Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 24, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 24, 2006

Science and Technology Log 

SHIP VOCABULARY 

The meaning of common ship terms may help land “lubbers,” (people who love life off the sea), get around this home on the seas.  First, let’s cover directions on a ship.  The front is called the BOW and the back end is called the STERN.  The very back deck over the propellers is the FANTAIL. Facing the bow, the right side is the STARBOARD SIDE and the left side is the PORT SIDE.  The KEEL is under the middle of the boat.  The WATERLINE is where the water meets the HULL on the outside of the ship.  The picture today is of the interior, or inside of the ship.  Use the picture diagram to practice your knowledge of shipboard terms.

A cross sectional view of the RONALD H. BROWN.

A cross sectional view of the RONALD H. BROWN.

The floor of the ship is called the DECK. Stairs to the eight different levels are called LADDERS. The ceiling is called the OVERHEAD and the hallway is called the PASSAGEWAY. When seas are choppy, you hang onto RAILINGS along the passageway and ladders. Railings can keep you from falling.  There is a safety phrase aboard that goes, “One hand for you and one hand for the ship.”  That means it’s safer to always touch some part of the ship.

Let’s go down where food and supplies are STOWED or put away before being brought up to cook and eat. In the HOLD AND TANK TOP, two decks below the MAIN DECK you find the ship’s STORES, or storage area. There are dry stores, a chill box, a freeze box, a room for cleaning supplies, and another for ship’s supplies, including shelves of flags. That’s five different rooms for food or supplies on this bottom floor, the HOLD.  The temperature in the CHILL BOX keeps fruits and vegetables just above freezing, but the FREEZE BOX feels like being turned into instant ice.  Those two lockers have safety latches so you can’t get locked inside. Together they measure about 11 feet wide by 12 feet long by 8 feet high, the size of a medium size moving van.

The DRY STORES keep all the extra cereal, tea and dry foods that do not need to be chilled. It is bigger than the freezer locker, about 110 square feet, the size of a small garden shed.  It has over 60 shelves, each 2 feet by 4 feet by 2 feet, the size of a garment or hanging clothes type-moving box. Michael Moats, the General Vessel Assistant, pointed out the SOPROLE, a milk product substitute that doesn’t need chilling for a long time.  A phone and an elevator are handy outside the supply rooms.  The kitchen areas, “the Galley,” and dining room, “the Mess Deck,” are two ladders up, so the elevator and phone make checking on and moving supplies easier. There is also a HEAD, or toilet, on the MESS DECK. The chief steward, Richard Whitehead, mentioned that in the GALLEY the safety bars on the ship’s stoves are called SEA RAILS.  A great reference for these and many other ship terms and the flag alphabet is http://www.schoonerman.com/sailingterms/. Time for more ship term practice!

The RONALD H. BROWN is 274 feet long and sails worldwide supporting our scientific understanding of the world’s oceans and climate.  The ship was commissioned, at a big birthday-like celebration, on July 19, 1997, in honor of the late Secretary of Commerce, Ronald H. Brown. To commission a ship is to put it into service at sea.  The ship carries six NOAA Corps officers, 20 crewmembers, and a maximum of 33 scientists.  The ship has two monster motors that give power to the ship.  Each one has the power of 3,000 horses pulling a load, or 3,000 hp. Top speed is 15 knots or fifteen nautical miles per hour. That’s a little faster than a car going 17 miles per hour, mph.  The ship makes 5,000 gallons of drinkable water a day just like the rain purifies water, by evaporation and condensation. We use about 4,000 gallons a day here.  Since we can only make water thirteen miles away from shore we need to not waste our water supply.

Interview with Commander Stacy Birk, Executive Officer 

Commander Stacy Birk said, “It’s a tough life at sea,” so she really tries to make life on the RONALD H. BROWN valuable and meaningful for all hands.  Stacy is the Executive Officer, XO. As the captain’s back up, the XO is boss in the captain’s absence.  She manages people, deals with people’s salaries and serves as safety officer while the ship sails from Charleston, SC, for about ten months of the year.  In elementary school Stacy enjoyed the books Island of the Blue Dolphins and I, Nathaniel Bowditch. This California surfer girl completed college and joined the Coast Guard Reserves.  She actually sailed around the Channel Islands.

As a personnel manager, Stacy hires people and evaluates them, like a teacher gives grades. As a safety officer, the XO helps people follow the rules, such as not wearing open toe shoes or not leaving kitchen cups around the ship or showing up at the wrong place for drills. You might compare this to a parent making sure rules are followed. She does everything possible to be fair with people. Stacy’s science background and sailing experience help her make accurate observations.  Her uniformed service as a NOAA Corps Officer and her rank as XO fit with her respect of the sea from childhood.  Not everyone has such a clear direction from youth.  She just celebrated her 19th wedding anniversary and suggested to students, “Visit ships in port in San Francisco, explore the TECH museums or practice flag signals,” to grow in ocean knowledge.

