FORMER Hautlieu student Ben du Feu (23) is rather enjoying getting used to life in the slow lane.
Having recently gained his Unlimited Officer of the Watch certificate from Plymouth Maritime Training College and a 2:1 degree in nautical studies at Plymouth University, he has taken up employment with the British Antarctic Survey ship.
However, it has not all been smooth sailing, as he recently sprained his ankle after falling down … a penguin burrow.
Ben said: ‘I had the afternoon off, so I went out to look for some penguins and when I saw some I started running towards them and fell into one of their burrows, so I’ve had to come back to Jersey for a couple of weeks to recover.’
A former Victoria College and Hautlieu student, Ben undertook four years of training to gain his qualifications, which included spending 365 days at sea.
‘I worked out that I must have travelled 100,000 miles.,’ he said. ‘During that time I went on two cruise ships and a container ship and would drive them as an apprentice under supervision. It’s actually not that difficult to drive a ship, because everything happens so slowly that if you’re on a collision course you have about 20 minutes to react.’
That reaction was put to the test during training, as he recalled: ‘We were relying on an electronic chart system to navigate, and when the officer of the watch checked the paper chart he realised we were heading straight for a rock, so we had to turn really hard. Plates were falling and smashing everywhere – it was a pretty close call.’
Ben is hoping that his three-month contract to work as third officer on the James Clark Ross is extended. The ship is currently home to 28 crew and 40 scientists working on a government project on climate change.
When he has recovered from injury Ben will rejoin the ship in the Falklands as it makes its way back to the UK – a journey that will take about a month.
‘When it’s back in England we will dry-dock and all the systems will be checked. I will be involved in the maintenance of the ship, fixing things like the lifeboats, then we’ll head back to Greenland again,’ he said.
‘When I got the job I was actually applying for an air traffic control position in Jersey, but I ended up going all the way to the Antarctic, but I would love it to turn into a full-time job.’