Karen Matsumoto, April 16, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Karen Matsumoto
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
April 19 – May 4, 2010

NOAA Ship: Oscar Elton Sette
Mission: Transit/Acoustic Cetacean Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean; transit from Guam to Oahu, Hawaii, including Wake Is.
Date: Friday, April 16, 2010

Science and Technology Log

The Oscar Elton Sette is now at the dock at the U.S. Naval Facility in Guam, preparing for our sailing on April 19th, as well as awaiting repairs to one of its generators. I am able to settle into my room and meet my “bunkmates” who are research scientists on the cruise. The science team is readying the scientific equipment for the acoustic monitoring and the visual survey. This includes routine maintenance on the “Big Eyes” (25 x 150) binoculars, checking the computer software, and readying equipment/supplies necessary for cetacean biopsy sampling. We are also preparing sonobuoys for later deployment during our transit survey. I am learning a lot about the extensive preparation necessary for these research cruises, and will explain more about the objectives of the science mission in the next log.

The Oscar Elton Sette at dock, Guam Naval Station.
Karen checking sonobuoys for later deployment.

Personal Log

Each day after taking care of research-related duties, the science team spends time together getting to know each other and the island of Guam. Morning meals are served on the boat, with evening meals in town. There are some great snorkeling spots on the Naval base, and we have opportunities to rent snorkel gear and explore the reef. The coral reefs near the base were in amazingly good shape, and the variety of reef fish was amazing. The fish that stand out in memory include several kinds of butterfly fish, many varieties of trigger fish (including my favorite, the Picasso triggerfish), parrotfish, Sergeant majors, unicornfish, Moorish idols, and bird wrasses. The field identification skills that I depend on when birding proved not to be as useful when fish watching! Too much distraction! Just as I would try to remember field marks on one fish, I would get distracted by 20 others that were just as engaging!

Karen in snorkel gear
Picasso trigger fish
Coral reef off Gab Gab Pt.

We also had a chance to go to the museum at the War in the Pacific National Historical Park run by the National Park Service. Displays on the events of “conquest and liberation” of Guam from 1941 to 1944 were presented, as well as a wealth of resources on WWII history at their small bookstore. Available maps pointed out various caves and tunnels made by the Japanese Army using forced labor for defense fortifications which are located close by. There are still hidden live explosives in many of the caves and tunnels, so exploration is dangerous. I got a small glimpse of the cultural history of the Chamorros, the aboriginal peoples of Guam, and I would like to learn more.

War in the Pacific Museum.
Trail to War Caves built during WWII.
Caves.

Question of the Day: What are those wire cages hanging everywhere on the cyclone fences all around the Naval base? (See photos next page)

These wire traps are baited with live mice to catch the brown tree snake that was accidentally introduced to Guam after World War II. With no natural predators and abundant prey, the snake population grew and spread throughout the island. As the snake dispersed, forest bird and fruit bat populations plummeted. By the late 1980s, nine species of native forest birds and the Mariana fruit bat had disappeared from Guam. There are very few birds or mammals left on the island due to predation by the brown tree snake, and it has upset the balance of the ecosystem. An increase in insect pests, as well as a shift in vegetation is occurring on Guam due to the introduction of this invasive species.

Brown tree snake trap
Close-up of mouse bait in trap

New Term/Phrase/Word of the Day: Chamorro – the indigenous peoples of Guam.

Something to Think About:

The amount of advance preparation you need to outfit a scientific expedition when you are out at sea with no place to get supplies is mind boggling! It is also awesome to think about the kind of expertise you need on your crew, which includes the following: engineer, doctor, NOAA officers, cook, technology expert, safety specialists, mechanic, plumber, carpenter, recreation specialist, and science team! Who else do you think you would need on an expedition at sea?

Animals Seen Today:

  • Pacific golden plover (we have these in Washington!)
  • Cattle egret
  • Philippine turtle dove
  • Eurasian tree sparrow
  • Black drongo
  • Coconut crab
  • Marine toad (from Central/South America and also known as the cane toad in Australia!)
  • Many, many tropical fish species and marine invertebrates (including black sea cucumbers and blue sea stars!!!!)
Coconut crab held by local Chamorro vendor at Chamorro Village.
Did you know?

…that in Guam, many introduced species such as pigs, the marine toad, and the brown tree snake have resulted in the decline and extinction of many native plants and animals. Scientists call these plant and animal invaders “invasive species.” Can you think of an example in your community where an “invasive” species has caused an imbalance to your local ecosystem?

Question of the Day:

What could we learn from the traditional knowledge of the Chamorros about Guam’s coral
ecosystems and how to protect them?

My Challenge:
Learning my way around the ship and getting used to the different research vessel terms such as the
head = bathroom, the mess = dining area, and “Texas deck” = large upper deck on the ship for
gathering people.

Bryan Hirschman, August 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 13, 2009

Weather Data from Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind: 6 knots
Wave Height: 1 ft
Wave Swell:  1-2 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.20C
Air Temperature: 14.20C

Science and Technology Log 

This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner
This is the net reel. The unit attaches with four bolts in each corner

Life at sea can be very unpredictable. One minute everything is working great, and the next minute problems occur. Last evening a problem occurred with the net reel. The net reel is a large bull wheel that the nets roll into and out of when lowered in the water. The reel is spun by a huge engine that pulls the nets in when they are loaded with fish. This net reel is anchored to the boat with 16 huge bolts and nuts. Four of the bolts were found last night to be weakened during one of the daily inspections of ship’s mechanical instruments. The crew is constantly inspecting each piece of equipment to ensure the safest working conditions. Once this problem was seen all fish tows were canceled. We will be heading into port four days early to fix the problem.

An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
An incorrect assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel
A correct assembly of the bolts on the net reel

Once in port the entire net reel will have to be lifted by crane and all the bolts will be replaced. The reel will then be lowered back in place and locked in place with nuts. Even though we are not fishing, other work on the ship is still occurring. The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph) is deployed at regular intervals. This device sends depth and temperature data to a science laboratory to be recorded and used later (discussed in more detail in log 2).

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.
Toxin-producing phytoplankton pseudo-nitzschia.

The HABS (Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling) research is also still being completed by Nick Adams, an oceanographer with NOAA. He takes water samples approximately every 10 nautical miles (1 nautical mile = 1.15 miles). After collecting the samples, he filters them for toxin and chlorophyll analysis. He also collects seawater for phytoplankton numeration and identification. His main focus is on toxin-producing genera, such as Pseudo-nitzschia and Alexandrium which are responsible for Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning and Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning, respectively.  At the end of the cruise, Nick will be able to create a map of the concentrations and locations of toxin- producing phytoplankton. This will then be compared with data from years past to determine patterns and trends.

Toxin-producing  phytoplankton Alexandrium
Toxin-producing phytoplankton Alexandrium

The phytoplankton themselves are not harmful to humans, but as they accumulate in the food chain there can be human-related sickness. If we eat the organisms that are eating the plankton that produce toxins, we can become ill. Not much is known about the cause of the toxin producers, but with more research like Nick’s, scientists continually increase their understanding and ultimately hope to prevent human sickness from these phytoplankton.

Personal Log 

I am saddened to be cutting my journey earlier then expected, but I will leave the ship with fond memories of Pacific Hake, Humboldt Squid, and all the wonderful people who work on the ship. I am particularly grateful to the seven scientists who have gone out of their way to make me feel at home on the ship and have answered all of my questions. They are: the acoustic scientists: Dr. Dezhang Chu, Larry Hufnagle, and Steve de Blois; the fish biologists: Melanie Johnson and John Pohl; the oceanographers: Steve Pierce and Nick Adams. They are each extremely dedicated and passionate about their research and equally passionate about protecting our oceans and the organisms living there.

Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl
Scientists Steve de Blois, Larry Hufnagle, Dr. Dezhang Chu, and John Pohl

Challenge Yourself 
Volunteers play an integral role in supporting the environmental stewardship conducted every day by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Across the United States and its coastal waters, opportunities exist for volunteers to take part in research, observation and educational roles that benefit science, our citizens and our planet.

Visit this website to see where you can help

hirschman_log4g

Bryan Hirschman, August 10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 10, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 4 nautical miles
Wind: 14 knots
Wave Height: 2 ft
Wave Swell:  5-6 ft
Ocean temperature: 14.40C
Air Temperature: 16.00C

Science and Technology Log 

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Today, John Pohl, one of the fish biologists showed me the VPR (video plankton recorder). The camera is attached to the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth), which is operated by Steve Pierce, a physical oceanographer, and Phil White, chief survey technician, who work the night shift. The CTD is a large apparatus which has room for many additional sensors and attachments. The CTD onboard the Miller Freeman has a dissolved oxygen sensor in addition to the VPR.

Image of plankton taken with VPR
Image of plankton taken with VPR

Each night Steve sends the CTD down to the seafloor (about 7 times) to collect data. He is most interested in determining the differing densities of water at different depths (depth is based on pressure, which the CTD measures). He then calculates the densities using conductivity and temperature. By measuring conductivity (how easily electric currents pass through the water sample being tested), Steve can get a measurement of that water sample’s salinity.  Density of water is then calculated from measurements of salinity, and temperature. An equation is used which relates the measurements so that density can be found if these other two values are known. Steve records all the data each night, and will use this information to study currents and their movements.

The VPR is a camera which records video as well as still pictures as it descends to the sea floor. The data are recorded, then uploaded to an external hard drive. The file is very large, as it takes about ten minutes to transfer all the data. The pictures and video will be used by biologists (not on board presently) to identify and determine the percentage of plankton (plankton consist of any drifting organisms) floating throughout the water column. Each time before we set out the fish nets, two people go to the bridge to look for marine mammals. If any are present the nets won’t be put into the water. A few tows have been cancelled due to the presence of marine mammals. This is a great step in keeping them safe. It is always special when I see dolphins or whales.

Here I am holding a sleeper shark.
Here I am holding a sleeper shark.

The only fish tow of the day (no marine mammals present) consisted of mainly Humboldt Squid and some Pacific Hake. Today we used a load cell to get a total mass; this is a device which hooks up to the net and crane. The load cell gives a mass of the entire haul. The majority of the load was released back into the water while a smaller sample was retained. The weights of the Hake and squid were then determined using bins and a balance. The scientists can use the subsample data to determine the data for the entire load.  Bycatch, defined as living creatures that are caught unintentionally by fishing gear, are occasionally found in the net. Today a rougheye rockfish was caught, and yesterday a sleeper shark were accidently caught. The scientists do a very good job of limiting bycatch using their acoustic data.

Personal Log 

A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish
A rougheye rockfish – what a pretty fish

I am enjoying the long hours of work, and have gotten into quite a rhythm. I also enjoy spending time with the hardworking and intelligent staff here on board. We work together as a team, and everyone enjoys their jobs. NOAA has chosen a great group of officers who set a very positive tone and make the ship a great workplace. I would love to take a sabbatical from teaching and work on a NOAA ship. I’m having a lot of fun and learning a bunch. I will take back a lot of positive experience to share with my students, family, and friends.

I have also learned to appreciate the smells of a load of fish. As we move the fish from the holding cell, to small baskets for weighing we are constantly splashed in the arms, face, mouth, eyes, etc. I find it pretty amusing every time I get splashed, or even better, when I splash John, Melanie, or Jake. It never grows old. The hardest portion of my day is determining what movie to watch while running on the treadmill (I finally mastered the art of the treadmill on a rocking boat and can leave the elliptical trainer alone). The boat has close to 800 movies to choose from.

Animals Seen Today 
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins, Rougheye rockfish, Humboldt Squid, Pacific Hake, Albatross, Sheerwaters, and Murres.

Poem of the Day 
Squid ink, squid ink!
O! How you make me stink!
You stain my face, you stain my clothes;
I must wash you off with a fire hose!

You make me scratch, you make me itch,
You even turn Melanie into a wicked witch!
(which is a horribly difficult thing to do—
She’s as gentle as a lamb in a petting zoo!)

Why not John, allergic to your ink!
Torment HIM with your venomous stink!
But no–not ME! All I want are Hake.
So torment instead “almost” graduate Jake!

But once again, though our dinner hour,
Because of you I must shower!

So I beg you, O squid, to hear my plea:
In the future, stay away from me!
Does that sound good?
Do we have a deal?
If not, well then—you’re my next meal.

Answers to Last Question 
Ribbon Barracudina, Pacific Hatchetfish, Baby Humboldt Squid

Bryan Hirschman, August 6, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 6, 2009

Weather Data from Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 6 nautical miles
Wind: light
Wave Height: <1
Wave Swell: 2-3 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.90C
Air Temperature: 15.50C

Science and Technology Log 

John and Melanie sexing and measuring the fish
Melanie sexing and measuring the fish

Today the day started with a fish tow at 8:00 am. The acoustic scientists, Steve, Larry, and Chu, predicted the fish would be mostly myctophids, and wanted to be certain. The fisherman sent the net out and about an hour later the net was brought back. As predicted the net was filled with mostly myctophids. This is an important step in being able to determine the fish type and numbers using acoustic data only. Scientists will then be able to acoustically count fish populations for most schooling fish (Pollock, Pacific Hake, anchovies, and mackerel to name a few), with out using nets. After the nets are brought in the fish biologists (and me) get to work. We separate all the organisms into their own piles. We then count and weigh them, and log this into a computer using their scientific names. It’s amazing how Melanie and John (the fish biologists) can identify and recall the Latin names of these organisms.

Question: Do we just fish in random locations?

Answer: No, the acoustic scientists choose to fish in locations that appear to be different from previous fishing locations. The parameters which make them different are depth, color intensity, or pattern of the markings on their computer screens. The scientists get real-time acoustic pictures as the boat travels along on a pre-determined path (called a transect).  The more they can relate the graphs on the computer screens to the actual catch in the nets the less fishing which needs to be done.

Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is the second tow consisting of Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid.
Here is the second tow consisting of Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid.

The second fish tow of the day produced Pacific Hake and Humboldt Squid. We weighed all the squid first (then quickly returned to the ocean), and 10 were randomly selected for a stomach dissection. The stomachs contained pieces of squid, Pacific Hake, and other unidentifiable fish. Another purpose of this cruise is to determine the effects of the squid on the Hake, and by looking at the stomachs the scientists will be able to determine the relationship between the squid and hake.  The third tow of the day involved an open net with a camera. The camera could record for an hour. The scientists then view the footage to estimate the size and quantity of the hake passing through the net. This is another method the scientists are using to verify their acoustic data.

Here I am holding the delightful meal of tuna.
Here I am holding the delightful meal of tuna.

I also had the chance to launch an XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph). This device is launched at the back of the boat. The sensor is released into the water and is attached by a tiny copper wire. As the sensor travels down the water column it sends the depth and temperature data to the bridge. This data is saved and used by physical oceanographers to better understand temperature profiles found in the ocean.

Personal Log 

Today was a great day. The seas were calm, I slept well last night, and the food was great. I even got to exercise for 1.5 hours. The exercise room has a television hooked up to watch movies, and it made using the elliptical trainer and stationary bike much more enjoyable. I also had a great time working with the fish biologists. We were throwing and catching squid like the professionals who work at Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Best of all was dinner, freshly caught tuna, which I got to filet.

Animals Seen Today 
Dolphin, Mola-mola, Albatross, Sheerwaters, Slender Barracudia, Ribbon Barracudina, Blackbelly Dragonfish, Pacific Hake, Lanternfish (myctophids), Salps, Sunrise Jellyfish, Purple Cone Jellyfish, Wheel Jellyfish, Humboldt Squid, Black-eyed Squid, Pacific Hatchetfish, and Spiny Dogfish shark.

Question of the Day : Can you identify the animals in the photo?
Question of the Day : Can you identify the animals in the photo?

Answer to the last question: Lancetfish

Bryan Hirschman, August 4, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Bryan Hirschman
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
August 1 – 17, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area: North Pacific Ocean; Newport, OR to Port Angeles, WA
Date: August 4, 2009

hirschman_log1Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind: 2 knots
Wave Height: <1 ft
Wave Swell: 3 ft
Ocean temperature: 15.50C
Air Temperature: 15.50C

Science and Technology Log 

Here I am holding a Pacific Hake.
Here I am holding a Pacific Hake.

We will be conducting several types of oceanographic sampling during our cruise: 2-3 Pacific hake tows per day (weather permitting), an open net tow where fish are viewed through a camera, XBTs: Expendable Bathythermograph (take temperatures at various depths), HABS: Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling, CTD: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density (also at various depths), and a Multiple Opening Plankton Net (collects living organisms at various depths). We will also release a Surface Drifter: floats with currents and sends information about currents via satellite.

The tows, XBTs and HABS are done from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm, while the CTD and plankton net are used during nighttime hours. By working in daytime and nighttime shifts the scientists are maximizing the boat’s usage. I was fortunate enough to help with the plankton net last night. Five samples were collected while I observed. Each sample was labeled and preserved for later use in a laboratory. Observed were amphipods, copepods, shrimp, and crab larvae.

Can you identify the animal I’m holding?
Can you identify the animal I’m holding?

Our first Pacific hake tow came at approximately 8:00 am. The acoustic scientists use four transducers that are attached to the bottom of the boat.  Each transducer sends out pulses of sound at a different frequency toward the bottom of the sea floor. The sound pulse then travels back to the boat and is recorded onto graphs. Fish and other biological organisms also reflect sound pulses. Each type of fish gives off a different signal depending on its size, shape, and orientation. The fish are then identified on a computer using acoustic analysis software. The strength of the sonar signal helps determine the biomass and number of fish. When the chief scientist see an interesting aggregation of fish to tow on, he calls the bridge (the brains of the boat–this is where the boat is controlled) and reports the latitude and longitude of where he wishes to fish. The ship then turns about and the deck hands work to lower the tow net and prepare to collect fish at the depth the scientists observed the fish.

Here, I’ve got a Humboldt Squid.
Here, I’ve got a Humboldt Squid.

After the fish are collected, the Pacific hake are weighed and counted.  A sub-sample of about 300 Pacific hake is sexed and lengthed. Another sub-sample of about 50 Pacific hake is weighed, sexed, and lengthed; sexual maturity is determined by observation of the gonads, and ear bones are removed – this will enable scientists to determine the age of the fish.  About 10 Pacific hake have their stomach contents sampled as well. All this information is collected and used by Fishery Biologists to determine the population dynamics of the overall Pacific hake stock. The acoustic scientists also save all their data in an acoustic library. This will help scientists to analyze the Pacific hake biomass (population) while minimizing how many live specimens they need to collect. In total we completed three tows today. That’s a lot of Pacific hake to measure, weigh, and sex.

Personal Log 

The ship is loud. Sleep was hard to come by last night. Living in quiet Vermont has made me a light sleeper. I need to work on adjusting to the constant noise. The food and staff are great. Everyone takes pride in their ship and the work which is done on the ship.

Question of the Day 
Can you identify the beast in the picture to the picture?

Animals Seen Today 
Pacific Hake, Humboldt Squid, Myctophids, Breaching Whale (too far away to identify; most likely a Humpback)

Jennifer Fry, July 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 29, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 345° from the north
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 14.1°C (dry bulb); 13.8°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 10.6°C
Wave height: 1 ft.
Swell direction: 320°
Swell height: 3-5 ft.
Air pressure: 1011.0 mb
Weather note: There are two temperature readings taken on the Miller Freeman. The dry bulb measures the current temperature of the air. The wet bulb measures the absolute humidity of the air; uses a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. The dry and wet temperatures together give the dew point and help to determine humidity.

Science and Technology Log 

Those aboard the Miller Freeman: including NOAA Corps, crew, and scientists were randomly selected to answer the following question.

How are science and the environment important to the work you do? 

