Jill Bartolotta: Sea You Later, June 13, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019


Mission
:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: June 13, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 29°44.7’ N

Longitude: 080°06.7’ W

Wave Height: 2 feet

Wind Speed: 21 knots

Wind Direction: 251

Visibility: 10 nautical miles

Air Temperature: 26.6° C

Barometric Pressure: 1014.4

Sky: broken

As I sit here on the bow, with the wind blowing in my face, as we travel back to land, I think about the past two weeks. I think about all the wonderful people I have met, the friendships I have made, the lessons I have learned, and how I have grown as a person. The sea is a truly magical place and I will miss her dearly. Although I am excited to trade in some tonnage and saltwater for my paddleboard and Lake Erie, I will really miss Okeanos Explorer and everyone aboard.

My time aboard Okeanos Explorer has been wonderful. I learned so much about operating a ship, the animals we have seen, and about ocean exploration. I have stared into the eyes of dolphins as they surf our bow, watched lightening displays every night, seen Jupiter’s moons through binoculars, watched huge storm clouds roll in, seen how sound can produce visual images of the ocean floor, had epic singing and dancing parties as we loaded the XBT launcher, done a lot of yoga, learned a lot about memes, eaten amazing food, taken 3 minute or less showers, smacked my head countless times on the ceiling above my bed, watched the sunrise every night, done laundry several times because I didn’t bring enough socks, looked at the glittering plankton on the bow at night, and laughed a lot.

Words cannot express it all so below are some of my favorite images to show you how awesome this entire experience has been. I will not say goodbye to the sea and all of you but I will say, “Sea You Later. Until we meet again.”

sunrise
Sunrise one morning.
Jill's Birthday Cake
Blowing out the candles on my birthday cake. Still so touched by the kind gesture. Photo Credit: Lieutenant Commander Kelly Fath, PHS
Jahnelle and ROV
Meeting the ROV, Deep Discoverer. Pictured is Explorer in Training, Jahnelle Howe.
Looking at dolphins
Looking at the dolphins on the bow.
Jill looks at dolphins
Watching the dolphins surfing the bow waves. Photo Credit: Kitrea Takata-Glushkoff
dark storm cloud
The calm before the storm.
final sunset
The final sunset with some of the amazing people I met at sea. Pictured from left to right: Jill Bartolotta (Teacher at Sea), Kitrea Takata-Glushkoff (Explorer in Training), and Jahnelle Howe (Explorer in Training). Photo Credit: Lieutenant Commander Faith Knighton

Jill Bartolotta: ROV, CTD, OMG, June 10, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: June 10, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 29°04.9’ N

Longitude: 079°53.2’ W

Wave Height: 1-2 feet

Wind Speed: 11 knots

Wind Direction: 241

Visibility: 10

Air Temperature: 26.7° C

Barometric Pressure: 1017.9

Sky: Clear

Science and Technology Log

As part of this mapping mission we are identifying places that may be of interest for an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) dive. So far a few locations have shown promise. The first is most likely an area with a dense mass of deep sea mound building coral and the other an area where the temperature dropped very quickly over a short period of time. But before I talk about these two areas of interest I would like to introduce you to some more equipment aboard.

CTD

CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. A CTD is sent down into the water column to collect information on depth, temperature, salinity, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. Some CTDs have a sediment core on them so you can collect sediment sample. There is also a sonar on the bottom of the CTD on Okeanos Explorer that is used to detect how close the equipment is to the bottom of the ocean. You want to make sure you avoid hitting the bottom and damaging the equipment.

Sidney and CTD
General Vessel Assistant Sidney Dunn assisting with CTD launch. Photo Credit: Charlie Wilkins SST Okeanos Explorer

Yesterday we used a CTD because the XBTs launched overnight showed a water temperature change of about 4°C over a few meters change in depth. This is a HUGE change! So it required further exploration and this is why we sent a CTD down in the same area. The CTD confirmed what the XBTs were showing and also provided interesting data on the dissolved oxygen available in this much colder water. It sounds like this area may be one of the ROV sites on the next leg of the mission.

Deep water canyon-like feature
Deep water canyon-like feature with cold water and high oxygen levels. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

ROV

ROV stands for remotely operated vehicle. Okeanos Explorer has a dual-body system meaning there are two pieces of equipment that rely on each other when they dive. The duo is called Deep Discoverer (D2) and Seirios. They are designed, built, and operated by NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) and Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration (GFOE). Together they are able to dive to depths of 6,000 meters. D2 and Seirios are connected to the ship and controlled from the Mission Control room aboard the ship. Electricity from the ship is used to power the pair. A typical dive is 8-10 hours with 2 hours of prep time before and after the dive.

Seirios and D2 getting ready for a dive. Photo Credit: Art Howard, GFOE
Seirios and D2 getting ready for a dive. Photo Credit: Art Howard, GFOE

Seirios lights up D2, takes pictures, provides an aerial view of D2, and contains a CTD. D2 weighs 9,000 pounds and is equipped with all types of sampling equipment, including:

  • Lights to illuminate the dark deep
  • High definition cameras that all allow for video or still frame photos
  • An arm with a claw to grab samples, such as rock or coral
  • Suction tube to bring soft specimens to the surface
  • Rock box to hold rock specimens
  • Specimen box to hold living specimens (many organisms do not handle the pressure changes well as they are brought to the surface so this box is sealed so the water temperature stays cold which helps the specimens adjust as they come to the surface)
ROV D2 labeled
D2 with some of her specimen collection parts labeled.

My favorite fact about D2 is how her operators keep her from imploding at deep depths where pressure is very strong and crushes items from the surface. Mineral oil is used to fill air spaces in the tubing and electric panel systems. By removing the air and replacing it with oil, you are reducing the amount of pressure these items feel. Thus, preventing them from getting crushed.

ROV Brain
D2’s “brain” is shown behind the metal bars. The bars are there for extra protection. The panel boxes and tubes are filled with a yellow colored liquid. This liquid is the mineral oil that is used to reduce the pressure the boxes and tubes feel as D2 descends to the ocean floor.

D2 provides amazing imagery of what is happening below the surface. Like I said earlier, one of the areas of interest is mound-building coral. The mapping imagery below shows features that appear to be mound building coral and have shown to be true on previous dives in the area in 2018.

bathymetry features
Multibeam bathymetry collected on this cruise that shows features which are similar to mound building coral that are known to be in the area. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

Mound-Building Coral

Mound-building coral (Lophelia pertusa) are a deep water coral occurring at depths of 200-1000 meters. They form large colonies and serve as habitat for many deep-water fish and other invertebrates. Unlike corals in tropical waters which are near the surface, Lophelia pertusa do not have the symbiotic relationship with algae. Therefore, they must actively feed to gain energy.

mound-building coral (Credit: NOAA OER)
Large amounts of Lophelia pertusa, stony coral, found at the top of the crest of Richardson Ridge during Dive 07 of the Windows to the Deep 2018 expedition. Rubble of this species also appeared to form the mounds found in this region.

Personal Log

We saw whales today!!!! They went right past the ship on our port side and then went on their way. We weren’t able to see them too well, but based on their coloring, low profile in the water, and dorsal fin we think them to be pilot whales, most likely short-finned pilot whales. Pilot whales are highly social and intelligent whales.

Dorsal fin of a pilot whale
Dorsal fin of a pilot whale

There was also the most amazing lightening show last night. The bolts were going vertically and horizontally through the sky. I think what I will miss most about being at sea is being able to see the storms far off in the distance.

Did You Know?

You can build your own ROV, maybe with your high school science or robotics club, and enter it in competitions.

ROV competition
High school ROV competition at The Ohio State University.

References

Mound Building Coral: NOAA, 2010, https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/10lophelia/background/biology/biology.html

Pilot Whales: American Cetacean Society, 2018, https://www.acsonline.org/pilot-whale

Jill Bartolotta: Careers at Sea, June 8, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019


Mission
:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: June 8, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 30°30.7’ N

Longitude: 078°11.2’ W

Wave Height: 3 feet

Wind Speed: 13 knots

Wind Direction: 150

Visibility: 10 nm

Air Temperature: 26.6° C

Barometric Pressure: 1015.9

Sky: overcast


Science and Technology Log

Throughout my blogs you have been hearing an awful lot about NOAA. But what is NOAA? NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA informs the public all about environmental happenings from the deepest depths of the ocean floor all the way to the sun.

NOAA was formed in 1970 as a federal agency within the Department of Commerce. It was the result of bringing three previous federal agencies together, U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Weather Bureau, and U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. Through research, NOAA understands and predicts changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts. Through outreach and education, NOAA shares the research with end users and the public with the purpose of conserving and managing coastal and marine ecosystems and resources (NOAA, 2019. https://www.noaa.gov/our-mission-and-vision).

In order to accomplish its mission, NOAA hires a whole slew of people including Commissioned Officers, administrators, career scientists, research technicians, vessel operators, educators, etc. These people may work on land or out at sea. In this blog I will focus on some of the NOAA careers at sea.


NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps)

The NOAA Corps is a descendant of the US Coast and Geodetic survey, the oldest federal scientific agency dedicated to surveying the ocean coast. Today, officers of the NOAA Corps command NOAA’s fleet of survey and research vessels and aircraft.

In order to be eligible to apply for NOAA Corps one must have a four-year degree in a study area related to the scientific or technical mission of NOAA. There are many other eligibility requirements and you can check them out here.  Once you meet the requirements, you apply to the program, and if accepted you will head to the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut where you will attend a 19-week basic officer training class. Once officers graduate, they are assigned to sea duty for two years. After sea duty, officers rotate to land duty for three years. And the pattern continues as long as the officers choose to remain in the NOAA Corps.

NOAA officers fill many roles on Okeanos Explorer. Their primary role is to safely navigate the ship. All officers stand two 4-hour watches. During these watches, they are responsible for navigating and driving the ship, taking weather, and handling the ship per the requirements needed for the science mission whether it be for a series of ROV dives, mapping project, or emerging technology cruise. When not on watch, officers are responsible for collateral duties. There are many collateral duties, some of which are described below:

  • Safety officer: responsible for the safety drills and equipment.
  • Navigations officer: maintains charts, loads routes, plots routes on paper charts, updates electronic chart, and creates inbound and outbound routes for ports of call.
  • MWR (Morale, Welfare and Recreation) officer: responsible for fun activities when at sea or in port. These activities have included ice cream socials, movie nights, and baseball games.
  • Public affairs officer: Responsible for giving ship tours to the public, maintain the ships social media presence, and performs public outreach.

There are also many officer ranks (follow the ranks of the US Navy) aboard the ship. The entry level rank is ensign or junior officer and the highest rank is admiral, allowing for 10 ranks in total. In addition to rank classes, there are varying positions. Ensigns or junior officers are recent graduates of basic officer training and on their first sea assignments. They are learning how to navigate and drive the ship, the tasks associated with standing watch, and learning about the other collateral duties. The operations officer is responsible for all mission operations while at sea and in port. They serve as the liaison between the science team and the commanding officer. If project instructions change, the Operations Officer is responsible for managing operations, understanding requests or change and then speaking with the commanding officer to approve the change. They are also responsible for all logistics when in port such as shore power, vehicles, trash, potable water, fuel, and sewer. The next highest position (second in command) is the Executive Officer who also coordinates with many of the port duties, and is supervisor of the varying departments on the ship. They are also responsible for all paperwork and pay. The highest duty on the ship is that of Commanding Officer. They are ultimately responsible for mission execution and for the safety of the ship and people aboard.

NOAA Commissioned Officers
The NOAA Commissioned Officers aboard Okeanos Explorer. From left to right: Ensign Brian Caldwell, Lieutenant Steven Solari, Lieutenant Rosemary Abbitt, Ensign Kevin Tarazona, Commander Eric Johnson, Ensign Nico Osborn, Lieutenant Commander Kelly Fath, Lieutenant Commander Faith Knighton, and Commander Nicole Manning.


Professional Mariners

Professional mariners provide technical assistance needed to support operations while at sea. They support the ship in five different expertise areas: deck, engineering, steward, survey, and electronics. More information about the professional mariners and job posting information can be found here. Some have attended maritime school to receive training or licensure to work aboard a ship at sea. Others get their training while at sea, take required training courses, and complete onboard assessments. These mariners that work their way up to leadership positions are known as hawse-pipers (for example, the Chief Boatswain, Jerrod Hozendorf, many years ago was a General Vessel Assistant and has worked up to the Department Head of the Deck Department.)

Deck

Deck hands and able bodied seamen who attend maritime school or training where they learn how to support ship operations, including but not limited to maintenance of the ship’s exterior, maintenance and operation of the ship’s cranes (places ROV (remotely operated vehicle) or CTD (conductivity temperature depth) in the water) and winches (lowers ROV and CTD into the water), and conducts 24/7 watches to ensure the safe operation and navigation of the ship. Augmenters also rotate through the fleet, while others are permanent crew on a ship.

deck crew
The deck crew aboard Okeanos Explorer. Back row from left to right: General Vessel Assistant Sidney Dunn, Chief Bosun Jerrod Hozendorf, Able Bodied Seaman Angie Ullmann (augmenting), and General Vessel Assistant Deck Eli Pacheco. Front row from left to right: Able Bodied Seaman Peter Brill and Able Bodied Seaman Jay Michelsen (augmenting).

Engineering

The engineers aboard are responsible for the water treatment, air quality systems, and machines needed to make the ship move through the water. The also oversee the hydraulics of the cranes and winches. Engineers receive a four-year engineering degree at either a maritime academy or regular college. Depending on their degree, they will come aboard at different engineer expertise levels. Engineers move into higher level positions based on their days at sea and successful completion of licensing tests.

engineers
The engineers aboard Okeanos Explorer. From left to right: General Vessel Assistant Christian Lebron, Engine Utility Will Rougeux, Acting Chief Marine Engineer Ric Gabona, 3rd Assistant Engineer Alice Thompson (augmenting), Junior Utility Engineer Pedro Lebron, and Acting First Assistant Engineer Warren Taylor.

