Kathleen Gibson, Hammerheads on the Line, August 4, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kathleen Gibson
Aboard NOAA Ship Oregon II
July 25 – August 8, 2015

Mission: Shark Longline Survey
Geographic Area of the Cruise: Atlantic Ocean off the Florida and Carolina Coast
Date:  Aug 4, 2015

LAT   3323.870N
LONG    07736.658 W

Great Hammerhead Photo Credit: Ian Davenport

Great Hammerhead (Photo Credit: Ian Davenport)

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Wind speed (knots): 28
Sea Temp (deg C): 29.2
Air Temp (deg C):  24.2

Early this morning the night shift caught and cradled a great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran). This is a first for this cruise leg. I’m sure that just saying “Hammerhead” conjures an image of a shark with an unusual head projection (cephalofoil), but did you know that there are at least 8 distinct Hammerhead species?  Thus far in the cruise we have caught 4 scalloped hammerheads (Sphyrna lewini), one of which I was fortunate to tag.

Science and Technology Log

All eight species of hammerhead sharks have cephalofoils with differences noted in shape, size, and eye placement, to name a few. Research indicates that this structure acts as a hydrofoil or rudder, increasing the shark’s agility. In addition, the structure contains a high concentration of specialized electro sensory organs (Ampullae of Lorenzini) that help the shark detect electric signals of other organisms nearby.  The eye placement at each end of the cephalofoil allows hammerhead sharks to have essentially a panoramic view with only a slight movement of their head – quite handy when hunting or avoiding other predators.


Comparison of Scalloped and Great Hammerhead Sharks

Comparison of Scalloped and Great Hammerhead Sharks
Image Credit: NOAA Fisheries Shark Species

Great hammerhead sharks are highly migratory. They are found worldwide in tropical latitudes, and at various depths. There are no  geographically Distinct Population Segments (DPS) identified. The great hammerhead, as its name implies, is the largest of the group and average size estimates of mature individuals varies between 10-14 ft in length with a weight approximately 500 lb.; the largest recorded was 20 ft in length. The one we caught was ll ft. in length.

Great Hammerhead Photo Credit: Ian Davenport

Great Hammerhead
Photo Credit: Ian Davenport

Great Hammerhead

Great Hammerhead

As with most shark species, the numbers declined rapidly between 1975 and 1995 due to the fin fishing industry and focused sport fishing often fueled by fear and misinformation. One has to wonder what the average length was before that time.

Scalloped Hammerhead sharks are the most common hammerhead species. Their habitat overlaps that of the great hammerhead, though they are more often found in slightly shallower waters. In contrast to the great hammerhead, scalloped hammerheads are only semi-migratory, and scientists have identified Distinct Population Segments around the world.  This is important information when evaluating population size and determining which groups, if any, need regulatory protection.

Weighing a small Scalloped Hammerhead Photo Credit: Ken Wilkinson

Weighing a small scalloped hammerhead
Photo Credit: Ken Wilkinson


Scalloped Hammerhead on deck. Photo: Erica Nuss

Scalloped hammerhead on deck
Photo: Ian Davenport

The average life expectancy for both species is approximately 30 years.  Males tend to become sexually mature before females, at smaller weights; females mature between 7-10 years (sources vary). In my last log I discussed shark reproduction – Oviparous vs. Viviparous. (egg laying vs. live birth).  All hammerheads are viviparous placental sharks but reproductive patterns do differ. Great hammerheads bear young every two years, typically having 20-40 pups. A great hammerhead recently caught by a fisherman in Florida was found to be pregnant with 33 pups. Scalloped have slightly fewer pups in each brood, but can reproduce more frequently.


Career Spotlight – NOAA Corps

Setting and retrieving the Longline requires coordination between Deck Operations and the Bridge.  Up until now I’ve highlighted those on deck. Let’s learn a bit about two NOAA officers on the Bridge.

The NOAA Corps is one of the 7 Uniformed Services of the United States and all members are officers. The Corps’ charge is to support the scientific mission of NOAA, operating and navigating NOAA ships and airplanes.  Applicants for the Corps must have earned Bachelor’s degree and many have graduate degrees.  A science degree is not required but a significant number of science units must have been completed.  It’s not unusual for Corps recruits to have done post-baccalaureate studies to complete the required science coursework.  New recruits go through Basic Officer’s Training at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut.

