Thursday, April 30, 2009
Just behind where I'm standing on the dock is a truck that travelled two hours from Portland. The company's name is Northwest Underwater Construction, LLC, and they'd brought a diver used to working with heavy objects under water, along with their communications technicians. You'll probably have to click on the photo to enlarge it. The bound red and green cables running into the picture from the foreground and coiling at the edge of the deck are the diver's communication to the truck, including his air line, camera feed, light, and voice communication. Inside the truck are the air tanks, some dial-type monitors for the diver, and a video monitor receiving a picture from under water. They communicated from the truck to the ships with walkie-talkies, and you can see one guy using his hand-held on the right of the photo. Those of us near the truck could hear them talking. I remember the diver saying the plane was on its back and they'd have to flip it before they brought it up, an operation that took some coordinating. There was also a guy in the truck with a clipboard recording notes on a chart.
The guy in the white hard-hat just in front of the crane is giving hand signals to the crane operator, and has been doing that since the lines first went down to secure the plane. Men on both decks are, of course talking about how best to make everything work. On the periphery, there's a Sheriff's boat and probably a small Coast Guard boat hovering near with radios.
There's some interesting non-human visual communication, too. The black and yellow stripes are saying, "This is the edge of the ship - you know what will happen if you get too close!" And the men's hard-hats and bright vests are telling the onlookers, "This is a danger area. Keep out." The buoys in the river tell ships where the shipping lane ends.
By the way, the man in the dark blue clothing and white hat in the center is the pilot who crashed. His mother and brother are on one of the high lookout points of the ship, and another relative is standing in the diver's truck to keep tabs on the action. Throughout the salvage, the pilot is talking to everyone and gesturing to his family.
Just because we need a little more communication here, when the plane was lifted out of the water, my zoom lens revealed that two headsets for the plane were dangling out of the door, attached together and to the plane by wires. They were dripping wet, and were probably the only communication devices that were not busy today.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
With this link you can see other participants in Watery Wednesday.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Ruby Tuesday gave me an excuse to use this cool dumpster photo. Maybe tomorrow I'll post the boats!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
After my first two photos on this blog, I had intended to post a placid picture of the Astoria waterfront, or to show what downtown Astoria looks like. But yesterday afternoon there was an event that takes precedence. I was working in my office on the river, when Laurel called, stumbling over her words. "Right outside your place, we saw a plane crash. I'm not kidding, it's for real. Get out there - take your camera." She and her friend had been looking out the window of her place halfway up the Astoria hill, when she saw a light plane crash into the river about two blocks from where she figured I would be - in the office. I grabbed my camera and trotted the block down to the Maritime Museum - the other block's distance was aquatic. From the bank, I started taking photos. As it turned out, I was the first on scene with a camera, and the only one to capture photos of the people on the plane. It's worth blowing up the photo. You can see them standing hip-deep in water before they were pulled onto the rescue boat. I stayed around and took pictures of the plane as it floated to shore and the Coastguard tried to figure out what to do with it. The people had been taken to the hospital, and reports back at the waterfront were that they were both OK. As it turned out, the occupants of the plane were former Astoria Mayor Edith Henningsgaard Miller and her son, pilot Bill Henningsgaard, a retired Microsoft executive from Seattle. You can read the article in the Daily Astorian online. (After today, you may need to use the search box on the left, and since the paper's site sometimes requires a subscription, you may need to look it up on Google.) I didn't even realize that I had the survivors in my photo! The wind was blowing my hair into my face, the sun was in my eyes, and the focus wasn't set so I could see what I was shooting. I knew the Astorian was looking for pix of the people, but I didn't know I had them, so I stayed for quite awhile with the small crowd in the cold wind. The the pilot boat took off, carrying the survivors to the ambulance a couple blocks away at the pilot boat dock; the pilots had seen the plane coming down and dashed into the river to help. We see pilot boats jetting into the river every day, and they're good at getting places fast. The plane's pilot apparently knew he had a problem with the engine, and was looking for a comparatively safe place to put it down. The plane crash-landed just a few hundred yards upriver from the Maritime Museum where two Coast Guard ships were in dock, and only a few hundred yards (or less) from shore. They were picked up virtually at the crash site, and once the boat had sped away, the plane drifted nose-down in in the river with only the tail and three, then two, windows and a fraction of the wing out of water, coming to rest - unbelievably - just exactly amidships of a Coast Guard ship equipped with a crane for hauling buoys and other objects out of the Columbia River's deadly currents. The crew on the ship roped the plane, and with the help of a Sheriff's boat and a small Coast Guard boat, hauled the plane around to the bow of the ship. I'm not sure what they planned to to with it there, but soon they dragged it back to the side of the bar tender (the bigger ship) and held it there. In awhile, they announced that they were going to haul the plane onboard, and because there was a fuel leak, they called for all lights to be turned off, and they set about moving the piles of gigantic chains with the onboard crane. At this point, all we could see of the tied-up plane was a tip of the tail, rising like a shark's fin just beyond the river-side of the bar tender. At that point the small crowd anticipated getting to watch the unusual spectacle of a plane being hefted out of the water and onto the ship (and what a ringside seat we had, too!), but there was clearly a delay, because the Coast Guard men and women began to appear with snacks and drinks in hand and started waiting it out on the deck and in the cabins. Slowly the crowd dispersed, and I haven't seen the plane again. We went back later in the evening after the Crab and Seafood Festival. The bright lights were on, but the ship's deck was empty. Steve had suggested earlier there would probably be another ship to take the plane to Tongue Point, just up the river, where they have facilities to lift and work with extremely heavy objects.
Water rescues are indeed one of the major faces of this town, although they usually take place out of site of most of us. And Astoria has always had a military component from the moment the location was discovered by Lewis and Clark. Today many Coast Guard personnel are stationed here and comprise a part of Astoria's working waterfront along with fishing, shipping, oil cleanup, marine exploration, cable-laying, ship docking, marine and riverine biology, and other aspects I'll learn more about as I progress with this blog. I simply hadn't expected to get into these facets of the town with a dramatic example so early in the blog! By the way, the hills on the other side of the river are the state of Washington.
I've now put the story in pictures on my personal blog along with a description of the photos. Or, you can check out even more photos in my Picasa web album. Here's a link to the first picture. You can click through for the story if you'd like.