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Dispatch 14: In the Belly of the Beast (Engine Room Tour)

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Fred Marin

September 25, 2019

Location: 75° 18’ N 153° 19’ W

Sea Conditions: 3847m water depth; open water.

After spending two weeks aboard the heavy ice breaker CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent, it’s hard not to realize that the vessel is essentially an encapsulated civilization.  This heavy icebreaker is a bit exceptional in its independence in that is has a helicopter, AUVs, and a few small vessels it can employ.  In addition to laboratory space and meeting rooms which we spend most of our time in, the ship has a lot more going on with it.  The ship has a lounge and two main dining areas: one for the crew and science, and an officers mess where members of the science team are also welcome.  There is even a fine dining room known as “the fish bowl” where the captain dines with members from the ship’s crew and science party whom he invites.  Additionally, there is a ship store supplying equipment to the crew, a carpenter shop (the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is one of the last Coast Guard ship with wood trim and furnishing).  Lastly, the ship is equipped with laundry facilities, and a fairly large gym which even has a dry sauna.

Operating below the main levels of the ship is where the heart which runs it lives providing all the amenities of home.  This is where we enter the engine room, which occupies a large portion of the ships volume from the keel to just above the water line.  An engine room on a vessel this size is not just one room, it is many rooms.  And if you ever looked under the hood of your car and thought that looked complicated, wait till you get a load of what’s under the hood of the CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent.

Our tour guide was Canadian Coast Guard Chief Engineer Jeffrey Seitz.  We started our tour in the stern of the ship, and after passing through a welding shop, a machine shop, and a chemical storage room, we finally enter the steerage compartment.  This mechanism for moving the single rudder on this 119.8m long ship is massive, and it is old.  Apparently the only other version with this steering gear is the Queen Elizabeth parked in San Francisco harbor.  Moving on we get to see the three drive shafts turning the three propellers on the ship.  They don’t all have to operate at once and we see them changing direction and their speed of rotation as we stand there watching them.  The propellers are powered by diesel-electric engines.  This is an efficient way of generating propulsion and it gives a lot of options for changing speed, rotational direction, and the number of propellers being operated at any given time.

Controlling the power on the ship are rows and rows of electrical panels, lights, knobs, screens… the list goes on.  It is very noisy too, so I am not able to catch every detail of what is happening.  We move onward to one of the main engine rooms.  There is a total of five diesel engines which are used to generated electricity to power the three propellers on the vessel.  Each engine is the size of a Dodge Van… these engines are huge!  Three engines are in this first engine room, and the other two are in the second.  This room also houses the electrical generators used to provide power to all the vessels amenities.  Additionally, the boilers providing heat and hot water are in this room, along with the ships stacks which rise high through the center of the vessel and out the top.  Keeping a ship such as the Louis operational is no easy task.  My hat is off to the engineers aboard whose years of training and experience are absolutely invaluable to the successful operation of this amazing vessel!

Last updated: September 30, 2019

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