Dispatch 03 - July 17, 2002
By C.A. Linder
Weather conditions: overcast skies, winds 15
knots from the SW, calm seas, air temperature 48° F
Testing the Waters
Another day dawns cold and gray in the Bering Sea. The temperature
is dropping slowly, and already you can see your breath if you stand
in the lee of the wind on deck. Today was another day of preparation
- unpacking our gear, getting it set up, and making sure it works.
This is not to say there werent exciting moments!
Remember what I said yesterday about not being able to go to the hardware
store while youre at sea? Well, as it turns out Im wrong. If youre
at sea on a ship that has two helicopters, you can fly to the nearest
town (Nome, Alaska, for example) and pick up what you need (a tool
to fix the strut on your helicopter, for example).
Launching helicopters from a moving ship is, as
you can imagine, quite a major event that can have deadly consequences
if things go wrong. I was lucky enough to be able to watch this exciting
evolution right from the flight deck. First, the crew pushed the helicopter
out of the hangar and onto the launch pad, where they secured it to
the deck using some heavy duty straps. Then the pilots checked out
the aircraft and fired up the engines. When the pilots were satisfied
that the helicopter was running properly, the aviation personnel unfastened
the straps in unison and cleared the area. Then, with a rush of air
like a tornado hitting the deck, the helicopter blasted off, circling
the ship and heading out over the flat, gray Bering Sea. It was quite
a sight, and feeling the force of the wind from the rotor blades gives
you a healthy respect for the power of these machines.
After lunch, we were formally introduced to the ships crew. Chief
Scientist Tom Weingartner described our mission and thanked the crew
for our warm welcome aboard. He also promised everyone that we would
see polar bears, walruses, and lots of ice on our journey north.
While our mooring crew were breaking open more crates
and testing their instruments, the CTD team decided to test the operation
of their instruments. As it
turns out, the test was successful...in finding a major problem with
the instrument! Unfortunately, this leaves us with precious little
time to troubleshoot the problem before we arrive at our first station.
While we were of course hoping that everything would go smoothly and
wed be happily on our way, in reality that seldom happens. (Besides,
that would have made for a boring dispatch.) Without going into details,
the problem we are having is that the deck unit which controls the
CTD from the ship is not communicating properly with the instrument.
Fortunately, since problems like this arise frequently because of
the harsh nature of the ocean environment (salt water and electronics
dont mix), CTD experts like Sarah Zimmermann and Marine Science Technician
Chief Sean McPhilamy know how to fix almost anything that breaks,
even in the middle of the Bering Sea. And, since oceanographers are
also firm believers in Murphys Law (what can go wrong, will go wrong),
the ship has a complete backup CTD system. The troubleshooting process
will continue through the night, and hopefully we wont have to resort
to using the spare instrument.
As always, if you have questions for the science crew or me, email
them to email@example.com.
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