Laura Guertin: “Holidays” on the Thomas Jefferson. September 17, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 17, 2014
Location of ship (at the Troydon Wreck): 41o 08′ 14.459″ N, 71o 21′ 42.987″ W

When I say we have “holidays” on the Thomas Jefferson, I’m not talking about Saint Patrick’s Day or 4th of July.  I’m referring to gaps in previously-collected data we need to fill.  Let me explain by taking you through life on the TJ on Monday, September 15.


Science and Technology Log

The day started just like any other day (we actually use the day of the year to designate days – today was Day #258):

0000 Ship anchored West Passage
0600 Start M/E
0700 Haul Anchor
0730 HSL 3101 Safety Briefing
0800 Deploy HSL 3101
1730 Recover HSL 3101
2400 Ship U/W on Survey H12651

Every day we have been out at sea, our launch has been out collecting data in the shallow-water areas of the coast.  Today, the launch was working on filling in polygons (geographic regions designated for charting) close to the shore.  The Thomas Jefferson was off on its own survey, revisiting areas the ship charted earlier this year that had gaps that needed to be filled in.

First, I should explain the technique the ship uses with side-scan sonar or multibeam echo sounding.  You are all familiar with “mowing the lawn,” where a lawn mower will go across the lawn in one line, then turn 180 degrees and travel back down next to the grass just mowed, and then this linear pattern continues across the lawn.  This is the same pattern hydrographic surveys use when collecting their data – except the lawn is the ocean, and the mower is the ship!  At times, there may be gaps along these lines.  The ship may have to navigate around a buoy or a lobster pot, or another boater may be on an intersect course with our ship.  So there were several small gaps along and between lines that we needed to go back and “mow” over.  Why go back and fill in the data?  On this particular project, we were charting every square foot along the coast.  That’s a lot of lawn to mow!

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The ship is driven by the helmsman on the bridge (Deck 03), but the hydrographic survey laboratory, or plot room, is on Deck 1.  This means that communications must be frequent and clear between the two decks, so that the helmsman can accurately navigate while a survey technician starts and stops the data collection along the existing gaps in the lines.

Dr. G in plot room

Dr. G running the show!

In the photo above, you can see me at the station in the plot room where the action takes place.  Each computer screen displays a specific part of the data collection (today, we were collecting multibeam and not side scan).  The crew in the lab was able to train me enough to actually run part of the survey and work with the bridge to identify our next holidays to fill in.

The other instrument used during our survey is called a MVP – no, not a “most valuable player” but a Moving Vessel Profiler.  The MVP weighs 72 pounds and looks like a torpedo.  The weight is important, as the ship will, at set intervals, let the MVP freefall (while tethered to a line).  The MVP measures sound velocity vertically in the water column.  These data are important, as they help the survey technicians apply necessary corrections to the water depth measurements collected by the multibeam echosounder.  I must admit, it was a true test of my multitasking abilities to navigate and collect multibeam data over the holidays, while releasing the MVP and saving that data!  But I had so much fun being involved, I stayed on this work station for two four-hour shifts!

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Personal Log

One of the many incredible opportunities I’ve had while at sea is to be able to get hands-on with the varied activities of the ship – from handling the lines of the launch, to hauling the anchor, to actually sitting at the computers and running the software collecting the multibeam echosounding data.  It is not just the “cool factor” of being able to communicate with the bridge and start the data collection.  It is definitely “cool” being able to see the different people, their content knowledge and skill sets, and the technology involved in conducting a hydrographic survey.  And it is important to know when to ask for help, when to step back, and when to say, “I’m not ready for that yet.”  I am so eager to learn, but I have to balance jumping in to help, with making sure that my involvement doesn’t interfere with the ship’s activities and mission.  Students, I’m sure you also find it tricky to balance your enthusiasm and desire to participate in activities, versus knowing when you are trying to take on too much.  Here’s my take-home message – always ask!  If you can’t get hands-on, you will most likely be able to observe your surroundings and still learn so much.  There is one activity I’m nervous to try – today, the Commanding Officer (CDR Crocker) asked me if I was going to drive the ship (yes, the 208-foot long Thomas Jefferson!).  I wasn’t ready today, but before this cruise ends, I will drive this ship!  You just may want to stay out of the ocean until I get back to campus…


OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next question (just one for this post).  Please answer this question online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #9.

  1. Why do you think it is important that the Thomas Jefferson go back and fill in the holidays? (*this answer is not directly in the text above – think about why it is a good idea to fill in the gaps, not “just because” NOAA is surveying every square foot)

Random Ship Fact!

As mentioned in previous posts, the Thomas Jefferson does not focus its activities just on collecting data on the depth of the ocean.  In fact, we continued surveying today through the evening over the Troydon Wreck.  The wreck was first picked up by a survey from another NOAA Ship, and we then moved in to measure water data above the wreck.  We had to narrow our multibeam echosounder to try to pick up as much detail in the water column – for example, would we be able to find a mast sticking up from this wreck?  Check out these images and check out what we found!

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Laura Guertin: TJ at the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival. September 15, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 15, 2014
Location of ship (at Fort Trumbull Coast Guard pier): 41o 20.698′ N, 72o 05.432’W

There is no Science and Technology Log for this blog post, as the ship made a detour for a special event – the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London, CT. This annual festival was happening for its second year, and the organizers asked NOAA if they would have a ship in the area to participate. Fortunately for them (and for NOAA), we were able to have our ship docked for the weekend activities but still send out our launch (HSL 3101) to continue with the hydrographic surveys.

The weekend had quite a schedule of events for the fan of maritime history. Connecticut TV stations Channel 3 and Channel 8 came and recorded a promo of the event (you can see a brief interview with my Commanding Officer in the Channel 3 video!). On Thursday evening, myself and others from the ship went and listened to sea chantey singing (you can listen to examples of sea chanteys on the Smithsonian Folkways website). The evening concluded with a screening of a film titled Connecticut & The Sea, a look at how Connecticut’s identity has been shaped by its maritime heritage.

