Jeff Lawrence, May 24, 2006

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

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: May 24, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge as of 0730 Hours: 
Visibility: 0.5 miles or 0.8 km
Wind direction: 260 degrees
Wind Speed:  5 knots
Sea level pressure: 1016 mb or 30.0 inches
Present weather: mostly cloudy but clearing off earlier this morning
Temperature:  47 deg. wet/48 deg. dry ***By the afternoon the weather was sunny with calm winds and beautiful scenery.

Science and Technology Log 

I began the day as usual with breakfast in the mess hall at 0700 hours.  I must say the staff aboard the RAINIER know how to make a person gain weight.  The food choices are great and there is plenty to eat.  I was assigned to work off RA 8 with a survey crew.  We left the ship at 0800 hours after a short briefing on the fantail of the RAINIER.

The RA 8 crew’s task for the day was to survey the area around the tide station to make sure the tidal data collected that shows the rise and fall of the tides was accurate.  Deck Utility man, Kenneth Keys, and General Vessel Assistant, Kelson Baird, piloted the boat to the destination and delivered the survey crew onshore with great care. The survey crew was managed by ENS Jamie Wasser, ENS Nathan Eldridge, Assistant Survey Technician Tom Hardy, and myself.  Using benchmarks that had been set by the National Ocean Service, we completed a triangulation survey of the dock where the tide station was located at high tide. Surveying is tool used by NOAA to make sure objects are where they are supposed to be according to charts and maps.  The crew of NOAA ship RAINIER surveys sites as they set up a tide station and before they disassemble it to move it to another site.

Upon completion of the tasks we returned to the ship while Kenneth Keys trained General Assistant Baird on proper docking procedures of the launch boat.  Everyone aboard the ship must work in unison to ensure a successful launch is carried out so that critical data can be collected, disseminated, and analyzed later aboard the RAINIER.  Quality charts and maps can then be generated for use by navigators of the shorelines of Alaska.

Personal Log 

Today I learned how critical it is for the people aboard the RAINIER to collect quality data to ensure the results are accurate on the finish product.  It is a better use of time for each group to take their time and do it right the first time as opposed to having to redo the same task a second time.  I hadn’t realized navigation of the ocean’s waterways was such a precise event and required such precise data collection methods.  This is a good lesson to introduce to students on the collection of scientific data.  Teachers must emphasize that the work can be tedious at times and that accuracy of data is the outcome that the scientist must strive to attain.

Question of the Day 

What is the type of data that scientist collect that can be represented by numbers?

Jeff Lawrence, May 23, 2006

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

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: May 23, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge

Visibility: 5 nautical miles (nm)
Wind direction: 90 degrees
Wind Speed: 15 knots (kts)
Sea level pressure: 1001 millibars (mb)
Present weather: Partly cloudy
Temperature:  51 degrees dry/ 50 degrees wet

Science and Technology Log 

I began today by getting aboard RA #8 for boat launch operations in the Wrangell Narrows at 0800. The crew went to check a tide gauge that had been placed on a pier in the narrows six weeks ago. A data logger was attached by assistant survey technician, Matt Boles, to a laptop computer and the data for the past two weeks was downloaded onto the laptop. The tide gauges give a more accurate representation of what the tide is doing in a certain area. Tide gauges are positioned throughout the narrows but may be miles apart.  To get more precise data of the narrows, temporary gauges are used when the RAINIER is mapping areas where boating occurs.  Also, a horizontal GPS position was measured from a known GPS location to make sure the tidewater data was correct and reliable.

At 0930 hours we returned to the RAINIER to pick up operations officer LT Ben Evans who showed ENS Laurel Jennings how to use the Trimble Backpack to map piers and dock areas in the narrows. The Trimble Backpack is a GPS system that is carried on the back of a person. As they walk the perimeter of an area, it downloads data onto a logger that then can be downloaded to a computer later for data analysis.  This gives precise information to the cartographer to place the pier in the exact location that it needs to be on the map.