Stewards

The stewards on board are responsible for the preparation and management of the culinary services and the stateroom services such as bed linens. Tasks include meal planning, food purchasing and storage, food preparation, and oversight of the galley and mess.

stewards
The stewards aboard Okeanos Explorer. From left to right: General Vessel Assistant Eli Pacheco (assisting the stewards for this cruise), Chief Cook Ray Capati, and Chief Steward Mike Sapien.

Survey

Survey technicians are responsible for the operation of all survey equipment aboard the ship needed for mapping, CTD deployment, and ROV operations. Equipment includes echo sounders and meteorological and oceanographic sensors. They are also responsible for data quality control and processing, disseminating data to land data centers so it can be shared with the public, and working alongside the science team to assist with other data and equipment needs. A college degree is not required for survey technicians, but many of them have one in the fields of environmental or applied science.

Electronics

Electronic technicians are responsible for all electronics aboard such as the intercoms, radios, ship’s computers and internet access, sonars, telephones, electronic navigation and radar systems, and most importantly satellite TV! Chief Electronic Technicians rotate between land and sea, typically spending 2-3 months at sea.

survey and electronic technicians
Chief Electronic Technician Mike Peperato and Senior Survey Technician Charlie Wilkins pose with the CTD.


Personal Log

We saw dolphins today!!!! It was absolutely amazing. We believe them to be Atlantic Spotted Dolphins. Spotted you say? The one in the picture to the left is not spotted because it is less than one year old. They do not receive their spots until their first birthday. Spotted dolphins are very acrobatic. They enjoy jumping out of the water and surfing on the bow waves created by vessels. To date one of the best moments of the trip so far. Yay dolphins!!!!!

Atlantic spotted dolphins
Atlantic spotted dolphins surfing the bow of the ship.


Did You Know?

Including all the NOAA officers and professional mariners aboard Okeanos Explorer, 12,000 people work for NOAA worldwide!

Jill Bartolotta: Sounds of the Deep, June 5, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: June 5, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 29°01.5’ N

Longitude: 079°16.0’ W

Wave Height: 2 feet

Wind Speed: 10 knots

Wind Direction: 128

Visibility: 10 nm

Air Temperature: 27.7°C

Barometric Pressure: 1021.3

Sky: few

Science and Technology Log

What is sonar?

Sonar is the use of sound to describe the marine environment. Sonar can be compared to satellites that use light to provide information about Earth, but instead of light, sound is used. It is used to develop nautical charts, detect hazards under the water, find shipwrecks, learn about characteristics of the water column such as biomass, and map the ocean floor. There are two types of sonar, active and passive. Active sonar is sonar that sends out its own sound wave. The sonar sends a sound wave (ping) out into the water and then waits for the sound to return. The return sound signal is called an echo. By assessing the time, angle, and strength of the return sound wave or echo one can learn many details about the marine environment. Passive sonar does not actively send out a sound ping, but rather listens for the sound from other objects or organisms in the water. These objects may be other vessels and these organisms may be whales or marine ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Sound waves move through the water at different speeds. These speeds are known as frequencies and the unit of measurement for sound is a hertz (Hz). Lower frequencies (example 18 kHz) are able to go farther down because they move slower and have more power behind them. It is like when a car goes down your street, pumping the bass (always seems to happen when I am trying to sleep) and you can hear it for a long time. That is because it is a low frequency and has longer wave lengths. Higher frequencies (example 200 kHz) move faster, but have less power. The sound waves should reach the bottom, an object, or biomass in the water column, but there may be no return or echo. High frequency sound waves are closer together. High frequencies give you a good image of what is happening near the surface of the water column and low frequencies give you a good idea of what is happening near, on, or under the ocean floor.

Type of Sonar on Okeanos Explorer

There are many types of sonar and other equipment aboard Okeanos Explorer for use during mapping operations. All have different capabilities and purposes. Together they provide a complete sound image of what is happening below us.

Kongsberg EM302 Multibeam Sonar

Multibeam sonar sends sound out into the water in a fan pattern below the hull (bottom) of the ship. It is able to map broad areas of the water column and seafloor from depths of 10 meters to 7,000 meters. Only the deepest trenches are out of its reach. It is the most appropriate sonar system to map seafloor features such as canyons and seamounts. The fan like beam it emits is 3-5.5x the water depth with a max swath range of 8 km. However, when you get to its depths below 5,000 meters the quality of the sound return is poor so scientists keep the swath range narrower to provide a higher quality of data return. The widest swath area scientists can use while maintaining quality is a depth of 3,300-5,000 meters. The user interface uses a color gradient to show you seafloor features (red=shallow and purple=deep).

Swath ranges for the multibeam sona
Swath ranges for the multibeam sonar at various depths. The y-axis shows the water depth in meters and the x-axis shows the swath width in meters. Photo credit: SST Charlie Wilkins, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
Multibeam Sonar information
Some of the information that is collected using the multibeam sonar with labels describing their purpose. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

Backscatter

Backscatter uses the same pings from the multibeam. People use backscatter to model or predict physical or biological properties and composition of the sea floor. The coloring typically is in grayscale. A stronger echo looks brighter in the image. A weaker echo looks darker in the image. It gives you a birds-eye view of seafloor characteristics such as substrate density and seafloor features.

Backscatter and Bathymetry
Top image is backscatter showing you a birds-eye view of the ocean floor. The bottom image shows you what it looks like when backscatter is overlaid over the bathymetry layer. You are able to see intensity of the sound return, but floor features are more noticeable. Photo credit: NOAA OER

XBT

An Expendable Bathy-Thermograph (XBT) provides you with information on the temperature gradients within the water. When the temperature profile is applied to a salinity profile (taken from World Ocean Atlas) you are able to determine sound velocity or the rate at which the sound waves can travel through the water. When sound moves through water it does not move in a straight line. Its path is affected by density which is determined by water type (freshwater or saltwater) and temperature. Freshwater is less dense than saltwater and cold water is denser than warm water. The XBT information accounts for sound refraction (bending) through various water densities. When near shore XBTs are launched more frequently because the freshwater inputs from land alter density of the water and temperatures in the water column are more varied. XBTs are launched less frequently when farther from shore since freshwater inputs are reduced or nonexistent and the water column temperature is more stable. However, ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream (affecting us on this cruise) can affect density as well. The Gulf Stream brings warm water from the Gulf of Mexico around the tip of Florida and along the eastern coast of the United States. Therefore, one must also take into account which ocean currents are present in the region when determining the launch schedule of XBTs.

Loading the XBT Launcher
Senior Survey Technician Charlie Wilkins and Explorer in Training, Jahnelle Howe, loading the XBT launcher. XBTs are launched off the stern of the ship.
XBT Capture
Sound speed or velocity is determined by the density of the water, which is determined by temperature and salinity. Focus on the blue line in each graph. The first graph takes the information from the temperature and salinity graphs to determine sound speed. If we look at the first graph, we see that sound speed slows with depth. Sound speed slows because according to the second graph the temperature is colder making the water denser, thus affecting sound speed. Salinity does not vary much according to the third graph so its effect on density is most likely limited. Photo credit: NOAA OER

Simrad EK60 and EK80 Split-beam Sonar

Split-beam sonar sends out sound in single beam of sound (not a fan like the multibeam). Each transducer sends out its own frequency (example 18 kHz, 38 kHz, 70 KHz, 120 kHz, and 200 kHz). Some frequencies are run at the same time during mapping operations. Mapping operations typically do not use the 38 kHz frequency since it interferes with the multibeam sonar. Data collected with the use of the EK60 or EK80 provides information about the water column such as gaseous seeps, schools of fish, and other types of dense organism communities such as zooplankton. If you remember my “did you know” from the second blog, I discussed how sonar can be used to show the vertical diurnal migration of organisms. Well the EK60 or EK80 is the equipment that allows us to see these biological water column communities and their movements.

Water column information
Water column information collected with the EK60 or EK80 split beam sonar. If you look at the first row you can see, in the image to the left, the blue dots are at the top and in the second image the blue dots are moving back down into the water column as the sun rises. The process of organisms’ movement in the water column at night to feed is known as vertical diurnal migration. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

Knudsen 3260 Sub-bottom Profiler

The purpose of using a sub-bottom profiler is to learn more about the layers (up to 80 meters) below the ocean floor. It works in conjunction with the sonar mapping the ocean floor to provide more information about the bottom substrate, such as sediment type and topography features. Sub-bottom data is used by geologists to better understand the top layers of the ocean floor. A very low frequency is used (3.5 kHz) because it needs to penetrate the ocean sediment. It will give you a cross section of the sea floor so floor features can be detected.

Cross section of the ocean seafloor
Cross section of the ocean seafloor shows you substrate characteristics. Photo Credit: NOAA OER

Telepresence

Telepresence aboard the ship allows the science team to get mapping products and raw data to land on a daily basis. The science team can also live feed data collection to shore in real time. By allowing a land based shore team to see the data in real time you are adding another system of checks and balances. It is one more set of eyes to make sure the data being collected looks correct and there are no issues. It also allows a more collaborative approach to mapping, since you are able to involve a worldwide audience in the mission. Public viewers can tune in as well.  Support for the technology needed to allow telepresence capabilities comes in partnership with the Global Foundation of Ocean Exploration (GFOE). With GFOE’s help, the protocols, high-speed satellite networks, Internet services, web and social media interfaces, and many other tools are accessible when out to sea. The NOAA Office of Exploration and Research (OER) provides the experts needed to develop, maintain, and operate the telepresence systems while at sea, but also at shore through the Exploration Command Centers (ECCs) and the University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Center.

Live interaction
Live interaction with Okeanos Explorer, Inner Space Center at URI/GSO, and a group of high school students. Photo credit: NOAA OER

All in all, the equipment aboard Okeanos Explorer is impressive in its abilities to provide the science team with a high quality and accurate depiction of the ocean floor and water column. The science team aboard is able to interpret the data, clean out unwanted data points, store massive data files on computers, and send it back to land daily, all while rocking away at sea. Very impressive and very cool!

Personal Log

I learned all about memes today. Apparently they are very popular on the ship. So popular, we are even in the middle of a meme contest. For those of you unfamiliar to memes like I was, a meme is a funny picture with a clever caption that makes you laugh or relates to something in your life. After my tutorial in meme making, we had a great time out on the bow of the ship playing corn hole and hanging out. The night was beautiful. The humidity subsided and there was a great breeze. After the sun set, I watched the stars come out and then went inside to learn more about the mapping process. I am starting to get a better understanding of what the science team is doing. You know the how and the why of it all. After I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, I made my nightly venture out onto the bow to look from some bioluminescence, the glittering of zooplankton in the night. A magical site. I will leave you wondering how the ocean glitters until one of my future blogs when I describe the process of bioluminescence.

Corn hole
General Vessel Assistant Sidney Dunn (left) and General Vessel Assistant Christian Lebron (right) playing corn hole on the bow at sunset.

Did You Know?

The SOFAR (Sound Fixing and Ranging) channel occurs in the world’s oceans between depths of 800 to 1000 meters in the water column. Because of the density and pressure around this channel, sound waves travel for an extended distance. It is thought that fin whales travel to this channel to communicate with other fin whales many kilometers away.

Jill Bartolotta: Future Explorers, June 3, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: June 3, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 28°48.6’

Longitude: 079°26.8’

Wave Height: 1-2 feet

Wind Speed: 4 knots

Wind Direction: 158

Visibility: 10 nautical miles

Air Temperature: 27.9°C

Barometric Pressure: 1014

Sky: scattered

Explorer in Training

A part of this mission is to map previously unmapped area in the southeast Atlantic Ocean but another part is to train the next generation of ocean explorers. There are currently four Explorers in Training (EiTs) and one Knauss Fellow on the Okeanos Explorer who are learning about the process of mapping and processing data at sea.

The Explorer in Training (EiT) Program sponsored trough the NOAA Office of Exploration and Research (OER). Their mission is to train the next generation of ocean explorers. Undergraduate, graduate students, and early career scientists are eligible to apply for the EiT Program. They will gain valuable knowledge and experience in deepwater mapping and exploration. The EiT Program is a partnership between OER and the Cooperative Program for the Advancement of Earth System Science (CPAESS), a community program of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR). Applicants who are accepted will either be based onshore at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Exploration Command Center (ECC) in Durham, New Hampshire (Yay! my alma mater) or aboard Okeanos Explorer. The EiT Program also partners with the NOAA Educational Partnership Program (EPP) to support traditionally underrepresented minority populations in STEM careers.

The four EiTs aboard are Allisa Dalpe, Jahnelle Howe (EPP), Marcel Peliks, and Kitrea Takata-Glushkoff. All have come from ocean mapping or engineering programs at their universities and are very excited to be a part of this program.

Explorers in Training
EiTs heading to sea! From left to right: Katharine, Allisa, Marcel, Kitrea, and Jahnelle.

Allisa, originally from Cape Cod, Massachusetts is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Hampshire in Ocean Engineering. Her studies focus on the use of autonomous marine vehicles such as remotely operated vehicles (ROV). She is most interested in mission planning, decision making, and obstacle avoidance when mapping or collecting data. Allisa is a seasoned sailor as she participated in SEA Semester (Sea Education Association in Woods Hole) as a student and then returned as a deckhand when she sailed from Woods Hole to Cork, Ireland. Way cool! When I asked Allisa how this opportunity will compliment her Ph.D work she said that this mission will her develop algorithms for autonomous vehicles performing sea floor mapping. In layman terms, how to develop the blueprint for what decisions the robot will need to make while on a mission. Fun fact about Allisa, she plays the drums.

Jahnelle, originally from the Island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, is a Master’s student at City College in New York. Her focus of study is Earth and Atmospheric Science. She is interested in coastal resilience with specific focus on how coral bleaching events affect community structure through the use of remote sensing. Jahnelle became interested in her field of study because the country where she grew up had an active volcano. When the volcano erupted it would emit sulfur and carbon dioxide. She was interested in how it affected her community. Because of her childhood she is interested in how we affect the environment and how it affects us. Fun fact about Jahnelle, she is a creative writer of poems and short stories.

