NOAA Teacher at Sea Cathrine Prenot Aboard Bell M. Shimada July 17-July 30, 2016
Mission: 2016 California Current Ecosystem: Investigations of hake survey methods, life history, and associated ecosystem
Geographical area of cruise: Pacific Coast from Newport, OR to Seattle, WA
Date: Thursday, July 29, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge
Lat: 4901.93N (We’re in Canada!)
Speed: 5.7 knots
Windspeed: 34.2 deg/knots
Barometer: 1018.10 mBars
Air Temp: 15.0 degrees Celsius
Water Temp: 13.92 degrees Celsius
Science and Technology Log
Panoramic view of the back deck of the Bell M. Shimada from the wet lab.
There is a book on the bridge of most sailing vessels called “The American Practical Navigator.” Most people call it Bowditch, for short. It is a thick tome, and has an insane wealth of information in it, as Nathanial Bowditch vowed to “put down in the book nothing I can’t teach the crew.” He evidently thought his crew could learn anything, as Bowditch is an encyclopedia of information. You can find distances to nearby planets, how magnetic fields change around iron vessels, what to do if you are lost at sea, what mirages are, and rules to navigate around hurricanes. It’s been updated multiple times since Bowditch’s version in 1802, but one fact has remained. There is math—oodles and oodles of geometry and algebra and calculus—on every page. In fact, a lot of the Bell M. Shimada runs on math—even our acoustic fishing is all based on speed and wavelengths of sound.
Screenshot from the Bell M. Shimada’s Acoustics Lab showing the visual rendition (left to right) of 18,000Hz, 38,000Hz, and 120,000Hz. The ocean floor is the rainbow wavy line 250-450meters below. This was transect #38; we fished the red/orange splotches approx 150 meters deep. They were all hake!
Sonar was first used in World War I to detect submarines, and began to be used to sense fish soon after the war ended, with limited success. Sonar advanced rapidly through World War II and fishermen and scientists modified surplus military sonar to specifically detect ocean life. Since sound will bounce off “anything different than water,” we can now use different frequencies and energy to determine an incredible amount of information on a fish’s life. We can “try to tell what kind of fish, where they are, map vertically what they do, and determine their density.” The chief scientist, Dr. Sandy Parker-Stetter says it best. “My job is to spy on fish.” In my opinion, Sandy seems good enough to be in the Acoustics CIA. Click on Adventures in a Blue World; Why Math Matters, to learn all about fish spying and other reasons you should pay attention in algebra class.
Adventures in a Blue World, CNP. Why Math Matters.
Life onboard continues to be interesting and fun. The wind has picked up a bit, which has translated into higher seas. I tried to film the curtains around my rack last night opening and closing of their own accord, but every time I’d pick up the camera, they’d stop. I did get a few seconds of some wave action outside the workout room; riding a bike is now much easier than running on the treadmill. Pushups are insanely easy when the ship falls into the waves, and ridiculously difficult when rising.
I’ve also been involved in a chemical spill drill (that does say drill), and was lucky to be given the helm for a brief moment on the Bell Shimada.
Staging a chemical spill for the crew’s spill drill
Prenot at the Helm
Did You Know?
NOAA has been around since 1970! Thanks to our great Survey Tech Kathryn Willingham for keeping our science team working so seamlessly. Well… …and making it fun too.
Geographical Area of the Cruise: along the coast of Alaska
Date: June 17, 2016
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 55˚ 10.643′ N
Longitude: 132˚ 54.305′ W
Air Temp: 16˚C (60˚F)
Water Temp: 12˚C (54˚F)
Ocean Depth: 30 m (100 ft.)
Relative Humidity: 81%
Wind Speed: 10 kts (12 mph)
Barometer: 1,013 hPa (1,013 mbar)
Science and Technology Log:
Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician Clint Marcus is cataloguing all of the discreet hazards and objects by location and by photographic evidence that will be available for the new nautical charts once the survey is complete.
Uncovering potential dangers to navigation often requires more that acoustic equipment to adequately document the hazard. Many hazards are in water that is shallow enough to potentially damage equipment if a boat were to be operating in that area and may also require special description to provide guidance for those trying to interpret the hazard through nautical charts and changing tides. This is one of the key reasons so much planning must be placed into assigning survey areas determining the size and extent of polygons for mapping. Depending on the complexity of the area’s structures, the polygon assignment will be adjusted to reasonably reflect what can be accomplished in one day by a single launch. Near-shore objects may require a smaller boat to adequately access the shallow water to move in among multiple hazards. This is where a smaller boat like the Fairweather’s skiff can play a role. The skiff can be sent out to map where these near-shore hazards are using equipment that that will mark the object with a GPS coordinate to provide its location. Additionally, a photograph of the hazard is taken in order to provide a greater reference to the extent of the object and what it looks like above or below the water. This information is collected and catalogued; so, the resulting nautical chart will have detailed resources and references to existing nautical hazards.
Ensign Pat Debroisse covers nautical hazards such as rocks and kelp indicated throughout a very shallow and hazardous inlet.
