Laura Grimm: Shipwrecks and the War of 1812, July 28, 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 28, 2022

Weather Data from my home office in Dalton, Ohio

Latitude: 40 45.5’ N

Longitude: 081 41.5’ W

Sky Conditions: Overcast

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 9 miles per hour

Wind Direction: SW

Air Temperature: 74 F (23 C)

Relative Humidity: 88%

Future Weather Forecast: Showers likely and 70% possibility of afternoon thunderstorms

Science and Technology Log – and a Little History

Shipwrecks & Sonar

Lake Erie has an astonishing 2,000-plus shipwrecks which is among the highest concentration of shipwrecks in the world.  Nobody knows the exact number of shipwrecks that have occurred in Lake Erie, but estimates range from 500 to 2000.  Only about 400 of Lake Erie’s wrecks have ever been found. There are schooners, freighters, steamships, tugs and fishing boats among them.

So why does Lake Erie have more known shipwrecks per square foot than most any other body of water – with the possible exception of the English Channel?  At its deepest point, Lake Erie is only 210 feet.  Its shallowness is one of the reasons so many ships have sunk. 

a simple political map of the portion of Lake Erie around Presque Isle, which is off of Erie, Pennsylvania. 21 red dots in the water mark the locations of known shipwrecks.
The red dots on the map above show known shipwrecks off the coast of Presque Isle.

Hydrographers have found their share of ships over the years!  I am unable to identify where, however, the TJ found a shipwreck recently.  The following shows various multibeam echo sonar images of items found on the seafloor.  Not all have been found in Lake Erie.  😊

Side scan sonar is a specialized sonar system for searching and detecting objects on the seafloor. Like other sonars, a side scan sends out sound energy and analyzes the return signal (echo) that bounced off the seafloor or other objects. Side scan sonar typically consists of three basic components: a towfish, a transmission cable and the topside processing unit. In a side scan the energy that is sent out is in the shape of a fan.  This fan of energy sweeps the seafloor from directly under the towfish to either side.  The width of the fan is about the length of a football field. 

line diagram of a ship surveying seafloor features using both multibeam bathymetry (with lines depicting the sonar emanating from beneath the ship) and side scan sonar (towed behind)
Side Scan Scan (SSS) and Multibeam Echo Sonars (MBES) are often used simultaneously.  Thomas Jefferson did not use a SSS while I was aboard due to the depth of water we were surveying.

The strength of the return echo is recorded creating a “picture” of the ocean bottom. For example, objects or features that stick out from the seafloor create a strong return (creating a light area) and shadows from these objects create little or no return signal (creating a dark area).

illustrated diagram of side scan sonar. the sonar is towed behind the ship. a fan of sonar beams emanates from the sonar. they do not reach beyond a feature sticking up from the seafloor, creating an acoustic shadow beyond that object
This diagram illustrates how SSS technology produces images and acoustic shadows of objects.

NOAA hydrographic survey units use side scan sonar systems to help find and identify objects.  The shape of the seafloor and objects can be seen well with a side scan sonar.  This technology, however, does not give scientists information with respect to how deep the object is.  That is why the side scan sonar is often used along with the multibeam echo sonar. 

Four scans of the same shipwreck in Stratford Shoals, surveyed by NOAA Ship Rude in different years with different equipment. The top two images are side scan sonar images, created by the EG&G 272 (in 2001) and the Klein 5000 (2002). The bottom two images are multibeam sonar images, created by the RESON 9003 (in 2001) and the RESON 8125 (in 2002.)
Comparison of side scan (black and white) and multibeam sonar (colorful) images of the same shipwreck surveyed by NOAA Ship Rude using different methods and different kinds of equipment.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson field work is focused in the Great Lakes for the 2022 field season.  Thomas Jefferson’s hydrographers are surveying the floor of Lake Erie in the vicinity of Cleveland, South Bass Island and Presque Isle, PA.  They are identifying hazards and changes to the lake floor and will provide this data to update NOAA’s nautical charts to make it safe for maritime travel.  

