Port Call

Leg 184 began at 0730 hr on 11 February 1999 when the first line was passed ashore at the Victoria Quay in Fremantle, Australia. A number of engineering tasks were accomplished during the port call, including the installation of a new housing unit (penthouse), a container to house the microbiology laboratory on top of the lab stack, and a vegetable chiller on the sun deck, and the replacement of the boom on crane no. 2. The arrival of several freight containers that contained critical engine parts was delayed, and the vessel had to remain in port 2.5 days beyond the planned departure on 16 February, 0600 hr. At 1730 hr on 18 February, the last line was released from Victoria Quay, and the vessel cleared the harbor.

Transit to Site 1143 (Proposed Site SCS-9)

Site 1143 in the Spratley Island area is located in an area that required special diplomatic efforts and safety protocols, which were finalized during the eventful 2800-nmi transit. Before the JOIDES Resolution could proceed to the prospective site, it required approval of the four political entities that lay claim to the region. Three countries (People's Republic of China [PRC], Vietnam, and the Philippines) had given formal consent before leaving Australia. The approval from Chinese Taipei was received on 26 February, a few days before drilling operations began.

Site 1143 is situated in poorly charted waters labeled Dangerous Grounds on the Admiralty charts. Although the site had been surveyed, extra precautions were necessary to ensure that the passage to the site was done in the safest possible manner. The 60-nmi transit across Dangerous Grounds was to be made at reduced speed, only during daylight hours, and only with calm seas and clear visibility.

Another issue was the piracy threat in the region. The vessel received a warning on 20 February from the Regional Piracy Center (RPC) in Kuala Lumpur via the Singapore Inmarsat C station (Sentosa Island) that the area around Sunda Strait and Karimata Island are the most prone to pirate raids. In response to this alert, the captain decided to adjust the speed of the ship to ensure a daylight transit across the Sunda Strait. The RPC alerted the vessel that persons in military uniforms and using military vessels had recently attacked ships passing close to the location of Site 1143. This information plus data from other sources raised serious questions regarding the security of the vessel while operating at Site 1143. The matter was referred to Ocean Drilling Program (ODP) management, who in turn consulted with senior program officials in Washington, D.C. On 22 February, a request was issued to the director of the Office of Ocean Affairs of the U.S. Department of State to review this matter and to provide advice, procedures, and assurances for the vessel's safety at Site 1143. On 23 February, the captain met briefly with the scientists and technicians and discussed ship security issues, including precautions that would be followed during the transit through the Sunda Strait. Also discussed were procedures to be followed should persons unknown attempt to board the vessel. Although an attack on the vessel was deemed highly unlikely, prudence and diligence required that this issue be addressed before crossing the strait.

At 0600 hr on 25 February, the vessel left the Indian Ocean and entered the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra. The ship entered the strait while it was still dark and with heavy rain punctuated by an occasional lighting flash. The eruption of Anak Krakatoa ("child of Krakatoa") was visible through the gloom from a distance of 20 nmi. The vessel passed within 6 nmi of the cone that is now growing in the caldera left by the 1883 eruption.

On the morning of 23 February, the S-band (10 cm) radar failed. During the subsequent trouble shooting by the Overseas Drilling Limited electronic technicians, the problem was ascertained to be in the rotary joint and/or associated cabling located in the antenna assembly. No spares for these items were on the vessel. The approach to Site 1143 required that both X-band and S-band radar units be operational. The vessel was therefore diverted to Singapore at 0830 hr on 26 February to allow factory representatives with the proper parts to work on the defunct unit. The ship arrived at the Changi holding anchorage in Singapore at 1500 hr on 27 February. At 1030 hr on 28 February, two technicians from Aeradion Technology Pte Ltd. and the vessel agent, Victor Chan, boarded the JOIDES Resolution, and the repairs were concluded in less than 2 hr. The vessel was under way to Site 1143 at 1215 hr on 28 February.

As the ship neared Dangerous Grounds, a fax was received on 3 March from the deputy director-general of the State Oceanic Administration of the Peoples' Republic of China in Beijing. This fax provided additional emergency contact phone and fax numbers in Beijing as well as reassurances that the PRC naval base at Yong-Shu-Jiao ("always summer reef") had been instructed "to keep a close eye on the cruise." This reef is located ~20 nmi northwest of Site 1143. This fax furnished the necessary assurances for vessel security that were required before establishing station keeping at Site 1143.

At 0445 hr on 3 March, ~5 nmi from the entry position to Dangerous Grounds, the forepeak tank was filled to adjust vessel trim bow down. This was done so that if the vessel were to ground on a reef, the bow would be the first point of contact. If the bow were to strike a shoal, the forepeak tank would be drained and the vessel backed off and diverted to a safe port for a hull inspection. At 0500 hr the speed was reduced to 6 kt; at 0600 hr, the JOIDES Resolution altered course from 49° to 90° at position 09°20.0´N, 112°5.5´E, and entered uncharted waters. Lookouts were posted as the vessel made its way to the location that marked the beginning of the 3.5-kHz survey point.

At 1215 hr, a PRC navy patrol vessel, SOUTH TUG 156, was sighted. After an initial attempt by our Chinese co-chief to inform the PRC vessel of our identity, no radio communication was established. The patrol craft followed us to the site location. At 1530 hr another vessel, named TRUONG SA-12, approached the JOIDES Resolution, and the crew attempted to hail us. This ship identified itself as Vietnamese. Our captain was unable to communicate with the TRUONG SA-12 because of the language barrier.

From 1500 to 1530 hr, a 3.5-kHz survey was conducted over an existing seismic line as the vessel approached the site from the southwest. The survey was aborted earlier than planned as a result of the proximity of the Chinese and Vietnamese vessels and accompanying communication problems. At 1605 hr, after verifying site location with bathymetry, the positioning beacon was dropped on precise Global Positioning System (GPS) coordinates.

1. The Operations and Engineering personnel aboard the JOIDES Resolution on Leg 184 were Ron Grout, ODP Operations Manager, and Robert Laronga, Schlumberger Engineer.

Operations-Site 1143

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