Thursday, March 12, 2015

Rescuing a sailor

Rescuing a sailor from Cyclone Pam: Friday 13th March – Mid-Kermadec Arc

Unfortunately the seas have become too rough to be able to deploy and retrieve Sentry safely both for those participating in the operation and for Sentry. Add this to the fact that Cyclone Pam is coming towards us, which has resulted in the decision to return to Auckland about one week earlier than planned.
However, we discovered a sailor anchored at Denham Bay on Raoul Island. The Navy sent a sea boat to inform him about Cyclone Pam (he had no idea) and told him that he should make a run for New Zealand immediately. For reasons unknown, he did not depart for about 5 hours and now there are questions about whether he will make it to New Zealand before the cyclone hits the area. Therefore, the Captain of the HMNZS Wellington made the decision that he would go back over to see him and ask him to join us. Fortunately, he decided to take two hours to pack up some belongings and to join us.

Captain Graham Maclean takes a sea boat to talk to the master of the yacht and ask him to join us

I thought I would take a moment to take a break from science and post about what life on the HMNZS Wellington is like, as it is quite unique.

As the blogger for the voyage, I am fortunate enough to keep friendly hours on the ship. By that I mean I usually wake up at 6.45am when the ‘wakey-wakey’ message is ‘piped’ (broadcast, and very loudly) throughout the ship. The message begins with a series of ear piercing whistles and a portion of a random song usually related to the day, or about waking up.

One of the cabins we are staying in on-board
Then it is a trip to the shower, which can be difficult to manoeuvre when the ship is rolling back and forth. Thankfully, there are hand rails to hold onto! Then off to the mess for a breakfast of champions. The breakfast options are usually: bacon, eggs, baked beans, hash browns, fruit, toast, and cereal. After an initial day or two of sea sickness, I decided it was best not to be too gluttonous and so usually just stick to a couple bits of toast.

I will usually then spend some time outside on the flight deck if the weather is nice, and for the most part it has been absolutely brilliant! As someone who has never been to sea it is quite extraordinary to look around and be completely surrounded by the ocean.

A view from the flight deck of the HMNZS Wellington)

It is then time to visit the ops room and get the latest updates on the mission from our Chief Scientist Cornel de Ronde.

The GNS Science operations room

Throughout the day the Navy run numerous drills to make sure they are always on their toes and ready to respond to any crisis. These can range from engine failure drills to firefighting drills to person overboard drills. Getting to witness these drills, I was very impressed with how quickly they can go from zero to total action! On our first day heading to sea, they ran a person overboard drill and within seconds they had deployed a sea boat to retrieve the dummy that was thrown overboard. That was quite comforting!

Sea boat being deployed during a person overboard drill

At noon it is time for lunch which usually has 2 or 3 different options available. Options include things such as chicken salad, pork wraps, pastas, salmon, and steak. Every day is something different. There is also a selection of fruits and vegetables. You certainly don’t go hungry on the ship!
Throughout the day I will pop around and have a chat to some of the others on the ship. We are fortunate enough to have a TV crew from TVNZ on board. So it is interesting to watch Renee and Mike conducting interviews while the ship is constantly rolling backwards and forwards. I am not quite sure how Mike manages to keep the camera steady, while I can barely stay on my feet through some of the close to 30 degree rolls!

Dinner begins at 5.40pm and is similar to lunch with different options available. Following dinner there is one last opportunity to venture outside before sunset, after which we are not allowed outside without permission. Usually before sunset at around 6pm we will retrieve Sentry and this is always interesting to watch. Then it is off inside for the night, and I will usually hit the hay about 9-10pm.
So that is life at sea. It is simple, but the days do pass surprisingly quickly.

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