>Sailing For Science

>On April 5th, SYCAMORE hosted a group of students from Cordova High School on the 3rd annual Marine Biology Cruise. This year, 14 students and 4 teachers and science professionals arrived at our dock at 0830 ready to set sail for science.

After a welcome by the captain and safety brief, the students were given tours of the ship by MK2 Chittick and MK2 Cook. They were shown spaces from the bridge to below decks and learned about all of SYCAMORE’s capabilities, including our main job of ATON to our lesser known Spilled Oil Response System. They were even given a peek at life aboard ship and saw both enlisted and officer crew berthing spaces.

Once SYCAMORE arrived on station in Simpson Bay, the students and instructors began deploying their instruments and collecting data. A plankton net, a temperature and salinity measuring device, and a sediment dredge were all sent over the side of the buoy deck. Deck force helped make sure everyone was being safe, but the students did all the hard work of hauling up the instruments.

Photos: (left) BM2 Siegel holds onto Alice Dou-Wang from the Prince William Sound Science Center as she lowers an instrument over the side for sampling. (below) SN Dumais stands by as safety observer while the students pull up a sediment sample.

Even with only a few quick samples, the waters of Prince William Sound yielded some fascinating creatures. Even the crew wanted to check them out.

Photo: BM2 Siegel looks at zooplankton with Cara Heitz, a science teacher at Cordova High School.

Once the work over the side was complete, it was time for the crew to show what they knew. BM3 Juel and BM2 Siegel gave a presentation on the proper donning of and the equipment associated with a survival suit.

Photos: (right) SN Dobson dons a survival suit while BM3 Juel and BM2 Siegel instruct on its features and capabilities. (below) SN Dobson models an Ocean Commander survival suit while BM2 Siegel points out its features.


Following the presentation, the students raced the crew in teams of four to see who could get into their gumby suits the fastest. SN Dobson, SN Warren, FN McGriff, and BM3 Berchem represented all the departments of SYAMORE. The Coast Guard team encountered a delay when one of the team got caught in his whistle lanyard, but his shipmates straightened him out and eventually all made it into their suits. The students showed their true Alaskan roots by rapidly slipping into their suits, with most teams finishing in under a minute. We don’t need to worry about these kids when they go out fishing with their friends and families this summer.
Photos: (top) BM3 Berchem helps SN Warren don his survival suit in a race against the students. (middle) A student squirms to get his suit on in a race against his classmates and SYCAMORE’s crew. (bottom) A team of students gather for a group photo after finishing in an astonishing 57 seconds.
After a hearty lunch of ½ pound burgers and fries, the teams rotated through stations, taking water samples on the buoy deck, driving mini-ROVs through an obstacle course, and looking at the critters brought up in the morning’s plankton tow under microscopes on the messdeck. A few of the crew members jumped in to check out the microscopes and ROV challenge.

Photos: (above) Students try their hand at controlling a mini-ROV through an obstacle course. (right) Students use microscopes to draw phyto- and zooplankton on the messdeck.

While the students were busy at their stations, the captain volunteered to add to the day of learning by catching some fish for dissection. Soon fishing poles were over the side and three Pacific Cod were brought up for study. ENS Geyer pulled the fish apart, showing the students the inner workings of cod, from their digestive tracts and parasites to their brains and earbones.

Photos: (left and right) LT Tschirgi and CDR Houck do their part to contribute to science. (below) ENS Geyer shows the brain and earbones of a Pacific Cod during dissection.
On the return transit to Cordova, the students watched a film on the messdeck about Alaska’s salmon sharks and a few came up to the bridge to observe our full Navigation team in action while we moored up and hear about possible career opportunities for them in the Coast Guard.
Overall, the day was a great success, with lots of learning and fun for both the students and SYCAMORE’s crew. We look forward to hosting Cordova’s science classes for many years to come.

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