Heather O’Connell: Soil Samples, Surveying and Sumdum Glacier, June 17, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Heather O’Connell

NOAA Ship Rainier

June 7 – 21, 2018

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Seattle, Washington to Sitka, Alaska

Date: 6/17/18

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude and Longitude: 57°43.2’ N, 133 °35.7’ W, Sky Condition: Overcast , Visibility: 10+ nautical miles, Wind Speed: 2 knots, Sea Level Pressure: 1024.34 millibars, Sea Water Temperature: 7.2°C, Air Temperature: Dry bulb: 11.78°C, Wet bulb: 10.78°C

Science and Technology Log

I was part of the crew launched on RA-3 where I learned to turn towards a man overboard in order to ensure that the stern of the ship turns away from them. Communicating via the radio was another highlight where I was certain to follow the proper protocol.

RA- 3 Launch with Multi-beam sonar

RA- 3 Launch with Multi-beam sonar

Next, we moved onto deploying the C.T.D., conductivity, temperature and depth device to determine the sound profile of the water. The winch is a pulley system off the back of the launches that casts the C.T.D. and functions similar to a crab pot winch with an addition of a pressure bar to alleviate the weight of the thirty pound C.T.D.

Deploying the C.T.D.

Able Bodied Seaman Tyler Medley and Junior Officer Michelle Levano deploying the C.T.D.

After passing an iceberg with a seal, we began collecting soil samples with a device called a grab sampler. This was connected to the winch and went down about three hundred and thirty feet to collect a bottom sample. The first sample consisted of small shells of mostly barnacles, along with some medium grained sand and large silt submerged in solution.  The second sample was pristine clay with a slight green color created from the physical erosion of the surrounding rocks of the mountains. Soil sample data is collected and included in the data report because it can affect the sound speed of water. It can also provide useful information about the types of organisms that could live in this ecosystem, along with the types of resources available in this area.

Grab Sampler

Grab Sampler

Next, we connected with RA-6 and had a crew transfer so that I could learn how hydrographic surveying actually works. Newly certified H.I.C., hydrographer in charge, Audrey Jerauld was kind enough to share her knowledge of conducting surveying within Tracy’s Arm. Since Rainier surveyed most of the channel, RA-6 was simply collecting near shore data using the multi-beam sonar. The I.M.U., inertial measuring unit, (not to be confused with the Hawaiian imu which is an underground cooking pit) accurately records the pitch, roll, heave and yaw of the boat. This allows GPS receivers to function even when a satellite is not available. I learned that this is important since when surveying next to a steep cliff,when the satellite cannot reach the small launch, this provides an alternate, accurate means of placement. It determines a D.R., or dead reckoning based on the I.M.U. accelerators and creates a plot of where it thinks the launch is. 

deploying C.T.D.

Junior Officer ENS Collin Walker and H.S.T Audrey Jerauld deploying C.T.D.

Personal Log

The sun was shining yesterday afternoon and I loved soaking up the Vitamin D offered by the sun’s rays while practicing yoga on the flying bridge. When Junior Officer Ian Robbins invited me to go kayaking, I eagerly accepted the opportunity to explore Holkham Bay on a kayak with more maneuverability. I descended into the kayak via a rope ladder off the ship and paddled about three miles through a kelp forest to the nearby Sandy Island. Here, there were endless barnacles, urchins, starfish and kelp to explore near the shore in this inter tidal ecosystem. After pulling the kayaks up to shore and exploring land, I had the realization that with each step I was crushing more living organisms than I cared to consider. The rocks and shells soon turned to rye grass and marshland with some larger rocks.

Sunflower Star

Sunflower Star, Photo Credit: Ian Robbins

Seastar in Intertidal Zone

Seastar in Intertidal Zone

We eventually pulled the kayaks to the other side of the island and kayaked our way next to a blue iceberg. Seeing concentric circles and the intricate pattern of the frozen water crystals was a spectacular sight. Kayaking around such a beautiful natural phenomenon that has been in existence much before I have, was again, a humbling experience.

Iceberg off Sandy Island

Iceberg off Sandy Island

Paddling back to the ship with Sumdum glacier to the right and passing through a narrow channel that lead to the beautiful golden glow of the sun about to set proved to be a perfect ending to an exciting day. Feeling amazed at the sight in every direction made me once again feel extreme gratitude for this exceptional opportunity to be around such vast beauty.

Holkham Bay Sunset

Holkham Bay Sunset

Did You Know?

