Through broken clouds below, the sea has gone mad. The waves loom like hulking pyramids that smash into each other to create whitecaps that resemble snow-clad mountains. Like miles-long jellyfish tentacles, sickly greenish threads of air bubbles lace a huge swath of ocean. Worley estimates the waves at 40 feet. “Not a good day for ditching,” observes electronics engineer Mike Sims. One of our crew’s most important tasks is to study cloud particles to determine if severe hurricanes like David can be tamed through cloud seeding. Scientists hope to reduce the intensity of hurricanes by seeding them with silver iodide crystals, causing the storm to spread out into a system of lesser intensity. Yet the theory is a prickly one, because some fear the process could also cause adverse side effects. Other research flights take expendable bathythermographs to drop into the ocean. Their data have shown that passing hurricanes roil deep colder ocean water and cause internal waves that persist for weeks afterward. So awesome is the power of a hurricane that even the sea remembers. At 2:17 p.m., a shimmering rainbow splits the clouds as we complete penetration number seven and fly out of the eye heading 270 degreesinto the west wall. The crew moves about, comparing notes, checking equipment. Worley doesn’t turn on the seat-belt light until he really means it. He’s been flying into these things for 19 years. “After 180 eye penetrations, I quit counting,” he says dryly. In front of him a radarscope indicates increasing levels of precipitation (and thus turbulence), with colors ranging from green to yellow to red. As we leave the eye, flecks of crimson appear like wounds. In my seat I study the computer terminal and make some calculations. Barometric pressure is at rock bottom, 27.46 inches of mercury. Vertical wind indicator twitches convulsively. Horizontal wind 90 miles per hour … 110 … 140… .