The cruise of life


The cruise of life

Volume 7 Issue 12 News & Resources | December 2014

    1. Sailing

I would easily equate life with the feeling one will get from being swayed all around in a sea cruise. The constraints one will face on a ship and its limited facilities will govern the behaviors or activities of anyone on-board. As in life, we are limited and indirectly controlled by our environment we are in. Our world is the ship and its different compartments. The open deck, command & control room, engine room, kitchen, dining space, entertainment room, sleeping bunkers,  portside and starboard and last but not least, the toilet sections. One will move from one section to the other and try to make something useful along the way. We just have to make do with whatever facilities and opportunities around. After some time, one will reach to a standard daily routine and, normally, will alter things a bit here and there, but keeping the original cycle intact. The most important thing is to ensure one will be useful to others. Eating, sleeping and relieving oneself will not be sufficient. What is the purpose of one being onboard? This purpose will be important in the gloomy days of wavy and rough oceans. When the going gets tough, one will wander why in the first place one volunteered for the cruise. The whole experience of sailing mirrored life so much that it left me wandering the things I have been doing in the world at large. Sailing will bring new meaning to life and I hope more will enjoy it. And one feeling one will never fail to feel is the continuously moving platform. This feeling surely imitates the ground we are on since it is, in essence, also a moving platform.

  • Voyage

Towards the end of November 2014, together with my two research students, we went onboard “K.K Senangin II”: a relatively seasoned survey ship under the Malaysian Fishery Department. The trip was mainly for demersal fish surveys along the northern part of Malacca Strait. The 5 days and 4 nights have covered about 19 survey or trawling stations. The weather was relatively good and the seas were “friendly”. There were few incidents of strong currents and the occasionally headache and near-vomiting incidents, but generally everything was fine. The food was good and the atmosphere was relatively comfortable. The main aim of the cruise was for fish catching and sampling. I saw the whole processes of net deployment and retraction. The catches were good in my view, and the fishes really looked fresh. My colleagues from the Fishery Department and another local university were busy sorting, classifying, measuring, recording, weighing and storing the catches in the ship’s RSW Fish Hold. I do not know what an RSW is, but this was where all the catches were kept, except for the ones which got cooked and eaten. The main activities on the ship were those related to fish trawling, water quality sampling and others. The “others” refer to our group research instruments’ which, honestly, are a bit out of sync with the main aim of the cruise. We have managed to get some of the experiments implemented. Sometimes I found it a struggle to create a strong reason for being onboard. Alas, we were already part of the ship’s crew and the best thing then was to make full use of the opportunities.

  • Fish

The type of net used was “Pukat Tunda Dasar” or bottom trawl net. This type of net is a bottom-type which means the catch will mainly be small fishes that dwell near the bottom, hence I presumed, the term “Demersal” meant. Every time a new catch was hauled up, the majority were small-size from various marine species, though unfortunately, from one trawl to the next, we would also bumped into old woods and rubbish which were lying on the sea-floor. Many of the fishes were grunting for air and were quickly sorted away. The varieties of the catches, for me, were very interesting. Within the same areas and depth of the oceans, one will find marine biota of many shapes, sizes and mode of moving. One underlying feeling was that the complex eco-system would only be sustainable when all the species are protected and allowed to survive without interference. Over-fished zones will not just affect a particular spot, but will create imbalances which will spill over to other neighbouring regions. I think the whole purpose of the cruise was to ensure quantifiable measurements of the marine species and also acquiring fresh samples of the catches. These were done with the hope that in fulfilling the insatiable needs of human for fresh marine food source, we will also ensure the continuity of future catches. Everything needs to be measured before it can be managed. Though the method of sampling (read: measurement) may need to be improved, it is far better than playing guessing games or pure visual estimation. The net has proven its effectiveness, at least during this interesting cruise. Out in the real-life, we need to ensure we do not get caught in such net. We should be the catcher.

  • Acoustic

One of the task of joining the cruise was to record some acoustics data from the ocean. Recordings from sea mammals, such as the whale, would be the price catch. But, sea mammals may be a bit rare in these waters. There are known sighting of porpoise and dolphins who would trail the bubbles from the ship’s wakes. These are visual sightings and would be random in nature. The problem with acoustic sensor or hydrophone is that it must be lowered down from the deck. A moving ship will be a terrible source of noise and the possible banging of the hand-held hydrophone to ship’s hull is an occasion we would like to avoid. Hence, the difficulty of getting acoustic data from a moving ship. A typical acoustic recording will involve the use of light craft such as a small boat and very minimum engine interference. A tow fish or hydrophone array will certainly help, but these would be luxury equipment for such a cruise. We just have to make do with a hand-held hydrophone. Come to think of it, our intention was acceptable, but the available cruise platform and recording apparatus were not comparable, hence the failure to get good and reliable data. The main lesson is to ensure what we intent to do must always be fine-tuned to reality on the ground, actually I meant the ocean. As a seasoned scout right from my school-days, I should know better that one should always “Be Prepared!”

  • Human

Being on a ship and travelling across the ocean require the ability of adaptation to the physical, mental and spiritual domains. The body needs to adapt to the ship’s dynamic motion and limitations of movement. The mind needs to be filled with activities that can overcome the boredom and routines. And the spirit needs rejuvenation via silent contemplation and a re-look on the bigger scheme of things from the daily occurrence. Yes, all in all, it was not that bad being on a working or scientific cruise. We have learned many things from many sources. The chit-chats in the dining, and even the jokes on the deck were loaded with meanings from the veterans of the oceans. Human being should live responsibly from the oceans. Just remember: what we give to the oceans, we will get it back. “K.K Senangin II” is an enjoyable scientific survey ship and one which will be remembered fondly. Thank you for the memories.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes” Marcel Proust

28th Oct 2014, Malacca Straits.


Written by :
Assc. Prof. Dr. Mohd Rizal Arshad
School of Electrical & Electronic Engineering
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