Laura Grimm: R/V vs. RV, July 27, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Laura Grimm

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 4 – July 22, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Lake Erie

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: July 27, 2022

Weather Data from my home office in Dalton, Ohio

Latitude: 40 45.5’ N

Longitude: 081ᵒ 41.5’ W

Elevation: 1135 feet

Sky Conditions: Mostly sunny

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 7 mph

Wind Direction: NW

Air Temperature: 25 ᵒC (77 ᵒF)

Relative Humidity: 58%

Science and Technology Log

Research Vessel vs. Recreational Vehicle

I thought it would be interesting to compare some specifications of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson = TJ (research vessel) with my 2010 Toyota Sienna minivan + 2019 Viking camper = VV (recreational vehicle).  I would also like to thank Chief Marine Engineer (CME) Tom Cleary and Husband Phil Grimm for information concerning the specifications of the research vessel and recreational vehicle, respectfully.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson underway, as seen from a launch vessel
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson taken from the launch = TJ Research Vessel
a minivan and a camper trailer parked in a driveway
2019 Viking camper + 2010 Toyota Sienna minivan taken in my driveway = VV Recreational Vehicle

What is the size of engine?  How much power is produced?

                VV = 3.5 Liter, 3500cc, 211 cubic inch / 265 Horsepower

                TJ = 7,740 cubic inch, 2500 Horsepower.  12-cylinder mechanically injected EMD (a division of Caterpillar) diesel engine.  This engine is commonly used on locomotives. 

engine of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Engine of Thomas Jefferson
an engineer wearing protective earmuffs works on the innards of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson's engine
Engine of Thomas Jefferson with the “hood” open

What kind of fuel do you use and how big is your storage tank?

                VV = Minivan uses 87 octane unleaded gasoline & has a 21 gallon fuel tank.  Camper has a 20-pound liquid propane (LP) gas storage tank.

                TJ = The ship uses #2 ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and has a 131,789-gallon storage tank.

Where is the electricity stored?  Quantity?

VV = Minivan has a 12-volt battery + Camper has a 12-volt “marine”, deep cycle battery

TJ = The ship has two 24-volt starting banks (2 batteries in series) for the emergency diesel generator (EDG), and two 24-volt emergency power banks for general alarm and other emergency circuits. 

Where is the electricity produced?  Quantity?

                VV = Minivan: belt-driven alternator keeps battery charged.   Camper: battery can be charged by the van or with the charger/inverter when plugged into AC.

                TJ (underway / while at sea) = Three generators capable of generating 345 Kilowatts each (over 1 megawatt combined); one generator is online at a time.  TJ has increased its energy efficiency (LED lighting, more energy efficient AC and appliances, etc.).  Now, under normal house loads – not running any of the davits or cranes – TJ requires only 30% of the electricity generated with one generator.

                TJ (onshore / while at port) = The ship has the capability to use power from shore via a plug on the port and starboard side.  It uses power cables standard to all maritime ships.  Each of its NATO plugs is capable of carrying 480 Volts of 3-phase power (400 amps).  Typically, TJ only uses one of its NATO plugs while in port unless there is need for additional electricity.

Engineer, wearing protective ear muffs, checks fluids in one of three generators
First Assistant Engineer (1AE) Perry checks fluids in one of three generators
one of the generators aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Each generator can generate 345 Kilowatts of electricity

How does the driver / engineer know what is happening with the engine and generators?

                VV = Dashboard of the van, gauges, check engine lights and warnings

                TJ = Modern, Windows-based control room with remote capabilities.  This system sends information to the control room, Bridge, and the Chief Engineer’s office.  Lots of gauges and computer displays.  Multiple lights and warnings if there are problems.

engineer stands in the control room next to a control panel with at least four monitors, levers, buttons
 1AE Perry checks gauges in the control room

How about locomotion?  How does VV or TJ move forward or backward?

                VV & TJ = Both use an internal combustion engine that turns a propulsion shaft.  Both use a series of reduction gears (transmission in the case of the van).  Speed is maintained via a fixed gear ratio in TJ, unlike the van that has multiple gear ratios.  The Chief Marine Engineer (CME), Tom Cleary, tried to convince me that the mechanics of locomotion are very similar in both vehicles except the drive shaft of TJ is much longer and larger and at the end turns a propeller; where the drive shaft of the van eventually makes the wheels turn.

How do the drivers know where to go?

                VV = looking out the window, maps, GPS, and when all else fails ask the spouse

                TJ = refer to my July 18, 2022, NOAA Teacher at Sea blog post, “Who is driving this ship?”

Do both vehicles have windshield wipers?

                VV = 2 windshield wipers

                TJ = 9 windshield wipers + 2 Clearview screens which are rotational window wipers that work via centripetal force. 

a centripetal windshield wiper on one of the windows of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson's bridge; through the window we can see the foredeck
Clearview Screen – Centripetal Windshield Wiper

 How big is the freshwater (potable water) tank?

