Anne Mortimer: Introduction June 30, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Mortimer
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 4 — 22, 2011

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 30, 2011


walleye pollock
A pile of Pollock.

Welcome to my Teacher at Sea blog!

Hi, my name is Anne Mortimer and I am very fortunate to be a 2011 Teacher at Sea on the NOAA ship Oscar Dyson. On this trip, I’ll be working with researchers on a Pollock fisheries survey. Pollock are mid-water fish that are a very important food resource. The research I will be participating in will help to manage the fish populations in the North Pacific and Bering Sea.

Currently, I live in Bellingham, WA and teach science at Mount Vernon High School. Next year, I will be teaching Biology, Sheltered Biology (for English-language learners), and Physical Science (a freshmen science course). I grew up in dry, sunny eastern Washington but have always loved everything about the ocean and coastal areas. I even worked on Catalina Island, CA for 3 years as a marine science instructor. This will be my first trip to Alaska, and hopefully not my last!

Cedar
My dog Cedar.

I’m very excited to be a Teacher at Sea, living and working with a research team and the ship crew. So far, I’m most looking forward to seeing Alaska’s beautiful waters and the life found there, and bringing my new experiences to my students in Mount Vernon.

me and vinny
Me and my nephew, Vinny.

Justin Czarka, August 9-10, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Justin Czarka
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II 
August 10 – 19, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic and Plankton Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from San Francisco, CA to Seattle, WA
Dates: August 9-10, 2009

Weather data from the Bridge

Sunrise: 6:26 a.m.
Sunset: 20:03 (8:03 p.m)
Weather: fog Sky: partly to mostly cloudy
Wind speed: 15 knots
Wind direction: North
Visibility: less than 1 nautical mile (nm)
Waves: 9 feet

Science and Technology Log 

August 9 was a day for getting all the science gear aboard.  In order to conduct a research cruise at sea, you have to plan and pack all the materials you envision needing beforehand.  Once out at sea, there is nowhere to stop and pick up additional supplies.  Bill Peterson, the chief scientist from NOAA/ Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC), and another member of the science team,

The McArthur II at port in San Francisco prior to the cruise. She is 224 feet long with a breadth (width) of 43 feet.
The McArthur II at port in San Francisco prior to the cruise. She is 224 feet long with a breadth (width) of 43 feet.

Toby Auth out of Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC), up all the science equipment onto the deck of the McArthur. Some of the equipment we hauled onto the ship included bongo frames and bongo nets (used to collect specimen samples in the ocean), Niskin bottles (to collect water samples in the water column at various depths), dissecting microscopes, a fluorometer (to measure the amount of phytoplankton in the water), and crate after crate of sample jars.

In order to transfer all of the science equipment onto the McArthur II we laid out a cargo net flat on the pier that the crane dropped to us.  Then we hauled the equipment from the truck and placed it on the cargo net.  Next the cargo net holds were attached to the crane, which lifted the materials onto the deck of the ship. We unpacked the cargo net, conducted additional cargo lifts, and then stored all the equipment in the labs.  Using the crane sure beat hauling up all the equipment by hand!  The scientists have to get all the equipment placed in the labs, which is a lot of work.  I helped one of the scientists, Tracy Shaw, who studies zooplankton, set up the dissection microscope by securing it to the table.  On dry land, tables will not move around, but we had to tie it down to prepare for any possible rough seas.

This is me working to prepare the CTD for a practice launch in San Francisco Bay. We made sure that the Niskin bottle seals were in working condition.
This is me working to prepare the CTD for a practice launch in San Francisco Bay. We made sure that the Niskin bottle seals were in working condition.

August 10 we were to set sail in the morning. That has been changed until this afternoon, which gives the science team time to prepare some of the equipment before heading out to sea, along with conducting emergency drills and briefings. This morning the science team and NOAA crew worked together to prepare the Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) probe. This involved cleaning the Niskin bottles and replacing cracked O-rings to ensure a secure seal around the bottle openings. If the bottles are not sealed properly, water and air (upon reaching the surface) can enter the bottle from the water column at an undesired location.  We also ensured that the lids close tightly, providing a vacuum seal.

Personal Log 

Living and working on a boat will be a new experience for me.  There are many unknowns in the process, but it is exciting to be learning something new nearly every minute.  I took a walk around the ship’s interior this afternoon, amazed by how much space is contained inside the McArthur II. The staterooms (where one sleeps) are large, containing a desk and a lounge chair.  They also have a sink, with a bathroom that is shared by the adjoining stateroom. The McArthur also has a fitness room for staying fit at sea, along with a lounge to for relaxing with movies, books, and even espresso!  The McArthur II surely will be home for the next nine or ten days.

I have been most impressed with the welcome I have received from both the NOAA crew and the scientists from NOAA, Oregon State University, the Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean (JISAO) and the U.S. Coast Guard.  Everyone is friendly, helpful, and full of cooperation. It is encouraging to observe the teamwork between people.  I appreciate having the opportunity to learn alongside the scientists and crew.  Being a teacher, I am used to being the one with the knowledge to impart or the activity to do.  It is exciting being aboard because now I am the student, eager to take notes, ask questions, and learn from those alongside me.  I have to say, each person has been an effective teacher!  So we are off to Bodega Bay for our first sampling and there’s a rumor going around that a Wii Fit competition might be getting under way!

Today’s Vocabulary 

Transect line- when conducting research at a predetermined latitude or longitude and continue to collect data samples along that line Niskin bottles- these containers have openings on both the top and bottom.  As it drops through the water column it fills with water.  At a predetermined depth both ends close, capturing water from that specific depth inside the bottle that can be brought back to the surface and analyzed. Water Column- a vertical section of water where sampling occurs

Tara Fogleman, June 11, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tara Fogleman
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1 – 14, 2007

Mission: Alaskan Harbor Seal Pupping Phenology and Site Monitoring
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 11, 2007

During the past two days, we have been monitoring seal haulouts in glacial areas such as the LeConte Glacier and the Dawes Glacier (located in Endicott Arm).  These areas are very different from the sites that we have been visiting in the previous part of this study—instead of hauling out on rocky reef islands, the seals in this area haul out on floating ice that has calved, or broken off, from the glaciers.  Because the ice is always available for haulout, regardless of the tides, we are less constricted by the tides when planning our visits to these haulout sites.

Dave Withrow, Chief Scientist aboard the JOHN N. COBB, took several photos of Dawes Glacier and stitched them together to create this panoramic view.  Photos such as these, along with GPS coordinates, can help scientists monitor changes in the glacier over time.
Dave Withrow took several photos of Dawes Glacier and stitched them together to create this panoramic views that can help scientists monitor changes in the glacier over time.

Glaciers—Ice on the Move 

Glaciers are basically frozen rivers of ice that form between mountain peaks, due to the accumulation and compaction of years of snowfall.  As the surface of these glaciers melt due to heat from the sun, meltwater plunges through open crevices in the ice, breaking up the ice and lubricating its base, causing the glacier to move towards the water.  Of course, snowfall continues to replenish the tops of these moving glaciers; however, due to an increase in global temperatures during the recent years, these glaciers are melting faster than they can be replenished and are currently moving towards the water at unprecedented rates.  Mountain glaciers play an important role in the ecology of Alaska—these ice reservoirs serve as water banks and, as mentioned earlier, provide a place for female harbor seals to give birth to their pups.  Scientists are very concerned about the retreat of the glaciers in Alaska, and as a component of our study, we will attempt to document the location of the glaciers that we visit and compare our data with previous years.

LeConte Glacier 

Harbor seals haul out on floating ice that calves from nearby glaciers.  In this photo of the LeConte Glacier, three harbor seals are visible.
Harbor seals haul out on floating ice that calves from nearby glaciers. In this photo of the LeConte Glacier, three harbor seals are visible.

After staying the night in Petersburg, Dan (our Executive Officer) drove the JOHN N. COBB through Frederick Sound, on our way to LeConte Bay.  Once anchored, Dave and I secured a packed lunch from Bill, the Chief Steward, and headed in the small skiff towards the LeConte Glacier. The area around the LeConte Glacier was filled with floating ice, which made for a bumpy and loud boat ride.  We bounced off chunks of ice as we made our way toward the glacier, stopping to survey the area for harbor seals about every quarter of a mile.  Generally, I observed female/pup pairs hauled out on smaller pieces of ice that allowed easy access to the water. However, as we moved towards the face of the glacier, I observed a greater number of seals hauling out in groups, usually without pups. These groupings are most likely pregnant females who have not given birth yet. The glacial sites were different from the rocky reef sites, where the seals were generally concentrated in one area of the reef. Here, near LeConte, the seals were more evenly spread out and in pairs or small groups, which made it a little more difficult to count.

This female harbor seal and her pup were photographed near the LeConte Glacier in southeastern Alaska
This female harbor seal and her pup were photographed near the LeConte Glacier

Because the female harbor seals give birth to their pups on these floating ice surfaces, we commonly saw icebergs bathed in bright red blood from the birthing process.  Dave told me that he has often seen birds, such as bald eagles, feeding on the afterbirth that is delivered after the seal pup is born. This afterbirth also contains white hair, called lanuga, which covers the pup in the uterus and is shed prior to the birth.  Other closely-related seals, such as the spotted seal found in the Arctic, are born with this lanuga still covering the body. The white hair provides camouflage, allowing the white seal pup to blend in with the ice and snow. After a few weeks, when the pup is stronger, the lanuga is shed. Scientists believe that harbor seals and spotted seals most likely evolved from a common species, and the development and shedding of lanuga reinforces this belief.   

Chief Scientist Dave Withrow poses on an iceberg near the LeConte Glacier.
Chief Scientist Dave Withrow poses on an iceberg near the LeConte Glacier.

After surveying for seals and eating a quick lunch, we spent some time photographing and admiring the scenery around LeConte.  Because of the large chunks of ice that knocked against each other in the water, it was difficult to maneuver the boat up to the glacier to get a close-up view. However, the area had many other amazing sights, including steep, snow-topped mountains, roaring waterfalls, and large, breathtaking icebergs. Hunks of ice floated around the boat in a variety of shades of white, gray, and blue, some towering thirty feet above us.  The bright sun melted them as we passed by, sculpting the ice into fantastic shapes.

Dawes Glacier 

The weather turned colder and the sky became cloudier on the morning that we set out for Dawes Glacier at the end of Endicott Arm. I bundled up in layers of long underwear, polypropylene, and wool, and on top of that, I donned my Mustang suit—a thick orange and black suit that protects from cold temperatures and provides personal flotation in an emergency.  Our visit to the glacier would take several hours, and it was important that I was protected from the cold wind that blows off of the glacial ice.  The Dawes Glacier site provided a better opportunity to approach the actual glacier, as compared to LeConte, where the floating ice made it difficult to maneuver the small skiff. As we traveled towards the glacial ice, we stopped periodically to scan for harbor seals and their pups. As in LeConte, we observed nearly 300 seals, mostly consisting of mom and pup pairs. The seals at this site seemed less afraid of our skiff, most likely due to increased boat traffic in the area.  In fact, while we were visiting the site, I noticed at least four small skiffs transporting tourists in the same area that we were conducting our study.

At Dawes Glacier, the seals seemed less frightened of boat traffic, most likely due to the increasingly large number of tour boats and vessels that make their way into Endicott Arm each day.
At Dawes Glacier, the seals seemed less frightened of boat traffic, most likely due to the increasingly large number of tour boats and vessels that make their way into Endicott Arm each day.

Throughout my cruise, I have noticed that the water in Alaska varies in color, from steel gray to a bright blue-green. Here at the Dawes Glacier, the water was a light, translucent teal—almost resembling the color of a glass Coke bottle.  Chunks of ice were scattered along the surface, moving slowly with the tide and the strong winds.  Some of these bergs were translucent and glass-like; others were a cloudy light blue.  As we approached the glacier, the water became more opaque, due to a larger amount of sediment stirred up by the calving of the glacier in front of us. The melting glacial ice also forms a layer of fresh water on top of the surrounding saltwater, which can add to the cloudy appearance as the two water types mix slowly.

Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher at Sea participant, poses on an iceberg in southeastern Alaska.
Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher at Sea participant, poses on an iceberg in southeastern Alaska.

From far away, the Dawes Glacier looks like a giant, frozen river wedged between two rows of mountains.  It is unevenly streaked with lines of gray sediment picked up as the glacier makes its slow movements across the land.  However, I couldn’t grasp the enormity of the glacier until we traveled up to the face, where the ice intermittently calves from the glacier.  Up close, the glacier face is daunting and deceivingly large—the bottom is cut away due to the continuous lapping of the tides, and the glacial ice forms towering peaks, caves, and valleys that seem to be on the verge of collapsing into the water below. As we watched, several parts of the face fell into the water, one at a time, creating a large splash and a booming sound that resembled thunder.  Often, the large splash of the falling ice created waves that slowly moved towards and rocked our small skiff. We were amazed as the large chunks of opaque ice fell into the water, disappeared for a few seconds, and then bobbed to the top, like ice cubes dropped into a glass of water.   

