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.

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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!

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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.

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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

“Observer” 

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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.

Barney Peterson: Who Works on NOAA Ship OREGON II? Part 3

NOAA Teacher a Sea

Barney Peterson

Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II

August 13 – 28, 2016

Mission: Long Line Survey

Geographic Area: Gulf of Mexico

Date: Sunday, August 28, 2016

Weather Data is not available for this post because I am writing from the Biloxi/Gulfport Airport.

DECK CREW

Tim Martin, Chief Boatswain, aboard the OREGON II, left his home near the Missouri River in Missouri for a life at sea and has never looked back.  Like many young people from the Central United States, he joined the Navy as a way to travel and see the rest of the world.  He was stationed on Whidbey Island in Washington State and when he left the Navy he became a commercial fisherman working out of Seattle to fish the in Bering Sea from Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

Tim left the west coast and the world of commercial fishing to join NOAA and worked for several years on ships out of NOAA Woods Hole Station in Massachusetts.   Eventually, through connections he made on the job, he was able to transfer to the Southeastern Fisheries group.  He has worked on several ships, but has been on the OREGON II for 12 years.  Tim likes his job for the variety and activity it provides, as well as opportunities to apply his mind to ways to make things work better or more smoothly.  He attributes much of the good working atmosphere on the ship to the stability of many crew members who have worked together for years.   As a long-time civilian mariner with NOAA he appreciates the importance of believing in what you are doing and being committed to being successful.

But, Tim Martin is not so one dimensional that you can know him as just a mariner.  Talking with him I learned that he is a voracious reader with very eclectic tastes in literature.  He devours everything from travel accounts to true adventure, biographies, and historical accounts of exploration and settlement of the world.  He has traveled broadly and uses his reading time to continue to learn about the places he has visited.  He is a licensed diver and enjoys the underwater world as much as sailing on the surface of the sea.   I was fascinated to learn that he has dived to authentic pirate wrecks…quite a change from his underwater beginnings in the dark and brackish Pascagoula River.  Tim is a great example of someone who recognizes that his only limits are the ones he sets for himself.  That is a great legacy to leave for his family.

Chris Nichols, Lead Fisherman, got into marine work for the adventures.  Growing up he read classics like “Captains Courageous” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.” His years as a Boy Scout helped empower him with a can-do attitude that kept him from quitting when things got difficult.  After a mediocre high school career and his childhood years in West Palm Beach, Florida, hanging around the docks and fishing, his quest for travel and adventure led him first to commercial fishing and then to join the Navy.

After six years in the service, including training in water rescue, Chris left the Navy and started classes for work in the merchant marine industry.  As he worked toward earning his 100 ton master rating he discovered that using math, which had seemed unimportant and boring in high school, was critical for navigation.  Applying the things he was studying to real world problems made learning important.  The life-style structure of his military years helped him move fairly seamlessly into the shift work that became his routine aboard merchant ships.  The travel fed his sense of exploration and adventure.

Now, after 20 years working either on NOAA ships or for companies that contracted with NOAA, Chris still loves his job and his life style.  His experience in the merchant marine gave him the background to understand working on ships from the viewpoint of the wheel house and the deck.  He patiently explained to me that the job titles of people working on the deck crew are just positions for which eligible Able Bodied Seamen were hired.  They are not classification by skill or experience; they are job descriptions.  Each survey watch requires 3 crew members on deck to work equipment and support the scientists in deployment and retrieval of lines. Cooperation and communication are the most critical skills needed by everyone on the ship for success in carrying out their mission.

“NOAA has recently been experiencing a lack of interested, qualified applicants,” Chris told me.  “I think many young people lack the sense of adventure that makes life at sea attractive.”  He certainly demonstrates that desire for adventure: his eyes light up and an infectious grin spreads across his face as he talks about the places he’s been and the places he still wants to go.

The whole deck crew, including Chris Rawley, Mike Conway, Chuck Godwin, and James Rhue, are a lively, hard-working bunch.  They do their jobs, they have some fun doing them sometimes, and they like what they are doing.  Every time I was around them I could hear John Fogarty’s song “Rambunctious Boy” playing in my head and I ended up smiling and humming along!

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The Deck Crew – Chris Nichols, Mike Conway, Tim Martin, James Rhue, and Chris Rawley

ENGINEERS

Thirty-six years ago Rich Brooks took the advice of his high school math and history teachers and enrolled at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  The strict structure of the Academy helped him develop his study habits and learn the discipline needed to raise from a low C student a B+ student who took pride in his work.  He graduated with a degree in Marine Engineering, but spent time as a substitute teacher while deciding where he wanted to go with his career.  Currently he holds 3 chief engineer licenses: steam, motor and gasoline and is qualified to operate any watercraft.

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Richard Brooks

Eventually he started working on ships, spending a number of years in the Merchant Marine.   He worked on merchant transport ships contracted to our government to support Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom in the Persian Gulf. For 10 years he worked on independent oil tankers on the West Coast, transporting oil and gasoline to and from various ports. He has been a 1st Engineer for NOAA for 2 years.

Rich enjoys the travel and adventure that are part of his career.  He likes visiting different cities and has been through both the Suez and Panama Canals in his travels.  It has been a long journey around the world from his childhood home in Haverhill, Massachusetts to Mobile, Alabama where he made his home base for the last 25 years.  He is proud that his work as an engineer has influenced his son to pursue a career in engineering, following his father’s example of hard work and sacrifice as the way to get ahead in life. Rich hopes to see more young people turn to careers in engineering, knowing as he does that the average age of marine engineers in this country is 58 years which means there will be openings for young people as they complete their training.  As for him, when he retires several years in the future he looks forward to moving closer to his father in Florida, going fishing and playing golf.

 

THE PEOPLE I MISSED INTERVIEWING:

My roommate, Chrissy Stepongzi, is a marine biologist and the person of whom I saw the least on this cruise.  She knows her job and was always eager to answer questions.  We just did not see each other often to talk because of being on opposite shifts and sharing the room.  She slept while I worked and visa-versa.  I appreciated her quick smile and well-developed sense of humor and wish we had been able to get better acquainted.

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The Night Crew before a shift change – Trey, Chrissy, Lydia, and Toni

Fisherman Mike Conway has been working on ships for a long time.  He loves the ocean and loves the travel.  His willingness to make sure I learned and got opportunity to see things was really helpful and made me feel welcome.  Mike was always willing to grab my iPad and take pictures so I could be in them and he was the one that made sure I got to see the sky at night and appreciate the beauty of being on the ocean in one more way.

Fisherman Chris Rawley, quick to grin, but slow to talk, took some effort to get to know.  Chris was a fisherman on our shift and helped with everything from running the crane to pulling lines to wrestling sharks.  He was “born under a wandering star,” and loves to travel.  He’s a gypsy at heart.

