Captain Ross Barnes on the bridge of the R/V Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa

Captain Ross Barnes on the bridge of the R/V Kaimikai-O-Kanaloa. Click image for larger view

The galley crew of the K-o-K hard at work preparing and serving three meals a day.

The galley crew (Paul Ramos and Jan Sobolewski ) of the K-o-K hard at work preparing and serving three meals a day. Click image for larger view.

Weathered out on the Kermadecs

April 29, 2005

Bob Embley
Co-Chief Scientist for the NewZealand American Submarine Ring of Fire Expedition (Legs 1 and 2)
NOAA Vents Program, Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory – Newport, Oregon

We've been sitting here for two days waiting for the weather to calm down enough to resume our explorations of the Kermadec Volcanoes. A major expedition such as this involves a lot of planning over many months but there are some factors, such as the weather, that cannot be predicted with much certainty. Although expeditions are always planned to try and optimize the weather “window”, i.e., the time of year that the wind and sea conditions most favorable for submersible operations, one never knows for sure how many days will be above the threshold for diving. When the wind rises to a steady 30 knots, the seas can quickly become too extreme to safely launch and recover the submarine. During the past few days the wind has blown at 30 knots and the sea has taken on a forbidding aura with high steep waves breaking over the decks. In the predawn hour today the Pisces team was chased into the submersible hanger by a huge wave that engulfed the stern. Fortunately, no one was injured, but it was the harbinger of another day of waiting. The mood on board has lightened this evening with decreasing winds and sea and we have high hopes for a dive tomorrow at Clark, another of the unexplored Kermadec volcanoes.

We are the benefactors of two great teams who, together, keep us safe in a not-always-so-friendly environment and enable us to gather the data and samples so fundamental to the success of the exploration program. The ships personnel, led by Captain Ross Barnes, have many years of collective experience in operating and maintaining the vessel. They are also an integral part of the launch and recovery operation. The ship's engineers, led by Chief Dan Furlong, keep the propulsion, electrical and other systems running. Paul Ramos and Jan Sobolewski have the prodigious task of preparing and serving three meals a day, and they are keeping all of us very content with plenty of well-prepared and nutritious food.

There is always the chance of an emergency at sea, and Chief Mate Clary Gutzeit is in charge of reviewing the safety procedures in case of fire or abandon ship situations at the beginning of each leg of the expedition. I always pay careful attention at these meetings because one can never take safety for granted at sea.

The Pisces group is also integral to our success, but we'll save their story for another day. Hopefully we'll be back in the water with them and their very capable submersible tomorrow morning.

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