Deb Novak: Sailing South, August 11, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Deb Novak
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
August 10 – 25, 2012

Mission: Shark Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Current Geographical Position: Traveling south along the east coast of Florida to move into position to start survey work.

Date: Saturday, August 11, 2012

Setting sail, you can almost see the Mayport Naval Base in the background

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 30.9 degrees C
Sea temperature: 28.9 degrees C
6/8ths cloud cover
10 miles of visibility
0-1 foot wave height

Science and Technology Log:

I spent time on the Bridge (where the Captain and Crew pilot the boat) this morning learning about the weather data collected and all of the gauges and levers and images that they use to guide us.  Captain Dave Nelson  was nice to share information with me while he did the important work of piloting.  He was being careful to not get to close to all of the small boats that were out on the water fishing and enjoying the beautiful day.  On the radar it looked like we were surrounded by about 20 boats, looking out the windows I could only see one. The radar technology helps extend the Captain’s view of the water so that all of the boats stay safe.

The Bridge Crew record the weather every hour of the day and night. The above readings are for 11:00 am.  27.1 degrees Celsius means it is warm out. It is about the same temperature here today as it is in Albuquerque.  The difference is that there is more moisture in the air in Florida. I’ve always called it muggy, when I feel a little bit damp all the time. The crew measures cloud cover by dividing the sky into 8 sections and seeing how much is covered by clouds.  5/8ths means more than half of the sky is covered.  Here on the water we can see pretty far out in all directions, which is called visibility.  0 visibility would mean that the boat is fogged or rained in and can’t see past the boat at all.  We have 10 miles of visibility which is pretty far.  The water is almost flat when I look at it, only a few ripples. The range of wave height is 0-1 foot, but what we are seeing is closer to zero.   Since waves are caused by wind, there can be different heights of waves at the same time so a range is used for the measurement, sharing the shortest and tallest of the waves.  Wind speed and direction are also recorded.  The wind monitor looks like two small, wingless airplanes up on  top of a mast.

Wind speed and direction are read on this device on the bridge.
Wind gauges on the mast show wind direction and wind speed

Personal Log:

Happy Birthday, Mom!  It’s my mom’s birthday and since we are along the coast of Florida (I can see the buildings along the shore), I was able to call on my cell phone to personally wish her well.  She was surprised!  I told her before I left  that I would not be available much since signals won’t work when we are out at sea. There is a satellite phone that works all of the time on board for emergencies. We are never completely out of contact, but people who work on a vessel go long periods of time without phones or internet.  Since we are still moving toward the place where we will start work, many people are spending time out on deck on their phones connecting with their families and friends. They know if they can see the tall buildings lining the shore  that they can call.

Since we are not going to be able to start the survey until we are past the Florida Keys and into the Gulf of Mexico, we spent time learning about NOAA Ship Oregon II and conducting safety drills.

Getting into the Full immersion suit
Personal Floatation Device properly cinched!
All suited up!

The safety drills will happen every week to make sure that everyone knows where to go and what to do, just like we practice Fire Drills and Lock-down Drills at school.  We have to listen carefully because there are different numbers and lengths to the alarm sounds and those sounds tell us where to go and what to bring.  The abandon ship code is  seven long tones.  I brought my immersion suit with me the middle outer deck and pulled it on.  It was like stuffing a sausage!  Although the air and water feel warm, they are much colder than the human body – which is about 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit or about 37 degrees Celsius.  If you look in the Weather Report above, I’d be really cold if I stayed in 28.8 degrees Celsius (~84 F) water for too long.  It would be perfect for swimming on a hot Florida day, but not if you are stuck in the water for several hours waiting for help…

NOAA Ship  Oregon II

A ship is like a city.  Everything that people need to live, stay safe and be happy needs to be provided.  William gave me a tour of the Engine rooms before we left Mayport.  Once the boat is underway, the engine rooms are very, very hot and super noisy.  The Engineers make sure to wear earplugs and drink lots of Gatorade to stay hydrated and keep their hearing. The engines are connected to a long shaft with gears (hey 1st and 4th graders, do you remember learning about simple machines last year?) which move the boat forward. There are two of everything on board so that if one breaks down there is a backup.   This is called redundancy.  For the really big pieces of equipment they need to be placed to balance the weight on the ship.  This leads to something you have studied in math, Symmetry.  Many places I look I see mirrored pairs of objects.  See if you can find the lines of symmetry in the following pictures.

Two engines in the Engine room below decks.

A waterproof hatch
Look for symmetry and balance on the bow.

I will be sharing more about NOAA Ship Oregon II, the people on board and surveying sharks later.  We will just keep heading south to the Gulf.

Kristy Weaver: The Sea is All I See, May 23, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kristy Weaver
Aboard R/V Savannah
May 22, 2012-June 1, 2012

Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographical Location: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Savannah, GA
Date: May 23, 2012

Current Weather: 85 and Sunny

Hello from the Atlantic Ocean!  Right now we are about 75 miles off the coast of Savannah, GA.  and there is water all around me!  The last time we saw land was about an hour after we left the dock yesterday.

Sunset on our first night at sea

Before I left many of you asked that I be careful while I am out here.  I wanted to tell you that I am safe and that safety seems to be a very important part of being a scientist, especially when you are on a ship.  I took photographs of a lot of the safety equipment and information throughout the ship.  We even had a safety meeting before we went out to sea.  The first mate (he does a lot of work on the ship) showed us how to put on a survival suit, which is something you wear that covers your whole body and has a hood.  This suit will keep you warm and floating if something happens and you need to go into the water.

After the meeting we had a fire drill just like we have at school, except we didn’t leave the boat.  The captain (he is the leader of the ship) sounded the alarm and we all put on life vests and met on the deck.  The deck is the back of the ship–the part that is outside.  A life vest is also called a life jacket or life preserver.  A life vest is put on like a jacket, but it doesn’t have any sleeves.   It’s bright orange and gets buckled and tied around you so that you can float if you go in the water.  You can see a picture of me in my life vest in the safety video that I made.

Many children asked what type of marine life is in the water here.  Here is a list and pictures of the animals I have seen so far.

Scamp Grouper
Scamp
Black Sea Bass
Black Sea Bass
Red Porgy
Red Porgy
After we empty the traps we sort the fish by family. Jennifer (a scientist) and I are sorting Red Porgy in this picture.
After we empty the traps we sort the fish by family. Jennifer (a scientist) and I are sorting Red Porgy in this picture.
The Red Snapper is the large pink fish. The black fish is a Shark Sucker.
If you look closely you can see that the Shark Sucker has a flat head with deep pockets on it that work like suction cups.
Spotted Dolphin
Spotted Dolphin
Gray Trigger Fish
One of the fishermen caught a shark with a fishing pole.  We had to get a picture of it quickly so that we could get it back into the water as soon as possible!

AND…to answer the #1 question that I have received…(drumroll please) YES!  Someone did catch a small shark today!

Did you know that you do things in science class that I have seen real scientists do  on this ship?  What things do you think you do that make you like a real scientist?  Check my next blog to find out how you already are a student scientist!

Kevin Sullivan: Awaiting Departure, August 20, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kevin C. Sullivan
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
August 17 — September 2, 2011

Personal Log

I arrived into Kodiak Island late Wednesday night.  I came in around midnight local time, which  put my total travel time for the day somewhere in the 17-hour range!  Coupled with a time difference of 4 hours from the East Coast I was surely in need of some downtime.

After some rest, the next day I was able to explore a bit of Kodiak Island until the remaining crew came into town.   I went to the Kodiak Fisheries Research Center, as well as some local museums and other points of interest.  Despite the rain and fog, I walked around and really enjoyed the opportunity to explore in seclusion.  Later that evening, the rest of the scientific crew arrived into Kodiak, we all met up and grabbed some dinner and introduced ourselves and spoke of our future together.

Thursday was continued with more overcast, socked in pea-fog conditions, with visibility coming down to <.25 mile at times.  Our trip was supposed to leave early in the morning this day which was delayed until 3:00 PM and then again delayed until 1:00 PM the following day (Friday the 20th). The delays were a result of having to wait for a specific part that the boat needed prior to leaving port.  Due to the added delay, we decided to go  investigate some intel from locals about Kodiak Bear spotting sites.  Luckily enough, we found them taking advantage of pink and coho salmon spawns occurring.  The Kodiak bear, in preparation for winter and hibernation, must gorge itself leading up to the cold winter months.  The salmon spawns coinciding with this bear’s requirement are a perfect example of evolution and “nature’s clock” at work.  It reminds me of the Horseshoe crab back in NJ wherein their eggs laid in the spring become the food for the migratory red knot bird coming all the way from South America.  The timing is just perfect.  The Kodiak seems to target the brains of the salmon as well as the belly of this fish where the eggs are located (you can see this in the picture I took below of the pink Salmon).  This ensures that every bite is as most calorically packed as possible with the warmer days ending and winter approaching.

Kodiak Brown Bear. Taken 08-19-11
Kodiak Brown Bear. Taken 08-19-11
Pink Salmon Spawn.  Taken 08-19-11
Pink Salmon Spawn. Taken 08-19-11

Friday morning all scientists and new crew attended a meeting at 8:30 A.M. to discuss the logistics of the trip.  Specifically, the lead scientist, Ed Farley, reviewed how the average day was going to unfold with the various investigations going on.  The goal seems to be to get to three stations a day with each station consisting of acoustics studies, oceanography, zooplankton and lastly, a fishing trawl.  Conducting this much research all on one boat in one trip is quite ambitious and unique in the marine world.  I will be getting into the details of these activities as the trip gets underway.  Lastly, the meeting included a debriefing on vessel safety.

So far, the trip has been eye-opening.  It is amazing to be able to experience the amount of planning and logistics that must go into an expedition of this magnitude.  Every corner I turn, there are crew-members busily working and focused on their duties.   The ship itself is analogous to a bee’s nest and its crew members the bees themselves.  They are all performing certain functions all for a common goal.  It is also very inspiring to see how passionate these leading scientists and crew members are about the work they do.  It is truly contagious and has reinvigorated my own passion for the sciences.

Mountain Peak Through The Fog
Mountain Peak Through The Fog

Richard Jones & Art Bangert, January 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Richard Jones
Onboard NOAA Ship KAIMIMOANA
January 4 – 22, 2010

Mission: Survey
Geographical Area: Hawaiian Islands
Date: January 4, 2010

The ship is underway
The ship is underway

Personal Log

Art and I arrived at Pearl at 7AM today at the Visitor Check-in and ID office. We were a half hour early and were still 12th and 13th in line. The process was pretty slow, but we got picked up by one of the science crew (James) when we got our passes around 8:15AM. We then went the ship and came on board durning the first of three drills for the day. Within in a few minutes of getting to the ship we were already involved in the ship board fire drill. Both Art and I were shlepping fire fighting equipment to the “fire scene”, I had a ventilation hose and Art a really big, and nasty looking, pry bar. It looked like a pry bar on steroids. After the fire drill it was the abandon ship drill, where we all put on our “gumby” suits ( I wish I had thought to have my camera ready first thing) and exchanged our old whistles for new ones without cork balls. After the abandon ship drill, it was man overboard and then we were able to stand down by about 10AM. Once the drills were done it was time to get with moving the equipment to the ship and setting up the instruments. The process of meeting the crew, loading the equipment and stores, and setting up the science stuff took until almost 6PM.

