Tammy Orilio, Life at Sea, June 18, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Tammy Orilio
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: 18 June 2011

Bunk beds
Bunk beds

Since we haven’t yet arrived at our first fishing spot yet, I’m going to let you all know what life has been like onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  I am on the 4 a.m. – 4 p.m. work shift, but since we haven’t been doing much in terms of trawling/collecting fish, I haven’t had to get up at 4 in the morning yet!  Another day or so (definitely not tomorrow, I’m told) and I will have to re-adjust my sleep schedule so I can wake up at 3:45 for my shift!  But for the time being, I’ve been waking up around 9:00.  Breakfast is served in the mess hall from 7-8, but I’m a cereal junkie, so missing the hot breakfast is no big deal for me.  Speaking of cereal, I just had Life for the first time and love it 🙂

The teeny tiny head.  Smaller than any dorm bathroom I've been in!
The teeny tiny head. Smaller than any dorm bathroom I’ve been in!
My whole stateroom. Not much room!
My whole stateroom. Not much room!

Back to my day.  When I wake up, I have to be very quiet moving around my stateroom because my bunkmate works the 4 p.m. – 4 a.m. shift and is still sleeping.  I first head down to the acoustics lab one deck below my sleeping quarters to find out what’s on the agenda for the day.  So far, it’s been a lot of trials/test runs to see if all the equipment is working properly. I’ve also spent some time with the other scientists that are on the day shift with me, and they’ve been great at explaining how they use sound to help them locate fish.  When I’m not with the science team, (which so far, has been fairly often!) I’m usually in the lounge and/or conference room watching movies or reading.  There are over 1000 movies on board!  I try to stay out of my stateroom because my bunkmate is asleep, so I try to take everything I might want for the day with me- Kindle, camera, computer, iPod.

After my shift ends at 4 p.m., I either read some more or go to the “gym.”  There are actually two gyms on board, each with a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, etc etc.  I definitely need to go after all the great food I’ve been eating on this trip!  Adam and Joe, our stewards, always make sure to have a variety of delicious foods out at every meal.  Here’s what was on the dinner menu tonight:  bacon wrapped tenderloin steak, shrimp & crab St. Jacques, twice baked potato, green beans, and focaccia bread.  In addition, there’s always salad fixings to choose from.  I’m eating better here than I do at home, so stopping at the gym is necessary.

After dinner, I head back to my stateroom to shower and update my blog 🙂  Showering on a moving vessel is quite an experience, and tonight was actually the first time I had to hang on to the handle in the shower- makes it very difficult to wash your hair with one hand!  Then I read or watch a movie, and head to bed.  I’m on the bottom bunk (because I got to the ship 2 days before my bunkmate!), which is better in terms of the motion of the boat.  Less of a chance to fly into the air and fall out of bed 🙂  Our bunks have a little curtain that wraps around them, so we can block out as much light as possible- remember, way up here in Alaska it doesn’t get dark until well after midnight, so I need that curtain!

That’s about it for my shipboard life so far.  I know I keep saying that we’ll get to work in another day or so, but I promise, we’re starting tomorrow!  Be on the lookout for more science-y logs from me.  We are back in some rough seas again, so I’m taking some Dramamine and hitting the sack!!  Let me know if you have any questions about ANYTHING!

Barbara Koch, October 3, 2010

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 3, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 39.72
Longitude -72.16
Speed 11.30 kts
Course 289.00
Wind Speed 25.11 kts
Wind Dir. 69.68 º
Surf. Water Temp. 19.78 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 33.94 PSU
Air Temperature 16.40 ºC
Relative Humidity 71.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1016.80 mb
Water Depth 121.67 m
Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010

Science and Technology Log

Safety is very important on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. We participated in a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship drill today. Each person on board is assigned a location to “muster” (gather) in case of emergencies. For a fire drill, all scientists are to carry their life vest and survival suit and muster in the lounge directly across from my stateroom. Life vests and survival suits are kept in the staterooms, so we are to grab those and get to the lounge as quickly as possible.

Fire drill
Fire drill

The fire drill began while the day watch was in the wet lab, one level below my stateroom. The scenario was that there was a “fire” on the 01 deck beside the lounge. That was right where my stateroom and the lounge were! Since we couldn’t get to our staterooms to gather our survival suits and life vests or muster in the lounge, due to the “fire,” we grabbed extra life vests and suits from the wet lab and mustered in the mess hall, which is near the wet lab.

Once everyone was accounted for during the fire drill, we moved out to the back deck of the ship for our Abandon Ship drill. Each person on board was assigned a life boat, and that is where we mustered for the Abandon Ship drill. First, we put on our life vests and made sure they were secured tightly. Next, we took off the life vests and put on our survival suits, which are often called “Gumby Suits” because they are large and look a lot like the animated Gumby character from the 1960’s. The survival suit is bright orange and is made out of neoprene. This makes the suit waterproof and very warm. The zipper and face flap are designed to keep water out, as well. Other features of the suits include reflective tape for greater visibility in the ocean, a whi8stle, a water-activated strobe light, a buddy line to attach to others, and an inflatable bladder behind the head to lift one’s head out of the water.

