David Madden: Calm Seas, Flying Fish, and Bananas, July 16, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

David Madden

Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

July 15-29, 2019

Mission: Southeast Fishery Independent Survey

Geographic Area:
Atlantic Ocean, SE US continental shelf ranging from Cape Hatteras, NC (35º30’ N, 75º19’W) to St. Lucie Inlet, FL (27º00’N, 75º59’W)

Pisces Location 7-16-19
Here’s a picture of where we have traveled today. You can see lots of zig zags, dropping fish traps and circling back to retrieve them.

Date: July 14, 2019

Science and Technology Log

I’ve now been on Pisces for 24 hours, and I’m amazed by the complexities and logistics of this ship. 

There are 32 souls on board; including 5 on deck, 6 engineers, 1 survey, 1 electronics, 7 NOAA Corps Officers, 2 stewards, and 10 scientists. It takes a well-coordinated, highly-trained group to keep things ship-shape.  We have had two safety and drill meetings so far – highlighting the importance of preparedness while at sea.  The three divisions on our emergency station bill are: Fire and Emergency, Man Overboard, and Abandon Ship.  So far we have done an abandon ship drill, where I tried on my survival suit.  Oh boy.  It fit just fine.  Except the hands and gloves part.  For the life of me I could not get my hands to fit through the openings.  Perhaps it’ll take a life or death situation.  See for yourself:

survival suit
TAS David Madden tries on a survival suit

During the Abandon Ship exercise we gathered next to our Life Rafts.  We discussed situations and protocols and how to get the raft over the side and our bodies into the raft.  We also learned about some of the survival gear within; including fishing gear (to keep folks occupied), knife, sea anchor, flares, and sea sickness pills to be taken immediately. Number one lesson – head into a real Abandon Ship well-fed and well-hydrated; you won’t be getting any water for the first 24 hours (to avoid throwing it back up, and to allow the body to acclimate to its new conditions, and because heck, you can probably go the first day without water, so why not save it?) It all reminded me of a book I read years ago called, “Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea” by Steven Callahan. 

Life boat instructions
Life boat instructions

My day consists of helping out the scientists with their fish count.  This means baiting the fish traps with menhaden, dropping them off the back of the ship at the prescribed locations, circling back around 75-90 minutes later to scoop them back up.  This is followed by chronicling the different fish caught – some are tossed back to the sea, others are kept for all sorts of further data collection (more soon).  There’s so much crazy cool data being collected on this ship.  I thought you’d like to see some of it.  Here’s a diagram I made and I’ll try to include each post that highlights the fish counts.  I redrew fish diagrams based off of the fish in the handy book, “Reef Fish Identification” by Paul Humann and Ned Deloach.  I thought you’d also like to see what these fish look like.  *Keep in mind that this first day was pretty low in fish count due to our location. 

Fish Count day 1
NOAA Pisces SEFIS Fish Count, July 16, 2019

Personal Log

This is now my fourth day on the ship.  My journey began around 9:20 am Sunday with a ride to the airport.  From there I jumped on a flight from TLH to Charlotte. Followed by a steamy flight to New Bern, NC and a 45 minute drive to Morehead City, NC.  There I met up with NOAA scientist, Nate Bacheler who showed me around the ship and introduced me to everybody on board.  Starting Monday morning the rest of the crew, including all of the scientists, started showing up.  I’ve been getting used to life aboard a research vessel and loving the view!

General Updates:

  1. The seas have been calm, and so far, no seasickness. 
  2. The food has been delicious – thank you Dana and Rey. 
  3. So far my favorite animal is the flying fish.  I’ve seen dozens – my next task is to figure out how to get some epic footage. 
  4. The science team is very dedicated, interesting, diverse, hardworking, and super smart!  Stay tuned for interviews. 

Neato Facts =

NOAA Ship Pisces can travel at speeds up to 18.4 mph (16 knots). How fast is that?  Let’s compare it to two famous marine organisms.

Pisces vs Great White and Jelly Fish
Pisces vs Great White and Jelly Fish

Yesterday I ate a banana.  No big deal, right?  Wrong.  Even though I didn’t buy the banana or bring the banana onboard, some folks looked at me sideways.  They said, “Do you know what it means to have a banana on a boat?!” and “Be sure to ask your students why it’s a bad idea to have bananas on a boat”.  So I got to asking around and turns out that bananas and boats don’t mix well in the land of the superstitious.  Supposedly, bananas cause bad luck, and many seasoned sailors refuse to let them on their boats.  So far no bad luck… but then again, today has been a low fish count day (see diagram above).  Might be my fault!