                VV = 23 gallons

                TJ = 47,382 gallons.  The ship also can make its own freshwater from saltwater using a reverse osmosis system

What is greywater and how big is the collection tank?

                Greywater is the relatively clean wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances.

                VV = 25 gallons

                TJ = 27,878 gallons

What is black water and how big is the collection tank?

                Black water is sewage or the wastewater from toilets.

                VV = 25 gallons

                TJ = 29,440 gallons

What about the hot water systems?

                VV = Has a 6-gallon water tank where water is heated using natural gas.

                TJ = Has two separate hot water systems.  The first uses electricity to heat water in a 60-gallon tank.  This water is available for decks 01, 02, and 03.  These are the three decks above the main deck.  The other system has two 60-gallon tanks plumbed in series that serve the laundry room, galley, and staterooms on decks 2 and 3.  These are the two decks below the main deck.  Pumps constantly move water through the systems helping to provide (almost) instantaneous hot water from the tap.

What is the size and amenities of the kitchen (galley)?

                VV = 2 burner gas stove, microwave, no conventional oven, two cupboards used for food storage, 1 cupboard used to store pots, pans, and other miscellaneous kitchen items, approximate size of counter next to the sink is 6 square feet.

                TJ = Areas including food prep, cooking, serving, dish washer, dry storage and steward’s office are all in an area roughly 800 square feet.

 What about where people eat (mess hall)?  What is it like?

                VV = One table (roughly 2’ x 3’) plus two benches.  Entire area is approximately 24 square feet.  A picnic table is also an option when available.  It is provided by the campground.

                TJ = Three tables (roughly 2.5’ x 10’), 20 chairs, multiple refrigerators, freezers, beverage & coffee dispensers, salad bar, sink, and snack shelves.  Entire area is about 250 square feet.

Do these vehicles have refrigerators and freezers?

                VV = 3 cubic foot refrigerator + ½ cubic foot freezer.  Ice is made with a mini-ice cube tray.

                TJ = All staterooms have a mini fridge.  There are a mixture of small and home-sized refrigerators and freezers in the galley and mess hall for the convenience of the stewards and crew.  There are also two very large walk-in refrigerators and freezers that are used by the stewards.  An ice maker is housed in the galley and is used to fill coolers, etc.

How many berths (beds) are aboard?

                VV = The camper and van each have two, making a total of 4 places where people could sleep.

                TJ = There are 36 places for people to sleep, and the hospital has one bed.

What is a “head” and how many are there?

                According to a Navy history website, “Head” in a nautical sense referring to the bow or fore part of a ship dates to 1485. The ship’s toilet was typically placed at the head of the ship near the base of the bowsprit, where splashing water served to naturally clean the toilet area.”  (Icky!)

                VV = One toilet/shower unit in the camper + a portable toilet if needed.

                TJ = Each stateroom has access to a toilet/shower unit + a public toilet on the main deck.

How many stairs are there?

                VV = Two steps into the camper

                TJ = It all depends upon how a flight of stairs is defined and who you ask.  If a flight is defined as at least 8 steps, the consensus among those asked is somewhere between 20 and 22 flights of stairs.  TJ is essentially a 6-story building after all.

What about doors?  How many are there?

                VV = Van has 5 doors (if you count the trunk); camper has 1 door

                TJ = Too many to count!  There are five doors, however, that are very important.  They are the internal watertight doors that isolate areas of the ship in case of emergencies.  There are also additional watertight doors that one uses to go from the internal spaces to the decks of the ship.

one of the watertight doors on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. it has a large, heavy handle. it says "Watertight Door Keep Closed"
Closed watertight door
view of the watertight door when opened; we can see the seal around the curved edges
Open watertight door

What is the outer cover made of?

                VV = Van is painted steel; camper is painted aluminum

                TJ = Painted steel.  The deckhands really do a fantastic job of keeping TJ in great repair!

What are the external dimensions of each vehicle?

                VV = Van: Length: 17”, Width: 6’ 7”, Height: 5’ 10”; Camper: Length: 16’ 7”, Width: 7’ 4”, Height: 10’; total length of the Van + Camper = 33’ 4”

                TJ = Length: 208’, Width (beam): 45 ‘, Height (from the keel to the wind birds): ~ 100 feet

Meet the Crew

Chief Marine Engineer (CME) Tom Cleary got his first paycheck for a boat job when he was 16 years old and has not stopped working on boats since.  This extremely competent engineer is originally from Cape Cod and has worked for NOAA for over 20 years – the last 11 years have been aboard Thomas Jefferson.  His off-ship activities revolve around his wife and four children, and maintaining an 80-year-old home. 

