Elli Simonen:  The Survey Team, July 27, 2023

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Elli Simonen (she/her)

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 10-28, 2023

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey of the Pribilof Islands 

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pribilof Islands, Alaska

Date: July 27, 2023


Weather Data

Location: 55°54.11’N, 168°33.69W

Outside temperature: 11°C

Water temperature: 10.5°C

True Winds: 8nm, 211.9°

Skies: Overcast and Foggy

Visibility: 5nm

Sea Wave: 1 ft

Swell Wave: 2 ft

Science and Technology Log

The entire survey department has diverse backgrounds rooted in Science and each took different paths before coming to NOAA Ship Fairweather.  Their studies in college include Geography, Quantitative Geoscience, Environmental Science, Economic Environmental Policy, Space Studies, Physical Oceanology, Applied Math, Computer Science and Marine Biology.  

I wanted to highlight two people in the survey department who I worked with over the last 3 weeks.

Alex Dawson, Physical Scientist, Project Manager for the Pribilof Islands

Alex studied in one of the only hydrographic programs in the U.S. for undergraduates, at the College of Charleston.  This is a unique program where students gain technical, practical and research knowledge and experience.  Alex obtained bathymetric data and translated this into a research project.  She presented this information at a professional conference, which put her ahead of many of her peers.

In her current job at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland, Alex is a Physical Scientist and a Project Manager.  She plans projects for the entire U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and planned this Hydrographic Survey of the Pribilof Islands; she is aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather for their Pribilof Island Surveys .   Each project takes about 2 to 6 months to plan depending on the complexity of the specific area being surveyed.  Alex and her team do this by looking at the environment of the area, known features and existing charts. She develops environmental compliance best management practices so the survey does not impact the local ecosystem or marine life.  Any features that are on existing charts such as obstructions, shipwrecks, rocks, or pipelines will be included in the project’s GIS files, and she determines if those features need to be investigated more thoroughly. This is all put together in a project package that is sent to the hydrographic ship– the footprint of the survey, any special features that need to be investigated, environmental compliance information, and any previous surveys in the last 20 years that may abut or overlap the planned survey area.  Alex also does hurricane response work; if a hurricane hits a port, then the port will be closed until a federal hydrographic survey comes in to make sure it is safe for commerce.  This is done as fast as possible, sometimes within 24 hours.

Which projects get fulfilled depends on the navigational risks of each area.  Alex explains: “Coast Survey determines which areas to survey within U.S. ports, harbors, and approaches, as well as U.S. waters more broadly, by using the risk-based Hydrographic Health Model. The model assesses risks to surface navigation from charted bathymetry and features, including both the likelihood of a risk (e.g. traffic density, known hazards to navigation, reported ship groundings, etc.) and the consequence of a risk (e.g. proximity to search and rescue stations, proximity  to public beaches, reefs, or marine sanctuaries, etc.). A resulting accuracy factor indicates the urgency (or lack thereof) for new hydrographic surveys.”

In Alex’s own words:
“I love mapping in general, but I think it’s really cool to map in an area such as the Pribilofs… to uncover what hasn’t been uncovered before – mapping where no one has mapped before.”

photo of a young woman standing on deck in front of a view of a teal-colored ocean and hilly green islands in the distance; the sky is blue with some low white clouds. Alex wears a navy blue sweatshirt with a NOAA logo and a silhouette of NOAA Ship Fairweather (with the numbers S-220) imposed on top of the logo. Her hair blows in the wind.
Alex Dawson aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather en route to the Pribilof Islands

Sara Ober, Hydrographic Survey Technician

Sara got her B.S. in Marine Biology from Texas A & M University.  After college, she worked for 5 years in Alaska as a fisheries observer contracted through NOAA through the North Pacific Observer Program.  She worked on smaller fishing boats to observe what they were catching and when.  The calendar of the fishing seasons and quotas in Alaskan waters are mostly federally managed and she would observe the catch at the beginning, close and during the season and pass on that data to the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle. 

Sara then became a survey technician with NOAA.  At the time, hydrography was new to Sara, but she is currently in her second year and likes training newer survey technicians on how to precisely look at the data and check for accuracy.  Every morning she makes sure everything is ready for the plan of the day in terms of surveying, ensures the processing from the night before is ready and addresses anything if needed.  She likes helping others learn and members of the survey team often go to her for advice.  

In the future, Sara is hoping to combine her marine biology and hydrography experiences together and do benthic habitat map work.  The benthic zone is the ecological region found at the bottom of a body of water.  Sara would like to use sonar data to see what the seafloor looks like and why fish live there, as well as predict where they migrate to. 

In Sara’s own words: 

“I really like hydrography, the technical part is fun and new to me.  I wasn’t expecting to like it as much as I do. Being able to visually see something is very cool to me and having such an impact on things.  We can see our direct impact when we submit our data and later on when nautical charts get updated.  It’s like, this is what I did and here’s the final product. 

I love being in Alaska.  I like working on a ship, I think it’s fun.”

a young woman in a gray sweatshirt sits at a computer and smiles for the camera
Sara Ober working in the Survey Department aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

Personal Log

We will be arriving at port tomorrow in Dutch Harbor and my time on NOAA Ship Fairweather is coming to a close.  I want to thank the entire crew for showing and explaining to me the amazing work they do and making me feel at home.  The crew is highly skilled, patient, respectful and willing to pretty much do anything to help the mission.  Their commitment to Science, to NOAA and to each other is commendable. 

I especially want to thank LT Taylor Krabiel and Commanding Officer CMD Meghan McGovern for their hospitality, guidance, continuous check-ins, and making the most of my time.

Elli Simonen: Welcome to Alaska, July 12, 2023

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Elli Simonen (she/her)

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 10, 2023 – July 28, 2023

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey of the Pribilof Islands 

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pribilof Islands, Alaska

Location (In Port): 57⁰43.8384’N, 152⁰30.8319’W

Date: July 12, 2023

Hi Everyone, my name is Elli and this week, I arrived in Kodiak, Alaska and right now I am aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather.  This is my first time in Alaska as well as my first time being on a scientific research ship.  I teach high school Mathematics, specifically Algebra 1, Algebra 2 and AP Calculus at Special Music School, a public school located in New York City.  I also instruct two classes at the College and Graduate level as an adjunct lecturer at City College and Hunter College. My high school students are musically gifted and many go onto Music Conservatory Education.  I am constantly in awe of their talent, grit and perseverance in pursuit of becoming better musicians.  My students at the college and graduate levels are all learning how to be educators in the New York City school system.  Their sense of purpose, commitment and openness to new ideas is inspiring.

a view of Elli, from the shoulders up, on the deck of NOAA Ship Fairweather. In the background, we see another ship, water, and steep green hills rising beyond the far side of the port. Elli is wearing her NOAA Teacher at Sea hat, which gives away that this image has been reversed - the logo and the writing are backward.

Elli aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

I am a Math for America (MfA) Master Teacher and first heard of the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program (TAS) in 2019 through MfA – I researched the TAS program, and thought this is something I definitely want to do, and applied.  I was accepted in the 2020 cohort, but because of COVID was rolled over to 2023 so here I am, three and a half years later embarking on a hydrographic survey of the Pribilof Islands.  


I have been teaching math for 20 years and at various points have had experiences learning about the oceans and marine life.  I started my career as a Peace Corps Volunteer and lived in Zanzibar, Tanzania for 2 years.  In addition to teaching math, I was able to take students to study the coral reefs that surround the island through the Chumbe Environmental Education Program.  They snorkeled, learned about coral and how to preserve and protect this environment.  I also like to scuba dive and have completed over 90 dives at various places around the world– learning not only about shoreline habitat at each diving spot I visited, but how different facets of the ocean interact.  In 2019, I was awarded a Fund for Teachers Grant where I traveled to Australia, scuba dived and learned first hand about the Great Barrier Reef.  And now, I’m still on a journey to learn more about the world’s oceans and marine environments, this time with NOAA in the waters around Alaska.

view of a diver (Elli) underwater in front of a coral head. sand and coral all appear with a blue-green tint. In the foreground, swimming closer to the photographer than Elli is, is a fish, perhaps a kind of grouper. It is the focus of the photo.

​Elli scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia​

So, what is a hydrographic survey you might ask?  And where are the Pribilof Islands?  The Pribilof Islands are four volcanic islands about 300 miles west of mainland Alaska in the south Bering Sea and about 250 miles north of the Aleutian Islands; the two largest islands are Saint Paul and Saint George.  A Hydrographic survey uses sonar data to interpret the ocean floor and coastlines which then is used to produce Nautical charts. The Pribilof Islands Hydrographic Survey will map the ocean floor and surrounding coastline to provide updated accurate charts of this area. The Pribilof Islands have not been mapped since the 1950’s.  


I will be onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather.  The ship embarks in Kodiak, Alaska and disembarks in Dutch Harbor, Unalaska, Alaska.  I am very much looking forward to spending time with the Science team on NOAA Ship Fairweather and learning about what everyone does on a NOAA ship.  I plan on taking this information back with me to New York City and bringing this real-world research experience into my classroom.

NOAA Ship Fairweather at a dock; the dock, a building, and a line of trees are visible beyond. This photo was taken at some distance across the water, capturing the full length of the ship. We can see one survey launch vessel in the water adjacent to the ship. Another remains mounted on board.

NOAA Ship Fairweather

Did you know?

  • NOAA has three different types of Scientific research ships: Hydrographic surveys, Fisheries survey and Oceanographic research
  • Since 1990, the TAS program has sailed more than 850 teachers aboard their ships.  Teachers have come from every state and 4 territories.  (For any fellow teachers reading this, TAS has cohorts every year and applications are due in the Fall.)
  • Each summer more than a million northern fur seals arrive at the Pribilof Islands to breed and raise their young, representing the largest gathering of sea mammals in the world. (https://www.travelalaska.com/Destinations/Cities-Towns/Pribilof-Islands)
  • About 230 fishing vessels take shelter on the southwest shore of St. George during Crabbing Season.

Laura Grimm: Who are these people in uniform? July 13, 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 13, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 42 10.30’ N

Longitude: 080 17.60’ W

Sky Conditions: Few clouds

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 6.1 knots

Wind Direction: 288 W

Lake Temperature: 22.0 C

Wave Height: 1 foot

Dry Bulb: 21.1 ᵒC

Wet Bulb: 17.7 ᵒC

Calculated Relative Humidity: 75%

Electronic nautical chart showing many folding-over parallel lines marking the back and forth track of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson off Presque Isle
We are making great progress! This is an Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) display of our current hydrographic survey progress. ECDIS is a system used for nautical navigation that serves as an alternative to paper nautical charts. The colorful lines indicate where we have used the Multibeam Echo Sensor (MBES) to measure the depth and physical features of the lake bottom.

Science and Technology Log

Seeing several people aboard in uniform caused me to ask, “Is NOAA part of the military?”

illustration of the NOAA Corps insignia; an eagle stands on a globe with two ship anchors crossed behind it. the eagle has a shield with blue stars and red and white stripes. it reads: NOAA COMMISSIONED CORPS 1917
NOAA Commissioned Corps Insignia

According to the NOAA Corps website, “The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s eight uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known as the NOAA Corps, is one of just two uniformed services with no enlisted or warrant officers. The Corps is made up of engineers, oceanographers, geologists, and meteorologists (among others) who support federal departments in earth science projects. The officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. Prior to going out to sea, NOAA Corps officers attend 18 weeks of training at the US Coast Guard Academy’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) in New London, CT. They are not always out to sea; NOAA Corps officers who work on ships rotate between driving the ship for two years and supporting science missions ashore for three years. NOAA Corps officers enable NOAA to fulfill mission requirements, meet changing environmental concerns, take advantage of emerging technologies, and serve as environmental first responders. 

The history of the NOAA Corps can be traced back to 1807 when Thomas Jefferson signed a bill establishing the “Survey of the Coast,” which charted the country’s coasts and waterways. Their mission has expanded well beyond coastal mapping. It currently has 320+ officers who oversee more than a dozen ships and nine specialized aircraft, including the Hurricane Hunters.

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, ~ 30% or 10 out of 34 souls aboard are part of the NOAA Corps. The positions of Commanding Officer (CO), Executive Officer (XO), Operations Officer (OPS), and Operations Officer in Training (OPS IT) are all filled with members of the NOAA Corps. The OPS is also called a Field Operations Officer (FOO). (OPS = FOO) The Medical Officer (MO) is often an ensign, however, on TJ, our MO is a professional mariner. All officers are trained to be an Officer of the Deck (OOD); prior to qualification they serve as a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD). These are the people who drive, or are learning to drive, the ship. Other duties the Junior Officers serve are Navigation Officer (Nav-O), Damage Control Officer (DCO), and the Environmental Compliance Officer (ECO).

TJ serves as a training ground for Ensigns. These are people new to the Corps. Some have attended maritime academies, or been in prior service, such as the U.S. Navy. However, their prior experience must include a baccalaureate degree, and completion of at least 48 semester hours in science, technology, math, or engineering course work pertaining to NOAA’s missions. They become ensigns after graduation from OCS, also known as NOAA’s Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). You see them all over the ship. They are eager to learn and seem to train or study non-stop! No wonder! There is so much to learn. Ensigns fill many “collateral positions” such as Medical Officer (MO) and Damage Control Officer (DCO). The DCO are on the fire and emergency squad.

ensigns pose casually for a photo on an upper deck of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. they are all wearing the Corps-issued navy pants or shorts, and NOAA Corps t-shirts.
Currently, there are five NOAA Corps Ensigns on Thomas Jefferson.  From left to right are ENS Geiger, ENS Brostowski, ENS Castillo, ENS Foxen, and ENS Meadows. They are all very fun-loving, dedicated, knowledgeable, and eager to learn.

The maritime academies in the United States are listed below.  Click on the links below if you wish to learn more about any of these institutions.

College Degree granting institutions offering maritime degrees and USCG-approved courses include:

I wish I had known about the NOAA Corps when I was making career decisions.  It has the discipline and culture of the armed services, yet it is focused on the sciences.  The upper age limit to enter the Corps is 42 years old.  I guess at this point, I can only encourage others to consider the NOAA Corps as a career option.  😊

Click here &/or watch the following video for more information about the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.

NOAA Corps Recruiting Video

Personal Log

I have been asked to give a presentation to the crew about the Dalton Local School’s STEAM program.  They also would like to know possible lesson ideas I will develop in the future and “takeaways” from the Teacher at Sea experience.

The following is a slide show of my presentation.

  • title slide reads: NOAA Teacher at Sea: Laura Grimm, Dalton Local School District, Dalton, Ohio
  • slide reads: Kindergarteen through 8th grade STEAM. photos: students beneath the sign to Dalton Local Elementary & Middle School, and a bulldog.
  • slide reads: 8th grade - Robotics & 3D printing. images of a robot, 3-d printed objects.
  • slide reads: 7th grade - Energy and Inventions. photos of a Maker Space toolbox, students building things.
  • slide reads: 6th Grade - Greenhouse & Life Cycles. photos of students in a vegetable garden, illustrations of flowers, chicks, fish fry.
  • slide reads: 5th Grade - Plan a Trip to Mars: - Getting to Mars - Entering the Atmosphere - Landing - Roving - Building a Satellite - Colonizing the Surface - Mission Patch. photos.
  • slide reads: Kindergarten through 4th Grade Support Science Curricula with STEAM Activities. photos of students.
  • "You learn if you want to, so you've got to want to learn." - Katherine Johnson
  • photo of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in front of Statue of Liberty. NOAA logo.
  • Possible Future MIddle School Lessons: Design, build & program robotic davits with sensors and articulated arms, How far can you see the horizon? etc.
  • Possible Future Elementary School Lessons: program Bee Bot robots to pick up holidays, finding the shortest distance between holidays, etc.
  • Take Aways... New knowledge of science and technology, How this science and tech interfaces with real-life situations, respect for all who work/live on ship, etc.
  • Thank you for this awesome opportunity! photo of crewmembers presenting Laura the flag, Thank You graphic

Human Interest Poll (HIP)

Recently, I started a Human-Interest Poll (HIP) where I post a question on the bulletin board outside of the lounge and give the crew 2-3 days to respond.  The latest question was, “Where was the coolest place you have gone on a ship?”  See their responses below.

outline of the world continents with the letters A-M imposed on the locations listed below. Caption: Where was the coolest place you have gone on a ship?
Results of Human-Interest Poll. It is so HIP!

A = The Channel Islands    

B = San Juan Islands                                       

C = Japan

D = Guam                                                           

E = Norfolk, VA (Home)                                

F = Bering Sea in Winter

G = Point Hope, AK                                         

H = Panama Canal                           

I = Little Diomede Island, AK

J = St. Lawrence Seaway                               

K = Bali                                                                 

L = Adak, AK

M = The Equator                                              

N = Ocean View, DE

Stay tuned!  The next HIP is, “What were the highest seas you have ever experienced?  Where?”

For the little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey today?  Hint: Athletes like to use this room.

Dewey the beanie monkey hangs from exercise equipment
Dewey likes to move around, stretch and strengthen his muscles.  After All, he is a monkey.

A: Dewey is in the Exercise Room.  This room is in the bottom floor of the ship.  I heard that it is one of the best exercise rooms in the NOAA fleet of ships!  Even though this is a large ship, you really do not get many “steps” each day.  Exercising is part of staying healthy.  I try to work out each day.  It is an interesting experience to use the treadmill when we are experiencing 4–6-foot waves!

  • room nameplate: Exercise Room 3-22-0
  • Dewey is hanging from a piece of exercise equipment.
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a barbel
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a barbel (wider view)
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a control panel
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on the control panel of the treadmill (wider view)
  • exercise bike and elliptical trainer
  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a rack of hand weights
  • flag of the Thomas Jefferson exercise room. THOMAS JEFFERSON, illustration of eagle lifting weights, S-222

Joke of the Day

Q: Where do ghosts go to sail?

A Lake Eerie!

Laura shows off her NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson sweatshirt (and NOAA Teacher at Sea hat)
I am one very happy NOAA Teacher at Sea!

I am enjoying sharing my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience with you.  I am looking forward to sharing it with my K-8 STEAM students in the fall!

Laura Grimm: How Do We Communicate?, July 12, 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 12, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 42 11.79’ N

Longitude: 080 07.79’ W

Sky Conditions: Few clouds

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 13.9knots

Wind Direction: 245ᵒ E

Lake Temperature: 22.3 ᵒC

Wave Height:  2-4 ft. ***

Dry Bulb:  24.3 C

Wet Bulb:  22.1 C

Relative Humidity: 84 %

(*** As the wave height increases, going up or down stairs is a lot like being on a roller coaster. As the ship moves up on a wave, you feel somewhat weightless. As the ship moves down, the G-forces (gravity) make you feel “heavy”. It is fun – until you run into the wall!)

Science and Technology Log

Standing on the bridge, one hears a lot of radio communication between boats and occasionally the Coast Guard.  The bridge also communicates frequently with the survey technicians via an intercom.  

This made me start to wonder about how the ship communicates in other ways.  Let me tell you, there are many other ways for the ship to communicate other than radio.  One way is via Morse code.   According to Kiddle Encyclopedia, “Morse code is a type of code that is used to send telegraphic information using rhythm. Morse code uses dots and dashes to show the alphabet letters, numbers, punctuation and special characters of a given message. When messages are sent audibly (with sound) by Morse code, dots are short beeps or clicks, and dashes are longer ones.”

Morse code is named after Samuel Morse, who helped invent it. It is not used as much today as it was in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Some people still use Morse code to communicate on amateur radio.  I have a friend who is an amateur radio operator.  He communicates with people all over the world using Morse Code.  (He even signs birthday cards in Code!)  In Girl Scouts, we were encouraged to learn Morse code.  All I remember is the distress code: SOS (. . . – – – . . .). 

International Morse Code chart of letters and numbers

Another way the ship can communicate is with a signal light.  The operator opens and closes louvers in front of the light using the same Morse code dot & dash patterns.

a NOAA Corps Officer closes blinds over a large circular light on a rotating stand
Morse code is still used on ships using lights.

Messages can be relayed via the ship’s horn.  I discussed in a previous post the ship’s alarm signals that indicate a fire or other emergency, man overboard, or abandon ship. However, the ship also has bells and whistles (different types of horns) that can be used for additional communication; these broadcast a message to a wider audience.  There are rules that regulate horn usage in inland and international waters.  These signals can communicate navigation or emergency information – and so much more.

Example: two prolonged blasts followed by one short blast = “I intend to overtake you on your starboard side”

If you are in distress, other ways to communicate include lights; a rocket parachute flare or a hand flare showing a red light; guns or other explosive devises; flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.); a smoke signal giving off orange-colored smoke; slowly and repeatedly raising and lowering arms outstretched to each side; etc.

Flags are also used to communicate with other ships or people ashore.  They consist of flags and pennants of varying colors, shapes, and markings. The flags have independent meanings; however, when used together they can spell out words and communicate complex messages.  The book International Code of Signals lists literally hundreds of 1-3 flag combinations that mean everything from describing medical conditions of crew members to issues regarding safe maritime travel.  The International Code Signal of distress is indicated by the flags that represent the letter “N” followed by the letter “C”.

two flags representing the letters "N" and "C." The "N" flag is checkered with navy and white squares. the "C" flag has five horizontal stripes: navy, white, red, white, navy.
N C = International Code Signal of Distress
a chart of flags (representing letters) and pennants (representing numerals)
International Flags and Pennants sometimes referred to as the Nautical Alphabet.

Something else you should know about communicating on a ship (or as an airplane pilot), each letter is represented by a word.  A = Alfa, B = Bravo, C = Charlie, D = Delta, etc.  To learn more, see the International Flags and Pennants illustration above.

For the little Dawgs . . . (and older)

Q: Where is Dewey today?  Hint: People on the ship use these to communicate.

Dewey the beanie monkey is tucked into a cubby storing flags and penants (close-up)
I’m not sure where you are, Dewey!  But it looks like you have found a very colorful playground.

A: Dewey is in the signal flag storage area.

Dewey the beanie monkey is tucked into a cubby storing flags and penants (wide view)
Signal flag storage area

The radio call sign of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is WTEA (Whiskey Tango Echo Alfa).  Do you see the flags flying from our mast in the pictures below?  The triangle pennant above the flags that indicate our radio call sign is called our commissioning pennant- indicating a government vessel (NOAA ship) in commission.  The triangles on this pennant symbolize a concept in navigation called triangulation.  According to Wikipedia, “triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles to the point from known points”.  It is a perfect pennant for a hydrographic vessel.

on the tower of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, we can see four rectangular flags (corresponding to the call sign, WTEA) and one skinny commissioning pennant
Radio call signs for NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson WTEA (Whiskey Tango Echo Alfa)
four rectangular flags (corresponding to the call sign, WTEA) and one skinny commissioning pennant
Radio Call Sign Flags

Students, I challenge you draw out your name using International Flags.

image of five letter flags in a row
These flags spell out, “GRIMM” (Golf, Romeo, India, Mike, Mike)
image of six letter flags in a row
These flags spell out, “DALTON” (Delta, Alfa, Lima, Tango, Oscar, November)

Click on this link and/or watch the video below for more information about International Flags and Pennants.

International Code of Signal Flags

Ship Joke of the Day 

How do boats say hello to one another?  (They wave!) . . . Or, do they wave their flags?

Personal Log

Speaking of flags, I had very meaningful thing happened today.  I was just hanging out in the bridge.  I like to see how they navigate and steer the ship.  (It is also a great place to bird watch.)  Operations Officer, LT Levano, asked me if I would like to have a flag that flew over the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.  Whenever a flag becomes a bit tattered or torn, they take it down and replace it with a new one.  They usually give the old flag to the Boy Scouts of America for disposal.  This time, however, they gave it to me!  It brought me to tears.  It was a very special moment for me as a Teacher at Sea.

Able Bodied Seaman (AB) Kinnett and ENS Brostowski folded the flag and made the formal presentation.

