Chris Murdock: Calibration Time! June 9, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Chris Murdock

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 7 – June 20, 2017

Mission: SEAMAP Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 9, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 27.193 N
Longitude: 93.133 W
Water Temperature: 28.8 C
Wind Speed: 10.5 knots
Wind Direction: 92.59 degrees
Visibility: 10nm
Air Temperature: 25.9 C
Barometric Pressure: 1012.6 mbar
Sky:  Clear

Science and Technology Log

Prior to our departure from Pascagoula, the ship anchored approximately 8 miles off the coast in order to run a calibration test. This is done in order to calibrate the ship’s multi-beam echosounders. Echosounders emit sound waves downward towards the ocean floor that measure and record the time it takes an acoustic wave signal to travel to the ocean floor, bounce off, and return back to the receiver. Think of this like a dolphin’s echolocation. Dolphins emit sound waves that bounce off objects and allow the dolphin to determine the distance that object is. As you can imagine, this is incredibly important!

echosounder

How an echosounder works Source: noaa.gov

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The Oregon II echosounders

The entire calibration process takes a long time, and that time drastically varies depending on the amount of sensors a ship has. The Oregon II has two echosounders, so this whole process took roughly 6-8 hours. The calibration process works like this: Calibration requires deploying one or more calibration spheres under the ship. These are lowered into deep waters, or in wave terms the farfield (the outer limits of the sensors). Each sensor is tethered to a series of down-riggers mounted on the upper deck of the ship, on both the starboard (right) and port (left) sides of the ship. This essentially centers the sphere allowing the operator to control where under the boat the calibration sphere is. The controllers of the down-riggers move the spheres in specific locations until the sensor on deck is fully calibrated.

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Diagram of calibration set up (Noaa.gov)

The calibration of the echosounders is vital to the success of this study, as well as studies like hydrography.  Knowing the proper depth of the ocean underneath the ship is used to determine when and where to trawl for stock assessment (which I will talk about in later blog posts!)

 

Personal Log

So far, life aboard the Oregon II has been smooth sailing (pun intended). We finished the sensor calibration on Wednesday, and have spent the past two days traveling to our first sampling location, so I have had sufficient time to become acclimated to the way things work out in open waters. Thankfully, I am used to being on a rocking ship, so I don’t foresee seasickness being an issue (fingers crossed). I have gotten to know most of the crew, as well as all of the other volunteers aboard the ship. Most of the volunteers/interns are graduate students from schools scattered around the south. I look forward to sitting down with each of them to learn more about their specific fields of study and why they chose marine science.

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Headed out to open sea!

It has been nice to have this downtime, because it has allowed me to become familiar with how things work on board.  With the calibration and travel time, I have really fallen in love with being out on the open water. I spent most of my time on the flying bridge of the Oregon II, or as many of the crew call it the “steel beach”. There is a plethora of workout equipment up there, as well as chairs to have a cup of coffee between shifts. Exercising on the top of a rocking boat is not easy! I have come to find it quite peaceful, however. There is something about being able to look out at the vastness of the open water, with only the occasional speckling of oil rigs and tankers off in the distance, that allows you to separate yourself from everything else and be in that moment. Sometimes, I even spot large numbers of flying fish leap from the boat’s wake and travel just above the surface of the water for large distances, only to watch them disappear into the blue void. For a Midwestern kid, they are truly fascinating animals.

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Oregon II rescue boat

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Crew lounge

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My stateroom

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Showers

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Laundry facilities

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Stairs from the bottom deck up to the crew’s lounge

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Galley

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Chem lab

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TAS Chris Murdock wearing helmet and life jacket

Yesterday was also the time for our first series of drills. We conducted a fire safety drill, as well as the all-important abandon ship drill. In the later, we don our survival suits and life jackets and head to muster (gather) at the bow of the ship (remembering the directions and other ship lingo is taking a little bit to get used to, but after the first day or so it has just become second nature. Port is left, starboard is right, the bow is the front, and the stern is the back). You then have two minutes to properly put it on. The suit itself looks and feels like a giant red Gumby costume, but immediately you can see the benefit of it. It completely surrounds your body with watertight neoprene, and has specially located lights and floats to keep you insulated and on the surface of the water. While you may think the Gulf is very warm (it is), the temperature is roughly 86 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 12 degrees colder than your core body temperature. In the event that you would have to abandon ship that 12 degree difference would eventually take its toll on you and you could become hypothermic. We do drills like this on a weekly basis to keep our skills sharp. Hopefully we never need them!

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A view like this never gets old

In just a few hours I will begin my first shift on deck collecting data for a stock assessment. I am both excited and nervous. Nervous in the sense of not knowing what to expect, but I cannot wait to get started. While I have loved the downtime to learn the ways of the ship and get to know the crew, I know that it will not last. This type of work is going to be very new to me, and the hours very long. While it is most certainly intimidating, I cannot wait to begin this very important scientific work.

Did You Know?

The deepest part of the Gulf of Mexico is an area known as the Sigsbee Deep. At its deepest, it is more than 12,000 feet! At more than 300 miles long, it is commonly referred to as the “Grand Canyon under the sea”. (Source-Encyclopedia Britannica)

sigsbee-deep-picture.png

Noaa.gov

 

Kristin Joivell, June 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristin Joivell
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 15 – July 1, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: June 27-28, 2009

The engine room is a busy, confusing, and crowded place, but the engineers know how to maintain every one of the machines.