Marcel is currently in the process of completing his Master’s degree in Geological Oceanography at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. A native to Poland, he moved to California in his teens and became interested in marine geology because he was fascinated with how much of the ocean is still unexplored. His thesis focuses on the use of multibeam sonar to map Monterey Canyon in California and asses how the canyon impacts sand transport on surrounding beaches. His dream career is to continue combining technology and geology to learn more about our planet. Fun fact about Marcel, he had his first corn dog at the age of 25.

Kitrea recently finished Bowdoin College with majors in Earth and oceanographic science and Russian. She will actually be finishing her credits in Russia come spring of 2020. Congratulations on almost being done! She is now interested in bringing her knowledge of geology and oceanography together by exploring the field of marine geology. When I ask Kitrea what this experience means for her she says that it is the opportunity to test run potential career paths within geoscience. More specifically to experience life at sea and delve deeper into the data collection and management side of mapping. So far she’s loving it all. Fun Fact about Kitrea, she is a ballet and modern dance teacher.

Knauss Fellowship

The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship, named for John A. Knauss, one of Sea Grant’s founders and past NOAA Administrator, is a fellowship that places highly qualified graduate students in host agencies in the legislative or executive branches of the federal government. Interested students apply through their state Sea Grant program. Sea Grant is a nationwide program consisting of 34 programs in coastal areas (ocean and Great Lakes) focusing on research, outreach, and education. Sea Grant programs are federally supported by NOAA and a state university partner. For example, Ohio Sea Grant’s (my program) state university partner is The Ohio State University. Applicants who are selected for a Knauss Fellowship work for one year with their host organization. Many Knauss Fellows continue to work for their host organization or find similar positions with federal agencies after the fellowship. OER’s 2019 Knauss Fellow, Katharine Egan, who applied through Puerto Rico Sea Grant, is on board.

Katharine studied marine biology as an undergraduate student at the University of Rhode Island and received her Master’s degree from the University of the Virgin Islands in Marine and Environmental Science. A native to Pennsylvania, Katharine started studying marine science because the ocean was vastly different from where she grew up. She is a first generation college student and came from a landlocked area so marine science was tempting because of the adventures and new experiences it would bring. Since her time in school, Katharine has a multitude of experience studying coral reef ecology and geospatial analysis. In her Knauss Fellow role with OER, she is responsible for determining data gaps in OER’s standard operations and making OER data more accessible. Fun fact about Katharine, she read 54 books in 2018. Her favorite book out of the 54 was In the Distance by Herman Diaz. 

To learn even more about the exploration team on board visit the OER website.

learning the intercom system
EiTs and the Knauss Fellow learning how to use the intercom system on the ship. The intercom is used for ship wide communication. From front to back: Kitrea, Katharine, Marcel, and Allisa.

Personal Log

Life at sea is pretty sweet. I am used to the movement of the ship. It is actually starting to put me to sleep so staying awake is challenging. My bed is super comfy and the room is actually pretty big. The food has also been amazing. We are very lucky to have such great cooks on board. There is also 24/7 access to ice cream. My hopes of shedding a few pounds have pretty much gone out the porthole.

top bunk
My bed. I haven’t slept in a bunk bed since freshman year of college. I did my best job of making the bed, but it is pretty hard when you are holding on with one hand, swaying, and trying not to hit your head.

There are times when I forget we are on ship out at sea and then I look outside and remember where I am. It does get hard living in close quarters with so many people. I find that taking time to get outside to read or workout is super helpful. The weather so far has been wonderful. Sunny and warm most days with a nice breeze to keep it from getting too hot. My favorite time of the day is right before the sun sets when I do a yoga session to decompress from the day. After yoga I sit on the deck and watch the stars appear as I read my book. I have officially found my happy place. 

workout spot
My workout spot on the ship. A great view of the ocean makes the workout less challenging.

Did You Know?

Okeanos’ namesake is the Greek Titan god of the ocean. Well, actually, a river. The Ancient Greeks believed the ocean was a vast river circling the world.

Instruments Played by the EiTs

Allisa: Drums

Katharine: Flute

Jahnelle: Violin

Kitrea: Dances

Marcel: Guitar

Jill Bartolotta: Start Your Engines, June 1, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 13, 2019

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: June 1, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 28°19.3’ N

Longitude: 079°21.6’

Wave Height: 1-2 feet

Wind Speed: 11 knots   

Wind Direction: 195

Visibility: 10 nautical miles

Air Temperature: 28°C

Barometric Pressure: 1012.5

Sky: Broken

Making the Engines Run

Engines on this ship are run with marine grade diesel. Before the diesel can be put through the engine it must be cleaned of any impurities. A centrifuge system is used to spin the diesel at a very fast pace in a circle. As the diesel spins any impurities are flung out leaving behind the purified fuel. If the fuel is not purified before it is put through the engines, they will gunk up and not function properly. NOAA Okeanos Explorer has 4 engines. Currently we are running 3 of them and the fourth one is the backup. There is also a fifth generator that can serve as a backup if needed. There are roughly 180,000 gallons of diesel on the ship and roughly 2,200 gallons of fuel are used per day.  In order to make the engine work, air in the engine is compressed causing the air to heat up. Then you spray fuel into the compressed air and the heat of their air causes an explosion leading to the process of combustion. In order to determine if complete combustion is occurring and the engine fuel is clean of impurities you look at the exhaust. If the exhaust is clear it means you are seeing full combustion and the fuel is clean. If the exhaust is not clean, black for example, it means that combustion is not complete or the fuel is dirty.

Fuel purification centrifuge
The fuel purification centrifuge system. If you look closely you can see a pink liquid, purified diesel.
Engine
One of the engines. There are four engines on board. Three are running and the fourth will be used as a backup.

Cooling the Engines

The engines must run at a temperature below 200°F. When these engines run they create heat so to keep them at a temperature under 200°F you need to cool them off using a heat exchanger. A heat exchanger is a series of pipes that run hot substances past cooler substances. These substances do not come into contact with one another, but are piped past one another. The heat transfers to the cooler substance through the series of pipes thus cooling the previously hot substance. On this ship, oil is used to lubricate the pistons on the engine, but it also serves a coolant. The oil is then cooled via freshwater called jacket water and the freshwater is cooled via seawater taken from the ocean. The ocean surface water is 74°F when it enters the ship and leaves the ship at roughly 84°F.

However where does this heat go? The first law of thermodynamics, The Law of Conservation of Energy, tells us that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred or converted. So why not convert this heat energy into some of use? Well guess what. The engineers on Okeanos Explorer do just that. Some of the heat goes into the seawater used to cool the jacket water and some of the heat is used in the desalination system.

Remember we left off with desalination in the previous blog.  They use the heat coming off the engines to heat the saltwater, evaporate it, and retrieve the freshwater. However, if you remember these engines must run below 200°F and in order to boil water you must be at a temperature of 212°F. I know many of you are probably thinking salt in water actually lowers the boiling point, but really the opposite is true. Salt actually increases the temperature needed to boil water. However, it is minimal so it won’t affect your pasta too much. Feel free to add that pinch of salt like a true chef.

In order to boil water with 200°F of temperature or less we need to change the pressure of the system. This is done through a vacuum that decreases the pressure in the system allowing water to boil at a lower temperature. It is similar to when you go hiking in the mountains (less pressure than when you are at sea level) and go to boil water. It boils quicker because less heat is needed since the pressure is lower. So by changing the pressure in the system to one that would be seen at a higher altitude, engineers are able to use the heat from the engines to boil the salt water on the ship, allowing us to have access to freshwater for drinking, bathing, and cooking purposes. Pretty ingenious right?

Maintaining Balance

Now hopefully you were paying attention in the first paragraph when I talked about how much fuel is on board and how much is used each day. As fuel is used, the weight on the ship will change affecting stability. A ship with weight is more stable in the water than a ship will little to no weight. Therefore as fuel weight is lost it must be replaced. One gallon of diesel weighs approximately 7 pounds. So if we are using 2200 gallons a day we are losing 15,400 pounds of weight. How do the engineers accomplish the task of adding more weight? What is all around us weighing 8.6 pounds per gallon??? Seawater! Yes! So ballast tanks are filled with seawater to add weight to the ship that is removed when fuel is used.

Ballast water filtration and UV purification system
Ballast water filtration and UV purification system. The parts to the right are the filtration system and the parts to the left are the UV system.

Ballast water is taken in through a filtration system before it even reaches its holding tanks (separate than the fuel tanks). The water first passes through a filter to remove large particles (such as larger pieces of plant material or debris) and then passes through a UV system that will kill any organisms. When the ballast water is released from their holding tanks in order to allow more fuel to come on board, the water must pass through the UV system once more to make sure nothing alive (plants, animals, bacteria, etc.) is getting into the water.

This purification of ballast water occurs to prevent invasive species from entering new areas. An invasive species is a plant or animal that is from somewhere else and is introduced through human actions. When these species establish in a new area and begin to outcompete native species, affect human health, and become costly to remove, they are classified as invasive.

Where I live on Lake Erie several species such as zebra and quagga mussels, round goby, and spiny water flea have all been introduced from ballast water from ships coming from the inland lakes of Eurasia. These ships would need to dump their water when they entered the shallower river ports of the Great Lakes, spurring a silent invasion. All four species are negatively affecting native populations of important species and are costly to manage. Then same is happening along the East Coast with species such as European green crab.

I would like each of you reading this blog to learn more about a species introduced to U.S. waters, whether they be fresh or salt, through ballast water. Feel free to let me know which organism you chose to learn more about in the comments section of the blog.

Personal Log

Today was a really special day at sea. It was my 30th birthday. I could not have imagined a more amazing place to turn 30. I spent the day learning all about the engine systems on board, out on the bow enjoying the breeze and sunshine while looking for ocean critters, and was treated to the sweetest cake ever. It was so kind of the chefs on board to make me a cake for my birthday. It was a red velvet cake (my favorite) with chocolate frosting and decorated with chocolate pieces and white icing. We had it with some chocolate raspberry swirl ice cream. Truly a wonderful celebration with my new friends.

Jill with birthday cake!
My delicious birthday cake. Thank you everyone for a great birthday!

I spent the hour before sunset enjoying a nice yoga and meditation session before the most amazing sunset we have seen at sea yet. The clouds and sun put on the most spectacular display of color. Afterwards I learned more about the happenings of the mission control room (basically the mapping hub for the ship). I learned how we launch equipment to collect water column data and how we clean the data removing noise. I will be writing a blog on the mapping mission soon.

After our shift ended, my roommate and I ventured to the bridge to learn about piloting a vessel at night. We learned what equipment they rely on and how they manage their night vision. And then the most spectacular part of the whole night! The stars! Wow! It looks like someone through glitter (plastic free glitter preferably) into the sky. I have never seen so many stars in my life. We saw the Milky Way, Big Dipper, Little Dipper, North Star, Jupiter and so many other constellations. It was a wonderful end to a great birthday day.

Did You Know?

Even numbered locations (such as muster stations or staterooms) on ships are located on the port (left) side of the ship and odd numbered locations are located on the (starboard) right side of the ship.

Sea Measurements

Different ways to measure are used at sea. You can see some measurement conversions below.

1 nautical mile = 1.151 statute mile

1 knot = 1 nautical mile per hour = 1.151 statute mile per hour

1° Celsius = 33.8 °F

Animals Seen Today

Flying fish

Northern gannet

Jill Bartolotta: The Ins and Outs of Going, May 31, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 13, 2019

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: May 31, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 28°29.0’ N

Longitude: 079°34.1’ W

Wave Height: 1-2 feet

Wind Speed: 15 knots

Wind Direction: 155

Visibility: 10 nautical miles

Air Temperature: 27.6 °C

Barometric Pressure: 1013.7

Sky: Few

Science and Technology Log

Today and tomorrow I am learning all about the who and how of making the ship go. Ric Gabona, the Acting Chief Marine Engineer, has been teaching me all about the mechanics of powering the ship, managing waste, and providing clean drinking water. Today I will focus on two aspects of making it possible to live on a ship for weeks on end. First, I will teach you about waste management. Second, I will explain how freshwater is made to support cooking, drinking, cleaning, and bathing needs. In conjunction, all of these systems contribute to our comfort on board but also our safety.

Wastewater Management

Waste on board has many forms and it all must be handled in some way or it can lead to some pretty stinky situations. The main forms of waste I will focus on include human waste and the waste that goes down the drains. The waste is broken down into two categories. Black water and gray water. Gray water is any water that goes down the drain as a result of us washing dishes, our hands, or ourselves. Gray water is allowed to be discharged once we are 3 miles from shore. The water does not need to be treated and can be let off the ship through the discharge valve. Black water is water that is contaminated with our sewage. It can be discharged when we are 12 miles from shore. Black water goes into a machine through a macerator pump and it gets hit with electricity breaking the solid materials into smaller particles that can be discharged into the ocean.

Discharge of gray or black water has its limitations. These discharge locations follow strict rules set in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and by the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The CFR are set by the federal government and the regulations tell you where (how far from shore) you are allowed to discharge both gray and black water. However, sometimes Okeanos Explorer is in areas where black water cannot be discharged so the black water must be turned into gray water. At this point, once the black water has been mashed it will pass through a chlorine filter that will treat any contamination and then the waste can be discharged. However, there are places where nothing can be discharged such as Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawai’i. When in these no discharge areas the ship will store the gray and black water and then discharge when regulated to do so.

It is important to follow these regulations because as Ric says, “We are ocean stewards.” It is important that ships such as Okeanos Explorer be able to explore the ocean while making the smallest environmental impact as possible. The engineers and other ship and science mission personnel are dedicated to reducing our impact as much as possible when out at sea.