Chris Imhof, November 13, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chris Imhof
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
November 7 – 19, 2009

Mission: Coral Survey
Geographic Region: Southeast U.S.
Date: November 13, 2009

Science Log

Safety is a priority aboard the Pisces – without a sense of safe operations and knowing what to do in a situation – it would be very hard to run effective science missions – everything from knowing where a safe place to stand, when and where to wear a hard hat and what to do in an event or situation. Within hours of leaving port we assembled with the science team for a briefing and learned where we would muster in case of a drill. A muster station is a place you have been assigned when there is an alarm and/or the ship’s horn is blown to communicate to the crew an emergency, situation or event. Once assembled in the designated area, an assigned person calls the bridge to inform that everyone in that station has been accounted for.

I would go to my muster station in the case of a man-over-board -this is communicated with 3 prolonged blasts of the ship’s horn. If I was on deck and saw a person go overboard- I would yell “man-over-board!” and point over the side until I was relieved by an officer – and at the same time be throwing everything under the sun that could float to leave a trail for the ship to follow as it slowed and turned around.

It wasn’t more than an hour after our meeting, while exploring the ship that a drill was issued. As we made our way up 3 decks to our mustering station, we passed crew skillfully and methodically going through the procedures of extinguishing an imaginary “fire” on the starboard deck.

After a few minutes the captain had everyone assemble on the deck where the drill took place and with the XO led a discussion of how it went. What was impressive was the nature of the discussion in which crew members in different departments brought their knowledge and experience to consider other dimensions of the situation – glass windows, machinery or nearby materials that could cause furthers complications or additional measures etc. This type of collaboration builds the cohesion of a ships’ crew as well as the security and safety aboard the ship.

Following the briefing the crew was dismissed and within a short amount of time the ship’s horn blared 6 short blasts and a single long blast – indicating an abandon ship – in this situation/drill we mustered on a side of the ship – bringing with us a life vest, hat and immersion suit. The Pisces is equipped with self-inflatable life rafts on each side of the ship – each sides’ rafts hold more than 60 crew – this is in case one side of the ship cannot be reached or rafts are unable to be used-all ships have this in place today largely due to the Titanic disaster. Following this we learned how to quickly and efficiently put on our immersion suits. This tight fitting, insulated survival suit protects you not only from the elements but the brightness alone increases your chance of rescue. The suit fits snug leaving very little of your skin exposed, it is equipped with an additional flotation device behind your neck and a whistle.

Safety is science – it is also such an important part of how the Pisces runs – how the officers, crew and scientist work, and how the ship is built, runs and operates – as a Teacher at Sea who is staying just a brief time, it has heightened my sense to be more aware of everything around me not just the sea and the science but also how things aboard the ship operate and how each person works and fits into the big picture.

Jennifer Fry, July 15, 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 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind Speed: 19 kts.
Wind direction: 355° north
Temperature: 15.4°C (dry bulb); 13.2°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

This picture shows the Miller Freeman in Alaskan waters.  On our cruise, it’s working off the coast of California.
This picture shows the Miller Freeman in Alaskan waters. On our cruise, it’s working off the coast of California.

Our cruise was delayed for a day due to poor weather conditions and heavy seas. We began with a meeting of the scientific team which consists of 8 members all with their specific scientific knowledge and expertise. We will be conducting several types of oceanographic sampling during our cruise:  2-3 hake tows per day, weather permitting, an open net tow where fish are viewed through a camera, XBTs: Expendable Bathythermograph, HABS: Harmful Algal Bloom Sampling, and CTD: Conductivity, Temperature, and Density. The ship conducted Man Overboard and Fire drills.

The research vessel Miller Freeman set sail from Eureka, California on Wednesday, July 15th at approximately 12:30. Each person aboard is assigned a specific job and place to report on the Miller Freeman during such an event. Our assignments are posted on our stateroom door. During a Fire/Emergency Drill the signal is a 10 second blast of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle. I am to report or muster to the Chemical Lab.

In the event of an Abandon Ship Drill, I am assigned to life raft #2 and muster on the O-1 deck, port (left) side. The Abandon Ship signal is more than 6 short blasts followed by one long blast of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle. If a Man Overboard Drill is called, we will hear 3 prolonged blasts of the general alarm and/or ship’s whistle.  The muster station is the Chemical Lab. If we personally see a person go overboard the ship there are three things to do immediately: Throw a life ring overboard, call the bridge, and keep your eyes on the person. 

These things all need to be done as simultaneously as possible to assure the safety and recovery of the person who is in the sea. It is important to conduct these emergency drills so that everyone is ready and prepared in the case of an emergency event.

Personal Log 

I am sharing a stateroom with Julia Clemons, an oceanographer on board the Miller Freeman. She works for NOAA Fisheries in Newport, Oregon.  Her educational background includes a Bachelors’ degree in Oceanography and a masters’ degree in Geology. The scientists and crew on board are so professional and willing to teach and tell about their job.  They are an amazing group of people.

New Term/Phrase/Word 
Domoic acid

Questions of the Day? 
What does a hake look like in person?

Animals Seen Today 
5 Egrets
1 great blue heron
Numerous gulls

Stacey Klimkosky, July 7, 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 7, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: 57°36969N, 154°41.154W
Weather: Overcast, Foggy
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind: North 17 knots Swells: 2-3’
Waves: 1-2’
Barometric pressure: 1021.4 mb
Air temperature: Wet bulb=10.6°C; Dry bulb=10.6°C

Science and Technology Log 

The Rainier’s a heavy ship!
The Rainier’s a heavy ship!

Finally we are underway, having pushed off of the dock in Seward around 1500 on Monday, July 6. The cruise time to the area where RAINIER and her crew will be conducting hydrographic surveys is approximately 40 hours.  The distance is 519 nautical miles.  (One mile on land = 0.869 nautical miles, so 1nautical mile = 1.15 statute miles).  Thus far, we have traveled approximately 240 nautical miles in a time of 19 hours—just about ready to finish passing Kodiak Island to the port (left) side.

In the meantime, there is plenty to do aboard— learning about the many aspects of safety aboard a working vessel being the most important.  NOAA personnel new to the ship and guests watched a variety of safety videos as well as received our safety gear. My closet, which was fairly empty yesterday morning, is now stuffed with a survival suit (a.k.a. The Gumby Suit); a Float Coat (a warm orange coat that provides both buoyancy and warmth if you “go into the drink”, or fall overboard) and an inflatable safety vest that I will wear whenever I am working inside the cabin on one of the launches once the surveys begin.  We also had our abandon ship and fire drills. It’s very similar to the fire and safety drills we do in school.  Everyone has a specific place to meet (muster) and some have specific jobs to do or items to bring.  Like the sign on the fantail of the ship says: TEAMWORK SAFETY FIRST!

Alaska has many jagged volcanic mountains.
Alaska has many jagged volcanic mountains.

I’ve also had time to begin speaking to different members of the crew—their responsibilities, how they arrived on RAINIER, and what the hydrographic surveys will be like.  One of the most interesting conversations was with Steve Foye, a Seaman Surveyor.  Steve told me that RAINIER is scheduled for a complete mid-life repair after this year’s survey season is completed in September.  RAINIER will then go into dry dock and the repairs and changes will begin.  The entire inside of the ship will be gutted and remodeled.  While all of that is going on, a decision has to be made—where will RAINIER’s homeport be?  Steve brought up quite an interesting point: a port that has brackish (part salt/part fresh) water is better for the ship.  Why? When a ship is at sea for long periods of time, creatures such as barnacles cement themselves to the hull.  It’s essential to remove them; however, the process is costly—both in time and money. Having moving fresh water along the ship’s hull while docked for the “off season” will eliminate the barnacles. But there’s another problem—after a winter docked in fresher water, algae and plant material starts to grow where the barnacles once were.  Solution? Begin a new survey season and sail the ship in salt water.  The plant material is then eliminated, but guess what starts to come back?  An interesting example of a cycle.

Personal Log 

It’s great to finally be a Teacher at Sea!  Not a Teacher on a Plane, or Teacher on a Train, or Teacher at Port.  I’ve been waiting a long time for this to get underway.  Thus far, the entire experience has been new.  I’ve had the opportunity to see some amazing scenery—the landscape is so different from that of Cape Cod, Massachusetts! Jagged volcanic mountains literally rise up from the water.  I’ve also seen some wildlife including bald eagles, otter, Dahl sheep, Arctic terns and a moose on the Alaska Railroad train that I took from Anchorage to Seward. We also passed three glaciers. The glacial melt off causes nearby lakes and streams to take on a milky light green color.

As far as being on the ship, this is my first at sea experience. I’m finding that it really reminds of my first days of college—living in close quarters; trying to get into a routine with a roommate; learning where things are and how schedules operate; figuring out the hierarchy of individuals. The constant movement is also something new.  I actually had a couple of fun rides in my bunk during the night!  I wonder if that’s what a Nantucket sleigh ride felt like. (A Nantucket sleigh ride, for those who don’t know, is a term from whaling days.  After a whale was harpooned, it would often take off, pulling the small boat of men behind it until the whale tired.)

Did You Know? 

  1. The NOAA ship RAINIER is 231 feet overall. Her cruising speed is 12.5 knots and she can travel a range of 7000 nautical miles!  Medium sized survey ships are customarily named for a prominent geographic feature in the ship’s area. RAINIER’s namesake is Mount Rainier, a volcanic cone that rises 14, 410 feet above sea level in Washington State’s Cascade Range.
  2. Today, sunrise was approximately 0520 and sunset will be at 2314 (that’s 5:20am and 11:14 pm—plus the light lingers for awhile)  Imagine falling asleep at 10:00pm when the sun is still shining!
  3. You can follow the ship’s course by taking a look at the NOAA Ship Tracker . Click on RAINIER (RA).

Alaska Fun Facts 

  1. Seward, AK is located on Resurrection Bay, the northern-most ice-free bay in the US.  It was founded in 1902 by the surveyors of the Alaska Railroad as the ocean terminus of the railroad. Originally a gold rush encampment, the famous Iditarod Trail that miners took into the mountains began here.  To the east, Mount Marathon rises up 3,022 feet.  Every 4th of July, hundreds of runners scurry up and down Marathon to see who can claim bragging rights for a year.
  2. This year, Alaska celebrates its 50th birthday. One of its original names was Alyeska (AlYES-ka), an Aleut word that means “great land”.

Jill Stephens, June 23, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 23, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: 55°08.576’N  161°41.010’W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Sky: broken clouds
Wind: 230° @ 10 knots
Sea: 0-1 feet
Pressure: 1009.3 mbar
Temperature:  Sea 6.1°C; Dry Bulb 8.9°C; Wet Bulb 7.8°C

The CTD sits near the surface for two minutes to acclimate to the environment and begin collecting data.  The instrument is then lowered to the bottom and retrieved using the winch.
The CTD sits near the surface for two minutes to acclimate and begin collecting data.

