Texas A & M- Bachelor of Science in Marine Engineering
Wage Mariners-civil service federal employee (nonmilitary)
Do you have any plans for future education?
Currently investigating at master’s programs in Nuclear Engineering
Engineering aboard Fairweather
How did you find out about your current position at NOAA?
I met a NOAA recruiter at a job fair at Texas A & M, submitted resume and 3 weeks later I got the call! After that the lengthy background check and physical for Federal employees, I came to work at NOAA aboard Fairweather.
1) When you were a child, what was your dream career?
I wanted to be an astronaut when I was young. I looked into aeronautical engineering and attended a Federal Service academy – the United States Merchant Marine Academy. My Dad is an engineer and contractor, so I grew up on job sites and always had the mindset of math and science. I knew my career would be something in the STEM field
2) What was your
favorite subject in school?
My favorite class was
differential equations. Why I like
engineering so much is everything is one big puzzle, and differential equations
is like one big puzzle.
3) Why is what you do important to on the ship?
Engineers on ships are
essentially the lifeblood of the ship, we keep the ship moving. We are the electricians, plumbers, the
mechanics, and even the firefighters.
The ship can’t go anywhere without engineers!
4) What would you tell an elementary school student about your work that is important to you?
I enjoy solving the puzzles. When something goes wrong, I enjoy finding out why something is not working and then solving the problem. That is what is so rewarding — figuring out what is wrong and fixing it!
5) Where do you do most of your work?
In the engine room. That’s where I spend my 8-hour shifts. The engineering room is on A & B deck — the 2 bottom-most levels of the ship. That is where most of the mechanisms that run the ship are located.
6) What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?
A crescent wrench! Mine is handy because it can measure and tell
you the exact size of the nut which makes things a lot easier!
7) If you could invent any tool to make your
work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?
I would invent a tool
that could reach bolts at odd angles.
Like a magnetic wrench that could adjust to the size bolt head you need
and could bend around the odd angles and apply torque when I need it.
8) What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect?
I never expected to be in Alaska!
9) How could teacher help students understand and appreciate NOAA engineering opportunities?
I think it would be
valuable to have better understanding of what we engineers do! It’s a
really cool job, with a really good salary, and very few people know there are
positions like this available.
10) What is your favorite part of your day when you are working and why?
Every day is a little
different, you are never doing the same thing over and over again. Something is always breaking and needs
11) What was your favorite book growing up?
My favorite book
series when I was growing up was Junie B. Jones! I come from Florida and loved Jacques Cousteau.
He inspired me to become a scuba diver
12) What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
I would be still be
working on a boat!
13) Do you have an outside hobby?
I love camping and hiking, I’ve hiked 40 miles
of the Appalachian Trail and
would like to hike the rest!
When you were a child, what was your dream career?
As a child, I always wanted to draw. I was drawing constantly and I wanted to somehow make my love for creating art into a career, whether that meant being a studio artist myself or helping to teach others to make art.
2. What was your favorite (and least favorite) subject in school?
Believe it or not, science! I grew to really enjoy my science classes starting in middle school and through high school, especially participating in the science fairs. My love for science was inversely related to my love for math. I started to dread all my mathematics courses as I went through high school, and really up into my earlier college years which often made my science courses difficult. During my junior year in college I took calculus taught by a great professor and things finally clicked!
3. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to do the work you are doing now?
Sometime in between my junior and senior years in college, I realized I wanted to do what is I’m doing now. That’s when I was introduced to hydrography.
4. What do you enjoy the most (and the least) about your work?
I really enjoy working on the ocean and with small boats. It’s a really dynamic platform. The lifestyle that comes with living on a ship can be difficult. It’s a lot of traveling and spending time away from home.
5. Where do you do most of your work?
Most of my work is done on the ship in the Plot Room. It’s a big room on the ship where most of our processing systems live.
6. What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?
A computer! Computers are used for data acquisition, processing, and delivery. Everything is done via some sort of processing/work station.
7. What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?
I never thought I would be a NOAA Diver. I didn’t even know that NOAA had a dive program. Learning to be a working diver was an awesome experience and opportunity that I don’t think I would have ever had, or even would want to have outside of NOAA.
8. How could teachers help students understand and appreciate NOAA science?
Teachers could help students understand and appreciate NOAA science by sharing some of the awesome work we do that’s applicable to their classroom. NOAA is such a big administration with tons of cool science going on so by picking some interesting topics that are more relatable to their classroom audience might help engage their students.
