Martin McClure: Getting Acquainted, July 28, 2023

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Martin McClure

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

July 25 – August 9, 2023

Mission: Shark/Snapper Long Line Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico/Atlantic Ocean

Date: Jul 28, 2023

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 25°49.441’N

Longitude: 79°59.970’W

Temperature: 30.5° Celcius

Wind Speed: 7 knots

a white ship in port, as seen from the dock, ahead of the bow. we can see the NOAA logo, the words NOAA R 332. the sky is blue and clear.
The Oregon II at dock in Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Science and Technology Log

NOAA conducts the Shark/Snapper Longline Survey each year at the same time and place. It goes from July through September and surveys from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to West Palm Beach, FL, and the U.S. northern Gulf of Mexico from southwest Florida to Brownsville, TX. This is a longline survey and one mile of gear is baited and laid down for one hour.

When the line is reeled in, the science and fishing teams take them off the hooks and record data on the fish. The data gathered includes what species (kind of fish) are caught, if they are male or female, their age, weight and length. Additionally, the sharks will be tagged with a number and released.

The data collected will be used by NOAA to help manage the health of the fishery. It is one set of data that goes into deciding how many fish can be safely taken from the ocean each year. Without this information, fishermen might take too many fish to keep the population stable. 

a view up at four flags flown on a line, one after the other. the top is a navy blue flag with a black square. the second has vertical bands of red, white, and blue. the third is diagonally split between a lower yellow right triangle and an upper red right triangle. the last has horizontal bands of yellow, navy, yellow.
The Oregon II call sign flags, WTDO

NOAA Ship Oregon II is the ship that is used to conduct this survey each year. It takes a lot of people working together to accomplish this. The crew of the Oregon II is made up of several teams. Everyone has a job as a part of the team to make sure everything works as needed.

The NOAA Corps are the officers on the ship. They are responsible for the overall operation of the ship and are in charge of navigation, steering and everyone’s safety. They work in shifts from the “bridge.”

The engineering team makes sure that everything is working properly. This includes the engines, electrical systems, fresh water and the all-important air conditioning.

The deck crew includes the professional fisherman who do boat maintenance, prepare fishing gear as well as handle the big fish.

There are two stewards who prepare our meals and keep the dining area clean. They keep us well fed with several choices available at each meal three times a day.

The electronics department has just one person who is responsible to make sure all of the technology is working properly. That is a very big responsibility on this ship.

Finally, there is the science team. That is where I fit in. There are four NOAA scientists and six volunteers. I am one of the volunteers. The other volunteers are all university students. 

There are 29 people on board and everyone works on shifts. The ship operates 24 hours a day so all jobs must be done around the clock. Most teams have two shifts that each last for… you guessed it… twelve hours. 

Personal Log

These first few days have been spent getting acquainted with the layout of the ship, learning the routines of life on the ocean and the people on the ship. The most striking feature is that there seems to be an incredible amount of equipment  packed into such a small space. Everything a crew of 29 could need for three weeks, emergency equipment and replacement parts. Yet, in any one place, there is adequate room to move and work. I have a “stateroom” that I share with one other member of the science team. Each of us have a “rack” to sleep in, lockers and drawers for personal belongings as well as a fold out desk to work at. We also have a sink and mirror. All this in a room that is about 7’X10’.

view of Martin's stateroom. we see high sided bunk beds built into the wall, a sink and a cabinet, the edge of a desk and a desk chair, two backpacks.
stateroom with two berths

Rarely are we both in there but there is adequate room when that happens. The “passageways” are narrow and it takes coordination to pass another crewmember. The “mess” seats twelve people, at most, so we have to eat meals in shifts.

the mess, or dining area, of NOAA Ship Oregon II. there are two tables anchored to the floor by posts; each table has six swivel chairs anchored to the floor on posts, as at a diner. someone sits at one seat, facing away from the camera. there are two televisions mounted on the wall, one showing a baseball game. in the foreground is a small refrigerator with juices and tea.
NOAA Ship Oregon II‘s “mess” seats 12 people at most.

There are three bathrooms and two showers available for general use. Showers should be short to preserve water as well as to make it available for others to use. There are three different “gym” areas with equipment to work out in. My favorite is the flying bridge where you can look out over the ocean.

a view over the bow of NOAA Ship Oregon II, from high up. we can see the front mast, lines, part of a davit arm. the sky is blue, clear of clouds if a bit hazy on the horizon. the ocean is dark blue and calm.
view from the flying bridge of NOAA Ship Oregon II

Safety is a priority on board the ship. We start by using basic safety procedures while moving around the ship. While underway, the pitch (front to back motion) and roll (side to side motion) of the ship never stops. This becomes more or less pronounced depending on the weather.  So moving through the passageways and doorways and especially on the outside decks, one must be careful to use a hand to keep their balance. The stairwells are narrow and steep but negotiable. When using stairwells always have 3 points of contact, that means use two hands and then a foot is the third point of contact.

view down a narrow metal staircase. equipment is stashed on the other side of a railing to the right of the photo.
view down a stairwell on NOAA Ship Oregon II

Moving around comes more easily with time. No open toed shoes are to be worn except on the way to and from the shower. Safety equipment must be worn when working. We will be wearing hard hats, gloves, glasses and a work vest. The work vest looks a lot like a personal flotation device but flat. If you fall overboard it will automatically inflate. There is a lot of equipment and devices all over the ship for use in emergency situations.

firefighting equipment mounted on an interior wall: an axe (labeled "Oregon II"), a crow bar, a folded up fire hose. a red plaque on the wall reads FIRE STATION NO. 4.
firefighting equipment in case of emergencies

Fire extinguishers, AEDs, masks for smoke, and, of course, life rafts. We have to do drills to make sure that we know what to do in emergencies. 

four people stand on the aft deck "decked out" in firefighting gear. they wear yellow fireproof pants and jackets, heavy black and yellow boots, large yellow gloves, black or white helmets, gas masks, some sort of backpack. the sky is bright blue with some wispy clouds and the ocean is fairly calm.
our firefighting team
Martin stands on the aft deck in a heavy orange survival suit with his arms raised for the photo. it's only partially zipped, revealing his Teacher at Sea t-shirt underneath. He wears a Teacher at Sea hat and sunglasses. other survival suits and flotation devices rest on deck around him
That’s me in a “Gumby” suit for survival in case we have to abandon ship.

Did You Know?

Did you know that not all sharks reproduce the same way? Be sure to check future blogs to find out how. 

Animals Seen Today:

brown booby in flight
brown booby
the dorsal fin of a dolphin visible above water

and also: masked booby, swallow, flying fish, barracuda. 

Maronda Hastie: Time to Meet My Shipmates, August 30, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Maronda Hastie

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 28 – September 14, 2022

Date: Monday August 29, 2022 & Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Weather Data:

Lows/Highs = 75 degrees – 88 degrees Fahrenheit
Wave Height = 1’6″ – 1’8″ Northeast
Wind Speed = 3 – 14 mph
Humidity = 71%
Barometric Pressure = 29.97″ HG
Sky = Sunny

Science Log

On Monday, August 30, 2022, I met my shipmates in Cape Canaveral in front of the ship. We all had to take a self-administered Covid-19 test and wait 30 minutes for the results to appear on the sensor. I was so nervous staring at the apparatus every 5 seconds waiting for the light to brighten on a negative result. That was too much stress! What if it said positive? Would I have to head back to Atlanta or wait a few days? Once the ship leaves the dock, then it does not disembark until the end of the research project. That would have been a disaster! Luckily my results were negative! I was able to board the 170 feet ship NOAA Oregon II, locate my room and take a quick tour.

This ship’s homeport is Pascagoula, Mississippi and conducts a variety of research surveys in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and Atlantic Ocean. The surveys focus on fisheries, marine mammals, and plankton. Commanding Officer Eric Johnson can lead his staff for up to 33 days at a time. The following are the maximum numbers for the staff.

Commissioned Officers/Mates = 5, Licensed Engineers = 3, Unlicensed Engineers = 2, Deck = 6, Stewards = 2, Electronic Technician = 1, Total Crew = 19, Scientists = 12. Up to 12 people can sit in the dining area at one time with 6 people spread amongst 2 tables.

The ship is equipped with a 275 square feet wet lab, 210 square feet hydro lab, 100 square feet bio lab, 75 square feet computer lab, 4 dive team equipment, 2 cranes, a cradle, trawl nets, hydraulics, ropes, long line fishing gear, a medical treatment room, a laundry room, and a rescue boat that can hold 6 people.

We had to wait for 17,000 gallons of diesel fuel to fill the ship, stock the kitchen, and get other necessary supplies. Can you calculate how much this gas costs in your city? There are a lot of factors that affect the outcome of our journey as we crisscross around the Gulf of Mexico. Luckily, we have trained professionals doing their job!

a collage of four photos. Top left: view of the bow of NOAA Ship Oregon II in port. We can see the NOAA logo and the ship's hull number, R 332. Top right: a view of a table surrounded by six chairs attached on swivel posts to the floor. There's a television on the wall at one end of the table and a porthole window. Bottom left: a scientist sits at one of several computers set up on a long wooden desk. additional monitors are mounted on the wall. Bottom right: a view of a desk and computer monitors in front of the row of windows in the ship's bridge.
Top Left: Front of Ship (Bow), Top Right: Dining Area, Bottom Left: Computer Lab, Bottom Right: Bridge, Captain’s Area

Personal Log

I appreciate my Uncle Bill who made sure I arrived in Cape Canaveral safely. It was good to see him with his gracious welcome to Orlando, Florida. Now that I completed the initial paperwork & received a negative Covid result, I am happy to meet my shipmates! My work schedule will be from 12pm to 12am with breaks in between. I’m the only Teacher at Sea on this ship along with 2 college interns and a volunteer. We are all excited about the upcoming experience. There’s a lot of information to learn in a short period of time, but I think I can manage. My state room has a full bathroom, lots of storage space & twin bunkbeds with curtains. I chose the top bunk. I met with Mr. Collin Lynch, Chief Electronics Technician as soon as I got settled into my room. He made sure my computer & cell phone are connected to the Wi-Fi system. I really appreciate him because I still need to connect with my students, plan lessons & make sure they get assistance as needed during my breaks.

While my shipmates & I waited for the supplies to come in, we had dinner at the local restaurants along the waterfront. I learned how to keep score in a darts game and still lost. I had hoped to see a rocket launch, but the mission was cancelled/postponed. The disappointed people were in traffic starting at 3am in the morning to get a good spot. Oh well, maybe next time.

Top left: Maronda poses for a photo with her uncle outside. Top right: Maronda stands next to a dartboard. Bottom left: a man holds a dart up in his right hand, aiming at a dartboard out of frame. Bottom right: Maronda prepares to throw another dart.
Top Left: My Uncle Bill, Top Right: Me with no luck at darts, Bottom Left: Lead Fisherman, Chuck Godwin, Bottom Right: Me still trying to earn points

I enjoyed listening to the stories, having great meals & asking a few questions. I found out that some of them conduct surveys for up to 45 days before they go home. Some are married with kids while others are single, or kids are grown now. Either way, they adjust to life at sea. Check out a few pictures from my flight to time in Cape Canaveral.

  • Maronda poses with her Uncle Bill outside in Orlando.
  • A view of the stern of NOAA Ship Oregon II in port. It's a sunny day with blue skies and white clouds. A bright orange fast rescue boat mounted on a davit on an upper deck catches the eye.
  • A view of toward the bow of NOAA Ship Oregon II in port. It's a sunny day with blue skies and white clouds. We can see the wooden sign board that reads OREGON II. Two people stand on the lower deck and look over the taffrail.
  • A selfie view of Maronda in front of NOAA Ship Oregon II in port. We can see the back half of the ship, the fast rescue boat, and the American flag ensign flying from the fantail.
  • A close-up selfie of Maronda in front of NOAA Ship Oregon II in port. We can see the NOAA logo and read, in reverse, NOAA R 332.
  • A metal plaque that reads: "R.V. OREGON II, designed by R. H. MACY for U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR BUREAU OF COMMERCIAL FISHERIES built by THE INGALLS SHIPBUILDING CORP., a division of LITTON INDUSTRIES, Pascagoula, Mississippi, 1967
  • Maronda reclines in a lawn chair on the deck of NOAA Ship Oregon II, beneath the metal ship information plaque.
  • a close-up view of navigational instruments on the bridge
  • a close-up view of a plate of sushi at a restaurant.
  • four people along one side of a table at a restuarant, eating sushi
  • five people along one side of a long table at a restuarant, eating sushi
  • Maronda and four other people at a long table in a restuarant, eating sushi

George Hademenos: Home Sweet Home…at Least for the Next Two Weeks, August 14, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

George Hademenos

Aboard R/V Tommy Munro

July 19 – 27, 2022

Mission: Gulf of Mexico Summer Groundfish Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Eastern Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 14, 2022

There was no doubt about my excitement of being named as a NOAA Teacher at Sea and the opportunity to immerse myself in marine science and participate in scientific research. But the one aspect of this experience that I particularly looked forward to was being able to do this on a ship at sea. The ship would serve as a classroom like no other…a classroom where I could learn as a student and yet serve as a basis for me to develop instructional activities and projects for my students as a teacher. The classroom, as I described in the prior post, was originally scheduled to be NOAA Ship Oregon II but eventually turned out to be the R/V Tommy Munro.

While both ships were equipped with the facilities, resources and infrastructure required to conduct the samplings necessary for the survey, the main difference was that the Oregon II was part of the NOAA fleet of research vessels while the R/V Tommy Munro was not. Rather, the R/V Tommy Munro is operated under the management of the University of Southern Mississippi. Of course, when a ship is named after a person, there is always a sense of interest about the individual and what background, experience, and contributions to ocean sciences warranted such an honor. Tommy Munro has a compelling biography and can be read by accessing the following link:

It was a thrill seeing the R/V Tommy Munro for the first time on Tuesday, July 19 in preparation of my upcoming cruise.

a collage of two images. on the left, a view of R/V Tommy Munro tied up at the dock, looking toward the bow. The name is painted prominently in black and blue. At right, a view of a life preserver mounted on an outer a wall of the ship. The life preserver also reads R/V Tommy Munro.
The ship exterior and a life preserver aboard the R/V Tommy Munro.

As I arrived at the docked ship, I was first met by John Z., the ship’s cook, who treated me to a tour of the vessel. I know you are just as anxious to see the various spaces inside the ship so come on aboard and let me take you on a tour. The first stop was my living quarters.

A collage of two images. On the left, a view of a closed door (simple, wooden, with a knob, could be in a house.) Several pieces of laminated paper are taped to the door. One reads: State Quarters 2. The next are the two pages of the Emergency Station Bill (not close enough to read). On the right, a photo looking inside the stateroom, where we can see four bunks.
My living quarters while aboard the ship.

I was assigned to State Quarters 2 which consisted of 4 bunks. My bunk was on the bottom to the left as you can see my belongings on the bed. Interestingly enough, it would turn out that 3 individuals were assigned to the quarters which meant that the upper bunk above mine was open. This was important because if the upper bunk was occupied, that would mean that I would have no other place to store my luggage than with me on the bed. So the upper bunk served as storage for the luggage from all three of us, giving us much need space to rest comfortably in our bunks.

The next stop on our tour involves meals on the cruise. The dining room is a table where all formal meals were served and offered an opportunity for those around the table to engage in conversation and watch television. It was not required for anyone wanting a meal to eat at the dining room table but it did offer a unique and comforting diversion from the long hours and hard work exerted while collecting samples for the survey.

view of a table in a narrow room. there are bar stools fixed in place around the table. we can see a microwave, cabinets, a small shelf with a coffee maker, a TV, and the stairwell.
The dining room table where all formal meals were served.

Of course, the dining room would not have much of a purpose were it not for a kitchen to prepare the meals.

a collage of two photos. on the left, a view of the kitchen, looking much like a simple apartment kitchen with wooden cabinets, an oven, a range, a refrigerator. on the right, a view of a pantry and a counter space.
This is the kitchen where all formal meals are prepared (right) and the storage area/table space where meals are prepared.

The picture on the left is the cooking station with the stove and oven where the meals are cooked and the picture on the right is where the meals are prepared. These two spaces appear to be very small areas and they are but there was enough room for the vast amount of groceries purchased prior to each cruise. I remember speaking to John Z. the cook about the grocery shopping for an upcoming cruise and he relayed to me that when he returns from shopping, it takes him approximately 3 hours to put up all of the groceries!

The tour continues with the areas of the ship dedicated to the research conducted during the cruise.

The first area is referred to as the wet lab – the space where the samples collected from each sampling are processed, and measurements are recorded and uploaded to a database.

a collage of two photos. on the left, we see wooden cabinets and a metal counter, a large sink, a computer monitor, a small window. on the right, a line of refrigerators or freezers to store samples.
The work area of the wet lab is depicted in the photo to the left while the samples storage area is shown on the right photo.

Just located across the hallway from the wet lab is the dry lab, the area with several computers allowing the scientists to track the motion of the ship, confirm its arrival at each sampling site, and store data acquired by the Secchi disk, the CTD array of sensors unique to each sampling site, and the species analysis of marine life species collected during each sampling.

view of a room with wooden cabinets and countertops, desk chairs, storage boxes, computers and a printer
This is the dry lab is where the computational analysis from each sampling is conducted.

As we near the end of the tour of the R/V Tommy Munro, let’s proceed from the wet and dry lab to a flight of stairs to the upper deck of the vessel to the captain’s deck.

the bridge of the ship. we can see monitors, control panels, logs, and the windows of the bridge.
This is the captain’s deck of the R/V Tommy Munro.

The captain’s deck is equivalent to the cockpit of an airplane where the captain and his crew navigate the vessel to the assortment of sampling sites in coordination with the science team.

We wrap up our tour of the R/V Tommy Munro from atop the upper deck with the view from the stern of the ship. This was a spot that I found myself many times, particularly in the evening, as I took in the scenic views of the surrounding seas.

a collage of two photos, each showing the same view out the ship's stern (back) with rigging to deploy nets. both of these photos were taken at sunset on different evenings, and the setting sun is centered behind the ship.
Views from the upper deck toward the stern of the ship.

In this installment of my exercise of the Ocean Literacy Framework, I would like to ask you to respond to three questions about the third essential principle:

The ocean is a major influence of weather and climate,

presented in a Padlet accessed by the following link:

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers – the questions serve not as an opportunity to answer yes or no, or to get answers right or wrong; rather, these questions serve as an opportunity not only to assess what you know or think about the scope of the principle but also to learn, explore, and investigate the demonstrated principle. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please indicate so in the blog and I would be glad to answer your questions and initiate a discussion.

Laura Grimm: Finally! July 4, 2022

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Laura Grimm

Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson

July 4 – July 22, 2022

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Lake Erie

Geographic Area of Cruise: Lake Erie

Date: July 4, 2022

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1600 (4:00 pm)

Latitude: 41ᵒ 34.45 N

Longitude: 081ᵒ 46.7 W

Sky Conditions: Overcast

Visibility: 10+ nautical miles

Wind Direction: 343ᵒ NNW

Wind Speed: 6 knots

Lake Water Temperature: 24.2 ᵒC

Dry Bulb: 25.7 ᵒC

Wet Bulb: 22.1 ᵒC

Science and Technology Log

Welcome from NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson! 

Laura Grimm stands near the bow (front end) of the ship.
I am standing near the bow (front end) of the ship.

This experience started on land.  NOAA provided a lot of information and training that needed to be read, studied, and completed prior to even setting foot on the ship.  (Like I said previously: I am going to be more of a student and less of a teacher on this voyage!) 

I found this statement on the “Standing Orders” to be very inspiring.  It is from the Commanding Officer:

Command Expectation/Philosophy 

“Thomas Jefferson is an ocean mapping platform that surveys the Exclusive Economic Zone of and for the United States.  As such, we are responsible for maintaining and developing the Nation’s hydrographic expertise and technological capacity, as well as for producing timely quality surveys that can be efficiently used for many purposes, but primarily for updating NOAA’s suite of nautical charts.  By sailing aboard Thomas Jefferson, you are part of this.  Everyone aboard should be working to help Thomas Jefferson fulfill this role to the best of her ability, regardless of their individual role on the ship.  To do this, we must work together to take care of ourselves, take care of each other, and take care of the ship.  Be kind to yourself and to others; and work to build and keep the trust you earn from each other and the Command.  This work of measuring our ocean territory is noble, challenging, unique, arduous, and ultimately rewarding.”  

This is a hydrographic survey vessel. So just what is hydrography?

Hydro = water; Graphy = to write or record

Hydrography is the science that measures and describes the physical features of those areas on Earth that can be navigated by ships. These areas include oceans, lakes, seaways, and coastal areas. Hydrographic surveyors study these bodies of water to see what the “floor” looks like. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey is concerned about the safe passage of ships traveling to and from ports. Hydrographic surveys measure how deep the water is and make sure the coastal regions of the United States are safe for boats and ships to navigate. Surveyors pay particular attention to mapping locations of shallow areas and various obstructions (things sticking out of or sitting on the seafloor). Surveys also determine what the sea floor is made of (i.e. sand, mud, rock). This is important for anchoring, dredging, structure construction, pipeline and cable routing, and fish habitat. NOAA uses all this data to update nautical charts and develop hydrographic models.

a bathymetric map of the Great Lakes. We see the topography of the surrounding land, a few major cities (Toronto, Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland) marked as dots, and the waters of the lakes colored to depict depth. Lake Superior is the deepest, and Lake Erie is the most shallow.
This is a hydrographic map of the Great Lakes. When looking at a hydrographic image, keep in
mind that blue = deep, red = shallow.

Can you tell from this image which lake is the deepest? Which lake is most shallow? Why do you think that the coasts of lakes look like rainbows?

This ship does very important work! By mapping water depth, the shape of the seafloor and coastline, the location of various obstructions, and physical features of bodies of water, hydrography helps to keep our maritime transportation system moving safely and efficiently.

What equipment and technology is used to do a hydrographic survey?

LOTS! I will include more information about the equipment and technology hydrographers use to get all of this data in a future blog post.

Personal Log

Yesterday was so very exciting! My husband drove me to the port of Cleveland.

Sign and the entrance to the Port of Cleveland.  Downtown Cleveland is in the background.
Port of Cleveland. Downtown Cleveland is in the background. The Brown’s stadium in immediately to the left.
Laura points to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, in port, from a distance
There it is!

Thomas Jefferson is docked at Pier 26. After all this time, it was wonderful to finally see the ship. I contacted the Officer of the Deck (OOD), he gave me permission to come aboard and immediately gave me a COVID test. Negative test = I can sail! I was never so happy to be

He showed me to my stateroom or berth. I have the upper bunk and a porthole! My roommate (you will meet her later) is a Hydrographic Senior Survey Technician (HSST). We share a bathroom (toilet and shower) “Jack and Jill” style with the room next door. On a ship, the bathroom is known as the “Head”.

close up of a sign that reads: "CREW SR 2-39-1"
This is the number on my stateroom.

2 = I am on the second deck. Each deck on a ship is numbered. The numbers from lowest to highest are 4, 3, 2, 1, 01, 02, and 03.

39 = the bulkhead the stateroom is closest to. A bulkhead is a dividing wall or barrier between compartments in a ship, aircraft, or other vehicle. The ship has about 100 bulkheads. They are numbered 1-100 from the bow (front end) to the stern (back end).

1 = This means that I am on the starboard (right side if standing on the ship looking toward the bow) side of the ship. If the last number was a 2, that would mean that my stateroom was on the port (left side if standing on the ship looking toward the bow).

view of stateroom; we can see two bunks and a dresser, some small rugs on the floor, hanging lights
This is my stateroom. I sleep on the upper bunk.
view of a shower stall and toilet
This is the “Head”.

The OOD then gave me a quick tour of the ship showing me the “Mess” (where we eat), the galley (kitchen), lounge, plot room (where they take the data that is collected during the day and where the data is made in to hydrographic “pictures”), laundry, and exercise room. He also took me to the bridge (where they pilot or drive the ship) and on all the decks. Later, I met one of the engineers and he took me on a tour of the engine room. So cool! I will include more information about these places on the ship in future blog posts.

Happy to be here! Happy to learn all about the important work being done by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Laura, wearing Teacher at Sea hat and shirt, poses for a photo next to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in port; we can see the NOAA logo and the ship's number, S 222
NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson and me – the very excited Teacher at Sea (TAS)

For the Little Dawgs!
Attention students in grades Kindergarten – 2nd grade. This section will be written just for you! I want to introduce you to my friend, Dewey. Dewey has been with me ever since my first year of teaching.

Dewey is a plush (perhaps beanie) monkey. He sits on a cushion wearing a paper sailor's hat that Laura made for him
My travel companion, Dewey. See his sailor hat!

He will help you understand what I am doing on this big ship! He is excited to be on NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson. He is also very thankful that we have a porthole in our bedroom. A porthole is a round window. I wonder why many of the windows on a ship are round?

Dewey looks out the porthole window
Here is Dewey looking out of the porthole window.

Q: Where is Dewey?

a toy monkey sits on a grated surface
Look at the surface. Can you tell where he is? Hint: You walk on it to get on to the ship.
a beanie monkey sits on the gangway leading up to NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson from the port
Dewey is on the gangway!

A: Dewey is on the gangway. The gangway is the name of the ramp that you walk on to get on the ship.

Well, that is all for now. Later tonight the crew will have the opportunity to watch the 4th of July fireworks over Cleveland.

A photo of the American flag flying, with downtown Cleveland visible behind it
This picture was taken from the stern (back end) of the ship.
a red, white, and blue banner in the mess hall reads "Happy 4th of July"
Happy 4th of July! Miss Parker, Chief Steward, decorated the Mess Hall for the holiday.
a view of tables and chairs in the mess hall, with red white and blue bunting, garlands, and American flags
Decorated Mess Hall

During the night, we will head toward Erie, PA to map the area around Presque, Isle.

white board reading: "NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson; Depart Port of Cleveland; Day & Time Monday @ 1400; Date July 4, 2022; Destination Presque Isle
Sailing Board for July 4, 2022
Sunset over Lake Erie
Sunday’s sunset over Lake Erie

Cara Nelson: A Harbor in a Tempest, September 21, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Cara Nelson

Aboard USFWS R/V Tiglax

September 11-25, 2019

Mission: Northern Gulf of Alaska Long-Term Ecological Research project

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northern Gulf of Alaska – currently sheltering in Kodiak harbor

Date: September 21, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Time: 12:20
Latitude: 57º47.214’ N
Longitude: 152º24.150’ E
Wind: Southwest 20 knots
Air Temperature: 12.8ºC (55ºF)
Air Pressure: 990 millibars
Clear skies

Science and Technology Log

As we sit in the shelter of Kodiak harbor, I thought I would dedicate this blog to the R/V Tiglax and her crew.  Careers in oceanographic research would not be possible without the support of research vessels and their crew.  R/V Tiglax is a 121-foot long U.S. Fish and Wildlife vessel that was commissioned in 1987.  Her primary mission is to support scientific research in the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge in the Aleutian chain and she was designed and built to accommodate this mission. 

R/V Tiglax layout
The layout of R/V Tiglax. Image credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

R/V Tiglax has an amazing fuel capacity of 40,000 gallons which allows it be away at sea for long periods each summer without refueling.  Additionally, it has a water desalination system that can produce approximately 500 gallons of fresh water daily. The ship seems to have at least two of everything: 2 engines, 2 generators, 2 cranes, 2 zodiac skiffs, 2 freezers, 2 washing machines, 2 stationary bikes, 2 televisions, and at least 2 fresh baked goods every day! 

Below is brief photo tour of the interior of R/V Tiglax.

Tiglax hallway
Looking down the hallway from the main deck aft.
Tiglax mess
The mess, where we eat all our meals and spend our down time.
Tiglax galley
The galley, where our amazing meals are prepared, even during 12-foot seas!
Down in the hold, there are several staterooms, storage rooms, and the very important laundry and boot dryers.
My stateroom. There are 4 beds total and a small desk, and I have the top bunk.
Tiglax hold
The hold, where the science crew stores a lot of gear during the trip.
Tiglax science lab
One of the two science labs onboard. Active research is done throughout the day here as samples come aboard.

Much of the summer, R/V Tiglax can be found transporting scientists to remote field camps in the Western Aleutians and then up into the Bering Sea to the island of St. Matthews.  The science the ship supports is diverse and includes seabird and marine mammal monitoring, volcanic research, invasive species management and archeological studies.  Although the crew does not participate in this research directly, they are a critical piece to its success. They are responsible not just for the transport but also for the logistics of getting the scientists from ship to shore at each of the remote sites and assisting with the setup of equipment.

Since 2005, R/V Tiglax has been supporting the oceanographic research on the Seward line and for the past two years the ship has been contracted by the LTER project for $11,376 per day to complete the spring and fall cruises.  Again, the crew plays an integral part in this ocean research.  All of cranes and winches aboard the ship that are used for the water sampling gear and nets are operated by the crew.  Additionally, the captain and first mate navigate the ship to and from sampling sites and manage the vessel amid the changing seas during sampling sessions.  Their knowledge of the ship, currents, weather and tides is imperative in making decisions with the chief scientists as to travel, scheduling, and sampling.

Captain John
Captain John navigating the ship from the wheelhouse.

R/V Tiglax has a crew of six: a captain, first mate, two deckhands, an engineer and a cook.  For some, being a crew member is a long-time career choice. For others, it is a job to gain skills and experience and serves as more of a stepping stone to the future. 

John Farris began his career aboard R/V Tiglax nineteen years ago as a deckhand and has moved his way up to captain, a position he has held for the past four years. He works closely with Russ Hopcroft, the chief scientist, to assure the success of the mission.  John is warm and welcoming to the science crew and genuinely concerned about each member’s well-being during the cruise.  Safety is his number one priority and John closely monitors not only the ship but also the science work each day.

crew meeting
Captain John meets with the science team prior to deploying the CTD rosette.

Dan Puterbaugh is the first mate who has been a member of the crew for the past two years.  Dan has thirty-years’ experience working on ships in a variety of capacities and has a wealth of knowledge of the oceans. He pilots the ship from 10 pm – 6 am and helps oversee the science team on the night shift.  Dan greets each day with a smile and his passion for being out at sea and supporting the science research that goes on is truly evident. 

Dan Puterbaugh, first mate
Dan keeping watch in the wheel house.

The two deckhands aboard the ship are Dave and Jen.  Dave works the day shift with John and has been a crew member for the past 6 years.  He shares the challenges of working the night shift versus the day shift on the ship and is happy to have worked his way up to his current position on the crew.  Dave describes the sheer beauty of the Aleutians and the seabirds and marine mammals that inhabit them and how appreciative he is to experience this during his work.

Jen works on the night shift and joined the crew just this season.  She is one of the most interesting and eclectic individuals I have ever met.  Although she is new to the ship, she is not green and can maneuver a crane or a winch with precision and style.  Jen’s spirit and energy helped get us through the long hours of the night shift.  She enjoys combining her passion for science with her love of the ocean and will spend her winter crewing aboard a tall ship for the Woods Hole Semester at Sea program.  Whatever Jen’s future holds, it is assured to be tied to the sea. 

Jen, deckhand
Jen getting time at the wheel.

Andy, the ship’s engineer, began with his time aboard R/V Tiglax eleven years ago.  He, like others before him, started out as a deckhand and worked his way up in the ranks.  He spent time in the Navy doing propulsion work, so this experience serves him well in maintaining the mechanics of the Tiglax.  Although Andy is a bit more elusive, he is always right there when things needed repair.  He helped us get through several winch issues, a broken hydraulic line on the crane and a downed freezer and refrigerator in the galley. 

Last, but most importantly, is Morgan, the chef aboard R/V Tiglax.  Morgan has been with the ship for six years, and continues to wow the crew and scientists alike with her amazing meals.  Morgan attended culinary school in Denver before joining the ship as a relief cook her first summer.  When asked about how she manages to cook during high seas she says it took some getting used to at first but she quickly learned to manage.  Morgan’s talents are apparent in her daily fresh sourdough breads and home-made desserts.  Despite being out to sea for long periods of time, she maintains variety in each meal and does her best to infuse fresh ingredients wherever possible.  Morgan will spend her winter furthering her culinary training in Portland before returning for another season with the ship.

Morgan's puff pastries
Morgan’s puff pastries with homemade raspberry rhubarb sauce. They disappear so fast I couldn’t even photograph a full pan.

Personal Log

As is the theme for this September cruise, we once again were chased ashore by our fourth gale. On Thursday night, just after starting our night shift we were shut down by the building wind and waves and made a 16-hour harrowing transit from the Seward line to shelter in Kodiak harbor and reevaluate as the weather.   Although we were not happy to be missing more sampling, everyone was appreciative for the time to get cell reception and step foot on solid land.

We arrived in Kodiak harbor at 5pm on Friday night and had the fortune of docking at the state ferry dock.  After eating dinner aboard, we all ventured off into town. My dock rock continued as all of Kodiak seemed to be moving up and down and side to side.  All the crew and scientists ended up in same spot and enjoyed socializing together on our down time.  We returned to the ship and all appreciated a night of sleep that didn’t involve almost rolling out of the bed with each swell. 

Cara on ladder
Climbing off the ship can be challenging when the tides are low.

This morning we awoke to blue skies and strong winds.  Unfortunately, the night crew caved in at 3am and slept for a few hours.  Having a day off from work makes it easy to slip back to the normal schedule and working tonight might be difficult.  We await the afternoon forecast to see if we can head out to sample the Kodiak line before another gale blows in on Monday.  One thing that I have learned this trip is that successful oceanographic research requires a delicate dance with Mother Nature.

Did You Know?

R/V Tiglax often travels up to 20,000 nautical miles in one season!  A nautical mile is equal to 1.15 land measured miles and is based on the circumference of the earth.  One nautical mile is equal to one minute of latitude and is useful for charting and navigating.

Ragupathy Kannan: Starting with Plankton, August 18, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Ragupathy Kannan

Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

August 15-30, 2019

Mission: Summer Ecosystem Monitoring

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean

Date: August 18, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 38.2494289
Longitude: -75.0853552
Water temperature: 26.3°C
Wind Speed: 4.92 knots
Wind Direction: 122 degrees
Air temperature: 27.1°C
Atmospheric pressure: 1015 millibars
Sky: Partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

In my previous blog posting, I explained the importance of plankton as base of the ecological pyramid upon which much of marine life in this ecosystem depends.  The past few days, I have witnessed and experienced in-person how scientists aboard this sophisticated research vessel collect and analyze sea water samples for plankton. 

Yesterday I spent some time with Kyle Turner, a guest researcher from the University of Rhode Island doing his M.S. in Oceanography.  He operates a highly sophisticated device called the Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB).  I was fascinated to learn how it works.  It is basically a microscope and camera hooked up to the ship’s water intake system.  As the waters pass through the system, laser beams capture images of tiny particles, mostly phytoplankton (tiny photosynthetic drifters).  As particles do, they scatter the light or even fluoresce (meaning, they emit their own light).  Based on this, the computer “zooms in” on the plankton automatically and activates the camera into taking photographs of each of them!  I was amazed at the precision and quality of the images, taken continuously as it pipes in the water from below.  Kyle says this helps them monitor quality and quantity of plankton on a continual basis. 

Kyle Turner and IFCB
Kyle Turner with the Imaging FlowCytobot (IFCB)
Kannan and IFCB
Here I am examining a filamentous (hair-like) phytoplankton in the IFCB monitor.
IFCB computer screen
The various kinds of phytoplankton are neatly displayed on the IFCB’s computer screen. See my previous blog for a photo of the dazzling and colorful array of plankton out there! Plankton may lack the popularity of the more charismatic sea animals like whales, but much of life in the ocean hinges on their welfare.

Career Corner

Hello, students (especially bio majors).  In this corner of my blogs, I will interview some key research personnel on the ship to highlight careers.  Please learn and be inspired from these folks.

Here is my interview with Kyle Turner.

Q. Tell us something about your graduate program.

A. My research focuses on phytoplankton using bio-optical methods. Basically, how changes in light can tell us about phytoplankton in the water.

Q. How does this IFCB device help you?

A. It gives me real time information on the different types of phytoplankton in the location where we are.  We can monitor changes in their composition, like the dominant species, etc.

Q. Why are phytoplankton so important?

A. They are like trees on land. They produce about half the oxygen in the atmosphere, so they’re super important to all life on earth. They are also the base of the marine food web.  The larger zooplankton eat them, and they in turn are eaten by fish, and so on all the way to the big whales.  They all rely on each other in this big ocean ecosystem.

Q. How are phytoplankton changing?

A. The oceans are warming, so we’re observing shifts in their composition.

Q. What brought you into marine science?

A. I grew up on the coast.  I’ve always liked the ocean. I love science.  So I combined my passions.

Q. What is your advice to my students exploring a career in marine science?

A. Looking for outside research opportunities is important.  There are so many opportunities from organizations like NASA, NSF, and NOAA.  I did two summer research internships as an undergrad.  First was with NASA when I was a junior.  I applied through their website.  That was a big stepping stone for me. A couple of years later, I did another summer project with a researcher who is now my advisor in graduate school.  That’s how I met her.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. I’d love to get into satellite oceanography to observe plankton and work for NASA or NOAA.

Personal Log

I am pleasantly surprised by how comfortable this ship is.  I was expecting something more Spartan.  I have my own spacious room with ample work and storage space, a comfortable bed, TV (which I don’t have time for!), and even a small fridge and my own sink. Being gently rocked to sleep by the ship is an added perk! 

My own cozy stateroom
My own cozy stateroom
Sunrise view
A room with a view—sunrise from my window

The food is awesome.  We have two expert cooks on board, Margaret and Bronley. 

My first lunch on board
The ship’s mess is a nice place to eat and interact with people. There’s always food available 24/7, even outside of meal hours.

Did You Know?

NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter played a big role in recovery operations following Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. 

This photo is displayed in the galley. Note the sharp decline in atmospheric pressure as Katrina thundered through.

Some interesting animals seen so far

  • Flying fish (they get spooked by the ship, take off and fly several yards low across the water!)
  • Cow-nosed Rays (see photo and caption below)
  • Leather-backed Sea-turtle (I’m used to seeing them on the beach in Trinidad—see my previous blog.  It was a treat to see one swimming close by.  I was even able to see the pink translucent spot on the head).
  • Bottle-nosed Dolphins
  • Seabirds (lots of them…. four lifers already—more on this later!)
school of cow-nose rays
We saw large schools of Cow-nosed Rays closer to the coast. These animals feed on bivalve mollusks like clams and oysters with their robust jaws adapted for such hard food. They are classified as Near Threatened due to their reliance on oyster beds which are themselves threatened by pollution and over exploitation.

Erica Marlaine: Bear Onboard, July 12, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Erica Marlaine

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 22 – July 15, 2019

Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 12, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 57º 9.61 N
Longitude: 152º 20.99W
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Wind Direction: 210 º
Air Temperature:  12º Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1013 mb
Depth of water column 84 m
Surface Sea Temperature: 12º Celsius

Welcome to a tour of the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.

Your tour guide today is the Room 11 Bear.

Allow me to explain.

When I am not a Teacher at Sea on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, I am the special education preschool teacher in Room 11 at Nevada Avenue Elementary School in Canoga Park, California. My classroom has a classroom bear (made of construction paper) that “hides” every night when the students go home. In the beginning of the year, he is sort of easy to find, but as the year progresses, he is harder and harder to find. By the end of the year, only a paw or an ear might be showing!

The first thing my students want to do every morning is look for the bear.  When they find it, they excitedly explain where it is. Speech and language are things we work on in class all the time, and the bear gives us something fun to talk about! For some students, a single word might be the goal. Other students may be working on putting a few words together, or even enough to make a sentence.  It’s also a great time for them to learn prepositional words or phrases to describe where the bear is hiding, such as next to, under, beneath, or on top of.

Now it’s YOUR turn.  I hope you have fun touring the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson with the Room 11 Bear and finding him in the photos where he decided to hide in a tricky spot.   He is in EVERY picture.

bear in captain's chair
Commanding Officer Bear up on the Bridge (the part of the ship above the weather deck which houses the command center). I also spy a snack that is a favorite of some students in Room 11.
bear charting the course
Bear charting our course on the Bridge
bear steering
Steering the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson (up on the Bridge)
bear lookout
Binoculars are used to check for whales or other boats before the trawl nets are put out.
bear in the galley
Food is cooked in the galley (the nautical term for kitchen)
bear in the mess hall
This is the mess (the nautical term for eating place) where all of the delicious meals are served.
bear in laundry
The laundry room
bear in gym
One of the two gyms onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
bear in engine room
The engine room
bear at fire station
There are “fire stations” onboard in case of an emergency
bear in jackets
This is where we put on our waterproof rain gear and high boots before entering the fish lab
bear on rubber gloves
High rubber gloves are worn so that we stay somewhat clean and to protect our hands as we use sharp tools and touch jellyfish or pointy quills
bear in acoustics lab
Lastly, a visit to the acoustics lab, where the scientists read and analyze the data from the echo sounders and determine when and where to drop the trawl nets.

Meg Stewart: Data Acquisition on a Small Boat: Tips and Tricks, July 14, 2019

Fairweather in fog

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Meg Stewart

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

July 8 – 19, 2019

Mission: Cape Newenham Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Bering Sea and Bristol Bay, Alaska

Date: July 14, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 58° 36.7 N
Longitude: 162° 02.5 W
Wind: 9 knots SE
Barometer: 1005.0 mb
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Temperature: 61° F or 15.5° C
Weather: Overcast with fog, no precipitation

Fairweather in fog
The other day while on a survey launch, we came up on the Ship Fairweather as fog was rolling in.

Science and Technology Log

Launch preparation
A launch getting ready to survey. The setup process takes some time and all of the preparation is necessary for accuracy in the data.
Heave, pitch, roll, and yaw describe the movements of a boat (or a plane). An inertial measurement unit reads those discrete movements. Source: wikipedia

In the last post I talked about hydrographic surveying, the software used and the multibeam echosounder on the survey boats (called launches). The software is setup in the cabin by the hydrographer in charge. It takes a good five minutes to get an accurate read from the GPS (global positioning system) receiver. Then it takes time for the IMU (inertial measurement unit) to respond and start to read the boat’s heave, pitch, roll, yaw, and heading values. 

The hydrographer in charge (standing) is showing the hydrographer in training (seated) how to setup the day’s survey project using the echosounder software.
launch data storage
The four Fairweather launches have the same, high-end technology in their cabins used to collect data from the multibeam echosounder, CTD sensor, a sound speed system, and a positioning and altitude system.

Often, the launch drives in a circle eight in order for the positioning receivers to be “seen” by the satellites, as a  stationary object is more difficult to detect than one that is moving. Setting up the day’s project using the multibeam echosounder software also takes some time but all the steps need to be done properly and to the correct specifications prior to starting the sounder. If not, the locational data will be wildly off and the depths inaccurate.

Another task that must be done from the launch before starting to transect is to test the salinity and water temperature using a CTD probe, which is called a cast. I mentioned this in a previous post. CTD stands for conductivity, temperature and depth. In the general area where the launch will survey, the CTD drops slowly to the bottom of the seafloor, collecting data that will be fed into the hydrographic program. Salinity and temperature at different depths will slightly change the rate at which sound travels in water. Again, the CTD process makes the location and depths as accurate as possible and must be done.

Meg casts CTD probe
Casting the CTD probe into the survey location to get conductivity, temperature and depth readings.

Usually, the chief hydrographer sets the defined area to be transected for the day and this is usually a polygon. The launch will sweep with the multibeam echosounder the outside lines and then scan at parallel set distances between the lines, either in a roughly north-south direction or a roughly east-west direction. For this particular hydrographic project, coverage of survey lines can be spaced at about 400 meters apart or greater apart depending on the depth. Recall that the nautical chart of Bristol Bay from the last post showed soundings dotting the area. Solid bathymetric coverage is not always needed on these projects. The Cape Newenham area has proven to have gradually varying depths and is mostly quite flat so free from obvious obstructions like large boulders and sunken ships. 

Once the technology setup is complete in the cabin, the hydrographer shares the map window with the coxswain (the person in charge of steering or navigating the boat). The hydrographer sets the points and the lines so that the coxswain knows where to direct the launch. And by direct, I mean the coxswain uses compass direction and boat speed to get from place to place for the survey. And the hydrographer in charge turns the echosounder on and off when the launch is in position or out of position.

The coxswain navigates the survey line set by the hydrographer in charge.

Because the transects run parallel to each other and are equally spaced apart, the hydrographers call this technique “mowing the lawn,” (see video below) for they are essentially mowing the surface of the ocean while the multibeam echosounder is collecting soundings of the surface of the seafloor.

A video of someone mowing a lawn on a riding lawnmower

A day out on a launch will go from about 8:30am to about 4:30pm but sometimes an hour or so later. If the Alaskan weather is cooperating, the hydrographers want to do as much as they can while out on the launch. Once surveying is complete for the day, the hydrographer in charge has to close up and save the project. Then data get transferred to the larger workstations and shared drive on the Fairweather.

Meg on launch
Every day on the launch, at least on this leg, has been great with perfect weather. And today, the added bonus for me was the phenomenal geology as we surveyed right along the shore.

Personal Log

I’ve taken loads of photos and video while at sea. I have tried to post just those pictures that help explain what I’ve been trying to say in the text. I haven’t posted any video on here as the internet on the ship is very weak. These next photos are a tour of different parts of the NOAA Ship Fairweather.

  • view of the bridge 1
  • view of the bridge 2
  • view of the bridge 3
  • barometer

The above slide show gives an idea of what the bridge is like. The ship is steered from the bridge. All the navigational instruments and weather devices, among other tools, are found on the bridge.

emergency billet
These emergency billets are for me, TAS Stewart, Meg, and it’s posted on my door. For each emergency situation, Fire, Abandon Ship, or Man Overboard, there is a bell sound and the location on the ship where I am to muster. Life at sea is all about being ready for anything.
This is the mess (where we eat. And eat. And eat!) The food is fantastic but I’ve gained some pounds for sure.
Ice cream spot
Maybe this is why. Sometimes the Ice Cream Spot looks like this. Ha!
The galley
The galley
Laundry machines available and detergent is supplied. No need to bring all your clothes. Also, sheets and towels are supplied.
Stairs are called ladders on a ship. Makes sense to me – they’re often pretty steep. You must always hold a rail.
The Lounge
The Lounge
DVD collection
DVD collection of over 500 films
Lounge full of people
Yes, so this is the lounge and there can be meetings in here, training, movies, games, puzzles, quiet space, etc.
DVD in stateroom
Or, you can pop a DVD into a player in the Lounge, go back to your stateroom and watch. Or fall asleep. This is the original Blade Runner (which I never saw) and which I didn’t care for.
Finer things
The good folks of Ship Fairweather like to have a nice time every now and again, so they set up evenings, about once a leg, to have Finer Things. People come by, bring fine cheeses, fine chocolates, fine almonds, fine fig jelly, and fine maple sugar candy from Rhinebeck, NY, and have a fine time. And a disco ball.

Did You Know?

Inertial Measurement Units (IMU) technology that is so important for accurate hydrographic survey mapping was developed by the U.S. military. IMUs were used in the development of guided missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (and now drones), battlefield reconnaissance, and target practice.

Quote of the Day

“A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for.” – Grace Hopper

Eric Koser: A Walk Through Ship Rainier, July 7, 2018


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22 – July 9, 2018

Lisianski Strait Survey

Geographic Area: Southeast Alaska

Date: July 7, 2018: 1400 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 49°11.7′          Long: 123°38.4′
Skies: Broken
Wind: 16kn at 120°
Visibility: 10+ miles
Seas:  2ft
Water temp: 15.5°C
Air Temp: 17.6°C Dry Bulb, 15.6°C Wet Bulb

Science and Technology Log

NOAA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1968 launch of Ship Rainier and Ship Fairweather this past spring.  These two vessels together have provided 100 years of hydrographc service.  Its amazing to consider this vessel has been cutting through the waves for 50 years!

It took a few days for me to get familiar with the layout of Ship Rainier.  Let me take you on a video tour of several sections of the ship and welcome you aboard.

First some orientation.  The decks are identified with letters – where A represents the lowest level and G is the highest level.  “A deck” is actually a collection of tanks and bilge areas…the work of the engineering team mostly takes place on B deck in the engine room.  The ship also uses numbers to address areas of the ship – starting with 01 at the bow and 12 at the stern.  This way, any location on the ship can be identified by an address.

So lets get started on a tour…

Often, work days start with a meeting on the Fantail of this ship. This is on the D deck – the deck with most of the common spaces on board.

This is a diagram of the fantail.

Fantail Safety Briefing
A typical morning safety briefing before a busy day of launches.

We’ll start our walk at the base of the stairs on the starboard side of the front of the fantail.  You’ll see the green coated bollards on several decks.  These are used for tying off the ship when in port.  The large yellow tank is gasoline for the outboard motors.  It is setup to be able to jettison over the side in a fire emergency.

Next, we’ll walk in the weather tight door amidships (center) of the front of the fantail. As we walk forward, notice the scullery (dishwashing area) on the left side followed by the galley (kitchen). To the right is the crew mess (eating area). Continuing ahead, we’ll walk through the DC ready room (Damage Control) and into the wardroom (officers eating area) and lounge.

Next, we’ll start in the Ward room and proceed up the stairs to the E deck. Here we’ll walk by several officers quarters on either side of the hall. Then we’ll turn and see a hallway that goes across the E deck and is home to FOO’s (Field Operations) and XO’s (Executive Officer’s) offices.   Then we’ll step out onto the deck and walk towards the deck on the bow (the front of the ship).

Starting once again at the fantail, now we’ll proceed up the steps to the E deck.  This is the level where the davits are mounted (small cranes) that support the launches (small boats).  After passing the base of the davits, we stop into the boat shop.  This is where engineering maintains the engines of all of the launches on board Rainier.   Next we walk up to the F level and turn towards the stern to see the launches from alongside.  Notice, also, the large black crane in the center of the deck that is used for moving additional equipment and launches.  Finally, we’ll walk all the way up the port side to the fly bridge on the G level.  Here you’ll see “Big Eyes”, my favorite tool on the ship for spotting things in the distance.  As I turn around you’ll see the masts and antennas atop this ship for communications and navigation.  The grey post with the glass circle on it is the magnetic compass –  which can actually also be viewed from the bridge below with a tube that looks up from the helm position.  You might also notice this where the kayaks are stored – great for an afternoon excursion while at anchor!

Here is a quick look in the plot room that is also located on the F deck just aft of the bridge.  This is one of two places where the hydrograph scientists work to collect and process the data collected with the MBES systems.

In the front of the ship on the F deck is the bridge.  This is the control center for the ship and the location of the helm.  There is more detail on the bridge in an earlier post.  The sound you hear is a printer running a copy of the latest weather updates.

Finally, visit my C-03 stateroom.  My room has two bunks and plenty of storage for two people’s gear.  There are four staterooms in this cluster that share two heads (bathrooms).  The orange boxes on the wall are EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Devices).  These are located throughout the ship and provide a few minutes of air to allow escape in the event of fire.  Notice at the top of the steps were back to the hallway and steps just outside of the lounge on D level.

The entire engineering department is not included in these videos and exists mostly on the B level.  Please see my second blog post for more detail on engineering systems and several photos!

Personal Log

Sunday, July 8, 1000 hrs.
We’re coming around the northwestern most point of Washington State this morning and then turning south for the Oregon Coast.  The ship is rolling a bit in the ocean swells.  I’ve come to be very used to this motion.  Last night we had a chance to go ashore in Friday Harbor, in the San Juan Islands for a few hours.  I was surprised just how ‘wobbly’ my legs felt being back on solid ground for a while.  My ship mates tell me this is how it is the first few times back ashore after being at sea!

This has been a great experience – one of plenty of learning and a real appreciation for the work accomplished by this team.  I look forward to drawing in all I can in the last day on the ocean.

Who is On Board?

Mike Alfidi
This is our cox’n Mike Alfidi at the helm of Launch RA-3.

This is augmenter Mike Alfidi.  Mike has been a cox’n (boat driver) here on Rainier for about two years now, and has quite a bit of past experience in the Navy.  Mike is a part of the deck department.  His primary duties here are driving small boats and handling equipment on the decks.  As an “augmenter,” he makes himself available to NOAA to be placed as directed on ships needing his skills.

One of the things Mike loves about his work is getting to see beautiful places like Southeast Alaska.  And, he appreciates updating charts in high traffic areas like the harbor at Pelican.  He loves to be a part of history – transitioning survey data from the old lead line to the much more accurate MBES.  One of the toughest parts, he says, is riding our rough seas and plotting in less trafficked areas.  He did a great job of piloting our launch just as the hydro scientists needed to collect the data we were after!



Tom Jenkins: A Day in the Life of a Teacher at Sea, April 15, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tom Jenkins
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
April 10 – 27, 2018

Mission: Spring Bottom Trawl Survey
Geographic Area: Northeastern U.S. Coast
Date: April 15, 2018

Personal Log

A ladder well on Henry B. Bigelow

The ladder wells.  On the Henry B. Bigelow these sets of steps will take you everywhere that you need to go throughout the day.  Life on a ship is interesting in the fact you don’t ever leave while on your mission.  This is where you sleep, where you eat, where you work and where you hang out with your friends.

One of the most frequently received questions from my students back home is about life on the ship.  Since the past couple of days have been relatively slow in terms of fishing (due to inclement weather), I have decided to highlight the areas of the ship where I spend the most of my time.

My room (likely about the size of your own room at home) happens to be a quad which means I share my room with 3 other people.  In addition to two bunk beds, we have a work area (w/a small TV) and a compact bathroom.  While it is definitely a bit cramped, the 4 of us are split between the 2 shifts (My shift is 12am-12pm.).   The end result is that there are no more than 2 people in the room at any time, so it ends up working out quite well.  Notice the handle in the shower.  This comes in handy when you are trying to clean up and not wipe out as sometimes the ship can move around quite a bit!  You may also notice the emergency billet  on the door.  This tells each member of the crew where to go and also what to do during emergency situations.


The food on the ship has been amazing.  As students in my classroom will attest, I swore I was going to go on a diet during this cruise .  While that would be possible, given there are always tons of healthy options, it’s not everyday when there is a BBQ spare rib option for lunch!  Additionally, when you are working off and on over the course of your 12 hour shift, eating food is sometimes a good way to pass the time.  While I don’t think I have gained weight, I definitely do not think I will lose weight over the final 12 days of the cruise.


The labs where the scientists work are obviously where we spend a large part of our day (or my case, night).  The picture to the left is where many of the fish are cataloged and processed.  The photo in the top right are where some of the specimens are preserved for later examination in not only NOAA facilities, but also other other research facilities around the world.  The area in the bottom is a planning/observation space where the science team goes to gather, plan and share information related to their research mission.


Finally, there is the lounge and fitness area.  The lounge is really nice with large recliners which are a wonderful way to relax after a long shift.  There is Direct TV which is nice for both sports and news and the ship also has an impressive collection of movies for the crew to enjoy.  The fitness area in the bottom right is my favorite space on the ship.  While neither expansive nor pretty, it is a great place to go to burn off steam.  There is a TV and enough equipment to break a sweat.  Although I must admit, its extremely challenging to use an elliptical during a storm with rough seas.  Especially with low ceilings! 🙂


Thank you for taking the time to read my blog.  As always, if you have any questions and/or comments, please feel free to post them below.

Steven Frantz: Language at Sea, August 1, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Steven Frantz
Onboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 27 – August 8, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark Tagging Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic off the coast of Florida
Date: August 1, 2012

Weather Data From the Bridge:
Air Temperature (degrees C): 28.9
Wind Speed (knots): 13.94
Wind Direction (degree): 224º
Relative Humidity (percent): 082
Barometric Pressure (millibars): 1012.18
Water Depth (meters): 67.08
Water Temperature (degrees C): 28.5
Salinity (PSU): 35.649

Latitude: 3135.76N
Longitude: 07931.19W

Language at Sea

The language while at sea is English, however, there are many nautical terms you may not be familiar with. In today’s blog I will look into just some of the language typically used exclusively while on board not only the Oregon II, but also all ships in general. Along with the lesson on vocabulary, I will also be taking you on a visual tour of the Oregon II.

First let’s start with a little quiz. You’re on your own. This is NOT for a grade!!

  1. Bridge                                                _____Right
  2. Port                                                    _____Restroom
  3. Starboard                                          _____Stairs
  4. Bow                                                    _____Front of Ship
  5. Stern                                                  _____Floor
  6. Head                                                  _____Left
  7. Deck                                                   _____Bedroom
  8. Berthing                                            _____Mop
  9. Rain Closet                                      _____Rear of Ship
  10. Mess                                                  _____Control Room
  11. Ladder                                               _____Shower
  12. 1829                                                   _____Hallway
  13. Passageway                                     _____Restaurant
  14. Swab                                                  _____Time

How do you think you did? Follow along on a guided tour of the Oregon II to find out!

Here I am steering the Oregon II preparing to deploy the high-flier for another longline survey. The Bridge is where the captain conrols the ship. And yes, today is Luau Day!
Here I am steering the Oregon II preparing to deploy the high-flier for another longline survey. The Bridge is where the captain conrols the ship. And yes, today is Luau Day!

View from the Bridge looking over the bow.
View from the Bridge overlooking the bow.

Port, Starboard, Stern, Bow image courtesy of Google Images
As you can see, Port is left (red light), Starboard is right (green light), Bow is the front of the ship, and Stern is the rear of the ship. Image courtesy of Google Images.

The Head is the Bathroom!
The Head is the Bathroom!

The Deck refers to each Floor of the ship.
The Deck refers to each Floor of the ship.

Your Berthing is where you sleep. Bunk beds, three drawers, cabinet, one personal grooming shelf, shared sink and desk. On the Oregon II this is called your Stateroom.
Your Berthing is where you sleep. Bunk beds, three drawers, cabinet, one personal grooming shelf, shared sink and desk. On the Oregon II this is called your Stateroom.

Water Closet is where we shower.
Rain Closet is where we shower.

Galley=Food Eating Area! Walter and Paul are the best. Furthermore, "Steward" is the term for chef.
Mess Deck=Food Eating Area! Walter and Paul are the best. Furthermore, “Steward” is the term for chef.

The Ladder is the Stairs that take you from deck to deck.
The Ladder is the Stairs that take you from deck to deck.

The current time is 1829 (6:29 p.m.). We use a 24-hour clock. One p.m. is 1300, two p.m. is 1400, etc.
The current time is 1829 (6:29 p.m.). We use a 24-hour clock. One p.m. is 1300, two p.m. is 1400, etc.

Passageways are the Hallways.
Passageways are the Hallways.

Maybe you've heard the expression, "Swab the Deck?" It just means "Mop the Floor."
Maybe you’ve heard the expression, “Swab the Deck?” It just means “Mop the Floor.”

How did you do on the quiz? I thought I would share a few more interesting aspects about life on a ship.

All doors and drawers are latched. You just can't have door and drawers swing back and forth as the ship rocks on the waves.
All doors and drawers are latched. You just can’t have door and drawers swing back and forth as the ship rocks on the waves.

We must do our own laundry. There are four types of water. Of course fresh water and salt water you've heard of before. On the ship we also have brown water, which is water from laundry and sinks. We also have black water, which is the water from the head. You do remember what the head is don't you?
We must do our own laundry. There are four types of water on a ship. Of course fresh water and salt water you’ve heard of before. On the ship we also have brown water, which is water from laundry and sinks. We also have black water, which is the water from the head. You do remember what the head is don’t you?

People are trained to be on the ship's Fire Department. We have fire drills on the Oregon II.
People are trained to be on the ship’s Fire Response Team. We have fire drills on the Oregon II.

There is a gym for working out.
There is a gym for working out.

The Wet Lab wasn't used much for the Longline Shark Survey.
The Wet Lab isn’t used much (mainly for staging equipment) for the Longline Shark Survey.

The bulk of our work was done in the Dry Lab.
The bulk of recording our research was done in the Dry Lab.

There you have it. A vocabulary tour of the Oregon II. Rest assured, we have been catching sharks.  Stay tuned. There WILL BE sharks in my next blog!

Cathrine Fox: Issue Eleven: In the belly of the beast

JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011

Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 11, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude: 56 49.50° N, Longitude: 154 30.12° W
Air Temperature: 14.3° C
Water temperature: 9.2° C
Wind Speed/Direction:8.25kn/338.45
Barometric Pressure: 1017.59
Scattered clouds (10%) and sun

Science and Technology Log:
I have read a lot about travel during the “age of sail,” and the Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing boom years. Believe you me, it wasn’t all swashbuckling pirates, romantic whale captures and sea shanties. Now though? Life at sea, on the surface, has all of the amenities and trappings of life at home: shower, a place to sleep, delicious food, work and friends. Easy, especially if you are, I should add, a Teacher at Sea. Beneath the surface though… it gets complicated. How is it possible to turn on a faucet and get fresh water when you are surrounded by brine? Where is the food stored before it arrives on your plate? Where does the electricity come from when you flip a switch? (I assure you, our boat is not Pollock powered, nor do we drag an extra long extension cord…)

Before I go into the picture journey of the ship and her inner workings, let me tell you about routine matters. In fact, I want to share with you my daily routine on the Oscar Dyson, and then, afterward, take you into the Belly of the Beast. Go ahead. Click on Issue 11.

I want to especially thank the Chief Marine Engineer, Jeff Hokkanen, for a stellar hour and a half tour of the inner workings of the ship. He probably didn’t realize that his job was red carpet material, but after about 100 photo opportunities from Staci, Megan Stachura (a graduate student from the University of Washington) and me, I think we have convinced him…

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 11
Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 11

I promise, I did not touch anything.  Generator control panel.
I promise, I did not touch anything. Generator control panel.

I was most curious about how the Oscar Dyson dealt with issues that I don’t think much about at home: power, water and waste. How is it possible to produce enough electricity for me to turn on lights, be charging my computer and driving along at 11 knots? Where does the water come from, when we are surrounded by the sea? Where does it all go, when, you know, we ‘go?’

There was no touching, we swear.  Staci and Megan.
There was no touching, we swear. Staci and Megan.

Power: We have four diesel engines on board. They are enormous Caterpillars that were built into the ship. The engines power generators that then run electric motors… all controlled by a computerized generator control panel. On average, we use 2,500-3,000 gallons of marine diesel fuel every day we are out to sea. Additionally, every 1,000 miles the 150 gallons of oil in the engines needs to be changed. I know you are adding up the prices in your head. It is pretty amazing how much good science costs, isn’t it? Here is how I see it: manage the single largest Alaskan fishery (some argue in the world) to ensure that it is healthy and here for generations in the future, or let Walleye Pollock go the way of the Atlantic Cod on the Grand Banks? Once I do the math, it all seems worth it.

Thumbs up for vacuum distillation water systems!
Thumbs up for vacuum distillation water systems!

Each human being on this boat uses about 50 gallons of water a day. The water is produced by drawing on seawater, running it through a vacuum and boiling it. Water in the vacuum boils at a lower temperature, saving energy. After distillation, the water is treated with a UV light (similar to how a backpacking steri pen works) and bromine. Seawater used to be in many ships’ toilets; if it contained phosphorescent bacteria, when you flushed, your effluent would fluoresce. (Oddly poetic for what I just described, no?)

Grey and black water treatment (not stinky).
Grey and black water treatment (not stinky).

Finally, what happens to ‘it’ all? The ship has two kinds of waste, grey water (from drains) and black water (sewage). According to international regulations, you cannot dispose of waste within three miles of shore. Most ships, once they have crossed that boundary? Heave ho. The Oscar Dyson treats it’s grey and black water in a septic system, chlorinates it, and then disposes of it, once we have crossed that 3 mile zone. When tested, it would classify as being safe to drink… …any takers? Food scraps are ground up and thrown overboard (outside the 3 miles), paper trash is incinerated, and aluminum recycled.

All in all, I think it is pretty fascinating how this ship supplies thirty people with their basic needs for weeks on end. I’ll leave you with a few bonus photos from our tour, and some fish cameos from our trawls. A heads up if you are about to scroll through my photos: I will describe the trawl operation in more detail in the future, but the general purpose of our trawls is to take the ages, weights, lengths, sexes and stomachs of individual fish we catch. Three of these operations (sexing, aging and taking the stomachs) are fatal to the fish…a hard reality to swallow when I have made the Walleye Pollock a beloved mascot. I choose to deal with this reality by taking inane photos with the fish. To sum up: photos of fish ahead. I make lots of faces.

Walleye Pollock trawl.  I discover that I have drawn them correctly.
Walleye Pollock trawl. I discover that I have drawn them correctly.

Teachers at Sea: Staci and Cat
Teachers at Sea: Staci and Cat

Capelin fish smell like cucumbers.  Really.
Capelin fish smell like cucumbers. Really.

Capelin.  Abigail and Cat.
Capelin. Abigail and Cat.

Salmonberries.  Abigail and Cat.
Salmonberries. Abigail and Cat.

Anne Marie Wotkyns, July 12, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Anne Marie Wotkyns
Onboard NOAA Ship Pisces
July 7 – 13, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Marie Wotkyns
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Monday, July 12, 2010
Latitude: 28⁰33.5532 N
Longitude: 089⁰44.8634 W

Weather Data from the Bridge

Air Temperature: 30.6⁰C
Water Temperature: 30.54⁰C
Wind: 9 knots
Other Weather Features:
Humidity: 69 %
Cloud cover 15%
Swell height: .5 meter
Wave height: .3meter
Science and Technology Log

The Pisces is the newest ship in NOAA’s fleet and she utilizes some of the newest technology available. On Sunday, Liz and I were given a tour of the engine rooms and much of Decks 2 and 3 (below the main deck) where the propulsion, cooling, plumbing, winches, and other mechanical and engineering systems are located. The Pisces has an integrated diesel electric drive system with two propulsion motors that generate 1,500 horsepower each.

Propulsion Motor
Propulsion Motor

There are 4 generators on board, two 16 cylinder and two 14 cylinder, which power the motors and the “hotel load” as Chief Engineer Garret Urban calls the systems that keep us comfortable on the ship -electrical, cooling, etc…A really cool thing about the Pisces is that it was designed to be quieter than many other vessels, especially important for a fisheries research ship because noise can influence how ocean animals behave and can limit what the scientists are able to study. The International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) established standards to improve the noise onboard research vessels and the Pisces was designed to meet those standards.



Throughout the engineering room there are giant electrical boards and computers that are constantly kept cool by the ship’s strong air conditioning system. An interesting aspect of the air conditioning system is that ship’s interior rooms are kept cool using cold water running through a closed system of pipes. The water is cooled using a Freon system located in the engine room. The labs and common rooms were kept so cool that we wore long sleeves most of the time indoors, but then took them off when going outside. On the days we did the fish survey activities, this meant pulling a sweatshirt on and off over 20 times a day!

Electrical Board
Electrical Board

The technology that keeps the Pieces running smoothly is amazing!

When we entered the lowest deck of the ship we were given earplugs for protection from the engine noise. The earplugs were dispensed from a machine that looked like a candy machine! Garret showed us that if the bridge ever lost power that there is a secondary way to steer. The crew steers using a hydraulic steering system rather than the electrical one on the bridge. The crew uses a hand telephone to communicate with the bridge during any power outages (or drills).

One very important piece of the engineering deck is the freshwater system. The ship pulls in sea water and uses heat from the engines to make freshwater through distillation. The sea water is heated and the steam and water vapor is contained and collected as fresh water. There are two distillers on board and they can make 1,850 gallons a day. When we were down there we witnessed Junior Engineer Steve repairing the blown diaphragm that had interfered with the water system. When we are in the area that NOAA has labeled as a 95% uncertainty zone regarding the presence of oil, the ship does not take in water as it could be contaminated and damage the system. This is why on the first two days and the last two of the cruise we were asked to conserve water.

The saltwater-freshwater conversion system

Chief Engineer Garrett with the rudder angle indicator system – this showed the angle of degrees of the rudder which determines the direction the ship sails.

Today while we were working in the dry lab, a “Steering Drill” was announced. The simulation was that the bridge had lost control of the ship’s steering so she would need to be steered using the secondary system in the engine room. The captain then announced that the “teachers” should head down so we could steer! Thanks to our earlier tour, Liz and I knew just where to go. And because we had already steered the ship from the bridge, now we understood how the secondary system operated. Instead of a steering wheel, there are two joysticks with rubber buttons at the top that you push down to change the angle of the rudder. Each button steers the ship either left or right. However, the left hand button steered to the right and the right hand button steered to the left – got that?

Steering the ship using the secondary system.

The rudder angle indicator and course heading display

Monday was our last day at sea and since the Pisces was heading back towards Mississippi everyone was busy with computer work and clean –up duties. Scientist Kevin generously made us a DVD of camera pictures, resources, and information we will take back to our classrooms. We cleaned up the lab, packed our bags, took pictures, exchanged emails, and hurried to finish our last log entries. The crew spent time checking over the ship, inside and out, looking for any problems that needed to be addresses or equipment that needed maintenance or repair. Because a ship is constantly exposed to corrosive sea air and salt water, cleaning, painting, and repairs are always ongoing.

Tomorrow, the recordings from the camera drops and the red snappers we caught (now in the lab freezer) will be offloaded and taken to the NOAA labs for further analysis.

Personal Log

I find it very interesting how doing scientific research at sea seems so different than doing research on land. On land, many researchers work steadily in a lab, 8 hours a day. Out here, the last 3 days were 13+ hour “work days,” with the main work only occurring every 45 min or so when the camera array was deployed or retrieved, and the 4 different times during the day when the chevron fish trap or bandit reel fishing line were “dropped” or brought back in. The timing was crucial because the research protocols regarding “soak time” (time in the water) needed to be followed to the minute to ensure collected data was accurate. So we alternated short bursts of slightly hectic work with longer periods of computer work, reading fish identification books, taking walks around the outer decks, checking on the Ron and Scott, the bird observers working up on the topmost deck, and eating. Let me tell you about the food…

Kevin calls living onboard being “lovingly incarcerated” because you are stuck here, but you are well taken care of. The Chief Steward, Jessie Stiggins, prides himself in keeping everyone well fed. Every morning he posted the meal menus in the mess, and we were always curious to see what he had planned for us. We learned from C.O. Adams that food on the ship is very important and is actually a part of the crew’s union contract. For example, in the contract it states that, “lunch and dinner must include a prepared dessert. Plain cake shall not constitute a prepared dessert, but a cake with icing shall,” and “Liver and onions can only be served once a month. Turkey must be served once a week.” We have had dessert every lunch and dinner, and last night’s turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, and yams were delicious! Some of the desserts have been coconut crème pie, French silk pie, white cake with fluffy whipped cream frosting and strawberries, cookies, and pecan pie to name a few. Plus there is a freezer full of ice cream, great for late night snack. Liz is in seafood heaven-there has been halibut, calamari, catfish, the amberjack Deckhand Ryan caught the other night, and even lobster! Me, the non-seafood eater, has enjoyed stuffed chicken breasts, filet mignon, a taco bar, and pulled pork. And even out here, in the middle of the ocean, we’ve had been raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, cherries and a great salad bar! Jessie is saving the menus for us so we can show them off when we get back. And I’m already planning on visiting the gym daily as soon as I’m back home!

Pascy wants a bite of Liz’s amberjack with orange sauce and almonds – the same fish he saw Ryan catch the other night!

Chief Steward Jessie serves his lobster tails.

Pascy toured the engine room with us and this is what he saw.

Lot and lots of computers help keep the Pisces running smoothly!

The teachers got to wear these soft foam earplug that came out of a cool dispenser that looked like a candy machine.

Pascy liked “chilling” on the cold water pipes of the air conditioning system!

I cannot begin to express my thanks and appreciation to the wonderful officers, the science team and the crew of the Pisces, as well as the Teacher At Sea staff who made this trip possible. Going to sea is a magical experience and I hope I can convey this to my students, as well as use my new science knowledge to revise and invigorate my science curriculum. I can’t wait to share more about this experience with my family, friends, colleagues, and students. I think teachers must be lifelong learners if they want to be effective educators, and Teacher at Sea is a wonderful way to improve science teaching through hands-on research experiences.

Crew of the Pisces
Crew of the Pisces

Scientists on my cruise
Scientists on my cruise

The science team – special thanks to Chief Scientist Kevin Rademacher and Field Party Watch Leader Joey Salisbury.

Oil Rigs
Oil Rigs


Everyone should be so lucky to experience sunset out on the open water!

Captain Jerry says the “Teachers can stay till we get tired of them” – We’d LOVE to stay longer!!

Pascy reluctantly packed his bags and said goodbye too! His next adventure? Travel with Anne Marie on the Swedish icebreaker Oden from Chile to Antarctica in December and January – stay tuned for his next adventures! Maybe he’ll get to see his long-lost cousins!

Elizabeth Warren, July 11-12, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July 11-12,  2010

Winding down

Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Sunday, July 11th- Monday July 12th, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: Water: 30.4 ℃ (which is 86.9℉ ) Air: 30.5 ℃
Wind: 1 knots
Swell: .2 meters
Location: 27. 51° N, 93.04° W
Weather: Sunny, Humidity 67%, 35% cloud cover

Science/Technology Log:
On Sunday, Anne-Marie and I were given a tour of the Engineering spaces. The Pisces has an integrated diesel electric drive system. There are two propulsion motors on the shaft that generate 1,500 horsepower each that are electric. Chief Engineer Garret explained that it is similar to a little remote control toy boat, except of course that the Pisces is much bigger. The Pisces is 208.6 feet long, 50 feet wide (breadth), and the Captain standing in the bridge is 37 feet above the water.

Propulsion Motor
Propulsion Motor

There are 4 generators on board, two 16 cylinder and two 14 cylinder that runs what the Chief Engineer called the “hotel load”, keeping the lights on. Another really cool thing about the Pisces is that it was designed to be a quiet vessel because underwater noise can influence how fish behave and can limit what the scientists are able to on board, not to mention that a noisy ship is harder to sleep on. The International Council for Exploration of the Seas (ICES) established standards to improve the noise onboard research vessels and the Pisces was designed to meet those standards.

Electrical Board
Electrical Board

Throughout the engineering room there are giant electrical boards that are constantly kept cool by the air conditioning that is constantly running on the ship. The interesting thing about the air conditioning is that the engineering deck and the labs are kept cool using regular air conditioning methods but the staterooms and other decks are kept cool using cold water! This is also the method used to keep the two propulsion motors cool as well!

Cold Water Air Conditioning
Cold Water Air Conditioning

When we entered into the belly of the ship we were given earplugs because it gets loud and really hot down in the very bottom. Garret showed us that if the bridge ever lost power that there is a secondary way to steer. The crew steers using a hydraulic steering system rather than the electrical one on the bridge. The crew uses a sound powered telephone to communicate with the bridge during any power outages (or drills).

Garret showing the hydraulic steering system
Garret showing the hydraulic steering system

One very important piece of the engineering deck is the Freshwater system. The ship pulls in sea water and uses heat from the engine to make freshwater through distillation. They heat the sea water and catch the evaporation which is fresh water. There are two distillers on board and they can make 1,850 gallons a day.

When we were down there we witnessed Junior Engineer Steve repairing the blown diaphragm that had interfered with the system. When we are in the area that NOAA has labeled as a 95% uncertainty trajectory regarding the presence of oil, we do not take in water as it could be contaminated and damage the system. This is why the first two days and the last two of the cruise we were asked to conserve water.

Steve, Junior Engineer
Steve, Junior Engineer

Personal Log:

Latte = happy
Latte = happy

The tour was very exciting! We began in the galley where Garret made Anne Marie and I lattes. They were beautiful! When we went into the loud part of the deck we put on ear plugs from the ear plug dispensing unit, which I had to take a picture of. Once again I was impressed with how patient the crew can be with us, although I do think we are a source of amusement for many of them.

Going down to the bowels of the ship
Going down to the bowels of the ship

When the tour ended Captain Jerry took us to the very bowels of the ship and showed us the transducer well, this is the part of the ship that keeps the water out and keeps us from sinking.


Sunday was the last day of this leg of the survey. I did the banana song today in hopes that we would find something in the fish traps, unfortunately it did not work! As the day went on I was able to help more and more. I helped throw in the chevron fish trap, baited the bandit reel, pulled the rope to let the camera array drop. On the last bandit reel though we finally got some action! We were all pretty excited even Watch-leader Joey!

When the reel came up we discovered that we had caught a barracuda on the line! He was huge! We (okay so it was Joey) rushed through all of the measuring so we could throw him back in quickly! We still had a chance to get some pictures of him though. There is a limited amount of time to get all of the camera arrays into the water during a day and we were getting pretty close to running out of time so Captain Jerry and Kevin decided to do a camera array on the “fly”. We had to be ready! As we approached the site we got the camera over the side and as soon as the signal was given we dropped it.

Flexing on the deck
Flexing on the deck


As I said before we have a lot of down time in between drops. I broke out my I-pod touch and we played a bunch of games. For awhile we played Would you rather? My favorite question was: Would you rather be saved by superman or meet Winnie the Pooh? Can you guess which one I picked? Then I introduced Joey to Madlibs. I couldn’t believe he had never played. Finally, Joey and I started a battle with the Bubble Wrap game. The idea is to pop as many of the bubbles as you can within 45 seconds. It got very heated! Right now the record is 254 and I’m sad to say that Joey is the record holder. I still have some time though… it could happen.