Science and Technology Log 

Ian Colvert, Martha Herzog, and Matt Abraham are my team for today.  We are working in area that has not had any survey lines run yet. We are the first to explore what lies beneath the water!  The survey that we are conducting today will involve running long lines instead of filling in polygons. The long survey lines provide the survey techs with an idea of what to expect for the area and assist them in planning the polygons that will be covered later.  If rocks are known to exist, these first lines go near to them in an effort to determine bottom features at a safe distance.

The Reson froze twice today for some reason, but was able to start right up again.  This issue was brought up at the daily meeting and it appears to have happened on another launch as well.  (The ship is in frequent contact with the company and will have a solution to this problem quickly.)

The instrument is then lowered to the bottom and retrieved using the winch.
The instrument is then lowered to the bottom and retrieved using the winch.

Personal Log 

I was able to pilot the launch for a complete line today.  I am proud to say that after learning to orient the boat using the information on the screen, I did a good job.  After the first cast of the CTD, Martha and Ian let me go ahead and perform the next two casts of the day.  The data collected from the casts was good, so we did not have to perform any recasts.

Ian made a couple of movies of the Reson data today that I will be able to take back to my classroom. I went ahead and took pictures of the side scan display to show students. I am going to go ahead and use my digital camera to make a movie of the side scan screen.  Hopefully, it will work.

In the area that we surveyed today, there is a huge, interestingly shaped rock. As we passed by the rock, we noticed light colored areas along the rock. These light colored areas were seals. It was an impressive sight!

Animal Sightings 

More than 30 seals

The light brown areas near the base of the rock are actually seals.
The light brown areas near the base of the rock are actually seals.

 

Jill Stephens, June 18, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 18, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position 55° 10.089’N 161° 52.801’W
Broken cloud cover
Wind variable and light
Pressure 995.9
Temperature: Sea; 6.1°C;  Dry Bulb; 8.3°C; Wet Bulb; 7.8°C

The Reson monitor displays the sonar return captured by the receiver on the bottom of the boat.
The Reson monitor displays the sonar return captured by the receiver on the bottom of the boat.

Science and Technology Log 

The launch leaves the ship every day to go to spots within the survey area to collect data regarding the bottom for depth, possible anchorage sites and potential navigational hazards.  Our boat was responsible for covering the long area referred to as the fairway, which is necessary in this uncharted area so that the launches can transit to and from the working areas safely, and move on to another area upon completion.

The chart of the area is “painted” with color depicting the depth of the area based upon the return form the sonar.  The goal is to “paint” your assigned area.  The numbers in the lower right of the screen indicate the depth in meters.
The chart of the area is “painted” with color depicting the depth of the area based upon the return form the sonar. The goal is to “paint” your assigned area. The numbers in the lower right of the screen indicate the depth in meters.

The inside of the cabin of the launch reminds me of Star Wars. There are pieces of electronic equipment everywhere!  One of the survey team members sits in the command center to monitor and control the Reson collection and additional software that displays a 3-D image of the sea floor surface. As the coxswain pilots the boat over the surface of the water, low frequency sonar is emitted from the transducers.  The sonar hits the sea floor and is then bounced back to a receiver on the underside of the boat.  The pings are recorded by the equipment and stored in the computer. 

The CTD is attached to a cable operated by a winch.  The CTD acclimates to the water surface temperature before being lowered steadily to the bottom.  The equipment is raised to the surface using the winch and then brought aboard.  The CTD is connected to the computer for data retrieval.
The CTD is attached to a cable operated by a winch. The CTD acclimates to the water surface temperature before being lowered steadily to the bottom. The equipment is raised to the surface using the winch and then brought aboard. The CTD is connected to the computer for data retrieval.

There are factors that affect the accuracy and quality of the information.  Boat speed, conductivity of the water, pitch and roll, yaw, and tides must be accounted for in order obtain usable data. There is equipment on board that collects the pitch, roll, yaw, and geographic position information to correct merge with the data to make corrections.  The CTD apparatus is placed into the water while the boat is stopped. The cast of the CTD will collect salinity, temperature, and pressure information at depths from the surface to the bottom. This information is also sent to the computer to provide a more accurate reading of the sonar data received by the Reson system.  Casts of the CTD must be made a minimum of every four hours to account for any changes between points in the survey area.

Personal Log 

Here I am manning the computers onboard the launch used to collect sonar depth and bottom information in the Pavlof Islands, Alaska.
Here I am manning the computers onboard the launch used to collect sonar depth and bottom information in the Pavlof Islands, Alaska.

Shawn, Todd, and Dennis were on my launch today. Once the equipment was powered up and the software programs selected, I was able to sit at command center and control collection and storage of data. The raw data is merged with the corrective information and submitted to Caris, another software program that also creates models of the findings. We were using a laptop to merge the data and begin field processing of the data. I was able to assist with this process too.

Two whales surfaced near the survey launch early in the morning near Bluff Point in the Pavlof Islands.
Two whales surfaced near the survey launch early in the morning near Bluff Point in the Pavlof Islands.

Animal Sightings 

This morning was a great day to see whales!! We spotted 5 blows!  We were then able to see the whales breach the surface at a distance.  Three of the whales moved closer to us. There were two adults and a juvenile. The juvenile was very playful and kept poking his head above the surface.  The two adults came closer to the launch and we were able to get some great shots of their bodies!! On the way back to the ship, we saw four more blows. Total sightings of whales: 9 Puffins as always are out there. They are very strange, somewhat silly birds…. 

New Vocabulary Gain: how hard an object is listening to the sound emitted by the sonar Sound Speed: speed at which sound is able to travel (This will vary in water depending upon the factors like salinity and temperature.)

Absorption: refers to how much of the sound is absorbed by the medium and varies with the medium’s composition and other factors including temperature. 

Jill Stephens, June 17, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 17, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Position: Anchored, Bluff Point, AK; 53° 10.087’ N, 161° 52.801’ W
Visibility 10 nautical miles
Wind 060 at 6 knots
Temperature 8.3° C dry bulb, 7.8° C wet bulb
Barometric pressure 995.7
Sea Temperature 5.6° C

Science and Technology Log 

This morning everyone was abuzz with excitement because today we were to send out the launches and begin to survey the area in the Pavlof Islands that has not yet been charted! The data that we will be collecting during this survey, such as depths and hazards to navigation, will eventually end up on nautical charts.

Here I am driving the launch.  It is essential to hold a steady course while collecting data for the surveys and tests.
Here I am driving the launch. It is essential to hold a steady course while collecting data for the surveys and tests.

Deploying the launches is a fascinating thing to watch. The davits on our ship rely upon gravity, (Newton’s Laws in action…).  The boats are attached with cables and the weight of the launch is used to lower it to the water. As the cable is slowly released, deckhands man lines to assist in guiding the launches slowly toward the water. The crew and their gear are loaded from one of the lower decks and then the launch is lowered the rest of the way to the cold Alaskan water.  Once the launch is in the water, the cables are released from the launch.

The launch that I went out on was running patch tests and collecting Reson data.  The patch tests are necessary to calibrate the multibeam sonar and measure any physical offsets that may induce errors into the acquired data. In order to accomplish this test, we collected data with the sonar by running lines over an area that was surveyed last year.  The sonar that is used to collect information about the depth and underwater objects can be either high or low frequency.  It was important for our boat to test both frequencies.  The frequency used depends upon factors such as the depth of the water.

Personal Log 

Having been on board ship for two days already, I am getting the feel for where everything is located and how meals work.  Now, I have also been introduced to the routine of launching and conducting surveys. Our coxswain allowed me to pilot the boat for one of the runs during our testing. My time on boats at home and on sailing excursions is paying off.

When I visited the bridge to write down the weather information, the officer on bridge watch, Ensign Andvick, was preparing to collect the hourly weather information.  I assisted in the collection of the required data and was excited to be able to learn where the weather instruments are located on the bridge.  I enjoy data collection, so I will time my visits to coincide with the hourly check of the weather, which becomes a part of the ship’s log.  While on the bridge, I also learned that there is some difficulty communicating by radio from the ship to launches in this area. The islands in this area are very high and mountainous, but in similar areas this difficulty has not been noticed. One possibility for the communications issue is that the mountains here have a higher concentration of iron that interferes with the signal.  (Sounds like an idea for a science fair project….). The launches have other methods to communicate with the ship and other launches such as satellite phones.

I had the opportunity to spend time in the plot room with fellow teacher at sea, Mary Patterson while the night processors were working on the data collected during the day.  We continue to meet and work with interesting and fabulous people.

New Vocabulary 

Coxswain: boat driver/operator — The coxswain is responsible for the operation of the boat and the safety of all occupants and equipment.

Jill Stephens, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jill Stephens
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 15, 2009

Weather Data from the Bridge  
Overcast
Visibility 10 nautical miles
Wind from 170° at 2 knots
Sea Temp 7.2° C
Air temperature: 13.3°C dry bulb; 10°C wet bulb
Pressure 1015.2 mb

Donning the survival suit is necessary if you are forced to abandon ship in cold water.  The suit must be donned quickly. This is not an easy task, but I was successful.  Now, please step aside so that I can make my way to life raft number 10 on the port side of the ship!
Donning the survival suit is necessary if you are forced to abandon ship. The suit must be donned quickly. This is not an easy task, but I was successful. Now, please step aside so that I can make my way to life raft number 10 on the port side of the ship!

Science and Technology Log 

Safety is of the utmost importance on all NOAA vessels at all times.  New crew members are required to go through safety training upon arrival.  The training covers important details that include breathing devices to use in a fire emergency, correct procedure for donning survival suits, entry into life rafts, and lowering and raising launches. Survival suits, life vests, hard hats, and float jackets were issued at our safety meeting. We were taken on an orientation of the ship, during which we were shown our muster stations for fire, man overboard, and abandon ship emergencies.

The training video depicting the deployment and recovery of the launches was fascinating from a physics standpoint. Although we will not be handling any of the lines or equipment, there is safety protocol to be followed during this activity.

Almost there!
Almost there!

Personal Log 

Everyone on board the ship has been very friendly and helpful. My roommate is NOAA Corps Ensign Marina Kosenko. The NOAA Corps is actually the smallest of the seven uniformed services.  She has been with NOAA since August of 2008. She was an astrophysics major at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she received a scholarship from NOAA that paid for her junior and senior year of college. She interned at a NOAA lab in Miami, Florida. While in Miami, she met a NOAA Corps officer that interested her in the NOAA Corps.  After receiving her BS, she applied to NOAA Corps, was accepted and went to training a year later in New York, New York.  Upon completion of the four month training program, she became an ensign and was assigned to the Rainier. Ensign Kosenko’s duties aboard the ship include assistant medical officer, assistant damage control officer, movie and morale officer, assistant sound velocity officer, discharge slip officer in addition to standing anchor watch, and 12-4 bridge watch when underway. During bridge watch she serves as Conn and ensures safe navigation of the ship with the assistance of the Officer of the Deck.

