Anyone watch Star Trek? Remember the people that were always tirelessly working and performing miracles in the engine room to ensure the Enterprise wasn’t lost? It’s sort of like that on board the R/V Langseth as well. This expedition would all be for naught if the ship did not stop and go as needed. The engineers take care of a lot; along with maintaining the engines for the ships propulsion, they also take care of the equipment that provides our electricity, air conditioning (it’s hot outside), fresh water, the compressed air for the acoustic source, and much more. Getting to go through the engine room and see equipment similar to what you might find in your car except super-sized is a gearhead’s dream. Recently, we were fortunate enough to receive a tour through the ship’s engine room.
The engines that propel this ship around the world: two Bergen 6 cylinder diesels each with a displacement of 10,618 cubic inches producing 3,605 brake horsepower allow the good ship Langseth to chug along at her 11 knot cruising speed. For most purposes the engines operate at 600 rpm and idle at 450 rpm, although max power is achieved at 750 rpm. Unlike cars and trucks, the ship’s speed is controlled by the pitch of the propellers, not the rpm of the engines. Instead of applying more fuel and causing the the engine to increase rpm, the propellers are adjusted to direct more water toward the aft which pushes the boat on faster. Also connected to these engines are the the electrical generators; each engine powers a shaft-driven generator that produces A/C electricity for the entire boat. When in port, an auxiliary generator with it’s own engine is used so the main engines don’t have to be running.
We’ve been out here ~50 days now. Everyone on board has been drinking water, showering, cleaning, etc., all things that require fresh water. The engineers maintain the ship’s two means of producing fresh water: a reverse osmosis purifier, and a flash evaporator. With both systems running, the ship can convert salty sea water to fresh water at a rate of about 3,500 gallons per day. Having both system provides redundancy in case one system goes down.
The engineering crew also maintains the air compressors, which are essential for the seismic operation. We utilize this compressed air to operate the sound source. For redundancy, which is a common thing on board the ship, there are two air compressor systems in case one fails. The chief engineer tells us that these systems are the largest air compressor systems in the world; when they are turned on you can feel the vibration through nearly the entire boat.
At this point in our expedition, we have traversed somewhere around 10,000 nautical miles over 50 days and problems with the ship’s operations have been pretty much non-existent thanks to the great engineering crew.
-Justin & Akhil