from Brookline, Massachusetts!  I am a 7th grade math teacher at the Edward Devotion School, where I have the wonderful opportunity to work with 80 creative and enthusiastic students each day.  I applied to the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program as I’m eager to bring real-world math to the classroom, or maybe to bring my classroom to the real-world math. 🙂 The 7th graders are currently in the midst of our data and analysis unit, and I can’t wait to learn more firsthand about how NOAA scientists gather, graph, and analyze data.  I look forward to sharing my learning with my class, and I’m excited about to what future class projects this opportunity may lead.

Math Class Fish
Our 7th Grade Math Class Fish, Swim Shady, & the Inspiration for Our Aquaponics Garden Design Project

 

Previous to teaching 7th grade math in Brookline, I taught for nearly a decade in El Salvador.  I’m happy to be able to share this adventure with students there as well.

El Salvador group photo
Visiting with Some Former Students & Family along the Ruta de Flores, El Salvador

In just a few days, I will fly from Boston, MA to Portland, OR, and from there I’ll board NOAA Ship Fairweather in Newport, OR.  It was a nice surprise to learn I’d begin my journey in Newport as I first visited Oregon when I was in seventh grade myself.  From there, we’ll sail towards Southeast Alaska.

Newport beach
My Brother and I (as a 7th Grader) Visiting the Beach in Newport, OR

While aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather, I’ll be participating in a hydrographic survey, which entails working with scientists to measure and describe oceanic features that can affect maritime navigation. According to NOAA,  “Alaska’s charts are in need of updating, especially in the Arctic region where some soundings date back to the work of Captain Cook in the 18th century.”  Conducting a hydrographic survey of the region is especially important because many towns and villages in Alaska are reachable only by boat or plan, so accurate and updated navigational charts will benefit all who live and travel through the area.

One aspect of the Alaska Hydrographic Survey Project, I’m eager to witness is the way in which scientists, technicians, and cartographers utilize some of  the same geometry and algebra concepts we’ve been studying in seventh grade math this year in their work aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather.

 

Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Fairweather’s home port is Ketchikan, Alaska, which will also be where I’ll disembark at the end of my trip.

Fairweather
NOAA ship Fairweather, in front of its namesake, Mt. Fairweather. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

Lisa Battig: The Inner Workings of Fairweather…

NOAA Teacher at Sea Lisa Battig

Aboard Fairweather, Alaskan Hydrographic Survey vessel

September 5, 2017

Location: 56o20.5N  166o07.1W  (We are currently ~ 170 miles due east of the Alaskan Peninsular National Wildlife Refuge!)

Weather from the bridge: 51o F, Wind 8-10 knots from 285o, high thin clouds, seas 2-3 ft (1 hour after I wrote this we were socked in with fog, which is fairly common for this part of Alaska during this time of year.)


Science and Technology Log:

Fairweather was commissioned in 1968 and has 2 engines. The engines are pretty ridiculously big. They are diesel combustion engines and run similarly to a diesel tractor engine.

Karla at the engine
Karla Martinez standing next to one of the engines for scale. She is an oiler, and currently the only female member of the engineering crew. Go Karla!!

 

 

She was built with Controllable Pitch Propellers. This technology is fascinating!! It allows for very fine control of the ship’s motion.

CPP in two positions
An image of a CPP propeller with blades in two different positions to show the axis of movement. Image courtesy of Schottel website. 

The CPP technology works by turning each of the propeller blades on its individual axis. In this way, the propellers never have to change the direction of spin, but instead the spin continues the same direction but the ship can come to a stop and then reverse direction. This differs from the fixed propeller system that is on the small launches. The Fairweather’s propeller blades are about 3 feet each in size for a total propeller diameter of 7 feet.

 

She also has a bow thruster which can be used in certain circumstances. The bow thruster enables the bow to move from side to side while the stern of the ship is static. It is essentially a propeller mounted into a tunnel/hole in the bow giving thrust perpendicular to the typical direction of travel. For a large ship like Fairweather, this is especially helpful when moving in and out of docking locations.

The next two technologies are of particular interest for my environmental science classes. Because the ship is often at sea for extended periods, it is necessary to make fresh water from the salt water. Typically Fairweather will take on ~16,000 gallons of water in port, but evaporators will be used to generate supplemental freshwater when it is needed.

Evap seawater in line
This is the seawater intake for one of the evaporators.

The evaporators on Fairweather are flash (plate) evaporators and they can generate around 160 gallons of water per hour when operating optimally. The evaporators are running a distillation process by evaporating the water using heat from the boilers at a low pressure and then separating the freshwater from the brine (highly saline water). Because of the constant removal of salt from the water, the evaporators need to be cleaned often for best use.

Flash evaporator
This is one of the flash evaporators. Inside the pressure is lowered and the temperature runs at about 170 degrees F. While this is below the normal boiling point of water, the water will still vaporize and condense due to the low pressure

The brine is then discharged and the freshwater is added to the supply tanks. When leaving the tanks, it is pumped to higher pressure and further treated through filters and with UV light to kill off any bacteria that may have made it through. That water is stored in a hydropneumatic tank at high pressure so that water can be delivered to all parts of the ship without the need for continuously running pumps.

People eat and drink and then they pee and poop. They also like to shower and brush their teeth and wash their hands. They also need water to drink and cook with and to make coffee and tea. Obviously there is also a lot of gray water (sinks and showers) and black water (toilets) that is produced on a ship of this size carrying ~40 people. So what is done with all of it? Well, blackwater goes through the MSD (marine sanitation device) before it is discharged outside of 3 nautical miles from land. MSDs are standard on all ships and work similarly to land based sewage treatment on a much smaller scale. Gray water can be acceptably discharged as is in most places, but must be stored within NDZs or No Discharge Zones.

Discharge plan
Guidelines for discharge

Other necessary technologies on the ship are the refrigeration system, the boilers and the generators. But I won’t go into all of those processes. It’s just amazing to me that there are so many things that must be accounted for on a ship if it will be at sea for multiple days!


Crew of the Day! Engineering

20170908_084414
If you’re going to get pictures of the engineering crew, you have to find the rare times when lots of them are together… you can find a good group at mealtimes or when the ship is being docked and they all need to be on the boat deck! L-R: Sean, Kyle, John, Mick and Ray
20170907_170858
L-R Sean, Connor, John, Mick, Alex, Eddie… and even with all my stealth, I’m still missing a couple from the group pictures!

The Engineering crew on this ship is a highly eclectic bunch! They are also a REALLY difficult group to get together for pictures. They have about a 40 year span in age and include folks from all over the world with a great diversity of backgrounds. There are several levels within the engineering crew. The entry level position is termed a wiper, next is an oiler, and then engineering utility, and junior engineer. These positions are unlicensed, analogous to enlisted positions in the military. The licensed positions are 3rd Engineer, 2nd Engineer, 1st Engineer and Chief Engineer. There are five licensed engineers on board right now and another six in the department who are oilers and junior engineers.

Anything that is mechanized, motorized, has an electric cable going to it, or needs to be oiled or lubed, those things all fall under the watchful eye of the Engineering crew. One of the young 3rd Engineers, Connor (nicknamed Titan because he really is giant) also describes them overseeing “Hotel Services” – plumbing, lighting, heating & cooling. The crew keeps a 24 hour watch whenever the ship is underway, and can take over aft steering if something were to fail with the bridge steering. They are also on watch whenever the small launches are being deployed or replaced to their cradles. If the bow thruster is being used, a crew member will also watch to see that it engages properly for use.

The well-being of the ship is in the hands of the Engineers and therefore the Chief Engineer reports directly to the Commanding Officer (where all other department heads report to the Executive Officer). The CO and the Chief Engineer really share the task of running the ship, but ultimate responsibility lies with the CO.


Personal Log:

The food! OH MY GOODNESS!!! The food on Fairweather has been terrific. There are two amazing cooks here currently. Tyrone, who is the Chief Cook, has been with Fairweather for 5 years. Prior to that, he cooked for the Navy. Kathy is the Chief Steward (which means she is in charge of the kitchen and develops the daily menus) and has been with NOAA ships cooking in some capacity for almost 20 years! You’ll learn more about her in my next blog… The Interview Issue!

So, here’s a sampling of what’s been on the menu since I’ve been here: Prime Rib, Lobster, Argentinian flap steak with Chimichurri, Halibut with some crazy good pesto type sauce… I am going to leave the ship about 10 pounds heavier than when I got here. So, this is not what you always get on NOAA ships, but this particular pairing of Kathy and Tyrone makes some serious magic!!

Spencer Cody: Farewell Fairweather, June 18, 2016

Spencer Cody

Onboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather

May 29 – June 18, 2016

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey

Geographical Area of the Cruise:  along the coast of Alaska

Date: June 18, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 

Observational Data:

Latitude: 55˚ 20.643′ N

Longitude: 131˚ 37.505′ W

Air Temp: 20˚C (68˚F)

Water Temp: 13˚C (55˚F)

Ocean Depth: 30 m (100 ft.)

Relative Humidity: 65%

Wind Speed: 9 kts (11 mph)

Barometer: 1,022 hPa (1,022 mbar)

Science and Technology Log:.

111_0798 (2)
In order to check whether the tide gauge is working or not, a tidal observation needs to take place.  Over the course of several hours, the tide is measured as it rises or falls on graduated staffs and is recorded and compared to our tidal gauge data.  Credit Brian Glunz for the photo.

While horizontal control base stations are used to improve the accuracy of the positions of all points on a surface by providing a fixed known location to compare to GPS coordinates, constantly changing tides present another challenge in of its own.  With tides in the survey area ranging 3 to 6 meters (10 to 20 ft.), depths can vary widely for various shallow-water hazards depending on the strength of the tide.  Consequently, accurate tide data must be recorded during the survey and in close proximity of the survey site since tides vary widely depending on topography, weather systems, and other factors.  This is where tide stations come into play and are necessary to accurately gauge the vertical level of water throughout the survey area.

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Surveying equipment is used to check benchmarks near the tide station in the upper left for any movement.  Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician Hannah Marshburn is recording data from the leveling process with Ensign Matthew Sharr sighting a staff held in place by Ensign Mason Carroll and Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician Clint Marcus.

