Mary Cook, December 20, 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 20, 2004

Location: Latitude 26º19.99’S, Longitude 77º07.65’W
Time: 0810

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature (Celsius) 17.88
Water Temperature (Celsius) 18.41
Relative Humidity (percent) 64.16
Air Pressure (millibars) 1016.86
Wind Direction (degrees) 183.76
Wind Speed (knots) 12.37
Wind Speed (meters/sec) 6.41
Sunrise 0714
Sunset 2101

Question of the Day

What is reverse osmosis?

Positive Quote of the Day

“Never spit into the wind.” Anonymous

Science and Technology Log

The last Argo float was deployed today. Bob Weller gave me the honor of waking it up! Waking up an Argo float is pretty simple. I passed a magnet across the “reset zone”. This triggers the float to inflate. The float is “awakened” a couple of hours before it is deployed.

Diane, Bruce and I continued working on the book. Bruce just has a few touch ups to do on the paintings. Diane and I are almost finished with the text and we’ve completed the scans of the original paintings. We must get finished soon because we’re doing a reading and presentation for everyone onboard tomorrow night at 7:30!

Mike Gowan, the Chief Engineer for the RONALD H. BROWN, gave us a tour of the engine room this afternoon. He said the ship’s engines are diesel/electric. We started in the control room which has a wall of computer screens, buttons and joysticks. They can drive the ship with joysticks from the engine room. But I wondered how they’d see where they’re going from deep inside the ship? There are huge computers and automated compartments through the engine room. I didn’t know the “engine room” was going to be numerous rooms located at different places throughout the ship. Our tour was like a hike from one end to the other going up and down several ladderways. After the control room we went into the engine room. It’s really LOUD in there. We were required to wear earplugs. The ship has six engines and one emergency engine. They provide electricity for propulsion and ship service needs. He showed us some huge canisters of carbon dioxide that are standing ready to be used to smother a fire in the engine room should one occur. Mike told us about the marine sewage device which works on a vacuum principal. When we push the flush button on the head (toilet) there is a great suction sound and all the “stuff” is whisked away! Mike also explained to us how they make water. There are two ways: reverse osmosis and evaporation. The reverse osmosis forces water through a semi-permeable membrane that separates the water molecules from everything else. The evaporation technique uses the excess heat from the ship’s generators to cause the water to evaporate and then the fresh water vapor is condensed and collected for use.

This afternoon was sunny and gorgeous! Diane and I took some time soaking in the warmth, enjoying the fresh air while gazing out across the glistening water. It can be mesmerizing.

This evening we interviewed Bruce Cowden, Chief Boatswain and artist-in-residence of the RONALD H. BROWN. Wow! Bruce has led an interesting life. He’s been working on ships since he was a teenager and started working for NOAA about 15 years ago. He has worked his way up to the boatswain position and he supervises seven people who keep the ship in good working order. They clean and paint all the time. Bruce also oversees the large machinery operations and conducts the buoy deployments. His main job is to make sure that everyone is safe and the equipment is kept in good condition. He has had “Captain Nemo” adventures like driving a one-man submarine at the bottom of the Caribbean in search of ancient fossils! The life of a seaman is not an easy life. He spends about ten months a year out to sea. He also shared with us his artistic hobbies. Bruce is a painter and carver. He showed us the carvings from the Taigwa nut. The Taigwa nut grows in Central America and looks like a small coconut. When carved and polished it looks like ivory. Bruce makes jewelry and whatnots. He is planning to have a craft show when he gets back to South Carolina.

This has been another great day at sea!

Until tomorrow,


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