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ResQgeek

July 2017

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 On the first full day of our cruise, which was our only day at sea as we sailed north along the Norwegian coast, we witnessed our third major emergency operation of the trip.  Shortly before midday, we returned to our stateroom to pick up some things and noticed the sound of a helicopter flying nearby. Almost as soon as that sound registered, there was an announcement on the public address system requesting the stretcher team to report to the ship's hospital. I stepped out onto our balcony and discovered that the Norwegian rescue helicopter was directly above our cabin!

I quickly grabbed my camera, and began to take photos as we watched a member of the helicopter crew prepare to repel down to the ship. Once he was on deck, they lowered a basket down, and the helicopter moved out next the ship while they prepared the patient for the transfer.  Over the next 15-20 minutes the helicopter appeared to remain perfectly stationary relative to the ship. But since the ship was still moving, this meant that the helicopter was actually station-keeping, moving at exactly the same speed as the ship. That pilot did a truly impressive job of flying the helicopter.



Eventually, the helicopter moved back over the ship and the patient and crew member were hoisted aboard.  When the aircraft moved alongside again, the crew was sliding the side door closed and the helicopter accelerated ahead of the ship before crossing in front of us towards the Norwegian shore. It was a very professional and skilled operation. I have no idea what the condition of the patient might have been, but we weren't scheduled to arrive at a port with a hospital until the third day of the cruise, so I can imagine a number of situations that might have been beyond the ability of the ship's hospital to manage until then.

Afterwards, we talked to others on the ship and discovered that all the outdoor decks of the ship had been closed during the operation, to prevent people from being blown overboard by the rotor wash. That meant that only those with balconies on our side of the ship had a decent chance of witnessing the operation, although everyone on the ship knew it was happening. It was the first time I've been on a cruise when someone needed to be evacuated, and I found the operation fascinating to watch. However, I feel bad for the person whose vacation was so dramatically interrupted, and I hope that they are recovering well.
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