“65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist (World Economic Forum).”
I can’t help but wonder what types of careers and jobs will be available for our students. However, I can speculate that marine science would have a huge piece on this “never-before-existed” future job pool when you consider seventy percent of our Earth’s surface is covered with ocean and among it eighty percent of it unmapped, unobserved and unexplored, according to NOAA. There are many different careers available within NOAA and I believe there will be many more new careers available for the future generations.
You may wonder and ask why oceans are still unexplored. One answer comes from Dr. Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. He states that one of the biggest challenges of ocean exploration comes down to physics. In the depth of the ocean, there is zero visibility, extremely cold temperatures, and crushing amounts of pressure. He also states that “ In some ways, it’s a lot easier to send people into space than it is to send people to the bottom of the ocean”. It is hard to fathom what it looks, and feels like under the water, at least for me as a non-swimmer.
With technological advancements, who knows what mysteries will be solved in the world of oceans in the future? I think it is important to show our students to know the unknown world of oceans and inspire them to take careers related to marine science so that we can know more about our blue planet. Without knowing our oceans, there would be no future for our own existence.
It’s been a great learning experience while at sea for 12 days. I have learned so much, met incredible women and men, and made awesome friends.
As a STEM educator, the reason I wanted to apply for this opportunity is because I wanted to bring marine science into my school and community. By training, most of the time I spent time in various labs focusing on genetic studies using many biotechnological tools during my graduate study. But, it wasn’t until my NOAA experience to involve marine science research in the field. Much of my marine science knowledge comes from theory, reading books/ articles, or watching documentaries. This lack of experiential knowledge put me in a position where my students are also learning it from textbooks. However, now thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program, I am confidently bringing any resources or tools related to the ocean, and atmosphere to my students. My plan is to create interdisciplinary project-based learning opportunities that involve challenging questions related to marine science.
Thank you NOAA Teacher at Sea Program for allowing me to participate once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and thank you NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson crew for hosting me with great hospitality, and allowing me to learn more about marine science.
Did you know?
Sometimes NOAA’s ships are open to the public for tours. In fact, I am planning to take my students to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson sometime in September while it is still in Great Lakes.
Have you ever wondered what the seabed (lakebed) made of? This information is important for several reasons: knowing where to anchor, pipeline &/or structure construction, habitat, dredging, etc. Information about the sediments can be found on navigational charts. Periodically, hydrographers need to take bottom samples to update these charts. To do this, they bring the ship to a halt and drop a spring-loaded sampler to the seafloor. The sampler snaps shut, capturing a sample of the bottom substrate. The sediments that are brought aboard are analyzed according to grain size which range from clay (< 0.002 mm) to stones (4.0 mm and larger).
What is it called to drive a ship? The action of driving a ship is probably most often called piloting the ship. You may also hear people use the words steer, navigate, guide, maneuver, control, direct, captain, or shepherd. Whatever you want to call it – I was super excited to pilot the ship. I was also a bit nervous because it is so big! Maneuvering a 208’ vessel seemed a bit daunting.
I first got some excellent tutoring by Helmsman AB Kinnett and Conning Officer ENS Brostowski. All I needed to do was to make a 180ᵒ turn. How difficult could it be? I needed to take the ship out of the navigation system (commonly called, Nav Nav), go from autopilot to manual steering, follow the Conning Officer’s rudder directions, do some fine tuning, switch from manual steering to autopilot, and turn on the Nav Nav system. Easy shmeezy!
My legs were shaking just a bit. I guess I did okay. Someone did call up from the plot room and ask, “Just who is driving the ship?” Haha. They calmed down once they learned it was just “the teacher”.
We came into the Port of Cleveland on July 22. The crew did a super job of parking! (I am sure “parking” is not the correct term.) They used the windlass and ropes to secure the ship to the port (on the starboard side) and then put the gangway in place. Don’t forget to take out the garbage!
In late April 2022, I was informed by the NOAA Teacher at Sea office that I would sail aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on a hydrographic survey of Lake Erie in July. Truthfully, I didn’t know what hydrography entailed – but I was familiar with Lake Erie.
I grew up only 20 miles from the Port of Cleveland. As a child, my family spent a week each summer on Middle Bass Island where I learned to swim and fish for walleye and perch. I was a sun-kissed, towheaded child that liked to catch frogs and talk with insects. My daughter and I vacationed on Kelleys Island for many summers. I even took an oceanography class on Gibraltar Island. I was very excited to learn more about the Lake of my childhood.
So, why are the Great Lakes so Great?
The following video will help you get an idea of why these lakes are so significant. See if you can answer the following questions while watching the video.
How many lakes make up the Great Lakes?
Why is the word “HOMES” a good way to remember the names of the lakes?
How many states border the Great Lakes?
What country is north of the Great Lakes?
Geologically speaking, how did the Great Lakes come to be?
How much of the world’s fresh surface water is in the Great Lakes?
Which lake is the deepest, coldest, and contains ½ of the water in the Great Lakes system?
Which two lakes are “technically” one lake? Why?
Which lake has the longest shoreline?
Which lake is the warmest and shallowest?
How does water get from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario?
How does water that starts in Lake Superior finally get to the Atlantic Ocean?
List three reasons why the Great Lakes are so great!
List a few things that are causing problems for the Great Lakes.
What effect is climate change having on the Great Lakes?
How are people and governments trying to protect this GREAT resource?
When I travel, I like to read books that have a connection to my experience. While on Thomas Jefferson, I read The Death and Life of the Great Lakes by Dan Egan. It outlines the vast resources provided by the Great Lakes. Not only do they hold 20% of the world’s supply of surface fresh water, they also provide food, transportation, and recreation to tens of millions of Americans and Canadians. The Great Lakes are so very lifegiving, however, they are in trouble. They are under threat as never before. They need our help.
In his book, Egan describes how invasive species – like the sea lamprey, zebra and quagga mussels – have colonized the lakes, issues associated with these invasions, and what has been done to mediate and prevent the arrival of future invasive species. He also discusses the massive biological “dead” zones caused by outbreaks of toxic algal blooms. Lake Erie Harmful Algal Bloom (HAB) Forecasts are a regular part of the NOAA weather forecast for the western basin of Lake Erie. Human-made climate change, dredging of shipping channels, and threats to siphon off Great Lakes water to be used beyond the watershed boundaries all pose threats to this incredible resource. He ends the book with what was being done in 2017 (publication date) to “chart a course toward integrity, stability and balance” of the Great Lakes.
All in all, it was a pretty depressing book. It caused me to reflect, however, on what I can do as an educator to bring this knowledge to my students. Even more importantly, how can I have students experience and eventually love the lakes and all they represent? How can I get them to become familiar with and care for the nature in their backyard? My work is cut out for me.
“We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.”
— Richard Louv
The week before leaving on my “Grand NOAA Adventure”, I was nervous and started to doubt my own abilities and why I had applied to Teacher at Sea in the first place. Was I cut out to be a successful Teacher at Sea? Did I have the knowledge, skills, and fortitude to thrive at sea? What happens if my technology crashes? What if I am seasick for 19 days?
Four things happened to help me move forward.
My husband – my chief cheerleader – gave me many doses of encouragement. If he believed I could do it – I knew I could.
I came across a saying on a tea bag (of all places) that gave me great strength, “Personal growth lies within the unknown; courage permits you to explore this space.” This experience would take courage. I am courageous.
My daughter reminded me of a poem by Mary Oliver. The last lines of which, “What are you going to do with your one wild, precious life?” That’s right! You only go around once. Take the bull by the horns – so to speak. Jump on and hold tight. Life is short, and the world is wide.
NOAA and NOAA’s Teacher at Sea Program believed in me enough to provide me with this awesome opportunity. They have seen many a teacher come and go. They believed I had what it took to be successful. I chose to believe them.
NOAA TAS stresses the 3 Fs: Flexibility, Following Orders, and Fortitude. These are words to live by.
Flexibility = Everything doesn’t always turn out as planned. Be flexible. Those who are not flexible, break.
Following Orders = On a ship, this is essential. In life, rules are made for a reason. Follow them. If you believe that the rules are unjust, work to change them.
Fortitude = Have courage. Be strong – physically and in your convictions. Be tenacious and believe in yourself.
I wish to thank NOAA TAS program and all the people who live and work aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Thank you for the long conversations and my seemingly endless questioning. My curiosity is insatiable. Thank you for checking my blog for accuracy – it needed to be “ship shape”! Thank you for brainstorming with me inventions that could be created to make hydrographic technology easier if there were no budgetary restrictions. Thank you for opening my eyes to a world of science, technology, and research that I previously did not know existed. Thank you for teaching me what it meant to be part of the crew.
This experience has taught me many things about science and technology, career possibilities, what it is like to live on a ship, relationships and work culture, and the power of reflection. I learned so much more than is represented in my blog posts. I am looking forward to sharing my experience with my students and the community.
All my best to my new friends. May you continue to have fair winds and following seas.
Dalton STEAM & NOAA Teacher at Sea
For the Little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: He was getting ready to come home.
