Friday, February 11, 2011

Helicopter Ride to Viking Vision; the Quest for Sperm Whales

Viking Vision; Gulf of Mexico 01.2008

I woke up the next morning at 5am for my very first helicopter flight. A group of thirty something of my colleagues were transported by bus with me to a location next to the New Orleans airport – this particular area was separated by a fence that lead into the runway of the incoming and outgoing airplane traffic of the New Orleans airport. To be perfectly honest, I never knew a place like this existed!  Once we arrived at the base of where our helicopter was departing from, we had to check in. This was a strange set up, because we had to individually stand in line, weigh our bags, weigh ourselves, and provide passport or other photo identification. After we finished this process, my colleagues and I waited patiently for our ship to be called – when our ship was called, then we would be able to board the helicopter. One of the girl’s explained to me that we could potentially be waiting anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours, maybe longer, for our ship to be requested. Luckily, our wait was roughly over an hour – we grabbed our luggage and herded into a back room. We were gathered in a small room where we watched a Helicopter safety video – the video focused on the type of model that we were entering, the safety precautions, and the points of origin on where to properly board the helicopter within. 

Helicopter Grounds; New Orleans, Louisiana 01.2008

My Helicopter to Board; New Orleans, Louisiana 01.2008

Helicopter Control Gauges; New Orleans, Louisiana 01.2008

Before Take-off: Derek and I; New Orleans, Louisiana 01.2008

Helicopter Pilots; New Orleans, Louisiana 01.2008

The video was complete and we were shortly on our way to fly via helicopter to the ship Viking Vision. I never forget my first helicopter ride – I just had finished giving my bags to the helicopter pilot and he could tell that I was slightly nervous by a few of the questions that I had asked. When I jumped in the helicopter, there were ear muffs and life jackets provided to the passengers – I have to admit I looked pretty goofy in these ear muffs, but we were not going for style! The engines were extremely loud, so I had put the ear muffs on. The only sound I heard was the low vroom of the engine. After the helicopter pilots checked their gauges and confirmed with the operations manager that we were safe to depart, we took off with the breeze! The sights were incredible – we flew over the tall trees and fence that separated us from the New Orleans airport and onto the runway with the airplanes! I did not quite know what to think about this, besides in the back of my mind I was hoping for no airplane to land at that particular second!  The helicopter begun ascending and we were headed in the direction of the ocean. Luckily, I had a great spot and was situated directly next to the emergency window. 

Helipad of Viking Vision in View of Helicopter; Gulf of Mexico 01.2008

My Helicopter Landing on the Viking Vision; Gulf of Mexico 01.2008

The helicopter ride was about a good 2 hours – the ocean never looked so beautiful! I was quite content starring at the water, while most of my colleagues had fallen asleep. I have never experienced looking at the water from only a short distance below – most airplane rides are too high up to see any great views of the ocean landscape. While I was mesmerized by the tranquility of the water beneath my feet, I had realized at that moment that this is environment suites me rather well – I could get used to this particular lifestyle! Soon the ship came into vision and the helicopter had a graceful landing. I remember thinking, “I wonder what is in store for me on this project?”  The helicopter came to a complete stop on the helipad of the ship. My colleagues and I walked outside when gave the proper permission, grabbed our luggage, and trekked down the stairs. I recall a lot of published research papers on Sperm Whales that I read on the Boston project – “Thanks for the Memories; My Recollections of the Boston, Massachusetts Project.”  I was thrilled to have the chance to research Sperm Whales on this project and gain a further understanding of the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico. As I looked out at the ocean and on towards the horizon, I knew that I was in the moment that I was looking forward to my entire life.