As we are now on our way home we’d like to tell you a bit more about how the ship operates. Kay has been acting as our roving reported, pestering Kieron Hailes (the third officer) to find out about the ship navigation systems.
We’re lucky to have the opportunity to conduct our research aboard a state-of-the-art vessel like the RRS James Cook. If you think about it, it’s really amazing that we (and of course by we I mean the ISIS team and the crew!) can put ISIS overboard and, at the bottom of the ocean 3 kilometres below, land the ROV exactly where we want to! This kind of precision is essential for us as scientists, since we want to make sure we’re looking at the geological features we are aiming for.
In order to make this happen, the James Cook is equipped with a dynamic positioning system, which is not something that all ocean-going vessels have. The dynamic positioning system works in this way: First, on the bridge, the ship’s captain or officers can tell a computer exactly where we’d like to go. Then, the computer uses the ship’s satellite to figure out exactly where we are, and based on that, figures out exactly how fast all the propellers and thrusters need to be turning in order to send us where we want to go (or keep us where we want to be, if we want to stay in one place but the wind is blowing us off-course). Another bonus of the dynamic positioning system is that sometimes when we operate in windy conditions the officer on the bridge can point the ship into the wind so the ship doesn’t pitch and roll too much, but the ship is actually travelling backwards or sideways. Altogether, the ship has 2 propellers near the rudder, 2 bow thrusters (tunnels through the front of the ship), 2 stern thrusters (tunnels near the back of the ship), and an azimuth thruster, which sticks out of the bottom of the ship and can point in any direction.
Kieron hard at work