By early afternoon, the cyclone (as last night's storm was being referred to) had blown itself out and we headed over to the Kaharoa at King's Wharf to begin what was going to be for Clyde, a day that I am sure he will long remember. If all went well, today was going to be the day that Clyde would be sealed inside Deep Rover and lowered into the waters of Wellington Harbor for his first training dive.
One of the things that I have really enjoyed so much about working with Clyde over these past few years has been the ease with with he conveys his sense of enthusiasm to others. I have seen him begin to answer a stranger's question about what it is that he is doing down here in New Zealand and within moments, the questioner is completely enthralled. Clyde is able to be equally enthusiastic whether giving a lecture to a group of colleagues or when talking to a school child. When Clyde is involved in something that he really loves , his joy is contagious. Somehow, I just knew that today was going to be one of those days....
After a few hours during which time the Nuytco crew were preparing the
Deep Rover for the day's dive, it was finally time for Clyde. Once the
external pre-dive checklist was completed, Ian and Clyde ran through the
internal pre-dive procedures, bathed in the blue shadows of the tarp that
was placed over Deep Rover to shield it from the heat of the afternoon sun.
As on every dive, the emergency supplies were carefully stowed
by the pilot so that in the event he needed anything, he would know exactly where they
were. To test the manipulator arms, Ian stepped outside and pushed against
them while Clyde moved the hand controllers on
either side of the pilot's seat . When all pre-dive
checks had been successfully completed, there was one last thing that Clyde
needed to do before the sphere was sealed and Deep Rover hoisted over the
stern. Clyde was handed a pen and a liability release form saying which
essentially said that he knew full well what he was doing and that he was
assuming full responsibility for what was about to happen. Since the form
needed the signature of a witness, and since I happened to be the closest person
at the time, I placed the release form on the manipulator arm and signed my
name in the blank space. Hopefully, I wouldn't soon regret what I had just done.
As had been done the day before with Scott and Mike, the sphere was sealed
and the lifting hook attached. Once again the winch groaned and Clyde and
the Deep Rover were lifted about fifteen feet above Kaharoa's deck. The
A-frame began to tilt aft and soon Clyde was poised just above the now
calm waters. The signal was given and slowly Deep Rover touched down.
Without any hesitation, Clyde began the check for leaks using the little
mirror that was in the seat beside him and then after giving Ian the all-dry
signal, he was lowered until just top few inches of Deep Rover's sphere was
bobbing above the surface.
Every time the waves exposed a few more inches
of the sphere we could make out Clyde's face and his grin of absolute delight.
Just as Deep Rover went over the stern, the First Mate hoisted the special
"submarine operations" flags on the mast.
While all of us on the Kaharoa watched Clyde run the sub through a series
of tests, we could all tell by the sound of his voice coming through on the
radio that he was thoroughly enjoying every single minute of the
I was particularly aware of Clyde's ability to readily grasp
the use of the thrusters as I watched him time his thruster bursts such that
he got the Deep Rover to rock side to side just as he wanted it to. Although
he was securely attached to the ship by the winch cable and the two guide lines,
it was quite easy to tell that Clyde was literally "chafing at the bit". After
a while, it was finally time to bring Deep Rover and Clyde back on deck.
Watching Deep Rover emerge from a dive is a pretty impressive sight
since many of the external housings fill with water that drain as the
sub is lifted out of the sea. Huge cascades of water pour from the
bottom of the sub, as if the sea were reluctant to let it go. But soon,
the water stopped and Deep Rover was hoisted back over the stern and
gently lowered to the deck. Once secure, Ian opened the sphere and
Clyde stepped back onto the Kaharoa and into Ingrid's very happy
and very proud embrace.