On Friday, there was an official welcoming ceremony for the festival with Lt. Governor Wyman, Senator Blumenthal, the mayor of New London, Mayor Finizio, and other state officials. There were many speeches, including a reading of proclamation from last year that annually establishes the second week of September as the Connecticut Maritime History and Heritage Week.  I was pleased to hear that this annual celebration has a strong education mission written in the proclamation, focusing on using schooners as learning tools for youth. Senator Blumenthal specifically mentioned that, “more importantly than the money going in to this [festival] will be what people will learn, especially about our heritage. We are rooted in the sea.” I also learned about a maritime heritage history guide being developed for elementary grades in Connecticut, and another social studies and science guide for middle/high school students on maritime history, transportation, and maritime technology. Sounds like fun topics to teach, and so relevant to students and their geographic location.

Then, we started with ship tours! For two hours, we allowed visitors to come on board for a guided 15-minute tour of the Thomas Jefferson. Below are images of what the visitors were shown.  Images from other areas, such as the mess deck and lounge, can be viewed at my Life on the Thomas Jefferson post.

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Friday evening was the lighted boat parade, with the judges coming on board or ship to view and judge the boats that went by. (Personal commentary… UConn Avery Point – your boat should have won! Any boat with a college mascot on it is a winner in my book!)

UCONN - Avery Point R/V

The UCONN – Avery Point research vessel, filled with lights for the lighted boat festival!

On Saturday, we opened the ship for five hours, having as many as four tour groups on board at once! It was a huge effort in coordination, but as always, I am amazed by this amazing team on the Thomas Jefferson that was able to educate visitors on NOAA, its mission, and hydrographic surveying. The comments when the people came off the ship were so positive and wonderful to hear, and the smiles on the kids’ faces really summed up their experience.

We were pretty much all exhausted on Saturday evening – after all, we hosted 514 visitors on board during the festival! But there was little time to sit back and relax, as we had to be ready to set off our launch at 0800 and pull out of City Pier by 0900 the next morning.

Tour line for TJ

The line was long at times, but as many visitors told us, the tour was well worth the wait!

Personal Log

As an educator heavily involved in outreach, I was thrilled to be able to participate as a NOAA Teacher at Sea in this event. I proudly wore my TAS t-shirt and hat, and when I went over to the Education Exhibits at the festival, I was able to speak to some educators about this NOAA program and the wonderful opportunity it offers. I can’t wait to continue sharing my TAS experiences after this cruise, with my students, other K-12 teachers I work with, and the general public.

And it was fascinating for me to see everything involved in getting ready for the ship’s participation in the festival. The crew worked incredibly hard for several days, generating the posters for displays, cleaning the ship from top to bottom, and painting everything from the handrails to the decks. While at dock, we “dressed the ship” with signal flags – we looked good!

Another personal note is the delight I had being able to reconnect with my Connecticut roots!  I grew up in Plainville, CT, and we made several trips down to Mystic to visit Mystic Seaport and the Mystic Aquarium.  It was interesting to see this pride in Connecticut’s maritime history extend beyond Mystic, especially in New London with the Custom House Maritime Museum and current docking location of the recreated ship Amistad.

I would have to say that the most-unexpected-yet-equally exciting part of the weekend was seeing more than one submarine heading up the Thames River towards the Naval Submarine Base in New London (at least I believe that is where they were heading!). Each submarine is escorted by three smaller U.S. Navy boats with lots of protection on board. When a submarine comes through, all boat traffic stops in the immediate area. The submarines move very slow during transit in the river, so I was able to watch them for quite some time. Even though I recently toured the U.S.S. Bowfin submarine (a WWII sub), these submarines seemed much longer and more impressive in the water!

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OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions. Please answer these TWO questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #8. Only enter responses in the boxes for Question #1 and Question #2. You can refer to the NOAA Education Strategic Plan 2009-2029 for additional background information.  I also encourage you to think back to some of the previous questions you have answered about the role and purpose of hydrographic surveying…

1)  Please read NOAA’s Education Mission below. Why was it important for NOAA to participate in the CT Maritime Heritage Festival (in the context of NOAA’s education mission)? How did the Thomas Jefferson help support this mission statement?

NOAA’s Education Mission — To advance environmental literacy and promote a diverse workforce in ocean, coastal, Great Lakes, weather, and climate sciences, encouraging stewardship and increasing informed decision making for the Nation.

2)  Please read NOAA’s Education Vision below. Why was it important for NOAA to participate in the CT Maritime Heritage Festival (in the context of NOAA’s vision)? How did the Thomas Jefferson help support this vision statement?

NOAA’s Vision — An informed society that uses a comprehensive understanding of the role of the ocean, coasts, and atmosphere in the global ecosystem to make the best social and economic decisions.


Random Ship Fact!

The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson does not have the historic record of the ships docked in New London this past weekend. But the Thomas Jefferson has certainly made some significant contributions that will go down in this ship’s history. Here are some of the impressive activities of the TJ, beyond its day-to-day hydrographic survey activities:

  • When Hurricane Sandy hit the northeast in 2012 and New York Harbor was closed to ship traffic, the U.S. Coast Guard requested assistance from NOAA for immediate assistance with charting. It was the Thomas Jefferson that was sent in to survey the waterways. The Thomas Jefferson and her two launches charted approximately 20 square nautical miles with side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder, mapping shipping lanes and channels, identifying numerous hazards to navigation, and locating many lost containers throughout New York Harbor and the approaches” (see NOAA PDF). In essence, it was the work of the TJ that deemed the area safe and reopened the Harbor. See NOAA’s summary Response to Hurricane Sandy and read about the Updates to the New York Harbor nautical chart.
  • The Thomas Jefferson was involved in a search and rescue of two divers on August 26, 2012. The TJ was off of Block Island conducting its hydrographic survey work, and responded to an emergency call broadcast by the U.S. Coast Guard. The crew of the TJ spotted the divers and were able to direct a Coast Guard rescue vessel to their location (see NOAA article).
  • When a plane crashed in the ocean near Key West on August 14, 2010, the Thomas Jefferson was the first on site to respond. Within five minutes, and in the dark, the TJ crew rescued the pilot from the plane (see NOAA article).
  • On June 3, 2010, the Thomas Jefferson embarked on a research mission to investigate the area around the Deepwater Horizon/BP spill site. Specifically, the TJ utilized sophisticated acoustic and water chemistry monitoring instruments to detect and map submerged oil in coastal areas and in the deep water surrounding the BP well head. See the following NOAA articles:
    • NOAA/NOS Deepwater Horizon Incident (website)
    • Initial observations from the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (NOAA News)
    • NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson Continues Deepwater Horizon Spill Study Mission (NOAA News)
    • Deepwater Horizon Response Mission Report (PDF)
  • From April-June 2004, the Thomas Jefferson conducted a joint hydrographic survey with Mexico along the approaches to the Mexican ports of Altamira and Tampico as part of a cooperative charting agreement under the International Hydrographic Organization / Meso-American-Caribbean Sea Hydrographic Commission.
  • And let’s not forget the other contributions the Thomas Jefferson has made to marine archaeological surveys (Virginia Capes Wrecks, USCS Robert J. Walker, etc.)

One final point I’ll mention is from May 2007, when the Thomas Jefferson was recognized with the U.S. Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award “for superior federal service for mapping efforts which identified areas of shoaling and obstructions caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and allowed for nautical charts to be quickly updated and used by deep draft vessels entering ports.”  This ship will certainly go down in the history books of the NOAA fleet!

TJ with flags

The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson, with her flags out for the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival

Laura Guertin: Pre- and post-hydrographic surveys on the Thomas Jefferson. September 12, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 12, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 21.217′ N, 72o 05.508′ W (docked at City Pier in New Haven, CT)

That's me, getting ready to handle the bow line for the HSL 3101 launch

That’s me, getting ready to handle the bow line for the HSL 3101 deployment. (photo taken by R. Bayliss)

This post will summarize some of what happens before hydrographic research vessels such as the Thomas Jefferson head out to collect data, a little more information and some history on the tools utilized to collect the data, and then where the data are used once the ship has accomplished its mission.


Science and Technology Log

You may recall in my third post that there are three questions the NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey asks and answers several years in advance to prioritize survey plans:

  • Is it considered a critical area? If so, how old are the most current survey data?
  • Have local pilots or port authorities submitted reports of shoaling, obstructions or other concerns?
  • Does the U.S. Coast Guard or other stakeholders from the maritime community (e.g., fisheries, energy, pipelines) need surveys for economic development or ecological protection?

Once the NOAA Coast Survey tells the ships in their hydrographic fleet where to survey, an initial chart is created to break down the region into pieces (termed polygons) for mapping.

Boat sheet for Long Island Sound survey (provided by T. Walsh)

Boat sheet for Long Island Sound survey (provided by T. Walsh)

Once the region is set and defined, it is now time to get the equipment ready to generate an image and/or record the depth of the ocean floor.  The technology for collecting this data has certainly come a long way over time!  The image below shows the “technologies” over time.  You may also want to review the History of Hydrographic Surveying and Using Lead Lines to Collect Hydrographic Data.  Remember that you can go back and visit NOAA’s site to review What is sonar? and the different hydrographic survey equipment NOAA uses, specifically side scan sonar and the multibeam echo sounder.  Remember that side scan sonar is good for getting an overview of features on the seafloor, while multibeam data are needed to obtain an absolute depth measurement at a location.

Over 50 percent of the depth information found on NOAA charts is based on hydrographic surveys conducted before 1940. Surveys conducted with lead lines or single-beam echo sounders sampled a small percentage of the ocean bottom. Due to technological constraints, hydrographers were unable to see between the sounding lines. Depending on the water depth, these lines may have been spaced at 50, 100, 200 or 400 meters. Today, as NOAA and its contractors re-survey areas and obtain full-bottom coverage, uncharted features (some that are dangers to navigation) are routinely discovered. These features were either: 1) not detected on prior surveys, 2) manmade objects, like wrecks and obstructions, that have appeared on the ocean bottom since the prior survey or 3) the result of natural changes that have occurred since the prior survey.

Over 50 percent of the depth information found on NOAA charts is based on hydrographic surveys conducted before 1940. Surveys conducted with lead lines or single-beam echo sounders sampled a small percentage of the ocean bottom. Due to technological constraints, hydrographers were unable to see between the sounding lines. Depending on the water depth, these lines may have been spaced at 50, 100, 200 or 400 meters. Today, as NOAA and its contractors re-survey areas and obtain full-bottom coverage, uncharted features (some that are dangers to navigation) are routinely discovered. These features were either: 1) not detected on prior surveys, 2) manmade objects, like wrecks and obstructions, that have appeared on the ocean bottom since the prior survey or 3) the result of natural changes that have occurred since the prior survey. (Text for this caption from NOAA Hydrographic Survey Techniques webpage)

Here is a photo of the side scan sonar device from the Thomas Jefferson launch HSL 3101.

Side scan sonar recording device being removed from the HSL 3101, as the launch was going to be surveying in shallow/rocky waters that could damage the instrument.

Side scan sonar recording device being removed from the HSL 3101, as the launch was going to be surveying in shallow/rocky waters that could damage the instrument.

Here is a photo from underside of the Thomas Jefferson of the dual-frequency projector to capture multibeam data.

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If we go back to the map above that shows the regions to be charted, NOAA’s hydrographic crew will first run some multibeam lines to get a general overview of what to expect in terms of depth variations across the survey area.

Boat sheet with initial lines of multibeam data (provided by T. Walsh)

Boat sheet with initial lines of multibeam data (provided by T. Walsh)

Finally, the multibeam data are collected to produce a detailed map (red is for shallow depths, purple is for the deepest depths).

Initial multibeam data for a region, collected by one of the launches of the Thomas Jefferson (provided by T. Walsh)

Initial multibeam data for a region, collected by one of the launches of the Thomas Jefferson (provided by T. Walsh)

But collecting the side scan and multibeam data is just one half of the story – the other half includes knowing where you are when you collect the data.  Please listen to this important audio file from NOAA’s Diving Deeper podcast series, titled Accurate Positions: Know Your Location (from August 2012, 14:01 minutes, transcript).  If the audio player does not appear for you below, click here.