After observing the glacial calving for about an hour, we headed back to the JOHN N. COBB for a warm dinner and a hot shower.  Temperatures continued to drop as the sun began to set, and we were all fairly cold, regardless of how many layers we were wearing! Tomorrow we will head to another glacial site, the glacier at Tracy Arm, as we begin to wrap up our study.

Tara Fogleman, June 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tara Fogleman
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1 – 14, 2007

Mission: Alaskan Harbor Seal Pupping Phenology and Site Monitoring
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 9, 2007

In this photo, a female harbor seal and her pup are hauled out on a rocky reef island covered in kelp.  At high tide, many of these rocky reef islands are completely submerged in water.
A female harbor seal and her pup are hauled out on a rocky reef island covered in kelp. At high tide, many of these reef islands are completely submerged.

During the past few days, we have continued to monitor seal haulout sites in waterways between Wrangell and Petersburg.  At each rocky reef site, Dave Withrow (Chief Scientist) observes the seals from the small skiff and makes an initial count of adults and pups using his gyrostabilized binoculars. These binoculars are an important tool because they provide a clear, stabilized image of the seals, even when the user is on a movable object such as the skiff.  If possible, Dave then directs Chris to drop us off at a nearby rocky island, so that we can observe the seals on land from a closer viewpoint.  Throughout the observation process, it is important that we do not “spook” the seals— they are easily frightened by the sounds of nearby boats or visual cues such as the shape of a human figure.  When the seals feel threatened, they quickly slip off of the rocks and into the water, making it difficult to get an accurate count.

The JOHN N. COBB has also made two stops along the way at the towns of Wrangell and Petersburg. At both towns, we have picked up supplies for the rest of our journey, including a fuel filter and extra fuel for the small skiff and groceries for the remainder of our meals.  Because we docked at each town overnight, I was able to get off the boat and do some exploring at each location.

Wrangell

Petroglyphs, which are ancient carvings created by the native people of southeastern Alaska, are found on several boulders along the beaches of Wrangell.
Petroglyphs, which are ancient carvings created by the native people of southeastern Alaska, are found on several boulders along the beaches of Wrangell.

Wrangell is the smaller of the two towns, with a population of only 2,500 residents.  The primary industries of this town are crab, shrimp, and fish processing, though tourism has played an increasing role in the recent years.  Dave, Dan, and I walked through the downtown area, which was mostly shut down for the night since we had arrived after six.  However, some kids were still out, skateboarding on the empty sidewalks or hanging out at the local ice cream shop and arcade.  We purchased ice cream (a luxury not available on the JOHN N. COBB!) and walked down to Petroglyph Beach, an area of beach strewn with rocks and boulders that contain carvings created by the Tlingit, the natives of Alaska. The forty-something carvings scattered along the beach consisted of spirals, circles, and other geometric images that represent a variety of animals and objects from the daily life of the Tlingit.    

Petersburg

A few days later, the JOHN N. COBB docked in Petersburg.  This town is slighter larger than Wrangell and is located at the northern end of the 21-mile Wrangell Narrows.  As we approached Petersburg from the water, I could see rows of neatly painted houses in an assortment of bright colors and a large marina filled with fishing vessels and smaller boats. The town was laid out by a Scandinavian Peter Buschmann, who started a salmon cannery and sawmill there in 1897.  The Scandinavian influence can still be observed today—I encountered numerous Viking references as I strolled through the town, including a large statue of a Viking ship and ancient Viking symbols etched into the downtown sidewalks. The town of Petersburg continues to thrive today, due to successful fishing, tourism, and shellfish processing industries.

The town of Petersburg, Alaska was laid out by a Scandinavian man named Peter Buschmann, who started a salmon cannery and sawmill in the town in 1897.  Evidence of Petersburg’s heritage is found throughout the town, and each year, the town holds a Viking celebration that draws residents and numerous visitors.
The town of Petersburg, Alaska, was laid out by a Scandinavian man named Peter Buschmann, who started a salmon cannery and sawmill in the town in 1897. Evidence of Petersburg’s heritage is found throughout the town, and each year, the town holds a Viking celebration that draws numerous visitors.

After walking around downtown Petersburg for a couple of hours, a few of us decided to take a hike to stretch our legs and get a little exercise (it’s hard to get a good workout on the JOHN N. COBB!).  The day was unseasonably warm—temperatures were in the 70s—and so we grabbed some water, put on some walking shoes, and headed up Mt. Petersburg. The scenery was beautiful, and as we neared the peak of the mountain, we encountered snow! Being from Georgia, we don’t see much snow—and we never see snow in June—so I was quite excited. After making a few snow angels and having a small snowball fight, the sun began to set and so we headed back down the mountain.

Visiting these two towns was a wonderful cultural experience—I had a chance to see a glimpse of life in a small fishing town in Alaska.  The people of these towns were rugged and good-natured, and they seemed to be excited about the upcoming summer season.  For many of them, their lives depend on the oceans, and it is important to them that the natural resources contained in their waters are protected and sustained for future generations.

Tara Fogleman, June 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tara Fogleman
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1 – 14, 2007

Mission: Alaskan Harbor Seal Pupping Phenology and Site Monitoring
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 4, 2007

We’ve been at sea now for nearly four days, and Dave Withrow, the Chief Scientist, and I have had a chance to visit several haulout sites to count harbor seals.  Harbor seals tend to haul out on rocky islands or reefs that provide protection from predators or strong winds.  Generally, the harbor seals “haul out”, or leave the water, at low tide, so all of our work is done around this time.  We travel to these rocky sites via a small boat that is launched from the JOHN N. COBB, and because the sound of the boat can frighten the seals, we usually jump out at a nearby island, hike to a hidden viewpoint, and use binoculars to count them.  When there is no viewpoint available, Dave must count the seals from the boat; however, this isn’t ideal, since using binoculars from a moving, bumpy boat can be quite difficult.

A female harbor seal and her pup haul out on a rocky reef covered in kelp during low tide.  This photo was captured by Dave Withrow (Chief Scientist) during a study of harbor seals and pupping phenology in southeastern Alaska.
A female harbor seal and her pup haul out on a rocky reef covered in kelp during low tide. Photo by Chief Scientist Dave Withrow.

Don’t Forget the Equipment!

There are several pieces of equipment that are important for the study.  Dave uses a GPS (Global Positioning System) unit to locate sites that he has visited previously—using this tool, he can identify the precise location of a seal haulout that he has visited in the past, or mark a new location for future reference.  He also uses special gyrostabilized binoculars which maintain a stable image, even when his hands are unsteady or he is counting seals from a moving location, such as a boat.  All of his data are recorded in a waterproof notebook. Dave brings camera equipment so that he can take photographs of the seals, which can be used later to recheck counts.  He also carries a radio so that he can communicate with the driver of the small boat (for this cruise, a coxswain named Chris) and the Commanding Officer of the JOHN N. COBB.  Safety equipment is also important, particularly when working in the unpredictable weather of southeastern Alaska. On each boat trip, Dave brings a satellite phone and a GPS-linked emergency transmitter called a PEPIRB (Personal Emergency Position Indication Radio Beacon) that can alert the US Coast Guard if Dave (or anyone else on the small skiff) is experiencing trouble and needs to be rescued. Other safety devices that are commonly used on small boats during field studies include a basic first aid kit, mini signal flares, a bright orange rescue streamer, fire-starting material, extra food and water supplies, and a pocketknife/hand tool such as a Leatherman.

Visiting the Haulout Sites

Tara Fogleman studied harbor seals in southeastern Alaska
Tara Fogleman studied harbor seals in southeastern Alaska

Harbor seals haul out for several reasons, including temperature regulation and the conservation of energy. However, in June, the primary reason for hauling out is due to the pupping season, during which females give birth to their young on land and care for them.  Dave will compare the number of seals hauling out during the pupping season to the number of seals that haul out during the molting season in August, when the seals shed their fur. We have visited several haulout sites during the past few days, and I have become much more adept at counting the seals and recognizing their shape and color from a distance.  Harbor seals vary in color, including shades of white, gray, and brown-black.  Often, the lighter-colored seals are older and larger individuals, while the pups are a darker color.  At first glance, the seals appear defenseless, like large sausages washed up on to the rocks during a high tide. Their movements are awkward on land—they make their way across the jagged rocks by back-and-forth rocking of their bodies, and once situated, they rest in closely-packed groups, with the pups alongside their mothers.  However, upon seeing the silhouette of a person or hearing an approaching boat, the seals smoothly enter the water and swim to safety, suddenly becoming graceful and quick.

Tide pools that form among the depressions in the rocky reefs provide a habitat for a variety of invertebrates, including sea anemones, sea stars, and bryozoans.  Photo courtesy of Dave Withrow.
Tide pools that form among the depressions in the rocky reefs provide a habitat for a variety of invertebrates, including sea anemones, sea stars, and bryozoans.

As mentioned earlier, harbor seals tend to haul out on rocky reefs that fringe small islands or the coastline. These rocky sites are only exposed at low tide, and become completely submerged by water during high tides.  Because we visit the reefs at low tide, the rocks are partially covered in layers of slimy, light-green kelp and green algae that reek of a strong, ammonia-like odor and make for a slippery climbing surface.  Small tide pools in the crevices between the rocks provide a close-up look at purple and orange sea stars, green sea anemones, small fish, and other tide pool organisms.

Humpback Up Ahead!

I finally had a chance to see my first humpback whale yesterday morning.  From a distance, it was easy to spot the spray from the whale as it exhaled out of its blowhole.  As the whale approached our boat and we turned the engine off, we could hear the exhale as well, and I was able to grasp the immense size of this marine mammal.  The humpback whale can reach lengths of up to 45 feet and weigh up to 45 tons, and it is clearly recognizable by the small “hump-like” dorsal ridge that surfaces from time to time. To avoid injuries to the whale, Chris (our coxswain) kept the outboard motor running so that the whale would be able to identify our exact location.  Dave attempted to take photos of the underside of the humpback whale’s flukes, or tail fin, so that the whale could be identified. Each whale has an individually unique pattern on its flukes, which acts like a “fingerprint” that can be matched for identification.  Using these photos, researchers can track individual whale movements within and between seasons.  The master north Pacific humpback database is maintained by NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory in Seattle where Dave works. We snapped a few photos as it maneuvered through the shallow waters and then headed back to the JOHN N. COBB for a late lunch.  Scientists can use photographs of a humpback whale’s tail flukes to identify the organism because the pattern on each whale’s tail fin is unique.

Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea participant, took this photograph of a humpback whale as it rose to the surface for another breath.
Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea participant, took this photograph of a humpback whale as it rose to the surface for another breath.

We are slowly making our way toward Wrangell, a small coastal town located south of Juneau. After making a pit stop there tomorrow night to purchase fuel and a fuel filter, we will proceed towards the tidewater glaciers at Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm and continue our study of haulout sites.

Tara Fogleman, June 1, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tara Fogleman
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1 – 14, 2007

Mission: Alaskan Harbor Seal Pupping Phenology and Site Monitoring
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 1, 2007

The boat set sail today as we headed for our first haulout sites.  Because this first day was a traveling day, where no sampling would be conducted, I had a chance to explore the JOHN N. COBB, speak with the crew, and become better acquainted with life at sea.

Our Boat, the JOHN N. COBB— 

The JOHN N. COBB is the oldest vessel and the only wooden ship in NOAA’s research fleet. She was built in 1950 and named after John Nathan Cobb, the first dean of the University of Washington School of Fisheries.  The boat is 93 feet long, has a beam of 26 feet, and a draft of 12 feet. The JOHN N. COBB typically cruises at speeds of around 10 knots, propelled by a 325 hp diesel engine. She has a crew of 8 and can carry up to 4 scientists.

The JOHN N. COBB spends most of her time in the waters of southeast Alaska, supporting the research of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).  The ship can collect fish and crustacean specimens using a trawl and longline, or sample fish larvae, eggs, and plankton using plankton nets and surface or midwater larval nets.  Marine mammal studies, such as the one that I will be part of, are conducted aboard or by the use of smaller boats stored on the JOHN N. COBB.

Daily Life on the JOHN N. COBB— 

Life on board the JOHN N. COBB is exciting but intimate—the entire crew and scientists must work together to keep the ship clean and in working order so that the scientific research can be done. As mentioned earlier, the ship has several crew members, and each of the crew has important responsibilities that are integral to the proper working of the ship.

