Scientists spend a lot of time figuring out the best way to explain what they do. And for good reason, different audiences are interested in different things. Publishers tend to hone in on things like sampling design, while grandmas seem to care way more about pictures… and safety. With all this effort to explain the “what,” scientists sometimes forget to help the “why” step off of the data sheets. However quiet it may be, our internal motivation is always playing softly in the background. It seems there was a moment for every scientist where they witnessed something amazing, whether it be a beautiful computer code or an impossible creature, and the rest is history. Or rather, the rest is science.
The R/V Sikuliaq makes a living in amazement, it’s a verifiable amazement park. This is revealed in a quick glance at the faces of the scientists while they work. With her hard hat slightly askew, incredulity shone out from one researcher as she hefted her drifting sediment trap off the deck. “I can’t believe that actually worked” her beaming face seemed to say. A shift in the schedule granted another researcher more time than expected to work up a plankton sample. The light box she was working over illuminated her contented face while she took a spare minute to appreciate the drifting beauty of jellies in the tray.
Awe need not be contained only to the science deck; a single trip to the engine room reveals that the vessel itself is rife with wonder. In what could easily be the control room of a spaceship, panels of colored lights, switches, and whirring servers keep the vessel operational. “It’s amazing that our crew of 22 people make it happen,” reflected one deckhand.
With science we strive to understand the world around us, but with science at sea, we actively take ourselves into the world we study. If the ocean ever needed a catch phrase, it could be something as simple as “science at sea: come and be amazed.”