The engine room is a busy, confusing, and crowded place, but the engineers know how to maintain every one of the machines.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Position: East of Big Koniuji Island
Clouds: clear
Visibility: 10+ miles
Wind: variable and light
Waves: less than 1 foot
Temperature: 11.2 dry bulb
Temperature: 9.0 wet bulb
Barometer: 1019.2

Science and Technology Log 

The engine room of the ship is a very important place.  If the machines located there aren’t working, the ship isn’t going to be going very far. I took a tour of engineering and explored the area with one of the engineers. The first impression that I got about the engine room is that you really need to be good with your hands and mechanically minded to work in this area. There are so many different machines that must be maintained, repaired, and monitored that it seems pretty overwhelming when you first walk in.  Even though much information about the machines is displayed on a master control board overlooking the engine room, it’s difficult to figure out where each of the machines is located. It’s almost like a whole other world under the floor where the majority of the crew works and lives.

Here I am climbing out of the engineering department using an escape trunk.  This pathway is centrally located for easy escapes.

Here I am climbing out of the engineering department using an escape trunk. This pathway is centrally located for easy escapes.

If there is a problem in engineering like a fire or water leak, there are self sealing doors to isolate and contain the problem.  The situation is contained to the lower levels of the ship and spread is limited and slow. The engineers can escape from the area using hatches. Crew members are very careful not to place anything on the escape hatches just in case an accident occurs.  Safety plays a big part in the engineering department and in the entire ship.  It is very important to follow certain procedures for everyone’s safety. The ship has two engines and two generators. Each of these pieces of machinery is large and extensive.  Much of the control panel is dedicated to information about their state. Interestingly enough, the two engines are actually train engines and the generators are from General Motors.  Both of these, especially the generators, seem to be larger versions of the same land based machines.  The engines have seven oil filters apiece. These, naturally, must be changed similar to your personal vehicle. Each of the oil filters is almost two feet long!  Many are kept in supply for maintenance purposes.

This is one of the unused oil filters for the main engines of the ship.  You can see other filters in the storage room as well.

This is one of the unused oil filters for the main engines of the ship. You can see other filters in the storage room as well.

But, the engineers are not just in charge of the engines, generators, and the other machines that make the ship move through the water.  They also must maintain, repair, and monitor the refrigeration, air conditioning, heating, electricity, and plumbing on the ship.  Additionally, they are in charge of keeping the five small boats on the ship operating correctly. The ship has two launches, two smaller boats, and one skiff. Each of these presents its own specific problems to maintain.  Each of the boats has an engine system that must be maintained.  They must be fueled and checked after each day’s work. Anything that breaks must be repaired immediately so that the work on the ship can continue on schedule.

I helped repair one of the smaller boats that was not starting correctly.  First, the problem must be diagnosed.  So, we used a multimeter to get readings from electrical connections.  Salt water corrodes wires quickly. Even though engineer decided to try to clean the components with a wire brush and a knife to create better connections. We cleaned the existing corrosion, but the boat still did not start properly.  Next, the engineer predicted that the starter could be the problem since much of the connections to it were very rusty and dirty. We took out the starter and replaced it with a new one; the boat started!  It was a relief to be able to use the boat the next day.  Without the work of the engineers, the ship would have been short one boat for a period of time.  This would prevent work from being completed and put the ship behind schedule; a lot of money would be wasted on operations being incomplete.

I’m lending a hand to repair a boat engine.  The batteriesmust be disconnected for safety when working with the starter and other electrical equipment.

I’m lending a hand to repair a boat engine. The batteriesmust be disconnected for safety when working with the starter and other electrical equipment.

Personal Log 

Safety on the ship is something that is not taken lightly in engineering or anywhere else.  Drills are conducted periodically to ensure that crew members know what to do when an emergency occurs.  There are drills for fire, man overboard, and abandon ship.  For each drill, each person on board is assigned a meeting spot, called a muster, and function.  There are also alternate musters for each emergency in case the first muster is compromised in some way.

Fire drills are important to practice.  It’s interesting to note that even though the ship is surrounded by water, fire is one of the most difficult problems to deal with onboard.  The ship basically has mini fire stations set up throughout the ship to deal with the emergency.  Standard firefighting gear is located at these stations. Certain crew members are assigned to wear the turnout gear and operate the hoses or extinguishers during the drills.  Recently, a burned bag of microwave popcorn set off the fire alarm, so these alarms are sensitive!

Practicing the proper technique with a fire hose.  These hose stations are located in a variety of spaces all around the ship.

Practicing the proper technique with a fire hose. These hose stations are located in a variety of spaces all around the ship.

Another situation that can occur is when someone falls overboard.  Quick retrieval is very important especially here in Alaska due to the cold temperatures.  Different crew members are assigned to be lookouts during a man overboard drill to help with the location of the man overboard.  If you see someone when you are a lookout, you must point and alert the bridge to the person’s location to ensure a speedy retrieval. Life preservers are on hand at a variety of locations to throw to the person in the water. The ship also has a line launching device that you can use to shoot a line a lot further than humanly possible.  This device is powered by compressed air and shoots the line quite far from the ship.

