Abandon Ship (Drill)!

So, international regulations require that we practice for emergencies, with things like fire drills every two weeks and an abandon ship drill at least once a month. Captain Sebastian likes to do the first one of these early in the cruise, to get us all together in one place for the “We’re all gonna die” talk.

The drill isn’t a random middle of the night thing – well, the way everyone works on staggered schedules, it can’t help being in the middle of someone’s night, but they schedule them well in advance and announce that, for example, tomorrow at 12:30 there’s going to be an Abandon Ship drill. I can’t remember whether that’s ten short blasts of the alarm bell or three long and continuous, but it doesn’t matter: whenever the bell goes on for any length of time, the drill is the same: grab your coat, your bug-out bag (“You have packed a bug-out bag, haven’t you?”), your life preserver and Gumby suit, and head for the muster point in the 03 Conference Room.

Barry on the way to the muster point

First time we had a drill, Chris, our Chief Mate, had a Powerpoint slide deck ready to brief us on the lighter side of shipboard emergencies. Kim, known throughout the Program as the Gumby (a.k.a. Bayley Cold Water Immersion) suit quick-draw champion, demonstrated how to quickly get yours out of the bag and onto your body, then we all took a turn with our own. Apparently the record is something like 22 seconds, but it took most of us a couple of minutes, modulo the photos and inevitable frivolity.

Chief Mate Chris: Your seats are *not* equipped with a personal flotation device…

Once dignity was restored and suits had been returned to their bags, we filed out to one of the NBP’s two lifeboats for the “We’re all gonna die” talk. The Palmer has all sorts of lifeboat-y survival equipment hanging off it – those big drums that automatically deploy and inflate as well as a couple of motor boats and the scattering of zodiacs on the helicopter deck. But the official lifeboats themselves? They’re pretty impressive: they look more like space pods from Star Trek than anything else. Fully enclosed hard-shelled jobs with crash seats, internal lighting, electronics and 50-hp motor. Not that I’d want to set off in one in other than dire circumstances, but you could do a lot worse if you found yourself needing to go over the side around here.

It’s a party in orange foam on the 03 deck!

“Statistically,” Captain explains gravely, once we’re all strapped into the starboard boat, “when ships go down, it’s either agonizingly slow or terrifyingly fast.” He lets this sink in, then gives us some more statistics. He quotes numbers on how quickly survival rates decrease for every day that passes at sea after you’ve abandoned ship, and reminds us that, in our present location, it would take at least three days for anyone to reach our position. He talks a little about the food onboard (“little brown bricks that are the most godawful thing you’ve ever tasted, but they’ve got 2000 calories each”), and I make a note that my remaining chocolate supply is going in the bugout bag. He talks about the sanitary conditions – each boat can nominally carry 76 people, but this one feels cramped with even with just the 40 of us aboard. And that little bucket and curtain up front? That’s the loo. Yeah, it’s going to smell, especially with everyone throwing up; first day in a lifeboat, he says, *everybody* throws up. But hey – the fact that you’re in a lifeboat suggests that it was better than any other available alternatives, right? Once he’s let that image sink in, he returns to planning matters, and what niceties we might want in our bugout bag: reading materials (“you’ve got to keep your mind working”) and toilet paper (“Good bartering once you get a couple of days in”). And not that I’m tempting fate, but those of you who remember the Christchurch adventure will forgive me for keeping my backup drive there as well.

Sara, Cliff, Ryan and Christian have heard the “We’re all gonna die” speech before, but apparently it doesn’t get old

That’s the last we’ve seen of the inside of the lifeboats. A couple of days ago the crew ran another drill in which they deployed the davits on which the boats are hung, swinging them out and letting them drop precipitously to hang low over the water, ready to release. Partially to verify that the system worked, but partially, I think, to convince us that we never ever want to find ourselves in a situation where we need to be inside those boats and deploy them.

Emilio tries out the captain’s seat in the lifeboat. Note the label on that lever by his knee: “DANGER! Lever Drops Boat” I think they really do mean the “drop” part.

Anyhow – as you can tell, it’s been a slow day. I’ve installed some software around the ship and cleaned up some old hardware. Highlight accidentally knocking the Knudsen offline for a little while when I was pulling cables for the massive old display computers we’ve replaced with a cute little Raspberry Pi’s. I assure you the Knudsen thing was accidental; I’ve started to regard its incessant demon budgie chirp as a comforting little heartbeat when I sleep. Really. But it’s back online and, as long as I don’t break anything else, there’s not much more to write about for now. Cheers!

Orange is not your author’s best color…

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