Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Aalbourg Carnival and Sights
We departed Aalborg this evening headed to anchorage to refuel. Our visit to St. Petersburg was cancelled due to logistics, but change and flexibility are part of ship-board life. With a stiff breeze it took two tugs to pull us away from the pier and after a 180-degree turn we headed out the Langerak to the Baltic Sea. Our weather is overcast, but with calm seas the EMPIRE STATE VI is just gliding along headed to anchorage near Skagen in the Albæk Bugt.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Photos from the leg to Aalborg
Starbucks, Danish Style
My cell phone is now a brick, well at least until TMobile unlocks it. Seems there was a little confusion on its being prepared for international sim cards. To their credit, TMobile locked the phone after the international sim card tried to launch. I like TMobile and their customer service, I just wish we had been on the same page. Anyway, we found several pay phones that take American credit cards, which is a miracle within a miracle. The Danes love their cell phones and like the USA, pay phones are almost extinct, but we did find some at the public library and the train station. Europeans have embraced smart cards and hardly ever use magnetic strip cards. So paying at a store with an American style credit card just isn't going to happen. In theory it should be possible to pay with it, but just stop and think how much trouble processing the occasional exception is for a merchant and all the trouble keeping counter help trained. My debit card works at the bank ATM and I assume the same is true for the cadets.
And the ship rolls on...
We are making the final leg around Jutland to begin our approach to the port of Aalborg. We pick up the pilot at 0600 and should be berthed by 0800 on 5/25.
I'm looking out my stateroom window and can see a few stars peeking through at us.
After a rough ride today, the ship feels almost still. We encountered a couple of weather systems and it provided heavy rolling. However, I think after the last bout of rough seas, we were better prepared and had just about everything secured. Also, people have their sea legs now.
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
In other news related to the library world, there have been many celebrations (and more to come!) in honor of the New York Public Library's 100th Anniversary. This past weekend (May 20-23) was the official kick-off of a year-long celebration of the contributions of literacy to society and particularly as related to the NYPL, archives and rare collections.
As part of their celebration, the NYPL ran a contest for 500 participants who were creative, original, thoughtful, and enthusiastic about libraries to spend one night at the main building in Manhattan (the one with the infamous lions standing guard) to participate in a scavenger hunt of artifacts held in trust at the NYPL... and Liz Berilla, Library Coordinator of the Stephen B. Luce Library, was one of the lucky winners!
At 8:00 p.m. on Friday night, Liz (proudly representing Maritime College!) and 499 other participants gathered at the Schwarzman Building to discover that there were 100 artifacts hidden throughout the library, and it was their duty to find them all before sunrise. These artifacts ranged in material from a cuneiform tablet to a Gutenberg Bible, to maps and sun dials, to Jack Kerouac's personal belongings and Virginia Woolf's walking cane. The participants broke into small teams of 7-8, and worked to "capture" each artifact on smart phones, unlocking further chapters in the game with more difficult clues to uncover. After locating certain artifacts of great personal interest, they were instructed to log into the game's portal online, and respond to a short prompt about the artifact. For example, Liz "discovered" the song lyrics to Bob Dylan's "Changing of the Guards," so her task was to write a protest song inspired by Bob Dylan. (Which she ended up writing against modern piracy on the high seas...)
After completing their written parts throughout the night, all 500 "published" entries by submitting what they wrote to editors in a different room who would review the work, then print the submissions onto parchment paper. This paper was then ordered, and given to an in-house book binder who feverishly hand stitched the parchment together throughout the night, indeed completing the task by 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning. All of the submissions on the priceless literary works held at the NYPL have been compiled into one book, which is now being cataloged and available for use at the Schwarzman Building in NYC. The NYPL encourages the public to now "Find the Future" on their own by visiting in person and online until the end of the year.
Based on the teamwork required to "Find the Future" successfully, it was very revealing to Liz how the work that we do as librarians is not just about looking at the past for the present's sake, but how we will thrive in the future because of the knowledge we are collecting today. The access and tools we give to our students here at the Luce Library will truly build a brighter future - one that will withstand the test of time just as the marble structure of the Schwarzman Building has thrived under the watchful gaze of its guardian lions for a century.
Monday, May 23, 2011
The cadets are hard at work researching Marine Firefighting and Lifesaving Systems this week. They devour the Combined Federal Registers (CFR’s) and the Ship’s Library Reference Collection, puzzling over regulations. Perhaps this assignment explains why I haven’t seen the students lately, who were bringing one of the air hockey tables back to life. I'm not sure if they were successful, but they made their own puck and repaired the handles. That said, while the table is right outside the library, I probably would not have heard them playing anyway; such is the cacophony aboard EMPIRE STATE VI.
