Kimberly Gogan: Meet the NOAA Corps: Where Service Meets Science! April 24, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kim Gogan
Aboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter
 April 7 – May 1, 2014

MissionAMAPPS & Turtle Abundance SurveyEcosystem Monitoring
Geographical area of cruise:  North Atlantic Ocean
Date: April 24, 2014

Science and Technology: The NOAA Corps!

While the scientist do their work there is a very important group of folks that take care of getting the ship where it needs to be and ensuring the scientists  have the best opportunity to get their work done.  That group is the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps. NOAA Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. NOAA has roots as far back as 1807 as the Survey of the Coast under president Thomas Jefferson, and then a branch called the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey during WWI & WWII eras. The current NOAA &  NOAA Corps came into existence in 1970 and has been providing leadership and support necessary for the day to day operations associated with the various NOAA Research Platforms. The NOAA fleet is comprised of 19 ships and 12 aircraft. One of the most important requirements for joining the NOAA Corps is that each officer has to have have a college degree in science, math or engineering. NOAA Officers go through an intense demanding fast paced training that includes formal classroom instruction as well as approximately 5 months of officer candidate school that focuses on officer bearing and leadership development as well as marine and nautical skills training at U.S. Coast Guard Academy. Once they have completed their training, the NOAA Corps Officers will be assigned to a NOAA ship for 2 years of sea duty where they learn how to operate the ship. After the officer’s sea duty they are assigned to a 3 year land assignment where they get to apply their degrees doing more hands on scientific work like working in a fisheries lab, weather service, or doing atmospheric studies.

Meet some of the NOAA Corps Officers that are assigned to NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter.

Ensign (ENS) Roxanne Carter

Ensign (ENS) Roxanne Carter

Meet Ensign, or first officer rank, Roxanne Carter! Roxanne join the NOAA Corps in 2012 because she wanted to learn how to drive a ship, conduct more field work, and legally follow marine mammals. Prior to joining, Roxanne was the director of a small environmental company for 7 years working  in the Marine Endangered Species division. She also worked in fisheries at the NOAA Marine Operations Center – Atlantic or MOC-A as an Operations Manager in Norfolk, VA. where she assisted with all the marine center’s activities.  Roxanne has also done a lot of volunteering with various marine mammal agencies.  She has a Masters Degree in Biology and Marine Ecology. Although Biology was not her favorite subject, she knew that once she got her degree, there would be many cool opportunities in that field. Roxy as she is called on the ship, is in charge of the ship’s store along with her regular ship duties. Just last week Roxy also earned her OOD or Officer of the Deck Qualification Letter, by conducting several practical and oral exercises which she has to successfully pass. Earning her OOD  means her fellow officers feel comfortable with her up on the bridge unsupervised maintaining the operation of the vessel and the safety of the people on board.

Field Opperations Offcier (FOO)  Leiutenant Marc Weekley

Operations Officer (OO) Lieutenant Marc Weekley .

Meet Operations Officer Lieutenant Marc Weekley! Marc join the NOAA Corps in 2006. He has been stationed on the Gordon Gunter for one year. Marc’s job as Operations Officer on the ship is to communicate between the crew and officers and the scientist coming on to the ship. He mainly needs to work out any questions or details before the ship gets under way. He also organizes port logistics which means he makes port arrangements in various locations between the ships cruises.  Before Marc was assigned sea duty on the Gordon Gunter he was vessel operations coordinator for the Manta which is a small boat for one of NOAA’ s sanctuary offices. Although his position was similar to this one he also tracked the overall cost of the vessel, making sure that it met safety requirements.  Prior to joining NOAA Marc worked full time at an Environmental Lab, part time at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa and was a Dive Instructor in both the Caribbean and West Coast of Mexico. He decided to join NOAA Corps because he wanted the opportunity to operate research vessels at sea and in the air. He likes the idea that being a NOAA Corps officer incorporates science, math or engineering and ship operations.  Because of his scientific background and training as a ship driver in the NOAA Corps, he is better able to maximize the scientists’ time while on the ship and further facilitate their research efforts.