9. What is your favorite part of your day when you are working and why?
When acquiring data, my favorite part of the day is the end, when the data is transferred and being processed. It’s not because the day’s over, but because I get to see all of the data we’ve collected throughout the day and remember the work that went into it. It’s also the beginning of the next stage of work for that dataset, the quality control stage.
10. What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?
It’s hard to say, but I’m not sure I would be doing anything hydrography related. NOAA has been a great learning platform for me to become the hydrographer I am now. NOAA has really taught me to appreciate ocean science.
11. Do you have an outside hobby?
My outside hobby is painting. It can be hard to find space on the ship to paint, but traveling around Alaska and being on the water always inspires me to be more creative.
12. What is your favorite animal?
Picking one is pretty difficult, but I’m really into jellyfish right now. They seem like they have a low-stress lifestyle.
13. If you could go back in time and tell your 10 year old self something, what would it be?
“Relax, being 10 is way cooler than you think.”
14. Have you traveled anywhere interesting travels while studying Geology?
I traveled to Northern India as my field study in college. We were studying the water quality and management stemming from the Ganges River. Also, most of my geology labs in college were trips to the field which often meant the beach. Traveling and being outside is an added bonus while studying geology.
Interested in learning more about Hydrography and NOAA? Check out the resources below:
Iris Ekmanis is currently a Junior Officer with the NOAA Corps.
On this Teacher at Sea mission,
Officer Ekman is currently on bridge watch, and is a training and small craft
Current Position: Junior
Deck Officer on Bridge Watch, training officer, small boats officer
3-4 other duties in addition to
Years at NOAA: 2.5 months after a 4-month basic training
College and/or specialized training:
2017 Bachelors of Marine Science from
University of Hawaii
Junior Officer Ekmanis worked as a deckhand on tourism boats, dive boats, whale watching, and worked on a small live-aboard cruise ship.
When you were a child, what was your dream career?
I wanted to be a marine biologist – but then I fell in love with being out on the water and on boats. Surrounded by the science of hydrography, I really like driving small boats and like the navigation part of my job.
2. Do you have any plans to continue your education while working for NOAA?
We get the GI bill since we are uniformed service (after 3 years with NOAA) so I’m considering a master’s in marine biology.
3. What was your favorite subject in school?
My favorite subject was outdoor education. I went to high school in New Zealand so there were outdoor education, whitewater kayaks, rock climbing, caving. My favorite academic subjects were biology & geography.
4. At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to do the work you are doing now?
I heard about NOAA in college, so I applied, I completed basic training and have been working for 2 ½ months.
5. What would you tell an elementary school student about your work that is most important?
We are out here charting the seafloor to ensure safe navigation for other mariners who are traveling through the Pacific. All kinds of cruise ships, fisherman, and cargo ships travel through the Pacific and must get there safely. Also, it is important that we are researching the fault lines to learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis.
We navigate the ship to ensure safety and collaborate with the hydrotechs (hydrographic technicians) to make sure the ship’s travels are resulting in good hydrographic surveys.
6. What is the most enjoyable or exciting part of your work?
I would say it is constantly learning new skills. Every day, I’m on the bridge learning about navigation, on the launchers learning about hydrography, and the “office view” changes every day. Every single day is different, and most times wake up in a new place. I’m learning something new every day!
7. Where do you do most of your work?
Mostly on the bridge 8 hours a day, rest of the time working on computers, or my training workbooks, plotting courses, planning our next route. A lot of charting.
8. What tool do you use every day that you couldn’t live without?
Definitely the software systems that allow us to navigate, radar, etc.
9. What tool would you bring aboard to make your job easier?
Multi beam sonar that could see in front of us instead of below us, since we are in uncharted waters that would alleviate the possibility of us running into something.
10. Is there any part of your NOAA job that you didn’t expect?
The job is hands on right away, and the job is fast paced and very diverse. You started doing the jobs right away. I’m looking forward to learning more about hydro.
11. How could teachers help student understand and appreciate NOAA science?
12. What is the favorite part of your day and why?
My favorite time was in Alaska, in the launches (small boats) and navigating a vessel though the Inside Channel. Navigating through SE Alaska was beautiful! I also enjoyed seeing humpback whales and occasionally orcas.
13. What was your favorite book when you were growing up?
My favorite book series was Harry Potter when I was growing up. My idols were Jacques Cousteau and Sylvia Earle .
14. What would you be doing if you weren’t working for NOAA?
If I didn’t work for NOAA I would definitely be doing something in the marine science field or in the maritime industry, I love boats! I would probably be working on a boat or doing something in the ocean.
