Thursday, January 3, 2019

The Register Goes to the Arctic

From The Register, January 2:

What happens when a Royal Navy warship sees a NATO task force headed straight for it? A crash course in Morse
Plus: Your vulture clocked the Northern Lights from the Arctic Circle
Boatnotes What's it like aboard a warship? Aside from the glamorous bits when Russian jets are whizzing past and there's lots to do? El Reg not only went aboard HMS Enterprise to find out – we scored a trip to the Arctic Circle courtesy of the Royal Navy.

As related in previous instalments, your correspondent was lucky enough to be invited aboard the seabed survey ship at the end of October by the Ministry of Defence.

So far we've seen Enterprise's seabed survey and data-gathering gear and we've had a sneaky look at the ship's collection of mid-2000s operating systems. But what was it actually like, sailing towards the Arctic Circle?

Shipboard routine is fairly, well, routine. A pipe (Tannoy announcement) is made at 07:00 to wake everyone up with the traditional bosun's whistle, "Call the Hands". For the officers, with whom your correspondent ate and relaxed, breakfast was served between 07:00 and 08:00. A traditional affair, this consists of a help-yourself buffet featuring the usual British fare of bacon, sausage, eggs, beans and toast, or cereal and milk.
After 08:00 the work day begins for most. All of the ship's company stand four-hour watches at least once a day; when your correspondent joined the ship in Kristiansund, Norway, some of the junior officers were jokingly moaning about having been on defence watches, which is a routine of six hours on, six hours off. "Most people take a big sleep in one [off period] and do their other work in the other," one sub-lieutenant told me.
A rocky outcrop framed by HMS Enterprise
Still a warship: A dramatic rocky outcrop is framed by HMS Enterprise's superstructure and one of her covered 20mm guns
After breakfast I wandered up to the ship's bridge. This is where the whole show is run. In charge is the officer of the watch (OOW), or, if he's around, the captain, Commander Phil Harper. For now it is one of the ship's clutch of sub-lieutenants, who are all recent graduates from Britannia Royal Naval College Dartmouth, the Royal Navy's training school for new officers.
The OOW is assisted on the bridge by around half a dozen other crew members. One of these, a rating, sits in the main control position, with the ship's wheel and the central throttles to hand, while the others were scattered around the bridge as lookouts.
HMS Enterprise's bridge while at sea
HMS Enterprise's bridge while at sea
At various points during the day, the ship's canteen is opened. This is announced to all through a cheery one-word pipe consisting of the word "Caaaaanteen!" Upon receipt of the signal, everyone not immediately busy tends to rush to the little serving hatch to buy snacks and the like.

Lunchtime for the officers, this time served in the wardroom (officers' mess), is between noon and 13:30 ship's time, broken into two sittings. You pick your options in advance at some point in mid-morning; the wardroom steward was good enough to hunt your correspondent down to ensure my order was received, though the choice between "chicken" and "meat kebab" was a pretty clear one....MUCH MORE