Jennifer Goldner: Sea and Anchor, August 27, 2011

 NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Goldner
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
(NOAA Ship Tracker)
August 11 — August 24, 2011

Mission: Shark Longline Survey
Geographical Area: Southern Atlantic/Gulf of Mexico
Date: August 27, 2011

Science and Technology Log

If you looked at the Ship Tracker today (August 27th), you would see that NOAA Ship Oregon II is docked at Pascagoula, Mississippi.  I am writing to you from Oklahoma to share how we made it back to port safely.  The procedure for making that happen is called “Sea and Anchor” and it’s quite a sight to behold!

Me on my last day at sea
Me on my last day at sea

Over two weeks ago when we were leaving port in Charleston, I heard the Captain announce “Sea and Anchor.”  During Sea and Anchor, every crew member is at his/her station.  For example, the engineers are in the engine room, the deck crew is ready to drop anchor if needed, and all officers are on the bridge.

Not to mention, just to get ready for Sea and Anchor, the Captain must oversee a 4 page checklist of things that must be done before going to sea.  Sea and Anchor detail is done not only as the ship is going out, but also as it is coming in to port.  This is what I got to observe on the bridge as we came into the channel in Pascagoula on August 24, 2011.

But let me back up to the first of the 2 page checklist to get ready for Sea and Anchor as the ship is taken through the channel and docked at the port.  The 1st thing that must happen is the Officer of the Deck transits the ship from the last station to the Pascagoula Ship Channel.  Our last station was north of Tampa, about 300 miles from port.  We steamed at 10 knots/hour.  (1 knot is roughly 1.15 miles per hour.) At this rate, how many hours did it take us to get to port from our last station?

One day prior to arrival, the Captain must call the port and talk to the Pascagoula Port Captain, Jim Rowe.  When he calls, he verifies that line handlers are available at the pier as well as the ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) of the ship.  Thirty minutes before arrival at the channel sea buoys, the Captain must wake all hands up to prepare for Sea and Anchor.

He then calls the pilot/port for vessel traffic.  According to the Captain, traffic is extremely important.  The channel at Pascagoula is 500 feet in width.  There are buoys at either side of the channel. NOAA Ship Oregon II is 34 feet wide.  If a ship goes outside the buoys, it will run aground.  Outside the buoys the depth of the channel ranges from only 13-18 feet.  NOAA Ship Oregon II has a 15 foot draft.  The larger ships can draw almost the entire depth of the channel which is 40 feet! Many will also take up most of the width of the channel, thus there is no way for 2 large ships to get through the channel at the same time without one running aground.

Model to show that 2 large ships cannot fit through the Pascagoula Ship Channel at the same time
Model to show that 2 large ships cannot fit through the Pascagoula Ship Channel at the same time
These 2 boats, Grand Cheniere and Lady Glenda, were small enough that we could fit through the channel alongside them.
These 2 boats, Grand Cheniere and Lady Glenda, were small enough that we could fit through the channel alongside them.

After traffic is checked, the propulsion and steering is tested, then the crew must ready an anchor to let go in case of an emergency.  Next the call signs/flags are hoisted.

Call flags
Call flags

The deck department breaks out mooring lines for port or starboard side docking.  (We docked on the starboard side, so the deck hands got all the lines to that side.) At this point the Captain pipes (announces), “Set Sea and Anchor detail.”  The engineers go to the engine room, the deck hands are all on deck, and the officers are on the bridge.

As I mentioned, the Pascagoula Ship Channel is 500 feet in width.  Toward the beginning of the Channel, the Barrier Islands (Petit Bois Island, Horn Island, Ship Island, and Cat Island) must be navigated, as well as the entire channel.

One of the barrier islands, Horn Island, off the port side of the ship
One of the barrier islands, Horn Island, off the port side of the ship
One of the Barrier Islands, Petit Bois Island, off the starboard side of the ship
One of the Barrier Islands, Petit Bois Island, off the starboard side of the ship
The Captain and Officers working on the bridge during Sea and Anchor
The Captain and Officers working on the bridge during Sea and Anchor

So how does this happen?  I got to stay on the bridge to find out.  The Captain and the 4 officers are all on the bridge and all have a part to play in this procedure.  The Captain designates what duty each officer will do.  This changes from port to port. He also serves as an overseer.  If at any time he needs to jump in and help any of the officers, he will do so.

Here are the jobs of the officers: 1.  Having the Conn-  This officer conns/manuevers the ship in to port.  2. On the Helm- This officer steers the ship into dock. 3. On the pitch-  This officer controls the throttle.  It is also known as being on the “sticks and log.”  4.  Doing navigation- This officer advises the Conning Officer when to make turns in the channel.

