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

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

MissionSoutheast Alaska Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska

Date: April 20, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge

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

Science and Technology Log

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

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

 

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

Safety Meeting Before Launches Deploy
Safety Meeting Before Launches Deploy
One of the Launches is Lowered from F Deck (the 6th Deck Up)
One of the Launches is Lowered from F Deck (the 6th Deck Up)
One of the Launches Being Lowered into Puget Sound
One of the Launches Being Lowered into Puget Sound
A Launch Begins Patch Tests
A Launch Begins Patch Tests

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

The Coxswain Helps Deploy the CTD
The Coxswain Helps Deploy the CTD
The Coxswain's Seat
The Coxswain’s Seat
The HIC Readies the Launch as We Pull Away from NOAA Ship Fairweather
The HIC Readies the Launch as We Pull Away from NOAA Ship Fairweather
The HIC and HIC-in-Training Prepare the CTD
The HIC and HIC-in-Training Prepare the CTD
The HIC Checks Data Being Collected as the Launch Runs Patch Tests
The HIC Checks Data Being Collected as the Launch Runs Patch Tests

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

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

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

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

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

Data Being Collected from the CDT on the Launch Monitor
Data Being Collected from the CDT on the Launch Monitor

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

Night Processing of Data in the Plot Room
Night Processing of Data in the Plot Room

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Log

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

Sunset in Port Madison
Sunset in Port Madison
Mount Rainier at Sunset
Mount Rainier at Sunset
Pulling Up the Anchor in Port Madison Shortly After Sunrise
Pulling Up the Anchor in Port Madison Shortly After Sunrise
Brainbridge Island, Washington
Brainbridge Island, Washington
Two of the Crew Checking the Anchor Line Angle During Anchor Recovery
Two of the Crew Checking the Anchor Line Angle During Anchor Recovery
Puget Sound
Puget Sound
Mount Olympia National Park
Mount Olympia National Park

 

Did You Know?

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

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

 

 

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Kimberly Pratt, July 23, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 23, 2005

Peter Pyle
Peter Pyle

Crew Interviews

Another successful scientist is Peter Pyle.  Peter became interested in Ornithology while helping his dad, a meteorologist, band birds in their backyard in Oahu, Hawaii.  Peter attended Swarthmore College and received his BA in Biology.  Peter who loves field work lived on the Farallon Islands for 24 years as a field biologist. When Peter is not  doing field work, he is busily writing scientific papers and manuals to compliment field guides for Ornithologists.  His manuals help age/sex determination, species ID, and are written for “bird in hand” observations.  Peter’s favorite bird is a Bristle-thighed Curlew, which is a rare bird that breeds in Alaska and winters in Hawaii and the tropical Pacific. Peter likes it because it acts like a goofball. Peter, who is married, has an understanding and independent wife. Peter’s advice to someone who would like to be an Ornithologist is to be a field person. In the field you get dirty, have to be patient; you may spend hours in cold blinds waiting.  You have to have a passion for biology really be successful. Lastly, Peter advises that if your heart is in the right place, you’ll be a successful biologist.

Rich Pagen (back), Tim O'Toole
Rich Pagen (back), Tim O’Toole

Another Ornithologist on this mission is Rich Pagen. Rich, who did his undergrad work in Environmental Studies, received his MA in Wildlife Biology.  Currently he lives in Minnesota, but in the past he lived on Catalina Island. He also taught an outdoor science class in Pasadena. During a Sea Bird meeting, he met Lisa Ballance who got him interested in the CSCAPE project. Previously, Rich has done shark satellite tagging, and has gone to Antarctica as a naturalist on a passenger ship. Rich will be completing this cruise as a Bird Observer.

If this group of scientists could have an action figure, it would be Juan Carlos Salinas.  Juan is in charge of tissue biopsy of the whales and dolphins. He is able to obtain these biopsies in very difficult circumstances. Juan who lives in Mexico City was hand picked  for these missions because of his talent for obtaining biopsy’s and his knowledge of marine mammals.  Juan learned biopsy sampling while in Baja in 1991 when studying humpback whales.

 Juan Carlos Salinas
Juan Carlos Salinas

Juan has had extensive field work experience and will be going to Hawaii with the McARTHUR II until November 30th.  He’s excited about his mission to Hawaii because you always see something different.  The Hawaiian waters are just being studied and what’s out there is relatively unknown. During the mission in Hawaii, he will do species ID, population studies, determine the health of the animals and finally learn about their genetics. Juan states that the field of biology is much more specialized than before with genetics being the big thing today. Another marine mammal observer that is talented in tissue biopsy is Ernesto Vasquez. Ernesto, who is married with a family, does field work cruises about once per year. He currently works at the National  Resource Ministry as a Marine Biologist in LaPaz, Mexico. He’s been with the government for 3 years.  He graduated school in 1998 with his degrees in Marine Biology.  While away, he e-mails his wife and family and he likes getting close to the animals, and getting tissue samples to.

Currently being trained in biopsy operations is marine biologist Tim O’Toole. Tim graduated from San Diego State University and did his post graduate work in Australia. An avid surfer, Tim enjoys the ocean and having the opportunity to gain further field experience working with marine mammals. While on this research cruise, he’s gaining experience from other scientists as well as reading, and learning Spanish. He does, however miss friends and family and likes to stay in touch.

Ernesto Vasquez
Ernesto Vasquez

Kimberly Pratt, July 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Humpback breaching
Humpback breaching

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 22, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3614.084N
Longitude: 12213.868W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 340 Wind Speed:  22 knots
Sea Wave Height: 5-6 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  14.8

Scientific Log 

Again we are seeing up to 80 marine mammals per day, and are doing well on our track lines.  The wind picked up, making it more difficult to do observations, but we are moving right along to get finished by Sunday. Some of the regulars are humpbacks, blue whales, Dall’s porpoise, fin whales, pacific-white sided dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and pinnipeds. I’ve attached photos of breaching humpbacks that we’ve seen. Hopefully through my logs and interviews you’ve learned about marine mammals, sea birds and ship operations.  To learn more about this mission go to the NOAA Fisheries Southwest Science Center website.  Look under “What’s new in the sanctuary.”

Completing the dive
Completing the dive

Personal Log

Upon reflecting on my adventure, I’ve found that the trip fully exceeded my expectations.  I expected to feel intimidated by the scientists and science, and to my relief was accepted and welcomed by all the scientists on board and they were most eager to teach me what  I needed to know. I’ve learned that to be a good scientist you must have good observational skills, computer skills, and be knowledgeable about data and statistics.  I’ve also learned that science takes time, is very exact, and requires you to be detail orientated.   Additionally, I’ve learned that to get along with others on a ship, you need to have a good sense of humor and be flexible. As the cruise comes to an end I’m really looking forward to getting home, doing further reflection on my experience and translating it into rich and meaningful curriculum for my students. Again, thanks to Karin, all the scientists, and the crew on board the McARTHUR II, this has been a wonderful experience.

As of this post, we have now finished all of our tracklines.   Tomorrow – Saturday we’ll be spending the day in Monterey Bay doing grab samples and additional small boat operations.  We will then head into port in San Francisco on Sunday as scheduled.

Kimberly Pratt, July 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 21, 2005

Cornelia Oedekoven
Cornelia Oedekoven

Crew Interviews: Scientists on board the McARTHUR II

The scientists on board the McARTHUR II are hardworking, dedicated people.  Their shifts can start at sunrise 6:00 am and end at sunset 9:00 pm.  Most scientists are on watch for two hours then off for two hours during the whole day.  While on watch they are observing mammals or birds, entering data and taking photographs.  When they’re off watch, they eat, do laundry, exercise and relax.  On board a ship, there are no weekends, so their schedule is set 7 days per week.

