Amanda Peretich: My First Love (Chemistry and Other Stuff), July 16, 2012

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Amanda Peretich
Aboard Oscar Dyson
June 30, 2012 – July 18 2012

Mission: Pollock Survey
Geographical area of cruise:
Bering Sea
July 16, 2012

Location Data
Latitude: 58ºN
Longitude: 175ºW
Ship speed: 10.2 knots (11.7 mph)

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air temperature: 8.2ºC (46.8ºF)
Surface water temperature: 6.4ºC (43.5ºF)
Wind speed: 9.9 knots (11.4 mph)
Wind direction: 221ºT
Barometric pressure: 1022.6 millibar (1.01 atm, 767 mmHg)

Chemistry Lab
Chemistry Lab on the Oscar Dyson

Science and Technology Log
Throughout some of my previous posts, I’ve hinted at the amount of science on board the Oscar Dyson. Of course, I got super excited any time I saw something more on the chemistry and physics side of things versus the biology side, mostly because although I love biology, chemistry is definitely my first love. Thus today’s science and technology log will be to share just a few of the gazillion ties to chemistry that I’ve found in the past few weeks.

  1. Cathodic protection system
    Seawater is more corrosive than freshwater and will corrode the steel on the ship, so the Cathelco seawater pipework anti-fouling system on board works to prevent that corrosion from happening. Cathodic protection controls corrosion by making the metal surface the cathode of an electrochemical cell.

    Cathelco cathodic protection system to prevent ship corrosion.

    Fluorometer and TSG on the Oscar Dyson.
  2. Fluorometer
    The fluorometer on the Oscar Dyson is used to measure both chlorophyll and turbidity (cloudiness) of the sea water using fluorescence technology. There is an intake on the keel of the bow that pumps water aft into the chemistry lab where it first goes through a debubbler to remove any excess air and then it goes through the fluorometer and TSG (see next point). Measuring the amount of chlorophyll is a good indication of plant life and thus the amount of phytoplankton and other species in the food chain. This data is also stored on the SCS and available for scientists to use.
  3. Thermosalinograph (TSG)
    Another device that the sea water passes through from the underway system is the TSG. This measures both temperature and conductivity (how much electricity passes through) in the water. There is a fancy mathematical equation that is then used to determine salinity in PSUs, or practical salinity units.
  4. Needle gunning and more
    When we aren’t letting out a net or hauling back in a net, the deck crew work on various things for upkeep around the ship. One day at dinner, they were discussing something called needle gunning. Never having heard of this, I was immediately intrigued, to which Deeno kept telling me “it’s nooooot really that exciting”. Wrong! It’s basically this pneumatic device (something using compressed air) that has a bunch of little rods (needles) in a circular pattern that, when turned on, seems to feel like a jackhammer as the needles press against the surface at quick speeds. They use it on various ship surfaces to clean off rust and corrosion. Following the needle gunning, they can then apply a layer of corroseal rust converter which reacts with any rust (iron oxide) to oxidize and convert it a more stable substance (magnetite) that turns black. After this, they are free to add primer and 2 part paint (different than the paint you’d use at home) to keep things on board looking great and not corroding away.
Needle Gunning
Needle gunning (left) and preparing for painting (right) on the Oscar Dyson.

Personal Log
I’ve been working on my last blog coming up on all of my ship mates since almost the first day on board the Oscar Dyson. Be sure to check it out in a couple days! But before that, I’d like to share some of the fun things I’ve learned or taken note of since we left Dutch Harbor that didn’t really fit nicely anywhere else.

Lingo I’ve Learned

Hawse Pipe
The hawse pipe, through which the anchor is raised and lowered, on the Oscar Dyson.

* hawse pipe: someone who has worked their way up on a vessel, from deck crew to the bridge (1st mate, 2nd mate, executive officer (XO), etc.); this is in reference to the pipe on a ship through which the anchor chain is fed – for example, XO Kris Mackie worked his way up the hawse pipe to get to where he is today
* ringknockers: someone out of NOAA Corps BOT-C (basic officer training class)
* scuttlebutt: rumor or gossip on board; this comes from the idea that a butt (cask) of water that has been scuttled (deliberately “sunk”) so that water could flow, similar to a water fountain, was a place around which people would convene to gossip

Dog All Dogs
Dogging the door.

