28 April, 1999
I awoke at 2:30 PM and did a load of laundry, then went to see the sun set…later, Chi Meredith and I went to the stern to watch the moon rise, nearly full. Mars shone brilliantly next to the moon, at its closest approach to earth. Here, still visible at this time of the year, a few of our familiar stellar signs make but small arcs in the sky. The rest is unfamiliarity new stars I’ve never seen before, reminders of our temporality here and further underscoring my own in this parcticular world. It is difficult for everyone to add an unknown to a proven group. You know what to expect and what to depend on. I’ve come into this group as a visitor and though everyone has made great efforts to make me feel at home. . . this is still their world, the world of oceanography in which they’ve spent years and years of this type of dedication
countless cruises; the focusing of years of study on the task of answering a question that to the unstudied appears incomprehensible (how has the weather varied for the last 200,000 years?, how hot was the hydrothermal fluid when it vented years ago?, how much energy flows into and out of the Weddell Sea?); long, sleepless nights filled with staring at a computer monitor; discerning trends from data points that will require a decision to commit resources while wishing for “just one more” point ; wrestling with equipment, with weather, with the chaos of nature, like Jacob wrestling with God in order to extract something divine. . . signals from noise, order from apparent randomness.
Yes, their world, and I presume to enter in and absorb it in a few weeks. . .
I may not absorb it all, but I do know that the picture of science that I take back to my students has been changed in a way that is significant. I’ve seen so many concrete, exciting careers waiting here for students with a science background that I would have never imagined before (even after reading the department of labor descriptions : ) from marine technician, to research assistants, to LAN managers on the edge of the world, data processors who don’t
just play with spreadsheets they are challenged to build bathymetric maps of the seafloor through which we must safely transit momentarily - “on the fly.”
It is definitely science with an attitude, eXtreme Science!
I’m sitting here in the lab, writing this while they carry out what they make look routine, and I am in awe. Any one of their tasks would pause me for a week to think about the procedure, what’s involved - - from Chi and Jay struggling to refit a filter on a pump big enough to require two to lift it and
then attach it to the sled (and it’s a precision instrument!); to Joe, who flippantly says he’s rewriting a C++ program to Matlab as though anyone could do it in the hour he has to do it; to Dr. Wilson and Dr. Chin crunching data furiously to guide the next series of casts (data enough to occupy a grad student for 2 years for a thesis must here be processed, analyzed, and decided upon in 2 hours).
In closing, I guess what strikes me is the degree of expertise and commitment brought to bear on this issue (hydrothermal vents and marine geochemistry) and scores of others from which useful, practical information will eventually result. Useful, whether in the form of an additional parameter or variable that makes its way into a meteorological model (and thus our lives via more productive harvests or safer air travel) or an improved imaging device that aids doctors, or a gadget that just makes life more simple (I even hesitate to put it in terms like that. Knowledge for itself is a worthwhile goal and it is
not always clear when what seems like “pipe dreams” or fantasy will suddenly gel into a useful, advanced technology -- consider solid state electronics, lasers, tunneling microscopes, microwaves - - all products of theorists’ abstract conjectures which germinated, sometimes for years before becoming a concrete, “useful” product). And yet there seems to be a fickleness that accompanies our nation’s commitment to scientific advancement, a fickleness that can keep a researcher away from his lab while he/she attempts to secure resources to carry out the very research that our public will gobble up in the form of toasters, video games, musical media, medical treatment, etc. I hope that our nation can avoid the extreme result that Ayn Rand portrayed in her powerful book “Atlas Shrugged.” It is our thinkers and producers who provide the goods that drive our economy and secure the ever increasing quality of life
that we each desire. We must insure the provision of the resources, as well as
groom our young to aspire and train to these with at least the same ambition and reward as those who entertain us, whether with word or feat.
Well, the sun is blanching out my computer screen and as one of the research scientists from the night shift said “the sun is telling us it’s time to quit.”
Latitude (S): 62 11.46 Longitude (W): 57 18.1 Time (GMT): 2120
Depth (m): 1227 Temp (C ): 2.0 Barometer (mbars): 993.3
Wind Speed (m/s, knots): 20.6 40.2 Wind Direction (degrees) 246
Salinity (ppt) 34.1 Relative Humidity (%) 77.4
Student Weather Station Data:
Barometric Pressure: 1000.1 mbars
Rel Humidity: 84.1%
Temperature: 1.8 Celsius
Contact the TEA in the field at .
If you cannot connect through your browser, copy the TEA's e-mail address in the "To:" line of your favorite e-mail package.