It’s only been two day and already my mind is spinning with interesting information, undecipherable acronyms, and new nautical terms.  Stay tuned for: interviews, fish count background and techniques, swim bladder chemistry, tour of the ship, and survey science.  What else would you like to learn about?  Coming up:  What’s a knot?!  Please post questions and comments below!

Andria Keene: Steaming and Dreaming in Safety, October 12, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Andria Keene

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

October 8 – 22, 2018


Mission: SEAMAP Fall Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Weather Data from the Bridge
Date: 2018/10/12
Time: 14:58:22
Latitude: 27 37.15 N
Longitude 091 23.21 W
Barometric Pressure 1015.69mbar
Relative Humidity 60 %
Air Temperature: 27.1 0C

Everyone is an explorer. How could you possibly live your
life looking at a door and not open it?  – Robert Ballard


Science/Technology and Personal Log

Hurricane Michael brought a three day delay to our departure. At first, I was a little disappointed that we were not setting sail right away but now I am glad because I had some extra time to explore Pascagoula, familiarize myself with the ship, and slowly meet the crew as they arrived spread out over several days. Plus, the additional time allowed me to start working on my career lesson plan and to prepare a video tour of the ship. I will upload the video to this blog page as soon as it is complete.

Photo collage

#1 – My first tour of Oregon II #2 – Hurricane Michael arrives in the center of where I am and my hometown of Tampa #3 – Exploring Round Point Lighthouse #4 – My first sunset aboard.

On Thursday, Oct 11th at 9:00am, we departed from Pascagoula and headed out into the Gulf of Mexico. I was amazed at how quickly we lost sight of land and at the vastness of this body of water with which I thought I was so familiar. My favorite part was watching the color of the water change from a dark teal to a deep blue.


colors of the water of the Gulf

The various colors of the water of the Gulf

On the “Plan of the Day” board under schedule it reads “Steam and Dream til Saturday Afternoon” and that is just what we are doing. Our path will lead us north of the Mexican border and south of Corpus Christi, Texas, where we will find our first station. Until then, in between steaming and dreaming, we are getting to know each other and learning about our roles and responsibilities.







Abandon ship drill

Abandon ship drill! Here I am in my survival suit.

For example, today we practiced our Fire and Abandon Ship Drills. While it is a little nerve-racking to think that something like that could actually happen, it was reassuring to see that everyone was well-trained and the operations ran smoothly.









My first lesson plan will focus on careers available through NOAA. It is amazing to see the variation in the positions and the backgrounds of the workers on this ship. Basically, on the Oregon II there are three types of employees who make up the ship’s complement.

Types of Employees

This graphic illustrates the structure of the employees aboard Oregon II.

I feel like NOAA has something to offer everyone from entry level positions that require no experience to positions requiring years of experience or advanced college degrees. The best part is that no matter where you start there is always room to advance through hard work and certification. I can’t wait to share all the opportunities with my students!


Did You Know?

Oregon II has a reverse osmosis system that uses salt water to create the freshwater needed aboard.  The salt that is removed is returned back to the Gulf.


Challenge Question of the Day
(For my students: bonus points for the first person from each class period to answer it correctly):

This picture was taken from the screen of one of the navigation systems on the bridge.

Challenge Question

Screenshot from one of the navigation systems

What do you think is represented by each of the black squares with a dot inside?


Animals Seen Today:

Moon Jellyfish and Flying Fish

Victoria Obenchain: Launching Boats, July 9, 2018

Teacher at Sea Blog

Victoria Obenchain

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 25 – July 6, 2018

Mission: Arctic Access Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northwest, Alaska

Date: July 9, 2018

Science and Technology Log

My last few days at sea were rather exciting.  Wednesday, I got to attend some medical training necessary at sea in the morning, and then in the afternoon we practiced safety drills. The whole crew ran through what to do in the case of three different ship emergencies: Fire, Abandon Ship and Man Overboard.  These drills were pretty life-like, they had a fog machine which they use to simulate smoke for the fire drill. Once the alarm was triggered people gather in their assigned areas; roll was taken, firemen and women suited up and headed to the location where smoke was detected, and from there teams are sent out to assess damage or spreading of the fire, while medical personnel stood prepared for any assistance needed. The abandon ship drill required all men and women on board to acquire their life preserver and full immersion suit, and head to their lifeboat loading locations. Roll is then taken and an appointed recorder jots down the last location of the ship. Once this is done, men and women would have deployed the life rafts and boarded (luckily we did not have to). And for the man overboard drill they threw their beloved mannequin Oscar overboard in a life vest and had everyone aboard practice getting in their look out positions. Once Oscar was spotted, they turned the ship around, deployed an emergency boat and had a rescue swimmer retrieve him.

