Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 19-10-2009 and tagged

         The cruise ranks as one of my greatest experiences. I have been fortunate to have been a lot of places and done a lot of things. This research cruise ranks right up there. I was really happy that they seemed to be a little bit short handed and could use the help. It was great to be a part of the work. I think we learned a lot more than if we had had a more passive role. Now it is time to come back with our experience and knowledge and make our teaching better. I think we can probably come up with “suitcase lessons” with things like candy bars and fish tanks and jars of sand. I’m hoping we can maintain a relationship with COAS as we develop materials and ways to present this new knowledge and that we will be able to continue getting new information. I really don’t want this do be a one off-been there done that event. Keep in touch and send me anything you remotely think might be interesting for my students, especially hands on ideas that encourage thinking and discovery.

Thanks so much….Jim

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 15-10-2009 and tagged

      Today, when I woke up, there was a completely different feeling on the ship. There was energy circulating around the galley, things were being packed up and loaded into cargo containers. Even the ship itself felt different as we entered the Straight of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound and the waters calmed down, the storm lifted, and the sun came out.

     I have been trying to think of a way to express my feelings today, and I guess I am having a hard time. I feel so grateful to have had an experience like this one. I was exposed to so many things I have never seen before and done so many things I hadn’t considered possible until now.

     As an educator, I am always encouraging my students to step out of their comfort zones. I strongly believe that this was an opportunity for me to practice what I preach. Never before had I thought I might be leaning over the edge of a ship at 2am all suited up in rain gear, cleaning mud off of a coring machine. Never before did I think I was capable of keeping up with all of the technical “science talk” around a group of professionals. I was forced to ask questions when I didn’t understand, adjust to schedules I wasn’t used to, and learn through my experiences. For most of the duration of this trip, I was completely out of my comfort zone.

     I was also able to meet a fabulous group of people during this experience. Chris and his science team were really great to work with. It is so inspiring to work with a group like this one. Chris’ students have such amazing futures ahead of them! It was incredibly energizing to feel their passion for the work that they do. I feel like I was able to create some new friendships and I hope we keep in touch. The ship’s crew was incredibly hospitable, sharing their home away from home with us, and I really appreciated their hospitality. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to answer my questions, explain things I didn’t understand, be patient as I learned, and allowing me to be a part of your journey. I will never forget my time with you. 🙂

     The last thing I feel is excitement. I didn’t realize how long this time away would feel to be away from my family, coworkers, and friends. Thanks to all of you too, for supporting me while I had this amazing experience. I can say that I know that I will probably never be a professional sailor- I couldn’t stand to be away from all of you for so long!

     Finally I would like to thank the Ocean Math and Sciences Collaborative Project for extending and opportunity like this to me. Bob, Mary Jane, and Susan- thank you! I really appreciate your energy toward this type of learning. 🙂

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 13-10-2009 and tagged

      Today we will not be entering in our blog, as the weather is extremely bad. I hope the 6th grade class in Weiser has been keeping up with the blog. If this message makes it to the sixth grade science class, I will be pleased. We have given a lot of information about what we are doing off the coast of Oregon and California. We have now taken 28 cores. Each core is approximately 30 feet long. Measurements for all the tracking devices, are in metric system. The part of the Scientific Method, gathering information, is the purpose of this Scientific Cruise. I have been working with the Scientist on the 12:00 Noon to Midnight Shift. The science team works round the clock when they are out to sea. The purpose of this is to gather as many samples as possible, in the short time we are out to sea.

Question: What will happen to a styrofoam cup when placed 3000 feet (on the ocean floor) deep into the Ocean?

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 13-10-2009 and tagged

      Always looking for a ride, I found this trusty spin bike in the exercise room of the ship. Though not at all like my carbon Giant TCR at home, the spin bike has allowed me to give my legs a few rpm’s. I stick a movie in the TV and spin away. Interestingly enough, unlike riding a stationary on land there is actually movement when the ship rolls. It’s like going around curves and when the ship pitches it’s like hills, although the effort doesn’t change.


     Down in the winch room where all the cable for underwater work is stored there is a rack filled with bikes. When the ship comes into port the handiest way to get around is on bikes so many of the crew keep a bike on board. You can get around a lot easier than just walking and it saves money on cab or bus fare. Besides that it has to be nice to roll along after having been cooped up on this ship.


Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 12-10-2009 and tagged

      What if we could have a better idea of when an earthquake or Tsunami might occur? Would it be helpful if we could forecast these types of events just like the weather? If we could, would communities along our coastlines be better prepared and know what to do when Tsunamis strike? I asked these questions in an essay prompt earlier last week. This is a really important question to ask ourselves because this is really what our whole cruise is all about. Chris Goldfinger and his team hope to look at the history in the layers of the sediment to be able to identify any patterns that might be present and see if they can use those patterns to forecast what seismic events might be likely to happen in the future.

