I was excited to see what kind of machinery the Gould had working for us behind the scenes, so at dinner last night I asked the Chief Engineer, Mike, if he would be willing to give us a tour of engineering. He agreed and today many of the scientists went down after breakfast to check out the engine rooms. I used to be in the Navy and love learning about all things that make a ship work so please excuse my nerdiness in the following explanation of the engineering systems.
[Vessel specifications and some schematic drawings can be found via our Links page.]
In Control Central, where the watch-standing engineer monitors and controls the entire engineering plant, Mike walked us through the general components of his systems. There are two main diesel Caterpillar engines on-board with 2,300 horsepower each and a max combined speed of 10.2 knots for the Gould – not the speediest vessel out here. Her typical cruising speed is right around 10 knots, and in heavy currents that could result in speeds of 18 knots over ground running with the currents or 3 knots against (things could take a while).
The Gould has three diesel generators for power, one of which runs the bow thruster. Using the bow thruster to control the bow and the two propellers with the rudder to control the stern, she can get underway without a tug. The propellers are Controllable Pitch meaning the shaft always turns at the same revolutions per minute (rpm) and the pitch (angle) of the propeller blades increases or decreases to get more or less thrust or put the ship in reverse. The props do not switch directions to put the ship in reverse. The engines put out 900rpm and there is a ~3:1 reduction of this speed between the engines and the shaft to put more torque on the props for propulsion. You want to have this reduction because if the props turned at 900rpm, the props would begin “cavitating” (the production of air bubbles around the props) and you would get loud noise and damage to the props.
Engineering also includes the fire main system, sewage, and rudder control. Some of the wrenches for their equipment are as large as a 10-year-old child, and we were allowed to pass one around for pictures. All in all, we had a lot of fun on the tour and gained a better appreciation of the ship’s capabilities and how it works.