Saturday, June 4, 2011

Two Parts Worried Scientists, One Part Forced Idle Time, Bake All Afternoon on the Quarterdeck

During my morning Jason watch, I caught the last 30 minutes and 13th rock grab of the geology dive and the entirety of the water column. The dive site was close enough to Oahu that we could see a smattering of lights on the horizon so the water column was quite short – only 1500 m.  Once Jason was on deck, and “Jason on deck” had been properly logged, it was ‘re-racking’ time – that’s Jason team talk for going back to bed.  On the way back to my rack, I took a detour to the bow where the sea and the sky yawned in greeting to the sun.

Noon was the scheduled time for the TAAM deployment so we had to move Medea out of the way and swing the anchor back to center. Once there, Jefrey began assembling the string of chains, cables, shackles, and everything in between. Just above the anchor he attached the acoustic release that will be triggered to open when the mooring is recovered.  Cammy and I stood by with zip ties in hand.

Though all the equipment was ready for deployment, the waves did not appear to be. The swell we experienced on Wednesday that sent us south for our geology intermission had not subsided by much. While deploying a mooring, the seas have to be particularly calm because the assemblers on the quarterdeck spend a lot of time on the edge handling equipment.  In addition to human safety, the equipment’s safety must be considered.   In order to attach the inductive modem above the release, the anchor must be lowered over the stern by a few meters and held there until the connections are made. When the seas are rough, this leaves the anchor vulnerable to dangling above the surface where it can swing more violently.  This danger was the main reason for stalling the mooring deployment on the quarterdeck.

All afternoon, everyone was hoping that the weather would improve and that the taunting grey squall would pass within an hour or so. Half the ship’s company huddled around the quarterdeck, hard hats and life vests at the ready.  Several worried scientists and involuntary idle time is a recipe for nit picking.  The huddle focused its attention around the anchor, pointing at this and poking that.  Uncertainty about things that seemed to have been certain just yesterday sloshed around the huddle with the heave of the ship.  Brows furrowed down over squinting eyes, idle hands rubbed chins, arms folded across life vests. 

Though the squall never stopped taunting, the nit picking did come to a conclusion. To avoid the sticky situation of attaching the inductive modem with the anchor swinging, the huddle devised a plan.  They attached the inductive modem while the anchor was still on deck in a way that left just enough clearance under the A-frame to lift the string of modem, release and anchor. We were set for the day ahead when the weather would hopefully be better behaved.

Worried scientists and idle time struck again later that evening when the anchor sat in the spotlight on the back deck. No one looks good under florescent lighting.  The anchor’s tiny flaws were illuminated and busy hands tended to them. Namely, the bungee cords holding the neon green cable on the spools were overstretched and I employed my newfound knot skills to make new ones.

When worried scientist went to bed, I took my last chance to recline in the spool of the anchor. A few stars made it through the cloud cover. The ship hummed and jolted as the waves slapped its underbelly like a washing machine with a pair of sneakers on spin cycle inside. Within a few minutes the clouds drizzled down droplets, which, as a Seattleite, I’m programmed to find refreshing.  Given a few more minutes, the clouds supplied something I could only find inconvenient. I let my recliner enjoy the Hawaiian blessing alone as I dried off and nodded off.

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