Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

Curved ice line
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Special Report: People On Board - Ship's Crew

I promised you some information about the people on the ship. This note deals with one part; I’ll cover the rest in a couple of days.

Let’s start with the ships crew, sometimes referred to as the Marine crew. The boss is the Captain, who is also called Skipper or Chief, or simply Peter (Pearson) because that is his name and we have a very casual, friendly approach to things. Gordon hasn’t sailed with Peter before but Suzanne has.

There are several departments on board. The first is the Deck Officers. They are in charge of watchkeeping - no they don’t look after people’s watches, their job is on the bridge where they set the course and maintain it, make sure we don’t bump into things, keep in touch with the engine room to make sure all that side is doing the job. They maintain the log book showing the position of the ship every two hours, the weather, the state of the seas and so on. There are three - the Chief Officer (or First Mate, or Peter or just Dunbar which is his surname), the Second Mate (Ian) and the Third Mate (Allan). Gordon has sailed with all these Mates before and they are good mates - Gordon actually knows the crew better than he knows many of the expeditioners.

The day is split into ‘watches’ (no, not the kind you wear on your wrist) - of four hours. The watches are midnight to 4am, 4am to 8am, 8am to noon, and then repeats. Each of the Mates works one watch and has the next two off - when they eat, sleep, do their washing, catch up on their reading and their paper work.

Apart from watchkeeping they have other responsibilities. The Chief Officer is responsible for the cargo on board, and does the detailed planning of the sequence of taking it off the ship, rearranging stuff so we can backload etc - but I’ll tell you about this after we have been at Davis. The Second Mate is responsible for Navigation - route plotting and so on. The Third Mate is responsible for ships safety equipment, the life boats, life rafts, fire fighting systems and so on.

On Gordon’s last voyage just a few months ago, another person was also classified as a Deck Officer but not a watchkeeper. He was the Deck Communications Officer (DCO). He looked after the communications centre and made sure all the equipment is working to send email and so on. He also looked after the radio communications - we have High Frequency (HF), Very High Frequency (VHF) and Ultra High Frequency (UHF) systems. There are also radars, satellite dishes and lots of wires and antennas. Under new arrangements this position has been abolished. The communications are now handled in two ways, whichever of the Mates is on watch looks after some of the communications the ship has to deal with - compulsory position reporting, reports to the Company Head Office and they also maintain the antenna and so on. The Antarctic Division now puts one of its own staff or a Communications expeditioner on each sailing to provide support to such things as expeditioner communications - the email system, phone calls they might wish to make etc. but he is not regarded as a member of the ships crew.

The next Department is Engineering - comprising the Chief Engineer and the Second, Third and Fourth Engineers. We don’t see a lot of them because their job is mainly down in the engine rooms and we are not allowed to go there usually. Gordon has sailed with the Chief, and First and Third engineers before.

Then we have the Bosun or Chief Integrated Rating and his team of six seamen (IRs or Integrated Ratings). These are the guys who do most of the physical work around the ship to keep it going. They are rostered for different kinds of jobs. There is always one on watch at the same time as the Watchkeeper I have spoken of. They act as lookout to make sure we avoid hazards like icebergs; they also do safety checks on patrols around the ship - checking that certain doors are properly closed and things like steam vents are working and so on. The IRs also have turns assisting in the engine room and deal with fixing anything that’s broken - whether it is a winch cable, a cupboard door hinge, a blocked toilet, splicing ropes. They also help with operating equipment for any science work - for example using the winch and cable when we sent out and brought back the CPR. Gordon has sailed with all but one of these guys before.

Then we have catering - the Chief Cook and two other cooks. They prepare and serve all the meals for everyone on board. At present they have a busy job because there are 21 crew members and 82 expedition members to feed. Later when we have less people on board they will be able to relax a bit. One of the Cooks is new to Gordon.

The last Department is headed by the Chief Steward who is supported by two stewards. They provide support in the kitchen (or galley as it known on the ship), they also clean the common areas like the restaurant, passageways inside the ship, do the ships laundry (sheets and so on). Gordon knows all of them from other trips.

So that makes up the 21 crew. That is not very many people when you see how much work they have to do. Sure, some times are very quiet and crew can relax and have a good time, but it can get very very busy.

The expeditioners on board have to keep their own cabins clean and tidy, make their own beds, change their sheets (though they don’t have to wash them - that’s done by the stewards on the weekly linen change). Expeditioners also do their personal laundry and as well keep areas they use clean and tidy - for example in the bar, the video room and so on. Quite often expeditioners will also volunteer to lend a hand in the galley – they might peel potatoes, scrub vegetables, make salads, wash dishes; this helps the cooks and stewards but also gives the expeditioners something else to do and everyone benefits.



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