16 Nov 2011
Since my last blog update, we have had two unexpected pirate alarms. A mysterious vessel, which the crew had reason to believe may have originated from the Persian Gulf region, approached us from the starboard side of the ship. After crossing the bow with no radio contact, it turned and headed straight for us. The Captain immediately hit the general alarm aboard the ship. It’s not every day do you wake up to, “MAN YOUR PIRATE STATIONS!!…. this is NOT a drill!!” baring across the loudspeakers. I’m a deep sleeper, and yet, I jumped out of my bunk as if my pants were on fire.
After following our safety protocols to the tee, the vessel turned away but remained nearby. A couple days later, we were greeted by another pirate alarm, but the vessel raised a white flag in an attempt to communicate. In all likelihood, it was nothing more than an innocent fishing boat trying to harvest the fish that were attracted to the light from our oceanographic buoy. Everything is okay. But safety on the high seas in this remote part of the world is no laughing matter, so we have to remain vigilant.
We are now well into the second week of our operations at sea, and both the crew and science team are falling into a steady routine. I have finally started to get used to my 12-hour overnight radar watch. The first few days were rough, adjusting to the time and to the lack of human interaction overnight. But since then, I have connected with the few other poor souls on the ship who also have to work overnights. Since a standard mess hall meal isn’t served in the middle of the night, I am relegated to scavenge for food in the fridge. I typically eat a combination of leftovers and cereal for my midnight lunch.
So far, it feels like I have been out here for months, rather than just 11 days. But during each individual shift, the hours go by really quickly. Having to analyze every 10-minute radar scan and re-program it for a target storm several times each hour, I am keeping pretty busy at the radar screen! Minutes and hours fly by when I am working.
My daily routine involves waking up for our daily science meetings with the Chief Scientist at 1630 local time. As one of only a few meteorologists on the ship, I have been called to help with weather briefings to discuss what weather we should be expecting in the coming days to weeks. It has been rather quiet out here, but that should change in the coming weeks as the MJO heats up by the end of the month (hopefully). After dinner, I start my shift at 1800, which lasts until 0600 the following morning. Working the night shift, I rarely get to see the sun, so I at least try to catch a sunrise or sunset whenever I can.
On some days, I feel like we are living a lifestyle akin to astronauts staying at the International Space Station. Being days away from any landmass and being without normal internet connectivity, we are isolated from the rest of the world both physically and technologically. But at the same time, having a set schedule with no pressing concerns or distractions beyond the boundaries of the ship is somewhat liberating. (We’ll see if I still feel that way in a couple more weeks!)
A few days ago, a NOAA P-3 aircraft flew by us to conduct aerial data collection for DYNAMO. On their passage, they took some aerial photos of our ship and likely scared the living daylights out of the fishing vessel floating near us at the time. Now the vessel knows we mean business!