Tom states that that, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but still always better than a master on one”.  He enjoys the variety presented to him by his work duties.  No two days are alike.  He oversees 9 people, and his duties require mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and managerial skills. 

He is a classic hawsepiper.  This means that he did not go to a maritime academy to become an engineer.  He learned from the ground up first by working on sight seeing boats and ferries in the Cape Cod area to working on several NOAA ships.  From working as a deckhand, steward, to chief engineer – he has literally crawled up the hawsepipe.

If budget was not a limiting factor, what could I invent for you that would make your job easier?  He wanted to be clear that he meant no disrespect, however, he replied that he would like some robots.  Much of his job is spent dealing with people.  Budget management meetings, payroll, planning schedules, rating performance, training, drills, and dealing with “hotel” services for the crew (refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing, hot water issues, etc.) take up much of his time.  Tom likes the crew, however, if there were fewer people and more robots working on the ship, he would have more time on engineering challenges.  (I wonder if he has contemplated the challenges presented by maintaining a gang of robots?)

Engineers Perry and Cleary pose for a photo in the galley. CME Clearly is wearing work overalls and a radio.
1AE Perry and CME Cleary

What is the difference between a boat and a ship?

According to Britannica Kids, “A ship is a large boat that can carry passengers or cargo for long distances over water. People have been using ships for transportationexploration, and war since ancient times.”

Parts of a Ship

Diagram of a ship with the following parts labeled: 1 - Funnel, 2 - Stern, 3 - Propeller, 4 - Port, 5 - Anchor, 6 - Bulbous bow, 7 - Bow, 8 - Deck, 9 - Superstructure, 10 - Starboard, 11 - Bridge
Diagram showing the main parts of a ship

“Most ships are much larger than most boats, but they have many of the same parts. As on boats, the front of a ship is called the bow. The back is the stern. A ship’s left side is known as the port side. The right is the starboard side.

A ship’s frame, or body, is called the hull. The keel is like the ship’s backbone. It is a central beam that runs along the bottom of the ship from front to back. The keel keeps the ship from tipping over.

Ships usually have many decks. The decks are like the floors of a building. Cabins for passengers, engine and control rooms, and spaces for cargo are often on different decks.

An engine inside the ship provides energy to propellers at the back of the ship. The propellers push the ship through the water. The rudder, which is also at the back of the ship, helps in steering. When the ship is not moving, a heavy metal anchor may be lowered into the water. This keeps the ship from floating away.” (Britannica Kids)

This excellent video clearly defines all the parts of a ship labeled in the diagram above. 

Watch this video to help you learn the parts of a ship!

Did you know? 

Earlier, I stated that I use GPS (Global Positioning System) on my phone to help navigate while driving.  Just what is GPS?  It is a highly accurate satellite-based navigation and location system. With a GPS receiver (like my phone), users can quickly determine their precise latitude, longitude, and altitude.

If I need to drive from Los Alamos, NM to Los Angeles, CA., I place these end points into Google Maps and GPS helps me plan a path to drive.  Some people use GPS-capable watches to help them determine how far they have run and how much elevation they have gained.  We also use GPS on the ship.  At any one time, the survey is using between 25-30 GPS satellites at a time – some from other countries.

Something else I learned today is that GPS is the system developed by the USA.  Other countries have their own systems that work in much the same way.  Countries cooperate and use each other’s satellite systems.  Here is a list of GPS-like systems used by other countries.

  • GPS = United States
  • GLONASS = Russia
  • Galileo = European Union
  • QZS = Japan
  • BeiDou = China
  • SBAS = Korea

Watching this NASA Space Place video, “GPS and the Quest for Pizza” will also help you understand how GPS works.

GPS and the Quest for Pizza

Personal Log

For the Little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey?  Hint: You use these to climb up or down.

Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a textured black surface
Dewey, what are you sitting on?

A: Dewey is sitting on a step of a flight of stairs.  All the steps on the ship have a non-skid surface.  They are very effective at giving you sure footing as you climb up or down the stairs.  There are flights of stairs inside and outside of the ship.  They go from one deck to another.  All in all, there are between 20-22 flights of stairs on Thomas Jefferson.  

Dewey the beanie monkey on a stair on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Dewey is sitting on one of the ship’s many flights of stairs.

Many a fine sailor . . .