James Rhue is another fisherman working on the deck crew.  He too was with the night shift so we didn’t cross paths often.  When we did talk he could always answer my questions and made me feel welcome.

Mike, Chris, and James are pictured in the Deck Crew photo above.

Mary Stratford was filling in on the deck crew this cruise.  She lives in Puerto Rico where she is a ceramic artist, but much of her life has been spent working in jobs that allow her to see the world.  Mary was helpful and friendly and always interesting to talk to.

2nd Engineer Darnell Doe, the quiet, friendly guy I ate breakfast with most mornings.  We shared a little conversation and watch the news over a quick bite to eat and a cup of coffee.  I never turned out into a formal interview and didn’t take notes on our casual conversations.

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2nd Engineer Darnell Doe

3rd Engineer Sam Bessey was filling in a temporary vacancy.  He is a recent graduate of an academy in Maine and worked the opposite shift of mine so we had a few chances to talk a little, but not enough to call an interview.  I do know he wants to head for Hawaii and try to find work there after this cruise, but will head home to Maine to see family first.  Good luck in your new career Sam.

Roy Tolliver was our tech person.  I most often saw him walking from place to place on the decks, checking on electronic equipment and trying to troubleshoot computer problems when they arose.  Roy has worked on ships for many years and has been many places around the world.

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Roy Tolliver and Sam Bessey on the flying bridge as we moved into the harbor at Gulfport

O C Hill, Listed on the staff roster as a “wiper” was another one of the people who kept the ship running.  Our interactions were limited to friendly smiles and greetings.  When folks work in the engine room it is hard to find a time to talk with them, especially if shifts don’t match.

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Otha (O.C.) Hill

Valerie McCaskill, our cook and one of the most important people on the ship.  I know she has a daughter she was eager to get home to see.  I know she had very little warning that the previous cook would not be on this voyage so she had to step in in a hurry.  I know that she has a beautiful smile and makes legendary macaroni and cheese!  She kept us very happy!

Chuck Godwin would normally be working on this ship as a skilled fisherman on the deck crew, but he worked in the kitchen with Valerie this trip to fill an important empty spot and keep us all well-fed.  His irrepressible sense of fun and lively conversation kept us all hopping.  His career has spanned time in the Coast Guard as well as years with NOAA.  His is a proud new grandpa.

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Valerie McCaskill and Chuck Godwin in the galley of NOAA Ship OREGON II

That I did not get to know everyone on the ship is my loss.  Everyone that I met was friendly and helpful.  It was a true pleasure to meet and work with these great people.

DJ Kast, Interview with the Stewards, June 1, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Dieuwertje “DJ” Kast
Aboard NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow
May 19 – June 3, 2015

Mission: Ecosystem Monitoring Survey
Geographical area of cruise: East Coast
Date: June 1, 2015 Day 14

Weather Data:

  • Rainy and Choppy
  • Air Temperature: 8 °C
  • Water Temperature: 10.46°C
  • Barometer: 1021.3 mb
  • TSG (Sound-Velocity): 1487 meters/sec
  • TSG- Conductivity: 3.63 s/m
  • TSG- Salinity: 32.66 PSU
  • Wind: 30 knots North East

Interview with Dennis Carey and Jeremy Howard, Chief Steward and Chief Cook of NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow Research Cruise 1502. They have been working together for 3.5 years.

 

Dennis Carey

Dennis! Photo by DJ Kast

Dennis! Photo by DJ Kast

 What is your job here on the ship?

My name is Dennis and I am the Chief Steward. This means that I am in charge of food production and management. I am the Head of the Steward Department and I have been for about 12 years now.

How is a boat kitchen different from a home kitchen?

First of all, a boat kitchen is called a galley and the dinning area where everyone eats is called a mess hall. Additionally, a water fountain is called a scuttlebutt.

In terms of a technical answer to your question, we have:

  1. Convection oven- it cooks things faster because it can cook at 25F higher than a regular oven and the air is circulated by a fan as well.
Convection Oven. Photo by DJ Kast

Convection Oven. Photo by DJ Kast

2. Grill

Grill! Photo by DJ Kast

Grill! Photo by DJ Kast

3. Steam jacket kettle- for sauces and soups

Soup Maker. Photo by DJ Kast

Steam jacket kettle. Photo by DJ Kast

4. Commercialized equipment- blender& large refrigerator

5. Gallon water, coffee and milk machine

Water and ice dispenser, microwave, and lots of tea. Photo by DJ Kast

Water and ice dispenser, microwave, and lots of tea. Photo by DJ Kast

Milk on the left, See-through refrigerator on right. Photo by DJ Kast

Milk on the left, Stand-up refrigerator on right. Photo by DJ Kast

6. Cereal dispensers!

Cool Cereal dispenser! Photo by DJ Kast

Cool Cereal dispenser! Photo by DJ Kast

7. Salad bars

Salad bar. Photo by DJ Kast

Salad bar. Photo by DJ Kast

8. Dragon/ Dishwasher Machine: It sanitizes by steaming dishes up to 195F.

 

The Dragon. Photo by DJ Kast

The Dragon. Photo by DJ Kast

Tell me about your experience:

I served 22 years with the Navy, and 12 years with NOAA and all those years were in food service.

What training do you need for your job:

  • Back in my day, I was called a Mess Specialist when I graduated C-school, now called culinary specialists.
    • According to https://www.navycs.com/navy-jobs/culinary-specialist.html:  The Navy Cook rating was one of the original ratings in 1797. The name Cook was changed to Ship’s Cook in 1838. It wasn’t until 1948 that the culmination of the various rates Commissary Steward, Ship’s Cook, Ship’s Cook (B) (Butchers), and Baker consolidated into the Commissaryman rating. In 1975, the name was changed to Mess Management Specialist, and finally, in 2004, the Culinary Specialist rating was established.
  • I attended Rose State College in Oklahoma and Central Texas University.
  • I went to C-school, which is also called advanced food preparation and management.
  • You will need experience and lots of it, particularly on the job experience. I started with an Intern culinary internship with Hilton Northwest in Oklahoma city.
  • I also did a Food Service Attendance. It is a 3 month rotation where everybody has to work in the galley. They kept me as a cook!

According to the Navy Personnel Command,

General Culinary Specialist description:

Culinary Specialists (CS) receive extensive training in culinary arts, and other areas within the hospitality industry.  This CS rating is responsible for all aspects of the dining (shipboard mess decks) and shore duty living areas.  Culinary Specialists work in the “heart of the ship,” and are vital in maintaining high crew morale on ships, construction battalions and every shore base.

