by Heather Furey
We woke up this morning to the awful news of a van driving into a crowd celebrating Bastille Day in Nice. Our French nationals onboard did not personally know anyone hurt. So sad and so useless, the killing.
You might notice by the latitude and longitude above that we are no longer on the OSNAP line. Two reasons: Firstly, at about 15:00 yesterday, we started to steam north to avoid the worst of an incoming gale. We would have been down for weather anyway, so it was wise to outrun the worst of it. Secondly, we are steaming to Reykjavik to rendezvous with an Icelandic Coast Guard helicopter.
This came about because a member of the science party injured his back a few days ago: an old back injury that was seriously aggravated during an odd twist during the deck work of mooring recovery. Early this morning, since there have been no signs of improvement, the captain decided that Greg needed better and more immediate medical attention. The captain consulted with the UK Coast Guard to see what the best course of action should be. The UK Coast Guard contacted the Icelandic Coast Guard, and we are now en route to rendezvous 150 nautical miles from Reykjavik, the outer range for the rescue helicopter, where Greg will be ‘helivac’ed back to Reykjavik, a doctor, medical treatment, and home. We are sad he is leaving us, but glad that he will be in less pain soon. Eight more days under rolling seas with limited sleep would have been very unkind.
One thing about being at sea, everyone has a story.
Yesterday, I deployed the last of the RAFOS floats. The captain had come to me earlier in the day with the idea that while we did not have time to complete CTD stations while outrunning the storm, we did have time to complete the RAFOS deployments. The deployments are quick: before coming onto station, the float, which has been previously tested and armed for mission, is loaded into a launching tube. A starch ring, which will dissolve in water, is inserted into a piston release mechanism. The bottom trap door on the launch tube is wired to the piston. As we come onto station, the ship slows to about two knots speed. The loaded launch tube is lowered into the water, the starch ring dissolves, the trap door at the bottom of the launch tube opens, and the glass float slips into the sea as we slowly steam away. Although it takes some time to set up for deployment, the actual deployment takes just a few minutes.
It is my great pleasure to be allowed into ‘The Red Zone’, at the aft guard rails, to help with and oversee the deployment. The ship’s crew helps me, and I am grateful for their necessary and able assistance. While deploying the last of the RAFOS floats at the back rail, I had time to talk with the A/B, Will, who was helping me. He came to this job after spending years in the UK Army as an explosive specialist. He told me tales of crawling through the wire and pipe tunnels under the city streets in Northern Ireland finding and disarming bombs planted by the IRA. And of being in Afghanistan searching for land mines by poking a metal pole into the sand, describing the sound of the metal on metal clunk when he would find a mine. He would then dig the live mine out of the sand, and disable it to ensure his own troops’ safe passage. An explosives specialist, standing next to me, helping me launch armed-for-mission RAFOS floats into the abyss. You just never know.