Icebreaker chief mate told about watch at Earth top

Icebreaker chief mate told about watch at Earth top

May 18, 2023

An Atomflot employee spoke about routine, a point without time, frosts and work without a break for four months.

#ARCTIC. #SIBERIA. THIS IS TAIMYR. Diana Kidzhi, the first female navigator and chief assistant in the nuclear icebreaker fleet, has been working on the 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker for five years. In winter, the ship sails along the Northern Sea Route – provides passage and icebreaking support in the Ob bay and the Kara sea.

In the summer, the 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker has a special task – it is the world’s only nuclear-powered icebreaker that takes tourists to the North Pole. The Russian woman told the publication People of the North about what it is like to live for four months on a ship among the ice, because nuclear icebreakers do not enter ports during navigation.

The most exciting part of being a chief mate is maneuvering. This is an opportunity to ‘steer’ a 150-meter machine with a capacity of 75 thousand horsepower, make a jewelry turn and walk along the side of another vessel at a distance of only 10-15 meters. Such an art is mastered only in practice, when working in ice.

Unlike a diesel-powered icebreaker, nuclear power is generated through a steam turbine, which is heated from a nuclear installation. The nuclear-powered ship cuts its way at once where diesel engines spend a lot of time and fuel.

The peculiarities of the nuclear icebreaker power plant operation impose a great responsibility on the crew. The command staff of such a vessel knows and complies with the requirements of regulatory documents on nuclear energy.

Being on the nuclear icebreaker for the first time, Diana was worried about how she would survive two months in darkness and low temperatures. However, according to the schedule, the nuclear-powered ship crew faces the polar night once every two years, but, of course, they are happy to meet the first sunrise. And in winter, the average temperature in the area where the nuclear icebreaker operates is from -15 to -30 degrees.

“I was at the North Pole for the first time in 2019 – of course, it took my breath away. Many expeditions could not get there for centuries, and I see the North Pole with my own eyes. This place is also unique in a physical sense: there is neither longitude nor time, because here all the meridians and time zones converge into one point”.

The most difficult period of winter navigation is from February to April. First, the ice reaches its maximum thickness, and closer to the beginning of spring, the fast ice begins to open, and carries very heavy fields to the open areas of the Ob gulf of and the Kara sea. We told about why it is important for navigation in the North to study the ice.

“If you don’t want to and don’t learn to see the beauty of the Arctic, the ice around you, if you aren’t open to the people with whom you are on a voyage, such work will become torture”, says Diana.

On the icebreaker, the entire crew is divided into two large groups: those who have a working day from eight in the morning to five in the evening, and those who have a rotational work schedule. There are three watches on the ship, four hours each, after an eight-hour break.

“When sailing in ice, only a senior officer, the captain, or the first officer, as his deputy, can control the icebreaker. Junior officers – watch assistants to the captain – are not allowed to such management of the vessel. Therefore, we have three chief mates on board – for each watch”.

There is a gym, swimming pool and sauna on the icebreaker where the sailors can spend their free time.

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Text: Angelica Stepanova, Photo: editorial archive

May 18, 2023

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