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.

IMG_20180424_131729

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

 

 

Victoria Cavanaugh: Questions & Answers with the Ship’s Crew, April 22, 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 22, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 48° 25.012′ N
Longitude: 122° 44.039′ W
Sea Wave Height: 1-3 feet
Wind Speed: 10-20 knots
Wind Direction: NE
Visibility: 14.1 km
Air Temperature: 14oC  
Sky:  Scattered Clouds

Science and Technology Log

As NOAA Ship Fairweather began its northward journey through the Inward Passage, I took advantage of a few days at sea to conduct interviews with crew from each of the various departments onboard: deck crew, engineers, officers, stewards, and survey technicians.  Through the interview process I realized just how much goes in to making Fairweather  successful.  Two themes arose again and again in conversations: First, the crew of the Fairweather loves what they do — the crew’s commitment and passion for being at sea was unanimous. . .and contagious.  Second, Fairweather is family.

Enjoy the five interviews below, the first of which is with a Edward Devotion School alum. . .


An Interview with AB Carl Coonce, Fairweather Deck Crew & Devotion School Alum (1971-1974)

AB Carl Coonce at the Helm

AB Carl Coonce at the Helm

Carl on bridge

AB Carl Coonce & Devotion School Alum on Fairweather’s Bridge

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m an able-bodied seaman or AB. My permanent job is to take care of the ship. Some duties include maintaining the ship’s cleanliness, ensuring the security of the vessel, and steering the ship.

Q: Why is your work important?

A: Without AB’s, the ship can’t be driven. AB’s also maintain the security of the ship and watch out for the safety of the ship’s personnel. AB’s work on the upkeep of the ship’s inside and outside condition, checking to prevent rust and other damage. The AB’s ready the equipment for different missions and load and unload equipment, too. Finally, the AB’s help with the officers’ work, with surveying, and with engineering.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I love being at sea. I love being able to see different sunrises and sunsets every day. I see things most people only see on TV or in pictures. For example, I’ve seen two rainbows cross before at sea. Sometimes rainbows are so close when you are at sea that you can almost reach out and touch them. Every day at sea is a new adventure.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I mostly work as a helmsman (driver) up on the bridge (which is like the front seat of the car/ship). A helmsman is the person who drives the ship. A helmsman keeps watch, looking for any potential dangers such as things floating in the water, other ships, and certain parts of land (such as sand bridges). Another important part of my job is to understand how to read maps and use all of the radar and other navigational equipment up on the bridge.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: Sleep!

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I always wanted to come to sea because my father was a sailor. I took a different route for a long time, but about 15 years ago I started my ocean career. I guess it was in my blood. It was hard to get started because I knew nothing about ships and what was required in the beginning. I went online and researched shipping companies and sent my resume out to a few hundred companies. I received a call from NOAA and began my sea career in Woods Hole, Massachusetts on a fishing vessel, NOAA Ship Albatross. By the way, Albatross is actually where the NOAA Teachers at Sea Program started.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I didn’t expect to be around the same people 24/7. You are always with the people with whom you work and your boss. Eventually, though, it becomes like a family.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: I would tell other people that NOAA is a wonderful job for people interested in going to sea. When you start off, you can go out to sea for a few weeks at a time. With NOAA, you have a chance to see and do things that you don’t get to do on commercial boats. You also are able to see new parts of the country. I’ve seen the east and west cost. The benefits are outstanding. Aside from traveling, I also have three months of vacation each year, something I would probably not have with a desk job, even after many years.

Q: How did you become interested in communicating about science?

A: When I was on the east coast, I was on NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow out of Newport, Rhode Island. A group of scientists came onboard, and we sailed up by Newfoundland. We sent a special net nearly three miles down into the ocean. The most memorable thing was catching a fish that was about 2.5 feet long, incredibly white, paper thin, and had bright red fins. The scientists told me that this fish only lives two miles down. Experiences like this are once in a lifetime. That was one of the most exciting and memorable trips I’ve had with NOAA.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: Don’t take the sea for granted. There is a mystery for the sea. We know more about the moon than we do about the oceans. There is so much to learn at sea. Even after fifteen years at sea, there is so much more to learn about the ocean. It is never the same. There is always something new to see. I’m still amazed by some of the things I’ve seen at sea, even if I’ve seen them over and over again. For example, hearing the sound of the glaciers hitting the water is unforgettable. Seeing the different colors of the ocean, you realize there is so much more than green and blue. Once you think you’ve learned it all, the ocean changes again on you.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I’d probably be back in Boston working as a chef. I went to school for culinary arts, but I think I’d be miserable if I wasn’t at sea.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: When I’m home, I like to work in my backyard. I like to work on my garden. I also like to work out.

Q: What is your favorite memory as a student at the Edward Devotion School?

A: I loved growing up in Brookline. It was a wonderful town to grow up in. I really feel now that being a kid at Devotion School was one of the happiest parts of my life. There is so much history at the Devotion School. Even after having traveled all around the country with NOAA, I love going back home to Boston and Brookline. Boston and Brookline are my favorite places. I still keep in touch with five of my friends from school in Brookline. We’ve been hanging out together for over thirty years. My friendships from grade school and later at Brookline High are still tremendously important to me today.


An Interview with HST Bekah Gossett, Fairweather Hydrographic Survey Technician

HST Bekah Gossett

HST Bekah Gossett

IMG_20180422_134940

The View from the Plot Room

Bekah's sheet on Yakutat Bay project

One of HST Gosset’s Projects from Last Season: Notice the Green Plot Lines and Surrounding Glaciers

A Finished Sheet from Last Season

A Finished Sheet from Last Season: Notice the Contrasting Depths (69 fathoms on a Previous Chart v. 94 fathoms Based on Sonar Data)

Comparing Updated Charts with a Historic One

Comparing Updated Charts with an Outdated One (Green Represents Data Matched, Blue/Red Show One Data Set is Deeper/Shallower than the Other)

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: My role on the ship is to acquire and process data that gives us information about the depth of the seafloor.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: This work is important because it contributes to updating and creating charts (maps) that are navigationally significant for US mariners to keep them safe and to support them economically. And, it’s cool!

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I really like working on the small boats (the launches) and working in Alaskan waters is great. It is a really open and good learning environment for this field of work. I have learned a whole lot in just a year and a half. This goes beyond hydrography. I’ve learned a lot about others and myself and about working with people.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I do most of my work in the plot room and on the launches. During the field season, we’re on the launches almost every day. The plot room is the data processing room where there are lots of computers. It is adjacent to the bridge, the central and most important location on the ship.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: A computer!

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would create something with lidar (lasers) or a super sonar. Lidar is used on planes or drones to scan and provide data back. Lidar on launches would help us get data quicker.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I studied art in school, but then I switched to science. I’ve always liked ocean sciences. I decided to pursue an ocean career when I was 19.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I run the ship store, which is never something I expected to be doing. The ship stores sells snacks, candy, soda, and ship swag for the crew to keep morale high.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: I usually explain the ship’s mission as updating and correcting nautical charts. Sometimes we have different projects. Last year, for example, we were searching for a ship that sunk in Alaska in February 2017. We found it!