Nautical hazards are not the only feature found on charts. Nautical charts also have a description of the ocean bottom at various points throughout the charts. These points may indicate a rocky bottom or a bottom consisting of silt, sand, or mud. This information can be important for local traffic in terms of boating and anchoring and other issues. In order to collect samples from the bottom, a launch boat drops a diving probe that consists of a steel trap door that collects and holds a specimen in a canister that can be brought up to the boat. Once the sample is brought up to the boat, it is analyzed for rock size and texture along with other components such as shell material in order to assign a designation. This information is collected and catalogued so that the resulting nautical chart update will include all of the detailed information for all nautical hazards within the survey area.
Bottom samples are taken with a heavy steel torpedo-shaped probe that is designed to sink quickly, dive into the ocean bottom, clamp shut, and return a sample to the boat. Credit Ensign Joseph Brinkley for the photo.
Dear Mr. Cody,
The food on the cruise ship is great. They have all of our meals ready and waiting. There are many people who prepare and serve the food to us to make our trip enjoyable. (Dillion is one of my science students who went on an Alaska cruise with his family in May and will be corresponding with me about his experiences as I blog about my experiences on the Fairweather.)
The food onboard the Fairweather is also very good. Much of the work that they do happens so early in the morning that most never see it take place. Our stewards take very good care of us by providing three meals a day, snacks, and grab bag lunches for all of our launches each day. They need to start early in morning in order to get all of the bagged lunches for the launches prepared for leaving later that morning and breakfast. They start preparing sandwiches and soup for the launches at 5 AM and need to have breakfast ready by 7 AM; so, mornings are very busy for them. A morning snack is often prepared shortly after breakfast for those on break followed by lunch and then an afternoon snack and finally dinner. That is a lot of preparation, tear down, and clean up, and it all starts over the next day. The steward department has a lot of experience in food preparation aiding them in meeting the daily demands of their careers while preparing delicious and nutritious food that the crew will enjoy.
What are you doing at 5:15 in the morning? Mornings are very busy for the steward department preparing lunches for the day’s hydrographic launches and breakfast for the entire crew. From left to right, Chief Steward Frank Ford, Chief Cook Ace Burke, Second Cook Arlene Beahm, and Chief Cook Tyrone Baker.
Chief Steward Frank Ford is preparing a delicious mid-morning snack for the crew.
Frank Ford is the chief steward. He has been in NOAA for six years. Before joining NOAA he had attended culinary school and worked in food service for 30 years in the restaurant and hotel industry. “I try to make meals that can remind everyone of a positive memory…comfort food,” Frank goes on to say, “Having good meals is part of having good morale on a ship.” Frank and the others in the steward department must be flexible in the menu depending on produce availability onboard and available food stores as the mission progresses.
Chief Cook Tyrone Baker helps prepare breakfast.
Tyrone Baker is the chief cook onboard. He has been in NOAA for 10 years and has 20 years of food service experience in the Navy. Ace Burke has been with NOAA since 1991 and has served in many positions in deck and engineering and has been a steward for the last 15 years. He came over from the NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson to help the steward department as a chief cook. Arlene Beahm attended chefs school in New Orleans. She has been with NOAA for 1 ½ years and started out as a general vessel assistant onboard the Fairweather and is now a second cook.
Did You Know?
Relying on GPS to know where a point is in the survey area is not accurate enough. It can be off by as much as 1/10 of a meter. In order to increase the accuracy of where all the points charted on the new map, the Fairweather carries horizontal control base stations onboard. These base stations are set up on a fixed known location and are used to compare to the GPS coordinate points. Utilizing such stations improves the accuracy of all points with the survey from 1/10 of a meter of uncertainty to 1/100 of a meter or a centimeter.
Can You Guess What This Is?
A. an alidade B. a sextant C. an azimuth circle D. a telescope
The answer will be provided in the next post!
(The answer to the question in the last post was D. a CTD. A CTD or Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth sensor is needed for hydrographic surveys since the temperature and density of ocean water can alter how sound waves move through the water column. These properties must be accounted for when using acoustic technology to yield a very precise measurement of the ocean bottom. The sensor is able to record depth by measuring the increase of pressure, the deeper the CTD sensor goes, the higher the pressure. Using a combination of the Chen-Millero equation to relate pressure to depth and Snell’s Law to ray trace sound waves to the farthest extent of an acoustic swath, a vertical point below the water’s surface can be accurately measured. Density is determined by conductivity, the greater the conductivity of the water sample running through the CTD, the greater the concentration of dissolved salt yielding a higher density.)
