Kaikoura, New Zealand
The day began with much optimism as we boarded the KAHAROA in the late afternoon. Our goal was to get the submersible, the DEEP ROVER, into the water before darkness and deploy it through the late evening hours. The crew worked hard to get the sub ready for deployment in anticipation of our longest dive attempt of the expedition. The deployment went off without a hitch, and the DEEP ROVER was in the water by 5:00 p.m.
Meanwhile, Mother Nature had another plan in store. Go figure. A storm known to New Zealanders as a "southerly" decided to pay us another unwelcome visit, and created some of the most anxious moments of the expedition to date. The whitecaps became ferocious and the winds picked up to over 40 knots. The waves were so bad that the RUKAWAI, our tender boat, was actually being tossed above the railing on the port side of the KAHAROA. One might suspect that even the RUKAWAI wanted to take shelter from this storm.
We needed to get the DEEP ROVER and Scott, its pilot, out of the water as quickly and safely as possible. The other option would be to leave him on the bottom until the storm passed. But, as these sudden storms can last from 2 to 48 hours, this option did not appeal to any of us...especially Scott! So the decision was made to pull him before the storm reached its maximum ferocity. It took all the skills and efforts of everyone on board to manage this feat. Since the DEEP ROVER was already deployed to nearly 400 meters, the crew had to pull the tether line out of the water as Scott drove the sub forward as fast as he could in some of the harshest conditions we have experienced. We pulled and pulled and finally managed to bring Scott to the stern of the KAHAROA. We were exhausted. Just as the DEEP ROVER was being prepared to be hoisted from the fury, the large 175 hp motor of the RUKAWAI seemed destined to smash into the acrylic sphere of the DEEP ROVER. Incredibly, Scott had the presence of mind to engage the forward thrusters, and managed to move the submersible just out of harm's way as the motor crashed into the waves.
We finally brought both Scott and the DEEP ROVER back to safety. However, we were forced to remain on board for the night. It was far too dangerous to attempt to ferry people back to the mainland. The KAHAROA was overflowing with people, who were sleeping wherever they could, trying to make it through the night. They were sleeping on tables, floors, benches, in the galley, just about anywhere there was enough room to curl up into a ball. All the while, the KAHAROA was rocking from side to side. If you have never been on a small marine vessel during a storm, imagine a pair of socks in your dryer. Our heads still feel like one big lint ball.
As the storm subsided
and we awoke to a new day, we decided to take a much needed day off to catch
up on sub maintenance and paperwork.