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Going live from the Gulf: Bless GPS

By Kerry Sanders
NBC News

GULF OF MEXICO — Eighty miles from Venice, La., we're bobbing in 3- to 4-foot seas aboard the 230-foot Skye Falgout. The Coast Guard boarded our vessel a few hours ago.

First question: Who are we, and who gave us permission to come to the 5-mile limit of the Deepwater Horizon site?

I guess our four days of communication with the Coast Guard and the Joint Information Center on land didn't reach the folks out here in the Gulf doing all the work.


As I feared a tongue-lashing, the chief warrant officer caught me by surprise when he said he was "thankful" we are here.

"The world needs to see the hard work going on here," he says.

That, of course, was my goal, so after a few minutes and some marine-band radio chatter, we get the best news a crew could ask for: It's just been approved by those in command — we can park 1.7 miles west of the ongoing operations.

If you are a weekend sailor, you may wonder how you "park" a boat in the current and wind and hold that position for hours.

Once upon a time, you'd use anchors.

Photo by Dwaine Scott/ NBC News

The satellite that makes broadcasting from the middle of the Gulf of Mexico possible.

Today, the magic of GPS and multiple engines with thrusters holds a ship like ours within a half-foot of its assigned position for more than eight hours.

It's called Dynamic Positioning, and we are thrilled because that maritime technology married with our NBC technology will let us tell viewers what's happening live.

The "Bloom Mobile," named after my good friend, the late NBC correspondent David Bloom, was developed to race across the uneven desert in Iraq as U.S. forces invaded.

Now, the Bloom Mobile is with us at sea, rocking to the motion of the ocean but locked dead onto a satellite 23,000 miles over Earth.

The gyroscopes hold the signal with laser accuracy so we can report live.
There is so much that you can see for yourself in the video, but what is unheralded are the 800 people on 37 vessels and platforms, working 12 hours on, 12 hours off, in some cases for 40 straight days, trying to stop this disaster.

Our goal in the midst of this crisis is to go live from a rig, the Q4000, or the ROV vessel.

I have reported live from the battlefield with U.S. Marines under fire, so as I bob here and recognize this is a crisis, I also know if those in charge will allow it, we can report live as this crisis is being battled.

I am told by the chief warrant officer maybe that will happen — "it just won't be today."