The last resort in an emergency is to abandon the ship. Since the waters here are so cold, we must be ready to don our emergency suits.  I had the chance to practice putting on my suit during a drill.  The suit is made of special material that can protect you even in the coldest water.  Some of the material seemed similar to a thick wetsuit.  You must be able to don the suit quickly and efficiently. The feet are part of the suit, but the arms have tight seals and then you put on mittens separately.  There is even a cover for your face that only lets your eyes peek out. As I practiced putting mine on, I got very sweaty, so it seemed to be doing its job already.

Practicing using the line launching device.  This tool is helpful in getting help to a man overboard quickly and efficiently.

Practicing using the line launching device. This tool is helpful in getting help to a man overboard quickly and efficiently.

Create Your Own NOAA Experiment at Home 
The crew of a NOAA ship practices emergency drills and you can do these at home, too.  In the unlikely event of an emergency, your family can be well prepared and organized. It is always good to be prepared for an emergency; you think more clearly when well prepared.

Did you ever stop and wonder what you should do if your house is on fire?  How will you get out of the house?  You should have more than one way to get out just in case the first path is compromised.  Do you have a meeting place, or muster, for your family?  Where is it?  Who will bring the pets outside with the family?  Where will you call 911 from?  Remember, you shouldn’t call from your house if it is on fire; call from a neighbor’s house or cell phone outside your house. You can create an emergency plan for your family and have fire drills periodically.

What about if there is a homeland security emergency?  Who is going to pick you up from school?  Where will you go to wait for the emergency to be over? Do you have supplies like food and water ready?  Who will get the pets and bring them with you?  You can create a plan and have drills for this type of emergency as well.  That way, if something happens, nobody gets left behind and your family will be comfortable and secure.

Here I am in my emergency suit.  This suit can protect you even in the coldest waters.  Along with life preservers, hats, and coats, suits must be brought to life raft musters during abandon ship drills.

Here I am in my emergency suit. This suit can protect you even in the coldest waters. Along with life preservers, hats, and coats, suits must be brought to life raft musters during abandon ship drills.

 

 

Kristin Joivell, June 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristin Joivell
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 15 – July 1, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: June 23, 2009

The mess hall is a place where people tend to gather.

The mess hall is a place where people tend to gather.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Position: Northwest Harbor
Clouds: overcast
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind: 10 knots
Waves: less than 1 foot
Temperature: 8.5 dry bulb
Temperature: 7.2 wet bulb
Barometer: 1008.0

Science and Technology Log 

Disposing of all the trash made by people from eating, working, and other day to day tasks was something I was wondering about.  So, I asked crew members on the deck department how all this waste was disposed of. They showed me the incinerator.  The incinerator is the main device for dealing with waste management at sea, but if the amount of trash builds up too much, it is dealt with when the ship arrives back in port.

Here, I’m readying cardboard to be placed in the ship’s incinerator.  As you can see in the bottom right corner, trash tends to build up rather quickly. This picture was taken in the morning and the line up of trash to be incinerated was already building.

Here, I’m readying cardboard to be placed in the ship’s incinerator. As you can see in the bottom right corner, trash tends to build up rather quickly. This picture was taken in the morning and the line up of trash to be incinerated was already building.

The incinerator burns waste at very high temperatures of 850 degrees Celsius to 1150 degrees Celsius. If you’re not familiar with the Celsius scale (like me), you won’t realize that that equals 1562 degrees Fahrenheit to 2102 degrees Fahrenheit! The high temperatures are created using diesel as fuel with air vents helping to ventilate the fire as it burns.  The ash that is left when the waste is done burning takes up much less volume than the waste did and it is disposed of when the ship arrives back in port. There is a central location on deck near the incinerator for trash collection. Personal trash from state rooms can be placed there in bags for disposal.  The trash from the kitchen, deck, bridge, and survey departments are also place there. Workers from the deck department burn the trash in the incinerator periodically throughout the day. If the ship didn’t have an incinerator, the trash on board would build up very high and very quickly!  Each day since I came on board, there is a pile of waste to be incinerated. From cardboard boxes, to printer paper and food waste, to used rags from cleaning, most materials are disposed of in the incinerator.

The ship also has a collection area for recycling. There are collection bins for glass, metal, aerosol cans, and batteries in a central location near the mess hall. However, plastics are incinerated.  The temperatures in the incinerator are so high it seems that the plastic is basically vaporized. Naturally, there is also a filter on the exhaust pipe of the incinerator so that toxins do not enter the atmosphere. Additionally, the ship is going to begin recycling plastics in the near future.

Here I am examining the ship’s food stores.  This is the fresh fruit and vegetable section of the cooler, but there are many other sections as well.

Here I am examining the ship’s food stores. This is the fresh fruit and vegetable section of the cooler, but there are many other sections as well.

Personal Log 

People may be wondering how it is possible to feed almost 50 people everyday without stopping at the grocery store. I found that the Fairweather is well equipped to deal with everyone’s food needs and more!  I took a tour of the storage facilities and found them equivalent to a small grocery store.  There are stockpiles of dairy, meats, fresh fruit and vegetables, breads, freezer storage, and dry storage. According to the Chief Cook, the ship could theoretically sail for up to 60 days without going to a port if necessary.

