David Tourtellot: A Musical Perspective of Sonar, July 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Tourtellot

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 9-26, 2018

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey – Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 24th, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29°09.1270’N

Longitude: 093°46.5544’W

Visibility: 5 Nautical Miles

Sky Condition: 8/8

Wind: Direction: 70.1°, Speed: 13.3 knots

Temperature:

Seawater: 29.24°C

Air: Dry bulb:26.9°C          Wet bulb: 24.7°C

 

Science and Technology Log

Coming to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, I was eager to learn all I could about sonar. I am amazed that we have the ability to explore the ocean floor using sound.

uncharted wreck
An uncharted wreck discovered by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

Over the course of my previous blog entries, I have described the tools and processes used to survey using sonar. This time, I am going to try to frame the sounds that the sonars are using in a musical context, in the hope that doing so will help students (and myself) better understand the underlying concepts.

Note – many aspects of music are not standardized. For the purpose of this blog post, all musical tuning will be in equal temperament, at A=440. When I reference the range of a piano, I will be referencing a standard 88-key instrument. Many of the sonar frequencies do not correspond exactly to an in-tune pitch, so they have been written to the nearest pitch, with a comment regarding if the true frequency is higher or lower than the one written.

In sonar and in music, when considering soundwaves it is important to know their frequency, a measure of how many waves occur over the course of a set period of time. Frequency is measured in a unit called Hertz (abbreviated as Hz), which measures how many soundwaves occur in one second. One Hertz is equal to one soundwave per second. For example, if you heard a sound with a frequency of 100Hz, your ears would be detecting 100 soundwaves every second. Musicians also are concerned with frequency, but will use another name for it: pitch. These words are synonymous – sounds that are higher in pitch are higher in frequency, and sounds that are lower in pitch are lower in frequency.

Below are the eight octaves of the note A that are found on a piano, each labeled with their frequency. The notes’ frequencies have an exponential relationship – as you move from low to high by octave, each note has a frequency that is double that of its predecessor.

Piano As with frequencies
The frequency of each A on a piano

The highest note on a piano, C, has a frequency of 4186.01Hz

Highest Note on a piano
The frequency of the highest note on a piano

Average, healthy young humans hear sounds ranging from 20Hz to 20,000Hz. All sounds outside of that range are inaudible to people, but otherwise no different from sounds that fall within the human range of hearing. The highest note we would be able to hear would be an E♭, at a frequency of 19,912.16Hz (a frequency of exactly 20,000Hz would fall in between E♭ and E♮, though would be closer to E♭). If put on a musical staff, it would look like this:

High Eb 19kHz
The frequency of the highest note in the human range of hearing

The hull of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is equipped with several sonar transmitters and receivers, which can operate at a wide variety of frequencies.

TJ Sonar
The hull of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, with several sonars. Note that the projectors that transmit lower frequencies are larger than the ones that transmit higher frequencies. This is similar to musical instruments – instruments that make lower sounds, like the tuba or the double bass, are larger than instruments that make higher sounds, like the trumpet or the violin

Higher frequencies provide higher resolution returns for the sonar, but they dissipate more quickly as they travel through water than lower frequencies do. Surveyors assess the depth of the water they are surveying, and choose the frequency that will give them the best return based on their conditions. Most of the sonar frequencies are too high for humans to hear. The ship’s multi-beam echo sounder has a variable frequency range of 200,000Hz-400,000Hz, though as I’ve been on board they’ve been scanning with it at 300,000Hz. Likewise, the multi-beam sonars on the launches have also been running at 300,000Hz. The ship has a sub-bottom profiler, which is a sonar used for surveying beneath the seafloor. It operates at a frequency of 12,000Hz, and has the distinction of being the only sonar on the ship that is audible to humans, however, we have not had a need to use it during my time aboard the Thomas Jefferson.

The ship’s side scan towfish (which I described in my previous blog entry) operates at 455,000Hz.

Here, we can see what those frequencies would look like if they were to be put on a musical staff.

Assorted Sonars and reference pitches
The frequencies of sonar, with reference pitches

Altering the frequency isn’t the only way to affect the quality of the reading which the sonar is getting. Surveyors can also change the pulse of the sonar. The pulse is the duration of the ping. To think about it in musical terms, changing the pulse would be akin to switching from playing quarter notes to playing half notes, while keeping the tempo and pitch the same. Different sonar pulses yield different readings. Shorter pulses provide higher resolution, but like higher frequency pings, dissipate faster in water, whereas longer pulses provide lower resolution, but can reach greater depths.

Personal Log

Mariners have a reputation for being a rather superstitious bunch, so I decided to ask around to see if that held true for the crew of the Thomas Jefferson. Overall, I found that most didn’t strictly adhere to any, but they were happy to share some of their favorites.

Everyone I spoke to told me that it is considered bad luck to leave port on a Friday, though the Commanding Officer, CDR Chris van Westendorp, assured me that you could counteract that bad luck by making three 360° turns to the left as soon as the ship is able. Many on the crew are also avid fishermen, and told me that bringing bananas aboard would lead to a bad catch, and one went so far as to be mistrustful of yellow lighters as well.

Certain tattoos are said to bring good luck – I was told that sailors often have a chicken and a pig tattooed on their feet. According to custom, those animals were often stored in wooden crates that would float if a ship went down, and having them tattooed onto you would afford you the same benefit. When asked if he was superstitious one of our helmsmen Jim proudly showed me a tattoo he has of a dolphin. He explained that having a sea creature tattooed on your body would prevent drowning. “It works!” he said with a grin, “I’ve never drowned!”

Several maritime superstitions deal with foul weather. Umbrellas are said to cause bad weather, as is split pea soup. Whistling while on the bridge is said to “whistle in the winds.” While not a superstition per se, many crew members told me variations of the same meteorological mantra: Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailors take warning.

One of the NOAA Corps Officers aboard, ENS Garrison Grant, knew several old superstitions related to shipbuilding. When laying the keel (the first piece of the ship to be put into place), shipbuilders would scatter evergreen boughs and tie red ribbons around it to ward off witches. Historically, having women aboard was considered bad luck, though, conversely it was said that if they showed their bare breasts to a storm, it would subside. This is why several ancient ships had topless women carved into the masthead. Legend has it that in order to assure that a ship would float, when it was ready to be launched for the first time, virgins would be tied to the rails that guided the ship from the ship yard into the water. The weight of the ship would crush them, and their blood would act as a lubricant, allowing the ship to slide into the water for the first time. Yikes! Thankfully, as society became more civilized, this practice evolved into the custom of breaking a bottle of champagne against a ship’s bow!

Did you know? Musical instruments play an important role in ship safety! In accordance with maritime law, ships will use auditory cues to make other vessels aware of their presence in heavy fog. For large ships, this includes the ringing of a gong at regular intervals.

Latest Highlight: During this week’s fire drill, I got to try the fire hose. It was very powerful and a lot of fun!

David Tourtellot during a fire drill
David Tourtellot during a fire drill

David Tourtellot: Draggin’ The Line, July 21st, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Tourtellot

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 9-26, 2018

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey – Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 21st, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29° 11.6357’ N

Longitude: 093° 55.9746’W

Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles

Sky Condition: 6/8

Wind: Direction: 224°    Speed: 8.5 knots

Temperature:

Seawater: 30.4°C

Air: Dry bulb:31.5°C          Wet bulb: 28.5°C

 

Science and Technology Log

In my previous post, I discussed the ship’s sonar. This time, I’ll go into more detail about the tools the Thomas Jefferson is using to complete its mission. The sonar that the ship uses is multi-beam echosounder sonar, which sends the pings down to the seafloor and receives echoes in a fan shape, allowing the ship to survey a wide swath beneath the ship.

Multibeam Sonar
An illustration of a ship using multi-beam sonar. Image courtesy of NOAA

In addition to the multi-beam sonar, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson utilizes two towfish, or devices that are towed in the water behind the ship.

The first is the side scan sonar. Like the multi-beam, this device uses pings of soundwaves to create images of its surroundings. However unlike the multi-beam, the side scan doesn’t capture any data from the area underneath it. Instead, it collects data to its sides.  The side scan is connected to the ship via a cable, and is dragged through the water 6-15 meters above the seafloor. It is great for measuring the intensity of the return of the ping, which provides insights into the makeup of the seafloor.

The side scan towfish
The side scan towfish

The second towfish that the Thomas Jefferson is using is the MVP (like many things on the ship, MVP is an acronym, for Moving Vessel Profiler). The MVP truly gives the ship some of its most valuable data. As I discussed in my previous blog post, in order for us to accurately calculate the distance that the sonar’s pings are traveling, we need to know the amount of time it takes them to travel, as well as the velocity, or the speed, at which they’re moving. The singarounds I mentioned in my last post measure sound velocity, but only at the face of the sonar. Water conditions are not uniform – at the surface, water tends to be warmer, with less salinity. As you get deeper, however, the water tends to be colder and saltier. This means that the velocity of sound changes the deeper you get. Most of the time, the MVP rides just under the surface of the water, but periodically it will get cast down, to approximately 1 meter above the seafloor. It measures the water conditions of the entire water column from the surface to the seafloor, allowing us to calculate sound velocity all the way down.

MVP
The MVP towfish as it is being lowered into the water

The MVP measures the same water qualities as the CTD (a device I discussed in an earlier blog post), however, the MVP has a distinct advantage over the CTD. In order to use a CTD, the ship has to come to a stop while the CTD is lowered into the water. The MVP, however, can be used while the ship is in motion, which greatly increases productivity.

When surveying, many on the crew say it’s like mowing the lawn. The ship will capture a long stretch of data, called a line, and then turn around, and capture another stretch. 4% of these lines are cross lines, which run perpendicular, across a wide swath of lines of captured data. Cross lines allow the survey department to double check that the data they’ve captured is accurate.

Mowing the Lawn
A display of the lines of survey data the ship has captured. Cross lines can be seen running perpendicular to the majority.

 

Personal Log

TJ Bridge Daylight
The bridge of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in the daylight

A couple of days ago, I went up to the bridge shortly after sunset, and I was surprised what I saw. All the lights were off, and the screens of the various instruments had been covered by red filters. I was told that this is for maintaining night vision when on watch. Red light interferes least with our night vision, so anything that gives off light is switched to red.

Bridge at night
The bridge of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson at night

While on the bridge, I had the opportunity to ask ENS Garrison Grant (who had recently been selected for a promotion to Lieutenant Junior Grade – congratulations Garrison!) a little about the NOAA Corps. I must admit that I was largely unfamiliar with them before joining the Thomas Jefferson.

The NOAA Corps as we know it today began in 1970, though its roots are much older. As president, Thomas Jefferson (for whom NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is named) created the United States Survey of the Coast, which would later evolve into the United States Coast & Geodetic Survey. Their early operations were not unlike the survey work that NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is doing today, though their tools were more primitive: surveyors wanting to determine the depths of America’s bodies of water didn’t have the benefit of sonar, and instead used lead lines – lead weights tied to the end of ropes. These surveyors would also play a vital role in our military history. They would often assist artillery, and survey battlefields. This is what led to the United States Coast & Geodetic Survey (and later, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) to gain a commissioned uniformed service. Due to the rules of war, captured uniformed service members could not be tried as spies.

To join the NOAA Corps today, you need to first have a bachelor’s degree. ENS Grant received his degree from Stockton University in Marine Sciences, but he says that it isn’t a requirement that the degree be in a maritime field. He says that some of his classmates had degrees in fields such as English or Communications. After getting a degree, you then apply to join the NOAA Corps (anyone interested should check out this website: https://www.omao.noaa.gov/learn/noaa-corps/join/applying). If selected, you would then complete the Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC), which generally takes about 6 months. After that, you’d be given your first assignment.

 

Did you know? Before NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson was operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, it belonged to the U.S. Navy and was known as the U.S.N.S. Littlehales

David Tourtellot: The Speed of Sound, July 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Tourtellot

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 9-26, 2018

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey – Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 15th, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 28° 49.4115’N

Longitude: 93° 37.4893’W

Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles

Sky Condition: 4/8

Wind: Direction: 240°, Speed: 7 knots

Temperature:

Seawater: 31.7°C

Air: Dry bulb:31.5°C          Wet bulb: 27.5°C

 

Science and Technology Log

 

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is well underway in its mission of surveying the seafloor. The primary tool that the ship (as well as its 2 Hydrographic Survey Launches) is using to accomplish this task is sonar. Sonar was originally an acronym for SOund Navigation And Ranging. If you are familiar with echolocation – the system that some animals (such as bats and dolphins) use to navigate their surroundings – then you already have a basic understanding of how sonar works. The sonar transmits a short sound (called a ping) that will travel down, away from the ship, until it hits the seafloor. At this point, it will reflect off of the sea floor, and echo back up to the ship, where it is detected by the sonar’s receiver. The crew aboard are then able to calculate the depth of the water.

To make the necessary calculations, there are 3 variables at play: the time that it takes for the ping to travel; the distance that the ping travels; and the velocity, or the speed, at which the ping moves through the water. If we know two of those variables, it is easy to calculate the third.

When using sonar to determine the depth of the water, distance is the unknown variable – that’s what we’re ultimately trying to figure out. To do so, we need to know the other two variables. Time is an easy variable for the sonar to measure. The sonar has a transmitter, which generates the ping, and a receiver, which hears it. These two components communicate with one another to give us an accurate measure of time. The third variable, velocity, is a bit trickier.

In saltwater, sound travels approximately 1500 meters per second. However, that rate can vary slightly based on water conditions such as temperature and salinity (how salty the water is). In order for sonar to get as accurate a reading as possible, it needs to calculate the precise speed of sound for the particular water it is in at the moment. The sonar is able to do that by using a component called a sound velocity sensor, known colloquially as a singaround.

Sonar 1 Singaround
The sonar on the hull of one of the Hydrographic Survey Launches. The orange rectangles are the projector (or, the transmitter) and the receiver, and the component in the green circle is the singaround

A singaround looks like a bar with a nub on each end. One nub is a projector, and the other is a reflector. The projector broadcasts a ping that travels parallel to the hull of the ship, bounces off of the reflector, and returns to the projector. We use that information to calculate velocity. The calculation uses the same 3 variables as above (time, distance, and velocity), but this time, distance isn’t the unknown variable anymore – we know exactly how far the ping has traveled, because we know how far the projector and reflector are from one another. The singaround electronically measures how long it takes for the ping to travel, and since we now know two of the variables (distance and time) we can calculate the third (velocity) for our particular water conditions at the face of the sonar.

Sound travels roughly 4 times faster in water than it does in air (this is because water is denser than air). To ensure that the sonar gets an accurate reading, it is important that air bubbles don’t get in the way. The boat’s hull (bottom) has a triangular metal plate directly in front of the sonar, which routes air bubbles around to the side of the sonar.

Sonar 2
The hull of one of the Hydrographic Survey Launches.

 

Personal Log

Each day, the ship’s CO (Commanding Officer) publishes a POD, or Plan Of the Day. This is full of important information – it tells us what the ship will be doing; if/when we will deploy the launch boats, and who will be on them; what time meals will be; and the expected weather conditions. Below is an example from Friday, July 13th.

Plan of the Day
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson Plan of the Day for Friday, July 13, 2018

On Friday, I had the opportunity to go out on one of the Hydrographic Survey Launches. Because of their smaller size, the launch boats are great for surveying difficult to maneuver areas. For instance, we spent most of the day surveying an area near an oil rig, and were able to get much closer than the Thomas Jefferson could.

Mike Below Deck
Survey Tech Mike Hewlett collecting and analyzing survey data aboard a launch boat
Oil Rig and Boat
An oil rig and a supply vessel

I’ve been very impressed by how multi-talented everyone on the ship seems to be. In addition to analyzing data, the ship’s survey techs can also be found handling lines as the survey boats are launched and recovered, and do a lot of troubleshooting of the hardware and software they’re using. The coxswains (people who drive small boats) double as engineers, fixing issues on the launch vessels when away from the ship. I’m surrounded by some very gifted people!

Fixing the AC
Coxswain Francine Grains and Survey Tech Brennan Walters fixing the air conditioner on one of the launch boats that had stopped working unexpectedly. They had it up and running in no time

Did you know?: As president, Thomas Jefferson ordered the first survey of the coastline of the United States. Because of this, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is named for him. 

Latest Highlight: While surveying, we spotted a water spout in the distance. A water spout is a tornado that forms over water. Luckily, we were a safe distance away. It was an amazing sight to see!

 

Brandy Hill: First Leg (hopefully not the last!) at Sea Complete: July 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 – July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 12, 2018

 

Personal Conclusion

It was wonderfully impressive listening to ENS Jacquelyn Putnam’s orders to the Bridge while docking the ship. She and Lt. Klemm stood just outside the doors to the Bridge with a clear view of the dock at Pier 21. As she called out orders, the Bridge team would respond by making adjustments to the rudder, speed, or direction. I hadn’t realized how much of a team effort docking the ship would be. It was like parallel parking a car in busy downtown Portland on a much larger scale.

FishingVessel.jpg
We arrived at Pier 21 in Galveston, Texas early Friday morning on July 6th. There were several fishing vessels flocked with birds. Sometimes you could see dolphin fins peeking up through the water around the boat.

After we were safely docked, all shipmates met in the mess where CDR Chris van Westendorp gave a speech of recognition and appreciation for his crew. These last couple legs at sea are especially meaningful for CO as they symbolize a transition of many years at sea to an upcoming land assignment. There were also several people taking much-deserved leave, or moving onto other job assignments.

 

 

SunsetBow.jpg
Sunset from the bow during my two weeks aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson.

I am so grateful to have been able to participate as a teacher at sea on the Thomas Jefferson. I knew it would be a learning experience, but I didn’t realize how impactful my relationships and interactions with the crew would be. There is something truly inspirational about being around a well-functioning team of people serving a meaningful purpose. People are excited to work for NOAA and to be a part of a higher scientific mission.

I also hadn’t realized the direct relationship between hydrographic surveys and hurricane relief. After a hurricane, the sea floor can shift and change/block major pathways for delivering supplies like oil and water. Last year, NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson responded to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico,  “NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson spent the last three weeks in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands surveying ports and bays in response to Hurricane Maria. Over the three week period, the crew surveyed 13 areas and no fewer than 18 individual port facilities, as well as conducted emergency repairs to three tide and weather stations.” (NOAA Office of Coast Survey, October 2017)

Looking towards next school year, I am excited to bring my experience into the classroom and provide students with meaningful learning opportunities. I am looking into using Citizen Science, ways of incorporating the Ocean Literacy Principles, and reaching out to have more diverse professionals interact with my classroom. One of my goals as a science and math teacher is to provide students with many opportunities to ask questions, explore, think critically, and be inspired to continue a lifelong journey of learning and growth.

My experience with NOAA and NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson will forever have an impact on my classroom and for that, I am extremely grateful.

RiceCrispieFlag.jpg
4th of July goodies made by ENS Sydney Catoire, Julia Wallace, and Kevin Brown.
BowlineKnot.png
I practiced my Bowline knots on the long trek home.

David Tourtellot: Out To Sea and Gathering Data, July 11, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Tourtellot

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 9-26, 2018

 

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey – Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 11, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 28° 51.29’N.

Longitude: 093° 44.54’W

Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles

Sky Condition: 6/8

Wind: Direction: 285°, Speed: 4 knots

Temperature:

Seawater: 30° C

Air: Dry bulb: 30.1°C  Wet bulb: 26.8°C

 

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is currently anchored in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 50 miles Southeast of Galveston, Texas. The ship is on a hydrographic mission, meaning it is in the process of mapping an approximately 1100 square nautical mile area in order to make updated nautical charts. These will be very useful for ships as they approach the Port of Houston, which is one of the busiest ports in the world.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson carries 2 smaller  survey vessels (also known as Hydrographic Survey Launches, or HSL’s) that assist in our research. These boats carry sonar systems (which I will go into greater detail about in a future blog post), as well as some other devices that are used to make various measurements. I was fortunate enough to be able to go out on one of these smaller boats as they collected a variety of data.