Before a survey is started in an area, a tide station can be set up within the survey area to measure local tides. The tide stations use solar cells to generate electricity to power a small compressor on land that sends air through a hose that is attached to the ocean bottom in a near-shore environment.  The tide gauge can measure how much pressure is needed to generate a bubble out the end of the hose, the greater the pressure, the deeper the water.  These pressure gradients correlate to a certain depth of water while the depth of the water is tied to a nearby benchmark of surveyed elevation.  This information is then transmitted out to tide reporting sites online.  For additional data on tide patterns, the information on tide levels can be downloaded from the gauge in refining survey data.  In order to ensure that a tide gauge is working correctly, manual tide observations are periodically made at the same location. Additionally, the benchmarks near the tide gauge go through a process called “leveling.” This is survey work that compares all of the secondary benchmarks in the area to the primary benchmark.  If none of the benchmarks have moved relative to each other, it is safer to assume that the benchmarks still represent the elevation that they were originally surveyed.  Once the survey in the area is completed, the tidal gauge is packed up to be used at another location.  Since the portion of the tidal gauge that releases the pressurized bubble is under the entire tidal water column, a dive team is required to remove the remaining equipment.  The entire tidal gauge site is returned to how it looked before the station was set up.  Only the survey benchmarks remain for future use.

Personal Log:

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From left to right Ensign Tyler Fifield charts our course while Able Seaman Godfrey Gittens has the helm with Ensign Lander Van Hoef controlling the power to propulsion.  Bridge usually has at least one officer and one deck member on watch at all times.  Ensign Fifield has been in NOAA and on the Fairweather for two years and has a background in marine safety and environmental protection.  AB Gittens spent 4 years in the Navy, 20 years on commercial and military marine contracted vessels, and has now worked for NOAA for a couple of months.  Ensign Van Hoef has a background in mathematics and has been on the Fairweather for six months.

Dear Mr. Cody,

On our cruise ship there are officers that wear uniforms who run the ship.  They also look out for the safety of everyone onboard.  They are very nice and know a lot about how to keep the ship running and get the cruise ship to each stop on our vacation.  They work with each department on the ship to make sure everything runs properly and people stay safe.  It has been a great trip to Alaska, and now we are at our last stop.  Goodbye Alaska!  (Dillion is one of my science students who went on an Alaska cruise with his family in May and has been corresponding with me about his experiences as I blog about my experiences on the Fairweather.)

Dear Dillion,

The Fairweather also has officers, the NOAA Corps, to help run the ship and carry out NOAA’s mission by utilizing NOAA’s fleet of ships and aircraft and by staffing key land-based positions throughout the organization.  The NOAA Corps ensures that trained personnel are always available to carry out NOAA’s missions using cutting-edge science and technology.  This gives NOAA the flexibility it needs to complete many types of varied research since officers are trained to fulfill many types of missions.  This gives NOAA the ability to respond quickly to scientific and technological needs and helps retain a continuity of operations and protocol throughout the vast fleet and area of operations.  In order to be considered for acceptance into the NOAA Corp, applicants must have at least a four year degree in a field of study relating to NOAA’s scientific and technological interests.  Once accepted into the program, they go through five months of training at the United States Coast Guard Academy where they develop an understanding of NOAA’s mission, maritime and nautical skills, and general ship and boat operation skills.  After successful completion of the training, NOAA officers are placed on a ship in the fleet for three years of sea duty to begin their new career.

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Chief Electronics Technician Sean Donovan performs his daily check of communications systems on the bridge.  CET Donovan served as a naval service ground electronic technician for 11 years in the Navy and has been in NOAA for 8 months.

On the Fairweather NOAA Corp officers help run and manage the ship and launch boats.  They navigate the ship and stand watch on the bridge.  They work with the other departments to ensure that the mission is accomplished and everyone remains safe during the mission.  On a hydrographic survey ship such as the Fairweather, Corps officers commonly have the position of sheet manager for hydrographic survey regions as collateral duties allowing them the opportunity to plan the logistics of hydrographic survey areas and learn how to use software associated with hydrographic data collection and analysis. Additionally, officers will be assigned to other scientific missions as they arise since the Fairweather will participate in a variety of scientific projects throughout the year.

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Able Seaman Carl Coonce controls the hydraulic system that is picking up a launch boat from a survey mission.  AB Coonce has been in NOAA for 12 years.  He was also on the NOAA ships Albatross and Bigalow.  He has been on the Fairweather for five years.  He started out in NOAA as a second cook and then a chief steward, but he wanted to learn more about ships; so, he made the move to the deck department commenting, “When you go out on deck, all differences are set aside.  We lookout for each other.”

A hydrographic ship such as the Fairweather requires many departments to work together  including the NOAA Corps officers to accomplish the mission.  There is the deck department and engineering department and the steward department as I have discussed their role in previous posts.  However, there are also electronic technicians that assist the survey in all of its technological aspects including the ship’s servers, electronics, radar, and communication systems.  Since technology plays a critical role in the collection and analysis of data, a hydrographic ship depends on these systems to carry out its scientific research.

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Acting Chief Hydrographic Survey Technician John Doroba prepares a boat launch for another portion of the hydrographic survey.  ACHST Doroba is the lead survey technician for this leg.  He has a background in geography, physical science, and information systems with a decade of work experience in and out of NOAA relating to surveying and related technology.

The survey department does the bulk of the collection and analysis of hydrographic data.  Depending on experience and education background, someone in survey may start out as a junior survey technician or assistant survey technician and advance up to a survey technician, senior survey technician, and possibly a chief survey technician.  With each step more years of experience is required because a greater amount of responsibility comes with each position concerning that survey.  Survey technicians generally need to have a background in the physical sciences or in computer science.  Technology and physical science go hand-in-hand in hydrographic survey work by applying and analyzing scientific data through the lens of advanced technology and software.  One needs to be capable in both areas in order to be proficient in the survey department.

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Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician Steve Eykelhoff collects hydrographic data during a launch.  HAST Eykelhoff has a background in geology and hydrology.  He has worked on many mapping projects including mapping the Erie Canal and the Hudson River.

It really comes down to people working together as a team to get something done.  In the case of the Fairweather, all of this talent and dedication has been brought together in a team of NOAA Corps, engineers, deck, survey, technicians, and stewards to carry out a remarkable array of scientific work safely and efficiently.  This team is always ready for that next big mission because they work together and help each other.  Yes, Dillion, my time here on the Fairweather is also drawing to a close.  I have enjoyed the three weeks onboard and have learned a lot from a very friendly and informative and driven crew.  I thank all of those who were willing to show me what their job in NOAA is like and the underlying concepts that are important to their careers.  I learned a great deal concerning NOAA careers and the science that is carried out onboard a NOAA hydrographic ship.  Thank you!

Did You Know?

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps is one of seven uniformed services of the United States consisting of more than 300 officers that operate NOAA’s fleet of 16 ships and 9 aircraft.

Can You Guess What This Is?111_0918 (2)

A. a ship  B. a hydrographic survey  C. a NOAA vessel  D. a final farewell to an amazing ship and crew

You should already know the answer if you have been following this blog!

(The answer to the question in the last post was C. an azimuth circle.  The Fairweather has an azimuth circle onboard.  While it is not typically used for navigation, it is yet another technology that remains as a holdover from earlier seafaring times and as a potential navigation tool available when all modern equipment has failed.  The azimuth circle can be used to measure the position of a celestial body for navigation purposes or to get a bearing on an object visible from the ship.)

Spencer Cody: Killing the Dots, June 13, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Spencer Cody

Onboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather

May 29 – June 17, 2016

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey

Geographical Area of the Cruise:  along the coast of Alaska

Date: June 13, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 

Observational Data:

Latitude: 55˚ 10.643′ N
Longitude: 132˚ 54.305′ W
Air Temp: 19˚C (66˚F)
Water Temp: 14˚C (58˚F)
Ocean Depth: 33 m (109 ft.)
Relative Humidity: 50%
Wind Speed: 6 kts (7 mph)
Barometer: 1,014 hPa (1,014 mbar)

Science and Technology Log:

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“Killing dots” or manually flagging data points that are likely not accurately modeling hydrographic data is only the beginning of a very lengthy process of refining hydrographic data for new high-quality nautical charts.  Credit Hannah Marshburn for the photo.

In the last post, I talked about how we collect the hydrographic data.  The process of hydrographic data collection can be a challenge in of itself with all of the issues that can come up during the process.  But, what happens to this data once it is brought back to the Fairweather?  In many ways this is where the bulk of the work begins in hydrography.  As each boat files back to the ship, the data they bring back is downloaded onto our servers here on the ship to begin processing.  Just the process of downloading and transferring the information can be time consuming since some data files can be gigabytes worth of data.  This is why the Fairweather has servers with terabytes worth of storage to have the capacity to store and process large data files.  Once the data is downloaded, it is manually cleaned up.  A survey technician looks at small slices of hydrographic data and tries to determine what is the actual surface of the bottom and what is noise from the multibeam echosounder.  Leaving too many false data points in the slice of hydrographic data may cause the computer software to adjust the surface topography to reach up or below to something that in reality does not exist. The first phase of this is focused on just cleaning the data enough to prevent the hydrographic software from recognizing false topographies.  Even though the data that does not likely represent accurate hydrographic points are flagged and temporarily eliminated from the topographic calculation, the flagged data points are retained throughout the process to allow for one to go back and see what was flagged versus what was retained. It is important to retain this flagged data through this process in case data that was thought to be noise from the echosounder really did represent a surface feature on the bottom.

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Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technician Sam Candio is using a three dimensional viewer to clean the hydrographic data collected from that day’s launches.

Once this process is complete, the day’s section is added to a master file and map of the target survey area.  This needs to happen on a nightly basis since survey launches may need to be dispatched to an area that was missed or one in which the data is not sufficient to produce quality hydrographic images.  Each launch steadily fills in the patchwork of survey data; so, accounting for data, quality, and location are vitally important.  Losing track of data or poor quality data may require another launch to cover the same area.  After the survey area is filled in, refinement of the new map takes place.  This is where the crude cleanup transitions into a fine-tuned and detailed analysis of the data to yield smooth and accurate contours for the area mapped.  Data analysis and processing are the parts of hydrographic work that go unnoticed.  Since this work involves many hours using cutting-edge technology and software, it can be easy to underappreciate the amount of work survey technicians go through to progress the data through all of these steps to get to a quality product.

Personal Log:

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Dillion and family in Hoonah, Alaska.

Dear Mr. Cody,

Today we docked in Hoonah, Alaska.  We had a whale show right under our balcony!  They are incredible to watch.  There is so much to see for wildlife in Alaska. (Dillion is one of my science students who went on an Alaska cruise with his family in May and will be corresponding with me about his experiences as I blog about my experiences on the Fairweather.)

Dear Dillion,

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A friendly humpback is keeping our survey launch company as we map our assigned polygon.

