Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Antarctica: Operation Deep Freeze is a Success!

On February 3rd, 2017 the four Webb Cadets awoke to an awesome view; McMurdo Station in all its glory laid out in front of us. The morning was dedicated to docking, which entailed firing rockets towards the shore so that volunteers could pull the mooring lines out from the ship and secure them ashore. The Captain had to keep the Peary rocking back and forth throughout the entirety of the process to break up the ice surrounding the ship. Once the ship was secured, we enjoyed a quick lunch and then stormed off the ship in a hurry to explore the ice-continent that lay before us!

The first day was spent exploring the station. We hiked up Observation Hill, a staple hike for any one in Antarctica to complete! After wandering through some of the buildings, we went to the dining hall where we were able to feast in a cafeteria full of food. The people are all super friendly and most were excited and interested to hear about our journey to Antarctica by ship. We made a great many friends throughout our few days there.

In the afternoons the pubs were the best place to socialize and learn about all the unique jobs people have. The first day was great because we were totally free to explore. That night we found a quaint little church called the Chapel of the Snows to spend the evening when everything had closed up. Every time we exited a building was strange because it was still very bright outside, with the sun being up 24/7.

The following days we had to give tours throughout the day, which meant we had to split into groups of two. The tours were great opportunities for us to demonstrate all that we had learned about the ship since our first day, not so long ago, to some very interested people. The tours were also great opportunities for us to meet some amazing people, who were interested in repaying our tour with a unique experience of our own. One of these such experiences lead to our introduction to the South Pole Traverse team. They enjoyed our tour so much that they offered to give us a tour of their equipment as well! This resulted in the four of us getting to drive the tractors that they use to travel down to the South Pole!

Besides the tours and amazing unique opportunities, we were able to take in the nature of Antarctica as well! This included hiking around the Ross Island Trail routes near the station, dipping in the water for a quick refreshing “swim” in our Speedos once again, and relaxing at the water’s edge with seals swimming within our arms reach, poking their heads out to take deep, heavy huffs of air. We really got to enjoy the amazing natural beauty of the deep South in the destination of our journey!    

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Australia to Antarctica:

After leaving Australia, we started heading even further south towards McMurdo Station. Ashley and I were back on deck and spent most of our time painting. There was a rush to get everything painted before it got too cold. Will and Abi were back in the engine room, working on cleaning all of the coolers before we hit the ice. The ship was in full on preparation mode, trying to do all of the tasks that needed to be done before the ice. We helped change the usual mooring lines out for lighter spectra lines. The ice pier at McMurdo doesn’t have the usual mooring equipment, and there are also no tugs. As such, we would actually be shooting lines ashore to teams of volunteers helping with mooring. After a week, Ashley and went back into the engine room, and the boys went back to deck work. Ashley and I spent most of our time in the engine room either tracing systems or helping the engineers with various projects. Abi and Will were working on chipping and painting the bridge wings. The highlight of this part of the trip was getting to see the Southern Lights.

After two weeks of business as usual, we reached 60˚S. This was an important waypoint for us, as at that point we were supposed to be out of the bad weather and maybe start seeing some icebergs. However, this trip was different than previous trips the Peary had made to the ice. We didn’t encounter any icebergs on the way south, only a few floating pieces. There was also no bad weather—it was pretty much smooth sailing the entire way south.

A day after 60˚S, we started ice watch. The engine room is typically unmanned at night, but in the close maneuvering situation presented by the ice, the engineers went to a 24-hour watch protocol. This ensured there was an engineer on duty at all times, able to quickly respond to any problems that may arise. In the engine room, little problems can turn into big problems quickly, making it essential to respond to the little problems early on. Will and I took the 4:00pm-12:00pm watch, while Ashley was 00:00-8:00am and Abi took 8:00am-4:00pm. While on ice watch, Will and I worked on our welding skills and spent a lot of time on our projects. The third engineer, Loren, taught us a lot about electrical circuits, how to read electrical prints, and alarm circuits. It was pretty awesome. One cool thing that happened during this part of the trip was a snowball fight. One day, it snowed and the wind caused it to accumulate in between all the frames on deck. It was perfectly fluffy snowball snow, so at midnight when Will and I got off watch, we headed outside to play in the snow. Soon we had Abi, Ashley, the 2nd and 3rd engineers and the 3rd mate all involved in a snowball fight. The 2nd mate was on bridge watch, so he would throw shovels of snow at us from the bridge. It was a ton of fun.