Future Weather Forecast: Showers likely and 70% possibility of afternoon thunderstorms
Science and Technology Log – and a Little History
Shipwrecks & Sonar
Lake Erie has an astonishing 2,000-plus shipwrecks which is among the highest concentration of shipwrecks in the world. Nobody knows the exact number of shipwrecks that have occurred in Lake Erie, but estimates range from 500 to 2000. Only about 400 of Lake Erie’s wrecks have ever been found. There are schooners, freighters, steamships, tugs and fishing boats among them.
So why does Lake Erie have more known shipwrecks per square foot than most any other body of water – with the possible exception of the English Channel? At its deepest point, Lake Erie is only 210 feet. Its shallowness is one of the reasons so many ships have sunk.
Hydrographers have found their share of ships over the years! I am unable to identify where, however, the TJ found a shipwreck recently. The following shows various multibeam echo sonar images of items found on the seafloor. Not all have been found in Lake Erie. 😊
Side scan sonar is a specialized sonar system for searching and detecting objects on the seafloor. Like other sonars, a side scan sends out sound energy and analyzes the return signal (echo) that bounced off the seafloor or other objects. Side scan sonar typically consists of three basic components: a towfish, a transmission cable and the topside processing unit. In a side scan the energy that is sent out is in the shape of a fan. This fan of energy sweeps the seafloor from directly under the towfish to either side. The width of the fan is about the length of a football field.
The strength of the return echo is recorded creating a “picture” of the ocean bottom. For example, objects or features that stick out from the seafloor create a strong return (creating a light area) and shadows from these objects create little or no return signal (creating a dark area).
NOAA hydrographic survey units use side scan sonar systems to help find and identify objects. The shape of the seafloor and objects can be seen well with a side scan sonar. This technology, however, does not give scientists information with respect to how deep the object is. That is why the side scan sonar is often used along with the multibeam echo sonar.
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson field work is focused in the Great Lakes for the 2022 field season. Thomas Jefferson’s hydrographers are surveying the floor of Lake Erie in the vicinity of Cleveland, South Bass Island and Presque Isle, PA. They are identifying hazards and changes to the lake floor and will provide this data to update NOAA’s nautical charts to make it safe for maritime travel.
So why did NOAA decide to focus on this part of Lake Erie? “The Port of Cleveland is one of the largest ports on the Great Lakes and ranks within the top 50 ports in the United States. Roughly 13 million tons of cargo are transported through Cleveland Harbor each year supporting 20,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in annual economic activity.” The Office of Coast Survey continues to explain that “most of this area has not been surveyed since the 1940’s, and experiences significant vessel traffic.”
A Little Bit of History – Have you ever been to Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island?
Our National Anthem, a naval officer with the middle name “Hazard”, the War of 1812, and Lake Erie have connections.
So, what does all of this have to do with Lake Erie? In 1812, America found itself at war with Britain. They were at war for three reasons: 1) The British were trying to limit U.S. trade, 2) they were also capturing American seamen and making them fight for the British (this is called impressment), and 3) they did not like the fact that America wanted to expand its territory. Both the British and the Americans were anxious to gain control of Lake Erie. Late in the summer of 1813, American troops were moved into Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, Lake Erie. They hoped to cut off the supply routes to the British forts.
On the morning of September 10, 1813, British naval forces attacked. Commander Oliver Hazard Perry was on his flagship (a flagship is the ship that carries the commanding officer), the USS Lawrence. (Isn’t “Hazard” a great middle name for someone in the Navy!) He directed his fleet into the battle, but because of light winds, the sailing ships were slow to get into a position where they could fight. His ship suffered heavy casualties. Perry’s second flagship, the USS Niagara, was slow to come into range to help. Four-fifths of Perry’s crew were killed or wounded. He made the decision to surrender his ship, the USS Lawrence, and move his remaining crew and battle flag to the USS Niagara. He was rowed half a mile under heavy fire, bearing his now-famous blue and white battle pennant with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship.”
The British thought Perry and the rest of the American fleet would retreat after the surrender of the USS Lawrence. Perry, however, decided to rejoin the battle. At 3:00 pm, the British fleet surrendered, marking the first time in history that an entire British naval squadron had surrendered to an American vessel. Huzzah!! Huzzah!!
Perry wrote to General William Henry Harrison (who eventually became the 9th President of the United States):
We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.
Yours with great respect and esteem, O.H. Perry
Oliver Hazard Perry was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1814 for his actions in the Battle of Lake Erie and the War of 1812. You can visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial on South Bass Island, Lake Erie.
“Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie that took place near Ohio’s South Bass Island, in which Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry led a fleet to victory in one of the most decisive naval battles to occur in the War of 1812.” (Wikipedia)
This video gives you a nice overview of the War of 1812:
Oh, so you might be wondering what all of this has to do with our National Anthem? The poem that eventually became our National Anthem was written during the War of 1812. It was written in 1814 by a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key during the battle of Fort McHenry.
Watch this video for information about Mr. Key and our National Anthem:
Did you know that our National Anthem actually has four verses, but most of us only know the first one? Look it up!
I’ve been part of the mission leg that is surveying off the coast of Presque Isle – as the survey around South Bass Island had been completed prior to me coming aboard. The area around Presque Isle also has important historic roots.
Presque Isle State Park is a 3,200-acre sandy peninsula that arches into Lake Erie and is 4 miles west of Erie, PA. According to a tourist website, “As Pennsylvania’s only “seashore,” Presque Isle offers its visitors a beautiful coastline and many recreational activities, including swimming, boating, fishing, hiking, bicycling, and in-line skating.” Recorded history of Presque Isle began with the Erielhonan, a Native American tribe who gave their name to Lake Erie. Erielhonan is the Iroquoian word for “long tail”. The French first named the peninsula in the 1720s; presque-isle means peninsula or “almost an island” in French. It served as a base for Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s fleet in the War of 1812.
In the 19th century, Presque Isle became home to several lighthouses and what later became a United States Coast Guard station. In 1921, the peninsula became a state park. The Presque Isle peninsula formed because of glaciation and is constantly being reshaped by waves and wind. Since 1967, the park has been named one of the best places in the United States for watching birds.
During the War of 1812, Presque Isle played a part in the victory over the British in the Battle of Lake Erie. Oliver Hazard Perry, commander of the American fleet, made strategic use of the bay as a place to construct six of the nine ships in his fleet. The “Little Bay” near the tip of the peninsula where the ships sheltered was later named “Misery Bay” because of the hardships during the winter of 1813–1814, after the men returned there from battle. Many men suffered from smallpox and were kept in quarantine near the bay. A great many infected men died and were buried in what is now called Graveyard Pond.
After the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813, Perry’s two largest ships, the USS Lawrence and USS Niagara, were badly damaged, and intentionally sunk in Misery Bay. Both ships were eventually raised. The Lawrence burned while on display at the 1876 Centennial Exposition and parts of the Niagara were eventually used to build a replica of the current Niagara, based in Presque Isle Bay.
For the Little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: This controller is used to move a heavy object.
A: Dewey is sitting on the piece of technology that is used to control the davits. Davits are hydraulic machines that take the small boats on and off the ship.
This time-lapse video shows the crew using the davits to pick up and then redeploy one of the small boat launches. (Video taken by Physical Scientist Dan Garatea)
Human-Interest Poll (HIP)
Miss Parker makes a lot of yummy desserts! I recently asked the crew to list their favorite.
Meet the Crew
Dan Garatea and Surafel Abebe are physical scientists (PS) who work in Silver Spring, MD for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey (OCS) where they plan hydrographic surveys for chart updates. They research and develop the plans and instructions for NOAA ships, contractors, other governmental agencies, and other interested parties to develop hydrographic priorities. When on board during a survey, they manage and provide guidance for the surveys in the field.
It is nice being home. I do, however, miss the crew aboard Thomas Jefferson. They are now back out surveying on the Lake Erie after a much needed shoreleave. I am having fun thinking about how I will use what I learned during this adventure to enrich the K-8 STEAM curriculum of the Dalton Local School District.
I thought it would be interesting to compare some specifications of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson = TJ (research vessel) with my 2010 Toyota Sienna minivan + 2019 Viking camper = VV (recreational vehicle). I would also like to thank Chief Marine Engineer (CME) Tom Cleary and Husband Phil Grimm for information concerning the specifications of the research vessel and recreational vehicle, respectfully.
What is the size of engine? How much power is produced?
TJ = 7,740 cubic inch, 2500 Horsepower. 12-cylinder mechanically injected EMD (a division of Caterpillar) diesel engine. This engine is commonly used on locomotives.
What kind of fuel do you use and how big is your storage tank?
VV = Minivan uses 87 octane unleaded gasoline & has a 21 gallon fuel tank. Camper has a 20-pound liquid propane (LP) gas storage tank.
TJ = The ship uses #2 ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel and has a 131,789-gallon storage tank.
Where is the electricity stored? Quantity?
VV = Minivan has a 12-volt battery + Camper has a 12-volt “marine”, deep cycle battery
TJ = The ship has two 24-volt starting banks (2 batteries in series) for the emergency diesel generator (EDG), and two 24-volt emergency power banks for general alarm and other emergency circuits.
