NOAA Teacher at Sea
Aboard NOAA Ship Rainier
September 8 – 24 , 2015
Mission: Hydrographic Survey
Geographical area of Research: Kodiak Island, Alaska
Date: September 9, 2015
Current Location: Women’s Harbor, U.S. Coast Guard Base, Kodiak, Alaska
Kodiak, Alaska is amazing and NOAA Ship Rainier is even more so. When I arrived I learned that we were going to be in port for a few days. Instead of leaving on Tuesday, September 08, 2015 we are scheduled to leave on Saturday. Early in my planning and training I learned that FLEXIBILITY is very important and it has proven to be true.
During this time at port, the entire crew is very busy with ship activities. I thought this would be the perfect time to give some background on this amazing ship! Here is a link to more detailed information Rainier information flyer. An even more detailed, “let the geek out” link is Rainier special details.
Rainier is named after Mount Rainier in Washington State and was put to work in 1968. Do the math, how old is Rainier this year? Rainier is a long 231 foot ship. The breadth (width) is 42 feet and the draft, or how far down it sits in the water is 14 feet. One of the most interesting facts about this vessel is the ice strengthened hull. Rainier is one tough ship!!
To keep this unique ship running so well it has an incredible crew. I have learned that there are 7 main areas of work. I am only going to give a general overview so everyone can understand a little bit more about what happens here. I will go into more detail with future blogs.
Wardroom – This is what the NOAA uniformed officers are called. They can be seen wearing their blue uniforms. The hydrographic officers have a more interesting job than the officers on other NOAA vessels because they act not only as officers getting the ship where it needs to go safely, but they also work right alongside the survey scientists making tidal observations and coastal maps.
It makes a lot of sense for the people who are researching and creating the very important coastal maps to understand them. There is no one better than the men and women who work with them every day!
Survey – These are the scientists who work with the officers to collect the data. Collecting the data is just the beginning. Once the data is collected they begin analyzing data and putting it to work. Similar to students who have classwork, they get assignments that need to be met and deadlines to get the work done. It can take weeks and months for the data to be put together to make the charts.
Engineering – The engineers are the inner working of the ship. They are the men and women who keep Rainier going strong! While here, there is a constant hum of mechanical parts (later the engines will be going and we will hear and feel those).
Everywhere you look inside the ship you can see something that the engineers are responsible for maintaining. On my tour, I was amazed from top to bottom of the fans, gears, plumbing, wires, generators, motors, hydraulics, engines, heating/cooling, launch maintenance, refrigeration, distillers for water plus so much more that needs to be kept going. As you can see, this is also a very busy department!
Deck – While the engineers maintain the inside of the ship, the deck crew maintains the outside or what is called the “weather deck”. Here you will see the massive crane on the back of the ship and two smaller cranes at the front.
They work the two large anchors and the “windlass” or winch to pull them up along with the smaller launches (boats) that are attached to the ship and the davits (hoists) to put them in and out of the water. The deck crew also make sure the ship is moored (tied up) properly plus so much more.
EET and ET – These are the two smallest departments, but they are needed to keep everyone working. The EET is the electronics engineering technician. He is an electrician that takes care of all the wiring throughout the ship. The Rainier EET has been here for over 20 years. The ET is the electronics technician and he builds, maintains and programs the computers and servers that are needed to run Rainier.
Steward – Have you heard the term “laughter is the best medicine?” Here on Rainier the food is the best medicine and what keeps this crew connected and happy!
The galley (kitchen) is incredibly clean, organized and delicious! The selection of food has been healthy, varied and with just the right amount of sweet treats. They are up very early and work later to keep this crew fed. Every department has to come through here so they are the true backbone of the ship!
As I get to know the ship and crew more, I am continually amazed at the people here, how they communicate and work together and it all runs so smoothly. I am looking forward to our upcoming adventures doing research around Kodiak Island.
Being chosen for this experience is a great honor for me. I was here for only 24 hours and I had already seen so much of this beautiful area. I was fortunate enough to get here the night before Labor Day so the crew and I had the day off.
I walked around the harbor town of Kodiak and then went hiking to Abercrombie State Park. This now incredibly beautiful area of moss draped trees, cliffs and black rock/sand beaches was once a World War II gun site. I saw the massive guns, the lookout that was half buried in the rock and the searchlight shelter. Due to the northern site, there are times that the sun is not out for long so they had big searchlights that were rolled out of the structure to search for planes and ships out in the Pacific Ocean. While there I got to see the resident Bald Eagles and other wildlife (no Kodiak bears yet but I keep looking).
Later, I was able to head to the southern shore of Kodiak Island to see where people surf on Surfer Beach. Again, the sand is very dark and the waves were incredible. I didn’t think Alaska was an area for surfing, but it is very popular.
After looking at Surfer Beach I was taken over to the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska. I was able to let my Space Geek out. Too bad I didn’t have my Blue Flight Suit, I could have had my picture taken there. This is an active launch pad for launches over the Arctic. They had an explosion here in November, 2014 (no one was hurt thankfully) so it is being repaired before more launches can take place.
On the ship, the crew is incredibly welcoming and helpful. I am gradually learning my way around and how things work. Off the ship, I used the time to connect with the local Kodiak High School and their award winning robotics team. They are doing some pretty amazing things here with STEAM in this small coastal town.
More adventures to follow as we head out and I become a true Teacher At Sea, not just a Teacher In Port!