Monday, 22 October 2012

Blowing the whistle on Discovery (John Moorey)

When RRS Discovery was built, a “Meteorological Office” was put into a small space inside the funnel. Most of the readouts of the ship’s meteorological instruments were housed there. It was the job of the person being relieved from the 4-hour echo-sounding watch to go from the plotting office up two decks to the bridge deck and into the funnel to record the data.

John Moorey on Discovery
In 1963, on the shakedown cruise I was relieved at midnight. On the bridge deck I noticed that it had become foggy, the horizontal visibility was about 20 or 30 metres, but looking up one could see the stars. I climbed up the few steps and entered the small door into the “met office” and started to fill in the log sheet. At that moment the officer who had just taken over the middle watch decided to warn other possible ships of our presence.

The ship’s whistle blew. I was deafened. I shot out of the funnel and almost fell down the steps and ran along the deck as far from the funnel as possible. A few seconds later the whistle stopped, but there were a few blank entries for that 4-hour period. I didn’t return to complete the log sheets.

I notice that Discovery’s last cruise is, Southampton, Santa Cruz Tenerife, and the Bahamas along 26°N. My first cruise for NIO (National Institute of Oceanography) was on RRS Discovery II in 1957 for an IGY hydrographic survey of latitude 24°N and I notice that our itinerary was very similar: Plymouth, Santa Cruz, and Nassau Bahamas.

I joined NIO in 1954 as a scientific assistant. My job was mainly instrumental – the equipment that we used was water bottles and mercury in glass reversing thermometers. If any of that still exists it will be in museums, but the results are still used. At the 50th anniversary of Discovery this summer, Dr Brian King told me that he had recently used results from that 1957 cruise. In the 1960s there was a big development in instrumentation. It was an exciting time.