16 October, 1996
Subject: Re: Journal 16 October 1996
Live from the Polar Duke en route to Deception Island
Location: 63.42S X 61.29W Wind Speed: 11.2 m/sec
Boat Speed: 5 knots Wind Direction: 12 degree
Boat Heading: 22 degrees Barometer: 972.82 mb
Humidity: 92.2% Air Temp.: -1.5 C
Salinity: 33.7 0/00 Water Temp.: -1.7 C
General Weather Conditions: Snowing to beat the band at 0600 this morning. Snowed all day with an accumulation of 6-7 inches, tapering off in the late afternoon. The wind kicked up in and seas are increased in height producing lots of ground swell.
It was in situ box day again. We are beginning to dispise these heavy, awkward boxes and the time consuming depth profile that must be pumped after deployment and retrieval of the array. By the end of the cruise we will have deployed this arrangement at least six times!
Twice monthly we are treated to a surprise safety drill,
because so many people were napping today, we were prewarned. When the alarm goes off you have to grab your life jacket and survival suit and muster (gather) on the deck. After today's drill Al, the MPC (marine projects coordinator), announced that the starboard lifeboat would be launched and anyone that wanted to could parcticipate. I immediatly wiped the sleep from my eyes and opted to be launched with the lifeboat.
The lifeboats are launched and checked on a rotating basis, next month the port lifeboat would be throughly tested. Bright orange and shaped like a submarine, the lifeboats are suspended from hoists near the bridge about thiry feet above the water. They are about thirty five feet long and have a pop top closer to the stern end with portholes, this is for the driver.
We climbed into the lifeboat, realistically dressed in our lifejackets, but without the realistic panic that would accompany abandoning the ship, and buckled ourselves into the seatbeats that are attached to the bench seats. Hatches were closed and latched and we began what felt like a ride at Disney World, free falling the 30 feet into the water. I assume that we lowered ourselves down the side of the ship. In an abandon ship situation the likelihood of someone staying back to carefully lower lifeboats into the water might be to much to expect.
Inside there are spaces for fifty people, however, that parcticular trip could be a little claustrophobic. The mate that drives and directs the operation does so from a station with all the controls amidships. There are also survival supplies on board, food, water, flares, hand cranked radio, oars, ect. There is even a toilet (the lack of privacy might be overlooked if one considers the circumstances under which this might be used).
Cruising range for this sturdy vessel is approximately 190 nautical miles. There is enough fuel to run the engine for 24 hours at speeds of 7 to 8 knots. The entire boat could take a 360 degree roll in a heavy sea with little damage (although the occupants might get a little upset).
After all the safety equipment checked out and the hatches were opened, Ole, the chief mate on the Polar Duke, took us for a short ride. We hung out the hatches, camera dangling around our necks and took pictures with the wild abandon of tourists in Paris.
Our long anticipated day off and trip to Deception Island began tonight. We left as soon as the last liter of water was pumped. Many of us gathered on the bridge excited at the propect of sustained forward motion after so many days in the same place. This is also the best place to scope out any wildlife. As we pushed through the brash ice and cut around the large ice floes we were treated to the most incrediable seal swimming exhibition. There must have been 300 seals, all trying to get out of the way of the ship at the same time. They were swimming with a singular purpose, surely in a panic, but with a synchronicity and grace that's impossible to describe.
Tomorrow, Deception Island!
NSF Teacher in Antarctica
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