Heather O’Connell: Using a Sextant, Distilling Glacial Water and Kayaking to Icebergs, June 18, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Heather O’Connell

NOAA Ship Rainier

June 7 – 22, 2018

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

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

Date: 6/18/18

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude and Longitude: 57°55’ N, 133 °33’ W, Sky Condition: Broken, Visibility: 10+ nautical miles, Wind Speed: 10 knots, Sea Level Pressure: 1023.5 millibars, Sea Water Temperature: 3.9°C, Air Temperature: Dry bulb: 15.0°C, Wet bulb: 12.0°C

Science and Technology Log

Using a Sextant

Greg Gahlinger, H.S.S.T., hydrographic senior survey technician, shared his knowledge of using a horizon sextant. He traveled to Hawaii from San Diego and back using this technology when he was in the navy. Utilizing his Cassens and Plath horizon sextant when there was an atypically sunny day in Tracy Arm allowed me to experience this celestial navigation tool. While the sextant is easy to use, the calculations for placement can be more involved.

A sextant is used for celestial navigation by finding the angle of a celestial body above the horizon. Originally, the graduated mark only measured sixty degrees, thus the derivation of the name. The angle between two points is determined with the help of two mirrors. One mirror is half silvered which allows light to pass through and this is the one used to focus on the horizon. The other mirror attached to the movable arm reflects the light of the object, such as the sun, and can be moved so that the light reflects off of the first mirror. A representation of the object, or sun, superimposed on the horizon is seen and the angle between the two objects is recorded. Angles can be measured to the nearest ten seconds using the Vernier adjustment and it is this precision that makes the sextant such a useful tool.  One degree is divided into sixty minutes or sixty nautical miles. Each degree is divided into sixty seconds.

Horizon Sextant

Horizon Sextant

To use a horizon sextant, you hold onto the arm piece and look for the reflection of the sun from the mirror and through a horizon reflection onto the scope or the eyepiece. There are several different filters that make it safe to view the reflection of the sun. After you adjust the index, the rotating part on the bottom of the sextant, you align the reflection of the disk of the sun onto the horizon. If there is no actual horizon, as was the case when we were in the fjord, then you can align the image of the sun onto a false horizon. Once the reflected sun is sitting on the horizon, you can swing the frame back and forth until the sun lies tangent to the horizon. From here, record the angular measurement and use a table to determine your position of latitude. If you have an accurate time, you can also determine longitude using another set of charts.

Taking a sight of the sun at local apparent noon with a Sextant

Taking a sight of the sun at local apparent noon with a Sextant

Salt Water Distillation

While in transit to our survey location, First Assistant Engineer Mike Riley shared the engine room with me. There is a control panel for all of the different components of the ship along with the electrical circuit board. Amongst all of the parts that contribute to making the ship function, I was interested in the two evaporators.

The two evaporators change saltwater into potable water in a desalination process. These two stage evaporators are filled with seawater that comes into the vessel via suction into sea chests. If the ship is going at full speed, 12.4 knots, which varies depending on currents and tides, the distillers will make about 500 gallons of freshwater an hour, or 3,000 gallons a day. Engine heat is used to boil the sea water for the evaporation. The water goes through a booster heater to make it even hotter before coming into the tanks. The distilled water comes from the tank next to the current generator in use.

Two Stage Evaporator

Two Stage Evaporator

The two stage distillers have a demister screen in the middle. There are about twenty metal plates with grooves between them located on both hemispheres of the spheroid shaped distiller. The plates are sealed and the metal groove space, or gaskets, between them is open. Jacket water, a mixture of coolant, or propylene glycol, and water, that is already at about one hundred and seventy degrees comes in and fills the metal plates. The jacket water is heated from the exhaust from the generator. It is further heated from going through a vacuum and turns into steam. Salt water from the salt chest comes into the space between the metal plates over the grooves.

Metal plates and gasket inside of evaporator

Metal plates and gasket inside of evaporator

The porous demister screen keeps salt water droplets from going above and the brine water collects at the bottom and goes out the ejector pump. Once the steam from the lower part of the tank heats the water and it enters the upper part of the tank, the water is cleansed and condenses on the plates. From here it goes to a tank where it is heated before being stored in another tank and then being allocated to the appropriate area. This water is used to cool the engine, flush the toilets and provided distilled drinking water while in transit.

