Monday, June 13, 2011

A tour of the engine room

June 10th

To begin this blog entry, I would like to thank everyone that made my participation on this cruise possible. With the harvesting of deep-sea biology, fossils, and, of course, the amazing day in the Bransfield Straights, this expedition has been an extraordinary opportunity, which I will never take for granted.

As this trip winds to an end, we have begun packing, cleaning, and preparing for landfall. We are all working together in one shift again, and everything seems to be going smoothly. With a few moments of spare time, we were able to put science aside for a minute and tour the world below what has been our life for the past month.

Our tour began by using a stairwell that I only knew existed, but had not yet explored. This stairwell brought us directly beneath our biology laboratory and ended in the main control room for all mechanical operations. The control room overlooks 4 diesel generators used to power the ship, and it is here where one or both of the engineers on duty monitor the mechanical operations of the entire vessel. Under normal conditions, 2 of the 4 generators remain in operation. One generator could handle the electrical demand, but running the second generator ensures a steadier, uninterrupted source of electricity. Next, we listened to facts about the engines responsible for the locomotion of the ship. With 2 separate drive trains, this ship has 2 massive engines on each propeller shaft. During this cruise, only 1 engine per propeller was utilized. Running at 900 rpms each, the 2 engines provide the vessel with a speed of approximately 10-13 knots. Operating all 4 engines does not translate to higher speeds, but provides the necessary momentum needed for the ship to break through sea ice. On an average day at sea, while operating 2 engines, the Palmer consumes 6-8 thousand gallons of fuel per day, roughly 14,000 gallons per day while breaking ice with all 4 engines in operation, and another 1200 gallons per day to supply the 2 electrical generators. Potentially consuming 20,000 gallons of fuel per day, the Palmer is equipped with a 500,000-gallon fuel tank!

After our explanation of the mechanics of the ship, we were given earplugs and entered the engine room. We walked through a machine shop complete with a sand-blaster, metal lathe, welder, and of course the espresso machine. Next we toured the generator room, and engine room. With so much noise, this part of the tour consisted of taking pictures and communicating with hand gestures.

The Nathaniel B. Palmer is truly a remarkable piece of engineering, but none of this trip would have been possible without the crew diligently keeping all operations in motions. I would like to close by extending my gratitude to the captain, shipmates, marine technicians, marine science technicians, the kitchen staff, the maintenance staff, and the engineers for their hard work, great attitudes, and tireless service.

By Chris

Weather: temperature 37 °F, windchill 25 °F, windspeed 20-30 knots, dropping to 10 knots; sun, wind and rain!

Richard, an engineer on the ARV Nathaniel B Palmer starts the tour of the engine rooms in the control center (A. Margolin).

In the engine rooms the noise of the engines is so loud that everyone has to wear ear protectors (A. Margolin).

Chris explains to Suzy and John about the speed at which the fuel is injected into the engine (A. Margolin).

The full moon shining down through clear skies a couple of nights ago in the Drake Passage (S. Jennions).

Go Team Purple! All the gang on the helo deck this morning (A. Margolin).

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