Heidi Wigman: Drill, Baby, Drill! May 26, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Heidi Wigman
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
May 27 – June 10, 2015

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys on the U.S. Continental Shelf
Geographical area of cruise: currently @ 30°22.081’N 088°33.789’W (Pascagoula, MS)
Date: May 26, 2015

Weather Data from Bridge: 82°, wind SW @ 10 knots , 90% precipitation, waves 3-5 @ 3 sec.

Science and Technology Log

We are 3 hours from raising anchor, untying from the dock, and heading out to sea.  Being aboard the Pisces for 2 days before departure turned out to be a blessing: getting to map out the lay of the 206′ labyrinth, hanging out with the crew, and even getting in a couple of runs around Pascagoula (even in the extreme humidity).

Yesterday was a day of dewatering drills, in case of lower-level compartment flooding.  We used the diesel and the electric pumps to run through set-up in the event of a flood in the engine compartment.  As the resident TAS, I don’t think that I would necessarily be relied upon to place gear in an emergency, but nevertheless, I wasn’t going to sit out and miss all of the fun.

Today we are running through a series of drills: fire, man overboard, and abandon ship.  Each of these events has a series of alerts that indicate what the emergency is, and all hands are to report to their designated muster areas – in the case of an abandon ship, that would be the life rafts.  Each of these drills also requires everyone to bring their immersion suits and PFD (Personal Flotation Device), and in my case, to don the suit.

Another training that we did today was to learn how to use the Ocenco EEBD (Emergency Escape Breathing Device) – basically a cool re-breather that fits in a pouch and provides about 10 minutes of fresh oxygen. This would generally be used in case of a fire, not if you are submerged.

So, with all of the drills and trainings, I feel ready for any major disaster that we may encounter while at sea.  Thanks NOAA Corps for making sure that I am safe and in good hands!

FRB - Fast-Rescue Boat
FRB – Fast-Rescue Boat
Oscar – waiting to be the star in the man-overboard drill
Life rafts awaiting
Bright safety orange so you won’t miss it

Deborah Campbell: May 23, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Deborah Campbell
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
May 14 – May 24, 2012

Mission: Fish Tagging, Acoustic Receiver maintenance/ deployment
Geographical Area: Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Date: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge: Sunny and warm, waves 3 to 4 feet, currently 74 degrees

Science and Technology Log

On Tuesday, May 22, science operations on board Nancy Foster resumed.  A boat from Gray’s Reef brought more divers.  Shannon McAteer is from “Team Ocean”, a volunteer S.C.U.B.A. organization.  Michelle Johnston is a research ecologist at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in Galveston, Texas.  Kelly Gleason is a maritime archeologist in Hawaii.  Randy Rudd, named “Volunteer of the Year” for the entire National Marine Sanctuary Program,  has been on board from the beginning is also a “Team Ocean” diver.  Diver Greg McFall  the Research Coordinator/Deputy Superintendent of Gray’s Reef will perform surgery to implant transmitters in the fish.  Greg has been doing the underwater filming throughout the trip.  Also, assisting in the dives are Nancy Foster NOAA Corps Officers LT Josh Slater and ENS Jamie Park.  Chief Scientist, Sarah Fangman is coordinating all the dive projects.   Debbie Meeks is the Financial and Informational Technology Coordinator and webmaster for Gray’s Reef.  She has been continually working on the mission website throughout the cruise.

Debbie Meeks and Deborah Campbell in dry lab (photo courtesy of Kacey Johnson)
LT Josh Slater and ENS Jamie Park preparing to dive


Rockfish (also known as striped bass)
Rockfish (also known as striped bass)
Batfish (photo by ENS Jamie Park)
Batfish (photo by ENS Jamie Park)
Divers (from left) Kelly Gleason, Sarah Fangman, Michelle Johnston, and Randy Rudd

The plan of the day is to work on implanting transmitters in fish.  The divers have put large cages on the bottom with food to lure the fish inside.  The divers will reach inside the cage to grab  the fish with a net.  One diver will hold the fish “belly up”, while another diver performs surgery.  The surgery involves a small cut, insertion of the transmitter, and then a couple of stitches.  The fish is then released.  Doing the surgery underwater greatly increases the survival chances of the fish.  Divers have spotted several tagged fish swimming happily about Gray’s Reef.

Personal Log

Yesterday, while I was on “steel beach”, there was an “abandon ship” drill.  The signal for this drill is six short blasts followed by one long blast.  I had to hurry to my room to get my life-preserver and Immersion Suit (Gumby Suit).  I had to report to Muster Station Three.  The person in charge of my group was ENS Jamie Park.  If we had to abandon ship, we would have to deploy a life raft which is in a large cylinder.  The cylinder would be thrown overboard.  We would have to get in our Gumby Suits quickly, throw the cylinder overboard, let the cylinder open into a life raft and jump overboard to get in life raft.  It was only a drill…  However, drills are important to help people get prepared in an emergency situation.

The crew has to watch videos to prepare them for emergencies.  I watched an excellent video in the mess hall with the crew.  The video showed how to prepare for an emergency at sea in event that you would have to abandon the ship.

Deborah Campbell participating in an “abandon ship” drill aboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster

Meanwhile, I will be spending my last day on board.  Today is hamburger Wednesday.  There will be burgers for lunch.  On Thursday, we will dock in downtown Savannah, Georgia.  On Friday, I will be assisting the scientists and crew with an “Open House”.  People will be able to tour the Foster.  On Saturday I will depart Georgia and head to Chicago.  I look forward to sharing my adventures with my family, friends, students, and colleagues.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a “NOAA Teacher At Sea”.  I will never forget my time with the wonderful crew of the Foster and scientists which I have shared my experiences.


S.A.R.T.- Search and Rescue Transponder

PFD- Portable Floatation Device

H.E.L.P. Position- Heat Escape Loss Position

SCUBA- Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus