Justin Garritt: What is NOAA and Why Are We Sailing? September 3, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Garritt
(Almost) aboard NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada
September 3, 2018

Geographical area of cruise: Seattle, Washington to Newport, Oregon
Date: September 3, 2018

Today was day two and my first full day on-board. I learned so much about the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I learned about what our ship, Bell M. Shimada’s, mission was this cruise. I started to get acquainted with all the impressive things the ship has to offer. However, what I enjoyed most was meeting all the wonderful people who spend their lives on-board for months (or even years) serving us. Every single professional was warm and welcome and answered the thousand questions I asked today with a smile. It was an amazing day because of the crew and scientists who already made me feel at home.

I was unaware of what NOAA did before joining the Teacher at Sea Program. Today’s post is all about NOAA, the ship I am sailing on, and the mission ahead the next two weeks.

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My home for the next two weeks. . . NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada

What is NOAA? Before I can get in to details about my journey, here is some information about the governmental agency that welcomes Teacher At Sea applicants with open arms.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is an American scientific agency that focuses on the conditions of the oceans, major waterways, and the atmosphere. It was formed in 1970 and as of last year had over 11,000 employees. NOAA exists to monitor earth systems through research and analysis. It uses the research to assess and predict future changes of these earth systems and manage our precious resources for the betterment of society, the economy, and environment.

One component of NOAA studies our oceans. They ensure ocean and coastal areas are safe, healthy, and productive. One of the many ships that are used to study the oceanic environment (which I am fortunate to sail on these next two weeks) is NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada. This ship is stationed on the west coast with forty-plus crew who work endlessly to make this ship run so NOAA scientists can perform important environmental studies. Every person I have met the past two days has been remarkable and you will hear more about them throughout my future blogs.

 

Why Are We Sailing? NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada is one of dozens of NOAA ships that sail the ocean every day in order to research vital information about our environment. Every sailing has clear objectives that help achieve the goals that the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association sets. On NOAA Ship Bell M. Shimada, hake fish surveys are completed every other year and research is done during off years. Fish surveys determine estimates of certain fish species. This vessel sails the entire west coast of the United States and then works with their Canadian counterparts to provide an estimate of a variety of species. NOAA uses this information to provide the fisherman with rules governing the amount of species that can be fished. During research years, like the one I currently am on, the vessels have different objectives that support their work.

For this leg, the ship has three main objectives:

#1: Pair trawling to determine net size impact: Evaluate the differences between the US 32mm nets and the CANADIAN 7mm nets. The questions being asked are does the differences in size of the two nets affect the size, characteristics, or species of fish being caught during surveys.

The reason this research is needed is because currently the Canadians and the United States have always used different size liners on the far tip of the net while surveying. The purpose of this experiment is to eliminate the possibility that there is bias in the data between the two countries when surveying their respective territories with slightly different net sizes.The hope is that the different liners do not affect the  size, characteristics, or species of fish being caught during surveys.

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#2: Comparing old acoustic equipment with new equipment: An acoustic transducer is a highly technological piece of equipment used on board scientific and commercial fishing vessels around the word. It emits a brief, focused pulse of sound into the water. If the sound encounters objects that are of different density than the surrounding medium, such as fish, they reflect some sound back toward the source. On-board N

OAA Ship Bell M. Shimada these echoes provide information on fish size, location, and abundance. NOAA is modernizing all of their acoustic equipment to a higher range of frequency. This is equivalent to when televisions went from black and white to color. This will hopefully allow scientists to collect more precise and accurate data.

The second goal of this cruise is to determine the differences in the frequency levels of both the new and the old technology. The goal in the long run is to reduce the number of surveying trolls needed to determine the population of fish, and instead, use this highly advanced acoustics equipment instead. It would be a more efficient and environmentally smarter option for the future.

Multibeam Sonar

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

#3: Using oceanography to predict fish presence: During the night time, scientific studies continue. The ship never sleeps. Depending on where we saw and caught fish during the day time experiments, the captain will bring the boat back to that same area to determine what water characteristics were present. The goal is to find the correlation between increased hake presence and certain water characteristics.

Throughout the next two weeks I will take you behind the scenes on how the ship is collecting data and using the data to create a hypothesis for each goal.

