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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Say it again

Raising the plane from the Columbia River The Thursday Challenge is "communication," and I only hope I can describe the layers of it going on here. I took the photo last Saturday, and the objective is to raise the light plane from the river bottom, where it settled on Friday night after it crashed. What you see is the deck of a Coast Guard ship in the foreground, the plane being lifted out of the water in the center, and a barge with a crane on it behind the plane. About fifty people had gathered in the rain to watch the plane come up or were here in an official capacity. We can't see them in this photo, but there were two TV cameras to my right, and people all over the place with still cameras, cell phones and camera phones, and of course, they are all talking to each other, too. Lee was carrying on a long conversation with someone he hadn't seen in awhile. I don't know what everyone else was doing with their cell phones, but I was texting Laurel to let her know the plane was coming up, and I was also getting e-mail and a bunch of blog and news alerts I'd activated the other day through Google (crazy, huh?).

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.


Bubblewench said...

What great connections to that event and photo!

James said...

It looks like the guy in the white hard hat is saying "can you hear me now?"
Excellent photographic capture of communication.

tapirgal said...

For the first part of the operation, the guy in the white hat directly in front of the crane was standing way over towards the right of the photo. You could see him gesturing, and there's no way the crane operator could have heard him. They really had it down. I don't know why they didn't have voice communications, but they seemed comfortable with this. It probably goes on all the time on construction sites. I expect it's like sign language and they know all the moves. We could understand some of them. Thanks for stopping by!

Lynette said...

Superb, outta sight! What a great post!

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