Fast Rescue Boat

Deployed emergency boat for rescue of the beloved mannequin, Oscar.

These drills are necessary so that everyone on board knows what to do in these situations. While no one hopes these emergencies will happen, knowing what to do is incredibly important for everyone’s safety.

Thursday was maybe my favorite day on board. Due to the fact that there are a handful of new personnel on board, practice launching and recovering the survey launch boats was necessary. There are 4 launch boats on top of NOAA Ship Fairweather, each equipped with their own sonar equipment. These boats sit in cradles and can be lowered and raised from the sea using davits (recall the video from the “Safety First blog a few days ago). These four boats can be deployed in an area to allow for faster mapping of a region and to allow for shallower areas to be mapped, which the NOAA Ship Fairweather may not be able to access.  Since this is a big operation, and one which is done frequently, practice is needed so everyone can do this safely and efficiently.


With the aid of Ali Johnson as my line coach, I got to help launch and recover two of the survey launch boats from the davits on the top of the ship into the Bering Sea. This is an important job for all personnel to learn, as it is a key part of most survey missions. Learning line handling helps to make sure the survey launches are securely held close to the ship to prevent damage and to safely allow people on and off the launch boats as they are placed in the sea.  From learning how to handle the bow and aft lines, to releasing and attaching the davit hooks, and throwing lines from the launches to the ship (which I do poorly with my left hand), all is done in a specific manner. While the practice was done for the new staff on board, it was fun to be involved for the day and I got to see the beauty of the NOAA Ship Fairweather from the Bering Sea.

And I truly enjoyed being on the small launch boats. I then understood what many of the officers mentioned when they told me they enjoyed the small boat work. It’s just fun!


My trip ended in Nome, Alaska, which was in and of itself an experience. Students, you will see pictures later.  I am extremely thankful for the crew on board NOAA Ship Fairweather, they are a wonderful mix of passionate, fun professionals. I learned so much!

Personal Log

Being a Teacher at Sea is a strange, yet wonderful experience. Being a teacher, I normally spend the vast majority of my day at work being in charge of my classroom and beautiful students; leading lesson and activities, checking-in with those who need extra help and setting up/tearing down labs all day, as well as hopefully getting some papers graded. However during this experience, I was the student, learning from others about their expertise, experience and passions, as well as their challenges; being in charge of nothing.  And given that I had no prior knowledge of hydrography, other than its definition, I was increasingly impressed with the level of knowledge and enthusiasm those on board had for this type of work.  It drove my interest and desire to learn all I could from the crew. In fact, I often thought those on board were older than they were, as they are wiser beyond their years in many area of science, technology, maritime studies, NOAA Ship Fairweather specifics and Alaskan wildlife.

Crew of NOAA Ship Fairweather

Crew of NOAA Ship Fairweather

NOAA offers teachers the opportunities to take part in different research done by their ships throughout the research season as a Teacher at Sea. The 3 main types of cruises offered to teachers include (taken from the NOAA Teacher at Sea website):

  • Fisheries research cruises perform biological and physical surveys to ensure sustainable fisheries and healthy marine habitats.
  • Oceanographic research cruises perform physical science studies to increase our understanding of the world’s oceans and climate.
  • Hydrographic survey cruises scan the coastal sea floor to locate submerged obstructions and navigational hazards for the creation and update of the nation’s nautical charts.

I was excited to be placed on a Hydrographic Survey boat, as this is an area in my curriculum I can develop with my students, and one which I think they are going to enjoy learning about!

While I was sad to leave, and half way through had a “I wish I would have known about this type of work when I was first looking at jobs” moment (which I realize was not the goal of this fellowship or of my schools for sending me), I am super excited to both teach my students about this important work and also be a representative of this awesome opportunity for teachers. I will wear my NOAA Teacher at Sea swag with pride!

Teacher at Sea gear!

Me in my awesome Teacher at Sea gear!


