By Dan Pelland, tech guru guest writer
Remote-operated vehicles (ROV’s) worked on apparatus at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, trying to save a planet. I couldn’t stop watching the live feed from BP. It’s almost interesting enough to dispel some bitterness I feel at the unfolding events down there. Maybe that’s BPs whole idea as their digital imaging technology brings a tragedy into our living rooms.
Early Thursday morning June 3, about 10:30, engineers began work, apparently to disconnect damaged pipes atop the now infamous blowout preventer. Two ROVs were visible. The point of view was a camera onboard what looks like a Millennium II cage-deployed ROV, owned and operated by Oceaneering International, Inc .
The ROV had a circular saw gripped in its right hand. As the ROV maneuvered into position, I could see how intensely difficult the adjustments must have been for the operator 5000 feet above. Regardless of what hi-tech equipment I was looking at, placing a tool with this kind of precision, without the benefit of tactile feedback, requires an extreme amount of skill and patience.
As soon as the blade began to spin, a thick cloud of mud obscured the camera but the operator held the saw in place and kept up the cut. I knew, from my own experience, what could go wrong in a situation like this. A little off axis, and the blade could bind and, in an instant, wrench the tool out of hand.
On the second cut, it happened. As I watched the saw fall out of the ROVs gripper, I knew what the operator was saying. I wondered if it was in a Cajun dialect. The camera panned downward. The saw had come to rest, precariously, on the top of the BOP (blowout preventer). The second ROV moved in to assist. It took the two operators, working from separate consoles. More than 30 minutes to recover the saw and get back to the cut.
Finally after more than an hour of careful maneuvering, a strap around the main riser was removed. At the moment it broke loose, I yelled.
video by alexhiggins732 via Youtube.com
The human factor of BPs oil spill
Regardless of the ill will and contempt many of us feel for the oil industry right now, there are men and women working as hard as any human ever has trying to mitigate the damage to our treasured resource. This is an intense drama unto itself, as compelling and fascinating as anything I’ve ever seen. The fact that I can watch it unfold in real time is a testament to the ingenuity of people like the staff at Oceaneering who put this technology to work.