Ensign Kosenko has taken me under her wing and been a terrific roommate!  She is also teaching a great deal about many facets of her job.

This actually holds a life raft.
This actually holds a life raft.

Animal Sightings 

Hundreds of red jellyfish surrounded the ship after the engines were powered up and we prepared to get underway.

I counted 81 sea otters as we were leaving Kodiak.  The otters were extremely playful and most were swimming on their backs.  It was amazing to see so many of them wishing us bon voyage.

While up on the flying bridge, the deck above the bridge, we were watching for whales.  Steve Foye was very helpful in helping us to look for “blows”.  (Whales are spotted by seeing the water blown into the air, hence the term.)  Once we knew what to look for, they were easier to spot. Although we were too excited to count, there must have been between 15 and 20 sightings, but we were not close enough to see their bodies. 

Mary Patterson, June 15, 2009

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Patterson
Onboard NOAA Vessel Rainier 
June 15 – July 2, 2009 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Pavlov Islands, AK
Date: June 15, 2009

A life ring aboard the Rainier
A life ring aboard the Rainier

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Overcast 10 nautical mile visibility
Sea Temp 7.2◦ C
Sea level air pressure 1015.2 mb
Dry Bulb 13.3 Wet Bulb 10.0

Science and Technology Log 

After lunch came safety training and a quick tour of the ship. We watched several videos about survival at sea, fire and abandon ship drills and even conflict resolution. Some of the same principles of conflict resolution that we use in school were in the film. JO (Junior Officer) Russell Quintero passed out our bunk cards. These cards fit into a pocket in our bunks and list all our stations for all our drills.

Next, we were fitted for our bright orange survival suits otherwise know as the “Gumby” suit. These suits are designed to help minimize the shock of extremely cold water. They may look funny, but I’d be glad we had them in an emergency. We were also issued a lightweight vest, a bright orange deck coat and a hard hat. It’s good to know that all the emphasis I put on safety in my classroom, really does translate to the real world of science. NOAA is all about safety first! After dinner, we had our first fire drill and not long after that, an abandon ship drill.

With a ship this size it is crucial that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. Usually, by dinnertime, the orders for the next day are posted in several spots throughout the ship. These list the survey boats that will be going out, their crews and where they are going and what they will survey. This is called he Plan of the Day (POD) and everyone is expected to read them when they are posted.

Being able to put out a fire on a ship is really important when you’re at sea.  There are no fire departments to save you.
Being able to put out a fire on a ship is really important when you’re at sea. There are no fire departments to save you.

Personal Log 

Excitement built as fellow Teacher at Sea, Jill Stephens and I made our way to the ship. We were greeted by ENS Matt Nardi and shown to our bunks to unpack. Our first chow in the crew mess hall was at 12 noon.  This food is nothing like cafeteria food! Our cooks, Dorethea, Raul, Floyd and Sergio like to keep the crew happy! Our first lunch was roasted veal or a chicken cheese sandwich. I also learned that there is always ice cream in the freezer and salad available 24 hours a day.

Here I am in my survival suit, also called a “Gumby” suit.
Here I am in my survival suit, also called a “Gumby” suit.

As we left the dock, we saw quite a few puffins. Those crazy birds flap and flap their wings but look afraid to fly. They are quite entertaining. We also passed approximately 50 or so sea otters playing and feeding in the kelp. Later in the evening, I saw whales spouting in the distance. I really hope we get to see one up close. As the engines were turned on, it seemed like all the jellyfish in the water came towards the ship. I wonder if they are attracted to the vibrations made by the engines. The sun set at 11:10 pm and so did I.

“New Terms/Phrases/Words” 
Bunk card, POD, Rack, Standing orders

Dave Grant, November 10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dave Grant
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
November 6 – December 3, 2008

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 10, 2008

Science and Technology Log 

“Ships and sailors rot at port.”  – Captain Horatio Nelson

Today is a bit frustrating for the science staff since we are delayed in our departure; although the crew doesn’t object to another day of restaurant meals and visits to town to make final purchases.

The Brown’s Meeting Room
The Brown’s Meeting Room

This gave the science and navigation team time to get up to speed on the cruise track, and view satellite images of what is happening offshore, and to determine the first waypoint of the ship – Point “Alpha.” Alpha is at -20° S, 075 W (That will put us 130-miles southwest of Arica, 1200-miles south of the Equator, and in 4,000-meters of water.) We will be at the same Longitude as Philadelphia, PA.  Surface and subsurface sampling of the sea and air is to be done at the same time air samples are captured by several aircraft passing overhead at different altitudes. Low passes by a slow-flying US Navy Twin Otter will take samples at the “boundary layer” where particles of salt spray and other particles are cast into the air by wave action; while higher passes are made by a much larger C-130 operated by the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

Simultaneously, meteorologists on the ship will be launching SONDES (Weather Sounding Balloons) that collect data on the air temperature, humidity and air pressure up to about 25,000 meters; and oceanographers will be taking water samples with a CTD meter (Conductivity, Temperature, Density) at the surface and down to 3,000-meters.

Rules and Regulations! 

“You’ll never get in trouble following orders.” Commander Tom Kramer – US Navy

Safety

 “One hand for the ship and one hand for yourself.” Onboard, the 3-Point Rule is in effect. Even at dock the ship can move, so you should always have three points of contact. (Two feet and at least one hand on a railing.) “Only YOU can prevent…!” Fire, not drowning, is the biggest hazard on a ship. Smoking is only permitted in the designated area outside the ship and at the stern.

“If it’s too hot, stay out of the kitchen!” This is an open ship, but for obvious safety reasons and to avoid interfering with operations, certain places like the engine room, machine shop and galley are generally off-limits. Inform the bridge of your activities and always wear your safety vest and helmet while on the fantail.

Health

“Wash your hands!” Living in close quarters requires good hygiene. Wash frequently since you are constantly touching doors and railings. Immediately report any injuries to the health officer “Doc.” Know the signs of seasickness and immediately seek attention if you feel dizzy, nauseous or groggy. Stay hydrated.

Courtesy

“Can you hear me now?” We were reminded that we will be working where people live (the crew), and to observe others’ privacy whenever possible. Earplugs were on our list of Items to bring and one quickly learns that there is always inherent mechanical noise on a ship in addition to any work sounds. Since the ship is metal, any vibrations from the constant scraping, grinding and chipping of rust by the maintenance crew can often be heard reverberating through several decks to the sleeping quarters; sounding like your worst nightmare about visits to the dentist. (And they start work early, and work late!)

Meals

The Galley staff serves dessert -sweet potato pie!
The Galley staff serves dessert -sweet potato pie!

“Eat it and beat it!” To paraphrase that old Army saying, a ship sails on its stomach too, and the first order of the day was food, meal times and consideration of the galley staff. Meals are closely spaced and on a tight schedule because of rotating schedules (Someone on the ship has to be maintaining power, scientific equipment and our course every minute.). Also, the kitchen is in a constant state of clean-up and prep for the next meal, which means the small staff must start at “0-Dark-Thirty” hours (Well before dawn) and is not finished until evening. Mealtime is not the time for chit-chat. Eat and make room for others who are coming off duty. Many WWII veterans admit that their motivation for joining the Navy was to be assured of warm chow. (And a dry bunk instead of a foxhole!) Regardless of your culinary tastes and dietary needs, they are met at every meal on this ship.  The cuisine…in a word?  Excellent! For those who are tardy, sleep late, like to spread out their meals, or are delayed because of  a sampling conflict or problem in the lab; the cooks are always considerate enough to leave out fruit, soup, leftovers, world-class dessert (On the rare event that any is left) and predictably, the old standby – peanut butter and jelly. 

Screen shot 2013-04-19 at 9.16.00 PM

Emergencies

Abandon ship drill - Fitting survival suits
Abandon ship drill – Fitting survival suits

“This is a Drill!” The earsplitting ship’s bell keeps everyone aware of any serious problems. There are three signals you must respond to without hesitation: “HEL-LO Gumby” Everyone has seen or used a life jacket, but the Brown’s bright orange ones are specially designed equipment with the ship’s name on the back, reflector tape, an oversized whistle, and a strobe-light that is activated automatically when it comes in contact with the water. Since they are fairly thick, they also make good windbreakers when you are on deck; so there is little excuse not to wear them. Survival suits are oversized orange neoprene “dry” suits like the ones divers wear. Putting them on during our weekly drills is quite and adventure for the first time, but this is serious business and we are all checked out by the Safety Officer. And yes, you do look like the cartoon character, especially when you are walking in your “Jumbo Immersion Suit.”

“The two-man rule” Any doctor will tell you that nothing is better for allergies than an ocean cruise, and the air here between the desert and sea is very refreshing. However, in the confines of the ship we must be aware of gases like Nitrogen and Helium that the scientists need to operate analytical equipment, and since the ship has large and powerful engines, Carbon Monoxide is always a consideration. When working with these gases and in tight quarters, we were reminded to have a partner, while the Safety Officer trained us on the 10-minute rescue breathers in our cabins.

Interesting observation: One sign that odorless, suffocating gases are present is that someone passes out while you are talking to them. (Certainly THAT is every teacher’s worst nightmare!). We are also issued an EEBD (Emergency Evacuation Breathing Device) which would give us 10 minutes of air to escape such a situation. Feeling informed, safe and secure, we were given one very important final tip from the maintenance crew: “Please don’t flush anything down the head besides toilet paper and whatever your last meal was!”  We are ready to go to sea. 

Emergency breathing device - Demonstration by safety Officer
Emergency breathing device – Demonstration by safety Officer

Personal Log 

There may be miles of cordage on a ship: Line (Thin rope), Rope (Thick rope more than 1-3/4 inches in circumference) and hawser (Really thick rope at least 5-inches in circumference). Hawsers are used to secure and tow the largest ships.  As many as ten bow, stern, breast and spring lines, ropes and hawsers secure a vessel to the wharf.

Returning to the Brown after a long day hiking around and hoping to see some unusual wildlife during our last hours of “shore leave” I noticed the gang plank was moving back-and-forth appreciably, even though the harbor was flat calm. At the beach I enjoyed watching thunderous “overhead” surf breaking on the point and speculated about what sea conditions would be like at our rescheduled Midnight departure. Back in the harbor, the circular, movement of the ship was confirmation that there was a good long period swell refracting around the breakwater and setting the port’s water in motion. Watching the ship’s lines tighten and slacken at regular intervals of about a minute, I imagined the Brown was telling us she was biting at the bit to sail! Checking the lines I realized the hawsers had become a perfect roost for Inca terns; a bird I had searched for in vain at the shore – hoping to spot at least one before the end of my trip. The Inca tern (Larosterna inca) is the most distinctive of this gregarious group of seabirds. Rare elsewhere, it is fairly common along the coasts of Chile and Ecuador…and becoming increasingly abundant on the Brown! At night they outnumber every other bird in the port.