     The word “forecast” is really important too. We know that we will never be able to predict what will happen in the future; mother nature is impossible to predict. Like Meteorologists use clues from the earth’s atmosphere and pressure systems to forecast the likelihood of what weather patterns might occur, Seismologists and Geologists can look at clues from the past that are hidden in sediment layers to forecast the likelihood of an earthquake event happening again in the future.

     What is the link between Earthquakes and Tsunami? Good question! Remember the first blog about tectonic plates? Look at this model of a subduction zone similar to the one in the Pacific Northwest US.


     Do you see a subduction zone? Remember a subduction zone is created when one plate sinks under another one. You should see it right next to the coastline in the photo above. There are lots of forces going on in this picture. There is a divergent plate boundary in the middle of the ocean. The plates are trying to spread out as new plate material is formed and this causes pressure to build up along the edges. There is also a divergent plate boundary in the middle of the continent. Do you see it? That is adding more pressure as those plates are trying to grow as well. Plus there is the pressure that must build up in the subduction zone before the plate can subduct.


      When a rupture occurs, pressure is released, and the ocean water is displaced causing a Tsunami.


      Immediately after an earthquake at the coastline, the ocean recedes back like in the second box above. This action creates a large surge of water that forces its way onshore. See how the water surges up on the land and covers the rock? If scientists can forecast the likelihood of earthquakes that occur in these subduction zones, then they can also forecast the potential for a Tsunami.

      Forecasting Tsunami can be really important for communities. Red Cross stated on their website that just during the time we have been out to sea, two really horrible Tsunamis occurred in Indonesia affecting over 800,000 people.


     If we can educate our communities about what to do in the event of a Tsunami, we can help save many people’s lives. We can change the way buildings are constructed along our coastlines and we can create evacuation practices that help people get to safety as quickly as possible.

     The USGS website has the following statement about the importance of geological research with respect to Tsunamis: “Tsunamis, often incorrectly referred to as “tidal waves,” can be generated by distant earthquakes and by local seismic events, submarine landslides, and volcanic eruptions. For ocean-crossing tsunamis, there is often sufficient time to evacuate distant coastal areas, but more timely and accurate real-time tsunami forecasts are needed to avoid costly false alarms. Local tsunamis generated by quakes on active seismic zones in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Caribbean, California, and Hawaii can arrive at nearby shorelines in minutes. In these cases, only better scientific understanding, informed disaster planning, and public education will save lives in future tsunamis. Protecting lives and property from tsunamis demands a clear understanding of how tsunamis are generated, the identification of likely areas at risk, and mitigation efforts based on public education.”

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 11-10-2009 and tagged


      One of the objectives of this cruise is to improve the maps of the seafloor. Sonar (sound transmitted through the water) is used to measure the water depth beneath the ship and this data is then used to generate the maps. When we are mapping the ship goes very slowly over the selected area gathering data. Topography is the term used for features that are above water and bathymetry is the term used for underwater mapping. The grey area represents the shallow waters right off the coast and as the color becomes darker the water becomes deeper. These maps are used to find good locations for cores that give a good picture of sediment history of the region. The submarine canyons in this picture were once connected to coastal rivers during ice ages. Sea level was much lower because of all the ice tied up in glaciers. As the glaciers melted the resulting water submerged the mouths of the canyons and stranded them from the rivers. By studying the layers of sediment in these canyons we can begin to construct a geologic history of the area. Organisms are continuously dying and falling down and being deposited on the seafloor. This deposited material is hemipelagic clay. When an earthquake happens, sandy like material from the rivers is moved from the shallow areas into the canyons. These sandy layers are the turbidites that we have been looking for in our cores.

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 11-10-2009 and tagged


      Terry and Jim are in the engine control room. Terry, the tall, blond-haired man, has told me a lot of how he became an engineer. Back in 1980, he started out with an associates degree and ‘came up through the hawse pipe’ with on-the-job training and experience. One can still enter the marine industry this same way today, but a faster method to the top is to obtain a bachelors degree in engineering.

      The engineers don’t just monitor and work on the engines. They make potable water from sea water, provide HVAC services for the vessel, control and maintain the equipment used for lighting and propulsion, as well as assist the science mission as needed. The engine room is huge. The engineering spaces account for approximately 60% of the bottom of the ship. It not only contains the ships six diesel generators, but also houses thrusters, a large oceanographic winch, reverse osmosis water makers, the sewage system, and the two large 3000 horsepower propulsion electric motors. We currently have approximately 60 people on board the vessel Thomas G. Thompson. Our community consists of the Captain, Mates, ABs (Able Bodied Seamen), Engineers, Oilers, Stewards (cook and help), Marine Techs, Science Party, Coring Crew, and three Teachers at Sea.

