On To Day 9Back To Day 7Day 8. Changing Faces

October 3, 1998. On any long cruise, plans can change for reasons that are beyond anybody’s control. Today it was choppy seas that forced us to do things a little differently and added some real nail-biting suspense.

At about 1:00 in the morning, the ship reached the end of transect 2, and the DSL people pulled the DSL 120 back onto the ship. Almost immediately, Jennifer Reynolds and the people on watch collected wax coring samples from three different sites. Once again, a wax corer is a heavy cylinder bristling with cups of soft wax. When the corer hits the bottom, small fragments from the ocean floor stick to the wax. Once the corer is back on board, Jennifer and those helping her begin the tedious task of scraping the fragments, in this case tiny grains of glass, from the wax. Eventually, Jennifer will use a microscope and a pair of tweezers to sort the glass from the other material. After they scrape the glass off, they must remove the rest of the dirt and debris from the wax before the corer is dropped over the next site. This step is critical. They don’t want samples from one site mixed in with samples from the next.

Jennifer Reynolds
Jennifer Reynolds packing wax into a wax cup.

They must be careful, but they also must be fast. There was a limited window in which to take wax core samples before the ship started up the next transect. As soon as they retrieve one wax core sample, they must prepare the next. Unfortunately, the window closed sooner than anticipated.

This was the morning that the first shuttle would arrive to deliver three scientists— Eric Bergmanis, Kevin Johnson, and Frank Trusdell—and two people from the Hawaii Department of Education—Larry Gaddis and Bob Golden. The shuttle would then took away Iris Clyne—a teacher who contributed a great deal to this web site— and two crew members. The transition, however, was anything but smooth.

At about 8:00 am, we learned that rough seas had prevented the shuttle from leaving the harbor. We therefore had to leave Puna Ridge and motor up the coast to Hilo to meet the shuttle. That meant canceling the fourth wax core sampling. That was only the first surprise. The second was the size of the shuttle. It was tiny. My first view was of a tiny fishing boat riding the crest of a swell that was higher than the deck of our ship. The shuttle pilot slowly positioned the boat so it could make a dash for the side of our ship. If the pilot of the shuttle didn’t time it right, the swells could smash the much smaller boat into the side of ours. The crew lowered a rope ladder.

As everybody gathered on the decks to watch, the shuttle made its move and drew up along side the ship. The five people on the shuttle managed to grab the rope ladder and climb on board without too much difficulty. At least it didn’t seem too bad to those of us watching from the deck. Moving from an unstable boat to a stable boat was one thing. Climbing down to a small boat that was pitching and bobbing was another. There was no margin for error.

Frank Trusdell Kevin Johnson
Frank Trusdell (left) and Kevin Johnson climbing on board

The first man, wearing a life vest, climbed down the ladder, hesitated, then jumped just as a swell rocked the shuttle away from the ship. He hung on. Iris was next. She stepped on just as the shuttle rolled towards the ship. Others on the shuttle pulled her in. To everybody’s relief, the last transfer was anticlimactic. Waiting until just the right moment, the man easily stepped onto the shuttle. Once everybody was safely on board, the crew passed baggage back and forth between the ship and the shuttle. The last item was a giant fish called an Wahoo. The fishing between Hilo and our ship had been good.


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