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It’s been a while…

Well, it’s been 6 months since my last blog! But I am back (for now)! and here I am back out at sea. I had an extended break this time, just about bang on 9 weeks at home. That’s been the longest for me since I started this kind of work. I was supposed to go back to ‘the project that shall not be named’ at the beginning of June, but they decided to call it quits the end of May because of the weather forecast for June. However, it is supposed to startup again in November, so I will most likely find myself out there once again.

So, 9 weeks at home….it would have been much nicer if it had been summer is all I am saying. I did a short (~10 day) trip to Tassie at the beginning to catch up with all my friends, and then came back to Melbourne. I dealt with the end of the tomato plants and planted a winter crop (peas and broad beans), but other than that not much gardening going on. I always have stuff to do when I get home from a trip away, but at about 6 weeks I started to get a bit bored, and the weather wasn’t all that conducive to doing things either.

Winter is generally a slow time for work, with the whale migration and everything. My name got put in for a few jobs, but the first one I was offered was this one. It’s just a short job, but better than nothing (or so I thought). I was told I was joining the ship in Darwin, so I flew there on the 26th. After lots of disorganization we joined the ship 3 days later. But hey, I am not complaining about that – 3 days in Darwin, with sunny 30-degree days, and paid to be there – NICE!

While in Darwin, I visited the Mindil Market a couple times, went for a couple nice runs along the coast, and just enjoyed some warmth and sunshine – we haven’t been getting a lot of that in Melbourne lately. However, Darwin in a small city, and without a car you quickly run out of things to do.

Foreshore in Darwin, where I did a run or two.

Foreshore in Darwin, where I did a run or two.

 

Walked through this park several times a day. Nice way to get to the city.

Walked through this park several times a day. Nice way to get to the city.

running

Mindil Market (Sundays and Thursdays)

Mindil Market (Sundays and Thursdays)

Nonetheless, things went a little downhill once joining the ship. First, it’s an OLD ship (> 30yrs), it might look OK, but it hasn’t been maintained all that well, and it’s small.

Aquila Explorer

Aquila Explorer

I was kind of prepared for that, I didn’t have my hopes up. But wow, I am very glad this is a short trip now! There is no real gym. There is a Bowflex machine – ever see one of those on TV commercials and wonder what they are like? Wonder no more. The are crap – that’s what they are like. Every other piece of machinery that was on board has been taken apart, moved to a ‘new’ gym, and then just left on the floor in pieces.

the 'new gym'

the ‘new gym’

To top it off, the helideck is off limits unless we have really calm seas, which is a bit annoying, but so far we have been lucky. Lack of exercise is probably the biggest issue for me, and is the main reason why I am glad it will be a short(ish) trip. Also, when we joined they had me and the other MMO sharing a cabin (fairly normal practice), except we also had to share our bathroom with 2 guys from the room next door. Needless to say, we weren’t too impressed with that. From a females perspective, it’s one thing sharing your bathroom with your significant other, it’s a whole other kettle of fish to share it with 2 complete strangers. So, we requested a room transfer. However, almost all of the accommodation has shared bathrooms and the only other female on board is the Chief Steward and she gets her own private cabin anyway. The only rooms without shared bathrooms are in the bowels of the ship. We discussed it and opted for this option. So, our room is on the lowest deck, next to the engine room door. If it’s rough outside, it is LOUD inside, and at about 6am during shift change the engine room door is just BANG BANG BANG. Men….better than sharing a bathroom with them though.

 

Our room

Our room

As it is, it is a 4-day sail to the prospect, about 2 weeks of shooting and then a 4-day sail back to Darwin. That’s if all goes well (fingers crossed). There are a few positives I must admit. The marine crew is one of the best I have worked with, and the day cook is amazing – really good food and good variety. There are a few characters on board too.

the Bridge - pretty small, but the officers are great

the Bridge – pretty small, but the officers are great

We are currently about half way through the survey and I have seen more whales then I did in 10 weeks on my last job! Sorry the pictures aren’t that great this time around, most were taken with my phone (except for the blow) and it took me about 5 days to upload them with the internet connection – and even then I don’t think they all uploaded properly!

