The Study of Sound

Technicians Gabriela and Jeremy deploy a surface buoy. Below the surface is a
thermistor string, along with floats and weights to keep it vertical in the water column.

Dr. Bill Hodgkiss is back aboard R/V Sally Ride, along with engineers and technicians from his group at SIO’s Marine Physical Laboratory (MPL). As with their cruise last year, which was the ship’s first official science verification cruise, they have brought along multiple instruments used to study acoustics off the coast of Southern California. On that cruise, the moorings were anchored to the seafloor using old train wheels. This expedition, however, focuses on drifting moorings that are not anchored. Instead they are connected to surface buoys with GPS for keeping track of its position, as well as lights and a beacon to aid in recovery.

The sound source is deployed and towed behind the ship for a few hours
each day.

In order to calibrate the acoustic instruments deployed, a sound source is towed behind the ship. The known noise level and distance from the recording devices puts every other noise recorded into perspective. CTD casts are also performed on a regular basis in order to provide a sound speed profile (more on the importance of that in this post). An echosounder survey was also conducted in order to determine the properties of the seafloor (see more about the Chirp system here). 

This science party has been aboard a few times, and always puts Sally Ride through her paces, using ship’s equipment such as the crane and A-frame, as well as the CTD and many other shipboard science systems. Not to mention the bridge crew who navigate the ship with the necessary precision and help look out for floats upon recovery. Thankfully, the Hodgkiss group also come prepared and have a lot of experienced hands, so it’s time well spent.



Shipyard Upgrades In Action

R/V Sally Ride has successfully completed two science cruises since leaving the shipyard last month. The first involved visiting a research site in the Gulf of Alaska in order to switch out long-term moorings. That cruise off-loaded in Newport, Oregon and the ship then headed to San Diego. Multiple Scripps technicians were onboard for the transit south in order to tie up loose ends (in some cases literally) and get the ship ready for the demands of a CalCOFI cruise. The seasonal trip fills the ship’s staterooms and labs with scientists and uses pretty much every capability – from underway sampling to deployments to sonars. And on this cruise, Dr. Uwe Send’s group also loaded up a buoy and other instruments as part of an opportunistic mooring deployment. So it was a very full ship!

The new main lab setup. For pictures of the lab before the shipyard changes,
check out this post

You may remember that the CalCOFI group was also aboard Sally Ride for their fall trip last November. So they were able to compare the ship as it was then, after just a few science verification cruises, and now, after the shipyard period. What made the most difference to them was the reconfigurable lab spaces. Gone are the rows of narrow tabletops with cabinets above and below, replaced with custom-made easy to move nesting tables of varying sizes and heights. They come with the extra perk of storage space underneath and it’s a necessity at sea that everything be easily secured. The tables bolt into the floor, the lab has holes every two feet in a grid pattern, and gear can be screwed into the tabletop or strapped to the frame. “The new tables are great!” says CalCOFI Chief Scientist Jen Wolgast, adding that it made it much easier for the various groups aboard to have the work areas that they needed while sharing limited space. “It’s nice to be able to get to all sides of the tables, it lets people move around easier,” said LTER scientist Shonna. I’m glad to hear that the new lab setup is working well, and can’t wait to see how each science party customizes it.

The forward area of the wet lab, now with a watertight door leading
out onto the deck near the CTD sampling area. Note CalCOFI’s famous
espresso setup – they know how to live.

The wet lab also got an update. As outlined in a previous post, the name was a bit too literal at first. Sister ship R/V Neil Armstrong was first out of the yard, and reported water making its way into the wet lab through the rolling door connecting it to the starboard working deck. Now, that door has been converted to a solid wall and instead there’s a watertight door that leads from the forward part of the wet lab out onto deck. Chief Scientist Jen Wolgast reports, “We used the door from the wet lab to help with landing the CTD, it’s in the perfect spot to assist with getting the rosette right where we need it in order to sample all the way around.”  

The forward 01 deck also got reinforced so that containers can be housed there, both for storage and additional lab space. This was quite an undertaking in the shipyard, and there are dramatic photos of the transformation in a previous post. A second ladder (stairway, see header photo) was added from the forward focsle deck, so that there’s still easy access no matter where the containers are placed. No science group has needed that extra functionality yet, but you can be sure that once they do, you’ll see pictures of it here. 


