Environment Forum

Zodiac man gets his day

Rodney Russ lives for the times he is at the rudder of a Zodiac.

For the owner of Heritage Expeditions, the New Zealand-based company that is operating the Russian research ship Professor Khromov in the Bering Sea, the more challenging the conditions the better.

“The rougher the waves, the more difficult the landing, the more remote and obscure the place, the more I enjoy it,” Russ said in a corridor on the Khromov.

So it was with disappointment that Russ was forced to put the inflatable boat with the outboard motor away, after he had donned his wet-weather gear and readied the craft for a spin off the Siberian coast in late August.

The plan was nixed by the Russian navy representative on board.

It took months for the joint U.S.-Russian RUSALCA oceanographic expedition to get the necessary clearances to travel through Russian waters in the Khromov, deploying data-gathering moorings, and using a high-tech instrument to take water samples.

There was nothing in the permits about zipping around the ship in a Zodiac. Doing it could jeopardize the RUSALCA mission, which is geared to gauging the impact of global warming on the region over several years.

Fishing for information

The research vessel Professor Khromov is just a few kms off the easternmost point of Siberia, and U.S. technologist Kevin Taylor is struggling to reel in an orange buoy that had been deep beneath the Bering Strait for nearly a year.

The first time he tries, the ship veers too far away from the prize and must make a slow, wide turn for another pass. The second time, Taylor’s hook is not quite ready and the float bobs again into the Khromov’s wake. This takes practice, even in calm waters.

A main task of the RUSALCA expedition, a joint-U.S.-Russian scientific effort taking place in August and September, is to retrieve data-gathering moorings that were dropped 50 meters to the bottom during stormy weather last October, and to leave new ones.

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