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Journals 2008/2009

Steve Howard
Meadowdale Middle School, Lynnwood, Washington

"Seafloor Mapping in support of the Law of the Sea
U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy
August 12, 2008 - September 5, 2008
Journal Index:
August 12 - 13 - 14 - 15 - 16 - 17 - 18
           19 - 20 - 21 - 22 - 23 - 24 - 25
           26 - 27 - 28 - 30 - 31
September 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5

August 19, 2008
Our Home, the USCG Cutter Healy

Today I would like to tell you a little about our home for the next three weeks, the Healy. This is an amazing ship, and I'm just beginning to get a sense of where things are and how to get around. I have been told that there are a number of "behind the scenes" tours we can take, and I'll be telling you more about these as they happen. But for now, here are the basics. The Healy is a huge ship, over 400 feet long, the largest icebreaker operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. Up top, there is the "bridge" which is full of instrument panels and has widows all around to see the seascape. Above the bridge is the "Aloft com," where someone is steering the ship when we are in ice. Below the bridge are the "staterooms," one area for the officers, one for the science team, and one for the rest of the crew. The staterooms are very comfortable, with bunk beds and desks. We share a "head" (bathroom) with an adjoining stateroom, which has a toilet and shower. Below the staterooms you will find the "mess," where we eat, and the "galley" where the cooks work. The food is really very good; every meal has had fresh fruits and vegetables, there is always a salad bar, and desert. If you need a snack, you can head down at any time of day or night and get a quick bowl of cereal or some fruit. You eat cafeteria style, taking what you want and avoiding what you don't. Below the mess deck there is a laundry area and gym with weights and cardio equipment (to work off all this food!). The bow is a great place to watch the ship crash through the ice, and at the stern is the helo-deck (where the helicopter lands) and below that is the "fantail" where a number of cranes are able to deploy or offload equipment. The ship is specially equipped for scientific research, with many complex sonar and echo-sounding equipment, data processing stations, and lab areas for looking at sediment samples, living specimens, and anything else brought up from the sea. I can't begin to describe all the complex data gathering systems all around the Healy! To get from deck to deck you have to go up and down these very steep ladders (it would be a bad fall if you slip on one of these!), and most of the doors are bulkheads with big heavy levers that latch them closed. You have to be careful when opening these doors, because they are very heavy and can clobber you or someone outside if you don't have a good grip on them. And of course, all around you is the open sea and floes of ice. Surrounded by such large things, it's hard not to feel tiny in comparison!

Getting from one place to another requires lots of ladders!
Our stateroom

Major areas of the USCG Healy

Sam Greenaway is a NOAA Corps Officer, Lieutenant Junior Grade. He has been in the NOAA Corps for four years, and will be beginning his Masters Degree at University of New Hampshire to further his study of ocean mapping and hydrography, after which he will return to NOAA to put his expertise to work as an Operations Officer. There are a number of NOAA Corps officers on board the Healy on this expedition, and because I knew nothing about their role I asked Sam to fill me in. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) operates under the Department of Commerce, and NOAA Corps officers are typically tasked with operating and assisting ships and aircraft. In addition to driving ships and piloting aircraft, some NOAA Corps officers are involved with survey work to replace outdated or inaccurate marine charts (many of which are over 100 years old and were done by lowering ropes with lead weights attached to measure depths!). This is very important work. Ships coming into Seattle ports, for example, want to carry as much cargo as they can without running aground, and depth information that is accurate to a matter of inches allow the ships to carry more cargo while still meeting safe under keel clearances. Other officers are involved with fisheries research, marine mammal studies, weather, spill response, and habitat restoration efforts. NOAA Corps officers typically change assignment every two to three years and may work on different ships and in different fields throughout their career. NOAA has just recently outfitted a new ship called the Okeanus Explorer, which will be outfitted for ocean exploration with an ROV (Remotely Operating Vehicle). Sam enjoys driving ships and doing science work at sea. He is also trained as a diver, which can be exciting and dangerous work.

Sam Greenaway, NOAA Corps Officer