All In A Day's Work on Puget Sound

Quote of the Day

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.

— Abraham Lincoln. This quote reminds me how important preparation is to the success of any endeavor.

I was cleaning out my basement storage area when I came across some old photos from when I worked on sonar systems back in the early '90s. I thought I would share some of the photos with you. I have been fortunate in that my career has offered me many opportunities to do different things – including working on Puget Sound, which was fantastic! I spent three years traveling out to Seattle to test undersea systems, and I grew to love the Olympic Peninsula area.

I was the only person on the boat who had a camera, so you see few photos of me.

MV_Response SkipperBringingUsIn

 M/V Response: My Office

The Response was an old barge that had been upgraded with an engine. It was  used for sonar testing. We would anchor out in the sound and then ping at various test targets. When the engine was running, the noise and vibration were incredible.

 The Skipper

The skipper would bring us in to work in the morning on a skiff. Some mornings this went better than others – weather sometimes made the boat transfer more difficult. He had many great sea stories, but I do not think I could tell most of them here.

SonarHead TestDirector

The Sonar Unit Under Test

I spent three years working on this sonar head (copper-colored section). I consider it my best piece of work. The black device above the sonar head is a microphone that we used to synchronize our test gear with the emission of a sound pulse.

 The Test Director

He was responsible for all test operations on the boat. He was a very capable organizer. Preparing for test operations on the water is a critical. If you are missing anything, you lose test time, and test time costs money.

SkipperIssuingInstructions PayingOutCable

 Safety First

The skipper kept an eye on all operations to make sure that nobody got hurt. It is very easy to get yourself hurt on the water.


As the sonar head was deployed, we needed to make sure that all the cables moved freely. After a bit, we worked like a well-oiled machine.

DeployingTheSensor CrushedCable

 Over The Side

The sonar head was mounted on a steerable platform that allowed us to point it at various targets. The boom was used to get some separation between the sonar test unit and the boat.

 Effect of Pressure on Cable

Our testing was performed about 200 feet  underwater. While not that deep, you can see that the pressure squeezed the cables pretty hard.

RotatingSonarTestSystem FinishingTheDay

Another View of the Sonar

I recently received a call about this sonar head from an engineer who was tasked with resurrecting the program because this technology was needed for a new application. It was fun recalling all the little details on the project. It was my first use of large FPGA/CPLD technology. I was amazed at the flexibility programmable hardware provided.

 Going Home After a Long Day At Work

We worked long hours everyday, but still would return to our hotel rooms. We would get at most 4 hours of sleep and then be back at it the following day. It was hard work, but I look back on these days fondly.

I have shown the photo below before, but I should mention the rest of the team. These were very good people, and I remain in contact with a number of them to this day.

The Class Photo

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