Making Water

Water makes up 60% of the human body and is vital for life. However, 71% of the water on earth is saltwater, not able to be taken up by humans, making it challenging to access freshwater unless you live near an inland freshwater system like where I come from up in Ohio along the Great Lakes. While out at sea, we have no access to freshwater and we cannot store freshwater from land on the ship so we must make it. On Okeanos Explorer freshwater is made using two types of systems, reverse osmosis and desalination. Reverse osmosis is used by seabirds to turn saltwater into freshwater. Saltwater passes through a semipermeable membrane allowing the smaller water particles to pass through while leaving the larger salt particles and other impurities behind. If you are seabird, you excrete this salt by spitting it out the salt glands at the top part of your bill or if you are a ship out through a separate pipe as brine, a yellow colored super salty liquid. The other method on the ship used to make water is desalination. Desalination is the process of boiling salt water, trapping the water that evaporates (freshwater), and then discharging the salty water left behind. The engineers could use a separate boiling system to heat the salt water however they have a much more inventive and practical way of heating the water. But before I can let you know of their ingenious solution we must learn how the engines run. Oops! Sorry, I need to go. Need to switch my laundry. So sorry. We will explore ship movement and the engines in the next blog. Stay tuned…

Reverse osmosis system
Reverse osmosis system on the ship.
flow meters for potable water and brine
Can you see the yellow colored brine and the clear colored potable water?
Filtered water station
Filtered water station on the ship. Look familiar? You may have one like this in your school.

 

Personal Log

I really enjoyed learning all about the mechanics of operating the ship. It takes lots of very skilled people to make the equipment work and I love the ingenuity of the machines and those who run them. Space is limited on a ship and I am just fascinated by how they deal with the challenges of managing waste and making freshwater 50 plus nautical miles from coast for up to 49 people. Today was a great learning day for me. I do not know much about engines, wastewater treatment, and water purification systems so I really learned a lot today. I now have one more puzzle piece of ship operations under my belt with many more to go.

Aside from my lesson in thermodynamics, combustion, chemistry, physics, and other sciences that I have not touched since college, I learned about the safety operations on the vessel. Today we practiced a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. We learned where we need to go on the ship should one of these events ever occur and which safety gear is needed. I donned my immersion suit and PFD (Personal Flotation Device) to make sure they fit and all the pieces/parts work. Being in the ocean would be a bad time to realize something isn’t right. Donning the safety suit was a funny situation for all movement is super restricted and you feel like a beached whale trying to perform Swan Lake on point shoes.

Jill in immersion suit
Me in my immersion suit, fondly known as the gumby suit.

However, with some help from my friends we were all able to get suited up in case an emergency should arise.

Tonight I look forward to another sunset at sea, some yoga on the deck, and seeing a spectacular star display.  

view of deck with sunset
My yoga spot

Did You Know?

Eating an apple a day while at sea can keep seasickness at bay.

Ship Words

Different terms are used to describe items, locations, or parts of the ship. As I learn new words I would like to share my new vocabulary with all of you. If there is a ship term you want to know more about let me know and I will find out!

Galley: Kitchen

Mess Deck: Space that crew eat aboard ship

Fantail: Rear deck of a ship

Pipe: Announcement on the ship via a PA system

Muster: Process of accounting for a group of people. Used in safety drills on a ship such as a fire or abandon ship drills.

Stateroom: Sleeping quarters on the ship

Abeam: On the beam, a relative bearing at right angles to the ship’s keel

Bearing: The horizontal direction of a line of sight between two objects

Animals Seen Today

1 flying fish

Whales (Too far away to tell what they were but we saw their spouts!)

Jill Bartolotta: All Aboard, Shipping Out, May 30, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 30 – June 14, 2019

 

Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: May 30, 2019

Weather Data:

Latitude: 24° 47.7 ‘N
Longitude: 080° 20.2’W
Wave Height: 2-3 feet
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Wind Direction: 114
Visibility: 10 nm
Air Temperature: 28.2°C
Barometric Pressure: 1013.5 mb
Sky: Few clouds

 

Science Log

Today we depart Key West. The days in port have been spent readying equipment, training mission crew, and exploring the beauty that is Key West. We say our final goodbyes to terra firma and head out to sea.

Ship sign board showing departure date
Departure time!
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
Home for the next two weeks.

The ship we are aboard, NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer, is managed by NOAA’s Office of Marine and Aviation Operations. The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps commands and operates the ship in combination with wage mariners. Equipment on board is managed by NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research (OER) in collaboration with the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration.

If you visit OER’s website, you will see in their mission that they are the “only federal organization dedicated to ocean exploration. By using unique capabilities in terms of personnel, technology, infrastructure, and exploration missions, OER is reducing unknowns in deep-ocean areas and providing high-value environmental intelligence needed by NOAA and the nation to address both current and emerging science and management needs.” The purpose of OER is to explore the ocean, collect data, and make this data publicly available for research, education, ocean management, resource management, and decision-making purposes.

One of OER’s priorities is to map the US Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) at depths of 200 meters or greater. This is some deep stuff. The EEZ distance from shore is dependent on a variety of factors such as proximity to territorial waters of other countries and the continental shelf. If you want to learn more about how EEZs are established visit the United Nations Oceans and the Law of the Sea Website https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/oceans-and-law-sea/. Within the EEZ a country has exclusive rights to various activities such as fishing, drilling, ocean exploration, conservation, and resource management.

Map of U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for the United States. We are mapping in the Southeast Region (lime green). Photo Credit: NOAA

We are currently en route to our mapping area so we can map previously unmapped areas. The mapping that will occur on this mission will be used to help inform dive locations for the ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) mission that will take place after our mission. Mapping allows us to understand sea floor characteristics and learn more about deep sea ecosystems that can be later explored with an ROV. An ecosystem of interest for this mapping mission is deep sea coral habitat. The area where we will be mapping is thought to be the largest deep sea coral habitat in US waters and it is largely unmapped. As data is collected, it is cleaned (more on this at a later time) of noise (unwanted data points). Products such as multi-beam geospatial layers are made available to end users on land roughly 24 hours after data is collected. End users could include other researchers, educators, ocean policy and management decision-makers, and more specifically those who will be joining the ROV mission happening in two weeks.

If you want to follow Okeanos Explorer and her crew on our mission, see the live feed available through this link https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/livestreams/welcome.html.

Personal Log

We have just left port. The dolphins are jumping, the sea is the most perfect turquoise blue, and the wind blows on our sun-kissed faces. I have left port many times on my various trips, but today was magical. I think what makes this departure from port so magical is the journey that lies ahead. I am nervous and excited all at the same time. It is slowly settling in that I am able to participate in this once in a lifetime experience. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be aboard an ocean exploration vessel. Wow! Just Wow!

View of Key West from shore
Fondest farewell Key West.

So far everything is good. Dabbled pretty hard in the seasickness world today. I tried to get on my computer too early and it went down swell from there. However, some wind on my face, ginger soup, and bubbly water made everything better. Many people have told me it is important to embark on a task to get my mind off feeling unwell. I have taken this to heart and have been meeting all the wonderful people on the ship, learning more about them and their role on the ship. In the coming two weeks, I plan on learning about every facet that it takes to operate an exploration mission. From what makes the ship move forward to the detailed intricacies of mapping the sea floor to those who make it all possible.

I hope I will be able to share my experience with you so it feels like you are with me on the ship. Using words and pictures I will try to make you feel as if you are aboard with all of us. I will do my best to show you the blue hues we encountered today and explain what it is like to be out to sea with land many miles away. But I still encourage you all to try it for yourself. Words and images will only give you half the story. You need to feel the rest firsthand.

Blue water out of Key West
Bluest of blues. Words and images fail me here. The blue hues we saw today are the most spectacular colors I have ever seen.

Sunset is upon the horizon so I leave you for now. Stay tuned for more about our grand adventure.

Sun sets over the ocean
First sunset at sea

Did You Know?

You can use sonar to learn more about the organisms living in the water column. For example, sonar has the ability to show you the migration of zooplankton and their predators to the surface at night and back down when the sun rises. This phenomenon is called vertical diurnal migration.

Ship Words

Different terms are used to describe items, locations, or parts of the ship. As I learn new words I would like to share my new vocabulary with all of you. If there is a ship term you want to know more about let me know and I will find out!

Port: Left side of ship

Starboard: Right side of ship

Bow: Front of ship

Stern: Back of ship

Mess Deck: Where we eat

Head: Restroom

Scuttlebutt: Water fountain (and gossip)

Bulkhead: Walls

Overhead: Ceilings

Deck: Floor

Rack: Bed

Aft: Towards the back of the ship

Forward: Towards the front of the ship

Animals Seen Today

One dolphin

Hundreds of flying fish

Dozens of various seabirds

Jill Bartolotta: Introduction, May 21, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Jill Bartolotta

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

May 29 – June 14, 2019


Mission:  Mapping/Exploring the U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin and Blake Plateau 

Geographic Area of Cruise: U.S. Southeastern Continental Margin, Blake Plateau

Date: May 21, 2019

Weather Data (from Cleveland, OH):

Latitude: 41.53° N

Longitude: 81.67° W

Lake Wave Height: 1ft

Wind Speed: 8.6 knots

Wind Direction: 0 degrees

Visibility: 8.6nm

Air Temperature: 11°C

Barometric Pressure: 1021.7 mb

Sky: Overcast

Introduction

In one week I will be landing in Key West, Florida ready to begin my journey as a Teacher at Sea aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. As a native to the northern shores of Ohio along the coast of Lake Erie, the ocean is a distant place only visited on family vacations, through books, or in my dreams. Throughout my childhood we visited the ocean several times and I fell in love with all things ocean. My curiosity and love for the ocean deepened as I let Jules Verne and Captain Nemo take me “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” where I saw a colossal squid, massive schools of fish, and learned about animals that glow in the dark. As I watched shows, read magazines, and saw pictures, I began to learn more about what lies below and was fascinated by how little we actually know about the ocean. Did you know we know more about space than we do about the ocean? My curiosity intensified as I began to realize a career in marine biology was possible for a young woman from Cleveland, Ohio. But my curiosity only ever stayed near the shore. I was always interested in the ships that went out to sea for weeks on end to discover new sea life, conduct fish population assessments, or map the ocean floor. However, they were out to sea and my close-toed shoes and I were still on land…well, more accurately, in the tide pools. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be on one of these ships. Well I am! My close-toed shoes and I are heading to sea!

photo_jillbartolotta
Exploring the coast of Maine in my tide pooling boots. Photo Credit: Joshua Layne

Before I get too wrapped up in the weeks to come I would like to tell you a little bit about myself. I grew up east of Cleveland, Ohio on the southern shores of Lake Erie. I spend most of my free time out on the water on my paddleboard or taking my dog, Luna, on grand land adventures. We tried the whole paddling thing with her. It failed epically. My love for water led me to the most amazing job. I work as an Extension Educator for Ohio Sea Grant. There are 34 Sea Grant programs across the country that work with coastal communities to sustainably manage and use their coastal resources. Much of my work is centered on educating youth on the human-caused issues of Lake Erie such as invasive species, harmful algal blooms, and marine debris (trash in waterways). I also conduct research on the use of disposable plastics to better understand why humans use so many of them and what behaviors can we change to encourage them to use less. My career is very rewarding because every day I teach others about Lake Erie and together we learn how to improve her health. My time as a Teacher at Sea will allow me to learn more about the ocean so I can bring all her wonders home to the people of Ohio. Many people where I leave have never even been to Lake Erie so the chances of them visiting the ocean is slim. I will be able to bring the ocean to them making this experience so important to those I teach.

marine-debris-outreach
Sarah, Sue, and I teaching students about marine debris at Cedar Point Match, Science, and Physics Week. Photo Credit: Kathy Holbrook

Mission Information

The journey will be epic, the days long, and the sunsets magnificent. Truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I am so excited and honored to be able to share my time at sea with all of you. Together, we will explore the ocean deep, map areas of poorly understood ocean floor, and dabble in some seasickness. Don’t worry! I will only give you the play by play for the first two. To begin our trip we depart from Key West and cruise for 16 days until we make landfall in Port Canaveral. Our mission is to map poorly understood areas of the ocean floor off the southern and eastern tips of Florida known as the Southern Atlantic Bight and Blake Plateau. Operations will take place 24/7 (don’t worry I got you covered when you need to get your zzzs) and will rely on the use of sonar to map these poorly understood areas. I promise to learn all about the equipment on board and share it with all of you. We will be tech wizards by the time we are done.

The mapping operation is actually part of a multi-year, multi-national collaboration campaign called the Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE). The purpose of the campaign is to further our knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean which is a goal of the Galway Statement of Atlantic Ocean Cooperation. The US, Canada, and the European Union developed the Galway Statement of Atlantic Ocean Cooperation to further our understanding on the Atlantic Ocean in support of increased knowledge and ocean stewardship. I will learn more about ASPIRE and the Galway Statement of Atlantic Ocean Cooperation while on board and share a more detailed account so we can all better understand why mapping operations and increased knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean are important for current and future generations.

Not only will I provide you with detailed accounts of all the science happening on board, I will learn about those who call the sea their home. I will share their stories and journeys in case an ocean career is of interest to you. I will share the crests (ups) and troughs (challenges) of life at sea. Such as what we do for fun. I have heard through the grapevine cribbage is a popular pastime. I am not familiar with this game so any tips you want to share with me will be greatly appreciated. Help give me an edge on the competition.

Luna is ready for sea!
Luna is ready for sea!

I hope my first blog has given you a glimpse of what is to come over the next three weeks. My time at sea quickly approaches and my last days at home will be spent playing with Luna, packing as lightly as possible (very challenging), breathing in the non-salty Lake Erie air, and mentally preparing to be completely out of my comfort zone. As I have said already, I am happy to take this journey to sea with all of you, thank you for your support, and I look forward to our three weeks together. See you in Key West!

paddleboard
Farewell Lake Erie! The ocean awaits! Photo Credit: Connie Murzyn

Meredith Salmon: An Incredible Adventure! July 31, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 31, 2018

Latitude: 36.85°N

Longitude: 76.28°W

Air Temperature: 28°C

Wind Speed:  4.2 knots

Conditions: Cloudy

Personal Log 

We returned to Norfolk this morning and successfully completed our expedition! It is definitely bittersweet to be concluding our work at sea since our team aboard the Okeanos was comprised of such wonderful people. We grew to be really close and truly enjoyed each other’s company.

 

Norfolk
Returning to Norfolk!

norfolk 1
Headed under the draw bridge on our way to the shipyard.

