Patty McGinnis: Heading Home, May 29, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patty McGinnis
Aboard R/V Ocean Starr
May 20 – 29, 2013

Mission: Juvenile Rockfish Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: San Francisco
Date: Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Personal Log

I’m sitting in my hotel room where I will spend the night prior to boarding a plane for Philadelphia. I still feel the rocking of the boat, a strange, but evidently perfectly normal phenomenon. As I look back on the last week, I am flooded with memories—the smell of the catch, the constant sound of the boat engines, the feel of the ocean as she makes herself known to the Ocean Starr, the sight of a multitude of krill, and the taste of Crystal’s jambalaya made from freshly caught shrimp that had the misfortune of finding their way into our trawl.

Goodbye, Ocean Starr!
Goodbye, Ocean Starr!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time as a NOAA Teacher at Sea. In addition to developing an appreciation and deeper understanding of pelagic fish and the work that goes into managing our fisheries, I take away fond memories of my work and of the friendships forged. Although Fisheries Biologist Don Pearson, Biologist Sophie Webb, and graduate student Jamie Lee worked days, I had opportunities to spend time with each of them and learn from them.

When working the night shift, I found that our operations quickly settled into a comfortable routine thanks to Chief Scientist Keith Sakuma. Methodical and careful in his work, it was obvious how much he enjoyed taking the time to teach us and entertain us as we worked through the night. Although Lindsey, Brianna, Kaia, and Amber all have much more experience identifying fish than I do, we quickly formed a team that worked efficiently and cheerfully throughout the shift. Our work, however, would not have been possible without crewmen Rich, Nate, and Jason who braved the elements several times a night to release the trawl net and reel it back in. Rich especially enjoyed bantering with us and seeing what the trawls yielded.

everybody sorting
The night shift sorts a trawl catch
on deck
Rich worked tirelessly each night to ensure that our trawls were conducted

During my time on the Ocean Starr I also quickly came to appreciate the rhythm of the day that our marvelous ship steward, Crystal, provided. She was always ready with an enthusiastic smile and thoroughly enjoyed applying her creative energies to sating everyone’s appetites.

crystal
Ship Steward Crystal kept everyone well-fed

In addition to Crystal, I got to know several members of the crew, all who were unanimous in their enthusiasm for their work. I heard time and time again how much they enjoy traveling and meeting the various scientists that board the Ocean Starr. All of the crew was incredibly patient when answering my questions. Dale Johnson graciously explained his navigational duties and briefed me on some of the equipment he uses. He explained how he keeps a constant eye on the radar which tells him the locations of other ships in the area. He also explained the electronic chart that he uses to navigate. As much as he enjoys the convenience of the electronic chart, however, using a paper chart is still an essential skill. Dale hones this skill frequently as he plans out the route on paper and transfers it to the electronic chart.

dale
Dale explains his job to me

I enjoyed getting to know George Rayford, Jr., a QMED (engineering department) who caught the “working on the water” bug through his employment with a barge line that navigated inland rivers.

George
George always had a smile for the night shift

Captain Bud Hanson always referred to me as “Patty, Teacher at Sea.” I felt a bit like a princess with such a long title. He, too, was generous with his time and was patient with my questions. Captain Bud was delighted when I asked him if he would sign some flags that had been made by various classes in my school district—-I know that those classes are going to be thrilled when I return their little piece of their classroom that sailed with me on my adventure.

Captain Bud
The captain of the Ocean Starr

Thank you, NOAA, and thank you to my Ocean Starr friends. This past week has been an adventure I’ll never forget!

end of trip
The end of a great trip!

Patricia Schromen, August 22, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Schromen
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
August 19-24, 2009 

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Pacific Coast
Date: Thursday, August 22, 2009

Bringing in the nets requires attention, strength and teamwork.
Bringing in the nets requires attention and teamwork.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet
17 degrees Celsius

Science and Technology Log 

In Science we learn that a system consists of many parts working together. This ship is a small integrated system-many teams working together. Each team is accountable for their part of the hake survey. Like any good science investigation there are independent, dependent and controlled variables. There are so many variables involved just to determine where and when to take a fish sample.

Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.
Matt directs the crane to move to the right. Looks like some extra squid ink in this haul.

The acoustic scientists constantly monitor sonar images in the acoustics lab. There are ten screens displaying different information in that one room. The skilled scientists decide when it is time to fish by analyzing the data.  Different species have different acoustical signatures. Some screens show echograms of marine organisms detected in the water column by the echo sounders. With these echograms, the scientists have become very accurate in predicting what will likely be caught in the net. The OOD (Officer of the Deck) is responsible for driving the ship and observes different data from the bridge. Some of the variables they monitor are weather related; for example: wind speed and direction or swell height and period. Other variables are observed on radar like the other ships in the area. The topography of the ocean floor is also critical when nets are lowered to collect bottom fish. There are numerous sophisticated instruments on the bridge collecting information twenty four hours a day. Well trained officers analyze this data constantly to keep the ship on a safe course.

Here come the hake!
Here come the hake!

When the decision to fish has been made more variables are involved. One person must watch for marine mammals for at least 10 minutes prior to fishing. If marine mammals are present in this area then they cannot be disturbed and the scientists will have to delay fishing until the marine mammals leave or find another location to fish. When the nets are deployed the speed of the boat, the tension on the winch, the amount of weight attached will determine how fast the nets reach their target fishing depth.  In the small trawl house facing the stern of the ship where the trawl nets are deployed, a variety of net monitoring instruments and the echo sounder are watched. The ship personnel are communicating with the bridge; the deck crew are controlling the winches and net reels and the acoustic scientist is determining exactly how deep and the duration of the trawl. Data is constantly being recorded. There are many decisions that must be made quickly involving numerous variables.

Working together to sort the squid from the hake.
Working together to sort the squid from the hake.

The Hake Survey began in 1977 collecting every three years and then in 2001 it became a biannual survey. Like all experiments there are protocols that must be followed to ensure data quality. Protocols define survey operations from sunrise to sunset. Survey transect line design is also included in the protocols. The US portion of the Hake survey is from approximately 60 nautical miles south of Monterey, California to the US-Canada Border. The exact location of the fishing samples changes based on fish detected in the echograms although the distance between transects is fished at 10 nautical miles. Covering depths of 50-1500 m throughout the survey. Sampling one species to determine the health of fish populations and ocean trends is very dynamic.

Weighing and measuring the hake is easier with automated scales and length boards.
Weighing and measuring the hake.

Personal Log 

Science requires team work and accountability. Every crew member has an integral part in making this survey accurate.  A willing positive attitude and ability to perform your best is consistently evident on the Miller Freeman. In the past few days, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to assist in collecting the data of most of the parts of this survey, even launching the CTD at night from the “Hero Platform” an extended grate from the quarter deck.

Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.
Stomach samples need to be accurately labeled and handled carefully.

Before fishing, I’ve been on the bridge looking for marine mammals.  When the fish nets have been recovered and dumped on the sorting table, I’ve sorted, weighed and measured fish. For my first experience in the wet lab, I was pleased to be asked to scan numbers (a relatively clean task) and put otoliths (ear bones) into vials of alcohol. I used forceps instead of a scalpel. Ten stomachs are dissected, placed in cloth bags and preserved in formaldehyde. A label goes into each cloth bag so that the specimen can be cross referenced with the otoliths, weight, length and sex of that hake. With all the high tech equipment it’s surprising that a lowly pencil is the necessary tool but the paper is high tech since it looks regular but is water proof.  It was special to record the 100th catch of the survey.

Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Removing the otolith (ear bone) with one exact incision. An otolith reminds me of a squash seed or a little silver feather in jewelry.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.
Each barcoded vial is scanned so the otolith number is linked to the weight, length and sex data of the individual hake.

Questions for the Day 

How is a fish ear bone (otolith) similar to a tree trunk? (They both have rings that can be counted as a way to determine the age of the fish or the tree.)

The CTD (conductivity, temperature and depth) unit drops 60 meters per minute and the ocean is 425 meters deep at this location; how many minutes will it take the CTD to reach the 420 meter depth?

Think About This: The survey team directs the crane operator to stop the CTD drop within 5 meters of the bottom of the ocean.  Can you think of reasons why the delicate machinery is never dropped exactly to the ocean floor?  Some possible reasons are:

  • The swell in the ocean could make the ship higher at that moment;
  • An object that is not detected on the sonar could be on the ocean floor;
  • The rosetta or carousel holding the measurement tools might not be level.

Launching the CTD is a cooperative effort. The boom operator works from the deck above in visual contact. Everyone is in radio contact with the bridge since the ship slows down for this data collection.

Retrieving the CTD
Retrieving the CTD

Patricia Schromen, August 20, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Schromen
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
August 19-24, 2009 

Mission: Hake Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Pacific Coast
Date: Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ensign Heather Moe coming aboard the Miller Freeman in Port Angeles, Washington
Ensign Heather Moe coming aboard the Miller Freeman in Port Angeles, Washington

Weather Data from the Bridge 
SW wind 10 knots
Wind waves 1 or 2 feet with swell 6 feet at 10 seconds
17 degrees Celsius
Areas of fog

Science and Technology Log 

The Miller Freeman docked in the Port Angeles harbor two days earlier than scheduled. Repair was needed on the trawling net reel. Then the bow thruster wasn’t cooperating on Tuesday so departure was delayed until Wednesday. Once at sea, the ship must be self reliant 24 hours a day seven days a week.  Everyone and everything work together.  Team work and cooperation are critical. Many different careers are on board.  Smooth operation of the Miller Freeman relies on each department performing specific assignments.  Some of these departments are:

  • NOAA Corps- commissioned officers who pilot the ship
  • Scientists-oceanographers, fisheries biologists and data analysts
  • Deck Dept.-maintain the ship and launch the survey equipment
  • Engineering Dept.-operate all ships mechanical systems
  • Steward Dept.-prepare meals
  • Electronics Technician – manages ship’s computers and network
  • Survey Department – assist the scientists with data collection and equipment

Some people have PhDs while others may have acquired skills from on the job training.  Most people seem to like the challenge of solving problems like how to weld an extra guide stick with the materials on board or how to map the course to the fishing transects. The opportunities seem as endless as the vast waters of the ocean.

Personal Log 

During our safety drill, I grab these essentials from my stateroom and muster, or go to the upper deck.
During our safety drill, I grab these essentials from my stateroom and muster, or go to the upper deck.

Learning my way around the ship is one of my first tasks and everyone has been so very helpful. There are many hatches and steep ladders (stairs) to the different decks. Safety includes knowing how to exit quickly and how to put on a life suit in less than one minute.  Like a fire drill at school we will have a fire or abandon ship drill sometime today. When I hear the ship’s alarm I must go to my stateroom, grab 4 things:  my life preserver, bag with life suit, long sleeve shirt and hat then muster to the lab deck. There I slip off my shoes, shake the suit out of the bag, lay it out, sit in the middle, wiggle my legs in, kneel down, put in my left arm, pull up the hat, put in my right arm, arch my back and zip it up to my nose. With clear “how to” directions and practice given by my chief scientist, Larry Hufnagle, I’m ready for the mandatory drill.

Question of the Day 
Why would you rather load a ship at high tide?

Something to Think About 
When I departed the ship in the evening I had to walk down the gang plank but when I returned the next morning the gang plank was level.  I only had to walk straight across to board the ship.  The ship was at the exact same dock and no one moved the gang plank. What variable made the angle of the gang plank change?

Deck crew preparing to load gang plank Tuesday afternoon, 3:30 pm
Deck crew preparing to load gang plank Tuesday afternoon, 3:30 pm
This life suit looks like a good fit for me.
This life suit looks like a good fit for me.

Jennifer Fry, July 29, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Fry
Onboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman (tracker)
July 14 – 29, 2009 

Mission: 2009 United States/Canada Pacific Hake Acoustic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Pacific Ocean from Monterey, CA to British Columbia, CA.
Date: July 29, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge (0800) 
Wind speed: 10 knots
Wind direction: 345° from the north
Visibility: fog
Temperature: 14.1°C (dry bulb); 13.8°C (wet bulb)
Sea water temperature: 10.6°C
Wave height: 1 ft.
Swell direction: 320°
Swell height: 3-5 ft.
Air pressure: 1011.0 mb
Weather note: There are two temperature readings taken on the Miller Freeman. The dry bulb measures the current temperature of the air. The wet bulb measures the absolute humidity of the air; uses a thermometer wrapped in a wet cloth. The dry and wet temperatures together give the dew point and help to determine humidity.

Science and Technology Log 

Those aboard the Miller Freeman: including NOAA Corps, crew, and scientists were randomly selected to answer the following question.

How are science and the environment important to the work you do? 

Here are some of their responses:

Lisa Bonacci, Chief Scientist/Research Fish Biologist, M.S. Marine Biology   “As a Fisheries Biologist at NOAA I work in applied science. Our research provides information that managers and policy makers use to make important decisions at a national level. These decisions help the United States keep our fisheries sustainable and at the same time protect our ocean ecosystems.”
Lisa Bonacci, Chief Scientist/Research Fish Biologist, M.S. Marine Biology
“As a Fisheries Biologist at NOAA I work in applied science. Our research provides information that managers and policy makers use to make important decisions at a national level. These decisions help the United States keep our fisheries sustainable and at the same time protect our ocean ecosystems.”
Pat Maulden, Wiper, Engineering Department   “I like being part of the solution.  If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
Pat Maulden, Wiper, Engineering Department
“I like being part of the solution. If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.”
John Pohl, NOAA Oceanographer, B.S. Oceanography   “Every action has a consequence.  Science improves our understanding of the world around us and consequences of our actions in the natural world.  We are not separate from the environment in which we live. We can’t hold ourselves out of the natural world, or we will affect the balance.”
John Pohl, NOAA Oceanographer, B.S. Oceanography
“Every action has a consequence. Science improves our understanding of the world around us and consequences of our actions in the natural world. We are not separate from the environment in which we live. We can’t hold ourselves out of the natural world, or we will affect the balance.”
Steve DeBlois, NOAA Research Fish Biologist   “Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.”
Steve DeBlois, NOAA Research Fish Biologist
“Science is a methodology by which we understand the natural world.”
Jose Coito, Lead Fisherman   “I try to help the scientific research on the ship whenever I can. I enjoy my job.”
Jose Coito, Lead Fisherman
“I try to help the scientific research on the ship whenever I can. I enjoy my job.”
LTjg Jennifer King, NOAA Corps Officer, B.S. Marine Biology   “Science helps understand natural processes: how things grow, and how nature works. We need to help protect it. Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”
LTjg Jennifer King, NOAA Corps Officer, B.S. Marine Biology
“Science helps understand natural processes: how things grow, and how nature works. We need to help protect it. Science shows how in an ecosystem, everything depends on one another.”
Steve Pierce, Physical Oceanographer, Oregon State University, Ph.D. Physical Oceanography “None of this research is possible without math.  My study is a cool application of math.”
Steve Pierce, Physical Oceanographer, Oregon State University, Ph.D. Physical Oceanography “None of this research is possible without math. My study is a cool application of math.”
John Adams, Ordinary Fisherman   “Science helps you understand why things go. The environment is really important to protect because it’s the only one we’ve got.”
John Adams, Ordinary Fisherman
“Science helps you understand why things go. The environment is really important to protect because it’s the only one we’ve got.”
LTjg Oliver Brown, NOAA Corps Navigation Officer, B.S. Geology   “Understanding the processes of today to predict and sustain the systems of tomorrow.  Anything you can study: fisheries, atmospheric or any “ology”, the ocean plays a part in it.”
LTjg Oliver Brown, NOAA Corps Navigation Officer, B.S. Geology
“Understanding the processes of today to predict and sustain the systems of tomorrow. Anything you can study: fisheries, atmospheric or any “ology”, the ocean plays a part in it.”
Adam Staiger, Second Cook   “Remember to clean up after yourself.”
Adam Staiger, Second Cook
“Remember to clean up after yourself.”
Francis Loziere, Able Seaman, B.S. Chemistry/Engineering   “Studying science can help foster original thinking.  We need original thinking to save the planet.”
Francis Loziere, Able Seaman, B.S. Chemistry/Engineering
“Studying science can help foster original thinking. We need original thinking to save the planet.”
Julia Clemons, Oceanographer, M.S. Geology   “Science helps us to better understand the world we live in so we are not ignorant and live in a more responsible and aware manner.”
Julia Clemons, Oceanographer, M.S. Geology
“Science helps us to better understand the world we live in so we are not ignorant and live in a more responsible and aware manner.”
Chris Grandin, DFO, Canadian Fisheries, Biologist, M.S. Earth & Ocean Sciences   “We’re here to keep tabs on the fish resources of our planet, to ensure that there will be fish for the future generations, and to sustain our ecology.  We all need to take responsibility.”
Chris Grandin, DFO, Canadian Fisheries, Biologist, M.S. Earth & Ocean Sciences
“We’re here to keep tabs on the fish resources of our planet, to ensure that there will be fish for the future generations, and to sustain our ecology. We all need to take responsibility.”
Dezhang Chu, NOAA fisheries, Physical Scientist, PhD Geophysics   “To study science you need devotion and dedication.  It’s not something you make a lot of money at, but you can contribute good things to human society.”
Dezhang Chu, NOAA fisheries, Physical Scientist, PhD Geophysics
“To study science you need devotion and dedication. It’s not something you make a lot of money at, but you can contribute good things to human society.”
Gary Cooper, Skilled Fisherman,   “I’ve always loved the sea. You get out of a job, what you put into it. Set your goals high and you’ll be successful.”
Gary Cooper, Skilled Fisherman,
“I’ve always loved the sea. You get out of a job, what you put into it. Set your goals high and you’ll be successful.”
Melanie Johnson, NOAA Fishery Biologist   “Taking care of our environment, it’s the right thing to do. We need to live responsibility and sustainably; we can’t over fish or litter our world. If you don’t want it in your backyard, don’t put it in the ocean.”
Melanie Johnson, NOAA Fishery Biologist
“Taking care of our environment, it’s the right thing to do. We need to live responsibility and sustainably; we can’t over fish or litter our world. If you don’t want it in your backyard, don’t put it in the ocean.”
Mark Watson, Wiper, Engineering Department   “Life and science go hand in hand; you can’t have one other the other.”
Mark Watson, Wiper, Engineering Department
“Life and science go hand in hand; you can’t have one other the other.”
Ed Schmidt, First Assistant Engineer, Relief Chief   “In my field of engineering, science and math go hand in hand. You have to have both. n the science side, there are relationships between different fluids, gases, and the theories behind what make the equipment work. You need to use math to find combustion rates, horsepower, electricity produced/consumed, and the list goes on and on. Without math and science I wouldn’t have a job.”
Ed Schmidt, First Assistant Engineer, Relief Chief
“In my field of engineering, science and math go hand in hand. You have to have both. On the science side, there are relationships between different fluids, gases, and the theories behind what make the equipment work. You need to use math to find combustion rates, horsepower, electricity produced/consumed, and the list goes on and on. Without math and science I wouldn’t have a job.”

The engineers aboard the Miller Freeman are a group of hard working people. There are always engineers on duty 24 hours/ day to ensure the ship is running properly. Jake DeMello, 2nd engineer, gave me a tour of the Miller Freeman’s engine room.  Jake attended California Maritime Academy where he received his Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Engineering. He has a 12-4 shift which means that he works from noon to 4:00 p.m. and then again from midnight to 4:00 a.m.

Jake DeMello stands by the desalination machine in the Miller Freeman’s engine room.
Jake DeMello stands by the desalination machine in the Miller Freeman’s engine room.

Before taking the job aboard NOAA’s Miller Freeman, Jake worked on a Mississippi River paddle boat traveling from New Orleans north past St. Louis through the rivers’ many dams and locks.  He reminisced on one memorable moment aboard the paddleboat; the day he saw Jimmy Dean, the famous singer and sausage maker.  Jake and the other engineers do many jobs around the ship including checking the fuel and water levels throughout the day and fixing anything that needs repairing.  The Miller Freeman is equipped with a machine shop, including lathe and welding equipment.

Among the jobs of the engineer is reporting daily fuel levels including:

  • Hydraulic oil used for daily fish trawls, CTD, gantry, and winch operations.
  • Gasoline used for the “Fast Recovery Boat.”
  • Diesel fuel used for the main engine.
  • Lube oil used for main engines and generators.
We say good-bye to the hake both big and small.
We say good-bye to the hake both big and small.

Fresh water production: The ship’s water desalination machine transforms 2,000 gallons of sea water into fresh drinking water daily. The ship’s water tanks hold a total of 7,350 gallons of fresh water. Another job of the engineer is taking soundings throughout the day/night. Taking soundings means measuring the levels of liquid in the tanks.  There are tanks on both the starboard and port sides of the ship. The engineer needs to be sure that fuel levels are evenly distributed so that the ship will be evenly balanced in the ocean.

Vocabulary: Starboard: right side of the ship. Port: left side of the ship.

Personal Log 

I write this off the coast of Oregon in the North Pacific Ocean.  It has been an amazing 17 days aboard the Miller Freeman. I feel honored to have participated in NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program.  It has truly changed the way I look at science in the classroom and has given be a better understanding of how scientists conduct research on a day to day basis in the field. I am excited to have made so many learning connections between the real world of scientific study and the elementary school science classroom.  I thank NOAA, the Teacher at Sea program and the entire crew, NOAA Corps, and scientists aboard the Miller Freeman for this opportunity.

My profound gratitude goes out to the dedicated science team aboard the Miller Freeman for all they have taught me.
My profound gratitude goes out to the dedicated science team aboard the Miller Freeman for all they have taught me.

Stacey Klimkosky, July 14, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stacey Klimkosky
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 7 – 24, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, Alaska
Date: July 14, 2009

Weather from the Bridge 
Position: 55°11.664’N, 161°40.543’W (anchored off SW Ukolnoi Island)
Weather: OVC (overcast)
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind: 28 kts.
North Seas: 2-3’
Sea temperature: 7.8°C
Barometric pressure: 1021.0 mb and rising
Air temperature: Dry bulb=12.8°C; Wet bulb=10.0°C

This is a survey launch lowered to deck level on a calm day. The bow and stern are attached to the davits by thick line.  Notice how you have to step across the space between Rainier and the launch.
This is a survey launch lowered to deck level on a calm day. The bow and stern are attached to the davits by thick line. Notice how you have to step across the space between Rainier and the launch.

Science and Technology Log 

The past few days have been “typical” Alaska weather—fog, drizzle, moderate winds.  This morning I was quite surprised when I looked out my stateroom porthole.  The weather was supposed to have calmed somewhat overnight; however, it was obvious that a good blow had picked up. White caps covered the water’s surface. I was scheduled for a launch, RA-4 (each of the launches has a number 1-6, RA being the abbreviation for Rainier), but I decided not to board at the last moment.  When the launches are lowered to the side of the ship, the bow and stern (front and back) are secured with line to minimize movement.  To board the launch, you have to step across a 1-2 foot gap from Rainier to the launch. Today’s conditions amplified the heaving and pitching motion of both the ship and launch and made the distance between too far for my short legs.  I chose safety over adventure today.

As the launches continued to be deployed, Rainier began to transit from our anchorage north of Wosnesenski Island to our previous anchorage position in a small cove off the southwest corner of Ukolnoi Island. Having the flexibility to change the ship’s direction was essential for the safe deployment of launches today.  Personnel and equipment could be protected from the force of the wind and waves (which topped 6’ at times).  Although disappointed that I did not make it onto my launch, I was given an opportunity to watch the deck crew in action. I learned that this morning’s weather was some of the worst that the crew has seen during this survey season, however, work can be completed in conditions that are more blustery than today.

As a member of a survey team, you have to put your trust in the deck crew and their talents and skills. Jimmy Kruger is the Chief Boatswain. He is in charge of the deck and its crew. In a way, he is like the conductor of an orchestra—he makes sure that each member of the crew is in the right place at the right time and that they begin their job at precisely the right moment.   As the day progressed, I began to wonder how the weather data from 0700 to 1400 (2 pm) changed, so I took a walk up to the bridge. My guess was that, although there were still whitecaps on the surface, wind speed and wave height would have decreased, since we had anchored on the south shore of one of the islands (which would serve as a buffer from the wind).  It seemed to me that the weather was so much worse this morning.  Not so. The wind speed had actually increased by a few knots, although the seas had decreased by about a foot. When I am up on the bridge, I always find something new to inquire about.  It’s a busy place—not necessarily busy with numbers of people, but with instruments, charts and readings. General Vessel Assistant Mark Knighton and ENS Jon Andvick were on the bridge.

We sought a better anchorage southwest of Ukolnoi Is. when a 30 knot wind picked up. White caps cover the surface, the flag blows straight out facing aft.
We sought a better anchorage southwest of Ukolnoi Is. when a 30 knot wind picked up. White caps cover the surface, the flag blows straight out facing aft.

When you are standing on the bridge with a gusty wind coming at you, you immediately think of the anchors.  Rainier’s anchors are made of steel.  They weigh 3,500 lbs. EACH!  The anchors are attached to the ship by a very thick chain.  Chains are measured in a unit called a shot. A shot equals 90 feet, and each of Rainier’s shots weighs about 1,100 lbs.  There are 12 shots per anchor. (So, can you calculate the approximate weight of the total of Rainier’s shot? How about the total length of the chain?)  The depth of this small cove is between 9-10 fathoms.  This is important in determining the scope, or ratio of the chain length to the depth of the water. According to ENS Andvick, when a vessel drops anchor, the length of the shot cannot be the exact distance between the vessel and the seafloor.  An amount of “extra” chain must be released so that some of it sits on the seafloor, producing a gentle curve up to the vessel.  This curve is called a catenary. The extra chain allows the ship move with the wind and/or waves and provides additional holding power.  If either wind or current becomes too strong for the anchor, it will drag along the seafloor.  If the ship has too little scope it will pull up on the anchor instead of pulling sideways along the sea floor. The anchor chain lies on the bottom and when the ship pulls on the anchor it must lift the heavy chain off the bottom.  If there is enough chain that the ship does not lift all the chain off the sea floor, it will lower the effective pull angle on the anchor. By increasing the scope of chain that is out, the crew is increasing the amount of weight the ship must lift off the sea floor before pulling up on the anchor.

Personal Log 

I have to say that today was kind of an emotional one for me—because I did not go out on the launch. In a way, I feel like I let my team down.  The others who went surveying on RA-4 had to do it without me.  Even though my work as a Teacher at Sea may not be as significant as that of the crew members or hydrographers, I’m feeling like I am a part of the team more and more each day. That is in contrast to being an observer (which I still do plenty of!).  As I kept busy throughout the day on the ship, I thought about RA-4 and what they were doing, what the conditions were like, if they liked what was in the lunch cooler today? I also realize and appreciate, however, that safety is the most important practice here on Rainier and when you don’t feel safe, you should never proceed.

Did You Know? 
The crew on Rainier is organized into six separate departments:  Wardroom (Officers), Deck, Electronics, Engineering, Steward and Survey.  There are photographs of each person on board along with their name and title posted for all to see.  They are organized by department as well as a “Visitors” section.  There are several other visitors on board besides me and Dan Steelquist (the other Teacher at Sea) including hydrography students and officers from the Colombian and Chilean Navies.

Alaska Fun Facts 

  1. Pavlof Volcano is one of the most active of Alaska’s volcanoes, having had more than 40 reported eruptions since 1790. Its most recent activity was in August 2007.
  2. You can learn more about the volcanoes of the Alaska Peninsula here.

Dan Steelquist, July 7, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dan Steelquist
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 6 – 24, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Pavlov Islands, Gulf of Alaska
Date: July 7, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Latitude: 56° 20.76′ N
Longitude: 157°09.52′ W
Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles
Wind Direction: 220° true
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2ft.
Swell Waves: 3-5ft.
Water Temperature: 9.4° C
Dry Bulb: 11.7° C
Wet Bulb: 11.1° C
Sea Level Pressure: 1021.0 mb

Science and Technology Log 

The Rainier is a self-contained workstation that has many different types of jobs that need to be done. As I have arrived and settled in, I have tried to learn what jobs people do on board and how their work contributes to mission of the ship.

The workers on the ship are divided into six different departments.

  • The officers oversee the total operation of the ship. They plan the ship’s course and control the ship from the bridge while it is underway.  The officers are also involved in the survey operations
  • The Survey Department gathers and processes hydrographic survey data.
  • The Electronics Department maintains electronic equipment and electrical systems on board the ship.
  • The Stewards keep the crew fed
  • The Deck Department handles all the work on the deck including launching and retrieving the small boats. They also handle the lines when the ship is docking and they operate machinery to raise and lower the anchor
  • The Engineering Department maintains and operates the ship’s engines and generators.

There are many different career opportunities on a ship like the Rainier. Some of the jobs are similar to land based work, yet with a nautical twist. Most of the jobs require some specialized training. All of the jobs appear to be both challenging and rewarding.

Personal Log 

That’s where I’ll be living for the next 3 weeks: NOAA Ship Rainier
That’s where I’ll be living for the next 3 weeks: NOAA Ship Rainier

Wow, what an experience so far. Ship life is so much different than life on land. There is so much to learn and know. There are necessary procedures for every aspect of this world and the crew of the Rainier has been very helpful in making me feel welcome.  Once we left the dock in Seward, the importance of clear procedures became obvious. Moving this much equipment around an ocean with people living and working on board is no small feat. Everyone has very specific jobs to do and time and places they are assigned to work. I have spent much of my time finding my way around the ship and getting to know what types of jobs these people have. The trip from Seward to our work area takes about forty hours. Once there, we will begin the survey work. Our ship has been assigned the task of surveying the seafloor in some areas that have never before been charted. Once we get that work underway, I’ll be able to peer further into the world of a hydrographic survey ship. The adventure goes on…

Something to Think About 
How might the types of work on a ship like the Rainier be similar to and/or different from a closely related job on land?

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 16, 2008

Falcon
Falcon

Science Log

This bird came by for a visit. I think is a type of hawk or a falcon. Can anyone identify it for me? We have been trying but can’t seem to figure out what kid of hawk this is. In any case, it stopped by and perched on the bow just out of the blue when we were about 80 miles from shore. I wonder how it got here? Was it blown out to sea by a storm? Did it follow a ship looking for food? Is it lost? I hope it finds its way back.

It was foggy during the early morning and the ship had to blow its fog horn. I found out that ships use a code when they sail. One long blast means we are steaming ahead. One long and two short blasts means we have equipment such as nets in the water and cannot manuver as quickly. Listen by clicking here.

We found more spoon armed octopi. Can you see that one of the arms has a little spoon like object at the end? The male has an arm shaped like a spoon. Can you see it in this picture?

Octopii
Octopii
This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.
This baby skate has a yolk sack still attached to it. The baby uses the yolk as food while it grows. Usually this happens in the skate case. I wonder what happened with this little guy.
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn't it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a red gold-bordered sea star. Isn’t it amazing how many different kinds of sea stars there are in the ocean!
This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.
This is a shrimp close up. Can you guess what the blue mass is under her back end? Post your answers to the blog.

A sea anemone. This opens up and tenticles appear. They wave their tenticles in the water to collect food. When fish like Nemo, the clown fish, go into a sea anomone, it will sting the fish, so the clown fish backs in which helps it tolerate the sting.

