This is a remarkable difference in temperature for a 24 hour period. Just yesterday the sun was warm and we had very little wind, but the gusts I felt this evening walking into work were brutal. Thankfully they were short bursts. I am well dressed for the weather, but I didn’t bother to put on the hat I always carry in my coat. And as I have mentioned once before in this blog, the human body looses up to 20% of it’s heat through the uncovered head. My lovely Jenny reminded me that this was only true of people who spend a lot of their energy thinking, so I should have nothing to worry about.
What she must have forgotten is that my big old ears act like sails in this weather, and the near constant billowing this morning has cost me a few degrees of hearing at least. On the plus side, I am in the office again for most of the day. We will not need to act on the fuel tanker again until Thursday. There is a lot more to tell about the receiving of the fuel tanker, so as my ears thaw out I’ll continue with that adventure.
This boat, as you can see in some of yesterday’s blog pictures, dwarfs our entire pier, and needs to be lined in to the coast itself as well as tied snuggly to the pier. In order to do that when the ship is so far removed from the shore, the deck crew have a canon, or mortar that shoots a small non-explosive shell which is also attached to a 1/4″ nylon line, toward the bollard – the really big stick in the ground – it wants to hook onto. I am no sailor, and I am just learning the verbs of the professional McMurdo linesman, but I’m listening closely and figuring this out as we go along.
Here’s one thing I figured out all by myself. When the guy on the boat is ready to fire the mortar, he should tell the guy on the land that it’s coming. My pal Ben and I were up on the side of the hill talking about boats when we heard the bang, and looking quickly at the boat to see what just happened, both of our heads swiveled skyward and inland as the shell came straight over our heads. It took about ten seconds of blinking in disbelieve till Ben said “Well, that’s just not right.” The laughter that followed was contagious to every one on our team on the hill.
After that surprise we had to work quickly. As soon as the thin line was in our hands, we ignored the length that had gone farther inland and grabbed what was at our feet and pulled like crazy. The 1/4″ nylon was now attached (by the crew on board) to the much thicker Stern line which is about 3″ in diameter and has a 4 foot loop on the end. The loop has a leather interior liner to protect the rope from fraying under the stress of the tide shifting the boat around. The leather also absorbs water and sinks, and we don’t want that.
The act of pulling in the 150 feet (or more) of Stern line is downright funny to watch, but intense when it’s your turn. Imagine a crew of six people five feet apart, all struggling in the same direction, and then the one at the far right of the line just drops his part of the rope and scurries back to the far left of the line, picks up more and pulls like a draft horse back to where he was. Now all of the 1/4″ is on the hill, the loop is coming up the shore and the crew quickly switches to the next task: Getting the eye of the needle down over the thread.
It didn’t matter that I am 6’5″. No one at McMurdo could have lifted this soaking wet line 8 feet off the ground to ring the bollard. Hence the ladder. Two people held it in place while a third scrambled up and the three guys on the ground held the eye from slipping back into the bay. When the timing was right, and the eye ready to drop, our lead man Deany -that’s his last name – called out “Get your camera’s! This is the money shot!” And I did. I was one of the 3 holding the eye, and Deany and Paul were tough enough, as there was no strong back-pull on the line. So I pulled out the Olympus and stumbled backward along the steep bank and the loose volcanic gravel…and then fell on keester. Which as it turns out was a good thing. I got an amazing angle of the top of the bollard above the heads of my team, just as the eye was falling into place. Oh how we artist’s struggle for just the right shot.
This final photo was taken by Ben with my camera. I had just wound up the 15 miles of 1/4 chord that was shot out of the mortar. That’s the “missal” dangling in my right hand. I’m actually standing on the road above the beach, and that orange bollard to my left is the same nine footer we had just looped. Hard hats are mandatory on the crew and I was fortunate to get an Orange one since I’ve been thinking a lot about the Broncos lately. Thank goodness the boat is blue.