I have received quite a few emails from students asking me why it is so dark on the Bridge at night. One student even asked, “Why don’t you turn on the lights like I do at home?”
Have you ever looked out the window of your house or apartment at night, when all of the lights are on inside? You probably found it difficult to see the objects in your yard or people walking by on the street. It may have been necessary to press your face against the glass and squint. When you are at home, your attention is focused on what is happening inside. Seeing what is happening outside is not critically important. The opposite is true on the ship.
On the Bridge of the TS Kennedy, cadets and crew members constantly have their eyes on the ocean around us. They are looking for lights from ship traffic, marine life, and debris in the water. If the Bridge was illuminated with bright lights, it would be impossible to do this.
Instead, of turning lights on when it gets dark outside, we keep them turned off. The glow from the electronics on the Bridge provides just enough light for cadets and crew members to move around safely.
If you enter the charting room at the rear of the Bridge at night, you will notice a red glow. Cadets and crew members often use a red lens to illuminate the chart in front of them. The red light allows them to see well enough to read the chart and write in log books while preserving their night vision.
During World War II, it was important that the Bridge of a ship be kept as dim as possible for security reasons. Scientists suggested that using a red light was the answer. A TS Kennedy crew member who spent a large part of his career working on submarines often says “Rig for red” when he visits the Bridge at night. He told cadets that on his sub, the phrase was a reminder to turn off the lights.
Personally, I prefer to work under a blue light at night. Since hazards on nautical charts are shown in red, I find that using a blue light makes the red ink a little more vibrant and easier to see. Everyone’s eyes work a little differently, I guess.
Thank you for participating in the Follow The Voyage-Share The Experience Program. Today, work as hard as a cadet aboard the TS Kennedy.
Sincerely, Captain Michael J. Campbell
Master, TS Kennedy
This is how the charting room on the TS Kennedy's Bridge appears at night.
Teachers, if it is possible, we'd love to have you recreate the TS Kennedy's Bridge at night in your classroom. Your students can test out writing in a dark room with only a red light. If you do, please share photos or a video clip. Invite your students to share their thoughts about the red light.
I was surprised to locate this video called, Sub Science: Rig For Red. Check it out!