Sandra Camp: Safety First, June 15, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Sandra Camp
Aboard NOAA Ship Hi’ialakai
June 14 – 24, 2015

Mission: Main Hawaiian Islands Reef Fish Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Hawaiian Islands, North Pacific Ocean
Date: June 15, 2015

Weather Data from the Bridge: partly cloudy, scattered showers, visibility > 7 NM (nautical miles), winds east 10-15 KT (knots), temperature 78° F

Science and Technology Log

We often talk about safety during science class: how to properly handle tools, materials, and equipment, how to work cooperatively with other people, and how to protect ourselves from accidents. Just like safety is very important during science class, it is essential when doing science anywhere else in the world. In my first day aboard the Hi’ialakai, I have discovered that NOAA ships take safety very seriously. Because the scientific mission of this cruise primarily involves diving, safety is extra important because there are many ways divers’ lives can be at risk. All safety procedures have to be thoroughly reviewed before any diving is allowed to happen. We started the morning of my first day aboard ship by rotating through three different safety stations. Here is what we learned at each station:


Back-boarding in action

Gear Check: Katie Mahaffey, the ship’s Program Support Specialist and dive master, inspected everyone’s diving gear to make sure that it operates correctly. If any equipment is malfunctioning, it can cause serious problems for a diver. She also showed everyone where to store their diving gear. Although I will not be diving, I was given a locker to store my snorkeling gear, my life jacket, and my hard hat (life jackets and hard hats are two very important pieces of safety equipment on ships).

O2 and Back-boarding: At this station, we learned what to do in case there is some kind of accident in the water and a diver becomes injured. We were trained on how to administer oxygen from a tank of emergency O2 and on how to strap an injured diver onto a backboard for safe transport. Both of these items are carried on the small boats that take divers out each day in case of an emergency.

DEAP and EPIRB: DEAP stands for Diving Emergency Action Plan. Each team of divers is supposed to know and follow NOAA’s plan for emergencies while diving. An EPIRB is an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon. It is a handy device that can send out a signal that can be used to help locate a diver’s position in the water in case she/he becomes separated from the boat.

emergency billet

My Emergency Billet

That was not the end of the safety training! We also practiced some emergency drills. Just like we have fire and earthquake drills at school, ships have emergency drills they practice so everyone can react quickly in the event of an emergency. Each type of emergency on a ship is indicated with a different signal on the ship’s horn. This information is located on each person’s emergency billet. Here is a picture of mine:

In the comments section below, I would like you to write what the signal is for abandon ship!


immersion suit

Here I am in my immersion suit.

Today, we went through a fire drill and an abandon ship drill. As you can see on my billet, in the case that we have to abandon ship, I have to muster (gather together with others) by life raft 1 on deck 03. When you abandon ship, you not only have to muster at your designated spot so that the ship’s crew can account for everyone, you also have to put on an immersion suit. This suit is designed to protect you in case you have to be in water a long time, and it makes you look like a red Gumby.

Personal Log

Diamond Head

The view from the top of Diamond Head is amazing.

Before I boarded the Hi’ialakai in Pearl Harbor, I got to have a few adventures on Oahu.  First, I hiked from my hotel in Waikiki to the top of Diamond Head.  Diamond Head is the crater of an extinct volcano, and there is a fantastic view of Honolulu and the coastline from the top.  It was a long, hot, and sweaty uphill hike, but at the end of it, I ran into one of my lovely students who is vacationing with her family in Hawaii, and went swimming with her at her hotel’s pool.  Hello, Emogene!


Emogene and Ms. Camp after going down the water slide

Princess of Kauai

The Princess of Kauai

It was also a state holiday while I was there, King Kamehameha Day, which honors Kamehameha the Great, the king who first established the unified kingdom of Hawaii. There was a parade that day to celebrate. Here is a picture of the Princess of Kauai from the parade.

Before the ship left dock, I also had a little time to look around Pear Harbor. Joanna correctly wrote that Pearl Harbor is famous because the Japanese attacked it, which ultimately caused the United States to become involved in World War II. It was a very sad and tragic moment in our history, and there are several memorials to the lives that were lost on the sunken ships around the harbor. Here is a picture of the USS Utah sunken ship and memorial, which is close to where the Hi’ialakai is docked:

USS Utah

Here is a photo of the shipwreck of the USS Utah, as I promised to Joanna.

Soon after I came aboard, I had to get to know my way around the ship and learn some important words that indicate location on a ship. These words are used on all ships, no matter what their affiliation.


The Hi’ialakai at dock on Ford Island in Pearl Harbor

port: the left side of a ship

starboard: the right side of a ship

bow: the front of a ship

stern: the back of a ship

forward: toward the front, or bow, of a ship

aft: toward the back, or stern of a ship

galley: ship’s kitchen

mess: dining area

stateroom: the room where you sleep

head: the bathroom

Thankfully, I have not suffered from any sea-sickness, but it has been a challenge trying to walk in a straight line!

Did You Know?

The word SCUBA in scuba diving stands for Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Most divers use an open-circuit scuba, where the diver’s exhaled carbon dioxide is vented into the water in the form of bubbles (like when you blow out from your nose under water in a pool). Scientists are concerned that these bubbles may scare away the fish they are trying to study and count while they are under water, so on this trip, some divers will be trying out rebreathers. Rebreathers are designed so that when a diver exhales, the gas is circulated back into the apparatus instead of being exhaled into the water. No bubbles!

Important Words

billet – the place you are assigned to stay on a ship, like a bunk

muster – to assemble or gather for inspection

immersion – under water

The answer to the previous poll was:  Corals get their various colors from the algae that live inside them.

19 responses to “Sandra Camp: Safety First, June 15, 2015

  1. That’s so cool that you ran into Emogene! By the way, the signal for ‘abandon ship’ is 6 short + 1 long. Hey! Just because I’m not in class doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention! Have an awesome day Ms.Camp!😀

  2. Nice Gumby suit! What is the average water temperature in the areas you will be studying and diving?

  3. Thanks Ms.Camp!😏 I hope my parents let me bring my iPad to Mexico because I want to read your blogs over there too. I just saved the shipwreck photos to the photo gallery. So awesome!!!

  4. I’m going to Puerto Vallerta and we have plans to go snorkeling. I’m pretty sure I’m going zip line instead. We are leaving on Monday and I can’t wait.

  5. Its sounds like you are a one-woman safety squad! There’s no one else on earth with whom I would feel safer on a sinking ship. P.S. Saw you in your red Gumby suit: hope you don’t have to abandon ship:)

  6. thank you Nina for teaching me some things that I did not know, and have fun at Spain (:


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