So why did NOAA decide to focus on this part of Lake Erie?  “The Port of Cleveland is one of the largest ports on the Great Lakes and ranks within the top 50 ports in the United States. Roughly 13 million tons of cargo are transported through Cleveland Harbor each year supporting 20,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in annual economic activity.”  The Office of Coast Survey continues to explain that “most of this area has not been surveyed since the 1940’s, and experiences significant vessel traffic.”

a nautical chart of the area of Lake Erie around South Bass Island. overlaid on the chart are polygons of lines showing completed survey work.
Hydrographic survey work completed in the vicinity of South Bass Island prior to me coming aboard Thomas Jefferson.

A Little Bit of History – Have you ever been to Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island?

Our National Anthem, a naval officer with the middle name “Hazard”, the War of 1812, and Lake Erie have connections. 

So, what does all of this have to do with Lake Erie?  In 1812, America found itself at war with Britain.  They were at war for three reasons: 1) The British were trying to limit U.S. trade, 2) they were also capturing American seamen and making them fight for the British (this is called impressment), and 3) they did not like the fact that America wanted to expand its territory.  Both the British and the Americans were anxious to gain control of Lake Erie.  Late in the summer of 1813, American troops were moved into Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, Lake Erie.   They hoped to cut off the supply routes to the British forts.

On the morning of September 10, 1813, British naval forces attacked. Commander Oliver Hazard Perry was on his flagship (a flagship is the ship that carries the commanding officer), the USS Lawrence.  (Isn’t “Hazard” a great middle name for someone in the Navy!)  He directed his fleet into the battle, but because of light winds, the sailing ships were slow to get into a position where they could fight.  His ship suffered heavy casualties.  Perry’s second flagship, the USS Niagara, was slow to come into range to help.  Four-fifths of Perry’s crew were killed or wounded.  He made the decision to surrender his ship, the USS Lawrence, and move his remaining crew and battle flag to the USS Niagara.  He was rowed half a mile under heavy fire, bearing his now-famous blue and white battle pennant with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” 

  • photo of a flag that reads "DON'T GIVE UP THE SHIP"
  • image of a painting of a naval commander in a rowboat filled with sailors. the rowboat flies the American flag and the pennant reading "Don't Give Up the Ship." In the backgorund, warships under sail fire on one another.
  • painting of Oliver Hazard Perry

The British thought Perry and the rest of the American fleet would retreat after the surrender of the USS Lawrence.  Perry, however, decided to rejoin the battle.  At 3:00 pm, the British fleet surrendered, marking the first time in history that an entire British naval squadron had surrendered to an American vessel.  Huzzah!!  Huzzah!!

Perry wrote to General William Henry Harrison (who eventually became the 9th President of the United States):

Dear General:

We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.

Yours with great respect and esteem,
O.H. Perry

a painting of ships on the water, a sketch of Oliver Hazard Perry, and the quote: "We have met the enmey [sic] ad they are ours...." O. H. Perry
A great victory against the British

Oliver Hazard Perry was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1814 for his actions in the Battle of Lake Erie and the War of 1812.  You can visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island, Lake Erie.

  • view of memorial from a distance, at sunset. the memorial includes a tall Doric column on a small spit of land, surrounded by trees.
  • a view of the memorial from farther away, with the surrounding town area and water visible. the memorial is a tall Doric column.

“Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie that took place near Ohio’s South Bass Island, in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet to victory in one of the most decisive naval battles to occur in the War of 1812.” (Wikipedia)

This video gives you a nice overview of the War of 1812:

Overview of the War of 1812

Oh, so you might be wondering what all of this has to do with our National Anthem?  The poem that eventually became our National Anthem was written during the War of 1812.  It was written in 1814 by a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key during the battle of Fort McHenry. 

Watch this video for information about Mr. Key and our National Anthem:

The History of the “Star-Spangled Banner”
Oh, say can you see, / By the dawn's early light, / What so proudly we hailed, / At the twilight's last gleaming? / Whose broad stripes and bright stars, / Through the perilous fight, / O'er the ramparts we watched, / Were so gallantly streaming. / And the rocket's red glare, / The bombs bursting in air, / Gave proof through the night, / That our flag was still there. / Oh say does that / star spangled banner yet wave, / O'er the land of the free, / And the home of the brave?
The National Anthem of the United States of America

Did you know that our National Anthem actually has four verses, but most of us only know the first one?  Look it up!

