Caroline Singler, August 6, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Caroline Singler
Ship: USCGC Healy

Mission: Extended Continental Shelf Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Arctic Ocean

Date of Post: 2 September 2010

 

Ice, Ice, Baby!

Watching my first ice

Watching my first ice

I’ve had that song in my head since we left Dutch Harbor – well actually that’s the only line I know, and we encountered our first sea ice early this morning, Friday 6 August 2010.

We knew it was coming eventually, and a look at a satellite overlay on the ship tracker during last night’s watch revealed that we were getting close to the ice. The white areas to the south of the ship are clouds, but you can see broken white patches north of the ship’s track that are sea ice.

Ice Map

Ice Map

My watch ended at midnight, and we estimated that we’d be in the ice around 4:00 a.m., so I set my alarm for that time. At first I forgot why my alarm was going off, but then I heard a new sound, something I had been told to expect, and I realized it must be the sound of the ship’s hull scraping against the ice. I looked out the porthole to see patches of ice passing by, so I put on some warmer clothes and headed out on deck and then up to the bridge for my first look at sea ice. I’ll have plenty of opportunities to talk more about ice and the work of an ice breaker over the next couple of weeks, but for now, I want to share with you what I saw. I think you’ll understand why I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be here.
Enjoy!
Caroline

These were my first views from the fore deck. Notice the sky:

View from Fore Deck - 6AM

View from Fore Deck – 6AM

Morning Sky and first ice

Morning Sky and first ice

The bridge provides some of the best views in the house. The fact that the sun chose to make an appearance through the clouds and early morning mist only added to the beauty.

Sun and ice

Sun and ice

Sun Breaking through the sky

Sun Breaking through the sky

Morning sun over ice

Morning sun over ice

 

ice from the bridge

View of ice from the bridge

Throughout the day, the ice came and went. At times, we rammed into large floes with such force that the entire ship rocked and groaned. Other times, the water was almost ice free.
Small iceberg

Small iceberg

Me on the deck

Me on the deck

Here I am in the Arctic Ocean, and I cannot imagine a better way to spend the summer!

Ruth Meadows, June 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 17, 2009

Iceburg from a distance

Iceberg from a distance

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 10o C
Humidity: 74%
Wind: 10 kts

Scientific and Technology Log 

As we left St. John’s, Newfoundland, our course went through an area where icebergs were located. By the middle of the afternoon, we had several icebergs in sight.  From a distance they appear to be very small white objects, but as you get closer you begin to realize how large they really are. Using equipment on the bridge, they know where the large icebergs are located well before we can see them.  As we circled around them, the captain made sure we didn’t get too close.

Iceberg up close.

Iceberg up close.

Icebergs are masses of ice that break off of a glacier and fall into the ocean. North Atlantic icebergs originate from Greenland and are carried by the Labrador Current south until they melt.  Although they look really large, you can only see a small part. The part you can see is only about 1/5th to 1/10th of the entire iceberg. Occasionally we could see seabirds on the iceberg. The weather cooperated with our viewing with clear skies and somewhat warmer temperatures.  Most of the viewing was done from the flying bridge which is the top most level of the ship. It is located directly on top of the bridge which is where the navigation of the ship takes place.

Here I am in front of the iceberg.

Here I am in front of the iceberg with my roommate, Meredith, who works with NOAA.

Personal Log 

As we were approaching the icebergs, most of the crew came up on the deck to see them.  We could see them in a distance but it took almost an hour before we reached them.  Of course, everyone had their cameras out. This is really one iceberg. The blue section in the middle is under water so it has a shallow pool in the middle.  Waves break over the top and erode the ice.  As the iceberg breaks up, their name changes based on the size of the chunks. Bergy bits rise 1-4 meters out of the water. Very small chunks of ice that rise only about 1 meter out of the water are called growlers.

Another view of the iceberg

Another view of the iceberg 

On clear days like this, the sunsets over the ocean are amazing.

On clear days like this, the sunsets over the ocean are amazing.