  • two crewmembers hold an old American flag out by its corners to prepare for folding
  • two crewmembers folding the flag lengthwise
  • one crewmember holds a folded edge while the other folds his side over in right triangles
  • crewmembers folding a flag
  • crewmembers stand holding the old American flag as a folded triangle

Previews of coming attractions:

  • Tonight, is movie night in the lounge.  Word has it that the featured film will be Monty Python and the Holy Grail!  Woo Hoo!  That is one of my favorites! 
  • Also, the Plan of the Day (POD) for tomorrow states that the crew will be deploying and recovering the Fast Rescue Boat (FRB).  Sounds like fun!
  • I will share the results from the first Human-Interest Poll (HIP) of the crew.

Laura Grimm: Most Valuable Player? July 9, 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 9, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Latitude: 42ᵒ 08’3N

Longitude: 080 16’2W

Sky Conditions: Few clouds

Wind Speed: 23.0 knots

Wind Direction: 030 NNE

Lake Temperature: 21.4 C

Wave Height: 4 -6 feet

Dry Bulb: 19.7 C

Wet Bulb: 16.6 C

Calculated Relative Humidity: 74%

Visibility: 10+ miles

screenshot of software displaying a nautical chart and many parallel colored lines
An Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) display of our current hydrographic survey progress. ECDIS is a system used for nautical navigation that serves as an alternative to paper nautical charts. The colorful lines indicate where we have used the Multibeam Echo Sensor (MBES) to measure the depth and physical features of the lake bottom.

Science and Technology Log

As explained in a previous blog, hydrographic survey uses sound energy.  NOAA hydrographers use various tools to measure the speed of sound from the time it is sent out to the time it is received as an echo.  Sound waves traveling through water of different density cause refraction (or bending) of the energy wave.  The density of water is affected by the salinity, temperature, and depth of the water. Scientists need to measure these parameters (things) and then use this knowledge to correct the data depending upon the properties of the water the sound is traveling through. (If you have been following this blog, nothing so far is new.

Today’s question is how is the temperature and salinity of a column of water measured?  Hydrographers use different types of tools to measure the temperature, salinity, and water depth.  As a group, these tools are called “sound velocity profilers”.  A conductivity, temperature, and depth sensor (CTD) can measure these three things in a column of water and then it calculates the speed of sound in water using a formula called the Chen-Millero equation.  (I do not claim at all to understand this equation!)

To make matters more interesting, there are two (I’m sure there are more than two, however, to simplify things, we will assume that there are only two) types of CTDs.  One type is sent overboard when the ship is not moving.  The other type can be used when the ship is moving.  Using a CTD while the ship is moving is a great thing, because to get good data, CTD data must be taken frequently (every 1-4 hours) and this big ship is difficult to stop!

a digital illustration of an award ribbon reading "MVP"
Most Valuable Player Award

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has both types of CTD sensors.  They rely heavily on the type that can be used when the ship is moving.  In fact, it is so important that we call it our MVP.  This does not stand for Most Valuable Player – although it is extremely important!  A moving vessel profiler (MVP) can be used to measure the water column when the ship is moving at regular survey speeds (8-10 knots).  It kind of looks like a torpedo.  The MVP system can be set up to drop to a given depth determined by the hydrographers in charge of the project – not to shallow & not too deep . . . just right. 

a moving vessel profiler sitting on deck of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. It looks like a small torpedo standing on end. A life preserver ring is mounted on the rail in the background.
Moving Vessel Profiler (MVP) utilized by NOAA field units.
close-up of a label on the moving vessel profiler control station, which reads: AML Oceanographic, www.AMLoceanographic.com, +1 250 656 0771, MVP Moving Vessel Profiler
Here is the information should you want to order a MVP.   :o)
a control panel for the moving vessel profiler: we see buttons, knobs, what looks like a joystick
After the MVP is put in the water, it can deployed and controlled with a computer in the Plot Room.
a crane lowers the moving vessel profiler into the water
The MVP is placed overboard and into the water using a crane.

It can be controlled remotely with a computer without needing someone to be on deck.  Deploying the MVP is called a “cast”.  The benefit of deploying a sound speed profiler like the MVP while the ship is moving is significant.  It is a real time-saver!  Surveyors do not need to stop the ship at regular intervals – this makes their time at sea much more efficient.

Yesterday, I got the opportunity to deploy the MVP.  From the acquisition desk in the plot room, one first needs to get permission from the bridge (the “upstairs office” filled with people driving and navigating the ship), to take a “cast”.  The conversation over the intercom goes something like this:

Laura: “Bridge, this is Survey.”

Bridge: “Go ahead Survey.” 

Laura: “May I please take an MVP cast?”

Bridge: (If the area is clear of small boats and obstructions, they will respond,) “Go ahead Survey.”

Laura: (Once permission is granted, all you need to do is to push the “start” button.  A lot of cable attached to the MVP automatically pays out and it drops to a set depth, a few meters above the bottom.  Once this started to happen, I informed the Bridge by saying,) “Fish is away.” 

Bridge: “Copy.”

Laura: (After reaching the designated depth, the cable drum turns quickly in reverse and hauls the MVP back up to near the surface.  I finished by saying,) “Cast complete”. 

I was a bit nervous talking to the bridge, but I think I did okay.

screenshot of a computer screen with readout from the moving vessel profiler, including a graph showing the depth over time
This is the computer that controls the MVP.  The Hydrographer In Charge (HIC) does this from the acquisition desk in the Plot Room.  The blue line above shows the movement of the MVP and its location in the water column.  It was sent down to 1.5 meters above the floor of the lake.

Meet the Crew

Sydney peers into a compass mounted on a post on deck
Sydney Catoire is using a gyro compass to get a visual reading on a prominent antenna near Erie, PA.

Sydney Catoire is a Lieutenant in the NOAA Corps. (More about the NOAA Corps in a future blog post.) She is an Operations Officer in Training (OPS IT). Sydney comes from a Navy family and grew up on Virginia Beach, VA. Ms. Catoire studied marine biology and mathematics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Wanting to combine aspects of the Navy as well as work as a scientist led her to apply to the NOAA Corps. She received her Master of Science in Geospatial Information Sciences (GIS) while working for the Office of Coast Survey.

Why is your work important? The safety of navigation is our primary goal as hydrographers. We use the data to update nautical charts to make it safe to sail. The bathymetric products provided are open source (free for anyone to download and use) and are used for ocean and lake bed mapping. For example, the data can be used for tsunami storm surge modeling, coastal erosion, and habitat mapping. All this data is super critical and is used by a wide variety of scientific organizations and research institutions.

How will your job change once you become an Operations Officer (OPS)? She will still be involved with the day-to-day workings of the hydrographic survey, however, once she becomes an OPS, she will take a leadership role in the survey, assigning sheets (areas to survey), and mentoring sheet managers who develop the line plans (the path that the ship travels to complete the survey). In other words, she will decide on the most efficient methods to “mow the lawn.” She will also help to train junior officers, organize the processing of the data, and work directly with the Office of Coast Survey Hydrographic Division.

What is the thing about your job you like the most? She likes being on the bridge, navigating and driving the ship, as well as looking out the window for marine life – which lately has been very limited since we are sailing on the Great Lakes.

Tell us a few things about yourself outside of being an OPS IT. Sydney and her sister have a dog named, Max. She likes to scuba dive, hike, and hang out with her family and nephews when she is on shore.

Good Luck, Sydney as you strive to become an Operations Officer! For not originally knowing about this career path you sure have excelled and are an example for others with similar interests.

Personal Log

All the people on TJ have been very nice and hospitable.  They freely answer my questions and are fun to hang out with during meals.  There are three people, however, who are super important to the smooth sailing of TJ.  They are the stewards, Ace & Brent and the Chief Steward, Miss Parker.  I never imagined that the food would be so varied and tasty!  A well-fed crew = a happy crew!

Menu for Monday 5 July 2022: Breakfast: Egg to Order, etc. Lunch: Chicken Cordon Blue, Soft Shell Crab Portabella Mushroom, etc. Dinner: Prime Rib w / Au Jus, Baked salmon w/ brown sugar glaze, fried tofu, etc.
Each day the menu is posted outside of the galley.  Just look at Tuesday’s offerings!
plate of food and place settings
Roasted duck, grilled vegetables, and wild rice.  Just a normal meal on the TJ.
cake
Beautifully decorated three-layer cake with strawberry icing and filling.
three stewards stand in the galley behind a serving line. Ms. Parker and Ace wear aprons.
The Heroes of the Galley (from left to right): Brent, Miss Parker, and Ace.

For the little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey today?  Hint: it is the back of the ship.

Dewey the beanie monkey perches on a rail of some sort, with a pole behind him, and the wake of the ship visible in the water
Be careful, Dewey!  We don’t want you to fall into the water!

A: Dewey is sitting on the stern of the ship.  The propellers are under the stern.

Dewey the beanie monkey sits on the rail on the ship's stern, and the wake of the ship is visible behind
Dewey is sitting on the stern of the ship.  “Stern” rhymes with “learn”.  We are learning the different parts of the ship.

Well, that’s all for today.  Spending time aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has been a terrific learning experience.  I am so thankful for the opportunity!

Laura Grimm: Heavy Lifting, July 8, 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 8, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge 

Latitude: 42ᵒ 11’3 N

Longitude: 080ᵒ 13’0 W

Sky Conditions: Few clouds

Wind Speed: 5 knots

Wind Direction: 208ᵒ SW

Lake Temperature: 21.8 C

Wave Height: <1 foot

Dry Bulb: 21.4 C

Wet Bulb: 20.3 C

Calculated Relative Humidity: 91%

Visibility: 10+ miles

view of a computer screen showing a nautical chart with depth readings and colored lines where the ship has surveyed
An Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS) display of our current hydrographic survey progress. ECDIS is a system used for nautical navigation that serves as an alternative to paper nautical charts. The colorful lines indicate where we have used the Multibeam Echo Sensor (MBES) to measure the depth and physical features of the lake bottom.

Science and Technology Log

The Great Lakes system including all five lakes plus the St. Lawrence Seaway is one of the largest concentrations of freshwater on Earth.  It carries billions of dollars of cargo to and from the Atlantic, has about 10,000 miles of coastline, hosts a $7 billion fishing industry, and heavily influences the climate in the region.

Vessels that sail on the Great Lakes are getting bigger and are super important to the US economy.  For these ships to travel safely they need a certain depth of water.  If the water is too shallow, they run aground and essentially get stuck.  “Draft” is the vertical height between the waterline and the lowest point of the hull. It is how deep the hull can go, allowing the boat to float freely and without touching the bottom of the body of water such as the sea, ocean, or lake.  NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has a draft of 14 feet + the equipment secured to the hull making the working draft 15.5 feet. 

Those individuals navigating the ship use a huge variety of tools.  One of them is a navigation map, also known as a nautical chart, on which has listed the water depthat various locations.   Just like you and your family might use a map to get from Cleveland to Boston, those navigating a ship use a chart to cross lakes and oceans.    

(* Most of these numbers were made using ancient technology called “lead lines”.  They are old data, but apparently, they are pretty accurate considering the technology hydrographers had at the time.)

part of a nautical map of Presque Isle off of Erie, PA
The above is part of a nautical map of Presque Isle off of Erie, PA.  Do you see the small numbers in the blue portion of this map? These are water depth measurements. It is very important to look at the unit of measure.  It could be in feet, meters, or fathoms.  A fathom is equal to one 2 yards or 6 feet. The above unit of measure is meters.
road map of Presque Isle
A road map of Presque Isle.  How are “on land” maps similar to “on water” maps?  How are they different?  What symbols would they have in common?  What symbols would be unique?

A great amount of data on nautical charts of the Great Lakes is more than 50 years old, and only about 5 to 15 percent of the Great Lakes are mapped to modern standards.

One of NOAA’s missions for 2022 is to conduct several hydrographic survey missions on the Great Lakes. 

“Missions” are broken down into field survey “projects”, which in 2022 include surveying Western Lake Michigan, the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary in Western Lake Huron, the Detroit River (Michigan) between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie, and the Cleveland area as well as the vicinity of South Bass Island and Presque Isle (Pennsylvania).

In collaboration between the Office of Coast Survey and the ship’s command, projects are broken down into “Sheets”.  Survey ships will work at completing one sheet at a time.  The number of sheets per project various greatly depending on a myriad of factors.

a geographic map of Lake Erie with blue outlines marking different "sheets" in the project
Sheets around the Cleveland area surrounded by blue.  There are 13 sheets in this project.

Sheets are further divided into “polygons”.  Polygons are a more manageable “chunk” to work on . . . one polygon at a time. 

So overall, the order of magnitude and size in each assignment from largest to smallest is thus: Mission, Project, Sheet, and finally Polygon

When working on polygons, the survey is done either by the ship itself or by smaller boats called “Launches”.  Launches work on the part of the polygon that is in shallow water &/or close to shore.  NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has two launches, 2903 & 2904.  These smaller boats are stowed onboard the main ship.  The launch is a smaller vessel than the TJ, only 28 feet in length, with a 10-foot beam (width) and draft of 4 feet 8 inches.  They are equipped with survey equipment similar to TJ. 

a small boat in the water. we can see two crewmembers on the aft deck.
TJ launch #2904
two small boats in the water; the rail of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and a few crewmembers on board are just visible in the lower right corner
Both launches come alongside the TJ.

So, today’s question is how do they get these smaller boats (launches) on and off the main ship?  This is accomplished by an awesome hydraulic piece of machinery called a davit.  Vestdavit, a company from Norway, makes the davits that are on the TJ. Taking the launches off or putting them back on the TJ is a team effort!  It can be dangerous so everyone helping wears personal floatation devices (PFDs) and hardhats.

small boat secured on board the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson; we can see the brand name Vestdavit on the davit
Launch secured in the davit.
above view of small boat in "cradle" on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
The launch is sitting in its cradle. It is snug as a bug in a rug!

Notice that the launch in the previous pictures is secured to the davit by bow ropes, cables & hooks, ratchetted straps, and bumpers.  Ships move around a lot.  We don’t want the launches swinging and slamming into the davit.  As mentioned previously, this piece of machinery uses hydraulics.  Unlike the hydraulics we use in STEAM class, these use oil as the hydraulic fluid and not water.  The hydraulic fluid used by NOAA is very environmentally friendly.

The following videos and pictures will show how the davit is used to capture and raise the launch from the water and back onto the TJ:

Step #1 – Get the launch close to the side of the ship where it will be stored.  (2903 is stored on the starboard side (right side when looking toward the bow) of the ship.  2904 is stored on the port side (left side when looking toward the bow) of the ship.)

Coming along the side of Thomas Jefferson.

Step #2 – Get the lines ready and attach the painter line to the bow. The painter line is the white line in the video below.

Securing the painter line.

Step #3 – Attach the davit clip to the hook on the bow.

Attaching the davit clip.

Step #4 – Engaging the hydraulics will start to raise the boat out of the water.  Notice that the large orange bumpers on the side of the launch help to protect the boat from bumping into the side of TJ.  At this point, it is safe for the crew to disembark (get off) the launch.

Engaging the hydraulics.

Step #5 – The davit lifts the launch and places it in its hold or cradle.

Final lift of the davit.

Step #6 – Finally, secure the launch with a ratchetted straps or webs.

  • a crewmember wearing a helmet and life vest pulls on a yellow strap
  • a crewmember wearing a helmet and life vest pulls a yellow strap across the bow of the small vessel to secure it back on board
  • a crewmember wearing a helmet and life vest lowers or pulls a yellow strap at hte right side of the small vessel to secure it back on board

Unfortunately, they are having some difficulty with the davits aboard Thomas Jefferson.  No launches will be deployed until they can get the issue resolved.  In the meantime, data will continue to be taken using the Mulitbeam Echo Sounder (MBES) and other technology on Thomas Jefferson.  I read recently that the CO (Commanding Officer) always puts personal safety before data acquisition.  He and the crew really mean it!

Personal Log

Yesterday morning, I enjoyed watching the crew deploy both launches to do surveys close to the shore.  It was choppy with 3-5 ft waves.  I have not felt seasick on TJ, but choppy seas on a small boat would have made me revisit my breakfast.  The launches came back in earlier than expected due to the rough water.  It was exciting to see how efficient the crew was at deploying and recovering the launches . . . like a well-greased machine. 

Operations Officer (OPS), Michelle, asked me to work with Operations Officer in Training (OPS IT), Sydney in the Plot Room.  She will teach me all I need to learn about hydrographic data acquisition.  (More on that in a later blog).  There is so much to learn!  If you are interested in math &/or science, you might want to look for a job at NOAA!

view of a computer screen displaying the output of hydrographic software; there is a nautical map on the left and additional panels to the right
Image created by Hypack, the hydrographic software used by TJ.

My time in the Plot Room was cut short because we had a fire drill followed immediately by an abandon ship drill.  At school we have a variety of drills (fire, wind, lock down).  Sometimes we take these drills for granted.  We get lazy. Let me tell you!  I was not prepared for the ship drills!  Each drill is announced by the ship’s whistle.  This is great and heard everywhere – however, it is worthless of you have not done your homework and learned what the whistles mean!  I am guilty of not doing my homework!  I was running around like a crazy person!  Suddenly, I could not find my way around the ship!  What was the drill?  What did the whistles mean?  What should I bring?  Where should I go?

a muppet, screaming.
I think this is what I must have looked like!

From now on, I WILL do my homework.  I will be prepared, and I will no longer take drills at school for granted.  They are important!

AlarmSignalWhere to reportWhat to bring
Fire or Other EmergencyContinuous sounding of general alarm or ship’s whistleMain deck, port side, outside of the damage control pathwayNothing, egress ASAP
Abandon Ship6 short blasts of ship’s whistle followed by one prolonged blast02 deck, starboard side, by raft #3Must wear PFD (life preserver), hat, long sleeves and carry survival suit (affectionately known as the Gumby Suit)
Man Overboard3 prolonged blasts of ship’s whistle02 deck, starboard side, watch aftNothing, egress ASAP
I made a table to help me organize my “homework”!

For the little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey today?  Hint: it is usually underwater and helps move the boat.

Dewey the beanie monkey perched on the propeller of one of the small boats (out of the water, stored on board)
This part of the boat is usually under water.

A: Dewey is sitting on the propeller, also known as the prop.  The motor of the boat spins the prop which makes the boat go forward, or if it is spun in the opposite direction, the boat goes backward.

the propeller of the small boat or launch. since the vessel is out of the water, stored in its cradle, we can see Lake Erie and a dock in the background
This is the prop of the small boat or launch.  The propeller on the Thomas Jefferson is much larger! Behind the propeller is the rudder.  This can be moved side to side allowing the boat captain to steer in one direction or the other.

One of the TJ’s engineers shared this picture of the Thomas Jefferson’s propeller.  It was taken in the past when the ship was in “dry dock” undergoing repairs.

an engineer, wearing a hard hat, stands underneath the hull and the propeller of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson when it is in dry dock, i.e., completely out of the water
Just look at the size of the propeller and rudder of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson compared to the size of a man!

Well, that is all for now.  I am assigned to be in the Plot Room again tomorrow morning from 6:00-8:00 am (0600-0800)*.  I hope things go a bit more smoothly tomorrow.  These wonderful scientists have so much knowledge + they do not mind me asking many, many questions = a great learning experience!  Thank you, NOAA!

(*The ship runs on a 24 hour clock. Examples: 9:00 am = 0900. 3:00 pm = 1500. It’s easy once you get used to it. Also, I found out this morning that if you are scheduled for 0600, you really are supposed to show up at 0530. Oops! I try to keep a growth mindset in all I do!)

Laura Grimm: Echoes and Flares, July 7, 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 7, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 42 08.7

Longitude: 080 16.9

Sky Conditions: few clouds

Wind Speed: 14.9 knots

Wind Direction: 040 NE

Lake Temperature: 22 ᵒC

Wave Height: 1 ft.

Dry Bulb: 20.6 C

Wet Bulb: 18.6 C

Relative Humidity: 83% (calculated using the following table)

Relative Humidity Conversion Table. Rows: Dry-bulb temperature, ranging from 10 degrees C to 30 degrees C in increments of 1 degree. Columns: Dry-bulb temperature minus wet-bulb temperature, ranging from 1 to 10 degrees C in increments of 1 degree.
Once you know the wet-bulb and dry-bulb temperatures, you can use the conversion table above to calculate the relative humidity.

Science and Technology Log

The mission of a NOAA hydrographic survey is to make bathymetric maps of the floors of bodies of water.  Bathymetry is the study of the “beds” or “floors” of water bodies, including the ocean, rivers, streams, and lakes.  So, what is the difference between bathymetry and topography?  Topographic maps show elevation of landforms above sea level; bathymetric maps show depths of landforms below sea level.

NOAA ships are equipped with lots of different types of equipment to make such maps.  One of these is the Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES).  It is used to survey large swaths or bands of the floor of oceans and lakes.  This type of technology collects a tremendous amount of bathymetric data.

Multibeam Echo Sounders (MBES) gather information about how deep a body of water is, the physical features of the seafloor, and how close to the surface items like wrecks and obstructions are that might make it dangerous to maritime travel.  Obstructions are things sticking up from the floor.

Multibeam Echo Sounders send out sound energy and analyze the return signal (echo) that bounces off the lakebed, seafloor, or other objects.  Multibeam sonars emit (send out) sound waves from directly beneath a ship’s hull to produce fan-shaped coverage of the seafloor. These systems measure and record the time for the sound energy to travel from the sonar to the seafloor (or object) and back to the receiver. The longer it takes, the deeper the water.  Multibeam sonars produce a “swath” of soundings (i.e., depths) to ensure full coverage of an area. This is sometimes referred to as “mowing the lawn”.  Scientists want to be sure that they don’t miss anything!

underwater, a diver checks out a multibeam sonar apparatus attached to the hull of a ship
Multibeam sonars are secured to the bottom or the hull of the vessel to collect data.

an illustration of a multibeam sonar swath spreading out from the base of a NOAA ship (above the water), revealing the modeled bathymetry of the seafloor (below the water)
MBES Data showing seafloor topography

Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) showing bathymetric data, also known as, seafloor topography.  Bathymetry is the study of the “beds” or “floors” of water bodies, including the ocean, rivers, streams, and lakes.  Topography is a detailed description or representation on a map of the natural and artificial features of an area.

modeled bathymetry shows a small boat resting on the seafloor.
Small wreck found using multibeam sonar.

When looking at a hydrographic image, keep in mind that blue = deep water, red = shallow water.

view of a small boat mounted on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson; the hull is visible
This is one of the launches (small boats) that is used to collect hydrographic data close to shore.  A Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES) is attached to the hull (bottom) of the boat.
close-up of the multibeam echosounder mounted on the hull of the small boat
The black and red piece of technology is the MSEB
close-up of the multibeam echosounder mounted on the hull of the small boat; it looks like a black box with red panels
A close up of the MBES that is secured to the hull of the launch.

The red rectangle in the foreground is the transmitter.  It sends out the sound energy.  The other red rectangle is the receiver.  It “hears” or receives the echo of the sound.  This information is then sent to a computer that analyzes how long the echo took and then calculates the depth. 

The small silver latch-looking piece of equipment is the sound speed indicator.   It calculates the actual speed of sound in the conditions under which the measurement it taken.  A “ping” is sent out from one end and is received at the other end.  The speed of sound is then calculated. 

I always thought that the speed of sound was a constant number.  I guess not!  So why is calculating the speed of sound so important?  The speed of sound in water is affected by the temperature and salinity of the water.  The warmer the water, the faster sound energy travels.  Once a molecule starts to vibrate, it passes this energy on to the next molecule, and to the next, and so forth.   Water molecules in warmer water are moving quicker so sound energy transmits faster; cold water is more dense and therefore the sound transmits slower.  The colder the water, the slower sound energy travels.

Salinity also affects the speed of sound.  Salinity is the measure of dissolved salts in water. This accounts for all salts, not just sodium chloride (table salt).  The salinity of fresh water is very low compared to that of the salt water in the oceans.  Water that has a lot of salts dissolved within will transfer sound energy more quickly.  Electroconductivity is a measurement of salinity.  (Students – you may remember that we use an electroconductivity probe to help us understand how much fertilizer is in the water used to grow plants hydroponically in the greenhouse.)  Knowing the speed of sound in water helps hydrographers interpret the data from the MBES more accurately.   

Something to think about . . .

How is a Multibeam Echo Sounder like and unlike echolocation that is used by bats?

For the little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey today?  Here is a hint.  It is also called the “front” of the ship.

Dewey, a beanie monkey, sits on a white surface with water in the background
Where is Dewey today?  Here is a hint.  It is also called the “front” of the ship.