Mary Cook: My First Day at Sea! March 19, 2016

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard R/V Norseman II
March 18-30, 2016

Mission: Deepwater Ecosystems of Glacier Bay National Park
Geographical Area of Cruise: Glacier Bay, Alaska
Date: Saturday, March 19, 2016
Time: 8:28pm

Weather Data from the Bridge
1013 millibars
0.2 knots
N59° 01.607’, W136° 10.159’
Weather Conditions:
Intermittent light rain

Science Blog
Before the Norseman II left port, the Boatswain conducted all the required ship safety drills with us: fire drill, man overboard, and abandon ship. This is where we learned to don the emergency flotation suit, gathered at the Muster Station for roll call, and went over procedures in case of an emergency. These drills are taken very seriously.

Ranger Greg is a good sport

We left the port of Auke Bay just north of Juneau at around 10 pm Friday night and steamed into Glacier Bay to arrive at Bartlett Cove this morning at 9 am. We disembarked to attend a required safety orientation for Glacier Bay National Park. Ranger Greg informed us that he had recently seen 4 humpback whales headed into the Bay! Also, that orca live in the Bay year round. Many of the channels are ice-free now because it is warmer than usual for this time of year.

After the brief stop at Bartlett Cove, we steamed into the East Arm of Glacier Bay toward White Thunder Ridge. Many of us were on deck with binoculars looking for wildlife and enjoying the scenic snow-capped mountains. We saw birds, otters, moose and mountain goats!


Chief Scientist Dr. Waller conducts science meeting

While en route, Chief Scientist Dr. Rhian Waller conducted a science meeting reviewing the purpose and plans for the cruise, which is to explore, collect samples and data on the presence and emergence of Primnoa pacifica in Glacier Bay. Primnoa pacifica is commonly called Red Tree Coral. NOAA’s Dr. Bob Stone, who first pursued collecting data on the Red Tree Coral in Glacier Bay back in 2004, is working on this expedition. Other than Bob’s documentation, the Primnoa pacifica of Glacier Bay, Alaska is a mystery.

Two dives were conducted below the steep incline of White Thunder Ridge. The divers got into their dry suits, reviewed their plans on how to communicate and collect samples underwater, and then boarded the little boat called a RHIB (rigid-hull inflatable boat). They returned to Bob’s old spot and dove about 72 feet down for sample collection. The dive took about 30 minutes and when they returned with samples, we began processing each one.

The Primnoa samples will be assessed for three different things: genetics, isotopes, and reproduction. The genetic fingerprints will be useful in determining the generational spreading pattern of the Red Tree Coral in Glacier Bay. The isotopes will aid in understanding what they eat and their place in the food web. The reproduction assessments will identify sex and level of maturity. An interesting observation is that Primnoa pacifica is one of the first corals to seed newly exposed rock faces when glaciers recede. Bob estimates that the tallest of these coral are about 40 years old because that is when the glacier receded past this point. Using that fact, he also calculates their growth rate to be about 2 centimeters per year.


Tonight, the ROV Kraken 2 will be deployed in order to explore deep depths for the presence of the Red Tree Coral. ROV means remotely operated vehicle. More on that tomorrow!

Kraken 2 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

Personal Blog
I must say it is a pleasure to be aboard the Norseman II with such enthusiastic scientists and crew. The atmosphere on the ship is one of anticipation and this is how I imagine the early explorers of Glacier Bay must have felt. Rhian, our Chief Scientist, described this expedition as exploratory in nature. I’ve always dreamed of being an explorer and now I get to watch some real explorers in action! These guys and gals have done so many cool things like study life in Antarctica, map uncharted territory, design and build new equipment, and travel to the deep ocean in the Alvin submersible. I am so thankful that they are excited to be a part of the NOAA Teacher at Sea program and share with our students in Scammon Bay and beyond. I’ve enjoyed listening as they brainstorm ways to use our eagle mascot, Qanuk, to engage young people in real science and exploration.

So, as I call it a day, I’d like to congratulate our Scammon Bay Lady Eagles who become the Class 1A Alaska State Champions today! Go Eagles! I’m so proud of both our boys and girls teams and their coaches. They’ve worked hard, played smart and represented our community with dignity and respect.
Good night…..

