Kaci Heins: Final Blog, October 7, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Farewell Alaska

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Friday, October 7, 2011


Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: Partly Cloudy  1/8
Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles
Wind: 4 knots
Temperature
Dry Bulb: 8.5 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1018.5 millibars
Latitude: 54.47 degrees North
Longitude: -132.32 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

One of the Main Engines

Every day we tend to take for granted the simple things in life such as having electricity to power to charge our cell phones, to be able to turn on the water whenever we need a drink, or to make sure the toilets flush in the restroom.  When we are on a ship at sea for a long period of time, it is important that all of these systems that impact of our daily life are functioning properly.  We cannot take an extension cord and run it from the port to wherever we are heading so that we have electricity.  The Rainier, like any other ship, is like a floating city and is self-sufficient in its abilities to generate its own electricity, create and store its own fresh water, process its own sewage, and still get to where it needs to go.

There are two 12 cylinder two-cycle diesel engines that power the ship.  Each engine is geared independently to individual propeller shafts.  This means that the ship can actually be steered by adjusting the pitch or “bite” of the propellers.  The average speed for the Rainier from these engines is about 12 knots.  Power is generated on the ship through two 415 kilowatt, 450 volt, 3 phase, 60 cycle generators, which are driven by the diesel engines.  The generated voltage is stepped down through transformers to supply the 120-volt power for lighting, appliances, and electronic equipment on the ship.  The heat rejection from the diesel engines is also used for the evaporators which help produce the ships water.

Engine for the Generator

There are two water storage tanks that can hold up to 8390 gallons of water.  This amount of water will only last us a couple of days because the ship uses about 2000 gallons of water a day.   There are two flash type distilling plants that generate our potable water, which converts sea water into our fresh water for the ship.  They are able to convert around 6000 gallons of fresh water a day for all of the needs of the ship.  Hot water and steam for our needs are provided by two pressurized hot water boilers that use diesel fuel to heat the water up to around 360 degrees Fahrenheit.

Hot Water Boiler

All of these various systems and machinery are the lifeblood of the ship.  They help provide the basic needs for the crew in order to survive for long periods of time at sea and for the ship to fulfill its mission. Without the engineers monitoring and maintaining the ships equipment we could not accomplish the tasks required of the ship .  There is extensive amounts of hands-on experience and training that comes with this territory of keeping the ship alive.  This training can come from collegiate academies, prior military service, trade schools, or wanting to come into an entry-level position to experience life at sea.

*Special thanks to Cliff Elsner for giving me an extensive tour of the engine room and helping me share this information about the heart of the ship.

Personal Log

Rainbow During a Survey

It’s funny how a person adapts to their environment over time.  I was so excited to be going to Alaska to take part in this experience, but I had no idea what it would be like or how much I would learn.  Noises that were beyond annoying at the beginning of the trip become a constant humming that the Rainier shares each day.  The vibrations and gentle sway that would keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, start to rock you to sleep each night in preparation for the days work ahead.  However, there are times when she may want to rock, but the Pacific Ocean wants you to roll. Then there isn’t much sleep to be had.  The weather would like to break the Rainier, but she is a floating fortress of steel that continues on knowing there is a job to be done.  It is a constant rhythm with this ship.  The waves keep time and rarely does anyone miss a beat.  The pulse and the life of the ship stay in complete sync.   With everyone doing their part we come to the finale as we finish the last day of work and pull into port.  There is a welcomed intermission between journeys as we head into Ketchikan, Alaska.

I did see a moose in Alaska!

I am so grateful for this experience to see Alaska, to see the wildlife, and to see what hydrographic surveying is all about.  However, I never imagined I would meet so many wonderful people on this ship.  Each person I came in contact with had wonderful characteristics, personalities, and skills to share.  I admire what each person has to contribute from every department on the ship.  If they were not here then the ship would not function to its fullest potential and complete its mission.  I am thankful for each handshake, each ear to ear smile, the jokes played on each other and myself, the hearty laughter at dinner that keeps us all sane, the hugs of support, the high fives of accomplishment, but most importantly the many lessons that you have taught me that I will keep with me for a lifetime.  I love this ship, I love this crew, and I loved this experience.  Thank you to everyone that made this possible.