With only a few more days to go on this incredible journey, I was excited to read on the next day’s Plan of the Day (POD) that I would be going out on the launch (small boat) to help with surveying close to shore.  We had a large area to survey and also pick up some “holidays” in areas that were previously surveyed. A data holiday is an area that was missed in a previous survey. I packed my backpack, got a good night’s sleep, and ate a small breakfast to prepare for the day.

a black-and-white photo of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco
TJ Launch = Bucking Bronco

Let’s just say, it was a rough day.  The waves were not terribly high (~ 2 feet), however, the launch rode like a bucking bronco!  I was fine for the first 30-45 minutes.  Then, I started to feel all hot and woozy.  After “revisiting” my breakfast several times and losing my TAS hat overboard, the crew brought me back to the ship.  I was taken to the infirmary where the medical officer took my vitals every 15 minutes for an hour and encouraged me to eat some saltines and drink Gatorade.  After a long nap, shower, and Ramen noodles for supper, I felt much better. 

At supper, the three crewmembers who were on the launch with me said that they tried to look for my hat.  They found a dead fish, but they thought it wouldn’t look very nice on my head.  I kidded back that Dewey, who was in my backpack, threw up a little bit, also.  It sure was an adventure!

I cannot say enough nice things about the crew members who took care of me in my time of need.  They were professional, kind, and had my wellbeing first and foremost in their words and actions.  I am very grateful.  Thank you!

Later that evening the Chief Boatswain Pooser told me, “Many a fine sailor has lost their lunch on the launch.”  It made me smile.  I was finally part of the club.

Laura, wearing a Teacher at Sea hat, hugs her husband, who is earing a NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson t-shirt, in front of a chain-linked fence; the ship is visible through the fence
Mrs. Grimm and her First Mate Husband Phil

Please note – As I complete this post, I am now home. I am on land, however, I have more to share. My final blog posts will be sent from my home office. (Funny. . . Why does the room seem to be rolling from side to side? No one told me that I would still feel the rocking of the ship the day after my disembarkation. I don’t mind. It is pleasant reminder of my time aboard Thomas Jefferson.)

Emily Whalen: Looking at Lobsters, Moving a 208-foot Boat, and Favorite Creatures, May 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Emily Whalen
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 27 – May 10, 2015

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey, Leg IV
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Maine

Date: May 5, 2015

Weather Data:
Air Temperature:  8.4°C
Water Temperature: 5.1ºC
Wind:  15 knots NW
Seas:  1-2 feet

Science and Technology Log:

Lobsters!

This is a large female lobster.  The claw on the right is called the crusher and the claw on the left is called the ripper.  For scale, consider that this lobster is inside a standard 5-gallon bucket!
This is a large female lobster. The claw on the right is called the crusher and the claw on the left is called the pincer. For scale, consider that this lobster is inside a standard 5-gallon bucket!

Not everything that comes up in the net is a fish.  One of the things that we have caught many of on this trip is Homarus americanus, commonly known as the lobster.  Lobsters are invertebrates, which means they don’t have a backbone or an internal skeleton.  Instead, they have a hard outer shell called an exoskeleton to give their body structure and protect their inner organs.  Because their exoskeleton cannot expand as the lobster grows, a lobster must molt, or shed its shell periodically as it gets bigger.  In the first few years of their lives, lobsters need to molt frequently because they are growing quickly.  More mature lobsters only molt yearly or even every few years.

Another interesting fact about lobsters can regenerate lost body parts.  After a claw or leg is lost, the cells near the damaged area will start to divide to form a new appendage.  The developing structure is delicate and essentially useless while it is growing, but after a few molts, it will be fully functional.

This lobster lost a claw and is in the early stages of regenerating it.  What challenges do you think a single-clawed lobster might face?
This lobster lost a claw and is in the early stages of regenerating it. What challenges do you think a single-clawed lobster might face?

This is a lobster  that has almost completed regenerating a lost claw.
This is a lobster that has almost completed regenerating a lost claw.

This is a lobster with two fully functional claws.  Why do you think each claw has a different shape?
This is a lobster with two fully functional claws. Why do you think each claw has a different shape?

When we catch lobsters, we measure and record the distance from their eye cavity to the posterior end of the carapace.  Many of the lobsters we have caught are similar in size to those you would find at the grocery store, which typically weigh about a little more than pound.  Commercial fishermen can only keep male lobsters that are over 101 millimeters.  Can you guess why?  We have seen some smaller lobsters that measure about 50 millimeters, and also some much larger lobsters that measure as much as 150 millimeters!

These are the calipers used to measure the carapace of each lobster.
These are the calipers used to measure the carapace of each lobster.

This is one of the larger lobsters that we have seen.  Some lobsters can live to be over a hundred, although everyone's best estimate for this one was about 20 years.  I put my hand next to the claw for scale.
This is one of the larger lobsters that we have seen. Some lobsters can live to be over a hundred, although everyone’s best estimate for this one was about 20 years. I put my hand next to the claw so that you could see how big it is!  I wasn’t brave enough to put my hand any closer!

