Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The rest of the trip towards Seattle has been very nice. The seas have not been too rough, and I am really enjoying the scenery as we go through the inside passage of British Columbia, Canada. The only bad thing is that we are going through some of the best parts at night and I am unable to see them. Last night I was not sure if I was dreaming but I kept hearing the horn of ths ship. Turns out we were going through some thick fog, and the officers needed the horn, to warn other vessels of our position. It was strange, and I am not the only one who thought the sound penetrated my dreams. We will soon be crossing back into the U.S. from Canada. It was cloudy and I could not even see the city of Vancouver as we passed it. No big deal.

Coming home and going back to New Rochelle High School will definitely be a change from the last two weeks. I will never forget the places, people and the science I have been exposed to in my time on the Fairweather in SE Alaska. I will be back in NY in the morning.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Heading south towards Seattle!!!!

It is hard to believe that we are already heading south towards Seattle, WA. I have really enjoyed my time onboard the Fairweather and will never forget these experiences. Being a Teacher at Sea is amazing. I have seen so many different things that I can now add to my “teacher’s toolbox”.

On Monday, I learned how to use the line throwing device was very cool (see picture), but that was not the highlight of my day. I was also given the opportunity to man the helm, and drive the Fairweather for about 10 minutes. It is amazing that a ship this big is so responsive to small changes is the angle of the rudders. It was sort of like driving a really big car, in the sense that when you turn the wheel right the ship goes right and turning left makes the ship go left. There is a lot to do when at the helm. You have to make sure that we are following the correct heading, going the proper speed, not heading towards any other vessels or obstructions such as logs or other debris, and in water that is deep enough for the ship. As much fun as it was it was a little nerve racking, my palms were definitely sweaty.

I did have the help of four other NOAA officers to assist me and help me know what to do. It is not only up to the person at the helm to make decisions about what to do or which course to follow. The Fairweather is definitely a place where the junior officers are being trained and learning what to do in all types of situations. This aspect of helping and learning was prevalent in many aspects of what I observed while onboard the Fairweather.

A while after I manned the helm, the seas got a little rougher as we went through Dixon entrance which marks the boundary between SE Alaska and British Columbia Canada. Here we were exposed to ocean swell from the Pacific Ocean/Gulf of Alaska. I was very glad this did not go on for too long. I made the mistake of trying to write this log while the ship was rocking and rolling a little bit. Not such a good idea. One of the officers told me to put down the computer, go out on the bow (back) of the ship, and look at land along the horizon. Being outside in the fresh air, while looking at land made me feel much better. (To Jay Dubner-sorry no pucking!!!!)

The rest of the trip is in what is called the Inside Passage. Tomorrow we will pass Vancouver Canada, and then early the next morning we should dock in Seattle. We already went throught the other part that people said was rough, called Queen Charlotte Sound/Strait. Thankfully today it was not that rough.
I will post at least once more.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday was awesome

Pictures are in no particular order.

Today the weather was not as nice as yesterday, but no rain at least. However I really did enjoy the day. The crew that I was on my launch was great. We all got along very well. I was able to get onto land three times and explore and climb around on the rocks. Also we saw tow humpback whales, a bunch of seals, more Dall’s porpoises, and yes more bald eagles.

Being able to go onshore was really special for me. I was not sure this was something I would be able to do. We were never on land for all that long, but it was a very nice treat. Climbing on and around the rocks was great. Climbing on and off of the launch boat was pretty sketchy. The driver tries his best to get you very close but there are rocks all over the place.

From here we will start making our course to Seattle. We were just told that we WILL be going through the “inside passage” which is supposed to be absolutely spectacular. I can’t wait.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

I got married three weeks ago from today

Another beautiful day. The weather today was GREAT. It does not feel like I left home a week ago, more like 3 or 4 days. I was dropped off by a small boat to observe the tides. Nothing too exciting, but as I said the weather made it just fine. Since we were very close to the ship, I was able to come back on and have “hot” lunch rather than sandwiches and stuff. In the afternoon, we went back to the same tide gauge and I helped out with elevation studies is the easiest way to say it. This was better than the morning. In the morning one other guy and I were literally dropped off on a barely exposed rock just offshore from the tide gauge. When we started there was water between the two of us, but we knew the tide was dropping so we were fine. However, we were sort of stranded there until the small boat picked us up for lunch. (See picture with small exposed rock)
We had to take levels of the water every six minutes. Sounds boring but it went by rather quickly. As the tide dropped small tidal pools were exposed and I was able to explore. There was tons of sea life. It reminded me of Point Loma near San Diego. While we were there, of course there were bald eagles and even a few seals.
In the afternoon we actually went onto the beach. First time on land since Ketchikan, which we are still very close to. I was in my geologist mode, breaking and smacking the rocks to see what they looked like on the inside. I saw some cool stuff, possibly some small flakes of gold, garnet crystals, and maybe some silver flakes. The captain (CO) also came along with us which was pretty cool. After taking our elevation measurements I helped take out one of the tide gauges since we are almost done mapping in this area.
Dinner was good. Baked potato bar, some interesting tofu dish (most people ate prime rib, very rare, uncle Jerry style), salad, and coconut lemon cake for dessert. I am getting spoiled from all this good food.
I just now came in from watching another beautiful sunset (that makes 3 from the same anchor spot in Customhouse Cove).
For tomorrow, I will be going out on another launch, doing slightly different things. Each day I have been assigned different tasks, which is great for me. We are finishing some more multi beam sonar, and retrieving two GPS stations from two small islands, which means a little more time onshore. Also, the captain said we will be taking the “inside passage” home, which I have been hoping for.
That’s all for now, more tomorrow.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Wildlife Day

