Friday, December 4, 2009

How it was in the COOL room

The Investigador is on her way back to port, with the glider and the scientists and technicians from Rutgers and Puertos del Estado. Most of the people who have flown, ballasted, and navigated the Scarlet Knight and her two dozen or so sisters were in the COOL room last night, fueled by Red Bull, coffee, and junk food as John Kerfoot, Hugh Roarty, and Ethan Handel sat in three drivers' seats in the center of the room.

Hugh is missing from the photo above – people came and went all night – but that's Ethan in the ball cap in the foreground and John seated behind him. Ari Daniel Shapiro, a freelance journalist on assignment for IEEE Spectrum and NPR, is the one with the headphones and the mic.

The women with video cameras are students from Rutgers' Writers House, and they are working on a documentary about this project. Their teacher, Dena Seidel, was shooting aboard the recovery vessel.

Tina Haskins, one of the Rutgers marine technicians who serviced Scarlet Knight in the Azores in August, has since gone to Palmer Station, Antarctica, on another assignment, but Hugh arranged for her to be webcammed into the COOL room. Here she is as she appeared to us:

Josh Kohut, standing on the aft deck of the Investigador, provided play-by-play for the rest of us over a satellite phone, trying to be heard over the wind howling through his headset. At 3 a.m. EST, 9 a.m. in Spain, Josh shouted over the wind that the glider had been spotted. "The glider is still yellow! The glider is still yellow!" he shouted, affectionately mocking Tina Haskins, who had made the same declaration when she spotted Scarlet Knight in the Azores in August.

As it turned out, the glider was not that yellow. Scott Glenn, who went out in the ship zodiac with Enrique Alvarez Fanjul of Puertos del Estado and Antonio Gonzalez Ramos of the University of Las Palmas to give the glider its first once-over, reported that the hull had lots of brown algae and that the seams in the hull, as was the case in the Azores, had become home to many gooseneck barnacles. The wings, too, had barnacles.

Clayton Jones of Teledyne Webb, the glider's designers and builders, joined Rutgers engineer Chip Haldeman and diver Dan Crowell for the second trip to the glider, this time armed with video and still cameras. Finally, with Chip and Dan still in the water, the glider returned to the ship and picked up Scott and Deena Seidel, the documentary film-maker, to pick up the glider.

"They're about 20 feet from the glider," Josh shouted into his mouthpiece. "The glider looks so small! They will pull it up on the side of the zodiac, to see how it will fit. They're now circling the glider, making their way towards the tail..."

"Jeez, it feels like we're having a baby," said Ethen Handel in the COOL room, and heads nodded all around him.

At 3:54 a.m. EST, Deena, Scott, and Clayton were safe on the deck. The plan, Josh explained to us, was to get everyone off the zodiac, then attach the ship's crane cable to the zodiac and bring it aboard with the glider inside. "They're getting the glider situated in the zodiac," Josh told us. Then, at 3:57 a.m., the phone died, to general howls in the COOL room.

At 4:03, the phone was working again, and a minute later, cheering in English and Spanish could be heard over the wind as Josh said, "I think we can say, THE BEAR IS IN THE IGLOO!"

Igor Heifetz, the computer manager for the lab, put us together for this photo, and told us to scream and wave:

1 comment:

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