By early afternoon, the cyclone had blown itself out. We headed over to the Kaharoa at King's Wharf to begin a day that I am sure Clyde will long remember. If all goes well, today is going to be the day that Clyde is sealed inside Deep Rover and lowered into the waters of Wellington Harbor for his first training dive. One of the things that I have really enjoyed so much about working with Clyde over these past few years has been the ease with with he conveys his sense of enthusiasm to others. I have seen him answer a stranger's question about what he is doing down here in New Zealand, and within moments the questioner is completely enthralled. When Clyde is involved in something that he really loves, his joy is contagious. Somehow, I just knew that today was going to be one of those days.
After a few hours, it was finally time for Clyde to begin going through dive preparations. Once the external pre-dive checklist was completed, Ian and Clyde ran through the internal pre-dive procedures, bathed in the blue shadows of the tarp that was placed over Deep Rover to shield it from the heat of the afternoon sun.
As on every dive, the
emergency supplies were carefully stowed by the pilot so that in the event
he needed anything, he would know exactly where they were. To test the manipulator
arms, Ian stepped outside and pushed against them while Clyde moved the hand
controllers on either side of the pilot's
seat . When all pre-dive checks had been successfully completed, there was
one last thing that Clyde needed to do before the sphere was sealed and Deep
Rover hoisted over the stern. Clyde was handed a pen and a liability release
form. Since the form needed the signature of a witness, and since I happened
to be the closest person at the time, I placed the release form on the manipulator
arm and signed my name in the blank space. Hopefully, I wouldn't soon regret
what I had just done.
In exactly the same way as the yesterday with Scott and Mike, the sphere was
sealed and the lifting hook attached. Once again the winch groaned and Clyde
and the Deep Rover were lifted about fifteen feet above Kaharoa's deck. The
A-frame began to tilt aft and soon Clyde was poised just above the now calm
waters. A signal was given and slowly Deep Rover touched down. Without any hesitation,
Clyde began the check for leaks using the little mirror that was in the seat
beside him and then after giving Ian the all-dry signal, he was lowered until
just a few inches of Deep Rover's sphere was bobbing above the surface.
Everytime the waves exposed a few more inches of the sphere we could make out
Clyde's face and his grin of absolute delight. Just as Deep Rover went over
the stern, the First Mate hoisted the special "submarine operations" flags on
the mast. While all of us on the Kaharoa watched Clyde run the sub through a
series of tests, we could all tell by the sound of his voice coming through
on the radio that he was thoroughly enjoying every single minute of the experience.
I was particularly aware of Clyde's ability to readily grasp the use of the thrusters as I watched him time thruster bursts to get Deep Rover rocking side to side just as he wanted. Although he was securly attached to the ship by the winch cable and the two guide lines, it was quite easy to tell that Clyde was literally "chafing at the bit." After a while, it was finally time to bring Deep Rover and Clyde back on deck.
Watching Deep Rover emerge from a dive is a pretty impressive sight since many
of the external housings fill with water that drain as the sub is lifted out
of the sea. Huge cascades of water pour from the bottom of the sub, as if the
sea were reluctant to let it go. But soon, the water stopped and Deep Rover
was hoisted back over the stern and gently lowered to the deck. Once secure,
Ian opened the sphere and Clyde stepped back onto the Kaharoa and into Ingrid's
very happy and very proud embrace.