Mary Cook, December 8, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Mary Cook
Onboard NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown
December 5, 2004 – January 7, 2005

Mission: Climate Prediction for the Americas
Geographical Area: Chilean Coast
Date: December 8, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°39.99’S, Longitude 77°07.27’W
Time: 8:30 am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degrees) 126.27
Relative Humidity (percent) 72.01
Temperature (Celsius) 18.87
Air Pressure (millibars)
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.30
Cloud Type Stratus at 2810 feet


I tossed the first adopted drifting buoy overboard with the help of Dr. Bob Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution! My eighth graders and I at Southside Middle School in Batesville are proud to be the first school to adopt a drifting buoy. We will periodically access the buoy’s coordinates online and track it as it moves with the ocean currents. It’s a great feeling to be a part of this important scientific endeavor!

Question of the Day

How do you think I can determine the exact elevation of the clouds?

Positive Quote for the Day

To be capable of steady friendship or lasting love, are the two greatest proofs, not only of goodness of heart, but of strength of mind. William Hazlitt (1778-1830) English essayist

Science Log

Yesterday evening, we had our first interview with a scientist. We’re going to try and schedule one every evening and call the session “6:00 Science on the Fantail”. The fantail is the back of the ship. It’s flat and open with an A-frame used to hoist and guide objects off of the ship. Alvaro Vera is an engineer with a Master’s degree in oceanography and is from the Chilean Armada (Navy). Alvaro and his team have been working for over a year preparing to deploy the first tsunami buoy in the Southern Hemisphere. They have trained in Seattle and gotten the buoy ready for this moment. A tsunami is a wave generated by an undersea earthquake. The instruments for this buoy can detect changes in pressure at the bottom of the ocean as small as 2 centimeters and will give the coastal areas about one hour warning. He said that about 100 years ago a tsunami devastated Arica on the coast of Chile. For this reason and continued threat, it is important that the Chilean population living along the coastal areas have ample warning of an impending tsunami.

Today, we sent several Styrofoam cups down to 1500 meters depth in the ocean. We decorated the cups with drawings, the date and location, then put them in mesh bags. When the cups were brought back to the surface they were miniatures! Styrofoam has air between the particles and as the water pressure builds during the descent the air is forced out and the cup is compressed.

This afternoon, two acoustic releases were tested. An acoustic release is used to release the buoy from the anchor at the bottom of the ocean by using a signal from the surface. One worked. The other did not. The working acoustic release will be used with the Stratus 5 moored buoy that is scheduled to be deployed this weekend. The acoustic release will sit at the bottom of the ocean with the anchor until this time next year. When the scientists come back to replace the Stratus 5 buoy with the Stratus 6 buoy, they’ll signal the release and it will separate the anchor from the buoy. The anchor is then left on the ocean floor.

Personal Log

This evening I went out on the ship’s bow and took a deep breath. My, the ocean is big. And blue. And deep. And always moving. Who can comprehend it? I know I’m just a little speck floating along the surface, but for some reason I don’t feel insignificant. I feel satisfied. And curious. I wonder how the early seafaring explorers felt? It doesn’t seem to matter whether I’m working in the lab, answering emails, wearing a hard hat and life vest on the fantail, or just sitting on the bow looking over the shimmering water, I really like what I’m doing. I’m getting to know some of the other people on board. As we waited for the acoustic releases to be pulled up from a depth of 1500 meters, I had the opportunity to just hang out with Bruce, Bob, and Paul. Bruce did his pirate’s “Aarrrgh” and told a bit about the true story of Moby Dick. Bruce Cowden is the ship’s boatswain. He and his crew keep the ship in working order. He’s also an artist and is illustrating a book about our cruise. His artistic talent is impressive. Everyday, I eagerly await his next illustration. Bruce designed the tattoos around his ankles which resemble Tahitian tiki idols. He said there’s one for each of his two sons. Bruce let me operate the A-frame hoist on the back of the ship as they were lowering the acoustic releases into the water. I felt like “Bob the Builder”! I have to say it is fun operating big machinery!

Today, I learned that both Jonathan Shannahoff who is the man in charge of all the CTD launches, and I have been to Lake Baikal near Irkutsk, Russia. I enjoyed sharing and looking at the pictures of his trip.

It seems to me that the people on this ship have been everywhere in the world. They’re just amazingly intelligent and adventurous individuals.

Until tomorrow,


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