XO, Stacy Birk, during the Port Authority passport-clearing trip at Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas

XO, Stacy Birk, during the Port Authority passport-clearing trip at Marsh Harbor, Abaco Island, Bahamas

Assignment and question of the day:  Use as many of the ship terms in place of the land names.  Example:  Instead of saying, “I’m walking down the hall,” say “I’m walking down the passageway.” BONUS: Check out that website to learn more ship terms.  What is the perimeter of the CHILL BOX and FREEZE BOX together?  Hint: Check the length and width of both boxes.

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

After a great night’s sleep I learned at breakfast that a small shark was sighted during the night as the CTD was at the surface. I also found out about an awesome website, http://www.ngsednet.org/oceans, that has pictures taken by students from my previous expedition to the Channel Islands with National Geographic.  You will see more critters on that site, for those interested.  In addition, over 7,000 living organisms will be under investigation on the RONALD H. BROWN’s next cruise.  I took a tour of engineering today, thanks to Chief Engineer Frank Dunlap.  The engineering department powers and maintains all systems on the ship; something like the Corps Yard does for our District.  Juliet, the flat person, took some pictures with two of our Southampton college graduates and with a few of the people on Stuart Cunningham’s Mooring Team.  Keep up your journal entries and emails.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. Last night I saw two Mahi Mahi fish, which they also call dolphins or dolphinfish.  They were swimming along side of the ship and at first I thought they were sharks!  They certainly are beautiful.  Yesterday the scientists from the United Kingdom worked on moorings all day so I got some time off.  Today we’re busy again doing CTD casts and my job lately has been “cast cop”, which means I log all the data.  The weather continues to be nice, although today we went through a squall (which is a storm) and now it’s overcast outside.  Also today we received a distress call from a Catamaran that was taking on water, so we proceeded to go to help, but the Coast Guard was on their way and they also called a tow service from a nearby island to help them.  It sure added some excitement into our day!  With less than a week to go, things have certainly been busy!

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 22, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 22, 2006

Preparing the sounder

Preparing the sounder

Science and Technology Log: The Echo Sounder

For the past few days, we’ve been transiting back and forth picking up (recovering) and launching (deploying) a special kind of buoy called an Inverted Echo Sounder (IES).  This buoy is attached to a weight and sinks to the bottom of the ocean.  There it sends out a sound pulse to the surface and measures the travel time of that pulse to hit the surface and return to the unit on the bottom of the ocean. Using the travel time of the sound, scientists use it with a historical profile of the water to estimate temperature and salinity of the water. They obtain the historical profile by doing repeated CTD casts and especially the cast before deploying the IES. Sound speed is proportional to salinity/density and scientists use the density and temperature estimations to identify water mass and current movement.  Remember, these currents are moving all over the world! The buoy we deployed also had a current sensor as well as a pressure and temperature sensor.  When scientists are ready to get the information from the buoy, they travel to the site of the buoy, and park the ship right on top of it, and the buoy sends the information to them.

The buoy at night.

The buoy at night.

The buoys stay down in the bottom of the ocean sometimes as long as 6 to 7 years but usually they’re picked up after 5 years. They cost between $25,000 and $45,000 each! When scientists are ready to pick up the buoy, they send a signal that tells the buoy to detach from the weight holding it down and then it floats to the surface attached to a large yellow float. At night, it sends a strobe light flashing across the water so it can be easily found. Also in the past week, all the Styrofoam cups that have been decorated by students at Cabello, Searles Elementary, Key Biscayne Community School, and members of the crew of the RON BROWN were lowered into the ocean at about 5000 meters, or a little more than 3 miles below sea level.  The effect of pressure can be as great as 70,500 pounds of pressure! This rids the cups of all the air and shrinks them to 75% of their original size. It’s sort of like when you dive into a swimming pool, and while going down you feel your ears get tight— that is the effect of pressure.

The buoy deployed

The buoy deployed

Finally, although we’ve been out to sea for over two weeks, we’ve seen very little wildlife.  We’ve seen pilot whales, two or three squid, flying fish and some little fish called Ballyhoo that dance on top of the water with a long snout.  They look like mini swordfish.  The reason we haven’t seen much wildlife is that there is very little life in the middle of the ocean.  In fact, if you look at the middle of the ocean from space, it almost looks purple because there is no phytoplankton, (green plant material that is the base of the food chain). You’ll find life near the coasts or in the North Atlantic because all animals need nutrients to live and you need currents or up welling to move the nutrients around to feed the phytoplankton (plants) which feed the zooplankton (little animals), which feed the fish, which feed the dolphins, which feed the sharks!  This is an example of the food chain.