Lt. Lecia Salerno – Executive Officer (XO) – NOAA 

Lt. Lecia Salerno at the Helm
Lt. Lecia Salerno at the  helm or the Oregon II during Longline retrieval.

Lt. Salerno is a 10-year veteran of the NOAA Corps and has significant experience with ship operations.  She was recently assigned to the Oregon II as the XO. This is Lecia’s first assignment as an XO and she reports directly to Captain Dave Nelson. In addition to her Bridge responsibilities, she manages personnel issues, ship accounts and expenditures. During these first few weeks on her new ship, Lt. Salerno is on watch for split shifts – day and night – and is quickly becoming familiar with the nuances of the Oregon II.  This ship is the oldest (and much loved) ship in NOAA’s fleet, having been built in 1964, which can make it a challenge to pilot. It’s no small task to maneuver a 170-foot vessel up to a small highflyer and a float, and continue moving the ship along the Longline throughout retrieval.

Lecia has a strong academic background in science  and in the liberal arts and initially considered joining another branch of the military after college.  Her  assignments with  NOAA incorporate her varied interests and expertise, which she feels makes her job that much more rewarding.

Lt. Laura Dwyer on the Bridge of the Oregon II

Lt. Laura Dwyer on the Bridge of the Oregon II

Lt. Laura Dwyer- Junior Officer – NOAA Corps

Laura has always had a love for the ocean, but did not initially look in that direction for a career.  She first earned a degree in International Business from James Madison University.  Her interest in marine life took her back to the sea and she spent a number of years as a scuba diving instructor in the U.S. and Australia.  Laura returned to the U.S.  to take additional biology coursework.  During that time she more fully investigated the NOAA Corps, applied and was accepted.

Laura has been on the Oregon II for 1.5 years and loves her work.  When she is on shift she independently handles the ship during all operations and also acts as Navigator.  What she loves about the Corps is that the work merges science and technology, and there are many opportunities for her to grow professionally. In December Laura will be assigned to a shore duty unit that is developing Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV).

Personal Log

Measuring a Sharpnose Photo: Kristin Hannan

Notice the white spots on the dorsal side of this atlantic sharpnose, characteristic of this species.
Photo: Kristin Hannan

It’s amazing to think that just over a week ago I held my first live shark.  We caught over  30 sharks at our first station and our inexperience showed.  At first even the small ones looked like all teeth and tail, and those teeth are not only sharp but carry some pretty nasty bacteria. It took all of us (new volunteers) forever to get the hooks out quickly without causing significant trauma to the shark–or ourselves.  A tail smack from this small-but-mighty tiger shark pictured below left me with a wedge-shaped bruise for a week!

Immature Male Tiger Shark. He's cute but he taught me a lesson with his tail.

Immature Male Tiger Shark.
He’s cute but he taught me a lesson with his tail.

Since then we have caught hundreds of sharks.  We’ve caught so many Atlantic Sharpnose that on occasion it seems mundane.  Then I catch myself and realize how amazing it is to be doing what I’m doing– holding a wild animal in my hands, freeing it from the circle hook (finally!), looking at the detailed pattern of its skin, and feeling it’s rough texture, measuring it and releasing it back into the sea.

Sandbar Shark on the Line

A beautiful sandbar shark on the line.

I’m pleased to be able to say that my day shift team has become much more confident and efficient.  Our mid-day haul yesterday numbered over 40 sharks, including a few large sharks that were cradled, and it went really smoothly.

Weighing in. Hook out - No Problem! Photo: Jim Nienow

An Atlantic Sharpnose weighing in at 2.1 kg.
Photo: Kristin Hannan


Out it Comes - No Problem Photo: Ian Davenport

Taking a closer look at an Atlantic Sharpnose shark.
Photo: Ian Davenport

At this point I’ve had a chance to work at most of the volunteer stations including baiting hooks, throwing off the high-flyer marker, numbering, gangions, throwing bait, data entry,  tagging shark, removing hooks, and measuring/ weighing.  A highlight of last night was getting to throw out the hook to pull in the high-flyer marker at the start of retrieval.  I’m not known for having the best throwing arm but it all worked out!

Ready to Throw Photo: Kristin Hannan

Ready to Throw
Photo: Kristin Hannan

Got it! Photo: Kristin Hannan

Right on Target!
Photo: Kristin Hannan


Question of the Day:  What is this?

Can you identify these?

Can you identify these?