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DJ Kast, NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, May 31, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 19 – June 3, 2015

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast
Date: May 31, 2015

NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow

“National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Ship Henry B. Bigelow is the second of five new fisheries survey ships to be built by NOAA. The ship is named after Henry Bryant Bigelow (1879-1967), a Harvard-educated zoologist whose work helped lay the scholarly foundation for oceanography as a scientific discipline. He was an internationally known expert on the Gulf of Maine and its sea life, and on the world’s jellyfish, corals, and fishes” (NOAA NEFSC).


Henry B. Bigelow and his goat Buck. PHOTO BY:

Henry B. Bigelow and the WHOI Mascot goat Buck. Photo by: NEFSC NOAA

Legacy of the name:

Henry B. Bigelow (1879–1967) was an American oceanographer and marine biologist. Bigelow described numerous new species to science, 110 of which are recognized today according to the World Register of Marine Species.  In addition, some 26 species and two genera (Bigelowina, stomatopods in family Nannosquillidae, and Bigelowiella, protists in family Chlorarachniophyte) are named after him. The Henry Bryant Bigelow Medal in Oceanography is awarded by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Research Institute to honor “those who make significant inquiries into the phenomena of the sea”. Bigelow was the first recipient of the medal in 1960. He was honored by the naming of  NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow.

Mission of the ship:

NOAA ship Henry B. Bigelow will support NOAA’s mission to protect, restore, and manage the use of living marine, coastal, and ocean resources through ecosystem-based management. Its primary objective will be to study, monitor, and collect data on a wide range of sea life and ocean conditions, primarily in U.S. waters from Maine to North Carolina. The region includes Georges Bank, one of the world’s best known and most productive marine areas. The region is also home to the nation’s top-valued port, oldest commercial fisheries, and rare large whales and sea turtles. Data are used by a range of scientists who study variation in ocean conditions and sea life in order to better inform the nation’s decisions about both using and sustaining the ocean’s bounty.

“Henry B. Bigelow will also observe weather, sea state, and other environmental conditions, conduct habitat assessments, and survey marine mammal and marine bird populations. Henry B. Bigelow is a state-of-the-art research ship with multiple science mission capabilities. Foremost among these capabilities is the ship’s “quiet” hull, a design feature that minimizes sound made by the ship underwater. This allows scientists to use hydroacoustic methods for surveying marine life, and significantly reduces changes in the natural behavior of animals owing to the ship noise. In addition, the vessel can collect a variety of oceanographic data while marine life surveys are underway, resulting in both richer and more efficiently collected data.” (NOAA NEFSC)

Ship Details:

Take a virtual Ship Tour here! : http://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/Bigelow/shiptour.html

Levels: 2 (staterooms, gym, laundry), 1 (Mess Hall), 01 (Lounge), 02, Bridge, Flying Bridge


Most of the main deck is reserved for mission functions. The aft working deck provides 145 sq m of open space for fishing and other over-the-side operations, with an additional 33 sq m of deck space at the Side Sampling Station. Space and support connections are provided for a laboratory van on the aft working deck.

Large, easily reconfigurable laboratories are designed to accommodate the varied needs of individual scientific cruises:

  • Fish/Wet Laboratory 56 sq m (602 sq ft)
  •  Chemistry Laboratory 27 sq m (290 sq ft)
  •  Dry Laboratory 14 sq m (150 sq ft)
  •  Hydrographic Laboratory 9 sq m (96 sq ft)
  •  Scientific Freezer 19 sq m (204 sq ft)
  • Preservation Alcove 5 sq m (54 sq ft)
  •  Acoustic/Computer Laboratory 46 sq m (495 sq ft)

“Underwater radiated noise has been shown to influence fish behavior, and sonar self-noise can limit the effectiveness of hydroacoustic surveys and other functions. The International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) has established a standard for ships’ underwater radiated noise in order to effectively employ hydroacoustic stock assessment techniques. Henry B. Bigelow has been designed and constructed to meet this ICES noise standard. This reduced noise signature will improve NOAA’s ability to accurately assess fish stocks and to compare standardized data with the international fisheries scientific community. Examples are the propulsion motors, which are specially constructed and balanced to reduce noise and vibration, and the diesel generators, which are mounted on double isolated raft systems. The hull form and highly skewed, five-bladed propeller were carefully designed and tested using U.S. Navy quieting techniques. Pumps, motors, ventilation and piping systems are all designed for low noise, with some critical systems resiliently mounted in the ship. Hull structure is treated in critical areas with special acoustic damping tiles. Airborne noise has been reduced throughout the ship for personnel safety and comfort.” http://www.omao.noaa.gov/publications/bigelow_final.pdf

To summarize that, this ship is so quiet I cannot tell when we are slowing down to 2 knots for bongo or going 11 knots to steam to the next station. It’s amazing.