Where is the electricity produced? Quantity?
VV = Minivan: belt-driven alternator keeps battery charged. Camper: battery can be charged by the van or with the charger/inverter when plugged into AC.
TJ (underway / while at sea) = Three generators capable of generating 345 Kilowatts each (over 1 megawatt combined); one generator is online at a time. TJ has increased its energy efficiency (LED lighting, more energy efficient AC and appliances, etc.). Now, under normal house loads – not running any of the davits or cranes – TJ requires only 30% of the electricity generated with one generator.
TJ (onshore / while at port) = The ship has the capability to use power from shore via a plug on the port and starboard side. It uses power cables standard to all maritime ships. Each of its NATO plugs is capable of carrying 480 Volts of 3-phase power (400 amps). Typically, TJ only uses one of its NATO plugs while in port unless there is need for additional electricity.
How does the driver / engineer know what is happening with the engine and generators?
VV = Dashboard of the van, gauges, check engine lights and warnings
TJ = Modern, Windows-based control room with remote capabilities. This system sends information to the control room, Bridge, and the Chief Engineer’s office. Lots of gauges and computer displays. Multiple lights and warnings if there are problems.
How about locomotion? How does VV or TJ move forward or backward?
VV & TJ = Both use an internal combustion engine that turns a propulsion shaft. Both use a series of reduction gears (transmission in the case of the van). Speed is maintained via a fixed gear ratio in TJ, unlike the van that has multiple gear ratios. The Chief Marine Engineer (CME), Tom Cleary, tried to convince me that the mechanics of locomotion are very similar in both vehicles except the drive shaft of TJ is much longer and larger and at the end turns a propeller; where the drive shaft of the van eventually makes the wheels turn.
How do the drivers know where to go?
VV = looking out the window, maps, GPS, and when all else fails ask the spouse
TJ = refer to my July 18, 2022, NOAA Teacher at Sea blog post, “Who is driving this ship?”
Do both vehicles have windshield wipers?
VV = 2 windshield wipers
TJ = 9 windshield wipers + 2 Clearview screens which are rotational window wipers that work via centripetal force.
How big is the freshwater (potable water) tank?
VV = 23 gallons
TJ = 47,382 gallons. The ship also can make its own freshwater from saltwater using a reverse osmosis system
What is greywater and how big is the collection tank?
Greywater is the relatively clean wastewater from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances.
VV = 25 gallons
TJ = 27,878 gallons
What is black water and how big is the collection tank?
Black water is sewage or the wastewater from toilets.
VV = 25 gallons
TJ = 29,440 gallons
What about the hot water systems?
VV = Has a 6-gallon water tank where water is heated using natural gas.
TJ = Has two separate hot water systems. The first uses electricity to heat water in a 60-gallon tank. This water is available for decks 01, 02, and 03. These are the three decks above the main deck. The other system has two 60-gallon tanks plumbed in series that serve the laundry room, galley, and staterooms on decks 2 and 3. These are the two decks below the main deck. Pumps constantly move water through the systems helping to provide (almost) instantaneous hot water from the tap.
What is the size and amenities of the kitchen (galley)?
VV = 2 burner gas stove, microwave, no conventional oven, two cupboards used for food storage, 1 cupboard used to store pots, pans, and other miscellaneous kitchen items, approximate size of counter next to the sink is 6 square feet.
TJ = Areas including food prep, cooking, serving, dish washer, dry storage and steward’s office are all in an area roughly 800 square feet.
What about where people eat (mess hall)? What is it like?
VV = One table (roughly 2’ x 3’) plus two benches. Entire area is approximately 24 square feet. A picnic table is also an option when available. It is provided by the campground.
TJ = Three tables (roughly 2.5’ x 10’), 20 chairs, multiple refrigerators, freezers, beverage & coffee dispensers, salad bar, sink, and snack shelves. Entire area is about 250 square feet.
Do these vehicles have refrigerators and freezers?
VV = 3 cubic foot refrigerator + ½ cubic foot freezer. Ice is made with a mini-ice cube tray.
TJ = All staterooms have a mini fridge. There are a mixture of small and home-sized refrigerators and freezers in the galley and mess hall for the convenience of the stewards and crew. There are also two very large walk-in refrigerators and freezers that are used by the stewards. An ice maker is housed in the galley and is used to fill coolers, etc.
How many berths (beds) are aboard?
VV = The camper and van each have two, making a total of 4 places where people could sleep.
TJ = There are 36 places for people to sleep, and the hospital has one bed.
What is a “head” and how many are there?
According to a Navy history website, “Head” in a nautical sense referring to the bow or fore part of a ship dates to 1485. The ship’s toilet was typically placed at the head of the ship near the base of the bowsprit, where splashing water served to naturally clean the toilet area.” (Icky!)
VV = One toilet/shower unit in the camper + a portable toilet if needed.
TJ = Each stateroom has access to a toilet/shower unit + a public toilet on the main deck.
How many stairs are there?
VV = Two steps into the camper
TJ = It all depends upon how a flight of stairs is defined and who you ask. If a flight is defined as at least 8 steps, the consensus among those asked is somewhere between 20 and 22 flights of stairs. TJ is essentially a 6-story building after all.
What about doors? How many are there?
VV = Van has 5 doors (if you count the trunk); camper has 1 door
TJ = Too many to count! There are five doors, however, that are very important. They are the internal watertight doors that isolate areas of the ship in case of emergencies. There are also additional watertight doors that one uses to go from the internal spaces to the decks of the ship.
What is the outer cover made of?
VV = Van is painted steel; camper is painted aluminum
TJ = Painted steel. The deckhands really do a fantastic job of keeping TJ in great repair!
What are the external dimensions of each vehicle?
VV = Van: Length: 17”, Width: 6’ 7”, Height: 5’ 10”; Camper: Length: 16’ 7”, Width: 7’ 4”, Height: 10’; total length of the Van + Camper = 33’ 4”
TJ = Length: 208’, Width (beam): 45 ‘, Height (from the keel to the wind birds): ~ 100 feet
Meet the Crew
Chief Marine Engineer (CME) Tom Cleary got his first paycheck for a boat job when he was 16 years old and has not stopped working on boats since. This extremely competent engineer is originally from Cape Cod and has worked for NOAA for over 20 years – the last 11 years have been aboard Thomas Jefferson. His off-ship activities revolve around his wife and four children, and maintaining an 80-year-old home.
Tom states that that, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but still always better than a master on one”. He enjoys the variety presented to him by his work duties. No two days are alike. He oversees 9 people, and his duties require mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and managerial skills.
He is a classic hawsepiper. This means that he did not go to a maritime academy to become an engineer. He learned from the ground up first by working on sight seeing boats and ferries in the Cape Cod area to working on several NOAA ships. From working as a deckhand, steward, to chief engineer – he has literally crawled up the hawsepipe.
If budget was not a limiting factor, what could I invent for you that would make your job easier? He wanted to be clear that he meant no disrespect, however, he replied that he would like some robots. Much of his job is spent dealing with people. Budget management meetings, payroll, planning schedules, rating performance, training, drills, and dealing with “hotel” services for the crew (refrigeration, air conditioning, plumbing, hot water issues, etc.) take up much of his time. Tom likes the crew, however, if there were fewer people and more robots working on the ship, he would have more time on engineering challenges. (I wonder if he has contemplated the challenges presented by maintaining a gang of robots?)
What is the difference between a boat and a ship?
According to Britannica Kids, “A ship is a large boat that can carry passengers or cargo for long distances over water. People have been using ships for transportation, exploration, and war since ancient times.”
Parts of a Ship
“Most ships are much larger than most boats, but they have many of the same parts. As on boats, the front of a ship is called the bow. The back is the stern. A ship’s left side is known as the port side. The right is the starboard side.
A ship’s frame, or body, is called the hull. The keel is like the ship’s backbone. It is a central beam that runs along the bottom of the ship from front to back. The keel keeps the ship from tipping over.
Ships usually have many decks. The decks are like the floors of a building. Cabins for passengers, engine and control rooms, and spaces for cargo are often on different decks.
An engine inside the ship provides energy to propellers at the back of the ship. The propellers push the ship through the water. The rudder, which is also at the back of the ship, helps in steering. When the ship is not moving, a heavy metal anchor may be lowered into the water. This keeps the ship from floating away.” (Britannica Kids)
This excellent video clearly defines all the parts of a ship labeled in the diagram above.
Did you know?
Earlier, I stated that I use GPS (Global Positioning System) on my phone to help navigate while driving. Just what is GPS? It is a highly accurate satellite-based navigation and location system. With a GPS receiver (like my phone), users can quickly determine their precise latitude, longitude, and altitude.
If I need to drive from Los Alamos, NM to Los Angeles, CA., I place these end points into Google Maps and GPS helps me plan a path to drive. Some people use GPS-capable watches to help them determine how far they have run and how much elevation they have gained. We also use GPS on the ship. At any one time, the survey is using between 25-30 GPS satellites at a time – some from other countries.
Something else I learned today is that GPS is the system developed by the USA. Other countries have their own systems that work in much the same way. Countries cooperate and use each other’s satellite systems. Here is a list of GPS-like systems used by other countries.