Here are some of their responses:

Lisa Bonacci, Chief Scientist/Research Fish Biologist, M.S. Marine Biology   “As a Fisheries Biologist at NOAA I work in applied science. Our research provides information that managers and policy makers use to make important decisions at a national level. These decisions help the United States keep our fisheries sustainable and at the same time protect our ocean ecosystems.”
Lisa Bonacci, Chief Scientist/Research Fish Biologist, M.S. Marine Biology
“As a Fisheries Biologist at NOAA I work in applied science. Our research provides information that managers and policy makers use to make important decisions at a national level. These decisions help the United States keep our fisheries sustainable and at the same time protect our ocean ecosystems.”
Pat Maulden, Wiper, Engineering Department   “I like being part of the solution.  If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
Pat Maulden, Wiper, Engineering Department
“I like being part of the solution. If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
John Pohl, NOAA Oceanographer, B.S. Oceanography   “Every action has a consequence.  Science improves our understanding of the world around us and consequences of our actions in the natural world.  We are not separate from the environment in which we live. We can’t hold ourselves out of the natural world, or we will affect the balance.”
John Pohl, NOAA Oceanographer, B.S. Oceanography
“Every action has a consequence. Science improves our understanding of the world around us and consequences of our actions in the natural world. We are not separate from the environment in which we live. We can’t hold ourselves out of the natural world, or we will affect the balance.”
Steve DeBlois, NOAA Research Fish Biologist   “Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.”
Steve DeBlois, NOAA Research Fish Biologist
“Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.”
Jose Coito, Lead Fisherman   “I try to help the scientific research on the ship whenever I can. I enjoy my job.”
Jose Coito, Lead Fisherman
“I try to help the scientific research on the ship whenever I can. I enjoy my job.”
LTjg Jennifer King, NOAA Corps Officer, B.S. Marine Biology   “Science helps understand natural processes: how things grow, and how nature works. We need to help protect it. Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”
LTjg Jennifer King, NOAA Corps Officer, B.S. Marine Biology
“Science helps understand natural processes: how things grow, and how nature works. We need to help protect it. Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”
Steve Pierce, Physical Oceanographer, Oregon State University, Ph.D. Physical Oceanography “None of this research is possible without math.  My study is a cool application of math.”
Steve Pierce, Physical Oceanographer, Oregon State University, Ph.D. Physical Oceanography “None of this research is possible without math. My study is a cool application of math.”
John Adams, Ordinary Fisherman   “Science helps you understand why things go. The environment is really important to protect because it’s the only one we’ve got.”
John Adams, Ordinary Fisherman
“Science helps you understand why things go. The environment is really important to protect because it’s the only one we’ve got.”
LTjg Oliver Brown, NOAA Corps Navigation Officer, B.S. Geology   “Understanding the processes of today to predict and sustain the systems of tomorrow.  Anything you can study: fisheries, atmospheric or any “ology”, the ocean plays a part in it.”
LTjg Oliver Brown, NOAA Corps Navigation Officer, B.S. Geology
“Understanding the processes of today to predict and sustain the systems of tomorrow. Anything you can study: fisheries, atmospheric or any “ology”, the ocean plays a part in it.”
Adam Staiger, Second Cook   “Remember to clean up after yourself.”
Adam Staiger, Second Cook
“Remember to clean up after yourself.”
Francis Loziere, Able Seaman, B.S. Chemistry/Engineering   “Studying science can help foster original thinking.  We need original thinking to save the planet.”
Francis Loziere, Able Seaman, B.S. Chemistry/Engineering
“Studying science can help foster original thinking. We need original thinking to save the planet.”
Julia Clemons, Oceanographer, M.S. Geology   “Science helps us to better understand the world we live in so we are not ignorant and live in a more responsible and aware manner.”
Julia Clemons, Oceanographer, M.S. Geology
“Science helps us to better understand the world we live in so we are not ignorant and live in a more responsible and aware manner.”
Chris Grandin, DFO, Canadian Fisheries, Biologist, M.S. Earth & Ocean Sciences   “We’re here to keep tabs on the fish resources of our planet, to ensure that there will be fish for the future generations, and to sustain our ecology.  We all need to take responsibility.”
Chris Grandin, DFO, Canadian Fisheries, Biologist, M.S. Earth & Ocean Sciences
“We’re here to keep tabs on the fish resources of our planet, to ensure that there will be fish for the future generations, and to sustain our ecology. We all need to take responsibility.”
Dezhang Chu, NOAA fisheries, Physical Scientist, PhD Geophysics   “To study science you need devotion and dedication.  It’s not something you make a lot of money at, but you can contribute good things to human society.”
Dezhang Chu, NOAA fisheries, Physical Scientist, PhD Geophysics
“To study science you need devotion and dedication. It’s not something you make a lot of money at, but you can contribute good things to human society.”
Gary Cooper, Skilled Fisherman,   “I’ve always loved the sea. You get out of a job, what you put into it. Set your goals high and you’ll be successful.”
Gary Cooper, Skilled Fisherman,
“I’ve always loved the sea. You get out of a job, what you put into it. Set your goals high and you’ll be successful.”
Melanie Johnson, NOAA Fishery Biologist   “Taking care of our environment, it’s the right thing to do. We need to live responsibility and sustainably; we can’t over fish or litter our world. If you don’t want it in your backyard, don’t put it in the ocean.”
Melanie Johnson, NOAA Fishery Biologist
“Taking care of our environment, it’s the right thing to do. We need to live responsibility and sustainably; we can’t over fish or litter our world. If you don’t want it in your backyard, don’t put it in the ocean.”
Mark Watson, Wiper, Engineering Department   “Life and science go hand in hand; you can’t have one other the other.”
Mark Watson, Wiper, Engineering Department
“Life and science go hand in hand; you can’t have one other the other.”
Ed Schmidt, First Assistant Engineer, Relief Chief   “In my field of engineering, science and math go hand in hand. You have to have both. n the science side, there are relationships between different fluids, gases, and the theories behind what make the equipment work. You need to use math to find combustion rates, horsepower, electricity produced/consumed, and the list goes on and on. Without math and science I wouldn’t have a job.”
Ed Schmidt, First Assistant Engineer, Relief Chief
“In my field of engineering, science and math go hand in hand. You have to have both. On the science side, there are relationships between different fluids, gases, and the theories behind what make the equipment work. You need to use math to find combustion rates, horsepower, electricity produced/consumed, and the list goes on and on. Without math and science I wouldn’t have a job.”

The engineers aboard the Miller Freeman are a group of hard working people. There are always engineers on duty 24 hours/ day to ensure the ship is running properly. Jake DeMello, 2nd engineer, gave me a tour of the Miller Freeman’s engine room.  Jake attended California Maritime Academy where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering. He has a 12-4 shift which means that he works from noon to 4:00 p.m. and then again from midnight to 4:00 a.m.

Jake DeMello stands by the desalination machine in the Miller Freeman’s engine room.
Jake DeMello stands by the desalination machine in the Miller Freeman’s engine room.

Before taking the job aboard NOAA’s Miller Freeman, Jake worked on a Mississippi River paddle boat traveling from New Orleans north past St. Louis through the rivers’ many dams and locks.  He reminisced on one memorable moment aboard the paddleboat; the day he saw Jimmy Dean, the famous singer and sausage maker.  Jake and the other engineers do many jobs around the ship including checking the fuel and water levels throughout the day and fixing anything that needs repairing.  The Miller Freeman is equipped with a machine shop, including lathe and welding equipment.

Among the jobs of the engineer is reporting daily fuel levels including:

  • Hydraulic oil used for daily fish trawls, CTD, gantry, and winch operations.
  • Gasoline used for the “Fast Recovery Boat.”
  • Diesel fuel used for the main engine.
  • Lube oil used for main engines and generators.
We say good-bye to the hake both big and small.
We say good-bye to the hake both big and small.

Fresh water production: The ship’s water desalination machine transforms 2,000 gallons of sea water into fresh drinking water daily. The ship’s water tanks hold a total of 7,350 gallons of fresh water. Another job of the engineer is taking soundings throughout the day/night. Taking soundings means measuring the levels of liquid in the tanks.  There are tanks on both the starboard and port sides of the ship. The engineer needs to be sure that fuel levels are evenly distributed so that the ship will be evenly balanced in the ocean.

Vocabulary: Starboard: right side of the ship. Port: left side of the ship.

Personal Log 

I write this off the coast of Oregon in the North Pacific Ocean.  It has been an amazing 17 days aboard the Miller Freeman. I feel honored to have participated in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program.  It has truly changed the way I look at science in the classroom and has given be a better understanding of how scientists conduct research on a day to day basis in the field. I am excited to have made so many learning connections between the real world of scientific study and the elementary school science classroom.  I thank NOAA, the Teacher at Sea program and the entire crew, NOAA Corps, and scientists aboard the Miller Freeman for this opportunity.

My profound gratitude goes out to the dedicated science team aboard the Miller Freeman for all they have taught me.
My profound gratitude goes out to the dedicated science team aboard the Miller Freeman for all they have taught me.

Ginger Redlinger, July 29–31, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ginger Redlinger
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 29–31, 2007

Weather log on the RAINIER.  Data is gathered, then entered into a database.
Weather log on the RAINIER. Data is gathered, then entered into a database.

The RAINIER started its work in South East Alaska in April of this year. Four months and hundreds of nautical miles later it was time to leave: Juneau, Ketchikan, Sitka, Baranof Island, and the Gulf of Esquibel. Three or four research boats were in the water everyday rain or shine, calm or rough water, gathering data. At night, crews’ maintained watch, reviewed data, and planned for the next day’s work. Equipment was checked to ensure everyone’s health and safety.  Quality control ensured that the data gathered met NOAA’s expectations. Now it is time to end the Alaskan part of their work and move to their next working location.

While traveling from South Each Alaska to Washington I reflected on the most memorable parts of the journey.  I immediately remembered the compliments from pleasure boaters and fishermen about NOAA’s work. Next I thought about the ease at which the crew safely delivered and returned their equipment and crew to and from the ship each day.  Then I thought about the NOAA resources I learned about as I studied information about hydrography, technology, satellites, weather, and tides.  And how could I not mention the food – it was great. Good food compensates for the sacrifice of being away from home for such a long time.

Water from the Fraser River (green) and the southern end of  Georgia Strait waters.
Water from the Fraser River (green) and the southern end of Georgia Strait waters.

There would be a short break between the end of this voyage and the start of the next, some would remain on the ship, and for others it meant being “at home” for the first time since April. This is part of the sacrifice that mariners, and those who explore the oceans make.  As we traveled closer to home many off-duty crewmembers gathered on the fly deck to see home slowly approaching from the distance.  They shared stories from the last four months and recalled the moments of laughter on “the big white ship.” After traveling through Canadian waters, around Vancouver Island and into Puget Sound, people began to gather in earnest of the desk. At first I thought it was because we were taking a picture for a “NOAA 200th Anniversary Postcard from the Field,” but many remained on deck. Many were anxious for the first glimpse of their families and their homes.  Many of their family members arrived at the Ballard Locks – waving and communicating their excitement about the reunions that would happen in a few short hours.

Mt. Rainier and Seattle in the distance.
Mt. Rainier and Seattle in the distance.

The sun is setting as we traveled past the many marinas for all types of marine vessels, houseboats, and dry-docks. As we passed through crewmembers neighborhoods the fading sunlight was replaced with light shining in their eyes as they talked about the view from their windows, their favorite neighborhood haunts, and local treats that mean “home.” As we turn toward the waters that lead to downtown Seattle the crew on the fly deck is silent. The last embers of sunlight are reflecting on the downtown Skyline, it is spectacular.  We turn away from downtown and travel through the Fremont Cut.  Thank goodness for the navigational skills of this young and talented team – the water traffic from Seattle’s SeaFair was busy. Once we arrived at the NOAA Western Regional Center in Sand Point, CO Noll’s work was done.  He had trained his crew to successfully navigate the ship and complete the mission.  We are all home; the final navigational command is given.

Rear Admiral De Bow handing the Command Coin to Commander Noll
Rear Admiral De Bow handing the Command Coin to Commander Noll

“All Engines Stop” “All Engines Stop, Aye. – All Engines Stopped” “Very Well.” Rear Admiral De Bow was on board to congratulate him, and pass the time-honored command coin.

I hate to admit it, but like a kid at camp leaving a new set of friends knowing that I most likely will not see many of them again, I feel sadness. The memories and lessons will remain.  What a great adventure for a teacher, what a great experience for those who work on the ship, and what a great service provided to those who depend on navigation for commerce, recreation, and those who seek a greater scientific understanding of the earth and how it changes. I can’t wait to share it all with my students and colleagues!!!!

The Seattle skyline at night
The Seattle skyline at night

Jennifer Fry, July 28, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 28, 2009

Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines
Map of the world showing longitude and latitude lines

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed:  17 knots
Wind direction: 345° from the north
Visibility: 8 nautical miles /clear
Temperature: 16.8°C (dry bulb); 11.6°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.5°C
Wave height: 3-5 ft.
Air pressure: 1012.9 millibars
Weather note: Millibars is a metric unit used to measure the pressure of the air.

Science and Technology Log 

Weather Instruments and Predicting Weather 

Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.
Lt Oliver Brown, surrounded by navigational tools, and Fishery Scientist Steve DeBlois make observations on the bridge of the Miller Freeman.

Everything that happens out at sea is dependent upon the weather forecasts.  Throughout history man has used a variety of instruments to acquire accurate weather information.  The Miller Freeman is equipped with state of art weather reporting instruments. Every 3 hours weather data is sent to the National Weather Service to help predict the weather at sea.  Once again accuracy in reporting data is paramount.

Global Position: The Miller Freeman has several methods by which to determine longitude and latitude, which is our position in the ocean or on land.  There are 2 G.P.S. systems on the bridge, a magnetic compass, a gyro compass, and radar. These instruments help determine the ship’s position.

True north: The actual location of a point on the earth related to the north pole.

A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west
A Gyrocompass with cardinal headings including north, south, east, and west

Magnetic north: Caused by the magnetic pull on the earth.  Magnetic north heading is different depending on where you are on the earth, for instance, Magnetic north in Oregon has a variation of 16.45°east from true north. Southern California has a variation of 13.3° east from true north.

Temperature: Measured by a thermometer, units used are Celsius. Dry bulb: Measures air temperature.  Wet bulb:  Uses a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. The dry and wet temperatures together give the dew point and help to determine humidity.

Wind Speed: Measured in knots using an anemometer, or estimated by using the Beaufort scale. The Beaufort scale uses observations of the sea surface, and the effects of wind on people or objects aboard ship to estimate the wind speed.

Wind Direction: Is measured by what direction in which the wind is coming.

Cloud Height/Type: Is measured visually.

Cloud Type: Is measured visually using a variety of names of clouds depending on their patterning and altitude.

Magnetic compass
Magnetic compass

Visibility: Is measured by estimating how much of the horizon can be seen.

Wave Direction: measured visually from the direction the wave comes.

Wave Height: The vertical distance between trough (bottom of the wave) and crest (top of the wave) and is usually measured in feet.

Swell Direction/ Height: Measured visually usually in feet.

Personal Log 

I have enjoyed my time on the bridge of the Miller Freeman immensely.  I have a better understanding of the weather instruments used onboard and am getting better at spotting whales and identifying birds. I want to thank the entire NOAA Corps Officers who have taught me so much about how navigation and weather work aboard the Miller Freeman.

Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National Weather Service.
Crewmember John Adams uses on-board weather instruments
to record hourly weather readings that are then sent to National
Weather Service.
An anemometer, which measures wind speed
An anemometer, which measures wind speed

Jennifer Fry, July 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 27, 2009

The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.
The CTD, resembling a giant wedding cake constructed of painted steel, measures the composition of the water, salinity, temperature, oxygen levels, and water pressure.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots
Wind direction: 003°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 13.6°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.1°C
Wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell direction: 325°
Swell height: 4-6 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

Each night beginning at around 9:00 p.m. or 21:00, if you refer to the ship’s clock, Dr. Steve Pierce begins his research of the ocean. He is a Physical Oceanographer and this marks his 11th year of conducting CTD, Conductivity, Temperature, and Density tests.

It takes 24 readings per second as it sinks to the seafloor. The CTD only records data as it sinks, insuring the instruments are recording data in undisturbed waters. For the past 11 years Dr. Pierce and his colleagues have been studying density of water by calculating temperature and salinity in different areas of the ocean. By studying the density of water, it helps to determine ocean currents. His data helps us examine what kind of ocean conditions in which the hake live. Using prior data, current CTD data, and acoustic Doppler current profiler, a type of sonar, Dr. Pierce is trying to find a deep water current flowing from south to north along the west coast.  This current may have an effect on fish, especially a species like hake.

This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.
This map illustrates part of the area of the hake survey.

Dr. Steve Pierce reminds us, “None of this research is possible without math. Physical oceanography is a cool application of math.” Another testing instrument housed on the CTD apparatus is the VPR, Visual Plankton Recorder.  It is an automatic camera that records plankton, microscopic organisms, at various depths.  The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman collect data about plankton’s feeding habits, diurnal migration, and their position in the water column.  Diurnal migration is when plankton go up and down the water column to feed at different times of day (see illustration below).  Plankton migration patterns vary depending on the species.The scientists aboard the Miller Freeman followed the east to west transect lines conducting fishing trawls. The first one produced 30 small hake averaging 5 inches in length.  The scientists collected marine samples by weighing and measuring them.

Dr. Steve Pierce  at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
Dr. Steve Pierce at his work station and standing next to the CTD on a bright sunny day in the Northern Pacific Ocean.
This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.
This illustration depicts the diurnal migration of plankton.

Personal Log 

It was extremely foggy today.  We traversed through the ocean evading many obstacles including crab and fishing buoys and other small boats.  Safety is the number one concern on the Miller Freeman. The NOAA Corps Officers rigorously keep the ship and passengers out of harm’s way.  I am grateful to these dedicated men and women.  LTjg Jennifer King, marine biologist and NOAA Corps officer says, “Science helps understand natural process: how things grow and how nature works. We need to protect it.  Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”

Jennifer Fry, July 26, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 26, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 100° [from the east]
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 13.5°C (dry bulb); 13.5°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 10°C
Wave height: 1ft.
Swell direction: 315° Swell height:  6 ft.

Here I am checking HAB samples.
Here I am checking HAB samples.

Science and Technology Log 

We conducted a number of HAB, Harmful Algal Bloom sample tests. The Harmful Algal Bloom test takes samples at predetermined location in our study area. The water is filtered to identify the presence of toxic plants (algae) and animals (zooplankton). The plankton enter the food chain specifically through clams and mussels and can be a possible threat to human health.

We also conducted XBTs, Expendable Bathythermograph; and one  fishing trawl net. The trawling was successful, catching hake, squid, and Myctophids.  Fishery scientist, Melanie Johnson collected specific data on the myctophids’ swim bladder.  The swimbladder helps fish regulate buoyancy.  It acts like a balloon that inflates and deflates depending on the depth of the fish. Sharks on the other hand have no swim bladder. They need to swim to maintain their level in the water. Marine mammals such as dolphins and whales have lungs instead of a swimbladder.  Most of the sonar signal from the fish comes from their swimbladder.  The study of the swimbladder’s size helps scientists determine how deep the fish are when using the sonar signals and how strong their sonar signal is likely to be.

Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.
Commander Mike Hopkins, LTjg Oliver Brown, and crewmember John Adams conduct a marine mammal watch on the bridge before a fishing trawl.

The scientists tried to conduct a “swim through” camera tow, but each time it was aborted due to marine mammals in the area of the net. During the “Marine Mammal Watch” held prior to the net going in the water, we spotted humpback whales. They were observed breeching, spouting, and fluking. The humpback then came within 30 feet of the Miller Freeman and swam around as if investigating the ship.

Animals Seen Today 
Fish and animals trawled: Hake, Squid (Cephalopod), and Myctophids.
Marine Mammals: Humpback whale.
Birds: Albatross, Fulmar, and Shearwater.

Jennifer Fry, July 25, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 25, 2009

Black-footed Albatross
Black-footed Albatross

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 355°from the north
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 11°C (dry bulb); 10°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.2°C
Wave height: 2 ft.
Swell direction: 310°
Swell height: 5 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

Three fishing trawls were conducted today. We took biological samples from the hake collected. The following is a list of other fish retrieved:

  • Octopus: 1
  • Squid: 47
  • Glass shrimp: 50
  • Shrimp (another species): 3
  • Bird observations: Many bird species are seen around the boat each time there is a fishing trawl net. They range in size and flying pattern. Here are a few of them.
  • Black-footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes): Mostly dark in all plumage, or feathers; White undertail and white may be on belly; Range: Seen around the year off west coast in spring and summer; Winters in Hawaii.

While observing the albatross and fulmar fly, I noticed that they glide gracefully across the waves gently touching the tip of their wing into the water. During take off, the albatross uses his giant webbed feet to push off by “running” on the surface of the water. Similarly during landing; his feet appear to “run” on the water which seems to slow him down.