The ship is getting a “field day” (or a “makeover” in layman’s terms). Passageways are blocked as decks are stripped and waxed, trunks (stairways) cleaned, treads wire-brushed, and berthing areas and classrooms tidied up too. All the while ship watches, maintenance, and cadet training continue in perpetuity; no steel deck picnic this week, but a BBQ dinner for the cadets and a few hours relaxation in the sun as we head into the English Channel. Some of us with cell phones managed a moment’s respite from this monastic existence as we passed close enough to shore to pick up reception. I, however, was disappointed to see "emergency use only" flash on my screen. I plan to invest in an international throw-away when we get to Denmark.
As we move into the North Sea, we can see oil platforms all around us. It's a busy time on the bridge. Cadets navigating and on lookout have to contend not only with the platforms, but increased ship traffic and fishing boats. These smaller vessels don't always show up on the radar, making a vigilant lookout all the more essential. Thankfully the skies have been clear both day and night, allowing the cadets to practice their celestial navigation.
Finally, email has been slow for me. I haven't got anything in or out, I believe, since Thursday and nothing from home in a week. I know that my wife Chris is reading these—so Hello, Chris. I love you!
Friday, May 20, 2011
Scraping, and Priming, and Painting... Oh My!
Cadets are learning exactly what it means to be responsible and accountable for their behavior, working in team units to build on learning experiences for themselves and their shipmates. One of the most important activities with which they’ve been involved in recent days is painting – an essential maintenance activity to the safety of the ship. Ships are made of steel and steel rusts in the presence of water; add salt to that mixture and it rusts all the quicker.
Cadet teams are assigned specific areas of the ship to paint, learning how preparation, temperature and humidity, and a little extra elbow grease can go a long way at sea. A complicated equation of chipping, scraping, cleaning, brushing, sanding, priming, and painting ensures teamwork and leadership to complete the task on time and rust-free. Working together ensures quick (and loud!) work by both deck students and engineers alike. Even if painting isn’t exactly the most exciting job aboard ship, cadets realize it still needs to be done. The cadets are starting to prove to be excellent managers and motivators of each other whether it is for painting, standing watch, or working in the engine room.
Even in my own career, some of my earliest leadership lessons came from painting: at first being a good follower and, later, leader to my team. Later still, I can see now how painting even prepared me to manage my resources with safety and attention to detail in mind for my ship and Captain. Once the cadets are finished painting, they rush off to class, stand watch, or squeeze in a few hours of study time before lights out.
It’s just another day at sea.
All for now,
Monday, May 16, 2011
Crossing the Atlantic
Since the rough seas life aboard has settled into normalcy. My day has become a tight circle of the library, officer’s mess, and my stateroom. When I have time, I visit the regimental office, sickbay, and the cadet mess.
The cadets stay very busy with their class, watches, and studying. The studying I directly witness at the Library is near full each evening with members of our community coming and staying. Mostly, the cadets’ time on Empire State VI is a practical experience of being a deck or engineering watch officer in training. I should stress the word practical. This is the time where you step out of the books and do something with it. Figuring a vector plot in your dorm room is a lot different than doing one in a chart room at night under red lights on a tossing ship.
On Sunday, May 15, I experienced my first steel beach picnic in sixteen years. Around here they call it “BBQ at Sea.” It is a great tool for morale. It gives those not on watches a chance to kick back for a few hours, and enjoy the sun with as many burgers, dogs, and ice cream as they can eat. It's just a couple of hours, but it is appreciated by all hands.
The food aboard is excellent but very dangerous. There are "fat pills" sitting on the side board this morning with frosting and sprinkles. They keep calling my name, but so far I've resisted their call. The food has been beyond good and so far I've been fortunate not to have gained any pounds around my waist. I have been trying to fit a workout into my schedule, but so far I've kept myself busy in the Library.
The Library is busy in the evening with students doing their homework or using the PCs. At times every chair is taken and table space is at a premium. The engineering students in particular like to use the large, slanted atlas tables to do work on their technical drawings. Also, we have all been sending emails out to family and friends, but there appears to be some small glitches with certain addresses; please be patient as we sort out this new email program.
Locally, we are seeing some dolphins and bits of Sargasso seaweed. We are running along the edge of the Gulf Current and making about 17 knots. I miss seeing albatross, but unfortunately those are more native to the Pacific. Otherwise not much else in the way of pelagic birds this far out.
