Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Dan the Rescue Diver

All this time that Dan has been collecting hobbies, I didn't think of it as missions prep.  Who knew that these skills would come in handy? But, now I'm very grateful for the hours that Dan invested into scuba diving.  And so is the rest of the crew of the Africa Mercy.

This is the view from the side of the ship, yesterday.  You see, we live in a port.  With the flow of boats and the runoff from the urban river in Freetown, comes the flow of trash. 
Also known as rubbish. 

The ship has four generators onboard that are used to provide power to our ship.  Surgical equipment, lights, sterlizers, x-rays, lab tools, lights, washing machines, copy machines, computers, ovens, dishwashers, coffee pots, ceiling fans and air conditioning and more on this 499 foot long ship require a lot of power. 

The intake valves for these generators are underwater.  So, plastic and other trash blocking our intake valves has become an enormous problem.  If the generators go out, we are unable to operate. 
(Not just in the sense of the power is out and we don't remember how to live in a non-digital world.  But in the literal sense of no operations.  Period.  No operations means we are not able to do what we have committed to Sierra Leone to do: provide free surgeries for their people during this ten-month field service).
This is a big problem.
We have engineering and deck crew that work 24-7 jobs just like the hospital crew. Only, their jobs are to make sure that the hospital can stay up and running.  Manning the crises in the engine room is an around-the-clock job.  The generators and a/c issues have been huge over the past few months, and with the rainy season starting this past week, we have seen an enormous increase in trash run-off from the river.
When we arrived they were needing to send divers down three times a week to clean out the intake valves by pulling all the rubbish out of the vents so that clean water can move freely through it. 
However, they have had to increase the schedule to daily, or semi-daily. 

This is a tedious process.  Meet at deck eight dive locker, gear up, check equipment, create a plan with the other diver(s), and begin the journey down to the water some 50' below.

Sometimes they are lowered in the boats (especially if the current is strong).  The dive times are determined based on the tides of each day and they try to find a time when the currents are at their minimum.

Other times they walk down the gangway and jump right in.

The visibility is pretty atrocious.

Does this look like a task for the light-hearted?

Start to finish each dive is about a three-hour long task. 

Added to an already full work week, and this makes for some long hours, and lots of wet swim trunks.


It's not all bad -there is a fish (or something)

Ah, yes, sealife at it's best.
After they have cleaned the valves, they look pretty good- for the next few hours anyways.

Because this issue has become so huge, the engineering department is working hard with the deck department to create a better solution: bigger cages around the intake valves? Nets? A pulley system?  High powered cleaning with the fire hose?  No suggestion is ridiculous at this point. 

Earlier this week they put a new system in place to cover the valves.  That one was a combination of aluminum, mosquito nets, and magnets.  It was too close to the valves and trapped in lots of scum and dirt.  They have fashioned new cages for around the valves and just this afternoon they put one into place.  We are waiting to see if it is effective or not. 

While they work hard to make sure we don't lose the generators, the A/C issues are getting a bit neglected. Our cabin reads 86 degrees currently.  This is a tad bit warmer than my liking.  (However, the one perk is that Dan's not complaining about my cold hands and feet these days!)

So, we are praying for our divers.  They are getting dirty.  Smelly.  Covered in slime.  For the sake of the cause.  This is one dirty job for which we are grateful.
Olly on a previous dive

1 comment:

  1. We should call Mike Roe to come do an episode of 'dirty jobs'...;)