Eric Koser: Getting Underway! June 25, 2018

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Eric Koser

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

June 22 – July 9, 2018

Mission: Lisianski Strait Survey

Geographic Region: Southeast Alaska

Date: June 25, 2018, 1500 HRS

Weather Data From the Bridge
Lat: 56°59.4’, Long:135°53.9’
Skies: Broken
Wind 19 kts at 340°
Visibility 10+ miles
Seas: 3-4’ with swells of 2-3’
Water temp: 9.4°C

Science and Technology Log

Rainier and her sister ship Fairweather celebrated their 50th anniversary together this past March. The bell on the bow of each ship is now plated in gold to celebrate the event.

This vessel has quite a physical plant below deck maintained by the competent team in the Engineering Department. For propulsion, there are two V-12 Diesel Locomotive Engines. After bathing the valves in fresh oil, each engine is started with compressed air at the press of a button. Once up and running, the Rainier’s engines often run for several days at a time. There is no “transmission” on this vessel. Instead, the two propellers utilize what is called ‘variable pitch’. When the pitch is set to zero, the props spin but push water neither back or forward – and thus don’t force the ship to move. When the prop pitched is increased in a forward direction – up to a pitch of 10, the ship is pushed forward. Of course, this is really the water pushing the ship forward as the propellers push the water backward. A pitch of “10” means that for each single rotation of the prop, the blades will move water ten feet back. When reverse is desired, the props can each pitch back to a maximum of ‘6’. Now the water is pushed forwards by the prop so the water can push the ship backward.

Prop Pitch Control
This is the variable prop pitch control system. Notice the silver digital actuator at the top which provides an electronic signal back to the bridge.
Push to Start
This is how the Engineering Department can start the engines.

As there are two engines and two propellers, the Rainier’s crew can run one prop forwards and the other backward to turn the vessel around nearly in place. This could be called a ‘split 6’ – where one prop is pitched forward 6 to match the other prop’s pitch backward of 6.

Rainier Engines
This is one side of one of Rainier’s two V-12 Diesel locomotive engines.

Another device the crew can use to manipulate the ship in the water is called a ‘bow thruster’.   This is an open tube from port (left) to starboard (right) near the bow of the ship underwater. There is a propeller mounted in this open tube which is powered by a separate engine. The engineering team can have the bow thruster system up and running in just a matter of minutes when called on by the bridge to prepare for its use! By pushing water to one side, the water pushes the bow the other way. This is a great tool to maneuver this large vessel in tight spaces.

In addition to the two engines plus the bow thruster, there are several other important systems maintained on The Rainier. There are a pair of 4000 Watt diesel electric generators to provide electricity. There is a water purification system – to isolate salt from seawater and make clean drinking water and a wastewater treatment plant to process waste. There are air compressors to supply the ship’s systems.

There are 45 individuals on board this ship – and they pull together into five teams to make operations happen on board. The NOAA Corps is responsible for the administration and navigation of the ship. The Deck crew handles all things on the surface of the ship including handling all lines, cranes, and davits (to manipulate the launches—small boats). The Engineering Crew is responsible for all the mechanical systems on board.  The Electronics Department handles all instrumentation and wiring on the ship. The Stewards run the ever important galley – keeping the entire group well fed. All of this supports the work of the survey team of Hydrographers, the team of scientists that are mapping the sea floor.


Personal Log

I’ve enjoyed both finding my way around the ship and getting to know the crew. These people work as a team!

I came in early enough to enjoy a few days exploring Sitka, Alaska. This is a small port town that is really the first city in Alaska. Russians originally settled here in 1799 and eventually sold the city to the US in 1867. Sitka is a beautiful place to explore – being primarily a port for commercial and private fishing operations.

Sitka Bridge
This bridge spans the main channel in Sitka.
Sitka Harbor
This is one of Sitka’s many harbors.

We’ve just left port this afternoon [Monday] as we transit to Lisianski Strait to being the hydrographic mission of this leg. We’ll arrive there late tonight/early Tuesday morning to collect data first from the Rainier itself. The experience on the ocean has been great thus far, and I look forward to much more!

departing Sitka
Here we are departing Sitka Monday afternoon – headed to the open Pacific to transit north.

Did You Know?

Sitka is the largest city, by area, in the United States in terms of land area! It occupies 2870 square miles yet has only a population of about 9,000 people—located mostly on the port location of Sitka.

The Rainier holds about 80,000 gallons of diesel fuel that is located in several tanks below deck. The weight of the fuel serves as ballast to help keep the ship stable while at sea! Fuel can be shifted between tanks to adjust the trim [front or back tilt] and list [port or starboard tilt] of the ship.  Typically Rainier refuels when the tanks reach about half full.

Jeff Lawrence, May 31, 2006

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

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: May 31, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge as of 0730 Hours
Visibility: 10.0 miles
Wind direction: 340 deg. (NNW)
Wind Speed:  1 knot, light winds
Sea level pressure: 1014
Present weather: mostly cloudy, cool outside, calm seas
Temperature:  49 deg. wet/dry 50.0 deg.

One of the RAINIER’s boat launches going off  on a beautiful day in SE Alaska.
One of the RAINIER’s boat launches going off on a beautiful day in SE Alaska.

Science and Technology Log 

Today I was invited to ride along to Sitka to pick up four crew members and the mail.  The day was beautiful and the boat ride was terrific.  Sitka has been a part of Alaskan history for a long time. The Russians were the 1st Europeans to settle at Sitka.  It was also where Russia turned over Alaska to the U.S. after the purchase by Secretary of State Seward. It was an early capital of Alaska before moving to Juneau. The harbor and city were spectacular, off in the distant background was Mt. Edgecumbe.

Three of the crew we picked up will be returning to the RAINIER after leave. The other passenger has just finished NOAA Corps officer basic training and will be boarding the RAINIER for the first time.  ENS Tim Smith will begin his career with NOAA aboard the RAINIER. Tim is a native of Rhode Island.

Russian Orthodox Church in Sitka
Russian Orthodox Church in Sitka

Personal Log 

Today was a spectacular day in SE Alaska full of warm sunshine, calm winds, and calm water. Later in the day it began to cloud up but the winds remained calm.  On the way to Sitka I was able to observe dozens of sea otter, a sea lion, and a porpoise.  Sitka looks like a picturesque town and popular tourist location for large cruise ships.  There was a large cruise ship in the bay when we arrived.  The surrounding mountains and the backdrop of Mt. Edgecumbe makes for beautiful landscape photos.

Questions of the Day 

How many ships are in the NOAA fleet? What is the name of the 2 ships that do hydrography in Alaska? Approximately how many glaciers does Alaska have? What is the capital of Alaska? What is the capital’s latitude and longitude? When did Alaska become a state?

Ceremonial Tlingit Canoe
Ceremonial Tlingit Canoe
After a dip at the Hot Springs, back to the  RAINIER paddling a kayak in calm waters.
After a dip at the Hot Springs, back to the RAINIER paddling a kayak in calm waters.