My average day is very different when I am at sea than when I am back ashore working in my laboratory and office. At sea we work almost continuously, sampling animals with nets and then working with them in the laboratory on board the ship. We usually only take short breaks to eat our meals in the galley and sleep in our bunks. Although this gets very tiring, we have to make the most of our time at sea, because it is so expensive to run a ship and so rare that we can go someplace so remote as the Indian Ocean. I usually go to sea about 30-50 days per year. When I'm back ashore working in my laboratory and office, my average day is very different. Then my time is usually split about evenly between teaching college students in the classroom, working on experiments in my laboratory, and meeting with other scientists in person or on the phone to talk about our newest ideas and discoveries. -- From Stephen Bollens, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
37) Mark Leard, Victor Vega, and Kim Carter want to know, "Is it difficult to steer and stay on course with whales around?"
Actually it's pretty easy to steer the ship and keep it on course, even with whales and dolphins around. Most of the time, when the ship is underway, my Bridge watch officers will steer the ship using the automatic pilot that is connected to the ship's gyro compass. We can set the gyro compass course that we want to take the ship from one location to another, and then let the automatic pilot make the small changes to the ship's two rudders to keep the ship on course.
Usually when Bob Pitman, Lisa Ballance, and Michael Force see whales and dolphins, the animals are several miles away. If the whales and dolphins are located pretty close to the ship's track, we will change course and steer for the pod of whales or school of dolphin. Several times we have passed through a large number of dolphin and then reversed course to pass through the school or pod again, to get a better look at each of the animals. We usually don't have to be concerned about hitting the whales or dolphins. They can sense where the ship is, and will stay out of the way. Dolphins can swim much faster than the ship can move through the water, and whales will usually sound or dive deep to get out of the way. Often that's what makes it so difficult to get a good look at the whales. They are only on the surface for a short time, and by the time they surface again for another breath, the ship is long gone. -- From Captain Nelson
38) Jennifer Rogers asks, "What's the longest time you've been on a ship between ports?"
I've been on some pretty long cruises, but I guess I'd say that the longest cruise that I've been on between ports has been about 36 days. That was many years ago, and I can't remember now whether it was the trip from Seattle, Washington to Hong Kong in 1972 or the cruise from Easter Island to Seattle, Washington in 1973. Actually, the cruise that we just completed on the MALCOLM BALDRIGE from Durban, South Africa to Colombo, Sri Lanka was almost as long - we were at sea for 33 days. After about 30 days at sea, however, being at sea can get pretty tiring, and port looks really good to most of us at the end of a long cruise.
Most of the ships that I have been on in NOAA have been either deep ocean oceanographic research ships or fisheries research vessels. Typically, the cruises on those ships were 25-30 days long between ports, with only about 3- 5 days in port. So you can see that being on a ship means that you are at sea and away from land for much of the year. -- From Captain Nelson
39) Jason Boisclair wants to know, "What do you do in your free time?"
As Captain, I would have to say that I don't have too much free time at all. Because I am responsible for the safety of the ship and the people on it, I am usually on call 24 hours a day. That means that when something goes wrong, I'm generally the first person who gets called. Fortunately, most days, everything runs very well, and I do have time for some of my hobbies and for other types of recreation.
In the evenings, we show at least 4 video tape movies on the ship's entertainment system. These aren't the first run movies that you and your friends get to go see at the movie theater, but they aren't too old either. Usually, we get video tapes of movies that are about 6 months to a year old. We have a collection of over 600 different movies to watch, but even with that many, we see some movies over and over again, mainly because they are good movies and the crew likes them.
When I'm not watching movies, I have a large collection of novels to read, that I brought with me for this around-the-world cruise. I also like to build ship models, and I have a large latch-hook rug that I'm trying to finish this year. And of course, working on computers is one of my passions. Answering all of your great questions, and trying to keep you informed about our activities, through MidLink, has occupied a lot of my free time, and it has been very enjoyable. -- From Captain Nelson
40) Deanna Thayer asks, "How does it feel to be the Captain?"
Being Captain of a ship, no matter how large or small, is a tremendous responsibility, but I wouldn't trade places with anyone right now. I really enjoy my job and profession. I also would never have had the chance to sail around the world if I were not the Captain of the MALCOLM BALDRIGE during this moment in time. As Captain, I am responsible for the safety of the ship and all of the officers, crew, and scientists who sail on her. The old rule of the sea that says, "The Captain goes down with his ship" is not just a saying. I take it very seriously. I must look after the safety and well being of my crew before I think about myself. Of course, I have many people on the ship who advise me and perform very essential functions to make sure that we can accomplish our job. But when critical decisions have to be made, particularly when the vessel's safety may be affected, or when the ship can't continue to operate as it is supposed to, then I'm the one who has to make those decisions.
I have over 70 people on the ship right now, and as you can probably guess, it's not always easy, and sometimes it's impossible to make sure that everyone is happy. We try to do the best job that we can, to make sure that everyone is well trained, well fed and cared for, and that most of their other personal needs are met. I suppose you could say that being Captain is much like being a parent, teacher, and principal all rolled into one person. If you think about how each one of those individuals affects your life each day, you'll have a pretty good idea about what my job is like.
Your parents make sure that you are fed, that you have clothes, and a warm place to sleep, and they are going to make sure that you don't get hurt. They also teach you many things outside of school, that will help you mature into responsible young adults in our society. Your teacher guides you, provides you with all of the important tools, and helps develop your skills (reading, writing, arithmetic) to do your job - being a student for much of your young life. And finally, your principal makes sure that you have a place to go to school and that your teachers have the resources to do their job - and on occasion, the principal may have to use discipline to correct certain problems. That's really my job, as Captain, in a nutshell. -- From Captain Nelson
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