Captain Alex Simpson Introduces the Navigational Bridge

A ship’s bridge, or navigating bridge, to be more precise, holds a fantastic array of equipment, publications, reference books, and operating manuals. Not only is it used for navigation, but it is also the command center of the ship during any emergency situation.
The bridge on The JR has the very latest in technology, with GPS and automatic identification systems integrated into the electronic charts and radars. These modern navigational aids make it much easier and safer for the mariner to navigate. The best modern feature is GPS, but don’t let anyone fool you with this wonderful piece of equipment: it belongs to the United States government and can be turned off at the flick of a switch in times of international conflict. The electronic charts with GPS inputs are just fabulous, and the automatic identification system allows us to see the details of every other ship within 24 miles or so.  For emergency situations, the bridge has controls for the fire pumps, ventilation, propulsion, fuel pumps, fixed fire fighting systems, and various internal and external communications systems. However, we still have standalone equipment, which needs no power to operate, is free from any outside agency interference, and has guided mariners around the world for centuries. 

From the following simple instruments and publications, a competent mariner can navigate around the globe.

  • Magnetic compass – so we can steer the ship in the desired direction and obtain a position from known objects on land.
  • Sextant – which we use to measure the angle between a heavenly body and the horizon. Using these angular measurements, a reliable timepiece, a current nautical almanac, and a set of arithmetical tables, a navigator can calculate the vessel’s position when land is out of sight.
  • Paper charts or a mariner’s “map.”
  • Tidal charts for coastal waters – so we can anticipate local forces that are likely to interfere with the vessel’s course.
  • Ocean environmental charts showing average currents, winds, sea and air temperature, pressure, and tropical storms – assists with planning an ocean passage.

Oh! Did I mention the view? SUBLIME.


Photo:  Panoramic view of the navigational bridgeCredit:  Bill Crawford, IODP Imaging Specialist.


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