Job Descriptions:

  • Menu management and ordering the quantities and types of food items necessary for quantity food preparation.
  • Operating kitchen and dining facilities.
  • Maintaining subsistence inventories using storeroom management procedures.
  • Culinary Specialists work in kitchen, dining areas, bachelor quarters, living quarters and food service storerooms aboard ships, shore bases, construction battalions, and designated aircraft.  The work is physical, creative and mentally challenging; in which one has to be flexible and versatile in their daily duties.

After “A” School, Culinary Specialists are assigned to deploying units or shore stations in the United States and/or overseas. During a 20-year career in the Navy, CS’s spend approximately 60 percent of their time assigned to fleet units and 40 percent to shore stations.

Apprenticeships are highly valued for ship work and below are the current USMAP apprenticeship trades that are currently offered for the Culinary Specialist rating:

  • Baker (Bake Products)
  • Cook (Any Industry)
  • Manager, Food Service (Hotel and Restaurant)
  • Cook (Hotel and Restaurant)
  • Housekeeper (Commercial, Residential, Industrial)
  • Household Manager (Private, Residential Management)

(http://www.public.navy.mil/bupers-npc/enlisted/community/supply/Pages/CSRating.aspx)

What was the first NOAA ship you worked on?

I worked on the Delaware as a Chief Steward.

 

Delaware Research Vessel. Photo by NOAA

Delaware Research Vessel. Photo by NOAA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeremy Howard- Chief Cook

What is your job here on the ship?

Second Cook- food preparation and sanitation.

How did you get trained to do your job?

I’ve been a NOAA steward for 6 years and every year NOAA sends stewards to training to keep up with the culinary skills.

Tell me more about cooking for so many people

You have to be able to cook portions for crew size. Crew size varies per mission of the cruise and so we figure out all of the crew aboard for consumption of goods. We make sure we are accommodating food choices like: vegetarian, gluten free, lactose free, etc. Our crew size is 32 people right now, and the maximum crew size is 41 people. We try to minimize waste. Main goal of the steward department is to cook GREAT food and not waste it.

Why did you chose to be a chef?

I am passionate about cooking great food. Being a cook, you have to have passion because there is a lot of routine in cooking. You start seeing the same people every day, cooking similar food and so I figure out ways to keep on learning new things, and continuously improve.

To be a chef you need to have good communication skills with the chief steward and in general you need to be flexible especially out on a ship.

Being out at sea- you can’t go to the store if you forgot something. You have to have attention to detail before we get underway.

NOAA is the best kept secret for culinary work. I love the Bigelow- I have a great career here, and I might not be able to see foreign ports so much but I am guaranteed to see my family. I get to see them 2 to 3 months out of the year versus 2 weeks like on navy ships. BEST KEPT SECRET.

Food inventory:

We do all the food shopping before we leave for trip. Chief Steward orders the food from a reputable FDA approved supplier. Dennis does all the inventory. We can’t waste money or food on this ship. He needs to do an inventory of things and we go by our motto with inventory which is: First in, first out!

What was your first ship?

NOAA Ship- Delaware II!

Delaware Research Vessel. Photo by NOAA

Delaware Research Vessel. Photo by NOAA

But technically, before that I was in the Navy for 5 years. I was part of the Hurricane Katrina relief in New Orleans.

What does a typical day look like?

Both of us get up at 4 AM to prepare breakfast and we make 3 square meals a day (7-8 AM, 11 AM-12:30 PM, and 5-6 PM). We finish about 7:30 PM.

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Lunch Menu on 5-31-15. Yummy! Photo by DJ Kast

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Yummy lunch food. Photo by DJ Kast

You gotta keep a good morale about your career, you keep growing, and it never gets boring. We also help with the morale of the ship and we host Bingo Nights, and Ice Cream Socials, which allows new crew to bond with old crew.

Bingo Night with John! Here is Billy picking up one of the prizes. Photo by Jerry Prezioso.

Bingo Night with Third Engineer John! Here is Electronic Technician Billy picking up one of the prizes. Photo by Jerry Prezioso.

I’ll humbly say that Bigelow has the best steward department EVER!

Robert Ulmer: The Company You Keep, June 25, 2013

NOAA Teacher At Sea

Robert Ulmer

Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier

Underway from June 15 to July 3, 2013

Current coordinates:  N 56⁰40.075’, W 134⁰20.96’

(southeast of Point Sullivan in Chatham Strait)

Mission:  Hydrographic survey

Geographical area of cruise:  Southeast Alaska, including Chatham Strait and Behm Canal, with a Gulf of Alaska transit westward to Kodiak

Log date:  June 25, 2013

Weather conditions:  Misty rain under a blanket of thick clouds and fog, 13.76⁰C, 84.88% relative humidity, 1001.09 mb of atmospheric pressure, very light variable winds (speed of less than 1.5 knots with a heading between 344⁰ and 11⁰)

  • Remember that headings on a ship are measured around a full 360⁰ circle clockwise from north.  Therefore, 344⁰ and 22⁰ are only 38⁰ apart directionally.
NOAA Ship Rainier, S-221, underway in Behm Canal

The operation of NOAA Ship Rainier, S-221, requires the cooperation of a large, hard-working, and multi-talented crew.

Explorer’s Log:  The crew of NOAA Ship Rainier

Especially as we leave the confines of childhood, society views us, at least in part, by our intentional decisions about which people make up our circle of friends and our group of colleagues.  Certainly such outside judgments can be unfair when based only on short-term glimpses, predisposed biases, or moments misunderstood for lack of context, but I think that long-term observations of our personal associations can provide meaningful information about us.

With Ai Wei Wei's zodiac sculptures in Washington, DC

With Ai Wei Wei’s zodiac sculptures in Washington, DC

With the crew after the 5K race at O'Leno State Park

After the 5K race at O’Leno State Park

My closest circle of friends – intentionally – is populated by a rich gumbo of personalities, ideas, ideals, physiques, insights, humors, tastes, preferences, and behaviors, all of which serve to stimulate my mind, activate my creativity, enrich my soul, entertain my spirit, and motivate my direction.  In other words, they are the scaffolding that supports me and the team that carries me along through so many parts of my own explorations.  Jasmine’s appreciation of intelligence and beauty, Collin’s sharp wit, Reece’s focused intensity, Dad’s analysis, Mom’s honesty, Lisa’s support, Grandma Madeline’s generosity, Aunt Marilyn’s and Uncle Marc’s welcome, Aunt Lynn’s spunkiness, Cheryl’s cool, Dillon’s quiet observation, Jack’s vision, Teresa’s organization, Bob’s perspective, Katy’s goodness, Chris’s enthusiasm, Emilee’s wonder, Kyle’s repartee, Casey’s lyricism, Will’s genuineness, Rien’s kindness, Tyler’s motivation, Zach’s creativity, Brian’s investment in service, Matt’s passion for justice, Gary’s sense of direction, Tommy’s helpfulness, Silas’s wordsmithery, Loubert’s jocularity, Jonathan’s love….