I know what you mean about the wildlife.  I am seeing wildlife all over the place too.  On our transit to our survey site from Juneau, I saw numerous marine mammals: hump back whales, dolphins, and killer whales.  On our last survey launch, we had two humpbacks stay within site of the boat the entire morning.  They are remarkable creatures.  Whenever we locate a marine mammal, we fill out a marine mammal reporting form allowing various interests to use these reports to estimate the population size and range of these animals.  The waters off the Alaskan coast are full of marine life for a reason.  It is a major upwelling area where nutrients from the ocean bottom are being forced up into the photic zone where organisms such as phytoplankton can use both the nutrients and sunlight to grow.  This provides a large amount of feed for organisms all the way up the food chain.  This area is also known for its kelp forests.  Yes, if you were on the sea bottom in these areas dominated by kelp, it would look like a forest!  Kelp are a very long- and fast-growing brown algae that provide food and habitat for many other marine organisms.

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Kelp forests form on relatively shallow rocky points and ledges allowing for the holdfasts to form and latch onto the bottom giving the resulting algae growth the opportunity to toward the surface to collect large amounts of sunlight for photosynthesis.

Did You Know?

The RESON 7125sv multibeam echosounders found onboard the survey launches use a 200 kHz or 400 kHz sound frequency.  This means the sound waves used fully cycle 200,000 or 400,000 times per second.  Some humans can hear sounds with pitches as high as 19 kHz while some bat and dolphin species can hear between 100 and 150 kHz.  No animal is known to have the capability to audibly hear any of the sound waves produced by the multibeam onboard our survey boats.  Animals that use echolocation tend to have much higher hearing ranges since they are using the same premise behind acoustic mapping in hydrography but to detect food and habitat.

Can You Guess What This Is?

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A. a marker buoy  B. a water purification system  C. an electric bilge pump  D. a CTD sensor

The answer will be provided in the next post!

(The answer to the question in the last post was A. a search and rescue transponder.  If a launch boat were to become disabled with no means of communication or if the boat needs to be abandoned, activating a search and rescue transponder may be the only available option left for help to find someone missing.  When the string is pulled and the cap is twisted, a signal for help is sent out in the form of 12 intense radar screen blips greatly increasing the odds for search and rescue to find someone in a timely manner.  The radar blips become arcs as a radar gets closer to the transponder until the radar source gets within a nautical mile in which the arcs become full circles showing rescue crews that the transponder is nearby.)

Spencer Cody: Filling in the Asterisk, June 10, 2016

NOAA Teahcer at Sea

Spencer Cody

Onboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather

May 29 – June 17, 2016

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey

Geographical Area of the Cruise:  along the coast of Alaska

Date: June 10, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 

Observational Data:

Latitude: 55˚ 10.643′ N

Longitude: 132˚ 54.305′ W

Air Temp: 19˚C (66˚F)

Water Temp: 12˚C (54˚F)

Ocean Depth: 33 m (109 ft.)

Relative Humidity: 60%

Wind Speed: 4 kts (5 mph)

Barometer: 1,014 hPa (1,014 mbar)

Science and Technology Log:

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Goodbye Juneau, we are off to our survey site just west of Prince of Wales Island in the southernmost part of Southeast Alaska.

On Sunday with everyone who needed to be here for the next leg of the hydrographic survey onboard, we set off for the survey site.  Transiting through Alaskan fjords and associated mountains is a real treat to say the least.  The abundance of wildlife and picturesque views of glaciers, mountains, and forests lend one easily susceptible to camera fatigue.  Every vista resembles a painting or photograph of significance.  The views are stunning and the wildlife breathtaking.  After a day’s worth of transiting, we arrived in our survey area just west of Prince of Wales Island on the southern tip of Southeast Alaska and its Alexander Archipelago.  The chain of islands that makes up the Alexander Archipelago represent the upper reaches of the submerged coastal range of mountains along the Pacific.  A mere 20,000 years ago, the sea level was roughly 120 meters (400 ft.) lower than what it is today as our planet was in the grips of the last major ice age.  To put that into perspective, the Fairweather is currently anchored in a calm bay with about 30 meters (100 ft.) of water.  During the recent ice age, this entire ship would be beached hanging precariously next to ledges dropping 100 meters (300 ft.) to the ocean below.  The mountains and steep island banks continue down to the sea floor providing for wildly changing topography below sea level.  This type of environment is perfectly geared toward Fairweather’s capabilities.

While mapping survey areas that include shallow near-shore water, the Fairweather anchors in a calm bay maximizing ideal conditions for launching and retrieving boats whenever possible.  Survey launches are dispatched out to their assigned polygons with the survey area while a skiff boat carries out near-shore marking of rocks and obstructions.  Each of the four survey launches have a RESON 7125sv multibeam echosounder to collect data for mapping.  Survey launches are sent out for much of the day and return with hydrographic data concerning their assigned area.  All of the data is compiled into one file after extensive processing and quality control.

Personal Log:

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Dillion enjoying Sitka, Alaska.  Credit Suzi Vail for the photo.

Dear Mr. Cody,

We arrived in Sitka, Alaska, with bald eagles flying overhead.  The islands with the tall mountains are amazing.  Some even have snow on them still.  They have a lot of trees and wildlife.  The mountains are all over the island and come right down to the ocean with a very tall dormant volcano across the sound from Sitka.  (Dillion is one of my science students who went on an Alaska cruise with his family in May and will be corresponding with me about his experiences as I blog about my experiences on the Fairweather.)

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Assisting Ensign Joseph Brinkley in lowering a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) sensor.  The CTD records temperature, salinity, and density.  All of these factors affect the speed of sound and must be factored into our data collection.  Credit Todd Walsh for the photo.

Dear Dillion,

We are not that far to the southeast of you in our survey area.  That is part of the challenge of mapping this area and ensuring that nautical maps are accurate and up to date.  Those tall mountains that you see so close to your ship really do continue down into the ocean in many places.  I was able to go out on one of our survey launches to see how hydrographic data is collected using the Fairweather’s fleet of survey launch boats.  It started with a mission and safety briefing before the launches were turned loose.  Our operations officer went over the assigned polygon mapping areas with us.  We were then reminded of some of the hazards that a small boat needs to be cognizant of such as the log debris in the water and the potential of grounding a boat on rocks.  Both our commanding officer and executive officer repeatedly stressed to us the importance of being careful and alert and always defaulting to safety versus more data collection.  Once the briefing was over, our boats were launched one at a time to our assigned survey polygons.  We were to map the area just north of the McFarland Islands.  Parts of the this area had known hazards hidden just below sea level.  Complicating matters was the fact that many of these hazards marked on existing maps were instances in which someone hit a rock but did not know the exact location or a rock was potentially spotted at low tide.  It was our job to carefully map the area without damaging the boat or putting any of the passengers in harm’s way.

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Keeping the boat on course as we collect a swath of hydrographic data in deep water devoid of rocks, kelp, or logs.  Credit Todd Walsh for the photo.

Mapping an assigned area can be anywhere between the two extremes of incredibly uneventful to nimbly avoiding obstacles while filling in the map.  Since the multibeam echosounder requires sound waves to travel farther through a deeper column of water, the swath covered by the beam is wider and takes longer to collect.  In such stretches of water, the boat is crawling forward to get the desired amount of pings from the bottom needed to produce quality hydrographic data.  When the boat is in shallow water, the reverse is true.  The beam is very narrow, and the boat is able to move at a relatively fast pace.  This makes mapping shallow regions challenging.  The person navigating the boat must work with a narrower beam at faster speeds while avoiding the very hazards we were sent to map.  Additionally, in this area kelp forests are very common.  The long brown algae forms a tangled mass that can easily bind up a boat propeller.  Add massive floating logs from all the timber on these islands, and now you have a situation in which a trained driver needs to have all their wits about them.

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Narrowing the data collection to a range of depths in which the entire swath can be recorded minimizes the cleanup of false data points while not losing any of the pertinent hydrographic data.  Credit Amber Batts for the photo.

While the person navigating the boat tries to orderly fill in the polygon with a swath of hydrographic data, a person must be stationed at a work station inside the cabin modifying the data stream from the beam to help keep out noise from the data making the survey data as clean as possible.  Sloppy data can result in more time in cleanup during the night processing of data once the boats return to the Fairweather.  In addition, to control what is recorded, the station also determines when the multibeam echosounder is on or off.  It takes some practice to try to keep multiple tasks on multiple screens functioning within an acceptable range.  The topography in the map area also adds to the challenge since drop offs are commonplace.  There were many times were the difference from one end of the beam to the other end was 100 meters or more (300 feet or more).  It was like trying to survey the cliff and bottom of the canyon including the wall of the canyon in one swipe.  Sometimes the ridges are so steep underwater that shadows are produced in the data were the sound waves were blocked by the ridge and our relative angle to it preventing a complete swath.  This requires us to move over the ridge on the other side to map the gap.

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Slowly but surely, we are painting over the existing map with a detailed color-coating of contours of depth.

There is something inherently exciting about being the first to see topography in such detail.  Much of this area was last surveyed by lead line and other less advanced means of surveying than our current capabilities.  In many respects they were accurate, but as we filled in our data over the existing maps, one could not help but to feel like an explorer or as much as one can feel like an explorer in this modern age.  We were witnessing in our little assigned piece of the ocean something never seen before: land beneath the water in striking detail.  The rocks and navigational hazards no longer resembled mysteriously vague asterisks on a navigation map to be simply avoided.  We were replacing the fear of the unknown with the known by using science to peer into those asterisks on the map and paint them in a vivid array of well-defined contours later to be refined and made ready for the rest of the world to utilize and appreciate through upgraded navigation charts.  Once our assigned polygon was filled to the best of our abilities, we moved on to the next and so on until it was time to head back to the Fairweather completing another successful day of data collection.

Did You Know?

Kelp is a long brown algae that forms underwater forests that serve as an important habitat for many marine organisms.  Kelp is one of the fastest growing organisms on the planet.  Some species can grow a half a meter (1.5 ft.) per day reaching lengths of 80 m (260 ft.) long.

Can You Guess What This Is?

152_3283 (2)A. search and rescue transponder  B. an emergency flashlight  C. a marker buoy  D. a flare gun

The answer will be provided in the next post!

(The answer to the question in the last post was B. an oil filter.  Getting an oil filter change for the Fairweather is a little different than for your car though the premise is similar.  The four long filters used for each of the two diesel engines onboard are many times larger to accommodate the oil volume and are more durable to handle circulating oil 24 hours a day.)

Spencer Cody: No Survey, No Problem, June 8, 2016

Spencer Cody

Onboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather

May 29 – June 17, 2016

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey

Geographical Area of the Cruise:  along the coast of Alaska

Date: June 8, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 

Observational Data:

Latitude: 55˚ 10.643′ N

Longitude: 132˚ 54.305′ W

Air Temp: 17˚C (63˚F)

Water Temp: 11˚C (52˚F)

Ocean Depth: 33 m (109 ft.)

Relative Humidity: 52%

Wind Speed: 10 kts (12 mph)

Barometer: 1,014 hPa (1,014 mbar)

Science and Technology Log:

155_3353 (2)
Refrigeration, boiler, and compressed air are just three of the many systems that are monitored and maintained from engineering.

With much of the survey team either on leave or not yet here for the next leg of the hydrographic survey, it can be easy to be lulled into the sense that not much is going on onboard the Fairweather while she is in port, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Actually, having the ship docked is an important time for departments to prepare for the next mission or carry out repairs and maintenance that would be more difficult to perform or would cause delays during an active survey mission.  On that note while the Fairweather was docked was a perfect time to see the largely unseen and unappreciated: engineering.  Engineering is loud and potentially hazardous even when the engines are not running, much less, when we are underway.  One of the key purposes of engineering is to monitor systems on the ship to make sure many of the comforts and conveniences that we take for granted seemingly just happen.  Sensors constantly monitor temperature, pressure, and other pertinent information alerting the crew when a component drifts outside of its normal range or is not functioning properly.  Catching an issue before it progresses into something that needs to be repaired is a constant goal.  Monitoring in engineering includes a wide array of systems that are vital to ship operations, not just propulsion.  Sanitation, heating, refrigeration, ventilation, fuel, and electric power are also monitored and regulated from engineering.  Just imagine spending the day without any of these systems while the loss of all of them would send us reeling to earlier seafaring days when humanity was entirely at the mercy of nature’s whim.

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Tommy Meissner, an oiler in the engineering department, is giving me a tour and overview of engineering.  The day after this photo was taken, he took and passed his junior engineer certification exam.  Congratulations Tommy!

Two diesel generators can produce enough power to power a small town.  Water systems pressurize and regulate water temperatures for use throughout the ship while filtration systems clean used water before it is released according to environmental regulations.  Meanwhile, enough salt water can be converted to freshwater to meet the needs of the ship and crew.  The method of freshwater production ingeniously uses scientific principles from gas laws to our advantage by boiling off freshwater from salt water under reduced air pressures increasing freshwater production while minimizing energy consumption.  Steam is generated to heat the water system and provide heat for radiators throughout the ship, and of course the two large diesel engines that are used to provide propulsion for the ship are also located in engineering.

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Chief Engineer Bill Ness using the ship’s crane to unload a crate of materials and equipment onto the pier.

How does one get to work in engineering onboard a ship like the Fairweather?  There are several different positions in the ship’s engineering department.  An oiler is largely responsible for maintenance, repair, and fabrication and must pass a qualifying test for this designation focusing on boilers, diesel technology, electrical, and some refrigeration.  Once the qualifying test is passed, the Coast Guard issues a Merchant Mariner credential.  Only then can one apply for that position.  Junior engineers must pass a test demonstrating that they have the working knowledge of the systems involved with engineering especially in areas of auxiliary systems and repair.  Junior engineers generally need less supervision for various operations than oilers and have a greater scope in responsibility that may also include small boat systems and repair.  The scale of responsibility does not stop there, but continues through Third, Second, and First Engineers.  Each involving a qualifying test and having more requirements involving education and experience.  Finally, the Chief Engineer heads the department.  This too requires a qualifying test and certain experience requirements.  There are two different ways in which one can progress through these different levels of responsibility.  They can attain the formal education or they can document the job-related experience.  Usually both play a role in where someone is ultimately positioned determining their role onboard the ship as part of an engineering team.

Personal Log:

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Deck crew Terry Ostermyer (lower, right) with Jason Gosine (middle) and I (left) degreasing cables for the hydraulic boat launching system.  It really needs a before and after photo to be appreciated.  Credit Randy Scott for the photo.

Dear Mr. Cody,

The crew is very friendly.  They take care of everything that we need on our trip to Alaska.  They also take care of the ship.  They must have to do a lot of work to keep such a large ship going and take care of this many people on vacation at sea.  (Dillion is one of my science students who went on an Alaska cruise with his family in May and will be corresponding with me about his experiences as I blog about my experiences on the Fairweather.)

Dear Dillion,

The Fairweather also has a crew that takes care of the ship and its very own fleet of boats.  While in port, I worked with our deck department to get a very small sense of what they do on a day-to-day basis to keep the ship running.  The pitfall of having a lot of equipment and having the capability of doing many multifaceted missions is that all of this equipment needs to be maintained, cleaned, repaired, and operated.  This includes maintaining both the ship’s exterior and interior, deployment and retrieval of boats, buoys, arrays, and various other sampling and sensory systems.  When not assisting with carrying out a component of a mission such as launching a boat, the deck crew is often performing some sort of maintenance, standing watch, mooring and anchoring the ship, unloading and loading supplies, and stowing materials.  Depending on years of experience and whether they have a Merchant Mariner’s certification or not will determine the level of responsibility.  On a survey ship, the deck department specializes in boat launches and maintenance; so, the levels of responsibility reflect that central area of concern.  Beginning experience starts with general vessel assistant and ordinary seaman progressing through able seaman with Merchant Mariner’s certification and seaman surveyor or deck utility man to boatswain group leader to chief boatswain.  The chief boatswain is in charge of training and supervision regarding all of the areas pertinent to the deck department.  This is a stark contrast compared to the deck department on the Pisces that specialized in techniques associated with fish surveys.

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Cannot paint because of a rain delay?  No problem.  There is always something else to do like heads and halls.  Deck crewmember Denek Salich is in the background.  Credit Randy Scott for the photo.

When I was with the Fairweather’s deck crew, they were working on taking an old coating of grease off cables and applying a new coating back on.  The cables are used to raise and lower the 28’ long hydrographic survey launches.  This will be a system that will be in use throughout the next leg; so, now is a great time to clean and replace that grease!  After using rags and degreasing agents to strip the old grease off, a new coating was added to the cables.  The crew is always conscientious about using chemicals that are friendly to the environment and proper containment strategies to prevent runoff from the deck directly into the ocean.  Deck crew need to be very flexible with the weather.  Since the weather was not cooperating for painting, we moved indoors and did “heads and halls,” sweeping and mopping hallways and stairs and cleaning bathrooms.  The Fairweather resembles an ant colony in its construction; so, heads and halls can be a lot of work even for a whole team of people, but as I am reminded by one of our deck crew, “Teamwork will make the dream work.”  It is, indeed, teamwork that makes Fairweather’s missions, not only possible, but successful.

Did You Know?

The boiler system produces steam that provides a heat source for the water system and the heating system.

Can You Guess What This Is?

155_3411 (2)A. an ocean desalinization unit  B. an oil filter  C. a fuel tank  D. a sewage treatment unit

The answer will be provided in the next post!

(The answer to the question in the last post was C. an incinerator.  You may not think of it as being a major problem, but one person can produce a lot of trash over the course of a week or weeks.  Imagine this same problem times 50!  Since the Fairweather must utilize its storage and equipment spaces efficiently, burnable wastes must be incinerated; otherwise, we would be stacking the trash to the ceiling in every available space.)

Spencer Cody: Fairweather in Transition – June 5, 2016

Spencer Cody

Onboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather

May 29 – June 17, 2016

 

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey

Geographical Area of the Cruise:  along the coast of Alaska

Date: June 5, 2016

Weather Data from the Bridge: 

Observational Data:

Latitude: 58˚ 17.882′ N

Longitude: 134˚ 24.759′ W

Air Temp: 15˚C (59˚F)

Water Temp: 8.9˚C (48˚F)

Ocean Depth: 9.7 m (31.8 ft. at low tide)

Relative Humidity: 67%

Wind Speed: 5.2 kts (6 mph)

Barometer: 1,025 hPa (1,025 mbar)

Science and Technology Log:

Fairweather
Yes, the Fairweather needs to be prepared for everything imaginable:  spare parts, lines, tanks, survey equipment, safety equipment, tools, and more.  Preparedness is key to successful mission completion.

Now that I have been on the Fairweather for a few days I have had the opportunity to see much of the ship and learn about how it operates.  If ever there were an embodiment of the phrase newer is not always better, it might be the Fairweather.  Even though the Fairweather is approaching 50 years old, one cannot help but to attain an appreciation for the quality of her original construction and the ingenuity behind her design.  Rooms, compartments, and decks throughout the ship are designed to be watertight and to maximize fire containment.  Multiple compartments can be flooded without putting the entire ship in danger.  The ship is also designed to withstand sea ice due to its densely ribbed construction and extra think hull.  This makes the hull remarkably strong allowing the ship to cut through ice and withstand the additional pressure of ice-covered seas.

 

155_3414 (2)
One of the two massive Detroit electro-motive diesel engines that propel the ship.  Credit Tommy Meissner for the photo.

The Fairweather is built on redundancy for safety and practicality.  If one system gives out, another can be relied upon to at least allow the ship to get back to port or depending on the system continue the mission.  There are redundant systems throughout the ship involving everything from communications to essentials for sustaining the crew to navigation.  There are even redundant servers in case one set of survey data is compromised or physically damaged the other server may remain untouched.  Storage space is a premium on a ship that needs to be self-sufficient for weeks at a time to address foreseeable and unforeseeable events.  Every free space has a purpose for storing extra equipment, tools, parts, and materials.  Utility and efficiency are running themes throughout the ship.

Personal Log:

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The incoming and outgoing commanding officers read off their orders to signify the official change of command of the ship.

Dear Mr. Cody,

Onboard our ship the captain is in charge of the entire crew and ship.  People follow his orders and the chain of command to take care of the ship and its passengers.  It takes a very large crew to take care of all the passengers on a cruise ship and on such a long trip to Alaska and back.  (Dillion is one of my science students who went on an Alaska cruise with his family in May and will be corresponding with me about his experiences as I blog about my experiences on the Fairweather.)

Dear Dillion,

The Fairweather also has a captain whose ultimately responsible for the fate of the crew and the ship. While we are in Juneau, the Fairweather is undergoing a change of command.  On Wednesday we had a change of command ceremony.  It was a day of celebration and reflection on Fairweather‘s accomplishments.  As high-level officials throughout NOAA and other organizations arrived, their arrival was announced or “piped” throughout the entire ship over the intercom system.  Later in the day we had the official change over in a special ceremony attended by all of these dignitaries and guests with NOAA Corps officers dressed in full uniform.

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The Fairweather welcoming dignitaries and guests to the Change of Command ceremony.

After everyone read their remarks on the occasion, the time of the official change over was at hand.  The Reading of Orders ceremony was carried out where both the outgoing and incoming commanding officers read their orders for their new assignments.  Insignia on each officer’s uniform was changed by the spouses officially indicating the new commanding officer and the outgoing commanding officer.  With that Lieutenant Commander Mark Van Waes replaced Commander David Zezula as the CO for the Fairweather becoming its 18th commanding officer.  As the new CO gave his arriving remarks, he reminded us that “Command of a ship is many things…it is an honor to know that the leadership of this organization places special trust in your skills and abilities to hold this position…command is a privilege; of the hundreds of those who have served aboard the Fairweather, only 18 have been the commanding officer…command is a responsibility…for the ship…to the mission…and to the people.”  The Dependents Day Cruise and Change of Command Ceremony made for an eventful week while in port in Juneau.  Now we prepare for our first hydrographic mission with our new CO.

