Kathy Virdin, July 22, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathy Virdin
Onboard NOAA Ship Rainier

July 20 – 28, 2004

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area:
Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska
July 22, 2004

Latitude: 55 degrees 39’N.
Longitude: 157 degrees 54’W.
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 270 degrees W.
Wind speed: 6 kts.
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft.
Swell wave height: 2-3 ft.
Sea water temperature: 12.8 C.
Sea level pressure: 1013.0 mb.
Cloud cover: Partly cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Today I interviewed several crew members, which gave me a much better perspective of the extent of work that is being conducted on the RAINIER. I first spoke with Jeremy Taylor, who is a survey technician whose job is to collect data on the ocean floor depths for the purpose of updating nautical charts. The RAINIER is dedicated to survey work that can enable all maritime vessels to successfully maneuver the ocean waters. As a survey technician, Jeremy is considered a scientist on board since the data he gathers is used by the scientific community. He collects the data from the multi-beam swaths and cleans it by deleting invalid or weak information, then sends it to other branches of NOAA (such as the cartographers) who review it, compare it to current nautical charts and then update those charts based on the new data. What is amazing to me is that the RAINIER does survey work in areas which may not have been surveyed since the 1800’s and have only had a few soundings listed. Their work is vital to commerce, fisheries management and the fishing industry. Jeremy said what he enjoys most about his job is being in Alaska, having the opportunity to go out in launches and receiving good data. He feels his job is extremely important since scientists need this data to find the habitats of various marine species. One example he gave was the fact that they can chart seamounts which are an area that contain a lot of marine life. This gives data that could help scientists discover new habitats for various species. Jeremy recommends a degree in hydrography to best prepare for this work, but also maintains that a degree in any area of science would be good basic preparation and on-the-job training would be supplied.

Next, I interviewed Briana Welton who is a Junior Officer, an Ensign in the Corps. She has a degree in math which has helped her greatly in her work. She is undergoing training to be an Officer of the Deck who will drive the ship. She also participates in the hydrographic surveys. She recommends students applying to the Maritime Marine Academy which is in New York. Briana loves the experience of being a hydrographic pioneer, as they are often charting unmeasured waters. She also loves being at sea and says it’s exciting to drive the ship. There are several divisions of ships that NOAA operates, such as the oceanographic studies, hydrographic and fisheries. The information gained by a hydrographic ship is first and foremost to be used for nautical charts, which are used by all mariners, from small fishing boats to large Navy vessels. The RAINIER also takes bottom samples that they can process in their lab to determine content and physical features of the ocean floor. The CDTs that they lower give temperature, salinity and density information to scientists that enable them to look for variations in the ocean climate that will affect marine habitats. Briana loves working on a ship and being part of a close-knit community.

Personal Log

This morning I thoroughly enjoyed talking with several crew members about their work and getting new information about all the facets of ship life. This afternoon I plan to work on lesson plans and tonight I’ll watch the survey technicians scan and clean up the data that comes in from the two launches that went out today. I also hope for some time to do more research on the complexities of the mission of NOAA and study some nautical charts. It’s amazing to me that I can walk out on deck at 10:30 at night and it will still be light. In Alaska in the summer there are about 19 hours of daylight.


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