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> May 31, 2006 – Master Chief Curt Podhora, Inside the Depths of the Healy
post Jun 1 2006, 09:37 PM
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May 31, 2006 – Aboard the Healy
Longitude: 173 34.446 W, Latitude: 62 40.866 N

What does it take to operate a 420 foot-long hunk of icebreaking steel such as the Healy? A few days ago, I posed that question to Master Chief Curt Podhora, the Healy’s senior electrician. In response, he gave me a full tour of the belly of the Healy—from stern to bow.

Our first stop was the engineering control center on the 01 deck. There, Podhora pointed out the four generators that power the mammoth of a ship. Each generator produces 7.2 megawatts of power. To put that in perspective: The Healy could power roughly a third of Seattle, Washington, the ship’s homeport. The power supplied by the ship’s generators provides electricity for everything on board—from the propellers and the computer navigation system to the lights and laundry machines.

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Master Chief Podhora stands watch in the Healy’s engineering control center. Fifty percent of the Healy’s crew is in the engineering division. Only five of them are electricians, meaning that Podhora is always in high demand!

In open water conditions and in thin ice, the Healy usually runs off of two generators. But when the ship hits thicker ice, Podhora and the rest of the engineering crew might up the number of generators to give the ship the momentum it needs to plow forward continuously at three knots through ice as thick as 4 ½ feet.

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This is Generator #4 of four. If necessary, the whole ship could run off of just one generator.

But what feeds the engines that turn the generators? Diesel fuel: nearly 1.25 million gallons of it!

The ship’s fuel tanks are in the hull of the ship. Boilers burn this fuel to make steam to heat the ship. The steam also makes freshwater from saltwater in a machine called an evaporator. This water is then used for drinking, cooking, showers, and sanitation.

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Each pipe, duct, wire, etc. throughout the ship is color-coded or labeled for its function. This is where the fuel oils get pumped into the Healy. Here are the “fuel caps” for the F76 diesel fuel (yellow), hydraulic oil (orange), and JP5 aircraft fuel (purple).

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The ship takes in water from the Bering Sea, feeds it into a tank, and heats the water. When the water evaporates, it leaves behind sea salt and other impurities. What remains is fresh water that’s safe for drinking.

As the Healy burns fuel, ballast tanks in the hull fill with seawater. Master Chief Podhora explained to me that these tanks help to maintain the ship’s balance so that it doesn’t tip over.

Next, Podhora lead me up stairs and down stairs, winding this way and that. And we scrambled through small hatchways called scuttles until I felt very lost within the depths of the ship. We toured the machine shop and the welding shop, the transformer room and the scientific cargo hold. Then it was on to the auxiliary machine rooms and storage rooms. I saw the two main motors that drive the shafts that turn the Healy’s propellers. Some places were so loud that red signs declared the need for ear protection. With my earplugs in place, Podhora was resigned to shouting for the rest of the tour. Lucky for him, the tour was almost over. After an amazing view of the inner workings of the Healy, we finally resurfaced in the dry stores area where much of the ship’s food supply is kept. Then, it was up to the main deck and back to work.
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