Mission & Objectives
Scientists & Crew
Interviews: Chief Engineer Ron Wheatley
As the Chief Engineer, Ron has many jobs around the ship. One of the
most important is checking the engines.
What did you want to be as a kid?
|Ron inspects the dredge wire and the trawl winch prior to our using it in a few days.
As a kid, I daydreamed about many of the usual
occupations: railroad engineer, doctor, scientist and fighter pilot.
But what I really enjoyed was reading and exploring the woods nearby.
In high school, I just aimed myself toward college, thinking that
I would discover my interests there. I enjoyed my classes at Boston
University, particularly philosophy and literature, but didnt
excel in math and the sciences. By the time I graduated, I still hadnt
found a direction that was both compelling and practical.
Describe one pivotal moment in your life that
influenced where you are now.
After I graduated, I wanted to do something
different for a while, so I left Boston and spent several months hiking
through Alaska and the Yukon Territory of Canada. By the time I returned
I had decided that I would eventually go back to college to continue
studying literature. But, because I didnt have money for tuition,
I planned to join the Navy to earn the GI Bill (a program of the U.S.
armed services that funds college tuition for veterans). While my
application for Officer Candidate School was being reviewed, I happened
to read a magazine article about the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard
seemed like a useful organization, so I signed up and was on my way.
One thing led to another, and here I am 25 years later. Its
been an interesting journey and Im lucky to have friends all
over the world.
|Ron in the aft thruster room
What are your main responsibilities during the cruise?
I am responsible for the effective and safe operation of all the engineering
equipment on board RV Revelle. This includes the propulsion
machinery, deck machinery, and the hotel services (things like water,
electricity and plumbing). There are 10 people in the engineering
department, and we operate, maintain and repair most of that equipment.
We provide many of the essential services that people have ashore.
We make our own electricity using generators; we make our own drinking
water from seawater; and we provide heating, air conditioning, refrigeration,
and telephone services, to name a few. Each person in the department
has a very important job to do, and its my job to make sure that
they have the tools, spare parts, equipment, and support that they
What was the greatest challenge that you faced in your life and how
did you overcome it?
The greatest challenge happened on the first cruise that I sailed
as Chief Engineer. I was nervous because I was keenly aware of my
new responsibilities. An error in judgment on my part could have serious
implications -- and I wasnt so sure that my judgment was up to the
task! My imagination had a field day tormenting me with what-if catastrophes and worst-case scenarios! As luck would have it, one
of them came true. The deep-sea winch broke down so that it would
not haul in the wire. Over three-and-a-half miles below the ship,
a very expensive side-scan sonar package was hanging on the wire and
the winch refused to pull it in. We spent many hours tearing into
the machinery and troubleshooting. Most of us in the engine room were
involved, in one way or another. Finally, we were able to coax the
winch into running well enough to get the gear back on deck. Teamwork
got us through that challenge and I learned a very valuable thing:
I was part of a talented team that was up to tough challenges, so
I could relax a little. There were also other smaller problems that
trip, including a main engine that broke down on the way home!
After a hard days work Ron catches a short nap.
When you are not working, what do you like to do in your spare time?
On the ship, I do a lot of reading in my spare time. I also exercise
and play around with computers. Ashore, I spend as much time as possible
getting away from it all. I spend the summer months at my home in
Washingtons Cascade Mountains, and the winter months exploring the
deserts of California, Arizona or west Texas.
What do you like most and least about going to sea?
I really enjoy being underway on a ship; running at cruising speed, especially for homeport or for a place that Ive never been before. What I like best though, is the camaraderie and friendship of my shipmates. When Im at sea, I miss the simple pleasure of being able to go to a bookstore or a hardware store and roam around for hours. But more than anything, I miss the peaceful solitude of being in the north woods or in the desert.