27 April, 1999


Once again the day began with the ZAPS team closing down a night’s searching. We had put plenty of points on the chart, a little yellow sticker for every station we had been. We were crossing through the horizontal portion of the plume at many places and at other places we would see nothing. As one of the scientists said, “a zero means something.” It’s true. This information was helpful in getting an idea of the currents and the morphology of this effluent. Only I wasn’t thinking of morphology at 7 AM after night shift. We packed up and went to breakfast. I shuffled off to bed at 8 AM, wasted.

At 9 AM a horrendous clanging awakened me. I had been dreaming. . . the clanging was a part of my dream. . . or was it? I gradually realized that the ship was under general alarm. Emergency! I jumped out of bed, grabbed my survival suit and lifejacket, a wool hat and wool sweater and jogged down the hall where I met others racing up the stairs. We assembled in the muster room, to discover it was “just” another drill. I say “just” in quotes because I don’t really mean it. At sea, you only have one chance. I’ll come back to this train of though later.

Well, after roll call we were dismissed and I went back to bed. I got up and dressed for a beautiful sunset at 330 PM (local). Moonrise occurred shortly after and I was treated to my first (almost ) Antarctic full moon. When I came in and entered the lab to begin setting up my writing stuff (journal, weather reports, laptop) for the night’s shift, I was met by one of the team members “did you hear what happened in the hydrolab?” Apparently, during the fire drill, one of the fire hoses was pressurized to simulate the parcticular event (fire in the helo hanger). Problem was, it ran through the ceiling of the lab and, bursting, sent gallons of seawater over all the analytical equipment. So many things can (and have) happened, yet the scientists and engineers take them in stride (not implying that there is no stress or distress, but what choice can you have at sea?). It is truly amazing to see them tackle each successive setback. Earlier this week, an O-ring failed on a watertight power bottle for one of the instruments. It flooded with seawater at 45 meters depth and shut down. Engineers Joe and John had a formidable task ahead of them - - to rebuild a power supply without access to any other parts, equipment, or tools than what they had brought on with them. They worked almost non-stop through the day and the night and by the next day, Joe could proudly say “From flooded to functional in 24 hours!”

I’m watching Volker now, as he is faced with a sensitive analytical tool that has been soaked in seawater from today’s mishap. When I asked him what they would do, one of them replied “We will fix it…”

At sea, there is no other choice. The economy of isolation and extreme conditions does not provide for the extraneous.

Well, that’s my thoughts for today.


Weather report for 4/27/99:

Latitude (S): 62 13.6 Longitude (W): 57 19.9 Time (GMT): 2056

Depth (m): 1633 Temp (C ): 2.8 Barometer (mbars): 998.6

Wind Speed (m/s, knots): 7.5, 14.6 Wind Direction (degrees) 310

Salinity (ppt) 34.1 Relative Humidity (%) ? (missed)

Q: How do you get email on a ship?

A: The ship carries a satellite radio, called InmarSat. By aiming its antenna at one of the orbiting communications satellites, we can bounce digital radio signals to it and receive signals back similarly. Since satellites are generally set up to handle huge amounts of communications traffic (making individual calls fairly cheap due to cost sharing in quantity), individual calls from the ship are quite expensive, yet communications is necessary. The ship stores ship-generated email until 7 AM and 7 PM (eastern) and then beams them to the satellite. From there, they are beamed to ASA’s headquarters in Colorado and routed to the internet. Likewise, your emails to me are stored at ASA until beamed to the ship at one of the scheduled comm times.

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