Don’t Earn a Darwin Award!

Nearly seven weeks on board a ship that is only 147 metres long, and I have still not been to all the spaces there are to see! I thought we should try and investigate a little more while we still could! Bob was our intrepid guide because he has been on the ship a number of times before. Indeed, he has spent 10 months of his life on board the Joides Resolution, and so he knows it better than most! So off we set to investigate the fantail.

We had to make sure we all had our helmets and goggles on and sensible footwear because we had to walk through some of the working areas of the ship to get there. The fantail is right at the rear, underneath the helideck, and is where the old geophysics lab is to be found. On the fantail deck, which is nicely out of the rain and sheltered from the wind, there are many bright red and orange buoys hanging and capstans for tying up while in port. Bob took us into the geophysics lab and talked wistfully about how he used to work from there. It now looks a little tired and unloved because the advent of GPS has made some of its role defunct and unlike the labs in the main stack, it hasn’t been refitted and updated. But it was surprisingly quiet given that we were so close to the engines. The fantail was being painted by the ship’s crew, who watched us aimlessly milling around the deck and looking over the railings, probably wondering what we found so fascinating!

While we are not forbidden to go to some of these areas, they are all potentially dangerous! Apart from the right protective wear you also have to constantly take heed of the safety signs that are all around you on the ship. Every stairwell greets you with a ‘Hold the handrail’ notice. The heavy maritime doors have warning signs for you to hold the handles and not tuck your delicate fingers around the jamb in case it suddenly closes on your hand! Ouch! There are restricted zones everywhere, marked with stark, diagonal, yellow and black lines. Containers are marked with ‘hazardous material’ signs and yellow warning triangles appear round every corner with images of chemical spills or electrical hazards. As for the chemistry lab – the door is hardly big enough to accommodate all the hazard signs on display!

Health and safety is taken very seriously on the Joides Resolution for very good reason. While we have a Doctor with us with specialist support onshore, there is a limit on what can be done on board! Just think what it must have been like on sailing ships in the past! The Joides Resolution has a very good safety record, and the rules and regulations are vigorously enforced for the benefit of everyone on board.

When we first came on board we were given a tour with appropriate H & S instruction and I am glad. There are so many unknown hazards for a first-timer at sea, and any ship is potentially a lethal place to be. It is up to everyone to look out for themselves and each other, because a silly slip could turn out to be lethal or at the least extremely painful.

Thinking about the Health and Safety of the ship put me in mind of the Darwin Awards. They are a darkly humorous way of pointing out the folly of not thinking through the consequences of your actions! They are awarded posthumously to people who have improved the human gene pool by removing themselves from it! The website is, of course, written with a very dry humour, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from the mistakes other people have made! My advice for any would-be mariners is to read all the notices and act on them rather than read and forget!