Transcript for The Voyage of the Lee, segment 02 of 21


It is mid February, nineteen eighty-four. This is what the bottom of the world looks like from the forward deck of the research vessel Samuel P. Lee.

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The S. P. Lee, as she is called, has traveled many thousands of miles on many voyages in the service of the United States Geological Survey, but she has never ventured on a mission quite like this, to spend a full year at sea exploring the Pacific from pole to pole. Never before has the Branch of Marine Geology attempted such an ambitious program. Never before has a U. S. G. S. vessel ventured so far from home for so long a time. The scientists call this Operation Deep Sweep to search for sources of energy and minerals in the ocean's depths. It will take twelve long months at sea. Now on this raw February day, making only two knots in heavy seas under leaden skies, the Lee and her crew of scientists, technicians, and sailors is steaming slowly through the frigid waters of the Antarctic. The water temperature - thirty-two degrees. On deck the thermometer hovers at twenty-five degrees, and the fifty knot wind makes it feel like thirty below zero. It is the kind of day where salt water spray freezes instantly on whiskers. Here in this icy wilderness far below the Southern Cross, far to the south of the Antarctic Circle, south of the south magnetic pole, the Lee moves cautiously through the Indian Ocean, offshore of a foreboding treeless territory called Wilkes Land.