Pygmy Blue Whale

Pygmy Blue Whale

Until next time…..

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The Unmentionable Job

Sorry it has been a while between posts – although I do feel like I say that everytime! BUT this time I do have an excuse, and a reason why there won’t be many more (job ones) for a while. I have been forbidden, as well as everyone else on the ship, to impart any information or photos about this project on social media. I can tell you I am in Australia and in the southern part this time, but that’s about it 😦

The ship is new to me and also relatively new itself. It is only about 3 years old. It is nice, although rather small. I am yet again sharing a cabin, and an even smaller one, which was not all that pleasant at first, but then you kind of get used to it. I don’t spend a lot of time in there anyway as I have an expanded role for this survey. I am also monitoring and reporting environmental compliance for the whole survey as well, which keeps me busy during my breaks. The crew is fantastic, probably one of the best seismic crew I have worked with.

I will post a few pictures though. Before setting off we stopped for fuel in Albany, a small city in Western Australia. I have never been before and got a bit of time to walk around. It is rich in history both as a port for the first settlers arriving in Western Australia as well as the last port of call for troopships departing Australia for World War I. A pretty little place that was nice to visit.warf

Looking back onto the town

Looking back onto the town

water

The water did look rather inviting

Most of my time I spent walking around on the foreshore, and even managed to go for a morning run.

marina

I also did a tour of a replica of the Brig Amity, which was the ship that brought the first European settlers to the coast of WA, to establish a military post.

linesshipWheel2ship2

I also found a pair of Pelicans hanging out and feeding at the marina. I think they have taken over top place as being my favourite seabird. I don’t get to see them too often, but they are very cool looking creatures. From just one look into their eye, you can tell they have a cheeky personality.

Pelican2pelican

Stay tuned for my next post though. It will be a peak at our holiday over the Christmas period as we explored a bit of the South Australian coastline.

Ground Hog Day.

First, I have to apologise, I have been VERY slack writing my blog this time round. Same ship, same people, same lack of things to see = not inspired to write ‘the blog’.

It’s my 3rd swing and I have been on board 4+ weeks so far. The upside….only less than a week to go!

I did start the swing rather nicely though. Have you ever tried Norwegian chocolate? First let me start with the fact that Norwegians seem to think that anything Norwegian is far superior to anything else in the world. It seems to be a genetic defect of theirs 😉 But, I can confirm that they are right when it comes to Norwegian chocolate. I haven’t tried all the chocolate there is to be had in this big wide wonderful world, but Norwegian chocolate is YUMMY and at the top of my list. Luckily since I have been working with the same crew for a while now I managed to convince the Chief Officer (Andre) to bring me some (maybe I begged a little). And what a bounty I got! Unfortunately it didn’t last long enough for any to come back home with me.

As I said, there has been nothing to see….days of just water. The weather has picked up a bit since last time on board though, so more white caps, more humidity and even a few squalls passing by. We also had the first cyclone of the year a couple weeks ago – Alyssia. She was a category 1 when she passed by during the night, causing a bit of rolling, which wasn’t overly bad, and that is really saying something with this rolly polly ship. We had do divert from our normal course to miss anything worse, but overall she didn’t cause too many delays or dramas.

I have resurrected Sunday waffles on the Bridge. The very first swing I made them one Sunday before the waffle iron was binned, due to a few exposed wires that were considered a hazard 😦  No new iron was purchased, which I discovered on my second swing, so this swing I brought one myself. The Captain has reimbursed me though, so it will remain on board even when I am gone. As the weeks go by more people come for waffles and more waffles are consumed. So far, the record is 10 waffles eaten by one person. The scary thing is that he can be seen with a plateful of dinner 2 ½ hours later! Nevertheless, it is a nice little social gathering on the bridge every Sunday.

