Friday, 14 October 2016

Soft Kitty, Engines and My Little Ponies

I have to confess to having a little bit of a wobble today. The excitement of the Crossing the Line ceremony is over and the things to look forward to- like getting to the Falklands- are still about 3 weeks away. The scientists and crew all change over in the Falklands. They’ll be heading home to see loved ones (and purchase all the dark chocolate that their hearts desire), whilst I’ll still be sailing for another eight months. As that realisation dawned, I felt a very long way from home. So I called my other half and had a very selfish whingey mope but fortuitously he is a lovely man who let me grumble for ages before agreeing with me that yes, I should watch a film, do some knitting, eat some chocolate and go to bed early. And then he sang me “Soft Kitty” accompanied on the guitar which made me laugh again. What an awesome person.

I went on a rather exciting engine room tour yesterday. The James Clark Ross is just like an ice berg- there’s a lot going on beneath the surface! She was built in 1990 and was designed to be incredibly quiet in the water so that her internal rumblings and movement through the water don’t disturb the results of the science. I need to clarify that I heard this correctly, but I think our guide told us that when she was first built, she couldn’t even be picked up by submarines. That’s pretty good tip-toeing for a ship that’s 99m long and 18.85 metres wide!

She’s powered by a diesel engine which can push her through the water at up to 12 knots per hour in the open sea. When we get to the pack ice, she’ll still be able to crunch her way through at 2 knots per hour. To clarify the…ahem…knotty problem of what knots per hour means…apparently in the days of sailing ships, if the captain wished to check the speed, the crew would lower an evenly knotted rope with a large wooden float at the end into the water and see how much of the rope would pay out within a certain period of time. So if the drag of the water pulled “x” knots of rope from the ship within a certain time frame, they could calculate the number of knots per hour. Good eh?

We also learned that my rather amazing floating home is ice strengthened and she punches her way through the ice by one of two means. Either she just rams it straight on (gulp) or she employs a rather nifty little system. The JCR has water tanks on either side of her which help to stabilise her in heavy seas. When we’re in the pack ice, air is pushed into the tanks which forces the water from one side of the ship to the other, making the ship roll. The rolling prevents the ice from squeezing the hull and damaging it, and helps the ship to crack the ice surrounding her.

The winching systems are integral to the science that’s done on board the ship. The winches lower the scientific kit on the end of steel ropes, far into the depths of the ocean. The cast that was done today? 5200 m. And that isn’t even touching the ocean floor! Isn’t that incredible? The deepest part of the ocean- the Mariana Trench at 10,994m- could have Everest dropped into it and not notice! Gobsmacked.

So the winches have to be fairly sturdy bits of kit. I was watching our scientific gear being brought back on board today and watching the reels of steel rope spinning beneath the deck on the CCTV. They looked for all the world like cotton reels; until you remembered that those steel “threads” are about the thickness of my little finger and over 5km long!


I endeavoured to provide a little light relief for my shipmates yesterday by restarting the Thursday night pub quiz. I suddenly have a whole new level of respect for those that design pub quizzes! My sporting knowledge is not particularly impressive so I went for “weird sport” as someone termed it. Which basically meant that I asked about chariot racing in ancient Rome. That stuff I know! My favourite round had to be “Pornstar or My Little Pony” though. My Little Ponies apparently have somewhat suggestive names. Guess which is porn and which is pony: Morning Glory and Chocolate Stallion! That round seemed to cause amusement and accusation in equal amounts as people found their team mates were suspiciously good at guessing…


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