XO, Jason Appler, conning the ship
Jason, XO, conning the ship
Sarah, Operations Officer, is at the helm
Sarah, Operations Officer, is at the helm
Larry, Junior Officer, is on the pitch
Larry, Junior Officer, is on the pitch
Brian, Junior Officer, navigating
Brian, Junior Officer, navigating

Now that everyone is at their stations, at the mouth of the channel the Captain calls the port on the radio.  This time into port, this is what he said,  “Research Vessel NOAA Ship Oregon II inbound at buoys 7 and 8.”  Over the radio a friend of the Captain’s exclaimed, “Welcome back, dude!”  (NOAA Ship Oregon II had not been here at home port for about a month.)

After the Captain makes a securite (pronounced “securitay”) call to the Port Captain over the radio to broadcast or alert any other vessels that the ship is heading in, the ship can then enter the channel.  This was amazing to watch as all the officers and Captain worked together like clockwork to get through the channel.  Here is an example of what you would hear:  Conn to Helm: 3-2-0, Helm to Conn: 3-2-0. Conn: Very Well. . . Conn to Pitch: 4 feet ahead, Pitch to Conn: 4 feet ahead, Conn: Very well.  This is done all the way through the entire channel until the ship is safely docked.

Beach in Pascagoula, Mississippi
Beach in Pascagoula, Mississippi

Personal Log

I already had a great amount of respect for the responsibilities of Commanding Officer- Master Dave Nelson, Executive Officer- LCDR Jason Appler, Operations Officer- LT Sarah Harris, Junior Officer- ENS Larry V. Thomas, and Junior Officer- ENS Brian Adornato, but now I have even a greater respect than I did.  While standing on the bridge during the Sea and Anchor detail, I was honestly in awe.  I had NO idea what went into getting a ship to dock.  It was absolutely a highlight of my trip to see how they make that work so smoothly.  Cap told me, “I have done this Sea and Anchor procedure hundreds and hundreds of times, but I never take it lightly.  I am in charge of all the lives on board and it’s my job to get you home safely.”  Thank you Cap, and your entire crew, for getting this Oklahoman to her “home on the range!”

Pascagoula Port
Pascagoula Port

After we docked, the XO, Chief Scientist, and myself did a Skype interview from the bridge of NOAA Ship Oregon II with NewsOn6.  I appreciate the XO’s help in getting permission for us to do the interview as well as our Electronics Technician for setting up the equipment!

After the interview some of the scientists and I headed to Rob’s BBQ On The Side.  It was wonderful!  Next we were off to the Gulfport airport.  I had a layover in Atlanta.  There I was fortunate to meet and eat dinner with 2 AirTran Airways pilots, Vince-Captain, and John-First Officer.

Me with John and Vince, pilots
Me with John and Vince, Pilots
Bahamas from the air (Courtesy of Vince, Pilot)
Bahamas from the air (Courtesy of Vince, Pilot)

It turns out, while I was in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, they were flying over it.  I thought you’d enjoy their vantage point, so I included a couple of pictures that Vince took.

I asked them how important math and science were to their jobs.  They both said that numbers were their world.  They eat, breathe, and sleep numbers.

Atlantic Ocean from the air (Courtesy of Vince, pilot)
Atlantic Ocean from the air (Courtesy of Vince, Pilot)

On my flight from Atlanta to Tulsa I sat next to Don, Project Engineer-NORDAM Necelle/Thrust Reverser Systems Division.  So for over an hour we had a great conversation about the importance of math and science.  Here is what he said: “Math and science are important to my job (and to any engineer) because they are the basis of everything we do.  An understanding of math and science allows aerospace engineers to understand why things work the way they do, and more importantly, that knowledge allows us to develop better products that can be used in the aerospace industry.  This is possible because at some time or another, some boys and girls were sitting in class and really enjoyed learning about how things work.  Math and science work together to explain those things in a logical manner.  Their desire to continue learning led them down a road to more advanced classes in high school and eventually to math, science, and engineering degrees in college, allowing them the opportunity to get good jobs and to be a part of developing the next great airplane.”

This photo was taken while I was at sea by Don, engineer, as his plane descended into Georgia.
This photo was taken while I was at sea by Don, engineer, as his plane descended into Georgia.

People often ask me how I meet so many interesting and intriguing people.  Do you want to know how?  I take the time to talk to them.  Each of these people I met will now play an integral part in my classroom.  Some will visit my classroom, others will answer our questions via email, and yet others will Skype or call our class during our classroom meetings.