  • The Commanding Officer—Our Commanding Officer, Chad, has authority over all other crew members and ship personnel.  He drives the ship on alternating 6-hour shifts and is responsible for medical care in the event that anyone were to get hurt.
  • The Executive Officer—Dan is the Executive Officer (also referred to as the XO) for the JOHN N. COBB on this cruise.  He is the direct representative of the Commanding Officer, and is therefore responsible for executing the policies and orders issued by the Commanding Officer.  He also drives the ship for 6-hour shifts, alternating with the Commanding Officer.
  • The Chief Marine Engineer—Del, or “Chief”, serves as our Chief Marine Engineer.  Because his main responsibilities are to oversee the Engineering Department and fix any problems with the mechanical or electrical systems on the ship, he is usually down below in the engine room.
  • The Chief Steward—Bill, our Chief Steward, is in charge of the galley, or kitchen, of the ship. He provides the crew and scientists with three meals everyday, all cooked on a diesel stove. Because the galley on the JOHN N. COBB is very small, it is very important that those onboard the ship are clean and respect the requests made by the Chief Steward.
Bill, the Chief Steward of the JOHN N. COBB, cooks a delicious dinner for the crew.
Bill, the Chief Steward of the JOHN N. COBB, cooks a delicious dinner for the crew.

There are also other crew members that are responsible for duties such as relieving the Chief Engineer, keeping the boat clean, and driving the skiffs stored on the JOHN N. COBB during scientific operations.  The crew members and scientists sleep in various locations on the boat—though some have it better than others! Most of the crew members, with the exception of the Commanding Officer and Executive Officer, sleep in one large room at the front of the boat. Their room includes bunks, drawers and storage space for their clothing, a small sink, and a couple of benches that also serve as storage units.  Because there is always someone sleeping aboard the ship, curtains can be pulled across each bunk to block light and provide privacy. The scientists are housed in staterooms located just behind the galley, and these rooms provide more space to allow the scientists to work.  Each stateroom has two bunks, a small desk, a sink, and a couple of storage units for clothes and other personal belongings. The bathrooms, or heads, are located in the hallway and are shared by all on board, and there is one community shower for all crew and scientists to use. All of our meals are served in the galley at specific times of the day.  Bill, the Chief Steward, rings a bell when a meal is served, and we each take a designated seat at the table. Meals are served family-style, where the dishes are placed on the table and we serve ourselves. The crew generally consists of some big guys, and so there’s a lot of eating at each meal!  At the end of the meal, we clear our plates, thank the Steward, and head off to do our daily work.

However, life on the JOHN N. COBB isn’t always just about work—the crew enjoy their time off by fishing when the boat is anchored, reading magazines, watching movies, or playing games such as cribbage or solitaire.  There is even a treadmill and rowing machine for those crew members that want to fit a workout into their busy schedule.  Often, the scientists are busy with entering their data and preparing for the next day’s operations. Because there are always some crew members who are sleeping on the boat, it is important that noise is kept to a minimum at all times.

Safety First: Preparing for Emergencies at Sea— 

Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea participant, hangs out in her bottom bunk aboard the JOHN N. COBB.
Tara Fogleman hangs out in her bottom bunk.

It is standard practice for the crew and scientists to perform safety drills during the first 24 hours at sea, and this cruise was no exception.  After lunch, we practiced the “Abandon Ship” drill and the “Fire” drill.  During the “Abandon Ship” drill, everyone aboard was required to report to a life raft and bring (and put on) their survival suit, gloves, and hat. The survival suit is a bright orange outfit intended to cover nearly your entire body (excluding the face), provide insulation from the cold water, and provide floatation. It also has several safety features, including a strobe light and whistle.  During the “Fire” drill, everyone aboard the ship plays a crucial role—many of the crew don protective fire gear and prepare the fire hose, while others assist as needed.  Because everyone plays a role in these emergency situations, it is important that the scientists become familiar with their responsibilities before performing the drills.

Dolphins and Humpbacks and Bears, Oh My!— 

Alaska is beautiful—rugged mountains topped with snow, extensive spruce forests, and dark-blue water that can be so calm in the bays that it appears we’re on a lake.  There were two exciting finds on the way out of Gastineau Channel—we saw the spray of a humpback whale off in the distance (though I can’t truly say I’ve seen a humpback yet) and I saw a group of Dall’s porpoises riding the waves at the bow of the boat.  The Dall’s porpoises are very different from the Atlantic bottlenose dolphins that I commonly see off the coast of Georgia—they are black and white in color (like an orca), they have a smaller dorsal fin, and they are nearly 8 feet in length—but their behavior is similar, as they travel in groups and enjoy riding the waves.  We also spotted two brown bears, most likely a mother and her cub, and several bald eagles while we were anchored in a bay.  Bald eagles are fairly common here, and they are easy to spot because their bright, white heads easily stand out among the dark green of the spruce trees and the grayish-black color of the rocks.

Tomorrow, we’ll begin traveling to haulout sites at low tide (which falls in the morning, between 8 AM and 10 AM) to count harbor seals and their pups.  So with that in mind, I’m off to bed—we have a busy morning tomorrow and I need my rest!

This photo of two brown bears was captured by Chief Scientist Dave Withrow as the JOHN N. COBB anchored in Gut Bay, Alaska.
This photo of two brown bears was captured by Chief Scientist Dave Withrow as the JOHN N. COBB anchored in Gut Bay, Alaska.

Tara Fogleman, May 31, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tara Fogleman
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1 – 14, 2007

Mission: Alaskan Harbor Seal Pupping Phenology and Site Monitoring
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: May 31, 2007

Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea participant, sailed on the JOHN N. COBB while taking part in an Alaskan harbor seal study.
Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea, sailed on the JOHN N. COBB for an Alaskan harbor seal study.

Personal Log 

After a long day of plane travel to Juneau, I found the JOHN N. COBB, located my stateroom for the length of the cruise, unpacked, and quickly fell asleep.  It wasn’t until today that I was able to explore Juneau by foot.  Immediately upon leaving the boat, I could tell that I was a long way from Savannah, Georgia!  The weather in June is still cold and unpredictable here—temperatures can fluctuate from 40°F and raining to 75°F and sunny, so it is important to dress in layers.  The sky here is often overcast or partly cloudy, and today was no exception.

The area of Juneau closest to the NOAA boat dock is a tourist-ridden area because it is a popular drop-off site for people sailing on cruise ships—however, I maneuvered around quickly, enjoying the local art shops, murals and statues, and learning about the history of the area at the local historic sites, such as the Governor’s House and the Alaska State Capitol.

Exploring Juneau and its History— 

A view of the town of Juneau, Alaska taken from the JOHN N. COBB as the ship began its journey.
A view of the town of Juneau, Alaska taken from the JOHN N. COBB as the ship began its journey.

The first residents of Juneau, the Tlingit people, fished and hunted in the Gastineau Channel for centuries. I observed evidence of their culture, including decorative artwork and totems, throughout the city. In the 1870s, a mining engineer named George Pilz offered a reward to anyone who could lead him to gold.  Chief Kowee, of the Auk Tlingit tribe, approached him with samples of gold from the Gastineau Channel, and a search party was sent to investigate.  When the mother lode was found in Silver Bowl Basin, prospectors began to arrive by boat with hopes of finding gold and making it rich.  On October 18, 1880, a 160-acre town site was staked out on the beach, and Juneau was born.  Within a few years, Juneau was transformed from a native fishing village to a large-scale mining industry.

The city of Juneau is located in the middle of the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest temperate rainforest in North America.  This forest, which covers nearly 17million acres, is dominated by the Sitka spruce, which is Alaska’s state tree. The Sitka spruce is identified by its very straight top and sharp-tipped needles, and can reach ages of 200 to 700 years old. The Tongass is a temperate rainforest, which differs from a tropical rainforest in two ways:  temperate forests are much cooler, and they are inhabited by fewer species of plants and animals.  However, though temperate rainforests are less diverse than tropical rainforests, they contain a high amount of biomass.  Animals such as bald eagles, black bears, marmots, and porcupines inhabit the Tongass, and organisms such as harbor seals and salmon can be found in the coastal waters.  After exploring Juneau, I headed back to the boat to speak with Dave Withrow, the Chief Scientist for the mission.  We spoke briefly about the procedures for the study and the major objectives that we will try to achieve while aboard the JOHN N. COBB.

 Mendenhall Glacier is located just outside of Juneau, Alaska.  The glacier is retreating at an alarming rate.
Mendenhall Glacier is located just outside of Juneau, Alaska. The glacier is retreating at an alarming rate.

The Objectives of the Study— 

During this cruise, Dave will be exploring selected areas of southeastern Alaska to: 1) determine population counts of harbor seals, with a special emphasis on which sites are being used for pupping, 2) identify how many pups are born and the approximate age and size of these pups, and 3) identify potential haulout sites for long-term studies, such as sites that are inhabited by large numbers of seals (more than 200).  Identifying critical habitat is an important component of this study, because many of these habitat areas are experiencing a decline.  Harbor seals use the floating ice calved from tidewater glaciers to pup, nurse their young, and molt, because these areas are free from most predators and disturbance. However, these tidewater glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate; in 1983, there were 52 recorded tidewater glaciers, and in 2004, only 31 of these documented glaciers remained, and all but 5 of them were receding.  This reduction of pupping habitat could have a significant impact on harbor seal populations.

More Sightseeing Around Juneau— 

Prior to setting sail, I ran errands with the crew around Juneau to pick up miscellaneous gear needed for the cruise, and I even stopped at the Alaskan Brewery to take a tour of their facilities. Later that evening, Dave Withrow took me to the Mendenhall Glacier— this is a glacier located just outside of Juneau.  He told me that the glacier has been retreating at an alarming rate during the past years.  I was particularly amazed at the light blue-green color of the glacial ice that floated in the water in front of the glacier—it is unlike anything I have ever seen.

I’m off to bed for now—tomorrow we set sail for our first study sites.

Mike Laird, August 11, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: August 11, 2005

Weather Data

Time: 13:00
Latitude: 55° 53.4 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 225˚
Wind Speed: 10kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 0-1΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 8/8 covered; Lower level: cumulus Mid-level: altostratus High level: cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

The survey operations being conducted in the waters around Mitrofania have been closed as we begin our transit that leads to the end of an educational and entertaining 22-day voyage onboard the RAINIER. The RAINIER’s reputation as one of the most productive hydrographic survey platforms in the world can be attributed, in large part, to her officers and crew. The people who serve onboard the RAINIER come with different backgrounds, levels of education, and amounts of experience at sea.  They come for different reasons, plan to stay for different periods of time, and have different expectations of where their service on the RAINIER will lead them.  However, each of them takes pride in doing their job well. Not only does the survey and support work require everyone’s contribution but also the safety of the people and ship demands constant teamwork and cooperation.

During the time I spent on the RAINIER, everyone I interacted with was friendly and attempted to involve us in the day-to-day operations of the ship as much as possible.  I felt like a member of the team, not an outsider, and was encouraged to participate in all aspects of ship life.  All ship personnel made themselves available and patiently answered the multitudes of questions sent their way.  As a result, I have learned a lot (admittedly there is a great deal more to learn) during these three weeks about the science and technology behind hydrographic research and the importance of strong support from the following areas: the officer corps, deck, engineering, electronics, the steward’s department, and ship’s yeoman.  Without their support, the survey crew’s work would not happen.

So as we draw closer to Homer, AK and the end of my journey with the RAINIER, I would like to thank the officers and crew of the RAINIER for inviting me along for the ride!

Now – some miscellaneous stuff that didn’t fit anywhere else in my logs:

  • Fuel capacity of the RAINIER: 112,000 gallons
  • Recreational activities available during off duty hours:
  • Fishing: salmon (king, coho, pink); yelloweye rockfish; black rockfish;  lingcod
  • Sea kayaking
  • Shore exploration if a skiff is available
  • Movies – available most hours
  • Exercise area: free weights, weight machine, rowing machine,
  • stationary bike, and treadmills (2)
  • Computer games in the crew library
  • Cribbage
  • Whale watching
  • Electronic newspaper (New York Times Digest) complete with crossword
  • College degrees held by officers and crew (list is not all inclusive):   Marine science Electronic engineering and technology Biology Geographic biology Electrical engineering Environmental studies Anthropology Physics Zoology Oceanographic engineering Shoreline engineering

Personal Log 

We are scheduled to arrive in Homer around 8:00a.m. tomorrow.  The first liberty vehicles will be available in the afternoon, and I’m planning to head into town to do a little gift shopping. I was not home for my wife’s birthday (although I did send a card, and called to wish her happy birthday from Kodiak during our refueling stop), and I have to find something really good.  Planning to go to Alaska Wild Berry Products shop (I received a helpful hint before leaving home that there is one located “right in Homer”).  I also plan to check out the Pratt Museum, a place called the Blackberry Bog – sounded like an interesting shop, and of course the Salty Dog (the local watering hole).  I only have two more nights on the ship. Have to pack up, clean the room, and vacate the premises before the arrival of the next teacher at sea Saturday afternoon. I’ll spend Saturday night at the Bidarka Inn in Homer before flying out Sunday night.  It’s been great – couldn’t ask for a better experience!