So, currently, all on Rainier are consuming filtered artesian drinking water and showering in distilled glacier water. Ship Rainier has been consistently surpassing all expectations.

Sources

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/shackleton/navigate/escapeworks.html

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/kits/geodesy/geo03_figure.html

Personal Log

After dinner I decided to tag along with Able Seaman, or A.B., Dorian Curry, to kayak up close to some icebergs. Leaving the safety of the ship  docked by Point Asley, we headed towards Wood Spit Island. After about twenty minutes of paddling, I saw three distinctive spouts followed by some black dorsal fins surfacing to the northeast towards Sumdum Glacier. Orca whales were off in the distance. Soon these orca whales appeared closer and they were now about two hundred yards away. While the whales made the majestic sound of blowing bubbles in the water, I feared that they would approach the kayak. Putting the boats together in the hopes that these massive mammals would not think of us as prey seemed to be the logical thing to do.  It appeared that there was a mother and two juvenile killer whales.

Video Credit: Dorian Curry

This incredible opportunity to be so close to these creatures along with the terrifying reality that they may mistake me for a seal, proved to be an invigorating experience. The whales dove under and then once again appeared behind at a distance that was slightly too close for comfort in a kayak. At this point, I thought paddling away from these carnivorous predators would be the best approach. I paddled towards the smaller island south of Harbor Island and Round Islet, the place where the base station was set up just a few days earlier. After docking on the island shortly, I was grateful to be on shore post such a stimulating and intimidating experience.

Blue Iceberg

Blue Iceberg

Walking the kayaks over the beach and watching the channel where the Endicott Arm and Tracy Arm channels converged, proved to be a good strategy before paddling onward. A strong, circular current resulted from the two channels merging but was relatively safe due to the fact that it was ebb tide. After paddling strongly for a few minutes, smooth waters followed and I approached one of the most spectacular blue icebergs I have ever seen. The definition from all of the layers of different snowfalls that created this still existing piece of ice was truly amazing. Observing it from different angles overwhelmed me with the brilliance of this natural phenomenon. Next, I found myself paddling towards an iceberg with an eagle perched on it towards Sumdum Glacier.  Again, the different vantage points displayed various concentric circles and patterns of frozen ice accumulating over thousands of years. With only about an hour before sunset, the return journey to Rainier began and choosing to go to the west of Harbor Island to avoid the difficult channel of the now incoming tide made the return safe.

Iceberg

Iceberg

After almost four hours of paddling over a distance of about 8.4 nautical miles, or 9.6 miles, I found it difficult to use my upper body strength to ascend the ladder. Thanks to Airlie Pickett I safely stepped onto the Rainier and began to process this magnificent adventure that I had just embarked upon.

Did You Know?

Wind direction can be calculated by using a wind plotting board calculator. This dial allows you to rotate until the line matches up with the coarse bearing, then mark the wind speed on the clear dial with a grease marker, and then match this up with the angular measurement of the wind and mark this. Then, line up your two marks on a vertical line and this will provide the true wind direction.

Taylor Planz: Welcome to my Adventure! June 27, 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

Date: June 27, 2018

Weather Data from the House

Lat: 33.4146° N Long: 82.3126° W
Air Temperature: 23.3° C
Wind Speed: 6.1 Knots
Wind Direction: West
Conditions: Mostly Cloudy, 69% humidity

Personal Log

Welcome to my blog! My name is Taylor Planz, and I am so honored to be a Teacher at Sea this season! My passions in life besides education are my family, my cats, the mountains, and, of course, the ocean! In college I studied Oceanography and conducted undergraduate research in Chemical Oceanography where I explored phosphate dynamics in estuarine sediments. I went on multiple afternoon research cruises as part of my undergraduate degree, but I have never been on a ship overnight before now. I married my husband Derrick in 2014 on the beach, a childhood dream of mine. We got married on the Gulf of Mexico in Destin, Florida.

My husband Derrick and I got married on the Gulf of Mexico in 2014.

