Linda Kurtz: Reflections from Fairweather, September 7, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Linda Kurtz

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

August 12-23, 2019

Mission: Cascadia Mapping Project

Geographic Area of Cruise: Pacific Northwest (Off the coast of California)

Date: 9/7/2019

Weather Data from Marietta, GA:

Latitude: 33.963900
Longitude:  -84.492260
Sky Conditions:  Clear
Present Weather:  Hot
Visibility: 9 miles
Windspeed: Less than 1 knot
Temperature:  Record high 97 degrees Fahrenheit

It’s been weeks since I disembarked in Newport, Oregon and left Fairweather behind. I still feel like I’m a part of the crew since I was welcomed so seamlessly into any job I tried to learn while Teacher at Sea. However, the crew is still working away as I continue to share my experiences with my students in Marietta, Georgia.

As I have been working on lessons for my classroom, I keep finding fun facts and information about ship life that I didn’t share in my previous posts. So, here is my final post and some of my most frequent questions by students answered:

Question 1: Where did you sleep?

I slept in a berth, I had a comfortable bed, drawers, a locker, and a sink. There was a TV too, which I never watched since a) I like to read more than watch TV and b) the ship would rock me to sleep so fast I could never stay up too long at bedtime!

Question 2: What was the weather like when you were at sea?

Some days (and nights) so foggy that they had to use the fog horn for safety!

Question 3: What animals did you see?

I highlighted animals in all of my posts and linked sites to learn more, go check it out! There is one animal I didn’t include in my posts that I would like to share with you! The first is the California Sea Lion found in the Newport harbor. You could hear them from across the harbor so I had to go check them out!

See the video below:

California Sea Lions

Question 4: What happens next with the hydrographic survey work?

This is one of my favorite questions from students! It shows how much you have learned about this very important scientific work and are thinking about what is next. The hydrographic survey maps are now in post processing, where the survey technicians, Sam, Bekah, Joe, and Michelle are working hard to make sure the data is correct. I shared in a previous hydrographic survey blog an example of Fairweather’s hydrographic survey maps, I also checked in with the USGS scientists James Conrad and Peter Dartnell to see what they were doing with their research and they shared some information that will help answer this question.

From Peter Dartnell, USGS research scientist: “Here are a few maps of the bathymetry data we just collected including the area off Coos Bay, off Eureka, and a close-up view of the mud volcano. The map off Eureka includes data we collected last year. I thought it would be best to show the entire Trinidad Canyon.”

From James Conrad USGS research geologist: “Here is an image of a ridge that we mapped on the cruise. The yellow dots are locations of methane bubble plumes that mark seafloor seeps. In the next few weeks, another NOAA ship, the Lasker, is planning to lower a Remotely Operated Vehicle to the seafloor here to see what kinds of critters live around these seeps. Methane seeps are known to have unique and unusual biologic communities associated with them. For scale, the ridge is about 8 miles long.”

underwater ridge
Bathymetry map showing ridge

So, even though the research cruise is over, the research and follow up missions resulting from the research are ongoing and evolving every day.

Question 5: Would you go back if you could be a Teacher at Sea again?

YES! There is still so much to learn. I want to continue my own learning, but most importantly, lead my students to get excited about the important scientific research while keeping the mission of the NOAA close to their hearts: “To understand and predict changes in climate, weather, oceans, and coasts, to share that knowledge and information with others, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems and resources. Dedicated to the understanding and stewardship of the environment.

Fair winds and following seas Fairweather, I will treasure this experience always.

Erica Marlaine: Diving Down the pH Scale, July 13, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Erica Marlaine

Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson

June 22 – July 15, 2019

Mission: Pollock Acoustic-Trawl Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 13, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 57º 09.61 N
Longitude: 152º 20.99W
Wind Speed: 15 knots
Wind Direction: 210 º
Air Temperature:  12º Celsius
Barometric Pressure: 1013 mb
Depth of water column 84 m
Surface Sea Temperature: 12º Celsius

Science and Technology Log

Are you wondering what it’s really like to live and work full-time on a NOAA research vessel? I asked Andrea Stoneman, the Senior Survey Technician on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.

Andrea Stoneman
Senior Survey Technician Andrea Stoneman

Like everyone onboard the Oscar Dyson, Andrea is always working hard, but always has a smile on her face. Originally from Duluth, Minnesota, she has been employed by NOAA as a “wage mariner” for a year. A wage mariner means she is an at-sea civilian employee of NOAA. She began college at the University of Minnesota as a business major, but an internship as a freshwater mussel researcher changed her life and made her realize her true love: BIOLOGY! She earned a degree in Environmental Science, and then attended graduate school at Delaware State University, where NOAA funded her research on ocean acidification and its impact on fish.

Are you wondering what ocean acidification means?  

The amount of carbon in the ocean is rising due to an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air. Carbon dioxide acidifies the water, reducing its pH level.  The letters pH stands for the ‘potential of Hydrogen.’ The pH scale was invented in 1909 by a biochemist names S.P. Sorenson. The scale uses numbers from 1 to 14, with 1 being the most acidic, 14 being the least acidic (or more alkaline) and 7 as the middle (neutral) point.

For the past 300 million years, the average pH of the ocean was approximately 8.2. It is now closer to 8.1, a drop of 0.1 pH units.  Remember, the numbers go “in reverse” so a drop in pH means it is MORE acidic.  You may be thinking, but it’s only a drop of 0.1. That doesn’t sound like a lot. However, a drop of 0.1 represents a 25-percent increase in acidity.  That’s because the pH scale is a logarithmic scale, not a linear scale.  To understand a linear scale, think of a ruler. The difference between inches on a ruler stays constant. A 5-inch fish is one inch bigger than a 4-inch fish, and 2 inches bigger than a 3-inch fish. In contrast, the pH scale is a logarithmic scale in which two adjacent values increase or decrease by a factor of 10.  Therefore, a pH of 3 is ten times more acidic than a pH of 4, and 100 times more acidic than a pH of 5.

Studies indicate that many marine species may experience adverse effects on their health, growth, reproduction, and life span due to ocean acidification. That means fish could develop diseases, have fewer babies, or die younger.

You and I need calcium to build strong bones. We get calcium through milk, cheese, green leafy vegetables, and many other sources. Marine species also need calcium carbonate to build their bones or shells. Ocean acidification causes carbonate ions to be less abundant in the ocean, which makes it harder for marine species to build strong bones and shells. This is especially bad for oysters, clams, sea urchins, corals, and mussels, the very species that made Andrea fall in love with science!

After graduate school, Andrea worked as a fisheries observer on commercial fishing vessels. (I met quite a few people on-board the ship who are or were observers.) To a non-fisheries person, an “observer” SOUNDS like someone who stands around watching others, but it is actually very hard work! Observers document compliance (making sure that things are being done the correct way). They take samples of the catch and collect data regarding the size of the catch and the species caught.  The data goes into the same service model that NOAA data does, which is vital for ensuring sustainable fishing for the future. 

Through her work as an observer in Alaska, Andrea met people at NOAA, took a tour of a NOAA ship, and decided to apply for a job with NOAA.  (Hmmm… When I interviewed Ensign Andonian for an earlier blog, she also mentioned visiting a NOAA ship as the thing that made her decide to choose a career with NOAA. That gives you an idea of just how amazing NOAA ships are!)

So what does a Senior Survey Technician do?

She runs and maintains all of the scientific sensors on the ship (including the meteorological and oceanographic sensors). She also runs the CTD, a device which measures the conductivity, temperature, depth, salinity, and other oceanographic parameters of the water. 

The CTD device

In addition, she is involved in setting and retrieving the fishing nets and is an expert at processing the catch in the fish lab. Andrea ensures that the data collected onboard is sound and accurate, and “packages” the data so that it is presentable and accessible to NOAA thus becoming accessible to the public whom NOAA serves.

Asked if she recommends a NOAA life, Andrea says it’s great for college graduates who have an interest in science and a love of the ocean. Some perks (especially for new college graduates) include living rent-free onboard, having delicious meals cooked for you three times a day, and getting to see the world while being involved in interesting, and sometimes ground-breaking, scientific research. An added perk is that working for the federal government can “erase” some of your student loans!

Andrea enjoys being the Senior Survey Technician onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson, and has fallen in love with Alaska, which she now considers her home.

Click below to watch a 2-minute video by NOAA about ocean acidification:

Personal Log

While I cannot describe what it is like to live full-time on a NOAA ship, I can tell you what it’s like as a Teacher at Sea for 26 days. Like everyone onboard, I “work” a 12-hour shift.  The science team works shifts starting at either 4 a.m. or 4 p.m.  I was assigned the 4 p.m. to 4 a.m. shift. That means I wake up most days between 2:30 and 3:00 in the afternoon.  On days that I am “good” I head down to the gym. On other days, I grab a light “breakfast” before heading to the chem lab to start my shift.

Often we start our shift processing fish by 4:30. First I suit up in steel-toed boots, a waterproof jacket and overalls, and elbow-high rubber gloves. 

Erica ready for the fish lab
I am ready to work in the fish lab!

Then we process the haul, which means sorting approximately 1000 pounds of fish and jellyfish by species.

An average-sized haul

We weigh them, measure them, and dissect some to collect otoliths (ear bones) or ovaries.  All of this can take 2-3 hours. Then we clean.  The fish lab gets COVERED in fish slime, scales, and jellyfish goo.

Jellyfish "goo"
Jellyfish “goo”

There are high-powered waters sprayers hanging from the ceiling, and we blast every surface in the room with saltwater for at least 10 minutes after every haul. Imagine cleaning your kitchen with a fire engine hose! It’s definitely the most fun I have ever had cleaning!  

cleaning the fish room
One of the many high power saltwater sprayers

At the end of the cruise, I will join Andrea the Survey Technician and the science team for 2-3 hours of meticulously scrubbing and spraying the fish lab so that it is clean and ready for the next group that comes aboard a few days after we leave.

Since the scientists onboard often want to do “pair trawls” (fishing in the same area using the “old” AWT net and the “newer” LFS net in order to align the catch data with the acoustics data),  I am often back in the fish lab an hour later to process another haul, and again clean the fish lab.

After that, depending upon the time, I might have a snack, or do research and write blogs, or spend time in the chem lab with my co-workers, Matthew Phillips (the Fish Lab Lead) and volunteer biologist Nathan Battey, discussing the haul or what is coming up for the rest of the shift. At about 11 p.m., the sun sets, and sometimes it is spectacular, so I try to pop out onto the deck for a quick photo. 

The sun setting near Mitrofania
The sun setting near Mitrofania

At midnight, we start getting ready to do the drop camera to determine which areas are trawlable. We usually do at least 4 camera drops, from approximately 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This time of night often involves the science team consuming caffeine, ice cream, red vines, sour patch kids, or all of the above. At 4 a.m., the next shift starts, and my roommate, Jamie Giganti, comes into the chem lab. Jamie is a field coordinator for AIS. She works as an observer part of the time, but also provides support and training for new observers, and acts as a liaison between boat captains and observers.

Jamie Giganti
My roommate Jamie Giganti

Jamie’s arrival in the chem lab means it is my turn to go to “our” room.  Although we are roommates, we are never actually in the room at the same time. The goal is that you stay out of the room for the 12 hours your roommate is off-shift, allowing them to sleep or relax.  That means that every time I am on shift I need to make sure that I take everything I might need for the day.

The first few days onboard, I was in bed and asleep 15 minutes after my shift ended. Now that I am accustomed to the schedule, or perhaps due to the caffeine or sugar, I am often up until 5 or 5:30 a.m. That means I go to sleep just as the sun rises.

My stateroom has a bathroom and shower, a desk, a few shelves, lockers that act as a closet, and bunkbeds.  (I was so happy when Jamie asked if she could have the top bunk!)

My state room
My state room

The large window has both magnificent views of Alaska and also blackout curtains that block the sun so that people on my shift can sleep.

The shower area in the bathroom has a slightly raised border, but since the boat moves while you are showering, so does the shower curtain.


Perhaps other people have figured out how to get the water to stay IN the shower.  I am still working on that. On the upside, the bathroom floor gets cleaned every day! (I am told that one trick is to use zip ties to “lengthen” the shower curtain.  (Next time?)

Processing a haul seems easy now, but it was overwhelming the first few days! As a non-scientist, I was unfamiliar with fish and jellyfish species, perplexed by the computer program used to enter data, and kept confusing which fish to measure, which fish to weigh, and which fish to measure and weigh.  I am so grateful for the patience of everyone around me!

Amazingly, I never got seasick. I wore a scopolamine patch for the first part of the trip, and then one day decided to take it off and learned that I had in fact “gotten my sea legs.” Now I barely feel the boat moving during the day and enjoy the light rocking at night.

I am writing this during my last few days onboard.  While we have occasionally been near land, during much of our time onboard, the view was the incredibly beautiful Gulf of Alaska.  Yesterday, when I saw land in the distance, I was sad to learn that it was Kodiak.  That means my time on the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson is almost over. 

Catherine Fuller: Into the Copper River Plume, July 7, 2019

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Catherine Fuller

Aboard R/V Sikuliaq

June 28 – July 18, 2019

Mission: Northern Gulf of Alaska (NGA) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER)

Geographic Area of Cruise: Northern Gulf of Alaska

Date: July 7, 2019

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 59° 40.065 N
Longitude: 146° 04.523 W
Wave Height: 2-3 ft
Wind Speed: 10.4 knots
Wind Direction: 254 degrees
Visibility:  100 m
Air Temperature: 12.0 °C
Barometric Pressure: 1015.4 mb
Sky: Overcast, foggy

Science and Technology Log

Usually LTER cruises are more focused on monitoring the ecosystem, but in our case, the cruise will also focus on a process study of the Copper River plume.

Copper River plume
This is a satellite photo of the plume with an overlay of the salinity of the water along our course. The darker colors represent the lowest salinity.

This seasonal plume brings iron and fresh water into the marine ecosystem, where they are dispersed by weather and currents. Because our winds have been very light, the plume is retaining its coiled shape remarkably well.  Our sampling on the Middleton Line (prior to the plume study) will add information about how both the Copper River fresh water and iron are spread along the shelf and throughout the food web.  

Clay Mazur
Clay checking the fluorescence of a sample.

Clay Mazur has a particular interest in the iron-rich waters of the plume.  He is a graduate student from Western Washington University who is working under Dr. Suzanne Strom (also onboard). He is one of a few on board who are working on their own experiments as opposed to assisting others.  The overall goal of his work is to study how iron in phytoplankton is limited and how the sporadic addition of it can stimulate growth.  He has a gigantic on-deck incubation experiment in which he will take an iron-limited plankton community from offshore in the Gulf and introduce iron-rich water from the Copper River plume to see what happens.  Clay will measure chlorophyll – an indication of biomass – by which he can estimate the plankton population.  He will also be checking the physiology of plankton in different size classes, and taking samples to see the pigments that every cell produces and if they change over time with the addition of water from the Copper River plume. His hypothesis is that everything should change: phytoplankton species composition, cell size, photosynthetic ‘health’, and chlorophyll production. When phytoplankton are iron-limited, they cannot produce healthy photosynthetic structures. 

