Laura Grimm: Chizzywinks and Hawsepipers, July 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: July 21, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 41 36.7’ N

Longitude: 080 40.3’ W

Sky Conditions: Few clouds

Visibility: 10+ miles

Wind Speed: 15.3 knots

Wind Direction: 254 W

Lake Temperature: 23.6 C

Wave Height:  3 feet

Dry Bulb: 26.2 ᵒC

Wet Bulb: 22.8 ᵒC

Calculated Relative Humidity: 75%

a section of bathymetric data (color-coded to reflect depth) within  polygons overlaid on a political map of Lake Erie off of Cleveland
We are back to surveying off the north coast of Cleveland

Science and Technology Log

Humidity: In each blog post, I report the dry bulb and wet bulb temperatures plus the calculated relative humidity. 

What is humidity?  It is the amount of water vapor in the air. If there is a lot of water vapor in the air, the humidity will be high. The higher the humidity, the “stickier” the air feels outside.  Think about a hot August day in Ohio.  The air feels sticky and uncomfortable.  Chances are that the humidity is high.

What is relative humidity?  Relative humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount of water vapor the air can hold at the same temperature.  Warm air can hold more water vapor than cool air.  Once you know the wet-bulb and dry-bulb temperatures, you can use a conversion table to calculate the relative humidity. (I discussed this topic in my July 7: Echoes and Flares blog post.

This video might help you understand the concept further.

What is humidity?
dry and wet bulb thermometers mounted on a wall, inside a box. The wet bulb thermometer has a tiny sock on the end that is sitting in a container of water. 
Dry and wet bulb thermometers are used to calculate relative humidity

These thermometers are used to measure the dry bulb (left) and wet bulb (right) temperature measurements.  The dry bulb measures air temperature.  The wet bulb thermometer has a tiny sock on the end that is sitting in a container of water.  The physics of water evaporating causes the temperature to decrease. So, this thermometer will register a lower temperature.  A person then uses a comparison cart to calculate the relative humidity.  The dryer the air, the more quickly the water from the sock will evaporate.  A larger difference between the dry and wet bulb thermometers will result in a lower relative humidity reading. 

the white box with holes in the cover that contains the thermometers
The dry and wet bulb thermometers are contained in a white box with holes in the cover.  This is to minimize the effect of direct sun.

Students: We have a “wet wall” also known as a “swamp cooler” in the greenhouse to cool the greenhouse when it gets too warm.  How is this related to humidity?  How does this work to cool the greenhouse?  (Hint: Look up the concept of evaporative cooling.)

Latitude and Longitude: Each time I write a blog post I have told you where I am.  I do this by telling you my “address” on the globe by listing the ship’s latitude and longitudinal lines.  But just what are latitude and longitude lines and how do they tell you where you are on the globe?

Latitude and longitude are a system of lines used to describe the location of any place on Earth.  Think of latitude and longitude as an imaginary grid placed over the world to help you find places. Each place on the Earth has an address.  The address is where the lines of latitude and longitude cross.  Although these are only imaginary lines, they appear on maps and globes as if they actually existed.

illustration of a sphere covered in parallel latitude lines and vertical longitude lines
Latitude – Flatitude!          Longitude lines are Long!
a chart about Latitude (horizontal lines on a globe) v Longitude (vertical lines on a globe); illustration of a globe; equator and prime meridian highlighted
This chart summarizes a lot of information about latitude and longitude.
  • Latitude are the points north and south of the equator. The equator is halfway between the North and South Poles. It’s an imaginary horizontal line that cuts the planet completely in half. Latitude lines are imaginary lines that are a specific degree away from the equator going to the North and South Pole.  Between each line of latitude there are 60 minutes which are then again subdivided into 60 seconds.
    • They are also known as “parallels” and run east-west.
    • Equator = 0ᵒ; North Pole = 90ᵒN; South Pole = 90ᵒS
    • Northern Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 90ᵒNorth
    • Southern Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 90ᵒSouth
    • 1 degree of latitude = 60 nautical miles
    • 1 minute of latitude = 1 nautical mile
    • 1 nautical mile = 1.15 statute miles (Statute miles are used on land.)
  • Longitude are the points east and west of the prime meridian.  Like the equator, the prime meridian is an imaginary vertical line that splits the world in half from the North to the South Pole. Longitude are vertical lines going from one pole to the other starting at the prime meridian.  I like to think of the lines of longitude like the distance between the edges of sections of an orange.  They are further apart near the middle (equator) and get closer together as they near the ends.
    • 0ᵒ = the Prime Meridian that passes through Greenwich, England
    • 180ᵒ = halfway around the Earth; it is roughly the international dateline
    • Western Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 180ᵒWest of Greenwich
    • Eastern Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 180ᵒEast of Greenwich
    • Longitudinal lines vary with distance from the equator

This video may help you understand these concepts more clearly. 

