A variety of competing factors have made planning the end of the VISIONS’14 cruise series an incredibly complicated task. Typically the tail end of oceanographic cruises follows a similar pattern: an inventory of remaining tasks is constructed and prioritized, and a mad dash commences to complete all activities on the list. But it is usually never that simple, as small disturbances in the ship operations can ripple through the schedule, and priorities are reshuffled as options narrow. As we near the end of the OOI-RSN installation field season-- 84 days (!)--perhaps the longest and most complex oceanographic cruise of all time, the planning strategy remains the same, albeit with more moving pieces. We have a list of tasks that have to get done and a set amount of time to do these in, however weather, deck space, personnel, and equipment all must be considered in order to make the schedule of activities work.
As of early this afternoon we have nothing on the ship left to install, but we missed our tidal window to get into port today. However, tomorrow, when we get into Newport, Oregon we will be closely followed by a massive storm in the eastern Pacific that will destroy working conditions until Friday. We will have three days in port that were strategically planned to coincide with the arrival of this well forecasted storm, so that we can load and offload gear during a period that is unworkable offshore. Despite minimizing the loss of time on station due to weather, this storm is going to cost us about 24 hours-- a critical amount of time considering that VISIONS’14 ends in roughly 175 hours.
What this all means is that while we are currently cruising easily into Newport, things are about to change. A storm is brewing--the barometer is falling, but the pressure is rising to complete the installation of the world’s largest cabled observatory.