Episode 13 - A bad day at work is better than a good day in hell.

I don't want to hear another word about lack of equipment, make a list! - And we did it. In addition to obvious items like new socks, night vision goggles and more appetizing rations, we also asked for some far fetched gear: a search dog, a movie projector and a deep submergence vehicle. Unfortunately we didn't get most of the stuff, but for our surprise Friday afternoon Captain Schneider dropped our night vision goggles and a robot submarine. The sub came from the Deep Ocean Exploration Institute (DOEI) as a request from Professor Evgeny. It's called Argo 3, an Autonomous Benthic Explorer (ABE). The mini-sub is a true robot, able to move on its own with no remote controls, designed to perform a predetermined set of maneuvers to take photographs and collect data and samples within an area about the size of a city block. - This way we can keep a third eye in the pond and on it's contents - said the Professor. Looking at it, you can tell the poor robot sub has seen better days. It's hull has black and grey stains, probably from being used at a oil spill at a petrol platform in the Gulf of Mexico. As usual, after breakfast Ben and I made our way to the pond for our morning patrol. This time Dr. Johnson came with us to check on his trap. Roy brought his diving suit so we could change the bait in the trap: we had a nasty rat we found in the pantry tent. Lately, our camp turned into a shelter for small animals. With bitterly cold weather, our heated tents became very inviting to the resident creatures of the Mulberry Ridge. Beside the rats, we're also finding snakes under the tent liners. But there was something special about this morning. After receiving instructions from the Professor I brought Argo 3, the mini-sub, in my backpack for a test dive. It was a crisp morning. The Mulberry Mountain had a hazy look at daybreak with the wind blowing the snow from its rocky top. The aroma of pine wood these early fall mornings always gives me a comfortable satisfied feeling of serenity. - We got something! There's something in the trap! - yelled Ben upon our arrival at the pond. Dr. Johnson started to run towards the trap, he was so excited he ended up falling in the pond. While I watched from a distance, the two men managed to bring the trap to shallow waters. When I finally reached them I could see disappointment in their faces. When I looked inside the trap I found out why. A fish. A big fish. Nothing else. Deciding to make the best out of the situation, Dr. Johnson resolved to perform a couple of tests on the poor trapped fellow. - Alright Harris, just make an incision starting at the pelvic fins, then all the way to the back vent. - said Dr. Johnson, like I was some sort of surgeon. I felt sick. The fish's intestines flopped down to the side of the rock being used as a table. Dr. Johnson then collected some tissue samples and then he noticed the large bump on top of the fish's head. He said - That's bizarre, I better have this examined at the EPA lab in Montgomery, Alabama - He quickly took the knife out of my hands and cut the entire head off. - Looks like we're going to have a pick up for the pretty lady - said Dr. Johnson refering to our pilot, Captain Schneider. Since the fish was much larger than the rat we brought from base camp, we chose to use it as bait, as we put the trap back in the water. Taking advantage of the shallow shore, I decided to check the condition of the mini-sub rotors. It was a disaster. The left propeller came loose after only a few cycles. I even had to borrow Ben's scuba goggles to find it under the water. Frustrating day. I want new socks.

by Corporal John Harris, December 01, 2005