Wed 23-Jan 1415hrs
The Persistence left the dock at 0700 hrs headed for the survey area. The winch is fixed, skies are clear, and the seas are calmer. The new crew are settled in and getting used the work flow.
Tues 22-Jan 0915 hrs
The Persistence left the dock this morning at 0600 hrs, heading out to deep water. Last night, four replacement survey team members flew in to join the Persistence to relieve crew who has been here since the beginning, over a month ago. Although the new crew brings new energy, losing the battle-proven seasoned crew is bittersweet. Words fail to describe the level of trust and bond between the crew. Despite being in close quarters together since 15-Dec, missing holidays with loved ones, birthdays, anniversaries, rough seas, and many intense situations, NEVER was there a moment of bad tension between any of the crew. I trust the new crew will quickly bond and become seasoned to the terrain and conditions- both above and below the waves.
Happy Birthday sis - You're loved and missed.
Sun 20-Jan 2055 hrs- seas 8-10ft, wind E 30-35kts, continuing dead-heading sonar lines in 800-1100+ft of water.
The Persistence arrived dockside around 4am this morning after a rough night. 1415hrs - The Persistence pulls away from the dock to return to the deep water survey area.
A fundamental principle of Murphy’s Law states that if it can go wrong it will go wrong. When it fails, it will do so at the worst possible moment. This is not a result of chance or bad luck, rather the collision of engineering limitations with physics.
Increasing the water depth increases the length of cable paid out which in turn increases the strain on the winch due to the armored cable weight and drag. With roughly 0.5lb/ft of cable x 4000 ft of cable deployed = about 1 ton of cable dead weight on the winch. Increasing the speed either by towing faster or by adding swift ocean currents vectored in the opposite direction increases drag and therefore adds more strain on the winch. Large sea swells (10ft+) heaves and pitches the boat which pulls and drops the towfish significantly. Particularly large swells can shock-load the winch. This means there is a sudden added force which is unevenly applied to the winch.
Last night’s situation:
2355 hrs: The towfish is near the sea floor with 3500ft of cable out in about 900ft of water. A large submarine hill is rapidly approaching so we began spooling in cable as fast as the winch allows. Combined with the drag-strain of the cable, current speed, and large swells, the winch reached its engineered limits and failed at the worst possible moment. Unable to retrieve cable, the towfish was about to catastrophically collide with the seafloor. The only option was to significantly increase speed and immediately turn towards deeper water. The quick decision paid off as the towfish skimmed over the hill-face. Having narrowly escaped the immediate danger, the Persistence stayed in the deepest water possible while making gentle turns as the team fixed the broken winch. Just after midnight with 12-14ft swells amidst the emergency and with waves washing over the back deck, the crew feverishly repaired the winch. The stellar teamwork, excellent situational awareness, and quick thinking combined to successfully avoid disaster. Once the towfish was safe on the back deck of the Persistence we headed for the dock, wet, tired, and relieved.
Sat 19-Jan 1915 hrs
The Persistence left the dock at 1530 hrs heading back towards the deepest portion of the survey area. The weather has been continually rough and does not look like it will let up this evening or through tonight. Fortunately, we took on fresh water this morning which acts like additional ballast for the boat, reducing some of the roll. While in about 750-800ft of water we came across another unknown wreck. This wreck (perhaps an old schooner) is about 50-55ft long.
1915 hrs - seas building 10-14ft, wind 30+kts.
Unknown wreck approx. 55ft long schooner
Rough seas 10-14ft seas 1830 hrs, Sat 19-Jan
Moments later - 1831 hrs, bow is buried beneath a 14ft swell
Fri 18-Jan 2335 hrs
We would like to specifically address one comment left on the blog which likely represents the sentiments of many.
“You guys have been out there for quite a long time now... I was really hoping for results by now. I can't help but begin to think she won't be found” -Overwhelming_Sadness
Quoting John Silvetti- Fri 18-Jan 2300 hrs
“It is easy to lose heart if one confuses expectations with hopes and desires. The nature of a marine search, especially one in which the method and disposition of the item you are searching for is unknown, requires a painstakingly slow and methodical disqualification process. The logic is no different than trying to find your car keys. The methodology is: you look where you were recently. We look where it is believed to be, based on evidence or reports. When you and I do not locate what we are looking for in the most logical place, we move on to the next logical place. Ultimately, we both confirm the old saying, “It is always in the last place you look”.
Unknown topography and terrain, combined with large seas have slowed us down but it has not stopped us. We have surveyed and investigated a large area, disqualified most of it, and moved on to an even larger area. At times our progress has been exceedingly fast and slow at other times. We do however, “STAY THE COURSE”....PERSISTENCE.
Our hopes and desires also were to find Natalee before Christmas so we could help bring closure to the Holloway family as our gift to them. Then, we could return home to our families to enjoy the holiday season and hug our children a little tighter... but, it was not meant to be that easy...and we understand.