Monday, January 16, 2017

Pump watch

January 16

One of the most ridiculous activities we have to do on the ship is called "pump watch". I think I mentioned it before in passing, but since I do it every day I felt like it deserved a separate post.
A lot of oceanography sampling we make comes from inline water supply - there is a hole in the bottle of the ship, followed by a pump that brings water all the way to the main deck level and containers upstairs. Unfortunately, this inline water intake was not in the original design of the ship, so the crew had to improvise. The hole was made at 4.5 m below the water line, so in high roll situations the pump gets air, rather than water. This air can ruin some of the instruments we have connected to the line, but most importantly the air can destroy our precious pump. There is no alarm system, so all scientists literally sit in the lab and "watch the pump". If the water stops flowing, we simply stop the pump and restart it again.
Here is a picture of Tiger and Lily - Jenny's  son's stuffed animals on pump duty. You can see the two buttons on the wall - green and red. The red one stops the pump and the green one starts it up again.

We have been extremely lucky over the last few days to have non-marine groups come and volunteer their time for the pump watch. It really means a lot, makes us feel like we are working together, even though the task is a bit ridiculous. However, we will probably not have the luxury of other people's time during the beginnings of the upcoming legs - people will be busy sorting their own projects and solving their own problems. So unless we find a creative solution - we will be stuck with many more "pump watch" hours per person.

The most annoying shifts you can get are the 3 and 4 AM ones. In general night shifts are less desirable. I have one midnight shift every second day and a mid day shift on an alternating day. I have to say that the midnight one is much better than the 3 AM one, plus I get to check my messages after I am done watching the pump at 1 AM and I am more likely to get a text message trough than during the day. 

Before I finish this whiny post I want to send my cheers to the crew of Akademik Tryoshnikov. They did not design the ship to be so awkward, the hole for inline pump was put in later and without much thought. But the crew installed a new pump for us in Cape Town and there were kind enough to get a PVC hose from the pump to the lab. The hose is awkwardly laying around the corridors, but it works. Also, the crew were really accommodating to us when we decided to insulate the hose, disconnected it and connected back without any fuss. They also split the flow coming up with regulators on the fly, etc. etc.

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