Mike Laird, August 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: August 8, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 55° 53.3 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.5 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 230˚
Wind Speed: 13kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 0-1΄
Sea Water Temperature: 12.8˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1027.2 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 0/8 covered

Science and Technology Log 

Today is probably the last day that I will be out on a launch, because tomorrow we will be running some survey lines using the ship’s sonar.  The launch I am assigned to (RA-2) is going out to collect bottom samples.  Bottom samples are primarily used to sample the ocean floor in areas that have been identified as potential anchor sites.  The information from the samples will be used to determine the locations of “good” anchor sites (sites that will provide a catch for the anchor, so it won’t just slide around).  These good anchor sites will then be included in the nautical information available for the area around Mitrofania.

A tool called a, clamshell sediment sampler, is used to retrieve the floor samples.  The clamshell is a metal tool about a foot-and-a-half long, weighing between ten and twenty pounds. It has a rounded head, really a set of spring-loaded jaws, mounted to a shaft that is seated on a circular metal plate (picture one half of a Q-tip that’s been cut in half with the cardboard shaft glued to an M&M and you’ll get an of what the sampler looks like).  The plate end of the tool is secured to a line and dropped head first over the side of the launch. When the sampler hits the seafloor, a lever activates the metal jaws (which were cocked open prior to the drop), they snap shut, and bingo a bottom sample.  On the launch, the line is threaded through an electronic pulley system and the sample is raised to the surface.  Most of the time this technique works well; however, sometimes the jaws fail to close, or they pinch shut on a rock allowing the sample to stream out on the way to the surface. In these cases, the procedure must be repeated.

Back on the launch, the sampler’s jaws are pried open and the contents are examined, and finally a record (including notations on the floor sample contents, latitude and longitude, and water depth) is created for the site. Once this is completed, the sampler is rinsed out, the boat moves to the next location, and the process is repeated.  Our team worked twenty-one sample sites and found some (not much) variety in our samples (shells only; shells and gravel; shells and silt; shells, silt and gravel; mud and gravel; and rock – determined after two casts returned with a closed, empty sampler).

Personal Log 

Today an unusual event – a bear sighting! The launch was moving to a new cast location when the coxswain, Carl, spotted three dots moving along a distant shoreline.  A closer look with the binoculars confirmed that the dots were bears (a sow and her two cubs).  The trio jogged along the shore as the cubs darted in and out of the surf frolicking and generally having a good time.  We eventually got too close and momma decided to head inland to the safety of the thick undergrowth.  Very cool!

Mike Laird, August 7, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: August 7, 2005

Weather Data

Time: 13:00
Latitude: 55° 53.4 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 225˚
Wind Speed: 10kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 0-1΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 8/8 covered; Lower level: cumulus Mid-level: altostratus High level: cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

While running echo soundings on the launch one day, the topic of conversation turned to sailing superstitions.  Since that time, I have informally talked with several crewmembers about superstitions they have heard of or that they personally believe in.  Here is what I have discovered so far.

The most widely believed superstition is that it is bad luck for a ship to leave port and set sail on a Friday. No one I talked to knew the origin of this belief, but everyone I talked to thought it best to stay in port an extra day or two and not tempt fate.  One of the ensigns had even heard a tale of a non-believer trying to prove the superstition was a bunch of bunk. He began construction of a ship on Friday, christened the ship on a Friday, put the ship under the command of a Captain Friday, and began the maiden voyage on a Friday.  The ship was never heard from again, believe it or not!  In any case, most sailors will not happily set sail from port on a Friday.

Another common superstition, observed by most, is that one should not whistle.  I heard a couple of explanations for this. One version is that whistling is not allowed on the bridge, because it will “whistle up an ill wind.”  One coxswain, who has been around the sea and ships, including steamships, for many years, gave a different rational for the whistling ban. On steamships, a whistling noise was an indicator that there was steam escaping from one of the ship’s steam pipes – often a dangerous situation.  Whatever the reason, whistling is discouraged on the ship.  As one ensign said, “I don’t whistle, because it is annoying.”

Having a woman, minister (or other religious figure on board) was at one time considered to be bad luck. None of the people I talked to felt strongly about either of those.

Apparently, having bananas onboard is supposed to be bad luck for racing vessels and fishing boats – no one knew why.

Finally, one ensign who grew up in France shared that it is not good to say the word “rabbit” onboard. Instead, one should say “long ears.”  However, having mice—stuffed, carved, etc.—will keep the real thing away.

An interesting topic!  Remember to avoid sailing from port on Friday and to refrain from whistling while you work – and life should be good!

Personal Log 

Gorgeous weather again today – scattered clouds and lots of sunshine!  This afternoon we changed anchorage locations, moving from Sosbee Bay on the southern side of the island back to Cushing Bay on the northern side. During the transit we saw a sailboat off in the distance.  Haven’t seen much traffic while we’ve been here – two fishing boats motored by, and while on the southern side we saw three tugs pulling barges out in the gulf.  Mitrofania is a pretty peaceful and secluded spot.

Mike Laird, August 4, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: August 4, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 55° 50.8 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.0 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: Light Airs
Wind Speed: Light Airs
Sea Wave Height: 0΄
Swell Wave Height: 0΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.0 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 0/8 covered

Science and Technology Log 

The day begins early with launches leaving at 7:00.  The reason for the early start is that two launches (RA1 and RA2) are doing shoreline work.  Shoreline work must be done at lower low tide (in an area in which there are diurnal tides – two flooding periods and two ebbing periods – the lower low tide is the lower of the two ebbing periods), and on this day, the tidal window for this tide period is from 7:10 to 12:30.  The work along the ocean/land transition is done when the water level is at its lowest point so there is increased confidence that all features are observed and accounted for.

I have been assigned to launch RA2 and will have an opportunity for the first time to observe exactly how the shoreline surveys are conducted.  The work entails confirming existing map data from three sources: 1) the cartographic features file which is composed of data collected from aerial surveys (the photographs are used to create a map on which the shoreline and off shore features are shown); 2) LIDAR – a relatively new technology in which an aerial survey is conducted using lasers; and 3) existing nautical charts.

Confirming the data entails running the shoreline and comparing the actual shoreline and buffer (the water in a zone of between thirty and fifty meters just offshore) to what appears on the map.  A feature confirmation requires a visual observation of the feature.  As features are observed, a notation is hand written on a hard copy of the map.  Later, the notations will be input into the ship’s computer.

In addition to noting known features, features not currently shown are recorded on the map along with their location and depth.  In some cases, features shown on the map cannot be located. In these situations, a notation is made and a reason (too much kelp, water to deep, etc) is given. This signals the sheet manager that further investigation is required. If the water in the area is safe (the original boat conducting the survey is equipped with a single beam sonar system and will determine the water depth and then scan the area running in a star pattern searching for obstructions), one of the launches equipped with a multibeam echo sounding system will be sent in to do a 100% floor scan to confirm the feature.  If the area is not safe, a dive team will be sent in to do the confirmation.  Shoreline work is a bit more dynamic than the deepwater work – the crew must constantly be aware of what is happening with the surf as rocks can suddenly appear!

Personal Log 

The food onboard the RAINIER is quite tasty with a wide range of options available at every meal.  Starting off the day with breakfast (served 0700-0730), the most important meal of the day, choices include: eggs to order, fried, scrambled, poached, or boiled; omelets: cheese, minced ham, or vegetarian; french toast; hot cakes; waffles; fresh fruit: cantaloupe, pineapple, honeydew melon, mango; some type of meat: ham, bacon, sausage, Spam; cold cereal, coffee, tea, juice, milk.

Selections for today’s lunch (served from 1200-1230) were: Entrées: homemade gumbo soup, grilled fillet of catfish/tartar sauce, hot roast beef sandwich, mushroom and cheese quesadillas. Side Dishes: diced brown potatoes, steamed rice, steamed fresh cauliflower.  Dessert: chilled jello/whip cream. Drinks: water, juice, milk, lemonade or grape flavored drink, coffee.

Today’s dinner (served from 1700-1730) is a fantail (kind of like the ship’s back porch) cookout. Salads: pasta, potato, and another salad I’m note sure what it was; Entrees: BBQ – steaks, ribs and sausage, fried chicken; Side dishes: egg rolls, french fries, and pot stickers; Drinks: water and assorted juices. A real feast!

Mike Laird, August 3, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: August 3, 2005

Weather Data

Time: 13:00
Latitude: 55° 53.4 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 225˚
Wind Speed: 10kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 0-1΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 8/8 covered; Lower level: cumulus Mid-level: altostratus High level: cirrus

Deck Crew for a Day – Part II 

Previously in this log (see Day 10: Tuesday, August 2) I left you having just assisted the deck crew (of which I am a member for a day) in getting the survey launches prepped, lowered to the water, and cast off for their day of echo sounding.  All that done, and the day is just beginning.

As it turns out, the deck crew is currently running through some training exercises for some of its newer members – a perfect opportunity for me to learn a lot of new and interesting things. However before the training begins, the junior deck hands have daily cleaning responsibilities (bathrooms, trash, mopping floors, etc.) that must be taken care of. Somehow I luck out and avoid latrine duty, and Erick Davis, my mentor for the day, takes me to the bow of the ship where I am instructed on the operation of the forward cranes. These cranes are used primarily for lifting and moving the gangways (the walkways between the ship and the pier when the ship is in port) and to load stores and cargo onto the ship.

After an introduction to the crane and the hand signals used to communicate between the operator and the deck chief, I have a chance to operate the crane for a few minutes.  By this time, the rest of the group has rejoined us and the focus turns to proper mooring and anchoring techniques.

Members of the deck crew are responsible for getting the mooring lines ashore as the ship is arriving in port and retrieving and storing the lines when the ship is putting out to sea.  The RAINIER most often uses four lines (each line is assigned a number) when mooring: a bowline (line #1), an aft leading spring line (line #2), a for leading spring line (line #3), and a stern line (line #4). The sequence in which these lines are cast ashore is intended to increase the ease of docking the ship and is dependant on the docking situation.

In a routine mooring the lines will be cast in the following order: 1) aft leading spring line, 2) stern line, 3) bowline, and 4) for leading stern line.  There are aids both mechanical (capstans) and fixed on the deck (chucks and bits) that help as crew members release and take in line as the ship is being positioned alongside the pier or preparing to leave port.  These aids have taken the place of hand cranking and reduce the amount of physical effort required to manipulate mooring lines that can get quite heavy when dealing with extensive lengths (especially when wet) of line.

In addition to mooring, the deck crew is highly involved in anchoring the ship.  Once a location (chosen by the commanding officer or in some instances the officer of the deck) has been chosen to anchor, the crew prepares to drop anchor.  The flow of the anchor chain when releasing and retracting the anchor is controlled by a piece of equipment called the anchor windlass. When setting anchor, the windlass must allow chain to flow smoothly as it follows the anchor to the seafloor.

The windlass has a three-tiered system used to hold the chain in place while the ship is in transit and when anchored. First, there is a huge drum brake (much like those found on cars, but much larger); there is also a large metal latch, called the “devil’s claw” that fits through, grabs, and holds onto a chain link; finally the “cat’s paw” is a metal arm that lays on top of the chain pinching it down to prevent movement.  Each of these must be disengaged to allow release of chain. As the chain is being released, the deck chief signals to the bridge how much chain has been let out.  The chain length is measured in units called shots. Each shot is ninety feet (the RAINIER carries twelve shots of chain for each of its two anchors – 1080feet of chain per anchor) and is indicated by a section of painted chain four or five links long.

Once the anchor hits bottom, additional chain (called scope) is released to allow for fluctuations in water level caused by the tide and wave action.  The additional chain also provides additional weight to help secure the ship.  The amount of scope depends on the conditions and judgment of the officer in charge, but a general rule is to let out a total chain length of one third (distance to the bottom) plus two thirds (length of scope).  For example, if the anchor hits bottom at 27 fathoms (a fathom is six feet; 27 fathoms equals 162 feet) three hundred twenty-four more feet (or about three and one half shots) of chain would be released for scope.

Having completed the tutorial on anchoring, we turned to another aspect of the life of a deck crewmember — the operation of the small boats (launches and skiffs) on board ship.  The remainder of the afternoon is spent practicing the operation and maneuvering of a skiff. The group I am with practices basic operations: starting, stopping, smooth acceleration and deceleration, and moving in a straight line while in reverse.

Having demonstrated these skills, we go to man overboard rescue situations and practice moving the skiff into proper rescue position alongside the victim (without running them over).

Then it’s on to anchoring the skiff: choosing an acceptable location and orientation, releasing the anchor and proper amount of scope, and making sure the anchor is set to keep the skiff safely and securely positioned.