That's all for now,
Friday, May 13, 2011
Life on the Atlantic
Sorry to have been away from writing for a while, but yesterday evening we moved into heavy seas and the Library had some books fall off their shelves. Last evening was damage control of just wedging books on shelves to keep any more from falling.
Today was putting them back up and in order. So like 52 pickup I had to sort the books by call number back into their places.
All About Mike
Michael Russell is the Ship's Librarian to the TS EMPIRE STATE VI for the first half of the summer cruise. Mike is a retired Coast Guardsman with three tours of sea duty. He has a BS from Southern Illinois University and an MLS from Rutgers University. He has worked in a number of research and analyst positions since retiring from the Coast Guard.
This position unites both of his career paths, so we hope Mike enjoys the cruise.
Mike will be changed out at Ireland for our 2nd cruise librarian, Brendan Curley. More on Mr. Curley later!
We are back on course now and we will be in rough weather for a while. Actually we are not rolling so much now as pitching. The Captain came about last night and put us in a follwing sea - with the 20+ swells we were taking heavy rolls. But, we didn't come about before the entire reference collection and most of the Gove collection came off their shelfs onto the deck. The metal books ends were not stong enough to keep the books from shifting and working their way loose. Surprising just how quick it all happened. The old bungie cords didn't have enough "twang" to hold the collective weight of the hardback books on the shelf - actually we had several bungies break under the strain.
I should have the entire collection re-shelved and the shelves read by the end of the day. Also the computer lab printers are all down (the regimental Office's printers are not faring much better) - so the cadets are coming to me to do their printing. Its been about a dozen a day - and with Kimmey suggestion of using the R:\\ it's been successful about 90% of the time. Anyway it gets the kids in the library and I tell them to go look for a book while I do the formatting.
Thursday, May 12, 2011
About Our Ship's Librarian
We are back on course now and we will be in rough weather for a while. Actually we are not rolling so much now as pitching. The Captain came about last night and put us in a following sea - with the 20+ swells we were taking heavy rolls. But, we didn't come about before the entire reference collection and most of the Gove collection came off their shelfs onto the deck. The metal books ends were not stong enough to keep the books from shifting and working their way loose. Surprising just how quick it all happened. The old bungie cords didn't have enough "twang" to hold the collective weight of the hardback books on the shelf - actually we had several bungies break under the strain.
The Captain. First Mate, First Engineer along with the SWO have been great at helping me and providing bodies or materials as needed.
I'm smiling and this isn't anything I haven't been through before and it will all work out just fine.
Wow, that last wave put some air under the keel. Gotta go.
Monday, May 9, 2011
Preparations at Dock, and Drills
(from Ship's Librarian, Michael Russell)
It was a long day of drills for the TS EMPIRE STATE VI with the Coast Guard inspectors closely monitoring its officers and crew. Firefighting, security, man overboard, and abandon ship alarms rang along the decks as the 1C cadets’ leadership and preparations were tested along with the recent training. In the fading light of a cool evening the cadets came loaded down with their personal gear to move aboard.
The engineers are working very hard to get EMPIRE STATE VI ready for Monday. There being out of sight in the machinery spaces makes them less visible than most. But underway they make the power, light, water, and sanitation happen in a blazing hot engine room - 24 hours a day - 7 days a week.
May 7, 2011
A clear sky as the cadets rig out the port accommodation ladder and lower the brow to the pier. Under the leadership of the Third Mate, two teams working block & tackle lower the brow while a third team uses a fork lift to pull it away from the ship's side. Clear orders and close coordination make quick work of a dangerous task. Safety Always. The day continues with cadets bringing down their gear and moving aboard. Being an old corpsman I was drawn to Sickbay like a moth to a flame and stopped to talk with several 1C who were checking in and stowing medical supplies. The Sickbay that is not much bigger than that on USCGC BOUTWELL: a Doctor, a Nurse, a Chief Corpsman with two rated corpsman.
May 8, 2011
The Ship's Library is ready for sea. The Luce Library staff had labored hard over the past four weeks to re-enter every book into the Ship's online catalogue after the old library server failed. A new catalogue system, a new server, a greatly expanded collection of fiction and nonfiction, and newer movies were brought aboard. The Ship's closed circuit entertainment system with its wide screen TVs will show two movies per evening. The cadets also have online Intranet (local) access to select professional publications and country guides on the Library's student PCs. About two dozen students came by during the day to say hello, look over the Ship's Library collection or to check on previously reserved materials.
For some images of the send off, see http://www.sunymaritime.edu/stephenblucelibrary/photoalbums/SSTSendOff/index.html
Departure Day, May 9 @ 10:00AM
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