Personal Log

So we have the data collected on the water so we can add the water depths to the nautical charts.  And we have the locations where we collected that data.  But we still have a missing piece…  I have added the next part of this story to my Personal Log, as this information I can provide from my prior experiences during two summer internships while I was an undergraduate student.  The coast itself must be mapped with land surveys, aerial photographs, and remote sensing (see What is remote sensing?).  In addition to the shoreline, NOAA’s cartographers must plot any manmade structures such as docks and jetties that would be an obstruction to navigation, and any objects along the shoreline that would be visible to boaters such as radio and water towers.


Back to the Science and Technology Log

Finally, we have all the pieces to our puzzle, now it is time to put together the nautical chart!   I know I have been throwing around the term “nautical chart,” but let’s make sure you have this in your vocabulary.  Please listen to this audio file from NOAA’s podcast series Diving Deeper, titled What is a Nautical Chart? (from March 2009, 15:04 minutes, transcript).  If the audio player does not appear for you below, click here.

Wondering how long it takes to create a nautical chart?  View NOAA’s page on The time needed to make a new nautical chart depends on how many pieces of the puzzle are in the box.


OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions.  Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #7.

  1. Why might hydrographers use side scan sonar rather than multibeam echo sounding?  Give two examples.
  2. For oceanographers, especially for a hydrographic survey, why is it important to get accurate positions while collecting survey data?
  3. How and why are nautical charts updated?

Random Ship Fact!

The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson started its life as the US Naval Ship Littlehales.  From January 1992 to January 2003, the Littlehales recorded 85,018 hydrographic survey miles along the coast of Africa and in the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea.  The Littlehales even assisted local authorities in halting a piracy incident against another ship at a West African port in 2001 (see article).  At the end of her Navy career, the number of survey operations personnel reached 660.  The Littlehales ended its time with the Navy but then became the Thomas Jefferson and officially entered the NOAA fleet on July 8, 2003 (see article).  It is pretty amazing to be on a ship that has traveled and contributed so much to ocean navigation and safety.

US Navy Ship LIttlehales

US Navy Ship Littlehales. (image from Navsource)

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (image from NOAA)

NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson (image from NOAA)

Laura Guertin: Life on the Thomas Jefferson. September 11, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 11, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 20.698′ N, 72o 05.432′ W (docked at US Coast Guard Station at Fort Trumbull State Park, CT)

During the first week of classes, one of my students said, “I’d like to learn about life on a ship.” Now that I have been on the ship for 11 days, let’s see if I can attempt to capture “life on a ship” in this post.


Science and Technology Log

First Aid on the Thomas Jefferson

The bag on the door of the First Aid station has handy items, such as meclizine (motion sickness medication!)

I don’t know if there is a “science” to living and working on a ship. During this leg of the cruise, we have 35 people on board – a captive (or captured?) audience that has to function professionally and socially. You learned in my second post that the NOAA ships have NOAA Corps Officers and wage mariners on board, supplemented with occasional scientists and guests such as myself. Everyone on board the Thomas Jefferson falls in to one of the following categories: wardroom (NOAA Corps Officers), engineering officers, engineering and deck crew, steward department, electronic technician, survey technician, and scientists/guests. Several people are also trained as medical technicians, and everyone is certified in First Aid and CPR. The shifts that people work vary, from 4 hours on to 8 hours off for watch, to working all day or spending all evening processing hydrographic data collected earlier that day. When we are “at sea,” we are working every day of the week – no weekends off. Needless to say, there is always work to be done on the ship!

Each day, we follow a Plan of the Day (POD) that is distributed the prior afternoon. Below is the POD from Sunday, September 7.

0000 Ship anchored at Gardiners Bay
0600 Start M/E
0700 Haul anchor
0730 Safety briefing HSL 3101
0800 Deploy HSL 3101
~0900 Docking stations
~0915 Moored in New London, CT
1230 All hands meeting – Mess Deck
~1400 Depart New London, CT
~1600 Ship anchored Gardiners Bay
1730 Recover HSL 3101
2400 Ship anchored Gardiners Bay

We never have this detailed of a schedule more than 24 hours in advance – and even during the day, the schedule may change. This is very different for me. I come from a world where in August, I have to make out a syllabus that has every lecture topic and every assignment through December. Not knowing what the ship is doing more than a day in advance is certainly a different way of keeping a schedule, but appropriate for how a ship operates.


Personal Log

Time to address the topics I know my students are most interested in – eating and sleeping!

There are three people on board dedicated to providing our meals (we don’t cook for ourselves on the ship). Breakfast is served from 0700 to 0800, lunch is from 1130 to 1230, and dinner starts at 1630 (notice all times are reported on 24 hour clock, otherwise referred to as military time). If you cannot get to a meal because you are on watch or will be sleeping, you can request that a plate be put together and stored in the refrigerator for you to grab and heat up later. Those going out on the launch for the day can also get a lunch packed to bring out with them during their surveying. Breakfast always includes eggs any way you want them, pancakes, sausage/bacon, cereal, fresh fruit, and the occasional special foods like biscuits and gravy. Lunch ranges from grilled cheese and tomato to corn dogs (burger and taco days seem to be a group favorite), with soup and a salad bar every day. Dinner has had a wide range of options, from roasted duck to lamb chops, to roast beef to curry chicken. There are always vegetarian options, such as eggplant parmesan and vegetable lo mein. Desserts are provided every day, as well as snacks ranging from the healthy to the unhealthy. And did I mention the never-ending supply of ice cream bars and half-gallons available 24/7? There’s even a vending machine on board for soda and snack foods.