GPS = United States
GLONASS = Russia
Galileo = European Union
QZS = Japan
BeiDou = China
SBAS = Korea
Watching this NASA Space Place video, “GPS and the Quest for Pizza” will also help you understand how GPS works.
For the Little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: You use these to climb up or down.
A: Dewey is sitting on a step of a flight of stairs. All the steps on the ship have a non-skid surface. They are very effective at giving you sure footing as you climb up or down the stairs. There are flights of stairs inside and outside of the ship. They go from one deck to another. All in all, there are between 20-22 flights of stairs on Thomas Jefferson.
Many a fine sailor . . .
With only a few more days to go on this incredible journey, I was excited to read on the next day’s Plan of the Day (POD) that I would be going out on the launch (small boat) to help with surveying close to shore. We had a large area to survey and also pick up some “holidays” in areas that were previously surveyed. A data holiday is an area that was missed in a previous survey. I packed my backpack, got a good night’s sleep, and ate a small breakfast to prepare for the day.
Let’s just say, it was a rough day. The waves were not terribly high (~ 2 feet), however, the launch rode like a bucking bronco! I was fine for the first 30-45 minutes. Then, I started to feel all hot and woozy. After “revisiting” my breakfast several times and losing my TAS hat overboard, the crew brought me back to the ship. I was taken to the infirmary where the medical officer took my vitals every 15 minutes for an hour and encouraged me to eat some saltines and drink Gatorade. After a long nap, shower, and Ramen noodles for supper, I felt much better.
At supper, the three crewmembers who were on the launch with me said that they tried to look for my hat. They found a dead fish, but they thought it wouldn’t look very nice on my head. I kidded back that Dewey, who was in my backpack, threw up a little bit, also. It sure was an adventure!
I cannot say enough nice things about the crew members who took care of me in my time of need. They were professional, kind, and had my wellbeing first and foremost in their words and actions. I am very grateful. Thank you!
Later that evening the Chief Boatswain Pooser told me, “Many a fine sailor has lost their lunch on the launch.” It made me smile. I was finally part of the club.
Please note – As I complete this post, I am now home. I am on land, however, I have more to share. My final blog posts will be sent from my home office. (Funny. . . Why does the room seem to be rolling from side to side? No one told me that I would still feel the rocking of the ship the day after my disembarkation. I don’t mind. It is pleasant reminder of my time aboard ThomasJefferson.)
Humidity: In each blog post, I report the dry bulb and wet bulb temperatures plus the calculated relative humidity.
What is humidity? It is the amount of water vapor in the air. If there is a lot of water vapor in the air, the humidity will be high. The higher the humidity, the “stickier” the air feels outside. Think about a hot August day in Ohio. The air feels sticky and uncomfortable. Chances are that the humidity is high.
What is relative humidity? Relative humidity is the amount of water vapor in the air, expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount of water vapor the air can hold at the same temperature. Warm air can hold more water vapor than cool air. Once you know the wet-bulb and dry-bulb temperatures, you can use a conversion table to calculate the relative humidity. (I discussed this topic in my July 7: Echoes and Flares blog post.)
This video might help you understand the concept further.
These thermometers are used to measure the dry bulb (left) and wet bulb (right) temperature measurements. The dry bulb measures air temperature. The wet bulb thermometer has a tiny sock on the end that is sitting in a container of water. The physics of water evaporating causes the temperature to decrease. So, this thermometer will register a lower temperature. A person then uses a comparison cart to calculate the relative humidity. The dryer the air, the more quickly the water from the sock will evaporate. A larger difference between the dry and wet bulb thermometers will result in a lower relative humidity reading.
Students: We have a “wet wall” also known as a “swamp cooler” in the greenhouse to cool the greenhouse when it gets too warm. How is this related to humidity? How does this work to cool the greenhouse? (Hint: Look up the concept of evaporative cooling.)
Latitude and Longitude: Each time I write a blog post I have told you where I am. I do this by telling you my “address” on the globe by listing the ship’s latitude and longitudinal lines. But just what are latitude and longitude lines and how do they tell you where you are on the globe?
Latitude and longitude are a system of lines used to describe the location of any place on Earth. Think of latitude and longitude as an imaginary grid placed over the world to help you find places. Each place on the Earth has an address. The address is where the lines of latitude and longitude cross. Although these are only imaginary lines, they appear on maps and globes as if they actually existed.
Latitude are the points north and south of the equator. The equator is halfway between the North and South Poles. It’s an imaginary horizontal line that cuts the planet completely in half. Latitude lines are imaginary lines that are a specific degree away from the equator going to the North and South Pole. Between each line of latitude there are 60 minutes which are then again subdivided into 60 seconds.
They are also known as “parallels” and run east-west.
Equator = 0ᵒ; North Pole = 90ᵒN; South Pole = 90ᵒS
Northern Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 90ᵒNorth
Southern Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 90ᵒSouth
1 degree of latitude = 60 nautical miles
1 minute of latitude = 1 nautical mile
1 nautical mile = 1.15 statute miles (Statute miles are used on land.)
Longitude are the points east and west of the prime meridian. Like the equator, the prime meridian is an imaginary vertical line that splits the world in half from the North to the South Pole. Longitude are vertical lines going from one pole to the other starting at the prime meridian. I like to think of the lines of longitude like the distance between the edges of sections of an orange. They are further apart near the middle (equator) and get closer together as they near the ends.
0ᵒ = the Prime Meridian that passes through Greenwich, England
180ᵒ = halfway around the Earth; it is roughly the international dateline
Western Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 180ᵒWest of Greenwich
Eastern Hemisphere = 0ᵒ through 180ᵒEast of Greenwich
Longitudinal lines vary with distance from the equator
This video may help you understand these concepts more clearly.
What is the latitude and longitudinal address of your town? Use this interactive map to find the latitude and longitudinal address of your house! I found using the “satellite” view handy.
Another way to find out is to go to Google Maps and type in your address. Once the App has found your house, right click on the red pin. At the top of the list will be your latitude / longitude coordinates.
Chizzywinks: This message was recently written on a white board outside of the crew lounge. What are these invaders? They do not seem to bite; however, they are very annoying. They are everywhere!
No one on board seemed to know what they were (other than annoying), so I contacted two friends back home. Drs. Rowe and Nault have expertise in plant pathology and entomology – but, more importantly, they are fly fishermen and really know about the insects that call Lake Erie “Home”.
These lovely, pesky insects are midges. They have many other names, including lake flies, Canadian soldiers, or chizzywinks, just to name a few. They live on the lake bottom as worm-like larvae, many of which are blood red. In this life stage they eat decaying plant matter. Eventually, they enter the pupal stage. This is a nonfeeding stage between the larva and adult, during which it undergoes a complete change within a hardened case. The pupae (more than one pupa) slowly rise to the surface through the water column. They are a major source of food for fish and other aquatic animals. Fishermen consider them good bugs! Those aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson might beg to differ.
Once at the surface, the adults emerge and get rid of their pupal cases in the surface film of the water. They often emerge by the thousands. In fact, in certain places around the world there can be so many midges that once they die, they are considered fertilizer.
The adults look like “mosquito-like” flies, but don’t bite. Many are eaten by birds.
Once the larvae emerge as flying adults, they stop eating and have only one thing on their minds – mating. According to Water Blogged, a blog published by the Science and Stories of the Center for Limnology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the adults “gather in huge clouds and, well, get to know one another. After mating, the male eventually expires, with the female not far behind – but first she’ll return to the water to lay her eggs.” The eggs laid on the surface sink to the bottom, and the cycle begins again.
(Students – Compare and contrast the life cycle of a midge and the monarch butterfly or darkling beetles.)
Learn more about the midge in this video.
Meet the Crew
Justin Witmer has worked on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson as the Chief Electronics Technician for the past 3 years. Prior to this position he worked for the Norfolk Naval Shipyards. He is a sailor at heart having spent 20 years in the U.S. Navy.
What does your job entail? He is responsible for most of the things on TJ that plug into a wall. This includes the maintaining and repairing the sonars (which are essential to the hydrographic work), other ship sensors, computers, etc. From the sonar on the keel to the wind bird at the top, he is responsible for the electronics in between.
Where do you do most of your work? I work mostly from my office which is right off the Survey Control Room where I do computer and user account maintenance as well as electronics troubleshooting duties.
What do you like most about your job? I like to troubleshoot electronics issues.
What do you like the least about your job? Administrative paperwork.
What do you like about working on a ship? I’ve always enjoyed the general atmosphere of living on a ship. With a good crew it is much like a large group home. You can choose to get along with everyone, and if you can’t, the ship is large enough that you can generally get away from those you don’t see eye-to-eye with.
If budget was not an issue, what tool would you like me to invent that would make your job easier? A cable stretcher.
Can you share with us one or two things about yourself that don’t have to do with work? He lives in Norfolk, VA, speaks fluent Turkish, and like to play music (bass and tuba). He also likes amateur radio. His job lines up nicely with his hobbies – all except, perhaps, playing tuba.