* dogging the door: handles on various doors on board are fastened to seal it

* leeward: the side of the vessel that is not facing the wind, which changes sides based on wind direction
* windward: the side of the vessel that is facing the wind

Kenny reminding you to use the leeward side when opening doors

(wet and dry bulb temperature readings are taken on the bridge hourly on the windward side)
* fantail: another name for the aft deck
* “wagging the tail”: used when the person on the bridge is adjusting various things on the ship to evenly wrap the chains onto the reel when hauling in a trawl
* “alls balls”: refers to midnight, which is 0000 in military time
* head: bathroom/toilet

Weird Facts/Thoughts That Don’t Fit Anywhere Else
– I remember I’m on a male-dominant vessel when the toilet seat in the community head outside the fish lab is always up (there are 3 community heads: one right near the fish lab, one in the gym, and one outside medical – these are used so you don’t have to disturb your roommate while they are sleeping in the room)

– The above fact is okay because the head has the BEST green hand soap in the world with moisturizing beads and a wonderful aroma – sometimes I just go wash my hands in there for the sake of it, which is fine because there are also signs everywhere reminding you to wash your hands

– It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, if I walk into the TV lounge, I will more than likely sit down and watch part of whatever movie is on

– Still in dealing with the TV lounge, the rule on board is that once you start a movie, you have to let it go all the way to the end, because some people on board have TVs in their room hooked up to the movie channels and may be watching it

– There are three movie players: 2 “tape decks” with these 8mm cassette tapes and 1 special DVD player for the NAVY movies and close to 1,000 movies to choose from!

– I’ve watched more movies since I’ve been on board than I probably have watched in the past year combined (although some were parts of movies that I walked in on after they’d started or had to leave early from to fish)

– The internet works via a signal from a geostationary satellite (GE23 at 172 degrees E on the equator) so as we are travel, the receiver on board must look south for signal such that when we are traveling north-northwest, the mast and stack of OD get in the way of the signal and we have no internet

– I could actually make short phone calls using VOIP (voice over IP), but this slows down the internet and you had to limit your calls to 10 minutes or so – it also shows up on the receiving end as a Maryland phone number because that’s where NOAA is located

– My favorite place to just go relax is actually up on the flying bridge – rarely do people go up there (it’s super windy) but when it’s nice outside (also a rarity), it is a beautiful view of nothing but the Bering Sea (and plenty of birds) – just have to make sure to let the officer on deck (OOD) know you’re going up there

Fun with KNOTS
One day, Brian and ENS Kevin attempted to teach me how to tie a bunch of different knots. I have a good idea how my students feel when they don’t understand a concept that seems so easy to me because both guys were just like “you do this this this and this and you’re done” and there I was, back on the first step, completely lost.

I did learn the bowline (which is not pronounced “bow-line” like you’d think, but rather more like “bo-lin”) and the one-handed bowline. Kevin even taught me the dragon bowline, where he tied a bowline knot and dragged it on the floor – get it? 🙂

Some of the knots I learned to tie on board.

Some other knots I learned: figure 8, square, clove hitch, timber hitch, daisy chain, and becket. Could I repeat those for you today? Possibly, but probably not.

Scavenger Hunt
One of the jobs of the safety officer is to check the Ocenco EEBDs (Emergency Escape Breathing Device) on board to make sure they have not expired. ENS Libby (who just came to the Oscar Dyson on this leg of the pollock survey from NOAA Corps BOT-C) and I went on a scavenger hunt one night to find all of these EEBDs around the ship (aside from the ones inside staterooms). Some of the folks that have been on here for a while laughed a little because I was so excited to go on this little adventure – but it teaches a good lesson: things will only be as exciting as you let them! I also decided to make Libby a scavenger hunt for other random things with clues to the room they were in. She only found one of the three, so no prize for her this time. We also plan to go on a scavenger hunt for fire extinguishers soon!

Hunting for EEBDs (left) with ENS Libby (right).
Good times with cribbage.