NSTJ and Smaller Boat
One of the small survey boats near NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

One device that is used is called a CTD. The name is an acronym, standing for conductivity, temperature, and depth. Conductivity refers to how well the water conducts electricity. That data can be used to determine the salinity of the seawater, or how salty it is. If a scientist knows the salinity and temperature of the water, they can determine the density of the seawater.

Kevin with CTD
Kevin Brown putting a CTD into the water

Additionally, the boats carry devices that collect samples of the sea floor. The makeup of the seafloor varies greatly from one location to another – some areas are sandy, while others are rocky or muddy. This information can give mariners a better idea of what the underwater habitat is like, and is some of the most sought after data that NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is collecting.

Bottom Sample July 10th
Mud collected from the sea floor

The bottom sample that we collected was mostly mud. In addition to recovering a physical sample, the crew is experimenting with taking a photo of the seafloor using a GoPro camera. When I was on board, they had successfully mounted the camera to the bottom sampler, but were unable to get a good image.

 

Personal Log

Thomas Jefferson in Galveston
Port side view of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson docked in Galveston, TX, where I got on board.

I arrived in Galveston, TX, on the morning of July 8th, which was a Sunday. I found the ship to be mostly empty, as most of the crew had gone into the city. I was greeted by ENS Garrison Grant, who gave me a tour of the ship. The ship left port on Monday afternoon, and it was fascinating watching the crew on the bridge navigate out into open water. The lanes going into Galveston and Houston were very busy with a wide variety of vessels – I saw everything from small fishing boats to huge container ships and cruise ships. Safe navigation requires clear communication and lots of attention to detail. I imagine that it could be quite stressful, but the bridge crew were all calm and professional.

Yesterday, we did two safety drills – the first was a fire drill, and the second was an abandon ship drill. The general principles of these drills are very similar to what we do at school – we make sure that every individual knows where they are supposed to be and what role they are supposed to play in an emergency situation. Hopefully we won’t need to put that knowledge to use, but practicing these procedures is essential to crew safety in the event of an emergency.

Me in survival suit
In the event that the crew needs to abandon ship, all of us will don survival suits before going to the life raft.

 

I’m delighted to say that I have found the crew to be very friendly and helpful – they’re very patient with me and good at explaining their complex systems in easy to understand terms, for which I am very grateful.

Before I left Missouri to join the ship, my friends, students, and colleagues asked me dozens of questions, but probably the most frequent one was about the living arrangements on board. I didn’t know what to expect, and I have found the stateroom I’ve been assigned to be quite pleasant. The room is equipped with a comfortable bunk bed, a small television, a refrigerator, and an en-suite bathroom. There are also a pair of desks and ample storage room.

Stateroom
The stateroom I am staying in while aboard the ship

Did you know?: When measuring the temperature of the air, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson uses both a dry bulb thermometer and a wet bulb thermometer. The difference between the two allows us to determine the relative humidity of the air.

Highlight of the Day: Yesterday, while aboard the small boat, I saw several dolphins playing in the water. I’ve never seen dolphins in person before, so it was really cool getting to watch them.

David Tourtellot: Introduction, July 5th, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Tourtellot

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 9-26, 2018

Mission:  Hydrographic Survey – Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 5, 2018

 

Personal Introduction: Greetings! My name is David Tourtellot, and in just a few days I will be joining the crew of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson as part of the Teacher At Sea program. I feel very fortunate having been chosen for this opportunity, and I couldn’t be more excited!

I received a degree in Music Education from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and I just finished my fifth year teaching 5th and 6th grade orchestra classes at 4 elementary schools in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. We had a great year making music together!

Tourtellot Headshot Close
David Tourtellot

I have long been fascinated by the field of acoustics, and I share that with my students. Not only do they learn the fundamentals of playing music, we also discuss how their instruments make sound, the properties that make one instrument sound different from another, and why our ensemble sounds different performing in one room than we do in another. Currently, NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is doing a hydrographic survey and is using sonar (which operates using sound waves) to detect what is underwater. I am very much looking forward to learning more about this, and helping my students to make deeper connections between science and the arts.

IMG_1734
At the National Weather Service Forecast Office in Pleasant Hill, Missouri

I’m also looking forward to spending time on the ship. I’ve lived my entire life in the Midwest, and can count the number of boats I’ve been on on one hand. This will certainly be a new experience!

Brandy Hill: Weather Reports and Rock Hunting, July 5, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 – July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 5, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 28° 53.4’ N

Longitude: 093° 44.6’ W

Visibility: 10+ NM

Sky Condition: 3/8 (Reminder: 3 out of 8 parts of the sky are covered with clouds.)

Wind: 6 kts

Temperature:

Sea Water: 29.1° C

Air: 27° C

 

Science and Technology Log

It is fitting to add a section on weather because tonight we are seeing a lightning storm! I can even hear the fog horn. During Bridge Watch, weather data is logged every hour around the clock. Every four hours, it is entered into a computer system. On most days, we are fortunate to get a weather report in various character voices over the intercom from ENS Krabiel.

DeckLogWeatherObs.jpg
This is the hourly weather log from June 26, 2018.

My favorite tools are the wind wheel, alidade, and relative humidity thermometers.

WindWheel.jpg
A somewhat complicated process allows one to find the true direction (opposed to relative) of the wind. Since the ship is not always traveling North, it is important to be able to calculate true wind direction. Officers typically use a reading on the computer to find true wind direction, but I thought it was a neat tool to try.
Alidade.jpg
The alidade is located outside of the Bridge. It is a sighting device used for measuring angles. It has been helpful with measuring the swell direction. ENS Krabiel mentioned that it is also useful for checking bearings when a ship is anchored. For example, a bearing (like to an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico) will change if the ship is drifting and/or dragging anchor.
RelativeHumidity.jpg
On the Weather Log, there is a place for “dry bulb” and “wet bulb.” This information is collected using two thermometers outside of the Bridge. The dry bulb is a typical thermometer, while the wet bulb has a small sock-like covering wicking up water from a tray. The closer the two temperature values, the higher relative humidity.

I have also sat in on a number of data processing evenings with the Survey Team. In one evening, roughly 50 GB of data from multibeam sonar only was processed. It is estimated that a total of 11 TB has been processed since April. Data processing begins around 7:30 pm and the survey team analyzes all information collected during the hours of 7am- 7pm. Staying on top of processing is important because of the massive amounts that accumulate, especially from side scan sonar.

Julia Wallace, physical scientist, showed me one aspect of processing multibeam sonar. She takes a file of data and runs a “flier finder” with a parameter of 0.5 meters (appropriate for the depth of sonar.) Essentially, the flier finder is marking any outliers that fall outside of this range. Julia then manually goes through and “hides” these points so that they do not contribute to the data set. This is important because when this data is used to mark bathymetry (sea floor depth) on nautical charts, it will somewhat randomly “grab” these false sounding set numbers and could land on one of the outliers, resulting in a false depth.

SonarPings.jpg
Every dot in this picture of raw data is a sonar ping returning to the multibeam echosounder. The number of pings depends on the sonar sounding frequency. For example, one could expect 300 pings per second when operating at a sounding frequency of 300 hz.

From what I have witnessed and gathered through multiple conversations with the team, the data collected by the Thomas Jefferson for NOAA charts is extremely accurate. For example, every pixel (or node) on the multibeam sonar grid represents no coarser than 1 square meter of the sea floor. This has changed from about 30 years ago where the ratio was 1 nodel: 5 square meters. In addition, many processes are doubled-up as a check for validity. This includes crosslines for checking main scheme data and operating two multibeam frequencies at the same time.

Backscatter.jpg
One of the benefits to running two frequencies of multibeam is the ability to create an overlapped average of the two backscatter signals (with a false color scheme.) This information helped inform Lt. Anthony Klemm and survey technician Kevin Brown determine eight unique sites varying in backscatter intensity for bottom sampling. (Remember: intensity is a measure of how strong the sonar ping returns, depicting varying sea floor substrate.

The use of this technology paid off! All eight sites sampled varied in texture and sediment size. Using this process of selectively choosing sites of interest based on “multispectral” backscatter intensity has replaced taking numerous random bottom samples using a grid. Again, this is a highly accurate and time-saving process. It was also interesting seeing the actual sea floor that we are mapping.

BottomSampleLocation.jpg
In the bottom right corner, Bottom Sample #1 site is selected.

 

 

 CHST Allison Stone manages the crane while Lt. Charles Wisotzsky directs the bottom sample claw and ENS Taylor Krabiel performs various substrate tests. 

TopView.BottomSamples.jpg
ENS Krabiel gives me a tutorial on bottom sampling. Krabiel enjoys creating short “Rock Hunting” clips for entertainment. His enthusiasm has made this trip a lot of fun.
BottomSampleShells.jpg
All of the eight bottom sample sites had a different composition. One in particular had a lot of rocks and shells. The rock in the upper right appears to have remnant tunicate casings.
BottomSampleNotes.jpg
Notes from survey sheet H13044, BS# 001 (Bottom Sample #1) state the grain size: silt, muddy, coarse, and some shell fragments.

A GoPro is located in a cage on the bottom sample claw. Video footage of the sea floor enables hydrographers to view the substrate and current ripples in the sand. ENS Krabiel wears the control on his wrist to activate the camera.

Personal Log

 I have enjoyed hearing the back-stories of the crew. For example, Allison Stone, Chief Survey Technician knew she wanted to be a part of NOAA when she was in 6th grade- the same age as my students. She remembers going to a parent career night at school and speaking with a presenter from NOAA. The presenter was enthusiastic about their job which inspired Allison to pursue a placement with NOAA. Although she envisioned counting marine animals and snorkeling daily, she is still passionate about her work in hydrography geoscience and speaks highly of NOAA outreach.

Field Operations Officer, Lt. Anthony Klemm started out wanting to do a public service and became a teacher. Later, he joined the NOAA Corps and after completing basic training got a job at the Marine Chart Division in Washington DC. It was during this time that he was given a lot of flexibility and time to create and test his own ideas and experiments. In his words, some of them flopped. However, one idea that has recently captured attention is the idea of “crowdsourcing” bathymetry. Collecting, processing, and submitting data for the official approval and update of NOAA nautical charts is a long process. It can take months for charts to be updated and available to the public. Crowdsourcing bathymetry is a way for the general public to gather and submit sonar data using simple devices like a “fish finder” that one might find on a recreational boat. These could serve as interim bathymetry data until the areas can officially be surveyed and charted. It’s also simple (users select a setting), and free.

Visit the NCEI/IHO Data Center for Digital Bathymetry  to view digital bathymetry data.

You can read more about this program at:

https://noaacoastsurvey.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/noaa-announces-launch-of-crowdsourced-bathymetry-database/

active captain shoaling hazard fl 2.PNG

CSB_Cape_Addington.PNG
This photo and thee above are snapshots of data collected using “crowdsourced” bathymetry.

Peaks

+ Participated in a simultaneous medical/fire drill.

MedicalDrill.jpg
“This is a drill, this is a drill. There has been a medical emergency on the starboard stairway of the bridge…” The person in this picture is only acting and not actually injured. The bridge had also simulated a fire which interfered with steering and communications.
MedicalDrill2.jpg
A debrief was held in the Mess after the drills.
FRBTest.jpg
This was a day for drills. The FRB (Fast Rescue Boat) was manually unloaded using a hand brake to simulate loss of power. Earlier in the day, the launch boat was manually loaded back onto the ship. Passengers (including myself) boarded the ship using a rope ladder.

 

 

Brandy Hill: How to Mow the Lawn and Needle Gunnin’, July 3, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 – July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 3, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29° 17.5’ N

Longitude: 094° 27.7’ W

Visibility: 10+ NM

Sky Condition: 3/8

Wind: 10 kts

Temperature:

Sea Water: 29.5° C

Air: 31.1° C

 

Science and Technology Log

Radar
The ship is equipped with AIS or automatic identification system. AIS is the primary method of collision avoidance for water transport. It provides unique identification, position, course, and speed of ships equipped with AIS. All vessels with 300 or more gross tonnage and all passenger ships must be equipped with AIS.

In the beginning, it took me a little while to realize that we were passing by some of the same oil platforms and seeing the same ships on the radar screen (above). For example, today the Thomas Jefferson covered many nautical miles within the same 2.5 NM area. This is characteristic of a hydrographic survey. A sheet (area to be surveyed) is split into sections and a plan is devised for the ship to cover (using sonar) the area in a “mow the lawn” approach. In the photo below, you can see the blue lines clustered together. These are the main scheme lines and provide the majority of data. The lines going perpendicular in a loose “zig-zag” to the main scheme lines are called crosslines. While main scheme provides the majority of sonar data, crosslines provide validation. For every 100 nautical miles of main scheme, 4 NM of cross lines (4%) must be completed.

CoastalExplorer
You can see the main scheme and cross lines in this image using the Coastal Explorer program.

You can also see the main scheme and crossline(s) in the Hypack viewer below. Hypack is a software program controlled from the Plot (Survey) Room and is duplicated on a screen on the Bridge (steering deck). This allows Bridge watch standers to see track lines and the desired line azimuth (direction). In this case the line azimuth is around 314°. Additionally, the bottom portion showing -0.0 means that the ship is precisely on track (no cross-track errors). Typically, during a survey from the main ship, there is room for up to 10 meters of error in either direction and the sonar data coverage will still be complete. Once the course is set, the ship can be driven in autopilot and manually steered when making a turn. The high-tech equipment allows the rudder to correct and maintain the desired course and minimize cross-track error. Still, at least two people are always on the bridge: an officer who makes the steering orders and maintains watch and a helmsman who steers the ship. I was fortunate to be able to make two cross line turns after a ship steering lesson from AB (able seaman) Tom Bascom who has been on ships his whole life.

HyPack
Hypack software is one point of communication between Survey and the Bridge Watch.
Communication between Survey and the Bridge Watch is critical. Every time the ship makes a turn, the side scan towfish and MVP must be taken in. The Bridge also notifies Survey if there are any hazards or reasons to pull in survey equipment.

At night, the ship is put into “night mode” and all lights are switched to red. The windows are covered with a protective tinted sheet and all computer screens switch over. The CO leaves a journal with posted Night Orders. These include important summary points from the day and things to look out for at night It also includes a reminder to complete hourly security rounds since most shipmates are asleep. A “Rules of the Road” section is included which serves as a daily quiz for officers. My favorite part of CO’s Night Orders are the riddles, but they are quite difficult and easy to over think. So far, I have guessed one out of five correctly.

Bridge Watch Night Vision
ENS Sydney Catoire explains how important it is to preserve your night vision while maintaining watch, thus the dimming and/or use of red lighting. Her favorite watch time is from 0800-1200.
CO Night Orders from June 28, 2018
CO Night Orders from June 28, 2018

With a lot of my time spent looking at computer screens in survey, I was happy to spend an afternoon outside with the Deck Crew. Their job is highly diverse. Rob Bayliss, boatswain group leader, explained that the crew is responsible for maintaining the deck and ship. This includes an ongoing battle with rust, priming, painting, and refinishing surfaces. Rob wiped his hand along the rail and showed the massive amount of salt crystals collected throughout the day. The crew has a PR event and will give public tours the day we arrive in port, so the ship is in full preparation!

Needle Gun
I was introduced to the needle gun- a high powered tool used for pounding paint and rust off surfaces to prepare them for the wire wheel and paint primer. CO thanked me for my contribution at maintaining the preservation of the TJ.
Revarnishing Deck Work
One of the Thomas Jefferson wooden plaques sanded and receiving a fresh coat of varnish.

I also spoke with Chief Boatswain, Bernard Pooser. He (along with many crew members) have extensive experience in the navy. Pooser enjoys life on the ship but says, “It’s not for everyone; you have to make it work for you.” He claims that the trick is to find a work and recreation balance while on the ship. He gave me some examples like being sure to take breaks and have fun. Pooser even pulled out a corn hole set that we may use one of these evenings.

Chief Boatswain Bernard Pooser
Chief Boatswain Bernard Pooser

 

Peaks

+ It’s been fun being on the bridge at night because all of the ships and platforms light up.

+ I was given my own stateroom which was nicely furnished by its usual occupant. She has even installed a hammock chair!

+I hadn’t realized how responsive the ship would be when steering. At 208 feet, I thought it would be a bit more delayed. The maximum turn angle is 35 degrees and we have usually been making turns around between 5-15 degrees.

+We saw two sea turtles and dolphins while taking bottom samples! (See future post.)

 

Brandy Hill: What Lies Beneath the Surface, July 1, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 –  July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: July 1, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 29° 10.1’ N

Longitude: 093° 54.5’ W

Visibility: 10+ NM

Sky Condition: 3/8

Wind: 16 kts

Temperature:

Sea Water: 29.4° C

Air: 27° C

 

Science and Technology Log

At this point I have been able to understand more of the sonar technology taking place during the survey aboard the Thomas Jefferson. The ship uses two types of sonar: multibeam and side scan. Both work together transmitting and receiving sound pulses to and from the ocean floor. This provides a multispectral analysis.

Julia Wallace, a physical scientist, works at the sonar acquisition station. This requires a large amount of multitasking as she communicates with the bridge (ship steering deck), watches the safety cameras, and makes sure both sonar devices are working correctly.
Julia Wallace, a physical scientist, works at the sonar acquisition station. This requires a large amount of multitasking as she communicates with the bridge (ship steering deck), watches the safety cameras, and makes sure both sonar devices are working correctly.

Multibeam sonar is located underneath the hull of the ship. Multibeam is used to detect bathymetry (the depth of the ocean floor). Multibeam backscatter (reflected wave energy) gives a reading of the surface intensity. For example, a strong signal would mean a harder surface like rock or pipeline. With multibeam sonar, you can also adjust the sound wave frequency. For example, high frequency (primarily used during this survey in the Gulf of Mexico) is used for shallower waters allowing for higher resolution images. Images from multibeam have a color gradient to allow for clear vision of contours and depth differences. One way surveyors aboard the TJ may use backscatter images is to determine areas where bottom sampling might be applicable.

A NOAA ship using mulitbeam sonar. (Courtesy of NOAA)
A NOAA ship using mulitbeam sonar. (Courtesy of NOAA)
Bathymetry acquired using multibeam echosounder layered over a nautical chart.  Blue and green wave lengths penetrate further in water, so the coloring corresponds to this observation. This poster is from a previous Thomas Jefferson hydrographic survey near Savannah, Georgia. (Prepared by CHST Allison Stone)
Bathymetry acquired using multibeam echosounder layered over a nautical chart.  Blue and green wave lengths penetrate further in water, so the coloring corresponds to this observation. This poster is from a previous Thomas Jefferson hydrographic survey near Savannah, Georgia. (Prepared by CHST Allison Stone)
3D bathymetry imagery from the Okeanos Explorer. (NOAA)
3D bathymetry imagery from the Okeanos Explorer. (NOAA)
A close-up view of multibeam data. The third window down shows multibeam backscatter.
A close-up view of multibeam data. The third window down shows multibeam backscatter.