And then add the brilliant and rich colors and flavors and voices of my larger group of friends and acquaintances:  the teachers, administrators, students, and neighbors who daily contribute their own stories and wisdoms to my experiences, and the result – again, intentionally – is very nearly a portrait of me… or at least the me that I aspire to become in my own journeys.

(For my varied generations of readers, think of the Magnificent Seven, the Fellowship of the Ring, and/or the Order of the Phoenix.  This is my posse.)

In other words, we often are judged and almost always are defined by the company we keep.

Wedding celebration

Wedding celebration

The NOAA Ship Rainier is no exception.  Beyond the mechanical body of the ship herself, the personnel here are the essence of the vessel that carries them.

Acting CO Mark Van Waes maintains a vigilant lookout on the bridge

Acting CO Mark Van Waes maintains a vigilant lookout on the bridge.

Smart and funny, resourceful and dedicated, skilled and hard-working, the crew members of NOAA Ship Rainier are an impressive bunch, all of whom have enriched me in the short time that I’ve been aboard, and all of whom do their jobs and interact in ways that produce superb results.  And the wholeness of their shared strengths, talents, and personalities is far greater than the sum of their individual aspects, as always is the case when a team is well-assembled.

MB_2, Red Bluff Bay, Chatham Strait, Alaska, June 23, 2013

One of the NOAA Commissioned Corps Officers appreciates the beauty of Southeast Alaska.

For more than 150 (and sometimes more than 250!) days per year, the men and women aboard ships in the NOAA fleet sacrifice time away from their own homes, friends, and families – and regularly that remoteness isolates them from news, television, phone, and internet for days or weeks at a time – in service to the public at large through their assigned missions at sea.  Currently, nearly four dozen crew members serve aboard Rainier in several departments, each of which serves its own set of functions, but all of which are unified by their shared mission, like the instrumental sections of an orchestra in the production of a symphony.

NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps

The NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, sharply outfitted aboard ship in their navy blue ODUs (operational dress uniforms), is one of the seven uniformed services in the United States government.  For this leg of the mission, the officers  aboard Rainier serve under Acting Commanding Officer (ACO) Mark Van Waes and Executive Officer (XO) Holly Jablonski to perform three sets of functions:  administrative, navigational, and participatory.  As the administrators of the ship, the officers are responsible for everything from payroll to purchases, and communications to goodwill.  In the navigational capacity, the officers are responsible for charting the courses to be traveled by the ship and moving the vessel along those courses, sometimes with helm in hand and sometimes by giving the command orders to effectuate those maneuvers.  Finally, aboard Rainier and her sister hydrographic vessels, the junior officers are trained members of the hydrographic survey team, participating at all levels in the gathering and processing of data regarding the floor of the sea.  Ultimately, the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps members work to define the missions of Rainier and oversee the execution of those missions.

NOAA Commissioned Officers and Third Mate Carl VerPlanck of the Deck Department navigate NOAA Ship Rainier

NOAA Commissioned Officers and Third Mate Carl VerPlanck of the Deck Department navigate NOAA Ship Rainier.

Deck Department

Members of the Deck Department let go the anchor on the bow

Members of the Deck Department let go the anchor on the bow.

Beyond the uniformed NOAA Corps crew members, Rainier also employs many highly-skilled civilian merchant mariners who work around the clock to support the officers in the duties of navigation and sailing of the ship while it is underway.  Essentially, while following the decisive command orders of the Officer Corps, the Deck Department handles the endless details involved in steering the ship and its smaller boats, along with deploying and anchoring those vessels.  Under the departmental leadership of Chief Boatswain (pronounced “bosun”) Jim Kruger, the members of the Deck Department all hold various levels of U.S. Coast Guard ratings in navigational watch-standing and deck operations, and their experiences and proficiencies earn them respect with regard to many facets of decision-making and operations on the bridge.

(The NOAA Corps and the Deck Department together have been responsible for the passage of NOAA Ship Rainier through the waterways of Southeast Alaska during my weeks aboard.  To see a cool video of NOAA’s travel through Alaska’s Inside Passage made using stop-motion photography by Ensign John Kidd, click here.)

Survey and Deck Department members work together to prepare for the day's launches

Survey and Deck Department members work together to prepare for the day’s launches.

Survey Department

The members of the Survey Department aboard NOAA Ship Rainier are civilian scientists (working hand-in-hand with survey-trained NOAA Corps officers) who have been trained in the specialized work of conducting surveys of the sea floor using single-beam sonar, multi-beam sonar, tidal gauges and leveling devices, CTD devices (to gather data about conductivity, temperature, and depth of the water column), and several very highly-technical components of computer hardware and software packages.

Only the highest point of this 150-meter-wide rock remains above the water line at high tide.

Can you see the horizontal lines on this rock formation? They are caused by cyclical changes in the elevation of the sea water as a result of tidal forces. Only the highest point (around where the bald eagle is perched) of this 150-meter-wide set of rocks (extending beyond the boundaries of this image in both directions several times the width of what this photograph shows) remains above the water line at high tide. However, the portions that become submerged remain extremely dangerous to seagoing vessels, which is why the work of the Survey Department is so important.

From Hydrographic Assistant Survey Technicians (HASTs) upward through the ranks to Chief Survey Technician (CST) Jim Jacobson, they are superb problem-solvers and analysts with undergraduate- and graduate-level degrees in the cartography, biology, geography, systems analysis, and many other fields of scientific expertise, and one survey technician aboard Rainier is an experienced mariner who transferred into the Survey Department with a broad educational background ranging from the humanities to computer science.  The members of the Survey Department spend countless hours gathering, cleaning, analyzing, and integrating data to produce nautical charts and related work products to make travel by water safer for everyone at sea.

Two-dimensional slice of data

The Survey Department compiles raw sonar and quantitative data from the ship and the launch vessels and first converts those data into a graphic file that looks like this…

... which becomes this ...

… which is a slice of this image …

Soundings

… which then goes through this sounding selection stage before eventually being finalized into a nautical chart for public use.

Physical Scientists

 NOAA physical scientist Kurt Brown joins Rainier in surveying the sea floor of Chatham Strait


NOAA physical scientist Kurt Brown joins Rainier in surveying the sea floor of Chatham Strait.

One or two physical scientists join the ship’s crew for most of the field season from one of two NOAA Hydrographic offices (in Seattle, Washington and Norfolk, Virginia), where their jobs consist of reviewing the hydrographic surveys submitted by the ships to make sure that they meet NOAA’s high standards for survey data, and compiling those surveys into products used to update the approximately 1000 nautical charts that NOAA maintains.  The ship benefits from the physical scientists’ time on board by having a person familiar with office processing of survey data while the surveys are “in the field,” and also by receiving an extra experienced hand for daily survey operations.  The physical scientists also get a refresher on hydro data collection and processing along with a better understanding of the problems that the field deals with on a daily basis, and they bring this up-to-date knowledge back to the office to share with coworkers there.