Although I am not on board for Christmas this year, I helped the officers decorate a bit on the bridge for the incoming crew. There wasn’t a lot to choose from, and most of it seems to have come from Singapore, but it’s hanging nonetheless, getting us all into the Christmas spirit before we leave. Christmas songs have also been playing almost non-stop since December 1st. Regardless, for me and many people from the Northern Hemisphere it still never feels quite right when it is 35+ degrees outside. But, we still have to try 🙂

No pictures this time 😦 Internet is always bad on this ship, but it has been shockingly bad this time around. I have tried and tried to upload pictures, reduced their sizes and tried again. But, with no success, so you will have to use your imagination, picturing chocolate, waffles, sunrises, squalls on the horizon and Christmas decorations on the bridge. Sorry.

Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and holiday season. Personally, I am going camping along the coast to South Australia so you may get an update about that – and I promise pictures!

smiley

The smiley is starting to smile!

 Crew change is fast approaching and I cannot wait. This swing, while only 4 weeks long feels like it is just dragging by. Originally I was going to take turns on the early shift (start watch at 5:20 am) with my offsider (Claudia). While she does the early shift I do the gym, and then I finish the day on watch at about 6pm. That was how the first week went anyway. The second week I tried the early shift and I hated it. I had to wait to go to the gym and by that time it was busy with other people and it is just too small for that. Of course, that was when I could push myself to go. Once my day is going I don’t like to look back. Gym time has to be first thing in the morning for me; and I don’t know why, but the day just seemed to drag on when I did the early shift. Luckily Claudia was amenable to switching back and staying with the early shift. Every now and again I will work it so she can have a sleep in, but I found I do like my routine and it’s hard to change. The coxswain (Terji) has been nice enough to mount a speed ball at the back of the vessel as well, so that’s a bonus and one more thing I can do outside in the fresh air. There used to be a bike out there but it is rusted and too far gone to work properly anymore.  I have also started boxing with the chief officer (Andre) every second night. I’ve only managed to hurt him once 😉speedball

Speaking of the gym, Claudia and I (we share a room) have had constant problems with people making too much noise in there at night – specifically about 12:40-1:00 am, and one guy in particular. Almost every single night we are woken up by barbells being dropped on the floor and bars being loaded noisily. We both have gotten up and gone over in our jammies to tell him to be quiet. It doesn’t seem to make a difference though and our complaining has fallen on deaf ears for those higher in rank. To them I fear we are just a couple of whinging MMOs. I would like to see them try to get a good nights sleep in our cabin though.

They have been doing a few things around the ship to fix it up, where it is starting to look a bit shabby. Unfortunately this usually requires a lot of noise. Luckily because of day and night shifts and people sleeping they are restricted to certain hours. BUT those hours of grinding and hammering and sanding can be hard to handle. noise

While I am on the ship (all ships) I drink a lot of water. I drink a lot of water at home as it is, but with the air conditioning, I am constantly thirsty. Here is what I drink on an average day on the ship: 12 x 600ml = 7.2 litres of water. That’s a lot of water and a lot of plastic.

My daily consumption

My daily consumption

In terms of animals there is not much to report on the sighting side of things. We have had a few whales and some dolphins, but we go days without seeing anything. I did see a sunfish one day though so that was pretty cool. On the plus side, the weather has been magnificent – blue skies and sunshine, and getting warmer and more humid by the day – well, the humid part isn’t so nice.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphin

Well, that’s it for now. I will be back on land very shortly to celebrate a big birthday and run another 1/2 marathon. Only a 4 week break this time (again) and I will be on board the Ram Ex once again for a final 5 week swing. Then it is Christmas and New Years off! Stay tuned….

Just another sunset...

