Monday, February 13th began mobilization in Honolulu. The vessel Mermaid Vigilance, in harbor at anchor for the last few weeks, has returned to pier side. Welders have begun installing pre-fabricated fittings designed to mate to equipment that will be brought on board. The WHOI equipment, consisting of three shipping containers holding the Remus AUV, lab space, launch recovery system, and supplies, has arrived via truck to Long Beach, California, then by container ship to Honolulu, a sea voyage that took about five days. The containers will be lifted on to the ship’s deck in pre-arranged locations. Hopefully, all will fit perfectly and the gear will be bolted down.
Meanwhile, the Nauticos team will be arriving over the next few days, with Operations Manager Spence King and his assistant Joe Litchfield already in town over the weekend. There is gear to collect from the friendly folks at the nearby University of Hawaii Marine Center who allowed us to use their address. Personal gear will be brought on board and quarters organized – no Waikiki beach hotels for this crew! Workspaces will be set up for sonar analysis, communications, media lab, and general office activities for the weeks ahead. Networks, servers, and printers will be configured.
During this time, we will be getting to know the crew and working to build a team that will function smoothly over the coming expedition. We are off to a good start with Captain Flores and his crew’s hospitality that met us at our ship check visit earlier in January.
Over the next few days, the ship will be loaded with an amazing array of equipment, ranging from state-of-the-art electronics and sensors, the latest computers and custom software, to simple hand tools. Supplies will range from technically sophisticated spare parts for sensitive electronics meant to work at massive sea pressures, to the more mundane pencils, paper clips, and sticky notes. For as much as seven weeks, our ship will be our home, office, factory, and recreation center, and we have to bring everything we need to be entirely self sufficient if at all possible. With at most five weeks of operating time on station, a week lost to retrieve a broken or forgotten item from the nearest inhabited island would be a devastating setback.
If all goes according to plan, a departure dinner will be held on the evening of the 17th, and we’ll get underway on the morning of the 18th. We’ll watch the tall buildings of Honolulu sink into the horizon, then the mountains of Oahu. Then we’ll see no more sight of land for the duration.