Commissioned Art on the Ship

Living and working aboard R/V Sally Ride involves a lot of transiting through hallways and stairwells to get between labs, staterooms, the lounge, the galley, etc. One could be forgiven for not noticing the beautiful piece of artwork in the main stairwell, but it would be a shame. Commissioned by Sally Ride herself, artist Adam Koltz created a masterpiece in his style of drawing ships over nautical charts and, in this case, a sky chart. Tam O’Shaughnessy, Sally’s partner and the ship’s sponsor, donated it to the ship and it makes a gorgeous addition. 

The artwork on display in the stairwell of R/V Sally Ride. By Adam Koltz. Gifted by Tam O’Shaughnessy.

Tam recently told the story to UCTV for an upcoming special about the new ship. As she explains, “[Sally] had this idea and so she talked to the artist, Adam Koltz, and said, ‘I’m Sally Ride.’ And he knew who she was once he heard the name and so they came up with this plan. The Space Shuttle Challenger was named after the H.M.S., (Her Majesty’s Ship) Challenger. And it turns out that the H.M.S. Challenger actually did the first study [where] scientists were aboard. They did the first study of the world’s oceans so it couldn’t be more appropriate for the R/V Sally Ride. One of my duties being the ship’s sponsor was to give a gift to the ship and when that came to mind it’s like, ‘What could be more perfect?'” 

Indeed it is a wonderful parallel that the shuttle to carry Sally Ride to space on her historic flight in 1983, and again the following year, was named for a sailing vessel that undertook the first global marine expedition. From 1872-1876, Challenger travelled 68,890 nautical miles. Guns and other Naval equipment were traded for labs and extra bunks, so that oceanographers and naturalists could do their work aboard. One of the tasks was sounding, which determines the depth of the ocean using little more than a weight on the end of a rope. The deepest known area in the Mariana Trench is called the Challenger Deep, and James Cameron’s vehicle that reached it is Deepsea Challenger, both named after the ship who’s crew first made those readings. In case you’re wondering (I was), Challenger measured a depth of 8,184 meters in 1875, multibeam data now says it’s 10,984 at its deepest, and Deepsea Challenger landed on the eafloor at 10,898 meters.




A Quick Turnaround

Last week R/V Sally Ride returned to San Diego after months away. But that doesn’t mean that the ship or her crew got much of a break. Within 72 hours, they were underway again. The summer CalCOFI research cruise will spend 17 days at sea, occupying 75 science stations to collect data as part of its historic data set. 

The marine mammal acoustic team readies their array, while restechs
and technicians from Uwe Send’s lab bring a mooring buoy aboard.

First up, there was lots of gear to unload from the shipyard period. The ship’s crane alternated moving this off onto the dock, and bringing on gear from the many groups that participate in a CalCOFI cruise. It is a full ship, with the labs and staterooms full of scientists. The back deck is more crowded than usual, home to mooring instruments from Uwe Send’s group that will be deployed once all the usual station work is complete. This is a project of opportunity that is part of a NOAA-funded array making observations in the CalCOFI region

The crew also had a few projects to complete, so everybody pitched in to get the ship ready. 

You may remember that Sally Ride hosted the fall CalCOFI cruise last November. To learn more about the science taking place onboard in the next few weeks, check out these posts from that time.

Science Focus: Hydrography

Science Focus: Fisheries

Science Focus: Marine Mammal Observations

Science Focus: Long Term Ecological Research

Science Focus: Plankton sensor

Project of Opportunity: Quantifying Carbon Export


Reunited in Newport

This week, two of Scripps Institution of Oceanography’s research vessels – Sally Ride and Roger Revelle – were in Newport, Oregon in order to offload gear. Both Oregon State University and NOAA have wharf facilities on Yaquina Bay, where their own research vessels live, and scientists from those institutions (among others) were aboard the SIO ships. Sally Ride just completed a successful mooring switch-out in the Gulf of Alaska and Revelle is being used to launch WHOI’s ROV Jason (who you may remember came aboard Sally Ride back in November) on a series of research expeditions this summer. 

R/V Sally Ride (left) and R/V Roger Revelle were both tied up in Newport, Oregon this past week. Photo by UNOLS technician Tina Thomas.

Though there are a few ways to distinguish the ships from each other, the easiest is the placement of their HiSeasNet internet domes. As you can see in the photo above, Revelle‘s is up at the very top of the mast (right), whereas Sally Ride has two on the deck above the bridge

The tides and currents getting in to Yaquina Bay can be pretty extreme, requiring planning in order to navigate safely in the channel and under the arch bridge that spans the bay as part of scenic Route 101. Large ships like the research vessels time their entries and exits for the “stand of the tide.” Also known as slack water or slack tide, this is the time in the tidal cycle where water is neither ebbing nor flowing. If there’s any delay, the ship has to wait close to six hours for the next window of opportunity.  