A: Dewey is on the bow of the ship.  “Bow” rhymes with “cow”. 

a view of the ship's bow with the beanie monkey perched on a rail
Do you see Dewey? He is sitting on the bow of the ship.

Dewey is sitting on the bow by the Jackstaff (flagpole).  The Jackstaff is a flagpole that flies a maritime flag called the Union Jack of the United States whenever it is at anchor or in port.

50 white stars on a blue background
Union Jack of the United States. Just the stars and not the stripes.

.

Laura on the bow, with Dewey the beanie monkey perched on her shoulder. Laura is wearing a Teacher at Sea hat. we can sea the anchor behind her.
Dewey and I are enjoying the fresh air on the bow.

Personal Log

We had fun last evening.  Patrick, a Seaman Surveyor, told us that he had several flares that had expired.  Instead of throwing them away, he decided to have us light them.  What a great thing to do around the 4th of July!

  • a seaman holds a lit flare toward the fantail
  • Laura preps a flare
  • Laura holds lit flare over the edge
  • Laura and lit flare
  • Two other crewmembers hold lit flares over the edge
  • A crewmember holds a lit flare over the side of the ship
  • Several crewmembers holding lit flares; orange smoke billows out
  • Two crewmembers shoot small flare guns into the air
  • Laura points a flare gun into the air; Patrick instructs
  • Laura fires flare gun

Because we were surveying near Lake Erie, we had the opportunity to watch the 4th of July fireworks over Cleveland and surrounding communities. Such a lovely way to spend Independence Day.

Around 2300 (11:00 p.m.) we started to transit (move) toward Erie, PA. It’s been a good day. I look forward to waking up in the waters near Presque Isle.

Laura Grimm: Finally! July 4, 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 4, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1600 (4:00 pm)

Latitude: 41ᵒ 34.45 N

Longitude: 081ᵒ 46.7 W

Sky Conditions: Overcast

Visibility: 10+ nautical miles

Wind Direction: 343ᵒ NNW

Wind Speed: 6 knots

Lake Water Temperature: 24.2 ᵒC

Dry Bulb: 25.7 ᵒC

Wet Bulb: 22.1 ᵒC

Science and Technology Log

Welcome from NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson! 

Laura Grimm stands near the bow (front end) of the ship.
I am standing near the bow (front end) of the ship.

This experience started on land.  NOAA provided a lot of information and training that needed to be read, studied, and completed prior to even setting foot on the ship.  (Like I said previously: I am going to be more of a student and less of a teacher on this voyage!) 

I found this statement on the “Standing Orders” to be very inspiring.  It is from the Commanding Officer:

Command Expectation/Philosophy 

“Thomas Jefferson is an ocean mapping platform that surveys the Exclusive Economic Zone of and for the United States.  As such, we are responsible for maintaining and developing the Nation’s hydrographic expertise and technological capacity, as well as for producing timely quality surveys that can be efficiently used for many purposes, but primarily for updating NOAA’s suite of nautical charts.  By sailing aboard Thomas Jefferson, you are part of this.  Everyone aboard should be working to help Thomas Jefferson fulfill this role to the best of her ability, regardless of their individual role on the ship.  To do this, we must work together to take care of ourselves, take care of each other, and take care of the ship.  Be kind to yourself and to others; and work to build and keep the trust you earn from each other and the Command.  This work of measuring our ocean territory is noble, challenging, unique, arduous, and ultimately rewarding.”  

This is a hydrographic survey vessel. So just what is hydrography?

Hydro = water; Graphy = to write or record

Hydrography is the science that measures and describes the physical features of those areas on Earth that can be navigated by ships. These areas include oceans, lakes, seaways, and coastal areas. Hydrographic surveyors study these bodies of water to see what the “floor” looks like. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is concerned about the safe passage of ships traveling to and from ports. Hydrographic surveys measure how deep the water is and make sure the coastal regions of the United States are safe for boats and ships to navigate. Surveyors pay particular attention to mapping locations of shallow areas and various obstructions (things sticking out of or sitting on the seafloor). Surveys also determine what the sea floor is made of (i.e. sand, mud, rock). This is important for anchoring, dredging, structure construction, pipeline and cable routing, and fish habitat. NOAA uses all this data to update nautical charts and develop hydrographic models.

a bathymetric map of the Great Lakes. We see the topography of the surrounding land, a few major cities (Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland) marked as dots, and the waters of the lakes colored to depict depth. Lake Superior is the deepest, and Lake Erie is the most shallow.
This is a hydrographic map of the Great Lakes. When looking at a hydrographic image, keep in
mind that blue = deep, red = shallow.

Can you tell from this image which lake is the deepest? Which lake is most shallow? Why do you think that the coasts of lakes look like rainbows?


This ship does very important work! By mapping water depth, the shape of the seafloor and coastline, the location of various obstructions, and physical features of bodies of water, hydrography helps to keep our maritime transportation system moving safely and efficiently.


What equipment and technology is used to do a hydrographic survey?


LOTS! I will include more information about the equipment and technology hydrographers use to get all of this data in a future blog post.

Personal Log

Yesterday was so very exciting! My husband drove me to the port of Cleveland.

Sign and the entrance to the Port of Cleveland.  Downtown Cleveland is in the background.
Port of Cleveland. Downtown Cleveland is in the background. The Brown’s stadium in immediately to the left.
Laura points to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, in port, from a distance
There it is!

Thomas Jefferson is docked at Pier 26. After all this time, it was wonderful to finally see the ship. I contacted the Officer of the Deck (OOD), he gave me permission to come aboard and immediately gave me a COVID test. Negative test = I can sail! I was never so happy to be
negative!

He showed me to my stateroom or berth. I have the upper bunk and a porthole! My roommate (you will meet her later) is a Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician (HSST). We share a bathroom (toilet and shower) “Jack and Jill” style with the room next door. On a ship, the bathroom is known as the “Head”.

close up of a sign that reads: "CREW SR 2-39-1"
This is the number on my stateroom.

2 = I am on the second deck. Each deck on a ship is numbered. The numbers from lowest to highest are 4, 3, 2, 1, 01, 02, and 03.

39 = the bulkhead the stateroom is closest to. A bulkhead is a dividing wall or barrier between compartments in a ship, aircraft, or other vehicle. The ship has about 100 bulkheads. They are numbered 1-100 from the bow (front end) to the stern (back end).


1 = This means that I am on the starboard (right side if standing on the ship looking toward the bow) side of the ship. If the last number was a 2, that would mean that my stateroom was on the port (left side if standing on the ship looking toward the bow).

view of stateroom; we can see two bunks and a dresser, some small rugs on the floor, hanging lights
This is my stateroom. I sleep on the upper bunk.
view of a shower stall and toilet
This is the “Head”.

The OOD then gave me a quick tour of the ship showing me the “Mess” (where we eat), the galley (kitchen), lounge, plot room (where they take the data that is collected during the day and where the data is made in to hydrographic “pictures”), laundry, and exercise room. He also took me to the bridge (where they pilot or drive the ship) and on all the decks. Later, I met one of the engineers and he took me on a tour of the engine room. So cool! I will include more information about these places on the ship in future blog posts.

Happy to be here! Happy to learn all about the important work being done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Laura, wearing Teacher at Sea hat and shirt, poses for a photo next to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in port; we can see the NOAA logo and the ship's number, S 222
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and me – the very excited Teacher at Sea (TAS)

For the Little Dawgs!
Attention students in grades Kindergarten – 2nd grade. This section will be written just for you! I want to introduce you to my friend, Dewey. Dewey has been with me ever since my first year of teaching.

Dewey is a plush (perhaps beanie) monkey. He sits on a cushion wearing a paper sailor's hat that Laura made for him
My travel companion, Dewey. See his sailor hat!

He will help you understand what I am doing on this big ship! He is excited to be on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. He is also very thankful that we have a porthole in our bedroom. A porthole is a round window. I wonder why many of the windows on a ship are round?

Dewey looks out the porthole window
Here is Dewey looking out of the porthole window.

Q: Where is Dewey?

a toy monkey sits on a grated surface
Look at the surface. Can you tell where he is? Hint: You walk on it to get on to the ship.
a beanie monkey sits on the gangway leading up to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson from the port
Dewey is on the gangway!

A: Dewey is on the gangway. The gangway is the name of the ramp that you walk on to get on the ship.

Well, that is all for now. Later tonight the crew will have the opportunity to watch the 4th of July fireworks over Cleveland.

A photo of the American flag flying, with downtown Cleveland visible behind it
This picture was taken from the stern (back end) of the ship.
a red, white, and blue banner in the mess hall reads "Happy 4th of July"
Happy 4th of July! Miss Parker, Chief Steward, decorated the Mess Hall for the holiday.
a view of tables and chairs in the mess hall, with red white and blue bunting, garlands, and American flags
Decorated Mess Hall

During the night, we will head toward Erie, PA to map the area around Presque, Isle.

white board reading: "NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson; Depart Port of Cleveland; Day & Time Monday @ 1400; Date July 4, 2022; Destination Presque Isle
Sailing Board for July 4, 2022
Sunset over Lake Erie
Sunday’s sunset over Lake Erie

Oktay Ince: Driving the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and Seasickness!, June 26, 2022

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Oktay Ince

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

June 20- July 1, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: Sunday, June 26, 2022

Latitude: 41° 31.9′ N
Longitude: 81° 57.3′ 00 W
Altitude: 138 m

Weather Data from Bridge

Wind Speed: 8 kts
Surface Water Temperature: 23 °C
Air Temperature (Dry Bulb Temperature): 25 °C
Wet Bulb Temperature: 21 °C
Relative Humidity: 78 %
Barometric Pressure: 1014 mb

Science and Technology Log

Today, I am going to talk about anchoring the ship in Lake Erie, and some multibeam and side-scan images that NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson obtained a while ago from different assignments. 

The ship is mostly done scanning offshore portions of Lake Erie (2-7 nautical miles) from Lorain to Cleveland, OH, except near the shoreline. Waters near the shore are harder to scan for a ship like Thomas Jefferson because the water is shallower towards the coastline. Therefore, the ship decided to anchor closer inshore and launch its two boats to scan those areas. As I said before, the same multibeam and side-scan sonar beam technology is also in these boats. For the next couple of days while the ship is anchored, the boats will collect nearshore bathymetric data outside of Cleveland, OH. 

The anchor is made of metal and is attached to the ship by a metal chain. First, it is important to decide where to anchor by looking at the chart. It’s usually preferred to anchor in sandy locations for stronger holding of the ship. However, most of the area we are surveying has a mud bottom, which is also okay for holding the anchor. The weight of the anchor is 3,500 lbs.!  Once the ship was anchored, it swung around the chain due to the wind. The engine was off and we stayed there for about 4 days. Even though the engine was off, the generators were on. I will talk more about engines and generators in my next post. 

Okay, let’s go back to multibeam and side-scan sonar. When the multibeam sonar scans to evaluate the depth of the water, the results can be shown in color schemes based on depth ranges.  For example, during data acquisition we determined that 0-3.5 meters is black, 3.5- 5 meters is red, 5-10 is green and so on and so forth. This color coding is arbitrary as long as we have a legend at the bottom of the image that shows the depth of each color. 

a computer screen displays depth data
Scanning the water (color-coded legend on the left). The depth of water is not less than 5m.

There was one interesting thing I learned today. Side-scan sonar can also show the presence of fish. During our data collection, we found schools of fish that are both small and big. How do we know the object we found is a school of fish? Well, often the shadow of an object in a sonar image can tell more information than the image of the object itself. If the object’s image has a shadow that is not attached to the object then it may be fish. Since the fish is swimming in the water, its shadow would look unattached in the image. We not only found a school of smaller fish, but also found a school of bigger fish. How do we know that they are big?  The shadow can tell you!  When looking at the image, we can identify individual fish as a dot, and the shadow can be measured to determine the size. 

photo of a computer screen showing side scan sonar image when no objects are detected; the lake bottom looks grainy orange
Scan scan sonar image- There is no object detected. Use this image as a reference to interpret the following side scan images.
a side scan sonar image with specks of light and specks of shadow, offset to the right. theses objects and their shadows are highlighted in a blue rectangle. an additional caption reads: "Larger fish - can see individual bright spots and individual shadows"
Side scan sonar image shows larger fish presence in Lake Erie (Credit: NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson).
a side scan sonar image with two objects that look like balls of light, and their offset shadows. caption reads: "Schools of small bait fish"
Side scan sonar image shows schools of small bait fish presence in Lake Erie. (Credit: NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson)
side scan sonar image of shipwreck, multibeam bathymetry model of shipwreck
Both side scan and multibeam sonar imagery of a ship wreck from PREVIOUS mission of NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson. (Credit: NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson)
comparison of sidescan and multibeam sonar imaging of lake bottom
Both side scan and multibeam sonar imagery of bottom near Rocky River, Ohio during our this leg of acquisition. (Credit: NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson)

Personal Log

I am almost halfway through my expedition in Lake Erie. When I say I am learning, I do not mean that I am listening and observing what others say, and jotting down what I heard. I mean that I am hands on, doing what others do on the ship. My title on the small boat is “Crew-IT,” meaning crew in-training, and they teach me everything that I need to know. I was even on the deck (ship control center) navigating the ship for about 10 minutes. It wasn’t that complicated to navigate a 208 ft long NOAA ship after all! 

Oktay stands at the helm of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson; three other crewmembers on bridge
Driving NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
Oktay stands at a navigation table on the bridge, looking over a clipboard; water visible out the bridge windows
Checking ship’s daily logs

I am not the only one who is training. There are many others, too: NOAA Corps officers, technicians, visitors, etc. The ship is not only completing its mission, but is constantly a training ground for others. 

Okay, let me talk about my first time being sea sick. Except, I didn’t know what it was until somebody told me so the next day. So, I woke up earlier than usual that morning around 6 am. Because I had a full day boat assignment, I had to be fully ready. I packed a book to read, my camera, selfie stick and my notebook. I put on my sunscreen, and of course, my long pants. After eating my scrambled eggs with light roasted coffee, I quickly went down to my state room to brush my teeth to make sure I was on time for the 8 am safety briefing in the survey room. A safety briefing happens every day the small boats go out. We go over what work needs to be done for the day (general overview), what the weather will be like, and what the following days will look like. It takes about 15 minutes. At 8:15 am, we put on our safety gear (always confused whether to wear a crash helmet or hard hat), and lined up to be boarded. In about 10 minutes, we were on the boat, did routine safety checks, and started to survey. The weather was so hot and the bugs were of course in full bloom. Besides the hot “bug-gy” weather, the Lake was churning so bad that I couldn’t stand still. I had to either sit or stand while holding onto something. On that day, we were out until 7 pm. When we got back on the ship, I was so hungry but also so tired that I could not eat much. When people are late for the dinner which is eaten between 4:30pm to 5:30 pm, you make your orders before you leave for the boat, and they prepare your plate and put it in the fridge. I couldn’t eat anything that I ordered. Instead I ate an apple and went straight to bed. 

I started to have a headache that I knew would eventually turn into a migraine. It was 10 pm, and my headache turned into a migraine. My migraine was so bad that my lids became so heavy that I could not open it. I was constantly turning in the bed, thinking that it would eventually go away once I slept. Nope! Nothing worked. I woke around 2 in the morning, took a shower and decided to take some ibuprofen. The medicine kicked in quickly and the next thing I remember was waking up at 7:30 am. I talked to my friend Justin that morning about what happened to me last night. He said that some people experience sea sickness in the form of a headache and suggested that I take the seasick medicine and eat a good, solid breakfast next time. I guess this is what I am going to do from now on when I have a boat assignment! 

Did you know?

  • NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is holding about 130,000 gallons of fuel which could last about 45 days. The ship has 33 tanks across the ship that includes fuel, drinking water, sewage, dirty water, etc. 
  • There is a “speed limit” on waterways? For example; Canada allows speed limit of 10 knots (11.5 miles/18.5 kilometers) in areas where the North Atlantic right whale have been reported in Gulf of Saint Lawrence which connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic right whale, which is much larger than a humpback or a gray whale, is one of the most endangered whale species. More information about the species can be found here. Lake Erie doesn’t have speed regulation on open water unless there is a violation of marine laws or criminal activity.
illustration of a North Atlantic right whale
The North Atlantic right whale (Credit: NOAA fisheries)

Oktay Ince: How Much You can Get From Bottom Sampling in Water Surfaces, June 24, 2022

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Oktay Ince

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

June 20- July 1, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: Friday, June 24, 2022

Latitude: 41° 31′ 52 N

Longitude: 82° 12′ 00 W

Altitude: 138 m

Weather Data from Bridge

Wind Speed: 6 kts

Surface Water Temperature: 23.9 °C

Air Temperature (Dry Bulb Temperature): 22.4 °C

Wet Bulb Temperature: 16.9 °C

Relative Humidity: 62 %

Barometric Pressure: 1018 mb

Science and Technology Log

I believe you have a pretty good idea what we are doing on the ship. We are mapping Lake Erie. We are all familiar with general maps, right? The ones we see in schools, maybe having a nice globe on our writing desk, or even every day on TV when meteorologists forecast what the weather looks like. Maps are everywhere.  Those maps are simple visual representations of any information we are interested in, such as cities, countries, mountains, rivers, oceans, roads etc. 

Similarly, we also have a map for oceans, seas and lakes so that whoever wants to use Lake Erie “road” will use this map to navigate themselves safely. In the science of hydrography, these maps are called nautical charts. During my past two blogs, I have kind of explained how scientists map the waters. They use multibeam sonar to get the depth of the water and side scan sonar to take images of the bottom. I also described the condition of water such as salinity and temperature.

Lowering Down CTD instrument manually

Now, you may wonder what other data hydrographers collect that goes on the chart. The field units collect data on what material is at the bottom. The easiest way to do it is bottom sampling. They simply send a clamp-like instrument with a rope attached over the side of the boat, and when it hits the bottom it automatically closes itself and catches whatever it is at the bottom. And then, you pull up the rope and examine what type of materials are at the bottom.  This information is so crucial for many reasons. For example, ships need to know where to anchor near the shore. Thomas Jefferson prefers sandy places so that the sand holds the anchor very strong. They stay away from rocky, boulder places to prevent the anchor from getting snagged. So, when a ship comes closer to Cleveland, not only do they know how to navigate the ship safely but also where to anchor. If it can’t anchor it poses a great risk not only for the ship but also for the public at the coastal region. You get the idea! The bottom sampling information is important. It seems simple to do, correct? Yes it is! But the information it provides is extremely important for government and public stakeholders. 

Bottom sampling can be used for other purposes such as what kind of organisms live there, what is the chemical and mineral composition, or even to know what life was like in the past. You can time travel by just looking at the sediment sampling of the sea/lake floor. However, the mission of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is to find what material is at the bottom and navigationally significant, and ships use this information to use where to anchor. 

Let’s go back and discuss more about the importance of studying seafloor composition. The more I research this topic the more I find it fascinating to get how much information we can obtain. I came across an article titled “ THE FUTURE BURIED in the DEEP ” by Jeremy Schwab, and it has very interesting information about why bottom sampling information is used. It is even used by NASA scientists who are studying conditions on other planets and moons that might support life. What mind-blowing research to do. I guess now I am interested in studying bottom sampling!

Personal Log

Speaking of bottom sampling, yah yah yah! You are tired of me repeating that. You may say “We got it Oktay, it is important. Tell me something else.” Well, I am going to share how one experience I had in the past came in handy, and how it led to something I never thought of.

When you do bottom sampling, sometimes you get mud, but if you are lucky you also get benthic organisms which live at the bottom of the lake/sea. In the case of Lake Erie, all we got is mud. Nothing else. Of course, it raises the question, why? I will leave you with that. 

You may argue that even though there is no visible biology, there are tons of microorganisms potentially living in that mud. Yes, you are right. However, since we are not doing microbiological studies, and I don’t have my microscopes to see what is in there, I can’t see those microorganisms. So it looked boring to me, and I went straight back inside of the ship. Plus, I was tired of bugs that were eating me all over. I swear I think they were “Superbugs”, resistant to bug spray. I put bug spray all over me including my clothes, and they still bit me! Who knows, they might be mutated by all the industrial chemicals around Lake Erie, and compared to the chemical composition of bug spray, they were like “Is that all you got, Oktay!” 

a white wall of the ship covered in small dark specks (bugs)
Swarm of bugs all over the ship

Sitting at a desk in the survey room, there was a call asking “Is the Teacher at Sea around? Could you please tell him to come down to the deck? We found an interesting bottom sample we think he should see ”. The officer responded, “Yes he is here and coming over”. I rushed to the deck and checked out what it was. The sample they took consists completely of mussels. Immediately, I took several pictures of them and wondered about what kinds of species they were. Then, it clicked! I can use my “Seek app” to identify them and put them into the “iNatural” database. Now, here is the good part. I learned about these two apps from naturalists and scientists who studied biodiversity in Acadia National Park, Maine last summer when I was an Earthwatch teacher fellow. You may know that the Gulf of Maine is one of the fastest warming bodies of water in the world and scientists are studying the effects of climate change in this place.  I guess there is homework for you in there. Read about how climate change affects biodiversity in Acadia National Park and the Gulf of Maine, and what it means to the rest of the U.S. and the world. 

Anyway, I took my phone and identified the species by using the Seek app. They were all zebra mussels. Then, I added my observation into the iNatural database. Since there were millions of bugs there, I decided why not identify these creatures as well!  I found out that almost all of them are Giant Mayflies. Quite a few of them belong to the Genus called Chironomus, but the Seek app could not identify its species name. Of course, I put those observations into the iNaturalist database, too. At the end, I had a sense of relief because at least I knew what they were. By the way, zebra mussels are an invasive species and based on my research it was first seen back in the 90s in Lake Erie. Zebra mussels are filtering Lake Erie for sure, which is a good thing, but I wonder what environmental changes it created here since they are an invasive species.

Shortly after I logged my observations in iNaturalist, there was an email starting with a title  “A new update in the last 24 hours from iNaturalist”. Usually I receive any emails relating to activity in my iNaturalist – whether somebody comments on what I posted or giving species identification, etc. I opened up my email and it said that “Lower Lake Erie Region CSI” curators added some of your observations.” That means, the observations I made ended up in their project as well. The aim of the Lower Lake Erie Region Citizen Science Initiative is to identify the various species living (biodiversity) in the southern Lake Erie region. Having a feeling of contributing something to science made me feel accomplished against these voracious bugs! At least for now. 

Why am I talking about all of this! I wanted to make sure you know that if I hadn’t participated in the study back in Maine, I wouldn’t have known about these apps, and I wouldn’t have made my observations while doing something else on the ship that could help some other scientists! 

I guess this experience also made me realize how important it is to have been exposed to different environments and learning different things as a human being. You never know when, where, and how you will use what you know. I strongly believe that the more you know and experience different things, the more you make informed decisions. In other words, when you are at a point where you need to make a choice (life is all about choices), your decision would be closer to the truth than someone who has not experienced what you experienced. 

Hahaha! Sorry for my philosophical thoughts. These are the emotions I have while typing this blog post, while comfortably sitting on my table in my “office” (remember it is located in the mess deck where food is eaten), with a cup of hot bergamot oil flavored early gray black tea on my right side. 

You may ask the same question as some of my colleagues ask me. What on earth are you doing on a research vessel for twelve days, learning all these sciences, technologies, skills, and tools that you may never use in your classroom or teaching career? Or I was once asked, why are you spending your summer with these programs? Why don’t you enjoy your much needed summer break? They may even say, why are you thinking about school work? I am not sure what they mean about “school work”? Clearly, there is a different interpretation of school work among educators. 

My answer is always this – “I love to learn, and I love to experience new things.” For me, learning is everywhere at any time. Whether it is in school, home, holidays, summer breaks… it doesn’t matter. If a learning opportunity comes up, I get excited and try to experience it – that’s it. When you have that mindset, it doesn’t matter whether you are teaching in school, playing at home with your kids, or sailing on a ship exploring the water!

As a concluding remark, I suggest you do the same thing. No matter what profession you have, always be curious, be a life-long learner, and be out of your comfort zone. 

Hope to see you in my next post. 

Did you know?