NOAA SHARK FACTS: Bite off More that you can chew

For more on hammerheads: click

For my incoming  Marine Science students — Investigate two other hammerhead species. How are they distinguished from great hammerheads?


Paige Teamey: October 31, 2011 – November 1, 2011

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Paige Teamey
Aboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
October 31, 2011 – November 11, 2011

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: Atlantic Ocean, between Montauk, L.I. and Block Island
Date:  October 31, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: Overcast
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: Var.
Temperature 14 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 12.0 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb:  8.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1228.4 millibars
Latitude: 41°71’58” ° North
Longitude: 072°0’07” ° West

Science and Technology Log

Good Morning Thomas Jefferson!  Today I woke up and felt very spritely.  Even though we were still docked I was excited to see a new city and leave Connecticut’s shores by noon.  I started by walking around New London and learning about its

Halloween Morning on Thames RIver Harbor. Thomas Jefferson is on the left and a U.S. Coast Guard ship is on the right.

history.  New London is a mariners town and is home to a Naval submarine base as well as the United States Coast Guard Academy.  New London was also home to the Eastern shores largest whaling industry in the 1700’s.

After having a glimpse of New London (only 2.5 hours north of NYC) I returned to the Thomas Jefferson and watched as the ship readied herself to leave the dock and begin yet another survey (mapping the ocean floor) of the ocean floors.  While I watched the deck hands, officers, and surveyors ready the ship I asked random shipmates who exactly worked aboard the Thomas Jefferson.  Based on our conversation I was able to make the following chart.  This chart breaks down the five basic groups that are aboard the Thomas Jefferson.  The only person I did not account for is the amazing ET (Electronics Technician), Mike, who helps with all computer and system related problems (there are enough aboard to keep him busy 24/7.

 Who works on the Thomas Jefferson:

Stewards (Kitchen Crew)

Dave cooking a tasty dinner.

Deck Department

Tom repainting the exterior of ship.

Hydrographic Surveyors

Surveying crew (Frank, Matt, FOO Mike, and XO Denise)

Mechanical Engineers

Ivan and Otis manning watch.

NOAA Corp Officers

Ensign Anthony on constant alert in the bridge.

Let’s start with the cooking crew, because food is the best place to begin any conversation. .  Dave, Nester, and Ace are the stewards for this journey and make incredibly tasty meals…even vegetarian ones for me and Shaina (Shaina is on an internship with NOAA while she attends College in Seattle).  The kitchen on a ship is also called the “galley.” The deck department works by maintaining the ship.  The tasks  include chipping and painting (this is important because the sea water is constantly chemically eroding the surface of the ship) moving the launches in and out of the TJ, and keeping the ship balanced as a whole.  The “surveyors…”  this team is quite large and essential to the ship because they conduct and perform all of the seafloor mapping (hydrographic surveying).  The surveyors work around the clock and continually modernize old nautical charts to be used commercially and for recreation purposes. The mechanical engineers or “the heart of the ship.”  The ME’s maintenance the engine, electricity, sewage, water, and keep all life lines to the ship running.  There are multiple positions in the ME department:CME (Chief Mechanical Engineer), licensed engineers, JUE (junior unlicensed engineers) oilers, wipers, GVA (General Vessel Assistants). The officers are essentially the supervisors or parents of the ship.  The officers  “run” the ship in respect to giving directions, deciding where TJ will go, how fast she (all ships are referred to as she) should go, and pull the stops when things aren’t going well or need to be revised.

 What is a scientific research vessel?

So, let’s break it down.  The Thomas Jefferson specifically is used to map sea floors, however it can be called to plane crashes (they saved a pilot last year off of the Florida keys!!) when they go down in the area or ship wrecks.  The Thomas Jefferson, or TJ, has three deployable ships (small ships that can be moved from the larger ship to the ocean).  Two of the deployables are hydrographic survey launches named 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 (aptly named for their position on the ship) and the FRV (fast rescue vessel).  The 31-0-1 and 31-0-2 are used daily to map areas that have shoal bottoms (shoal=ship term used for shallow).  Sadly the 31-0-1 is awaiting a new multibeam scanner so instead is used for small missions like going ashore to pick up mail (this is

Deploying 3102

very exciting for the crew) or retrieving tidal data from instruments that lost power from our Nor’Easter last weekend (this is also exciting because it allows you to go onto land).  TJ is 208ft long (just short of a block).   Thomas Jefferson was the first President to realize the importance of surveying and safe navigation.   Thomas Jefferson’s father, Peter was a land surveyor and was able to emphasize the importance of national surveying to his son.  Thomas Jefferson commissioned the first surveying crew through the U.S. Government and as a result NOAA named their ship after him.