We entered the ice channel February 1st and had to go through fifty miles of ice. On the way in, we stopped to refuel the ice breaker. After we finished refueling it, the icebreaker spent six hours making the channel wider for the ship. While the ship was stopped in the ice, we got to go walk on the ice. That was so cool! I got to walk on the ocean. 

During the Ice Walk
Going through the ice

By February 4th, we were through the ice channel and at the dock. Our adventures in Antarctica are coming soon to the blog!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Rolling into Australia

The week heading into Australia was an exciting one. Ashley and Muriel were still working down in the engine room, and Abishai and I were alternating between the bridge and deck work. The ladies were helping out with the work being done on our third power generator engine, and Abi and I were working at chipping away rusty metal, and then priming and painting it up. One day I got to work away at some really thick tough rust by beating it up with a sledge hammer, which was a lot of fun until the third engineer came running up on deck telling me that the sledge hammer had shook the overhead so much it knocked off and then set off a fire alarm below, so no more sledge hammer in that location. 

All in all, the work was good and some great learning experiences all around the ship. 

The real excitement this week came with the waves. We had previously been rolling pretty steadily through the Indian Ocean, between 5 and 10 degrees of list, and a maximum of 15, but in this weeks waves we maxed out at 25 degrees of roll. The swells built up to about 3 meters over the last three or four days into Australia, and with a true wind speed hitting 40 knots at some times, we saw the ship handle some more challenging waters. When the spray first started going up over the bow, Abi and I would go all the way forward after work for about an hour each night and just watch the boat slam through the waves. Seeing the anchor that had been 30 feet above the water line in port, go submerged into a wave, with spray that shot up and hit us in the face was some new excitement. And we both loved the look of the bulbous bow constantly surging forward through the clear blue waters. Each night we would run back towards the house after the biggest wave had sent enough spray into us to thoroughly soak our clothes. Dozens of flying fish jumped out of the water in front of the ship to get out of the way. Rather than taking the anticipated parabolic path back into the water, these fish took off like birds rapidly flapping their wing like fins to fly up and down over the waves, occasionally staying out of the water for forty or fifty seconds. One day we got to check out one of these fish up close which had gotten tossed over the bow with a big wave, and then found by the bosun. 

In the following days the waves got bigger and the winds quicker, and soon there was spray that went above the forward mast, and then spray that got all the way up to the bridge, dousing the entire ship.

Eventually the waves were big enough that green water covered the deck. One day no one was allowed to work on deck and the house was secured to make sure no one got swept overboard. That day the ship really started to pitch and surge as well as roll. Several slight course changes were made throughout the day to try and find the smoothest ride, but even with these adjustments, there were at least three waves we observed where the whole bow actually went under the water line, sending a rush of water back over the deck. On these couple of days lots of things became a challenge, all the glasses and food in the mess had to be carefully stowed, and the chairs were all bungee corded to the tables; even with this there were many meals where everyone eating would slide 10 feet away from there spot in their chair with the roll of the boat. Still luckily, no one has gotten sea sick at all.

On Saturday morning we came in sight of Australia; it was a beautiful day and there were hundreds of pleasure craft, both sail and power, out in between Fremantle and the barrier islands. I got to watch the lowering of the anchor, which was quite cool to see it drop from looking over the side of the bow. Once we were in place, a launch boat came out to meet us delivering some additional crew members and some fresh provisions. We then were lucky enough to hop on that launch and head into shore. 

We arrived in Fremantle and caught an uber a few miles North up the Swan River to a park called Blackwall Reach. It was a beautiful day and there were tons of people out swimming, sailing, and boating in the river/harbor. At the end of the park was a nice beach with a view of Perth across the harbor. We ventured up the bank of the river and found a cool spot where the bank turned to steep rock formation up above the water. There were many boats below enjoying the summer day, all anchored together in a party barge, playing music loud enough for us to enjoy. On the rock wall of the river, there were tons of local Australians there for the day jumping off the rocks, swimming around, and climbing back up. We participated in the activity, and had a great time, and even convinced Muriel to jump a few times too. 

We next contacted Abi's great aunt and uncle, and their son, who live in Perth, and they came and picked us up and brought us back to their house. We got to hang out and talk with Abi's family and they made an awesome home cooked Indian dinner for us all to enjoy. It was great getting to meet his family and hear their stories, Muriel even got to talk about raising chickens with them, which they do in their back yard, and she does at home in Texas. Abi stayed the night with them at their house, and Muriel Ashley and I headed back to Fremantle to check out the nightlife there, and then return to the ship. 