Did You Know?

The Fairweather has a total tonnage of 1,591 tons, displacement of 1,800 tons, a length of 231 feet, and is A1 ice rated meaning it can safely navigate ice covered seas with the assistance of an ice breaker.

Can You Guess What This Is?

TrashA. power generator  B. heat sensor  C. an incinerator  D. RESON multibeam echosounder

The answer will be provided in the next post!

(The answer to the question in the last post was B. a speaking tube.  Speaking tubes or voice pipes were commonly used going back to the early 1800s to relay information from a lookout to the bridge or decks below.  They were phased out during the 20th century by sound-powered telephone networks and later communication innovations.  They continue to be used as a reliable backup to more-modern communication methods.)

Dana Clark: Alaskan Launches, Tides and Bears, Oh My! June 28, 2014

 NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Clark

Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 23 – July 3, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographical area of cruise: South Coast of Kodiak Island

Date: June 28, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 51° 12.83′ N, Longitude – 152° 29.54′ W, Sky Condition – 1/8 clouds, Present Weather – clear, Visibility – 10 nautical miles, Wind – 8 knots, Temperature – 21° C

Science and Technology Log

Dana Clark with Primary Antenna
Dana Clark with Ens. Joe Brinkley repairing horizontal control station, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska

Each day when I participate in hydrographic surveys I always tell the boat that today we need to see a bear. Recently, one launch survey crew saw a bear swimming in the water and it stopped and looked at them before swimming off to the land. This was my ideal situation. So yesterday I participated in a hydrographic survey and the driver got real excited for me when in the middle of a transit, he yelled that he thinks he sees two bears on the shore. As we use binoculars to see them we confirm that we have now seen…two horses! This sighting was by all accounts very interesting to the crew since no one knew that there would be wild horses on an island in Alaska. However, the day’s sightings of wild cows and horses did nothing for this Texan.

Bear chewed solar panels
Bear chewed solar panels, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska

Today, I did something different. I went with a survey group out in an orange work boat called an Ambar. This boat is different than the launches because it is a jet boat, which means it has an impeller versus an exposed propeller. This way, it can bring us right up to shore.

We had a two-fold purpose, first to repair a horizontal control station, HorCon for short, and then to make tide observations. The HorCon station logs GPS (Global Positioning System) data. The station has a GPS atenna and recording unit, radio modem antenna for remote communications, car batteries to power everything, and solar panels to charge the batteries.The antennas are on a fixed tripod. For this piece of equipment, the higher the better! It allows us to achieve better horizontal and vertical positioning for our multi-beam data. It tracks the satellites overhead, the same as our survey launches do, but since it is in a known position we can use these data to remove any atmospheric interference.

We hike a large cliff and at the top is the HorCon station. As we crest the hill, it is Joe in the lead, then Joy, then me. Joe says stop, there’s a bear on the ridge, and it’s only about 200 feet away! We quickly gather together to look bigger to the bear and it decides to amble away over the ridge. Then, two baby cubs that we hadn’t seen go following behind her! My day is made perfect. When we get to the horizontal control station we find out it wasn’t working because the bear had chewed the solar panels and pulled a cord out of the primary antenna. Check out the huge bite mark in the picture above! Joe repaired the cord, made sure the other solar panels were still connected, and we had the station up and communicating.

Dana Clark Tide Observations
Dana Clark reading water level off the tide staff, Japanese Bay, Alaska

First mission accomplished then off to do tide observations. Mostly, this consist of sitting on the beach and recording the current water level every six minutes. It was a beautiful sunny day and Japanese Bay, Alaska was the ideal place to be. On shore there is a gauge, tripod and antenna with a wire that attaches to an orifice underwater. There also is a staff in the water with measurements on it. A constant flow rate of air is maintained in the orifice underwater so we can measure the pressure of the water column. More pressure = higher tide. Just think, at higher tide there is more water pushing down on it, hence more pressure. The gauge correlates pressure values with how much tide we are actually seeing. So we take staff observations over two hours and every six minutes we take a minute of readings of how high the water is on the staff. We then download the data from the gauges and compare it to our visual data. It’s important to go out every week to get readings and make sure no bear or storm has bothered it.

Why do tide observations every week? The scientists here often see tide ranges in Alaska from -5 feet to +25 feet. They need to know the correct tidal effects so when they take depth readings with the multi-beam sonar they can adjust those depths to remove tide and chart the soundings at MLLW (Mean Lower Low Water), which is the chart datum. This is because the water level is changing every day with tides and they need to be accurate. This is real important in shallow areas.

Scientist of the Day

Tami Beduhn
Tami Beduhn in Barrow, Alaska, 2012. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fairweather

Today I would like you to meet Tami Beduhn, a Chief Survey Technician for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. She is the head of the whole hydrographic  survey department here on the Fairweather! She is not in NOAA Corps but is a wage mariner, which means she is getting sea time assigned to the Fairweather in order to get her Able Seaman credentials and she is not part of the uniformed services.

She’s here because she wants to be on this ship doing the work she does and her CO, CDR Zezula, sure is glad she’s here. He says, “Tami is technically outstanding, incredibly dedicated, and has a strong work ethic. She is the bedrock of the science, especially with a lot of new people this year, and I rely on her leadership to guide and mentor as well as maintain the high quality Fairweather is known for.”

As the chief survey technician, she manages the survey department and is responsible for quality assurance and control of hydrographic data aboard the ship. The highlight of her job is training the new recruits. Tami believes the key to a good hydrographer is having a good attitude, good computer and math skills, and a willingness to learn. And they must enjoy teamwork since living on a ship is like having a family that works together. Tami graduated from North Carolina State University with a BS in Marine Science and a Concentration in Geology and came straight to NOAA. Here’s a woman who’s at the forefront of her field, all at the age of 27 years old!

Personal Log

What a great day I had today! I saw a bear with her two cubs, two orcas, and three bald eagles! Here is a poor quality shot of the bear with her cubs below her and a little to the left. Below that is a bald eagle. The third picture  is me on top of the hill after fixing the HorCon station. You can click on any picture in my blogs to see it full size. And after checking out the pictures, make sure to vote in the poll below. The weather is perfect and I even got a little sunburned today. Life is good being a hydrographer in Alaska in the summertime!

Brown bear and her cubs
Brown bear and her cubs, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska

 

Cape Kaguyak
Bald Eagle, Cape Kaguyak, Alaska
Dana Clark Cape Kaguyak, Alaska
Dana Clark on top of Cape Kaguyak, Alaska

 

Question: What is this? Plant or animal? Answer in the poll below.

Japanese Bay, Alaska

Dana Clark: Alaska’s Rocky Seafloor, June 26, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Clark

Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 23 – July 3, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographical area of cruise: South Coast of Kodiak Island

Date: June 26, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 56° 45.40′ N, Longitude – 154° 9.99 W, Sky Condition – 7/8 clouds, Present Weather – clear, Visibility – 10 nautical miles, Wind – 3 knots, Temperature – 14° C

Science and Technology Log

Dana Clark on the fantail
Dana Clark on the fantail of the Fairweather

Each morning there is a meeting of the launch crew on the fantail, which is aft, which means the back deck of the boat. You need to wear your hard hat and your PFD which stands for Personal Flotation Device. It is really great that the life-jacket is embedded into the jacket. Wednesday I went out on a launch, a 28 foot boat, and attempted to collect hydrographic data. However, the weather did not cooperate. We were tossed around by winds of 30 knots, which is approximately 34.5 mph, and 5 foot swells and waves. I found out that swells are large scale rollers of water and waves are choppy. Swells have more amplitude, a lot of energy, are larger, and are driven by far off (can be thousands of nautical miles away) weather storms or very high or low pressure systems. Waves are surface wind driven, choppy, smaller, and have more pitch. You can have either one by itself or you can have both together, either going the same direction or cross-ways. Well, we had both swells and waves from different directions at the same time! The waves had whitecaps and the swells were just big! I couldn’t even get out my camera to take a picture because I was holding on to the rail in the cabin with both hands, trying not to fall or get in the way of the scientists as we pitched about. And, can you believe, no seasickness! We were called back to the ship after the current we measured registered at 5 to 5.5 knots, much too fast for us to put our CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) into the water. The professionals aboard the Fairweather put a premium on safety and knew it was time to call an inclement weather day and have the launches return. By the way, the picture at the left was taken on another day. How quickly the weather can change!

Mark Bradley NOAA Fairweather
Mark Bradley using multi-beam sonar 3D imaging to confirm uncharted rock in navigational waters

Today, it was wisely decided that I would be exposed to the science on the ship while the launches went out and the weather system finished passing through. I was able to learn from Mark Bradley who is a hydrographic survey technician. Some days he goes on the launches and uses the multi-beam echo sounder to map sections of the seafloor. Other times he works on the ship processing the data that has been collected and preparing the descriptive report. Today he was comparing old charts to the new survey soundings that a launch had previously recorded while they were picking up holidays during a low tide. Remember, holidays are where there are gaps in the data. While resurveying this holiday they saw a rock sticking out of the water so they came back later in the day during high tide and used the multi-beam sonar to get a depth measurement for the top of it. Mark then took this data and compared it to the old charts. The old charts didn’t even have this rock recorded! He used his 3D imaging and measured the rock at 83 meters wide and 30 meters tall. It was huge! At low tide, it stuck a meter out of the water. This rock was in navigational water and easily could have damaged or sunk a boat. Mark confirmed another nearby rock was 3 feet under the surface so if you were in a boat you wouldn’t see it. This second rock was a known rock; however, on the old chart it was at 42 feet below the surface, not 3 feet! So there is a great need to update our navigational charts since the old ones can be over 100 years old. Eventually, this chart he’s updating will be revised and published by NOAA Charting Division.

Kristin Golmon NOAA Fairweather
Kristin Golmon on the bridge of the Fairweather

Scientist of the Day

Today I would like you to meet Kristin Golmon, a Junior Officer for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. This Texan is a woman who is in charge! She is an ODD which stands for Officer of the Deck. Because the CO, the Commanding Officer cannot be on the bridge (the space that you command the ship from) all the time, an OOD directs the bridge when he is below, and is the direct representative of the CO. She drives the ship, does survey work, does administrative duties and currently she’s also working towards her coxswain qualification. Today she is in charge of the bridge, working on charts, communicating with the hydrographic survey launches, and recording the weather. Kristin has always been curious about how stuff works. In elementary school she invented a t-shirt folding machine out of cardboard. You would put a t-shirt on it and it would fold the shirt and you would pull the cardboard out! She always did well in math and science and had her parents, a geologist mom and a mathematician dad, as her role models. She attended Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas and earned a BS in Engineering Science, a minor in Mathematics and another minor in Environmental Studies. She was a senior in college when she heard about NOAA Corps and liked their science mission. She also liked the idea of serving her country in a uniformed service.

