Latitude: 57º 9.61 N Longitude: 152º 20.99W Wind Speed: 15 knots Wind Direction: 210 º Air Temperature: 12º Celsius Barometric Pressure: 1013 mb Depth of water column 84 m Surface Sea Temperature: 12º Celsius
Welcome to a tour of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.
Your tour guide today is the Room
Allow me to explain.
When I am not a Teacher at Sea on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, I am the special education preschool teacher in Room 11 at Nevada Avenue Elementary School in Canoga Park, California. My classroom has a classroom bear (made of construction paper) that “hides” every night when the students go home. In the beginning of the year, he is sort of easy to find, but as the year progresses, he is harder and harder to find. By the end of the year, only a paw or an ear might be showing!
thing my students want to do every morning is look for the bear. When they find it, they excitedly explain where
it is. Speech and language are things we work on in class all the time, and the
bear gives us something fun to talk about! For some students, a single word might
be the goal. Other students may be working on putting a few words together, or
even enough to make a sentence. It’s
also a great time for them to learn prepositional words or phrases to describe
where the bear is hiding, such as next to, under, beneath, or on top of.
Now it’s YOUR turn. I hope you have fun touring the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson with the Room 11 Bear and finding him in the photos where he decided to hide in a tricky spot. He is in EVERY picture.
Weather at 1000 Pacific Standard Time on Wednesday 17 July 2019
We’re expecting rougher weather at the end of the week. The wind is forecast to stay at 15 knots all day today with patchy fog. Then tomorrow and Friday winds double to 30 knots with waves of 12 feet. Currently the wind is 11 knots and the sea state is stable. The sunsets out on the water are spectacular! People gather on the fantail to watch the evening sun melt into the horizon when it’s exceptionally colorful or dramatic, and last night did not disappoint.
Most of the time during meals I sit with the science crew. Sometimes I’ll sit with my roommate, Lindsey, who works as an augmenter. Think of augmenters as floaters – they are employed full time but will move from one ship to another based on the needs of each ship. Lindsey helped me a lot this trip from learning how to do laundry and climbing in and out of a top bunk on a rolling ship (without falling) to understanding nautical terms. She’s also pretty good at spotting whales!
A couple of my meals have been spent talking with 2nd Cook Aceton “Ace” Burke. He normally is the Chief Cook on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, but he’s augmenting on this trip to fill in for someone who is on vacation. When he’s cooking for his crew, his favorite meal to prepare is pork ribs. He cooks them low and slow for hours until they’re fall-off-the-bone tender.
He and Kathy keep the kitchen spotless, the food hot, and the mealtimes cheerful. Kathy was kind enough to share some recipes with me and I intend to take every one of them home to cook this summer! For dinner one night soon I’ll make Kalbi Ribs with Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes and Macadamia Nut Cookies for dessert. I’ll reserve the Creamy Chicken Rice Soup for a cold winter weekend and be sure to add chopped, roasted red peppers and wild rice to the recipe like Kathy instructed.
INTERVIEW WITH A CHEF
After working in an office environment for a few years in Los Angeles, our Chief Steward Kathy Brandts realized she didn’t fit the nine to five lifestyle. Plus, who would ever want to commute to work in LA? So she left LA and moved back to Colorado to live with her sister for a while until she found something more appealing.
That’s when cooking began to kindle in her blood. Every night she would sift through cookbooks and prepare dinner in search of a way to express gratitude to her sister for helping her get back on her feet. But it would still be a few years before she started earning a living in the kitchen.
First came the Coast Guard. At 27 years old, she was less than a year away from the cutoff. If she didn’t enter basic training before her 28th birthday, a career with the Coast Guard would no longer be an option. It appealed to her though, and a recruiter helped her work a little magic. She made the cut! While she initially wanted to work deck personnel so she could maintain the ship and qualify as law enforcement (some Coast Guard personnel, in addition to belonging to a military branch, can simultaneously take on the role of federal law enforcement officers), she was too pragmatic for that. It would have taken her three years to make it to that position whereas cooks were in high demand. If she entered as a cook, she wouldn’t have to wait at all.
So the Coast Guard is where she had her first taste of formal training as a cook. She traveled on a two year tour to places like Antarctica and the Arctic Ocean visiting port cities in Hawaii and Australia to resupply. Ironically, to be out to sea a little less often, she decided to join NOAA as a civilian federal employee after her service with the Coast Guard ended. She’s not exactly out to sea any less than she used to be, but now she gets to go on shorter trips and she can visit family and friends while NOAA Ship Reuben Lasker is in port between cruises.
Kathy is a perfect example of someone who wasn’t willing to settle for a job. She spent the first half of her life searching for a career, a calling, to energize and motivate not just herself but all the people her meals feed throughout the day. She believes that food is one of the biggest morale boosters when you’re on a ship, and it’s clear at mealtime that she’s correct. I watch each day as the officers and crew beam and chatter while they’re going through the buffet line. I hear them take time to thank her as they’re leaving to go back to work.
A well-cooked, scratch meal has the power to change someone’s day. Not only does Kathy take pride in her work as a professional, I also get a touch of “den mother tending to her cubs” when I see her interact with everyone on the ship. She says she provides healthy, flavorful meals because she loves food and wouldn’t want to serve anything she wouldn’t eat herself. In turn, this seems to make everyone feel cared for and comforted. When you’re packed like sardines in a confined area for a month at a time, I can’t think of any better morale booster than that.
I think it’s hard sometimes for students to visualize all the steps it takes to get to where they want to end up. As with all people, teenagers don’t always know where they want to end up, so connecting the dots becomes even less clear. Take Kathy as an example. She started her adult life in an office and ended up in a tiny kitchen out in the middle of the ocean. I doubt that at sixteen years old, sitting in some high school classroom, she ever would have imagined she’d end up there.
So our job as teachers is not to push students in one direction or the other. Part of our job, I believe, is to help students get out of their own way and imagine themselves in settings they won’t hear about in their counselor’s office. One way to do this is to invite people from our communities to come in and share how their profession connects to our curriculum. I can think of plenty of people to invite – the local candy maker, a trash collector, a professor researching octopods, a farmer, a cyber security professional or white hat, a prison guard, military personnel, an airline pilot, or a bosun (even though I probably won’t find any of those in my local community since I don’t live near the water). Reading about the profession is one thing. Talking to someone who lives it everyday is another.
One lesson I’m taking from my day spent in the kitchen is the value of scenario based activities. If student teams are posed with a problem, given a text set to help them form their own conclusions and plan for the solution, and then asked to present their solution to the class for feedback, that is a much more enriching lesson plan than direct instruction. In November my students will be tasked with preparing a budget and presenting a plan to feed 30 people for a three week cruise. I like the idea of the cruise because they can’t just run out to the store if they forget a few things – the plan has to be flawless. This one activity, though it would take a week to execute properly, would have my students making inferences and drawing conclusions from text, communicating with one another using academic language and jargon specific to the scenario, solving a real-world problem, and critically evaluating an assortment of potential solutions.
We can prepare students for “the career” regardless of what that ends up being. Every career requires critical thinking skills, problem solving, patience, a growth mindset, and the ability to communicate with others. And all these skills are essential to the classroom regardless of grade level or discipline.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska
Date: August 17, 2018
Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude 64 42.8 N
Longitude – 171 16.8 W
Air temperature: 6.2 C
Dry bulb 6.2 C
Wet bulb 6.1 C
Visibility: 0 Nautical Miles
Wind speed: 26 knots
Wind direction: east
Barometer: 1000.4 millibars
Cloud Height: 0 K feet
Waves: 4 feet
Sunrise: 6:33 am
Sunset: 11:45 pm
I was asked yesterday by one of my students what life is like aboard the NOAA Ship Fairweather? So I thought I would dedicate this entry to address this and some of the other commonly asked questions from my students.
Life on board the ship is best described as a working village and everyone on board has many specific jobs to ensure the success of its mission; check my “Meet the Crew” blog. The ship operates in a twenty four hour schedule with the officers rotating shifts and responsibilities. When the ship is collecting ocean floor data, the hydrographers will work rotating shifts 24 hours a day. With so much happening at once on a working research vessel, prevention of incidents is priority which leads to the ship’s success. A safety department head meeting is held daily by the XO (executive officer of the ship) to review any safety issues.
During times when the weather is not conducive for data collection, special training sessions are held. For instance, a few days ago, the officers conducted man over board drills. Here, NOAA Officers practice navigating the ship and coordinating with deck hands to successfully rescue the victim; in this case it’s the ship’s mascot, “Oscar.”
(Fun fact: at sea, ships use signal flags to communicate messages back and forth [obviously, this was more prevalent before the advent of radio]. For example: the “A” or “Alpha” flag means divers are working under the surface; the “B” or “Bravo” flag means I am taking on dangerous cargo [i.e. fueling]; and the “O” flag means I have a man overboard. The phonetic name for “O” is, you guessed it, “Oscar” … hence the name. You can read about other messages here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_maritime_signal_flags).
Precision and speed is the goal and it is not easy when the officer is maneuvering 1,591 tons of steel; the best time was 6:24. This takes a lot skill, practice and the ability to communicate effectively to the many crew members on the bridge, stern (back of boat), and the breezeways on both port and starboard sides of the ship. Navigating the ship becomes even more challenging when fog rolls in as the officers rely on their navigation instruments. Training can also come in the form of good entertainment. With expired rescue flares and smoke grenades, the whole crew practiced firing flares and activating the smoke canisters. These devices are used to send distress signals in the event of a major ship emergency. I had the opportunity of firing one of the flares !
What are the working conditions like on board?
At sea, the working environment constantly changes due to the weather and the current state of the seas. Being flexible and adaptive is important and jobs and tasks for the day often change Yesterday, we experienced the first rough day at sea with wave heights close to ten feet. Walking up a flight of stairs takes a bit more dexterity and getting used to. At times the floor beneath will become not trustworthy, and the walls become your support in preventing accidents.
Where do you sleep?
Each crew member is assigned a stateroom and some are shared quarters. Each stateroom has the comforts from home a bed, desk, head (bathroom & shower) sink and a port hole (window) in most cases. The most challenging component of sleeping is sunlight, it does not set until 11:30 pm. No worries, the “port holes” have a metal plate that can be lowered. It is definitely interesting looking through the window when the seas are rough and watching the waves spin by. Seabirds will occasionally fly by late at night and I wonder why are they so far out to sea ?
Generally, when sharing a stateroom, roommates will have different working shifts.
Meals are served in the galley and it is amazing! It is prepared daily by our Chief Steward Tyrone; he worked for the Navy for 20 years and comes with a lot of skills and talents ! When asking the crew what they enjoy the most on board the ship, a lot of them mention the great food and not having to cook.
Are there any activities?
Keeping in good physical shape aboard any vessel out at sea is important. The Fairweather has a gym that can be used 24 hours a day. The gym has treadmills, elliptical, weights and a stair climber.
There is the lounge where movies are shown in the evening. Interestingly, the seats glide with the motions of the waves. Meetings are also held here daily, mostly safety briefings.
What are the working hours like?
During any cruise with NOAA, there is always things that come up that were not planned, staff and schedules are adjusted accordingly. On this leg of the trip during our transit back to Kodiak Island, we stopped by Nome, Alaska, to pick up a scientist from NOAA’s Pacific Marine Environmental Lab PMEL office. One of their research buoys separated from its mooring and went adrift in the Bering Sea (it drifted over 100 miles before we were able to catch up to it. The Fairweather was dispatched to collect and store the buoy aboard, after which it will eventually be returned to PMEL’s lab in Seattle Washington.
The place with the most noise is definitely the engine room. Here, two sixteen piston engines built by General Motors powers the ship; the same engine power in one train engine ! It is extremely difficult to navigate in the engine room as there is so many valves, pipes, pumps, switches and wires. Did I mention that it is very warm in the room; according to the chief engineer, Tommy, to maintain a healthy engine is to ensure that the engine is constantly warm even during times when the ship is docked.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Tom Jenkins Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow April 10 – 27, 2018
Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey Geographic Area: Northeastern U.S. Coast Date: April 15, 2018
The ladder wells. On the Henry B. Bigelow these sets of steps will take you everywhere that you need to go throughout the day. Life on a ship is interesting in the fact you don’t ever leave while on your mission. This is where you sleep, where you eat, where you work and where you hang out with your friends.
One of the most frequently received questions from my students back home is about life on the ship. Since the past couple of days have been relatively slow in terms of fishing (due to inclement weather), I have decided to highlight the areas of the ship where I spend the most of my time.
My room (likely about the size of your own room at home) happens to be a quad which means I share my room with 3 other people. In addition to two bunk beds, we have a work area (w/a small TV) and a compact bathroom. While it is definitely a bit cramped, the 4 of us are split between the 2 shifts (My shift is 12am-12pm.). The end result is that there are no more than 2 people in the room at any time, so it ends up working out quite well. Notice the handle in the shower. This comes in handy when you are trying to clean up and not wipe out as sometimes the ship can move around quite a bit! You may also notice the emergency billet on the door. This tells each member of the crew where to go and also what to do during emergency situations.
