Kristin Joivell, June 27, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristin Joivell
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 15 – July 1, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: June 27-28, 2009

The engine room is a busy, confusing, and crowded place, but the engineers know how to maintain every one of the machines.
The engine room is a busy, confusing, and crowded place, but the engineers know how to maintain every one of the machines.

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Position: East of Big Koniuji Island
Clouds: clear
Visibility: 10+ miles
Wind: variable and light
Waves: less than 1 foot
Temperature: 11.2 dry bulb
Temperature: 9.0 wet bulb
Barometer: 1019.2

Science and Technology Log 

The engine room of the ship is a very important place.  If the machines located there aren’t working, the ship isn’t going to be going very far. I took a tour of engineering and explored the area with one of the engineers. The first impression that I got about the engine room is that you really need to be good with your hands and mechanically minded to work in this area. There are so many different machines that must be maintained, repaired, and monitored that it seems pretty overwhelming when you first walk in.  Even though much information about the machines is displayed on a master control board overlooking the engine room, it’s difficult to figure out where each of the machines is located. It’s almost like a whole other world under the floor where the majority of the crew works and lives.

Here I am climbing out of the engineering department using an escape trunk.  This pathway is centrally located for easy escapes.
Here I am climbing out of the engineering department using an escape trunk. This pathway is centrally located for easy escapes.

If there is a problem in engineering like a fire or water leak, there are self sealing doors to isolate and contain the problem.  The situation is contained to the lower levels of the ship and spread is limited and slow. The engineers can escape from the area using hatches. Crew members are very careful not to place anything on the escape hatches just in case an accident occurs.  Safety plays a big part in the engineering department and in the entire ship.  It is very important to follow certain procedures for everyone’s safety. The ship has two engines and two generators. Each of these pieces of machinery is large and extensive.  Much of the control panel is dedicated to information about their state. Interestingly enough, the two engines are actually train engines and the generators are from General Motors.  Both of these, especially the generators, seem to be larger versions of the same land based machines.  The engines have seven oil filters apiece. These, naturally, must be changed similar to your personal vehicle. Each of the oil filters is almost two feet long!  Many are kept in supply for maintenance purposes.

This is one of the unused oil filters for the main engines of the ship.  You can see other filters in the storage room as well.
This is one of the unused oil filters for the main engines of the ship. You can see other filters in the storage room as well.

But, the engineers are not just in charge of the engines, generators, and the other machines that make the ship move through the water.  They also must maintain, repair, and monitor the refrigeration, air conditioning, heating, electricity, and plumbing on the ship.  Additionally, they are in charge of keeping the five small boats on the ship operating correctly. The ship has two launches, two smaller boats, and one skiff. Each of these presents its own specific problems to maintain.  Each of the boats has an engine system that must be maintained.  They must be fueled and checked after each day’s work. Anything that breaks must be repaired immediately so that the work on the ship can continue on schedule.

I helped repair one of the smaller boats that was not starting correctly.  First, the problem must be diagnosed.  So, we used a multimeter to get readings from electrical connections.  Salt water corrodes wires quickly. Even though engineer decided to try to clean the components with a wire brush and a knife to create better connections. We cleaned the existing corrosion, but the boat still did not start properly.  Next, the engineer predicted that the starter could be the problem since much of the connections to it were very rusty and dirty. We took out the starter and replaced it with a new one; the boat started!  It was a relief to be able to use the boat the next day.  Without the work of the engineers, the ship would have been short one boat for a period of time.  This would prevent work from being completed and put the ship behind schedule; a lot of money would be wasted on operations being incomplete.

I’m lending a hand to repair a boat engine.  The batteriesmust be disconnected for safety when working with the starter and other electrical equipment.
I’m lending a hand to repair a boat engine. The batteriesmust be disconnected for safety when working with the starter and other electrical equipment.

Personal Log 

Safety on the ship is something that is not taken lightly in engineering or anywhere else.  Drills are conducted periodically to ensure that crew members know what to do when an emergency occurs.  There are drills for fire, man overboard, and abandon ship.  For each drill, each person on board is assigned a meeting spot, called a muster, and function.  There are also alternate musters for each emergency in case the first muster is compromised in some way.