So much of what TJ does to complete its mission relies on computers, sensors, and electronics. Thank you, Justin, for all you do to keep the electronics aboard TJ ship shape! Thank you for your service.
Safety is paramount. Since discussing safety drills in my July 8, 2022 blog, I have done my homework. I know what the signals mean, what to take, and where to go. Today, we had three drills: fire, man overboard, and abandoned ship. During abandoned ship drills, we need to take our personal flotation devices (PFDs), also known as life vests, and our Survival Immersion Suit which is lovingly called our “Gumby” suit. We are expected to put on our suit in less than 2 minutes. It is made from Neoprene to maximize flotation and hypothermia protection. Being red, it can easily be seen in the water. It also has a light and a place where we can blow up a head pillow.
A friend helped me practice putting on my Gumby suit. I succeeded in putting it on I just over a minute!
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: He is sitting on a very important piece of equipment that we need when we want to lower or raise the anchor.
A: Dewey is sitting on the anchor windlass. According to Wikipedia, “An anchor windlass is a machine that restrains and manipulates the anchor chain on a boat, allowing the anchor to be raised and lowered by means of chain cable. A notched wheel engages the links of the chain or the rope.” In other words, it is the machine that lowers and raises the anchor.
I learned a lot new information today! The steel pipe on each side of the windlass where the anchor chains pass through is called a hawsepipe. I think because the chain goes up and down in the hawsepipe, a hawsepiper (*) refers to a ship’s officer who began his/her career in a non-traditional way. They did not attend a maritime academy to earn an officer’s license. They worked their way into their career like a chain travels through a hawsepipe.
(*) Remember this word. I will be using it in a future blog post.
The anchor is usually very heavy and made of metal. It is used to help keep the ship from drifting away from a fixed place due to wind or current.
TJ has a stockless anchor. Watch the following video to see how a windlass and a stockless anchor work together to secure a ship. The chain really does a lot of work!
Lake Erie Fact:
Lake Erie’s primary inlet is the Detroit River which comes from Lake Huron. Its natural outflow is via the Niagara River, which provides hydroelectric power to Canada and the U.S. as it spins huge turbines near Niagara Falls.
Soon we will start sampling the bottom to see if we are traveling over mud, clay, sand, gravel, or shells (most likely to be zebra mussels). This is important information for ships to know who want to anchor in the area.
I have mixed feelings about this experience coming to an end. I really miss my husband, friends, cats, home, garden, etc. Just this morning, I made the comment to Chief Hydrographer in Charge, Erin, how this has been an incredible experience . . . especially for a nerd who is super excited about STEM content and promoting STEM careers. With minimal preparation, I was plopped into this information-rich environment with local experts who were willing and excited to answer all my questions AND I had the time to ask more questions, follow research leads, process my learning through writing, and get a taste of living at sea.
We pull into the Port of Cleveland on July 22. It will be hard to say, “Good-bye” to TJ, this extraordinary learning experience, and all my new friends. It will be easy to greet my husband after 19 days being away. It will also be time to move forward and plan on how I will share what I have learned with the students at Dalton Local Schools.
The ship is driven from the Bridge. It is the main control center of the ship. It is driven by a variety of people and computers. People who drive the ship include: the Commanding Officer (CO), Conning Officer (CONN), Officer of the Deck (OOD), and several helmsmen. There are several (at least two) people on the Bridge all the time. If Thomas Jefferson were a six-story building, the Bridge would be on the top floor. Being on the 6th floor has its pros and cons. Seeing, avoiding, and communicating with other boats in the area is very important. One can see far and wide from up there! One disadvantage is that things really rock ‘n roll up there when we are in heavy seas!
According to a popular career website (Your Free Career Test), “A ship captain is in command of water vessels in lakes, oceans, coastal waters, rivers, or bays. They ensure the safe and efficient operations of vessels. A ship captain navigates their vessel according to weather conditions and uses radar, depth finders, radios, buoys, lights, and even lighthouses. They determine sufficient levels of oxygen, hydraulic fluid, or air pressure of the vessel.”
Are you interested in having a career as a ship captain of a seagoing vessel? Watch the following video to see if you have what it takes!
Following are pictures of what is used to navigate and drive the ship. Each picture is followed by a brief description.
Radar is one of the most important tools on the Bridge. It allows us to see objects, ships, obstructions – basically anything we could run into (on the surface). TJ has two radars. The X-band radar is used for higher resolution pictures and things in closer range. The S-band radar is used to see objects further away.
The Officer of the Deck (OOD) and Conning Officer (CONN) use the Automatic Radar Plotting Aid (ARPA) function of the radar to identify “targets” or other ships in the area. It is used to track their relative motion to see which way and how fast they are headed with respect to TJ. The ARPA calculates the closest point of approach (CPA) and time to CPA. This tells you if there is the potential of a collision. The result is to change course, change speed, contact the other ship, or anything to reduce the risk of a collision.
If there is the potential for a collision, the OOD or CONN may contact the vessel and make a passing arrangement. However, since TJ is conducting operations, they may also make a Security announcement to let other vessels know their whereabouts and status. (Sécurité is French for “security” and is pronounced se-cur-i-tay.) According to Wikipedia, “Of the three distress and urgency calls, Sécurité is the least urgent.
Sécurité: A radio call that usually issues navigational warnings, meteorological warnings, and any other warning needing to be issued that may concern the safety of life at sea yet may not be particularly life-threatening.
Pan-pan: This is the second most important call. This call is made when there is an emergency aboard a vessel, yet there is no immediate danger to life, or the safety of the vessel itself. This includes, but is not limited to injuries on deck, imminent collision that has not yet occurred, or being unsure of vessel’s position.
Mayday: This is the most important call that can be made, since it directly concerns a threat to life or the vessel. Some instances when this call would be made are, but not limited to death, collision, and fire at sea. When the Mayday call is made, the vessel is requiring immediate assistance.”
Last evening, the CONN made a Sécurité announcement because the position, direction, and speed of a dredging vessel and the TJ were at risk of a collision. As soon as the announcement was made, the dredging vessel altered its course and the TJ slowed down a bit. We averted the collision with a very large margin.
Above is a close-up view of just one portion of the radar.
HDG = Heading of the ship (per gyrocompass)
SPD = Speed in knots
COG = Course over ground ***
SOG = Speed over ground ***
The yellow numbers represent degrees of latitude and longitude.
(*** These parameters are course and speed after the influence of wind and current have been taken into account.)
Speed at sea is measured in knots. One knot is a unit of speed equal to one nautical mile per hour or approximately 1.15 miles per hour.
Distance at sea is measured in nautical miles. The nautical mile is based on the Earth’s longitude and latitude coordinates, with one nautical mile equaling one minute of latitude. A nautical mile is slightly longer than a mile on land, equaling 1.15 land-measured (or statute) miles.
The lower monitor and keyboard are the Electronic Chart Display and Information System (ECDIS). It displays Electronic Navigation Charts (ENCs). This system allows officers on deck to see where they are in real-time. It can be updated frequently when new information regarding navigation (buoys, obstructions, depths, etc.) are charted. It has all but replaced paper carts.
The two panels on the left control the starboard and port side searchlights. Upper right is a fathometer. It is the less sophisticated echo sounder used to measure depth below the keel when we are transiting (moving from place to place) and not surveying.
Lower right, you will find the intercom that is used to communicate between the Bridge and the Data Acquisition desk in the Survey room.
This radio is used to communicate with other ships in the area. Information to and from the US Coast Guard is also shared through this device.
This monitor shows what is going on with a software called “Hypack”. It displays data that has been collected. It helps hydrographers and those driving the ship to visually keep track of where data has been collected. Also, it feeds information to the autopilot which allows the ship to stay on the course while surveying, without having to steer in hand or adjust based on distance from the line.
This is where the Helmsman stands and steers the ship. The Helmsman takes his/her orders from the Conning Officer. This officer is responsible for instructing the helmsman on the course to steer. Did you know that ships have autopilot? The helmsman steers the ship when it is turning or doing complicated maneuvers. When the ship is traveling in long straight lines (when we are “mowing the lawn”), the helmsman turns on the autopilot affectionately called, “Nav Nav”. It is called this because the Nav button needs to be pushed twice to activate the system.
There is a small propeller on the bow called a bow thruster. This panel controls the thruster. It is often used when steering the ship in tight places at slow speeds. I like to think of it as a way to “fine tune” the direction of the ship.
There are many compasses on the ship.
How did early people navigate the oceans?
The rudder is found aft (behind) of the propeller. Both are under the ship. The helmsman uses the rudder to turn the ship right or left. The rudder moves using hydraulics. The pointer on the display above moves as the rudder moves.
We have had beautiful weather during this leg of the mission. This morning, we had a beautiful red sky at sunrise.
You may be familiar with the saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.” The Library of Congress states that this concept is also repeated in Shakespeare and in the Bible.
In Shakespeare’s play Venus and Adonis, “Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field. Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.”
In the Bible (Matthew XVI: 2-3,) Jesus said, “When in evening, ye say, it will be fair weather: For the sky is red. And in the morning, it will be foul weather today; for the sky is red and lowering.”