The side scan sonar is used alongside multibeam to provide black and white scans of images. Like multibeam backscatter, side scan measures the intensity of the sound returning from the sea floor. For example, a side scan return with high intensity could indicate a difference in material like pipeline or a wreck. A low intensity value could mean that the side scan sonar waves have reached a muddy substrate. Julia used the analogy of a tennis ball being bounced against a wall of different materials. For example, the tennis ball hitting a concrete wall would bounce back with higher intensity than one being bounced against a soft wall. Side scan sonar is very effective at detecting features that protrude off the sea floor, and for shallow water surveys, typically can see farther and cover a greater area the sea floor than multibeam echosounders alone.

The side scan sonar sensor is located on a torpedo-shaped “towfish” and pulled behind the boat. When viewing side scan images, surveyors typically look for the acoustic shadow cast by a feature protruding off the sea floor. By measuring the length of the acoustic shadow, hydrographers can determine whether the feature requires additional investigation. For example, the outline of a shipwreck, bicycle, or pipeline. However, it can also detect mammals like dolphins or schools of fish.

Diagram of side scan sonar. (Courtesy of thunder bay 2001, Institute for Exploration, NOAA-OER)
Diagram of side scan sonar. (Courtesy of thunder bay 2001, Institute for Exploration, NOAA-OER)
The Thomas Jefferson sidescan sonar on deck.
The Thomas Jefferson sidescan sonar on deck.
In the early morning, the sidescan sonar picked up the image of an incorrectly charted shipwreck. Height is estimated using the "shadow" of the wreck.
In the early morning, the sidescan sonar picked up the image of an incorrectly charted shipwreck. Height is estimated using the “shadow” of the wreck.
Sidescan sonar imagery layered on a nautical chart. It is important to remember that sidescan data does not account for depth, it is a measure of differences in sea floor substrate.
Sidescan sonar imagery layered on a nautical chart. It is important to remember that sidescan data does not account for depth, it is a measure of differences in sea floor substrate.
Look closely and you can see arc lines in the sidescan imagery. Lt. Anthony Klemm explains that these arcs are from ships dragging anchor and stirring up the sea floor.
Look closely and you can see arc lines in the sidescan imagery. Lt. Anthony Klemm explains that these arcs are from ships dragging anchor and stirring up the sea floor.

While this is happening, surveyors are also towing a MVP or Moving Vessel Profiler to capture information about the water column. This is important because multiple factors in the water column need to be corrected in order for accurate sonar calculations. For example, the speed of sound in salt water is roughly 1500 m/s but may change while the ship is traveling over different parts of the sea floor or passing through a thermocline (steep temperature gradient) or halocline (steep salinity gradient). The MVP is similar to the CTD used on the launch boat (see previous post), but the MVP allows the ship to continue moving at about 10 knots (average survey speed), while the CTD must be cast when the ship is stationary.

Information from the Moving Vessel Profiler. From left to right, the MVP tracks sound speed, temperature, and salinity in relation to depth.
Information from the Moving Vessel Profiler. From left to right, the MVP tracks sound speed, temperature, and salinity in relation to depth.

For more information on multispectral analysis and sonar, see these resources:

https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/09bermuda/background/multibeam/multibeam.html

https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/seafloor-mapping/how_sidescansonar.html

Personal Log

One of my goals in the classroom is to teach students to be comfortable making and learning from mistakes. Making mistakes in math and science is common and welcome because they lead to great discussion and future change. Often, my sixth graders get discouraged or so caught up in failure that they become paralyzed in making further attempts. While aboard the Thomas Jefferson, I have witnessed several aspects not go according to plan. I think these experiences are important to share because they provide real-life examples of professionals coming together, learning from mistakes, and moving forward.

Around 4:00 am, the towfish side scan sonar became entangled with the MVP. This was a horrendous disaster. The crew spent about 16 hours contemplating the issue and collecting data using the multibeam only, which is less than ideal.  One of XO LCDR McGovern’s many roles aboard the ship is to serve as the investigator. She reviewed tapes of the early morning, talked with the crew, and later held a debrief with all involved. When something like this happens, the ship must write a clear incident report to send to shore. There were many questions about why and how this happened as well how to best proceed. In the end, the towfish and MVP were untangled with no damage present to the sensor. Within the same day, both were cast out and back in use.

I find this to be an astounding example of perseverance and teamwork. Despite being disappointed and upset that a critical tool for collecting accurate data was in dire shape, the crew came up with a plan of action and executed. Part of the engineering and scientific processes include evaluation and redesign. Elements of the sea and a center drift of the side scan lead to a documented new plan and refiguring the process so that this is unlikely to happen again.

Lt. Charles Wisotzsky's sketch of the complications with launching both the sidescan sonar (which tends to centerline) and MVP towfish with a current coming from port side.
Lt. Charles Wisotzsky’s sketch of the complications with launching both the sidescan sonar (which tends to centerline) and MVP towfish with a current coming from port side.
This camera image captures the entanglement of the sidescan sonar and MVP.
This camera image captures the entanglement of the sidescan sonar and MVP.

Peaks

+Saw a tuna eat a flying fish

Flying Fish. (www.ocean.si.edu)
Flying Fish. (www.ocean.si.edu)

+There is a large sense of purpose on the ship. Despite complex sleep schedules to enable 24 hour operations with a smaller crew, people are generally happy and working hard.

+ There seems to be an unlimited supply of ice cream in the ice cream freezer. Junior Officer, ENS Garrison Grant introduced me to a new desert- vanilla ice cream, a scoop of crunchy peanut butter, and chocolate syrup. I also found the rainbow sprinkles.

Brandy Hill: Chat with Chief Engineer and My First Tuna Catch, June 28, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25, 2018 – July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 28, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 28° 50.7’ N

Longitude: 093° 34.4’ W

Visibility: 10+ nm

Sky Condition: 4/8

Wind: 12 kts

Temperature:

Sea Water: 29.6° C

Air: 29.3° C

 

 

Science and Technology Log

This afternoon I spent an hour with Chief Marine Engineer, Thom Cleary. As promised, he gave me a tour of the Engine Room. Thom arrived on the Thomas Jefferson in 2011 and has worked not only on maintaining operations, but greatly improving them. When asked about his favorite ship mechanism, he responded with one that is not his favorite but of which he is most proud. The Thomas Jefferson, along with most other ships, typically used to rid greywater and sewage by offloading into the ocean. The EPA states that ships must be at least one nautical mile from land or people in the water and three nautical miles from aquaculture (2018). With hydrographic survey operations taking place in “no discharge” areas (close to shore), this could complicate and/or slow down the Thomas Jefferson’s progress.

Realizing the inefficiency and in an effort to improve, Thom investigated other options. It was decided that a fuel storage tank would be converted to hold more wastewater. After a long wait period, the new method was installed. Within the first season 38,000 gallons of sewage was stored and discharged to a shore treatment facility. Today, the tanks have gone almost two months without release into the Gulf of Mexico. This improvement has allowed hydrographic operations to continue without interruption, conserves fuel, and increases efficiency.

Renovations to the Thomas Jefferson did not stop there. Originally constructed in 1991, the ship has room for many other improvements. Thom and team advocated for all natural lubricants (rather than petroleum), switched all light fixtures to LEDs, and adjusted the ballast system. In 2016 the roughly 122,000 gallon ballast system changed from using sea to municipal water. This now allows the ship to move from multiple coastal waters without concern for carrying invasive species in the ballast tanks. In addition, the new waste water tank was strategically placed in the center of the ship to help with stability.

Ballast diagram
Ballast diagram showing invasive species risk. (CC)

Thom is an innovator and self-described incorrigible tinkerer. Many of these changes would not have been made without his (and team’s) desire and advocacy to make things better. When I asked if these upgrades were standard on ships, he mentioned that the Thomas Jefferson is a trailblazer.

Chief Engineer Thom Cleary
Chief Engineer Thom Cleary and the desalination/ reverse osmosis system. The RO typically operates at 650 psi (with 900psi maximum potential) and pushes sea water through a membrane creating potable water for the ship.

 

Personal Log

CO (Commanding Officer) authorized a launch on one of the boats. After some mishaps with a fuse, the crew performed multiple safety checks and we were cleared to go. Mission: collect survey data near a stationary platform. CO’s comfort level to obstructions with the main ship is a half-mile, so having the smaller launch boats is helpful when surveying areas like this.

Launch Boat Approach
The launch boat crew from left to right: Lt. Klemm, Kevin Brown, Pat Osborn, and Brandy Hill (below deck).

 

SurveyNearPlatform
Survey area near the stationary platform. The ship to the left is a supply vessel.

While cruising out to the survey area, I spoke with Pat Osborn, part of the Thomas Jefferson’s deck crew and our survey line driver for the day. Pat has two years of training and was explaining that he is still learning parts of his job. (Everyone on the ship wears multiple hats.) He spoke highly of his job and appreciated the multi-dimensional relationship between CO and the crew. Pat explained that CO is not expected to be an expert in all areas of the ship- there are safety checks (such as preparing for the launch) where the CO asks lead crew members to evaluate and sign-off prior to action. Every mission I’ve observed and attended has proceeded in this manner. It is a highly respectful and safe environment.

AllisonLaunchApproach
Chief Survey Technician, Allison Stone, awaiting launch boat arrival.
Launch Return to Ship
Patrick Osborn approaching ship Thomas Jefferson with the launch boat.
KevinDeployingCTD
Kevin Brown lowers the CTD while the boat is stationary. A CTD captures the salinity, temperature, depth, and concentration of particles in the water column. This information is used for analyzing the survey data. On the ship, this information is collected using an MVP which allows the ship to stay in motion.

As soon as we had the survey equipment set up and running, survey technician Kevin Brown brought out a fishing pole. I hadn’t realized that we could fish while out on the boat! We proceeded to catch and release about 10 tuna (likely False Albacore and Bonito). Kevin reeled in two, then passed the pole to me. I couldn’t believe how hard it was to real in a fish. I was reading that they can stay on the line and swim up to 40 mph!

Brandy reeling
Brandy Hill’s active line power stance.
False Albacore
Brandy Hill and her first fishing boat catch, False Albacore.

Peaks

 + Witnessed hard work and precision paying off- the launch boat survey data had an error of 0.0006 meters. The data is highly accurate!

+ Drove “the survey line” on the launch boat. (More of an explanation coming soon.)

+ Reeled in a beautiful, tough fish.

Note: After the seasickness subsided, I’ve decided to leave out the “Valleys” category. I’m having a great time.

Brandy Hill: Warm Initiation to Life at Sea: June 26, 2018

 

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Brandy Hill

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

June 25 – July 6, 2018

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey- Approaches to Houston

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: June 26, 2018

 

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 28° 59.9′ N

Longitude: 093° 50.4′ W

Visibility: 10+ nm

Sky Condition: 2/8 (2 out of 8 parts have cloud cover)

Wind: 170°, 8 knots (kts)

Temperature: Sea water: 29.8 ° C, Air: 28.8 ° C

 

 

Science and Technology Log

 

Upon early evening arrival to Corpus Christi, TX, I was greeted by ENS Taylor Krabiel with a friendly sign at the airport arrival gate. We made a short drive to the port in Corpus Christi and boarded NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.

 

TJ Starboard View
Starboard view of the Thomas Jefferson while docked in Corpus Christi.

 

ENS Krabiel provided a quick and thorough tour of the Thomas Jefferson including the well-stocked mess (including a fresh salad and fruit bar, ice cream freezer and espresso machine), gym, complementary laundry facilities, all offices and staterooms, the plot (survey) room, and multiple outdoor decks. He was also patient as I repeatedly lost direction of the stairwell, multiple decks (floors) and doors. It is evident that ENS Krabiel has experience as a teacher because his enthusiasm about the ship, projects, personnel, and patience with newcomers seems to come naturally.

One fact he shared about the ship is that the Thomas Jefferson makes its own water through reverse osmosis. This means that all hands (everyone aboard the ship) generally do not need to worry about water rationing. I hope to take a tour and find out more about this process during the next couple of weeks.

 

2012-2018 Puretec Industrial Water
Reverse osmosis diagram. (Puretech Industrial Water 2012-2018)

 

He also mentioned that the U.S. via NOAA is one of the only countries that provide nautical chart data at no cost to the public. Private parties may use these accessible charts and make their own modifications.

The CO, Commanding Officer, of the ship and I discussed various careers aboard the Thomas Jefferson. CO explained that ship personnel in blue uniforms are hired through NOAA Corps and follow military rankings while professional mariners include the survey team, engineers, stewards, and deck department. There are also electronics technicians who are hired as civil servants. I found it astonishing that some crew members have been with the Thomas Jefferson since NOAA acquired the ship in 2003. I was able to have my first breakfast aboard the ship with Puddin’ Gilliam, Junior Engineer, who has been with the ship since then.

It was interesting observing the plans for departure from Corpus Christi come together. I sat in on a safety brief discussing the strict plan of navigation. It takes roughly two hours to navigate through a narrow, 21-mile long channel out of the port. Coming too close to the sides of the channel could cause the ship to run aground, while coming too close to oncoming ships could cause additional damage. There are also several points of crossways where ships could be coming from a different direction. All of these variables require critical communication and a concise plan. Junior Officer, ENS Jacquelyn Putnam, lead the brief and displayed digital Mercator projections of the navigation plan. She claims that navigation is her favorite part of her job. In addition, it was decided that the assistance of a pilot (someone who boards the ship while docked and departs at the jetty) would provide ideal support in navigating the ship.

General Alarm
Several checks are completed prior to departure. This includes sounding all alarms (above), checking the ship whistle, and steering (not pictured).

 

During a project brief lead by FOO (Field Operations Officer) Lt. Anthony Klemm, I learned that the primary mission is to accurately complete the survey of a section of the Gulf of Mexico. The area was last surveyed in the 1930s. Already, the survey team has submitted updates including the removal of two wrecks or obstructions previously documented in the narrow fairway leading to Galveston. This inaccurate documentation of obstructions that were no longer present could have been causing ships to deviate from the fairway or move unnecessarily into the oncoming lane of traffic. In addition, the surveys done by NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson allow for validation of surveys completed by other organizations such as BOEM (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management).

 

 

           ENS Taylor Krabiel launches a towfish sonar device. 

       Basics of the survey process include launching two types of sonar which work together to provide in-depth views of the ocean floor. Sonar sends a sound wave at a speed around 1500 meters per second in salt water. Using this information and the time it takes for the sonar wave to return to the device, the distance can be calculated using Distance = Speed x Time. The sonar images generated are then processed, saved, and analyzed by the survey team. ENS Putnam mentioned that it is important to validate the data by using multiple scans, “buttoning-up” or finalizing, and re-surveying areas that generated poor data. At times, areas of interest (like a wreck) or areas of safety concern are further investigated by completing another scan on the main ship or by sending a launch (smaller boat).

 

Personal Log

While Tom Loftin, Chief Electronics Technician, was getting my computer set-up on the ship’s wifi, we heard a call for “All Hands on deck.” I looked at him and asked if that meant us. He replied, “Yep, let’s go!” We joined everyone on the ship to form an assembly line to assist with unpacking crates and passing food down into the mess. The crew would get excited about certain items like the ice cream and blueberries while questioning other generic items with nondescript labels.

Starting at the very beginning before we even left port, there has been no end to teamwork, positive morale, and camaraderie presented on the ship. I have discussed this with multiple crew members and all have said that teamwork and constant communication is critical. Several examples include: the departure from Corpus Christi, observing the survey and bridge communication while sonar is in the water, and the timely “Plan of the Day” email sent out by Lt. Charles Wisotzkey. ENS Putnam mentioned that nothing can be accomplished without a well-functioning team. She further stated that clearly defined roles and the importance of everyone’s job makes the team function well.

It has been a lot of fun to be around this crew. Everyone is kind and highly accommodating thus far. Outside the XO’s (executive officer) office is a sign that says, “Work hard and be nice to others.” I am excited to be here and to witness such a well-functioning team.

 

Bridge Departure View
Officers, crew, and pilot on the bridge while navigating the narrow channel to Galveston.

 

Peaks and Valleys

 

+ I enjoyed observing the departure process and launching the sonar devices.

+ I’ve seen over 30 dolphins scattered around the Gulf.

+I enjoy catching up with people during meal times. The food isn’t bad!

 

– I experienced my first bought of sea sickness immediately upon leaving the jetty. Seas were a bit rough (an estimated 8 feet) and I retired to my stateroom (bedroom) early without eating dinner.

– I accidentally locked myself out of the shared head (bathroom).

Jeanne Muzi: Science, Service and Stewardship, August 10, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeanne Muzi
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 2 – 8, 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: August 10, 2015

As I head home to New Jersey a few days ahead of schedule, I am reflecting on what I have learned aboard the Thomas Jefferson. From day one, I was asking questions and trying to understand the process of hydrographic surveying, the equipment used and the different roles of everyone involved in the process. I learned why hydrographic surveying is so important and why the mission of NOAA (Science, Service and Stewardship) is demonstrated in all the research and activities aboard the Thomas Jefferson.

The ocean covers 71 percent of the Earth’s surface and contains 97 percent of the planet’s water, yet more than 95 percent of the underwater world remains unexplored.  NOAA protects, preserves, manages and enhances the resources found in 3.5 million square miles of coastal and deep ocean waters.

The oceans are our home. As active citizens, we must all become knowledgeable, involved stewards of our oceans.

our-ocean
Our ocean. Image courtesy of http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/june14/our-ocean.pdf

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/june14/our-ocean.pdf

Science and Technology Log

As my Teacher at Sea experience ends, I wanted to make sure I shared some of the conversations I had with the officers charged with leading the missions of the Thomas Jefferson and the hydrographic work it is involved in.

The Thomas Jefferson: Home to an amazing crew!
The Thomas Jefferson: Home to an amazing crew!

It is my honor to introduce to you:

Captain Shepard Smith (CO)

CO Smith
CO Smith

Captain Smith grew up on the water in Maine. He always enjoyed reading maps and charts. He received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and earned a Master’s of Science degree from the University of New Hampshire Ocean Engineering (Mapping) Program. He has worked at NOAA in many different capacities.

He served aboard NOAA Ship Rainier, NOAA R/V Bay Hydrographer and the Thomas Jefferson. He was also the chief of Coast Survey’s Atlantic Hydrographic Branch in Norfolk, Virginia. Captain Smith also served as Senior Advisor to Dr. Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA Deputy Administrator and as Chief of Coast Survey’s Marine Chart Division. Captain Smith explained how he has been involved in integrating many new technological innovations designed to improve the efficiency of NOAA’s seafloor mapping efforts. It was through Captain Smith’s endeavors that Americans enjoy open access to all NOAA charts and maps.

CO Smith on the Bridge
CO Smith on the Bridge

He enjoys being the CO very much and feels the best part of his job is developing the next generation of leadership in NOAA. He feels it is very important to have that influence on junior officers. The worst part of his job is the separation from his family.

Captain Smith’s advice to young students is to pay attention to the world around you and how things work. Try to ask lots of questions. He said, “There are loads of opportunities to be the best at something and so many things to learn about. There are new fields, new ideas and new ways to see and understand things. Never limit yourself.”

Lieutenant Commander Olivia Hauser (XO)

XO LCDR Hauser
XO LCDR Hauser 

LCDR Hauser grew up in New Jersey and always loved learning about the ocean. As a little girl, she thought she would like to study Marine Science but wasn’t sure how. She grew up and earned her Bachelor’s of Arts in Biology from Franklin and Marshall College and her Master’s of Science in Biological Oceanography from the University of Delaware’s College of Marine Studies. Before coming to NOAA, LCDR Hauser spent time working for a mortgage company, which provided her with different kinds of skills. She soon started officer training for NOAA and got to apply the sonar knowledge she developed in graduate school to her NOAA work. She has served on the NOAA ships Rainier and Thomas Jefferson. She has built her strong background in hydrography with both land and sea assignments. She has been Field Operations Officer, Field Support Liaison and Executive Officer. She explained that in the field of hydrographic surveying, experience is key to improving skills and she is always trying to learn more and share her knowledge. As XO, she is the second highest-ranking officer on the ship.