Clay measured the same indicators on every station of the MID (Middleton Island) line and will also measure the same on GAK line.  These samples will use the metrics described above to show environmental heterogeneity along the cross-shelf sampling lines. Samples from the MID and GAK line will also allow his iron experiment to be seen in context.  Does the iron-rich community that develops during the experiment match anything that we see on the shelf? How realistic is experiment within the Gulf of Alaska? Clay would also expect a diatom bloom with the introduction of iron into his sample population, but he says there are not a lot of cells greater than 20 microns out here and 5 days may not be enough for diatoms to grow up from this small seed population.

The Acrobat

One specialized instrument being deployed to gather information about the Copper River plume is the Acrobat.  Where the CTD is critical to give a site-specific profile of various indicators in the water column, the Acrobat can provide much of the same information along the path of the research ship, such as through the plume or across the shelf from deep regions to shallow.

CTD Screen
This is an example of the readout that comes from the CTD when it is deployed.

Lead scientist Dr. Seth Danielson from UAF, and Pete Shipton, a mooring technician from UAF’s Seward Marine Center are using the Acrobat to record a number of parameters as it moves through the water column.  The Acrobat is lowered off the stern of the ship and towed behind us.

Acrobat on deck
Bern, the Marine Tech, and Paul, the Bosun, with the Acrobat on deck prior to launch

As it is towed, it dives and climbs in a repeated vertical zigzag pattern to sample the water column vertically along the length of our course, creating a “cross-section” of the ocean along our line.  The Acrobat measures water temperature, salinity, density, chlorophyll, particle concentrations and CDOM (colored dissolved organic matter). The CDOM indicator allows the Acrobat to distinguish between different water colorations.

The path of the Acrobat can be constrained by distance from the surface or seafloor, in which case it receives depth sounder readings from the ship itself to inform its “flight” behavior.  It can also be set to run a path of a set distance vertically, for example, within a 20m variation in depth.  When set to a maximum depth of 40 m, it can be towed at 7-8 kts, but someone must always be monitoring the “flight” of the Acrobat in relation to ship speed to ensure the best possible results. The operator provides a watchful eye for shallow regions and keeps an eye on the incoming data feed.  The Acrobat also has two sets of wings.  The larger set will allow the Acrobat to reach a maximum depth of 100m or carry a larger sensor payload.  The profile being created as we tow through strands of the plume indicates that there is a pronounced layer of fresh water at the surface.  A concentration of phytoplankton, indicated by high chlorophyll a fluorescence levels, lies just beneath the fresh water layer and as we exit the plume, we observe a subtle shift towards the surface.  The fresh water also contains a good deal of sediment from the river that settles to the bottom as the plume spreads out. As we cross through the plume, we see the sediment levels at the surface drop, while the temperature, salinity and density remain fairly constant, showing a continued flow of fresh water at the surface. 

The readout from the Acrobat appears as a series of bar graphs that record in real time and provide a clear picture of what’s happening in the water column as we move.

Acrobat screen
This is what the Acrobat readout looked like as we went through a portion of the plume.

Once the data from the Acrobat is gathered, Dr. Danielson is able to create three-dimensional representations of the water column along our path according to the individual indicators. One that is particularly interesting and important for the Gulf of Alaska is salinity, which exerts strong control on water column stratification and therefore the supply of nutrients into the ecosystem.

Acrobat salinity graph
Here is a 3-D representation of the salinity along our plume route.

The low-salinity waters of the Gulf of Alaska are influenced by the fresh water precipitation, snow melt and glacier melt in the coastal Alaska watershed, including the big rivers like the Copper River and the thousands of un-gauged small streams.  Some of the fresh water runoff eventually flows into the Bering Sea, the Arctic and the Atlantic Ocean, playing its role in the global hydrological cycle and the conveyor belt that circulates water through the world’s oceans.  Oceanographic monitoring has shown that the Gulf of Alaska water column is warming throughout and getting fresher at the surface, a consequence in part of glaciers melting along the rim of the Gulf of Alaska.

Personal Log

Finding my way around onboard was initially somewhat confusing.  I would exit the main lab and turn the wrong way to locate the stairway back up to my room, and it took a few days to figure it out.  Here’s an idea of the path I take in the mornings to get from my room to the lab:

Here’s what our stateroom looks like…yes, it’s kind of messy!

One rule when you open a door, because the hallways are narrow and the doors are heavy, is to open slowly and check for people.

The stairs are steep with narrow treads and necessitate careful and constant use of the handrails.

From the main hall, I usually go into the wet lab.

From the wet lab I can either go into the main lab…

Main lab
Main lab

… or into the Baltic Room.

Baltic Room
Baltic Room

There are six levels to the ship.  At the bottom are supply rooms, equipment, the engine room, workrooms and the gym.  On the main floor are the labs, workrooms, laundry areas and computer center.  On the first floor are science team quarters, a control room for the main deck winches, the mess hall and a lounge.  On the second floor are crew quarters.  The third floor has officer quarters, and the fourth level is the bridge.  There are also observation decks at the stern and bow on the third level.

I have a bit of a reprieve during the plume study, since Steffi’s project does not focus on these waters.  It’s been a great opportunity to shadow other teams and learn about what they’re doing, as well as to explore more of the ship. Now that the first phase of the plume study is over, we are extending it farther out in the gulf to be able to examine a fresh water eddy that is showing up on satellite imagery.  After that, we will have about a 12-hour transit to the next line of stations, called the GAK (Seward) line, where Steffi (and I) will resume her testing. 

Did You Know?

It’s still foggy and the sea state is very calm compared to what everyone expected.  It’s great for the experiments, but doesn’t help with wildlife sightings.  We’re under the influence of a high pressure system currently, which is expected to keep things quiet at least through Wednesday.  At some point next week, we may have a low-pressure system pass through, which would increase wind speed and wave height. 

What Do You Want Kids to Learn from Your Research?

**Note: I’m asking the various scientists on board the same question.  Clay took five days to formulate this and it really captures the essence of his passion for his research and the effects of climate change.  It’s worth the read!

Clay: Recently, I was asked by Cat, our Teacher at Sea for this cruise, what I want members of the general public to take away from my work studying iron limitation of phytoplankton. Though I can provide her a superficial answer to my research question immediately, the motivations for my work go much deeper than answering “How does a micronutrient affect phytoplankton growth?”

There are two main levels at which I want to answer Cat’s question:

1. Proximal: Though phytoplankton are microscopic, they have macroscopic impacts.

2. Philosophical: Why bother in the quest for such knowledge?

Level 1: The Macroscopic Impacts of a Microscopic Organism 

Both human societies and phytoplankton communities are impacted by global climate change. Globally, humans are realizing the need to combat carbon emissions and mediate the effects of increasing global temperatures. Consequences of global climate change for us include mass emigration as sea levels rise and increased frequency of extreme weather events (e.g. droughts, wildfires). As a result, humans are racing to bridge political divides between countries, develop sustainable energy, and manage natural disaster response.

Phytoplankton, too, must respond to global climate change. As sea surface temperatures rise, phytoplankton will have to adapt. CO2 that is dissolved in seawater removes the precious materials some diatoms use to make their “shells” and takes away their protection. Dissolved CO2 can also alter the ability of micrograzers to swim and find food!

Melting glaciers are a double-edged sword. Glacial flour in freshwater runoff brings in vital nutrients (including iron) through the Copper River Plume and phytoplankton love their iron! But freshwater also works to trap phytoplankton in the surface layers. When all the nutrients are used up and you’re a phytoplankton baking in the heat of the sun, being trapped at the surface is super stressful!

As global climate change accelerates in the polar regions, phytoplankton in the Northern Gulf of Alaska are in an evolutionary race against time to develop traits that make them resilient to their ever-changing environment. Phytoplankton crossing the finish line of this race is imperative for us humans, since phytoplankton help to mediate climate change by soaking up atmospheric CO2 during photosynthesis to produce ~ 50 % of the oxygen we breathe!

Phytoplankton also form the base of a complex oceanic food web. The fresh salmon in the fish markets of Pike’s Place (Seattle, WA), the gigantic gulp of a humpback whale in Prince William Sound (AK) and even entire colonies of kittiwakes on Middleton Island (AK) are dependent on large numbers of phytoplankton. When phytoplankton are iron limited, they cannot grow or multiply (via mitosis). In a process called bottom up regulation, the absence of phytoplankton reduces the growth of animals who eat phytoplankton, the animals who eat those animals, and so on up the entire food chain.

Let us consider “The Blob”, an area of elevated sea surface temperature in 2015 to illustrate this point. “The Blob” limited phytoplankton growth and that of herbivorous fishes. As a result, the population of kittiwakes on Middleton Island crashed as the birds could not find enough fish to provide them the nutrients and energy to reproduce successfully. In this way, the kittiwake deaths were directly attributed to a lack of phytoplankton production.

Not only are phytoplankton ecologically important, they are commercially important. For consumers who love to fish (and for the huge commercial fisheries in the Northern Gulf of Alaska), the base of the food web should be of particular interest, as it is the harbinger of change. Fisheries managers currently use models of phytoplankton growth to monitor fish stocks and establish fisheries quotas. If sporadic input of iron from dust storms, glacial runoff, or upwelling stimulate phytoplankton to grow, fish stocks may also increase with the newfound food source. Because phytoplankton are inextricably linked to fish, whales, and seabirds, in years where nutrients are plentiful, you may well see more fish on kitchen tables across the U.S. and Native Alaskans may be able to harvest more seabird eggs.  

Level 2: The Nature of Science

As a supporter of place-based and experiential learning, I view myself as a student with a duel scientist-educator role. To succeed in these roles, I have to be able to combine reasoning with communication and explore questions like “How does science relate to society?” and “How do we foster scientific literacy?” What better way to think about these questions than embarking on a three-week cruise to the Pacific Subarctic?! Not only am I working with amazing Principal Investigators in an immersive research experience, I am able to collect data and think of creative ways to communicate my findings. These data can be used to build educational curricula (e.g. Project Eddy modules, R shiny apps, etc.) in an effort to merge the classroom with the Baltic room (where the CTD is deployed). But what’s the point of collecting data and sharing it?

Science is “a collaborative enterprise, spanning the generations” (Bill Nye) and is “the best tool ever devised for understanding how our world works” (Richard Dawkins). The goal of communicating my results in a way that touches the lives of students is two-fold. One aim is to allow them to appreciate the philosophy of science – that it is iterative, self-correcting, and built upon measurable phenomena. It is the best way that we “know” something.

The other aim is to allow students to engage in scientific discourse and build quantitative reasoning skills. As the renowned astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has said, “When you’re scientifically literate the world looks very different to you and that understanding empowers you.” Using phytoplankton to model the scientific process allows students to enter into the scientific enterprise in low-stakes experiments, to question how human actions influence ecosystems, and to realize the role science plays in society. Ultimately, I want students to use my data to learn the scientific process and build confidence to face the claims espoused by the U.S. government and seen on Facebook with a healthy amount of skepticism and an innate curiosity to search for the truth.

Ashley Cosme: All Aboard! – August 31, 2018

Sitting by Ship

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Ashley Cosme

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 31 – September 14, 2018


Mission: Shark/Red Snapper Longline Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico

Date: August 31st, 2018

Weather Data from the Bridge:

NOAA Ship Tracker
Figure 1. Current location of NOAA Ship Oregon II (Photo courtesy of NOAA Ship Tracker)

  • Latitude: 28.378N
  • Longitude: 90.05717W
  • Wind speed: 10 Knots
  • Wind direction: South
  • Sky cover: Scattered
  • Visibility: 10 miles
  • Barometric pressure: 1014.2 atm
  • Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
  • Swell: 140 (2-3 feet)
  • Sea Water Temp: 30.3 °C
  • Dry Bulb: 27.8 °C
  • Wet Blub: 24.3 °C




Science, Technology, and Career Log:

I arrived to NOAA Ship Oregon II on Thursday afternoon, August 30th, after traveling from Chicago.  The very first person I met aboard the ship was my stateroom roomie, Valerie McCaskill.  Valerie is a full time NOAA employee, as she holds the position as Chief Steward.  NOAA Ship Oregon II would not function daily if her position did not exist.

Valerie is from Naples, FL and attended the Art Institute of Atlanta where she studied culinary arts. She has been with NOAA for three years, and also has a cousin that works on a different NOAA vessel.  She stated that she is “responsible for the morale of the ship”.  Her daily duties include making sure everyone has fresh linens, grocery shopping while on shore, preparing all meals, and she even takes special meal request from her fellow crew members.

Her position on NOAA Ship Oregon II is crucial for all to run smoothly while out at sea.  Valerie truly is the heart and Mom of the ship.  She is constantly making sure all crew members are fed and remain steady emotionally.  It takes a special person to hold down the ship and Valerie does just that, while leaving behind her 9 year old son, Kain, for 8 months out the year.  She is also forced to get creative in the kitchen, as there is no stove.  All food is prepared on a grill, in the oven, or in a kettle.

As I am sitting here with Valerie writing this piece of my blog, she rushes out the door because we just heard dishes fall in the kitchen.  She takes care of all the little things aboard the ship, and most expeditions would not be successful without crew members like Valerie.

NOAA Cooks
Figure 2. Chief Steward Valerie McCaskill and 2nd Cook Arlene Beahm.


Personal Log: 

Today I went or 5 mile walk/run to explore the area around the port.  I have always been fascinated by lighthouses, and I was fortunate to come across the Round Island Lighthouse.  The original Round Island Lighthouse was built on Round Island in 1833, but it was relocated and renovated due to damage from Hurricane George in the 90’s.  The lighthouse now sits inland on the western gateway into Pascagoula, Mississippi.

Round Island Lighthouse
Figure 3. Round Island Lighthouse by the gateway into Pascagoula, Mississippi.

We left the port in Pascagoula, Mississippi around 1400.  I made sure I put on my sea sickness patch last night to give the medicine time to get in my system.  I woke up with one dilated eye on the side that I placed the patch.  I much rather have a funny looking eye than get nauseous.

Sitting by Ship
Figure 4. Last time on land for two weeks. Getting ready to board NOAA Ship Oregon II.


Did You Know?:

There are numerous oil rigs throughout the Gulf of Mexico.  Many bird species that are migrating across the Gulf will stop to rest on the oil rigs.  Unfortunately, most of these birds will not continue on and they will end up dying of exhaustion and dehydration.  A possible reason for the birds interrupting their flight is a change in the wind pattern.  If they are unable to cruise in the jet stream they will be forced to expend more energy to get where they are going.  Sometimes they don’t have that extra energy to go against the wind and will stop their flight on an oil rig.