The bridge is equipped with numerous dedicated systems including:

  • Hydrographic ES60 SONAR system, and ME70 multibeam system
  • Dynamic positioning and auto pilot system
  • X- and S-band Sperry Bridge Master RADARs
  • Transas ECDIS Navigation system
  • DGPS receiver
  • GMDSS communications suite including weather fax, satellite telephone, MF/HF and VHF radios
  • MTN internet communications system
  • SCS remote console and master clock display
  • Doppler speed log and depth sounder
  • Sperry primary and secondary gyro compass

Nearly all of these systems are solely controlled from the bridge, allowing scientific and operational systems to be totally independent. All scientific and fishing systems can be monitored from the bridge via remote consoles or SCS interfaces.


Layout of the bridge. Photo by DJ Kast

Laura Gibson charting on the navigational chart. Photo by DJ Kast

Laura Gibson charting on the navigational chart. Photo by DJ Kast


Depth Profiler. Photo by DJ Kast


Multi-beam bottom sounder. Photo by DJ Kast



Gibson letting me steer the ship. That is fear in my eyes. Photo by Laura Gibson


Starboard steering Console that lets you control the ship while the bongos or CTDs are deployed from the side sampling station. Photo by DJ Kast


Radar with four contacts! Photo by DJ Kast


Electronic Chart Photo by DJ Kast


LT Gibson checking on operations in the bridge. Photo by DJ Kast


Control and status indicator of watertight doors. Photo by DJ Kast


Navigation Light switches. Photo by DJ Kast


Cool Events on the Ship

Care Package Delivery:

The XO's friend that is "Rowing for Peace" to Turkey. The XO delivered ice cream, ship hats, and a pineapple. Photo by DJ Kast

The CO’s friend that is “Rowing for Peace” to Turkey. The CO delivered ice cream, ship hats, and a pineapple. Photo by DJ Kast

Emergency Drills:

The Bigelow values safety and to make sure that everyone knows what to do in an emergency they do quiet a few surprise drills to keep everybody on their toes.

Door sign with information on where to go for each person during each of the type of drills that occur on the ship. Photo by DJ Kast

Station card with information on where to go for each person during each of the type of drills that occur on the ship. Photo by DJ Kast

The first one was a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship Drill on Wednesday May 20th, 2015.

Photo of me in a survival suit after the abandon ship drill was announced. Photo by Megan Switzer

Photo of me in a survival suit after the abandon ship drill was announced. Photo by Megan Switzer

Practicing the PLT gun (Pneumatic Line Throwing Gun): This is a gun that is used to help rescue people who have fallen overboard and it is also used to pass lines to other boats. It has a projectile connected to a long line that can travel far distance and connect an overboard victim to the boat.

Here is a video of it being shot:


A picture of me preparing the PLT gun for launch. Photo by Dennis Carey

Photo by Marjorie Foster.

Photo by Marjorie Foster.

Photo by Marjorie Foster.

Photo by Marjorie Foster.

Hydrophoning Acoustic Buoys!

While we were on the southern part of Georges Bank, the boat used a Hydrophone and geometry to pick up an Autonomous Multi-Channel Acoustic Recorder (AMAR) mooring in Lydonia Canyon. The ship sent signals to it with the hydrophone and the signals it received back were indications of where to send the boat next.

The application of the Pythagoreon Theorum in terms of acoustic sound distances to the buoy to help during retrieval. Oh the applications of MATH! Photo by DJ Kast

The application of the Pythagorean Theorem in terms of acoustic sound distances to the buoy to help during retrieval. Oh, the applications of MATH! Photo by DJ Kast

Geoff Shook sending out messages on the hydrophone. Photo by DJ Kast

Geoff Shook preparing to send out messages on the hydrophone to not only find it but also cause it to release to the surface since it was hundreds of meters down. Photo by DJ Kast

Successful retrieval of the acoustic buoy. Photo by DJ Kast

Successful retrieval of the acoustic buoy. Photo by DJ Kast


The back of the shirt that the crew and chief Scientist Jerry gave me. Photo by DJ Kast

The back of the shirt that the crew and chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso gave me. I’m having everyone sign it so that I can hang it up when I get home.  Photo by DJ Kast

All of the crew have been absolutely amazing and have definitely made this the trip of a lifetime. Thank you all so much. -DJ

Last selfie of the trip. Photo by DJ Kast

Last selfie of the trip. Photo by DJ Kast

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

Carol Schnaiter, Our Second Day at Sea, June 8, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Carol Schnaiter

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

June 6 – 21, 2014

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey Gulf of Mexico

June 8, 2014

Science and Technology Log

The Oregon II set sail on June 6th and will reach the first station sometime Monday, June 9th, in the evening.