Sea anemone
Sea anemone

Here is an interesting story: We were approaching a station where we were expecting to take a sample from the water with our nets. Do you see the note in the chart that says “Unexploded Ordinance?” (you can click on the chart to make it bigger). that means there are bombs from an old ship that may still be active! We decided to move our trawl to a nearby area. When we did, look what came up in the nets! Part of an old ship! The coordinates are Latitude: 42°27’23.65″N and Longitude: 68°51’59.12″E. Here is that location on Google Earth. What could have happened way out here? CLE students, tell me the story of that wreck. Be creative. Please print them out and leave them for me on Monday. Make them fun to read. I am bringing back what came up in the net for you to see. When I get back, we will see if we can do some research and find out what really happened!

Now lets meet Phil Politis, our Chief Scientist on board the Bigelow. I asked him to tell us about his job. Here is what he said:

chart2-740911The main job of a chief scientists is to meet the goals and objectives of the the scientific mission. In our case, that is, to pair up with the ship Albatross in as many stations as possible, following their route. My day to day job is to coordinate with the officers, and crew, setting the nets properly, make sure that the samples are processed properly and solving problems as they arise. Say we have an issue with the nets. It is the chief scientists job to decide what to do next. I can accept the tow, code it as a problem, or re-do the tow. I have to look at each issue individually. If we tear on the bottom, will it happen again? Is there time to re-tow? I also coordinate with the other vessel.

My title is fisheries biologist, but I am a specialist in the nets. My background is in trawl standardization. We have to ensure that our nets are constructed, maintained and that we fish same way each time. Small changes in nets can effect how the nets fish and that effects the study. That way we can compare this years catch to next years catch. Remember, this study is called a time series. Over time, you can see changes to fish population. The only way you can trust those numbers is if the nets are the same each time we put them in the water year after year, tow after tow. We have to document what we are doing now so that in the future, people know how and what we were doing. This way the time series remains standard. We have to standardize materials the nets are made of, way they are repaired. We inspect the nets each time we come on here. We train the deck crews in the maintenance and repair of our nets.

——————————-

IMG_6818-772778In answer to many of your questions, I will be back to SOCSD on Monday. I’ll be in WOS on Monday and CLE on Tuesday. See you then.

Mrs. Christie-Blick’s Class:

You asked some AMAZING questions. I’m so proud of you guys. Drl Kunkel was impressed as well. Here is what He told me:

You asked: What is your proof that these lobster shells are softer than other lobster shells? How do you measure hardness:

We have an engineering department at U Mass and one of the projects they have to do to become materials engineers is to test for hardness and they do an indentation test. Another way is to shoot x rays at shell and we can tell how hard it is by how the x rays scatter.

You asked: What is causing the harmful bacteria in the water?

We don’t know if they are harmful bacteria. My theory is that it could be the same normal bacteria that are on the backs of healthy lobsters. We think it is the weakness in the new lobster shells because of environmental influences south of Cape Cod that causes the trouble.

You asked: Can you get rid of the harmful bacteria?

It is possible to reverse the environmental conditions that have been created by us or by mother nature.

You are right about these sources of pollution. Good thinking. And yes, Dr. Kunkel believes that one or more of these factors may be hurting the lobsters. The problem area is south of Cape Cod. Look on a map today and count the number of cities between New York and Boston. Is this an area with a lot of people and pollution or is this an area that is sparsely populated?How would you expect this area to compare to areas where the lobster population is healthier off of Maine and Nova Scotia? Do the problem areas for the lobster and the pollution occur in the same area? If they match, scientists say there is a correlation between the two and they wonder if one is causing the other. What do you think?

Hag fish did gross me out a little. Interestingly, there is no way to determine the age of this fish as there are with others, so I’m not sure we can even tell you how long they live.

Several of you asked about the red dots on the lobster. They are a disease. It is called shell disease.

The lobster on the right is healthy. I just love this picture so I thought I would share it.

SR, the water temperature is about 16 degrees C last time I checked.

MF, nice to meet you. It is really cool to be a Teacher At Sea.

DTR, my favorite thing about this trip is working with you guys from the middle of the ocean.

MR, Snuggy and Zee are having loads of fun touring the ship.

CF: I will try to count the teeth of a fish and tell you what I find. Sometimes they are hard to see. I do not know if I am going back next year, but I hope so. I like being at sea. The truth is, I like being on land too. Both are nice. Thanks for writing.

BS: No, we find mostly adults, but some babies. Many creatures are small as adults.

BV: We have seen lots of jellyfish. We had so many we had to hose down the lab at the end of our session the other day. They were everywhere.

GS: We will continue to take samples here.

TL and Many Others asked how long we put the cups down for: We put the cups down for about 15 minutes. That includes the time it takes to lower the CTD to the bottom. When it gets to the bottom, it comes right back up. Thanks all for writing.

AS: Right you are!

Good job calculating all those who got 984 feet!

MM, I love the adventures I’m having here and the people I am meeting. It has been fun. I like being on land too.

JS, Dr. Kunkel took samples from some lobsters so he could help cure the disease.

KF: Could the hag fish bit us? Yes, Mel Underwood, our Watch Chief was very careful as she held the bag and backed her hands up when the fish got close to her hands. Mel is very experienced working with sea life and I have never seen her back off the way she did with this thing.

HRF: Go for it! It is a cool job!

CF: Good question. No, your bones are a lot stronger than styrofoam, so you would have to go down many miles to hurt yourself, and you could not swim that far without gear. When divers get hurt from pressure changes, it is usually something different called the bends. This happens when you are swim up to fast and certain gases in your blood stream expand as the pressure increases and form bubbles that can hurt you. Divers have to swim up slowly (the usual rule is don’t go up faster than the air bubbles next to you) in order to avoid getting the bends.

DC: Good questions: The dots are not bacteria on the lobster, they are the result of the bacteria eating away parts of the shell. The actual bacteria are too small to see. Good question about he temperature relating to growth. It is a bit more complex than that. There are many factors at work. The factor that may be causing more bacteria are chemicals like fertilizers from land getting into the water.

Dr. Kunkel came on board to study lobsters. He is a biologist, not a medical doctor. There are many scientists on board working with us, and me with them.

The quadrent is an old invention. People have been able to find their way with the stars for thousands of years. It is an ancient art. It was fun to practice it here.

SF, VF and others: The fish stayed in the bag. We made sure of that. From the bag, we put it back in the sea.

SD, sorry, I can’t help you there. I don’t think a pet skate would survive the trip back to NY.

Several of you have asked if I have gotten sick. No, I have not.

How many lobsters have we caught so far? Lots!

SS, sleeping on a boat if fun. If the waves are small, they rock you to sleep. If they are huge, however, they throw you out of bed!’

CP: bacteria infect the shells of the lobsters. This destroys the protection that the lobster should have. They grow weak and die of other causes. Good question!

Why do we work at night? Because ships work 24 hours a day so that no time is wasted. I ended up on the night shift. Why do we wear suits? To stay warm and dry on deck.

The hagfish eat shrimp and small fish, though they are scavengers and can eat large creatures as well.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class, you guys are doing some great work. I check on the skates for you. Some skates have protection, like thorns or spikes. They also have some interesting fins that look almost like feet. They use these to “walk” along the bottom searching for food. I know you asked about skates, but I have to mention the ray I worked with yesterday. It is related to the skate and could shock with an electrical charge for both protection and for hunting prey. Cool!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 15, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacob Tanenbaum
Onboard NOAA Ship Henry Bigelow
October 5 – 16, 2008

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 15, 2008

Using the sextant
Using the sextant

Science Log

Our study of creatures on the bottom of the sea has been done every year for 45 years. In fact, it is the longest series of data for fish, in the world. Why is this important? I asked Dr. Michael Fogarty, head of the Ecosystems Assessment Program, at the Northeast Fisheries Sciences Center in Woods Hole, MA.

Mr. T: This is the longest uninterrupted time series of a trawl survey anywhere in the world. Is that important?

Dr. Fogarty: Really important because the changes that we are observing occur over long periods of time due to fishing and climate and other factors, so we need to track these changes to see how individual fish species are doing and to see how the ecosystem itself is responding to these changes.

Mr. T: What have you found?

Processing samples
Processing samples

We have found overall in the 45 years that we have been doing this survey, the number of fish has remained the same, but the types of fish have changed. In Georges bank, we would have mostly cod, flounder in the past, now we have small sharks, skates, which are relative of the rays.

Mr. T: What does that mean in terms of the ecosystem?

Dr. Fogarty: It has changed the entire food web because, for example, these small sharks we are seeing are ferocious predators. Because these dog-fish prey on other species, they keep the fish we usually like to eat down in number

Mr. T: Why is that happening?

Dr. Fogarty: Our hypotheseis is that because the some fish have been hurt by too much fishing, the other fish have come in to take their place.

IMG_7042-735252I thought about that for a while. It means this ecosystem has been effected by something called Overfishing and something called climate change. I started wondering about all the different factors that might have effected the environment we are studying. There are so many! Let’s look at some of the may things that human beings have done that have changed this ecosystem in the 45 years we have been doing this study. Dr. Fogarty and I talked about this and then we created talked about this mini website for you. Click each problem area to learn more.

Remember the other day when I tried to use a sextant to fix our position? I could not even get close, so today, I took a lesson with one of the NOAA Corps officers on board, Lieutenant Junior Grade Andrew Seaman. Click here to come along.

IMG_6866-762848Elsewhere on the ship, Snuggy and Zee paid a visit to the dive locker on the ship. This is the area on the ship where SCUBA gear is stored. We are not using SCUBA on this trip, but it was fun to visit the locker and see all the gear. Snuggy and Zee learned that the crew can actually fill up the air bottles they need right on the ship. They have all the equipment they need to do work underwater right here on the ship.

We had a fire drill yesterday. I know you are all familiar with fire drills, because we have them at school. When we do them at school, we often practice evacuating the building and calling the fire department. Well, at sea, things work a little differently. We have to get away from danger, but then, we have to practice putting out the fire as well. After all, there is no fire department to call way out here! Click here for a video.

Finally, so many of you asked about dangerous creatures that we have caught. This torpedo ray does have an electrical charge to it. The ray can zap you if you are not careful. I used rubber gloves to keep from getting hurt. The hardest part was holding the thing while we took the picture. I kept dropping it becuase it was so slimy!

————————–

AT: I have not been frightened by anything on the ship or in the sea that we have seen. The hag-fish did seem gross. Very gross. Other than that, no.

Hi SP, I enjoy Korean food very much and have eaten lots of crab roe. It does not gross me out at all. Thanks for writing.

NV, Zee and Snuggy are just fine. Thanks for asking.

Mrs. B’s Class: I’m glad you liked the blog. We found the dead whale 100 miles or so off of Cape Cod. There are no sea snakes here. The water is too cold. I’m kind of glad about that!

Hello Mrs. Graham’s Class. I am staying nice and warm. Even working on deck, it is not too cold. We could stay out for several more weeks without a problem. Do you know what we use to make electricity? See if you can figure that out. We have to go back to port before we run out of that.

Mrs. Christie Blick’s Class: Very interesting. Our chief Scientists says that they can tell the whales don’t like barnicles because whales without them don’t behave in quite the same way.
This particular fish, which we call a monk fish or a goose fish has all the adaptations you mentioned. You did very well thinking those up. The Chief Scientist, Phil Politis and I are both impressed. He says that the fish hides in the mud (that is why it is brown), which keeps it hidden from predators. It has another adaptation, the illicium which we are calling a fishing rod. This adaptation lures smaller fish to the monkfish. Since it does not move around as much as many other fish, it can stay safer from predators.

Hello to Mrs. Coughlin’s Class, Mrs. Berubi’s Class. I’m glad you like the blog.

NN, I’ll be back next week. Because the crew and I, as well as a few birds are the only land-creatures we have seen out this far! Thanks for writing.

Hi Jennnifer. Thanks for your kind words and thanks for checking in on the blog.

Jillian Worssam, July 21, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 21, 2008

Today is “Meet the crew Monday,” and the two sections you will meet today are both fundamental to the smooth running of the HEALY. One, you never want to visit, the other you visit three to four times a day, so with that introduction meet the “Galley, with Tysin Alley” Due to the great quality of the food I usually make it to the galley at least two and in some instances for three meals a day. I am also up most nights and I do not think a day has gone by when I have NOT seen Tysin cooking. He is always there, baking pies, cleaning, boiling crab legs the man never stops.

Surf and Turf Friday, steak and crab legs. Mouth wateringly good.
Surf and Turf Friday, steak and crab legs. Mouth wateringly good.

When living aboard a floating ice breaker, kilometers from land out for 30 days you need to think of priorities, yes maps and scientific operations are important, but full bellies vital. No one wants to work when they are hungry. And to be honest I think many individuals are gaining weight, especially with four meals a day.

There is no shortage of protein on this vessel. And even after 21 days we still have fresh greens for salads.
There is no shortage of protein on this vessel. And even after 21 days we still have fresh greens for salads.

There is not a time, 24 seven when food is not accessible. Bread and the fixings for sandwiches between meals, always cereal, and in the rare instance when zoning out after midnight a possible taste of something new Tysin has created. And yes, I am one of the few who have gained weight.

The food is hot, fast and readily available, no one goes away hungry.
The food is hot, fast and readily available, no one goes away hungry.

Since we are now satisfied gastronomically, let’s talk about the Medical division, a place where no one really wants to end up, yet, the proficiency I saw today makes me feel very safe should an injury occur.

From fillings to feet and everything in between the training and skills these men have is beyond excellent.
From fillings to feet and everything in between the training and skills these men have is beyond excellent.

Jason and Corey are always on, 24 – seven and constantly available should a medical emergency occur. They work with training teams practicing scenarios involving injuries and offer classes to the crew in topics such as CPR. These responsibilities are not only their duty, but a chosen profession to care for the welfare of everyone on board the HEALY.

Spotlessly clean with numerous testing equipment these men appear to be ready to handle any emergency.
Spotlessly clean with numerous testing equipment these men appear to be ready to handle any emergency.

Both men entered the U.S. Coast Guard when they were young, and in Corey’s case 17. Both men also entered as enlisted personnel and choose to go through “A School” as Health Services Technicians. Corey and Jason are also within the five year mark for retiring, with over 15 years of amazing service to the United States Coast Guard…

While talking with Jason I was amazed to follow his Coast Guard career. Here is a sample: Oregon→Alaska→Hawaii→Texas→Nebraska→New Jersey→Virginia→Bering Sea…

…and all this with the total support, financially, and physically, from the U.S. Coast Guard. Jason was also able to not only become a Physicians assistant, but also received a fellowship to do post graduate work at the Navy hospital in Portsmith, Virginia in orthopedics.

I find the career paths of both men fascinating and an excellent recruiting example for the Coast Guard. Two men with high school degrees and now look at them, pretty darn impressive! I am hoping my students take the hint!

Well they can't work all the time!
Well they can’t work all the time!

Quote of the Day: “The art of medicine is in amusing a patient while nature affects the cure.” -Voltaire

FOR MY STUDENTS: Have you figured out yet how many career paths are available within the U.S. Coast Guard? How about in Science, have you figured out yet how many different types of scientists are aboard?

Jillian Worssam, July 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Onboard U.S. Coast Guard Vessel Healy
July 1 – 30, 2008

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Bering Sea, Alaska
Date: July 5, 2008

02becce
A pre-drill brief, to discuss props, expectations and safety issues that the trainers might see. If a real casualty happens during a drill, the ETT would let the individuals who are training take control unless there were difficulties in responding to the casualty. Remember a casualty in this respect does not infer human.

At dinner last night I was invited to meet BECCE, and after a moments confusion I realized I had not been invited to meet a person, but to observe a readiness drill.  BECCE stands for Basic Engineering Casualty Control Exercise and I was on my way to watch as the experienced crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter HEALY maintains their skills, and passes that knowledge on to new cadets (students from the CG Academy in New London, CT who are here for a month during their summer break) and enlisted personnel. There is an expression in the engineering department, “Slow it down or shut it down,” and that is what BECCE is all about.  Once a crew member on watch finds a problem it is their responsibility to report it to engineering and then take appropriate action, thus BECCE a drill.

The steps to take when there is a problem or alarm in Engineering are simple: investigate the alarm, take initial action to control the casualty, stabilize the plant and report status to the bridge.
Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak...the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT
Jet fuel has ruptured, pipe spraying leak…the circle indicates people have started to work on the leak. This Brian Liebrecht part of the ETT

This procedure might sound simple, but if 250 gallons of lube oil is rushing from a punctured pipe individuals can easily get flustered.  That is why BECCEs are such a great idea!  Drill, practice and make sure all personnel are prepared for the advent of anything, and you then have a smoother running vessel.

On a side note, as I learn more about the roles and responsibilities aboard a U.S. Coast Guard Vessel I am constantly stumped by acronyms.  The EOW is in charge of the “plant” during this drill and is being evaluated on his responses to the various “casualties”.

LCDR Petrusa (The officer in charge of all engineering on the ship) is observing and watching protocol, with the results of this drill falling on his shoulders.  Simultaneously MKC Brogan evaluates the EOWs during their drill sets.  How about CWO3 Lyons who is in charge of all machinery technicians, both main propulsion and auxiliary divisions? Do you see what I mean, lots of acronyms, and it gets confusing.   Everyone has collateral duties, and don’t even think you can figure out what an OSG is????  I also learned that there are nicknames as well, you could be a twidget (electronics technicians), or a snipe (who are mechanics), sparky (electricians), all of which are vital positions on the boat.  There is a lot of humor as well with the use of slang, for instance I wonder if anyone knows the difference between a Clean EM and a Dirty EM?
This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged...the team is discussing the situation.
This is a fuel oil leak that has not been engaged…the team is discussing the situation.

Expression of the Day: “A Clean Slate” Before we had the technology of the 21st century, and there were no onboard computers, or GPS, vital information such as course and distance were written on slates.  At the end of each watch this information was copied into the ship’s log.  The slate was then…”wiped clean.”

Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O'Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.
Chief Machinery technician Doug Lambert is addressing the casualty during his BECCE drill, while Chief Machinery Technician John O’Brogan observes and evaluates, as a member of EET team.

FOR MY STUDENTS: Can you think of any other nautical expressions we now use in everyday language?

LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry (pressure, temp, and speed) represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.
LCDR Petrusa as EO overseas operation of the BECCE exercises. On the computer you see a representation of main diesel generator set number one. Along with all live telemetry represented so that the EOW can at any time see what is going on with the engines.
Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.
Recent academy graduate Lisa Myatt is the newest member of the engineering team. A rarity as a female engineer, Lisa probably represents the less than 10% of the HEALY crew as a woman in the engineering department.
Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.
Petty Officer Hans proof-reads this journal entry to make sure that the information I have given on engineering is correct.

Lisha Lander Hylton, July 3, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisha Lander Hylton
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
June 30 – July 11, 2008

Mission: Surfclam and Quahog Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeastern U.S.
Date: July 3, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Daytime: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft.

Evening: Sw Winds 15 To 20 Kt With Occasional Gusts Up To 25 Kt; Seas 3 To 4 Ft with a chance Of showers and thunderstorms

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 10.11.10 PMScience and Technology Log 

Today, we experienced mechanical problems on the ship. I learned that this is why there are so many crew members on board. It takes the expert knowledge of many people in different careers to repair necessary equipment imperative to operate mechanical devices onboard.  The problem we had is that a power cable connected to the pump blew out.  Then they had to cut out the bad part of the cable and replace it to the power box that connects to the pump on the clam dredge.   However, adding the new cable means that we had to reconnect all of the smaller wires to the power box. Then we had to check the power to the switch inside the pump.  It took all hands on board to correct the problem, with Vic Nordahl, the chief scientist, in charge.

The problem was corrected with Vic Nordahl’s knowledge and the assistance from the chief engineer, Brian Murphy, the 1st engineer, Chris O’Keefe, the 2nd engineer, Grady Abney, along with many other crewmembers. Following is a sequence of photos that show the problem: I was amazed at the way so many people were involved in fixing the problem. The following people are crew members on board the DELAWARE II; many who helped to resolve the problem.

NOAA Crewmembers on the DELAWARE II and Their Titles and Careers 

Vic Nordahl – Chief Scientist In command of all scientific people on the ship. In command of what each person does on the survey. Has complete control of the numerous tasks involved in the survey. He teaches and explains all procedures involved in survey to new crew members and gives advice to old crew members in a very patient and very informed manner. Vic also has expert understanding in engineering, equipment maintenance and electrical mechanics and was the crucial person who solved the problem with the power cable connected to the pump. His understanding and mechanical ability enabled us to complete this survey; otherwise we would have had to return back to port.

Captain Stephen Wagner – Captain of the ship. Responsible for everything and everyone on the ship.

Lt. Monty Spencer – XO Executive Officer Second in command on the ship. Oversees all general operations of the ship and personnel. Does all the accounting on the ship, keeps the budget, take care of making sure there are sufficient personnel on all trips.

Richard Raynes – Gear Specialist Maintains all gear equipment on the ship.  Makes all fishing nets for ship.

ENS Chuck Felkley – Junior Officer of the ship In charge of safety, navigation ad driving on board the ship under Lt. Monty Spencer

Engineer Staff: (Brian Murphy) the chief engineer , the 1st  engineer (Chris O’Keefe) and the 2nd engineer (Grady Abney)

Francine Stroman – Marine Technician Enters technological data of marine species under survey.

Jim Pontz  and Mark Bolino – ABS (Able Bodied Seaman) Handle all equipment on ship’s deck department.  Lower and raise anything that goes in or out of water.

Mark Harris – High School Biology Teacher (ARMADA Teacher at Sea) Layton High School, Layton, Utah

Lisha Hylton – Third Grade Elementary Teacher (NOAA Teacher at Sea) Pelion Elementary School, Pelion, South Carolina

Patrick Bergin – Electronical Technician Takes care of all of the electronic equipment on the ship; phones, radar, computers, electronic equipment to operate ship.

Lino Luis – Lead Fisherman Radios when dredge pump is to be activated and deactivated.

Jakub Kircun – Seagoing Technician In charge of the team that takes care of the biological specimens on the ship. Maintains all computers for storing data for specimens collected.

Richie Logan – Works on back deck (maintains machinery)

Kira Lopez – Sophomore at North Carolina State University majoring in Zoology. Volunteer scientist

Alicia Long – Sea-Going Technician Takes care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Steph Floyd – Biological Science Technician Summer employee trained by the sea-going technicians to take care of the biological specimens and the equipment used to maintain them.

Erin Earley – Oiler/Wiper Assistant to engineers on ship

Jonathan Rockwell – Chief Steward Prepares and cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner for entire crew.

Walter Coghlan – 2nd chef Works with Chief Steward in preparing and cooking all meals.

Christi and Russell – College Seniors majoring in biology.

Sharon Benjamin– College Graduate majoring in biology.

Question of the Day 

How many crew members are on board THE DELAWARE II for The Clam Survey? Answer: 32

New Term/Word/Phrase: Conductive Electric Cable

Something to Think About: Vic Nordahl (at 2:00 A.M.) started thinking about and telling us possible solutions to the problem if it could not be fixed while out at sea.

Challenge Yourself : I will learn all I can about equipment maintenance and repair from the experts on board.

Did You Know? 

It is highly difficult to fix an electrical problem on a ship because supplies are limited at sea.

Animals Seen Today 

Seagulls and a Pelican

 

Clare Wagstaff, June 9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 9, 2008

CO of the COBB and a NOAA diver heading down to explore the hull of the  COBB. They took knifes with them expecting to find netting caught, but no such luck.
Divers heading down to explore the hull of the COBB. They took knifes with them expecting to find netting caught, but no such luck.

Final Log 

I write this last log sat at the dinning table in the galley of the JOHN N. COBB. The last few days have been difficult here on the ship. Unfortunately the mechanical difficulties that the vessel suffered on June 3, have proven to be a little more serious than was originally hoped. The initial diagnosis was of some sort of obstruction, probably fishing line from a trawler, caught in the propeller. After the final leg of our journey, being towed by a much larger NOAA ship, the Rainier, and then finally the last mile by a tug boat, the COBB limped into port in Juneau. Here, the CO and two experienced NOAA divers explored the hull of the ship but unfortunately found nothing obviously wrong to report. With external problems to the ship ruled out, the crew looked internally into the ship’s engine. The engine on the COBB is 59 years old. Similar types where used in the past in trains and submarines. This engine is massive, about 20ft long by 4ft wide. In fact the ship was actually built around the engine, meaning any serious problems with it are extremely difficult to get to and fix. After closer inspection by Sam and Joe, the COBB’s engineers, they discovered that the crankshaft had a large fracture in it. With only two engines of this type known to still be in use, the COBB being one of them, finding a spare crankshaft to replace it is likely to be difficult. It seems as if the COBB may have sailed for the last time under her own power.

A huge crack in the crankshaft, which is essential as it connects all the cylinders of the engine together and makes them rotate.
A huge crack in the crankshaft, which connects all the cylinders of the engine and makes them rotate.

One of the biggest aspects of our cruise was meant to be the last week: studying the haulout sites in two large glacial areas in Tracy Arm and Endicott Arm. With the COBB out of action, I decided to jump onboard a tourist cruise that took a small group of us to the Tracy Arm fjord. It has two picturesque tidewater glaciers are set at the end of this long fjord. Along the journey down the fjord, the step cliff face rises vertically out of the water.  The captain maneuvers the small boat around massive icebergs, with the thought of the Titanic always in the back of my head, I am pleased he goes so slowly. These massive chunks of ice that have broken off a glacier and can float for many miles down stream and out to open water. They can be made of ice, possibly a thousand years old, and are very impressive floating ice blocks with an intense, bright blue color. Light is made up of many colors, all blended together. When light hits an object, some of its colors are absorbed, while others pass through it. Which colors are absorbed depends on the composition of the object: what it is made up of. In this case, the densely packed ice is thick and absorbs red and yellow light, leaving only blue light to be seen. Thinner ice appears white as all light passes through it.

A massive floating iceberg located in Tracy Arm fjord.
A massive iceberg located in Tracy Arm fjord.

As we got closer to the North Sawyer glacier: seal pups galore! It seemed every direction I looked there was a mother and her pup! Dave had spoken about this area to me and pointed out things to look for. Some distance off from our boat, I could see two juvenile bald eagles sat on the ice in very close proximately to a larger seal. Apparently the afterbirth leaves pinkish / red stains visible on the ice, is a tasty meal for these birds, and they were sat there waiting for the opportune moment to enjoy it! There was though one seal that stood out for all the hundred of others. This seal had a transmitter attached to the top of his head and what I later found out to be, a heart rate monitor around its chest! The seal did look a very strange sight and was easily spooked back into the safety of the water. Earlier this season, Dave had been helping the Alaskan Fish and Game department tag seals in the Endicott Arm area, some 40 miles from here so this seal had traveled some distance. The transmitter attached to its head relays information of its location and details from its heart rate monitor. Measuring the heart rate of the seal is used to study the stress placed on the animal in regards to cruise boats and their close proximity. A seal under stress will expel more energy as it swims away from the danger. Being in the water also means that more energy is expelled in thermoregulation to maintain its body temperature. From this sighting Dave was able to report back to the Fish and Game department that this seal had been spotted, alive and well!

Just one group of many of the seals present in Tracy Arm.
Just one of many of the seals in Tracy Arm.

Although this seal did look quite funny to the human observers, it should think it lucky that it was just a little bigger; otherwise a video camera would have been attached too! Not to worry though. As the seal molts, as they do each year, the transmitter and heart rate monitor, which is glued onto the seal’s fur, will come off! While the boat was sat stationary in the water near the South Sawyer glacier, there was a loud cracking sound. This signaled a carving of the ice from the face of the glacier. It sent ice crashing into the water with some force and in turn a wave was created that sent our boat rocking. Over the 45 minutes we were there, this braking up of the glacial ice happened four times. Looking out to the seals on the ice in this area, I wondered why they would stay on the ice so close to where this was happening, as it couldn’t be a pleasant ride with all the rocking. As it happens, these seals love this area, for exactly that reason. As the ice hits the water, it mixes the water below, sending the seal’s food source such as shrimp, closer to the surface. Basically the carving action brings dinner just one step closer to them – buffet service with a great view!

A tagged harbor seal with a transmitter attached to its head and a heart rate monitor to its chest.
A tagged harbor seal with a transmitter on its head and a heart rate monitor on its chest.

I have had just the best time onboard the JOHN N. COBB. Although my cruise was much shorter than I had expected, I saw many wonderful things that I had never done so before. I think that if you have to be stranded anywhere for a week, Alaska seems like a pretty good option to me!

Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff in front of South Sawyer glacier.
Teacher at Sea, Clare Wagstaff in front of South Sawyer glacier.

Clare Wagstaff, June 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 5, 2008

NOAA Teacher At Sea Clare Wagstaff, Jon and Dave getting ready to depart the COBB in the JC-1.
NOAA TAS Clare Wagstaff, Jon and Dave getting ready to depart the COBB

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Weather: Overcast
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 6
Wave Height (feet): 0
Sea Water Temp (0C): 8.8
Air Temp (0C): 11

Science and Technology Log 

We are still anchored just outside of the native Alaskan village of Kake. Apparently another NOAA ship, the Rainier, is on its way to tug us back to Juneau late tonight. There was good news though! Dave knew of some haulout sites that he had observed and recorded data from in 2004. They were within approximately seven miles of where John N. COBB was located. So once again, we boarded the JC-1 and off we went!

Equipment on the Skiff 
The skiff is only a small-motorized boat but it can safely carry seven people and is essential in getting scientists to places unreachable by the COBB. The JC-1 is equipped with GPS, which also includes a Fathometer and depth gauge. Other basic equipment includes a magnetic compass and tachometer. Essential to any mission in the skiff is a console mounted and handheld radio so that we can stay in communication with the COBB. The operator of the skiff is required to have radio contact with the ship every hour and state our location for safety reasons. Flares, line bags and a first aid kit, all mean that our expeditions out on the JC-1 should be safe and enjoyable!

Seal Observations    
Although we saw lots of seals today, none of them from a distance of less than 200 meters. It seems these seals where much more skittish than at other areas we had previously visited and for good reason. Today’s haulout sites were within a few miles of a local village. Here, native Alaskan’s are still allowed to hunt seals. The seals we observed today seemed fully aware of their possible fate if they allowed us to get to close. On a more positive note, I am getting better at making estimates of numbers from a distance and spotting the pups in a large group. When they retreat to the water it is quite easy to spot mother and pup, as they tend to be very close together, with one head much larger than the other!

Harbor seals near Kake.
Harbor seals near Kake.

Recording the Data 

Dave Withrow uses the GPS to record new sites as well as plot routes to old sites.
Dave Withrow uses the GPS to record new sites as well as plot routes to old sites.

So what happens to all the data that we collect out at sea? Dave processes all the results we collect into a spreadsheet. Here the data is organized by ‘waypoint’ (name of location and/or latitude and longitude); it also displays the number of adult seals and pups, a long with environmental data such as tide height. Through some fancy GPS work, Dave can also record and download the route we took in the skiff, our speed and time. Plotting all this information together, gives a clear picture of patterns in the results collected. With his digital camera, Dave can also download the photos he has taken of the seals and through the wonders of modern technology synchronized them with the GPS information. This then links pictures taken at a specific site electronically to the recorded data.

