Thursday, February 2, 2017

Fixing the winch, the never-ending saga

February 2

Today I had a short night as the CTD station was planned for 5 AM. I woke up around 3 AM to take a water sample, only to learn that Irina stayed up catching snow and already took the sample for me. (Thank you!!!) I got up anyway just to check our ETA at the CTD station and I was rewarded with a view of tabular iceberg coming out of the fog:
As much as I do not like waking up too early, the iceberg made it tolerable. Plus, it is always easier to wake up during the polar day. And as long as I am preparing to sample water from the CTD now, I thought I would tell a little story that has kept me busy for quite some time.
A little background:

Part of our work involves putting instruments into the water to get information about the water masses, collect water samples for analysis on board and back on land. For the profile we use the instrument called CTD (stands for conductivity, temperature, depth – what it measures) and we also have quite a suite of other instruments measuring optics, chemistry, current speeds and so on. All the instruments are attached on a rosette together with niskin bottles that collect water.
Water bottles are closed at certain depths – hence we collect water from different water masses throughout the column.

The winch story:
To pull the rosette up and down we use the winch controlled by the computer built into the winch stand. In the middle of leg one, several winches started acting out – rebooting themselves, not listening to operator’s commands and so on. As if the software expired and needed an upgrade or something like that. I talked to the crew guys, who were very frustrated with the winch behavior, and the operation “get the new version of the software” started. I enlisted the help of Carles, our systems administrator on board. Carles is absolutely wonderful, he is the reason we now have working e-mail and he was instrumental in making many instruments run smoothly. Carles and I went to the winch computer with Artem and Yuri from the crew (who sometimes operate the winch) trying to see if we can get answers without remote support, but concluded that we need to contact the distributing company:
So Carles and I started calling the company, who installed the winches, asking them many questions on how to solve our weird problems. Carles also e-mailed them several times asking for a new version of the software and we finally got it (I have to say it took way longer than it should have, as the tech support people were quite reluctant to give the software away and quite clueless on why we are having issues). Anyhow, we finally got the software updated.
Unfortunately, only a few problems got solved with the software update. We are now going in circles talking to tech support. The winch appears to be working, but sometimes it still gets confused on which way the cable-runner should be going next and the cable is not aligned as perfectly as it should. I have to say though that the crew working the winch are great sport, even now in cold and rather miserable conditions they keep the spirits up and run the semi-workable winches to the best of their ability so we can collect our profiles and water samples.

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