Brown at dock with birds gathering on lines
Brown at dock with birds gathering on lines

Birds of a feather flock together and this is certainly the case with terns. They roost, breed and fish in groups, often made up of different, but similar-looking, mostly grey and white species. Identifying them can be a challenge; except in the case of the dark grey Inca tern. Its red bill and especially its whiskered facial plumes separate it from its cousins, and all seabirds. Terns are my favorite group of birds and they have a cat-like aloofness when it comes to tolerating people. Sailing home from fishing trips in New Jersey waters, I usually have plenty of bait left over (Testimony to my questionable fish-finding ability.) and I soon learned that our common and least terns in Sandy Hook Bay are happy to dive down and perform fantastic midair catches of the bait I toss off the stern. These sharp-eyed hunters never seem to miss, and for me this is often the best part of the trip.

Terns on the hawser
Terns on the hawser

I thoroughly enjoyed my night with the whiskered terns, photographing them and watching their behavior. The birds were most crowded on the thick hawsers at the bow and stern. (Unlike perching birds like robins, most seabirds are flat-footed and can’t grip a perch.) There are two lines at each end of the ship (An inner and outer) and they behave differently – the outer lines stretching more but less gracefully, and occasionally shuttering. Also, the inner lines were better lit by the harbor lights than the outer lines. What follows is some of my data-driven research on the topic of Inca terns: It appears that some subtle differences encourage a definite hierarchy in the arrangement of the birds on the lines. Between 7075% of the group were adults (with their fancy plumes and dark coloration), however they were not distributed randomly. Almost all of the birds on the inner lines were always adults, and the juveniles (brown, “clean-shaven” and with less colorful bills) were banished to the outer lines. I monitored them for many hours and the whole group regularly would take off, even if only a few were disturbed (A typical tern behavior sometimes called “panic flights.”). They would circle out over the harbor, squawk a bit, and then return to sort themselves out at the lines. Adults would always jockey for space and replace any younger birds settled in the prime locations by hovering over them and making a few squawks and stabs with their bill. I never saw juveniles dislodge adults.

Balancing flat-footed Inca tern
Balancing flat-footed Inca tern

I also noticed some courtship behavior with the terns. This involves catching a small fish and offering it to your prospective bride; and since it only occurred between adults, I assume that like the gulls at the beach, they were approaching their breeding season too. At one point before it was too dark, a large gull wandered across the parking lot and was immediately dive-bombed and chased away (More typical tern behavior near colonies). There may even have been birds on eggs inside the few select hollow openings in the wharf’s walls, since individual birds stationed themselves at the dark entrances, defending them from others that tried to land there. Hmmm…Are Inca terns cavity nesters…cliff nesters…beach nesters? There is so much to learn about Inca terns….So many birds, so little time!

Jacob Tanenbaum, October 7, 2008

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

This one shows our ship under the bridge leading into Newport.
This one shows our ship under the bridge leading into Newport.

Mission: Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: October 7, 2008

Science Log

Our first day at sea is a day of mainly travel and drills. We are moving east around the island of Martha’s Vinyard towards our first tow of the day.

Did you know that ships like the Bigelow have all kinds of safety procedures? We had two drills today. In one the crew all went to the back of the ship and put on our survivial gear. This suit will help us survive and be spotted by rescurers in the event we have to abandon ship. It is called an abandon ship drill.

On the gangplank!
On the gangplank!

During a fire drill, we go to our assigned safe spot for attendance – we call it muster. And the officers and crew practice putting out a fire. A fire on a ship can be dangerous. There are no fireman to call, so crew have to learn to put out fires on their own. That takes practice.

Snuggy and Zee also had their own tour of the ship. Each day they will visit a few places and show you pictures so you can see what different parts of the ship look like. They came in on the gangplank this morning. Just like all the sailors do.  Tomorrow, WOS students, please tell me what other parts of the ship we should visit. CLE students, you had lots of good ideas about how Columbus’ ship and mine are different. Technology is at the top of the list. Imagine crossing the ocean with just a compass, a steering wheel and a quadrent. What an adventure. We live in luxury even on our working ship. My quarters even have carpet! Keep those ideas coming. Good night to them both. It’s four in the afternoon and time for bed. I get up at 11 and start work at 12 midnight.

Zee and Snuggy on the bridge.
Zee and Snuggy on the bridge.
The nets are ready for our first day of fishing. Zee and Snuggy are ready to help.
The nets are ready for our first day of fishing. Zee and Snuggy are ready to help.

————————

Safety gear
Safety gear

Hello to all who wrote so far. Mrs. Christie Blick’s class, Mr. Connaughton’s class and others want to know when we start our survey work: We will begin our experiments late today after I have gone to bed, so I will tell you what we catch tomorrow. And I will send you LOTS of photographs! What do we want to catch? Well, different scientists need different things for their work. One of our scientists is studying lobsters. I hope we catch more than he needs so I can have a few for myself!

CP and others, it is not likely that we will see anything new in the water that has never been discovered. Sceintists study this area in detail every day to look for changes to the number of fish or patterns in where they live. we have a good idea of what is doen there.

AR, I will try to answer all your questions in the days to come. I have a bed called a rack here on the ship. I have a small quarters and one very nice roommate. I’ll show you around soon.

The weather here is perfect. The water is not cold or hot. It is just right. By the way, I will not be going to the bottom. We will lower nets to the bottom and see what we bring up.

EA, this ship is 210 feet long.

My brother David asks if I bring music along. Yes. I have my whole collection on my computer. Including all your discs!

Mark Friedman, June 16, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Friedman
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 8-20, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey and ocean seafloor mapping
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 16, 2008

Here I am studying nautical charts as preparation for the Tidal Gauge expedition.
Here I am studying nautical charts as preparation for the Tidal Gauge expedition.

Science and Technology Log 

Each day the RAINIER’s “Ship’s Officer,” in collaboration with the field operations officer and the ship’s commander, issue a “Plan of the Day” also known for short as the POD. (Who knows what marine animals move in groupings called a POD? First one to reply from Los Angeles gets a free Alaskan souvenir!) The POD contains important information such as, for Sunday, June 15, Sunrise was at 0415 (4:15 am), and sunset is at 2139 (9:39 pm!)  It will be a long day! I rise at 6 am to read the POD and find my assignment.

POD Revelations 
The ship’s position is: Anchored, Palisade Is., AK. The POD also has tide levels, U.S. Coast Guard beacons in the area, the weather, and who the officer on duty is. The weather you ask?  How important, especially because many of us are going out on launches and the smaller skiffs for specific assignments. The launch drivers need this especially to make sure all operations are safe. The winds are mild, coming in from the south at 5-10 mph, cloudy with showers, air temperature a balmy 51F with seas of 1-2 foot waves.

The POD has major assignments for anchor watch and officers on duty. Safety is a constant refrain as there are anchor watch positions around the clock to staff the bridge (command center) sending regular weather reports to the Coast Guard and National Weather Service and maintaining a secure and safe environment. The POD also lists all the assignments for the launch vessels being dispatched by the mother ship—no not Battlestar Galactica or the Enterprise, but the RAINIER. Today two vessels will be doing sonar readings around San Christoval Channel and North San Fernando Island. The other two, one of which I will be on, is going to remove a tide gauge and do a recon (reconnaissance) mission for a new tide gauge location.

The Journey Begins 

Here I am learning to withstand the cold in my Arctic survival suit.
Here I am learning to withstand the cold in my Arctic survival suit.

7 am- We are all up for a hearty breakfast, made by three talented chefs (especially in the omelet, soup and dessert department).

7:30am- I struggle into my arctic survival suit and boots in preparation for a “wet landing.”  I feel like Sylvia Earle in her “Jim Suit” as I waddle like a penguin to the stern of the ship to board a skiff for an hour journey up narrowing channels and over rapids to reach our destination. (I have put on all layers of clothing that I brought with me from Los Angeles, preparing for frigid temperatures and lots of wind and mist en route.)

8:30 am- With a spraying salt mist and a wind chill factor making the temperature about 20 degrees Fahrenheit, we race up the labyrinth of islands and channels to our destination. A deer and her fawn stare blindly at us on our port side, a humpback whale breaches on our starboard. We even glimpse a couple of sea otters playing/rafting in the kelp.

On Location 
9:30 am- We have reached the tide (marine), or water level, gauge. Our assignment is to remove it after ensuring calibrations have been correct. The tide is coming in and the shore is covered with algae, mini-white barnacles, a sprinkle of clams, a species limpets and small purple mussel beds which are thriving.

A NOAA tidal gauge benchmark
A NOAA tidal gauge benchmark

What is a tide gauge and why are they important? 
Water level gauges are instruments to measure water surface elevation over long and short durations of time.  They have been used for centuries by mariners to improve their knowledge on the depth of water and apply this information to the chart. This information can aide in the calculation of tidal currents, the ebb and flow of water as the tides change. More modern gauges need a power supply to relay information via satellite to appropriate organizations interested in this data.

A tide gauge consists of a number of instruments including, foremost, a measured, calibrated staff that is securely mounted into rocks to give a visual baseline of water levels. It is connected to benchmarks by using a survey instrument called a level, which optically measures height differences on a survey rod, which I held during the operations. Benchmarks used by NOAA, and previously by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, are brass survey discs (see photo right) that are imbedded into bedrock and stamped with a code that correlates in NOAA data banks to date of installation, project, location number, etc. Five of them are traditionally imbedded at various locations in the vicinity of the staff. They are leveled between each other and the staff, establishing a mathematical correlation. Gauge measurements are all related to the benchmarks, which hold the permanent datum for the tide station.

The Underwater Component 

NOAA divers retrieve a submerged tidal gauge
NOAA divers retrieve a submerged tidal gauge

Another component of the gauge is an orifice (brass pipe with an open end) that is placed where it is continually submerged.  It is connected to an electronic readout instrument via strong plastic tubing that is filled with nitrogen. As the gas comes under more or less pressure, based on the pressure exerted by the quantity of water pressing down upon it (water pressure), it registers the height of water levels. (Similar to how air pressure is registered by a barometer, a little remembered instrument but critical to meteorological forecast and studies).The information on depth is thus recorded and electronically transmitted out of the area thru solar powered equipment. In addition to water levels for meteorological (weather) purposes, over time these tidal gauges, when coordinated with others and register actual sea level rise which is now occurring more rapidly due to glacial melting from global warming. They have also been used to register tectonic plate movements. We disassembled the land equipment after completing our benchmark surveys. Later we scouted for a new location further south for a new tidal gauge and benchmark installation site. Then the divers went into action (see above photos). Their job was to retrieve the submerged gauge and piping for future use. In the process they took a video of part of the undersea flora and fauna.

Back on the Ship 

All equipment is secured, checked and prepared for the next installation site. The gauge team tomorrow will secure benchmarks for the establishment of a new tide gauge station.  (Guess what? At the installation site they found a 1927 benchmark still intact and functional!!)

A sun star, a type of sea star, was observed during the tidal gauge dive.
A sun star, a type of sea star, was observed during the tidal gauge dive. 

