Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Acid spill

January 24

Today we hit the roughest sea so far. I am actually not a good judge of whether this storm is worse than the one we hit right after leaving Cape Town. I got sick the first day of leg 1, but I am doing ok today. I think being at sea for a while is definitely helping - we have quite a few people down now. I even had to call the doctor for some of them and help to translate. Not that there is much a doctor can do - the sea will no stop rolling after the doctor's orders.
We did have some unexpected action today though. I was sitting in the CTD dry lab working on my data, when someone told me that there was an acid spill in the wet lab (next door) and suggested I call the bridge and also get the hell out of there. I called the bridge and asked them for help.
It turned out there was a 3L 40% concentration glass bottle of muriatic acid (HCl) on a shelf. It was not secured as well as it should have been, it was in a carton pocket behind a glass in a cabinet. However, someone opened the glass of the cabinet unknowingly and the 3L bottle somehow managed to escape the carton box and crash on to the floor. Did I say we have been rolling a lot?
Anyhow, after I called he bridge and told them that the situation is serious, I was really surprised at their reaction. At least 8 people showed up, they brought respirators with compressed air and two guys (boatswain and Seaman) went in to clean up the spill.
They also brought baking soda to neutralize it, we opened the doors to ventilate and in 20 minutes the worst was over. After it was relatively safe to come in, our chief scientist, one other PI and I spent some time cleaning the rest of the room to make sure it is workable.
I am really grateful to the crew for reacting so fast and for willing to face dangerous situation without any hesitation. They are my heroes!

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