I’d been looking forward to doing some science, in my very amateurish way, while at sea. I’d asked around to find out what I could usefully do, constrained as I am by time, space, and ignorance, and was assigned three missions. Alas, I have to confess, I have utterly failed so far in two of them.
One, at least, I knew I could do. Following on from last year, I have been making cloud observations for NASA, as part of the NASA S’COOL project. As their two satellites, Aqua and Terra, circle the Earth, taking photos of clouds from above, at approximately the time that they cross my position I take photographs of the clouds from underneath, and note the temperature, barometric pressure, my latitude and longitude, and descriptions of the clouds.
I quite enjoy noting down these details in my little yellow notebook. As well as giving me an excuse to stop rowing a couple of times a day, it makes me feel a bit like Charles Darwin or one of the other great voyager-scientists in my own humble way.
However, my other attempts at science have been less successful.
Daniel Pauly, esteemed marine scientist and good guy, asked me to take pictures of birds. This I have dismally failed to do, even though I see those pretty white-bellied birds every day. My reactions are slow, and the reactions of my digital camera even slower, so I end up with pictures of nothing but sea and sky. Like I didn’t have enough of those already.
But probably my most embarrassing failure so far is the sampling of ocean plastics. Dr Marcus Eriksen of 5Gyres made two very handsome trawls, a main and a spare, and shipped them to Australia along with a full complement of envelopes for the resulting samples.
I had my first doubts when I opened the box in Perth. The trawls, although beautifully made, seemed huge in relation to the size of my boat. June’s pertinent comment when she saw them was “let no good deed go unpunished”. I had to agree.
With some difficulty, I found space to store the trawls in the storage cabin, and there they stayed until a few days ago. I felt very guilty about not having tried them out yet, but was using my lack of forward progress as an excuse. Eventually, after they started intruding on my dreams, such was my guilt, I decided I really did need to at least try to make good use of them.
I deployed one of the trawls from the side of my boat as instructed, and went back to the oars. Oh man. Every stroke was like weightlifting, and the already slow progress of my boat all but ground to a halt. This was just not going to work for me. I persevered for about half an hour and then gave up, my only catch being a few dozen fish eggs.
I have now confessed all to Marcus, and he has been most gracious about my dismal failure. I believe the trawls would work very well off a sailboat, but not so well off a human-powered boat. If I spend time on the sea anchor in the future I will most definitely try the trawl again – in fact, it would work pretty well as a sea anchor in itself.
Meanwhile, I’d best just stick to my photos of cirrocumulus and altostratus. And bits of sea and sky where a bird just was.
Today started grey and I thought it was here to stay. But then it cleared and there was a lovely display of fluffy altocumulus this afternoon. Then the clouds with legs reappeared, and by sunset were marching all around the horizon in a squally mass. Progress continued slow and steady.
I’m really enjoying my Richard Russo book, Bridge of Sighs“. Like many of his books, it touches on topics dear to my heart. Are humans products of nature, nurture, or free will? How much are we in control of our destiny? Is it better to challenge everything, or to accept it? I am already sad that sometime soon the book will have to come to an end.
A very special hello today to Max Gotts, 9-year-old son of my old Oxford crewmate Natalie, recently relocated to Mill Valley, CA. Natalie tells the full story in her blog, but in case you’re reading this offline, here is the crux of it: for World Oceans Day, Max (aka Superhero Ocean Warrior and Turtle Rescuer) organized fifty-two 2nd and 3rd Grade children and teachers in a competition to collect as much rubbish from school property as possible. He’d explained to them the importance of looking after the oceans and the significance of the ocean’s health on other animals’ and humans’ health. Good for you, Max, and keep up the great work. Turtles are my favourites too!
Hello also to the Einreinhof family – Mark, Heather, Michael and Kaitlyn. Mark very kindly replaced the beloved G-Shock solar watch that I lost overboard on the Pacific. Mark, I use my watch to set alarms for the times each day that the NASA satellites are going overhead, and think of you with thanks every time I do so!
Thanks to Claire in LA for the beautiful Oceans Day visualization, and also to Tim Ray’s family for letting me know that his ashes have been scattered at sea, where he is now exploring all its wonders. Both are wonderful ways to picture the oceans, the lifeblood of our planet, and to feel connected to them. Thank you.
Thanks, Pippa, for the news on Keith Whelan. Glad to hear that he is okay, and that they picked up the boat as well, albeit slightly damaged. If he needs a good fibreglass guy in Geraldton, I can highly recommend Shane Donegan, who fixed Sedna after her damaging encounter with the crayfishing boat. He did a superb job.
Martha K – thank you for the laugh! I enjoyed hearing about Goldin’s hypothesis that: The “whoosh” sound of the ocean “brings up feelings of relaxation and tranquillity.” I can only conclude that she was talking about the sitting-on-a-beach kind of ocean whoosh, rather than the here-comes-a-capsize kind of a whoosh!! Still, if it increases people’s appreciation of the ocean, even if not relevant to my personal experiences, then it’s all good.
A quote to set you thinking today: “There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)
Sponsored Miles: Today’s thanks go to Kristian Ruggieri.
Latest Podcast now available: http://rozroams.squarespace.com/podcast/2011/6/9/episode-35-one-tiny-pin.html