Sue Zupko: 5 Patience is a Virtue

NOAA Teacher at Sea: Sue Zupko
NOAA Ship: Pisces
Mission: Study deep water coral along the east coast of Florida
Geographical Area of Cruise: SE United States in deep water from off Mayport, FL to south of Key Biscayne, FL
Date: June 2, 2011
Time: 14:33

Weather Data from the Bridge
Position:30.4N  80.2W
Visibility: 10 n.m.
Surface Water Temperature: 27.33°
Air Temperature: 27.5°
Relative Humidity: 66%
Barometric Pressure: 1017.8
Water Depth: 71.53
Salinity: 36.44

The Pisces has embarked on an exploratory cruise.  Many cruises run like clockwork to accomplish their missions.  We have a schedule, but recognize that things don’t always work that way.  I do not have a set time I must be somewhere–except perhaps meals:)  Even then, I can grab a bowl of cereal or make a sandwich if I am not available due to conflicts.  Just an aside here, I try not to miss the great meals served in the galley.  So, we are, in a manner of speaking, charting the unknown, going where no man (or woman) might have gone before.

Good things come to those who wait.  I know we’re going to have some good things come to us.  Let’s see.  A computer broke in transit and we waited for parts before departure.  Well, it was a holiday and the parts didn’t get shipped on time to arrive early on Tuesday and we would have had to wait another day.  We left without that computer working.  I’m thinking it was a backup computer.  You must have backup equipment for the backup equipment when out at sea.  We left about 2 1/2 hours later than planned.  Gotta be flexible when working with technology and the ocean.

Next, the ROV worked fabulous on our test drive in shallow water.  We then ran over to our first deep water site and launched the ROV.  Oh, no!! First dive started then aborted due to a thunderstorm which brought lightning strikes close to the ship.  Fast current (although we planned for it) and the tether got a kink in it.  The ROV and peripheral equipment is very delicate.  The ocean, even on a good day, is a harsh environment.  You have to plan for problems to occur.  Well, problems happened.  We lost video even though the ROV was still running perfectly.  The whole point of the ROV is to take video and photographs.  If the video fiber is not functioning, no point in continuing.  We had to abort the mission and repair the tether cable which houses the fiber optic, data wire, and power cables.

The ROV crew is fabulous.  They work long hours as a well-oiled machine.  Problem solving seems to come naturally to them. They figured out the problem and within about 12 hours had the tether fixed.  A morning dive was planned.  Things didn’t line up exactly as planned so we launched later than scheduled.  Remember, patience is a virtue.  Every time we plan to launch, we must dress in our life jackets and hard helmets, gather everyone who has a part in that, and wait.  Well, right after getting in the water, an electrical leak was detected. Back up came the ROV.  Now, many things on a ship, except meals and the crew watch schedules, do not come as scheduled.  Again, ocean and technology.  Plan on delays.  Patience is a virtue and I’m trying to be a virtuous woman.

Although frustrated, the science and ROV teams have done very well being patient.  They are always ready for a dive–even hours before it happens.  The scientists can’t do their jobs until the ROV runs so that has to be frustrating for them.  You wouldn’t know it, however, from their attitudes.  It reminds me of the 90/10 principle.  We can’t control 10% of what happens to us.  Equipment breaks.  Weather gets stormy.  Currents are too strong.  People get sick.  We can control the other 90% which is our attitude toward these challenges.  Andy David, our chief scientist, didn’t jump up and down and scream and yell when things didn’t go according to schedule.  What would that accomplish?  Although probably frustrated by the forces of nature working on us, mail service, or the equipment issues due to nature, Andy was very cool and supportive.  He found other jobs we could be doing while we waited.  He wasn’t the only one. The ROV crew just jumped in and worked out bugs and kinks.

Captain standing at the stern side of ship fishing.
Even the Captain has to relax.

The scientists worked on research, papers, etc.  Some of us worked on the blog, downloading pictures from our dive and cataloguing information, etc.  It was a good time to go fishing off the stern.  Someone sighted Mahi and the poles came out. Fresh fish is good.  One has to find time to relax and when there are limiting factors in the mission you can’t do anything about, take a break.

Remember the last quiz?  Were you patient waiting to find out what it is?  Here is an enlargement of the photo.

Cylander with a yellow hose-like cable wrapped around it sitting on the deck.
ROV Tether

That’s right.  It is the tether for the ROV.  It was good being patient to find out the answer.

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