Q: How did you become interested in communicating about science?

A: When I was in college studying geology, I realized exactly how important it is to communicate science, because there is a lot of knowledge there that we can all learn from and use.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: There are a lot of different things one can do. There are many different degrees from engineering, to environmental science, to biology. You can study ocean science, but you don’t have to. Any science can be applied in the ocean. It is not just science. You can learn about many different careers in oceans. Engineers and deck crew are great fields to pursue. You could also be a steward and travel a lot.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I would probably be working for an environmental agency, but I would probably not be very happy. I might be at home with my dog.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I like to paint. I also have a ukulele. I also love to read.


An Interview with EU Tommy Meissner, Fairweather Engineer

EU Tommy Meissner

EU Tommy Meissner Hard at Work in Fairweather’s Boat Shop

EU Tommy Meissner in Navy

First Assignment: In the Navy, Onboard the USS Forrestal, The World’s First Supercarrier at 1,060 Feet Long in 1990

 

IMG_20180422_195404

EU Tommy Meissner: An Engineer & His Electric Guitar

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m a utility engineer. I stand watch on the main engines and  check all of the propulsion equipment. I do maintenance on the small boats. I work on air conditioning, refrigeration, heating, etc. I am jack-of-all-trades.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: There is always something too hot or too cold, something leaking or blocked. There is always too much of something or not enough of something else. That is really the challenge of the job.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: The travel aspect is the best thing about my job. I can go anywhere in the world I want to go, whenever I want to go. The oil field in Mexico is opening back up, and so now there is lots of work available.

From a work aspect, it is challenging to understand why a piece of equipment isn’t working. Fixing the engines. . .or anything really. . . is all about following a process, working methodically. It feels good to be able to fix the boat and keep it in the water.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I do most of my work in the boat shop on the small boats on E-Deck. That’s where all the maintenance is performed while the launches are in the davits (the machines that put the boats in the water). When underway, I spend eight hours a day in the machine room, but when in port I work mostly in the boat shop. Eight hours a day, four hours a watch. In addition to the two watches, I usually do at least two hours of overtime a day. During a watch, I walk around, checking all the machines, pumps, generators, boilers, air conditioners, fridge, freezer, etc.

Q:  What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: The first thing I always grab is a pipe wrench. It is always good to have one nearby. A pipe wrench is a tool that we use to take apart plumbing and to loosen and tighten any connections. I am pretty well known on this boat for unclogging restrooms and showers.

Q:  If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would want a third hand! There is always a time when you need another person. It would be helpful to have one more hand to do work more efficiently. There are lots of times when I can’t reach or need that extra hand.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: I’ve been sailing since 1990. I joined the Navy in 1989. All my life I’ve liked being around boats and on the water. Even though I lived around the water when I was little, I never had the opportunity to go to sea, so it was something I dreamed about for when I was older. Living in Fort Lauderdale, I saw the Navy come through and watched all the ships. I thought it would be cool.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I had no idea where I would be going when I joined NOAA. Before I said yes to the job, they gave me the choice to go on the Fairweather or the Rainier. Initially, I wondered about Alaska. Nome, Alaska is as far away from home for me as Dubai. I had never been so far west.  Alaska has been great, though.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: Everyone I talk to doesn’t seem to know what NOAA is. NOAA has various missions, mapping the bottom of the ocean, studying coral reefs, fish ecology (understanding how many tuna are in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico and what species of fish are on the reef off  North Carolina). I don’t think people know enough about NOAA.

Q: What recommendations do you have for a young person interested in pursuing an ocean career?

A: I would study oceanography and math and science if you want to go to sea.  Decide what type of career you would like; there are so many options at sea.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: If I wasn’t working for NOAA, I would go back to South Carolina and work in building or construction. I prefer NOAA!

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

I play guitar and teach guitar. I was always a metal head.


An Interview with 2C Carrie Mortell, Fairweather Steward

2C Carrie Mortell

2C Carrie Mortell Serving a Delicious Meal in Fairweather’s Galley

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I work in the galley (kitchen), which is very, very busy. It is kind of like the heart of the ship.   We work to feed everyone, make sure everything is kept clean, etc. There is a lot to do! We work twelve hours everyday. Many people think the galley is just cooking, but there is a lot more to the galley such as keeping track of massive amounts of stores (supplies), keeping everything fresh, and more.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: Keeping the mess deck (dining area) clean and keeping people happy and healthy with good meals is key. We boost morale. People look forward to sitting down and having a good meal at sea. We try to take peoples’ requests and keep the crew satisfied.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I love being at sea. I love to cook. I like to see people happy and satisfied. I always try to keep upbeat. We all have to live together, so it is important to keep morale up. We’re like a big family at sea.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: I spend most of my day in the galley.   All of the stewards cook. We rotate every week. One week, one cook is in the galley, and then we switch into the scullery (where dishes are cleaned).

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: My hands!

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: Another pair of arms to help cook. It is really, really busy in the galley!

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: Well, I used to commercial fish. I have always loved being on the ocean. I grew up around fishing people. When I was little, I always wanted to live in a lighthouse. I also like being able to go to different places. It is exciting to always get to travel when at sea. I loved the French Polynesian Islands, where I traveled with NOAA. I worked out of Hawaii for about eight years, so I spent a lot of time sailing around the Pacific, visiting Guam, Sonoma, the Marshall Islands, and crossing the equator several times.   On the East Coast, I enjoyed sailing Puerto Rico and the Caribbean. I also love Alaska, so sailing on Fairweather is great! Eventually, I want to move back to Alaska.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: I really love cooking, which is what I get to do everyday. I feel really passionate about my job. There isn’t anything I didn’t expect. You do have to really like what you do, though, at sea.

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: All the ships do different missions. NOAA Ship Fairweather, for instance does mapping. Another NOAA ship I worked on put out buoys for tsunamis. NOAA helps keep oceans clean. NOAA also works with fisheries and brings many scientists out to sea to study the population of our oceans. NOAA even has gone on rescue missions for aircraft and other ships in distress.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: First, you should love the sea. It is hard sometimes if you have a family. Sometimes you miss out on important events, but if you pick a ship in the right area, you can see your family more often. Sometimes, NOAA isn’t what people expect. It is really hard work, but I love it. There are lots of different departments and jobs on the ship though, so it is possible to find something you love.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I definitely would be working in culinary arts somewhere.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I love to write, paint, draw, crochet, and read. I’ve always dreamed of writing children’s books. I used to tell my children stories, especially scary ones which they loved.


