A Lesson in Lip-Reading

by srosengard

Revelle engines

One of six engines that power Revelle. They are so defeaning that it is dangerous to walk through this room without ear protection.

There is one thing that I will never be able to accomplish in 5 weeks on the Revelle, and that is learning every feature of the engine room. The engine room occupies the lower levels of the ship below the main deck. Cluttered and cavernous, one might just be able to uncover as much in the compartments of this lower deck as there is to uncover from the seawater we collect on this cruise. That means years of discovery.

A mix of extreme environments characterizes the space of the engine room. For some, it might be the prime space for salsa dancing; indeed, my first time on this part of the ship was to practice salsa dancing with Jay, one of the chefs.  For others, namely the engineers, it houses the most important and most sensitive controls on the entire vessel.

I first entered into a fairly quiet quarter consisting of giant monitors and logbooks of endless ship stats, as well as several characteristics of normalcy – swivel chairs and an ocean-themed calendar. However, like most things on the ship, detail is key; even here were constant reminders of  the environment’s delicacy. Everything was planned against failure, every electrical wire numbered by origin. The phone beside the calendar was powered by voice in case power blacked out.

Leaving the atrium only heightened the stakes of what was around me. The first corridor was a wall of switches that controlled every quarter on the ship. One random wave roll followed by one random stumble followed by one random catch on a switch could have great consequences. To avoid this possible event, my tour guide John, a new engineer from right outside Cape Cod, instructed me to walk on the right side of the hall.

The next stop was the thruster room. As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, our ship is steered and propelled by three thrusters that spin underwater. Standing directly in front of their internal counterparts, this was my closest point to the legs of the ship.

Seawater flows through the seachest in order to cool the engines as well as make freshwater. Freshman engineers are often asked to get the keys to the seachest, but no such thing exists. I would fall for that too.

The tour seemed built for suspense, for my final stop was most extreme: the engines themselves. First off, proper attire was required for entrance, including earmuffs to stifle the oppressively loud noise of the engine, and a warm coat to stifle the oppressively strong AC vents that cool the hot engines. Knowledge here works differently; it is passed through lip-reading. Aside from the six engines that supply power on board, a maze of organized pipes circulates seawater, freshwater, fuel and fuel waste in and out of the room. I will need to fill my deficiency in lip reading before I work my way out of this labyrinth.

The tour seemed built for suspense, for my final stop was most extreme: the engines themselves. First off, proper attire was required for entrance, including earmuffs to stifle the oppressively loud noise of the engine, and a warm coat to stifle the oppressively strong AC vents that cool the hot engines. Knowledge here works differently; it is passed through lip-reading. Aside from the six engines that supply power on board, a maze of organized pipes circulates seawater, freshwater, fuel and fuel waste in and out of the room. I will need to fill my deficiency in lip reading before I work my way out of this labyrinth.

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