Ruth Meadows, June 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ruth S. Meadows
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow 
June 12 – July 18, 2009 

Mission: Census of Marine Life (MAR-Eco)
Geographical Area: Mid- Atlantic Ridge; Charlie- Gibbs Fracture Zone
Date: June 16, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temperature: 12o
Humidity: 75%
Wind: 11 kts

The Port of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

The Port of St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada

Science and Technology Log 

Sometimes circumstances make you change your plans.  When we were about half way to the ridge, Internet reception went down.  After much thought and consideration, Captain Lynch decided to make port at St John’s, Newfoundland so a new part could be installed.  It is important for the ship to have accurate and up to date weather reports that are accessible through the Internet and the scientists plan to use the internet for their work.  So today when I woke up there was land in sight….. The sky is blue with cirrus clouds overhead.  The sea is calm with low swells. Off to the left of the ship is an iceberg!!!! It is a long distance away, but you could still see it. We are staying outside the harbor for the day waiting to see if the part will be delivered to us.  If it does not arrive until tonight, then we will dock at St. John’s for the night, install the part in the morning and then leave for our first sampling. 

Personal Log 

Waiting to enter the harbor

Waiting to enter the harbor

The part for the computer was not scheduled to arrive before 11:00 pm.  A harbor pilot from the town came onto the ship to take us to our “parking” place in the harbor.  Around 7:00, we went into the harbor to dock for the night.   Everyone’s passports were checked and we were cleared to go ashore.  All the science crew and part of the ship’s crew went ashore to see the town of St. John’s. There are large stone cliffs that surround the harbor.  Houses are built into the cliffs.  One of the scientists said it reminded him of Norway.  The boats in the harbor were brightly painted and were built for fishing. It was nice to be walking on solid ground after a few days at sea. We are hopeful that the part will work so we can continue on our trip.

St. John’s lovely harbor

St. John’s lovely harbor

While on shore, fresh produce was picked up so we will be able to enjoy fresh food for a few days more.  The food has been really good with a wide variety being served.  Each day for lunch and dinner there are usually two choices for the main dish, seafood and a meat with vegetables each day. So far we have had duck, rabbit, and filet of sole, salmon, scallops, fish stew, vegetable lasagna, ribs and many more different items. We even had a cookout with grilled sausages and hamburgers.

St. John’s lovely harbor

Boats in the harbor

Grilling on the back of the ship.  One of the crew made the grill from an old barrel and installed the handle and the base.

Grilling on the back of the ship. One of the crew made the grill from an old barrel and installed the handle and the base. 

Patricia Donahue, August 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Donahue
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier 
August 19-23, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Bear Cove, AK
Geographical Area: Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 59.43.7 N, 151.02.9 W
Date
: August 21, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge at 1000 hours 
Broken clouds (7/8)
Visibility 11 to 27 nautical miles
Winds calm
Seas 0-1 ft (light breeze) at 9.4˚C
Air pressure 1001.5 millibars and rising slightly
Dry Bulb 12.2˚C, Wet Bulb 11.1˚C
Cumulus clouds between 3000 and 5000 feet

The lines circled in red are the track that the boat follows back and forth in order scan the bottom of the sea. It’s a lot like mowing a lawn!

The track that the boat follows back and forth in order scan the bottom of the sea. It’s a lot like mowing a lawn!

Science and Technology Log 

We are anchored in Halibut Cove near a large lagoon too shallow even for the small boats to enter. The nearby mountains have attracted my attention. According to the chart for this area, the two seen off the bow are both 3600 feet high. They have some patches of snow on them. A taller mountain, 4200 feet high, is barely visible in the distance. Nearer the shore some cliffs show evidence of an interesting geological history. Once upon a time, marine sediments collected at the bottom of the sea. The layers built steadily one atop the other, creating organic and clastic sedimentary rocks. The rocks were uplifted to nearly vertical and have eroded. The lighter colored section appears to be limestone but it’s difficult to tell from afar. Due to intense tectonic activity in the area, some of the rock was heated and crushed, causing metamorphism. The section next to what I think is limestone looks to be either a metamorphosed limestone or a batholith. I’m hopeful that someone on board knows more geology than I do!

One of these scans shows a school of fish and the other shows a mound on the sea floor.  Can you guess which is which? (Answer: the scan on the left is a mound on the sea floor and the scan on the right is a school of fish.)

