The internet connection onboard is very slow, and there only two computers that have internet. In the first couple of days I tried accessing my blog through these computers in order to publish my posts, but the page just would not load, so ever since I have been e-mailing text and photos to my husband Elron Yellin in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and he has been religiously posting them online for me. Email onboard however, is through satellite and it is set up that with only a couple hours delay, even photos of large sizes can be sent or received. I explained all of this because I have not actually been able to view my blog since the first week of November. However, every time someone posts a comment, I get their name and that comment in an email.
A couple of days ago, an interesting comment was posted by Colin Quinn, from Northern Ireland. It turns out that one of the engineers onboard, Dan Bird, is from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland, and his mom Ruth Bird is a school teacher there. One of her co-workers, Mr. Quinn and his class have been following our blog. I was very happy to find out that the website I started to keep my family up-to-date is now being followed by many people from different places. I had hoped to document what it is like to make an Antarctic voyage for the first time and also highlight, as best as I can, why the scientists are going to great lengths for their work. I am very grateful for all of you following and please do post comments. That way I can respond to you.
Mr. Quinn’s comment gave me the opportunity to interview Dan, 21, a cadet just out of college, on an Antarctic vessel and find out how he ended up here.
DA: So you are from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland. Is that where you went to college?
DB: I went to university in Liverpool, studying mechanical and marine engineering. I graduated in 2010 so this is my first job out of college.
DA: Do you work for BAS now?
DB: No, a training company placed me with the JCR, I am not a BAS employee. Once my assignment is done here, the company will place me in another vessel, it could be cruise ships,local ferries, tankers…
DA: How long have you been on the JCR and what do you do as a cadet?
DB: Since September 2010,so 4.5 months now. On the JCR we shadow one of the more senior engineers, 2nd or 3rd engineers. They show you everything you need to know. Then every 3rd day, those engineers are on duty for 24 hours, so I have to shadow them. In that case I’m not responsible if anything goes wrong but it is a really good way to learn.
DA: What are the regular things you do everyday?
DB: We do day work from 8 AM to 5 PM checking if the machineries operating as they should– every day you do checks in different things, checks the engines, check if purifiers are running, check evaporators and so on.
DA: The last few days we are low on fresh water. How does the ship make fresh water?
DB: We take sea water in, then boil it at 60 C under pressure, then condense it back basically. You then pass it through a mineralizer to get fresh water. We can hold 212 m^3 fresh water, make about 20 m^3 a day as long as we are in open water. The consumption on board with a crew of 31 and 18 scientists right now is about 14-15 m^3 a day. Lately we haven’t been able to make fresh water because we are at Rothera, and before that we were in the ice. Basically we have to get back to open water.
DA: Did what you learn at university studying engineering give you some hands-on experience for this job?
DB: No, we didn’t do much hands on work at school, I got all the hands-on experience on the JCR. I think I will be continue to go out to sea after this. I like it a lot. will go home after xmas times. older brother, software engineer in London.
DA: You are a cadet now. When will you get to be an engineer with full responsibility?
DB: To qualify, I have to take an oral exam by the maritime coast guard in the UK. These will be mostly safety questions; they want to make sure you won’t endanger yourself, they’ll ask technical questions such as how a system works. Being a cadet now, when i qualify i’ll be 4th engineer. Then I have to work two more years between to go from 4th engineer to 3rd. Obviously if you get promoted, you get paid more as well.
DA: What does your family think about you going away for so long?
DB: My family misses me but I had been living away for 3 years before this anyway, so they are used to it. When I’m on the ship I send emails every day.
DA: Since you’ve been on board, has there been any big engine room problems?
DB: When we left the UK, we had a major fuel leak on one of the engines. 100-150 L of fuel was spraying out in the engine room. Thankfully that got fixed. Then when we got to Stanley, we had a leak on the cooling systems. The stern thruster was overhauled earlier, but that job wasn’t done properly so last week it stopped working. We are running without the stern thruster now. It’s handy to have but not necessary.
DA: Is there anything you’d like to say to the students following us from Kilkeel, Northern Ireland?
DB: Yes, do everything Mr.Quinn Says!

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1 Comment on Dan Bird – Cadet

  1. colin quinn says:

    hi Derya,
    it’s fantastic to see this interview with Dan.I now understand why you were commenting on running low on fresh water.I didn’t realise it would have to be made on the ship.We have been studying water and the lack of clean water in certain African countries. We support local charities involved in drilling bore holes and building schools.I hope that I can bring the important science that you are carrying out down to the pupils’ level of understanding and inspire future scientists..We hear a lot about global warming here in N.Ireland and we now have to ensure the pupils wear sunscreen and hats during the summer in school.I feel your work and that of your collegues is vitally important and to hear about it first hand is making it so real for me and my pupils.As we are a fishing community we understand the importance of the work on maintaining the balance within ecosystems.Keep up the excellent work and we look forward to reading more in your blog.
    Well done Dan a real inspiration to the pupils of KPS AND BY THE WAY YOU STILL OWE ME A HOMEWORK!!!!
    Best wishes,

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