Life on a Ship
We have been on board the Ron Brown for five days now. Getting used to living on a ship took a little time. Trying to find my way around the ship was confusing. I got lost several times because, to me, all the hallways, doors, and signs look exactly the same! Plus, there are a lot of stairwells, referred to as “ladders,” all of which are at very steep angles (probably about 60-degrees) and are approximately three feet wide. Imagine having to go up and down steep, narrow ladders and through equally narrow hallways every time you want to go somewhere.
The berthing areas are at the bottom of the ship. Berthing refers to the sleeping quarters. Each “room” has a cabinet and drawers for storing clothing and other materials as well as a sink and a mirror. A “head,” or bathroom, is located in between every two rooms, so that the toilet and shower can be shared by two adjoining rooms. The shower is a triangle-shaped depression in the bathroom floor about 3 ft. per side. Imagine trying to take a shower while standing inside this triangle, all while the ship is bouncing over choppy 5 ft. waves. It can be a bit tricky! Each room also has two or three chairs and a set of bunk beds. My bed is the top bunk, which isn’t so bad, except that there isn’t any clearance to sit up in the bed. I have to slide into the bed head first, then slide out backwards to reach the three steps to climb out of the bed.
At mealtime, everyone heads to the galley, which is the kitchen and dining area. There are several cooks on board the Ron Brown. They provide us with three meals each day, and leave out other items we can snack on throughout the day. The typical breakfast here is fruit, pancakes, sausage, eggs, and bacon. There are also many options at lunch and dinner. Last night for dinner we had ribs, several side dishes and peach pie for dessert.
The Ron Brown is equipped with many scientific instruments and facilities. Throughout our trip, the survey technicians will use a method of sonar mapping called multi-beam mapping. This technology bounces sound waves from the ship to the ocean floor to determine its depth. This research vessel is the only one in the NOAA fleet that has a Doppler radar on board. There are several science laboratory areas in which specimens are analyzed, organized, and preserved. These labs have many of the same types of safety equipment that we have in science class, such as the eyewash station, emergency shower, and fire extinguisher. To get into the lab, you have to go through a “hatch,” which is a large door with a 12 inch high partition you must step over at the bottom. Many of the “bulkheads,” or doors, have portholes to let in light and for monitoring the environment around the ship.
During the day, we have worked on our computers, prepared for ROV dives, and completed training for safety drills and ROV-related tasks. Weather permitting, we will send down the ROV twice per day. Last night and this morning, we experienced 5–8 ft. waves, and the ROV dives for today had to be canceled. At the conclusion of our first dive, everyone hurried to get their specimens preserved before the samples began decaying. This was truly a race against the clock, as many research projects here require living tissue from which to extract DNA or RNA.
Life on the Ron Brown is very different from life on the land. Once you get your “sea legs” it is a unique and enjoyable experience.