My husband Derrick and I got married on the Gulf of Mexico in 2014.

In the fall I will be teaching Physical Science and Forensic Science to juniors and seniors at Harlem High School in rural Harlem, GA. In the past, I taught middle school science and this year will be my first year in a high school classroom. I am excited to teach a new age group this fall as there are many big decisions students must make during these critical high school years. I hope that my experience with NOAA Teacher at Sea will inspire at least one student to pursue science, and maybe even ocean science, as a career! There is so much out there to be explored in the ocean, atmosphere, landscape, and even space!

Alaska is about to be the 34th state I have visited in my life! I never really understood how far away it was until my flights for this trip were booked. After departing Atlanta, Georgia, I will land briefly in Portland, Oregon and then Anchorage, Alaska before arriving in Nome, Alaska. From there, I will board NOAA Ship Fairweather for Point Hope. The flights and layovers alone will take 16 hours! It is quite amazing how far the United States stretches!

Flight Map

My trip from Atlanta, Georgia to Nome, Alaska will span 3 flights and 16 hours.

NOAA Ship Fairweather will be my home for 12 days next month where I will help conduct a hydrographic survey of the Point Hope region in northwestern Alaska. We will be so far north that we may cross the Arctic Circle! Only 30% of this region’s ocean floor has ever been surveyed, and those surveys need updating because they took place in the 1960s. Updated and new surveys will be vital for the continued safe navigation of the ever-increasing maritime traffic, especially because the size of the vessels navigating the local waters continues to grow.

NOAA Ship Fairweather

NOAA Ship Fairweather – Photo Courtesy NOAA

Science and Technology Log

Most of the blog posts I write onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather will tie back to physical science, so today I would like to discuss some earth science! Point Hope, AK is located at 68.3478° N  latitude and 166.8081° W longitude. As you may know, Earth is divided into 90° of latitude per hemisphere, so 68° is pretty far north! In comparison, Harlem, GA is located at 33.4146° N latitude and 82.3126° W longitude.

What is significant about a region’s latitude? Latitude affects many things including sunlight distribution, seasons, and climate. For most of us in the United States, we know that summer days are long and winter days are short (in reference to hours of sunlight per 24 hour day). In Alaska the effect is much more dramatic! Parts of Alaska experience 24 hours of daylight around the summer solstice in June and 24 hours of darkness around the winter solstice in December. Not only are the daylight hours much different than what most of us experience, the concentration of sunlight that reaches Alaska is different too.

No matter which hemisphere you live in, as your latitude increases away from the equator (0° latitude) the amount of sunlight that reaches you decreases. The sun has to travel a longer distance through more of Earth’s atmosphere to reach you. As the light travels, it becomes more diffuse and less of it reaches its final destination: the Earth’s surface. The less direct sunlight makes those places feel cooler throughout the year than places like Ecuador, which is close to the equator and gets direct sunlight year round. Regions closer to the equator also do not get the long summer days and long winter nights because their daylight hours average around 12 hours per day year round.

It’s a common misconception to think that Earth is closer to the Sun in the summer and farther in the winter. If this were true, summer would start in June all over the world! Instead, the Earth’s tilt (at 23.5°) determines which hemisphere is pointing towards the Sun and that hemisphere experiences summer while the other experiences winter. As latitude increases, the seasonal effect becomes more dramatic. In other words, the difference between summer and winter is more and more noticeable. That is why warm, tropical places near the equator stay warm and tropical year round.

With all of this important science to consider, my 12 days in Alaska will definitely be an adjustment! I purchased an eye mask to help me to get restful sleep while the sun shines around me close to 24 hours per day. In addition, I will be packing plenty of layers to stay warm during the cool days and cold nights. In Georgia, most summer days reach temperatures in the mid-90s with high humidity. In contrast, Alaskan days on the water will reach 50s-60s on average.

Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Fairweather was built in Jacksonville, Florida in the mid-1960s, and its home port today is on the opposite side of the country in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Question of the Day

How many hours of daylight did you experience in your home state during the summer solstice on June 21? Nome, Alaska had 21 hours and 21 minutes of daylight!