The next morning we came back ashore and checked out the local market. Then we met back up with Abishai and his uncle, and he brought us to a park a little ways out from the city where he thought we might get to see some wild kangaroos. He was right, we got to see four of them up close, maybe 10 or 15 feet away, before they got startled and hopped away into the woods, as well as many more from a distance asleep in the shade under some trees.

On the way back to town Abi's uncle brought us through the city of Perth, and then to a big park overlooking the city with awesome views of the harbor and the city.

Back in Fremantle we got a nice big lunch of fish and chips down on the docks by the marina, and then decided to find our way to the beach for the afternoon. We headed to South Beach, where we got to relax in the hot sand and go for a nice ocean swim. There was a swim platform a little bit out which was fun to go to and jump off of. From the beach you could see our ship, the Peary, anchored with a few other ships. There was a man clipping along past us on a windsurfer, which got me pretty jealous, but it is hard to beat hanging out on a beautiful Australian beach. 

Our last item to check off the list before headed back to the ship was to try some kangaroo. So we ordered a plate of kangaroo kabobs which we all got to try, and the meat was actually very tasty. 

We had a great two days in Australia, and are now back on board the ship. We take off tomorrow morning, and from there the next stop is Antarctica!

See yeah next time from the bottom of the world!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Week Three: The Maldives and Indian Ocean

Week Three began Ashley and I’s first rotation in the engine room. We started by helping Loren, the third engineer, fix the saltwater line for the air cooler for the #3 generator. The majority of equipment in the engine room is saltwater cooled, which causes issues. Before we got on, the ship sat at anchor for a month, and so a lot of the equipment was not run at full capacity. This has caused a lot of salt water residue to build up on the inside of pipes and various heat exchanger plates. The salt water line for the air cooler had a pinhole leak at the weld seam on the flange. The pinhole was created by salt water corrosion on the spot where the flange meets the pipe. So we ground out the corroded sections with a grinder and then Loren welded it back together.

We started to learn how to weld. Welding on a ship was a new experience for both of us because the piece you’re attempting to weld will move. It was pretty cool though. We also worked on tracing systems for our project—we have to create nine different system schematics. We traced the ventilation system first and then the fuel service system.
This week, we sailed through the Indian Ocean to the Maldives and then onwards towards Australia. The ship stopped offshore of the Maldives so the security team could get off and to pick up some fresh fruits and vegetables. During this time, the main engine was stopped so the engineers could perform a crank case inspection and so they could clean out the main engine jacket water saltwater strainer. Ashley and I helped clean the strainer out—there was a live crab!—and then got to go look at the engine. Abi and Will came down so they could see the crankcase open too. That was awesome! We got to see the pistons, crossheads, connecting rods, and all the different oil lines. We also got to look inside the air receiver. The engine on this ship has seven cylinders, which is about average sized. Some ships will have twenty cylinder engines.
The air receiver

A piston 

Talking about valves

 Abi was excited

After the Maldives, we traced some more and helped clean out an evaporator. The evaporator condenser has fifty plates, all of which were covered in the orange-red muck the first engineer, Jim, is calling “spaghetti sauce”. It’s pretty nasty. The boys got to clean pipes; we got to clean plates.
This week was the boys’ first week on deck. They were pretty busy standing watch and doing deck work. They learned how to do celestial navigation. Abi and Will helped Virgil, the pumpman, work on pumps for some of the week and then worked on painting and chipping for the rest of the week.

On Sunday, all four of us worked on tracing the steam system and watching movies. Next week we are scheduled to get into Freemantle, Australia, which is our last stop before Antarctica. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Week 2: Happy Holidays!

The day after our journey through the Suez Canal was Christmas Eve. The engineering department enjoyed a half day in recognition of the coming holiday. The deck cadets had to continue sweeping and standing watch for the day. However, we all got Christmas off (although, since it was a Sunday, we would have had the day off anyways)! To celebrate we watched a bunch of movies and ate a lot of good food throughout the day, the common favorite; cinnamon rolls!

To really get into the Christmas Spirit we decided to take on the role of Santa’s Secret Elves and give everyone a little gift bag, courtesy of Muriel who had brought along some matchbox cars. We were more like the three wise men (although four instead of three) bearing gifts to our crew members doors, since we were closer to where the real Christmas story took place.