Animals Seen Today:

Two bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates)

Many laughing gulls (Leucophaeus atricilla)

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

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

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

Personal Log

A ladder well on Henry B. Bigelow

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

Helen Haskell: Life on a Ship, June 7, 2017

NOAA Teacher at Sea

Helen Haskell

Aboard NOAA Ship Fairweather

June 5 – 22, 2017

Mission: Hydrographic Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Southeast Alaska – West of Prince of Wales Island 

Date: June 7, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge:

Latitude: 55 04.473 N

Longitude: 133 03.291 W

Wind: 9 knots from the east

Air temperature: 17C

Visibility: 10 miles

Barometer: 1004.2 hPa

Science and Technology Log

The mission of the Fairweather is to conduct hydrographic surveys for nautical charting. The Fairweather does this work in the waters off the United States Pacific coast, but principally in Alaskan coastal waters. The data is collected using sonar both by the Fairweather but also using a series of smaller boats that are launched as often as possible, each with a small crew of 3-4 people. These smaller boats are able to conduct the surveys much closer to the shoreline, and spend about 8-9 hours each day surveying a specific region. Many of the waters up here have had no recent data collected, and mariners are relying on charts that may have measurements taken in the 1800’s or 1900’s when technology was very different.

NOAA Ship Fairweather

During the field season, Fairweather spends about 210 days at sea. During the rest of the year, the Fairweather stays at her homeport, allowing the crew to work on maintenance issues, take leave, work on the data and outfit the boat for the following season. During the field season, the boat conducts different legs of the research, spending 12-20 days out at sea at a time before returning to a port to re-supply. There are six departments on the ship: Command, Deck, Electronics, Engineering, Steward and Survey. Each person on the ship is hired with specific duties and responsibilities.

As a government vessel, the Fairweather is also available for use during the time of war or in case of an emergency. In the event of something along these lines, the ship and the officers would be transferred to the Armed Forces of the United States.

The Fairweather is named after the tallest peak in the Fairweather range in Alaska. The ship served in Alaskan waters for over 20 years but was decommissioned in 1988. In 2004, due to increasing demand for modern surveys in Alaska, it was retrofitted and put back in to the research fleet. Previously staterooms housed up to 4 people, but after the retrofit a maximum of two people share a room. The boat can house 58 people in 24 single staterooms and 17 double staterooms. The boat itself is 231 feet in length and 42 feet wide. Its cruising speed is 13 knots, with a survey speed of 6-10 knots.   The Fairweather has 7 levels, A-G, each containing many rooms and areas essential to the mission of this ship. Wires and pipes run throughout the ship with sensors monitoring equipments, sensors ready to trigger if needed. Lower levels of the ship contain tanks, ballast and engines. Diesel, drinking water and grey water are stored in the tanks. The next three levels contain staterooms, lots of machinery and storage, the Mess, the Galley, laundry, labs, the sick bay and one deck with small boat storage. The last two levels contain the ships Navigation Bridge, the data processing center, electronics office, and lots more equipment.

Personal Log

A few days in to my journey with the ship, things are starting to make more sense. While there are still doors I haven’t opened and rooms I am sure I have not been to, I feel that I am getting a better sense of the Fairweather and how it works, the roles that people play, and a slightly better understanding of what it means for home to be a ship.

There is a lot going on. Unlike many of the fisheries boats, where science staff works on a shift system, here on the Fairweather, much of the hydro data acquisition needs to be done on the small vessels during daylight. After the 8am meeting, boats are launched and the survey crew leave for the day. Meanwhile the rest of the scientists and survey crew works with the previously acquired data. Shift systems are in operation for most of the rest of the staff. There are always engineering projects and issues to sort out on a boat of this size, and engineers are always available and always problem solving. There are always NOAA Corps officers and deck crew on the bridge to monitor the ship and coordinate communication. From early in the morning there is always food to prepare, parts of the ship to be cleaned and decisions to be made, reviewed and modified. Somewhere around 4:30pm the survey boats return. Meal times and group meetings are places where most of the crew comes together to hear about how the day has gone and what is needed for the next day. After dinner, there is still work to be done. The day’s data needs to be processed in order for the plans for the next day to solidify. Small boats are checked after their day in the water, re-fueled and parts fixed if need be. After working hours the ship is patrolled hourly to make sure equipment is working and things are safe.


In between all these jobs, the crew does have down time. Those on a shift system hopefully manage to get some decent sleep, even if it is daytime. Laundry gets done. Personal emails are sent to communicate with families. Movies are watched in the lounge/conference room. Showers happen. People visit the exercise room. The ships store opens up for a while each night, allowing crew to splurge on a bag of chips or a candy bar. So, it’s a busy place. Whether it’s visible or not, there are always things going on.


In some very simple ways it is no different to your home or mine. There is food, shelter and water. In most other respects, it is very far removed from living on land. Most people don’t have breakfast, lunch and dinner with their work colleagues. Here we do. Most people don’t have bedrooms without windows in them. Here we do. Most people don’t have the floor swaying beneath their feet due to wave action. Here we do. And for what it’s worth, most people don’t get to look over the deck and watch curious sea otters swim by, knowing that a whale may breach any minute. Here we do.



Fact of the day:

NOAA has nine key focus areas: Weather, Climate, Fisheries, Research, Satellites, Oceans and Coasts, Marine and Aviation, Charting and Sanctuaries. NOAA employs 12,000 people worldwide, of which 6,773 are scientists and engineers studying our planet. NOAA’s roots began over 200 years ago with the establishment of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey by President Thomas Jefferson. In 1870 the Weather Bureau was formed closely followed by the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. In 1970 these three organizations became the beginning of NOAA. For more information:

Word of the day: Knot

Knot, in nautical terms is a unit of speed.  One knot is the equivalent of going one nautical mile per hour.

What is this?

What do you think this is a picture of? (The answer will be in the next blog installment).


(Previous answer: The picture is of a light and whistle that are attached to my PFD (personal flotation device).

 Acronym of the Day

MPIC: Medical Person In Charge


Marsha Lenz: Calibrating and Acclimating, June 11, 2017


NOAA Teacher at Sea

Marsha Lenz

Aboard NOAA ship Oscar Dyson

June 8 – 28, 2017

Mission: MACE Pollock Survey

Geographic Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska

Date: June 11, 2017

Weather Data from the Bridge

Latitude: 54 38.9 N

Longitude: 161 39.2 W

Time: 0800

Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles

Wind Direction: 185 T

Wind Speed: 9 Knots

Sea Wave Height: 3-4 foot swell

Barometric Pressure: 1003.4 Millibars

Sea Water Temperature: 7.4°C

Air Temperature: 7.0°C

Science and Technology Log

The equipment has been calibrated and we are off again. We set out Friday afternoon (June 9) and have left the calm of Kalsin Bay. The swell is a bit bigger now and the boat now is rolling a bit more. I am still getting used to walking from one place to another holding onto the railings and finding myself taking twice an many steps to get someplace. From the time we left Kalsin Bay, it should take us 2.5 days to get to the Islands of Four Mountains. From there we will be conducting acoustic surveys on transect lines all the way back towards Kodiak.

DY1706 leg 1 transects
A map of the transects where the surveys will be conducted. Our starting point is the Islands of Four Mountains.

There are 31 crew members on the ship right now. As I mentioned before, they all play a different role. The NOAA corps officers work primarily on the Bridge. They are of making sure that the ship goes where it needs to go and that it is done in a safe manner. The Engineering staff is in charge of making sure that everything works.   They oversee the operation of engines, pumps, propeller shafts, electronic equipment, and auxiliary equipment. The Stewards have a very important task of keeping us happy and fed and making sure that we don’t get “hangry”. The role of Survey is to assist the scientists, and make sure that everything is prepared to do the surveys. The Electronic Technician (ET) is in charge of making sure that everything works when it comes to electronics. When I first came aboard, I gave him my devices so that he could hook them up to the ship’s wireless Internet system. The Deck crew’s responsibility is to safely deploy the fishing nets and scientific collection equipment to make sure all of the operations on the ship are running smoothly. Finally, the Scientists are in charge of collecting the data and coming up with reports to summarize what they have collected. The Observers are here to help the scientists collect biological data from the catch. And, on this leg of the research, there is me. I am here to learn, help whenever possible, and get my hands dirty!

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 10.38.13 AM
Every morning, the Operations Officer sends out a Plan of the Day to the crew.

 I have been enjoying getting to know the NOAA Corps, the additional crew, and the scientists. On this cruise, I will be assisting the scientists as they collect their data. The science team consists of 5 members. Additionally, the two observers and survey crew will be assisting with the surveys. The scientists have a wide range of experience, but most of them are Fisheries Biologists.

We will be working in shifts of 12 hours. I will be working from 4 am to 4 pm every day. We have slowly been acclimating ourselves to the new sleep schedule. This is a bit of a problem though as it is light for so long. The sun rises just after 6 am and sets just after 11 pm. It makes it a bit challenging to think about being tired when it is still light out.

During the 12 hours that we have off, there is some down time. Obviously, some of that time we will be sleeping. The quarters are very tight and everything has to be stored so that once we hit rough waters things don’t get tossed around everywhere. Each stateroom has a double bunk. I will not be sharing my room, so I am very lucky to have a room to myself. Most people share a room and have opposite shifts, making it essential to be quiet when entering and exiting during times that one is off-shift to avoid waking one’s roommate.

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Safety is a very important part of the operation of this vessel. During the fist 24 hours, we had a series of safety drills within 24 hours of leaving the port. Everyone on board has a role to play should an emergency happen. Signs are posted all over the ship. The most eventful drill was one where we had to don our immersion suits. The suits are designed to keep one warm AND afloat should we become more familiar with the waters surrounding us.

An Immersion Suit is designed to keep one warm in frigid waters.

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Personal Log

Many of you may be wondering about the food, and if I am getting enough of it. The answer is yes! The galley makes three meals a day and they make sure that we have a lot of options to choose from. There are always snacks around, including a salad bar, an espresso machine, and even ice cream! Meals times are at specific times, and they are a great opportunity to get to know other members on the ship.

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Lenette and Kimrie do a great job of feeding all 31 of us, for three meals a day.

Feeding 31 people, 3 meals a day, for 3 weeks is not easy task. Shopping and planning for feeding that many people is even harder. Remember, it is not an option to go to the store really quick because you forgot to bring the butter or eggs on board.   It requires detailed planning for many weeks before hand. Now, after the stewards have planned all of the shopping for the journey, they then have to get it all aboard (this trip’s shopping list came to ~$8,000). Sometimes a “fire line” is set up to carry the delivered food from the deck to the galley, but this time around, they used technology to help them by lowering the pallets of food through a hatch near the storage area with a crane.

Did You Know?

Did you know that (almost) all of the garbage created on the ship is incinerated while on board? That means that any garbage, except for aerosols, cans, and glass bottles are burned on the ship.

 New Terms/Phrases

Observer- Observers are professionally trained biological scientists gathering data first-hand on commercial fishing boats to support science, conservation, and management activities. The data they collect are used to monitor federal fisheries, assess fish populations, set fishing quotas, and inform management. Observers also support compliance with fishing and safety regulations.

Interview with Ethan Beyer


Ethan prepares vials for the otoliths that we will be collecting.

What is your position on the Oscar Dyson?

My position on the OD is a fisheries research biologist. This means that when catch is brought aboard, I will be responsible (along with others in the science crew) for collecting sex, length, weight, maturity, ovary, and otolith data.

Where did you go to school?

I went to school at Oregon State University where I completed my undergraduate degree in Natural Resources, with a specialization in Fish and Wildlife Conservation. Go Beavers!

What is the role of an observer and what do you enjoy most about your work?

My regular job is a Fisheries Observer for the North Pacific Ground fish and Halibut Observer Program. I work on commercial fishing vessels in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea collecting samples of what the vessel catches. This data is then used collectively with data from MACE/RACE to help manage fisheries. I would have to say that my favorite part of that job is seeing some of the interesting creatures that most people have never heard about or seen.

Have you had much experience at sea?

I have been a Fisheries Observer for the last 2 and half years after completing college. During the summer in my last three years of school I worked as a deckhand for a charter fishing company in Seward, Alaska.

How many months out of the year are you out at sea?

Over the course of the year, I average about 8 months deployed as an observer in Alaska. The program that I work for covers the small boat fleet that only requires having an observer for a fraction of their fishing trips. Roughly half of the 8 months deployed is actually spent at sea.

What are the most challenging aspects of being at sea so much? What is most rewarding?

The most challenging aspect of being at sea is being away from family and friends back at home. Another challenging aspect of the job is working alongside commercial fishing crews. Over the course of a 3-month deployment, observers in my program will average working on 5-10 boats. Each vessel and crew is unique, and the approach used in getting along with the crew, sampling, and adjusting to operations on a specific vessel is something that you learn to adapt to quickly.

The most rewarding part of the job for me is at the end of my assignment on a vessel, hearing the captain say that he thought I got along well with his crew, and that he would request to have me again when he gets another observer (even though, logistically, it would be unlikely, as we move from vessel to vessel and port to port frequently). Aside from collecting the required data from each vessel, it is important to be a positive, professional representative of the Observer Program, so that fishing crews don’t view observers as the enemy.

What is one of the most memorable experiences that you have had at sea?

As a fisheries observer, there are many things that we cannot share about our experiences at sea, due to conflicts of interest. However, the most memorable days at sea are usually the ones where the weather cooperates, there is a clear view of the beautiful scenery of coastal Alaska, and fishing is good. Every once in a while, it takes a storm at sea to remind yourself that the days of good weather are to be cherished.

What is your favorite marine creature?

My favorite marine creatures are whales. Many times while I am on a vessel, I have to refrain from showing my excitement when I see them, as they are typically associated with hampering the vessel’s fishing effort. Whales will often consume the catch of commercial longline fisherman.

Julia West: In Port in Pascagoula, MS, March 17, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Julia West
Aboard NOAA ship Gordon Gunter
March 17 – April 2, 2015

Mission: Winter Plankton Survey
Geographic area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: March 17, 2015

Personal Log

I made it! A smooth flight down to Mississippi (which is a new state for me – I’ve never been here). I arrived to sunshine and warm temperatures – OK, downright hot to me, but I’ll get used to it quickly I’m sure. Pamela Bond, the chief scientist on this cruise, met me at the airport and brought me out to the Gordon Gunter. I quickly learned that it is not only Pam who is super nice and welcoming, but the entire crew. I’ll be introducing them more in future posts.

The ship is not at the usual port near the NOAA lab, but at the former naval station, on an island at the mouth of the Pascagoula River. This yard has multiple uses now, as you can see from the pictures below. So not only is the Gunter here, but it has the company of a Coast Guard vessel, and both are dwarfed by a massive oil rig. On the other side of the pier (not pictured) is a USGS vessel and others. There’s a lot going on here!

Gordon Gunter
The Gordon Gunter at the dock

Gunter, CG vessel, and oil rig
The Gordon Gunter (right) and Coast Guard vessel dwarfed by the huge Sovereign Explorer (oil rig), an old rig that has been docked here for about a year, waiting for bids to take it apart for scrap .

Across the way is Pascagoula’s largest employer, and Mississippi’s largest manufacturing employer, Ingalls Shipbuilding, with 11,000 employees right here in Pascagoula! I can see ships in various stages of construction.

