Jordan Findley: Ready for the Drop, June 13, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jordan Findley
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces
June 9-22, 2022

Mission: SEAMAP Reef Fish
Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: June 13, 2022

Weather Data

Location: 27°52.1 N, 93°16.5 W
Sky: Scattered clouds, hazy
Temperature: 85 °F
Wind: south, 13 kts.
Waves: 1-2 ft.

Track NOAA Ship Pisces

Safety Onboard

Obviously, safety is of the utmost importance out here at sea. Respect. When working on deck, crew must wear life vests, hard hats, sometimes safety belts, and closed-toe shoes. I don’t know how these people wear closed-toe shoes all day long. I hate it. My piggies are suffocating. 

The plan of the day for Friday (6/10) included safety drills at noon. Noon rolls around and I am not really sure what to do. No surprise there. Confirm with Paul what to do and where to be. Oh, okay. Amanda, Caroline, and I go grab our safety getup and start to head to our assigned life raft muster stations (where we gather). On the way down, Commanding Officer LCDR Jeffery Pereira, passes by. “Wow, you ladies are ready.” …… something tells me it’s not quite time. We promptly return to our stateroom. I casually go check our muster stations. Yep, there’s no one. Turns out drills commence with a signal. I’m on to you CO, you just getting a kick out of us roaming around like fools with our safety gear. It’s okay, I have accepted my role onboard.

We run through fire and abandon ship drills. At sea, everyone aboard ship, be they crew, scientist, or passenger, is a member of the fire department. When the alarm sounds, everyone jumps to respond. My response, go to the back deck and wait. Meanwhile, the crew is hard at work donning firefighting PPE and preparing fire stations. Great work, team!

Then we move on to the abandon ship drill. Abandoning ship in the open sea is an action of last resort. Only when there is no reasonable chance of saving the ship will the order ever be given to abandon it. When signaled, everyone reports to their assigned life raft muster station with their protective survival gear. We throw on our survival suits, or immersion suits, and in the actual event, would launch the life rafts. This immersion suit is intended to protect your body while out in the open ocean. Now, I know safety is serious business, but these suits are ridiculous looking. We somehow make them look good. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again – safety is sexy.

Science and Technology Log

We spent our first day at a reef known as Claypile Bank, approximately 80 miles offshore. The second day we headed to East Flower Garden Banks, 125 miles offshore. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary was expanded from 56 mi² to 160 mi² to protect critical habitat in the Gulf of Mexico in 2021 and is now made up of 17 different reefs and banks. Cameras were dropped at around 48 meters (or 157 ft) the first go around and 116 meters (380 ft) the second. Since the start, we have sampled Rankin Bank, Bright Bank, and started on Geyer Bank, with a total of 62 cameras deployed. That’s a lot of cruisin’ and droppin’.

Camera Operations

Let’s talk about these cameras. Deploying and retrieving cameras occurs ALL DAY LONG. Man, the days are long. Here is a quick summary of the work…

Dropping the camera

There are two camera arrays, one 48” tall and the other 36” tall. These things are beastly. Each Spherical/Satellite camera array has six video cameras and a satellite camera, battery, CTD, tensiomet… tramsmiss…  transmit…. What it is Ken? … TRANSMISSOMETER (measures visibility/turbidity), sonar transmitter, trawl net ball, and bait bag. The first camera goes out at 7 AM and the last by 6:15 PM. Predetermined sampling sites are selected along the U.S. continental shelf using random stratified selection (dividing the area into subgroups).

When at the site, cameras are lifted by the A-frame, dropped with the yank of a chain, and boom, they sink to the bottom. They sit on the seafloor and soak (record footage) for 30 minutes. First camera goes in, we head to the next site, second camera goes in, we retrieve the first, we retrieve the second, and repeat.

Though the deployment itself only takes like two minutes, there is a lot of coordination involved. It’s amazing how the Bridge (NOAA Corps), Deck, and Lab crews work together to effectively deploy and retrieve the cameras. The communication is nonstop. Field Party Chief (FPC if you know him), Paul Felts, is the brains of this operation. Paul keeps scientific operations running smoothly, providing coordinates to selected sites, monitoring conditions, keeping time, processing data, and I am sure so much more. This guy doesn’t stop. The Bridge are they eyes and ears – they are on watch, navigating to sites, and maneuvering and position the ship all while working against the elements. You guys deserve more credit than that, I know. The Deck are the hands (this is a terrible analogy, but I am committed at this point) – they are operating the deck equipment, raising and lowering cameras, and working the lines and buoys. I, Teacher at Sea Jordan Findley, am the appendix. I have potential, but am mostly useless, and can be a real nuisance from time to time.

Personal Log

We are almost one week in and I am still just as excited as day one. Have I encountered challenges, yes, but being out here in the middle of the Gulf is something special. I am greeted every day with a beautiful sunrise and evening sunset. It is spectacular. The water is so beautiful. One of the things I really hadn’t considered to impact my experience at sea is how amazing the people would be. You all inspire me. Every single person on this ship has been so kind and accommodating, allowing me to participate and taking the time to teach me, despite how long they’ve been out at sea or how long their day has been. It’s like one big (mostly) happy family out here. They have me cracking up all the time. Now, they could just be on their best behavior for the ol’ teach (that’s me), but I am convinced they’re just good people. I mean, I even like most of them before my morning coffee. That’s something right there.

I think I am getting my groove. On a typical day on the ship, we wake up at 6 AM (oof), breakfast, then to the lab. I like to take a minute on the back deck to drink my coffee and look out over the water. First deployment (CTD and camera) is at 7 AM. They do some science, and then continue to deploy and retrieve cameras about every 10-30 minutes until sunset. I pop in and out of the lab all day to observe, but try to keep myself busy. When I am not “helping out,” you will find me in my office. Some call it the mess. I don’t mind. It’s also conveniently where all the food is prepared and served, and where the coffee and snacks are located.

We all refuel on coffee during lunch. Shout out to Paul for making that coffee a real punch in the face. Fishing occurs in the afternoon, almost daily. More to come on this, but man it is fun. The rest of the day is a waiting game (at least for me). Living on a ship is weird; there is only so much you can do. Honestly, the first couple of days, I had some concern I might die of boredom, but as things progressed, I got more involved in every aspect of the operation – even driving this beast! Also, been trying to sneak in a workout. Don’t forget to hydrate. That breaks up the day a bit. Dinner rolls around at 5 PM. All I do is eat. I have been eating like a grown man. The crew starts to wrap things up, reset for the next day, and then transition to mapping operations. The day isn’t complete without watching the sunset. Then we just hunker in until bedtime. The ship “rock-a-bye babies” everyone to sleep.

Generally speaking, I have improved immensely on my ability to open doors – solid 8/10. Those heavy brown doors though, they still kick me in the butt on my way through. I am learning my way around the ship for the most part. Mmmm, kind of. There is a door like every five feet. What I have not improved on is my ability to walk. I am walking all sorts of ways but straight. Everyone stands clear when I walk by. They say you’ll get your sea legs, but I am not sure I am convinced.

Did You Know?

A continental shelf is the edge of a continent that lies under the ocean. Though underwater, continental shelves are still considered part of the continent. The boundary of a continent is not the coastline, but the edge of the shelf. The shelf extends to a drop-off point called the shelf break. From the break, the shelf descends deep to the ocean floor. Depths of the shelf where we sample range from 45-165 meters, mostly because it gets to be too dark much past that. The depth of the Gulf of Mexico can be more than 5,000 meters deep! Sorry friends, I am done converting units – we’re doing science out here. Just know that it’s deep.

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:

The ship! Photo from:
The ship! Photo from:

Take a virtual Ship Tour here! :

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


Side view of the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow. Photo by:
Side view of the NOAA Henry B. Bigelow. Photo by:–_side_plan.gif

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.”

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.

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

Emilisa Saunders: Finding the rhythm aboard the Oregon II, May18, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Emilisa Saunders

Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II

May 14, 2013 – May 30 2013

Mission: SEAMAP Spring Plankton Survey

Geographical Area of Cruise:  Gulf of Mexico

Date: May 18, 2013

Weather Data: Wind Speed: 13.94 knots; Surface water temperature: 25.4;  Air temperature: 26.4; Relative humidity: 87%; Barometric pressure: 1,015.33 mb


Science and Technology Log:

For the scientists on board the Oregon II, each shift follows roughly the same routine.   When we start our shift, we check in at the dry lab to see how much time we have until the next sampling station.  These stations are points on the map of the Gulf of Mexico; they were chosen to provide the best coverage of the Gulf waters.  Our ETA, or estimated time of arrival, is determined by how fast the ship is moving, which is influenced by wind and currents, which you can see in the map below.  A monitor mounted in the dry lab shows us a feed of the route mapping system that is used by the crew on the Bridge to drive the ship.  This system allows us to see where we are, where we are headed, and what our ETA is for the next station.  We also get warnings from the Bridge at one hour, at thirty minutes, and at ten minutes before arrival.