A scientific research vessel basically means I am not on a cruise ship, and unfortunately there is no swimming pool, or drinks with little umbrellas.  Instead it is like a business office on the water. Everybody is working all of the time.  The only difference is that everyone eats and sleeps in the same place they work.  Everybody works in 4 hour “watches.”  If you are the 4-8 watch that means you work from 4am-8am and 4pm to 8pm everyday.  Though this watch may not interest you, I love it because you are able to observe the sunrise and sunset each day.

Red skies at night a sailors delight, Red skies in morning a sailors warning. (SUNSET)

Other watches are from (8am-12pm and 8pm to 12am) and (12am-4am and 12pm-4pm).  Imagine waking up at school, eating breakfast going to school for four hours (let’s say 4am-8am), taking a break and going back to school again for another 4 hours (4pm-8pm) and then going to sleep  only to wake up the next morning to start anew.  On a research vessel work is achieved and performed 24/7.  I can wake up any hour and move throughout the ship to find the “new crew” that are on just beginning their new watch.

How She Moves:

OKAY, so the motion of the ocean (known to me as seasickness).  The motion is kind of like being on the subway and not holding onto anything.  If the subway moves back and forth on a ship that would be called the roll (like you rocking from right to left foot), if we were able to take a subway car and move it up and down that would be known as the heave, if you took the subway car and just tipped it up in the front (bow) and down in the front (bow) this would be known as the pitch and last but not least if you swung the subway car through turn after turn, right to left to right to left again this would be known as the yaw or side to side from port to starboard.  Depending on the weather or if you are anchored (when the ship lets down a chain connected to a huge weight that is pushed into the sand) you can have ALL FOUR motions going at the same time.  Last night while we were anchored offshore, the TJ was rock’n and roll’n and we had yaw, roll, heave, and pitch all while moving in a circle around the anchor…and I sadly was able to see my dinner twice in one evening!

Do I need to go to college to work on a ship?

Some of the positions require technical skills in surveying that can not be acquired without going to college, however the majority of the positions are trades that can be taught in a semester or year-long course.  Many of the wage mariners aboard did not attend college, but instead attended a maritime school for one semester to one year depending on their rank.  Many of the mechanical engineers were trained either in the Navy or at a trades school as well.   There is a maritime school in NYC between Hunts Point and Queens (click on purple/blue mariners school).   If you are interested in becoming a NOAA Corps Officer you will have to graduate from a four-year college/university with a major in any science discipline.  The NOAA Corps Officer training program is also located in NYC.

Interested in NOAA ship jobs:  http://www.sunymaritime.edu/Academics/Continuing%20Education/index.aspx

Learn more about NOAA: http://www.corpscpc.noaa.gov/flash/recruit_video.html

NOAA Student Scholarships:  http://www.oesd.noaa.gov/noaa_student_opps.html

Personal Log


Breakfast:  2 fried eggs, oatmeal

Lunch: mac n’ cheese with beans

Dinner:  Tofu curry

Date: November 01, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge

Clouds: 3/8 Cumulus
Visibility: 10 Nautical Miles
Wind: NW 21Knots.
Temperature 13.9 ° Celsius
Dry Bulb: 13.5 ° Celsius
Wet Bulb:  10.0 ° Celsius
Barometer: 1626.8 millibars
Latitude: 41°08’39” ° North
Longitude: 072°05’43” ° West

Science and Technology Log

First quarter moon

It is late at night and I am sitting on my bunk bed (top bunk) or crouching rather against the wall.  I was given sheets and a pillow from NOAA to use for my trip, however I brought a small blanket my sister bought for me ages ago.  It is true, creature comforts bring smiles and happiness in the quietest moments.  My curtains are swaying back and forth, my coat sways to the same rhythm and there is a small creak from my bathroom door trying to break free from its steal holds.  I just came from outside to breathe in one last crisp breath of air and peak at the first quarter moon shining on the Atlantic waters. It is amazing to look upwards or in any direction above the horizon and observe the celestial nighttime stars brilliantly held in the sky.  Tonight there are no skyscrapers or brownstones blocking my view.

Sunset from the bridge.

At night-time, when we anchor, I find the best position for me to be in, is laying down (or crouching).  This seems the only time my food wants to fight gravity.  We have had smooth sailing thus far (with exception to this evening).