Thank You Rainier!

Interview with the Captain

Crew Interviews

Animals Spotted!

Blue Heron

Whales (Species Unknown)

Sea Otters

Question of the Day

Kaci Heins: Surveying and Processing, September 30 – October 3, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Mrs. Heins Taking a CTD Cast


Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: Overcast 7/8
Visibility: 8 Nautical Miles
Wind: 21 knots
Temperature
Dry Bulb: 12.0 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 997.0 millibars
Latitude: 55.23 degrees North
Longitude: -133.22 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

Watching The Sonar

I was able to go out on another launch boat Sunday to collect survey data.  It was a beautiful day with amazing scenery to make it by far the best office I have ever been too.  Despite the fact that the ship is usually “off the grid” in many ways, the location of their work environment, or office, in Alaska is visually stunning no matter where you turn.  Keeping your eyes off the cedar trees and focused on the sonar in a launch can be challenging at times!  However, when there is a specific job to be done that involves time and money, then the scenery can wait until the job is finished.  During Sunday’s launch survey we had to clean up some “Holidays” and acquire some cross line data.

View Of the Data Acquired For the Ship On The Bridge

The word “Holiday” might lead to some confusion about what you might think we are doing when you read that word.  Holiday =vacation right?  In this case it is when there is a gap, or missing information, in the survey data that is acquired.  This poses a problem for the survey technicians because this leaves holes in the data that they must use for their final charts.  Holidays can be caused by the boat or ship being off the planned line, unexpected shoaling (or where the water gets shallow) so the swath width decreases, or a slope angling away from the transducer so that a return path for the sound wave is not possible.  The speed, direction, weather, swells, rocking of the boat, and the launches making wider turns than anticipated. It is easy to see where holidays occur as we are surveying because amidst the rainbow of color there will be a white pixel or square showing that data is missing.  When we are finished surveying or “painting” an area, we communicate with the coxswain where we need to go back and survey over the missing data or holidays.  If there are holidays or data is missing from the survey, then the survey technicians must explain why the data is missing in their final Descriptive Report.  This document covers everything that was done during the project from how the area was chosen to survey, what data was collected, what data wasn’t collected and why.  This is where holidays are explained, which could be due to lack of time or safety concerns.

Ship Hydrographic Survey

This launch was a little different because we were cleaning up holidays from the Rainiers’ multibeam.  Not only do the smaller survey boats collect sea floor surface data, but the Rainier has its own expensive multibeam sonar as well.  The ships sonar is called a Kongsberg EM 710 and was made in Norway.  Having the Rainier fitted with a multibeam sonar allows the ship to acquire data in deeper water and allows for a wider swath coverage.  The lines that are surveyed on the ocean floor are also much longer than those in a launch.  This means that instead of taking around 5-10 minutes to acquire a line of data, it can take around 30 minutes or more with the ship.  This is great data because again, the ship can cover more area and in deeper water. We also took the ships previous data and ran cross lines over it.  The importance of running a cross line over previous survey data helps to confirm or deny that the data acquired is good data.  However, there is a catch to running a cross line.  To confirm the data they have to use a different system than what was used before, the cross line has to be conducted on a different day, and it has to be during a different tide.  All of this is done to know for sure that the data is acquired has as few errors as possible before the projects are finished.

Rainier Multibeam Sonar

Personal Log

Each day when the scientists go out and survey the ocean floor they acquire tens of gigabytes of information!  The big question is what is next after they have acquired it all?  When they are on the launch they have a small external hard drive that holds 500 gigabytes to a terabyte of information plugged into their computer.  At the end of the day all their information and files are downloaded to this hard drive and placed in a water tight container in case it happens to get dropped.  Keeping the newly acquired data safe and secure is of the utmost importance.  Losing data and having to re-survey areas due to a human error costs tens of thousands of dollars, so everything must get backed up and saved constantly.  This is where I have noticed that computer skills and file management are so important in this area of research.