An Interview with ENS Linda Junge, Fairweather Junior Officer

ENS Linda Junge on the Bridge

ENS Linda Junge on the Bridge

ENS Linda Junge

ENS Linda Junge Leading a Navigation Briefing, Explaining Fairweather’s Course for the Inside Passage

Q: What is your role aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather?

A: I’m a junior officer (JO).

Q: What’s the process for becoming a JO?

A: The process to apply to become a JO is much like applying to graduate school. You write essays, get three to five letters of recommendation, fill out the application, and have an interview. You need a BS in a field relating to NOAA’s mission, which can be pretty much any math or science field (geology, physics, calculus, engineering, biology, environmental sciences, etc.). Then you attend BOTC (Basic Officer Training Class), which is held at the Coast Guard Academy along with their officer candidate school. Another way to become a JO is to transfer in if you were formerly enlisted. BOTC for JO’s lasts five months, and we have lots of navigation classes.

Q: Why is your work (or research) important?

A: NOAA Ships have three main categories: oceanography, hydrography, and fisheries. The major job of JO’s on ships is driving, we’re like bus drivers for science. When we are underway, 50% of my work is navigation, driving the ship, and deck stuff. 30% is collateral duties, extra administrative things to make the ship run such as thinking about environmental compliance and working as a medical officer. 20% (which can fluctuate) is focused on hydrographic survey, driving small boats or helping with survey sheets, managing an area, collecting data, and being sure data is processed on time.

Q: What do you enjoy the most about your work?

A: I really enjoy knowing that I’m keeping people safe while they are sleeping. I really enjoy traveling. I really enjoy the sense of family that comes from living on a ship.

Q: Where do you do most of your work?

A: All of the navigation is done from the bridge. The rest of the work is desk work. Any ship needs lots of administrative work to make it run. It’s like a space ship, a hotel, a restaurant, a family. To make all of those things run you need cooks, plumbers, etc., you need a lots of admin. It is like a government-run hotel. There is lots of compliance to think about. It’s a JO’s job to make sure everything is done correctly and all is well taken care of because it is paid for and continues to be paid for by tax payers. Everyone who serves aboard a ship has documented time of when you have been on the ship, sea-service letters. A commercial ship may have human resources (HR), and yeomen (arranges paperwork for travel, keep everything supplied and running, stocked, etc.), pursers (who manage money and billable hours), but all of these tasks are done by JO’s on Fairweather.

Q: What tool do you use in your work that you could not live without?

A: Red lights. At night, it is dark on the bridge. We can’t destroy our night-vision, so we use red lights, which are gentle on the eyes and don’t affect one’s night vision. It’s important to be able to see the charts as well as to maintain night vision while keeping watch.

Q: If you could invent any tool to make your work more efficient and cost were no object, what would it be and why?

A: I would hire someone to be the yeomen to make sure we never ran out of pens, always had travel vouchers, made sure copiers ran, and helped with all the other random jobs.

Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue an ocean career?

A: Before I did this, I was a fisheries observer. I was a biologist who went out to sea. I always loved standing on the bridge and hearing the stories. I loved not commuting, not having to go to the office. I loved casting out to sea, working hard, and then, pulling in, tying up, and feeling a huge sigh of relief that the crew worked hard and arrived safely back in port. It stuck with me, I enjoyed that, and I decided to pursue a career with NOAA.

Q: What part of your job with NOAA did you least expect to be doing?

A: All the administrative stuff!

Q: How do you help wider audiences to understand and appreciate NOAA science?

A: NOAA is everywhere, and sometimes people don’t appreciate that. NOAA produces weather reports and regulates fisheries in Alaska, where I’m from. NOAA could do a better job of advertising to the public its many pursuits.

Q: What advice would you give a young person exploring ocean or science career options?

A: There are many cool internships on research vessels. The commercial sector will always take people looking for adventure. If you don’t make a career of it, that’s fine. At the worst, you learn something new about yourself while having a really cool experience. That is not such a bad thing.  I highly recommend giving an ocean job a try.

Q: What do you think you would be doing if you were not working for NOAA?

A: I would probably be in grad school. I would study city planning.

Q: Do you have an outside hobby?

A: I like walking. I like being in the woods.


Personal Log

While most of the crew spends days working on the bridge (navigation), the plot room (data analysis), in the galley (preparing meals), or in the engine room/boat shop (keeping everything running smoothly), there are a lot of other areas on the ship that help make Fairweather feel more like home.  Below are some pictures of such key places:

The Ship's Gym

The Ship’s Gym Next to the Engine Room

Ship's Movie Theater

The Ship’s Movie Theater. Some Nights the Crew Gathers to Watch Films Together or Play Games.

Ship's library

The Ship’s Library – Lots of Science Fiction and Suspense!

Ship's Mailroom

The Ship’s Mailroom – Mail is Sent to Each Port; One of the Many Things to Look Forward to in a New Destination.

Conference room

The Ship’s Conference Room Where Navigation Briefings and Safety Meetings Are Held

The Ship's Laundry Room

The Ship’s Laundry Room

Ship's store

The Ship’s Store – Candy & Snacks – Treasures at Sea

The Ship's Store - Swag!

The Ship’s Store – Swag

Berth

A Berth (or Living Space) on the Ship Shared by Two Members of the Crew. Note the Bunk Beds & Curtains. The Crew Works Various Shifts 24/7.


Did You Know?

There is a lot of lingo aboard!  Here are some terms helpful to know for navigating a ship:

Aft: towards the back of the ship

Bow: the front of the ship

Bridge: the navigation or control room at the front/top part of the ship

Decka floor/level on a ship

Flying Bridge: the top-most deck of the ship that provides unobstructed views

Fantail: area towards the back of the ship

Galley: the ship’s kitchen

Hands: a popular way to refer to the crew or people working aboard the ship

Head: the bathroom on a ship

Helm: the “steering wheel” of the ship

Hull: the outside sides/bottom of the vessels

Mess: dining area on the ship

Scullery: where dishes are washed

Starboard: to the right of the ship

Stores:  the supplies kept in the hull that the crew will need while away at sea for a long time

Stern: the back of the boat

Port: to the left of the ship

Challenge Question #3: Devotion 7th Graders – Create a scale drawing of your ideal research or fishing vessel!  Be sure to include key areas, such as those shown above.  Remember that your crew will need space to eat, sleep, navigate, research, work, and relax. At a minimum, include the plan for at least one deck (or floor).  Include your scale factor, show conversions and calculations, and label each area using some of the vocabulary included above.  Needs some ideas?  Check out this link to NOAA’s Marine Vessels for some inspiration.