Weather lore has been around since people have needed to predict the weather. Several agencies (NOAA Earth Systems Research Laboratory, Earth Observatory at NASA, and University of Wisconsin-Madison) have studied the science behind this piece of weather lore.
According to the Library of Congress, “When we see a red sky at night, this means that the setting sun is sending its light through a high concentration of dust particles. This usually indicates high pressure and stable air coming in from the west. Basically, good weather will follow.
A red sunrise can mean that a high-pressure system (good weather) has already passed, thus indicating that a storm system (low pressure) may be moving to the east. A morning sky that is deep, fiery red can indicate that there is high water content in the atmosphere. So, rain could be on its way.”
The beautiful sunrise + the NOAA weather report caused people to believe that we might be in for a weather change.
For the Little Dawgs . . . (Part 1)
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: Only a very important person on board is allowed to sit in this chair.
A: Dewey is sitting in the captain’s (Commanding Officer’s) chair in the Bridge. CO Jaskoski gave Dewey permission to sit in the chair . . . just this once because he is so cute.
For the Little Dawgs . . . (Part 2)
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: This is used by the helmsman to drive the ship.
A: Dewey is sitting on the wheel in the Bridge. Yes, I am afraid that he is too short to do his job.
Human-Interest Poll (HIP)
Questions from students:
Casey M. asked, “Have you found anything shipwrecks yet?”
LG – Whether we have found something or not, I must respond the same way. It is classified information. I am not allowed to tell you whether we have or have not found anything until I am given permission to do so. Thank you for your curiosity.
Evelyn A. asked, “Have you seen anything that you haven’t seen before on Lake Erie. Also, what is the deepest spot you have seen so far?
LG: During this leg of the survey the deepest we have measured is 28 meters (~ 92 feet) deep. I asked one of my shipmates and she said the deepest she has measured is 999.8 meters (3280 ft or over 1000 yards) deep. That’s deeper than 10 football fields!
I’ve had many new experiences and have seen lots of new things on this voyage. The one that stands out for me is that we found a shipwreck. I cannot tell you where we found it – that’s confidential. It was about 70 meters (230 feet) long – a little shorter than a football field. It looked as if it had been there for a long time.
Gretta S. asked, “Do you ever miss being on land or miss your neighbors (Wink, wink)? How was the movie night? How tall is the ship? Have the waves ever gotten so high you could feel the sea spray on the deck? Have you seen both vertebrates and invertebrates?”
LG: Yes, I miss my family, cats, and neighbors, however, this is a voyage of a lifetime! The movie night was great. I didn’t stay up to watch the whole movie – bedtime called. The ship from “keel to wind birds” is about 100 feet. Yes, the waves have gotten high enough to wash up on to the main deck – especially during a turn. I’ve seen a lot of insects (invertebrates) but few vertebrates unless you count my fellow shipmates and some seagulls!
Josie S. asked, “What is your favorite meal on the ship so far? How do you like sleeping on the top bunk in your room on the ship? Did you see any fish in the lake? Are you allowed to have electronics on the ship? I liked the picture of you and Dewey on the ship!!!! You look happy!”
LG: My favorite meal so far has been prime rib and sweet potatoes. I like sleeping on the top bunk because I have a porthole. My bed is very comfy, and my roommate is nice. I have not seen any fish in the lake; however, we see a lot of seafood in the mess hall (examples: crab legs, cod, grouper, shrimp, oysters, and salmon). Yes, we are allowed to have electronics on the ship. I have my cell phone, computer, a small camera for videos, and voice recorder. We use a lot of technology! I am happy! This has been a wonderful learning experience in so many ways. I cannot wait to share this experience with my students when I return to Dalton. (P.S. I will give Dewey a hug for you.)
Janie S. said, “We were at Kelleys Island last weekend! When we were there, we saw Canada with our binoculars! Could you see Canada? What other foods did you have on the Thomas Jefferson ship? The deepest lake out of the great lakes would be Lake Superior. And the shallowest lakes out of the great lakes would be Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.”
LG: That is very cool that you got the chance to go to Kelleys Island and see Canada. During the day, we cannot see Canada from where we are surveying. The Operations Officer in Training told me that if you go on the bridge at night, you can see radio towers and lights from the windmills in Canada. We are approximately 19 nautical miles (about 22 statute miles) from the nearest point of land in Canada which is Long Point National Wildlife Area in Norfolk County, Ontario. We stay mostly 4 to 8 nautical miles north of Presque Isle, PA. This link will give you all sorts of information about the depths of the Great Lakes. Did you know that Lake Superior is eight times deeper than Lake Erie! As for the part of your questions about what other foods we have on TJ – I decided just to include a panoramic picture of one of our snack shelves. Just suffice it to say that we are very well fed!
Keep those emailed questions coming! I love your questions! Contact me at email@example.com. Be sure to sign your message with your first and last name. Farewell for now!
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is one BIG ship. Here is a list of some of its characteristics:
Length overall: 208 ft
Beam: 45 ft
Draft: 14 ft below the keel (15.6 ft below the transducer pod)
Registered gross tonnage/Displacement: 1767 tons
Cruising speed: 11 kts
Survey Speed: 10 kts
Cruising range: 19,200 NM, 45 days
Authorized Officers and Crew: 34
Scientific Berths: 4 (They can take up to 4 visiting scientists.)
Follow this link for more information about NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson.
One thing not on this list is that currently, TJ is carrying four other boats + 6 life rafts aboard. Of the boats aboard, two are the survey launches (mentioned in a previous blog), one is a Fast Rescue Boat (FRB) that is very fast and maneuverable (more about the FRBs in a future post), and the last is a work boat affectionately called 1717. It is an inflatable boat with a ridged hull. It is frequently used to do preservation work on the hull and inspect areas for future work.
Today, the crew used the 1717 to do a crew transfer to Erie, PA. A crane (not a davit) is used to move this boat on and off the ship.
There are many different types of ships. People have been using ships for a long time!
According to Britannica Kids,
“People use different types of ships for many different purposes. Some of the main types are trade ships, warships, industrial ships, and pleasure vessels, or cruise ships.
“Trade ships carry different types of cargo. Container ships carry cargo packaged in large containers. General cargo ships carry lumber, farm products, and other goods that are hard to ship in containers. Bulk ships carry coal, grains, and other loose cargo. Tankers carry oil and other liquid cargo. Refrigerated ships, or reefers, carry meat, fish, and other products that need to stay cold.
“Navies use several different kinds of warships. The largest are aircraft carriers. A carrier has a large flat surface called a flight deck that airplanes can use for takeoffs and landings. Other types of military ships include cruisers, destroyers, and submarines.
“Industrial ships are sometimes called factory ships. Some industrial ships are oil rigs. They have big machinery that pumps oil from the ocean floor. Another type of factory ship processes fish that the crew catches at sea.
“Before airplanes made long-distance travel quick and easy, people traveled in ships called ocean liners. Ocean liners had dining rooms and cabins where guests could sleep. Today this type of passenger ship is called a cruise ship. Cruise ships carry tourists and vacationers to seaside locations around the world. Cruise ships often have swimming pools, shopping malls, and live entertainment.”
History of Ships
From Britannica Kids:
“In early times people moved ships with oars. Many early ships also used the wind to move across the seas. These ships had sails—large, raised pieces of cloth that caught the wind. Ancient Egyptian warships had at least 40 oars and a single sail. The powerful longships of the Vikings also had oars and one sail.
“By the 1400s European ships had several sails. Sailing ships known as galleons carried large guns along their sides for making war. In the 1800s long, slim ships called clippers also had several sails. Clippers traveled faster than any ship before.
“Ships were made mainly of wood until the middle of the 1800s. At that time iron ships began to replace wooden ones. Steam-powered engines also began to replace sails.
Today most ships are made of steel or other modern materials. They have internal-combustion engines that run on diesel fuel or gas. Some modern ships run on nuclear power.”
Human-Interest Poll of the Crew
Personal Log – Christmas in July!
The U.S. Postal Service does not have an official moto. If it did, it could be, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” What about Santa Claus? He seems to deliver packages all over the world no matter the distance or weather!
Today, we had a delivery from a type of “Santa”. At least that is what it felt like! The U.S. Coast Guard delivered a package directly to our ship this afternoon.
Our engineering department is very happy. Maybe now they have what they need to fix one of our davits. If the davits can be fixed, we will be able to deploy a launch (small survey boat) to assist with the survey mission.
It was fun to have some visitors, even if they just stayed for a few minutes.
For the Little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey? Hint: He is sitting is a very important chair. But which chair?
Dewey is sitting in the chair that AB Thompson sits in to control the crane that lifts the boat in and out of the water.
Did you know . . .
Lake Erie is the fourth largest lake (by surface area) of the five Great Lakes? It is the eleventh-largest lake in the whole world!
As I sign off, I will leave you with this thought: There are so many examples of career opportunities on Thomas Jefferson. Do you like water? Ships? Machines? Technology? Cooking? If you answered, “Yes” to any of these questions, a career with NOAA may be for you! Think about it!
There is a lot of technology used in the science of hydrography. Each system and software have a monitor that needs to be checked and manipulated to be sure good data is being acquired. I like to call this array of monitors the “Eyes of the Beast”. At the Acquisition Desk, one can see what each of 10-15 cameras, software programs, navigational systems, and sensors are doing.