Jerry playing a game on my ipod touch
Jerry playing a game on my ipod touch

Playing games on ipod touch
Playing games on ipod touch

It’s a good thing Anne Marie and I had gotten a tour on Sunday because today, Monday, there was a Steering drill. We knew exactly what was going on. The Captain announced the drill and then at the end said the Teachers At Sea should head down so we could drive. The experience is completely different. You are down in the depths of the ship and there is a crew member using headphones to talk to the bridge. Instead of a steering wheel, there are two things with bubbles at the top that you push down to change the angle of the rudder. Each of the bubbles steers the ship either left or right. I have to say we did a fantastic job, especially with all of the help!

Me on the bridge
Me on the bridge

NOAA Corps Officers on the Bridge
NOAA Corps Officers on the Bridge

Something to think about: For me this has been an adventure, but a lot of the people that I’ve met do this all year round. They live and work on ships 264 days a year. When they get off of work at the end of the day, they can’t really go anywhere. A lot of the time they share a room for three weeks with someone they’ve never met before. There are movies, satellite tv, internet, places to work out, and time to fish. Imagine being “lovingly incarcerated” as a class, all 32 of us on a ship for weeks on end? That would be an interesting change. What I have noticed is that everyone seems to love what they do and most have traveled all over the world with various nautical employments (Navy, Exxon, NOAA).


As an outsider, on board for a short amount of time I’m still counting my time here as a once in a lifetime, educational adventure! Although, I wouldn’t mind staying.

Me on the deck
Me on the deck

Yesterday, I left out some rubber ducks for the crew to sign for me! Here they are with Anne Marie’s friend Pascy!

Rubber Ducks
Rubber Ducks

Jennifer Fry, July 19, 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 19, 2009

The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)
The XBT (Expendable Bathythermograph)

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind speed: 42 knots
Wind direction: 350°from the north
Visibility: clear
Temperature: 11.4°C (dry bulb); 10.4°C (wet bulb)

Science and Technology Log 

The seas are still very rough with 40 knot winds. No fishing trawls due to the high waves and heavy seas. However, despite the rough seas, we were able to conduct an XBT, which stands for Expendable Bathythermograph.  An XBT is a measuring apparatus consisting of a large lead weight connected to a very thin copper wire. The function of the XBT is to measure the temperature throughout the water column.  It is launched off the stern (back) of the ship. As it sinks to the sea floor, temperature data is transmitted to an onboard computer.

Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT
Biologist Chris Grandin prepares to launch an XBT

Personal Log 

The Miller Freeman is an NOAA research vessel.   Here’s a bit of information about the Miller Freeman…For more information go here. The Miller Freeman is a 215foot fisheries and oceanographic research vessel and is one of the largest research trawlers in the United States. Its primary mission is to provide a working platform for the study of the ocean’s living resources. The ship is named for Miller Freeman (1875-1955), a publisher who was actively involved in the international management of fish harvests. The ship was launched in 1967, but not fully rigged until 1975. The vessel was again re-rigged in 1982. Its home port is Seattle, Washington.  It is capable of operating in any waters of the world. The ship has 7 NOAA Corps officers, 27 crew members, and maximum of 11 scientists.

Following is a “tour” of the ship.  It has many nice amenities for extended life at sea.

The Laundry Room - Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick if you’re up there too long.
The Laundry Room – Here’s where we do our laundry. The laundry room is located in the bow/front of the ship which bounces up and down a lot, so you can feel pretty sea sick at times.

The Kitchen - Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.
The Kitchen – Our 3 amazing cooks, Bill, Larry, and Adam, work hard preparing 3 meals a day for over 30 people. They have quite a difficult and detailed job.

The Galley - This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.
The Galley – This is where we enjoy deliciously prepared meals.

The Library - Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.
The Library – Pictured here is the ship’s library where crew members can read and check e-mail.

The Lounge - Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.
The Lounge – Here’s the lounge where movies and video games can be watched.

The Gym - The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship.  This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.
The Gym – The gym is located on the lowest level of the ship. This is where you can work off the great food that you’ve eaten.

The Gift of Patience 
Wending our way through the North Pacific Ocean,
The massive waves crash against our hull with Herculean strength
As high as a one story building, their tops are dolloped with luscious whipped cream
They take their turn crashing against the ships sturdy hull, as gale force winds whip wildly past.
We play a waiting game. We practice the ancient art of patience.
When will we have hake, the silvery, slender fish that evades our sonar?

As the winds blow, cold sea spray stings my face.
I watch as the never ending line of waves wait their turn to hit the ship’s hull.
The waves wait patiently as do we.
The sea teaches us serenity.
We must not show greed or impatience.
The sea will provide.
One should lay empty and open waiting for the gifts from the sea.

~Inspired by Anne Morrow Lindberg’s Gifts from the Sea

NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
NOAA Ship Miller Freeman

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!

Patricia Donahue, August 23, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Patricia Donahue
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier 
August 19-23, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey of Bear Cove, AK
Geographical Area: Kachemak Bay, Alaska, 59.43.7 N, 151.02.9 W
: August 23, 2008

 NOAA Ship Fairweather
NOAA Ship Fairweather

Weather on the Bridge at 14:00 
Overcast (8/8)
Visibility 11 to 27 nautical miles
Winds light and variable
Seas calm at 10˚C
Air pressure 1000.5 millibars and rising slightly
Dry Bulb 14.4˚C, Wet Bulb 11.1˚C

Science and Technology Log 

Getting a ship ready for inspection or for showing it off to the public is a busy process. All day seamen and women have been scrubbing – sometimes literally on their hands and knees – decorating, and setting up displays to make Rainier look her best. Their pride in the ship and in their work shows. The Fairweather, pictured above, is also here. She pulled in this morning along the same dock. It was amazing to watch her move toward the dock sideways! Once docked stern to stern, both ships were decorated with bunting made from signal flags. There is a flag for each letter of the alphabet and for numbers as well. A ship can identify itself by showing the signal flags for its call sign. Rainier’s call sign is WTEF. You can use this chart to draw Rainier’s call sign.

International code signals for ships
International code signals for ships

Every member of the crew was on hand for the open house.The Fairweather crew signed people in and checked their identification. Altogether, nearly 90 people toured the ships during the 2 hour open house. There were similar stations on each ship’s tour. As visitors arrived, they were taken in small groups to the bridge. After learning about the navigation and communication systems, they moved on to the Plot Room where many displays had been set up, including some marvelous computer graphics. The next tour stop was the fantail to see the small boats, then on to the diving lockers. Everyone had a chance to see a state room and finally the ward room where many brochures, books, and pamphlets were available for taking. NOAA’s Teacher At Sea book was a very popular choice! One of the visitors was a home school teacher from Texas. I think she took 2 copies! Even seasoned seamen on the tour each took a copy of the book.  

Rainier crewmembers get ready for the tours.
Rainier crewmembers get ready for the tours.

By taking the tour, I learned a few more things about the Rainier. The bridge is equipped with an infrared camera for night vision. When running at night, all of the portholes must be closed so that crewmembers on the bridge can see into the dark without light interference. Only a few “running lights” are kept on so that other vessels can see the Rainier. Another thing I learned has to do with the windows on the bridge. All but one has ordinary windshield wipers but one pane is also equipped with a clear view screen that provides a field of vision in case of heavy rain, seas, or snow. The center of the window spins very quickly like a centrifuge to dislodge water, snow, or ice. This allows the helmsman to see outside into a storm. Our guide told us that if this feature is in use, you know the weather is very bad! Lastly, I learned that the surveyors sometimes take samples of the ocean floor. They collect a small amount of material from the sea floor surface only. I was reminded of another ship called the JOIDES Resolution that drills deep into the Earth’s crust and brings up complete cores of subsurface sediment and rock. For more information about his ship, visit here.

Computer graphics like this were displayed in the the ship.
Computer graphics like this were displayed in the the ship.

A crewmember of the Rainier gives children a tour of the ship.
A crewmember of the Rainier gives children a tour of the ship.

Personal Log 

Visitors began the tour by walking up the ship’s gangway.
Visitors began the tour by walking up the ship’s gangway.

There are two aspects of life aboard the Rainier that I was impressed by. One is the conscientiousness of the crew regarding recycling. Labeled containers are available to separate the various waste streams and everyone complies. When in port, the separated recyclables are put ashore for pick up. While this may seem a small matter, it accentuates NOAA’s commitment to stewardship of the natural environment. The other item I noticed was the frequent hand washing or use of antibacterial hand cleaners. With so many people in such close quarters, stopping the spread of diseases is important. Every crewmember did their part to keep their germs to themselves. I wish my students would do the same!

The Seafarer’s Memorial at Homer Spit
The Seafarer’s Memorial at Homer Spit

I had a little extra time today so I took a walk along the famous Homer Spit and stopped at the Seafarer’s Memorial. People had brought shells, driftwood and kelp to decorate the statue. The stones of the floor were engraved with the names of sailors lost at sea. People had taped flowers to certain stones. The place had a quiet dignity.

Animals Seen Today 

There were fewer gulls at the dock than when the ship was last here. The nesting season is nearly over. Almost all of the young have fledged. The few that remain are grown, and able but unwilling to fly. An exasperated parent stood over each of these few, guarding but refusing to feed their recalcitrant offspring. Having a son that age, I understood how these birds felt!

Making Connections 

Representatives of the Kasitsna Bay Laboratory of the Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research were on hand for the open house. They and other interested parties, such as the University of Alaska and the state’s fisheries and wildlife management authorities, are very excited about NOAA’s survey work. The data NOAA collects will be beneficial for identifying crab habitat and managing these and other resources to ensure their sustainability.

At the end of the tour, visitors were able to take home books, brochures, and pamphlets.
At the end of the tour, visitors were able to take home books, brochures, and pamphlets.

A NOAA employee from Kasitsna Bay Laboratory
A NOAA employee from Kasitsna Bay Laboratory

Adrienne Heim, September 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Adrienne Heim
Onboard NOAA Ship Albatross IV
August 7 – September 2, 2007

Mission: Sea Scallop Survey
Geographic Region: Northeast U.S.
Date: September 4, 2007

NOAA Ship Albatross IV
NOAA Ship Albatross IV

All about the Ship!

For ten days I have been living aboard the ALBATROSS IV – the oldest research vessel within the NOAA fleet. It has been quite an amazing experience for me to wake up each morning surrounded by water. I have been loving every minute of it including falling asleep to the lapping sound of the waves against the porthole of my room. For the most part, the waves have not been too large, except for the first few days. Eating while the ship rocks back and forth has been an interesting sensation. It certainly evokes smiles on all of us who are not accustomed to this environment. When the ALBATROSS IV is not at sea, she resides in Woods Hole, MA. The ALBATROSS IV conducts fishery and living marine resource research for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service in Woods Hole, Ma. Her purpose is to conduct fisheries and oceanographic research within the waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. She is fully equipped to collect information on the distribution and abundance of ground fish and sea scallops, as well as, on the environmental factors that may affect fish populations. Some basic facts regarding the ALBATROSS IV are:

Living quarters
Living quarters

Length: 57.0 meters (187 feet)
Breadth: 10.1 meters (33 feet)
Draft: 4.9 meters (16.2 feet)
Gross Tonnage: 1,115
Range: 3,933nmi at 11.5 knots
Date Commissioned: May 1963


What is the meaning of tonnage and range?

How fast is a knot when compared to miles?

Taking a tour of the ship
Taking a tour of the ship

Mechanics on deck
Mechanics on deck

Sunset over the water
Sunset over the water