Debra Brice, November 21, 2003

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Debra Brice
Onboard R/V Roger Revelle
November 11-25, 2003

Mission: Ocean Observation
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: November 21, 2003

Data from the Bridge
1.  211600Z Nov 03
2.  Position: LAT: 20-00.0’S, LONG: 083-44.8’W
3.  Course: 090-T
4.  Speed: 12.6 Kts
5.  Distance: 102.7 NM
6.  Steaming Time:  8H 06M
7.  Station Time:  15H 54M
8.  Fuel: 2583 GAL
9.  Sky: OvrCst
10. Wind: 140-T, 14 Kts
11. Sea: 140-T, 2-3 Ft
12. Swell: 130-T, 3-4 Ft
13. Barometer: 1015.9 mb
14. Temperature: Air: 20.0 C, Sea 19.4 C
15. Equipment Status: NORMAL
16. Comments: Deployment of surface drifter array #4 in progress.

Science and Technology Log

Today we are underway to the next location which is the area of deployment for the PMEL Tsunami buoy.  I want to talk a little bit about what a Cruise Plan is and why you need one.  I have attached a picture of our latest cruise plan from Dr. Weller.  He had a very nice one ready to go well before we even boarded the ship and everyone in the science party (yes, including me) was given a copy.  Consider this the “game plan.” It can and does change  due to weather or other unforeseen factors and it is very important that the Chief Scientist makes sure that it gets revised as it is necessary to make sure we will have enough time for all of the different deployments and data collections that are planned or to modify as needed.  These cruises are very expensive; from the cost of the ship itself, to the equipment and science party, to the value of the data collected.  For the Stratus Project,  ( this is the big event of the year, everything leads to this moment when the buoy and instruments are recovered and the new buoy is deployed.  Any mistakes made now could potentially result in the loss of data for a whole year.  This brings to mind the importance of really good planning for an expedition of this magnitude.  The Chief scientist has to know how much time he/she need to accomplish their project, build in a few days extra in case of weather or delays, know how much equipment to bring for the project including spare parts (just in case Murphy’s Law kicks in…which it does more often than not!).  Redundancy of equipment is essential from the project itself to the ship which has to be able to repair while on the move with extra parts it has with it or to make a part as needed (yes, they can do that!).  There are no stores out here, if you forget it or run out, you’re out of luck!  That means a year’s work and a big grant could be in danger!

Prior planning is not just a good idea, it is essential and a good Chief scientist has foreseen almost any extenuating circumstance.  There is also the importance of remaining calm and being able to come up with creative solutions to problems in the middle of an important project.  Everyone is watching the Chief scientist and takes their cues on behavior from him/her.  If something happens, they watch to see how he reacts.

The technicians and research associates in a science party need to work well together as they may be at sea for long periods of time (could be a month to several months) .  When you are at sea, 8 hour days doesn’t mean much.  You work whenever there is work to do, deployments or data collection can and do happen around the clock.  The time out here is expensive and data collection is sensitive to many different parameters.  You work seven days a week, but everyone is doing the same and it builds a sense of comradeship to be sharing the work.  Scrabble and Cribbage tournaments in off time are a big event.  Even though they work really hard out here, they all realize the value of what they do and they are here because this is what they wanted to do in life: science.  It is pretty exciting too, you never know what you might see and no matter how long you have been going to sea or how many cruises you do a year, it is still exciting to see whales or dolphins, and beautiful sunset still makes you pause.

Sometimes, as in this cruise, there may be more than one project and multiple scientists.  However, there has to be a Chief scientist to determine priorities and the scheduling concerns so that everyone gets their data, specimens or deploys their equipment.  To be a chief scientist you need to be detail oriented and having workaholic tendencies (at least during a cruise) doesn’t hurt!

This does not mean they don’t have fun after all the hard work is done.  Dr. Weller plans a few days at the beginning and end of a cruise after all the work is done (his group have been working everyday for a month!) to see some of the sights and enjoy the culture of the ports they visit.  Sometimes these days get used for unforeseen circumstances, like extra time for loading, unloading and shipping. Actually that’s why they are put in there.  But if everything gets done in a timely manner, there is a little bit of down time.  He even organizes the tours and had guide books for each of the ports we visited (it’s that detail oriented thing I mentioned!).  He understands the value of appreciating the quality of work your group produces.

Many times the group will consist of one or more grad students under the Chief scientist and this is how they learn to be a chief scientist. It is not a class they take as part of their Ph.D. program, it comes from observation and personal experience.  So mentoring is another important component of the job description.  Seeing the bigger picture is also part of the equation; Dr. Weller really wanted a Teacher at Sea as part of this cruise to help share this experience with younger students and hopefully give a small peek at real scientific research to both k-12 teachers and students.  Many scientists today see the value of this and NOAA has been doing this for 13 years.  Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has some outstanding education outreach programs such as “Dive and Discover” (check out that WHOI web site!)  Scripps Oceanographic Institution has additional resources at the SIO web site. Please check out the attached picture of the latest cruise plan, as well as a picture of one of the cups that the science party sent down to 4000m on the CTD.  I think the sentiment on the cup is a good reflection of the esteem in which they hold Dr. Weller and I wholeheartedly agree!

Hasta manana

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