Once we get off of the boats the data is brought upstairs to what is called the plot room.  This is where all the survey technicians computers are set up for them to work on their projects.  The technicians that are in charge of downloading all the data and compiling all the files together is called night processing.  There are numerous software programs (tides, CTD casts, POS, TPU, Hypack,) and data from these programs that all have to be combined so that the technicians can produce a finished product for the Pacific Hydrographic Branch (part of Hydrographic Surveys Division), who then process the data some more before submitting to Marine Charting Division to make the final chart. The main software program that combines all the different data is called Caris and comes out of Canada.  Once all of the data has been merged together it allows the technicians start cleaning up their data and produce a graphic plan for the launches to follow the next day.  Every movement on the keyboard or with the mouse is very important with surveying because everything is done digitally.  Numerous new files are created each day in a special way so that anyone that reads the name will know which ship it came from, the day, and the year.  File management and computer skills are key to keeping the flow of work consistent and correct each day.

Hydrographic Survey Data In Caris

We have also had numerous fire drills while on the ship.  This is very important so that everyone knows where to go and what to do in case of an emergency.  They had me help out with the fire fighters and the hose this time.  I learned how to brace the fire fighter so that the force from the hose doesn’t knock them over.  I never knew that would be an issue with fire fighting until this drill.  I learn so many new things on this ship every day!

Fire Drill Practice

Student Questions Answered


Kingfisher

Animals Spotted

Kingfisher

Sea Otters

Question of the Day

Kaci Heins: Shoreline Verification and Auroras, September 27-29, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Heading Back to the Rainier After Shoreline Verification

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Thursday, September 29, 2011


Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: Overcast/Drizzle/Rain
Visibility: 2 Nautical Miles
Wind: 15 knots
Temperature
Dry Bulb: 8.2 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1001.1 millibars
Latitude: 55.42 degrees North
Longitude: -133.45 degrees West

Science and Technology

Waterfall on Shore

When we are out on a launch acquiring data there are so many beautiful shorelines to see.  From far away they look inviting, but in reality there are usually numerous boat hazards lurking below or on the shoreline.  I have written a lot about the hydrographic survey aspect of this mission and how it is important to ships so that they can navigate safely.

However, when we are out on a survey launch the first priority is safety of the crew, the boat, and the technology.  This means that we normally do not go anywhere that is shallower than about eight meters.   Consequently, this leaves areas near the shore that is not surveyed and leaves holes in the chart data.  This is where shoreline verification comes in using single beam sonar.  However, since the launch with the single beam is not operational at this time we have been using the multibeam instead.  The Marine Chart Division (MCD) gives the Rainier specific items that need to be identified because they are considered Dangers to Navigation,  or they need to be noted that they do not exist.  The MCD compiles a priority list of features that come from numerous sources such as cruise ships, aircraft pilots, and other boats that have noted that there may be a danger to navigation in a certain area.  Many of these charts have not been updated since they were created in the early 1900′s or never charted at all!

Before we leave the Sheet Manager and the Field Operations Officer (FOO) come up with a plan for what shoreline they want to verify for the day.  A plan must be made because there is a small window to acquire the information needed to satisfy the requests of the Marine Chart Division.  The shoreline verifications must be done at Mean Low or Low Water.  This means that it has to be done when the average low tide of each day comes around, which has been in the early morning and afternoon for us.

Shoreline 4 Meter Curve

Using the launches we head up to what is called the four meter curve.  This curve is the limit to where we can go during meal low or low water.  If we get any shallower or move closer to the shore then we will put everyone and everything in danger on the boat.  We bring with us  a camera to document the features, a clinometer, which allows us to document headings and angles, a laser range finder, charts that they can draw and note features on, and their computer software.   Once we get underway and arrive to our first rock that we have to document, the officers make sure they maintain good communication with the coxswain, or boat driver.  We make sure we circle everything in a counterclockwise motion so that he can see everything off to his starboard, or right side as we move.  We can see the rock become exposed as the waves move over it, but the tricky part is getting as close to it as possible without hitting it.  This is so we can get a precise location as possible for the chart.  Our coxswain was very experienced so we were able to get right next to it for photos, the heading, and to drop a target, or the location, in the software.

