Bill Lindquist: Emergency Drills & A Foggy Anchor, May 11, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bill Lindquist
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
May 6-16, 2013

Mission: Hydrographic surveys between Ketchikan and Petersburg, Alaska
Date: May 11, 2013

Weather on board. Taken at 1600 (4:00 in the afternoon)

Overcast skies with a visibility of 2 nautical miles
Wind from the south at 10 knots
Air temperature 10.2° C
Sea temperature  7.2° C

The NOAA Ship Rainier in the fog

The NOAA Ship Rainier in the fog

An interesting rock jutting out of the ocean

An interesting rock jutting out of the ocean

Science and Technology Log: Ship Emergency Drills

Maritime vessels like the NOAA Ship Rainier continually prepare themselves for dealing quickly and effectively for any emergency at sea. During our transit to the southern end of Behm Canal, we conducted two emergency drills. Each of these drills served to prepare the Rainier crew for quick response to a state of emergency.

One drill involved the loss of bridge control to steer the ship. A ship floundering at sea presents a real danger to its own crew as well as any vessel near by. The drill involved two situations. If the electronic connection between the bridge and the steerage center of the ship was lost, the engineers make a physical bypass and engage a steering wheel immediately above the rudders. With hydraulic power and telephone support from the bridge, this steering wheel was able to successfully negotiate the required 15° turn in each direction. In the event there is a loss of hydraulic steering support, the ship’s rudders have to be turned manually requiring two people to physically crank the change in rudders – a challenging task. I was able to step in to work one end of the crank – yes, it was hard work.

In an emergency the ship can be steered by this wheel directly above the rudders.

In an emergency the ship can be steered by this wheel directly above the rudders.

In the event hydraulic pressure is lost, the ship can still be controlled by hand cranking the rudders.

In the event hydraulic pressure is lost, the ship can still be controlled by hand cranking the rudders.

The other drill I was able to view was launching the emergency boat used in man overboard situations. There is a specially designed and dedicated for rescue operations. Under the direction of the Chief Boatswain (in charge of all deck operations), the crew practiced dropping the cables serving as a railing, and lowered the boat with the davit (crane unit that lowers boats off the ship), in preparation for getting on board, and powering up. The goal for this is to happen within several minutes. In the event of a real emergency, every passing minute is critical.

The Chief Boatswain going over emergency procedures for getting the emergency boat deployed.

The Chief Boatswain going over emergency procedures for getting the emergency boat deployed.

Deploying the emergency boat.

Deploying the emergency boat.

Related note – in the event the ship were to sink, 10 life rafts in protected cases are positioned around the ship ready to deploy. They are held closed by a latch designed to release as soon as it is immersed in the water. As the case opens, the raft self inflates and rises to the surface. Each raft is capable of carrying up to 25 people. I am again reminded of the lack of an instant 911 response and the necessity that everyone on board is fully prepared to act quickly on behalf of everyone on board. Such as it is with a life at sea.

When immersed in water the valve is set to open and allow the enclosed raft to self inflate and rise to the surface.

When immersed in water the valve is set to open and allow the enclosed raft to self inflate and rise to the surface.

Life rafts will automatically inflate in the event of an emergency

Life rafts will automatically inflate in the event of an emergency

Personal Log – The Clouds Roll In

I have been told countless times the weather we experienced on my first week at sea was not the norm – in fact far from the norm. We were blessed with sunshine and calm seas throughout. Today it came to an end. A heavy bank of clouds with persistent light rain filled the once clear skies. This is the weather people are accustomed to in SE Alaska.

A cloudy entrance to Punchbowl Cove

A cloudy entrance to Punchbowl Cove

Punchbowl Cove off Behm Canal

Punchbowl Cove off Behm Canal

We spent the day in our customary back and forth survey route. Rain gear was the norm for everyone on deck. At the end of the day, our CO (commanding officer) directed us to Punchbowl Cove as a well protected area with ample locations to set anchor. Gliding into the cove was an ethereal experience. The northern shore of the cove rose majestically into graceful curtains of clouds. Clouds separated into layers dancing across the slope providing sprinkled glimpses of the background of the mountains. Cascades of water tumbled from the heights on their way to the sea. The cloudy turn in the weather allowed this magical layer of mystique and fancy that wouldn’t have been present with the sunshine we had earlier.  Perhaps at sea there is no such thing as inclement weather, each day bringing forth its own majesty.

With enough time after anchor, several groups went out by kayak and boat. I enjoyed the opportunity to go with a small group to explore the shoreline. It felt good to get out and walk around and see the sea from the viewpoint of land. We arrived at low tide giving us room to walk about short of the cedars, spruce, and fir that blanketed the forest floor. To the mariner, kelp is so common it is hardly noticed. To a Minnesotan far removed from the sea, the kelp and barnacles covering the exposed rocks in the tidal flats held a level of fascination.

