Mission & Objectives
Scientists & Crew
Interviews: Second Assistant Engineer Steve St. Martin
Steve St. Martin spends most of his time in the engine room. Some of his primary duties include monitoring fuel levels and the ships fresh water production.
|Steve checks the fuel level in the tank directly below him. He uses a tape measure, in the same way we would use a dipstick on a car, to see how far up the level of fuel is in the tank.
What are you most proud of in life?
Im most proud of my family. I have two grown sons. Greg is an officer in the Navy working for NATO in Italy. Kevin is 22 and will be graduating from Purdue University in December. Hes going to be a mechanical engineer. The consequence of my job though is Im going to miss his graduation by one day. As part of my job Ive missed a lot of my kids growing up. Its something you can never make up for and is a definite down side to doing what I do. Both my parents are still alive and I would like to spend more time with them, but unfortunately I cant.
What got you started in this job?
I was born in San Diego and when we were boys,
my friends and I would go snorkeling and surfing at La Jolla. Sometimes
when the surf was low, we would sneak onto Scripps property and watch
the scientists working with the aquarium, outside labs and on the
pier. The security guards would chase us off the pier, but I knew
when I grew up I wanted to work for Scripps. Once I was out of high
school, I worked during the day and took college classes at night.
Then I had to worry about Vietnam. I joined the Naval Reserve and
ended up as a Navy SCUBA diver on a submarine doing special operations.
We were spying on North Vietnam, taking pictures of the shipping routes.
When I started back in school in the early 1970s I worked as a carpenter.
My mom called me and she had found out about jobs working for Scripps
on the FLIP.
FLIP is the research vessel that flips
to provide a steady platform for the scientists, what was that experience
FLIP is one of a kind and I spent 10
years on it, so I know it intimately. Its 365 feet long and
made mostly of ballast tanks. The vessel is towed out to sea and the
ballast tanks are flooded. It flips 90 degrees and then sinks. When
it was first built and they were testing it people would call the
coast guard saying they saw a sinking ship, cause thats what
it looks like. You can imagine all the engines, beds, toilets and
galley console and everything swivel inside the vessel. When its
flipped, it has 300 feet underwater and 65 feet above water thats
habitable. Scientists love it because it oscillates only one-tenth
of the wave height. Its impossible to get seasick because it
is like being on land in the middle of the ocean.
Have you ever seen anything thats changed
If you ever have the chance to go down to Antarctica,
youll come away believing the possibility for life on other
planets. The environment down there is so harsh and yet animals of
all kinds are living in Antarctica. There are many different kinds
of birds - albatross, penguins and gulls to name a few - whales and
seals. The only problem is getting there, you have to cross the Roaring
40s and the Ferocious 50s those are the degree latitudes where the
weather is the worst. On the Melville, the bridge is about
55 feet high and we would ride swells that looked like mountains.
When we were in the trough of the wave we could look up from the bridge
and see the crest above us.
|Steve sharpens one of the chisels the scientists use to chip glass off lava.
What has been an exciting moment in your career?
One of the most exciting times was when I got
my third engineers license. Its a five-part, multiple choice
test and people sometimes take up to a day and a half to finish it.
I did it in one morning. I had studied really hard on the Melville
for six months, three to four hours a day. During that time I traveled
to New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica, Eastern Island and Chile. The
only time I had off was in port and that would last from anywhere
from a couple days to a week. You could say I worked my way up through
the deck plates thats a figure of speech for engineers
who work their way up to ships officers without going to school.
The deck plates are the removable walkways on the floor of the engine
room. I did it all on my own studying books while I was out at sea.
It was hard, but well worth it. Ive accomplished my lifes
Youre five years from retirement, what will
you do then?
I would like to pursue my hobby of photography
or start a new business such as marine surveying. Thats like a home
inspector, but for boats and private yachts. I would find whats wrong
and make recommendations for fixing things that are requirements for
Coast Guard approval. Ive been married 10 years to a loving and supportive
wife. Im hoping we will have more time together. Its hard to find
a partner with this job, as Im gone so often. Anne Marie runs her
own massage therapy business. Shes had some of her clients for 15
years and they are receptive to her taking time off to meet me at
port or go on vacation when Im at home.