LCDR Hauser feels the best part of her job is that it never gets boring. Everyday is different and there are always new things to see and learn.

XO supervises the arrival of the launch
XO supervises the arrival of the launch

LCDR Hauser also explained that the hardest part of the job is the transitions, that come pretty frequently. She said, “You may find yourself leaving a ship or coming to a new job. There are always new routines to learn and new people to get to know. With so many transitions, it is often hard to find and keep community, but on the positive side, the transitions keep you adaptable and resilient, which are important skills too.”

Her advice to young students is “Take opportunities! Explore things you never heard of. Don’t give up easily! Even the rough parts of the road can work for you. Every experience helps you grow! Keep asking questions…especially about how and why!”

Lieutenant Joseph Carrier (FOO)

LT Carrier
LT Carrier

As a young boy, LT Carrier was the kind of kid who liked to take things apart and put them back together. He joined the Navy right out of high school. When he got out, he attended University of North Carolina at Wilmington and studied biology as an undergraduate and marine science in graduate school. He taught biology, oceanography, and earth science at a community college and worked at NOAA’s Atlantic Hydrographic Branch in Norfolk, VA before attending officer training. He served on other NOAA ships before coming to the Thomas Jefferson and has learned a lot about the technical aspects of hydrographic surveying, data collection and processing while onboard. He is currently the Field Operations Officer.

FOO on deck
FOO on deck

LT Carrier feels the best part of his job is the great people he works with. He explained that on a ship you are part of a close family that works together, lives together and helps each other.

He said the hardest parts of the job are the long hours and missing his family very much.

His advice to younger students is don’t get discouraged easily. He explained, “If you are not good at something at first, try again. Know that each time you try something…you have an opportunity to get better at it. Everyone can overcome challenges by working hard and sticking with it!

Personal Log:

Quick painting fromTJ Bow
Quick painting fromTJ Bow

The experience of living and learning on the Thomas Jefferson will stay with me and impact my teaching as I continue to encourage kids to stay curious, ask questions and work hard!

I would like to thank everyone at NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program for enabling me to come on this adventure! My time as a TAS has provided me with authentic learning experiences and a new understanding of science and math in action. I would like to thank every person serving on the Thomas Jefferson who took the time to talk with me and shared his or her area of expertise. I appreciated everyone’s patience, kindness and friendly help as they welcomed me into their home. Every crewmember has given me stories, knowledge and information that I can now share with others.

Print
Conserving our ocean and coasts. Image courtesy of http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/topics/

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/topics/

 

In my last blog entry the Question of the Day and Picture of the Day was:

What is this and what do the letters mean?

What is this? What do the letters mean?
What is this?
What do the letters mean?

These containers are life rafts. The letters “SOLAS” stand for “Safety of Life at Sea.”

The First SOLAS Treaty was issued in 1914, just two years after the Titanic disaster. The Treaty was put in place so countries all around the world would make ship safety a priority. The SOLAS Treaty ensures that ships have safety standards in construction, in equipment onboard and in their operation. Many countries have turned these international requirements into national laws. The first version of the treaty developed in response to the sinking of the Titanic. It stated the number of lifeboats and other emergency equipment that should be available on every ship, along with safety procedures, such as having drills and continuous radio watch. Newer versions of the SOLAS Treaty have been adopted and the guidelines are always being updated so people at sea remain safe. If there was an emergency on the Thomas Jefferson, the crew is prepared because they have practiced many different drills. If these lifeboats were needed they would be opened, inflated and used to bring everyone to safety.

Many thanks for reading about my Teacher at Sea Adventure! 

Learning to be safe at sea!
Learning to be safe at sea!

 

Jeanne Muzi: STEM in Action, August 8, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeanne Muzi
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 2 – 8, 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: August 8, 2015

Weather Data From the Bridge:
Temperature: 73°F (23°C) Fair
Humidity: 59%
Wind Speed: N 10 mph
Barometer: 29.94 in (1013.6 mb)
Dewpoint: 58°F (14°C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi

Science and Technology Log:

It is amazing that with hydrography, scientists can “look” into the ocean to “see” the sea floor by using sound.

All the data collected by the TJ, and other NOAA Hydro ships, is used to update nautical charts and develop hydrographic models.

 

blogelipsoid

 

This is important work because the charts are used to warn mariners of dangers to navigation, which can mean everything from rocks to ship wrecks. They also record tide or water level measurements to provide information about water depths. Surveys also help determine if the sea floor is made up of sand, mud or rock, which is important for the anchoring of boats, dredging, construction, and laying pipeline or cables. Hydrography also provides important information for fishery habitats.

The work being done on the Thomas Jefferson is a great example of STEM in action since hydrographic surveying combines science, lots of technology, the engineering of new devices and procedures, and the application of mathematical computations.

Here are two amazing survey images:

A crane discovered underwater
A crane discovered underwater

 

Image of the sunken ship, USS Monitor
Image of the sunken ship, USS Monitor

A few of my students emailed me yesterday to ask how does the information gathered out on the launch become a chart. That’s a great question!

My XO (Executive Officer) LCDR Olivia Hauser provided me with a great explanation of how the data becomes a chart. She explained it this way:

It starts with deciding where to survey, and ends with an updated chart that is published and available for mariners to use. The decision where to survey is steered by a document called the National Hydrographic Survey Priorities document. It outlines where the top priorities to survey are based on the type of ship traffic that travels the area, the age of the survey in the area, how often the seafloor changes in the area, and specific requests from port authorities, the US Coast Guard, and other official maritime entities. Please see the following link for more information. http://www.nauticalcharts.noaa.gov/hsd/NHSP.htm

The operations branch of the Hydrographic Surveys Division of the Office of Coast Survey in NOAA (where Patrick works-see below) uses this document to decide where the ship will survey next. This branch then provides the ship with project instructions that identifies where the work will be done and divides the survey area into manageable chunks.

The data is raw when we first acquire it, and once it comes back to the ship, we need to apply some correctors to it, to improve the data quality.

Working in the survey room
Working in the survey room

One corrector we apply to the data is tide information. The water gets shallower and deeper depending on the stage of tide, and we need to make sure the depths on the chart are all relative to the same stage of tide.

Another corrector we apply to the data is vessel motion. When we acquire depth data with the sonar, the boat is moving with the waves, and the raw data looks like it has waves in the seafloor, too. We know that is not the case, so we take the motion data of the boat out of our depth data.

A third corrector we apply to the data is sound speed. The sonar finds the depth of the seafloor by sending a pulse of sound out and listening for its return, measuring the time it takes to complete that trip. We also measure the speed of sound through the water so we can calculate the depth (see the picture of ENS Gleichauf deploying the CTD to measure sound speed). Speed =Distance/Time. Speed of sound through typical seawater is 1500 meters per second. The speed of sound changes with water temperature and salinity (the saltiness of the water) .If we measure the time it takes for the sound to get to the seafloor and back, 1 second for example, and the sound speed is 1500 meters per second we know the seafloor is 750 meters away from the sonar. (the sound is traveling two ways).

Once all of the correctors are applied to the data, a digital terrain model (DTM) is created from the data to make a grid showing the depths and hazards in the area. A report is written about the survey, and it is submitted to the Atlantic Hydrographic Branch (Where Jeffrey works- See below). This branch reviews the data and makes sure it meets NOAA’s specifications for data quality. They also make a preliminary chart, picking the important depths and hazards that should be shown on the chart.

Once the data has been reviewed, it goes to the Marine Charting Division. This group takes the preliminary chart of the area surveyed, and adds it to the official chart that is being updated. These charts are then distributed to the public.

I had a chance to talk with some of the Survey Techs and project scientists who work on the TJ to find out more about their jobs.

Allison Stone
Allison Stone

Allison Stone is the Hydro Senior Survey Technician (HSST). When Allison was 12 years old she clearly remembers her school’s Career Day, when lots of parents came in to talk about their jobs. She recalls there was one mom who had a sparkle in her eye when she talked about her job. She was an Oceanographer. That mom became her advisor when she attended the College of Charleston. Allison had an internship at the Atlantic Hydrography Branch in Norfolk and she first came to the TJ as a Student Scientist. She later became a full time technician. She enjoys her job because she gets the opportunity to observe the seafloor like no one has ever seen it before. She gets to solve problems and think outside the box. When she is going through raw data, she is able to make connections and interpret information. The work is interesting and challenging. Allison’s advice for young students is to keep being passionate about things you are interested in. Try to find out more and stay flexible. Try to volunteer as much as possible as you grow up so you can find out what you like to do and love to work on.

Jeffery Marshall
Jeffery Marshall

Jeffery Marshall was visiting the TJ for a project during my time aboard. Jeffery is a Physical Scientist with the Office of Coast Survey as a member of the Hydrographic Surveys Division, Atlantic Hydrographic Branch in Norfolk, Virginia. Jeffery grew up on the Jersey Shore and loved being out on the water, down at the beach and learning about the ocean. He loved surfing and was always wondering what the weather would be like so he could plan for the waves and the tides. So when he went to college, he studied meteorology. Following graduation, he taught middle school science and loved being a teacher. When he was ready for a change, he decided to attend graduate school and got his masters degree in Coastal Geology. He really enjoys having the opportunity to get out on the ships. His job is usually applying the processed data to charts, what he calls “Armchair Hydrography.” When he gets a chance to work on a NOAA ship mission, he has more opportunities to collect and analyze data. Jeff’s advice to young students is to read a lot and think about lots of different things, like how we use maps. He thinks everyone should take a look at old maps and charts, and think about how they were made. He encourages students to look for patterns in nature and to think about how rocks and sand change over time.

Patrick Keown
Patrick Keown

Patrick Keown is also a Physical Scientist. He was also working on a project on the TJ. Patrick works at the Operations Branch of the Hydrographics Survey Division in Silver Spring, Maryland. Patrick is usually working on plans for where surveying needs to take place. He started college as an Anthropology major but ended up in a Geographic Information Systems class and found that it came easily to him. Geographic Information Systems are designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of spatial or geographical data. He had an internship with the Army Corp of Engineers which provided some “on the job learning” of hydrography. When Patrick was young, he didn’t have the chance to travel much, so he spent a lot of time looking at maps and wondering, “What else is out there?” Now he loves to travel and likes to look at what he calls “Social Geography.” Patrick thinks the best part of his job is the chance to experience new things. He has had opportunities to try the latest technology and is inspired by all the new types of equipment, like drones and the Z boats. Patrick’s advice to young learners is “Never be afraid to explore! Never be afraid to ask questions! Most importantly, stay curious!!”

Cassie Bongiovanni
Cassie Bongiovanni

Cassie Bongiovanni is a GIS Specialist who works at The Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center. The center is a partnership between the University of New Hampshire and NOAA, and it has two main objectives: to develop tools to advance ocean mapping and hydrography, and to train the next generation of hydrographers and ocean mappers. Cassie grew up in Texas and did not like science at all when she was young. She attended the University of Washington in Seattle and fell in love with the ocean. She received her Bachelors of Science in Geology with a focus in Oceanography. She is now working with NOAA’s Integrated Ocean and Coastal Mapping group on processing lidar and acoustic data for post Hurricane Sandy research efforts. Cassie explained that she loves her work because she loves to learn! She has lots of opportunities to ask questions and discover new things. The kid in her loves making maps and then coloring them with bright colors to create 3-D images of things like shipwrecks.

 

Personal Log:

IMG_4023

The launch headed out again today to try to find a ship that sank earlier in the summer. Information was gathered and lines were surveyed, but so far no shipwreck was found. The day ended with a beautiful sunset.

Setting lines to survey
Setting lines to survey
Looking out from the cabin of the launch
Looking out from the cabin of the launc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

sunset

 

In my last blog entry the Question of the Day was:

How was the ocean floor mapped before sonar was invented?

Mariners have used many different methods to map the ocean floor to try to “see” what was under the water. For thousands of years a stick was used to see how deep the water was. Eventually, the stick was marked with measurements. Once ships started exploring the oceans, sticks were no longer good options for finding out the depth of water or if anything was under the water that could harm the ship. Sailors started tying a rope around a heavy rock and throwing it over board. In the 1400’s, mariners began using lead lines, which were marked lengths of rope attached to a lead weight. The lead line was good for measuring depth and providing information about the sea floor. The standard lead line was 20 fathoms long–120 feet–and the lead weighed 7 pounds. In the early 20th century, the wire drag was invented. This meant two ships had a set system of wires hung between them and it enabled mariners to find hidden rocks, shipwrecks or other hazards hidden in the water.

 

leadline

Find out more about the history of navigation tools at http://www.vos.noaa.gov/MWL/aug_08/navigation_tools.shtml

In my last entry, The Picture of the Day showed Ensign Gleichauf lowering an instrument into the water. That is a CTD, which stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. A CTD is made up of electronic instruments that measure these properties. The CTD detects how the conductivity and temperature of the water column changes as it goes deeper into the water. Conductivity is a measure of how well a solution conducts electricity. Conductivity is directly related to salinity, which is how salty the seawater is.

What is that?
This is a CTD

Today’s Question of the Day and Picture of the Day: What is this and what do the letters mean?

What is this? What do the letters mean?
What is this?
What do the letters mean?

 

Thanks for reading this entry!

Safety first!
Safety first!

 

Jeanne Muzi: Out on the Launch! August 7, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeanne Muzi
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 2 – 8, 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: August 7, 2015

Weather Data From the Bridge:
Temperature:79°F (26°C) Partly Cloudy
Humidity: 41%
Wind Speed: W 9 mph
Barometer: 29.89 in (1012.0 mb)
Dewpoint: 53°F (12°C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi
Heat Index: 79°F (26°C)

Science and Technology Log:

The Thomas Jefferson is in port at the naval base at Newport so the small launch boats are being used for hydrographic survey training.

Last minute instructions on deck.
Last minute instructions on deck.
Lifting the Launch into the water!
Lowering the Launch into the water!
Onto the launch
Onto the launch..
And we are off!
…and we are off!

On my two trips out, I have absorbed an enormous amount of information about how to set up all the computer equipment so each part “talks” to the other, how to know if the underwater multi-beam sonar is set correctly, how to lengthen or shorten the swath of the beams so the “pings” travel the correct distance/speed and how to examine the survey data and discuss what is seen (for example, is that disturbance we see the wake from a passing ship? Are we running the lines too close to the jetty? Is that an underwater cable? Do you see that large school of fish moving?).

Coordinating all the tasks on all the screens is important
Coordinating all the tasks on all the screens is important.
Learning about multi-beam sonar
Learning about multi-beam sonar
Examining data
Examining data

Doug Wood, a senior hydrographic survey technician, explained how to start the generator on the launch, turn on all the surveying and charting technology and created different scenarios so that we could set various lines to survey. Once we had our location, the Coxswain (the person in charge of steering and navigating the boat) could guide the launch along that line and we could begin logging data. As the sonar began delivering data to the screen, we were able to see rocks, buoys and even large fish that appeared along with their shadows. The multi-beam sonar was capable of picking up lots of information about what was on the sea floor.

Gassing up the launch
Gassing up the launch. Photo credit: Stephanie Stabile
Returning to the ship!
Returning to the ship!

If you are interested in finding out more about how NOAA maps with sound, take a look at this article by clicking on this link:

Seeing the ocean floor clip 2 copy

http://www.noaa.gov/features/monitoring_1008/seafloormapping.html

Look at how detailed NOAA’s nautical charts must be:

noaa chart copy

Personal Log:

One of the most interesting parts of being on the Thomas Jefferson has been having conversations with everyone onboard. It seems that every officer, engineer, seaman or steward has a remarkable story about the path that brought him or her to serve on NOAA’s TJ.

Yesterday, I had a chance to ask three Junior Officers and a Lieutenant J.G. some questions about their work. Ensign Katie Seberger, Ensign Marybeth Head and Ensign Max Andersen were kind enough to let me chat with them as they worked in the chartroom updating checklists and working to improve safety routines. LTJG Matthew Forrest took a minute to talk with me in the mess. When I asked what the best thing about their job was, each answered that they really enjoyed their work.

Ensign Katie Seberger and Ensign Marybeth Head
Ensign Katie Seberger and Ensign Marybeth Head

Ensign Seberger explained that she had loved the ocean and wanted to study marine science her whole life and the best part of her job is being out on the water. Ensign Head said that doing something for the big picture is the best and it is easy to get really excited about her work. Ensign Andersen said the best part of his job has been getting a chance work with the Z boats; the newest surveying tool the crew of the TJ will begin using soon. LT.JG Forrest said that it was the opportunity to be a part of something much bigger than you, and contribute every day to something important. He also said an enjoyable part of his job is working with a great team.

Ensign Max Andersen
Ensign Max Andersen

Each of the officers had to think about what the worst part of their job was. Ensign Seberger said that while it is exciting to travel, it is sometimes hard not knowing where you are going next. Ensign Head said that for her, it is difficult to be disconnected from the water, and that even though she is sailing on a ship, she grew up on small boats with the salt spray on her face, and she misses that. Ensign Andersen said the worst thing is the uncertainty of the ship’s schedule and not knowing where you will be next. LTJG Forrest said the worst thing is the lack of sleep because it is not unusual for them to be up working for 16 hours sometimes. He also said it was hard to be so far from his family and disconnected from everything going on at home.

LT.J.G. Matthew Forrest
LTJG Matthew Forrest

Each of the officers had great advice for young students who would like to one day do the type of work they do. Ensign Seberger suggested that its important to volunteer doing what you think you would like to work at so you can find out if it is for you. Ensign Head’s advice to students was to be “persistent and memorable.” She explained that you need to keep at whatever you are doing and not give up. The people that quit will be forgotten. The people that keep working will not. Ensign Andersen’s advice to young students is to make your own path and don’t settle for the status quo. He thinks you might have to work harder to make your way, but it’s worth it. LTJG Forrest felt that kids should understand that all the work done on the Thomas Jefferson is built on a foundation of the fundamentals of math and science so all kids should try to soak up as much math and science as they can. He also said to always be ready to work hard.

Each of the officers said they enjoy their work very much and could not imagine doing anything else!

 

In my last blog entry the Question of the Day was:

Why is surveying the ocean floor so important?

The ocean floor is covered with all sorts of things including natural things, like rocks, reefs, hills and valleys, and manmade objects, such as cables, docks, shipwrecks and debris. If ships don’t know where things are it can be very dangerous. Storms often change the position of things underwater so it is very important that charts are accurate and updated. Hydrographers capture the data from the seafloor using sonar, process the data and utilize the information to create precise and informative ocean charts.

In my last entry, The Picture of the Day showed an anchor ball. An anchor ball is a round, black shape that is hoisted in the forepart of a vessel to show that it is anchored. It must be taken down when the ship is underway.

Anchor Ball
Anchor Ball

 

Today’s Question of the Day is:

How was the ocean floor mapped before sonar was invented?

Today’s Picture of the Day: What is Ensign Gleichauf lowering into the water?

What is that?
What is that?

Thanks for reading this entry!

Heading out to the deck!
Heading out to the deck!

Jeanne Muzi: Problem Solving on the Thomas Jefferson! August 5, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeanne Muzi
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson|
August 2 – 13, 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise
: North Atlantic
Date: August 5, 2015

Weather Data From the Bridge:
Temperature: 71° F (22° C)
Humidity: 84%
Wind Speed: S 5 mph
Barometer: 29.89 in (1012.1 mb)
Dewpoint: 66° F (19° C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi

Hello again!

Science and Technology Log:

One important thing that every single person has to face, no matter how old they are or what kind of job they have, is what to do when things go wrong. We are always happy when things are going smoothly—but what do you do when they don’t?

