Aboard the R/V Thompson, Newport Oregon
We’re about to head out to the jobsite of the world’s deepest construction site, about 300 miles off the coast of Oregon. Before we head out of Newport Oregon, a few engineering chores still need doing aboard the Thomas G. Thompson (aka TGT) a 274 foot research vessel operated by the University of Washington (UW or as the locals say “U-dub”). The ship was named after the chemist and oceanographer Thomas G. Thompson who devoted his career to the chemical study of seawater and founded the UW oceanography lab.
My task for the day is to settle in and figure out where things are on the ship so I don’t embarrass myself walking into someone’s sleeping quarters, wander into a restricted area or interrupt a private meeting. It requires that you think in 3D since ships are laid out by decks or levels with many passageways and cubbyholes that pretty much look the same. You move between levels via ladders (ship term, even though they more closely resemble stairs) that are in different parts of the ship so you have to think about which way to turn when you reach the level you think is your destination. Starting from the engine room in the bowels of the ship, there are seven levels to the top level where the wheelhouse (04 level) is located, from which the captain controls the ship. Moving down four levels from the wheel house (these decks have living quarters for the officers) is the very important 01 deck, also known as the Foc’sle deck, where the galley and mess hall are located, along with the lounge where you can read, watch movies or play board games. At meals, the whole ship comes together and you can find yourself chatting with a deck hand, a grad student or the chief scientist, learning something new with every knosh.
The deck below the Foc’sle is the main deck where the science labs, ROV control room and the computer lab are located. I have bench space in the computer lab where I have access to wifi and can watch the live monitors that show video from cameras on the ROV, the control room and the outside decks of the ship. I’m in here with a videographer, Ben Fundis, a UW science writer, Nancy Penrose, Giora Proskurowski, co-cheif scientist for this leg of the cruise, and Ed McNichol, a multi-talented connectivity, media production, and camera guru who makes sure the ship’s satellite connections, the multiple video cameras, and the data are all operating correctly so the science is being captured and the video streams and live shows are getting out to the Internet.
I’m sleeping mid-ship on the deck below the main level in a two-bunk stateroom with Nancy as my roommate. We have a comfortable, spacious cabin, sharing a bathroom with two ladies on the other side. Mid-ship is a great location once we’re underway because it’s farther away from the noise of the huge diesel engines near the stern (back) or the waves crashing against the bow (front). There’s also less movement in the lower middle of the ship, so once we get under way (hopefully later this evening) it’ll be easier to sleep. I don’t anticipate any trouble sleeping, I love the movement of a ship at sea. As long as it’s not too rough, I feel like a baby in a cradle being rocked to sleep.