I’ve been part of the mission leg that is surveying off the coast of Presque Isle – as the survey around South Bass Island had been completed prior to me coming aboard.  The area around Presque Isle also has important historic roots.

Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie and is 4 miles west of Erie, PA.  According to a tourist website, “As Pennsylvania’s only “seashore,” Presque Isle offers its visitors a beautiful coastline and many recreational activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, and in-line skating.” Recorded history of Presque Isle began with the Erielhonan, a Native American tribe who gave their name to Lake Erie.  Erielhonan is the Iroquoian word for “long tail”.  The French first named the peninsula in the 1720s; presque-isle means peninsula or “almost an island” in French. It served as a base for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet in the War of 1812.

monument on Presque Isle
The Perry Monument on Presque Isle commemorates the U.S. naval victory on Lake Erie in the War of 1812.

In the 19th century, Presque Isle became home to several lighthouses and what later became a United States Coast Guard station.  In 1921, the peninsula became a state park.  The Presque Isle peninsula formed because of glaciation and is constantly being reshaped by waves and wind. Since 1967, the park has been named one of the best places in the United States for watching birds.

  • Aerial view of Gull Point and Presque Isle State Park from the east.
  • Aerial view of Presque Isle State Park from the west.
  • aerial view showing breakwaters along the shore of Presque Isle
outlines of the shape and location of Presque Isle relative to the Pennsylvania coast line in 1790, 1818, 1837, 1866, 1903, 1968, 1971
Migration of Presque Isle from 1790 to 1971 – No wonder it is important to survey these waters!

During the War of 1812, Presque Isle played a part in the victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie.  Oliver Hazard Perry, commander of the American fleet, made strategic use of the bay as a place to construct six of the nine ships in his fleet.  The “Little Bay” near the tip of the peninsula where the ships sheltered was later named “Misery Bay” because of the hardships during the winter of 1813–1814, after the men returned there from battle. Many men suffered from smallpox and were kept in quarantine near the bay. A great many infected men died and were buried in what is now called Graveyard Pond.

map of Presque Isle showing Presque Isle Bay, Misery Bay, Gulf Point
Misery Bay

After the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813, Perry’s two largest ships, the USS Lawrence and USS  Niagara, were badly damaged, and intentionally sunk in Misery Bay. Both ships were eventually raised.  The Lawrence burned while on display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition and parts of the Niagara were eventually used to build a replica of the current Niagara, based in Presque Isle Bay.

USS Niagara, a tall ship replica, under sail on Lake Erie, visible at a distance
We sailed past the USS Niagara in early July.
an old political cartoon captioned, "Queen Charlotte and Johnny Bull got their dose of Perry." A woman with a fancy dress and hat hands a bottle labeled "Perry" toward a King, seated with a crown and robes, who holds up his hand to refuse it. The bottle, uncorked, splashes upward, and in the splash are the names of battle locations. The woman says: "Johnny, won't you please take some more Perry?" the man says: "Oh! Perry!!! Curse that Perry! - One disaster after another - I have - I have not half recovered of the Bloody-nose I got at the Boxing Match!"
The British really did not appreciate Commodore Perry!

Personal Log

For the Little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey?  Hint: This controller is used to move a heavy object.

Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a control panel.
What do all those controls do, Dewey?

A: Dewey is sitting on the piece of technology that is used to control the davits.  Davits are hydraulic machines that take the small boats on and off the ship.

