Kathy Virdin, July 23, 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 23, 2004

Latitude:55 degrees 43.34’N
Longitude: 159 degrees 10.967’ W
Visibility: 10 nautical miles
Wind direction: 175 degrees
Wind speed: 8 kts.
Sea wave height: 0-1 ft.
Swell wave height: 0-1 ft.
Sea water temperature: 11.7 C.
Sea level pressure: 1016.2 mb.
Cloud cover: Cloudy

Science and Technology Log

Today we have been in transit to the Shumagin Islands. Two launches were sent out to do Reson (shallow to mid-depth) measurements and one launch did the Elac (mid-depth to deep waters). This area really needs accurate depth measurement, since it’s an area where fishermen come frequently. The information that is received and processed on board the RAINIER is then sent to the Nautical Data Branch of NOAA where it is interpreted and made into the hydrographic sheets with added interpretative data. Then it next goes to a production team who apply it to charts. The next step for the information is to go to the Update Service branch which combines all data and puts it in the final form of nautical charts that is used by the Navy, cargo ships, tanker ships and all mariners (such as fishermen). So the RAINIER plays a vital role in getting critical information to those who use it daily to ensure their safety.

I was able to catch several of the crew for an interview. I interviewed Megan Palmer, who is a survey technician. To prepare for her job, Megan received a degree in geography and received additional training in computer systems, including the complex GIS system. She explained that NOAA is moving toward electronic nautical charts that will allow you to set your scale close or far away on the computer, depending on what you need. Alarms will go off if you get into shallow water. However, there will always be a need for nautical charts and that’s where NOAA excels. Megan enjoys her job as it gives her the opportunity to see Alaska while being on the water, and the chance to look for the unexpected in surveys. Often, she is part of the team that is charting waters that have very few depth soundings. She also enjoys the fact that NOAA tests software to see how well it works and then make recommendations to companies to improve features that the survey technicians need. She notes that there is definitely a need for more survey technicians and that it’s a rewarding and exciting career for any student who loves the ocean and wants to travel.

Personal Log

Today we had the thrill of seeing a whale swimming in the distance while we all tried to take a picture (very difficult since it moves in the water so quickly). We dropped anchor tonight in the Shumagin Is. We’ll stay here several days while the survey launches run lines in different areas. We’ve entered into an area of heavy fog and it was neat to hear the fog horn being sounded every few minutes as we move through the water. I enjoyed looking a computer file of pictures that show all the places the RAINIER has been in Alaska. Beautiful scenery!

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