Terry Welch, June 28, 2008

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Terry Welch
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
June 23-July 3, 2008

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Pavlov Islands, Gulf of Alaska
Date: June 28, 2008

A self-contained breathing apparatus

A self-contained breathing apparatus

Weather Data from the Bridge 
Wind: West/Southwest/10
Precipitation: rainy, drizzle, clearing
Temperature:  High 48
Seas 1-3’

Science and Technology Log 

Yesterday, I was able to go out on a launch and continue with the hydrographic survey around Belkofski Point with Ensign (ENS) Tim Smith as the Hydrographer in charge (HIC), Jodie, our Coxswain, and Fernando, a Hydrographer in training.  They use a lot of acronyms here on the ship that I’m learning.  We worked a long day until about 5:30 p.m. since the weather was nice and seas calm. The weather can change quickly in this area, so the survey team tries to work as much as possible when it’s nice out.

Ship Log 

A 10-minute air supply system

A 10-minute air supply system

Captain Don Haines and the crew are very safely conscious and we have already practiced several drills and we have a morning safely meeting before going out on the launches. On the first day out, I was issued a hard hat, survival suit (sometimes called a Mustang suite), life vest or PFD (personal floatation device) and float jacket.  When boarding the launches in the morning, we don the float jacket and hard hat. Once the launches are in the water and we have moved safely away from the Rainier ship, we can switch to our life vests (PFD), which are more comfortable to wear on the small boats.

Drills:  We practiced three drills while in route (or transit) to the Pavlof Islands; man-overboard, abandon ship, and fire. There is a different ship bell ring pattern for each event. When theses drills or event occur, all hands (crew) meet (muster) at a pre-assigned location.  The person in charge at our muster locations marks off if we are there. This system of accountability ensures that all personal is accounted for and safe.

The fire drill was interesting to me since I’m a volunteer fire fighter/EMT on Whidbey Island where I live. They use much of the same equipment as we do to fight fire including bunker gear (fire pants/coat/helmet), SCBA’s (self-contained breathing apparatus) and masks.  One of the crew demonstrated how to put on the SCBA and mask. Another safety air supply device is called an OCENCO EEBD. These 10 minute air supply systems are located all over the ship and would give someone enough clean air to exit the ship if an accident occurred.

Engine Room Tour 

Josh gave me a tour of the engine room and explained the basics of how the ships power is produced and maintained.  From a control room, the ship’s engine controls can be monitored by computer.  Every hour, the crew inspects the engine and support components and ensures that everything is running smoothly.  The area was loud, so we wore protective earplugs and it was also very clean considering all the oil that is used in the system. 

Garret in control room, control room gauges, and the main engine

Garret in control room, control room gauges, and the main engine 

Desalination System: Another interesting aspect of the ship is how the process water.  All fresh or potable water is made from salt water in an apparatus called an “Evaporator”.  Salt water is pumped into the evaporator and heated up to about 175 degrees.  Because it’s under pressure, the water boils at this lower temperature instead of the usual 212 degrees. The heat comes from generators that help create the electricity on the ship.  So, the whole system is very efficient.  Large 8000 gallon storage tanks hold the fresh water afterwards.  The evaporator produces about 500-550 gallons of fresh water per hour, so there is always plenty to use and it tastes good. 



Personal Log 

It was very informative for me to get a tour of the engine room today and learn how the ship’s power is produced.  Josh has the job of an “Oilier” and is only 23 years old.  He had an interest in welding and mechanics and has a high school degree.  Garret is the “First Engineer” and also has a high school degree. Both men enjoy working for NOAA and explained that many men and women learn skills on the job.  They stressed that you don’t need a college degree to work for NOAA, but it helps to have an aptitude for the job they are interested in such as working the engines.

Aleutian Islands

Aleutian Islands

Yesterday, several of us were able to scout out an abandoned settlement near to where the Rainier is anchored after dinner.  It is called “Native Village of Belkosfski”. Originally built for the fur trade in the 1860’s, it later became home to native Americans There were several old wooden structures and one larger cement and brick building that was the school.  Judging from the date on one of the food items in a kitchen, this area was inhabited in the early 1980’s last.  It’s amazing to see that many structures were still standing given the harsh climate around here.  More information can be found here. The teacher who taught there in the 60’s/70’s talks about his life there.

Dust and ash spew from the volcano .

Dust and ash spew from the volcano

Habitat Log 

According to the Global Volcanism Program, Pavlof volcano erupted in August 2007. NOAA’s satellite imagery recorded ash plumes and lava spewing from Pavlof and lahars or mudflows occurred.  The attached pictures are from Global Volcanism’s website, listed on the next page.

