Transcript for The Voyage of the Lee, segment 11 of 21


It is during this time - no one is sure exactly when - that, while the maneuvering procedure is taking place, the propeller or the rudder of the Lee is damaged by pack ice.

Scientists going off duty mention the possibility of damage to the oncoming team, but the trouble does not become pronounced until days later when the Lee is far away from the base on a survey of the Ross Sea. The Lee presses on, its crew hardly suspecting that the damage is more serious than they realize.

It is not the only trouble for the Lee. Sometime around February fourth the vessel's two mile long hydrophone streamer is snared by an iceberg drifting in forty knot winds. The berg hooks the streamer's tail buoys, and the forward momentum of the ship slices off the cable at the stern of the vessel. The four-inch streamer cable is torn apart in a matter of seconds, and before the captain can reverse the engines, more than half a million dollars of sophisticated electrical gear has disappeared beneath the waves. Watching from the Lee's fantail, stunned scientists try to catch a glimpse of where the streamer has disappeared but are unable to locate the sinking cable in the murky water. Captain McClenaghan reacts immediately. In the choppy seas he orders the Lee brought about and within thirty minutes returns to the approximate location where the line vanished in the water. An element of luck is riding with the Lee this day. As the ship arrives back at the original location, some of the scientists lining the rails are able to spot two white tail buoys only twice the size of basketballs and still connected to the streamer dropped from the edge of an iceberg. The buoys must have been snagged on the berg's jagged edge just as the line was disappearing underwater. Had the Lee arrived a minute or two later, the buoys also would have disappeared, and the streamer cable would have been gone for good. Now there is a real chance for recovery. Within minutes the Lee has moved close enough to the iceberg for scientists to snare the buoys and begin retracting the streamer. Had the cable been completely lost, Operation Deep Sweep might well have been canceled. Spare material is carried aboard the Lee but not enough to help replace the two-mile-long streamer and all of its electronics. As it is, many of the cable's hydrophones are crushed in the accident, and the remainder of the expedition is hampered by the damaged equipment, much of which had plunged to the bottom of the Ross Sea.