In the past five years of this study, the proportion of adult seals present with a pup has remained approximately the same: 25% on rock substrate and approximately 70% on ice. Unfortunately because we have been unable to study many sites this season, the data we collected is inconclusive. However, with the effects of global climate change it seems unlikely that these percentages, particularly of pups on ice haulout sites, will continue to be as high. Adding to this data over the preceding years seems an absolute necessity for scientists to get a greater picture of the harbor seal population and its relating habitat.

A sea squirt? I will have to look it up when I get home.
A sea squirt? I will have to look it up when I get home.

Personal Log 

For the first time on the COBB, I slept through the night and well past my usual 04:00! I think I am starting to get used to this way of life. The crew on board the ship are light hearted, yet committed to their jobs: a good combination to be around onboard a ship like the COBB. Yet being stuck in Kake is really frustrating. Breaking down out at sea is not quite the same as doing it in a car: things take a lot longer to happen out here! Knowing that I will probably not get to see the glaciers, being so close is pretty heartbreaking. I’m keeping my fingers, toes and anything else crossed that the COBB gets fixed and ASAP!

“Animals Seen Today” 

While Dave and I were exploring the tidal pools on one of the small islands around Kake, we found this interesting creature. Partially buried in water, Dave dug it out to expose a rather funny shaped animal that ejected water from one end!

The bald eagle, majestic and beautiful!
The bald eagle, majestic and beautiful! 

Clare Wagstaff, June 4, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 4, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 1200) 
Weather: Overcast and light rain
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 16
Wave Height (feet): 1 – 2
Sea Water Temp (0C): 8.2
Air Temp (0C): 12

Day 4 

Oh what a rough night! Our anchor site was in a rather exposed channel just east of Warren Island and the ship was definitely rolling. So much so, I found the best way to secure myself in bed was to wedge my body in between the mattress and the woodened bed frame! At approximately 02:00 this morning the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) cutter, the Anacapa, arrived from Juneau to tow us part of the way back to port. The USCG boarded the 250-ton COBB around sunrise and secured a towing line for the long return journey.

USCG Cutter Anacapa. It towed us from Warren Channel (55054’N 133049’W) to Kake (56057’N 133056’), 90 nautical miles to Juneau!
USCG Cutter Anacapa. It towed us from Warren Channel to Kake, 90 nm to Juneau!

Disappointed that this might signal the end of the cruise, Dave and I were left with little to do but read, listen to music and partake in a few hours of whale watching as the Anacapa pulled us along at approximately seven knots. At around 18:00 the USCG left us for another mission and the COBB was once again anchored down for the night near the small town of Kake. From the ship this native Alaskan town appears very small and quite rundown, although I did see a very new looking building that said ‘High School’ on it. Now once again stranded, the responsibility falls on the CO and XO to find us another tow the last 90 nautical miles back to Juneau. But with tugboats in the area all already with a full schedule and being astonishingly expensive, it seems unlikely that the journey home will be a quick or cheap one! However, the crew and I do get cell phone reception here, so all is not lost. A quick phone call back to our loved ones helps us all feel a little better about the day’s events.

Science and Technology Log – Whale Identification 

Although Dave and I were not able to venture out in the skiff today, I was able to observe, at a great distance, a number of humpback whales. But identification of these marine mammals is not as easy as it seems. Whales are mammals in the order Cetacea, along with dolphins and porpoises. Cetaceans spend their entire life in water: feeding, mating, giving birth and raising their young in this aquatic environment. They have adapted to breathe through a blowhole on the top of the head. The species we will most commonly observe during our cruise fall into two suborders: toothed whales (Odontoceti) and baleen whales (Mysticeti).

For the huge mass that a whale occupies, rarely do you see the majority of its body for identification. To accurately identify the correct species you need to make a number of observations regarding three main areas. Identification starts with observations of the whale’s blow (expelled air), in regards to the shape, height and angle. Baleen whales have two nostrils and toothed whales have one, which influence the pattern created by the blow. If observed head on, this is a simple way to distinguish between the two suborders. So far on this cruise though our observations have been from such a great distance away (minimum of half a mile away) that it has been difficult for me, a beginner, to make any accurate observations.

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 9.01.39 PM

The next observation to make is of a whale’s dorsal fin that is located on its back and displayed, if present, when it surfaces and/or dives. If present, its size, shape and location should be recorded. The last basic observation is of a whale’s fluke and its shape. The most common whale seen in the southeast Alaska is the humpback. Protected from commercial harvest since 1966, it is still endangered and so seeing it is a very special occurrence. A humpback whale’s general characteristics are a two-nostril blow that is generally broad and bushy. It normally blows between four and ten times before diving. The dorsal fin is exposed as it blows but it is small in comparison to the rest of its body mass and located two thirds of the way along its back. Finally, its broad flukes tend to exhibit an irregular trailing edge and are displayed as it dives. The markings displayed on the whale’s fluke are unique to the individual, like that of a fingerprint, and allow scientists to track individual whale through sightings. Of course this is over simplifying things, but it gives me as a beginner a place to start!

“Did You Know” 

The Northern Right whale was named the ‘right’ whale by commercial whalers because it was easily approached, floats when killed, and is rich in oil. Today it is endangered and protected since 1935. Estimates suggest the population in the Alaska region could be as low as 100-200 individuals.

Clare Wagstaff, June 3, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 3, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 1200) 
Weather: Overcast
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 12
Wave Height (feet): 3
Sea Water Temp (0C): 8
Air Temp (0C): 10.5

Setting off in the JC-1 skiff for a morning of harbor seal observations.
Setting off for a morning of seal observations.

Science and Technology Log 

This morning Skilled Fisherman (Mills), Dave and I headed out at low tide to explore an area called Big Port Walter. This is located in the next bay over from Little Port Walter where the COBB had docked for the night. Dave had not explored this area before and so he was keen to see if there were any new locations he could record. Sure enough, not long into the ride in the skiff, we came across a rocky reef and a group of harbor seals. Carefully, Mills brought the skiff around to the opposite side of the small island for us to disembark and walk gingerly over the slippery rocks covered with kelp and algae to get a closer look at these beautiful mammals. We were careful to keep a low profile and not make any large silhouettes that could alert them to our presence.

Identifying a Harbor Seal 

The question is, who is watching whom? Seals are mammals and so have hair covering their bodies. The underbelly of the seals pictured appears still wet, but their backs have dried in the sun and so appear more fur like
The question is, who is watching whom? Seals are mammals and so have hair covering their bodies. The underbelly of the seals pictured appears still wet, but their backs have dried in the sun and so appear more fur like

The similarities between the Alaskan Pinniped species can make the initial positive identification of a harbor seal (Phoca vitulina) challenging to the untrained eye. In the locations we are studying on this cruise the only seal species likely to be encountered is the harbor seal. However, these seals still have relatives that look very similar to them. Harbor seals, sea otters, California sea lion and Steller (Northern) sea lion are all carnivorous mammals in the suborder Pinnipedia. These animals have developed adaptations for deep diving, swimming, thermoregulation, water conservation and great sensory adaptations and can be easily misjudged in the water for one another.

So how can we tell them apart? Sea lions have external ear flaps (these are absent in seals) and use their long front flippers for propulsion. Otters are generally smaller and spend a large proportion of their time floating on their backs. A seal though does not do this, has shorter front flippers and is not as agile on land. Their appearance reminds me of an over inflated sausage-shaped balloon! Graceful underwater, they struggle and look awkward on land. Dave informed me that both the male and female harbor seals appear the same size and shape, making it difficult to tell them apart. Today I observed a variety of different colors of fur, ranging from nearly all white through to nearly all black. The fur markings also vary. Spots, rings, and blotches are common variations. These colorations and fur patterns of a seal are believed to be quite random. A mother lighter and more spotted in pattern does not guarantee an offspring of the same appearance. To date, I have only observed one pup, although Dave, with his keen eyes and experience, has recorded quite a few. Pups have no obvious markings to identify them by. However, they are smaller and will be generally located next to its larger mother, possibly even suckling. Although seals tend to haul out in large groups for safety, the mothers of particular young pups may be located towards the edge of the crowd.

The disused factory in Large Port Walter.
The disused factory in Large Port Walter.

Further Exploring 

We recorded a total of 17 seals and three possible pups this morning but our exploration didn’t end there! Further down into the bay we came across an old abandoned salting or canning factory probably for Herring, estimated to be from around the 1950’s. Broken down and severely rusting from the extreme elements and the effects of saltwater, it looks like something from a sci-fi movie! Its location here was probably due to the ready supply of fresh water from the impressive waterfalls and fast running stream close by. Its sheltered location probably protected it from the bigger storms and the deep water of the bay would have meant larger ships could have transported goods easily to and from it. 

NOAA Teacher At Sea, Clare Wagstaff, in her survival suit on the beach at Lovers Cove, Big Port Walter.
NOAA Teacher At Sea, Clare Wagstaff, in her survival suit on the beach at Lovers Cove, Big Port Walter.

Personal Log 

Today has been full of highs and lows. Seeing my first group of seals up close was something magical! Although we only observed them for approximately ten minutes, to see them so close and in the wild was amazing. Each seal seemed to have a personality. One scratching its face, another making grunting noises at another seal that appeared to be too close. As Dave and I sat there, it became obvious that a few of the seals were aware of our presence, their heads poking up looking at us. It made me wonder, who was really studying whom?!

Disaster on the COBB! 

Unfortunately, the rest of the COBB’s day was not so successful. Around 17:00 hours the crew heard a loud gratering sound coming from the ship as we were making our way to San Fernando Island. According to CO Chad Cary, a propulsion casualty has left us now anchored near Warren Island (550 54’N 1330 49’W) and the US Coast Guard is in transit to tow us part of the way back to Juneau. Hopefully, there a dive team will be able to assess the damage to the ship. If the damage is minor and easily repairable, then we will resume the mission focusing on last leg of the planned trip, the glacier area. But things aren’t looking too hopeful and we will probably be docked back in Juneau for sometime. Selfishly I don’t want to go home yet. There is so much to see here that three days is not enough! Looks like tomorrow will be a long day. 

Clare Wagstaff, June 1, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Clare Wagstaff
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1-14, 2008

Mission: Harbor seal pupping phenology and critical habitat study
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 1, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge (information taken at 1200) 
Weather: Overcast
Visibility (nautical miles): 10
Wind Speed (knots): 15
Wave Height (feet): 1
Sea Water Temp (0C): 13.4
Air Temp (0C): 11.3

Science and Technology Log 

The first morning on the JOHN N. COBB started early. I am a little apprehensive about the cruise. I have never been on a ship for any great length of time, so this will truly be a test of my sea fairing legs! Today will be a full day of traveling to Tebenkof Bay, situated south of Juneau it is reached by traveling down Stephen’s Passage and through part of Chatham Straight. The COBB travels at maximum of ten knots an hour. The wind, currents, sea conditions, the ship’s hull speed and horsepower can all affect this speed. This means that it will take us approximately 13 hours to reach our destination. My stateroom is located on the main deck and is next to the galley (the kitchen). Here three hearty meals are produced each day for the crew. The ship has three decks, with sleeping quarters spread out over all the levels. The crew generally works in rotation with six hours on, six hours off, to maintain the COBB. This requires all aboard the ship to be considerate of others sleeping at any hour of the day or night. The amenities on the ship are basic but comfortable and include two toilets (called the ‘head’), and a shower. The COBB carries all the water it requires for the entire two weeks cruise, so water conservation is a high priority. No long showers for anyone! On the upper deck is the bridge. It is here that the Commanding Officer (referred to as the CO or Captain) and Executive Officer (XO) control the vessel.

The JOHN N. COBB Crew 

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 8.57.48 PMChad Cary, Commanding Officer (CO) 

Has authority over all embarked personnel and employees whenever aboard ship. Chad has been ‘Captain’ of the JOHN N. COBB for just over two years and is also the Safety Officer, so he has a lot of responsibility. He has a science background with a degree in Environmental Science and a Masters in Geography. Chad states that being away from his home and family is the hardest part of the job, especially as he is about to become a father for the first time very soon!

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 8.57.55 PMJesse Stark, Acting Executive Officer (XO) 

Second in command to the CO and has primarily administrative duties. Jesses has 20 years of experience working on fishing vessels and ferries. He has a degree in Wildlife Management and thinks the one of the best aspects of the job is having the open water as his office.

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 8.58.01 PMBill Lamoureux, Chief Steward (CS) 

Responsible for provisioning, feeding and berthing of the ship. Bill has worked for many years onboard a variety of vessels, including an Alaskan king crab ship further north. Bill always provides a feast for all those aboard and his homemade soups each lunch are legendary.

wagstaff_log2cMills Dunlop, Skilled Fisherman 

Participates in any required onboard activities necessary to complete the ships mission. Deploying and retrieving of equipment and personnel. This is Mills’ first season aboard the COBB, but he has been raised on the water all his life. With a witty personality, Mills comments that being on the water is both the most enjoyable and worst aspect about being a crewmember!

wagstaff_log2dDave Taylor, Fisherman 

Participates in any required activities necessary to complete the ship’s mission. Dave is in his second season working on the COBB. The biggest advantage to working at sea is his constant access to his favorite past time, fishing! In fact last year Dave caught an 110lb halibut off this ship!

wagstaff_log2eDave Withrow, Chief Scientist  

Shares the response with the Commanding Officer for the success of the mission. Dave has many years experience in research, having a degree in fisheries and psychology, he completed graduate work on Steller sea loins and was also as a killer whale trainer at an aquarium in Washington State. Dave has many fascinating stories about his research adventures: he needs to write a book!

Safety Is the Top Priority! A safety drill is required to take place within the first 24 hours at sea for “Abandon Ship” and “Fire”. Abandon ship is signaled by seven or more short blasts, then one long blast on the ship’s whistle, followed the announcement to abandon ship. The procedure in this instance is to report to your assigned life raft on the bridge deck. You should be wearing long sleeves, gloves and a hat, and bring with you your survival suit. This bright orange suit can protect a crewmember in the cold Alaskan waters for up to three days. In addition to aiding as a floatation device and protection from the cold, its bright orange color and strobe light gives the person wearing it, in the case of an emergency, the ability to survive in the harshest of conditions until rescued.

wagstaff_log2fPersonal Log 

I was initially surprised at how many people it took to operate a vessel such as the COBB. Having seen the ship in action for a few hours now, I can see why they are all needed. Technically there are many aspects to running a ship safely. Jobs include, but are not limited to: navigating the vessel, maintaining the engine room and feeding the hungry crew.

It functions like a small army, with everyone in their place doing their specific job. Each person is necessary for the others to operate and complete their tasks. I do feel a little out of place at the moment, as I am yet to do anything to help the crew or Dave. I am sure over the next few days though that will change. Everyone has been very patient with me repeatedly asking questions about every aspect of the cruise: “How do you know that was a Humpback Whale?” “What is a Fathom?” “Why do you measure distance in nautical miles rather than land miles?” “Which side is port?”

It’s only the first day, yet while standing on the bridge we spot a humpback whale! At some distance off, the crew assured me that that wouldn’t be the best view I would get of one, but I was still very excited! What a truly amazing place and beautiful day!

Question of the Day for Miss Wagstaff’s Science Class  

In science you are constantly asked to provide evidence to support you ideas and conclusion. With is in mind: which job aboard the COBB do you think is the most important? Be able to support you decision.

Methea Sapp-Cassanego, July 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Methea Sapp-Cassanego
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
July 19 – August 8, 2007

Mission: Marine Mammal Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: July 19, 2007

NOAA Ship Delaware II
NOAA Ship Delaware II

Delaware II: Ship Specifications 
Length: 155ft
Breadth: 30ft
Draft 16.6 ft
Hull: Welded steel
Displacement: 891 tons
Cruising Speed: 10 knots
Range: 5,300 nm
Endurance: 24 days
Commissioned Officers: 4
Licensed Engineers: 3
Crew: 10 Scientists: 14 (Max)
Launched: December 1967
Commissioned: March 12th 1975
Builder: South Portland
Engineering, S. Portland Maine

I arrived in Woods Hole Massachusetts at 10:30 pm and rolled my luggage up and down the main street trying to find the DELAWARE II.  Following a not so encouraging conversation with a bus station security officer who said to me “The DELAWARE II never docks here”, I managed to indeed find the ship that would be home for the next 3 weeks.

A large tiger shark awaits examination and tagging
A large tiger shark awaits examination and tagging

Over the course of a calendar year, the DELAWARE II will be at sea for ~200 days during which a crew of 17 will attend to her maintenance and operation.  Most of its crew members are hired via the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA; 6 of which work on deck, 4 others serve as engineers, 2 work in the galley, 1 serves as an electronic technician, and 4 more are NOAA  Corp officers. These officers are in charge of ship operations and manage all other operations which are carried out on board.  The DELAWARE II conducts a variety of fishery and marine resource research in support of NOAA. The ship has also been utilized to carry out research conducted by private entities, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the US Geological Survey in addition to other government agencies and universities.  Typically DELAWARE specializes in 5 different survey projects which are as follows:

DELAWARE II: Surveys

The Northeast Ecosystems Monitoring Survey monitors the Northeast continental shelf by assessing both its physical and biological aspects.  For example, one of the methodologies employed during this survey uses a set of Bongo tows which are designed to catch plankton, small fish fry, larvae, and other small invertebrates.  These minuscule creatures are the foundations for most of the ocean’s food webs and therefore their populations are used to indicate and predict the overall health of the ecosystem.  The Northwest survey is conducted on a repetitive basis so that these populations may be monitored over time, thus enabling researchers to monitor changes over time.

A smaller tiger shark will receive a tag before being released as part of the ongoing Apex predator survey
A smaller tiger shark will receive a tag before being released as part of the ongoing Apex predator survey

Apex Predator Survey is conducted every three years and is designed to assess the relative abundance, distribution, population structure, species composition, and to tag sharks so that migration patterns may be studied.  Sharks are captured via longlining and then released after tagging and biological samples have been gathered.

Atlantic Herring Hydroacoustic Survey combines a variety of advanced technologies including multi-frequency echo integration, omni-directional sonar, and underwater video to assess hearing populations. The stability of herring populations is central to the sustainability of many commercial fisheries as well as the ecosystem as a whole.

Ocean Quahog and Surf Clam Survey conducts dredges through the silty and/or sandy portions of the ocean floor where these filter feeding bivalves dwell. Such dredges enable researchers to calculate relative abundances and thus derive sustainability yields.  Since both the ocean quahog and surf clam are edible bivalves, they are of commercial value and contribute to the economic stability of the Atlantic fisheries.  The surf clam is especially coveted in the restaurant and other food industries for making clam strips and chowders. The ocean quahog has a stronger flavor and is used in recipes where the clam is used in conjunction with other strong flavored ingredients like pasta dishes.  (who knew you would get a cooking lesson here) Also of significance is the reproductive biology of the quahog: This bivalve is extremely slow growing and long lived, it does not reach maturity for 20 years and will live up to 200 years.  Those that are eaten are typically between 40-100 years old.

Marine Mammal, Large Whale Biology aims to examine the relative abundance and distribution of the Atlantic’s large whales.  A variety of data gathering methodology is used, ranging from visual and photographic recording to biopsy sampling for genetic studies. Studies which focus on the whales’ food abundance are also included in this survey.

Commanding Officer (CDR) Richard Wingrove
Commanding Officer (CDR) Richard Wingrove

So who’s in charge of all this nautical navigation and science? As one can imagine there is allot going on aboard the DELAWARE II at any given time.  Of course, numerous highly trained personnel insure that the engines work, that everyone gets three meals a day, that the toilets flush, that scientific protocols are being met, and that we are on course. But one individual is ultimately responsible for the coordination of these individual efforts. During my tenure aboard the DELAWARE II that role was fulfilled by the Commanding Officer (CDR) Richard Wingrove.  CDR Wingrove has spent a lifetime working in, and studying marine environments.  After earning a degree in Marine Science from the University of Miami, the Commander joined the Peace Corp and was stationed on the Caribbean island of Antigua. As a fisheries officer for the Peace Corp, his job was to monitor fishing practices while helping fishermen develop and implement techniques that would improve their catches. Following his service in the Peace Corp, CDR Wingrove went to work as a Satellite Oceanographer for the private sector; it was during this job that he happened to attend a conference and met a NOAA officer:  Soon after, it was on to officer training school in Fort Eustis, Virginia where after 5 months of training, officers emerge with the foundational knowledge to navigate the seas and drive a ship.  

Following completion of officer training, CDR Wingrove was appointed to the NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN which is stationed in Alaska.  After enjoying the northern latitudes for two years, NOAA then sent him back to his home state of Florida where he worked in the Looe Key National Marine Sanctuary.  Following two years in the sanctuary he returned to the Western Seaboard and set to work on the NOAA Ship JOHN N. COBB which is stationed out of Seattle.  Again, after two years of surveying salmon, killer whales and other marine mammals CDR Wingrove was headed back to the Eastern Seaboard. This time he would spend three years based in Miami where his job was to oversee oil spill responses for South Carolina, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean.   As he explained to me, working to clean up such an event is a rather delicate job since each of the involved entities including the company who spilt the oil, state agencies, federal agencies, and community leaders are each represented by their own biologists, ecologists, scientists, and researchers which then assess the spill, evaluate its impacts, and determine how the clean up should be executed. CDR Wingrove’s job was to take all the data and information presented to him by each of the involved parties, and then coordinate their findings in order to determine a course of action for clean-up, as well as monitor the clean-up process.

After three years of cleaning up other peoples’ messes CDR Wingrove was appointed as Executive Officer aboard the NOAA Ship DELAWARE II. He worked aboard the DELAWARE for two years before being sent to the Great Lakes area where he spent another three years coordinating the clean-up oil spills.  Then once again he was headed back to the DELAWARE II this time as the ships Commanding Officer.  CDR Wingrove will finish his service aboard the DELAWARE II in May yet he does not know where NOAA will send him next.  Regardless of the locale I have little doubt that CDR Wingrove will continue his legacy of service to the natural world and to all whom benefit from healthy seas.

Maggie Prevenas, May 8, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: May 8, 2007

Science Log

During this scientific mission to the ice pack of the Bering Sea, I have met many new creatures. Let me introduce you to yet one more.

**Dr. David Hyrenbach**

Scientific name: *Hyrenbachia daveediosus PhD***

Where does Dr. David live? Dr. David lives in Greenlake, slightly north of down-town Seattle. In the summertime he migrates down to central California to rendezvous with black-footed albatross. During the school year he forages around the University of Washington.

Dr. David Hyrenbach has spent two years coordinating the BEST research mission.
Dr. David Hyrenbach has spent two years coordinating the BEST research mission.

How many Hyrenbachs are there? Just him. He is an only child, however, there are close species in Spain and in France.

What are Dr. David’s identifying characteristics? David is an exemplary teacher. He is able to take complex ideas and explain them to others. He hangs out with Carleton, the walrus puppet. He is often seen carrying binoculars and on Sundays he wears his green penguin shirt.

What does he eat? David totally enjoys curry and coffee. He consumes bananas and his favorite vegetable is bok choy with tofu and soy sauce. Mahi mahi is one of his favorite fish to eat.

Dr. David dons the MS 900 survival suit prior to his flight in the helicopter.
Dr. David dons the MS 900 survival suit prior to his flight in the helicopter.

How was Dr. David educated? He went to high school in Spain. At 17, he was a YFU (Youth for Understanding) exchange student in Saint Paul, Minnesota. After that, he went to the University of California San Diego and earned a Bachelor’s degree and PhD in ecology and oceanography. Then he went to the Duke University Marine Laboratory in North Carolina. In 2005, he returned to the west coast to the University of Washington.

How old is he? Dr. David has lived 37 years; longer than a ribbon seal. His main predators are mosquitoes, viruses, and possibly zombies. There seems to be little interaction between him and cigarettes or any tobacco products.

Dr. David Hyrenbach wears the albatross hat.
Dr. David Hyrenbach wears the albatross hat.

Do you know what is really cool about Dr. David Hyrenbach? He owns an albatross hat that his mother has made for him. It comes in very handy when he has to pick up other species at the airport.

He moves about the city by bus or by flex car. He really likes the flex cars because they are mostly hybrid cars and are gentle on gasoline.

He enjoys silly walks, especially when he launches from the curb.

Dr. David likes to hang out at the arboretum. He frequents Freemont, where there is a large troll statue that is of great interest to him.

Dr. David has a commensal relationship with Chorbiken, the beanie baby.

Why do we know so little about Dr. David Hyrenbach? Dr. David is an elusive being. He is always running around. The only place he sits is in his office. The best way to find him is by e-mail.

Take the Dr. David Hyrenbach quiz! Write the number of the question with the letter of the best answer on any ‘Ask the Team’ comment form. Make sure to include your name ? Thanks!

Which of the following is true?

a. David drives his big SUV smoking a cigarette on his way to work. b. David works at a circus training chickens to play the piano c. David thinks the Bering Sea is boring d. None of the above

Which of the following animals is David’s favorite?

a. cockroach b. centipede c. Black footed albatross d. mosquito

What would David order from the following menu?

a. seal steak b. steak tartar c. spoiled milk d. mahi-mahi

What does Dr. David like to do more than anything else in the whole wide world?

a. Make money b. Teach the next generation to be stewards of their environment c. Smoke cigarettes d. Super glue his fingers together

Why has David spent two years coordinating the BEST (Bering Sea Ecosystem Study) program?

a. So he can make money to buy cigarettes b. To understand how the Bering Sea Ecosystem will respond to global warming. c. To find the Seattle Seahawk. d. To put on MS 900 survival suits

Maggie Prevenas, April 18, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 18, 2007

Ship Crew: Lee Harris, Native Alaskan

I ate breakfast this morning with Lee Harris, a member of the National Marine Mammal Lab, NOAA’s ice seal team. Lee is also an Inupiat Eskimo. I enjoy listening to and learning about what he says. It is obvious in the harsh Arctic environment, that Native people have the edge in making observations and finding the ice seal. After all, they have been living in the Arctic and sharing their environment with ice seals their entire lives.

Lee’s village is Kotzebue, Alaska, a small town about 30 miles north from the Arctic Circle. Many of the people there rely on the native animals for their food, boats and some clothing. It didn’t occur to me until I talked with him this morning, that he had to make some major changes to his lifestyle in joining this scientific expedition.

These French pastries are not a regular part of Lee’s diet
These French pastries are not a regular part of Lee’s diet

Take eating and diet. I piled the fresh pineapple, melon and strawberries high in my bowl, and spooned strawberry yogurt over the fruit. Two warm hard-boiled eggs gave me a little protein boost, to keep me going until lunch.

Lee is quite good at driving the zodiac.
Lee is quite good at driving the zodiac.

But the food on the ship is not ordinary for Lee. He told me dried caribou, seal meat, and walrus are what he enjoys. The Native Alaskan diet needs to be high in protein and energy in order to sustain their active lifestyle and brutal cold weather. High in cholesterol, unhealthy? No way! Lee has been told he is as healthy as can be by the doctor in the local clinic. By far, more healthy than some youngsters that stray from the traditional diet and consume fast foods and white sugar.

Lee can spot seals really well. He knows where they hang out from experience.
Lee can spot seals really well. He knows where they hang out from experience.

I have lots to learn from Lee. His quiet way of talking and humble nature are as natural and true as the ice seals presence here in the Bering Sea.

Maggie Prevenas, April 12, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 12, 2007

Ship Crew

Ray Sambrotto is the PI (principal investigator) for this expedition. His job, besides doing investigations in the lab, is to coordinate the entire BEST mission. He has to meet daily with the Coast Guard Officers, check accountability and coordinate sampling, but there is a lot more.  He is constantly on watch to fix potential problems that might arise. And they do arise.

Dr. Sambrotto works with two scientists, Drs. Cal Mordy and Nancy Kachel to coordinate sampling.
Dr. Sambrotto works with two scientists, Drs. Cal Mordy and Nancy Kachel to coordinate sampling.

So we needed a point of contact, to run communication and requests between the very busy scientists and us. David Hyrenbach, from the University of Washington, is acting as our liason with the scientists on the BEST cruise. There are so many scientists and so many projects, we needed organization to help us learn who is who doing what and when and maybe why.

David Hyrenbach is our education liason.
David Hyrenbach is our education liason.

He steered us in the direction of creating a table of rotation visits to the various scientific teams on board. We used the theme of ‘Energy and Matter Transfer Through the Ecosystem.’ We divided all the teams into where they fit in the ecosystem.

Easy enough?

But in reality, it doesn’t work that way. Some scientists might have equipment malfunction. Some might have sample contamination or lack of a sample. There are many ways things can go wrong. And they do. When that happens, they go to a holding pattern and regroup. All scientists suffer setbacks. It matters not that you have had extensive meetings, done problem solving, and communicated with everyone that needs to know. This is science. And anything that might happen will happen.

Working to prep equipment
Working to prep equipment

In science, you need to have a backup plan, and then another backup plan. If something happens to Plan A, continue the experiment with Plan B. If Plan B goes down, take up Plan C.

Dr. Cal Mordy was my first rotation scientist. He is testing the water for certain nutrients. The data he gets is important for many of the scientists on this mission.
Dr. Cal Mordy was my first rotation scientist. He is testing the water for certain nutrients.
Making observations from the bridge is an enjoyable task.
Making observations from the bridge is an enjoyable task.

After all, this is science.

Jenny Holen, September 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 20, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 2 miles off Keauhou, Hawaii
Depth: 77.75 m or 233 feet
Water Visibility: Clear & gorgeous
Water Temperature: 26.61 C
Salinity: 34.59 PSU
Wind Direction: 223.02, south-west
Wind Speed: 4.01 knots
Air Temperature: 26.5 C
Cloud Cover: rain clouds in distant above islands hills

Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise aboard the SETTE.
Vials of preserved mahi-mahi larvae captured with an Isaacs-Kidd net off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii, during a plankton research cruise.

Science & Technology Log

Yesterday, the routine was very similar to Monday. The NOAA ship was 45 miles out, performing plankton tows from 6 a.m. to about 7 p.m. We did not catch much billfish larva or eggs, but we did catch a lot, I repeat, a lot of little fish.  We were even catching baby tropical fish that must have got caught on the giant seaward current that runs offshore of the big island. Unfortunately, I got very sea sick “again” mid afternoon, and wasn’t able to do much but take photographs of the plankton.  I did how ever, get some “killer” microscopic photography shots and some very cool, short videos of live plankton species in action.

OSCAR ELTON SETTE traveled through the night and we finally got back to the Kona coastline, about 1-2 miles offshore, where it was calm. I, finally, got to sleep that night without being seasick! In the morning, the island rose out of the mist and exposed beautiful hues of tropical greens against the dashing blue sky and crystal clear turquoise waters. Today, sadly our last day, we are performing plankton tows amongst the coastal “slicks.” Now what is a slick you ask?  Well, according to Russell, one of the lead scientists with us from La Jolla, California, the slicks are formed due to wind currents coming off the island that gently push down on the water’s surface forming a glassy phenomenon amongst a rippling environment.  Here, due to the stillness and protection, millions of larva fish and some human trash harbor.  The fishermen who are catching baitfish usually troll their nets through here.  The interesting aspect that Russell talks about behind these slick communities is that they “are aged.”  Some are very young because the spot has been recently open, and some are more mature and older because nothing has bothered them.

TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net
TAS Jenny Holen getting ready to repeat the hourly toss, from sunrise to sunset, of the Isaacs-Kidd net

Today, we hunt through these slicks in hopes of finding billfish marlin eggs and larva. We hit one slick that gave us a bunch! Then we spent the rest of the day getting nothing, and hunting for that original slick. I got many more photographs with my Olympus Mic-D microscope of which both Bob and Russell got copies. One fun thing the scientist and I did today was “pose” in the laboratory for National Geographic pictures taken by David the author of Archapelago. We were still searching for eggs in the newly caught plankton and doing our work, he just made the station and set-up look good.  It would be SO cool to end up in an article of National Geographic. That I’ll have to show off and frame!  At 3 p.m., I left the ship in view of waving hands and smiling faces from all the crew.  It was sad, but what an unforgettable experience I have had these past four days.

Personal Log 

After being sick for the last 2 days, barely being able to walk through the ship to my room, let alone type on a computer, I finally took some Bonnie medicine from the ships nurse, Sarah. After three days out at sea, doing the same thing every day, every hour, I start to realize the required monotony and dedication of scientific research. In order to accomplish a desired goal of finding out a particular question, such as which billfish eggs and larva turn into which adult species; a lot of repetitive analysis and trials must be done in order to come to a clear consensus or even obtain part of an answer to the overall question. Having been a tall ship sailor for two years, my mind wonders to historical maritime scientific expeditions, such as the three-year voyage of H.M.S. Challenger in the 1800’s; John Steinbeck’s journey through the Sea of Cortez; Darwin’s five-year Galapagos voyage on the H.M.S Beagle; and even to Nathanial Bowditch grasping celestial navigation with no background experience out at sea.  These men not only had to endure environmental changes of heat, wind and rain while trying to collect scientific samples, but also had to compensate research time versus sailing obligations when seas became rough, or duty called. Imagine, instead of simply taking pictures of the plankton found (with your Mic-D microscope), you had to literally draw each organism with only a magnifying glass as an aid.

It is just incredible how far we, as mankind, have come towards uncovering the mysteries of the ocean within only the past 200 or so years.  Yet, it is even more astounding to know how much we have yet to still uncover.  Imagine a plate showing only a 10% sliver of a colorful picture underneath. There is no way we would be able to guess what the picture is displaying. This is our world’s ocean knowledge.  There is so much work to be done and to discover that it is essential for the next generation and the one after that to know that they can still be a Jacques Cousteau or a Charles Darwin, discovering and revealing secrets only the giant whales can see.  Imagine marveling at a newly discovered specimen in admiration of the diversity of the sea.  As with all maritime sailors, ocean goers, and even pirates, the ocean is our home.  I had an opportunity on the NOAA ship OCSAR ELTON SETTE to simply look closer at it and view its secrets for just a brief moment along the great span of time.

TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.
TAS Jenny Holen taking a break from the rigorous microscopic search for billfish larva and eggs aboard the SETTE 45 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii.

Question of the Day 

“How does a Hawaiian sunset make a green flash?”

According to Karl Mangels the Commanding Officer of the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE, a green flash is due to an angle refraction of light from the sun as it is setting.  Only to be seen in the tropics during clear skies, the angle at which we are positioned on the earth compared to where the sun is creates a light refraction where we see a green spot were the sun just set. Kind of like the colors of rainbow’s and rain.  In accordance with Hilo’s Bishop Museum, “as our atmosphere bends the sun’s rays, they are also dispersed or broken up into different colors.” Green flashes are thus the result of “colored arcs of light above and below the bright orange disk of the sun.”

Jenny Holen, September 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 18, 2006

Weather Data From Lab 
Location: 40 miles out from the Big Island of Hawaii
Depth: 4099 meters or 12,297 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.21 C
Salinity: 34.77 PSU
Wind Direction: 335.29 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 11.54 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.6 C
Cloud Cover: Cloudy

NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.
NOAA researchers aboard the SETTE, cleaning off the residue plankton still attached to the net into a plankton container.

Science & Technology Log 

The plankton tows have not been as successful as the chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, would have liked. Few billfish larva and eggs have been found, and more are needed to generate a genetic analysis sample.  Bob believes this might be due to an eddy that is forming about 45 miles off shore, swooping the plankton out there. As we slowly start to migrate offshore, we are still obtaining plankton samples every hour until sunset.  Today, instead of helping to look for billfish eggs, I took microscopic plankton photographs with my Mic-D microscope given to me by NOAA’s South East Plankton Monitoring Network program, in South Carolina.  These individual plankton species photographs will be a get asset to the lesson plans I am generating from this research expedition of which could ultimately be used by teachers all over the world through NOAA’s website.

The plankton samples that we got today were almost the same as they were yesterday, nothing too new. However, I did get some background information on why this particular study is so crucial to the future survival of large billfish, such as Marlin.  Currently, some scientists believe that blue Marlin may be migrating between Hawaii and South America, but others are still not sure. Hawaii is a nursery ground for the larval and probably juvenile stages. Adults are migratory and apparently have a magnetic sense that allows them to migrate across to South America where there may be higher food nutrients. The importance behind obtaining this knowledge is to help conserve the declining population due to commercial and sport fisheries. If we knew where the mothers primarily spawn and if there are resident verses transient populations, than we could gain a better grasp of their overall ecology, life cycle, and habitat range. Unfortunately, the farther away from the island you go to get this valuable data the less protected you are from wind and large waves. Hence, at about lunchtime I got extremely seasick and was out of commission for the rest of the day.  I hope enduring all of the rocking and rolling will give rise to better plankton samples tomorrow!

Recommended books:

G. Wrobel & C. Mills.  1998. Pacific Coast Pelagic Invertebrates.

Monterey Bay  Aquarium Publisher, California.  (ISBN0-930118-23-5)

D.L. Smith.  1977. A Guide to Marine Coastal Plankton and Marine

Invertebrate Larvae. Kendall/Hunt Pub.  Company, Iowa. (ISBN0-8403-1672-0)

Personal Log 

Once again, I am amazed to witness and be part of a science research expedition that portrays through every member of the ship, from the cooks to the deck hands and Bridge Officers, the enthusiasm and positive attitude for the current research at hand.  Everyone here is extremely helpful, especially when I got sea sick and ending up hurling in a bucket in the kitchen. The professionalism is evident by everything they do, which gives an air of importance towards the research being done.  I wish more people, teachers, and high school to college students could participate in an experience like this.  It takes the illusion of scientists being a far away myth to being a regular Joe who cares about the environment and the conservation efforts towards the animals it holds.

Another cool thing about this trip is that the author from the acclaimed book Archipelago (the North West Hawaiian Islands) is here on the ship taking photographs of all the unique plankton we are catching for a National Geographic article.  I think that is amazing to know that not only is this research voyage being documented by NOAA scientists, but that the world will get to see and learn about plankton through journal media.  Education is the key to conservation.

NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations (less seawater) which will be viewed underneath microscopes aboard the SETTE.
NOAA chief scientist, Bob Humphreys, taking the freshly caught plankton and transferring it from a funnel into quart bottles, to be later filtered again into higher concentrations which will be viewed underneath microscopes.

Interview for the Day 

Today I interviewed one of the head scientists of the plankton cruise.  His name is Michael Musyl working with NOAA through the University of Hawaii in Oahu in conjunction with the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR).  Michael had always had an interest in fisheries ever since he was a kid, fishing from a fishing pole. He took his education career after high school to Northern Illinois where he got his B.S. in zoology. After which, Mike did a five-year masters program in fisheries Biology from the University of South Dakota, to then go on and get his PhD from New  England in Freshwater fish population genetics.  He then used his knowledge and experience with the Arizona Fish and Game department for two years and then taught college biology and ecology for one year at the University of New Orleans.

Mike decided to go get a post doctorate from South Carolina in molecular genetics of blue fish tuna and ended up working with NOAA on electric tagging of pelagic fish and sharks through the University of Hawaii.  Mike is currently studying the post release  survivability of these fish through archival tagging which broadcast the information to satellites. He is also studying the post release mortality of fish captured in long line nets, to see how long they live after being rescued.

A typical year of work for Mike is answering emails, collaborating with fellow scientists around the world, developing and maintaining research projects, analyzing data obtained from research expeditions, writing about four to five papers for journal publications, and spending about 50% of his time on ships like OSCAR ELTON SETTE obtaining project data. Life as a scientist is busy, as well as exciting!

Jenny Holen, September 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jenny Holen
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette
September 17 – 21, 2006

Mission: Hawaiian billfish larval and eggs survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: September 17, 2006

Weather Data from Lab 
Location: 4 miles out, between Kailua-kona and Keahou
Depth: 1266 meters or 3798 feet
Water Visibility: Clear
Water Temperature: 27.15 C
Salinity: 34.62 PSU
Wind Direction: 270 degrees, West
Wind Speed: 6.69 knots,
Breezy Air Temperature: 26.9 C
Cloud Cover: Hazy

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast of the Island of Hawaii
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Jenny Holen, getting ready to toss the cod end of the Isaacs-Kidd net overboard in hopes of catching billfish eggs and larvae off the Kona coast

Science & Technology Log 

Anything short of “amazing” would not justify the unique beauty and wonder which ocean plankton hold.  Working side by side with professional scientists, Erick, Michael, Bob, and Ryan, brought the prospective of importance and dedication we all must exude in the hunt for rare billfish eggs and larva mixed among the ocean’s nursery.  In a jar, surface plankton simply resembles muck from the bottom of your toilet.  Up close however, the characteristics, colors, and movements planktonic organisms portray immediately demand the respect of awe and wonder. Are they microscopic aliens floating around silently in the vast ocean realm?

Underneath the microscope, in search for the rare billfish eggs and larva, the multitudes of diverse and crazy looking creatures emerge unfathomably from what seems an empty ocean of just water.  “What is this?” “What’s this called?” and “I’ve found a baby crab!” come jutting from my mouth like I was a small child seeing something for the first time.  The excitement of being up close to the species that up-hold the entire ocean food web was exuberating.

The research schedule for the day was simple, unlike what we were looking at: drop the large green plankton net into the water, go back to the “cold” lab and examine the last sample catch under the microscopes, reel in the plankton net, and begin again – all within one hour, every hour, from sunrise to sunset.  At dark, just to spice up things, we would throw over board a super bright light in hopes of attracting more crazy looking phototactic organisms.  Our results for the first night include a poisonous male box puffer fish with bright blue spots, some healthy squid, small larval fish and some crazy little crabs that swirled around the light faster than a merry-go-around.

This is the front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae onboard the SETTE.
The front end of the Isaacs-Kidd net being towed through the surface water to catch billfish eggs and larvae

To compare the microscope analysis for the day revealed much more: salp larva, jellyfish, blue copepods, bright pink krill, hairy polychate worms, snail larva, a lot of circular golden diatoms, many clear gelatinous organisms, a never before seen crab larva with feathers attached to each leg elbow for swimming, shrimp larva with heads like hammerheads, clear fish eggs and larva, but no marlin or billfish eggs or larva. However, the other scientist did find some. It must be experience!

Personal Log 

I got picked up about 11 am on Sunday at the Honokohou harbor fuel dock. It was a beautiful afternoon with a light westerly breeze, shimmering turquoise toned tropical waters, and a warmth that felt like a Northface goose-down jacket in the winter. The small boat ride to the NOAA ship OSCAR ELTON SETTE was bumpy and rough leaving my backside sore for the rest of the day. I met everyone aboard, all of whom generated a true aloha spirit and seem to love what they do.  I was put to work right away underneath a microscope looking at moving plankton on a rolling ship – talk about seasickness!  After working with the scientists and crew for just one day, I’ve realized that this particular research area is still vastly unknown and much help is needed in marine fisheries research.  This leaves many upcoming marine ecology students a big job in the search for plankton knowledge. Hence the age old saying, the ocean is our last undiscovered frontier.  I love this thought because it means there is still so much more work to done and many more people can join in the treasure hunt, which hopefully will inspire those students dreading their biology and chemistry classes.

TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab onboard the SETTE.
TAS Jenny Holen, scanning a highly concentrated plankton sample for billfish eggs and larvae in the Wet Lab

Question of the Day 

“How does one go about getting a job aboard a NOAA research boat?”

1) Small Boat Driver: applied two years ago when he was a full-time fisherman in Hawaii and didn’t get the job, then reapplied a year later and a position opened up for an experienced fisherman.

2) Assistant Scientist: Went to college and studied fish population counts and after working with a similar company for a few years applied when a job positioned open.

Possible NOAA Ship Positions: Bridge Officers, Engineering Officers, Deckhand and crew, Electronics department, Stewards (cooks), Survey department, Scientists, Teacher at Sea. (Note everyone works together and helps towards the success of the current mission).

Moral of the story: Be persistent, dedicated, and determined with a positive view and you can obtain anything you desire, including becoming part of a NOAA research study.

Jill Carpenter, September 14, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Carpenter
Onboard NOAA Ship Delaware II
September 5 – 15, 2006

Mission: Herring Hydroacoustic Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic
Date: September 14, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 180
Wind speed: 14 kts
Sea wave height: 2ft.
Swell wave height: 7 ft./9 sec. from 90o
Seawater temperature: 16.8oC
Sea level pressure: 1018.7mb
Cloud cover: PC

Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.
Teacher at Sea Jill Carpenter on board the DELAWARE II.

Science and Technology Log 

The trip is winding down and we will be in port in a few hours. I am writing this final log in the early hours of the morning of my last night shift.  We will soon be approaching Cape Cod Canal, and our time of arrival into Woods Hole is scheduled for 9:30 this morning. On last night’s shift, we passed the time taking CTD measurements and logging the events. Unfortunately, no trawls were completed since we didn’t come upon a location with an abundance of fish. Tonight we began with a trawl. As with the last trawl, the majority of our catch was redfish.  We also caught Atlantic herring, northern shrimp, anchovies, pearlsides, silver hake and red hake, short fin squid, several dogfish and a goosefish. The catch from the trawl was sorted by species, just as before.  The individual species were weighed and measured.  Again, we took a subsample of redfish which means that we took a portion of the total catch and measured each individual length. Additional information was again gathered on the herring including sex, maturity stage, and stomach contents, and then a subsample was frozen for age analysis back at the lab.  The Fisheries Scientific Computer System (FSCS) system was used for entry of the biological data.

I was also able to interview a few more of the crewmembers on the ship. Commanding Officer Richard Wingrove (otherwise known as Captain) has worked his way up to his Commander position during his 17 years experience with NOAA.  Richard has a degree in Marine Biology and has loved the ocean from the time he was a child.  His extensive background experiences include being a satellite oceanographer for the NOAA Hurricane Center, working for the National Marine Sanctuary on oil spill cleanups, and serving the Peace Corps as a fisheries officer in Antigua.  As commanding officer of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II, his job involves overseeing the entire ship, supervising officers, and safely completing missions.  He claims the best part of his job is working with the crew, which he thinks of as his family at sea, although he admits it is still tough being away from his real family.  As one can imagine, the job of commanding officer comes with a great amount of responsibility.  Richard is in charge of a $12 1/2 million ship and a crew of 34 people.  Pretty intimidating!

Jill Carpenter in her survival suit
Jill Carpenter in her survival suit

He has a great deal of fond memories and stories of rough seas, though he recalls one humorous incident in particular.  He was once on board a ship off the coast of Alaska when the seas were 25-30 ft. It was so rough that all the crew could do was ride out the seas; the cooks weren’t even able to make a meal!  On a dare from the other crew members, Richard tried jumping up to touch his back to the ceiling, but mistimed his jump and ended up being slammed to the floor when the ship descended quickly and the ceiling pushed him down.  He was stunned, but otherwise okay.  This legendary stunt is still spoken of amongst Richard’s seafaring friends.  Richard recommends taking many classes in science and math if one is interested in commanding a ship.

Lead fisherman Pete Langlois has experienced a lot of rough weather during his six years at sea aboard NOAA ships. He has many responsibilities aboard the DELAWARE II.  A lead fisherman splits a 24 hour shift with the boatswain, and their duties are to operate the machinery on deck, such as the nets, winches and crane.  Pete is responsible for the fishermen’s and scientists’ safety on deck while machinery is operating.  He also oversees the deployments and recoveries of scientific instruments such as the CTD sensor. Additional duties of a lead fisherman include general maintenance of the ship, such as loading and unloading stores and equipment.  Mr. Langlois also serves as third mate of the ship.  A third mate is in charge of the track lines of the ship and acts as a representative of the captain.

One of the first things that Pete recommends for future sailors is to try spending time aboard a ship to see if you like it.  It is also necessary to get your Able Seaman Certificate which is issued by the U.S Coast Guard. One path to pursuing your career is through a maritime academy, such as the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  He claims there is a high demand for all positions aboard ships, and it is important to get experience at sea in order to get an Able Seamen or Captain’s license.

TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II.
TAS Jill Carpenter in front of the NOAA ship DELAWARE II

Personal Log

Although I am sad for the trip to be over, I am looking forward to returning home to my family, friends, and classroom and sharing my experience with them.  This trip has been invaluable to me in so many ways.  I have met many amazing people, I have participated in recording ocean data, and I have seen how much thought, effort and talent goes into a fisheries research vessel.  I am fortunate to have completed 3 mid-water trawls while on board. Being able to see and touch the fish that we are studying was amazing.  I gained hands-on knowledge and experience, and I began to see the species not as slimy and gross fish, but as a necessary tool for progressing our understanding of ocean species.

The crew of the DELAWARE II has been nothing but welcoming and accommodating to me.  I appreciated all of their care, time and patience with me as I learned about life on board a scientific research ship. Their sincere good natures and the humorous spirits will always be remembered by me.  I can now better understand the wisdom shared by our Chief Scientist, Bill Michaels, about how people and teamwork are to be greatly appreciated. People are such a large part of what make a job enjoyable.  It is easy to see that the entire crew of the DELAWARE II enjoy their jobs and each other’s company. They make an unbelievably great team. Thanks to all of the crewmembers of the DELAWARE II. I will never forget you or my experiences on board.  My students will surely benefit from my gained knowledge for years to come.  Thanks again for sharing a slice of your lives with me.  I’ve been inspired by all of you.

Barney Peterson, August 31, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 31, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
(Weather data is not recorded on the Bridge when the ship is in port)

Question of the Day: Who are the Teachers at Sea?

Personal Log 

The sunset behind St. Augustine.
The sunset behind St. Augustine.

Start to finish, my NOAA Teacher at Sea assignment has been an incredible learning experience.  From the moment at the Seward, Alaska, railroad station when OS Dennis Brooks bounced up to me and asked, “Are you the teacher?” everything has been new, exciting, and memorable.  His mini-travelogue about Resurrection Bay, delivered as we bounced over the mud puddles of the dock area, got me to looking and thinking right away.

Out of the car, up the gangway, and onto the ship I was herded to where my first official greeting was from petite, feisty Ensign Meghan McGovern.  She grabbed my heaviest bag, put up a brief struggle about letting me carry the smaller one, and set off on a whirlwind flight down three decks to my quarters.  Up one level, turn this way, turn that way, off to the stern, open the doors, point out supplies, hear the words, and learn the jargon ….what had I gotten myself into?  What was it going to be like to be a Teacher At Sea?

Well…the REAL teachers at sea were the officers and crew of the NOAA ship RAINIER! -ENS McGovern, Jennings, Eldridge, and Smith who sensed my perplexity and tactfully and adroitly filled in the gaps:  What is this or that?  Why or why not? Who?  What?  When? Where?  Why? -LT Ben Evans, Field Operations Officer, who was always bursting with enthusiasm as he explained the scientific mission of the RAINIER.

-ENS Olivia Hauser, quiet, calm, and friendly who made me feel so at home about everything

-ENS Sam Greenaway who guessed that I didn’t know, explained away the puzzles, and then (with a twinkle in his eye) added just a little extra twist to see if I would fall for it! (About those whales Sam…)

-The Hydrographic Survey Crew: Erin, Shawn, Marta, Nick, and Matt …ask them any question and I got as much time as I needed for answers, explanations, and demonstrations; Nick and Matt who kept me on my toes with open-ended discussions about the purpose and future of education

-Amy and Amanda …just a little less new to the ship than I am, but willing to try to make things clearer and easier whenever they can

-Hydrographer Bonnie Johnston, always happy and friendly and with endless good ideas about how to take some of the science from this trip back to teach in my class

-The Deck and Engine crews…lively, ornery, spicy, and eminently lovable:  -Meghan G. and Leslie who actually taught me how to splice rope! -Jodie and Ben A. who always found a way to make me feel welcome, special, and not at all in the way; Jodie who tried to teach me to steer the survey boat and didn’t laugh when I was a dismal failure -Steve, Jimmy, and Dennis…smiles and teasing and lots of answers to even my dumbest questions; Steve with wildlife books and information and pictures to share anytime -Muzzy, Puppy, Keegan, Kelsen, Mikey, Chris, and Josh…prototypes for John Fogerty’s “Rambunctious Boy,” full of fun and attitude and hard, hard workers who made the running of the ship make sense -Erik who taught me how to put on my survival suit…and didn’t laugh -Joe – my personal guide for the long-awaited tour of the engine room… “What makes it go Joe?” -Carl – the guy who left the Midwest for a life at sea and who shared his enthusiasm for everything marine with a big smile and endless courtesy -Umeko…the new kid on the block, an intern learning the ropes and the rules and really eager to share her knowledge and explore new things…sorry we never saw enough of the stars for you to teach me how a sextant works…

-The Galley crew: Do and Floyd, who just kept smiling and telling me where things go, how to get what I need, and filling me up with way more good food than I needed; Raul who caught more fish with less fuss than anyone I’ve ever met before

-Gary…”right click, no, right click, no right click”…the very patient IT who helped me to figure out the server, email, the internet, and to get these journal entries off to NOAA

-Executive Officer Julia Neander…career NOAA Corps officer, scientist, literary critic, mom, and the person who always tried to make sure things were going right for me…taught me to kayak, went out for hikes, took great pictures, reviewed my journals, took time for good conversations, and made sure I got included in all the memorable things…she even taught me how to butcher a halibut!

-Last, but not least, Captain Guy Noll – quiet, thoughtful, sometimes serious, sometimes not, who shared his knowledge of Alaska and the ocean and history and fishing and who always showed a sense of the importance of his job and his personal commitment to it.

These were the real “Teachers” at sea: the people who helped make each day memorable and worthwhile as they took time to teach me.

Just what did they teach me?  Well, I learned about life aboard a ship, planning and following through on those plans to accomplish big jobs, multi-beam sonar, working with data to make information useable, navigation and the importance of good charts, steering on water in a straight line (or not), the importance of understanding the basic science behind their job so it makes sense to use equipment correctly, the geology of the Aleutian Islands and the Ring of Fire, Alaskan wildlife, and lots more.

At this point, my mind is so full that I probably don’t realize how much I have learned.  I do know that I am coming away from this last three weeks with new ideas and attitudes to share in my classroom and with my teaching colleagues.  I know that I will encourage other teachers to apply for the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. I know that my experiences have reinforced my belief that learning by doing helps learners make sense of new experiences and ideas.

My assignment from NOAA involved recording my experiences to share on the Teacher at Sea web page. This task has been particularly valuable for helping me to clarify what I was learning and to store ideas for use with my students.  Being a Teacher at Sea has given me a chance to be immersed in applied learning as the student instead of the teacher. I have a refreshed perspective on how it feels to walk into a new classroom with new classmates and an unknown teacher in charge.  When I walk into my classroom to meet my new students in five days I hope that this insight will help me start the year off comfortably, kindly, and meaningfully for that room full of young minds.

I thank NOAA for the opportunity to be part of a unique and wonderful educational experience. Besides learning about the life and science aboard NOAA ship RAINIER, I have a new appreciation for how important it is that I do my job in the classroom well.  Helping develop the curiosity and exploration skills of young learners seems even more critical after spending three weeks with a group of amazing people who are using those skills and attitudes in such a dynamic and impressive way.

To Captain Guy Noll, Executive Officer Julia Neander, and the wonderful officers and crew aboard RAINIER, my heartfelt thanks for all you have done to make my experience so remarkable.  My memories of RAINIER and being Teacher at Sea will bring joy to my life for a long time to come.

Footnote: There are others in the crew of RAINIER, not mentioned specifically, that I just never got the chance to get to know for whatever reason:  Time was short, schedules didn’t mesh, we didn’t move in the same orbits at the same times, the stars didn’t align…  Whatever the reasons, I’m sure the loss is mine because everyone on the ship has been so great. Sorry I missed you guys…next time, OK? 

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 30, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 30, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10-12 nautical mile
Wind direction: 3.7 o
Wind speed:  8.5 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 18.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1014.2 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

There was a spectacular sunrise this morning and then, during our next-to-last station Steve pointed out a sun dog in the sky above us. We’ve got one more station left to do – in Cape Cod Bay and then we’ll sail through the Cape Cod Canal and back to port at Woods Hole, about a day and a half early.  We will have completed 138 stations in total.  It will all turn into a set of numbers put out on the Web, at some point, and, when I see them, I’ll now know what went into producing them.

Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.
Tamara Browning, a teacher from Tenafly Middle School, Tenafly, NJ, and Karen Meyers deploy a drift buoy in the Gulf of Maine.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The photo contest entries are up.  The “kids” watch came up with several entries and some of them are pretty cute.  I especially like the one of me, with a shrimp on my shoulder, on the cover of Time magazine, labeled “Teacher of the Year” and the caption “Teacher discovers the oceans are teeming with life.”  I still think we’ve got a good shot at winning. Voting opens at 1100 and closes at 1600.  The suspense is killing me!  It’s been a wonderful trip and there’s a lot about this life that I’ll miss including the constant and ever-changing beauty of the sea; the clean, fresh air; the spectacular sunrises; the 3 meals a day cooked for me; but, most of all, the camaraderie with an interesting and fun-loving group of people.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

All the photos are up and the competition is over with.  It’s great what the other group has come up with.  There’s a picture of Tamara and Karen peaking over the bongo nets, Don getting eaten up by the grab and Jerry “pickled” inside of a sample jar.  So far, we have no idea who’s going to win. I love our picture of Tony as a fairy.  As soon as you know Tony, though, that makes the picture all the more entertaining.

We’re almost off the boat.  I’m going to miss the crew terribly, especially Tony, Mike, Steve, Tim, Lino and Orlando.  Okay, I admit it…I’ll miss every single person A LOT!  =) I’ll miss talking with Kurt (XO/CO) and the rest of the officers, Tracy and Alicea.  It’s terrible that I miss these people already…especially because I haven’t left yet.

As soon as we get into port, many of the crew will head off to their homes.  It’s difficult on them because they are away from land for such a long period of time.  Respect is definitely deserved for these men and women who dedicate such a large part of their lives to helping forward knowledge of the oceans and its inhabitants.  I promised Orlando a picture of the Ling Cod I caught (my first fish ever) the week before I came out.  Although there is quite a bit of distance between all of us, I’ll give it my all to keep in touch with everyone when I get home.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 29, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 29, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: o
Wind speed:  20-25 kts
Sea wave height: 2-3’
Swell wave height: 4-6’
Seawater temperature: 14 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.2 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

The rain has stopped but it’s a very foggy day here in the Gulf of Maine – not unusual for this area, according to the officers.  I visited the bridge early this morning before dawn and Acting XO Jason Appler mentioned the “cabin fever” that can result from sailing through fog for days on end. We were hoping to see the beautiful coast of Maine but we may pass without ever catching a glimpse if this fog keeps up.

On the second station of our watch, in addition to the bongos, we used another plankton net which extends from a rectangular frame.  It’s called a neuston net and it’s towed right at the surface, partly in and partly out of the water.  The object of this tow is to catch lobster larvae which, according to Jerry, are often found clinging to seaweed drifting at the surface. We’re doing this sampling for a student who is considering studying the distribution of lobster larvae for a thesis.

Jerry reminded me of two terms I learned at some point in the past but had forgotten.  Meroplankton  are animals that are residents of the plankton for only part of their lives, e.g., larvae of fish, crustaceans, and other animals.  Holoplankton is made up of jellyfish, copepods, chaetognaths, ctenophores, salps, larvaceans, and other animals that spend their entire lives in the plankton.

Jerry has a copy of the book The Open Sea by Sir Alister Hardy, a classic work of biological oceanography.  As only one example of his many marine expeditions, Hardy served as Chief Zoologist on the R.R.S. Discovery when it voyaged to Antarctica in the 1920’s. The first half of the book is devoted to plankton and the second half to fish and fisheries. Both parts contain a number of his beautiful watercolors of the animals discussed, painted from freshly caught specimens and all the more remarkable for the fact that they were done on a rocking ship!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

The seas got pretty bouncy this evening. I had been feeling pretty cocky about my “sea legs” but was getting a little uneasy. However, I did cope without any problems.  I don’t really understand seasickness and I get the feeling no one else does either.  I wonder how often and for how long one has to be at sea before their sea legs become permanent.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

It’s like riding a bucking bronco out here on the ocean.  Walking, by itself, is forcing me to improve my coordination.  I love it. I’m only worried about how I’ll be on land…last time I was swaying back and forth for a few hours. I think Karen got quite a kick out of that.

We’re still taking pictures for the contest.  It’s difficult being creative, especially because we’re limited on what we have for resources.  We’ve got one picture that I hope turns out well. One of Tracy’s good friends sent her the picture of the Brady Bunch.  I’ve been trying to work the picture so that our shift’s faces are in place of the original cast.  The only one that truly looks in place is Wes, he actually looks natural!  We’re having such a great time!

We all climbed into our survival suits again and took pictures on the stairs.  Believe me when I say that sitting on the stairs in those “Gumby” suits, is a very difficult task.  Wes was holding all of us up. Tracy had a hold of the side and I was propped up in between them.  Alicea was very ready to jump forward in case we were to all start the journey downstairs a bit too quickly. I’m still having an amazing time.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  <1 nautical mile
Wind direction: 116 o
Wind speed: 15 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2-3’
Seawater temperature: 13.8 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1015.6 mb
Cloud cover: 8/8

Science and Technology Log 

This is the first rainy day we’ve had.  It’s pretty chilly as well and not all that pleasant working on deck so we were delighted when the “kids” watch came on (our watch is known as the “geezer” watch) and got us out of doing an EPA station.  I can’t imagine doing this in January. It’s a great day to stay indoors which is what I’ve been doing as much as possible – working on lesson plans and the Power Point on this trip, and reading.  I did help Jerry do a collection for a WHOI scientist who is looking at the bacterium that causes Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning.  That involved filtering 2 L of seawater through progressively smaller filters and then washing the filtrate off the finest filter into a bottle of medium in which the bacterium, Pseudo-nitzchia, will grow.

I had some nice conversations with crewmembers today.  Chief Boatswain Tony Vieira came from Portugal with his family at the age of 17.  After working construction for a few years, he began commercial fishing with his brother and fished for 18 years.  Ten years ago he was happy to give up that difficult and dangerous profession to work for NOAA. Although he plans to retire before long, Tony says he won’t want to stay away from the ocean for long and will probably look for opportunities to fill in on ships now and then.