Meet  Lieutenant Jounior Grade (LTJG)  Reni Rydlewicz

Meet Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Reni Rydlewicz

Meet Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Reni Rydlewicz! After interviewing Reni, I can tell you that Fisheries is her love. Reni Joined the NOAA Corps in 2009. Prior to joining the NOAA Corps, Reni had a variety of jobs working as a seasonal field biologist. She worked with state and federal government programs and contractors including NOAA Fisheries as a Federal Observer, dockside Monitor, Area Coordinator dockside monitor, fisheries observer and coordinator. She also worked with birds deer and fish anywhere from the east Coast, Mid-west to Alaska. Reni became interested in joining the Corps after meeting a retired NOAA captain at the local American Legion who told her “The Corps is perfect for you”. Reni had heard of the Corps years before, but after speaking with the retired captain, she decided to apply as it gave her the flexibility to rotate every few years to new roles but still give a sense of permanency. Since she has been in the Corps, Reni has worked as a Navigation Officer aboard the Miller Freeman and Oscar Dyson. She currently is serving her land tour as Communications and Outreach Coordinator for NOAA Fisheries, West Coast Region. In 2015, Reni expects to be Operations Officer on the Oregon II.

Ensign  (ENS) David Wang

Ensign (ENS) David Wang

Meet Ensign (ENS) David Wang! David joined NOAA Corps in 2013. Prior to joining NOAA, Ensign Wang was working  as a real estate agent while looking for career opportunities in the marine science field. Ensign Wang also pursued an opportunity to start a mussel aquaculture company in, RI , as well as worked as a deckhand aboard the lobster fishing vessel. David graduated from Long Island University, Southampton with a undergraduate degree in Marine Science. David completed his Masters in 2010 in Fisheries Biology at California State University, Northridge.  David joined the NOAA Corps after hearing from a friend who joined  about the opportunities to travel all over the world, change jobs every 2-3 years from ship to land, while also still being involved in science. Before David was assigned to the Gordon Gunter, he worked at a NOAA port office in Pascagoula, MI,  at a marine support facility taking care of the needs of 3 ships, the Pisces, Oregon II and Gordon Gunter.

 

Personal Log

The beginning of this week was completely amazing! While in Canadian waters we had warm, sunny, calm seas perfect for seeing lot of mammals.  During the stint of nice weather we had multiple days where we saw many sightings. On the top two days we had 97 and 171 sightings of whales and dolphins! That doesn’t even count the cool birds we saw like my favorite the Puffins. The birders were also lucky enough to see a rare bird called a Petrel, the only one of 4 recent sightings in the U.S and the first recent in Canada. I spent most of those days on the fly bridge from breakfast to sunset trying to take in as much as possible.  Although it is difficult to get good pictures with a regular camera there are several folks that have very nice cameras or are professional photographers who   have taken some great shots. Towards the end of the week the weather turned again and found us in a storm that was predicted to be mild getting bigger and stronger. The NOAA Corps Captain and crew navigated our ship to safely, but the storm did damage to one of the generators forcing us back to Cape Cod Bay for some repairs. I actually spent a few days in my cabin feeling a bit sea sick which was very surprising given my Island upbringing.  Now I am feeling better as we are on anchor and patiently waiting for repairs and notification about what we will do next.

Miriam Hlawatsch, August 4, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: August 4, 2007

On the Bridge, XO LT. Stephen Meador and CO CDR. James Verlaque plot the course for NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.

On the Bridge, XO LT. Stephen Meador and CO CDR. James Verlaque plot the course for NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 215º
Wind Speed: 1 knot
Sea Wave Height: 1 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2-3 ft.
Seawater Temperature: 28.5ºC
Sea Level pressure: 1016.0 mb (millibars)
Cloud Cover: 3-5 oktas, cumulous

Personal Log

While on the Bridge today, Commanding Officer James Verlaque allowed me a brief opportunity to steer the ship and set the course for a new dive location. Activity on the Bridge continues to fascinate me. It takes tremendous attention to detail to keep NANCY FOSTER safe in the water. It is most evident that the success of the scientific mission and the safe efficient operation of the ship are a result of the true spirit of cooperation between the crew and scientists aboard. The fact that everyone (crew and science) shares the mess during meals serves to reinforce the team approach. Certainly, it afforded me an opportunity to get to know many on an individual basis.