The last maneuver we practice is beach landings: choosing a location onshore that will allow personnel and equipment to move from the boat to land safely and efficiently, properly orienting the skiff for beach approach, and finally the smooth, spot-on landing.

Finally, it’s back to the RAINIER to await the return of the launches, so they can be raised by the davits back into their storage hangars.  Thus ends my day with the deck crew.

Personal Log 

While on a skiff doing shoreline work, I saw some sea lions yesterday.  Until we came along, they were peacefully napping on a rock outcrop enjoying the late morning sunshine. Our arrival caused a ruckus with a great amount of bellowing, grunting, and tussling among themselves.  Ensign Briana Welton was telling us about an article she read saying that human intrusion into breeding sea lion communities causes the sea lions stress and has interfered with their reproductive habits causing a population decline in some areas.  Our presence certainly caused this bunch a bit of stress if their behavior was any indication. They were fun to watch (make sure to be up wind – they have a terrible stench), but I hope we did not overly stress them.

Mike Laird, August 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: August 2, 2005

Weather Data

Time: 13:00
Latitude: 55° 53.4 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 225˚
Wind Speed: 10kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 0-1΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 8/8 covered; Lower level: cumulus Mid-level: altostratus High level: cirrus

Deck Crew for a Day – Part I 

One evening late last week, I checked the Plan of the Day (POD) — a schedule listing the following day’s launch assignments and ship movements.  I found that I was scheduled for an on-ship day. Teacher at Sea participants onboard the RAINIER generally follow a routine alternating between fieldwork out in the launches and days onboard the ship.  The on-ship days are intended to give us time to interview crewmembers, research areas of interest, and prepare logs detailing our experiences and learning.

So when I saw that I would be onboard the following day, I made arrangements with Jim Kruger the Deck Chief to be a member of the deck crew for a day.  While anchored in the work area, the deck crew’s typical day begins with the responsibility of getting all launches scheduled for fieldwork prepared and deployed.  For each boat going out this entails:

  • removal of the tie-downs securing the launch in its berth
  • lowering the launch (done with a piece of equipment called a gravity davit – a system of pulleys, cables, and hooks operated by a motor)
  • securing the launch for the safe loading of:
      1. personnel,
      2. equipment: the CTD sensor used in taking a cast of the water column (see log for Day 3, Wednesday, July 27) and personal gear,
      3. and – maybe most important – the food and drinks prepared by the galley for lunch and snacks
  • releasing the launch from the hooks (one on the bow – “For clear!” and one on the stern – “Aft clear!”) used to raise and lower it with the gravity davit
  • starting the boat’s motor
  • and finally, releasing the launch’s bow and stern lines, so the coxswain can  radio in and declare, “We are away!”

The deck crew must work as a team to ensure that all of this happens safely, quickly, and efficiently.  It is pretty impressive to see four to five launches mobilized and away from the ship in less than thirty minutes!  On my first day (actually my only day) on the job, I was given the job of manning the stern line.  Of course I had a “real” deck crewmember by my side giving me instructions and pointers and ready to step in if things reached a crisis point.

The stern line actually serves two purposes: 1) to make sure the launch does not swing back and forth too much while it is being lowered into the water, and 2) to work with the bowline to hold the boat securely alongside the RAINIER until it is ready to cast off. It takes quick, nimble hands (along with a few pointers on useful techniques from my partner and the Captain) to quickly release and secure the lines to the cleats along the ship’s railing. It is also encouraged that one perform these tasks without getting hands and fingers caught or getting the line all tangled up.  I preformed my duties as a rookie would and successfully helped get all the launches on their way!  It seems like we have done a lot already this morning it must be getting late.  What?  It’s only 8:27!

To be continued.

Personal Log 

Hey all you sun junkies out there! Alaska in the summer is the place to be!  We are currently enjoying almost seventeen hours of sunlight a day – sunrise 6:43 and sunset

10:38. This provides a lot of time for outdoor activities – we were out fishing at 10:30 last night. Finally had to turn the deck lights on at about 11:30, so we could finish cleaning our fish. Of course, all this fun in the sun depends on cooperation from the weather. Heavy clouds, fog and rain – not uncommon in our current location – tend to put a damper on the sunshine.  So we’ll live large and enjoy every moment we have for as long as it lasts!

Mike Laird, August 1, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: August 1, 2005

Weather Data

Time: 13:00
Latitude: 55° 53.4 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 225˚
Wind Speed: 10kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 0-1΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 8/8 covered; Lower level: cumulus Mid-level: altostratus High level: cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

Operating the RAINIER in port—as she transits from site to site, and as she lies at anchor acting as home base for the survey operations—requires that each of the ship’s “departments” functions efficiently with a small margin for error.  When things do go wrong, they must be handled using the resources available on the ship so that operations continue with as little down time as possible.  Perhaps the greatest resource onboard the RAINIER is her personnel.  Situations, like those listed below, continually arise and require those involved to demonstrate patience, innovation, problem solving abilities and determination:

  • A cable getting caught in one of the pulleys on a gravity davit just after it has been used to lower a survey launch at 8:00 to begin its day of echo sounding. The cable must be replaced and the davit operational by the time the launch returns at 16:30.
  • A crack in the hull of a launch (welded and “fixed” while the RAINIER was in port for three days in Kodiak) is allowing water into the launch at the rate of about a gallon an hour. The engineering people use some magic red goop to temporarily stop the leak until a permanent solution can be devised.
  • Electronic equipment is very temperamental (cables jiggle loose during transits through rough seas, components can overheat, software glitches rear their heads, etc.) and continually requires TLC to keep it happy and functioning.
  • Established, recognized Differential Global Positioning Systems (latitude and longitude data) and primary control stations (tide data) may not provide data that meets required specifications (because of their distance from the work area, topographic features, etc) necessitating the installation of temporary DGPS and tide station sites.

As a crew member, you never know what is going to come up and must always be willing and prepared to meet unforeseen challenges!

Personal Log 

Last night, after a day of recording data on one of the survey launches, six of us had a chance to take one of the skiffs and go do a little fishing.  Our primary target was halibut.  We motored out to a site scouted earlier in the day during our survey ops, dropped our lines and began jigging right on the bottom.  It wasn’t long before I felt a tugging on my line, began reeling in, and pulled up a baby halibut (or “but” as my companions more versed in these matters call them).  Not wanting to be accused as a cradle robber, I released it. I dropped my line again and after a few minutes of jigging, felt the tug, and reeled in a larger halibut (maybe a 15 pounder – I know technically still a baby).  I released it also, because my companions assure me, “It’s still early you’ll get a bigger one.” I didn’t – of course. However, I did have success (a silver salmon, and four sea cod – I kept these). I also hooked a pea cod, an Irish Lord and two other small halibut – I didn’t keep these. Fun times!

Mike Laird, July 31, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 31, 2005

Weather Data

Time: 13:00
Latitude: 55° 53.4 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 50.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 225˚
Wind Speed: 10kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 0-1΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.7˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 8/8 covered; Lower level: cumulus Mid-level: altostratus High level: cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

The RAINIER’s crew of forty-nine (men (40) and women (9)) is divided into six work groups:

I) Officers and junior officers:  Responsible for overall ship operations including: navigation, horizontal and vertical control, damage control (ship safety), medical services, field  operations, etc.

II) Survey operations: Responsibilities include: data collection and analysis

III) Deck operations:  Responsibilities include: launch and de-launch of small boats (launches and skiffs), operation of the small boats, manning equipment and lines used during anchoring and mooring of the ship, maintenance (cleaning, rust removal, painting) and operation of the deck and deck equipment (cranes, gravity davits, hydraulic davit, the anchor windlass), etc.

IV) Engineering operations: Responsibilities include: maintenance and operation of the ships electrical and mechanical systems

V) Yeoman and Electronics: Yeoman – responsibilities similar to those of a business manager  (personnel, payroll, ship’s budget, etc.).  This position is slowly being  eliminated from the ships in NOAA’s fleet.

Electronics – responsible for the maintenance and operation of the electronic equipment onboard ship (computers, radios, GPS units, etc).

VI) Steward: Responsibilities include: operation of the galley, preparing three meals a day for the crew, preparing snacks for the morning and afternoon breaks, and preparing a picnic lunch and drinks to send with the three to four launch crews who are sent out on survey assignments.

I was able to work with the deck crew the other day, and I’ll share the experience in a future log!

Personal Log 

Today I did a lot of housekeeping kind of stuff.  I was getting pretty low on clean clothes, so I went down and used the ship’s laundry – three washing machines and three driers.  The only difficulty is trying to find open machines.  Either I hit it on a busy day or 49 crewmembers and four guests keep the machines busy.  I also caught up on my logs and did some background reading on tides and tidal datum.  Think I will try a little fishing tonight – still haven’t managed to pull one over the ship’s side.  Last night Jon, one of the crew, somehow caught a skate (looks like a ray).  He hooked it in one of the fins. We pulled it up took a look at it and then released it back over the side.  Very interesting!

Mike Laird, July 30, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 30, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 55°37.1̍ N
Longitude: 156˚46.6 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 140˚
Wind Speed: 5 kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 2΄
Sea Water Temperature: 12.2˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.8 mb
Cloud Cover: Stratus

Science and Technology Log 

I would like to add some clarifying information to my log entry, Mike Laird, July 29, 2005.  In that entry, I discussed setting up two horizontal control-data collection stations, and in reading the entry, it appears that the purpose for both stations is to support the “fly-away” Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS).  This is not accurate.  Only the station we established on the point will be used to determine the exact location of the DGPS.

The purpose of the other station is to verify the accuracy of the existing benchmark at that site, so a tidal datum (“…a base elevation used as a reference from which to reckon heights or depths”) can be established for the tide station located there.  I mentioned in the previous log that the horizontal control team is responsible for establishing accurate latitude and longitude coordinates for each sounding taken by the RAINIER and the launches. In addition, the soundings are taken throughout the day at different stages of the tide, which means that water depth will vary.

It is the responsibility of the vertical control team to provide precise tide data for corrections that have to be applied to the soundings so that they meet NOAA’s Mean Lower Low Water (MLLW) guideline (ensures minimum water depth is charted).  Mean Lower Low Water means that an average is taken of the tide level at the lower of the two ebb periods in a semi-diurnal (two flood periods and two ebb periods every day) tidal day. The National Water Level Observation maintains primary control stations in many locations around the United States. These stations determine a tidal datum based on the average of observations over a nineteen-year period.

In many survey areas, the tidal datum received from a primary control station can be used to make the necessary corrections to the soundings.  However, the nearest station to the RAINIER’s current work area is located in Sand Point – a significant distance away.  Therefore, the vertical control team established the tertiary tidal station (one in operation for at least thirty consecutive days but less than a year) here in Cushing Bay, so that data more indicative of the local conditions can be collected and compared to the primary datum.  During this analysis, a decision will be made about any adjustments that need to be made to the primary datum before it is used to make corrections to the survey soundings.

Personal Log 

Our good fortune continues to hold – the weather is incredible.  Sun is shining brightly, temperature in the low 70’s.  We had been hearing whispers since lunch of a beach party tonight. The rumors were confirmed by an announcement following dinner that a skiff would be ferrying people to the shore and back from 18:30 until 23:30.  It was a time for the crew and guests to relax and hang out, enjoy a big driftwood bonfire, do a little beachcombing (the captain found a large whalebone – rib maybe), have some sodas and listen to a little music.  A lot of fun!

Mike Laird, July 29, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 29, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 55° 53.36 ̍ N
Longitude: 158˚ 58.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: Light Airs
Wind Speed: Light Airs
Sea Wave Height: 0΄
Swell Wave Height: 0΄
Sea Water Temperature: 12.2˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 8/8 covered;
Lower-level: cumulus, stratocumulus
Mid-level: altostratus

Science and Technology Log 

Today I am on a team that is going ashore to set up two horizontal control-data collection stations. The horizontal control team is responsible for establishing accurate latitude and longitude coordinates for the location of the survey soundings. The RAINIER uses a Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) to acquire precise readings for every collected depth sounding. The remote location of the Mitrofania Island work area has introduced an infrequently encountered challenge for the horizontal control team.  The two Coast Guard operated DGPS Beacon Stations that are closest to the work area (one on Kodiak Island and one in Cold Bay) are too far away (we are on the outer fringe of their transmitting capability) for the signal to reach the launches in some of the more isolated, shielded areas. As a result, we are out setting up the horizontal control data collection stations.

The first station is set up over an existing benchmark and will record data transmitted directly from a GPS satellite.  The receiver will record readings for six hours, shut down for twenty-four hours, and resume recording for a final six-hour time period. Finished with the first station, we travel across the bay to a point that extends out into the ocean. We will set up the second horizontal control data collection station at this location. However, there is not an existing benchmark, so we must establish one.  First, we drive three-foot sections of metal rod into the ground (normally benchmarks are fixed in rock but there is none at this site).  We sink two sections and decide that is enough to hold the benchmark in place for the two months that it will be in use (for a permanent benchmark the rod is driven until it can go no further).  The brass cap is then stamped with a name (SPIT) and date (2005) and affixed to the top of the rod.  We are now able to set up the second station. The receiver will follow the same collection pattern: collecting signals for six hours, resting for twenty-four hours, and collecting for another six hours.

