Mary Cook, January 2, 2005

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: January 2, 2005

Location: Latitude 41°47.12’S, Longitude 73°33.42’W
Time: 0830

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Pressure (millibars) 1012.81
Relative Humidity (percent) 93.61
Wind Direction (degrees) 354.55
Wind Speed (knots) 7.03
Air Temperature (Celsius) 14.46
Water Temperature (Celsius) 11.62
Sunrise 0624
Sunset 2132

Question of the Day

What is a fjord?

Quote of the Day

“Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.” King Solomon

Science Log

It’s raining! I haven’t seen rain since last year. The sky is thick with dark, billowing clouds and gray mist. Occasionally a patch of bright blue breaks through. But it only takes a few minutes until it’s eclipsed by a rain cloud. The land on both sides of the channel is shrouded in the mist and looks mysteriously enchanting. Only a few people onboard have ever been this way before and everyone is excited. Even these salty sailors are energized. Seals are popping up and playing all around. It looks like they’re chasing each other. We’ve passed a couple of small fishing villages and there are some ferryboats in the channel. The Chilean pilot told me that we’re in a very interesting place because of the strong current. Our ship is traveling against a three knot current at this time and they’ve brought more engines online just in case we need them. He said the current can get as high as eight knots! I heard Captain Wright say that the last time he was through here the ship was going with the current and traveling at 21 knots!

Bruce, the boatswain is now on constant anchor alert. There are many potential hazards when traveling the narrow channels so all hands must be prepared for anything.

I’ve been standing outside in a sheltered place under the ladderways for about an hour. At first it didn’t seem cold but as time went by I felt the chilly dampness in my muscles and had to zip up my jacket and put on my hood.

Something I’ve learned about this ship is that even when the scientists aren’t actively conducting research projects, science is always going on aboard the RONALD H. BROWN. At the top of every hour they always record the weather data, which includes about 50 entries, and then send it in to the National Weather Service every six hours. If the ship is within 200 miles of the coast of the United States or Canada or within 300 miles of a named tropical storm or hurricane they report every three hours. They record the ship’s location and speed, plus wind factors, temperatures, pressure, clouds, precipitation, wave size and directions, swells, and presence of ice. It seems to me that everything is written in code. They have the “Ship’s Synoptic Code Ready Reference” lying nearby and make use of it when filling out the charts. This information is entered into the National Weather Service computers and used for weather forecasting.

Personal Log

There’s a festive atmosphere throughout the entire ship. Everyone’s smiling and walking with a little extra spring in their step. These seasoned sailors are like little kids on Christmas morning, their eyes sparkling with anticipation. They’re out on the deck with their binoculars looking over the pastoral scenes of green rolling hills dotted with colorful houses and farms and churches connected by winding dirt roads. One of them said, “Just give me ten acres with a little house and I could settle down and live right here.” Several nodded in agreement. Then they spotted the big snow-capped mountains in the distance! Their dreams of settling down seemed to evaporate into thin air as their attention had been captured by the majestic and forbidding.

Our course is taking us through the Gulf of Corcovado and we’re just now passing the volcanic mountain for which the gulf is named. The pointy, snow-capped mountain is Mt. Corcovado and it stands 2300 meters in elevation which is about 7000 feet high.

The water is so smooth in this gulf that I can barely tell the ship is moving. It’s great! Seasickness is but a distance memory.

Officer Ayers just told me that I missed a fabulous display of bioluminescence last night about 0200. I said that I’d just stay up all night tonight so I could see that for myself. Then watch-stander Melton says, “Oh, now you want to be awake and out at 0600 tomorrow because we’ll be entering an extremely narrow channel. You can’t be sleeping through that.”

Decisions. Decisions.

Whales on the starboard bow! I ran out and saw three waterspouts and one tail. Pretty cool.

Tomorrow, my students and co-workers will be returning to school from their Christmas break. I hope they’ve all had a good vacation and come back with renewed energy and smiles. I can’t help thinking about them and wishing they could be out here in this never-ending, ever-unfolding story of exploration.

Until tomorrow,


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