Engineering Department

Oiler Byron Doran of the Engineering Department chooses the right tools for the job.

Oiler Byron Doran of the Engineering Department chooses the right tools for the job.

The Engineering Department is a combination of U.S. Coast Guard licensed Engineering Officers (CME, 1AE, 2AE, and 3AE) and unlicensed engineering personnel (Junior Engineer, Oiler, and GVA).  Their work is concerned with the maintenance of the physical plant of the ship — everything from stopping leaks to making mechanical adjustments necessary for Rainier‘s proper and efficient running in the water.  The engineers are skilled craftsmen and craftswomen who wield multiple tools with great dexterity as needs arise.

Electronics Technicians

Electronics Technician (ET) Jeff Martin hard at work

Electronics Technician (ET) Jeff Martin is hard at work.

The Electronics Technician aboard NOAA Ship Rainier (some ships have a larger department) has the important role of making sure that the many computerized systems — both hardware and software — are properly networked and functional so that navigation and survey operations can proceed effectively and efficiently.  Having trained on radar equipment with the U.S. Navy “back in the days of glass tubes,” ET Jeff Martin is an expert’s expert, adept at prediction and troubleshooting, and skilled at developing plans for moving systems forward with the ship’s mission.

Steward Department

Chief Steward Doretha Mackey always cooks up a good time and a great meal.

Chief Steward Doretha Mackey always cooks up a good time and a great meal.

Chief Steward Kathy Brandts and GVA Ron Hurt keep the crew happily well-fed.

Chief Steward Kathy Brandts and GVA Ron Hurt keep the crew happily well-fed.

The Steward Department runs the galley (the ship’s kitchen) and currently is composed of four crew members aboard Rainier.  Specifically, they are responsible for menu preparation, food acquisition, recipe creation, baking, and meal preparation for the 40+ people who must eat three meals (and often have snacks) spread across the entire day, both underway and at port, including special meals for away-from-the-galley groups (like launch vessels and shore parties), when local goods (like fish, fruits, and vegetables) are available, and/or for crew members or guests with dietary restrictions.  An army moves on its stomach.  The meals aboard this ship, by the way, show great diversity, technique, and nutritional value, including grilled fish and steaks, vegetarian casseroles, curried pastas, homemade soups, fresh salads, and a wide variety of delicious breakfast foods, snacks, and desserts.

Second Cook Floyd Pounds works to prepare a meal for the crew.

Second Cook Floyd Pounds works to prepare a meal for the crew.

So those are the current citizens of the seagoing vessel NOAA Ship Rainier, harmonizing within a common chord, travelers who together explore the seas by working together to achieve their unified mission.  They are the excellent company that I keep on this leg of the exploration.

As you endeavor upon your own journeys, remember always to choose your company wisely so that your efforts are supported when challenging, insulated when vulnerable, motivated when difficult, and celebrated when successful.  And once you are surrounded by those good people, keep exploring, my friends.

Even the sea otters take some time to relax and enjoy one another's company.

Sea otters enjoy one another’s company along their way.

Personal Log:  Enjoy yourself along the way

Although they all work long, hard hours at their many assigned tasks, members of the team aboard NOAA Ship Rainier also enjoy one another’s company and occasionally get to have a good time.  Sharing an isolated, moving home barely 70 meters long with four dozen people for several weeks at a time guarantees social interaction, and the sounds of testimonies of laughter and friendship regularly fill the air in and around the ship, both among the workstations and away from the ship.

Ensign Theresa Madsen and Second Assistant Engineer Evan McDermott, my exploration partners in Red Bluff Bay

Ensign Theresa Madsen and Second Assistant Engineer Evan McDermott, my exploration partners in Red Bluff Bay

One of Carl's many catches

One of Carl’s many catches

Since joining the crew of Rainier just a week and a half ago – and beyond the many exciting excursions that are simply part of the regular jobs here – I already have been invited to join various smaller groups in exploring a town, dining in a local eatery, watching a movie, climbing a glacier, fishing in the waters of Bay of Pillars, walking on a beach, and kayaking through beautiful Red Bluff Bay past stunning waterfalls, huge mountains, and crystal-clear icy streams, including a spontaneous hike into the deep and wild, verdant and  untrammeled woods above the shore, following uncut paths usually trod only by deer and bears on their way to the frigid water running down from the snow-capped peaks high above.

Evan replaces his socks after walking through the stream

Evan replaces his socks after walking through the frigid stream.

Evan takes the lead hiking into the woods (armed with bear spray and an adventurer's spirit)

Evan takes the lead hiking into the woods, armed with bear spray and an adventurer’s spirit!

Truly, the people aboard Rainier know how to enjoy the gift of life.  And I feel honored, flattered, privileged, and happy to be included among these new friends on their great adventures.

Beautiful waterfall in Red Bluff Bay

A beautiful waterfall that Theresa, Evan, and I explored in Red Bluff Bay

Valerie Bogan: The Journey Ends, June 20, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Valerie Bogan
Aboard NOAA ship Oregon II
June 7 – 20, 2012

Mission: Southeast Fisheries Science Center Summer Groundfish (SEAMAP) Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Gulf of Mexico
Date
: Wednesday June 20, 2012

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Sea temperature 28  degrees celsius, Air temperature 26.4 degrees celsius.

 Science and Technology Log:

Well we have come to the end of the cruise so now it is time to tie it all the pieces together.  The Gulf of Mexico contains a large ecosystem which is made up of both biotic (living) and abiotic (nonliving) factors.  We studied the abiotic factors using the CTD which records water chemistry data and by recording information on the water depth, water color, water temperature, and weather conditions.  We studied the living portions of the ecosystem by collecting plankton in the bongo and neuston nets.  The health of the plankton depends on the abiotic factors such as water temperature and water clarity so if the abiotic factors are affected by some human input then the plankton will be unhealthy.  The trawl net allowed us to collect some larger organisms which occupy the upper part of the food web.  Some of these organisms eat the plankton while others eat bigger creatures which are also found in the trawl net.  Despite what they eat all of these creatures depend on the health of the levels below them either because those levels are directly their food or because those levels are the food of their food.

The Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem

An illustration of how the food web in the gulf works. (picture from brownmarine.com)

The ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico has taken a couple of large hits in the recent past, first with Hurricane Katrina and then with the Deepwater horizon oil spill.  When an ecosystem has undergone such major events it is important to monitor the species in order to determine if there is an effect from the disasters.  Hurricane Katrina left its mark on the people of the Gulf coast but did minimal damage to the biotic parts of the ecosystem.  The effects of the deepwater horizon oil spill are still unknown due to the scope of the spill.

