Dave Grant, November 16, 2008

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

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 16, 2008

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 10:16 UTC Sunset: 23:16 UTC
Wind: AM Slight; PM Slight
Seas: 4’
Precipitation: 0.0
Pressure: 1015

Science and Technology Log 

Flotsam and Jetsam “Never bring anything onto a boat that you can’t afford to lose.” (Nancy Church – Cape Cod Museum of Natural History)

Except for the anchor, there are very few items that go overboard intentionally on a ship. A hat blown off your head by the wind becomes flotsam, but something deliberately discarded is jetsamARGO  is the international program that deploys and monitors a global network of autonomous floats that monitor ocean conditions (“Taking the pulse of the oceans.”). The buoys are deployed from a variety of vessels and one of the main advantages is that a vessel does not have to slow down or stop to launch them. Because of this, a vessel dedicated to research is not required, and commercial and even cruise ships have participated in this world-ocean study.

Drifter currents
Drifter currents

Drifters have been distributed since 1999 and continuously monitor temperature, salinity and currents. They will provide a global network spread out on a 3º by 3º ocean grid (180-miles by 180miles). Data transmitted automatically to satellites is broadcast to the Global Drifter Program and available continuously to researchers.

Stickers on the drifter buoy
Stickers on the drifter buoy

Teachers and students also are involved through the Adopt-a-Drifter Program and we deployed drifters marked with decals from two schools partnered through it: Universite Nancy (France) and Grandview Elementary School – Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Drifters actively transmit data for over a year, but like anything in the sea, can become the home for bio-fouling organisms that can interfere with their operation. We deployed several of them. The simplest are blue-andwhite basket ball-sized floats with a drogue (a large sock-like bag) that acts as a sea anchor or drift sock so that the movement of the drifter is by current, not wind. Once in the water, the packing materials dissolve, the drogue sinks to about 15 meters, and the currents, satellites, scientists and students do the rest. All researchers have to do to explore the oceans is log-on to the drifter website with a computer.  

“After the sea-ship, after the whistling winds… Toward that whirling current, laughing and buoyant, with curves… (After the Sea-Ship – Walt Whitman)

Dave holding the drifter buoy
Dave holding the drifter buoy

Other larger drifters are shipped in sturdy but degradable cardboard cartons. These too are launched off the stern and the shipping boxes rapidly fall apart after the water dissolves the glue. They are rather mysterious since we did not actually see what they look like, but I’ve seen others in the repair shop at WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution). They are tube-shaped and designed to automatically sink to as deep as 1000-meters, and then rise periodically to broadcast their data. What a wonderful journey they will have to share with the world when they start reporting their data in dark and stormy seas and on sunny days. Falling away astern of us, floating high and looking coffin-like, I was reminded of Queequeg’s casket and some of the most memorable lines from Moby Dick:  “These are times of dreamy solitude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean’s skin; one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it…”

Drifter array
Drifter array

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Personal Log 

Drifter in the water on its way!
Drifter in the water on its way!

We have had a great string of days. I have settled into an interesting work routine with  helpful and interesting scientists and crew. Weather balloons and sondes are released every four hours and the readouts from their fights are very informative. Along with the evening lectures, the week has been like a short semester on meteorology. Hourly water sampling has gone well too, and we are learning more about these peculiar eddies of warm and cold water each day.

My roommate (RW) is very nice and accommodating, and since we work different hours and find the best way to relax is with headphones and a book, the room does not seem crowded at all. There are a few items I am glad I brought, and I suggest they be added to the TAS list: coveralls, ski cap, knee pads and eye drops. The coveralls are great for cool mornings on deck and to quickly pull on for the weekly “abandon ship” drills, since you are required to report to your muster station in long pants and sleeves, and with a hat. My light-weight volleyball knee-pads are good if I have to kneel on the metal deck for a while to take pictures. And eye drops are a relief since we do get wind almost every day, and some very bright days since we are headed into the Austral Summer, and the sun’s position is moving south every day.

Crew holding the Argos drifter
Crew holding the Argos drifter

I have been checking my Almanac, and perhaps as early as tomorrow, our course will cross paths with the sun’s southern movement, and it will be directly overhead at Noon. This can only occur at locations in the “Tropics” (Between the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn) and I have heard sailors refer to it as a “Lahaina Noon.” This term comes from the old sailing days when whalers made port stops at Lahaina on Maui. When it occurs there, fence posts, and for that matter, people, do not cast a shadow. Hopefully the clouds will clear around midday and we will be able to see the phenomenon.

“Thus drifting afar to the dim-vaulted caves Where life and it ventures are laid, The dreamers who gaze while we battle the waves May see us in sunshine and shade.” (Sun and Shadow by Oliver Wendell Holmes – 1857) 

Dave Grant, November 13, 2008

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

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 13, 2008

Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab
Gooseneck barnacles and Grapsid crab

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: AM Calm; PM 5kts
Seas: 5’
Precipitation: 0.0
Pressure: 1016

Science and Technology Log 

Big whirls have little whirls That feed on their velocity, And little whirls have lesser whirls And so on to viscosity. (L.F. Richardson)

This little imitation of Jonathon Swift’s ditty helps illustrate the parallels between the atmosphere and ocean. Just as in the atmosphere, but much slower because of the increased density, turbulence in the water is expressed by meandering currents, and vortices. Good examples of this are observable when an oar is dipped into the water to push a boat, or a spoon is drawn across a bowl of soup. One of the mysteries of the SEP (South East Pacific) region is the presence of large oceanic vortices (Eddies), the mechanisms that generate them, and the length of time they persist as identifiable entities slowly spinning in the surrounding waters.

Dave holding the UTCD
Dave holding the UTCD

In a number of coastal areas fishermen and oceanographers have discovered that some important fish species can be found associated with these so-called mesoscale water structures, like upwelling areas, meandering currents and eddies. Such links are fairly well known and heavily exploited in the vicinity of the boundary currents off eastern North America (Gulf Stream), California (California Current) and Japan (Kuroshio Current); for tuna, swordfish, sardines and anchovies. The coast of Peru and Chile is swept by the northward flowing Humboldt (Peru-Chile) Current and the area is famous for the upwelling that brings deep,  cold, nutrient-rich water to the surface (and every 5-7 years when it doesn’t, El Nino conditions). Exposed to sunlight, phytoplankton utilize the nutrients to form the base of the world’s largest industrial fishery for fish meal and oil. The area also supports a large commercial tuna fishery.

UCTD Data
UCTD Data

Poorly understood is the role of eddies that spin off the major current; vortices averaging about 50-Km (30-miles) wide (i.e. mesoscale). These may be either cold or warm water eddies that may last offshore for months, and move as discrete masses to the west. In general these vortices have more energy that the surrounding waters, circulate faster; and are important because they transport heat, masses of water and nutrients to less productive regions towards the mid-ocean. The eddies also transport marine life and the mechanisms for this are also poorly understood, however the outcome is not. Moored buoys out here collect and support masses of fouling organisms like goose-neck barnacles that must be cleaned off periodically, along with other routine maintenance of the batteries and recording instruments. Servicing these buoys is also part of the mission of the Ron Brown.

Chasing “Eddy”

CTD Data
CTD Data

Tracking these “cyclones in the sea” requires interpreting daily satellite images that measure water temperature and by data collected by the UCTD (Underway Conductivity Temperature Depth) probe. This is a torpedo-shaped device cast off the stern of the Brown while we are underway. It rapidly sinks to several hundred meters. Then, like a big, expensive ($15,000.) fishing lure, it is retrieved with an electric motor that winds back over 600 meters of line. The whole process takes about 20-minutes (including the 2minute plunge of the UCTD).

The information acquired is phenomenal, and if collected any other way, would involve stopping the ship and repeatedly lowering Niskin or Nansen bottles; and adding weeks or months to a cruise schedule. Once back onboard the ship, the data is downloaded and plotted to give us a continuous picture of the upper layers of the ocean along our sailing route. All of this hourly data allows the tracing of water currents. The procedure is not without trials and tribulations. Lines can tangle or break, and there is always the possibility that the probe will bump into something – or something will bump into it down in the deep, dark ocean. However, any data retrieved is invaluable to our studies, and each cast produces a wealth of information.

Teeth marks on a UCTD
Teeth marks on a UCTD

Personal Log 

Today’s weather is fabulous. Most mornings are heavily overcast, but we are still close enough to the coast to enjoy breaks in the clouds. So, everyone is taking their breaks in folding chairs on the foredeck at “Steel Beach” since we are never certain when we’ll again have a sunny moment, or how long it will last.

After lunch there was a bit of excitement; we saw other mariners. In the old days of sailing, ships passing each other at sea would often stop to exchange greetings, information and mail. This practice was known as gamming. We sighted our first ship of the cruise; a cargo carrier heading north and piled high with shipping containers. It was too far off for gamming or even waving (The scientists who are sampling air want to keep their instruments free of exhaust from any nearby sources)  so it would have been out of the question anyway. The bridge gave it a wide berth; so wide that even with binoculars I could not be certain of the ship’s flag, name or registry, other than oversize lettering on containers that spelled JUDPER. Presumably it was carrying agricultural goods from southern Chile or manufactured goods and minerals from the central part of the country. Chile is a major exporter of copper; and the smelters, factories and vehicles in this upscale corner of South America (And the sulfur and particulate matter they spew into the sky) are a interesting land signatures for the atmospheric scientists and their delicate instruments. So the only gamming today is in the narrow passageways throughout the Brown. There is no wasted space on a ship, so in many areas there is “barely enough room to swing a cat.” (The cat being the cat-o-nine-tails once used to flog sailors. “The cat is out of the bag” when someone is to be punished.*)

Group watching a ship on the horizon
Group watching a ship on the horizon

I am still not certain what the proper ship’s etiquette is in passageways and stairways, but I am quick to relinquish the right-of-way to anyone who is carrying something, looks like they are in a hurry or on a mission, or in uniform (obviously) or kitchen staff in particular. Because the ship is always rocking, I’ve found that I tend to lean against the right wall while moving about. By lightly supporting myself leaning with a hand, elbow or shoulder (depending on the how significant the ship is rolling, pitching or yawing) I slide along the wall, and probably look like a clumsy puppy scampering down the hall, but it works…except for a few bruises here and there. Often I come face-to-face with the same shipmates repetitively during the day. (How many times a day can you say “Hello” to someone?) Everyone is polite and considerate, especially when moving about the ship, and in spite of repeatedly passing the same people many times every day. So generally, since everyone is busy for most of their shift, when meeting in the hallways, you resort to awkward routines like: muttered Hey, Hi, Yo or What’s-up; tipping your hat or a dumb half-salute; or a nod…or if from New England, what is known as the reverse nod.

*Flogging: There was a science to this horrible practice, not only with the number of lashes imposed, but what they were administered with: a colt (a single whip) or a cat (They varied in size from “king size” to “boy’s cats”).

Although the U.S. admirals reported that “it would be utterly impossible to have an efficient Navy without this form of punishment” Congress abolished flogging on July 17, 1862. And the last official British Navy flogging was in 1882 – although the captain’s authority remained on the books until 1949. (To politely paraphrase Winston Churchill, the British Navy was bound together by…*#@#&!, rum and the lash.)

One Final Note 

We discovered stowaways onboard…two cattle egrets. Egrets are wading birds that feed in shallow ponds and marshy areas; and the cattle egret regularly feed along roadsides and upland fields where cattle or tractors stir up insects. Even when threatened, they tend to fly only short distances, so it is odd to see them so far from land. However, in the 1950’s a small flock of these African birds crossed the South Atlantic to Brazil and establish a breeding colony. I remember spotting them for the first time on the Mexican border near Yuma in the 1970’s and today they have managed to thrive and spread all the way across the warmer half of North America.

Of ships sailing the seas, each with its special flag or ship-signal, 
Of unnamed heroes in the ships – of waves spreading and spreading  
As far as the eye can reach, 
Of dashing spray, and the winds piping and blowing, 
And out of these a chant for the sailors of all nations… 
(Song for All Seas, All Ships – Walt Whitman)

Stowaways – cattle egrets
Stowaways – cattle egrets

Dave Grant, November 12, 2008

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

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

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Sunrise: 07:12 Sunset: 20:11
Wind: S-SW 8-10 Kts
Seas: S-SW 8-10’
Precipitation: 0.0
Temperature: 18º-C
Pressure: 1015 Mb

Science and Technology Log 

“Send them our latitude and longitude.”
Admiral William Halsey, 1944 (Response to an intercepted Japanese radio message: “Where is the American fleet?)

A Twin Otter plane flying over
A Twin Otter plane flying over

Now that we are out of sight of land and the ocean is featureless except for the waves, so pinpoint navigation becomes crucial. Using the most modern navigation tool – GPS (Global Positioning Satellite system) our navigation officer has put us precisely where we need be to await over-flights from aircraft sampling the atmosphere above us. We are not just near our sampling station – not a mile, a minute, a knot, or a league – we are within a hairsbreadth* of it. We will be here for the day taking water and air measurements, while waiting for the only things we’ll see flying over the Pacific besides birds and balloons; our last connection to the land for several weeks.

“Thanks for the memories.”

The CTD Rosette
The CTD Rosette

The ocean water we test has a memory for the weather and climate conditions today and over the last several months and years. The “code” we need to understand these secrets is hidden in the temperature and salinity of the water, and the keys to unlock them are a number of devices that sink, float and drift. Over the next few weeks we will use all these techniques to see what stories the water has to share. My first introduction to this remote sampling and sensing was a long-necked beverage bottle with a weight, retrieval line, and a cork that could be popped with a string. (And of course, duct tape to hold it all together.) Using it in the local pond and discovering that there were indeed differences between the surface and bottom temperatures was enough to pique my curiosity to move on to bigger things in college. This involved more sophisticated devices, typically named after the oceanographers that perfected them: Secchi, Nansen, Eckmann, Peterson and Niskin. All students of science and oceanography should study these pioneers and their struggles and achievements, but perhaps the foremost is Fridtjof Nansen (1861-1930)…arctic explorer, distinguished scientist and Nobel Laureate.