NOAA Officers keep NANCY FOSTER safe and on course.

NOAA Officers keep NANCY FOSTER safe and on course.

Science Log

Objective #5: Conduct multi-beam sonar transects using RV NANCY FOSTER at multiple locations.  

NANCY FOSTER is one of a fleet of research and survey vessels used by NOAA to improve our understanding of the marine environment. She is equipped with sonar technology to conduct hydrographic surveys of the sea floor. Chief Scientist Paula Whitfield explains that, for this mission, specialized multi-beam sonar technology is used to create detailed maps of potential dive areas. Habitat mapping is important because it provides specific information that will allow her to make decisions about where to send divers for sampling; otherwise, there could be a great deal of wasted effort, both in terms of time and resources. Multi-beam Bathymetric Sonar is technology that provides detailed, full-coverage mapping of the sea floor using multiple sonar beams (sound waves) in a fan-shaped pattern or swath. The ship goes back and forth in straight lines over a pre-determined area much like a lawn mower goes back and forth over the grass, making sure the entire area has been covered. In addition to habitat mapping, multi-beam hydrographic surveys have many applications such as navigation safety and civil engineering projects.

Example of a Multi-beam swath

Example of a Multi-beam swath

Multi-beam survey results

Multi-beam survey results

NOAA scientists Paula Whitfield and Brian Degan compare bottom topography for dive site selection (left) and hydrographic survey technicians Missy Partyka and Mike Stecher (left).

NOAA scientists Paula Whitfield and Brian Degan compare bottom topography for dive site selection (left) and hydrographic survey technicians Missy Partyka and Mike Stecher (left).

Miriam Hlawatsch, August 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: August 3, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch recording weather data on the Bridge of the NANCY FOSTER.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch recording weather data on the Bridge of the NANCY FOSTER.

Weather Data from Bridge
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 186º
Wind Speed: 11 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Seawater Temperature: 28.6ºC
Sea Level pressure: 1017.3 mb (millibars)
Cloud Cover: 8 oktas, cumulous, cumulonimbus

Personal Log

I’ve been recording weather data for the last two days and spent three hours on the Bridge learning the responsibilities of the watch crew. When NANCY FOSTER began hydrographic multi-beaming at 1500 hours, there were several ships (tankers and small craft) in the area. The NOAA Officers on watch had to keep a careful eye on those vessels and, at times, let them know survey work was going on … so move over, please! Also, I’ve been able to watch as our dive locations were plotted on the nautical chart of Onslow Bay. Ensign Lecia Salerno explained that, as Navigation Officer, one of her duties is to update the nautical charts when NOAA informs her of changes. She must record these updates by hand as new charts are only printed every few years.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch attempting to read sea swells and sea wave height from the Bridge.

NOAA Teacher at Sea Miriam Hlawatsch attempting to read sea swells and sea wave height from the Bridge.

Science Log

Objective #3: Conduct cryptic/prey fish sampling using a special enclosure quadrat net. 

In order to collect cryptic (small) prey fish, NOAA scientist Dr. Roldan Muñoz sets up a special enclosure net during his dive rotation. Divers in the next rotation retrieve the net with captured specimens. Dr. Muñoz examines the catch to determine the type and number of prey fishes (what lionfish may be eating) within a square meter. Such data provides a better understanding of the habitat community.

Objective #4: Characterize and quantify habitat and macroalgae with digital still photography and specimen collections. 

Currently, not much is known about off shore Hard Bottom habitats where lionfish appear to be thriving. In order to understand the impact an outside force (i.e. lionfish) has upon a marine community, scientists must first examine the community in its original state. In other words, a baseline must be established. When Marine Phycologist Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater dives, his goal is to identify habitat characteristics and existing macroalgae. This is done via still photographs and specimen collections gathered every five meters along the transect line.

Dr. Freshwater’s photo showing seven types of algae.

Dr. Freshwater’s photo showing seven types of algae.

Back in the lab, Dr. Freshwater processes his samples for species identification and DNA analysis. He reviews the photos, creates a list of everything he sees, then uses the computer to establish the percentage of cover and frequency of occurrence for each species. A comparison of the different sites is made and, from this empirical data, an overall picture of the community structure begins to emerge.