Every day, there are three main meals and two between meal snack times offered. Fresh fruits and vegetables are in large supply; most foods are not prepackaged, but are created on the ship.  Vegetarian choices are available at every meal.  Coffee, tea, milk, water, and a variety of fruit drinks are always available any time of day or night.  Condiments in abundance are located on every table, too, and not just ketchup and mustard.  Different kinds of salad dressing are also available in the mess refrigerator at every meal.

The first meal of the day is breakfast.  Breakfast is served from 7 to 8 in the morning.  Each day at breakfast, there are a large variety of foods offered.  Today’s breakfast choices were as follows: fresh fruit, grits, bacon and ham, vegetarian sausage, French toast, hash browns, made to order eggs, breakfast sandwiches, and omelets, and hot and cold cereal.  I always get the fresh fruit because I love the blueberries and pineapple! Then, there is a midmorning snack offered sometime between breakfast and lunch.  These snacks are usually coffee cakes or breads. Today’s snack was apple bread with nuts.  It was made from scratch with fresh ingredients!

I chose a lemon blueberry jelly roll for dessert!  Yum!

I chose a lemon blueberry jelly roll for dessert! Yum!

Next, lunch occurs from 12 to 12:30pm.  Each day at lunch, there are usually salads, soup, a choice of two main courses with a vegetarian alternative, side dishes of pastas, potatoes, or rice, and a side dish of vegetables. Today’s lunch menu included the following:  kielbasa and kale soup, grilled reuben, grilled pastrami and Swiss sandwich, grilled cheese, and tater tots.  I love it that there is a vegetarian choice; even though I am not a vegetarian, I try to limit my meat intake. After that, an afternoon snack is offered sometime between lunch and dinner.  These snacks are usually cookies. Today’s snack was chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies. They were still warm when they were offered.

Finally, dinner is from 5 to 5:30.  Dinner choices include a main dish and a vegetarian alternative, a variety of side dishes, and a dessert prepared on the ship. As with all of the other meals and snacks, there is a focus on freshly prepared food instead of prepackaged items.  Today’s dinner menu included the following: mustard crusted rack of lamb, paella de marisco, herb cheese stuffed eggplant, creamy orzotto, sautéed bok choy, and lemon blueberry jelly roll for dessert. It’s hard to resist dessert because it’s so freshly made and delicious, so I usually have dessert at dinner, but avoid the two snack times during the day.

Additionally, the mess hall has facilities that are available for snacking at any time of the day or night. Salad ingredients, ice cream, frozen burritos and hot pockets, cold cereals, and fresh fruit are always ready to be eaten. If you’re not careful, you can be overwhelmed with all of the food choices on board and gain a lot of weight while at sea! Speaking to the crew about food is interesting.  Many of the crew has not so fond memories about “other” ocean ships that they have been on that did not offer such wonderful food choices.  Some crew members expressed the feelings that the morale of the crew basically depends on the food. I can see how a long trip at sea can be made more comfortable with the knowledge that the food will be great!

Create Your Own NOAA Experiment at Home 

NOAA ships use the Celsius scale to measure temperatures, but many people in the United States use the Fahrenheit scale.  You probably think of a day that is 100 degrees Fahrenheit outside as a hot, summer day, but did you know that this equals 37.8 degrees Celsius?  A cold, winter day is usually about 35 degrees Fahrenheit, but that is equal to 1.8 degrees Celsius. You can use a website from NOAA to easily convert Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice versa.  Just go to http://www.wbuf.noaa.gov/tempfc.htm and type a number into either the Fahrenheit or Celsius box. Then, click off the box and the temperature is automatically converted for you.  Try typing in temperature that you are familiar with like your body temperature (about 99 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature that water freezes (32 degrees Fahrenheit), and the temperature that water boils (100 degrees Celsius).

You can also use a formula to convert temperatures.  This is helpful if you don’t have the internet.

For Fahrenheit to Celsius, use this formula

For Fahrenheit to Celsius, use this formula

For Celsius to Fahrenheit, use this formula

For Celsius to Fahrenheit, use this formula

Many thermometers also are scaled for both Fahrenheit and Celsius, so that you can read both temperatures on the thermometer itself.

Kristin Joivell, June 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristin Joivell
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 15 – July 1, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: June 21-22, 2009

The Fairweatherrests at anchor in Northwest Harbor.

The Fairweatherrests at anchor in Northwest Harbor.

Weather Data from the Bridge   
Position: Northwest Harbor
Clouds: Mostly Clear
Visibility: 10+ miles
Wind: 13 knots
Waves: less than 1 foot
Temperature: 8.2 dry bulb
Temperature: 7.2 wet bulb
Barometer: 1007.0

Science and Technology Log 

Launches are excellent for collecting data near the shoreline, but the Fairweather is better at open water data collection. The polygons are larger, but the ship must still be traveling at approximately 6 knots for optimum results.  The ship also uses the multibeam to sweep the ocean floor, just like the launches.  Of course, multiple computer screens are again necessary to monitor data collection on the ship. Also similar to the launches and their CTD’s, the ship uses a device called a Moving Vessel Profile (MVP) that collects information about sound velocity as it is dropped through the water. It is commonly called the “fish” since it is dropped into the water and manipulated to “swim” at different depths for data collection.

Here I am dislplaying the MVP or “fish” that will be deployed periodically throughout data collection to measure sound velocity, temperature, and pressure of the water.

Here I am dislplaying the MVP or “fish” that will be deployed periodically throughout data collection to measure sound velocity, temperature, and pressure of the water.