Weather Data from the Bridge: Wind speed (knots): 6.5
Sea Temp (deg C): 11.1
Air Temp (deg C): 11.4
Meet: Ensign Nate Gilman NOAA Corps Officer
Qualifications: Master of Environmental Studies from Evergreen State College, Certificate in Fisheries Management from Oregon State University, Bachelors in Environmental Studies from Evergreen State College
Hails from: Olympia, Washington
Ensign Nate Gilman, Photo Credit: NOAA
What are your main responsibilities? Nate is the ship Navigation Officer and Junior Officer On Deck. He not only drives the ship and carries out all the responsibilities that come with this job, but is also responsible for maintaining the charts on board, setting waypoints and plotting our course (manually on the charts and on the computer). If an adjustment to our course is necessary, Nate must work with the scientific party on board to replot the transects.
What do you enjoy most about your job?Driving the ship, of course!
Do you eat fish? **This is roughly how my conversation with Nate went on the subject of fish consumption: I don’t eat bugs. (He is referring to shrimp and lobster) – I thought I loved shrimp cocktail, now I know that I love cocktail sauce and butter, so celery and bread are just fine.
Aspirations? Nate hopes to be stationed in Antarctica for his land deployment (NOAA Corps Officers usually spend two years at sea and three on land). Ultimately, he wants to earn his teaching certificate and would be happy teaching P.E., especially if he can use these scooters, drink good coffee, ski, and surf.
Science and Technology Log
I spend much of my time on the bridge where I can learn more about topics related to geography and specifically navigation. This is also where I have easy access to fresh air, whale, bird, and island viewing, and comedic breaks. A personality quality the NOAA Corps officers all seem to share is a great sense of humor and they are all science nerds at heart!
Our sextant on board NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Our Executive Officer, LT Carl Rhodes, showed me several pieces of equipment used to navigate and communicate at sea – the sextant, azimuth ring, and Morse code signaling lamp. Because the sextant relies on triangulation using the sun, moon, or stars – none of which we have seen often, the sextant is a beautiful, but not currently used piece of equipment for us on this trip. The majority of our navigation relies on GPS triangulation; however, the officers still need to mark on the charts (their lingo is to “drop a fix on”) our position roughly every 30 minutes just in case we lose GPS connection. Morse code is a universal language still taught in the Navy and NATO (they install infrared lights to avoid detection). Alternatively, on the radio English is King, but many of the captains know English only as a second language. Think you get frustrated on customer service phone calls? The NOAA Corps Officers actually go through simulations in order to prepare them for these types of issues. During one instance, the language barrier could have caused some confusion between LT Carl Rhodes and the ship he was hailing (the man had a thick Indian accent) but both were quite polite to each other, the other captain even expressed thanks for accommodating our maneuvers. All the Officers attend etiquette classes as part of their training in NOAA Corps and I just read in their handbook that they must be courteous over the radio.
Unimak pass with lots of traffic – We are the green ship surrounded by other boats (black triangles) – we happened to want to fish in this area, but had to change plans due to traffic.
Shipping with ships: 80% of our shipping continues to be conducted by sea and many of the ships we encounter here are transporting goods using the great circle routes. These routes are the shortest distance from one point on the earth to another, since the Earth is a spinning sphere, the shortest routes curve north or south toward the poles. Look at your flight plan the next time you fly and you will understand why a trip from Seattle to Beijing involves a flight near Alaska. Airplanes and ships use great circle routes often and Unimak pass is a heavily trafficked course; however, ships also adjust their plans drastically to avoid foul weather – the risk to the cargo is calculated and often they decide to take alternative paths.
Look at a chart of the Aleutian Islands and you will quickly gain insight into the history of the area. On one chart, you will find islands with names such as Big Koniuji, Paul, Egg, and Chiachi, near Ivanof Bay and Kupreanof Peninsula. The Japanese and Russian influence is quite evident. NOAA has other ships dedicated to hydrographic (seafloor mapping) surveys. The charts are updated and maintained by NOAA; however, in many cases, the areas in which we are traveling have not been surveyed since the early 1900s. Each chart is divided into sections that indicate when the survey was last completed:
B3 1940 – 1969
B4 1900 – 1939
An easy way to remember: When was the area last surveyed? B4 time. I told you they like their puns on the Bridge!
Flathead Sole – How these guys navigate the seafloor is beyond me!
Maintaining fitness while at sea can be a challenge, and I am thankful the ship has a spin bike because trying to do jumping jacks while the boat is rocking all over is quite difficult, I am probably getting a better ab workout from laughing at myself. Pushups and situps are an unpredictable experience – I either feel like superwoman or a weakling, depending on the tilt of the ship which erratically changes every few seconds. Ultimately, I am finding creative ways to get my heart pumping – I do my best thinking while exercising!
One of my most valuable take-aways from this experience is my broadened perspective on those who choose to serve our country in the military and the varied personalities they can have. Most of the individuals on board the ship year round have experience in the military and I have now met individuals from NOAA Corps, Coast Guard, Airforce, Army, Marines, and the U.S. Publice Health Service. I am grateful to have the opportunity to meet them!
Vinny (my co-TAS) also served in the military.