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For sleeping arrangements, most people on board share a stateroom. Think of a stateroom as a dorm room – it has bunk beds, a closet and dresser for each person. The room also has a sink, a small refrigerator for food, and a TV connected to DirecTV. Each room shares a bathroom with the room next to it, which has only a toilet and shower. Fortunately, with everyone working at different times, showering has not been a problem (except for standing up in it when the ship is moving!). For privacy while you are sleeping, there is a thick curtain that you can pull across your bed. The curtain does an excellent job keeping the light out of your sleeping area, but if you are one that likes to read in bed at night, each bunk also has a reading light and outlet. Besides sleeping and going in to grab warmer clothing when the wind kicks up and/or the temperature drops when we are on the water, I have spent very little time in my room. I’m sharing the stateroom with ENS Diane Perry, who has been an excellent mentor and friend during my time here.

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When crew members get some down time, there are a range of activities to do – reading, watching TV, exercise, laundry, or just going outside on deck to enjoy the view and watch the beautiful sunsets in the evenings. Time on the internet is limited, and I have not seen anyone “surf the web” or spend time on social media on the two public computers in the lounge. The internet connectivity we have is primarily used by the hydrography lab so they can access current tide tables and other data needed for data gathering and processing (which is why the postings on this blog are rather choppy – when we get close enough to land for me to use my cell phone as an internet hub, I take advantage of the connection time!).

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I admire how hard everyone on this ship works, and I also enjoy how much they laugh! The ship’s lounge has been a popular place to gather for watching movies and football games, and everyone on the ship swaps stories with one another, from the NOAA Corps officers to the deck crew to the technicians. You might think that everyone would want to “get away” from each other and have some space and time to themselves at the end of the day, but instead, I see a close group of colleagues not only working but living together as a tight-knit group.  I don’t know if this crew is quite ready to match the JOIDES Resolution Exp. 351 flash mob, but I bet they would be tough competitors!

In the end, what I thought would be most informative would be to ask the crew themselves about life at sea. I asked as many crew members as I could to provide me three words to describe life at sea. Below is the collection of words I received, listed in alphabetical order. The numbers next to the words indicate how many people said that particular word.

Adventure (3), astounding, beautiful, boring, busy (2), challenging (3), close, close-knit, coffee, communal, community, computers, dedication, desolation, draining, ever-changing (2), exciting (2), exigent, exhausting, experience, family, fatigue, food, fun (2), funhouse, goals, isolated, lonely, new, non-routine, relaxing (2), rewarding, sacrifice, self-gratifying, shipmates, skill, sleeping, standing, stressful, sunsets, travel, unique, watch, unpredictable

Other multi-word phrases people volunteered worth sharing include “strange sleeping habits,” “limited privacy,” “look out the window,” and “no bill collectors.”

That's me, getting ready for us to drop anchor in Gardiners Bay at sunset

That’s me, getting ready for us to drop anchor in Gardiners Bay at sunset.  I think you can see why “sunsets” made the list of “life at sea”! (photo taken by R. Bayliss)


OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here are just TWO QUESTIONS for this post! Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #6. Note that you will see three empty response forms in ANGEL for Post #6. You only need to respond to these two questions.

  1. “Life at sea” is not part of the Ocean Literacy Principles. Please go back and read the full Ocean Literacy document, linked in ANGEL and on our course website. This front material that I did not print out and provide on paper gives more of a background about the principles and their purpose. Your question to answer… should “life at sea” be a part of the Ocean Literacy Principles? Why/why not?
  2. Whether you think “Life at Sea” should or should not be a principle, I would like you to write Ocean Literacy Principle #8 and call it “Life at Sea.”  Define what you would put in there for your subcategories and why.

Random Ship Fact!

I know I told my students in my Introduction to Oceanography course at the beginning of this semester that there was a new vocabulary they would be learning. Little did I know that there was an entire vocabulary I would be learning on the ship! I finally had to write down the terms so I could remember them and start using them correctly. For example, it is not a floor, it is a deck. It is not a hallway, it is a passage or passageway. The dining area is the mess deck, and a stairway is a ladderwell, or stairtower. A wall is a bulkhead, and a window is a porthole. And then there are the direction/location terms for the ship – port (left) and starboard (right), and the bow (forward) and stern (rear). And don’t confuse Deck 2 with Deck 02 – those are two different decks! The “main deck” is Deck 1, and the next deck up is Deck 01, then Deck 02, and then the bridge. Going down from Deck 1 is Deck 2 (with staterooms, where I am staying), and Deck 3 with the exercise room and laundry facilities. But this is just the first number you see on the door signs! There is an entire address system for the ship. My room is 2-25-1, which means it’s located on the second deck (one deck down from Deck 1), at frame 25 of the ship, on the starboard side.  The first number is the deck, the second number indicates which frame the space is at, and the third shows which side of the ship (1 = starboard, 2 = port, 0 = midship). Everything on the ship has an address, including rooms, offices, stairtowers, fire stations, first aid kits, smoke alarms, power panels, and lights.

Someone needs to write a dictionary for life on a ship!

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Laura Guertin: The launches of the Thomas Jefferson. September 8, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

 

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 8, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 07.936′ N  72o 11.011′ W

 

During the first week of the semester, one of my students asked what types of ships do oceanographic research. Here is a little more information on the types of ships we are using during this hydrographic survey. Remember that you can always revisit the websites for An Overview – Hydrographic surveying and Hydrographic survey equipment for more detailed information.

 


 

Science and Technology Log

The Thomas Jefferson is an impressive hydrographic research vessel that is out on the water capturing data for its surveys from March to November each year, but it cannot do the job alone. The ship has two smaller types of boats that it carries on board to help with the survey work.  Not only was I able to see these boats in action, but Chief Boatswain Bernard Pooser provided me with copies of the NOAA Small Boat Program Annual Evaluation Checklist to learn facts down to the smallest details of these important ships.  These boats are inspected annually.

 

Fast Rescue Boat

The Thomas Jefferson’s fast rescue boat (FRB)

FRB – Fast Rescue Boat

The fast rescue boat is used for rescue if we ever have to address a man overboard situation. It is also used if someone needs to be brought from ship to shore, or vice-versa. The boat can accommodate three crew, five passengers, and one stretcher. The boat is not used for surveying but plays an important role in the overall operations during our time at sea.  The boat itself is 22 feet in length, has a 9 foot beam, and a draft of 14 inches.  Its NOAA Hull ID number is 2204 (yes, the first two numbers in the Hull ID are the same as the length of the boat).  The hull material is glass reinforced plastic/polyurethane.