 

The cups before pressure…

The cups before pressure…

Interview with Chris Churylo – Chief Electronics Technician 

An important person on any cruise is the Chief Electronics Technician or Chief ET as they are called. Their main job is to make sure that all the electronics are working – that means sonar, networks, navigation, radio and all the things that keep the ship going to where it needs to go, and people talking to whom they need to talk.  On board the RON BROWN, the Chief ET is Chris Churylo. Chris is multi-talented—not only is he a Chief ET, he’s also a Licensed Practical Nurse, an Emergency Medical Technician, a truck driver, a fireman, a pilot, has a real estate license and is a Notary. Chris likes working on the RON BROWN because he works two months on and gets two months off. While he’s at sea and not working, he likes to play chess, learn guitar and work out in the gym.  During his off-time he likes to fly his plane, a Cessna 150, explore local places and hang out with his girlfriend of 18 years.  Chris, who grew up in Philadelphia now calls a farm in West Virginia his home.  During his career he has traveled all over the world, notably to the South Pole and Barrow Alaska during his 20 years of government service.  Chris’s attitude on board the RON BROWN is contagious.  He is a happy spirit, energetic and genuinely likes what he does.

Assignment:  In your logs, illustrate the effect of pressure.  Step one – Draw your decorated Styrofoam cup at the surface.  Step two – draw it on the CTD in a bag ready to go to the bottom of the ocean.  Step three – draw it now 2/3 smaller than when it started.

…and the cups after pressure!

…and the cups after pressure!

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Yesterday was a quiet day.  We headed back to Marsh Harbor, Bahamas so the science staff had most of the day off with CTD casts in the evening.  I got to do some reading about Great White Sharks off the Farallones Islands – outside of San Francisco Bay.  One of the main researchers in the book is Peter Pyle, who I sailed with last year on the MCARTHUR II. I’ve really met some great people being a Teacher at Sea.  This trip feels like it is winding down with less than a week to go.  The weather is still beautiful.  Sorry to hear about all the rain and hail back home.  Keep writing I love hearing from you all.

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

Sad news came on three fronts today.  First, a crewmember heard by ship’s phone of a tragedy in the family and had to be brought to shore to catch a plane back home.  If you noticed the ship tracker had us going back and forth from Abaco Island, one of those trips was to bring a crewmate ashore.  Second, I heard from my home that a neighbor friend had a stroke and is under observation in the hospital.  And third, from my school, a teacher friend is taking the rest of the year off for health reasons.  Those things drained my energy. Work doesn’t stop whether we are happy or sad, so I continued becoming proficient at salinity analysis.  If counting time, however, I spent most of the day replying to your wonderful emails and working on logs.  I got to call out on the radio set the depths to the winch driver, and fire the CTD bottles on the late night cast.  That boosted my morale with Dallas, the author, and Mick, the father of Dr. Beal.  We have formed a bond with Carlos, our CTD team leader, through our tradition of after-shift snack time in the galley.

 

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 20, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Bahamas, West Indies
Date: March 20, 2006

Deploying the ARGOS buoy!

Deploying the ARGOS buoy!

Science and Technology Log

On Saturday, we deployed two buoys. A buoy is a floating object that sends science information to scientists.  They can have numbers, colors, lights, or whistles on them.  The buoys we sent off are a drifting buoy and an ARGO buoy.

A drifting buoy is the size of a basketball and sends its position in the ocean to a satellite where scientists can measure current speed by using its location and by tracking it around. Because it has a sock on it, it’s a good measure of current and it is not affected by the wind. The buoys can last a long time unless they are damaged or destroyed by a ship, run into land, or are stolen by a pirate. There are currently 1,468 drifting buoys worldwide and they cost more than $1500 each. Cabello, Searles and Key Biscayne Community School jointly adopted two of the buoys deployed. Students signed stickers that were attached to the buoy and sent out to sea. To track the buoy, here.

The second buoy that was deployed was an ARGO buoy. The ARGO is interesting because it acts like a little submarine.  The ARGO is launched off the ship, floats on the surface, then sinks to certain depth, gathering information on temperature, pressure, salinity, latitude and longitude. The ARGO, acting like a submarine, stays at a certain depth for a while, gathering information, then fills its bladder and rises to the surface, collecting information on the way up.  At the surface, the ARGO sends all the information to a satellite for the scientists to use in their labs.  To picture a bladder, think of “Professor” from Sponge Bob. Professor fills up with air and floats (like the bladder filling), exhales his air and sinks (like the bladder emptying). This ARGO was special because it had a large sticker from the New Haven Unified School District. So New Haven is literally traveling all over the ocean! To track the ARGO buoy go here.

Teamwork!

Teamwork!

Interview with Lieutenant Commander, Priscilla Rodriguez, US Public Health Service 

On the RON BROWN you will find the Medical Officer, Lieutenant Commander (LCDR), Priscilla Rodriguez. Officer Rodriguez actually is a part of the United States Public Health Service that overlooks the public health system for the whole country and sets the standard for health care.  LCDR Rodriguez is a Physician Assistant and her assignment onboard the RON BROWN will last for two years.  The most common illness on board a ship is seasickness and LCDR Rodriguez is on the lookout for crew or scientists who are not showing up for meals or who look a little “green.” She explains that your brain and inner ear need to get used to the movement of the ship and once they do you’re okay. In the meantime you may feel nauseous or tired. LCDR Rodriguez has a lot of responsibility on board the ship. She’s responsible for the health care of everyone and if someone gets extremely ill, she has to advise the Captain on whether to go into shore, or get a Coast Guard helicopter to come out and pick him or her up, which is very expensive.  LCDR Rodriguez was born in the Dominican Republic, grew up in New York City and presently calls New York City her home where she has just made a cooking video.  When she’s not working on the ship, she enjoys playing the guitar or flute, drawing and making videos. She’s currently developing “podcasts” for the Internet and has been interviewing subjects on the ship.  In the future, she would like to return to work with AIDS patients in underdeveloped countries and do everything she can to help the world.