Punchbowl Cove shoreline

Punchbowl Cove shoreline

This cross-section of the earth has an unparalleled majesty and beauty. What a privilege to witness it so close.

Stacey Jambura: We’re All in This Together! July 20, 2012

Stacey Jambura
July 6 – July 17, 2012
.
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Current Geographical Area: Waterloo, Iowa 
Date: July 20, 2012
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Science and Technology Log

Crew of the NOAA Ship Oregon II

It is no small feat to conduct a research survey for NOAA. It takes many individuals with many different strengths to ensure a safe and successful cruise. From the captain of the ship who is responsible for the safety of the ship and the crew, to the stewards who ensure the crew is well fed and well kept, every crew member is important.

I interviewed many of the crew members to get a better idea of what their jobs entail and what they had to do to become qualified for their jobs. I complied all of the interviews into a video to introduce you to some of the Oregon II’s crew.

Safety Aboard the Oregon II

While out at sea, safety is a critical issue. Just as schools have fire and tornado drills, ships have drills of their own. All crew members have a role to fulfill during each drill. Emergency billets (assigned jobs during emergencies) are posted for each cruise in multiple locations on the ship.

Emergency Billets

Emergency Billets

Abandon Ship Billets

Abandon Ship Billets

Fire on a ship is a very critical situation. Because of this, fire drills are performed frequently to ensure all crew recognize the alarm, listen to important directions from the captain, and muster to their assigned stations. (To muster means to report and assemble together.) One long blast of the ship’s whistle signals a fire. (Think of someone yelling “Firrreee!!!”) Each crew member is assigned to a location to perform a specific duty. When the fire whistle is blown, some crew members are in charge of donning fire fighting suits and equipment, while others are in charge of making sure all crew have mustered to their stations.

Immersion Suit

Donning My Immersion Suit

Another drill performed on the ship is the abandon ship drill. This drill is performed so that crew will be prepared in the unlikely event that the they need to evacuate the ship. Seven short blasts of the ship’s whistle followed by one long blast signals to the crew to abandon ship. Crew members must report to their staterooms to gather their PFDs (personal flotation devices), their immersion suits, hats, long-sleeved shirts, and pants. Once all emergency equipment is gathered, all crew meets on the deck at the bow of the ship to don their shirts, pants, hats, immersion suits, and PFDs. All of this gear is important for survival in the open ocean because it will keep you warm, protected, and afloat until rescue is achieved.

The last drill we perform is the man overboard drill. This drill is performed so that all crew will be ready to respond if a crew member falls overboard. If a crew member falls overboard, the ship’s whistle is blown three times (think of someone shouting “Maann Overr-boarrrd..!). If the crew member is close enough, and is not badly injured, a swimmer line can be thrown out. If the crew member is too far away from the ship or is injured, the RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) will be deployed and will drive out to rescue the crew member. The crew member can be secured to a rescue basket and lifted back onboard the ship.

Man Overboard

Chris Nichols and Tim Martin performing a man overboard drill.
(photo courtesy of Junie Cassone)

Man Overboard Drill

Man Overboard Drill

Safety Equipment

Donning my hard hat

It is important to practice allof these drills so that everyone can move quickly and efficiently to handle and resolve the problem. All drills are performed at least once during each cruise.

Daily safety aboard the Oregon II is also important. When any heavy machinery is in operation, such as large cranes, it is important that all crew in the area don safety equipment. This equipment includes a hard hat and a PFD (personal flotation device). Since cranes are operated at least once at every sampling station, this safety equipment is readily available for crew members to use

Personal Log

July 20th

At the bow of the Oregon II

At the bow of the Oregon II
(photo courtesy of Junie Cassone)

I have now returned home from my grand adventure aboard the Oregon II. It took a few days for me to recover from “stillness illness” and get my land-legs back, but it feels nice to be back home. I miss working alongside the crew of the Oregon II and made many new friends that I hope to keep in touch with. Being a Teacher at Sea has been an experience of a lifetime. I learned so much about life at sea and studies in marine science. About half way through the cruise I had started to believe this was my full-time job! I am eager to share this experience with students and staff alike. I hope to spark new passions in students and excitement in staff to explore this opportunity from NOAA.

I want to thank all of the crew of the Oregon II for being so welcoming and including me as another crew member aboard the ship. I also want to thank the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for offering me such a wonderful opportunity. I hope to be part of future opportunities offered by this program.