  • Sooty shearwater
    Sooty Shearwater (Puffinus griseus): Whitish underwing contrasts with overall dark plumage; Range: breeds in southern hemisphere; Abundant off west coast, often seen from shore.
Pink-footed Shearwater (Puffinus creatopus): Blackish-brown above; white wing underparts, a bit mottled; Range: spends summers in northern Pacific; winters in Chile
Pink-footed Shearwater (P. creatopus): Blackish-brown; white wing underparts, a bit mottled; Range: spends summers in northern Pacific; winters in Chile
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis): Gull-sized seabird; rapid wingbeats alternating with gliding over waves; color is rather uniform with not strong contrasts; gray overall with whitish undersides; range: Northern Pacific Ocean and Northern Atlantic Ocean; Breeds: Aleutian Islands, Alaska.
Northern Fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis): Gull-sized seabird; rapid wingbeats alternating with gliding over waves; color is rather uniform with not strong contrasts; gray overall with whitish undersides; range: Northern Pacific Ocean and Northern Atlantic Ocean; Breeds: Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

Fun on-line NOAA activities such as Make your own Compass, Tying Knots, Learn about Nautical Charts, Be a Shipwreck detective, and Make a tornado in a bottle.

Commander Mike Hopkins overlooks the North Pacific Ocean just off the Oregon Coast from the bridge. His job is to make sure everything aboard the Miller Freeman is running smoothly.
Commander Mike Hopkins overlooks the North Pacific Ocean just off the Oregon Coast from the bridge. His job is to make sure everything aboard the Miller Freeman is running smoothly.

NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers are a vital part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Officers provide support during NOAA missions  ranging from launching a weather balloon at the South Pole, conducting hydrographic or fishery surveys in Alaska, maintaining buoys in the tropical Pacific, flying snow surveys and into hurricanes. NOAA Corps celebrates its 202nd birthday this year.

Animals Seen Today 
Fish and other trawled animals: Hake, Octopi, Squid, and Shrimp.
Birds: Fulmar, Shearwater, Albatross, and Gulls.

Jennifer Fry, July 24, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 24, 2009

Pacific White-Sided Dolphins
Pacific White-Sided Dolphins

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 24 knots
Wind direction: 355° from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 17.3°C (dry bulb); 15.5°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.8°C
Wave height: 3 ft.
Swell direction: 350°
Swell height: 5-6 ft.

Science and Technology Log 

There is an abundance of marine life in the ocean today: sightings include a humpback whale breaching and spy-hopping.  Breaching is when a whale jumps out of the water.  Spy-hopping is when the whale’s head comes out of the water vertically and “takes a peek” at his surroundings. We also sighted the Pacific white-sided dolphins that appeared to be “playing” with the ship.  They would swim perpendicularly to the ship’s hull and at the last minute; veer away at a 90° angle. The dolphins were also swimming alongside the bow and the side of the ship.

Beautiful view
Beautiful view

The sonar signals indicate an abundance of marine life under the sea and the presence of marine mammals helps us draw that conclusion. All that life is probably their prey. We made 2 fishing trawls which included hake and 2 small squid, split nose rockfish, and dark, blotched rockfish. That was the first time I had seen rockfish.   They are primarily a bottom dweller. Scientists don’t want to catch too many rockfish because they tend to be over fished and their numbers need to be protected. Also, we only want to catch the fish species we are surveying, in this case, hake. The scheduled camera tow was cancelled because we did not want to catch marine mammals.  The camera tow is described as a net sent down to depth that is opened on both sides.  It takes video of the fish swimming by.  This helps the scientists determine what species of fish are at each particular depth, during which the fish are not injured for the most part.

Personal Log 

It was very exciting to see the humpback whale and dolphins today.  They appeared to be very interested in the ship and it looked like they were playing with it.  It was a perfect day with the sun shining and calm seas.

Question of the Day 
What are ways scientists determine the health of the ocean?

Did You Know? Breaching is when a whale jumps out of the water.   Spy-hopping is when the whale’s head comes out of the water vertically and “takes a peek” at his surroundings.

Animals Seen Today 
Marine mammals: Pacific white-sided dolphins, California sea lion, and Humpback whale: spy hopping.
Birds: Fulmar, Shearwater, Albatross, and Skua.
Fish: Hake, Split nose rockfish, and Dark Blotched rockfish.

Ode to the Miller Freeman 
As the chalky white ship, the Miller Freeman cuts through the icy blue waters of the North Pacific Ocean,
I stand in wonderment at all I see before me.
A lone Pacific white-sided dolphin suddenly surfaces over the unending mounds of waves.
A skua circles gracefully negotiating up and over each marine blue swell
Off in the distance, the band of fog lurks cautiously, waiting its turn to silently envelop the crystal blue sky.
Watching this beauty around me I have arrived, I am home.

Jennifer Fry, July 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 23, 2009

Here I am in the lab helping with the HAB samples.
Here I am in the lab helping with the HAB samples.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 15 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 12.0°C (dry bulb); 11.8°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 9.7°C
Wave height: 2 ft.
Swell direction: 000°
Swell height: 4 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

We began the day conducting 2 HAB (Harmful Algal Bloom) sample tests of the ocean. This tests the amount of plankton in the water.  Scientists test this because some plankton can carry harmful toxins that can get into the fish and sea life we eat, such as clams. Later we sighted numerous marine mammals including: 2 humpback whales (breaching), 12 Pacific white-sided dolphins, and California sea lions.

Acoustic data
Acoustic data

We made two trawls which provided plenty of hake for us to observe, measure, and collect data.  Acoustic Judging:  One important aspect of the acoustic hake survey is what scientists do when not trawling.  There is a process called judging that fishery biologist, Steve De Blois spends most of his day doing. While looking at acoustic data, he draws regions around schools of fish or aggregations of other marine organisms and assigns species identification to these regions based on what he sees on the acoustic display and catch information gathered from trawls.  He uses 4 different frequencies to “read” the fish signals—each shows different fish characteristics. Having started at the Alaska Fishery Science Center in 1991, this is Steve’s 19th year of participating in integrated acoustic and trawl surveys and his eighth acoustic survey studying Pacific hake. He’s learned how to read their signs with the use of sonar frequencies and his database. Steve tells us about the importance of science: “Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.” 

Pacific white-sided dolphin
Pacific white-sided dolphin

New Term/Phrase/Word Pelagic: relating to, living, or occurring in the waters of the ocean opposed to near the shore. In terms of fish, this means primarily living in the water column as opposed to spending most of their time on the sea floor. 

Steve De Blois, NOAA Research Fishery Biologist, shares acoustic datawith Julia Clemons, NOAA Oceanographer, aboard the Miller Freeman.
Steve De Blois, NOAA Research Fishery Biologist, shares acoustic data
with Julia Clemons, NOAA Oceanographer, aboard the Miller Freeman.

Did You Know?
Northern fur seals are pelagic for 7-10 months per year. Pelagic Cormorant birds live in the ocean their entire life.

Humpback whales
Humpback whales

Animals Seen Today 
Humpback whales (2), Pacific white-sided dolphin (12), California sea lions (6), and Northern fur seal.

Humpback whale breaching
Humpback whale breaching

In Praise of…Harmful Algal Bloom Samples 
Crystal cold ocean water running through clear plastic pipes
Be patient as containers are carefully rinsed out three times.
The various sized bottles are filled with the elixir of Poseidon
Accurate measuring is essential.
Consistency ensures accurate results.
Once the water is filtered, tweezers gently lift plankton-laden filter papers.
All samples await analysis in the 20°F freezer.
Data from each test is later recorded;
Levels of domoic acid,  Chlorophyll,
And types, populations, and species of phytoplankton and zooplankton.

Jennifer Fry, July 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 22, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 13 knots
Wind direction: 003°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 13.6°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 15.1°C
Wave height: 1-2 ft.
Swell direction: 325°
Swell height: 4-6 ft.

Science/Technology Log 

Today we did a fishing trawl off the coast of Oregon. First, the scientists used multiple acoustic frequencies of sound waves.  After analyzing the sonar data, the scientists felt confident that they would get a good sampling of hake. The chief scientist called the bridge to break our transect line (the planned east/west course) and requested that we trawl for fish.

Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.
Here is an acoustic image (2 frequencies) as seen on the scientist’s screen. The bottom wavy line is the seafloor, and the colored sections above are organisms located in the water column.

The NOAA Corps officers directed operations from the trawl house while crew members worked to lower the net to the target depth.  The fishing trawl collected specimens for approximately 20 minutes. After that time, the crew members haul in the net. The scientists continue to record data on the trawl house.

The trawl net sits on the deck of the Miller Freeman and is ready to be weighed and measured.
The trawl net sits on the deck of the Miller Freeman and is ready to be weighed and measured.

Today’s total catch fit into 2 baskets, a “basket” is about the size of your laundry basket at home, approximately 25-35 kilos. Included in the sample were some very interesting fish:

  • Viper fish
  • Ctenophores or comb jellies
  • Larval stage Dover sole, lives at the sea bottom
  • Jelly fish, several varieties (*Note: Jelly fish are types of zooplankton, which means they are animals floating in the ocean.)
  • Hake, approx. 30 kilos

The scientists made quick work of weighing and identifying each species of fish and then began working with the hake. Each hake was individually measured for length and weighed.  The hake’s stomach and otolith were removed. These were carefully labeled and data imputed into the computer.  Scientists will later examine the contents of the stomach to determine what the hake are eating. The otolith (ear bone) goes through a process by which the ear bone is broken in half and then “burnt.” The burning procedure allows one to see the “age rings” much like how we age a tree with its rings.

Personal Log 

A view from the trawl house during a fishing trawl.
A view from the trawl house during a fishing trawl.

Everyone works so very hard to make the Hake Survey successful.  All hands on the ship do a specific job, from cook to engineer to captain of the ship.  It is evident that everyone takes their job seriously and is good at what they do. I feel very fortunate to be part of this very important scientific research project.

 

 

A viper fish
A viper fish

Did You Know? 
Bird facts: An albatross’ wing span can be 5 feet, which equals one very large sea bird. A shearwater is slimmer and smaller yet resembles an albatross.

Animals Seen Today 
Ctenophore, Jelly Fish, Dover sole, Hake, Humboldt squid, Fulmar, Albatross, Gull, and Shearwater.

Here is something interesting, a hake with two mouths discovered in the trawl net.
Here is something interesting, a hake with two mouths discovered in the trawl net.
A hake and its stomach contents, including krill, smaller hake and possibly an anchovy
A hake and its stomach contents, including krill, smaller hake and possibly an anchovy
Dover Sole, larval stage
Dover Sole, larval stage†
NOAA Oceanographer John Pohl and NOAA Fish Biologist Melanie Johnson discuss data about the fish collected.
NOAA Oceanographer John Pohl and NOAA Fish Biologist Melanie Johnson discuss data about the fish collected.

Jennifer Fry, July 21, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 21, 2009

Boatswain Matt Faber, and Skilled Fisherman, Gary Cooper, tend to full net of hake from one of the day’s trawl.
Boatswain Matt Faber, and Skilled Fisherman, Gary Cooper, tend to full net of hake from one of the day’s trawl.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 011°from the north
Visibility: cloudy
Temperature: 16.2°C (dry bulb); 14.9°C (wet bulb)
Weather note: When you speak of wind direction you are talking about the direction in which the wind is coming. 

Science/Technology Log 

You can see by the weather data above that the seas were much calmer today. We were able to conduct 3 fishing trawls amounting to several thousand kilograms of hake. Once the fish were hauled onto the deck, we began measuring, weighing, dissecting, and removing otoliths, ear bones, for age analysis. I removed my first pair of otoliths today.  The best part of the day was the last and final trawl. We collected approximately 3,000 pounds of Humboldt squid which equals 444 squid.  The math problem to calculate is… “How much would one squid weigh in our catch?”

Julia Clemons, NOAA Fisheries and Jennifer Fry, TAS pictured with Humbolt squid. Today’s catch totaled 444 squid.
Julia Clemons, NOAA Fisheries and Jennifer Fry, TAS pictured with Humbolt squid. Today’s catch totaled 444 squid.

Personal Log 

What strikes me today is just how dedicated the scientists and crew are to their jobs.  Everyone has a specific job aboard the Miller Freeman that they take seriously.

Question of the Day 

Can you use squid ink as you do regular ink? Is there a market for squid inked products such as cards?

New Term/Phrase/Word 

Cusk eel

Animals Seen Today 

Fish:  Humbolt squid, Hake, Iridescent Cusk eel (see photo), Myctophid
Birds:  Shearwaters, Albatross, Gulls

The Squid 
The squid come on little tentacled feet
Falling, splatting, rolling, and sliding out of its netted jail.
Free at last
To be weighed and measured
Sitting on a strong mantle in a flowing liquid of ebony and midnight.
Your silent escape goes unnoticed.

The Clouds 
The clouds slither on little squid tentacles
The midnight inky darkness envelopes the sky and warns us of foreboding
It sits looking over ships and sea lions
Its silent mantle quietly slides away.

(Inspired by Carl Sandberg’s “The Fog”)

The squid were examined, weighed, and the data entered into the data base.
The squid were examined, weighed, and the data entered into the data base.
A cusk eel
A cusk eel

Jennifer Fry, July 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 20, 2009

Chief scientist, Dezhang Chu, gets to know a hake while chief scientist, Lisa Bonacci looks on.
Chief scientist, Dezhang Chu, gets to know a hake while chief scientist, Lisa Bonacci looks on.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Reading in the morning:
Wind speed: 40 knots
Wind direction: 000°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.6°C (dry bulb); 10.5°C (wet bulb)

Reading in the afternoon:
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 358°from the north
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 12.2°C (dry bulb); 11.8°C (wet bulb)

Science/Technology Log 

Collecting the hake’s stomach help scientists determine its diet.
Collecting the hake’s stomach help scientists determine its diet.

Fishing trawl #1. We conducted a successful fishing trawl.  Collection of hake totaled 3500 kg. (kilograms.)  Pictured are chief scientists Lisa Bonacci and Dezhang Chu getting to know the hake.  Fishing trawl #2: There was trouble with the sonar equipment so we were unable to conduct a successful fishing trawl.

Personal Log 

Today’s unsuccessful fishing trawl due to a malfunction reminds me that we often learn more from our mistakes that our successes. Scientists are constantly reviewing their scientific process to make sure they align with their hypothesis. After 3 days of gale force winds (34-40 knots) and big waves, today was a welcome change with 20 knot winds and calm seas in the afternoon.  I finally feel like I’ve my “sea legs” about me.

The hake stomach and a pair of otolith, ear bones will help determine what the hake is eating and how old the fish are.
The hake stomach and a pair of otolith, ear bones will help determine what the hake is eating and how old the fish are.

Animals Seen 
Fish:  Hake Myctophidae
Birds:  Fulmar, Albatross, Gulls, and Shearwater

Jennifer Fry, July 19, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 19, 2009

The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)
The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 42 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.4°C (dry bulb); 10.4°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

The seas are still very rough with 40 knot winds. No fishing trawls due to the high waves and heavy seas. However, despite the rough seas, we were able to conduct an XBT, which stands for Expendable Bathythermograph.  An XBT is a measuring apparatus consisting of a large lead weight connected to a very thin copper wire. The function of the XBT is to measure the temperature throughout the water column.  It is launched off the stern (back) of the ship. As it sinks to the sea floor, temperature data is transmitted to an onboard computer.

Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT
Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT

Personal Log 

The Miller Freeman is an NOAA research vessel.   Here’s a bit of information about the Miller Freeman…For more information go here. The Miller Freeman is a 215foot fisheries and oceanographic research vessel and is one of the largest research trawlers in the United States. Its primary mission is to provide a working platform for the study of the ocean’s living resources. The ship is named for Miller Freeman (1875-1955), a publisher who was actively involved in the international management of fish harvests. The ship was launched in 1967, but not fully rigged until 1975. The vessel was again re-rigged in 1982. Its home port is Seattle, Washington.  It is capable of operating in any waters of the world. The ship has 7 NOAA Corps officers, 27 crew members, and maximum of 11 scientists.

Following is a “tour” of the ship.  It has many nice amenities for extended life at sea.

The Laundry Room - Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick if you’re up there too long.
The Laundry Room – Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick at times.
The Kitchen - Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.
The Kitchen – Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.
The Galley - This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.
The Galley – This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.
The Library - Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.
The Library – Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.
The Lounge - Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.
The Lounge – Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.
The Gym - The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship.  This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.
The Gym – The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship. This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.

The Gift of Patience 
Wending our way through the North Pacific Ocean,
The massive waves crash against our hull with Herculean strength
As high as a one story building, their tops are dolloped with luscious whipped cream
They take their turn crashing against the ships sturdy hull, as gale force winds whip wildly past.
We play a waiting game. We practice the ancient art of patience.
When will we have hake, the silvery, slender fish that evades our sonar?

As the winds blow, cold sea spray stings my face.
I watch as the never ending line of waves wait their turn to hit the ship’s hull.
The waves wait patiently as do we.
The sea teaches us serenity.
We must not show greed or impatience.
The sea will provide.
One should lay empty and open waiting for the gifts from the sea.

~Inspired by Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gifts from the Sea

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Jennifer Fry, July 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 40 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: foggy Temperature: 12.9°C (dry bulb); 12.0°C (wet bulb)
Wave height: 8-10 feet

Science and Technology Log 

Lisa Bonacci, chief scientist and Melanie Johnson, fishery biologist in the Freeman’s acoustics lab
Lisa Bonacci, chief scientist and Melanie Johnson, fishery biologist in the Freeman’s acoustics lab

Acoustics: Lisa Bonacci, chief scientist, and Melanie Johnson, fishery biologist, are in the acoustics lab onboard the Miller Freeman as it travels along a transect line. NOAA scientists can detect a variety of marine life under the sea. They use sonar—sound waves bouncing off an object—to detect the animals. There is an onboard sonar system that puts out four different frequencies of sound waves.  Each type of fish will give off a different signal depending on its size, shape, and anatomy.  The fish are then identified on the sonar computer readout.  The strength of the sonar signal will determine the number of hake and the way that they are swimming.  As soon as it appears on the sonar as if hake are present, Ms. Bonacci then calls the bridge to request that we trawl for fish.

This is the sonar readout as it’s seen on the computer screen.
This is the sonar readout as it’s seen on the computer screen.

Personal Log 

The boat was rocking in all directions with 40 knot winds and 8-10 foot waves. The fishing trawl brought up scores of fish including a lot of hake. The sonar signals worked really well to locate them. We dissected and measured many fish, but not before we sat in a giant vat of hake (see photo.)  It was a great learning day.

Animals Seen Today 
Hake,spiny dogfish, Humbolt squid, Myctophidae, and Birds.

Here we are in a giant vat of hake!
Here we are in a giant vat of hake!

Discovery from the Briny 
As the trawl net was raised from the depths
The sun broke through the clouds revealing a sparkling azure sky.
Scores of seagulls circled the stern
In the hopes of a bountiful offering
Tasty morsels from the deep
Soon to be thrown overboard.

American fishery biologist, Melanie Johnson, and Canadian fishery biologist, Chris Grandin, take biological samples.
American fishery biologist, Melanie Johnson, and Canadian fishery biologist, Chris Grandin, take biological samples.

Jennifer Fry, July 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 17, 2009

Hake are unloaded into holding containers, soon to be weighed and measured
Hake are unloaded into holding containers, soon to be weighed and measured

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 340°from the north- north west
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 15.2°C (dry bulb); 13.0°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

Each day I observe the NOAA scientists using the scientific process.  These are the same process skills we learn in the classroom. The scientists determine what they want to find out and state it in a question form. These are some of the questions/hypotheses that they are trying to answer.

  • What and where are the populations of hake?
  • In what environments do the hake best thrive?
  • When do they migrate?
  • What do they feed on?
  • What feeds on the hake?

Once the hake are observed on the sonar, the trawl net is dropped into the water.  The fish are hauled out onto the deck where they are emptied into huge holding bins.  Scientists want a good sampling of hake for the survey, not too much and not too little.  Getting a good sample is important to the scientists; both for their research and the environment.  The scientists don’t want to take too many hake each time they fish, doing this might diminish the hake population. 

Collecting Data: Observing – Using the senses to collect information.

Classifying – Sorting or ordering objects or ideas into groups or categories based on their properties.

Measuring – Determining dimensions (length/area), volume, mass/weight, or time of objects or events by using instruments that measure these properties.

Otoliths—fish ear bones—are extracted and placed in vials (test tubes) for later study.
Otoliths—fish ear bones—are extracted and placed in vials (test tubes) for later study.

The scientists then collect their data. Fish are separated by species or classified.  All hake collected are then weighed. A certain number of them are measured in length, and their sex is determined.  Scientists observe; dissect a group of hake, and collect the fish’s ear bones, called the otoliths, (2 white oval shapes pictured above). Otoliths are stored in small vials, which are like test tubes, for later study. The test tube has a serial number which is fed into a computer as well. Later, scientists will observe the otoliths under a microscope.  The otolith helps determine the age of the fish. When observed under a microscope, the otolith, or ear bone has rings similar to rings of a tree. The more rings, the older the fish.  The age of the fish or data is then recorded in a computer spreadsheet.