Gulf Currents
The currents in the Gulf of Mexico, plus our planned route.  Image courtesy of NOAA.

At the 10-minute mark, we put on our protective gear – more on that later in this post – and bring the cod ends up to the bow of the boat, where we attach them to the ends of the appropriate nets.  Then, we drop the Bongo nets, the regular Neuston net, the Sub-surface Neuston net, and the CTD into the water, in that order.  These all go down one at a time, and each one is pulled out and the samples collected before the next net goes in.

Towing the Neuston net on the night shift

The idea of dropping a net into the water probably sounds pretty simple, but it is actually a multiple-step process that requires excellent teamwork and communication amongst several of the ship’s teams.  The scientists ready the nets by attaching cod ends and making note of the data that tracks the flow of water through the net.  Because the nets are large and heavy, and because of the strong pressure of the water flowing through the nets, they are lifted into the water using winches that are operated by the ship’s crew.  The crew members operate the machinery, and guide the nets over the side of the ship.  While this is happening, the crew members communicate by radio with the Bridge, providing them with information about the angle of the cable that is attached to the net, so that the Bridge can maintain the a speed that will keep the net at the correct angle. At the same time, a scientist in the dry lab monitors how deep the net is and communicates with the deck crew about when to raise and lower the nets.  This communication takes place mostly over walkie-talkies, which means that clear and precise instructions and feedback are very important.

Operating the winches
Crewmember Reggie operating the winch, while crewmember Chris measures the angle of the cable

When each net is pulled back out of the water after roughly 5-10 minutes, we use a hose to spray any little creatures who might be clinging to the net, down into the cod end.  At stations where we run the MOCNESS, we head to the stern of the ship, where the huge MOCNESS unit rests on a frame.  Lowering the MOCNESS takes a strong team effort, since it is so large.  After we retrieve each net, we detach the cod ends and bring them to the stern, where a station is set up for us to preserve the specimens.  I’ll go into more detail about the process of preserving plankton samples in a later post.

Hosing down the nets
Alonzo, hosing down the Bongo nets before bringing them aboard.

We’ve had a couple of nights of collecting now, and so far it has been completely fascinating.  I’m in awe of the variety of organisms that we’ve come across.  The scientists on my shift, Glenn and Alonzo, are super knowledgeable and have been very helpful in explaining to me what we are finding in the nets.  Although this is a Bluefin Tuna study, we collect and preserve any plankton that ends up in the nets, which can include copepods, myctophids, jellies, filefish larvae and eel larvae, to name a few.  When we get the samples back to shore, they will be sent to a lab in Poland, where the species will be sorted and counted; then, the tuna larvae will be sent back to labs in Mississippi or Florida for further study and sometimes genetic testing.

My favorite creature find so far has been the pyrosome.  While a pyrosome looks like a single, strange creature, it is actually a colony of tiny creatures called zooids that live together in a tube-shaped structure called a tunic.  The tunic feels similar to cartilage, like the upper part of your ear.  Pyrosomes are filter feeders, which means they draw in water from one opening, eat the phytoplankton that passes through, and push out the clean water from the other end.  So far on the night shift, we’ve found two pyrosomes about four inches in length and one that was about a foot long; the day crew found one that filled two five-gallon buckets!

Me holding a pyrosome.  So neat!
Me holding a pyrosome. So neat!

Alonzo and the pyrosome
Alonzo holding the pyrosome

Challenge Yourself:

Hello, Nature Exchange Traders!  Pick one of the of the zooplankton listed in bold above, and research some facts about it: Where does it live?  What does it eat?  What eats it?  Write down what you find out and bring it in to the Nature Exchange for bonus points.  Be sure to tell them Emmi sent you!

Gumby Suit
In the Gumby suit, practicing the Abandon Ship drill. Photo by Glenn Zapfe

Personal Log:

Safety is the top priority on board the Oregon II.  We wouldn’t be able to accomplish any of our scientific goals if people got hurt and equipment got damaged.  We started our first day at sea with three safety drills: the Man Overboard drill, the Abandon Ship drill and the Escape Hatch drill.  For Man Overboard, everyone on board gathered, or mustered, at specific locations; for the Science team, our location was at the stern, or back of the ship.  Aft is another word for the back.  From there, we all scanned the water for the imaginary person while members of the crew lowered a rescue boat into the water and circled the Oregon II to practice the rescue.

For the Abandon Ship drill, we all grabbed our floatation devices and survival suits from our staterooms and mustered toward the bow, or front of the ship.  I got to practice putting on the survival suit, which is affectionately called a Gumby suit.  In the unlikely event that we would ever have to abandon ship, the suit would help us float and stay relatively warm and dry; it also includes a whistle and a strobe light so that aircraft overhead can see us in the water.

For the Escape Hatch drill, we all gathered below deck where our staterooms are, and climbed a ladder, where crew members helped pull us up onto the weather deck (the area of the ship exposed to weather) on the bow of the ship.  This is meant to show us how to escape dangers such as fire or flood below deck.

Safety gear
Safety gear on; ready for station!  Photo by Glenn Zapfe

But safety isn’t just practiced during drills; it’s pretty much a way of life on the ship.  Whenever winches or other machinery are in operation, we all have to wear hard hats and life jackets; that means that we wear them every time we reach a station and drop the nets.  We are also all required to wear closed-toed and closed-heeled shoes at all times, unless we’re sleeping or showering.  Another small safety trick that is helpful is the idea of, “keep one hand for yourself and one hand for the ship.”  That means we carry gear in one hand and leave one free to hold onto the swaying ship.  This has been really useful for me as I get used to the ship’s movements.

Until next time, everyone – don’t forget to track the Oregon II here: NOAA Ship Tracker

Barbara Koch, October 3, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 39.72
Longitude -72.16
Speed 11.30 kts
Course 289.00
Wind Speed 25.11 kts
Wind Dir. 69.68 º
Surf. Water Temp. 19.78 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 33.94 PSU
Air Temperature 16.40 ºC
Relative Humidity 71.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1016.80 mb
Water Depth 121.67 m
Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010

Science and Technology Log

Safety is very important on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. We participated in a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship drill today. Each person on board is assigned a location to “muster” (gather) in case of emergencies. For a fire drill, all scientists are to carry their life vest and survival suit and muster in the lounge directly across from my stateroom. Life vests and survival suits are kept in the staterooms, so we are to grab those and get to the lounge as quickly as possible.

Fire drill
Fire drill

The fire drill began while the day watch was in the wet lab, one level below my stateroom. The scenario was that there was a “fire” on the 01 deck beside the lounge. That was right where my stateroom and the lounge were! Since we couldn’t get to our staterooms to gather our survival suits and life vests or muster in the lounge, due to the “fire,” we grabbed extra life vests and suits from the wet lab and mustered in the mess hall, which is near the wet lab.

Once everyone was accounted for during the fire drill, we moved out to the back deck of the ship for our Abandon Ship drill. Each person on board was assigned a life boat, and that is where we mustered for the Abandon Ship drill. First, we put on our life vests and made sure they were secured tightly. Next, we took off the life vests and put on our survival suits, which are often called “Gumby Suits” because they are large and look a lot like the animated Gumby character from the 1960’s. The survival suit is bright orange and is made out of neoprene. This makes the suit waterproof and very warm. The zipper and face flap are designed to keep water out, as well. Other features of the suits include reflective tape for greater visibility in the ocean, a whi8stle, a water-activated strobe light, a buddy line to attach to others, and an inflatable bladder behind the head to lift one’s head out of the water.

In my 'Gumby' suit
In my ‘Gumby’ suit

Boots and mittens are attached so that all one has to do is jump into the suit and zip it up. It’s not that easy, however. The arm cuffs are very tight, so it takes some strength to push your hands through. It also takes strength to pull the zipper all the way up to the center of your face. All personnel aboard the ship must be able to put this suit on and abandon ship in one minute. I was able to put my suit on in the allotted time, but we didn’t have to abandon the ship during the drill.

My stateroom
My stateroom

Personal Log

Living on a ship is an interesting experience. Space is at a premium, but the Henry B. Bigelow is actually quite comfortable. The scientists told me that this ship has a lot more amenities than some of the other research ships. My stateroom is small and narrow, but roommates are normally working on separate watches, so no one feels cramped or without personal space. You can see in this photo that the room has two bunk beds. Mine is on top, and it has been a fun challenge trying to get in and out of bed when the ship is rocking! I haven’t fallen yet! Each bunk has a curtain that can be pulled closed to darken your sleeping area, if you are sleeping during daylight hours. There is also a desk with latched drawers, so they don’t fly open when the ship is in rough waters. Bungee cords are attached to the walls and desks to hold chairs and large items in place, too. It’s important to keep everything tied down and in the locker so it doesn’t role around and get damaged, or make noise. I learned the importance of that my first night on rough seas when hangers were banging in my locker.