The food on the ship has been amazing. As students in my classroom will attest, I swore I was going to go on a diet during this cruise . While that would be possible, given there are always tons of healthy options, it’s not everyday when there is a BBQ spare rib option for lunch! Additionally, when you are working off and on over the course of your 12 hour shift, eating food is sometimes a good way to pass the time. While I don’t think I have gained weight, I definitely do not think I will lose weight over the final 12 days of the cruise.
View of the galley
View of the galley
Delicious food options
The labs where the scientists work are obviously where we spend a large part of our day (or my case, night). The picture to the left is where many of the fish are cataloged and processed. The photo in the top right are where some of the specimens are preserved for later examination in not only NOAA facilities, but also other other research facilities around the world. The area in the bottom is a planning/observation space where the science team goes to gather, plan and share information related to their research mission.
In the wet lab, where many of the fish are cataloged and processed
Here, some of the specimens are preserved for later examination in not only NOAA facilities, but also other other research facilities around the world.
This is a planning/observation space where the science team goes to gather, plan and share information related to their research mission
Finally, there is the lounge and fitness area. The lounge is really nice with large recliners which are a wonderful way to relax after a long shift. There is Direct TV which is nice for both sports and news and the ship also has an impressive collection of movies for the crew to enjoy. The fitness area in the bottom right is my favorite space on the ship. While neither expansive nor pretty, it is a great place to go to burn off steam. There is a TV and enough equipment to break a sweat. Although I must admit, its extremely challenging to use an elliptical during a storm with rough seas. Especially with low ceilings! 🙂
… and the fitness area
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. As always, if you have any questions and/or comments, please feel free to post them below.
Mission: Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey (Plankton and Hydrographic Data)
Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean
Date: May 29, 2017
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sky: 8/8 (Fully Cloudy, Overcast)
Wind Direction: NE
Wind Speed: 13 Knots
Barometric Pressure: 1005 Millibars
Air Temperature: 11.5°C
In Port in Newport, Rhode Island (Sunday, May 28)
Greetings from NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter! On my flight into Providence, Rhode Island (the Ocean State) I was met with lengthy coastlines and beautiful blue skies. Jerry Prezioso, (one of NOAA’s oceanographers), picked me up from the airport. We made our way to the ship, Gordon Gunter, at Pier 2 at the Naval Station Newport. To get there, we drove 37 miles southeast of Providence and crossed the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge and the Newport Bridge. Both bridges offered stunning scenes of shorelines that separated the picturesque sailboats from the majestic beach side houses. Newport, also known as City by the Sea, was a major 18th-century port city which is evident from the high number of surviving buildings from the colonial era.
Upon arrival at the pier, I passed two immense U.S. Coast Guard ships before laying eyes on what would be by new home for the next ten days—NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter. Several members of the crew were already there to welcome me aboard. The crew’s hospitality and Jerry’s tour of the ship eased my anxiety while at the same time, intensifying my excitement for the adventure that awaits.
After the tour, Jerry showed me to my stateroom. I was surprised to find out that I have my own cabin! There is a refrigerator, closet, desk, recliner, my very own sink, and a shared bathroom with the room next door. It also has a TV to watch any of the movies available on the ship.
After unpacking my luggage, I decided I would spend some time exploring the ship. I took photographs and captured 360-degree images of the ship’s many spaces. I intend to use my footage as a way to give my students a virtual tour of Gordon Gunter. When Jerry showed us the ship, he effortlessly moved from one place to the next. I, on the other hand, could not…at first. I felt as if I was stuck in a labyrinth. Yet, with the amount of time I will be spending on board Gordon Gunter, I am sure it will not take long to get the “lay of the land”.
Getting lost is not always a bad thing. I can admit that I was not too upset when I took a wrong turn and ended up in the galley (the kitchen). I could tell right away from the appetizing aroma and the fresh fruits and vegetables that the meals were going to be amazing.
After Leg 1 of the Spring Ecosystem Monitoring (EcoMon) Survey which concluded on Friday, May 26. Prior to the ship’s departure at 1400 hours on Memorial Day, the crew was busy with important maintenance and upkeep. With the adventure of a lifetime so close at hand, I could only hope that my excitement would give me at least a few hours of sleep.
Preparing for Departure (Monday, May 29)
To keep everyone happy when they are living in such close quarters, working strange shifts, and so far from home, good food is vital. Isn’t it always? Gordon Gunter is well known in the NOAA community for its fantastic food. The person responsible for our delicious and abundant food is Margaret Coyle, Chief Steward and her trusted comrade, Paul Acob, Second Cook. I first experienced their culinary skills at my first 6:30 a.m. breakfast. Remarkable! I could not wait for the meals to come.
Margaret has worked on NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter for 13 years! Before NOAA, Margaret was in the Coast Guard for four years and her husband retired from the Coast Guard with 21 years of service. Margaret makes almost every dish from scratch—from juices to hummus. She is dedicated to providing a variety of meals that not only fill bellies but satisfy taste buds. You never quite know what to expect one meal to the next, and that my friends is the spice of life! Paul has spent 14 years with NOAA and 20 years in the Navy—that’s 34 years at sea! I greatly admire both Paul and Margaret for their service and continued commitment.
As a Teacher at Sea, I am an active member of the science team. I have been assigned the day shift, which means I work from 12 noon to 12 midnight. I am happy with this shift because it is a little more of a regular schedule compared to beginning work at midnight and then sleeping during the daylight hours. However, it will definitely take time for me to adjust my eating and sleeping schedules with that of my work shift.
In preparation for our work at sea, we spent the afternoon reviewing guidelines and proper procedures. Safety is crucial on any ship, and I feel much better having gone through the welcome orientation. Now, I am prepared when it is time to perform any of the three emergency drills: fire, abandon ship, and man overboard. One can never be too cautious.
The second leg of the 2017 Spring EcoMon Survey consists of research at oceanography stations in the Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine. These stations are randomly distributed and progress of the survey will depend on transit time, sea state, and water depth of the stations. Our research will calculate the spatial distribution of the following factors: water currents, water properties, phytoplankton, microzooplankton, mesozooplankton, sea turtles, and marine mammals.
At 2:07 p.m. (our scheduled departure time), Gordon Gunter cast off from Coddington Cove at the Naval Station Newport. As we approached the Newport Bridge I took photos of the NAVY War College, Herring gulls nesting on a small island, passing ski boats, and the ocean view cottages. On the flying bridge an expert in magnetic compasses calibrated the ship’s mechanism and cleared the compass of excess debris.
During a personnel transfer using the Fast Rescue Boat (FRB), a mechanical issue was identified and the ship needed to head back to the pier. The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Lindsay Kurelja, informed us that we would begin our journey at 9:00 a.m. the next day, May 30.
Science and Technology Log
My head has been spinning with the different types of equipment and technology on board Gordon Gunter. I have a lot to learn! I would like to share a small bit of information about two important pieces of equipment that will be essential to our research in the coming days.
1.) Since the majority of plankton is too small to see with the naked eye, these organisms must be viewed through a microscope. To do this, plankton must be collected from the ocean. You might be thinking, “But how? They are too small to catch.” That’s why we use bongo nets! Bongo nets allow scientists to strain plankton from the water using the bongo’s mesh net. Plankton and other matter from the sea will be deposited into a bucket at the end of the net which is called a cod-end. Different sized nets are used to capture different types of plankton. The bongo nets will be towed slowly through the water at each oceanography station we come to. I am looking forward to using the ship’s bongo nets to investigate marine life in Georges Bank and the Gulf of Maine.
2.) At each station of this leg of the EcoMon survey, we will use a CTD device to determine the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth of the ocean. On Gordon Gunter, the CTD is incorporated into a rosette, or carousel. This allows us to collect water samples from various depths at the same location. The CTD will give scientists a broad picture of the marine environment in the Northeast Atlantic.
Aft Deck: the part of the deck towards the back of the ship.
Bow: the front of the ship.
Bridge: the part of the ship from which it is controlled. (This is where the captain controls the ship.)
Deck: the outside top part of the ship that you can walk on.
Forward Deck: the part of the deck towards the front of the ship.
Port: the side of the ship that is on your left when you are looking forwards.
Starboard: the side of the ship that is on your right when you are looking forwards.
Stern: the back part of the ship.
Did You Know?
At Pier 2 at Naval Station Newport were gigantic buoys the Coast Guard had recently cleaned and re-painted. Do you know why some are green and some are red? The colors help aid the navigation of ships. The red buoys are on the right/starboard side of the ship, and the green buoys should be on the left/port side of the vessel when heading upstream. I guess ships have their own rules of navigation just like vehicles on the road.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Cathrine Prenot Aboard Bell M. Shimada July 17-July 30, 2016
Mission: 2016 California Current Ecosystem: Investigations of hake survey methods, life history, and associated ecosystem
Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast from Newport, OR to Seattle, WA
Date: Sunday, July 24, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat: 47º32.20 N
Lon: 125º11.21 W
Speed: 10.4 knots
Windspeed: 19.01 deg/knots
Barometer: 1020.26 mBars
Air Temp: 16.3 degrees Celsius
Water Temp: 17.09 degrees Celsius
Science and Technology Log
We have been cruising along watching fish on our transects and trawling 2-4 times a day. Most of the trawls are predominantly hake, but I have gotten to see a few different species of rockfish too—Widow rockfish, Yellowtail rockfish, and Pacific Ocean Perch (everyone calls them P.O.P.)—and took their lengths, weights, sexes, stomachs, ovaries, and otoliths…
…but you probably don’t know what all that means.
The science team sorts all of the catch down to Genus species, and randomly select smaller sub-samples of each type of organism. We weigh the total mass of each species. Sometimes we save whole physical samples—for example, a researcher back on shore wants samples of fish under 30cm, or all squid, or herring, so we bag and freeze whole fish or the squid.
For the “sub samples” (1-350 fish, ish) we do some pretty intense data collection. We determine the sex of the fish by cutting them open and looking for ovaries or testes. We identify and preserve all prey we find in the stomachs of Yellowtail Rockfish, and preserve the ovaries of this species’ females and others as well. We measure fish individual lengths and masses, take photos of lamprey scars, and then collect their otoliths.
Otoliths are hard bones in the skull of fish right behind the brain. Fish use them for balance in the water; scientists can use them to determine a fish’s age by counting the number of rings. Otoliths can also be used to identify the species of fish.
Here is how you remove them: it’s a bit gross.
If you want to check out an amazing database of otoliths, or if you decide to collect a few and want to see what species or age of fish you caught, or if you are an anthropologist and want to see what fish people ate a long time ago? Check out the Alaska Fisheries Science Center—they will be a good starting spot. You can even run a play a little game to age fish bones!
I haven’t had a lot of spare time since we’ve been fishing, but I did manage to finagle my way into the galley (kitchen) to work with Chief Steward Larry and Second Cook Arlene. They graciously let me ask a lot of questions and help make donuts and fish tacos! No, not donut fish tacos. Gross.
Working in the galley got me thinking of “ship jargon,” and I spent this morning reading all sorts of etymology. I was interested to learn that the term crow’s nest came from the times of the Vikings when they used crows or raven to aid navigation for land. Or that in the days of the tall ships, a boat that lost a captain or officer at sea would fly blue flags and paint a blue band on the hull—hence why we say we are “feeling blue.” There are a lot more, and you can read some interesting ones here.
You can also click on Adventures in a Blue World below (cartoon citations 1 and 2).
And here is a nautical primer from Adventures in a Blue World Volume 1:
Did You Know?
Working in the wet lab can be, well, wet and gross. We process hundreds of fish for data, and then have hoses from the ceiling to spray off fish parts, and two huge hoses to blast off the conveyor belt and floors when we are done. But… …I kind of love it.
Interestingly enough, the very words “Sea Speak” have a meaning. When an Officer of the Deck radios other ships in the surrounding water, they typically use a predetermined way of speaking, to avoid confusion. For example, the number 324 would be said three-two-four.
Mission: Mapping CINMS Geographical area of cruise: Channel Islands, California Date: May 6, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge: 2-3 ft swells; storm clouds over land, clear at sea
Science and Technology Log
The AUV is no longer my favorite thing on Shimada. As I write this, it is being dismantled and packed into shipping boxes for its return trip home to Maryland. To keep a long, sad story short, the AUV had a big electrical problem that was fixed, but when the scientists turned it on for a test run, a tiny $6 lithium battery broke open and oozed all over the motherboard. Game over for the AUV. So now my favorite thing on Shimada is the ice cream.
Enough about science and technology for now. I bet you’re really wondering what it’s like day in and day out on board Shimada. Well, my intrepid future NOAA crew members, this blog post is for you! We’ll start what’s most important: the food.