Victoria Cavanaugh: Patch Tests in Puget Sound, April 20, 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 20, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 47° 44.116′ N
Longitude: 122° 32.070′ W
Sea Wave Height: 1 foot or less
Wind Speed: 5-8 knots in the AM, then less than 5 knots in PM
Wind Direction: SSE, variable
Visibility: 16.1 km
Air Temperature: 8oC  
Sky:  Scattered Clouds

Science and Technology Log

For the past two days, NOAA Ship Fairweather has been anchored in Port Madison,  part of Puget Sound off the coast of Seattle, Washington.  The crew is currently stopped for a few days in Puget Sound before heading north to Alaska in order to complete the yearly Hydrographic Systems Readiness Review (HSRR).  During HSRR, the survey techs test all of the hydrographic survey equipment that will be used during the field season.  It’s essential to test and calibrate the equipment at the start of the season in order to ensure the data accuracy for upcoming projects.

The first part of HSRR began Thursday morning. Because NOAA Ship Fairweather spent winter at dock in Yaquina Bay, barnacles and algae were able to grow plentifully on the ship’s bottom, making it their home.  The dive team deployed to check the Fairweathers hull and clean off the sonar transducers, removing any biofouling (sea life that had built up on the ship’s bottom) from the winter in port.

 

On Thursday afternoon and Friday, the next phase of HSRR began.  On Friday, I was able to spend most of the day on the survey launches as a few of the survey techs conducted patch testing (a process for precisely determining an orientation of the launch’s sonar).  NOAA Ship Fairweather has four 28-foot launches, and I spent the morning on 2808, and then the afternoon on 2806.  When working on projects in relatively shallow waters, the Fairweather deploys these launches to collect data more efficiently as four launches can work on a project simultaneously.

Safety Meeting Before Launches Deploy

Safety Meeting Before Launches Deploy

One of the Launches is Lowered from F Deck (the 6th Deck Up)

One of the Launches is Lowered from F Deck (the 6th Deck Up)

One of the Launches Being Lowered into Puget Sound

One of the Launches Being Lowered into Puget Sound

A Launch Begins Patch Tests

A Launch Begins Patch Tests

The launches are driven by a coxswain, often a NOAA officer or deck hand, while a Hydrographer-in-Charge (HIC) plans track lines for the vessel to run.  Sometimes, a coxswain-in-training or HIC-in training will also join the launch.  As part of HSRR, the HIC chose a few track lines for the launch to run, and the coxswain, drove the launch back and forth on the lines at various speeds.  While we ran the track lines, the HIC was able to gather data by sending an acoustic ping from the sonar which reflects off the seafloor and is then recorded when it returns to the sonar.  The two-way travel time of the pin is measured, which (when coupled with the speed of sound through the water) can be used to calculate the water depth.

The Coxswain Helps Deploy the CTD

The Coxswain Helps Deploy the CTD

The Coxswain's Seat

The Coxswain’s Seat

The HIC Readies the Launch as We Pull Away from NOAA Ship Fairweather

The HIC Readies the Launch as We Pull Away from NOAA Ship Fairweather

The HIC and HIC-in-Training Prepare the CTD

The HIC and HIC-in-Training Prepare the CTD

The HIC Checks Data Being Collected as the Launch Runs Patch Tests

The HIC Checks Data Being Collected as the Launch Runs Patch Tests

While in Port Madison, the crew will send all four of the Fairweatherlaunches out to run the same track lines and to ensure the data collected by each launch matches.  At night, after the HIC’s have gathered data, the survey techs spend hours in the plot room, looking at the day’s data and checking for any discrepancies.  The survey techs correct any errors in the data and the saved changes are sent back to each launch’s computing system.  This is known as calibrating.  By running patch tests and calibrating the launches to one another, survey techs are able to guarantee that data collected throughout the season is precise, no matter which launch is used for a given area.

The CTD Up Close: The Powerful Little Machine that Measures the Speed of Sound!

The CTD Up Close: The Powerful Little Machine that Measures the Speed of Sound!

Data Being Collected from the CTD on the Launch Monitor: Conductivity (Salinity), Temperature, and Depth (Pressure)

The CTD Stands Ready to Be Deployed on the Launch's Deck

The CTD Stands Ready to Be Deployed on the Launch’s Deck

Before and after running the patch tests, the crew deploys a CTD  The CTD measures the conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water.  The survey techs are interested in the CTD readings because this information helps them assess the speed of sound (or the sonar waves) in a given body of water.  In turn, knowing the speed of sound and the amount of time the CTD takes to reach the ocean floor, allows survey techs to calculate ocean depths.  (The classic distance equation, d=rt!)

Data Being Collected from the CDT on the Launch Monitor

Data Being Collected from the CDT on the Launch Monitor

Conductivity refers to the ability of the given water sample to pass an electrical current.  Survey techs are interested in the conductivity, because the conductivity is another way to gauge the salinity (or “saltiness” of the water).  The more salt in a sample of ocean water, the greater the ocean water’s conductivity and the faster the sound waves travel.  Next is temperature.  Water closer to the surface is warmer, and thus, sound will travel faster closer to the surface.  Conversely, the cooler the temperature, the slower the sound waves travel.  The final measurement is depth, or pressure.  The deeper the water, the greater the pressure.  Greater depths increase the speed of the sonar waves.  The average speed of sound in the water is 1,500 m/s.  By comparison, the average speed of sound in air is about 340m/s.

Night Processing of Data in the Plot Room

Night Processing of Data in the Plot Room

After dinner, survey techs are assigned to night data processing.  I joined one of the survey techs, Ali, who was kind enough to explain how the launch data is analyzed.  One interesting note is the red light in the plot room.  The red light is used because the plot room is next to the bridge, where the officers and deck crew keep watch.  The red lights help the crew keep their eyes ready for night watch, so those processing data also work under red lights.

A "Painting" of Collected Data: Different Colors Represent Differing Depths

A “Painting” of Collected Data: Different Colors Represent Differing Depths

In the above photograph, notice the various colors representing the differing ocean depths.  In this case, red is shallower and purple is deeper.  Notice that as the survey tech, hovers over a datapoint with her mouse, the data collected by Fairweather launch 2807 is shown as a coordinate with a depth of 168.3 meters.  Creating a color “painting” of the data points is helpful because the changing colors help the survey techs understand the slope of the ocean floor; closer together colors mean a steeper slope or a sharp increase in depth, whereas larger swatches of the same color mean a flatter seafloor.

The green lines in the picture represent the “lines” that the launch ran, meaning the area where the coxswain drove back and forth in the boat at varying speeds.  Notice that there are two lines as the launches always run two lines to ensure accuracy.  As the launch is driven back and forth in the water, the transducers on the bottom of the launch emits multi-beam sonar, and sound waves ping off the ocean floor several times per second, sending sound waves back to the launch which are translated into millions of data points by the survey techs.

The survey techs use various computer programs and imaging software to analyze the data.  Above, the survey techs can look at a 3D cross-section of the data, which essentially looks like a virtual map of the sea floor.  In the bottom right corner, the survey tech compares two lines for accuracy, one with data points colored red, the other green.  When the lines line up exactly, precision is ensured.  The survey techs analyze the data to make sure the rocking of the boat in any direction (front/back, side-to-side, etc.) won’t interfere with mapping accuracy later in the season.  Finally, survey techs compare their work with each other to ensure precise calibration.