Mooring line, or the rope used to tie a ship to the dock, is often made of spectra. This synthetic polymer, spectra, doesn’t stretch and is extremely strong, so much so that it can bend metal if enough tension is put on it. It is three times stronger than polyester.

Susan Smith, June 1, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Smith
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 1-12, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical area of cruise: Trocadero Bay, Alaska; 55°20.990’ N, 33°00.677’ W
Date: June 1, 2009

NOAA Ship Rainier

NOAA Ship Rainier

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sea Temperature: 10.0 C (50 F)
Visibility: Clear, 10+ nautical miles

Science and Technology Log 

What a way to start the day- learning how to deploy launches and all that goes into that process. Each new person onboard the ship who was going to be taking a launch, or responsible for their deployment, was required to attend this training meeting. Safety is of utmost importance on the NOAA ships and the smallest things when not done properly can result in disaster.

Coiling the throwing line

Coiling the throwing line

I learned a great deal of new vocabulary this morning, mostly pertaining to launch equipment, rope terms, and parts of the launch. It was stressed that in order for us all to have a positive experience we had to learn these terms and their procedures as quickly as possible.

Vocabulary: davit, lizard line, frapping line, bitter end, bite of line.

Tying off the Lizard line

Tying off the Lizard line

Three launches were deployed this afternoon to various areas around the Trocadero Bay. Using a Conductivity, Temperature and Depth(CTD) cast three times, we were able to determine salinity, depth of water, and temperature, all measurements used to calculate speed of sound. We set off to finish collecting data from areas missed, called “getting the holiday”. These are generally very small white areas on the screen which need to be surveyed. The wide pink line on the screen to the right indicates the section being surveyed. The pink section is actually made of many tiny lines as the sonar pings back to the launch.

Beautiful screen showing sonar return, most likely a rocky bottom. There are no breaks in the line, or acoustic shadows. The surveyors and techs really like this display of information.

Beautiful screen showing sonar return, most likely a rocky bottom. There are no breaks in the line, or acoustic shadows. The surveyors and techs really like this display of information.

This display is not so beautiful. The bottom was most likely mud or other soft bottom type, preventing a strong sonar return. The line with orange and   yellow dots under the bright green line is very weak and blurry. There are blank sections called acoustic shadows, or locations the sonar does not reach.

This display is not so beautiful. The bottom was most likely mud or other soft bottom type, preventing a strong sonar return. The line with orange and yellow dots under the bright green line is very weak and blurry. There are blank sections called acoustic shadows, or locations the sonar does not reach.

Animals Sighted: Red jellyfish, blue jellyfish, deer on the coastline

Personal Log 

Brown Kelp often deceives the sonar as it may appear as rocks.

Brown Kelp often deceives the sonar as it may appear as rocks.

What a grand time to be on a NOAA ship in Alaska! The weather has been fantastic, the scenery quite beautiful, and wonderful people who enjoy their jobs. Upon my arrival I was assigned “The PIT”, A C desk sleeping berth areas. It is below the laundry room, but very dark and surprisingly quiet considering its proximity to other mechanical areas of the ship. The suggested ear plugs were certainly a welcome item in the event I just couldn’t get to sleep.

Once I got my bearings, most of the areas I had to be in were easy to find. I was a little apprehensive that the onboard drills would be stressful, especially if I happened to be on the bridge or in the plot room. Going down three sets of steps, getting my survival suit, climbing back up one set of steps, and making it to my muster station as quickly as possible was not my idea of fun. However it was not as I imagined, as there were plenty of other new people who had to maneuver themselves around as well. Plus, we did not have to don the suits…this time!

Here I am working the sonar on a launch. Computer screens showing a vast array of data being collected and the charts used to record the data.

Here I am working the sonar on a launch. Computer screens showing a vast array of data being collected and the charts used to record the data.

As for the food…it is wonderful, as our cooks know what really drives the ship—a hunger-satisfied crew. And we get service with a smile, something not found in most public restaurants in this day and time. After my dinner Tuesday night I was able to go kayaking in the Trocadero Bay, located inside the Tongass National Forest. Never having done this activity before, I was quite excited to get going. Four of us took to the water for about two hours, kayaking around a large island. While sitting as still as the current would allow I was able to see quite a few seals pop their heads up, look around, then dive under again. Maybe we were infringing upon their recreation area!

Trocadero Bay

Trocadero Bay

 The view was spectacular, the water was calm, and I finally got to view a few eagles close enough to actually see the white feathers on their necks. Bird calls were also abundant. Such a nice way to end the day at sea.