We pulled up a heteropod with the bongos (not exactly in them) yesterday or the day before. It’s a gastropod that’s modified for a planktonic existence. Unfortunately, it was somewhat mangled so we didn’t get a complete picture of what one looks like.  It would be wonderful to see some of these animals in their natural element.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

“Alexa, call the bridge.” I froze for a second as if I had just been called to the principal’s office. Going to a phone, ENS Chris Skapin told me he had a project for me and I was to carry a very large box to the bridge. As Wes and I scrambled to find a very large box, we speculated the many different activities I was about to be a part of.  As soon as I walked in, the men talked in unusually quiet whispers.  After several minutes, I figured out why.  Acting XO Jason Appler had made quick friends with a small bird fluttering around the bridge. A sigh of relief came from me as we hunted down the small creature.  After attempting to feed and give water to the small bird, he was let free.  Unfortunately, as Mike Conway pointed out, few birds that are not adapted to sea-life can survive so far out to sea.

I finally got up to the bridge.  Kurt showed me how everything works, radar and all the other navigation programs.  All the crew told me that if I want to see some sort of marine life, to go up to the bridge when XO Jason Appler is there.  About ten minutes after I was up on the bridge with Skapin and Appler, we saw a humpback whale come completely out of the water. There was a huge pod swimming about 100 m away.

Jerry added another station to break up our steam time; we had had one six-hour steam which we were all looking forward to. It seems like we might be getting in earlier than I expected, maybe now I’ll have extra time to hang out with Tracy and Alicea before we all have to leave. I can’t believe my three weeks are almost over!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I don’t think I’ve spent so many days without a to-do list in years.  I can see some of the appeal of the mariner’s life.  Things are a bit simpler out here.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 27, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 27, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction 36 o
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 1’
Swell wave height: 2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1025.6 mb
Cloud cover: 7/8

Science and Technology Log 

This morning we launched a drifter buoy that will transmit its position to a satellite so our students can monitor it via a website. Tamara Browning, the other teacher on board, wrote her school’s name on it and I wrote Garrison Forest School and drew a paw print for the GFS Grizzlies. The buoy consists of a small flotation device – about a foot in diameter or a little larger – which contains the electronics and is tethered to a part that looks like a wind sock but will be underwater where it will catch water currents as opposed to wind. Jerry picked a launching spot in the channel where the Labrador Current enters the Gulf of Maine. He says it may stay in the Gulf of Maine and circle around or it may exit with the outgoing current.  It is designed to last for over 400 days. It will fun to have my students follow it and plot its course on a map.

JE Orlando Thompson gave us a tour of the engine room this morning.  He took us into the air-conditioned booth which overlooks the room and contains the control panels.  Orlando explained that the center part of the console controls the main engines (there are 2), the left portion controls the power supply for the ship, and the right side is for the trawl engine which is used when trawling or dredging.  He said that the fuel for each day is first purified to remove sediments and then put into the day tank.  The emergency generator, which is located behind the bridge, has its own fuel tank.  The ship runs on diesel fuel. Down on the floor of the engine room, he showed us the transmission and the shaft that runs aft to the propeller.  The ship moves forward when the blades of the propeller are adjusted to the right pitch. To stop the forward motion during sampling, the pitch is changed. Orlando, who was originally from Panama, learned his craft in the Navy where he served on aircraft carriers that he says make the ALBATROSS IV look like a toy.

Personal Log – Karen Myers 

We finally saw whales today! Well, maybe not whole whales but we did see spouts, flukes, and tails. Ensign Chris Daniels identified them as Right Whales by their divided, v-shaped spouts.  One reason that whalers called this species “Right” whales is that they are slow and sluggish and so were easier to catch up with and kill

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tracy, Alicea and I all sleep through breakfast and lunch so we meet in the galley for cereal and toast around 12:00. Unfortunately, we missed the whales that showed up around 10 a.m. Apparently there were several pods swimming around the boat, one off the port side, one off the starboard side and one off the portside of the fantail.  I’m still trying to understand the different terminology.  Don Cobb stated that there were probably close to 40 whales total in the three different pods.

Karla is definitely a trooper. For her sampling, she has to be working for sixteen hours straight, however, there have been days when she’s been awake for over 24.  It’s great to be in a group of close girls.  Tracy and Alicea are very welcoming, friendly and personable. In such confined spaces, that’s a blessing to find two women who are so agreeable.  There’s no pettiness, nor competition.

Life at sea is simpler than on land, I think, though you have to be able to find ways to keep yourself occupied and still find times to simply sit back and enjoy the frontier around you. I’ll spend time writing to home and my friends, talking to the various crew members, scientists and officers, reading, journaling my opinions and interpretations, and relaxing on the hurricane deck looking out to the sea.  It’s very calm and laid back here.  I think I like it here…

We’re having a cook-out tonight!  Well, actually, it’s a pseudo-cookout because we left the propane tank at port. It’s basically an onboard barbeque which everyone gets together for (assuming that we’re not on station at the time).  Tracy says, “Nothing beats eating dinner right on the ocean as the sun starts going beneath the clouds.”  Following, Alicea said, “We takes a beating, but we keeps on eating.”

Ten minutes before we arrive at each station, the bridge sends an announcement over the intercom.  Depending on the officer manning the bridge, a variety of calls can be decreed onboard. Ensign Chris Daniels (now nicknamed the Nascar driver), however, gave all the calls in one, “10 minutes to station, 10 minutes to CTD, 10 minutes to bongos, 10 minutes to bottom grab, 10 minutes to the longest station of the cruise.”  Unbeknownst to the shift at the time, it was indeed the longest station and took over two hours on station due to problems with the CTD and bottom grab.  As Alicea put it, “We should kindly ask the bridge to keep their comments to themselves [so they stop jinxing us]!”

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 26, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind direction: 3 o
Wind speed: 16 kts
Sea wave height: 1-2 ’
Swell wave height: 2 1/2’
Seawater temperature: 15.5 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1024 mb
Cloud cover: 1/8

Science and Technology Log 

Today we sampled at the deepest station of the trip – 350 m. We had to do what they call a “double dipper” because the bongos are never lowered any deeper than 200 m since pretty much any organisms of interest to Fisheries are with 200 m of the surface.  But the CTD is still lowered all the way to within 5-10 m of the bottom in order to get a complete hydrographic profile.

Karla Heidelberg is engaged in real cutting edge research in microbial genetics.  Now at the University of Southern California, she has worked with the J. Craig Venter Institute which is in the midst of an ambitious program to provide a genomic survey of microbial life in the world’s oceans.  This survey is producing the largest gene catalogue ever assembled and will provide scientists worldwide with an opportunity to better understand how ecosystems function and to discover new genes of ecological importance.  The survey is based on collections made during a circumnavigation of the globe by the sailing yacht Sorcerer II between September 2003, and January 2006.  But this expedition didn’t allow for sampling of the same areas over time.  So, with the help of an NSF grant and NOAA ship time, Karla is sampling and resampling areas in the Gulf of Maine.  When she takes samples, she pumps 200-400 L of water on board and filters it through a series of filters, first to eliminate the zooplankton and phytoplankton, and then to separate the various components of the microbial community.  The filters are frozen while on board ship and then, back in the lab, they’re subjected to an enzyme treatment to remove everything but the DNA. The DNA is then nebulized to break it into small fragments and the fragments are cloned.  The fragments are reassembled and sequenced.  As poorly understood as the ocean in general is, the microbial life of the ocean is a true frontier!

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I love sitting out on one of the decks gazing at the sea.  Of course, I’m always hoping to see a whale or a Giant Ocean Sunfish but even though I’ve been pretty unsuccessful at spotting anything, I find it very calming to watch the ocean.  I’m amazed when I look at it that there are painters who are skillful enough to recreate the complex patterns on a canvas.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Well our shift worked extremely hard today, hard enough that we all fell asleep within 10 minutes of a post-shift movie.  We got hit with station after station during our 12 hour period. It’s fascinating, though, to be looking at the organisms that come up in the grab or bongo nets. I’m not very familiar with the different scientific classifications of animals, but I certainly have an appreciation for what the ocean holds.  As Karla said, we’re seeing what 1% of the Earth has ever seen before.  We’re truly in undiscovered territory.

Like the rainforest, there are many species that have yet to be discovered.  At ISEF, my father and I went to an IMAX theatre to watch Deep Blue Sea in 3D.  The VPR (Video Plankton Recorder) showed images just like what we saw on the big screen. I live on the coast, yet I had no idea what was in the ocean.  In fact, people come from all over to whale watch in Gold Beach.  Yet I have never seen a whale, nor have I seen a dolphin.

I go home in six days and head back to school in eight.  I’m getting pretty fond of being out here now, and the idea of sitting in a classroom reading from textbooks isn’t as appealing. I do miss discussions with my teachers (i.e. Ms. Anthony (Calculus); Coach Swift (American Gov’t); Mr. Lee (Honors English II)) though.  Anyway, we’re coming on shift now. So I’d best be off to work.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 22, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 8 nautical miles
Wind direction 270 o
Wind speed: 5.5 kts
Sea wave height 1-2’
Swell wave height 2’
Seawater temperature 19 C
Sea Level Pressure: 1017.4 mb
Cloud cover: 6/8, Cumulus, Cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

We’ve done 4 stations on our watch and that’s it for today because we’re heading back into port to exchange personnel. We expect to dock around 4 p.m. and then leave Wednesday morning around 11.

I went up to the bridge to get weather data today and came away again with a wealth of information from Captain Steve Wagner.  He explained the difference between sea waves and swell waves.  Swell waves are generated by distant weather systems and tend to have longer wavelengths. Sea waves are created by local winds – they’re more like chop.  There can be swells coming from different directions and this is the source, he said, of the belief among surfers that every third wave is a bigger wave.  If there are swells approaching a beach from two different directions, sometimes they’ll come together in constructive interference, resulting in a wave that’s larger than either and other times they’ll cancel each other out in destructive interference.  It may be every third wave that they come together or it may be every fifth wave or whatever.  They estimate the heights of the waves and the swells visually.  Seawater temperature is measured by a hull sensor.  Cloud cover is also measured visually by dividing the sky into 8th’s and estimating how many 8th’s are made up of clouds.  Visibility is measured visually as well but confirmed, if possible, by radar or land sightings. For instance, right now Martha’s Vineyard is visible and they know the distance to the island so that can help them come up with a visibility number. If they’re out at sea and there’s nothing to use as a marker and the horizon appears crisp, they post a 10-mile visibility.  They send all their weather data to the National Weather Service every 3 hours.  They have a book–the same one with the Beaufort Scale ratings–that has pictures of cloud formations, each with a number and letter to identify it so they can use that for their reports.

He also explained that when they’re estimating visibility, they have to take into account “height of eye” which is how far above the water they are when they’re looking out.  For Steve Wagner on this ship, it’s about 26 feet because the bridge is about 20 feet above the water and Steve himself is 6 feet tall.  That affects the visibility distance and there’s a formula they can use which takes the square root of height of eye and multiplies by 1.17 to correct the visibility figure.

We also discussed the fact that US offshore charts use fathoms (1 fathom = 6 feet) while the charts of harbors, which have shallower water and so require greater resolution, use feet. Canadian charts use meters.  So a mariner has to be aware of what measurement the chart he’s looking at uses. He said the Spanish have their own fathom which is less than 6 feet.

I find it fascinating that there’s such a combination of information from high-tech sources like GPS and low-tech sources like the human eye used in piloting, navigation, and weather prediction.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I got very said news via email yesterday.  A woman who worked in the business office at my school and was an experienced horsewoman was killed in a riding accident.  The service was today. I’ll look for a sympathy card and send it to her family while we’re in port.

Alexa, Tamara, and I are going on a shopping trip to Falmouth.  I have a list of things to buy including a deck chair, if I can find one. No one here seems to object to the concept of deck chairs but there are only 3 on the whole ship and they’re in much demand.  If I can find a cheap, lightweight one in Falmouth, I’ll buy it and then just donate it to the ship when I leave, along with the book Cod by Mark Kurlansky which I finished and passed on to Jerry Prezioso and my cache of granola bars if there are any left (which there almost certainly will be).

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 21, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 21, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

It’s a beautiful day – clear and a bit blustery and the water is a beautiful deep blue.  We’re off the coast of Long Island, heading back towards Woods Hole where we’re expected to arrive about 4:30 p.m. tomorrow, spend the night there and exchange some personnel, and leave the next day to head north.  It’s been a very quiet watch – we had two stations in rapid succession starting about 2:30 a.m. and then had a long steam – for about 7 hours and then one more station.  So there’s been lots of free time to fill with reading, working on crossword and Sudoku puzzles, checking email, sunning on the bow, using the exercise equipment, etc.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 18, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I visited the bridge this morning and plan to go back again for another visit because there’s so much to learn there. There’s an amazing amount of equipment up there and Captain Steve Wagner made an attempt to explain some of it to me.  There are two radar units of different frequencies. The higher frequency unit is a 3 cm unit (I assume 3 cm is the wavelength) and has greater resolution so it can be used when entering harbors, for instance.  The other is a 10 cm unit that can cover a larger area.  They have to have two of every instrument in case one malfunctions.  They have the same program – NobelTec – as Jerry uses. It shows the charts for all the areas we are cruising through.  On the chart, our course is plotted and every station is marked with a square that becomes a star when you click on it. The ship appears as a little green, boat-shaped figure that the program calls the SS Minnow (after the boat in Gilligan’s Island).  The program can tell you the distance to the next station and the ETA (estimated time of arrival) as well as the time to reach the station.  You can zoom in or out and scroll around. It shows depths in fathoms.  The program works with a GPS unit to monitor position.  On another monitor, they get online weather information.  The site on the screen had a graphic which shows the area we’re heading into marked all over with the little icons used in weather maps to show wind speed and direction. It was easy to see the low-pressure system which I’d heard was weakening off the coast of South Carolina.  They also get weather data through a little machine called a NAVTEX (Navigational Telex), similar to a FAX, that prints out a continuous strip of paper about 4 inches wide and gives weather data for various segments of the coast, e.g., Fenwick Island to Cape Hatteras or Cape Hatteras to Murrells Inlet. The information comes from stations at several points along the coast.  The machine checks the accuracy as it prints out and gives an error rate at the top right.  If it’s too high, it stops and starts over. I can sympathize with Captain Wagner when he talks about how difficult it is to keep up with the new technology.  I feel the same way as a teacher. The big difference is that he has lives in his hands.  At the same time, he adds that the technology available makes his job much easier.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Dolphins…enough said. The most amazing thing is seeing a massive pod of dolphins riding the wake less than 25 feet directly below you.  Tamara, Karen, Barbara, Jerry and I all clambered around the bow of the deck desperately snapping photos and avoiding wet paint as we safely peered over the edge. ENS Chris Daniels spied several areas with dolphins and flying fish and quickly pointed every spot out as he tried many different ways to get our attention.

We did another EPA station, which we do every five stations.  A great many of the crew joined us after our shift to play a game of ‘Set’; there were about 8 people pulling, pushing, and looking either dazed or confused at the visual card game.  I’ve been learning a lot about life on the East Coast and oceanography from Carly Blair, URI graduate student, while she sunbathed outside on the Hurricane deck.  Many activities occur out on the Hurricane deck like exercising on several of the available machines, sunbathing, whale watching, etc. It’s good to know that we still have our fun after working shift.

The two people who I admire extremely at this point are Don Cobb and Jon Hare, both East Coast natives. They are so knowledgeable on every subject that arises and work probably more than 18 hours a day.  Don came out to teach Barbara and me the procedures for each test and he spent an extra shift answering all questions and supervising our actions. Jerry taught me most of the computer and paperwork, and I was pretty confused for a while. Later that night, I sat in with Jon as he ran everything.  Every step of the way, he’d pause and explain how the system works and how to operate it. It’s something I appreciate beyond words.

I can’t believe how many great people are concentrated into such a small area.  I just don’t want to head home soon.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I agree with Alexa – the dolphins were inspiring!  It’s amazing that they can swim faster than the ship – twice as fast, according to Jon.  I feel like I’m getting to know the people on the ship better and they’re an entertaining bunch.  They work so hard – Tim Monaghan just told us that someone figured out that a mariner works 7 years longer in a lifetime than an onshore worker because they work round the clock 7 days a week.  It makes my life seem awfully easy by comparison!

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 17, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 17, 2006

Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.
Alexa Carey, Steve Flavin, and Jon Hare maneuver the bongos and the Video Plankton Recorder to prepare for sampling.

Science and Technology Log 

0200–I made it up for our watch and helped Alexa with the first plankton tow.  She’s already like a pro.  They call the sampling device “bongos,” I guess because it consists of two big stainless steel open-ended shallow cylinders which look somewhat like bongo drums to which are attached the two long, conical plankton nets. The mesh openings are 335 μm. They’re towed for about 5 minutes.  This time they also did two baby bongos which are for a University of Connecticut researcher who wants to look at the genetics of plankton on either side of the edge of the continental shelf. Jerry tells me this apparatus is considered to be superior to the old plankton nets which were towed from a bridle because it was thought the bridle scared away some plankton that were mobile enough to avoid it.  Now the bridle is between the two nets which act to balance one another out and give a two-for-one sample.  They use one for zooplankton and one for fish larvae.  The samples are sent to Poland where they’re sorted and it takes almost a year to get the data back.  The bongos are attached to a big boom which is operated from the winch booth which sits above the aft deck.  They’re lowered over the port side and the ship is maneuvered so the wind is coming toward the port side so that the ship doesn’t get blown over the nets.  Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps with the sampling, points out that in rough weather, that also means that the seas are coming over the port side as you’re working.  He says they’ve been out when the seas are breaking over the bow and over the entire superstructure onto the aft deck!

Chief Scientist Jerry Prezioso explained the sampling track to me.  They have the entire sampling area from the North almost up to the Bay of Fundy south to Hatter divided into what they call “strata” which are areas of continuous depth readings.  Each one is numbered and for each sampling trip (4, sometimes 5, per year), the computer randomly generates several stations within that stratum. From what he says, there has been a lot of discussion of the best way to sample to get a complete and accurate picture.  The original program was called MarMap which was started in the 70’s.  It used a grid pattern and sampled at the same stations every time.  The criticism of that was that some areas never got sampled so significant information could have been missed.

We’ve had an extremely busy shift.  We’re in an area off of Delaware Bay where “gliders” have been deployed. They are instruments that look like torpedoes and are programmed to work autonomously, moving back and forth across this area at varying depths and sending out data on salinity. John Hare is using that data to decide where we’ll do stations that will help to delimit the line between shelf water and slope water.  So we’ve done a number of stations in rapid succession.

We’ve also been testing a VPR, Video Plankton Recorder, which uses a camera and rotating strobe light to take pictures of plankton. The VPR takes as many as 20 pictures per second. A computer program then selects the images that can be identified.  The VPR would be used to supplement the bongos.  It reveals the depth at which the particular organisms occur which can’t be determined from the bongo samples.

Personal Log – Karen Meyers 

I’m relieved that my seasickness has passed.  I’m still finding that life at sea is somewhat of a challenge for me.  But I do like sleeping on a rocking ship.  I’m surprised by how much I miss my family – it’s different only being in touch by email and not being able to hear their voices.  I’m enjoying getting to know the various people on the ship – everyone is so kind and they all have such interesting backgrounds.  It’s such a different life that people live at sea! I’m impressed by the dedication of the scientists – they are serious about getting every station right, in spite of having done the procedure over and over again for years. Not only the scientists, but also Steve Flavin, the deckhand who helps us get the equipment over the side and back in again, is meticulous about never missing a step.

Personal Log – Alexa Carey 

Tamara, Karen and I interviewed Ensign Chad Meckley about his career path in NOAA corps. After coming out of the Merchant Marine Academy and completing BOTC training (a two-year course packed into four months), Meckley has begun working on the ALBATROSS IV to complete his sea-experience requirement . He describes his BOTC training as similar to drinking through a fire hose.

Karen and I are so lucky to come aboard to such a great crew.  I finally know everyone’s names and I believe most know mine.  Originally, I was quite scared of what this experience might be like because I know very little about the macro/micro organisms which we are observing. Secondly, I’ve never been to the East Coast before nor flown on a plane by myself for close to 10 hours. I miss my family quite a lot; I’d never really been this far away nor for such a long period of time.  Being completely out of contact for a week or more is quite difficult, but I know I’ll see them soon.  Fortunately, I’ve been adopted by a whole new family aboard ship just like at ISEF (International Science and Engineering Fair) last May.

The crew and scientists aboard are amazing!  There’s so much to learn, not just from the scientists, but the officers and crew.  These men and women have hands-on experience with a huge variety of subjects. I’m getting to learn from top field-experts in ways textbooks cannot convey.  Additionally, I’m improving my understanding of science, technology, engineering, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Everything is going smoothly with the weather, especially because it’s hurricane season.  There are beautiful sunsets and sunrises.  It’s just a great overall experience, something that no one should pass up. I get back on the 2nd of September, drive another 6 hours home, and then have one day off before school but, it’s all worth it.  I’ve been requested to interview as many of the officers, crew and scientists as possible in the allotted time.  During the work shift, I found I can handle several of the procedures alone, though I’m constantly afraid of making a mistake.  So far, I’ve heard I’m the youngest to ever sail aboard so I’m attempting to learn quickly and earn my keep.

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 16, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

13:47 — I’ve lost the past day to seasickness. All the other visitors/females on board have also been sick except for Alexa who is amazing.  We are on the midnight to noon shift with Jerry. I missed the whole shift but Alexa worked the whole shift.  Barbara and Carly are barely functioning. Tamara and I are still hurting.  Everyone is very kind and encouraging. Think I’ll head back to bed for now.

 

Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey, August 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Karen Meyers & Alexa Carey
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 15 – September 1, 2006

Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail aboard NOAA ship ALBATROSS IV.
Alexa Carey, a student from Oregon, prepares to set sail

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring
Geographical Area: Northeast U.S.
Date: August 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

We’re still at the dock in Woods Hole.  NOAA inspectors delayed the ALBATROSS IV’s departure for a day. We’re due to leave at 2 p.m. today.  Weather is overcast and windy.

The science crew consists of Jerry Prezioso, Chief Scientist, who is from NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service; Jon Hare, also of NMFS; Don Cobb of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); Barbara Sherman, who is a secretary at EPA in Narragansett and is out for a week as a volunteer; Carly Blair, a graduate student from URI; Alexa Carey, a student from Gold Beach, OR; Tamara Brown, a middle school teacher from Teaneck, NJ; and me.  I’ve met most but not all of the ship’s crew.  There are three NOAA Corps officers: Ensign Chad Meckley, Ensign Chris Daniels and Ensign Chris Skapin. We learned that the NOAA Corps is the seventh branch of the uniformed services, responsible for operating NOAA’s ships and planes.

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail
Teacher at Sea, Karen Meyers, is ready to sail

The plan is to cruise south, perhaps as far as Cape Hatteras.  NMFS will be doing plankton tows and testing a video camera for surveying plankton.  EPA is taking water samples to test for a variety of nutrients and sediment samples to test for heavy metals and benthic organisms.  We’ll come back to WH on 8/23 to exchange personnel and then head north up to the Gulf of Maine and possibly as far as the Bay of Fundy near Nova Scotia, Canada.

Kim Wolke, August 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: August 9, 2006

Weather from the Bridge
Skies:
Cloudy (CL)
Visibility:
  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction:
West (W)
Wind Speed:
10 knots
Waves:
0-1 foot
Sea Water Temp. (
°C): 11.1
Sea Level Pressure:
1010.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (
°C): 12.2 (air temperature)

Port-side engine on the NOAA ship RAINIER
Port-side engine on the NOAA ship RAINIER

Science and Technology Log

Since I’ve been aboard the RAINIER, I’ve wondered how the ship has been able to go for so long on fuel and water given that we are at sea for 19 days.  I also wanted to know what happens to all of the sewage we’ve been creating. I spoke with 1st Assistant Engineer Glen Quintino and General Vessel Assistants (GVA) Chris Zacharias and Milton Ellison from the Engineering Department to find out.  There are 2 engines on the ship, one on the starboard side and one on the port side. The engines run on diesel fuel.  There are 26 diesel fuel tanks on the ship with a total capacity of approximately 114,000 gallons.  Since there’s a lot of added weight from the fuel, as it’s used, the fuel needs to be moved around from tank to tank to keep the weight evenly distributed. Although the RAINIER does not use all of the fuel on a leg as long as this one, they do re-fuel when they get into port.

One of the two evaporators on the NOAA ship RAINIER which processes salt water into fresh water
One of the two evaporators on the NOAA ship RAINIER which processes salt water into fresh water

Fresh water is made on board the ship.  There are two water tanks, each with a capacity of about 8000 gallons. Salt water is pumped into the ship from below and heated to a very high temperature in the evaporator in order to evaporate the water and leave the solid salt behind. Once the salt is removed and disposed of, the desalinated water is then further purified by the addition of bromine and used as fresh water on the ship for drinking, cooking, and bathing.  I’ve been drinking it since I arrived and it’s great!  The toilets do not use freshwater; they use salt water to flush everything out.  Any of the sewage waste created aboard the ship is also treated. The sewage is literally electrocuted using a Marine Sanitation Device (MSD).  Between the salt in the sewage water and the electricity, sodium hypochloride (essentially chlorine) is created.  The treated sewage is placed in a holding tank and then pumped into the sea.

The Marine sanitation Device (MSD) which treats the sewage produced aboard the NOAA ship RAINIER
The Marine sanitation Device (MSD) which treats the sewage produced aboard the NOAA ship RAINIER

Who’s Who On the RAINIER? 

In the Engineering Department, the 1st Assistant Engineer is Glen Quintino.  Currently a resident of Seattle, WA, Glen is originally from California.  He has been with NOAA for six years, first working on the NOAA Ship McARTHUR before joining the RAINIER.  Glen went to a trade school in Denmark to study being a machinist.  He then worked for a company that made non-ferrous propellers, oil filters, and ship windows before joining NOAA in 1998. Glen was recently married in February 2006.

Engineering GVA Chris Zacharias and GVA Milton Ellison were both in the Navy in their former lives, each for 10 years. Chris is from Kansas where he still resides with his wife. Milton is originally from Tennessee, however, his residence is currently Michigan where his wife’s family is from.  Milton has been with NOAA and on the RAINIER for 4 months.  His prior experience was working in Engineering on commercial vessels in the Great Lakes area.

Many of the crewmembers, like Glen, Chris, and Milton, are married or have significant others at home.  Almost everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that one of the most challenging parts of their job is to be away from their loved ones for extended periods of time, especially the ones on board who are newlyweds.

RAINIER's First Assistant Engineer, Glen Quintino
RAINIER’s First Assistant Engineer, Glen Quintino

Personal Log 

We continue our journey back to Seward, AK traveling at approximately 13 knots.  It feels like we’re speeding compared to the speeds we were going for the past few weeks.  Although cloudy, the water is still amazingly calm which I am very grateful for.  It seems we may have left the blue skies and sunshine back in the Shumagin Islands since the extended forecast for the Seward area calls for rain or showers.  We’re currently scheduled to actually arrive early in Seward if the weather and mechanics of the ship cooperate. I’m looking forward to being back on land and checking out Seward before I depart for Anchorage Friday evening and a short excursion up to Denali National Park before flying home next Monday.  Keeping my fingers crossed and eyes open for more animals!

Jacquelyn Hams, August 4, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jacquelyn Hams
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 24 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 4, 2006

TAS Jacquelyn Hams and Steve Foye, Boatswain Group Leader on fantail
TAS Jacquelyn Hams and Steve Foye, Boatswain Group Leader on fantail

Weather
Partly cloudy
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind direction: 290
Wind speed: 5 knots
Seawater temperature: 10 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1013.2 mb
Temperature dry bulb: 12.8 degrees C
Temperature wet bulb: 12.26 degrees C

Science and Technology Log

Today I caught up with the TAS logs and began organizing lesson plans.  An Abandon Ship drill was held at 1515. I videotaped an interview with crew member Jodie Edmond, Able Seaman.

Jodie received an AA degree from a community college and has a very interesting background. She has driven boats for the Kenai Glaciers and Fjords Tour in Alaska and worked in several national parks. Jodie is studying for her captain’s license with NOAA’s support.

NOAA TAS Jacquelyn Hams
NOAA TAS Jacquelyn Hams
Jodie Edmond, RAINIER Able Seaman
Jodie Edmond, RAINIER Able Seaman

Kim Wolke, July 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: July 28, 2006

Weather from the Bridge
Skies:  Partly cloudy (PC)
Visibility:  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: Southwest
Wind Speed: 18 knots
Waves: 1-2 feet
Sea Water Temp. (°C): 10
Sea Level Pressure: 1024.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (°C): 15 (air temperature)

Lowering a survey launch off of NOAA ship RAINIER
Lowering a survey launch off the ship

Science and Technology Log 

We finally anchored later yesterday afternoon in Porpoise Harbor. It’s nice to have the ship in one place after 4 days of being underway.  I seem to be adjusting much better to the motion of the ocean. Today began with the first two launches going out at 0800 to begin the small boat surveying of this leg of RAINIER’S journey.  As long as the weather is good and there are no major issues with the survey launches, the boats stay out working from 0800 until 1630.

The smaller launches are able to cover areas that are shallower than the water’s the ship was surveying the other day since they have slightly different technology on them and because of their smaller size.  Each of the two launches had four people on them, a coxswain who drove the boat, and three other people who assisted with the hydrography surveying. One of the people is the head hydrographer, one works the computers that are collecting the data, and the other assists. Each day that launches go out, the people aboard them will rotate.  I’ll have my first chance at going on a survey launch in a few days. I’ll likely have a better understanding of the technical aspect of the hydrography once I’m actually on a launch.

Beautiful blue skies with a great view
Beautiful blue skies with a great view

I volunteered myself to join a launch boat that was heading to a small fishing village called Sand Point on the western side of Popof Island about 20 nautical miles away.  We left the ship at 1100 after getting water out of the launch.  Our ride to the village was a bit choppy since the wind was coming towards us and the waves were a bit higher.  It was very cloudy until we turned a bend.  All of a sudden, the sky was clearing and the water was calming.  As we reached the village, it was totally sunny and calm. YAY!! We only had about an hour in the village since our main reason for being there was to pick up a crewmember that had been on loan to another NOAA ship, the OSCAR DYSON.  It was great to just walk for a bit and eat some wild ripened salmonberries.

NOAA ship RAINIER anchored in Porpoise Harbor
NOAA ship RAINIER anchored in Porpoise Harbor

As we made our way back to the ship still anchored in Porpoise Harbor, the sunny, clear skies followed us. What gorgeous scenery!  There were also lots of puffins that flew over the water surface as we startled them going by in the boat. They’re such cute and funny looking birds with their chubby bodies and colorful beaks. Some of them had little tufts of yellow feathers on the tops of their heads.  We also had a couple of whale sightings in the distance. One was close enough that I could’ve taken a decent picture if I had had my camera ready.  Oh well. We had a special treat when we arrived back on the ship.  It was close to dinnertime and we were pleasantly surprised with a feast of the fresh halibut that Lt. Ben Evans (acting Executive Officer–XO) caught yesterday morning.  The cooks did a great job preparing the fish. Thanks to the XO and the kitchen!

Assistant Hydrography Survey Technician Marta Krynytzky
Assistant Hydrography Survey Technician Marta Krynytzky

Who’s Who on the NOAA ship RAINIER? 

Marta Krynytzky, an Assistant Hydrography Survey Technician, is the newest crewmember aboard the NOAA ship RAINIER.  This is her first cruise on the RAINIER as well as working for NOAA. Marta finished her Bachelor of Science degree in June 2005 in oceanography, specializing in marine geology and geophysics at the University of Washington in Seattle, WA.  After finishing college, she worked two cruises for Raytheon Polar Services Company. Her first cruise was to Antarctica as an intern aboard a ship called the Nathaniel B. Palmer.  Her second cruise, also to Antarctica, was aboard the Lawrence M. Gould where she worked as a marine technician.  Marta says that, despite how physically challenging the work can be aboard a ship, the two previous cruises she’s worked on were half female.

Marta enjoys doing fieldwork, which is one of the reasons she wanted to work for NOAA. She looks forward to seeing different places and trying different positions within NOAA. When she’s not working, Marta enjoys hiking, backpacking, snowboarding, skateboarding, canoeing, and surfing. From her experience, Marta believes there are a few important requirements for the kind of work she does. As far as coursework, she believes a strong math background is important.  In addition, computer skills are needed as well as having working knowledge of programs such as Excel for organizing data, preparing spreadsheets, and creating graphs and charts. Another important quality for working on a ship is being able to work as a team with other people.  Much of the work involved living and working on the ship is not done independently. Everyone relies on everyone else to keep the ship running smoothly so the objectives of the ship can be met.

I wish Marta the best of luck on her new career with NOAA!!

Kim Wolke, July 26, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Wolke
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 23 – August 11, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of the Shumagin Islands
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: July 26, 2006

Assistant Survey Technician Nick Gianoutsos showing off his SECOND halibut!
Assistant Survey Technician Nick Gianoutsos showing off his SECOND halibut!

Weather from the Bridge
Skies: Cloudy
Visibility:  10+ nautical miles (nm)
Wind Direction: South/southwest
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Waves: 1 foot
Sea Water Temp.: 10.7 ° C
Sea Level Pressure:  1024.0 millibars (mb)
Temp. (°C): 11.7 (air temperature)

Science and Technology Log 

Today began with clear, blue skies and calm water.  It was a very welcome change for me from the rocking and rolling we’ve been experiencing as well as the clouds and drizzly rain. Since we finished all of the survey lines that were planned for the Semedi Islands area, we are now underway to our next survey spot in the Shumagin Islands which we should reach and anchor at by this evening. We did some “biological sampling” this morning as several crewmembers cast their fishing lines off the fantail (back) of the ship.  Since the first spot wasn’t producing as expected, the ship was moved to a second notable location. Within minutes of the fishing lines being out into the water, 4 halibut and 1 Irish lord were on deck. The Irish lord was put back into the water, but the halibut were filleted on the deck.  Maybe that’ll be dinner one night!!!

An Irish lord fish…so ugly it’s cute!
An Irish lord fish…so ugly it’s cute!

Another nice surprise this morning were the sightings of whale in the distance as they blew water and swam around.  A pod of Dall’s porpoise also played again on the bow (front) of the ship for a while.  I felt like they knew I was watching them so they were showing off.

Who’s Who on the RAINIER? 

There are many roles that people have aboard the RAINIER, all of which collectively keep the ship running safely and efficiently. Steve Foye has been a member of the RAINIER crew for approximately 15 years, but has been with NOAA for over 25 years. He has worked on other NOAA ships, including the McARTHUR, the DAVIDSON, and the FAIRWEATHER. Steve’s original ship training came from his “on the job” training he received being in the Navy and from working on freighters. Prior to working with NOAA, Steve worked for Boeing in a guided missile factory.

Boatswain Group Leader Steve Foye aboard NOAA ship RAINIER
Boatswain Group Leader Steve Foye aboard NOAA ship RAINIER

Steve’s title on the RAINIER is currently Boatswain* Group Leader. He reports directly to the Chief Boatswain and has a number of deckhands onboard that report to him. The Boatswain is in charge of a ship’s anchors, lines, wires, the deck crew, the ship’s boats, the rigging of the ship, and overseeing the general maintenance of the ship. The specific tasks that Steve oversees on the RAINIER are imperative to the functioning of the ship. All of the ship’s wires need to be slushed, which means they are greased regularly to keep them from rusting. There are quite a lot of wires on the ship to hold things in place as well as to move equipment around using cranes.  All of the mechanical equipment on the deck must also be lubricated and kept in working order, including the davit winches, cranes, and anchor windless, which controls the anchor. In addition to maintaining this equipment, the Boatswain and his crew are the ones who also operate the equipment.  Steve mentioned that “chasing rust” was another important part of the ship’s upkeep.  This is where rusty areas are prepped with a wire brush to clean them. Then they’re-primed and repainted.  General maintenance of the ship is something else the Boatswain oversees, making sure that the passageways and general interior of the vessel are clean.

A crane on the bow of NOAA   ship RAINIER
A crane on the bow of NOAA ship RAINIER

On the RAINIER there are 6 survey launch boats.  It is Steve’s responsibility to make sure that the boats are launched properly. This involves some safety checks ahead of time as well as the use of davits, which are machines that lower the launches into the water.  It is critical for the hydrography work that the RAINIER does to keep these boats and the equipment that maneuvers them on to and off of the ship in working order. When Steve isn’t busy training someone new to the ship or overseeing the use of a crane or davit, he enjoys taking photographs. He told me he has over 2000 pictures so far this year alone! He enjoys being away from home cruising to new places. He has maps that he marks to show the places he’s been to on all of his cruises. From talking with him, it seems that Steve enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with others. He’s also a very funny man.

The anchor windless on NOAA ship RAINIER.  Each chain is about 1080 feet long.  The anchor itself weighs about 3500 pounds.
The anchor windless on NOAA ship RAINIER. Each chain is about 1080 feet long. The anchor itself weighs about 3500 pounds.
Davit winch, which helps to move the survey launches.
Davit winch, which helps to move the survey launches.
Boatswain Group Leader Steve Foye taking pictures.
Boatswain Group Leader Steve Foye taking pictures.

David Babich, July 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
David Babich
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 5 -14, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date: July 13, 2006

Weather Data 
WX Cloudy, fog
Wind  NW 20 kts
Sea 6ft
Temp 50’s

The Shumagin Islands’ spectacular scenery
The Shumagin Islands’ spectacular scenery

Science and Technology 

For the past 30 hours the FAIRWEATHER has been on route back to port. We had beautiful weather most of the way back, which made it perfect for whale watching. Yesterday evening, many of the crew made their way out to the ship’s bow to watch at least 8-10 humpback whales swimming around the ship. It seemed like everywhere you looked, you saw another whale spout. It was quite exciting, as we all were snapping pictures trying to get the perfect shot. Unfortunately, they were just a little too far away. Later in the evening, the ship stopped to let some of the crew (those with valid fishing licenses) get a chance to do a little fishing. Several had good luck in catching halibut, before the ship had to continue on the voyage back to port. The FAIRWEATHER arrived back at port today at 11:00am. This gives the officers and crew time to prepare for tomorrow’s Fleet Inspection.

FAIRWEATHER Profile: Able Seaman Emily Evans 

More spectacular scenery.
More spectacular scenery.

Emily works in the Deck Department where she is responsible for a variety of duties. She is in charge of cleaning and general maintenance of the ship as well as operates cranes, stands bridge and anchor watch, and pilots the small boats (she drove the survey launch I was on). Not a position you might expect from someone with a B.S. degree in Physics!

Emily grew up in New York, close to Lake Ontario, and raced sailboats competitively. After college, Emily soon realized she wanted to get back to what she loved doing – sailing. She spent the next five years working on sailboats, primarily teaching environmental science classes aboard educational vessels and sailing skills. But she wanted to work with serious boat people. After discounted shipping out commercially, feeling it wouldn’t be stimulating enough, she looked into NOAA. It became a perfect fit!

Able Seaman Emily Evans is relaxing in the ship’s mess hall.
Able Seaman Emily Evans is relaxing in the ship’s mess hall.

Working for NOAA has everything Emily was looking for – a serious, science oriented experience that has a lot of variety and opportunities. She actually heard about NOAA through her older brother, Ben. Ben happens to be the Field Operations Officer on the RAINIER. So it is very comforting to know she has family close by. Emily loves being on the water and driving the small boats. She feels very fortunate to be able to see parts of the country like Alaska that very few people get a chance to see. For now, she is just savoring her time aboard ship. She is studying to get certified for the survey department which will provide many more opportunities for her in the future.

Personal Log 

I’ve had a wonderful ten days in Alaska!  I want to thank everyone at NOAA and especially the officers and crew of the FAIRWEATHER for allowing me to join them for this leg of their hydrography season.  The knowledge I’ve gained from this experience will be shared with my students for years to come!

The NOAA ship FAIRWEATHER off the coast of the Shumagin Islands.
The NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER off the coast of the Shumagin Islands.

Chris Harvey, June 25, 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 25, 2006

Crew Interview: Huntley Brownell, Deckhand

“Rather than defining my life by working a job, what will define me is the relationships I form along the way.”

The most remarkable thing about Huntley is that he was born in the backseat of a Greyhound bus heading down Highway 41. Since then it seems he has been on the move, discovering this world one place at a time. Originally from Charleston, South Carolina, Huntley left home after a year in college and set out to explore the world. Although his mother was not in full approval of his decision to leave, his father–a biologist working for NOAA–knew that he needed a bit of time out in the world before attending college.

After working several small jobs, Huntley put in his application with NOAA and then forgot about it for several months until one day he received a call asking if he was still interested. “Can you start work in 2 days,” the voice on the other end asked. Huntley accepted the offer and was at sea on the COBB between Seattle and Alaska almost immediately. After 3 months of working, he found out about an opening on the SETTE, based out of the tropics instead of the arctic, and has been working onboard the SETTE for the last two years.

Only planning on spending a summer or so working on the SETTE, Huntley found himself quickly addicted to the fix that traveling to remote parts of the world offered. “It is a good way to travel and see places you wouldn’t normally see as a tourist.” And sure enough, one cruise to Samoa turned into another to Marianas. Like most travelers, it was always the thought of the next trip that kept him going cruise after cruise.

While at sea, Huntley is an avid reader, crediting The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, as one of his favorite, life-changing books. (I also agree, as a fellow journeyman, that this is one book not to be missed.) He is also teaching himself guitar and studying for his private pilot’s license. Flying when back in Oahu is one of the things that have opened Huntley’s perspective of life.

Although he cannot recall his favorite memory onboard the SETTE, as he says there have been so many, he narrowed down the years of past experience to two: the time that the fishermen were catching big tuna right and left and it was fun to be a part of that, even though he hadn’t earned his fishing spot yet, and the first time he came to the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and saw a part of the islands that most people never get to see.

Huntley loves the sea, but senses the urge inside of him to travel again. He has no immediate plans of where he might move on to, but with a strong feeling that it is nearing time, his options are unlimited: “The older I get, the less I know what I want to do. The more you travel, the more open doors you see. And you know you can walk through any one of them.”

Jessica Schwarz, June 23, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jessica Schwarz
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 19 – July 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaska
Date: June 23, 2006

Assistant Engineer Kelly Baughman, checking gages in Central Engine Room Control.
Assistant Engineer Kelly Baughman, checking gages in Central Engine Room Control.

Crew Interview Day! 

Today was another excellent day onboard the mighty RAINIER.  I awoke and made my way to the galley for an English muffin and some coffee before I made it to Central Engine Room Control to chat with Third Assistant Engineer Kelly Baughman.  Before Kelly made her way down to talk with me, Engineering Electronics Technician (EET) Joe Gallo took me beyond the center console and into the engine room.  I was able to see for myself the machinery that is powering the ship.  I checked out the main engines, the generators, the boiler, the evaporators, and all kinds of other noisy machines.  After my tour I sat down to find out what got Kelly into being an engineer in the first place. Kelly started out as a young girl with aspirations of becoming a naval pilot. This was interesting news to me because I didn’t realize the Navy had pilots in the first place.  I thought the Navy aircraft carriers were carriers for Air Force planes.  In actuality, the Air Force is only land based, and all Navy carriers support naval aircraft.

Photo of the port main engine. The starboard main engine is not shown but looks exactly the same and is directly across from the port engine.
Photo of the port main engine. The starboard main engine is not shown but looks exactly the same and is directly across from the port engine.

As she grew up she changed her mind, deciding to pursue a Bachelors of Science in Marine Engineering Systems Design from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY.  Along with a BS, Kelly also received a minor in nuclear engineering.

The United States Merchant Marine Academy (known simply as “Kings Point”) is one of the five federal military training academies.  It is the only academy that allows its graduates to be hired as civilians with the expectation of completing their military service requirements.  Kelly is completing her requirements by working for the Navy Reserve. Kelly has traveled all over the world on various ships.  Before she even finished college she was onboard US Naval Ship LARAMIE during the time the United Nations decided to go into Kosovo.  LARAMIE was a Navy support ship that replenished the battle ships with fuel, food, and other consumables.  She mentioned these ships are the only military ships that will employ civilians and they follow the battle fleet for the sole purpose of providing support and supplies to the vessels.

While onboard Kelly was getting hands-on training as an engineer.  Students at Kings Point are required to have at least one year of hands-on training on a ship before graduating. While she was getting her training she was traveling to Japan, Australia, Spain, Alaska, Hawaii…and plenty of other places (I just can’t remember them all…there were so many).

Ordinary Seamen (OS) Megan Guberski fully suited in her turnout gear onboard NOAA ship RAINIER.
Ordinary Seamen (OS) Megan Guberski fully suited in her turnout gear onboard NOAA ship RAINIER.

Now Kelly is an employee of the Maritime Engineers Beneficiary Association, which is the largest maritime union for engineers.  She was originally placed on NOAA ship RAINIER to work for 45 days beginning in April 2006, but after arrival, due to her level of experience as an engineer she was offered to stay onboard until August 2006.

I was just so impressed talking with Kelly.  She’s traveled all over the world working as an engineer on many different kinds of ships.  I really appreciated the time she took to explain how all the machines work to power the RAINIER!!  She is obviously doing what she enjoys and life at sea comes very natural to her.  After talking with Kelly, I spent some time responding to e-mails and chatting with the crew. Today is Friday, so in my normal routine that means…DAYS OFF!!!  Not for the crew of RAINIER…their schedule continues to rotate regardless of what day of the week it is. Ordinary Seaman (OS) Megan Guberski put it simply, saying “yeah, every day is a Tuesday.” They are working so hard out here…all the time.  I think when we come into port I’ll get to see what it’s like for the crew to get a break.  That’ll be nice.

OS Megan Guberski showed me a little bit of what it’s like to work on maintaining the quality of the ship. She spends her days cleaning, painting, scraping, scrubbing, fixing, etc and gets to use really cool power tools (she mentioned that’s why she enjoys her job so much).  When she had a little time, I asked Megan if she would put on her fire suit for a picture, or as it is supposed to be called, “turnout gear.” Turnout gear is the protective gear Megan has to wear to fight a fire onboard.

She went through Coast Guard Advanced Fire Fighting Training and is now one of five people responsible for putting out a fire onboard! I noticed the suit during our fire drill earlier in the week and I SO badly wanted to get pictures, but knew it probably wasn’t the best time.  I was still trying to figure out where I was supposed to go in case of a fire. As I mentioned earlier…I get lost easily so stopping for photos during a fire drill would be a bad idea.

Anyway, it’s supposed to take them around a minute to get the suit on.  That seems impossible to me because there are a lot of things Megan had to put on. The turnout gear was even more difficult to get into than the Gumby suit and that took some serious effort.

Megan, as well as all the crew on the RAINIER, has been excellent at taking time to explain how things work on the ship. She has been on the RAINIER for about a year and a half now and is working her way up to be an AB, Able-Bodied Seamen.  By September 3rd of this year she will have enough days at sea to qualify as an AB onboard. Megan is very ambitious and has already completed all the training necessary to qualify as an AB.  She will need to take a Coast Guard test before she will earn the title, but she said she’s not concerned about that. It’s just a matter of getting in her sea time.

It’s been so nice to have the opportunity to learn about the different job opportunities onboard a NOAA ship. Many of the positions require little to no training prior to employment and therefore training is provided onboard the vessel.  I think that’s awesome!

Showing off her air tank, OS Megan Guberski is dressed to fight a fire!
Showing off her air tank, OS Megan Guberski is dressed to fight a fire!

Personal Log 

Tonight I had halibut for dinner. The CO caught a 15-lb halibut off the stern of the ship and we all were able to enjoy!  There are hot springs on shore and rumor has it we’ll be visiting them soon. I’m looking forward to that.

I’m getting more used to the noises of the ship and am sleeping soundly.  My bunk is surprisingly cushy and very comfortable.  It wasn’t exactly easy getting out of it this morning.

I saw a sea otter today!!!  He was swimming on his back. We don’t have otters in Hawaii so I’m having my first otter encounters here in Alaska.  I guess some of the crew saw whales this morning as well, but I missed it!

Life is good out here on the RAINIER!  A little rainy today, but good!

This is cool…check it out! 

Go to NOAA’s website.

Lisa Kercher, June 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

LCDR E.J. Van Den Ameele
LCDR E.J. Van Den Ameele, XO of the Fairweather

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 18, 2006

Ship Crew

The ship’s Executive Officer (XO) is LCDR E.J. Van Den Ameele. The XO is responsible for the administration of the ship. He is synonymous with the principal of a school! He supervises each department, supervises the officers, and handles the budget, logistics, and personnel.

LT Jennifer Dowling
LT Jennifer Dowling

Field Operations Officer (FOO) LT Jennifer Dowling is the project manager for the activities that go on when conducting hydrography operations.  She describes some of her duties. “I am the liaison between the ship and scientists when they are aboard conducting their own missions. I determine what my resources are (qualified personnel, working boats, up-to-date equipment and software), and create daily plans to accomplish each mission.  I evaluate all data once it is processed and submit it to the CO who will send it off for final evaluation and publication. I also keep candy at my desk to lure junior officers and survey techs over so that I may give them jobs to do!”

 

Junior Officers (JOs) include ENS Jonathan French, ENS Matthew Glazewski, ENS Wendy Lewis, and ENS Allison Martin. Their duties include maintaining weather and deck logs, assisting in training the crew, planning for emergencies on board, acting as an Officer of the Deck (OOD), assisting with positioning of beacons and lights, and most importantly NAVIGATING THE SHIP!

Screen shot 2013-04-08 at 3.40.05 PM
Left to right: ENS Jonathan French, ENS Matthew Glazewski, ENS Wendy Lewis, and ENS Allison Martin

ENS Glazewski, a 2005 graduate of Penn State University, recalls, “like many people from PA, I always thought of Alaska as the little inset on the map of the US.  After moving here and driving around on the FAIRWEATHER, I’ve realized just how amazingly huge Alaska is, and how each area of the state has its own personality, climate, wildlife, terrain, and rugged beauty.”

kercher_log6e
ENS Allison Martin

ENS Allison Martin shares a memorable moment of her job, saying, “one of my duties on board is Assistant Horizontal Control Officer. Basically, this means that when we have a project that includes a beacon or another Aide to Navigation (ATON) we must get a precise position of it for the charts. In order to do this Grant Froelich and I get to climb up, often very tall, rocks or structures to reach the light. On our last project in the Gulf of Esquibel (near Ketchikan, AK), we got to climb up a 105-foot tall rock. That’s 10 stories high! It was a lot of fun.”

kercher_log6f
Chief Survey Tech, Lynn Morgan

Chief Survey Tech, Lynn Morgan describes her job: “My position as chief is to run the survey department and to ensure that the survey equipment is available and in good working order.  Most of our acquisition and processing of data is on computers, so there is a lot of installing and troubleshooting of software. Standard operating procedures are necessary to ensure quality data is collected and submitted, so the survey department maintains documentation on our procedures and trains new survey personnel and junior officers.”

Lynn shares a personal story about her life on the ship. “One of the most rewarding aspects of this job for me personally, besides getting to learn about hydrography from really sharp people, is that I’m getting to see what life was like for my father when he was on this ship 20 years ago. He was in the NOAA Corps and still works for NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, so it’s a lot of fun to chat with him now about ‘ship stuff’ and to be able to relate to what he was doing when he wasn’t  home.”

kercher_log6gg
Electronics Technician (ET) Richard Conway

Electronics Technician (ET) Richard Conway can be seen doing all kinds of necessary jobs around the boat from repairing computers to establishing communications for the ship. “After several weeks of being on board and learning the layout of my sate room, I found out that I could navigate in my room in the dark without turning the light on. Well one night I went to the bathroom and being I did not want any bright lights in my eyes, I navigated my way in the dark. After flushing the toilet I suddenly saw all these green and white sparks start flashing in the bowl. ‘Oh no, what did I do?’ Being half asleep, my first thought was I had accidentally knocked something electrical into the toilet so I turned on the lights. I saw nothing…nada, zippo.  By then my brain was more awake and I remembered the FAIRWEATHER uses seawater to flush its toilets.  What I was seeing were the little critters, phytoplankton and zooplankton, that give off bioluminescence when excited. In this case it was the agitation from flushing. So I turned off the lights and waited for my eyes to adjust. I then flushed several more times, each time enjoining the light show.  Don’t tell anybody but I was pretending I was at a 4th of July fireworks show complete with Oooooo and Ahhhhh sound effects!”

Personal Log 

I have to admit that living on a ship with all of these people can be quite challenging, but so enjoyable at the same time. It is almost like teaching middle school! They all make me laugh all the time! The camaraderie on board is great. We often sit at meals joking around and sharing stories.  Everyone is of varying ages and backgrounds and from different parts of the United States, so they have many interesting experiences to share and a wealth of knowledge to pour out. Each night there are movies to watch and it is fun to get together with the others onboard to hangout in the evening after all your work is complete. There is a very apparent team effort when on the FAIRWEATHER which is very important for completing tasks that are as cutting edge as the research that these scientists are doing!  I am grateful to those aboard the FAIRWEATHER for making me feel so welcome and teaching me so much that I will be able to take back to use in my science classroom!

Chris Harvey, June 15, 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 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

I have lost track of time out here, both the date and the day of week, and am only reminded that it is the middle of June by the changing of the date on each of my new journal entries. It is kind of nice to forget about time for a while.  All I know of time is that I wake up each morning and go about the routine of hauling the traps in the morning and setting the traps in the evening. It has truly become Groundhog Day out here.  Regardless of what day it is, there is one thing I know I will be doing: waking and working. At least the scenery is nice!

The trade winds have continued to blow at a consistent 20 knots from the east, bringing with them long, deep swells and choppy surface waves.  It was much rougher today, and is still much rougher tonight, than it was on any other day.  So long, quiet Pacific.  As I stood on the bow of the ship to watch the sunset I thought about the fact that these trade winds have already come across my little Honduran island and have long since left.  The same winds, at some point, helped carry tropical storm Alberto across the Atlantic Ocean and towards my home in Jacksonville.  Of course, the energy and direction of the winds have fluctuated indefinitely over the time it takes them to wrap around the world, but they are essentially still the same. And I go back to my island in the Caribbean and think of how wonderful the trade winds are for keeping the mosquitoes and sand flies away during the summer time.  And how they inspired me to do anything and everything.  And now they make me sit outside long into the night to keep fresh air in my lungs and brain, and to keep a horizon of sorts on level ground for the sanity of my inner ear.

Many of the scientists have already given up the fight and have retired long before dinner. I, a fighter of nearly everything, have continued the battle against seasickness and am waiting for the trade winds to clear the clouds from the evening sky so that I might take in their beauty once again.  I am yet to miss a sunset on the ship, or a moment of utter awe at the night sky above me. And I doubt I will miss either the rest of the trip, even if I am ailing from the increased swells that can be anticipated from strong wind across a large section of water over a long time.  The view out here is definitely not something I get to see every day back home.

Work today was difficult with the waves splashing over the side of the ship.  I was a stacker today and found, at times, that stacking traps on the fantail was like climbing a mountain and dragging the traps behind. I would watch and wait for the ship to tilt bow up, so I could pull the traps “downhill” across the fantail in the rear of the ship.  Sometimes there was no “downhill” or “uphill” for that matter.  Sometimes we just bounced back and forth and rocked in almost every direction at the same time.  I guess my offerings of respect and love for the Pacific were not accepted.

In addition to having difficult trap drags on the deck, it took us much longer to move from the site where we hauled the traps to where we set them than it normally does.  (That sentence took a long time to write, not only because it seems grammatically deficient, but also because I had to sit and watch the mouse slide back and forth across the desk, dragging the curser on the screen along with it!  Talk about entertainment onboard a rocking ship!) In short, I ate a small dinner before I set the traps tonight.  So we were not done working until around 6:45 or so.  Long day. Plus I managed to get a nice sunburn.

I am again envious of our resident albatross.  I watched him soar back and forth and up and down, along the tips of the crests of waves up to the outline of the bottoms of clouds, without moving his wings once.  It was truly remarkable to watch him soar so freely without expending energy. A friend has informed me that only information can break the laws of physics. I think this albatross has come pretty darn close today.

Also, I will attach the “biographies” of two of the ship’s crew who have become good friends of mine. In an attempt to “practice” my creative writing and character development of stories, I am interviewing as many of the crewmen as possible and then writing a “fun” biography for the ships records.  Knowing how well I am at starting projects, and how poor I am at finishing them, these will probably be the only two I complete during the cruise.  But I am going to try to get everyone done before July 4, when we pull back into Honolulu. I make reference to many different people in my journal entries, and I have not done an adequate job of describing them.  I will try to fill you in on their characters and personalities, but no promises that you will be able to relate to my experiences out here any more or less as a result.

As you will read, Sarah is a junior officer on the ship and a peer of mine through age and life experience. She has taught me many things about the bridge and how the boat functions, as well as how the ship acquires weather data that it sends back to the National Weather Service every few hours, and of course, the Beauty of the evening sky and the many constellations that occupy its space.  We have a similar background that makes conversation easy and, as always, this conversation carries meaning for me because it constantly stretches my mind and perspective on how things in the world operate.

Bruce is the first of the crew that I met, and immediately struck a note with.  He is native Hawaiian, born in the house in the Oahu hills that his parent’s still live in today.  He has a wonderful laugh that makes me laugh every time I hear it, even if I do not hear the punch line of the joke or story he has just told.  He is about the happiest-go-lucky person I have ever met, with an outlook on life that is enviable.  I have been told that he can be mean at times.  But I haven’t seen that part of him.  And those times are so few and far between that his demeanor is positive in an almost excessive amount.  (When has positive attitude and behavior ever been excessive?  Certainly not in this world!)  He is one of those people who you can’t help but to hope that everything good happens to him in life- just because he is not expecting it to, and he is not demanding that it does.  I am learning a lot on this cruise from Bruce.

All quiet other than that. I thought of school today and made myself sick with worry.  So I stood up and walked to the very rear of the ship and watched the “screws” (props) churn up sky-blue water. I don’t like thinking of school.  There are so many things that I know I will have to do- so many things to worry about.  This is the last time I will mention it.  Worry is not for me.  Especially not here.

ENS Sarah Harris 

Junior Officer/Scientist

Sarah always wanted to be a professional clown when she grew up, but her feet were not large enough to fit into the shoes of a clown, and so she was turned down from the National Clown Academy upon her completion of high school.  Instead, she attended Long Island University in South Hampton, New York and earned a degree in marine biology. Upon completion of her degree, Sarah had a difficult time finding a job as a marine biologist.  Instead, she spent the better part of the two years after college working “stupid jobs” in order to make ends meet.

One day, working as a server in a Moroccan restaurant and as a bodyguard in a girls’ home, Sarah had an epiphany of sorts.  Memories of a Marine Ecology class came to mind.  She had used NOAA data in one of her class projects and had the sudden revelation that she should apply to become a NOAA officer. Sidestepping pressure to join the Air Force or Navy, she attended courses through the Merchant Marine Academy and within three months was qualified to begin work with NOAA onboard several ships.

In an interview for placement aboard a NOAA ship, Sarah commented that she would prefer to be on a Hawaii-based ship. She knew that the OSCAR ELTON SETTE had the best crew, and by far the best meals of any NOAA vessel.  As fortune revealed itself to Sarah, none of the other NOAA officers applied for Pacific ships, and she was given a position aboard the SETTE, based out of Honolulu, Hawaii.

Here she is at twenty-four years of age driving the SETTE through the waters of the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Her unofficial capacity as an officer aboard the SETTE is to “drive the dang boat.” (As it would be, you can put a boat on a ship, but you CANNOT put a ship on a boat!). However, her official job description is to “help coordinate scientists and crew to accomplish the ship’s mission.”  (Proper use of the term “ship,” and might I add as an objective interviewer, very well stated!)

Sarah focuses daily on her short-term goal, which is to not jump overboard during the shark feeding frenzy that takes place on lobster cruises each afternoon.  In the long run, she hopes to use the GI Bill to help her earn her masters degree in the coming years.  She also aspires to become a treasure hunter and, if that does not work out, a pirate!

In her spare time, Sarah enjoys riding her beach cruiser.  Of course she cannot do that while at sea, so she also takes up the wonderfully entertaining hobby of reading.  Her fondest memory aboard the SETTE was the first day setting sail in January of 2006, when she earned the affectionate nickname of “Princess Spew Wog” for putting on a wonderful demonstration of what a hangover will do when mixed with Pacific swells and a moving ship.

Sarah carries a line with her everywhere she goes, whether out to sea or on land:

“Desire is Desire wherever you go. The Sun with not bleach it, or the Tides wash it away.”

Bruce Mokiao 

“Decky”

“Always look for the good in people.”

If there is a friendly face to know aboard the SETTE, and the warmest laughter to accompany a welcoming smile, it belongs to Bruce.  He has been a decky aboard the SETTE since it was commissioned on January 23, 2003.  Before that, he worked in the same capacity aboard the recently decommissioned NOAA vessel, the TOWNSEND CROMWELL.  Even further back than that, one might recognize Bruce’s voice in the song “Wipe Out.”  The royalties for the song have since run out, so Bruce takes to the sea to do what he has come to do very well.

Spending much of his time before NOAA as a commercial long-line tuna and marlin fishermen, he stumbled into his current position almost by accident.  A friend of his working on the Townsend Cromwell had given him an application many years back, which he held onto for two years before finally submitting it to NOAA.  Like many of us, he only knew NOAA for the National Weather Service, and not for its marine research.

On June 11, 2006 Bruce passed his five-year mark with NOAA, an accomplishment that he is very proud of. He has no real plans of leaving the ship any time soon, although he is finishing up testing with the Coast Guard when the ship is at port.  As long as tuna are being caught in the trolling lines and he has first dibs on a freshly beating tuna heart, Bruce will always be found aboard the SETTE.

Some of Bruce’s hobbies on the ship include making fun of the Teacher at Sea, and storytelling, both of which he does with such clear evidence of god-given talent it is amazing!  While the ship is not as sea, Bruce heads back to his parents home to spend time with them.  He has great love and respect for his mother and father, who make frequent appearances in his stories, and he strives to model their example in his own life for his daughter (21 years old) and his son (19 years old).  Bruce was recently married in January 2006 and takes great pride in his wife as well.

