This expedition is a master class in time and risk management. From sunup to midnight today, the 28-man sub team worked on and under the sub.
“Mariners call this a confused sea,” Captain Stu Buckle tells me.
An hour before sunrise, the Mermaid Sapphire had slipped out of her berth at the Australian Navy Yard and headed into the great open harbor. Forty minutes later we’re passing through the headlands into a dark-blue ocean with waves riding the crests of 6.6-foot (2-meter) swells.
“Abort the dive.”
When I heard these words as I entered the sub hanger, it was clear something was very wrong. “We just got word from the airport. The helicopter has gone down. Andrew and Mike were inside,” Jim said. He struggled for the next words.
Last night we headed back to Jervis Bay—a ten-hour passage with 30-knot winds from the southeast and seas of 10 to 13 feet (3 to 4 meters). It was a difficult trip.
The heat coming off the electronics system pushed the temperature to 102°F (39ºC) inside the sphere. Humidity was 100 percent. For three hours, Jim was swimming in his own sweat.