Mary Cook, December 15, 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 15, 2004

Location: Latitude 19°43.66’S, Longitude 85°33.13’W
Time: 10:00 am

Weather Data from the Bridge
Wind Direction (degrees) 132.47
Relative Humidity (percent) 66.35
Air Temperature (Celsius) 19.44
Water Temperature (Celsius) 19.41
Air Pressure (Millibars) 1016.60
Wind Speed (knots) 15.05
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 7.54

Question of the Day

For what purpose are the lights in the hallways colored red at night?

Positive Quote for the Day

“The life that conquers is the life that moves with a steady resolution and persistence toward a predetermined goal. Those who succeed are those who have thoroughly learned the immense importance of plan in life, and the tragic brevity of time.” W.J. Davison

Science and Technology Log

We had another early morning RHIB ride! The purpose was to visually inspect the newly deployed Stratus 5 buoy. It looked so small out there in the choppy ocean water. The buoy was found to be in good working condition with a minor break in a railing that surrounds the weather instruments that sit atop the buoy. The break will have no bearing on the workings of the instruments so all was approved by Jeff Lord, the WHOI engineering technician. Then we took another wild ride back to the mother ship!

I think today is a good day to show you pictures of the inside of the ship and talk about ship life. Here are some of my impressions of the ship interior. The hallways are narrow and if two people meet, one must step aside. The doors seem to weigh two tons and if one slammed on your fingers it would crush them off.

You must step up and over as you cross the threshold of a doorway. It’s built up to prevent water from getting into every room if there’s a flood. In the stateroom (bedroom), the bunk beds are comfortable but there’s no room to sit up in bed. The round windows are called portholes. The toilet (called the head) has no lid. The toilet is flushed by pressing a button then a powerful vacuum suctions everything down! There are handles to hold on to in the shower. The shower room doors have huge, strong magnets that hold them open. All the drawers and cabinets have latches so they won’t swing open when the ship moves around. Everything is tied down or secured in some fashion. There are no wheels on the office chairs. At night the hallway lights are turned to red instead of white. The food is outstanding. We eat three meals a day plus snacks are available 24 hours a day. There’s an exercise room and a laundry room and a TV room where two movies are shown each evening. There’s a library, too. It seems that computers are in every nook and cranny. There’s lots of equipment onboard like scientific instruments and big machinery. They make water on the ship. I’ll explain that on another day.

Diane, Bruce and I collaborated on the children’s book again today. Things are coming together nicely.

At “6:00 Science on the Fantail” we interview the Chief Scientist, Dr. Robert Weller of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He gave us the reasons for placing the Stratus 5 buoy at this particular location in the Pacific Ocean. Bob said that there needs to be greater understanding of air-sea interactions for scientists to make better models and predictions of weather and climate patterns. The area just off the coast of Chile is one that has had minimal data collected in past years. Plus, it is an area that has a constant stratus cloud deck which isn’t clearly understood. That’s why the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the Office of Climate Observation have partnered to fund the Stratus program for, possibly, as long as 15 years. Now, in its fifth year, the Stratus program has collected very useful data that has helped in better understanding the eastern Pacific Ocean and the weather that originates there. Dr. Weller was also very pleased with the work effort and cooperation between the WHOI scientists, the crew, and the Chilean scientists and students. It took a well organized work effort to get it all done. Now the WHOI scientists and engineers are taking the data collected from last year’s buoy and beginning the evaluation process.

Personal Log

I have to tell you about the exercise room. Last night, Diane invited me to go down for a workout. Diane’s a runner and so she goes to workout every evening. I’d never really taken a good look in there, except to see several pieces of equipment because I hadn’t brought any clothes or shoes appropriate for working out. So, I thought, why not? I need to exercise. So I put on my trusty, old clunky hiking boots and headed down to the exercise room. When I opened the door there was a red and black stairway leading down toward a yellow grate. Most of the exercise equipment was sitting on the grate. The room was dimly lit and the air was cool. I could hear the humming of fans. There was one gray door that had a claxon sounding off from within. I considered opening it but changed my mind. I saw a red “Danger High Voltage” sign and about ten huge carbon dioxide tanks sitting upright in the corner. There were some blinking lights coming from a partially opened doorway leading into another room. Running along the ceiling and walls were cables and pipes. I knew I was alone so I looked around to survey which machine I’d try first. Over in the far corner were rows of orange-colored coveralls hanging from the ceiling by their hoods with their arms outstretched. All the orange suits were moving with the swaying of the ship. It appeared as though people were inside the suits and just hanging in mid-air! I stopped, and looked around with an eerie thought. I felt like I was in an episode of Star Trek where they have rooms filled with extra worker-drones waiting to be activated during times of crisis. OK. Maybe I have been on this ship too long. But it’s a great place for the imagination to run wild. Don’t you think?

Until tomorrow,


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