Some of the best advice that Bruce has to offer surrounds him, much like the quotes at the top and bottom of this page.

“I like to be happy every day.”

Nancy McClintock, June 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy McClintock and Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 13, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: Fair to poor
Wind direction:  ESE
Average wind speed: 7 knots
Wave height: 1-2’ SE
Air temperature:  75 oF
Sea temperature:  79 oF
Cloud cover: 100%
Barometric pressure:  10144 mb

Mark Silverman and Nancy  McClintock conclude their awesome adventure. My memories truly will last a lifetime and I thank NOAA for giving me the opportunity to participate in this excellent program.
Mark Silverman and Nancy McClintock conclude their awesome adventure. My memories truly will last a lifetime and I thank NOAA for giving me the opportunity to participate in this excellent program.

Science and Technology Log 

The FREEDOM STAR traveled approximately 200 miles during the night toward Port Canaveral, our final destination. Wave height increased and then decreased as morning arrived.  It will take approximately 15 minutes to go through the lock and then 1-½ hours to travel upriver to the dock at Hanger AF. The FREEDOM STAR is the sister ship of the LIBERTY STAR and they are both used in the recovery of rocket boosters for the NASA Space program.  Before leaving the dock, the FREEDOM STAR takes on freshwater that is stored in two tanks totaling 17,000 gallons – this is non-potable water. 5,000 gallons of potable (drinkable) water is stored in a separate tank.  Once the FREEDOM STR reaches the dock the wastewater goes through the city purification system before being released into open water.  Testing of this water reveals that it is drinkable at this time. However, it is not used for drinking water.  Legally, the wastewater can be released at sea, but the FREEDOM STAR  does not do this.

Personal Log 

The waves did not reach the expectations of 30 knots and the ship did not rock and roll as much as expected.  This morning is very gloomy and much cooler due to the cloud cover. The viewing of Port Canaveral in the distance brings a certain element of excitement, as does going under the drawbridge and entering the lock. However, I am sad to reach the conclusion of this wonderful adventure. I have many wonderful memories and pictures to keep forever. I thank NOAA for selecting me and giving me this fantastic opportunity to enhance my life and the lives of my students.

Mike Nicholas, FREEDOM STAR 2nd Mate, enters the lock at Port Canaveral as Allan Gravina, FREEDOMS STAR Able Bodied Seaman, looks on.
Mike Nicholas, 2nd Mate, enters the lock at Port Canaveral as Allan Gravina, Able Bodied Seaman, looks on.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: In 330’ of sea water the pressure is equivalent to 10 atmospheres of pressure from the surface to outer space.  The fish have difficulty withstanding the increase in pressure and, quite often, do not survive. Fish have swim bladders that help them keep position in the water. When they are brought to the surface from a deep depth, the pressure decrease causes the bladder to expand.  Too much expansion kills the fish. Today’s question: How does it feel to be selected as a NOAA Teacher at Sea and spend six days on a NASA ship in the Atlantic Ocean?

Today’s answer: This has been one of the best experiences of my life and I can hardly wait to tell everyone about this cruise, the importance of exploring the ocean for scientific purposes, and show my pictures.

Interview with Marta Ribera 

The ship passes beneath the drawbridge as it returns home to Port Canaveral.
The ship passes beneath the drawbridge as it returns home to Port Canaveral.

Marta was born in Gainesville, Florida and moved to Barcelona, Spain at the age of 3 ½ years.  She received an undergraduate degree with major emphasis in General Biology and a minor in Ecology from the Autonomous University of Barcelona. Following a year of graduate work in GIS, Marta received an internship at the National Marine Fisheries Service in Panama City and has been with NMFS for the past three years. On this cruise, Marta oversees the use of the CTDs (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) and records all data collected.  The larger CTD (valued at $18,000) is used to record conductivity, temperature, depth, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and clarity of water.  A smaller CTD (valued at $1,800) is placed on the ROV and records pressure, temperature, and depth of the ocean.  At the Panama City Lab, Marta also works with multi-beam mapping, GIS, and is conducting a study on juvenile snapper with Stacey Harter. One of her goals is to complete a Master’s Degree in GIS applied to Fisheries and Marine Biology. “The best thing about my job is that I love the people with whom I work and nothing is ever the same.”

Marta Ribera and Andy David, NOAA scientists, prepare the CTD for deployment.  The CTD recorded conductivity, temperature, and depth of the ocean on this cruise.
Marta Ribera and Andy David prepare the CTD for deployment, which recorded conductivity, temperature, and depth.

Interview with Mr. Wally Exell 

Chief mate and Relief Captain of the M/V FREEDOM STAR

Mr. Exell is the Captain of the FREEDOM STAR for our NOAA cruise. He was born in Bermuda and received his education from the Merchant Marine School in England. Ever since he was young he wanted to go to sea. His love for the sea led him to working with the NASA Missile Retrieving program for the past 24 years.  He has been with the FREEDOM STAR for the past 16 years. When at sea, he is on an active duty for 4 hours and then on stand down (on call) for 8 hours. “The best thing about my job is that my work is very unique and interesting and I am honored working with this Program and the great crew.”

Please see Mark Silverman’s logs for additional interviews.

Captain Wally Exell, FREEDOM STAR, stands outside the bridge visually checking our passage through the lock at Port Canaveral.
Captain Wally Exell, FREEDOM STAR, stands outside the bridge visually checking our passage through the lock at Port Canaveral.

Nancy McClintock, June 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Nancy McClintock and Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 11, 2006

The sun begins its amazing show of lights as it sets on the shimmering water of the Atlantic Ocean signaling the conclusion of another wonderful day at sea.
The sun begins its amazing show of lights as it sets on the shimmering water of the Atlantic Ocean signaling the conclusion of another wonderful day at sea.

Weather Data from Bridge – PM 
Visibility: Good, 10 miles
Wind direction:  S/W
Average wind speed: 14 knots
Wave height: 3-4’
Air temperature:  80oF
Sea temperature:  81.5 oF
Cloud cover: 35%
Barometric pressure:  1011 mb

Science and Technology Log 

The FREEDOM STAR traveled through the night to the Georgia site and today’s operations began at 0815.  We completed a CTD, two fish traps, and three ROV dives.  Once again, one fish trap came up empty and the other one contained 37 porgies that were measured, logged, and then released. Our focus is the grouper and only those are kept for biological study. Today’s ROV dives reached depths of 225 – 334 feet. The ocean floor consists of sand, small rock outcrops, and a few small crevices.

Stacey Harter and Marta Ribera, NOAA scientists, prepare one of two fish traps on board for deployment.
Stacey Harter and Marta Ribera prepare fish traps

The ship is having difficulty staying on track because it is on the edge of the Gulf Stream.  Several of the species observed are sea robin, arrow crab, saddle bass, red snapper, squid, flounder, rudderfish, eel, grunts, toadfish, and octopus. One large lionfish was seen. Due to the increased depth in the ocean floor, different species are observed. The camera array was not in operation today due to the strong currents that tend to flip over the cameras.  Also, Captain Exell wanted to shorten the workday and start heading to Port Canaveral, approximately 200 miles.

Personal Log 

Nancy stands by with buoy line as other members of the NOAA team stand by for deployment of the fish trap.  The fish trap is retrieved approximately two hours later.
Nancy stands by with buoy line as other members of the NOAA team stand by for deployment of the fish trap. The fish trap is retrieved approximately two hours later.

This is the best day ever!  I slept great, the weather is fantastic, and the food is very delicious. However, Captain Exell just informed the crew and scientists that the tropical depression is now Tropical Storm Alberto and will be in our area of operations by Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.  We are definitely cutting short our cruise by two days and plan to be tied up at Port Canaveral by noon on Monday. Everyone is making the best of this news and is ready for a full day of work.

Everything is going very smoothly and I feel that I really know what I am supposed to do when in the Lab or on the rear deck. Patrick cooked fresh fish for lunch and it was so good. The food is really great and there is always so much of it.  We got into the ice cream bars this evening – yum!!

Stacey Harter removes the ear bone from a grouper as darkness sets in.  The ear bone is similar to a tree ring and reveals age and growth rate of the fish.
Stacey Harter removes the ear bone from a grouper as darkness sets in. The ear bone is similar to a tree ring and reveals age and growth rate of the fish.

Be sure to read my interview with Patrick.  Once again, my desk chair is rocking and rolling in synchronization with the ship. There are whitecaps on the ocean and there is a definite change in the weather.  We are beginning to feel the first effects of Tropical Storm Alberto.  I am a little uneasy, but know that the FREEDOM STAR is in the capable hands of the Captain. We may have a rough ride into the “house” (Port Canaveral), but I know we will arrive safely.  Actually, this is very exciting because I have never been in a tropical storm. This is just one of the many things I will tell my students, friends, and family.

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: One of the scientists said this afternoon that he felt, “Since oceans make up the majority of our planet, the only way to study our planet is to study the ocean.”  This is a thought-provoking question written to have you start thinking about this.  There is no right or wrong answer. Today’s question: How does the deep-sea water-pressure affect fish when they are caught and quickly brought to the surface?

Patrick Downey, FREEDOM STAR cook, is preparing lunch on the barbeque.  The barbeque was designed and built by the crew and is securely bolted to the deck.
Patrick Downey is preparing lunch on the barbeque, designed by the crew

Interview with Patrick Downey 

Cook, M/V FREEDOM STAR

Patrick joined the Coast Guard as an FS 3 – Food Service Technician and has spent the last 5 ½ years with the FREEDOM STAR.  He creates the menus, does all of the food shopping, and prepares all of the meals while at sea.  Once a moth he prepares a food report and takes inventory of all food related items on the ship.  When he goes shopping, it takes lot of shopping carts for all of the necessary items to feed the crew.  He is constantly changing the menu and has to plan menus correlated to the weather conditions – even seasoned seamen are affected by the rough weather and high waves.  When asked why he likes his job, Patrick replied,” I love the ocean and I have always liked being on boats. Especially, I like traveling with the space program and working with the great crew of the FREEDOM STAR.

Tony Freeley, FREEDOM STAR Chief Engineer, explains to Nancy the operations of the two diesel engines while touring the engine room.
Tony Freeley, FREEDOM STAR Chief Engineer, explains to Nancy the operations of the two diesel engines while touring the engine room.

Mark Silverman, June 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Silverman
Onboard NASA Ship Freedom Star
June 7 – 14, 2006

Mission: Pre-closure evaluation of habitat and fish assemblages in five proposed no fishing zones in the South Atlantic.
Geographical Area: South Atlantic Ocean
Date: June 9, 2006

Sunrise revealed rough seas aboard the FREEDOM STAR off the coast of South Carolina.
Sunrise revealed rough seas aboard the FREEDOM STAR off the coast of South Carolina.

Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility: Good
Wind direction:  SW/W
Average wind speed: 20 knots
Wave height: 8-10’
Air temperature: 72oF
Cloud cover: 70%
Barometric pressure:  1009.8 mb

Science and Technology Log 

Morning dawned revealing seas of 8-10 foot with occasional 12-foot swells causing unsafe conditions on deck. Waves were rolling onto one side of the ship’s deck and across the other. Several members of the field party were seasick as a result of the weather.  A joint decision was made to scrub the morning mission by Principle Investigator Andy David, Capt. Exell and Craig Bussel, the ROV pilot, due to the unsafe conditions on deck.

Water washed across the deck creating hazardous working conditions.
Water washed across the deck creating hazardous working conditions.

Conditions improved after mid-day and we began a survey of the South Carolina site B in an area overlapped by Options 1 and 2. The fish trap was deployed first, with 450 ft of blue spectra line tethered to high-flyer floats to facilitate retrieval.  While it soaked the 4-camera array was deployed, using a similar float system, and retrieved after 30 min.  In order to collect physical data, the CTD was also deployed and retrieved successfully. After about 90 min. the fish trap was retrieved.  7 red porgies and a gray triggerfish were recovered and measured.  Three measurements were recorded for each fish:  standard length, fork length, and total length.  Since the fish were blown up by the pressure change they were cleaned for the galley. In the 3 hours between the beginning of the mission and the ROV run the current was determined to have swung 180 degrees, by a drift test. The initial current was 1.3 knots to the south. By afternoon the current was 1.3 knots to the north.  In order to run into the current with the ROV, so as to improve visibility of the camera views and keep the ROV free of the props we took some time to reorient the transect path to start on the opposite, north, end of the transect.  Next, the ROV was deployed, but the dive had to be aborted due to a problem with the camera.

Waves splashed over the transom as we tried to hold position for the morning mission.
Waves splashed over the transom as we tried to hold position for the morning mission.

The camera problem was resolved and the ROV was launched a second time for a 2 hr+ transect. The transect, which ranged from 197’ to 227’ deep, was very successful. A varied terrain was seen consisting of pavement crevices of hard compacted sand and isolated, scattered rocks and hard bottom. At least one object appeared to be of human origin.  In addition to video, still pictures are taken once per minute to survey the bottom composition.  Most of the fish seemed to be concentrated in the rocky areas. A surprising number of fish would orient to even very small pieces of structure. Many of the same species of fish were seen that are mentioned in the Day 2 log as well as several new species of interest. These included Lionfish (an introduced species that is native to the Pacific and Indian Oceans), tilefish, razorfish, and several others that still need to be identified. Abundant numbers of scamp, amberjack, big eyes, red porgies, and butterfly fish were observed.  Additionally, several interesting invertebrates were seen, including a Holothuroidea (Sea Cucumber) and an Asteroidea (starfish). FREEDOM STAR then transited, over night, approximately 131 mi. to the North Carolina Options off of Cape Fear, North Carolina.

The “girls” hold an animated discussion while going over data using a PDA.
The “girls” hold an animated discussion while going over data using a PDA.

Personal Log 

I slept soundly as the ship tossed and turned during the night in a building sea.  As we reached our destination in the morning and FREEDOM STAR slowed the roll and pitch became extreme.  Although several members of the team were seasick, so far I felt fine.  I ate a light breakfast out of respect for the conditions.  As the sun rose in beautiful shades of rose, the waves rose as well, splashing over and washing across the deck.  We had the morning free since it was too dangerous to work.  Feeling a bit queasy, several of us returned to our racks.  After a nap I felt much better and seas were beginning to lay down. I was given the opportunity to participate in several of the deployments and found out it’s not as easy as it looks.  Hardhat and life jacket in place, I baited and launched the fish trap…a bit prematurely, but all went well.  I also tossed the high-flyer for the camera array…not so well. It whipped back and dented the radar reflector, much to my embarrassment.  Andy, kindly, reassured me that most of them wound up this way after being taken to sea. Repairs were made later using a hammer and duct tape. Next, I assisted in taking pictures during the ROV dive.  1, 2, 3…Craig, the pilot would slow down…using the laptop I took a picture once a minute.  I even managed to photograph some fish, including a lionfish.  Noting how much Craig, the pilot, enjoyed his work, I asked if the ROV had a name and was told it’s the Hela Dive 118.  He then offered to let me try piloting one day.  I’m very excited and can’t wait!  I requested soft sand after my experience with the high-flyer, LOL.  Several dolphin (the fish) came up to the boat and I managed to hook one!  It ran toward the operations area and had to be broken off to avoid entanglement…Oh well.  We did see some dolphin (the flipper type) in the wake too!  I shot lots of photos, I wish I could share them all.  Another beautiful sunset and all and all it was an adventuresome day and I’m getting tired, so…

Steve Matthews, fisheries methods and equipment specialist, coordinates crane operations during deployment of the 4-camera array.
Steve Matthews, fisheries methods and equipment specialist, coordinates crane operations during deployment

Question of the Day 

Answer to yesterday’s question: Yesterday’s question is very controversial and is the impetus for this mission.  There is currently no right answer. Hopefully the data we collect will help shed light on this complicated issue.  The Scientist and crew are dedicated to providing concrete, unbiased data to create sustainable fisheries for the future. Today’s question: Today we encountered an introduced species, the lionfish.  Nonnative species have plagued the freshwater ecosystems of South Florida for years.  What are some of the possible impacts resulting from the introduction of nonnative species to marine ecosystems of the Southeast Atlantic basin?

Addendum 1:  Glossary of Terms 

Standard length:  Measured from the front edge of the mouth to the forward edge of the caudal fin. Fork length:  Measured from the front edge of the mouth to the center of the fork of the caudal fin. Total length:  Measured from the front edge of the mouth to the farthest point of the upper caudal lobe. Caudal fin: The tail fin of a bony fish (Class Osteichthyes). Drift test:  Used to determine how the ship will move in the wind and current conditions by shutting down propulsion and using the GPS to note direction and speed of travel. Rack: Bed High-flyer:  a buoy with a tall pole topped by a radar reflector to facilitate retrieval. Sustainable Fisheries:  a fishery where the numbers of fish remain at suitable levels to support commercial and recreational fishing.

Addendum 2:  An Interview with Andy David, Principle Investigator 

Andy David is an affable man.  He is a walking encyclopedia of facts about fish, wildlife, environmental issues and marine science.  I found Andy to be patient while teaching, yet focused and determined about his work.  I interviewed him in the galley after lunch as we transited between study sites. The interview is paraphrased.  I did not have a tape recorder to get accurate quotes and used notes.  Any inaccuracies are the fault of the interviewer and not Andy.

Sunset, in stark contrast to sunrise, over calm seas as another day aboard FREEDOM STAR draws to a close.
Sunset, in stark contrast to sunrise, over calm seas as another day aboard FREEDOM STAR draws to a close.

Q: What and where did you study?

A: I have BS in Chemistry and Biology from Stetson University in Central Florida.  My MS is Marine Science was done at USF in Saint Pete.

Q: Do you have a PhD?

A: My PhD is near completion at FSU.  I am nearing completion of my dissertation.

Q: How did you come to work for NOAA?

A: I am from Panama City and moved back after college due to my wife’s work.  I took a temporary 1-year position on the [NOAA] redfish project at $17,000 a year with no benefits and stuck with it. Sixteen years later here I am.

Q: What are your current projects?

A: I currently have four projects, The South Atlantic fisheries project, a Gulf of Mexico fisheries project which is completed, [an investigation of] trolling in closed areas in the Gulf, and a multibeam mapping project on Pulley Ridge in the north Dry Tortugas in 60-100 meters of water.

Q: Would you recommend a career in fisheries science to current high school students?

A: It’s a great job. You can tailor your studies

to what you like. The stress level is low, the dress is casual (points to his shorts, rubber clogs, and t-shirt smiling), and the work is interesting. There are boring things as in any job, but generally it’s really interesting.  New projects always come up.  It’s not usually mundane.

Q: How would you recommend that a student prepares for this career?

A: Take all the math and science you can. English is important too…it all comes down to expressing what you found in an understandable way or you’re just spinning your wheels. Don’t worry about Marine Biology [courses] in 9th grade. Take good general science and wait to learn the fancy stuff, all the names and stuff, in grad [graduate] school. You don’t need to go straight through. You can get a Bachelor’s degree, get an entry-level job, and see if you like it. NOAA supports returning to school and helps with tuition. You can blend your work with your Masters thesis project. Andy confers with Darin Schuster, one of the crane operators as the camera array is recovered on day 3.

Jeff Lawrence, June 1, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jeff Lawrence
Onboard Research Vessel Rainier
May 22 – June 2, 2006

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: June 1, 2006

Alaskan beauty, Humpback Whale in the distance
Alaskan beauty, Humpback Whale in the distance

Weather data from bridge
Visibility: 8.0 miles
Wind direction: 0 deg. (N)
Wind Speed:  calm winds
Sea level pressure: 1019 mb
Present weather: light sprinkles, partly sunny, calm seas
Temperature:  51 deg. wet/dry 52 deg.

Science and Technology Log 

Alaska has to be one of the most beautiful places on the Earth.  Add to this working aboard a beautiful ship like the RAINIER with a wonderful crew and it equals a really good time.  I saw a variety of wildlife I never thought I would see up close and personal.  I also learned so much about hydrography.  Before this trip I didn’t know the term even existed.

Beautiful sunsets aboard RAINIER!
Beautiful sunsets aboard RAINIER!

NOAA provides a wealth of data and information for the general public, private industries, and scientists all over the world.  The trip aboard the RAINIER is a lifetime experience that I will cherish and remember.  Any teachers reading this log who have thought about applying for the Teacher at Sea Program ,but for some reason haven’t done so yet, need to apply NOW!  If you like to learn new things, meet interesting people, see fascinating wildlife, and see extraordinarily beautiful scenery, than a trip aboard the RAINIER is your ticket. The staff at NOAA, take care of all the travel arrangements— all you have to do is be at the airport on time. I have had the best time of my life.  I have been to teacher camps, workshops, and conventions all around the country, but none compare to my time aboard the RAINIER.

XO of the RAINIER: Julia Neander
XO of the RAINIER: Julia Neander

Captain Guy Noll and XO Julia Neander have gone out of their way to ensure that I was involved in the activities aboard the ship and a part of the crew.  The crew on board the RAINIER, are very helpful and all of them have made my stay at sea a pleasurable experience. I hope I have the opportunity to partake in this program again.  Thanks again to the crew of the RAINIER and the staff at NOAA for taking care of everything.  In the 19 years I have been teaching this has been one of the most rewarding and exciting opportunities of my career.  If you are a teacher thinking about the Teacher at Sea Program, wait no longer, apply today! 

Personal Log 

Captain of the RAINIER: Guy Noll
Captain of the RAINIER: Guy Noll

Terrific, outstanding, excellent, a perfect 10 on the rating scale of what an exciting teacher learning experience should be.  I can’t wait for school to start to share this trip with my students.  Developing lessons that correlate with my experience should be quite easy due to the wealth of information I attained from the crew of the NOAA ship RAINIER. Today I helped them take bottom samples from around the area.

Question of the Day 

FOR TEACHERS:  How do I apply for the Teacher at Sea Program? ANSWER: go here.

Erin Campbell-Survey Tech
Erin Campbell-Survey Tech
Carl Verplank-Seaman Surveyor
Carl Verplank-Seaman Surveyor
This could be you working aboard a NOAA science research vessel.
This could be you working aboard a NOAA science research vessel.

Linda Armwood, May 2, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Linda Armwood
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
April 25 – May 5, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Aleutian Islands, Alaska
Date: May 2, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction:  130°
Wind speed: 7kt
Sea wave height: 0 ft.
Sea water temp: 10.2
Sea level pressure:  1030.0 mb
Present weather: Mostly cloudy
Temperature:  °C~ 9.0 dry/7.5wet

Science and Technology Log 

The ship continued to perform the Gulf of Esquibel data collection.  Today, however, the ship used the Moving Vessel Profiler (MVP), also known as the “Fish,” in place of the Seacat to provide multiple vertical profiles of the water’s data to include sound velocity and the CTD cast. Two advantages of using the MVP are 1) the ship does not have to come to a complete stop and 2) it is automatically deployed from the ship or initiated by the MVP operator without the need for deck personnel.  Once the MVP has created the profile, the survey tech is able to immediately view the data.

I witnessed the operation of the anchor as we prepared to leave San Fernando Island.  As able seamen positioned themselves on the ship’s bow to raise the anchor, it was clear that it is a major undertaking dependent upon teamwork.  There are two anchors, one on the port side (north left) of the ship and the other on the starboard side (north right) of the ship, that are alternately used.  Each anchor has eight shots of chain.  One shot of chain is equivalent to 90 feet. Of the eight shots of chain, there are selected color-coded chains in red, white, blue and yellow. These color-coded combinations allow the able seamen to determine how many shots to drop in the water and how many shots have been dropped in the water. As a rule, the number of shots dropped should be three to five times the depth of the water which is measured in fathoms.  One fathom of water equals six feet.

Personal Log 

Thanks Able Seaman Grayeagle for letting me read your book, Whittier–The Strangest Town in Alaska, truly a memorable nugget.

Question of the Day 

Geospatial Semester and Environmental Science Students 

Solve the following problem:  The FAIRWEATHER Ship dropped anchor in 35 fathoms of water. 1) What is the depth of the water in feet, 2) At least how many shots of chain should be dropped, and 3) Approximately how much chain is left out of the water?

A Profile of Ensign Matthew Glazewski 

Ensign Glazewski is the newest Junior Officer aboard the NOAA Ship FAIRWEATHER.  As a Junior Officer, he has several collateral duties in ship management — Tides, Training Assistant, Weather, Discharge Certificates and Mess Treasurer.  He graduated from Penn State University, PA with a Bachelor of Science degree in Meteorology in 2005. His concentration of courses included Calculus, Physics and Weather Systems. His initial interest in meteorology began at an early age when he became curious about why trees fell on his parents’ home.  Matthew, nicknamed Matt, has an interest in tropical meteorology and has completed a case study of a 1975 tropical cyclone that traveled north while maintaining its characteristics in northern latitudes.  A short-term career goal for Matt is to pursue graduate studies in order to obtain a Master’s degree in Ocean Atmosphere Interaction.  His long-term career goal is to become an expert in the field of marine forecasting.

Matt wanted to become an Officer in the NOAA Officer Corps instead of working as a civilian. He believes that his experience on the NOAA ship FAIRWEATHER gives him an opportunity to see and apply what he has studied at Penn State and provides him with a better understanding of factors that influence small-scale climates.

Mrs. Armwood

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: In port, Charleston
Date: March 28, 2006

Science and Technology Log

Yesterday we had a final meeting of “all hands.”  At the meeting, we presented Captain Patrae and Dr. Molly with gifts from our schools.  Students from Searles designed sea-life posters that had their pictures on it, and students from Cabello signed their class photo to be hung on the ship. At this meeting we thanked all the officers, crew and science party.

In closing our logs, we would like to honor everyone we sailed with by presenting a pictorial display (a display of pictures). Thanks for letting us sail with you, we’ve learned a lot, had great conversations with our students, and most importantly you’ve shared with us and our students the love of the sea!

The Engineering Team
The Engineering Team
The Galley Team
The Galley Team
The Mooring Team
The Mooring Team
 “Carlos’s Boys”—The Technicians
“Carlos’s Boys”—The Technicians
  The Winch Operators
The Winch Operators
 The Scientists
The Scientists
Dr. Molly and Carlos
Dr. Molly and Carlos

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Bahamas, West Indies
Date: March 20, 2006

Deploying the ARGOS buoy!
Deploying the ARGOS buoy!

Science and Technology Log

On Saturday, we deployed two buoys. A buoy is a floating object that sends science information to scientists.  They can have numbers, colors, lights, or whistles on them.  The buoys we sent off are a drifting buoy and an ARGO buoy.

A drifting buoy is the size of a basketball and sends its position in the ocean to a satellite where scientists can measure current speed by using its location and by tracking it around. Because it has a sock on it, it’s a good measure of current and it is not affected by the wind. The buoys can last a long time unless they are damaged or destroyed by a ship, run into land, or are stolen by a pirate. There are currently 1,468 drifting buoys worldwide and they cost more than $1500 each. Cabello, Searles and Key Biscayne Community School jointly adopted two of the buoys deployed. Students signed stickers that were attached to the buoy and sent out to sea. To track the buoy, here.

The second buoy that was deployed was an ARGO buoy. The ARGO is interesting because it acts like a little submarine.  The ARGO is launched off the ship, floats on the surface, then sinks to certain depth, gathering information on temperature, pressure, salinity, latitude and longitude. The ARGO, acting like a submarine, stays at a certain depth for a while, gathering information, then fills its bladder and rises to the surface, collecting information on the way up.  At the surface, the ARGO sends all the information to a satellite for the scientists to use in their labs.  To picture a bladder, think of “Professor” from Sponge Bob. Professor fills up with air and floats (like the bladder filling), exhales his air and sinks (like the bladder emptying). This ARGO was special because it had a large sticker from the New Haven Unified School District. So New Haven is literally traveling all over the ocean! To track the ARGO buoy go here.

Teamwork!
Teamwork!

Interview with Lieutenant Commander, Priscilla Rodriguez, US Public Health Service 

On the RON BROWN you will find the Medical Officer, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), Priscilla Rodriguez. Officer Rodriguez actually is a part of the United States Public Health Service that overlooks the public health system for the whole country and sets the standard for health care.  LCDR Rodriguez is a Physician Assistant and her assignment onboard the RON BROWN will last for two years.  The most common illness on board a ship is seasickness and LCDR Rodriguez is on the lookout for crew or scientists who are not showing up for meals or who look a little “green.” She explains that your brain and inner ear need to get used to the movement of the ship and once they do you’re okay. In the meantime you may feel nauseous or tired. LCDR Rodriguez has a lot of responsibility on board the ship. She’s responsible for the health care of everyone and if someone gets extremely ill, she has to advise the Captain on whether to go into shore, or get a Coast Guard helicopter to come out and pick him or her up, which is very expensive.  LCDR Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and presently calls New York City her home where she has just made a cooking video.  When she’s not working on the ship, she enjoys playing the guitar or flute, drawing and making videos. She’s currently developing “podcasts” for the Internet and has been interviewing subjects on the ship.  In the future, she would like to return to work with AIDS patients in underdeveloped countries and do everything she can to help the world.

Success!
Success!

Assignment: Draw a picture of what the ARGO buoy does. (How it acts like a submarine).  Label each movement – sinks, stays at the same level, and rises.  Draw a picture of what you think the ARGO buoy looks like.  (Hint: Long, thin, black tube).

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

It’s good to be writing logs again. I’ve been having amazing conversations with all the scientists onboard. They’ve been very generous with their time.  A special thanks to Dr. Molly for our “up top” chats. Today the scientists from the United Kingdom are working on recovering a sub-surface mooring, so we’ve got time to work on logs, interviews and answer e-mail.  Last night I saw squid in the moonlight: one was approximately 1.5 ft, and another was approximately 2.5 ft.  They were chasing and eating flying fish!  Also fish that look like little swordfish were jumping around.  It was a virtual circus!  Hello to everyone! Students, keep writing!  Make it a good day!

Relaxing after a day of hard work
Relaxing after a day of hard work

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

New Haven Unified School District,  Searles 4th graders and Cabello 5th graders got some press recently.  Thanks to fellow teachers for the article and to the Argus newspaper and Educational Service Center Information Officer, Rick LaPlante, for the favorable text. We’ll have another chance to thank ANG for newspapers in education and for the many businesses that sponsor Book Bucks.  I’m glad so many in the class are participating in this reading reward program.  I also heard the bus is confirmed for our “Reading is Cool” Sharkie field trip to the Hewlett Packard HP Pavilion, home of the Sharks hockey team.  It’s always good hearing from you so keep those emails coming and good luck with Book Bucks!  In my spare time I’m getting pictures with Juliet around the ship and reading John Climatus’, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Deploying the Argos buoy
Deploying the Argos buoy
Lieutenant Rodriguez
Lieutenant Rodriguez

rp_log5f

Eric Heltzel, September 30, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Panama Canal
Date: September 30, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

At 12:00 local time, we are sailing south towards the Panama Canal.  To portside, mountains rise up directly from the ocean.  Ahead is the isthmus lying low just above the horizon. As I watch the distant skyline, Captain Wright appears on the deck below.  As he walks the decks of his ship, he stops to make sure that I am armored against the tropical sun. He sees that I am wearing long sleeves, a sun hat, and gloves and asks if I have on sunscreen, which I do. He then comments, “we don’t have to worry about looking good at our age.” He looks sharp in his khaki uniform, and those of you who have seen me in my sun clothes know what prompted his comment.  Oh well.

