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17 August, 2001

Technology and Teamwork

I am happy to report today that our e-mail system seems to be on track. Yesterday a crewmember discovered that a scientist had brought aboard a virus called the "Red Alert Virus". This virus had been disabling the Coast Guard system, but today the outlook for communication is much brighter. I did receive over 50 e-mails yesterday and replied to most of them today.

I have learned quickly that life here in the Arctic is very unpredictable, so you must be flexible. The 4 German scientists who came over for a visit ended up having a sleepover on the Healy due to a rapid change in weather conditions. Ice buildup on the helicopter deck prevented their return to the Polarstern. Toothbrushes, towels, and sheets were scraped up and a bed was made for each visitor. The helicopter was able to come this morning to take the scientists back. When it arrived to pick them up, the Coast Guard was glad because it brought over with it a very important piece of equipment.

Last week, the Healy had a very major part break. This part improves the ship's ability to steer! The bow, or front of the ship, contains a bow thruster-a hole that opens to shoot out water at a rate of 130,000 gallons (2 swimming pools) per minute. This water shoots out both sides in order to help control the ship's movement to the left and right. A large metal connecting rod that controls which direction the water flows broke, and the ship lost some of its ability to move sideways. Loosing this part also meant losing the bow wash-the mechanism that drives water out onto the ice in front of the ship to help decrease friction (and thus increase its ability to move easily through the ice). Unfortunately for the Healy, the proper equipment wasn't on board to repair the broken part or build a new one. However, the German icebreaker had what was needed. Our engineers e-mailed the manufacturer of the broken part asking for information, and they responded by e-mailing us a picture. A piece of metal was then flown to the Polarstern where their engineers made an identical part from the picture. The whole process took almost a week, but the result is that we now have the ability to maneuver properly. Now that's teamwork!

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For updates on weather and location, check out www.uscg.mil/paccrea/healy


Coast Guard engineer Neil Meister holds the broken part. There should be no hole where his hand is! <>


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