R/V Roger Revelle (left) photographed by Sally Ride‘s Chief Engineer Paul Bueren as it arrives in Newport. R/V Sally Ride (right) as it departs Newport. This was photographed by restech Josh Manger from the deck of Revelle at the same time the header photo (top of the page) was taken by Chief Mate Wes Hill from the deck of Sally Ride.

Many crew members in the Scripps fleet have worked aboard both research vessels at some point in their career, so there’s a lot of overlap, camaraderie, and friendships among the crews of Sally Ride and Revelle. There were excursions around town while both ships were in port – to see the sights, eat excellent seafood, and of course visit the local brewery. 

R/V Revelle has a few more trips in and out of Newport in the coming weeks, but R/V Sally Ride is now on her way home to San Diego. Stay tuned to the ship’s social media pages for pictures of her triumphant return after months away!

Mooring Work in the Gulf of Alaska

R/V Sally Ride is back out at sea after months of upgrades in the shipyard. This first research cruise has scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Oregon State University working on site at an array of moorings in the Gulf of Alaska to recover and deploy anchored strings of oceanographic instrumentation.

Illustration of all the equipment monitoring station Papa.
From OOI’s website.

Station Papa has been a community study site for nearly 70 years and currently supports multiple mooring strings, including a NOAA surface buoy. The OOI (Ocean Observatories Initiative) has been deploying three moorings there since 2013. Once a year, a research vessel full of OOI scientists and technicians makes the trip in order to change out equipment. This year’s trip aboard R/V Sally Ride will recover and deploy replacements of all three OOI mooring strings. All three deployments have taken place and recoveries have just been completed successfully. Each deployment takes up a whole day of work, as they are over 4,000 meters (two and a half miles!) long. They sit on the bottom of the ocean, weighed down by a 6,000 pound anchor, and reach to either 30 or 150 meters below the surface. Check out an earlier post about moorings, back when the ship was in science verification mode, for more details about how scientists use the ship’s equipment to deploy and recover instruments. 

Technicians prepare to deploy a WFP, which travels part of the mooring wire
to sample at different depths. Photo by UNOLS technician Tina Thomas.

There are multiple sensors on each string, including for temperature, salinity, oxygen, fluorescence, turbidity, and density. CTD casts are taken with each deployment in order to calibrate the new sensors using those connected to the rosette frame. Water from the bottles is analyzed in the lab onboard as well. One of the moorings has two WFPs (Wire-Following Profilers, the yellow instrument in the photo on the right), each of which travels up and down a certain part of the wire, sampling throughout its assigned portion of the water column. Each mooring also has sonars to measure backscatter. The large orange spheres in the photo below contain acoustic sensors. A sound wave is produced, and the reflection recorded, from which plankton and other biological populations can be determined. These are similar to the fish finder sensor that Sally Ride has mounted to her hull. 

R/V Sally Ride‘s fantail is part storage (anchors at far left) and part working deck (the anchor to be used for this deployment is in place at the edge under the A-frame) during mooring deployments. The orange spheres house sonar equipment, and the yellow ones are floats that keep the mooring string straight in the water column and bring the instruments to the surface when it’s time for recovery. Photo by UNOLS technician Tina Thomas.

With scientific work completed, R/V Sally Ride has started transiting to Newport, Oregon for offloading. It will then head south to its home port of San Diego. A busy schedule of cruises kicks off with the summer CalCOFI trip. More on that soon!

Back to Work!

The final steps of the new paint job were done with the
entire ship under cover. Photo by 2nd Mate Randy Christian.

R/V Sally Ride is back in the water after two and half months in a shipyard dry dock in Alameda, California. As you may remember from previous posts (here and here), there was a lot of work done to the ship during that time. Everything on the to-do list has been completed, including the addition of a CTD hangar, a reinforced forward 01 deck, and a new paint job. The crew is excited to have the ship back, and took her out in San Francisco Bay for a series of sea trials to make sure all the systems are working properly.

Scientists are now onboard and loading their gear for a research cruise. It will be a mooring trip out to Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) array at Station Papa, which is in the Gulf of Alaska, about halfway between Seattle and the Aleutian Islands. As with other mooring trips aboard R/V Sally Ride, this one will include the deployment and recovery of instrumentation designed to spends months to years in the water column.  