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A beautiful view while calibrating today

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Immersion suit practice during drills

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The beautiful Seattle skyline

Upcoming Blogs through Sept 14:

Life on-board these beautiful ships

The galley is a work of art

Tour of the ship

Careers on-board

Daily tasks and updates on our ship leg’s mission and goals

Stephen Kade: How Sharks Sense their Food & Environment, August 9, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Stephen Kade

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 23 – August 10, 2018

 

Mission: Long Line Shark/ Red Snapper survey Leg 1

Geographic Area: 30 19’ 54’’ N, 81 39’ 20’’ W, 10 nautical miles NE of Jacksonville, Florida

Date: August 9, 2018

Weather Data from Bridge: Wind speed 11 knots, Air Temp: 30c, Visibility 10 nautical miles, Wave height 3 ft.

Science and Technology Log

Sharks have senses similar to humans that help them interact with their environment. They use them in a specific order and rely on each one to get them closer for navigational reasons, and to find any food sources in the area around them. The largest part of the shark’s brain is devoted to their strong sense of smell, so we’ll start there.

Smell– Sharks first rely on their strong sense of smell to detect potential food sources and other movement around them from a great distance. Odor travels into the nostrils on either side of the underside of the snout. As the water passes through the olfactory tissue inside the nostrils, the shark can sense or taste what the odor is, and depending which nostril it goes into, which direction it’s coming from. It is said that sharks can smell one drop of blood in a billion parts of water from up to several hundred meters away.

Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils

Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils of a sharpnose shark

Sharks can also sense electrical currents in animals from long distances in several ways. Sharks have many electro sensitive holes along the snout and jaw called the Ampullae of Lorenzini. These holes detect weak electrical fields generated by the muscles in all living things. They work to help sharks feel the slightest movement in the water and sand and direct them to it from hundreds of meters away. This system can also help them detect the magnetic field of the earth and sharks use it to navigate as well.

Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils

Ampullae of Lorenzini and nostrils of a sharpnose shark

Hearing– Sharks also heavily use their sense of smell to initially locate objects in the water. There are small interior holes behind their eyes that can sense vibrations up to 200 yards away. Sound waves travel much further in water than in the air allowing them to hear a great distance away in all directions. They also use their lateral lines, which are a fluid filled canal that runs down both sides of the body. It contains tiny pores with microscopic hairs inside that can detect changes in water pressure and the movement and direction of objects around them.

Sight– Once sharks get close enough to see an object, their eyes take over. Their eyes are placed on either side of their head to provide an excellent range of vision. They are adapted to low light environments, and are roughly ten times more sensitive to light than human eyes. Most sharks see in color and can dilate their pupils to adapt to hunting at different times of day. Some sharks have upper and lower eyelids that do not move. Some sharks have a third eyelid called a nictitating membrane, which is an eyelid that comes up from the bottom of the eye to protect it when the shark is feeding or in other dangerous situations. Other sharks without the membrane can roll their eyes back into their head to protect them from injury.

dilated pupil of sharpnose shark

dilated pupil of sharpnose shark

Touch– After using the previous senses, sometimes a shark will swim up and bump into an object to obtain some tactile information. They will then decide whether it is food to eat and attack, or possibly another shark of the opposite gender, so they can mate.

Taste– Sharks are most famous for their impressive teeth. Most people are not aware that sharks do not have bones, only cartilage (like our nose and ears) that make up their skeletal system, including their jaw that holds the teeth. The jaw is only connected to the skull by muscles and ligaments and it can project forward when opening to create a stronger bite force. Surface feeding sharks have sharp teeth to seize and hold prey, while bottom feeding sharks teeth are flatter to crush shellfish and other crustaceans. The teeth are embedded in the gums, not the jaw, and there are many rows of teeth behind the front teeth. It a tooth is damaged or lost, a new one comes from behind to replace it soon after. Some sharks can produce up to 30,000 teeth in their lifetime.