I have learned a lot about this area in the one day here at port. Two major events have happened here in recent years – Hurricane Katrina (2005) and the BP oil spill (2010). Both events simply ravaged this area. Everywhere we have been in the last day – the naval station, the NOAA lab, the highway – was under several feet of water during Katrina. You’ve seen the pictures. To hear about it from the folks here is profound. The BP oil spill (also known as Deepwater Horizon oil spill), another devastating event, changed the whole NOAA season (as it did for the fishermen and just about everyone else here). All the NOAA ships on the east coast, and one from the west coast, had to cancel their season’s research and congregate down here to be involved as needed, looking for oil, looking for marine mammals, etc. Today we visited the NOAA lab, where several employees are analyzing plankton samples taken from the affected waters. This is five years later, and still very relevant and ongoing data collection! (sorry, forgot to bring my camera to the lab, but I got to check out lots of plankton under the microscope).

my room
Deluxe accommodations!

Backing up now, to my arrival: Pam showed me to my room – I’m surprised that I have my own room! It has a refrigerator, closet, desk, comfy chair, my very own sink, and a shared bathroom with the room next door. And it has a TV – I barely know how to use a TV!

And then Tony, the ET (electronics technician) gave me a tour of the boat. Since then, I have been wandering around, sometimes in circles, trying to figure out the layout. I can tell right away that the food is going to be amazing.

My head is already spinning with some of the details about the equipment and technology. Pam was not sure if we would be launching on time – everything has to be just perfect for a research cruise to start, and if there are any issues, we don’t go. There were two repairs that needed to be made since the ship came to port just two days ago: one had to do with the unit that makes our water, by distilling seawater (very important!), and the other had to do with a malfunctioning gyro, or gyrocompass, needed for navigation (also important!). I wanted to know more about how a gyrocompass works, so I first looked it up on Wikipedia, and then talked to Dave Wang, the NAV (navigations officer). It’s so fascinating – a compass that points true north partly by using the rotation of the Earth. The good news is that both of the repairs are done and we will be launching on time!

Water tank
This large fresh water tank was added after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

I just want to share one bit info about a simple piece of equipment on the aft deck. It’s a water tank. I asked Tony what it’s for, when we have the technology to make fresh water. Well, after the oil spill, getting fresh water was a problem, so the tank was added. It was decided that it was convenient to have after it was no longer needed, and is now used for things that need a freshwater wash.

I am wrapping up this blog post now, a day after I started it. I’ve had my safety and ship protocol briefing, and we are underway. We’ve passed the barrier islands, and the ship is starting to rock a bit. Here we go! We have another 5 hours or so to go to get to our first sampling station, so the science work will start tonight. One final photo – to get out of the tight spot we were docked in, a tugboat was necessary:

The tug getting ready to help us leave the dock. At first it held the stern of the ship in place while our bow thrusters pivoted the front, and then it pulled us out.

 Word of the Day (time to start learning the terminology):

Neuston – the organisms that are found on the very top of the water, in the surface film. Contrast that with plankton, which can be said to be found within the water, not always right at the surface.

Louise Todd, Underway, September 16, 2013

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Louise Todd
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
September 13 – 29, 2013

Mission: Shark and Red Snapper Bottom Longline Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: September 16, 2013

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Barometric Pressure: 1014.01mb
Sea Temperature: 28.8˚Celsius
Air Temperature: 29.9˚C
Wind speed: 19.22 knots

Science and Technology Log:

Oregon II
Oregon II (Photo Credit NOAA)

We left Galveston a little before 2pm on Sunday, September 15.  We were in transit to our first sampling location and should arrive there around 8pm tonight.  Depending on the conditions we might actually be able to do some fishing tonight!

Today we went through our abandon ship drill.  The ship’s alarm is used to alert everyone on board in the event of an emergency.  Abandon ship is indicated by 7 short rings followed by one long ring of the alarm.  When the alarm sounds with the abandon ship signal, we must carry our survival suits, personal flotation devices (PFDs), long pants, a hat and a long-sleeved shirt to the well deck, at the bow (front) of the ship.  My survival suit and personal flotation device (PFD) are kept in cabinets in my room.  The survival suit is tricky to get on and it gets very, very warm when you are wearing it!

Survival Suit
In my survival suit (Photo Credit Lisa Jones)

Personal Log:

During this initial transit, there hasn’t been much for me to do.  I spent a lot of time sleeping on Sunday.  The way the waves rock the ship back and forth makes me very sleepy!  I have taken a few short naps today in order to be ready in case we do any fishing on the later part of my shift tonight.  I am on the day shift which means I will work noon to midnight.  I think it will take me some time to get used to staying up that late but I think these naps will help!  As we start fishing the days will be much busier for me so staying awake will be easy I hope.  The views off of the ship are amazing.  I was surprised to see how blue the water gets.

View off the ship
View off the Oregon II

My stateroom is very comfortable and I have plenty of space in drawers and cabinets for everything I brought with me.  I am getting used to latching doors and drawers behind me so they do not slam back and forth as the ship rocks.  On the ship there is always someone sleeping so everyone works hard to be courteous and stay quiet.

My stateroom
My stateroom

My roommate is an officer on the ship so we are usually in the room at different times.  Officers on NOAA ships are part of the NOAA Corps.  Roommates are usually assigned based on the shifts people are working so each person has some time alone in the room.  As we start fishing more I will bring my computer and other items I might want throughout the day into one of the labs on the ship so I won’t have to go in and out of the room when my roommate might be sleeping.  The curtains are helpful in blocking out any light that might prevent you from sleeping.  The showers are right next to my room which is convenient and the common head (bathroom) is just around the corner.

There are plenty of food choices in the galley on the ship and everything has been delicious.  In the mornings you can even get eggs made to order!  I certainly don’t think I will be going hungry!

Did You Know?

Even in the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico, hypothermia is risk due to the difference in water temperature and our body temperatures.  The survival suit helps to protect our bodies from the difference in temperature.


Johanna Mendillo: Greetings from Alaska and the Bering Sea! July 27, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Johanna Mendillo
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
July 23 – August 10, 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of the cruise: Bering Sea
Date: Friday, July 27, 2012

Location Data from the Bridge:
Latitude: 63 12’ N
Longitude: 177 47’ W
Ship speed: 11.7 knots (13.5 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Air temperature: 7.2C (44.9ºF)
Surface water temperature: 7.2C (44.9ºF)
Wind speed: 13.3 knots (15.3 mph)
Wind direction: 299T
Barometric pressure: 1001 millibar (0.99 atm)


Science and Technology Log:

Greeting from the Bering Sea!  It was a long journey to get here, complete with bad weather, aborted landings on the Aleutians, a return and overnight in Anchorage, and lost luggage, but it was a good introduction to the whims of nature and a good reminder that the best laid intentions can often go awry.  As O’Bryant students know, our motto is PRIDE and the “P” stands for perseverance, so I simply stayed the course and made it to Dutch Harbor and NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson… only 29hrs late!

In upcoming posts, you will learn a lot about the acoustic technology, statistics, and the engineering know-how behind the trawling process and how it is used to find, collect, and study Pollock populations.  But first, let’s start with splitting open some fish heads!

Now that I have your attention, let me explain.  There are many steps involved in “processing” a net full of Pollock, and I will show you each soon, step-by-step.  I think it would be more fun, though, to jump ahead and show you one little project I helped with that literally had me slicing open fish heads…

Hard at work...
Hard at work…

Here I am preparing and cutting away!  The objective: remove the two largest otoliths, structures in the inner ear that are used by fish for balance, orientation and sound detection.  These are called the sagittae and are located just behind the fish’s eyes.  These otoliths can be measured– like tree rings — to determine the age of the fish because they accrete layers of calcium carbonate and a gelatinous matrix throughout their lives. The accretion rate varies with growth of the fish– often less growth in winter and more in summer– which results in the appearance of rings that resemble tree rings!

Time to cut...
Time to cut…

From a small sampling of otoliths, along with length data, projections can be made about the growth rates and ages of the entire Pollock population.  Such knowledge is, in turn, important for designing appropriate fisheries management policies.  Fisheries biologists like to think of otoliths as information storage units; a sort of CD-ROM in which the life and times of the fish are recorded.  If we learn the code, we can learn about that fish!

Can you spot the otolith?
Can you spot the otolith?

For each net of Pollock, we will collect 35 otoliths, which translates to approx. 1,500 otoliths from this cruise alone!  They will be sent back to Seattle and measured under the microscope this fall and winter.


Personal Log:

Wondering where I am at this very moment?  Check out NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson on NOAA Ship Tracker!

Small things become important when your daily life gets confined to a small space, right, students?  Perhaps some of you have been to sleepover camp and know firsthand?  In a few years, you will also experience communal living in close quarters— in college!  It only seems appropriate that I start by explaining to you (and showing you) my personal space aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson!

First, my stateroom.  This picture shows you that I am in room 01-19-2.  I am on the 01-deck, and there are four other rooms on my hall that house most of the NOAA science team- Taina, Darin, Kresimir, Rick, and Allan.  Allan is my partner in crime- he is the other “Teacher at Sea” (TAS) onboard this cruise; he teaches high school science in Florida!  In addition to the NOAA team, Anatoli is a Russian scientist on board.  These NOAA scientists are based in Seattle in the Midwater Assessment & Conservation Engineering (MACE) group at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center and, depending on their schedules, come out to sea 1-4 times per year to collect data.  They are just one group of many NOAA teams conducting research in the Bering Sea; you will learn much more about the science team in later posts.

My door
My door

Originally, I was going to be bunking with the Chief Scientist, Taina!  However, one of the scientists was unable to join the trip, so Taina has her own quarters and I have mine!  This is quite the luxury, and it is very nice to know that I do not have to worry about waking up a roommate as I get ready for my shift.  Most roommates have opposite shifts, so each person gets at least a little bit of “alone time” in his/her room.  For example, Allan’s shift is 4am-4pm (0400-1600) and Kresimir’s shift is from 7pm-7am (1900-0700).

Here is my bunk!  I chose the bottom one, so if I fall out in rough seas, it is a shorter fall!  One trick- if the seas are rough, take the rubber survival suits and stuff them against the metal frames, so if I do smack against them, there will be some padding!  There is a reading light inside, and I also brought my trusty headlamp and pocket flashlight, so I should be pretty well set on any hasty exit I may have to make- such as for a safety drill!

My bunk!
My bunk!

I also have a desk and a locker, which is a closet for my clothes and other gear.  One thing ships excel at is maximizing small spaces with hooks- I have a row of hooks for my jackets, sweatshirts, hats, etc.  In the head (bathroom), there are many hooks as well.  The other neat trick—the use of bungee cords!  Here is one holding the head door open so it does not swing back and forth as the boat rolls.  They are also used throughout the ship to secure desk chairs, boxes, and any other object that could take flight during rough seas!

See the bungee cord?
See the bungee cord?

Since it is summer here in the high northern latitudes, the days are very long—sunset does not occur until about 12am each night and sunrise occurs around 7am.  The ships provides shades on both the bunks and the port holes (windows) to help people sleep, but as you can see, the earlier tenant in my room even added a layer of cardboard!

My window...
My window…

There are a few other features that help define life at sea.  The shower curtain has magnets to help secure it to the walls.  As you can see, it is a pretty tiny shower, and that handle could become essential if I chose to take a shower and then the seas turn rough!   The medicine cabinet locks shut, and if you leave it open, the door can swing during a big wave and smack you in the face!  Lastly, the head includes special digesting bacteria, so you can only use a special cleaner that does not kill them by accident!  There is a very powerful FLUSH noise that takes a little bit of getting used to as well– it scared me the first time I heard it!

Spot the shower handle...
Spot the shower handle…

That about does it for our first tour.  Please post a comment below, students, with any questions at all.  In my next post, I will give you a tour of the second most important area in daily life— the mess, where I eat!

Stacey Jambura: The Adventure Begins, July 8, 2012

Stacey Jambura
July 6 – 17, 2012
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
(You can also view the NOAA ShipTracker here:
Date: July 8, 2012


Weather Details from Bridge: (at 18:45 GMT)
Air Temperature: 29.50 ◦C
Water Temperature: 30.70 ◦C
Relative Humidity: 66%
Wind Speed: 1.52 kts
Barometric Pressure: 1,017.82 mb

Science and Technology Log

Virtual Tour of the Oregon II

I know many of you may have never been on a ship before and are probably curious to know what it is like to be aboard the Oregon II. I’m going to take you on a little virtual tour, but first you will need to know some common terms that are used to refer to certain areas on the ship.

Ship Term

What It Means

Bow The front of the ship.
Stern The back of the ship.
Starboard The right side of the ship when facing the bow.
Port The left side of the ship when facing the bow.
Forward The direction towards the bow of the ship.
Aft The direction towards the stern of the ship.
Bridge The location of the command center for the ship.
Galley The kitchen.
Mess Hall The dining area.
Head The bathroom.
Stateroom Where crew members sleep.

On Deck

The Bow

At the bow of the ship is where most of the scientific collection equipment is deployed/released. The CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth), the neuston net, and the bongo nets. (I will talk about each one of these in upcoming blogs.) There are several large cranes that help lift these up off the deck and swing them over the edge of the ship to be released into the water. When you are at the bow and the cranes are running, it is very important to keep yourself safe. Everyone who is at the bow when the cranes are operating is required to wear a hard hat and a PFD (personal floatation device). You never know if a cable will snap or the wind will swing the equipment towards you. There is a sensor on the PFD that is activated when large amounts of saltwater touches it, like if you were to fall overboard. Once salt water touches the sensor, the PFD will inflate and keep you afloat until you can be rescued.

Oregon II Bow
Oregon II Bow

The Stern

At the stern is where the samples from the neuston cod end and the bongo cod ends are collected and preserved in jars for scientists to examine at a lab. This is also where the large trawling net is deployed. The scientists spend most of their time at this part of the ship.

Stern of the Oregon II
Stern of the Oregon II

What Makes the Ship Sail?


The bridge is where the officers of the Oregon II work. It is located toward the bow of the ship. The bridge has all of the navigation tools necessary to steer the ship to the next sampling station. There is also a lot of weather equipment that is monitored and recorded throughout the day. The bridge is where you’ll find the best views of the ocean because it is almost completely surrounded by windows and it’s higher than any other room on the ship.

At the Helm
At the Helm



Chart Room

This room is where all of the maps are stored. While there are more technologically advanced methods used for navigation on the ship located in the bridge, it is important to have physical maps on hand to refer to, especially if the instruments stop working for any reason.

Chart Room
Chart Room

Engine Room

Before we untied our ship from the dock I received a full tour of the engine room. This is where the heart of the ship is. Everything in the engine room powers the ship. Our water is even purified down here using reverse osmosis (passing water through a membrane to filter the water). Because of this machine, we can filter salt water into fresh water to use on the ship.

Reverse Osmosis
Reverse Osmosis Machine

It was great to venture down to the engine room  before we set sail because I was told that it can get up to 110 degrees when the engines are running! It is a large space, but it feels small because of the large equipment. There are two of everything, which is especially important if something needs repair. Below is a picture of the two engines. The other is a picture of one of the generators.



Living on a Ship

My stateroom is compact, but its main purpose is for sleeping so size isn’t really an issue. There is a bunk bed, a sink with a mirror, latching drawers for clothes, and a hide-away desk. There is also a compact tv that is attached to the bottom of the top bunk and folds up when it is not in use. I only use the room to sleep and get ready for my shift because my bunkmate works the opposite watch shift as mine (midnight to noon), and I want to be the least disruptive as possible. After 12 hours shifts, sleep is really needed and helps reenergize you in time for the next watch.

