site.btaDay 106: Chief Engineer Popov Quotes Colleague: Trust Machines and Question People
Trust the machines and question the people, said the Chief Engineer of the Bulgarian naval research vessel Sv. Sv. Kiril i Metodii (RSV 421), Lieutenant Commander Stoil Popov, quoting his former superior officer, Lieutenant Commander Nikolay Stoilov (Ret.).
Popov serves as Chief Engineer at RSV 421 during her historic first voyage to the South Shetlands in support of the 31st Bulgarian Antarctic Expedition. The vessel is on her way back to Varna, where it is expected to dock at the end of April.
"For better or for worse, my father, who brought me up, was an officer of the land forces. Due to life circumstances, I did not end up in the land forces, but on the infinite sea and the naval profession - from 1998 to 2003 I was trained at the Nikola Vaptsarov Naval Academy in Varna, immediately after which I joined the navy... and thus it has been 20 years", he said.
Lieutenant Commander Popov pointed out that his profession confronts him with three of the most difficult things in life - managing people, managing paperwork, and keeping mechanisms and systems running - troubleshooting and making them work more efficiently. "The most difficult ones, because probably every single person has difficulty in at least one of those three aspects - either dealing with people, dealing with bureaucracy, or dealing with technology. The balance between them is very delicate," Popov noted.
Asked who is easier to work with - people or machines, Popov replied: "I personally prefer working with people. It is easier for me. I try to understand their way of thinking so that we can overcome some difficulties and be together in our successes. It's important to feel valued. I try to help the people around me in whatever way I can and not hinder others from developing. However, I would like to add a quote from my colleague and former superior - Lieutenant Commander Nikolay Stoilov (Ret.), whom I often consult for advice. When we were leaving, he came to see us off and his words were: 'Trust the machines and question the people.'"
"Machines and mechanisms are created by people who have put all their skill and engineering thought into them and are maintained by people strictly carrying out instructions. Even after the accumulation of many working hours and long operation these machinery mechanisms should perform what they are designed to do. After all, they are made by humans for humans," he added.
Popov did not hide the fact that the occasional ironic banter between crew members such as "How's the fourth today?" is one of the ways of being more positive about the difficulties surrounding the maintenance of the machines [RSV 421's fourth diesel generator is requiring slightly more of the mechanics' attention during the voyage compared to the other two - the first and second].
RSV 421's Chief Engineer admitted that he was somewhat lucky and fortunate to have made the life choice of participating in the first Bulgarian voyage to Antarctica. "My choice was spontaneous. The opportunity arose at the right time in my life, my mood was more adventurous. So, without any prior information, I accepted the challenge," he recalled.
He stated that his encounter with Antarctica was an unforgettable memory but stressed the importance of the whole experience - from the preparation of the ship itself in Varna, through the formation of the crew, to the difficult trials of crossing the equator, passing through different climatic zones and reaching the South Shetland Islands beyond the 60th parallel south.
The prolonged sailing, uncharacteristic of naval personnel, and the absence from home gave to Lieutenant Commander Popov occasions for personal reckoning. "Family is of utmost importance. I am indebted to my wife and children, and I will do my best to make them feel comfortable, of course, from now on in my presence. You can never give me back what you have taken from your loved ones, but you can make an effort to be a better person in the future. Balance is key - adventurism is adventurism, but the obligations to our families await," he said.
BTA's Daily News editor Konstantin Karagyozov is the only member of the media who is travelling on board the ship to Livingston Island and back, and will cover the Bulgarian expedition on site throughout the stay in Antarctica.
All media outlets can use the Bulgaria-Antarctica BTA's Log for free.