I found out about how important it is to be a thinker and problem solver on the Thomas Jefferson because we are experiencing engine problems. First the launches were not running. Then the TJ’s engines were having difficulties and it was discovered that we had water in our fuel. The engineers and officers all started to ask questions: Where is the water coming from? Is there a problem with the tanks? How are we going to fix this situation? What is the best solution right now? It was determined that we should sail into the Naval Base in Newport, Rhode Island so the fuel could be pumped out and the fuel tanks examined. This is a big job!

Heading to Newport
Lighthouse
Jamestown Bridge
Jamestown Bridge

We sailed into Newport on a beautiful sunny afternoon. I got to spend some time on the bridge and watched as Ensign Seberger and GVA (General Vessel Assistant) Holler steered our large ship around obstacles like lobster pots and small sailboats. AB (Ablebodied Seaman) Grains acted as the look out, peering through binoculars and calling out directions in degrees (instead of feet or yards), and port and starboard (instead of left and right). LTJG Forrest explained how to chart the route to Newport using a compass, slide rule and mathematical calculations. His computations were right on as he plotted the course of the Thomas Jefferson. 

Charting TJ's course to Newport
Charting TJ’s course to Newport

When we arrived at Newport, the tugboat, Jaguar, needed to help us dock and then the gangway was lifted into place using a crane.

The tugboat arrives to assist the TJ.
The tugboat arrives to assist the TJ.
The tugboat Jaguar helping the TJ dock at Newport
The tugboat Jaguar helping the TJ dock at Newport
The walkway is lowered from ship to shore.
The gangway is lowered from ship to shore.

Now we are waiting in Newport to see how the ship will be repaired, and how that will impact the surveying mission and the work of all the scientists on board. The fuel is currently being pumped out of the tanks so the engineering department can figure out what is going on.

Personal Log:

Some of my students have emailed to ask where am I sleeping. When you are aboard a ship, you sleep in a stateroom. I have the bottom bunk and my roommate has the top. We have storage lockers and shelves to hold our stuff. The bathroom (called the head) connects our stateroom with another room.

Bunks in our stateroom
Bunks in our stateroom

Everyone eats in the Mess. You pick up your hot food on a plate in front of the galley and then sit down to eat at a table. Some of our meals so far have been omelets and cereal for breakfast, shrimp, rice and vegetables for lunch, and fish and potatoes for dinner. There is always a salad bar. Yogurt and ice cream are available, along with lots of different drinks.

Everyone eats meals together in the mess.
Everyone eats meals together in the mess.

The passageways are pretty narrow around the ship and the stairs going from one deck to another are steep whether you are inside or outside.

Lots of ups and downs outside...
Lots of ups and downs outside…
Lots of ups and downs inside
Lots of ups and downs inside…

 

Everything on a ship must be well-organized so equipment can be found quickly and easily.

Equipment must be organized so everyone can get what they need.
Equipment must be organized so everyone can get what they need.

The view from the outside deck has been beautiful…

There is always something to see on the TJ
There is always something to see on the TJ

The last Question of the Day was: What do the letters XO mean on the hardhat of the person in the center of this picture?

XO Stands for Executive Officer
XO Stands for Executive Officer

XO stands for Executive Officer. Our Executive Officer is Lieutenant Commander Olivia Hauser. She is the second in command on board.

The last Picture of the Day showed this image:

Whale caught with sonar
Whale caught with sonar

This image was captured with sonar and shows a whale swimming in the ocean. Amazing!

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Why is surveying the ocean floor so important?

Today’s Picture of the Day is:

What is this and what is it used for?
What is this and what is it used for?

What is this?

Thanks for reading this entry.

Windy day on the deck of the TJ
Windy day on the deck of the TJ

Jeanne Muzi: Aboard the Thomas Jefferson! August 3, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeanne Muzi
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 2 – 13, 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: August 3, 2015

Weather Data From the Bridge:

Temperature                     Fair 81°F (27°C)

Humidity 65%
Wind Speed SW 12 mph
Barometer 29.87 in (1011.4 mb)
Dewpoint 68°F (20°C)
Visibility 10.00 mi
Heat Index 84°F (29°C)

Greetings from the Thomas Jefferson!

Science and Technology Log:

Now that I am onboard, I am trying to learn as much as possible. The TJ is a busy place and there are lots of jobs to be done. Basically there are separate groups working in different ways, like the Wardroom (which means all the officers on board), Engineering, Deck, Survey and Stewards, but everyone always comes together to work as a team.When one of the small launches returned to the ship late yesterday afternoon, everyone worked together to get it back on board safely. The launch had been surveying and now that data had to be processed in the survey dept.

One of the small launches returning
One of the small launches returning

 

Lifting the launch
Lifting the launch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the survey dept. there are different scientists working on different projects. This is a station for “Data Acquisition” so there are multiple computers and cameras sharing images, data and information from around the ship and from the sonars.

Information Acquisition Station
Information Acquisition Station

Survey Technician Stephanie Stabile created this “big picture” diagram, which explains how the different scanning tools communicate with each other to provide the most accurate scans of the ocean floor.

Diagram of TJ's Hydro System
Diagram of TJ’s Hydro System

 

 

ST Stabile explains her diagram to me.
ST Stabile explains her diagram to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This picture shows how a survey ship uses its multi-beam sonar.

Survey ship with multi-beam Sonar
Survey ship with multi-beam Sonar

If you would like to learn more about sonar, check out this video:

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sonar.html

I also had a chance to visit the bridge today as the anchor was lifted. I learned how orders are given clearly and information communicated accurately. Lieutenant Commander Hauser gave me a tour of the ship and answered many of my questions. She explained how the national flag is hoisted to the highest position when the ship gets underway.

Lieutenant Commander Hauser and Ensign Anderson with the American Flag.
Lieutenant Commander Hauser (right) and Ensign Anderson with the American Flag.
View from the bow of the Thomas Jefferson
View from the bow of the Thomas Jefferson

Personal Log:

One of the most important things I learned about today was safety!

Think about why we have fire and evacuation drills at school…It is important to be prepared just in case something happens! It is exactly the same here on the Thomas Jefferson! I was part of a group that was trained on safety issues like fire, abandoning ship and what to do in any emergency. Ensign Perry walked us around the ship and showed us where life jackets, fire extinguishers, steel-toed shoes and hard hats are located. She also taught me how to get in and out of a survival suit. Survival suits (also called “Gumby suits”) are made of foam rubber and are designed to be watertight. They help protect against hypothermia and can keep a person alive and floating until rescuers can find them.

An example of a survival suit
An example of a survival suit

For dinner, everyone on board came to a cookout on the deck near the bow of the ship! Delicious burgers, hotdogs, chicken, sausages and brisket were grilled up and enjoyed. What a great setting for some terrific food!

A cookout on the Thomas Jefferson
A cookout on the Thomas Jefferson

In my first blog entry the Question of the Day was:

Think about what you know about President Thomas Jefferson…What does he have to do with the Atlantic Ocean?

Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson

Here is some interesting information about Thomas Jefferson and the ocean:

As most people know, Thomas Jefferson was a writer, an artist, an architect, a statesmen and a lawyer. He was also one of our most scientific presidents. In 1807, President Jefferson established the Survey of the Coast to produce the nautical charts necessary for maritime safety, defense, and the establishment of national boundaries. The United States Coast and Geodetic Survey is the oldest scientific organization in the U.S. Other agencies that became part of NOAA in 1970 include the Weather Bureau, formed in 1870, and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries, formed in 1871. Much of America’s scientific heritage resides in these agencies. They brought their cultures of scientific accuracy and precision, stewardship of resources, and protection of life and property to NOAA.

The first Picture of the Day shows a side sonar “fish”. Here is some information about side scan sonars.

Side Scan Sonar Information
Side Scan Sonar Information

Go to this website to find out more!

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/education/seafloor-mapping/how_sidescansonar.html

 

Today’s Question of the Day is:

What do the letters XO mean on the hardhat of the person in the center of this picture?

XO?
XO?

Today’s Picture of the Day is:

Look carefully...What do you think?
Look carefully…What do you think?

What do you see in the scan?

Learning more each day! photo credit: Dan Connors
Learning more each day! photo credit: Dan Connors

Thanks for reading this blog entry!

 

Jeanne Muzi: Ready to become a Teacher (and Learner) At Sea! July 25, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeanne Muzi
(Almost) Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 2 – 13, 2015

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic
Date: July 25, 2015

Introduction

Hello everyone! Greetings from New Jersey!

My name is Jeanne Muzi. I am an elementary teacher, Gifted & Talented/Enrichment Specialist at Lawrence Township Public Schools in Lawrenceville, NJ.

I am very excited and truly honored to be a part of NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program and look forward to working hard and learning a lot! I will be boarding NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in early August! I can’t wait!

The Thomas Jefferson
The Thomas Jefferson

If you would like to find out more about the Thomas Jefferson, check out this website: http://www.moc.noaa.gov/tj/index.html

I will be writing this blog for the next few weeks to share stories about all the different people I meet, the things I see and what I am doing. This blog will be written especially for my students, so if you are a kindergarten through third grade learner you might want to check back to see different questions I post or interesting observations I may share.

Quick! Where is your favorite place? Where do you go to think, dream, wonder, play, relax and have fun? For me there is only one place—The beach!

Stormy Day at the Jersey Shore
Stormy Day at the Jersey Shore

Growing up on Long Island, NY, we were surrounded by water, so heading to the beach was easy. I attended summer camp on the east end of the island and loved to swim, canoe, sail and collect shells. This picture was taken when I was eight years old. My family was visiting the South Street Seaport in New York City and I was fascinated with the Lightship Ambrose. Its job was to keep other ships out of danger. I always wondered what it would be like to sail on her…

South Street Seaport, NYC
South Street Seaport, NYC

 

The Lightship Ambrose at the South Street Seaport, NYC today.
The Lightship Ambrose at the South Street Seaport, NYC today.

Years later the Lightship Ambrose is still at the Seaport…And I am getting a chance to sail on a much larger ship!

As a member of the Teacher at Sea program, I figured I should find out some information about NOAA. NOAA stands for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA is an Operating Unit of the United States Department of Commerce. The National Weather Service is a component of NOAA and there are many areas that NOAA scientists are involved in including coastal restoration, fisheries management, satellite systems, climate studies and research into biodiversity. You can find out more at http://www.noaa.gov

NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program, celebrating its 25th year, provides an opportunity for teachers from kindergarten through 12 grade and college, to participate with scientists working on oceanographic research projects aboard a NOAA vessel. There are three categories of missions: fishery surveys, hydrographic work or physical oceanography studies. Teachers at Sea use their hands-on, real-world learning opportunities to develop classroom-learning experiences for their students. They also share their new knowledge and skills with other teachers, schools and communities. The mission of the Teacher at Sea Program is “Science, Service and Stewardship.”

NOAA's Mission
NOAA’s Mission

Find out more at http://teacheratsea.noaa.gov/#/home/

My mission aboard the Thomas Jefferson is a Hydrographic Survey. When I received my assignment, the first question that came to mind was: What is hydrography?

According to NOAA: “Hydrography is the science that measures and describes the physical features of bodies of water and the land areas near those bodies of water. NOAA conducts hydrographic surveys to measure the depth and bottom configuration of water bodies. The data is used to update nautical charts and develop hydrographic models. During a hydrographic survey, NOAA scientists use sonar to develop charts, locate underwater hazards to navigation, search for and map objects on the sea floor such as shipwrecks, and map the sea floor itself.”

That sounds really amazing! Now I have lots of questions about sonar, mapping and why this work is so important! As I learn new things about hydrography, I will post the information. I know that the more questions I ask, the more I will learn! I also keep thinking about the connections I can make with what I am already doing with my students…

As someone who teaches younger students, I strive to help them strengthen their problem-solving skills and develop a strong sense of wonder and curiosity. Each year I develop a range of cross-curricular projects that build creativity and critical thinking. This past school year, we designed and built effective water filters, created solar ovens, mapped waterways and designed board games. We worked on engineering tasks like marble roller coasters, egg protectors and balancing puzzles.

Designing an effective water filter
Designing an effective water filter
Mapping
Mapping Waterways

 

 

One of my students’ favorite lessons each year is called “Think like a Scientist” and we try to figure out all the things scientists need to do in order to discover new things. I am looking forward to adding lots of new ideas to what it means to “Think Like Scientist” while aboard the Thomas Jefferson.

 

Streamkeepers reporting
Streamkeepers sharing data Photo credit: Alan Chausse

A highlight for me every year as a teacher is my involvement in an environmental education program called Streamkeepers, which focuses on monitoring and observing the ecosystem of a local waterway. The Streamkeepers work as citizen scientists and it is always incredible to see young students understand how the streams, rivers and oceans of our world connect us. Learning about hydrographic surveying aboard the Thomas Jefferson will provide me with another way to teach about water and our oceans.

Student Citizen Scientists participate in the Streamkeeper Project
Student Citizen Scientists participate in the Streamkeeper Project
Streamkeepers at work
Streamkeepers at work
Here I am presenting about the Streamkeeper Project during a visit to our sister school in Taiwan.
Here I am presenting about the Streamkeeper Project during a visit to our sister school in Taiwan. Photo credit: Jennifer Dowd

As I get ready to head out on my Teacher at Sea adventure, I keep thinking about three important things I stress as I teach:

  1. Do not be afraid to take risks.
  2. It is very important to step out of your comfort zone.
  3. There is great value in looking at things through other people’s eyes.

As a Teacher at Sea, I will be able to put these ideas into action!

Ready to learn aboard the Thomas Jefferson!
Ready to learn aboard the Thomas Jefferson!

 

Each blog entry I post will have a Question of the Day and a Picture of the Day! Here are the first ones:

Question: Think about what you know about President Thomas Jefferson…What does he have to do with the Atlantic Ocean?

Picture: What is this?

Question of the Day: What is this?
Question of the Day: What is this?

Thanks for reading! I look forward to sharing much more from the Thomas Jefferson!

Laura Guertin: Thank you, Thomas Jefferson! September 19, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Departing the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 19, 2014 – Day #263
Location of ship (in port at Norfolk): 36o 51.18′ N, 76o 17.911′ W

 

Watch out - Dr. G is bringing the Thomas Jefferson home!
Watch out – Dr. G is bringing the Thomas Jefferson home! Cruising speed ~11 knots. (photo taken by J. Johnson)

My time on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has come to an end.  It is an amazing amount of sadness I feel, leaving this incredible ship with its incredible crew.  Although my physical time on the ship is complete, I know the experience I’ve had will continue to inform my teaching and allow me to educate others about NOAA and the “what” and “why” of hydrographic surveying.

 


 

There are several people I have to thank.  First, I would like to thank NOAA for having the Teacher at Sea program, and for allowing higher education faculty to participate.  University faculty will have different takeaways from this experience than K-12 teachers, as we will view our time on the ship with a different lens and share different materials.  My Penn State Brandywine students, as well as other students from other universities, are important recipients of information from their professor that participates as a Teacher at Sea.  Why?  My students share their knowledge with others, whether it is in their other college courses, with their friends on social media, or socializing with friends and family.  My students are everything from future teachers, to future businessmen, to future politicians, and many are still deciding upon careers!  My students have the opportunity to vote.  My students can be advocates for the ocean.  My students, whether they are science majors or not, can really make a difference for our oceans with a better understanding of the process of science and who the people are that are collecting data for scientists to sailors to the everyday citizen.  For 99.9% of my students, my Oceanography course is their first and last formal introduction to the oceans.  My time as a TAS has provided me a valuable, authentic experience that I can share with students, and I am able to provide students this semester and in future semesters a course like no other they will receive in college.

Thank you, NOAA Teacher at Sea program! (yes, that is me in there!)
Thank you, NOAA Teacher at Sea program! (yes, that is me in there!) (photo taken by LCDR Winz)

 


 

I can’t thank enough the amazing people of the Thomas Jefferson (and you all know who you are!).  For a short time, the Thomas Jefferson was my classroom – but this time, I was the student and all of you, the NOAA Corps and crew, were my teachers.  Thank you for your patience, enthusiasm, hospitality, support, and laughter.  You allowed this complete stranger into your home, into your family, and you welcomed me without any hesitation.  You are an amazing group of mentors, and I feel so fortunate to have learned from each of you.  I wish I knew how to express my deepest appreciation for all that you have given me, which will now be shared with students, in-service teachers, and the greater community.

 

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Finally, I need to thank my students in GEOSC 040 this semester at Penn State Brandywine.  Thank you for your understanding and support of me participating in this experience.  I know you did not sign up for a course that was going to be taught online for three weeks, but I’m hoping I have effectively shared with you some of my teaching goals for this cruise:

  • Provide students additional information about NOAA, the NOAA Corps, and wage mariners
  • Help students understand the process of hydrographic surveying
    • The different roles and varied areas of expertise of people involved
    • The different types of equipment utilized
  • Demonstrate to students why hydrographic surveying is needed and relevant
  • Call attention to the intersections between the Ocean Science Literacy Principles and NOAA’s National Ocean Service

I cannot wait to join you back in the classroom for the remainder of the semester to continue sharing what I have learned.  I know this semester is a teaching experience I will never forget, and I am hoping that at the same time, this is a learning experience for you that you will also remember for years to come.

And so, the sun sets on my time at sea…

Good-by to the Atlantic Ocean and my time in the Thomas Jefferson!
Good-by to the Atlantic Ocean and my time in the Thomas Jefferson!

Laura Guertin: Days on the TJ Launch, September 18, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 18, 2014 – Day #261
Location of ship (at 0626 while in transit back to Norfolk): 40o 18.864’ N, 73o 48.974’ W

 


 

Science and Technology Log

For two consecutive days, I had the opportunity to join the hydrographic surveyors on the ship’s launch, HSL 3101 (see my previous post about the ship’s launches), as they surveyed areas close to the shoreline with multibeam echo sounding.  The shallow water areas are tricky and take much time and talent to navigate.  I have been a part of the Thomas Jefferson surveys of the deeper water with its “mowing the lawn” technique (see previous post), but the launch does not have the luxury of always logging data along straight lines at great distance, especially along the rocky New England coast. Check out these photos of the Launch!

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Here was the Plan of the Day (POD) for my first day on the Launch, Day #259:

0000 Ship U/W
0730 HSL 3101 Safety Briefing
0800 Deploy HSL 3101
1730 Recover HSL 3101
2400 Ship Anchored near H12679

I want to call your attention to the 0730 Safety Briefing.  This meeting took place the same time every morning that the Launch went out (which goes out every day during a leg of a survey, unless the weather is extremely bad).  Many items are discussed during the briefing.  I found it interesting that the coxswain (the person of the launch, including navigation and steering) also completes an Operational Risk Management survey each morning that examines the status of people heading out on the Launch and the physical environment.  The following categories are ranked on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 = no risk and 10 = highest risk.

  • Resources: boat and equipment, supervision, communication, support
  • Environment: surf zone, remoteness, ice, rocks, traffic, shallow or uncharted water
  • Team Selection: experience, training and familiarity
  • Fitness: physical and mental
  • Weather: effects on mission and safety
  • Mission Complexity: new or experimental, restricts maneuverability

The scores in all of these categories are tallied up.  If the score is between 0 and 23, the rating is a low risk, or “green,” and the mission is given a go-ahead.  If the score is between 24 and 44, the rating is an “amber” with a warning to use extra caution.  If the score is 45 to 60, then the rating indicates that there is a high risk with a “red” warning to not go out.  But the final total is not the final decision.  The XO (Executive Officer) radios the final score to the CO (Commanding Officer), and the CO has the final say whether the Launch goes out or not.  On my first day with the Launch, we had a score of 23, with the highest individual scores of 5 for Environment and 5 for Team Selection (the rocky shoreline made sense for the higher score, and my presence as a first-timer on the Launch also raised the Team Selection score!). Another important part of the Safety Briefing is a review of the “boat sheet.”   The people going out on the Launch review with the Field Operations Officer (FOO) the target areas for the Launch to visit and the data to acquire.  Below is a slide show of the multi-page packet, prepared the evening before, that goes out with the team.  This boat sheet is from my second day on the Launch, where our objective was to fill in holidays on previously-run survey lines (see my post on Holidays on the TJ).