Fire drills are important to practice.  It’s interesting to note that even though the ship is surrounded by water, fire is one of the most difficult problems to deal with onboard.  The ship basically has mini fire stations set up throughout the ship to deal with the emergency.  Standard firefighting gear is located at these stations. Certain crew members are assigned to wear the turnout gear and operate the hoses or extinguishers during the drills.  Recently, a burned bag of microwave popcorn set off the fire alarm, so these alarms are sensitive!

Practicing the proper technique with a fire hose.  These hose stations are located in a variety of spaces all around the ship.
Practicing the proper technique with a fire hose. These hose stations are located in a variety of spaces all around the ship.

Another situation that can occur is when someone falls overboard.  Quick retrieval is very important especially here in Alaska due to the cold temperatures.  Different crew members are assigned to be lookouts during a man overboard drill to help with the location of the man overboard.  If you see someone when you are a lookout, you must point and alert the bridge to the person’s location to ensure a speedy retrieval. Life preservers are on hand at a variety of locations to throw to the person in the water. The ship also has a line launching device that you can use to shoot a line a lot further than humanly possible.  This device is powered by compressed air and shoots the line quite far from the ship.

The last resort in an emergency is to abandon the ship. Since the waters here are so cold, we must be ready to don our emergency suits.  I had the chance to practice putting on my suit during a drill.  The suit is made of special material that can protect you even in the coldest water.  Some of the material seemed similar to a thick wetsuit.  You must be able to don the suit quickly and efficiently. The feet are part of the suit, but the arms have tight seals and then you put on mittens separately.  There is even a cover for your face that only lets your eyes peek out. As I practiced putting mine on, I got very sweaty, so it seemed to be doing its job already.

Practicing using the line launching device.  This tool is helpful in getting help to a man overboard quickly and efficiently.
Practicing using the line launching device. This tool is helpful in getting help to a man overboard quickly and efficiently.

Create Your Own NOAA Experiment at Home 
The crew of a NOAA ship practices emergency drills and you can do these at home, too.  In the unlikely event of an emergency, your family can be well prepared and organized. It is always good to be prepared for an emergency; you think more clearly when well prepared.

Did you ever stop and wonder what you should do if your house is on fire?  How will you get out of the house?  You should have more than one way to get out just in case the first path is compromised.  Do you have a meeting place, or muster, for your family?  Where is it?  Who will bring the pets outside with the family?  Where will you call 911 from?  Remember, you shouldn’t call from your house if it is on fire; call from a neighbor’s house or cell phone outside your house. You can create an emergency plan for your family and have fire drills periodically.

What about if there is a homeland security emergency?  Who is going to pick you up from school?  Where will you go to wait for the emergency to be over? Do you have supplies like food and water ready?  Who will get the pets and bring them with you?  You can create a plan and have drills for this type of emergency as well.  That way, if something happens, nobody gets left behind and your family will be comfortable and secure.

Here I am in my emergency suit.  This suit can protect you even in the coldest waters.  Along with life preservers, hats, and coats, suits must be brought to life raft musters during abandon ship drills.
Here I am in my emergency suit. This suit can protect you even in the coldest waters. Along with life preservers, hats, and coats, suits must be brought to life raft musters during abandon ship drills.

 

 

Mary Ann Penning, July 19, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Ann Penning
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
July 9 – 20, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographical Area: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: July 19, 2007

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 7 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 166 degrees
Wind speed: 7 knots (kts)
Sea wave height: 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2 feet
Seawater temperature: 23.1 degrees C
Sea level pressure: 1010.0 millibars (mb)
Air Temperature: 24.0 degrees C
Cloud cover: partly cloudy; hazy

Science and Technology Log  

This is our last full day on the ALBATROSS IV; it’s hard to believe that we’ve reached this point. We were not far from New York City this afternoon, when we did our final two tows. In our last tow, found among the scallops that we caught, was a ten pound goose fish, the biggest caught on our watch. (I understand that their tails are good to eat.)  Getting our picture taken with the goose fish for the “picture of the day”, signaled the end of the towing operations for this trip. We then took time to clean our areas and equipment.  We did the fantail, while the night shift did the interior wet room and the Chief Scientist’s office. We scrubbed all the baskets and buckets, the measuring equipment and our foul weather gear.  It was time consuming, but with a team approach, it didn’t take long. The Chief Scientist and the skilled fishermen were repairing the netting in the dredge. I would never have guessed the amount of effort it takes to run a scientific survey such as this one, until I participated in one.