Communicating – Using pictorial, written, or oral language to describe an event, action, or object.

Making Models – Making a pictorial, written or physical representation to explain an idea, event, or object.

Recording Data Writing down the results of an observation of an object or event using pictures, words, or numbers.

As data is collected, it is recorded into a computer database, then scientists create tables and graphs from information in this database.

Inferring  – Making statements about an observation that provide a reasonable explanation.

Predicting – Guessing what the outcome of an event will be based on observations and, usually, prior knowledge of similar events.

Interpreting Data – Creating or using tables, graphs, or diagrams to organize and explain information.

The otoliths look like small oval “winglike” structures.
The otoliths look like small oval “winglike” structures.

Once all the data is in the computer, scientists can analyze or figure out the answers to these questions.

  • What and where are the populations of hake?
  • In what environments do the hake best thrive?
  • When do they migrate?
  • What do they feed on?
  • What feeds on the hake?

Scientists use the data to infer or make a statement about the data that gives a reasonable explanation.  Scientists also make predictions by guessing what the outcome might be based on the data/observations.

Marine Mammal Watch – NOAA Fisheries instructs the scientists to conduct a “marine mammal watch” prior to a fishing trawl. This is to protect the marine mammals, such as dolphins, whales, sea lions, and seals.  When the nets go into the ocean, the curious sea lions want to see what’s going on and play around the nets.  This can prove dangerous for the animals because if they get tangled in the net, they cannot come up for air, and being mammals, they need air.  As it happened, a half a dozen sea lions were spotted around our trawl net. To protect the inquisitive animals we found another spot in which to put our net.

California sea lion
California sea lion

Personal Log 

Everyone aboard the Miller Freeman is a team.  It’s an amazing working environment.  The ship runs like a well oiled machine.  The crew is always so helpful and are dedicated to their work.  The scientists are incredibly dedicated to their specific field and are committed to helping the world and the ocean’s biome. Everyone is so patient with all my questions.  I am so grateful and honored to be part of this hake survey which is so scientifically important in determining the health of our ocean.

Animals Seen Today 
California sea lions
Hake Myctophidae: lantern fish

Jennifer Fry, July 16, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 16, 2009

Here is Dr. Chu using a sonar readout to determine where the hake are located.
Here is Dr. Chu using a sonar readout to determine where the hake are located.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 20 knots
Wind direction: 358°from the north
Visibility: foggy
Temperature: 15.2°C (dry bulb); 13.4°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

We conducted several sea trawls for hake and other various fish species.   First, the scientists conduct an acoustic survey using 4 different frequencies. Then the nets are lowered and drug at depth. The fun begins when we don our rubber overalls, gloves, and galoshes and count, identify and, weigh the fish. The most numerous fish in the trawls were myctophids (see photo), bioluminescent fish with some species having 2 headlights in front of their eyes to help attract prey.

Here we are sorting the catch.
Here we are sorting the catch.

HAB/ Harmful Algal Blooms Test:  Throughout the day we took HAB samples, “harmful algae blooms”, which measures the toxins, domoic acid, and chlorophyll levels in the water (which correspond to the amount of plankton present). The HAB sample entails collecting sea water and putting it through a filtering process. Julia Clemons, a NOAA Oceanographer, and I conducted the HAB survey (pictured below).  Fifty milliliters of sea water is measured into a graduated cylinder then filtered.

This is a type of fish called a myctophid. They are bioluminescent.
This is a type of fish called a myctophid. They are bioluminescent.

Sea water is collected at specific times during each transect or line of study.  The sea water goes through a filtering process testing domoic acid and chlorophyll levels.  These results will be evaluated later in the lab. One thing that strikes me is the importance of careful and accurate measurement in the lab setting. The harmful algal bloom samples are conducted 5-6 times daily and accuracy is essential for precise and definitive results.  Later scientists will review and evaluate the data that was collected in the field.  It is very important that the scientists use the same measurements and tools so that each experiment is done the same way. Making accurate data collection makes for accurate scientific results.

Animals Seen Today 
Numerous albatross circling the stern of the ship, Viper fish, Octopi (approx. 6 inches in length), Squid (approx. 3 inches in length), and Myctophidae (see photo).

Zooplankton
Zooplankton
Here I am observing Julia as she filters a HAB sample.
Here I am observing Julia as she filters a HAB sample.

Jennifer Fry, July 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind Speed: 19 kts.
Wind direction: 355° north
Temperature: 15.4°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

This picture shows the Miller Freeman in Alaskan waters.  On our cruise, it’s working off the coast of California.
This picture shows the Miller Freeman in Alaskan waters. On our cruise, it’s working off the coast of California.

Our cruise was delayed for a day due to poor weather conditions and heavy seas. We began with a meeting of the scientific team which consists of 8 members all with their specific scientific knowledge and expertise. We will be conducting several types of oceanographic sampling during our cruise:  2-3 hake tows per day, weather permitting, an open net tow where fish are viewed through a camera, XBTs: Expendable Bathythermograph, HABS: Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling, and CTD: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density. The ship conducted Man Overboard and Fire drills.

The research vessel Miller Freeman set sail from Eureka, California on Wednesday, July 15th at approximately 12:30. Each person aboard is assigned a specific job and place to report on the Miller Freeman during such an event. Our assignments are posted on our stateroom door. During a Fire/Emergency Drill the signal is a 10 second blast of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle. I am to report or muster to the Chemical Lab.

In the event of an Abandon Ship Drill, I am assigned to life raft #2 and muster on the O-1 deck, port (left) side. The Abandon Ship signal is more than 6 short blasts followed by one long blast of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle. If a Man Overboard Drill is called, we will hear 3 prolonged blasts of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle.  The muster station is the Chemical Lab. If we personally see a person go overboard the ship there are three things to do immediately: Throw a life ring overboard, call the bridge, and keep your eyes on the person. 

These things all need to be done as simultaneously as possible to assure the safety and recovery of the person who is in the sea. It is important to conduct these emergency drills so that everyone is ready and prepared in the case of an emergency event.

Personal Log 

I am sharing a stateroom with Julia Clemons, an oceanographer on board the Miller Freeman. She works for NOAA Fisheries in Newport, Oregon.  Her educational background includes a Bachelors’ degree in Oceanography and a masters’ degree in Geology. The scientists and crew on board are so professional and willing to teach and tell about their job.  They are an amazing group of people.

New Term/Phrase/Word 
Domoic acid

Questions of the Day? 
What does a hake look like in person?

Animals Seen Today 
5 Egrets
1 great blue heron
Numerous gulls

Jennifer Fry, July 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 14, 2009

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

Weather Data from the Bridge 
No data (In port)

 Science Log 

After arriving at the Eureka airport I found my way to the Miller Freeman thanks to many friendly Eurekan locals. What a lovely town with many interesting sights including the dock area, downtown with its renewed turn of the century architecture.   Upon arriving at the Miller Freeman I was greeted by Ensign Heather Moe who graciously gave me a tour of the ship.

There were four decks or levels to the ship which include:

  • Flying Bridge Deck: observations take place as well as storage
  • Bridge Deck: Navigation can take place from the bridge or the trawl house.  The trawl house faces toward the stern of the ship and is used to control the ship during “fishing.”
  • Boat Deck: Officers’ & Chief Scientist’s staterooms.  A stateroom is where you would sleep on a boat or ship. Your bed is called a “rack.”  Most staterooms on the Miller Freeman have bunk beds. The boat deck is where the small launches/rescue boats are stored.
  • There is: a FRB, Fast Rescue Boat, and a small launch.
  • Quarterdeck/ Main Deck:  Ship’s store, survey officers’ staterooms and the back deck, used for fishing. *The term quarterdeck was originally, in the early 17th century, used for a smaller deck, covering about a quarter of the vessel. It is usually reserved for officers, guests, passengers. It is also an entry point for personnel. Lower/ Galley Deck: Crew’s and scientists’ staterooms, library, two lounges, galley, where everyone eats their meals.
  • Hold: Gym for exercising and engineer’s storage area.

Question of the Day 
Where did the word quarterdeck* originate? (see answer above)

Animals Seen Today
Egrets Blue Heron Gulls

Ginger Redlinger, July 26–27, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ginger Redlinger
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 26–27, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility:  10 Nautical Miles
Wind directions: 110°
Wind Speed: 10 Knots
Sea Wave Height:  0-1 feet
Seawater Temperature: 14.4° C
Sea level Pressure: 1012.9 millibars (mb)
Cloud cover: Cloudy
Temperature:  16.7° C, (62° F)

Mariner Word of the Day: Scuttlebutt. A scuttlebutt on an old sailing vessel was the barrel where drinking water was stored.  People would gather and talk casually, or gossip, as they drank water.  This led to the second definition of scuttlebutt, “a rumor.”

ENS Pereira, Divers-Physical Scientist Campbell and LT Yoos, Coxswain O’Connor review safety checks and dive plan.
ENS Pereira, Divers-Physical Scientist Campbell and LT Yoos, Coxswain O’Connor review safety checks and dive plan.

Science and Technology Log 

We moved the ship from Steamboat Harbor to Bocas de Finas near Bush Top Island because winds were picking up. The ship is safer when it is not anchored in a high wind area! Weather matters a great deal when you are working on the water.  Winds contribute to sea waves, swell heights, and can create less-than-ideal conditions for hydrographic surveying. Weather is taken into account in planning when, and where the ship will travel to work. It also determines what should be done first. Specifically, determining the day’s priorities can depend on what time the winds and seas are expected to change. While seaworthy vessels can work effectively in rough waters as is sometimes necessary, knowing when the water will be rough makes for better planning.  What I have come to appreciate on this ship is the accuracy of the weather predictions aboard the RAINIER. If the Orders of the Day (OOD) read that it is going to rain – it rains. If it tells me that there will be swells in the afternoon from 3 to 4 feet – there are!  Now I don’t know about you, but I have noticed when I am at home the only accurate weather forecast I get is when I look out the window.

Divers begin their descent.
Divers begin their descent.

What is it about the weather information that is used on board that makes it so reliable? First, there are many sources of information about the weather that are available, and second, they use them!  The Officers on board know a great deal about the earth, from surface to upper atmosphere, so they know what information is necessary for a good analysis. There are many resources available to the RAINIER that you can access too. For example, there are text-based discussions of the weather based on the use of different global models, there are local forecasts, there are infrared satellite maps updated every 30 minutes so you can see where clouds are forming and how they are moving, there are also satellites that collect data in order to show the visibility spectrum, or how much light is available –every 30 minutes.  (It tells you the amount of radiant-light energy entering the area.)  Another is QuickSCAT that creates a chart of the wind’s movement in an area (with lots of small arrows) so you can see exactly what directions it is moving (wind swirls and moves like water around rocks – it doesn’t just go in one direction all the time!).  Lastly, there are grids that tell you the extent of high and low pressure systems, how strong they are, and where they are likely to move.  Pressure systems impact the direction of the winds, and their strength.

Sporting Goods - Craig, Alaska
Sporting Goods – Craig, Alaska

With all of this information, you can take into account many variables that affect navigation: visibility, wind speed and direction, cloud cover, precipitation (which also impacts visibility), water movements, (direction and speed of waves, and swells).  I should also add a non-weather related variable that impacts planning – tides.  Considering all these variables together helps predict conditions in order to choose the best time of day to complete work, and move vessels through the water SAFELY!  As everyone starts their day they know what to expect so they are well prepared.

Website for weather information related to the RAINIER’s work (thanks to CO Noll):

And graphics:

Survey Tech Krynytsky and ENS Villard-Howe (Navigation Officer) gather and examine bottom samples.
Survey Tech Krynytsky and ENS Villard-Howe (Navigation Officer) gather and examine bottom samples.

Yesterday’s work

Tide Gauge check – Nossuk Bay. We traveled to Nossuk Bay to inspect a Tide Gauge, as it was not sending data correctly. Tide gauge inspections require SCUBA (Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.) The divers were going to 40 feet below the surface.  The pressure is greater underwater every 33 feet, so it is harder to move and to breathe.  A specialized crew is sent for this job since it requires specific training in order to execute perfect communication, keen observations, and precise movements of the boat.

After ensuring the underwater section was working properly attention shifted to the land-based components.  The crew, except the coxswain, went ashore to inspect the rest of the equipment.  Since we noticed fresh bear sign in the area, we talked loudly and kept our eyes open. After everything checked out ok we returned to the ship. I had fifteen minutes to eat lunch and return to the boat for sediment surveys and a run to Craig, AK to pick-up two officers joining the RAINIER for the trip back to Washington. One is a Junior Officer returning to the RAINIER for the trip back to Sand Point. The other is the new Commanding Officer, who will be replacing CO Noll.  CO Noll’s commission with the RAINIER ends with the completion of this journey.

Checking the transmission equipment to ensure it is working properly.
Checking the transmission equipment to ensure it is working properly.

We gathered samples from seven different locations where ships and boats anchor when they enter Boca de Finas. Knowing the bottom type can ensure safe anchorage. Not knowing what the bottom is made of when you drop anchor can be dangerous. Surveying the bottom consists of dropping a line with a scoop to the bottom, and examining the contents once the sample is back on board. The contents are compared to a descriptive chart to be sure the correct classification is selected.  This information will appear on NOAA charts to help navigators in this area.

Personal Log 

The crew jests that the official footwear of Alaskans is a boot called XTRA TUF. When in Craig, we stopped in at the local sporting goods store and I noticed how neatly arranged everything was – with one exception – the boots in the picture below. I asked the man behind the counter about this and he said, “The contents of those boxes will be gone in the next 48 hours – so we don’t bother to mess with them.  So I think the crew is correct. At about 10:00 last night, I asked ENS Villard-Howe some questions about ropes, navigation & direction vocabulary. We started to talk about all sorts of nautical topics. She went to her cabin and brought me three very important books – her top three if you want to know anything about maritime topics! The Eldridge Tide and Pilots Book (first written in 1854), American Merchant Seaman’s Manual, and The Ashley Book of Knots. (If anyone wants to get me books for my classroom – these are the three on my wish list!  Young potential mariners and marine scientists can learn a great deal from them! )

We talked for another forty-five minutes. As we started to yawn in between sentences we said “enough.” (It wasn’t the company or the topic we were exhausted.)  I have to admit, I felt like I was talking with someone who knows and loves the history, knowledge, and skills of her work. She has a true passion for maritime work and her work on the RAINIER.

For my students, I wish them the same level of passion for their endeavors and appreciation for the contributions and history in their yet-to-be chosen field. It is this kind of dedication that makes a great worker, teammate, and leader. There are many examples of this on board – I just happened to spend the later part of the evening exploring the depth of knowledge of one crewmember!

Personal milestone – Sea legs: I ate greasy-yummy pizza on the way back from Craig, AK (a small port town on Prince of Wales Island), while bouncing and rocking across 2-3 foot swells for an hour and it didn’t bother me one bit!  : )

Villard-Howe’s top three books.
Villard-Howe’s top three books.

Question of the Day 

Topic 1: What websites can you use to learn about tomorrow’s weather in your area? (Start from the ones that are listed above, and see if you can’t find the links from the SE Alaska sites to your local information.)  What information is used to forecast weather in your area?   Using the information on the website, try to forecast the weather tomorrow – (temperature, precipitation, general conditions.)  See what the “news forecasters” say. Check to see how you did. What would you do different the next time you try to forecast the weather?

Topic 2: How do satellites gather satellite information?  How many weather satellite systems are on the NOAA website?  Where is the closest NOAA weather station in your area?

Topic 3: What is a Merchant Marine? Where do Merchant Marines work?

Ginger Redlinger, July 23–25, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ginger Redlinger
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 23–25, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility:  10 Nautical Miles
Wind directions: 150°
Wind Speed: 10 Knots
Sea Wave Height:  none
Seawater Temperature: 14.4° C
Sea level Pressure: 1015.9 millibars (mb)
Temperature: 15.5° C

Mariner Word of the Day: Geodesy 

Geodesy is the science of measuring and monitoring the size and shape of the Earth and the location of points on its surface.

Survey Tech Boles holds a Navigational Chart developed by NOAA that also includes Hydrographic survey data
Survey Tech Boles holds a Navigational Chart developed by NOAA that also includes Hydrographic survey data

Science and Technology Log: Charts vs. Maps 

The RAINIER returned to the Gulf of Esquibel to gather a few more swaths of data to complete their survey of this area.  The ship is anchored in Steamboat Bay and several boats are out gathering data around the shoals in the area to identify navigational hazards. Tomorrow I will be on one of those boats – I can’t wait!

Since I am on the ship today, I can tackle a bigger question in my journal entry.  This question popped into my head (it didn’t hurt : ) when I was talking with the data processing crew. I want to know what the difference is between charts and maps? Based on the attention to detail that the RAINIER pays to the collection and quality of data to put into their charts I knew it had to be very different from maps!  I am figuring there is a clear distinction that is important for everyone to know since we all use maps at some point for driving, cycling, hiking, or boating. I will begin to tackle this question now, but a fuller, more rigorous explanation will evolve as I develop lessons to support this TAS assignment!  Let’s start with some basic information:

What is the difference between a chart and a map? 

Charts

  • Has special unique characteristics including a very detailed and accurate representation of the coastline, which takes into account varying tidal levels and water forms, critical to a navigator.
  • is a working document used to plot courses for navigators to follow in order to transit a certain area It takes into account special conditions required for one’s vessel, such as draft, bottom clearance, wrecks and obstructions which can be hazardous. Way points are identified to indicate relative position and points at which specific maneuver such as changing courses, must be performed.
  • provide detailed information on the area beneath the water surface, normally not visible to the naked eye, which can and is very critical for the safe and efficient navigation.

Maps

  • emphasize landforms, including the representation of relief, with shoreline represented as an approximate delineation usually at mean sea level.
  • is a static document, which serves as a reference guide. A map is not, and cannot be used to plot a course. Rather it provides a predetermined course, usually a road, path, etc., to be followed. Special consideration for the type of vehicle is rarely a consideration. Further, maps provide predetermined points-road intersections-to allow one a choice to change to another predetermined direction.
  • merely indicate a surface path providing no information of the condition of the road. For instance a map will not provide information on whether the road is under repair (except when it is a new road) or how many potholes or other obstructions it may contain. However the driver is able to make a visual assessment of such conditions.

Source of the above information? You guessed it – NOAA! Here is the website.

An example of one type of chart made from Hydrographic survey data
An example of one type of chart made from Hydrographic survey data

Charts and maps are clearly different.  Now lets look at the science behind creating charts. The science is called Hydrography.  (I found the next set of information on this site) Hydrography is “the science which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of bodies of water and their land areas.” (CDR Gerd Glang – Chief, Hydrographic Surveys Division)  To paraphrase: Special emphasis is placed on elements that affect safe navigation.  Side scan sonars are often deployed to detect submerged dangers to navigation. Hydrographic data are collected and processed with specialized computer systems that store data in digital form and generate graphic displays. Charts must include enough hydrographic detail in order to adequately depict the bottom topography and portray the least (lowest) depths over critical features. (Like rocks that your boat will hit if you don’t know they are there!) This paragraph describes exactly what we are doing here in Alaska! 

Navigational charts contain accurate and reliable information about features that assist ships in their travel. It can take up to two years to create a navigational chart! There are multiple sets of data that are used to ensure the charts are accurate.  Just think about the data I have discussed so far. There are ELAC sonar readings of the deep water. The RAINIER takes ELAC readings in the deeper waters off the coastline, and the smaller boats take ELAC readings of the deeper waters closer to shore where navigational hazards to the RAINIER are present.  This is also data the smaller boats using RESON sonar readings of shallower waters, the gathering of tide gauge readings, and the measurement of GPS benchmark levels.

While it is unusual for both the RAINIER and the smaller boats to be surveying at the same time, it helped complete this project in good time.  Usually, the six smaller research boats complete the survey work while the RAINIER serves as a command, logistics, and data processing center.  Layers upon layers of data from all the boats and ship go into making charts. Like I said before, it can take up to two years to complete a chart with all the new survey information. While charts are being developed, sometimes new information becomes available that is critical to navigators, like a new hazard. This information is communicated immediately and notices are sent out monthly so mariners can update their charts.  NOAA has set a goal to move from survey to chart in 90 days – based on the amount of time it takes to gather data safely, this will be challenging! But if newer technologies can provider quicker turn around time it will speed up the process.