An excellent Senior Marine Mammal observer as well as the photo ID specialist is Cornelia Oedekoven. Cornelia is a soft spoken person who has an eye for detail.  She meticulously goes through the photos taken on the cruise then enters them in the data base.  This can be quite a project as some days there are as many 300 photos to be  processed. Cornelia, whose background is in marine biology, graduated from Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms Universitaet, Bonn, or the University of Bonn, Germany.  She received her “diplom” which is equivalent to a master’s degree in Biology.  She came to the United States to study marine ornithology in San Francisco. She now lives in San Diego.  She enjoys ship life because she’s met a lot of friends, and there is no commute to work. While on board, Cornelia has been known to do haircuts for other scientists and she also does oil painting.  In the past she’s done sea bird work, and she’ll be involved with CSCAPE until December 10th at which time she’ll go home to Germany to visit her family.  To be a successful marine biologist, she advises to get your degree, and then do as many internships as possible.

Holly Fearnbach
Holly Fearnbach

When things slow down on this cruise, you can count on Holly Fearnbach to say “we need a good Killer Whale sighting”. Holly, who has always liked marine biology, grew up near the beach. She received her BS in marine biology from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and from Old Dominion University she received her MS.  She’s looking to get her PhD from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland where she will focus her research on Killer Whales.  She states that right now there are 3 different types of Killer Whales, residents, off-shores and transients.  She’s excited because they are now finding another type in Antarctica. She loves the discovery of different types of marine mammals and her past work was with Bottlenose Dolphins.  She likes being on these field work cruises because she learns so much from the Cruise leaders and has been taught much from the scientists at the South West Fisheries Science Centers.  To become a scientist who studies whales and dolphins, she advises to do internships, and do volunteer work early in school. She also states that you need a good work ethic.  Holly, who is a marathon runner, actually trains while on ship.  She has completed 12 marathons and says that it is a great stress reliever.  She does however miss dry land and her friends and family while she is away.

 Jan Roletto
Jan Roletto

An Independent Observer on board the McARTHUR II is Jan Roletto. Jan is the Research Coordinator for the Gulf of the Farallones Marine Sanctuary.  Her primary role as Research Coordinator is to attract researchers to the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is the management agency protecting these waters. The science department conducts research, monitoring, permitting, disturbance, and investigates pollution issues.  The Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary protects the body of water from Bodega Head to Año Nuevo, south of San Francisco. The Farallon Islands are managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the  National Wildlife Refuge works to maintain the seabirds and pinniped colonies on the islands. Jan’s background is in Marine Biology and she attended San Francisco State University. She really likes seeing different things and is challenged by the Sanctuary work. She states that sometimes they work with boat groundings, environmental issues, watershed issues, estuaries, pelagic and coastal areas; all very different ecosystems.  Her challenge as Research Coordinator is the lack of funding that the sanctuary receives for research and monitoring.  To enter the field of Marine Science, she advises to do your schooling, learn about computers, math and statistics.  She states that you will apply these disciplines to biology. Furthermore, she advises to volunteer and do unpaid internships as it is a small field and can be competitive.

Sage Tezak grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently lives in San Francisco.  Sage has run a volunteer program for the last 3 years monitoring harbor seals for human related and other disturbances. That job brought her to San Francisco. Before that she lived in Humboldt and she’ll be starting grad school in 2 weeks at Prescott College in Conservational Biology/Environmental Studies.  She likes having the opportunity to gain further field experience and to see the  operations of a research cruise.

Sage Tezak
Sage Tezak

Kimberly Pratt, July 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Elegant Tern
Elegant Tern. Photo credit: Sophie Webb.

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 20, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 3602.734 N
Longitude: 12153.520 W
Visibility: 8 miles
Wind Direction: Variable
Wind Speed: light
Sea Wave Height: <1  ft
Swell Wave Height: 2-3  ft.
Sea Level Pressure 1014.0
Cloud Cover: Cloudy
Temperature: 16.0

Heerman’s Gull
Heerman’s Gull. Photo credit: Sophie Webb.

 

Scientific Log

Our days continue to be hazy and cloudy. We are getting more track lines done and are staying “on effort” more frequently, yesterday, we had around 70 sightings of marine mammals.  We are still seeing humpbacks, killer whales, Risso’s dolphins, harbor porpoises, pacific-white sided dolphins, minke whales, beaked whales, Dall’s porpoise, as well as California sea lions, northern fur seals, and elephant seals. The California current is one of the most productive in the world.

Yesterday, afternoon, about 3 miles from Big Sur, a Blue Whale surfaced right on the bow of the ship. It was beautiful to see the whale with the Big Sur coastline in the background.

Northern Fulmar
Northern Fulmar. Photo credit: Sophie Webb

Ornithologists are observing many birds including the resident breeders – Common Murre, Ashy Storm Petrels, Cassin’s Auklets, and Western Gulls.  Additionally, they’ve observed Black-footed Albatross – (Hawaiian Island breeder), Sooty Shearwaters (New Zealand breeders), Pink footed Shearwaters (breed in Chile), South Polar Skua’s (Antarctic breeder), Red Necked Phalaropes, Sabine’s Gulls (Artic breeders), Heerman’s comes up the California current from Mexico, also 95% breed on the same island as the Heerman’s Gull, the Terns winter in Northern Chile, and Southern Peru.

Personal Log

The days are getting busy with sightings as we continue to work track lines in the southern marine sanctuaries.  Although hazy and foggy, the weather has been quite pleasant.  The ocean has been relatively flat, with little waves and small swells.  This makes it easier to sight blows and marine mammals.

Today I’ll be editing video, and hopefully will have some good footage to share with you. We are trying a new way to get my logs off the ship.  I will still answer e-mail to scientist7.mcarthur@noaa.gov until Sunday afternoon.

Pinkfooted Shearwater
Pinkfooted Shearwater. Photo credit: Sophie Webb
Sooty Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater. Photo credit: Sophie Webb

Photos by: Sophie Webb

Kimberly Pratt, July 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Greg Hubner
First Mate Greg Hubner

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 19, 2005

Crew Interviews: “The Officers of the McARTHUR II”

Officers of the McARTHUR II are commissioned by NOAA.  They are uniformed personnel with the exception of the First Mate.  They all are assigned different watches and their primary responsibilities are, under direction of the Commanding Officer, to run the ship, navigate, take care of the ship’s medical needs and to make sure that shipboard operations are running smoothly.

The McARTHUR II has 6 officers on board – LCDR Morris, First Mate Greg Hubner (who is not uniformed), Operations Officer Nathan (Herb) Hancock, Navigation Officer Paul Householder, and Junior Officers, Ensign Steven Barry, and Ensign Paul Smidansky.  All NOAA Corps Officers have two years at sea, initially followed by three years of shore duty and rotate between sea and shore duty unless they are aviators.

Nathan Hancock
Operations Officer Nathan Hancock

First Mate Greg Hubner has been with NOAA for 26 years. He has a background in the Navy and started with NOAA as a deck hand. He is currently a licensed Officer and enjoys being out to sea. He likes seeing different countries and his favorite port is an island off of Spain. Another NOAA ship, RONALD H. BROWN, is involved with international research so some NOAA ships travel the world, and Greg has had the opportunity to see many countries and cultures.

