Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Day 20 - The ship down below

The engineers are in charge of the ships engines, machinery, its smooth operation and repairs. It’s an important job and one that keeps the six engineers aboard hard at work.

One of the diesel-electric engines
Declan, the 3rd Engineer, passes me a pair of ear protectors as we begin our tour of the engine rooms below deck. The first things you notice are the four diesel-electric engines powering away, each producing 1550 KW. They provide us with the electricity used for the lights, right through to the propulsion of the ship.

Below deck there is more machinery that the engineers are responsible for which includes a sea-water to fresh water generator, the hydraulic systems for the winches, refrigeration units for the scientists laboratories and galley fridges, sewage treatment and a pressure system for the vacuum toilets.

We reach the control room, which looks as impressive as the ship’s bridge, with read outs for all the machinery’s parameters such as pressures and temperatures. In an emergency, if the bridge is down, the entire ship can be controlled from the engine room control desk.

Declan explains that the engine room is an UMS system (unmanned machinery space), which means it doesn’t require full time attention at night. However the UMS computer is linked to the engineers’ cabins. A fault will trigger an alarm alerting the engineer on watch that night to any problem.

Chefs Mark and Lloyd in the galley
Arguably one of the most important roles is that of keeping everyone on board fed throughout the three-week journey. With 43 people to feed this is a big operation.

Before our trip began enough food was stocked from suppliers in Southampton to fill two giant walk-in fridges for fresh fruit, vegetables and dairy, and two walk-in freezers for meat and frozen food. There is also an entire room for tinned food and condiments.

It has been known for the galley staff to stock the ship from food outlets abroad, such as the Bahamas or Chile. It’s possible to keep the ship fed for six weeks straight, although towards the end there does tend to be less fresh produce. For our trip we are able to enjoy fresh food throughout.

John Benning