While on the way there the scientists and crew are preparing the equipment and testing everything to make sure it is ready to use when we arrive. One item tested was the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) item. The white round frame protects the delicate, expensive piece of gear that you can see at the bottom of the frame. It allows the equipment to safely travel down without hitting the side of the ship nor the bottom of the ocean. Near the top you see the water sampling tubes.


Test run of equipment for titrations

Kim and Andre prepare the CTD.

These tubes are opened up and when they enter the water they are triggered to close and collect water from the depth that the science team has predetermined.

The deck crew uses a crane to help lift it over the side of the ship and then it drops down and collects water. This was a test to make sure everything was working and the CTD was dropped down and collected water in three tubes.

When it came back on deck, Kim Johnson, the Lead Scientist, took three containers of water from one tube. In the lab she used the Winkler Test, to determine the concentration of dissolved oxygen in the water samples. This is called doing titrations and they will be conducted once a day or more often if something goes wrong.

Can you think of why scientists would need to test this? They are trying to determine the level of oxygen in the water to see if it is high or low. If it is low or not there at all, scientist call it a “Dead Zone” because everything needs oxygen to live.

Kim Johnson took the three samples to the lab and added chemicals to test the water. It took some time to conduct the test, but Kim explained everything to Robin Gropp (he is an intern on the ship) and to me.

The results that were done by hand were compared to the results collected by the computer and they matched! The oxygen level in the first test were good. This means the equipment will be ready to use!

Sargassum seaweed

Photo I took from the ship

In the Gulf of Mexico there is a lot of floating seaweed called Sargassum. To learn more about this, go to the attached url. In short, this seaweed is brown and floats on top of the water. It has been used as a herb in some areas. It is interesting to see the brown seaweed floating by the ship.  http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/sargassosea.html

Do you notice how blue the water is? What makes the water look so blue? According to the NOAA Ocean Facts:

  • “The ocean is blue because water absorbs colors in the red part of the light spectrum. Like a filter, this leaves behind colors in the blue part of the light spectrum for us to see.
  • The ocean may also take on green, red, or other hues as light bounces off of floating sediments and particles in the water.
  • Most of the ocean, however, is completely dark. Hardly any light penetrates deeper than 200 meters (656 feet), and no light penetrates deeper than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet ).”

Pretty neat to see how light and color work together!

Personal Log

The water went from murky brown when we left Mississippi due to the boat activity and the rivers that drain down into the Gulf, to this blue that is hard to describe. I am trying to absorb everything that the scientist are discussing and hoping that when we start working everything will make more sense to me! There is so much to learn!

Today we had safety drills; a fire drill (yes, we practice fire drills even on the ship, you can’t call 911 at sea after all) and abandon ship drill. During the abandon ship drill everyone had to bring long pants, long-sleeve shirt, hat, life preserver and immersion suit. Here is a picture of me in my immersion suit. This suit will float and keep me warm if we need to leave the ship.

Wearing my immersion suit!

Wearing my immersion suit! Photo taken by Kim Johnson

Today the ships’ divers went into the water to check the hulll of the ship and the water temperature was 82 degrees. It would have been refreshing to be in the water, but this is a working ship and safety comes first!

The food onboard the ship is delicious and I am sure I will need to walk many steps after this trip. The cooks offer two or three choices at every meal and the snack area is open 24 hours…not a good thing for me!

While on deck I saw my first flying fish today. I thought it was a bird flying close to the water, but it was not! Amazing how far they can fly over the water.

When I look out from the front of the ship, I see water, water, and more water. There are a few oil rigs in the distance and once in a while a ship passes by, but mostly beautiful blue water!

Last night I saw my first sea sunset and since I will be working the midnight to noon shift starting soon, it maybe the last sunset…but I will get to see some AWESOME sunrises!

2014-06-07 Sunset!

Glad I had my camera with me!

Enjoy the sunset!

Mrs. Carol Schnaiter