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Meridian Passages, Volume XIII, Number 4

Central Pacific Edition

Why Are We Here?

Spencer King Explains

Continued from yesterday. Spence described the events that led to launching our expedition in just a few short weeks when a suitable vessel unexpectedly became available just before Christmas….

The expedition team & Mermaid crew underway, displaying the Explorer’s Club flag
The expedition team & Mermaid crew underway, displaying the Explorer’s Club flag

I found a valuable communications link directly with the survey company on the vessel, Williamson and Associates. We freely communicated about the follow on survey that we planned, types of services and capabilities of the vessel. The team on board had worked on a shipwreck survey for a customer for over 8 months. They had not found their objective, and the survey would end in January. The vessel would be available to us on condition that the hire would continue without interruption. A portion of the demobilization and redelivery of the ship to Singapore needed to be apportioned to us. Those conditions were agreeable because the charter rate of the vessel was incredibly good.

I remember it was a sunny day in Florida when Dave called again. A sponsor had stepped up. His name was Alan Eustace. I knew this man from following Dave’s participation in the StratEx stratospheric jump. This was truly a good day. We could move to finish the deal on the ship and get a team ready. Tom Dettweiler discovered that the Williamson survey gear could not provide the photography needs of our mission. We needed to find another provider fast. Two weeks’ time was not enough. Dave and Alan understood the technical and practical sides of putting together a complex project. Dave sought AUV services from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. He had solid connections and a good reputation there. In days, Dave, Alan, Jeff and Tom met at Woods Hole to evaluate the REMUS 6000 system. It would take just 6 weeks from the time of that meeting to have REMUS mobilized on deck. Activity started immediately at Woods Hole without a contract. The vessel owners were encouraged by the news of our new sponsor. They responded with a standby hire rate, in which we could hold the ship for 30 days while our new ocean services contractor could ship and mobilize their system onboard. Dave signed the charter agreement with MMA on January 23rd. We had a ship!

In the following weeks, REMUS was prepared and shipped from WHOI. The export license application (ITAR) was started which normally takes about 30 days to complete. We anticipated that REMUS would arrive in Hawaii about the same time as the ITAR. It didn’t. We all endured some anxious days when everything was in Hawaii ready to mobilize except the ITAR. Dave and Alan conferred again decided to proceed with mobilization without the ITAR. Dave does not toss the word “probably” around lightly. It’s a mathematical expression to be respected. It was the right choice.

The mission plan from 2006 was pulled out of a storage box. It was perfectly suited to use again. AE III was just an extension of AE II which met an untimely end. With this general road map, all the mission capabilities were delegated to the participants. The team was completely free to conceive, design, build, install and operate the systems that they will go to sea with. How well did they do? We’ll find out together soon, but I am confident that this will be our most successful mission ever.

Now, you may ask, “so how did Dave Jourdan know there was a ship out there?” The answer is one that you all should have been able to guess, “Elgen!”

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