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Below Deck: Supporting Our Research on the L. M. Gould

Last Sunday morning, Chief Engineer Mike Brett led a tour of the engine room—the heart, the muscle, and arguably the most important part of the ship.

Our research ship, the L. M. Gould, is the key component to conducting our research cruise.

First, we were shown the control room, where Mike can keep informed about the status of the major components of the engine room. There are meters that show how much fuel and water each of their tanks is currently holding, which is important because it is necessary to balance the weight of the ship evenly. In addition, he can communicate with the rest of the engine room and with the bridge from this room.

The bow of the ship: an important place for equipment and an excellent spot for sightseeing.

Next, we donned earmuffs and entered the deafening roar of the engine room. It is so loud here that when a telephone call is made to this room, bright flashing lights and a loud siren are necessary to alert the engine room workers to the call. The engine room is responsible for many functions: providing power to the entire ship, creating fresh water from seawater by flash evaporation, and housing the rudders of the ship. In order to sort out the myriad pipes running throughout the room, each pipe is colored according to its use: blue pipes contain fresh water, green pipes salt water, yellow pipes fuel, and brown pipes sewage. In addition to clarifying the function of each pipe, the bright colors create an almost fantastical working environment (one science grantee said it reminded her of Willy Wonka’s factory).

The men of the engine room. At center top, Chief Engineer Mike Brett monitors the ship from the control room. At upper left and upper right, respectively, Roberto Cortez and Noli Tamayo act as seconds to the engineer on watch. At lower right, Fernando Avila models the necessary earmuffs worn in the engine room. At lower left, Trevor Rafferty describes the repairs process over midrats (midnight meal.)

Because Antarctica is such an isolated region and help is likely far away during an emergency, the caretakers of the engine room must be able to repair nearly any part of the engine room. There are shelves full of spare parts, and they also have the tools to fashion temporary parts. Last week, the engine room crew proved their skill by repairing a broken hinge in the Baltic room, which was important for launching the CTD.

The equipment aboard the deck of the L. M. Gould is essential to carrying out our research.

The tour allowed us a glimpse at a part of the ship that is largely hidden from the scientists and can easily be taken for granted, but only because of the continued alertness and competence of the engine room workers can the scientists safely and reliably perform research in this harsh environment.

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