Kathy Virdin, July 26, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Virdin
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 20 – 28, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
July 26, 2004

Latitude:55 degrees 17.192 minutes N.
Longitude: 160degrees 32.214 minutes W.
Visibility: 6 nautical miles
Wind direction: Light
Wind speed: Airs
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft.
Swell wave height: 0-1 ft.
Sea water temperature:10.6 C.
Sea level pressure:998.9 mb.
Cloud cover: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Today I interviewed Nicola Samuelson, who is an ensign. Her job on the RAINIER is multi-faceted. She is responsible for the ship’s safety, must represent the Captain when he is not here, drive the ship from point A to B as assistant navigation officer, preparing the ship’s sail plan, and is also a morale officer, who plans activities for the crew when they are in port. She has an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in ocean engineering. She works in four hour shifts and as an officer, may be on 24-hr. duty when the ship is in port. She chose this job because she enjoys the beautiful scenery, likes the important survey work they do, and enjoys working in a setting where you must bring a camera. She also has an interesting background that steered her in the direction of working for NOAA. She grew up on a sailing vessel as her parents sailed around the world. She was home schooled on the boat and sailed around the South Pacific from the time she was three years old until she was twelve years old. They would stop in various ports, such as New Caledonia, Fiji Islands, Samoa, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, New Guinea, and Thailand when they needed to pick up supplies or work for a while. She only lived on land for the first time when she was 17 years old. She grew up speaking English and French as her parents spoke both languages. Because of her upbringing, she knew she wanted a job where she would be on the ocean. After graduate school, she received three months of NOAA officer training, where she learned firefighting skills, first aid, navigation, and how to drive a ship. She feels that her job is extremely significant, since some of the waters in Alaska have never been surveyed.

Virdin 7-26-04 map

An area that the RAINIER just surveyed, that covered 30 miles by 50 miles only had about 5 depth soundings. Ships would have to go around that area, because it’s just too dangerous to navigate through without the true depth measurements on the charts. A ship needs 40 feet of water clearance below deck level in order to successfully navigate the waters. Lack of accurate charts means that cruise and cargo ships are limited in where they can sail in the Alaskan waters. Opening up new areas, because of their surveys, means NOAA is contributing toward improvement of safety, commerce and tourism.

Personal Log

We have learned today, that because of an oil leak, the RAINIER will go into port early. We’ll have an all hands on deck meeting this afternoon to find out the exact plans. It will be interesting to find our how a ship this size will handle repairs. The weather has turned off pretty this afternoon, so those of the crew who are not working have gone on deck to fish. They will pack their catches in ice to mail back to their families. Fishing in Alaska is some of the best in the world!

Leyf Peirce, July 13, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Leyf Peirce
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 6 – 15, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
July 13, 2004

Time: 15:00
Latitude: N 55°17.29
Longitude: W 160°32.14
Visibility: 4 nm

Wind direction: 140
Wind speed: 6 knots
Sea wave height: 0 – 1 foot
Swell wave height: —
Sea water temperature: 10.0 °C
Sea level pressure: 1007.8 mb
Air temperature: 12.2 °C
Cloud cover: 8/8

Science and Technology Log

I awoke today to an announcement over the ships intercom saying, “Attention all hands, attention all hands, divers are in the water, please make sure all equipment is stored and locked”. I first checked to make sure it wasn’t me in the water, as exciting as that would have been, and then I raced out of bed to see what was going on. Apparently, since we have been anchored off the coast of Egg Island, we have had a very small oil leak. It was believed to have fixed itself after the first few hours of anchoring; however, yesterday many of the crew noticed that there was still a slick on the water off the port stern. To investigate, three NOAA certified divers dove down about 15 feet and inspected the hull of the ship. They saw that the oil was in fact coming from the left propeller, yet they could not directly identify the source of the problem, but speculate that there is a small leak in one of the o-rings. The only way to truly fix this problem is to dry-dock the boat. The closest dry-dock is in Seward, but we are scheduled to go to Kodiak first. Therefore, the plan is to see if the problem takes care of itself and if it is not better by the end of the stay in Kodiak, then take the boat to Seward. The amount of oil that is leaving the ship is very small and is escaping at an extremely slow rate. However, if this problem persists, it could become very serious.

I talked with ENS Lominkey about his dive this morning and about other dives he has made recently. He informed me that once you are NOAA certified, the equivalent of becoming a PADI or NAUI dive master, you will be allowed to help with dives that involve ship repair, tide gauge installation, or wreck surveying. In fact, only two weeks ago the RAINIER was performing hydrographic research and identified the fishing boat CONQUEST which sunk in 1994. ENS Lominkey and other certified divers dove the wreck to gather information about the wreck including its minimum depth which happened to be about 90 feet. To do this, they used a very sensitive depth gauge that relies on pressure changes. They would place this gauge at different locations on the wreck and record the various readings. ENS Lominkey also told me that they found another fishing boat wreck near the CONQUEST, but were unable to identify it. As I have developed my passion for diving over the past few years, I become more amazed at the opportunity to dive and explore uncharted waters knowing that the research you are conducting is contributing greatly to society. And, as technological advancements are made for both safer diving and better navigational charting, I can’t help but wonder how these will be further combined in years to come—a very interesting engineering design problem!

Personal Log

Today was mostly spent writing more lesson plans for my 6th, 7th, and 8th grade science classes as well as planning my 8th grade pre-algebra course. I also spent a lot of time talking with several officers about the amazing act of diving and how wonderful it would be to be paid to do something so adventuresome everyday. When sharing experiences, I did notice that the excitement of diving somewhat parallels the excitement of teaching; you never know what you are going to see, there are some dangers, but overall the experience is extremely rewarding. In both, you not only learn about other animals, or students as the case may be, but you also learn a lot about yourself, your goals and dreams, and your limits. While I am greatly enjoying my experience aboard the RAINIER, the more I think about my different classes and the students that I will see in the fall, the more excited I get about returning to the classroom!

Question of the Day:

How much oil would have to be in the water before it drastically starts harming marine life?