Dispatch 4: Hard Targets
September 3, 2000The past was close behind…
Tangled up in blue
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The hard work of prying secrets from the
sea has begun. Following
yesterdays launch of the side-scan
sonar fish, the DSL-120, the
mission has been thrown in high gear.
Three watchesworking four-hour
shifts every 12 hoursman control
room operations 24 hours a day.
Its now 8:45 a.m. The third watch
monitors sonar sea-floor map data. Bob
Marley grooves on a stereo (with Civil War
era folk songs, Bob Dylan, and Elvis Presley
Yesterday, the team intercepted precisely
the kind of geologic feature they were
looking forfragments a meandering
river channel. There were three
geologists on the watch, Ballard
says. No doubt about it. (Ballard believes
such topographic features would be a
natural choice for pre-flood Paleolithic
peoples to settle.) But only a few pieces of
the river channels topographic
mosaic were glimpsed as the Northern
Horizon dragged the side-scan sonar
fish along the parallel track
lines of the designated search. A goal now is
to map as much of the channel as
possibleto follow this ancient river
inland and to its outflow to the shore of the
Meanwhile, targets continue to rack up. By
1:10 p.m., there are 83 and counting. Hits
vary in shape and size from squarish blocks
about five meters [16.4 feet] long to jagged
and peaked linear features up to 20 meters
[65.6 feet] long.
At mid-day Ballard offers that the team has
identified our best shot…a real hard
target. It lies at the convergence of
two river channels that he believes.
The mission plan presented on the first day
is now out the windowa move
thats not unexpected.
Thats why you have a
plan, Ballard says. So you
can throw it away. Youve got to be
The new plan is pull the
ears, the DSL-120 side-scan
sonar, later this afternoon then launch the
eyes of the
imaging vehicle ARGUS.
Ballard sums the present mood in the
mission control room. Alright.
Lets go get em.
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