NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 17 — October 7, 2011
Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Alaskan Coastline, the Inside Passage
Date: Friday, October 7, 2011
Weather Data from the Bridge
Clouds: Partly Cloudy 1/8
Visibility: 10+ Nautical Miles
Wind: 4 knots
Dry Bulb: 8.5 degrees Celsius
Barometer: 1018.5 millibars
Latitude: 54.47 degrees North
Longitude: -132.32 degrees West
Science and Technology Log
Every day we tend to take for granted the simple things in life such as having electricity to power to charge our cell phones, to be able to turn on the water whenever we need a drink, or to make sure the toilets flush in the restroom. When we are on a ship at sea for a long period of time, it is important that all of these systems that impact of our daily life are functioning properly. We cannot take an extension cord and run it from the port to wherever we are heading so that we have electricity. The Rainier, like any other ship, is like a floating city and is self-sufficient in its abilities to generate its own electricity, create and store its own fresh water, process its own sewage, and still get to where it needs to go.
There are two 12 cylinder two-cycle diesel engines that power the ship. Each engine is geared independently to individual propeller shafts. This means that the ship can actually be steered by adjusting the pitch or “bite” of the propellers. The average speed for the Rainier from these engines is about 12 knots. Power is generated on the ship through two 415 kilowatt, 450 volt, 3 phase, 60 cycle generators, which are driven by the diesel engines. The generated voltage is stepped down through transformers to supply the 120-volt power for lighting, appliances, and electronic equipment on the ship. The heat rejection from the diesel engines is also used for the evaporators which help produce the ships water.
There are two water storage tanks that can hold up to 8390 gallons of water. This amount of water will only last us a couple of days because the ship uses about 2000 gallons of water a day. There are two flash type distilling plants that generate our potable water, which converts sea water into our fresh water for the ship. They are able to convert around 6000 gallons of fresh water a day for all of the needs of the ship. Hot water and steam for our needs are provided by two pressurized hot water boilers that use diesel fuel to heat the water up to around 360 degrees Fahrenheit.
All of these various systems and machinery are the lifeblood of the ship. They help provide the basic needs for the crew in order to survive for long periods of time at sea and for the ship to fulfill its mission. Without the engineers monitoring and maintaining the ships equipment we could not accomplish the tasks required of the ship . There is extensive amounts of hands-on experience and training that comes with this territory of keeping the ship alive. This training can come from collegiate academies, prior military service, trade schools, or wanting to come into an entry-level position to experience life at sea.
*Special thanks to Cliff Elsner for giving me an extensive tour of the engine room and helping me share this information about the heart of the ship.
It’s funny how a person adapts to their environment over time. I was so excited to be going to Alaska to take part in this experience, but I had no idea what it would be like or how much I would learn. Noises that were beyond annoying at the beginning of the trip become a constant humming that the Rainier shares each day. The vibrations and gentle sway that would keep you up until the wee hours of the morning, start to rock you to sleep each night in preparation for the days work ahead. However, there are times when she may want to rock, but the Pacific Ocean wants you to roll. Then there isn’t much sleep to be had. The weather would like to break the Rainier, but she is a floating fortress of steel that continues on knowing there is a job to be done. It is a constant rhythm with this ship. The waves keep time and rarely does anyone miss a beat. The pulse and the life of the ship stay in complete sync. With everyone doing their part we come to the finale as we finish the last day of work and pull into port. There is a welcomed intermission between journeys as we head into Ketchikan, Alaska.
I am so grateful for this experience to see Alaska, to see the wildlife, and to see what hydrographic surveying is all about. However, I never imagined I would meet so many wonderful people on this ship. Each person I came in contact with had wonderful characteristics, personalities, and skills to share. I admire what each person has to contribute from every department on the ship. If they were not here then the ship would not function to its fullest potential and complete its mission. I am thankful for each handshake, each ear to ear smile, the jokes played on each other and myself, the hearty laughter at dinner that keeps us all sane, the hugs of support, the high fives of accomplishment, but most importantly the many lessons that you have taught me that I will keep with me for a lifetime. I love this ship, I love this crew, and I loved this experience. Thank you to everyone that made this possible.
Interview with the Captain
Whales (Species Unknown)
Question of the Day