Did you know? Saildrones are likely the next big step for conducting research at sea. These 19 foot crafts are autonomous and have already proved capable of sailing from California to Hawaii. Check out this article to learn more: The Drone That Will Sail Itself Around The World
Date: 3/31/2015; Time 2000; clouds 25%, cumulus and cirrus; Wind 205° (SSW), 15 knots; waves 1-2 ft; swells 1-2 ft; sea temp 23°C; air temp 23°C
Science and Technology Log
You’re not going to believe what we caught in our neuston net yesterday – a giant squid! We were able to get it on board and it was 23 feet long! Here’s a picture from after we released it:
April Fools! (sorry, couldn’t resist) The biggest squid we’ve caught are about a half inch long. Image from http://www.factzoo.com/.
Let’s talk about something just as exciting – navigation. I visit the bridge often and find it all very interesting, so I got a 30 minute crash course on navigation. We joked that with 30 minutes of training, yes, we would be crashing!
From the bridge, you can see a long way in any direction. The visible range of a human eye in good conditions is 10 miles. Because the earth is curved, we can’t see that far. There is a cool little formula to figure out how far you can see. You take the square root of your “height of eye” above sea level, and multiply that by 1.17. That gives you the nautical miles that you can see.
So the bridge is 36 feet up. “Really?” I asked Dave. He said, “Here, I’ll show you,” and took out a tape measure.
ENS Dave Wang measuring the height of the bridge above sea level.
OK, 36 feet it is, to the rail. Add a couple of feet to get to eye level. 38 feet. Square root of 38 x 1.17, and there we have it: 7.2 nautical miles. That is 8.3 statute miles (the “mile” we are used to using). That’s assuming you are looking at something right at sea level – say, a giant squid at the surface. If something is sticking up from sea level, like a boat, that changes everything. And believe me, there are tables and charts to figure all that out. Last night the bridge watch saw a ship’s light that was 26 miles away! The light on our ship is at 76 feet, so they might have been able to see us as well.
If you can see 7.2 nautical miles in any direction, what is the total area of the field of view? It’s a really amazing number!
Back to navigation
Below are some photos of the navigation charts. They can be zoomed in or out, and the officers use the computer to chart the course. You can see us on the chart – the little green boat.
This is a chart zoomed in. The green boat (center) is us, and the blue line and dot is our heading.
In the chart above, you’ll see that we seem to be off course. Why? Most likely because of that other ship that is headed our direction. We talk to them over the radio to get their intentions, and reroute our course accordingly.
Notice the left side, where it says “dump site (discontinued) organochlorine waste. There are a lot of these type dump sites in the Gulf. Just part of the huge impact humans have had on our oceans.
When we get close to a station, as in the first picture above, the bridge watch team sets up a circle with a one mile radius around the location of the station. See the circle, upper center? We need to stay within that circle the whole time we are collecting our samples. With the bongos and the neuston net, the ship is moving slowly, and with the CTD the ship tries maintain a stationary position. However, wind and current can affect the position. These factors are taken into account before we start the station. The officer on the bridge plans out where to start so that we stay within the circle, and our gear that is deployed doesn’t get pushed into or under the boat. It’s really a matter of lining up vectors to figure it all out – math and physics at work. But what is physics but an extension of common sense? Here’s a close-up:
Here is the setup for the station. The plan is that we will be moving south, probably into the wind, during the sampling. See the north-south line?
How do those other ships appear on the chart? This is through input from the AIS (Automated Information System), through which we can know all about other ships. It broadcasts their information over VHF radio waves. We know their name, purpose, size, direction, speed, etc. Using this and the radar system, we can plan which heading to take to give the one-mile distance that is required according to ship rules.
As a backup to the computer navigation system, every half hour, our coordinates are written on the (real paper) navigation chart, by hand.
ENS Pete Gleichauf is writing our coordinates on the paper navigation chart.
There are drawers full of charts for everywhere the Gunter travels!
ENS Melissa Mathes showing me where all the navigation charts are kept. Remember, these are just backups!
Below is our radar screen. There are 3 other ships on the screen right now. The radar computer tells us the other vessels’ bearing and speed, and how close they will get to us if we both maintain our course and speed.
The other vessels in the area, and their bearing, show up on the radar.
If the radar goes down, the officers know how to plot all this on paper.
On this maneuvering board, officers are trained to plot relative positions just like the radar computer does.
Below is Dave showing me the rudder controls. The rudder is set to correct course automatically. It has a weather adjustment knob on it. If the weather is rough (wind, waves, current), the knob can allow for more rudder correction to stay on course. So when do they touch the wheel? To make big adjustments when at station, or doing course changes.
Dave’s arm – showing me the rudder controls.
These are the propulsion control throttles – one for each propeller. They control the propeller speed (in other words, the ship’s speed).
Here are the throttles that control the engine power, which translates to propeller speed.
This controls the bow thruster, which is never used except in really tight situations, such as in port. It moves the bow either direction.
And below is the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS). It prints out any nautical distress signal that is happening anywhere in the world!
Global Marine Distress and Safety System
And then, of course, there is a regular computer, which is usually showing the ships stats, and is connected to the network of computers throughout the ship.