Personal Log

While I had a general knowledge of shark biology before coming on this trip, I’ve learned a great deal about sharks during my Teacher at Sea experience aboard the Oregon II. Seeing, observing, and holding sharks every day has given me first hand knowledge that has aided my understanding of these great creatures. The pictures you see of the sharks in this post were taken by me during our research at sea. I could now see evidence of all their features up close and I could ask questions to the fishermen and scientists onboard to add to the things I read from books. As an artist, I can now draw and paint these beautiful creatures more accurately based on my reference photos and first hand observations for the deck. It was amazing to see that sharks are many different colors and not just different shades of grey and white you see in most print photographs. I highly encourage everyone that has an interest in animals or specific areas of nature to get out there and observe the animals and places firsthand. I guarantee the experience will inspire you, and everyone you tell of the many great things to be found in the outdoors.

Animals Seen Today: Sandbar shark, Great Hammerhead shark, Sharp nose shark

David Knight: Musings from Mission Viejo, July 28, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Knight

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

July 10-23, 2018

 

Mission: Southeast Fishery-Independent Survey

Geographic Area: Southeastern U.S. coast

Date: July 28, 2018

Weather Data from Mission Viejo, California:

Latitude: 33.64°
Longitude: 117.62°
Sea wave height: 1-2 ft
Wind speed: 4 kts
Wind direction: 90
Visibility: 10 nm
Air temperature: 29.0
°C
Barometric pressure: 758 mm Hg
Sky: Clear

The past few days back home have given me a chance to share my experiences as a NOAA Teacher at Sea with family and friends and to enjoy some slime and scale free days in southern California. I no longer have the picturesque sunrises and sunsets, but I don’t have to climb down a ladder to get out of bed anymore. I am so grateful that I was selected to be a Teacher at Sea this season and that I had an opportunity to learn from and work with some fantastic people.

SEFIS 2018 Leg 2 Track Line

NOAA Ship Pisces route for SEFIS Survey, July 10 – 23, 2018 (image from Jaime Park)

My experience as a NOAA Teacher at Sea greatly exceeded my expectations and has reinvigorated me as a teacher. From the first full day on NOAA Ship Pisces, I was having fun learning about and collecting data that are used to create models of fish populations.  The techniques the NOAA scientists taught me not only allowed me to contribute to their research in a small way, but it gave me an opportunity to collect data that I can immediately integrate into my classroom.  My students will be able to analyze salinity, temperature, and pressure changes as depth changes, as well as biological data such as fish length, weight and age using tissue samples I was able collect while a Teacher at Sea.  Furthermore, I was also able to learn about the men and women that serve as officers in the NOAA Corps, engineers, and deck crew, without whom the scientists would be unable to gather the necessary data. Meeting these dedicated men and women and learning about the mission of NOAA will allow me to help my own students know about career opportunities in marine biology and STEM fields. Every day was an opportunity to learn and I am eager to share my experience and knowledge with my future students as well as my colleagues in Irvine.

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I want to thank Nate Bacheler and the entire NOAA science group for not only teaching me how to extract otoliths and ovaries, but for answering my many questions and including me in everything. Whenever I asked if I could help out in some way I always got a, “Sure, let’s show you how to get that done.” I truly had a blast getting slimed by flopping fish.  I also would not have learned so much about the NOAA Corps and the mission of NOAA without being able to freely go to the bridge and engage with the officers on duty. They too were willing to tell me the story of how the came to be NOAA Corps officers and answered my questions ranging from navigating and the propulsion of NOAA Ship Pisces to college majors and family-life.

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View from a bow hawsehole. (photo by David Knight)

 

 

 

 

Meredith Salmon: Fun in the Sun with the Sunphotometer, July 19, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

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

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 28.39°N

Longitude: 65.02°W

Air Temperature: 28.3°C

Wind Speed:  11.8 knots

Conditions: Partly sunny  

Depth: 5092.22 meters

 

Science and Technology Log

“Explorations of opportunity” including NASA Maritime Aerosol Network are conducted on the Okeanos Explorer while underway. The Maritime Aerosol Network is an organized opportunity to collect aerosol data over oceans. Aerosols are liquid or solid particles that can be generated in two ways: natural phenomena (volcano, sand storm, pollination, waves, etc.) or anthropogenic sources (combustion of hydrocarbons, chemical industries, etc.). The open ocean is one of the major sources of natural aerosols of sea-salt aerosols. Sea-salt aerosols, together with wind-blown mineral dust, and naturally occurring sulfates and organic compounds, are part of natural tropospheric aerosols.

