After several days of rough seas, the crew finally got a break from Mother Nature, making their difficult task of retrieving the moorings a bit easier. But the oil rig that caught fire yesterday set everyone on edge, especially considering how close they were to the Deepwater Horizon. Here’s Will Race’s update from the last few days:
Wednesday, September 1:
Rest and recuperation was the theme for today. After five days of exhausting work the Oceana team ventured back out to the Deepwater Horizon mooring sites to continue retrieval.
Due to time restrictions and rough weather, only half the moorings from the originally planned experiment were set. Yes, this is science -- things don’t always go as planned. The zones with the highest level of importance have been covered and other areas of interest will have to wait.
The weather continues to throw roadblocks against the expedition. High seas and winds up to 30mph made it impossible to do any CTD scans today, and made the ride extremely rough and unpredictable. Tables, chairs and anything that was not tied down became airborne after every wave’s crest. Eventually it got bad enough that the captain of the ship altered course for “smoother” seas.
Today’s journey took us back out to sea and the closest to the Deepwater Horizon site so far this expedition. The amount of activity taking place around the relief well is astonishing. As the sun set and the light faded, the entire site was illuminated and it was unbelievable how much is going on there. It looked like a small city skyline at night.
Thursday, September 2:
Early morning sunrise and calm seas today! The morning commenced as we dropped the CTD machine in the water at 6:00am. The entire deployment took two hours and then it was off to the next mooring site for strip retrieval.
While in route we heard news of the oil platform fire off the coast of Louisiana. The “not again” look swept across the entire crew’s faces. As more news came in throughout the day, tensions eased and we felt as if we dodged a bullet.
Retrieving the moorings is a complete team effort. Here’s how it works: First we have to spot the buoy. When the moorings were set, a GPS position was taken, which gives us an area in which to look. Once found, a crew member from the Latitude casts out a grappling hook (similar to what you may have seen on the “Deadliest Catch.”)
Once the buoy is hooked, it is attached to a rope. The rope runs through a suspended pulley and then through a winch. The winch starts pulling up the mooring line, which averages around 1600 meters, or about a mile of line. As the winch takes in line, teams on deck guide, pull, and coil the rope.
During this process two members of the Oceana crew are harnessed and waiting for test strips on the side of the boat. Once a test strip is spotted, one crew grabs and bags the strip while the other removes the holding clips from the line so it can then go through the winch. The information is recorded and noted as samples go into a cooler.
This entire process goes on for about two and a half hours. It is hard, grueling work, but everyone has maintained a positive attitude and stepped up to improve the system or fill gaps when needed. Tomorrow the Oceana team will continue this quest.