A storm petrel
A storm petrel

The Nansen bottle has been a standard water collection device since 1910 and when lowered by a strong line, can be signaled to close with a weighted “messenger” sent down the line to “fire” off a release mechanism that closes off a tube of water from any depth. The only limitation is the length of your line. Then that water can be brought to the surface for analysis of its physical features, nutrients and even contaminants washed into the sea or wafted from land. In 1966 Shale Niskin perfected a version of the bottle that today we will lower with eleven others on a circular frame called a rosette. These Niskin bottles can be signaled automatically to capture water at preprogrammed depths as the CTD device on the bottom of the frame records data. The CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) is one of today’s most important oceanographic tools. It is mounted on the rosette with the Niskin bottles and records the temperature and salinity of the layers of water, which allows oceanographers to trace the origins of the currents. The Brown has enough cable to lower it to 6,000 meters, but here in the Peru Basin, we are limited to less than 4,000 (Still deep enough to swallow any mountain east of the Mississippi, and most of the ones in the west.)

Data from the CTD cast
Data from the CTD cast

The crew does an amazing job holding the Brown on station, and can literally turn on a dime since the ship has fore and aft thrusters. When the seas are high and it is choppy, they maneuver into position by making a slow (right) turn to starboard (Where the rosette is deployed) so it is in the lee of the wind and much calmer. The turning creates a “pond” of flat water that also attracts seabirds, so I try to have my camera ready at all times. The whole process takes several hours and has to be done with great care and constant adjustments from the bridge since anything lowered over the side might become tangled with the rudder or propellers, its own cable, or otherwise be damaged or lost. The water brought up from depth in the Niskin bottle is collected for chemical analysis, salinity, dissolved oxygen and plankton samples. Nutrient bottles are quickly frozen for later analysis in the lab, plankton is preserved for identification under the microscope, and dissolved oxygen must be chemically tested immediately; so there is always a flurry of activity when the CTD finally is retrieved and in deck. Water on the surface is 18º and drops to 5º near the bottom. Salinity ranges between about 35.25 ppt on the surface and as low as 34.5 ppt at depth.

An NSF C-130 sampling information
An NSF C-130 sampling information

Personal Log 

There has been a good roll to the ship about every 10 seconds since we left port and after a few days your body anticipates it and I only notice the movement when I see water in a basin or the shower floor sloshing with it, or when something that is not secured bangs around. This movement approximates the wave period of the largest swells and they are generated by the constant winds drawn towards the Equator – the Trade Winds which merchant sailing vessels could always rely upon. In 1520, these same winds pushed Magellan northwest after crossing into the waters to our south that he called El Pacifico. When on deck, I have noticed a low and longer period swell from the west, which is a clue that there is some far off storm brewing. Or perhaps, since the Pacific is so wide, that like the light from distant stars, it has gone through its entire existence, dissipated, and its energy is just reaching us now…only a faint remembrance in the sea.

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I’ll take note of things over the next few days and look for changes like the Polynesians did when watching for storms. Higher, shorter period swells indicate that the storm is approaching. This gives you time to prepare for the large, short period, wind-driven seas that challenge ships and sailors.

“Look not to leeward for fine weather.” J. Heywood, 1546

This sailor’s expression helps illustrate the fact that because winds are generated by the pressure gradient between high and low air masses, tacking into the wind moves you closer to fairer weather than running with it. (In actuality, the high pressure, and hopefully fair weather, is about 90º to the pressure gradient.) That doesn’t always explain waves however. Wave size is determined by wind speed, duration and fetch (the distance over which the wind blows), and over the broad expanse of the Pacific, there can be many storms and wind patterns creating waves simultaneously.

Before physicists and meteorologists fined-tuned the mathematics, sailors had their own theories about waves. One observation was that the size of seas (waves in a storm) could be estimated by the wind speed…a storm with 60-knot winds might produce 60-foot waves. People tend to overestimate wave size, especially when at sea, and the theoretical height is probably only about 80% of that figure (Still a very sizable and terrifying mass of water if you are in the midst of it!).

“Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground.” Shakespeare – The Tempest.

Another difficult aspect of wave behavior is estimating the velocity and distance between waves (wave period); and here we turn to the oceanographers and their experimental wave tanks. To try to understand waves at sea, it is much simpler to generate perfect swells in a controlled environment. Although wave behavior in a storm is chaotic and almost impossible to monitor accurately, there is good data on the swells that spread out from the fetch, and for that we turn to the ship’s “Bowditch.” (Nathanial Bowditch’s – American Practical Navigator).

So the 10 second swells rocking the ship are traveling at a speed of about 30-knots, and have a wavelength of over 500-feet; which means, among other things, smooth sailing for the Brown (and most of her passengers). I’ll continue to watch for signs of change and hopefully our fine weather will continue.

A breathtaking sunset
A breathtaking sunset

 

 

Dave Grant, November 11, 2008

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

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 11, 2008

Pilot boat alongside the Brown
Pilot boat alongside the Brown

Science and Technology Log 

The ship was cheered, the harbor cleared, Merrily did we drop, Below the kirk, below the hill, Below the lighthouse top – Coleridge

Finally, it is time to cast off. For days the scuttlebutt has kept us guessing about what has been holding up the cruise. It is approaching Midnight and dock workers have suddenly arrived, crew is adjusting lines and has flushed the birds, and new sounds and rumbling from the engine room are emanating through the deck. I am half asleep, lying in my bunk, and starting to hear announcements from the bridge that remind me of HAIKU:  All stations report. Testing bow thrusters. Visitors must leave the ship. Cast off lines. 

The Ron Brown has come to life! Leaving port is complicated since even the most experienced captain is usually in strange waters. For this reason, a local ship’s pilot is taken onboard to guide us. Thoreau wrote about the pilots off of Cape Cod in the 1800’s and describes how after lookouts spotted a vessel, pilots would race their sailboats to claim the fee for guiding the ship safely to port. Our pilot boarded with great fanfare and salutations from the deck hands. Even though it was calm, it can be dangerous transferring between vessels. Once aboard, he headed to the bridge to take over the wheel.

Close up of the radiosonde
Close up of the radiosonde

Hands-on training started immediately. Our first task was to use a sonde to take radio soundings of the atmosphere above the ship. Radiosondes are lifted by balloons and as they rise, broadcast atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity data to the ground station. (In this case the lab on the ship.)  This allows atmospheric scientists to record a slice of the air up through the cloud levels through most of the troposphere, where our weather is generated. Radiosondes can also be modified to conduct ozone and radioactivity soundings for pollution studies, but the emphasis of the VOCALS research is the marine layer and its interaction (linkage) between the ocean and atmosphere. Here in the Southeast Pacific, away from continents and major cities, the air should be some of the least polluted on the planet.

Radar reflectors and parachute accessories are available too, but not needed out here since recovery is not an option. Once the balloon reaches low enough air pressure, it expands too much and bursts, and the unit falls into the ocean. (Now, before you start worrying about sea turtles swallowing balloons and meteorologists littering the ocean…this was my first question, and I was told that these materials deteriorate rapidly once they are removed from the hermetically sealed foil containers.)

Many students will state that observing weather and collecting data was the “hook” that got them interested in science; and that certainly applies to me too. As an elementary student helping Mr. Giffin and Mr. “Z” set up mercury column barometers, and seeing 16mm movies of “real scientists” launching weather balloons, really piqued my curiosity. And here I am, so many years later, sending up my own balloons – and for that matter, launching them off a ship in the middle of the ocean!

The science of radiosondes has been around since before WWII and is fairly straight forward. First, read the SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS FOR BALLOON OPERATORS:

  • Do not use in an area with power lines or overhead obstructions.
  • Do not use without consultation and cooperation with aviation authorities. (We will not see any air traffic here, except the scheduled flyovers from VOCALS research aircraft.)
  • Use extreme caution if generating hydrogen gas. (No problem. We use helium; but I did have a flashback of our grandmother Hinemon’s tale about witnessing the Hindenburg explosion from the family farm near Lakehurst, NJ.)
  • The balloon film is only 0.05 mm thick upon launch, so ensure that there are no sharp or pointed objects nearby. (That seems pretty obvious now, doesn’t it Homer Simpson?)
  • And finally, the Dennis the Menace clause: It is not advisable to deflate the balloon if it is leaking. Instead, release the balloon without a load. 
Balloon with message that says, “Thanks TAS!”
Balloon with message that says, “Thanks TAS!”

The units we send aloft are made in Sweden and have a small GPS omni-directional receiving antenna that looks like an eggbeater; a 9-inch wire broadcast antenna; and a thin metal sensor “boom” for temperature and humidity. Power is supplied by a curious little low voltage battery that is activated when soaked in water for a few minutes while the sonde is calibrated by the radio receiver and computer. There are a dozen steps to remember for a successful flight.  First the unit is unpacked from its shipping container. Then it is checked to confirm it is functioning and calibrated to the local conditions of temperature, pressure and humidity; as well as the current latitude and longitude. Fortunately the ship monitors these conditions continuously, so you just have to punch in the numbers prior to release. There is a science to filling the balloons. Too much Helium and it rises too fast for the sensors to record good information. Too little Helium and it may hit the water and malfunction. (You don’t get any second chances!)

Once the balloon is filled, and any messages you wish to photograph are attached to it, clearance is requested from the bridge by letting the duty officer know you will be on the “lee side of the stern” to launch it. Just like when you are seasick…this keeps things blowing away from the boat, instead of in your face. I thought I was clever putting our college logo and president’s name on one, until I saw the Great Pumpkin – a well-decorated balloon that made it to a whopping 23,464 meters on Halloween! (Not to be outdone next time, I am working secretly at night on a Thanksgiving turkey design.) The wind has been remarkably gentle most days, but with the ship rocking and steaming ahead constantly, handling a large balloon while zigzagging across deck between equipment and storage boxes can be challenging, especially in the dark. Sounding balloons are sent up every four hours, so the work is shared by everyone. There is a friendly competition to see whose makes it the highest and gets the best data.

Data from the sounding balloon
Data from the sounding balloon

Note the details in the above image of data from a sounding balloon.  Air PRESSURE (Green line) decreases to 25.7 hPa and the balloon finally bursts. The unit then plunges back to the ocean and pressure increases back to “normal” sea level values. HUMIDITY (Blue line) shows three (3) peaks (About 95%, 75%, and 15%. The highest humidity is at sea level and when the sensor reaches cloud level. The next sharp peak is moisture moving south from the ITCZ (Meteorological Equator).  The small, wide peak is probably Cirrus clouds that were seen earlier before the lower Stratus clouds moved in to block our view. TEMPERATURE (Red line) decreases with height and humidity until the sonde reaches the Tropopause, then begins to rise where higher intensity UV light adds heat. At the top of the image, all three lines merge as the sonde plunges back to sea level.

From the flow of data while this remarkable little instrument is aloft, we can study the decreases in temperature and pressure, and the changes in humidity from sea level to the moment the balloon reaches the bottom of the clouds. An hour or two later, the computer screen even shows the poignant moment (For the launch person, at least), and the decent rate when the balloon bursts and falls back to Earth.

Directional data of balloon winds: Tracking of the sonde shows the direction is drifting in relation to the ship.
Tracking of the sonde shows drifting in relation to the ship.
GPS tracking of the sonde is accomplished with at least four ($) satellites
GPS tracking of the sonde is accomplished with at least four ($) satellites

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, From up and down and still somehow, It’s cloud’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know clouds at all.  – Joni Mitchell

A sunset launch
A sunset launch

Personal Log 

I have the best cabin on the ship! Below us is the freshwater tank – the Brown produces over 4,000 gallons of freshwater every day (About 30% more than is needed)  and the sloshing of all that water each time we rock not only drowns out the noise of the ship, but it sounds to me like I’m right on the surface of the water. Falling asleep, I dream that I’m Thor Heyerdahl on Kon-Tiki!

As soon as we hit the open sea you could see some people getting uncomfortable, but as always, “Doc” was on top of it dispensing sea-sickness tablets and in a very few cases, injections. Within a day everyone was moving about and within two days even the dizziest landlubber was up for duty and at every meal. There are few things worse than mal de mer. In part because, as the fishermen like to say, you can’t buy the boat from the captain once you are out there. Years ago on a long and stormy cruise to Madiera, I was issued an experimental device that was part of a NASA trial to treat motion sickness. It was a CD player with headphones that were flat plates fitted behind your ears, which sent out random vibrations to “reset” your middle ear. It reminded me of one of those hearing tests you got in grade school, and seemed to help. However, when I quizzed the ship’s surgeon Dr. Bob (Ex-marine, Vietnam-era Army helicopter pilot, emergency room specialist; trainee in NASA’s early space program, humanitarian and great storyteller) about how his gadget works, he only shrugged his shoulders and replied, “We haven’t a clue.”

An unbelievable sunset
An unbelievable sunset

As it turns out, even NASA doesn’t understand why 80% of us get motion sickness at some point in our lives; but current research is pointing away from the traditional disoriented “middle ear” hypothesis. Over the years I have had success with my own remedies, including: acupressure, ginger cubes, Coca-Cola (Not a commercial endorsement) and as a last resort, over-the-counter remedies with Meclizine. They seem to do the trick, but this night as we sail west to Point Alpha, all I needed to put myself to sleep was Richard Rodger’s soothing tango from the US Navy’s classic WWII Victory At Sea documentary – Beneath the Southern Cross.

“The sea language is not soon learned, much less understood, being only proper to him that has served his apprenticeship.” (Sir William Monson’s “Naval Tracts”)

Words to check today: 

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Source information 

From Dave Grant’s collection of stories:

The world’s worst tale of seasickness? As told by Ulysses S. Grant in his Memoirs 

One amusing circumstance occurred while we were lying at anchor in Panama Bay. 

In the regiment there was a Lieutenant Slaughter who was very liable to seasickness. It almost made him sick to see the wave of a table-cloth when the servants were spreading it. 

Soon after his graduation [from West Point] Slaughter was ordered to California and took passage by a sailing vessel going around Cape Horn. The vessel was seven months making the voyage, and Slaughter was sick every moment of the time, never more so than while lying at anchor after reaching his place of destination. 

On landing in California he found orders that had come by way of the Isthmus [Panama], notifying him of a mistake in his assignment; he should have been ordered to the northern lakes. 

He started back by the Isthmus route and was sick all the way. But when he arrived back East he was again ordered to California, this time definitely, and at this date was making his third trip. He was sick as ever, and had been so for more than a month while lying at anchor in the bay. 

I remember him well, seated with his elbows on the table in front of him, his chin between his hands, and looking the picture of despair. 

At last he broke out, “I wish I had taken my father’s advice; he wanted me to go into the navy; if I had done so, I should not have had to go to sea so much.” 