ENS Kristin Johns checking the weather system coming our way.
In my post of March 17, I described the gyrocompass. That is what we use to determine direction, and here is a rather non-exciting picture of this very important tool.
This is the gyrocompass, which uses the rotation of the Earth to determine true north.
As you can see, we have two gyrocompasses, but since knowing our heading is probably the most important thing on the ship, there are backup plans in place. With every watch (every 4 hours), the gyro compass is aligned the magnetic compass to determine our declination from true north. Also, once per trip, the “gyro error” is calculated, using this nifty device:
This is called the alidade. Using the position of the sun as it rises or sets, the gyro error can be computed and used to keep our heading perfectly accurate.
The reading off of the alidade, combined with the exact time, coordinates, and some fancy math, will determine the gyro error. (Click on a picture to see full captions and full size pictures.)
The math for calculating gyro error isn’t hard; it just takes many steps and careful following of instructions!
Numbers need to be taken from charts in these books…
Knowing how to read charts and tables is important!
You can see that we have manual backups for everything having to do with navigation. We won’t get lost, and we’ll always know where we are!
Here I am, “driving” the ship! Watch out! Photo by ENS Pete Gleichauf
Back to Plankton!
These past two days, we have been in transit, so no sampling has been done. But here are a couple more cool micrographs of plankton that Pam shared with me.
This picture shows several invertebrates, along with fish eggs. Madalyn and Andy, who are invertebrate people, got excited at this collection. The fat one, top left is a Doliolid. The U-shaped one is a Lucifer shrimp, the long one in center is an amphipod, at the bottom is a mycid, etc. There are crabs in different stages of development, and the multiple little cylinders are copepods! You can also see the baby fish inside the eggs. Photo credit Pamela Bond/NOAA
These are larval red snapper, a fall spawning fish species of economic interest. Notice the scale! You have to admit baby fish are awfully cute. Photo credit: Pamela Bond/NOAA
Interesting Fish Facts
Our main fish of interest in the winter plankton sampling are the groupers. There are two main species: gag groupers and red groupers. You can learn all about them on the NOAA FishWatch Website. Groupers grow slowly and live a long time. Interestingly, some change from female to male after about seven years – they are protogynous hermaphrodites.
Red grouper. Image credit: NOAA
In the spring plankton research cruise, which goes out for all of May, the main species of interest is the Atlantic bluefin tuna. This species can reach 13 feet long and 2000 lbs, and females produce 10 million eggs a year!
School of Atlantic bluefin tuna. Photo credit: NOAA
The fall plankton research focuses on red snapper. These grow up to about 50 pounds and live a long time. You can see from the map of their habitat that it is right along the continental shelf where the sampling stations are.
Red snapper in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Image credit: NOAA
The NOAA FishWatch website is a fantastic resource, not only to learn about the biology, but about how they are managed and the history of each fishery. I encourage you to look around. You can see that all three of these fish groups have been overfished, and because of careful management, and research such as what we are doing, the stocks are recovering – still a long way from what they were 50 years ago, but improving.
I had a good question come in: how long before the fish larvae are adults? Well, fish are interesting creatures; they are dependent on the conditions of their environment to grow. Unlike us, fish will grow throughout their life! Have you ever kept goldfish in an aquarium or goldfish bowl? They only grow an inch or two long, right? If you put them in an outdoor pond, you’ll see that they will grow much larger, about six inches! It all depends on the environment (combined with genetics).
“Adult” generally means that they are old enough to reproduce. That will vary by species, but with groupers, it is around 4 years. They spawn in the winter, and will remain larvae for much longer than other fish, because of the cooler water.
I’ve used up my space in this post, and didn’t even get to tell you about our scientists! I will save that for next time. For now, I want to share just a few more pictures of the ship. (Again, click on one to get a slide show.)
This is the bridge deck – inside those windows are where most of the pictures on this post were taken. The flying bridge is above.
This is looking forward (and very far down) from the flying bridge toward the bow.
This is the Gunter, looking aft from the flying bridge
My favorite part of the ship – the flying bridge. It’s the highest and a wonderful place for an afternoon nap or to read a book.
We have a small gym on board with an elliptical, treadmill, bike, free weights, a rowing machine, and other goodies. I use it often – I like to do the hill climb on the treadmill or ride the bike.
This is the lounge where people sometimes watch movies
Terms to Learn
What is the difference between a nautical mile and a statute mile? How about a knot?
Do you know what I mean when I say “invertebrate?” It is an animal without a backbone. Shrimp and crabs, are invertebrates; we are vertebrates!
NOAA Teacher at Sea Sue Zupko
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 7-19, 2014
Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Leg I Geographic Area of Cruise: Atlantic Ocean from Cape May, NJ to Cape Hatteras, NC Date: September 7, 2014
Weather Data from the Bridge Lat 41°31.3’N Lon 071°20.8W
Present Weather PC
Visibility 10 nm
Wind 010° 9kts
Sea Level Pressure 1019.8
Sea Wave Height 1-2 ft
Temperature: Sea Water 22°C Air 28°
Science and Technology Log
Flexibility is the key. Our sail date was changed several times due to mechanical issues. I’m ok with that. It beats getting out in the middle of the ocean and not having things work properly. We weren’t sure exactly when the Bigelow would sail as of Thursday, but were pretty sure it would be today at 10:00 am. NOAA had me fly out to get onboard.