One of the members of my watch is Dr. Joe Kunkel, who is doing something called ‘landmark analysis’ on some of the lobsters that we have caught.  This process involves recording the exact location of 12 specific points on the carapace or shell of each lobster.  Then he compares the relative geometry different lobsters to look for trends and patterns.  In order to do this, he uses a machine called a digitizer.  The machine has a small stylus and a button.  When you push the button, it records the x, y and z position of the stylus.  Once the x,y and z position of all 12 points has been recorded, they are imported into a graphing program that creates an individual profile for each lobster.

Here I am using a digitizer to pinpoint 12 different landmarks on this lobsters carapace, or shell.   So far, the offshore lobsters seem to have different geometry than the onshore lobsters, even though they are the same species.
Here I am using a digitizer to pinpoint 12 different landmarks on this lobsters carapace, or shell. So far, the offshore lobsters seem to have different geometry than the onshore lobsters, even though they are the same species.

So far, it appears that lobsters that are caught inshore have different geometry than lobsters that are caught further offshore.  Typically, an organism’s shape is determined by its genes.  Physical variations between organisms can be the result of different genes, environmental factors or physiological factors like diet or activity.  Dr. Kunkel doesn’t have a certain explanation for the differences between these two groups of lobsters, but it may suggest that lobsters have different activity levels or diet depending on whether they live near the shore our out in deeper waters.  In recent years, a shell disease has decimated lobster populations south of Cape Cod.  This study may give us clues about the cause of this disease, which could someday affect the lobster fishery.

This is a grid that represents the digitization of a lobster.
This is a grid that represents the digitization of a lobster.  The single point on the right hand side represents the rostrum, which is analogous to the nose, and the two points furthest to the left represent the place where the carapace or shell meets the tail.

Moving Forward

In order to move from station to station as we complete our survey, the Bigelow has a powerful propulsion system different from most other types of ships.  Typically, a ship has an engine that burns diesel fuel in order to turn a shaft.  To make the ship move forward (ahead) or backward (astern), the clutch is engaged, which causes the shaft to spin the propeller.  The throttle can then be used to make the shaft spin faster or slower, which speeds up or slows down the boat.   Throttling up and down like this affects the amount of fuel burned.  For those of you who are new drivers, this is similar to how your car gets better or worse gas mileage depending on what type of driving you are doing.

Like this class of ship, the Bigelow has a giant propeller at the stern which is 14 feet across and has 5 blades.  However, the unlike most ships, the propeller on the Bigelow is powered by electricity instead of a combustion engine.  There are four electricity-producing generators on the ship, two large and two small.  The generators burn diesel fuel and convert the stored energy into electricity.  The electricity powers two electric motors, which turn the propeller. While the electricity produced powers the propeller, it is also used for lights, computers, pumps, freezers, radar and everything else on the ship.  There are several benefits to this type of system.  One is that the generators can run independently of each other. Running two or three generators at a time means the ship makes only as much electricity as it needs based on what is happening at the time, so fuel isn’t wasted.  Since the ship can speed up or slow down without revving the engine up or down, the generators can always run at their maximum efficiency.
Also, there is much finer control of the ship’s speed with this system.  In fact, the ship’s speed can be controlled to one tenth of a knot, which would be similar to being able to drive your car at exactly 30.6 or 30.7 mph.  Finally, an added benefit is that the whole system runs quietly, which is an advantage when you are scouting for marine mammals or other living things that are sensitive to sound.

Personal Log

I have seen a lot of fish on this trip, but it would be a lie to say that I don’t have some favorites.  Here are a few of them.  Which one do you think is the coolest?

This is a sea raven.  Most of them are brown and green, but this one was a brilliant yellow.
This is a sea raven. Most of the ones we have seen are  brown and green, but this one was a brilliant yellow

Windowpane flounder.  We have seen many types of flounder, but I think these look the coolest.
Windowpane flounder. We have seen many types of flounder, but I think these are the coolest.

Last night we caught 1,700 kilograms of mackerel like these on the Scotian Shelf!
Last night we caught 1,700 kilograms of mackerel like these on the Scotian Shelf!

I find the pattern on this cod particularly striking.
I find the pattern on this cod particularly striking.

How can you not love this little spoonarm octopus?
How can you not love this little spoonarm octopus?

This is a particularly colorful four-beard rockling!
This immature cusk eel will lose these colors and eventually grow to be a dull grey color.

These squid have chromatophores, which are cells that can change color.  You can see them in this picture as the reddish purple dots.
These squid have chromatophores, which are cells that can change color. You can see them in this picture as the reddish purple dots.

This lamprey eel has circular rasping teeth that it uses to burrow into its prey.  Even as they ride along the conveyor belt, they are trying to bite into an unsuspecting fish!
This Atlantic hagfish has circular rasping teeth that it uses to burrow into its prey. Even as they ride along the conveyor belt, they are trying to bite into an unsuspecting fish!