Want to understand latitude and longitude?

What is the latitude and longitudinal address of your town? Use this interactive map to find the latitude and longitudinal address of your house!  I found using the “satellite” view handy. 

Another way to find out is to go to  Google Maps and type in your address.  Once the App has found your house, right click on the red pin.  At the top of the list will be your latitude / longitude coordinates.

Chizzywinks: This message was recently written on a white board outside of the crew lounge.  What are these invaders?  They do not seem to bite; however, they are very annoying.  They are everywhere!

message on whiteboard reads: Please keep ALL doors closed! Flies are attacking the ship inside and out. Everyone report to your battle stations LOL
Report to your battle stations!
close-up view of midges
In mid-July we had a period with little wind. This insect covered many of the surfaces of the ship. While it somewhat resembles a mosquito, this is in insect called a midge . . . or a chizzywink.

No one on board seemed to know what they were (other than annoying), so I contacted two friends back home.  Drs. Rowe and Nault have expertise in plant pathology and entomology – but, more importantly, they are fly fishermen and really know about the insects that call Lake Erie “Home”.

These lovely, pesky insects are midges.  They have many other names, including lake flies, Canadian soldiers, or chizzywinks, just to name a few. They live on the lake bottom as worm-like larvae, many of which are blood red.  In this life stage they eat decaying plant matter.  Eventually, they enter the pupal stage.  This is a nonfeeding stage between the larva and adult, during which it undergoes a complete change within a hardened case.  The pupae (more than one pupa) slowly rise to the surface through the water column.  They are a major source of food for fish and other aquatic animals.  Fishermen consider them good bugs!  Those aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson might beg to differ.

Once at the surface, the adults emerge and get rid of their pupal cases in the surface film of the water.  They often emerge by the thousands. In fact, in certain places around the world there can be so many midges that once they die, they are considered fertilizer.

The adults look like “mosquito-like” flies, but don’t bite. Many are eaten by birds. 

Once the larvae emerge as flying adults, they stop eating and have only one thing on their minds – mating. According to Water Blogged, a blog published by the Science and Stories of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the adults “gather in huge clouds and, well, get to know one another. After mating, the male eventually expires, with the female not far behind – but first she’ll return to the water to lay her eggs.”  The eggs laid on the surface sink to the bottom, and the cycle begins again.

(Students – Compare and contrast the life cycle of a midge and the monarch butterfly or darkling beetles.)

illustrated diagram of the life cycle of a midge: egg, larva, pupa, adult
Life cycle of the non-biting midge, a.k.a chizzywinks.

Learn more about the midge in this video.

Midges are invertebrates.

Meet the Crew

Chief Electronics Technician Justin Witmer points a screwdriver at a screw on a wall of technology
Justin Witmer, Chief Electronics Technician on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

Justin Witmer has worked on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson as the Chief Electronics Technician for the past 3 years.  Prior to this position he worked for the Norfolk Naval Shipyards.  He is a sailor at heart having spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy.

What does your job entail?  He is responsible for most of the things on TJ that plug into a wall.  This includes the maintaining and repairing the sonars (which are essential to the hydrographic work), other ship sensors, computers, etc.  From the sonar on the keel to the wind bird at the top, he is responsible for the electronics in between. 

Where do you do most of your work?  I work mostly from my office which is right off the Survey Control Room where I do computer and user account maintenance as well as electronics troubleshooting duties.

What do you like most about your job?  I like to troubleshoot electronics issues.

What do you like the least about your job?  Administrative paperwork.

What do you like about working on a ship?  I’ve always enjoyed the general atmosphere of living on a ship.  With a good crew it is much like a large group home.  You can choose to get along with everyone, and if you can’t, the ship is large enough that you can generally get away from those you don’t see eye-to-eye with.

If budget was not an issue, what tool would you like me to invent that would make your job easier?  A cable stretcher.

Can you share with us one or two things about yourself that don’t have to do with work?  He lives in Norfolk, VA, speaks fluent Turkish, and like to play music (bass and tuba).  He also likes amateur radio.  His job lines up nicely with his hobbies – all except, perhaps, playing tuba.

So much of what TJ does to complete its mission relies on computers, sensors, and electronics.  Thank you, Justin, for all you do to keep the electronics aboard TJ ship shape!  Thank you for your service.