Questions of the Day: How do volcanoes shape the southeast strip of Alaska?  How active are they and why are they active?

Animals Seen Today: 

  • One young Grizzly bear
  • Humpback whales
Another map indicating the location of Pavlof

Another map indicating the location of Pavlof

Barney Peterson, August 28, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Barney Peterson
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier
August 12 – September 1, 2006

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Shumagin Islands, Alaska
Date: August 28, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge 
Visibility: 10 nm
Wind:  light airs
Seawater temperature: 9.4˚C
Sea level pressure:  1015.8 mb
Cloud cover: partly cloudy

CB Jimmy Kruger modeling the use of the line thrower with the help of AS John Anderson.

CB Jimmy Kruger modeling the use of the line thrower with the help of AS John Anderson.

Science and Technology Log 

This morning provided me an example of some of the training that goes on for the entire crew aboard the RAINIER.  We all assembled in the Crew’s Mess for remarks from the Captain about plans for the next few days, followed by 1.5 hours of training on the use of three different kinds of safety equipment.  We started with a manufacturer’s video and then moved to the fantail for demonstrations.

The first equipment we looked at is the PLT Line Thrower, a device that uses pressurized air to send a projectile attached to a light line up to 250 meters long.  The line is attached to a missile-shaped projectile on one end that is aimed at a target in the water. The business end of the PLT, containing the compressed air cylinder, is braced firmly against the ship to help absorb the strong recoil. The device is pointed toward the target at an angle of about 27˚ and the trigger is depressed, firing the projectile up and out so it will (hopefully) fall past the target, dropping the line where it is easy to reach. Demonstrations showed that firing is the simplest part of the operation.  Retrieving the line by pulling it into neat coils in a bucket is tricky. The line is then rinsed to remove the salt water, hung up to dry thoroughly, and stuffed neatly back into the tube for the next use. Even with the help of a pneumatic line stuffer the process is a bit like putting an earthworm back into its hole.

CB Kruger demonstrating fire suppression foam on the fantail of the RAINIER.

CB Kruger demonstrating fire suppression foam on the fantail of the RAINIER.

On RAINIER the PLT is stored mounted on the wall in the Chief’s mess.  There are four bright orange projectile tips, the loaded line tube, and the compressed air cylinder.  Each cylinder contains enough air for about four shots before it needs to be refilled at the compressor. Chief Boatswain Jimmy Kruger also demonstrated use of the foam fire suppression equipment.  Hooked into the ship’s fire hose system, an extra line siphons a solution to mix with the water and form a thick layer of foam when sprayed out through the high-pressure nozzle. This foam would be used on fires such as burning liquids. CB Kruger demonstrated using a solution made with dishwashing detergent.  The actual firefighting foam is made with non-toxic chemicals with high surface tension so very thick foam is produced.  Cleanup involves a thorough wash down of the area to dilute the foam and clean the surfaces it covered. When the foam was used to fight a fire at sea, the water from the wash-down is captured and stored in the bilges and removed into tanks for treatment when the ship reaches port.  Only in the case of a dire emergency would it be release into the ocean.

CME Brian Smith showing the three types of de-watering pumps.

CME Brian Smith showing the three types of de-watering pumps.

There are a number of possible causes for areas being flooded on a ship, but all of them need the same response:  stop the flooding and “de-water” the space.  Chief Marine Engineer Brian Smith demonstrated three types of de-watering pumps and discussed the specific uses of each one. First was the big diesel pump, capable of pumping 250 gallons per minute (about 14,000 gallons per hour).  It is only used where the pump engine can be outside so exhaust fumes are dispersed easily.  The pump itself is immersed as deeply as necessary in the water and has a check valve to prevent backflow if the engine is suddenly stopped. This pump would be used for large-scale work on a major problem. Next, CME Smith showed us the 440 Volt electric pump, capable of clearing about 200 gallons per minute (12,000 gallons per hour) and designed for use inside.  The ship has several special electrical outlets for using this pump.  It is designed for use in compartments flooded by leaks or firefighting.  He emphasized the need to wear protective rubber (electrical) gloves, rubber boots, and have the pump sitting on a rubber mat.  This pump is very efficient and very quiet.

Intern Umeko Foster watching spawning salmon on Mitrofania Island.

Intern Umeko Foster watching spawning salmon on Mitrofania Island.

The final pumps that CME Smith demonstrated were 5 horsepower gasoline engines, much like those used for lawn mowers, and operated the same way.  With a choke and a recoil pull-rope starter, they seemed comfortably familiar compared to the higher-tech larger pumps.  These little pumps are stored in two different places on the ship, should be used outside in well ventilated spaces, and are capable of moving about 100 to 150 gallons of water per minute.  At one time the crew of RAINIER took one of the pumps to help out a fishing boat that was taking on water and needed assistance.  These little pumps are the most portable of the three types and the simplest to use. Throughout all of these equipment demonstrations, crew members were invited to try things out and there was practice time after the talks ended.  Safety was always very strongly emphasized.