Matt Lawson, June 10, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Matt Lawson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 9-20, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Bay of Esquibel, Alaska
Date: June 10, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge as of Wednesday 
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (Nm.)
Wind Direction: none
Wind Speed: none
Sea Wave Height: none
Seawater Temperature: 7.8 Celcius (C)
Sea Level Pressure: 1018.1 millibars (Mb.)
Cloud Cover & skies: overcast
Air Temperature: Dry bulb – 12.2 C Wet bulb – 8.3 C

One of the gravity davits stands waiting for the return of its launch boat
One of the gravity davits stands waiting for the return of its launch boat

Science and Technology Log 

Out to Launch! 

June 10: At 7:50 am CO Haines met with everyone involved in today’s launches to talk about the work, weather and safety. Acting FOO Smith covered the particulars of the survey work each launch boat would be conducting. Chief Boatswain Kruger briefly reminded us about safety and being in your positions at the right times, then the order in which the launches would depart from the ship. Very shortly after 8am, we climbed aboard RA-#4 (RAINIER launch boat #4) and were lowered into the water. All six launch boats are similar to each other in that they are about 30 feet long, have built-in diesel engines, a cabin, and a canopy over the coxswain’s wheel.  They are housed upon gravity davits, which are not the latest in technology, but very durable and reliable.  More modern davits use hydraulic systems and they require fewer deckhands to operate. It appears to me that each system has its advantages. Today, we mainly used the side scan sonar system on that boat to survey some of the rocky off shore areas of Biali Rock.

RA-4 leaves a trail as it speeds to the assigned survey site.
RA-4 leaves a trail as it speeds to the assigned survey site.

The weather was pretty good except that the waves were 6-7 feet tall, making it a little rough for the new guy. Amy Riley, Lead Survey Technician, invited me below deck to see the work she and Grant were doing. Basically, they had a computer with three monitors, showing the current GPS map of where we were, the scanning in real time and a 3-D image of the ocean floor as it was being processed. The job here for the technicians is to monitor the computers as they accumulate data that will later be processed. But this is not yet the end product.  The processed data is finally sent ashore where NOAA cartographers will create the actual charts used for navigation.  Even though quite a number of other things were going on in other smaller windows, I’m not above admitting I didn’t fully understand it all!  I was allowed to take the tech’s chair for a while and we did 4-5 passes with me in control of the system.  Somehow, I managed not to crash us into anything!

The two fishermen in their “Gumby Suits” wait to be rescued.  Their capsized fishing boat is in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Ian Colvert
The two fishermen in their “Gumby Suits” wait to be rescued. Their capsized fishing boat is in the foreground. Photo courtesy of Ian Colvert

Later, I sat in on the survey de-briefing in the wardroom.  This meeting takes place every day immediately after the last launch returns to the ship.  Everyone involved in the launches participates in this meeting.  While everyone is given an opportunity to speak about the day, the lead survey technician for each launch specifically makes an official report on accomplishments, areas of interest or concern, problems and/or issues that need to be addressed before the next set of launches departs. I found this part of the day just as interesting because it created a summary for the entire day’s mission.

Personal Log 

Drill or No Drill? 

NOAA personnel expertly pluck the stranded fishermen from the sea. Even as they suffered from shock, they thanked the rescue team profusely for being there.
NOAA personnel expertly pluck the stranded fishermen from the sea. Even as they suffered from shock, they thanked the rescue team profusely for being there.

While out on the launch, we were able to catch a little of the radio chatter.  It’s always good to listen to the radio, even when it doesn’t pertain to you.  It keeps you in the know and alert to possible hazards in your path. I’m adding “listening to the radio” as a rule on my “to do” list, and I’m about to give you a good example as to why.  As we listened, it sounded like a “Man Overboard” drill was taking place on the ship. Ha, ha.  Better them than us.  However, the more we listened, we began to realize we were really missing the event of the day.  Apparently, two fishermen were out on a fairly old boat when they began to sink. We don’t know the cause, just that it was going down fast. They were able to get out only one mayday call. However, RAINIER’s bridge was able to pick up on and respond to the call.

Despite the fact that much of the ship’s personnel were out on launches, a sufficient rescue team was mustered and conducted a flawless rescue mission.  The two fishermen were in their emergency immersion or “Gumby suits” and had not suffered too much when they were picked up.  After allowing them time to rest and somewhat recover from shock, they were taken to the nearest port.   I had read how NOAA vessels frequently play vital roles in various rescue missions, but being here when it happens makes a much bigger impression.  Today proved just how easily things can get hairy out here and  how important it is to know how to handle emergency situations.  Drills and safety meetings occur regularly on RAINIER, and once again, came in very helpful.

Ian Colvert, a NOAA Survey Technician was on board RAINIER when the rescue mission took place. He is credited for the rescue pictures.

Bald eagles are as abundant here as the crows are at home.
Bald eagles are as abundant here as the crows are at home.

Not Yet a Salty Dog 
I have to diverge a little here.  Operating a computer on a wildly thrashing boat was indeed a new experience in and of itself, as well as a point of hilarity for the Lead Technician, Amy, who’s been doing this for a long time.  Just working the mouse was like riding Ferdinand the Bull after being stung by an unfriendly bee. Anyway, after an hour of this, I began to get seasick.  Yes, the new experiences just keep coming!  At the risk of using too many analogies in one paragraph, I will say sea sickness pretty much just feels as if you’ve been traveling in the back of a tired old Chevy Impala being driven through very hilly country roads by a driver who should’ve had his/her license taken away 35 years ago.  Basically, puke city. I had to return to the deck where I could see the horizon and let my brain make sense of things again.  Recovery was a slow process in 6-7 foot waves, but I did eventually manage and was normal again long before we returned to the relative steadiness of the ship.

Sailing/Nautical terms for all you land lovers:

  1. FOO – Field Operations Officer
  2. SONAR – SOund Navigation Ranging – technology which uses sound to determine water depth.
  3. Side scan SONAR – a category of SONAR that is used to create an image of a large area of the sea floor. This type of SONAR is often used when conducting surveys of the seafloor in order to create nautical charts for navigation.
  4. Gravity Davit – davit system which relies on the weight of the boat to lower it into the water.
  5. GPS – Global Positioning System – a mechanism which uses satellite systems to determine location.
  6. Coxswain the helmsman or crew member in command of a boat.
  7. Manual Floatation Device – any life jacket that must be activated by the wearer (usually a rip cord and air canister system) to make it buoyant.
  8. Positive Floatation Device – a life jacket that does not require manual activation and is designed to keep the wearer’s head above water.
  9. Immersion Suit – a full body suit which functions as a positive floatation device.  Used in emergency situations, such as abandoning ship.  The insulation and water proofing of these suits are important factors in colder waters.
  10. Muster – to gather.
  11. Bridge – sometimes called a pilot house, the place from which the ship is steered.  This is the heart of ship operations.

Animals Seen Today 
No new ones, but it was still exciting to see so many.  Even though the somewhat higher waves kept me busy with the challenge of standing up, I did notice a large colony of starfish hanging on some rocks in calm waters.

“Did You Know?” 

  • There are cold water corals which grow in the Alaskan waters.
  • The Gulf of Esquibel (pronounced “es-ki-bell”) was originally named by Fransisco Antonio Maurelle about May 22,1779 in honor of Mariano Nunez de Esquivel, the surgeon of the ship La Favorita.
  • Alaska itself was purchased by the United States from Russia in 1867.
  • Prior to its sale to the U.S., the Russians referred to it as “Russian America.”
Sea otters bathed and ate nonchalantly on their backs as we passed between the islands.
Sea otters bathed and ate nonchalantly on their backs as we passed between the islands.

Mark Friedman, June 8-9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mark Friedman
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 8-20, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey and ocean seafloor mapping
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: June 8-9, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mark Friedman, helps deploy the CTD prior to surveys in SE Alaskan environs.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mark Friedman, helps deploy the CTD prior to surveys in SE Alaskan environs.

Science and Technology Log 

This is a NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) ship based out of the U.S. Northwest. This ship is primarily dedicated to the construction and updating of marine navigational charts that are of importance to marine commerce, navigation and general recreation. To do this they use SONAR waves emitted from the bottom of the launch boats. (Underwater sound waves travel at 1500 meters per second, four times as fast as sound in air.) Data obtained by the ships surveyors are sent to marine map makers (cartographers) in Seattle and also NOAA’S base in Silver Spring, Maryland where they are processed and constructed and made available to the public in paper or digital format.

June 8 

Arrived Juneau Alaska. Greeted at the airport by the ship’s XO (Executive Officer).  Onboard I was issued a bunk (or a rack as mariners call it) and given a ship tour.  Once settled I visited the town, including a significant museum of history, artifacts and anthropology of the indigenous peoples and early European settlers. Juneau is a stopping off point for many of the Northwest cruise ships cruising the inside passage.

June 9 

Snowcapped mountains surround the inside passage south of Juneau, AK
Snowcapped mountains surround the inside passage south of Juneau, AK

Safety instructions: multiple videos on asbestos, personal safety, fire emergencies. Drill practice: Abandon ship, Man overboard. Survival suit issued along with multiple style life vests, hardhat. Underway from Juneau 1600 for destinations near Sitka to begin depth soundings for marine navigational chart additions and corrections. All is well. Bright outside and it’s nearly 9pm Wednesday night.  Sunset is at 10pm and sunrise at 3:15am. It is a long day by our usual Los Angeles standards. The water is 41 degrees (so you don’t want to fall in or risk hypothermia (rapid loss of base body temperature (Who can guess the temperature of hypothermia?) which rapidly sets in) and the air a cool and misty 51 degrees.

Green conifers line the banks and small islands proliferate in the inner passage here just south of Sitka. The inside passage was made by a combination of glaciers, volcanic and plate tectonic action (subduction of North American and Pacific plates). The tide differential from high to low can be extreme…nearing 30 feet in the Juneau harbor!  Spruce and pine trees abound, and snow-capped mountains on either side of us rise up majestically as we move along at about 12 knots (nautical speed terminology, or about 15 mph). The spruce are afflicted by the same type of exponential pine beetle growth that is devastating California and Southwest evergreens. No drought up here so scientists have no hypothesis yet as to the cause.

I had to get up at 4am yesterday (even earlier than my usual 5am school day rise) for a wild ride thru close straits (aptly named Peril) (must get there at high tide so there is enough clearance beneath and currents are not as dangerous with increased volume of water) entering Sitka for our first series of data collection, cartography of inside passage.

The bridge of NOAA Ship RAINIER
The bridge of NOAA Ship RAINIER

RAINIER to the Rescue 

There is an important heavy emphasis on safety and special cold water survival suits and vests, have been issued to all crew members, followed by instruction donning them and knowing out stations to report to for such rises as “fire onboard” and “man overboard.” We have already had an abandon ship drill. Yesterday after I joined three boats of marine surveyors which go out to surrounding areas in 29 foot launches to begin data collection thru the use of sonar, the RAINIER saved two fisherpeople whose boat had taken on water and was rapidly sinking. RAINIER heard their MAYDAY and was within 2 miles so they sent a rapid launch to the scene and got there even before the Coast Guard. Fortunately the fisherpeople had on their survival suits so they were not in too much shock when they were rescued. It brought home to me the importance of these survival suits that are like insulated neoprene wetsuits that are watertight. I’m always wearing some type of floatation vest while on deck or in the launch, colored bright orange for easy sighting when bobbing up and down in choppy seas.

