In the past year, I have lived at sea for nearly 150 days. I followed the Yuanwang fleet to disconnect from the Internet and communication. I travelled in the coastal waters of China, the Pacific Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, with a total voyage of nearly 50,000 nautical miles. Because of the epidemic, the memory of this special life at sea is particularly unforgettable.
Experience the hardships of a 26-year-old ship
The Yuanwang fleet includes 7 aerospace and ocean-going survey ships and 2 rocket transport ships. As we all know, the ocean occupies 71% of the earth’s surface. Spacecraft launched from land will inevitably pass through the ocean, which is far beyond the scope of the national land monitoring station. Therefore, ocean-going survey ships have become an indispensable part of China’s space mission .
As a reporter, I went to sea for the first time on December 1, 2019, following my country’s second-generation comprehensive aerospace ocean-going survey ship, Yuanwang 3, which was launched in 1994 and put into use at the end of 1995. The ship is 180 meters long and has a full load displacement of 17,000. Tons, 8 meters draft. The cabins on the ship are small, usually 4-6 people, and most crew members need to wash in the large bathhouse on the ship. According to the crew, sometimes due to mission needs, there are too many people going to sea with the ship, and the cabins are seriously saturated, and everyone will lay down in the activity room. In recent years, my country’s aerospace science and technology level has been continuously improved and has entered a stage of normalization of high-density launches. Therefore, the Yuanwang fleet has nearly 45 days each time it sails. The domestic water taken out from the home port will soon run out. Yuanwang 3 will purify the seawater during its powered voyage. The desalinated seawater is usually used for washing. When you start to bathe with purified water halfway through the voyage, you can clearly feel the difference. The body that has been drenched in water will always be slippery, just like just applying shower gel. For girls with long hair, this kind of trouble will be more, the hair seems to never be washed clean.
The Yuanwang 3 ship returned to sail on January 20, 2020. I was disconnected from the Internet and went to sea to perform the task. Finally, I ended “surfing at sea” and returned to “surfing on the Internet.” When we first landed, we hadn’t been affected by the new crown epidemic, we just wanted to finally catch up with the holiday before returning to the mainland to spend the Spring Festival with our family. However, Wuhan was “closed” on January 22, 2020, and all crew members were urgently recalled and put into isolation.
Guarding the rocket for the Spring Festival on the Yuanwang rocket carrier
On the afternoon of January 23, 2020, I boarded Yuanwang 21, which was docked at Tianjin Port. Yuanwang 21 is my country’s first new-generation carrier rocket carrier and a sister ship of the same type, Yuanwang 22. The original intention of the rocket carrier was because the traditional large launch sites Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang all had to face the tunnel problem of land transportation. The diameter of the tunnel determines the maximum shell diameter of the rocket that is allowed to pass. With the opening of China’s Wenchang Space Launch Site, there is no such problem at all from Tianjin to Hainan by sea. I celebrated the Spring Festival in 2020 on the Yuanwang 21 ship. At this time, the rocket has been loaded into the cabin. Although I cannot go home for the New Year, it is a different experience to spend the Spring Festival with the rocket.
I am the only crew member of Yuanwang 21 who has been in contact with the outside world on this voyage, so everyone pays particular attention to my daily body temperature. One day I had a big oolong, sweating profusely, my body temperature measured with an electronic thermometer reached 37 degrees Celsius, which caused everyone to be nervous and hurried to measure it again with a mercury thermometer. Fortunately, there was no danger. Due to epidemic prevention and control, crew members are not allowed to gather on this voyage, and everyone is hiding in their own rooms.
The Long March 5B Yaoyi rocket was transported by sea to the port of Wenchang, and the transportation fleet will continue to live at sea. The ship only accepted anti-epidemic supplies such as masks provided by the land unit, and asked them to put them on the wharf and wait for the personnel to walk away before putting down the gangway, and then moving them onto the ship after being completely disinfected. At the beginning of this voyage, all lifting operations of the rocket were completed by the ship’s personnel alone, reducing contact with the outside world. My life at sea has come to an end for now.