Notes Documenting Various Features

The rest of our shoreline verification was a lot less intense as we confirmed that there was a lot of kelp around the rocks, the shoreline, and specific rocks were in the correct place.  LT Gonsalves, the Hydrographer-in-Charge (HIC),  showed me how he draws some of the features on his chart and makes notes about whether the features are there or not.  I took photos and noted the photo numbers for the chart, as well as the range and height of various features.  Shoreline verification is very important for nautical charts so that ships and their passengers know exactly where dangers to navigation lie.  It takes 120 days from the final sounding for all the data to get submitted to the Hydrographic Survey Division.  From there the information gets looked over by numerous agencies until about 2 years later the updated chart is available.  This is quite a long time to wait for changes in dangers to navigation.  To be safe, the chart stays the same even if there is not a dangerous rock lurking around at mean low or low water.  It is best to just avoid the area and err on the side of caution.  There is still a lot of work to be done in Alaska that will take many, many years to complete.  However, it is thanks to hydrographic ships like the Rainier and its crew that get the job done.

Personal Log

NASA SOHO Image of Solar Wind and the Magnetic Field

Tonight was very special because we could actually see an aurora, or the northern lights,  in the night sky.  An aurora is a natural light display in the arctic and antarctic, which is caused by the collision of charged particles in the upper atmosphere.  Auroras start way back about 93 million miles (or 1 astronomical unit- AU) at the sun.  When the sun is active, usually due to coronal mass ejections, it releases energetic  particles into space with the very hot solar wind.  These particles travel very quickly over those 93 million miles until they reach the Earth’s magnetic field.   Most of these energetic particles are deflected around the Earth, but some get trapped in the magnetic field and are moved along towards the polar regions until they strike the atmosphere.  We knew there were possibilities to see an aurora while we were anchored, but usually it has been cloudy at night so we couldn’t see the stars.  However, on the 27th Officer Manda came through saying he had seen the lights.  Low and behold there was a green glow in the sky behind some clouds and a couple of times some of the energized particles made bands across the sky.  If there hadn’t been so many clouds I think it would have been even more spectacular, but I was so glad I did get to see them.  Very quickly, more clouds moved in and it was just a green glow on the horizon.  I also was able to see the milky way in all its glory and the brightest shooting star I have ever seen.  These amazing photos of the aurora were taken by Ensign Manda and I am very grateful he was willing to share.

Aurora and Shooting Star Courtesy of Ensign Manda

Aurora in Alaska Courtesy of Ensign Manda

Click HERE for a link to a neat animation of how an aurora is formed.

Student Questions Answered

Animals Spotted!

Seal On a Rock We Were Documenting

Seals – species unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Question of the Day

Kaci Heins: September 24-26, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Mrs. Heins Acquiring Data For The Hydrographic Survey

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: 10.40 knots
Temperature
Dry Bulb: 11.3 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1000.1 millibars
Latitude: 55.28 degrees North
Longitude: -133.68 degrees West

Science and Technology

I have received many questions from students asking “What is hydrography?”.  According to the International Hydrographic Organization,  hydrography is “the branch of applied science which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of the navigable portion of the earth’s surface [seas] and adjoining coastal areas, with special reference to their use for the purpose of navigation.” Lets break that word down to find the meanings of the prefixes and suffixes using dictionary.com.

hydro – means water,

graph – means to write or chart

graphy – means the science or process of recording

Another question I have received is what is a hydrographic survey?  Most of the surveys that you may have heard of are used on land.  For example, construction workers may survey a site before they start construction, or you may take a survey at school about what types of food you would like in the cafeteria.  Any kind of survey is the acquiring of information that is used for various purposes.  In the case of a hydrographic survey, the technicians acquire and chart information about the sea floor.  I was fortunate enough to go out on a survey launch to see that a hydrographic survey is conducted using sonar to look through the water to see what the sea floor actually looks like.