A definite advantage of the MVP is that the fish can be deployed while the ship is moving; however, the launch must be stopped to use the CTD.  Additionally, the MVP measures sound velocity directly where as the CTD collects data that must be plugged into a formula to calculate the measurement for sound velocity. Data collected from both the launches and the ship must be processed and converted.  Much of the data processing involves moving data uploaded from launches into networked folders.  At times while I watched data processing, there were too many folders open on multiple computer screens for me to personally keep track of.  Also, I noticed certain data sets being converted from one form to another.  Sometimes, the data conversion takes a long time so computers must be marked so nobody interrupts the conversion process.  Patience, computer literacy, and organization skills are a must for working on data processing!

In this picture I’m attempting to clean “dirty” data.  The screen on the left shows a 3D image of the ocean floor.  The screen on the right shows a 2D image of the ocean floor that is color coded based on depth. As you can see, dirty dishes also tend to collect when cleaning dirty data!

In this picture I’m attempting to clean “dirty” data. The screen on the left shows a 3D image of the ocean floor. The screen on the right shows a 2D image of the ocean floor that is color coded based on depth. As you can see, dirty dishes also tend to collect when cleaning dirty data!

Another part of working with data collected from the launches and the ship involves cleaning “dirty” data.  Even through the best efforts to collect data, pings are sometimes lost or interference occurs. Perhaps the speed of the vessel exceeded 6 knots or maybe there was a section of the water with an unusual density. So, a software program called Caris is used to work with the data on a dual screen computer. The ocean floor that is color coded by depth can be viewed on one screen. Then, the person working with the data selects small segments of the ocean floor to view on the other screen.  The plane of the ocean floor and all of the pings are shown in a variety of color scales. Data that is very accurate at a high confidence level can be shown in violet, but the lower the confidence level gets, the further up the spectrum the colors are shown.  Many people choose to show different lines of pings in different colors to make it easier to see how many times the same section of the ocean floor was swept.

The person working on the computer can choose to delete certain pings, especially if they were located at the far end of the multibeam.  These pings are more likely to be lost or misrepresent the depth. Additionally, a measurement can be taken on the screen with a ruler tool to determine if a group of pings are within specification limits.  If they are not, a segment of data can be designated for further investigation.  The person working on this must make many decisions, so it is important to be able to infer information from data as you work.

Personal Log 

Paddling my kayak in the ocean through Northwest Harbor in the Shumagin Islands

Paddling my kayak in the ocean through Northwest Harbor in the Shumagin Islands

I went sea kayaking a few years ago in Mexico, but sea kayaking in Alaska is by far more dangerous. Even though the kayaks are paddled the same way and I could keep the boat balanced relatively easily, the danger of flipping over and freezing to death in the sea water is a constant thought. The beauty of the islands as I paddled near them was mesmerizing.  The Shumagin Islands look like something out of a prehistoric world.  I keep expecting to see a dinosaur walking up one of the rocky hillsides. I didn’t see any prehistoric creatures on the kayak, but I did see some puffins, a seal, and a wide variety of other seabirds too far away for identification.  Kelp was also floating around in abundance. I should mention that I was sea kayaking from about 8:30 to 11:00pm, but it was still daylight the whole time.  It is near the summer solstice, so daylight lasts for about 18 hours or so each day. Right now, the sun is rising at about 6:00am each morning and setting at about 11:30 each night. It is really unusual to be out on a sea kayak in bright daylight in the middle of the night!

Create Your Own NOAA Experiment at Home 
You can use simple items from your kitchen to see how cold the water in Alaska feels. You will need some ice water, a thermometer, and a bowl. First, put the ice in the bowl and pour the water over it. Next, place the thermometer in the bowl with the ice water.  Wait until the temperature goes down to about 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Now, place your bare hand in the ice water. How does it feel? Try it with a glove on.  Do you feel a difference?  Remember, your body temperature is about 98 degrees Fahrenheit, so you are putting your hand into water that is about half your body temperature. Can you imagine how it would feel to fall into this water?

Kristin Joivell, June 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristin Joivell
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 15 – July 1, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: June 18-20, 2009

The boom lowers the launch into the foggy morning air.

The boom lowers the launch into the foggy air.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: Koniuji Strait
Clouds: foggy
Visibility:  less than 0.5 mile
Wind: 11 knots
Waves: 2 feet
Temperature: 8.6 dry bulb
Temperature: 8.0 wet bulb
Barometer: 1005.9

Science and Technology Log 

Launches are used to acquire data in areas where it doesn’t make sense for larger ships to go.  They are more maneuverable and their hulls don’t extend as far into the ocean.  Small crews can travel in the launches and work together to cover specific areas, commonly called polygons. This week, we are using the launches to survey the ocean floor in the Koniuji Strait area. Getting ready for the launch requires some preparation. Dressing for the weather is a must; so layers and layers of clothing are necessary, especially on foggy, chilly days.  Additionally, a float coat or life jacket vest and a hard hat are necessary for safety reasons. There are a lot of lines and cables moving around when a launch is being deployed and the safety equipment helps protect everyone involved.

I’m watching the computer screens as multibeam data is collected.  The screen on the right shows the depth coloration of the line being swept.

I’m watching the computer screens as multibeam data is collected. The screen on the right shows the depth coloration of the line being swept.