Arrival at airport
What a blessing that was. I was able to get acclimated (used to) to the ship, meet some crew members, and organize my belongings.
Mrs. Zupko beside the Henry B. Bigelow.
That is a big deal since when docked, nothing is moving. Once we got underway, the ship rocks and rolls. Pencils loose in a drawer aren’t a good idea. Where to store the flashlight? Can I find my necklace in the morning? It’s about routine. The locker (my closet) is noisy to open and close and must be kept closed when underway. Try not to forget things since you have to open that door again–and you have to hold the door since it swings and will bang. Someone is always sleeping. Right now my roommate is sleeping so I am thankful I have a quiet keyboard. She has earplugs in and told me I wouldn’t bother her. I also got to pick my berth (bed), which is on the bottom. There will be four of us in the room when everyone arrives tonight–all scientists.
So far I have had no “duties” other than blogging. When we start trawling, I will work noon-midnight. One of the scientists on my watch, Nicole, gave me a tour today and explained what I will be doing. My foul weather gear consists of heavy orange bib coveralls, a heavy yellow jacket with super long sleeves, and big rubber boots which come up to my knees. I brought inserts to go in the boots since I’ll be standing–a lot. Bought some new shoes that are slip-ons so I can get out of my foul weather gear as soon as we are done processing the fish. I learned that we probably will have over 100 trawls on this leg of the Autumn Trawl Survey and we will climb in and out of our gear often.
Let me explain a bit about how things will happen. Over the ship’s intercom, which will be heard everywhere except our staterooms, the galley, and the lounge, there is a (Bing….Bong….) “Attention on the Bigelow. Streaming….” This means the nets are being let out and will be at the bottom about 20 minutes. What can I do for 20 minutes? Help me out and vote on my poll.
The blue trawl doors on the deck will be added to the net.
As the net is let out, blue “trawl doors” attached to the net sink to the bottom, holding the net down and keeping the mouth of the net open. Now, the amount of time it takes to bring the net up varies. The net could have been 24 m down or 350 m down. When they start bringing in the net, the NOAA crew will make an announcement (Bing….Bong….)”Haul back.” They will show me how to find the depth on the equipment so I will be able to judge when to be ready. When the net comes up, the fish will be dumped on a table called a checker. If there are too many, they get dumped on the deck (called a deck tow). I hope it fits in the checker since it will be less work. Imagine picking up all those fish from the deck and putting them in containers.
Once in the checker, they will be fed to a conveyor belt which takes them into the wet lab for processing. We will sort the critters and organic “trash” into buckets by species. (I cringed at the word trash being used for wonderful creatures such as sponges and corals. However, Nicole explained that these are just not our main animals of interest. It is similar to weeds. A weed is any plant you don’t want in a specific flower bed. I love wildflowers, but they don’t always work well in my garden.)
The person in charge (called the “watch” chief) will weigh and label the fish and send the container on. Some fish will be selected for extra information. Others will be released into the sea. Animals that we keep will be for further research.
The work we are doing is very important to monitor the ocean’s health. Health to the ocean, means health to us. If the ocean isn’t healthy, we had better find out why and correct it. It’s like a nurse takes your temperature and looks at your symptoms when you are sick. We are the nurses checking on the sea. Others will analyze the symptoms and come up with a plan to correct any problems. I will give more information on our work later.
Meet the NOAA Crew
Ensign Erick Estela Gomez is originally from Puerto Rico. Most of my dealings when I boarded the ship were with him since he was the OOD, Officer of the Deck, for the weekend. In between his filling in reports and checking on the ship’s systems, we had a chance to talk. He is very personable and has a brilliant smile. Maybe his smile is infectious since he just got engaged to be married and is very happy. Added to his many abilities, he speaks four languages. He explained that he received an Environmental Science degree from the University of Puerto Rico. Most NOAA officers have a science or engineering degree or 60 credit hours in math and science. I need to check my records and see if I have that much. Maybe I could be a NOAA Corps officer.
Ensign Estela’s favorite part of his job is steering the ship. I enjoyed doing that when aboard the Pisces. It is a challenge. While he was off doing a chore, I sat in one of the two tall chairs on the bridge (operations center of ship). When he was done, he explained, very politely, that it is ship’s custom that no one except the captain sit in those chairs. He has been an ensign 1.5 years and said he will not sit in one of those as a sign of respect until he has earned it himself by being appointed to be a captain of a ship. I guess I always figured it was like Captain Kirk leaving Scotty or Spock in charge and they would sit in his chair to give orders. But, Ensign Estela has a lot of respect for earning one’s rank and will sit there when appropriate. So, no cool chair for me on the bridge now.