Personal Log

One of my favorite things about being onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather are the tremendous views every time I look outside.  Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular.  We’ve had some really great weather over the last few days, and though it has been a bit chilly, the skies have been fairly clear.

Sunset in Port Madison

Sunset in Port Madison

Mount Rainier at Sunset

Mount Rainier at Sunset

Pulling Up the Anchor in Port Madison Shortly After Sunrise

Pulling Up the Anchor in Port Madison Shortly After Sunrise

Brainbridge Island, Washington

Brainbridge Island, Washington

Two of the Crew Checking the Anchor Line Angle During Anchor Recovery

Two of the Crew Checking the Anchor Line Angle During Anchor Recovery

Puget Sound

Puget Sound

Mount Olympia National Park

Mount Olympia National Park

 

Did You Know?

On nautical charts (or maps), units of measurement vary.  Ocean depths can be marked in feet, meters, or fathoms. Fathoms, like knots, is another term steeped in nautical history.  When sailors used to measure ocean depths by hanging rope over the side of a vessel, they would pull in the line, looping the rope from hand to hand.  The distance of the rope from one outstretched hand to another (a sailor’s wingspan) became known as a fathom.

Challenge #2  – Devotion 7th Graders: Measure your wingspan, the distance from one outstretched hand to another.  Then measure four other friends, classmates, or family members’ wingspans.  What is the median wingspan for you and your friends?  What is the mean wingspan for you and your friends?  What is the mean absolute deviation for your collective wingspans?  One fathom is equal to 1.8288 meters or 6 feet.  If one fathom is the average sailor’s wingspan, how do your wingspans compare?  Present your findings on a 8.5x11inch paper as a mini-poster.  Include illustrations and calculations.

 

 

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Victoria Cavanaugh: Newport, Oregon to Port Madison, Washington, April 17, 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 17, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 44.64°N
Longitude: 124.04°W
Sea Wave Height: SW 3 ft at 5 seconds. NW swell 9 feet at 10 seconds.
Wind Speed: 11 to 14 kt. Gusts to 20kt.
Wind Direction: SSW
Visibility: 15 kilometers
Air Temperature: 7.8oC  
Sky:  AM showers, scattered clouds in PM.

Science and Technology Log

Though we were originally set to sail on Monday afternoon, predicted 10-15 foot swells for Monday evening delayed our departure from Newport, Oregon until Tuesday afternoon.  The extra time in Newport allowed me to spend some time in the Plotting Room aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather.  The Plotting Room is one of the main work areas for the hydrographers, the NOAA technicians who both plan the missions and then process data collected after each launch.

 

One of the friendly surveyors, Bekah, gave me an overview of the upcoming project which will focus on the area west of Prince of Wales Island.  The hydrographic survey technicians first receive an assignment, known as a project, from NOAA.  Next, technicians, break each project into “sheets,” or smaller sections, which are assigned to each technician or NOAA officer.  From there, the technicians further break down the sheets into “polygons.”  The polygons are like mini-sections of a given area of the map, and are sized depending on a number of factors including the amount and distance from the shoreline as well as the depth.  The polygons are assigned one-by-one to the survey launches to complete.

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A Sheet from the Project

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A Sheet Sectioned into Polygons (in Blue).  Notice the Topographical Markings on the Islands.

One of NOAA’s primary goals with hydrographic surveying and updating the charts is to obtain more accurate data on the Pacific seafloor and its features in order to promote safe marine navigation.  NOAA is part of the US Department of Commerce, and so updating navigational charts will help improve safe passage of all ships, especially commercial cargo ships.  As commercial ships grow larger and heavier and global trade continues to increase, improved navigational charts allow for increased shipping drafts (how deep the vessel extends below the water, which is a function of how much cargo they can load), which in turn creates a positive economic impact for the national economy.

Today, NOAA Ship Fairweather uses sonar to measure seafloor depths.  Previously, hydrographers used lead lines.  Essentially, lead lines were dropped over the ship’s rail and lowered until they rested on the seafloor.  While lead lines are occasionally still used today in very shallow areas close to shore, creating new seafloor maps with sonar allows for much greater precision, are much less labor intensive, and allow for continually measuring the depth.

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ENS Linda Junge Holding a Lead Line

Personal Log

On Tuesday afternoon, at 14:00 (2pm), we set sail from Newport, Oregon and began making our way north to Port Madison, near Seattle Washington.  After spending a few days at dock in Newport, I was eager to get underway, and the rest of the crew, many of whom had been in Newport for much of the winter, also seemed eager to begin the season.  While the views leaving Oregon were spectacular, the wide open seas proved a bit of a challenge.  I quickly learned that heading to the open deck on the back of the ship, the fantail, was an ideal place to catch some respite from feeling seasick.  Later in the evening, the waves subsided a bit, and by morning the seas felt much calmer.

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On the Dock in Newport, OR

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A Beautiful Last Night in Newport

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Passing Under the 982 meter long Yaquina Bay Bridge as We Leave Newport

IMG_20180417_142159

Heading Out to the Pacific

IMG_20180417_142331

Leaving Yaquina Bay

IMG_20180417_162826

Some Really High Waves Crashing on the Fantail!

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A Map Showing Our Departure Port (Newport) and Arrival (near Seattle)

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On the Flying Bridge of the NOAA Ship Fairweather as We Depart Newport

Each day, the POD (Plan of the Day) is updated with important meetings, mealtimes, and general updates.  Emergency responsibilities are also posted, and one of the first things we did once we were underway at sea was practice drills for a fire and abandon ship.  As part of the abandon ship drill, I had to practice putting on the “survival suit.”

Most aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather work several four hour shifts or “watches” each day, and some may also work a few additional hours of overtime.  Perhaps for this reason, meal times seem a bit early with breakfast at 7am and lunch at 11am.  Dinner, when in port is at 4pm, and at sea, it’s at 5pm.   Meals are prepared in the ship’s galley (or kitchen), and served buffet style.  The crew eats together in the mess (or main dining area).  In addition to meals, snacks such as cereal, fruit, and icecream are available 24/7 and some additional options are available for those on night watches who may eat “night lunch.”  Meals are a great time to meet the many aboard Fairweather and better understand how the different teams–the wardoom, the engineers, the survery technicians, the deck, the stewards, the ET, and the visiting scientists–all work together.

Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Fairweather is celebrating its 50th birthday this year!  Fairweather was designed by the US Deparment of Commerce Maritime Administration and built in Jacksonville, Florida by Aerojet-General Shipyards.  Fairweather was commissioned in October 1968 and is homeported in Ketchikan, Alaska.  Fairweather’s sister ship is NOAA Ship Rainier which is also part of NOAA’s Pacific Fleet.