One of these scans shows a school of fish and the other shows a mound on the sea floor. Can you guess which is which?

Today I went out on one of the small vessels conducting single beam sonar scanning to determine the depth and shape of the bay bottom. The boat moves across the surface of the sea in straight, parallel lines much like the ones made when cutting the grass with a lawn mower. The lines in the first picture are the rows that the boat “mows.” The sonar pings go down from the bottom of the boat at a rate of 100 per second! The equipment on board measures how much time passes until the ping returns from the bottom. The longer it takes for the sound signal to bounce back, the deeper the water is in that location. The boat also has another scanner similar to what fishermen use to find schools of fish. Look at these two photographs from the scanner. Which is a school of fish and which is a 27 foot high mound on the ocean floor? The depth of the water is in large numbers in the lower left. The numbers farthest to the right are the ocean temperatures. Why is the water colder where the bottom is deeper?

This is a sea otter feasting on a clam! The tiny white spec on its belly is the clam

This is a sea otter feasting on a clam! The tiny white spec on its belly is the clam

Personal Log 

The screen above with the “mowing the lawn” lines on it clearly shows an airplane making its way back and forth. Of course I had to ask, “Why an airplane icon”? I thought they’d tell me that it was for laughs but no, there is a good reason. The airplane icon’s nose keeps in sync with the GPS and the lines better than the ship icon! The surveyors find it easier to know their position.

Animals Seen Today 

  • Many sea otters – Look closely at the picture to the left. The otter in the picture is eating clam. A shell is balanced on its belly!
  • Schools of fish under the boat “seen” by the radar
  • Several types of birds too far away to identify

Vocabulary of the Day 

While inputting the weather this morning, I noticed several screens that we did not add data to and rather than skip them, I decided to see what they were about. They were about ice conditions that a ship might encounter and include in a weather report. Here are two new words I didn’t have for ice. A bergy bit is a large piece of floating glacier ice between 100 and 300 square meters in area and showing less than 5 meters but more than 1 meter above sea level. A growler is smaller than a bergy bit. It is larger than 20 square meters in area but less than 1 meter is above the sea surface. Growlers can be transparent, green, or even black in appearance. Since its summer in Alaska, I won’t be seeing any bergy bits or growlers! I also learned that the term iceberg has a precise definition. An iceberg is a piece of ice afloat or aground that shows more than 5 meters above the sea surface. They are described more specifically by their shape.

Challenge Yourself 

Kachemak Bay receives a lot of glacial melt water. Surveyors have a difficult time with the radar equipment when they encounter freshwater because the sound waves travel at a different speed through fresh water than they do through salt water. In which type of water, salt or fresh, does sound travel faster? Why?

Clare Wagstaff, June 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 9, 2008

CO of the COBB and a NOAA diver heading down to explore the hull of the  COBB. They took knifes with them expecting to find netting caught, but no such luck.

Divers heading down to explore the hull of the COBB. They took knifes with them expecting to find netting caught, but no such luck.

Final Log 

I write this last log sat at the dinning table in the galley of the JOHN N. COBB. The last few days have been difficult here on the ship. Unfortunately the mechanical difficulties that the vessel suffered on June 3, have proven to be a little more serious than was originally hoped. The initial diagnosis was of some sort of obstruction, probably fishing line from a trawler, caught in the propeller. After the final leg of our journey, being towed by a much larger NOAA ship, the Rainier, and then finally the last mile by a tug boat, the COBB limped into port in Juneau. Here, the CO and two experienced NOAA divers explored the hull of the ship but unfortunately found nothing obviously wrong to report. With external problems to the ship ruled out, the crew looked internally into the ship’s engine. The engine on the COBB is 59 years old. Similar types where used in the past in trains and submarines. This engine is massive, about 20ft long by 4ft wide. In fact the ship was actually built around the engine, meaning any serious problems with it are extremely difficult to get to and fix. After closer inspection by Sam and Joe, the COBB’s engineers, they discovered that the crankshaft had a large fracture in it. With only two engines of this type known to still be in use, the COBB being one of them, finding a spare crankshaft to replace it is likely to be difficult. It seems as if the COBB may have sailed for the last time under her own power.