Casey Marwine polar bear
Polar bear mom and her two cubs, Artic Ocean, 2012.
Photo courtesy of Casey Marwine.

Being a woman in charge has its challenges when working in a male dominated field but she has the respect of her peers and the CO. Currently, the head of NOAA is Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, a geologist and an astronaut who was the first American woman to walk in space. When asked what she liked best about her job, Kristin said that it’s a pretty cool experience being in charge of a ship, especially when going through narrow passages that take a lot of planning like the Inside Passage in Alaska. She also loved seeing polar bears, a mom and two cubs, while doing the Arctic Reconnaissance Survey!

Personal Log

Dana Clark Fairweather room
Dana Clark working in her stateroom on the Fairweather

Check out where I live on the ship.  This is my room, or as we call it aboard ship, my stateroom. Notice the hard hat and survival suit above the bed and the life jacket above the television! I also have a desk that folds up when I don’t need it.  It was a treat to have my own room. The shower and the head (what they call the bathroom) is across from my room. Also on the ceiling of the hallway outside my bedroom is an escape hatch! Then in the floor above is another hatch. This way I can safely get up to the upper decks if my hallway gets blocked or flooded.

Dana Clark Escape Hatch
Escape hatch in the hallway ceiling on the Fairweather

 

Question (or Answers): Today’s question will actually be answers! And speaking of polar bears, remember my question from my first blog when I asked you the question of what were the odds that I would see a polar bear? Well, the answer is none. The polar bears are much farther north and are found in the Artic region of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia. Unfortunately, I will not be seeing any polar bears. My poll last blog asked you to identify a picture as plant or animal. Many of you voted and it was a pretty split vote between the two! The picture is of bull kelp, a plant, and its scientific name is nereocystis. It can grow huge and I have seen some big ones here in Alaskan waters.

I will leave you with this shot of beautiful Kodiak, Alaska that I took from the ship. This is where we are anchored this week.

Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak, Alaska, June 2014

Dana Clark: Alaska and the Launch, June 24, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Clark

Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 23 – July 3, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographical area of cruise: South Coast of Kodiak Island

Date: June 24, 2014

Weather Data: Latitude – 56° 45.35′ N, Longitude – 154° 10.0 W, Sky Condition – 7/8 clouds, Present Weather – clear, Visibility – 10 nautical miles, Wind – calm, Temperature – 13.8 C°

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday was my first day underway on NOAA Ship Fairweather. Before I could participate in all the cool science I had to complete all the safety training. I am now ready to survive any situation on ship since I have successfully completed a fire drill, abandon ship drill, donned my survival suit, and learned how to deploy a life raft. See how I look in my survival suit!

Survival Suit
Dana Clark in her survival suit

Before I tell you about all the great science we’re doing, I want to address the earthquake and tsunami that hit Alaska and was widely reported yesterday. There was an 8.0 earthquake near Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, southeast of Little Sitkin Island that triggered a tsunami warning; however, only small waves hit the coastal communities. This was west of Kodiak Island and we were not affected by it. In speaking with the experts on the ship, they explained that we were safer on a ship than shore and a tsunami would roll under the ship. I wondered if it was normal to have these alerts since earthquakes happen everyday in Alaska, and veteran scientists on the Fairweather said that they had never had an earthquake with a tsunami warning before. What an exciting event on my first day!

NOAA Ship Fairweather
Launch boats returning to NOAA Ship Fairweather. Photo courtesy of Karen Hart

Today I was ready to go out on a launch. This is a 28 foot boat that uses a suite of hydrographic hardware and software, such as a multi-beam sonar to map assigned sections of the seafloor. I set out with Tim, who is a coxswain which means he is a small boat operator for commissioned vessels, Clint, who is a hydrographic senior survey technician and Joy, who is a hydrographic survey technician. And me, a Teacher at Sea! Our mission was to do cross lines of sonar mapping to check that there are no erroneous offsets between days of data. We also would pick up holidays, which are gaps in the data, and go over them with sonar. We are mapping South Kodiak Island this week and more specifically for today, we are mapping around Aiaktalik Island.

Lowering CTD
Dana Clark lowering the CTD in to the water

We begin by using a CTD which stands for Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth. This instrument measures conductivity, temperature, and pressure which can be used to derive the speed of sound throughout the water column. It will help to correct for refraction of the sound wave emitted from the sonar as it passes through varying layers of the water column. The multi-beam sonar sends out 512 beams at a rate of 4.5 pings per second. The number of beams is independent of water depth but the swath width is dependent on water depth. We then measure how long it takes for them to get to the bottom and back, which is called two-way travel time. The multi-beam sonar provides us with bathymetric data, which is simply a large density of depths used to generate a surface representing the seafloor. Then we record the measurements. In the picture below you will see Joy recording the data from the sonar.

Collecting Sonar Data
NOAA’s Joy Nalley collecting data aboard a launch

Scientist of the Day

Today I would like you to meet Joy Nalley, a Hydrographic Survey Technician for NOAA who is currently aboard the Fairweather. As a girl, she was always interested in science. She said she even spent most of her childhood playing in a large magnolia tree. Her love of nature continued as a teenager as she spent summers on the lake. She went to the University of Alabama where she earned a BS in Environmental Science, a Minor in Geology, and a Specialization in Hydrology. During school she earned experience in her field by working in a research position and an internship. After college she did another internship in order to gain experience. Her research participation along with the internships allowed her to get an interview and subsequent job with USGS which is the United States Geological Survey. There she was a hydrologic technician for two years. This meant that she studied the water and took data from the actual water. This job then lead to her current position with NOAA where she is a hydrographic survey technician. Now she takes data from the actual seafloor in order to map it. This is a relatively new field of science. There is a lot of seafloor to map since less than 5% has been mapped this way, hence making it a desirable career. Joy says that to go into her field you should be adventurous, want to work with cool people on a team, and have an interest in marine science; then this is the career for you!

Personal Log

I had a good first two days and survived rolling seas last night without feeling seasick. I think I have my sea legs on now! Since several of you are wondering, the food is very good. The cooks take good care of us here. I am also getting a lot of exercise going up and down the six decks on the ship and doing the survey work on the launch. I saw many animals while out on the launch today including a harbor seal, sea gulls, puffins, multiple giant jelly fish, and a bright purple jelly fish! What a great time I’m having doing science with such a wonderful group of highly trained, experienced, and interesting crew aboard the Fairweather! 

Question: What is this? Plant or animal? Answer in the poll below.

Bull Kelp

Dana Clark: Alaska Awaits, June 19, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Clark

(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 23 – July 3, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographical area of cruise: Kodiak to Seward, Alaska

Date: June 19, 2014

Personal Log

Hello, I am Dana Clark and I am writing this from my home in Dallas, Texas as I prepare to leave hot temperatures behind for the cool waters off the coast of Alaska. I teach Science to 6th and 8th grade girls at Irma Rangel Young Women’s Leadership School. I can’t wait to share this experience with all the wonderful young ladies at our school. Our campus was the first all-girls public school in the great state of Texas. We have grades 6-12 and just celebrated our 10th anniversary. I have been fortunate to be one of the two original science teachers at Irma Rangel. Our students are trailblazers and are part of a group of six public all-girls schools in Texas that emphasize mathematics, science, and technology. In May, we graduated our sixth class of seniors and I’m proud to say we have had 100% of our students accepted to a four-year college or university. Go Panthers!

I was thrilled when I was selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea and actually did a little shout and dance when I found out I was going to Alaska. (I know, the dance part is pretty scary to those who know me!) I love our oceans and the amazing ecosystem under the surface that many people don’t get to experience or know. I haven’t always been a science person. I never thought I could do science well and in college, I avoided taking a science class until my advisor told me I needed to take two science classes in order to graduate. She recommended an Oceans class for non-science majors and I was fascinated at this whole new world that opened up to me underwater. Check out what my children saw under the surface!

Stingray Grand Caymen
Christina and Will with very large stingray by Grand Cayman, Caribbean, 2005.

After that, I used all my elective classes for Earth Science classes and the rest is history. I am a science teacher that loves teaching about our dynamic Earth and the wonders from the oceans to the atmosphere. Being on a ship in Alaska doing hydrographic surveys sounds very exciting to me; first, because Alaska is a place I’ve never gotten to visit and second, because I’ve never gotten do any science with hydrography. Many of you are probably wondering, what are hydrographic surveys and why is she excited about them?

Hydrographic surveys basically means mapping the seafloor. We will use sonar, which is an acronym for sound navigation and ranging. The sonar we will use sends beams to the seafloor and measures the depth by interpreting the time it takes for the sound waves to go from the ship to the sea floor and back to the ship. It also shows lots of details of the sea floor. Click here to learn more about hydrographic surveys and sonar. Only a very small percentage (possibly less than 5%) of our ocean’s floor has been mapped this way. This work is important because we need to know depth for safe navigation for all the fishing boats, oil ships, and recreation cruises in Alaskan waters. We also want to know what makes up the seafloor. For example, when fishermen use trawl nets that go along the seafloor, their nets can get torn up if they are in a rocky area. I will not only participate in mapping the seafloor, but I’ll probably also survey shorelines on a small boat called a launch,  go on shore and set a tidal benchmark, and help navigate the ship! I will be on the large ship Fairweather. Stay tuned to my blog to find out what I do each day.

NOAA Ship Fairweather
NOAA Ship Fairweather with Mount Fairweather in the background. Photo courtesy of NOAA.

 

What am I doing to get ready for my trip? First, I celebrated my birthday with my two children, Christina and Will. Guess where we had dinner!

Birthday dinner with Dana Clark
Dana Clark celebrates her birthday with her children before leaving for Alaska as a NOAA Teacher at Sea.

I am checking off my packing list and trying to figure out if I will need thermal underwear or not, how to get more storage space on my iPhone, and where my winter gloves are. On second thought, do I even own a pair of winter gloves? I live in Dallas, Texas but next time I post it will be from Alaska! Off in two days to begin my scientific exploration of our oceans and map the seafloor. I’m looking forward to sharing much more with you soon.

Question: Most of my students wanted me to see and post a picture of a polar bear. What do you think the odds are that I will see a polar bear in the Gulf of Alaska by Kodiak Island? Let me hear from you below.