Personal Log 

I saw some favorites yesterday too…but not too close. Sea otters and whales but too far away to identify. The most common up here now are the humpbacks. The gray whales that have migrated up from Baja California, the ones that can bee seen off the California coast are already further north feasting on that yummy krill, a marine crustacean key to the food web). And the ship’s cuisine—fine and more than plentiful prepared by multiple professional chefs…lots of healthy food and Tapatio, my newfound hot sauce delight thanks to my Mexicano and Latino students.

Fortunately there is a gym so I hopefully won’t come back TOO much heavier. Crew and staff of about 50…mostly young, lots of women for a big change from my last extended marine experience six years ago on the R/V New Horizon out of Scripps Institute of Oceanography in San Diego.

Vocabulary and Marine Terminology Hydrography- the science of measuring, describing and mapping the sea bottom, mudflats and the positions of stationary objects (seamounts, shipwrecks, etc.) Cartographer-makes nautical charts for the aid of moving ships on the ocean Echosounder-high resolution instrument to record depths of ocean bottom using SONAR (SOund Navigation And Ranging – similar to some marine mammals use of echolocation). Also a side-scan sonar can be used and is on the RAINIER. CTD-Instrument to collect and register conductivity (flow of electrical current), temperature and depth. Deployed by ship launches in each surveyed area to obtain data and make calculations on sound speeds of sonar under various conditions (deeper, warmer and saltier water increases the speed of sound waves due to density) Sound speed- Sound travels at a speed of 1500 meters/second faster than thru air that is 380 meters per second. (This enables whales to communicate over hundreds of m8iles of water)

Get Your Hands Wet 

To learn HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN HYDROGRAPHIC PROJECT, go to this NOAA website.

Lisa Kercher, June 13, 2006

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

kercher_log3Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

On a ship one of the most important aspects of daily life aboard is safety. Each day on the FAIRWEATHER work begins with a safety briefing. This meeting is held to discuss the tasks for the day and any concerns that the crew needs to be made aware of. There are also many rules to follow in order to keep oneself and others safe while aboard. There are safety drills that are done to practice what should be done in the event of an emergency at sea and plans that are followed should something go wrong.  One such drill includes Man Overboard. Each person has a specific place to go and a specific duty to uphold so that the person who has gone overboard can be rescued in a timely manner. To all my students who told me to be careful not to fall in, don’t worry…they have a plan to save me if I do!

The ring buoy
The ring buoy

Some of the safety policies on the FAIRWEATHER include:

  • Always wear a hard hat when working with things overhead
  • Always wear a life vest when working over the side of the ship
  • Bring a survival suit in times of emergency
  • Wear long sleeves, long pants and a hat during emergency situations
  • Always wear closed toed shoes when working on deck
  • Stay clear of hazardous materials and radiation zones

The safety rules on the FAIRWEATHER are just like rules we, as science teachers and students, follow while working in the science laboratory. Think of some of the lab safety rules that we follow as well as some of the lab safety equipment we have throughout the lab to help us prevent emergency situations and handle them when they arise.

Just in case!
Just in case!
More safety gear
More safety gear
The fire hose
The fire hose

Jeff Lawrence, May 24, 2006

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

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: May 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge as of 0730 Hours: 
Visibility: 0.5 miles or 0.8 km
Wind direction: 260 degrees
Wind Speed:  5 knots
Sea level pressure: 1016 mb or 30.0 inches
Present weather: mostly cloudy but clearing off earlier this morning
Temperature:  47 deg. wet/48 deg. dry ***By the afternoon the weather was sunny with calm winds and beautiful scenery.

Science and Technology Log 

I began the day as usual with breakfast in the mess hall at 0700 hours.  I must say the staff aboard the RAINIER know how to make a person gain weight.  The food choices are great and there is plenty to eat.  I was assigned to work off RA 8 with a survey crew.  We left the ship at 0800 hours after a short briefing on the fantail of the RAINIER.

The RA 8 crew’s task for the day was to survey the area around the tide station to make sure the tidal data collected that shows the rise and fall of the tides was accurate.  Deck Utility man, Kenneth Keys, and General Vessel Assistant, Kelson Baird, piloted the boat to the destination and delivered the survey crew onshore with great care. The survey crew was managed by ENS Jamie Wasser, ENS Nathan Eldridge, Assistant Survey Technician Tom Hardy, and myself.  Using benchmarks that had been set by the National Ocean Service, we completed a triangulation survey of the dock where the tide station was located at high tide. Surveying is tool used by NOAA to make sure objects are where they are supposed to be according to charts and maps.  The crew of NOAA ship RAINIER surveys sites as they set up a tide station and before they disassemble it to move it to another site.

Upon completion of the tasks we returned to the ship while Kenneth Keys trained General Assistant Baird on proper docking procedures of the launch boat.  Everyone aboard the ship must work in unison to ensure a successful launch is carried out so that critical data can be collected, disseminated, and analyzed later aboard the RAINIER.  Quality charts and maps can then be generated for use by navigators of the shorelines of Alaska.

Personal Log 

Today I learned how critical it is for the people aboard the RAINIER to collect quality data to ensure the results are accurate on the finish product.  It is a better use of time for each group to take their time and do it right the first time as opposed to having to redo the same task a second time.  I hadn’t realized navigation of the ocean’s waterways was such a precise event and required such precise data collection methods.  This is a good lesson to introduce to students on the collection of scientific data.  Teachers must emphasize that the work can be tedious at times and that accuracy of data is the outcome that the scientist must strive to attain.

Question of the Day 

What is the type of data that scientist collect that can be represented by numbers?

Jeff Lawrence, May 23, 2006

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

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: May 23, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge

Visibility: 5 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 90 degrees
Wind Speed: 15 knots (kts)
Sea level pressure: 1001 millibars (mb)
Present weather: Partly cloudy
Temperature:  51 degrees dry/ 50 degrees wet

Science and Technology Log 

I began today by getting aboard RA #8 for boat launch operations in the Wrangell Narrows at 0800. The crew went to check a tide gauge that had been placed on a pier in the narrows six weeks ago. A data logger was attached by assistant survey technician, Matt Boles, to a laptop computer and the data for the past two weeks was downloaded onto the laptop. The tide gauges give a more accurate representation of what the tide is doing in a certain area. Tide gauges are positioned throughout the narrows but may be miles apart.  To get more precise data of the narrows, temporary gauges are used when the RAINIER is mapping areas where boating occurs.  Also, a horizontal GPS position was measured from a known GPS location to make sure the tidewater data was correct and reliable.

At 0930 hours we returned to the RAINIER to pick up operations officer LT Ben Evans who showed ENS Laurel Jennings how to use the Trimble Backpack to map piers and dock areas in the narrows. The Trimble Backpack is a GPS system that is carried on the back of a person. As they walk the perimeter of an area, it downloads data onto a logger that then can be downloaded to a computer later for data analysis.  This gives precise information to the cartographer to place the pier in the exact location that it needs to be on the map.

Upon returning to the RAINIER at 1530 hours we had several emergency drills including fire and abandon ship. The drills were interesting to watch as everyone went to their designated location for muster and directions on what to do next.  A ship’s personnel must always be prepared for an emergency.  Your shipmates may be the only help you will receive in an emergency.  Drills are conducted on a routine basis so that the crew stays sharp and ready in case of a real emergency.  The crew of the NOAA ship RAINIER is well-trained and prepared in the case they may have to use their training to get control of the ship in an emergency.  Several members on board have specialized training that allow them to take the lead in case of a ship emergency.

Personal Log 

Throughout the day I learned many new facets of global positioning and how it is used to make more accurate maps that can be used by boaters, ships, and people who live in the area. Collecting science data for NOAA maps is a slow, yet precise method that can take many weeks to get an accurate map that can be relied upon by mariners.  The fire emergency and abandon ship drill was done with precision and professionalism. I am sure I am in good hands in case of an emergency aboard the RAINIER.

Question of the Day 

The mapping of the characteristics of oceans, lakes, and rivers is known as___________.

Jeff Lawrence, May 22, 2006

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

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: May 22, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Today the NOAA ship RAINIER was set to leave port with a brief refueling stop before anchoring later in the afternoon. The RAINIER was tied to port alongside her sister ship, the FAIRWEATHER, during a brief liberty at Petersburg, Alaska.  I began my day at 0700 with breakfast in the mess hall followed by a visit to the briefing room at 0800 hours on the next two-week duty schedule of the RAINIER.  I was joined by another civilian from the local NPR radio station who was onboard to do an interview on the mission of the RAINIER in the Wrangell Narrows, which runs parallel to Petersburg.  The radio interviewer, Emily Schwing, asked many questions about how the sonar system works and how often the RAINIER would be back to check if the currents in the Wrangell Narrows had changed the channel.  She learned that the system of sonar mapping used today is much more efficient than the beamed sonar used in past years.  Side-scan and multi-beam sonar are now employed to map the bottom of the shipping channels, narrows, and ports.  The RAINIER mapped an area recently in a few weeks that took 19 years to map under the old system.

At 0945 the RAINIER left port for a short jaunt of about 400 yards for refueling.  The fueling process on a large ship such as the RAINIER is not a quick-stop process, which many people are accustomed to while fueling their vehicles. The RAINIER took on 22,000 gallons of fuel. This process lasted over three hours due to the slow pumping, which pumped out about 150 gallons per minute.  That seemed quite fast to me, but Captain Guy Noll explained that fuel could be pumped much faster for the larger ships. While refueling I received an overview from ENS Jennings of damage control onboard a ship and where to go in case of an emergency.

1) Fire emergency – Indicated by one long 10-second continuous blast of the ships horn.

2) Abandon Ship – Indicated with seven short blasts and one long blast.

3) Man Over Board – Indicated by three long blasts.

At 1330 Seaman Surveyor Eric Davis took the skiff (a small zodiac type boat) out into the narrows to check if repairs that had been made in port were adequate.  He asked me to join him and while in the narrows he pointed out the channel’s navigation buoys and explained how they are used to guide both small and large craft through the narrows, which become very shallow and dangerous during low tide.  Upon returning to the RAINIER refueling was just about complete so all hands manned their stations to ready for departure from the fueling depot.  At 1530 we left port to travel down the narrows a few miles where we anchored for the night.  We will remain in anchor here for several days while the launch boats are sent out on daily runs to map more of the Wrangell Narrows.

Personal Log 

Throughout the day I found incredible opportunities for taking photos of wildlife including bald eagles, sea lions, and a variety of other birds.  Alaska has to be an ornithological paradise. The surrounding landscape offered an exquisite 360-degree panoramic view that allowed for spectacular photographs of the area.

Question of the Day 

What is the mean tide for Petersburg on this day using the data below?