A huge crack in the crankshaft, which is essential as it connects all the cylinders of the engine together and makes them rotate.

A huge crack in the crankshaft, which connects all the cylinders of the engine and makes them rotate.

One of the biggest aspects of our cruise was meant to be the last week: studying the haulout sites in two large glacial areas in Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. With the COBB out of action, I decided to jump onboard a tourist cruise that took a small group of us to the Tracy Arm fjord. It has two picturesque tidewater glaciers are set at the end of this long fjord. Along the journey down the fjord, the step cliff face rises vertically out of the water.  The captain maneuvers the small boat around massive icebergs, with the thought of the Titanic always in the back of my head, I am pleased he goes so slowly. These massive chunks of ice that have broken off a glacier and can float for many miles down stream and out to open water. They can be made of ice, possibly a thousand years old, and are very impressive floating ice blocks with an intense, bright blue color. Light is made up of many colors, all blended together. When light hits an object, some of its colors are absorbed, while others pass through it. Which colors are absorbed depends on the composition of the object: what it is made up of. In this case, the densely packed ice is thick and absorbs red and yellow light, leaving only blue light to be seen. Thinner ice appears white as all light passes through it.

A massive floating iceberg located in Tracy Arm fjord.

A massive iceberg located in Tracy Arm fjord.

As we got closer to the North Sawyer glacier: seal pups galore! It seemed every direction I looked there was a mother and her pup! Dave had spoken about this area to me and pointed out things to look for. Some distance off from our boat, I could see two juvenile bald eagles sat on the ice in very close proximately to a larger seal. Apparently the afterbirth leaves pinkish / red stains visible on the ice, is a tasty meal for these birds, and they were sat there waiting for the opportune moment to enjoy it! There was though one seal that stood out for all the hundred of others. This seal had a transmitter attached to the top of his head and what I later found out to be, a heart rate monitor around its chest! The seal did look a very strange sight and was easily spooked back into the safety of the water. Earlier this season, Dave had been helping the Alaskan Fish and Game department tag seals in the Endicott Arm area, some 40 miles from here so this seal had traveled some distance. The transmitter attached to its head relays information of its location and details from its heart rate monitor. Measuring the heart rate of the seal is used to study the stress placed on the animal in regards to cruise boats and their close proximity. A seal under stress will expel more energy as it swims away from the danger. Being in the water also means that more energy is expelled in thermoregulation to maintain its body temperature. From this sighting Dave was able to report back to the Fish and Game department that this seal had been spotted, alive and well!

Just one group of many of the seals present in Tracy Arm.

Just one of many of the seals in Tracy Arm.

Although this seal did look quite funny to the human observers, it should think it lucky that it was just a little bigger; otherwise a video camera would have been attached too! Not to worry though. As the seal molts, as they do each year, the transmitter and heart rate monitor, which is glued onto the seal’s fur, will come off! While the boat was sat stationary in the water near the South Sawyer glacier, there was a loud cracking sound. This signaled a carving of the ice from the face of the glacier. It sent ice crashing into the water with some force and in turn a wave was created that sent our boat rocking. Over the 45 minutes we were there, this braking up of the glacial ice happened four times. Looking out to the seals on the ice in this area, I wondered why they would stay on the ice so close to where this was happening, as it couldn’t be a pleasant ride with all the rocking. As it happens, these seals love this area, for exactly that reason. As the ice hits the water, it mixes the water below, sending the seal’s food source such as shrimp, closer to the surface. Basically the carving action brings dinner just one step closer to them – buffet service with a great view!

A tagged harbor seal with a transmitter attached to its head and a heart rate monitor to its chest.

A tagged harbor seal with a transmitter on its head and a heart rate monitor on its chest.

I have had just the best time onboard the JOHN N. COBB. Although my cruise was much shorter than I had expected, I saw many wonderful things that I had never done so before. I think that if you have to be stranded anywhere for a week, Alaska seems like a pretty good option to me!

Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff in front of South Sawyer glacier.

Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff in front of South Sawyer glacier.