NOAA Ship Fairweather has a field season of about 220 days per year.  At 231 feet long, it can house roughly 57 crew and weighs 1591 tons!  While cruising, Fairweather averages 13 knots, and while surveying, the ship travels 6 to 10 knots.

By the way, you might be wondering what exactly is a knot.  As the story goes, ancient mariners used to tell how fast their ship was moving by throwing a piece of wood tied to a rope overboard and measuring how much time it would take the wood to travel from the bow (front) to the stern (back) of the ship.  According to historian Elizabeth Nix, by the 16th century, this method was updated to include knots tied at certain intervals in the rope that was thrown overboard.  Sailors began to count the knots to determine a ship’s speed, and eventually a “knot” became a nautical mile per hour.

Nautical miles, by the way, refer to the Earth’s circumference, and are different from “land miles” which reflect the distance it takes to walk 1,000 steps (according to the Romans) or 5,280 feet (according to Queen Elizabeth).  Today, one nautical mile is understood as 1,852 meters or 1.1508 miles.  Or, more practically, it is one minute of latitude (where 60 minutes of latitude = 1 degree).

A knot, then, is a measure of speed used by ships and planes.  A rate of one knot refers to covering a distance of one nautical mile in one hour.

Challenge Question #1:  Devotion 7th Graders — Can you convert the speed of your favorite land animal, your favorite sea animal, your favorite bird,  your favorite car/plane/boat, and this year’s Boston Marathon winner (male or female) to knots?  Show the work to justify your conversions and then create an illustration comparing your choices.

 

 

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Staci DeSchryver: When They Go Low, We Go High (Pilot Whales, that Is!): A view of Cetaceans using Drone Technology July 17, 2017

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Staci DeSchryver

Aboard: Oscar Elton Sette

Cruise Dates: July 6 – Aug 2

Mission:  HICEAS Cetacean Study

Geographic Area:  Northeast of Kauai, headed toward Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI)

Location:  24 deg 41.9 min N, 170 deg 51.2 min W

Date:  July 17, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Visibility:  10 Nmi

Scattered Clouds

Wind:  11 kts at 90 deg

Pressure: 1018.2mb

Wave height: 1-3 m

Swell at 50 deg, 2-3 ft

Air Temp: 29 degrees

Wet Bulb Temp: 25 degrees

Dewpoint: 28 degrees

 

Science Log

Technology definitely finds its way into every corner of life, and cetacean studies are certainly no exception.   One of the most recent additions to the Cetacean team’s repertoire of technology is a fleet of UAS, or unmanned aerial systems.  (UAS is a fancy term for a drone, in this case a hexacopter.  Yes, we are definitely using drones on this mission.  This seriously cannot get much cooler.)  HICEAS 2017 is utilizing these UAS systems to capture overhead photos of cetaceans in the water as they surface.  And the best part of all of this?  I was selected to be a part of team UAS!  

 

The UAS can only fly under certain atmospheric conditions.  It can’t be too windy and the seas can’t be too rough.  We had the chance to practice flying the hexacopters on one of the few days we were off the Kona coast of the Big Island, where the wind and seas are typically calmer.  Dr. Amanda Bradford is leading the HICEAS 2017 drone operations.  She is involved in securing air clearance that might be required for a hexacopter flight, as well as all of the operations that take place in preparation for deployment – of which there are many. The UAS is launched preferentially from a small boat, although it can be launched from the ship.  So, in order to do boat-based UAS operations, we must first launch a boat off of the side of the ship.  There are four people involved in the small boat UAS operations – the UAS pilot, the UAS ground station operator (Dr. Bradford and scientist Kym Yano alternate these positions), a coxswain to drive the small boat (NOAA crewmember Mills Dunlap) and a visual observer/data keeper (me!)  for each flight the hexacopter makes.

We all load up our gear and equipment onto the small boat, along with the coxswain and one team member, from the side of the ship.  The ship then lowers the boat to the water, the remaining teams members embark, and we are released to move toward the animals we are trying to photograph.  I don’t have any photographs of us loading on to the ship because the operation is technical and requires focus, so taking photos during that time isn’t the best idea.  I will say that the whole process is really exciting, and once I got the hang of getting on and off the ship, pretty seamless.

 

Our first trip out was just to practice the procedure of getting into the small boat, flying the UAS on some test flights, and returning back to the ship.  The goal was to eventually fly the hexacopter over a group of cetaceans and use the camera docked on the hexacopter to take photogrammetric measurements of the size and condition  of the animals.

Launching a hexacopter from a boat is quite different from launching one on land.  Imagine what would happen if the battery died before you brought it back to the boat!  This is why numerous ground tests and calibrations took place before ever bringing this equipment out over water.  The batteries on the hexacopter are good, but as a security measure, the hexacopter must be brought back well before the batteries die out, otherwise we have a hexacopter in the water, and probably a lot emails from higher ups to answer as a result.  Each time the hexacopter flies and returns back to the small boat, the battery is changed out as a precaution.  Each battery is noted and an initial voltage is taken on the battery before liftoff.  The flights we made lasted around10 minutes.  As soon as the battery voltage hits a certain low level, the pilot brings the hexacopter back toward the boat to be caught.  My job as the note taker was to watch the battery voltage as the hexacopter comes back to the small boat and record the lowest voltage to keep track of battery performance.

 

The UAS has two parts, one for each scientist – the pilot (who directs the hexacopter over the animals), and a ground station operator.  This person watches a computer-like screen from the boat that has two parts – a dashboard with information like altitude, time spent in flight, battery voltage, distance, and GPS coverage.  The bottom portion of the ground station shows a monitor that is linked to the camera on the hexacopter in real time.

The pilot has remote control of the hexacopter and the camera, and the ground station operator is responsible for telling the pilot when to snap a photo (only she can see from the monitor when the animals are in view), watching the battery voltage, and the hand launching and landing of the drone.  As the hexacopter is in flight, it is the coxswain’s and my responsibility to watch for obstacles like other boats, animals, or other obstructions that might interfere with the work or our safety.

 

To start a flight, the hexacopter is hooked up to a battery and the camera settings (things like shutter speed, ISO, and F-stop for the photographers out there) are selected. 

The ground station operator stands up while holding the hexacopter over her head.  The pilot then begins the takeoff procedures.  Once the drone is ready to fly, the ground station operator lets go of the drone and begins monitoring the ground station.  One important criterion that must be met is that the animals must never come within 75 overhead feet of the drone.  This is so that the drone doesn’t interfere with the animals or cause them to change their behavior.  Just imagine how difficult it is to find an animal in a camera frame being held by a drone and flown by someone else while looking on a monitor to take a photo from a minimum of 75 feet from sea level!  But Amanda and Kym accomplished this task multiple times during the course of our flights, and got some great snapshots to show for it.

