D341: Porcupine Abyssal Plain cruise 2009


Cruise blog

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Welcome to the Engine Room

We have been asked to write this blog entry describing a typical day in the Engine Room.  The short answer to that is there is no such thing as a “typical day” because anything can (and usually does) happen at any time!

On D341 the Engineering Department consists of:

Chris C. - Chief Engineer
Mark C. - 2nd Engineer
John H. - 3rd Engineer
Edin S. - 3rd Engineer
Bob M. - Electro-Technical Officer (ETO)
Duncan L. - Motorman

Bob M.

Chris C.

Duncan L.

Edin S.

Johnny H.

Mark C.

We are responsible for maintaining the ship’s engines and systems to provide power for propulsion, navigation, science, light, air conditioning, cooking and much, much more. Discovery has 4 Main Engines coupled to electrical generators supplying 415 Volts AC to the main switchboards.  The total power output is enough to light 50,000 light bulbs, or 35 family cars. Fuel consumption is approximately 6.8 gallons of Diesel fuel oil per nautical mile, which equates to 7.5 tonnes per day at 10 knots.  Discovery can carry 512 tonnes of fuel oil and we will use approximately £94,000 of fuel during this cruise. Discovery also carries 208 tonnes of Fresh Water and we have evaporators so that we can make our own water to top up the tanks.

The ship is powered through the water by means of a large electric motor coupled to a 4-bladed bronze propeller.  The motor, prop shafts and propeller are the only items of machinery remaining of the original ship built in 1962.  There is also a Bow Thruster, fitted in 1981 which allows control over the direction of the bow (front) of the ship which is useful when coming into port and vital to hold the ship in the correct direction when we are on station. 

Our main duties are to carry out routine maintenance on the machinery in the engine room and to rectify any breakdowns that occur.  So far this cruise we have changed the oil in two engines, repaired air conditioning fans, replaced hydraulic hoses and control faults on the cranes, repaired emergency light fittings and overhauled laundry equipment.

Among that list are jobs that were done on a routine schedule and some that were due to breakdown.  The routine jobs are known as Planned Maintenance and follow a schedule which is generated and recorded on a computer in the Engine Room.  Every week we can view the jobs that are due and complete them.  The basic idea is that a little amount of time and inspection on a regular basis can identify bigger problems before they occur.  Maintenance which is not planned is known as Breakdown Maintenance.  We carry lots of spare parts and we use this stock to repair or replace items which are worn out.

We also maintain the Hydrographic Winch Suite, which is being used in this cruise for CTDs, SAPS, Coring and deployment of ARIES.  Some of the storage winches contain up to 12,000metres of wire.  There are sophisticated systems built into the winches to accurately calculate the amount of wire which has been wound out, speed of deployment or recovery and the weight on the cable.  A CTD weighs around 400kg when it is on deck, but 4,000metres down there is over 2 tons measured in the load cell.  The extra weight comes from the amount of wire that has been deployed.  Recently there have been extensive modifications carried out to the Winch Suite and we are proud to say that these modifications have vastly improved the reliability and ease of use of the system.

Charlotte and Jennifer recently described a day in the life of a scientist and explained how they work watches – as do the Navigating Officers.  In the Engine Room it is slightly different...

The Engine Room operates on a UMS system, (Unmanned Machinery Space).  This means that the Engine Room does not have to be continuously manned by watchkeeping Engineers.  Instead we work from 8am to 6pm, and every night there is a Duty Engineer who is on call to answer any alarms that may occur during his duty period.  We each take it in turns to carry out a duty day and the Duty Engineer is responsible for keeping the daily service fuel tanks topped up, pumping out waste water from the engine room bilges, logging the running parameters of the propulsion plant and basically keeping an eye on things to make sure the engine room is run cleanly, efficiently and safely at all times.  An Engineer can use all five of his senses when carrying out his rounds:

Touch: Is something hotter, colder than usual or vibrating?

Sight: Are there any oil / water leaks?

Hearing: Is an engine or pump making a noise that it usually doesn’t?

Smell: Smelling fuel oil may mean there is a leakage.

Taste: See that water leak?  Taste to see if it’s fresh or salty – it’s a good start to identifying the source!  (It’s also a good idea to sniff it first to make sure there are no chemicals!)

We hope you have enjoyed this insight into life “down below”.  We often take scientists on tours of the Engine Room and they are surprised by how much machinery there is – not to mention the noise and heat!

Chris  & the Discovery Engineers

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