Cruise diary

Friday 1st August 2003

Dave writes...

"We went to the officers bar last night, it was very enjoyable as all the science party was up there celebrating the end of night shifts. Needless to say morale was high.

At present we are making our way to Mahe, but due to the strong current and wind we are not fairing well, making only about 3 knots on average. Good speed is around 10 knots so at this rate we won’t reach port for an extra three days. Nooooooo. We may have to get the oars out.

In the afternoon we had a safety drill with all of the crew. We then had a safety quiz which tested our survival knowledge. It goes without saying that I achieved top marks.

I had the pleasure of doing some launches of some oceanography probes that measure temperature and pressure. It is quite enjoyable, the probe comes in a black cylindrical tube with a plastic end and a metal pin in the middle. It looks a lot like a rocket propelled grenade launcher. When you pull the pin it shoots a metal head over the side of the ship and a trail of thin copper wire is reeled out from the cylinder. I got to do this twice as the first probe was faulty..."

Tina writes...

"We are working dayshifts now, so the first thing I did was sleep a lot today, then slept some more. I even saw dinner for the first time in weeks. The weather is still the biggest challenge, with winds of up to 30-35 knots and large swells. When we turned to head south it became obvious we might have difficulty getting to where we want to be in the time available. We still have over 800 nautical miles to travel, and so far we can’t get more than 4 knots out of the engines. While we are fighting the elements in front of us, we are on target to be late back in Seychelle waters. If we hit better weather with the wind behind us, we could still make our predicted schedule.

I heard a rumour about a safety we were able to swot up beforehand and still look surprised. At least we were more enthusiastic when Mike sprang it on us! Usually the science team has to go round the ship, finding the safety features (like the port liferaft for example, or the spare lifejackets) but the sea was too rough for this to be safe. So they held the quiz solely in the main lab instead.

The Darwin can make up to 11 knots (11 nautical miles an hour) in favourable conditions. She has an 8 cylinder diesel main engine, controlled from the bridge, and two auxillary engines (also 8 cylinder diesel). The auxillary engines usually power the ship’s services, including light, power and air conditioning. It’s seems strange that even though we are in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it can actually get really chilly in your cabin overnight, due to the fantastic air conditioning.

On the bridge, there is a wide range of navigation equipment, including radar and compasses (gyro and magnetic systems), echosounders and the autopilot (Racal Decca) that takes care of much of the course plotting and adjustment. However, there is still room for human interaction. Sometimes the possible course may be too uncomfortable (for the ship) due to excessive rolling, so the bridge instead plots a course a few miles away from the line, on a smoother heading until wind or sea conditions change in their favour. At night, there is a lookout posted on the bridge that can pick up small fishing trawlers that might have slipped under radar detection.

Navigational readout in main lab: you are ‘here’.

Much of the navigational information available is repeated on monitors in the science labs (left), for the team to add to the cruise logs and reports. At crucial times in the work, log entries may be made every ten minutes or so, reducing to every hour or few hours when the schedule only involves travelling towards the next site of interest.

In the evening, we hosted the joint birthday party in the Officers’ Bar (many thanks to Ray, John, and the Galley for this beanfeast). The chocolate gateaux (with cream icing) were especially well received.

Happy Birthdays (note absence of candles, due to possible fire hazard of so many lit flames)

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