At the end of the collection period, the data from the sensors will be uploaded to an onboard computer and transmitted to the National Geodetic Survey in Washington D.C. where corrections to account for error introduced by things such as the atmosphere are applied. The corrected data, returned to the ship, will establish very accurately (within cm) the latitude and longitude for the site.  One final correction is made to the data before the site can be used. This error source is the satellite itself and comes from the satellite’s perceived position (where it thinks it is in the sky) as compared to its actual position.  The precise location is monitored by the United States Air Force.  Final corrections using this information will provide pinpoint accuracy (within mm) of the benchmark’s location. A temporary, or “fly-away”, DGPS station can now be placed at this benchmark and transmit signals easily received by the launches.

Personal Log 

Yet another beautiful day! Once on shore the mosquitoes were terrible – swarming in clouds around our heads.  A little bug dope, the warm sun, and cool breeze soon took care of this problem.  A great day to be out working!

Mike Laird, July 28, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 28, 2005

Weather Data

Latitude: 55°37.1̍ N
Longitude: 156˚46.6 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 140˚
Wind Speed: 5 kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 2΄
Sea Water Temperature: 12.2˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.8 mb
Cloud Cover: Stratus

Science and Technology Log 

Another beautiful day in the Gulf of Alaska – partially cloudy with lots of sun!  Today I remained aboard the RAINIER and had an opportunity to talk with Ensign Olivia Hauser about the map sheets.  The sheets are prepared to guide the launches on their echo sounding runs. The whole area to be mapped on this leg of the mission is subdivided into zones called sheets.  At the beginning of the workday, each launch is assigned a sheet for the crew to follow for that day. However prior to distribution to the launch crews, the sheets must be developed.

Each sheet (there are six sheets for our current assignment) is the responsibility of a single sheet manager who takes care of the initial preparation of the sheet, sheet revisions, and the beginning phases of data analysis.  In developing the sheet, the manager attempts to achieve 100% coverage of the seafloor.  This means that the manager attempts to determine the optimum distance between the lines the launch will follow during its sounding runs. In areas like the waters around Mitrofania where there is little or no existing data, the first run of a sheet is a best guess plot.  In essence, the launches are conducting reconnaissance runs.

The data collected during these runs, may reveal some error in the initial line plots.  One problem is called a “holiday” which is a gap between the lines (unsounded seafloor).  This happens when the lines are spaced too far apart for the depth of the water (the water is shallower than expected), and the footprint scanned becomes too narrow leaving a gap between it and the footprint of the neighboring line(s).  A second type of problem is excessive noise in the scan results. In reconnaissance work, this is often the result of a greater than expected water depth in a launch not equipped to handle soundings at that depth. When these types of errors are identified, the sheet manager will revise the sheet plotting a new set of lines to be run. If necessary, a different launch (one with appropriate echo sounding equipment) will be assigned to run the new lines.  Once a complete set of good lines is established for a sheet and seafloor data for the entire sheet is collected, initial analysis begins. Computer programs take cast data (conductivity, pressure, and temperature), tide information, GPS readings (corrected for error), data accounting for the pitch and roll of the launch and process the soundings.  The result is a first look at the bottom!  Subtle changes in shading reveal changes in floor depth and other bottom features. The soundings run by the RA5 launch so far have indicated a mostly flat floor with a few rock outcroppings and small ridges.

Personal Log 

The day was fantastic warm and sunny!  One of the crew caught a halibut, which the galley cooked–a special treat for dinner tonight!

Tamil Maldonado, July 27, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 27, 2005

Science and Technology Log

During the day I talked with the captain about boat stability.  Stability is defined as the ability of a vessel to return to its original condition or position after it has been disturbed by an outside force. Anyone who has been at sea and felt the vessel roll, for example, and then right itself (only to roll in the opposite direction and right itself again) has seen stability in action.

Outside forces include wind seas, adding/removing weight, and free surface.  The six Motions of a Vessel in waves are rolling, pitching, yawing, heaving, swaying, and surging. Rolling is the motion about the vessel’s longitudinal axis.  Pitching is the motion about the vessel’s transverse axis.  Yawing is the motion about the vessel’s vertical axis.  Heaving is the vertical bodily motion of the vessel (whole vessel moves up and down together). Swaying is lateral (side to side) bodily motion.  Surging is the longitudinal (fore and aft) bodily motion.  All or most of the motions can occur simultaneously and have their effect on the efficient operation of a vessel.  While the ship’s officer cannot completely control these motions, there is much that can be done to diminish or alleviate their effects.

Motions of the Vessel and Governing Stabilities include:  Roll- Transverse Stability, Pitch- Longitudinal Stability, Yaw- Directional Stability, Heave – Positional Motion Stability, Surge – Stability in motion Ahead or Astern, Sway – Lateral Motion Stability. The way a vessel rolls is a direct indication of her stability.

The condition of a vessel is determined almost solely by the location of two points: the Center of Gravity (G) and the Center of Buoyancy (B).  G is the point at which all vertically downward forces of the vessel can be considered to act.  In other words, the ship will behave as though all of its weight were acting downward through this point.  B is the point at which all the vertically upward forces of support (buoyancy) can be considered to act, or, the center of volume of the underwater portion of the vessel.  In other words, the ship will behave as if all of its support is acting up through this point. There are a lot of mathematical concepts and processes to compute stability.  Theory of Moments, Inclining formula, Trigonometry, Change in Mean Draft are also implied in vessel stability.

During the afternoon I worked on the computer, and I put all my pictures on the FAIRWEATHER’s computer network.

We also had the drills: 1) Men on Board, 2)  Abandon Ship, and 3) Fire and Emergency.

Tamil Maldonado, July 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic/FOCI Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 26, 2005

Science and Technology Log

We are underway in the Gulf of Alaska, Southeast of Sitkinak Island.  This is our last day of doing FOCI survey. We used the Bongo Tow and CTD throughout day.

At 5:00 p.m. we were done with survey and transiting to Dutch Harbor, AK

At night I interviewed Chief Scientist, Janet Duffy-Anderson, one more time.  We talked about how to know fish ages and how fast they are growing.  It is because of their rings— the number of rings a larvae has will give the days they are alive.  Also, you can know their age by how far apart those rings are, which gives you the information of how fast they are growing.

Furthermore we talked about atmospheric changes and how this is affecting the ecosystem.  The target of FOCI is to get biological as well as physical data on the changes in the ocean and how those changes interact with the biota.  They wanted to do this research in Alaska because you can see changes more rapidly at the poles of the planet. We have seen phenomena like El Nino, La Nina and others increasing in frequency and duration. The rate between phenomena is increasing—they are happening  more frequently for the last decade.

I will be able to get fisheries raw data in time series done by FOCI and will continue doing some research back home in this area.

At night we did an acoustic hydrographic survey, and by changing depth target we got different data, all related. Changing the depth target changes how deep the beams go through the water and come back.  We worked with Hips & Sips Computer Software.  This program also corrects in real time the error estimates for each contributing sensor.  These entries are necessary for the computation of the Total Propagated Error.  The Vessel Configuration File (VCF) contains information about the different sensors installed on the survey vessel and their relationship to each other.  The information in the file is applied to logged, converted data files, and when the final sounding positions are calculated, the data is merged.  The entries in the VCF are time tagged and multiple time tags can be defined for each sensor.  This allows the user to update sensor information during the course of a survey.  This may occur if a piece of equipment has been moved.

In order to define the new fields in the VCF it is essential to understand standard deviation. The standard deviation is a statistic that explains how tightly various examples are clustered around the mean in a set of data.  When the data is tightly bunched together the bell-shaped curve is steep and the standard deviation is small.  When the data is spread apart, the bell curve is relatively flat indicating a larger standard deviation.

The vessel information will be displayed in the Vessel Editor.  The sensor positions are represented by colored dots. The VCF can be updated if a sensor changes position, and a unique time stamp ensures that the correct offsets are applied to data recorded at a certain time.  Each time the sensor information is changed, the drop down list above the 3-D vessel model will be updated to include the new time stamps.  The data grid below the 3D vessel contains all the offset information for the vessel.

Tomorrow… we will talk about the stability of the ship, and how its is done (so we do not sink!).

Mike Laird, July 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 26, 2005

Watching the monitors
Watching the monitors

Weather Data

Latitude: 55°53.3̍ N
Longitude: 158˚58.4 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 235˚
Wind Speed: 6 kts
Sea Wave Height: 0΄
Swell Wave Height: 0΄
Sea Water Temperature: 11.1˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.5 mb
Cloud Cover: Sky 7/8 covered, Cumulonimbus

Science and Technology Log 

Operations for the day begin at 8:00 with crews of four launches assembling on the fantail for a pre-launch briefing giving final details of the day’s assignments and a review of safety procedures. Each launch crew is composed of three members: an Officer in Charge (OIC) who has overall responsibility of the launch, a coxswain who is responsible for the physical operation of the launch, and a survey crew member who assists in data collection in the assigned survey area.  Some crews carry a fourth member who is frequently a Teacher at Sea or other visitor on the ship.

Once the briefing is completed, each crew assembles in their launch-loading zone and boards the launch as it is lowered into the water.  I have been assigned to launch RA5 (RAINIER launch 5) and will be working with Ensign Mike Stevenson (the OIC), Carl Verplank the (coxswain), and Greg King (the survey technician).  Our assignment is to work in conjunction with launch RA3 to collect seafloor data in Mitrofania Bay, an area to the northwest of the RAINIER’s anchor location.  The area has been designated as Sheet AW.  The area around Mitrofania Island has been divided into several sheet areas.  Each sheet is composed of a map of the area overlaid by a set of parallel lines or tracks that the launch or ship will follow as it is recording data.  During the two weeks we are working in the region, data will be collected for as many of those sheets as possible.

Having reached the target area, a “cast” must be taken before the actual scanning of the bottom can begin.  The purpose of the cast is to gather information about the behavior of the water column we are working in.  The waters’ conductivity, temperature, and pressure will all affect the velocity of sound traveling through the column, and will be factored into the processing of the collected data.  The cast is conducted by lowering a CTD sensor, called a SEACAT, to the floor of the ocean.  When the cylinder is raised back to the surface, the data is uploaded to the launch computers and we are ready to go.  Launch RA5 is equipped with a Reson SeaBat 8101, a hull mounted extended echo sounder system.  This system is used to record seafloor information in water depths not exceeding approximately 110 meters.  This sonar system is a multi-beam system using 101 beams.  Each beam is composed of pings emitted from the sounder.  One beam drops vertically below the launch and fifty beams each fan out to the port and starboard sides.

To help picture this, imagine a set of right triangles below the launch.  Each triangle originates with the junction of the vertical beam and seafloor where two opposed right angles are formed.  The hypotenuse of each triangle is one of the fifty beams to the left or right of the vertical beam, and the seafloor forms the base of the triangle. Collectively the bases are referred to as the footprint (area covered by the sounding).  This footprint increases in size as the depth of the water increases.  As the size of the footprint grows, additional “noise” or interference is introduced into the sound wave pattern in those beams further from center.  This less accurate data will usually be eliminated during data analysis.

We spend the day transiting the lines designated on our sheet as the sonar feeds seafloor data to the launch computers.  At the end of the day, the launch nested safely back on the RAINIER, the data is downloaded from the launch to the ship.  Now begins the next phase analysis and “cleaning” of the raw data.  However, that is for another day!

Note: This is my understanding of the information I received.  If there are errors or inaccuracies,  I apologize.

Personal Log 

We have been very fortunate so far – the weather has been great since we arrived in Mitrofania. Partially cloudy but lots of sun!  The salmon (pinks and silvers) are constantly rolling and jumping. I tried my hand at a little salmon fishing yesterday with mixed results.  I hooked two! Key word there hooked. I didn’t land them – both shook the hook. Pretty lame, but I’ll get them next time!  Other crew members have tried some halibut fishing, but so for have only brought up what they call Irish Lords (“An ugly, junk fish.”) The fish is unique – a tan, brown and black with bulging eyes and poisonous spines that apparently cause pain and discomfort if you are cut or poked.

Tamil Maldonado, July 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Personal Log

We sailed through Sitkalidok Strait, southeast of Aliulik, Kodiak Island.  I got up seasick at 1:30 a.m. and stayed awake till 4:30 in the morning.  I went back to sleep and after lunch I took a seasick pill to feel better.  It just made me sleepy.