Across three oceans, a single voyage of more than 90 days
After half a month of isolation and two nucleic acid tests, I arrived on the Yuanwang 6 ship on July 11, 2020. This is my country’s second third-generation aerospace ocean-going survey ship. It was launched in 2007 with a length of 222.2 meters. , The displacement is 25,000 tons, which can be used for long-term life and navigation of 400 people on the ship. The cabins are mostly 2-4 person rooms, with independent toilets that can supply 24-hour hot water. Compared with the first-generation aerospace ocean-going survey ship, this kind of life is already very good. According to the old crew, the first-generation ship has no female crew and cannot provide 24-hour hot water on board. When the ship sails into the rain area, it will slow down and tell everyone to take the shampoo onto the deck, take off their clothes and take a shower in the rain. On the sea, rainwater is the cleanest fresh water resource.
But in the face of the sudden epidemic, such living conditions are far from enough. Hearing from the people on the same ship, China’s third-generation third-generation aerospace ocean-going survey ship Yuanwang 7 has a full load displacement of nearly 30,000 tons. Waiting for almost half a month near the sea area of the measurement and control mission, there are no fresh vegetables on board, so I can only eat frozen food. The use of fresh water and toilet water on the ship has been strictly restricted, limited to three times a day for a total of three hours. Affected by the epidemic, the nearest foreign port does not allow Chinese ships to dock for replenishment. The Yuanwang 7 ship has been anchored at the edge of the anchorage and cannot purify the sea without power. Waiting for the Hong Kong side to deliver the supplies by a small tugboat, but due to the bad weather and trouble.
The food shortage also affected the Yuanwang 6 ship. We knew that the new coronavirus was frequently detected in frozen fresh food when we sailed. Therefore, enough frozen meat products have been placed in the freezing warehouse at minus 18 degrees Celsius in the domestic home port. Everyone is prepared to be unable to replenish frozen products at foreign ports. One month after the voyage, the foreign epidemic situation was serious. For safety reasons, the ship decided to replenish the necessary vegetables at foreign ports, and after boarding the ship, it was disinfected and blanched before consumption. There will be no replenishment of raw fruits. At first, I couldn’t eat a whole fruit on the boat, and then it was cut in half, and then the standard became a finger-thick and crescent-shaped slice that could stand, one slice per person per day.
What about vegetables? No matter how advanced the fresh-keeping technology is, it will still be insufficient for the voyage of nearly a hundred days. Leaf vegetables are dehydrated relatively early, and green leafy vegetables with roots are usually purchased on board, which can be stored for about 20 days, and they will be cooked and eaten early in the voyage. Cabbage, potatoes, eggplant, etc. can be stored for more than two months. After the voyage time exceeds 70 days, only two or three kinds of vegetables will be supplied daily. The plain life at sea caused everyone to lose their sense of taste in the second half of the voyage. At this time, the food would start to be oily, salty and spicy. Although vegetables such as broccoli are kept individually sealed, they will gradually turn yellow and dry if stored for a long time, and even have some peculiar smell. After being selected, they will be cooked with rotten preserved eggs to give them a unique taste. There are fewer and fewer vegetables to eat every day. Pasta and meat are the main players in everyone’s diet. Although multivitamin effervescent tablets will be provided on the boat, this is far from enough. The crew have got angry, oral ulcers and hemorrhoids.
The ocean-going space survey ship performing the mission is fast when sailing at sea. In addition, the voyage spans large latitudes, the outdoor temperature difference is large, and the meteorological conditions are complicated. It is generally not recommended to walk outdoors, let alone fishing. Anything thrown from the ship will be instantly sucked into the bottom of the ship, twisted into pieces and swallowed by the sea. Although life like this for a long time is monotonous, the experienced crew will be enriched and enriched by themselves. The long voyage makes the crew especially love sports. The upper deck of Yuanwang 6 is very wide. When it first sailed in the Pacific, it was calm and calm. Every afternoon, the crew would go out for a run and watch the different sunsets on the sea every day. Many crew members often run dozens of laps a day, and a lot of exercise helps to distract their energy. As we sailed all the way south to the Indian Ocean, the sea conditions became worse, and ordinary walking became difficult. As the ship swayed up and down, one foot was deep and one foot was shallow when walking. This kind of environment hurts the knees, and the crew can only do ground sports indoors.
When we successfully completed various maritime tasks and finally returned in October, the sallow-faced crew saw the green land and their eyes regained light. At this time, China has gradually emerged from the haze of the epidemic, looking like a lively life.