Operations Officer Nathan Hancock is readily noticeable by his sense of humor and laughter.  Nathan graduated with a BS degree in Environmental Sciences and a MS degree in Geology and Geophysics. Nathan really enjoys his position as it enables him to “drive the boat”.  In the future, he would like to be transferred to the Key Largo Marine Sanctuary or fly into hurricanes. Nathan developed a love for the water when he was a child living at the ocean and running charters with his father a marine biologist.

Navigation Officer Paul Householder is also the medical person in charge.  He has a BA/BS in Chemical Engineering and joined NOAA after being laid off during the downsizing of the semi- conductor era. He’s been with the ship for over a year and is adjusting to sea life. He likes seeing the different places, but does miss his weekends.

Paul Householder
Navigation Officer Paul Householder

Ensigns Barry and Smidansky both have a background in Meteorology and Barry would like to join the National Weather Service. Barry, who joined NOAA in February ’04, enjoys the adventure of meeting different people.  On this tour, it will be his first time visiting Hawaii.  Ensign Smidansky, is a licensed airplane pilot, and is looking to join the air fleet of NOAA, but for the time being is enjoying his time at sea.

In order to become a NOAA Corps Officer, you need a college degree, preferable with a background in science or math.  You must be under 35 years old, with no arrests or criminal background.  Also, it takes between 6-9 months for your application to be processed and then the Secretary of the Commerce grants you a temporary commission.  The Senate grants you permanent status.  You must undergo three months training at the Merchant Marine Academy and then are assigned to a ship at sea to become a qualified deck officer. NOAA is constantly training officers for higher positions and Officer Householder will be promoted soon to Lt. Jr. Grade. All of the officers while professional and polite still have a sense of humor, they are gracious enough to keep answering the question – “where are we?”

Question: Malka, grade 5 – Where does the ship/vessel get fresh water?  The ship makes its own water, we take salt water and process it to turn it into fresh water.  Everyday we make 2,000 gallons worth. The process is started 10 miles out to sea.

Steven Barry
Ensign Steven Barry
Paul Smidansky
Ensign Paul Smidansky

Kimberly Pratt, July 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 18, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3614.084N
Longitude: 12213.868W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 340 Wind Speed:  22 knots
Sea Wave Height: 5-6 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  14.8

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

Scientific Log 

Our days have been mostly foggy with the sun peaking through rarely. After not seeing the sun for days, we were all delighted when the bridge announced that there was sun and many of us ran outside right away!  Right now we’re outside of Pt. Reyes, continuing on transect lines. The animals we’ve observed lately are: a pod of Killer Whales feeding, several Humpback Whales, schools of Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Risso’s dolphins and Northern Right Whale dolphins.

The Zodiac was launched and tissue samples and photo ID was taken of the Killer Whales. (photos attached) This evening two Humpbacks gave us quite a show.  They rolled next to the ship, breached, and slapped their flippers. Many times we could see their bellies as they lazily made their way by the ship rolling and diving, quite peacefully.  Video and photo was taken of these amazing animals.

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

The bird observers have been especially busy. In the past few days they’ve identified Black-footed Albatross, Common Murre, lots of Sooty Shearwaters, Pink footed Shearwaters, Ashy Storm Petrels that breed on the Farallons, and Cassini’s Auklets. Also seen are South Polar Skua’s, and Red Neck Phalaropes who are Artic breeders.  We’ve also seen Mola Mola fish, and a Mako shark with a pointy snout.  We’re continuing Bongo Net Tows and continue to collect plankton, larvae and small jellyfish.

Personal Log

Thanks to Rich Pagen being back on board, I am now focusing more on taking video, completing interviews, doing logs and e-mail correspondence. My interviews have gone well; the crew has been responsive and also forgiving when I’ve made mistakes.  For the remainder of the trip, I’ll be focusing on interviewing more of the scientists, developing curriculum and completing logs.  It’s been great meeting all the crew and finding out more about them. With less than a week to go, I’m treasuring every moment. This has been a great trip!

MAC433-AR1, OO
Photo credit: Cornelia Oedekoven

 

Until later…
Kim

Thanks to Cornelia Oedekoven for the Orca photos.

Kimberly Pratt, July 17, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Kevin Lackey

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 17, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Dynamite Deck Crew”

If you walk around the McARTHUR II you will encounter hardworking and dedicated Mariners.  These individuals are the deck crew. Outside my door every morning is Korie Mielke, diligently sweeping and swabbing the hall.  On the deck below you will find Charles Sanford painting along with Dave Hermanson, and Teresa Moss. In the evenings, Jake Longbine operates the cranes and wenches for the CTD tests. Throughout the day you’ll find Steve Pierce and Kevin Lackey busily fixing items or on the bridge.The deck crew is responsible for the operation of all the ship’s machinery.  They also paint and clean the ship.  They are instrumental in helping the scientists complete their mission assisting with collections and run the small boat operations.  A deck hand will do watches as a quartermaster who is a lookout for things that may damage the ship and also report on weather observations. In addition, they drive the ship at the Officer’s command.

Jake Longbine

The deck crew comes from a variety of backgrounds, some have college degrees, and others have prior military experience.  Teresa has a fashion and marketing background. She joined NOAA through her mother who is a security officer for NOAA in Seattle. Charles’ who has a military background often thinks about becoming a teacher.  Kevin’s background is in wildlife conservation and his position with NOAA is the first sea duty he’s had.  Kevin really likes the variety and has enjoyed going to see Alaska and sail in Russian waters.  He, like some of the other deck crew found that being on duty with no weekends is taxing.  Also, living and working with other people in a space the size of 224 x 42 ft, (about the size of Cabello’s cluster of classrooms #22 – 26), can be difficult at times.  The deck crew like being a part of the McARTHUR II and it is evident by their good nature and hardworking spirits. After porting in San Francisco, they will be headed off to Hawaii – to warmer waters and climates.

Charles Sanford

School Questions:

Aira grade 5: What is the size of one room on a ship?

Answer: Average size is 10×12

Tania, grade 5 – Where do you guys sleep?

Answer: Some people have a single room with a double sized bed. Others sleep in bunk beds.

Malka, grade 5 – What type of food do you eat?

Answer: The food is very good, usually at every meal there is a meat choice and a vegetarian choice.  At lunch and dinner, you can have salad bar and there is always dessert.

Teresa Moss

 

Korie Mielke

Kimberly Pratt, July 16, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 16, 2005

Humpback Fluke – white and black
Humpback Fluke – white and black

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 3650.918 N
Longitude: 12159.753 W
Visibility: < 1
Wind Direction: 280
Wind Speed: 3 knots
Sea Wave Height :< 1
Swell Wave Height: 3-4 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1011.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy/light drizzle
Temperature: 16.7 c

Scientific Log 

Our days lately have been mostly foggy and drizzly, making marine mammal observations very difficult. During the times that observations were made, we’ve seen Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Harbor Porpoise, a Blue Whale, Pacific White-sided Dolphins, Grampus Dolphins, and Sea Lions.  I’ve attached pictures that show Humpback Whale flukes.  The scientists are using the pictures to ID them.  Yesterday, Fin Whales surfaced approx. 200 meters off our bow and swam with the ship for a little while.

Humpback Fluke – all black
Humpback Fluke – all black

We observed Harbor Porpoise as we entered Monterey Bay. They are a small porpoise and are identified by their small pointy dorsal fin.  Observation of Harbor Porpoise is difficult and you can only get a fleeting glance at their dorsal fins before they are gone.