Today’s portion of the ship is the engine room.  I was recently taken on a tour of the engine room by William.  The ship is powered by two diesel engines which use approximately 1,000 gallons of fuel per day.  The ship obviously uses the engines to move from location to location but it also uses the energy to power generators which supply electrical energy, to air condition the ship and to make fresh water out of sea water.

The engines.

The twin diesel engines.

Generators

Generators

There are two vital positions on the Oregon II that I have not discussed, deck worker and engineer.  We could never have collected the samples that we did without the immense help of the deck workers.  They operated the winches and cranes that allowed us to deploy and bring back the nets which captured our samples.  The engineers kept the ship’s engines running, the electricity on, and the rooms cool.  Some of these men started out their careers as merchant marines.  A merchant marine is a person who works on a civilian-owned merchant vessel such as a deep-sea merchant ship, tug boat, ferry or dredge.  There are a variety of jobs on these ships so if you are interested in this line of work I’m sure you could find something to do as a career.  A few merchant marines work as captains of those civilian ships, guiding the ship and commanding the crew in order the get the job done.  More of them serve as mates, which are assistants to the captains.  These people are in training to one day become a captain of their own ship.  Just like on the Oregon II there are also engineers and deck workers in the merchant marines.  Engineers are expected to keep the machinery running while the deck workers do the heavy lifting on the deck and keep the ship in good condition by performing general maintenance.

During this cruise I have met a lot of people who have different jobs all of which are related to collecting scientific data.  The bridge is wonderfully staffed by members of the NOAA Corps.  These men and women train hard to be able to sail research ships around the world.  To find out more about a profession with the NOAA Corps go visit the Corps’ webpage.  There are a large number of scientists on board.  These scientists all specialize in the marine environment and there are many wonderful universities which offer degrees for this field of study.  Go here to get some more information on this scientific pursuit.  The engineers and deck crew keep the ship running. To learn about these professions go to The United States Merchant Marines Academy.  The stewards are instrumental in keeping the crew going on a daily basis by providing good healthy meals.  To learn more about working as a steward read about the Navy culinary school.  The ship could not continue to operate without each of these workers.  Nobody is more or less important than the next–they survive as a group and if they cannot work together the ship stops operating.

Personal Log

Well my journey has come to an end and it is bitter-sweet.  While I’m happy to be back on land, I’m sad to say goodbye to all of the wonderful people on the Oregon II.  When I was starting this adventure I thought two weeks was going to be a long time to be at sea, yet it went by so fast.  Although I’m tired, my sleep and eating schedule are all messed up, and I have some wicked bruises, I would do it again.  I had a great time and in a couple of years I have a feeling I will be once again applying for the Teacher at Sea Program.

It should be no surprise to those that know me best that I love animals which is why I volunteer at the zoo and travel to distant locations to see animals in the wild.  So my favorite part of the trip was seeing all the animals, both those that came out of the sea and those that flew to our deck.  So I’m going to end with a slide show of some amazing animals.

Pelican.

This pelican decided to stop and visit with us for a while.

angel shark

An angel shark

Moray eel

A moray eel

Bat fish

Two bat fishes of very different sizes.

Sand dollar

A sand dollar

Hitchhikers

A group of sea birds decide to hitch a ride for a while.

Paige Teamey: October 31, 2011 – November 1, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Paige Teamey
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
October 31, 2011 – November 11, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, between Montauk, L.I. and Block Island
Date:  October 31, 2011


Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: Var.
Temperature 14 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 12.0 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb:  8.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1228.4 millibars
Latitude: 41°71’58” ° North
Longitude: 072°0’07” ° West

Science and Technology Log

Good Morning Thomas Jefferson!  Today I woke up and felt very spritely.  Even though we were still docked I was excited to see a new city and leave Connecticut’s shores by noon.  I started by walking around New London and learning about its

Halloween Morning on Thames RIver Harbor. Thomas Jefferson is on the left and a U.S. Coast Guard ship is on the right.

history.  New London is a mariners town and is home to a Naval submarine base as well as the United States Coast Guard Academy.  New London was also home to the Eastern shores largest whaling industry in the 1700’s.

After having a glimpse of New London (only 2.5 hours north of NYC) I returned to the Thomas Jefferson and watched as the ship readied herself to leave the dock and begin yet another survey (mapping the ocean floor) of the ocean floors.  While I watched the deck hands, officers, and surveyors ready the ship I asked random shipmates who exactly worked aboard the Thomas Jefferson.  Based on our conversation I was able to make the following chart.  This chart breaks down the five basic groups that are aboard the Thomas Jefferson.  The only person I did not account for is the amazing ET (Electronics Technician), Mike, who helps with all computer and system related problems (there are enough aboard to keep him busy 24/7.

 Who works on the Thomas Jefferson:

Stewards (Kitchen Crew)

Dave cooking a tasty dinner.

Deck Department

Tom repainting the exterior of ship.

Hydrographic Surveyors

Surveying crew (Frank, Matt, FOO Mike, and XO Denise)

Mechanical Engineers

Ivan and Otis manning watch.

NOAA Corp Officers

Ensign Anthony on constant alert in the bridge.

Let’s start with the cooking crew, because food is the best place to begin any conversation. .  Dave, Nester, and Ace are the stewards for this journey and make incredibly tasty meals…even vegetarian ones for me and Shaina (Shaina is on an internship with NOAA while she attends College in Seattle).  The kitchen on a ship is also called the “galley.” The deck department works by maintaining the ship.  The tasks  include chipping and painting (this is important because the sea water is constantly chemically eroding the surface of the ship) moving the launches in and out of the TJ, and keeping the ship balanced as a whole.  The “surveyors…”  this team is quite large and essential to the ship because they conduct and perform all of the seafloor mapping (hydrographic surveying).  The surveyors work around the clock and continually modernize old nautical charts to be used commercially and for recreation purposes. The mechanical engineers or “the heart of the ship.”  The ME’s maintenance the engine, electricity, sewage, water, and keep all life lines to the ship running.  There are multiple positions in the ME department:CME (Chief Mechanical Engineer), licensed engineers, JUE (junior unlicensed engineers) oilers, wipers, GVA (General Vessel Assistants). The officers are essentially the supervisors or parents of the ship.  The officers  “run” the ship in respect to giving directions, deciding where TJ will go, how fast she (all ships are referred to as she) should go, and pull the stops when things aren’t going well or need to be revised.

 What is a scientific research vessel?