In the afternoon I interviewed one of the student scientists, Dylan Righi.  He is a programmer and his work deals with wavelets using drifters to recollect data.  He also “cleans” the data, since there is always some noise to be corrected.  He graphs the path of different types of drifters into the water and does some numerical analysis.  He runs a FORTRAN code on a UNIX system parallel to a computer back in Seattle.  His data analyses are from the North East Pacific regions.  The resolution of the wavelets is approximately 9 km, 520 points.  Anyone interested on the code or data could get it from FOCI website.

Sick 1:30 a.m.gt Sleep Talked with a programmer scientist about wavelets

Mike Laird, July 25, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 13, 2005

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

Mike Laird, Teacher at Sea
Mike Laird, Teacher at Sea

Weather Data

Latitude: 55°37.1̍ N
Longitude: 156˚46.6 ̍ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: 140˚
Wind Speed: 5 kts
Sea Wave Height: 0-1΄
Swell Wave Height: 2΄
Sea Water Temperature: 12.2˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1009.8 mb
Cloud Cover: Stratus

Science and Technology Log 

My name is Mike Laird, and I am a 5th and 6th grade Science and Math teacher from Flagstaff, AZ. I am onboard the NOAA ship RAINIER participating in a three-week hydrographic research cruise. The primary objective of the scientists and crew of the RAINIER is to gather data that can be used to create accurate maps of the ocean floor and coastline. I joined the team in Kodiak, AK.

We put to sea Monday afternoon after completing repairs on one of the six survey launches carried by the RAINIER.  Our destination is Mitrofania Island, a small island southwest of Kodiak. This location has been selected for data collection, because there is little information available on current nautical charts.  Our route took us through Shelikof Strait (between the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island).

We then tracked south between the Semidi Islands and Chirikof Island.  As we transited this track, the RAINIER used its onboard sonar to gather ocean depth information for this location. As other NOAA hydrographic ships follow this course, they will also gather data. Over time and using all the data collected by the various ships, an accurate nautical map of this area will be constructed.

Having completed this pass, we headed northwest toward Mitrofania.  We sailed around the southern tip of the island and head for Cushing Bay, where we anchored for the initial phases of the data collection work.  As we neared Cushing Bay, a small work team was deployed in one of the ship’s skiffs to check a temporary (in place for thirty days or less) tide station. The station must be checked to insure that it is operating correctly and transmitting accurate information back to the RAINIER.  Data from the temporary tide station will be compared to data from the nearest official Coast Guard Tide Station and accurate tidal information for the area around Mitrofania Island can be derived.  Accurate tidal information is critical, since it is used in the processing of the collected data.  In addition to checking the tide station, the work crew will attempt to locate a spot on the shore to install a temporary GPS system.  The closest land-based GPS systems are a distance away and could introduce error of up to three meters in the collected data.  The successful installation of a closer, more reliable GPS would help increase the reliability of the data the team collects.

The end of the day has come.  We are anchored in Cushing Bay, and I eagerly await tomorrow’s arrival as I will be joining the launch 5 survey team.

Tamil Maldonado, July 24, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Science and Technology Log

I started today on a night shift. I got up at 2:00 a.m. and worked with scientists that were doing a 24:00 – 12:00 (noon) shift. We used the bongo and tucker nets, plus the CTD to collect samples of water.  The CTD has 11 fiver-liter spaces that are opened electronically in different sea columns.  This gives a good idea of what is going on in terms of salinity, temperature, pressure, and food for fish throughout the ocean (vertically).  The other nets just take surveys as a hole or by only two regions of columns.

At 5:00 a.m. I stayed on the bridge and on watch till 7:00 a.m. and tried to make the boat steady. After breakfast I went to sleep.  After lunch I went to the engineering department and learned about engines, and how the boat actually works.  Some of the engines work with oil, some with seawater, and other ones with fresh water.  It was incredible for me to see all the machinery behind a boat’s work.  The engineer explained about the maintenance and equipment.  We also went to the refrigeration room to see how the system works with compression and condensation, how AC gets to our rooms, and how the boats use all the engines for energy, movement, and stability.

The sea weather today was awful—big waves coming in during afternoon and at night.  Many people got seasick today.

Tamil Maldonado, July 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Science and Technology Log

Today I interviewed the Electrical Technician about satellites on the ship, server computers, connections among rooms, computer labs, processes of e-mails, phone communications, and digital vs. analog communication.  He showed and explained all equipment they have in the computer rooms,  how systems talk to each other, how the e-mail codes and compresses data, and how they are stored in lines and by priorities.  He also showed me how they keep information in different places in the boat in case there is a fire in regions where they have the servers.  Moreover, he explained the different satellites and which ones are being used all the time for navigation.  It was really interesting to see all the systems working together.

I studied more about sonars and how they actually work undersea.  I read about the sonar setup, vessel operation, data analysis, and how noise is reduced on these sonars by the speed of the ship. For example, in a SeaBat 8160 sonar the best vessel speed while doing the survey is at 10 knots. There are exciting papers of Noise Analysis explaining the type of sonars they use.

At the end of the day I did some laundry and saved pictures on disks.

Tamil Maldonado, July 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Science and Technology Log

FOCI… Today I have been working hand in hand with scientists, throwing nets, collecting depth, pressure, temperature, and chlorophyll data.  We have also been washing nets, getting survey of larvae, writing it down in sheets database, labeling, freezing larvae and chlorophyll samples.  We analyze some graphs we were getting from the experiments.

Here are some questions I have… how is global warming affecting ecosystems? How do fish overcome these changes?  Do they go up or down in the ocean columns?  Are they changing their nursery places?  How is their behavior in comparison to other years? Which parameters affect them most: salinity or temperature?  Some of these questions are being answered by the scientists, and others are still unanswered for which we are trying to find the answers. It seems that Alaskan fish can adapt easily to salinity changes.  Remember that glaciers are melting more continuously than before and fresh water (since it is less dense than seawater) stays in the surface, which means there is a change in salinity and temperature in the ocean.  Therefore there could be changes in fish behavior and in their ecosystem.  It seems the larvae and fish will be affected by temperatures.  They could be moving from ocean columns to get to the right temperature.  But they also need food like plankton that maybe stays at a different column of seawater.  That will be a survival problem.

Scientists are focusing their work on commercial fish such as Pollock and Pacific Halibut. It is the first time they have done this survey during summer.  They want to have a template for next year to compare data with.  Later we could do some statistical models, and mathematical models to compare in terms of years or data columns.

Navigation… This afternoon I as actually sailing the boat…  I had the power on my hands.  I needed to be really focused and follow instructions at all times.  We also calculated times for some positions, stations where we were going to do survey.  I also calculated True Speed, which depends on relative speed, wind speed, angles and locations of the boat.

I had the chance to see whales, little fish and a jelly fish of the size of my 4 fingers.

I also did some hydrographic studies of the region,  got some data, pictures and depths of the ocean.

We had problems with the coaxial cable again and I got some other information about sonars that I started to read.  I even worked out today!

Tamil Maldonado, July 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Science and Technology Log

Navigation… Today we studied latitude and longitude and their relation to each other.  We used geometry concepts like degrees, parallel lines, circles, transversal lines, alternate internal angles, and alternate external angles.  We used charts, grids, compasses, and different instruments from the bridge.  We shared information about how people were measuring latitude and longitude in olden days and how it is measured nowadays.  We discussed mathematical relations of degrees, minutes, seconds and nanomiles.  One question for you… how are the Sun and angles utilized in calculating latitude and longitude?

Hydrography Lab… I got the chance to look at some hydrographic data, and to get to know information about the different sonars they are using to retrieve all the data.  The Difference among sonars is the beams per particular time that sonars are shooting.  FAIRWEATHER ship has a sonar that does 160 beams in 220 microseconds.  They also use little boats to go to shallower grounds and have sonars of 111 beams and 101 beams per 220 microseconds.  They get a huge amount of data coming into their computer devices, and then they use software called Cares Hips and Sips, which recollects all the data plotting it in two dimensional and three dimensional grids.  It also used colors to identify how deep it is in that particular region. Blue is used for deeper regions, while red is used for shallower regions. There are a few issues that needed to be corrected.  There is some noise in the data due to salinity, movement of vessel, and tides.  An important key is that they need corrections on real time.  To correct this data, they use another instrument like POSMV.  After all data is collected they could go back and get pictures per zone, and per beam too.  Therefore they could analyze all data and get correct information.  They also use satellites called GPS – Global Positioning System.  In the future I will be talking to Richard (the ET- Electrical Technician) about all satellites they are using on board.

FOCI… They had some problems today too with the computer system,  so in order to know about the depth of the net in the seawater they have to calculate “by hand” using charts.  For an approximately 45 degree angle measured between the cord holding the net and perpendicular to the floor of the ship, you need how much wire is out, how wide the circle is that holds the wire, how many revolutions, and if there is a linear relationship between this information and the desired net depth.  For example if you want the net 40 meters deep vertically then you need 57 m wire out.  Remember that the boat keeps moving at certain time and that will give you an angle (in this case you need the angle to be approximately 45 degrees).  Scientists use available charts for this information, but we can actually calculate it manually.

JoAnne Kronberg, July 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
JoAnne Kronberg
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 12 – 22, 2005

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

Weather Data
Winds:  SW 15 knots
Waves: 5 feet

Science and Technology Log

We left Cushing Bay on Wednesday, July 20, and travelled between Semidi and Chinikof Islands. We arrived in Chiniak Bay on Thursday morning and anchored.  We sent a launch to pick up a team of Fleet Inspectors.

The entire day was spent with the Fleet Inspectors examining everything on the ship.  We had three drills– a Fire Emergency, an Abandon Ship and a Man Overboard exercise.  The inspectors observed all of these very carefully, because safety is so extremely important on a ship.  Everyone needs to know where to go and what their responsibilities are. I think that out ship performed very well.  All of us have been told repeatedly where we should go for each of these drills and what we should bring with us.  It is even posted on every berth on the ship. That way there are not questions and problems if a real emergency should occur.

After the inspection, we continued to travel toward Kodiak Island.  We arrived at the U.S.Coast Guard Fuel Pier, Berth 7 at about 5:00 PM.

Tomorrow, Friday, the ship will refuel and stay in port until Monday, July 25.

This is JoAnne Kronberg, Teacher-at-Sea, signing off. God bless to all of you.

Tamil Maldonado, July 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Science and Technology Log

The Tucker trawl and Method Net had been deployed all night and day.  Scientists have shifts of 12 hours every day. Equipment is attached in the fantail area (back of ship).  There was a problem with the coaxial cable… it was broken, wet and they had to cut a portion of it.  The Electrical Technician needed to set up the cables, put them together, and use a cable coating so the wires would not get wet again.  Still, the data was not going through the wires into the computer data base.  After a few hours they had some data and started doing experiments with the CTD and Tucker net.  I was washing bottles they use to recollect larvae, taking them to the lab, freezing the bottles and chlorophyll filters, writing data down on their sheets, etc.  It was very exciting to see larvae, jelly fish, and little fish.

I also went to the bridge and we started talking about the mathematics behind navigation, including all the geometry, trigonometry and vectors involved.  We used the charts (maps) to find out our position, calculate how much time it would take for us to get to the next station where we were going to do another survey on larval fish.  I also got to know all instruments on the bridge, and how they use them for traveling, and navigation.  Moreover, we calculated true speed looking at the relative speed and using instruments, vector, ship speed, and charts.

At the end of the day I read the Draft of the scientific research, which helped me to know more information about their equipment and specifications of nets, CTD, and computer interface, among others.

I also talked to some students that are doing their internship with NOAA vessels.  It was great to get to know them, and see their different interests on the ship.

Tomorrow I am going to interview people from the Hydrographic lab department, and learn some more about navigation.

Tamil Maldonado, July 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Science and Technology Log

We took off from port at 10:00 a.m., after dealing with some ship problems.  An hour after we started testing all research equipment and noticed there was a problem with the coaxial cable that connects nets with computer interface.  The Electrical Technician worked with that issue for hours. Everything else was fine.  This coaxial cable and getting data information to computers was really important to get research correctly.  They should be able to know depth, temperature, salinity, pressure and chlorophyll information through the net’s path in water, main keys for their oceanographic research.

At night I interviewed Chief Scientist Janet T. Duffy-Anderson and other participating scientists (Colleen E. Harpold, Matthew T. Wilson, Miriam J. Doyle, Sigrid A. Salo, Dylan Righi, David G. Kachel and William J. Floering).  We discussed cruise objectives and operations.  FOCI will conduct an ichthyoplankton survey in the Gulf of Alaska in the vicinity of Kodiak Island, Alaska. This area is a known nursery ground for a variety of species of fish – walleye Pollock, Pacific cod, rock sole, Pacific halibut.  Work is needed to describe larval fish and zooplankton assemblages in summer, and to examine the movement of water and associated biota from the slope to the shelf.  Six satellite-tracked drifters will be released to study current trajectories in the vicinity of Port Lock Bank. Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth profiler casts will be made to characterize water column properties, collect nutrient and chlorophyll information, and to evaluate the flow field.