Success!

Success!

Assignment: Draw a picture of what the ARGO buoy does. (How it acts like a submarine).  Label each movement – sinks, stays at the same level, and rises.  Draw a picture of what you think the ARGO buoy looks like.  (Hint: Long, thin, black tube).

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

It’s good to be writing logs again. I’ve been having amazing conversations with all the scientists onboard. They’ve been very generous with their time.  A special thanks to Dr. Molly for our “up top” chats. Today the scientists from the United Kingdom are working on recovering a sub-surface mooring, so we’ve got time to work on logs, interviews and answer e-mail.  Last night I saw squid in the moonlight: one was approximately 1.5 ft, and another was approximately 2.5 ft.  They were chasing and eating flying fish!  Also fish that look like little swordfish were jumping around.  It was a virtual circus!  Hello to everyone! Students, keep writing!  Make it a good day!

Relaxing after a day of hard work

Relaxing after a day of hard work

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

New Haven Unified School District,  Searles 4th graders and Cabello 5th graders got some press recently.  Thanks to fellow teachers for the article and to the Argus newspaper and Educational Service Center Information Officer, Rick LaPlante, for the favorable text. We’ll have another chance to thank ANG for newspapers in education and for the many businesses that sponsor Book Bucks.  I’m glad so many in the class are participating in this reading reward program.  I also heard the bus is confirmed for our “Reading is Cool” Sharkie field trip to the Hewlett Packard HP Pavilion, home of the Sharks hockey team.  It’s always good hearing from you so keep those emails coming and good luck with Book Bucks!  In my spare time I’m getting pictures with Juliet around the ship and reading John Climatus’, The Ladder of Divine Ascent.

Deploying the Argos buoy

Deploying the Argos buoy

Lieutenant Rodriguez

Lieutenant Rodriguez

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Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 19, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 19, 2006

A view of the RON BROWN from the Zodiac (a small boat).

A view of the RON BROWN from the Zodiac (a small boat).

Science and Technology Log: The “Way Cool” Factor 

Today I spoke to Lisa Beal who introduced me to the “Way Cool” factor of the science we’re doing. I kept asking the question… why?… why?…why?… and now I realize how what we’re doing makes sense. This is a physical oceanography trip and it’s easy to get confused by the testing, measuring and chemistry that we’re doing.

So, the Way Cool Factor: The ocean has many currents, or rivers, running through it.  Some vary with the seasons and are called inter-annual (more than one time per year).  What is measured is the circulation and overturning of the ocean. We need to measure this overturning of water because it affects our climate and considering that two-thirds of our planet is covered with water, that’s important to know. Also, water masses have separate identities.  They all have a unique signature that is determined by the salinity (salt content) and temperature.  It’s sort of like a fingerprint.  These water masses travel all over the ocean in both a horizontal flow and a vertical flow.  Scientists track these water masses as they flow around the ocean.

What’s really cool is some of these water masses are over 100 years old.  For instance, North Atlantic Deep Water starts at the North Pole and travels all around the Pacific and even in the Indian Ocean and back again.  It’s sort of like a migration of water.  The colder (measured by temperature) and more dense (measured by salinity) water sinks to the bottom and scientists can then follow it around the globe.

Pretty interesting huh?  It helps make what we’re doing make sense.

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Dr. Molly Baringer, NOAA scientist

Interview with Dr. Molly Baringer, Chief Scientist  

Today I had the good fortune to sit and talk to Dr. Molly Baringer, Chief Scientist on the RON BROWN. Molly is an Oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), based out of Miami, Florida.  She’s been with NOAA for 12 years and is currently working on the Deep Western Boundary Currents (DWBC) project.  The Deep Western Boundary Time Series, take her all over the Caribbean and into the Florida Straits taking measurements to measure the conductivity, salinity, temperature and depth of the ocean.  She is studying the currents, or the rivers, in the deep water of the ocean. This study has been on-going and it will really help the scientists understand the ocean better.

As a child, she always liked science.  She originally had a desire to be a neuroscientist and graduated from Tulane University where she was a premed/math major.  Her minor was in science.  She became a Research Assistant working with numerical models for a professor who was an oceanographer and, behold, her love for science coupled with the environment, became a perfect fit.

What she likes best about being a scientist is that she gets to be creative, learns new things every day, and she is valued for her thinking. She spends most of the day and sometimes nights on board the RON BROWN checking data, supervising casts, problem solving, and overseeing all the science that is happening.

The CTD seen here is just under the water’s surface.

The CTD seen here is just under the water’s surface.