 

These past couple weeks at sea have been an incredible experience and I am excited to share what I have learned with the Peddie community. Being aboard the “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration” and mapping a region of the seafloor that has not been studied yet was a very exciting opportunity as both a scientist and educator. I plan on creating and teaching a Marine Science elective during the Spring of 2019.  Data collected from the expedition will be utilized to design classroom activities, laboratory experiments, and cross-curricular materials that directly relate to the research completed. Students will understand the importance of exploration and be encouraged to discover, inform, and educate others about the ocean. Since the Okeanos is equipped with telepresence capabilities, I will be able to stream seafloor images, ROV dives, and interviews from sea in my classroom. Having students directly engaged with those completing research in real time will enable them to make associations between the ocean and their local ecosystems to put the research into context.

I really enjoyed meeting everyone aboard and listening to their stories. Since these vessels require 24/7 operations, many people worked very hard over the course of the expedition to ensure that everything was going as planned. The crew, stewards, engineers, NOAA Officers, scientists, and explorers in training were very willing to share their knowledge, insights, and experiences.  I respect their dedication and flexibility while at sea and I am very grateful to have met such awesome people! This experience was definitely one of the highlights of my teaching career and I am very inspired to know that no matter where in the world the Okeanos is located, everyone aboard is committed to understanding the wonders of the unknown ocean.

Okeanos MAPPING TEAM!
The Okeanos Explorer Mapping Team

norfolk 3
Some of the Mapping Team navigating the shipyard!

Okeanos at Norfolk
This photo of NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer was snapped by the mother of one of the Senior Survey Techs! She was waiting for us to arrive the morning of the 31st and got this shot on the drawbridge!

 

Okeanos inbound Norfolk
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer inbound to Norfolk, VA. [Photo by Captain Eric Stedje-Larsen, USN] [Photo by Captain Eric Stedje-Larsen, USN]

Meredith Salmon: Deciphering the Data! July 30, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 30, 2018

Latitude: 35.27°N

Longitude: 73.24.°W

Air Temperature: 27.5°C

Wind Speed:  18.17 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny  

Depth: 3742.65 meters

Qimera is a hydrographic processing software that was used during this expedition. This computer program allows scientists to edit and process the survey line data as it was being collected. 

Qimera Survey Area
The survey area 200 nautical miles off the coast of Bermuda projected in Qimera. Warmer colors indicate depths close to 4,000 meters while the cooler colors represent deeper regions up to 5,500 meters.

To successfully edit incoming multibeam data, it was necessary to isolate a specific section of the line and use Qimera’s 3D Editing Tool. The 3D Editing Tool was utilized to remove outliers that skew the data.

Essentially, each colorful point in the diagram below is a sounding from the multibeam sonar. The soundings are return signals that bounce back and reach the receivers on the sonar. When scientists are previewing and editing data, certain points are considered outliers and are rejected. The rejected points are shown as red diamonds in the diagram below. Once the edits are made, they are saved, and the surface is updated.  

3D editor qimera
Examples of a data set being processed by the 3D Editing Tool in Qimera. The red dots are rejected points that will not be included when the data is completely processed.

It is especially important to ensure that we are collecting as much data as possible as we continue to survey this area. In order to accomplish this, factors such as required resolution, sea state, water depth and bottom type are used to determine line plans.  By partially overlapping lines, we ensure there is quality data coverage on the outside beams. More overlap tends to mean denser, high quality coverage which will allow our team to develop accurate maps of the seafloor.

Qimera Survey Area
Side view of a section of the survey area projected in Qimera. The warmer colors indicate depths around 4,000 meters while the cool colors indicate depths closer to 5,500 meters.

Another program that was used to process data was known as Fledermaus. This interactive 4D geospatial processing and analysis tool is used to reproject Qimera projects as well as export the Daily Product that was completed and sent onshore where it is publicly available. We also projected the edited data on Google Earth (see below) and would include this in the Daily Product that was sent to shore as well.

Google Earth view
The survey and transit lines are displayed in blue, while previously mapped areas of the seafloor are shown in green.

 

Personal Log

Now that we have left the survey area, we are transiting back to Norfolk and still collecting and processing data. We are scheduled to arrive early on the 31st and a majority of us will depart that evening. Since we are still collecting return transit data, it is still necessary for processing to occur. Although we’ve been working diligently, we still like to make time for fun. On Friday night, we hosted a Finer Things Club Gathering complete with fancy cheese, crackers, sparkling apple juice, and chocolate! It was great! On Saturday, we played the final cribbage tournament game as well as other board games, and on Sunday we had an ice cream party!

Finer Things Club
The Mapping Team hosts a Finer Things Club Meeting complete with sparkling apple juice, crackers, cheese, and chocolate!

Finer Things
Our fancy spread of gourmet snacks!

final match
Charlie and Mike in the FINALS!

ice cream social
Sundaes on Sunday!

 

View of calm seas
Super calm seas on the way home!

Calm Seas
Calm Seas

 

Did You Know?

One of the first breakthroughs in seafloor mapping using underwater sound projectors was used in World War I.

Resources:

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/03fire/background/mapping/mapping.html

Meredith Salmon: Remarkable ROVs, July 25, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 25, 2018

Latitude: 28.37°N

Longitude: 63.15°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  9.7 knots

Conditions: partly sunny  

Depth: 5236.01 meters

 

Science and Technology Log

Since the Okeanos Explorer is known as “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration,” it is equipped with two important vehicles that allow scientists to study normally inaccessible ocean depths. Deep Discoverer (D2) is a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that is mechanically designed with software and video engineering programs that generate precise images and videos. A total of nine cameras, including a Zeus Plus camera with impressive zoom capabilities, produce high-definition images that give scientists and those on shore insights about deep-sea ecosystems. The 9,000 pound ROV contains approximately 2,400 feet of intricate wiring as well as specially designed Kraft predator hand that can hold up to 200 pounds. The hand is especially useful for deep-sea sampling and allows scientists to bring certain organisms to the surface for further analysis. D2 can dive up to 30 meters per minute and is designed to withstand pressures almost 600 times that at sea level.  

Deep Discoverer
Front view of the Deep Discoverer featuring the Zeus Plus Camera

Side view of D2
Side view of D2 (Check out the intricate wiring and size of the circuit board!)

Rear view of D2
Rear view of D2

D2 does not operate alone during the eight-hour dives. Instead, it relies on assistance from Seirios, another 4,000-pound machine known as a camera sled. This device is powered and controlled by the Okeanos Explorer and offers the pilots and scientists a wide-angle perspective as they navigate the ocean floor. Seirios is tethered to the Okeanos Explorer and illuminates D2 from above to allow for increased visibility. The frame of this machine is relatively open which increases the distance cameras can be separated from the mounted lighting. This design reduces the light that reflects off particles in the water (optical backscatter) and results in high-quality images.

rov7
This camera sled, known as Seirios, is used to illuminate D2 during ROV dives.

All of the deep ocean images and video collected by D2, Seirios, and the Okeanos, can be transmitted to the rest of the world by satellite. The Okeanos is fitted with telepresence technology that enables everyone involved in the operation to provide scientific context to the public. The ability to broadcast this exciting information requires effective collaboration between the Engineering Team, NOAA ship crew, and scientists both onboard and onshore. It is amazing that anyone with Internet connection can be involved the expedition and science in real time.

Mapping Team
The Mapping Team learning about Seirios!

 

Personal Log

In order to make it back to Norfolk on time for dry dock, we will have to finish our mapping our survey area on the 27th. In the meantime, we have been continuing to process data, collect sunphotometer readings, launch XBTs, and play cribbage. Our cribbage tournament will conclude on Friday night! Everyone aboard is excited about the data we’ve collected and looking forward to a successful end of the expedition.

bow picture 1
The Mapping Team was on the lookout for dolphins!

Dolphins!
Dolphins playing on the waves near the bow!

sunset photo
Another fantastic end to the day!

 

Did You Know?

The first fully developed ROV, POODLE, was created by Dimitri Rebikoff in 1953. However, it was not until the US Navy took an interest in ROVs that this unique technology became very popular. In 1961, the US Navy created the Cable-Controlled Underwater Research Vehicle (CURV).

Resources:

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/technology/subs/deep-discoverer/deep-discoverer.html

Deep Discoverer and Seirios

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part V, July 27, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 27, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.48°N

Longitude: 62.41°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  10.5 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5272.37 meters

 

Sid Dunn

Hometown: Virginia Beach, Virginia

Although you would never guess it, Sid is the newest member of the Okeanos Explorer and has been working on the vessel since June 7th. He recently retired after sixteen years as an insurance agent specializing in business claim adjustments. Since his wife’s family is involved in the maritime industry, he thought it would be interesting to research potential post-retirement careers in this field.

Sid began a 5-week training program at the Mid-Atlantic Maritime Academy. This institution is a highly respected, state-of-the-art maritime training center established for individuals who seek to enter a maritime profession. After his training period, Sid completed a two-month internship on the tall ship Oliver Hazard Perry in Rhode Island. Sid sailed from Newport, Rhode Island down to Galveston, Texas while on the Oliver Hazard Perry.

Once he completed his training and internship, Sid was hired as part of the permanent crew aboard the Okeanos Explorer. Sid is a General Vessel Assistant (GVA) and performs work in the deck and engine departments. He is responsible for standing watch two times per day. These watches are four hour time periods and aboard this cruise, he is scheduled from 0800-1200 and 2000-2400. During his watches, Sid performs rounds throughout the entire ship to ensure the safety of the vessel, completes routine maintenance, and stands watch on the bridge. Sid really enjoys being out to sea and is excited to continue his new adventure on the Okeanos Explorer.

Sid Dunn
Sid aboard the SSV Oliver Hazard Perry

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part IV, July 27, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 27, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.48°N

Longitude: 62.41°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  10.5 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5272.37 meters

 

LT Rosemary Abbitt

Growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, Rosemary spent much of her childhood around the ocean. She was fascinated by the sea and had a strong desire to learn as much as she could about marine ecosystems. During her high school career, Rosemary participated in a summer travel program at the Forfar Field Station in the Bahamas on Andros Island. This experiential learning opportunity allowed Rosemary to be directly involved with field-studies that focused on scuba diving and exploration. Thanks to that unique experience, Rosemary was hooked on marine science.

After Rosemary graduated high school, she earned her Associates Degree in General Studies of Science at a local community college, then transferred to Coastal Carolina University (CCU) to continue studying marine science. During her undergraduate career, she completed an independent research project in Discovery Bay, Jamaica and focused her studies on coral ecology. After she earned her degree at CCU, Rosemary was interested in becoming a NOAA Corps Officer. Since a few of Rosemary’s family members worked for NOAA, she was exposed to the Corps mission and impact from an early age. She applied and did not gain admittance; however, that did not set Rosemary back.

Rosemary started working as a Physical Scientist intern at the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch in Norfolk, Virginia and sailed aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson for two field seasons. After this experience, she reapplied to the Corps, was accepted, and began her Basic Officer Training Class at Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy in February 2012. Officer training school was an intense program that emphasized leadership, teamwork, seamanship, and navigation. Once Rosemary graduated, her first sea assignment was on the hydrographic research vessel, NOAA Ship Rainier in Alaska. After this assignment, Rosemary’s land assignment was at the Florida Marine Sanctuary in Key West. She worked as a support diver to assess coral health and completed grounding assessments for three and half years before rotating to her current position as the Operations Officer aboard Okeanos Explorer. Now, Rosemary is involved with deep sea exploration and loves being on a ship that is dedicated to discovering more about the unknown parts of the ocean. Rosemary is enthusiastic about supporting NOAA’s mission of science, service, and stewardship. She believes that it is incredibly important to set goals, remain determined, and push yourself out of your comfort zone to experience success.

Rosemary Abbitt
LT Abbitt plotting a fix at the charting table on the bridge of the Okeanos Explorer. Image courtesy of Brianna Pacheco, LTJG (Sel.)/NOAA Corps

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part III, July 27, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 27, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.48°N

Longitude: 62.41°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  10.5 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5272.37 meters

 

Commanding Officer – Commander Eric Johnson, NOAA Corps

Hometown: Maryland but currently resides in D.C

 

Ever since Eric was young, he had been fascinated by the ocean. After reading about Eugenie Clark’s contributions to marine science and shark research, he was hooked on learning as much as he could about the sea. Eric began his studies at St. Mary’s College of Maryland; however, he made the decision to take a six year sabbatical and work in a variety of fields to gain practical experience. During this time, he found employment as an apprentice for a deep sea salvage company and completed electrical work on ROVs for the Navy. This job granted him the opportunity to go to sea and encouraged him to apply what he learned in the field.

 

After this six year period, Eric returned to college at the University of Maryland, majored in Marine Biology, and earned his scuba certification. Upon graduation, he was a manager at REI in College Park and volunteer diver at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. As an exhibit diver, Eric was responsible for feeding the animals by hand in the tanks, maintenance of tanks and scuba equipment, as well as educational outreach.

 

Although Eric learned a great deal about customer service and public speaking during his time at REI and the Baltimore Aquarium, he was interested in researching a more permanent marine science career. While researching potential employment opportunities on the NOAA website, he discovered the NOAA Corps. Eric was very interested in the mission of this Uniformed Service and decided to apply. Eric was not selected the first time since he did not have direct experience working in a related field; however, he was not discouraged. Instead, Eric secured a job working at a Biotech company, reapplied to the NOAA Corps, and was selected. Once he graduated from Basic Officer Training at the Coast Guard Academy, Eric began an extensive and impressive career with NOAA.

 

Eric’s first sea assignment was as navigation officer on the Oregon II.  He was responsible for operations focused on diving, navigation, and safety aboard this vessel. After spending two years at sea, he began his first land rotation as the Executive Officer of the NOAA Dive Program before advancing to the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai. Eric kept track of scientific diving operations aboard the Hi’ialakai, which amounted to approximately 3,000 to 4,000 dives per year! Then, Eric served as the NOAA Recruiter for a year and a half before becoming Chief of the Recruiting Branch. He found the recruiting positions to be incredibly rewarding and enjoyed encouraging those who were looking to make a difference while serving their country to apply to NOAA. Eventually, Eric returned to his original ship, the Oregon II, as Executive Officer before beginning as Commanding Officer on the Okeanos Explorer. Although serving as the Commanding Officer is a major responsibility, Eric is dedicated to supporting NOAA’s mission in regards to science, service, and stewardship. He finds is assignment on the Okeanos very exciting since this ship’s main purpose is ocean exploration.