15. Do you have an outside hobby?
My outside hobbies include: paddle boarding, surfing, scuba, free diving, outrigger canoes were my passion growing up, hiking, camping, anything outdoors.
16. What is your favorite animal?
Hawaiianspinner dolphin and whale sharks.
17. If you could go back in time and tell you 10-year-old self something, what would it be?
Keep pursuing your dreams, don’t take life too seriously, enjoy life and enjoy the ride.
Interested in a career as a NOAA Corps Officer like Junior Officer Ekamanis? Want to learn more? See the resource links below:
Bathymetry is defined as “the study of the “beds” or “floors” of water bodies, including the ocean, rivers, streams, and lakes.”
The term “bathymetry”
originally referred to the ocean’s depth relative to sea level, although it has
come to mean “submarine topography,” or the depths and shapes of underwater
terrain. In the same way that
topographic maps represent the three-dimensional features of land, bathymetric
maps illustrate the land that lies underwater. Variations in sea-floor relief may be depicted
by color and contour lines called depth contours or isobaths. (Click
here for source credit and more information from NOAA)
A bathymetric map looks like this (thanks Sam!):
Above are the first views of this part of the seafloor with a bathymetric map! (Color coded for depth – see the chart on the left)
Science and Technology Log:
Among the NOAA officers Navigating the ship, Hydrographic Technicians, and wage mariners aboard Fairweather, and the Teacher at Sea, there are also two guest USGS scientists: James Conrad, a research Geologist and Perter Dartnell, a physical scientist. USGS stands for United States Geographical Survey. The USGS was created by an act of Congress in 1879 and is the sole science agency for the Department of the Interior.
As a Teacher at Sea, I had time to talk with these USGS scientists and learn more about Bathymetry and why it is important not only to scientists, but also how this information can be used to keep us safe.
Discussion with James Conrad research Geologist who is utilizing the science of Bathymetry among others to map the Cascadia Region of the Pacific seafloor. The USGS scientists’ focus is mapping the Cascadia Subduction Zone where the Juan de Fuca tectonic plate is “diving” below the North American tectonic plate. Areas of particular interest to these scientists are finding new faults, faults that are known but we have little information about, mud volcanoes and subsequent “seeps,” and the overall goal is to understand the behavior of the mega thrusts in the Cascadia Region.
the visiting scientists:
James Conrad has a bachelor’s degree from U.C. Berkley and a master’s degree from San Jose State and has been at the USGS for 38 years.
A conversation with Research Geologist James Conrad:
do you want students to know about Geology?
Geology is a field where
there is still so much to discover, especially if you are doing hazards research
work-like earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, coastal change, and climate change
you always interested in geology?
Not as a child, but I became a geology major because I had taken an introductory course – and was guided to geology by the university.
met you on a ship-where do most of your work?
Office is in Santa Cruz, but we go out in the field 1-4 times a year for a week up to 3 weeks.
Geology is a very young
science, the fact that continents move wasn’t proven until 1963. There is very little known about the earth,
and there is so much more to discover.
Peter Dartnell has Bachelor of Science in Oceanography from Humboldt State University and a Masters of Geography from San Francisco State and has been with the USGS for 28 years.
A conversation with Physical Scientist Peter Dartnell:
does a physical scientist study?
Physical Science is a
combination of the studies earth and computer sciences using computers &
technology to study earth.
Physical Science allows you
to do everything along the scientific “study train” from data collection, interpretation,
are your publications used for?
Scientific publications from
the USGS (which is the science agency of the government) are used widely to
inform about potential geohazards and changes in the earth. We don’t make policy, but the information we
provide may be used drive policies, especially safety.
you want an aspiring physical scientist to know?
Even though you are studying
earth sciences in school, you’ll truly enjoy once you get out and start applying
what you’ve learned in the field with hands on science.
met on a ship, where is it you do most of your work?
I spend 75% of my time in the
office and 25% in meetings or traveling to study
is your favorite part of being a Physical Scientist?
Seeing part of the ocean that nobody has ever seen for the first time. We are the first ones to see these recently mapped parts of the sea floor.
types of technology you use in physical science?
We use specialized software to acquire data and analyze the data we collect.
We also use Multibeam sonar software – bathymetry and acoustic backscatter
do you think are some misconceptions about physical science?
Because we are working off shore and water covers 71% of the earth, marine geology is in its infancy — we really need to have a complete map of the sea floor which is vitally important to understand the geology of the earth. When we don’t have all of these details, we are essentially operating blind. That’s why the work that NOAA is doing is so important and the research partnerships with USGS are so valuable.