While at sea she really looks forward to talking to her two children, Anna and John, and her husband (a computer scientist) who are awaiting her return.  While at home, she really likes to spend time with her family helping at their school, checking their homework, and going places and doing things.  Her hobbies are quilting, needlepoint, Bridge, and before she had her children, she and her husband used to golf approximately 3-4 times a week.

She hopes that eventually we’ll have an ocean observing program that will be institutionalized so we can continually monitor the state, or health, of our oceans.  She states that being a scientist is a great profession.  You get to be creative every day, you learn new things, and most of all you are valued for how you think.

Assignment:  Compare the movement of water masses of the Atlantic with the migration of gray whales. In your science logs, draw a picture of both.  Remember Gray Whales migrate (move) from Alaska (their feeding grounds in the summer) to Baja California warmer waters (for mating and calving) in the winter and back again.  North Atlantic Deep Water masses move from the North Pole south, into the Pacific and back again.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. Until now Vince has been writing the scientific logs, but starting today I’ll be submitting them as well.  I’ve really missed discussing the science I’m learning with you.  I was really happy to talk to Dr. Beal who quite simply explained what we were doing.  It can get quite confusing and intimidating learning new things, but I’m adapting slowly.  The weather has been beautiful. Yesterday we deployed the Argo Buoy with New Haven’s name on it so we’ll be able to track it.  And we also deployed the drifter buoy that has been adopted by Cabello, Searles and Dr. Molly’s daughter’s school, Key Biscayne Community School. Today has been beautiful!  Awesome weather, beautiful blue water and we even got cell service!  I miss you all.  Hello students!  Keep e-mailing me and doing all your great work.  Remember you are the brightest, best and most confident fifth graders (soon to be sixth graders)!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

Thank you second grade reading buddies from Mrs. Mares class, for Juliet, the flat person, who has gotten in pictures with the drifter, visited the dining room, the bridge, the science lab and even went with the Zodiac party (speed boat) to get our passports cleared today. I’m sorry to report the laundry bag used to sink our Styrofoam cup mementos was lost at sea after ten years of loyal and faithful service.  We’re here off Abaco Island today. I looked out from the bridge deck into the starry night last night.  In pitch dark the vastness of the heavens is AWESOME!  It reminded me of camping in the mountains away from the city.  Clear views, crystal smooth water and imagine no television and only random music for three weeks.  I like it—very recollective.  Thanks, also to NHTA for the blue shirts showing our dedication to students as our special interest.  Finally, I was glad to call home today and find out in voice conversation all are well.

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 15, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 13, 2006

Dr. Beale with “Cheesy Poofs.”

Dr. Beale with “Cheesy Poofs.”

Science and Technology Log  

You may recall from the previous log that the package, or CTD, contains “mostly” a rosette of polyvinyl chloride (PVC )bottles that collect water samples on the way up from the sea floor.  We have completed eight casts, which means we have dropped the package to the bottom eight times.  On Cast # 4, on the way up, a piece of equipment on the package broke.  On this Deep Western Boundary Current (DWBC) expedition scientists want to put as many devices on “the package” as possible. All of the measurements they are taking have some relationship to measuring the current, velocity, or flow of water masses.  Flow in deep water is a little like a river in the ocean, but not like the one in the film, Finding Nemo. Some of the devices measure the same thing as other instruments do, and are redundant, or duplicated, in case some device fails on the unit. A secondary reason for redundancy is to check the precision of calculations to the thousandth or even ten-thousandth place (.002 or .0005).  Other devices measure different things. For example, the altimeter measures distance to the bottom.  It is important because a device lowered from the ship does not necessarily go straight down like a nut dropping off a tree, but moves with the rocking of the ship and shifting of the current in any direction.  While the ship may show the ocean floor at say 5445 meters, the package may be over a sea mound—a big bump upward from the ocean floor—that registers 5300 meters.  Do you see the necessity of having an altimeter to monitor of ocean depth?  What the ship sees below may not be what the package has directly under it. Since it costs so much to send an expedition out, it makes sense to protect the instruments as well as to do as many measurements as possible in each cast.

In the center of the package is the biggest instrument of all, an acoustic current meter fondly nicknamed “Cheesy Poofs.”  Look at the photo… can you see why it has that name? On Cast # 5 Cheesy Poofs went “POOF!” and broke. The ocean is a harsh environment for man-made instruments.  They must be very strong because of the pressure, and very water-tight so they do not spring a leak. Poor Cheesy Poofs sprang a leak and didn’t work anymore.  It measured the speed of the current, or, the “motion of the ocean,” as Dr. Lisa Beal said, the operator of the instrument.  Luckily, Lisa had a spare instrument to replace Cheesy, so she and several technicians worked hard for three hours to remove one instrument and replace it with another.  Just one acoustic current meter costs $50,000!  So, “Cheesy Poofs” visited Davey Jones’ Locker, or the ocean depths. Observation and measurement are essential elements for scientific investigation.

Question of the Day:  What sorts of measurements need to be very precise in your daily life at school or home, and what tools make those measurements?

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis

Interview with Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis Lead CFC Scientist. 