AB Thompson, wearing a face mask, beanie, and gloves, stands at the controls for the davits. Another engineer connects wires in the background.
Able Bodied Seaman (AB) Thompson uses the davit controller to lift the boats

This time-lapse video shows the crew using the davits to pick up and then redeploy one of the small boat launches. (Video taken by Physical Scientist Dan Garatea)

This time-lapse video shows the crew using the davits to pick up and then redeploy one of the small boat launches. (Video taken by Physical Scientist Dan Garatea)

Human-Interest Poll (HIP)

Miss Parker makes a lot of yummy desserts!  I recently asked the crew to list their favorite.

a pie chart labeled: TJ Crew's Favorite Dessert Made by Miss Parker. Apple Pie, Sweet Potato Pie, Cookies, Strawberry Shortcake, Bread Pudding, Banana Pudding, and Blueberry Loaf received 11.1% of the vote each. Peach Cobbler received 22.2%.
It looks like Peach Cobbler is the crew’s favorite dessert made by Miss Parker!  It is made using one of her mother’s recipes.

Meet the Crew

  • two surveyors pose for a photo on deck; one wears a hardhat and holds a line
  • two NOAA Corps officers, wearing hard hats and life vests and NOAA Corps uniforms, pose for a photo on the deck of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. The satellites and the penants are visible behind them.
  • AB Kinnett poses for a photo in front of a window, on which he has written electrical terms: resistance, Ohms, Current, Amps, Voltage, Volts. through the window we see the deck, the alidade, the ocean.

Dan Garatea and Surafel Abebe are physical scientists (PS) who work in Silver Spring, MD for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey (OCS) where they plan hydrographic surveys for chart updates.  They research and develop the plans and instructions for NOAA ships, contractors, other governmental agencies, and other interested parties to develop hydrographic priorities.  When on board during a survey, they manage and provide guidance for the surveys in the field.

two scientists pose for a photo in front of a railing on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. PS Garatea, on the left, wears a life jacket and hard hat.
PS Dan Garatea and PS Surafel Abebe enjoy another beautiful day aboard Thomas Jefferson

It is nice being home. I do, however, miss the crew aboard Thomas Jefferson. They are now back out surveying on the Lake Erie after a much needed shoreleave. I am having fun thinking about how I will use what I learned during this adventure to enrich the K-8 STEAM curriculum of the Dalton Local School District.

Cecelia Carroll: Visit with the NOAA Corps Officers, May 10, 2017                   

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Cecelia Carroll

Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

May 2 – 13, 2017 

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl

Geographic Area: Northeastern Atlantic

Date: May 10, 2017

Latitude: 42 54.920N
Longitude:  069 42.690
Heading:  295.1 degrees
Speed:  12.2 KT
Conditions: Clear

Science and Technology

I am on the day schedule which is from noon to midnight.  Between stations tonight is a long steam so I took the opportunity with this down time to visit the bridge where the ship is commanded.  The NOAA Corps officers supplied a brief history of the corp and showed me several of the instrument panels which showed the mapping of the ocean floor.

“The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known informally as the NOAA Corps, is one of seven federal uniformed services of the United States, and operates under the National Oceanic  and Atmospheric Administration, a scientific agency within the Office of Commerce.

“The NOAA Corps is part of NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations (OMAO) and traces its roots to the former U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, which dates back to 1807 and President Thomas Jefferson.”(1)

During the Civil War, many surveyors of the US Coast and Geodetic Survey stayed on as surveyors to either join with the Union Army where they were enlisted into the Army, or with the Union Navy, where they remained as civilians, in which case they could be executed as spies if captured. With the approach of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson, to avoid the situation where surveyors working with the armed forces might be captured as spies, established the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey Corps.

During WWI and World War II, the Corps abandoned their peacetime activities to support the war effort with their technical skills.  In 1965 the Survey Corps was transferred to the United States Environmental Science Services Administration and in 1979, (ESSA) and in 1970 the ESSA was redesignated as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and so became the NOAA Corps.

“Corps officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA.” (1)

“The combination of commissioned service with scientific and operational expertise allows the NOAA Corps to provide a unique and indispensable service to the nation. NOAA Corps officers enable NOAA to fulfill mission requirements, meet changing environmental concerns, take advantage of emerging technologies, and serve as environmental first responders.” (1)

There are presently 321 officers, 16 ships, and 10 aircraft.


We are steaming on a course that has been previously mapped which should allow us to drop the net in a safe area when we reach the next station.