At first you might mistake Grampus dolphins for Killer Whales by looking at their dorsal, but upon closer inspection you’ll find they have a light body marked by scratches or lines. Two nights ago, we did a Bongo Net drop and were able to collect 7 jars full of krill, plankton and myctophids (small Lantern fish).  This showed that the area was very healthy and full of abundance. As far as birds go, we observed part of the Monterey Bay flock of Sooty Shearwaters numbered at approximately 250,000. Today we picked up Scientist Rich Pagen in Santa Cruz, joining us after being ill and we hope to continue observations as we head back out to sea from Monterey Bay.

Humpback Fluke – barnacle marking
Humpback Fluke – barnacle marking

Personal log

We’ve had quite a bit of down time enabling me to answer e-mail, do logs, and interviews. When we are “on effort” I am on the Flying Bridge helping with data entry, observations and trying to video our sightings. At night I help the Oceanographers, Mindy Kelley and Liz Zele doing the Bongo Net Tows and we are often out until 10:30 or 11:00 pm.  Today, we were close to shore, so we had cell service to call friends and loved ones.   I’m still having a really good time, the whales and dolphins are breathtaking. I envy your hot weather!

Sea Lions
Sea Lions

Kimberly Pratt, July 15, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview8Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 15, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Electronic Gurus”

The McARTHUR II is fortunate to have two very talented men handling its electronics and surveys.  They are Electronic Chief Clay Norfleet and Sr. Survey Tech Lacey O’Neal. Electronic Chief Clay Norfleet is responsible for all the radar, radio, Simrad, computers, networks e-mail communication and ship cell phones. Clay comes to NOAA after an extensive career in the US Navy. In the Navy, he conducted torpedo research and traveled extensively. His favorite port was Seychelles, 200 miles east of Madagascar. He enjoys his position with NOAA and likes the camaraderie with his shipmates.  He will be sailing with the McARTHUR II to Hawaii and then will be boarding the OSCAR ELTON SETTE, sailing to Guam and Saipan to lend support to NOAA personnel. Clay is used to extended time at sea.  In the Navy, he was out for 9-10 months at a time and one time he didn’t see land for 124 days.  While in port in San Francisco, he plans to shop for things for the ship.  His advice for someone wanting to be an Electronics Tech would be to get certifications before applying.

pratt_interview8aAnother talented man works in the dry lab, surrounded by beautiful photos of Humpback, Killer Whales and dolphins. This man is the very helpful Sr. Survey Technician, Lacey O’Neil.  Lacey helps the oceanographers do their work. He runs the computers for the CTD, SCS system an also runs the ship store. He’s been on both the McARTHUR and McARTHUR II for a combined 7 years.  He was previously in the military serving as a paratrooper. His hobby is photography, so being on the McARTHUR II gives him an opportunity to take great pictures of marine mammals.  He also enjoys going to Hawaii with the ship and gets to meet a lot of interesting people.

Kimberly Pratt, July 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Humpback fluke
Humpback fluke. Photo by Cornelia Oedekoven.

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 14, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3544.108 N
Longitude: 12151.852 W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 330
Wind Speed:  5 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1013.2
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  15.0

Blow hole
Blow hole. Photo by Cornelia Oedekoven.

Scientific Log

Again, it’s been very foggy or windy, limiting our time out observing mammals and birds. We are however, seeing many Humpback Whales. During two of the sightings Humpbacks came up to the boat – 300 meters away.  Humpbacks are named because their dorsal fin is on a hump.  Also Humpbacks surface and blow for a couple of minutes, allowing the scientists to get a good look at them.  After surfacing and blowing, they then dive, showing off their impressive flukes. Scientist ID Humpbacks by their flukes, dorsal and bumps or knobs on their rostrum (or beak).  An interesting fact is that the underside of a humpback’s fluke is different for each animal, (like their fingerprint) so getting good photo ID is imperative. Along with the Humpbacks, we’ve seen Pacific Whiteside Dolphins who ride the bow of the Humpbacks.  As far as birds go, we’ve seen a migration, 15-20 Red necked Phalaropes, South Polar Skuas who breed in the Antarctica, Pink-footed Shearwaters, Albatrosses, Gulls, and many Sooty Shearwaters.

Personal Log

It’s quite impressive to actually hear the whale’s breath. In fact being on the “fantail” rear of the boat, we located them by their breathing.  Being so close to the Humpbacks was really a great experience. I was able to get video, so I look forward to sharing it with you all.  The cruise is still going well, when we’re slow, I’ve been e-mailing, reading and doing interviews.

Yesterday the swells were as high as 10-12 ft. with 5-6 foot wind waves, so unfortunately, my sea sickness flared up again.  After speaking with the Medical Officer and resting, I feel much better.  I didn’t know that your body has to acclimate to different sea states so my sea legs are still growing.  Maybe after the cruise I’ll be taller!  Hope all is well. Thanks for all of the e-mails.

Thanks to Cornelia Oedekoven for the photos.

Kimberly Pratt, July 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 13, 2005

Mindy Kelley
Mindy Kelley

Crew Interviews: The Oceanographers

Every evening, one hour after sunset, while everyone on the ship is settling down to a good night’s rest, the oceanographers are busy, collecting samples, analyzing data and preparing for the next collection that has to be taken.

On board the McARTHUR II, you will find oceanographers, Mindy Kelley and Liz Zele.  When you first meet them you’re struck with their laughter, and the lightheartedness of these two scientists. You have to have a sense of humor when working at odd hours and conditions, and these two scientists know how to do serious science and yet still have fun.

Mindy Kelley has always enjoyed the ocean, especially when she visited Florida during family vacations.  Born in Pennsylvania, she treasured these trips and it led her to becoming a Marine Scientist.  She went to school at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and did summer field work through Wallops Island, VA.  Her field work led her to the Assateauge Island National Seashore where she gained extensive experience within the Barrier Islands and its marshes.  She obtained a BA in Biology and a BS in Marine Science/and Environmental Studies.

Her education took a total of 5 years.  Her first job was working with the Pennsylvania’s Department of Environment Protection – West Nile virus surveillance program. It was a great experience and pushed her forward to pursue a Marine Science career instead a settling on an environmental career.  Mindy really likes the computer aspect of being an oceanographer and hands on collecting of specimens.  She enjoys seeing her field work and data analysis come together and makes sense.  Working in the field is quite challenging.  This tour she will be gone from July 2nd to November 30th on the McARTHUR II.  After porting in San Francisco on the 24th she’ll head to Hawaii for the rest of her tour.  In order to meet the demands of ship life she relaxes by e-mailing, doing art projects, listening to music and practicing ballet. With a long history of practicing ballet, Mindy has adapted her routine so she can still work out on the ship.  While in port in Hawaii, she’ll attend some classes to make sure that her training is not being compromised.  Her advice to someone perusing a career in Oceanography would be to take a lot of math.  She says, “even if you don’t like math, when you can apply it to science, you’ll start to like it”. She also advises to take calculus, chemistry and physics.  Most importantly is the desire to make it work.

You have to be assertive and aggressive to work in the field and if you are, then you’ll be successful. Her goal is to return to school, and do further studies in computer science, physical and biological oceanography. A typical day in the life of an oceanographer is demanding.  They arise 1 hour before sunrise, around 4 am, collecting chrophyll,  nutrients, salt samples and productivity.  Next, throughout the day they collect surface chlorophyll, temperature, and record other data.  1 hour after sunset, they run a CTD station and then to a Bongo Tow. They also send daily reports to their home base in LaJolla, CA and monitor their data throughout the day.