In my classroom I have a sign that has 3 simple words: Find The Time.  I take the time to tell my students the importance of budgeting their time and using it to the fullest each and every day.  Every day is only what you  make it.  Remember to find the time to always keep learning and sharing what you know with others.  It makes the world a better place to live.

My son and Mom surprised me with flowers when they picked me up from the airport!
My son and Mom surprised me with flowers when they picked me up from the airport!

Kathleen Harrison: First Trawl, July 7, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Harrison
Aboard NOAA Ship  Oscar Dyson
  July 6– 17, 2011

Location:  Gulf of Alaska
Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 7, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed:  18.7 knots
True Wind direction:  145.55°
Sea Temperature:  8.12° C
Air Temperature:  9.65° C
Air Pressure:  1013.2 mb
Ship’s Heading:  299°, Ship’s Speed:  11.8 knots
Latitude:  54.59°N, Longitude:  145.55°W

Science and Technology Log
The primary mission of the Oscar Dyson Walleye Pollock Survey is to estimate the biomass (mass of the living fish) of the Pollock in the Gulf of Alaska.  Read about why Pollock are important here:  Pollock    Now, you can’t exactly go swimming through the Gulf of Alaska (brrrr) and weigh all of the fish, so the NOAA scientists on board use indirect methods of measuring the fish to come up with an estimate (a very accurate estimate).  Two of these methods include using nautical charts, and trawling.

Nautical charts are used for navigation, and location.  The Oscar Dyson has several systems of charts, including electronic and paper.  Each chart contains latitude, longitude, and ocean depth, as well as lands masses and islands.  A chart that shows ocean depth is called a bathymetric chart.

bathymetric map
Here is a bathymetric map for part of the Gulf of Alaska. The change in color from green to blue shows the edge of the continental shelf.

These need updating continually, because the sea floor may change due to volcanic eruption or earthquakes.  The Officer of the Deck (OOD, responsible for conning and navigating the ship) needs to know how deep the ship sits in the water, and study the bathymetric charts, so that the ship does not go into shallow water and run aground.  The lines on the bathymetric chart are called contour lines, depth is shown by the numbers on the lines.  Sometimes every line will have a number, sometimes every 5th line will have a number.   A steep slope is indicated by lines that are close together, a flat area would have lines that are very far apart.  The OOD also need to know where seamounts (underwater volcanoes) and trenches (very deep cracks in the ocean floor) are because these may affect local currents.  GPS receivers are great technology for location, but just in case the units fail, and the ship’s technology specialist is sick, the OOD needs to know how to use a paper chart.  He or she would calculate the ship’s position based on ship’s speed, wind speed, known surface currents, visible land masses, and maybe even use star positions.  Here in Alaska, star position is helpful in the winter, but not in summer.  (Do any of my readers know why?)

The Oscar Dyson’s charted course follows a series of parallel straight lines around the coast of Kodiak Island, and other Aleutian Islands.  These are called transects, and allows the scientists to collect data over a representative piece of the area, because no one has the money to pay for mapping and fishing every square inch.

The Chief Scientist on the Oscar Dyson is always checking our location on the electronic chart at his desk.  It looks something like this:

map of transects, Gulf of Alaska
This chart shows some of the transects for the Oscar Dyson in the Gulf of Alaska.

Several things are indicated on this chart with different symbols:  the transect lines that the ship is traveling (the straight, parallel lines), where the ship has fished (green fish), where an instrument was dropped into the water to measure temperature and salinity (yellow stars), and various other ship activities.  It also shows the ocean depth.  This electronic version is great because the scientists can use the computer to examine a small area in more detail, or look at the whole journey on one screen.

They can also put predicted activities on the map, and then record actual activities.  The scientists also use several systems for the same thing;  recording the ship’s path and activities in the computer, as well as making notes by hand in a notebook.

When the scientists want to catch fish, they ask the crew to put a trawling net into the water.  The basic design of the trawl is a huge net attached to 2 massive doors.

otter trawl
This is the basic design for a trawl net, showing the doors that hold the net open, and the pointed end, where the fish are guided, called the cod end.

The doors hold the net open, as it is dragged behind the boat.  There are 2 different trawling nets aboard the Oscar Dyson:  one that trawls on the bottom called the PNE (Poly Nor’Easter), and one that trawls midway in the water column called the AWT (Aleutian Wing Trawl).  Another net called the METHOT can be used to collect plankton and small fish that are less than 1 year old.  The scientists determine the preferred depth of the net based on the location of fish in the water column; the OOD gets the net to this requested depth and keeps it there by adjusting the ship’s speed and the amount of trawl warp (wire attached to the net).
A trawl typically lasts 15 – 20 minutes, depending on how many fish the scientists estimate are in the water at that point (more about this later).  Today, a bottom trawl was performed, and 2 tons of fish were caught!  The net itself weighs 600 pounds, and is handled by a large crane on the deck at the stern (back) of the ship.  Operating the trawl requires about 6 people, 3 on the deck, and 3 on the bridge at the controls.  When the scientists judge that there are the right amount of fish in the net, it is hauled back onto the deck, weighed, and is emptied into a large table.

poly nor'easter
Here is the PNE being weighed with the cod end full of fish.