As I scan the sea southward I can tell when the Canal begins because of the silhouettes of numerous ships.  All through the morning we have seen other ships traveling headings that converge on the Canal.  Captain Wright says that usually ships go through in convoys of four or five and the trip takes about twelve hours.  We will be starting about 16:30 so most of our passage will be at night.

I’m sitting on the deck just below the bridge.  This affords me a good view of where we are going. It’s the rainy season in Panama and there are banks of cumulonimbus clouds over the land.  Captain Wright cautions that I should be prepared for sudden downpours. Going through the Panama Canal is an experience I never expected having. I’m very excited.

Eric Heltzel, September 29, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Caribbean
Date: September 29, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

I can hardly believe that this is my fourth full day on board the RON BROWN.  We are sailing southward across the Caribbean towards Panama.  It is so very different from my life in Wyoming.  Outside are temperatures in the 80’s and low 90’s with high humidity.  I’m having a bit of difficulty adjusting to the fact that the deck (floor) is in constant motion.  Walking down a corridor, I must be prepared to catch myself.  I’m a bit slow in finding my “sea legs.”

Yesterday I had the opportunity to interview the Executive Officer, Stacy Burke.  What follows is a synopsis of that interview.

The Executive Officer (XO) is number two, second only to the Captain.  Her responsibilities focus on the ship’s personnel.  She is responsible for hiring crew, solving problems that might arise, and overseeing the wellbeing of the crew.  Commander Burke stands half watch (4 hours) on the Bridge.  When there, she is responsible for “driving” the ship, navigation, avoiding collisions, and executing maneuvers to enable the scientific missions.

Commander Burke has been working for NOAA for nineteen years.  The last six of those have been “at sea.” She indicated that operating a ship is complex and she enjoys being part of a team that works towards the success of the mission.  “Going to sea is not solitary,” says Commander Burke. The crew lives and works together, often for months at a time.  A working cruise has little resemblance to “taking a cruise.”  This ship rarely calls in at ports. Most missions take the RON BROWN to remote locations to enable the gathering of scientific data.

To become a NOAA officer Commander Burke suggests a bachelor’s degree in one of the “hard” sciences (physics, chemistry) or engineering.  Oceanography works if the student focuses on the technical aspects of the field.  She also said, “I have openings right now for Deck Hands.” Operation of a large research vessel requires crew performing many different jobs.

I hope to continue interviewing personnel aboard the RONALD H. BROWN to help clarify what ship life and ocean research are like.

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 14, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

 

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 14, 2005

Drew Barth

Profile of More Crewmembers 

Name: Drew Barth
Age: 20
Home: Billings, MT
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Wiper–engine room
Years of experience: 1
Favorite part of job: Traveling to different places
Favorite cruise: Shark cruise
Favorite port: Yet to be discovered
Memorable experience: Dolphins bow riding while in the small boat
Continents visited: 1

 

 

lyons_log7a
Jason Larese

Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
College: UC-San Diego and University of Washington
Major: Undergrad—chemical engineering; Graduate—Marine Policy
Job: Biological Technician
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Independent observer
Number of months at sea this year: 1
Highlight of job: Stimulating, exposure to interesting things
Memorable experience: First stranding—deceased juvenile gray whale; bow-riding dolphins in bioluminescence
Favorite species: Risso’s dolphins
Concern: Apathy
Continents visited: 4

 

 

lyons_log7b
Mike Sapien

Name: Mike Sapien
Age: 37
Home: San Diego, CA
Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 2nd cook
Years of experience: 2
Previous experience: In port support for DAVID STARR JORDAN and deck crew
Favorite part of job: Star gazing
Favorite cruise: Clipperton Island
Favorite port: Acapulco, Mexico
Memorable experience: An 8′ sand shark brought up in bottom trawl net
Other boats in NOAA fleet: ALBATROSS IV and DELAWARE
Continents visited: 1 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 13, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 13, 2005

Profile of Another Crewmember 

Name: Laura Morse
Age: 36
Home: Portsmouth, NH
College: SUNY Buffalo, NY
Majors: Biology and anthropology
Job: Field Biologist (specializing in marine mammals)
Position on the DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer
Years of experience: 11
Months at sea this year: 9 (including work with river dolphins in Cambodia)
Best part of job: Travel, being on the ocean, and the freedom and flexibility the job offers|
Concerns: Coastal pollution and fisheries interaction
Favorite species: North Atlantic right whales
Continents visited: 7 

Greta Dykstra-Lyons, August 9, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Greta Dykstra-Lyons
Onboard NOAA Ship David Starr Jordan
August 1 – 20, 2005

lyons_log4
Jose Coito

Mission: Cetacean Abundance Survey
Geographical Area: U.S. West Coast
Date: August 9, 2005

Profiles of Four Crewmembers 

Name: Jose Coito; Age: 52; Home: San Diego; Position: Lead Fisherman–Deck department; Years on DAVID STARR JORDAN: 12; Previous experience: 22 years as a tuna fisherman; Favorite part of job: Working with different people, going different places, getting close to the whales in the small boat; Favorite port: “All good. Most every port we have a good time…eat, drink, have fun.” Most enjoyable cruise: Southern shark cruise; Number of continents visited: 4

Name: Annie Douglass; Age: 29; Home: Olympia, WA; College: Evergreen College, WA; Major: BA Science; Job: Mammal Biologist at Cascadia Research Collective;

lyons_log4a
Annie Douglass

Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Mammal Observer/Mammal Photographer; Years of experience: 8 years; Months at sea this year: 6 months; Best part of job: Getting close to the mammals in a small boat; Memorable sighting: Observing 12 killer whales attack a stellar seal lion in the Olympic  Coast Sanctuary; Concerns for marine mammals: Run-off contaminants effect on coastal animals and under water noise pollution impact on whales; Favorite species: Blue whales and humpback whales; Continents visited: 3;

 

 

Thomas Staudt

Name: Thomas Staudt; Age: 56; Home: Tucson, AZ; College: University of Iowa; Major: Psychology; Job: Seasonal/Transient Employee; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Bird Observer; Years of experience: 30; Months at sea this year: 4; Memorable sighting: The first North American sighting of the Hornsby’s storm petrel off the DAVID STARR JORDAN last week! Concerns for seabirds: Loss of breeding habitat; Favorite species: Penguin; Continents visited: 7

 

 

Name: Candy Hall; Age: 29; Home: Cape Town, South African and York, England; College: University of Cape Town; Major: BSc Honors in Oceanography (working on masters); Job: Student; Position on DAVID STARR JORDAN: Oceanographer; Years of experience: 10; Months at sea this year: 4; Best part of job: Ship life; Memorable sighting: A pod of killer whales right next to zodiac–too close to get a photo (2001, Oregon coast); Concerns for oceans: Anthropogenic pollution and over population; Favorite species: Killer whale; Continents visited: 4

Philip Hertzog, August 8, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Philip Hertzog
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
July 25 – August 13, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Aleutian Islands, AK
Date: August 8, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Latitude: 56˚ 00.3’ N
Longitude: 158˚ 45.7’ W
Visibility:  10 nm
Wind Direction: light
Wind Speed: airs
Sea Wave Height: 0 feet
Sea Water Temperature:  12.2˚ C
Sea Level Pressure: 1006.0 mb
Cloud Cover: 1, cumulus, altocumulus

Ensign Jennings at work
Ensign Jennings at work

Science and Technology Log 

I slept in an extra hour and set about doing my laundry and log entries since I stayed aboard the RAINIER today. Given a quiet day, I focused today’s entry on careers with NOAA to provide information to students wanting a life of adventure while helping the environment. Congress created NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in 1970 to bring together several agencies under one roof.  Congress recognized that the oceans of the world are closely tied to our atmosphere and we need to manage them through one organization. You best know NOAA through the National Weather Service which provides you with daily weather forecasts. However, NOAA has other branches that protect fish and marine wildlife; manage marine sanctuaries; observe changes in the environment; warn people about approaching tsunamis; respond to oil spills and disasters; and chart coastlines and bottom depths to protect vessels. On the RAINIER, we have two categories of jobs: civilian and commissioned officers. I will save the civilian jobs for another entry and we’ll look at the officers today.  The NOAA Officer Corps is a uniformed branch of the United States military.  Most officers spend two years assigned to a ship and then rotate to a land job for three years.  The rotation starts over again and you can retire with a pension after twenty years.  Ensign Andrew Halbach told me he could retire at age 43, though I believe he will stay with NOAA much longer and command his own ship someday.

At the computers
At the computers

You must apply to join the NOAA Officer Corps and only dedicated people get accepted.  Ensign Laurel Jennings told me you need a four year college degree with a major in math, engineering or science.  You also must be in good health, pass a physical exam and be 35 years old or younger. NOAA asks for four letters of recommendation from professional contacts and answers to several pages of questions.  You also need to pass a police background check and be interviewed by one of NOAA’s officers. Several ensigns told me this process takes from several months to half a year. Once accepted as an Officer Corps candidate, you go to the Kings Point Merchant Marine Academy located on Long Island, NY for three months of intensive training. The candidates train in safety, water rescue, navigation, CPR/first aid, ship fire fighting, knots, and ship handling. A few weeks before completing training, NOAA holds a formal ceremony to announce the ship assignment for the next two years.

Ensign Jennings told me she got on board the RAINIER in June and continues her training on the job. Her primary focus has been on ship duties such as bridge watch, navigation and ship operations. As she becomes confident on ship procedures, her training will shift to learning how to conduct hydrographic mapping and operating the computers.  Ensign Jennings has a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Texas at Austin.  She worked as an intern at Disney World’s Living Seas exhibit in Florida where she scuba dived, fed the aquarium fish, scrubbed tanks, and talked to the public. She moved to Boston after graduation and found that a Bachelor’s degree was not enough to get a satisfying job. She wanted to work in science and with people, but not in a lab all day. Ensign Jennings said the NOAA Officer Corps was perfect for her.

Over the past two weeks, I have talked to several Ensigns about their next assignments.  Ensign Andrew Halbach will move to Washington, D.C. next year and work on remote sensing from airplanes.  He will travel 150 days a year to various locations throughout the United States.  In December Ensign Briana Welton will command her own skiff and crew on the east coast.  Whenever a hurricane hits, Ensign Welton will be one of the first people into the disaster area to chart how navigation channels have been affected by storm damage. In the past, other Ensigns have gone on to work on designing tsunami detection buoys and underwater vehicles. Many other opportunities exist both on land and at sea for young people seeking adventure.

In addition to exciting career opportunities, an Officer Corps member can advance in rank as he or she gains experience and the confidence of senior officers.  All Corps members start out at the rank of Ensign.  You then can be promoted in progression to Lt. Junior Grade, Lieutenant, Lt. Commander, Commander, Captain, and finally only one officer gets to be the Admiral.

Personal Log 

I wish I could be 35 or younger now! The NOAA Officer Corps has a lot of exciting opportunities that many young people don’t know about.  I think about the adventures I’ve missed because no teacher ever told me about NOAA.

Many exciting opportunities exist for young people if they get the right education and study hard in school. As a teacher I feel a responsibility to make sure students have the skills to take advantage of the careers and adventure that exist not only with NOAA, but with other organizations. Too often I see students playing video games or ignoring homework instead of preparing themselves for the future.  Hopefully they can learn to dedicate themselves to learning and preparation like the young ensigns on board the RAINIER.

Question of the Day 

Why is a well-rounded, college education important for today’s young adults?

Thomas Nassif, July 24, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Thomas Nassif
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 15 – 24, 2005

Mission: Invasive Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Southeast U.S.
Date: July 24, 2005

The SCUBA invention has extended the reaches of human exploration from land to the deep-sea.
The SCUBA invention has extended the reaches of human exploration from land to the deep-sea.

Weather Data

Latitude: 34°10’N
Longitude: 76°39’W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 34°
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 2′
Swell wave height: 2-3′
Sea water temperature: 30°C (86°F)
Sea level pressure: 1016.5 mb
Cloud cover: 2/8, cumulus, cirrus

Science and Technology Log 

The last dive of the research cruise couldn’t have been more exhilarating. Unfazed by the gusty winds, choppy seas, and ripping ocean currents, the divers explored one last shipwreck on the ocean floor. The Naeco was a U.S. tanker that was destroyed by a Nazi U-boat during WWII. The torpedo shattered the Naeco’s bow and stern into two pieces, sinking them to the ocean bottom nearly 7 miles apart. The divers returned to the surface with stories about the stern (back) of the Naeco and thrilling reports of lionfish of every size and number.

The more I think about my experiences aboard the Invasive Lionfish Cruise, the more I begin to see two parallel themes here: the deep-sea diver and the lionfish. Human action led to the introduction of lionfish into a foreign habitat, but at the same time, one person invented the SCUBA, which introduced humans to the mysteries of the deep-sea.

Thomas Nassif interviews Casey Coy on the dive deck for his video documentary on lionfish and deep-sea divers.
Thomas Nassif interviews Casey Coy on the dive deck for his video documentary on lionfish and deep-sea divers.

Lionfish can only swim so far north of their tropical paradise in the southeastern Atlantic before the temperature becomes too cold, whereas humans can only dive so deep before the pressure of the sea becomes too great. Lionfish have scales for protection, fins for locomotion, gills for respiration, and swim bladders for buoyancy. SCUBA gear makes it possible for humans to be like fish, even if it adds 200 lbs to your body! They include a BCD (buoyancy compensator device) to control buoyancy, wet suits for protection and insulation, fins for underwater movement, and regulators attached to tanks for respiration. But lionfish are different from most fish because of their venomous spines that make  them the “ultimate survivors” in their new habitat. Similarly, SCUBA divers are equipped with high-tech gear that may not be familiar to most people, yet it helps humans to survive and explore the underwater environment.

“The bow of the ship left traces of beautiful pigments on the sky’s canvas, an eternal embrace between the first ember of light and a lucid sky.”
“The bow of the ship left traces of beautiful pigments on the sky’s canvas, an eternal embrace between the first ember of light and a lucid sky.”

Yet there is one difference between lionfish and humans that became most apparent over the course of my cruise. Whereas lionfish may harm the local ecosystem by lowering the number and diversity of native fish in the Atlantic, deep-sea divers are in a unique position to help our society by increasing our knowledge and creating a better understanding of the importance of preserving native habitats.

Reflections…

On the final morning of the cruise my eyes met a resplendent sunrise that shot stars across the shimmering waters of an endless sea. As we headed to the east I grew quiet within… the bow of the ship almost seemed to leave traces of beautiful pigments on the sky’s canvas, an eternal embrace between the first ember of light and a lucid sky. Land  is but hours away, but the memories of this journey will never leave my mind.

Who could forget such a fascinating, diverse group of personalities; Paula the lionfish enthusiast, Doug underwater photographer extraordinaire, Jay and the underwater hunt, Casey and the underwater flex, Christine the lion queen, Roldan king of transect, and last but certainly not least, Joe and the quest for Choco-tacos.

Thomas Nassif, July 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Thomas Nassif
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 15 – 24, 2005

Mission: Invasive Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Southeast U.S.
Date: July 22, 2005

A lionfish and two lobsters pose for the camera at Lobster Rock. Today the divers collected a total of 23 lionfish from this dive site.
A lionfish and two lobsters pose for the camera at Lobster Rock. The divers collected a total of 23 lionfish

Weather Data

Latitude: 33°38’N
Longitude: 76°55’W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 240°
Wind speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 1-2′
Swell wave height: 2-3′
Sea water temperature: 28.9°C
Sea level pressure: 1018 mb
Cloud cover: 6/8, Cumulus, Altocumulus

Science & Technology Log  

Today the divers explored Lobster Rock, collecting a total of 23 lionfish for the flow through aquarium aboard the ship. Water from the ocean flows into and out of the tank yhrough pipes on the deck to simulate the ocean environment. This brings the total laboratory aquarium at Beaufort.

Today I also interviewed the Chief Scientist, Paula Whitfield. Most amazing to me was how her life story evolved from a childhood fascination with Jacques Cousteau to her current passion for lionfish research. Paula grew up watching the underwater videos of Jacques Cousteau, and it was at that point that she knew she wanted to become a diver. “I was a diver first, but the more I dove, the more I was formulating questions in my mind…I was curious about everything that had to do with water and marine life.” She worked for a sea grass ecologist for many years, not running the show, but she saw how the scientific process worked. Her desire to become a marine biologist grew stronger,  and that’s when she decided to return to school to get her graduate degree.

Recently collected lionfish from the ocean floor are transferred to a flow through aquarium aboard the ship.
Recently collected lionfish from the ocean floor are transferred to a flow through aquarium aboard the ship.

So how did Paula become one of the leading scientists in lionfish research? She responds: “It stemmed from my recreational diving – I was diving constantly in my spare time, and working for a charter boat business that attracted recreational divers from all over the world.” And then one day she began seeing lionfish off the coast of North Carolina, which was very unusual for this area. Paula knew they were Pacific fish, but she needed proof that lionfish were now in the Atlantic. “From that point on, I collected evidence was finally able to convince NOAA when a world-renown scorpion fish expert confirmed that her collected specimens were lionfish.

Once Paula was aboard a diving ship, and she was ordered to do a routine dive to the ocean bottom. The first thing she saw was right angle patterns, which hardly exist in nature. All of the sudden Paula saw a porthole lying in the sand. Back then she wasn’t a technical diver with all the fancy gear she has today. So she clutched the porthole with her knees and climbed up the anchor line. When Paula reached the surface, everyone aboard the ship stared at her in disbelief when she said: “I think it’s a wreck. I have a porthole.” She fondly remembers feeling “excited to be the first person to dive a virgin shipwreck.”

Diver and Marine Biologist Paula Whitfield swims alongside a lionfish, the focus of her research.
Diver and Marine Biologist Paula Whitfield swims alongside a lionfish, the focus of her research.

What Paula finds most fascinating about lionfish is how they established themselves in such large numbers in the Atlantic within a short period of time. Because of this she calls lionfish the “ultimate survivors.” But overall, she feels very affectionate towards all sea creatures, including “everything from sea spiders and feather dusters to larger fish because it’s such a different world down there. It’s important for us to know how we’re affecting that world in order to make a positive change.”

Paula’s words of advice for those who want to become marine biologists: “I think it’s important if you can become a diver – just to be able to put your head in the water to see what’s going on is more rewarding than just dropping sensors into the ocean. It opens more doors, and by seeing the environment firsthand you are able to formulate more questions about it. All this helps you become a better marine biologist, even if you don’t dive all the time.”

Tamil Maldonado, July 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tamil Maldonado
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
July 18 – 28, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: North Pacific
Date: July 19, 2005

Science and Technology Log

We took off from port at 10:00 a.m., after dealing with some ship problems.  An hour after we started testing all research equipment and noticed there was a problem with the coaxial cable that connects nets with computer interface.  The Electrical Technician worked with that issue for hours. Everything else was fine.  This coaxial cable and getting data information to computers was really important to get research correctly.  They should be able to know depth, temperature, salinity, pressure and chlorophyll information through the net’s path in water, main keys for their oceanographic research.

At night I interviewed Chief Scientist Janet T. Duffy-Anderson and other participating scientists (Colleen E. Harpold, Matthew T. Wilson, Miriam J. Doyle, Sigrid A. Salo, Dylan Righi, David G. Kachel and William J. Floering).  We discussed cruise objectives and operations.  FOCI will conduct an ichthyoplankton survey in the Gulf of Alaska in the vicinity of Kodiak Island, Alaska. This area is a known nursery ground for a variety of species of fish – walleye Pollock, Pacific cod, rock sole, Pacific halibut.  Work is needed to describe larval fish and zooplankton assemblages in summer, and to examine the movement of water and associated biota from the slope to the shelf.  Six satellite-tracked drifters will be released to study current trajectories in the vicinity of Port Lock Bank. Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth profiler casts will be made to characterize water column properties, collect nutrient and chlorophyll information, and to evaluate the flow field.

A goal of the Eco-FOCI is to identify the physical and biological factors that underlie ecosystem change, and to understand how those factors interact.  One focus is the effects of perturbation at lower trophic levels; therefore they will collect ichthyoplankton using a 1 m2 Tucker net and collect juvenile and small fishes using a Method net.  And Sea-Bird Electronics SBE 911plus Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) casts will collect physical data as well as water samples for nutrients and chlorophyll.

Scientific Computer System shall operate throughout the cruise, acquiring and logging data from navigation, meteorological, oceanographic, and fisheries sensors.

I recorded their first test and learned how to throw the nets, how to get them back, etc.   In that way I was going to be able to do it myself for the next stations.

Melissa Fye, April 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 19, 2005

Location: Latitude: 23*36.3’North, Longitude: 164*43.0’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10
Wind Direction:90
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Wave Height: 5-7 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1018.8
Cloud Cover: 2/8 Cu, As, Si
Temperature outside: 24.4

Ship safety drill
Ship safety drill

Science and Technology Log

The AHI was once again placed in the water with Joyce Miller and Jeremy Jones aboard to continue running benthic habitat lines around shallow areas in the area of French Frigate Shoals. A wire jumped out of a sheave (pulley) while trying to deploy the AHI. Boatswain O’Connor and other deckhands secured the line, deployed the boat, and went on to repair the sheave. The ship continued to run benthic habitat lines in the area while scientists edited swath data in the drylab.  In the wheelhouse, NOAA corps officers continued to plot the ship’s position, using charts and GPS systems. GPS (Global Positioning System) are satellites positioned up in space which provides a map of any place on earth. The system sends out a signal that a receiver (like on top of the ship) captures. At least 3 satellites are used to obtain a map because of time delay and other extraneous factors needed to determine one’s position. The Nobel Tec software, used on the bridge, combines GPS systems with charting to provide a location. GPS alone cannot provide location coordinates, so additional technology is combined with it to provide exact positions on a chart. Fire and Abandon Ship drills were also performed prior lunchtime today. Everyone on board has certain positions to be at and jobs to do in case of emergency.  Members of the fire team completely suit up, get out hoses and equipment, etc. The AHI was brought back on board in the late afternoon and TOAD operations continued into the evening.

Personal Log

Today consisted mostly of answering emails from students and interviewing more members of the HI’IALAKAI.  The drills broke up the usual routines and the seas picked up towards the evening hours, making it more difficult to travel down the passageways and do simple tasks.

I interviewed some members of the ship on watch in the wheelhouse. They included Executive Officer John Caskey, GVA Jason Kehn, and deckhand/survey technician Jeremy Taylor.  XO John Caskey has lived many places including Georgia, North Carolina, and California. He has many duties onboard including administrative tasks like hiring, firing, and paying people on the ship. He has been employed by NOAA for twelve years and after graduating from college with a degree in Marine Biology, traveled to Alaska, to be a Fisheries Observer on a NOAA ship. As a Fisheries Observer, people perform sampling techniques (tallying, tagging, counting) to measure the reproductive and population rates of fish. XO Caskey comments that he has known since he was seven years old that he wanted to have a job centered around marine life because his father was a diver and took him on expeditions under the water. NOAA provides the same pay, benefits, and sights to see as the Navy but caters more to scientific research; which attracted Mr. Caskey to the NOAA corp. The travel is a perk in the job but he says the drawbacks include sea sickness and time away from his growing family. Independence, patience, and good interpersonal skills are attributes a qualified applicant should possess for this type of job because XO Caskey comments that it isn’t an easy lifestyle. The Executive Officer will spend approximately 190 days at sea this year.

GVA Jason Kehn was also interviewed in the wheelhouse.  He is originally from Santa Rosa, California but has spent most of his life moving from place to place. He has worked for NOAA for over 3 years on and off, and his title GVA, stands for General Vessel Assistant. His duties include anything associated with working the ship, to include steering the vessel, being a coxswain of the small boats, as well as operating cranes and machinery while aboard. He enjoys the travel associated with the job and has hobbies like recreational diving and photography (which are very compatible to this profession). He would like to learn more about the biological aspects of the work onboard the HI’IALAKAI and he comments that rope is the tool he uses most in his job.  Compatibility is a character trait he believes a person needs to possess in order to function in close quarters. GVA Kehn will spend an average of 190 days at sea this year also.

Deckhand Jeremy Taylor is a wage mariner employed by NOAA.  His duties include operating machinery on the ship, conducting CTD casts, but he additionally helps out as a survey tech in the drylab of the ship. Taylor has degrees in computer science as well as marine biology. His job is tied to the HI’IALAKAI and he enjoys the views, troubleshooting, and computer work he does out at sea.  Mr. Taylor believes a person should be inquisitive and enjoy problem solving to do a job such as this one. The myriad of responsibilities he has everyday makes this job interesting in his opinion and the computer is his most used tool on this research trip.

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students: Using a reference source:  1) List the 3 types of coral reefs. 2) What type of reef is common in Hawaii (and parts of the Caribbean)? 3) What was your reference source?

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’s Question: Find out more about the giant green sea turtle. List the answers to the sea turtle’s niche: Answers to yesterday’s question are provided by Sai, one of my 4th grade students at Ashburn Elementary. 1) Where does it live? They live mostly in warm and temperate water, also among sea grass. 2) How does it eat (what body parts does it have to aid in eating?) 4 flipper- like appendages with 2 tiny claws on each leg. They also have a hawk like beak. 3) What does it eat?  Jellyfish, crabs, shrimp, snail, seaweed, small fish, mollusks, and algae. 4) How does it reproduce?  They lay ping-pong sized eggs on land and bury the eggs in the sand. They return to the same beach where they hatched to reproduce again. 5) What resource did you use to find these answers? Enchanted Learning.com and Kids Planet.com

Melissa Fye, April 16, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Melissa Fye
Onboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
April 4 – 25, 2005

Mission: Coral Reef Ecosystem Survey
Geographical Area: Northwest Hawaiian Islands
Date: April 16, 2005

Location: Latitude: 23*36.3’North, Longitude: 164*43.0’W

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10
Wind Direction:90
Wind Speed: 14 knots
Sea Wave Height: 2-4 feet
Swell Wave Height: 5-7 feet
Sea Level Pressure: 1018.8
Cloud Cover: 2/8 Cu, As, Si
Temperature outside: 24.4

Science and Technology Log

Sunrise brought the morning launch of the AHI, Acoustic Habitat Investigator, once again. Scientist Joyce Miller and Jeremy Jones deployed the sonar research boat to 23 degrees 43.6′ N and 166 degrees 15.7′ West to map shallow areas of the ocean bottom. Throughout the morning and mid-afternoon, the ship, HI’IALAKAI, resumed running benthic habitat mapping lines; filling in gaps around the reef from previous runs.  Scientists onboard continued editing swaths of sonar data in the computer lab (dry lab).  By 1630, the AHI was recovered in the southern work area and lifted back onto the ship using the cranes. Ship based TOAD camera operations began at 1800 as the sun was setting. The TOAD was set down in the water off the aft deck.  The camera recorded images as the ship drifted. Images of coral, sand beds, and small fish zipped by on the monitors. Scientist Chojnacki, commented he would email me some of the images at a later date, since we couldn’t capture them any other way at the time.  By 2300, TOAD camera operations concluded and the ship resumed benthic mapping around the outer circumference of the French Frigate Shoals.

Personal Log

I awoke from a much calmer night at sea and felt refreshed! The day was spent on the ship, interviewing members of the NOAA corps and crew. I also helped edit pixels of data for the multibeam sonar mapping project ongoing in the dry lab. The following interviews were conducted aboard ship on the bridge:

The four to eight watch shift on the bridge is conducted on a daily basis by Operations Officer Lt. Matt Wingate, ENS Sarah Jones, and ABS Gaetano Maurizio. Lt. Wingate is originally from Connecticut and is the Operations Officer for the HI’IALAKAI. Besides having watch duties on the bridge, he is responsible for collaborating with the lead scientist and CO to act as a go between to establish the P.O.D. (plan of the day) for each day at sea. He posts the P.O.D. around the ship every morning to inform all hands of the day’s activities.  His job involves some paperwork handling and coordinating details. He comments that the best part of his job is that it is different everyday, and every cruise has varied goals. He enjoys the variety on the job but does admit being far from friends and family can be a hindrance in this line of work.

Like many other people onboard the ship, the lieutenant has an alternative sleep schedule.  He works from four p.m. to eight p.m. as well as four a.m. to eight a.m. everyday. This type of schedule forces a person to sleep during daylight hours in order to get sufficient rest. Mr. Wingate possesses a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and advises anyone thinking of a career in the NOAA corps (officer division) to obtain a degree in science to meet the requirements. It is also helpful to not get seasick in this field of work! The resources he uses the most for his job are the lead scientist and the computer.  He will spend an average or 190 days at sea this year, usually in intervals of 3 weeks at sea and 6 days on land in a one month period. He is the third highest ranking officer aboard the HI’IALAKAI.

Ensign Sarah Jones was also present on watch this afternoon. ENS Jones is originally from Kansas and joined the HI’IALAKAI officers in June of last year. Her undergraduate degree is in meteorology, a perfect fit for the extensive weather data being collected everyday aboard the ship and NOAA’s objectives. Upon entering the NOAA Corps (the nation’s smallest and most elite uniformed division) she was given a three month hands-on course on driving a ship, using radar, Nobel Tec, and other various equipment located on the helm.  Her responsibilities while on watch include the equipment on the helm, observing the depth sounders, using paper charts and the Nobel Tec system to see the ship’s course across the Pacific Ocean.  She works with the scientists in the survey room (using walkie-talkies) to keep the ship on course, following established survey lines to fill in benthic habitat data needed for the scientific work being conducted onboard. She commented that the perks of her job include the travel and dive training, and the worst part is the occasional sea sickness she suffers from. Patience, situational awareness, and the ability to multi-task are all traits ENS Jones believes someone should embody to perform well at this type of job. Her current assignment will be approximately two years at sea, then a three year land assignment.  After accruing years with NOAA she can then decide to go back out to sea or apply for positions in the aviation sector of the organization.

Lastly, I interviewed ABS Gaetano Maurizio.  ABS stands for Able Bodied Seaman, which encompasses a myriad of responsibilities. ABS Maurizio originates from Molokai, Hawaii and was in the U.S. Navy prior to his current position at NOAA.  He has brought with him knowledge of maritime search and rescue and fire fighting from his previous training in the Navy. His current job encompasses being a coxswain (steering the ship or a Zodiac boat), a deck hand (involved in any aspect on deck, including crane systems), preservation of the ship in emergencies (like fire fighting), and he also occasionally helps the engineering department with tasks as they arise. He comments the pay he receives in this job is encouraging and he enjoys the travel.  Drawbacks include being far from friends and family for long periods of time. ABS Gaetano Maurizio reflects on the fact that someone should be mechanically inclined and react quickly to stress or emergencies to perform well at this job.

The ongoing interviews I conduct are helping me to better understand the interdependence between the officers, crew, scientists, and engineers aboard the HI’IALAKAI!

QUESTION OF THE DAY for my fourth grade students:  Multiple Choice! The ocean floor is full of nutrients and food particles resulting from___________________. a) tornadoes.  b) water currents. c) salt water. d) decaying matter settling on the bottom.

ANSWER TO YESTERDAY’s Question: All living things in an area, together with their environment, is called an ecosystem.