You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up…

I was at Pole when I discovered the joys of a split sleep schedule. Rather than trying to fit in all seven or eight hours of a night’s sleep in at once, I’d go down for a couple of hours of sleep when I came off duty, then wake up to help out the night shift cargo guys until they took a break for midrats. Then I’d go back to sleep for another five or so more hours and wake up at “normal” time, fresh as a flash frozen daisy and ready for work.

That same split, in reverse, has been working for me here on the ship as we all settle into our schedules: I come off work at noon, have a nice lunch (now that I’m on my favorite drug in the entire world), and conk out until 5:00. Wake up and it’s time to eat dinner and hang out with friends on the day shift for a bit, then head back to my bunk to sleep again until it’s time to report for duty at midnight.

So this morning, errr, evening, I arrive on shift to find Sean vaguely crumpled into a ball in front of his monitor.

“Things okay?”

“No. Not okay. The opposite of okay. And I’m gonna hurl.”

He doesn’t, but he’s got plenty of reasons for not being a happy camper.

Shortly after I went to bed at eight, the fleet broadband went down again, taking the ship offline for the second time in three days, and he’d been running the five flights up and down to the bridge since, trying to debug the problem. Sean does not like stairs. Sean especially does not like stairs when we’re pitching around Antarctic convergence churn in a 40 knot wind. In those conditions, the bridge is moving around like a carnival ride, and everyone really just wants to lie down and let it pass, regardless of what their favorite medication is.

The good news, he tells me, is that he’s isolated the problem; the bad news is that it’s our antenna, mounted on top of the ice tower (remember the pitching in 40 knot winds part?). But there’s good news: during the ship’s last dry dock, they installed a second broadband antenna for backup. The accompanying bad news is that its connections terminate up at the bridge, not down here in IT where the thing it needs to talk to lives.

He’d held off waking me up while he did the debugging, making his way up and down the five flights of swaying fun house steps to trace cables. But now that I was here, he needed me for the final swap. While he monitored the system below for vitals, I needed to go up to the bridge with a couple of ethernet cables and patch the modem’s output down to the switch on main deck. The patch required two connections, but there was only one spare port; I’d have to get to the junction box behind the server rack and pull one of the occupied ports. Preferably the one to the unused Terascan printer, not one of the ones that kept communications going between the folks up there and the rest of the ship. Problem was that Sean had already verified that the wiring diagrams were wrong, and there was anybody’s guess which cable went to which line.

You see where this is going, don’t you? Yes, there I was, seven flights up on the darkened, pitching bridge of an icebreaker in a gale at midnight (in the Antarctic, I must add). To bring the ship back online, I had to make one decision, and one decision only: do I pull the red wire or the blue one? I’ve got to tell you, even in the improbable world of the Pabloverse, I couldn’t make this stuff up.

I pulled the red one, of course, and it turned out to be the right choice:  a call downstairs verified that systems were coming back online as hoped. Whew – Armageddon averted. Sure, if I’d pulled the wrong cable, Sean would have called upstairs and told me to plug it back in and try the other one, but it would be heartless to waste the frisson of the moment, wouldn’t it?

Regardless, we’re online again, and Sean’s retired for a much-needed night’s sleep. I’m on watch for the next 11 hours and my main task, other than finishing scanning and filing things on my desk, is to sit here and hope that nothing else breaks until he’s back.

[By the way – my connection to gmail is pretty much useless for the time being; the reason why will be the subject of a future rant on Google+ integration and the (incorrect) assumption that wifi bandwidth is free and unlimited. But the upshot is that if you need to get ahold of me for anything, really, email me at david.cohn.contractor. Unless I can disable the you’re-on-wifi-so-we’re-going-to-opportunistically-update-everything behaviors of Picasa, GDrive and god-knows-what-else, I’m not going to be able to establish a usable Gmail session until we get back into port next month.]

4 responses to “You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up…

  1. Wait… you have a failing antenna? I advise you to not let the ship’s computer know your real name is David, or you’ll wind up at “I’m sorry, I can’t do that, Dave”.


  2. Pingback: Southbound Again | David Pablo Cohn·

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