The Head
The Head

My stateroom also has its own “head” (bathroom). The term “head” comes from long ago when boats were powered by the wind. Sailors had a grated area at the front or “bow” of the boat where they could use the bathroom. It was at the front of the boat so bad odors would blow away from the rest of the ship. The figurehead was also attached at the front, so it became common practice to refer to that area as the “head.” The head in my room has a toilet that flushes, and is much nicer than the heads of days gone by, thank goodness!

These are all great amenities, but the best part of my stateroom is the view! First thing every morning, I pull back the curtain to see what’s going on outside. One morning I saw several dolphins jumping out of the water as they moved swiftly toward our ship. Most days, I’ve seen fog, rain, and roiling waves, but I still enjoy looking out and seeing nothing but water as far as the eye can see, and sometimes, a beautiful sunset.


Kathy Schroeder, May 6, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Schroeder
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 5 – May 18, 2010

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 6, 2010

Out at Sea!

We left Dutch Harbor at 9pm on May 5th. I went to the bridge (where the Captain pilots the ship), which is 4 decks higher than where I sleep, and watched us depart. On our way out through the pass we passed a volcano. A scientist, Brian, works on the bridge watching birds. He has great binoculars and let me borrow them. I got to see my first Puffin! The sunset at 1030pm was gorgeous! Woke up 7 hours later to get to work. My shift will change, but for now it will be 7a-7p or 9a-9m. Began the day with a fire drill! Got to put on my survival suit! Now it was time to get back to work. I put on my orange suit (called a float coat) and went on the starboard side of the ship to help with releasing the tows. The first is the Neuston tow. It looks like a rectangular metal box with a net attached and a cylinder tube at the end. It collects plankton from the surface of the ocean. The tow stays at a 45 degree angle for 10 minutes and then is pulled onboard. We take the collection and put it in a quart size glass jar. On average, it is not very full. We then add sea water and formalin to preserve the specimens. Then we release the Bongo nets. They look just like two pairs of bongo drums, one large and one small.There are four circles (two different sizes) attached to nets and then connected to the collection containers (cups at the bottom of the net). They go down 300 meters or 10 feet off the bottom, and are then pulled back up. This takes over 30 minutes. (During this time a Laysan Albatross came along side the ship, and just wanted to hang out with us!) Once the nets are pulled in, three containers are preserved. We take the last container and sift through it using tweezers to pull out any larval fish (mostly pollock) and put them in a glass petri dish on ice. They are then taken to the microscopes and looked at closely for classification. Some are flash frozen on slides, others are individually preserved in alcohol. My best find last night was a squid the size of a tic-tac! After 14 hours of work it was time for me to go to bed. It was great waking up to so many messages and emails. Keep them coming. And for the questions-NO! I have not been sick 🙂

John Schneider, July 21-26, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Juvenile bald eagle preening
Juvenile bald eagle preening

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 21-26, 2009

In port, Dutch Harbor, AK

Personal Log 

The days we spent in Dutch Harbor were a combination of 8-hour work days and evenings spent in town at either the Harbor View Sports Bar and Grill or the Grand Aleutian Hotel.  The crew and survey techs put in full days, then go out for a couple of hours using the liberty van.  Everyone’s usually back aboard by midnight or so (the van stops running at 2300, but the town’s only about a 20 minute walk.)  In Dutch and Unalaska, there are houses of worship, museums, a Safeway, a clinic (which I got to visit / after stepping on a nail), a community indoor pool and a post office. There are also a couple of ship supply places that have excellent quality gear at a minimum markup considering how far away we are.

schneider_log14bFor me, there were four events that were particularly of note.  First, before now I had only ever seen one bald eagle in the lower 48 and a half dozen or so in Kodiak.  In Dutch, they are all over.  These birds get to be about 3 feet tall and the talons on the juvenile pictured are about an inch long!  I took well nigh 100 pictures and had trouble selecting which ones to include.  They are stunning animals.

Second, I knew that Dutch Harbor had been bombed by the Japanese in WWII as part of the diversionary action prior to the Battle of Midway.  What I never realized was WHY they would bomb a remote, nothing, minor outpost and attack and occupy Attu and Kiska farther out in the Aleutians. The answer lies in spheroid geometry!  (OK all you math phobes, this is a cool one that’s not too hard to grasp.) Simply put, the shortest distance between any two points on a sphere (the Earth) is the distance along the surface created by a plane created by three points: the two points in question and the center of the sphere.  In other words, it cuts the planet in half!  (The red line in the illustration.)

Great circle rout from Tokyo to Seattle
Great circle route from Tokyo to Seattle

Spheroid geometry (diagram courtesy USNA)
Spheroid geometry (diagram courtesy USNA)

On the diagram above, the red line is the great circle route from Tokyo to Seattle.  As you can see it passes right through the Aleutians.  The battle in the Aleutians is sometimes referred to as the “Thousand Mile War” and is largely unknown, However, the Aleutian Islands are the “back door” to attacking North America.  That’s why, after the bombing of Dutch Harbor six months after Pearl Harbor, the United States made a concerted effort to fortify the Aleutians and take back Attu and Kiska. By the way, the landings on Attu and Kiska were the first landings on American soil by an enemy since the War of 1812!  There are reinforced concrete bunkers and Quonset huts all over the Dutch Harbor area and the fortifications atop Mount Ballyhoo are among the most well-preserved and extensively built in the United States.  The fact that our military – both men and women – were stationed in such an inhospitable frontier should be taught to all of our students.

Quonset hut on Mt Ballyhoo
Quonset hut on Mt Ballyhoo

Personally, I am thankful to one of my professors, Jack Lutz, who was stationed on Adak, 350+ miles West of Dutch Harbor.  Freedom isn’t free and we are very lucky.  So, this information about great circles should lend a bit of insight to the questions I posed earlier about the D.E.W. Line (used for radar protection in the event of Soviet missile launch over the North Pole) and why we encountered ships sailing from North America to Asia while passing through Unimak Pass (It’s right in the middle of the great circle route!)

 Gun emplacement overlooking the entrance to Dutch Harbor
Gun emplacement overlooking the entrance to Dutch Harbor

On our last day in Dutch, the CO and 5 others including myself went to the old cemetery in Unalaska. Buried there is Karl Mueller of the U.S. Ship Surveyor. He was one of the earliest Americans to work on surveying the Aleutians and was drowned in 1938 when his survey launch hit a previously uncharted reef. For more information on the NOAA personnel lost in the line of duty, go here. It’s important that we know our history in order to appreciate our present and look forward to the future.  

Grave marker of Karl Mueller.  The Fairweather crew maintains the grave and established a benchmark on the marker.
Grave marker of Karl Mueller. The Fairweather crew maintains the grave and established a benchmark on the marker.

The last notable event in Dutch was the combined “wetting down” and Sunday Brunch for the new officers. As I pointed out on one of my first logs, CO Doug Baird was promoted to Captain and Mark Andrews was promoted to Lieutenant JG.  LTjg Andrews generously invited me to the wetdown and brunch which was attended by the entire crew. The wetdown was at the Grand Aleutian on Saturday night and Sunday brunch was there also. These two events were really something special and the camaraderie was great to experience.  Thank you, sirs.

Crab legs, lox, salmon, biscuits w/ crab gravy, kippers (Plate #2 with dessert yet to come!)
Crab legs, lox, salmon, biscuits w/ crab gravy,
kippers (Plate #2 with dessert yet to come!)

John Schneider, July 18-20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 18-20, 2009

Shumagin Islands, in transit to Dutch Harbor

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System:
(July 18th) Low system approaching from the South
(July 19th) Fog, gusty wind in the morning, clear afternoon, but getting windier; Wind: southwesterly at 4-6 kts; Sea State: 1-2 feet

Weather System:  Projected for the July 20-21 overnight
Barometer: falling rapidly (a warning sign of unsettled weather) Wind: sustained at 30-40 kts, gusting to 55 kts (This would qualify as a “gale”)
Sea State: Predicted wave height next 24-36 hrs – 18 feet!

Andy and lunch—a nice halibut!
Andy and lunch—a nice halibut!

Science and Technology Log 

On the 18th and 19th, the launches went out (including me on the 19th) to clean up some holidays and get more near-shore data.  When we got back on the 19th, we found out that a major low pressure system was building to the south and expected to be in our area within a day and a half.  A major low system can reach out a couple of hundred miles and the CO decided that we would leave the Shumagins about 18 hours earlier than originally planned.  I discussed this with him (he is remarkably approachable) and he reiterates to me what I had already believed: his responsibilities are in three priorities – 1. His crew.  2. His ship.  3. The mission. Our research in the Shumagins does not represent life-or-death, it represents the continuing quest for knowledge and the expansion of our understanding of the Earth.  I’m sure you’ve realized it already, but Captain Baird and his officers have earned my highest regard.

We are in the center of the radar screen and two other ships described below – with their courses projected from the boxes that represent them – are behind us. The green line is our track ahead.
We are in the center of the radar screen and two other ships described below – with their courses projected from the boxes that represent them – are behind us. The green line is our track ahead.

