Location: Lat: 71 21.718 N Long: 134 34.039 W
Sunrise: 9:19 am Sunset: 5:57 pm
****Late into the night, there are people working aboard the Polar Sea. Thanks to a few individuals each night, the Polar Sea keeps steaming forward. To get a better understanding of what has to happen each night, I stayed up late and talked to each of the groups that stands watch even through the night hours.
The first place I visited was the engine room; 24 hours a day/7 days a week they have four people on duty. There is an engineer of the watch and assistant engineer of the watch as well as 2 additional crew for auxiliary monitor reading. The team monitors the engines that generate electricity on board, water supplies, sewage, heat, and engine for propulsion of the boat. They have to monitor all of the engines even when at anchor. Last night, Chief Gaskon and ET1 Debra Bowing were on watch helping us to traverse safely through some large pieces of ice.
Another area of the ship that works all hours is the bridge. In the bridge, there are usually at least 6-7 people on watch who rotate through 4 hour shifts. The crew on the bridge are in charge of steering the boat and outline our path throughout the night. Their job is basically the same as during the day, however gets a bit more challenging to navigate because of the dark and the ice. One of the jobs that takes place is making rounds on deck to make sure that doors are secured and everything is tied down safely. Even during rough seas and icy conditions, they have to make rounds each hour out on the deck.
The crew on the bridge works using red lights after sundown. The red lights help to preserve their night vision. All the hallways also have red lights for after sundown. The idea is to cut down on the time it takes your eyes to adjust to light. For example, have you ever walked into a dark room from an bright sunny area? You can't see anything at first and then eventually you can begin to see outlines of shapes and more detail as your eyes adjust.
Another area that is usually manned at night is the flying bridge, which is the area right above the bridge. It's an outdoor area that has a good view of what's ahead. The job of this person is to be on the lookout for large pieces of ice. However, last night it was cold and windy so they allowed the flying bridge watchman to work from the inside area of the bridge.
Walking down from the bridge, I passed another area that I have yet to explore - the Operations Specialist room - or the radio room. This room is off limits to civilians because this is where the ship gets all of it's secure communications. Last night, OS 2 Kim Myers was working a 6 hour shift. Her job is to maintain communication with the surrounding district. The OS crew works individually, so they must keep themselves busy during down times. Myers uses the downtime to study for her online classes, complete homework assignments, or watch TV/movies.
I noticed a common theme amongst all the places that work through the night - they all have their own coffee makers! The use of caffeine is vital to staying awake during an 11:30 pm -3:30 am shift or an 3:30 - 7:30 am shift!
The last place I visited was the galley and I spoke with FS2 Megan Brooks. Brooks works during the night to prepare the food for the next day for the crew and visitors on board the Polar Sea. Each night, she helps to prepare mid-rats. Mid-rats is the 11pm meal - this is vital for those working the 11:30-3:30 watch. They usually have a variety of foods including quesadillas, sandwiches, and other creative uses of leftovers. After she finishes up with mid-rats, she works on preparations for the next day with only the help of one mess cook. They prepare desserts and baked goods - everything from pies and brownies to croissants and bagels. The amount of food on board is amazing! Brooks said for the three month cruise, that they ordered about 1.25 million dollars worth of food! We have gone through about half of the food so far - plus we have had two additional orders of fresh veggies. It's amazing how much food we can go through!
Thanks to the individuals that work hard through the night, we can travel safely through the night and have delicious meals the next day!