Much of the geography of the
seafloor is driven by the oil industry which is required to release their acquired
data every 25 years. A lot of the deep
penetration data is all from oil surveys. Sea floor mapping is limited for pure research
purposes due to limited resources.
Interested in learning more from
Check out these resources for students and teachers:
More about bathymetry and the NOAA and USGS mission:
I was lucky enough to attend a “Science Talk” by these USGS scientists which was titled the Subduction Zone Coastal & Marine Geohazards Project. The USGS scientists are guests aboard Fairweather like me.
The focus of the USGS research is along the 700-mile CascadiaSubduction Zone:
This area is where the Juan de Fuca plate dives below the North American Plate at an approximate rate of 1.6 inches per year.
Why is this subduction zone so important and why is NOAA Ship Fairweather out surveying the ocean floor in this area? That’s because the world’s largest and most destructive earthquakes occur along subduction zones. If we know the potential hazards, we can prepare people and potentially save lives.
To properly prepare, we need the following details:
This is why the bathymetric maps of the sea floor are important, they can help predict the area and amount of shaking that may occur during an earthquake and predict the tsunami danger zones. Then we can make decisions for building codes, infrastructure (like strength of bridges), and escape routes for Tsunamis. I took the pictures below when I arrived in Newport, little did I know how the research the Fairweather is conducting and the science of hydrography and bathymetric maps play a part in warnings like these! (See below)
Through the hydrographic surveying being conducted aboard Fairweather, the NOAA crew and USGS scientists are creating bathymetric maps which have reveled exciting new finds, such as: new seafloor faults, mapping known faults in greater detail, discovering mud volcanoes and submarine landslides, and using the water column data to discover the “seeps” which are most likely releasing methane gas. See below.
(Image Credits: USGS scientists Peter Dartnell and James Conrad)
When I first heard the term BATHYMETRY I had no idea how these detailed maps of the seafloor could hold so much critical information! It’s fascinating to watch this science happen right here and see the discoveries in real time.
This post begins the last week aboard Fairweather. I’m surprised about how quickly the ship has begun to feel “normal” to me. I know my way around backwards (aft) and forwards (bow) and enjoyed getting to know everyone better. Sean the IT specialist makes an amazing pot of French press coffee around 10:00 am and is kind enough to share with all. Bekah, Sam, Joe, and Michelle in Hydrography patiently answer dozens of questions and allow me to participate when possible. And the officers on the bridge answer all the questions and are very welcoming and generous with sharing information and their amazing views! Carrie and the kitchen crew make 3 amazing meals a day, and I’ve made some new workout buddies to try to stay healthy with all this wonderful food! The visiting scientists have been very nice about answering all my questions about bathymetry and geology. It’s great when you are writing and studying about geology to be able to turn around and ask a geologist a question!
I can’t believe how well I sleep on a ship! The ship is constantly rocking and for this teacher at sea, and for me, that means some seriously deep sleep. One thing I learned is to make sure all my belongings are secure before I go to bed. If you leave something unsecured, chances are they will be banging around in the middle of the night or get tossed off a shelf (not the best middle of the night surprise!). My room is very dark at night and I really don’t hear anything beyond the noise of the engines. You can barely hear the foghorn from my area towards the back of the ship which is lucky since those sleeping in the front of the ship could hear it all night! (Those friends look a little weary today.) I have to set an alarm, or I will just keep sleeping with the constant rocking motion that is so relaxing! Only 3 more nights of good ship sleep for me!
Following the excellent tutelage of the NOAA officers, hydrographers, and USGS scientists, it’s exciting to look at the screen in the hydrography lab and start a conversation about features of the sea floor that we are seeing (or seeing in detail) for the first time. On this mission, there have been new faults, mud volcanoes, and underwater canyons discovered. The science is so fascinating and so little is known about the research being conducted aboard Fairweather. I honestly had to “Google” the terms I am now so familiar with like Hydrographic survey, multi beam echo sounders, bathymetry, water column data, just to name a few.
That’s the thing about science that has been reinforced being a Teacher at Sea, no matter how much you think you know about the earth, you learn just how much we don’t know yet, and we’re just beginning to realize the vast amount that is left to discover.
Did You Know?
-The ocean covers 71% of the
earth’s surface, but we actually know more about the surface Mars than the Earth’s
ocean floor- (Credit-Peter Dartnell)
Juan de Fuca Plate is part of the famous Ring of Fire, a zone responsible for volcanic
activity, mountainous regions, and earthquake activity.