Depending on their color, aerosols absorb sunlight in different ways. For instance, soot particles generated from the combustion of hydrocarbons absorb all visible light, therefore generating a rise in atmospheric temperature. Conversely, crystals of salt reflect all visible light and cause climatic cooling. Other studies have shown that their presence is essential for the water cycle: without aerosols, water could not condense in the form of clouds. Therefore, these particles influence the climate balance. In order to achieve this, NASA provides sunphotometers to “Vessels of Opportunity.” These vessels can be either scientific or non-scientific in their nature of operations.

SunFun

Sunphotometer device used throughout the expedition

Garmin

Garmin GPS used to collect coordinates before obtaining sunphotometer reading

How Does This Process Work?

Sunphotometer takes aerosol maritime measurements by using a photometer that is directed at the sun to measure the direct-sun radiance at the surface of the Earth. These measurements are then used to obtain a unit-less parameter: Aerosol Optical Depth (AOD). AOD is the fraction of the Sun’s energy that is either scattered or absorbed (attenuated) while it moves through the Earth’s atmosphere. The attenuation of the Sun’s energy is assumed to be a result of aerosols since the measurements are collected when the path between the sun and the sunphotometer instrument is cloud-free.

Why Is This Process Important?

This collaboration between NOAA and NASA allows for the addition of thirteen more data sets to the Maritime Aerosol Network. Regions in the open ocean are unable to be studied from land-based sunphotometers located on islands, so ships are the only other alternative to compile data. As a matter of fact, satellite based measurements are not as accurate over the ocean compared to hand-held surface measurements. Therefore, the measurements we have been logging serve as ground truth verification for satellites. In addition, the Maritime Aerosol Network allows for the expansion of data sets to the Arctic, thanks to NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown and other West Coast hydrographic ships.

SunFUN

Tatum and I collecting sunphotometer readings

sunfun 4 (3)

 

Personal Log

Safety is an absolute priority while out at sea, so the team aboard the Okeanos Explorer conducts weekly fire/emergency and abandon ship drills, and a man overboard drill every three months. We completed a man overboard drill today with an orange buoy. Everyone on the ship has designated reporting locations once the alarm sounds and the drill commences. Once you arrive at your assigned area on the ship, you must scan the water for the target and point in its direction once you find it. The fast rescue boat (FRB) is deployed to go retrieve the target and once it is safely back aboard, the drill is complete.

 

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Fast Rescue Boat used during the Man Overboard Drill

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Man Overboard Drill on the Okeanos Explorer

Did You Know?

The Mauna Loa Observatory record of solar transmission of sunlight is the longest continuous record in existence!

Resources:

https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/instruments.html

https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Aerosols/page5.php

https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/obop/mlo/programs/esrl/solar/solar.html

 

Meredith Salmon: Sonars, Sub-bottoms, and Summertime! July 18, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meredith Salmon

Aboard NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer

July 12 – 31, 2018

 

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

 

Weather Data from the Okeanos Explorer Bridge

Latitude: 29.03°N

Longitude: 62.11°W

Air Temperature: 27.5°C

Wind Speed:  6.38 knots

Conditions: Sunny

Depth: 5167.70 meters

Science and Technology Log

EK 60

SIMRAD EK 60 echo sounder readings – 38kHz frequency is not pictured

In conjunction with the EM302 multibeam sonar, the Okeanos Explorer uses five different frequencies of SIMRAD single beam echo sounders to identify biomass in the water column: an 18 kHz, 38kHz, 70 kHz, 120 kHz, and 200kHz. (38 kHz is not pictured because it is not used in conjunction with the EM302 since the frequencies are too similar and they can cross talk). These sonar systems are common on fishing boats for estimating fish abundance and they’re used for other marine research, as well. In deeper waters, lower frequency sonar is used. Since we are surveying in approximately 5,000 meters of water, the 18 kHz will be used.