Liz Zele
Liz Zele

Helping Mindy with this large task is Liz Zele.  Liz has a background in marine mammal identification and acoustics. She attended the University of San Diego where she received her degree in Marine Science with a biology emphasis.  After she graduated, she was involved with science education and informal science.  Liz has worked for NOAA for almost three years and this is her second long cruise. She enjoys field work because it lets her use what she learned in school, but she does admit however that she misses her family and friends while out at sea.

This project started for her in late June and will end on December 7th on board the DAVID STARR JORDAN working with another oceanographer. In order to relax on board a ship, Liz reads, watches movies, and goes to the gym.  In December, Liz hopes to buy a home and would like to open an education facility and continue with marine mammal acoustics.  For anyone wishing to enter the field of marine science she advises to volunteer and go after opportunities.  She states the field is very competitive so network and meet as many people as you can.

Kimberly Pratt, July 12, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 12, 2005

Fluke that helps in photo identification
Fluke that helps in photo identification

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  3614.084N
Longitude: 12213.868W
Visibility: <1 mile
Wind Direction: 340 Wind Speed:  22 knots
Sea Wave Height: 5-6 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.6
Cloud Cover: Foggy, Drizzle
Temperature:  14.8

Scientific Log 

For the past few days, it’s been either foggy or too windy to do observations.  The last big sighting was on July 10th where we spotted about 30 Sperm Whales.  It was easy to identify the Sperm Whales as their blow is at a 45 degree angle.  Also Sperm Whales like to float at the top of the water so tracking and finding them is relatively easy.  Juan Carlos Salinas and Tim O’Toole, was able to obtain 10 different biopsy samples and Holly Fearnbach and Cornelia Oedekoven obtained photo id. Sperm whales are identified by their flukes, noting scratches, tears or missing pieces.  The scientists will try to identify specific whales.  In the attached pictures, you will see heads of Sperm Whales, note the blow hole on the side of one, also try and look for scratches or cuts on the flukes.

Blow hole
Blow hole

Personal Log

Because of the weather, observations have been slow.  Yesterday, I did observe a Humpback Whale breaching in the distance. Today I’ve been doing interviews, reading and doing e-mail correspondence.  Hopefully the weather will clear and we can go back to regular observations to see more wildlife.  Right now we’re off of Pt. Sir, near Big Sur and will continue to track right outside our own coastline.  Hope all is well.

Kimberly Pratt, July 11, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 11, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Serving up Yummy treats – The Cooks of the McARTHUR II”

pratt_interview6Sitting in the galley of the McARTHUR II, is like sitting in a warm kitchen with good food all around. The Cooks, Art Mercado- Chief Steward and 2nd Cook Art Mercado, has been with NOAA for 32 years. He started as Mess Man, then was promoted to 2nd cook, and then to Captain Steward. He’s sailed on the FAIRWEATHER, the Old McARTHUR, and the DISCOVERER to Guam. He’s sailed all over the world, including Hawaii, Costa Rica, Montecito, Mexico and the Galapagos Islands. His duties as Chief Steward is to order all the food, plan menus, supervise the 2nd cook, and do all the cooking with the 2nd cook. He cooks for 39-40 when there is a full compliment.  The best thing about his position is that it keeps him busy; he gets to talk to officers, crew and  scientists. Also he loves it when he can fish and has caught 110 lb. Yellow fin, 35 lb, Mahi Mahi, a 95 lb. Wahoo.  The only challenge is that sometimes he gets bored and sometime feels like he has too much to do.  When he gets bored, he watches TV and walks around the ship.  Art will be retiring in 1 ½ years and is thinking about Hawaii for his retirement years.  His most memorable cruise with NOAA is when he was in Alaska, not only did they have beach barbeques, but they also were allowed to go on-shore and see beaver, deer and moose.  His toughest cruise was in the Bering Strait when the weather became very rough. Even though his supplies were secure, they still fell off the shelves and made a big mess.

pratt_interview6aHelping Art is 2nd Cook Carrie Mortell, who has been with NOAA one year in August. Carrie’s experience is with a fishing boat in Alaska. She used to fish for Salmon in the summer and Black Cod and Halibut in the spring and fall. She loved the excitement of being out at sea on a 40 ft. Power Troller. At that time she lived in Prince Wales, Alaska. She enjoyed Alaska because she was surrounded by water and saw plenty of deer, moose and even bear.  She came to work for NOAA because she really likes being on the water, and is looking at either Alaska or Hawaii as her home port.  Her life on the McARTHUR II is very busy.  She needs to be at work at 5 am and finishes her day between 6-6:30 pm.  She likes the fast paced work on the McARTHUR and during her time off she likes to read, relax, exercise and play cards, Carrie along with Art prepare 3 meals per day, along with a morning snack.  Her favorite thing to bake is desserts and her favorite fish to eat is King Salmon, which she states is high in Omega-3.  Carrie’s having fun working for NOAA.

Kimberly Pratt, July 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 10, 2005

Orca pod
Orca pod

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 38,55.2 N
Longitude: 124.22.003 W
Visibility:  < 1miles
Wind Speed & Direction:  200 degrees, 8 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2
Sea Swell Height: 5-6 ft.
Sea Level Pressure: 1016.2
Cloud Cover: cloudy and foggy
Temperature:  21.8 Celsius

Scientific Log

Orcas found! Yesterday evening, approximately 8 Killer Whales were tracked and observed off the bow of the McARTHUR II. Scientists are right now trying to determine if they are resident, off-shore, or transient whales.  This they will do by looking at their saddles, the area just under the dorsal fin.  It has already been determined that this pod did not have a large bull as none of the whales had the very large dorsal fin.  Male bull fins can be as large at 6ft high. A southern resident Killer Whale is reported to be over 100 years old. Attached are 2 photos of the group we observed last night, and also an  older picture of a baby Orca, as evidenced by the yellow/pinkish coloring.  Thanks to Holly Fearnbach for the photos.

Orca dorsal fin
Orca dorsal fin

Today we are heading closer to the California coast, north of Bodega Bay. It has been foggy all day with no chance to do observations.

Personal Log

I had to get these out to all of you. Seeing so many wild Orcas was breathtaking. The flying bridge was full of oohs, and awes as everyone ran to get their cameras.  One of the animals spy-hopped to look around and we observed them for about 40 minutes.  I also thought you might enjoy the “baby” orca picture. Last night there were some juveniles in the group, as evidenced by the smaller dorsal fins.

Kimberly Pratt, July 10, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Jay Prueher
Jay Prueher

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 10, 2005

Crew Interviews: Interview with the Engineering Dept.

The Engineering Department onboard the McARTHUR II is really amazing.  They are responsible for many of the operations on board.  They maintain and operate the 4 generators that provide all the electricity.  One generator can power 10, 075 light bulbs!  The electric/diesel engine has 3400 HP and consumes 2,850 gallons of fuel a day.  The ship that was built in 1984 was originally a Navy spy ship, spying on submarines.  The ship also makes its own water by taking in sea water, boiling it, letting it evaporate, treating it, and then it can be used by everyone on the ship.  The ship processes approx. 2400 gallons of water and 2200 gallons are used, so a 2 day reserve is kept on board.  The ship also has a machine shop to fix or create parts that my break down while out at sea.  The ship has two propellers and its top speed is 11.5 knots.