On board the Fairweather is a phenomenal array of electronics.  Our positioning equipment is able to determine our position with just a couple of meters and when we are on a course it can tell if the course error is as little as a decimeter! Operating in Alaska, where fog is a way of life, RADAR (Radio Direction And Ranging) is an absolute must, and we have redundant systems in the event one breaks down. Probably the coolest thing about the radar is the use of ARPA technology. ARPA (Automated Radar Plotting Aid) is a system that not only identifies other vessels on the water, but diagrams their projected course and speed vectors on the screen. It does this from as far as 64 miles away!

The filleted tail of the halibut and some crabs found in its stomach
The tail of the halibut and some crabs found in its stomach

By looking at the screen, you can see the lines of other ships relative to your own and navigate accordingly. Furthermore, the system includes ECDIS, which is an Electronic Chart Display and Information System that identifies other ships as to their name, size, destination, and cargo!  So when you see on the radar that you are in a situation where you will be passing near to another vessel, you can call them on the radio by name! This technology is essential, especially going through Unimak Pass.  Unimak Pass is about 15 miles wide and is a critical point in commercial shipping traffic between the Americas and Asia. As we were transiting Unimak Pass, We were passed by an 800 foot long container ship that was en route to Yokohama, Japan and going the other way was a 750 foot ship going to Panama.  This is a critical area due to what is called “Great Circle” navigation.  I’ll address this point when in Dutch Harbor next week.

Eat your hearts out!
Eat your hearts out!

Personal Log 

Last night, after the beach party, Andy Medina (who has been on board for almost 200 days this year) was fishing off the fantail and caught a nice halibut. The crew who hail from Alaska all have fishing permits and when the day is done, if we’re anchored they get to use their free time for fishing.  They even got a freezer to keep their filets in.  Earlier in the cruise, we actually had halibut tacos made with about the freshest Alaskan halibut you can find (less than 12 hours from catch to lunch!)  Of course, with me being a bio guy, I asked for two things: 1 – to keep and freeze the head (I For the last night of the leg before making port in Dutch Harbor  (home of the World’s Deadliest Catch boats) the stewards, Cathy Brandts, Joe Lefstein and Mike Smith really outdid themselves.  I sure hope you can read the menu board, but if you can’t, dinner was Grilled NY Strip Steak and Steamed Crab legs with Butter! 

We went through about 10 trays like this!!!
We went through about 10 trays like this!!!

After dinner, everybody secured as much equipment as possible in the labs, galley and cabins as possible in anticipation of the run ahead of the weather into Dutch Harbor.  We ran through the night and got to Unimak pass in the middle of the day on the 20th. About half way through the pass was an unusual announcement, “Attention on the Fairweather, there are a lot of whales feeding off to starboard!” It’s the only time whales were announced and it was worth the announcement.  For about 2 to 3 miles, we were surrounded by literally MILLIONS of seabirds and a score or more of whales.  Comments from everybody were that they had never seen anything like it. I kept thinking of the old Hitchcock film The Birds and the scenes in Moby Dick where Ahab says to “watch the birds.” We were all agog at the sight.

Fifteen minutes of this! Incredible!
Fifteen minutes of this! Incredible!

With the collective 200-300 years of at-sea experience, no one had ever seen anything like it. After 2.5 weeks that seems like 2.5 days, we approach Dutch Harbor and are secured to the pier by 1700 hours. Tonight we’ll head into town, but if not for the news in the next paragraph, this would be the worst time of the trip, however . . .

The Best news of the trip: I’ve requested and been approved to stay on board the Fairweather for the next leg! WOO-HOO!!!  It’s called FISHPAC and deals with integrating bottom characteristics to commercially viable fish populations!  I’m going to the Bering Sea!!!

Questions for You to Investigate 

  1. When did the Andrea Doria and Stockholm collide?  Where?  In what conditions?
  2. What was the D.E.W. Line in the Cold War?
  3. Why did the Japanese want bases in the Aleutians in WWII?
  4. Why did we pass a ship going from North America to Yokohama well over 1000 miles north of both ends of the trip?
  5. What are Great Circles?

Did You Know? 

That almost 10% of all commercial fishing catch in the United States comes through Unalaska and Dutch Harbor?

Approaching Dutch Harbor
Approaching Dutch Harbor

John Schneider, July 16-17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
John Schneider
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather 
July 7 – August 8, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Kodiak, AK to Dutch Harbor, AK
Date: July 16-17, 2009

Shumagin Islands

Morning safety briefing
Morning safety briefing

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather System: Light fog, clearing through the day
Wind: light and variable
Sea State: <2 feet

Science and Technology Log 

This morning, I went up to the boat deck and took a shot of the FOO in the morning safety briefing on the fantail. Afterwards, while the launches were conducting near-shore and off-shore surveys, the Fairweather ran cross track lines where we had completed a large open-water polygon. Once the large offshore polygons are surveyed by the Fairweather, the ship runs several transects at a 90º angle across the original survey lines. This is to corroborate prior data. When the survey crew finally completes their data analysis, they have checked and re-checked the data a minimum of 4 times before the report leaves the ship. Then, the information goes to NOAA’s charting offices and is reviewed multiple times again before being incorporated and published on charts and in the Coast Pilots.

Personal Log 

Perhaps the three most frightening prospects on board a ship at sea are:

  1. Fire
  2. Abandoning a sinking vessel
  3. Man Overboard 

Going up the ladder blindfolded
Going up the ladder blindfolded

This afternoon, we ran drills addressing the first two situations.  In the first drill, we simulated a shipboard fire with thick smoke.  Rather than filling the ship with smoke, the crew paired up and practiced escaping from their cabins blindfolded.  Each person took a turn being the eyes so their partner didn’t get injured, but could not give directions. My path was relatively easy: Left out of my cabin, right along the wall, up the ladder, right to the next wall, right again, pass the door to the scullery, go over a coaming and left out to the weather deck. I did fine, and my partner, Engineer Joe Kelly, also did. On the other hand, Andrew Clos, one of the survey techs, made one wrong turn and wandered into the mess. Once he got there, well, on board ship folks tend to enjoy a good laugh – either at their own expense or someone else’s.  Once Andrew got into the mess, other crew members put chairs in his way, opened cabinet doors, blocked the ability for him to go backwards!

Andrew cornered in the mess!
Andrew cornered in the mess!

Oh, they were merciless!  Finally, someone led him out and we all shared a good laugh.  The XO was, however, quick to point out that Andrew had crawled during the drill – one of the few who had done so.  Remember what they teach even in pre-school, if there’s smoke, the smoke rises, so crawl to safety. So I guess the point was well-made. The abandon ship drill is very simple in concept, but with 45-50 people hustling through passageways with life jackets and Gumby suits (not wearing them, but just carrying them) it can be chaotic. Nonetheless, within less than 4 minutes, every crew member was at their abandon ship stations.

“Ensign Forney” at his station in Plot
“Ensign Forney” at his station in Plot

The best aspect of the drills was the seriousness of the personnel. We all realize, even the crewmen who have been to sea for decades, that life on the sea is held by a thin thread and frivolity belongs in its place. While the launches were operating, Survey Tech Tami Beduhn (with help!) put a chicken suit on the CPR mannequin that we have on board and set it up in Ensign Matt Forney’s station in the plot room.  They even put his ball cap on it!

Ensign Matt Forney (left) and the CO at the bonfire. It would get real big!
Ensign Matt Forney (left) and the CO at the bonfire.

Speaking of Frivolity

Being more than halfway through the leg and getting work done at a really good pace – through crew efforts and cooperation from the weather – the CO (currently Jim Bush who has relieved CAPT Baird while he is on leave for a short while) approved a “beach party” to be held on one of the accessible beaches (Flying Eagle Harbor – 55º10’ N, 159º30’W) of Big Koniuji Island, the second largest island in the Shumagins. The ship arrived in the “harbor” a few hours before the launches returned and anchored. While the launches were conducting survey ops, the stewards (chefs) and the deck crew repeatedly took the skiff (a small utility boat) and set up a HUGE meal on the beach. As you can see, the bonfire was ready to go – collected from the ample supply of driftwood. We even had a Beachparty Internal Temperance Control Honcho – kind of a 2009 version of Women’s Christian Temperance Union of the late 1800’s!  After a while on the ship, it was cool to get ashore. A couple of the crew hiked to the summit of the mountain.


  • Scullery – the area of the galley (kitchen) where used dishes are rinsed and put into the dishwasher
  • Coaming – a raised door sill at a hatch to keep water from flowing inside

The ship waiting offshore
The ship waiting offshore

It doesn’t get any better than this!
It doesn’t get any better than this!

Yup! We went swimming!  That’s me with my arms up. Water was about 43º.
Yup! We went swimming! That’s me with my arms up. Water was about 43º.

Chris Harvey, June 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Harvey
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
June 5 – July 4, 2006

Mission: Lobster Survey
Geographical Area: Central Pacific Ocean, Hawaii
Date: June 22, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

“If your mind and heart are true, the world is good.”

I have quite taken to the idea of including a quote at the beginning of every journal entry. Although it is rather reminiscent of my warm up assignment for my kids in class each day (yes, I did vow not to speak of class again on this trip), I find that if I start my day with a good quote, it helps to keep my thoughts a little clearer throughout the rest of the day. For this reason I drink a cup of green tea in the morning, and tend to heed the advice of the little slip of paper attached to the tea bag.

This morning was different, however, since I did not get out of bed until 12:30 in the afternoon! I messed up my routine with my daily quote and my hot cup of tea with breakfast, but the chance to sleep in was one I knew I must take advantage of. This is my summer vacation after all!

We had drills almost immediately after I woke up. This meant that the general alarm was sounded, ensuring that I was in fact awake, and we had to muster on the boat deck until our fake fire was extinguished. In this drill, I got to hold a fire hose and spray water out into the ocean. I think when I get back I am going to be a fireman instead of a teacher! We also had our “abandon ship” drill, which required us to muster at the lifeboats with our safety jacket, long sleeve shirt and pants, and our exposure suit (My favorite part of this drill came on our first day when we actually got to try on the exposure suit. I looked like a sunburned Gumby!). I always look at the people who are supposed to be on my lifeboat as potential meals when the dry rations run out. (This is, of course a joke. I am finding that my humor on the ship is often a bit too witty for the crew. And so my journal entries are becoming my outlet for my release of humorous energy.)

After drills I watched a couple of movies. The first is one I know my mother would enjoy on a Friday night, wrapped up in her four kittens with a bowl of popcorn and a wine spritzer (can I say wine spritzer in a journal entry?!) It is a British fairy tale of sorts, upon Amee’s insistence, called Nanny McPhee. Amee was confident that I would not be able to sit through the whole thing. Not only did I watch the movie from start to finish, but also I found myself with moistened eyes at its happy ending! (We watched Hotel Rwanda yesterday and I was in full-fledged tears. Do not expect happy feelings from that one.)

We then put in Madagascar, one of my new cartoon favorites! I have to say that if I were a kid again, which I am still at heart but not in outward appearance, most of the humor would have gone right over my head. As it is, the humor settled perfectly on my level and I am now in a rather cheerful mood. This is partly due to the fact that it brought back memories to a very positive classroom experience for me.

One of my students, a “favorite” if a teacher is allowed to have “favorites,” brought in the movie and asked me to show it in class one day. Unfortunately I did not have the creative capability to find a way to incorporate it into my curriculum (Boss, if you are reading this, can you find the creative capability to incorporate it into my curriculum?!). But she wanted to share with the class a song that best described her personality and outlook on life. Yes, even as a science teacher I dared step into the realm of exploring my student’s personalities and modes of expression. She shared with us the song “I like to move it, move it,” which is really very basic in terms of its lyrics. But put into the context of the movie, I found it to be very descriptive of this child.

The particular student, call her Sue for the sake of simplicity, had one of the biggest hearts that I have ever had the fortune to come in contact with. She struggled very hard with my class, but always came into my room with a smile on her face and asked me what she could do for me. I always told her she could teach the class for me so I could sit in the back and take a nap, and she always laughed (even though there wasn’t much funny about that comment). I would ask my students to keep track of what I call their “List of 5’s and 3’s,” which was a list that we would make every Monday at the beginning of class that would address 5 positive things and 3 negative things that the students did to/for themselves, and 5 positive things and 3 negative things that the students did to/for other people. I always stressed the things that we did for other people, which was always the hardest for most of the students. However, Sue never had any problems with her list because her life was so full of helping other people who each time she did something good for someone else, she was doing something good for herself. She asked me if it was OK for her to have both lists contain the same thing. I looked at her and smiled as I said that it was, because inside of me I had a particular jealousy over the fact that she could have such a heart.

In all my traveling I look for friendly faces in time of need. Whether I need directions to a particular location, or a place to sleep at night, I find that- although many times they are few and far between- friendly faces always emerge at just the right time to help me out of the situation. Finding a child like Sue in my very own classroom was a blessing to me because I did not have to go out and seek that friendly face among strangers. She made it a point to be so brilliantly kind and generous to every one of her classmates and teachers, that it was hard to have complaints after having her in class, even if it wasn’t the best of days. It is strange now to speak of a child with such high regard, but as I tell my students at the end of every semester before I let them go into the world, a teacher can learn a great bit more from his students than his students can learn from him, if he pays attention to them and takes the time to get to know them.

I say that I am hesitant to think about school while on my summer vacation, but it warms my heart to think about all of the positive things I have seen in and around my classroom as a result of my kids. Too often I find myself grumbling about how terrible and destructive students are for themselves and for others. And though I am reminded by others, especially my mother who is not only a great parent but also a colleague at school, that “children will be children,” and that I was no worse than they were when I was their age, I take great comfort in watching my kids progress through the months that they are in my classroom.

I spoke earlier on this trip with Amee about a similar idea, and mentioned in some way that “kids these days” are… (I don’t remember exactly what I said, but the … could be filled in by pretty much anything). She smiled and looked at me and repeated what I said. At that moment I realized that, perhaps for the first time, I was a “Grown-Up.” I had made the discrimination between myself and a younger generation, and I realized that I have moved onto a new phase in my life where I am often viewed with the same contempt by some of my students as I held some of my teachers. And on the other side of things, I remember how well I respected and adored some of my teachers for their instruction and for the way they seemed to care about me. This has been a truly revolutionary moment in my life, as an adult and teacher, because I see now how much of an impact I have on my kids- whether positively, or negatively.

So I think about the song from Madagascar and it makes me smile. I think about Sue and how she has probably filled her summer with chances to make the world a better place. And it leaves me out here in a moment of solitude and reflection, as I take in the scenery around me, wondering what the world would be like without such friendly faces among strangers.

Eric Heltzel, September 26, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Eric Heltzel
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 25 – October 22, 2005

TAS Eric on board, Miami in the background
TAS Eric on board, Miami in the background

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Caribbean
Date: September 26, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

As I sit to write this entry I realize I’ve been on the ship just over 24 hours.  It’s interesting how perceptions change. I can now find my way to my berth without difficulty. I’ve had three excellent meals and can remember the first names of all the Scientists on the Stratus Project team.  It is odd how I can hear sounds of moving water through my wall, intermittent sloshing.  We are under way now so I can only assume that this noise is normal.  I hope so!

Today was a very busy day. We had a lot of equipment that still needed to be loaded onto the ship and then secured.  They have these really neat threaded holes all over the decks and in the science labs that you can put eye bolts into.  These are attachment points for come-along straps that are used to keep objects from moving around. Much of the equipment was loaded on board with cranes that are mounted on the rear deck. We then use dollies and pallet jacks to move heavy objects around.  There is stuff galore. I helped the Deck-Hands move and secure equipment this morning and helped the Science team to move equipment into the Labs.  It was quite hot and humid and fairly heavy work. I felt good to help get the ship ready to go.

When we were two miles offshore we started doing safety drills.  There are three, man overboard, fire, and abandon ship.  Every person is assigned a mustering station where an officer (in my case, the Lead Scientist) checks to make sure we are all there.  Hopefully we will not have to follow any of these procedures for real. (Sorry kids, I’m really not planning on falling overboard)  There were inspectors checking that we did things correctly. We even had to put on our survival suits to see how they fit. These are a lovely red with built in gloves, booties, and a hood. Very becoming, perhaps a good school uniform?

We finally got under way about 19:00 and are traveling in a southerly direction.  I went on deck to watch the sun go down behind a cumulus cloudbank.  The skyline of Miami was backlit with a rosy glow.  I even saw a Dolphin racing along beside us. It has been a full day and a great start to my adventure on board the RONALD H. BROWN.

Kirk Beckendorf, July 8, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
July 8, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Time 9:08 AM ET
Latitude- 42 28.14 N
Longitude- 67 47.02 W
Water Temperature 7 C
Wind Direction at surface East
Wind Speed at surface <5 MPH
Wind Direction at 1 Kilometer- West
Wind Speed at 1 Kilometer <5 MPH
Wind Direction at 2 Kilometers West
Wind Speed at 2 Kilometer 5 MPH
Cloud cover and type Fog

Daily Log

What should we do if someone fell overboard or if we had to abandon ship?

Today we are just off the southern coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. It has been foggy all day so we cannot see very far past the ship’s railing. If anyone fell overboard it would be extremely difficult to find them. With the water temperature at 7 degrees C a person would be hypothermic very soon if they were in the water.

I helped Anne again with today’s ozonesonde. The launch did not go as smoothly as yesterday’s. Before releasing the balloon the computer was not receiving a signal from the sonde. After Anne checked out a number of things that could be wrong we attached a different radiosonde, which is the part that sends the signal to the computer. With that change the problem was immediately solved. The sonde detected three layers of ozone pollution and of course the good ozone layer.

The ship’s crew keeps a written record of all ships sighted from the bridge. Today I typed the information into a computer spreadsheet. The scientists will then be able to compare these contacts to their pollution data.

Safety is a major concern on the ship. At school we have fire drills, here on the BROWN we have Abandon Ship and Man Overboard drills. Today when we heard the Abandon Ship alarm (6 short blasts from the whistle followed by one long blast), we rushed to our stateroom (bedroom), grabbed our life jacket, long pants, long sleeve shirt, hat and survival suit. If this were a real emergency we need to have clothes that will protect us from the weather and sun while we are floating in a life raft. We then rushed to our preassigned meeting areas on deck. One of the ship’s crew called roll. Afterwards we practiced putting on our bright red survival suits. The suits are designed to help keep us warm, floating and easy to see.

When the Man Overboard alarm was sounded (three long blasts from the ships whistle) the scientists and myself met in the main science lab to get a head count. Meanwhile as part of the drill, the crew had thrown a “dummy” overboard. They quickly launched one of the small boats and sped away to rescue the “man overboard”. The dummy was rescued quickly. If someone were to fall overboard while the ship is moving and no one realized they were missing, it would be very difficult to find and rescue them since we would not know how far away to look.

Questions of the Day

What is the maximum amount of ozone pollution an area can have without being in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards?

What is the temperature of the water in degrees F here off the coast of Nova Scotia?

What is the bridge of a ship?

What does hypothermic mean?

Sena Norton, July 6, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sena Norton
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 6 – 15, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
July 6, 2004

Location: In transit to Shumagin Islands, outside of Seward inlet.
Latitude: 59.31 N
Longitude: 149.41 W
Visibility: To horizon
Wind Direction: NW
Wind Speed: 20 kt
Swell wave height: 6ft
Sea level pressure:
Cloud cover: High sparse cloud cover

Personal Log

Day Activities

  • Ship paper work
  • Assign and don Survival Suit (communally called Gumby suit)
  • Took part in Abandon ship and fire drill. Got to my muster stations with ease and with all the required equipment and needs. Aided in hose management and stow.
  • Issued Mustang jacket and flotation vest for use on launches and skiffs.
  • Observed getting underway from the flying wing.
  • Took nature sightings: whale in distance, porpoise pod of 12+, puffin and gulls/seabirds.
We are in transit to our survey location and will be for the next 24-36 hours. Most personnel are on 4-hour watches and shifts. I watched the deck crew take care of the lines and stow all the equipment in its correct areas, which took longer than I first would have expected.
The “Gumby suit” was interesting to put on and try to get back into its bag. I could not believe how snuggly it fit around the wrist and neck…of course to be water proof that is the requirement. I feel very safe in knowing that I could survive if the need arouse.

I am a little queasy with the boat today…there isn’t much of a sea but just getting used to the motion is going to be interesting. I have my patch on but many people have told me my berth is nicknamed the ANTI-GRAVITY CHAMBER…not very good words for a land lover like myself.

It is proper etiquette to keep your rack light on at all times unless you are trying to sleep. That is a cue to your roommate to be quiet. If the light is on all clear…if the light is off “shhhhhh”. I didn’t know that even with my prior experience.

The weather is going to be very nice for the next 6 days according to the weather report I received via email from the XO today. We are to expect light winds and the 3-6 foot sea swell. That is cause for good science and nice observations. We are scheduled to begin the hydro survey on Thursday.

Debra Brice, November 11, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 11, 2003

Latitude: S01’59.7754
Longitude: W084’00.4949
Visibility: 10 nautical miles ( nm)

Science and Technology Log

We started the day already underway toward the Equadorian Meteorological Buoy that we were to retrieve for the Equadorian Navy. We estimated that our time of arrival at the buoy’s location would be approximately 1:00pm.  Our first order of the day was a meeting to set up the Underway Watch schedule and train us in our duties during the watch. All of the watches for the scientific teams would be in the main lab. The responsibilities include being in the lab to respond to calls from the bridge, to record events in the log, to be available for other activities as needed. Take a record of hourly sea surface temperatures using a bucket thermometer. (A bucket thermometer is just what it sounds like, a thermometer with a small plastic bucket at the bottom with a line attached that you throw over the side to fill it with seawater and then read the temperature and record in the log). Deploy Argo floats as scheduled from the stern of the ship. I will describe the Argo Floats in more detail tomorrow as well as add a link to the website. You can see the Argo floats and the bucket thermometer on my pictures. Deploy surface drifters (Drogue floats). Assist in launching radiosondes. To work on the deck we need to wear safety vests at all times, hard hats, steel toed boots, strobe lights at night, and we must always work in pairs. We are to inform bridge when we are to deploy the floats. For the ARGO floats the ship comes to a stop, for the Drogue drifters we just throw them overboard while we are still underway.

We arrived at the location of the Equadorian Buoy at 1:15 pm to find that it was about 2 miles off its original location and had been damaged. The small zodiac was deployed from the ship with several crew members and an Equadorian Naval Officer who accompanied us, to help with the retrieval. An Equadorian naval ship met us at the buoy site. The buoy was towed over to the stern of the ship and hauled aboard using the “A” frame. It was secured and re-attached to the crane so that it could be lifted overboard after the instruments from the mooring were removed and returned to the Equadorian ship. The instruments were retrieved and the buoy and instruments were transferred to the Equadorian Naval vessel. Large numbers of strikingly beautiful barnacles and several species of tubeworms, crabs and various amphipods were attached to the bottom of the buoy and all the instruments that were submersed. A large number of fish were observed near the buoy and the crew caught several species of tuna, including yellowfin and bonita from the ship. We removed several samples of the barnacles, worms and amphipods, put them in a bucket and froze them for preservation and study in Arica. We are underway again and will be deploying 2 ARGO floats before tomorrow morning. My watch begins at 00:00 until 04:00 and I will probably be assisting in at least one deployment.

Personal Log

We did life boat, fire and man overboard drills today and I spent most of the afternoon answering e-mails and working on the computer. Finally got my software loaded and was able to tranfer some of my digtal pictures of the trip so far. I spent some time talking to the various scientific groups onboard and learnng about their projects that I will be describing later in our video broadcasts. On this cruise we have scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Labs, INOCAR (Equadorian Oceanographic Institute), Texas A&M meteorologist, NOAA ETL (meteorologists) and the Chilean Navy. We did a broadcast at sunset from the bow of the ship and I am working on lesson plans for the next few hours until my watch begins. Hasta Luego…..

Diane Stanitski: Day 13, August 23, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 13: August 23, 2002

The FOO’s quote of the day: “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
– Aristotle

Weather log:
We started this morning with some cloud cover but with bright sunlight illuminating the buoy deck where our live broadcast was about to be filmed. Moments after we finished, the skies opened up – downpour! Here are our observations at 2200 this evening:
Latitude: 5°48.6’N
Longitude: 140°1.7’W
Visibility: 8 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 350° (constantly shifting)
Wind speed: 10 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3′
Swell wave height: 4-5′
Sea water temperature: 28.4°C
Sea level pressure: 1011.9 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8, rain with cumulus clouds

Here’s the update on what is now Hurricane Fausto, currently located at 15.3°N, 120.0°W and heading 280° (just north of west) at 14 kts. Its central pressure has dropped to 959 mb and its maximum sustained winds are 105 kts, gusting to 130 kts. It’s still running strong.

Science and Technology Log:

I believe that our live broadcast went quite well today, but only after being disconnected twice after only seconds of the first two takes. No harm done in the end. The interviewees were great! They are all such interesting and unique people with fascinating lives. After reviewing the show later, we discovered that a loud buzz muffled some of the interviews. The problem was detected and will be fixed before Monday’s broadcast.

Congratulations to Holly Smith, one of my graduate students at Shippensburg University, who answered our KA quiz question, “What is a Kelvin wave?” correctly. Her answer is “A Kelvin wave is a warm pacific wave that forms near Indonesia and travels east toward the Americas. It can carry warm air and a bit of rain with it too!” Yes, although Kelvin waves can form anytime, this wave is often highlighted during El Niño events because the weakening or reversing of wind direction in the tropics permits the warm water in the western Pacific to move eastward shifting the high sea-surface temperatures from the western to the central Pacific, which affects the atmospheric circulation. It also tends to shut off the upwelling in the eastern Pacific, which reduces the number of marine organisms in that region. Holly, you’ll receive a NOAA T-shirt for your efforts and knowledge – great job!

I volunteered to do the CTD test by myself this afternoon with a little (ok, a lot of) help from Jason, the survey technician. I think I’ve got it down at this point and will gladly assist with these readings that need to be taken approximately every six hours. It’s a time intensive job and tonight’s 3 AM readings will take around 3 hours and sample water from the bottom of the ocean, near 4000 meters depth.

After the CTD sampling, I interviewed Larry Wooten, our technician on the ship, in order to discover how he arrived at the Ka’imimoana. Larry had been in the Air Force in South Dakota as a missile technician. He then went to South Dakota State University to become an electronic engineering technician. He said that he typically spends 6 months on the ship and 6 months off during the year so he can return to Seattle to spend time with his wife and daughter. He is able to do almost anything on the ship, however, the majority of his time is now spent as network administrator (helping with software applications and fixing computers) and less on hands on electronics. Overall, a great guy ready to help in a flash.

Personal Log:

Shortly after Larry’s interview, we had a fire drill followed by an abandon ship drill. The fire was supposedly in the computer lab, the location where we’re all supposed to go in case of a fire. So, I found myself on the upper deck with two other scientists. It was only after much searching that we discovered all of the other scientists in the forward lounge. Whoops! Now I know where to go in both situations. The abandon ship drill went well. We all had to don our gumby suits this time to ensure that we know how to quickly suit up in case we need to go directly into the water. We also have to bring long pants and a long-sleeved shirt in case we end up spending a long time in the rescue boats in the sun. Fortunately, everything is extremely safe on the ship, but the drills help us to know what to do in all situations.

I received an excellent question from Austin at the National Weather Service in Phoenix, Arizona. He is wondering how the MGO, Kelvin wave, and thermocline are all linked. Now that we know about Kelvin waves based on Holly’s correct answer, you can see the relationship with the thermocline. But, what about the Madden-Julian Oscillation? This is a phenomenon named after the two scientists who initially discovered the oscillation. This oscillation triggers an extremely wide band of convective activity that sweeps from west to east across the equator every 30-60 days. It has been hypothesized that the MJO could possibly be a trigger for El Nino.

In just a few moments I play the Captain in Scrabble. It’s my favorite game that I often play with my Mom and best friend, Lisa. I’ll get back to you regarding the outcome.

The question of the day for all of you is: 

What causes a halo to form around the moon (or the sun)?

Keep in touch,

Diane Stanitski: Day 6, August 16, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Diane Stanitski

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

August 16-30, 2002

Day 6: Friday, August 16, 2002
Time: 12:47 PM
Latitude: 21°14.715’North (N)
Longitude: 157°57.378’West (W)

My first daily log…I love every minute on the ship! Everything is so interesting. I have already learned a great deal about the science to be conducted on board during the next 24 days. Before departing from Pier 7 at the Hickam Air Force Base, Dr. John Kermond, who will be directing and videotaping the Teacher at Sea (that’s me), filmed me on land in front of the ship as I described my weeklong activities in Honolulu. After climbing aboard, the ship then separated from the pier at 0830 as the gangplank was lifted onto the ship.

We started the day with three emergency drills. The first was a collision drill and it required that all scientists go immediately to the computer room while the other crew members simulated what to do in case of a collision with another object on the sea. We then experienced an abandon ship drill, which is activated when we hear more than 6 loud rings of the alarm bell followed by one final long ring. We must immediately go to our stateroom (like a college dorm room) and grab a pair of long pants, a hat, closed-toed shoes, and a long-sleeved shirt. In addition, we have to carry our life jacket and survival suit, otherwise known as the gumby suit, a bright orange neoprene suit with attached booties and gloves that would keep you alive in the water for days if misfortune should reach you.

Three NOAA inspectors also participated in the drills by ensuring that all details were addressed and all materials were up to par. They checked to make sure that the flashlights on our life jackets worked and that we had an attached whistle. After 3 buzzers sounded, the drill was over and everyone returned to their regular activities. We then practiced the man overboard drill with a mannequin floating in the water. The RHIB (Rigid Hulled Inflatable Boat) was lowered and a group of crew members rescued the mannequin in an efficient manner. The inspectors were then to return to shore after 3 days of inspection on the ship. I was asked if I would like to accompany them back to shore on the RHIB… definitely!!! I grabbed a hardhat and life jacket and hopped on board the RHIB before it was lowered into the water. We sailed across the ocean’s surface and dropped off the departing group. I stepped onto land again for the last time for the next 24 days. It was exciting but I was anxious to leap back on board the KA.

We arrived back at the ship and it was then that Doug (aka Nemo) came over and asked if I had the muscle to ratchet and lock away the RHIB on the davits (a holder for the RHIB or life boat when not in use). I immediately agreed to do it and he put me to work while John videotaped the event and the Commanding Officer (CO or Captain), Mark Ablondi, watched along with a few others. Yikes! There was no way that I was going to stop, despite the challenge of the task. I managed to secure it at the top! I’d better watch what I agree to do in the future. I decided to work out in the exercise room, which consists of an air-conditioned space on the second deck all the way forward in the ship holding 2 exercise bikes, a treadmill, row machine, weights, and a mat that you can use to stretch. There is a fan, TV, and radio to keep you preoccupied and motivated. I chose the treadmill and discovered that you’d better hang on because as the ship rolls and/or pitches (the difference will be explained later in my logs), it tends to knock you off balance.

The ship was delayed by 2 days due to the unavailability of a licensed engineer. It was supposed to depart on August 13 (3 days ago), and so I had 2 more days in Honolulu – darn! My husband and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary on August 14 and so were pleased that we could actually be together since he came to Hawaii to see me off on the ship. We decided to celebrate by flying to the Big Island of Hawaii where we drove from Kona to Volcanoes National Park to see fresh lava oozing from the surface of Kilauea, the active volcano currently erupting on the southeastern side of the island. It was fantastic! We also toured a coffee plantation and bought some fresh 100% Kona coffee. What a treat! Despite the newly expected departure of August 15, we still didn’t leave until this morning because new batteries needed to arrive before departure. All in all, we had a productive week in Honolulu because of our delays.

This has been a wonderful week and first day. I can’t believe that I’m here, and I know how lucky I am to be a part of this great adventure. The people on board the ship couldn’t be better. They’re extremely helpful and fun people who enjoy discussing their research ideas.

Stay tuned for another log tomorrow. I am looking forward to hearing from each one of you so please email me ASAP!


Dana Tomlinson: Day 17, March 17, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002

Lat: 8°S
Long: 105°W
Seas: 4-7 ft
Visibility: unrestricted
Weather: mostly cloudy with isolated rainshowers
Sea Surface Temp:
Winds: E 10-15 knots
Air Temp: 87-74°F

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! Clem cooked up quite the corned beef and cabbage feast today. Hope all of you had fun too. We are presently transiting from the 110°W line to the 95°W line, so there are no scientific experiments going on now. Rather, there is a lot of preparation going on by the scientists for the work once we get to 95°W. Let me sum up for you what was done on the 110°W line.

Between Amy, Nuria and I (mostly Amy), 27 CTD’s were performed, 5 of them at almost the depth of the ocean (we stop 200m above the floor). 4 buoys were recovered and 4 new buoys were deployed. 2 buoys were visited and found to be fine. 1 buoy was visited and needed repairs, which were provided. The scientists saw the signatures of El Niño: warmer than normal sea surface temperatures by 1 degree, and a rainfall pattern that has shifted southward and south of the equator.

While the scientists are prepping for future work, the crew was getting their regular work done. And, in the further interest of safety (always #1 out here), we had a man overboard drill. We all mustered in our respective locations and watched out the window as a crew of four rescuers went out in the RHIB to retrieve the unfortunate soul adrift (a stuffed evacuation suit!). After bringing him/her aboard, they promptly took him/her to the Medical room where s/he was treated and released. All of this practice is great for honing the skills if they’re ever necessary. Let’s hope they never are.

Question of the Day: 

When was the first NOAA buoy deployed in the Pacific Ocean?

Answer of the Day: 

I will wait until I get emails again after the weekend. Keep writing!

Dana Tomlinson: Day 14, March 14, 2020

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Thursday, March 14, 2002
Lat: 6°S
Long: 110°W
Seas: 4-7 ft
Visibility: unrestricted (3-5 mi. in rainstorms)
Weather: mostly cloudy with possible rainstorms
Sea Surface Temp: 82-86°F
Winds: E 10-15 knots
Air Temp: 87-74°F

Today, we deployed a buoy at 5°S but we have not recovered the 5°S buoy. That’s because the little devil is at about 6.2°S due to currents, wind or being pulled by a boat. After the deployment, we did a deep cast to almost 3500m. Check the photos to see what that can do to styrofoam! We’ll get to the approximate location tonight of the wayward buoy and pick it up in the morning. I will be doing a CTD tonight.

Today, we also did our third safety drill since we boarded in San Diego. I have written and mentioned in my broadcasts how important safety is here. We have always had fire drills and abandon ship drills. Each week something different is added. The first week, we did an evacuation drill where we practiced putting on the evacuation (“gumby”) suit. Last week, we practiced using the water hoses in case of fire, and this week it was learning how to shoot the line throwing rocket.

I was given the honor of shooting off the rocket. All hands were called to the aft deck to hear Ens. Kroening and Ltcdr. Schleiger explain to us how to use the line throwing rocket. We would need to use it if ever we needed to get a line to another ship or land and it was too far to throw the line. For practice, we use a decoy that is shot off the fantail of the ship. Wearing my safety glasses and headgear, I shot the decoy. Successful launch! The line flew about 100 meters. Bad news: had to pull in the decoy and coil it up for next time.

Question of the Day: 

Today, we did a cast to about 3500 meters. How deep does the Pacific Ocean get?

