Cruise diary

Tuesday 5th August 2003

Dave writes...

"This will be my penultimate diary entry so I will try to make it a good one… here we go.

It has just occurred to me that when I start my PhD at the beginning of October there will be a fair number of people who have read this diary at the SOC and they will have formulated preconceptions about me. I’m not sure whether it is a good thing or not. I thought it would have been quite nice to started the PhD with a clean slate although it will give me something to talk about now. How can I possibly live up to the high standards I have set?!

Yesterday I felt fairly grim. I didn’t want to say anything because I have my masculinity to protect, but Andy and Rex admitted to feeling slightly queasy (they don’t mind whinging like a bunch of big girls). It was due to the settled conditions, we think it is negative sea sickness as you over compensate for the lack of movement of the ship. We are waiting to see if we get land sick. I should imagine I will be walking in a zigzag.

This morning I was rudely awoken by the sound of mashing gears and violent shaking, I later learnt that Tina had taken the wheel. I was assured that no lasting damage had been done to the ship. I just hope they don’t let her park it!

Last night I used up my phone card by calling my phoning my girlfriend, Ruth, on the satellite phone. It was definitely worth the expense. I gained me numerous brownie points (watch and learn chaps).

Tonight there was a presentation to the Captain. It was to thank him for his contribution to science as he is retiring when we get back to the Seychelles. The plaque was made out of wood with a chunk of Carlsberg Ridge basalt attached, and it had a bronze tablet with an inscription that commemorated the cruise. The master then gave a small speech and thanked us all

Sunset is definitely my favourite part of the day. The reason I love it so much is that I have always just eaten a massive amount of pies and cakes with additional lard sauce, which is really gratifying. Lots of people gather on the after deck and just sit and chat so it the most social time of the day and the sunset is really spectacular at times. I have yet to see the illusive 'green flash' which occurs as the sun goes down as the light refracts on a single wave. The flash only happens when the weather is fairly clear which precludes it from happening at the moment.

Here are some great pictures of the famed sunsets that we’ve been having: They remind me of certain Turner paintings...

Dave- hoping for a career in modelling
(Village People, me thinks – chief sci.)

Blofeld: alive and well on the Charlie D.
("No Mr Bond, I expect you to die!")

Left: Bram contemplates a new career as gangsta rapper

In retrospect, I’d like to say that I have very much enjoyed the cruise and that it has been an incredible experience for me. I don’t know anyone at home who has had this kind of opportunity. I have absolutely no regrets about coming on the trip, I would do this cruise again. However I don’t think I would ever actively seek out a life at sea, it must get a bit lonely. This trip has been good because the people have been great and it is all new to me. I have found that I had hidden journalistic talents for reporting the truth (Pah). I would like to thank Bram and Rex for making this trip possible, but especially Rex for inviting me on the trip, cheers. The crew have been brilliant so no need to worry at OED.

I hope you all have enjoyed reading about the crazy high-jinks we get up to onboard and have had as much fun as I have finding out about the more serious science side to the cruise. I will endeavour to get a entry out tomorrow, but no promises..."

Tina writes...

"This morning I struggled out of bed early so I could have a go at steering the ship. Usually the autopilot takes over routine sailing (and only docking or special manoeuvres are done manually). But when training for a career at sea, all the nautical skills are still taught, both in colleges and on the ship. Although most of the ships’ operations are computerised or automatic, there must still be people who understand the basis of the work, and provide back-up and knowledge when required.

I spent about 45 minutes correcting the course given (we are sailing south, about 175degrees on the compass). Each time the ship moved slightly off course, I had to ease her back using the wheel (giving the rudder 5-10 degrees port or starboard). When you’ve adjusted the course, the ship then tends to oversteer the other way, so you have to pre-empt this by slightly compensating in the opposite direction. There were also a few direct orders from the (OOW) Officer On Watch, Phil Gauld, to move the ship port and starboard a few degrees, then back to midships. It takes a lot of concentration at first, and can be tiring, so usually people take the wheel for an hour at a time. Then you can build up to just over 10 hours and earn your 'Steering Ticket', proving your competence at the wheel.

I was zig-zagging a bit (between 170-180 degrees) until the lookout, Phil Allison gave me some training and showed how little adjustment is actually required to bring the ship back on course. It’s better to wait patiently to see the entire result of the corrections you make, rather than steer in the opposite direction too soon. After 45 minutes I was happy to let the autopilot take over and go for a cup of tea.

Part of the engine room: very noisy, but very clean!

Later in the morning ‘Jet’ Jetwa, our Chief Engineer, gave me a tour of the engine rooms. Because of the noise, heat and danger in the engine rooms, visits have to be arranged in advance, ideally in calm weather and when everything is running smoothly. You have to wear safety boot and ear defenders, and tread carefully.
Jet was born in Uganda and moved to England as a child, starting his career at sea in 1969 aged 17. There is a 5 year college training schedule, with seagoing experience, then depending on talent and ambition, you can make your way up to Chief Engineer (through 3rd Engineer and 2nd Engineer ranks). Jet took 10 years to make his first Chief position, and was Chief on board the Discovery for 5 years before coming to Darwin last year. The most striking thing about Jet’s engine rooms is how clean, tidy and organised they are.

Jet at the controls

Not a sweetie machine - an ear plug dispenser

Including the Chief, the engine room is run by a team of six. The engineers work days (not 4-hour watches), and have a call out rota at night. To establish this routine, the engine rooms have to be validated as an Unmanned Machinery Space, safe to leave overnight without manual supervision. Lloyds the insurers have to verify on a regular basis that the ships’ engine rooms are run so well that they can be automated overnight in this way. For this reason, the various alarms are tested each day, to make sure they will work when required.

In the engine rooms is the plant that converts salt water to fresh water, this provides water for the showers, toilets and general washing purposes on board.

Salt water into fresh

Main propellor shaft

Even though there is no science ongoing at the moment, normal ships’ operations continue, including the scheduled maintenance and repairs. Today the crew have been busy cleaning the paintwork and decks with an acid solution, repainting areas that require a fresh coat and scrubbing away rust and dirt. The vents for the fuel tanks and engines also need monthly maintenance, this involves removing the anti-spark mesh for each, cleaning and then reassembling. Chris Hunter and Robin Brown have been harnessed to the starboard gantry, replacing cables on the CTD load cell.

‘Tiny’ Pook (CPO Deck), maintenance on vents.

Bob (Bosun’s mate) cleaning paintwork

I took a walk along deck to the F’o’c’sle (or Forecastle at the bow), to look where we are heading. From the F’o’c’sle, you can look back at the bridge, and above the bridge is ‘Monkey Island’, the communications centre, where the radar, satellite and aerials are located. On Monkey island you can see the words GDLS in red paint, for observation from above. GDLS is the Darwin’s callsign, assigned at registration.

Repairs on load cell on starboard gantry

The F’o’c’sle

Paul Duncan, our IT tech, instructed Sophie to go into the DartCom satellite imaging dome (which rceieves images from the Noah and Fengyun satellites). She crawled under the dome to connect a replacement IMU (an inductive motion unit that compensates for the movement of the ship as it relates to the satellite location). Paul then took this shot of the satellite dome with legs…

Monkey Island

Sophie the Dome Raider

Chris enjoying his cream tea

At tea-time (about 2.30pm on board), the chef puts out a snack in the duty mess. Sometimes these are chocolate cakes, crispies or cheese scones. Today was the full cream tea, a wonderful sight that gets everyone smiling..."

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