Thursday, January 24, 2008

XIV. The Search Area

Fri 25-Jan 1630 hrs

Early on I was asked the following question by a reader: “do I believe in miracles and are we expecting a miracle to happen”? My response: “I do not have enough faith to be an atheist in times such as these. Perhaps a better question would be: what kind of miracles are we expecting?”
The miracle she referred to was whether we believed we would find Natalee Holloway based on the relative odds and unknowns. The question I returned was perhaps more poignant. How would our lives be changed in the process of finding her in light of the adversity and unknowns? I maintain my position that it is a much larger miracle to have lives and hearts changed than to overcome odds and solve unknowns.
Since the beginning of this search I have been witness to many miracles. I’ve watched loving wives gracefully supporting their husbands while waiting home alone with children for over a month. I’ve seen sons and daughters patiently and cheerfully waiting for their daddies to come home to them. I’ve seen hearts moved and changed to give generously out of love and conviction. I’ve witnessed trust build, bonds form, friendships established, lies replaced with truth, mistakes forgiven, and perhaps the greatest of all and hardest to fathom... genuine loving sacrifice.
While searching offshore Aruba from the shallows to the abyss, we have truly ventured into a new search area. We’ve been exploring the very essence of our human being discovering purpose, hope, strength, and love along the way.

Fri 25-Jan 0950 hrs
The Persistence leaves the dock this morning at 0730 hrs. Working during mainly daylight hours has been a welcome change for the crew and good for moral. The seas and winds have not been as severe lately. The last two days saw excellent progress.

3D Perspective view of bathymetry showing water depth in feet. Black contour interval is 100ft

Special Notice:
By John Silvetti-
The original search area surveyed by the R/V Persistence was selected based on numerous pieces of information provided by Dave Holloway, Tim Miller, investigations, interrogations, depositions and other information from local authorities. After compiling and reviewing the information, the search area was selected by Louis Schaefer and John Silvetti. Upon completion of the sonar runs in this area, 65 ROV dives were performed by Offshore Innovative Solutions (OIS) on targets identified by sonar. Divers from the Aruban Police Diving Division and Underwater Expeditions made several dives and retrieved samples which were delivered for analysis. Several targets in this first survey grid yet remain to be investigated by ROV which will occur in approximately one week when ROV dive operations recommence.

Selection of the next area, the “Extended Search Area”, was based on one single piece of information, a reported confession by one of the three suspects. This confession, as relayed to the survey team, has some credence. It involves the same type of disposal scenario, but better defines the search area. This information in combination with the weather patterns observed by the survey team since our arrival on December 15th left only one boundary to define. The team needed to observe the island from offshore on a small vessel at night to determine this boundary. Sounds easy….huh?

After 2 unsuccessful attempts using a local vessel due to fuel and mechanical problems, the decision was made to utilize the R/V Persistence’s Rescue Boat, the “Avon”. The Avon is a 16’ center console inflatable vessel powered by a 70 hp Tohatsu engine. Prior to dark, the Avon was launched from the Persistence and piloted to the Holiday Inn Pier by Captain Jim Graves. Later that evening, John Silvetti boarded the vessel with Capt. Graves, transited to the start point, and commenced an offshore run documenting the time and vessel position with a WAAS enabled hand-held GPS system. At one mile out, radio communications were confirmed with the Persistence. At six miles out, radio communications were again confirmed along with spot light identification as the Avon crossed astern of the Persistence. It was somewhere shortly after this point that Murphy boarded the Avon!

The weather was very similar to the recorded weather of late May, 2005. The seas were running 4-6’ with swells of 6-8’. It was rough for an Avon! Upon reaching the final destination point while documenting the final position, the engine sputtered and stalled. It never started again! Approximately 30 minutes of effort to restart the engine was fruitless. I believe that is when we noticed that we were taking on water! HELLO HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM!

As we watched Aruba disappear over the horizon, contemplating our broken engine, a vessel taking on water and the fact that we are about to enact the emergency contingencies of our procedures, Capt. Graves stated, “ I am sure glad that it is so dark!” I took the bait. Why? Because I believe we would be scared to death if we could see how big these waves are! Persistence…Persistence….this is Avon on channel 16 ..over! Silence. Persistence…Persistence….this is Avon on channel 16 ..over! Five minutes of silence. Back up frequency. Persistence…Persistence….this is Avon on channel 09 ..over! Five minutes of silence. VHF comms failure. Ya gotta love Murphy.

Thanks to the support of Coast Guard Curacao, Aruban Port Authority and some unbelievable cell phone coverage, the Persistence plucked us out of the water approximately 16 miles offshore Aruba. We had acquired a tremendous amount of information to determine the last boundary and learned a few lessons:

1) Never use your lower back to absorb the shock of pounding seas when you are fat and out of shape.
2) Never get fat and out of shape.
3) No matter how complete and thorough your safety procedures are, never count Murphy out!

-John Silvetti


anon said...

II Timothy 1:7
God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind.

Anonymous said...

OMG..thank goodness those Angels of yours were still there watching over you...I was so scared reading your words,John, that at the end had to funny in a terrible situation...May God continue to watch over you and keep his loving arms around you. Godspeed.

Anonymous said...

Thank God you are all okay! Next time you guys survey an area in a blow up air raft, can you bring Persistence with you?

Good luck with your next survey area. The area is much larger than any of your readers probably imagined.

Anonymous said...

I am glad everyone is okay. Do you plan on going back out to that location on a small vessel to check that area out? Which suspect said something? I am eager to here any results of this journey and I am praying you find evidence and Natalee. Thanks. I am sure it is real tough out there. Just glad everyone is okay.

kath said...