Answer of the Day: 

Both Vanessa P. and Brian R. of San Diego were the only ones to try the fairing question and they were both right. A fairing is a smooth structure put on the outside of something. Its function is to reduce drag. In our case, the fairings are pieces of plastic about 3 inches wide and about a foot long that are snapped on to the top 250m of wire below the buoy in locations around the equator where the currents are very strong. The hope is that these fairings will reduce the drag on the wire and not allow it to be pulled so far off its intended location.

Til tomorrow,
🙂 Dana

Dana Tomlinson: Day 2, March 2, 2002

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Dana Tomlinson

Aboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana

March 1 – 27, 2002

Date: Saturday, March 2, 2002

Latitude: 29.9 N
Longitude: 116.3 W
Temperature: 65 F

Science Log

Research has not yet started.

Travel Log

Today was a day for getting acquainted with the ship and its occupants and its activities and responsibilities. When I awoke, the weather was gorgeous, the sky was clear – and land was nowhere to be seen! Already it seems as if we are mid-ocean. The seas are very calm. The ocean rolls gently and noone that I know of has had any problems with seasickness (the number one question I got from people before I left: “Do you get seasick?” The answer: “Not yet.” If you’d like to know the #2 and #3 questions asked of me, just keep reading the logs 😉

We are cruising at the top speed of 11-1/2 knots and hope to make up some of the time lost in Seattle and San Diego. There was an orientation held for all of the new scientists aboard (I’m honored to be considered part of that category.). The most fun was the abandon ship drill held after the fire drill. Safety is a primary concern aboard the Ka’imimoana. Most parts of the ship are considered industrial workplaces, so hard hats are worn, closed toe shoes are required, and often life vests are necessary. During an abandon ship drill, we muster at our life boat stations with our vests and “gumby” suits. These suits are aptly named as they make you look like Gumby! They are wetsuits that have gloves and boots sewn into them and I’ve been told that someone could survive floating in the ocean for several days in them. Look for a picture in the photo album of scientist Mike McPhaden in one. I’m glad we had the practice putting them on, because it’s not as easy as it sounds! Let’s just hope we never have to use them.

Keep in Touch,

Jane Temoshok, October 10, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jane Temoshok
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 2 – 24, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: October 10, 2001

Latitude: 1 ºS
Longitude: 95 ºW
Air Temp: 22.5 ºC
Sea Temp: 19 ºC
Sea Wave: 0 – 1 ft.
Swell Wave: 3 – 4 ft.
Visibility: 8 miles
Cloud cover: 6/8

Science Log

Everyone was working in full swing today. Weather balloons being released, water samples being collected, data from every possible source was being analyzed. The big event of the day though, was coming upon the first buoy. A buoy is relatively small, about the size of a small monkey bar set – just big enough for one or two people to climb onto. It has a long rope with an anchor attached at the bottom so it is supposed to stay put. But many times the currents and winds are too strong and it drifts a bit, making it hard to find in the big ocean. Fortunately, it has a sensor on it that helps the ship locate it. This buoy was placed out here last year. It is full of sensors that store information like temperature and salinity (how much salt is in the water) and winds. Using that information, scientists can chart even the smallest changes over long periods of time. Unfortunately this buoy was damaged a while ago and stopped transmitting. Perhaps a ship ran into it or maybe a shark took a bite out it. Today 2 scientists went out in a small boat (see photos) and climbed aboard the buoy and repaired it. Lucky for them, the seas were very calm, but even so, it is very dangerous work. They found the buoy quite damaged probably from a collision with a ship. The buoy was fixed and is now transmitting again.

The sea was very calm, but even so, repairing a buoy is dangerous work.

Two scientists traveled to the buoy in a small boat and climbed aboard to repair it. They found the buoy quite damaged, probably from a collision with a ship.

The scientists fixed the buoy and now it is transmitting again.

Travel Log

Repairing the buoy took about 2 hours. During that time some of the crew enjoyed fishing off the back of the boat. As Jennifer mentioned in her logs, the bottom of the buoy and the rope that leads down to the anchor act as a special habitat for sea life. Barnacles and mussels attach themselves to the rope and then small fish come to feed on them, The food chain grows quite large so that in a year’s time many big fish, including sharks, can often be seen by a buoy. Today one of the crew caught a 25 pound mahi which was deliciously grilled up for dinner.

Today we also had our first emergency drills. Each person on board is responsible for knowing what to do, where to go, and what to bring for each of the three types of emergencies. The first is your basic fire drill. But since you can’t get off the ship easily, you have to know where to go to be safe. The second one is the “abandon ship” drill. This one is tough because each person must get to her room, put on a life vest, and carry a large orange duffle bag with your “gumby” suit in it down to a lifeboat. A gumby suit is a big bulky rubbery suit that will keep you warm and dry if you have to go into the water. You put it on right over your clothes and it’s really tough to do. I was told that it will be even be harder to do in the middle of a dark and cold night! The last drill is the “man overboard” alarm. What do you do if you were to see someone fall off the ship? Three things: keep your eye on him, throw something in the water that will float like a life ring, and yell for help. Safety is a big concern when you are on a ship.

Question of the Day: How does the ship get fresh water for its passengers?

Keep in touch,

Jennifer Richards, September 6, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 6, 2001

Latitude: 30° 21.2 N
Longitude: 116° 01.7 W
Seas: Sea wave height: less than 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Visibility: 10-12 miles
Cloud cover: 8/8 (100%)
Water Temp: 21.4°C

Science Log: Since we are not in international waters yet, the scientists are not permitted to collect or record data. Many of them are spending their time calibrating equipment or working on papers that they would be writing if they were in their offices at home.

Travel Log: I have had the chance to meet a number of scientists and crew members on the ship, and each one of them really amazes me. Everyone on this ship is either a “crew member” or part of the “scientific party.” All the crew members report to Captain Dreves. They run the ship, repair and maintain the ship, and make sure we are happy and healthy. Besides the Captain, there are four additional uniformed NOAA Officers, and approximately 20 un-uniformed crew members. It takes 7 people to keep the engine in good shape, 3 people in the kitchen, 2 stewards, and the remainder are deck hands. The crew and officers are assigned to the ship for 2 year commissions, and during that time they spend 11 months out of the year on the ship, out at sea. It’s so interesting to talk with them, and to realize how unique their lives are.

Everyone in the scientific party (including me) reports to the Chief Scientist, Chris Fairall. There are research groups here from:

  • Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado
  • University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science
  • University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  • and a few others that are working in partnership with each of the groups above.

Each of the research groups has their own equipment on the ship and their own research to focus on, but they have to work together to coordinate data collection efforts. And since they are sharing bunks with their coworkers (2 people per room) they have to be able to get along with each other in tight quarters, which may get challenging towards the end of the cruise. Can you imagine being stuck on a ship with your best friend for a month, with no way to escape? After a whole month you may need a break from each other.

The big excitement for the day was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. It’s kind of scary to think we might need to do these things for real, although this is a top-notch ship with a top-notch crew, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. The abandon ship whistle consists of 6 short horn blows, followed by one long horn. We can remember this by saying “get-your-butt-off-the-ship nnnnoooowwwwww!” Six short, one long. We all have to grab a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat to protect us from sun exposure as we drift around in the ocean. We also have a life preserver and a “gumby suit” to protect us from the water chill until help arrives. The man overboard drill will be later in the cruise and consists of 3 long horn blows – “maaaan over booaarrd.”

Question of the day: The scientists on board are not allowed to collect and record data until we are out of Mexican waters. How far off-shore is the boundary between Mexican waters and International waters?

Photo Descriptions: Today’s photos show you an overview of my stateroom. They are pretty small, but efficiently laid out. Each stateroom has 2 bunks, lots of drawers, an area that can be converted into a desk, a sink, 2 life preservers and 2 gumby suits, and an inside door leading to a head. The most important thing in the stateroom is our bunk card, which tells each of us exactly where to go in case of fire, abandon ship signal, or man overboard signal.

Keep in touch,


Susan Carty, March 15, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Susan Carty
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 14 – April 20, 2001

Mission: Asian-Pacific Regional Aerosol Characterization Experiment (ACE-ASIA)
Geographical Area: Western Pacific
Date: March 15, 2001

We are off into the Pacific! Today and tomorrow we are in the trade winds, so the weather is beautiful! Seas are definitely rolling but it is really like an amusement park ride. Manageable! But, shortly we will be in the Westerlies where they say “batten down the hatches!”  Hope I have my sea legs by then.

Lots of activity on board.  Scientists getting their equipment in order. We had safety drills last night – “Man overboard” and “Abandon ship”. I received my protective gear for the abandon ship drill. Looks like an orange “Gumby “suit.  Lots of safety procedures to learn and respond to.  Ships are very dangerous places!

Sleeping was an interesting exercise. The ships anchor is not attached as securely as it might be. Therefore, we hear loud clinks and clanks during the night. The anti-roll tanks slosh water around particularly when the ship is rocking and rolling. Ear plugs were definitely a necessary piece of gear!

I will let you know what today’s experiments involve if there are any.

Talk to you soon