Question of the Day:
you know how many tectonic plates there are?
Did you know they are all constantly moving?
you name the Earth’s major tectonic plates?
Can you find on a map the Pacific and Juan de Fuca plates that we are surveying
Latitude & Longitude: 43◦ 53.055’ N 124◦ 47.003’W Windspeed: 13 knots Geographic Area: @10-15 miles off of the Oregon/California coast Cruise Speed: 12 knots Sea Temperature 20◦Celsius Air Temperature 68◦Fahrenheit
Navigation is how Fairweather knows its position and how the crew plans and follows a safe route. (Remember navigation from the last post?) But what “drives” where the ship goes is Hydrographic survey mission. There is a stunning amount of sea floor that remains unmapped, as well as seafloor that has not been mapped following a major geological event like an earthquake of underwater volcano.
Why is Hydrography important? As we talked about in the previous post, the data is used for nautical safety, creating detailed maps of the ocean floor, setting aside areas are likely abundant undersea wildlife as conservation areas, looking at the sea floor to determine if areas are good for wind turbine placement, and most importantly to the residents off the Pacific coast, locating fault lines — especially subduction zones which can generate the largest earthquakes and cause dangerous tsunamis.
In addition to
generating the data needed to update nautical charts, hydrographic surveys
support a variety of activities such as port and harbor maintenance (dredging),
coastal engineering (beach erosion and replenishment studies), coastal zone
management, and offshore resource development. Detailed depth information and
seafloor characterization is also useful in determining fisheries habitat and
understanding marine geologic processes.
The history of hydrographic surveys dates back to the days
of Thomas Jefferson, who ordered a
survey of our young nation’s coast. This began the practice and accompanying sciences
of the coastal surveys. The practice of
surveys birthed the science of Hydrography (which we are actively conducting
now) and the accompanying science of Bathymetry (which we will go into on the
next post.) This practice continues of
providing nautical charts to the maritime community to ensure safe passage into
American ports and safe marine travels along the 95,000 miles of U.S. Coastline.
Want to learn more about Hydrographic Survey history? Click on THIS LINK for the full history by the NOAA.
Scientists have tools or equipment that they use to successfully carry out their research. Let’s take a look at a few of the tools hydrographic survey techs use:
Want to learn more about the science of SONAR? Watch the video below.
On board Fairweather (actually underneath it) is the survey tool call a TRANSDUCER which sends out the sonar pulses.
The transducer on Fairweather is an EM 710- multibeam echo sounder which you can learn more about HERE.
The Transducer is located on the bottom of the ship and sends out 256 sonar beams at a time to the bottom of the ocean. The frequency of the 256 beams is determined by the depth from roughly 50 pings per second to 1 ping every 10 seconds. The active elements of the EM 710 transducers are based upon composite ceramics, a design which has several advantages, which include increased bandwidth and more precise measurements. The transducers are fully watertight units which should give many years of trouble-free operation. This comes in handy since the device in on the bottom of Fairweather’s hull!
Here is the transducer on one of the launches:
The 256 sonar beams are sent out by the transducer simultaneously to the ocean floor, and the rate of return is how the depth of the ocean floor is determined. The rate of pulses and width of the “swath” or sonar beam array is affected by the depth of the water. The deeper the water, the larger the “swath” or array of sonar beams because they travel a greater distance. The shallower the water, the “swath” or array of sonar beams becomes narrower due to lesser distance traveled by the sonar beams.
The minimum depth that this transducer can map the sea floor is less than 3 meters and the maximum depth is approximately 2000 meters (which is somewhat dependent upon array size). Across track coverage (swath width) is up to 5.5 times water depth, to a maximum of more than 2000 meters. This echo sounder is capable of reaching deeper depths because of the lower frequency array of beams.
The transmission beams from the EM 710 multibeam echo sonar are electronically stabilized for roll, pitch and yaw, while they receive beams are stabilized for movements. (The movement of the ship) What is roll, pitch, and yaw? See below – these are ways the Fairweather is constantly moving!
Since the sonar is sent through water, the variable of the water
that the sonar beams are sent through must be taken into account in the
Some of the variables of salt water include: conductivity
(or salinity) temperature, depth, and density.
Hydrographic scientists must use tools to measure these factors in sea water, other tools are built into the hydrographic survey computer programs.
One of the tools used by the hydrographic techs is the XBT or Expendable Bathy Thermograph that takes a measurement of temperature and depth. The salinity of the area being tested is retrieved from the World Ocean Atlas which is data base of world oceanographic data. All of this data is transmitted back to a laptop for the hydrographers. The XBT is an external device that is launched off of the ship to take immediate readings of the water.