OK. HERE are the pictures finally!

I spent the morning on the smallest and most maneuverable of the launch boats on the Fairweather called an Ambar. Unlike the other launch boats that I was previously on, this one does not have a sheltered area so full cold weather/rain gear was needed. Our task was to collect sediment samples from the bottom of Shoalwater Pass and Princess Bay, right up my ally. We were the first of four launches to go out on this day. As we were being lowered down from the ship everybody started to notice porpoises all around us. Once the Ambar was deployed the porpoises began racing alongside the boat. They stayed with us for a few minutes. It was an awesome sight and an experience that I will never forget. Later, at lunch I was talking with the CO (commanding officer) and he told me that he had never quite seen so many porpoises ride alongside a launch boat for such a long time. What I saw were Dall’s porpoises. They are hugely active and playful creatures. They will often zigzag around at great speed on or just below the surface of the water creating a spray called a "rooster tail". They often appear and disappear quite suddenly. They will approach boats and ride alongside, but may lose interest, unless the boat is travelling quickly. I would say there were at least 15 to 20 of them, but they were so fast and difficult to count. This is something that I will never forget.

This was not the only wildlife sighting of the day. When we were transiting from one sample area to another, I spotted a bald eagle and pointed it out to two of the other guys on my boat. What happened next was awesome. Once we saw the eagle, which as I have told you are all over the place, we noticed another smaller bird in front of it. The eagle was chasing him and was hot on his tail. Suddenly the smaller bird had nowhere to go and did a nosedive into the water. This was so cool. Then the eagle proceeded to circle the smaller bird from above so as to saw stay down there. I also saw numerous whale spouts from a distance, too far to tell what type. While back on the Fairweather for lunch a stellar sea lion was swimming right along the starboard side of the ship. When I went outside to see him, he surfaced, came out of the water about chest high looked right at me and swam away, never to be seen again.

SE Alaska is truly a special and magical place. Not just for wildlife, the scenery is absolutely spectacular. I can’t wait to see what another day brings with it. More to come tomorrow......

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Slow Day/Amazing sunset Wed. night

The main reason I wanted to update today was to talk about and show you the most amazing Alaskan sunset on Wed. night. As you can see I am definitely taking pictures, as you might expect. Here are some from the top deck of the ship.

Today was fairly slow and uneventful. Why? Well I was scheduled to go out on another launch today but the crane that lifts the boat off the ship was not working. So...I stayed on the boat and helped with the collection/scanning of deeper waters. The small boats scan shallow water and the ship does deeper.
I spent most of the day in the plot room, helping out with the operations of the computers, and writing my secong "official" log for NOAA. If interested you can find them at the following link:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

First time on a small boat launch in AK

Today I went out on a four person "launch" in a small boat. Four such boats were deployed from the Fairweather. The goal of all teams was to use multi-beam sonar to map the bottom of the channels we are currently in. I can't say that it was fun, but is was very cool. I got to use the computers on board and to deploy a instrument that measure the conductivity, temperature and density of the water. One thing no one told me, was that after the morning rain was over that the sun would come out and it would reach almost 60 degrees, and that I should have brought sunscreen and a hat. Warmer than it was in NY, I think. I now know for tomorrow. And yes I am on a different launch team, doing slightly different tasks.
For now I just finished dinner, and yes it was very good again. In the meantime I am awaiting a debriefing of todays launches, and then hang out until bed.
What else, is on my mind.....Well SE Alaska is ridiculously beautiful, this coming from someone who has traveled alot and used to work in the Grand Canyon. All over the place there is something new to see. I am still waiting for major whale sightings. Last night before bed I caught a glimpse of some tails of porpoise (similar to dolphins), and this morning at the safety meeting on the stern of the boat (back) I sort of saw a whale surface for a moment. More to come tomorrow.