 

On the first day of UAS testing, we took two trips out – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon.  On our morning trip, Kym and Amanda took 5 practice flights, launching and catching the hexacopter and changing between piloting and ground station monitoring.  In the afternoon, we were just getting ready to pack up and head back to the ship when out of the corner of my eye I saw a series of splashes at the ocean surface.  Team.  I had a sighting of spinner dolphins!   I barely stuttered out the words, “Oh my God, guys!  There are dolphin friends right over there!!!!”  (Side note:  this is probably not how you announce a sighting in a professional marine mammal observer scenario, but I was just too excited to spit anything else out.  I mean, they were Right. There.  And right when we needed some mammals to practice on, too!)  They were headed right past the boat, and we were in a prime position to capture some photos of them.  We launched the hexacopter and had our first trial run of aerial cetacean photography.  

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On the second day, we had a pilot whale sighting, and the call came over the radio to launch the small boat.  Things move really fast on a sighting when there is a small boat launch.  One minute I was up on the flying bridge trying to get some snapshots, and the next I was grabbing my camera and my hard hat and making a speedy break for the boat launch.  We spent a good portion of the morning working the pilot whale group, taking photos of the whales using the hexacopter system.  We were lucky in that these whales were very cooperative with us.  Many species of whales are not good candidates for hexacopter operations because they tend to be skittish and will move away from the noise of a small boat (or a large one for that matter).  These little fellas seemed to be willing participants, as if they knew what we were trying to accomplish would be good for them as a species.  They put on quite a show of logging (just hanging out at the surface), spyhopping, and swimming in tight subgroups for us to get some pretty incredible overhead photographs.  I also had the chance to take some great snapshots of dorsal fins up close, as well.

These side-long photos of dorsal fins help the scientific team to identify individuals.  There were times when the whales were less than twenty yards from the boat, not because we went to them, but because they were interested in us.  Or they were interested in swimming in our general direction because they were following a delicious fish, and I’d be happy with either, but I’d like to think they wanted to know what exactly we were up to.

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While photographing the whales a couple of interesting “other” things happened.  I had a brief reminder that I was definitely not at the top of the food chain when Mills pointed out the presence of two whitetip sharks skimming beneath the surface of the water.  Apparently these sharks know that pilot whales can find delicious fish and sort of hang out around pilot whale groups hoping to capitalize.  I wondered if this was maybe my spirit animal as I am following a group of scientists and capitalizing on their great adventures in the Pacific Ocean, as well.

Another “other” thing that happened was some impromptu outreach.  While working on the small boat, other boats approached the whales hoping to get some up close snapshots and hang out with them for a bit, as well.  Two were commercial operations that appeared to be taking tour groups either snorkeling or whale watching, and one was just a boat of vacationers out enjoying the day.  The scientific team took the opportunity to approach these boats, introduce us, and explain what we were doing over the whale groups.  They also took the opportunity to answer questions and mention the HICEAS 2017 mission to spread the word about our study.  It was a unique opportunity in that fieldwork, apart from internet connections, is done in relative isolation in this particular setting.  Real-time outreach is difficult to accomplish in a face-to-face environment.  In this case, the team made friendly contacts with approximately 45 people right out on the water.  Congenial smiles and waves were passed between the passengers on the boats and the scientific team, and I even saw a few cell phones taking pictures of us.  Imagine the potential impact of one school-aged child seeing us working with the whales on the small boats and thinking, “I want to do that for a career someday.”  What a cool thing to be a part of.

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Personal Log

Over the last couple of days, the ship was near the coast of the Big Island, Hawai’i.  One morning, we approached on the Hilo side, which is where Mauna Loa is spewing forth her new basaltic earth.  It treks down the side of the volcano, red-hot and caustic, only to be tempered immediately as soon as it strikes the anesthetic waters of the Pacific.  Having never seen real lava before, I was hoping to capitalize on the big eyes and catch a glimpse of it as it splashed into the ocean’s cool recesses, forming solid rock and real estate on the side of the mountain.  Unfortunately, I failed to account for the laws of thermodynamics – forgetting that hot things make water evaporate and re-condense into steam.  I suppose I was just romanticizing the idea that I could possibly see this phenomenon from an angle that not many get to see it from – miles out on the Pacific Ocean. And the truth is, I did, just not in the way I had imagined.   I did get to see large plumes of steam extending up from the shoreline as the lava met its inevitable demise.  While I didn’t get to see actual real lava, there was definitely hard evidence that it was there, hidden underneath the plumes of white-hot condensation.  I took a few photos that turned out horribly, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that I almost sort of saw lava.  (I know, I know.  Cool story, bro.)  If you can’t believe that fish tale, surely you won’t believe what I’m about to tell you next – I didn’t see the lava – but I heard it.

Starting in the wee hours of the morning, the acoustics team deployed the array only to find an unidentified noise – a loud, sharp, almost cracking or popping noise.  They tried to localize the noise only to find out that it was coming from the shores of the big island.  Sure enough, when they figured it out, the acoustics lab was a popular place to be wearing headphones.  The snapping and cracking they were hearing was the lava cooling and cracking just beneath the ocean surface on the lava bench.  So, I didn’t see the lava, but I heard it solidifying and contracting on the acoustics system.  How cool is that?

 

Ship Quiz:

Why do the head stalls (AKA bathroom stalls) lock on both sides of the door?

  1.       So that you can lock your friends in the bathroom as a mean prank
  2.      Extra protection from pirates
  3.       To give yourself one extra step to complete to get to the toilet when you really gotta go
  4.      To keep the doors from slamming with the natural movement of the ship

If you said “D”, you are correct!  The bathrooms lock on both sides because if left to their own devices, they would swing and bang open and shut with the constant motions of the ship.  So, when you use the bathroom, you have to lock it back when you finish.  Now you know!

 

 

Staci DeSchryver: Exploring HICEAS on the High Seas! June 20, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Staci DeSchryver

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

July 6 – August 2, 2017

Mission:  Cetacean Study

Geographic Area of Cruise:  Hawaiian EEZ

Current Location:  Impatiently waiting to sail in Centennial, Colorado

Date:  June 20

Weather Data from the “Bridge” (AKA My Sun Porch):

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Here’s the weather data from the “Bridge” in Centennial. (In Station Model format, of course. How else would we practice?)

 

Personal Log – An Introduction

Hello!  My name is Staci DeSchryver and I will be traveling this upcoming July on the Oscar Elton Sette as part of the HICEAS program!

I am an Oceanography, Meteorology, and Earth Science teacher at Cherokee Trail High School in Aurora, CO.  This August will kick off my 14th (yikes!) year teaching.  I know you might be thinking, “Why Oceanography in a landlocked state?”  Well, the reason why I can and do teach Oceanography is because of Teacher At Sea.  I am an alumna, so this is my second official voyage through the Teacher At Sea program.  It was all of the wonderful people I met, lessons I learned, and science that I participated in on the

 

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This is my husband, Stephen, and I, at the game that sent the Broncos to the Superbowl!