      I have taken many pictures of the extraordinarily large engine room. Both Terry and Jim are quite personable men. Good personal relations and being accepting of other people are necessary when working and living 24 / 7 on a ship at sea. Communications and patience are a large part of working on a vessel such as the Thomas G. Thompson. Marine crew members in this industry often work a rotating time on / off schedule, such as 2 months on, 2 months off. There is good opportunity, but perseverance is required!

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 11-10-2009 and tagged

Ben McKee, Marine Technician, Before graduating High School worked at sea on and off for the next three years and earned his diploma through a non-traditional setting. He spent the next ten years working on traditional sailing ships as a mariner without any science connection. Ben was called by Raytheon Polar Services to work for the National Science Foundation aboard the Research Icebreaker “Nathanial B. Palmer”.

Ben McKee

Now Ben runs his own Marine Repair Business out of Bellingham, and goes to sea occasionally. On this cruise, Ben makes about $300.00 a day. Ben is a temp. for University of Washington. He receives a higher wage as there is no benefits and no guarantee of further work.

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 08-10-2009 and tagged

Latitude N 39 04.5843
Longitude W 124 23.3778
Heading 257 degrees


      Modern GPS systems are truly a marvel. Satellites beam down from space an exact position. There are read-outs in several areas of the ship so that it is easy to know where we are at all times. How did sailors navigate before computers and satellites? Part of the answer is in the instrument that I am holding in the picture. It is a sextant. At the most basic level it is used to determine the angle of the sun above the horizon. The earth follows a known path around the sun. The angle of the earth to the rays of the sun changes throughout the year. As you move on the earth’s surface the angle also changes. These angles for any point on the surface of the earth and at any point in time can be calculated or taken from tables and charts in navigation books. You match the angle observed with the sextant to the information in the books- do some fairly simple calculations and the position of the ship can be determined.


      The second mate of the ship is Eric Haroldson. He is showing how to take a sight of the sun. It is also possible to take a sighting of the moon or stars. The angle of the earth to the moon or the stars is also known and can be calculated or determined from the books. Eric is a graduate of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Part of his training at the academy was to learn how to navigate without the use of GPS. It’s good to know that if for some reason all of our modern navigation aids failed-he and all the other officers of the ship would know how to get us back to port. That of course is extremely unlikely. It is however, it is really cool to know how to get from one place to another with nothing more than simple navigation tools like a sextant and charts.

      To use the sextant you look at the horizon through the eye piece -you move the sextant up until you have the Body (sun moon, Jupiter etc) in view. This can be hard on a rolling ship. You kind of have to roll the sextant around with the roll of the ship. Once you have the body you move the angle indicator on the bottom of the sextant until the body is on the horizon. You make some fine adjustments with the orange knob and you have the angle of the sun to the horizon. This angle can be read on the indicators on the sextant. All kinds of adjustments have to be made. One is that we were not standing on the same level as the horizon but rather up on the bridge of the ship 50+ feet above the water line. There are adjustments to be made for the time of day and year. The math skills required to do this are not really all that difficult. Most of the math is simple addition or subtraction. It can get a little complicated with keeping the units straight. The units are 10th’s and hundredths of minutes and degrees. Reading tables and charts is of course also very important. You also have to learn what steps to follow in the sequence of steps.

Filed Under (cruise blog) by Ting on 07-10-2009 and tagged


Here are two different images of the sonar mapping (The second image will be added later). The light colored area above the bands is the water. The light area below the bands is where the sonar strength has weakened. The red vertical writing is the position of the ship as it moves up the coast. The blue numbers are depths in meters from the surface. The lighter bands in between the dark bands are when the earthquakes were not as active. Instead of being sand it is mostly hemipelagic clay which is the deposition of all the organisms dying and “raining” down the dark bands are sandy layers (turbidites) that reflect the sonar waves better than the clay. The sand is carried by the rivers out from the land onto the continental shelf. When an earth quake occurs the sand is shaken down onto the lower seafloor. Time passes, more material rains down from the ocean and then another cluster of earthquake happens and another turbidite layer is formed. As you can see there is a regular pattern of earthquake activity. We could be in for a relatively quiet time or perhaps a large earthquake (with the resulting tsunami) could happen sometime soon. The cores we have been taking are a vertical slice down through the ocean floor and back in time.

Pacific White Sided Dolphins
Morgan Erhardt took the picture off the starboard side of the ship