I watched the careful and deliberate review of data gathered by multibeam sonar, and as with any technology, there are limitations.  Human oversight, review, and careful analysis of the data are important links between the gathering and use of the survey.

Survey Tech Krynytzky reviews ELAC data
Survey Tech Krynytzky reviews ELAC data

A note of interest pertaining to navigational charts

Did you know that Thomas Jefferson created the US Coast Guard & Geodetic Survey Office in 1807? (1807 – 2007… NOAA is celebrating its 200th anniversary!). The US Coast Guard & Survey Office was the first scientific agency of the United States government.  The Coast Survey Office and the USGS benchmarked, mapped, and charted the United States as it grew, and now there are multiple agencies providing data that describe a global model. This mathematical model is called Geodesy (Pronounced Ge-oh–des- see.) It has helped us understand the actual shape of the earth – it is not a perfectly round sphere, it is an oblate spheroid squashed down at the poles and bulging a bit at the equator!  The Geodesy group is developing and refining a mathematical model that starts from the center of the earth and works its way out in to solar system.  It takes into account the movement of the earth around the sun, and the sun within the spiral of the galaxy.  As the entire unit of our solar system moves, subtle changes to the tides occur. It seems that this occurs on a nineteen-year cycle.  Being able to track data over time at different locations – satellites, sonar readings, survey readings, etc. help us understand changes from the earth’s core, to the surface (tectonic plates, sea floor and land formations), and the oceans tides. It is quite amazing to think that a mathematical model can take all of that into account. Learn more here.

Think about how important it was to back in Thomas Jefferson’s day to understand navigation to and from the United States.  For example, how to travel in order to trade and discover where to develop ports, and where not to!  Think now about how important it is to understand how changes in earth impact human activity – trade, recreation, where to build homes away from storm zones, flooding, etc. What are safe numbers of fish to harvest so they can replenish?  With the melting of the polar caps, imagine how important knowing how the mean high and low tides will change.  The Tide Gauge survey that we completed in Dorothy Cove was last done in 1924!  The work of NOAA, its’ agencies and that of the RAINIER are very important.

In the week since I have boarded this ship, the RAINIER and it’s crew have surveyed 462 Nautical miles, checked tide gauge data, reviewed data from the surveys to ensure their quality, and planned the next stage of their journey. In 2006, 1,464 Square Nautical Miles (SNM) were surveyed. There are 21,660 SNM that are considered critically important and have yet to be surveyed. See the 2007 Hydrographic Survey Priorities Report for more information.

Personal Log: Food equals Happiness 

I have yet to talk about the food, and since my students love to eat I have to let them know how well fed I am on this ship! Imagine keeping sixty people of various taste-preferences happy. This is job of the cooks and stewards in charge of feeding and providing stores to the crew. I have never had such a variety of food before!  There are always two or three choices or combinations of foods for every meal in hopes of making everyone happy.  Fresh soups every night! There are fresh vegetables cooked just right – never over cooked! The salad bar and the ice cream freezer are always available (and a banana sundae with two or more ice cream types, chocolate sauce and chopped nuts is a great dessert. My favorite end of the day treat is “Foye Hot Coco” – a recipe he shared with me. If you meet him, be sure to ask him to teach you how to make it!)  Over the week I have had the choice of barbeque ribs, prime rib, beef tips, roast veal, chicken, different varieties of rice, different styles of potatoes, and a host of tasty vegetarian dishes (yams masala, gado gado, pesto wraps). (Did I mention the gravies – they are delicious!)  There are six different types of hot sauce and a host of condiments!  Fresh fruit is always available (pineapple, mango, melons, grapes, cherries, you name it!)  There are fresh made desserts every night and fresh-baked cookies during break times. All the water, coffee, juices, Nesquick, hot coco, tea, etc. that you could want.)  I haven’t even started to talk about breakfast and lunch –there are treats galore- at least six kinds of cereal- and I will be lucky to leave this ship at the same weight as when I climbed aboard. There are even special occasions – like when Raul caught a 50-pound halibut the other day and donated it to our dinner one night.  He made his own homemade batter and deep-fried pieces of halibut so we could have fish tacos!  They were awesome! (Guacamole and mango salsa on top!)  Floyd, Sergio, and Raul know how to keep us happy, healthy, and keep our bellies full!

The other really cool thing I have learned about here is satellite radio! I have got to get it installed in my boat, camper, truck, heck even the lawn tractor! The sound quality and choice of programming (without commercials) is incredible!  Speaking of music, there are two really cool bands I have learned about on this trip – Great Big Sea, and Flogging Molly (which my students who love My Chemical Romance will really enjoy!)

Question of the Day

Topic 1: Are there internship opportunities for students who are interested in exploring careers in navigation, charting, mapping, computer sciences, Officer Corp, etc? How many NOAA agencies are there?

Topic 2: What geometric theorem can you use to determine the length of an unknown side? Hint: Hypotenuse.

Topic 3: What other expeditions and scientific endeavors did Thomas Jefferson initiate? 

Ginger Redlinger, July 22, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ginger Redlinger
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 22, 2007

One of five Geodetic Survey Benchmarks at Dorothy Cove
One of five Geodetic Survey Benchmarks at Dorothy Cove

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility:  4 Nautical Miles
Wind directions: 190°
Wind Speed: 6 Knots
Sea Wave Height:  0 – 1
Seawater Temperature: 12.8° C
Sea-level Pressure: 1010.0 millibars (mb)
Cloud cover: Cloudy &
Rain Temperature: 13.9° C

Mariner Words of the Day: Port & Starboard 

Port and starboard are directional words indicating the sides of the ship.  As you are facing the bow (front) of the ship, port is on the left side, and starboard on the right side. How to remember? Port and left both have four letters.

Science and Technology Log 

Position A
Position A

Today was the day that we wrapped things up in this area by re-surveying a few sections to improve the quality of the initial set of readings, took horizontal measurements of the water-level (by hand) in order to improve the accuracy of area mean tide (high and low) data, and prepared the ship to move south. I have written earlier about the attention to detail, safety, and teamwork in the day-to-day operations, the gathering and processing of data, and daily production of results.  Today I am adding the noticeable value of the work done by NOAA vessels as noted by a gentleman and his family who came to watch our tide gauge survey crew work this morning. He said, “You people with NOAA do a great job, and the folks in Sitka use your information all the time.  We are thankful that you have provided us with the information we need so we can enjoy navigating the waters around here.” That was a good way to start the day. I highly recommend that you read TAS Beth Carter’s description of mechanics and tools involved in Tide Gauge Surveys.

Position B
Position B

While it sounds easy, it is actually very challenging to collect accurate measurements to the specifications required for this work, which are to the millimeter. Everything has to be level and measured at precise locations using benchmark geodetic locaters installed. Using the same locations (the geodetic benchmarks) each time you take measurements ensures consistent use and interpretation of horizontal measurements. The horizontal measurements between the benchmarks tell us whether or not the land height has changed. This is important information to give context to any changes the tide gauge measures.  If the mean tide level has changed, you need to know if the land level has changed too! Much of the data we gathered today is also connected to the GPS (Global Positioning System.)  I have an old farmhouse and level is not a word I can use to describe most of it.  Making a precise measure by establishing a level place on a slippery, rocky beach makes taking measurements in my house seem like a piece of cake! The survey scopes at the benchmarks are looking across about 50 feet of water to their left at the picture on the left (below) – which is the rod at another benchmark.  The next picture is the rod at the third position, which would be on the beach about 90 degrees, and 50 feet to the left of the survey scope (and the same, but the right, of the rod on the other side.  When the lines connect, we have a triangle!

Position C
Position C

If you would like to see how challenging this can be, here is a simulation that reverses the location of the surveying scope eyepiece (with the crosshairs) and the rod (with the height indicators), but it will definitely give you an appreciation for the challenge of accurate measurement over distance: Imagine yourself with a standard size metric ruler and a piece of paper with a crosshair pen line about 10 cm long each direction. About one centimeter from the top and the bottom of the vertical line draw another crossing horizontal line 2 cm long, about 1cm on each side. Tape the paper to the wall across the room and walk to the other side facing the paper you just taped to the wall. Now hold up your ruler an arm’s length away, vertically, with the 0 on the bottom so you are reading the measure up from the bottom of the lines.  Close one eye.  Try to identify exactly the millimeter at each horizontal line, for each of the horizontal lines.  Could you line it up exactly? Was your ruler and paper both “level” so you could? Hard to see?  Hard to measure? Now you see how challenging this can be! Imagine making an accurate measurement over a distance of 50 to 75 feet! It is also important to note that multiple measures must be taken that have to agree on the same result, with allowance for a tiny margin of error (again, a two millimeter margin of error is allowed – that is one millimeter error for the upper half of the cross hair and one for the lower half).

Here is another view of the survey scope lining up with the rod. If you look at the bottom of the rod you can see Geodetic Benchmark.
Here is another view of the survey scope lining up with the rod. If you look at the bottom of the rod you can see Geodetic Benchmark.

In the case of Dorothy Harbor, there are five Geodetic benchmark markers.  When the line of sight is either obstructed, or too great to make an accurate reading, then a “turn point” is established.  The turn point is set on a turtle (not a real turtle) which is a heavy disk that serves as set location upon which to balance the rod so measurements can be taken. Measurements must be taken from, and at, each location that needs the turn point to ensure that the data is correct.  Since this data is used to ensure the accuracy of tidal data in this area, and to supply information to the GPS – it must be done correctly. In the natural environment, this is quite challenging.  The measurements are recorded on a PDA and returned to the ship for processing.  Right triangle geometry, simple algebra, or trigonometry can be used to determine the accuracy of the measurements at each point.  If you have the markers at two line-of-site points (say to your right and your left) and are measuring the distance from where you are to each of the two points, you can figure out from your findings what the distance is between the two line-of-site points. By moving the rods to each of the five markers, you can verify that the measurements made from each location are accurate.  Taking and using multiple measures is common sense to those who do it all the time like the NOAA crew.  For many people, learning why is important.  Some people learn it through building things — like the common sense rule to measure more than once before you decide to cut lumber, or to measure from two directions before you square a corner – you have to be sure you are right before you move to the next step!

Once we were done with our measurements we ate lunch, then began to disassemble the Tide Gauge measurement assembly. The divers came in later to remove the equipment anchored underwater, and everyone returned to the ship to prepare for the evening’s departure.  The crew was exhausted as we had to climb, wade, carry, move, hold, disassemble, dive, and concentrate intently on our tasks.  Tonight we head south at 2100 towards Ketchikan and begin surveying a different area tomorrow.

After helping the crew complete today’s work, I realized how difficult it is to gather precise measures by hand in dynamic, ever-changing conditions.  (The wind picking up in the middle of a read — moving the 15’ high rods just enough to throw off the desired accuracy – so you have to start all over, the trees interfering with the line-of-site between the benchmarks and rods – people pushing back tree branches, trying to triangulate points on an unstable rocky beach, you get the idea…) Despite all these challenges, the crew gets the job done. This is what the navigating public (and commercial navigators), appreciate about NOAA’s work.  As I heard, straight from the pilot and family of the Sitka-based pleasure craft anchored in Toy Harbor.

I also appreciated the seafloor mapping tools provided by the technology on the ship. What if we had to take seafloor readings by hand! (And hope that we had found all the submerged rocks!) I think technology for surveying has made mapping the seafloor easier, at least at the measurement stage : )

Question of the Day 

Topic 1: How are navigational charts, topographical maps, and road maps alike?  How are they different?  (The answer to this question will be explored in the next journal).

Topic 2: Where can you find a geodetic benchmarks in your area? Outside of your area: What is special about the markers that are used in Disneyland (not created by the USGS)?

Topic 3: What are the tools and techniques of surveying?

Ginger Redlinger, July 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ginger Redlinger
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 18, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind directions: 325°
Wind Speed: 10 Knots
Sea Wave Height: 1 – 2 feet
Seawater Temperature: 13.9° C
Sea level Pressure: 1009.2 millibars (mb)
Cloud cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Today’s Mariner word: Fiddly (Pronounced Fid-lee) the fiddly is the room above the engine compartment.

Survey Techs Hertzog & Boles prepare to measure sound velocity with CTD.
Survey Techs Hertzog & Boles prepare to measure sound velocity with CTD.

Wow – what a day. At 0800 hours we were briefed on our day’s work plan.  I was joining an experienced pilot (Coxswain) and two survey technicians on a research boat to take sound velocity readings in an area off the coast of Baranof Island.  First, we had the launch the boats from the ship.  The experience boat crew and I watched as the ship’s deck hands lowered the boats from their racks by crane to the side of the ship at a level that allowed us to climb aboard. (A few feet above water level).  The deck hands held the boat in position from above by crane, and on the sides to keep it from rocking back and forth and bouncing against the ship. Additional hands held ropes attached to the hooks and cables that we were going to release fore and aft hooks once the boat was in the water. Of course, the boat pilot needed to get the engine running right when the boat hit the water to keep it in the correct position against the side of the ship.  Launching while underway is challenging, and must be done correctly in order to ensure everyone’s safety. The boat’s personnel released the hooks and the deck personnel winched the hooks back to the starting positions.  Deck hands on ship held the boat in position with ropes fore and aft.  Once everything on the boat was checked and running the aft line was called in, then the bowline, and we were underway.  This was another example of the amazing teamwork I have witnessed everyday on this ship.

When we arrived at our survey area the technicians used a CTD to take an initial reading of the speed of sound at the surface of the water, then lowered it again to take the same reading at a much lower depth. (If you remember the last journal entry, this is the same process used to correct for the speed on sound on the RAINIER.) The readings are entered into the boat’s computer prior to taking any readings. While we took readings along our survey lines I asked the survey crew a question, “what about large mammals, won’t they interfere with the sonar readings?  The answer was “yes, if a whale is below us it would appear as a shadow on the computer screen. Algal blooms and kelp beds can also affect the quality of the readings.”

Survey Tech Boles monitoring the data recorded by the ELAC transducer
Survey Tech Boles monitoring the data recorded by the ELAC transducer

We tracked back and forth across our survey area. The direction and length of each survey line was determined the day before, and provide to the boat’s survey technicians.  No whales, algal blooms, or kelp beds today. Part of NOAA’s mission is to provide useful information to commercial navigators, and that includes fishermen.  We were very careful to adjust our movement across survey lines to avoid interfering with the fishing vessels. During our time on the boat I asked the crew questions about their background, the Coxswain (person who pilots the boat and ensures our safety) has been at sea for over 30 years. He is amazing.  He taught me how to pilot the board correctly.  My first try was not very successful. The second time I was much better.  I guess you could say that he is a good teacher, and a good seaman.

The two survey technicians on board track and record data. They have different backgrounds, but bring important skills to the task of gathering and reading data. The first, a young woman, has a degree in geology and works as a cartographer for the United States Geologic Service.  She is working on this boat this summer. The other is a young man from Tennessee who received his certificate in Geographic Information Systems. I have to admit, without the man who piloted the boat and kept it on a narrow track of water fighting swells, currents, and avoiding fishing boats – the rest of us wouldn’t have been able to take readings. Everyone has something critically important to do.

Coxswain Foye keeping the boat on the correct lines to record data.
Coxswain Foye keeping the boat on the correct lines to
record data.

How did we get the data from the boat to the on-ship computers? The data is cabled in from the boat to the plotting room where all the cartography hardware and software is located. (One way is to plug in a cable and download!) The database contains recent and historical charts made of waters that NOAA surveys. The FOO (remember, Field Operations Officer) showed me a chart created in 1924 of the same area. The technology used back then was lead lines and sextants. They would start by moving to a location, and then drop a lead line until it hit the bottom, counting the fathoms from surface to seafloor.  After recording it, they pulled up the lead line, and then traveled along as straight a path as possible, recorded latitude and longitude, and took another reading.  I didn’t count all the readings taken in this fashion on the old map, but there were well over one hundred readings in the small section we were surveying, and the old map covered a region much greater – the entire coastline and out to sea in the area we are working.  The FOO then did an amazing thing by overlaying the new map readings over the old map – it was amazing how accurate the old map still is!

You can find out more about early navigation and see maps made a long time ago here.

Coast & Geodetic Survey

Soundings (depth readings)

For information about prior work done in this area visit the NOAA photo library.

The need for accurate navigation information is as important now as it was back then.  Personal and commercial craft need to know where it is safe and where it is dangerous.  The FOO and I talked about how nice it would be someday to have a holographic representation of an area you are navigating (whether it is sea, lake, or river) that would allow you to see the bottom of the sea, the coastline, and the cloud layers.  Maybe future mariners, oceanographers, and technicians can make that available for everyone.

Questions of the Day 

Topic 1: There are additional corrections that the survey team includes in the analysis of the tracking data. Besides velocity of sound readings, what other data about the water in an area would be important to take into account? Hint: The moon has something to do with it.

Topic 2: Where can you earn a certificate in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), or a degree is Geology or Oceanography in the Northwest?  Where else can you learn about GIS?  Where can you learn the skills you need to work with the engineering crew, deck crew, or the Officer Corp in NOAA?

Topic 3: Can you name the earliest cartographer of this area, and when he did his work? Who else has surveyed this area?

Ginger Redlinger, July 17, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ginger Redlinger
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 17, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Temp: 56 degrees
Wave height: Negligible
Cloud: Cloudy and Fog
Visibility: ••• mile or less

Mariner word of the day: Strait A strait is a body of water – straight straits are straight bodies of water, but there are no wiggly straits. (Commanding Officer Noll provided today’s definition.)

Science and Technology Log

I got up early (0600 hours) to be sure to watch the crew navigate the ship from Peril Strait through Neva Strait, and then Olga Strait.  Can you imagine navigating a 231 foot ship though a channel that is a slightly wider than the ship and its wake, with only 14 feet of water below the keel?  Did you see the visibility distance in the conditions report?  Imagine how difficult it would be to see another ship approaching!  Well, these people are professionals. The deck hands steered the ship and watched from the decks with binoculars to catch any movement or objects on the surface of the water. The officers monitored two radar screens and checked the bearings constantly as they approached navigation markers.  They checked their route on the gyroscope compass to be sure they were not drifting. They constantly communicated with each other in their own terminology so everyone knew exactly who was doing what and where the ship was at all times.  Needless to say, the margin of error for passing through VERY narrow straits is small. The crew made a difficult navigation task looks easy.  This crew, deck hands, engineering, electronics, stewards, survey crew, and officers are exemplary.  I wish I could describe how well they work as a team – and I will try to help my students understand how important it is to work as a team –everyone has an important job to do.

The massive ship being loaded with supplies
The massive ship being loaded with supplies

When the fog cleared a bit I was able to see a variety of jellyfish in the water off the side of the ship.  A junior officer told me that when we drop anchor I will see more jelly fish than I can imagine.  I just hope my supply of camera batteries holds out! We will be entering deeper water in a few hours were I will be able to test my sea legs. (Which means that I will find out whether or not I will be seasick, or if will I be ok.) When we enter the sea beyond the bays, harbors, and straits that are protected from the seas constant motion, the boat will begin to move up and down and side to side with the waves and swells. After reading about the experiences of other Teachers at Sea, I decided to go the safe route and begin taking seasickness medicine ahead of time.  Does that make me Pollo Del Mar? (Chicken of the Sea – just a little chiste (joke) there!)

If you want to follow our journey on a map start at Juneau, go south to Gastineau Channel then head through Stephen’s Passage, north to Peril Strait, then west through Neva and Olga Strait. Pass Stika then head towards Biorka Island.  From this area we will head to our hydrography starting location and work as we travel.

A multibeam sonar transducer is installed on the bottom of the hull that will send signals to the ocean bottom and receives the data when it bounces back.  How does it work? Commanding Officer Noll describes it best, “The multibeam sonar precisely measures the time and angle of transmission/reception of the sound signal. The ConductivityTemperature-Depth (CTD) casts help us determine the speed of sound, which more or less allows us to apply Snell’s Law layer-based corrections to the ray-tracing of the sound vector that results. The data is converted to a picture of the bottom of the ocean.” Here is a picture of the transducer on the hull of the ship.  It is on the bottom of the ship’s hull, between the two posts that are holding the ship off the ground.

You may be asking, “why take speed of sound readings in the water before you survey?” Well, the speed of sound changes with the depth of the water so readings that pass through different layers have different velocities.  Accounting for those changes by correcting the data creates more accurate charts and maps. For more information about Snell’s Law and the refraction of sound waves, visit here. The ship runs a 24-hour hydrography work schedule.  The boat and crew will continue to collect and process data all day and night. This means that everyone will be working hard the entire time. If you would like to see a short animation clip of this work – click on this link.