Launch Boat

The boat that NOAA uses to conduct the surveys is called a launch.  This means we use a large motorboat to get to where we need to go.  It costs tens of thousands of dollars a day to operate the Rainier, her launches, and the technology.  It is the technology that allows scientists to be able to “see” through the water to map what the ocean floor actually looks like.  The first, and most important, piece of technology on the launch that enables us to “see” the sea floor is the sonarSonar (SOund NAvigation and Ranging) is the process of using sound waves to bounce off objects we cannot see and then acquiring the return sound to create an image.  However, it does get a little more complicated than that.  There are two different types of sonar that the NOAA National Ocean Service (NOS) goes into detail about.

1) Active Sonar – Transmits a pulse or acoustic sound into the water. If the sound pulse hits an object in its path, such as the sea floor, then the sound bounces off  and returns an “echo” to the sonar receiver.  By determining the round-trip travel time between the emission of the sound pulse and its reception, the transducer can determine the range (how far away) and orientation (location) of the object.  The formula for this is

Distance = (two way travel time x speed of sound through water) / 2

2) Passive Sonar – Is a sonar system that does not emit its own signal, but listens to sound waves coming towards it.

Multibeam Sonar

Both the Rainier and the smaller launches have  both active sonar called multibeam sonar. Multibeam sonar sends out numerous sound waves from directly beneath the ship on the boat’s hull that fans out its coverage over the seafloor.  This coverage is called a “swath”.  Before we leave the ship to head out on the launches we have a briefing to go over the weather, safety, and any other important information for the coxswains, scientists, or crew.  We also get a plan for the day for what polygons, or areas we have to survey.  On our way we turn on some of the expensive (and top secret!) technology called the Position and Attitude System (POS).  This technology collects the vessels motion data (roll, pitch, and yaw), that later will be incorporated into the Caris software that produces the final chart. The multibeam transmits around 512

Polygon Coverage Area for the Day

beams each second.  The frequency of the sound waves depends on the depths that we are working in.  We worked in waters that were around 50 meters deep so we used the 400 kilohertz frequency.  However, if we would have been working in deeper water we would have gone to 200 kilohertz.  By lengthening the wavelength the beams can travel into deeper water with less error or scattering.

Before we start acquiring data we make sure to have good communication with the coxswain, or driver, of the boat.  It is extremely important that there is good communication and that the coxswain can maintain their heading and speed throughout the polygon so that the data can be collected without too many errors.

Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth Cast

We want to make sure we only go about 6-8 knots so that the sonar echo has time to make it back up to the receiver and we can collect good data.  The scientists also conduct a CTD cast before we start and every four hours while they collect data.  CTD stands for Conductivity (or salinity), Temperature, and Depth (pressure).  The data from the CTD can be used to calculate the speed of sound through water.  All of these factors can cause errors in the survey data so scientists need to collect this information so that the finished product has fewer errors and depths can be corrected from the sonar.  Other features that can cause errors in the data are bubbles, vegetation such as kelp, schools of fish, and the type of material that is on the sea floor.  For example, if the sea floor consists of a softer material it won’t reflect the sonar beams back as well.

To collect the survey data we basically drive the launch back and forth over our assigned polygons with the multibeam sonar.  This is sometimes called “mowing the lawn” or “painting the bottom”.  When we get to one edge of the polygon we stop logging data, turn around, and make a new swath as close as we can to the previous one and continue collecting data.  We cover around 50 nautical miles each day collecting data with the overall goal to collect the best data quality that we can during our acquisition.

As we head back to the Rainier all the computer data is downloaded from the day and is later transferred to the plot room.  This is where survey technicians add all the other information and make corrections to the data such as tides, vessel motion (POS), GPS, sound velocity from the CTD, and other programs so that the data is as accurate as possible.  Technicians still must go through and clean out “noise” which is scattering of some of the data.  The finished survey chart is sent to the Pacific Hydrographic Branch for post processing and quality assurance.

What We Surveyed Today!