Poor Slaughter! It was his last sea voyage. He was killed by Indians in Oregon. 

 

Dave Grant, November 10, 2008

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

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

Science and Technology Log 

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

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

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

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

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

Rules and Regulations! 

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

Safety

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

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

Health

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

Courtesy

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

Meals

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

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

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Emergencies

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

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

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

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

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

Personal Log 

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

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

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

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

Terns on the hawser
Terns on the hawser

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

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

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

Dave Grant, November 8-10, 2008

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

MissionVOCALS, an international field experiment designed to better understand the physical and chemical processes of oceanic climate systems
Geographical area of cruise: Southeast Pacific
Date: November 8-10, 2008

From the top of El Morro, NOAA Teacher at Sea, Dave Grant, points to the Ron Brown anchored offshore.
From the top of El Morro, NOAA Teacher at Sea, Dave Grant, points to the Ron Brown anchored offshore.

Science and Technology Log 

Chile is due south of Portland, Maine; and Santiago, its capital, largest city and main gateway for international visitors is about 5235 miles from my home in New Jersey (By my crude flight calculations). Sometimes called the London of South America, it is as modern and upscale as some US cities. Chile is huge and diverse; it’s more than half the length of South America and bigger than Texas. Its 2666-mile (4300-Km) coastline stretches from the sub-tropical areas and deserts in the north, across the Tropic of Capricorn (The southernmost point where the sun reaches the Winter Solstice), through agriculturally important Mediterranean and Temperate climates at its middle, to the frigid tip of the continent at Tierra del Fuego.

Chileans are friendly, good natured and known for their hospitality towards visitors. Although the population is described as mestizo (A mixture of European and indigenous bloodlines) Aymara Indians in the North and Mapuche Indians in the South still follow many of their traditional ways of working the land. After a short stay in Santiago, another 1,040 miles and two flights up the coast put us in the port of Arica, the capital of northern Chile, where we were to meet the NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown.

Location of the VOCALS project
Location of the VOCALS project

Arica is squeezed between the nearly rainless Atacama Desert of Peru, one of the driest places on Earth, and one the widest and island-free portions of the South Pacific. It is a week’s sail to “westernmost” Chile, Easter Island in the southwest; the home of the giant Moai statues and the most remote population of Polynesians. Arica is known as La Ciudad de la eternal primavera -“The city of the eternal spring” and is a busy but pleasant commercial center; the export/import hub for the region. Arriving before the ship’s departure allowed time for two worthwhile endeavors: sitting in on meetings with scientists who were reviewing their projects and exploring this fascinating part of the world. Over 50 researchers and technicians met at the Hotel Arica, on the shore just south of the city. Discussed in detail were various aspects of VOCALS (VAMOS Ocean Cloud Atmosphere Land Study). VAMOS refers to Variability of the American Monsoon Systems – the seasonal changes of wind patterns. Atmospheric scientists presented overviews on large scale wind movements, rain and cloud-forming particles (nuclei) in the air.

Mullet and mussels at the fish market
Mullet and mussels at the fish market

Oceanographers discussed the movement of rings (50-mile wide cores or eddies of circulating water bodies) in the main study area designated ORS* – the Stratus Ocean Reference Station – a curious region hundreds of miles off of Chile with persistent stratocumulus cloud cover. Satellite images, radar, air samples taken by various aircraft and balloons, and water samples brought to the surface from hundreds of meters below are analyzed to study this expanse to better understand the interaction between the ocean and atmosphere, as well as influences on climate.  Meteorologists sometimes tease their colleagues that oceanography is a small aspect of weather science. The atmosphere and ocean are linked by exchanges of energy, and the currency for this interaction is water vapor. Major mechanisms for energy transfer in the ocean are exhibited by  great water currents – “Rivers in the sea” as Mathew Maury described them – like the Gulf Stream of North America, and the Humboldt (or Peru) Current off of the western coast of South America.

Personal Log 

Tidepools at Isla de Alacran
Tidepools at Isla de Alacran

Since the ship was not fully loaded, the galley closed and much of the crew on shore-leave, we were free to explore the town’s small shops and restaurants at its center. My first stop is always the outdoor markets to see what is being raised and caught locally, and there are some interesting choices here besides fishes, including: muselina, cangrejo, limpa, percebe. (Mussels, rock crabs, limpets and barnacles.)  Then, after enjoying a meal of this interesting nugget that I couldn’t help copying verbatim from the local menu…Pastel de jabus en su greda (“Cake baked carb whit cheese in his clay pot”)…it was off to explore the shore.

There are small pocket beaches here with ghost crab burrows; and I found a nice assortment of bivalves and univalves for my collection. There were also many empty squid egg cases that were as thin and white as tissue paper. In spite of the cool waters (60’s), children don’t hesitate jumping in the waves or sitting in the tide pools gouged in the rocks. These pools are a perfect spot for the budding marine biologist to study or play, and are filled with barnacles, pretty striped snails, and kelp. In the larger ones, small fish stranded by the tides dart for cover when they see your shadow; and other residents – little dark blennies, that match the color of the  rocks and probably spend their lives in these havens, safe from bigger predators.

Barnacles and a drill snail in a tidepool
Barnacles and a drill snail in a tidepool

Higher up the tideline where the wash of the waves – the life support of the littoral zone –  diminishes, barnacles disappear and the main residents are durable little snails grazing on algae, and enduring harsher conditions of temperature and salinity that other creatures cannot. William Beebe wrote of his little periwinkle…”when a race of creatures develops an ability to clothe itself in impregnable marble palaces, immune to a host of dangers which threatens less armoured brethren, there is little need of their changing to meet new conditions.”  The uppermost depressions in the rocks collect salt spray or ocean water during the spring tides which quickly turns to brine in the dry air and afternoon sunshine. I find the coast here reminiscent of Southern California in many ways. Sturdy foot gear is in order since much of the coast is either eroding cliffs or rocky wave washed marine terrace. This is the realm of rugged creatures like limpets, snails and barnacles that must hold or cement themselves to the rock face. It is also the haunt of the colorful Sally Lightfoot, a lively semi-terrestrial crab that darts into crevices as soon as it sees you move, or in anticipation of the next wave – whichever comes first.

Black Oystercatchers
Black Oystercatchers

Picking at whatever morsels they can catch among the rocks are groups of ruddy turnstones; tall, stately and wary curlews; and noisy and very nervous black oystercatchers. The oystercatchers have a loud squeak-toy call and announce their presence regularly to intruders like me and each other, so although discrete, they are easy to find. Grey gulls (Larus modestus) live up to their Latin name only when it comes to appearance. Since this is the Autumnal spring, hundreds of them put on a continuous and raucous show along the shore, calling to each other in courtship pursuits, or in pursuit of any working fishing boat that passes. Some birds like the striking band-tailed gull habituate to people and are common around the docks and anywhere fishermen are cutting up their catch. Others, like the Peruvian booby, fly away whenever you approach them. The boobies and their cousins the cormorants, are responsible for the guano cliffs south of Arica, and a short trip to the end of the coast road brings you to a path that leads along the white-washed precipice through a series of caves.

Geoglyphs on a hillside
Geoglyphs on a hillside

The presence of seabirds is a clue to the productivity of ocean waters, and the legendary abundance of boobies, cormorants, pelicans and gulls (and their guano) along this coast and especially across the border, confirms it. The guano islands of Peru that were mined for their rich fertilizer, harbor the world’s largest colony of seabirds, some 10 million strong. The upwelling of nutrient-rich deep waters here helps produce perhaps one fifth of the world’s annual fish catch. By lunchtime the camanchaca (coastal fog) cleared “as it always does” and I negotiated a history and cultural tour with a very agreeable taxi driver named Federico. In spite of my poor knowledge of Spanish, he was able to make it a very educational afternoon. First stop was inland to the Azapa valley and the Museo Arqueologico which specializes in cultural artifacts from the various groups that inhabited this harsh environment from the 7th Century BC until the Spanish “invasion” and colonial period. The earliest inhabitants fished and hunted fur seals and sea lions, and must have struggled constantly with their environment because of the lack of water and building materials. However they did leave behind evidence of their accomplishments: tools like fish hooks fashioned from cactus spines, weaved materials and most significantly (to the archaeologists) cementerios with clay-covered mummies – said to be the oldest in the world. Three are exhibited: a man, woman and child.

Aduana – The old Custom house
Aduana – The old Custom house

They also invented and left behind their own brand of graffiti on the barren hills – Geoglyphs. By arranging dark stones on the light dusty hillsides, they created large and highly visible outlines of people and animals, especially llamas. South of Arica is the Giant of the Andes – said to be the largest in existence. I was told these images are a type of ancient trailside billboard, which would have guided pack trains. Climbing up one steep hill to line up a photograph of a very distant condor geoglyph, I stumbled and fell flat on my back – much to the delight of Federico and a friendly dog hoping for a treat from picnickers. I wonder how long my dust angel, The Gringo of the Andes(?) will remain here, untouched by wind and rain.

On our way back to town we passed many farms where drip irrigation allows the cultivation of hedgerows of tomatoes, and of course, corn. Olives are an important crop too and the trees that the Spanish introduced are some of the largest and oldest plants in the valley. I made a mental note to pick up some of the local products to bring home to New Jersey as gifts: Aceitede Olivia (Olive oil) and a delicious Mango Chutney.  In town we visited the restored 1874 customs house (Aduana) which, to my surprise, was designed by none other than Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. Besides designing the support structures for his famous tower in Paris and the Statue of Liberty, he is responsible for a number of buildings and bridges here in South America.   

Puerto de Arica from El Morro
Puerto de Arica from El Morro

Looming over the city and harbor is El Morro. At 330 meters it offers an incomparable vista of the entire area, including a birds-eye view of surfers and windsurfers taking advantage of the consistent southeasterly breeze and swell. Birds are in constant motion too, benefiting from the updraft on the steep cliff and circling it effortlessly. Vultures are the most common, and I made eye contact with a large red-tailed hawk soaring directly in front of us. At one point three falcons of different sizes were engaged in aerial combat, diving upon each other and then wheeling high above; the smallest being the noisiest and most aggressive; perhaps defending an eyrie below us. After a glorious sunset over the sea, the wind died down “as it always does” and the cool layer of marine air moved inland. Once it was dark, the park downtown erupted in music at several locations, including what I would describe as a head-banger concert that was loud enough to cause me to retreat back to the hotel to instead be sung to sleep (as the poets say) by the mewing of the nearby gladness of gulls. 

*(ORS refers to a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) buoy moored at 20º South/85º West, in the center of a vast region of cloud cover in the South East Pacific (SEP). Similar cloud regions occur off of the coasts of West Africa, California, the Western Atlantic and Western Australia, but this one is the largest and most important in modifying weather.)

Brett Hoyt, October 25, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 25, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  150º
Wind speed:  5 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2ft
Swell wave height: 4-6 ft
Sea level pressure: 1017.1 millibars
Sea temperature:  16.7ºC or ºF
Air temperature:  17.9ºC or ºF
Cloud type: Stratus

Reggie Glover – Engine Utility Man (“Oilier”) helping keep the ship running smooth. Thanks Reggie!
Reggie Glover – Engine Utility Man (“Oilier”) helping keep the ship running smooth. Thanks Reggie!

The Crew 

For the past 3 weeks we have been highlighting the scientists and their work.  The other unsung heroes of this cruise are the ship’s crew.  These tireless workers work 7 days a week and are on call 24 hours a day. They are up before dawn and go to bed well after sunset. They feed us three square meals a day (they are excellent chefs) and provide us even with the water we drink and bath with.  Without our crew the research does not happen. For this we thank you.

Being a crewmember on a research vessel such as the RONALD BROWN has many hardships. You can’t go to the movies (they show two every night—not always your choice but you can request a movie to be played) or head to the mall (they do have a ship’s store—by the way I’ve seen bigger closets), but it’s our mall, and for this Dave, we thank you for running it. You can’t go for a walk in the park or even stroll down a neighborhood street. Your work place is also your home and you can’t leave either.  But ………………for all these sacrifices how many of you can say you have really seen the world?  For most of us, our “world” may only be the country we live in or perhaps the neighborhood we played in as a child.  To you I ask, have you ever seen the sunset in Fiji or the glaciers in the Straits of Magellan?  Have you ever visited a land that has not seen any rainfall in over 150 years?  Have you ever gazed upon the heads of Easter Island or experienced 45ft waves in the Bearing Sea?  If not, then you have not seen the world.  It is because of this unique attraction for the world and all that is in it, that many people choose the life of a sailor.

Any one like big diesel engines?  Jim Reed inspects the heart of the ship. The RON BROWN has six of these huge diesel engines connected to very large electric generators that in turn feed enough electricity to power the two 3000 horsepower engines that turn the propellers.
Any one like big diesel engines? Jim Reed inspects the heart of the ship, which has six of these huge diesel engines connected to very large electric generators that feed enough electricity to power the two engines that turn the propellers.

Today we will visit with Reggie Glover on board the RONALD H. BROWN.  Reggie is a friendly, always there with a smile, genuinely kind man of 34 years of age.  He has been a seaman for the past 3 years and has served on numerous ships.  He got his start washing dishes for the Military Sealift Command.  He was a civilian who worked on ships that supplied U.S. Naval ships. In only 2 and a half years he has worked his way up to “wiper.” Upon leaving the Sealift Command and joining NOAA, he changed jobs to become an “Engine Utility Man.”  His past jobs have included truck driver, hotel employee, and fast food worker.  When I asked Reggie why he decided to go to sea he replied, “College isn’t for everyone” and his career at sea provided an excellent opportunity to achieve financial freedom. “Money is good, there is tons of overtime, you don’t have to pay rent, and meals are provided. Your paycheck is all yours to save or to spend.”

Reggie has not always had it “easy.” Just before going to sea he was temporarily homeless.  The sea provided a new career and a fresh start. When I asked Reggie what message he wanted to tell students he replied, “Come out to sea with a goal in mind, stick with it, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment.  If your life isn’t going the way you want, perhaps a job at sea would be an alternative to jail, homelessness, or even college.”  Reggie goes on to say that joining NOAA’s workforce provides many opportunities to advance your skills and education.  NOAA has sent Reggie to Engine Utility School and Refrigeration School and he is planning on taking welding school this fall. He is currently working towards his 3AE (third assistant engineer).

One of the benefits he has enjoyed the most has been the free travel in seeing the world and meeting different people in it.  After visiting with Reggie I can sense he has his goals and will achieve them through his persistence and dedication to a job well done.