Dinner options onboard Shimada.
Cooking in the galley
Need some tea
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are all served at the same time everyday. The food is prepared in the galley and everyone eats in the mess. Beverages, cereal, yogurt, fruit, snacks, the salad bar, and ice cream are available 24 hours a day, so there is no need to ever be hungry. Not all ships are the same, however. In one of the many anecdotes told to me by master storyteller Fabio Campanella, an Italian research ship he once worked on served fresh bread and authentic pizza everyday…sign me up for that cruise!
Next, you’re probably wondering where everyone sleeps. Sleeping quarters are called staterooms and most commonly sleep two people, although larger staterooms might sleep four. Each stateroom has its own television and a bathroom, which is called a head. As you can see in the photo, the bunks have these neat curtains that keep out the light in case your roommate needs to get up at 1 a.m. for the night-shift.
Stateroom on NOAA Bell M. Shimada
Stateroom on NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
Stateroom hallway on NOAA Ship Shimada
The Shimada has lots and lots of work and storage rooms, each serving a different function. There is a wet lab, dry lab, chem lab, and acoustics lab for doing SCIENCE (woohoo!), as well as a tech room for the computer specialist (called an ET), storage lockers for paint, cleaning supplies, and linens, plus other rooms full of gear and machinery. There’s also a laundry room, so you can take care of your stinky socks before your roommate starts to complain!
Gear storage on NOAA Sip Shimada
Dry Lab on NOAA Ship Shimada
Laundry room on NOAA Ship Shimada
Electrical technician’s office on Shimada
Computer room for Shimada’s crew
An office for a NOAA Corps officer on Shimada
Trash on board is separated into recyclable bottles and cans, food waste, and trash. The food waste is ground up into tiny pieces and dumped in the ocean outside of the sanctuary, while the trash is INCINERATED! That’s right, it’s set on fire…a really, really, hot fire. Ash from the incinerator is disposed of onshore.
Another important part of the ship is the bridge. Operations occur 24 hours a day, so the ship never sleeps. Officers on the bridge must know what is happening on the ship, what the weather and traffic is like around the ship, and they must make sure to properly pass down this information between watches. The bridge has radar to spot obstacles and other ships, a radio to communicate with other ships, and a radio to communicate with the crew and scientists.
3rd Engineers E. Simmons and C. Danus
Painting the deck of NOAA Ship Shimada
Last, but not least, is the lounge that comes complete with surround-sound, a big screen TV, super-comfy recliners, and about 700 movies, including the newest of the new releases.
Did you know?
A female elephant seal was once recorded diving underwater for two continuous hours (they usually stay underwater for 1/2 hour); the deepest recorded dive was by a male and was 5,141ft.
Stay tuned for the next post: Multibeam? You Mean Multi-AWESOME!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow May 19 – June 3, 2015
Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast Date: June 1, 2015 Day 14
Rainy and Choppy
Air Temperature: 8 °C
Water Temperature: 10.46°C
Barometer: 1021.3 mb
TSG (Sound-Velocity): 1487 meters/sec
TSG- Conductivity: 3.63 s/m
TSG- Salinity: 32.66 PSU
Wind: 30 knots North East
Interview with Dennis Carey and Jeremy Howard, Chief Steward and Chief Cook of NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow Research Cruise 1502. They have been working together for 3.5 years.
What is your job here on the ship?
My name is Dennis and I am the Chief Steward. This means that I am in charge of food production and management. I am the Head of the Steward Department and I have been for about 12 years now.
How is a boat kitchen different from a home kitchen?
First of all, a boat kitchen is called a galley and the dinning area where everyone eats is called a mess hall. Additionally, a water fountain is called a scuttlebutt.
In terms of a technical answer to your question, we have:
Convection oven- it cooks things faster because it can cook at 25F higher than a regular oven and the air is circulated by a fan as well.
3. Steam jacket kettle- for sauces and soups
4. Commercialized equipment- blender& large refrigerator
5. Gallon water, coffee and milk machine
6. Cereal dispensers!
7. Salad bars
8. Dragon/ Dishwasher Machine: It sanitizes by steaming dishes up to 195F.
Tell me about your experience:
I served 22 years with the Navy, and 12 years with NOAA and all those years were in food service.
What training do you need for your job:
Back in my day, I was called a Mess Specialist when I graduated C-school, now called culinary specialists.
According to https://www.navycs.com/navy-jobs/culinary-specialist.html: The Navy Cook rating was one of the original ratings in 1797. The name Cook was changed to Ship’s Cook in 1838. It wasn’t until 1948 that the culmination of the various rates Commissary Steward, Ship’s Cook, Ship’s Cook (B) (Butchers), and Baker consolidated into the Commissaryman rating. In 1975, the name was changed to Mess Management Specialist, and finally, in 2004, the Culinary Specialist rating was established.
I attended Rose State College in Oklahoma and Central Texas University.
I went to C-school, which is also called advanced food preparation and management.
You will need experience and lots of it, particularly on the job experience. I started with an Intern culinary internship with Hilton Northwest in Oklahoma city.
I also did a Food Service Attendance. It is a 3 month rotation where everybody has to work in the galley. They kept me as a cook!
According to the Navy Personnel Command,
General Culinary Specialist description:
Culinary Specialists (CS) receive extensive training in culinary arts, and other areas within the hospitality industry. This CS rating is responsible for all aspects of the dining (shipboard mess decks) and shore duty living areas. Culinary Specialists work in the “heart of the ship,” and are vital in maintaining high crew morale on ships, construction battalions and every shore base.
Menu management and ordering the quantities and types of food items necessary for quantity food preparation.
Operating kitchen and dining facilities.
Maintaining subsistence inventories using storeroom management procedures.
Culinary Specialists work in kitchen, dining areas, bachelor quarters, living quarters and food service storerooms aboard ships, shore bases, construction battalions, and designated aircraft. The work is physical, creative and mentally challenging; in which one has to be flexible and versatile in their daily duties.
After “A” School, Culinary Specialists are assigned to deploying units or shore stations in the United States and/or overseas. During a 20-year career in the Navy, CS’s spend approximately 60 percent of their time assigned to fleet units and 40 percent to shore stations.
Apprenticeships are highly valued for ship work and below are the current USMAP apprenticeship trades that are currently offered for the Culinary Specialist rating:
I’ve been a NOAA steward for 6 years and every year NOAA sends stewards to training to keep up with the culinary skills.
Tell me more about cooking for so many people
You have to be able to cook portions for crew size. Crew size varies per mission of the cruise and so we figure out all of the crew aboard for consumption of goods. We make sure we are accommodating food choices like: vegetarian, gluten free, lactose free, etc. Our crew size is 32 people right now, and the maximum crew size is 41 people. We try to minimize waste. Main goal of the steward department is to cook GREAT food and not waste it.
Why did you chose to be a chef?
I am passionate about cooking great food. Being a cook, you have to have passion because there is a lot of routine in cooking. You start seeing the same people every day, cooking similar food and so I figure out ways to keep on learning new things, and continuously improve.
To be a chef you need to have good communication skills with the chief steward and in general you need to be flexible especially out on a ship.
Being out at sea- you can’t go to the store if you forgot something. You have to have attention to detail before we get underway.
NOAA is the best kept secret for culinary work. I love the Bigelow- I have a great career here, and I might not be able to see foreign ports so much but I am guaranteed to see my family. I get to see them 2 to 3 months out of the year versus 2 weeks like on navy ships. BEST KEPT SECRET.
We do all the food shopping before we leave for trip. Chief Steward orders the food from a reputable FDA approved supplier. Dennis does all the inventory. We can’t waste money or food on this ship. He needs to do an inventory of things and we go by our motto with inventory which is: First in, first out!
What was your first ship?
NOAA Ship- Delaware II!
But technically, before that I was in the Navy for 5 years. I was part of the Hurricane Katrina relief in New Orleans.
What does a typical day look like?
Both of us get up at 4 AM to prepare breakfast and we make 3 square meals a day (7-8 AM, 11 AM-12:30 PM, and 5-6 PM). We finish about 7:30 PM.
You gotta keep a good morale about your career, you keep growing, and it never gets boring. We also help with the morale of the ship and we host Bingo Nights, and Ice Cream Socials, which allows new crew to bond with old crew.
I’ll humbly say that Bigelow has the best steward department EVER!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Theresa Paulsen Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer March 16 – April 3, 2015
Mission: Caribbean Exploration (Mapping) Geographical Area of Cruise: Puerto Rico Trench Date: March 28, 2015
Weather Data from the Bridge: Scattered Clouds, 26˚C, Wind speed 13-18 knots, Wave height 5-7ft
Science and Technology Log
Mapping of our first priority area is now compete and we have moved to the priority two area on the north side of the Puerto Rico Trench. We are more than 100 miles from shore at this point. Land is nowhere in sight. Able-Bodied Seaman Ryan Loftus tells me that even from the bridge the horizon is only 6.4 nautical miles away due to the curvature of the earth. At this point with no frame of reference other than celestial bodies, navigation equipment becomes essential.
The ship uses Global Positioning Systems, GPS units:
On the radar display, we are in the center of the circle. Our heading is the blue line. Since this photo was taken near shore, the yellow patches on the bottom indicate the land mass, Puerto Rico. The two triangles with what look like vector lines to the left of us are approaching vessels. On the right, the Automated Identification System displays information about those vessels, including their name, type, heading and speed. The radar uses two radio beams, an S-Band at 3050 MHz and an X-band at 9410 MHz, to determine the location of the vessel relative to other vessels and landmarks within a 1% margin of error.
A standard compass points to the magnetic north pole rather than true north, therefore mariners prefer to use gyrocompasses for navigation. Before departing, a gyrocompass is pointed to true north. Using an electric current, the gyroscope in the device is spun very fast so that it will continually maintain that direction during the voyage. Slight errors build up over time and must be corrected. The watch standers post the necessary correction on the bridge. Since the device is electronic, it can feed data into the system allowing for automated navigation and dynamic positioning systems to work well.
On the Electronic Chart Display Information System (ECDIS) screen, watchstanders can view the course planned by the Expedition Coordinator in charge of the science conducted on the voyage (in red), see the bearing they have set (thin black line), and see the actual course we are on (the black, dashed, arrowhead line).
The dynamic positioning system allows the vessel to remain in one spot in very delicate situations, such as when they lower a tethered device like the robotic vehicle they will be using on the next cruise or a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth probe). It is also helpful for docking.
The electronics are able to control the ship due to the ingenious way the engine system is designed. The diesel engine powers generators that convert the mechanical energy into electrical energy. This way electrical energy can be used to control main hydraulic propellers at the stern as well as electric bow and side thrusting propellers.
What happens if the power goes out and the electronic navigation devices fail? There are back ups – no worries, students and family!!
The vessel can sail onward. It is equipped with a magnetic compass and the watchstanders are well versed in reading charts, using a sextant, and plotting courses by hand – they often do that just to check the radar and GPS for accuracy.
They also have a well-used copy of the “bible of navigation,” The American Practical Navigator written in 1802 by Nathaniel Bowditch.
They even let me take it for a spin – okay it was about a 90˚ turn – but hey, it feels pretty cool to be at the helm of a 224ft vessel!
So where are we right now?
As I said we have begun mapping in our second priority zone, more than 100 miles north of Puerto Rico. We are near the boundary of the Sargasso Sea. It is not bordered by land, like other seas. Instead it is bordered by ocean currents that keep the surface water in one area.
Remember the seaweed I wondered about in an earlier post? It is called Sargassum. It grows in rafts in the Sargasso Sea. This is actually where the Sargasso sea got its name. According to NOAA’s National Ocean Service, these rafts provide habitat for certain fish and marine life. Turtles use them as nurseries for their hatchlings. In recent years large blooms of Sargassum have been washing up on nearby coastlines causing problem along the shore. (Oct 1, 2014, USA Today) More research needed! There are always more questions. Is this caused by warming oceans, by oil spills, or by a combination? Nothing lives in isolation. All life forms are connected to each other and to our environment. Changes in the ocean impact us all, everywhere on the globe.
Want to explore yourself? Check out NOAA Corps to become ship officer!
Acting Executive Officer (XO) Lieutenant Fionna Matheson is augmenting on this leg of the trip, meaning she is filling in for the XO currently on leave. Otherwise, in her current “land job” she works at NOAA headquarters for the NOAA Administrator, Dr. Kathryn Sullivan. Dr. Sullivan, a former astronaut and the first American woman to walk in space, reports to the Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker. Working on the headquarters team, LT Matheson learns a great deal about the breadth and importance of NOAA’s mission.