Knudsen sub-bottom profiler

3.5 kHz Knudsen sub-bottom profiler data

The third piece of important equipment used during this mission is a 3.5 kHz Knudsen sub-bottom profiler. This technology is used to assist in many surveys since these systems identify and characterize layers of sediment or rock under the seafloor. In sub-bottom profiling a sound source directs a pulse towards the seafloor and parts of this pulse reflect off the seafloor while others penetrate the seafloor. The portions of the pulse that penetrate the seafloor are both reflected and refracted as they pass into different layers of sediment. These signals return towards the surface and can be used to determine important features of the seafloor. For instance, the time it takes for the reflected sound pulses to return to the vessel can be used to determine the thickness and positioning (ex. Sloped or level) of the seafloor. The refracted pulses can provide information about the sub-bottom layers. The variability in density can be used to explain differences in composition (ex. greater density is representative of harder materials). Frequency differences can help scientists obtain optimal results that can be used when collecting data during a survey. Lower frequency pulses can penetrate the seafloor but produce a lower-resolution picture while higher-frequency pulses produce the opposite.

The EM 302, EK60, and Knudsen sub-bottom profiler are all used simultaneously during this seafloor mapping operation.

Personal Log 

Throughout the cruise, one of the NOAA Corps Officers is in charge of planning fun morale events for everyone aboard to participate in. Today, we had a cookout complete with delicious food, music, and corn-hole on the fantail. Everyone had a great time! Additional morale events are planned throughout the rest of the mission so I will post about those later on!

cookout

Corn Hole!

Competitive Cornhole on the Fantail

 

NOAA Squad

Some of the Mapping Team aboard the Okeanos Explorer!

Did You Know?

The earliest technique of bathymetry (depth measurement in water) involved lowering a weighted-down rope or cable over the side of a ship, then measuring the length of the wet end when it reached the bottom. Inaccuracies were common occurrences using this technique because of the bending of the rope caused by deflection from subsurface currents and ship movements.

This technique was replaced in the 1920s by echo sounding, in which a sound pulse traveled from the ship to the ocean floor, where it was reflected and returned.

The multibeam echosounder was invented in the 1960’s.

 

Resources: 

https://www.simrad.com/ek60

https://www.km.kongsberg.com/ks/web/nokbg0240.nsf/AllWeb/1AE8CC56C6F31E51C1256EA8002D3F2C?OpenDocument

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/076b/1259200b5dddf07c4043b97c1d753782183a.pdf

Cindy Byers : I know the MVP, and it is a fish! May 3, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Cindy Byers

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

April 29 – May 13, 2018

 

Mission: Southeast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: May 3, 2018

Weather from the Bridge:                           

A view from the bridge

A view from the bridge

Latitude: 55°09.01 N

Longitude: 134°43.6 W

Sea Wave Height: 3 feet

Wind Speed: 6 knots

Wind Direction: 170°

 

Visibility: 10+ nautical miles

Air Temperature: 9.5°C  

Sky: Complete Cloud Cover

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Ship Fairweather uses a multibeam sonar to map the ocean floor. Sonar stands for SOund Navigation And Ranging.  This ship’s multibeam sonar sends sound (acoustic energy) to the seafloor in a fan shape, and then listens for the echos. The speed sound travels is vital to knowing the depth the sound has traveled to.  Sound travels about 1500 meters per second in seawater. This is much faster than in air where it travels at about 340 meters per second. Sound speed is an important consideration in ocean floor mapping.

 

What factors influence the strength of acoustic return? (sound back to the ship)

Spreading – As the sound energy gets farther from its source (the bottom of the ship) and after it hits its target, the sound wave gets weaker. This is why you can hear someone standing next to you better than somebody on the other side of a room.

Absorption – The energy of the wave heats up the molecules of water it goes through because of friction and loses energy. This is also the reason you can hear someone standing next to you better than somebody on the other side of a room.

Ambient Noise – . This refers to the fact that the fish, (towed behind the ship) the ship, and wave action are also producing sound sources of their own.  The sound “signal” needs to be extracted from this “noise”.

Target Strength – If the seafloor is muddy, some of the energy of the sound beam will be absorbed and less will be sent back to the ship.  If it is a rocky bottom, the sound energy scatters in different directions and a weaker signal returns.

How is the sound speed measured?

When you hear MVP in sports? MVP means Most Valuable Players, but on NOAA Ship Fairweather the MVP stands for Moving Vessel Profiler. The MVP consists of a small crane on the fantail (the back deck on the ship) that pulls what is called a FISH! The MVP has a computer controlled winch that can be used while the ship is moving.

