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Meteor-Blog 22. July 2008: Meet the captain

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Frédérique Steens, student of marine and coastal research from Belgium, spends her first time on an research vessel - and already had the honor to have an interview with the captain. Today in the Meteor-Blog that will be continued on until 24.08.08.

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22. July 2008 (Author: Frédérique Steens)

Today's Meteor-Blog is contributed by:

Frédérique Steen„Hello! My name is Frédérique Steens and I am in my last year to study Marine and Lacustrine Sciences at Ghent University in Belgium. I got on the cruise on the very last minute, so I still can not believe that I am right now in the middle of the Atlantic! My task will be to collect meiofauna samples for the Marine Biology lab of Ghent, under the lead of Professor Ann Vanreusel. I will also assist the other scientists, so I hope I will be as helpful as possible.”

Meet the captain

22. Juli: shiptrackThis morning all scientists received some in-depth safety training - what we need to do in case something happens to the research vessel Meteor. After hearing the general alarm, we all put on our safety vests and got up to the deck. It is actually quite funny to see everyone in those orange life vests since these are not really fashionable, nor comfortable. But it can save your life - so it is important to know what to do in case of danger, and of course youneed to keep your head cool!

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Picture 1: Frédérique Steens on her tour through the engine room

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Picture 2: Safety Training – Things you better not do if an alarm is ringing  shown by Oluwatobi Oni who obviously misses newspapers on board.

After the general scientific meeting, which was about dive planning and the functioning and purpose of our 27 different in situ payloads, we went on a tour to the engine room led by the chief engineer. It was quite impressive seeing all these big machines that make the ship not only sail, but there is also the cooling system, a cleaning system for oil (see picture 3), a garbage processing system, etc…

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Picture 3: Tour through the engine room – kindly offered by Volker Hartig, the chief engineer (left in the picture)

Also, I had the honor today, to interview the big chief on board: Niels Jacobi - the captain of METEOR . This BLOG will introduce from time to time some members of the ship’s crew who are really essential for the success of research at sea. Of course, we start with the captain. I hope you enjoy reading this, but be prepared for more tomorrow!

Greetings from the Meteor,
Frédérique Steens

Frédérique’s interview with the captain of the METEOR: Niels Jacobi

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Picture 4: Niels Jacobi, captain of the METEOR on his bridge

Niels Jacobi, first of all, for how long have you been a captain?

I am captain since 1994, first on board of the RV Alkor. This research vessel sailed mainly in the area of the Baltic Sea. Since 2000 I have been sailing as captain on the Meteor, but my first cruise on the Meteor was in 1987 as second mate.

Have you been on commercial vessels before?

Yes, I have been on commercial ships, cargo and container ships as a third mate before. In this position I needed to perform for example navigational tasks.

So if you would need to choose, what would you prefer: sailing on a research vessel or commercial shipping?

I would choose the research vessel (he says that without hesitating) because on a research vessel every voyage is completely different, and it is not only about shipping your cargo from point A to point B. Besides this, every day is quite different; you work with scientists, which is good since I am interested in the research aspect also. It is quite nice to work with them, also because often the same scientists return on the research vessel, for example Antje (the current chief scientist). I know her since her first time on this ship yet being a student (19 years ago). That way you get to know exactly what their interests are about.

Being the captain you must have many advantages on board?

Well…, actually there are no advantages! (laughs) It looks easy to tell people what to do, but everything has to be in accordance to the law and every order should be possible to execute as well. For example, when the scientists have a request I need to figure out if this is possible to accomplish. These are actually the major difficulties, however, difficulties are also interesting. In case of difficult situations or danger I am the person that needs to make the decision. For example we had difficulties with the compressor on the last cruise. Also we once had a fire in the engine room, but luckily we were able to extinguish this in about 20 minutes.

What do you think is the worst and the nicest aspects of life on sea?

The worst experiences are the problems that can arise during a cruise such as the fire I mentioned before. Also being for a long time on sea is hard for your family life. Luckily, when I have been away for four to five months I can enjoy two months of holidays, which is very good. The nicest aspect? Well, I love the sea since my childhood. Every single day feels like being on a ship the first day. (smiles happily)

Did you always wanted to become a captain?

No, it changed quite a lot. First I wanted to study arts, then biology, but when I was about 15 or 16 I wanted to become a captain and thus studied maritime sciences. But it came out quite good, because now I can combine all three of these wishes. I work with scientists, and I sail, and in my little spare time as a captain I paint pictures (see picture 5).

Thank you for the interview, captain!

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Picture 5: A painting of his beloved vessel METEOR made by our captain!