11 September, 2010
by Michael Dessner
Good morning everybody, it’s been a busy couple days out here on the Jean Charcot and although there’s not many new developments this morning we are gonna catch you up. First, let’s take a look at the weather, over to you, Al…how does it look?
Well, Mike we’re looking at a low headed into the area, the forecast is calling for 35 knots and building seas with a good chance of rain. The forecast is for more of the same over the next 24 hours so if you happen to be out on the water looking at, oh, I dunno, say the Titanic, well hey! I’d say batten down your hatches and get ready for a little rockin’ and rolling. Back to you Mike!
Thanks Al, we sure appreciate you staying on top of that. We’ll definitely keep an eye on that system as it comes through the area.
And coming through the area it has been. It’s been a couple days of life in the slop my friends, yes it has. I had intended to discuss what it’s like to sit and watch some of the video of Titanic coming up into the Imagery lab and I did go in there the other night and make some notes intending to talk about it. The only problem is that yesterday I had a pretty good story elsewhere so I let it slide, then I looked at my notes and they really weren’t making a lot of sense to me. I think I’m gonna let it wait (I know, I am such tease). It has been a couple pretty darn busy days for my guys and the AUV team is running on little fuel after putting in consecutive 20 hour days since we arrived. I think I am going to just over a little ground reporting on the effort and then see if I can’t grab another hour or two in the rack. That’s the way it is, work when you need to and try and grab an hour or two when ya can.
So, it certainly seems like longer than a day, day and a half since we pulled our snarl of line and weight up with Ginger. Since then both the girls have made high freq and picture runs and we’re covering the eastern quadrant of the survey area. Since the other night we have had a weather system come through that has effectively shut down ROV operations (another reason I want to defer talking about ROV footage, right now we’re not seeing any). The weather system is a bit lumpy but certainly nothing for the many people following the expedition to be concerned about. It has temporarily halted ROV operations but the AUV’s continue to work away.
The problem with a sea state above 4 or so on the Beaufort scale is that as the ship heaves in the swell the movement is transferred to the ROV via the tether and can make entanglement and holding position on the site difficult if not impossible. Launch and recovery of the ROV is also significantly impacted by high seas. For the AUV’s its nowhere near the issue, primarily due to their untethered aspect: once they are in the water and away they get a few feet below the surface and all is well. Our problem becomes safety on the surface although conditions have not degraded to the extent that we feel the need to suspend our operations. I always err on the side of caution when it comes to our personnel and equipment (in that order) so trust me when I tell you we are NOT taking risks out here with either.
I would say that about the worst we have seen has been 20 to 30 knot winds and perhaps 10 to 12 foot seas, with maybe the occasional roller coming through adding another foot or two. Is it comfortable? No. Fun? Not so much, although it can be damn funny when you’re working on minimal sleep and cracking wise with buddies under similar strain. Is it dangerous? Just being here is dangerous but I certainly feel less anxiety about being here than I do zooming down Interstate 5 at 85 mph, bumper to bumper with the rest of Southern California. It may not seem fun like ‘winning the lottery fun’ but nothing does when you’re in the middle of the grind. Still, I have no doubt that this expedition will be a highlight of my life. I will tell stories about this month, ad nauseum, until the dirt hits the lid of my box.
The girls are staying in the spotlight with the ROV grounded due to seas. I’m sure there is frustration here and there about not being able to get the cameras back down on the wreck but that’s life at sea: you gotta be ready to do what you can if the weather impedes and it is the Grand Bank in autumn, after all. We’re lucky we ain’t getting our ass kicked worse than this smallish system is doing. Gear is turning and we’re bringing in lots of good data. I commented earlier that ‘Greed Kills’ and the folks running this thing know that. If they pushed the teams to put the ROV over the side before the sea state supported the op and it took one solid roll into the superstructure of the ship, well that would be bad, hmmm? A couple hundred thousand dollars in cameras and lights along with ROV parts getting hammered into a steel wall would be a damned expensive couple of seconds.
So while the Imaging and ROV teams tweak and wait for their moment to get back in the show the AUV team is working some pretty heinous hours. We’re all basically putting in 20 hour days (God, how I wish I was exaggerating) and filling up drive after drive with terabytes of sonar data and photos. As a matter of fact that is something of an issue for us, an embarrassment of riches when it comes to what the girls are putting out. The guys I’m working with are monsters, they just won’t quit, can’t get ‘em to take a nap, although every once in a while we all will rest our eyes for a second to find an hour gone by. We’re all a little punchy and apt to laugh too long and hard about the silliest stuff. It ain’t a foxhole but sometimes it feels like the front lines.
Man I love this stuff.
I think it’s coming down out there. Lots of grey an occasional rain squalls but the lump is laying down, fewer whitecaps and the wind is easing. We’ve got Mary Ann in the water and Ginger is prepped and in the tube. We are holding fire on deploying her in the hopes that sometime in the next 6 hours we can get the ROV in the water. Keeping Ginger on board until we get Mary Ann up will ensure we won’t have to do a boat assisted recovery in the dark if an when the ship goes into Dynamic Positioning mode to support ROV ops. It’s a safety decision that is frustrating but that we in no way question. We’re hands down a successful mission right now, one way to change that 180 out would be to hurt someone. Ain’t gonna happen (knock wood), there’s a lot of salt on the people out here and a fair amount of hard bark and we ain’t gonna screw it up now.
GO TEAM TITANIC!