Two of the guys in the acoustics lab, Bill and Scott, were constantly playing this card game with a red, white, and blue wooden board that looks sort of like a race track. They would lay out cards, count random numbers, and move these pegs in a fashion that I totally did not understand, no matter how long I sat and watched them. Finally, I stayed up later after my shift one night and Carwyn (my roommate) taught me how to play cribbage (she’d taught the science intern Nate to play the previous night). All of the other scientists are really good at this game, so Nate and I started playing each other as the newbies. We are both getting much better at it (although I ultimately came up with the winning record by the end of the cruise)! One of these days, I hope to be as quick with the counting as Bill and Scott. I even taught Libby how to play last night, although she much prefers rummy, which she then taught me how to play.

Animal Love
Two new animals I’ve seen recently: the crested auklet (this little guy landed on board and stuck around a little over a day near the bow of the ship) and a whole lot of Pacific herring that we caught in the net the other day (which I’ve renamed Vegas fish because they are so sparkly and glittery like Vegas lights).

Crested Auklet
Crested Auklet (Aethia cristatella)
Pacific herring
Pacific herring (Clupea pallasii)

Kathleen Harrison: Shumagin Islands, July 9, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Harrison
Aboard NOAA Ship  Oscar Dyson
July 4 — 22, 2011

Location:  Gulf of Alaska
Mission:  Walleye Pollock Survey
Date: July 9, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
True wind direction:  59.9°, True wind speed:  11.44 knots
Sea Temperature:  9°C
Air Temperature:  8.9°C
Air pressure:  1009.74 mb
Foggy with 1 mile visibility
Ship heading:  88°, ship speed:  11 knots

Science and Technology Log

The Shumagin Islands are a group of about 20 islands in the Gulf of Alaska, southwest of Kodiak Island.  They were named for Nikita Shumagin, a sailor on Vitus Bering’s Arctic voyage in 1741.  They are volcanic in origin, composed mostly of basalt.

Shumagin Islands
Bold and mountainous, the Shumagin Islands rise from the sea in the Gulf of Alaska.

Several islands even exhibit hexagonal basaltic columns.  There are about 1000 people who reside in the islands, mostly in the town of Sand Point, on Popof Island.  According to the United States Coast Pilot (a book published by NOAA with extensive descriptions about coastlines for ship navigation), the islands extend out 60 miles from the Alaskan Peninsula.  They are bold and mountainous.

hexagonal basalt
When this island formed, volcanic lava cooled into basalt hexagonal columns.

The shores are broken in many places by inlets that afford good anchorages.  The shores are rockbound close to.  Fishing stations and camps are scattered throughout the group, and good fishing banks are off the islands.  Fox and cattle raising are carried on to some extent.

long range view of SI, Alaskan Peninsula
Shumigan Islands to the left, snow covered peaks of Alaskan Peninsula in background. An amazing sight on a rare sunny day in the Gulf of Alaska.

Sea water quality is very important to the scientists on the Oscar Dyson.  So important, that it is monitored 24 hours a day.  This is called the Underway System.  The sea water comes through an intake valve on the keel of the bow, and is pumped up and aft to the chem lab.  There, it goes through 4 instruments:  the fluorometer, the dissolved Oxygen unit, the Thermosalinograph (TSG), and the ISUS (nitrate concentration).

The fluorometer measures the amount of chlorophyll and turbidity in the sea water once every second.  A light is passed through the water, and a sensor measures how much fluorescence (reflected light) the water has. The amount of chlorophyll is then calculated.  The measurement was 6.97 µg/L when I observed the instrument.  The amount of  phytoplankton in the water can be interpreted from the amount of chlorophyll.  Another sensor measures how much light passes through the water, which gives an indication of turbidity.  Twice a day, a sample of water is filtered, and the chlorophyll is removed.  The filter with the chlorophyll is preserved and sent to one of the NOAA labs on land for examination.

chem lab
Here are all of the water quality instruments, they are mounted to the wall in the chem lab. Each one has a separate line of sea water.

The next instrument that the water passes through will measure the amount of dissolved oxygen every 20 seconds.  Oxygen is important, because aquatic organisms take in oxygen for cellular respiration.  From plankton to white sharks, the method of underwater “breathing” varies, but the result is the same – oxygen into the body.  The oxygen in the water is produced by aquatic plants and phytoplankton as they do photosynthesis, and the amount directly affects how much aquatic life can be supported.