 

David Altizio May 24-26 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Altizio
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
May 17 – May 27, 2010

NOAA ship Fairweather
Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE Alaska,
from Petersburg, AK to Seattle, WA
Dates: Monday, May 24 and Tuesday, May 25,
Wednesday, May 26

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Hassler Harbor
Time: 0800 on 5/24
Latitude: 550 13.06’ N
Longitude: 1310 27.15’ W
Clouds: Light drizzle
Visibility: 8 miles
Position: Inside Passage
Winds: Light with variable directions
Time: 0800 on 5/25
Waves: Less than one foot Latitude: 52024.5’N
Dry Bulb Temperature: 11.20C
Longitude: 128030.0’W
Wet Bulb Temperature: 10.00C
Clouds: Mostly Cloudy
Barometric Pressure: 1006.4 mb
Visibility: 10 + miles
Tides (in feet):
Winds: 10 knots from the NE
Low @ 0439 of 0.1
Waves: One to three feet
High @ 1055 of 13.1
Dry Bulb Temperature: 11.00C
Low @ 1637 of 2.2
Wet Bulb Temperature: 10.10C
High @ 2254 of 16.4
Barometric Pressure: 1009.1 mb
Sunrise: 0422
Sunset: 2105

Science and Technology Log

On Monday we were testing one of the multi‐beam sonar transmitters that had not been working properly on the Fairweather, in Hassler Harbor near Ketchikan, AK. In order to verify that the device is working properly the ship went back and forth over an area that has previously been mapped from all different directions. This is called patch testing. Ideally you are looking for no difference in the data from one test to another test.

Me,at the helm,driving the Fairweather.
Me, practicing using the line throwing device.

While on board Monday, we also practiced using a line throwing device. This piece of equipment can be used for ship to ship rescue operations, or to get a line onto a pier if needed, or for other rescue operations. The device is powered by 3000 lbs. of compressed air. Today we only fired a test line, but the real one can travel almost 200 meters. Being prepared and knowing what to do in the case of an emergency is extremely important while out at sea. Not only was I allowed to use the device, but so was anyone else on board who had not learning how to use it properly.

Marine aneroid barometer measures air pressure.
Digital anemometer showing wind speed and wind direction.

I have also been collecting and recording the weather data from the bridge of the ship. These observations are made every hour. There are many different meteorological instruments on the Fairweather. The atmospheric pressure is recorded using an aneroid barometer. The dry and wet bulb temperature readings were taken off of a sling psychrometer, just outside of the bridge. The wind direction and wind speed were taken from a digital anemometer and verified using the vectors of the wind direction and the heading of the ship. The visibility, wave height and the cloud cover are estimated visually by observing them from the bridge of the ship.

One of the ship’s officers, tracking our plot by hand on the chart.
Me taking the temperatures off of a psychrometer outside of the bridge.

I was also given the opportunity to man the helm and drive the Fairweather, for about 10 minutes as we headed south towards British Columbia, Canada. The bridge of the Fairweather has a many different screens, monitors, sensors and gauges. In order to see where we are going there are digital charts, which have our path projected on them. Also, some of the ship’s officers will verify our position along our course by hand. The depth to the bottom is determined by a fathometer, which works by using SONAR, not as complex as the multi‐beam mapping but more similar to a fish finder. In many maritime activities the depth is measured in fathoms. One fathom is approximately 1.8 meters or 6 feet. Knowing where you are and where other vessels are is extremely important.

Some of the Fairweather’s navigation systems.
Digital fathometer, measuring depth to the bottom using SONAR

The Fairweather has enough beds to hold a maximum of 58 crew members. The ships personnel is divided between: NOAA Corps officers, survey, deck, engineers, stewards,  electronics technician and visitors. There are almost 15 NOAA officers on the Fairweather, including the CO (commanding officer), XO (executive officer), FOO (field operations officer), and all the way thru captain lieutenant commander, 3rd mate, lieutenant, and ensigns. The survey group has approximately 10 people including the chief survey technician, senior, regular, and assistants.

More of the Fairweather’s navigation systems.

Digital readout of ship’s GPS (global positioning system) for precise latitude & longitude, speed in knots, and heading in degrees.

The deck group has 12 people and they help to maintain the deck areas, drive the launch boats, and help out in the anchoring and docking processes. There are 10 engineers who  make sure the ship is running properly. There are three stewards (cooks) who are amazing and make sure everyone is fed very well. There are 2 electronics technicians, and anywhere from two to five visitors, such as teachers at sea, technology support, mission/NOAA related personnel.

My stateroom on the Fairweather’s.
Fairweather’s store.

The Fairweather was originally commissioned in October 1968, deactivated in 1989 but a critical backlog of surveys for nautical charts in Alaska was a motivating factor to reactivate it in August 2004. The home port for the Fairweather is Ketchikan, AK and it operates mostly in Alaskan coastal waters. It is designed and outfitted primarily for  conducting hydrographic surveys in support of nautical charting, but is capable of many other missions in support of NOAA programs. The ship is equipped with the latest in hydrographic survey technology – multi‐beam survey systems; high‐speed, high‐resolution side‐scan sonar; position and orientation systems, hydrographic survey launches,  and an on‐board data‐processing server. It is 232 feet long, with a beam of 42 feet. It weighs 1,591 tons and the hull is made of welded steel. The Fairweather has a range of 6,000 autical miles, can stay at sea for 30 days, and has an average cruising speed of 12 knots.

The galley (kitchen) on the Fairweather.
Dish washing station on the Fairweather.
Mess hall (dining area) on the Fairweather.
One of the food storage areas on the Fairweather.

The staterooms on the Fairweather are fine for two people to live in. There is a bunk bed, dresser/desk area, closets, sink, small refrigerator, and a TV. The food on the Fairweather is really good, not just for being at sea, but really good with a lot of different options. There is also a small store where you can buy candy, soda and clothing with logos and images of the ship. There is a small workout room that people do use to keep active. There are three different food storage areas, one for dry goods, a refrigerated area, and a freezer. The Fairweather also has laundry facilities and a sick bay.

Laundry room on the Fairweather.
Fairweather at Customhouse Cove.

Personal Log

It is hard to believe that we are already heading south towards Seattle, WA. I have really enjoyed my time onboard the Fairweather and will never forget these experiences. Being a Teacher at Sea is amazing and I highly recommend it. I have seen so many different and new things that I can now add to my “teacher toolbox”.

On Monday, being able to learn how to use the line throwing device was very cool, but that was not the highlight of my day. I was also given the opportunity to man the helm, and drive the Fairweather for about 10 minutes. It is amazing that a ship this big is so responsive to small changes in the angle of the rudders. It was sort of like driving a really big car, in the sense that when you turn the wheel right the ship goes right and turning left makes the ship go left. There is a lot to do when at the helm. You have to make sure that we are following the correct heading, going the proper speed, not heading towards any other vessels or obstructions such as logs or other debris, and in water that is deep enough for the ship. As much fun as it was it was a little nerve racking, my palms were definitely sweaty.

Along the Inside Passage

I did have the help of four other NOAA officers to assist me and help me know what to do. It is not only up to the person at the helm to make decisions about what to do or which course to follow. The Fairweather is definitely a place where the junior officers are being trained and learning what to do in all types of situations. This aspect of helping and learning was prevalent in many aspects of what I observed while onboard the Fairweather and was great to see.

A while after I manned the helm, the seas got a little rougher as we went through Dixon entrance which marks the boundary between SE Alaska and British Columbia Canada. Here we were exposed to ocean swell from the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska. I was very glad this did not go on for too long. I made the mistake of trying to write this log while the ship was rocking and rolling a little bit. Not such a good idea. One of the officers told me to put down the computer, go out on the stern (back) of the ship, and look at land along the horizon. Being outside in the fresh air, while looking at land made me feel much better.

The sick bay on the Fairweather.

The rest of the trip towards Seattle has been very nice. The seas have not been too rough, and I am really enjoying the scenery as we go through the inside passage of British Columbia, Canada. Coming home and going back to New Rochelle High School will definitely be a change from the last two weeks. I will never forget the places, people and the science I have been exposed to in my time on the Fairweather in SE Alaska. We are now in the Puget Sound, and Seattle is almost in sight and I am ready to be home, back in New York.
Signing out, David Altizio Teacher at Sea

David Altizio, May 22 – 23, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Altizio
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
May 17 – May 27, 2010

NOAA ship Fairweather
Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE Alaska,
from Petersburg, AK to Seattle, WA
Dates: Saturday, May 22 and Sunday, May 23

Me standing on the rocks, making tidal observations.

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Customhouse Cove                  Position: Customhouse Cove
Time: 0800 on 5/22                                   Time: 0800 on 5/23
Latitude: 550 56.01’ N                              Latitude: 55006.5’N
Longitude: 1310 13.75’ W                       Longitude: 131013.7’W
Clouds: Mostly Cloudy                               Clouds: Mostly Cloudy
Visibility: 10 miles                                      Visibility: 10 miles
Winds: 6 knots from the NW                     Winds: 6 knots from the SE
Waves: Less than one foot                         Waves: Less than one foot
Dry Bulb Temperature: 12.20C         Dry Bulb Temperature: 11.00C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 10.20C        Wet Bulb Temperature: 9.80C
Barometric Pressure: 1015.0 mb     Barometric Pressure: 1010.0 mb
Tides (in feet):                                             Tides (in feet):
Low @ 0224 of 2.8                                         Low @ 0335 of 1.5
High @ 0828 of 12.2                                      High @ 0943 of 12.4
Low @ 1436 of 1.6                                          Low @ 1537 of 2.0
High @ 2105 of 14.6                                      High @ 2159 of 15.4
Sunrise: 0424                                               Sunrise: 0423
Sunset: 2100                                                 Sunset: 2101

Science and Technology Log

On Saturday morning I went out and made observations at a tide gauge in Customhouse Cove. We took measurements over a three hour period every six minutes for a one minute interval. We used a pair of binoculars to read the tide staff, which was about 20 feet away, to the nearest millimeter. The purpose of taking this reading over a period of one minute is because the water is constantly moving both toward the shoreline and away from it. This interval ensures that you can get the most accurate reading as possible.

Tide staff, used for measuring rising and falling tides

On Sunday, I again went out on a small launch boat. This time we needed to complete a few more holidays using the multi‐beam sonar, then we went to two small islands, Smeaton and South Twin, to recover the GPS (global positioning systems) base stations.

Computer screen,showing live acquisition of multi-beam SONAR data from one of the holidays.

The GPS base station data is recorded daily, while the survey project is underway. The data is then uploaded during the processing phase and used to correct the precise position of the Fairweather and its launches to within a few centimeters of accuracy. This allows the survey technicians to know the exact horizontal position when all of the data was collected by the multi‐bean sonar. Sunday was the last day that data was collected on this project, and that is why we recovered both of the GPS bases stations.

