Thursday 05 February, 2004
Engine Room 101
The R/V Melville is owned by the U.S. Navy and operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) as a multi-purpose oceanographic research vessel. The Melville was built in Bay City, Michigan on the Great Lakes and first launched on July 10, 1968. It was named for George Wallace Melville, a pioneer arctic explorer, an engineer and Rear Admiral in the US Navy from the mid to late 1800´s through 1912.
In 1989 the R/V Melville was taken to a shipyard in Louisiana to be refitted. It was cut in half, and expanded by ten meters. The ship received a new engine room. Previously, there had been only one engine, it now has four. Also added was berthing space and main lab space, an analytical lab and a lab on the 01 deck (see ship´s diagram). The Chief, as Paul is known, shared photos he had taken of the refitting, including an impressive shot of the large crane raising the R/V Melville, which at the time weighed approximately 1,400 tons. The crane could actually lift 5,000 tons or about 3 Melvilles.
After the box has been removed, a meter long 15-cm (6-in) round piece of PVC pipe is slid into the mud. Next a clear rectangular box is placed in the core to collect sediment for x-rays that are taken of each core. Once cleaned, this rectangular "slab" is taken to the science lab/darkroom to be processed. John Crockett taught today´s lecture about sediment processes and at the end showed us a selection of x-radiographs from recent cores.
Next, we entered the engine room. Due to the loud volume of the engines and generators, it is necessary to have ear protection, so we were all given earplugs before the door was opened. As you enter the room, you feel as if you are crossing into a different world then life above in the labs and on deck. Here there is a yellowish glow from the large, yellow engines and generators that dominate the room. The walkways are narrow, and you feel a burst of hot air as you enter this loud, active environment. Energy in the room can be felt from the heat on your face, the dry air in your mouth and the loud sounds, although they are barely audible through the neon green earplugs you wear. The room was a tangible reminder of the power required to operate this large ship. We walked through the room and Chief pointed out things we had talked about: the large diesel generators, the blue evaporators which create fresh water from seawater, and the Oily Water Separator (OWS) which takes bilge water or any water with oil, removes the oil and places it in a tank to safely dispose when back on land; the clean water is returned to the ocean.
We then left the engine room and entered the machine shop. The machine shop has welders, a wide array of tools and lots of extra materials to enable the talented crew to fix and build things as needed while at sea. There is also a science hold located here � a storage area for researchers who will be returning to the ship several times within a relatively short period of time. Chuck Nittrouer, Andrea Ogston and Miguel Goñi´s teams are using this to store their equipment as they have several cruises this year on R/V Melville. Shipping and transporting equipment back and forth is both time consuming and expensive.
Our last stop was the winch and propeller room. The most striking feature here is the two large drums of wire; one holds 10,000 meters of wire and the other 9,000 meters. There are also two 1,500 horsepower motors that use power from the generators to operate the two rudder propellers, also known as stern thrusters.
Here are some fun facts about the R/V Melville:
(Today's weather and location at 0900)
QUESTION: The wire descends at a rate of 60 meters (197 feet) per one minute. If you were deploying a box core in the deep sea, how long would it
take to reach the bottom in 7,500 meters (24,606 feet) of water?