To become a member of the NOAA Corps you must have a Bachelor’s degree in Science or Math. It is a competitive process, so some sort of experience with boating is advantageous, but not required. NOAA Corps officers are trained not only to drive and manage ships, but also to handle emergencies including fire-fighting, and follow maritime law. They act as the glue between the scientists and the crew (wage mariners), making sure the scientific mission is accomplished and the safety of the crew and the vessel are secure. Fionna has been part of the corps for 11 years. She explains that NOAA Corps officers are stationed for about 2 years at sea (with some shore leave) followed by 3 years on land throughout their careers. During her NOAA career, Fionna has sailed in the tropical Pacific maintaining deep-ocean buoys, fished in the North Atlantic, collected oceanographic samples in the Gulf of Mexico, and now mapped part of the Caribbean. She has also worked as part of an aerial survey team in San Diego, studying whales and dolphins.
Fionna’s advice to high school students is this, “The difference between who you are and who you want to be is action. Take the initial risk.”
What do we do for fun in our free time?
We play games like chess, although I am not very good. I try, and that is what is important, right?
We watch movies – even watched Star Trek on the fantail one evening. Very fitting since we are boldly going where no one has gone before with our high-resolution sonar.
And we watch the sun go down on the ocean.
Mostly, I like watching the water when I have time. I would have made a great lookout – I should look into it after I retire from teaching. I have been trying to use my Aquaman powers to summon the whales and dolphins, but so far – no luck. Maybe on the way back in to shore we’ll catch another glimpse.
What do I miss?
My family and friends. Hi Bryan, Ben, Laura, Dad, Mom, and the rest of the gang.
And my students and coworkers. Go Ashland Oredockers!
I am fortunate to have such supportive people behind me! Thanks, guys!
I do not miss snow and cold weather, so if you all could warm it up outside in northern Wisconsin over the next week, I’d appreciate it. I’ll see what kind of strings I can pull with these NOAA folks! ¡No me gusta la nieve o el frío en la primavera!
Did you know?
Sky conditions on the bridge are determined by oktas. An okta is 1/8th of the sky. If all oktas are free of clouds the sky is clear. If 1-2 oktas contain clouds, the bridge reports few clouds, 3-4 filled oktas equal scattered clouds, 5-7 equal broken clouds, and 8 filled oktas means the sky is overcast.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Theresa Paulsen Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer March 16 – April 3, 2015
Mission: Caribbean Exploration (Mapping) Geographical Area of Cruise: Puerto Rico Trench Date: March 17, 2015
Weather Data from the Bridge: Partly Cloudy, 26 C, Wind speed 12 knots, Wave height 1-2ft, Swells 2-4ft.
Science and Technology Log
Elizabeth “Meme” Lobecker, Physical Scientist Hydrographer with the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and our Expedition Coordinator, gave the science team aboard the vessel an overview of our expedition on Sunday after an evening of becoming acquainted with the ship and other members of the science team.
She explained how oceanic exploration research is different from the rest of the scientific community and even other projects within NOAA, because it focuses purely on exploration and discovery that can generate hypotheses. In other areas, a scientist has a hypothesis first and sets out to test it through research and experimentation.
The information gained on our mission could generate hypotheses in all kinds of areas of research such as geology, fisheries, oceanography, marine archeology, and hydrography. It could help us identify areas that need protection, such as spawning grounds for commercial fish populations. Meme and her team will turn the data over to the National Coastal Data Development Center within three weeks. From there, it goes to the National Geophysical Data Center and the National Oceanographic Data Center, where it is freely accessible through public archives within 60-90 days of the end of the cruise. From there, any entity, public or private, can access the data for use in their work. Have you ever wondered how Google Earth and Arc View GIS get the background data for their ocean floor layer? This data contributes to those layers. Now you know! Public data access is through www.ngdc.noaa.gov and www.nodc.noaa.gov.
While we currently have low resolution data from satellites, less than 5% of the oceans have high-resolution images. We have better data now about the features of Mars than we do about our oceans on earth. Why? Because ocean surveying is difficult and time-consuming. High resolution maps cannot be made of the ocean floor with current technology on satellites. The technology is getting better and better, though. The image below shows the progression from a leadsman dropping a 10 pound weight attached to a line in the water to the multibeam sonar being used as I type.
The multibeam sonar aboard the Okeanos Explorer sends out a ping at 30 kHz that bounces off the seafloor and returns to the transducer that is equipped with sensors oriented in 432 different directions receiving up to 864 beams per swath. This method has been tested in depths of up to 8000 meters. It can give us not only bathymetry data, but also water column backscatter and bottom backscatter data. This allows us to know if there are features in the water column like gaseous seeps escaping from the ocean floor. We can also tell something about the surface features, whether they are soft sediments or hard rock, from the bottom back scatter.
Meme has a crew of mappers working with her including Scott Allen, Senior Survey Technician; Melody Ovard and Jason Meyer, Mapping Watch Leads; and several interns. Another important part of the mission is to train a new generation of ocean explorers. These interns, Chelsea Wegner, Kristin Mello, and Josue Millan, come from colleges all over the country. Their main job is to make sure the data is good and to create logs to document data collection. They have to correct the multibeam sonar data by deploying XBTs (Expendable Bathythermographs) that determine the temperature changes within the water column because sound speed increases as water temperature increases. They also use sensors on the ship to measure the conductivity and therefore determine the salinity of the water. Since sound waves penetrate saltier water more easily, the salinity affects the sound intensity measurements. Pressure must also be calculated into the equation because sound speed also increases with increasing pressure.
The vessel’s attitude also has to be factored into the sonar (like teachers need to factor in student attitudes when planning a lesson!) Similar to an airplane, a boat can pivot on its center of gravity in all three-dimensional axes: Pitch, Yaw, and Roll. Think about your own head. Pitch is like nodding your head in agreement, yaw is like shaking your head to say no, and roll would be like putting your ear to your shoulder. Gives new meaning to the phrase “Heads are going to roll,” doesn’t it? Boats also heave, or move up and down as swells pass beneath them.
The screen shot above shows the data as it is being collected by the mappers. In the main window in the upper right is the bathymetry data. Below that is the water column backscatter. In the bottom left is the attitude of the vessel on all axes. The center left gray image shows the bottom backscatter while the number 421 above is the current depth beneath the vessel. Finally, the display on the top left indicates the quality and intensity of each of the 432 beams.
We also have a team of researchers from the University of Puerto Rico that are deploying free vehicles to study water masses within the Puerto Rico Trench. More about them in the next blog!
Safety First! On Monday, we had our first drills as part of our safety training. We practiced the “Abandon Ship” and “Fire” drills. We tested the fire hoses and donned our gumby suits. Mrs. Paulsen is looking pretty good, eh? It is comforting to know I’ll be well-protected by good equipment and a great crew in the event of an emergency.
After mapping all morning, we learned we had to return to port due to a medical issue. I discovered that engineers are vital to the operation. Without them, we don’t sail – and they are hard to come by. All of my students interested in marine engine repair should consider NOAA in the future. The pay is good and the adventure is awesome!
I took the time in port to work in the galley helping to make lunch with the chefs. They are a friendly bunch. We made fajitas of all kinds and swordfish. Delicious! I also learned how to garnish a buffet line and even washed dishes afterward. In my high school and college days I worked in many restaurants, but they never let me work in the back. They said I was too much of a “people person” and so I was always waiting on customers. Today I got to cook on one of those large grills I see on cooking shows. Fun to cook on, but not fun to clean. The Chief Steward, Dave Fare, said he brought 5000 lbs of food on board for our trip! We’ll be eating well! Good thing there is a fitness room on board too!
After training on Sunday I had some time to take in a little of the history and culture of San Juan, Puerto Rico. It is a lovely place filled with beautifully colored buildings and fun music. The history is fascinating. According the National Park Service, this is where Chrisotopher Columbus landed on his 2nd voyage and laid claim to the land for Spain. Under Juan Ponce de Leon, Spain took control of the island, displacing the Taíno Indians in 1508. An enormous wall of defense was built to keep hold of the island. Trade winds and ocean currents allowed ships to easily sail here from the east. The fortifications on the island took 10 generations to build.
Spain kept control of the island against invaders until the Spanish-American war in 1898 when Puerto Rico became a US Territory. The fortress including the Castillo de Felipe del Morro and the Castillo San Cristobal are now historical sites managed by the National Park Service. You can learn more here.
After touring the city, I found my way to the sea! I watched children running from the waves. This reminded me of my childhood. My father used to take us to the coast when we lived in California and Oregon. That is where my love of the sea began. Both of my parents have adventurous spirits and strong work ethics. They taught me that anything is possible if you are willing to take the chance and put in the effort. This is a belief I hope I pass on to my students.
Question of the Day
Can you identify this crustacean I found along a beach in San Juan?
Geographic area of the cruise: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina and South Carolina
Date: July 17, 2014
Weather Information from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 26.3 °C
Relative Humidity: 80 %
Wind Speed: 20.1 knots
Science and Technology Log
Catching fish in hard bottom habitats is not without its risks. Sometimes, the traps can get caught on a ledge and the rope breaks when the ship tries to pull up the trap. This is what happened on Wednesday. When a trap is lost and stays in the water, it is sometimes called a “ghost trap.”
The first thing I thought about was the fish that were stuck in the trap. Oh no, how will they get out? The good news is that the trap was creatively designed. It has an escape door that is held shut by zinc clips. Zinc is a type of metal that deteriorates in salt water. In a few days, the zinc clip will break and the door will open so the fish can get in and out of the trap. Hooray for whomever thought of that design!
The second thing that I thought about was the two cameras. It would be sad if we could not use them again for future surveys. And, there could be some interesting observations to be made from the video footage.
What Are The Next Steps?
The purpose of our mission was to collect data about fish populations for fish species that are important to humans, including grouper. Currently, there are limits in place for how many grouper can be caught each year. These limits are in place so that there are grouper for future generations to enjoy.
We now have a lot of data from deploying over 200 traps, with each trap having video footage from two cameras. We caught 54 groupers. They included red grouper, scamp, gag, rock hind, and graysby. In a quick glance at the video footage, we saw many grouper that decided not to go into the trap. It will take a lot of time to review all the video footage. But after all the video footage is analyzed and the MeanCount is determined, what happens next?
The next step is for our data to be added to the other data from all the other Southeast Fishery- Independent Survey cruises. Scientists will look at this data, along with other data from commercial fishermen, and make some conclusions about what they think is happening to the populations of these fish.
Based on these findings, policymakers will decide whether the current limits should be changed or stay in place.
In the end, the goal of everyone should be the same: making sure that groupers are here for a long, long time so future generations of people can enjoy them.
I have gotten used to life on a ship. Some things are harder to do, like exercising. Have you ever tried to run on a treadmill on a ship while it is rocking back and forth and side to side? I was never very good at running on a treadmill on land. It is twice as hard when you are at sea.
The food has been fabulous. We eat meals three times a day. We eat a lot of good fish, like fried grouper and fish tacos. Some of my non-fish favorites have been flank steak, barbeque chicken, pizza, meatball subs, and black bean burgers. And, no matter how rough the boat is rocking, I am still able to get to the dessert table for cookies, or ice cream, or cupcakes, even if my path is not a straight one.
We have been lucky with the weather too. We have only had one day where it rained most of the day. The waves have only been in the 4-6 foot range during the rough times.
I feel very fortunate to have been chosen to be a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I have learned so much about fishery research and ocean floor mapping. I am happy to have played a small role in collecting this important data. I can’t wait to share this knowledge with my students.
I can’t thank enough Nate Bacheler and the other scientists on board for letting me share this adventure with them. I would also like to thank the crew of the Pisces. They were very knowledgeable and helpful. I hope our paths cross again. Goodbye Pisces.
You may be wondering about the trap that we lost. I have good news. Ensigns Jim Europe and Hollis Johnson saved the day. They are NOAA divers. They are also part of the NOAA Corps-one of the seven uniformed services of the U.S. and the officers that drive the ship. They retrieved the lost trap and the cameras very carefully. Great job, Jim and Hollis! You can learn more about the NOAA Corps here:http://www.noaacorps.noaa.gov/
I would like to end this personal log with a few more of my photos that did not make it into earlier blog entries.
Did you know?
The ocean and humans are inextricably interconnected.
Can you think of a few ways that the ocean affects humans? Can you think of a few ways that humans affect the ocean?
Geographical Area of Cruise: Bering Sea North of Dutch Harbor
Date: Friday, July 11, 2014
Weather Data fro the Bridge:
Wind Speed: 17.02 kt
Air Temperature: 8.9 degrees Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1004.3
Latitude: 5903.6745 N
Longitude: 17220..4880 W
I participated in my first live trawl, catch, sort and data collection survey. In my last blog, I talked about how we located and caught the pollock. This blog will talk about what happens when the fish are unloaded into the wet lab and processed. A wet lab is a science lab that is capable of handling excess water and houses the equipment need to to process the catch.
