Spring 2011

Our intern, Ali - an undergraduate student from Middlebury College, details her experiences from her summer with the HOT program.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eagerly on the heels of others

As I am still mistrustful of the bus system, today began at 0500 to ensure that I made it to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare. As it turned out, the bus was willing to cooperate. At 0740, I eagerly scampered up the gangway on the heels of Craig and found my new home, 10 upper. The upper bunk itself is bigger than my bunk of 7-weeks aboard the Seamans in which all of my belongings and I squished. I don’t even know what I’ll do with my half of the rest of the room. Calisthenics, maybe.
After I moved in, all hands ran through emergency drills during which I narrowly missed having to try on a neoprene survival suit for practice. For the rest of the morning, my eagerness led me to the heels of many others, some of whom I could help, many of whom I could not. I am starting to recognize the balance to strike, as an intern, between reaching my hands in and learning and sitting back and observing. There are only so many tasks I can perform without extensive explanation that delays the more important tasks at hand. For instance, in the collection of water samples for the ultra-precise salinity tests to be run on shore, I can’t simply stick a bottle under a faucet and call it good. The learning curve is steep. However, I find myself rapidly approaching base camp with several skills added to my fanny pack already:  I can fill, shake, dump, and dry sample bottles properly; I know where to hold the psychrometer over the bow to get an accurate wet and dry bulb temperature reading; I can measure sea surface temperature using the bucket thermometer; and I know how to sweep up escaped mercury from a broken bucket thermometer in the case of a thermometer mishap. Mostly, I find that the scientists and crew here often delay the task most pressing in favor of instructing me in these skills and for that I am most grateful.
With the buzz of learning still percolating in my head, I found a moment this evening to go up on deck and remember some of what it feels like to be at sea. At the stern, white waves smacked against the hull and reached up to the railing. I kept my distance. At the bow, without fear of spray, I let the wind pull at my hair like a broken-toothed comb. From the starboard bow, I watched the port hull cut through clear water and remain visible underwater to its bottom.  This is a charm of a double-hulled ship that I was not expecting. Thick clouds hid sunset, but there’s always tomorrow.
The extensive stores of gummy bears and M&M’s in the galley, available to me at whim, have gotten me through the day so far and I hope they carry me through the end of my watch. In the meantime, I will be pacing the halls trying to learn my way around this maze. This morning, when returning to the wet lab from the captain’s office, I attempted to descend the stairs through the linen closet. Indeed, my grasp of the floor plan needs work.  

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