So, let’s break it down.  The Thomas Jefferson specifically is used to map sea floors, however it can be called to plane crashes (they saved a pilot last year off of the Florida keys!!) when they go down in the area or ship wrecks.  The Thomas Jefferson, or TJ, has three deployable ships (small ships that can be moved from the larger ship to the ocean).  Two of the deployables are hydrographic survey launches named 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 (aptly named for their position on the ship) and the FRV (fast rescue vessel).  The 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 are used daily to map areas that have shoal bottoms (shoal=ship term used for shallow).  Sadly the 31-0-1 is awaiting a new multibeam scanner so instead is used for small missions like going ashore to pick up mail (this is

Deploying 3102

very exciting for the crew) or retrieving tidal data from instruments that lost power from our Nor’Easter last weekend (this is also exciting because it allows you to go onto land).  TJ is 208ft long (just short of a block).   Thomas Jefferson was the first President to realize the importance of surveying and safe navigation.   Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter was a land surveyor and was able to emphasize the importance of national surveying to his son.  Thomas Jefferson commissioned the first surveying crew through the U.S. Government and as a result NOAA named their ship after him.

A scientific research vessel basically means I am not on a cruise ship, and unfortunately there is no swimming pool, or drinks with little umbrellas.  Instead it is like a business office on the water. Everybody is working all of the time.  The only difference is that everyone eats and sleeps in the same place they work.  Everybody works in 4 hour “watches.”  If you are the 4-8 watch that means you work from 4am-8am and 4pm to 8pm everyday.  Though this watch may not interest you, I love it because you are able to observe the sunrise and sunset each day.

Red skies at night a sailors delight, Red skies in morning a sailors warning. (SUNSET)

Other watches are from (8am-12pm and 8pm to 12am) and (12am-4am and 12pm-4pm).  Imagine waking up at school, eating breakfast going to school for four hours (let’s say 4am-8am), taking a break and going back to school again for another 4 hours (4pm-8pm) and then going to sleep  only to wake up the next morning to start anew.  On a research vessel work is achieved and performed 24/7.  I can wake up any hour and move throughout the ship to find the “new crew” that are on just beginning their new watch.

How She Moves:

OKAY, so the motion of the ocean (known to me as seasickness).  The motion is kind of like being on the subway and not holding onto anything.  If the subway moves back and forth on a ship that would be called the roll (like you rocking from right to left foot), if we were able to take a subway car and move it up and down that would be known as the heave, if you took the subway car and just tipped it up in the front (bow) and down in the front (bow) this would be known as the pitch and last but not least if you swung the subway car through turn after turn, right to left to right to left again this would be known as the yaw or side to side from port to starboard.  Depending on the weather or if you are anchored (when the ship lets down a chain connected to a huge weight that is pushed into the sand) you can have ALL FOUR motions going at the same time.  Last night while we were anchored offshore, the TJ was rock’n and roll’n and we had yaw, roll, heave, and pitch all while moving in a circle around the anchor…and I sadly was able to see my dinner twice in one evening!

Do I need to go to college to work on a ship?

Some of the positions require technical skills in surveying that can not be acquired without going to college, however the majority of the positions are trades that can be taught in a semester or year-long course.  Many of the wage mariners aboard did not attend college, but instead attended a maritime school for one semester to one year depending on their rank.  Many of the mechanical engineers were trained either in the Navy or at a trades school as well.   There is a maritime school in NYC between Hunts Point and Queens (click on purple/blue mariners school).   If you are interested in becoming a NOAA Corps Officer you will have to graduate from a four-year college/university with a major in any science discipline.  The NOAA Corps Officer training program is also located in NYC.

Interested in NOAA ship jobs:  http://www.sunymaritime.edu/Academics/Continuing%20Education/index.aspx

Learn more about NOAA: http://www.corpscpc.noaa.gov/flash/recruit_video.html

NOAA Student Scholarships:  http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/noaa_student_opps.html

Personal Log

Meals:

Breakfast:  2 fried eggs, oatmeal

Lunch: mac n’ cheese with beans

Dinner:  Tofu curry


Date: November 01, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: 3/8 Cumulus
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: NW 21Knots.
Temperature 13.9 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 13.5 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb:  10.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1626.8 millibars
Latitude: 41°08’39” ° North
Longitude: 072°05’43” ° West

Science and Technology Log

First quarter moon

It is late at night and I am sitting on my bunk bed (top bunk) or crouching rather against the wall.  I was given sheets and a pillow from NOAA to use for my trip, however I brought a small blanket my sister bought for me ages ago.  It is true, creature comforts bring smiles and happiness in the quietest moments.  My curtains are swaying back and forth, my coat sways to the same rhythm and there is a small creak from my bathroom door trying to break free from its steal holds.  I just came from outside to breathe in one last crisp breath of air and peak at the first quarter moon shining on the Atlantic waters. It is amazing to look upwards or in any direction above the horizon and observe the celestial nighttime stars brilliantly held in the sky.  Tonight there are no skyscrapers or brownstones blocking my view.

Sunset from the bridge.

At night-time, when we anchor, I find the best position for me to be in, is laying down (or crouching).  This seems the only time my food wants to fight gravity.  We have had smooth sailing thus far (with exception to this evening).

Today I was able to observe and listen to multiple meetings in the “plot room.”  The plot room consists of all of NOAA’s hydrographic surveyors.  Some surveyors were plotting today’s scan while others scoured through old data looking for areas on the most recently made map that were missing information and identifying features on the maps such as rocks, piers, sunken ships, and other interesting features.

True shape of Earth with daily changing tides (shape of Earth is called an Oblate Spheroid, not a circle)

While in the plot room I spent much of my time with James as he amazingly went through all of the many areas of surveying.  One of the major issues of mapping the seafloor is finding the “true depth” of the ocean.  The ocean rises and falls each day due the gravitational effects from the moon (tides).  NOAA and the hydrographic surveyors must take this tidal change into account in order to determine the “REAL” depth of the ocean.  The surveyors must also account for the motions of ship lifting the beam when it is yawing, pitching, heaving, or rolling.

Fire Drill!!

Halfway through my lecture with James the Thomas Jefferson sounded its bell for a fire drill. In school during fire drills everybody vacates the building, however on a boat it is important for “All hands on deck.”  This is when everyone comes to specific areas they have been assigned to on the deck (mine is the bridge or second level).  I met John and Kurt who are also visiting the Thomas Jefferson and we stood in the cold for about one hour as the deck crew pulled three different fire hoses from below and shot them into the water in order to test if they work.  Initially this black brackish water shot out because the hoses had been sitting for so long, but eventually the hoses streamed clear salt water.

Myself and Ivan in our "Gumby" suits.