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Each day I spent on the Launch had a slightly different mission.  On the first day, with two survey technicians, the coxswain, and myself, our goal was to obtain as much data about specific navigation hazards, as well as collect water depth data in shallower water than where the Thomas Jefferson can navigate.  Our ship and Launch are required to survey to the 12-foot contour line, but we certainly had to be careful in this rocky area, as our multibeam echo sounder was sitting in the water approximately one foot lower than the hull of the Launch!  (We had removed the side scan sonar from the Launch earlier in the week to give us more clearance to survey in this area.)  We also ran the Launch at a speed no greater than 10 knots to maintain the quality of our data and to protect the instrument.  On the second day, with one survey technician, the coxswain, and myself, you could probably tell from the boat sheets above that we spent the entire time filling in holidays in the data.  On both days, we were slowed down a bit by a variety of “things in the way.”  The photos below capture some of these obstructions.

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Just like on the Thomas Jefferson, we needed to collect data to apply corrections for sound velocity in the water.  NOAA doesn’t have MVPs on their launches (see more on the MVP), but instead use a similar instrument called a CTD.  The “C” stands for conductivity, the “T” for temperature, and “D” for depth.  When manually lowered over the side of the Launch, the CTD allows water to flow through the instrument, and data are collected as the instrument moves through the water column.  See NOAA’s CTD page for more about a CTD and how it is used.  View the slide show below for some images of the CTD going over the side of the Launch – and getting pulled back in by myself!

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Personal Log

Getting to spend two days on the launch was the final, missing piece of my hydrographic survey experience on the Thomas Jefferson.  I’m so glad I had the opportunity to head out and observe the work conducted by the launch.  I found it fascinating that the reason the Launch spent an entire day going back to fill in holidays is because NOAA charts 100% of the coastal ocean floor.  For example, a holiday may represent a 10-centimeter square gap in data – just 10 cm2!  Literally, no stone is left unturned – or in this case, no piece of the coastal zone unmapped!  My appreciation for the complexity of data gathering and processing for nautical charts just keeps growing and growing with every minute I spend on the TJ and now the Launch.  I apparently missed a little excitement while out on the Launch, as the TJ traveled close to the RMS Queen Mary II, which was cruising through the area (from the Launch, we could only see it off in the distance).

But I’m fine with missing the Queen Mary II, because the coolest part of both days?  I got to drive the launch!

That's me, driving the Launch back to the TJ after a full day of surveying
That’s me, driving the Launch back to the TJ after a full day of surveying (photo taken by R. Bayliss)

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions.  Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #10.

  1. Is the Safety Briefing before the Launch goes out really necessary?  Why/why not?
  2. What value is there in using a CTD while at sea?  (*hint – be sure to check out the links I provided for additional information)
  3. NOAA makes sure that there are no gaps in their data in the coastal zone.  This is in disagreement with Ocean Science Literacy Principle #7, don’t you agree?  For your response to this question, write an exception to Principle #7 (let’s call it “Part G”) that says what we do know about the ocean, based upon what I’ve shared with you in these blog posts.

 


 

Random Ship Fact!

Meet Oscar!
Meet Oscar!

There are times when the launch is off surveying and the Thomas Jefferson does not have any lines to run.  This does not mean the ship is staying put!  One day, CDR Crocker decided to test the junior NOAA Corp officers with a man overboard drill.  This was not a drill for the entire ship, but a challenge for those on the bridge to see if they could rescue “Oscar.”  Oscar is thrown in the water by the CO, and the junior officers were tested to see how they navigate the ship and how long it takes to rescue Oscar (meaning, pull the floater out of the water).  I happened to be on the bridge for the first two drills, which was fascinating to watch and to see the complexity involved in trying to orient the ship, keeping in mind the wind and currents.  Oscar is now safely back on the ship, despite finding a way of “falling” back in the water several times, continuing his journey with us.

By the way, the name “Oscar” comes from the Morse code SOS distress signal, where the “O” stands for Oscar in the military phonetic alphabet.  The Morse code communication system is a set of dots and dashes for numbers and each letter of the alphabet, and the letter “O” in Morse code is three long dashes.  It is no coincidence that three long blasts of the ship’s horn is also the emergency signal for man overboard!

Laura Guertin: “Holidays” on the Thomas Jefferson. September 17, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 17, 2014
Location of ship (at the Troydon Wreck): 41o 08′ 14.459″ N, 71o 21′ 42.987″ W

When I say we have “holidays” on the Thomas Jefferson, I’m not talking about Saint Patrick’s Day or 4th of July.  I’m referring to gaps in previously-collected data we need to fill.  Let me explain by taking you through life on the TJ on Monday, September 15.


Science and Technology Log

The day started just like any other day (we actually use the day of the year to designate days – today was Day #258):

0000 Ship anchored West Passage
0600 Start M/E
0700 Haul Anchor
0730 HSL 3101 Safety Briefing
0800 Deploy HSL 3101
1730 Recover HSL 3101
2400 Ship U/W on Survey H12651

Every day we have been out at sea, our launch has been out collecting data in the shallow-water areas of the coast.  Today, the launch was working on filling in polygons (geographic regions designated for charting) close to the shore.  The Thomas Jefferson was off on its own survey, revisiting areas the ship charted earlier this year that had gaps that needed to be filled in.

First, I should explain the technique the ship uses with side-scan sonar or multibeam echo sounding.  You are all familiar with “mowing the lawn,” where a lawn mower will go across the lawn in one line, then turn 180 degrees and travel back down next to the grass just mowed, and then this linear pattern continues across the lawn.  This is the same pattern hydrographic surveys use when collecting their data – except the lawn is the ocean, and the mower is the ship!  At times, there may be gaps along these lines.  The ship may have to navigate around a buoy or a lobster pot, or another boater may be on an intersect course with our ship.  So there were several small gaps along and between lines that we needed to go back and “mow” over.  Why go back and fill in the data?  On this particular project, we were charting every square foot along the coast.  That’s a lot of lawn to mow!

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The ship is driven by the helmsman on the bridge (Deck 03), but the hydrographic survey laboratory, or plot room, is on Deck 1. This means that communications must be frequent and clear between the two decks, so that the helmsman can accurately navigate while a survey technician starts and stops the data collection along the existing gaps in the lines.

Dr. G in plot room
Dr. G running the show!

In the photo above, you can see me at the station in the plot room where the action takes place.  Each computer screen displays a specific part of the data collection (today, we were collecting multibeam and not side scan).  The crew in the lab was able to train me enough to actually run part of the survey and work with the bridge to identify our next holidays to fill in.

The other instrument used during our survey is called a MVP – no, not a “most valuable player” but a Moving Vessel Profiler.  The MVP weighs 72 pounds and looks like a torpedo.  The weight is important, as the ship will, at set intervals, let the MVP freefall (while tethered to a line).  The MVP measures sound velocity vertically in the water column.  These data are important, as they help the survey technicians apply necessary corrections to the water depth measurements collected by the multibeam echosounder.  I must admit, it was a true test of my multitasking abilities to navigate and collect multibeam data over the holidays, while releasing the MVP and saving that data!  But I had so much fun being involved, I stayed on this work station for two four-hour shifts!

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Personal Log

One of the many incredible opportunities I’ve had while at sea is to be able to get hands-on with the varied activities of the ship – from handling the lines of the launch, to hauling the anchor, to actually sitting at the computers and running the software collecting the multibeam echosounding data. It is not just the “cool factor” of being able to communicate with the bridge and start the data collection. It is definitely “cool” being able to see the different people, their content knowledge and skill sets, and the technology involved in conducting a hydrographic survey.  And it is important to know when to ask for help, when to step back, and when to say, “I’m not ready for that yet.”  I am so eager to learn, but I have to balance jumping in to help, with making sure that my involvement doesn’t interfere with the ship’s activities and mission.  Students, I’m sure you also find it tricky to balance your enthusiasm and desire to participate in activities, versus knowing when you are trying to take on too much.  Here’s my take-home message – always ask!  If you can’t get hands-on, you will most likely be able to observe your surroundings and still learn so much.  There is one activity I’m nervous to try – today, the Commanding Officer (CDR Crocker) asked me if I was going to drive the ship (yes, the 208-foot long Thomas Jefferson!).  I wasn’t ready today, but before this cruise ends, I will drive this ship!  You just may want to stay out of the ocean until I get back to campus…


OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next question (just one for this post). Please answer this question online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #9.

  1. Why do you think it is important that the Thomas Jefferson go back and fill in the holidays? (*this answer is not directly in the text above – think about why it is a good idea to fill in the gaps, not “just because” NOAA is surveying every square foot)

Random Ship Fact!

As mentioned in previous posts, the Thomas Jefferson does not focus its activities just on collecting data on the depth of the ocean.  In fact, we continued surveying today through the evening over the Troydon Wreck.  The wreck was first picked up by a survey from another NOAA Ship, and we then moved in to measure water data above the wreck.  We had to narrow our multibeam echosounder to try to pick up as much detail in the water column – for example, would we be able to find a mast sticking up from this wreck?  Check out these images and check out what we found!

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Laura Guertin: TJ at the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival, September 15, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 15, 2014
Location of ship (at Fort Trumbull Coast Guard pier): 41o 20.698′ N, 72o 05.432’W

There is no Science and Technology Log for this blog post, as the ship made a detour for a special event – the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London, CT. This annual festival was happening for its second year, and the organizers asked NOAA if they would have a ship in the area to participate. Fortunately for them (and for NOAA), we were able to have our ship docked for the weekend activities but still send out our launch (HSL 3101) to continue with the hydrographic surveys.

The weekend had quite a schedule of events for the fan of maritime history. Connecticut TV stations Channel 3 and Channel 8 came and recorded a promo of the event (you can see a brief interview with my Commanding Officer in the Channel 3 video!). On Thursday evening, myself and others from the ship went and listened to sea shanty singing (you can listen to examples of sea shanties on the Smithsonian Folkways website). The evening concluded with a screening of a film titled Connecticut & The Sea, a look at how Connecticut’s identity has been shaped by its maritime heritage.

On Friday, there was an official welcoming ceremony for the festival with Lt. Governor Wyman, Senator Blumenthal, the mayor of New London, Mayor Finizio, and other state officials. There were many speeches, including a reading of a proclamation from last year that annually establishes the second week of September as the Connecticut Maritime History and Heritage Week.  I was pleased to hear that this annual celebration has a strong education mission written in the proclamation, focusing on using schooners as learning tools for youth. Senator Blumenthal specifically mentioned that, “more importantly than the money going in to this [festival] will be what people will learn, especially about our heritage. We are rooted in the sea.” I also learned about a maritime heritage history guide being developed for elementary grades in Connecticut, and another social studies and science guide for middle/high school students on maritime history, transportation, and maritime technology. Sounds like fun topics to teach, and so relevant to students and their geographic location.

Then, we started with ship tours! For two hours, we allowed visitors to come on board for a guided 15-minute tour of the Thomas Jefferson. Below are images of what the visitors were shown.  Images from other areas, such as the mess deck and lounge, can be viewed at my Life on the Thomas Jefferson post.

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Friday evening was the lighted boat parade, with the judges coming on board our ship to view and judge the boats that went by. (Personal commentary… UConn Avery Point – your boat should have won! Any boat with a college mascot on it is a winner in my book!)

UCONN - Avery Point R/V
The UCONN – Avery Point research vessel, filled with lights for the lighted boat festival!

On Saturday, we opened the ship for five hours, having as many as four tour groups on board at once! It was a huge effort in coordination, but as always, I am amazed by this amazing team on the Thomas Jefferson that was able to educate visitors on NOAA, its mission, and hydrographic surveying. The comments when the people came off the ship were so positive and wonderful to hear, and the smiles on the kids’ faces really summed up their experience.

We were pretty much all exhausted on Saturday evening – after all, we hosted 514 visitors on board during the festival! But there was little time to sit back and relax, as we had to be ready to set off our launch at 0800 and pull out of City Pier by 0900 the next morning.

Tour line for TJ
The line was long at times, but as many visitors told us, the tour was well worth the wait!

Personal Log

As an educator heavily involved in outreach, I was thrilled to be able to participate as a NOAA Teacher at Sea in this event. I proudly wore my TAS t-shirt and hat, and when I went over to the Education Exhibits at the festival, I was able to speak to some educators about this NOAA program and the wonderful opportunity it offers. I can’t wait to continue sharing my TAS experiences after this cruise, with my students, other K-12 teachers I work with, and the general public.

And it was fascinating for me to see everything involved in getting ready for the ship’s participation in the festival. The crew worked incredibly hard for several days, generating the posters for displays, cleaning the ship from top to bottom, and painting everything from the handrails to the decks. While at dock, we “dressed the ship” with signal flags – we looked good!

Another personal note is the delight I had being able to reconnect with my Connecticut roots!  I grew up in Plainville, CT, and we made several trips down to Mystic to visit Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium.  It was interesting to see this pride in Connecticut’s maritime history extend beyond Mystic, especially in New London with the Custom House Maritime Museum and current docking location of the recreated ship Amistad.

I would have to say that the most-unexpected-yet-equally exciting part of the weekend was seeing more than one submarine heading up the Thames River towards the Naval Submarine Base in New London (at least I believe that is where they were heading!). Each submarine is escorted by three smaller U.S. Navy boats with lots of protection on board. When a submarine comes through, all boat traffic stops in the immediate area. The submarines move very slow during transit in the river, so I was able to watch them for quite some time. Even though I recently toured the U.S.S. Bowfin submarine (a WWII sub), these submarines seemed much longer and more impressive in the water!

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OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions. Please answer these TWO questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #8. Only enter responses in the boxes for Question #1 and Question #2. You can refer to the NOAA Education Strategic Plan 2009-2029 for additional background information.  I also encourage you to think back to some of the previous questions you have answered about the role and purpose of hydrographic surveying…

1)  Please read NOAA’s Education Mission below. Why was it important for NOAA to participate in the CT Maritime Heritage Festival (in the context of NOAA’s education mission)? How did the Thomas Jefferson help support this mission statement?

NOAA’s Education Mission — To advance environmental literacy and promote a diverse workforce in ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, weather, and climate sciences, encouraging stewardship and increasing informed decision making for the Nation.

2)  Please read NOAA’s Education Vision below. Why was it important for NOAA to participate in the CT Maritime Heritage Festival (in the context of NOAA’s vision)? How did the Thomas Jefferson help support this vision statement?

NOAA’s Vision — An informed society that uses a comprehensive understanding of the role of the ocean, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions.


Random Ship Fact!

While NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson does not have the historic record of the ships docked in New London this past weekend, the Thomas Jefferson has certainly made some significant contributions that will go down in this ship’s history. Here are some of the impressive activities of the TJ, beyond its day-to-day hydrographic survey activities:

  • When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast in 2012 and New York Harbor was closed to ship traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard requested assistance from NOAA for immediate assistance with charting. It was the Thomas Jefferson that was sent in to survey the waterways. The Thomas Jefferson and her two launches charted approximately 20 square nautical miles with side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder, mapping shipping lanes and channels, identifying numerous hazards to navigation, and locating many lost containers throughout New York Harbor and the approaches” (see NOAA PDF). In essence, it was the work of the TJ that deemed the area safe and reopened the Harbor. See NOAA’s summary Response to Hurricane Sandy and read about the Updates to the New York Harbor nautical chart.
  • The Thomas Jefferson was involved in a search and rescue of two divers on August 26, 2012. The TJ was off of Block Island conducting its hydrographic survey work, and responded to an emergency call broadcast by the U.S. Coast Guard. The crew of the TJ spotted the divers and were able to direct a Coast Guard rescue vessel to their location (see NOAA article).
  • When a plane crashed in the ocean near Key West on August 14, 2010, the Thomas Jefferson was the first on site to respond. Within five minutes, and in the dark, the TJ crew rescued the pilot from the plane (see NOAA article).
  • On June 3, 2010, the Thomas Jefferson embarked on a research mission to investigate the area around the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill site. Specifically, the TJ utilized sophisticated acoustic and water chemistry monitoring instruments to detect and map submerged oil in coastal areas and in the deep water surrounding the BP well head. See the following NOAA articles:
    • NOAA/NOS Deepwater Horizon Incident (website)
    • Initial observations from the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (NOAA News)
    • NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson Continues Deepwater Horizon Spill Study Mission (NOAA News)
    • Deepwater Horizon Response Mission Report (PDF)
  • From April-June 2004, the Thomas Jefferson conducted a joint hydrographic survey with Mexico along the approaches to the Mexican ports of Altamira and Tampico as part of a cooperative charting agreement under the International Hydrographic Organization / Meso-American-Caribbean Sea Hydrographic Commission.
  • And let’s not forget the other contributions the Thomas Jefferson has made to marine archaeological surveys (Virginia Capes Wrecks, USCS Robert J. Walker, etc.)

One final point I’ll mention is from May 2007, when the Thomas Jefferson was recognized with the U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award “for superior federal service for mapping efforts which identified areas of shoaling and obstructions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and allowed for nautical charts to be quickly updated and used by deep draft vessels entering ports.”  This ship will certainly go down in the history books of the NOAA fleet!

TJ with flags
The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, with her flags out for the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival

Laura Guertin: Pre- and post-hydrographic surveys on the Thomas Jefferson, September 12, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 12, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 21.217′ N, 72o 05.508′ W (docked at City Pier in New Haven, CT)

That's me, getting ready to handle the bow line for the HSL 3101 launch
That’s me, getting ready to handle the bow line for the HSL 3101 deployment. (photo taken by R. Bayliss)

This post will summarize some of what happens before hydrographic research vessels such as the Thomas Jefferson head out to collect data; a little more information and some history on the tools utilized to collect the data; and then where the data are used once the ship has accomplished its mission.


Science and Technology Log

You may recall in my third post that there are three questions the NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey asks and answers several years in advance to prioritize survey plans:

  • Is it considered a critical area? If so, how old are the most current survey data?
  • Have local pilots or port authorities submitted reports of shoaling, obstructions or other concerns?
  • Does the U.S. Coast Guard or other stakeholders from the maritime community (e.g., fisheries, energy, pipelines) need surveys for economic development or ecological protection?

Once the NOAA Coast Survey tells the ships in their hydrographic fleet where to survey, an initial chart is created to break down the region into pieces (termed polygons) for mapping.

Boat sheet for Long Island Sound survey (provided by T. Walsh)
Boat sheet for Long Island Sound survey (provided by T. Walsh)

Once the region is set and defined, it is now time to get the equipment ready to generate an image and/or record the depth of the ocean floor. The technology for collecting this data has certainly come a long way over time!  The image below shows the “technologies” over time. You may also want to review the History of Hydrographic Surveying and Using Lead Lines to Collect Hydrographic Data.  Remember that you can go back and visit NOAA’s site to review What is sonar? and the different hydrographic survey equipment NOAA uses, specifically side scan sonar and the multibeam echo sounder.  Remember that side scan sonar is good for getting an overview of features on the seafloor, while multibeam data are needed to obtain an absolute depth measurement at a location.