In my 'Gumby' suit
In my ‘Gumby’ suit

Boots and mittens are attached so that all one has to do is jump into the suit and zip it up. It’s not that easy, however. The arm cuffs are very tight, so it takes some strength to push your hands through. It also takes strength to pull the zipper all the way up to the center of your face. All personnel aboard the ship must be able to put this suit on and abandon ship in one minute. I was able to put my suit on in the allotted time, but we didn’t have to abandon the ship during the drill.

My stateroom
My stateroom

Personal Log

Living on a ship is an interesting experience. Space is at a premium, but the Henry B. Bigelow is actually quite comfortable. The scientists told me that this ship has a lot more amenities than some of the other research ships. My stateroom is small and narrow, but roommates are normally working on separate watches, so no one feels cramped or without personal space. You can see in this photo that the room has two bunk beds. Mine is on top, and it has been a fun challenge trying to get in and out of bed when the ship is rocking! I haven’t fallen yet! Each bunk has a curtain that can be pulled closed to darken your sleeping area, if you are sleeping during daylight hours. There is also a desk with latched drawers, so they don’t fly open when the ship is in rough waters. Bungee cords are attached to the walls and desks to hold chairs and large items in place, too. It’s important to keep everything tied down and in the locker so it doesn’t role around and get damaged, or make noise. I learned the importance of that my first night on rough seas when hangers were banging in my locker.

The Head
The Head

My stateroom also has its own “head” (bathroom). The term “head” comes from long ago when boats were powered by the wind. Sailors had a grated area at the front or “bow” of the boat where they could use the bathroom. It was at the front of the boat so bad odors would blow away from the rest of the ship. The figurehead was also attached at the front, so it became common practice to refer to that area as the “head.” The head in my room has a toilet that flushes, and is much nicer than the heads of days gone by, thank goodness!

These are all great amenities, but the best part of my stateroom is the view! First thing every morning, I pull back the curtain to see what’s going on outside. One morning I saw several dolphins jumping out of the water as they moved swiftly toward our ship. Most days, I’ve seen fog, rain, and roiling waves, but I still enjoy looking out and seeing nothing but water as far as the eye can see, and sometimes, a beautiful sunset.


Jennifer Richards, September 6, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 6, 2001

Latitude: 30° 21.2 N
Longitude: 116° 01.7 W
Seas: Sea wave height: less than 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Visibility: 10-12 miles
Cloud cover: 8/8 (100%)
Water Temp: 21.4°C

Science Log: Since we are not in international waters yet, the scientists are not permitted to collect or record data. Many of them are spending their time calibrating equipment or working on papers that they would be writing if they were in their offices at home.

Travel Log: I have had the chance to meet a number of scientists and crew members on the ship, and each one of them really amazes me. Everyone on this ship is either a “crew member” or part of the “scientific party.” All the crew members report to Captain Dreves. They run the ship, repair and maintain the ship, and make sure we are happy and healthy. Besides the Captain, there are four additional uniformed NOAA Officers, and approximately 20 un-uniformed crew members. It takes 7 people to keep the engine in good shape, 3 people in the kitchen, 2 stewards, and the remainder are deck hands. The crew and officers are assigned to the ship for 2 year commissions, and during that time they spend 11 months out of the year on the ship, out at sea. It’s so interesting to talk with them, and to realize how unique their lives are.

Everyone in the scientific party (including me) reports to the Chief Scientist, Chris Fairall. There are research groups here from:

  • Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado
  • University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science
  • University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  • and a few others that are working in partnership with each of the groups above.

Each of the research groups has their own equipment on the ship and their own research to focus on, but they have to work together to coordinate data collection efforts. And since they are sharing bunks with their coworkers (2 people per room) they have to be able to get along with each other in tight quarters, which may get challenging towards the end of the cruise. Can you imagine being stuck on a ship with your best friend for a month, with no way to escape? After a whole month you may need a break from each other.

The big excitement for the day was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. It’s kind of scary to think we might need to do these things for real, although this is a top-notch ship with a top-notch crew, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. The abandon ship whistle consists of 6 short horn blows, followed by one long horn. We can remember this by saying “get-your-butt-off-the-ship nnnnoooowwwwww!” Six short, one long. We all have to grab a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat to protect us from sun exposure as we drift around in the ocean. We also have a life preserver and a “gumby suit” to protect us from the water chill until help arrives. The man overboard drill will be later in the cruise and consists of 3 long horn blows – “maaaan over booaarrd.”

Question of the day: The scientists on board are not allowed to collect and record data until we are out of Mexican waters. How far off-shore is the boundary between Mexican waters and International waters?

Photo Descriptions: Today’s photos show you an overview of my stateroom. They are pretty small, but efficiently laid out. Each stateroom has 2 bunks, lots of drawers, an area that can be converted into a desk, a sink, 2 life preservers and 2 gumby suits, and an inside door leading to a head. The most important thing in the stateroom is our bunk card, which tells each of us exactly where to go in case of fire, abandon ship signal, or man overboard signal.

Keep in touch,