Thursday, November 02, 2006

What was: Day 74 - Zodiac Adventures

Today was a crazy adventure. (Although I feel like I say that a lot, today was especially so). One of the science projects involves using physics to look at current dynamics, to monitor yearly changes in the water. They use a sensor that your drop through the water than instantly measures the temperature and other things at every depth as it falls through the water. This is called a SCAMP. To deploy it, you have to take out the zodiac away from the ship, then drop the SCAMP from out there.

I got to be friends with the fellow working with this project (a fine fellow named Dany who you will be seeing shortly). Since there's usually some free room on the zodiac, I found a day when I didn't have to work immediately and went out with him to take photos and help however he might need. Phillip the wildlife observer went with us at well.

That's how it started...

I'm afraid we have a lot of photos to go through on this one. Bear with me.

Patrick the media man watches us load up:



Dany getting ready:



Normally the zodiac is tied up in the air on the side of the ship. You can see it in some previous posts (there's one of it covered in snow). In that last photo Dany's in the zodiac hanging over the water.

Our zodiac driver for the day, a very nice crew member who's name I've sadly forgotten:



Being lowered into the water - Dany strikes a pose:



Phillip right before we hit the water:



Once in the water, we go out a little ways and Dany gets ready to put the SCAMP in the water - we're not at the point where we'll actually let it go yet, this is just a rinse.



SCAMP in the water - the side wings open as it goes down to slow it, and fall back when it comes up so it's easier to bring in.



View of the Amundsen from the water. She's a big 'un.



Everything seems to be going lovely! The sea is calm, the light is great, and we start to head out farther to the testing spot.



And then, while I'm taking this shot:



The engine won't start. And the sea starts to escalate. At first it feels like a minor inconvenience. We just sort of hang out while we wait for the driver to start things up again.



But the ocean is getting higher - despite what appears to be lovely weather - and Phillip's not feeling so 100%:



The engine seriously won't start. Dany has a look:



(I don't know if you can tell, but it's a Volvo engine! Yay...?) After a lot of French, Dany takes the wheel/stands at the starter and the driver starts hitting something with the hammer. Apparently they can see something wrong that needs to be beaten with a hammer. I have no idea.



Meanwhile, the swells are getting significantly higher. When you're on the Amundsen (or looking at the Amundsen, as you'll see in a second) 10 ft swells don't seem like much. When you're in a little zodiac, your world is movin'.



It's also windy. Dany is sad because it seems like we won't be able to do the SCAMP - we can't control the zodiac, we're drifting away from the Amundsen, and the waves have gotten too high for accurate depths.



The engine gives no sign of working and we're starting to talk with the Amundsen about how they're going to rescue us. Everyone just tries to hang on. For the nautically inclined, we got in the water at about a sea state 2 and we're hitting about sea state 7, the limit at which the bridge typically allows anyone out on the water.



Phillip admirably holds his lunch.



So...just hanging on...waiting for the Amundsen to decide to come get us...I wish I had a shot of some of the swells we were hitting, but everytime we had a series of really big ones I was 1) trying to stay in the boat or 2) trying to keep my camera from being soaked by the water spraying off the top of the waves. My photo quality starts to deteriorate around here because I can't keep the camera lens dry.



By the way, that's a mustang survival suit Dany's wearing. I look similarly huge and orange.

Then we had an unusual visitor - I'll admit I don't know the species, but this bird started following the boat and got really close. It kept pecking at our antenna and even had a go at Dany's hand.





And finally! after about an hour, the Amundsen decides to just come get us in its enormous entirety.



Or, you know, run us over, one of those.



The media onboard have turned out full-force for this rescue event. Stephan films from the top of the bridge - you can see the captain pacing directly below him -



Coming past the bow - the crew are lining up to throw us ropes:





Unfortunately everything they throw misses us entirely, and as we're right next to the ship, the zodiac starts to slide under the edge of the ship towards the rear propellers. You never really anticipate potential death by ship-squashing when you're young:



Luckily, however, getting stuck next to the ship stops us enough for the crew to get us some ropes. We tie the ropes to the zodiac and the crew starts hauling us in manually:



Michel looks on, purely amused by the proceedings, while the media are delighted with the footage:



Crew pulling us to the loading clamp:



Almost there (let me tell you the ship looks pretty big from here):





Finally, Philippe says welcome back onboard!



Stephan catches the last moments of the rescue:



And Jean-Francois ties up the last loose ends.



And that's what I did in school today.

1 comment:

Sean said...

Good lord, that's AMAZING. Glad you weren't sucked under the ship. Keep up the gorgeous photos and fantastic stories!