The transition time between shipyard work and this research cruise is brief, so everyone has been working flat out to make it happen. It’s gone from the seeming chaos of just a week or two ago during the final stages of work in the shipyard to the orderly setup of the working deck, where every piece of equipment is secured in place and ready to head out to sea.

What a difference a week makes! The back working deck of R/V Sally Ride towards the end of shipyard work (left, photo by restech Keith Shadle). The walkway is actually the top of the ship’s A-frame, which is in maintenance mode, lowered all the way onto the deck. On the right, taken this week, all that clutter is gone, the A-frame is in its usual configuration, and mooring gear such as anchors and floats full of instrumentation have been loaded and secured in place. (Photo by 2nd Mate Randy Christian, note the lovely San Francisco skyline in the background.)

At the end of this cruise, R/V Sally Ride will return to her home port of San Diego, where there’s a busy schedule of research cruises for the rest of 2017. We hope you’ll follow along!

R/V Sally Ride is back in the water after two and a half months in a shipyard dry dock. As 2nd Mate Randy put it "…as…

Posted by UC San Diego R/V Sally Ride on Saturday, July 1, 2017







She is with us

Most scientists that I know are passionate people because they’re working in a field that they’re interested in. And the environment you work in is important. So if you’re on an expedition in the high seas and you’re on a ship like this that is comfortable, that is gorgeous but functional in a very beautiful way…it just facilitates the good work and helps the scientists.”  – Tam O’Shaughnessy

People around the world know the name Sally Ride. Her legacy is so much more than America’s first woman in space – she was an advocate for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education and an expert that NASA called on long after her retirement. Her name on the ship’s stern, and in every data file the shipboard instrumentation creates, means that we at Scripps will never forget that we are carrying on part of Sally Ride’s legacy. But there will soon be another addition that will keep her in the forefront of our minds. Tam O’Shaughnessy, co-founder of Sally Ride Science and Sally Ride’s life partner, has generously donated some personal effects to be housed in a shadow box on the ship. 

Sally Ride’s flight jacket.
Donated and photographed by Tam O’Shaughnessy.

This includes one of her NASA flight jackets and patches from both of her missions aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Also included is a copy of the “Ride Report,” officially known as “NASA Leadership and America’s Future in Space.” The report came from a task force led by Sally Ride and was issued in 1987. Among other things, it called for learning about Earth from outer space. As you may recall from Tam’s speech intended for the ship’s commissioning back in October, Sally Ride’s space flights led to her future environmental work. “Mission Planet Earth” is what she called it, later writing a book for kids of the same name. Tam donated a copy of that book, as well as “Mission: Save the Planet,” both of which they wrote together and were co-published by Roaring Brook Press and Sally Ride Science.

Mission patches and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Donated and photographed by Tam O’Shaughnessy.


Rounding out the shadow box aboard R/V Sally Ride is the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded posthumously by President Barack Obama in 2013.  Tam accepted the award in an emotional ceremony that acknowledged Sally Ride’s heroic legacy and her relationship with Tam. As the president said, “Sally didn’t just break the stratospheric glass ceiling, she blasted through it. Today, our daughters — including Malia and Sasha — can set their sights a little bit higher because Sally Ride showed them the way.”

You may remember from a recent post that sister ship R/V Neil Armstrong houses that astronaut’s Congressional Gold Medal on the bridge, awarded to each member of the Apollo 11 crew in 2011. Neil Armstrong was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Richard Nixon in 1969 upon returning from the moon. Tam says, “The Medal of Freedom is really a beautiful medal…it says Sally K. Ride on the back and I just decided ‘All I’ll do is keep this medal in the safe in my house, so why not have it be part of the shadow box?‘” Scripps is grateful for Tam’s generous gifts. On display aboard R/V Sally Ride, they will be admired by a generation of scientists, many of whom grew up with Sally Ride as a role model, and all of whom are expanding on her legacy. 

Quotes from Tam O’Shaughnessy are thanks to Shannon Bradley and UCTV, who interviewed her aboard R/V Sally Ride. More from that interview coming to UCTV later this summer, so stay tuned!

Shipyard Status Report

R/V Sally Ride is entering the last few weeks of a planned shipyard period. Crew members and technicians involved in the process have shared that the ship is almost unrecognizable as work is being done from top to bottom to make it a more efficient and adaptable member of the Scripps fleet. 

Click on any of the pictures below for a larger version. Unless otherwise noted, all photos are thanks to 3rd Mate Randy Christian. If you’re interested in more, a previous post contains details and pictures about some of the main projects, and there are more pictures here

One of the biggest projects has been upgrading the forward 01 deck. This required cutting away the original deck, while making sure to protect everything in the focsle deck staterooms below. A new deck was then brought onboard using a crane and is being welded into place. This deck is stronger and has securing points so that container vans can be placed on it, allowing for better use of space on the back working deck. 