Launching the XBT: There is a launcher which has electrodes on it, then you plug the XBT probe to the launcher and then XBT is launched into the ocean off of the back of the ship. The electrodes transmit data through the probe via the 750-meter copper wire. The information then passes through the copper wire, through the electrodes, along the black wire, straight to the computer where the data is collected. This data is then loaded onto a USB then taken and loaded into the Hydrographic data processing software. Then the data collected by the XBT is used to generate the sound speed profile, which is sent to the sonar to correct for the sound speed changes through the water column that the sonar pulses are sent through. The water column is all of the water between the surface and seafloor. Hydrographers must understand how the sound moves through the water columns which may have different densities that will bend the sound waves. By taking the casts, you are getting a cross section “view” of the water column on how sound waves will behave at different densities, the REFRACTION (or bending of the sound waves) effects the data.
See how the XBT is launched and data is collected below!
Videos coming soon!
The other tool is the MVP or moving vessel profiler which takes measurements of conductivity, temperature, and depth. These are all calculated to determine the density of the water. This is a constant fixture on the aft deck (the back of the ship) and is towed behind the Fairweather and constantly transmits data to determine the speed of sound through water. (Since sonar waves are sound waves.)
The sonar software uses this data to adjust the calculation of the depth, correcting for the speed of sound through water due to the changes in the density of the ocean. The final product? A detailed 3d model of the seafloor!
All of this data is run through the survey software. See screen shots below of all the screens the hydrographers utilize in the course of their work with explanations. (Thanks Sam!) It’s a lot of information to take in, but hydrographic survey techs get it done 24 hours a day while we are at sea. Amazing! See below:
Did You Know? An interesting fact about sonar: When the depth is deeper, a lower frequency of sonar is utilized. In shallower depths, a higher sonar frequency. (Up to 900 meters, then this rule changes.)
Question of the Day: Interested
in becoming a hydrographic survey tech?
See the job description HERE.
Challenge yourself — see if you can learn and apply the new terms and phrases below and add new terms from this blog or from your research to the list!
August 12th Latitude & Longitude: 43◦ 50.134N, 124◦49.472 W Windspeed: 19mph Geographic Area: Northwest Pacific Ocean Cruise Speed: 12 knots Sea Temperature 20◦Celcius Air Temperature 70◦Fahrenheit
Science and Technology Log
Yesterday, we embarked on this Hydrographic Survey Project, leaving Newport and heading out to the Pacific Ocean. The 231-foot Fairweather is manned by 35 people and they are all essential to making this research run smoothly, keeping the ship on course, maintaining the ship, and feeding all of us! Why is this Hydrographic survey mission important? We’ll take a “deep dive” into hydrographic surveys in an upcoming blog, but there are several overlapping reasons why this research is important. On previous hydrographic maps of the sea floor, there are “gaps” in data, not giving scientists and mariners a complete picture of this area. The data is used for nautical safety, setting aside areas where there are likely abundant undersea wildlife as conservation areas, looking at the sea floor to determine if areas are good for wind turbine placement, and most importantly to the residents off the Pacific coast, locating fault lines –especially subduction zones, which can generate the largest earthquakes and cause dangerous tsunamis. More about this and the science of Hydrography in a later post. For now, we’ll focus on Navigation.
Science Word of the day: NAVIGATION
The word NAVIGATION is a noun, defined:
process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and
following a route.
helmsmanship, steersmanship, seamanship, map-reading, chart-reading, wayfinding. “Cooper learned the skills of navigation.”
Time to leave port: 12:30 pm August 12th:
As we were pulling away from the dock and headed out of Newport, someone was navigating this very large ship through narrow spaces, avoiding other boats, crab traps, and other hazards, and I began wondering… who is driving this ship and what tools do they have to help them navigate and keep us safe? Navigation is the science of “finding your way to a specific destination.” So, I made way to the bridge to find out. There was so much to learn, and the bridge crew was very patient taking me through who worked on the bridge as well as the various tools and technological resources they used to guide the Fairweather exactly where it needed to be. First the humans who run the ship, then the tools!
the bridge you have 3 key members in charge of navigation and steering the boat. These are not to be confused with the CO or
Commanding Officer who always oversees the ship but may always not always be
present on the bridge (or deck). The CO is kind of like a principal in a school
(if the school were floating and had to avoid other buildings and large mammals
1st in charge of the bridge watch is the OOD or Officer of the Deck. The OOD is responsible for making all the safety decisions on the deck, giving commands on how to avoid other vessels and wildlife such as whales! The OOD oversees the deck and reports regularly to the CO as needed.
in charge of the bridge watch is the JOOD or Junior Officer of the Deck. The Junior Officer is responsible to the CO
and OOD and uses both technology driven location data and plot mapping with
paper to locate the position of the ship and use that location to plan the
course for the ship.
