Leg II: Safety First!
As I write this we are about to leap-frog our original cruise track and pick up stations that would have been done earlier if not for the weather.
A typical New England Nor’easter worked its way up the coast in the last few days. The Bigelow is able to fish in most weather conditions but when the winds start howling it can become dangerous for the crew operating the equipment on deck. Plus, scientific collections could be compromised due to the surging nature of the ship in those conditions. Safety is our primary concern out here. By altering our cruise track and heading inshore we were able to ride out the storm and only lose about 12 hours of operations.
Today is also drill day. Preparing for emergencies at sea is a serious business and we are a long way away from any help. The crew conducts weekly safety drills, including some sort of simulated fire drill. For the scientists, we basically stay out of the way by gathering on the bow of the ship and assist if necessary. Several of the regular sea-going scientists are trained to help fight fire if called upon. This week we conducted a medical emergency drill that included transporting a member of the scientific party via backboard and simulating calls back to land for instructions.
Each week there is also an abandon ship drill. This involves the crew reporting to assigned life rafts and donning survival suits. Actually getting into the suits ensures that we know how do it quickly and that assigned suit fits, important details if there is a real emergency. Survival suits are buoyant wet suits that keep us afloat and protect us from getting hypothermia if we have to get in the water.
All of these add up to safe voyages where the health and welfare of the people aboard are paramount.
Aboard the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow