Jim Favor's journeys travel blog

Now we are having breakfast on the aft deck. Temperatures are in the 60s, so I need a sweater to feel comfortable. I like the ambiance on deck. It is a little less formal, but the food and the service is still supreme.

This morning Rick Hauck gave a talk “Challenger and Columbia: What Did We Learn from These Tragedies?” It turns out, in 20-20 hindsight, that the O-ring problem that destroyed Challenger had given warning on several previous flights. A committee had been formed to investigate the problem. It took a very cold temperature before lift-off to change a problem into a tragedy.

In the same manner, foam had come off the main tank during lift-off on several flights before Columbia. A committee had been formed to investigate the problem. No one really believed that soft, light weight foam could penetrate a tile. Even though the foam strike was visible on the launch videos that were viewed the next day, no one was really concerned. There was no way to view the large hole in the wing’s leading edge. The controllers told the crew that there had been a small problem but it was nothing that they had to worry about.

The biggest contributing factor to both tragedies seems to have been a ho-hum attitude about space launch. In each case the people who had witnessed the former tragedy had retired. The new people had conducted dozens of launches with 100% success. They had the attitude that nothing had changed and all would continue to go routinely. In truth, nothing stays the same. Small differences appear over time in every subsystem. External conditions vary also. Now NASA is extremely vigilant again. The shuttle flights should end without further tragedy.

After lunch Trevor talked on “Kayaks across the Bering Sea.” It was one more example of his idea of a fun vacation. In the late 80s a group of four Brits came to him and asked him to build some kayaks capable of making the crossing at the nearest point from Alaska to Russia. The Soviet Union was going to issue visa to allow people to enter their space from sea and they wanted to be the first. When the boats were built and the visa’s arranged, one of the four had to back out and Trevor volunteered to take his place.

They got to Nome and launched their kayaks. They met a group of Americans who were trying to be first also. After much discussion [in the local bar], it was agreed that they would all go together. There was also a small crew in a whale boat that was to tag along and film the adventure. He described the 200 mile paddle up the Alaskan coast to their starting point. There were problems with fog and sea ice. Once they reached the nearest village to their starting point they waited for a good weather prediction. Once they could expect three days with no fog, they headed out for the international boundary.

Very soon fog overtook them. They missed the island group that was their first goal. They finally got a sighting and realized their error. They struggled against the current to get back. Some had to be rescued by the film crew and some made it on their own. They lost a lot of their passports and visas. They were detained by the Russian garrison on the island for several days. Eventually they were released and allowed to continue only to be harassed by the Russian Coast Guard. Eventually they reached shore and completed their desired crossing. Then they had to find their way across the Soviet Union to Moscow and a plane ride home. It was quite an adventure.

Just before dinner staff member Patricia gave a presentation on behalf of the Save the Albatross campaign. Hugh numbers of Albatross are killed each year by the long-line fishing fleets. Because the ships dump tons of offal into the sea they attract swarms of sea birds looking for an easy meal. The Albatross see the fishing bait as more food and they swallow it while it is still on or near the surface. Once hooked, they are dragged down by the weighted lines and drowned.

As a result of the environmentalists’ campaign, several countries have required changes to fishing practices. This has greatly reduced the number of birds killed in their waters. Unfortunately, many countries have not yet adopted the new regulations and others that have adopted them can’t afford to enforce them. Thus the campaign continues and they need our help.

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