Shari, a true steward of the planet, is the lead CFC Scientist on cruise RB-06-03, aboard the RONALD H. BROWN. She studies Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) or more specifically, halocarbons, anything that has carbon and a halogen attached (one column left of inert gases on the Periodic Table). She hails from Chicopee, Massachusetts and grew up there. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and doctoral degree at the University of Miami.

She wanted to use her chemistry not only in a laboratory but was inspired to apply it to natural systems.  Her work on this voyage is all about determining the age of deep water.  We are familiar with how the rings of a tree tell its age, and how the layers, or strata, of rock date the age of the earth. Tree rings are usually horizontal.  Rock strata are thin horizontal layers that show age vertically. Rock layers are more like ocean layers, except ocean layers are fat.  Ocean aging is found in the rising and sinking of warm and cold waters.  Shari is studying when the deep water was last at the surface—the zero age reference.  “Anything that is lower than the surface is older,” she explained.  This is not to be confused with how old the oceans are, an entirely different question.  Rather, if water sinks in one part of the ocean than it has to rise in another place, otherwise the dynamics of the ocean would more closely be like a pond, and it is not a pond. Wind controls the surface currents or water on top of the ocean, and temperature and salt concentrations controls the deep-water circulation.  The scientific name for deep-water circulation is ThermoHaline Circulation, THC, or Meridional Overturning Circulation, MOC.  This particular cruise gives Shari one of the best places to study and prove or disprove that HydroChloroFluroCarbons (HCFCs) can be used as age indicators, or as viable tracers of water mass motion.  If proven, these HCFCs, which are replacement refrigerants (what used to be Freon as in car air conditioning systems), propellants (like in aerosol spray cans) and foam blowing agents (like the material sprayed on ceilings), will help scientists understand the age of deep water from the time it was last at the surface.

What might a person studying such wonders enjoy in her recreational time?  Shari likes to family golf, read Stephen King horror stories and other thrillers, and listen to Barry Manilow.  She loves science and the mysteries of the earth.  She would love to completely know the “feedback” between the ocean and climate change, as science continues to be a motivating force in her life.  She encourages going to the beach and watching the tides ebb and flow, seeing the effect of the ocean and humbly realizing we are powerless against its force.  Shari has judged science fairs from middles schools through graduate school and has mentored graduate students, who are students who after college graduation work on master’s degrees. She has a graduate student, Julia O’Hern, working with her on this trip, who is sharing a cabin with mentor NOAA teacher, Kimberly Pratt.  Shari concluded our discussion by telling me what 4th and 5th graders and everyone can do to get interested in oceanography: “Enjoy the ocean and take care of it,” she said.

Personal log—Vince Rosato 

Hello, everyone. I have been absorbing information from crew, scientists, civilians, and officers and been very busy during my shift helping scientists with getting samples and analyzing them.  I’m learning with Kim ways to put this knowledge into practice in the classroom.  Your email questions about the ship and the science, especially from your ocean books and logs, you’re your tracking our journey are filling my days with variety.  What is especially exciting to me is that misconception after misconception is being laid aside for truer models of what really is.  For example, I never thought of surface flow of water being driven differently than deeper water currents. Another insight was about what seafaring life is really like and the type of teamwork, community, and cooperation it fosters. In fact, it supports Searles’ “cooperation,” as the character education virtue of the month.  In participating in making measurements with so many specialized instruments, my uncle’s statement, “With the right tool you can do any job,” makes so much more sense.

I’d like to share something that I learned as a tribute for all future seafaring enthusiasts.  Officers, crews, and sailors worldwide have rituals not only for proper decorum, as at watch change, but also to inspire cooperation, and lift the spirits for those who live at sea away from family for months at a time.  One of the spirit-lifting rituals from maritime history was for those who were sailing over the equator for the first time.  To “measure” the courage of the sailors, so to speak, each one had to endure a rite of passage that graduated them from “pollywog” to “shellback.” Crewmates waited with fear and trepidation about what the latest rite of passage would entail. Recently, the challenge was for everyone to participate in a talent show.  Once you pass your “trial,” you receive a card of graduation that you have to carry with you.  If you are found without such documentation, you must endure the trial again!  It is reported by maritime historians and confirmed by Chief Boatswain, Bruce Cowden, also an accomplished cartoonist, that wars were interrupted by this longtime tradition.  He also mentioned that long ago, the shellback ritual was not so friendly.

Personal log—Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. It’s been an interesting two days.  First of all, I’m trying to get used twelve-hour working shifts. It’s been difficult! Staying up late has been hard but it’s getting easier.  During my shift I’ve been helping collect water from casts, helping deploy the CTD, running “salts” which means putting water in an auto salinometer machine and testing it for conductivity.  I’ve also been conducting interviews, talking with crew and trying to figure out what’s been wrong with e-mails.  Today, after not hearing from my family for over a week, the Chief Scientist, Dr. Molly, let me call home.  Apparently my e-mails have been going out, but when people try to answer they are bounced back. Therefore, from now on use my AOL account, grnflea@aol.com, to contact me.  That way I am sure to hear from you.  The weather has been sunny, and yes, I did get sunburned yesterday. I also saw some flying fish and am always on the lookout for marine mammals.  Now with the e-mail situation taken care of, I look forward to hearing from my students and continuing to share more of what we’re learning from the sea!