A description of what each monitor is connected to will occur below the diagram. I will refer to each monitor by letter.
A = This is where you will find a suite of security-like cameras on the fantail (deck at the stern or back end of the ship) that monitor various pieces of equipment. These include the MVP (Moving Vessel Profiler) and the (SSS) Side Scan Sonar. The MVP and the SSS are attached to different winches on the stern and can be used at the same time. We are currently not using the SSS because the water that is being surveyed is too shallow. The TJ will often use the SSS between 25-40 meters of water. We are surveying water with the MVP that is between 10-20 meters deep.
B = The monitor shows what is going on with a software called “Hypack”. This displays data that has been processed (it is blue and green in this picture) and coverage of data being collected real-time that has yet to be processed (yellow). Blue = water that is between 22-25 meters of depth; Green = water that is between 10-22 meters of depth. It also has the nautical chart displayed in the background showing water (light blue) and land (tan). It helps hydrographers visually keep track of what data has been taken and what still needs to be completed.
C & D = These are currently not conveying any information. They can be used when other sensors like the SSS and a different Multibeam Echo Sounder, referred to as the EM 710 (pronounced “seven-ten”), are in use.
Warning! Warning! Nerd Alert! –
The MBES that we are currently using to acquire data is more technically called the EM 2040 (pronounced “twenty-forty”). It uses between 200-400 kilohertz (kHz) of sound energy. One kHz equals one 1000 hertz (1000 Hz). Therefore, 200 kHz = 200,000 Hz. A hertz is a measurement of frequency of sound or how quickly a wave of sound moves past a fixed point. 1 hertz = 1 cycle per second. The EM 2040 can measure as deep as 300 meters. It is for higher resolution of images in shallow water.
The EM 710 emits sound energy in the range of 70-100 kHz. It is used to survey deeper waters and can image as deep as 2300 meters. The resolution is lower than the 2040.
Increasing kHz = use in shallow water with more resolution
Decreasing kHz = use in deeper water with less resolution
E = This monitor is also linked to the Hypack software. It is used to plan the survey (what “lines” to drive), show the real-time acquisition of data, and help to communicate with the bridge – letting them know where to go next. There is constant conversation between the bridge and the hydrographers in the survey room. They frequently discuss what line should the ship go to next. They also talk over the width of the lines with respect to sonar coverage (and adjust them accordingly) and plan what will happen when there are small fishing vessel or other obstructions (buoys, primarily) in the area.
F = MVPs actions and controls are shown on this monitor. The Hydrographer in Charge (HIC) can also keep an eye on the MVP by looking at camera monitor “A” explained above.
G = This is the monitor for the Positioning & Attitude System (POS). It provides information with respect to the ship’s position (latitude and longitude), its direction and how it is “sitting” in the water.
Meet the Crew – Erin Cziraki (CHST)
There is a soft spoken, ever pleasant Chief Hydrographic Survey Technician (CHST), who is great at taming the “beast”. Her name is Erin Cziraki. She supervises the survey department that is comprised of 6 members, makes the watch schedules, oversees training, is a mentor to new hydrographers as they work through their first project, compiles a lot of data for reports, and has various other administrative duties. She also stands watch at the data acquisition desk and serves as a substitute when needed. If you need assistance with trouble shooting technical problems or answers to questions regarding hydrographic data, Erin is your go to person! She is very knowledgeable, competent, and approachable.
How long have you been with NOAA? Please explain your school and career path. Erin went to college at Coastal Carolina University and majored in marine science. Her major included classes in marine chemistry, geology, physical oceanography, physical geography, and biology. After graduation, she was unable to secure employment in the field of marine science, so she entered the field of veterinarian medicine. She worked as the customer service supervisor of a veterinarian hospital for 5 years. The dream of working in marine science was ever present, so she went back to school at the local community college to obtain a degree in marine technology after which she got a job with NOAA. She has worked as a hydrographic scientist for four years.
What do you do when you are off the ship? Do you have any hobbies? Erin enjoys scuba diving (in fact, she is an instructor) and enjoys traveling.
You are a role model for others when it comes to following your dream. Thank you, Erin, for your expertise, attention to detail, and service to NOAA.
Earlier this summer, I read The Lobster Chronicles by Linda Greenlaw. I came across a real-life reason for hydrographic surveys! Read this account of an early 1900s shipwreck off the coast of Maine.
“Soon they were in the midst of a howling northeaster, and a blinding snow squall. It was then that the captain decided, for the safety of his crew and vessel, which were both being wracked by the storm, to try to find safe harbor, a lee from the seas that threatened to pound men and boat to pieces. The southwestern and leeward shore of this mountainous island would have been the ideal place to anchor and wait out the gale, if it hadn’t been for the ledges that peppered the area. From Western Ear to Trail Point, vicious ledges lay just beneath the surface, while other boldly poke their heads above. These remote outcroppings of rocky peaks are surrounded by deceivingly deep water; some rocks are as far as a mile from the coast. The men, convinced that they were doomed if they remained at sea, took their chances at navigating the treacherous gauntlet.”
If only the captain had had access to a NOAA hydrographic survey of the area! He could have navigated the island safely and all souls aboard would have been saved! (Spoiler alert: they all swam to shore safely although they almost froze to death in the frigid waters!)
There are LOTS of books about adventures at sea at your local public library! One of my favorites is The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi. Check it out!
For the little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey today? Hint: It is important to visit this room to keep your clothes fresh and clean.
A: Dewey is in the laundry room. There are two washers and dryers available to the crew . . . soap and fabric softener are provided. We are asked to only wash full loads and not to use the washer when we are in heavy seas (periods of time when the waves are big).
One of the questions I have received from my family is, “What is your day like? How do you spend your time?” Well, each day, we receivea Plan of the Day (POD) from the Operations Officer (OPS). It is a schedule of what is happening on ship that day. It also assigns you your watch or duties. I use this information to plan my personal schedule. A typical day for me might look like the following (I will be stating times using a 24-hour clock):
0510 – Rise and Shine
0530 – Report to my watch as a Hydrographer in Charge in Training (HIC-IT) at the Acquisition Station in the Plot Room
0730 – my watch is over, and it is time for breakfast
0800 through 1130 – I usually work on my blog post, interview crew members, hang out on the Bridge, do whatever it takes to learn about all aspects of living and working on Thomas Jefferson. There are often meetings scheduled for the morning that I am not expected to attend.
1130 – Lunch
1200 through 1630 – I attend various safety training sessions, observe what others are doing on the ship (like yesterday when I watched the Ensigns training in the Fast Rescue Boat), safety drills, work on blog posts, etc. This is also the time when I work out in the Exercise Room, take a shower, and/or do laundry.
1630 – Dinner
1700-1930 – Continue the work that was started earlier in the day, read, play a card game, enjoy looking out at the lake, or sometimes we have a “Morale Event” like BINGO or a movie. If we have good cell phone coverage, I call my family.
1930 – Bedtime!
It is a full day! Everyday is different, and you can be sure I am learning tons and making friends. To be honest, sometimes I forget that I am on a ship, especially when the waves are small.
Ship Joke of the Day
Q: What do you call a boat owned by a bunch of football players?
Seeing several people aboard in uniform caused me to ask, “Is NOAA part of the military?”
According to the NOAA Corps website, “The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps) is one of the nation’s eight uniformed services. NOAA Corps officers are an integral part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and serve with the special trust and confidence of the President.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, known as the NOAA Corps, is one of just two uniformed services with no enlisted or warrant officers. The Corps is made up of engineers, oceanographers, geologists, and meteorologists (among others) who support federal departments in earth science projects. The officers operate NOAA’s ships, fly aircraft, manage research projects, conduct diving operations, and serve in staff positions throughout NOAA. Prior to going out to sea, NOAA Corps officers attend 18 weeks of training at the US Coast Guard Academy’s Officer Candidate School (OCS) in New London, CT. They are not always out to sea; NOAA Corps officers who work on ships rotate between driving the ship for two years and supporting science missions ashore for three years. NOAA Corps officers enable NOAA to fulfill mission requirements, meet changing environmental concerns, take advantage of emerging technologies, and serve as environmental first responders.
The history of the NOAA Corps can be traced back to 1807 when Thomas Jefferson signed a bill establishing the “Survey of the Coast,” which charted the country’s coasts and waterways. Their mission has expanded well beyond coastal mapping. It currently has 320+ officers who oversee more than a dozen ships and nine specialized aircraft, including the Hurricane Hunters.
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, ~ 30% or 10 out of 34 souls aboard are part of the NOAA Corps. The positions of Commanding Officer (CO), Executive Officer (XO), Operations Officer (OPS), and Operations Officer in Training (OPS IT) are all filled with members of the NOAA Corps. The OPS is also called a Field Operations Officer (FOO). (OPS = FOO) The Medical Officer (MO) is often an ensign, however, on TJ, our MO is a professional mariner. All officers are trained to be an Officer of the Deck (OOD); prior to qualification they serve as a Junior Officer of the Deck (JOOD). These are the people who drive, or are learning to drive, the ship. Other duties the Junior Officers serve are Navigation Officer (Nav-O), Damage Control Officer (DCO), and the Environmental Compliance Officer (ECO).