Personal Log

In my last blog I wrote about how math skills are very important not only as a strong skill needed on a NOAA ship, but also as a life-long skill.  As I continue learning more about hydrography I have also found that computer skills are extremely valuable in this work environment.  Most people have basic computer skills to check email and run office programs, but out here it takes a little more.  There is quite a bit of training that the survey technicians and the NOAA Corps officers must go through to learn about all the different software that collects data and then using more software to combine them to make the finished hydro chart.  Numerous hours of collecting data, combining data, cleaning data and finishing projects all have a significant amount of work done by or at a computer.  Everyone from the captain to the junior officers must know how to use it and how to troubleshoot when things don’t work right.  It is not as easy as picking up the phone and calling customer service.  Minds among the ship must come together to solve problems when they arise.

Using the Computer to Collect Survey Data

While underway whether it is on the ship or on one of the launches the high seas are always around.  At first they made me nervous because I was afraid I would get sick.  However, it has turned out to be quite the opposite!  Whenever the seas get rough I actually start to get sleepy as we sway back and forth!  Usually, we are so busy that there isn’t time to take a nap so I’m learning to work through it.  Going along those lines of being busy, there are usually no breaks during the weekends.  In most people’s lives the weekend is time to take a break, hang out with family and friends, and sometimes do absolutely nothing at all.  Out here on a working ship this is not the case.  The NOAA ships have to meet certain deadlines and with some of their past major repairs, time has been ticking away with not much work being done.  This means when Saturdays and Sundays roll around at the end of the week we keep on working like a regular day.  I have the utmost respect for all of the crew, scientists, and officers that spend their time out here working for weeks straight.  It is not an easy lifestyle, but they are committed to it and I admire them and their strength.

Student Questions Answered

Wildlife Spotted!

Sea Otters

Humpback Whale

Sea Otter

Sea stars

Sea Urchins

Question of the day

Kaci Heins: September 19-21, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mrs. Heins at the Helm

Weather Data From The Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 4 miles
Wind: 20 kts
Waves: 0-1 feet
Temperature
Dry Bulb: 11.7 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1000.1 millibars
Latitude: 55 degrees North
Longitude: 133 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

Launch Lowered Into The Water

Today was the first day that the survey launches left the Rainier to install and recover benchmarks and a tidal gauge.  The weather was not great and the crew had a lot of work to do so I was not able to go with them this time.  A benchmark is a small brass disk with information inscribed on it that relates to the station it represents. The benchmark holds the height of the datum.  The purpose of setting a tide gauge is to measure the water level. The water level information is used to reduce the bathymetric data acquired to the chart datum (mean lower-low water, MLLW).   Finding benchmarks has become quite popular through the hobby of geocaching.  This is where participants use latitude and longitude within Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a way to hunt down “treasures” hidden by other participants.  This also includes finding benchmarks.


I’ve been trying to head up to the bridge as much as I can to learn as much as I can during this Teacher at Sea experience.  The first time I went up at night I had no idea about the environment that the officers work in on the bridge.  At night the officers on the bridge actually work in complete darkness.  All of the computer screens have dimmers or red filters so that the least amount of light affects their eyes in the darkness.  The reason it is so dark is because the officers need to be able to see the lighted navigation buoys to stay on course and to spot the lights of other ships that are heading in our direction.  There are also one or two deck personnel that are lookouts either on the flying bridge or bow to keep watch for ships, lights, and other objects that could potentially be a hazard to the Rainier.  A flying bridge is usually an open area above an enclosed bridge where the ship’s officers have a good view of everything around the front and sides of the ship.  We are traveling through the Inside Passage off the Southeastern coast of Alaska, which is extremely narrow in some places along the way.  This means that it is very important that the officers know exactly where they are and what is around them.

Personal Log

Anchor's Away!

