25 January, 1998
Today, as we make way through the Drake Passage to the Antarctic Peninsula, I will take you for a little tour of the boat.
The ship is about 230 ft. long and 46 ft. wide on deck. It has stabilizers on the sides that stick out 5 ft each at the waterline called reamers. They look a bit like water-wings. The two 3606 Caterpillar engines produce 475 HP. The draft (amount that sticks down under the water) is about 26 ft. To provide water, there are 2 water makers that can produce up to 5000 gallons per day. We can take all the hot showers we want. We even have a hot tub and a sauna! The process used on this ship to get drinking water from sea water is distillation. The salt water is hit with the heat from the engines and it flashes the water off, leaving the salt. The steam is then cooled to make pure water.
Waste on board has been a problem in the past because it does accumulate, but we do not want to hurt the pure water around Antarctica by dumping it straight overboard. All the waste from toilets, trash, and garbage cans are incinerated in an "omminie" cell that cooks the solids to over 1500 degrees F! Everything, including aluminium cans, is zapped. All that is left is pure water (It is supposed to be pure enough to drink, but I wouldn't care to try it!) and a thin crust of material. The water is released overboard, but the crust is further processed to remove any oils. The oil is burned. Whatever ash is left is compacted and stored until we reach land and then it is taken to a garbage dump. In Antarctica , there is zero tolerance of pollution.
The individual rooms, cabins, are set up with 2 bunk beds (berths), a desk, 4 cabinets, and a bathroom (head). The bathrooms look much like you would find in a small hotel room, with a sink, shower, and a toilet -- except the handle to flush the toilet is a large valve that turns to let in raw sea water.
Near the bow (front) of the ship, on the level just above the engine rooms, we find the galley (kitchen). The galley is overseen by the chief cook, Tiger LeBlanc. Tiger is a wonderful cook and cranks out about 100 pounds of cooked meat per day. Add the 80+ pounds of veggies to go along with that and you have an idea of what he fixes. Just about all the baked goods are done from "scratch", which means they do NOT come out of a box! The range of dishes is great, but the desserts...well, they are tremendous. Since Thursday, he has prepared the following variety of desserts and snacks for us: pineapple upside-down cake, German chocolate cake, chocolate chip/coconut/pecan cookies, donuts, coconut creme pie, cinnamon rolls, brownies, blueberry muffins, pecan pies, apple pies, and a sweet mix of strawberries and bananas. I might mention that we also have an exercise room, which is a good thing with all this good food at hand!
The electronics lab is where most of the computers are and where email is sent out. There are single unit computers in the labs, too. The science labs are on this same lower deck, but we will visit those later on in the voyage.
Connecting all the floors are companionways. These are long, steep staircases that challenge newcomers to haul themselves and their gear up the stairs to their cabins. I'm afraid that there are no bellhops on a research vessel!
Level One has several cabins, the lounge -- complete with large screen TV, VCR, and couches --, exercise room, and the hot tub and sauna.
Level Two has mostly cabins and a two-bed "hospital," as well as the air conditioning unit.
Level Three is the Bridge. This is where Captain Sanamo and his Chief, Second, and Third Mates keep watch. Steering is done by computer except when maneuvering around docks and other tight areas. The person on watch monitors a screen which has the ship's course plotted on it and the ship's position relative to the course on display. If wind and/or waves push the ship off course, the operator merely pushes a button with a directional arrow on it to correct the ship's course. Don't tell anyone, but I was allowed to correct course one time the other day by pressing the button about 5 times. Neat!
While up on the bridge last night, I got to see a small whale -- my first actual sighting of one in the wild! It appeared to be a long-finned pilot whale. Today we passed 2 icebergs. It is so bizarre seeing a huge white mountain pass, when everything else is just relatively flat, sapphire-blue water. There have been several species of skuas flying about the ship the whole way, along with a shearwater or two and several petrels. A couple of times, groups of penguins have been spotted paddling about, but I haven't seen them yet. What DO you call a group of penguins, which are birds, moving in a group together? Somehow "flock" doesn't seem right. Oh well.
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