Upon going inside from the fire drill another bell rang loud and clear calling all persons to deck for a mandatory “man-over-board” drill.  When there is a man/woman overboard everyone is to wear their pfd (personal flotation device or life vest) a warm hat, and bring along their immersion suit (also known as a gumby suit).  I did not know we were supposed to wear a hat, so I looked like the only one trying to not follow orders…whoops.  After the drill I had to try on my gumby suit with Ivan, and wished I could have worn it for Halloween.  The “Gumby” suit floats and is incredibly warm, so if the boat goes down you do not necessarily need a life raft in order to stay warm and afloat.

When I returned to the plot room James had found a ship wreck and was cleaning the image.  When the surveyors clean the images they remove fish, seaweed, or anything that takes away from the seafloor map.

Ship Wreck from aerial view (viewed from above).

Shipwreck profile (from the side). The grey stuff in back is a school of fish that will eventually be removed from the image.

Personal Log

There is an exercise room on deck and I went running after dinner today.  It was really hard to run because not only are you on a machine that is moving, but the machine is located on a boat that is moving.  Even though I was able to run 3 miles, I felt like I had run 5 miles while trying to fight the motions of the ship.  It felt like I was exercising while standing on a roller coaster that was moving.

Exercise Room

Meals:

Breakfast: Grits and scrambled eggs

Lunch:Veggie Lasagna, green beans, Veggie Chili

Dinner:Veggie chili, potatoes

Dessert:  Strawberry shortcake (I had mine without the strawberries…delicious)

Laura Rodriguez, May 28th, 2010

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Rodriguez
Aboard NOAA Ship Oscar Dyson
May 24 – June 2, 2012

Mission: Fisheries Surveys
Geographical Area: Eastern Bering Sea
Date: May 28, 2010

Engineering

Sunset in the Shumagin Islands

Our sampling of Pollock larvae continues around the clock. It is interesting to see what stations have a lot of Pollock and which ones don’t. From my own observations of the condition of the bongo nets when they are retrieved, I have started to predict if there will be a lot of Pollock or only a little. If the nets are covered in reddish– brown algae, they usually do not have many Pollock, or anything else in them. The nets that are clearer, but still have some red from the copepods, seem to have more Pollock larvae. (I wonder why?)The scientists say that we have found more Pollock larvae than in the past couple of years. (Again, I wonder why?) That’s a good sign for the fishery, though. I told you in an earlier blog about how Kevin Bailey is using the data that we collect to create a model that will predict the future population of harvestable Pollock. The other two research projects that are going on have to do with determining how fast the Pollock are growing and how healthy the Pollock larvae are. Annette Dougherty, the chief scientist, is studying the otoliths, (small inner ear bones) in the Pollock. The ear bones add a layer of bone each year and create a pattern similar to the growth rings of a tree. The Pollock that are preserved are shipped to her lab where she will look at the otoliths and determine the age of the Pollock to the day. She can then compare that to the size of the Pollock and determine how fast they’re growing. Steve Porter, another scientist on board, is looking at the amount of DNA in the muscle tissue. If the muscle cells are growing and dividing into new cells, there will be a higher amount of DNA in the cells. This data shows how healthy the Pollock larvae are by showing how much their muscle cells are growing.

Engineering Main Control Panel

Diesel Generator

Electric Motor

Desalinization Unit

Sewage Treatment Unit

Hot Water Tanks

Today’s feature is on engineering. The engineering department on the ship is responsible not just for maintaining the engines of the ship that move us through the water, but also for all the major systems on the ship. They maintain the heating, cooling, electrical, plumbing and sewage systems. The ship is powered by 4 diesel generators that make the electricity for the ship.  The ship is then propelled by the use of electric motors. Using electric motors to turn the propellers decreases the vibrations being transmitted to the propellers and allows for the ship to run much more quietly. This is a good thing for a ship that wants to study fish, or anything else in the water that might be scared off by the noise.  The ship has 2 desalinization units that use heat from the engines to distill the water. The heat makes the water boil leaving the salt behind. It is then condensed back into fresh water. Ships that have engines that produce a lot of heat can use this method which is very energy efficient. Other ships have to use reverse osmosis (remember that word from the cell unit?)  Finally, engineering is responsible for collecting and treating sewage. Maybe in the old days ships would just dump their sewage into the ocean, but not anymore. The toilets are flushed by vacuum action rather than pushed through pipes by water. This decreases problems in the pipes that run throughout the ship. The waste water including what goes into the toilets is collected in a storage tank called an active tank. The active tank contains bacteria and yeast that break down the waste. From there, the water is filtered into a “Clean tank.” Here chlorine is added to make the water crystal clear before it is released into the ocean. The system contains one more tank for storage. It is used when the ship is within 3 miles of the shore and at dock so water is not released right by the land.
Answers to your questions

Hannah M. – The reason that the procedure was developed for how we sample is to minimize the shrinkage of the fish once they are caught. The scientists are trying to get an accurate measure of the fish so we try to collect and photograph them as quickly as possible. Keeping them cold helps to decrease the amount they shrink. They are preserved so that their DNA and otoliths can be examined back at the NOAA labs in Seattle.  The larvae that we are collecting are about 4 weeks old.

Exercise Room

Elaina – I haven’t spoken with each person about if they get bored on ship or not, but being on a ship is different from being on land. You have your work to do during your shift. Sometimes that can be very repetitive. On your off hours, there is not a lot to do. There are however, 2 exercise rooms, you can read or watch a movie or play video games. You can’t, however, just go out somewhere to do something.

Adeline and Deborah – Adeline asked me what my favorite job is and Deborah asked which crew member I would like to be. These are difficult questions to answer as I don’t see every aspect of each job. For what I’m doing, I enjoy seeing what we’ve caught in the net each time, and finding the Pollock larvae. As far as the different jobs on the ship, I think it would be very cool to be in charge of navigating the ship safely through the water. (See, I always want to be in charge)

Rick, the Chief Steward, in the Galley

Floyd, the second cook in the Galley

Lucy – The steward started collecting lunchboxes over 20 years ago. He did it for fun. Eventually he had so many he started to sell them. He sold an underdog lunchbox that he bought for 50 cents for $2500.00. He has sold the entire collection, now.   The Oscar Dyson stays close to Alaska. She and her 4 other sister ships were built to be used all over the US. Because of that, she is outfitted with air conditioning although it is seldom used. Her sister ships, that stay in warmer waters, also have de-icers on the windows that they never use.

Jasmine – In addition to studying the Pollock fisheries, the Oscar Dyson is also used for ecosystem studies, marine mammal and bird studies.

 

Your Question to answer

Find out more about one of the following jobs on board the ship: Include a description of their duties and requirements needed to get this job

 1.       Deck officers include CO – Commanding officer, XO – Executive officer, FOO – Field operations officer, Navigation officer, Safety officer, Medical officer

2.       Ship engineer

3.       Steward

4.       Survey technician

5.       Electronics technician

6.       Deck crew-  includes Boatswain, able-bodied seaman