Just another sunset…

Well, I am back on the Ramform Explorer for another swing – this time only 4 weeks. It’s been just over a week already, so only 3 more to go! It was a bit of a slow week to begin with unfortunately. The streamers and doors (paravanes that keep the streamers spread out behind us) all needed a good cleaning. You see seismics biggest enemy aren’t whales, but barnacles. I think I have talked about them before, but to recap: these pesky creatures grab hold of anything that’s in the water long enough (i.e. streamers etc), and proliferate. They multiply and grow and it gets to a point where they increase the drag on the streamers too much, but also cause ‘noise’ in terms of the data that is being collected. During good weather, streamer cleaning happens with the workboat everyday during line changes, but even with that it is hard to keep on top of them, especially this time of year when they start to spawn. So, for the first 4 days on board we weren’t shooting and they were just concentrating on barnacles and getting them off. So, I got on the ship and had 4 days of doing nothing. Sounds pretty good right? It is at the start but then it gets rather boring, and time went by really slowly which was even worse. BUT we are in full production now and time is ticking away! We have had a few dolphin sightings so far but nothing other than that.

I am scrambling around trying to find pictures to put in the blog. It’s boring with just words, especially when I don’t have much to say! So here are a few I have managed:

The Swingometer - Smiley face

This little guys face changes according to how far into the swing we are. He’s pretty sad at the beginning, but as time passes he starts to cheer up until crew change when he is very happy – as we all are!

Full Moon

Full Moon

Cleaning the decks

Cleaning the decks

The Pool finally got filled up - how inviting do you think it looks? Personally, not so much.

The Pool finally got filled up – how inviting do you think it looks? Personally, not so much.

Just a random shot on the monkey island

Just a random shot on the monkey island

Stay tuned, hopefully there will be more interesting things to come!

Coming to the End……

Well, I haven’t been writing much in the Blog this time round, mostly because there is not much to write about. It’s been a fairly boring trip. We have seen a few whales and dolphins, but only close up (~ 1000m) a few times, most of the time they have been pretty far away, and hey, let’s face it 1000m is exactly close either. I have seen 2 moray eels in the 4 weeks I have been out here, which is rather strange considering they are reef creatures and we are in 250+ metres of water.

Less than a week to go and I will be home. Going to have a quick trip to Tassie for a visit, then back to Melbourne for what sounds like crappy winter weather.

So, this Blog will really just be about pictures. Not too many things to capture, but a few good ones. Did I tell you I bought a new digital SLR not long before I came out here? I LOVE it. Hope you enjoy.

Support vessel in front delivering fuel to our ship.

Support vessel in front delivering fuel to our ship.

Support Vessel

Support Vessel – Nautika Pride – on a flat calm day

Fast Rescue Craft

FRC (Fast Rescue Craft)

Commin in after a simulated Man Over Board Drill. Hmmm.... I don't know if I would want to be rescued if I just got shoved on the corner of the boat ;-)

Coming in after a simulated Man Over Board Drill. Hmmm…. I don’t know if I would want to be rescued if I just got shoved on the corner of the boat like that 😉

Spot the Dummy in the water....

Spot the Dummy in the water….

Humpback Whale blow

Humpback Whale blow

This girl has been hanging around the ship for a few days, perched on the mast looking for fish until she swoops down and tried to catch them

Brown Booby (female). This girl has been hanging around the ship for a few days, perched on the mast looking for fish until she swoops down and tries to catch them

Flying High

Flying High

Jellyfish

Jellyfish

A plane, but once the sun was down and the way the light was reflected, several people believed this was a comet.

A plane, but once the sun was down and the way the light was reflected, several people believed this was a comet.

Sunset

We've had a few amazing sunsets

We’ve had a few amazing sunsets

 

Running in Squares

After an enjoyable, albeit quick, 7 weeks off I am back to work. I am on a different vessel this time, operated by a different seismic company and I am working for someone different, so lots of new things!

The vessel, Ramform Explorer a.k.a. RamEx, is a bit of a step down from my last one, but that was quite luxurious, so not really unexpected. The RamEx is built a bit differently. They try to maximize the area at the stern so they can deploy as many streamers as possible. Therefore, it basically looks like someone has chopped a ship in half – it’s kind of in the shape of a triangle.

The ships bow

The ships bow

It’s 80m long and 40m wide at the stern. So, while this might increase the ability to put out more streamers, it also makes the vessel quite unstable. The first 10 days on the vessel we had flat calm weather and we rolled. Since then we have had 2-4m swells and we were really rolling. I think a few people felt a bit seasick, but with the first 10 days I got my ‘sea legs’ and have been fine.