Note: I learned the term Hard Bottom refers the rocky outcrops that cover much of the continental shelf along the southeastern US from Cape Hatteras, NC to Cape Canaveral, FL. Fish are drawn to the hard bottom outcroppings; here, they find a source of food and shelter on what is otherwise a vast sandy sea floor. It explains why recreational fishermen often seek out hard bottom areas.

Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater processing algae specimens in the lab aboard NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.

Dr. D. Wilson Freshwater processing algae specimens in the lab aboard NOAA ship NANCY FOSTER.

NOAA scientist Dr. Roldan Muñoz counting cryptic fish collected.

NOAA scientist Dr. Roldan Muñoz counting cryptic fish collected.

Hard Bottom habitat with lionfish invader.

Hard Bottom habitat with lionfish invader.

Miriam Hlawatsch, August 2, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: August 2, 2007

NOAA Junior Officer Emmons with NOAA Ship NANCY FOSTER in the background.

NOAA Junior Officer Emmons with NOAA Ship NANCY FOSTER in the background.

Weather Data from the Bridge
Visibility: 10 miles
Wind Direction: 060
Wind Speed: 11 knots
Sea Wave Height: 1-2 ft.
Swell Wave Height: 2 ft.
Seawater Temperature: 28.3ºC
Sea Level pressure: 1016.8 mb (millibars)
Cloud Cover: 3-5 oktas, cumulous, cumulonimbus

Personal Log

Today I served as assistant dive tender for two dive rotations. That means I stay in the small boat with the coxswain (driver) and keep track of the divers by watching their bubbles. While the divers were working below I took the opportunity to converse with NOAA Junior Officer Trey Emmons and learned a great deal about the NOAA Officer Corps. Trey received a degree in Meteorology/Marine Science from NC State, Raleigh and will serve on the NANCY FOSTER for two years. During one outing I actually put on my snorkel gear and took some underwater shots of divers ascending to the surface.

NOAA diver Brad Teer ascending to the surface.

NOAA diver Brad Teer ascending to the surface.

Science Log

Previously, I mentioned the multi-faceted nature of Paula Whitfield’s current lionfish research. Having done my homework before joining the cruise I was familiar with her lionfish work since 2004. Paula explained how her research has evolved from finding, counting and sampling lionfish for life history analysis to her current objectives that now include analysis of the native habitat community. With the aid of hydrographic surveys (mapping the sea floor) using multi-beam sonar technology, Paula hopes to expand the search area to determine lionfish distribution changes since 2000. Paula has an ambitious plan to accomplish her objectives and I will attempt to translate and provide an explanation for each. Feel free to email any questions to me at mhlawatsch@mac.com.

Objective #1: Conduct visual transect surveys to quantify lionfish and native fish populations, and characterize habitat at locations within Onslow Bay. 

Paula’s divers will count lionfish and native fishes. They will also examine and define lionfish habitats by setting up visual transect surveys at pre-selected locations within Onslow Bay. A transect survey is set up by running a tape measure for 50 meters (transect line). The divers will observe and record what they see for five meters on either side of the transect line.

Screen shot 2013-04-18 at 9.30.53 PM

Note: I always thought the term fish was both singular and plural and found myself confused to hear the scientists use the term fishes. Scientist Thor Dunmire explained that using fish was appropriate when referring to many fish of one species. However, the use of fishes applies when referring to several different species of fish.

Objective #2: Conduct video transect surveys to quantify, smaller potential prey fish populations and characterize habitat. 

Identify what lionfish may be eating by using visual observation and video cameras to record the smaller fish populations within the habitat. Video footage can be reviewed after the dive for more detailed information.

NOAA Diver Roldan Muñoz working with a transect line.

NOAA Diver Roldan Muñoz working with a transect line.