Upon returning to the RAINIER at 1530 hours we had several emergency drills including fire and abandon ship. The drills were interesting to watch as everyone went to their designated location for muster and directions on what to do next.  A ship’s personnel must always be prepared for an emergency.  Your shipmates may be the only help you will receive in an emergency.  Drills are conducted on a routine basis so that the crew stays sharp and ready in case of a real emergency.  The crew of the NOAA ship RAINIER is well-trained and prepared in the case they may have to use their training to get control of the ship in an emergency.  Several members on board have specialized training that allow them to take the lead in case of a ship emergency.

Personal Log 

Throughout the day I learned many new facets of global positioning and how it is used to make more accurate maps that can be used by boaters, ships, and people who live in the area. Collecting science data for NOAA maps is a slow, yet precise method that can take many weeks to get an accurate map that can be relied upon by mariners.  The fire emergency and abandon ship drill was done with precision and professionalism. I am sure I am in good hands in case of an emergency aboard the RAINIER.

Question of the Day 

The mapping of the characteristics of oceans, lakes, and rivers is known as___________.

Jeff Lawrence, May 22, 2006

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

Mission: Hydrography survey
Geographical area of cruise: Alaska
Date: May 22, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Today the NOAA ship RAINIER was set to leave port with a brief refueling stop before anchoring later in the afternoon. The RAINIER was tied to port alongside her sister ship, the FAIRWEATHER, during a brief liberty at Petersburg, Alaska.  I began my day at 0700 with breakfast in the mess hall followed by a visit to the briefing room at 0800 hours on the next two-week duty schedule of the RAINIER.  I was joined by another civilian from the local NPR radio station who was onboard to do an interview on the mission of the RAINIER in the Wrangell Narrows, which runs parallel to Petersburg.  The radio interviewer, Emily Schwing, asked many questions about how the sonar system works and how often the RAINIER would be back to check if the currents in the Wrangell Narrows had changed the channel.  She learned that the system of sonar mapping used today is much more efficient than the beamed sonar used in past years.  Side-scan and multi-beam sonar are now employed to map the bottom of the shipping channels, narrows, and ports.  The RAINIER mapped an area recently in a few weeks that took 19 years to map under the old system.

At 0945 the RAINIER left port for a short jaunt of about 400 yards for refueling.  The fueling process on a large ship such as the RAINIER is not a quick-stop process, which many people are accustomed to while fueling their vehicles. The RAINIER took on 22,000 gallons of fuel. This process lasted over three hours due to the slow pumping, which pumped out about 150 gallons per minute.  That seemed quite fast to me, but Captain Guy Noll explained that fuel could be pumped much faster for the larger ships. While refueling I received an overview from ENS Jennings of damage control onboard a ship and where to go in case of an emergency.

1) Fire emergency – Indicated by one long 10-second continuous blast of the ships horn.

2) Abandon Ship – Indicated with seven short blasts and one long blast.

3) Man Over Board – Indicated by three long blasts.

At 1330 Seaman Surveyor Eric Davis took the skiff (a small zodiac type boat) out into the narrows to check if repairs that had been made in port were adequate.  He asked me to join him and while in the narrows he pointed out the channel’s navigation buoys and explained how they are used to guide both small and large craft through the narrows, which become very shallow and dangerous during low tide.  Upon returning to the RAINIER refueling was just about complete so all hands manned their stations to ready for departure from the fueling depot.  At 1530 we left port to travel down the narrows a few miles where we anchored for the night.  We will remain in anchor here for several days while the launch boats are sent out on daily runs to map more of the Wrangell Narrows.

Personal Log 

Throughout the day I found incredible opportunities for taking photos of wildlife including bald eagles, sea lions, and a variety of other birds.  Alaska has to be an ornithological paradise. The surrounding landscape offered an exquisite 360-degree panoramic view that allowed for spectacular photographs of the area.

Question of the Day 

What is the mean tide for Petersburg on this day using the data below?

Low tide was 4 feet at 2:33 am High tide was 13.5 feet at 8:10 am Low tide was 1.3 feet at 2:51 pm High tide was 14.5 feet at 9:14 pm