Sena Norton, July 7, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sena Norton
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 6 – 15, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
July 7, 2004

Location: In transit to Shumagin Is. Via Shelikof Strait
Latitude: 57 43.2 N
Longitude: 154 58.4 W
Visibility: 10+
Wind Direction: 280 degrees
Wind Speed: 18 kt
Sea wave height: 2-4 ft
Swell wave height: 2-4 ft at 210 degrees
Seawater temperature: 10.6 C
Sea level pressure: 1020.1 mb
Cloud cover: PC 2/8
Weather: 12.2 C, sunny with moon visible straight off bow

Science and Technology Log

I learned about the NOAA Nautical Charting Program today. A nautical chart shows the marine environment in a visual format for navigation purposes primarily. Any mariner needs to have an ability to use fixed points to plot a course and know/avoid any underwater or other hazards along the way. Most charts show hazards, natural and dredged channels, water depth and other features that are needed for safe navigation. The National Ocean Services marine Chart Division is in charge of 1,000s of charts. Most mariners use these charts along with the U.S. Coast Pilot when ever they are out. When changes are charted a new chart is made. From the time the NOAA Ship RAINIER makes their readings it takes between 3-5 years to be produced in chart format and readily made available. New charts are asked to be made for uncharted, poorly charted or changed areas. The three hydrographic ships that NOAA maintains do on average 50 charting runs a season for updates. However, with the current backlog of changes only 200-300 items are updated a year. The cycle of a update goes as follows: first chart users relay needs, second the Hydrographic Surveys Division prioritizes the resources and produces survey instructions, third, a NOAA field unit travels to the location and conducts the hydro survey, fourthly, the data is examined at a on shore branch and prepared for application on new chart and finally the Marine Chart Division is complied and printed. NOAA is not the only team member on this mission; other important organizations provide data for new charts. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provide dredge and channels depths, U.S. Coast Guard maintains navigational aids, GPS beacons and other communication sources, while the Photogrammetry unit of NOAA complies aerial photos for shoreline and landmark additions.

The bridge is an important part of the overall ship function. The ship is driven from this location, the progress made is plotted and recorded and hourly logs are kept with various location and condition data. I take my condition and location directly from the ships log when I write these logs. Today there were a few ships on the radar and the officers wanted to make visual contact with them. I got to keep a lookout for the one off the port/south side of the ship with binoculars. The helm is where the ship is driven from and is kept on course with direction relation to the nautical chart and heading. Small adjustments have to be made from time to time to keep the correct bearing due to changed in sea swell and wind direction. The bridge is always manned 24 hours a day because of the importance of what is done there. We are making about 13 knots today with a friendly wind and hope to be anchored in the Shumagin Is. by tomorrow. We will commence the ships hydro at 0300 tomorrow morning to begin the surveying of the area.

Question of the Day:

How far is a fathom? 6 feet
How many people are on board? 74 crew/officers 5 visitors / 79 total

Day Activities:

  • Interviewed Chief Yeoman Paul and discussed his role/responsibilities on the ship. He in charge of bills, keeping track of expenses, ordering fuel and stores, personnel changes and promotions, a liaison between crew and command and manages expenses overall.
  • Visited the bridge and interviewed various officers and crew about bridge processes and equipment.
  • Wrote down some possible classroom curriculum options.
  • Discussed curriculum with fellow TAS, read some NOAA research and PR.
  • Downloaded some important pictures for use in curriculum/reports from ships computer network.
Personal Log
The night was a little rough with the swell height and wind direction and speed. They call my room the anti-gravity chamber and every once in awhile I could tell why. Today the rocking and rolling is much better and at times I think that I have my sea legs back. It is still unique to walk around on a ship that is bobbing; you get a different feeling when the deck is not where your foot thought it should be. I have put much thought into what I can turn this experience into as far as curriculum goes and my fellow TAS and I have been bouncing some ideas off of each other. There is much to say about the value of sharing this experience with a colleague as well as having the chance to discuss in general with that same colleague. I think that there is a professional connection being made thanks to the NOAA Teacher At Sea program! The science behind the survey process with help and that is a main goal to learn about, however there is something more to this experience that I haven’t put my finger on yet…give it some time…something that the sea is very well trained at allowing you to have.

For now,

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