  • Lake Erie is the warmest of all of the Great Lakes (southernmost positioned of all the other lakes), but it also freezes over more than other lakes (because it is the shallowest of all). 
  • The water in Lake Erie was so polluted that it created “dead zones” due to algae blooms by the 1960s, and in 1969, the Cuyahoga River, which flows through Cleveland, Ohio, caught fire.

Oktay Ince: Happy Summer Solstice Day and World Hydrography Day! June 21, 2022

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Oktay Ince

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

June 20- July 1, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Latitude: 41° 31′ 52 N

Longitude: 82° 12′ 00 W

Altitude: 138 m

Weather Data from Bridge

Wind Speed: 21 kts

Surface Water Temperature: 22 °C

Air Temperature (Dry Bulb Temperature): 23.5 °C

Wet Bulb Temperature: 22.9 °C

Relative Humidity: 55 %

Barometric Pressure: 25.5 in

Science and Technology Log

Learning is in full swing on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Previously, I talked about the multibeam sonar that the ship uses to map the bottom of Lake Erie. I also talked about how this technology related to other real-world applications. I hope I inspired you there. 

Now, I am going to talk about another technology that Thomas Jefferson uses- side scan sonar. The technology basically detects and creates images of objects on the lake/ocean floor. The ship concurrently uses both technologies. Side scan sonar technology takes images of the bottom of Lake Erie and multibeam sonar records the depth;  the seafloor/lakebed data is also known as bathymetry. For instance, if there is a big obstacle or a shipwreck in Lake Erie, side scan sonar would show an image.  Then, multibeam sonar  would be used to get the  depth of the obstacle. 

How does side scan sonar work differently than multibeam sonar?

If you remember from my previous post, multibeam sonar sends sound waves down towards the lake bottom. Side scan sonar also sends out sound waves, but from both sides of its transducer, sweeping the seafloor like a fan-shaped beam of a flashlight. So, the data needs to be composed of both the image and depth which allows a more comprehensive map of the seafloor. 

A third technology used with the multibeam and side scan sonars is called “moving vessel profiler (MVP)”. The MVP is similar to a conductivity, temperature, depth (CTD) cast as it collects electrical conductivity, temperature, and pressure (to get depth) of water. The benefit of the MVP is that the ship can continue moving and receive sound speed information, rather than coming to a complete stop to deploy a CTD. This improves efficiency, allowing the ship to collect more data. 

The MVP is a metal structure that looks like a big fish- also known as a towfish-  located at the tail of the ship. As the ship moves, the instrument trails behind it, about a meter below the water’s surface. Sensors to collect sound speed information are located inside the towfish. When the MVP is deployed, the towfish free falls to the lake/sea bottom, before being automatically brought to the surface by the ship’s winch.  Then, the ship receives a profile of the water column’s salinity and temperature, and can apply the sound speed measurements to the multibeam data. This information is critical for ensuring acquired depth measurements are in the proper location on the lakebed/seafloor. For the sake of Thomas Jefferson’s mission, CTD data is enough to process multibeam. However, other research vessels could have additional sensors within the MVP including some that measure chemical and biological parameters such as dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll fluorescence, etc. 

The MVP Training; Deployment of Towfish

  • Oktay, in a hard hat and life vest and Teacher at Sea shirt, poses for a photo on deck as other crewmembers stand around in the background
  • Oktay and other crewmembers stand around on deck
  • Oktay, wearing hard hat and life vest, stands at a control panel; other crewmembers look on
  • Oktay, wearing hard hat and life vest, operates a lever on a control panel on the back deck of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
  • Oktay, wearing hard hat and life vest, speaks into a radio

Let’s elaborate a few science concepts here. Conductivity is a measure of water’s capability to pass electrical flow. It does that based on how many ions are in the water. Therefore, the more ions present, the higher the conductivity of water. Ions are mainly coming from dissolved salts and inorganic materials such as alkalis, chlorides, sulfides, and carbonate compounds. These ions (positive/negative charges) in the water create electric current, so it conducts electricity. 

Using the concept of electrical properties of dissolved salts, scientists measure the electrical conductivity of water so that they know the amount of salt present in the water (salinity). As you would expect, Lake Erie is freshwater so salinity is essentially zero. 

Conductivity is one of the most useful and commonly measured water quality parameters. Knowing changes of dissolved solids in the water is an indicator of change in a water system. Different life forms adapted to different salt concentrations in the water. Even a slight change to this parameter could have a disastrous effect on life forms in water which creates a cascade of effects in other systems. 

Personal Log

It was my second day on ship, and also the summer solstice. Today, sunrise was at 5:55 am and sunset was at 9:07 pm. It was the longest day for Lake Erie, indeed! It was also World Hydrography Day, yay! I am honored and humbled to be a part of Thomas Jefferson’s crew and to be the first Teacher at Sea on Great Lakes, especially on the longest day of the year and on World Hydrography Day in Lake Erie!

After eating my breakfast, I headed to MVP training. It sounded complicated but once I was on it, it was easy to navigate the instrument at sea. Then, I was called for my first boat ride. The ship has several “small” boats to assist in data collection, and they are beneficial for transiting and collecting bathymetry in more shallow places on the water. We had three people on the boat, doing side scan data collection closer to the shorelines. We also did several CTD casts, for nearshore sound speed profiles! On the ship the MVP can collect CTD data more frequently, whereas on the boat, we had to manually put it in the water every 4 hours. The boat was amazing, and I felt like I was on a private vacation boat! However, in this case, I was not only having fun, but also doing citizen science. I learned so much about the side scan, why it is used, and how the data helps the overall mission of Thomas Jefferson

Deployment of our launch vessel
Recovery of our launch vessel

In this personal blog, instead of just including all the cool things I have done on the ship, I want to share some of my opinions about what I feel about my experience so far. 

I would say about one-third of the crew on the ship are women  in their twenties and thirties. Many of them are NOAA Corps officers and survey technicians/scientists. What an inspiring environment for women in STEM! They are involved in everything from navigating the ship to collecting data, from driving the boat to doing hands-on activities. I strongly believe that our female crew members are such an inspiration for future generations who will make things better!

Another feeling I have is how people are passionate about what they do. For example, I never thought a Commanding Officer (CO) and Executive Officer (XO) would be so friendly and approachable . I’m glad Thomas Jefferson has a great executive team. I’ve been having great conversations during lunch or any place I go on the ship. In one of our lovely conversations, both CO and XO strongly encouraged me to bring my students to visit the ship to give a tour. I said “This is exactly what I am here for!” I want to bring back my experiences to my school and community, and I can’t wait to bring them to the ship! They will absolutely love it. 

In my last note, I should say that people who choose their careers based on their passion, are the ones who are successful, and also constantly inspire others to follow their footsteps. I have seen this in many professions across different fields. It is especially obvious when you have a public service job like educators, officers, doctors… You always have to do more than what your job asks you to do. If this is not something you are passionate about then the job becomes torture rather than enjoying. 

Here, on Thomas Jefferson, seeing these men and women on a research vessel, working tirelessly around the clock, collecting data, once again proved to me that you have to be passionate about what you do. 

Anyway, I think it is enough for me to stop talking about what I feel. But, you should know this – always follow your passion. That’s when you will find your real purpose in life. 

Do you know?

  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known as the NOAA Corps, is one of the eight federal uniformed services of the United States. Those officers are made up of scientifically and technically trained officers. It is one of two U.S. uniformed services (the other being the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps) that consists only of commissioned officers, with no enlisted or warrant officer ranks. 
  • To become a NOAA Corps officer, applicants must hold a baccalaureate degree, preferably in a major course of study related to NOAA’s scientific or technical activities. When selected for appointment, officer candidates must satisfactorily pass a mental and physical examination. For more information check out NOAA Corps eligibility requirements here.

Laura Grimm: Happy World Hydrography Day! June 21, 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: June 21, 2022

Current Location: Dalton, Ohio

Latitude: 40ᵒ 47’57” N
Longitude: 81ᵒ 41’49”” W
Elevation: 1102 ft.

Weather in Dalton, Ohio – Finally Summer!  Hot, humid, and a chance of afternoon thundershowers.

Personal Log

Did you know that every year on June 21 people across the world celebrate World Hydrography Day?  So just what is hydrography and why am I excited about it?

Greetings from Dalton, Ohio!  My name is Laura Grimm, and I am the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) teacher for all the wonderful, enthusiastic students in kindergarten through 8th grade at Dalton Local Elementary and Middle School. Dalton is a rural village in Wayne County in Northeast Ohio.  Our school district is small (less than 900 students), yet mighty!  We serve the Dalton and Kidron communities and are fiercely proud of our students. Bulldog Pride district wide! 

I have always “yearned to learn”. So, in the fall 2019, I applied to be a Teacher at Sea (TAS) with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA has been sending teachers to sea for 30 years! 

Why does NOAA send teachers to sea?

I was accepted to be a TAS and was assigned to a fisheries expedition in the Gulf of Maine in April 2020.  Do we all remember what happened in the spring of 2020?  Yes, COVID caused this plan to be postponed . . . twice.  I was very disappointed, yet I remained optimistic for the future.

In late April this year, I got the news that I would be sailing on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson to help scientists do a hydrographic survey of Lake Erie! 

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson with the Statue of Liberty in the background
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

Go to this link if you would like to learn more about NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.

I will be helping scientists (hydrographers) map the floor of Lake Erie in the vicinity of Cleveland, South Bass Island and Presque Isle, PA.  The survey will identify hazards and changes to the lake floor and provide data for updating NOAA’s nautical charts to make it safe for maritime travel.  

Watch this video to learn more about the science of hydrography.

I grew up only 20 miles from the Port of Cleveland.  As a child, my family spent a week each summer on Middle Bass Island where I learned to swim and fish for walleye and perch.  My daughter and I vacationed on Kelleys Island for many summers.  I even took an oceanography class on Gibraltar Island.  These islands are in Lake Erie and are close to South Bass Island which will be included in this summer’s hydrographic survey.  I am very excited to learn more about the Lake of my childhood. 

While I am “at sea” – actually, on the lake – I will post 2 to 4 blogs per week.  My blogs will include information about the science and technology I am learning and what it is like to live on a NOAA research vessel.  I will pose questions, define new terms, and give you things to think about.  I encourage you to communicate with me via email (lgrimm@daltonlocal.org).  I will be very busy on the ship and the internet may be spotty, so be patient with me; I will try my best to post answers to your questions on my next blog.

I couldn’t be more excited!  I have so much to learn.  It looks like I will be more of a student this summer than a teacher! Connecting children with nature, promoting STEAM education, and being a lifelong learner are three of my life goals.  This research opportunity will check all three boxes.  I am more than ready to board NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson!  May the learning begin!

P.S. Happy World Hydrography Day!

Linda Kurtz: Women in STEM-(at sea): Meet Bekah Gossett, August 22, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Linda Kurtz

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 12-23, 2019


Mission: Cascadia Mapping Project

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northwest Pacific

Date: 8/22/2019

HSST Beka Gossett
HSST Bekah Gossett

HSST Rebekah Gossett

  1. When you were a child, what was your dream career?

As a child, I always wanted to draw. I was drawing constantly and I wanted to somehow make my love for creating art into a career, whether that meant being a studio artist myself or helping to teach others to make art.

2. What was your favorite (and least favorite) subject in school?

Believe it or not, science! I grew to really enjoy my science classes starting in middle school and through high school, especially participating in the science fairs. My love for science was inversely related to my love for math. I started to dread all my mathematics courses as I went through high school, and really up into my earlier college years which often made my science courses difficult. During my junior year in college I took calculus taught by a great professor and things finally clicked!

3. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to do the work you are doing now?

Sometime in between my junior and senior years in college, I realized I wanted to do what is I’m doing now. That’s when I was introduced to hydrography.

4. What do you enjoy the most (and the least) about your work?

I really enjoy working on the ocean and with small boats. It’s a really dynamic platform. The lifestyle that comes with living on a ship can be difficult. It’s a lot of traveling and spending time away from home.

5. Where do you do most of your work?

Most of my work is done on the ship in the Plot Room. It’s a big room on the ship where most of our processing systems live.

6. What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A computer! Computers are used for data acquisition, processing, and delivery. Everything is done via some sort of processing/work station.

7. What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

I never thought I would be a NOAA Diver. I didn’t even know that NOAA had a dive program. Learning to be a working diver was an awesome experience and opportunity that I don’t think I would have ever had, or even would want to have outside of NOAA.

8. How could teachers help students understand and appreciate NOAA science?

Teachers could help students understand and appreciate NOAA science by sharing some of the awesome work we do that’s applicable to their classroom. NOAA is such a big administration with tons of cool science going on so by picking some interesting topics that are more relatable to their classroom audience might help engage their students.

9. What is your favorite part of your day when you are working and why?

When acquiring data, my favorite part of the day is the end, when the data is transferred and being processed. It’s not because the day’s over, but because I get to see all of the data we’ve collected throughout the day and remember the work that went into it. It’s also the beginning of the next stage of work for that dataset, the quality control stage.

10. What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

It’s hard to say, but I’m not sure I would be doing anything hydrography related. NOAA has been a great learning platform for me to become the hydrographer I am now. NOAA has really taught me to appreciate ocean science.

11. Do you have an outside hobby?

My outside hobby is painting. It can be hard to find space on the ship to paint, but traveling around Alaska and being on the water always inspires me to be more creative.

12. What is your favorite animal?

Picking one is pretty difficult, but I’m really into jellyfish right now. They seem like they have a low-stress lifestyle.

13. If you could go back in time and tell your 10 year old self something, what would it be?

“Relax, being 10 is way cooler than you think.”

14. Have you traveled anywhere interesting travels while studying Geology?

I traveled to Northern India as my field study in college. We were studying the water quality and management stemming from the Ganges River. Also, most of my geology labs in college were trips to the field which often meant the beach. Traveling and being outside is an added bonus while studying geology.

Interested in learning more about Hydrography and NOAA? Check out the resources below:

HYDROGRAPHY CAREERS NOAA 1

HYDROGRAPHY CAREERS NOAA 2

NOAA EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES

SCIENCE ON A SPHERE

OCEAN TODAY-“TRASH TALK”

Meg Stewart: What Does the Seafloor Look Like? Hydrography Can Tell Us, July 11, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meg Stewart

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 8 – 19, 2019


Mission: Cape Newenham Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Bering Sea and Bristol Bay, Alaska

Date: July 11, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 58° 36.7 N
Longitude: 162° 02.5 W
Wind: 1 knot N
Barometer: 1011.0 mb
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Temperature: 58° F or 14° C
Weather: Partly cloudy, no precipitation

Red Sky
“Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.” This old mariner’s adage did NOT prove to be true when I saw this sunrise viewed from NOAA Ship Fairweather at 5:21am yesterday. It turned out to be a perfect delight for a surveying day!


What is NOAA and the Teacher at Sea program?

You may be wondering what, exactly, am I doing going “to sea” with NOAA. First off, NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and originates back to 1807 with Thomas Jefferson founding the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (as the Survey of the Coast) with a mission to provide nautical charts to the maritime community for safe passage into American ports. Over time, the Weather Bureau was added and then the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries was developed. In 1970, these three agencies were combined under one umbrella organization and named NOAA, an agency that supports accuracy and precision of physical and atmospheric sciences, protection of life and property, and stewardship of natural resources. NOAA is within the Department of Commerce.

Meg on flying bridge
I am standing on the flying bridge of the Fairweather where you get a fantastic 360° view.

NOAA’s Teacher at Sea (TAS) program has existed since 1990, sending over 800 teachers on NOAA research cruises. The TAS mission is “to give teachers a clearer insight into our ocean planet, a greater understanding of maritime work and studies, and to increase their level of environmental literacy by fostering an interdisciplinary research experience.”  There is usually just one teacher sent per leg of a mission, that way the TAS gets full exposure to the research process and attention from the crew, scientists and staff on the ship. And it is true, everyone onboard has been friendly, helpful, welcoming, and willing to answer any question I might have, like, where is C deck? (That’s where my stateroom is located).


Science and Technology Log

Now that you understand NOAA’s mission, it should not surprise you that I am on a research cruise that is mapping a part of the seafloor that has not had detailed soundings. “Soundings” means the action or process of measuring the depth of the sea or other body of water. See the map below as that is where I am right now, in Bristol Bay. By the way, NOAA nautical charts are available for free at this NOAA site.

Bristol Bay nautical chart
The NOAA nautical chart of Bristol Bay, Cape Newenham and Hagemeister Strait. Note that where there are small numbers in the white and blue sections of the chart (that is all water), you can see the sounding depths to surface shown in fathoms. The red polygon is drawn on by me. We are working in the upper, northwest part of that “poorly mapped” section. Notice that there are essentially no soundings in that region.

When I’ve told friends, family and students that I was chosen to be on a NOAA research vessel that was compiling a detailed map of the sea floor off of Alaska, it was met with great surprise. “The ocean floor hasn’t been mapped before? How could that be?” In fact, more than 80 percent of the ocean bottom has not been mapped using modern, highly precise technologies.  But we do have a very coarse ocean floor – or bathymetric – map, created in the early 1950s by Marie Tharp using sounding data collected by the U.S. military and her collaborator Bruce Heezen. Tharp’s early map of the sea floor beautifully revealed the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and added another piece of evidence in support of the theories of continental drift plate tectonics. There’s a terrific Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey episode featuring Tharp.

1977 colorized ocean floor map
This is the Tharp and Heezen (1977) colorized ocean floor map. This map is used under the Creative Commons license.

Why we need a more detailed bathymetry map than the one created by Tharp and Heezen can be explained by the original mission of the early version of NOAA. Jefferson wanted to build a “…survey to be taken of the coasts of the United States…” in order to provide safe passage of ships to ports within the navigable waters of the U.S. As the Bristol Bay chart above shows, there are still coastal areas that have limited to no data. Without detailed charts, mariners cannot know where the shallower waters are (called shoals), or rock obstructions, shifted underwater sand bars, shipwrecks, or other hindrances that cause safety concerns to the movement of boats.

The hydrographic Survey Team on the NOAA Ship Fairweather use several 30 foot boats, called launches, with a multibeam echosounder attached to the hull (the bottom of the ship). The multibeam echosounder uses sonar and is a device useful for both shallow and deep water. In a nutshell, depth measurements are collected by calculating the time it takes for each of the sound pulses to travel from the echosounder through the sea water to the ocean floor and back again. The distance from the instrument to the seafloor is calculated by multiplying the travel time by the speed of sound through seawater, which is about 1,500 meters/second or 4,921 feet/second. Right before a hydrographic survey is started, the team collects information on the conductivity, temperature and depth of the sea water, as temperature and salinity will modify the density and change the travel time of the sonar pulses. The video below can explain the process further.

This NOAA video explains multibeam sounding and hydrographic operations.
launch with echosounder
A launch on a lift right before going out to survey. The multibeam echosounder is permanently fixed to the bottom of the hull. It’s a square, rigid box that sits flat against the hull in front of the keel.
Ali in a launch
This is Ali Johnson in the cabin of a launch. She is a hydrographic survey technician and is analyzing the multibeam echosounder data as it is being collected. The length of a launch is 32 feet, and all the technology needed for the hydrographic surveys are directly on boats in the cabin. Post-processing, or stitching the completed surveys into one comprehensive product, is done “back in the office” on Ship Fairweather.

The software used to collect the soundings is created by the multibeam echosounder manufacturer, so the collection of millions of points on a transect is seamless. Data collection runs are taken over multiple days and several “legs” or extended periods of time when the crew are all out at the same time on the Fairweather.  Following collection transects, the data are then post-processed using Caris HIPS and SIPS, which is the software that the Fairweather hydrographers use for data processing.

screen showing bathymetry
A close-up of one of the monitors that shows what the sounding data look like. By looking at these data returns, the hydrographers can tell immediately if something is not right with the equipment. The two windows that show maps colored red to yellow to blue (top right and bottom left) show the bathymetry. The red areas are shallow depths and the blue are deeper depths, relatively speaking. Also notice the window at the bottom right with a triangle and circle within the triangle; that is showing the fan-shape of the echosoundings.


Personal Log

We’ve motored to a new location, Cape Newenham, which is the name of this mission, so we will be here for about a week. When we got underway, the ship got to really rocking and my stomach could not handle it. I had one bad night but I am now fine and ship shape!

Cape Newenham is at latitude 58°N so we are up close to the Arctic Circle (66.5°N). At this time of year, there are about 5 hours of darkness per night here in Alaska, which is really cool. Compare that what we have in New York…

Anchorage v NYC
For July 11, 2019, the number of daylight hours in Anchorage, AK (closest large city to where I am now) is 18 hours and 41 minutes. Times of sunrise and sunset are also given….the sun sets at 11:25pm today! And in NYC, NY (where my school is located), you are getting four fewer daylight hours, or about 15 hours of light. Again, times of sunrise and sunset are shown. Source for both: https://www.timeanddate.com/sun/usa
Launches and Fairweather
Launches waiting to get underway. All boats going out for surveys stay close to the Fairweather until everyone is securely in their boat, just in case of MOB (man overboard).
Fairweather anchored
This is where Ship Fairweather is anchored for the next few days, as the survey crews transect the project area. We are on the southern side of Cape Newenham. Again, the terrain is tree-less, though we are now adjacent the mainland of Alaska. I’ve seen so many types of sea birds, but the puffins are the best because they seem to not have figured out how to fly. I hear there are walrus in the area, but I haven’t spotted one as yet.


Did You Know?

You probably know that Charles Darwin was the naturalist on board the HMS Beagle which set sail on December 27,1831. Over the nearly five years the Beagle was at sea, Darwin developed his ideas on natural selection and evolution of species. But what you might not know is that the captain of the Beagle, Robert FitzRoy, was an officer in the Royal Navy, a meteorologist and hydrographer. In fact, the primary mission of the Beagle was to survey the coastline of South America and, in particular, the Strait of Magellan, at the southernmost tip. Better, more accurate charts were needed by the British government, to navigate the treacherous, rough waters of the channels. In addition, FitzRoy was a protégé of Francis Beaufort (who developed the Wind Force Scale which is still used to help explain wind speed) and both worked together to create the science of weather forecasting.


Quote of the Day

“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.” – Rachel Carson

Meg Stewart: Getting Ready for an Adventure in Alaska

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meg Stewart

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 8 – 19, 2019

Mission: Cape Newenham Hydrographic Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: June 25, 2019

Introduction

I am so excited about my upcoming experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. I will be on the NOAA Ship Fairweather from July 8 to 19 and will be participating on a hydrographic research cruise, one that is mapping the sea-floor in detail; more about that soon. We will embark from and return to Dutch Harbor, Alaska, which is part of the Aleutian Islands. If you are my current or former student, or you are a friend or colleague of mine, or you are an admirer of the Teacher at Sea program, I hope you will follow along on this ocean adventure as I post about my experiences while at sea.

Meg on catamaran
This is me on a catamaran off the coast of Barbados.

A little about me

I am originally from California. I went to the beach often to body surf and splash around, maybe sunbathe (I don’t do THAT anymore).   It was in California where I got interested in geology. I was pretty young when I experienced the 1971 San Fernando 6.5M earthquake and after that, earthquakes were a regular occurrence for me. When I moved to Hayward, California, in early 1989 to complete my bachelor’s degree in geology at California State University East Bay, I was living off-campus and had the “pleasure” of rocking and rolling through one of the longest earthquakes I every felt when the 6.9M Loma Prieta earthquake hit.  I moved on from there to the desert of Las Vegas, Nevada, to earn my Master’s in Structural Geology at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I didn’t feel any earthquakes in Nevada, but I did do my research on an active fault in southwestern Utah. I like to think of myself as a “boots-on-the-ground” kind of scientist-educator.

Meg teaching
Teaching graduate students about digital mapping.

My work and life experiences are such that for five years after grad school, I was a staff geologist at a large environmental consulting company. I loved that job and it took me all around the U.S.  One of the assignments I had was to manage a mapping project involving data from New York and New Jersey harbor area. From that experience I became interested in digital mapping (known as Geographic Information Systems or GIS) and switched careers. I went to work at a small liberal arts college as the GIS support person within the instructional technology group. In addition to helping teach professors and college students how to work with the GIS software, I helped teach about use of social media in teaching, use a mobile devices for data collection, integrating alternative assessments like using of audio and video, and I maintained two computer labs. While I was involved in those two different careers, I gained some adjunct teaching experiences at several different colleges and grad schools, teaching geology, environmental science and GIS.