Check out this video of the fast rescue boat being raised out of the water from the starboard side of the Thomas Jefferson.

Video of the fast rescue boat in use on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on September 4, 2014 (recorded by L. Guertin)

 

The TJ's launch HSL 3101

The TJ’s launch HSL 3101

HSL 3101 – “The Launch”

A ship needs a certain amount of water in order to float and not touch the ocean floor. This water depth is called the ship’s “draft” (learn more at NOAA’s An Inch of Water: What’s It Worth?).  The Thomas Jefferson has a draft of 14 feet, but is obligated to survey to 12 feet of water depth. And with the survey instrumentation (side scan and multibeam sonars) mounted on the bottom of the Thomas Jefferson, this ship cannot navigate in very shallow waters to collect the hydrographic data required for surveys. In comes… the launch! The launch is a smaller vessel than the TJ, only 31 feet in length, with a 10 foot beam and draft of 4 feet 8 inches.  The NOAA Hull ID number is HSL 3101, and the hull is made of aluminum.  The launch is equipped with side scan and mutibeam sonar capabilities. The TJ normally carries two launches on its deck. Unfortunately, one of the launches is currently under repair, so we have been working with just one launch during this cruise.

TJ launch, at NOAA's MOC-Atlantic

The second launch of the Thomas Jefferson, HSL 3102, at NOAA’s Marine Operations Center – Atlantic, undergoing repairs

HSL 3102 cradle on the TJ

An empty cradle on the TJ, waiting for the second launch, HSL 3102, to join the ship

The launch weighs approximately 18,000 pounds and takes a very coordinated effort to raise and lower this boat from the Thomas Jefferson. Check out this video to see how the launch is lowered in to the water with a hydraulic-powered davit.

Video of the launch boat in use on the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson on September 6, 2014 (recorded by L. Guertin)

When you viewed this video, did you hear those seven dings that occurred periodically?  We were at anchor with limited visibility (a very foggy morning, as you saw when the launch pulled away), and according to the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea and the Inland Navigation Rules (available online!), “A vessel at anchor shall at intervals of not more than one minute ring the bell rapidly for about 5 seconds. In a vessel of 100 meters or more in length the bell shall be sounded in the forepart of the vessel and immediately after the ringing of the bell the gong shall be sounded rapidly for about 5 seconds in the after part of the vessel.” As the TJ is 63 meters, we were sounding the bell for 5 seconds, once every minute.

The ships are required to sound a signal. The signal you hear would vary ship-to-ship, as the length of the signal upon the length of the ship. Once the fog lifted, we were able to silence the bell.

 


 

Personal Log

Although it appears like fun, being out and zipping around the ocean on these vessels, I am hoping you notice in these videos the safety precautions taken. I also want to point out one of the impacts of going out on the small vessels you don’t see in the videos – the exhaustion at the end of the day felt by the people on the vessels! Getting bounced around on top of the water in the smaller boats, and staying focused the entire time on acquiring the survey data is physically and mentally exhausting. For my first few days on the Thomas Jefferson, I experienced that same exhaustion! Although the ship’s crew doesn’t feel the motion on the TJ as much as the crew on the launches moving across the water, I certainly feel the ship moving, whether it is in transit or at anchor. Eating and showering were the biggest adjustments for me. But I got my sea legs pretty quickly – let’s hope my land legs come back when I return to the classroom!

 


 

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions. Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #5.

  1. From the video clips above, what safety precautions did you notice by the people on deck and the people on the HSL and FRB? What other precautions before/during/after the launch of these two vessels do you think were taken that you did not see in the video?
  2. Why is it important for NOAA to collect water depth data, even in shallow water? (*hint – use information from the article linked above titled An Inch of Water: What’s it Worth?)
  3. Which Ocean Literacy Principle(s) would learning/knowing about these launches apply to, and how? (please identify with the number(s) and letter(s) of the principles you are discussing)

 


 

xxx

Comfortable chairs are important for the hours and hours spent on computers processing in the hydrography lab – but no rolling across the floor

Random Ship Fact!

Certainly, there is movement felt on each deck on of the ship when we are underway. In addition, the Thomas Jefferson “bobs” up and down on the water and can swing with the ocean current when it is at anchor, like how a seagull moves up and down with the waves that pass beneath (not as a significant of a motion, but you can visualize this). So how do we stop objects from moving around on a moving ship? Chairs with wheels are not safe, so the wheels and all chair legs are covered with… tennis balls! The tennis balls prevent the chairs from sliding and rolling across the decks of the ship. Note that in the mess deck (dining area), the tables are also attached to the floor with cement posts underneath.  The tennis balls also help prevent the floors from being scuffed.

tables and chairs

These tables and chairs aren’t going anywhere!

Laura Guertin: From the bridge of the Thomas Jefferson. September 6, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 6, 2014
Location of ship: 41o 04.009′ N, 72o 01.642′ W

 


 

Science and Technology Log

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Our transit from Norfolk, VA, to offshore of Port Judith, RI, took us through some calm waters (and NYC!). I spent most of the morning of our transit day (Sept. 3) on the bridge learning about the equipment and navigation tools. The CO (Commanding Officer) of the ship, CDR Crocker, kindly welcomed me on the bridge during the morning of transit. I was able to learn about the equipment and navigation tools, as well as observe what it takes to pilot a hydrographic survey vessel the size of the Thomas Jefferson (see the TJ fact sheet for ship stats).

One navigation tool that caught my eye is called the AIS – Automated Identification System (read an overview of AIS here and here).  LT Megan Guberski, the ship’s Operations Officer, provided me some great information to explain the value of this particular equipment: “AIS information is collected by a dedicated antenna, and generally includes the ship’s course, speed, and name. The AIS information is then broadcast to the radars and displayed visually. In crowded waters deck officers use the overlapping radar and AIS display monitor their neighbors. If a collision course is detected, the officers can use the VHF radio to hail the other ship by name.”