MVP

This is the MVP that is on the ships fantail

The surveyors (marine technicians) call to the bridge to ask if they can, “take a cast.”  This means they will lower the “fish” to get readings and learn the speed of sound for the area. The bridge, which is where the boat is steered from, will respond that they may cast, only if it is safe.  Our last “cast” measured the water column down to 217 meters as we were travelling at 6 knots (about 7 miles per hour.)  The ship does not drop the “fish” while it is travelling at a high speed because that puts too much tension on the cable.

Bringing in the Fish

Bringing in the “fish”

 

The fish is the instrument that is pulled behind the ship, that collects data. The fish is actually a science instrument, much like the Hydrolab that we use at school.  It is a CTD, and is used to measure conductivity, temperature and pressure. This data allows the CTD to measure the speed of sound.

Grabbing the Fish

This picture show how the fish is grabbed from the water

 

Conductivity is a measurement of the ability of water to conduct an electrical current. The dissolved salts in the water are the conductors of the electricity. The salts, as you may remember, come from the breakdown of rocks and are carried by rivers to the ocean.  These “salts” are electrically charged ions, mostly in the form of sodium and chlorine. So, the conductivity measures the salinity (saltiness) of the ocean. This is very important, because the salinity affects the speed of sound. Since the sonar is sending sound to the bottom of the ocean, conductivity or salinity measurements are very important.

 

 

As sound travels through different densities (caused by the salinity) it causes refraction. You have seen refraction when you put a straw in a glass of water.  The straw appears to bend. So the salinity of the water needs to be measured using the conductivity instruments in order to account for different densities caused by the salinity levels.

The Fish Out of Water

Here is the fish out of water!

Temperature also affects the density of the water.  Colder water is more dense than warmer water. Remember when we studied how colder air is more dense than warmer air?

Since salinity and temperature change with depth, the CDT also measures depth. All three of these instruments together help determine the speed of sound through the water.  Since the sonar uses sound to map the ocean floor, measuring the speed of sound is vital for collecting good data.

The speed of sound generally increases with an increase of temperature, salinity or pressure.

 

 

 

CDT

These are two CDT’s (Conductivity, Density and Temperature) that can be used if the ship is not moving. They sure look like our Hydrolab!

 

Did you know?

Datum –  a noun meaning a piece of information, while data is plural.

Swath – a fan shaped area created by the sound beams

Transducer – where sound leaves from.

Receiver – where the sound comes back to.

Personal Log

One of the most exciting things about being at sea, is seeing animals.  On our first day out we were lucky to see a pod of orcas whales (killer whales.) Since then, someone on board reported the whales and got information back from NOAA Fisheries about whales they could identify from the pictures sent. We found out that whale A4,  named Sonora, and one of her four offspring A46, named Surf, were part of pod A5 which is a group that usually is in the water near British Columbia, but sometimes can be found in southeast Alaska, where we are right now. One male, named A66, was identified by the pictures. He was born in 1996! Look for more information about this pod here http://cetacousin.org/wild-database/orcas/northern-resident-orcas/ or http://orcinusorca.nl/

Orca

An Orca     Photo Credit Megan Shapiro

Two Orca Whales

Two Orca Whales Photo Credit Megan Shapiro

 

Orca

Orca whale near Ketchikan, Alaska           Photo Credit Megan Shapiro

 

Today we saw group of Dall’s porpoise.  They are very fast moving porpoise. They are found in the Northern Pacific Ocean in groups of 2-20 and can live 15-20 years. Individuals are about 7-8 feet long.

Dall's Porpoise

A Dall’s Porpoise, courtesy of NOAA

Information about Dall’s Porpoises:

“Dall’s Porpoise (Phocoenoides Dalli).” NOAA Fisheries, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 15 Jan. 2015, http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/porpoises/dalls-porpoise.html.