Meg at University of the West Indies
At the University of the West Indies, Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies

Another professional experience that I’ve had that I am most proud of is I was a Fulbright Scholar in 2009-2010 to Barbados. My family and I lived in Barbados for a year while I was worked with the University of the West Indies, Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) I taught GIS to graduate students, I worked with some of the students on research projects, I traveled to Belize as a field assistant on a field studies trip with faculty members and CERMES students, and I had the privilege of working on a marine-based, community-driven mapping research project with a then PhD student (who has since earned her degree). My part of the project was to take the spatial data, organize it and create a user-friendly Google Earth KML file. She and I got to travel around St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, teaching community members about the work, the available data, and how to access the Google Earth project file. 

New York state fossil
Behind the scenes at the American Museum of Natural History, checking out the official state fossil of New York, Eurypterus Remipes.

In 2015, I re-tooled yet again and was accepted into a challenging yet rewarding education program at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. In 15 months, I learned how to teach with artifacts, took graduate courses in all manner or earth and space subjects, of course, had classes in pedagogical approaches, had two in-residence teaching experiences at area schools, all the while in the amazing AMNH, home of Night at the Museum. 

Meg and students at AMNH
These are two of my ninth graders checking out a piece of kimberlite with a diamond sticking out. We’re at AMNH in the Hall of Planet Earth.

Now as a public high school educator, teaching Earth Science to 9-12 graders in the Bronx, I have a strong foundation in the solid earth topics like plate tectonics, rocks and minerals, and geologic time. But Regents Earth Science class in New York also involves oceanography, meteorology, climate science and astronomy. 

Meg snorkeling
Yes, this is me, actually in the sea at Salt Whistle Bay, Mayreau Island in the Grenadines.

What compelled me to apply for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program is what motivates me throughout my other life decisions: I wanted to push against my boundaries and my limitations. I have always had a healthy respect for the sea, which was mixed in with a little fear. I saw the movie Jaws when I was young and impressionable, so I never really wanted to venture too far into the water beyond the waves. I didn’t even want to swim in lakes for fear of what might be traversing through the murky unknown. As I’ve aged, I’ve certainly grown less fearful of the water. I’ve traveled on sailboats and catamarans, I’ve snorkeled in the Caribbean, I’ve jumped into waters with nurse sharks and stingrays! But as a teacher who feels like she’s missing some key knowledge of her curriculum – oceanography – I want to challenge myself to learn-while-doing as I have the privilege of being selected to be a Teacher at Sea. I cannot wait!

Lona Hall: Meeting, Greeting, and Settling In, June 3, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lona Hall

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 3 – 14, 2019

 

Mission: Kodiak Island Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Kodiak Island, Alaska

Date: June 3, 2019

Local Time: 1100 hours

Location: Alongside, JAG Shipyard, Seward, AK

Weather from the Bridge:

Latitude: 60°05.1022’ N
Longitude: 149°21.2954’ W
Wind Speed: 5 knots
Wind Direction: E/SE (114 degrees)
Air Temperature: 12.12° Celsius

Lona Hall on NOAA Ship Rainier
Enjoying the fresh air

Science and Technology Log

While at port in Seward, it has already been my pleasure to meet some of the people that make up the team of NOAA Ship Rainier.  My mission so far has been to learn about the different capacities in which individuals serve on board the ship and how each person’s distinct responsibilities combine together to create a single, well-oiled machine.  

The five main departments represented are the NOAA Commissioned Officers Corps, the Hydrographic Survey Technician team, the Engineering team, the Deck department, and the Stewards.  There are also a few visitors (like me) who are here to observe, ask questions, and participate in daily operations, as possible.

Career Focus – Hydrographic Survey Technician

Today I spent some time with Survey Technician, Amanda Finn.  Amanda is one of nine Survey Techs aboard NOAA Ship Rainier.

Amanda Finn, Hydrographic Survey Technician
Amanda Finn, Hydrographic Survey Technician

What is hydrography?

According to the NOAA website, hydrography is the “science that measures and describes the physical features of the navigable portion of the Earth’s surface and adjoining coastal areas.” Essentially, hydrographers create and improve maps of the ocean floor, both deep at sea and along the shoreline.  The maps, or charts, allow for safer navigation and travel at sea and are therefore very important.

(Click here to see the chart for Resurrection Bay, where the ship is currently docked.)

 

What does a Hydrographic Survey Technician do?

Technicians like Amanda are in charge of preparing systems for collecting hydrographic data, actually collecting and processing the data, monitoring it for quality, and then writing reports about their findings.  They work part of the time on the ship as well as on the smaller launch boats.

 

What kind of data do Survey Techs use?

Both the main ship and the small launches are equipped with multibeam sonar systems.  SONAR is an acronym for Sound Navigation and Ranging. This fascinating technology uses sound waves to “see” whatever exists below the water.  Instead of sending out one sound wave at a time, the multibeam sonar sends out a fan-shaped collection, or swath, of sound waves below and to the sides of the boat’s hull. When the sound waves hit something solid, like a rock, a sunken ship, or simply the sea floor, they bounce back.  The speed and strength at which the sound waves return tell the technicians the depth and hardness of what lies beneath the ocean surface at a given location.

small vessel in the water
Small launch for near shore survey

Personal Log

It is possible to be overwhelmed in a good way.  That has been my experience so far traveling from my home in Georgia to Alaska.  The ship is currently docked at the Seward shipyard in Resurrection Bay. When you hear the word “shipyard”, you might not expect much in the way of scenery, but in this case you would be absolutely wrong!  All around us we can see the bright white peaks of the Kenai Mountains. Yesterday I stood in one place for a while watching a sea otter to my left and a bald eagle to my right. Local fishermen were not as enchanted as I was, but rather were focused on the task at hand: pulling in their bounties of enormous fish!

View near Seward shipyard
Out for a walk near the shipyard

I am similarly impressed with the order and organization aboard the ship. With over fifty people who need to sleep, eat, and get things done each and every day, it might seem like an impossible task to organize it all.  By regular coordination between the departments, as well as the oversight and planning of the ship’s Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, everything flows smoothly.

I think that it is worth noting here how the level of organization that it takes to run a ship like NOAA Ship Rainier should not be taken for granted.  Every individual must do their part in order to ensure the productivity, efficiency, and safety of everyone else.  As a teacher, we often discuss how teamwork is one of life’s most important skills. What a terrific real-world example this has turned out to be!

NOAA Ship Rainier
NOAA Ship Rainier

Did you know?

Seward is located on the Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska.  The name Kenai (key-nye) comes from the English word (Kenaitze) for the Kahtnuht’ana Dena’ina tribe.  The name of this tribe translates to “people along the Kahtnu river.” Click here for more information about the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.

Word of the Day

fathom: a unit of length equal to 6 feet, commonly used to measure the depth of water

Tom Savage: Surveying the Coastline of Point Hope, Alaska, August 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Tom Savage

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 6 – 23, 2018

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, northwest Alaska

Date: August 12, 2018

Weather data from the Bridge

Wind speed 8 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Barometer: 1010.5 mB
Temp:  8.5 C     47 F
Dry bulb 8   Wet bulb 6.5
Cloud Height: 5,000 ft
Type: Alto Stratus
Sea Height 2 feet

Science and Technology

Why is NOAA taking on this challenging task of mapping the ocean floor?  As mentioned in an earlier blog, the ocean temperatures worldwide are warming and thus the ice in the polar regions are melting. As the ice melts, it provides mariners with an option to sail north of Canada, avoiding the Panama Canal. The following sequence of maps illustrates a historical perspective of receding ice sheet off the coast of Alaska since August 1857.  The red reference point on the map indicates the Point Hope region of Alaska we are mapping.

This data was compiled by NOAA using 10 different sources. For further information as how this data was compiled visit https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/mar14/alaska-sea-ice.html. 

The light grey indicates  0-30% Open Water – Very Open Drift.  The medium grey indicates 30 – 90 % Open drift – Close Pack.  The black indicates 90 – 100% very close compact.

Sea Ice Concentration August 1857
Sea Ice Concentration August 1857

Ice Concentration August 1957
Ice Concentration August 1957

Sea Ice Concentration August 2016
Sea Ice Concentration August 2016

Ships that sail this region today rely on their own ships sonar for navigating around nautical hazards and this may not be as reliable especially if the ships sonar is not properly working (it’s also problematic because it only tells you how deep it is at the ship’s current location – a sonar won’t tell you if an uncharted hazard is just in front of the ship). Prior to mapping the ocean floor in any coastal region, it requires a year of planning in identifying the exact corridors to be mapped. Hydrographers plot areas to be mapped using reference polygons overlaid on existing nautical charts.  Nautical charts present a wealth of existing information such as ocean depth, measured in fathoms(one fathom is equal to six feet) and other known navigation hazards.

As mariners sail closer to the shorelines, the depth of the ocean becomes increasingly important.  Because of this uncertainty in the depth, the Fairweather herself cannot safely navigate safely (or survey) close to shore.  In order to capture this data, small boats called “launches” are used. There are a total of four launch boats that are housed on the boat deck of the Fairweather. Each boat can collect data for up to twelve hours with a crew of 2-5. Depending on the complexity of the area, each daily assignment will be adjusted to reasonably reflect what can be accomplished in one day by a single launch. Weather is a huge factor in the team’s ability to safely collect data. Prior to deployment, a mission and safety briefing is presented on the stern of the ship by the Operations Officer. During this time, each boat coxswain generates and reports back to the operations officer their GAR score (safety rating) based on weather, crew skills and mission complexity (GAR stands for Green-Amber-Red … green means low risk, so go ahead, amber means medium risk, proceed with caution; red means high risk, stop what you’re doing).  In addition, a mission briefing is discussed outlining the exact area in which data will be collected and identified goals.

 

Safety Briefing
Safety Briefing by LT Manda – photo by Tom Savage

 

Deploying a launch boat
Deploying a launch boat – photo by Tom Savage

The sonar equipment that transmits from the launch boats is called EM2040 multi beam sonar. A multi beam sonar is a device that transmits sound waves to determine the depth of the ocean. It is bolted to the hull that runs parallel to the boat, yet emits sound perpendicular to the orientation of the sonar. In the beginning of the season, hydrographers perform a patch test where they measure the offsets from the sonar to the boat’s GPS antenna, as well as calculating any angular misalignments in pitch, roll or yaw. These measurements are then entered in to software that automatically corrects for these offsets.

deploying CTD
TAS Tom Savage deploying the conductivity, temperature and density probe ~ photo by Megan Shapiro

The first measurement to collect is the ocean’s conductivity, temperature and depth. From this information, the scientists can determine the depths in which the density of the water changes. This data is used to calculate and correct for the change in speed of sound in a given water column and thus provide clean data. The boats travel in pre-defined set lines within a defined polygon showing the identified corridor to be collected. Just like mowing a lawn, the boat will travel back and forth traveling along these lines. The pilot of the boat called the Coxswain, uses a computer aided mapping in which they can see these set lines in real time while the boat moves. This is an extremely valuable piece of information while driving the boat especially when the seas are rough.

Coxswain
Coxswain Zucker – photo by Tom Savage

The coxswain will navigate the boat to the position where data collection will begin inside a defined polygon. Since the multibeam echosounder transmits sound waves to travel through a deep column of water, the area covered by the beam is wide and takes longer to collect. In such stretches of water, the boat is crawling forward to get the desired amount of pings from the bottom needed to produce quality hydrographic data. The reverse is true when the boat is traveling in shallow water. The beam is very narrow, and the boat is able to move at a relatively fast pace. The boat is constantly rolling and pitching as it travels along the area.

 

 

 

 

Hydrographer Megan analyzing the data
Hydrographer Megan analyzing the data

As the boat is moving and collecting data, the hydrographer checks the course and quality of the data in real time. The depth and soundings comes back in different colors indicating depth. There is at least four different software programs all talking to one another at the same time. If at any point one component stops working, the boat is stopped and the problem is corrected.  The technology driving this collection effort is truly state of the art and it all has to operate correctly, not an easy feat. Every day is different and provides different challenges making this line of work interesting.  Troubleshooting problems and the ability to work as a team is crucial for mission success!

 

Personal Log

I have found the work on the Fairweather to be extremely interesting. The crew onboard has been exceptional in offering their insights and knowledge regarding everything from ship operations to their responsibilities.  Today’s blog marks my first week aboard and everyday something new and different is occurring. I look forward in developing new lesson plans and activities for my elementary outreach program. Prior to arriving, I was expecting the weather to be mostly overcast and rainy most of the time. However, this has not been the case. Clear blue skies has prevailed most days; in fact I have seen more sun while on the Fairweather than back home in Hendersonville in the entire month of July!  For my earth science students, can you make a hypothesis as to why clear skies has prevailed here? Hint, what are the five lifting mechanisms that generate instability in the atmosphere and which one(s) are dominant in this region of Alaska?

Question of the day.  Can you calculate the relative humidity based on the dry and wet bulb readings above?      Data table below……    Answer in the next blog

What is the relative humidity?
What is the relative humidity?

 

Until next time, happy sailing !

Tom

Eric Koser: Concluding Matters, July 17, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22-July 9, 2018

Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK

Geographic Area: Southeast Alaska

Date: July 17, 2018: 900 HRS

 

Weather Data From the Front Porch
Lat: 44°9.48’          Long: 94°1.02’
Skies: Clear
Wind 6 knots, 50°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: no seas!
Water temp: no precip to measure
Air Temp: 22°C Dry Bulb

 

Science and Technology Log

Hydrography matters. It allows mariners to travel safely. It allows many of the goods that arrive here in Minnesota to get here! Containers of goods arrive in Minnesota by truck and train from both coasts as well as the great lakes and by barge on the Mississippi river. Right here in Mankato, we often see shipping containers on trucks and trains. But I wonder if many people stop to consider what it takes to assure that the goods they desire arrive safely.

 

These trains carry containers that likely come from one of the coasts on a ship. The containers often transfer to semi trucks to go to their final destinations.

Intermodal Truck
Shipping containers like this one are very common on Minnesota roadways and railways!

In Minnesota, it’s very common to see containers on trucks. The more I am aware, the more often I realize there are shipping containers all around. I wonder how many people stop to consider that trip that some of the containers here on trucks have taken. I would guess that many of them have traveled on the ocean and many across international waters.

 

 

 

Intermodal Truck
Many carriers distribute merchandise via the intermodal system.

 

Seafood matters. People enjoy Alaskan fish, even here in the Midwest. Fishing boats are successful in part due to safe navigation made possible by current charts. The ledges and shoals identified by the hydro scientists on Rainier keep mariners safe, and ultimately support the commerce that many enjoy around the world.

Salmon isn't native to Minnesota!
This looks like a tasty ocean treat!

Navigation matters in many areas! All mariners in the US have free access to the latest navigational charts for inland and coastal waterways, thanks to the work of NOAA’s hydrographers aboard ships like Rainier. The updates we made in Alaska that are most pertinent to safety will be posted in a matter of weeks as “Notice to Mariners.” Here is an example. The general chart updates made by the team will be in the online charts within a year.

——-

It’s been both exciting and rewarding to be a part of this work. I’ve developed a good understanding of the techniques and tools used in basic ocean hydrography. There are so many great applications of physics – and I’m excited to share with my students.

One of the key take-aways for me is the constant example of team work on the ship. Most everywhere I went, I witnessed people working together to support the mission. In the engineering department, for example, Ray, Sara, Tyler, and Mike have to communicate closely to keep the ship’s systems up and running. More often than not, they work in a loud environment where they can’t speak easily to each other. Yet they seem to know what each other needs – and have ways to signal each other what to do.

On the bridge, one way the teamwork is evident in the language used. There is a clearly established set of norms for how to control the ship. The conn gives commands. The helm repeats them back. The helm reports back when the command is completed. The conn then affirms this verbally. And after a while, it all seems pretty automatic. But this team work is really at the heart of getting the ship’s mission accomplished automatically.

Hydro Team
Here the hydrographers work together with the cox’n to assure our launch captures the needed data.

The hydrographers aboard Rainer sure have to work together. They work in teams of three to collect data on the launches – and then bring that back to the ship to process. They need to understand each other’s notes and references to make accurate and complete charts from their observations. And when the charts are sent on to NOAA’s offices, they need to be clear. When running multibeam scanning, the hydrographer and the cox’n (boat driver) have to work very closely together to assure the launch travels in the right path to collect the needed data.

Even the stewards must be a team. They need to prepare meals and manage a kitchen for 44 people. And they do this for 17 days straight—no one wants to miss a meal! The planning that happens behind the scenes to keep everyone well fed is not a small task.

Ocean Sunset
Sunset on the ocean is an occasion in itself! Its easy to be captivated by such beauty at sea!

I look forward to sharing lots about my experiences. I have been asked to speak at a regional library to share my story and photos. I also will present at our state conference on science education this fall. And surely, my students will see many connections to the oceans!  Kids need to understand the interconnectedness of our vast planet!

Finally, I’m very appreciative of NOAA both for the work that they do and for the opportunities they provide teachers like myself to be involved!

Teacher at Sea
This Teacher at Sea has had a great experience!

 

Meredith Salmon: Xtreme XBTs, July 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Geographic Area:  Atlantic Ocean, south of Bermuda

Date: July 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge – July 14, 2018

Latitude: 28.58°N

Longitude: 65.48°W

Air Temperature: 27.4°C

Wind Speed:  13.96 knots

Conditions: Rain and clouds

Depth: 5183 meters

 

Science and Technology Log

Temperature and salinity are two main variables when determining the density of water. The density of water or any acoustic medium is a very important factor in determining the speed of sound in water. Therefore, temperature data collected by Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) probes, as well as historical salinity profiles from the World Ocean Atlas, are used to create sound velocity profiles to use to correct for sound speed changes in the water column.

Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) probes are devices that are used to measure water temperature as a function of depth. Small copper wires transmit the temperature data back to the ship where it is recorded and analyzed. At first, I was surprised to learn that temperature data is such an important component of multibeam mapping operations; however, I learned that scientists need to know how fast the sound waves emitted from the sonar unit travel through seawater. Since these probes are designed to fall at a determined rate, the depth of the probe can be inferred from the time it was launched. By plotting temperature as a function of depth, the scientists can get a picture of the temperature profile of the water.

On our expedition, we have been deploying XBTs on a schedule as the ship is making its way to the survey area. The XBT Launcher is connected to a deck box, which translates information to computer systems onboard so the data can be logged when the probes are deployed into the water. Aboard the Okeanos Explorer, up to 8 tubes can be loaded at one time and launched by scientists.

XBT closet in the Dry Lab
XBT closet in the Dry Lab

 

XBT Launcher
XBT Launcher on the Okeanos

xbt 2
Loading the XBT Launcher

 

 

xbt 1
Savannah and I after a successful XBT load

 

XBT Data
XBT Data from a launch aboard the Okeanos Explorer. The colors on the graph indicate the XBT number and the data is plotted on a temperature and depth scale.

 

 In addition to launching XBTs and collecting data, we completed a Daily Product so that we can communicate the data we have collected to anyone on shore. The Daily Products are completed not only to ensure that the hydrographic software systems are working correctly but to also inform the public our current location, where we have collected data, and if we are meeting the objectives of the mission. Once onshore, NOAA uses this information to analyze the quality of the data and use it for analysis for dive planning. In order to generate the Daily Field Products, we use hydrographic computer systems such as QPS Qimera for advanced multibeam bathymetry processing, Fledermaus for 4D geo-spatial processing, and Geocap Seafloor for digital terrain modeling. In addition, the Daily Field Products allow us to double check the quality of the data and search for any noise interferences due to the speed of the ship or the type of seafloor bottom (hard vs soft).

 

Personal Log

One of the coolest parts of learning aboard the Okeanos Explorer is the fact that I am a part of scientific exploration and discovery in real time.  Known as “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration,” the Okeanos Explorer is the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to systematically explore our largely unknown ocean for the sole purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. This is the first U.S.-led mapping effort in support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation and all of this information is going to be available for public use. Not only do I get the opportunity to be involved with “real-time” research, but I am also responsible for communicating this information to a variety of different parties on shore.

Being immersed in the “hands-on” science, learning from the survey techs and watch leads, and observing all of the work that is being done to collect, process, and analyze the data is a really exciting experience. I am definitely out of my element when it comes to the content since I do not have any prior experience with seafloor mapping, sonars, etc., but I am really enjoying playing the role as the “student” in this situation. There is definitely a lot to learn and I am trying to soak it all in!

 

Did You Know?

XBTs contain approximately 1,500 meters of copper wire that is as thin as a strand of hair!

 

Resources: 

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/goos/xbtscience/news.php

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/xbt.html

Taylor Planz: Safety First!, July 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Taylor Planz
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 9 – 20, 2018

 Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey
Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, Alaska and vicinity
Date: July 15, 2018 at 8:46am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 68° 22.310′ N
Longitude: 167° 07.398′ W
Wind: 3 knots W, gusts up to 20 knots
Barometer: 753.06 mmHg
Visibility: 5 nautical miles
Temperature: 10.8° C
Sea Surface 9° C
Weather: Overcast, light rain

Science and Technology Log
I was in my stateroom on Friday afternoon when I heard one continuous alarm sound, followed by an announcement that white smoke had been detected on board. My first thought was Oh no! What’s wrong with the engine now??? As I walked out of my room, I noticed smoke permeating through the halls near the ceiling. My muster station was the forward mess, so I walked there to meet up with my group. Two PICs (people in charge) had already laid out a map of the ship, and they were assigning pairs of people to search different sections of the ship looking for smoke and/or hot spots on doors or walls. Each “runner” group took a radio and reported their findings, and the results were written on the map. I was runner group 4 with an intern named Paul, and we were assigned the E level just below the bridge. We saw a small amount of smoke but no hot spots. One runner group opened an escape hatch to the fan room to find smoke EVERYWHERE. After finding the source of the fire, it was put out as quickly as possible and the smoke ventilated out of the ship. If you haven’t guessed it yet, this was our first fire drill.

Safety is always the first priority on all NOAA vessels. Working on a ship is much different than working on land. In the event of an emergency, everyone on board has to be prepared to be a first responder. If one serious accident happens, it could affect all 45 people on board. To ensure emergency preparedness, drills take place on a regular basis. Each drill is treated as though the emergency were happening in real life. Fire drills and abandon ship drills take place weekly, and man overboard drills and hazardous materials drills take place every three months.

An announcement to abandon ship happens as a last resort if there is no possible way to save the ship. If this were to happen, we would hear seven or more bursts of the alarm followed by an announcement. We would then grab our immersion suit and PFD (personal flotation device) as quickly as possible and meet at our muster stations. My muster station is on the port (left) side of the ship at fire station 24. There are life rafts on each side of the ship that can be deployed into the water. Right now, the water in the Arctic Ocean is a chilly 9° C. To protect ourselves from hypothermia, we must don an immersion suit within 60 seconds of arriving at our station. New people to the ship must practice this during our first few days on board.

The immersion suits would be used to keep warm in the event we had to abandon ship
The immersion suits would be used to keep warm in the event we had to abandon ship

In addition to drills, an operational risk assessment (or GAR score) is calculated for the mission each day. GAR stands for Green, Amber, or Red, and it determines whether the mission is safe to pursue that day. The GAR score consists of the following sections: resources, environment, team selection, fitness, weather, and complexity. Each section is given a rating of 1 – 10, with 1 being the best and 10 being the worst. Many of the sections are variable depending on the day, so sometimes a mission will be delayed until the weather improves, and other times assigning different personnel to the task may be enough to make the mission safe. The total score is the sum of the six sections. If the score is 45 or above (red zone), then the mission will not happen that day. If the score is between 24 and 44 (amber zone), it means extra caution is advised, and a low GAR score of 0 – 23 is green. The best case scenario is for the mission to be in the green zone.

Some other examples of safe practices on board NOAA Ship Fairweather are detailed below.