Other downsides are that I have to share a room, with the other MMO. We may have opposite shifts during the day but we are both finished by sunset so things are a bit cramped at night and there is never any ‘alone’ time. Also, I am in the top bunk – which I hate. Not to mention that there is nothing to stop me from falling out if we should really start to rock and roll! roomThe gym is also quite small and cramped, so timing it to be the only one in there is the key.gym2gym

The up sides: the helicopter deck is a lot bigger, and square (ish)!helideck So…I get to run in squares instead of circles. It’s also at the back of the ship and quite high up so I can actually look into the bridge when I am out there, which is a bit weird. The bridge is quite large and open and the crew (officers) are great, so there is good company and good conversations to pass the time.

The Bridge

The Bridge

The cooks are also pretty good, especially with the salad selection, which makes a big difference.

The Mess

The Mess

So far we haven’t been seeing much and don’t really expect to. We are fairly far offshore, so unlikely to see humpbacks, yet the water isn’t all that deep so other larger whales aren’t likely to be seen either. Makes things a bit boring, but you get that. This also means I don’t have all that much to say this time around.

I’ll be on board for another 3 weeks, and then not sure what is happening. But, I will keep you posted!

Sunset

Sunset

Well, after almost 5 weeks of good weather I guess I can’t complain about the +4m swell we now have. The ship is rocking and rolling a bit. It makes a few things difficult to do, like seeing whales and going to the gym, but otherwise it’s not too bad with just a few things sliding around. I don’t have much to report in terms of life on the ship, it’s been fairly quiet. I have been keeping up spin classes in the morning and working out with the medic in the afternoons. I have also been seeing plenty of whales and have had to shut down things a few times, but most of them seem to stay out of the shut down zone. I have probably seen sperm whales the most, and they never seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere.

We currently have a backgammon and a table tennis tournament happening on the ship. I suck at table tennis but it’s a bit of fun, and well, backgammon has a lot to do with luck of the Di. Sometimes I have good luck, and sometimes no so much.

Crew change is in about 10 days. The project is finishing in about 12 days, so it looks like I will have to stay on board and miss the helicopters. Not all that happy about it, but a bit silly to bring someone new out for 2 days work. I am looking forward to getting off though and I have vowed to take June off work and have some time at home. I am sure Cooper would appreciate that too.

I still haven’t managed to get any good pictures of whales, but I did find some pictures of the ship on the server, that I thought I would share. When we fly in the helicopter we are never allowed having cameras with us so we can’t get pictures of what the ship looks like when all the gear is in the water. These were taken by a professional hired to do just that. It will give you a good idea of the spread of the guns and streamers. Pretty cool if you ask me. Have also included a few that I actually have taken…

Dawn service on Anzac Day

Dawn service on Anzac Day

What is wrong with this picture?

What is wrong with this picture?

 

Here you can see the spread of the streamers (a little over 1 km)

Here you can see the spread of the streamers (a little over 1 km)

OphirSeismic_0119

The guns.

The guns.

The Instrument Room - where everything is controlled.

The Instrument Room – where everything is controlled.

Not sure if I’ll have a chance to write another post, but stay tuned anyway!

 

 

 

Hello again! It’s been a while since my last installment, yet I wasn’t land bound for all that long. I got off the Geo Caspian, and flew straight to Tassie for a visit (Cooper was already there). I was there just under 2 weeks and had a great time catching up with friends and enjoying a bit of down time. As I was driving up to Devonport to get the ferry home to Melbourne I got a call for a last minute job. The MMO that was supposed to do it cancelled due to a family emergency. It was a good opportunity so I decided to take it. On the down side they required me to fly out 9 days later. However, as with all things seismic, things change at the drop of a hat and I ended up flying out 5 days later. I spent 2 days in Perth meeting the Client, and then flew to Broome to meet the ship.

