notes from the field

No. 10 - Storms

Today a lump of manure fell on a rapidly revolving blade spreading it everywhere, metaphorically speaking.

The wind backed abruptly to the east before midnight and was up to a steady 35 knots by early morning. Short seas built rapidly to 12-15 feet and the cursed fog held with us. At 5am one of our instrument packages came aboard looking like the Mir spacecraft after it collided with the cargo container - the bottom of the stand was sheared off, several water canisters were broken, and a couple of sensors were hanging only by their electric cables. A close encounter with the ship's hull had evidently occurred. As we pulled the wreck out of the way I foolishly decided to deploy the net in spite of the weather. It too came up 20 minutes later in shreds and now we had two things to repair in gale winds and snow flurries. We took stock of our situation, broke out spares, and began to put together backup systems. In the meantime I worked out a strategy with the captain as to how to position the ship to provide some protection from the weather to those working on deck. A low pressure cell was rapidly moving through the Drake and the winds were shifting to the south. With a plan in place to follow the wind and work our way southeast to the next station, I felt that we could minimize our down time and I went down to the computer room where all of our shipboard sensors and computers were humming along oblivious to the rage outside. As I marveled at how far we had come since the early days of my career when anything electronic would immediately break if you looked at it with a suspicious thought, our power system expired. No warning, no battery backup, none of the fail safe systems working - just cold black monitor screens. We'd pissed off the gods, our luck had turned, and it was time to acknowledge who was really in control.

As I write this we are hove to with our bow into the oncoming seas licking our wounds and waiting for a prudent time to start working again.


next episode: Russian Character.