A goal of the Eco-FOCI is to identify the physical and biological factors that underlie ecosystem change, and to understand how those factors interact.  One focus is the effects of perturbation at lower trophic levels; therefore they will collect ichthyoplankton using a 1 m2 Tucker net and collect juvenile and small fishes using a Method net.  And Sea-Bird Electronics SBE 911plus Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) casts will collect physical data as well as water samples for nutrients and chlorophyll.

Scientific Computer System shall operate throughout the cruise, acquiring and logging data from navigation, meteorological, oceanographic, and fisheries sensors.

I recorded their first test and learned how to throw the nets, how to get them back, etc.   In that way I was going to be able to do it myself for the next stations.

JoAnne Kronberg, July 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
JoAnne Kronberg
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 12 – 22, 2005

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

Weather Data
Waves: 8ft during the day diminishing to 6 ft in the evening
Winds:  NW 25-39 knots

Science and Technology Log

We arrived at Mitrofania Island at about 5:00 am and anchored in Cushing Bay.  Our mission today was to do a Tide Station Installment.  The National Water Level Observation Network operates 175 continuous observatory stations in the U.S. coastal zone and the Great Lakes. All are equipped with satellite radios.  Of course, a Tide Station would only be placed in the coastal areas that are affected by tides.  Water Level Stations operate in the Great Lakes.

We had to replace the Tide Station in Cushing Bay.  The sensor that is installed is called a Bubbler Orifice. It is anchoring to the bottom of the bay and is powered by a long tube that is filled with Nitrogen gas.  Two divers went down to anchor the Bubbler and attach the tube. Meanwhile, other people in another launch were setting up a Tide Staff.  A Tide Staff is just a long stick that is marked with levels like a yardstick.  The Tide Staff has to be set up to correspond with the Bench Marks that have been already determined.  The Bench Marks may be located at different sea levels.  Both the Bubbler Orifice and the Tide Staff have to be at the same sea level to be accurate.

After the Bubbler Orifice is established and the Tide Staff is set up, we started taking the readings from these two sources. Readings were taken every 6 minutes for a period of one hour. If the readings after an hour are not the same, then the Bubbler Orifice has to be adjusted.

The data collected by the Bubbler Orifice is transmitted to the Data Collection Platform.  In turn, this information is transmitted to no less than four satellites and to the National Geodetic Survey.

The work today has taken most of the day.  We will stay anchored in Cushing Bay tonight. Early tomorrow morning, Wednesday, we will start cruising toward Chiniak Bay.

It was a very educational day and the weather was fantastic.  Thank you for this opportunity.

JoAnne Kronberg Teacher-at-Sea

Tamil Maldonado, July 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Personal Log

Today we did not get out of port. We were supposed to sail this morning, but there were a few problems we needed to take care of.  First, the scientists’ equipments did not come to the ship on time.  Second there was a problem with the fuel pier.

I read the Standing Orders and saw a video about FAIRWEATHER Ship.  Both helped me to understand some rules, daily duties, safety information, and hierarchy of people and their positions in the ship.  For example, the highest position in the ship is called Commanding Officer (CO),  then we have the Executive Officer (XO), Officer of the Deck (OOD) and Officer In Charge (OIC).

I also learned some concepts that are well used in the ship.  Some of these concepts are brow, galley, bridge, fantail, etc.

I got to know people in the ship and scientists that were part of ECO- FOCI research.  ECO-FOCI stands for Ecosystem and Fisheries- Oceanography Coordinated Investigation.  It is the first time these scientists are on FAIRWEATHER ship since the boat it is mostly used for Hydrographic work.

After the scientists got their equipment (sent from Seattle), they installed machinery, nets, and computers.  It took a long time to do this.

Tamil Maldonado, July 17, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

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

Personal Log

I was supposed to fly on July 15 at 9:40 a.m. by United Airlines, going from San Juan, Puerto Rico to Chicago, then from Chicago to Anchorage, Alaska; and finally from Anchorage to Kodiak. All the same day.

Well… this is what really happened. I woke up at 5:00 a.m., traveled from Humacao to San Juan, got in there at 7:30 a.m., and United Airlines attendant told me the flight got cancelled. They changed my airline to American Airlines departing at 1:30 p.m., therefore I was not going to get to Kodiak that same day.

I checked my bags with American Airlines… sending them to Anchorage.  My flight with American got delayed for two and a half hours; therefore I missed my flight from Chicago to Anchorage. I had to stay in Chicago one night with no bags, leaving to Anchorage the next day in the afternoon.

July 16 at noon I was back in O’Hare Airport in Chicago.  My flight was again delayed for an hour. I got to Anchorage with no place to stay.  My flight to Kodiak was going to be for the next day, July 17, in the afternoon. It was 2:30 a.m. in the morning and I still couldn’t find a place to stay. Every hotel was packed, no place to go. Finally somebody cancelled their hotel reservation and I stayed at the Johnson Howard Hotel.

During this time I kept calling Elizabeth McMahon, the XO Lieutenant E.J. Van den Ameele, the hotel at Kodiak called the Buskin River Inn, and my family to let everybody know about my locations.

I got to Kodiak on July 17, 2005 at approximately 5:00 p.m.  I e-mailed the XO and found a taxi to drive me to NOAA’s boat.  I came into the boat, they gave me some paperwork and forms (emergency information and NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER visitor orientation packet). I got to know few people on the boat: Abigail, Daniel, and Mark.  Abigail showed me around the ship including my cabin room, the galley (kitchen), the different decks (floors), the lounge, computer labs, the bridge, etc.

I went to downtown Kodiak and got back to the hotel.

JoAnne Kronberg, July 16, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
JoAnne Kronberg
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 12 – 22, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific, Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 16, 2005

Weather Data
Winds:  Southwest at 20 knots
Waves: 7 feet
By tonight, the winds should become totally west at 20 knots the wave height should drop to 6 feet.

Science and Technology Log

We have finally gotten across the Gulf of Alaska and tomorrow will begin some real work again. We entered the Shelikoff Strait and will proceed toward the vicinity of the Semidi Islands.  Our goal is to reach Mitrofania Island by Tuesday morning.

The Plotting Room on the NOAA ship RAINIER

Today I spent my day in the Plotting Room with one of the navigators named Brent.  He showed me how they use the information we accumulated on July 13 while on Launch #5 in Barrows Bay. On that day we were surveying two different sections by the multi-line sensors. As the beams were sent out, they recorded whatever was in the water and on the bottom to the computer on the launch.  This information was also transmitted to the proper program on a computer on the RAINIER.  Now the technologists, interns, scientists and engineers analyze the information as it appears on the computer screens.  Daily, already programmed into the computer, are the variations that will change such as the tides, currents and temperatures. In this way, the information is as accurate as possible. By observing the screens, the scientists, plotters and hydrographers can chart the depths, obstacles,(such as crab pots or rocks), temperatures and currents.  All of this information is plotted on paper charts for all navigators and ship captains, whether their ships are owned by the United States, commercial enterprises or private sailors.

The men and women who do this work have varied backgrounds and education.  Some are mechanical engineers, geography scientists, geologist, interns and college students who are learning hydrography.

That’s it from the RAINIER JoAnne Kronberg Teacher-at-Sea

JoAnne Kronberg, July 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
JoAnne Kronberg
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 12 – 22, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 15, 2005

Weather Data
Latitude:  55N
Longitude: 144W
Winds:  55 knots
Sea Wave Height: 7-8 feet
Wave Swells are from the Southwest
Cloud cover: Totally overcast with occasional showers (no storms)

Science and Technology Log

The Officers, Intern officers, Survey crew and Engineering Staff are working all day producing the charts from the technological information we compiled from the work we did on the launches on Tuesday and Wednesday. It is very careful and detail-oriented type of work. They often work together to “bounce” ideas off of each other.

Today, I took the NOAA Security Awareness Course.  It was very long. It took me over an hour to complete it, but I learned a great deal.  At the end of the course, I took the test and got all of the answers correct.  I must have been paying attention!  Now I know how to make my own computer at home more secure and what to look for.

That’s it for today.

JoAnne Kronberg Teacher-at-Sea

JoAnne Kronberg, July 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
JoAnne Kronberg
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 12 – 22, 2005

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

Personal Log

Thursday and Friday are traveling days for the NOAA ship RAINIER.  At 6:00 a.m. we left the Puget Sound and transit Seymour Narrows.  By evening we will transit Queen Charlotte Sound.  We expect to reach and transit Lama Passage (also known as Bella Bella) by 2030 (8:30 p.m.).

On board, the officers, junior officers, Safety Director and Engineers have been having meetings.

As a new person on board, I viewed the three videotapes that are required by OSHA for all persons on the ship.  The videotapes were entitled Hazardous Materials and Hazardous Waste Management, Are You at Risk–Asbestos Awareness, and Emergency Escape Breathing Device.  They were interesting and make the viewer more aware of the importance of knowing this information.  We must all take responsibility for our own health and safety and those among us.

That’s it for Thursday.  I hope that I have something more exciting to tell you tomorrow.

JoAnne Kronberg Teacher-at-Sea

JoAnne Kronberg, July 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
JoAnne Kronberg
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 12 – 22, 2005

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

Weather Data
Latitude:  46.28N
Longitude: 122.4 W
Wind:  West at 20-30 Knots
Waves:  3-5 feet subsiding to 2-3 feet
Temperature: 70 degrees
Cloud Cover: Partly Cloudy with possible drizzle

Science and Technology Log

I boarded the RAINIER cruiser RA4 at 7:00 am to begin our mission today.  Our mission today was to survey the waters between Alan Island and Burrows Island.  There are two separate waterways between the Islands and they are called Allan’s Pass and Barrows Pass.

Of course, before heading out to this area, we dropped the CTD Cast in the water beside the boat to determine the Conductivity, Temperature and the Density of the water.  We need to know this information before we begin to do our survey.  These factors will certainly affect readings that we receive from the sensors.

The four computer screens were operating just find giving up the pictures of the bottom, the range of the sensors, the location of the sensor in relationship to the surrounding waters and the lines we were following to survey. The second computer screen specifically gives us the depth of the water.  Depth is indicated by different colors- brownish color indicates shallow and green indicates more depth.  Our average depth today was 79.6 feet.

When we finished surveying the waters around the two islands, we moved to the south of Alan Island to complete a survey that had been started earlier this spring.

I noticed two interesting items today.  There was a lighthouse on one promontory called Fidalgo Head. I saw a large solar panel located at the base of the lighthouse.  I assumed that the energy was used to light the lighthouse and this was confirmed by our engineer.  I also noticed a great deal of kelp in the waters around the islands.  I was told that a great deal comes from the islands when it washes down from the stiff cliffs.

It was an exciting day for me because I got to drive (pilot) for a short while around the islands. I am experiencing and learning so many new things.

Signing off for today, JoAnne Kronberg Teacher-at-Sea

JoAnne Kronberg, July 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
JoAnne Kronberg
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 12 – 22, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 12, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude:  48.2W
Longitude: 122.46N
Wind:  SW10 knots to 15-25 knots in the afternoon
Waves: 1 foot increasing to 2-4 feet
Wave Swell:  5 feet
Cloud Cover: Overcast

Science and Technology Log

I was assigned to the RAINIER cruiser #5.  Our mission today was to survey the water in the lanes parallel to the shore and outside the northbound commercial freight lanes.  This area had been surveyed before, about 1995, but a few tugboats had questions about the depths in this area. We were told to complete as many crosslines as possible.  Our map to follow was Sheet H (H11375) – Specifically Sections 27 and 28.

Before we could begin the survey, we had to put the CTD Cast in the water for about 10 minutes.  This device is called the CTD because it registers the Conductivity, Temperature and Depth of the water.  The computer needs this information before we can turn on the Sensor to start the charting.  We traveled about 7-8 knots because the water was fairly calm.  When it is rough, we can only travel about 6 knots.

Now we could start traveling in lines as the Sensor at the bottom of the ship starts sending out beams.  The Sensor we use is a multi-beam model; the double beams span a 150 degrees area, but only 120 degrees range of the information is used.  The information at the outside of this range is not reliable.  As the ship travels, the beams ping the ocean floor and send the information to the four computer screens set up on the “dash board” of the boat. The four screens show (a) a map of our location, (b) a picture of the floor of the ocean, (c) the lines that the sensors have covered, and finally (d) the position of the Sensor on the bottom of the boat.  All of this information is recorded on the computers.  Then later today, a technologist will be able to print out a map and chart all the information on the map for other ships.

When we finished with our assigned mission, we still had time.  So we radioed back to the RAINIER and asked for our next assignment. The ship directed us to another section, Section 24. We surveyed this Section, near Hocky Point, and then returned to the ship.

It has been a very interesting and exciting day.