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NEEMO 6 Commander
IMAGE: NEEMO 6 Commander John Herrington
NEEMO 6 Commander John Herrington
*NEEMO 6 Journals
*Aquanaut Profile: John Herrington

NEEMO 6 Journals

NEEMO 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 training.

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.

IMAGE: Map of Aquarius habitat
This 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 one above.

Curator: Kim Dismukes | Responsible NASA Official: John Ira Petty | Updated: 07/20/2004
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