Found her dreamjob at sea
Heiður Berglind Þorsteinsdóttir is a marine engineer on the Thor offshore patrol vessel. mbl.is/Kristinn Magnússon
Berglind Þorsteinsdóttir has always been interested in machines and how they work and always envisioned that she would end up in mechanical engineering at university level. However, she decided to pursue her interest before she was there and enrolled in engineering school at the Technical Institute and started to go out to sea. First, she was on fishing vessels, but now she works as an engineer on the patrol vessel Þór and is not going ashore anytime soon, although she has not ruled out the possibility of further studies at the university.
Þorsteindóttir has worked alongside her studies a marine engineer, worked as a sailor and mechanic on a longliner.
“I had planned to go into mechanical engineering, but many people with such interests wanted to go into engineering. I decided to take the A level in motor control while at college, because it could be a good basis for mechanical engineering. But then when I started working on it and went to sea, I realized how interested I was in the practical side. I also thought it was wonderful to be at sea — it’s a fantastic feeling — and suddenly I was more interested in it than going to mechanical engineering.”
How did it come about that you went to sea?
“I called every captain of every possible ship I could get on the phone. It was a little difficult to get the first job. I was then called by a captain who had obtained my number from another captain I had spoken to, who had misunderstood what he said and thought that I had been working for a long period on the other ship. When I show up aboard Fjölnir GK he gets to know that I’m only attending my first tour. It was awfully good though, and I didn’t feel any seasickness.”
Never gives up
Þorsteinsdóttir never gives up, although there are hard requirements for crew members on fishing vessels.
“I went on one tour to stand in as a deckhand on a longliner, which I had not been on before. I heard that my boss there had not wanted a woman on his watch. He decided to send me to the bottom of the ship to stack the bait on an elevator. Usually two people go for it, but he said I shouldn’t come up until I’ve done it. Once I finished, he obviously thought I was okay, since I’d been tested and passed. After that, it was just a fantastic tour,” she says, laughing.
But what is the job of a marine engineer about?
“Being an engineer at sea involves learning to take care of yourself. When a problem occurs, you have to find ways to fix it, even if you do not necessarily have all that you need. If you need something, you may have to make the things that you need from something that you do not necessarily have. You have to figure out the faults, it’s a bit of a puzzle and there needs be a lot of thinking behind what you do.”
But isn't there a danger of doing something that doesn’t work?
“It happens,” she replies, laughing. “It can be a real test of patience, but when everything works it is so much fun.”