I have been able to do some other neat tasks on the ship while the majority of the crew were out on their launches.  We finally were able to find a place to anchor at Ulloa Channel because we had a good “bite” with the anchor–it is protected somewhat from the weather we are dealing with, and it is close to our tide station.  They also let me run out some chain for the anchor and I was able to practice using the crane on the ship.  However, the best part so far has been being at the helm, or the steering gear of the ship.  I will admit I was pretty nervous the first time I grabbed the wheel because it was at night so I couldn’t see hardly anything.  Today, the officer of the deck (OOD) let me at the helm again because we were in open water.  When I am at the helm I have to watch my gyro-heading, which shows me true North, and my magnetic compass, which is more of a back up if the electronic gyro-heading fails.  If I have a heading of 150 then I have to make tiny adjustments or corrections to try and stay on or close to that number as possible.  Even when I make the tiniest adjustment I can see how much the ship moves.  I did start getting the hang of it and one officer even said he had never seen a visitor do so well!

One other item that I will mention in this blog is that the weather in Alaska during this time of year is overcast, rainy, and cold.

Beautiful Scenery Along the Inside Passage

However, going into this I had an idea of what to expect and I enjoy the fact that I get to see the non-glamorous side of this type of work.  It does not matter if it is rainy, cold, what you are wearing, or what you look like because there is a job to do.  It has been overcast every day, but the pine trees are amazing shades of green and the pictures do not do them justice.  We have also had 15 foot waves and 115 knot wind (this is the same as a category 3 hurricane!).  The wind didn’t bother me as much as the waves did.  I thought it was fun for the first 30 minutes, but then I had to lie down for a while because I wasn’t feeling too well.  I never threw up, but it did become uncomfortable.  Now that we are anchored and have stopped moving I feel funny because my body has been used to moving around so much for the past three days.  I sure hope I don’t get land sickness when I am done with this cruise!

Student Questions Answered: Here are student questions answered about feeding so many people on a boat over 3 weeks time.

Animals Seen

Puffins

Questions of the Day

We experienced 115 knot winds Monday night.  What category hurricane would that be the equivalent to?  Use the website if you need help.

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/sshws.shtml


Kaci Heins: September 16-18, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Sunday, September 18, 2011

Me in front of the Rainier.

Weather Data From The Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 9 miles
Wind: North North West 11 knots (One knot = 1.15 miles)
Waves: Wind waves 1-2 feet
Temperature Wet Bulb: 11.9 degrees Celsius
Dry Bulb: 12.1 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1017.2 millibars
Latitude – 50 degrees North
Longitude – 125 degrees West

Science and Technology Log

We will not be to our hydrographic survey destination until Tuesday so I thought I would write about the science of keeping this large research vessel heading in the right direction.   My second day on the Rainier I was able to head up to the bridge today to see how the ship is run.  The bridge is where NOAA Commissioned Officers command the ship, or make and execute decisions to keep the ship safe and on course.  There is at least one officer of the deck (OOD) and one helmsman on the bridge, but they don’t want too many more than that because it starts to get too crowded.  Since I was one more body in the room I tried to stay towards the back to make observations and ask questions when the officers were not busy.

This was a neat experience for me because I am able to see science, social studies, math, and language arts all being used at the same time.  Many of the officers carry notebooks with them to write down important information almost like science notebooks.

Officer Gonsalves' notebook.

There are also deck logs, which are legal records of everything that happens on the boat from spills to when the CO comes up on the bridge.  Commands between officers are verbally given  and then repeated to ensure that the correct orders were given and that there is confirmation that they were received.  There is also a lot of math being used on the bridge as distances are calculated, calibrations are made, and speed is documented.  For social studies and science, sunrise and sunset data is collected for the logs based on latitude and longitude for our position.  This can be important for when they need a lookout, for the deck log, and to overall know what to expect so that they can have the resources they need.  For science, we had to collect data each hour about the current weather.  The weather data above is what I collected with one of the officers this morning on the bridge.  The barometer is an instrument that measures

Nautical Chart of the Inside Passage

the atmospheric pressure.  This means if the barometric pressure drops then there is probably a storm coming.  This information is really important for the officers to know so that they can make decisions in regards to how to keep the ship and its occupants safe.