You can see the gills of this goosefish by looking deep into its mouth.  This fish has a giant mouth that allows it to each huge meals.  Some of the goosefish we catch have stomachs that are larger than their whole bodies!
You can see the gills of this goosefish by looking deep into its mouth. This fish has a giant mouth that allows it to each huge meals. Some of the goosefish we catch have stomachs that are larger than their whole bodies!

We have only seen one of these little blue lumpfish.  While most fish feel slippery and slimy, this one has a rough skin.
We have only seen one of these little blue lumpfish. While most fish feel slippery and slimy, this one has a rough skin.

Wes Struble: The Engine Room, February 24, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Wes Struble
Aboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
February 15 – March 5, 2012

Mission: Western Boundary Time Series
Geographical Area: Sub-Tropical Atlantic, off the Coast of the Bahamas
Date: February 24, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: Windspeed: 15 knots
Wind Direction: South/Southeast
Air Temperature: 23.9 deg C/75 deg F
Water Temperature: 24.5 deg C/76 deg F
Atm Pressure: 1016.23 mb
Water Depth: 4625 meters/15,174 feet
Cloud Cover: less than 20%
Cloud Type: Cumulus

Science/Technology Log

Moving a ship through the water has come a long way since Ben-Hur was chained to a rowing bench as a Roman War Galley slave. I was interested in what systems powered the Ron Brown and Lt. James Brinkley was kind enough to take me on a tour of the ship’s engine rooms.

The Ron Brown has a total of six separate power units. Three of these are V16 (16 cylinders) diesel engines connected to electric generators.

Second Assistant Engineer Jake DeMello sits watch in the entrance to the engine room

These generators produce electricity to run the ship’s electric motors which turn the screws (propellers). In the past the diesel engines would have been connected directly to the propeller shaft, but in the last 20 – 30 years many ships have gone to using electric motors as an interface between the diesel engines and the propellers. On the Brown at any given time two of the V16 diesel engines are online running the generators while the third engine is held in reserve. These generators produce 600 volts of AC current. A transformer converts the 600 V AC to a DC current to run the ship’s large DC electric motors.

Image credit: nauticexpo.com
This image shows a diesel engine connected directly to the “Z” drive.
On the Ron Brown there is a generator and an electric motor between the
diesel engine and the “Z” drive.

A view of the main propulsion diesel engines of the Ron Brown. The V16 propulsion engines are in the foreground while the Ship Services V8 engines are in the background

Close-up of two of the V16 Marine diesels on the Ron Brown. For scale notice the flight of stairs behind the engines

Most ships have a propeller shaft that exits the rear of the ship parallel to the keel. The propeller is stationary – it can only rotate to propel the ship forward or backward. To turn the ship a rudder is employed which is usually controlled by a wheel on the bridge. The Ron Brown does not have a rudder; instead it is propelled by a “Z” drive. This type of propulsion system is specially suited for research vessels.  In a “Z” drive the main drive shaft from the electric motors comes out parallel to the ship’s keel. It then is joined to a type of “spline gear” and makes a 90 degree turn down. At this point the shaft exits the ship where there is another “spline gear” which turns 90 degrees again parallel to the keel.

NOAA Corps Officer Lt. James Brinkley stands next to one of the V16 "exhaust pipes" from the main propulsion engines on the Ron Brown

The region between the two “universal joints” is mounted on a kind of turn table which allows each of the screws (there are two – one on the starboard side of the ship another on the port side) to rotate 36o degrees. In addition to precise maneuvering, this system of two “Z” drives and a bow thruster, when interfaced with a computer control system and GPS, allows the ship maintain an exact position in the water to within a few feet or better.

The Ron Brown's inboard portion of the "Z" drive. The electric motor that propels the ship is at left. If you look carefully just to the left of center you can see the main drive shaft connecting the motor to the "Z" drive mechanism

The engine status monitor. Notice at the very top it indicates that Propulsion engines 1 & 2 are operating.

The Ron Brown has three other smaller V8 diesel engines that power generators that are used to provide electricity for SS (ship services). This would represent things like radios, heating & air conditioning, lighting, computers, etc. The electricity produced by these three generators goes through two step-down transformers. The first reduction drops the potential from 600 V to 480 V. The next step down brings it from 480 V to 120 V. This is the form that is available to power the equipment throughout the ship. In addition, these three smaller engines and their generators can be used to power the Ron Brown’s propulsion in case of an emergency.

NOAA Corps Officer, Lt. James Brinkley stands next to one of two cable spools, located in the stern of the Ron Brown, that contain 5000 meters of cable each. They are used for long distance towing. For scale Lt. Brinkley is 6'3".

I would like to thank Lt. James Brinkley for the tour and Second Assistant Engineer Jake DeMello for explaining some of the technical aspects of the engines and answering my questions.