The anchor chain has all been replaced. R/V Sally Ride has an anchor on each side of the bow, plus one spare, each weighing 5,000 pounds. Anchor chain is measured in “shots,” with each shot being 90 feet long. The ship has eight shots of chain, so 720 feet total on each side, which is stored in a special locker. Each shot of chain is connected by a detachable link, (painted white and red in the pictures below). The chain closest to the ship is painted red so that it’s obvious when the last shot is being paid out. The crew wants to avoid using this section, as it’s intended to be extra in case weather warrants a longer length.

The ship has gotten new paint, including anti-fouling paint on the underwater portions, which will discourage marine plants and animals from attaching or growing there. For a little while, the ship looked very different, as the undercoat is black. Soon enough, it was back to the usual red color. Next up is the blue, which has been sanded and is ready for a fresh coat, though I kind of like the denim look it’s sporting right now.

Technicians and crew members are taking advantage of the shipyard period to make upgrades to many of the systems onboard. Running new cables, cleaning outdoor or underwater surfaces, and calibrations are all taking place. This has led to the interesting photos below of people in cramped spaces, or checking out instrumentation that is usually underwater. 

This shipyard period has been a whirlwind of activity. R/V Sally Ride is on schedule for sea trials in a few weeks, and then back to science cruises right away, returning to San Diego later this summer. Stay tuned for more! 

On the East Coast

The view from the fantail of R/V Neil Armstrong. Active amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge and four YP (yard patrol) boats are tied up in the background. Midtown Manhattan looms in the fog. The oceanographic equipment in the foreground includes a REMUS autonomous vehicle outfitted with SharkCam. Check out amazing footage, and see how it got those scratches, here

I recently took a vacation to the East Coast, but couldn’t fully separate myself from R/V Sally Ride. Her sister ship R/V Neil Armstrong participated in New York City’s Fleet Week, so I got to see it as part of the Parade of Ships. It came down from Woods Hole, and lined up with aircraft carriers, destroyers, and other Navy ships to travel up the Hudson River, from the Statue of Liberty to the George Washington Bridge (see Twitter photo below). It then tied up at Pier 86, home of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum. Among other things, this museum showcases a retired aircraft carrier (USS Intrepid) and the space shuttle Enterprise, which was used only for test flights. Neil Armstrong was open for public tours during fleet week, and I jumped at the opportunity to scope out the differences between it and Sally Ride.

Neil Armstrong’s Medal of Honor is displayed on the bridge
of WHOI’s research vessel bearing his name.

Fundamentally, of course, they’re the same, and were made in the same shipyard. But there were some noticeable differences in how the crew and technicians that live and work there have set up their spaces. What on the Sally Ride is used as the electrician’s shop is assigned instead to the restechs on Armstrong, and their computer lab is more open lab space, instead of the server racks and desks for technicians on Sally Ride. The paint job is an obvious difference, with Armstrong’s house being a bit green instead of white. Officially it’s azure green, but is often referred to as “WHOI green” and has been used on all their modern research vessels. The memorabilia onboard is of course from a different famous astronaut, the first person to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong’s Congressional Medal of Honor is on display on the ship’s bridge. The ship also has the fortified 01 deck and CTD hangar currently being installed on Sally Ride already in place. 

Sally Ride’s flight suit from her historic Challenger mission.

Another stop along the way was Washington, D.C., where I spent most of a day at the National Air and Space Museum. Always a favorite amongst the Smithsonian Institution’s amazing offerings, it houses a mind-boggling amount of vehicles and artifacts from throughout the history of flight. This includes some of Sally Ride’s personal effects, which were donated by her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy. The flight suit she wore on her first shuttle mission is there, complete with patches and the simple ‘Sally’ name tag she chose to wear. Displayed alongside it is the flight suit of Dr. Guy Bluford, the first African-American in space. Both historic trips took place onboard Challenger in 1983. 

An interactive exhibit at the Air and Space Museum, where kids are encouraged
to move each shuttle through its history-making lifetime of missions.

Sally Ride’s legacy, and that of the space program in general, will endure forever, and it’s an honor for SIO and WHOI to be a part of it. When Sally Ride returns from shipyard, there will be a display of memorabilia added, including a flight jacket similar to the one above, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded posthumously in 2013 by Barack Obama. Look for more on this in a future post!