Seattle Loading

A few of us waiting for the vans to be craned onto the ship.

A few of us waiting for the vans to be craned onto the ship.

In June, my advisor Chad and I went to Seattle for a week to load our scientific equipment on the Healy and set up our lab space. The first day, our ‘van’ was craned onto the ship. A van is kind of like a shipping container, but the interior is outfitted with a sink, countertop space and a fume hood. A lot of the scientists aboard the ship share a communal lab space, but Team Mercury gets its own van because other groups on the ship use mercury electrodes, which can contaminate our samples.

The next couple of days were spent craning our supplies aboard and carrying boxes up and down the gangplank. After all of our things were on board, we began setting up our lab space. Tasks such as connecting the electricity, running gas lines for our instruments, installing shelves and organizing a lot of lab supplies in a small space kept us very busy. On the last day we tied everything down with string and bungees, or screwed equipment into the countertop. Everything needs to be secured while at sea so that it doesn’t go flying when we encounter large waves.

The scientists' rooms have three beds. All of the beds have curtains to block out light from roommates who may be on different schedules.

The scientists’ rooms have three beds. All of the beds have curtains to block out light from roommates who may be on different schedules.

Rather than stay in a hotel, I chose to sleep on the ship. Staying aboard the Healy was great because it was a preview of ship life. The berths, or sleeping quarters, house three people and include two desks, a sink and some closet space. There’s also a TV with live feeds from around the ship and also access to the Armed Forces Network. Every two berths share a bathroom (or in ships terms, a head). The rooms are outfitted with both fluorescent and red lights. The red lights are used at night to prevent sleep disturbance, because it is likely that all three roommates will be on different sleeping schedules. My room had a porthole, which overlooked the neighboring shipping operation. It was pretty neat to watch how quickly the cranes loaded and unloaded their shipping containers from large barges.

A water tight door. There are handles on both sides of the door to maintain positive control at all times while the ship is sailing.

A water tight door. There are handles on both sides of the door to maintain positive control at all times while the ship is sailing.

I learned a few things about ship life that I didn’t previously know. First, everything has a hook or some sort of mechanism to stay open, or a way to stay securely closed. Doors have hooks on the back for propping open, and cabinets have locks to prevent them from flying open. Stairs are very steep, almost ladder-like in order to save space. Also, one hand must always be free to hold onto the railing. This action is referred to something along the lines of “one hand for the ship”, meaning one had should always be free to hold on to the railing, or to maintain positive control over doors. Speaking of doors, there are many water tight doors throughout the ship. They’re quite heavy, and must be held by their handles to prevent squishing fingers, arms or any other body part that might get caught between a swinging door and its frame.

Here’s a short time lapse video of the ship loading.

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This video was made by Bill Schmoker, a teacher participating in the PolarTREC program. The program promotes collaborations between K-12 teachers and researchers to better integrate information about polar science and engineering into the classroom. Bill will be aboard the ship with us, blogging about the different projects the scientists are working on. You can find links to his blog and other blogs from people aboard the Healy on my other blogs tab.

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