Personal Log

Safety is paramount.  Since discussing safety drills in my July 8, 2022 blog, I have done my homework.  I know what the signals mean, what to take, and where to go.  Today, we had three drills: fire, man overboard, and abandoned ship.  During abandoned ship drills, we need to take our personal flotation devices (PFDs), also known as life vests, and our Survival Immersion Suit which is lovingly called our “Gumby” suit.  We are expected to put on our suit in less than 2 minutes.  It is made from Neoprene to maximize flotation and hypothermia protection.  Being red, it can easily be seen in the water.  It also has a light and a place where we can blow up a head pillow.

A friend helped me practice putting on my Gumby suit.  I succeeded in putting it on I just over a minute!

  • Laura stands on deck and holds up the survival suit
  • Laura, wearing the survival suit, stands at the railing and waves at the camera. a life preserver is mounted on the rail next to her.
  • Laura poses in the survival suit

For the Little Dawgs . . .

Q: Where is Dewey?  Hint: He is sitting on a very important piece of equipment that we need when we want to lower or raise the anchor.

  • Dewey the beanie monkey sits on a large metal object with a chain
  • wider view shows Dewey the beanie monkey sitting on the anchor windlass
  • a view over the bow of the ship, with the anchor windlass in the center

A: Dewey is sitting on the anchor windlass.   According to Wikipedia, “An anchor windlass is a machine that restrains and manipulates the anchor chain on a boat, allowing the anchor to be raised and lowered by means of chain cable. A notched wheel engages the links of the chain or the rope.”  In other words, it is the machine that lowers and raises the anchor. 

a line diagram of an anchor windlass on a ship. the anchor windlass rolls and unrolls the chain that threads through the hawsepipe and connects to the anchor
This diagram shows the location of the hawsepipe.

I learned a lot new information today!  The steel pipe on each side of the windlass where the anchor chains pass through is called a hawsepipe.  I think because the chain goes up and down in the hawsepipe, a hawsepiper (*) refers to a ship’s officer who began his/her career in a non-traditional way.  They did not attend a maritime academy to earn an officer’s license.  They worked their way into their career like a chain travels through a hawsepipe.

(*) Remember this word. I will be using it in a future blog post.

illustration of a stockless anchor
Thomas Jefferson has a stockless anchor.

The anchor is usually very heavy and made of metal.  It is used to help keep the ship from drifting away from a fixed place due to wind or current.

TJ has a stockless anchor.  Watch the following video to see how a windlass and a stockless anchor work together to secure a ship. The chain really does a lot of work!

Lake Erie Fact:

Lake Erie’s primary inlet is the Detroit River which comes from Lake Huron.  Its natural outflow is via the Niagara River, which provides hydroelectric power to Canada and the U.S. as it spins huge turbines near Niagara Falls.

Soon we will start sampling the bottom to see if we are traveling over mud, clay, sand, gravel, or shells (most likely to be zebra mussels).  This is important information for ships to know who want to anchor in the area. 

I have mixed feelings about this experience coming to an end.  I really miss my husband, friends, cats, home, garden, etc.  Just this morning, I made the comment to Chief Hydrographer in Charge, Erin, how this has been an incredible experience . . . especially for a nerd who is super excited about STEM content and promoting STEM careers.  With minimal preparation, I was plopped into this information-rich environment with local experts who were willing and excited to answer all my questions AND I had the time to ask more questions, follow research leads, process my learning through writing, and get a taste of living at sea.

We pull into the Port of Cleveland on July 22.  It will be hard to say, “Good-bye” to TJ, this extraordinary learning experience, and all my new friends.  It will be easy to greet my husband after 19 days being away.  It will also be time to move forward and plan on how I will share what I have learned with the students at Dalton Local Schools.

It’s been a full day.  Ta-Ta for now!

Dave Grant: Sea State, Sick Bay and Longitude, February 26, 2012

February 15 – March 5, 2012

Mission: Western Boundary Time Series
Geographical Area: Sub-Tropical Atlantic, off the Coast of the Bahamas
Date: February 26, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge

Position: 26.30N Latitude – 71. 55W Longitude
Windspeed:  15 knots
Wind Direction: South (bearing 189 deg)
Air Temperature: 23.2 C / 74 F
Atm Pressure: 1013.9 mb
Water Depth: 17433 feet
Cloud Cover: 30%
Cloud Type: Cumulus

Sea State, Sick Bay and Longitude

“Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea
for an acre of barren ground.”
Shakespeare – The Tempest.