Launches use a device called the Multibeam Echo Sounder (MBES, or commonly called the multibeam) to collect data about the ocean floor.  The mulitbeam is a device that sends out sound waves.  The sound waves bounce off the ocean floor and then back to the launch. The sound waves are commonly called “pings.” It is necessary to watch a computer screen to ensure that the pings are being collected to the fullest capacity. Sometimes adjustments must be made because pings are being lost or there is too much interference, or noise, in the data acquired. Another computer screen that must be watched shows the depth of the ocean floor being surveyed.  Depths are color coded throughout the spectrum with reds being shallow and violets being deep. Watching the depth coloration helps to predict when ocean floor features may be changing from deep to shallow and vice versa.  It is also possible to infer where ocean floor features like hills and valleys may be located.

Here, I prepare to cast the CTD in order to get a reading for conductivity, temperature, and density.

Here, I prepare to cast the CTD in order to get a reading for conductivity, temperature, and density.

Other computer screens show different views and aspects of the data being collected from the multibeam.  These screens help to troubleshoot problem areas and make decisions about data being gathered. In fact, there are four computer screens to watch while using the multibeam!  Multitasking is a necessity when you are the person in charge of the computer screens. Multibeams collect data from the ocean floor in wide sweeps so that no area is missed or skipped over. Overlaps are also built in to help prevent missed areas.  Sometimes an area is missed; these areas are called “holidays.”  It is sometimes necessary to resweep an area to fill in these holidays.  The driver of the boat helps to keep the boat on the line being swept.  Additionally, the driver helps to keep the boat traveling at approximately 6 knots so that data can be collected at the appropriate speed. This job is more difficult than it looks especially in a thick fog.

The use of the CTD device is necessary when collecting data from the launches.  CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and density.  Since ocean water can vary in all of these depending on location, the CTD helps collect this information.  The information is then uploaded into the computer system on board the launch.  The sound velocity is determined using a formula containing these readings.  Then, the computer helps to correct for differences in the ocean water when using the multibeam.  A cast on the CTD is usually done every few hours.

Personal Log 

I attempt to work the line

I attempt to work the line

Launches are great for acquiring data, but they require the assistance of many people to be used effectively. Plans must be made to create polygons to survey.  People must use the radio to retain communications with the bridge of the main ship.  Different people are responsible for working the lines, or ropes, that attach the launch to the ship.  People must be able to use the multibeam computer software and information for the CTD appropriately so that significant data is collected. Someone must drive the launch so that it follows the lines for the sweeps.  People from the engineering crew must maintenance the launches so that the engines work properly.

Each of these jobs requires certain training and experience to be completed in an effective way.  I attempted to work the line to attach the launch back to the ship.  It was difficult to keep the line untangled and throw it to the receiver in the correct location.  I also attempted to steer the launch along the line for a sweep, but found myself overcorrecting and going in circles much of the time. It amazes me how the launches involve such a wide variety of skills and knowledge.  With each task being accomplished, there are different problems that present themselves.  Knowing how to deal with those problems involves a certain kind of personality. Being flexible, knowledgeable, and able to think on your feet while still remaining calm seem to be very important skills when working at sea!

In this picture, you can see the NOAA ship traveling while using the multibeam.  The glowing material coming out of the ship represents the actual pings. The green area is the portion of the ocean floor that is being surveyed.  Picture provided courtesy of NOAA training materials.

In this picture, you can see the NOAA ship traveling while using the multibeam. The glowing material coming out of the ship represents the actual pings. The green area is the portion of the ocean floor that is being surveyed. Picture provided courtesy of NOAA training materials.

Create Your Own NOAA Experiment at Home 
You can simulate the way that the NOAA multibeam devices acquire data to help you get a better picture of how this complicated system works.  Using a paint roller, some paint, and a piece of cardboard, you can better envision the sweeps of the multibeam system.  First, draw a sketch of your cardboard on a piece of paper.  You can even add islands and land features to the cardboard to make it more complex.  Determine shapes of polygons that you will be sweeping; squares and rectangles work well in large spaces, but you may need to create some different shapes around your islands and land masses.  Lay out the cardboard on a flat surface.  Then, use the paint and roller to make wide sweeps on the cardboard.  You can even use different colors of paint for each line you sweep to keep your information more organized.  Since the paint and roller are simulating the path of the launch, try to keep your paint and roller going at the same speed (remember in a launch this would be around 6 knots).  Try not to create any holidays during your sweeps because you will need to go over those again.  The picture below may also help you to visualize how multibeam works.

 

Kristin Joivell, June 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristin Joivell
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 15 – July 1, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: June 17, 2009

A launch is deployed in preparation for the day’s tasks.

A launch is deployed in preparation for the day’s tasks.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Position: Big Koniuji Island
Clouds: Light Drizzle
Visibility: 5 miles
Wind: 17 knots
Waves: 2 to 3 feet
Temperature: 8.0 dry bulb
Temperature: 7.1 wet bulb
Barometer: 993.4

Science and Technology Log 

Today I had the opportunity to travel to Herendeen Island in one of the launches.  The two main tasks that I worked on were placing a new benchmark and taking measurements from a tidal gauge.  Benchmarks and tidal gauges are used to help the surveying team vertically reference their survey data to the tidal datum.