There is also a lot of technology in the bridge.  First, there is the radar which is a backup in case the GPS (Global Positioning System) happens to fail.  GPS and the radar are two separate pieces of technology, but are both helpful with navigation.  There are two radars that the ship uses.  They are X and S band radar.  Both of the radar help produce a picture of the surrounding area, which is helpful for imaging traffic and hazards.  However, radar does not give the ship’s position. The S band radar has a wavelength of 10cm, which allows it to penetrate rain better, but does not have great resolution.  X band radar has a 3 cm wavelength which has great resolution, but it cannot travel as far.  GPS is used for the positioning of the boat as we travel to do our work.

Personal Log

My travel day from Flagstaff to Seattle went really well yesterday as we headed up for our first stop at Ulloa Channel. No flights were delayed and no lost luggage. When I first saw the Rainier I was so excited! It is a fairly large. Rainier is a ship with five 30-foot survey launches and two small boats.  I had a thorough tour of the boat where I got to see everything from the bridge to the engine room. All of the crew have been very welcoming and helpful as well. My room is nice and so is my roommate Andrea.

My State Room

I actually expected to have less room and storage than we actually have. It reminds me a lot of a college dorm including the fact I have the top bunk! The scenery here is so beautiful with all the green pine trees next to the ocean. However, it is pretty cold! I’m so glad I brought my hat, gloves, and winter coat!

Immersion Suit Training!

Safety is very important on all the NOAA ships so I have been getting all of my trainings and briefings today before we left Seattle. I have to wear closed-toe shoes all the time on the ship unless I am in my stateroom. I have to be careful going up and down the stairs, (they are really steep), making sure to pick my feet up higher when I go through doorways, and overall being mindful that I don’t put myself or others in a dangerous situation. I then had to make sure my hard hat fit well and I had to put on my Immersion Suit. An Immersion Suit is also known as a survival suit in case we happen to go overboard.  These suits are made of  neoprene, which is a waterproof material, and can significantly improve your chances of survival in the event that we end up in the ocean.  My suit has a flashlight, it is BRIGHT orange, and it has a whistle so that I could be easily spotted in an emergency.  Today during our abandon ship drill we had to meet at our location, check to make sure everyone was there, and then put on our survival suits.  Even though we may look silly when we are wearing these, it is so important that we know exactly what we need to do in this particular emergency.  The last thing they want on the boat is for people to panic.  Finding our drill locations through practice and wearing the suits prepares us for what to expect so that we can calmly react in these situations.  I am very glad that I had the trainings and the drills so that I know exactly how to respond if it were are in a real-life situation.

Animals Seen Today

Orca off the port side of the Rainier.

Blue Heron

Canadian Geese

Sea Otter

Orcas

Question of the Day

Kaci Heins: Introduction, August 1, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kaci Heins
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 6 — 22, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline
Date: August 1, 2011

Kaci Heins

Kaci Heins at Space Academy for Educators June 2010

HI! My name is Kaci Heins and I am really looking forward to my NOAA Teacher at Sea cruise on NOAA Ship Rainier! Usually my head is up in the clouds or in space with NASA programs, but for this experience I will have to acquire my sea legs! I have only been on small boats for really short periods of time and a cruise boat at sea.  Living in the high desert of Flagstaff, Arizona, this experience will be a great way to make the 6th grade ocean and atmosphere curriculum meaningful to the students.  Not only will this experience tie into my science curriculum, but the mapping will also connect to my social studies content.

My cruise will focus on hydrographic surveying of the ocean floor.  I am really excited to see the scientists at work and how the technology helps in creating these 3-D maps.

The best thing about these amazing teacher opportunities is that I am able to bring back the experience to the classroom to enhance the curriculum.  I am able to bring in great resources, network with scientists, and expose students to new STEM (Science, technology, engineering, & math) careers.  These experiences provide so much more than what a textbook or worksheet can.  It is real world and hands-on.  This translates into students retaining the information longer and them having their own positive experiences that can lead to possible careers down the road.  Below, is just one of those experiences I can’t wait to share with my students who were the master minds behind our zero-g experiment.