The Sikuliaq is a relatively large ship with a great variety of deck, passage, and lab areas. Even on a vessel dedicated to supporting scientific expeditions, however, much of the volume on board is dedicated to stores, propulsion, and the various other systems within the purview of the Engineering department. There is also ample living and working space, but in the course of settling into your routine onboard, it’s likely that as a student watchstander, your on-duty hours will be primarily spent in two rooms: the computer lab and the main lab.
Occupying much of the starboard side of the main deck, the main lab is outfitted to support a variety of types of science missions. There is a large expanse of lab bench space punctuated regularly with sinks, compressed air lines, power and LAN drops as well as a large area of open floor that for our cruise is configured with tables and chairs to provide an office-like setting for data processing and Sentry monitoring. The lab also sports two fume hoods and a couple of ultra-low temperature freezers (none of which will be necessary on our cruise).
For our purposes, the main lab serves as a central location for data processing tasks which are shared among watchstanders as well as the place where individual students (and co-chief scientists) can sit down and put some time into their own projects. As such, it’s usually the more reserved of the two work environments, where everyone agrees that for the most part, leaving one another to their own tasks results in the ideal combination of productivity and peace of mind.
By contrast, the computer lab, across the main passage on the port side, is a moderately more social place. The long hours of watch can become an exercise in endurance, and the more eyes on the clock, the more likely every 20-minute log entry will be accurate and on time. So it’s not uncommon to find, in addition to the shift’s designated watchstander and marine tech, a co-chief scientist or two as well as a couple of off-duty watchstanders floating in an out of the computer lab to catch up on Sentry’s current progress, check the ship’s course and heading, sample the current watch leader’s music choices, or just pass the minutes talking over this or that until the next shift change.
The computer lab certainly has no shortage of conversation starters. Each of the many monitors can be switched to one of a vast number of displays, each showing the current status of some aspect of the ship or science mission. Several are shown in the picture, and even more are available:
- TOPAS – Readout and control for the sub-bottom profiler
- Multibeam – Readout and control for the EM-302 echo sounder
- GPS – An overview of the number and position of GPS satellites currently being used to track our position, including the quality of the positional fix
- DAQ – The “Data AcQuisition” view shows a summary of the ship’s instruments and includes information about the seawater like salinity and temperature as well as ambient temperature, pressure, and the ship’s speed, heading, and position
- Bridge display – This shows the orientation and speed of both main propellers, the ship’s orientation and rate of rotation, Speed Over Ground (absolute speed), Speed Through Water (relative speed), and other figure of interest to the bridge
- Topo – A topographical view of the seafloor incorporating data from our own cruise as well as previous missions and other sources
- Winds – An animated schematic of the wind direction and speed for our area of the ocean
- Nav – This screen shows our position and current survey track as well as the next waypoint and our ETA
- HiSeasNet – A readout of the up- and download bandwidth usage for the ship over the HiSeasNet satellite internet