Once the crew off loads the fish, from the net to the short conveyor belt, into the wet lab or sometimes called the slime lab, (it really lives up to its name), I help the scientists sort the pollock from the other species caught in the net. A small sample of marine life, that is not a pollock, gets sorted, weighed and measured for data collection purposes. They are not the main target of our survey, however, they are interesting to see. Large quantities of jellyfish usually make the mix, but I have seen a variety of other animals, such as crabs, starfishes, clams, salmon, flatfishes, Pacific herring, Atka mackerel, and Yellow Irish Lord. The main character, the pollock, are weighed in batches and then placed on a small table to be sexed. In order to sex the fish, I had to cut across the side of the fish with a small scalpel. Next, I inserted my fingers into their guts and pulled out either the gonads (male) or ovaries (female). The gonads look like stringy romaine noodles and the ovaries look like whitish-pinkish oval sacs. Female pollock are placed in a bin labeled sheila’s and the male pollocks are placed in a bin labeled blokes. Sheila’s and blokes are Australian terms for female and male. Cute.
Once sexed and sorted, the fish are measured for their length. Two very ingenious scientists (one who is working on my trip, Kresimir Williams, and Rick Towler), invented an electronic measuring device. The device allows us to measure quickly and accurately while at the same time automatically recording the measurement on the computer. It looks like a cutting board with a ruler embedded in the center. Of course, all measurements used are metric, the primary form of measurement for scientists across the world. I to place the fish’s mouth at the beginning of the board and line the back tail of the fish along the ruler. Next, a special tool (a stylus) embedded with a magnet (it’s small, white,and the front looks like a plastic arrowhead) is placed arrow side forward on the end of the tail fin. Once the tool touches the board (it makes a noise which sounds similar to “ta-da” to let you know it captured its measurement), it automatically records the length in the data program, on the computer. I wish I had one for my classroom. Oh, the fun my students could have measuring! The device streamlines the data collecting process allowing scientists more precise data collection and more time for other research.
That was a lot to absorb, but there is more. If you tend to get squeamish, you might want to scroll past the next paragraph.
Although, I did not work hands on with the next data collection, I closely observed and took pictures. I will try it before my trip ends. The next step is the aging process. Aging a pollock is a vital part of determining the health and welfare of the species. Aging a pollock is similar to the method of aging a tree. The Russian scientist, Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko, who has been surveying pollock for over twenty years and is part of the NOAA science team, has it down to a science. First, he cuts the pollock’s head off exposing the ear bones called Otoliths (Oto–means ear; liths–means stone). He removes the tiny ear bones (about the size and shape of a piece of a navy bean), rinses them, and places them in a small vial labeled with a serial-numbered bar code. The bar code gets scanned and the code is assigned to the specific fish in the computer data base, which also includes their sex, weight and length. Once back at the lab, located in Seattle, Washington, the otoliths can be observed under a microscope and aged based on the number of rings they have: pollock otoliths have one ring for every year of age. Only twenty fish from each trawl have their otoliths extracted.
Once all data are collected, there is still more work to be completed. All of the fish that we sampled, were thrown back into the ocean for the sea birds and other carnivores (meat-eaters) to enjoy. Who wouldn’t enjoy a free meal? Then the equipment and work space must be sprayed down to get rid of all the fish particles (slime). It’s important to clean up after yourself to ensure a safe and healthy environment for everyone. Besides, the smell would be horrible. I also had to spray myself down, it gets very messy. I had fish guts and jellyfish slime all over my lab gear (orange outer wear provided by NOAA). Unfortunately, the guts occasionally get splattered on my face and hair! Yuck, talking about fish face. Thankfully, a bathroom is nearby, where I can get cleaned up.
When all is clean, the scientists can upload and analyze the data. They will compare the data to past and current surveys. The data is a vital step to determining the health and abundance of pollock in our ecosystem. I am amazed at all the science, math, engineering, and technology that goes on during a fish survey. It takes many people and numerous skills to make the survey successful.
This is one of many experiences, I have had trawling and collecting data at sea aboard the Oscar Dyson. The process will repeat several times over my three week trip. As part of the science crew, I am responsible to help with all trawls during my shift. I could have multiple experiences in one day. I cannot wait!
What’s it like to be on a NOAA ship out at sea?
The deck hands, NOAA Corps, and the people I work closest with, the science team, are wonderful and welcoming. I’m super excited and I have to restrain myself from overdoing my questions. They have a job to do!
The weather is not what I expected. It is usually foggy, overcast, and in the high 40’s and low 50’s. Once in a while the sun tries to peek out through the clouds. The Bering Sea has been relatively calm. The heaviest article of clothing I wear is a sweatshirt. It is still early, anything can happen.
On my first day at sea, we had a fire drill and an evacuation drill. Thankfully, I passed. With help from Carwyn, I practiced donning (putting on) my survival suit. I displayed a picture of me wearing it in my last blog. It makes for a hilarious picture! All kidding aside, NOAA takes safety seriously. The survival suit will keep me alive for several days in case of an evacuation in the middle of sea until someone can rescue me. It will protect me from the elements like water temperature, heat from sun, and it has a flashlight attached. Hopefully, I will not have to go through the experience of needing the suit; but I feel safer knowing it is available.
Besides the people, the best amenity aboard the Oscar Dyson is the food. Food is available around the clock. That is important because we work 12 hour shifts from 4:00 to 4:00. That means I work the morning 12-hour shift and my roommate, Emily Collins, works the night 12-hour shift. Hungry workers are grumpy workers. For breakfast, you can get your eggs cooked to order and choose from a variety of traditional breakfast food: French toast, grits, cereal, bacon, sausage, fresh fruit, etc…Hot meal options are served for lunch and dinner including a delicious dessert . Of course, ice cream is available always! I hope I can at least maintain my weight while aboard.
If I get the urge, there is workout equipment including cardio machines and weights available to use. Other entertainment includes movies and playing games with the other crew members. The Oscar Dyson also has a store where I can purchase sweatshirts, sweatpants, t-shirts, hats, and other miscellaneous souvenirs advertising the name of the ship. Who would have thought you could shop aboard a NOAA fishing vessel? I am definitely going shopping. One of my favorite things to do aboard the ship is to watch for marine life on the bridge, it is peaceful and relaxing. For anyone that does not know, the bridge is where the Chief Commanding Officer, Chief Executive Officer, and crew navigate the ship. It is the highest point in which to stand and watch safely out at sea and in my opinion, it has the best view on board.
Did you know?
Did you know when a marine animal such as a seal is close by during a trawl, the trawl process stops and is rerouted?
The crew is very respectful of sea life and endeavors to complete their mission with the least negative impact on wildlife. Also, while the ship is on its regular course, the officers on the bridge, sometimes with a deck hand who is available, keep an eye out for seals, sea lions, whales, and sharks, in order to maneuver around them and keep them safe.
Did you know you can track the Oscar Dyson and its current location?
Make sure you find the Bering Sea and click on the yellow dot; it will tell you our coordinates!
Meet the Scientist: Emily Collins
Title: Fisheries Observer (4 years)
Education: Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, Marine Science, Boston University
Job Responsibilities: As an observer, Emily works aboard numerous fishing vessels, including the Oscar Dyson. She collects data to find out what is being caught so that we can send the information to NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Services), a division of NOAA. They use the data she collects to complete a stock assessment about what type of fish are caught and how much. She is helping, as part of the science team, survey the pollock for all three legs of the survey. When I get back to port, she has a couple of days to rest up in Dutch Harbor and then she will complete the last leg of the trip.
Living Quarters: As a full-time observer, her home is wherever the next assignment is located, mostly on the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska. She is from Dundee, New York, where her family currently resides.
What is cool about her work?
She loves working at sea and working with the marine life. She especially loves it when the nets catch a species of fish she has not seen before. Getting to know new people and traveling is also a plus.
The weirdest and definitely not her favorite experience, while working on a smaller fisheries boats, was having to use a bucket for the toilet.
Emily had a wonderful opportunity her senior year in high school, the chance to go on a National Geographic Expedition with her mom and then later while in college while taking classes abroad. She went to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador to study marine biology. These experiences and the fact that her mother is a veterinarian exposed Emily to the love of animals the ocean, and her career choice.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Kainoa Higgins Aboard R/V Ocean Starr June 18 – July 3, 2014
Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Northern California Current Date: Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Current Latitude: 42° 30.2’ N
Current Longitude: 124° 49.5’ W
Air Temperature: 12.8° Celsius
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: S
Surface Water Temperature: 16.0 Celsius
Weather conditions: Overcast and Misty
I walk into the wet lab after a night of rocking and rolling and find the day shift team prepping for and executing their respective projects. I sit down with Jason Phillips, a fisheries biologist with Oregon State University at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, to talk about his focus aboard the RV Ocean Starr. Jason serves as lead scientist on the box core sampling project. The box corer is a piece of equipment used to literally “grab” a sample of the seafloor for analysis both of sediment grain size as well as benthic (seafloor) life. It is reminiscent of an old candy grab penny arcade where a crane’s claw is used to scoop candies from a floor of goodies. I don’t anticipate the pay load of this scoop to be as deliciously appealing.
Jason explains that he joined this cruise off the coast of Oregon to learn more about the seafloor along a specific series of coordinated sampling stations. These sites are aligned perpendicular from shore and increase in depth as we move further along the continental shelf away from the coastline. The ultimate goal of his project is to better understand the communities of organisms that may be impacted by the commercial development of renewable wind energy. Yes, I’m talking about giant wind turbines anchored to the seafloor, not unlike the terrestrial wind farms seen throughout the country. Before any ground is broken on such a project, the potential impacts have to be investigated. Enter Jason and the rest of his team at Oregon State University. By establishing a fundamental understanding of baseline benthic communities as well as characterizing bottom types, Jason hopes to better explain how the ocean floor changes as we move across the continental shelf.
Jason asks if I’d assist in the deployment of the next box corer and I jump at the opportunity to get my hands dirty. We step onto the stern deck where most of the scientific equipment is kept. There, in all of its silvery splendor, sits the box corer, securely resting in a heavy-duty metal cradle. Weighing in at 450 lbs. when empty – it’s even heavier when filled with a core sample of seafloor sediment. The ocean is a bit rough today so Jason assigns me a supporting role. Using a thick rope attached to a handle on the box corer my job is to keep it from swinging uncontrollably as it is raised from its resting cradle and lowered into the water. I’m warned to keep all extremities out of the way as it wouldn’t take much for this piece of scientific kit to become a glorified wrecking ball capable of devastating blows to both ship and its operators. The winch begins to tighten the slack on the cable line and the box core rises from its cradle. Though it swings slightly from side to side, it cleanly enters the water and starts its decent into the dark depths.
This time it will collect a sediment sample at 200 meters, and takes nearly six minutes to reach the bottom. When it does, its gravity-release mechanism triggers and the shovel-like claws propped open on the surface close as the wire is wound back in, scooping a load of seafloor and any organisms living in or on that substrate. About 10 minutes later, the box corer returns to the surface draining gallons of water as we maneuver the even heavier steel trap back to its cradle.
Once secure, Jason collects a raw sample in a small jar, labels it and sets it aside for grain size analysis in the lab. Using a ruler, he measures the depth of the total sample. I learn that sample size depends largely on grain size. The further away from shore, the deeper the water, and a lower impact by waves and surface currents. The result is the settling and compacting of fine particulates. Conversely, seafloors closer to shore “feel” the more of the effects of these ocean forces, which allows for less settlement, and lighter particles are washed further offshore. There we would find sandier substrates. This sample is incredibly “muddy”, made up mostly of clay.
Once the seafloor “muck” is extracted from the box corer, Jason uses a small wire mesh and a garden hose to sluice the sediment, breaking up the larger chunks as he hunts for signs of life within. Any critters found are carefully extracted using tweezers then added to neatly labeled jars for further analysis back in lab at Hatfield. Invertebrates dominate the small haul of benthic life: feather worms, polychaetes and echinoderms are numerous. Occasionally the box core delivers unexpected tag-a-longs. On two separate occasions a large fish and a skate that, of all the places on the bottom of the ocean, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and took the ride a lifetime.
It was an exciting hands-on experience and I quickly learned that the tighter the leash the more stable the box. I am thankful to report that no limbs were lost in the sampling of the seafloor.
Later, I sit down with Katherine Dale, a student intern aboard the RV Ocean Starr. Kat currently attends the University of Miami and will be entering her senior year after which she will have successfully earned B.S. degrees in Biology and Marine Science with a Minor in computer science to top it all off.
She arrived on the Ocean Starr as a result of being named recipient of the Ernest F. Hollings scholarship by NOAA. Applying in her sophomore year, Kat received a generous $16,000 towards her junior and senior years of study. The intangible value of the scholarship is in NOAA’s expectation of awardees to participate in a paid internship with a NOAA affiliated mentor and/or facility with the intention being to introduce undergraduate students to NOAA as a potential career path.