If you like to know more about a career at sea, check out the NOAA Fleet and Marine operations website, Automated commerce employment, and Vessel employment opportunities.

Please contact the Marine Operations Center – Atlantic at (757) 441-6206, or Marine Operations Center – Pacific at (206) 553-4548, if you have any questions.

The Teacher 

This is my final log and I would like to thank all those folks at NOAA who saw fit to send me half way around the world for the journey of a lifetime and a chance to participate in one of the most worthwhile projects any teacher could hope to imagine.  I would also like to thank Dr. Bob Weller and all the crew from Woods Hole who took time to answer my questions and make me feel like one of the team.  (Love to scrape those barnacles!) I would like to thank the captain and his crew for keeping us safe and making me feel very much at home 5,000miles from home.  And, I would like to personally thank Lt. (JG) Jackie Almeida for her input and edits on my Teacher at Sea logs and for her help in making my job easier.  If you are a teacher and would like the experience of a lifetime, go to the Teacher at Sea website and apply today.

Brett Hoyt, October 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 24, 2006

Data from Bridge 

Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  140º
Wind speed:  4 knots
Sea wave height: 0-1ft
Swell wave height: 6-8 ft
Sea level pressure:  1018.5 millibars
Sea temperature:  18.1ºC or 64 ºF
Air temperature:  18.7ºC or 65 ºF
Cloud type: stratus

Deployment of the new tsunami buoy began at 6am on October 23.  The scientists deployed the buoy first and then plan to deploy the Bottom Pressure Recorder (BPR).  The reason for this is that the BPR must be located close enough to the buoy for the acoustic communication from the BPR to reach the surface buoy.  As there are only a few instruments from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on the buoy, this deployment process only took a few hours instead of most of the day.  They plan on letting the buoy settle for many hours before they deploy the BPR.  One of the challenges for the tsunami buoy is that unlike the Stratus 7 buoy which had a “watch circle” (the distance the buoy could wander) of over 3 miles, the tsunami buoy has a watch circle of no more than 1,500 meters.  This difference is that you don’t want the buoy wandering out of range of the Bottom Pressure Recorder transmitter.  To achieve this, the scientists must make the mooring line exactly the right length.  The day before they deployed the buoy the scientists measured the contours of the ocean floor and knew precisely how deep the water was. At the last minute, the scientists from the Chilean Navy cut and spliced a piece of mooring line to exactly the right length.  (See photo)

The Scientists 

Here a scientist from the Chilean Navy is seen splicing in an eye into the line after it was cut to length.  This process ensures that the buoy stays in the right location and does not wander too far.
Here a scientist from the Chilean Navy is seen splicing in an eye into the line after it was cut to length. This process ensures that the buoy stays in the right location and does not wander too far.

The Machine 

The Chilean Government's tsunami buoy on station in the South Pacific.  This is only one half of the warning equation.
The Chilean Government’s tsunami buoy in the South Pacific. This is only half of the warning equation.
The Bottom Pressure Recorder (BPR) with its anchor attached.
The Bottom Pressure Recorder (BPR) with its anchor attached.

The Experiment 

There was no experiment.

Classroom Activities 

There is no classroom activity, as creating your own tsunami in the classroom would be way too messy.

Brett Hoyt, October 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 22, 2006

Jeff Lord using an acoustic transmitter to talk to the acoustic release.  This machine also tells the scientists the range to the release that helps them in finding it.
Jeff Lord using an acoustic transmitter to talk to the acoustic release. This machine also tells the scientists the range to the release that helps them in finding it.

Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  130º
Wind speed:  19 knots
Sea wave height: 4-6ft
Swell wave height: 5-7 ft
Sea level pressure:  1019.7 millibars
Sea temperature:  17.3ºC or 63ºF
Air temperature:  18.0ºC or 64ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus, and stratus

Note: 

All day on the 21st was spent traveling to the Chilean tsunami buoy approximately 300 miles off the coast of Chile.  During this time, the Woods Hole group was busy retrieving data from their instruments from Stratus 6.  Many of the instruments collect data all year long and store it on flash memory cards.  When recovered one year later, this data is then downloaded onto computers for later analysis. We arrived late in the day on October 22 at the tsunami site and immediately started the process of recovering the old buoy. As you can see, scientists work day and night to get the job done. I really have never seen a group of harder working people.

Jorge Araya and Alvaro Vera, members of the Chilean Navy, looking for the yellow glass balls which were released over an hour ago and take that long to reach the surface.  Work vests were required but not hard hats for this part of the operation.  Both have over 12 years with the Chilean Navy.
Jorge Araya and Alvaro Vera, members of the Chilean Navy, looking for the yellow glass balls which were released over an hour ago and take that long to reach the surface. Work vests were required but not hard hats for this part of the operation. Both have over 12 years with the Chilean Navy.

The Machine

The glass balls are attached to the Bottom Pressure Recorder, or BPR, and float to the surface leaving the anchor on the bottom of the ocean.

Jorge Gaete, a civilian contractor for the Chilean Navy for the past 2 years, helps with the deployment of the tsunami buoy.
Jorge Gaete, a civilian contractor for the Chilean Navy for the past 2 years, helps with the deployment of the tsunami buoy.
Capturing the yellow flotation balls that have brought the BPR to the surface for recovery.
Capturing the yellow flotation balls that have brought the BPR to the surface for recovery.

The second part of the tsunami warning system is the recovery of the buoy.  This buoy receives the signal from the BPR and quickly transmits the warning via satellite to the Chilean authorities who in turn warn the public.  This recovery was done at night.  Without the vast array of sensors found on the Stratus 7 buoy, this recovery progressed quickly and was completed within 30 minutes.

Hooking lines to the tsunami buoy for a quick recovery.
Hooking lines to the tsunami buoy for a quick recovery.

The Experiment

There is no experiment today; however, I will try to explain how the system works. When a tsunami is triggered by an underwater earthquake the BPR detects the increase in pressure on the bottom of the ocean due to the increase in the height of the water column above the sensor. When I asked Alvaro how this worked when sea swell was 6-7 ft at times and waves could reach a height of 45ft he explained that the pressure is sharp and abrupt. This is indicated by a very short wave (period) of energy passing through the open ocean. In open ocean the height of a huge tsunami wave is so short a ship would hardly know one has passed by.  It is only when this wave heads into shallow water that the wave becomes deadly.

The BPR immediately after recovery, without its anchor that remains on the bottom of the ocean.
The BPR immediately after recovery, without its anchor that remains on the bottom of the ocean.

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Classroom Activities

Please share with your students the DART tsunami warning system.

My next log will cover the deployment of a new warning system.

Brett Hoyt, October 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 19, 2006

Dan Wolfe, senior scientist at NOAA, at his workstation on board the research vessel the RONALD H. BROWN.
Dan Wolfe, senior scientist at NOAA, at his workstation on board

Weather from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction:  130º
Wind speed:  20 knots
Sea wave height: 5-7ft
Swell wave height: 3-4 ft
Sea level pressure: 1020.4 millibars
Sea temperature:  19.4ºC or 66 ºF
Air temperature:  19.2ºC or 66ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Scientists 

Today we will be interviewing Dan Wolfe, a senior meteorologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—NOAA for short.  Standing an imposing 6’3”, it seemed only fitting that our next scientist should be studying the heavens.  Mr. Wolfe is a 30-year veteran of NOAA and has been a scientist for the past 31 years.  Mr. Wolfe entered the Coast Guard in 1969 immediately after graduating high school.  He was initially assigned to the Coast Guard icebreaker “Glacier” transferring to the oceanographic unit where he staged scientific experiments.  He traveled to the Arctic and it was there that he discovered his soon to be life long passion for the atmosphere and all that is in it. Mr. Wolfe was a trained scuba diver while stationed on the Glacier. After leaving the Coast Guard he attended Metropolitan State College where he earned his degree in meteorology.  He has the distinction of being the first student to graduate in meteorology at this college.  It was while at Metropolitan College that Mr. Wolfe became a coop student working for NOAA. After earning his degree he went to work for NOAA as a meteorologist where for the next 30 years he has become one if its leading atmospheric scientists.  After seven years on the job he decided that he wanted to know more and enrolled at Colorado State University where he earned his masters degree.

This is a radiosonde, which measures relative humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and winds as it passes through the atmosphere and radios its data back to the scientist.
This is a radiosonde, which measures relative humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and winds as it passes through the atmosphere and radios its data back

Mr. Wolfe is one of the few individuals who has worked in BOTH the Arctic (North) and the Antarctic (South) (not just Antarctica but actually at the South Pole). His work has taken him to the depths of the Grand Canyon and to the Arctic more times than he cares to remember.

One of his more exciting job assignments with NOAA is managing a 1,000-ft research tower just off of I25 north of Denver Co.  When I asked Mr. Wolfe what message he would like to give to upcoming scientists he replied, “Kids should seek out paid/or unpaid internships while in high school. Look for internships within your community in careers that you think you might like.  This gives you the opportunity to try a job before investing money and time in college in a future you may not enjoy. If you try a job and discover you don’t like it, try something else until you find something you do like.  Be sure to give the job a chance though.”

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, releasing a radiosonde off the aft deck
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, releasing a radiosonde

The Machine 

One important scientific instrument used by a meteorologist is the radiosonde (pronounced radio sond). This device measures relative humidity, temperature, barometric pressure, and winds by utilizing the global positioning satellite system.  The radiosonde is battery activated then secured to a large helium balloon.  It is then released where it begins its ascent into the upper atmosphere, measuring humidity, temperature, and pressure sending these data back to the scientist via a digital radio frequency. Depending on the balloon used, these radiosondes can obtain heights in excess of 6 miles. The atmospheric data collected on this cruise will be shared with other scientists to help improve global weather computer models.

The Experiment 

There is no experiment as these data are transmitted via satellite link immediately after the flight is finished to the National Center for Environmental Prediction to be fed into their continuously running forecast models.

Classroom Activities 

Elememtary K-6: 

Ask the students, “What is weather?”  “Why is it important to predict the weather?” Have the students take a piece of drawing paper and divide it into four equal parts.  In each part have the students draw and color four different types of weather common to where they live.  Example could be sunny, rainy, partly cloudy, and snow.

Middle School:  

Why do we use calibrated thermometers to measure air temperature?   Ask students to answer on paper whether the classroom is hot, warm, cool, or cold and to estimate the actual temperature of the room.  Then compare the students’ answers to the actual temperature.  Then discuss the importance of a “standard.”  Without this “standard” scientists around the world would have no way of communicating what the atmosphere is doing.

Please examine the High School for more activities

High School: 

Everyday we hear on the radio, television, or newspaper that it will be sunny, partly cloudy, partly sunny, etc.  How do meteorologist arrive at this? Today we will learn how.

Divide the sky into eight parts.  Examine each part and count how many squares have clouds. There is no hard and fast rule on what to do with partially filled boxes

No squares having clouds-Clear or Sunny 

One to two squares having clouds-Mostly Clear or Mostly Sunny 

Three or four squares having clouds-Partly Cloudy or Partly Sunny 

Five, Six, or Seven squares having clouds-Mostly Cloudy 

Eight squares having clouds-Overcast or Cloudy Take the sky photo below and print it out. Draw a grid like the one above on top of the sky photo. Have the students write down what they think the day is.  Then compare the student’s answers. Is this an exact science?

Have your teacher take photos of the weather in your area and do your own.

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Brett Hoyt, October 18, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 18, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge October 18 
Visibility: 12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction: 120º
True Wind speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 2-4ft
Swell wave height: 3-5 ft
Sea level pressure: 1021.6 millibars
Sea temperature: 19.3ºC or 67ºF
Air temperature: 22.5ºC or 72ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

We are going to use a different format for today because it is recovery day!

On October 16th we deployed the Stratus 7 buoy. The second part of this cruise is the recovery of the Stratus 6 buoy that was deployed approximately one year ago. To ensure a continuous record, a new buoy is installed at the same time the old one is recovered. Today, October 18th, is the recovery of the Stratus 6 buoy. Please compare and contrast the photos of October 16th (Deployment) with that of October 18th (Recovery).

The Stratus 6 Buoy one year after it was deployed.  The nearest Land is 600 miles to the east.  These birds are feeding off the marine life this buoy collects in the waters around the mooring.
The Stratus 6 Buoy one year after it was deployed. The nearest Land is 600 miles to the east. These birds are feeding off the marine life this buoy collects in the waters around the mooring.
Recovering of the Stratus 6.  Can you spot the Scotsman?  Hint: He’s the one in the cowboy hard hat.
Recovering of the Stratus 6. Can you spot the Scotsman? Hint: He’s the one in the cowboy hard hat.
 Instruments waiting deployment for Stratus 7.
Instruments waiting deployment for Stratus 7.
Stratus 6 instruments one year after deployment covered in barnacles.  What would two years of deployment look like?
Stratus 6 instruments one year after deployment covered in barnacles. What would two years of deployment look like?
Gooseneck barnacles from the Stratus 6 buoy.
Gooseneck barnacles from the Stratus 6 buoy.
Damage to a current meter caused by fisherman’s gear.  Of the 8 meters, 6 were fouled. Here we have entanglement of the current metering fans by fishermen’s lights. They use these lights on their lines to attract fish to their hooks at night.  Once the entanglement occurs data cannot continue to be gathered.
Damage to a current meter caused by fisherman’s gear. Of the 8 meters, 6 were fouled. Here we have entanglement of the current metering fans by fishermen’s lights. They use these lights on their lines to attract fish to their hooks at night. Once the entanglement occurs data cannot continue to be gathered.
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, scraping barnacles off one of the sensors from     Stratus 6. “ I’ve got to talk to my travel agent.”
NOAA Teacher at Sea, Mr. Hoyt, scraping barnacles off one of the sensors from Stratus 6. “ I’ve got to talk to my travel agent.”
Remember the glass balls from Stratus 7?  Here are the glass balls from Stratus 6.  It took them over one hour to reach the surface after the acoustic release was activated.  They are not in the nice neat line as we had in deployment.
Remember the glass balls from Stratus 7? Here are the glass balls from Stratus 6. It took them over one hour to reach the surface after the acoustic release was activated. They are not in the nice neat line as we had in deployment.
Anyone like puzzles?
Anyone like puzzles?
The acoustic release, one year after being sent 13,000 ft to the bottom of the ocean.  Scientists sent a signal to this release to let go of one side of the chain.  Should one release fail, they could trigger the other release.
The acoustic release, one year after being sent 13,000 ft to the bottom of the ocean. Scientists sent a signal to this release to let go of one side of the chain. Should one release fail, they could trigger the other release.
Dr. Weller, leading by example, cleaning the equipment free of barnacles.  Remember in an earlier posting when he stated he was a “hands on scientist”?
Dr. Weller, leading by example, cleaning the equipment free of barnacles. Remember in an earlier posting when he stated he was a “hands on scientist”?