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 13, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 13, 2006

Science and Technology Log: CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) Test Cast  

The “Package”

The “Package”

We learned what to do to help the scientists today. In other words, all science personnel were trained in CTD Data Acquisition Procedures. “The package,” is what we send down to the bottom, about 5600 meters, more than three miles deep.  The package, or CTD, is mostly a rosette of 23 cylinders, (specially machined thick PVC tubes). It is deployed, or lowered, overboard. A winch, a machine run by trained sailors, does this lowering. It has a strong wire and pulley to lift and put the package into the ocean.  Once on the surface of the ocean, the CTD was lowered to 10 meters, to get the air out of the system.  The distance of 10 meters is where the atmospheric pressure doubles.  The CTD is then returned to the surface.  We bring it back to the surface after getting all the bubbles out, in order to mark the winch line to zero so they know how far away the bottom is.  Not only is the winch line zero, but the software begins at a good water only profile level as well. All the tubes are open in the rosette on the way down so they do not burst with the pressure and they can collect water at various depths on the way back up from the bottom.  On the way down water passes right through the open tubes.  The procedure for lowering the package with the commands is given by the survey crew to the winch operator. They are simple and brief, explained Jonathan Shannahoff, the Chief Survey Technician, who along with the Chris Churylo, the Chief Electronics Technician, are in charge of the use of all the electronic equipment onboard.

So we followed a very detailed procedure of lowering the package to the depth of 2,000 meters and popped the tubes, closed the tubes on the rosette, thus collecting water samples at the depth of 2,000 meters.  This was a test cast.  It was brought to the surface and we practiced taking various samples from the water.  Kim got to do the salinity and nutrient samples and Vince got to work with Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis, CFC Project Lead, and Julia O’Hern, post-graduate CFC analyst, with the trace element samples.  Each type of sample has a procedure to follow to make sure it is done in the same manner so no mistakes are made with the data.  The first actual data collection casts will be coming up on Monday. We expect to do 55 or so casts and make more than 20 samples from each cast. Yes, today was all practice. We labeled vials and sample bottles to make them more orderly. The scientific process requires that you replicate experiments, which means that someone else can do the same thing as we do under similar conditions and get the same results.  Without that procedural similarity, reliability of data is compromised.  In other words, if you don’t do the same thing you did the last time you did it, you may not get the same conclusions.

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Captain Gary Petrae on the bridge of the RON BROWN

Interview with Captain Gary Petrae 

When you enter the bridge of the RON BROWN, you probably will meet Captain Gary Petrae. Captain Petrae has spent over 27 years with the NOAA Corps. He joined NOAA after graduating from Florida Institute of Technology where he majored in physical oceanography.  Captain Petrae chose NOAA because he likes adventures and loves a challenge. His favorite ports are Barbados W.I., Kodiak AK, and San Diego, CA.  When he’s not on duty, he catches up on paperwork, reads, and watches movies.  He encourages all his staff and crew to stop and relax and he tries to practice this daily himself.

CAPT Petrae really enjoys his commission, but does admit that the family separation is difficult. He encourages anyone to join NOAA and you can apply with a college degree to the commissioned corps, or in an entry-level position with a high school diploma.  A great benefit for NOAA employees is that you can live on-board a ship, (don’t have to pay rent), eat three meals a day and you can see the world. This is CAPT Petrae’s first command upon the RON BROWN which is a class one research vessel that travels all over the world.  The RON BROWN measures 274 feet stem to stern, is 52.5 feet wide, and needs 20 feet of water in which to operate.  The RON BROWN uses diesel fuel and has six generator motors.  The ship makes its own water using an evaporation system. The RON BROWN is scheduled to go to Brazil later in the year, and CAPT Petrae with his love of adventure is ready to go!

Personal Log – Vince Rosato 

You have asked, what is it like on the ship? The cabin I’m in has two bunks and two wall cabinets with closet space and drawers and one tall metal Chester drawer all of which I share with my cabin mate Ho, a doctoral student from the UK.  I have the bottom bunk and I work the noon-midnight watch.  He has the midnight to noon watch, which means each of us gets the room to ourselves for the time we’re not on watch.  We share the bathroom that has a fixture and shower stall with our adjacent cabin.  When we use it we lock both entry doors and remember to unlock them when we leave.  There is a sink with a mirror in each cabin as well.  The room has two sofa-like chairs and a stool that can be used like a desk chair next to the Chester drawers that has a pullout section that acts like a desktop. In each double size bunk there are drapes around three sides since one side faces the metal wall.  They shield the light in either direction because there is a bunk light with an outlet inside.  All in all the cabins are practical and spacious and we are in charge of keeping them neat and tidy.  Speaking of tidy, I did my laundry today two decks below.

