Category Archives: GULF OF MEXICO

A Collection of Reflections on the Water; a New Day has Begun

Cotton Candy Sunset; Gulf of Mexico; Polar Sea 07.2008

After the storms had come and went and the darkness had turned to gray, beautiful sunsets were formed. Some of the best daylight skies during my time on the Polar Sea in the Gulf of Mexico– “Embark to the Polar Sea; a Closer Approach to Hurricane Season,” are displayed below.

Sometimes in the darkest times in our lives, a window of light will create the most memorable and inspirational moment in our lives. After the tragedy that struck hundreds of Americans, hope was exactly what they needed. I do not know what is more striking than a vibrant colored sunset overlooking the majestic beauty of mothernature.
I have collaborated my favorite sunsets during the weathering of the storms in the Gulf of Mexico of 2008. In addition, I have added a few shots of the sky before hurricanes consumed the water beneath our feet.
All of these photographs were taken in the Gulf of Mexico and are categorized within the month that I captured them. 
An assortment of my favorite reflections over the summer months:



August is a representation of a pre-hurricane driven sky. While, September is a display of a rainbow through the Polar Sea.

The Manifestation of Hurricane Katrina; the Killing Machine

Hurricane Katrina En Route in Louisiana; 08.2005
I want to dedicate this post to a city that is truly loved and will never be forgotten.  The spirit of what we perceive as New Orleans lives in the hearts of the people, in the music, art, history, and within the memories of those who have passed due to Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. The hope and faith that New Orleans needs will be restored. Future generations will always maintain the savoir-faire of the City of New Orleans. The present is just another page in New Orleans’s history. New Orleaners will each carry the sights and scenes and music of the city as they knew it.
Military Official Overlooking Flooded New Orleans at Sunset; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005
The summer of 2008 in the Gulf of Mexico was a long period of hurricanes and tropical storms. I remember on the Polar Sea that several of the crew members and I had a discussion about Hurricane Katrina.  After surviving a hodgepodge of natural disasters, I had time to reflect on those that had lost their lives and suffered a loss greater than I could have ever imagined – “Independence Day; Hurricane Season Galvanized.”
After 2005 when Hurricane Katrina had hit, I discovered on all of my projects working in the Gulf of Mexico, that the topic “Hurricane Katrina” lingered on everyone’s tongues. Whether I met some gentlemen from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and even Florida; this horrific event was still on everyone’s mind. I recall some in-depth conversations with a few of my colleagues working on the Geco Snapper – “5 Best Flashbacks on the Geco Snapper; a Dedication to a Late Friend.”

I decided to complete a little further research on this hurricane and shine some light on the events of Hurricane Katrina.

Helicopter Pilots Searching for Bodies; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005
My Emotional Response to the Reconstruction of the Beautiful City of New Orleans:

New Orleans, throughout her illustrious history, has withstood hurricanes, fire, and plague. She is a city with a warm and open heart; that heart, her courage, her endurance, her vitality, and her importance to this nation are still there always will be there. All you need to do is visit and you will view her inner beauty, just as I have. I felt the warmness of the residents of New Orleans during my last visit there, few years after Hurricane Katrina had hit.

I felt the city’s vivacity through her life, the music, the food, and the soul of the city; which in result have helped the residents and New Orleans lovers unearth the necessary healing that is needed both externally and internally.

Hurricane Katrina Created:

Hurricane Katrina was caused by the intervention of a dissipating storm south of the Bahamas known as Tropical Depression Ten and another tropical wave.  This reaction created a tropical storm on August 23, 2005.
Flooding in Louisiana; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005
Timeline of Hurricane Katrina:
Hurricane Katrina’s Peak Intensity; 08.2005
On Tuesday, August 23, 2005 a storm located near the south of the Bahamas called Tropical Depression Ten reacted with a tropical wave creating an intense tropical storm. Hurricane Katrina formed as Tropical Depression Twelve over the southeastern Bahamas.

On Wednesday, August 24, 2005, a tropical storm rising in the Caribbean was named Katrina. The system was upgraded to tropical storm status on the morning of August 24th and at this point, the storm was given the name Katrina. The tropical storm continued to move towards Florida, and became a hurricane only two hours before it made landfall between Hallandale Beach and Aventura, Florida on the morning of August 25th. The storm weakened over land, but it regained hurricane status about one hour after entering the Gulf of Mexico.
Hurricane Katrina’s Path; 08.2005

On Thursday, August 25th, a day later, the tropical storm grew to the size of a hurricane.  Later that day, Katrina made the shore of the east coast of Florida killing four people and leaving about 1,000,000 Floridians without power.

The storm was expected to hit the Florida panhandle next, while it was traveling at tremendous speed through the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The storm rapidly intensified after entering the Gulf, growing from a Category 3 hurricane to a Category 5 hurricane in just nine hours. This rapid growth was due to the storm’s movement over the “unusually warm” waters of the Loop Current, which increased wind speeds.

On Friday, August 26th, Katrina had grown from a category 1 hurricane (the least intense) to a category 2, and it had doubled in size from Wednesday. Later that day, the next projected landfall of Katrina was to the left of the Florida panhandle, planning to hit Mississippi and Alabama.
Residents Scurrying through Water; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005
On Saturday, August 27th, Katrina grew to a category 3 hurricane in the middle of the night.  The path of the hurricane switched and was projected to hit New Orleans. The storm reached Category 3 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, becoming the third major hurricane of the season.

An eye wall replacement cycle disrupted the intensification, but caused the storm to nearly double in size. Katrina again rapidly intensified, attaining Category 5 status on the morning of August 28 and reached its peak strength at 1:00 p.m. CDT that day, with maximum sustained winds of 175 mph (280 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 902 mbar.

The pressure measurement made Katrina the fourth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record at the time, only to be surpassed by Hurricanes Rita and Wilma later in the season; it was also the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico at the time (a record also later broken by Rita).

RV and Houses Submerged in Water; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005

On Sunday, August 28th, Katrina was upgraded to a category 4 hurricane during the night, with winds that exceeding 145 mph. That morning Katrina grew to a category 5, which is the most catastrophic of all hurricanes.

On Monday, August 29, 2005 Katrina made landfall in Mississippi and Louisiana where levees were being breached and the city began to flood. Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 125 mph (205 km/h) near Buras-Triumph, Louisiana.

At landfall, hurricane-force winds extended outward 120 miles (190 km) from the center and the storm’s central pressure was 920 mbar. After moving over southeastern Louisiana and Breton Sound, it made its third landfall near the Louisiana/Mississippi border with 120mph (195 km/h) sustained winds, still at Category 3 intensity.

Flooded City Streets; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005

Katrina maintained strength well into Mississippi, finally losing hurricane strength more than 150 miles (240 km) inland near Meridian, Mississippi. It was downgraded to a tropical depression near Clarksville, Tennessee, but its remnants were last distinguishable in the eastern Great Lakes region on August 31st, when it was absorbed by a frontal boundary. The resulting extra tropical storm moved rapidly to the northeast and affected eastern Canada.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the five deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States. It was the sixth-strongest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded and the third-strongest hurricane on record that made landfall in the United States.

Katrina formed on August 23rd during the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season and caused devastation along much of the north-central Gulf Coast. The most severe loss of life and property damage occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed; in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland. 

Rescuers to Assist on Rooftop; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005

Broken Records:

The hurricane caused severe destruction across the entire Mississippi coast and into Alabama, as far as 100 miles (160 km) from the storm’s center. In the 2005 Atlantic season, Katrina was the eleventh tropical storm, fifth hurricane, third major hurricane, and second Category 5 hurricane.

Hurricane Katrina … was the costliest hurricane, as well as one of the five deadliest, in the history of the United States. Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall.

Katrina was the costliest storm in United States history – with amounts over $81.2 billion.  The death toll was over 1,836.
Military Official Frowing upon Flooded City; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005

Emotional Impact on a Family:
After reviewing previous articles on Hurricane Katrina, I believe that this one family summed up this horrific event perfectly:
“There are no words for the shock felt when walking back to your dream home or what you have given your entire life for – to see it washed away and devastated wind and water of a deadly storm.  Power so great makes you feel so small and so helpless … yet the strength of a people to start over just to survive … one family at a time.”

Writing for Help on Rooftops; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005

Physical Damage (My Personal Encounter):
While en route to mobilizing on the Viking Vision – “Helicopter Ride to Viking Vision; the Quest for Sperm Whales,” I had the opportunity to explore New Orleans, Louisiana for a few days. As I made my way to the usual Margarita joint that I visited every time I came to New Orleans, I noticed a large bump in the middle of the street.
This was not your typical bump caused by a small event, but this was evidence of the most recent Hurricane that took the South by surprise – Hurricane Katrina. As I glanced around the crossroads, I noticed several large bumps strategically placed in the middle of the streets.
As I crossed the street to the Margarita place, I felt the rigidness of the road squishing beneath my flip flops. This was truly uncomfortable to walk on; several large patches of road seemed to intertwine with the oncoming traffic lane.

Boats on Bridge; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005

One thing was for sure; the wrath of Hurricane Katrina was still left behind and created an uncomfortable zone of traffic flow.
The surface rock indentations on the road proved that a greater power than we could have ever imagined crossing our paths took this particular ‘party’ city by one large horrific storm. The storm may have passed, but the damage still lingers. Hurricane Katrina left her footprints all over New Orleans!
Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast, destroying lives, leveling homes, and leaving thousands of survivors with the same story: We lost everything.

Inspiration Corner:
“A Momma’s Love: One woman’s journey through hell to find her son” –
“Hurricane Katrina: Story from a Survivor” –
Photographs were collaborated from different websites and all were taken by CNN reporters

Dead End; Hurricane Katrina 08.2005

Independence Day; Hurricane Season Galvanized

Storm Brewing; Hurricane Bertha; Gulf of Mexico, Polar Sea 07.2008

The first encounter that I had with a hurricane was named, “Hurricane Bertha.” It was July 3rd on the ship and I was not able to spend my 4th of July at home with my friends and family. Instead I was on a ship with 2-3 Americans, including myself and most of the crew I had to explain what the 4th of July symbolized.

Hurricane Bertha’s Presence Amongst Us; Gulf of Mexico, Polar Sea 07.2008

For those who are not American, I will briefly explain what the representation of the 4th of July is and the significance that it conceals. The 4th of July is also known as The Fourth of July, The Glorious Fourth, and the Fourth.

When I was in grade school, I remember learning about John Adams and his influence on the 4th of July national American holiday. John Adams had written a letter to his wife Abigail discussing the significance of freedom against the war.

My classmates and I read his note in a History lesson; afterwards the whole class became silent for a minute. We all asked our teacher, “How did he know that this life-changing event would be an American tradition that would be celebrated every year?” Better yet, “How did he guess the exact month when this would occur?”
On the morning of July 3rd on the Polar Sea, I spent a few minutes and re-read the letter that John Adams had given to his wife Abigail. The letter concluded, The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”

Calm Before the Storm; Hurricane Ike; Gulf of Mexico, Polar Sea 09.2008

Though his prediction was only off by two days, I still remember being impressed with his ability to project when Independence Day would be celebrated. Even as a small child, I had a lot of respect for our presidents and looked up to them. After I read this letter I remembered how I felt that particular day when I first read his note.

I remember wondering if John Adams expectations were met on how we presently celebrate this national holiday tradition? John Adams has led me into this next discussion on the reflection of truth behind” Independence Day.”
Without furthering into too many more details, the significance of July 4th is that the United States commerated the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.

A critical point of evidence, which will remind us that all these differences can be overcome, is the cooperative and friendly relationship and camaraderie that the United States and Great Britain have been enjoying for many years. Those differences were very important to early Americans and Great Britain in 1776 that many risked and lost their lives over those matters at that time in history.

Today it seems strangely remote and unusual that the United States and Great Britain would be enveloped in such a great controversy, and yet it happened.

There is an important lesson here that we, too, can resolve all of our differences, and as we enjoy celebrating the 4th of July Independence Day holiday with the magnificent fireworks, tasty barbecues, traditional hot dogs, fun parades, and other symbolic events that mark the freedom and birth of our great country, we share a common goal and belief that all people are created equal and that this country is founded on the belief of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

I jotted down John Adam’s inspirational passage and kept this in my notebook for my personal expression on the upcoming holiday. That afternoon the weather conditions drastically increased.
White caps were forming visibly in the water, winds were reaching as high as 25 miles per hour (mph), and the boat, Polar Sea, was taking a substantial amount of water on her bow. Instead of thinking about BBQs, outdoor activitties, drinking Corona, and my friends and family; I was focused on how to strategically secure myself to a spot long enough where I will not fall down.

The boat was rocking violently back and forth, while the rainstorms were starting to circle. I have never been in a hurricane and thus, was unsure what to do in this typical situation. The captain and crew did keep my colleagues and me safe, but we were all very cautious when walking outside to our containers or dormitories on that evening.

Over the course of the next couple days Hurricane Bertha had begun to get more violent and more threatening to us and the world began to panic on the idea that this first hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic season may cause damage to shore.

One morning I woke up and discovered that Hurricane Bertha had become a Category 3 hurricane! Unfortunately, I found out the hard way! As I opened up my corridor to walk to the galley for my morning breakfast, I was almost blown off my feet! The crew was stating that Hurricane Bertha had reached wind speeds of 111 to 130 mph!

Hurricane Bertha’s Peak Intensity; 07.2008

If you recall from our previous discussion, hurricane winds have the ability to greatly increase in a short period of time – “Tempestuous Weather Returning; a Hurricane Question and Answer Guide.”
I met Captain Brian at the bridge and he quickly showed me the weather advisory that was just printed from the ship’s scanner. The National Hurricane Center advised that Berta was, “695 miles (1,115 km) east-northeast of the northern Leeward Islands and about 1,085 miles (1,745 km) southeast of Bermuda.

The eye was moving toward the west-northwest at about 12 mph. Its maximum sustained winds were clocked at 120 mph (195 km/hr), and it will keep rising.” With this news, he and I did not know what to say. Captain Brian has been through several hurricanes before offshore, but it does not get easier. I was particularly nervous and kept inside for the remaining of the days until Bertha dissipated on July 21ST. 

While Hurricane Bertha was stirring up many US and Caribbean residents, a few other problems occurred. Tropical Storms Cristobal and Dolly were all active on July 20th and both the storms and hurricane had created a deadly mix.

The increase in our weather conditions and the ship’s rapid movements caused us to move away from our prospect for a while. Fortunately, no one on our crew was majorly hurt; though some did have some minor bruises and sprains. My injury occurred at a later date, in one of the last hurricanes of the 2008 season (described below).

Joyously Celebrating Hurricane Bertha Dissipation; Gulf of Mexico, Polar Sea 07.2008


Personal Encounter with Hurricane Ike:
During my summer rotation offshore on the Polar Sea, I was faced with several hurricanes – Hurricane Bertha, Dolly, Gustav, Hanna, Ike, and Kyle. Tropical storms included, Cristobal, Edouard, Josephine, and Laura.

Hurricane Ike Flooding Texas; 09.2008

Before becoming active in this field, I would have never guessed that in one summer it was possible to sail through 6 hurricanes and 6 tropical storms. The hurricane and tropical storm season was all very new to me, but I learned quickly on how to protect myself and what to do in case of an emergency.

Hurricane Ike Suffocating Earth; 09.2008

One of my most traumatic moments happened in the Hurricane Ike’s presence. I was the supervisor for my second rotation on the Polar Sea, which meant that I was the leader of my other two colleagues. I have had more experience in hurricanes and tropical storms, than I cared to admit. Regardless, hurricane Ike had begun in the first week of September; this hurricane was very different from the others I was in.

Football Field Flooded; Hurricane Ike 09.2008

I remember it so vividly; I was outside taking some sunset pictures when all of the sudden the clouds darkened and the sunset was a huge black cloud. It became darkness almost instantly, without warning.  I felt this tickle down my spine, while heaps of goose bumps filled my arms and legs; I tried to see in front of my face, but struggled to see the water right below my feet.

I ran inside and told Andy, the Chief Officer, on duty that the sun fully did not set. I explained to him that it became dark in the matter of seconds. All of a sudden a voice called over the radio, “If you are at this position (stated coordinates), then you must steer away from the hurricane!”

Hurricane Ike’s Wrath; Galveston, Texas; 09.2008

Andy looked over at me and his face became pale. He uttered, “We are only 8 nautical miles away from the hurricane!” Without hesitation, he called Captain Brian and his voice was cracking each second. He managed to communicate for a few seconds to the Captain and stated, “Captain, hurricane in area.” At an instant, the Captain was on the bridge and yelling, “Emergency Evacuation Plan!”

Hurricane Ike’s Eye Straight into United States 09.2008


Puzzled I scratched my head and mumbled, “Emergency Evacuation Plan?”  I asked the crew if they needed my assistance. The Captain ultimately emphasized, “Take your colleagues to the containers and stay there until you are all advised otherwise. We will come get you once it is safe!”

Outside View of Container; Gulf of Mexico, Polar Sea 09.2008

I quickly did a mad dash to my colleague, Jill, and raced down the galley to find Halina at the table. Without taking a single breath, I confirmed “we need to be in our rooms now; big emergency, hurricane in area!”  We all three jetted towards our dorm. The wind was at 60 mph; a gust force pushing us in every direction.

Frontal View of Door Where I was Injured; Gulf of Mexico, Polar Sea 09.2008

I was the last one to get into the container, as the wind settled down for a second; I tugged at the door and opened it. The wind quickly increased yet again, which resulted in my right shoulder being pulled with the door into the railing behind me! All I felt was a tingling sensation in my shoulder and a tear slowly develop on my cheek.

Container Where I Slept; Gulf of Mexico, Polar Sea 09.2008

One of the girls dashed to the steel door and shoved me inside after I freed my hand from the door handle. The three of us remained in that container for an hour after we were instructed to stay inside. One of the gentlemen, Dorian Daniels, had come to grab us for dinner.

As we made our way into the galley, I felt a severe amount of shoulder pain. After dinner, I iced my shoulder and the girls and I took it easy for the next few days. In the end, we left the project site and went closer to Mexico.

Critters Running Loose; Hurricane Ike 09.2008

The crew knew that I fancied Corona and kept teasing me that we would have the chance to drink some when we arrived onshore in Cozumel, Mexico. We never did go onshore, but we did sail away from Hurricane Ike and stayed out of his wrath. Thankfully, he calmed down after 2 weeks and we were once safe again.

Aftermath of Hurricane Ike:
Damage from Ike is estimated at $37.6 billion of which $29.6 billion was in the US, the third most destructive U.S. hurricane on record, behind Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992. At least 195 fatalities have been blamed on Ike, of which 112 were in the United States.

Rescuers Scurry in Flooded Waters; Hurricane Ike 09.2008

It was the most destructive hurricane in Texas history. Ike was an extremely large and powerful storm. At one point, the diameter of Ike’s tropical storm and hurricane force winds were 600 and 240 miles (965 and 390 km), respectively, making Ike the largest Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Ike also had the highest Integrated Kinetic Energy (IKE) of any Atlantic storm.

IKE is a measure of storm surge destructive potential, similar to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, though it is more complex and in many ways more accurate. On a scale that ranges from 1 to 6, with 6 being highest destructive potential, Ike earned a 5.6.

I have compiled a list of all 2008 Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico Hurricane and Tropical Storm names. This list also indicated how fast the winds were spread. Additionally, the triple starred names are the ones that I was in offshore. It is important to note that Tropical Storm Fay did follow me to Miami that year and caused a lot of flooding.

Tropical Storms:

  • Artur – May 31 to June 1, 2008; 40 mph
  • Cristobal – July 18 to July 23, 2008; 65 mph***
  • Edouard – August 3 to August 5, 2008; 65 mph***
  • Fay – August 15 to August 23, 2008; 65 mph
  • Josephine – September 2 to September 6, 2008; 65 mph***
  • Laura – September 29 to October 1, 2008; 60 mph***
  • Marco – October 6 to October 8, 2008; 65 mph
  • Nana – October 12 to October 14, 2008; 40 mph
  • Bertha – July 3 to July 20, 2008; 120 mph***
  • Dolly – July 20 to July 24, 2008; 100 mph***
  • Gustav – August 25 to September 4, 2008; 150 mph***
  • Hanna – August 28 to September 7, 2008; 80 mph***
  • Ike – September 2 to September 14, 2008; 145 mph***
  • Kyle – September 26 to September 29, 2008; 80 mph***
  • Omar – October 13 to October 18, 2008; 125 mph
  • Paloma – November 5 to November 10, 2008; 145 mph*** (On different project)
Recap of Hurricane Season 2008:
The 2008 hurricane season saw the first occurrence of major hurricanes in the months of July through November. This season was also one of only nine Atlantic seasons on record to have a major hurricane form before August.

Hurricane and Tropical Storm Season 2008

This is also the first year four or more Category 4 storms have formed in a single year since 2005, which had 5, and was one of only 7 Atlantic seasons to feature a major hurricane in November.

Bertha was one of only ten major hurricanes recorded before August on record in the Atlantic basin, and was one of just six in July, as well as the first major hurricane in July since the 1926 season. At the time, it was the second strongest hurricane to hit the U.S. in July on record, behind a Storm in 1916. It was since pushed down to 4th place, behind Dennis in 2005 and Dolly in 2008.

Hurricane Dolly’s Path; 07.2008


Before affecting the Lesser Antilles as a Category 1 hurricane, Bertha was a very large storm, the size of a Category 4 storm with a tropical gale force exceeding 300 miles wide and a 150 miles wide hurricane windfield.
Damage of Each Hurricane:
Despite that our ship and crew were fine; the season was devastating for Haiti, where over 800 people were killed by four consecutive tropical cyclones (Fay, Gustav, Hanna, and Ike) in August and September.

Hurricane Ike was the most destructive storm of the season, as well as the strongest, devastating Cuba as a major hurricane and later making landfall near Galveston, Texas at Category 2 (nearly Category 3) intensity. It caused a particularly devastating storm surge along the western Gulf Coast of the United States due to in part to its large size. Hurricane Hanna was the deadliest storm of the season, killing 537 people, mostly in Haiti.

Hurricane Gustav’s Destruction; New Orleans, Louisiana 09.2008

Hurricane Gustav was another very destructive storm, causing up to $6.61 billion in damage to Haiti, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Cuba, and the U.S. Hurricane Dolly caused up to $1.35 billion in damage to south Texas and northeastern Mexico.

Hurricane Bertha was an early season Cape Verde-type hurricane that became the longest lived pre-August Atlantic tropical cyclone on record, though it caused few deaths and only minor damage.

Tropical Storm Outcome:
Other notable storms in the year included Tropical Storm Arthur, which marked the first recorded time the Atlantic saw a named storm form in May in consecutive years, Tropical Storm Fay, which became the first Atlantic tropical cyclone to make landfall in the same U.S. state on 4 separate occasions; Tropical Storm Marco, the smallest Atlantic tropical cyclone recorded since 1988, Hurricane Omar, a powerful late-season major hurricane which caused moderate damage to the ABC islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands in mid-October; and Hurricane Paloma, which became the second strongest November hurricane in recorded history and caused about $900 million in damage to the Cayman Islands and Cuba. The only storm of the season to not reach tropical storm status, Tropical Depression Sixteen, caused significant flooding in Central America which killed more than 75 people and caused at least $150 million in damages.

Tempestuous Weather Returning; a Hurricane Question and Answer Guide

Helicopter Arrival on Western Regent; Gulf of Mexico: Polar Sea 07.2008

I had arrived safely onboard the Western Regent and was thrilled to be on a hard surface in the middle of the vast ocean. I walked up two flights of stairs to reach the conference room, where most of my crew members were already waiting. I peaked around the corner to ask a young gentleman in a fire suit, “How long we were going to be in the conference room before we mobilize to the Polar Sea?”

He responded, “It will be another hour or possibly longer; we are waiting for the seas to calm down. Shortly after this, then we can launch the Fire Rescue Craft (FRC) to drop you and your crew off at the Polar Sea.”

When the gentlemen finished talking with me, he set out to fulfill his morning responsibilities. I chatted with a few of the guys for a few more minutes, until the captain of the ship came to greet us.

The Boys Coming Onboard Polar Sea; Gulf of Mexico 07.2008
The captain was a little bit shorter than me and had a small beard that seemed to fit the figure of his face. I could tell that he was pleased that we were onboard, even if it was only for a little while. He turned to my colleagues and me and asked, “Would you like to see the view from the bridge?” Of course, I automatically replied, “Most definitely!” He guided us up a few more flights of stairs to reach the bridge.
Close-view of Personnel in FRC; Gulf of Mexico 07.2008
Instantly I noticed how large the area was. I have never seen wings on the port (the left side of the ship) and starboard (the right side of the ship), where you can walk to the glass on either side and overlook the ocean right underneath your feet! This was a truly amazing experience.

Climbing Up Rope Ladder to Come Onboard Polar Sea; Gulf of Mexico 07.2008

As I was mesmerized into the waves below my feet, I heard my name being called out from behind me. I quickly turned around and recognized Jill and Carolyn, two best friends that accompanied me in a few courses that I took for my offshore training (HUET). Ironically, we have not seen each other for 6 months, but somehow in this moment we were standing on the same ship. We had a quick chat session and then I was summoned to leave.

The captain exclaimed, “The weather is getting rough; we need to get you off the boat before the seas get worse.” The boat had begun to violently rock back and forth; obviously, something big was about to happen.

The captain had arrangements for my crew and myself to quickly depart to the Polar Sea by the FRC; utilizing the FRC meant that we would be using the second method on how we are transferred to a project – “Embark to the Polar Sea; a Closer Approach to Hurricane Season.” The FRC made a mad dash twice to the Polar Sea to drop off the crew. Once onboard, my colleagues and I were requested to see the captain on the bridge.
Captain Brian of the Polar Sea; Gulf of Mexico: Polar Sea 07.2008
Captain Brian, a shaven-head and good-looking British gentleman peered around the corner of the ship’s office on the bridge. He emphasized, “The weather conditions are really increasing; additionally, there’s a hurricane that will be coming through our survey in the next few days.”

I had never seen a hurricane, let alone be in one! I was slightly nervous with this news, but I was reassured that we will be notified about the hurricane before it becomes a major threat. Though this statement made me feel a little better, I was still anxious about what was in store for the Polar Sea. 

Once I left the bridge, I had a few hours before I had to conduct visual observations of the marine mammals in the project area. Right after lunch, I had acquainted myself with the internet. I scanned articles about hurricanes and how one can define them.

I came across several sources that explained hurricanes more in depth. I spent a few extra minutes researching how warm the temperature had to be, what conditions sustain a hurricane, etc. I have included my findings below.

Meghan and I Photo Session; Gulf of Mexico: Polar Sea 07.2011

The Question and Answer Guide to Hurricanes:

1. What is a hurricane? A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds pushing 64 knots or greater.  In addition, they circulate counter-clockwise about their centers in the Northern Hemisphere. 

2. Where did the word “hurricane” originate from? Hurricane derived its name from ‘Hurican,’ who was the Carib god of evil. The legend has it that the Carib god ‘Hurican’ was derived from the Mayan god ‘Hurakan,’ one of their creator gods. This particular creator god blew his breath across the chaotic water and brought forth dry land. The breath reached the men, which destroyed their wood and summoned a great storm and flood.  

3. How are hurricanes formed?  Hurricanes are formed from simple complexes of thunderstorms. However, these thunderstorms can only grow to hurricane strength with cooperation from both the ocean and the atmosphere. First of all, the ocean water itself must be warmer than 26.5 degrees Celsius (81°F). The heat and moisture from this warm water is ultimately the source of energy for hurricanes. Hurricanes will weaken rapidly when they travel over land or colder ocean waters — locations with insufficient heat and/or moisture. 

4. What factors have to be mixed together for a hurricane?  Hurricanes start over the ocean. Related to having warm ocean water, high relative humidities in the lower and middle troposphere are also required for hurricane development. These high humidities reduce the amount of evaporation in clouds and maximize the latent heat released because there is more precipitation. The concentration of latent heat is critical to driving the system.

The vertical wind shear in a tropical cyclone’s environment is also important. Wind shear is defined as the amount of change in the wind’s direction or speed with increasing altitude. Wind shear plays a role in hurricane formation.

When the wind shear is weak, the storms that are part of the cyclone grow vertically, and the latent heat from condensation is released into the air directly above the storm, aiding in development. When there is stronger wind shear, this means that the storms become more slanted and the latent heat release is dispersed over a much larger area.

Sea Surface Temperature Map – yellow, orange, and red colors show water temperatures warm enough to sustain hurricanes (> 26.5°C)

5. When is a hurricane categorized as a “hurricane”, and not a cyclone? When wind blows at least 74 miles per hour (mph), it is defined as a hurricane.  Hurricanes can destroy what they hit with violent force. When wind and water act as a team, then nothing can stand in its way; not even a house! The 5 classifications are on a scale 1 to 5; 1 being the less destructive force, while 5 is a critical situation developing.

  • Type 1 – Potential to move smaller objects; Slight damage
  • Type 2 – Ability to break windows and destroy trees, normally blowing at 100 mph; Moderate damage
  • Type 3 – Likely to break windows and doors; Moderate damage
  • Type 4 – Powerful enough to destroy homes; Severe damage
  • Type 5 – Force of energy blowing and flooding everything in its path; Severe damage

Category 5 on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale has no upper bound, on paper. But in theory, winds from a powerful hurricane could blow the scale out of the water, scientists say.  There is no such thing as a Category 6 storm, in part because once winds reach Category 5 status, it does not matter what we call it, this is very critical in whichever way you look at it.

The scale starts with a Category 1, which ranges from 74 to 95 mph. A Category 5 storm has winds of 156 mph or stronger. An extrapolation of the scale suggests that if a Category 6 were created, it would be in the range of 176-196 mph. Hurricane Wilma, in 2005, had top winds of 175 mph.

How much higher could hurricane winds blow? A hurricane gains strength by using warm water as fuel. With Earth’s climate warming, oceans may grow warmer, too. And so, some scientists predict, hurricanes might become stronger. But physics dictates there must be a limit.

Based on ocean and atmospheric conditions on Earth nowadays, the estimated maximum potential for hurricanes is about 190 mph, according to a 1998 calculation by Kerry Emanuel, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This upper limit is not absolute; however, it can change as a result of changes in climate. Scientists predict that as global warming continues, the maximum potential hurricane intensity will go up. They disagree, however, on what the increase will be.

6. What are the parts of a hurricane?  

  • Eye – This is the center. It is also the calmest part of the storm
  • Eye Wall – This is located around the eye. This is the location where the strongest winds and rains are formed. The winds may blow 200 miles per hour in this area 
  • Rain Bands – These are the clouds that spin out and make the storm bigger
Three Parts in a Hurricane
7. When does hurricane season begin in the Atlantic? Additionally, what months have the most activity? Hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin, which includes the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, officially runs June 1 to Nov. 30. There have been tropical storms and hurricanes before June 1 and after Nov. 30, but those are exceedingly rare.

“Usually the bulk of activity is in August through October,” said Chris Landsea of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory. “June and July are typically not good indicators for the rest of the season.”

The reason hurricanes occur during these months is that they need warm water, which feeds a storm with energy, in order to form. For a hurricane to have enough energy to form and keep going, the water must be at least 80 degrees Fahrenheit (26.5 Celsius) down to at least 150 feet (50 meters), scientists estimate. The atmosphere must also be laden with moisture.

8. How do cyclones, hurricanes, and typhoons differ? Cyclone, typhoon and hurricane are all just different names for the same basic weather phenomenon. They are all powerful, spinning storms collectively called tropical cyclones, which form over warm tropical waters and reach sustained internal wind speeds of 74 miles per hour.

Hurricanes start in the Atlantic, Caribbean and northeast Pacific, while typhoons form in the western Pacific and southeastern Indian Ocean. If one of these monsters develops in certain parts of the Indian Ocean or part of the southwest Pacific Ocean, it goes by one of three variations of the generic term cyclone.

The storms are named according to seasonal lists kept by their respective basin’s monitoring body. Typhoons and hurricanes and cyclones all rotate in the same direction, counterclockwise, if they form in the Northern Hemisphere.

So-called “backward” storms, which rotate clockwise, form in the Southern Hemisphere, though they are extremely rare in the Atlantic basin. Clockwise-rotating storms are more common in the Indian Ocean and off the coast of Australia, however.

After reading dozens of articles and researching further information on hurricanes, I had an in-depth conversation about hurricanes and the damage that they cause. I called my family and told them that a hurricane may interfere with our project. Ironically, my mother was already watching the news and following Hurricane Bertha’s every move across the Atlantic Ocean.

I reassured her that I would keep her updated on our ship’s position. That night as I laid my head down on my pillow, I thought about what I would do in the case of an emergency.

How would I react if a hurricane was approaching our ship? Would our ship act just in the nick of time? Or would our ship be destroyed by the monstrous waves and the violent winds? The situation will unravel itself, but I do hope that I am on the weather gods “good side.”

FRC Transfer to Polar Sea; Gulf of Mexico 07.2008

Embark to the Polar Sea; a Closer Approach to Hurricane Season

The Front View of Polar Sea; Gulf of Mexico 07.2008

Shortly after my Mexico fiesta – “Eagerly Awaiting the Majestic Mexico Venture; Coastal Road Trip,” I received a phone call to pack my bags, in this instance, I had to “attempt” to finish my “To Do” list, kiss Adrian goodbye, and head to the Orlando airport all within the same day. Thank goodness this is a normal routine, where I can gather my essentials, some electronics, and few clothes in a timely fashion. When working in the offshore industry, you have a tendency to inherit this trait fairly quickly, whether or not you intended to in the first place.
Regardless, if you stick with the basics and are smart with the portions that you pack in your toiletry case, then you will get through your offshore rotation with no stress. When I formulated a mental checklist in my head (I complete one every project), which analyzed all the tasks that I wanted to do before my next project, I found myself satisfied with the results.
A loud beep stirred outside my condo and alarmed a few of my neighbors walking by with their dogs. I popped my head out the door and saw my shuttle patiently waiting for my presence in the driveway. I gave him the “one moment please” look and rushed inside to grab my belongings. Once the shuttle dropped me off at the airport, then it was onto a new adventure.
I was uncertain how I was to arrive at the project. For instance, there were mainly three ways, in which one could mobilize to a project. The first and most efficient way was to show up in a helicopter rock star style. Some of my most memorable moments included the pilots, me, and the other crew at some 5,000 feet up in the air overlooking the ocean bay. If you remember my time on the Viking Vision – “Helicopter Ride to Viking Vision; the Quest for Sperm Whales,” I was awarded the experience to ride on my first helicopter traveling to my very first project in the Gulf of Mexico.

Polar Sea in Strong Glare; Gulf of Mexico: Polar Sea 07.2008

The second method was to travel to the project site on a smaller boat (normally smaller than the mother ship or main source vessel on the prospect); this could entail a supply vessel or chase boat. I have had several small boat transfers several times up until this point; with their small quarters this allowed me the opportunity to make friends with the crew onboard. Sometimes there are exceptions, in which case, a fire rescue craft (FRC) would assist the crew and transfer them from boat to boat on the project site. I had a similar event happen to me on the Gilavar – “First FRC Adventure; Departure to the Gilavar,” where I was transferred from the Geco Snapper to the Gilavar by solely the FRC. The third approach was to “walk on” the ship at dock, where she has been anxiously waiting for her crew members to come onboard. At that time, I had not had this type of crew transfer yet, but I projected it would occur in the future.  This method was great, because it gave you a perspective on how large the boat was compared to the average human. I have several photos that show the size comparison of a ship vs. human being in future posts.
I had arrived in a timely manner at the Radisson Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. I have always enjoyed my short visits here, though some of those “short” visits had lasted three days! Regardless, I had been here several times before to embark on my other projects. It was amusing that the front desk manager recognized me each time I came to check-in. The staff was always accommodating – they had the responsibility to tell each of the crew members what date they were leaving for the ship and what time they should be ready in the lobby to leave the hotel.
Since I knew little facts about this project I asked my friend, the front desk manager, about twenty some odd questions when I showed up that afternoon in the hotel. He explained to me that I was to be met by my other two colleagues and various crew members that had arrived this late morning. He emphasized that a bus at 7am will pick the crew up and shuttle us to the airport to catch a helicopter to the prospect site.
The following morning we were greeted by an agent who assisted with the crew members. We were all shuffled to the New Orleans airport base. On the other side of the runway, where the airplanes land their passengers, there was a helicopter base with six choppers lined up parallel to each other. This was the moment when I felt my stomach rumble a bit; waking up really early that morning did not help! In spite of how my stomach was feeling, I was definitely excited to ride in a helicopter again.

Dorian Daniels in Helicopter En Route to Regent; Gulf of Mexico: Polar Sea 07.2008
The driver of the shuttle guided us to the entrance of the building where we had to check-in for our helicopter flights. We were all shuffled to the security guards to weight our bags and ourselves, show our proper identification and certifications, and check-in for our flight.  Once we all went through this system, the realization sunk in that we were about to embark on a new adventure and leave the ocean bay behind us!
After the safety video finished, we were taken to the helicopter. Soon as I knew it, I was fastening my life jacket straps, buckling my seat belt, and placing my headphones over my ears. This was it; I was strapped in and ready to go!

Me in Helicopter Before Takeoff; Gulf of Mexico: Polar Sea 07.2008

The two hour journey went quick; as we had begun circling the mother ship vessel, the Western Regent, excitement overcame my body and a huge grin on my face could have been by the crew members below. I envisioned whales breaching out of the water, dolphins bow riding the ship, and the sun sparkling down on our helicopter as we approached the helipad of the Regent.
I cannot tell you how great of a feeling it was to know that at that exact moment, “Life is good.” The whole world seemed miles away. Here I was in the middle of the ocean looking forward to my next project that lied in the passage of absolute serenity. I was on to my next chapter in life – the time when I excelled in personal growth and became a leader.

Marine Mammal Scientists on the Polar Sea (Left to Right- Halina, me, and Meghan); Gulf of Mexico: Polar Sea 07.2008