Brett Hoyt, October 16, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 16, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction: 060º
Wind speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 3-4ft
Swell wave height: 5-6 ft
Sea level pressure: 1020.8 millibars
Sea temperature: 19.3ºC or 66ºF
Air temperature: 19.1ºC or 66ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

We are going to use a different format for today because it is Deployment Day! Today was deployment day for the entire crew and the best way to tell this story is in pictures. So let’s begin.

Before scientists deploy a buoy they must measure how deep the ocean is. This is the actual bathymetric (bottom measure) read out of the target site for Stratus 7.
Before scientists deploy a buoy they must measure how deep the ocean is. This is the actual bathymetric (bottom measure) read out of the target site for Stratus 7.
This is the map of the bottom of the ocean. Please note the scale in meters on the left as well as + marks the spot. Can you see the pattern the boat is making?
This is the map of the bottom of the ocean. Please note the scale in meters on the left
as well as + marks the spot. Can you see the pattern the boat is making?
With over 4,400 m (13,000 ft) of cable it takes a full crew to stage the cable.
With over 4,400 m (13,000 ft) of cable it takes a full crew to stage the cable.
Jeff Lord making final preparations for the dozens of instruments to be deployed beneath the buoy.  What an amazing man.  “What would we do without you?”
Jeff Lord making final preparations for the dozens of instruments to be deployed beneath the buoy. What an amazing man. “What would we do without you?”
Lifting the Stratus 7 Buoy off the ship.  This process takes the cooperation of about a dozen individuals to do.
Lifting the Stratus 7 Buoy off the ship. This process takes the cooperation of about a dozen individuals to do.
Stratus 7 off the side ready to have the instruments deployed under it.
Stratus 7 off the side ready to have the instruments deployed under it.
Jeff attaching a current meter (Invented and patented by Dr. Weller) to the bottom of the buoy.  It weights about 160lb and there are eight of them.  Please note the safety equipment Jeff is wearing.  SAFETY FIRST!
Jeff attaching a current meter (Invented and patented by Dr. Weller) to the bottom of the buoy. It weights about 160lb and there are eight of them. Please note the safety equipment Jeff is wearing. SAFETY FIRST!
Dr. Weller operating the winch (it has over 2.5 miles of cable on it!) and supervising the deployment operation.
Dr. Weller operating the winch (it has over 2.5 miles of cable on it!) and supervising the deployment operation.
Attaching glass balls (they are located inside the yellow plastic housings which protect them from chipping), which are at the very end of the 13,000 feet of cable just above the acoustic release, which in turn attaches to the anchor.  These hollow glass balls can withstand pressures in excess of 5,300 lb/sqin.
Attaching glass balls (they are located inside the yellow plastic housings which protect them from chipping), which are at the very end of the 13,000 feet of cable just above the acoustic release, which in turn attaches to the anchor. These hollow glass balls can withstand pressures in excess of 5,300 lb/sqin.
This is the acoustic release (actually two) that attaches the buoy mooring line to the anchor. One year from now an acoustic signal will be sent down 13,000ft to trigger the chain to be released.  The reason they use two is that if one fails the release will still take place and the mooring line will begin its ascent to the surface with the help of the glass balls.
This is the acoustic release (actually two) that attaches the buoy mooring line to the anchor. One year from now an acoustic signal will be sent down 13,000ft to trigger the chain to be released. The reason they use two is that if one fails the release will still take place and the mooring line will begin its ascent to the surface with the help of the glass balls.
Everything is just moments before release.  This anchor weighs 9,000lbs and will take over 45 minutes to fall to the bottom of the ocean.  All the instruments are attached, glass balls secured, and the acoustic release in place.  Drum roll please………………….
Everything is just moments before release. This anchor weighs 9,000lbs and will take over 45 minutes to fall to the bottom of the ocean. All the instruments are attached, glass balls secured, and the acoustic release in place. Drum roll please…………………. The anchor is deployed!
Stratus 7 on station in the South Pacific Ocean helping scientist understand this big blue planet we call home.
Stratus 7 on station in the South Pacific Ocean helping scientist understand this big blue planet we call home.

Brett Hoyt, October 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 15, 2006

Dr. Robert Weller sitting on the aft deck
Dr. Robert Weller sitting on the aft deck

Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility:  12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction:  110º
Wind speed:  11 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3 ft
Swell wave height: 3-5 ft
Sea level pressure: 1016.8 millibars
Sea temperature:  18.6ºC or 65 ºF
Air temperature:  18.2ºC or 64ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Scientists 

Today we will visit with Dr. Robert (Bob) Weller.  Dr. Weller is the lead scientist for this scientific cruise and upon whose shoulders the success or failure of this expedition rests.  Dr. Weller is an easy going, soft-spoken, easy to approach, modest, and very intense man with a passion for understanding the climate of the earth and all the processes within it.  Many times scientist possess a great mind for academic excellence yet they fail at relating to people. Dr. Weller is the exception, possessing a brilliant mind, keen insight and intuition, and superb people management skills.  It is exactly these qualities that have enabled him to lead such important and ground breaking research on climate and climate studies He understands that the success of a cruise depends on getting people (sometimes of various nationalities, on our cruise five) to work together to accomplish great things.

The Stratus 7 Buoy on station in the South Pacific Ocean just after being deployed from the ship
The Stratus 7 Buoy on station in the South Pacific just after being deployed

Dr. Weller began at an early age to feel the pull of science.  He entered college initially to be a biochemist but something happened.  In the middle of college he accepted a job with an oceanographer and from that time on he knew that a new career was in order. He graduated in 1972 with a degree in engineering and applied physics.  He continued on and five years later in 1978 earned his doctoral degree in oceanography.

Upon earning his doctoral degree he accepted a position working at the prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He has been there ever since.  How many people do you know who have stayed at the same job for 28 years!  Dr. Weller finds himself at sea 2-3 months out of the year.  He is a self-described scientist who likes to do things “hand on” (he’s not afraid to get dirty–please see the photo of him on deck and in his hard hat). When I asked him how long he has been a lead scientist he modestly replied” I don’t know if I’m there yet.” When I asked him what one message he would like to send to you future scientists he stated “ Kids and future scientists should be less concerned about outer space and more concerned about the planet we currently live on”.  He wants kids to think about the things you can do about the temperature of the oceans and the role they play in the wellbeing of our planet we call home.

The anchor for the buoy
The anchor for the buoy

The Machine 

Today we will examine the reason we all went to sea, the Stratus 7 Buoy.  This buoy sends real time data from a fixed location off the coast of Chile.  The buoy system maintained by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) out of Woods Hole Massachusetts plays an extremely critical role in understanding weather patterns that have worldwide implications.  These buoys are highly sophisticated weather and climate data-gathering stations. The data collected from these stations is used to check the accuracy of powerful computer simulations that are used to predict climate change.

The Stratus 7 buoy replaces the aging Stratus 6 buoy that has been on station for over a year. There has been a Stratus buoy in this location since 2000.  Dr. Weller stated that in years past buoys would not be on station for years at a time but rather for days at a time.  Most did not exceed 40 days.  Through trial and error, research and innovation, the life at sea for a buoy has been extended into the years.  Concerned about waste and pollution in the oceans, most buoys are serviced, refitted, and given a new life year after year.  Some might wonder about the cost, sometimes in excess of $1million dollars, of the buoy programs.  The economic payoff is immense.  It is buoys like these and the data that they collect that help scientists predict the absence or presence of El Nino. This has a huge and direct agricultural impact upon coastal states and to a lesser degree states far removed from the oceans.  Do you have droughts or floods out of the norm in your area? The cause could be ocean related.

Hundreds of pounds of chain!
Hundreds of pounds of chain!

The Stratus Buoy can make the following measurements: -precipitation -wind speed and direction -air temperature -relative humidity -barometric air pressure -long wave radiation (radiation given off by a hot body) -short wave radiation (incoming energy from the sun) -sea surface temperature. The buoy not only transmits this data real time but also stores much more detailed information on flash cards.  These cards are collected and taken back to the laboratory for further study. In addition to all the above surface instrumentation there is over 5,000 lbs of sub surface measuring instruments.  These include current velocity, salinity, and temperature.  These instruments are located at various depths down to 2,500ft. For example there will be 8 current velocity-measuring instruments at 8 different depths.

Cool facts 

-You probably wonder how this million-dollar instrument is powered.  Wind, solar, high powered lithium batteries, nope none of the above. It is powered by 1,650 D cell alkaline batteries. Exactly the ones you would use in a flashlight in your house.

-The mooring line (the line connected to the anchor) will be over 12,000 feet long

-The anchor is a cast iron weight that weighs over 9,000 pounds. -This anchor will take over 45 minutes to make it’s journey to the bottom of the ocean

-The buoy will have over 5,000lbs of instruments hanging from the bottom of it

The Experiment 

There is no direct experiment with the stratus buoy. The data collected by it is used by scientists world wide to generate new ideas, hypothesis, and conclusions. As stated earlier this data is used to help climatologists improve computer models and check them for accuracy.

Dozens of instruments to be deployed directly beneath the buoy 800 meters worth that’s over 2,400 feet of instruments!
Dozens of instruments to be deployed directly beneath the buoy 800 meters worth that’s over 2,400 feet of instruments!

Classroom Activities 

Elememtary K-6: Items needed- Styrofoam cup or similar floating device, small piece of string and a metal washer some rubber cement or other flexible glue, some round toothpicks and a large tub of water.  Have the students decorate their cup using markers, plastic straws, aluminum foil, or anything else that the kids might think would make their buoy look scientific. Put the string through the bottom of the cup making as small as hole as possible (the point of a compass or the toothpicks work well) tie the string to a toothpick on the inside of the cup and let the toothpick rest on the bottom inside the cup.  Place a small dab of glue on both the inside and outside of the string to keep the water from entering the cup.  With the string dangling from the bottom outside of the cup tie on the washer or other object for weight. Ask the kids what scientific information their buoy collects.

Middle School:  

Items needed- volt-ohm meter, glass beaker, two small copper wires, 500ml of distilled water, and some common table salt.

Salinity of the oceans seawater is of concern to scientists and is one of the tests conducted by the Stratus 7 Buoy. The way scientists test for salinity is called a conductivity test.  That is they measure the conductivity of seawater.  Have the student pour 250ml of distilled water into a glass beaker.  Place two small copper wires on opposite sides of the beaker and submerged in the water.  Be sure that at least 1cm of wire is exposed copper and in the water.  Set the voltmeter to ohms and get a reading and record it.  Add .5 grams of salt and mix well.  Test the conductivity again.  Keep adding salt in .5-gram increments.  Does the readings change? If so how?  Are the numbers getting larger or smaller? If so why?

High School: 

Items needed- volt-ohm meter, glass beaker, two small copper wires, 250ml of distilled water, and some common table salt, and sugar.

Salinity of the oceans seawater is of concern to scientists and is one of the testes conducted by the Stratus 7 Buoy. The way scientist test for salinity is called a conductivity test. That is they measure the conductivity of seawater.  Have the student pour 250ml of distilled water into a glass beaker.  Place two small copper wires on opposite sides of the beaker and submerged in the water.  Set the voltmeter to ohms and get a reading and record it.  Add .5 grams of salt and mix well.  Test the conductivity again. Keep adding salt in .5-gram increments. Does the readings change? If so how? Are the numbers getting larger or smaller? If so why?

Now run the test with sugar. What are your results?  Was there a change? Now change the temperature of the solution by heating or chilling with ice.  Does this make a difference in your readings?

Lead a class discussion on what each instrument of the stratus buoy does and why it is important to scientists.

Brett Hoyt, October 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 13, 2006

This is a Sea Surface Drifter.  The students of Burlington Elementary School in Billings Mt adopted this drifter.  It was deployed off the coast of Chile
This is a Sea Surface Drifter. The students of Burlington Elementary School in Billings Mt adopted it, deployed off the coast of Chile

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  160º
True Wind speed:  7 knots
Sea wave height: 0-1ft
Swell wave height: 5-7 ft
Sea level pressure: 1015.1 millibars
Sea temperature:  20.7ºC or 69.2ºF
Air temperature:  21.0ºC or 69.8ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Scientists 

We will not highlight a scientist today, as the star of our show is the floats and drifters.

The Machine 

Today we will examine the Argo Floats and drifters. The two machines do basically the same measurements but in different layers of the ocean. The drifters that we are deploying during the Stratus 7 cruise measure sea surface temperature (SST) and transmit that temperature and their location as they drift with the upper ocean currents.  This tells scientist how warm or cold the water is and how the currents in the ocean move about.  The reason scientists use drifters is that even though satellites are fairly good at acquiring sea surface temperatures some, at present, cannot penetrate cloud cover and all need the drifter data to improve their accuracy.  By using the hundreds of drifters scattered throughout the globe, scientist can use this data to improve the current computer models of global climate condition and get real-time data to use in their work.

This is an Argo float. It will spend most of its life in the very deep ocean (up to 6,000ft deep) and come to the surface every 10days to send off its data.  It is approximately 4 •••ft to 5 ft long and weighs about 30 lbs.
This Argo float will spend most of its life in the very deep ocean (up to 6,000ft deep) and come to the surface every 10 days to send off its data. It weighs about 30 lbs.

Argo floats lead an active life traveling very little compared to surface drifters.  The reason for this is that floats spend most of their time in extremely deep and very slow-moving ocean waters. Some deep ocean water takes thousands of years to make their cycles through the oceans systems.  These floats descend to about 1,500m to 2,000m (approximately 4,500ft to 6,000ft) and every 10 days a bladder inflates and it rises to the surface taking measurements along the way; at the surface it transmits its data back to the scientists thousands of miles away. These floats are built to last about 4 years.

The Experiment 

No experiment with the drifters and floats.

