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Thanksgiving day
On Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, Alvin-veteran Hurst and novice Gee climbed aboard for a very short ride. A warning sensor for battery flooding– seawater-drenched batteries would be a serious problem - brought them to the surface after a descent of only 80 meters. As the still-dripping Alvin returned to Atlantis's deck, the Deep Submergence Group team unbolted parts of its protective fiberglass outer skin to trouble shoot. At 9:30 a.m. the word was passed: diagnosis and repairs would take "a couple of hours." That ended up stretching out to four.

The problem was traced to a cable. "Cables get squashed by thousands of pounds per square inch every dive, and the fatigue will short them out," said Alvin engineer and pilot Philip Forte. The best Blackman could hope for that day would be a short and shallow dive to the top of the mountain, mostly to test the repairs. So she mustered a young and green relief team on very short notice: graduate students Hanna and Lyons, who jumped at the chance.

"Oh my gosh, this is so exciting!" shouted Hanna as she scurried about the main laboratory looking for a clipboard and other supplies. "I've wanted to do this since I was a little kid." Lyons, a Naval Reserve officer, added: "I've wanted my whole life to be an astronaut. This is the closest to that so far."

Fig. 12. Graduate students Heather Hanna and Suzanne Lyons (L-R) return from their day in Alvin and prepare for the ceremonial splash.

As Alvin rolled back out to the fantail, Hanna and Lyons could barely contain themselves. In the cramped cockpit, Lyons would later recall, she imagined she was in an old NASA Gemini space capsule. "I'm not claustrophobic, and the deeper we went down, the bigger the capsule seemed to get." she said.

After a brief stop for rock samples, Alvin returned to Atlantis and Hanna and Lyons prepared for their double-dousing. Creeping off the ramp, Hanna grinned nervously while Lyons covered her face. Following their inevitable cold baths administered by several researchers, Lyons turned the tables. Alvin team members had slipped her an extra bucket to make sure Gee got what was coming to him.

"They were just happy to be there," recalled Bobby Lee ("BLee") Williams, the Alvin pilot of the day. "They were in such a frenzy to collect data, both were saying the same thing at the same time."

Soon thereafter, everybody adjourned to the mess deck, where steward Wood had prepared a Thanksgiving feast. It featured roast turkey, gravy and potatoes, stuffing and sweet potatoes, peas and pearl onions, fresh baked rolls and cranberry sauce, and fresh baked pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

Fig. 13. Thanksgiving dinner on the R/V Atlantis. Captain Gary Chilean waits in line with the scientists for a plateful of delicious holiday fare, including a slice of pumpkin pie.

Today's pages: The Moving Earth | Faulting | DSL-120 and ARGO-II | Bringing Out Alvin | Thanksgiving Day



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