July 6, 2008 – Sunday – What to do? Adapt!

By Toni Carrell

Little did I think when I got up this morning that in a few hours I’d be on a plane to Grand Turk. The past week, indeed the past 48 hours, have been filled with uncertainty. It all started last week on Grand Turk (GDT) when the container we planned to use to pre-position our equipment on Provo was a no show. Or more accurately, for reasons beyond anyone’s control, the ship that was to take the container to Provo was a no show.

It was a definite set back, but not a deal breaker. We’re used to thinking on our feet and adapting. The alternate plan was simple – we would board the Turks & Cacios Explorer II (TCExII) and motor to GDT and pick up our gear. Easy right?

That was before the winds and Tropical Storm Bertha entered the picture. The preceding several days have been very windy and our Captain Jean-Francois Chabot (JF) said this wasn’t that unusual, but these winds are coming directly out of the East and to get to Grand Turk we would be forced to confront them head on. That would translate into a very rough crossing — like riding a bucking bronco on a roller coaster. To make matters worse, the wind would mean making a tricky maneuver to exit the protected confines of the marina where we are moored.

The only good news is that North West Point, the location where the two US Navy ships wrecked, is actually protected. So early this morning with a cooler of food and water, our intrepid SEARCH mag team (Jason and Michael), along with Robert Krieble and his boat, set out to begin their survey. If they can locate some magnetic targets, tomorrow we can send divers out to begin checking them out.

Part of that process is to use GPS handheld units to go back to the target locations and begin photo and mapping documentation. That, of course, requires us to have our GPS units, photo and mapping gear, which is all marooned on GDT. What to do? Adapt! Send someone to GDT to get the basics of what we need to keep the expedition moving. So that is how I ended up at the Sky King desk happy to catch the 10:45 am flight to GDT.

Twenty minutes later, I was walking off the plane and Neal Hitch, the director of the Turks & Caicos National Museum, was waiting with the museum truck. One foot locker, one backpack, and two duffel bags later, we were back at the airport. The normally tranquil airport was hopping, the flights were full and even standby wasn’t an option. Fortunately, Air Turks & Caicos had space on their 3 pm flight, but I could only take one bag. The rest would have to come on the 4 pm flight. At 4:30 the 4 pm flight pulled in and Jen, from TCExII, gathered me and my bags up and we were off to the ship.

So what about Bertha? Well, if it weakens it is likely to skirt the islands, causing rain and really rough seas for several days this coming week. That means no work on the completely exposed coast of East Caicos and no trip across the bank to GDT. If it strengthens, it should veer north and wreck havoc (or at least a lot of rain) on the Eastern US. I am hoping for it getting stronger – sorry Eastern US. In 2004 we lost nearly half our time to Hurricane Frances. In 2006 we suffered with rough seas the whole time. Already in 2008 we have had both and we haven’t even left the dock!

In the meantime, we will take advantage of the protection offered by North West Point and begin our search for the US Navy ships – especially now that we have all our mapping gear.

The only thing more interesting and challenging than a maritime archaeology expedition is . . . well I’m not sure I know, and I know I don’t want to find out.