 

Throughout his career, Eric has learned that it is especially important to pursue your true interests and not be afraid to explore the unknown. Eric believes that stepping outside your comfort zone and learning how to adapt to new situations enables you to construct a skill set that will help you experience success in a variety of situations.

CDR Johnson and wife
CDR Johnson and his wife, Angela, at his Change of Command Ceremony last year

 

Fun Facts about CO Eric Johnson

Eric continues to be an avid diver and has completed over 1,000 dives during his career.

– If you added up all of the hours Eric has spent diving, it would be about one month underwater!

– In Eric’s opinion, the best spot to dive is south of Hawaii at Palmyra Atoll.

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard the Okeanos: Part II, July 25, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Date: July 25, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.37°N

Longitude: 63.15°W

Air Temperature: 27.8°C

Wind Speed:  9.7 knots

Conditions: partly sunny

Depth: 5236.01 meters

 

Ensign (ENS) Anna Hallingstad

Hometown: Anacortes, Washington

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) is built on three principles: science, service, and stewardship, and ENS Anna Hallingstad embodies all of these core values. Anna is currently immersed in her first sea assignment aboard the Okeanos Explorer and has many different responsibilities as a NOAA Corps Officer.

Anna has always been fascinated by the outdoors and enrolling in a Marine Science course in high school set her on a science track in college. After graduating high school, Anna completed an undergraduate and graduate career at Stanford University. She majored in Earth Systems and focused particularly on ocean systems. Earth Systems was a unique interdisciplinary major that investigated the interactions of different ecological, geological, and human systems.

Anna extended her learning outside of the traditional classroom environment by completing a quarter of classes at Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove, California. She spent the fall quarter of her junior year studying abroad in Australia in collaboration with the University of Brisbane and Stanford. During the summer before her senior year, Anna participated in a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) through the National Science Foundation. Anna continued her studies at Stanford to earn her Masters in Earth Systems and focused on the human relationship with the ocean.

Upon graduation, Anna did an AmeriCorps term by working for an urban forestry non-profit and was a volunteer for Salish Sea Stewards in Washington. Anna also worked as the Harbor Porpoise Project Coordinator before applying and being accepted into NOAA’s Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). Anna had a desire to work for NOAA since she was young and began her 19-week training in January at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. Officer training school was an intense program that emphasized leadership, teamwork, seamanship, navigation, etc. After graduating in May, Anna was shipped off to her first assignment in Honolulu, Hawaii and reported to the Okeanos Explorer in 2017. She will spend two years on the Okeanos Explorer until her three-year land assignment in Washington state.

Anna wears many different hats aboard the Okeanos Explorer as the Morale, Safety, and Property Officer as well as a Purchase Card Holder and Diver. As the Morale Officer, she organizes events on aboard such as ice cream socials, cookouts, and cribbage tournaments. She really enjoys seeing everyone having a great time onboard. It can be very busy balancing all of these important responsibilities, but Anna believes that you shouldn’t shy away from difficult things. Having the confidence to tackle the unknown is a valuable life lesson and one that she abides by while at sea.

 

ENS Anna Hallingstad
ENS Anna Hallingstad

Meredith Salmon: CTDs and Cribbage! July 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.34°N

Longitude: 64.14°W

Air Temperature: 28.16°C

Wind Speed:  17.34 knots

Conditions: partly sunny  

Depth: 5060.32 meters

Science and Technology Log

Understanding the physical properties of seawater such as temperature, salinity, and depth are important parameters for studying ocean processes. Fortunately, A CTD is an acronym for an electronic instrument that is used on research vessels to measure three important factors: conductivity, temperature, and depth. These data points are key exploration components used aboard the Okeanos Explorer.

 

Conductivity is a measure of how well a solution conducts electricity and it is directly related to salinity. When salinity measurements are combined with temperature readings, seawater density can be determined. This is crucial information since seawater density is a driving force for major ocean currents.

 

The CTD itself is housed in a steel container and is surrounded by a ring of plastic bottles. These water sampling bottles can be individually triggered at various depths to collect water samples allowing scientists to analyze water at specific depths at a particular place and time. The entire structure is connected to a rosette that is lowered by a hydrographic winch crane, and this rosette is capable of making vertical profiles to depths up to 6,800 meters.  

ctd 3
CTD unit aboard the Okeanos Explorer

 

Features in the deep ocean such as hydrothermal vents and underwater volcanoes are associated with changes in chemical properties of seawater, so CTDs are used to measure chemical and physical properties associated with these structures. For instance, changes in water temperature may indicate the presence of hydrothermal vents or volcanoes. Since these features are located in deep waters, a CTD will be raised and lowered throughout the water column as the ship moves over the survey area. Although a CTD cast has not been completed on our expedition, these procedures require effective communication between scientists in the lab and the hydrographic crane operator. Scientists in the lab can monitor the CTD measurements in real time in the lab, and communicate depth for water capture in the rosette bottles to the crane operator. Once back on board, scientists can retrieve the water samples from the bottles and take them into the lab for further analysis.

ctd1
CTD rosette complete with water sampling containers

Personal Log

We have continued to map the survey area, load XBTs, and take sunphotometer readings throughout the course of the week. Since they are few and far between, everyone looks forward to turns. The entire turning process requires effective communication with the bridge and survey team and can take approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete.

SISTurn
A turn pictured in the Seafloor Information System (SIS) program

Aside from waiting for turns, we have been playing daily trivia or bingo as well as card games including cribbage! Since the cribbage tournament is underway, we have been practicing, playing, and watching other games. There have been some serious upsets and victories so the finals are going to be interesting for sure.

Okeanos Cribbage Tournament Bracket
Okeanos Cribbage Tournament Bracket

cribbage tournament
Savannah vs. Charlie!

cribbage 6
Fernando vs. Christian!

We learned that we are heading back to Norfolk for dry dock towards the end of July so we will need to stop surveying soon to transit back to Virginia. It is crazy to think that we only have a couple more days at sea!

double rainbow.jpeg
A double rainbow seen from the boat deck!

 

Double Rainbow
Savannah, Sally, and I enjoying the view!

Did You Know?

Some CTD instruments are so fast that they measure the conductivity, temperature, and depth 24 times each second! This provides a very detailed description of the water being tested.

Resources: 

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/ctd.html

https://www.windows2universe.org/earth/Water/CTD.html

Meredith Salmon: Who’s Who Aboard The Okeanos Part I, July 23, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

 

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.34°N

Longitude: 64.14°W

Air Temperature: 28.16°C

Wind Speed:  17.34 knots

Conditions: Partly Sunny

Depth: 5060.32 meters

 

Brian Caldwell

Brian has a true passion for exploration and science, so being part of the NOAA Corp is a perfect fit for him. Brian has an extensive educational background and enjoys advancing his knowledge about the ocean. Prior to NOAA, Brian worked as a civilian mariner for a sail training program. He served as both a captain and educator and taught non-traditional education courses about the ocean. In addition, he worked on the NOAA ship Rainier as a wage mariner.

 

Brian began his schooling at Miami Dade College and earned an Associate’s degree in Biology. He then attended Georgetown University and majored in Biology with a minor in Physics. During his time at Georgetown, he was the captain of Georgetown Sailing Team. Upon graduation, Brian continued his schooling and started his graduate degree abroad at the University Of Wales School Of Ocean Sciences.

 

After 9/11, Brian honorably served in the United States Army for ten years. He completed eight combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan and even conducted additional graduate work in Military History and a program in Italian Studies. After his commendable involvement with the military, Brian applied and was accepted to the NOAA Corp. Once he graduated from Basic Officer Training at the Coast Guard Academy, he began his career with NOAA. He is now working on the Okeanos and continues to be fascinated with ocean exploration and discovery. Brian loves adventure and travel, so he considers himself very fortunate to be able to experience both while working at sea. Brian has learned that it is important to be flexible in life and never stop learning.

brian interview pic
ENS Brian Caldwell

 

Meredith Salmon: Let The Surveying Begin! July 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

 

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.12°N

Longitude: 62.04°W

Air Temperature: 27.0°C

Wind Speed:  14.08 knots

Conditions: Rain and clouds

Depth : 5133.67 meters

Science and Technology Log

Hypack for Line Planning 

This morning, we learned how to upload a variety of planning lines for the survey that will be conducted for the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group (ASMIWG) established area Southeast of Bermuda.

The black circle pictured on the map below is Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Bermuda’s EEZ is an area of ocean within 200 nautical miles of the island that covers 464,940 km2 of ocean. Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Bermuda has special jurisdiction over the use and exploration, management, and conservation of those resources. According to Bermuda’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, this zone was established in 1996 and this distinction allows Bermuda to gain important economic value from these resources.

 

Bermuda's EEZ
The black circle pictured above is Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone. The red line is the outline of the survey area and the green lines are previously collected data that will be considered when the Okeanos Explorer collects new mapping data.

The red line (ASMIWG Galway mapping box) displayed on the screen is the outline of the survey area. This area is 145,120 km2; however, during this expedition, we will be mapping a quarter to a third of the region. Within the survey area are small blue lines that are considered to be planning lines. These lines were crafted on the computer using Hypack and are 180 nautical miles in length. For efficiency, it is important for them to be oriented to follow the contour lines, and to be long because it requires less turns, which saves time while mapping. The distance between the lines is 4,300 meters and may be subject to change at the discretion of the mapping team.

The green lines are existing multibeam or bathymetric data in the region. This is crucial information to consider because the Okeanos Explorer’s goal is to map what has not been investigated and combine it with the data that already exists in those areas. The previously collected data was recorded from a variety of ships such as Atlantis, Healy, and Knorr, so we will use our EM 302 sonar to edge match their data.

In addition to the existing data, there is a background telemetry layer (blue background) that shows satellite measurements to predict what the seafloor may look like. Scientists use the existing data to update the layers to create a more accurate depiction of the seafloor.

So far, the data collected in transit has been very reliable due to weather conditions and the flat abyssal seafloor. As survey data is incoming, the personnel on watch must ensure that the sonar and computer systems are operating correctly. We will begin the actual surveying this afternoon once we reach the first line!

 

Line Plans in Hypack
Red 180 nautical mile planning lines created for the survey area in Hypack

 

Personal Log

Now that we have begun the survey, everyone is busy collecting, processing, cleaning, and updating data files in the Mission Control room. We have been learning all about the software used to create files, and it is very interesting to learn how all of the different systems are being used to make sense of the data from multiple sources (ex. EM 302, EK 60, and sub-bottom profiler). Everyone on board is really enjoying each other’s company and is eager to collaborate to help one another learn. It is really fun! One of the best parts of being in the middle of the ocean has definitely been watching the sunsets. They are incredible!

sunset 7.14.18
7/14/18 Sunset

sunset 7.15.18
7/15/18 Sunset

Did You Know?

The Sargasso Sea is considered to be one of the great ecological wonders of the world! It is home to golden algae known as Sargassum. This algae serves as a floating habitat and provides food, refuge, and breeding grounds for an array of marine organisms such as fish, sea turtles, marine birds, crabs, shrimp, and more!

The Sargasso Sea is the only sea in the world surrounded by currents, rather than land and Bermuda is the only island within it.

The algae directly benefits Bermuda when it washes ashore and sinks into the sand since it fertilizes the soil and protects the island against storms and erosion.

sargassum
Sargassum off the side of the bow

Resources:

https://www.gov.bm/articles/monitoring-bermuda%E2%80%99s-exclusive-economic-zone-eez

http://www.bermuda-online.org/environ.htm

Meredith Salmon: Xtreme XBTs, July 14, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Geographic Area:  Atlantic Ocean, south of Bermuda

Date: July 14, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge – July 14, 2018

Latitude: 28.58°N

Longitude: 65.48°W

Air Temperature: 27.4°C

Wind Speed:  13.96 knots

Conditions: Rain and clouds

Depth: 5183 meters

 

Science and Technology Log

Temperature and salinity are two main variables when determining the density of water. The density of water or any acoustic medium is a very important factor in determining the speed of sound in water. Therefore, temperature data collected by Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) probes, as well as historical salinity profiles from the World Ocean Atlas, are used to create sound velocity profiles to use to correct for sound speed changes in the water column.

Expendable Bathythermograph (XBT) probes are devices that are used to measure water temperature as a function of depth. Small copper wires transmit the temperature data back to the ship where it is recorded and analyzed. At first, I was surprised to learn that temperature data is such an important component of multibeam mapping operations; however, I learned that scientists need to know how fast the sound waves emitted from the sonar unit travel through seawater. Since these probes are designed to fall at a determined rate, the depth of the probe can be inferred from the time it was launched. By plotting temperature as a function of depth, the scientists can get a picture of the temperature profile of the water.

On our expedition, we have been deploying XBTs on a schedule as the ship is making its way to the survey area. The XBT Launcher is connected to a deck box, which translates information to computer systems onboard so the data can be logged when the probes are deployed into the water. Aboard the Okeanos Explorer, up to 8 tubes can be loaded at one time and launched by scientists.

XBT closet in the Dry Lab
XBT closet in the Dry Lab

 

XBT Launcher
XBT Launcher on the Okeanos

xbt 2
Loading the XBT Launcher

 

 

xbt 1
Savannah and I after a successful XBT load

 

XBT Data
XBT Data from a launch aboard the Okeanos Explorer. The colors on the graph indicate the XBT number and the data is plotted on a temperature and depth scale.

 

 In addition to launching XBTs and collecting data, we completed a Daily Product so that we can communicate the data we have collected to anyone on shore. The Daily Products are completed not only to ensure that the hydrographic software systems are working correctly but to also inform the public our current location, where we have collected data, and if we are meeting the objectives of the mission. Once onshore, NOAA uses this information to analyze the quality of the data and use it for analysis for dive planning. In order to generate the Daily Field Products, we use hydrographic computer systems such as QPS Qimera for advanced multibeam bathymetry processing, Fledermaus for 4D geo-spatial processing, and Geocap Seafloor for digital terrain modeling. In addition, the Daily Field Products allow us to double check the quality of the data and search for any noise interferences due to the speed of the ship or the type of seafloor bottom (hard vs soft).

