Sometimes your the hammer, sometimes your the nail. The last couple of weeks things broke, were lost, changed and screwed up. Some of it was ship related issues like one of the main engines, Cat 3516’s, developing a knock and it was discovered that a lobe on the camshaft was bad. It’s not something that they can fix out here (no parts) and Samoa isn’t a good place to get Cat Service either. A second main engine lost a generator. I should say it lost a generator for a couple days until the engineers were able to make repairs and get it back online. The air conditioning on my deck is out. The fan motor bearings went out and they are some special bearings made from unobtainium. Normally we all leave our cabin doors open throughout the day and get some airflow while we are working. It actually stays cooler now to keep my door shut during the day. Also our hydro-boom developed a slow hydraulic leak. The hydro boom sticks off the starboard side of the ship and is how the CTD is launched and recovered. The fix the leak the boom will need to be removed. That is something that needs to be done in the shipyard.
The science party had their own issues as well. If you look back a few posts you’ll see photos of the VMP 6000 that looks like a big torpedo. We launch the VMP over the side with a crane and it sinks away toward the bottom and returns to the surface a few hours later full of data. It failed to return from a evolution. The VMP is completely autonomous and is completely on its own while performing its mission. It also is not propelled in anyway so once we launch it, we say goodbye and then return to the deployment site a few hours later to look for it when it resurfaces. At night it has a pressure activated strobe light and at daytime it has a little flag (much harder to see). It also will send an email via satellite with its position. It never returned. No email, no strobe, no flag. Gone. It likely suffered an implosion at depth. This happened on about the 65th deployed of our trip. Scientists get pretty attached and bonded to their equipment and instruments. The guy who lost this unit was seriously bummed, however he is also very smart. He had his instrument insured for full replacement value! There is a pretty good size deductible, but just a fraction of the overall cost of the equipment, which is around $250,000 (USD). It will take about 12 months for him to get a replacement and then they’ll be back.
On the mooring side of things, we recovered all of the remaining moorings. Our totals for the trip were 12 deployments and 19 recoveries. We were able to recover all of the equipment, but a few had some pretty large tangles in the line. One in particular, the line was so hackled and twisted it will have to be scrapped (see photo). Overall not bad and things went very smoothly.
The CTD gave us fits the last couple of days (again). The marine techs had to re-terminate the wire several times. There are three small gauge wires inside the cable that carry the data signal and one of them is grounding out. This typically happens near the termination, so by cutting off 30 or so meters and re-connecting they can fix the issue. It did not this time. Since we had recovered the last of the moorings, the VMP was lost and the CTD was not usable without more work, the trip was cut short about one day and we headed into port at Apia Samoa, arriving approx. 1930.
The next day, the deck crew had everything offloaded by 1000, except for 2 – 20′ containers that needed to be lifted off by a shore side crane. Our ship’s cranes cannot lift the weight of the container and it’s contents combined. Everyone was jonesing to knock off and go snorkeling, drinking, swimming, shopping, etc. The shore side crane was sitting on the dock near the ship, but the operator left for a two hour lunch. They finally returned and then sat around killing another hour. They finally got set up to lift the first of two containers off and get the offload complete. Just as the operator started to take some strain with the crane, the boom folded in half. The look on the operator’s face was one of total disbelief. He was able to whip down to slack the wire enough so we could get disconnected and he could rotate away from the ship.
Some calls were made to find another rane. None could be located. Thankfully the entire science party except three were still onboard. We had to hand unload both containers by hand, use our ship’s crane to lift the empties to the dock and then re-load them by hand. This took several hours and lasted well into the evening. Sometimes your the nail.
Since our next science trip begins from a different port, we didn’t have any equipment to load just fuel and stores (groceries). Some public out reach type stuff happened and we had some visitors. Late in the day a motorcade arrived and the Samoan Prime Minister came onboard for a visit. We finally finished the fueling operations, again late in the evening. As soon as we knocked off, a bunch of us walked next door to the marine reserve and went snorkeling for about an hour before dark. It felt really nice after all of the deck operations of the last couple weeks. We departed Samoa this morning and are on a short transit to our next port of call. Look for more posts soon.