Kaci Heins: Final Blog, October 7, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Farewell Alaska

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Friday, October 7, 2011


Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: Partly Cloudy  1/8
Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles
Wind: 4 knots
Temperature
Dry Bulb: 8.5 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1018.5 millibars
Latitude: 54.47 degrees North
Longitude: -132.32 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

One of the Main Engines

Every day we tend to take for granted the simple things in life such as having electricity to power to charge our cell phones, to be able to turn on the water whenever we need a drink, or to make sure the toilets flush in the restroom.  When we are on a ship at sea for a long period of time, it is important that all of these systems that impact of our daily life are functioning properly.  We cannot take an extension cord and run it from the port to wherever we are heading so that we have electricity.  The Rainier, like any other ship, is like a floating city and is self-sufficient in its abilities to generate its own electricity, create and store its own fresh water, process its own sewage, and still get to where it needs to go.

There are two 12 cylinder two-cycle diesel engines that power the ship.  Each engine is geared independently to individual propeller shafts.  This means that the ship can actually be steered by adjusting the pitch or “bite” of the propellers.  The average speed for the Rainier from these engines is about 12 knots.  Power is generated on the ship through two 415 kilowatt, 450 volt, 3 phase, 60 cycle generators, which are driven by the diesel engines.  The generated voltage is stepped down through transformers to supply the 120-volt power for lighting, appliances, and electronic equipment on the ship.  The heat rejection from the diesel engines is also used for the evaporators which help produce the ships water.

Engine for the Generator

There are two water storage tanks that can hold up to 8390 gallons of water.  This amount of water will only last us a couple of days because the ship uses about 2000 gallons of water a day.   There are two flash type distilling plants that generate our potable water, which converts sea water into our fresh water for the ship.  They are able to convert around 6000 gallons of fresh water a day for all of the needs of the ship.  Hot water and steam for our needs are provided by two pressurized hot water boilers that use diesel fuel to heat the water up to around 360 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hot Water Boiler

All of these various systems and machinery are the lifeblood of the ship.  They help provide the basic needs for the crew in order to survive for long periods of time at sea and for the ship to fulfill its mission. Without the engineers monitoring and maintaining the ships equipment we could not accomplish the tasks required of the ship .  There is extensive amounts of hands-on experience and training that comes with this territory of keeping the ship alive.  This training can come from collegiate academies, prior military service, trade schools, or wanting to come into an entry-level position to experience life at sea.

*Special thanks to Cliff Elsner for giving me an extensive tour of the engine room and helping me share this information about the heart of the ship.

Personal Log

Rainbow During a Survey

It’s funny how a person adapts to their environment over time.  I was so excited to be going to Alaska to take part in this experience, but I had no idea what it would be like or how much I would learn.  Noises that were beyond annoying at the beginning of the trip become a constant humming that the Rainier shares each day.  The vibrations and gentle sway that would keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, start to rock you to sleep each night in preparation for the days work ahead.  However, there are times when she may want to rock, but the Pacific Ocean wants you to roll. Then there isn’t much sleep to be had.  The weather would like to break the Rainier, but she is a floating fortress of steel that continues on knowing there is a job to be done.  It is a constant rhythm with this ship.  The waves keep time and rarely does anyone miss a beat.  The pulse and the life of the ship stay in complete sync.   With everyone doing their part we come to the finale as we finish the last day of work and pull into port.  There is a welcomed intermission between journeys as we head into Ketchikan, Alaska.

I did see a moose in Alaska!

I am so grateful for this experience to see Alaska, to see the wildlife, and to see what hydrographic surveying is all about.  However, I never imagined I would meet so many wonderful people on this ship.  Each person I came in contact with had wonderful characteristics, personalities, and skills to share.  I admire what each person has to contribute from every department on the ship.  If they were not here then the ship would not function to its fullest potential and complete its mission.  I am thankful for each handshake, each ear to ear smile, the jokes played on each other and myself, the hearty laughter at dinner that keeps us all sane, the hugs of support, the high fives of accomplishment, but most importantly the many lessons that you have taught me that I will keep with me for a lifetime.  I love this ship, I love this crew, and I loved this experience.  Thank you to everyone that made this possible.

Thank You Rainier!

Interview with the Captain

Crew Interviews

Animals Spotted!