Over 50 percent of the depth information found on NOAA charts is based on hydrographic surveys conducted before 1940. Surveys conducted with lead lines or single-beam echo sounders sampled a small percentage of the ocean bottom. Due to technological constraints, hydrographers were unable to see between the sounding lines. Depending on the water depth, these lines may have been spaced at 50, 100, 200 or 400 meters. Today, as NOAA and its contractors re-survey areas and obtain full-bottom coverage, uncharted features (some that are dangers to navigation) are routinely discovered. These features were either: 1) not detected on prior surveys, 2) manmade objects, like wrecks and obstructions, that have appeared on the ocean bottom since the prior survey or 3) the result of natural changes that have occurred since the prior survey.
Over 50 percent of the depth information found on NOAA charts is based on hydrographic surveys conducted before 1940. Surveys conducted with lead lines or single-beam echo sounders sampled a small percentage of the ocean bottom. Due to technological constraints, hydrographers were unable to see between the sounding lines. Depending on the water depth, these lines may have been spaced at 50, 100, 200 or 400 meters. Today, as NOAA and its contractors re-survey areas and obtain full-bottom coverage, uncharted features (some that are dangers to navigation) are routinely discovered. These features were either: 1) not detected on prior surveys, 2) manmade objects, like wrecks and obstructions, that have appeared on the ocean bottom since the prior survey or 3) the result of natural changes that have occurred since the prior survey. (Text for this caption from NOAA Hydrographic Survey Techniques webpage)

Here is a photo of the side scan sonar device from the Thomas Jefferson launch HSL 3101.

Side scan sonar recording device being removed from the HSL 3101, as the launch was going to be surveying in shallow/rocky waters that could damage the instrument.
Side scan sonar recording device being removed from the HSL 3101, as the launch was going to be surveying in shallow/rocky waters that could damage the instrument.

Here is a photo from underside of the Thomas Jefferson of the dual-frequency projector to capture multibeam data.

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If we go back to the map above that shows the regions to be charted, NOAA’s hydrographic crew will first run some multibeam lines to get a general overview of what to expect in terms of depth variations across the survey area.

Boat sheet with initial lines of multibeam data (provided by T. Walsh)
Boat sheet with initial lines of multibeam data (provided by T. Walsh)

Finally, the multibeam data are collected to produce a detailed map (red is for shallow depths, purple is for the deepest depths).

Initial multibeam data for a region, collected by one of the launches of the Thomas Jefferson (provided by T. Walsh)
Initial multibeam data for a region, collected by one of the launches of the Thomas Jefferson (provided by T. Walsh)

But collecting the side scan and multibeam data is just one half of the story – the other half includes knowing where you are when you collect the data.  Please listen to this important audio file from NOAA’s Diving Deeper podcast series, titled Accurate Positions: Know Your Location (from August 2012, 14:01 minutes, transcript).  If the audio player does not appear for you below, click here.


Personal Log

So we have the data collected on the water so we can add the water depths to the nautical charts.  And we have the locations where we collected that data.  But we still have a missing piece…  I have added the next part of this story to my Personal Log, as this information I can provide from my prior experiences during two summer internships while I was an undergraduate student.  The coast itself must be mapped with land surveys, aerial photographs, and remote sensing (see What is remote sensing?).  In addition to the shoreline, NOAA’s cartographers must plot any manmade structures such as docks and jetties that would be an obstruction to navigation, and any objects along the shoreline that would be visible to boaters such as radio and water towers.


Back to the Science and Technology Log

Finally, we have all the pieces to our puzzle, now it is time to put together the nautical chart!  I know I have been throwing around the term “nautical chart,” but let’s make sure you have this in your vocabulary. Please listen to this audio file from NOAA’s podcast series Diving Deeper, titled What is a Nautical Chart? (from March 2009, 15:04 minutes, transcript).  If the audio player does not appear for you below, click here.

Wondering how long it takes to create a nautical chart?  View NOAA’s page on The time needed to make a new nautical chart depends on how many pieces of the puzzle are in the box.


OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions.  Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #7.

  1. Why might hydrographers use side scan sonar rather than multibeam echo sounding?  Give two examples.
  2. For oceanographers, especially for a hydrographic survey, why is it important to get accurate positions while collecting survey data?
  3. How and why are nautical charts updated?

Random Ship Fact!

The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson started its life as the US Naval Ship Littlehales.  From January 1992 to January 2003, the Littlehales recorded 85,018 hydrographic survey miles along the coast of Africa and in the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea.  The Littlehales even assisted local authorities in halting a piracy incident against another ship at a West African port in 2001 (see article).  At the end of her Navy career, the number of survey operations personnel reached 660.  The Littlehales ended its time with the Navy but then became the Thomas Jefferson and officially entered the NOAA fleet on July 8, 2003 (see article).  It is pretty amazing to be on a ship that has traveled and contributed so much to ocean navigation and safety.

US Navy Ship LIttlehales
US Navy Ship Littlehales. (image from Navsource)
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (image from NOAA)
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (image from NOAA)

Laura Guertin: Life on the Thomas Jefferson, September 11, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 11, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 20.698′ N, 72o 05.432′ W (docked at US Coast Guard Station at Fort Trumbull State Park, CT)

During the first week of classes, one of my students said, “I’d like to learn about life on a ship.” Now that I have been on the ship for 11 days, let’s see if I can attempt to capture “life on a ship” in this post.


Science and Technology Log

First Aid on the Thomas Jefferson
The bag on the door of the First Aid station has handy items, such as meclizine (motion sickness medication!)

I don’t know if there is a “science” to living and working on a ship. During this leg of the cruise, we have 35 people on board – a captive (or captured?) audience that has to function professionally and socially. You learned in my second post that the NOAA ships have NOAA Corps Officers and wage mariners on board, supplemented with occasional scientists and guests such as myself. Everyone on board the Thomas Jefferson falls in to one of the following categories: wardroom (NOAA Corps Officers), engineering officers, engineering and deck crew, steward department, electronic technician, survey technician, and scientists/guests. Several people are also trained as medical technicians, and everyone is certified in First Aid and CPR. The shifts that people work vary, from 4 hours on to 8 hours off for watch, to working all day or spending all evening processing hydrographic data collected earlier that day. When we are “at sea,” we are working every day of the week – no weekends off. Needless to say, there is always work to be done on the ship!

Each day, we follow a Plan of the Day (POD) that is distributed the prior afternoon. Below is the POD from Sunday, September 7.

0000 Ship anchored at Gardiners Bay
0600 Start M/E
0700 Haul anchor
0730 Safety briefing HSL 3101
0800 Deploy HSL 3101
~0900 Docking stations
~0915 Moored in New London, CT
1230 All hands meeting – Mess Deck
~1400 Depart New London, CT
~1600 Ship anchored Gardiners Bay
1730 Recover HSL 3101
2400 Ship anchored Gardiners Bay

We never have this detailed of a schedule more than 24 hours in advance – and even during the day, the schedule may change. This is very different for me. I come from a world where in August, I have to make out a syllabus that has every lecture topic and every assignment through December. Not knowing what the ship is doing more than a day in advance is certainly a different way of keeping a schedule, but appropriate for how a ship operates.


Personal Log

Time to address the topics I know my students are most interested in – eating and sleeping!

There are three people on board dedicated to providing our meals (we don’t cook for ourselves on the ship). Breakfast is served from 0700 to 0800, lunch is from 1130 to 1230, and dinner starts at 1630 (notice all times are reported on 24 hour clock, otherwise referred to as military time). If you cannot get to a meal because you are on watch or will be sleeping, you can request that a plate be put together and stored in the refrigerator for you to grab and heat up later. Those going out on the launch for the day can also get a lunch packed to bring out with them during their surveying. Breakfast always includes eggs any way you want them, pancakes, sausage/bacon, cereal, fresh fruit, and the occasional special foods like biscuits and gravy. Lunch ranges from grilled cheese and tomato to corn dogs (burger and taco days seem to be a group favorite), with soup and a salad bar every day. Dinner has had a wide range of options, from roasted duck to lamb chops, to roast beef to curry chicken. There are always vegetarian options, such as eggplant parmesan and vegetable lo mein. Desserts are provided every day, as well as snacks ranging from the healthy to the unhealthy. And did I mention the never-ending supply of ice cream bars and half-gallons available 24/7? There’s even a vending machine on board for soda and snack foods.

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For sleeping arrangements, most people on board share a stateroom. Think of a stateroom as a dorm room – it has bunk beds, a closet and dresser for each person. The room also has a sink, a small refrigerator for food, and a TV connected to DirecTV. Each room shares a bathroom with the room next to it, which has only a toilet and shower. Fortunately, with everyone working at different times, showering has not been a problem (except for standing up in it when the ship is moving!). For privacy while you are sleeping, there is a thick curtain that you can pull across your bed. The curtain does an excellent job keeping the light out of your sleeping area, but if you are one that likes to read in bed at night, each bunk also has a reading light and outlet. Besides sleeping and going in to grab warmer clothing when the wind kicks up and/or the temperature drops when we are on the water, I have spent very little time in my room. I’m sharing the stateroom with ENS Diane Perry, who has been an excellent mentor and friend during my time here.

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When crew members get some down time, there are a range of activities to do – reading, watching TV, exercise, laundry, or just going outside on deck to enjoy the view and watch the beautiful sunsets in the evenings. Time on the internet is limited, and I have not seen anyone “surf the web” or spend time on social media on the two public computers in the lounge. The internet connectivity we have is primarily used by the hydrography lab so they can access current tide tables and other data needed for data gathering and processing (which is why the postings on this blog are rather choppy – when we get close enough to land for me to use my cell phone as an internet hub, I take advantage of the connection time!).

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I admire how hard everyone on this ship works, and I also enjoy how much they laugh! The ship’s lounge has been a popular place to gather for watching movies and football games, and everyone on the ship swaps stories with one another, from the NOAA Corps officers to the deck crew to the technicians. You might think that everyone would want to “get away” from each other and have some space and time to themselves at the end of the day, but instead, I see a close group of colleagues not only working but living together as a tight-knit group. I don’t know if this crew is quite ready to match the JOIDES Resolution Exp. 351 flash mob, but I bet they would be tough competitors!

In the end, what I thought would be most informative would be to ask the crew themselves about life at sea. I asked as many crew members as I could to provide me three words to describe life at sea. Below is the collection of words I received, listed in alphabetical order. The numbers next to the words indicate how many people said that particular word.

Adventure (3), astounding, beautiful, boring, busy (2), challenging (3), close, close-knit, coffee, communal, community, computers, dedication, desolation, draining, ever-changing (2), exciting (2), exigent, exhausting, experience, family, fatigue, food, fun (2), funhouse, goals, isolated, lonely, new, non-routine, relaxing (2), rewarding, sacrifice, self-gratifying, shipmates, skill, sleeping, standing, stressful, sunsets, travel, unique, watch, unpredictable

Other multi-word phrases people volunteered worth sharing include “strange sleeping habits,” “limited privacy,” “look out the window,” and “no bill collectors.”

That's me, getting ready for us to drop anchor in Gardiners Bay at sunset
That’s me, getting ready for us to drop anchor in Gardiners Bay at sunset.  I think you can see why “sunsets” made the list of “life at sea”! (photo taken by R. Bayliss)

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here are just TWO QUESTIONS for this post! Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #6. Note that you will see three empty response forms in ANGEL for Post #6. You only need to respond to these two questions.

  1. “Life at sea” is not part of the Ocean Literacy Principles. Please go back and read the full Ocean Literacy document, linked in ANGEL and on our course website. This front material that I did not print out and provide on paper gives more of a background about the principles and their purpose. Your question to answer… should “life at sea” be a part of the Ocean Literacy Principles? Why/why not?
  2. Whether you think “Life at Sea” should or should not be a principle, I would like you to write Ocean Literacy Principle #8 and call it “Life at Sea.”  Define what you would put in there for your subcategories and why.

Random Ship Fact!

I know I told my students in my Introduction to Oceanography course at the beginning of this semester that there was a new vocabulary they would be learning. Little did I know that there was an entire vocabulary I would be learning on the ship! I finally had to write down the terms so I could remember them and start using them correctly. For example, it is not a floor, it is a deck. It is not a hallway, it is a passage or passageway. The dining area is the mess deck, and a stairway is a ladderwell, or stairtower. A wall is a bulkhead, and a window is a porthole. And then there are the direction/location terms for the ship – port (left) and starboard (right), and the bow (forward) and stern (rear). And don’t confuse Deck 2 with Deck 02 – those are two different decks! The “main deck” is Deck 1, and the next deck up is Deck 01, then Deck 02, and then the bridge. Going down from Deck 1 is Deck 2 (with staterooms, where I am staying), and Deck 3 with the exercise room and laundry facilities. But this is just the first number you see on the door signs! There is an entire address system for the ship. My room is 2-25-1, which means it’s located on the second deck (one deck down from Deck 1), at frame 25 of the ship, on the starboard side.  The first number is the deck, the second number indicates which frame the space is at, and the third shows which side of the ship (1 = starboard, 2 = port, 0 = midship). Everything on the ship has an address, including rooms, offices, stairtowers, fire stations, first aid kits, smoke alarms, power panels, and lights.

Someone needs to write a dictionary for life on a ship!

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Laura Guertin: The launches of the Thomas Jefferson, September 8, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 8, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 07.936′ N  72o 11.011′ W

 

During the first week of the semester, one of my students asked what types of ships do oceanographic research. Here is a little more information on the types of ships we are using during this hydrographic survey. Remember that you can always revisit the websites for An Overview – Hydrographic surveying and Hydrographic survey equipment for more detailed information.

 


 

Science and Technology Log

The Thomas Jefferson is an impressive hydrographic research vessel that is out on the water capturing data for its surveys from March to November each year, but it cannot do the job alone. The ship has two smaller types of boats that it carries on board to help with the survey work.  Not only was I able to see these boats in action, but Chief Boatswain (or bosun) Bernard Pooser provided me with copies of the NOAA Small Boat Program Annual Evaluation Checklist to learn facts down to the smallest details of these important ships.  These boats are inspected annually.

 

Fast Rescue Boat
The Thomas Jefferson’s fast rescue boat (FRB)

FRB – Fast Rescue Boat

The fast rescue boat is used for rescue if we ever have to address a man overboard situation. It is also used if someone needs to be brought from ship to shore, or vice-versa. The boat can accommodate three crew, five passengers, and one stretcher. The boat is not used for surveying but plays an important role in the overall operations during our time at sea. The boat itself is 22 feet in length, has a 9 foot beam, and a draft of 14 inches. Its NOAA Hull ID number is 2204 (yes, the first two numbers in the Hull ID are the same as the length of the boat). The hull material is glass reinforced plastic/polyurethane.

Check out this video of the fast rescue boat being raised out of the water from the starboard side of the Thomas Jefferson.

Video of the fast rescue boat in use on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on September 4, 2014 (recorded by L. Guertin)

 

The TJ's launch HSL 3101
The TJ’s launch HSL 3101

HSL 3101 – “The Launch”

A ship needs a certain amount of water in order to float and not touch the ocean floor. This water depth is called the ship’s “draft” (learn more at NOAA’s An Inch of Water: What’s It Worth?).  The Thomas Jefferson has a draft of 14 feet, but is obligated to survey to 12 feet of water depth. And with the survey instrumentation (side scan and multibeam sonars) mounted on the bottom of the Thomas Jefferson, this ship cannot navigate in very shallow waters to collect the hydrographic data required for surveys. In comes… the launch! The launch is a smaller vessel than the TJ, only 31 feet in length, with a 10 foot beam and draft of 4 feet 8 inches.  The NOAA Hull ID number is HSL 3101, and the hull is made of aluminum.  The launch is equipped with side scan and mutibeam sonar capabilities. The TJ normally carries two launches on its deck. Unfortunately, one of the launches is currently under repair, so we have been working with just one launch during this cruise.

TJ launch, at NOAA's MOC-Atlantic
The second launch of the Thomas Jefferson, HSL 3102, at NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Atlantic, undergoing repairs
HSL 3102 cradle on the TJ
An empty cradle on the TJ, waiting for the second launch, HSL 3102, to join the ship

The launch weighs approximately 18,000 pounds and takes a very coordinated effort to raise and lower this boat from the Thomas Jefferson. Check out this video to see how the launch is lowered in to the water with a hydraulic-powered davit.

Video of the launch boat in use on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on September 6, 2014 (recorded by L. Guertin)

When you viewed this video, did you hear those seven dings that occurred periodically?  We were at anchor with limited visibility (a very foggy morning, as you saw when the launch pulled away), and according to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and the Inland Navigation Rules (available online!), “A vessel at anchor shall at intervals of not more than one minute ring the bell rapidly for about 5 seconds. In a vessel of 100 meters or more in length the bell shall be sounded in the forepart of the vessel and immediately after the ringing of the bell the gong shall be sounded rapidly for about 5 seconds in the after part of the vessel.” As the TJ is 63 meters, we were sounding the bell for 5 seconds, once every minute.

The ships are required to sound a signal. The signal you hear would vary ship-to-ship, as the length of the signal upon the length of the ship. Once the fog lifted, we were able to silence the bell.

 


 

Personal Log

Although it appears like fun, being out and zipping around the ocean on these vessels, I am hoping you notice in these videos the safety precautions taken. I also want to point out one of the impacts of going out on the small vessels you don’t see in the videos – the exhaustion at the end of the day felt by the people on the vessels! Getting bounced around on top of the water in the smaller boats, and staying focused the entire time on acquiring the survey data is physically and mentally exhausting. For my first few days on the Thomas Jefferson, I experienced that same exhaustion! Although the ship’s crew doesn’t feel the motion on the TJ as much as the crew on the launches moving across the water, I certainly feel the ship moving, whether it is in transit or at anchor. Eating and showering were the biggest adjustments for me. But I got my sea legs pretty quickly – let’s hope my land legs come back when I return to the classroom!

 


 

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions. Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #5.

  1. From the video clips above, what safety precautions did you notice by the people on deck and the people on the HSL and FRB? What other precautions before/during/after the launch of these two vessels do you think were taken that you did not see in the video?
  2. Why is it important for NOAA to collect water depth data, even in shallow water? (*hint – use information from the article linked above titled An Inch of Water: What’s it Worth?)
  3. Which Ocean Literacy Principle(s) would learning/knowing about these launches apply to, and how? (please identify with the number(s) and letter(s) of the principles you are discussing)

 


 

xxx
Comfortable chairs are important for the hours and hours spent on computers processing in the hydrography lab – but no rolling across the floor

Random Ship Fact!

Certainly, there is movement felt on each deck on of the ship when we are underway. In addition, the Thomas Jefferson “bobs” up and down on the water and can swing with the ocean current when it is at anchor, like how a seagull moves up and down with the waves that pass beneath (not as a significant of a motion, but you can visualize this). So how do we stop objects from moving around on a moving ship? Chairs with wheels are not safe, so the wheels and all chair legs are covered with… tennis balls! The tennis balls prevent the chairs from sliding and rolling across the decks of the ship. Note that in the mess deck (dining area), the tables are also attached to the floor with cement posts underneath.  The tennis balls also help prevent the floors from being scuffed.

tables and chairs
These tables and chairs aren’t going anywhere!

Laura Guertin: From the bridge of the Thomas Jefferson, September 6, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 6, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 04.009′ N, 72o 01.642′ W

 


 

Science and Technology Log

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Our transit from Norfolk, VA, to offshore of Port Judith, RI, took us through some calm waters (and NYC!). I spent most of the morning of our transit day (Sept. 3) on the bridge learning about the equipment and navigation tools. The CO (Commanding Officer) of the ship, CDR Crocker, kindly welcomed me on the bridge during the morning of transit. I was able to learn about the equipment and navigation tools, as well as observe what it takes to pilot a hydrographic survey vessel the size of the Thomas Jefferson (see the TJ fact sheet for ship stats).