Stateroom Bunks
Stateroom Bunks


The Head

The head is the same as a bathroom. On the Oregon II there are private and communal heads. The private heads are for the officers and are typically connected to their staterooms. The communal heads are open for any crew member to use. There are also communal showers for the crew to use. All of the toilets use salt water that is pumped onboard. The reason fresh water is not used is because it is a precious source on the ship and is not readily available from the ship’s surroundings. The sinks, showers, drinking fountains, and ice machines all use fresh water. Fresh water on the ship should never be wasted. Water for the sinks is timed so that there will never be a faucet that is accidentally left on. Showers are to be kept to a maximum of 10 minutes, though it is encouraged that they be even shorter.



Galley and Mess Hall

This is one of my favorite places. The galley is where our ship’s cooks prepare all of the wonderful food for the crew. The mess hall is where we all eat during meal times. During meal times it can be quite crowded in the mess hall as there are only 12 available seats and over 30 crew members onboard who are ready to eat. There is an “eat it and beat it” policy to help ensure that everyone who comes down to eat will be able to find a spot. Despite this, it is still a great way to converse with the crew and talk about events from the day before giving up your set to another hungry crew member.


Mess Hall
Mess Hall

Crew Lounge

This is the place where crew members who have some down time can gather and socialize, though down time can be rare. There is satellite tv, a couple of computers, and hundreds of movies to choose from. Some available movies haven’t even been released onto DVD for the common household yet, but they are available to the military. They do this because not everyone has access to current movies when they are away from home for extended periods of time. All of the DVDs are encrypted and can ONLY work on the machines aboard the ship. I was excited to find a copy of The Hunger Games and I plan on trying to watch it before my trip is over.

Lounge 1
Lounge 1

Lounge 2
Lounge 2

Labs on the Oregon II

The Wet Lab

The Wet Lab is where all of the samples from the groundfish trawls are sorted, counted, measured, weighed, and sexed (gender identified). Buckets filled with animals from the nets are dumped onto a large conveyor belt and spread out to make sorting the different species out into individual baskets easier. Everything in the wet lab can get wet except the sensors connected to the machines. We need to be cautious around the sensors when we are cleaning up after a sampling so as not to get water in them.

Wet Lab
Wet Lab

The Dry Lab

The Dry Lab is where all of the computers are located that record all of the data from the samplings. As the name of this lab states, everything in it is dry. Water should never come into contact with the equipment in here because it can seriously damage it. In between samplings, this is typically where the scientists gather to wait for arrival at the next sampling station.

Dry Lab
Dry Lab

The Chem Lab

This is where all of the plankton samples are stored. It is also where water samples taken from the CTD are tested for dissolved oxygen (DO). The CTD does have its own DO sensor, but it is always best to test something more than once to ensure you are collecting accurate data.

Chem Lab
Chem Lab

Personal Log
Day 1 – July 5th
I arrived in Gulfport/Biloxi, Mississippi late in the afternoon of July 5th. The chief scientist, Brittany Palm, met me at the airport and drove me over to the Port of Pascagoula where the Oregon II was docked. We met up with two college volunteers, Kayla and Andrew, and got a quick tour of the ship  (the air conditioning was out!) before we headed over to a wonderful local barbecue restaurant. We returned after dark and were welcomed with a fixed AC! I unpacked my belongs into my latched drawers and made up my bunk bed up so that everything would be in place when I was ready to hit the sack. It took a couple of nights for me to get use to the sounds of the ship, but now I hardly notice them.
Day 2 – July 6th

Oregon II and IWhen I woke up the next morning, I decided to venture out into downtown Pascagoula which was only a 5 minute walk away from the ship. It is a quaint area with little shops and restaurants. I met up with the two volunteers and we picked a business that had the best of both worlds, a restaurant and a shop, to have a wonderful breakfast. We had to be back on the ship by 12:30 for a welcome meeting, but we took some time to snap a few pictures of our floating home for the next 12 days. We were underway shortly after 2 pm (1400 hours in military time). It was fun to watch our ship depart from the dock and enjoy the light breeze. It wasn’t long until we had another meeting, this time with the deck crew. We learned about the safety rules of working on deck and discussed its importance. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing and getting my sea legs. The gentle rocking does require you to step carefully, especially when you have to step through the water tight doors!

Day 3 – July 7th
Our first day out at sea was slow to start. We didn’t reach our first sampling station until early in the morning on the 7th, even though we left the Oregon II’s port in Pascagoula mid-afternoon on the 6th. I was sound asleep when we arrived because my shift runs noon to midnight every day, so my first sampling experience didn’t happen until almost 24 hours after we set sail. This was nice because it gave me time to explore the ship and meet some of the crew.

Right after lunch I got to jump right in and help finish bagging, labeling, and cleaning up the wet lab for the team that was just finishing up their shift. After we had finished it was time to conduct my first plankton sampling.  We went out on deck at the bow of the ship to prepare the CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) device for deployment/release. After the CTD was released and brought back on deck, we deployed the neuston net to collect species samples from that same station. (I’ll explain the importance of this type of net in a later blog.) Once the collection time was complete, the neuston net was brought back on deck where we detached the cod end and placed it into a large bucket. Cod ends are plastic cylindrical attachments with screened holes to let water run through but keep living things inside during collection. The neuston cod end’s screens have 0.947mm sized openings.  We then deployed the bongo nets to collect samples of even smaller species like plankton. (I will describe the purpose of the bongo nets in a later blog.) When the nets were brought back on deck, we detached the cod ends from the two bongo nets and placed those into buckets as well. The screens on the cod ends for the bongo net are even smaller than the neuston’s at only 0.333mm. When all of the nets were rinsed to make sure nothing was still stuck to the inside of the nets, we brought the buckets back to the stern of the ship to further rinse the samples and place them into jars for further examination by scientists.

Day 4 – July 8th

Holding a blowfish collected from a trawling

Today was a lot of fun because I completed my first groundfish trawl. The net for this trawl is located at the stern of the ship. When the net was brought back up on deck, it was emptied into a large box. There was quite the commotion when the fish were emptied out of the net. Not only were the fish flopping around like crazy and splattering water everywhere, their scales flew everywhere and it looked like shiny confetti! Anyone who was in a 6 foot radius was bound to be covered in scales. By the end of the day I thought I was part mermaid with the amount of scales that had stuck to me!
There were so many fish in one of our trawls that we had to use large shovels to place the fish into more manageable sized baskets. The baskets were brought inside the wet lab to be sorted, weighed, measured, and labeled.
The coolest animals I saw today were sea urchins, a sharpnose shark, and a blowfish. It was also fun to observe the different crab species, so long as I kept my fingers away from their claws!
Question of the Day
There is only one right answer to this question. ? You’ll be able to find it at one of the links I placed in my blog. Can you find the answer?
Good Luck!

Cathrine Fox: Issue Six: Alaska, impossibly big and impossibly green

JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011

Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: July 27, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True Wind Speed: na
Air Temperature: 14° C dry/12° C wet
Air Pressure: na
Latitude: 57.44° N, Longitude: 152.31° W
Ship heading: n/a
(Limited data, as ship is in port)

Scientific Log:

I’ve received an in-depth tour of the ship and labs, and I am starting to piece together how the “Acoustic Trawl Survey” works. Basically, NOAA is responsible for monitoring the populations of walleye pollock and accomplishes this task in several ways. The acoustic trawl survey is one part of how this is done.

Net Reels
Net Reels

The science team identifies particular transect areas in the Gulf of Alaska. The ship travels to that area, then transmits acoustic signals about once per second as it travels along each transect. The returning echo gives scientists an initial measurement of the abundance of organisms in the water below the ship. Just “listening,” however, is not enough. We also have to sample populations physically to determine the ages, sizes, and species of the organisms. The ship trawls for these additional data.

A trawl is a large net towed behind the ship to catch fish and other organisms. The individuals (of all species) in the catch are identified and counted. Cameras (three) are mounted inside the back of the trawl (codend) to collect images as they pass through the trawl. From this larger catch, a sample of the walleye pollock (about 300 individuals) are dissected to determine sex, diet, measured (length and weight) for size and aged by looking at (yes) their ear bones or otoliths. I’ll cover all of this in depth once I have been able to do it and see it in action, but that is the gist.

Personal Log:
I think first impressions are important. Alaska? Alaska is impossibly big and impossibly green. Too big, perhaps to describe with common adjectives. It took me about two days of travel from the 4-Corners to make my way up here: a Beechcraft 1900 from Cortez to Denver, then flights from Denver to Seattle and Seattle to Anchorage. I spent the night in Anchorage and wandered the city at midnight… …not that you can tell that it was so late from the pictures.

The next morning I took off from Anchorage and met up with the crew and scientific party onboard the Oscar Dyson in Kodiak, an island the size of Connecticut in the Gulf of Alaska

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 6
Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 6

As for how ‘impossibly green’ Alaska is, I was thinking about the reasons Georgia O’Keeffe gave for moving from New York City to New Mexico in 1949. She said (and I paraphrase) that she wanted to use more vibrant colors in her palette of paints than just green. Ms. O’Keeffe would have it rough here in Alaska: greens, greys and blues abound. Adventures in a Blue World Issue 6 may not convince you of the colors of Alaska, but I hope it gives you a grasp of its size.

Kodiak, Alaska dock
Kodiak, Alaska dock

I’ve already settled in to the ship and my stateroom. My stateroom is small but comfortable, and I share it with a woman who is part of the scientific NOAA team. Interestingly, she worked for the same professor at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado as an undergraduate that I did. Very Small World.

We are docked in Kodiak for a few more days than anticipated: we are awaiting the arrival of another deck-hand, and there are a few repairs that need to be made to the ship. Once we get started, I will be working the 4am-4pm shift, and taking part in whatever science is taking place. In the meantime, I get to ‘nose around’ Kodiak, go for hikes and runs, check out museums (see below), and eat as many salmonberries as I can stuff into my mouth.

Until our next adventure,

Tammy Orilio, Life at Sea, June 18, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Tammy Orilio
NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Alaska
Date: 18 June 2011

Bunk beds
Bunk beds

Since we haven’t yet arrived at our first fishing spot yet, I’m going to let you all know what life has been like onboard the NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson.  I am on the 4 a.m. – 4 p.m. work shift, but since we haven’t been doing much in terms of trawling/collecting fish, I haven’t had to get up at 4 in the morning yet!  Another day or so (definitely not tomorrow, I’m told) and I will have to re-adjust my sleep schedule so I can wake up at 3:45 for my shift!  But for the time being, I’ve been waking up around 9:00.  Breakfast is served in the mess hall from 7-8, but I’m a cereal junkie, so missing the hot breakfast is no big deal for me.  Speaking of cereal, I just had Life for the first time and love it 🙂

The teeny tiny head.  Smaller than any dorm bathroom I've been in!
The teeny tiny head. Smaller than any dorm bathroom I’ve been in!

My whole stateroom. Not much room!
My whole stateroom. Not much room!

Back to my day.  When I wake up, I have to be very quiet moving around my stateroom because my bunkmate works the 4 p.m. – 4 a.m. shift and is still sleeping.  I first head down to the acoustics lab one deck below my sleeping quarters to find out what’s on the agenda for the day.  So far, it’s been a lot of trials/test runs to see if all the equipment is working properly. I’ve also spent some time with the other scientists that are on the day shift with me, and they’ve been great at explaining how they use sound to help them locate fish.  When I’m not with the science team, (which so far, has been fairly often!) I’m usually in the lounge and/or conference room watching movies or reading.  There are over 1000 movies on board!  I try to stay out of my stateroom because my bunkmate is asleep, so I try to take everything I might want for the day with me- Kindle, camera, computer, iPod.

After my shift ends at 4 p.m., I either read some more or go to the “gym.”  There are actually two gyms on board, each with a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, etc etc.  I definitely need to go after all the great food I’ve been eating on this trip!  Adam and Joe, our stewards, always make sure to have a variety of delicious foods out at every meal.  Here’s what was on the dinner menu tonight:  bacon wrapped tenderloin steak, shrimp & crab St. Jacques, twice baked potato, green beans, and focaccia bread.  In addition, there’s always salad fixings to choose from.  I’m eating better here than I do at home, so stopping at the gym is necessary.

After dinner, I head back to my stateroom to shower and update my blog 🙂  Showering on a moving vessel is quite an experience, and tonight was actually the first time I had to hang on to the handle in the shower- makes it very difficult to wash your hair with one hand!  Then I read or watch a movie, and head to bed.  I’m on the bottom bunk (because I got to the ship 2 days before my bunkmate!), which is better in terms of the motion of the boat.  Less of a chance to fly into the air and fall out of bed 🙂  Our bunks have a little curtain that wraps around them, so we can block out as much light as possible- remember, way up here in Alaska it doesn’t get dark until well after midnight, so I need that curtain!

That’s about it for my shipboard life so far.  I know I keep saying that we’ll get to work in another day or so, but I promise, we’re starting tomorrow!  Be on the lookout for more science-y logs from me.  We are back in some rough seas again, so I’m taking some Dramamine and hitting the sack!!  Let me know if you have any questions about ANYTHING!

Barbara Koch, October 3, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea Barbara Koch
NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
September 20-October 5, 2010

Mission: Autumn Bottom Trawl Survey Leg II
Geographical area of cruise: Southern New England
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2010

Weather from the Bridge
Latitude 39.72
Longitude -72.16
Speed 11.30 kts
Course 289.00
Wind Speed 25.11 kts
Wind Dir. 69.68 º
Surf. Water Temp. 19.78 ºC
Surf. Water Sal. 33.94 PSU
Air Temperature 16.40 ºC
Relative Humidity 71.00 %
Barometric Pres. 1016.80 mb
Water Depth 121.67 m
Cruise Start Date 10/02/2010

Science and Technology Log

Safety is very important on NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow. We participated in a Fire Drill and an Abandon Ship drill today. Each person on board is assigned a location to “muster” (gather) in case of emergencies. For a fire drill, all scientists are to carry their life vest and survival suit and muster in the lounge directly across from my stateroom. Life vests and survival suits are kept in the staterooms, so we are to grab those and get to the lounge as quickly as possible.

Fire drill
Fire drill

The fire drill began while the day watch was in the wet lab, one level below my stateroom. The scenario was that there was a “fire” on the 01 deck beside the lounge. That was right where my stateroom and the lounge were! Since we couldn’t get to our staterooms to gather our survival suits and life vests or muster in the lounge, due to the “fire,” we grabbed extra life vests and suits from the wet lab and mustered in the mess hall, which is near the wet lab.

Once everyone was accounted for during the fire drill, we moved out to the back deck of the ship for our Abandon Ship drill. Each person on board was assigned a life boat, and that is where we mustered for the Abandon Ship drill. First, we put on our life vests and made sure they were secured tightly. Next, we took off the life vests and put on our survival suits, which are often called “Gumby Suits” because they are large and look a lot like the animated Gumby character from the 1960’s. The survival suit is bright orange and is made out of neoprene. This makes the suit waterproof and very warm. The zipper and face flap are designed to keep water out, as well. Other features of the suits include reflective tape for greater visibility in the ocean, a whi8stle, a water-activated strobe light, a buddy line to attach to others, and an inflatable bladder behind the head to lift one’s head out of the water.