Both CB Kruger and CME Smith gave very clear information about where safety equipment is stored and how to clean it up and put it away ready for the next use. All Officers and crew were required to attend this briefing excepting for those on watch on the Bridge.

I finally got a clear look at the top of Mt Veniaminof.

I finally got a clear look at the top of Mt Veniaminof.

Personal Log 

We are anchored near Mitrofania Island in a beautiful little bay.  The land angles sharply up from the ocean into tall, rugged cliffs covered by bright green brush.  It looks, as the Captain says, “…like the Land of the Lost.”   The crew hopes to have time to do some fishing here for an hour or so because this has been a good place to catch salmon in the past. I hope to get a chance to go out in the kayak again. This place begs to be explored!

(Six hours later) I spent a couple of hours out in the kayak this afternoon with Umeko Foster, the intern from Cal Maritime.  We paddled over to a small bay where a stream comes into the salt water and found eagles and seals feeding on salmon heading upstream to spawn.  The seals became more interested in watching us than in fishing.  We got out and hiked around to watch the salmon, the eagles flew off, and the seals kept peeking at us from the water just off shore. The beach was littered with salmon carcasses.  There were some rusting iron eyebolts in two large boulders on the shore that led us to believe that there may have been a fish trap anchored here at some time in the past. The weather has been beautiful, clear and calm, and I keep hoping to get a look at the top of the large volcano to the north on the Alaska Peninsula.  So far the top has been covered with clouds moving in from the Bering Sea to the northeast.

Question of the Day 

What is a shield volcano and how is it different from other types of volcanoes?

Lisa Kercher, June 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Lisa Kercher
Onboard NOAA Ship Fairweather
June 11 – 24, 2006

Back in beautiful Homer, AK, boats are  constantly coming and going

Back in beautiful Homer, AK, boats are constantly coming and going

Mission: Hydrographic and Fish Habitat Survey
Geographic Area: Alaska
Date: June 15, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

Last night we spent time in port back in Homer, AK. I had to opportunity to explore the small town but unfortunately did not take my camera with me. What was I thinking!?! This morning we left port and began our journey towards the Shumagin Islands where we will be conducting hydrography studies. The greatest part of today’s leg so far was the amazing volcano that I got to see. We passed by the St. Augustine volcano before noon. This area is known for its volcanoes and small earthquakes.

A view from under the pier

A view from under the pier

The Saint Augustine volcano! Notice the steam coming out of the top and the deep trenches down the side of the mountain.


Question(s) of the Day 

  1.  Of the three types of geologic plate boundaries: convergent, divergent, and transform fault; deduce what type(s) of boundary must be near the St. Augustine volcano and this area of Alaska?
  2.  When was the last time that the St. Augustine volcano erupted?

Jeff Lawrence, May 31, 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 31, 2006

Weather Data from Bridge as of 0730 Hours
Visibility: 10.0 miles
Wind direction: 340 deg. (NNW)
Wind Speed:  1 knot, light winds
Sea level pressure: 1014
Present weather: mostly cloudy, cool outside, calm seas
Temperature:  49 deg. wet/dry 50.0 deg.

One of the RAINIER’s boat launches going off  on a beautiful day in SE Alaska.

One of the RAINIER’s boat launches going off on a beautiful day in SE Alaska.

Science and Technology Log 

Today I was invited to ride along to Sitka to pick up four crew members and the mail.  The day was beautiful and the boat ride was terrific.  Sitka has been a part of Alaskan history for a long time. The Russians were the 1st Europeans to settle at Sitka.  It was also where Russia turned over Alaska to the U.S. after the purchase by Secretary of State Seward. It was an early capital of Alaska before moving to Juneau. The harbor and city were spectacular, off in the distant background was Mt. Edgecumbe.

Three of the crew we picked up will be returning to the RAINIER after leave. The other passenger has just finished NOAA Corps officer basic training and will be boarding the RAINIER for the first time.  ENS Tim Smith will begin his career with NOAA aboard the RAINIER. Tim is a native of Rhode Island.

Russian Orthodox Church in Sitka

Russian Orthodox Church in Sitka

Personal Log 

Today was a spectacular day in SE Alaska full of warm sunshine, calm winds, and calm water. Later in the day it began to cloud up but the winds remained calm.  On the way to Sitka I was able to observe dozens of sea otter, a sea lion, and a porpoise.  Sitka looks like a picturesque town and popular tourist location for large cruise ships.  There was a large cruise ship in the bay when we arrived.  The surrounding mountains and the backdrop of Mt. Edgecumbe makes for beautiful landscape photos.

