Scientific engineers at work

Jon Short (NOC)

On every scientific research cruise there are three distinct groups of people who work together to ensure the successful outcome of the project: the scientific party – who design the experiments, work in the labs and write the scientific papers; the ship’s company – officers, engineers and crew who operate and maintain the deep ocean research vessels that we all go to sea on; and the scientific engineering technicians…

The technicians are on board to operate and maintain the fitted and portable scientific sampling equipment – the CTDs, SAPs, zooplankton nets, moorings and portable winches that have been talked about in this blog previously.

Onboard currently we have:

Martin and Jennifer, the Scientific Ships’ Systems technicians, who look after the suite of acoustic mapping tools (like the swath bathymetry system that maps the seafloor 5000 metres down), the meteorological sensor system and the sea surface instruments (that measure temperature, salinity, fluorescence and transmittance) of the surface sea water. In addition to this they look after the onboard computing and logging systems and (arguably most importantly!) the internet which provides everyone on board their link to home.

Andy, the Ocean Engineering Technician, is our mechanical engineer who can fabricate all sorts of things in our onboard workshop. From producing brass messengers that trigger the Marine Snow Catchers on the lathe to turning his hand to a bit of blacksmithing to turn lengths of steel bar into net carriers for the BAS net system. He is also responsible for maintaining and operating the portable winches on board, be they small portable hydraulic winches up to the large computer controlled trace metal winch that we hang the trace metal clean CTD on.

John and Candice, instrumentation engineers from the Sensors and Moorings team, look after all of the instruments on the C(onductivity)T(emperature)D(epth) frame. The CTD is a collection of instruments that measures temperature, salinity, fluorescence, current, transmittance, and light levels of the entire water column. The CTD also collects water samples from various depths along the way in 20 litre bottles for the scientific team to analyse in the laboratories after we have recovered the frame – well we have to keep them busy somehow! John and Candice also look after the Stand Alone Pumps (SAPs) – these devices sit in the water column for an hour or more and suck water through a series of pieces of filter paper. We’re not sure why, but Calum (the scientist who is interested in these things) seems very happy and it keeps him quiet for several hours afterwards so we must be doing something right.

And me, Jon. I’m the senior technician so (very) loosely in charge of the technical team – I pretty much just try to not get in the way too much or break anything too badly!

Jon driving his favourite winch as dawn breaks