Today I was able to observe and listen to multiple meetings in the “plot room.”  The plot room consists of all of NOAA’s hydrographic surveyors.  Some surveyors were plotting today’s scan while others scoured through old data looking for areas on the most recently made map that were missing information and identifying features on the maps such as rocks, piers, sunken ships, and other interesting features.

True shape of Earth with daily changing tides (shape of Earth is called an Oblate Spheroid, not a circle)

While in the plot room I spent much of my time with James as he amazingly went through all of the many areas of surveying.  One of the major issues of mapping the seafloor is finding the “true depth” of the ocean.  The ocean rises and falls each day due the gravitational effects from the moon (tides).  NOAA and the hydrographic surveyors must take this tidal change into account in order to determine the “REAL” depth of the ocean.  The surveyors must also account for the motions of ship lifting the beam when it is yawing, pitching, heaving, or rolling.

Fire Drill!!

Halfway through my lecture with James the Thomas Jefferson sounded its bell for a fire drill. In school during fire drills everybody vacates the building, however on a boat it is important for “All hands on deck.”  This is when everyone comes to specific areas they have been assigned to on the deck (mine is the bridge or second level).  I met John and Kurt who are also visiting the Thomas Jefferson and we stood in the cold for about one hour as the deck crew pulled three different fire hoses from below and shot them into the water in order to test if they work.  Initially this black brackish water shot out because the hoses had been sitting for so long, but eventually the hoses streamed clear salt water.

Myself and Ivan in our "Gumby" suits.

Upon going inside from the fire drill another bell rang loud and clear calling all persons to deck for a mandatory “man-over-board” drill.  When there is a man/woman overboard everyone is to wear their pfd (personal flotation device or life vest) a warm hat, and bring along their immersion suit (also known as a gumby suit).  I did not know we were supposed to wear a hat, so I looked like the only one trying to not follow orders…whoops.  After the drill I had to try on my gumby suit with Ivan, and wished I could have worn it for Halloween.  The “Gumby” suit floats and is incredibly warm, so if the boat goes down you do not necessarily need a life raft in order to stay warm and afloat.

When I returned to the plot room James had found a ship wreck and was cleaning the image.  When the surveyors clean the images they remove fish, seaweed, or anything that takes away from the seafloor map.

Ship Wreck from aerial view (viewed from above).

Shipwreck profile (from the side). The grey stuff in back is a school of fish that will eventually be removed from the image.

Personal Log

There is an exercise room on deck and I went running after dinner today.  It was really hard to run because not only are you on a machine that is moving, but the machine is located on a boat that is moving.  Even though I was able to run 3 miles, I felt like I had run 5 miles while trying to fight the motions of the ship.  It felt like I was exercising while standing on a roller coaster that was moving.

Exercise Room


Breakfast: Grits and scrambled eggs

Lunch:Veggie Lasagna, green beans, Veggie Chili

Dinner:Veggie chili, potatoes

Dessert:  Strawberry shortcake (I had mine without the strawberries…delicious)

Chuck Gregory, August 14, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 14, 2007

“For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.”  ~Thomas Jefferson

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Here’s the Plan of the Day (POD):
Sunrise = 0605h Sunset = 1956h 0000h
Ship at Sandy Hook, NJ anchorage 0700h
Took first Dramamine 0745h
Launch safety brief (Survey) 0800h
Deploy Launches (3101 & 3102) – I’ll be on the 3102 0830h
At first station of the day (somewhere between Coney Island, NY and Sandy Hook, NJ). Boot up computer systems and deploy multibeam. 0930h
Debug computer systems and we’re ready to track 1210h
Lunch and second Dramamine 1745h
Retrieve launches

Tides for Sandy Hook Low @ 0339h (-0.2 ft.) & 1543h (0.2 ft.); High @ 0938h (5.1 ft.) & 2145h (5.4 ft.). Currents in Sandy Hook Channel Ebb: 0041h (1.7 kts.), 1257h (1.6 kts.); Flood: 0640h (2.0 kts.) & 1851h (2.2 kts.). Weather from Sandy Hook to Fire Island AM: N winds 10-15 kts., seas 2-3 ft.; PM: S winds 5-10 kts., seas 2-3 ft.

One of the two 31 foot launches aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON.  These launches are used to do the hydrographic survey work - side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder - in coastal areas.