The TSG will measure temperature, and conductivity (how much electricity passes through) every second, and from these 2 measurements, salinity (how much salt is in the water) can be calculated.  The day that I observed the TSG temperature was 8.0°  C, and the salinity was 31.85 psu (practical salinity units).  Average sea water salinity is 35.  The intense study of melting sea ice and glaciers involves sea water temperature measurements all over the world.  A global data set can be accumulated and examined in order to understand changing temperature patterns.

instrument to measure
This instrument measures the amount of nitrate in the sea water. It is called the ISUS.

The last instrument measures nitrate concentration in the sea water every couple of minutes.  It is called ISUS, which stands for In Situ Ultraviolet Spectrophotometer.  Nitrate comes from organic waste material, and tends to be low at the surface, since the wastes normally sink to the bottom.  The normal value is .05 mg/L, at the surface, at 8°C.  Values within the range of 0.00 to 25 mg/L are acceptable, although anything above 5 is reason for concern.

All of the data from these instruments is fed into a ship’s computer, and displayed as a graph on a monitor.  The Survey Technician monitors the data, and the instruments, to make sure everything is working properly.

New Species Seen today:

Whale (unknown, but probably grey or humpback)

Horned Puffin

Dall’s Porpoise


Chum Salmon


monitor shows current data
The current water quality data is shown on this computer screen beside the instruments.

Personal Log

Living on a ship is quite different from living at home.  For one thing, every item on the ship is bolted, strapped, taped, or hooked to the bulkhead (wall), or deck (floor).  Most hatches (doors) have a hook behind them to keep them open(this reminds me of when I put hooks behind my doors at home to keep little children from slamming them and crushing fingers).  Some hatches (around ladderways (stairwells)) are magnetically controlled, and stay open most of the time.  They close automatically when there is a fire or abandon ship situation or drill.  Every drawer and cabinet door clicks shut and requires moving a latch or lever to open it.  For some cabinet doors that you want to stay open while you are working in the cabinet, there is a hook from the bulkhead to keep it open.

bracket holds copier
The copier machine is held in place by a 4 post bracket that is bolted to the floor.

On every desk is a cup holder, wider on the bottom than the top, designed to hold a regular glass or a cup of coffee.  If one of those is not handy, a roll of duct tape works well for a regular glass.  All shelves and counters have a lip on the front, and book shelves have an extra bar to hold the books in.  Trash cans and boxes are lashed to the bulkhead with an adjustable strap, and even the new copier machine has a special brace that is bolted to the deck to hold it in one place (I heard that the old copier fell over one time when there was a particularly huge wave).  There are lots of great pictures on the bulkheads of the Oscar Dyson, and each one is fastened to the bulkhead with at least 4 screws, or velcro.  There are hand rails everywhere – on the bulkhead in the passageway (hallway) (reminds me of Mom’s nursing home), and on the consoles of the bridge.

hallway hand rails
This view down the hall shows the hand rail. It comes in handy during rough weather.

Desk chairs can be secured by a bungee cord, and the chairs in the mess (dining room)  can be hooked to the deck.

Another thing that is different from home is the fact that the Oscar Dyson operates 24-7 (well, in my home, there could easily be someone awake any hour of the night, but the only thing they might operate is the TV). The lights in the passageways and mess are always on.  The acoustics and water quality equipment are always collecting data.  Different people work different shifts, so during any one hour, there is usually someone asleep.  Most staterooms have 2 people, and they will probably be on opposite shifts.  One might work 4 am to 4 pm, and the other would work 4 pm to 4 am.  That way, only one person is in the room at a time (there is not really room for more than one).  There is always someone on the bridge – at least the Officer of the Deck (OOD) – to monitor and steer the ship.  During the day, there is usually a look out as well.

binoculars on the bridge
These binoculars are used by the look out to scan the surrounding area for anything in the water - whales, boats, islands, kelp, or anything else in proximity to the ship.

His job is to, well, look out – look for floating items in the water, whales, rocks, and other ships (called contacts or targets).  This helps the OOD, because he or she can’t always keep their eyes on the horizon.

I have thoroughly enjoyed living on the Oscar Dyson (we have had calm seas so far), and talking with the NOAA staff and crew.  They are ordinary people, who have chosen an extraordinary life – aboard a ship.  It has challenges, but also great rewards – seeing the land from a different perspective, being up close to sea life, and forging close relationships with shipmates, as well as participating in the science that helps us understand the world’s oceans.