A guide to the deck department on JR302: part 2, a typical day on deck

By Colin Leggett, Bosun’s mate.

My day begins with an alarm call at 5 o’clock in the morning, a quick check of the email to see if its working well enough to get news from home, a shower, several cups of tea and even a coffee as I’ve finally come to like the taste of it. If we are on station or approaching a station (a science stop) then its a stare out of the window to decide on how many layers to put on or if the waterproofs are needed. Then its out on deck to take over from Martyn who is always smiling when it comes to knocking off time. Quick chat about what’s going on, update on the world cup scores from the day before, any scandalous gossip and then he’s off and we are in charge of the deck.

I normally fit in a quick chat with John O’ the Bosun to get any jobs that need doing for the day before he goes to bed. Depending on where the CTD is, either myself or Ken go off to do a job or two whilst the other one keeps an eye on the wire and the deck from the garage (the place where the CTD lives). Whilst in charge of the deck our main priority is to ensure that everyone is safe and no one is anywhere they shouldn’t be. When you have a lot of scientists onboard, and especially when some have never been to sea before, its very important that they are made aware of the dangers that are associated with the equipment. Areas that are roped off are done so for their protection and should not be entered.

We also keep a close eye on the wire and the gantry to make sure its all as it should be and no funny noises are coming from the gantry. We look to see whether the wire is being affected by a current and being swept to a dangerous angle. The ship is fitted with several CCTV cameras that assist the officer on the bridge in checking this, and their job is to keep the ship as close to the mark as possible whilst not having a dangerous lead on the wire.

Normally at our first stop of the day one of the scientists (Bita) appears to deploy her water sampler which involves us help her lower the sampler to the water so it just touches the surface and then recover it so she can collect the water. There is a photo earlier in the blog of her and Ken about to sample (see the post on 17 June).

Once the CTD has reached the required depth, everything stops and the first samples are taken. Just before the CTD is hauled back up from near the sea bed, we turn on an air dryer for the wire, to keep as much water off the storage drum and protect the wire as much as possible. When the CTD is around 200 metres from the surface the watch keeper joins us on deck to assist in stowing the CTD safely back in the garage to enable the scientists to sample whilst the ship is under way to the next stop.

Once the CTD is recovered and secured, it’s bacon sandwich time as long as the hungry hoards have left some for us, a quick cup of tea (I drink a lot of tea!!) and its on with the day’s jobs. My first call is the engine control room to read the gauges of the fresh water tanks. I record these figures on a wipe board in the engine room and on the bridge. There I have a quick nose at the chart to see where we are, ask the usual questions of what’s the weather doing, where is the ice and are we going into it. Then it’s down to the ships office to write the numbers in the logbook, a chat with the mate to see if there are any other jobs to do, a general chat about the ship and anything that’s coming up that needs to be done, and I’m off back downstairs and back out on deck. As we normally always are told when the ship is roughly due at the next station we plan our day around the science stops and what we can do and when we can do it.

This trip so far our jobs have mainly been having a good tidy up and a look around at the cargo lashing equipment we have. If any of it needs over hauling or replacing, the earlier we know about it the earlier it can be ordered and the more chance we have of getting it for when we need it. As bosun’s mate, cabin maintenance is also my job. So far this trip we’ve unblocked a couple of shower drains and fixed a book shelf – nothing to technical which is just as well given my DIY skills.

10 o’clock normally would mean smoko (a half hour break) but today the ship is coming onto station just before 10, so its a case of fitting in a quick cuppa as and when and back on deck to get ready for deployment. Once the CTD is deployed, Ken’s off to do a couple of jobs from the list and I am watching the wire and making a new canvas cover for the exhaust pipe of the ship’s cargo tender. The tender is used when we do base relief at the Antarctic bases where the ship is unable to get alongside. The tender sits just forward of the accommodation on the port side of the ship and if you look at the webcam, is directly at the bottom of the picture you see. The tender takes a far beating in bad weather so any protection we can give it from the elements is always a bonus.

Once the CTD is recovered back in the garage and the gantry is secured, its off to the next station and a chance for us to have an hour off to eat lunch. Then it’s a repeat on the CTD only this time its launch, recover and time to finish as we hand the reins over to the night gang for their 12 hours of CTD action. A quick chat to tell them what’s been happening and what they can expect to be doing and it’s boots off, eat dinner, shower, email, attempt to get on the internet, go to the gym. What an episode of true blood vampires, all very strange and then bed, ready for the alarm call at 0500 and a new day of sampling.

Watch a time lapse movie of Colin, Ken and Graham deploying, watching and recovering a CTD in ice:


Images: Bringing the CTD safely back into the garage (photos by Colin). Ken, Colin (centre) and Graham bring the CTD back on board after a station in the ice (photo by Penny).


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