The first task to accomplish after landing on the island was placing the new benchmark.  Benchmarks can be found in many places.  You might even walk near a benchmark everyday and not even be aware of it! The national geocaching website describes a benchmark as “a point whose position is known to a high degree of accuracy and is normally marked in some way.” On this website, you can also search for benchmarks in an area by typing in the zip code where you would like to search. I’ve seen benchmarks in my travels hiking and biking; one was even near an old fire tower.  Benchmarks can be very old, but today I helped to place one that was brand new! I think the most exciting part about placing the benchmark was the knowledge that it is a permanent fixture.  Years from now, I will be gone, but the benchmark I helped place on Herendeen Island will still be there!

Here I am drilling the hole to insert the Here I am pounding the benchmark into benchmark’s post.  Later this hole will be place.  Later, this benchmark will be filled with cement to preserve the integrity of surveyed and its exact location recorded the benchmark’s location. and added to the database.

Here I am drilling the hole to insert the Here I am pounding the benchmark into benchmark’s post. Later this hole will be place. Later, this benchmark will be filled with cement to preserve the integrity of surveyed and its exact location recorded the benchmark’s location. and added to the database.

The second task that I worked on today involved some very basic process skills of science:  observing, recording, and calculating data.  My task was to record the level of the ocean’s water using a tide staff. I watched the water for one minute over six minute intervals for three hours.  During that one minute, I recorded the high and low water levels displayed on the tide staff. Then, I calculated the average of those water levels to be used by the surveying team.  This important information helps the surveying team reference the measurements from the automatic tide gauge to the benchmarks we installed.

I reached an understanding of the importance of this type of data collection by thinking about a ship traveling through the ocean during high tide and then during low tide. The ship traveling at high tide might read 30 feet deep on their depth gauge, but the same ship traveling at low tide might read 20 feet deep on their depth gauge. If the ship’s hull is close to those depths, it may be in danger of scraping the bottom. Knowing the depth of the water at the lowest of the low tides is important for the safety of the ship traveling through the water.

Even though the tide staff had been placed some time ago, it was still embedded firmly in the rock.  However, the seaweed growing on the rocks near the base of the tide staff seemed to be getting in the way of the observations initially.  This required some cutting and trimming of the material to improve data accuracy.  I think this is a good real world example of reducing the number of variables in an experiment that can’t be overlooked.

Here I am collecting data from the tide staff on Herendeen Island. You can see the excess seaweed throughout the water and near the shore.  This factor proved to be a troublesome variable in the initial stages of data collection.

Here I am collecting data from the tide staff on Herendeen Island. You can see the excess seaweed throughout the water and near the shore. This factor proved to be a troublesome variable in the initial stages of data collection.

Personal Log 

Yesterday, I was part of a shore party in the small port town of Sand Point.  The ship needed to stop there for a personnel change and to pick up some mail from the post office. In my past travels, I saw some small fishing villages in Costa Rica, Venezuela, and Mexico, but here is a town in the United States whose existence revolves around fishing. The docks seemed to take up much of the area of the town. There were many boats docked there and the majority of which were fishing boats. I even got to see some boats coming back from the day’s fishing trip and begin to unload their catches. There were also people working on boats, nets, and general items associated with the fishing trade. Some boats looked like they were abandoned, but most looked as if they were used daily.  Living and working near the ocean must be an interesting life, especially in such an isolated place as Sand Point, Alaska.

Create Your Own NOAA Experiment at Home 
You can collect and record data using the same technique that NOAA scientists use for their tide staff data experiment.  Select an area in your backyard on which to make observations.  Perhaps a simple selection such as the growth rate of the grass would be appropriate for your first attempt at this experiment.  Next, decide on your observation times.  It’s a good idea to make your observations at the same time each day so that you can compare results and reduce variables.  Finally, you’ll need something to record your data, usually a pen and paper, but you could also take a photograph for data collection.  Record your data and try to make inferences and draw conclusions based on the data collected in your experiment.

Here I am posing near a boat on dry land in Sand Point.  It is interesting to note how much square area of the boat will be under water when launched; this helps illustrate the point of the importance of hydrography.

Here I am posing near a boat on dry land in Sand Point. It is interesting to note how much square area of the boat will be under water when launched; this helps illustrate the point of the importance of hydrography.

Leyf Peirce, July 9, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Leyf Peirce
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 6 – 15, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date:
July 9, 2004

Time: 16:00
Latitude: N 55°26.60
Longitude: W 159°33.97
Visibility: < 1 foot
Wind direction: 221
Wind speed: 13 knots
Sea wave height: 0 – 1 foot
Swell wave height: 1 –2 feet
Sea water temperature: 10.6 °C
Sea level pressure: 1016.0 mb
Air temperature: 11.7 °C
Cloud cover: fog

Science and Technology Log

Most of my day was spent exploring the pages within Nathaniel Bowditch’s The American Practical Navigator: An Epitome of Navigation. I took notes mostly from a chapter titled “The Oceans”. It primarily discussed oceanography and the branches that are studied as a part of oceanography: geography, geology, chemistry, physics, and biology, “with their many subdivisions, such as sedimentation, ecology, bacteriology, biochemistry, hydrodynamics, acoustics, and optics” (427). With the main focus on the physical characteristics of the ocean, this chapter further detailed the importance of understanding salinity, density, temperature, and pressure—the main factors that affect most of the oceans’ behavior. There are several concepts within this chapter that can be watered down for my sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, however the one most applicable to hydrographic research is the study of the speed of sound waves within salt water. Because echo sounding is used to chart the ocean floor, the speed of sound within saltwater is essential to ultimately creating nautical charts. According to Bowditch, the speed of sound within a given fluid can be calculated using the following equation:

U = 1449 + 4.6T – 0.055T2 + 0.0003T3 + 1.39(S – 35) + 0.017D

In this equation:

U = sound of speed (m/s)
T = temperature (°C)
S = salinity (psu)
D = depth (m)

Using this information, one can calculate the speed of sound given different parameters. These measurements are determined using a CTD test (conductivity—which correlates with salinity, temperature, depth test) and a depth probe about every 4 hours that we are conducting hydrographic research. This information is then accounted for when employing the echo sounding devices. This equation can also easily be used by 7th and 8th graders. I plan on gathering real data and using these concepts in my classes along with graphing the data and outcomes.

While I read a lot today, I also got to tour the engine room. I have seen many engines and know the basics of how they work, thanks to my Mechanical Engineering degree, but I have never seen one so powerful! The twin 1200 horsepower engines can have up to 210 RPM. There are also two generators aboard the ship. What amazed me most on my tour was the control room where the control board looked like ones I have seen in museums—I thought that they would have moved to computers by now! One of the engineers assured me that this switch would be made in the near future.

Personal Log

I woke up this morning to what seemed like even thicker fog—this is the third foggy day in a row! Feeling a new energy from sleeping so well, I decided to try to work out on the treadmill in the ships workout room. I was told about there being a TV and VCR, and knowing that the workout room is on the same level as the engine room, I decided to take a movie with me and play it very loud. While the movie and TV worked great, the treadmill was a whole new experience. In all my years of exercising and training, I have never been on a treadmill that pitches and rolls with a boat! I felt as if my running counted as twice the exercise since I was not only running forward on the treadmill, but I was also adjusting every step with the motion of the ship—a very odd experience! After 45 minutes of exercise, I decided I had enough. The rest of the day was spent reading Nathaniel Bowditch’s The American Practical Navigator: An Epitome of Navigation, thinking of ideas for incorporating the concepts into next year’s curriculum, and playing cribbage, a card game the other Teacher at Sea, Sena Norton, taught me. Lt. Slover also informed me that I will be going on one of the launches tomorrow to help conduct research! While he was reviewing the small boat safety, the fog lifted to reveal beautiful snow covered mountains and islands—we had stopped the hydro research with the Rainier and were headed to our anchor point near Egg Island. We are expected to anchor around 21:00, with a possible stop for fishing along the way. Just finished dinner, I am now sitting in the chart room, looking out the window at dramatic cliffs plummeting into the sea—a reminder that these islands are, in fact, formed from a volcanic chain. I can’t believe how green these islands are—I must be sure to take plenty of pictures. As I day dream at these islands that are reminiscent of the islands in the BVI’s, the fog horn goes off again—the first time in a few hours. I guess this is the changing weather of the Alaska coast line; I just hope that tomorrow there is no fog when we are out on the launches.

Question of the Day:

My sister, Dr. Shayn Peirce at the University of Virginia, emailed me some interesting questions. P.S. Shyla Allen was a great source for these answers:

Dr. Peirce’s questions:

“My questions for you…can the echo scanner detect a whale on the bottom of the ocean? If so, how do they know it’s a whale and not a rock bump in the ocean floor or something else.

2nd question: what is the difference in echo scanning that you’re doing on the boat and ultrasound that they use in biomedical diagnostics…(to image babies in the womb or ovarian cysts?) Both involve acoustic imaging…is the frequency or wavelength of the sound emitted and detected different? Obviously the biomedical application requires a much smaller resolution with less depth penetration while the ocean application requires large penetration depth and not as much resolution…by the way what is the resolution of the echo signal…a few square feet of the ocean floor? Could you pick up the signal of that 1 foot long wench you dropped in the BVIs at 150 ft ocean depth?”

Answers:

1) Yes, the equipment here can detect a whale at the bottom of the ocean. In fact, it can even detect a wreck very well! I saw an image yesterday of a wreck and you could see the mast and bowsprit and everything—very detailed! I am trying to get a copy of that picture. Usually the whale will be moving, so that motion will also be picked up and cause more “static” in the data that needs to be cleaned. This rarely happens though.

2a) The echo sounding aboard the Rainier and ultrasound that they use for biomedical diagnostics are actually the same process, just with different frequencies!

2b) The resolution of what is done aboard this ship depends on water depth and the size of the footprint left by the scanner; the deeper the water, the larger the footprint, and the less resolution. However, they are required to have a resolution of 3 pings per 2 square meters in a depth of 40 meters or less (given the equipment used, there are up to 240 pings in a 160 degree swath). 40 meters is chosen because that is the maximum draft of a tanker vessel. P.S. Allen told me that, unfortunately, the 1 foot wench I lost somewhere in the BVI’s is probably long gone and undetectable by the equipment used aboard this ship. However, in shallow water, she has been able to see not only lobster pots, but their mooring lines as well. Their mooring lines have about the same diameter as the mooring line we descended in the Caymans on our dive trip. I also asked if the equipment could pick up a diver. P.S. Allen said yes, but that it is VERY bad for your body—so much power!