The way you write your updates are GREAT! You had me laughing. I am glad you can make a funny thing out of something that could have been so serious. John, you ROCK. Glad you guys are all OK. Hoping you actually get to check out that area you guys fell apart in, if one of the 3 told you where it was, it should be good to look. Heres to hoping at least one of those objects picked up in the dives are going to show something....raising champaign... Good Luck to all of you, you are still very much in my prayers daily.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a scary experience. Praise God you are okay. I really hope you don't find yourself in that predicament again. What a way to break in the newcomers.
Stay safe, praying for you all and to find Natalie.

Anonymous said...

Daggone that Murphy!

No wonder Mrs. "M" ended up making chowder!!!

("Who threw the overalls in Mrs. Murphy's chowder?"...Ask Tim Miller!)

Hold on tight, Persistence!
Our hearts are wrapped around you with our hopes and our prayers for your safety and guidance!


Lexy said...

John's sister says he's not fat and out of shape... he is however a big guy.... :) HUGS to all!


Anonymous said...

From Meridian, MS:

Hugs for safety are sent your way from Meridian, Ms. Thank you once again for a remarkable glimpse into your world! You are in our thoughts daily. God Bless!

Anonymous said...

I'm concerned when I read that Aruba is involved in this search in any way. With all the ugly, terrible things the Aruban government and ATA have done, we simply can't trust that they won't again toss out any evidence.

Glad to hear all the crew are okay.

Anonymous said...

My prayers are with you all each and everyday. Be safe and know just how much you guys are loved by so many of us. It seems like we have always known you. Your work is hard and we never hear any complaints. You just do what you do for our Natalee and family.

Love You All!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your experience and information. Your blog is fascinating and well written. Good luck in your continued search.

r&s_MA said...

Thank you for your very enjoyable narrative,John. Thank the Lord you are all safe! Godspeed and you are all in our Prayers.
raz,sharon &family

Anonymous said...

Jesus direct their paths.Put Sheds of thorns around them. Give them
knowledge and discernment and wisdom. Thank for showing them where Natalee is. Thank you for
guiding them and directing their paths. Just Encourage them and
draw near to them.

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased to hear you made "excellent" progress over the past two days.
The images you attach are just remarkable. Thank you for those and your daily progress is well appreciated.
We all read everyday in such anticipation and hope.

Anonymous said...

So glad everyone is safe. How deep can the divers dive?

Anonymous said...

The men on Persistence are demonstrating to their children the sheer value of a single human being.... Natalee Holloway.

Your crew leads by example and though God may or may not reward your efforts with Natalee's discovery, the crew will be blessed in ways beyond measure. Their children will all be good people. They will be rewarded in the very thing that means the most... Raising good children and good people.

In contrast, evaluate the failings of parenting in those who cover up this crime, fail to assist with finding Natalee and lead by example that it is okay to rape and murder because Mom and Dad will surely cover up their child's bad deeds.

You reap what you soe. I feel compassion for the children in the families of the criminals. For their parents' lack of living the word of God and not leading by example, they have virtually guaranteed that all of the children, including the little brothers, will have no future.

If parents won't guide their own children, who will?

Stand by your children no matter what? What cost is too great? Cover a rape and murder for a teenage child to show unfailing support? Is that acceptable? Surely God will not reward such behavior. Anyone with any bit of information about this crime that remains silent, will pay a price for their silence in unmeasureable ways.

The children of all the men onboard Persistence should be full of pride for the work of their fathers. The heavenly rewards for their selfless acts will be great.

Anonymous said...

I am spell bound by the sheer beauty of your words. Heart felt thanks to each and everyone of the crew and their loved ones who miss them each day. The world could heed a good lesson in humanity from all of you. If there were not people in the world like you where would we all be. I feel the love and send it right back at you. Thank you for all you do. Hope is a beautiful thing, and you have given it to Natalee's family and to each of us that care. Hopefully you will find Natalee and bring her home. If this is not what ultimately happens we know you have done everything possible to find her and that is truly something to be proud of your loving emotional journey.

We love you!!

Anonymous said...

God bless you all. We continue to pray for your success.

G said...

Thank you, we miss you all the time, and support you everyday.
counting the minutes till we are with you again.

(and still looking forward to Christmas)

Observer said...

Bless you John..Thanks for the courage,passion and persistence..I like your humor as!

Anonymous said...

please, please, please keep the updates coming!!!! and please thank everyone for all you guys are doing!!!

Anonymous said...

Pretty words but do they really mean that you have found nothing and this is draawing to a close?

Anonymous said...

Is the rolling painter back again? Patience my friend. Persistence is very carefully scanning every inch of ocean and they are doing an amazing job!

Anonymous said...

Prsying for the safety of all of you guys and God Bless you for what you are doing.I am a mother and grandmother and to me there could be nothing worse than not knowing where one of mine is. I pray that you find Natalee and bring her home. Again God Bless each of you!

texasmom said...

I believe in miracles....the odds were against a search of this magnitude ever happening; but here we are a month later and the search is still proceeding! A true mission of hope for Natalee and her family; one that so many of us had prayed for, one that we might never have witnessed, but for the miracle of a highly talented group of individuals with the best equipment and caring hearts. I am so thankful for the miracle of you, Persistence and Crew!

God Bless You and Your Families!

Anonymous said...

When we have our noses pressed against the glass of the here and now it is difficult to pull back and see the bigger picture. The reality of crashing waves on the bow, winch turning, constant course corrections and the tedium of the task at hand can dull our senses and dim our hopes, whatever our personal searches may be in our life's voyage. The real miracles are what you did identified, thank you for seeing that. The truth about Natalee will surface, truth has a way of doing that. But I hope the Holloway family takes great comfort that such a valiant effort was made to bring them answers, and that so many people DO care. Whatever the physical outcome, this was NOT in vain, and we are still with you.

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