Female military officials are selected for their meticulous work in the publication of nautical maps in the 6th squad of the Vietnamese Navy.
>> East Vietnam Sea survey team – P1: Tidal check>> East Vietnam Sea survey team – P2: ‘Copying’ seabed and ‘pasting’ it on screen>> East Vietnam Sea survey team – P3: Ten-day search for crashed Sukhoi-22s
Making up part of the unit of maritime research and map surveying and editing, the women are based in the northern city of Hai Phong.
In their office building, dozens of female naval officials sit at long rows of tables, gazing at computer screens.
Captain Ha Van Vinh, head of the second map team, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper journalists that they should have brought a lot of flowers had they visited the office on Vietnamese Women’s Day (October 20).
“Most of our staff are young female engineers,” said Vinh, adding that his unit has 32 staff and 28 of them are ladies aged between 24 and 35.
Captain Vinh explained the experience his agency has had before making a decision to recruit mostly women for the job because, he said, they are better than men at being meticulous, cautious, and marinating a high level of concentration.
“The work of mapping is intolerant to mistakes,” Vinh added.
The maps produced by Vietnam have been used by international counterparts after the country was admitted into the international mapping association this year.
Not just containing the usual information, a nautical map for high sea navigation must also include data such as the coordinates of wrecked ships and underwater oil pipelines, telecommunication cables, and electricity lines on the seabed.
There are many objects lying on the seabed for hundreds of years and they must be marked on nautical maps, said Captain Le Thi Minh Thuy, 27.
In addition, a nautical map must also display electromagnetic levels of different areas, the speed of sound underwater, physical and chemical characteristics of sea water, temperature, water pressure, sea currents, and winds.
Those characteristics can affect the normal working of a compass.
The difficulty of any map editor is the selection of qualified sources of data, Captain Thuy said.
In addition, a nautical map needs to be updated every year due to geographical and maritime changes.
Nautical map editors have to search for information published by the U.S., UK, and Russia so they must be proficient in foreign languages, she added.
“We are intolerant to mistakes. In the high seas, sea-goers rely on our maps to navigate,” Captain Thuy said.
“Mistakes can send ships into danger of falling on shoals, reefs, whirl pools, or areas with explosives.”
Captain Do Van An, deputy head of the second mapping team, said all officials may be required to work both day and night when an urgent mission comes.
After a map is edited by a team, it is taken to another team for a double-check before being submitted to a higher level for checking again.
Later, the map is given to the maritime safety department of the navy before being transferred to Da Lat, the capital of the Central Highlands province of Lam Dong, for printing and publishing, Captain An revealed.
After days of working at the 6th naval squad, the Tuoi Tre journalists were invited by Senior Lieutenant Colonel Dang Ngoc Minh, political commissar of the squad, to visit the house of Captain Thuy and give her parents burning incenses.
Chinese troops opened fire on her father, Le Dinh Tho, and he died in action on March 14, 1988 while he was collecting data for this mapping agency in Vietnam’s Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelago.
Her mother was incredibly sad about his death and passed away eight months later. Captain Thuy was born in the same year and had to live with her grandparents, Sr. Lt. Col. Minh said.
Captain Thuy has been supported by the army ever since and is now working for the agency her parents worked for before.
“Whenever I miss my father, I just zoom in the map of Truong Sa to look at the site he died on to commemorate him,” she said.
“I promised myself to follow what my parents had wished before.”