In my 'Gumby' suit
In my ‘Gumby’ suit

Boots and mittens are attached so that all one has to do is jump into the suit and zip it up. It’s not that easy, however. The arm cuffs are very tight, so it takes some strength to push your hands through. It also takes strength to pull the zipper all the way up to the center of your face. All personnel aboard the ship must be able to put this suit on and abandon ship in one minute. I was able to put my suit on in the allotted time, but we didn’t have to abandon the ship during the drill.

My stateroom
My stateroom

Personal Log

Living on a ship is an interesting experience. Space is at a premium, but the Henry B. Bigelow is actually quite comfortable. The scientists told me that this ship has a lot more amenities than some of the other research ships. My stateroom is small and narrow, but roommates are normally working on separate watches, so no one feels cramped or without personal space. You can see in this photo that the room has two bunk beds. Mine is on top, and it has been a fun challenge trying to get in and out of bed when the ship is rocking! I haven’t fallen yet! Each bunk has a curtain that can be pulled closed to darken your sleeping area, if you are sleeping during daylight hours. There is also a desk with latched drawers, so they don’t fly open when the ship is in rough waters. Bungee cords are attached to the walls and desks to hold chairs and large items in place, too. It’s important to keep everything tied down and in the locker so it doesn’t role around and get damaged, or make noise. I learned the importance of that my first night on rough seas when hangers were banging in my locker.

The Head
The Head

My stateroom also has its own “head” (bathroom). The term “head” comes from long ago when boats were powered by the wind. Sailors had a grated area at the front or “bow” of the boat where they could use the bathroom. It was at the front of the boat so bad odors would blow away from the rest of the ship. The figurehead was also attached at the front, so it became common practice to refer to that area as the “head.” The head in my room has a toilet that flushes, and is much nicer than the heads of days gone by, thank goodness!

These are all great amenities, but the best part of my stateroom is the view! First thing every morning, I pull back the curtain to see what’s going on outside. One morning I saw several dolphins jumping out of the water as they moved swiftly toward our ship. Most days, I’ve seen fog, rain, and roiling waves, but I still enjoy looking out and seeing nothing but water as far as the eye can see, and sometimes, a beautiful sunset.


Peggy Deichstetter, August 30, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Peggy Deichstetter
Aboard Oregon II
August 29 – September 10, 2012

Mission: Longline Shark and Red Snapper Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Day 1 August 30


I met my roommate, Claudia, this morning. She was on this cruise last year. Basically we catch, tag and release sharks and any other fish we may catch. I walked into town to pick up things I forgot. Ashley, Guy and I run into town for our last meal on land, a Subway. During the excitement of casting off, I’m informed that I have the night shift. Me, the goddess of the morning. they must be kidding. As we reach open water the sea is really rough.

At dinner I’m advised to go to bed right after dinner and get up at 2:00am to acclimate my body to the night shift. So right after (6:30pm) dinner I head off to bed. My roommate is already there, she is green. She tells me she doesn’t feel well and needs to lie down. There is no way I can fall asleep. I lie there, waiting to fall asleep. Finally, I’ve been lying there so long, it most be time to get up. I look at my watch… its only 9:00. I finally fall asleep.


Wesley Struble, 14 July, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Wes Struble
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
July 8 – August 10, 2010

Mission: Tropical Ocean Atmosphere (TOA) cruise
Geographical area of cruise: Equatorial Pacific from 120ΕLongitude to 95Ε Longitude
Date: 14 July 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Cloud cover: 6/8 (75%) with stratocumulus clouds
Visibility: 10 nm (nautical miles)
Wind: bearing 330Ε at 14 knots
Atmospheric Pressure: 1012.0 millibars
Temperature: 24.6ΕC (76.3ΕF)
Wave height: 1 – 2 feet

Science and Technology Log
The last few days I have spent some time up on the bridge of the Ka’imimoana. Ensign Linh Nguyen, one of the NOAA Corps officers, showed me around and explained some of the equipment. They have three general types of equipment available on the bridge which I will categorize as: communication, propulsion, and navigation.

The bridge of the KA

The communications system first includes intra-ship lines. These are mostly carried out by an intercom type system. Each major area of the ship (including each stateroom) is connected to this intercom system by a phone that permits communication with any other part of the ship. The ship also has numerous hand-held radios available for use when one is not near a phone. In addition, the bridge has both inter-ship and ship-land communication capabilities. The KA (short for Ka’imimoana – Hawaiian for Ocean Seeker) also has access to the Iridium satellite platform for communication with land in addition to access to a satellite internet and internet VOIP system.

Autopilot and propulsion controls

There are two types of propulsion on the ship. First, there are four large diesel engines that power a generator. This generator produces the electrical power that runs each of the two electric motors that drives the screws (propellers) located at the stern (rear) of the vessel. While moving through the harbor all four diesel engines are running sending power to the generators. When the ship is out at sea only three of the diesel engines are used. The ship can operate with only two engines in service for power generation but under this configuration the ship will cruise at slower speeds. The KA has two screws: port (the left side of the ship if one is facing the bow or front of the ship) and starboard (the right side of the ship if one facing the bow). Each screw runs independent from the other with separate controls on the bridge. The conning officer (the officer who is in charge of the bridge at any given time) can change course by turning the rudder (the most common way) or by altering the speed (rpm) of one of the screws (without using the rudder). The KA also has a bow thruster (also powered by an electric motor) that is mounted in a tunnel through the forward part of the hull. This thruster permits the conning officer to move the forward part of the ship port or starboard without the main screws driving the ship forward. The bow thruster allows more subtle and precise motion that could be used for docking or perhaps helping keep the ship over a precise location while collecting data at those particular coordinates.

The bow thruster control

AIS screen

The fathometer

The captain of the KA, LCDR (Lieutenant Commander) Matthew Wingate, described the navigation system of the KA as modern but not state-of-the-art. The ship has many redundancies built into its guidance system. Two radar consoles, three compasses (two digital/electronic and one analog), an AIS (Automatic Identification System), paper charts, a fathometer (sonar) and of course, binoculars and the naked eyes of those on constant watch. The radar system is quite fascinating. It has an adjustable range with the ability to scan out to almost 100 nautical miles. The system plots the projected course of the ship and the predicted course of other ships within its range using vector analysis. This information is necessary to be able to prevent (well ahead of time) any possible collisions that might take place if the ships hold to their current courses. In addition, it is possible to set a radar alarm range of a particular radius around the ship. If any object comes within that range an alarm sounds to alert the pilot of the danger.

Radar screen

Radar tower

While I was on the bridge there were three other ships registering on the radar monitor each traveling in different directions. The two digital compasses are mounted side-by-side and their readings (and the difference between the readings) are projected at the navigation console. Above one’s head and not far from the digital compass readout is also a standard magnetic compass. The AIS (Automatic Identification System) is probably the most fascinating device I have seen on this ship. It is similar to radar readouts but provides much more information. First, one needs to understand that when ships are at sea they continuously send out a signal that provides identification information. The AIS receives this information and plots the locations and courses for these ships in addition to the location and course of the KA. All of this information is superimposed on a digital nautical chart that shows islands, shoals, exposed rocks, depth contours, and continental shorelines that can be adjusted for different scales. At the right margin of the AIS screen is listed navigation information such as the latitude and longitude of the ship, course bearing, ship speed in knots, and other pertinent data. Besides the course plotted on the AIS the conning officer also plots out the ship’s course on a paper chart and cross-checks it with the AIS. The fathometer shows the depth of the water under the ship and therefore the contours of the ocean bottom. This information can also be cross-checked with the charts and the AIS to make sure that they all agree. Last of all there is always someone on the bridge keeping watch on the instruments and the horizon verifying what is on the charts and monitors with what they see with their eyes through the binoculars.

Digital compasses

Personal Log

I have enjoyed walking about the ship during the day taking pictures and looking at the various types of equipment on the decks. I hope to describe these in later logs. I was on one of the lower weather decks this morning simply taking in the views of endless water in all directions. When the sun is out the water has a deep blue color with a very slight greenish tint. As the bow cuts through the water, waves and foam are pushed out creating a variety of tints of blues, greens, and white. It is beautiful indeed.
While I was watching, out popped a flying fish! It jumped out near the bow wave and glided about a foot off of the water for about 50 yards or more. When it would hit a wave crest it would boost itself with its tail and go a little farther. I stayed at that location for another half hour and watched many others, some small groups, and several large schools of 50 or more “fly” at one time. The longest “flight” was about 100 yards with the fish in the air maybe 5– 10 seconds. I would not have even thought to look for one of these fish. Like most children I had read about them and seen pictures of them when I was younger but never really thought that I would ever see one. What a great surprise.

Pacific Ocean and clouds
Pacific Ocean and clouds

Being from Idaho’s northern latitudes, the sun only gets approximately 67Ε above the horizon on the Vernal equinox. It has been interesting to have the sun literally directly overhead during a portion of the day. This, of course, produces few areas of shadow to get out of the sun’s harsh equatorial rays. When we left San Diego it was in the mid to lower 60’s but as we have worked or way south (about 200-250 miles per day) the temperature has been slowly rising. I am told that it will soon be very hot and humid so I should enjoy this mild weather while I can.

New Terms

I have learned a few new terms for parts of the ship that might be helpful for future logs. Deck – refers to any floor on the ship. I would refer to the floor of my stateroom as the deck. Bulkhead – this refers to any walls on the ship. I am required to keep the deck and bulkheads of my stateroom clean. Head – this refers to a bathroom on the ship. I have a head that I share with a crew member in the stateroom next to me and there is also a “public” head available on this same level. Aft – can mean in back of, behind, or toward the stern of the ship. Forward (sometimes simply fore) – can mean in front of, in front, or toward the bow of the ship.

Anne Marie Wotkyns, July 8, 2010

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

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Anne Marie Wotkyns
NOAA Ship Pisces
Mission: Reef Fish Survey
Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico
Date: Thursday, July 8, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Wind: 7-9 mph
Other Weather Features:
Sunny, scattered light clouds
Waves 1’; Swells 3-4’
Location: 28.37.2 N
089.33 W

Science and Technology Log

Hello, my name is Anne Marie Wotkyns and I am participating in the NOAA Teacher at Sea program. I teach 4th grade at J.B. Monlux Magnet School in North Hollywood, California. I joined the NOAA ship Pisces on the evening of July 6 to begin a 6 day cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. I will be posting logs to share the information I learn and the experience of working aboard a scientific research vessel. We will be working on the SEAMAP Reef Fish Survey of Offshore Banks, a project which provides information about the relative abundance of fish species associated with geographic features such as banks and ledges on the continental shelf of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll be explaining this project more in my next log entry.

Me in front of the Pisces
Me in front of the Pisces

After meeting the other Teacher at Sea, Liz Warren and bird expert Scott Mills, at the Gulfport Mississippi Airport, we were driven to the NOAA docks in Pascagoula, Mississippi. It was quite late when we boarded the Pisces, so we found the cabin Liz and I would share, explored the ship a bit, and turned in for the night.

Wednesday, July 7 found us eager to get started on our TAS adventure. We started the day at the NOAA office and lab building, adjacent to the ship docks. There we met Kevin Rademacher, Chief Scientist for the SEAMAP (Southeast Area Monitoring and Assessment Program) offshore reef fish survey which we will be participating in on our cruise. He showed us around the NOAA facilities, which house the Southeast Marine Fisheries Offices, Seafood Inspection, and Documentation Approval and Supply Services. The fisheries division deals with resources surveys, harvesting, and engineering related to commercial fishing. The seafood inspection division deals with issues related to seafood safety and chemical and microbiological analysis of seafood. These labs can help determine if the “red snapper” your favorite restaurant serves is really red snapper or a different type of fish! This division will also be testing some of the fish we collect on our cruise for baseline data on fish from areas outside the oil spill for possible later comparison to fish collected within the spill zone.

Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building
Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building

Now a little more about the Pisces, my home away from home for the next 6 days. The Pisces was commissioned in 2009 and is one of NOAA’s newest ships. She is 63.8 meters (209 feet) long, 15 meters (49.2 feet) wide, and has a draft of 6 meters (19.4 feet.) Her cruising speed is 14.5 knots and she can stay out to sea for 40 days if necessary. On this cruise there are 22 crew comprised of a commanding officer, deck officers, engineering officers, deck hands, engineers, stewards, and survey and electronic technicians. There are 6 on our science team and 2 bird observers conducting surveys of pelagic seabirds possibly affected by the oil spill.

NOAA Ship Pisces
NOAA Ship Pisces

After we set sail on Tuesday afternoon, we spent much of the late afternoon up on the flying bridge, the highest deck on the ship. We observed a wide variety of boats and ships in the channels around Pascagoula Bay. Scott and Ron, the bird observers, helped us identify the bird species we saw, including Brown Pelicans, Laughing Gulls, and Sandwich Terns. We also saw several Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin swimming near the ship. Soon the seas grew rougher and after dinner and a short welcome meeting, we retired to our cabins for the night.

Wednesday morning brought calmer seas, and the start of “science “ on board the Pisces. Before we reached the areas selected for the SEAMAP fish surveys, Chief Scientist Kevin Rademacher wanted to conduct bathymetric mapping of an area called Sackett Bank, off the coast of Lousiana. This involves sailing the ship in a series of overlapping transects 1.6 miles long, .05 miles apart, similar to “mowing your lawn” at home. The ME70 multibeam acoustic system covers a swath of 120 degrees using 27 beams which can detect and map features on the sea floor down to .5 meters in size. This will allow NOAA to produce highly accurate nautical charts of the region. The charts will eventually be available to commercial and sport fishermen, sailors, shipping companies, and anyone else who is interested.

Mapping Sackett Bank
Mapping Sackett Bank

When a ship is conducting activities like this bathymetric mapping or other “Restricted Mobility and Manuevers” work, they hoist a nylon “Ball-Diamond-Ball” to notify other ships in the area that it is restricted in its movement so the other ships can change their course. This message is also sent electronically by VHF radio signal. I happened to be on the bridge while they prepared to start the first transect, so Commanding Officer (CO) Jeremy Adams let me hoist the ball-diamond-ball.

Hoisting the ball-diamond-ball

    Hoisting the ball-diamond-ball
Hoisting the ball-diamond-ball

Transect Lines
Transect Lines

In this photo, the green boat indicates the position of the Pisces as we conduct the mapping transects.

Tomorrow the plans are to begin the SEAMAP reef fish surveys, “one hour after sunrise” – looks like we’ll be working from about 7 am to 7 pm with the fish! Bring it on!!

Personal Log

After submitting Teacher at Sea applications for 3 years (the first 2 years I was not selected) I am thrilled to be here! The opportunity to participate in a cruise like this on such an amazing ship is truly a once in a lifetime experience!

Here are a few more pictures of life aboard the Pisces.