TJ serves as a training ground for Ensigns. These are people new to the Corps. Some have attended maritime academies, or been in prior service, such as the U.S. Navy. However, their prior experience must include a baccalaureate degree, and completion of at least 48 semester hours in science, technology, math, or engineering course work pertaining to NOAA’s missions. They become ensigns after graduation from OCS, also known as NOAA’s Basic Officer Training Class (BOTC). You see them all over the ship. They are eager to learn and seem to train or study non-stop! No wonder! There is so much to learn. Ensigns fill many “collateral positions” such as Medical Officer (MO) and Damage Control Officer (DCO). The DCO are on the fire and emergency squad.
The maritime academies in the United States are listed below. Click on the links below if you wish to learn more about any of these institutions.
College Degree granting institutions offering maritime degrees and USCG-approved courses include:
I wish I had known about the NOAA Corps when I was making career decisions. It has the discipline and culture of the armed services, yet it is focused on the sciences. The upper age limit to enter the Corps is 42 years old. I guess at this point, I can only encourage others to consider the NOAA Corps as a career option. 😊
Click here &/or watch the following video for more information about the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps.
I have been asked to give a presentation to the crew about the Dalton Local School’s STEAM program. They also would like to know possible lesson ideas I will develop in the future and “takeaways” from the Teacher at Sea experience.
The following is a slide show of my presentation.
Human Interest Poll (HIP)
Recently, I started a Human-Interest Poll (HIP) where I post a question on the bulletin board outside of the lounge and give the crew 2-3 days to respond. The latest question was, “Where was the coolest place you have gone on a ship?” See their responses below.
A = The Channel Islands
B = San Juan Islands
C = Japan
D = Guam
E = Norfolk, VA (Home)
F = Bering Sea in Winter
G = Point Hope, AK
H = Panama Canal
I = Little Diomede Island, AK
J = St. Lawrence Seaway
K = Bali
L = Adak, AK
M = The Equator
N = Ocean View, DE
Stay tuned! The next HIP is, “What were the highest seas you have ever experienced? Where?”
For the little Dawgs . . .
Q: Where is Dewey today? Hint: Athletes like to use this room.
A: Dewey is in the Exercise Room. This room is in the bottom floor of the ship. I heard that it is one of the best exercise rooms in the NOAA fleet of ships! Even though this is a large ship, you really do not get many “steps” each day. Exercising is part of staying healthy. I try to work out each day. It is an interesting experience to use the treadmill when we are experiencing 4–6-foot waves!
Joke of the Day
Q: Where do ghosts go to sail?
A Lake Eerie!
I am enjoying sharing my NOAA Teacher at Sea experience with you. I am looking forward to sharing it with my K-8 STEAM students in the fall!
(*** As the wave height increases, going up or down stairs is a lot like being on a roller coaster. As the ship moves up on a wave, you feel somewhat weightless. As the ship moves down, the G-forces (gravity) make you feel “heavy”. It is fun – until you run into the wall!)
Science and Technology Log
Standing on the bridge, one hears a lot of radio communication between boats and occasionally the Coast Guard. The bridge also communicates frequently with the survey technicians via an intercom.
This made me start to wonder about how the ship communicates in other ways. Let me tell you, there are many other ways for the ship to communicate other than radio. One way is via Morse code. According to Kiddle Encyclopedia, “Morse code is a type of code that is used to send telegraphic information using rhythm. Morse code uses dots and dashes to show the alphabet letters, numbers, punctuation and special characters of a given message. When messages are sent audibly (with sound) by Morse code, dots are short beeps or clicks, and dashes are longer ones.”
Morse code is named after Samuel Morse, who helped invent it. It is not used as much today as it was in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some people still use Morse code to communicate on amateur radio. I have a friend who is an amateur radio operator. He communicates with people all over the world using Morse Code. (He even signs birthday cards in Code!) In Girl Scouts, we were encouraged to learn Morse code. All I remember is the distress code: SOS (. . . – – – . . .).
Another way the ship can communicate is with a signal light. The operator opens and closes louvers in front of the light using the same Morse code dot & dash patterns.
Messages can be relayed via the ship’s horn. I discussed in a previous post the ship’s alarm signals that indicate a fire or other emergency, man overboard, or abandon ship. However, the ship also has bells and whistles (different types of horns) that can be used for additional communication; these broadcast a message to a wider audience. There are rules that regulate horn usage in inland and international waters. These signals can communicate navigation or emergency information – and so much more.
Example: two prolonged blasts followed by one short blast = “I intend to overtake you on your starboard side”
If you are in distress, other ways to communicate include lights; a rocket parachute flare or a hand flare showing a red light; guns or other explosive devises; flames on the vessel (as from a burning tar barrel, oil barrel, etc.); a smoke signal giving off orange-colored smoke; slowly and repeatedly raising and lowering arms outstretched to each side; etc.
Flags are also used to communicate with other ships or people ashore. They consist of flags and pennants of varying colors, shapes, and markings. The flags have independent meanings; however, when used together they can spell out words and communicate complex messages. The book International Code of Signals lists literally hundreds of 1-3 flag combinations that mean everything from describing medical conditions of crew members to issues regarding safe maritime travel. The International Code Signal of distress is indicated by the flags that represent the letter “N” followed by the letter “C”.
Something else you should know about communicating on a ship (or as an airplane pilot), each letter is represented by a word. A = Alfa, B = Bravo, C = Charlie, D = Delta, etc. To learn more, see the International Flags and Pennants illustration above.
For the little Dawgs . . . (and older)
Q: Where is Dewey today? Hint: People on the ship use these to communicate.
A: Dewey is in the signal flag storage area.
The radio call sign of NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is WTEA (Whiskey Tango Echo Alfa). Do you see the flags flying from our mast in the pictures below? The triangle pennant above the flags that indicate our radio call sign is called our commissioning pennant- indicating a government vessel (NOAA ship) in commission. The triangles on this pennant symbolize a concept in navigation called triangulation. According to Wikipedia, “triangulation is the process of determining the location of a point by forming triangles to the point from known points”. It is a perfect pennant for a hydrographic vessel.
Students, I challenge you draw out your name using International Flags.
Click on this link and/or watch the video below for more information about International Flags and Pennants.
Ship Joke of the Day
How do boats say hello to one another? (They wave!) . . . Or, do they wave their flags?
Speaking of flags, I had very meaningful thing happened today. I was just hanging out in the bridge. I like to see how they navigate and steer the ship. (It is also a great place to bird watch.) Operations Officer, LT Levano, asked me if I would like to have a flag that flew over the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. Whenever a flag becomes a bit tattered or torn, they take it down and replace it with a new one. They usually give the old flag to the Boy Scouts of America for disposal. This time, however, they gave it to me! It brought me to tears. It was a very special moment for me as a Teacher at Sea.
Able Bodied Seaman (AB) Kinnett and ENS Brostowski folded the flag and made the formal presentation.
Previews of coming attractions:
Tonight, is movie night in the lounge. Word has it that the featured film will be Monty Python and the Holy Grail! Woo Hoo! That is one of my favorites!
Also, the Plan of the Day (POD) for tomorrow states that the crew will be deploying and recovering the Fast Rescue Boat (FRB). Sounds like fun!
I will share the results from the first Human-Interest Poll (HIP) of the crew.
As explained in a previous blog, hydrographic survey uses sound energy. NOAA hydrographers use various tools to measure the speed of sound from the time it is sent out to the time it is received as an echo. Sound waves traveling through water of different density cause refraction (or bending) of the energy wave. The density of water is affected by the salinity, temperature, and depth of the water. Scientists need to measure these parameters (things) and then use this knowledge to correct the data depending upon the properties of the water the sound is traveling through. (If you have been following this blog, nothing so far is new.)
Today’s question is how is the temperature and salinity of a column of water measured? Hydrographers use different types of tools to measure the temperature, salinity, and water depth. As a group, these tools are called “sound velocity profilers”. A conductivity, temperature, and depth sensor (CTD) can measure these three things in a column of water and then it calculates the speed of sound in water using a formula called the Chen-Millero equation. (I do not claim at all to understand this equation!)
To make matters more interesting, there are two (I’m sure there are more than two, however, to simplify things, we will assume that there are only two) types of CTDs. One type is sent overboard when the ship is not moving. The other type can be used when the ship is moving. Using a CTD while the ship is moving is a great thing, because to get good data, CTD data must be taken frequently (every 1-4 hours) and this big ship is difficult to stop!
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson has both types of CTD sensors. They rely heavily on the type that can be used when the ship is moving. In fact, it is so important that we call it our MVP. This does not stand for Most Valuable Player – although it is extremely important! A moving vessel profiler (MVP) can be used to measure the water column when the ship is moving at regular survey speeds (8-10 knots). It kind of looks like a torpedo. The MVP system can be set up to drop to a given depth determined by the hydrographers in charge of the project – not to shallow & not too deep . . . just right.