Behind the scenes – the heart of the Sonne

Zusätzlich zur normalen technischen Ausstattung eines Schiffes, hat SONNE noch viele Maschinen, die für die wissenschaftliche Meeresforschung gebraucht werden. So gibt es auf dem unteren Deck einen extra Windenraum für die kilometerlangen Drähte und Kabel, an denen wir unsere wissenschaftlichen Geräte ins Wasser lassen.
In addition to normal technical equipment, the Sonne has many other pieces of equipment that are required for oceanographic research. On the lower deck, there is a winch room for the many kilometers of winch wire and cables that are used to lower equipment into the ocean.

For more than three weeks, we have been underway aboard the Sonne as we transect the Pacific. While we carry out our research around the clock, others are also working night and day. The Sonne does not operate itself –  the engines are continuously working. Moreover, the 70 people aboard need power, water, and heat, and we need special technical support for our equipment.

 Aboard the Sonne, nine people work ceaselessly to ensure that all of the machinery and equipment functions properly. A few days ago, members of the scientific party were able to get an impression of the work that takes place on the lower decks, where the motors and propulsion systems, as well as other very important technical systems, are found. Many thanks to Achim Schüler, the ‘Chief’, the lead technical officer of the Sonne, for the very informative and impressive tour through the catacombs of the ship’s machinery. We are also very grateful to the entire machine-room group, who ensures that our scientific work goes smoothly without any technical-equipment-related problems.
The sheer number of technical systems aboard the Sonne is quite incredible. Many small features are included that make living and working aboard ship very comfortable. The Sonne is a very modern research vessel, and during the planning and construction process, the experience gained with other research vessels was taken into consideration. For example, aboard the Sonne, winches and winch wire (up to 12000 meters of wire) are found deep inside the vessel, where they are protected from the weather and from the effects of salt spray. These winches are used to lower our CTD and our MUC-corer (see previous blog posts) into the ocean and back aboard ship. In the winch room, there is a special ‘winch-wire-washer’ which sprays the wire with fresh water, and then blow-dries it before it is wound back on the spool. This extends the life of the winch and the wire, and helps ensure that our equipment reliably returns from the deep ocean.
Achim Schüler (leitender technischer Offizier der SONNE) mit gereinigtem Abwasser aus dem bordeigenen „Klärwerk“.
Achim Schüler (the ‘chief’, the lead technical officer of the Sonne), with cleaned water from the shipboard sewage treatment plant.

Of course, we not only work aboard Sonne, for five weeks, we live here, too. A research ship on the ocean is like a small floating village that has to be self-contained. Since there is no water or power from land, everything must be produced on board. The fresh water that we drink and use on board is produced from seawater using a desalination system. And there is even a shipboard sewage treatment plant: after treatment, the water is as clean as drinking water, and can be returned to the ocean. To date, however, none of us has tried to drink any of the treated water…