Mary Cook, December 11, 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 11, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°44.43’ S, Longitude 85°32.17’ W
9:30 pm

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degree) 134.18
Relative Humidity (percent) 74.66
Temperature (Celsius) 19.46
Air Pressure (Millibars) 1014.06
Wind Speed (knots) 15.04
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 8.14

Question of the Day

When we send the Styrofoam cups down to 3000 meters in the ocean, what will happen to them and why?

Positive Thought of the Day

“I think laughter may be a form of courage. As humans we sometimes stand tall and look into the sun and laugh, and I think we are never more brave than when we do that.” Linda Ellerbee

Science and Technology Log

This morning we arrived at the Stratus 4 buoy site! The buoy looked so small bobbing out there all alone on the ocean. David Owen took Jeff Lord, Phil Pokorski and I for a boat ride in the RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat). The RHIB is an orange raft-looking motor boat. The RHIB is raised and lowered into the water on a lever lifting device called a small boat launch. We went out to make a quick inspection and to see if the temperature sensors were working. Jeff said it all looked pretty good and there weren’t as many barnacles as he’d expected. He took pictures then we returned to the ship. Today, all the scientists are quietly working on inter-comparison testing with the ship’s sensors and the buoy.

At “6:00 Science in the Main Lab”, we interviewed Jason Smith, an engineering technician for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Jason explained the instrumentation that will be attached to the bottom of the Stratus 5 moored buoy. The first instrument is a temperature sensor, which is an electronic device. It has a resistance that changes with temperature and that resistance can be measured with an electronic circuit. These instruments can also measure conductivity which is an indicator of salinity. In addition, there are various styles of current meters used. Some are mechanical and some use acoustics. All these instruments will be suspended at different depths with most of them concentrated from the surface down to 300 meters. One problem that they encounter is marine animals adhering to the instruments and fouling up their functions. Different types and colors of anti-fouling paints are being tested to see which one inhibits the marine life from sticking to the machinery. Jason emphasized that it was very important to develop an anti-fouling paint that is both environmentally safe and keeps the marine life from setting up housekeeping on the instruments.

This evening, Diane and I sat down to begin writing the children’s book about the cruise. Don’t let anyone ever tell you this is easy. But we’re progressing nicely and I can see an interesting book emerging.

Personal Log

Well, the last thing my mentor, Diane, said to me last night was “Tomorrow will be a more relaxing day”. So I thought, “I’ll sleep in and take my sweet time getting out and about in the morning.” You know, do some of those personal hygiene things we often take for granted like blowing our hair dry and trimming our toenails.

And so there I am peacefully sleeping like a baby being rocked when Diane comes in and says, “Mary, Bob said the RHIB is leaving in about 30 minutes!” At first, I thought I was dreaming, but then I realized, “This is for real!” Anyway, I jumped up and threw on some clothes and ran out to the small boat launch deck. Sure enough, they were getting ready to leave. I made it in just the nick of time! Yeah! Diane and Bob had my life vest, hard hat and radio ready. I grabbed them and climbed in.

The RHIB ride was awesome! It’s funny how the ocean swells look a whole lot bigger when you’re in a little boat than from the ship’s deck. As the boat zipped up and down across the surface, I was hanging on for dear life and ocean spray was splashing me in the face and running down my back to make a puddle right where I was seated. The buoy would disappear then reappear time and again.

Even in all this excitement and adrenaline rush, my mind was thinking about those early explorers like the Polynesians who launched out in small thatched boats. For a moment, I felt a cosmic connection across time and cultures. And then it hit me, “What were they thinking? This is nuts!” I mean they had to be daring and bold of personage to cast their lives onto the rolling, endless waters in search of the unknown. Then, I gazed back on the RONALD H. BROWN, my temporary home, floating like a little toy ship in a great big tub. I like that ship. It’s like my whole universe for the next 2.5 weeks. Then what happens? My universe will disappear and everyone will go to their own real world lives. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that thought.

After we did a visual inspection of the buoy, we posed for pictures and zoomed back to the mother ship. As David pulled alongside the ship, Phil and Jeff grabbed the ropes and hooked us up to the small boat launch, then, the operator lifted the RHIB aboard. We banged against the boat launch so hard it knocked my hat off! It went tumbling around in the bottom of the RHIB. I felt like one of those persons who loses their hat in the wind and keeps chasing after it.

We were all wet but with great big smiles on our faces. Riding the RHIB was as good as the Zippin’ Pippin’ rollercoaster in Libertyland! I’m ready to go again!

Until tomorrow,


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