There is considerable excitement on board since the winds have come up; adding to the work load of the deck crew and scientists struggling to snag the mooring buoy and haul in the miles of cable and sensors that are arrayed below. With swells arriving from two directions and wind chop on top of that, the ship’s motion is unpredictable. So there is no room for error above or below the waterline and the heaving of the ship and spray mean everyone must be alert and ready to respond instantly if anything swings loose.

We are “line-sailing” on this cruise, steaming back-and-forth while maintaining a straight course on Latitude 26.30; deploying and servicing various sampling devices on the electronic “picket fence” dividing the Atlantic. Watching the deck crew cutting heavy wire and even heavier  chain, banging on metal,  wrestling with equipment and sweating under the sun all day as they back-track along the same line doing back-breaking work, I can almost hear them singing an old Mississippi Delta field holler – Line ‘em:

“All I hate ’bout linin’ track
These ol’ bars ’bout to break my back
Moses stood on the Red Sea shore
Smotin’ that water with a two-by-four
If I could I surely would
Stand on the rock where Moses stood”

Line-sailing is also an old technique used when mariners could only accurately determine their latitude North or South of the equator by means of the sun and stars. Simply stated, one would sail North or South to the known latitude of a destination, then sail East or West until it was found.

The Polynesians perfected this – line-sailing the latitude of specific stars that they knew had islands beneath them. On clear nights we go out on the shadowy deck, so far away from the glare of lights on land, and marvel at the great spectacle of stars. The two brightest above us are Arcturus and Sirius – known to the Polynesians as Hōkūleʻa (Star of Joy) and Ka’ulua (Queen of Heaven). Navigators steered under Arcturus to reach Hawaii, and returned to Tahiti by sailing under Sirius.

Tahiti lies under Sirius, and Hawaii under Arcturus, providing navigators with bright sign posts to guide them to those jewels in the vast Pacific. From the deck on the Ron Brown it looks like our zenith star could be Pollux, one of twins in Gemini. This seems appropriate  “By Jiminy”  for good luck,  since early sailors swore an oath to those Twins – the protectors of ships.

Still, Longitude remained a problem because its measure is the time East or West from a fixed point –Greenwich, England and the Prime Meridian. Until accurate ship’s chronometers were perfected, navigators had to rely on repeated estimates of their speed and direction – Dead Reckoning.

Since early clocks relied on a pendulum and inferior materials, and the challenge of perfecting an accurate timepiece became apparent to me while weighing-in at Sick Bay. The roll of the ship has that up-down effect you feel in an elevator, and your weight on the scale fluctuates accordingly. (Mine swings between 165 and 225 pounds, depending on the size of the swells; so I’ll have to wait until we reach port for more accuracy.) Navigators had to wait until 1764 when watchmakers finally perfected sturdy, spring-powered and rust-resistant chronometers accurate enough to satisfy the British Admiralty to guide ships across the featureless ocean waters. Incidentally, William Harrison’s chronometer was hardly portable. It weighed 85 pounds (!).

I am going to try two experiments later. One, fashion a simply pendulum and see how the ship’s rocking affects it, and two, try some dead reckoning to determine current speed.

(Interesting coincidences: My office at work is in the shadow of Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the entrance to NY Harbor. This important beacon is the oldest continuously lit lighthouse in America – and first lighted in 1764 (!). Also, with the perfection of wireless communication;  in 1904, the US Navy established the first radio station to continuously broadcast the time for navigators to set their ship’s chronometers – at Navesink, NJ,  across Sandy Hook bay and within the sight of my office window.)

A Biologist’s Bouillabaisse

With the help of Danny, one of the ship’s engineers, I have struck gold sampling marinelife. He alerted me to the intake screen for sea water that he was removing to clear and I was able to sort through it. It is a bonanza, as you can see in the image.

Although most of the material is Sargassum weed, and some bits of plastic, there is a great assortment of material here to keep me busy for the rest of the day. I will start from the bottom. Besides the sargassum, there is other plant material swept here from shallow water. Sea grasses from around the islands support turtles and a thriving subtidal community. One colleague in Puerto Rico thinks that these meadows are as productive as an ecosystem in the ocean. Not obvious is the Aufwuchs community covering the grass blades, but under the microscope, one piece is enough to keep a class busy for hours identifying the specimens in this “fouling community.”


Bryozoa, worm tubes and coralline algae cover a slender blade of grass.


A tiny drifting animal from the surface, the Cnidarian – By-the-wind Sailor.

Perched on my fingertips, a larval crustacean ready
to drop out of the planktonic community.

A tiny larval crab viewed under the microscope (20 x’s)

An amphipod shrimp.

A Polychaete worm. One of the many annelids in the sample.
Not everyone’s favorite, unless of course, you are a fish.

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.