 

Personal Log

One of the coolest parts of learning aboard the Okeanos Explorer is the fact that I am a part of scientific exploration and discovery in real time.  Known as “America’s Ship for Ocean Exploration,” the Okeanos Explorer is the only federally funded U.S. ship assigned to systematically explore our largely unknown ocean for the sole purpose of discovery and the advancement of knowledge. This is the first U.S.-led mapping effort in support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation and all of this information is going to be available for public use. Not only do I get the opportunity to be involved with “real-time” research, but I am also responsible for communicating this information to a variety of different parties on shore.

Being immersed in the “hands-on” science, learning from the survey techs and watch leads, and observing all of the work that is being done to collect, process, and analyze the data is a really exciting experience. I am definitely out of my element when it comes to the content since I do not have any prior experience with seafloor mapping, sonars, etc., but I am really enjoying playing the role as the “student” in this situation. There is definitely a lot to learn and I am trying to soak it all in!

 

Did You Know?

XBTs contain approximately 1,500 meters of copper wire that is as thin as a strand of hair!

 

Resources: 

http://www.aoml.noaa.gov/phod/goos/xbtscience/news.php

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/facts/xbt.html

Meredith Salmon: Setting Sail! July 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Geographic Area:  Atlantic Ocean, south of Bermuda

Date: July 12, 2018

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge – July 12, 2018

Latitude: 32.094°N

Longitude: 69.591°W

Air Temperature: 26.2°C

Wind Speed:  10.7 knots

Conditions: Sunny

Depth: 693 meters

Survey Area
Map showing the planned operations area for the expedition outlined in yellow. Image courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research.

Science and Technology Log

According to the Oceanic Institute, the oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface. This is calculated to be 335,258,000 square kilometers! Recently, the Okeanos Explorer mapped over 1,000,000 square kilometers of the seafloor using high- resolution multibeam sonar. Although this may not seem like much, that region is larger than the areas of Arizona and Texas combined!

So why is it so important for the Okeanos Explorer to map the seafloor? The ocean’s terrain plays a very important role in ecosystems since underwater valleys determine currents and weather patterns, sea topography influences fishery management, and seamounts serve as protection against unpredictable storms. Therefore, high-resolution maps allow scientists to categorize marine habitats, provide information vital to protecting and tracking marine life, and enable us to make smart decisions for solid, sustainable conservation measures.

In order to successfully map the ocean floor, multibeam sonar is used. The Okeanos Explorer uses an EM 302 multibeam system that is designed to map a large portion of the ocean floor with exceptional resolution and accuracy. The EM 302 transducers point at different angles on both sides of the ship to create a swath of signals. Transducers are underwater speakers that are responsible for sending an acoustic pulse (known as a ping) into the water. If the seafloor or object is in the path of the ping, then sound bounces off the object and returns an echo to the transducer. The EM 302 has the ability to produce up to 864 depth soundings in a single ping. The time interval between the actual signal transmission and arrival of the return echo (two way travel time) are combined with a sound velocity profile to estimate depth over the area of the swath. In addition, the intensity of the return echo can be used to infer bottom characteristics that can be utilized for habitat mapping. Since the EM 302 creates high density, high-resolution data as well as water column features, this sonar system is ideal for exploring the seabed for geographic features.

The image below shows data being collected by the multibeam sonar on the Okeanos Explorer. The colors are used to indicate swath depth (warm colors indicate shallow waters while cool colors indicate deeper waters).

Multibeam sonar data
Multibeam sonar data including backscatter (lower left), depth (upper center) and water column data (lower center) from 7/12/2018 the Okeanos Explorer

 

As this data is being collected, it must be “cleaned” to eliminate any erroneous points.  Data is collected and cleaned in both the Dry Lab and Mission Control Room.

Dry Lab
Dry Lab, equipped with 12 computer monitors, used to process data onboard the Okeanos Explorer

Mission Control
Mission Control Room aboard the Okeanos Explorer

 

Since we have not reached the survey area yet, we have been monitoring the depth of our path thus far. We are collecting transit data which is considered to still be valuable data for unmapped seafloor area, but it may not be as high quality as focused mapping data. We will continue to collect transit data until we reach the survey area near Bermuda.

Personal Log

Life onboard the Okeanos Explorer has been a very interesting and fun learning experience! The ship runs on a 24/7 operation schedule and people are working diligently at all hours of the day. Everyone on the ship has been really welcoming and willing to share their stories and insights about their careers at sea. I am really looking forward to speaking with more people to learn about their experiences!

We set sail out of Norfolk today and began our 3.5 day/4 day transit to the survey area near Bermuda. This morning, we found out that we will need to schedule an emergency dry dock towards the end of our mission to solve an issue with a stern thruster necessary for ROV cruises. As a result, we will not be ending up in port in St. George, but we will still be able to map the area 200 nautical miles off the coast of Bermuda, so that is great!

norfolk out to sea!
NOAAS Okeanos Explorer (port quarter aspect) navigating the Elizabeth River outbound for sea from the NOAA pier in Norfolk, VA on July 12, 2018. [Photo by Commander Briana Hillstrom, NOAA
 

Did You Know?

Sonar is short for Sound Navigation and Ranging.

Check out this video for a visual representation of the process sonar uses to generate data! https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/caribbean-mapping/mapping-video.html

 

Resources:

https://www.oceanicinstitute.org/aboutoceans/aquafacts.html

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/one-million/welcome.html

Meredith Salmon: The Final Countdown, July 5, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

Mission: Mapping Deep-Water Areas Southeast of Bermuda in Support of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation

Geographic Area of Cruise: Norfolk, Virginia to Bermuda

Date: July 5, 2018

 Weather Data from Home (Clarks Summit, PA)

41.4887°N, 75.7085°W

Air Temperature: 28.0° C

Wind Speed: 1.7 Knots

Wind Direction: Southwest

Conditions: Partly Cloudy, 69% Humidity

 

Introduction

Hi everyone! My name is Meredith Salmon (yes, just like the fish) and I cannot believe that it is almost time to begin my adventure aboard NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer. This June, I finished my fourth year teaching Honors and Regular Biology at the Peddie School located in Hightstown, New Jersey. Peddie is an independent, coeducational boarding and day school that serves 551 students in grades 9-12. We welcome a diverse student body from all across the United States and the world. Our students represent a total of 23 states as well as 34 countries and 64% of students are boarding while the remaining 36% commute. Therefore, I am committed to creating a global classroom where students are engaged in a problem-based curriculum that emphasizes scientific investigation and critical thinking. In addition to teaching, I serve as the Assistant Girls’ Varsity Soccer Coach and will be the Assistant JV Girls’ Basketball Coach this winter. I have also coached winter track the past two years. I live and work as a Dorm Supervisor in a sophomore level female dormitory as well. Working as a teacher, coach, and dorm parent in the Peddie Community has granted me the unique opportunity to shape the lives of many students in and outside the classroom environment.

peddie-vs-blair
Myself (4th from the left) and fellow Peddie Faculty Coaches

Being immersed in current research while engaging with other scientists and crew members onboard the Okeanos Explorer is going to be an incredible experience. I am really excited to take what I learn in these next couple weeks and use it to design a Marine Science/Biology elective for next spring semester. I think it is so important for students to use science, engineering practices, and technology to become well versed in ocean literacy and discovery as well as NOAA’s endeavors in ocean exploration.  I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with you soon!

 

Okeanos Explorer
NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer at sea. Image courtesy of Art Howard/NOAA OER.

More about the Mission:
The Okeanos Explorer will map an area southeast of Bermuda designated by the Atlantic Seabed Mapping International Working Group (ASMIWG) at the 4th Annual Galway Trilateral Meeting in April 2017. As part of the Galway initiative, the ASMIWG utilized a suitability model to identify priority regions in the Atlantic Ocean factoring in areas of public interest, sensitive marine areas, and areas with marine resource potential. This will be the first U.S.-led mapping effort in support of the Atlantic Ocean Research Alliance/ASMIWG initiative.

Did You Know? 

From the end of May until early July, NOAA and partners conducted an extensive ocean exploration expedition aboard the Okeanos Explorer. The goal was to collect important baseline information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater regions of the Southeastern United States.  For more information and cool videos, check out their website!

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/explorations/ex1806/welcome.html

Theresa Paulsen: Preparing to Explore the Ocean Floor, March 9, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Theresa Paulsen
Preparing to Board NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
March 16 – April 3, 2015

Mission:  Caribbean Exploration (Mapping)
Geographical Area of Cruise:  Caribbean Trenches and Seamounts
Date: March 9, 2015

Personal Log

If you could have any super power imaginable, what would it be?  Growing up, my son asked me this question numerous times as we walked our dog.  While he pondered the advantages of flight, invisibility, or spontaneous combustion, my answer was always the same.  I want Aquaman’s powers (but a better looking outfit).  I want to swim underwater without the need for dive gear, seahorses, or gillyweed, to see what few others have seen.  I want to communicate with whales and dolphins to find out what their large brains can teach us about our planet.  While I may not be able to attain superhero status, I can join some real-world adventurers on an amazing vessel equipped to conduct research that will help realize my dream of seeing the unseen depths of the ocean.

Hello, from Northern Wisconsin!  My name is Theresa Paulsen.  I am a high school science teacher in Ashland, WI.  I have been teaching for 17 years while living along the south shore of Lake Superior with my husband and our two children.

My husband, Bryan
My husband, Bryan

Our children, Ben and Laura, paddling the sea caves in the Apostle Islands, N.L.
Our children, Ben and Laura, paddling the sea caves in the Apostle Islands, N.L.

The pristine lake and the rich forests around the region provide the resources that sustain our local communities.  As we work to promote local stewardship in the classroom, we must recognize that the health and welfare of the resources we treasure are connected to the greater global environment which is heavily influenced by the processes that occur in our oceans. The geological processes occurring near our research zone are fascinating.  The North American plate slides passed the Caribbean plate creating the Puerto Rico trench, the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.

Bathymetry of the northeast corner of the Caribbean plate. Image courtesy of USGS.

Maps generated by the vessel’s state-of-the-art multibeam sonar on our mission will help geologists learn more about the tectonic activity and potential seismic hazards in the area. (Let’s hope the only rumblings I feel are those caused by the typical mild sea-sickness!)  The maps will also be used by marine biologists and resource managers to investigate and assess unique habitat zones.  Learn more the mission goals here.

My students and I have been checking in on the vessels live video feed periodically as the ship sails from Rhode Island to Puerto Rico, mapping along the way.  I will join the crew in Puerto Rico on the 14th to begin training before the vessel sets sail for the second leg of the mission on the 16th.  Throughout our journey, scientists will use the maps we generate to determine areas that require further investigation with the vessel’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) on the third leg of the mission.

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer with camera sled, Seirios, deployed and below that, IFE’s Little Hercules—a science-class ROV. Credit: Randy Canfield and NOAA.

My goal is to learn as much as I can on this expedition!  There is no better way to motivate students to become life-long learners and scientific thinkers than to show them how exciting real research can be.   Through the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, my students and I will have the rare opportunity to learn first-hand about the science and technology oceanographers use to study fascinating places in the ocean.   I will return to the classroom in April, equipped with lesson ideas and answers to questions about ocean research and careers! Thank you for following me on my journey.  Please post questions or comments.  I will do my best to address them in future posts (although communication aboard the vessel can be tenuous, I am told).  Here is my first question for you:

David Murk: Do You Know Your ABCs? May 14, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Murk
Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
May 7 – 22, 2014

Mission: EX 14-03 – Exploration, East Coast Mapping
Geographical Area of Cruise: Off the Coast of Florida and Georgia – Western portion of the Blake Plateau (Stetson Mesa)
Date: May 14, 2014

Weather data from Bridge:

We are sailing south and are at 28.55 degrees  North, 79.44 degrees  West

Wind: 23 knots out of the southeast.
Visibility: 10 miles
Water Depth in feet: 653 feet
Temperature: 27 degrees Celsius  – both sea and air temp. are 80 degrees!

Our location can also be found at:  (http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/).

Science and Technolgy Log:

DO YOU KNOW YOUR ABCs?

Can you understand this sentence?

“During a watch change, the XO checked the AIS then handed control over to the  CO.  When contacted by the mapping room regarding the XBT launch and CTD termination check, the CO said,“Roger that”.  

After reading this- you’ll have a better idea what some of these acronyms mean and how we use them on the Okeanos Explorer. In other words, you’ll be able to say- “roger that” to show you understand and agree.

Let’s start with the XO and CO  –  They are easy and make sense.

CO – The Commanding Officer – He or she is responsible for everything on the ship. (see Personal Log for more information on Commander Ramos of the Okeanos Explorer)

XO – The Executive Officer – Reports to the Commanding Officer and is second in command.

AIS –What is it and why do we need it?

Okeanos Explorer AIS screen
Okeanos Explorer AIS screen

Automatic Identification System.  The Okeanos Explorer has an electronic chart display that includes a symbol for every ship within radio range.  Each ship “symbol” tells Commander Ramos the name of the ship, the actual size of the ship, where that ship is going, how fast it’s going, when or if it will cross our path, and a lot of other information just by “clicking” on a ship symbol!  Here is a link to get more information on AIS.  I also took a picture of the Okeanos Explorer AIS screen and below that there’s the actual picture of our closest neighbor,  the ship named “Joanna”(look closely on the horizon) .  If the CO feels like the ship is going to need to change course, he will inform the scientists in the mapping room right away.  Safety and science RULE!

Explanation of AIS

Our closest neighbor,  the ship named “Joanna”(look closely on the horizon).
Our closest neighbor, the ship named “Joanna”(look closely on the horizon).

XBT- What is it and why do we need one?

Sam Grosenick, mapping intern, launches the XBT.
Sam Grosenick, mapping intern, launches the XBT.