Questions of the Day 

How much faster does sound travel in the water than in the air? Why is the velocity of sound faster in deeper waters than at the surface?  When you are mapping a deep part of the ocean, what impact would the changing velocity of sound have on the time it takes to travel from the transducer to the bottom, and back to the top again?

 

Ginger Redlinger, July 16, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Ginger Redlinger
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 15 – August 1, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Baranof Island, Alaska
Date: July 16, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Speed: calm
Sea Wave Height: none
Cloud cover: Partly Cloudy

Science and Technology Log 

Today’s mariner word:  Athwart (pronounced a-thwart) Athwart is a directional word that means “across.”  The ship’s “hallway” is the known as the athwartship passageway! Two other directional words are important to know too, “fore” indicates forward, and “aft” indicates the rear part of the ship. Today was a training day. It was fun learning all sorts of new words (or learning about new contexts for the some of the words I already know.  There is something really fun about getting out our your world (most of mine spent on land) and voyaging into some one else’s. Moving just beyond your “comfort zone” makes you appreciate that no matter how much you know there is always something worth learning.

Ships are well-run organizations. There is a chain of command for communication purposes that ensures that even in the most difficult situations, someone knows what should be done, in what order, where it needs to happen, and when.  This is a good arrangement in case of an emergency, but also to help the ship run smoothly as it prepares to travel or when it is underway.

An example of this happened today when I heard the announcement “All hands on deck for stores.” Which means, “okay everyone, the food and supplies for our next voyage are here and we need to bring them onboard.”  They are brought from the dock to the ship’s deck, from the ship’s deck to elevator, and from the elevator to the correct storerooms a few levels below the main deck.  We made a “fire line” and worked together passing the boxes from one person to another.  Everyone helped-out and in a short period of time, an entire truckload of supplies to feed and maintain 60 people for a 16-day voyage were stored. (Many hands make light work.  Many well-organized and hard-working hands make it VERY light work.)

I learned about the hand’s (people who work on the ship) schedules and assignments in order to learn when and where I can expect to see people, and what they will most likely be doing. I studied the ship’s diagrams and found the library on my own!  I don’t think I will need to leave breadcrumbs anymore to find my way around.  I leaned about Emergency Escape Breathing Devices; what they are, how they work, and how to use them. There are, in short, carbon dioxide scrubbers!  I also learned about the RAINIER’s procedures, by reading a binder labeled “Standing Orders,” which provided good background on how everyone on board is expected to work, what to do in case of an emergency, and what emergency communication sounds like.

The CO (Commanding Officer) spent time explaining how to get additional information for my logs.  The FOO (yes, sounds as it is spelled) Field Operations Officer was very helpful in providing me information about how work is planned, how to get additional graphics resources for my lessons, and what to learn about so I would have a great cruise.  He also asked me what I wanted to get from my experience.  XO (Executive Officer) made sure I had provided them with the information they needed for emergency contacts.  The Junior officers are also very professional, helpful and informative.  Chief Electronic – passwords and email account, and then there are two hands that helped train me on how and when to use my safety equipment and wear my survival suit.

We were underway by 1800 hours (6pm), and watching the crew get the ship underway was organized and efficient. Try to imagine what it would be like to coordinate, simultaneously, 60 crew members that each have a task, switching power supplies, testing systems, starting engines, testing the bow thruster, lowing a skiff for off-boat rope management, managing the ropes from the dock to the boat, raising the skiff back onto the ship while underway using a crane, while lowering the ropes and stowing them properly below deck. Meanwhile the officers are navigating busy ship channels (4 cruise ships in the bay, a gill net fishing boat, and ferries.).  Did I mention that dinner needed to be served to the entire crew during 1700 hours?  This team of people is amazing.

I could picture many of my students having a great time as a crewmember on this research vessel. I hope that I can bring back enough information to help my students see themselves as researchers, mariners, merchant marines, or join the NOAA Officers corp.

Question of the Day 

What is the distance in nautical miles (nm) between Juneau and the entrance to Peril Strait?  If we travel at 10 knots, how long will it take us to get there?

Rebecca Himschoot, July 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: July 8, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 346° (NNW)
Wind speed:  light
Sea wave height: less than 1foot
Swell wave height: less than 1 foot
Seawater temperature: 8.8°C
Sea level pressure: 1019.4 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus

NOAA ship OSCAR DYSON
NOAA ship OSCAR DYSON

Science and Technology Log: Who was Oscar Dyson? 

The 206-foot OSCAR DYSON is one of the newest ships in NOAA’s fleet, and was commissioned in 2005.  The OSCAR DYSON is home ported in Kodiak, Alaska, and sails primarily in the Gulf of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, and the Bering Sea, researching fish stocks, marine mammals, and seabirds, observing weather, sea and environmental conditions, and conducting habitat assessments.

The ship is a stern trawler, and is outfitted with two trawl nets, among others, to support the annual fish surveys and biological assessments that are conducted in support of commercial fisheries, primarily pollock.  The OSCAR DYSON is outfitted with a Scientific Sonar System, which can accurately measure the biomass of fish in the survey area. Trawling is used to collect specific biological data, such as length, weight, and gender of the sample.  Weather, sea and environmental data are also collected continuously using hundreds of sensors on board, such as the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), which measures ocean currents. The OSCAR DYSON can also assist in maintaining and deploying stationary buoys to collect similar information for a specific area at depth over time.  

In support of the science mission of the OSCAR DYSON, the ship has been built to minimize sound.  By decreasing the hull noise, scientists are better able to observe fish without disturbing their natural behavior.  Another special feature of the OSCAR DYSON is a retractable centerboard that carries many of the sensors used in scientific studies. By lowering the sensors over 10 feet below the hull, the acoustic data collected by the scientists is less affected by the ship’s noise.  When retracted, the scientists and crew aboard the OSCAR DYSON are able to access the sensors for maintenance and replacement as needed.

Oscar Dyson
Oscar Dyson

The ship’s namesake, Oscar Dyson, was an innovative leader in fisheries in Kodiak. He came to Alaska in 1940, where he worked for the Army Corps of Engineers to build infrastructure in Southwest Alaska.  Immediately after the war he began fishing out of Kodiak. He fished crab and shrimp, and was a leader in the development of the pollock fishery. Dyson also was a founding partner in All Alaskan Seafoods, the first company controlled by fishermen who owned both the vessels and the processing plants. Oscar Dyson served on the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council for nine years, and fished until his untimely death in 1995. In an interview with the Kodiak Daily Mirror in 1981, Dyson commented, “You’ve got to love the water first, or you’ll never make it.”

Personal Log 

My leg of the summer Pollock survey is drawing to a close, and we have ended with some different kinds of trawls.  We’ve collected jellyfish and plankton, and we’re still hoping to trawl using a special net that opens and closes, enabling the scientists to target multiple sets of fish at multiple depths in one cast.  We’re ending with much improved weather, which has been a welcome change for everyone.

The crew of the OSCAR DYSON has made this experience particularly memorable, with scientists explaining their work in detail and crewmembers sharing their knowledge willingly. I’ve toured the engine room, spent time on the bridge, eaten once-in-a-lifetime meals, talked commercial fishing with the deckhands and even learned to tie some knots and splice lines with their help. It has been an amazing learning experience!

Rebecca Himschoot, July 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: July 4, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: less than 1 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: variable
Wind speed:  light
Sea wave height: 4 feet
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Seawater temperature: 7.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1020.4 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus

US Fish and Wildlife Service seabird observer, Tamara Mills
US Fish and Wildlife Service seabird observer, Tamara Mills

Science and Technology Log: Special Studies 

Bird observer Tamara Mills has to keep track of many things.  From her post on the bridge of the OSCAR DYSON, Tamara locates and identifies multiple species of seabirds around the ship, and then records the information to be entered in the North Pacific Pelagic Seabird Database (NPPSD). She identifies and counts the many fulmars, murres, kittiwakes and other seabirds that are within 300 meters of the ship, often using binoculars to help correctly identify each bird before she records it. As the data are entered into the database, the computer automatically records the GPS location of the ship.

Tamara is a biologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, but she’s sailing on the NOAA research vessel OSCAR DYSON in order to add data to the NPPSD.  Seabird observations are frequently done in the nesting colonies, but the colonies are where the birds spend the least of their time.  In fact, roughly half of all seabirds may not be nesting in a given year, so that they would never be seen or counted in a land-based survey.  USFWS has therefore collaborated with other agencies to place observers, like Tamara, on “vessels of opportunity,” or research vessels where seabirds can be monitored and counted. USFWS seabird observers can be found on Coast Guard vessels, on NOAA ships, and on the Fish and Wildlife Service’s own research vessel. 

A northern fulmar photographed by Tamara on board the OSCAR DYSON
A northern fulmar photographed by Tamara on board the OSCAR DYSON

Along with counting seabirds, Tamara is also logging marine mammal sightings.  In 2006 USFWS seabird observers spent 168 days at sea and completed 14, 263 km of survey transects in the Bering Sea, some areas of the Gulf of Alaska, and the Aleutian Islands. In all this work they spotted 69 species of seabirds and 16 species of marine mammals.  Until this recent work, no information had been added to the NPPSD since the 1970’s and 1980’s.

“We want to get an up-to-date picture of what’s really out there,” Tamara said. “These data could be useful in studying climate change or in the event of an oil spill. It may also be possible to link what we’re finding in the bird surveys to the acoustic fish information that’s being collected, and we might then be able to correlate the types of birds we see and their densities when certain kinds of fish are present.”

Personal Log 

The Bering Sea was calm today!! We actually had some sun and were able to trawl and process without hanging on to railings and tables and such.  Tomorrow we should head for our final transect, and we have nearly collected the minimum number of otoliths we set out to, so the cruise is beginning to wind down.  We have plans for an Independence Day barbecue if the weather cooperates later in the day.

Question of the Day

Answer to yesterday’s question (What is conductivity?): Conductivity is the measure of the ability of a solution to carry an electrical current, and is used to measure salinity. 

Rebecca Himschoot, July 2, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: July 2, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 4 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 185° (SSW)
Wind speed: 6 knots
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2 feet
Seawater temperature: 6.2°C
Sea level pressure: 1007.0 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus

Senior Survey Technician Colleen Peters and crewmember Dennis Boggs recover the CTD equipment.
Senior Survey Technician Colleen Peters and crewmember Dennis Boggs recover the CTD equipment.

Science and Technology Log: What Does the Survey Technician Do? 

Among the crew of each NOAA research vessel are typically one or more survey technicians. On each cruise a team of scientists come on board to do research; the survey technicians are the onboard scientists who provide continuity in data collection during all operations, as well as maintaining a number of onboard laboratories. The survey technicians are responsible to ensure all the scientific equipment is running and is accurate, as well as assisting the science team with their research. One task that falls to the survey technician is to collect data as needed using the Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) sensor.  The CTD equipment is mounted on a frame called the “rosette,” and is deployed over the side of the ship at the request of the science team.  The survey technician coordinates between the science team, the bridge and the deck crew to successfully complete these casts.

The science team can indicate the position at which the data are to be collected, and the officer on the bridge holds the ship in position and on station.  The deck crew then assists the survey tech in lowering the delicate rosette into the water.  Once the pumps are running, the rosette is lowered to the required depth.  Information from the sensors is relayed back to the ship through the cable, and if needed a water sample can be collected from any point in the water column.  After the CTD is brought back on board, the survey tech processes the data and relays it to the science team.

Senior Survey Technician Colleen processing CTD data
Senior Survey Technician Colleen processing CTD data

On the OSCAR DYSON, Sr. Survey Technician Colleen Peters must also maintain several labs: the dry lab, chemistry lab, hydrographic lab (nicknamed “the garage” by the crew), and the fish processing, or wet, lab. The Survey Techs also participate in shooting and hauling the trawl nets by setting up and retrieving sensors on the nets. When the catch is brought on board, they work alongside the scientists to process the sample.  There are several other systems to be maintained such as the Scientific Computer System (SCS), which continuously collects data from hundreds of sensors mounted all around the ship, the scientific seawater system, which measures sea surface temperature and salinity, and the Continuous Underwater Fish Egg Sampler (CUFES), whish filters the surface water for plankton and fish eggs for analysis. Colleen is a graduate of Maine Maritime Academy, where she obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Science.  “I chose marine science because I knew I wanted to be at sea and I like doing science in the field,” she commented.

Personal Log 

The late shift has become easier, though I still struggle between 1-4:00 a.m. if we’re not processing fish. We passed very near St. Matthew Island yesterday, but the infernal fog prevented us seeing it or many of the seabirds that are surely nesting there.  Each time we reach the northern end of a transect the water temperatures are too cold for pollock, and our sampling slows down considerably.  We have done some jellyfish and euphausid samples, and we’re back in an area with plenty of fish, so plenty of sampling, too!

Question of the Day 

The answer to yesterday’s question (What is an “otolith” and why is it important?): In fish, the otolith is a calcareous “bone” that plays a role in hearing and balance; it is often referred to as a fish’s “ear bone.” Otoliths are used by scientists studying many types of fish to learn the age of the fish. As the fish grows, two rings are visible in the otolith: one for winter, and one for summer.  The two rings together can be counted as a year in the life of the fish, and thus scientists are able to find the age of most fish by harvesting the otolith, cutting it in half, and counting the rings. 

Today’s question 

What is conductivity?

Rebecca Himschoot, June 29, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: June 29, 2007

Pollock from a trawl sample
Pollock from a trawl sample

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 307° (NW)
Wind speed: 23 knots
Sea wave height: 5 foot
Swell wave height: 1 feet
Seawater temperature: 5.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1014.7 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus

Science and Technology Log: Survey Techniques and Data 

When the science team on the summer pollock survey “see” enough fish to warrant trawling, a net is cast and a sample is collected.  The deck crew on the OSCAR DYSON fish the same way commercial fishermen do, just in smaller quantities. The net is placed in the water, and the front end is attached to a “door” on the port and starboard sides. These doors are released into the water and help to open the net. The net is lowered to the depth where the scientists are “seeing” the most fish.  After the net has been dragged long enough it is brought back on board and the sample is processed.  Once the net is on board, the fish are placed in a bin.

The fishing and deck crew of the OSCAR DYSON release the net for a trawl sample.
The fishing and deck crew of the OSCAR DYSON release the net for a trawl sample.

The bin can be slowly emptied onto a conveyor belt, where the science team culls out the bycatch and sorts it by species. Each species is documented and weighed, then returned to the sea. Some of these bycatch fish will survive, most will not due to the trauma of the net and being moved so quickly from depth to the surface.  Some common bycatch in the summer pollock survey are various flatfish, starfish, come cod and some crabs. The pollock are then also weighed and sorted by gender. Data are collected on gender and length for a large sample, and on a smaller sample more detailed information is collected, such as age. To weigh the fish, a large scale is used for the tubs of pollock, and a net weight can be obtained from the fishing crew.  Individual fish are weighed on smaller scales.  To know the gender of the fish, a slit is cut in the gut in order to see the gonads.  For scientists to know the age of the fish, otolith, or ear bone, samples are taken for later analysis. Each bit of data is collected in the processing area using watertight touch screen computer equipment and scales.  Rather than hand writing each fish weight, length and gender, the scientists use a barcode scanner to read each of these data points.

Scientist Sarah Stienessen weighs a sample.
Scientist Sarah Stienessen weighs a sample.

Personal Log 

We have settled into a routine, and the night shift is getting easier. The trawl samples are still unpredictable, but we’re doing more of them. Yesterday was a long shift in the lab, but it’s more interesting to see what we catch than to sit around waiting to fish.  There were some storm petrels today, as well, to add to my Bering Sea bird list.  The seas are getting calmer again, and I’m hoping for a good night’s sleep tonight!

Question of the Day 

Answer to the last question:  (Scientists use Latin names for each animal or plant they find even though Latin is no longer a living language.  How do scientific (Latin) names get selected and why are they important?)

The scientific name for each organism is derived from two Latin names.  The first name is the genus the organism belongs to, and the second is its species; these are the narrowest branches of scientific classification (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species). In the case of the walleye pollock, it belongs to the genus Theragra, and within that genus it is the chalcogramma species. There could be many other fishes in the Theragra genus, but only one is the species chalcogramma.

Senior Survey Technician Colleen Peters measures a sample.
Senior Survey Technician Colleen Peters measures a sample.

A scientific name can be descriptive, or it may indicate a geographical location, or it may even be named for the individual who discovered the species.  In the case of the walleye pollock, Theragra is from the Greek roots ther (beast) and agra (food – of fur seals) and chalcos (brass) and gramma (mark).  The first word in the Latin name is capitalized, the second begins with lower case, and the whole thing is always written in italics.

The scientific name of an organism is important because it is distinctive, so that each organism has only one name (usually).  This way a scientist from Russia can communicate clearly with a scientist from Alaska and know that they are speaking about the same organism.  Common names can be confusing, and there can be many different names for the same organism (for example, there are many kinds of “salmon,” but only the Oncorhynchus tshawytscha is the king, or chinook salmon).  It is important to be aware that scientific names undergo changes as discoveries are made and classifications are refined.

Today’s question: What is an “otolith” and why is it important?

Rebecca Himschoot, June 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: June 26, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: .5 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 80° (ENE)
Wind speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 1 feet
Seawater temperature: 4.4°C
Sea level pressure: 1018.8 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: stratus

Deck crew of the OSCAR DYSON retrieving sensors from a buoy.
Deck crew of the OSCAR DYSON retrieving sensors from a buoy.

Science and Technology Log: Data buoy retrieval and replacement 

Luckily we had calm weather today to retrieve two data buoys that were deployed in 2006, and replace them.  These buoys contained an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, a marine mammal voice recorder, and sensors for other data such as water temperature, nitrates, and salinity.  Because the sensors are on a stationary buoy, the information is collected at depth (much of this same information is collected on board the OSCAR DYSON continuously, but at the surface), and over a long period of time.

Life Cycle of the Walleye Pollock  
(Interview with Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko, scientist from TINRO)

Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko is assisting in the summer pollock survey from his home institution, the Pacific Research Fisheries Center (TINRO), which is located in Vladivostok, Russia. Dr. Stepanenko graduated with a degree in fish biology in 1968, the year before an agreement was signed for scientists in the Soviet Union and the United States to cooperate to help manage international fisheries.  Dr. Stepanenko took some time to share what he knows about the life history of the walleye pollock. According to Dr. Stepanenko, walleye pollock are found throughout the Bering Sea, and south into the Gulf of Alaska. Their range extends as far west as Russian and Japanese waters, and east to the Eastern Aleutians.  These fish can live up to 25 years, however the average age of a walleye pollock is 10-12 years. Pollock are related to the cod family.

Scientist Bill Floering with some of the new sensors deployed today from the OSCAR DYSON.
Scientist Bill Floering with some of the new sensors deployed today

Pollock begin spawning around age 4, although the most productive spawning years for both males and females is between 5-8 years of age.  Dr. Stepanenko has observed pollock spawning in an aquarium setting.  The male will swim next to a female to show his interest.  If she is also interested in that male, the female will swim next to him with sudden, short bursts of speed for several hours before they spawn. If she is not interested, she will continue to swim normally until the male gets the message.

Mature pollock spawn annually in nearshore areas, mostly in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska (98% of pollock spawn in US coastal waters). Although the females will spawn only once annually and then move to the edge of the spawning area to feed, the males will spawn 4-5 times during the annual spawning season.

The eggs will hatch about 25 days later, or longer if the water temperatures are colder.  The annual survival rate of the eggs and larvae is highly dependent on the sea conditions and salinity.  At the correct salinity, the eggs sink and then are suspended at a certain depth due to a thermocline at that depth.  Poor sea conditions or a dramatic shift in salinity can result in higher mortality for the eggs or the larvae. They must also survive predators such as jellyfish and other small fish.

Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko processes walleyed Pollock
Dr. Mikhail Stepanenko processes walleye Pollock

Directly after hatching the pollock larvae have enough yolk reserve to survive a few days, but they must find food within the first three days of hatching if they are to survive. The larvae are approximately 3.5 mm long when they hatch, and with enough food will grow several centimeters in the first year of life. Only two of the 30-40 types of plankton in the Bering Sea are small enough to serve as prey for these tiny fish.  Harsh sea conditions, salinity changes, and scarce food resources in the first year contribute to a survival rate of only about .1% of pollock eggs. Adult pollock eat euphausids, as well as smaller fish such as capelin or smelt.  In times of scarcity, pollock are given to cannibalism.

The international pollock fishery targets four-year-old fish, and the total Bering Sea harvest of pollock is around two million metric tons annually.  Pollock is used in frozen seafood products, such as fish sticks, and as a central ingredient in surimi.