Ensign Estela paused to really consider what tool he couldn’t live without when doing his job since he uses a lot of important tools. He decided on radar. It can be very foggy and this tool helps avoid collisions (crashes). If he invented a tool, it would be a fog-clearing machine to be able to see smaller vessels (boats) or obstructions.
There are collateral (other) duties for him. He is responsible for inventorying all the equipment on board. Every computer. Every pillow. He also needs to make sure things are in working order. If boots wear out, he needs to order more. That means managing a lot of paper so he needs organization skills. His main duty, however, is navigation officer. He checks the tides and currents and posts all that information on a white board on the bridge. Maintaining charts, ship’s routes, and flags indicating our status are part of his job. I enjoyed learning a bit more from Ensign Estela on plotting the course using triangles. Triangles provide a nice straight edge.
Navigation tools. Numbers on the map in water show depth in feet.
Ensign Estela explaining about mapping to Mrs. Zupko
Ensign Estela plots our ship’s course for day.
His advice to my students, and any young person, is to keep up your math and science. Don’t sit in front of the TV or computer, get outside and do things. It’s obvious he does since he bicycles, fishes, and enjoys salsa dancing for relaxation. We call this Sharpening the Saw.
This is the ships call sign.
This week my students are studying how to communicate across distances on the ocean. How do ships communicate, for example? A ship might not have a radio. Flags work. There is a flag which states what country you are from. There are flags that say you have a net or a diver in the water. There are flags which tell your call sign if you want to speak by radio. There is even a flag for every letter of the alphabet. All these flags are up on the flying bridge, the highest deck on the ship.
Did You Know?
The ship usually uses true north for navigation. However, if that system fails, it uses magnetic north. North is 0°. That is like 90° on a coordinate grid. That is a bit confusing. We use degrees on maps all the time. Just remember that 0°N is used for navigation and wind direction.
Question of the Day
Something to Think About
A tradition on board a ship is to remove one’s hat in the mess hall (dining area) and to not wear foul weather gear there. The mess hall was used during war as the hospital. People died on those tables and it is a sign of respect to remove one’s hat. Hats are often used to show respect. People remove their hats at a ball game to sing the national anthem. Men tip their hats to acknowledge a woman’s presence. People remove their hats in eating establishments. It is good to learn a country’s or culture’s (such as a ship) customs so as not to offend someone. That is also a sign of respect. When visiting churches while a tourist in Russia, I covered my head and wore a skirt, as is their custom. On board ship, once I leave my room for my watch, I shouldn’t return until my watch is over. That means carrying my computer, cameras, notes, jacket, phone, cup, water bottle, etc. with me so I don’t disturb those asleep. It’s just like being quiet in the halls at school. Guess what? They don’t want us talking in these halls either since someone is always sleeping. It is rude to disturb others, whether it be their sleep or learning.
Weather Data from the Bridge at 14:00 Wind: 6 knots
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Depth in fathoms: 2,275
Depth in feet: 13,650
Temperature: 25.1˚ Celsius
Science and Technology Log
Learning how to use the dividers for navigational purposes
The Sette crew frequently encourages me to explore the many operations that take place around the clock on the ship. I continue to meet new people who complete countless tasks that allow the Sette to operate smoothly and safely.
XO Haner explains how the radar functions on the bridge
NOAA Corps officers operate the bridge. The bridge is the central command station for the ship. NOAA Corps officers consistently ensure that everyone and everything on board is safe. Officers alternate shifts to monitor all radios and radar twenty-four hours a day.
They use numerous instruments to determine the ship’s location. A magnetic compass, maps, dividers, triangles, radar, a steering wheel, and visual observation are just a few of the resources used to guarantee we are on course. According to the NOAA Corps officers, the traditional magnetic compass continues to serve as one of the most reliable tools for navigation.
Location and weather data are officially recorded in the deck log on an hourly basis. However, officers are keeping an eye on the radar, compasses, and weather conditions every moment of the day. On top of that, they are monitoring nearby marine life, boats, and potential hazards.
Teamwork: NOAA Corps officers on the bridge
Marine Mammal Observation Off the Kona Coast
Ali Bayless, Our Marine Mammal Observation (MMO) Lead, has thus far organized three MMO trips out on one of the small boats. Dropping a small boat from the Sette is a task that involves excellent and efficient communication among at least a dozen crew members. The small boat is carefully dropped into the water. Boat operators and scientists then climb down a ladder in their hard hats and lifejackets to embark on their day trip. Today, I was fortunate to take part in one of these MMO expeditions. Two scientists, two boat operators, and I ventured away from the Sette for three hours in hopes of spotting and hearing marine mammals. Excitingly, we did indeed spot up to one hundred spotted dolphins and spinner dolphins.
If you look closely at the photos, you can see round spots on the dolphins. Our MMO lead believes these are cookie cutter shark bite marks. This is an indication that cookie cutter sharks live in this vicinity. Two of our scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium are hoping to return to the Monterey Bay Aquarium with live cookie cutter sharks for the aquarium’s educational exhibits. There is a good possibility that we will find these sharks in our trawl lines that will be dropped later this week.
