Behind the scenes: making science possible on the James Clark Ross

by Tom Patterson

Hi, I am Tom, a Steward on board the R.R.S. James Clark Ross. Today I thought I would write a post about the officers and crew on the JCR to give a small insight to the huge operations going on to make the science possible. Firstly, I would like to apologise to those of you who have come to read about the science, unfortunately I don’t know a great deal about what research is going on but hope you will enjoy reading about the other roles being carried out on board.

I will start at the top of the ship and work my way down. First you come to Charlie our Radio Officer. He deals with all our communications and is based at the back of the bridge in his radio shack, it looks a little like something from Star Trek, lights and buttons everywhere. Due to the areas the ship visits Charlie has a very hard task keeping us connected to the outside world, we know we are in a radio black spot when the daily newspaper does not arrive and everyone, well maybe not everyone just “The COOKS” are waiting for their crossword!

Moving out of the radio shack you come to the bridge. Now this is the nerve station and personally it is one of my favorite places on board. The view from up here is breathtaking with the chance to spot all sorts of wildlife from polar bears in the distance to a petrel flying less than a metre away alongside the bridge wing. It’s a photographer’s dream.

We have 3 officers of watch who take charge of the bridge under the orders of the Captain, keeping a look out across the horizon for any hazards to keep the ship safe, they also give the green light to any science equipment wanting to be winched over the side for sampling. While the bridge is my favorite place I do feel sorry for the chaps working up there in bad weather, as you can imagine being higher up these are the ones that take the brunt of the weather getting tossed side to side!

Now we come to the department I work in, the catering department. On the next 4 decks below the bridge are the accommodation decks where my department works. I work with a great team of 2 other Stewards, a Senior Steward, two Cooks and the Purser. We have a number of tasks to complete daily from servicing the cabins and serving the meals, to the more important task of stocking the bars.

It’s been a busy trip for the galley now working 24 hours a day providing food to all shifts day and night! We have also had a few birthdays with some fantastic cakes being made, credit to the cooks for squeezing the time in to make these cakes in their busy days work!

Next we move on to the hottest place aboard the ship! No, not my cabin, the engine room of course!! A team of 4 mechanical engineers, 1 electrical engineer and 2 motormen work in tight enclosed spaces in extreme temperatures to keep us on the move. Not only do they run the ship’s engines (four of those plus bow and stern thrusters), but also they keep the ship supplied with fresh drinking water, hot water, electricity, heating and dispose of all waste either by stowing it or burning it in a controlled, safe and even environmentally-friendly, way.

Finally we will move outside from the warm comfort of the ship to the cold arctic weather where we have a strong deck team working. These guys are very important to the science operations we run on board the ship from loading all the equipment for the cruise to deploying and recovering the equipment for sampling. It’s vital to have an experienced deck team when it comes to deploying the equipment to make sure that it is done in a safe way and no scientist or crew gets injured.

I hope this short blog has given you a small idea of the operations going to make the science possible.

I would like to wish the scientists of JR302 Cruise good luck with all your research and hope you are enjoying your time on board!

Images: Views around the ship by Tom Patterson; 3 pictures of the bridge, the engine control room, the galley and the officer’s and scientist’s lounge.


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