Questions of the Day 

How many ships are in the NOAA fleet? What is the name of the 2 ships that do hydrography in Alaska? Approximately how many glaciers does Alaska have? What is the capital of Alaska? What is the capital’s latitude and longitude? When did Alaska become a state?

Ceremonial Tlingit Canoe

Ceremonial Tlingit Canoe

After a dip at the Hot Springs, back to the  RAINIER paddling a kayak in calm waters.

After a dip at the Hot Springs, back to the RAINIER paddling a kayak in calm waters.

Geoff Goodenow, May 5, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Geoff Goodenow
Onboard NOAA Ship Oscar Elton Sette

May 2 – 25, 2004

Mission: Swordfish Assessment Survey
Geographical Area:
Hawaiian Islands
May 5, 2004

These data noted at about 1600 hours:

Lat: 19 27
Long: 156 02
Sky: Sunshine; clouds hanging over coastline
Air temp: 26C
Barometer: 1011.0
Wind: 290 at 11 knots
Relative humidity: 55%
Sea temp: 26.7C
Depth: 2392 m

Science and Technology Log

Retrieving the longline takes about 2.5 hours. This morning it brought in one mahi mahi (dolphinfish) alive, and one bigeye tuna that had died on the line. Trolling afterwards brought in 3 more fish including one big eye and two yellowfin tunas. Samples were collected as yesterday.

I will give you a better idea over the next few reports as to how different samples are going to be used. I’ll start with the blood serum, liver and muscle tissue samples being taken by Michele who is from Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS).

The blood serum contains a compound called vitellogenin. It is a precursor to a protein needed for egg yolk production. It is typically in relatively high levels in females. Environmental stresses such as persistent organic pollutants (POPs) which include PCBs, pesticides such as DDT and chemical flame retardants among others, can elevate vitellogenin levels noticeably in males. A heightened level suggests that their immune system is compromised. Serum will be analyzed for levels of that compound.

Liver, muscle tissue and serum will be analyzed by gas chromatography and mass spectrometry for the presence of POPs. From all of this it might become possible to determine if there is a correlation between level of POP and presence of vitellogenin and therefore stress on the immune system.

Surface plankton tows were done this afternoon, and tows at depth (60 meters)will take place tonight after longline is set. Tonight’s set of the longline will be north to south just a few miles west of where the first two were set. Both of those were set along a north to south line which overlapped by about 1/3. (They were not 20 miles apart as I stated yesterday) I learned that the line was intentionally cut last night probably by some fishermen who felt this line intruded upon their territory. We did recover all of our gear.

Personal Log

It was not until nearly the end of the longline recovery that the two fish were hauled in. Consequently, it was a long morning and as it was looking totally unproductive, Chris, our physician assistant/medical officer, suggested that the Teacher at Sea program was really a way to get people on board in case a sacrifice is needed to make the waters more productive. No wonder my students were encouraging me to participate. But later I heard that it was bad luck for our fishing to eat bananas on deck so eyes turned toward several who were in violation and ignoring that doctrine. I wonder what it will be tomorrow.

The big eye which came aboard was not identified with certainty until opened. Striations on its liver, I presume not present in other tuna species (certainly not in all) confirmed it to be big eye. I asked chief scientist, Rich Brill, the significance of those and he explained in some detail that they are part of a mechanism for keeping the liver warm. I will attempt to explain that mechanism another time. It is a neat piece of plumbing for sure.

I also observed Steve as he used a laser to determine the focal point of a big eye’s lens for each color of light. This, too, is something I will try to explain at another time. The big eye tuna’s lens was nearly spherical and about 3 cm diameter.

For a change of pace, here are a few bits about the ship that the captain shared with me yesterday. This was built for the navy in the 1980s as a listening ship for submarines. It was refitted for research in Jacksonville, FL then brought here through the Panama Canal. It can store about 30 days of food and enough fuel (160,000 gallons of diesel) to stay out comfortably for about 50 days. We can make our own fresh water at a rate of approximately 3000 gal/day.


How do eruptions of Hawaiian volcanoes compare to those like Mount St. Helens, for example?

The height of these volcanic islands affects wind speeds and sea conditions as noted yesterday. How much above sea level is the highest point on Maui? on Hawaii? If you consider its base on the ocean floor as part of its overall height, how tall is the highest peak on Hawaii? Is that taller than Mt. Everest?

It’s nice to be hearing from some of you; thanks for writing. That’s all for now.