Thursday, June 5, 2008

Leopard seal attack


IMG_2951 (Large), originally uploaded by tsaven.

Okay, as much as I'd love to tell some amazing story about how I and some others were out boating, and we got attacked by a leopard seal, and the seal did this sort of damage to the boat before Chuck Norris and I fought it off with our bare hands and saved the lives of everyone, that would be a little bit of enhancement. Although reality isn't that much more boring.

For the last week or so, we've been getting POUNDED by storms, bringing with them some harsh winds, sustained wind speed of 40mph, gusts to 60mph. When this goes on for days at a time, the seas really get rough, and the swells were getting serious.

A few nights ago, sometime after 11pm, one of our Zodiac inflatable boats was ripped from it's mooring lines by the storm. The swells and wind were so strong that they ripped the line anchors out of the boat, and then the backup mooring lines snapped against the force.

We discovered it missing the next morning, and found the boat half a mile up the inlet, getting banged up against some rocks, flipped over, and half crushed/deflated. A couple of guys took one of the other zodiacs out and towed it back to shore, where we discovered that it was missing the secondary engine, and the boat box (the boat box is a watertight box that is kept in each boat, containing search & rescue gear, along with emergency stuff and navigation electronics).

One of the scientists and I took a couple of the SCUBA divers out in our remaining boat, and spent about an hour searching the area between where the boat was found and the dock. By almost dumb luck, we did find the missing engine, in about 30 feet of water. The divers attached a lift bag to the engine to get it to the surface, where the scientist and I were able to haul it into the boat. The boat box was found later in the day, floating about a quarter-mile out to sea.

In reality, the damage isn't as bad as it looks. Zodiacs are absurdly tough boats, we should be able to get this all fixed. It's got two of the five cells punctured, and some of the metal decking is bent up and the motor mount for the emergency engine is cracked in half, but the engines should be fine, as it wasn't running when it was submerged.

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