Kat has chosen to spend her summer at the Hatfield Marine Science Center under the mentorship of Ric Brodeur, the chief scientist on this cruise. She is here with similar intentions as I have; gain field experience on a NOAA research cruise. Unlike me, this is not her first time at sea. A year ago she toured the Bahamas on a month-long research trip with the Southeast Fisheries Science Center, a regional NOAA research lab based in Miami, Florida.
I ask Kat what she would advise a younger group of marine enthusiasts just starting out. She suggests that budding students should not be afraid to pursue diverse experiences and keep an open mind. There will be great jobs and some not-so-great jobs, but it is all experience, and more experiences lead to more opportunities further down the road.
Kat isn’t quite sure what she wants to do with her laundry list of degrees but finds herself attracted to both the world of scientific research as well as that of science education. Perhaps a role in education outreach for a science organization is somewhere in her future.
Adjusting to life on a ship like the Ocean Starr has been interesting. Not necessarily difficult but not easy either. It’s just, different. In my previous post I mentioned the struggles of using the restroom and just getting in and out of bed at night. I’ve since taken my first shower aboard this floating facility and to say it was challenging would be an understatement. When the ship rolls, I roll and when it rocks, I follow suit. I’m still working on those sea legs. It all gets amplified when it comes to anything bathroom related especially when the venue is communal. Trying to keep a change of clothes dry in the shower is hardest! I’ve made a few trips back to my stateroom in wet clothes.
Last night we ran into some rougher waters and falling asleep was nearly impossible. Each time I even began to doze off, the ship would roll so violently that I would be forced into the wall or the railing on the bunk. Being a side-sleeper it’s difficult. I realized the side-to-side motion is generally a result of three major sources: our northbound travels, the bow-to-stern orientation of my bunk and the west-east flow of the swells toward shore. Eventually I gave up attempting to find sleep in my own berth and decided to roam about the ship in search of a more stable locale. In the crew lounge, I found an enormous couch which just so happened to have an orientation to match the swells. Although with each roll I could feel a slight bit of added pressure at my head or toes, I was not long rolling side-to-side. Proud of myself, I fell asleep immediately.
Let me clarify the my tone as I describe the trials above. In no way do I consider any of these experiences to be “bad”. I signed up for life at sea and it wouldn’t be realistic if I didn’t struggle to adapt somewhat to such a foreign lifestyle. I am embracing every moment as a unique investigation into the life of not only a scientific research team in the field, but also the life of the crew that keeps us running. Besides, the immediate perks far outweigh the struggle of adaptation.
The food is delicious. I realize that in that statement I echo just about every other Teacher at Sea in TAS history. All the same, the food is delicious. I suppose it’s one of the small comforts that both crew and science team look forward to on a regular basis and Crystal, the head chef, and her partner Liz take great pride in the meals they prepare. Already I’ve gorged myself on freshly- made pizza, gyros, fruit-filled pastries, stir-fry dishes, quiches, steak and potatoes and swordfish just to name a few! The galley is the ship cafeteria and is always stocked with an assortment of goodies: pop, juice, coffee, fruit, and an array of granola bar-type pocket snacks for when you need a quick pick-me-up on the job. There’s even a salad bar with a variety of toppings to choose from. That’s not even the best part!
Aside from usual dinning occasion: breakfast, lunch and dinner, there is a midnight rations service simply called “mid-rats” onboard. It is a meal with naval ties designed to satisfy the hunger of those getting off or just starting their shifts in the middle of the night. Many onboard swear mid-rats to be the best meal of the 24 hour period. I can’t decide, it’s all so tasty! All this and I haven’t even mentioned the overstocked freezer dedicated to nothing but ice cream! I thought, being at sea, I’d drop a few pounds but with four meals a day all the snacks I could ever want, I don’t see that happening. I’ll be lucky to break even.
My current shift runs from roughly 2:00 pm – 2:30 am. This time frame allows me the opportunity to participate in a variety of sampling activities that happen only during daylight hours, as well as to help sort a few trawls into the wee hours of morning. Generally speaking, I fall asleep by around 3:00 and wake up for breakfast at 6:00. I love breakfast. I head back to bed for another four hours give or take, depending on how rough the ocean is beneath me. Around 10:00 I’ll wake up and grab some coffee and check in on various projects, lending a helping hand if needed. I’ll generally take my coffee to the flying bridge checking in with Amanda in regards to any recent sightings.
On that note, we stumbled across a hunting group of Stellar sea lions yesterday. They followed us for a bit, as did a flock of gulls, I imagine because they mistook us for an active fishing vessel and were just looking for a free meal.
Day time activities: CTD, box core, neuston net tow, bongo tow, jelly fishing, etc. generally wrap up between 2:00 and 4:00 and at that point we begin transit toward the next trawling station. The commute time can be anywhere from 4 to 6 hours depending on conditions and the team finds various ways to pass the time. Some take naps or watch a movie in the lounge while others play cards, grab a snack, or join Amanda on the flying bridge to look for marine animals. I generally use this time to chat with those around about their projects and think about how to synthesize these encounters into blog posts. I’ve also found myself collecting so much great footage that I spend some time slicing and dicing a short film here and there featuring the day’s happenings.
Once we arrive at the first trawling station the night team sets up shop. We trawl and sort samples throughout the night with the last trawl wrapping up at about 5:00 in the morning. So far, I’ve only made it through the first two or three trawls before turning in for the night. The evening is always an adventure. Just last night while we sorted krill from rockfish, a bird flew into the wet lab and landed in a large bucket full of catch; this guy was a storm petrel, which are apparently attracted to and disoriented by lights, making this a relatively common event. We were able to get it out the door and back onto the ocean both swiftly and safely.
I wrap this post up as I sit atop the flying bridge on an overcast day off of the Oregon Coast. I can faintly see the famous sand dunes framing the coastline. No more than ten minutes prior to typing these very words did we watch four humpback whales breaching clear out of the water less than 300 meters from the bow of the Ocean Starr; an absolute thrill to see!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Johanna Mendillo Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson July 23 – August 10, 2012
Mission: Pollock Survey Geographical area of the cruise: Bering Sea Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Location Data from the Bridge: Latitude: 62○ 18’ N
Longitude: 178○ 51’ W
Ship speed: 2.5 knots (2.9 mph)
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 9.5○C (49.1ºF)
Surface water temperature: 8.5○C (47.3ºF)
Wind speed: 9.1 knots (10.5 mph)
Wind direction: 270○T
Barometric pressure: 1001 millibar (0.99 atm)
Science and Technology Log:
In the last few days, we have crossed into the Russian Exclusive Economic Zone, sampled, and are now back on the U.S. side! Unfortunately, students, there was no way for my passport to get stamped. There was no formal ceremony, and we will cross back and forth many times in the next two weeks as we do our science transects, collecting Pollock, but the science team took a moment to celebrate— and I snapped a quick picture of the computer screen.
I would now like to introduce you to one of the most simple and valuable tools we use on board to measure a sample of Pollock- the Ichthystick.
First, some background. Each day we “go fishing” 2-4 times with our mid-water and bottom trawls. “Trawling” simply means dragging a large net through the water to collect fish (and you will learn more about the different types of nets we use quite soon). After the trawl, we bring the net back on board and see what we have caught!
There are many types of data we collect from each catch- first and foremost, the total weight of the catch and the numbers and masses of any species we catch in addition to pollock. So far, we have collected salmon, herring, cod, lumpsuckers, rock sole, arrowtooth flounder, Greenland turbot, and jellyfish on my shifts! Our focus, though, of course, is pollock. For pollock-specific data, we keep a sub-sample of the catch, usually 300-500 fish, for further analysis, and we release the rest back into the ocean.
From this sub-sample, I help the scientists collect gender and length data. As I mentioned in my last post, we also collect otoliths from the sub-samples so that the age structure of the population can be studied back in Seattle. The most straightforward and obvious data, though, is simply measuring the length of the fish, which takes us back to the wonderful contraption known as the Ichthystick!
Now, scientists cannot determines the age of a pollock simply from measuring its length- there are many factors that determine how fast a fish can grow, such as access to food, space, its overall health, environmental conditions, etc. But, by collecting length data and combining it with age data from otoliths, scientists can begin to see the length ranges at each age class and the overall “big picture” for the population emerges.
And again, once the age structure and population size of pollock in the Bering Sea are determined for a certain year, management decisions can be made, commercial fish quotas are set for the upcoming fishing season, and there will still be a suitable population of fish left in the ocean to reproduce and keep the stocks at sustainable levels for upcoming years.
So, it clearly does not make much sense to measure pollock with a ruler, paper, and pencil. To measure hundreds of fish at a time, the NOAA team has developed a simple yet ingenious measuring tool, powered by magnets, and transmitted electronically back to their computers for easy analysis- the Ichthystick!
The Ichthystick may simply look like a large ruler, but it consists of a sensor and electronic processing board mounted in a protective (& waterproof!) container. Inside, the sensor processes, formats and transmits the measurement values of each fish to an external computer that collects and stores the data.
Interestingly, the board works with magnets and makes use of the property of magnetostriction.
With magnetostriction, magnetic materials change shape when exposed to a magnetic field. Magnetostrictive sensors can use this property to measure distances by calculating the “time of flight” for a sonic pulse generated in a magnetic filament when a measurement magnet is placed close to the sensor. Here, in the picture, I am placing the fish along the sensor and holding the measurement magnet in my right hand.
To determine the distance to the measurement magnet, the elapsed time between when I touch the magnet to the board to generate the ultrasonic pulse and when the pulse is detected by the sensor is recorded– and that time is converted to a distance (using the speed of sound in that material), which is equal to the fish’s length!
Now, the “measurement magnet” is referred to as the “stylus”, and it is a little white plastic piece, the size of a magic marker cap, which contains the magnet embedded into the bottom. You simply strap the stylus onto your index finger with velcro (so that the north pole of the magnet is facing down toward the sensor) and are ready to begin measuring! The magnet inside is a small neodymium magnet, chosen because it has a very strong magnetic field. Each time a measurement is recorded, a chime sounds, and I know I can go on to measuring my next fish! At this point, I have measured a few thousand fish!
Let’s continue our tour aboard the Oscar Dyson! I think it is fair to say that scientific research makes one hungry! I have enjoyed meeting Tim and Adam, the stewards (chefs) onboard the Dyson, devouring their delicious meals, and spending time talking with the officers and crew in the galley (kitchen) and mess (dining hall). As you can see from my picture, the first thing you notice are the tennis balls on the bottoms of the chairs! Why do you think they are there?
As in most things related to ship design, planning for rough seas is paramount! So, in addition to tennis balls, which stop the chairs from sliding around, there are bungee cords that attach the chairs to the floor. The dishes are also strapped down and most items are in boxes, bins, or behind closed doors. But do not let that fool you— there is a LOT of food in there! I have enjoyed many a midnight snack- fruit, yogurt, ice cream bars, cereal bars, cookies, and soup to name just a few. In addition, there is a salad bar and a selection of leftover dinner items available to reheat each night. Since I am on the 4pm-4am shift, I have been missing breakfast, and I have been told I must have at least one hot cooked-to-order meal before I depart!
I was a little surprised to see a mini-Starbucks on board too! It is quite a setup, complete with pictures and directions on how to make each concoction:
Dennis, one of the Survey Technicians who works on the overnight shift with me, promised to make me a hazelnut latte if I could correctly predict the number of pollock in a trawl, Price-Is-Right style. I finally won a few nights ago….
Interestingly, there are no mechanisms in place to help the stewards cook in rough seas, but Adam assured me that he has never had a dinner for thirty slide off the grill and onto the floor! Adam has been working in the NOAA fleet for over 10 yrs., including 7 yrs on the Miller Freeman, the precursor to the Oscar Dyson. He has been onboard the Dyson for almost a year. Tim has just joined the Dyson on this cruise and was previously in our home state— aboard the Delaware out of Woods Hole, Massachusetts! Before joining NOAA, he worked on several supply ships that sailed across the world. Each has been quite friendly and helpful as I learn to navigate my way around both the ship and my new schedule. One of our frequent conversations is menu planning and the all-important-dessert on the schedule for each night. So far, I have enjoyed apple cobbler, pineapple upside down cake, snickers cake, carrot cake, brownie sundaes, oatmeal raisin cookies, and… Boston cream pie!
One last Q: How many dozens of eggs do you think Tim and Adam will go through on our 19-day cruise with 30 people on board? Write your guess in the comment section and I will announce the answer in my next post…
I know many of you may have never been on a ship before and are probably curious to know what it is like to be aboard the Oregon II. I’m going to take you on a little virtual tour, but first you will need to know some common terms that are used to refer to certain areas on the ship.
What It Means
The front of the ship.
The back of the ship.
The right side of the ship when facing the bow.
The left side of the ship when facing the bow.
The direction towards the bow of the ship.
The direction towards the stern of the ship.
The location of the command center for the ship.
The dining area.
Where crew members sleep.
