The seas calmed down dramatically since Wednesday. Last night was smooth sailing and saw double the progress of the previous nights.
Thurs 11-Jan 0030 hrs
The bathymetric survey of the new grid is completed. The search area now totals approximately 57 sq miles, compared to the original 22 sq miles.
Maritime map making has long been an integral aspect of ocean exploration. As adventure seeking sea-faring men of old expanded their frontier, master artisans such as Ortelius and Cicero painstakingly plotted their progress. Instead of producing drab plots where form follows function, they used their artistry to produce meaningful navigation aids and passionately capture the spirit of exploration into their product. Areas of the yet-unknown are filled with caricatures of sea monsters and mermaids.
Today, a new generation of maritime map making, perhaps ushered in by Heezen and Tharpe, provides a new look into the abyss. Hand-painted murals with Latin place names are now replaced with computer generated 3D perspective views with satellite imagery. The old merchant ships and frigates that once sailed these waters charting coastlines and reefs claimed by the sea can now be found and mapped. It's an interesting connection between the old and new and we sail the same seas.
Wed 09-Jan 1816 hrs
All Internet connectivity was lost for two days due to rough seas and equipment failure. The old adage "No news is good news" only applies on land. Offshore, the 'Law of the Sea' rules and no news usually just means "lost contact". The seas were 6-8ft with the occasional 12+ft swell. The past two nights were spent conducting a bathymetry-only survey of the new grid. The new grid more than doubles the original search area. If completed, the total area thoroughly searched will be 80% the size of Aruba. Currently, the seas are calm relative to what we've been experiencing. The four digits posted on the echo-sounder is a reminder of the limits being put to the test.
Every body of water near land has its own unique character, temperament, and color. The nature of water is governed by the trio of land, sea, and sky. The sea surface reflects the sky, the water column contains the turbidity from the land, and the seabed stares upward through the water column as long as the water allows it to. However, as the seabed falls away into the abyss, the color is always the same dark navy blue. Staring into these deep and dark waters reminds me that this island is surrounded by the same water that flows throughout our entire world. On the surface, the expanse of the sea divides us. Looking deeper, it is really what connects us all. Perhaps the sea gives a reflection of human nature and not just the sky.
Sun 06-Jan 1635
The seas abated sufficiently to maintain our progress through the night and into the early morning hours. The Persistence arrived dockside around 0430 hrs this morning. Rested and ready, the crew makes ready for departure at 1515 hrs. Now a routine, the crew toss the lines and we depart. Leaving the dock past the behemoth cruise ships reminds me of the opening scene from "Space Balls". Their shear immensity projects an image of being impervious to the seas.
Offshore, the seas are the same as yesterday, 5-8ft with the occasional 10ft swell.
Sat 05-Jan-1610 hrs
The Persistence arrived dockside at 0500 hrs after a long night offshore. A few hours sitting still at the dock is revitalizing for a few of the beleaguered crew. Outside, the winds are unrelenting and whip the sea into angry white caps which crash onto the protective reef skirting the harbor. Even the heartiest seabirds have taken cover. The tourist submersible Atlantis VI cancels its evening tour in lieu of being forced backwards by the driving currents. Inside, the Persistence is bustling with the daily chores of living on board a boat. With a whistle and a rumble, the twin Diesels comes alive without complaint. Once they’re warm, the lines are tossed and we’re off.
The wind and seas have not let up at all throughout day and night. Working in the rough conditions is taking its toll on some of the crew. Regardless, spirits and hope remain high as we push onwards. Working in side-seas proved unrealistic. The last resort is to dead-head straight into the seas without recording and acquire data with the swells moving with the vessel. Although time consuming, at least production is maintained even though it is at half the rate.
Many have confused adventure with inconvenience, trading the provocative for status quo. I believe exploration both in terms of our surroundings and within ourselves is the essence of human spirit. When denied, we're left feeling isolated and unknown. When we have the courage to search these depths, we learn the most about who we are and hopefully a thing or two about each other and our surroundings.
Fri 04-Jan-1557 hrs
The skies are clear and the winds are strong and steady. Wind 25kts gusting 30+. Seas 5-6ft, with the occasional 10ft+ swell. The seas are too rough to run sonar into the seas, so we shift to a different grid with lines running perpendicular to the dominant swells. Working in side-seas produces somewhat cleaner data, but takes a heavy toll on the crew rolling and heaving about inside the boat.
Thurs 03-Jan 2200 hrs
As the Persistence travels through the turquoise Aruban waters to start another day of searching, onlooking swimming seabirds and flying fish curiously come alongside the boat. We worked all day and will continue working through the night. As we work on, we maintain a rhythm yet avoid routine. Over-familiarity risks carelessness and worse, complacency. For any one of us to even momentarily lose our focus opens the door for utter failure. The tremendous progress so far was only made possible with a very strong team, excellent leadership, planning, and prayer. There have been many times when there is nothing to say, times when nothing can be said, and times when words alone cannot describe the situation. We will continue on through the night, until the beckoning glow of the rising sun silhouettes our return to the dock.
Wed 02-Jan- 1920 hrs
The first round of ROV dives are complete.
The Persistence leaves the dock at 0650 hrs. The relentless wind is SE 25-30 kts with 6-8ft swells and 3-4ft wind waves. The two wave forms occasionally add together producing impressive swells which toss around anything that isn’t dogged down. Simple tasks such as taking a shower become complicated and awkward. By now, the search team is well-seasoned to the conditions and terrain. The new grid poses new challenges but provides another chapter to be read. Inch by inch, mile by mile the search continues forward and the data is good.
02-Jan 1830-1900 hrs - At sunset