Sena Norton, July 9, 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 9, 2004

Location: In transit to Shumagin Island collection, due to anchor at NW Egg Island Date: Friday, July 09, 2004
Latitude: N 55 degrees 26.60’
Longitude: W 159 degrees 33.97’
Visibility: <1 mile
Direction: 221 degrees
Wind Speed: 13 kts
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft
Swell wave height: 1-2 ft
Seawater temperature: 10.6 deg C
Sea level pressure: 1016.0 mb
Cloud Cover: 8/8
Weather: 11.7 deg C, fog cover most of the day, some clearing into high cloud cover.

Plan of Day:

1200 stop ship hydro and begin transit to Shumagin Is, specifically Egg Island for anchorage. Anchor set for 2100 or earlier.

Science and Technology Log

The local patch that was being surveyed is too large to finish in one pass. The RAINIER had already done a few lines during their previous legs and on this pass we got about 10- 12 lines surveyed. They will steam back by here to finish the patch at a later date. Tomorrow is set for the first of 5 days of small boat launches and survey. Because I will be aboard a launch I was run through some basic boat safety this afternoon. I was also given an engine room tour and simple explanation and spoke with some crewmembers about standing watch. The XO showed me some books that might be of interest for my curriculum planning and also my general knowledge.

Small Boat Safety and Etiquette

The launches are put in the water around 0800 and will stay out doing survey work till 1600 or so. There will be a complement of people aboard: the coxswain who drives the boat and in charge of safety, three officers from the ship who will run the program and collect data and myself. The launches are stored on the gravity davits along the ship. The boats will be lowered to deck level where the crew will get on board and then the boat is lowered to the water and unhooked. Getting on board the launch you must wear the Mustang survival coat and a hard hat. Nothing is to be in your hands while you board, so all other material need to be near the rail and will be handed over once you are onboard. One of the most dangerous times on the ship are launching and taking up the smaller boats. You are required to wear positive flotation at all times and since the Mustang jacket is bulky and warm, I was issued a float vest. We are launching number 5 and number 3 boats tomorrow.

Standing Watch

While underway there is a rotating watch schedule 4 on, 8 off, 4 on is its most simple explanation. An example watch schedule would be 0800 – 1200 on watch 1200 – 2000 off, 2000 – 2400 on again. So you work 8-12 on both sides of am and pm. Even though the routine is easy to remember it is very difficult on your body and your sleep schedule. The added hardship is the constant light this far north and the pitch black of your berth. For a visitor who has kept a normal sleeping routine you have a different perspective on just what is required for this ship to keep going 24 hours a day. There is a lot more upkeep then I expected and the watch standers are those people. While anchored most people go back to a normal 8 hour work shift, although some of those work shifts are at night there isn’t the constant change.

Engine Room Tour

The engine room tour was loud, even through earplugs and head phone like muffs that roar is amazing. You hear it throughout the ship but nothing compares to the pure sound when you are right next to it. The control room looks out over the two main engines. Each engine turns the port or starboard screw. Control over the engines can be given to the bridge but ultimately if the engineers need to control anything that comes from that area they are all powerful. There is fuel to keep moving to balance out the ships list, fresh water to make, generators to watch so as not to over load any of their out-puts. In a sense the engine room is the heart of the ship. Being self contained completely means that everything has to be running well. This ship even in port generates its own power and while out at sea is capable of making fresh water from salt water. I felt very much at home seeing as I have been in many engine rooms in my life with my father, I plan on going down there a few more times during my time on board.

Question of Day:

How long would it take to survey the entire patch? 8 days going 24 hours/day.

Personal Log

I did a lot of research today from the resources made available to me from the XO. Today was also a day I collaborated with my fellow TAS, something educators rarely get enough time to do. We bounced off a few adaptations of what we have already learned from our time on board. I hope to continue this process throughout my time onboard. No more seasick patch, I think that I am doing well and can handle the rolls. There is some crazy weather on the way too! If it chooses to run up into the Bering Strait we are okay but according to the XO, if the low pressure rides on the south side of the Aleutians it might get sketchy. The RAINIER would have to find a place to hole up and wait for the storm to pass because she is such a small, top-heavy ship. So I might just get a wild Alaskan ship ride after all.

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