2018 Cruise - JC165

RRS James Cook Ship Systems

I am regularly asked “How did you go from oceanography research to becoming an IT technician?” … well. Let me explain. As one of the Scientific Ship Systems tech’s on the James Cook I don’t just look after computers. We support all of the scientific instrumentation that is physically fitted to the ship, and all the infrastructure to enable data acquisition, storage and transmission.

Each deployment to the sea bed is reliant on instruments that we support. I can tell you that the current depth is 4728 metres (m). This is provided by two echo sounders which are built into the hull; one is a single beam, and the other is a multibeam which we use for sea floor mapping. The surface water temperature is 12.8 °C and salinity is 35.54, as measured by instruments in the underway sampling system. The air temperature is 11.4 °C and the wind speed is 19.8 knots. These measurements come from the meteorological instruments that we look after on the bow of the ship.

Figure 1. The screen bank of RRS James Cook

At the moment the megacore is on its way to the sea bed and is currently at a depth of 1755 m and is descending at a rate of 50 m per min. On the core frame is a USBL beacon so we can provide high accuracy positioning of the instrument, knowing exactly where the sediment samples came from.

We record all these data and transmit this information all over the ship which means that although I’m in my cabin, I know what’s going on by checking the intranet live data feed. Some of the data is transmitted off the ship, feeding into weather and ocean forecasting models. Our data feeds support so many other operations onboard, such as the CTD and HyBIS.

All the data is synchronised into a file storage system and made accessible through the internal network for the scientists to work with. The network brings us back to IT because computers are a central part in data acquisition and processing. In between the computers and the instruments are several kilometres of wiring that we have to navigate; if an instrument isn’t getting the data feed it needs, we work out how to fix it. So yes, there is a lot of IT, but it is mainly understanding numerous scientific systems which are central in supporting oceanographic research.

I will end this post here by placing it in the public drive for the blog master to pick up over the network, and then upload via the satellite internet (yes, another system we look after!). If you want to know more about the RRS James Cook, read on here: http://noc.ac.uk/facilities/ships/rrs-james-cook

Date: 31/05/18 J151 20:48:42 << From a precision network clock

Position: 48° 58.94′ N 016° 33.03′ W << From one of scientific GPS’s. Copy into google to see in a map for yourself.


Written by Eleanor Darlington