Cassie Kautzer: So Much to Say – So Little Time! September 2, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Cassie Kautzer
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 16 – September 5, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area of Survey: Kupreanof Strait
Date: September 2, 2014

Temperature & Weather: 12.8 ° C (55° F), Mostly Sunny, WINDY (NNW winds, 20-25 kt)

Science & Technology Log

This morning I woke up excited because it was to be our first day conducting Hydrographic Survey with the ship!  Something I didn’t realize prior to my arrival on the Rainier, not only are the launch boats set up with multibeam sonar under the hull, but so is the ship.  Having sonar on the ship is very beneficial in deep water, where the ship is able to cover a wider swath.  It was also beneficial today when the winds were high and the water a little rougher than usual and we had to cancel our launch boat data collection for safety.  (As a side note, I think it is again important to note that safety is a leading factor in operations on the Rainier.  I noticed today on the bottom of the POD (Plan of the Day), just above the rules, it says, “Operations are subject to change at any time.  NEVER shall the safety of life or property be compromised for data acquisition.”)  So, with no extra risks being taken on the launches, Rainier herself set off to ‘mow the lawn’ through the depths of Kupreanof Strait!

Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of Rainier
Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of Rainier (
Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of a Survey Launch
Multibeam Sonar attached to the hull of a Survey Launch (

I quickly discovered there was a bit more to keep track of when conducting hydro survey from the ship.  For starters, instead of the three computer monitors that one watches on the Launch, there were seven on the ship!  Another difference was in communication.  On a Launch, the HIC and Coxswain can communicate directly with each other.  On the ship communication takes place through walkie-talkies, because elements of data acquisition are taking place in several locations throughout the ship. The HIC and those on Survey Watch are in the Plot Room on the F-deck of the ship, logging data and monitoring all aspects of the survey.

One room closer to the bow on F-deck is the Bridge, or command center.  The Bridge is where someone is at the helm, steering the ship, and trying to follow the line of data the survey technicians have put in place.  Finally, deck hands are on the Fantail (back of the ship), prepared to drop the MVP (Moving Vessel Profiler) instead of the CTD (device that measures Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth) used on the launch.  To use the CTD, the Launch has to come to a complete stop in the water.  Stopping completely in a ship as big as the Rainier is not as easy, so instead of the CTD, the MVP is deployed from the back of the ship while the ship is in motion.  Looking like a fish, the MVP trails out about 44 meters behind the ship, about 5 meters below the surface, and can be dropped to take a cast (measure the water’s sound velocity profile) as needed, all via computer control.

I (the TAS - Teacher at Sea), sit at Hydro Watch  with HSST Starla Robinson, as Rainier surveys through Kupreanof Strait
I (the TAS – Teacher at Sea), sit at Hydro Watch with HSST Starla Robinson, as Rainier surveys through Kupreanof Strait

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Amidst our data acquisition today, we had a Man Overboard Drill.  The alarm bell sounded in three long blasts – the signal for man overboard.  ALL crew quickly headed to their assigned muster stations.  An announcement was made that the man overboard (Oscar, a life sized doll wearing a life jacket) was seen off the port (left) side of the ship. Within seconds of reaching my muster, the Flying Bridge, several crew had located the man overboard.  It is important once  you have eyes on the man overboard, to point directly at them, and to keep your eyes on them at all times.  Just as an example, our Field Operations Officer (FOO), Russ Quintero, had me close my eyes and spin around a couple of times.  Even with others pointing at the man overboard, it took me a couple minutes to locate him again.  I readily understood why it is important you don’t take your eyes of the person, for you may not find them again.

FOO Russ Quintero has eyes on the 'man overboard' during our safety drill.
FOO Russ Quintero has eyes on the ‘man overboard’ during our safety drill.

Within just a few minutes after the alarm, the jet boat was lowered down and deployed with a small crew, including our rescue swimmer.   Oscar was recovered and brought safely back to the ship!  Then, after the drill, the entire crew met in the mess to discuss, question, and comment.  Overall, a successful drill was completed, and I again was appreciative at the attention paid to safety for all of us aboard!

Personal Log

Tomorrow will be my last full day on Rainier while she is working underway.  I will spend my last day out on the water, on a launch boat, trying to use what I have learned to be most helpful in the acquisition of our survey data, and of course, trying to observe and enjoy all the beauty and majesty Alaska has to offer!

We will be docked again, at the US Coast Guard Base in Kodiak in a few days.  Until then, I will enjoy my adventure living on Rainier, enjoy my learning journey, and enjoy the time I have left with all of my new friends!

It was just a little bit windy today...
It was just a little bit windy today…
Proud display of colors on  the fantail.
Proud display of colors on the fantail.