Our cabin is a little small, but very clean and functional. Liz volunteered to take the top bunk, so I have the bottom. I love the little curtains that can enclose the bunk – makes a dark little “cave” for me! And the reading lamp lets me read late at night! We have a flatscreen TV, but so far we have only been able to watch the USA network – one channel only. But we don’t spend much time in the cabin anyway. The bathroom is very similar to a cruise ship bathroom, and the shower has great water pressure – however the ship is under water conservation so showers need to be quick. Notice we’re eating on paper plates with plastic utensils. No dishwashing either! After the ship moves farther from the oil spill they will able to use their salt water to fresh water conversion process and we’ll be able to use water more freely.

Pascy chooses his dinner in the “mess” – sorry – no fish!

In Pascagoula I purchased a small stuffed penguin and named him “Pascy” (for Pasacagoula.) Pascy has been exploring the Pisces so here are some shots of him around the ship!

Pascy helps check off each transect in the acoustics lab.

A little coffee is always good in the morning.

The cookies here are great!

Another big event today was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. We were assigned “muster stations”, places we would go to in event of an emergency. Part of the drill was to practice donning our “survival suits” – one piece insulated buoyant suits that would keep us afloat and warm if we ever had to abandon ship. The hardest part of the drill was getting the awkward suit on and off – they seem to be one-size-fits all and I seem to be smaller than most sailors!

Even Pascy got to participate in the drill! I don’t think he need to worry about staying afloat or warm in the water! Good thing, because that lifejacket looks a little big!

Immersion suit
Immersion suit

Me in my Gumby Suit
Me in my Gumby Suit

Elizabeth Warren, July 7-8, 2010

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Elizabeth Warren
Aboard NOAA Ship Pisces

Mission: Reef Fish Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date: July, 15 2010

Here we goooo……

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Temperature: Dry Bulb 30̊℃, Wet Bulb 26.2 ℃
Wind: 7-9 mph
Swell: 3-4 feet
Location: 28 37.12° N, 89.33° W
Weather: Sunny, Humid, Scattered clouds

Science/Technology Log

Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building
Me in Front of the Southwest Fisheries Building

Yesterday, Anne-Marie and I were given a tour of the NOAA facilities in Pascagoula. In the new building they house several different divisions; Southeast Marine Fisheries Unit, Seafood Inspection and Documentation and Approval Center. Kevin Rademacher our Chief Scientist showed us around. The labs in the Marine Fisheries unit take what is being done on the vessels and use it for research. They run many different types of research on the ships. Beside the Pisces, there are two other ships that are run out of Pascagoula; Oregon II,  and The Gordan Gunter.

Seafood Inspection Lab
Seafood Inspection Lab

On one of the floors were the Seafood Inspection labs. They bring in fish from different areas and test it. In one lab they had a set of partitions up which were the tasting areas. An example of what they have done in the past that Kevin gave us was a restaurant bought some red snapper. They brought it to the lab where they cooked in clear Pyrex containers then they smelled, checked the consistency, and tasted the fish. They discovered that the fish was not really snapper! Right now due to the oil spill they are mainly focusing on the fish that we bring in on our survey. We are required to save 10 fish out of every trap we bring up so that they can have a baseline testing of fish from an area before being it has been impacted by the oil spill.

Another floor of the building is the science labs. We walked through the plankton lab, where each person had their own station with a computer and a high powered microscope. They had several different samples out that were labeled. Just like our trip in the 6th grade they used  nets with different size holes to catch different types of plankton. Another lab was called the Age and Growth lab. Here is a picture of shark vertebrae they were preparing for aging.

Plankton lab
Plankton lab

Today we are not working on the Reef Fish survey. Our Chief Scientist Kevin Radechamer wanted to do some mapping of an area called Sackett Bank which is south of Louisiana. The mapping they had done before did not give them an accurate depiction of the sea floor and now they have new technology. They are using an acoustic system called ME70. This system has 27 beams that run in a 120 degree swath. With the technology they had before they were only able to see 1 meter “bumps” on the surface now they can see to within a ½ meter. The white line that you can barely see shows the surface of the seafloor. The red is sand or mud that is on the bottom, as the red gets thinner and darker it is showing the harder rock that is below. As the sound waves go down they bounce back and we are able to see any see critters that are down there. Most of what you can see in the picture is plankton but occasionally you can see fish as well. This is a before and after shot of the two types of mapping. In one the map technology was guessing what was in between the bands. This information will give scientists new information about the seafloor.

Mapping Sacket Bank
Mapping Sackett Bank

    Mapping Sackett Bank
Mapping Sackett Bank

Personal Log:

Sailing Board
Sailing Board

I’m finally here! The last two days were very exciting. When we got to the ship it was 7:00ish and most of the ship’s crew were out and about, so we had the ship to ourselves. We wandered around taking pictures and investigating. I only went on an “adventure” (lost my way) twice. Everywhere you turn there is a doorway, hatch or stairwell. I was awed by the amount of technology that they have on board. There are computer labs on almost every floor. I am envious of the color printer! Ann Marie and I are sharing a state room. It’s fantastic! The crew takes pride in what they do and it is very obvious, our beds even had mints on them. We have a T.V. and an internet connection in our room. I don’t plan on spending a lot of time in there but it is pretty fabulous!

My Stateroom
My Stateroom

We left port yesterday and headed south. The scientists and teachers stayed on the fly deck as we moved closer to the Gulf. As we were leaving you could see what impact the oil spill has had on the Mississippi Coast and on the Barrier Islands.

Impact of Deepwater Horizon
Impact of Deepwater Horizon

As a result of the tropical storm over the weekend there were some pretty high swells. We had waves from 6 to 8 ft. The ship was rocking pretty badly. After our Safety Meeting where we were told about all of the safety precautions and the rules. No matter where you go there are rules. Including.. No wearing tank tops to the galley and NO sitting in the captains chair.  After the safety meeting the rolling was beginning to get to us so Anne Marie and I took to our bunks. I didn’t get sick! I did however go to sleep at 7:30.

Today we have spent most of the day wandering around the ship and talking to the many different crew members on board. Oh.. and we had a fire drill. The fire drill was a lot like having one at school, the bell rang we walked to our area and then we sat for awhile. The next drill was much more exciting. We had an Abandon Ship Drill! We had to grab a long sleeve t-shirt, a hat, pants, our Gumby suit, and a life jacket. It was a lot of stuff to carry with us! Everyone met out on the deck and I was introduced to Chief Marine Engineer Garrett who would be in charge of getting me where I needed to be in an emergency. As a first timer I was required to get into my Gumby suit. Yes, for those of you old enough to remember they are named after Gumby and Pokey. This would definitely not be my choice of a fashionable outfit. To get into it you have to lay the suit down on the ground and climb in like a sleeping bag. Then you zip it up!

In my gumby suit
In my gumby suit

Everywhere you look in the Gulf you see oil rigs or tankers moving away or to an oil rig. We passed the disaster site this morning but we were 9 miles away so we did not see any oil or much of anything. In fact I haven’t seen oil yet, which is a good thing. The interesting thing that has come about for our trip as a result of the spill is the two bird experts, Scott and Ron. The birders were hired to look for pelagic birds, those that spend most of their lives at sea. Fish and Wildlife hired one, and the other is here for BP. They are looking to see if any pelagic birds have oil on them or if they find any dead birds. So far, in the four hour s they watched this morning they saw 11 birds. Listening to them talk has been fascinating!


This was the sunset tonight. I’m heading in with tea in hand to try and upload the rest of my pictures. I’m ready for tomorrow! Kevin said we will start a half hour after sunrise so I’ll be up bright and early! Let’s do it! Bring on the giant fish and things for me to get dirty with!

Michele Brustolon, July 7, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Michele Brustolon
Onboard NOAA Oscar Dyson
June 28 – July, 2010

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Eastern Bering Sea (Dutch Harbor)
Date: July 7, 2010

Weather Data from the Bridge

Time: 1500
Latitude: 56.30N
Longitude: 172.05W
Cloud Cover: 100% (8/8)
Wind: 16 knots
Air Temperature: 8.00 C/ 460 F
Water Temperature: 7.30 C/ 450 F
Barometric Pressure: 1011.8 mb

Science and Technology Log

Where am I?
Life aboard a ship is difficult to comprehend until you have experienced it first hand. If you forget something, oh well, and you live with what you have for the duration of your leg. Planning ahead is huge for a mission to the Bering Sea! (Sound familiar students?!) Life at sea can be much slower than I think people believe it to be. On this particular type of cruise, much of the day is spent waiting, watching, and analyzing information. While everyone has their job, some of those jobs require patience and flexibility.

NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson anchored in Dutch Harbor

What happened?

Ever have that moment when a demonstration fails, the cool lab you worked so hard on doesn’t work, there’s a schedule change thrown into your day, or maybe that special dinner you were planning didn’t taste right? It happens on the boat too! You have to be prepared and understand that it is going to happen. Equipment failure, human error; they all happen on board. I arrived in Dutch Harbor on June 26th and we were scheduled for departure on June 27th. There was a broken crank shaft in one of the large generators so our departure from Dutch Harbor was an educated guess at best. Without the generator, we would be in short supply of fresh water for a ship holding 39 people until July 16th. There wasn’t anything that we could do so we took advantage of being in Dutch Harbor for a couple of extra days until we departed on June 29th. Maybe the copper wire was cut before it reached the bottom on an XBT or there was a hole in the trawl net that needed to be mended. That part of life on board is no different than any other environment.

It’s an albatross, an orca, a tree?

Talk about patience…the mammal observers have lots of it. They are on watch constantly looking along the horizon for blowholes and other signs of mammalian life. When observations are slow, anything in the water can become exciting. Earlier this week while I was on the bridge, the mammal observers called down from their observation deck to the bridge because there was an object in the water that we were getting closer to. You could feel the excitement from everyone growing as this magnificent object grew closer. We got our cameras ready because this could be “the” picture of the trip and positioned ourselves to take the shot of our lives. As we approached this rather large piece of unidentified matter, we realized that it was a piece of driftwood with murres hanging out on it. At this point, the adrenaline rushed out of me and laughter took over. None of us could believe how excited we became and how let down we were to find out it wasn’t a mammal at all. Back to the observation deck!

Looking toward the horizon through the “Big Eye”

You can’t force the fish!

My primary job on this boat is to help with the fish surveying. Using the acoustics helps decide when the trawl nets are deployed for fishing. In order for fishing to occur there needs to be at least 2-3 miles of pollock showing up on the transducer screens. Weather also plays a role on what we see on the transducers. We have been very pleased with the weather so far; although it has been foggy, that usually means calmer seas. Later in the week, the weather is supposed to get dicey. When this happens there is a chance that it will be too rough to fish even if we do see the pollock. Look for my journal on weather after the weekend! Since the start of our journey we have fished three times during my shift and deployed the Methot a few times. When we are not fishing we find other things to keep us busy. Some people are analyzing data, checking equipment, or if you are a teacher at sea, you may be documenting all of your experiences. I have never taken so many pictures! The down time gives me a chance to talk to others on the boat to see what other operations are happening. As my friends and family know, I have a hard time sitting still. This is the perfect place for me to be because I have no choice but to slow my pace! It’s REALLY hard, but I think I am doing a pretty good job!

What shift are you working?

Aside from the flexibility needed to work on the ship, you also need to be flexible and patient just to live on board. Remember, you can’t just leave the ship when you need a break! The boat runs 24/7 so there are lots of shifts on the boat. To give you an idea you may be on watch for 4 hours in the dead of the night, or you may be observing mammals from sunrise to sunset. I was lucky to land the 12 hour shift from 0400-1600, but the other fisheries crew comes on for the remaining 12 hours of the day. I say this because with a full crew of 39 people on board and with everyone working different shifts, there is etiquette on board a vessel. If you and your roommate do not have the same shift, it is the unwritten rule not to enter the room while they are sleeping. That means you need to take everything with you for that shift. Not everyone eats during the allotted times that the mess hall is open so food is often set aside so everyone can have their meals regardless of what shift they work. Taking showers need to be short because everyone would like to take a hot shower after 12 hours of working. Appropriate volume is important because there may be people sleeping in the stateroom next to you and you don’t want to wake them while they are trying to sleep when off shift (remember inside voices!). It makes you very aware of your surroundings. I absolutely lucked out because Rebecca (the other TAS) and I have the same shift and same schedule. We have it much easier than most people on the boat that have opposite shifts.

TAS shift- 0400-1600

TAS stateroom (where we sleep)

TAS stateroom (where we sleep)

Can anybody hear me?

Need time away from the hustle and bustle of life back on land? Need to take a break from your TV, cell phone, blackberry, I phone, and the internet…the Bering Sea is the place for you! Even though there is a phone on board that allows you to call off the ship, it is extremely expensive so it is definitely not for everyday use. Phones don’t work here so you can save the batteries in your cell phone or I phone for home. Most of them actually don’t even work on Dutch Harbor either. As far as the internet is concerned, that’s a little trickier. As you may have noticed, my journals took a while to be posted. It is very difficult to send information via internet from the Oscar Dyson. If we are traveling on a northern transect, we may not get internet the entire time. The transect itself could take 2 days to complete running at 12 knots! If we are turning or heading south, we may get lucky for a while. Therefore it takes time to get all the information and pictures sent just to be posted. It is very hard to be patient because I want everyone to know what’s happening and all the cool things we have been doing. Internet is sporadic at best, but keep the emails coming! It is nice to hear from everyone back home!

Transects for Legs I-III for 2010

Animals seen
brittle stars- Ophiura sp.
basket star
sand dollars
hermit crabs
2 types of cockles- Clinocardium sp. and Serripes sp.
Tanner crab
Aleutian moonsnail
Arctic moonsnail
jellies- Chrysaora melanaster
krill- euphausiids
Dall’s porpoises
flounder- Kamchatka flounder
spiny lumpsucker

Basket star

Word of the day
Dupe: to deceive, fool

New vocabulary
Head: bathroom
Mess hall: cafeteria, where you eat your meals

Bruce Taterka, July 1, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Bruce Taterka
NOAA Ship: Oregon II 

Mission: SEAMAP Summer Groundfish Survey 
Geographical Area of Cruise: Gulf of Mexico 
Date: Tuesday, July 13, 2010 

On board the Oregon II in the Port of Galveston

I arrived in the Port of Galveston last night in the rain on the edge of Hurricane Alex, which was making landfall farther south along the Gulf Coast. The boat was quiet. I found my quarters – Stateroom 4, below deck – which I am sharing with Walter, the Second Cook for our cruise.

Stateroom 4
Stateroom 4

We were supposed to set sail today, but given the wind and rain that Alex brought to the Gulf our departure is delayed until tomorrow. Today is a wait-out-the-weather day.


Kim (the other Teacher at Sea the Oregon II) and I are meeting the officers and the crew and scientists and learning about our work for the next two weeks. I’ll be working the “day” shift – noon to midnight – while Kim will be on nights.

We set out tomorrow, heading south along the coast. Heavy seas are expected in the aftermath of Alex, which will be a major test for my sea legs. You can follow the Oregon II’s progress here.


