6 Commander John Herrington|
6, John Herrington
Days 5 and 6, Friday and Saturday, July 16-17, 2004
So where is the Day 5 journal you ask? Well, some
days you just can't fit in everything that you would like. Such
was the 5th day. So busy, I barely had time to breathe. We started
out to perform our communications detailed test objective along
the pinnacle line. As we were swimming up to the way-station that
marks the end of the main pinnacle line, I saw a larger than normal
amount of air escaping from the structure. To get an idea of what
the way-station looks like, take a bowl and turn it upside down
and then place it in the water. Now, place four legs on it and make
it large enough for two people to stand next to each other. Inside
there is a panel with two steel braided hoses which we connect to
an air fill line on our tanks. On this day the filter that the air
passes through had come loose and pulled the hose down. This allowed
a lot of air to escape from the fitting. This extra amount of air
was what I saw escaping from the station.
Well, given the problems with the way-station,
I decided the safe thing to do was to discontinue our work at the
pinnacle and head on over to the Kamper area and continue our communication
checks there. Even though we did not get to finish our work at the
pinnacle, I felt the training we received was essential to our mission.
We were faced with an unforeseen problem and we had to do what was
right with respect to safety. We replanned our mission accordingly,
working in conjunction with the mission control (ExPOC) and completed
another portion of the tasks that we had been assigned. This is
exactly what can happen on a flight and you can't get any better
After we completed our work at Kamper, Wheels (Doug)
and I headed off to the end of the northeast line to complete a
comm check out at the way-station on that end. Time was getting
short and the comm was poor, so we called it quits and headed back
to the habitat. On the way back a sea turtle came cruising by, totally
at ease with our presence. His flight through the water looked effortless
as he made his way across the coral reef. A different medium to
fly in, but flying nonetheless.
Our fifth day seemed so compressed with things
to do that I felt we were constantly butting up against our schedule.
Getting done with a dive, doffing (taking off) your equipment, strip
out of your wetsuits, rinse and hang them, take a shower, dry off,
slip some clothes on, hustle into the main lock, arrange the table,
fix the camera, slip on a crew shirt, sit at the table and smile,
because you are going to be on a video-teleconference to an education
event hosted by the folks back in Houston. Whew... Sometimes you
just can't find enough time in the day. I felt yesterday we were
all going full bore. Hustle, hustle, hustle! I think we could not
have done more and I am incredibly proud of the team for rising
to the occasion.
is a map of the Aquarius habitat and excursion lines off the
Florida Keys where the NEEMO-6 crew is spending 10 days.|
Today had a
much better pace. Even though we hopped (well, crawled slowly would
be a more apt description) out of our bunks at 0500, the day proved
to be less stressful. We conducted a dawn dive to see how life around
the reef changes with daybreak. Most of the fish that hang around
the habitat at night find a place to hide among the coral during
the day. There are a lot of lobster in the cracks and crevices.
They are actually pretty easy to spot because their antennae stick
out of the holes and dance around a bit. The most remarkable part
of the dive, and perhaps this entire mission, came when a large
sea turtle came gliding past us as we turned the corner on the S4
excursion line. It flew past me and passed Wheels by about 20 feet.
It cruised off into the shadows only to reappear headed directly
for Wheels. We all floated there mesmerized as it flew right up
to Doug's head, passing about six inches in front of his nose. Wheels
reached his hand up to touch the belly and it turned straight for
the surface, did an amazing about-face and zipped off into the distance.
Nick had his camera at the ready so we hope we captured some pictures
for others to enjoy as well.
The afternoon found us performing our first coral
science dive which consists of a lot of measuring and photo-taking
combined with meticulous notes. That's Nick's forte. He's the excellent
record keeper in the group. The one thing that we found doing coral
science is that you have a much better opportunity to view the life
living on the reef. We are right down in it looking at things looking
back. Case in point, a large moray eel poked his head out of a hole
about a foot or two from Wheel's hand just as he put a marker down
for a coral specimen. We took some video of the eel as it made its
presence known. They have this interesting habit of opening and
closing their mouth. While it looks menacing, it is actually just
breathing. It's the teeth that catch your attention, breathing or
not. We gave him his space and went on about our work.
This evening was pretty relaxed. We have a DVD
player on board so we hauled out the movie "Finding Nemo"
for some entertainment. Kind of fun to pick out the fish that look
familiar. Coop was calling out the types of fish as they came on
the screen. Nice to have an expert on board!
One of the things that my parents like to do at
their home in Spicewood, Texas is to sit on the front porch and
watch the sun go down. All sorts of animals make their way across
the stage of Texas hill country. You can make out the sounds of
the whippoorwill, hear the locust in the trees, and catch the sounds
of the coyotes across the valley. Tonight, I did something similar,
but slightly different. I put on my mask, crawled out on to what
we call the wet porch. The sun was down, the water was illuminated
by the lights surrounding Aquarius, and I dipped my face beneath
the surface of the water. There was not an absence of sound, rather
the slow steady hum of some equipment on the habitat. Where my parents
would expect the occasional animal to make its presence known, I
faced a multitude of sea life, swimming in the light and shadows.
Fish in all shapes and sizes, casting flashes of light like a mirrored
ball on a dance floor. And it was a dance!! Fish were darting about
in an endless cascade of movement. It was as pleasing as any moment
I have spent on my parent's porch. Just a view from a different
world, but one where life is just as full and remarkable as the