Personal Log – Kimberly Pratt 

Hi all. The weather is beautiful.  I’ve spent the last two days doing interviews, taking pictures and forming friendships on board the RON BROWN.  Yesterday I was trained in CTD collection procedures and really felt like a scientist as I got to take samples.  I’ll be processing salinity samples as well as non-organic nutrients.  The ship has stopped rocking and rolling so seasickness is at bay.  Today I really go to work, collecting samples as my shift is from noon to midnight.  The crew and officers have been very helpful and friendly. It’s been going really well, and it’s nice to have a fellow teacher on board!

Vince Rosato and Kim Pratt, March 9, 2006

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Vince Rosato & Kim Pratt
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
March 9 – 28, 2006

Mission: Collect oceanographic and climate modeling data
Geographical Area: Barbados, West Indies
Date: March 9, 2006

Teachers at Sea aboard the Ronald H. Brown

Teachers at Sea aboard the Ronald H. Brown

We sail today.  After spending the entire day traveling from San Francisco to Barbados by way of Miami, we arrived in Bridgetown. We heard screeching critters at the Grand Barbados Hotel. We learned that they were tiny frogs that sounded like squawking tropical birds. We took a taxi to the port, about 20 minutes on the other side of the island, after meeting Chief Scientist, Dr. Molly Baringer, also called “Dr. Molly.”

Docked among cruise liners (which are huge hotel-like pleasure ships), we were greeted aboard the NOAA ship, RONALD H. BROWN, by Ensign Jackie Almeida, serving as OOD, Officer of the Deck. The OOD is the captain’s delegate like when the principal has to go to a meeting the AP (assistant principal) is in charge.  Everyone welcomed us and made us feel right at home.  After stowing our gear and being directed to where the cabin linens (bed sheets, pillows and towels) and galley (where we eat meals) were, we made our way to Bridgetown and back by foot.  One of the main sources of income for Barbados is selling things to travelers, otherwise called tourism.  They made money by our visit. It cost $1.40 Barbados for postcard postage.  We passed a fish processing area not far outside of the closed port facilities where Mahi Mahi, otherwise known as “Caribbean Dolphin” by the locals was being prepared for market.  They are not real dolphins, since they are fish, and not marine mammals.

The harbor pilot and his assistant boarded the ship yesterday when our ship was moved.  We were invited to view the ship maneuverings from the bridge, where the officers navigate and drive the ship in the front, or bow, of the ship.  Junior Officer Ensign James Brinkley invited us to the bridge at the request of the Captain Gary Petrae.  If you thought parallel parking looked difficult by car, the captain explained a ship doesn’t have any brakes, which makes it harder.  He made it look easy.  We will continue to take photos and interview officers, crew, and scientists and help out where we can.  We will be sending logs periodically to keep you informed of our journey and help make the science we are learning more accessible in school and home.

Everyone enjoys seeing critters like monkeys and dolphins, but this expedition is primarily about chemistry, currents and climate, non-living, or abiotic, features of the seas. Coming up soon are fire and abandon ship drills.  Fire and emergency drills are held weekly at sea because shipboard personnel must rely solely on themselves in the event of an emergency.  In some cases help may be days away, so ships at sea will render assistance to other vessels located in proximity.  Later we will be conducting a test run of the CTD. The CTD is a conductivity, temperature and density reading at various depths from instruments on a line that extends from the surface of the sea to the ocean floor. Stay tuned for more data.

Assignment – Maritime flags are a very important way for ships to communicate to each other. For example, when a ship wants a harbor pilot to help it navigate its way through the harbor, they’ll hoist (put up) a blue and gold pilot flag.  We all use flags in our daily lives—the American Flag, California Flag, and we use flags to start races.  Describe one flag that you know of. Describe its markings and state the purpose for the flag or what it means.

Vince Rosato—Personal Log 

At the airport after getting up around 3:30 a.m. Kim and I were in line and an agent asked me to get into a “special” line.  No, it was not the express line.  As others walked by, one said, “Are you in the penalty box?”  I said, “I was chosen–perhaps I should buy a lottery ticket.” Anyway, I was run through a glass container and puffed with air jets which sensed nothing but my cologne and was passed along to our delayed flight and Kim’s enjoyment.  On the journey here the wife of a former Minister of Trinidad watched out for us. That was memorable because she attempted to get us quick passage to our connection at Miami after our arrival terminal was switched due to our delayed flight.

Kimberly Pratt—Personal Log 

Hi all! It’s great to be in Barbados!  The students and I really worked hard to get ready for the trip. In class they decorated their Styrofoam cups (for a later experiment), signed the stickers for the drifter buoy we’ll be deploying later and most importantly, they all made me going away cards!  I was really touched (they love to see me cry). It’s beautiful here.  The weather has been warm and tropical.  The flight was long, and I met a wonderful lady named Nora.  The next day I went to the ship and checked in.  Today, we sailed and we’ll be motoring straight away for two days.  I haven’t felt really sick, so that’s good news.  It’s nice to be traveling with another teacher this time around.  My e-mail on board the ship is kim.pratt@rbnems.ronbrown.omao.noaa.gov