There are 3 places on board where we can steer the ship. First and foremost is the bridge. This is where either the Captain or one of the mates can be found and usually who has control.
The second place we can steer from is the Main Lab. This is where the science party can be found on shift, doing data quality control, taking logs and monitoring all the equipment. We often steer from here while collecting data to keep our streamers recording at full coverage. There are A LOT of screens in here!
The final place we can steer to boat from is the engine room. This area is usually off-limits for the science party, but today we were lucky enough to be taken on an engine room tour.
The chief engineer Matt took us into ‘the belly of the beast’, as he called it, where all the machinery that keeps the boat up and running can be found. After a brief chat in the control room, we put on our ear protectors and went exploring.
The engines themselves are pretty huge, and are used to power 2 rotating shafts which drive the boat. Matt took the cover off so we could see all the pistons moving as the engine chugged away. The shafts are attached to propeller blades which can be moved outwards, perpendicular to the rotation, to control the ship’s speed. The speed of the ship depends on the angle of the propellers. The engine produces a huge amount of heat, but this is not wasted and is used to create fresh water for us while on board. Fresh water can be made in 2 ways on here, by an evaporator which harnesses heat produced by the engine, and we top this up by reverse osmosis of sea water.
There are 2 other, smaller engines that are used to power the compressor. This is a five-stage process which compresses air to 2000psi for use in our data acquisition. This is all done below deck. Besides the scientific side, all the practicalities for life on board stem from the engine room. There are machines for air conditioning, hot water, freezers and waste down here. There is also a separate room of hydraulic equipment for closing watertight doors and using winches and cranes.
Besides the chief, there are 3 engineers, Mike, Joseph and Alexander, as well as 3 oilers, Guillermo, Gregory and Jack and one electrician, Michael. They spend most of their time in the very hot and noisy engine room making sure we are plain sailing as we collect all out data. It was really amazing to see the scale of operations going on just below us, and how much it takes to keep us going, all the way from driving our data acquisition to making sure we have a warm shower.
Besides this fun afternoon, data acquisition is going really well with 3 lines to go! We have had some great weather and made the most of it with dinners on deck and some beautiful scenery of New Zealand when data collection brings us close enough to land.
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