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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.

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