22 June, 1998


DAY 23



We continue to head north to the 1,000-meter depth and going is slow. Lance tried to put the ROV in at 300 meters this morning but with the current, the rover was not able to get to the bottom. It was a record dive for this ROV and technically we did have enough cable, but the current, which remains strong, did not allow the bottom to be viewed.

The day was again sunny but a good stiff breeze from the southeast made for a bit of chill in the air. Melissa and Behzad were the sampling team members today and we got in two good stops.

The first one yielded plenty of dirt and a hawk moth that was in the same shape as the bee. Pulled it out of the ice and it came to life pretty darn quick. The second floe was in a huge area of dirty/clean ice all jumbled and rafted together and as we were sampling, a pod of Beluga whales came cruising through one of the leads that ran through the whole field of ice chunks. A very cool sight as they swam right to the edge of the floe and then under they went! I saw them surface again in another lead about 100m from where we parked the helicopter.

Melissa turned out to be a real mud hound and besides collecting almost a half-gallon of mud in a jug, she had about the same amount covering her Mustang suit. She had to roll around on the snow in order to get clean enough to get in the helicopter

We are stopped for hub maintenance at the moment and it is so peaceful compared to the crunching and jarring that goes on while steaming through ice. The propeller hubs require purification of the hydraulic system every two days while operating in this kind of ice. The pitch of the propellers is controlled by a hydraulic vs. pneumatic system and these two forces, acting in opposition to each other, allow the propeller blades to be twisted within the hubs while the shafts are spinning at either 125 or 170 RPM. By changing the twist or pitch, the amount of water that the propeller cuts and pushes can be adjusted thus allowing the shaft to turn at a continuous speed. There is an alarm system that tells the driver when the shaft is experiencing too much torque and the pitch can then be adjusted so as to lessen the amount of water the blade is cutting. So every couple of days the hydraulic system gets contaminated to the point that it needs to be bled and purified of any condensation/water that has invaded the system from the sea. Salt water is tremendously corrosive and could make short work of seals and smooth, machined surfaces within the hydraulic systems. This purification is a 12-hour operation, which requires the shafts to not turn, and the engineers have been trying to perform this while we are on station. Given that the ship drifts and we often need to adjust our parking position, it is very difficult to plan on taking a shaft out of the loop for that long. As a result, we sometimes have to stop between stations so the engineers can get the job done.


Aboard Polar Sea, up in the forward 1st level, things get very busy several times a day. All sorts of Coasties and Beakers show up, cups of all kinds in hand, shortly after the pipe, "now Polar SBC" is made throughout the ship. The attraction is the SBC (Seattle's Best Coffee) espresso bar and the SBC Boys, Joe and Lou are slinging strong coffee and steamed milk. Mocha's, latte's, americano's, cappuccino's and straight espresso are available and the prices make it too good a deal to pass up. MK3 Joe Sanchez and DC2 Lou Bevilacqua are the SBC Boys and a very popular pair aboard this ship.

Lou is a Damage Control Technician and his job includes making sure all the safety, dewatering, and firefighting equipment is in good shape and ready to go when needed. He is also responsible for training the crew in the proper use of damage control equipment. This includes being a welder and pipefitter so working with hot water is nothing new to Lou. He is originally from New York and is a die-hard Yankees fan. Lou and his wife Lori have been married only one and a half months and they honeymooned in Las Vegas just before Lou departed on AWS 98. They now call the Seattle area home where they enjoy the hiking and biking opportunities that are available in the Pacific Northwest. Joe works with the main propulsion group and his job is to help keep all the propulsion machinery aboard this ship in tiptop shape. When not whipping up delicious coffee, or standing watch in main control, Joe puts in a turn as "main prop". This person is off the underway watch bill but should anything within the main propulsion plant go haywire, he or she is responsible to get it fixed. Obviously the main prop is a position that requires an intimate knowledge of the very complicated propulsion system of the Polar Class Icebreakers. Originally from Santa Barbara, CA Joe and his wife Kelli now call Seattle home. They have two children, Salina, 5 and Joseph, 1 and while talking with Joe it is easy to tell how much he misses his family and how eager he is to get home to be with them.

Joe and Lou volunteer to run the coffee shop and they say it helps break up their days while underway. When not on watch or doing repairs, one of the two, and often both of them can be found in the shop grinding beans, steaming milk, and keeping their customers, of which there are many, happy. Working at SBC allows them to meet and greet most everybody that comes aboard Polar Sea and it is one of the few places aboard the ship where rank has no privilege and a good cup of coffee is the order of the day!

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