The engineering department really cannot avoid clogs. Which is a problem for everyone, but primarily those who have to fix said clog. This time the clog was in the gray water system, which is from all the sinks and showers throughout the ship, including the Galley. Over time soap scum and left over food scraps had managed to completely restrict water flow overboard through some 20 meters of pipe. Will and Abi helped scrap out all the caked sludge from the pipes getting further covered in filth. Early on there was a clog situation with the saltwater that had everyone worried about the main engine, but was fortunately fixed. Most recently the purifiers proved to have a clogged up system and were working inefficiently. Hopefully there won’t be any more major clogs this trip!

The ship underwent an interesting maneuver this week called an underway-replenishment(un-rep). An un-rep is when two ships match speed next to each other to transfer fuel or cargo while both traveling around 15 knots about 100 feet apart from each other. It was quite the spectacle to watch. All four of the cadets were trained to work paddle signals to the other ship, so all of us got to watch the maneuver. We watched the ship pull up and match our speed and then proceeded to signal for them to send over the lines to hook up for the transfer. This was just a drill, so we didn’t actually transfer anything. Then we unhooked the lines and watched the other ship head off. Will set up a Go-Pro to capture the entire event in a time lapse, which turned out great, but is too big a file to post here.

Every once in a while we have a time change. The hour change ahead means a shorter work day which is always nice. Also somewhat infrequently we do safety drills. We have done both the abandon ship and fire drills now. The abandon ship drill is simple, we just grab our life vests and immersion suits and head up to the life boat. We all want to do a test run because we have a life boat that drops 15 meters off of the stern, which would be fun to do! The fire drill is much more active. We all meet out at the fire station and the fire crew members suit up in gear and pretend to deal with a fire in a made up situation. The rest of us go and check the Fire main and Foam main to make sure all the hoses and water cannons work. The cannons are immensely powerful and an awesome sight to see blasting water over the side of the ship.


The week ended with another Sunday holiday; New Years! We all watched a couple movies and stayed up till midnight to bring in 2017! We just exited the Gulf of Aden, on to Antarctica! 2017 is lining up to be a great year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Our First Week Aboard the Maersk Peary

On Thursday, December 15 we started our journey by flying to Athens, Greece. When we arrived on Friday, we were immediately taken to St. Theodore, Greece where the Maersk Peary was docked.

We stayed at dock for the night and most of the next day. On Saturday, we were given a tour of the ship by the first engineer, Jim. He also allowed to starting exploring in the Engine Room. Ben and Loren, the second and third engineer, took us to Loutraki on Saturday night. Ben and Loren took us to walk along the beach, and Abi and Will decided to take a swim.

We continued to walk throughout the town, got some 2 euro gyros, and stopped at few of the many little bakeries in town. Then we went back to the ship for the night. That night we moved from port to anchor right outside of Piraeus, Greece. Sunday, was our first day of actual work. We helped as much as we could in the engine room, such as applying lubricants to various pieces of machinery. On Monday, we were told that we would be split up into deck cadets and engine cadets. Muriel and I are deck cadets for the next two weeks while Will and Abi are engine cadets. As deck cadets, Muriel and I work on the deck for half of our day and stand watch in the bridge for the other half. Will and Abi work on various projects down in the engine room. Monday night, we took a trip to Athens via the train and were able to see the Acropolis at night. It was beautifully lit up and although the park was closed you could walk all the way around it from the bottom.
We walked around and had dinner before returning to the ship. The next morning, there was another launch to go ashore, so we went to visit the Acropolis again in daylight. There were breath-taking views of the city of Athens.

On our way back to the ship, we made sure to buy tons and tons of baklava for the engineers. By 1230 we were back on the ship and ready to work. Muriel and I returned to work on the deck with the Bosun, Ron. Abi and Will went down to work in the engine room.  At 1800, the anchor was being pulled up so that we could set sail. Muriel and I got to go up the bridge and watch the captain maneuver out of the port, while Will and Abi helped out with starting up the engine.
Will and Abi were working down in the engine room and had to deal with the problems of the sewage system. There was a massive clog in a pipe that needed to be removed, and they got covered in poop. In other words, Muriel and I lucked out on being the deck cadets first.

We stood watch and learned how to plot positions on paper charts. I am also learning how to do celestial navigation using a sextant.

On December 23, we started crossing the Suez Canal. We began at 5 or 6 in the morning. A pilot boarded our ship to help navigate our way through. Following close behind us was a tug boat and two patrol boats as well as a few cars on land that followed us all the way through the Canal. We got to see some pretty cool stuff while we were passing through.