Listening to whales using the hydrophone during small boat operations
Science Party Interview with Jessica Chen
University of Hawaii PhD student, Jessica Chen, is working the night shift in acoustics from 16:00 to 01:00 during this IEA cruise. She displays patience and a high level of knowledge when I stopped by to pester her around 20:00. During our conversation, Jessica stated that she is from Colorado and came to Hawaii for her graduate studies. She will complete her PhD in 2015. She is interested in learning more about marine mammal behavior through acoustic monitoring and analysis.
Jessica points to the line of micronekton during a night shift conversation
This is Jessica’s second IEA cruise. Jessica, Aimee, and Adrienne monitor our acoustic screens 24/7. In the photo above, Jessica points out the slanted line (slanting up) that represents the diel (daily) vertical migration of the micronekton. The micronekton migrate daily from around 400-500 meters up to approximately 100 meters from the surface. Many even migrate all the way to the surface. When the sun goes down, they come up. When the sun comes up, they start their journey back down to their 400-500 meter starting point. Micronekton consist of potentially billions of small organisms including larval fish, crustaceans, and jellyfish. Their behavior is not completely understood at this point, but they may be migrating at these very specific times to avoid predators.
When asked what Jessica’s long term goals are, she shares that she would like to increase personal and public knowledge of the animals in the ocean. This will allow us to better manage the ocean and protect the ocean. It is clear that Jessica truly enjoys her work and studies. She states that she especially appreciates the opportunities to see wildlife such as dolphins and whales.
Did You Know?
Cookie cutter sharks have extremely sharp teeth. Their round bite is quick and leaves a mark that resembles one that could have been made with a cookie cutter. Hence the name, cookie cutter shark.
NOAA Teacher at Sea Louise Todd Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II September 13 – 29, 2013
Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico Date: September 26, 2013
Weather Data from the Bridge: Barometric Pressure: 1012.23mb
Sea Temperature: 28.4˚C
Air Temperature: 29.6˚C
Wind speed: 6.43knots
Science and Technology Log:
This morning I went up to the bridge to learn about how the NOAA Corps Officers and the Captain navigate and maneuver the Oregon II. Ensign Rachel Pryor, my roommate,and Captain Dave Nelson gave me a great tour of the bridge!
The Oregon II is 172 feet long and has a maximum speed of 11 knots. It was built in 1967. It has two engines although usually only one engine is used. The second engine is used when transiting in and out of channels or to give the ship more power when in fairways, the areas of high traffic in the Gulf. The Oregon II has a draft of 15 feet which means the hull extends 15 feet underneath the water line. My stateroom is below the water line! Typically the ship will not go into water shallower than 30 feet.
The bridge has a large number of monitors that provide a range of information to assist with navigation. There are two radar screens, one typically set to a range of 12 miles and one typically set to a range of 8 miles. These screens enable the officer navigating the ship to see obstructions, other ships and buoys. When the radar picks up another vessel, it lists a wealth of information on the vessel including its current rate of speed and its destination. The radar is also useful in displaying squalls, fast moving storms, as they develop.
The radar screen is on the far right
Weather is constantly being displayed on another monitor to help the officer determine what to expect throughout the day.
The Nobeltec is a computerized version of navigation charts that illustrates where the ship is and gives information on the distance until our next station, similar to a GPS in your car. ENS Pryor compares the Nobeltec to hard copies of the chart every 30 minutes. Using the hard copies of the charts provides insurance in case the Nobeltec is not working.
When we arrive at a station, the speed and direction of the wind are carefully considered by the Officer of the Deck (OOD) as they are crucial in successfully setting and hauling back the line. It is important that the ship is being pushed off of the line so the line doesn’t get tangled up in the propeller of the ship. While we are setting the line, the OODis able to stop the engines and even back the ship up to maintain slack in the main line as needed. Cameras on the stern enable the OOD to see the line being set out and make adjustments in the direction of the ship if needed. The same considerations are taken when we are hauling back. The ship typically does not go over 2 knots when the line is being brought back in. The speed can be reduced as needed during the haul back. The OOD carefully monitors the haul back from a small window on the side of the bridge. A lot of work goes into navigating the Oregon II safely!
I was amazed to see all the monitors up on the bridge! Keeping everything straight requires a lot of focus. Being up on the bridge gave me a new perspective of all that goes into each station. We wouldn’t be able to see all of these sharks without the careful driving from the OOD.
The water has been very calm the past few days. It is like being on a lake. We’ve had nice weather too! A good breeze has kept us from getting too hot when we are setting the line or hauling back.
Did you Know?
The stations where we sample are placed into categories depending on their depth. There are A, B and C stations. A stations are the most shallow, 5-30 fathoms. B stations are between 30 and 100 fathoms. C stations are the deepest, 100-200 fathoms. One fathom is equal to 6 feet. A fathometer is used to measure the depth.