The 3rd member of the bridge team is the helmsman. The helmsman is the person who is actually driving the ship while following the commands of the OOD and JOOD. Tools the helmsman uses include magnetic compasses on deck and electronic heading readouts to adjust course to stay on a particular heading (or direction of travel.) The helmsman has another duty as lookout. The lookout watches the ocean in front of the ship for land objects (we saw a lighthouse today), ocean mammals such as whales (we’ve seen 3 so far) or debris in the ocean so Fairweather can navigate around them.
There are so many devices on the bridge, I’ll share a few of them and their functions. This blog post would take DAYS to read if we went over them all!
Let’s explore: what tools does the crew aboard Fairweather use for NAVIGATION?
Radar is a system
that uses waves of energy to sense objects. These waves are in the form of high
frequency radio waves which can find a faraway object and tell how fast it is
Radar is very useful because it can sense objects even at night and through thick clouds. Radar helps the Fairweather navigate by detecting objects and vessels in the immediate area. On Fairweather, you can see the objects that are near or could be in the determined path of travel.
While the picture above shows where the objects and vessels are, the “blue trail” shows how far they have traveled in 6 minutes. A longer blue trail means a faster moving vessel and a shorter or no tail means little or no movement. This tool also helps the Fairweather crew determine the path of travel of the other vessels so they can either navigate around or warn the other vessel of the Fairweather’s heading.
Fairweather bridge crew also must follow what STEM students call the 4C’s: Communication, Collaboration, Critical Thinking, & Creativity.
To communicate while at sea, the crew must communicate via radio.
Notice the abbreviations for the MF/HF or Medium Frequency/High Frequency, which has the longest range and you can communicate via voice or text. VHF or Very High Frequency are voice radios only. Marine VHF radios work on a line-of-sight basis. That is, they can transmit and receive to and from another antenna as long as that antenna is above the horizon. How far is that? Standing on the bridge of a ship, the distance to the horizon is usually about 10-12 miles. So, if there is a vessel within that 10-12 mile or so range, the Fairweather crew can communicate with them via the VHF radio.
It is crucial to gather weather data and analyze the information from various weather instruments onboard to keep the Fairweather safe. Sopecreek Elementary has a Weather Station too! As you look through the photos below, see if you can find what weather instruments (and readings) Fairweather uses and compare and contrast with Sopecreek’s WEATHER STEM station! What type of instruments do you think are the same, and which are different?
With all of tools discussed above, the Fairweather is approaching the Cascadia Margin that needs to be surveyed using science of Hydrography and Bathymetry (more about those concepts coming soon!)
The area to be survey has already been identified, now the ship
must approach the area (the red polygon in the middle of the screenshot below). Now the crew must plot a course to cover the
area in horizontal “swaths” to aid in accurate mapping. The bridge and the hydrographic survey team
collaborate and communicate about speed, distance between horizontal lines, and
timing of turns.
See the initial area to mapped and the progress made in the first two days in the pictures below!
been a great start to this Teacher at Sea adventure! There is so much to take in and share with my
students (I miss you so much!) and my fellow teachers from across the
country! Today, we went from sunny skies
and calm 2-4 foot seas, to foggy conditions and 6-8 foot seas! The ship is definitely moving today! I keep thinking about STEM activities to
secure items and then testing against the varying degree of pitch on the ship! For safety, the entire crew is tying up any
loose items and securing all things on board, we’ll have to think of STEM
challenges to simulate this for sure!
Did You Know?
When steering a ship, an
unwritten rule is you don’t want the speed of the ship (in KNOTS) and the
degree of the turn of the rudder (in DEGREES) to exceed the number 30!
Question of the Day:
How many possible combinations of KNOTS and DEGREES are there? Can you draw or plot out what that would look like?
Thermosalinigraph: Measures the temperature and salinity of the water.
Challenge yourself: see if you can learn and apply the terms below and add new terms from this blog or from your research to the list!
