Transcript for The Voyage of the Lee, segment 12 of 21


In the excitement the problem with the rudder or the propeller has been ignored, but once the rescue mission is completed, the continuing vibration from the rudder shaft becomes a new subject of concern. It can be felt throughout the ship, but by now the Lee is many days away from McMurdo base. The one ship which can provide assistance, the icebreaker Polar Sea, is nowhere near. Captain McClenaghan believes his vessel can continue safely through the Antarctic, but he is concerned about proceeding north through higher latitudes, an area known for severe gales where the loss of steerage could be dangerous to the Lee and all onboard. The only way to be sure about the extent of the damage is to make an underwater inspection. As master of the vessel, McClenaghan makes the difficult decision that, despite the water temperature and the pounding waves, he will go over the side in a wet suit and an air pack for a close-up examination of the rudder and the prop. With the Lee's stern pitching in the heavy seas, one mistake and the captain could be swept under tons of steel. Co-Chief scientist Alan Cooper is one of those watching as McClenaghan begins his descent.

The weather out here is bitterly cold. We're below temperatures about the twenties, wind chill factor probably down below zero, minus seventeen or so. The captain now needs to go down and take a look at a vibration at the rudder to check out the cause of a vibration that we've been feeling throughout the ship over the past week to determine whether the vibration is in the rudder or maybe in, is the screw. The crew is now checking the air tank to be sure that it is operating properly, turning around and making adjustments to get the regulator to come out so that the captain can use it. Chief May is now holding to one of the tag lines. The captain is now hanging onto the rope ladder. The crane is swinging him out over the stern of the ship. In a minute they'll begin lowering him down into the water. The wind is still howling through at about twenty knots. The ship is surging up and down about three to four feet as the captain is being lowered into the frigid waters of the Ross Sea. Again, the lines are laid out carefully so that the captain doesn't bang into the ship or get twisted around.

The captain is now in the water, disappearing out of sight. A little bit of hand can be seen over the top, now in the water but divers standing by. The rest of the crew is out inspecting the rear end of the ship now, watching as the captain is in the water. It's been about two minutes - no sign, just watching very carefully, taking pictures, looking at the cold water. The cold water is part of the problem that the captain is facing, but maybe even more so is the surging of the ship, the upward and downward motion of about five to six feet now. If the captain is underneath the rudder and the ship goes up and comes smashing down again, he has to get out of the way to prevent being hit by the rudder coming down on top of him. We're just coming up now. The captain is emerging from the water. We see him looking very cold sitting on the ladder, and now he's ready to be pulled in. We'll soon get a report.

Well, after inspecting the rudder or the propeller I couldn't find any signs of obvious damage. I checked as well as I could the areas where the bearings were, and because of the ship's movement, I wasn't able to use the feeler gauge to actually measure it, but I couldn't see any signs of abnormal damage or anything out of the unusual. For the ship not being in dry dock for over two years, the bottom is very clean, and the zincs are in good condition so, all in all, it looks pretty good down below.

Did you have any problems with the ship surge or the cold down there?

Well, the ship surge was my major problem, the fact that the ship was going up and down about six to eight feet. I couldn't really get in close to work. I had a - it drove as it passed by me. The cold was not my major concern at the time. It was the ship going up and down so that was about the major problem.