Last night, R/V Sikuliaq had a long steam over to the northwest tip of St. Lawrence Island. About a 10-hour steam, it was the first opportunity many of us had for some downtime after working some long hours the first couple days. How people chose to use their free time was quite interesting. Several of the graduate students were able to link into a texting app called What's App, Pete Shipton took the opportunity to prep for the upcoming mooring deployments, and I got to see Seth Danielson unwind for a couple of hours. Along with two crewman, Seth saddled his banjo in the ship's galley and began to jam--a brief respite from all of the responsibilities of being the Chief Scientist. I even had the opportunity to call my wife during a time when my daughter was still awake and heard the voice every proud father hears, "I love you daddy!" She's now stringing four-word sentences. I don't think hearing that phrase will ever get old, not on a boat, wearing a coat, or even crossing a moat (only appropriate to add a Dr. Seuss reference).
Yet with a long steam, there are things that you do begin to miss or think about more than when the boat is in full operation. The internet is slow, like three-toed sloth slow, which definitely puts a hamper on communication. It took me two hours to send the last blog post (a total of maybe 5mb) with several images. And although I heard my daughter's voice, she did not understand they delay of the conversation (similar when communicating internationally).
But then, there are things that you do appreciate. The unifying camaraderie on the vessel; the ship's crew and scientists all working together to achieve a similar goal; the food is so much better here than at home (sorry honey); and that short, ship shower of warm water hitting your face, erasing the sweat of a hard day's work. You also begin to appreciate when the weather and fog lifts with brief opening of blue sky unveiling from the white mist; the time when a Mustang Suit on deck is unzippered just a little bit so that breeze can fill your coat. And you also appreciate that no matter what is happening outside the ship, everyone on board has some degree of nostalgia, whether it's a dog, a cat, a child, missing season five of House of Cards--and that degree of nostalgia is but one way we all bond, and we can all laugh, and work together as a team.
This morning at 0500 one thing stuck with me that I think will carry for many years. I was in the science command center this morning with some of the most esteemed scientists in the world in their respective fields. Mike Lomas, Dean Stockwell, Russ Hopcroft, Jeff Krause, and Seth Danielson--superstars in their fields, all busy trying to determine where in the water column they need bottles fired to collect water at certain depths using the CTD Rosette. Each one of them depend upon the right location where to fire the bottles, and the conversations of how much water they need for samples reminded me of when I was a kid trading baseball cards--"I'll give you two Bo Jackson's for one Cal Ripken." But amid the flurry of conversation, Russ pulled me aside to show me something. Remember…what was going on in the command center was important, so I thought Russ was showing me something of critical importance. I asked if I needed a camera, and he said, "Maybe later." My curiosity was perked.
We opened a walk-in fridge that I had not seen on the ship before.
Russ led me into the unit, and proceeded to show me a laptop hooked up to two trays of vials filled with water with a hose running into something that looked like a wine chiller. I have known Russ professionally over the years, a handshake and a couple of jokes later type of relationship, but today I felt something different. Russ began explaining the respirometry experiment that he was starting with the copepods that were in the vials. He was actually measuring the amount the copepods were respiring--something that to his knowledge had never been successfully conducted. I could see his excitement as he told me about the different apparatus used to make the charts depicted on the laptop.
All of a sudden his enthusiasm became infectious. I too was equally amazed by the scientific process that I was seeing, its impact for the NPRB Arctic Program, and how it reminded me of some of the controlled-temperature experiments I helped conduct at Colgate with Chloromonas, a snow algae, in Ron Hoham's ecology lab.
I also realized that what Russ was showing me this morning was not only results that were groundbreaking, but also his passion and excitement for the work that he does. I truly felt honored that he shared that opportunity with me this morning.