So, I am back on the Geo Caspian, which is a good thing, its nice having a bit of luxury again. I have been here for almost 2 weeks so far. So the client, who I won’t name here, is a big one, as in a big oil & gas company. BUT they appear to be too cheap to supply two MMO’s, so I’m the only one. This is pretty rare in Australian waters. Most projects have 2 people. So, I am limited to only having breaks during line changes, otherwise I have to be on the bridge the rest of the time. The prospect is kind of a weird shape so some lines are long, some short. Therefore, some days are long and some not so much. It’s still tiring, and the paperwork gets backed up pretty quickly. But, the good points are:  after the first week there was crew change so I am on with a different crew now and the food is awesome. The cooks on this swing actually make an effort.  The seismic crew is heaps nicer as well. The medic is a (kind of) body builder, so if my breaks come at a good time of the day he is my workout buddy in the gym. We do a 30min spin class at 5am. We do boxing, which at first I was a little afraid that I was going to get hurt, but has worked out well, and I also do weights with him on some days. Wow, have I been sore. But it has really been motivating and he has been teaching me good techniques. It’s like having a personal trainer and not paying for it!

I have already had 3 shut downs due to whales coming too close to the vessel. These have included species I have never seen before, so that has been a bit exciting. The first was a Blue whale, then a pod of Sperm whales and then a Fin whale. I haven’t managed to get any good photos so far, but hopefully I may see some more (although the client probably won’t want that). It’s a bit of an adrenaline rush when they are first sighted and monitoring how close they get until it’s time to call for a shutdown. This ship is only 3 years old and has never had a shut down before. So, I have officially christened it! Since there is still another 6-7 weeks left of this job and the Humpbacks are on their way up the coast I reckon they will see a whole lot more shutdowns. I will be on here for another 4 weeks (next crew change) and then someone else will come on to finish the job.

A few photos:

Deploying the paravanes aka ‘the doors’. One on each side to keep the streamers fanned out behind the vessel.

Image

 The helicopter arriving and bringing the new crew on board. Image

The Guard Merlin (one of our support vessels) ready to fight fires if the helicopter happens to crash and burn into the vessel.

Image

 Everyone all geared up for a muster station drill.

Image

Stay tuned for more whale tales.

Luxury

This one’s all about the ship!

So, here I am again, but on another ship this time. After just 5 days off (I did get home this time!) I flew back to Darwin and joined another ship for a short 2-week job. Now I am on the Geo Caspian, a new ship, purpose built in 2010. It is NICE! I have lots of pictures to show you too! It is almost like a cruise liner (not that I have ever been on one mind you). It’s funny though, everyone told me how swish it was and said how much I would like it, but one thing I have learned is that the people make the ship. I think I would rather be on a crappy ship with a good crew – the ‘fluff’ really isn’t that important. But, I am not complaining either!

From experience, it takes about 2 weeks to start to really get to know the crew. I’ve been here a week so far. There are some good people and even a couple from my old crew on the Atlantic. Of course I will be leaving in a week, so just when I start to get more settled in! Not to worry, I suspect I will be back on this ship in the future.

So, here are the pics! First my room. All the rooms on the ship are singles, so no one has to share. I have a nice big TV (connected to the network and lots of movies and TV shows), a couch and a desk. Very comfortable.IMGP0214room2

This is one of the reception areas (for when new people arrive on the ship)

reception

Yes, there are even elevators!elevator

The mess (eating) area is HUGE (this is only 1/2 of it)! and has a great view.

mess

The floor the mess is on is essentially a ‘lounge’ floor. So many lounges! with big screen TVs massage chairs, games etc. It’s like everyone could have their own lounge!

lounge1

lounge2

And there’s a pool….

pool

and the bridge is pretty nice too (with more leather lounge chairs).

bridge

helideck

Finally, the gym. I am in heaven!

gym1

gym2

There is also a 2-story theatre, almost better than the real thing (sorry forgot to take a picture).

So that’s it. Pretty nice ship right? I can’t complain, but I am looking forward to getting off and having a break longer than 5 days! I will be visiting Tassie for a while too, which I am looking forward to. Stay tuned 🙂