Classroom Activities 

Mr. Hoyt and Jeff Lord are examining a drifter adopted by the Burlington Elementary Research Team (B.E.R.T.).  We all wish BERT a pleasant journey as he travels the Pacific Ocean.
Mr. Hoyt and Jeff Lord are examining a drifter adopted by the Burlington Elementary Research Team (B.E.R.T.). We all wish BERT a pleasant journey as he travels the Pacific Ocean.

Elememtary K-6: 

Since measuring environmental temperatures is one of the primary functions of the drifters and floaters, lead the students in a discussion of:  What is hot? What is cold? What can we use to measure temperature?  Do students have a temperature?

Middle School:  

The thousands of drifters are used to get real time readings of sea surface temperatures worldwide. Start by asking the students what is the temperature of our classroom.  After they give you the answer ask them if it is that temperature everywhere in the classroom.  Have them devise a way to check their theory.  Why is it the same/different around different parts of the room? Hint: This hint is for the classroom teacher and will be found at the bottom of this posting.

High School: 

This is the drogue chute that is deployed in the water beneath the drifter to stabilize its deployment with the ocean currents.
This is the drogue chute that is deployed in the water beneath the drifter to stabilize its deployment with the ocean currents.

Students should go to the Datastreme Oceans website to explore some of the cool findings available to the public.

Thought Experiment provided by Dr. Weller: 

How does an Argo float rise to the surface and later sink to a desired depth?

Middle School hint: 

Have the students set about 20 cups or glasses, filled with water, in various locations around the room.  Be sure the containers are covered to reduce cooling due to evaporation.  Let the water stabilize overnight.  The next day, have the students take temperature readings at the different “sites”.  Compare the different readings around the room.  Are they all the same or are they different.  Lead the students in a discussion on the reasons for their results. Can they make any predictions about tomorrow’s readings? Do the readings change over the weekend?  (Most schools turn down the heat on the weekend). Have each class post their findings so that other “scientists” from other classes can be compared with their own.  Maybe 1st period is different from 7th period.

High School Hint: 

The ocean is stratified–the seawater is denser the deeper you go.  This is because it is colder and sometimes saltier at depth.  The density of the float depends on the ratio mass/volume.  The float has a reservoir of oil inside that is pumped into or taken back from an external inflatable rubber bladder.  Filling or emptying the bladder changes the volume of the float while its mass remains the same, so the float can change its density, allowing it to become buoyant enough to float to the surface or to adjust itself to match the density of seawater at 1,500m.

hoyt_log4d

Brett Hoyt, October 12, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 12, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm(nautical miles)
Wind direction:  185º
Wind speed:  9 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3ft
Swell wave height: 3-4 ft
Sea level pressure: 1011.9 millibars
Sea temperature:  23.9ºC or 75.0ºF
Air temperature:  21.0ºC or 69.8ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

Dr. Byron Blomquist (seated) and graduate student Mingxi Yang (standing) beside the Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS.
Dr. Byron Blomquist (seated) and graduate student Mingxi Yang (standing) beside the Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS.

The Scientists 

As I mentioned yesterday, today I will begin to introduce the scientists, their equipment, and their experiments. Today I would like to introduce to you Dr. Byron Blomquist (lead scientist) and graduate student Mingxi (pronounced ming-she) Yang, both from the University of Hawaii. They plan to study the exchange of gases between the ocean and the atmosphere.

Dr. Blomquist is a quiet, soft-spoken, and self-professed tinkerer. He began his love of science at an early age with a fascination for all things living. He took a great interest in bugs, snakes, birds, and other animals and insects.  He stated that Biology was his favorite subject. Dr. Blomquist has a few interesting facts about himself he is willing to share with us; one is that he works in Hawaii however he lives in Colorado and the other is that he finished high school in only three years! 

Mr. Hoyt standing in front of Dr. Blomquist’s portable lab.  Please note the wires leaving the lab to the left of the photo.
Mr. Hoyt standing in front of Dr. Blomquist’s portable lab. Please note the wires leaving the lab to the left of the photo.

The other scientist is graduate student Mingxi Yang, we just call him Ming for now but someday we will have to address him as Dr. Yang as he plans on earning his doctorate degree. Ming is a very intelligent and self-confident graduate student from the University of Hawaii. Ming originally was born in Beijing China, when at the age of 14 his family moved to Massachusetts. He originally was going to get a degree in chemistry when in his junior year in college he accepted a summer internship with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. It was during these 12 weeks that Ming decided that he could impact the world in a more positive way by switching majors and getting a degree in Oceanography.

Here is a view of the mast at the front of the ship where Dr. Blomquist’s instruments are located.  Because his instruments are so sensitive, no smoking will be allowed on the bow (front) of the ship during the experiment.  The mast is over 20m high that is over 60ft!
Here is a view of the mast at the front of the ship. Because the instruments are so sensitive, no smoking will be allowed on the bow. The mast is over 20m high that is over 60ft!

The Machine 

The Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS for short is one of only three that exist worldwide. Dr. Blomquist built this machine from scratch.  Many of the components and circuit boards were custom designed and built specifically for this machine.  If cool and shiny is your thing and you have $300,000 in your piggy bank then you might be able to get Dr. Blomquist to build you one.  What cool scientific discovery you make with it is up to you.  Many students envision that science takes place only in large land based laboratories, but they would be wrong. Below is the portable (you might need a big truck or ship) laboratory that Dr. Blomquist and Ming brought with them.  It’s sort of like a camper without the wheels.

The Experiment 

We have read about man-made global warming and generally believe that this is not good for the earth and its climate.  Scientists also believe that the main source of global warming is the buildup of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.  Since it would be impossible to measure everywhere on the earth at the same time scientists use powerful computers to create models (computer programs) to predict what is happening over the entire earth.  The Atmospheric Pressure Ionization Mass Spectrometer or APIMS measures a gas, which in computer models is similar to carbon dioxide.  What Dr. Blomquist and Ming are doing is collecting data to compare with model predictions to improve current computer models of the climate.  What they are looking for is the interaction between the atmosphere and the ocean. Liquids can and do absorb gasses.  To illustrate this open up a can of soda pop. The bubbles you see are the gas carbon dioxide leaving the liquid.  The ocean both absorbs and releases carbon dioxide, and therefore plays an important role in climate regulation.

The Teacher 

I spent my day interviewing scientist and preparing for upcoming interviews with other scientist.  Tomorrow we enter international waters and the experiments can begin.  I will also begin drifter watch. My watch time will be from 8am to 12 noon and 8pm to 12 midnight.  I will provide more details tomorrow and discuss drifters and how they are used.

Classroom Activities 

Elememtary K-6: 

Because of the complexity of this experiment we will have no classroom activity but perhaps you could enjoy a bubbly beverage of your choice.

Middle School:  

How many liquids could you list that have dissolved gases in them that are commonly found in the home.  What gases do you think they are?  Are they harmful to the planet?

High School: 

How many liquids could you list that have dissolved gases in them that are commonly found in the home.  What gases do you think they are?  Are they harmful to the planet?

We will continue to visit with some of the scientists and find out more on what experiments are being conducted on this Stratus 7 cruise and why.

Mr. Hoyt “driving” the ship.  The two controls I am holding are how the ship is steered. The ship has no rudder and the pilot need only to rotate these controls to turn the propellers in a different direction. Much like turning the motor on a small boat.
Mr. Hoyt “driving” the ship. The two controls I am holding are how the ship is steered. The ship has no rudder and the pilot need only to rotate these controls to turn the propellers in a different direction. Much like turning the motor on a small boat.

Brett Hoyt, October 11, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 11, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  10nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  220º
Wind speed:  12 knots
Sea wave height: 3-4ft
Swell wave height: 3-5 ft
Sea level pressure: 1012.9 millibars
Sea temperature:  25.5ºC or 77.9ºF
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

The Commanding Officer of the RONALD H.BROWN, CAPT. Gary Petrae
The Commanding Officer of the RONALD H.BROWN, CAPT. Gary Petrae

The Ship and Crew 

I am presently on board the NOAA ship RONALD H. BROWN.  This ship was commissioned in 1997 and is 274 feet in length (just 16 feet shorter than a football field) and 52 feet wide. The ship displaces 3,250 tons and has a maximum speed of 15 knots.  Captain of the RONALD H. BROWN (RHB) is Gary Petrae.  Captain Petrae has just celebrated his 28th year serving in the NOAA Officer Corps. The RHB is the fifth ship Captain Petrae has served on and the second ship he has commanded in his tenure with NOAA. We are truly lucky to have such an experienced captain at the helm.  When you are thousands of miles out to sea, you entrust your life to the captain and crew. One of the interesting facts about a ship at sea is that someone must be at the helm 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Now the captain cannot be there all the time so he turns over the job of “driving” the ship to one of his other officers. 

They take “watches” which in this case are four hours in duration.  During a recent trip to the bridge (this is what they call the command center for the ship) I was fortunate enough to visit with the Officer Of the Deck (OOD for short) Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Lt (JG). Jackie Almeida.  She stands approximately 5’0” with reddish/brown hair and a confidence that fills the bridge. Her bright eyes and effervescent personality quickly put me at ease. She earned her degree in meteorology and joined the NOAA Officer Corps. When she finishes her assignment with the RHB she will join the NOAA hurricane hunters and be advancing our knowledge of these deadly storms.

Ltjg. Jackie Almeida On the bridge of the RONALD H. BROWN
Ltjg. Jackie Almeida on the bridge

The Scientists 

The scientists are spending the day checking and rechecking their equipment making sure that when the crucial time comes all will go well.

The Teacher 

I spent the day observing the scientist preparing equipment and rechecking systems.  I am trying to remember all the safety information that was delivered on the first day. Just like in school, we have safety drills so that in the event something goes wrong everyone knows what to do. We practice fire drills just as you do in school. We also have abandon ship drills.  Below you can see me modeling the latest fashion in survival suits.  The crew calls them “Gumby suits.” 

Classroom Activities 

Mr. Hoyt “looking good” in his survival suit.  Hey kids, wouldn’t your teacher look good in this suit?
Mr. Hoyt “looking good” in his survival suit. Hey kids, wouldn’t your teacher look good in this suit?

Elememtary K-6 

Today’s activity is to give the students an idea of the ship that I’m on.  The teacher will need at least 650 ft of string (you can tie shorter rolls together) and as long a tape measure as you can find (a 100ft one works best).  This activity would be best done on the playground or any other large open space.  Have student-A hold one end of the string and measure out 274 feet in a straight line.  Then have student-B hold the string loosely and run the string back 274 feet to a different student-C but even with student-A. Now have students A and C move 52 feet apart and finish up with student A holding both the beginning and end of the length of string-Do not cut the string as you will need to keep letting out more string as you complete the next part.  Now have the rest of your class hold the string 52 feet apart between the two long lengths of string working your way up to student B remembering that the ship comes to a point (the bow). Go to this website for complete drawings.

Middle School  

At the beginning of this log, I mentioned that the Ronald H. Brown displaces 3,250 tons. What does this mean?  Can you use the concept of water displacement to measure other objects? Hint.

High School 

The ship travels at a maximum speed of 15 knots.  Approximately how long would it take for the ship to sail at maximum speed from Panama City to 25 degrees south latitude and 90 degrees west longitude off the coast of Chile?  How many nautical miles would be traveled?  How many land miles would that be? Hint.

Here, a scientist is checking an acoustic release mechanism.  They lowered it to 1,500 m or approximately 4,500 feet to test it. It will eventually be located 4,000 m beneath the surface or approximately 12,000 ft!
A scientist is checking an acoustic release mechanism. They lowered it to 1,500 m to test it. It will eventually be located 4,000 m beneath the surface!

On my next few postings we will be visiting with some of the scientist and finding out more on what experiments are being conducted and why.

Brett Hoyt, October 10, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Brett Hoyt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
October 8 – 28, 2006

Mission: Recovery and maintenance of buoy moorings
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific, off the coast of Chile
Date: October 10, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility:  12nm (nautical miles)
Wind direction:  240º
True Wind speed:  11 knots
Sea wave height: 2-3ft
Swell wave height: 4-5 feet
Sea level pressure:  1010 millibars
Sea temperature:  28.7 ºC or about 84 º F
Cloud type: cumulus, stratocumulus

Mr. Hoyt on the RONALD H. BROWN leaving Panama passing under The Bridge of the Americas
Mr. Hoyt on the RONALD H. BROWN leaving Panama passing under The Bridge of the Americas

The Cruise Mission 

The overall mission of this cruise is to replace two moorings anchored off the northern coast of Chile. First we will retrieve the Stratus 6 buoy, which has been actively sending weather and ocean data for the past year.  We then will deploy the Stratus 7 buoy approximately 800 miles from land.  This mooring consists of a buoy that contains numerous meteorological sensors that collect data on relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, precipitation, short- and long-wave solar radiation, temperature, salinity, and velocity of the upper ocean and sea surface temperature.  The buoy serves as an extremely accurate weather station, one of few such stations in the open ocean.

Secondly, we will replace a tsunami (a potentially dangerous large wave of water) warning buoy belonging to the Chilean Navy Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service.  This buoy provides Chile with warning of approaching tsunamis.

The Teacher 

Masked Boobie- these birds fly in front of the ship for hundreds of miles seeking fish.  They will occasionally land on the ship to rest.
Masked Boobies fly in front of the ship for hundreds of miles seeking fish and occasionally land on the ship to rest.

Let me introduce myself—I’m Brett Hoyt, a NOAA Teacher at Sea.  NOAA’s Teacher at Sea program is open to all teachers K-16 who would like the opportunity to experience first hand working side by side with some of the planet’s top scientists conducting cutting-edge research. If you would like to apply or just know more about the Teacher, go here.

I will be bringing into your classroom the day-to-day happenings that are happening on board the NOAA research ship the RONALD H. BROWN.  Please feel free to email me (hoytbk@gmail.com) with any questions you might have about the program, the research, the scientists or any question in general about the ocean.  I will try to answer as many as I can.  In return, I will from time to time pose questions for you or your class to tackle.  I will give hints as to where you might find the answer.

Questions of the Day 

Elememtary K-6:  How much of the earth is covered by Water?  How much is covered by Land? Hint.

Middle school: What chemical compound makes up water? Are the elements solid, liquid, or gas? Hint.

High School: Why is the ocean blue?  Are all oceans blue?  Why or Why not? Hint.

On my next posting I will be giving you a tour of some of the staff and equipment on board the ship.