The ship’s sonar is “painting” the ocean floor’s depth.  The dark blue is the deepest depth.

The path of the ship is highlighted.  The circles are the stations to drop the nets for a sample of the fish at that location.

This monitor shows the depth mapped against time.

This monitor also showing the depth.

A view inside the bridge at dusk.

The full moon rising behind the ship ( and a bit of cloud )

What can you do ?

  • When I asked “What can I tell my students who have an interest in NOAA ?”

If you have an interest in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts you might begin with investigating a Cooperative Observer Program, NOAA’s National Weather Service.

“More than 8,700 volunteers take observations on farms, in urban and suburban areas, National Parks, seashores, and mountaintops. The data are truly representative of where people live, work and play”.(2)

Did you know:

The NOAA Corps celebrates it 100 Year Anniversary this May 22, 2017!

Cute catch:

  1. Bobtail Squid

This bobtail squid displays beautiful colors!  (3 cm)

View from the flying bridge.

On the flying deck!


Bibliography

1. https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/noaa-corps/about

2. http://www.nws.noaa.gov/os/coop/what-is-coop.html

3.   http://www.history.noaa.gov/legacy/corps_roots.html

Mary Cook: Day 9 at Sea, March 27, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Sunday, March 27, 2016 (Easter)
Time: 9:56 am

Data from the Bridge
Temperature:
37.0°F
Pressure: 1012 millibars
Speed: 1.2 knots
Location: N 58°49.516’, W 136°32.367’

Science and History Log

I have found the National Park Service’s brochure to be very interesting and would like to share some of this information with you.

The following information has been quoted from the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve brochure.

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is located in Southeast Alaska about 65 miles west of the state’s capitol city of Juneau. It is comprised of 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, forests and waterways. The highest mountain is Mount Fairweather at 15,300 feet. Accessible only by plane or boat, Glacier Bay serves as a home for a multitude of wildlife including grizzlies and black bear, moose, birds, mountain goats, sea lions, otters, orca, and humpback whales. Glacier Bay is a highlight of the Inside Passage and a destination for kayakers, hikers, campers, as well as cruise ship passengers.

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Just 250 years ago, Glacier Bay was all glacier and no bay. A massive river of ice, roughly 100 miles long and thousands of feet deep, occupied the entire bay. Today that glacier is gone. There are hundreds of smaller glaciers dotting the landscape, tucked into mountain valleys, including about a dozen tidewater glaciers situated at the heads of their inlets.

Tidewater Glacier
An example of a tidewater glacier

Tlingit Totem
Tlingit Totem

Contrary to what you might think, Glacier Bay is a land of rapid change. In the 1600’s-1700’s, the Huna Tlingit lived in the valley in front the big glacier. By 1750, the glacier had reached its maximum and dislocated the people from their homes. Captain George Vancouver sailed there in 1795 finding the glacier melted back five miles into the Bay. In 1879, conservationist John Muir traveled there and the glacier had retreated 40 more miles up the bay. Today you must travel 65 miles up the bay to view tidewater glaciers. You might it interesting that some glaciers are retreating here, and others are advancing.

 

Personal Log

What a blessing it is to explore Glacier Bay with a group of scientists who want to better understand the climate and interconnectedness of life on Earth. It seems there are glaciers at every turn! And surprisingly, it’s not as cold as I expected. Most days the temperature has been above freezing. Yesterday was the first day I’d seen it snow in the Bay. The snowflakes were big and wet plopping into the blue-green waters– very beautiful sight to see.

Snow Falling
Snowfall in Glacier Bay

Wildlife viewing has also been great fun. We’ve seen lots of bald eagles, seabirds and mountain goats. I spent about an hour watching a group of goats maneuver their way up and down steep slopes one morning. Amazing animals in their own right. A few humpback whales were spotted near the mouth of the Bay as they are just beginning their return migration. More elusive have been the smaller Orca whales. The divers have gotten to see even more amazing wildlife below the surface. I’m so glad they take cameras with them so they can share it with those of us confined to the ship.

Glacier Bay National Park–truly a treasure to protect for future generations.

Mary and sign