Miriam Hlawatsch, July 29, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Miriam Hlawatsch
Onboard NOAA Ship Nancy Foster
July 29 – August 10, 2007

Mission: Lionfish Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of North Carolina
Date: July 29 – August 1, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Miriam Hlawatsch, dons a survival suit

NOAA Teacher at Sea, Miriam Hlawatsch, dons a survival suit

Day 0

Personal Log

I report to the NANCY FOSTER a day early and find all is quiet. Tim Olsen, Chief Engineer and Lt. Sarah Mrozek, Officer of Operations were the first to greet me. Sarah and Tim help me to my stateroom where I stow my gear and settle in for my adventure. Later in the evening I meet several other shipmates, including Lt. Stephen Meador, the ship’s Executive Officer, or XO.

Day 1

Personal Log

I’m awake and dressed by 0600 hours. The ship is still quiet but not for long. The scientists come aboard early and we are underway by 0930 hours. At 1000 hours, Chief Scientist, Paula Whitfield, conducts a science briefing for the eleven-scientists/research divers involved in the lionfish mission. Additionally, Lt. Sarah Mrozek, Operations Officer and Lt. Stephen Meador, XO, brief the scientists on ship procedures and safety. During the Abandon Ship drill everyone aboard must put on a survival suit. The suits are all the same size and it was quite comical to see me, at 5 ft, wearing the same suit as someone who is 6’2” tall.  After lunch the NANCY FOSTER reaches the first dive site located in Onslow Bay, approximately 19 nautical miles, S/SE of the Beaufort Inlet. It’s exciting to watch the divers ready themselves and deploy to sea.

Divers from the NANCY FOSTER ready themselves for the first dive of the mission.

Divers from the NANCY FOSTER ready themselves for the first dive of the mission.

Day 2

Personal Log 

I thought I had the seasick thing beat because I wore the anti-seasick wristbands my student, Troy Wilkens, gave me. Unfortunately, at about 1800 hours, I became sick while discussing the mission with Paula. On her advice I took some medication and went to bed. I did not find my “sea legs” until this evening at about 1900 hours. Apparently, sleep is the best remedy but I lost most of the day. I feel well enough to begin my work so I spend what is left of the evening viewing underwater video shot during today’s dives. Divers today visited two sites at 210 Rock, 27 miles almost due south of Beaufort Inlet.

Day 3

Divers take a small boat to the dive site.

Divers take a small boat to the dive site.

Personal Log

While discussing the mission with Paula I realize that, unlike similar missions in the past, her 2007 research is multi-faceted. I will elaborate on the facets when I better understand how they all relate. At the moment I am feeling a bit overwhelmed…  Today’s dive site is located 24 nautical miles S/SE of Beaufort Inlet.

Scientific Log: What are Lionfish? 

Common name:  Lionfish, Red lionfish, and turkey fish. Scientific Name: Pterois volitans (Pisces: Scorpaenidae). Lionfish are identified by their distinctive red, maroon and white stripes; fleshy tentacles above the eyes and below the mouth; fan-like pectoral fin and long separated dorsal spines. These tropical fish can grow to approximately 17 in. / 38.0 cm or more. Native to Indo-Pacific waters, the scope of their territory is huge. They can be found from western Australia and Malaysia, to southern Japan and southern Korea, as well as throughout Micronesia.

A lionfish swims in the Atlantic Ocean, not its native habitat

A lionfish swims in the Atlantic Ocean, not its native habitat

Why Research Lionfish in North Carolina?  

Non-native (meaning invasive) to waters along the southeastern United States Coast lionfish are now established and reproducing along the continental shelf from Florida to North Carolina. Since 2000, lionfish have been primarily found in water depths greater than 130fsw (feet sea water) due to warmer water temperatures created, year round, by the Gulf Stream. Now, there is evidence the lionfish population is increasing and surviving closer to shore than researchers originally thought.

Why is the Invasion of Lionfish a Problem? 

There are several reasons lionfish are a potential problem.

  • Lionfish are members of the Scorpion fish family and known for their venomous spines. Although there have been no known fatalities caused by lionfish stings, they are reported to be extremely painful. As they increase in numbers, and move closer to shore, there is a greater risk of encounters with humans.
  • Lionfish have no known natural predators in the Atlantic. They are voracious feeders and may compete with native species for food that would be disruptive to the ecosystem. They also may pose a threat to the commercial fishing industry.

