Jennifer Richards, September 6, 2001

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jennifer Richards
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
September 5 – October 6, 2001

Mission: Eastern Pacific Investigation of Climate Processes
Geographical Area: Eastern Pacific
Date: September 6, 2001

Latitude: 30° 21.2 N
Longitude: 116° 01.7 W
Seas: Sea wave height: less than 1 foot
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Visibility: 10-12 miles
Cloud cover: 8/8 (100%)
Water Temp: 21.4°C

Science Log: Since we are not in international waters yet, the scientists are not permitted to collect or record data. Many of them are spending their time calibrating equipment or working on papers that they would be writing if they were in their offices at home.

Travel Log: I have had the chance to meet a number of scientists and crew members on the ship, and each one of them really amazes me. Everyone on this ship is either a “crew member” or part of the “scientific party.” All the crew members report to Captain Dreves. They run the ship, repair and maintain the ship, and make sure we are happy and healthy. Besides the Captain, there are four additional uniformed NOAA Officers, and approximately 20 un-uniformed crew members. It takes 7 people to keep the engine in good shape, 3 people in the kitchen, 2 stewards, and the remainder are deck hands. The crew and officers are assigned to the ship for 2 year commissions, and during that time they spend 11 months out of the year on the ship, out at sea. It’s so interesting to talk with them, and to realize how unique their lives are.

Everyone in the scientific party (including me) reports to the Chief Scientist, Chris Fairall. There are research groups here from:

  • Environmental Technology Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado
  • University of Washington Applied Physics Laboratory
  • Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science
  • University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico
  • and a few others that are working in partnership with each of the groups above.

Each of the research groups has their own equipment on the ship and their own research to focus on, but they have to work together to coordinate data collection efforts. And since they are sharing bunks with their coworkers (2 people per room) they have to be able to get along with each other in tight quarters, which may get challenging towards the end of the cruise. Can you imagine being stuck on a ship with your best friend for a month, with no way to escape? After a whole month you may need a break from each other.

The big excitement for the day was the fire drill and abandon ship drill. It’s kind of scary to think we might need to do these things for real, although this is a top-notch ship with a top-notch crew, so I’m sure we’ll be fine. The abandon ship whistle consists of 6 short horn blows, followed by one long horn. We can remember this by saying “get-your-butt-off-the-ship nnnnoooowwwwww!” Six short, one long. We all have to grab a long sleeve shirt, long pants, and a hat to protect us from sun exposure as we drift around in the ocean. We also have a life preserver and a “gumby suit” to protect us from the water chill until help arrives. The man overboard drill will be later in the cruise and consists of 3 long horn blows – “maaaan over booaarrd.”

Question of the day: The scientists on board are not allowed to collect and record data until we are out of Mexican waters. How far off-shore is the boundary between Mexican waters and International waters?

Photo Descriptions: Today’s photos show you an overview of my stateroom. They are pretty small, but efficiently laid out. Each stateroom has 2 bunks, lots of drawers, an area that can be converted into a desk, a sink, 2 life preservers and 2 gumby suits, and an inside door leading to a head. The most important thing in the stateroom is our bunk card, which tells each of us exactly where to go in case of fire, abandon ship signal, or man overboard signal.

Keep in touch,


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