The only part of the ship I hadn’t been to was the engine room.  So this afternoon, when life was much slower, I asked if I could see it. It was certainly noisy in the lower bowels of the ship, even with protective “earmuffs.” I learned that the ship took on 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel before we left Woods Hole.  The ship can carry 30,000 gallons total.  There are two big diesel Caterpillar engines that operate the ship.  The ship generates its own electricity, too. Two diesel generators drive the generators that manufacture electricity.  One diesel generator drives the hydraulic pumps for the winch operations. I had been curious about the fresh water on board the ship, when I first learned that the hoses we used to clean our equipment, used sea water.  The ship can carry 22,000 gallons of water. At the end of our two week trip, we had less than half of that left. The engineers said that the ship uses about 1000 gallons a day.  If the ship goes out for three weeks, two desalinators, located below the ship, are used to turn sea water into fresh water.  (They are not used exclusively for providing fresh water because of the slowing down and stopping process involved in towing the dredge.  There is not enough heat from the engine for the system to be the primary source of fresh water.  There are a series of filters that are used in the process.)  Big vessels, it seems, can be self sustaining, floating cities.

Personal Log 

I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to participate in this experience.  Before I could even be considered a candidate for the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program, I had to be cleared medically.  One lieutenant called me with a few questions and he cautioned me by saying, “You know this program is very competitive.  A lot of teachers want to participate.” I replied by saying that you never know until you try.  And try I did! Both in the application process and now while on board the ALBATROSS IV.  We actually measured and recorded electronically 53,077 scallops from the 210 various stations in the Mid-Atlantic that we surveyed. Expanding those numbers mathematically, the projected amount of scallops caught for these areas is – drumroll, please – 148,063 scallops.  From my perspective, these amounts are astounding, just astounding!  What more can I say.  When these statistics are analyzed, the actual number of scallops in the resource will be determined.  Then openings and closings of various scallop fishing areas will be decided; it is a complex process.

It was the people, ultimately, who helped make the trip enjoyable.  I enjoyed talking to the young NOAA officers about the NOAA Corps and their program at the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, Long Island. Many of them have science backgrounds – meteorology, ecology, oceanography, and geography.  One is going on to NOAA flight school soon. He might be responsible for monitoring whale migration for ships one day.  Their commanding officer, Kurt Zegowitz, a very kind, patient, and personable man, welcomed me aboard and offered his help.  His patience was certainly appreciated because he was instrumental in helping me get my logs published.

The other NOAA paid staff, with their varied interest and background in science, were wonderful to me.  Jonathon, Laura, and Heath, responsible for the day watch, were very patient and helped me identify the various fish so that I could help sort and weigh them.  When one fish couldn’t be identified immediately, Laura looked at the gills to help her make the decision.  Identification guides were available to help determine the identity of any specimens of which they were unsure.  It was fun to hear their stories of the numerous and varied NOAA survey trips with which they’ve been involved.  Dvora Hart and Victor Nordahl, whom I’ve mentioned throughout my logs, were dynamite individuals.

From the support staff – the computer techs, the cooks, the engineers, and the skilled fishermen – I heard interesting stories.  Many of them have worked, fished, and sailed all over the world. Their team approach and camaraderie was evident and neat to see.

On board with us, too, have been five awesome college volunteers who are interested in science careers. There were three women and two men from various universities in the Northeast. One young woman was from the Coast Guard Academy; she’ll be a senior next year. She’s coming back for the second leg of the trip when the vessel and scallop survey head north to Georges Bank. Another young woman, working on her Master’s Degree, has a dual major in Marine Biology and Marine Policy.  They were impressive, young and energetic; it felt good to be able to keep up with them.

Tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM our young officers will back the ship into the dock at Woods Hole after our whirlwind 1,554.3 nautical miles’ adventure into sampling sea scallops. The survey will continue for two more legs; each two week trips.  Their fish and terrain will be somewhat different, but the scallops the same.  I’m anxious to read the logs of the Teachers at Sea participating in those portions of the trip.  Because of this trip, I have greater respect for the scientific community and survey work such as this and for fishermen who make scallop fishing their life work.  Thanks to the NOAA Teacher at Sea program I have had a wonderful opportunity to participate in an amazing, once in a lifetime, learning adventure.