Every two or three hours the mapping team calls the bridge (the driver seat of the ship) and asks permission to launch an XBT – which is short for an eXpendable BathyThermograph.   That’s a heavy weighted probe that is dropped from a ship and allows us to measure the temperature as it falls through the water. WHY do we need to measure the temperature of the water if we are using sonar?  Sound waves travel at different speeds in different temperature water, just like they travel at different speeds in cold air than warm air.  So they need to know the temperature of the water to help calculate how fast the sound or ping that the ship’s sonar sends out so they can map the bottom of the ocean.  A very thin wire sends the temperature data to the ship where the mapping team records it.  There is more information about XBT’s here:

explanation of XBT

NOAA’s network of XBT data

CTD – What is it and why do we need one?

Chief Electronics Technician Richard Conway and Chief Boatswain Tyler Sheff prepare for a dawn launch of the CTD
Chief Electronics Technician Richard Conway and Chief Boatswain Tyler Sheff prepare for a dawn launch of the CTD

Many oceanographic missions use CTD’s.  The Okeanos Explorer is no exception.  CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth, and refers to the electronic instruments that measure these properties. The grey cylinders are water sampling bottles and the big white frame protects everything.   WHY do scientists need CTD’s? Scientists use a CTD to measure the chemistry of the Ocean from surface to bottom.  The CTD can go down to near the bottom and the cylinders close when the scientist on board ship pushes a key on the computer and close so that a water sample is captured at that depth.  It’s a lot easier than swimming down there and opening up a jar and closing it.

WHY do they want to know about conductivity? Why do they care how much electricity can go through the water?   If the water can conduct more electricity, then it has a higher salinity, i.e. more salt.   That helps the scientists know the density of the water at that depth and can help inform them of the biology and ocean currents of that area.

It’s a CTD, not a railing! (picture taken by Kalina Grabb)
It’s a CTD, not a railing! (picture taken by Kalina Grabb)

Close-up of CTD
Close-up of CTD

More info on a CTD from NOAA

CTD vertical cast

 

Personal Log 

Commander Ramos at the helm
Commander Ramos at the helm

As I mentioned in last blog, everyone plays a part on the Okeanos Explorer.  The CO plays a big part in making sure the scientists achieve their goals.  The man in charge- Commander Ricardo Ramos answered a few of my questions last night  in his office in the forward part of the ship.

When I say Oregon Trail, fifth graders usually think of covered wagons.  I doubt that they think of a family of immigrants from Mexico deciding to leave family and friends in sunny Los Angeles and hit the trail north to rainy Oregon. But the devastating riots in Watts in the 1960s caused Commander Ricardo Ramos’s parents to do exactly that. There were some adjustments to be made to life in tiny Klamath Falls, Oregon but his parents, 3 brothers and sister were up to the challenge of no family support and a new community.  The family worked for Weyerhaeuser and Commander Ramos knew he did not want to work in the plant the rest of his life.  It was never IF he’d go to college, but “WHERE”.  He was the second of the five children to attend college, earning 2 Associates degrees and a degree in Electrical Engineering.   After entering NOAA and gaining his masters from Averett University, he spent time on various NOAA ships and in other capacities.  He is also a graduate of Harvard’s Senior Executive Fellows program.

He had a couple words of advice for elementary school students.  First, take advantage of all learning opportunities, for you will never know when you might need the knowledge you will gain.  Second, that communication, both written and oral,  is probably the most important part of his job.  He is not afraid of getting input and editing of his writing for the job.  His greatest reward is realizing that he is charge of a tremendous asset of the United States that provides a platform for scientist to explore our vast oceans.

 

Did You Know? 

My ship – The Okeanos Explorer is about  70 meters - the length of the top of the  arch on the Eiffel Tower!
My ship – The Okeanos Explorer is about 70 meters – the length of the top of the arch on the Eiffel Tower!

Displacement – When you think displacement, you probably think of a quick definition like “moved aside” that we learned when we made aluminum foil boats.  When you get in a kiddie pool, bathtub or any body of water, you move aside water. If you measure the weight or amount of water that you move aside, that is your displacement.  The Okeanos Explorer moves aside a lot of water – more than 2,500 TONS of water.  That’s about 700,000- gallons of water that gets displaced.  The ship is 224 feet long and 43 feet wide in its widest part.  Now, I don’t know about you – but I start thinking about the really big ships and tankers that we see passing by the Okeanos Explorer on the radar (their ‘deets’ are given to us by the AIS system – See the Section on ABC’s for an explanation of AIS) Well, there was a ship called “The Knock Nevis” and it was 1500 feet long!  Did it displace water?  You bet!. 650,000 tons of water when fully loaded! (use a ton of water = gallon converter on google to figure out how many gallons that is). Let’s just say that it’s a lot more than our little MUFFIN – the winner of the Coon Creek Boat Race.

MUFFIN, the boat race “WINNER” and Mr. Murk on the high seas. (picture taken by Sam Grosenick)
MUFFIN, the boat race “WINNER” and Mr. Murk on the high seas.
(picture taken by Sam Grosenick)

Dave Murk: Three 2’s From the Okeanos Explorer, May 10, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Murk
Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer
May 7 – 22, 2014

Mission: EX 14-03 – Exploration, East Coast Mapping
Geographical Area of Cruise: Off the Coast of Florida and Georgia – Western portion of the Blake Plateau (Stetson Mesa)
Date: May 10, 2014

Weather data from Bridge:
Temperature 25 degrees celsius (can you convert to Fahrenheit?)
WInd – From 160 degrees at 14 knots (remember north is 0 degrees)
Latitude : 28 degrees  – Longitude: 79 degrees.

 

Science and Technolgy Log:

Two of the goals for this expedition. (There are a lot more)

Expedition coordinator Derek Sowers said his best case scenario for this mission is to meet all the cruise objectives. The main one- an aggressive 24/7 campaign to map as much seafloor as possible within top priority mapping areas offshore of the Southeast United States and along the canyons at the edge of the Atlantic continental shelf.

L – R – Chief Scientist Derek Sowers, Vanessa Self-Miller, Kalina Grabb

In addition to that mapping goal, he wants the visiting fisheries scientist on board to get good water samples for the Ocean Acidification Program and good samples from the plankton tows. Last but not least, he “wants the mission team to have a great learning experience.”

The ship has three different sonars, each of which is good for different things. One sonar sends out a single beam of sound that lets you see fish and other creatures in the water column. Another sonar sends powerful sounds that bounce back off the bottom and gives you information about the geology (rocks and sediment) of the seafloor. Perhaps the most impressive sonar onboard is the multi-beam sonar. You know how your garden hose has a setting for jet spray when you want to aim it at your brother who is 10 feet away? The water comes out in a straight narrow line. But there’s also another setting called ‘shower” or wide spray. The multibeam sonar is like combining the best of both of these sprays into one and sends out a fan of sound that allows the scientists to map a broad section of the seafloor. By measuring how long it takes this sound to reach a patch of seafloor and return to the ship, it is possible to estimate the distance and that is how the shape of the seafloor can be mapped. Using this technology enables NOAA to map the seascape in order to better protect marine habitat and reduce harm from human activities. Mapping the marine protected areas off the east coast of Florida and Georgia is important because there are deep sea corals in this area and it is important fisheries habitat.

Chris Taylor – NOAA Fisheries

This cruise features a visiting scientist from NOAA Fisheries, named Chris Taylor. Chris’s part of the expedition includes collecting water samples and towing a net that can collect very small creatures called plankton. Chris is specifically examining the plankton he catches to see if bluefin tuna use this part of the ocean to lay eggs and raise young tuna. Samples from the net will go back to a lab to be analyzed to make sure they are bluefin and not yellowfin tuna.

Chris spent most of this windy but warm night tying a rope to the net that he’ll use for HOPEFULLY – catching some baby Bluefin Tunas. Like insects, Bluefin tuna go through an egg stage THEN a larva stage. When they are very small they drift with the currents with the rest of the ocean community. Once a larva is over 7 millimeters, they can avoid the net. But If we find some Bluefin tuna – it may mean that we have found a new spawning ground for Bluefin tuna in the southern North Atlantic.

Personal Log:

Lt. Emily Rose instructs AB Tepper-Rasmussen in radar navigation techniques.

Two people who make this ship run so well:The operations officer – Lieutenant Emily Rose. Officer Rose can usually be found on the bridge of the NOAA ship Okeanos Explorer. Today she was teaching a course on small craft navigation before I caught up with her. The thing she really loves about this position is that there are new set of challenges each day. She is always learning (and I’ll add that she is almost always sharing that knowledge with others) but the ship is her first responsibility. The most difficult thing is getting up every morning before 3:00 a.m. and being away from everyone back home.

 

 

Electronics Technicians Conway and Okeson

Chief Electronics Technician Richard Conway and Electronics Technician Will Okeson are the Tech guys and they are always busy. Since Okeanos Explorer is America’s premier ocean exploration ship, there are a lot of computers, miles of cable and lots of video equipment to maintain. Richard and Will’s favorite part of the job is when all the parts work together and the public can see their product and when they can trouble shoot and help the science team reach their objectives. The most difficult thing it so be away from families when there is a crisis or joyous moment.

Two things about my personal experiences so far on EX-14-03 (our mission)

Using photometer to monitor aerosol properties. (photo taken by Mapping Intern Kalina Grabb
Using photometer to monitor aerosol properties. (photo taken by Mapping Intern Kalina Grabb

First – – “SCIENCE RULES” to quote Bill Nye. Every Okeanos Explorer crew member and scientific crew member are all about the science of the mission. When one of the science crew is going to launch something called an XBT over the side, they call and get an OK from the bridge (where the captain or second in command and the crew that are on “watch” are located). No one hesitates to ask questions of each other. Why is this? What is that? Where is the nearest ship? What’s for lunch? (just kidding ! Chief Steward Randy posts a menu every day and it beats out Golden Corral any day of the week for tastiness and diversity). But the important thing of the mission is the science and every single person on the ship works to make the mission a success.

Second – RESPECT – There is so much respect shown on the Okeanos Explorer. It’s respect for other people, for the ship, for the environment, for rules and for commons spaces.  Yesterday while on the bridge, Ensign Nick Pawlenko was taking over from Commander Ramos and they both showed such respect for rules and for each other by going over all the observations of the ship’s speed, the weather conditions and whether there were any other ships in the area.  When breakfast was over – I saw Operations Officer Rose stick her head in the galley (kitchen) and thank Chief Cook Ray and Chief Steward Randy for a great meal. No one slams doors since it might wake the crew and scientists who are on night duty. Everyone cleans up after themselves. If you ever have a question and if the crew or scientists can answer it, they will. There is respect for the environment when we separate our garbage each meal.   If only the whole world was like the Okeanos.

 

MYSTERY PICTURE – Here are two photos – what’s different about them? And WHY?? That’s the million dollar question (or an even better prize –bluefin tuna larva in our trawl nets )

IN the mess (dining area)

(see anything different?)
(see anything different?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Deborah Campbell: May 21st, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Deborah Campbell
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
May 14 – May 24, 2012

Mission:  Collecting Zebra Arc Shells and Multibeam Mapping
Geographical Area:  Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Date: Monday, May 21, 2012

Teacher on land, Deborah Campbell, on Atlantic Beach near Mayport Navel Base in Florida.

Mission: Multibeam Mapping, Arc shell collections, Marine debris monitering, Fish telemetry, Acoustic receiver deployment/ maintenance

Weather Data from the Bridge: Monitoring Tropical Storm “Alberto”

Science and Technology Log

I am currently a “Teacher on Land”.  Tropical storm “Alberto” has forced our ship to dock in Florida.  I found out Saturday evening around 7:30 in the evening about the storm.  The CO (commanding officer) held a meeting in the mess deck (eating area) to inform all crew about the change in plans.  We were informed that we were heading to Florida to get away from the storm.  The plan would be to arrive in Florida at the Mayport Naval Base at 8:00 a.m. Sunday morning.  If the storm stayed on track as predicted we would leave Florida on Monday at 5:00 p.m.

A tropical storm causes high winds ranging from 33 – 73 miles per hour, and very high waves.  There is a weather buoy located by Gray’s Reef tracking weather conditions.  The Nancy Foster is docked at Mayport Naval Base near Jacksonville, Florida.  Another NOAA ship, Okeanos  Explorer, is docked behind us. Okeanos Explorer was headed north to Rhode Island which is their home base , when they had to turn around. What is really cool about Okeanos is that it has a giant soccer ball which is their satellite system.

CO Holly Jablonski on bridge of NOAA Ship Nancy Foster

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

On the bridge of the ship, the CO (commanding officer), and her crew use the ship’s computers to monitor radar, weather, navigation, and water depth.  The ship is equipped with GPS (global positioning system).  GPS is a space-based satellite navigation system that provides location and time information.  In all weather, anywhere on or near the Earth, where there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites, weather can be tracked.  The GPS system is maintained by the United States government, and can be accessed by anyone using a GPS receiver.

Personal Log

Deborah Campbell, Teacher At Sea standing on top of submarine from Brazil at Mayport Navel Base in Florida

The view of Mayport Naval Base is amazing.  This base is like a city having everything imaginable.  There is a bowling alley, a hotel, stores, restaurants, a beach, a gym, and much more.  Yesterday, we went outside the guarded gates to the beach area.  We ate at a nice restaurant.  I am now having trouble walking on land.  It feels like I am still on the ship.  Today, I walked outside the gates where the ships are to go get some pizza for lunch.  I had to show the armed Navy guards my I.D.  We walked quite a distance.  We stopped at the base exchange to buy some magazines and snacks.  On the way back, I stopped where the submarine Tikuna, from Brazil is docked.  I got to climb on top of the sub.  It was very cool.  Some of our crew from the Nancy Foster went down a very steep ladder into the sub.  We are expecting to resume activities at Gray’s Reef on Tuesday.  We are heading back around eight this evening.  Okeanos Explorer left at ten this morning, and they are reporting rough seas as they head back to Rhode Island.  The crew will continue to monitor weather conditions….

Bridge deck computer systems aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster.

LT Josh Slater entering submarine Tikuna