Me,in the process of removing one of the GPS base

When the tide gauge was established for measurements, during April of 2010, a three hour period of observations was made, similar to what I did on Saturday morning. In the time since April, observations are to be made each week for at least 1‐2 hours. Due to the remote nature of some of the tide gauge locations this is not always possible. The purpose of the observations of the rising and falling tide is to establish the vertical location of the tide gauge sensor, which is submerged below the surface, in relation to the tide staff. These observations help in correlating the height observed on the tide staff, with benchmarks that were previously installed by the Fairweather crew along the beach.

Maritime activities throughout the world depend on accurate tidal and current information for safe operation. NOAA’s National Ocean Service collects studies and provides access to thousands of historical and real‐time observations as well as predictions of water levels, coastal currents and other data.
Ocean tides move in response to gravitational forces exerted by the moon and sun. Since the moon is much closer to the Earth it is the dominant force that affects Earth’s tides. Whichever side of the Earth is facing the moon experiences a greater gravitational attraction, and the oceans get pulled towards it causing a bulge.

Me, holding the rod for leveling measurements (with the Fair weather in the background).

When the highest part or crest of the wave reaches a particular location, high
tide occurs; low tide corresponds to the lowest part of the wave, or its trough. The difference in height between the high tide and the low tide is called the tidal range. Here, in SE Alaska there is almost a 15 feet difference between high and low tide.

Me,reading the level off of the leveling rod(again with the Fairweather in the background).

Most coastal areas, experience two high tides and two low tides every lunar day. Almost everyone is familiar with the concept of a 24‐hour solar day. A lunar day is the time it takes for a specific site on the Earth to rotate from an exact point under the moon to the same point under the moon the next day.

One of the benchmarks on the beach.

On Saturday afternoon, we went back to the tide gauge to take elevation levels of five benchmarks on the beach. The purpose of these measurements is to establish a vertical height of the tide gauge with five existing benchmarks. When the gauge was started in April 2010, the same measurements were made. We verified that the opening and closing measurements were within an acceptable range. After taking height measurements, I helped take out one of the prototype tide gauges since the data was not needed anymore. The regular gauge was later removed on Sunday.

Part of the tide gauge instruments, solarpanel, GPS transmitter.

I was able to help out with these height measurements by holding a rod on top of the benchmarks, while another member of the crew looked through a scope and read the levels off of the rod. We also documented the entire site by taking photographs.

A humpback whale tale.

Personal Log

The weather on Saturday was probably the best I have had in SE Alaska so far. It was sunny and in the low 60’s. I learned a few days ago, that when you are out at sea and it is sunny you need sunscreen and a baseball hat in order to not get sunburn. As I told you, on Saturday morning I was dropped off by a small boat to observe the level of the tide. Nothing too exciting, but the weather made it just fine. Since we were very close to the ship, I was able to come back on and have “hot” lunch rather than sandwiches and stuff. In the afternoon, we went back to the same tide gauge and I helped out with elevation studies is the easiest way to say it. This was better than the morning for me.

In the morning one other guy and I were literally dropped off on a barely exposed rock just offshore from the tide gauge. When we started there was water between the two of us, but we knew the tide was dropping so we were fine. However, we were sort of stranded there until the small boat picked us up for lunch. We had to take levels of the water every six minutes. Sounds boring but it went by rather quickly. As the tide dropped small tidal pools were exposed and I was able to explore. There was tons of sea life. It reminded me of Point Loma near San Diego, where I vacationed once. While we were there, of course there were bald eagles and even a few seals.

In the afternoon we actually went onto the beach and I got to explore a little. First time on land since Ketchikan; which we are still very close to. I was in my full on geologist mode, breaking and smacking rocks to see what they looked like on the inside. I saw some cool stuff, possibly some small flakes of gold, garnet crystals, and maybe some silver flakes. The captain (CO) also came along with us, which was pretty cool.

Dinner was good. Baked potato bar, some interesting tofu dish (most people ate prime rib, very rare, uncle Jerry style), salad, and coconut lemon cake for dessert. I am getting spoiled from all this good food. I watched another amazing sunset from Customhouse Cove on Saturday (that makes 3 from the same anchor spot).

Sunset on Saturday 5/22

Sunday, the weather was not as nice as Saturday; at least it did not rain. However I really did enjoy the day. The crew that I was with was great. We all got along very well. I was able to get onto land three times and explore and climb around on the rocks. Also we saw two humpback whales, a bunch of seals, more Dall’s porpoises, and yes more bald eagles.

Being able to go onshore was really special for me. I was not sure this was something I would be able to do. From here we will start making our course to Seattle. We were just told that we WILL be going through the “inside passage” which is supposed to be absolutely spectacular. I can’t wait.

For now the project is almost complete. There is only a small amount of data and bottom samples that need to be collected. I am enjoying my time onboard the Fairweather. Everyone has been very nice. I have developed a routine. I get up at 0640, breakfast begins at 0700, there is a safety meeting on the bow of the ship at 0800, then if you are on a launch you leave and come back in the late afternoon. Dinner is served at 1700, then after dinner we have a debriefing meeting to discuss the day’s work and any problems that may have been encountered.

As I said I have a little routine. Even the breakfast steward (cook) knows me by now. I come into the mess hall (dining area) and ask for my usual. Three scrambled eggs with scallions and cheese. I also have one piece of toast, three strips of bacon, some hash browns and fresh fruit, some coffee and orange juice. Not too bad. If you are doing survey work from the ship there is hot lunch at 1200, otherwise on the launches it is a bag/picnic style lunch. Yes I know I am getting spoiled with all of this good food.

Me enjoying my time on shore.
Sunset on Sunday 5/23

David Altizio, May 21, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Altizio
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
May 17 – May 27, 2010

NOAA teacher at Sea: David Altizio
NOAA ship Fairweather
Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE Alaska,
from Petersburg, AK to Seattle, WA
Date: Friday May, 21

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Behm Canal to Customhouse Cove,
Shoalwater Pass and Princess Bay
Time: 0800 on 5/21
Latitude: 550 23.26’ N
Longitude: 1300 57.13’ W
Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 10 miles
Winds: light with variable directions
Waves: Less than one foot
Dry Bulb Temperature: 10.00C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 8.50C
Barometric Pressure: 1016.5 mb
Tides (in feet):
Low @ 0111 of 3.7
High @ 0713 of 13.1
Low @ 2011 of 1.0
High @ 2011 of 14.4
Sunrise: 0421
Sunset: 2058

Dall’ porpoises racing along side the Ambar launch boat

Science and Technology Log

I spent the morning on the smallest and most maneuverable of the launch boats on the Fairweather called an Ambar. Unlike the other launch boats that I was previously on, this one does not have a sheltered area so full cold weather/rain gear was needed. Our task was to collect sediment samples from the bottom of Shoalwater Pass and Princess Bay. We were the first of four launches to go out on this day. As we were being lowered down from the ship everybody started to notice porpoises all around us.

Me getting ready to lower the bottom sampler to determines edimentsizes of the channel floor.

Once the Ambar was deployed the porpoises began racing alongside the boat. They stayed with us for a few minutes.It was an awesome sight and an experience that I will never forget. Later, at lunch I was talking with the CO (commanding officer) and he told me that he had never quite seen so many porpoises ride alongside a launch boat for such a long time.

What I saw were Dall’s porpoises (Phocoenoides dalli)a species that is only found in the North Pacific; from the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska (spring to summer) and in coastal waters as far south as Baja California (fall to winter). Their unique body shape makes them easy to distinguish from other porpoise species. They have a very thick body and a small head. Their coloration is much like an Orca (killer whale), with their bodies being black with white patches on their underside. Dall’s Porpoises are hugely active and playful creatures. They will often zigzag around at great speed on or just below the surface of the water creating a spray called a “rooster tail”. They often appear and disappear quite suddenly. They will approach boats and ride alongside, but may lose interest, unless the boat is travelling quickly.

Here is one of the Dall’s Porpoises surfacing for air.

Dall’s are usually larger than other species of porpoises, growing up to 2 or 3 meters in length and weighing between 280 to 450 lbs. This species of porpoise can live as long as 15 to 20 years. They feed mostly on squid and a variety of fish. They are the fastest of all porpoises; they can swim at or up to 35 miles per hour. They often appear in small groups. Today, I would say there were at least 15 to 20 of them, but they were so fast and difficult to count.
After the excitement, we drove over to Shoalwater Pass and began collecting our first of eight bottom samples. The information gathered from these samples is very helpful to ships that might be anchoring in a particular area. For example, if you anchor in deep mud, the anchor could become trapped or stuck in the mud, or if the bottom is very rocky the anchor would not be able to set into the bottom at all.
In order to collect the bottom sediments we had to lower down a heavy sampler and allow it to hit the bottom. In deeper water this was definitely more difficult. As you can see, we had to pull the sampler up by hand and hope that it had closed and collected sediments. It did not close every time we lowered it, so some of the site required more than one drop which made the task even harder.

Here I am pulling up the bottom sampler.Not as easy as it looks.

Of the eight bottom samples we collected, they ranged from sticky mud to angular stones, to pebbles. The classification system used for bottom samples includes the following names: mud, clay, silt, sand, stones, gravel,boulders, lava, coral, and shells. After they are named, if they are sediments they are then classified by size range and then adjectives are added to specifically describe the sample, such as: fine, medium, coarse, broken, sticky,
soft, stiff, volcanic, calcareous, hard, soft, light, dark, small, medium, and large.

Here is one of the bottom samples that we collected.

After each sample was taken we used a laptop (that can get wet) with a GPS receiver attached to it to log our exact positions. This information will be part of the charts that will be made when the area is completely surveyed.

Chart of sediment size ranges.
Tough notebook laptop,yes it can get wet.

Personal Log

As already stated one of the highlights of my trip so far has been the Dall’s porpoises that raced alongside us. That is something that I will never forget. This was not the only wildlife sighting of the day. When we were transiting from one sample area to another, I spotted a bald eagle and pointed it out to two of the other guys on my boat. What happened next was awesome.
Once we saw the eagle, which as I have told you are all over the place, we noticed another smaller bird in front of it. The eagle was chasing him and was hot on his tail. Suddenly the smaller bird had nowhere to go and did a nosedive into the water. This was so cool. Then the eagle proceeded to circle the smaller bird from above so as to say stay down there. I also saw numerous whale spouts from a distance, too far to tell what type. While back on the Fairweather for lunch a stellar sea lion was swimming right along the starboard side of the ship. When I went outside to see him, he surfaced, came out of the water about chest high looked right at me and swam away, never to be seen again.
SE Alaska is truly a special and magical place. Not just for wildlife, the scenery is absolutely spectacular. I can’t wait to see what another day brings with it.

Animals Seen Today

Dall’s porpoises Bald eagle chasing smaller birds A few stellar sea lions along the starboard side of the Fairweather Whale spouts from a distance