 

Victoria Cavanaugh: Navigating the Inside Passage, April 24, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Victoria Cavanaugh
Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 16-27, 2018

MissionSoutheast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: April 24, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 50° 10.002′ N
Longitude: 125° 21.685′ W
Sea Wave Height: 7 feet
Wind Speed: 5 knots or less
Wind Direction: Variable
Visibility: 14 km
Air Temperature: 9oC  
Sky:  Mostly Sunny

Science and Technology Log

NOAA Ship Fairweather has begun its transit to Alaska for the heart of the field season which means transiting the famous Inside Passagea roughly two day voyage through a stretch of nearly a thousand islands between Washington State and Alaska.  The more protected waterways of the Inside Passage provided a smooth, calm ride.  I took advantage of the transit to spend more time on Fairweatherbridge in order to learn a bit about navigation.

Magnetic North v. True North

Magnetic North v. True North

One thing that quickly became clear on the bridge of Fairweather is that for many navigational tasks, the crew has at least three ways of being able to obtain needed information.  For example, navigational charts (maps) show two compasses: magnetic and true north.  The inner circle represents the magnetic compass, which in reality points 17 degrees right of true North and is dependent upon the pull of the Earth’s magnetic core.  Because the magnetic compass can be offset by the pull of the ship’s magnetic fields (the ship is made of steel, after all), Fairweather’s compass is actually readjusted each year.  During our Inside Passage transit, a specialist came aboard near Lopez Island to reset the ship’s magnetic compass.

Magnetic Compass

The Ship’s Magnetic Compass Located on the Flying Bridge (Top Deck)

Mirrors

A Series of Mirrors Allows the Crew to Read the Magnetic Compass from the Bridge

The ship’s magnetic compass is located on the flying deck, just above the bridge.  So, to be able to read the compass from the bridge, the crew looks through a series of mirrors above the helm. Notice that next to the mirrors, is a digital display that reads “78.”  This is an electrical reading from the gyrocompass.  The gyrocompass reflects “true North” also referred to as geographical North.

Gyrocompass

The Gyrocompass is Secured in a Closet on D Deck Near the Galley

Auxiliary Compass

An Auxiliary Compass, Connected to the Gyrocompass, is Located Right Off the Bridge on Both Port and Starboard

When at sea, a crew member on the bridge takes “fixes” every fifteen minutes, both day and night.  To take a fix, the crew member uses an auxiliary compass and chooses three landmarks on shore as points.  The crew member then lines up the viewfinder and records the degree of the line formed between the ship and the given point.

Focusing the auxilliary compass

The Crew Focuses the Auxiliary Compass on a Landmark on Shore. This Allows for a Reading on the Gyrocompass.

Next, the crew member plots the three points on the chart using triangles (similar to giant protractors).  The point where the three lines intersect is the ship’s current location.  Though technically, the crew could just plot two points ashore and look for where the lines intersect, but as a way of triple checking, the crew chooses three points.  Then, if a line doesn’t intersect as expected, the crew member can either retake the fix or rely on the other two points for accuracy.

Plotting the Course

The Crew Use Triangles to Plot Their Course

Verifying location

A Crew Member Uses a Compass to Verify Our Current Location, Measuring and Checking Latitude and Longitude

In addition to using the two aforementioned compasses to determine the ship’s location, the open seas often mean majestic night skies.  Some of the crew members told me they  also look to the stars and find the Big Dipper and North Star.  A central theme on the bridge is being prepared: if both compasses malfunction, the crew can still safely guide Fairweather along its course.

Original Navigation System

The Original Navigation System: The Night Sky

Location display

The Ship’s Location Also Displayed Electronically above the Helm

In addition to being able to take fixes and locate constellations in the night sky, modern day technology can make the crew’s job a bit easier.  The ship’s latitude and longitude is continually displayed by an electronic monitor above the helm via GPS (Global Positioning System).  Below, the ship’s Electronic Navigation System (ENS) essentially acts as Google Maps for the sea.  Additionally, the ENS provides a wealth of data, tracking the ship’s speed, wind, and other contacts.

Electronic Navigation System

The Electronic Navigation System – Sort of Like Google Maps for the Ship!

Next to the ENS on the bridge is the ship’s radar, which shows other vessels transiting the area.  Similar to ENS, the radar system also provides information about the ship’s speed and location.

Radar screen

The Ship’s Radar Is Yet Another Navigational Tool

Electronic Wind Tracker

The Electronic Wind Tracker above the Helm

Wind matters in navigation.  The force and direction of the wind can affect both currents and the ship’s route.  Winds may push the ship off course which is why taking fixes and constantly monitoring the ship’s actual location is critical in maintaining a given route.  The wind can be monitored by the weather vane on the bow, the electronic wind tracker above, or on the ENS below.  Additionally, a crew member demonstrates a wheel, used for calculating and recalculating a ship’s course based on the wind’s influence.