Low tide was 4 feet at 2:33 am High tide was 13.5 feet at 8:10 am Low tide was 1.3 feet at 2:51 pm High tide was 14.5 feet at 9:14 pm

Stephanie Wally, September 5, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Stephanie Wally
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 29 – September 10, 2005

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Eastern Prince William Sound, Alaska
Date: September 5, 2005

TAS Wally pulling up the SEACAT CTD
TAS Wally pulling up the SEACAT CTD

Weather Data from Bridge 

Time: 1800
Cloud Cover: Low Clouds
Visibility: 5 nm (nautical miles)
Wind: Light Airs
Sea Wave Height: 0’
Swell Wave Height: 0’
Sea Water Temperature: 12.2°C
Sea Level Pressure: 1006.5 mb (millibars)
Temperature: 12.8°C

Science and Technology Log 

It’s always exciting to consult the Plan of the Day and find out you’re assigned to go out on a launch from 0800-1630!  Here on the RAINIER, boats are deployed daily from the ship to collect seafloor data. The picture below shows how a cast is taken to measure the conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water column.  The CTD sensor is lowered to the bottom for two minutes.  Once it is recovered using an electronic winch, data is uploaded into the launch computers.

Today we had some minor problems due to moisture seeping in through the launch windows and affecting the computer hardware.  Fortunately, we were not far from the ship, and the Electrician Technician, Gary Streeter, was able to fix the problem.  With two hours left of our workday on the water, we headed back out to complete more lines. The multi-beam sonar we used collects a “footprint” of the seafloor.  Each beam is composed of pings emitted from the sounder that records information below the launch as we transit over a specific imaginary line.  Sets of lines are preplanned in advance for the crew of the launch to follow. The data collection process runs smoothly since everything is organized prior to going out on the water.

The emphasis on safety here aboard RAINIER is always apparent. We conduct weekly fire drills and abandon ship drills. My first day on the ship I was issued a Mustang Survival Suit that I donned during the abandon ship drill.  Like earthquake and fire drills we conduct in school, these drills are taken seriously and people move quickly to their assigned stations.

After drills, everyone gets right back to work.  I am continually impressed how the NOAA crew is able to stay on task throughout the entire leg of the project, without a single day off! Here, it is business as usual for the officers, deckhands, engineers, cooks, and surveyors. For me, I am continually distracted by the scenic beauty, bountiful wildlife, various hydrographic data projects being conducted, and the interesting conversation from others aboard RAINIER.  While we don’t have entire days off, there are times in the day where you can go fishing, kayaking, or get together for a weekend beach party.  Since the daylight lasts until approximately 9 p.m., there’s lots of time for outdoor recreation and relaxation after dinner.

Answer to previous day’s question:  A glaciologist studies glaciers and their movement.  Some glaciologists believe that the Columbia Glacier is making its first retreat in 3,000 years!

Question of the Day: What significant geological event took place in Alaska in 1964 that created changes in the crust, topography, and hydrography of the region?

Miriam Sutton, June 22, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Sutton
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
June 17 – 22, 2005

Mission: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 22, 2005

sutton_log6aWeather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 200°
Wind speed: 13kts
Sea wave height: 2-3′
Swell wave height: 1′
Sea water temperature: 15.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1005mb
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

Personal Log

I am seated on a park bench near a section of seawall adjacent to the NOAA dock in Woods Hole, MA. The NANCY FOSTER is secured to her moorings and the crew is working to prepare her for the next research cruise. As I gaze across the dock at my home for the past week, I am in awe at the opportunity NOAA provided me through the Teacher at Sea program. What a marvelous experience and one that I will not soon forget. I am extremely grateful to NOAA for providing me with a research experience that will help me with science curriculum design and the development of activities and lessons to assist my students in gaining a deeper understanding of the technologies used in the ocean exploration. I am also thankful that the NOAA scientists allowed me to take such an active role in their research. They were most helpful in teaching me the logistics of remote sensing technologies and also provided some terrific teaching ideas to help middle school students grasp such an evasive concept.

In all honesty, I was not ready to disembark the NANCY FOSTER this morning. I truly loved the experience of living at sea and conducting research for NOAA scientists. During my adventure, I never felt like an outsider. The NOAA corps, crew, and scientists allowed me to settle in quickly and become a part of their research team. I am forever grateful for their hospitality. NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program has been a wonderful experience that I would highly recommend!

Miriam Sutton, June 21, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Sutton
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
June 17 – 22, 2005

Mission: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 21, 2005

Removing fishing gear
Removing fishing gear

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 200°
Wind speed: 13kts
Sea wave height: 2-3′
Swell wave height: 1′
Sea water temperature: 15.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1005mb
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Today was our last day of remote sensing along Stellwagen Bank and everyone was hoping that our towfish would find something along the seafloor. By our second run of the day, our towfish successfully located “something” along the seafloor but it wasn’t quite what we had in mind. As Chief Scientist, Matt Lawrence watched the cable length read out begin to climb shallower and shallower, he realized our towfish had captured some fishing gear. The towing operations were stopped, the ship reversed course and we retrieved the towfish so we could remove the line of fishing gear that had wrapped around the towing shaft. Once removed, the sensor was re-deployed and maritime archeology research continued.

Side scan display
Side scan display

The fishing gear must have been synonymous to a lucky horseshoe because we began locating several possible wrecks shortly after freeing the sensor from the gear. In actuality, it is the fishing gear used by local fishermen that gives the scientists a starting point for their searches. Local fishermen keep logs of “Hang” areas they try to avoid so as not to get their fishing gear caught up in the debris. Fishermen share their “Hang” logs with the scientists who can then use the fishermen’s data to set up remote sensing search areas and transect lines. Fishermen have years of experience from fishing local waters and have become a valuable resource of information for the scientists to use in their quest to preserve the maritime heritage of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Miriam Sutton, June 20, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Sutton
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
June 17 – 22, 2005

Mission: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 20, 2005

Chief Steward Jesse
Chief Steward Jesse

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 200°
Wind speed: 13kts
Sea wave height: 2-3′
Swell wave height: 1′
Sea water temperature: 15.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1005mb
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

More Transect lines were the plan for the day and we placed the fish in the water before 0700 for our first run at “mowing the lawn” along Stellwagen Bank. We ran 15 more Transect lines today, continuing our search for ancient maritime artifacts. We were blessed with a gorgeous day on the ocean and no logistical problems with the equipment. I began conducting interviews with the crew and scientists while continuing to assist the scientists with various remote sensing duties throughout the day.

I created an interview database and began interviewing various members of the NOAA Corps, crew, and scientists, starting with one of the most important members of the NOAA crew: Chief Steward – Jesse.

Jesse was born in Florida and told me his main job responsibility is to “keep everybody happy.” Officially, Jesse is in charge of the ship’s sanitation, food menus and food preparation. Prior to joining NOAA four years ago, Jesse worked as a Cook for the US Navy for 20 years. Jesse loves his job and being able to travel to different places but often misses his wife and 5 kids while he is away at sea. His favorite subject in school was Civil War History. He got his start in cooking as a baker during high school. When asked what lessons from life have helped him the most in his career, Jesse said, “Responsibility.”

I also asked each interviewee to describe the most unusual (e.g., funny, scary, weird) occurrence that happened to them while at sea. I am composing a Top Ten list that I will share at a later posting.

Miriam Sutton, June 19, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Sutton
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
June 17 – 22, 2005

Mission: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 19, 2005

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind direction: 266°
Wind speed: <10kts
Sea wave height: 2′
Swell wave height: 2′
Sea water temperature: 14.4°C
Sea level pressure: 1022.4mb
Cloud cover: Scattered clouds

Science and Technology Log

After an overnight anchoring along the shores of Scituate, the NANCY FOSTER headed further offshore for another day of scanning the seafloor for ancient maritime artifacts. The sensing equipment was deployed over the Stellwagen Bank region by 0800 and we collected data until dusk.

As a southern girl who was raised in the tobacco fields of eastern North Carolina, I found today’s repetitive scanning quite similar to working on a tobacco harvester as it was being driven along row after row of tobacco. The diagram below will give you some idea of my Day 3 on the Sea! The NOAA crew refers to this type of repetitive scanning as “mowing the lawn.”

We covered 13 transect lines today, each taking about 30 minutes to cover. The side scan sonar ran beautifully all day without interference. The magnetometer was also working well but the data being fed from the 2 towfishes was not synchronizing when it arrived to the computer. The decision was made to disconnect the magnetometer and run the side scan sonar alone for most of the day.

I took sometime to look over the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary information the Scientist Deborah Marx shared with me. I recommend that you follow this website to learn more about this remarkable area of the New England coast: http://www.stellwagen.noaa.gov.

Miriam Sutton, June 18, 2005

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Sutton
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
June 17 – 22, 2005

Mission: Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary Survey
Geographical Area: New England
Date: June 18, 2005

Working on the winch
Working on the winch

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 200°
Wind speed: 13kts
Sea wave height: 2-3′
Swell wave height: 1′
Sea water temperature: 15.6°C
Sea level pressure: 1005mb
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

We awoke this morning in a heavy layer of fog which has taken most of the day to burn off into an overcast sky. While the low visibility posed additional caution to the ship’s crew, the scientists continued to scan the seafloor in search of maritime heritage resources (shipwrecks). Four sites were investigated today….

Today progressed with many more challenges in the logistics surrounding the deployment and data collection of the sensors compared to our first day of remote sensing. The first struggles began while at the first location when the cables became unplugged during deployment… twice. After a quick assessment of the problem, the scientists decided to make adjustments to the cabling device to reduce the tension and maintain the connection between the couplings on the sensor cable. Once the signal was back online, we continued searching two sites before lunch. During our lunch break, NOAA engineers began to work on ways of reducing electrical interference between the remote sensing equipment and the ship’s engines. After talking with the scientists and NOAA crew, I learned that the NANCY FOSTER is propelled by a main engine and two Z drives. Z drives are like thrusters that assist the ship in maneuvering, especially at slow speeds. Here is a brief rundown of the conflict between the engines and the sensing equipment:

  • The sensing equipment needs to be towed at a slow and steady speed of about 4 knots.
  • NOAA’s crew can maintain this speed in calm seas with little current using the main engine only.
  • As seas pick up or current increases, the NANCY FOSTER gets a bit squirrelly and can slide off course from the predetermined transect line. Using the Z drives allows the NANCY FOSTER to run a steadier course.
  • The electromagnetic field generated by the ship’s Z drive creates interference with the remote sensing equipment, especially the side scan sonar.
  • NOAA engineers are onboard and have been experimenting to find a happy medium so that the Z drives can be used for better tracking but will not interfere with the remote sensing signals.
Safety first!
Safety first!

After several trials, the issue was resolved and the NANCY FOSTER is tracking smoothly along the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary while the side scan sonar and the magnetometer are searching away for more seafloor anomalies.  I am truly amazed at the teamwork between the scientists and NOAA’s crew. From a teacher’s perspective, I see a group of people who are willing to do anything possible to help a group of scientists complete their investigation. I also see a group of scientists who are most appreciative of the overwhelming effort exhibited by the crew and willing to share various aspects of their research that the crew finds interesting. This cooperative environment generates an atmosphere of respect and camaraderie that is conducive to individuals sharing their individual talents in a collaborative effort toward the success of the entire group on board the NANCY FOSTER. What a pleasant setting to be a part of during my first adventure at sea.