Then the scientists (and me) go to work:  sorting the fish by species into baskets, counting the fish, and measuring the length of some of them.  NOAA technology specialists have designed a unique data collection system, complete with touch screens.  A fish is placed on a measuring board, and the length is marked by a  magnetic stylus that is worn on the finger.  The length is automatically recorded by the computer, and displayed on a screen beside the board.  I measured the length of about 50 Atka Mackerel after the first trawl.

using the measuring board
In the fish lab, this mackerel is having his length measured. The data goes directly into the computer, and shows up on the screen in front of me.

By sampling the fish that come up in the trawl net, the scientists can estimate the size of the population.  Using the length, and gender distribution, they can calculate the biomass.

Personal Log
Some great things about living on the Oscar Dyson:  the friendly and helpful people, the awesome food, the view from the bridge.

Some challenging things about living on the Oscar Dyson:  taking a shower, putting on mascara, staying in bed while the ship rolls.

I started my 12-hour shifts, working from 4 am to 4 pm.  Well, maybe working is not the right word, I actually worked about 3 hours, and asked a lot of questions during my first shift.  The scientists are very patient, and explain everything very well.  We did one trawl today, and it was a good one.  I enjoyed sorting and counting the fish, and then measuring the length of them.  I will probably take a shower, eat dinner, and read for a short time before climbing into bed.  I have the top bunk, and it is plenty of room, except I can’t sit up straight.  Here is a picture of the stateroom.  After my shift, I will probably take a shower, eat dinner, watch a movie and fall asleep around 8:30.

view of my room
Standing at the door, this is the view into my stateroom. The bunks are on the right, the desk and closets are on the left. There is a tiny bathroom, as well as a small refrigerator.

The weather today has been windy, so there are 6 – 8 foot swells, and the ship is rolling a bit.  I have not been seasick yet – yippee!  The wind is supposed to calm down tomorrow, so hopefully we will have a smoother ride tomorrow night.

I learned the difference between pitch, roll, and heave:  pitch is the rocking motion of the ship from bow to stern (front to back), roll is the motion from side to side, and heave is the motion up and down.  The Oscar Dyson is never still, demonstrating all 3 motions, in no particular pattern.  Imagine standing in a giant rocking chair, and someone else (that you can’t see) is pushing it.

Here is a view from the bridge:

from the aft deck
View from the deck in front of the bridge, showing a gyrorepeater (the white column on the right), and a windbird (anemometer and wind vane) on top of the forward mast. You can also see a horizontal black bar in the center of the picture - that is the provisions crane.

Species seen today:
Northern Rockfish
Dusky Rockfish
Walleye Pollock
Pacific Ocean Perch
Kelp Greenling
Atka Mackerel
Pacific Cod
Fanellia compresson (octocoral)
Sea Urchin

Diane Stanitski: Day 7, August 17, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 7: Saturday, August 17, 2002
Time: 0700 military time (based on a 24-hour time schedule)

Latitude: 21°14.715’North (N) Cruising just south of the Big Island of Hawaii visible this morning from the port (left) side of the ship when facing forward
Longitude: 157°57.378’West (W)

Weather Observations taken from the bow of the ship with Shippensburg University’s hand-held Kestrel 3000 instrument:

Air Temperature: 27°C (80.6°F)
Average Wind Speed: 6.3 knots (7.3 mph)
Cloud Cover: 8/10 with mostly altocumulus (middle level, puffy) and cirrocumulus (high level, puffy) clouds
Precipitation in previous 24 hours: 0 cm (0 inches)
Relative Humidity: 89%
Dew Point Temperature: 24.8°C (76.6°F) Relatively calm seas; beautiful sunrise; Porpoises spotted on the port (left) side of the ship

Quote written on the Plan of the Day (POD) posted outside the Main Mess (meal) area: “All excellent things are as difficult as they are rare.”
– Benedict Spinoza

After a restful night’s sleep on my upper bunk, I awoke ready for a new day! It struck me as I was lulling into a peaceful sleep that my mattress felt just like a waterbed. I thought that I was rolling around on a bowl of jello, a neat feeling which made me relax. I am fortunate that I haven’t experienced any seasickness yet. A few others haven’t been so lucky. Michelle, our fearless Medical Officer on board, has distributed medication for seasickness to those needing it. It is recommended that you breathe in fresh air and watch the horizon for a while if ever you feel queasy.