Calculating Wind and Direction

A Crew Member Holds a Wheel for Calculating Wind and Direction

Speaker System

An Old-Fashioned Speaker System on the Bridge

On the bridge, multiple ways of being able to perform tasks is not limited to navigation alone.  Communicating quickly on a ship is important in case of an emergency. Fairweather is equipped with various communication systems: a paging system, an internal telephone line, cell phones, satellite phones, etc.

Phone Systems

A Collection of Bells and Phone Systems for Contacting Various Parts of the Ship

Personal Log

Just before leaving Puget Sound, I had the chance to go kayaking for a few hours with two of the crew members.  We had great luck; not only was the water placid, but harbor seals played for nearly an hour as we paddled around one of many coves.  It was neat to see Fairweather from yet another perspective.

Kayaks

Kayaks are Secured for Seas on the Flying Bridge – The Hardest Part Is Carrying the Kayaks Up and Down Several Docks to Be Able to Launch Them

Launching Kayaks

A Bit Tricky: Launching Kayaks from a Launch

Approaching Fairweather in Kayaks

Approaching Fairweather in Kayaks

Wide Open Waters of Puget Sound

Wide Open Waters of Puget Sound

Ready to Explore

Ready to Explore

Harbor Seals

Harbor Seals Played in the Water Around Our Kayaks

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Incredibly Calm Waters in Puget Sound Made for Picturesque Reflections

 

 

Did You Know?

The Inside Passage is a series of waterways and islands that stretches from Puget Sound, just north of Seattle, Washington on past Vancouver and British Columbia and up to the southeastern Alaskan panhandle.  In British Columbia, the Inside Passage stretches over more than 25,000 miles of coast due to the thousand or so islands along the way.  In Alaska, the Inside Passage comprises another 500 miles of coastline.  Many vessels choose the Inside Passage as their preferred coast as it is much more protected than the open waters of the Pacific Ocean to the immediate west.  Nonetheless, rapidly changing tidal lines, numerous narrow straits, and strong currents make navigating the Inside Passage a challenging feat.  In addition to frequent transit by commercial vessels, tugboats, and barges, the Inside Passage is also increasingly popular among cruise ships and sailboats.  On average it takes 48-60 hours to navigate.

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Approaching Open Waters as the Fairweather Leaves British Columbia and Enters the Alaskan Portion of the Inside Passage

Glassy Reflection

A More Protected Stretch of the Inside Passage Creates a Glassy Reflection

Crew on Anchor Watch

Crew on Anchor Watch on the Inside Passage as We Approach Seymour Narrows. Note the Weathervane on the Bow.

Snowy Peaks Along the Inside Passage

Snowy Peaks Along the Inside Passage

Late Afternoon View

Enjoying a Late Afternoon View from Fairweather’s Fantail

Islands

Some of the Many, Many Islands along the Inside Passage

Blackney Passage

Blackney Passage

tugboat and barge

A Tugboat Pulls a Barge Near Lopez Island

 

Late Afternoon

Late Afternoon on the Inside Passage as Seen from Starboard, F Deck

Mountain view

Impossible to Get Tired of These Views!

Challenge Question #4: Devotion 7th Graders – NOAA and NASA collaborated to produce the National Weather Service Cloud Chart which features explanations of 27 unique cloud types.  Clouds can tell sailors a great deal about weather.  Can you identify the type of clouds in the ten above pictures of the Inside Passage?  Then, record your observations of clouds for five days in Brookline.  What do you notice about the relationship between the clouds you see and the weather outside?  What do you think the clouds in the pictures above would tell sailors about the upcoming weather as they navigated the Inside Passage?  Present your observations as journal entries or a log.

A Bonus Challenge. . .

Just outside the bridge on both the Fairweather‘s port and starboard sides are little boxes with two thermometers each.  What is the difference between dry and wet temperatures?  Why would sailors be interested in both measurements?

Two thermometers

Two thermometers, labeled “Dry” and “Wet”, with different readings