Luke Staiger, Jim Reed
Luke Staiger, Jim Reed

The ship can go 90 days at 3 knots. The ship has 7 levels including the fly bridge.  The person in charge of the Engineering Department is Jay Prueher who is the Chief Engineer. He’s worked for NOAA for 10 years and has a total of 20 years in Alaska. His favorite ports are Sitka and Juneau. What he likes best about ship life is no commute and dislikes being away from his family.  His wife, who won the Washington State lottery, resides in their home in the Cascade Mountains with their 6 cats and 6 dogs. During his time off, he likes to visit his daughter in warm and dry Tennessee. He really likes this department because all the engineers work together to envision what the scientists need to complete their mission.  Then they plan to make it real.  Even though Jay does enjoy his job, he plans to retire in 1 year, 11 months and 13 days, to spend time with his family in their beautiful home.

Thanks to all the engineering staff for touring me around and teaching me about the ship.

Jim Johnson
Jim Johnson
June Bruns
June Bruns

 

Kimberly Pratt, July 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 9, 2005

Blue whale
Blue whale

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 41.16.4’ N
Longitude: 125.58.30W
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Speed & Direction:  Light and variable
Sea Wave Height: <1
Sea Swell Height: 5-6 ft.
Sea Level Pressure: 1016.0
Cloud Cover: 5/8 of sky cloudy, AS (Alto Stratus), CS (Cumulus  Stratus), AC (Alto Cumulus), C (Cumulus)
Temperature:  21.8 Celsius

Scientific Log

Yesterday was a very slow day.  One of the scientists became ill so the ship was diverted to Coos Bay, Oregon. After a medical evaluation, it was decided that he would return to the ship at a later time.  We then left Coos Bay, and came into stormy weather, so operations were at a stand-still. We did still do bird observations, and we spotted Black footed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, Common Murres, Fulmars, and Leech’s Storm Petrels. At 2100, I met with Oceanographers, Liz Zele, and Mindy Kelly and proceeded to help with the CTD and the Bongo Nets.  The CTD gives scientists samples for conductivity, temperature, depth.  Next, a bongo net is lowered to a specific depth (300 meters) and brought to the surface at a constant angle. In this way a variety of fish and plankton can be collected and later identified. The specimens collected are very special because many of them are species in larval stage. By looking at this microscopic view of the ocean you  may easily identify it as the “nursery of the ocean”, displaying the many larval forms. The tests were concluded at approx. 2300 hrs.

Launching the zodiak
Launching the zodiak

Today was a much busier day.  Watch started at 0600 and as I was entering data for the bird observations we spotted some Blue whales.  Dr. Forney decided to launch the smaller boat (the Zodiac) for a closer look at the whales. I boarded the boat with the other scientists and we were lowered into the ocean. After getting everyone secure, we took off in pursuit of the Blue whales.  We spotted approximately 6 whales including a mother and calf. Biopsies were taken of these whales and we spent approximately 3 hours in pursuit to identify them.  We also identified Dall’s porpoise.

Personal log 

I must say climbing into a Zodiac in pursuit of whales has to be one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had.  The Zodiac skims the water at about 35 mph. and often we were airborne. The Blue whales that we found were unbelievably huge, as they can grow to 20-33 meters long.  We were approximately 100 meters away from them; I could hear their blows and was amazed at their gracefulness.  Besides the whales being exciting, all is going really well. I did have another bout of seasickness, but now that I’m wearing the patch, (medication for seasickness) I’m doing fine. The food here is very good, and there is down time to read, learn or watch movies.  Ship life is like a great  big family and everyone gets along pretty well.  Right now we are south/west of Crescent City, headed south to the Cordell Banks, Gulf of the Farallones, and Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuaries.  Soon, I’ll be in closer waters. Hope all is doing well back at home.  Thanks for responding to my logs, I welcome comments, corrections or questions. It keeps me busy!

P.S. In the Zodiac, I’m the one in the back with the orange “Mustang Suit” on, looking a little confused. If you look closely you can see the biopsy dart on the side of the Blue whale.

Kimberly Pratt, July 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 8, 2005

pratt_interview4Crew Interviews: the Commanding Officer

Today, I met with LCDR Daniel Morris on the McARTHUR II.  Morris is one of 270 uniformed officers of the NOAA Corps.  His assignment is varied with 2 years of duty on a ship and 3 years at shore. Morris’ background is in the Navy, where he attended the Naval Academy, and was promoted from Ensign to Lt. Jr. Grade, to Lt. Upon leaving the Navy, after some time he joined the NOAA Corps.  In NOAA he again started as an Ensign, Lt. Jr. Grade, Lt. Commander and now is a Lt. Commander.  In August, Dan will be completing this tour of ship duty and will then be posted at NOAA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. While on board the McARTHUR II, Morris is responsible for all the operations on the ship, and the safety of personnel on board.  One of his challenges as Commanding Officer is to make the ship a better place to work and live.  Morris is on-call at all times aboard the McARTHUR II.  He is consulted with navigation questions and vessel traffic situations. During his down time he likes to ride his stationary bike and read. He keeps in contact with his wife who he met while he was a sailing instructor in the Navy and two daughters who live in Gloucester, Massachusetts via e-mail.  In the past, Dan has sailed the original McARTHUR, and the FERREL.  A port of call that he really enjoyed was in Panama, where he spent time with a friend whose backyard was in a rainforest. He describes life on board a ship like a very small city, and close attachments are made.  All personnel who have experienced storms and challenging situations work harder together and become closer.  There are 22 people who work together to run the ship, and Morris, admires the crew who work onboard a ship year in and year out. Morris also believes that educating others about sea life is important as he’s done outreach and worked with teachers to give them reports and pictures from sea to share with their students. His advice for anyone wanting a career in maritime is to learn the skills you need for working on board a ship.  He also stresses the importance of learning the Maritime traditions, and getting a mentor to help you to get the most out of a maritime career.

Kimberly Pratt, July 7, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 7, 2005

White-sided dolphins
White-sided dolphins

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude:  44, 20, 7 N
Longitude: -126, 27, 7 W
Visibility:  10
Wind direction: 220
Wind Speed: 220
Sea Wave Height:  12
Swell Wave Height:  3-5
Sea Level pressure: 16.1
Cloud Cover: 7/8, AC, AS, CU
Temperature:  17.1

Scientific Log

Yesterday, we had the good fortune to see a school of Pacific White Sided dolphin, which swam at our bow for about 1/2 hr. A biopsy was taken of two of the animals, by Scientists, Tim O’Toole and Juan Carlos who used a crossbow with a special “grabber” attached to the arrow. A piece of skin and a piece of blubber will be analyzed.  Also swimming with the school were 2-3 baby dolphins.  Also spotted was a Humpback whale. A very busy day…

Today, we’ve spotted 2-3 Fin whales, along with a pod of Killer Whales.  The small boat was launched and tissue samples were taken from one of the Fin whales.  The Fin whale seemed rather curious as it approached the small boat at a close range.  The Killer Whales, however, were more cunning and a tissue sample could not be taken because their swimming pattern was very erratic.

As far as birds go, we spotted several Puffins, with beautiful markings on their heads; Black footed Albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, Leach’s Storm Petrels and lots of Seagulls.  Peter Pyle and Sophie Webb have trained me in the data entry part of their observations, so I am now helping them on the bridge when possible.  Tonight, I’ll be learning more about the CDT cast and also the Bongo Tow.

Personal Log

Yesterday was our first day out to sea, and my first experience with ocean swells.  I will admit I did develop sea sickness – or getting my sea legs as it’s called.  Chief Scientist Karen Forney, joked that may my sea legs grow quickly.  Ha! I’m now recovered, with no worse for wear. I guess it’s a rite of passage that all sea goers must experience.  So now I’m seasoned.  I’m very grateful to Chief Scientist Forney who in the middle of my sickness, came to my room and let me know about the dolphins outside.  She knew I wouldn’t want to miss it and she was right!  Another wonderful sight is the different tones of blue that can be seen when looking out over the water.  The weather has been nice, and we are now in the waters off of central Oregon.  We hope to be in central California by this weekend, depending on how things go.  The crew and scientists are extremely supportive and patient with all of my questions, and I’m learning a lot. I’ll post another log in a day or two.

Kimberly Pratt, July 6, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview3Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 6, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Making a Difference, One Survey at a Time”

Conservation, helping our oceans and educating others is Karin Forney’s goal. As a young girl, she was mystified by the ocean, but moved overseas to Germany.  Missing the ocean, she knew she had to return and when she did she became one of the leading experts in the field of whales and porpoises on the West Coast. Karin is one of a few scientists in the Coastal Marine Mammal Program which focuses on determining the numbers of marine life, human impact and what influences their population.  During the CSCAPE (Collaborative Survey Cetacean Abundance Pelagic Ecosystem) project, she is serving as Chief Scientist.  Her position while on the ship for 3 legs is that of Cruise Leader who is responsible for all aspects of the research program while under way. In port, at her home base in Santa Cruz, California, her job responsibilities are to assess marine mammal populations in the EEZ, (exclusive economic zone) of CA/OR/WA and  Hawaii. To do this she conducts surveys to estimate abundance and trends, studies stock structures and sub-populations.  She also estimates the human caused mortality of marine mammals by the fishing industry and ship strikes.  This she does by applying a formula to evaluate the level of human take that will still sustain a population.  If the level is too high she then works with the fisheries to bring down the mortality rates caused by humans.

Karin’s broad background in marine science has given her the skills and knowledge that she needs to make a difference.  Karin received her BA in Ecology Behavior and Evolution, her MA in Biology both from UC San Diego, and her PhD. in Oceanography, studying at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.  Her dissertation focused on the variability of marine ecosystems and how it affects abundance, using environmental data to predict when and where marine mammals will be found.

Married to another Marine Biologist, Karin spends extensive amounts of time working in the field. She loves seeing the animals, yet sometimes it’s difficult when the weather is bad and observations can’t be made.  Karin has had many accomplishments, but she’s been personally moved by the fact that 18 years ago, she didn’t know anything about marine mammals, and now she’s a leading expert in her field. She’s grateful for the opportunities she’s had to learn about cetaceans and most importantly always tries to teach others about conservation efforts to help our marine environment. She advises to never underestimate the potential to do damage to our oceans, every meal, fish, and trash has implications for species.

For a person interested in becoming a Marine Scientist, she recommends that you develop a broad knowledge base, learn physics, chemistry and math.  You may like dolphins and whales, but you need to develop good skills.  Karin’s computer programming skills got her this job, even though she was a Marine Biologist.  She also recommends that you follow your heart, and do a good job at whatever you do.  Also be flexible and seize opportunities when they become available to you.

Answers to students questions: Elijah – 3rd grade:  How deep is the ocean? Karin: The deepest parts are over 30,000 feet, (10,000 meters), but most of the oceans are about 12,000 feet (400 meters) deep.  That’s about 2.5 miles deep.

Jennie 5th grade: Where do you find dolphins, whales, sea otters and seals? Karin: All in the ocean. (Ha) Some prefer closer to shore like the otters and Bottlenose Dolphins, some are far from shore like Sperm Whales.  Essentially, you can find marine mammals everywhere.

Amber – 5th grade:  What do jellyfish eat? Karin: Jellyfish are fierce predators.  They capture zooplankton, little fish and larval crabs. Because Jellyfish are clear, you can look into their stomachs and see what they’ve been eating,

Sana – 5th grade: Why are most small fish skinny and thin? Karin: Actually it’s hydrodynamic, they are like little torpedoes.  If they swim a lot they are long and thin, whereas; bottom dwellers are rounder. Also the little fish need to swim fast to get away.

Sana – 5th grade: Do sharks eat anything else but fishes? Karin: Sharks also eat marine mammals, including; seals, sea lions, squid, Blue sharks eat krill too.

Haleermah – 5th grade:  How much do dolphins weigh? Karin: The littlest ones weigh about as much as a fifth grader, (90 lbs).  The biggest ones- a male Killer Whale, can weigh over 8 tons.

Haleermah – 5th grade:  Do whales ever bite? Karin: Baleen whales have no teeth, they swallow things whole, toothed whales – the dolphins will bite, sort of like a “bad dog”.  Killer Whales generally don’t bite people, but they will bite each other.

Vince Rosato – 4th/5th grade Teacher – How many varieties of dolphins are there?  What is the percent of Bottlenose Dolphins?  What are the differences between porpoises and dolphins?

Karin: There are approximately 40 different dolphin species.  The Bottlenose is the most abundant near shore, yet they are a small fraction of the total dolphin population.  Less than 10% of all dolphins are Bottlenose. The difference between porpoise and dolphins are:

  1. Their skull shape – the porpoise has a blunt head,
  2. Teeth – tooth shape in a dolphin is conical, the porpoise is spade like.
  3. Porpoises are in smaller groups – less social.
  4. Porpoises are generally found in the higher latitudes except the Finless porpoise.

Kimberly Pratt, July 5, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Elliot Bay, Seattle
Date: July 5, 2005

Kim Pratt in her survival suit
Kim Pratt in her survival suit

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 47.37.2’ N
Longitude: 122.22.3’W
Visibility: 8-10
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft
Sea Swell Height: 0
Sea Level Pressure: 1012.2
Cloud Cover: 8/8, AS, AC
Temperature:  20 Celsius

Scientific Log

Chief Scientist Karin Forney called all the scientists together for our first meeting at 0930 in the dry lab.  She gave an overview of the schedule of operations for our cruise and explained the day’s activities which were drills, CDT calibration, and scientist set-up and prep. The CDT or Conductivity, Temperature/Depth devices are used to get readings of salinity, temperature, depth, density and conductivity of the ocean water.  The CDT will be lowered to 500 meters when deployed.  Scientists also set-up their stations and  prepared for their busy days ahead. I worked with Rich Pagan, Sophie Webb, and Peter Pyle to create range finders out of pencils.  The range finders will help them determine whether the birds they observe are at 300, 200 or 100 meter distance.

Seabird illustrations, Sophie Webb
Seabird illustrations, Sophie Webb

Personal Log

Beautiful fireworks, warm weather and a wonderful array of boats showed Seattle in its glory! I spent the evening on board the McARTHUR which had an awesome view of the fireworks. What a send off for our cruise the next day.

I awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking and looked forward to today’s launch. We left Seattle, at 0930, and headed out of Lake Union.  After motoring through two draw bridges – the Fremont Bridge and the Ballard Bridge, we then got a special treat by going through the government locks – or the Hiram M. Chittam locks.  Locks are used to raise or lower water levels to allow passage from one body of water to another.  In this case, we were leaving Lake Union (freshwater) and going to Elliot Bay (salt water).  We waited patiently as the gates closed, and the water lowered us down for passage into Elliot Bay.  Upon leaving Elliot Bay, we dropped anchor to start the CDT calibration.  We then had an abandon ship drill in which I had to put on a very funny orange suit, affectionately know as Gumby suits.  As soon as it was donned, Chief Scientist Forney and Jan Rolleto ran to get their cameras because I looked so comical.  Finally, we had a fire drill and then the scientists set to work.  It was really fun working with Rich, Jim and Sophie. Sophie Webb has published two children’s books, Looking for Seabirds and My Season with Penguins, which are very well done and illustrated.  Recommended reading….. Right now, we’re still anchored in Elliot Bay with a beautiful view of the Seattle skyline, the Space Needle and Mt. Rainer. Tonight we’ll head off to the ocean and all the wonders we will see.

Kimberly Pratt, July 4, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview2Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 4, 2005

Crew Interviews: “A Beautiful Birder”

Walking into the Dry Lab on the MCARTHUR II ship, you are likely to find a quiet, unobtrusive, and humble woman, carefully and delicately sketching her latest find.  You have just found Sophie Webb, Senior Bird Observer on the MCARTHUR II. Sophie has been sailing with NOAA for over 13 years. Her responsibilities are; to census sea birds, and edit and organize data at night. Sophie’s love for birds started at a young age, when living is Cape Cod she attended Audubon Camp, a camp for young Ornithologists or Birders as they are called.   After that she attended Boston University, and received her BA in Biology. During college she volunteered at the New England Aquarium and worked on college projects.  After college she lived in a 12 sq. ft cabin outside of Stinson Beach and also in New York, working at the Museum of Natural History painting bird specimens.  Now, she does field research on ships, sketches at the Museum of Natural  History, paints and is working on her latest children’s book.  Her accomplishments are many, she co-authored and illustrated Field Guides to Birds of Mexico and Central America published by Oxford Press and completed two children’s books, My Season with Sea Birds and Looking for Penguins. She has just recently finished another book titled the Birds of Brazil.

She really loves seeing birds that you normally would not see and an interesting bird she observed is a Honduran Emerald hummingbird seen in Honduras.  This is very special because one had not been identified since the mid 1950’s. She views these birds during her extensive travel to locations such as the Galapagos Islands, Bolivia, Australia,  Aleutian Island chain, and the Antarctica on her various research projects.  Doing field work at sea can be either very busy or very quiet.  To fill in the down time, Sophie, exercises, paints, writes and does e-mail.

Her career has depth and variety, and in order to be a successful birder she advises that you volunteer for field studies whenever possible.  Learn good computer and camera skills, practice field sketching and learn all about birds at every opportunity.

The other day I witnessed Sophie’s love for her craft.  We were watching Pacific White-Sided Dolphins when all of a sudden a large flock of birds was seen.  Her blue eyes sparkled with delight, when resident and long distance birds were identified. Some birds had traveled to the area from New Zealand, the Artic, Hawaii and Chile. These long distance birds come to this area because it is so productive.

Sophie is an inspiration to all women, especially girls or women wishing to enter scientific fields. She demonstrates that being a scientist is fun and exciting, yet she advises, that you have to stand your ground and sometimes be assertive yet non-confrontational. Sophie demonstrates that she has all these talents as evidenced by her successful and beautiful career.

Kimberly Pratt, July 3, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

pratt_interview1Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 3, 2005

Crew Interviews: “Capt. Cotton of the Flying Bridge”

Entering the Flying Bridge on the MCARTHUR II is to enter into Jim Cotton’s personal playground.  Laughter fills his face and excitement abounds as he listens to Johnny Cash and looks through the “Big Eyes” telescopes (25 power telescopes that enable the viewer to see over 7 miles) to see what he loves most of all – marine mammals.  Jim’s reputation preceded him on this cruise as one of the finest marine mammal observers to be found. Jim is a Senior Mammal Observer with NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association).  He’s been working for NOAA since 1978 and his primary responsibilities are; Field Biologist, Observer, Flying Bridge quality control, data editing, and photo biopsy. Jim’s background is a BA in Zoology, BA in Biology and a minor in Botany, all received at Humboldt University.  One of his most rewarding projects was collecting flying fish in the East Tropical Pacific and helping Bob Pittman collect 35,000 samples to work on a new taxonomy (classification system) for flying fish.   Jim has always wanted to be a biologist, and his dedication to his field is evident.  However, it’s not easy being a field biologist and the hardest part is the time spent away from his daughter who is studying business and also away from his sweetheart of 15 years. Yet, he believes the sacrifice is worth it.  One of the most motivating factors in his career is being able to look at animals that few people will ever see.  He encourages all people to follow their dreams and especially students to learn to write well, learn computer science, and have a background in statistics.  Finally, in a laugh and big smile Jim simply says, “I have the best job in the world”.  That says enough…

Questions answered by Jim Cotton.

Sarbjit, 5th grade: How will you peel the skin from the whales and dolphins (for biopsy)?

Jim:  Their skin is very thin like a cuticle on you finger.  It can be cut with a scalpel.  When we do a biopsy the animals don’t do avoidance behavior (running away) so it doesn’t look like it bothers them.  Actually, it spooks them more if you don’t hit them and it splashes into the water.

Michelle – 5th grade: How do dolphins communicate with other dolphins?

Jim:  They use echolocation, sending off a sonar wave and having it hit an object and bounce off back to them.  They also use their vision, they look around and lastly many are brightly colored allowing them to see each other more easily’

Michelle – Do young dolphins hunt their own food?

Jim:  Actually it is a learned behavior the parents teach their young.  There were school of Spotted dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico that he observed being taught how to hunt.  Killer whales had surrounded prey, kept them corralled as the mother dolphins taught their babies how to hunt the prey inside of the corral. In the end the big male Killer whale ate the prey, but it gave the dolphin’s good practice at hunting.

Michelle: What do dolphins eat?

Jim:  They eat fish, squid. The Killer Whales eat marine mammals.

Kimberly Pratt, July 2, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kimberly Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship McArthur II
July 2 – 24, 2005

Mission: Ecosystem Wildlife Survey
Geographical Area: Pacific Northwest
Date: July 2, 2005

Teacher at Sea, Kim Pratt
Teacher at Sea, Kim Pratt

Weather Data from Bridge

None, in port.

Personal log

Today has been a very busy and productive day. After getting up at 5:30 AM, I boarded Alaska Airlines and headed to Seattle. Upon landing in Seattle, I was greeted by a cloudy, humid day and luckily no rain.  After taking a shuttle to the NOAA Headquarters I caught my first glimpse of the MCARTHUR II – I was not disappointed! The ship was larger than I expected with many decks.  I met with the 3rd Mate – Donn Pratt! (No, we are not related!)  He gave me the grand tour, showed me my room and helped me learn the terms starboard and port. Starboard means the right of the ship when looking towards the front and port is the left side of the ship when looking towards the front. Also starboard side is odd, with green coloring and port is even with red coloring. My first lesson of the trip!  After unpacking I then met with the Chief Scientist, Karin Forney, who again toured me around and showed me the various locations of where we’ll be doing observations.

In the short time I’ve been here, I’ve already been impressed with the friendliness of all on board, the organization of the ship and the equipment they have for research.  I hope to learn more about the ship in the upcoming weeks, and report back some amazing whale and dolphin sightings as well as the progress of the research we’re doing.  I look forward to an exciting, educational and fun trip!