LT Manda gives a safety brief before deploying the small boats for the day. Once deployment begins, everyone must wear hard hats and a PFD for safety
LT Manda gives a safety brief before deploying the small boats for the day. Everyone participating in the boat deployment must wear hard hats and a PFD

Many hands are needed to safely deploy a small boat
Many hands are needed to safely deploy a small boat

The small boats are equipped with life jackets, immersion suits, first aid kids, and other safety equipment
The small boats are equipped with life jackets, immersion suits, first aid kids, and other safety equipment

Personal Log
I’m learning what it truly means to be flexible during my time with NOAA Ship Fairweather. Weather can make or break a day of surveying on the sea. The water experiences surface waves from both the wind and swell. Swells are the large waves that originate elsewhere and have a definite direction whereas the surface waves are caused by wind and are much smaller. The surface waves in combination with the swell produce a total wave height, and the NOAA Corps looks at the total wave height when deciding the plan of the day. Unfortunately, waves of up to 14′ are predicted in the Point Hope region this week, which will make it incredibly difficult to launch the small boats. Not only do the large waves create hazardous conditions on the boat, they make it harder to acquire good soundings with the MBES. If the data collected will be of poor quality, it is better to delay the mission and wait for better conditions. The poor weather in combination with the mechanical delay we experienced during the first week of the leg has made it difficult to collect very much data around Point Hope.

Not only do the large waves slow down the ship’s data collection, they make me queasy! I felt lucky coming in to the Arctic Ocean on Friday because the sea was calm and beautiful! It was almost eerily quiet. The most amazing part was that the horizon seemed to disappear as the sky and the ocean gently blurred into one. The serenity was short-lived however, and taking the small boats out Saturday morning was quite the adventure! I am so glad I brought motion sickness medication with me!

The Arctic Water was calm and beautiful Saturday morning
The Arctic Water was calm and beautiful Saturday morning

Did You Know?
Did you know NOAA Ship Fairweather weights 1,591 tons? Since one ton is the same as 2,000 pounds, the ship weighs 3,182,000 pounds! The ship stays afloat, so that means the buoyant force it experiences is equal and opposite to its weight. If the buoyant force were any less, the ship would sink!

Question of the Day
How does a personal flotation device (PFD) keep a person from sinking?

Answer to Last Question of the Day:
How many nautical names can you think of for rooms/locations on the ship, and what would their equivalent name be on land?
These are the ones I have learned so far:
Stateroom = Dorm or bedroom
Galley = Kitchen
Mess = Dining room
Scullery = Dish washing room
Head = Bathroom
Gangway = ramp (to get off boat)
Sick Bay = doctor’s office/patient room
Do you know of any that I missed? Feel free to answer in the comments!

 

Brandy Hill: First Leg (hopefully not the last!) at Sea Complete: July 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 – July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 12, 2018

 

Personal Conclusion

It was wonderfully impressive listening to ENS Jacquelyn Putnam’s orders to the Bridge while docking the ship. She and Lt. Klemm stood just outside the doors to the Bridge with a clear view of the dock at Pier 21. As she called out orders, the Bridge team would respond by making adjustments to the rudder, speed, or direction. I hadn’t realized how much of a team effort docking the ship would be. It was like parallel parking a car in busy downtown Portland on a much larger scale.

FishingVessel.jpg
We arrived at Pier 21 in Galveston, Texas early Friday morning on July 6th. There were several fishing vessels flocked with birds. Sometimes you could see dolphin fins peeking up through the water around the boat.

After we were safely docked, all shipmates met in the mess where CDR Chris van Westendorp gave a speech of recognition and appreciation for his crew. These last couple legs at sea are especially meaningful for CO as they symbolize a transition of many years at sea to an upcoming land assignment. There were also several people taking much-deserved leave, or moving onto other job assignments.

 

 

SunsetBow.jpg
Sunset from the bow during my two weeks aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson.

I am so grateful to have been able to participate as a teacher at sea on the Thomas Jefferson. I knew it would be a learning experience, but I didn’t realize how impactful my relationships and interactions with the crew would be. There is something truly inspirational about being around a well-functioning team of people serving a meaningful purpose. People are excited to work for NOAA and to be a part of a higher scientific mission.

I also hadn’t realized the direct relationship between hydrographic surveys and hurricane relief. After a hurricane, the sea floor can shift and change/block major pathways for delivering supplies like oil and water. Last year, NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson responded to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico,  “NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson spent the last three weeks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands surveying ports and bays in response to Hurricane Maria. Over the three week period, the crew surveyed 13 areas and no fewer than 18 individual port facilities, as well as conducted emergency repairs to three tide and weather stations.” (NOAA Office of Coast Survey, October 2017)

Looking towards next school year, I am excited to bring my experience into the classroom and provide students with meaningful learning opportunities. I am looking into using Citizen Science, ways of incorporating the Ocean Literacy Principles, and reaching out to have more diverse professionals interact with my classroom. One of my goals as a science and math teacher is to provide students with many opportunities to ask questions, explore, think critically, and be inspired to continue a lifelong journey of learning and growth.

My experience with NOAA and NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson will forever have an impact on my classroom and for that, I am extremely grateful.

RiceCrispieFlag.jpg
4th of July goodies made by ENS Sydney Catoire, Julia Wallace, and Kevin Brown.

BowlineKnot.png
I practiced my Bowline knots on the long trek home.

Taylor Planz: Rocks are Red, Valleys are Blue, July 10, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Taylor Planz

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 9 – 20, 2018

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Point Hope, Alaska and Vicinity

Date: July 10, 2018 at 5:30pm

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 64° 29.691′ N
Longitude: 165° 26.276′ W
Wind: 5 knots SW, gusts up to 12 knots
Barometer: 749.31 mmHg
Visibility: 10+ nautical miles
Temperature: 16.0° C
Sea Surface Temperature: 11.9° C
Weather: Cloudy, no precipitation

Science and Technology Log

The City of Nome from NOAA Ship Fairweather
The City of Nome from NOAA Ship Fairweather

Welcome to Nome
The center of town features a sculpture of a gold pan because Nome is historically known for gold panning and dredging.

I arrived in Nome on Saturday, July 7th around 7:30pm. The weather was a beautiful 65° F with just a few clouds in the sky! By the time I settled in my stateroom (bedroom) and unpacked my belongings, it was raining! According to the Western Regional Climate Center (WRCC), Nome receives and average of 16″ of rainfall each year and 60″ of snow. Despite this fairly low rainfall total, precipitation is a frequent
occurrence in Nome. Usually, the precipitation falls as more of a light drizzle in the summer, so the accumulation over the course of a year is very small.

I am here in Nome to join NOAA Ship Fairweather on a Hydrographic Survey of the vicinity of Point Hope, Alaska. Nome is the northernmost city in Alaska with a deep enough draft dock and facilities (such as sewage disposal and fresh water) for a ship. Therefore, we will start and end our trip in Nome. The ship has been experiencing some technical difficulties, so we were not able to go underway on our scheduled day of July 9. Over the weekend, engineers discovered a leak in the exhaust from one of the ship’s engines. Left untreated, black smoke could escape into the ship and personnel could be exposed to the unhealthy fumes. As of today, the exhaust pipe has been fixed, but there are a few parts that need to be shipped to Nome to finish the job. Hopefully NOAA Ship Fairweather will be underway later this week.

on a small boat
Here I am aboard one of the small boats with NOAA Ship Fairweather in Background at the Nome Harbor.

Once we are underway, the trip to Point Hope will take approximately 22 hours. That means we must reserve a full day on each end of the leg (another name for the trip) for travel. In order to maximize our limited time near Point Hope, NOAA Ship Fairweather will deploy up to four 28′ boats to work at the same time. There are also enough personnel onboard to allow data to be collected on the small boats for up to 24 hours per day. Two of the four 28′ boats are shown below.

Launch 2805
Two 28′ boats with hydrographic instruments can be found on each side of NOAA Ship Fairweather.

So what are these boats all doing anyways? As previously mentioned, NOAA Ship Fairweather and its small boats are designed for hydrographic research. “Hydro” is a prefix meaning “water”, and “graph” is a root word meaning “to write”. The boats will map the sea floor (i.e. – “write” about what is under the water) and any of its contents with sonar devices. Sonar is an acronym that stands for SOund Navigation And Ranging. The main sonar device used on this ship is a multibeam echosounder (MBES for short), which can be found on the underside of the ship as seen below. Sound waves are emitted from the front of the device, known as the transmitter. The sound waves travel through the water column, bounce off the sea floor, and then get picked up by a receiver adjacent to the transmitter.

Multibeam Echosounder
Multibeam Echosounder on NOAA research vessel (Photo courtesy: NOAA)

Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth Sensor (CTD)
Conductivity, temperature, and depth sensor (CTD)

There is a lot of math involved both before and after sound wave data is collected! The photo below is a CTD instrument, which stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. Conductivity is a measure of how well an object conducts electricity. This instrument is lowered through the water column, collecting data on all three parameters listed above. The speed of sound varies based on conductivity and temperature, so the sonar data can be adjusted based on the results. For each individual data point collected along the sea floor, the actual speed of sound is multiplied by half of the time it took the sound wave to travel from transmitter to receiver. Using the equation distance = rate x time, one can find the distance (i.e. – depth) of each point along the sea floor. Put a bunch of those results together, and you begin to see a map!

Workstation
Many screens are needed to put all of the data together into an accurate sea floor map.

Sea floor maps use color to show different depths. The most shallow areas are colored with red, while the deepest areas are colored with blue. The remaining colors of the rainbow form a spectrum that allows us to see slopes. Today, we took a small boat out and surveyed the harbor where NOAA Ship Fairweather is docked. The harbor was very shallow, so every large rock in the harbor showed up as red on the map. The deeper areas showed up as blue. Hence my blog title! In my next blog, I will include pictures of maps that have recently been completed! Stay tuned!

Personal Log

Sea glass and rock treasures
Sea glass and rock treasures from the Bering Sea

Living on a ship that is docked in a tiny town with little to no cell phone service is fairly challenging. However, everyone on the ship finds creative solutions to keep themselves and others entertained. It is not uncommon for groups to form in the conference room to watch a movie on the big projector screen or to host a game night. There is also a fitness room onboard with plenty of exercise options! The Bering Sea and a long beach are a short, five minute walk from the ship. We had a campfire with marshmallows the first night that everyone returned to the ship from their time off. One person in our group found a whale bone on the beach! See the picture below. I spent some time walking the water line looking for sea glass. I actually found a few pieces, in

Whale bone
This is a whale bone that was found on the beach near NOAA Ship Fairweather

addition to a couple of rocks I thought were quite pretty! Sea glass is made from containers, bottles, and other glass objects that end up in the ocean. Over time, these objects break into smaller pieces, and the sandy and/or rocky sea floor erodes them. By the time they reach the beach, the pieces of glass have smooth edges and a translucent color. They are fun to collect as they come in many different colors, shapes, and sizes!

Did You Know?
Ocean water has a high conductivity, or ability to conduct electricity, because of all of the dissolved salts in sea water. The ions that form from dissolved salts cause ocean water to be about 1,000,000 times more conductive than fresh water!

Question of the Day
If a CTD determined that the speed of sound in an area was 1,504 m/s and the time it took for the sound wave to travel from the ship’s transmitter to receiver was 0.08 seconds, how deep was the water in that specific area? Make sure to use proper units, and remember that the total time is two ways and not just one way!
(Answer in the next blog post)

Victoria Obenchain: NOAA Corps Officers, July 3, 2018

Teacher at Sea Blog

Victoria Obenchain

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 25th-July 6th, 2018

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northwest, Alaska

Date: July 3, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

  • Lat.: 54o 53.1’ N
  • Long.: 162o 30.8’ W
  • Sea wave height: 1 foot
  • Wind speed: 29 knots
  • Wind direction: East, southeast
  • Temperature: 10.0oC
  • Visibility: 4 nautical miles
  • Sky Conditions: Overcast/Hazy

Personal Log

I am writing my personal log first this time, because I am just in awe of the beauty around me. We pulled in to Kodiak, AK on Sunday to pick up an Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) which will be used later in the summer, and to refuel. The scenery here is just amazing, I spent the day on the Flying Bridge (the highest point I am allowed to stand) and just took in the sun, scenery and beauty. The water was a crystal royal blue, the mountains a bright green topped with white snow; and as we finally pulled out, fascinating sea life appeared all around us. From jellyfish, sea otters, porpoises, whales and puffins; it was beautiful. While I was not fast enough with my camera when an animal decided to grace my presence, here are some pictures of the scenery.

Science and Technology Log

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather, officers of the NOAA Corps work hard to keep our ship on course and accomplish the ship’s mission. The ship has a wide range of officers; senior officers who are within a few years of retirement, officers who have worked on multiple assignments and are working their way up the ranks to one day being a commanding officer (CO) of their own ship, down to junior officers who have just joined NOAA a few months ago and are still learning all they need to know to be a part of this amazing team.  They are an incredible example of respect, self discipline, perseverance and teamwork.

20180702_112937.jpg
Officers on the bridge of NOAA Ship Fairweather

Today, the newer junior officers had a chance to take part in a docking and launching ship simulation. The XO designed a Playstation ship game to have the officers practice commands for the rudder, bow thrusters, and forward and back engines. The junior officers had to then try docking, turning, walking and driving the ship in different sea conditions. The officers yelled out the commands and the other players responded accordingly, much like they would do as an Officer on Duty. The ship on the screen then would move as it would in the sea. Junior officers could then see how a ship would respond to their calls. Docking and launching are done very little once on a mission, so junior officers might not get too many chances to practice this important skill. This seemed to get everyone a bit involved.

Every few years, officers rotate between ship deployments and land assignments. While an officer may really love their current assignment or position, this change in location and assignment allows them to learn new skills and develop as NOAA officers. NOAA’s commitment to science and technology has attracted some of the most passionate and scientifically-minded individuals to this career path; developing their skills and challenging them to grow within their field seems to be something NOAA has excelled at. On board NOAA Ship Fairweather, officers are constantly learning, pushing or supporting each other and following a chain of command with the highest respect.  I am constantly impressed with their knowledge of the ship, the engines, native sea life, navigational skills, safety protocols, survey planning (yes they do surveys, too!) and patience, especially with a very interested and inquisitive Teacher at Sea.

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ENS Lawler and ENS Junge keeping us on course.

NOAA Corps is the smallest of the seven uniform services in our country. NOAA’s mission has a scientific focus, so all officers have an undergraduate degree in a scientific field and some level of science expertise. While many are excited to join this amazing team, there are some challenges outside the work itself. A ship assignment is not the easiest of jobs; to be in a self-contained area which serves as both your work and your home, one that may offer you little privacy and connections to the outside world when cell service is not available or wifi is slow, and yet together they lift each other up, help each other succeed and move past disagreements quickly, as they are all going through some of the same issues.

I have spent some time talking to a few of the newer officers about why they joined NOAA Corps. They are all so passionate about their job, yet, only one of them, when they were in middle school or high school, even thought this would be where they are today.  For time and space reasons, not to mention for my students’ attention spans, I will paraphrase a few of them below.

What was appealing about joining NOAA Corps?

-I really wanted to go to sea, and do science. I didn’t want to be sitting behind a desk. – ENS Kevin Tennyson

-NOAA Corps moves you around every few years, between land and sea assignments. This allows you to never get stagnant in your skills, you are always learning. – LT Steve Moulton

-Before this I was in the Coast Guard reserves and working on my science graduate degree, and this seemed like a good next step. What cemented it for me was when I got to go to Antarctica for some research on a ship for 37 days, it made me realize this was what I wanted to do. -ENS William Abbott

What are the best days like on the ship and in NOAA Corps?

-Driving the ship in cool places and in interesting, challenging passes. – ENS Patrick Lawler

-I like doing the small boat surveys; small boat operations and data collection, and getting diving practice in when possible. – ENS Peter Siegenthaler

-Just being on the bridge, orienting yourself with where you are, and figuring out the big picture when it comes to the ship. – ENS William Abbott

-Being on the bridge with your co-workers, figuring things out together, it can be really fun. -ENS Jeff Calderon

What challenges are there to working on the ship and in NOAA Corps?

-It can be a lot of pressure to perform your job well. You are responsible for those on board. – ENS Kevin Tennyson

-Being on a ship for so long, it starts to feel small, and you miss things like gardening and just the land in general. – ENS Linda Junge

-There is a lot of electronic equipment to become acquainted with and know how to work without thinking about. – ENS Cabot Zucker

What are you looking forward to in your NOAA Career?

-My next assignment is in Maryland, I’ll be doing small boat surveys and mapping in the Chesapeake Bay. It will be nice to be closer to home. – ENS Patrick Lawler

– Hopefully getting sent to Antarctica, they have a station there. It would be cool to work there for a bit. – ENS Jackson Vanfleet-Brown

-Hopefully going to dive school. I also like that throughout this job I will be constantly learning. – ENS Cabot Zucker

-I hope to be getting into pilot training/flight school within a few years.- ENS Jeff Calderon

What did you want to be growing up or what did you see yourself doing when you were older?

-Totally wanted to be a baseball player… or I guess something with Marine Biology or Marine Science, doing field research. – ENS Patrick Lawler

-Was very interested in being a pilot for a bit of a time. Sometimes I was unsure, but definitely knew I wanted to travel! – ENS Linda Junge

-I wanted to be on a ship, my Mom and Godmother worked on ships, this was kind of where I saw myself. – ENS Jackson Vanfleet-Brown

– The stereotypical mad scientist. Yep, that’s what I thought. – ENS Kevin Tennyson

Is there anything else you would tell someone about this job, in particular some adorable science loving, students who maybe have not heard much about this type of career?

-This is a lot of fun! It’s a good mix of science, active and outside work, and you get to see the world. –ENS Kevin Tennyson

– I definitely did not know about this growing up! I would say to look at Maritime Academies for those who might be interested. There are a lot of ship jobs out there that pay well and offer you fun interesting work that is not behind a desk. – ENS Peter Siegenthaler

– A ship is a cool environment to work in, not just for NOAA, any ship job can be great. If you are interested in research options to more exotic or isolated places, employers like those who have ship work skills. Those people can usually be resourceful and diffuse stressful situations; because, well you have to be able to. And it’s cool… so why not be on a ship? – ENS Linda Junge

– This job is all about adventure, it will definitely challenge you! – LT Steve Moulton

One last thing: I got a very short video of some porpoises, check them out!

Eric Koser: Navigation + Hydrography = Great Charts! July 1, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22 – July 9, 2018

 

Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK

Geographic Area: Southeast Alaska

Date: July 1, 2018: 0900 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 58°06.8’          Long: 136°32.0’
Skies: Broken
Wind 10 kts at 220°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: 1 ft
Water temp: 7.2°C
Air Temp: 11.6°C Dry Bulb, 10.9°C Wet Bulb

 

Science and Technology Log

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier, it takes a team to manipulate this ship. But first, much planning must occur to prepare for each day!

The FOO (Field Operations Officer) creates the plan for each day. Each evening, around dinner time, the FOO publishes the POD (Plan of the day) for the next day for everyone aboard. Here is a portion of July 1’s POD developed by FOO Ops Officer Scott Broo:

7.1.18 RA POD
The “Plan of the Day” for July 1, 2018. Notice the shoreline window indicates the best time for the launches to work.

Today at 0515 was M/E Online.  This is when the Engineering Department starts both 12 cylinder diesel locomotive engines–after being prepped and inspected ahead of time.

Next the Deck Department “weighed the anchor” at 0600 to get underway. Note – this term refers to when the ship holds the weight of the anchor – as it is pulled OUT of the water so we can get underway.

The principal work of Ship Rainier is hydrographic mapping. All operations here focus on creating the best charts possible of the ocean floor. As we are logging (using the MBES to take data from the ship), the plot department communicates to the bridge to indicate where they need the ship to go. The bridge can view a computer display showing the current plots the hydro team is working on – and uses this and the guidance of the hydrographic team to direct the ship. Over time, the ship covers the area of the current sheet while the hydro team captures the data from the MBES. As the process proceeds, the whole sheet gets ‘painted’ by the MBES so we have a complete chart of the bottom.

MBES Data
This display in the plot room shows the hydrographers the incoming MBES data in real time. Note the line of travel of the ship in the center pointing WestSouthWest as this sheet is ‘painted.’ Various colors represent different relative depths.

It really takes a team on the bridge to control the ship when underway. The bridge is the control room of the ship.

Bridge Location
The bridge is the room with all the windows (in the blue box) just below the fly bridge.

Imagine standing on the bridge (the room where the driving happens) and noticing who is there. From port (left) to starboard (right) we have: Navigator, Lee Helm, Helm, Lookout, and OOD.

The Bridge
Here the lookout, the JOOD (junior officer on deck), the OOD, and the helmsman (left to right) are on the bridge.

Bridge Diagram
This snippet from the ship’s plans illustrates locations of tools on the bridge.

The navigator’s job is to always be aware of where the ship is and where she is to be heading. The lee helmsperson operates the controls for the engine speed and the pitch of the props [forward or backwards]. The helmsperson turns the wheel to control the rudders or sets the helm in autopilot to steer a fixed bearing. The lookout maintains awareness of all other vessels around the ship and any potential obstacles in the ship’s path. The OOD orchestrates the whole team and is directly responsible for the motion of the ship. The OOD gives commands for any changes that are to happen to the course of the ship – and also communicates with Plot to know where they need the ship to go to create the charts.

Lee Helm
The lee helm is the control panel for the engines located on the bridge. The propeller pitch is controlled by the levers at the center. The bow thruster is controlled by the lever on the right.

The Helm
The helm is the ship’s steering control. The current bearing is show at the top and bottom and the auto pilot bearing is on the display at the center.

Radar
The radar displays what is around us. The yellow indicates land (we were anchored in a bay at the time of this photo). Radar also senses other vessels in the water. Two radar units run at two different ranges all the time.

 

 

Personal Log

 

Shoreline from Launch
This is a shoreline view from launch RA-7 as we were charting features along Lisianski Inlet.

The wildlife in this part of Alaska is great and easy to find. We’ve seen humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, eagles, gulls, deer, and bears. Last night as we were anchored at the end of the inlet I watched a grizzly bear on shore. I was able to use the large mounted binoculars on the flybridge affectionately called “big eyes” to take photos. I watched the bear move along the shore as a pair of eagles flew overhead.

Here are a few of the wildlife photos I’ve taken the past several days!

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Here is a video of the same bear lumbering along the shoreline in the evening.

Shore Bear

 

Questions to Ponder

Why do you suppose the shoreline window for launch boats to conduct hydrographic surveys matches up to the times of the lowest tide of the day?

What role does the tide play in creating accurate charts of the sea floor?

How can a ship or launch make an accurate map of the seafloor if the vessel is constantly changing pitch, yaw, and role as it moves in the waves?
[There is a system to account for this!]

Who can access the charts created by NOAA?  Anyone!
The United States is the only country to provide freely available navigational charts to anyone.  Visit charts.noaa.gov to see what these look like!

Brandy Hill: What Lies Beneath the Surface, July 1, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 –  July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 1, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29° 10.1’ N

Longitude: 093° 54.5’ W

Visibility: 10+ NM

Sky Condition: 3/8

Wind: 16 kts

Temperature:

Sea Water: 29.4° C

Air: 27° C

 

Science and Technology Log

At this point I have been able to understand more of the sonar technology taking place during the survey aboard the Thomas Jefferson. The ship uses two types of sonar: multibeam and side scan. Both work together transmitting and receiving sound pulses to and from the ocean floor. This provides a multispectral analysis.

Julia Wallace, a physical scientist, works at the sonar acquisition station. This requires a large amount of multitasking as she communicates with the bridge (ship steering deck), watches the safety cameras, and makes sure both sonar devices are working correctly.
Julia Wallace, a physical scientist, works at the sonar acquisition station. This requires a large amount of multitasking as she communicates with the bridge (ship steering deck), watches the safety cameras, and makes sure both sonar devices are working correctly.

Multibeam sonar is located underneath the hull of the ship. Multibeam is used to detect bathymetry (the depth of the ocean floor). Multibeam backscatter (reflected wave energy) gives a reading of the surface intensity. For example, a strong signal would mean a harder surface like rock or pipeline. With multibeam sonar, you can also adjust the sound wave frequency. For example, high frequency (primarily used during this survey in the Gulf of Mexico) is used for shallower waters allowing for higher resolution images. Images from multibeam have a color gradient to allow for clear vision of contours and depth differences. One way surveyors aboard the TJ may use backscatter images is to determine areas where bottom sampling might be applicable.