Nautical charts are on the bridge in paper and digital format. I asked the CO why paper charts are still used and kept around, as all NOAA charts are now digital and only print on demand. He said the ship always needs to know where it is at all times – for example, if there was a power failure on the ship, how would the ship know where it was? (such a simple and logical answer!) There are cabinet drawers filled with paper nautical charts that are utilized hand-in-hand with the technological tools for navigation. In fact, we are utilizing 23 different paper nautical charts for our transit and survey areas during the time I’m on board.

Although I could not see the satellite receiver, there are screens on the bridge that provide the GPS (Global Positioning System) coordinates of the ship. Not familiar with GPS? Check out NOAA’s Global Positioning page and view this NASA YouTube video about GPS. These latitude and longitude values aid in plotting and tracking the ship’s transit.

The ship also is in constant radio contact with other ships, receives emergency weather alerts from the National Weather Service (a division of NOAA), uses compasses to tell direction, thermometers to manually track air temperature, and even utilizes basic tools such as binoculars to spot obstructions on the water, from buoys to lobster pots (also called crab pots, lobster traps, etc.).

But clearly, the most important part of the bridge is the people – the people on watch, the people at the helm steering the ship, etc.  On the Thomas Jefferson, I have observed three people on the bridge at all times – the deck officer, whose primary duty is collision avoidance; the conning officer, who oversees the navigation; and, the helmsman, who steers the ship. A simple way to remember this trio is that one person plans the ship’s turns, one person orders the ship’s turns, and one person drives the ship. Although the technology is a wonderful tool to supplement time and work on the ocean, it cannot ever replace the importance of human observation and intuition. I’m glad that this crew has its eyes on and out for everything, 24/7!

Check out this image slideshow to see the tech tools that I have described, as well as other features around the bridge.

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And to get a complete rundown of the bridge and its equipment, view this video tour of the Thomas Jefferson given by ENS Ryan Wartick, filmed in February 2010.

 


 

Personal Log

I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to spend time and observe the activities on the bridge. My own observations help me not only understand more of how the ship works, but it is priceless to be able to see the teamwork involved in communications among the bridge crew and between the bridge and the crew throughout the ship. Today was the first day of gathering data for the hydrographic survey (more on the specific survey projects in a future post!), and that communication between the hydrography lab on the ship, with the launch (a smaller ship) collecting data in shallower water, and with the bridge is so critical in the success of scientific missions such as this.

Personally, I’m so glad there are people that have the skill set to navigate a ship such as the Thomas Jefferson. In fact, one of the Ensigns jokingly told me that learning to steer the Thomas Jefferson felt like learning how to drive a forklift on ice(!). I’m also pleased that the crew is so open to answering any of my questions and volunteering information to help me learn, such as the difference between a statute (land-measured) mile, nautical mile and a knot – I forgot what it was like to be a student again!

 


 

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions. Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #4.

  1. I want to make sure everyone is familiar with GPS technology, as GPS plays such an important role in navigation and surveying (and will be mentioned in many more future posts). From my description, links above, and any additional websites you wish to explore, tell me in your own words what is GPS. How does it work?
  2. In your own words, what is the importance of having GPS and AIS on a ship doing oceanographic research in shallow water? In deep water? (*think of the TED videos you are watching and if/how GPS and AIS would be helpful)
  3. Let’s say that hypothetically, an emergency came up and I needed to head home. I tell CDR Crocker I need the ship to get to Philadelphia ASAP. Who would he work with, and what tools would he use to get the ship to dock in Philly? Any ideas what he would have to navigate around as he gets closer to Philly (besides lobster pots)? (*note – be sure to look at the photo slideshow and the video for images and descriptions of equipment I didn’t mention above)

 


 

Lounge on the TJ

Lounge on the TJ

Random Ship Fact!

This random ship fact is inspired by 2014 NFL season – yes, even football makes its way out on to the ocean! The ship has access to DirectTV, with TV screens in the ship’s lounge (pictured here, with quite a reading collection), in the dining area, and in the individual staterooms. On Thursday, the first football game of the season, people on the ship gathered to watch the Green Bay Packers play the Seattle Seahawks. I haven’t found too many Philly sports fans on the ship, but an even more random ship fact (for those Eagles fans)… Troy Vincent’s cousin is on the ship with me!

 

Laura Guertin: The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is on its way to… September 4, 2014

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Laura Guertin
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
September 2 – September 19, 2014

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of cruise: North Atlantic Ocean
Date: September 4, 2014
Location from the Bridge: 41o 20.042′ N, 71o 27.252′ W

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Ahoy, everyone! The NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson is off on another exciting hydrographic survey in the Atlantic Ocean. You will notice that my blog posts will now be divided into two sections – one titled Science and Technology Log, and the other titled Personal Log. The Science and Technology log will be… well, you guessed it, a report on the science, technology, and/or career aspects of this current expedition. The Personal Log is… yes, you guessed it again, where I will be sharing some of my personal experiences about participating as a visiting scientist and educator on this NOAA ship. I’ll also try to include random trivia or an informational paragraph at the end. And students, don’t think I’ve forgotten about you – a special shout-out and special section will be written for my students in my oceanography course back on campus this fall.

So, let’s start!


 

Science and Technology Log

Why hydrography?

Since we are currently in transit to our new location and haven’t yet started our survey, I want to make sure I drive this point home (or sail this point home?)… Why do hydrography in the first place? Why do we need hydrographers/ocean surveyors?  In this audio file from NOAA’s Diving Deeper podcast series, they answer this exact question – why hydrography is important not just for commercial and recreational boaters, but for everyone.  Take a listen!  (The podcast is 3:39 min.  If the audio is not appearing or playing for you, please click here to access, date 07/05/2012.)

