NOAA Teacher at Sea
Onboard NOAA Ship Ka’imimoana
April 29 – May 10, 2005
Mission: Oceanographic Survey
Geographical Area: Puerto Ayora, Isla Santa Cruz, Galapagos
Date: May 4, 2005
Plan of the Day
0400: 1.5N CTD
0830: 2N Recovery and deploy with CTD, AOML and ARGO
2215: 2.5N CTD
Latitude: 1 degree N
Longitude: 95 degrees W
Visibility: 12 nautical miles
Wind Direction: 153 degrees
Wind Speed: 10 knots
Sea wave height: 1-2 feet
Swell wave height: 2-3 feet
Sea water temperature: 27.9 degrees C
Barometric pressure: 1013.2
Cloud cover: 5/8 cumulus, altocumulus
Science and Technology Log
Last night I ended up falling into bed, exhausted, around midnight. Jim and I spent almost an hour having a super fun conversation about river running in Idaho and the Grand Canyon—I had no idea that he and I were both guides on the main fork of the Salmon River in Idaho! It was a wonderful talk, and I hope to have the opportunity to chat more together.
It’s another buoy day; today we will be recovering a damaged buoy and deploying a new one in its place. Each TAO buoy is moored to the bottom of the ocean using Nilspin, which is steel cable surrounded by a protective plastic shield. Old railroad wheels are used as anchors for each buoy in the array. The Nilspin cable is also equipped with sensors at various depths; these sensors transmit data from the ocean to the surface of the buoy. Remember, these buoys constantly collect data on wind speed and direction, air temperature, relative humidity, rainfall, barometric pressure, sea surface and subsurface temperature, salinity, water pressure and ocean currents. The data is gathered and transmitted via NOAA satellites, and is used by scientists all over the world who are studying the relationship between the Pacific Ocean and climatic changes.
Buoy recovery is a fairly labor intensive process that involves lassoing the floating toroid, craning it aboard, spooling in all of its cable, and cleaning the entire apparatus. Being submerged for 6 months at a time, the buoys acquire quite a collection of barnacles! Before a buoy can be recovered the anchor needs to be dropped; a sensing apparatus on its underside is responsible for detecting the “drop anchor” signal transmitted by the ship. In today’s case, the recovered buoy will be stored on deck until it is cleaned, painted, and outfitted with new instrumentation; it will then be standing by, ready to replace another buoy on the array if necessary. There was some excitement today during operations when the anchor release signal was not acknowledged by the buoy—the ship’s winch was very unhappy about having to haul up the additional 2.5 tons of anchor weight!
Deploying a buoy involves all of the same steps as recovery, but in the reverse order. First, one end of the spooled cable is attached to the bottom of the buoy’s 2.5m diameter base. The buoy is then lowered into the water and the cable is unspoooled. Finally, the anchor is dropped. The entire buoy lifting and lowering process is done with the large cranes and winches that the KA is equipped with.
All hands involved in the buoy ops functioned together like a well oiled machine. There is no doubt that everyone on board is familiar with their duties and responsibilities, and all know what needs to be done and precisely when it needs to happen in order for the procedure to be successfully executed. It is definitely impressive. Again today, all crew members were more than happy to include me in the excitement, and all were very patient with this rookie sea-goer! Thank you, everyone!
The weather here at the equator is much less humid than I expected. In fact, I find it quite pleasant; maybe because there is always a sea breeze blowing. The inside of the ship sometimes feels like a refrigerator, especially the computer and science labs which are kept cool to maintain the machines.
Teams are made and times are set; let the tournaments begin! For the remainder of the cruise we will be competing against each other in scrabble, cribbage, darts, poker, and a card game called Sequence. My first challenge is tonight at 6:30—Fred and I play cribbage. Personally, I can’t wait to see the dart competition as we rock and roll our way to Mexico!