Kirk Beckendorf, July 10, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kirk Beckendorf
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown

July 4 – 23, 2004

Mission: New England Air Quality Study (NEAQS)
Geographical Area:
Northwest Atlantic Ocean
July 10, 2004

Weather Data from the Bridge
Latitude- 42 26.72 N
Longitude- 70 01.99 W
Air Temperature 16.5 C
Air Pressure 1013 Millibars
Wind Direction at surface- Northeast

Daily Log

How can you become an officer on a NOAA ship?

The RONALD H. BROWN is run by a crew of 24. The stewards make sure we are well fed, the engineers keep the ship’s generators running, the deck hands manage the deck equipment, the survey tech runs the science monitoring equipment and the officers run the ship. The BROWN is fairly new– it was launched in 1996. Specifically built for ocean going research, it can work in the deep ocean and in shallower water along the coast. It is well suited to be used to study either the ocean or the atmosphere. About 9 months out of the year it can be found out on the ocean doing research. After our NEAQS research cruise ends in August, the BROWN and its crew will still be out at sea doing other research until next March. That is a long time away from home for the crew.

To get a job as an officer on one of NOAA’s ships, a person needs to have at least a Bachelors degree with specific requirements in math and science. There are physical fitness requirements as well. Once accepted a person must then attend a special mariner’s training school. Of course once you become an officer on a ship there is still lots of on the job training.

Today Lt. Liz Jones gave me a tour of the bridge. The ship does not have a propeller like many ships and it does not have a big wheel to steer the ship like you see in the movies. Instead of a propeller it has three thrusters. Each is kind of like a funnel turned sideways where the water goes in the big end and gets forced out the little end pushing the ship in the opposite direction. The three thrusters can be rotated individually and in a complete circle to push the ship in any direction. Even in an ocean current it can stay in one spot by using the thrusters. They can also be loud. The bow thruster is next to my stateroom. Sometimes it keeps me awake when it is turned on an off during the night. Instead of the big wheel, there are a couple of ways to maneuver the ship. On the bridge are three levers, one for each thruster. In some situations when you don’t want to worry about three different levers there is a joy stick that can be used to control the ship.

Lt. Jones said one of the main jobs a person has when on the bridge is to constantly be aware of the surroundings. Looking for other ships, keeping an eye on the weather and watching the charts to know the water depth are all extremely important. The BROWN can run on autopilot to make sure it maintains its course or position even if winds, waves or currents are pushing it in another direction. Even though the bridge is loaded with state of the art electronic equipment like GPS, radars, autopilot and depth finders the crew on watch still uses paper charts and binoculars so that they are not dependant on the electronics.

Questions of the Day

What is the NOAA Corps?

Which side of the ship is starboard and which side is port?

Which end of the ship is the bow and which is aft?

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