At the bow of the ship is where most of the scientific collection equipment is deployed/released. The CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth), the neuston net, and the bongo nets. (I will talk about each one of these in upcoming blogs.) There are several large cranes that help lift these up off the deck and swing them over the edge of the ship to be released into the water. When you are at the bow and the cranes are running, it is very important to keep yourself safe. Everyone who is at the bow when the cranes are operating is required to wear a hard hat and a PFD (personal floatation device). You never know if a cable will snap or the wind will swing the equipment towards you. There is a sensor on the PFD that is activated when large amounts of saltwater touches it, like if you were to fall overboard. Once salt water touches the sensor, the PFD will inflate and keep you afloat until you can be rescued.
At the stern is where the samples from the neuston cod end and the bongo cod ends are collected and preserved in jars for scientists to examine at a lab. This is also where the large trawling net is deployed. The scientists spend most of their time at this part of the ship.
What Makes the Ship Sail?
The bridge is where the officers of the Oregon II work. It is located toward the bow of the ship. The bridge has all of the navigation tools necessary to steer the ship to the next sampling station. There is also a lot of weather equipment that is monitored and recorded throughout the day. The bridge is where you’ll find the best views of the ocean because it is almost completely surrounded by windows and it’s higher than any other room on the ship.
This room is where all of the maps are stored. While there are more technologically advanced methods used for navigation on the ship located in the bridge, it is important to have physical maps on hand to refer to, especially if the instruments stop working for any reason.
Before we untied our ship from the dock I received a full tour of the engine room. This is where the heart of the ship is. Everything in the engine room powers the ship. Our water is even purified down here using reverse osmosis (passing water through a membrane to filter the water). Because of this machine, we can filter salt water into fresh water to use on the ship.
It was great to venture down to the engine room before we set sail because I was told that it can get up to 110 degrees when the engines are running! It is a large space, but it feels small because of the large equipment. There are two of everything, which is especially important if something needs repair. Below is a picture of the two engines. The other is a picture of one of the generators.
Living on a Ship Stateroom
My stateroom is compact, but its main purpose is for sleeping so size isn’t really an issue. There is a bunk bed, a sink with a mirror, latching drawers for clothes, and a hide-away desk. There is also a compact tv that is attached to the bottom of the top bunk and folds up when it is not in use. I only use the room to sleep and get ready for my shift because my bunkmate works the opposite watch shift as mine (midnight to noon), and I want to be the least disruptive as possible. After 12 hours shifts, sleep is really needed and helps reenergize you in time for the next watch.
The head is the same as a bathroom. On the Oregon II there are private and communal heads. The private heads are for the officers and are typically connected to their staterooms. The communal heads are open for any crew member to use. There are also communal showers for the crew to use. All of the toilets use salt water that is pumped onboard. The reason fresh water is not used is because it is a precious source on the ship and is not readily available from the ship’s surroundings. The sinks, showers, drinking fountains, and ice machines all use fresh water. Fresh water on the ship should never be wasted. Water for the sinks is timed so that there will never be a faucet that is accidentally left on. Showers are to be kept to a maximum of 10 minutes, though it is encouraged that they be even shorter.
Galley and Mess Hall
This is one of my favorite places. The galley is where our ship’s cooks prepare all of the wonderful food for the crew. The mess hall is where we all eat during meal times. During meal times it can be quite crowded in the mess hall as there are only 12 available seats and over 30 crew members onboard who are ready to eat. There is an “eat it and beat it” policy to help ensure that everyone who comes down to eat will be able to find a spot. Despite this, it is still a great way to converse with the crew and talk about events from the day before giving up your set to another hungry crew member.
This is the place where crew members who have some down time can gather and socialize, though down time can be rare. There is satellite tv, a couple of computers, and hundreds of movies to choose from. Some available movies haven’t even been released onto DVD for the common household yet, but they are available to the military. They do this because not everyone has access to current movies when they are away from home for extended periods of time. All of the DVDs are encrypted and can ONLY work on the machines aboard the ship. I was excited to find a copy of The Hunger Games and I plan on trying to watch it before my trip is over.
Labs on the Oregon II
The Wet Lab
The Wet Lab is where all of the samples from the groundfish trawls are sorted, counted, measured, weighed, and sexed (gender identified). Buckets filled with animals from the nets are dumped onto a large conveyor belt and spread out to make sorting the different species out into individual baskets easier. Everything in the wet lab can get wet except the sensors connected to the machines. We need to be cautious around the sensors when we are cleaning up after a sampling so as not to get water in them.
The Dry Lab
The Dry Lab is where all of the computers are located that record all of the data from the samplings. As the name of this lab states, everything in it is dry. Water should never come into contact with the equipment in here because it can seriously damage it. In between samplings, this is typically where the scientists gather to wait for arrival at the next sampling station.
The Chem Lab
This is where all of the plankton samples are stored. It is also where water samples taken from the CTD are tested for dissolved oxygen (DO). The CTD does have its own DO sensor, but it is always best to test something more than once to ensure you are collecting accurate data.
Day 1 – July 5th
I arrived in Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi late in the afternoon of July 5th. The chief scientist, Brittany Palm, met me at the airport and drove me over to the Port of Pascagoula where the Oregon II was docked. We met up with two college volunteers, Kayla and Andrew, and got a quick tour of the ship (the air conditioning was out!) before we headed over to a wonderful local barbecue restaurant. We returned after dark and were welcomed with a fixed AC! I unpacked my belongs into my latched drawers and made up my bunk bed up so that everything would be in place when I was ready to hit the sack. It took a couple of nights for me to get use to the sounds of the ship, but now I hardly notice them.
Day 2 – July 6th
When I woke up the next morning, I decided to venture out into downtown Pascagoula which was only a 5 minute walk away from the ship. It is a quaint area with little shops and restaurants. I met up with the two volunteers and we picked a business that had the best of both worlds, a restaurant and a shop, to have a wonderful breakfast. We had to be back on the ship by 12:30 for a welcome meeting, but we took some time to snap a few pictures of our floating home for the next 12 days. We were underway shortly after 2 pm (1400 hours in military time). It was fun to watch our ship depart from the dock and enjoy the light breeze. It wasn’t long until we had another meeting, this time with the deck crew. We learned about the safety rules of working on deck and discussed its importance. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and getting my sea legs. The gentle rocking does require you to step carefully, especially when you have to step through the water tight doors!
Day 3 – July 7th
Our first day out at sea was slow to start. We didn’t reach our first sampling station until early in the morning on the 7th, even though we left the Oregon II’s port in Pascagoula mid-afternoon on the 6th. I was sound asleep when we arrived because my shift runs noon to midnight every day, so my first sampling experience didn’t happen until almost 24 hours after we set sail. This was nice because it gave me time to explore the ship and meet some of the crew.
Right after lunch I got to jump right in and help finish bagging, labeling, and cleaning up the wet lab for the team that was just finishing up their shift. After we had finished it was time to conduct my first plankton sampling. We went out on deck at the bow of the ship to prepare the CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) device for deployment/release. After the CTD was released and brought back on deck, we deployed the neuston net to collect species samples from that same station. (I’ll explain the importance of this type of net in a later blog.) Once the collection time was complete, the neuston net was brought back on deck where we detached the cod end and placed it into a large bucket. Cod ends are plastic cylindrical attachments with screened holes to let water run through but keep living things inside during collection. The neuston cod end’s screens have 0.947mm sized openings. We then deployed the bongo nets to collect samples of even smaller species like plankton. (I will describe the purpose of the bongo nets in a later blog.) When the nets were brought back on deck, we detached the cod ends from the two bongo nets and placed those into buckets as well. The screens on the cod ends for the bongo net are even smaller than the neuston’s at only 0.333mm. When all of the nets were rinsed to make sure nothing was still stuck to the inside of the nets, we brought the buckets back to the stern of the ship to further rinse the samples and place them into jars for further examination by scientists.
Day 4 – July 8th
Today was a lot of fun because I completed my first groundfish trawl. The net for this trawl is located at the stern of the ship. When the net was brought back up on deck, it was emptied into a large box. There was quite the commotion when the fish were emptied out of the net. Not only were the fish flopping around like crazy and splattering water everywhere, their scales flew everywhere and it looked like shiny confetti! Anyone who was in a 6 foot radius was bound to be covered in scales. By the end of the day I thought I was part mermaid with the amount of scales that had stuck to me!
There were so many fish in one of our trawls that we had to use large shovels to place the fish into more manageable sized baskets. The baskets were brought inside the wet lab to be sorted, weighed, measured, and labeled.
The coolest animals I saw today were sea urchins, a sharpnose shark, and a blowfish. It was also fun to observe the different crab species, so long as I kept my fingers away from their claws!
Question of the Day
There is only one right answer to this question. ? You’ll be able to find it at one of the links I placed in my blog. Can you find the answer?
NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2010
Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 39.94 Longitude -73.47 Speed 1.10 kts Course 22.00 Wind Speed 34.25 kts Wind Dir. 69.54 º Surf. Water Temp. 19.70 ºC Surf. Water Sal. 31.85 PSU Air Temperature 15.80 ºC Relative Humidity 88.00% Barometric Pres. 1015.72 mb Water Depth 45.00 m Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010
Science and Technology Log
I visited the bridge of NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow to see how the ship is run. Thebridge sits atop the ship and is the command center for all navigation andcommunications operations during the cruises. Windows surround the entire bridge, giving NOAA Corps officers a 360 degree view of the surrounding ocean. Here, Commanding Officer, Anne Lynch, and Junior Officer, ENS Kyle Sanders stand at the main bridge console of the ship. NOAA Corps officers chart the ship’s course, control the speed, steer the ship, detect other objects in the ocean via sonar, monitor weather conditions, and communicate with others at sea, on the ship, and on shore from this console.
The Aft Control Station (ACS) is located at the rear of the bridge and overlooks the working deck. The ACS provides control ofthe Auto Trawl System to pull the research net at a constant andstraight trawl. A closed circuit television improves the crew’s visibility while operating the gear from the bridge. Here is a picture of the ACS control panel on the bridge and the research net on the rear deck.
Henry B. Bigelow is also equipped with two scientific SONAR systems used for gathering data on fish and plankton and for collecting oceanographic data, such as water salinity and water temperature. Transducers are mounted at the center of the hull and extend below the ship to take acoustic readings of water depth or the location of schools of fish. One of the SONAR transducers on this ship can work at depths as deep as 5000 meters and can detect objects under water as close as one meter or as far away as 800 meters. It also detects objects on the sea floor, as well as in the water column. This system is controlled from the bridge, as well.
A separate control panel is used to monitor and control power and water usage on board the ship. Two generators provide electricity for the ship. There are also tanks in the hull designated for different purposes, such as holding water, fuel, and potable water. This control board monitors all of the tank and power usage levels for the entire ship.
Today is my birthday! Spending my birthday aboard a NOAA research vessel is a great gift! Today is also the second day spent waiting for the seas to calm down so we can take more samples. Wind speeds are 34.25 kts. and the waves are about 11-16 feet high. The boat is rocking and rolling, and makes it very difficult to move around. The night watch is sleeping, so we cannot go in our staterooms, and we must be quiet everywhere we go. It is too windy to go outside on the deck, as well. The only thing we can do is wait in the lounge. The lounge is equipped with a television, two computers, couches, a conference table, games, movies, and reading material. Since it is my birthday, I have the honor of selecting one of the movies we will watch. That’s a hard thing to do when you are with a group of people with so many different tastes and personalities. . . the “A Team” it is! It’s great that the crew and scientists have a place to go for entertainment, because waiting for so many hours on end can start to get on everyone’s nerves.
Luckily, the ship also has a workout room, which I visited briefly. It’s very difficult to lift weights when the ship is rocking, and the elliptical machine seemed to run by itself. The stationary bicycle was a little easier to manage, and it felt good to move my legs after sitting for so long in the lounge.
However, I think the biggest morale booster for me, the crew and the scientists is thewonderful food that Dennis and Randy make in the galley. Their menus rival those of some finer restaurants I’ve visited, and we are treated to their artistry every day way out here in the ocean. I’ve truly been spoiled!
Wind Chill: -4.93ºC / 23.16ºF Sea Temperature: -1.3ºC Salinity: 27.55 PSU Water Depth:2503.9 m
Date:2 September 2010
Time of Day: 22:15 (10:15 p.m. local time); 05:15 UTC
Latitude: 76º 36.2’ N
Longitude: 129º 42.1’ W
Ship Speed: 3.9 knots Heading: 270
Air Temperature: -1.08ºC / 30.05ºF
Barometric Pressure: 1017.3 mb Humidity: 99.1 %
Winds: 9.3 knots N
Wind Chill: -6.53ºC / 20.15ºF
Sea Temperature: -1.4ºC Salinity: 27.52 PSU
Water Depth: 2492.8 m
When you are at sea for as long as the Coast Guard crew of the Healy, it’s important to build some things into the schedule that break up the monotony. Days pass without much sense of what day of the week it is, often with little difference between day and night. TheHealy Morale Committee is responsible for planning activities for the crew, and I have enjoyed attending their meetings as a science team point of contact (POC) during this cruise. Saturday nights are big nights on Healy. They start with the Morale Dinner, where the regular galley staff gets the night off and a different group prepares the meal. Then there is bingo in the mess, followed by a movie shown on the big screen in the helicopter hangar.
