January 2, 2007
Position 71° 11.799' N 124° 22.264' W
The high winds (topping out at 35 knots) prevented the ship from leaving this ice flow. We are drifting at 0.7 knots, or 0.7 nautical miles per hour, and are fast leaving the region that we want to study but there is nothing that can be done about it. Due to fuel concerns, the ship cannot waste resources searching for a more suitable location. We simply have to wait until the visibility and wind conditions improve enough to launch the helicopter for a scouting trip.
Science is at a virtual standstill. Those who were lucky enough to have gotten samples yesterday had some work to do, but others were just left hanging and waiting. The ice is not safe enough to warrant large trips to surface and the currents are too strong to open the moon pool. I spent most of my day wandering around the ship, looking for odd jobs to occupy my time.
In the afternoon, Jim Young, the helicopter pilot that brought me to the Amundsen, took some time to show me around his Bell 212 "Twin Huey." John has been flying helicopters for just over 42 years, logging time in over 20 helicopter models. He normally trains the Coast Guard pilots stationed all over Canada, but took this 3 week assignment because he thought it would be special. He said he was right.
Jim let me have the captain's seat (right side in the Huey but can differ by model) and walked me through the function of the dozens of switches, dials, and monitors on the dashboard in front of me. He pointed out several safety features including the automatic emergency floatation devices on the skids. If the helicopter was to make a water landing, a nitrogen tank mounted in the nose would immediately inflate the bags to keep the Huey afloat.
The 212 has a take-off weight of about 11,200 lbs. It cruises at about 100 knots and its range is dependent on how hard the engines have to work. While tapping a dial on the dash, he said to take the % torque and multiply it by ten to give you your approximate fuel consumption per hour. For example, if your rotors are spinning at 65% torque, you will burn about 650 pounds of fuel per hour. The 212 is a workhorse, relying much less on computer technology than a lot of other models on the market. The fewer possibilities of electronic failures makes it more suited to the Arctic environment.
When I asked Jim how long it would take a person to become commercially certified to fly, he replied "much less than it took you to get your college degree," but apparently it costs just as much. He likened the $100,000 price tag to a college education, an investment. It would be a good one right now as Canada is looking for pilots, he informed me. Finding employment would not be a problem.
This evening, Stephane Thanasekos treated us to a movie showing in the officer's lounge. About one dozen of us watched The Corporation, a Canadian documentary about corporate greed. It was a Michael Moore type film and after watching, I will no longer buy Kathy Lee Gifford handbags.