 

Oscar Dyson in 2011 that led me to encourage my school to put an Oceanography course in place for seniors as a capstone course.  This past year was the first year for the Oceanography and Meteorology courses, and they were very well received!  I have three sections of each class next year, as well!  (Shout out to all my recent senior grads reading this post! You were awesome!)  We study our World’s Ocean from the top of the water column all the way to the deepest parts of the Marianas Trench, and from the tiniest atom all the way up to the largest whale.  I  believe it is one of the most comprehensive courses offered to our students – incorporating geology, chemistry, physics, and biology, but then again, I’m a bit biased.

Apart from being a teacher, I am a wife to my husband of 8 years, Stephen.  We don’t have children, but we do have two hedgehogs, Tank and Willa, who keep us reasonably busy.  Willa only has one eye, and Tank is named Tank because he’s abnormally large for a hedgie.  They are the best lil’ hedgies we know.  We enjoy camping, rock climbing, and hiking – the typical Coloradans, though we are both originally from Michigan.  When we aren’t spending time together, I like to dance ballet, read, write, and I recently picked up a new weightlifting habit, which has led me to an entire new lifestyle of health and wellness with an occasional interjection of things like Ice Cream topped with caramel and Nachos when in the “off” season (hey, nobody’s perfect).

I will be leaving for Honolulu, Hawaii on July 4th to meet up with the fine scientists that make up the HICEAS team.  What is HICEAS?  Read below to find out more about HICEAS and the research we will be doing onboard!

Science Log

The HICEAS (Hawaiian Islands Cetacean and Ecosystem Assessment Survey) is a study of Cetaceans (Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises) and their habitats.  Cetaceans live in the ocean, and are characterized by being carnivorous (we will get along just fine at the dinner table) and having fins (since I am a poor swimmer, I will humbly yield to what I can only assume is their instinctive expertise).  This means that the study will cover all manners of these majestic creatures – from whales that are definitely easily identifiable as whales to whales that look like dolphins but are actually whales to porpoises that really look like whales but are actually dolphins and dolphins that look like dolphins that are dolphins and…  are you exhausted yet?  Here’s some good news – porpoises aren’t very common in Hawaiian waters, so that takes some of the stress out of identifying one of those groups, though we will still be on the lookout.  Here’s where it gets tricky – it won’t be enough to just sight a whale, for example and say, “Hey! We have a whale!”  The observers will be identifying the actual species of the whale (or dolphin or possible-porpoise).  The observers who tackle this task are sharp and quick at what is truly a difficult and impressive skill.  I’m sure this will be immediately confirmed when they spot, identify, and carry on before I say, “Wait! Where do you see it?”

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This is the research area for the HICEAS project. Map/photo is credited directly to the HICEAS website, https://www.pifsc.noaa.gov/hiceas/whats_hiceas.php

There are 25 cetacean species native to Hawaiian waters, so that’s a big order to fill for the observers.  And we will be out on the water until we locate every last one.  Just kidding.  But we will be looking to spot all of these species, and once found, we will do our best to estimate how many there are overall as a stock estimate.  Ideally, these cetacean species will be classified into three categories – delphinids (dolphins and a few dolphin-like whales), deep diving whales (whales with teeth), and baleen whales (of the “swim away!” variety).  Once identified in this broad sense, they will then be identified by species.  However, I do have a feeling these two categorizations happen all at once.

Once the data is collected, there is an equation that is used to project stock estimates for the whole of the Pacific.  More on this later, but I will just start by saying for all you math folk out there, it’s some seriously sophisticated data extrapolation.  It involves maths that I have yet to master, but I have a month to figure it out, so it’s not looking too bleak for me just yet.  In the meantime, I’m spending my time trying to figure out which cetaceans that look like dolphins are actually possible-porpoises, and which dolphins that look like dolphins are actually whales.

Goals and Objectives of the HICEAS

The HICEAS study operates as a part of the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC) and the Southwest Fisheries Science Center (SFSC), both under the NOAA umbrella.  Our chief scientist is Dr. Erin Oleson, who will be the lead on this leg of the cruise. HICEAS last collected data in 2010, and is now ready for the next round of stock assessments.  HICEAS is a 187-day study, of which we will be participating in approximately 30 of those days for this particular leg.  Our research area is 2.5 million square kilometers, and covers the whole of the Hawaiian Archipelago and it’s Exclusive Economic Zone, or EEZ!  The HICEAS study has three primary goals:

  1.  Estimate the number of cetaceans in Hawaii.
  2.  Examine their population structure.
  3.   Understand their habitat.

Studies like the HICEAS are pretty rare (2002, 2010, and now 2017), so the scientists are doing their best to work together to collect as much information as they possibly can during the study.  From what I can gather in lead-up chats with on board scientist Kym Yano, we will be traveling along lines called “transects” in the Pacific Ocean, looking for all the popular Cetacean hangouts.  When a cetacean is sighted, we move toward the lil’ guy (or gal) and all his friends to take an estimate, and if it permits, a biopsy.  There is a second team of scientists working below deck listening for Cetacean gossip (whale calls) as well.  Acoustic scientists will record the whale or dolphin calls for later review and confirmation of identification of species, and, of course, general awesomeness.

But that’s not all!

We will also be dropping CTD’s twice per day, which is pretty standard ocean scientific practice.  Recall that the CTD will give us an idea of temperature, salinity, and pressure variations with depth, alerting us to the presence and locations of any of the “clines” – thermocline, halocline, and pycnocline.  Recall that in areas near the equator, rapid changes of temperature, salinity, and density with depth are pretty common year-round, but at the middle latitudes, these form and dissipate through the course of the solar year. These density changes with depth can block nutrients from moving to the surface, which can act as a cutoff to primary production.  Further, the CTD readings will help the acoustic scientists to do their work, as salinity and temperature variations will change the speed of sound in water.

There will also be a team working to sight sea birds and other marine life that doesn’t fall under the cetacean study (think sea turtles and other fun marine life).  This study is enormous in scope.  And I’m so excited to be a part of it!

Pop Quiz:

What is the difference between a porpoise and a dolphin?  

It has to do with 3 identifiers:  Faces, Fins, and Figures.

According to NOAA’s Ocean Service Website…

Faces:  Dolphins have prominent “beaks” and cone-shaped teeth, while Porpoises have smaller mouths and teeth shaped like spades.

Fins: Dolphin’s dorsal (back) fins are curved, while porpoises fins are more triangle-shaped

Figures: Dolphins are leaner, and porpoises are more “portly.”

Dolphins are far more prevalent, and far more talkative.  But both species are wicked-smart, using sonar to communicate underwater.

Resources:

HICEAS website

Bradford, A. L., Forney, K. A., Oleson, E. M., & Barlow, J. (2017). Abundance estimates of cetaceans from a line-transect survey within the U.S. Hawaiian Islands Exclusive Economic Zone. Fishery Bulletin, 115(2), 129-142. doi:10.7755/fb.115.2.1