Me on board
Me on board

Linda Tatreau, MARCH 4, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Linda Tatreau
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area of Cruise: Equatorial Pacific
Date: March 4, 2010

Pinging and Playing

We continue to “kill dots” as we work our way around the island of Farallon de Mendinilla. The mapping here will be finished tonight and then we will head north to map the seafloor of a few seamounts and banks. Most of the recent questions on this blog have been about “killing dots,” as we edit the data from the multibeam sonar. I will tell you more about the map making process in a future post. Today I want to show you some of the fun things we do aboard ship.Fishing is everyone’s favorite activity, either for the catching or the eating. The best method is trolling using lures when the ship is traveling at about 10 knots. This only happens when the ship is heading from one study area to another. When using the multibeam, the ship travels at about 4.5 knots and the fish are less apt to bite a slowly moving lure.

Kenji making poke from a wahoo he caught.

Frances with mahi mahi skins she is drying to make a fishing lure. Before drying she had to remove all the meat and later all the scales were removed. The resulting skin is very tough.

Jonathan on the exercise bike pedaling to Rota. There is an exercise room on the ship with a treadmill, rowing machine and weights. Many of the crew members like the bike best because it’s out on the deck with the great view.

A few of the movies available.

Movies are popular during breaks. The ship has about 800 tapes including older movies and recent releases. Many of the crew members have personal collections as well.

The desk in my stateroom.
The desk in my stateroom.

Each stateroom (bunkroom) has a monitor so the movies can be watched in the movie room, the lounge or the staterooms. The T.V. in the lounge also gets Fox News via satellite. The internet is a popular pastime. That also comes via satellite. The ship pays a set fee for the satellite service and there is no charge to us. There are three computers in the lounge available for everyone to use. There are internet connections on the bridge, in the science labs and in the bunk rooms for people with laptops. The library has a nice collection of books and board games so there is always something to do during non-working hours.
Bellow: That’s me looking for whales. These binoculars are called “big eyes.” They are used on trips when scientists are studying mammal populations. Using these binoculars from the highest point on the ship increases the likelihood of seasickness.

Big Eyes
Big Eyes

Here we are splicing lines to hold buoys. There have also been several knot-tying sessions.
Here we are splicing lines to hold buoys. There have also been several knot-tying sessions.

Mary Cook, December 15, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 15, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°43.66’S, Longitude 85°33.13’W
Time: 10:00 am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degrees) 132.47
Relative Humidity (percent) 66.35
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.44
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.41
Air Pressure (Millibars) 1016.60
Wind Speed (knots) 15.05
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.54

Question of the Day

For what purpose are the lights in the hallways colored red at night?

Positive Quote for the Day

“The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time.” W.J. Davison

Science and Technology Log

We had another early morning RHIB ride! The purpose was to visually inspect the newly deployed Stratus 5 buoy. It looked so small out there in the choppy ocean water. The buoy was found to be in good working condition with a minor break in a railing that surrounds the weather instruments that sit atop the buoy. The break will have no bearing on the workings of the instruments so all was approved by Jeff Lord, the WHOI engineering technician. Then we took another wild ride back to the mother ship!

I think today is a good day to show you pictures of the inside of the ship and talk about ship life. Here are some of my impressions of the ship interior. The hallways are narrow and if two people meet, one must step aside. The doors seem to weigh two tons and if one slammed on your fingers it would crush them off.

You must step up and over as you cross the threshold of a doorway. It’s built up to prevent water from getting into every room if there’s a flood. In the stateroom (bedroom), the bunk beds are comfortable but there’s no room to sit up in bed. The round windows are called portholes. The toilet (called the head) has no lid. The toilet is flushed by pressing a button then a powerful vacuum suctions everything down! There are handles to hold on to in the shower. The shower room doors have huge, strong magnets that hold them open. All the drawers and cabinets have latches so they won’t swing open when the ship moves around. Everything is tied down or secured in some fashion. There are no wheels on the office chairs. At night the hallway lights are turned to red instead of white. The food is outstanding. We eat three meals a day plus snacks are available 24 hours a day. There’s an exercise room and a laundry room and a TV room where two movies are shown each evening. There’s a library, too. It seems that computers are in every nook and cranny. There’s lots of equipment onboard like scientific instruments and big machinery. They make water on the ship. I’ll explain that on another day.

Diane, Bruce and I collaborated on the children’s book again today. Things are coming together nicely.

At “6:00 Science on the Fantail” we interview the Chief Scientist, Dr. Robert Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He gave us the reasons for placing the Stratus 5 buoy at this particular location in the Pacific Ocean. Bob said that there needs to be greater understanding of air-sea interactions for scientists to make better models and predictions of weather and climate patterns. The area just off the coast of Chile is one that has had minimal data collected in past years. Plus, it is an area that has a constant stratus cloud deck which isn’t clearly understood. That’s why the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Office of Climate Observation have partnered to fund the Stratus program for, possibly, as long as 15 years. Now, in its fifth year, the Stratus program has collected very useful data that has helped in better understanding the eastern Pacific Ocean and the weather that originates there. Dr. Weller was also very pleased with the work effort and cooperation between the WHOI scientists, the crew, and the Chilean scientists and students. It took a well organized work effort to get it all done. Now the WHOI scientists and engineers are taking the data collected from last year’s buoy and beginning the evaluation process.

Personal Log

I have to tell you about the exercise room. Last night, Diane invited me to go down for a workout. Diane’s a runner and so she goes to workout every evening. I’d never really taken a good look in there, except to see several pieces of equipment because I hadn’t brought any clothes or shoes appropriate for working out. So, I thought, why not? I need to exercise. So I put on my trusty, old clunky hiking boots and headed down to the exercise room. When I opened the door there was a red and black stairway leading down toward a yellow grate. Most of the exercise equipment was sitting on the grate. The room was dimly lit and the air was cool. I could hear the humming of fans. There was one gray door that had a claxon sounding off from within. I considered opening it but changed my mind. I saw a red “Danger High Voltage” sign and about ten huge carbon dioxide tanks sitting upright in the corner. There were some blinking lights coming from a partially opened doorway leading into another room. Running along the ceiling and walls were cables and pipes. I knew I was alone so I looked around to survey which machine I’d try first. Over in the far corner were rows of orange-colored coveralls hanging from the ceiling by their hoods with their arms outstretched. All the orange suits were moving with the swaying of the ship. It appeared as though people were inside the suits and just hanging in mid-air! I stopped, and looked around with an eerie thought. I felt like I was in an episode of Star Trek where they have rooms filled with extra worker-drones waiting to be activated during times of crisis. OK. Maybe I have been on this ship too long. But it’s a great place for the imagination to run wild. Don’t you think?

Until tomorrow,


Jilliam Worssam, July 7, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 5 – August 1, 2004

Day: Two
Wednesday July 7th, 2004 20:05

Longitude: 60° Sea Wave Height: 3′
Latitude: 172° 18 Swell Wave Height: 0-1′

Visibility: closing 5-8 nm fog Sea Water Temperature: 7.9C
Wind Direction: 214 Barometric Pressure: 1028 strong high pressure
Wind Speed: 5 kts Cloud Cover: complete

Science and Technology Log:

The plan for tonight is to run a MOCC trawl to test the equipment prior to live sampling, but lets back up a moment and look at the device used for this fish collecting experiment. Originally known as the KMOCC (Karp Multiple Opening and Closing Codend), the MOCC as it is commonly known is a scientific piece of equipment designed to allow scientists to selectively sample specific layers in the ocean. MOCC has the ability to collect fish samplings from a maximum of three different stratum, allowing the scientists choice. Pollock of different sizes tend to congregate at different oceanic layers and through the use of equipment like the MOCC scientists can look at sonar and choose from which population they would like to sample, without contaminating the haul with fish from different size groups. This form of selective sampling will aid the researchers in observing specific fish (pollock) populations.

Today there have been no fish trawls as according to the sonar data the ships transects have not passed any significant fish populations.

Personal Log:

I am on a 215 foot research vessel, touring the Bering Sea looking for walleye pollock, and can sit at this computer for an hour, watching the sonar all alone. With over thirty individuals living on this floating community it never ceases to amaze me that the schedules can be so well devised as to allow people their individual space. With a spare moment one might even be seen sitting in their stateroom relaxing. This amazing personal space is a person’s home away from home and usually has two residents. Each individual will work mirror hours so that while one person is sleeping, the other is working. Why is this fact so important? Well let me explain to you how many staterooms on the Miller Freeman are designed.

As you enter a stateroom there is on one side a set of berths, similar to a bunk bed, but Spartan by necessity. Each berth is approximately three feet wide and two feet high. Not a lot of room for movement, but functional in the processing of sleep. After the berth there is a spartan sink, a small desk, and two built in closets, all in a space that is eleven feet long and approximately five and a half feet wide. (Please realize that the 5.5’ included the beds, closets everything, so walking space is at its best at 2.5’ in the very middle.) The closets are not standard sized actually they are miniature and already contain your personalized life jacket and survival suit. Once inside the survival suit though you might have more room than in your berth. Space aside the rooms are functional, and a little cozy. I have slept in my berth for a few nights, and with the rocking of the boat and the lull of the engine it is as comfortable as an old porch hammock, on a warm summer evening as the breeze lulls you to sleep.

Jennifer Richards, September 6, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 6, 2001

Latitude: 30° 21.2 N
Longitude: 116° 01.7 W
Seas: Sea wave height: less than 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Visibility: 10-12 miles
Cloud cover: 8/8 (100%)
Water Temp: 21.4°C

Science Log: Since we are not in international waters yet, the scientists are not permitted to collect or record data. Many of them are spending their time calibrating equipment or working on papers that they would be writing if they were in their offices at home.

Travel Log: I have had the chance to meet a number of scientists and crew members on the ship, and each one of them really amazes me. Everyone on this ship is either a “crew member” or part of the “scientific party.” All the crew members report to Captain Dreves. They run the ship, repair and maintain the ship, and make sure we are happy and healthy. Besides the Captain, there are four additional uniformed NOAA Officers, and approximately 20 un-uniformed crew members. It takes 7 people to keep the engine in good shape, 3 people in the kitchen, 2 stewards, and the remainder are deck hands. The crew and officers are assigned to the ship for 2 year commissions, and during that time they spend 11 months out of the year on the ship, out at sea. It’s so interesting to talk with them, and to realize how unique their lives are.

Everyone in the scientific party (including me) reports to the Chief Scientist, Chris Fairall. There are research groups here from:

  • Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado
  • University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science
  • University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  • and a few others that are working in partnership with each of the groups above.

Each of the research groups has their own equipment on the ship and their own research to focus on, but they have to work together to coordinate data collection efforts. And since they are sharing bunks with their coworkers (2 people per room) they have to be able to get along with each other in tight quarters, which may get challenging towards the end of the cruise. Can you imagine being stuck on a ship with your best friend for a month, with no way to escape? After a whole month you may need a break from each other.

The big excitement for the day was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. It’s kind of scary to think we might need to do these things for real, although this is a top-notch ship with a top-notch crew, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. The abandon ship whistle consists of 6 short horn blows, followed by one long horn. We can remember this by saying “get-your-butt-off-the-ship nnnnoooowwwwww!” Six short, one long. We all have to grab a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat to protect us from sun exposure as we drift around in the ocean. We also have a life preserver and a “gumby suit” to protect us from the water chill until help arrives. The man overboard drill will be later in the cruise and consists of 3 long horn blows – “maaaan over booaarrd.”

Question of the day: The scientists on board are not allowed to collect and record data until we are out of Mexican waters. How far off-shore is the boundary between Mexican waters and International waters?

Photo Descriptions: Today’s photos show you an overview of my stateroom. They are pretty small, but efficiently laid out. Each stateroom has 2 bunks, lots of drawers, an area that can be converted into a desk, a sink, 2 life preservers and 2 gumby suits, and an inside door leading to a head. The most important thing in the stateroom is our bunk card, which tells each of us exactly where to go in case of fire, abandon ship signal, or man overboard signal.

Keep in touch,


Jennifer Richards, September 4, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 4, 2001

Latitude: 32.7° N
Longitude: 117.2° W
Temperature: 75° F

Seas: Since we are still at port in a protected harbor, there is no swell. The water is extremely calm.

Travel Log

Tomorrow the ship departs San Diego, California for its big adventure! I saw the ship for the first time this morning, and had the opportunity to meet Captain Dreves and Chris Fairall, the Chief Scientist. At 274 feet long, the ship certainly isn’t small, but it is docked at the Naval Station and is surrounded by huge grey navy ships, dwarfing the RONALD H. BROWN. Some of my students had asked if the captain has a white beard, smokes a pipe, and has a peg leg or a patch on his eye. The answer is “no” to all of those questions (sorry to disappoint you). I’ll be sure to take his picture as soon as I unpack my camera.

The pre-trip hoopla was pretty exciting and tiring. A reporter from the Navy Compass and a cameraman from KUSI, a local television station, came to the ship to interview the captain, Chris, and me. The weatherman at KUSI did a nice 2.5 minute piece about the cruise on the evening news in which he spoke about the importance of the research being conducted, and the Teacher at Sea (me!). Dr. John Kermond from NOAA gave me a tour of the ship, which Captain Dreves described very eloquently as “an industrial workplace with an enhanced chance of drowning.” On the inside, it has laboratory areas, a mess hall, small library, lounge with a television, lots of staterooms, and a lot of industrial areas filled with heavy equipment and people with dirty shirts. There’s something for everyone!

This afternoon John Kermond came up to my school (Guajome Park Academy in Vista, California) so I could say goodbye to my students. They wanted to know if I’m going to miss them, so let me put it in writing right here- YES! I really enjoy spending my days with my 9th and 10th grade Earth Science and Math students, and I will miss getting to see them every day.

Finally, I made it home to get my suitcase and say goodbye to my dog and cat, Birch and Hobbes. Birch knew something was going on- he gets nervous when suitcases leave the house and he’s not invited. Then back to the ship for a photo shoot with the San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper. What a busy day! I’m definitely not used to being in the spotlight like this, and I felt pretty awkward with cameras on me the whole day, but I survived.

Once things settled down, my husband, Rob came to the ship to see me. John and I gave him the tour, and I was very happy to see him before my big departure. Although the ship doesn’t leave until tomorrow morning, I thought I would spend the night here so I can get used to is layout before it gets too wobbly in the ocean.

My first adventure on the ship went something like this: I was getting ready for bed and put my sneakers in a drawer in my stateroom. When it was time to visit the head (bathroom) I found that it had been locked from the inside. Since I share a head with another room, I thought someone was using it. After waiting a while, and realizing that the only way in was to go through my neighbor’s room, I went to get my shoes on. Now, you need to understand that I received at least a half-dozen emails prior to getting on the ship telling me to bring shoes that cover my whole feet, because anything else will not be allowed outside of the stateroom. Well, when I went to get my shoes on, so that I could walk down the hall to the neighbor’s stateroom, so that I could get into the bathroom, I realize the drawer had locked!! Without shoes, I couldn’t leave my room, and I couldn’t unlock the head! So I poked my head out of my room until someone walked by and I asked for help. The Chief Scientist showed me how to unlock the head with a penny, but we had no luck unlocking my shoes.

Question of the Day: The name of the ship I am on is the “R/V RONALD H. BROWN.” This question has two parts: 1. What does R/V stand for, and 2. Who is Ronald H. Brown?

Keep in touch,