A NOAA ship using mulitbeam sonar. (Courtesy of NOAA)
A NOAA ship using mulitbeam sonar. (Courtesy of NOAA)

Bathymetry acquired using multibeam echosounder layered over a nautical chart.  Blue and green wave lengths penetrate further in water, so the coloring corresponds to this observation. This poster is from a previous Thomas Jefferson hydrographic survey near Savannah, Georgia. (Prepared by CHST Allison Stone)
Bathymetry acquired using multibeam echosounder layered over a nautical chart.  Blue and green wave lengths penetrate further in water, so the coloring corresponds to this observation. This poster is from a previous Thomas Jefferson hydrographic survey near Savannah, Georgia. (Prepared by CHST Allison Stone)

3D bathymetry imagery from the Okeanos Explorer. (NOAA)
3D bathymetry imagery from the Okeanos Explorer. (NOAA)

A close-up view of multibeam data. The third window down shows multibeam backscatter.
A close-up view of multibeam data. The third window down shows multibeam backscatter.

The side scan sonar is used alongside multibeam to provide black and white scans of images. Like multibeam backscatter, side scan measures the intensity of the sound returning from the sea floor. For example, a side scan return with high intensity could indicate a difference in material like pipeline or a wreck. A low intensity value could mean that the side scan sonar waves have reached a muddy substrate. Julia used the analogy of a tennis ball being bounced against a wall of different materials. For example, the tennis ball hitting a concrete wall would bounce back with higher intensity than one being bounced against a soft wall. Side scan sonar is very effective at detecting features that protrude off the sea floor, and for shallow water surveys, typically can see farther and cover a greater area the sea floor than multibeam echosounders alone.

The side scan sonar sensor is located on a torpedo-shaped “towfish” and pulled behind the boat. When viewing side scan images, surveyors typically look for the acoustic shadow cast by a feature protruding off the sea floor. By measuring the length of the acoustic shadow, hydrographers can determine whether the feature requires additional investigation. For example, the outline of a shipwreck, bicycle, or pipeline. However, it can also detect mammals like dolphins or schools of fish.

Diagram of side scan sonar. (Courtesy of thunder bay 2001, Institute for Exploration, NOAA-OER)
Diagram of side scan sonar. (Courtesy of thunder bay 2001, Institute for Exploration, NOAA-OER)

The Thomas Jefferson sidescan sonar on deck.
The Thomas Jefferson sidescan sonar on deck.

In the early morning, the sidescan sonar picked up the image of an incorrectly charted shipwreck. Height is estimated using the "shadow" of the wreck.
In the early morning, the sidescan sonar picked up the image of an incorrectly charted shipwreck. Height is estimated using the “shadow” of the wreck.

Sidescan sonar imagery layered on a nautical chart. It is important to remember that sidescan data does not account for depth, it is a measure of differences in sea floor substrate.
Sidescan sonar imagery layered on a nautical chart. It is important to remember that sidescan data does not account for depth, it is a measure of differences in sea floor substrate.

Look closely and you can see arc lines in the sidescan imagery. Lt. Anthony Klemm explains that these arcs are from ships dragging anchor and stirring up the sea floor.
Look closely and you can see arc lines in the sidescan imagery. Lt. Anthony Klemm explains that these arcs are from ships dragging anchor and stirring up the sea floor.

While this is happening, surveyors are also towing a MVP or Moving Vessel Profiler to capture information about the water column. This is important because multiple factors in the water column need to be corrected in order for accurate sonar calculations. For example, the speed of sound in salt water is roughly 1500 m/s but may change while the ship is traveling over different parts of the sea floor or passing through a thermocline (steep temperature gradient) or halocline (steep salinity gradient). The MVP is similar to the CTD used on the launch boat (see previous post), but the MVP allows the ship to continue moving at about 10 knots (average survey speed), while the CTD must be cast when the ship is stationary.

Information from the Moving Vessel Profiler. From left to right, the MVP tracks sound speed, temperature, and salinity in relation to depth.
Information from the Moving Vessel Profiler. From left to right, the MVP tracks sound speed, temperature, and salinity in relation to depth.

For more information on multispectral analysis and sonar, see these resources:

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/09bermuda/background/multibeam/multibeam.html

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/seafloor-mapping/how_sidescansonar.html

Personal Log

One of my goals in the classroom is to teach students to be comfortable making and learning from mistakes. Making mistakes in math and science is common and welcome because they lead to great discussion and future change. Often, my sixth graders get discouraged or so caught up in failure that they become paralyzed in making further attempts. While aboard the Thomas Jefferson, I have witnessed several aspects not go according to plan. I think these experiences are important to share because they provide real-life examples of professionals coming together, learning from mistakes, and moving forward.

Around 4:00 am, the towfish side scan sonar became entangled with the MVP. This was a horrendous disaster. The crew spent about 16 hours contemplating the issue and collecting data using the multibeam only, which is less than ideal.  One of XO LCDR McGovern’s many roles aboard the ship is to serve as the investigator. She reviewed tapes of the early morning, talked with the crew, and later held a debrief with all involved. When something like this happens, the ship must write a clear incident report to send to shore. There were many questions about why and how this happened as well how to best proceed. In the end, the towfish and MVP were untangled with no damage present to the sensor. Within the same day, both were cast out and back in use.

I find this to be an astounding example of perseverance and teamwork. Despite being disappointed and upset that a critical tool for collecting accurate data was in dire shape, the crew came up with a plan of action and executed. Part of the engineering and scientific processes include evaluation and redesign. Elements of the sea and a center drift of the side scan lead to a documented new plan and refiguring the process so that this is unlikely to happen again.

Lt. Charles Wisotzsky's sketch of the complications with launching both the sidescan sonar (which tends to centerline) and MVP towfish with a current coming from port side.
Lt. Charles Wisotzsky’s sketch of the complications with launching both the sidescan sonar (which tends to centerline) and MVP towfish with a current coming from port side.

This camera image captures the entanglement of the sidescan sonar and MVP.
This camera image captures the entanglement of the sidescan sonar and MVP.

Peaks

+Saw a tuna eat a flying fish

Flying Fish. (www.ocean.si.edu)
Flying Fish. (www.ocean.si.edu)

+There is a large sense of purpose on the ship. Despite complex sleep schedules to enable 24 hour operations with a smaller crew, people are generally happy and working hard.

+ There seems to be an unlimited supply of ice cream in the ice cream freezer. Junior Officer, ENS Garrison Grant introduced me to a new desert- vanilla ice cream, a scoop of crunchy peanut butter, and chocolate syrup. I also found the rainbow sprinkles.

Eric Koser: Let the Science Begin! June 27, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Koser
Aboard Ship Rainier
June 22-July 9
Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey, AK
June 27, 2018: 1500 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 57°52.9’          Long: 133°33.8’
Skies: Overcast
Wind 15 kts at 011°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: Calm
Water temp: 3.9°C

Science and Technology Log

Rainier Hat
This insignia cap is worn by the NOAA Corps members on the ship.

Let the science begin! We departed from Sitka about 1300 on Monday enroute for Lisianski Inlet. Getting out to sea has been a wonderful experience. Ship Rainier is truly run by a dedicated team of people. I have been able to spend quite a bit of time on the bridge – first watching and then participating with the Junior Officers on the deck. It quickly became obvious to me that this is a teaching operation. The hands on the deck represent a variety of experience levels, quite by design. More experienced NOAA Corps Officers coach Junior Officers through each procedure that happens on the Bridge. It’s a great example of a team based ‘on the job’ teaching system!

On the bridge there is always an OOD (Officer On the Deck) that is in charge of operations. This person then helps to administrate the work of the CONN (responsible for the conduct of the vessel), the helm, the lee helm, the lookouts, and the navigator. The CONN gives commands to the others on the team, which are then repeated back to assure clarity.

Chart Table
This is the chart table where the Navigator works on the bridge of the ship.

The first task I learned was to plot our course on the charts. The CO (Commanding Officer—in charge of the entire ship) selects waypoints for an upcoming course in a digital mapping suite called Coastal.   Coastal sets a series of digital paths that each include a compass bearing (direction in degrees) and range (distance in nautical miles) between each waypoint. Then the navigator takes this same series of points and plots them by hand in pencil on the series of chart {the nautical term for maps]. Each point is a pair of latitude and longitude points plotted as a small square. Given the expected cruising speed, the navigator can also estimate future positions of the ship, which are referred to as “dead reckoning” and are plotted with a half circle.

 

 

 

Sheet Route
A route that I plotted on our charts.

Coastal
A view from the Coastal software of a route.

Periodically the navigator measures the location of the ship either digitally with GPS or by measuring distances to adjacent land features with radar. A pair of dividers is used to plot these distances on the sheet as small triangles and confirm the current location of the ship. By these methods, the navigator assures the ship is on the planned track and/or adjusts the track accordingly.

The person at the helm (the steering wheel) is directed by the CONN to point the ship at the necessary bearing. As changes are needed to the bearing, the person at the helm responds to the CONN’s commands to adjust.

In Lisianski Inlet the team of hydrographers started collecting data with the multibeam sonar system around midnight Tuesday morning. As we traveled along the entire length of the Inlet overnight, this initial data was collected. When we arrived at the small town of Pelican, AK (pop. 88) a crew on a launch (small boat deployed from Rainier) traveled in and set up a HORCON (Horizontal Control) reference station. This is a high precision satellite receiver. It provides a very accurate way to measure potential drift in satellite indicated GPS over time. After taking data from the ship, the latitude and longitude are corrected with data from the HORCON.

Launch RA
This is one of several small(er) boats called “Launches” that are used for surveying.

Ship Rainier
This is a view of our ship from the launch.

After this initial work was complete at Lisianski, we began transit to Tracy Arm Fjord. While the multibeam sonar work was completed here last week, three crews deployed in launches to ‘proof’ the shoreline information on the charts. This is essentially confirming and updating the existence and location of particular features (rocks, ledges, etc).

Tracy Arm
This was the view as we approached the glacier at the end of Tracy Arm.

Launch Team
NOAA Hydrographer Amanda Finn and I together on the launch.

At this point, the hydrographers are processing much of the data obtained in the past few days. Additional data will be collected tomorrow morning. Then in the evening we’ll transit back to Lisianski to begin further work there.

Ship among ice.
The ship parked here while the launches moved closer to the ice.

Glacial Ice
The glacial ice shows a beautiful blue color.

Ice Blue
Different pieces of ice appear slightly different colors.

Personal Log

Every member of the team on this vessel has a job to do. Every member matters. The success of the entire operations depends upon the teamwork of all. There is a positive sprit among the group to work together for the tasks at hand.

I’ve been welcomed to learn to chart our course. I had an opportunity today to operate the helm (steering). I went out on a launch today to visit waters that were yet uncharted as the glacier at the end of Tracy Arm Fjord is receding. It was incredible to see not only the beauty of the ice among the water, but to also witness from afar the calving of the glacier. A rumble like thunder accompanied the crashing of two small walls of ice into the ocean below as we watched from afar.

I enjoyed capturing many photos of the ice and the wildlife among it. Many harbor seals were relaxing upon chunks of glacial ice as we traveled through the Arm. The natural beauty of this area is best represented by a few photos.

An adult seal and pup
This adult seal was watching us closely with the pup.

Ice Dog?
What can you see in this ice? Might it resemble a dog?

Did You Know?

Junior Officers in the NOAA Corps learn in a 19 week program followed by 2 weeks at sea on a tall ship called Eagle.

There are approximately 320 commissioned officers in the NOAA Corps internationally.

NOAA Operates 16 Ships and 20 Aircraft!

Vickie Obenchain: Safety First! June 26, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Victoria Obenchain

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 25th-July 6th, 2018

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northwest, Alaska

Date: June 26th, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge:

  • Latitude: 58o 11.3’ N
  • Longitude: 134o 23.2’ W
  • Wind Speed: 6 knots
  • Wind Direction: East
  • Visibility: 7 nautical miles
  • Air Temperature: 12.5o C
  • Current Sky Conditions: 99% Cloud over made up of mainly stratus clouds, with a consistent drizzle

(Picture taken before consistent drizzle started.)
(Picture taken before consistent drizzle started.)

Science and Technology Log

I joined the NOAA Ship Fairweather in Juneau where it has been undergoing upgrades to its propulsion control. Due to these upgrades, yesterday and today the ship has been conducting sea trials to learn how the new upgrades work, train their crew on them and to make sure everything is calibrated accurately before we head out to sea and continue on the ship’s mission.

NOAA Ship Fairweather is a 231 foot long hydrographic (hydro meaning “water”, graphic meaning “drawing”) survey ship which helps map the sea floor and update nautical maps using sonar. A communications specialist contracting for NOAA, Gina Digiantonio, said it best (I will paraphrase her here): Would you jump into a body of water not knowing how deep it was? Or would you want to know you weren’t going to get hurt? This is the same thing ships and vessels have to plan for; will they run aground, hit rocks, is it safe enough for them to get through? By knowing the depth of the sea floor, mariners can avoid dangerous and expensive accidents to both their vessels and the environment.

This research is done not only with NOAA Ship Fairweather, but with the help of 4 smaller boats, or launches, on board. Each launch is equipped with its own sonar equipment which when all in use, help get large areas of the sea floor mapped at once.  Below you can watch one of these 8 ton launches being lowered into the Juneau harbor.

This work is incredibly important. Some nautical charts in the area date back to before the 1900’s with lesser bottom coverage and some areas in use are not mapped at all. With the forecast of complete loss of summer sea ice by 2050 in the Northwestern Alaska area, and with that the increase in commercial vessel traffic; the need for accurate maps to ensure safety of all vessels and the surrounding environment is important work.


Since I am a visitor on the NOAA Ship Fairweather; I, along with a few other visitors and new employees, took part in a safety orientation in case of emergencies. We learned where life vests and life boats are located, where to go in case of an emergency and what calls are used to notify those on the ship, as well as the procedures associated with each situation. Additionally, we had to practice getting into an immersion suit in case we had to abandon ship. These are full body wet suits which are waterproof and help prevent hypothermia.  Mine was a bit big, so I was given a smaller one. You can see me modeling a larger one here:

(Picture of me in immersion suit kindly taken by ENS Lawler)
(Picture of me in immersion suit kindly taken by ENS Lawler)

Personal Log:

I got to Juneau a day before the ship was set to start sea trials so I was able to visit Mendenhall Glacier which is about 12 miles outside of Juneau with two other visitors of NOAA Ship Fairweather.   As many glaciers are retreating around the globe, I felt lucky to go visit this one!

Mendenhall Lake inside a fairly large valley which the glacier has helped to carve over the last 3,000 years
Mendenhall Lake inside a fairly large valley which the glacier has helped to carve over the last 3,000 years

The 13 mile glacier stops at the Mendenhall Lake inside a fairly large valley which the glacier has helped to carve over the last 3,000 years.  Evidence of the glaciers movement is seen on the rocks, as they are polished from where miles of heavy ice has slid over them, over time.   This glacier has been retreating for the last 500 years and in doing so it has made new ecosystems around Juneau. These ecosystems include: a wetland for migrating birds, Mendenhall Lake which provides a wildlife habitat for native animals such as beavers and bears, not to mention a recreation area to kayak in, and a beautiful conifer rain forest I got to hike through (pictured below). The glacier’s retreat is noticeable from pictures taken over time at the visitor center.

Mendenhall Lake which provides a wildlife habitat for native animals such as beavers and bears, not to mention a recreation area to kayak in, and a beautiful conifer rain forest I got to hike through
Mendenhall Lake which provides a wildlife habitat for native animals such as beavers and bears, not to mention a recreation area to kayak in, and a beautiful conifer rain forest I got to hike through

 

Eric Koser: Welcome– Its Almost Time! June 21, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 25 – July 9, 2018

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of navigable waters to develop and update navigational charts. At sea June 25 – July 9, 2018.
Geographic Area of Cruise: Lisianski Strait, along the SE coast of Alaska followed by transit of the Inside Passage to home port in Newport, OR.
Date: June 21, 2018, the Summer Solstice!

Weather Data from the Bridge [okay, the front porch at home!]:

44.1589° N, 94.0177° W
Current Weather: Light Rain, 70°F (21°C)
Humidity: 79%
Wind Speed: E 15 mph
Barometer: 29.81 in
Dewpoint: 63°F (17°C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi

Welcome!
It’s nearly time to embark on this adventure! I’ve always appreciated chances in life to explore and learn about different parts of the world. Recently I’ve enjoyed the book “One Earth, Two Worlds” by the Minnesota SCUBA diver Bill Mathies. I’m fascinated by the realm of underwater exploration. A large percentage of our planet has never even been seen by humans! NOAA’s hydrographic research vessels are in place around the world to map the ocean floor and promote safe navigation.

Science and Technology Log
I am Eric Koser and I live in southern Minnesota where I have worked with students learning about physics for 24 years. I teach at Mankato West High School, one of two mid-sized high schools in our river community of about 100,000 people. Mankato and North Mankato are the regional hub of south-central Minnesota. Our school district is home to about 9000 students K-12. Our community has particular strengths in manufacturing, education, and healthcare. Read more here at greatermankato.com!
I teach a variety of physics courses at West including AP Physics and Physics First at grade 9. I love to engage kids in learning physics by helping them to discover patterns and systems in nature. I really enjoy developing experiments and demonstrations to illustrate ideas. I also coach our YES! Team as a part of our Science Club here at West. Youth Eco Solutions is a program to support students to make positive energy and environmental based changes in their communities. These kids have tackled some big tasks – replacing styrofoam lunch trays with permanent trays, updating our building lighting’s efficiency, and systematically monitoring campus electrical usage.

Mankato West Scarlets

YESmn

Mankato Area Public Schools

Personal Log
My wife Erica and I have four kids that we love to support. They are currently ages 20, 18, 15, and 10 and always on the move. Our oldest, Josh, is an engineering and technical theater student at the U of MN. Our next, Zach, just graduated from high school and is rebuilding a small hobby farm and an 1800’s house to become his rural home. Ben is an avid photographer now working at a local photo studio shooting professionally for events. Meron is headed to fifth grade– she is our most social kid who loves being with her friends and our many pets here at home.

Team Koser
“Team Koser” – our immediate family.

Our summers often involve many days at ‘the lake’, a place we enjoy in northern Minnesota with extended family. We love to fish, swim, kayak and explore the water there. As a SCUBA diver, I’ve begun to explore below the surface of the water as well.

SCUBA MN
Lake diving in Minnesota can be chilly! – Photo by Ben Koser

MN Lake Sunset
Ben captures the last of this Minnesota lake sunset – photo by Eric Koser

This summer has also involved lots of construction on Zach’s farm as we bring a once gutted two-story house into a finished home.

MN Hobby Farm
Zach’s Minnesota Hobby Farm – photo by Eric Koser

In a few short days, I look forward to joining the NOAA Ship Rainier on a hydrographic survey of Lisianski Inlet on the SE coast of Alaska. I’ll meet up with the Ship in port at Sitka, Alaska.

NOAA Ship Rainier
NOAA Ship Rainier – Photo courtesy NOAA

The Rainier is a 231 foot long ship equipped with a variety of tools to digitally map the bottom of the ocean with the goal of updating and improving navigational charts. I look forward to meeting and working alongside the experts on Rainier while I learn everything I can about the important work that they do. I look forward to bringing questions and ideas to my students and community during and after this experience!

Questions!

The Rainier design specifications list a “draft” of 14.3 feet. What does this mean?

This ship displaces 1800 tons of water. What does this mean?

How could you determine the ‘footprint’ of the ship in the sea based on these two pieces of data? What is the average area of the footprint of this ship?

Cindy Byers: On the Homefront, May 19, 2018

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

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: May 19, 2018

Weather:  It is SPRING in Wisconsin!

 

Personal Log

I got home this week from an absolutely amazing experience on NOAA Ship Fairweather!  I arrived so excited to share what I have learned with students and other teachers alike!  I went to school 30 minutes before the end of the day bell when I arrived.  I felt like I was welcomed back like a hero!  My students and the staff were happy to see me, and I was very happy to see them!  I got lots of hugs and high fives.  It was especially exciting to hear that the students had enjoyed and learned from my blog.  They especially liked to learn what I had eaten!

I was able to share some pictures and stories this week as our year winds down. I have begun organizing my photos and have plans with the staff to give a presentations to all the 4-8 grade students in the fall.  Ideas are flowing through me about how I will incorporate my new knowledge and experiences into my different curriculums.  There is so much potential!

I have not stopped talking about my experience with people in and out of school.  I love having so many experiences to share.  The people of NOAA Ship Fairweather where so willing to teach me about hydrography and ship life.  I have strong memories of people asking if I wanted to try doing something, or calling me over to explain something they were doing.  I, of course, hopped in and tried everything I could!  I got to drive the ship on my first morning!  I also was able to drive the launches! (Thanks Colin!)  I learned so much about being a hydrographer thanks to all the surveyors!   What a wonderful group of people.  I could thank everyone really, the deck crew, the engineers, the stewards, the NOAA Corps officers, and the great leadership of the XO and CO.  I was able to learn from all of them.  Everyone always made me feel like they had time to teach me how to do things, and to answer questions.  It is exciting to be in a place with so many talented educators!

This is a trip that will influence how I approach my teaching and my everyday life.  I will never forget the kindness and caring of NOAA Ship Fairweather personnel, or the beauty and splendor of SE Alaska!

NOAA Corps mustaches
NOAA Corps Officers! Mustaches are required.

CTD Cast
Taking a CTD Cast

IMG_8844
Setting up a HorCon (Horizontal Control) Station

Dawes Glacier
Our NOAA Physical Scientist at Dawes Glacier

Bald eagle skull
A Bald Eagle skull being examined

Skiff ride
Skiff ride to a shore party

Settlers of Catan
A game of Settlers of Catan

Sam in galley
Sam, one of the stewards, in the galley

Hydrographer
Ali Johnson, Hydrographer, at work

Bekah with guide
Hydrographer Bekah Gossett looking up marine mammals

LTJG Douglas
NOAA Corps Officer LTJG Douglas on the bow

Life on the Bridge
Life on the Bridge

Kayaking
Kayaking

Glacial moraine
Me and the mountains from the glacial moraine

Victoria Cavanaugh: Questions & Answers with the Ship’s Crew, April 22, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Victoria Cavanaugh
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 16-27, 2018

MissionSoutheast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: April 22, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 48° 25.012′ N
Longitude: 122° 44.039′ W
Sea Wave Height: 1-3 feet
Wind Speed: 10-20 knots
Wind Direction: NE
Visibility: 14.1 km
Air Temperature: 14oC  
Sky:  Scattered Clouds

Science and Technology Log

As NOAA Ship Fairweather began its northward journey through the Inward Passage, I took advantage of a few days at sea to conduct interviews with crew from each of the various departments onboard: deck crew, engineers, officers, stewards, and survey technicians.  Through the interview process I realized just how much goes in to making Fairweather  successful.  Two themes arose again and again in conversations: First, the crew of the Fairweather loves what they do — the crew’s commitment and passion for being at sea was unanimous. . .and contagious.  Second, Fairweather is family.

Enjoy the five interviews below, the first of which is with a Edward Devotion School alum. . .


An Interview with AB Carl Coonce, Fairweather Deck Crew & Devotion School Alum (1971-1974)

AB Carl Coonce at the Helm
AB Carl Coonce at the Helm

Carl on bridge
AB Carl Coonce & Devotion School Alum on Fairweather’s Bridge

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m an able-bodied seaman or AB. My permanent job is to take care of the ship. Some duties include maintaining the ship’s cleanliness, ensuring the security of the vessel, and steering the ship.

Q: Why is your work important?

A: Without AB’s, the ship can’t be driven. AB’s also maintain the security of the ship and watch out for the safety of the ship’s personnel. AB’s work on the upkeep of the ship’s inside and outside condition, checking to prevent rust and other damage. The AB’s ready the equipment for different missions and load and unload equipment, too. Finally, the AB’s help with the officers’ work, with surveying, and with engineering.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I love being at sea. I love being able to see different sunrises and sunsets every day. I see things most people only see on TV or in pictures. For example, I’ve seen two rainbows cross before at sea. Sometimes rainbows are so close when you are at sea that you can almost reach out and touch them. Every day at sea is a new adventure.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I mostly work as a helmsman (driver) up on the bridge (which is like the front seat of the car/ship). A helmsman is the person who drives the ship. A helmsman keeps watch, looking for any potential dangers such as things floating in the water, other ships, and certain parts of land (such as sand bridges). Another important part of my job is to understand how to read maps and use all of the radar and other navigational equipment up on the bridge.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: Sleep!