ECDIS: Electronic chart display information system
Curious about STEM Careers with NOAA? All the officers on deck had a background in some type of science but none were the same. Everyone on board comes from different backgrounds but are united by the OJT (On the Job Training) and the common purpose of the hydrographic survey mission. Learn more here: https://www.noaa.gov/education
I will be embarking August 12 and sailing through August 23 on a Hydrographic Survey mission from Newport, Oregon. Hydrographic Survey missions focus on mapping the seafloor in detail. I will be sharing more about that soon! To all my students (past and present), colleagues, fellow STEM enthusiasts, and friends, I hope you will follow along via these blog posts as I share this teacher adventure at sea and learn with me about the important work of NOAA. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The mission of NOAA is “to understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources.”
Most of my time teaching is spent within the walls of the classroom, trying to prepare students for STEM careers that they (or I) have never seen. Now, as a Teacher at Sea, the dynamic will be flipped! I will learn with actual scientists about STEM careers that support NOAA’s mission and bring those experiences back to the classroom myself! I am so grateful for this opportunity to expand my own knowledge and for my students who will get a front row seat to STEM careers in action.
My “classroom” for the next two weeks:
I was born in New Hampshire and moved around quite a bit growing up. My “hometown” was Chattanooga, Tennessee, but I grew up in many places including South Africa. I currently live on a “pocket farm” in Powder Springs, Georgia with my husband, 3 children, 3 dogs, and 2 cats. My family and I love to travel as well as camp in state and national parks.
I have always enjoyed a bit of adventure, learning rock climbing, downhill mountain biking, bungee jumping, and skydiving. My favorite adventure came at the age of 13 when I learned how to scuba dive. A new underwater world was revealed to me and I developed a deep love and respect for the ocean. I have tried to teach my children and my students the joys of outdoor adventure and the importance of stewardship. Powder Springs is about 20 miles away from the Georgia’s capitol of Atlanta. We love going to NFL Falcons’ games and MLB Braves’ games when we are not out camping!
My greatest adventure now is being a STEM teacher. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. I have been a STEM teacher for my entire teaching career and love it! I see STEM everywhere and believe our students are going to do great things for the world with a strong background in STEM education. I particularly enjoy teaching Coding and 3D printing to students as well as how to use technology to create solutions to problems instead of being passive users of technology
My undergraduate work was focused in Early Childhood education, and my graduate degree in Integration of Technology into Instruction. I now teach at Sope Creek Elementary and love my 1,000+ students in our evolving STEM school. We follow the steps of the EDP or Engineering Design Process every day to solve real world problems. We especially like to integrate problem solving with technology. This practice is what drew me to the hydrographic survey projects conducted by NOAA. I am excited to learn how technology is utilized to create detailed maps of the ocean floor, and learn about the science of Bathymetry, which is the study of the “beds” of “floors” of water bodies including oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams.
Finally, it was the mission of the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program is what drew me to apply for this program: The mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Teacher at Sea Program is to provide teachers hands-on, real-world research experience working at sea with world-renowned NOAA scientists, thereby giving them unique insight into oceanic and atmospheric research crucial to the nation. The program provides a unique opportunity for kindergarten through college-level teachers to sail aboard NOAA research ships to work under the tutelage of scientists and crew. As a life-long learner it is difficult to access professional development. In this program, I will gain real world experience as a scientist as sea while also having an adventure at sea! I can’t wait to share this experience with all of you! Now I’m off to get my dose of vitamin sea! More soon.
Questions and Resources:
Teachers: Please reach out with questions from teachers or students and keep an eye out for resources I will be sharing in the comments section of this blog. Check out these K-12 resources available through NOAA!
Students: Have a teacher or please post your questions. Here are the answers from questions so far:
Question 1: Do you think you will end up like the Titanic?
Answer: No way! The NOAA Ship Fairweather has been conducting missions since 1967 (the ship is older than ME!). This is a 231 foot working vessel with a strengthened ice welded hull. I don’t plan on seeing any icebergs off the coast of Oregon in Pacific Ocean, so don’t worry! NOAA Ship Fairweather’s crew have some of the best professionals in the world to run their fleet, so I will be safe!
Question 2: Are you coming back? And will you have to sleep outside like a pirate?
Answer: Yes, I will be coming back! I will be away for 2 weeks and will be back in the STEM-Kurtz lab on August 26th-so you can come see me when I get back. As for your 2nd question, I will get to sleep inside in a “berth” and will have a bed and everything else I need. I do not have to sleep outside, but you know when I’m home I like to sleep outside in my hammock!
Student focus of the week: Hey 5th Grade students! You are going to be learning about constructive and destructive processes of the earth over time. Check out this document about the Subduction Zone Marine Geohazards Project Plans. My mission will link directly to what you are learning in class!