… and nor am I ever likely to but I’m happy to report that in Norway, English is spoken by almost everyone.
So, need I tell you that of course I’m uniquely qualified to undertake the magnetising of undersea power cables (for wind farms and so forth) and for this purpose I was whisked to Drammen and put aboard a general purpose supply vessel, the Olympic Commander. A fellow Magneteer flew in from Germany to assist in the setting up of the equipment and to get the show on the road – so to speak.
Drammen at night was a pretty sight…
… much prettier than it was during the days to follow when the clag was on the deck and rain was almost continuous. Apparently it was unseasonably warm during the week – hence the rain – and the preference among the crew was for the colder, brighter weather that they had expected. Either way, I think we were lucky that the wind didn’t put up more than 3kn. 10 kn would have made things jolly uncomfortable.
It’s always a treat to go somewhere new; language, architecture, agricultural styles, the quality of light and the people themselves are always fascinatingly different. Looking out of the window of the train from Torp to Drammen, my first impression was that I’d arrived in some gigantic railway set. The tidy and colourful timber houses, the carefully decorated municipal buildings and even the forested fjord sides, themselves conspiring to form the back-drop to this orderly layout, looked as though Frank Hornby had had a hand in their creation.
I was lucky to draw the midday to midnight shift which, proffering only a few hours of daylight, imparted a touch of drama to my sense of the ship. The hum of motors, the crackling of walkie-talkies, the ring of footsteps on gangways – the rhythm of their fall announcing crisis or calm – were the sounds that made up this particular Night music.
Excluding travel to and from the ship, if I were to map my sphere of operations over the last 7 days, it would appear as a ball no more than 30 yards in diameter. Within that globe every facility was to hand; life continued without the slightest inconvenience – even my laundry involved only getting it to the laundry room and collecting it 12 hours later.
The magnetising of the cable was done as it came aboard the ship direct from the cable factory on the dockside. The cable passed through a ring of electromagnets attached to which was the only moving part in the set-up, a wheel that both counted the distance off and acted as a switch – when the cable stopped moving, the magnets switched off and vice-versa. The Magneteer’s job was to monitor the computers, keep a log of events and at intervals, check the measurement of the magnetic flux. Some general house-keeping; integrity of the machine, cables and wiring and comms with the other contractors on board kept me alert and left a bit of time to catch up with the London Review of Books – a pile of which had been accumulating in my sitting room over the last 12 months.
Over the week we put through about 22km of various sizes of cable and as we left the ship in the early hours of Saturday morning, she slipped away into the night, bound for Copenhagen.
But not without my first spotting a potential source of Jowett Jingle Bell wheels; I’ll give Learned Counsel the old, ‘ahoy there’.