Artist’s sketchbook: Board of lies

Crewmembers aboard Coast Guard Cutter Healy are currently supporting scientific research in the dynamic waters of the north on their Arctic West Summer 2013 deployment. As watchstsanders and scientists alike collaborate to collect vital scientific data, they are joined by artist Bob Selby.

Last week we shared the simple moments aboard Healy as crew and scientists alike settled into routine. This week “Artist’s sketchbook” continues with a peek into life in the ship’s engine control room and the deployment of “The Rosette.”

Engine Control Room

The Engine Room. The engine room of Coast Guard Cutter Healy is a far cry from the greasy labyrinths of the past. The state-of the art control room is command central for engineers like Master Chief Petty Officer Dave Freundschuh, near ground chair with head set, Lt. Chris Dufresne, background standing, and their team as they monitor and troubleshoot the ship’s layered systems. In the cavernous holds beyond lie four diesel electric engines that generate the 30,000 horse power necessary to break ice eight-feet thick – in addition to the generating plants for water and electricity to support the ships and its laboratories.

Fire drill

Semper Paratus. “Always Prepared” is the Coast Guard motto, but nowhere is preparation more critical than aboard an icebreaker. While the science continues in the laboratories astern, the crew stays sharp with weekly drills. In this case, a smoke machine in a starboard fan room makes a simulated fire seem very real.


Aft Conn. Scientific operations aboard the Healy involve winching highly sophisticated apparatus over the side and stern. Some of the apparatus is the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, and all of it is valuable and difficult to replace. While the crew on the deck is crucial to the successful deployment of the gear, the control room known as “Aft Conn” or aft deck conning room is the heart of the operation. Aft Conn is a small bridge one deck above the ship’s stern from which the Healy can be piloted when necessary. For this cruise, the Aft Conn is command central for the ship’s powerful winches. Petty Officer 3rd Class Mathew Rupp, of Cayucos, Calif., makes the delicate winch operation look effortless. “It’s all a matter of balance,” he says.

The Healy commanding officer, Capt. John Reeves of Seattle, Wash., looks on.

Oceanographer’s “stethoscope.” Healy is averaging five to six stations a day on this cruise. At each stop, the Coast Guard crew puts collecting apparatus into the sea from one or both of the Healy’s two “A” frame winches. The smaller winch is dedicated to the metal frame called a “Rosette.” The Rosette bears 24 Niskin bottles mounted vertically. A submersible unit known as a “CTD” is mounted beneath. While the bottles gather water samples, the CTD reads the temperature, the salt level and the depth of the device back to on-board computers in real time. The Rosette is as vital to the scientists as a stethoscope is to the physician because it sets a bench mark for all the other data that the scientists gather.

Here, Chief Petty Officer Troy Shrum of Honolulu, Hawaii, directs the deck crew as they maneuver the carousel out of its bay and over to the “A” frame winch to be lowered gingerly over the side.

Board of Lies

Board of Lies. Strategically located just behind the recycling and garbage bins is the laboratory white board affectionately known as the “Board of Lies.” Postings announce the ship’s course, weather, estimated times of arrival for upcoming stations, the operations planned for each stop and other information important to the scientists and their work. Unfortunately the vagaries of sailing in the Arctic Ocean often force adjustments and updates to the posted announcements hence the name of the board – and the need for erasable markers.

Bob Selby enjoyed a 20-year career as a staff illustrator at The Providence Journal. During that time, he was the recipient of numerous awards including a Fulbright Grant to research the history of caricature in Spain. Following this, he embarked on a career as a freelance illustrator, painter and sculptor. He has taught at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence and currently teaches full time at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt. His art career has garnered awards and recognition from The Associated Press, the Society of Illustrators in New York and the Society of Newspaper Design. He is currently underway aboard Healy to document its crew’s activities and missions.

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