One of the two 31 foot launches aboard the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON. These launches are used to do the hydrographic survey work – side scan sonar and multibeam echo sounder – in coastal areas.

Today was a full day. After going to bed early (2030h) and rising early (0530h), I continued to bang away at my e-mails.  The internet connection on the ship is dial up and quite slow. Or is it my understanding of computers that’s slow?!?! Probably the latter. Either way, I’m finding it frustrating to communicate with the ship’s computers.  I’ll work on this tomorrow when I have the time. Breakfast was cereal and an English muffin.  Then I got ready for the 0745h safety briefing and launch deployment.  All went quite smoothly as I did my best to stay out of the way. Teamwork is huge on a vessel like the THOMAS JEFFERSON, and I was impressed by the teamwork effort to deploy and retrieve both launches. After the launch we were on our first station within 30 minutes.  We had to deal with the customary computer snafu, but it was quickly fixed and we were soon doing our tracklines.  Back and forth, east and west, forth and back, and west and east.  Bill was at the wheel, Taylor was at the computers, Megan G. assisted with both, and I just watched, asked questions, learned, and helped out wherever possible.

Chuck studying some of the side-scan sonar (SSS) data as it is relayed from the SSS 'towfish' to the launch's computer.

Chuck studying some of the side-scan sonar (SSS) data as it is relayed from the SSS ‘towfish’ to the launch’s computer.

To help matters, the day was beautiful: warm, light breeze, and subsiding seas. I couldn’t have asked for better weather. Three times during our day we stopped to do a CTD cast. They use a SBE 19Plus Seacat with a stainless cage and tethered to a line.  After two minutes of acclimating at the surface, Taylor would lower the CTD to the bottom and lift it back onto the boat. Then a computer cable was attached to the CTD, the CTD software booted up, and the data downloaded. Taylor and Megan taught me a lot about the launch computers and even let me attend to them for about an hour.  Setting up the computer programs for the SSS Fish and the MultiBeam Echo Sounder (MBES) was complicated to this novice, thus the initial delay.  There are screens to view the data as it is coming in from the side scan and another for the multibeam.  There are screens to view the files as they are filling with data, screens to view the launch’s tracks, and screens to measure heave, pitch, and roll.  And it was all fed into an on-board memory.  Wow!

The 3102 was strong, but cramped for four adults.  There were two comfortable seats on the boat – one for the coxswain and one for the survey tech – but we made the most out of every available space. Lunch was last night’s chicken made into sandwiches (not bad!), chips, chili, fruit, water, and cookies. There was other food to munch on and I found it hard not to eat with the sea air and full sun beaming down upon us.  So much for my “food plan.”  

Today I learned the importance of understanding computers, well planed navigation, and teamwork.  The tracklines were well laid out and followed.  Bill and Megan did a good job of maneuvering us around lower New York Harbor, as there were several recreational and commercial craft moving across the water.  At no time were we in any danger. The day went smoothly and there was even a time of boredom after lunch when the launch was on course, the data was streaming in, and the weather was hot and sunny. Life was good!

We returned to the THOMAS JEFFERSON at 1745h tired and starved! After a full day at sea that was one of the best meatloaf dinners I’ve ever had!!!  After dinner I returned to the ship’s computers, but continue to be frustrated as I try to get to my e-mails.  Tomorrow my sole mission is to meet with engineer Eric and tap his computer expertise.  For now I think I’ll call Roxann and go to bed early and do a little ‘Cannery Row’ reading.

Chuck Gregory, August 12, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Chuck Gregory
Onboard NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson
August 12 – 24, 2007

Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical Area: New York Harbor
Date: August 12, 2007

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done if we are always doing.” 

~Thomas Jefferson

NOAA Teacher At Sea, Chuck Gregory, getting ready to leave from Portland, Maine. His destination is LaGuardia airport on Long Island, and from there, the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON tied up to the Stapleton Pier on Staten Island.

NOAA Teacher At Sea, Chuck Gregory, getting ready to leave from Portland, Maine. His destination is LaGuardia airport on Long Island, and from there, the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON tied up to the Stapleton Pier on Staten Island.

I left the Portland, Maine Jetport at 1:55 pm for LaGuardia on US Airways. A nice, short flight. About 1 hour later we landed on Long Island. It was a beautiful day to fly.  After a 45 minute wait for my duffel bag I grabbed a cab for the ride to Staten Island and 355 Front Street.