 

If the podcast wasn’t enough to convince you as to why we need surveys of the oceans, check out this video from Mary Glackin, NOAA’s Deputy Under Secretary, as she recognizes the nation’s hydrographers on World Hydrography Day (June 21). She explains how hydrography supports the U.S. economy, keeps mariners safe, and protects our coastal communities and ecosystems.  (The video is 3:15 min.  If the video is not appearing or playing for you, please click here to access.)

By the way, do you have World Hydrography Day marked on your calendar??? It is celebrated every year on June 21.  Learn more about World Hydrography Day at the WHD website and the website for the International Hydrographic Organization.

 

How does NOAA know where to survey?

For NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey, several considerations go into prioritizing survey plans, which are laid out several years in advance. Coast Survey asks specific questions about each potential survey area.

  • Is it considered a critical area? If so, how old are the most current survey data?
  • Have local pilots or port authorities submitted reports of shoaling, obstructions or other concerns?
  • Does the U.S. Coast Guard or other stakeholders from the maritime community (e.g., fisheries, energy, pipelines) need surveys for economic development or ecological protection?

Want to know where is the NOAA hydrographic survey fleet heading in the 2014 field season? The NOAA Coast Survey blog has a post from April 22 that details the survey projects in Alaska, on the west coast, Gulf of Mexico, and on the east coast.

 

East coast hydrographic survey locations for NOAA's 2014 field season.

East coast hydrographic survey locations for NOAA’s 2014 field season.

 

More to come about our specific hydrographic survey on the Thomas Jefferson coming soon in the next blog post (once we arrive on location)!

 


 

Personal Log

I was excited to arrive at NOAA’s Atlantic Marine Operations Center on Sept. 1st.  I knew the overall statistics on the size of the ship, but when I came around the corner on the base and saw the Thomas Jefferson for the first time – WOW!  I was so impressed with how she looked and the size – 208 feet in length never looked so long!  I called to the ship and the officer on duty, ENS Diane Perry, welcomed me on board.  She gave me an incredibly thorough tour of the ship, and I immediately felt comfortable and ready to start!

On the first day of class, one of my students asked the question – “how safe is oceanography as a career?”  Safety is a top priority for everyone on board this ship and all NOAA ships, and the safety checks and equipment are visible everywhere.  In fact, within 24 hours of leaving the dock, all newcomers to the ship (such as myself) were required to go through safety training.  I learned about three different types of emergency situations, each with their own type of alarm signals and reporting station.  The “Fire and Emergency” alarm is a continuous alarm for 10 seconds, and I report to my team on the “vent boundary” section of the outside deck.  The “Abandon Ship” alarm is six short blasts followed by one prolonged blast, and I report to my team with a hat, long-sleeve shirt, life vest, and survival suit on the port side of Deck 2 (photo of me in a survival suit to come in the future!).  Finally, the “Man Overboard” alarm is three prolonged blasts, and I report to my team on the starboard side of Deck 2.  Then, when training finished, we had our first “Fire and Emergency” drill, followed immediately by a “Abandon Ship” drill – and I was ready!  It turns out that NOAA runs these two drills every week, and the “Man Overboard” drill once a month.  We haven’t even started our research yet, but students, I have to tell you that I feel really safe being on a ship on the sea.  Everyone on the ship is trained in First Aid and CPR, and everyone takes on the role of fire fighter and emergency responder if a situation arises – and by “everyone,” I mean “everyone” from the engineers to the cooks.

 

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Everyone I’m meeting on the ship, from the NOAA Corps officers to civilian workers, is so helpful and friendly.  Their enthusiasm for their job clearly came through when we were getting ready to leave port, and I look forward to being a part of this team for the next three weeks.

 


 

OK GEOSC 040 students at Penn State Brandywine, here is your next round of questions.  Please answer these questions online in ANGEL in the folder “Dr. G at Sea” in the link for Post #3.  Your response to #1 will be relatively short, #2 & #3 should be longer.

  1. See in this blog post where it says the Thomas Jefferson will be this field season (also mentioned on the NOAA Coast Survey site). Then, go to the NOAA Ship Tracker website http://shiptracker.noaa.gov/Home/Map to see where the Thomas Jefferson is currently located (you may need to zoom in – look for the letters “TJ” on the map.  If you click on the letters, it will give you some more information about the title of our project and our latitude and longitude coordinates.). Are we heading where we planned to be (based on the image above)? Where are we currently? (Please list the date of when you answered this question.)
  2. The 2014 theme of World Hydrography Day was “Hydrography ‒ More Than Nautical Charts.” NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey invited the public to contribute articles that illustrate the theme, and they compiled these articles into a PDF. The articles in this collection, contributed by government and private experts, reflect the diversity of users of hydrography, with interests from marine ecology, archeology, energy and water resource management, and emergency response.  See this page for a listing of article authors and topics.
    • Select one article to read from the PDF (link presented here again).
    • In your response box, type the title of the article you selected to read.  Then, include a description of which Ocean Literacy Principles this articles addresses, and how (*think back to our second day of class, we reviewed the Ocean Science Literacy Principles tying in to the Introduction to Octopus!)  If the article you selected does not fit any of the Literacy Principles, make suggestions for how the author could have written the article differently to apply to the Principles.
  3. Now keep that Ocean Science Literacy document handy, and let’s think outside the box… let’s pretend that the International Hydrographic Organization has asked you to come up with a theme for World Hydrography Day 2015.  What theme would you propose, and why?  And how would that theme tie in to not only hydrography, but the Ocean Literacy Principles?

 

One of the Thomas Jefferson anchors

One of the Thomas Jefferson anchors

Random ship fact!

This random ship fact is inspired by a question one of my oceanography students asked on the first day of class – how does an anchor keep a ship in one place in the ocean?  JO Diane Perry shared with me more than I ever knew there was to know about anchors!  On a ship such as the Thomas Jefferson, anchors are lowered on chains.  The ship lets out enough chain so that it is 5-to-7 times the depth of the water.  The anchor chains are marked off (with paint) in a unit called a “shot”, which is the equivalent of 90 feet.  Although the design of the anchor makes it look like it can hook in to the ocean floor to secure the ship, it is actually the weight of the chain that holds the ship in place.