Hurricanes, make way for Knorr!

September 7th, 2012 by Maria-Jose Viñas
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By Eric Lindstrom

Cloudy skies over the Atlantic, with Hurricane Leslie in the distance.

We knew when we left Woods Hole yesterday that we had two hurricanes (Leslie and Michael) standing between us and our study site, far southeast of Woods Hole in the mid-Atlantic. How Captain Adam of the Knorr chooses to deal with this over the next days is a study in weather and ocean forecasting – and calculated risks. We considered at least three options: delay departure until the coast is clear, make a significant departure to the cruise track (sail far south, then east), or leave on time but travel quickly to the east and then south to miss the worst of the hurricane weather.

The last option is what we are doing. We abandoned plans to do test stations and do science training for a few days so we can make hast to the east, to the east side of Leslie’s track. Then we can make our way south and around Michael. Tom Farrar and Fred Bingham of the SPURS science team have provided the bridge with Gulf Stream analyses that we hope will help us take best advantage of ocean currents in our race eastward. We could easily have found ourselves in an eddy that would hinder our progress, and no one wants that with bad weather coming toward us! It was a fabulous start to the voyage to have the crew of the Knorr and the SPURS team working so closely on the strategy to both keep us safe and on schedule.

The Knorr's new track to avoid Hurricane Leslie.

It’s worth mentioning too that satellite data and the shore-based team play a crucial role in our cruise planning. Zhinjin Li and Michelle Gierach at the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab have been feeding us the latest satellite images from the Atlantic so we can better understand the wind, waves, and currents in our path. We rely on these contributions because it is difficult to surf the web from sea – we have Internet access, but it can be quite slow.

Today we feel the enormous forces of the tropical storms on the western Atlantic. There is a good swell running – speaking clearly of some strong wind at a distance. Some aboard are feeling seasick, but the mess is still full of hearty eaters and smiling faces!

SPURS scientist Fred Bingham goes through safety training.

One of the things you notice in these conditions are all the items that can shake, rattle, squeak, groan, or otherwise move and make noise. I have been up and down in my cabin a number of times during the night to silence rattling cupboard doors, toppling books, sliding glasses – it’s almost an endless battle. At sea you don’t just put something down – you secure something, wedge something, pad something, or it becomes something broken, lost, dangerous or just plain noisy! Sometimes one even has to wedge oneself in a place and just stop moving around! All of us have greater appreciation than most for the stability of land and the silence that stability brings. When things are shipshape, all is secure and in its place. We are living shipshape today.

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4 Responses to “Hurricanes, make way for Knorr!”

  1. Paul says:

    Please stay safe! I appreciate all the work that KNORR is doing!

    • Eric Lindstrom says:

      Paul,
      Thanks for the appreciation! Safety is our #1 concern out here. The science is important, but keeping Knorr and everyone aboard safe is a big component of our daily lives. We track the environment closely for threats (like hurricanes) and also train relentlessly on our deck operations (there is alot of heavy equipment to be deployed). The crew of Knorr is always helping us visiting scientists be better and safer shipmates.
      Eric

  2. Michelle Flack says:

    How I wish I could join you – what a thrill and a challenge. Outthinking nature is certainly the goal of science!

  3. Eric Lindstrom says:

    Michelle,
    Thanks for the comment.
    If only I could have the whole world out here for while…Everyone would have more appreciation of the ocean during their lives. Personally, I’ve always thought that mother nature is way ahead of us. Getting to know how nature operates is more of my goal! Its best to work as if we are only one small step away from nature outwitting us.
    Eric

Notes from the Field