At 1610h – and $70 later (including tip) – we pulled up to the NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON (affectionately called the ‘TJ’). She was docked on the northern side of the Stapleton pier, hidden by the retired USS INTREPID – an “old” (commissioned by the Navy in 1943) aircraft carrier now acting as a floating sea, air and space museum.  You may remember the USS INTREPID as the aircraft carrier that got stuck in the Hudson River mud not to long ago.  No wonder, she is 872 feet long and an overall beam of almost 150 feet! And very, very gray.

In the distance, off the northern side of the pier is (from left to right) the Staten Island Ferry and piers, New Jersey, the Statue of Liberty & Ellis Island, the entrance to the Hudson River (the west side), Manhattan, the entrance to the East River (the east side), Governors Island, and Long Island (Queens & Brooklyn).  In the foreground is the Inner Harbor of New York bustling with tankers, tugs, and ferries.  Not many recreational boats in sight.

Destination - The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON tied up at the Stapleton Pier, Staten Island, NY.

Destination – The NOAA Ship THOMAS JEFFERSON tied up at the Stapleton Pier, Staten Island, NY.

The THOMAS JEFFERSON is a member of the NOAA Fleet.  She was delivered to the Navy in 1992 and commissioned by NOAA in 2003. She is 208 feet long, 45 feet broad, and has a draft of 14ft. She can berth 36 (crew and guests), and is packed with neat equipment (multibeam sonar, side-scan sonar, two 31’ launches, an emergency launch, and more hoses, cables and gizmos than I care to mention).  She is scheduled to leave port tomorrow for 19 days.  I will be getting a ride back to shore after day 12.  The THOMAS JEFFERSON will not return to Staten Island, but head on to her home base of Norfolk, VA.

The first person I met when I crossed the gangway was Ensign Megan Guberski. She is a NOAA Corps Officer and a graduate from Smith College.  She took me down a flight of stairs to my ‘stateroom’ and introduced me to my bunkmate, Ensign Andy Ostapenko.  Andy is another NOAA Corps Officer who works on the important navigation systems.  He is from Minnesota.  He gave me a great tour of the vessel, showing me the six decks, emergency areas and equipment, various stations, bathymetry equipment, etc., etc. Boy do I have a lot to learn. Port, starboard, aft, forward, main deck, amidships, bridge, lounge, computer station, yadda, yadda!  The one term that stuck was “Mess Hall”. It is located just up the main stairway and almost above our room.  Nice location!

Andy and I chatted for about an hour and he kindly answered all of my basic questions – toilet protocol, shower, a good place on the ship to hang out, where to make cell phone calls, what we will be doing for the next 12 days, etc.  He is a really nice person and seems like a great crewmember.  I’m really interested to see him at work doing his navigation thing.  In addition to Andy, I met the Commanding Officer (CO), Commander Tod Schattgen.  Another nice person and easy to talk with. He really seems interested in the various activities occurring on the ship, but not in a controlling way.  I am sure he and I will have more opportunities to talk during the voyage.  I met the FOO (Facilities Operation Officer) and Acting XO, Chris Van Westandorp.  Chris will be my ‘supervisor’ since the regular XO, Jim Crocker, is on leave.

While in the Mess Hall I ran into Engineer Charlie.  A retired Navy person, Charlie was eager to give me the tour of the engine room area.  And what a tour it was. This may be the only time I get to tour the engine area, so I took advantage of the moment.  Engines, air conditioner, water treatment, sewage treatment, compressors, refrigeration systems, control room, workshop, etc., etc. And all compressed into a small space.  There was enough equipment (and back-up equipment) to keep that vessel going for weeks!  And that’s a good thing! Charlie was happy to show me around and give me some ear plugs for the engine room.  It was loud and I needed them!

I’m trying my best to meet everyone on the ship and chat about what they do on THOMAS JEFFERSON and how they “found” NOAA.  In general, it seems like there are two types of crew – the old ex-navy types, and the young recently-graduated types.  A nice mix of both.  Lots of experience able to teach the next generation.  One piece of bad news: I forgot the cable that connects my digital camera to my computer.  While I can take many photos I just can’t send them to NOAA until I return home.  Bummer!

Another piece of bad news: Since I was busy getting the tour of the ship and missed dinner. Not like me, but I was too interested in the ship to stop for food.  Once my initial excitement calmed down I was able to call my wife, Roxann, and have a snack before bed. After a few pages of “Cannery Row” I drifted off and slept quite well.