After touring the outer decks of the ship watching the sun rise above the morning clouds on the horizon, I stopped to speak with crew member Roger Stone who said that every day is slightly different because the sky is always changing. He recalled seeing a white rainbow at night under a full moon. I had never heard of this so I’m intrigued about what would cause such a remarkable feature.

Breakfast was interesting because I spoke with Rachel, a Cadet, and Steve, our Field Operations Officer (FOO) who received a degree in Meteorology at the University of Nebraska. We discussed Steve’s research and he said that I could come up to the bridge to take weather observations anytime. Yahoo! For some reason beyond me, weather obs are not everyone’s favorite activity of the day. Rachel taught me the difference between a pitching and rolling boat. She said that a pitching boat rocks front to back (up and down), while a rolling boat rocks side to side. She is currently taking a course requiring that she write a complete report of all of her activities while on board. I hope to learn many things from her, including celestial navigation — how to find your way using the stars. Can’t wait!

I learned from Steve that the reason it was a bit rocky in the ship last night was due to our travels through currents emerging from between the Hawaiian Islands. The currents disturbed the forward motion of the boat. Unknown to me, currents are named for the direction toward which they flow, unlike winds, which are named for the direction from which they blow. So, if ocean currents and winds are moving in the same direction, they have opposite directional names – very interesting!

I spent part of the day organizing my thoughts regarding my upcoming lesson plans. There are so many exciting ideas generated each day by the scientists as we talk. I will definitely interview the scientists on the ship about their current research as well as use the opportunity to describe the many mechanical and electronic sensors on board to everyone watching the webcasts. Please let me know what you would like to know more about and I’ll try to include it in a future webcast.

John pointed out flying fish on the port side of the boat today. They are quite small and it is believed that they fly to flee from whatever is gaining on them. They don’t have great ability to determine direction and they stay in the air for just a few seconds before splashing into the water again.

Our location and the weather observations at 1300 today were:
Latitude: 18°37.8’N
Longitude: 155°23.7’W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles (nm) which is about the greatest distance you can see due to the curvature of the earth
Wind direction: 060 (on a 0-360° scale) which means ENE
Wind speed: 19 kts
Sea wave height: 5-7′
Swell wave height: 6-8′
Sea Water Temperature: 26.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1015.0 mb
Dry bulb temperature: 26.2°C
Wet bulb temperature: 23.5°C

Sarah and Rachel gave me a tour of the ship’s bridge this afternoon. They discussed every aspect of their job and it was fascinating! They have radar on the ship to detect nearby ships and severe weather. On the front panel of the bridge there is an automatic pilot system for the ship. There are also throttles for the main engines, which allow us to travel at approximately 10-12 kts under ideal conditions. The bow thruster controls movement of the front of the ship from left to right. They described radio communication procedures with other ships, explained who has right of way when two ships are merging, and provided details about the nautical charts used during each journey. I made the mistake of calling nautical charts “maps” and was politely corrected. I will place this new term in my memory bank for future reference. I also was privy to a chart showing our upcoming transit line with waypoints approximately every 200 miles. The ship remains in a straight path until a certain point where a slight change of direction is made, otherwise, the bearing would constantly change as the ship’s path slowly curved.

After a workout and excellent meal of chicken stirfry, cauliflower, rice and pecan pie prepared by Helen and Doretha, I met with John who informed me that there would be a deployment of a test buoy tomorrow around 0900 and that he would like to videotape me on the buoy before it’s sent out to sea to explain the instrumentation on the mast. Earlier today I met with Dave and Paul, our Chief Scientists on board, and they explained the entire array of sensors and the purpose behind the buoy. It will be deployed and removed during this trip with data collected every few seconds and stored in a datalogger on the mast. During the return voyage of the KA to Honolulu in late September the buoy will be removed from the water and the data analyzed immediately following the trip. A compass comparison test and a buoy motion monitor test will be conducted. A specially engineered tube containing 3 different compasses and an accelerometer will enable the pitch, roll, and yaw of the buoy to be determined. As of yet, I believe that these movements on the buoy are unknown.

Today’s question: What is the pitch, roll, and yaw of a ship? Be the first to answer and I’ll acknowledge your response in my next log. I’ll write again tomorrow after a peaceful night under the millions of visible stars above.

Peace to all and to all a good night,