Eric Heltzel, October 19, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 19, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

Sailing on the RONALD H. BROWN as a NOAA Teacher at Sea has been an opportunity to experience scientific research first hand.  I have been impressed by the commitment to excellence exhibited by all members of the scientific teams.  They have undertaken the design and logistical challenges of the Stratus 6 cruise with great attention to detail, absolute commitment to execution of the plan, and countless hours of effort.  Tasks were carried out with a high degree of professionalism and in good humor.

The officers and crew of the BROWN were not only generous and considerate, they were very competent.  People knew their jobs and did them without complaint.  There seems to be an enthusiasm for the research that the ship facilitates.  Throughout the cruise I felt confident that the ship was in good hands.

Going to sea for the first time has been a challenge for me.  As with many things that push us outside our comfort zone and away from the familiar, learning is fast paced and intense.  This will be my last log from the RONALD H. BROWN.  I wish to thank the Teacher at Sea program of NOAA for making this experience possible.  Thanks to Captain Tim Wright and the officers and crew of the BROWN for helping this previously land-locked teacher from Wyoming have a great experience.  Special thanks to Dr. Bob Weller and the team from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution for taking me under their wings and answering my numerous questions.  Thanks to Peggy Decaria for substituting for me in my classes at Evanston High School.  I never would have been able to have this experience if not for the support of Superintendent Dennis Wilson and all of Uinta County School District #1.  I’m going back to school with a rich experience to share, new resources to facilitate my teaching, and many new ideas.  Thanks to you all.

Eric Heltzel, October 18, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 18, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

Rodrigo Castro and Carolina Cisternas are research technicians from the University of Concepcion in Concepcion, Chile.  They joined the cruise at Panama City and have been taking ocean water samples every 60 nm.  Their samples are run through 0.7 and 0.2 micron filters.  They capture and freeze particulate organic mater by this process and take it back to the lab at the university.  The samples are analyzed for the presence of stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen.  These samples are then used as biomarkers to help determine the circulation of ocean water.  A second analysis will be going on to locate the gene associated with nitrogen-fixing organisms.  This is new ground for the scientists at the university.

Upwellings are areas where deep ocean water comes to the surface.  According to Rodrigo and Carolina there are four significant areas of upwelling along the Chilean coast. The two most northerly are found at 20 degrees south and 24 degrees south.  These are active year round and are slow and steady with no significant seasonal fluctuation. Another at 30 degrees south is moderate in nature with some seasonal variation, being more active during the summer.  The most southerly is at 36 degrees south and is strong September to April. However it mostly disappears the rest of the year. Upwelling zones are recognizable because of their cooler water temperature.  They also have increased nutrients that are brought up from the deep and a higher amount of chlorophyll due to increased photosynthetic activity.  Some fish species are found in greater abundance in these zones due to increased nutrients extending into more food availability.

Personal Log 

The RONALD H. BROWN is under way. We are steaming in an easterly heading on the leg of the cruise that will take us to Arica, Chile.  It is a bit of a challenge for me, as we are no longer headed into the direction of the swells; instead, we are crossing them at a 30-degree angle, which makes for more oscillations in the movement of the ship.  My tummy is being challenged.

Eric Heltzel, October 14, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 14, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge
Temperature: 19 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1016 mb
Relative Humidity: 70%
Clouds cover: 8/8, stratocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 120 degrees
Wind speed: 16kts.
Wave height: 3 – 4’
Swell wave height: 4 – 5’
Swell direction: 120 degrees
Seawater Temperature: 18.3 degrees C
Salinity: 35 parts per thousand
Ocean depth: 4364 meters

Science and Technology Log 

A big day today! We managed to deploy the Stratus 5 buoy.  It was basically the reverse of our retrieval. The buoy was tipped up 45 degrees and the top 35 meters of instruments were hooked together.  Next the mooring was attached to the buoy and it was placed in the water with a crane. This phase was done off of the portside of the fantail.  We held the wire that was attached to the buoy and let it swing out behind the ship.  Then using a large winch we would play out more of the cable, stop, secure the line, and then attach the next instrument.  Consider the fact that if we were to lose hold of the mooring we could lose the whole works into 4000 + meters of ocean water.  It’s not like working on land where if you drop something, you say whoops and pick it up again.  If that happens on the ship the thing you drop may well go over the side.  Serious Whoops!

Once all of the instruments were attached we started paying out nylon and polypropylene line. This was accomplished by using an H-bit to run the line through.  The line was in 4’ x 4’ x 4’ boxes and trailed out into the ocean as the ship moved forward at just over one knot. When we got to the end of the line it was time to attach the new acoustic releases so that this buoy can be recovered next year.  Then it was time for the big splash. The mooring was attached to the anchor which was made up of three iron disks, twelve inches thick and three feet in diameter.  The anchor’s weight is 9000 pounds. The anchor was sitting on a steel plate and the stern of the fantail.  A crane picked up the forward edge of the plate and tipped the anchor into the ocean.  The splash from the six-foot drop to the water went twenty feet in the air.  The anchor started the trip to the bottom dragging all of the mooring and the buoy.  The falling anchor pulled the buoy at about four knots towards the anchor location.  Excited cheers went up on the fantail. The Stratus 5 buoy had been successfully deployed!

Instruments Deployed (top 450 meters)

Deployed on the mooring line beneath the buoy: MICRO CAT temperature, salinity SEA CAT temperature, salinity Brancker temperature, salinity VMCM direction, velocity of water flow NORTEK acoustic Doppler current profiler T-POD   temperature logging device SONTEK acoustic Doppler current meter RDI ADCP acoustic Doppler current profiler (125 m) SDE 39 temperature logging device Acoustic release just above the anchor

On the buoy: (this information is transmitted 4 times a day) Atmospheric pressure, Air temperature, Wind speed and direction, Relative humidity, Precipitation, Long wave radiation, Short wave radiation, Sea surface temperature and salinity.

You may notice that many of the instruments on the mooring measure the same thing.  This redundancy is intentional guaranteeing verifiable data.  There are two complete meteorological systems on the buoy.

Response to Student Questions 

Does the stratus layer extend to the land?

After questioning the senior scientists about this the answer is yes.  We are at about 20 degrees south. Here there is a daily fluctuation in the cloud cover.  It often dissipates during the afternoon as a result of warming by the sun.  Apparently the coast of northern Chile often has a cloud layer that also dissipates during the day.  This can be low-lying enough to be fog. As you travel a few miles inland and up in elevation you are no longer under the stratus layer.

Does the stratus layer affect El Nino?

Ocean and atmosphere constantly influence each other.  I have to do more inquiry to give a solid answer to this question.

Note: There is some confusion about the labels being used for the buoy and the cruise.  This is the sixth Stratus Project cruise which is deploying the fifth Stratus buoy.  Hence, the Stratus 6 cruise is recovering the Straus 4 buoy and deploying the Stratus 5 buoy.

Eric Heltzel, October 13, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 13, 2005

A small boat is launched in order to get to the stratus buoy
A small boat is launched in order to get to the Stratus buoy

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

We are holding on station today as the data from the Stratus 4 buoy is downloaded and analyzed. I helped out on the fantail for a couple of hours today.  We were rearranging the positions of the Stratus 4 and 5 buoys. These are large, heavy devices that can only be moved by crane and winches. The buoy waiting for deployment is now on the portside of the fantail, is strapped down, activated, and awaiting deployment.  The buoy we retrieved yesterday is tucked in next to the starboard side crane. This doesn’t sound like a big thing, but each buoy is very heavy and the deck is moving up and down six feet and rocking side to side every few seconds. We go slowly and are very deliberate.

Sean Whelan attaches a line to the buoy
Sean Whelan attaches a line to the buoy

Jeff Lord is setting up for deployment of the Stratus 5 buoy and its array of instruments.  The buoy will be launched, followed by the mooring and its attached instruments, and lastly the 9000-pound anchor will be deployed over the stern of the ship.  Before this a Sea Beam survey of the ocean floor has to be accomplished to help Dr. Weller choose the site of the Straus 5 deployment.  I am continuously amazed by the thorough planning that has been done for this venture.

Personal Log 

I’m sitting on the foredeck of the BROWN as I write this entry. It’s once again a partly sunny day and I am sitting out of the wind enjoying the sunshine. I realize that I haven’t seen a jet contrail since we crossed the equator. Yesterday I did see a whale spout at about of a quarter mile out and there was a fishing boat about four miles away.  Except for a few birds the view is of ocean and sky.  We had an abandon-ship drill Tuesday and the captain announced that the nearest land is some Argentine islands over 400 miles away.  We are out there.

Glass balls attached to the buoy
Glass balls attached to the buoy
The buoy is retrieved for maintenance
The buoy is retrieved for maintenance

Eric Heltzel, October 11, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 11, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

The throbbing heart of the RONALD H. BROWN is the engine room and the associated systems.  Last night Assistant Engineer Wayne Smith gave me a tour.  I was impressed with the complexity and effectiveness of the systems.

The core of the power is six Caterpillar diesel engines.  These function as electric generators for the ship’s systems.  The three largest of these are dedicated to the propulsion of the ship. The ship is propelled and maneuvered by two aft thrusters and one bow thruster. The thrusters are propellers that have the ability to be rotated 360 degrees. Each thruster is driven by and independent Z-Drive that is actuated by an electric motor and shaft.  Under normal sailing only the two aft thrusters are in use.  The bow thruster is engaged when the ship is maneuvering into dock or holding a position.  As I write, we are holding position 0.25 nautical miles from the Stratus buoy.  By engaging the Dynamic Positioning System a location for the ship is established via GPS and a computer controls the direction and rpm of the thrusters.  This allows the BROWN to hold a position without having to drop anchor.  I was surprised to learn that this ship has no rudder—it is steered via the Z-Drive of the thrusters.

Since the BROWN is a research vessel it has on board many sophisticated electronic instruments.  The current running through its wires is like our household current, about 115 volts.  Because of the sensitive nature of some of the equipment there are outlets labeled “clean power”. This current runs through a secondary motor which ensures that there will be no power spikes that could damage electronic equipment.

Ventilation is very important and there are several air conditioning systems that control the temperature in most of the ship.  Different areas have independent thermostats so the ship is quite comfortable.  The science labs are generally kept quite cool.  Freshwater is supplied by using heat from the engines to evaporate seawater.  The condensed steam is run through bromine filters to ensure no bacteria in the water tanks.  The water is extremely soft, having no salts in it.  Wayne chuckled at the idea of people buying bottled water to drink on ship because the water provided is as pure as water gets.

The NOAA research vessel RONALD H. BROWN was launched in 1997.  It is the largest ship in the fleet and provides a state of the art research platform.  The versatility and capabilities of this ship and expertise of the crew allow up to 59 people to sail for extended periods of time and perform sophisticated oceanographic and atmospheric research.  I feel privileged to be along on the Stratus 6 cruise.

Personal Log

Wow! I can see my shadow.  This is cause for staying out on deck. We have been sailing under overcast skies since we crossed the equator.  I’m sitting out on the bench on the 03 deck beneath the Bridge. There’s a breeze blowing from the southeast but I’m comfortable in a light jacket and shorts.  It has been a surprise to be traveling in tropical waters with overcast skies and cool temperatures.  It makes me realize that we get a lot of sunny days in Wyoming.

At 1415 today we had a meeting outlining the program for tomorrow.  Jeff Lord from WHOI is coordinating the buoy recovery program.  He is very organized and has gone through step by step how it will be done.  It will be a very interesting, very busy day tomorrow.  It is very important to the success of this cruise that we recover all of the instruments and buoy safely.  At 0640 the acoustic release will be activated and the floats attached to the mooring will be released from the anchor.  The depth here is 4400 m and it will take the floats about 40 minutes to reach the surface.  This will be a major operation involving everyone on the ship.

Eric Heltzel, October 9, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 9, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

After Dr. Lundquist and I have a successful radiosonde launch we return to the computer terminal and watch the measurement data come in.  My favorite display is a color-coded graph showing temperature, dew point, and relative humidity graphed against the altitude of the radiosonde. The main area of study is taking place where we are in the eastern Pacific off the coast of northern Chile.  In this area there is a large, semi-permanent layer of stratus clouds.  The effects these clouds have on the ocean temperature, and vice versa, is one of the reasons for choosing this area to study.

As the balloon ascends from the ship the temperature cools at the dry adiabatic rate. The dew point goes down but not as rapidly.  Usually at an elevation of about  600 meters the dew point and temperature intersect.  On the same screen green line showing relative humidity hits 100% as we would expect.  This marks the base of the cloud layer.

As the radiosonde ascends another 200 to 400 meters the temperature shoots way up, as much as 8 degrees C.  This indicates the top on the cloud layer where the sun is shining brightly. As the balloon continues to ascend the temperature once again cools consistently at the dry adiabatic rate.  It’s about negative forty degrees C at an altitude of 20 kilometers.  In this part of the atmosphere the relative humidity approaches zero and the dew point stays well below the air temperature.  This suggests the upper air is descending and is stable. The bottom 800 meters is referred to as a marine boundary layer.

Despite the constant cloud cover there is very little precipitation in this area.  Temperatures at the ocean level are surprisingly cool as evidenced my most of the crew wearing long pants and jackets or sweatshirts.  Atmospheric and oceanic data in this area are very sparse. One goal of the Stratus Project is to gather more information so we can better understand the interrelationships between ocean and atmosphere.

Personal log

As I write this I am on my watch in the main science lab.  I’m preparing to launch a Drifter in about 15 minutes and I will launch a weather balloon at 13:00.  It’s really fun to throw things into the ocean and release balloons into the atmosphere and see where they go.

Our ETA at the Stratus mooring site is 17:30.  We are approaching the end of southerly leg of our cruise. There are about six days of work scheduled at the buoy site.  It should be interesting.

Eric Heltzel, October 8, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 8, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

I’ve been working with the meteorological team from NOAA in Boulder, Colorado. I’ve been teamed with Dr. Jessica Lundquist to manage the 13:00 weather balloon launch. Balloons are launched four times a day at intervals of six hours.  A balloon carries an instrument called a radiosonde to a height often exceeding 20 kilometers.  Eventually the balloon ruptures and the instrument and spent balloon fall to earth.

When preparing a radiosonde we take the battery pack and add water to activate it. As the battery is soaking, the sonde is attached to the computer interface/radio receiver, and it is activated and calibrated.  It is necessary to have real-time weather measurements to input into the sonde so it has a comparison to ensure accuracy.  A radio transmitting frequency is selected then the sonde is detached from the interface and attached to the battery.  While it is still in the lab, we make sure that data is being transmitted.  If all of this goes correctly the radiosonde is set to launch.