Last Saturday was the science team’s turn to try our hands at preparing dinner for the crew. We chose to make pizza, figuring it is usually a crowd pleaser and a complete break from the normal menu. Under the watchful eye of FS3 Melissa Gomes, we spent Saturday afternoon chopping and cooking toppings, pre-cooking the crusts, and baking a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for dessert – that was my idea; this late in the trip, it seemed like everyone could use a good dose of chocolate. Note that in the galley, everyone must where a cover (hat), but hats are not permitted elsewhere in the Mess.
Here I am trying to figure out how to use the mixer – for this cake, the mix came in a can and the frosting mix was in a box. My watch stander partner Peter Triezenberg helped me frost the cakes, but no one was around to take our photo! Photo courtesy of Sherwood Liu.
Our rewards for our efforts were the smiling, satisfied faces we saw leaving the Mess that evening, which made the job of washing dishes, cleaning tables and swabbing the decks that much easier. Somehow no one remembered to take pictures of the cleaning crew, which included many of those already named as well as Mark Patsavas (University of South Florida), Justin Pudenz (Marine Mammal Observer), and David Street (Canadian Hydrographic Service). It was a great night. We had a lot of fun and showed that we can work as a team in the kitchen as well as in the lab and on the decks.
Mission Status: We are in the home stretch now, leading Louis on what will probably be the last transect through ice. Sometime soon we will break away and start heading for Barrow to start the journey home. I am spending a good part of each day out on the decks, taking photos and enjoying my last look at Arctic ice. Yesterday’s snow added a new element to the scene.
We’ve also had a couple of polar bear sightings, though none were close enough to get good pictures with my camera, but here’s my roommate, Sarah, right after she spotted Wednesday’s bear.Caroline
NOAA Teacher at Sea Anne Marie Wotkyns Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces July 7-13, 2010
NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Marie Wotkyns NOAA Ship Pisces Mission: Reef Fish Survey Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico Date: Thursday, July 8, 2010
Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind: 7-9 mph Other Weather Features:
Sunny, scattered light clouds
Waves 1’; Swells 3-4’ Location: 28.37.2 N
Science and Technology Log
Hello, my name is Anne Marie Wotkyns and I am participating in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. I teach 4th grade at J.B. Monlux Magnet School in North Hollywood, California. I joined the NOAA ship Pisces on the evening of July 6 to begin a 6 day cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. I will be posting logs to share the information I learn and the experience of working aboard a scientific research vessel. We will be working on the SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey of Offshore Banks, a project which provides information about the relative abundance of fish species associated with geographic features such as banks and ledges on the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll be explaining this project more in my next log entry.
After meeting the other Teacher at Sea, Liz Warren and bird expert Scott Mills, at the Gulfport Mississippi Airport, we were driven to the NOAA docks in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It was quite late when we boarded the Pisces, so we found the cabin Liz and I would share, explored the ship a bit, and turned in for the night.
Wednesday, July 7 found us eager to get started on our TAS adventure. We started the day at the NOAA office and lab building, adjacent to the ship docks. There we met Kevin Rademacher, Chief Scientist for the SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) offshore reef fish survey which we will be participating in on our cruise. He showed us around the NOAA facilities, which house the Southeast Marine Fisheries Offices, Seafood Inspection, and Documentation Approval and Supply Services. The fisheries division deals with resources surveys, harvesting, and engineering related to commercial fishing. The seafood inspection division deals with issues related to seafood safety and chemical and microbiological analysis of seafood. These labs can help determine if the “red snapper” your favorite restaurant serves is really red snapper or a different type of fish! This division will also be testing some of the fish we collect on our cruise for baseline data on fish from areas outside the oil spill for possible later comparison to fish collected within the spill zone.
Now a little more about the Pisces, my home away from home for the next 6 days. The Pisces was commissioned in 2009 and is one of NOAA’s newest ships. She is 63.8 meters (209 feet) long, 15 meters (49.2 feet) wide, and has a draft of 6 meters (19.4 feet.) Her cruising speed is 14.5 knots and she can stay out to sea for 40 days if necessary. On this cruise there are 22 crew comprised of a commanding officer, deck officers, engineering officers, deck hands, engineers, stewards, and survey and electronic technicians. There are 6 on our science team and 2 bird observers conducting surveys of pelagic seabirds possibly affected by the oil spill.
After we set sail on Tuesday afternoon, we spent much of the late afternoon up on the flying bridge, the highest deck on the ship. We observed a wide variety of boats and ships in the channels around Pascagoula Bay. Scott and Ron, the bird observers, helped us identify the bird species we saw, including Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, and Sandwich Terns. We also saw several Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin swimming near the ship. Soon the seas grew rougher and after dinner and a short welcome meeting, we retired to our cabins for the night.
Wednesday morning brought calmer seas, and the start of “science “ on board the Pisces. Before we reached the areas selected for the SEAMAP fish surveys, Chief Scientist Kevin Rademacher wanted to conduct bathymetric mapping of an area called Sackett Bank, off the coast of Lousiana. This involves sailing the ship in a series of overlapping transects 1.6 miles long, .05 miles apart, similar to “mowing your lawn” at home. The ME70 multibeam acoustic system covers a swath of 120 degrees using 27 beams which can detect and map features on the sea floor down to .5 meters in size. This will allow NOAA to produce highly accurate nautical charts of the region. The charts will eventually be available to commercial and sport fishermen, sailors, shipping companies, and anyone else who is interested.
When a ship is conducting activities like this bathymetric mapping or other “Restricted Mobility and Manuevers” work, they hoist a nylon “Ball-Diamond-Ball” to notify other ships in the area that it is restricted in its movement so the other ships can change their course. This message is also sent electronically by VHF radio signal. I happened to be on the bridge while they prepared to start the first transect, so Commanding Officer (CO) Jeremy Adams let me hoist the ball-diamond-ball.
In this photo, the green boat indicates the position of the Pisces as we conduct the mapping transects.
Tomorrow the plans are to begin the SEAMAP reef fish surveys, “one hour after sunrise” – looks like we’ll be working from about 7 am to 7 pm with the fish! Bring it on!!
After submitting Teacher at Sea applications for 3 years (the first 2 years I was not selected) I am thrilled to be here! The opportunity to participate in a cruise like this on such an amazing ship is truly a once in a lifetime experience!
Here are a few more pictures of life aboard the Pisces.
Our cabin is a little small, but very clean and functional. Liz volunteered to take the top bunk, so I have the bottom. I love the little curtains that can enclose the bunk – makes a dark little “cave” for me! And the reading lamp lets me read late at night! We have a flatscreen TV, but so far we have only been able to watch the USA network – one channel only. But we don’t spend much time in the cabin anyway. The bathroom is very similar to a cruise ship bathroom, and the shower has great water pressure – however the ship is under water conservation so showers need to be quick. Notice we’re eating on paper plates with plastic utensils. No dishwashing either! After the ship moves farther from the oil spill they will able to use their salt water to fresh water conversion process and we’ll be able to use water more freely.
In Pascagoula I purchased a small stuffed penguin and named him “Pascy” (for Pasacagoula.) Pascy has been exploring the Pisces so here are some shots of him around the ship!
Another big event today was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. We were assigned “muster stations”, places we would go to in event of an emergency. Part of the drill was to practice donning our “survival suits” – one piece insulated buoyant suits that would keep us afloat and warm if we ever had to abandon ship. The hardest part of the drill was getting the awkward suit on and off – they seem to be one-size-fits all and I seem to be smaller than most sailors!
Even Pascy got to participate in the drill! I don’t think he need to worry about staying afloat or warm in the water! Good thing, because that lifejacket looks a little big!
Our sampling of Pollock larvae continues around the clock. It is interesting to see what stations have a lot of Pollock and which ones don’t. From my own observations of the condition of the bongo nets when they are retrieved, I have started to predict if there will be a lot of Pollock or only a little. If the nets are covered in reddish– brown algae, they usually do not have many Pollock, or anything else in them. The nets that are clearer, but still have some red from the copepods, seem to have more Pollock larvae. (I wonder why?)The scientists say that we have found more Pollock larvae than in the past couple of years. (Again, I wonder why?) That’s a good sign for the fishery, though. I told you in an earlier blog about how Kevin Bailey is using the data that we collect to create a model that will predict the future population of harvestable Pollock. The other two research projects that are going on have to do with determining how fast the Pollock are growing and how healthy the Pollock larvae are. Annette Dougherty, the chief scientist, is studying the otoliths, (small inner ear bones) in the Pollock. The ear bones add a layer of bone each year and create a pattern similar to the growth rings of a tree. The Pollock that are preserved are shipped to her lab where she will look at the otoliths and determine the age of the Pollock to the day. She can then compare that to the size of the Pollock and determine how fast they’re growing. Steve Porter, another scientist on board, is looking at the amount of DNA in the muscle tissue. If the muscle cells are growing and dividing into new cells, there will be a higher amount of DNA in the cells. This data shows how healthy the Pollock larvae are by showing how much their muscle cells are growing.
Today’s feature is on engineering. The engineering department on the ship is responsible not just for maintaining the engines of the ship that move us through the water, but also for all the major systems on the ship. They maintain the heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing and sewage systems. The ship is powered by 4 diesel generators that make the electricity for the ship. The ship is then propelled by the use of electric motors. Using electric motors to turn the propellers decreases the vibrations being transmitted to the propellers and allows for the ship to run much more quietly. This is a good thing for a ship that wants to study fish, or anything else in the water that might be scared off by the noise. The ship has 2 desalinization units that use heat from the engines to distill the water. The heat makes the water boil leaving the salt behind. It is then condensed back into fresh water. Ships that have engines that produce a lot of heat can use this method which is very energy efficient. Other ships have to use reverse osmosis (remember that word from the cell unit?) Finally, engineering is responsible for collecting and treating sewage. Maybe in the old days ships would just dump their sewage into the ocean, but not anymore. The toilets are flushed by vacuum action rather than pushed through pipes by water. This decreases problems in the pipes that run throughout the ship. The waste water including what goes into the toilets is collected in a storage tank called an active tank. The active tank contains bacteria and yeast that break down the waste. From there, the water is filtered into a “Clean tank.” Here chlorine is added to make the water crystal clear before it is released into the ocean. The system contains one more tank for storage. It is used when the ship is within 3 miles of the shore and at dock so water is not released right by the land.
Answers to your questions
Hannah M. – The reason that the procedure was developed for how we sample is to minimize the shrinkage of the fish once they are caught. The scientists are trying to get an accurate measure of the fish so we try to collect and photograph them as quickly as possible. Keeping them cold helps to decrease the amount they shrink. They are preserved so that their DNA and otoliths can be examined back at the NOAA labs in Seattle. The larvae that we are collecting are about 4 weeks old.
Elaina – I haven’t spoken with each person about if they get bored on ship or not, but being on a ship is different from being on land. You have your work to do during your shift. Sometimes that can be very repetitive. On your off hours, there is not a lot to do. There are however, 2 exercise rooms, you can read or watch a movie or play video games. You can’t, however, just go out somewhere to do something.
Adeline and Deborah – Adeline asked me what my favorite job is and Deborah asked which crew member I would like to be. These are difficult questions to answer as I don’t see every aspect of each job. For what I’m doing, I enjoy seeing what we’ve caught in the net each time, and finding the Pollock larvae. As far as the different jobs on the ship, I think it would be very cool to be in charge of navigating the ship safely through the water. (See, I always want to be in charge)
Lucy – The steward started collecting lunchboxes over 20 years ago. He did it for fun. Eventually he had so many he started to sell them. He sold an underdog lunchbox that he bought for 50 cents for $2500.00. He has sold the entire collection, now. The Oscar Dyson stays close to Alaska. She and her 4 other sister ships were built to be used all over the US. Because of that, she is outfitted with air conditioning although it is seldom used. Her sister ships, that stay in warmer waters, also have de-icers on the windows that they never use.
Jasmine – In addition to studying the Pollock fisheries, the Oscar Dyson is also used for ecosystem studies, marine mammal and bird studies.
Your Question to answer
Find out more about one of the following jobs on board the ship: Include a description of their duties and requirements needed to get this job
1. Deck officers include CO – Commanding officer, XO – Executive officer, FOO – Field operations officer, Navigation officer, Safety officer, Medical officer
2. Ship engineer
4. Survey technician
5. Electronics technician
6. Deck crew- includes Boatswain, able-bodied seaman
NOAA Teacher at Sea
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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