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I always wanted to come to sea because my father was a sailor. I took a different route for a long time, but about 15 years ago I started my ocean career. I guess it was in my blood. It was hard to get started because I knew nothing about ships and what was required in the beginning. I went online and researched shipping companies and sent my resume out to a few hundred companies. I received a call from NOAA and began my sea career in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on a fishing vessel, NOAA Ship Albatross. By the way, Albatross is actually where the NOAA Teachers at Sea Program started.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I didn’t expect to be around the same people 24/7. You are always with the people with whom you work and your boss. Eventually, though, it becomes like a family.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: I would tell other people that NOAA is a wonderful job for people interested in going to sea. When you start off, you can go out to sea for a few weeks at a time. With NOAA, you have a chance to see and do things that you don’t get to do on commercial boats. You also are able to see new parts of the country. I’ve seen the east and west cost. The benefits are outstanding. Aside from traveling, I also have three months of vacation each year, something I would probably not have with a desk job, even after many years.

Q: How did you become interested in communicating about science?

A: When I was on the east coast, I was on NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow out of Newport, Rhode Island. A group of scientists came onboard, and we sailed up by Newfoundland. We sent a special net nearly three miles down into the ocean. The most memorable thing was catching a fish that was about 2.5 feet long, incredibly white, paper thin, and had bright red fins. The scientists told me that this fish only lives two miles down. Experiences like this are once in a lifetime. That was one of the most exciting and memorable trips I’ve had with NOAA.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: Don’t take the sea for granted. There is a mystery for the sea. We know more about the moon than we do about the oceans. There is so much to learn at sea. Even after fifteen years at sea, there is so much more to learn about the ocean. It is never the same. There is always something new to see. I’m still amazed by some of the things I’ve seen at sea, even if I’ve seen them over and over again. For example, hearing the sound of the glaciers hitting the water is unforgettable. Seeing the different colors of the ocean, you realize there is so much more than green and blue. Once you think you’ve learned it all, the ocean changes again on you.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I’d probably be back in Boston working as a chef. I went to school for culinary arts, but I think I’d be miserable if I wasn’t at sea.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: When I’m home, I like to work in my backyard. I like to work on my garden. I also like to work out.

Q: What is your favorite memory as a student at the Edward Devotion School?

A: I loved growing up in Brookline. It was a wonderful town to grow up in. I really feel now that being a kid at Devotion School was one of the happiest parts of my life. There is so much history at the Devotion School. Even after having traveled all around the country with NOAA, I love going back home to Boston and Brookline. Boston and Brookline are my favorite places. I still keep in touch with five of my friends from school in Brookline. We’ve been hanging out together for over thirty years. My friendships from grade school and later at Brookline High are still tremendously important to me today.


An Interview with HST Bekah Gossett, Fairweather Hydrographic Survey Technician

HST Bekah Gossett
HST Bekah Gossett

IMG_20180422_134940
The View from the Plot Room

Bekah's sheet on Yakutat Bay project
One of HST Gosset’s Projects from Last Season: Notice the Green Plot Lines and Surrounding Glaciers

A Finished Sheet from Last Season
A Finished Sheet from Last Season: Notice the Contrasting Depths (69 fathoms on a Previous Chart v. 94 fathoms Based on Sonar Data)

Comparing Updated Charts with a Historic One
Comparing Updated Charts with an Outdated One (Green Represents Data Matched, Blue/Red Show One Data Set is Deeper/Shallower than the Other)

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: My role on the ship is to acquire and process data that gives us information about the depth of the seafloor.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: This work is important because it contributes to updating and creating charts (maps) that are navigationally significant for US mariners to keep them safe and to support them economically. And, it’s cool!

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I really like working on the small boats (the launches) and working in Alaskan waters is great. It is a really open and good learning environment for this field of work. I have learned a whole lot in just a year and a half. This goes beyond hydrography. I’ve learned a lot about others and myself and about working with people.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I do most of my work in the plot room and on the launches. During the field season, we’re on the launches almost every day. The plot room is the data processing room where there are lots of computers. It is adjacent to the bridge, the central and most important location on the ship.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: A computer!

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would create something with lidar (lasers) or a super sonar. Lidar is used on planes or drones to scan and provide data back. Lidar on launches would help us get data quicker.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I studied art in school, but then I switched to science. I’ve always liked ocean sciences. I decided to pursue an ocean career when I was 19.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I run the ship store, which is never something I expected to be doing. The ship stores sells snacks, candy, soda, and ship swag for the crew to keep morale high.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: I usually explain the ship’s mission as updating and correcting nautical charts. Sometimes we have different projects. Last year, for example, we were searching for a ship that sunk in Alaska in February 2017. We found it!

Q: How did you become interested in communicating about science?

A: When I was in college studying geology, I realized exactly how important it is to communicate science, because there is a lot of knowledge there that we can all learn from and use.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: There are a lot of different things one can do. There are many different degrees from engineering, to environmental science, to biology. You can study ocean science, but you don’t have to. Any science can be applied in the ocean. It is not just science. You can learn about many different careers in oceans. Engineers and deck crew are great fields to pursue. You could also be a steward and travel a lot.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I would probably be working for an environmental agency, but I would probably not be very happy. I might be at home with my dog.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I like to paint. I also have a ukulele. I also love to read.


An Interview with EU Tommy Meissner, Fairweather Engineer

EU Tommy Meissner
EU Tommy Meissner Hard at Work in Fairweather’s Boat Shop

EU Tommy Meissner in Navy
First Assignment: In the Navy, Onboard the USS Forrestal, The World’s First Supercarrier at 1,060 Feet Long in 1990

 

IMG_20180422_195404
EU Tommy Meissner: An Engineer & His Electric Guitar

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m a utility engineer. I stand watch on the main engines and  check all of the propulsion equipment. I do maintenance on the small boats. I work on air conditioning, refrigeration, heating, etc. I am jack-of-all-trades.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: There is always something too hot or too cold, something leaking or blocked. There is always too much of something or not enough of something else. That is really the challenge of the job.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: The travel aspect is the best thing about my job. I can go anywhere in the world I want to go, whenever I want to go. The oil field in Mexico is opening back up, and so now there is lots of work available.

From a work aspect, it is challenging to understand why a piece of equipment isn’t working. Fixing the engines. . .or anything really. . . is all about following a process, working methodically. It feels good to be able to fix the boat and keep it in the water.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I do most of my work in the boat shop on the small boats on E-Deck. That’s where all the maintenance is performed while the launches are in the davits (the machines that put the boats in the water). When underway, I spend eight hours a day in the machine room, but when in port I work mostly in the boat shop. Eight hours a day, four hours a watch. In addition to the two watches, I usually do at least two hours of overtime a day. During a watch, I walk around, checking all the machines, pumps, generators, boilers, air conditioners, fridge, freezer, etc.

Q:  What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: The first thing I always grab is a pipe wrench. It is always good to have one nearby. A pipe wrench is a tool that we use to take apart plumbing and to loosen and tighten any connections. I am pretty well known on this boat for unclogging restrooms and showers.

Q:  If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would want a third hand! There is always a time when you need another person. It would be helpful to have one more hand to do work more efficiently. There are lots of times when I can’t reach or need that extra hand.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I’ve been sailing since 1990. I joined the Navy in 1989. All my life I’ve liked being around boats and on the water. Even though I lived around the water when I was little, I never had the opportunity to go to sea, so it was something I dreamed about for when I was older. Living in Fort Lauderdale, I saw the Navy come through and watched all the ships. I thought it would be cool.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I had no idea where I would be going when I joined NOAA. Before I said yes to the job, they gave me the choice to go on the Fairweather or the Rainier. Initially, I wondered about Alaska. Nome, Alaska is as far away from home for me as Dubai. I had never been so far west.  Alaska has been great, though.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: Everyone I talk to doesn’t seem to know what NOAA is. NOAA has various missions, mapping the bottom of the ocean, studying coral reefs, fish ecology (understanding how many tuna are in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and what species of fish are on the reef off  North Carolina). I don’t think people know enough about NOAA.

Q: What recommendations do you have for a young person interested in pursuing an ocean career?

A: I would study oceanography and math and science if you want to go to sea.  Decide what type of career you would like; there are so many options at sea.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: If I wasn’t working for NOAA, I would go back to South Carolina and work in building or construction. I prefer NOAA!

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

I play guitar and teach guitar. I was always a metal head.


An Interview with 2C Carrie Mortell, Fairweather Steward

2C Carrie Mortell
2C Carrie Mortell Serving a Delicious Meal in Fairweather’s Galley

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I work in the galley (kitchen), which is very, very busy. It is kind of like the heart of the ship.   We work to feed everyone, make sure everything is kept clean, etc. There is a lot to do! We work twelve hours everyday. Many people think the galley is just cooking, but there is a lot more to the galley such as keeping track of massive amounts of stores (supplies), keeping everything fresh, and more.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: Keeping the mess deck (dining area) clean and keeping people happy and healthy with good meals is key. We boost morale. People look forward to sitting down and having a good meal at sea. We try to take peoples’ requests and keep the crew satisfied.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I love being at sea. I love to cook. I like to see people happy and satisfied. I always try to keep upbeat. We all have to live together, so it is important to keep morale up. We’re like a big family at sea.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I spend most of my day in the galley.   All of the stewards cook. We rotate every week. One week, one cook is in the galley, and then we switch into the scullery (where dishes are cleaned).

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: My hands!

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: Another pair of arms to help cook. It is really, really busy in the galley!

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: Well, I used to commercial fish. I have always loved being on the ocean. I grew up around fishing people. When I was little, I always wanted to live in a lighthouse. I also like being able to go to different places. It is exciting to always get to travel when at sea. I loved the French Polynesian Islands, where I traveled with NOAA. I worked out of Hawaii for about eight years, so I spent a lot of time sailing around the Pacific, visiting Guam, Sonoma, the Marshall Islands, and crossing the equator several times.   On the East Coast, I enjoyed sailing Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. I also love Alaska, so sailing on Fairweather is great! Eventually, I want to move back to Alaska.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I really love cooking, which is what I get to do everyday. I feel really passionate about my job. There isn’t anything I didn’t expect. You do have to really like what you do, though, at sea.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: All the ships do different missions. NOAA Ship Fairweather, for instance does mapping. Another NOAA ship I worked on put out buoys for tsunamis. NOAA helps keep oceans clean. NOAA also works with fisheries and brings many scientists out to sea to study the population of our oceans. NOAA even has gone on rescue missions for aircraft and other ships in distress.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: First, you should love the sea. It is hard sometimes if you have a family. Sometimes you miss out on important events, but if you pick a ship in the right area, you can see your family more often. Sometimes, NOAA isn’t what people expect. It is really hard work, but I love it. There are lots of different departments and jobs on the ship though, so it is possible to find something you love.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I definitely would be working in culinary arts somewhere.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I love to write, paint, draw, crochet, and read. I’ve always dreamed of writing children’s books. I used to tell my children stories, especially scary ones which they loved.


An Interview with ENS Linda Junge, Fairweather Junior Officer

ENS Linda Junge on the Bridge
ENS Linda Junge on the Bridge

ENS Linda Junge
ENS Linda Junge Leading a Navigation Briefing, Explaining Fairweather’s Course for the Inside Passage

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m a junior officer (JO).

Q: What’s the process for becoming a JO?

A: The process to apply to become a JO is much like applying to graduate school. You write essays, get three to five letters of recommendation, fill out the application, and have an interview. You need a BS in a field relating to NOAA’s mission, which can be pretty much any math or science field (geology, physics, calculus, engineering, biology, environmental sciences, etc.). Then you attend BOTC (Basic Officer Training Class), which is held at the Coast Guard Academy along with their officer candidate school. Another way to become a JO is to transfer in if you were formerly enlisted. BOTC for JO’s lasts five months, and we have lots of navigation classes.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: NOAA Ships have three main categories: oceanography, hydrography, and fisheries. The major job of JO’s on ships is driving, we’re like bus drivers for science. When we are underway, 50% of my work is navigation, driving the ship, and deck stuff. 30% is collateral duties, extra administrative things to make the ship run such as thinking about environmental compliance and working as a medical officer. 20% (which can fluctuate) is focused on hydrographic survey, driving small boats or helping with survey sheets, managing an area, collecting data, and being sure data is processed on time.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I really enjoy knowing that I’m keeping people safe while they are sleeping. I really enjoy traveling. I really enjoy the sense of family that comes from living on a ship.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: All of the navigation is done from the bridge. The rest of the work is desk work. Any ship needs lots of administrative work to make it run. It’s like a space ship, a hotel, a restaurant, a family. To make all of those things run you need cooks, plumbers, etc., you need a lots of admin. It is like a government-run hotel. There is lots of compliance to think about. It’s a JO’s job to make sure everything is done correctly and all is well taken care of because it is paid for and continues to be paid for by tax payers. Everyone who serves aboard a ship has documented time of when you have been on the ship, sea-service letters. A commercial ship may have human resources (HR), and yeomen (arranges paperwork for travel, keep everything supplied and running, stocked, etc.), pursers (who manage money and billable hours), but all of these tasks are done by JO’s on Fairweather.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: Red lights. At night, it is dark on the bridge. We can’t destroy our night-vision, so we use red lights, which are gentle on the eyes and don’t affect one’s night vision. It’s important to be able to see the charts as well as to maintain night vision while keeping watch.

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would hire someone to be the yeomen to make sure we never ran out of pens, always had travel vouchers, made sure copiers ran, and helped with all the other random jobs.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: Before I did this, I was a fisheries observer. I was a biologist who went out to sea. I always loved standing on the bridge and hearing the stories. I loved not commuting, not having to go to the office. I loved casting out to sea, working hard, and then, pulling in, tying up, and feeling a huge sigh of relief that the crew worked hard and arrived safely back in port. It stuck with me, I enjoyed that, and I decided to pursue a career with NOAA.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: All the administrative stuff!

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: NOAA is everywhere, and sometimes people don’t appreciate that. NOAA produces weather reports and regulates fisheries in Alaska, where I’m from. NOAA could do a better job of advertising to the public its many pursuits.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: There are many cool internships on research vessels. The commercial sector will always take people looking for adventure. If you don’t make a career of it, that’s fine. At the worst, you learn something new about yourself while having a really cool experience. That is not such a bad thing.  I highly recommend giving an ocean job a try.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I would probably be in grad school. I would study city planning.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I like walking. I like being in the woods.


Personal Log

While most of the crew spends days working on the bridge (navigation), the plot room (data analysis), in the galley (preparing meals), or in the engine room/boat shop (keeping everything running smoothly), there are a lot of other areas on the ship that help make Fairweather feel more like home.  Below are some pictures of such key places:

The Ship's Gym
The Ship’s Gym Next to the Engine Room

Ship's Movie Theater
The Ship’s Movie Theater. Some Nights the Crew Gathers to Watch Films Together or Play Games.

Ship's library
The Ship’s Library – Lots of Science Fiction and Suspense!

Ship's Mailroom
The Ship’s Mailroom – Mail is Sent to Each Port; One of the Many Things to Look Forward to in a New Destination.

Conference room
The Ship’s Conference Room Where Navigation Briefings and Safety Meetings Are Held

The Ship's Laundry Room
The Ship’s Laundry Room

Ship's store
The Ship’s Store – Candy & Snacks – Treasures at Sea

The Ship's Store - Swag!
The Ship’s Store – Swag

Berth
A Berth (or Living Space) on the Ship Shared by Two Members of the Crew. Note the Bunk Beds & Curtains. The Crew Works Various Shifts 24/7.


Did You Know?

There is a lot of lingo aboard!  Here are some terms helpful to know for navigating a ship:

Aft: towards the back of the ship

Bow: the front of the ship

Bridge: the navigation or control room at the front/top part of the ship

Decka floor/level on a ship

Flying Bridge: the top-most deck of the ship that provides unobstructed views

Fantail: area towards the back of the ship

Galley: the ship’s kitchen

Hands: a popular way to refer to the crew or people working aboard the ship

Head: the bathroom on a ship

Helm: the “steering wheel” of the ship

Hull: the outside sides/bottom of the vessels

Mess: dining area on the ship

Scullery: where dishes are washed

Starboard: to the right of the ship

Stores:  the supplies kept in the hull that the crew will need while away at sea for a long time

Stern: the back of the boat

Port: to the left of the ship

Challenge Question #3: Devotion 7th Graders – Create a scale drawing of your ideal research or fishing vessel!  Be sure to include key areas, such as those shown above.  Remember that your crew will need space to eat, sleep, navigate, research, work, and relax. At a minimum, include the plan for at least one deck (or floor).  Include your scale factor, show conversions and calculations, and label each area using some of the vocabulary included above.  Needs some ideas?  Check out this link to NOAA’s Marine Vessels for some inspiration.

Lisa Battig: Of Auroras, Anemometers, Anchors and Adult-sized Exposure Suits, September 3, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Lisa Battig

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 28 – September 8, 2017

 

Mission: Arctic Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Location: Transit from Port Clarence to Yukon River Delta with Ship Surveying on the west side of Norton Sound
Latitude: 62o 32.5 N            Longitude:  165o 48.7 W

Date: September 3, 2017

Weather on the Bridge:
48 degrees F, Winds 6-8 knots from NNE, Seas 2-3 ft increasing, 50% cloud cover


Science and Technology Log

 AURORAS: 

Manda aurora 1
A shot of the aurora taken by Lieutenant Damien Manda, Operations Officer. This was my first aurora ever, and I know I was treated to a truly spectacular display. There was a lot of ooo-ing and aaah – ing and shrieks of delight. I was definitely one of those!

So this isn’t ship science, and it certainly isn’t technology that is made or operated by anyone on the ship, but the aurora is great science and of all the things I’ve experienced out here, has one of the best ties to Chemistry. Why Chemistry? Well, because it’s dealing with electrons. As my chemistry students will learn in a month or so, energy at certain frequencies has the ability to affect the electrons in an atom by causing them to jump up one or more energy levels. That electron does not want to stay in that higher energy position (orbital) so it will shortly drop back down. When it does so, it releases the absorbed energy as a photon of light which is what our eyes see as the brilliant colors. Neon lights follow this principle.

The aurora occurs in an oval shape around the magnetic poles of the earth – both north and south. The reason for this is that the magnetic field of the earth dips closer to earth at the North and South Pole. It is in these regions that highly charged electrons and protons from the solar wind move close enough to the earth that they will interact with the electrons in elements in our lower atmosphere; nitrogen, oxygen, argon and the trace gases.

Because each element has a different emission spectrum, the color given off will vary with the elements being charged. The green that is so often associated with auroras is from atmospheric oxygen. Oxygen in the lower atmosphere is the element that is most commonly affected by the solar wind particles. When higher altitude oxygen is affected, reds will actually be present. Nitrogen will also be charged this way, but less frequently than oxygen. Nitrogen’s color scheme is blues and purples. A strong aurora, which we had the opportunity to see, will have a mix of greens, pinks, purples, whites and blues.

ANEMOMETERS: Weather is one of the more important factors in determining ship navigation. High winds bring heavy seas; heavy moisture in the air may bring low clouds or fog reducing visibility. These factors must be figured into a navigational plan. Weather on the ship is compiled both through analog and digital means. The first wind information given to a seaman standing watch during daylight hours is the wind vane on the bow of the ship. It will tell which direction the wind is from and will give that seaman a sense of how the ship may drift off course while underway.

Fairweather anemometer
Looking up at the anemometers on Fairweather set on the flying bridge. You can see the two levels reasonably well. This is where constant weather data are being gathered which are then relayed to multiple places both on the ship and off.

The ship also has two anemometers. Both are on the mast. One is above the other physically as you somewhat see in the image. They are able to pick up exact wind speed and direction and keep record of maxima. One of the two will be chosen as dominant because the wind is less influenced by obstacles as it (the wind) travels across the ship’s surface. The anemometer chosen will feed into the ship’s digital data stream.The watch also takes data on air temperature, atmospheric pressure, cloud cover, and seas. Air temperature is taken from wet and dry bulb mercury thermometers. The difference between the wet and dry bulb temperatures will give a reading of relative humidity, also, when assessed using a psychrometric chart. A standard barometer is also on the bridge. Swell height and direction are determined by the watch crew visually, as are cloud cover and type. All of these data are recorded hourly. Digital sensors on board also take many of these readings and feed them into the navigation system and the ship’s ECDIS system. The redundancy of these processes, using both digital and analog means, underscore the importance of weather to the ship.

All NOAA ships, UNOLS (university ships) and some merchant vessels also serve as weather stations for the National Weather Service. The digital data is automatically sent on the hour. Visual data on swell direction and height and the condition of the seas is shared through another program, keeping the NWS and other weather agencies more informed of local weather activity.

ANCHORS:

watching the anchor and chain
Commanding Officer Mark Van Waes and Chief Bosun Brian Glunz checking the anchor and chain to be sure it is clear of the ship. Dennis Brooks is standing by.

 

When placing the anchor, the ship will initially overshoot the anchor location and then reverse back over it. This is primarily to keep the anchor and chain from ever being underneath the ship. The anchor and chain are extremely heavy and could do serious damage to the scientific equipment underneath, the propellers and even scratch up the hull. Once the ship has reversed slowly to the location, the anchor is dropped along with 5-7 times the amount of chain as the depth of water the ship is in. As the chain is dropping, the ship will continue to slowly back up laying the chain along the seafloor. The chain will then be locked, and as the anchor finally drags back, it will catch and hold. When the anchor catches, the ship will buck slightly, pulling the chain completely taut, and then because the ship will rebound, the chain will slacken. This is done twice (or more, if necessary) to ensure the anchor has really caught. The bosun and deck hands are watching over the side of the ship communicating with the bridge when the anchor is taut and slack as well. For complete safety, fixed points of land are marked on the radar and distances to each are calculated. The bridge will take measurements from these points every 10 minutes for the first half hour confirming that the anchor is set and then every half hour while at anchor.

Heaving the anchor involves “reeling” it in (similar to sport fishing) by getting the ship closer to the anchor as it is being drawn up. The goal is keeping the chain at a 90o angle to the surface of the water. Again, this keeps the anchor and chain from being able to do damage to the ship. During this process, the bridge will continually check the location of the bow relative to the anchor to insure that the hull will never cross over the chain. Once the ship is directly over the anchor, it should pull free. Finally, during the time the anchor chain is being pulled up, it must be cleaned of all the mud and debris.

washing the anchor chain
Me. Washing down the anchor chain as it comes up with SS Dennis Brooks helping hold the fire hose (it’s pretty heavy!)

ADULT EXPOSURE SUITS: 

Exposure suit
Me trying on a VERY large adult exposure suit. Look at those legs!!

Each week, the entire crew of the ship has an emergency drill. Because there are no outside emergency personnel available for the ship (e.g. fire department) all crew must be well trained in how to handle fires, a sinking ship, and a person falling overboard. There are many crewmembers who pursued their MPIC (Medical Person in Charge), and others who are trained in Rescue Swimming, and there are also members of the Engineering crew who are trained firefighters. But regardless of training, the entire crew needs to be clear as to their responsibilities in an emergency situation and how to communicate with one another throughout the ordeal. So once a week, an unannounced drill will be run to sharpen some of these skills.

I had the chance to be involved with “man overboard” drill today. The drill consisted of me screaming as a dummy (Oscar) with a life vest was dumped over the side. After that, a man overboard was called and the ship’s alarm system was initiated. There are differing signals for each type of emergency. As all ship personnel mustered, communication began. The Commanding Officer, Mark Van Waes, was actually the first to spot the MOB (man overboard) and fixed the location for the bridge who subsequently relayed it through ship communications. At that point, two different options were available; bringing the ship to a position next to the victim and rescuing from the ship or deploying the Fast Rescue Boat mentioned in my last post to do a rescue. Although the ship was brought around, the rescue from the ship proved too difficult. The Fast Rescue boat was deployed with a coxswain, rescue diver (outfitted in an exposure suit) and a third. The MOB was found, placed on a back board, brought back to the ship, and rescue breathing was started along with warming up of the body.

It was fantastic watching all of the different pieces of the puzzle come together to be successful.


Department of the Day: The Deck Crew!