7 February, 2004

We are in the midst of our first taste of the cold and bitter weather that up to now we have had the luxury to avoid. Winds blowing to the north at 35 to 40 knots, waves of twelve feet or more, and fog that touched the waves make it feel as though the heavy storm clouds have encased us in a bowl of perpetual haze for the entire day. There was little if any relief from the rabid pounding of the waves that set each of us on our own personal rollercoaster rides as we walked down the halls or even worse, tried to climb the stairs to the bridge.

It was put up or shut up time. Did we have our sea legs? Fortunately, we made it through the day, a bit worse for wear, but happy to have survived our first test in far rougher seas than we had seen before. The near constant winds of over 30 knots generated waves cresting at ten feet or more. The wind and waves pounded the ship from the seemingly from all sides, forcing the ship's pilot to constantly adjust our course to stay on our seismic shot lines. We were being pummeled by the elements. It would be a trial. We hoped to make it through the day in one piece.

White crests came at the ship seemingly from all directions. From the bridge, the water took on strange patterns of light and dark. The sea would appear to be still and calm ahead of the ship for just an instant, then the ship would be slammed by a wave nearly twice the size of the rest. It was like dancing with a hippo, slow, pushy, and never knowing which way to turn to anticipate its' lead.

The seismic equipment also took a pounding. By early morning the multichannel streamer and the gun array had crossed, locked in a grip driven by the waves. Both were pulled and tugged in directions that for which they were not designed. The streamer was having a tough time staying below the waves. The "birds" that are attached to the streamer were having a very difficult time keeping it twenty feet below the streamer.

Extra care was taken during turns to prevent tangling of the guns and streamer, but because of the rough seas, the only thing that could be done was to occasionally partially bring in the gun array, and to dislodge the streamer. This worked, but the waves were persistent and entangled the gear once we were underway again. Detangling the streamer would be an added part of the maintenance of the seismic equipment until we were again in calmer seas.

The multibeam was recording data that looked like it had been run through a blender. The swaths that we were getting were a jumbled mess of incoherent lines and colors that did little to represent the seafloor below. They looked more like the scribbling of an angry toddler using his or her crayons on the living room wall. The multibeam was another victim of the rough seas. We could only hope that we would make it through the day with all hands and all the equipment in reasonable stead for the next day.

For each of us, our shift couldn't come to an end fast enough. The endless pounding of the waves drove us to our bunks. Sleep consumed us. We slept long and hard, hoping the next day would bring us relief.

Jesse Doran, Jenny White, Ashley Lowe and Jeff Otten discuss options for the seismic streamer in the rough seas.

The buoys on the gun array are pounded by the waves.

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