Personal Log 

We have been in an area where there are very few fish, so much of my time has been spent learning about pollock and the work that is done here on board.  The sea has been pretty rough at times, and I have continued to take some seasickness medication. We’re getting back into places with fish, so soon we’ll be collecting more data.

Question of the Day 

Answer to the last question about the controlled variables in the summer pollock survey: (The scientific method includes controlling the variables in an experiment.  What are some examples of variables the science team from the AFSC is controlling in the summer pollock survey?)

One example is the calibration of the acoustic equipment at the beginning of each leg of the survey. Another example is that the OSCAR DYSON cruises the same area of the Bering Sea during each summer pollock survey on transects of the same basic lengths and directions. The survey is conducted at the same time every year, as well.

Today’s question: Scientists use Latin names for each animal or plant they find, even though Latin is no longer a living language. How do scientific (Latin) names get selected and why are they important?

Walleye pollock
Walleye pollock

Rebecca Himschoot, June 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: June 24, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: less than .5 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 260° (SW)
Wind speed: 18 knots
Sea wave height: 4-6 foot
Swell wave height: 0 feet
Seawater temperature: 2.9°C
Sea level pressure: 1006.0 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: fog

Science and Technology Log: What Is the Summer Pollock Survey? 

The Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) is one of six regional centers charged with monitoring commercial fish stocks in the United States.  The AFSC is located in Seattle, Washington, however the data the scientists from the Center collect is gathered from coastal areas across the state of Alaska. For over 20 years the AFSC has been surveying Pollock stocks in the Bering Sea of northwestern Alaska in the summer months.  More recently they have also been surveying stocks in the Gulf of Alaska during the same season.  During the Pollock spawning months of February-March surveys are also conducted in known spawning areas. The AFSC scientists’ data are one part of the fishery management triangle: The summer Pollock survey on the OSCAR DYSON will take place in three sessions of three weeks each.  The first day of each leg is spent calibrating the acoustic equipment to make sure it is accurate for the rest of the research in the next three weeks.  Once the OSCAR DYSON reaches the Bering Sea, the navigation team locates the transects that have been surveyed in years past. The science team begins collecting acoustic data, and fishing intermittently to collect more data about the fish, such as exact lengths, gender and age information.

Screen shot 2013-06-01 at 5.58.08 PM

The acoustic data are collected every second.  Sound waves are emitted from a transducer affixed to the hull of the ship; when these sound waves strike a surface, they return to the transducer. By calculating the time the sound waves traveled it is possible to “see” where the objects are the sound waves bounced off of.  The bottom of the ocean shows up as a very strong, solid line, whereas fish in groups show up as “clusters” in the water column (the sound waves bounce off the air-filled swim bladders of the fish).  By using different frequencies, the scientists are able to determine if the clusters are larger or smaller fish, including plankton-sized euphausids (i.e., krill).  This amazing system for “seeing” fish using sound waves is modeled on the feeding strategies of some of the oldest and best-adapted fishers, the toothed cetaceans such as dolphins and sperm whales.

Acoustic data for seafloor mapping
Acoustic data for seafloor mapping

Personal Log 

Luckily the crew of the OSCAR DYSON were able to give me some very good advice about seasickness medication.  We entered some moderate seas our first day out, but I’m slowly getting my sea legs.  The Bering Sea is a very shallow body of water, less than a hundred meters deep in many places, so that it has a great deal of wave action in any kind of windy weather.  Today we passed the Pribilof Islands, but it was too foggy to see them.

Question of the Day 

Answer to Day 1 question about solstice: The word “solstice” comes from the Latin words “sol,” which means sun, and “sistere,” which means to rest or relax.  The solstice occurs twice each year, when the Sun is at its northern- or southernmost point from the equator. The solstice is the turning point at which we experience either increasing or decreasing increments of daylight (paraphrased from the Encyclopedia Britannica online).

Today’s Question:  The scientific method includes controlling the variables in an experiment.  What are some examples of variables the science team from the AFSC is controlling in the summer Pollock survey?

Rebecca Himschoot, June 21, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Rebecca Himschoot
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
June 21 – July 10, 2007

Mission: Summer Pollock Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific Ocean, Unalaska
Date: June 21, 2007

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 195° (SW)
Wind speed: 11 knots
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 0 feet
Seawater temperature: 8.1°C
Sea level pressure: 1025.0 mb (millibars)
Cloud cover: high overcast with breaks

Dutch Harbor/Unalaska is located on an island in the Aleutian Islands of western Alaska.  It is a major fishing port, and its human history stretches back more than 9,000 years.
Dutch Harbor/Unalaska is located on an island in the Aleutian Islands of western Alaska. It is a major fishing port, and its human history stretches back more than 9,000 years.

Science and Technology Log 

After leaving the dock the OSCAR DYSON is now anchored in calm waters where the science team is working to calibrate the acoustic equipment.  At the beginning of each leg of the survey, this equipment is checked to ensure accuracy in the data collected at sea. After completing this task the ship will make way for the Bering Sea. Dutch Harbor/Unalaska is gearing up for the height of the summer fishing season, when the year-round population (4500) of this remote community can more than double with the arrival of fisherpeople and processors. The winter fishing season is said to be just as busy, and is becoming well-known for the television show “Deadliest Catch.” The departing science crew tell me summer in the Bering Sea is nothing like what they show on TV, and my fingers are crossed they are correct about this.  Just in case, I’m prepared with anti-seasickness medication. 

Although the OSCAR DYSON is home ported in Kodiak, the summer Pollock survey takes place out of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska.  Unalaska is the name of the community, and Dutch Harbor is the industrial section of the town, which includes the airport.  Unalaska’s prehistory dates to at least 9,000 years ago, and the Unangan (formerly called “Aleut”) people are known as seafarers. Today the processors employ workers from all over the globe, including Asia, North and South America, and Africa.  Who would have guessed tiny, remote Dutch Harbor/Unalaska would be such a melting pot? A brief tour of the OSCAR DYSON has revealed a spacious bridge area with all the modern navigational equipment, several labs that include a chemistry lab, a wet lab, and an acoustics lab, and my favorite spot so far, the galley.  The cabins are comfortable, with two bunks and a bathroom in each room.

Personal Log 

Before leaving the dock this morning I enjoyed a hike up a local hillside with views of Unalaska and numerous wildflowers.  The crew and science team have been very patiently explaining my duties and telling me about what they do.  I am eager to begin fishing tomorrow, although I will be on the “night shift,” which runs 1600 (4 p.m.) until 0400 (4 a.m.).  I’ll be helping out a little with identifying birds during the fishing segments of the trip, and am looking forward to spending more time with the US Fish and Wildlife Service bird observers who are on board with us.

Question of the Day 

Today is the summer solstice. What does “solstice” mean, and what is special about today?

James Miller, August 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 25, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Woke up last night at 2:00am during transit to Seward to catch some of the Northern Lights show.  For a short while they jumped around the sky in the distance but never came directly above like they often do.  If it is clear enough, I’ll try again tonight in Seward.

After racing out to the public phone to make my first call home in two weeks, I spent the day touring Seward. It’s a beautiful fishing town with great views of the glaciers and lots of tourists.  It is much like Homer but better in that the town is in walking distance of the ship.

I went to the Sea Life Center, which has great exhibits of Alaska’s wildlife.  They have huge tanks with birds, sea lions, and harbor seals.  They also had a live video feed of the sea lion rookery about 35 miles outside of Seward.  There were three or four cameras set high up on the rocks overlooking the seals and the adjoining harbor.  While I was there, a pod of transient killer whales entered the harbor at the sea lion rookery.  They would zoom-in on the whales, and you could see them clearly through the video feed hunting and waiting for an unfortunate pup to fall off one of the rocks.  It was an amazing sight and apparently uncommon because many of the center’s employees came to watch. In the half hour I watched, the whales just swam by closely with their heads out of the water, but they didn’t get any meals.

Met with surveyor, Dave Sinson, to get some training on a 3-D surveying software program that he’ll be burning onto a disk for me to show my students.  The software is actually downloadable for free off the internet and comes with sample data.  It will be tremendously useful in demonstrating, visually, the crucial mission of the RAINIER.

Going to hike up Mt. Marathon tomorrow, which leads up to a glacial dome.  On Saturday I’m going with some crewmembers to hike the famous Exit Glacier.  Should be fun! From there it is home to N.Y.

Personal Log 

Being this is my last log, I just want to direct my final personal comments to any potential Teacher-at-Sea candidates.  I have learned much over the last two weeks from this experience.  There are so many real world lessons to be learned working on a NOAA ship such as the RAINIER.  At first I was a bit reluctant about the parallels that could be drawn between the work onboard and my math classes, but it didn’t take long before I saw the endless number of connections that can be integrated into K-12 classrooms.

The crew of the RAINIER is very professional, patient, and friendly.  As I mentioned in an earlier log, I was amazed at the depth and breadth of their knowledge.  I am the fifth TAS member aboard the RAINIER this year.  You would think the crew would get tired of having to train another TAS member only to have them leave in a couple of weeks. At sea they are teachers, and I was grateful by how they would go above and beyond in terms of training me.

With regard to life aboard the ship, you adapt to it quickly.  There’s really something to the whole “getting your sea legs” thing.  Your body does seem to adjust to the constantly moving world of a ship.  Even the other visitor aboard, who had a difficult time with motion sickness early on, did fine after a few days.

I’m thankful for having been afforded this tremendous opportunity.  I’ve grown personally and professionally, and I’m sure my students, in turn, will benefit from it.

TAS Miller out.

James Miller, August 24, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 24, 2005

Location: Kodiak Island Coast Guard Station
Weather: Sun and clouds, 60’s
Wind: variable
Seas: calm
Itinerary: Refuel and depart for Seward

Science and Technology Log 

We arrived into the Kodiak Island Coast Guard Station around 8am for refueling.  The seas were calm and the views were great.  The island is much bigger and mountainous than I anticipated, and most of it is uninhabited. The Coast Guard base is immense, and as I understand it, the largest in the country.  Many of the people that live on the island either work on the base, or on one of the many fishing boats.

A brand new NOAA ship the OSCAR DYSON was also tied up at the dock.  The DYSON is a fisheries ship that takes out researchers for up to forty days.  It was an impressive ship to look at; it actually seemed as tall as it was long (~200 ft).  I received a full tour of the DYSON with the captain and XO of the RAINIER.  It’s inevitable that new ships have kinks that need to be worked out by the crew.  The DYSON certainly has its fair share of kinks, and it will probably take several years before they correct them all.

The DYSON was designed to make little to no noise, the theory being they would be able to come up on schools of fish or whales without them scattering.  The hull is rounded to prevent noise, and the propeller, which was designed with declassified submarine technology, is also built for stealth.  However, they were actually having some noise trouble with the propeller (go figure), so they asked the RAINIER to send down some divers to check if something got fouled in it or the shaft.  They didn’t find any problems.

The Coast Guard has a few vehicles that they permit NOAA to use for the time that they’re in port. So I had an opportunity to go with some of the crew to visit the NMFS Wildlife Center.  It had some interesting displays and a large aquarium with all sorts of marine critters.

Personal Log 

It was nice to put my feet on stable ground and walk more than 30 yards today.  I wanted so much to make a phone call home, but unfortunately I didn’t have a calling card and that was the only way the phones on the dock worked. The phones were quite busy though, the crew wastes very little time getting to the phones.  We’ll be in Seward at 7am tomorrow, so one more day.  We’re getting into port a day early, so I’ll have all of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to see Seward.  The RAINIER doesn’t leave for Prince William Sound, the next leg of the trip, until Monday morning.  I’ll be staying on until Saturday Morning.

James Miller, August 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 23, 2005

Location: Anchored in Fish Range Bay; north of Mitrofinia Island
Weather: Sunny, low 70’s
Wind: variable
Seas: 1-2 foot swell
Itinerary:  Working in Fish Range Bay area for couple of days

Science and Technology Log 

We are anchored in Chiginigak Bay on the peninsula to basically wait out the weather. Since there is no needed surveying in the area, the plan of the day is to have the less experienced crew and officers train in the launches and small skiffs.  For safety concerns, it’s important to have all crew and officers comfortable with all operations regarding the launches. Everything from learning how to lower the launches using the davits, to maneuvering the launches safely near the shoreline was covered.

I had an opportunity to get instruction on the use of the heavy davits and how to secure the launches for getting underway. The deck hands know their jobs really well and every move is deliberate and geared towards safety.  The RAINIER has been doing this kind of work with these exact launches since 1968, so all the kinks have been worked out of the procedures. Everything has to be done a certain way, and if you do it differently you get an earful of why your way could be dangerous.

During the long transits, I’ve begun working on the lessons required by NOAA.  I’ve come up with the framework for about eight lessons so far that align nicely with the classes I’ll be teaching this upcoming school year. I haven’t found it very difficult to find potential math lessons while onboard.  My lessons thus far cover topics ranging from basic geometry and trigonometry, to calculus.  I’m also working on getting some visuals such as charts to display on my classroom bulletin boards.

Personal Log 

Before departing for Kodiak in afternoon, I tried some more salmon and halibut fishing. No luck on the salmon, but I caught a couple of small halibut in the 3lb range, which I released. I eventually caught a larger fish (~ 8lbs) that I decided to keep.

I’ve talked about the food often in my logs but haven’t mentioned much about the menu.  All the meals are very large, and it’s hard to resist not eating until your completely stuffed.  Anything can be made to order at breakfast, which is served 7 – 7:30 am.  (I usually go for the waffles and eggs). Lunch is served at noon and is basically equivalent to an early dinner with meat or vegetarian dishes, soup, and salad.  Then dinner comes along at 5pm, which is again a full course meal that includes a dessert.  You never seem to go hungry on the ship and I’m sure I gained a few pounds.

We’ll be arriving in Kodiak in the morning for refueling and then departing for Seward later in the afternoon. Each day the captain sends the crew weather updates through e-mail.  It is welcomed news to hear the weather is supposed to be good for the reminder of the trip.

James Miller, August 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 22, 2005

Location: Anchored in Fish Range Bay; north of Mitrofinia Island
Weather: Sunny, low 70’s
Wind: variable
Seas: 1-2 foot swell
Itinerary:  Working in Fish Range Bay area for couple of days

Science and Technology Log 

Due to the deteriorating weather forecast for the entire area around Mitrofania Island we are packing up and moving out.  There were two things that needed to be done today. First, a tide gauge that the crew installed on Mitrofania earlier in the season had to be removed.  The gauge sent tide information via satellite to a facility on the mainland.  Second, the differential global positioning system (DGPS) that was also installed on the Island earlier in the season had to be removed.  The DGPS was installed to enhance GPS signals when launches are surveying in the area.

I was assigned to help break down the DGPS with two officers and a survey technician. We headed out early in one of the skiffs for the island.  The DGPS consists of a tall antenna mounted on aluminum framing which is supported by lines tied off to stakes in the ground. It also has a watertight box that acts as the main processor for transmitting and receiving.  The processor is powered by six 12v car batteries, which get charged by a series of solar panels. Soon after being dropped off we realized we all forgot to bring bug dope, and soon after that the bugs were swarming.  It’s amazing the motivational power of flying, pestering insects.  We had the station apart and lugged down to the beach in under an hour.  Unfortunately the amount of gear and people exceed the capacity of the skiff, so it required more than one trip.  I drew the short straw along with one of the officers to wait on the island for the skiff to return.  It took about an hour so we did a little treasure hunting along the beach at the high tide line.  Earlier in the season, some of the crew found antique fishing trap floats made of blown glass.  I’m unsure of how old they are, but let’s just say very.  We didn’t find anything as interesting.

Personal Log 

I’m sorry to be leaving Mitrofania Island, partly because it is so beautiful, and also because it marks the end of the work for this leg of the trip.  We got underway for Chiginigak Bay around 4:00pm to basically run from the oncoming storm.  The travel time was about 8 hours.  The seas had already started to build when we left. For the first half of the trip we were traveling with the seas, which made for a smoother ride, however, we had to turn broadside (parallel) to the seas for the second half. When running broadside to the sea the ship pitches from side to side at pretty steep angles. I was typing up some logs in the computer room when all the books and games on the shelf came tumbling down, what a mess.  Anyway, it certainly wasn’t as bad as we anticipated and we arrived in the bay some time around midnight.

Before bed I went up to the bridge to see how the ship was handling in the seas.  One of the newer officers to the ship gave me some more navigation lessons, which was cool.

Sleeping hasn’t been a problem, even with the constant noise of the engines and rolling of the ship. In fact, I sleep deeply and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning. My cabin doesn’t have a porthole so NO light gets in.  It could be the middle of the day and I wouldn’t know it.

Despite all the fun I’m having, I have to say I really miss my home and family.  I give the crew a lot of credit for doing this all year long.  One of the crewmembers said that longing for home is a great feeling, it keeps you going, and that’s why you can’t make the ship your home.  Seems like good advice for newcomers on the ship.

James Miller, August 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 21, 2005

Location: Anchored Northeast side of Mitrofinia Island
Weather: Sun and clouds, low 60’s
Wind: 5-10kts
Seas: Calm
Itinerary: Working around Mitrofinia Island

Huge halibut
Huge halibut

Science and Technology Log 

To ensure completion of some of the longer lines located further out in the open ocean, the ship spent the day running surveying lines.  The RAINIER is also fitted with sonar transducers and is used when the lines are 8 miles or longer. I was assigned to work in the plotting room with the surveyors cleaning up data that was collected the previous day.

Many processing steps must be performed on the bottom contour data before it makes it onto a chart.  On the ship, the surveyor performs a basic “cleaning” of the data with powerful computers, and very sophisticated software.  The surveyors pull up the bottom contour data on the screen and analyze it for stray signals.  It is very cool software because they look at the bottom in 3-D and from any angle.  At first it doesn’t look like much but a chaotic grouping of lines; however, after the surveyor selects areas and stray signals to cut out, the bottom contour emerges.  The surveyor definitely develops an eye for understanding these 3-D images, but it didn’t take long before I was performing some of the basic cleaning tasks.  I also downloaded some of the images onto a disk to be used in a PowerPoint presentation.

I had an interesting conversation with one of the surveyors whose background is geology. He said that this entire area is a geologists dream.  He described how much of the area was probably form by Mt. Veniaminof volcano, which is visible in the distance and is still active. The thing is immense and stands above all the other surrounding mountains. Additionally, he has also seen clear evidence of structures formed by seismic activity.

Personal Log 

It was actually nice to have a day off from the launches.  I had time to do some laundry and get caught up with some e-mails.  I’m definitely used to the daily routine and I’ve finally learned all the crew and officers names and responsibilities.

We’re scheduled to leave the area in the afternoon tomorrow because of very poor weather forecasts. Winds to 40kts seem to make the captain a bit nervous, so we’re going to run for cover in Chignik Bay on the peninsula about 80 miles or so northeast of the Mitrofania Island. Since it might be my last opportunity to fish, after dinner I went out to the fantail to try for halibut. I was determined and planned to put in some serious time.  After about a half hour I hooked and landed a 25 pounder, and then ten minutes later lost a 15 pounder. Then within another 20 minutes I caught one about the same size as the first.  By this time many of the crew started fishing. I saw LT Evans wrestling with a fish on the other side of the boat. It was apparent he had something big, so I put my rod down to watch as he slowly reeled it up. About 20 minutes later this hulk of a halibut appeared, it was huge. It took two harpoons, and me and another guy to haul the fish up onto the boat. We didn’t have a scale but it was estimated at over 100 pounds.  It also took all night for LT Evans to clean it and bag it.

James Miller, August 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 20, 2005

Location: Anchored in Fish Range Bay; north of Mitrofania Island
Weather: Sunny, low 70’s
Wind: variable
Seas: 1-2 foot swell
Itinerary:  Working in Fish Range Bay area for couple of days

Science and Technology Log 

I was assigned to RA-3 today to do some deep-water surveys northeast of the Island. Had a big breakfast of waffles and eggs because I figured with the rough seas I wouldn’t be interested in eating much for lunch.  I was one of three assigned to the launch. In addition to myself, there was an officer and coxswain.  The past couple days I was the fourth, so I felt good that they trusted me enough working with the boat and equipment that I made up the third spot.

We were delayed about an hour because they couldn’t lower our launch into the water. One of the tracks on the boom that lowers the launch bent the day before so the wheels couldn’t pass through. They had to pull out torches and all sorts of equipment to repair it. Within an hour they were able to temporarily fix it to get the launch in the water but it took the rest of the day to finish the job.  The crew is incredibly skilled and ready to fix anything that breaks onboard.

