September 4, 2009
Fridays are always a "different" day on the ship, and today was no exception. We were supposed to have "helo ops" (helicopter flights) between the ships to exchange members of the Science Party and crew, but for some reason they got canceled. Then, after the usual noon alarm test, there was a call over the Pipes for, "All hands to report to Quarters in the hangar." This was unusual because normally Quarters is for Coast Guard members only.
Quarters started with a procession of the officers, a review of various safety flags/signals in preparation for today's safety drill, and then included an awards ceremony. Captain Frederick Sommer recognized various crew members for attaining certain levels of training and for special commendation. He then called up a representative from each of the major groups on board (Navy, Science Party, teachers, crew, etc.) and presented medals and certificates for Arctic Service, which all of us will receive.
Tomorrow, we are "rafting" with the Louis. This involves maneuvering the ships side by side and then tying them together. A gangway will be placed between them, and people will be able to cross freely. We are having a Hawaiian luau, complete with a roast pig. This celebration is in honor of the collaboration between the two ships and will give everyone a chance to meet and to tour the other ship.
Just like when hosting a party at home, you've got to clean for the company. So cleaning and inspection were done today. During the course of the expedition, each group on watch has split up the duties, and as seen in the picture below, even the Chief Scientist does his part. In fact, he insisted that he mop the hallway - we better not tell his wife, or this may be a permanent job when he's home.
The other "different" thing that happened today was that I was able to do two "Live from the Arctic" phone calls with students from Leyden. Last week I prepared and sent a Power Point slide show titled, "Mr. Pazol's Arctic Adventure" to several schools. The teachers showed the slide show, gave students copies of one of my Journals to read, and then had them prepare questions. For the call, I used an Iridium satellite phone - the only kind that has enough coverage for the Arctic and that doesn't have a built-in GPS (Global Positioning System), which is not recommended for civilians to have on-board.
When I called in, I was able to discuss the trip with them and answer their questions. We covered a variety of topics, from how much food we have aboard, to the weather, to what steps someone who wanted to study oceanography would need to take, to the seamount discovery, and even to whether I would see a penguin on the trip (an unfortunately common misconception, thanks in part to Coca Cola® commercials. Polar bears live in the Arctic; penguins live in the Antarctic - they will never meet in nature). It was great talking to these groups of students - about 90 in all today, and I look forward to continuing my conversations with other classes throughout the next few weeks.
My only problem with the process - satellite phones need a clear view to the sky in order to pick up the orbiting satellites, so the call has to be made from outside. Today, it was in the upper 70s and sunny in Chicago, but it was 22° F (without the wind chill), snowy, and gray here. That just doesn't seem fair.