Specialist Mike Barratt prepares for a dive while being
assisted by NEEMO 7 team members.|
7, Mike Barratt
Day 4, Thursday, October 14, 2004
how do you start your day on Aquarius? You roll out of your bunk at about 06:00
in the morning, make the coffee, pick up the paper, and switch on the REEF Channel
to catch the latest predator - prey drama. That's pretty realistic to life here,
except for the paper. The REEF Channel is the large round window at the main lock
galley table. The life and activity through this window is unbelievable, from
the stately and now familiar 'big old barracuda' (BOB) to the aggressive sergeant
major fish who like to mess around the hatch ring. This morning we were witness
to an incredible show when a small fleet of yellow tail jacks herded and surrounded
a swarm of three-inch silver baitfish right outside our window, then took turns
slashing through the middle to grab what each could. We interrupted our daily
planning conference several times with "holy cow!" and "watch the one with the
bent fin!" Not much excitement from the guys back in Houston, but if they had
it on the big screen they would be distracted as well.
The wet porch, our front entrance and doorway to the water column, as we call
it, was a madhouse today. We had planned four launchings of the Navy EX-14 dive
suits, one of which happily contained me. The EX-14 is a modernistic hardhat apparatus
that bears a fairly close resemblance to an EVA suit. Although on an umbilical,
you carry a backpack and wear a full helmet that keeps your head dry and affords
great comm, in our case with the tenders on Aquarius and the ExPOC back in Houston.
There are helmet-mounted lights and video to ensure others get to share in the
experience. Once we got through the checklist and out the door and got some buoyancy
issues settled, I found myself standing on the outside grating overlooking the
sand patch about 12 feet below. It was an easy leap down, and you could immediately
see the possibilities of this outfit. With a slightly negative buoyancy, it is
very similar to walking on the Moon, water drag notwithstanding. After a few teetery
steps re-learning the balance thing, I was able to bound over the surface and
go through movements of wrenching big bolts, setting up antennas, measuring and
examining local rock formations, and flag flying - the elements of surface exploration.
There are definite advantages to simulating an integrated package of exploration
equipment and practices down here.
I was also able to do front and back flips, leap up on top of a local gazebo,
and do hand stands with ease - the elements of partial gravity fun. I've got to
get one of these! Since there was some free time when the dive objectives had
been met and our work-in-progress, Waterlab, was still out there, I decided to
go fit some pipes and bolts together. I had the help of a little swimming ROV,
or remotely operated vehicle, which handed me joints and ends as needed. Gregarious
and agile little sucker with some personality; never did meet the driver. Definitely
did not want to come in, but the clock was running. It was almost worth it to
jump up the 12 feet to the grating and trundle back in the front porch. There's
a little superhero in all of us, when dressed up right.
great day; I stand ready to participate in any similar exploration
oriented activities. We will all be comparing notes and working
out the practicalities and possibilities of this venue. Now to see
what dinner we can create out of this gemisch of freeze-dried rations
and powdered drink mixes.