Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Very Dangerous Engine Room Tour

Yesterday I had the pleasue of a tour around the engine room, offered either as standard, dangerous or very dangerous as you like. Naturally you have to pick the most adventurous, so at 10.30am, just before an ROV dive, a few of us followed George, the chief engineer, down into the bowels of the ship (when picturing george think silver haired Scotty from star trek and you've got him in one!).

Decked out in oil stainable trousers and steel toe capped boots we were given hard hat baseball caps, specially chosen for the fact that they are not higher than your head (as other hard hats are) and therefore you will probably be able to judge the small space clearance just that little bit better.

I shall have to tell this story in reverse as I feel the piece de resistance was shown first, so suffice to say we started at the aft of the ship and were lead all the way to the stern.

We saw all the generators, engines, stabilisers, thrusters, tunnel thrusters, sewage works, CO2 scrubbers feshwater tanks, seawater tanks, bilge pumps, ballast tanks and lots of pipes and cables!
*George in the white boiler suit showing us the generator control panels.*

The tour was considered very dangerous as we had to manouvre through tight spaces- something the engineers do everyday. And we were led through the main engine room with disposable earplugs twisted into our ears which I have to say meant that my lipreading skills were thoroughly put to the test! "" ok, must be to pump in seawater to fight fires? *point* "....4....1,2,3,4....thunderbirds...." thankfully I can see the signs on the engines labelling them 1 and 2 either side of me, each one baring a picture of a thunderbird for ID ease, there are more across the room.
*Khaira clambering over some pipes to follow george as we all had to- it was our choice whether we went over or under... :) *

"Guess what the next room is" says george as he leads us into a room full of machinery, to the untrained eye, like any other, but in the middle of the room is a fully plummed toilet looking a little worse for wear! Sewage works! And now you look at the machines you can even see the very helpful windows into the tanks to see how full they are- a scrunch of the nose as you recon they need to be emptied again pretty soon....

A walk to the stern and the giant Azemuth thruster fills the room. This, we are told, is bust! True indeed we've had some chatter that the "azi" is not talking to the bridge anymore and here we see the giant thruster, capable of 360* rotation for stabilisation up to a force 8, which no longer works until they can get to land and purchase a spare fuseboard. Fingers crossed we get no more truely bad weather as our stability will be off quite a bit!

And then there was my favourite bit (shown to us first). We were led to the very stern of the ship where a large yellow fan pointed down into a hole. George removed the fan and dropped a sensor down the hole taking an oxygen reading on a handheld monitor. "O2 is good, follow me in but only 2 at a time". So 2 of us descended into the hole to the lowest part of the ship standing on beams attached to the steel skin of the hull, here there was just one layer between you and the big deep blue. And this was emphasised by the cubby hole corner that two of us squeezed into and peered out through two portholes below the waterline staring at the 2 giant propellers whizzing away. It was fantastic to be able to see that part of the ship, to peer outside and think how amazingly useful these portholes must be. Anything that may be tangled round a prop or if damage is suspected, all you need do is to squeezed down here and take a gander!*Neils heading down into the hole with the yellow fan that had been pumping the oxygen in until we got there*
*The starboard propeller out of the porthole at the lowest part of the ship*

A great experience, thoroughly enjoyable (especially after a morning of swathing!), followed by an ROV dive which kept us busy until the end of shift.

Today we swathed again and then ROVed again (with intermittant dumps and pickups of the autosub) as is our pattern these days. This is the first of our transects to be completed, and it very nearly wasn't! A mishap in the ROV shack (while I was in there) resulted in a mass power down of the entire control system and the ROV had to be recovered to be reset. But 5mins on deck was long enough and the ROV descended again with a little bit of overlap so that the transect could be completed.

This was a beautiful dive (and I have sneakily looked in on the one they are doing now which is similarly interesting) with steep cliffs and coral patches, some massive clumps and many different anemones and sponges lining the wall before us. So thankfully thats one under the belt (albeit a little disjointed) and more to come. And check out the flat calm that is hanging with us at the moment! Knowing our luck this won't last, but its gorgeous to look at while it's here.

P.S. I'm afraid, as I have not brought a wide angle lens or proper compact camera, these blurry pictures were taken on my phone and are not very good quality, but hopefully you get the picture more or less :)

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