One navigation tool that caught my eye is called the AIS – Automated Identification System (read an overview of AIS here and here).  LT Megan Guberski, the ship’s Operations Officer, provided me some great information to explain the value of this particular equipment: “AIS information is collected by a dedicated antenna, and generally includes the ship’s course, speed, and name. The AIS information is then broadcast to the radars and displayed visually. In crowded waters deck officers use the overlapping radar and AIS display monitor their neighbors. If a collision course is detected, the officers can use the VHF radio to hail the other ship by name.”

Nautical charts are on the bridge in paper and digital format. I asked the CO why paper charts are still used and kept around, as all NOAA charts are now digital and only print on demand. He said the ship always needs to know where it is at all times – for example, if there was a power failure on the ship, how would the ship know where it was? (such a simple and logical answer!) There are cabinet drawers filled with paper nautical charts that are utilized hand-in-hand with the technological tools for navigation. In fact, we are utilizing 23 different paper nautical charts for our transit and survey areas during the time I’m on board.

Although I could not see the satellite receiver, there are screens on the bridge that provide the GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates of the ship. Not familiar with GPS? Check out NOAA’s Global Positioning page and view this NASA YouTube video about GPS. These latitude and longitude values aid in plotting and tracking the ship’s transit.

The ship also is in constant radio contact with other ships, receives emergency weather alerts from the National Weather Service (a division of NOAA), uses compasses to tell direction, thermometers to manually track air temperature, and even utilizes basic tools such as binoculars to spot obstructions on the water, from buoys to lobster pots (also called crab pots, lobster traps, etc.).

But clearly, the most important part of the bridge is the people – the people on watch, the people at the helm steering the ship, etc.  On the Thomas Jefferson, I have observed three people on the bridge at all times – the deck officer, whose primary duty is collision avoidance; the conning officer, who oversees the navigation; and, the helmsman, who steers the ship. A simple way to remember this trio is that one person plans the ship’s turns, one person orders the ship’s turns, and one person drives the ship. Although the technology is a wonderful tool to supplement time and work on the ocean, it cannot ever replace the importance of human observation and intuition. I’m glad that this crew has its eyes on and out for everything, 24/7!

Check out this image slideshow to see the tech tools that I have described, as well as other features around the bridge.

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And to get a complete rundown of the bridge and its equipment, view this video tour of the Thomas Jefferson given by ENS Ryan Wartick (now LT Wartick), filmed in February 2010.

 


 

Personal Log

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to spend time and observe the activities on the bridge. My own observations help me not only understand more of how the ship works, but it is priceless to be able to see the teamwork involved in communications among the bridge crew and between the bridge and the crew throughout the ship. Today was the first day of gathering data for the hydrographic survey (more on the specific survey projects in a future post!), and that communication between the hydrography lab on the ship, with the launch (a smaller ship) collecting data in shallower water, and with the bridge is so critical in the success of scientific missions such as this.

Personally, I’m so glad there are people who have the skill set to navigate a ship such as the Thomas Jefferson. In fact, one of the Ensigns jokingly told me that learning to steer the Thomas Jefferson felt like learning how to drive a forklift on ice(!). I’m also pleased that the crew is so open to answering any of my questions and volunteering information to help me learn, such as the difference between a statute (land-measured) mile, nautical mile and a knot – I forgot what it was like to be a student again!

 


 

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions. Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #4.

  1. I want to make sure everyone is familiar with GPS technology, as GPS plays such an important role in navigation and surveying (and will be mentioned in many more future posts). From my description, links above, and any additional websites you wish to explore, tell me in your own words what is GPS. How does it work?
  2. In your own words, what is the importance of having GPS and AIS on a ship doing oceanographic research in shallow water? In deep water? (*think of the TED videos you are watching and if/how GPS and AIS would be helpful)
  3. Let’s say that hypothetically, an emergency came up and I needed to head home. I tell CDR Crocker I need the ship to get to Philadelphia ASAP. Who would he work with, and what tools would he use to get the ship to dock in Philly? Any ideas what he would have to navigate around as he gets closer to Philly (besides lobster pots)? (*note – be sure to look at the photo slideshow and the video for images and descriptions of equipment I didn’t mention above)

 


 

Lounge on the TJ
Lounge on the TJ

Random Ship Fact!

This random ship fact is inspired by 2014 NFL season – yes, even football makes its way out on to the ocean! The ship has access to DirectTV, with TV screens in the ship’s lounge (pictured here, with quite a reading collection), in the dining area, and in the individual staterooms. On Thursday, the first football game of the season, people on the ship gathered to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks. I haven’t found too many Philly sports fans on the ship, but an even more random ship fact (for those Eagles fans)… Troy Vincent’s cousin is on the ship with me!

 

Laura Guertin: The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is on its way to… September 4, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 4, 2014
Location from the Bridge: 41o 20.042′ N, 71o 27.252′ W

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Ahoy, everyone! The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is off on another exciting hydrographic survey in the Atlantic Ocean. You will notice that my blog posts will now be divided into two sections – one titled Science and Technology Log, and the other titled Personal Log. The Science and Technology log will be… well, you guessed it, a report on the science, technology, and/or career aspects of this current expedition. The Personal Log is… yes, you guessed it again, where I will be sharing some of my personal experiences about participating as a visiting scientist and educator on this NOAA ship. I’ll also try to include random trivia or an informational paragraph at the end. And students, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you – a special shout-out and special section will be written for my students in my oceanography course back on campus this fall.

So, let’s start!


 

Science and Technology Log

Why hydrography?

Since we are currently in transit to our new location and haven’t yet started our survey, I want to make sure I drive this point home (or sail this point home?)… Why do hydrography in the first place? Why do we need hydrographers/ocean surveyors?  In this audio file from NOAA’s Diving Deeper podcast series, they answer this exact question – why hydrography is important not just for commercial and recreational boaters, but for everyone.  Take a listen!  (The podcast is 3:39 min.  If the audio is not appearing or playing for you, please click here to access, date 07/05/2012.)

 

If the podcast wasn’t enough to convince you as to why we need surveys of the oceans, check out this video from Mary Glackin, NOAA’s Deputy Under Secretary, as she recognizes the nation’s hydrographers on World Hydrography Day (June 21). She explains how hydrography supports the U.S. economy, keeps mariners safe, and protects our coastal communities and ecosystems.  (The video is 3:15 min.  If the video is not appearing or playing for you, please click here to access.)

By the way, do you have World Hydrography Day marked on your calendar??? It is celebrated every year on June 21.  Learn more about World Hydrography Day at the WHD website and the website for the International Hydrographic Organization.

 

How does NOAA know where to survey?

For NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, several considerations go into prioritizing survey plans, which are laid out several years in advance. Coast Survey asks specific questions about each potential survey area.

  • Is it considered a critical area? If so, how old are the most current survey data?
  • Have local pilots or port authorities submitted reports of shoaling, obstructions or other concerns?
  • Does the U.S. Coast Guard or other stakeholders from the maritime community (e.g., fisheries, energy, pipelines) need surveys for economic development or ecological protection?

Want to know where the NOAA hydrographic survey fleet is heading in the 2014 field season? The NOAA Coast Survey blog has a post from April 22 that details the survey projects in Alaska, on the west coast, Gulf of Mexico, and on the east coast.

 

East coast hydrographic survey locations for NOAA's 2014 field season.
East coast hydrographic survey locations for NOAA’s 2014 field season.

 

More to come about our specific hydrographic survey on the Thomas Jefferson coming soon in the next blog post (once we arrive on location)!

 


 

Personal Log

I was excited to arrive at NOAA’s Atlantic Marine Operations Center on Sept. 1st.  I knew the overall statistics on the size of the ship, but when I came around the corner on the base and saw the Thomas Jefferson for the first time – WOW!  I was so impressed with how she looked and the size – 208 feet in length never looked so long!  I called to the ship and the officer on duty, ENS Diane Perry, welcomed me on board.  She gave me an incredibly thorough tour of the ship, and I immediately felt comfortable and ready to start!

On the first day of class, one of my students asked the question: “How safe is oceanography as a career?”  Safety is a top priority for everyone on board this ship and all NOAA ships, and the safety checks and equipment are visible everywhere.  In fact, within 24 hours of leaving the dock, all newcomers to the ship (such as myself) were required to go through safety training.  I learned about three different types of emergency situations, each with their own type of alarm signals and reporting station.  The “Fire and Emergency” alarm is a continuous alarm for 10 seconds, and I report to my team on the “vent boundary” section of the outside deck.  The “Abandon Ship” alarm is six short blasts followed by one prolonged blast, and I report to my team with a hat, long-sleeve shirt, life vest, and survival suit on the port side of Deck 2 (photo of me in a survival suit to come in the future!).  Finally, the “Man Overboard” alarm is three prolonged blasts, and I report to my team on the starboard side of Deck 2.  Then, when training finished, we had our first “Fire and Emergency” drill, followed immediately by a “Abandon Ship” drill – and I was ready!  It turns out that NOAA runs these two drills every week, and the “Man Overboard” drill once a month.  We haven’t even started our research yet, but students, I have to tell you that I feel really safe being on a ship on the sea.  Everyone on the ship is trained in First Aid and CPR, and everyone takes on the role of fire fighter and emergency responder if a situation arises – and by “everyone,” I mean “everyone” from the engineers to the cooks.

 

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Everyone I’m meeting on the ship, from the NOAA Corps officers to civilian workers, is so helpful and friendly.  Their enthusiasm for their job clearly came through when we were getting ready to leave port, and I look forward to being a part of this team for the next three weeks.

 


 

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions.  Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #3.  Your response to #1 will be relatively short, #2 & #3 should be longer.

  1. Find in this blog post where it says the Thomas Jefferson will be this field season (also mentioned on the NOAA Coast Survey site). Then, go to the NOAA Ship Tracker website http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/Home/Map to see where the Thomas Jefferson is currently located (you may need to zoom in – look for the letters “TJ” on the map.  If you click on the letters, it will give you some more information about the title of our project and our latitude and longitude coordinates.). Are we heading where we planned to be (based on the image above)? Where are we currently? (Please list the date of when you answered this question.)
  2. The 2014 theme of World Hydrography Day was “Hydrography ‒ More Than Nautical Charts.” NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey invited the public to contribute articles that illustrate the theme, and they compiled these articles into a PDF. The articles in this collection, contributed by government and private experts, reflect the diversity of users of hydrography, with interests from marine ecology, archeology, energy and water resource management, and emergency response.  See this page for a listing of article authors and topics.
    • Select one article to read from the PDF (link presented here again).
    • In your response box, type the title of the article you selected to read.  Then, include a description of which Ocean Literacy Principles this articles addresses, and how (*think back to our second day of class, we reviewed the Ocean Science Literacy Principles tying in to the Introduction to Octopus!)  If the article you selected does not fit any of the Literacy Principles, make suggestions for how the author could have written the article differently to apply to the Principles.
  3. Now keep that Ocean Science Literacy document handy, and let’s think outside the box… let’s pretend that the International Hydrographic Organization has asked you to come up with a theme for World Hydrography Day 2015.  What theme would you propose, and why?  And how would that theme tie in to not only hydrography, but the Ocean Literacy Principles?

 

One of the Thomas Jefferson anchors
One of the Thomas Jefferson anchors

Random ship fact!

This random ship fact is inspired by a question one of my oceanography students asked on the first day of class – how does an anchor keep a ship in one place in the ocean?  JO Diane Perry shared with me more than I ever knew there was to know about anchors!  On a ship such as the Thomas Jefferson, anchors are lowered on chains.  The ship lets out enough chain so that it is 5-to-7 times the depth of the water.  The anchor chains are marked off (with paint) in a unit called a “shot”, which is the equivalent of 90 feet.  Although the design of the anchor makes it look like it can hook in to the ocean floor to secure the ship, it is actually the weight of the chain that holds the ship in place.

Laura Guertin: NOAA, the NOAA Corps, and Thomas Jefferson, August 29, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin

(Just About!)
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 29, 2014

When I shared with my students that I was going out to sea for three weeks, they had many questions for me about not only my upcoming adventure but the process of oceanographic research in general.

  • What kind of ships do oceanographers use?
  • How long are typical oceanographic voyages?
  • Do they do research all year-round? Even in the winter?
  • Is oceanography a safe career?
  • I’d like to learn about life on a ship.

I’m hoping to answer all of my student questions (and more!) here on this blog. But to start, I want to share some more about the NOAA Corps, the NOAA fleet, and information about the specific ship I’ve been assigned to, the Thomas Jefferson.

 

What is the NOAA Corps?

When you see images of NOAA’s 16 ships and 12 aircraft being operated by “people in uniform,” you are looking at the amazing men and women that make up the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. The NOAA Corps has over 300 commissioned officers and is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. This amazing group of STEM (science, technology, math and engineering) professionals are direct descendants of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USC&GS), the oldest scientific agency in the U.S. Federal Government. In fact, it was a bill signed by President Thomas Jefferson in February 1807 for a “Survey of the Coast” that started the national collection of accurate natural charts as well as information to address national concerns and discussions around natural boundaries, commerce, and defense (read more at NOAA’s History of Coast Survey and Monticello.org).

The best way to learn about the NOAA Corps is to watch them in action. Check out the NOAA Corps recruiting video to get an overview of who they are and what they do.

 

What exactly is the NOAA fleet?

Recall that above, I mentioned that the NOAA Corps is responsible for 16 ships and 12 aircraft – yes, the NOAA fleet has boats and airplanes. Although I won’t be addressing the aircraft in this blog, I encourage you to read more about NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center and perhaps view this short video about NOAA’s Hurricane Hunters! The NOAA Marine Operations Center oversees ships in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for hydrographic surveys, oceanographic research, and fisheries surveys. Visit the NOAA Marine Operations Page to explore the ships in NOAA’s fleet.

And in addition to the commissioned officers aboard the ships, we have to acknowledge the wage mariners that are an integral part of running the NOAA fleet. Check out this video to learn more about the role of a civilian mariner on a NOAA ship.

 

What’s the role of the Thomas Jefferson in the NOAA fleet?

I have to say, I couldn’t be more excited to be heading out on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. This ship is part of NOAA’s hydrographic survey vessels and collects hydrographic data from depths of between 10 meters (33 feet) and 4,000 meters (13,123 feet), from Maine to Texas (including Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands).  Its home base is Norfolk, Virginia, where I will be heading to get on the ship.  The Thomas Jefferson has a webpage and media stories that will give you all the details of the ship – its size, equipment on board, etc. (*students – I strongly encourage you to check out these links!)

So how does a ship conduct a hydrographic survey?  Check out this video to learn more about the technology (sonar) and how the data are used to create nautical charts. (Video from http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sonar.html)

 

And here’s a short video taken on the Thomas Jefferson in 2010 with science in action! (seeing this makes me even more excited and ready to get on board!)

B-Roll: DWH – NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on June 2-8, 2010 from NOAA Fisheries on Vimeo.

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson conducts oceanographic observations in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Deepwater Horizon BP/Gulf Oil Spill response. Filmed in June, 2010.

 

I am certainly ready to get all of my gear packed to head down to Norfolk – in just days, I’ll be out to sea for three weeks, ready to blog some more about my oceanographic adventures!


 

In the meantime to my students back at Penn State Brandywine, here’s your last pre-cruise blog post before my posts come from the ocean!  Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #2.

  1. Based on the videos above (and anything else you discover while exploring the NOAA website), who and what does it take to run a NOAA ship on an expedition at sea?
  2. Why is the name Thomas Jefferson appropriate for a NOAA hydrographic research vessel? (*be sure to define “hydrographic survey” in your response)
  3. Summarize some of the past missions of the Thomas Jefferson. (*hint – this website should be a good source to scroll through https://noaacoastsurvey.wordpress.com/category/noaa-ships/thomas-jefferson/)  If you could have gone on any of these missions, which one do you wish you were a “visiting scientist” for, and why?

Laura Guertin: Thomas Jefferson, Here I Come! August 22, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin

(Almost)
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: August 22, 2014

That's me (Dr. G!) on a shark tagging trip off of the Florida Keys, October 2013 (photo used with permission)
That’s me (Dr. G!) on a shark tagging trip off of the Florida Keys, October 2013 (photo used with permission)

About Dr. G

Hello everyone!  My name is Laura Guertin (but my students all call me “Dr. G”), and I’m an Associate Professor of Earth Science at Penn State Brandywine in Media, PA.  I’m the only geologist on campus, and I teach introductory-level college courses in geoscience, Earth science, and geography for non-science majors.  In fact, while I’m at sea, my introduction to oceanography course (GEOSC 040 – The Sea Around Us) will be reading these logs and learning from me online.  How amazing is it to have the opportunity to teach about the ocean, from the ocean!  When I’m not teaching and working with students in class, I also mentor undergraduate student researchers and advise students pursuing majors in Penn State’s College of Earth & Mineral Science before they transfer to the Penn State University Park campus to complete their degrees.  The students I work with are incredible, and if you add in the amazing staff and fellow faculty members… well, let’s just say that I’m going to miss my campus for the three weeks I’m out to sea!  I’m also a blogger for the American Geophysical Union at GeoEd Trek, where I post weekly about geoscience education and educational technology – but I’m looking forward to shifting gears and blogging here while I’m a NOAA Teacher at Sea!

Why be a NOAA Teacher at Sea?

Let’s zip back in time to my undergraduate days, when I was a geology major at Bucknell University.  I had a strong interest in and passion for the oceans, but there were no oceanography courses at Bucknell.  So, I spent one summer doing an oceanography field camp at the Marine Science Consortium in Wallops Island, VA, one semester with the Boston University Marine Program in Woods Hole, MA, and two summers interning with the aeronautical and nautical field photogrammetry unit of NOAA in Norfolk, VA (note that “photogrammetry” means taking measurements from photographs).  I then decided to head to graduate school and earned my PhD in marine geology & geophysics at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science (UM-RSMAS).  While at UM-RSMAS, I had some incredible field opportunities on land and on ships from the Florida Keys to the Bahamas to Baja California.

My school mascot, the Nittany Lion, who joined me on my trip to Iceland where I connected with Jackie. Don't be surprised to see him in some of my photos on the Thomas Jefferson!
My school mascot, the Nittany Lion, who joined me on my trip to Iceland where I connected with Jackie. Don’t be surprised to see him in some of my photos on the Thomas Jefferson! (photo at Gullfoss, Iceland, taken by myself)

Now let’s zip forward to last year… I was really enjoying my time in the classroom, but I always knew I wanted to have another opportunity to do research at sea.  I had heard of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, but I thought it was only for K-12 teachers.  Then, while I was doing a field seminar in Iceland, I reconnected with my friend Jackie Hams, who just happens to be a geology faculty member at Los Angeles Valley College – and a 2011 NOAA Teacher at Sea alum!  After hearing about her experiences, and with her encouragement, I applied and was thrilled to be one of only 29 teachers accepted to join the 2014 class of NOAA Teachers at Sea!  And how amazing of a coincidence is this… I’ve been accepted to join a hydrographic survey (more on exactly what that is in my next post – but for now, it basically involves mapping/charting the seafloor) that departs from NOAA’s marine operations center for their Atlantic fleet in Norfolk, VA – right where I interned for two summers as an undergraduate student!  I feel like my NOAA experiences are now coming full circle, and I can’t wait to start this leg of my journey.

The NOAA Maine Operations Center - Atlantic, where I did my undergraduate internship for two summers, and where I'm heading to join the Thomas Jefferson! (Photo from NOAA)