Eric Heltzel, September 26, 2005

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

TAS Eric on board, Miami in the background

TAS Eric on board, Miami in the background

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Caribbean
Date: September 26, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

As I sit to write this entry I realize I’ve been on the ship just over 24 hours.  It’s interesting how perceptions change. I can now find my way to my berth without difficulty. I’ve had three excellent meals and can remember the first names of all the Scientists on the Stratus Project team.  It is odd how I can hear sounds of moving water through my wall, intermittent sloshing.  We are under way now so I can only assume that this noise is normal.  I hope so!

Today was a very busy day. We had a lot of equipment that still needed to be loaded onto the ship and then secured.  They have these really neat threaded holes all over the decks and in the science labs that you can put eye bolts into.  These are attachment points for come-along straps that are used to keep objects from moving around. Much of the equipment was loaded on board with cranes that are mounted on the rear deck. We then use dollies and pallet jacks to move heavy objects around.  There is stuff galore. I helped the Deck-Hands move and secure equipment this morning and helped the Science team to move equipment into the Labs.  It was quite hot and humid and fairly heavy work. I felt good to help get the ship ready to go.

When we were two miles offshore we started doing safety drills.  There are three, man overboard, fire, and abandon ship.  Every person is assigned a mustering station where an officer (in my case, the Lead Scientist) checks to make sure we are all there.  Hopefully we will not have to follow any of these procedures for real. (Sorry kids, I’m really not planning on falling overboard)  There were inspectors checking that we did things correctly. We even had to put on our survival suits to see how they fit. These are a lovely red with built in gloves, booties, and a hood. Very becoming, perhaps a good school uniform?

We finally got under way about 19:00 and are traveling in a southerly direction.  I went on deck to watch the sun go down behind a cumulus cloudbank.  The skyline of Miami was backlit with a rosy glow.  I even saw a Dolphin racing along beside us. It has been a full day and a great start to my adventure on board the RONALD H. BROWN.

Eric Heltzel, September 25, 2005

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

Mission: Climate Observation and Buoy Deployment
Geographical Area: Caribbean
Date: September 25, 2005

Science and Technology Log 

Today I flew from Salt Lake City to Orlando, then on to Miami.  This was an educational experience in and of itself. Having chosen a seat with a view my head was pressed against the window for the first hour. We flew along the south slope of the Uinta Mountains and I could look down on Tungsten Basin where we caught such beautiful Brook Trout last summer.  I could see King’s Peak and the length of the range.  What a great way to connect studies of maps and experiences on the ground.  It was like looking at the best three-dimensional map possible

Having received a degree in Geography from the University of Colorado it was great to get such a bird’s eye view of the places I had studied.  I saw the mountains near Crested Butte and gazed delightedly at the highest fourteeners in the Sawatch Range.  The view changed when looking down on the striking contrast of the light color of Great Sand Dunes National Monument.  A bit was vertical view of the summit of the Spanish Peaks. I could see dikes radiating from the summit of the western mountain.  It was striking evidence of the geologic complexities of these mountains that were once active volcanoes.

As we crossed over the flatter country my interest became more focused on the atmosphere.  Looking northward from over New Orleans I was searching for the remnants of Hurricane Rita.  By this time she had moved inland and was already downgraded below a Tropical Depression. My gaze was drawn to where I thought her center would be and there were tall, well-developed cumulonimbus clouds.  The phenomenon that interested me most was the sight of bands of mid-level cumulus clouds radiating southward from what was Rita’s center. They were in bands with clouds alternating with clear air.  Students, I don’t have a clear hypothesis as to why this occurred.  I’d be curious to hear your ideas. I hope to discus this with the scientists on board.

Speaking of on-board I arrived at NOAA Ship RONALD H. BROWN at the Coast Guard facility in Miami Beach at 1900 without a hitch.  The ship is larger that I had visualized, about 270 feet long and over 50 feet wide.  My berth is one level below the main deck and has no porthole. It is, however, quite comfortable.  I have a small bunk (too low to sit up in, but plenty long), a desk, storage for my clothing and equipment, and a bathroom I share with the room next to me.  It strikes me as comfortable and I am sitting at my desk as I write this first entry.

Tomorrow we sail.  I hope to get some photos of our departure.  So far it looks great!