We take the activated radiosonde out to the staging bay, which looks a bit like a garage. There are two overhead doors, a workbench, and bottles of helium.  We inflate the balloon with helium to a diameter of about five feet.  When it is inflated we close the balloon with a zip-tie, then attach the radiosonde by its hook, and close it with another zip-tie. We call the Bridge and let them know we are about to launch a balloon.

Now comes the tricky part, walking out on the fantail of the rolling ship carrying a large balloon in one hand and the radiosonde in the other.  Today there 16-knot winds coming from the SE and a wind generated by the ship’s speed of an additional 10 knots from due south.  To complicate matters further, the superstructure of the ship blocks the wind and creates erratic eddies. We check the wind direction and decide on which corner of the fantail will give us the cleanest launch.  Walking aft, the balloon is buffeted by the wind. It pulls and pushes you in various directions while you try to maintain balance on the heaving deck.  When you reach the railing, you hold your hands out and release the balloon and radiosonde. If it clears the A frame and the other equipment you stand and watch your balloon ascend until it enters the cloud layer and disappears.  We call the Bridge and let them know the balloon is away.

Now we return to the Lab to check that our sonde is sending out data.  Measurements of temperature, relative humidity, and atmospheric pressure are taken and sent back every two seconds. The GPS tracking device allows us to know wind speed, wind direction, altitude, and location of the radiosonde.  The measurements of temperature and relative humidity allow the computer to calculate the dew point.  Data streams in until the balloon reaches an elevation where the atmospheric pressure of  about 30, the balloon fails and the radiosonde falls to earth. Tomorrow: More about radiosonde information.

Questions to Consider 

-What is an eddy?

-What will happen to the volume of the balloon as it rises in the atmosphere?

-Why does atmospheric pressure decrease as elevation increases?

-What is the relative humidity when dew point and air temperature are the same?

-What is the adiabatic rate?

-What is a temperature inversion?

Personal log

I am a Pollywog.  Yes, that’s right. I’m one of those slimy little creatures with a spherical body and a tail. At least that’s what the Shellbacks tell us.  A pollywog is a person who has never sailed across the equator and gone through the ceremony and initiation to move onward. Shellbacks are people who have been through these rites.  I made the mistake of admitting that I don’t know what a Shellback is.  I fear that admission will come back to haunt me.  Initiation is approaching. I don’t know what I’ll have to do. I’ll keep you posted.

Eric Heltzel, October 7, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 7, 2005

The adopted buoy, ready for deployment
The adopted drifter buoy, ready for deployment

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 18.6 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1014 mb
Relative Humidity: 78%
Clouds cover: 6/8,stratocumulus, cumulus, cirrus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 140 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 6 – 8’
Seawater Temperature: 18.6 degrees C
Salinity: 35.25 parts per thousand
Ocean depth: 4476 meters

Evanston High School, your adopted Drifter is in the water! 

Lara Hutto is a Research Associate II at Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. She and I deployed our Drifter Buoy off the port side stern of the fantail at 19:01 UTC (the time at the Prime Meridian) on October 6, 2005. Our Drifter serial number is 54410.

The sock of the drifter buoy is unfurled
The sock of the drifter buoy is unfurled

To: Heltzel’s Oceanography/Meteorology students:  The NOAA decals you signed were placed on the dome of our drifter.  All of your names and the name of Evanston High School are floating freely in the eastern Pacific off the west coast of Peru.  You should be able to track it on the Drifter web page. Should anyone find it they will be able to identify who adopted Drifter 54410.

Update: the EHS drifter is streaming in data from the eastern Pacific. Check it out here. I can’t access this website from the ship but Kevin O’Brien of NOAA says that data is being sent by our adopted drifter.  Check it out and let me know what you find.

Science and Technology Log 

Drifters are a wonderful tool for gathering information about earth’s oceans.  They have a spherical top which provides flotation and contains the electronics of this device.  These include a temperature probe for measuring the surface seawater temperature and a GPS tracking signal. This device is battery powered and is regularly sending out information on seawater temperature and location.

When deployed a fabric tube (sock) extends downward to a depth of between 10 and 15 meters. This is attached to the floating sphere by cable. The sock reduces the effect of winds and surface waves on the movement of the Drifters.  The data is gathered via satellite and plotted. This helps us figure out movements of the ocean waters at the surface.

An entire person can easily fit inside the sock
An entire person can easily fit inside the sock

Compared to many of the instruments that are attached to the Stratus mooring, Drifters are simple.  They are easily deployed because the unit activates itself once it hits the water.  A magnet is attached to the dome and it holds the switch in an off position. Once the magnet is removed, the switch is activated and The Drifter is on the job.  The magnet is attached with water-soluble glue so once in the water the glue dissolves, the magnet falls off, and the Drifter is activated. The sock is also rolled up and held in position with water-soluble tape.  Once in the water this also dissolves and the sock extends downward. The ingenious design of Drifters makes them very easy to deploy.  These are sent out with any type of ship so Drifters have been placed in many of the world’s oceans. Life expectancy on a Drifter is one to two years.

Questions to Consider 

How might the information gathered from Drifters be useful?

What are some ways that the oceans and the atmosphere affect one another?

Personal Log

My quarters are in the low part of the ship.  I have no natural light to tell whether it is night or day. As I lay in my bunk I can hear the sounds of the ship pushing downward through the waves. Sometimes it sounds like gurgling water, sometimes like something solid is striking the hull, other times like the sound of rapids on a river.  When I’m nearly asleep I imagine I am at home in Wyoming and the sounds I hear are of a raging blizzard outside my window. I go on deck of the RONALD H. BROWN and look at the tropical eastern Pacific waters.  Toto, this definitely isn’t Wyoming!

Eric Heltzel, October 6, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 6, 2005

Eric on the bridge of the RON BROWN
Eric on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Weather Data from Bridge, 07:00 

Temperature: 19.1 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1012 mb
Relative Humidity: 78%
Clouds cover: 8/8, stratocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 160 degrees
Wind speed: 6kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 18.3 degrees C

Science and Technology Log 

The science team from the Upper Ocean Processes Group is busy preparing instruments to be deployed on the mooring of the Stratus 5 Buoy. Each instrument must be physically examined to ensure that it is properly mounted in its rack.  Then these instruments are awakened to make sure that they are working properly. They are hooked up to a computer so that their operation and calibration can be tested.

The Stratus Buoy
The Stratus Buoy

Today I had a look at a mechanical current meter.  These were designed by Senior Scientist, Dr. Bob Weller as part of his Doctoral work at Scripps Institute. The instrument is housed in an aluminum cylinder that is 2 feet long and 7” in diameter.  The canister is water tight utilizing two interior rubber seals. Extending from one end is a 3’ long PCV mast that has two propeller mounts on it. At each mount are two sets of propellers on either side of the hub.  The two mounts are set at 90 degrees to one another. When water flows through the propellers revolutions are measure and the data is stored in a chip inside the canister.  The number of revolutions per given unit of time gives the velocity of the current.  Having two sets of propellers set at 90-degree angles allows the direction of the current to be determined.

There is also a second type of current meter that uses measurements of sound waves to determine current velocity.  Several of these will be deployed on the mooring along with the mechanical current meters.  Using two types of instruments allows the team to compare results.  The mechanical units have been used for about 20 years and they are known to be reliable and accurate.  Placing the acoustic velocity meter nearby will help determine the accuracy of these devices.

Questions to Consider 

Why are all the instrument cases cylindrical in shape?

Why is a “sacrificial zinc anode” placed on each end of the mechanical current meter?

How could the direction of a current be determined using two sets of propellers at 90- degree angles to one another?

Why build canisters out of aluminum?

Eric Heltzel, October 5, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 5, 2005

Weather Data from Bridge 

Temperature: 19.5 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1010 mb
Relative Humidity: 90.5%
Clouds cover: 8/8, stratocumulus, altostratus
Visibility: 9 nm
Wind direction: 230 degrees
Wind speed: 6kts.
Wave height: 3 – 4’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 19.5 degrees C
Salinity: 34.7 parts per thousand

Science and Technology Log 

Notice that the seawater temperature declined from 28.7 to 18.8 degrees C between yesterday and today. We crossed the equator last night so this must have something to do with it.  I went to Doctor Weller and asked for an explanation:

At this latitude and at this season we are still under the influence of the southeast Trade Winds.  Wave motion generates and moves at 90 degrees to the wind direction.  Now the Coriolis Effect comes into play causing waves to deflect to the left in the southern hemisphere.  That means that the prevailing wave direction is from northeast to southwest south of the equator.

As the winds move into the northern hemisphere wave movement is still at 90 degrees. However, now the Coriolis Effect causes waves to deflect to the right, from southwest to northeast. So this time of year the wave motion in the two hemispheres is 180 degrees to one another.  As the surface waters move apart, deeper ocean water comes to the surface to fill the area evacuated by the surface wave motion.  This water is coming from greater depths and is colder.  This accounts for the lowering of the seawater temperature.  Dr. Weller suggests that this action brings nutrients to the surface which should enhance feeding opportunities for marine life.

Vertical and horizontal motion of ocean water causes constant exchanges of heat energy. These exchanges are between water of different temperatures and also the atmosphere.  Currents, waves, upwelling, evaporation, and winds are just some of the factors that influence heat exchanges on planet earth.  These processes are critical to maintaining global climates.  Dr. Weller’s Upper Ocean Processes Group seeks to better understand these relationships.

Ship Crew Activity 

I went to the Bridge this morning to gather weather and sea condition data.  The Officer of the Deck was LTJG Silas Ayers and the Watch Stander was Ordinary Seaman Phil Pokorski.  The Bridge Officer always has a crewmember with them whose job it is to be lookout to scan the ocean and report what can be seen.  This could be another ship, debris, or whales. The crewmember takes a sighting and determines the distance and bearing. Avoiding collision is an important job for the Officer of the Deck.

While there, the three of us engaged in a discussion of nautical measurements and their equivalencies. LTJG Ayers went to the Chart Room and extracted a reference book.  Here are the values we found:

Fathom = 6 feet, 2 yards, 1.8288 meters

Cable = 720 feet, 240 yards, 219.4560 meters

Statute Mile = 5280 feet, 1760 yards, 1609.344 meters

Nautical Mile = 6,076.11548556 feet, 1852 meters, 1.150779448 statute miles

League = 3 statute miles, 4830 meters

(As in 20,000 Leagues under the Sea)

Being a Jules Verne fan, I’ve often wondered how far 20,000 leagues really is.  Now I know that it is 60,000 statute miles.  But nowhere is the ocean nearly that deep. Phil then pointed out that Verne was referring to horizontal distance traveled while submerged in the Nautilus.  Finally the title of his tale makes sense to me.

Personal Note 

Starting last evening I was hearing a squeaking sound.  At first I thought it was my deck shoes squeaking on the tile deck floors.  Then I notice that even when I wasn’t moving the sound persisted. I was beginning to wonder if being at sea and wearing a motion sickness patch wasn’t causing me to be hallucinatory.  I looked and looked for the source of the sound. I finally asked Dr. Weller if he could hear it and fortunately he said yes. It is the sound generated by the Sea Beam, the ocean floor profiler.  I was relieved to know that if wasn’t just me hearing this sound.

Eric Heltzel, October 4, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Southeast Pacific
Date: October 4, 2005

Acoustic releases
Acoustic releases

Weather Data from Bridge

Temperature: 25.5 degrees C
Clouds cover: 6/8, stratus, altocumulus
Visibility: 12 nm
Wind direction: 245 degrees
Wind speed: 13kts.
Wave height: 3 – 5’
Swell wave height: 3 – 5’
Seawater Temperature: 28.7 degrees C
Sea level Atmospheric pressure: 1005 mb
Relative Humidity: 82%

Science and Technology Log 

Today Senior Scientist Bob Weller and Senior Engineer Assistant Paul Bouchard showed me the acoustic releases.  These are devices that are placed on the tether that holds the Stratus Buoy to its anchor on the ocean floor. At the deployment location the ocean depth is 4425 meters (14,518 feet).  The acoustic release will be placed 30 meters from the anchor. Attached to the tether will be 35 instruments placed at a particular distance from the buoy. Their attachment distance will determine the depth at which they are located and will allow scientists to gather data about conditions at these particular depths of the water column.

The job of the acoustic release is to detach the buoy and tether from the anchor.  When we arrive at the currently deployed buoy a digitized acoustic signal will be sent through the water.  The acoustic release will “turn loose” of the anchor and allow our team to retrieve the buoy and the instruments attached to the tether. This is important because some of the instruments contain a year’s worth of data that must be downloaded and analyzed. Another reason is the cost of the buoy itself, all of the instruments, and the cable and line that have held it to the anchor. These things are worth about $500,000 dollars and would be difficult to replace. All of the instruments can be refurbished and used again.

Cornell Hill making a line splice.
Cornell Hill making a line splice.

When we arrive at the currently deployed Stratus Buoy the acoustic release that was put in place last year will be activated.  This should allow us to retrieve the system and replace it with the one we are carrying on board the ship. The acoustic releases we are carrying will be placed in the tether holding the new buoy and will not be activated until next year when that system is recovered. Acoustic releases are also used on drilling platforms and other objects tethered to the sea floor. These machines allow the objects tethered to be freed without the need to dive into the water and cut the line. These are an ingenious piece of technology that improves the safety and convenience of oceanographic research teams.

Ship Crew Activity 

I had the opportunity to watch Boatswain Group Leader Cornell Hill making a line splice.  He took the end of the line around a metal eye that is built with a groove on the outside. The line comes back on itself and Cornell braids the strands into the main part of the line. He has a knife with a spike on it to help lift the strands so he can braid it together.  What results is a closed loop with metal lining at the end of the line.  It’s very strong and is used as an attachment point. I have long wondered how this was done so it was very interesting to see the skillful way Cornell accomplished this feat.

Terms 

Acoustic signal – a particular blend of frequency and pattern of sounds that sends a message through the water to instruct a device to perform its operation. Example is the signal sent to activate the acoustic release.

Acoustic Release – a device that releases a line when given the proper sound signal. Used in the tether system of the Stratus buoy.

Bosun – crew member in charge of deck operations

Line – rope Line Splice – Braiding stands of a line back into itself.

Tether – attachment to a fixed object. This may be a combination of cable, chain, line, or wire. Example is the attachment of the Stratus Buoy so that it  doesn’t drift away.