 


Obed Fulcar, July 21, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Obed Fulcar
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 27, 2010 – August 8, 2010

Mission:Summer Pollock survey III
Geograpical Area:Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 21, 2010

Weather from the Bridge:
Time: 0345 pm
Latitude: 57.23 degrees North
Longitude:173.33 degrees West
Wind: 12 knots
Direction: 257 degrees West
Sea Temperature: 8.5 degrees C
Air Temperature: 8.85 degrees C
Barometric Pressure: 1020.0 mb
Skies: Partly Sunny

Science and Technology Log:

Buddy Gould

Buddy Gould

Yesterday, Tuesday July 20, we finally left Dutch harbor, once all the delayed scientific equipment arrived. I was later told that it included some new and sophisticated technology to track and measure fish underwater. We climbed up to the “flying bridge” at the very top of the ship to see the view of Dutch harbor behind us and the open ocean ahead. After that we came down to the bridge where Acting Executive Officer XO Sarah Duncan, Ensign Amber Payne, and Buddy Gould from the Deck Department gave us a tour of the bridge. They explained that the panels of navigational instruments used to sail the ship included Radar screens, to detect any vessels or ships in the proximity, one for long range, and another for short range, showing any ships close by. The screens show the many readings from instruments on board such as wind speed (in knots), Wind direction (in degrees), Latitude, Longitude, and Air Pressure (in millibars).

Navigational Instruments

Navigational Instruments

Next we received a demonstration in how to chart a course using the Electronic chart. I was surprised to understand the navigational terminology, (Iguess my Basic Sailing class is paying off), such as true wind, leeward, aft, forward, et…
I asked if they still used paper Nautical Charts and the answer was yes, they use them to plot the course of the ship using pen, ruler, and compass. I was surprised to know that even with all this technology even though the ship course and navigation is done completely electronically, they still rely on pen and paper charts as back up! On the bridge were also two scientists fro the US Fish and Wildlife service working on Seabird research, as part of the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Project, a multidsciplinary study that is looking at how climate change is affecting the ecosystem of the Bering Sea. liz and Marty were both working from the bridge with binoculars, observing and counting all seabirds within 300 meters from the ship. armed with a laptop computer connected to the ship’s navigational system they were able to count and input the GPS location (latitude/longitude) of every sighting of a seabird, and plot a GIS graph in real time. I found this to be really cool! We saw seabirds found on the Bering sea such as Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmar, Tufted/Horned Puffin, Fork-tailed Storm Petrel, and Thick-bill Murre.

Personal Log:
Today is Day 4 of the mission and so far I have done pretty well in terms of motion sickness. A calm sea has been a great factor and has allowed me to get adjusted to life at sea. I am surprised to find myself at home in my my bunk bed, and haven’t had any difficulties sleeping at all, though I do miss my bed. The long schedule from 0400 to 1600 (4pm) full of activities has been of help keeping me busy. The food is great thanks to Floyd the master cook with a variety of international food and home baked pastries. I was also impressed by the international collaboration in this mission, with two Russian scientists on board conducting research on the fisheries of the Bering Sea since part of the transects or line passess done by the Oscar Dyson cover Russian territorial waters as well.
New Vocabulary Words;
Nautical charts, Radar, Latitude, Longitude, GPS (Global Positioning Satelite), Leeward (opposite to wind), Forward (front of ship), Aft (back of ship)

Animals seen today:
Black-footed Albatross, Northern Fulmar, Tufted/Horned Puffin, Fork-tail storm Petrel, Thick-bill Murre
Bitacora Marina #2: Ayer martes, 20 de Julio finalmente zarpamos hacia alta mar. Los oficiales del Oscar Dyson nos dieron un tour del puente explicandonos los sofisticados instrumentos de navegacion electronica como Radares, sonar acustico, y sistema global de ubicacion por satelite (GPS).A pesar de tanta tecnologia, todavia se grafica el curso de la nave usando Cartas Marinas, compas y lapiz!Tambien me presentaron a una pareja de biologos del Servicio de Pesca y Caza de los EEUU, haciendo un conteo de las aves marinas del Estrecho de Bering, graficando en tiempo real cada observacion en un ordenador laptop usando tecnologia GIS, o sistema de informacion geografica.