Blue Heron

Whales (Species Unknown)

Sea Otters

Question of the Day

Kathleen Harrison: City on the Sea, July 20, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Harrison
Aboard NOAA Ship  Oscar Dyson
July 4 — 22, 2011

Location:  Gulf of Alaska
Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 12, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed:  light (< 5 knots), True Wind direction:  variable
Sea Temperature:  9.75° C, Air Temperature:  10.38° C
Air Pressure:  1012.3 mb
Ship Heading:  297°, Ship Speed:  11.3 knots
Latitude:  56.45° N, Longitude:  155.04° W
Patchy fog, very calm seas

Science and Technology Log

The Oscar Dyson is like a self-contained city for 35 people that floats on the sea.  All of the engine fuel and oil, food and provisions for the NOAA staff, ship’s crew, and scientists have to be brought on board while the ship is in port.  On this leg of the Walleye Pollock Survey, the ship will be out to sea for 19 days.  This presents several issues that must be solved in order for the people to be comfortable, and for the research to be performed.

the water maker of the oscar dyson
This piece of machinery converts sea water into fresh water for the people on the Oscar Dyson. (courtesy of Anne Mortimer)

First, fresh water is needed, about 100 gallons per person, per day.  For 35 people, that is 3500 gallons per day.  The ship has a storage capacity of 9000 gallons.  Do the math, and you can see that a daily supply of fresh water is needed.  Well, the ship has 2 water makers that convert sea water into fresh water.  Basically, the water is heated, vacuum pumped, and evaporated, then collected in the fresh water storage.  Salt does not evaporate, so it is left behind.  The evaporator uses the sea water to power an ejector pump (that creates the vacuum) and keep the unit cool. The brine (super salty water) created from the evaporation is sent overboard by the ejector pump.

engineering room control panel
The engineer controls the power that the generators make with this panel. See the horizontal bar running the length of the panel - even the engineers need something to hold on to during rough seas. (courtesy of Anne Mortimer)

Next, electricity is needed to power the galley appliances, run the washers and dryers, lights, computers, ship’s bridge instruments, and a host of other things.  The ship has 4 generators that are capable of producing enough energy to not only power the propeller, but also the whole electrical need of the ship.  The control panels for each generator are used to divert some of the power to each part of the ship, so that I can charge my camera battery, use my computer, or turn on the light in my room.

generator number 2
This is generator number 2 on the Oscar Dyson. There are 4 generators, but only 2 are online at any one time. (courtesy of Anne Mortimer)

Another issue is the power needed to run the propeller.  For the 19 days the ship is out to sea, there are usually 2 generators running.  The ship’s computer decides which generators are needed for the speed that is required at any one time.  In heavy seas, or when more power is needed, a 3rd, or even the 4th generator will be brought on.  As generators are used, they wear and tear, so the computer determines what the most efficient use of them will be for each situation.  Everything can be manually controlled as well.  Every month or so, each generator needs an oil change.

price of fuel
The current price of diesel fuel in Kodiak, Alaska.

They hold about 65 gallons of oil!  The used oil is kept on board until the ship docks back in Kodiak.  Also, about every 20,000 hours, each generator needs to be overhauled.  This is done by a team of mechanics when the ship is in port, during the off season.  About 100,000 gallons of diesel fuel is stored at the beginning of the trip, and 2000 gallons are used each day.

Now, since the Oscar Dyson is a biological research ship, the usually noisy generators have been quieted, so that the fish are not scared away.  One way to quiet a very large, 1600 hp engine, is to put it on a rubber mat.  Another way is to send the energy from the generator through a large box, which then converts it to electrical energy, and that is transmitted to the propeller by thin wires.  This reduces the vibrations in the hull.

To be an engineer on a ship, a person usually would go to a marine academy and obtain a degree in marine engineering.  During school and shortly after, time spent as an intern is valuable to gain experience.  Once the new engineer is employed on a ship, he or she would start at the bottom of the team, maybe as 3rd engineer, depending on how large the ship is.  With experience, and management skills, the engineer could move up to 2nd, then 1st, then Chief engineer.  Of course, a ship’s engineer must love being at sea, and living on a ship.

Personal Log

We had a fabulous day for wildlife and scenery watching – bright sunshine (until 11:00 pm), calm seas, and close proximity to Kodiak Island.  I saw stunning rocky cliffs, Dall’s porpoises, and whales – probably Fin whales.  I was overwhelmed with the beauty and scale of Kodiak Island.

evening sun shine
I love the way that the sun glitters on the water. I took this photo about 7:00 in the evening.

kodiak cliffs
Rocky cliffs of Kodiak Island on a sunny day.

sunlight through the fog
The sun light is breaking through the clouds about 2 miles away.

Laura Rodriguez, May 28th, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Rodriguez
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 24 – June 2, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 28, 2010

Engineering

Sunset in the Shumagin Islands

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.

Engineering Main Control Panel

Diesel Generator

Electric Motor

Desalinization Unit

Sewage Treatment Unit

Hot Water Tanks

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.

Exercise Room

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)

Rick, the Chief Steward, in the Galley

Floyd, the second cook in the Galley

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

3.       Steward

4.       Survey technician

5.       Electronics technician

6.       Deck crew-  includes Boatswain, able-bodied seaman