The survey lines we had today were about 8 miles long.  Considering we can only cruise at about 7 knots when surveying, it took about an hour to complete one line.  The weather wasn’t too bad until we got out into the open ocean.  It was just sloppy. A three to five foot chop tossed us around. In addition, what made it worse was that the survey lines ran parallel to the seas; we were getting tossed from side to side for hours on end.  I was amazed that the sonar signal could accurately collect the bottom data in such rough seas. Apparently the POS System that senses and records all the movement of the boat using an accelerometer is designed to compensate for these situations.

Again, the first thing we had to do was send down the cast.  The cast is the device that collects water temperature, salinity, and density at varying depths, which is then used to calibrate the sonar. We were in 300 feet when we sent it down and it took forever for it to hit bottom and bring it back up.  The pitching boat made it all the more challenging.

We had a very knowledgeable and seasoned coxswain onboard.  He is a big burly guy with a white beard like Santa Claus, and he’s the type that can drink cold black coffee and lukewarm clam chowder in 5 foot seas.  He also made us do two man-over- board drills. When we weren’t paying attention, he would throw a fender overboard and yell out man-over-board.  I learned quickly that they take these drills very seriously.  During the first one, the officer was at the helm, and I had to pull in the fender (person).  During the second one, I was at the helm, and had to turn the boat around and approach without running it over. It definitely broke up the day.

Personal Log 

I have to say I was glad when the day was over.  When I got back onto the ship my head was spinning. Luckily I had no problem with seasickness though and was able to perform my job on the launch.  Had a big dinner of ziti and chicken and then went back to the fantail to try my luck at halibut fishing.  After about an hour, I called it quits. No luck today. At 7:00 a skiff was running people to the beach for a beach party.  It was a good time, but as the sun started setting the bugs started biting.

I’m barely finding time to work on my logs.  Although tomorrow I’m not scheduled to be on a launch and I might be able get caught up.  I’d also like to get up to the plot room where they begin processing the data.

The ship will be getting underway tomorrow to do some deep-water surveying itself. I think we’ll be anchoring on the northeast side of the Island to get out of the bad weather that’s heading our way.  Unfortunately the weather will be with us until we get back to Seward. We will be making a stop off at Kodiak Island for refueling which will be cool. Officer Evans said I might be able to check out the sights for a couple of hours.

James Miller, August 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 19, 2005

Location: Anchored in Fish Range Bay; north of Mitrofania Island
Weather: Sunny, low 70’s
Wind: variable
Seas: 1-2 foot swell
Itinerary:  Working in Fish Range Bay area for couple of days

Science and Technology Log 

I am assigned to launch RA-5 today, which will be working what are called holiday lines. These are small areas that didn’t get adequate coverage the first time they were scanned. Most of the lines were situated very close to shore near the peninsula and a bunch around Mitrofania Island. Being assigned to holidays is very labor intensive for the coxswain (boathandler) because he/she is constantly turning the boat and working very close to shore. Often we had to put somebody (usually me) on the bow to watch we didn’t plow into any rocks. The geology in the area is strange in that it could be 300 feet one second and then 3 inches the next, so running onto rocks is always a concern especially when working close to shore.

The entire crew is working extremely hard to finish up this area on this leg of the trip. The RAINIER is scheduled to be in Prince William Sound on the next leg and will continue surveying until mid-October.  Between November and March the ship is in its homeport of Seattle, WA, getting repairs and preparing for the next season.

There are a few crewmembers onboard who are college students either working for the summer or taking time off to make some money.  Then there are some crewmembers, such as the Chief Steward, that have been on the RAINER for over 30 years.

The surveyors rotate between collecting data at sea and processing the data at NOAA Headquarters.  They are required to be at sea for several months out of the year.  Most of them have a four-year college degree and majored in geology or Graphical Information Systems (GIS), but there are a couple of assistant surveyors with associate degrees.

The officers are onboard for two years before moving on to their next assignment.  They rotate between two years at sea and three years on land.  It’s clearly a difficult lifestyle for those who want a family.  They all have four-year college degrees and usually majored in some sort of engineering, math, or one of the sciences.  After signing on to the NOAA Corps, they are sent to Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy for 3 months of intensive training before getting their first assignment.

Personal Log 

Since we worked so close to shore, my day on RA-5 was great for getting some pictures of wildlife.  There are puffins, and loons everywhere.  When the launch approaches they try to fly but can’t seem to get their fat little bodies airborne, so they skid across the water for about thirty feet and then dive.  Along the shore of the peninsula there were a lot of fresh bear tracks. The grizzly bears in this area are among the largest in the world due to their high protein diet of salmon.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see any. Several Sei whales breached near the boat, which was really cool.  It happened very quickly, but I think I was able to get some pictures.  We also saw lots of bald eagles.  They nest high up on the bluffs and when they get hungry they swoop down and grab a puffin or small gull.  The highlight of the day was the seals.  There’s a large rock structure on the south side of the Island that a family of seals inhabit.  The survey we were doing required us to get right up next to the island.  There were at least two dozen seals some of which were huge—over 1000 pounds!  When we approached they stood up and barked at us. Got some great pictures!

When we returned to the ship I decided to do some fishing off the fantail for halibut. Yesterday someone caught a 50-pounder in Fish Range Bay.  After about 45 minutes of bouncing this glow-in-the-dark squid on the bottom, wham.  It felt like I was snagged. It only turned out to be about a 20-pound halibut, but it fought like mad.  My arms were killing me from reeling it up from 200 feet of water.  These fish get over 300 pounds–I can’t imagine!  I just finished cleaning the fish and writing some logs, it’s midnight.  Assigned to RA-3 tomorrow for deep-water surveying.  I’ve got to prepare myself for some rough seas and a long day.

James Miller, August 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 18, 2005

Location: Anchored in Fish Range Bay; north of Mitrofinia Island
Weather: Sunny, low 70’s
Wind: variable
Seas: 1-2 foot swell
Itinerary:  Working in Fish Range Bay area for couple of days

Science and Technology Log 

Got up early this morning (6:30am) so I could eat a big breakfast and get my gear loaded into the launch and. I was assigned to launch RA-3 with an Officer, a Surveyor, and a Coxswain (boat handler). Last night I was briefed on all the safety equipment on the launches as well as how to board and disembark.  The survey launches are 29-foot aluminum boats with a small cabin that houses the survey computers. There’s a total of 6 survey launches, two of which are water jet powered for shallow surveys, and the remaining launches have single inboard diesel engines.

The launches are also fitted with either multibeam or single-beam sonars.  The multibeam sonars scan a wide path of the bottom, about three times the depth of the water. For example, if we are in 50 feet of water the sonar cone is scanning a path about 150 feet wide. The multibeam sonars are less powerful than single beam sonars, therefore, are primarily used in shallower waters.  The single beam sonar scans a much narrower path and also uses a more powerful signal and is often used in deeper water.  An astonishing fact for the day is that a single sonar could cost as much as $500,000.  The launch I was in today was fitted with a multibeam.

Our Plan of the Day (POD) indicated that we would be scanning areas around Fish Range Bay. The POD has the track lines that you are to work on laid out on a paper chart. The track lines are also set up on one of the onboard computers.  There are basically three main computers onboard that are all interconnected.

One computer acts as a GPS and has all the track lines we are to follow pre-programmed.  The coxswain also has a terminal at the helm so he/she can steer the boat onto the track line. It’s kind of like a PacMan game for the coxswain, or as they call it “mowing the lawn”.  Depending on where you are working, the track line can be as long as 8 miles long or longer.  We were working relatively close to the shore so our lines for the day were no longer than one mile.

Another onboard computer is designed to record data related to the movement of the boat. As the boat scans a track line the boat rolls (side to side motion), pitches (from front to back), and heaves (up and down).  The sonar single coming from the bottom of the boat is similar to the shape of an ice cream cone.  These motions have an impact on the way the signal records or sees the bottom. So to ensure the quality of the bottom data collected, this motion information is fed into a complex algorithm that will calculate a percent error and apply it to the data.  It’s truly some amazing stuff.

A third computer shows the actual sonar signal and the data it is collecting.  On one of the screens you can see how the signal changes with the motion of the boat.  Another screen shows the track lines you create with each pass of the sonar.  See, the track lines are set up parallel to each other and close enough so that there is overlap.  As you complete a track line the screen shows the actual signal coverage.  On the boat they call this “mowing the lawn” because that is exactly what it looks like you are doing on the computer.  Scanning every inch of the bottom.  Another screen produces a 3-D image of the bottom, and yet another screen shows the motion of the boat in the form of sinusoidal curves.

In addition, before we can begin scanning the bottom we also have to lower a gauge called a cast down to the bottom to record temperature, salinity, and density of the water. After we retrieve it, we hook it up directly to the computer to download the information.  These factors have an impact in the way that the sonar signals travel through the water column; therefore, this data is also fed into the algorithm to ensure high quality readings.

It’s truly amazing how much effort and attention is given to obtaining an accurate image of the ocean bottom.  Their philosophy simply seems to be, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right!

Personal Log 

It was a very interesting day and I learned much.  I had an opportunity to rotate into each of the positions including steering the launch on track lines and operating the computer.  Since the weather was so good, the CO extended the working day, so we were in the launches for about ten hours today. At lunch, I couldn’t resist fishing for halibut, so I dropped a line down for about ten minutes and caught my first.  It was very small for AK halibut standards, but definitely a trophy fish where I come from.  It’s after eleven o’clock and I’m exhausted.  I looked on tomorrows POD and I’m on RA-5 (the leaker).  This should be interesting!

James Miller, August 17, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 17, 2005

Weather

Sky: Clouds and rain, low 60’s
Wind: 10-15 kts.
Seas: 6 – 8 foot
Itinerary:  Should arrive in work area tonight (9:30pm). Anchor in Fish Range Bay on peninsula.

Science and Technology Log 

Went up to the bridge last night prior to going to bed.  There’s usually an officer and three crew on a rotating four-hour shift schedule.  It’s reassuring that there is so much redundancy regarding navigational equipment.  The officer on duty (OOD) is constantly checking our position on the chart and comparing it to the radar, and GPS chart plotter. He also does some quick time, distance, speed calculations to determine where we should be at half hour increments, these he marks on the chart (good lesson potential).

We also had a good conversation regarding compass headings.  Typically, smaller boats navigate using magnetic compasses and therefore always steer toward magnetic north. The problem with magnetic north is that charts use true north (north pole) and depending where you are in the world there is a deviation between true and magnetic north (close to 20 degrees where we are). The ship is fitted with both magnetic and gyrocompasses.  The gyro compass points towards true north but requires power.  The ship uses the gyrocompass to navigate but would have to fall back on the magnetic compasses if the ship lost power (which is highly unlikely).

I met with LT Ben Evans and Commanding Officer Guy Noll after lunch for a briefing. They were interested in what specific classes I teach, and the things I wanted to get out of the cruise. They also briefed me about the RAINIER’s mission and where we would be working. They showed me a chart in and around Mitrofania Island.  Charts will typically have depth soundings (in fathoms) every ¼ inch or so.  The map they showed me had a lot of white space with only a few limited depth soundings.  The reason for this is because the area is literally uncharted.  Very few ships or even fishing vessels come into the area because, in Alaska, the ocean bottom rises very quickly and they are concerned about running aground. This is where the RAINIER comes into play.  Its mission is to collect the data to eventually be put on charts.  It sounds like an easy task, however, the process is very complex and lengthy.  I’ll be learning more about the details of this process over the next week and two days.

Seeing the charts really gave me a good visual of where we are heading and the importance of the RAINIER’s mission.  I plan on putting together a bulletin board in my classroom detailing my experiences and the charts would be an excellent addition to it.  I wrote down the chart numbers and asked Navigational Officer Pounds if they had any old ones on board they could part with. He’s going to check for me, but if they don’t, I’ll just order them through NOAA.

Just before dinner I attended a briefing for the survey crew.  These are some of the things I learned:

1) This leg is considered a clean-up leg since they worked the area for three weeks on the previous leg. Apparently there are five open sheets (sheets are designated areas that need surveying) that need to be completed.

2) There is an unstable weather pattern in the area and it will obviously determine whether or not we can finish in this area on this leg.

3) In addition to taking soundings, we will need to pick up a tide gauge and differential GPS station that they put on the island the last leg.

4) The tide gauge sends tide information via satellite to NOAA Headquarters.  Again, very little is known about this area including tide variations.

5) As I understand it, the GPS stations that are set up on the Alaskan peninsula are too far away to be effective, therefore, the differential GPS was temporarily set up on Mitrofinia Island so that the RAINIER could navigate better while working in the area.

6) We will initially be anchoring north of Mitrofania Island in a protected bay on the peninsula called Fish Range Bay.  We will spend a day or two there and then move to Cushing Bay, which is on the north side of Mitrofinia Island.

7) They once again reiterated the fact that they are a bit short-handed this leg and will be relying on me to be part of the launch crews.  I should expect very long days for about 5-6 days.

Personal Log 

I slept very well last night.  I was in such a deep sleep that I almost missed breakfast. I guess it was the rocking of the ship.  The seas are about 6-7 foot and the boat seems to handle it well.  We’re going with the wind so it’s more of a soft but rolling ride.  It’s kind of a funny sight seeing everyone on board bouncing off the walls as they walk down a hallway. My cabin is on the port side on the bottom of the ship, so you can hear the water rushing by the hull, a bit eerie. Although, I guess it’s much better than a cabin next to the engine room.  I’m feeling fine; in fact, I had a big greasy breakfast and a hot dog for lunch. You can be assured I would not eat that kind of food if the seas were getting to me. I feel bad for another visitor onboard whom I’m friendly with.  Unfortunately, he hasn’t found his sea legs yet, but I’m sure he’ll feel better when we get the Fish Range Bay tonight.

The other bad side to this weather is the visibility is terrible.  On our right (starboard) has been the Alaskan Peninsula, and we passed Kodiak Island to our left (port) but could barely make them out.  I hope the weather clears at some point so I can get some good pictures.  I promised my wife!!!

I have to get a good night’s rest tonight because I’m scheduled to be out on a launch for close to 9 hours tomorrow.  After dinner I’ll be working with the survey crew to analyze the data. So it’s going to be a long day, but I’m looking forward to it.

James Miller, August 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 14, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Most of the day was set aside for administrative duties; however, I did get to meet my temporary roommate, Dave Sinson.  Dave works for NOAA as a surveyor and is assigned to the RAINIER for this leg. Dave and I had an interesting discussion about statistics and his goal to integrate a new software algorithm for analyzing and reporting bottom contour and depth data.  When bottom contour data is collected, the sonar reports points every 10 centimeters.  This, as you can imagine, creates a tremendous amount of data, which explains why their computer system has over 12 terabytes of storage.  Anyway, it would be impossible to illustrate all of this data on navigational charts; therefore it must be averaged in the most efficient and accurate way.  Apparently, to date, all of this “averaging” has been done by hand and there has been much discussion regarding the best method.  In any event, Dave is interested in my knowledge of statistics and I’m obviously interested in hearing more about the new program, in addition to the manual process they are currently using.  This has great potential for lessons because next school year I will be teaching a unit on probability and statistics.

I am also getting a grip on the organizational structure of the ship.  There are six main departments.  You have the Officers (Commanding Officer, Executive Officer, and Junior Officers); Survey Dept. (scientists and survey technicians); Deck Dept. (deals with launching and operating boats, cleaning, and gear); Engineering Dept. (responsible for keeping all the engines and mechanical devices operating); Steward (all food preparation); and Yeoman & Electronics (Administrative and IT).

Personal Log 

Although a bit overwhelmed, I’m enjoying every minute.  I’m never bored and seem to always have something to do or someone to meet with.  When I do have a few minutes I just wander around ship getting more familiar with it, or introduce myself to crewmembers and ask them questions (without being a pest of course).

I did get my ship e-mail address and password for the network.  Although, the computers that I have access to are giving me some trouble, which I’ve heard is not uncommon. I lost some files that contained a couple hours worth of work—we’ve all been there—very frustrating. Dave came to the rescue though and gave me a removable storage chip that I can use to back up all my files.  I think this will solve any future issues.

Went into town today to buy some personal things.  On the way back, I saw a 311-pound halibut hanging outside of one of the charter boat weigh-in areas.  Amazing sight!

The beds are very comfortable and I am sleeping well.  Love the food.

Things to do for tomorrow: 

1) Type my daily logs and e-mail them to NOAA Headquarters.

2) Visit the engine room.

3) Talk more with Dave regarding his work with the data.

James Miller, August 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
James Miller
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 13 – 27, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Alaska
Date: August 13, 2005

On the bridge, exploring the ship
On the bridge, exploring the ship

Science and Technology Log 

I was picked up at the hotel by the ship’s liberty van at noon. At the ship, I was greeted by Officer Laurel Jennings who assigned me temporary sleeping quarters. To my surprise, the room was two doors down from the captain’s cabin and across the hall from the executive officer’s – which probably explains why they said temporary.  Typically, crew and guests are assigned shared rooms down in the bottom of the ship and officers and scientists have more private and comfortable rooms near the Bridge.

Following the room assignment, Officer Jennings gave me a thorough tour of the ship. I was amazed at how much space there is onboard a ship that appears, from the outside, to be relatively small.  I also had an opportunity to meet Commanding Officer Guy Noll. He was very friendly and informative.  He said that on Tuesday the ship will be hosting some Congressional staff visitors from the Senate Appropriations Committee.  Later that afternoon following the visit the ship will depart for Mitrofania Island that is located several hundred miles south of Kodiak Island.  He also said the ship has been fortunate to have successful cruises this season with favorable weather; however, it seems we may encounter a strong weather front on Wednesday or Thursday.  The forecast is calling for gale force winds and seas to 17 feet.  So it appears I will be experiencing what it is like to work on a ship in rough seas right from the get go!

There were many details that I learned about the ship during my tour.  Some of them included:

1) Ship Specifications: The RAINIER was built in 1967 and is 231 feet long.  Its complement is 10 commissioned officers, 35 crew, 4 engineers, and 4 scientists (and 1-2 Teacher-at-sea members).  The RAINIER was designed mainly to be a coastal waters ship.  Due to its relatively shallow draft (only 15 feet) and high center of gravity, it is susceptible to rough seas.  The ship cruises at 12 knots and has a range of 5,898 miles.

2) Ship’s Mission: The RAINIER’s primary mission is to collect and analyze bottom contour data to eventually be used in navigation charts.  The ship is equipped with six 29-foot launches fixed with various bottom sonar devices that are deployed to map the ocean bottom in coastal waterways in and around Alaskan waters. The process from data collection, to analysis, to navigational charts is a lengthy one. Currently it takes up to three years for the data that the RAINIER collects to make it onto charts.  I was amazed to hear that many areas around AK have never been charted. In fact, the waters around Mitrofania Island are one such area. Other responsibilities of the RAINIER are GPS mapping of obstructions, and bottom and seawater temperature collection.

3) Propulsion System: The engine is always in gear, meaning the propellers are always turning. Forward, neutral, and reverse is obtained by varying the pitch of the propeller blades. Neutral pitch yields zero thrust, positive pitch yields forward thrust, and negative pitch yields reverse thrust.

4) Other than food supply, the ship is totally self-sufficient.  It generates its own 110-volt power; it produces its own fresh water by a process of desalination; it cleans all wastewater prior to discharging it; and it has its own incinerator to dispose of burnable waste such as paper, cardboard, and rags.

Personal Log 

I’m really excited and find myself fascinated about the smallest of details regarding living onboard ship, the facilities, its mission, and the crew’s job responsibilities.  One such detail is they have a small workout area with treadmills.  I couldn’t help but wonder how in the world they run on the treadmill when the ship is underway or tossing?  Liberty is given to the crew on weekends; therefore, there is only a fraction of the crew on board. Everyone I’ve met thus far seems friendly and happy to have me aboard.  Two TAS members left the ship as I arrived, so the crew is very familiar with the myriad of questions coming from us greenhorns.  I had my first meal on board (beef potpie), which was excellent. I’m having a bit of trouble remembering all the crewmembers names and responsibilities, but I’m sure it will come with time.  I suppose as soon as I do commit it to memory it will be time for me to leave.  I’m looking forward to being put to work. I was told that they are a bit shorthanded this leg and there going to use me every chance they get.  Sounds good to me!

Things to do tomorrow

1) Get a computer network password and email address. 2) Watch the computer network security video. 3) Get assigned a survival suit and all other required gear. 4) Get mandatory survival suit training. 5) Fill out new crewmember packet and get proper clearance from Officers.