1 May 2016
I have just arrived at the R/V Roger Revelle, a research vessel in the Scripps fleet and my home for the next few weeks. We are currently docked in Phuket, Thailand, but will be leaving shortly for a research cruise.
This will be a student-led research cruise, something that is rather uncommon. Simply put, ship time is incredibly expensive due to operational costs, in small supply due to the limited number of research vessels, and in high demand due to the many folks who do research in marine settings. However, there is a special program at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography called the UC Student Ship Funds program, which exists in order to allow students at Scripps and a few other UC universities an opportunity to organize and lead experiments at sea to aid in their research.
Basically, a number of days of ship time are set aside each year, and a call is sent out soliciting students to write proposals about how they would like to use those days. My colleagues Dan Bassett, Soli Garcia, and myself wrote one such proposal and it was green-lit. So here I am: sitting in a ship in Thailand waiting to set out towards the Middle of Nowhere, Ocean in order to collect some data about the topography of the seafloor. Sadly Dan and Soli were unable to make it to the cruise; I am instead joined by another colleague James Holmes.
Credit for the photo goes to James Holmes. For the next two weeks, this vessel will not only be our home, it will almost literally be our entire world.
I would like to now share a brief word about travel. If you wind up in the academic sphere, chances are you will end up flying around a good bit, if not for field surveys then for conferences. Of course, when you fly chances are at some point you will get delayed.
Take my flight to Thailand these past few days as an example. Between a 3-hour delay in San Diego leading to a missed flight in San Francisco, a 3-hour delay in Beijing, and a ~3-hour wait in Thai customs, I estimate it took me upwards of 56 hours to reach my final destination. Even better, my luggage got misplaced during transit and was not at my final destination, in which there was an instrument (a GPS receiver and antenna) that we intended to install on the ship during our cruise.
I do not mention any of these things to try and garner any sort of pity or such, but rather as a demonstration of how such things can go wrong during these kinds of projects. In fact, rarely on a field survey does everything go as planned. It can be quite demoralizing, but at some point you have to ask yourself, “Well, what am I supposed to do now?” The answer is remarkably simple: Just do the experiment.
Since I had made it to the ship, and had the most critical equipment (a hard drive for data storage) on my person, we could set things up using the GPS receiver James had brought. It’s certainly not an optimal situation, but nothing we can’t recover from.
PS- My bag did arrive eventually, so I have gotten hold of my stuff and the GPS equipment I was transporting. Nothing was lost.