“Working at sea is harder than working in space”. It’s a phrase commonly used by marine scientists and one that certainly seems true today, of course when you are working hundreds of miles from land in all weather and taking incredibly complex pieces of equipment to three thousand metres below sea level, it is also not surprising. In the early hours of this morning we launched Isis dive 86, unfortunately 45 minutes into it’s decent a squeaky, crunching sound indicated that we had developed a problem with one of the winch sprocket wheels.
The sprocket wheel is a metal disk around which the winch chain runs. As it turns a series of notches grip the chain and drive the winch. In our case the wheel had become worn and this means that rather than running smoothly, the chain slips against it and it is unable to do its job.
While this is nobody's fault, it has disabled Isis and, as we don’t have a spare on board, this means a trip back to port. Luckily, we are only two days passage from the Azores so wont loose too much time.
We had planned to do another MAPR survey before heading off, but as there was a storm coming in it was decided that once the MAPRs were recovered we would head for the Azores. We should arrive on Wednesday morning.
Part of the massive Isis winch system.