Salting Out

by srosengard

At 07:00 a.m. on March 23, we arrived in Henderson, Australia, our first sign of civilization in 5 weeks and the finale of our research expedition across the Indian Ocean. At the beginning of the trip, it was too early to mention the idea of land. But in the days leading to the finish line, being on land again became frequent conversation.


The first views of arriving in Western Australia at dawn.

Jay told me that smell is one of his first sensations upon returning to land. Indeed, when the sun rose over the first sightings of Australia, the scent of maple syrup filled the air as it passed over the bow. Two other immediate impressions were calmness and strangers. We remembered what it was like to walk on level ground and interact with people beyond our small community. As soon as we were moored to the pier, Revelle invited Australian dock agents and its new crew on board. We were no longer alone on the Southern Ocean.

Secured from great ocean swells, we prepared for the commotion of the Henderson shipyard. By day, this meant packing everything out of our laboratories, craning them onto the pier and getting all our boxes into giant storage containers to be slowly delivered on cargo ships back to Woods Hole, Scripps in California and Bigelow in Maine. I discovered that being a good Tetris player is perhaps more essential than brute strength in getting this job done.

Afternoon off

A bunch of the science party got to take the afternoon off from the second packing day. Here we are venturing back into the world on a public bus. Note that there is no water in the background.

By night, this meant showering, wearing different (summer!) clothes, and venturing into the real world where cash is currency, where your legs bring can bring you farther than 200 feet, where more life choices are possible, where music is loud, and where celebration is well-deserved.

So the ultimate conclusion here is that cruise number one in my life was a success. In sailor vocabulary, there is an adjective that describes one who has learned the way of life at sea: salty. Here are the ways that I have become saltier.

I learned that people really make the experience, and they will be my greatest misses as I return home. I learned that if you tie knots five times in a row, they are easier to remember and do again. I learned that perspective needs to be large and flexible on the open ocean, so that even the largest waves can gradually look smaller and smaller through the course of time.

Another key perspective: the countless hours of science and labor that make one graph on a research paper, some of which hours include the roughest events on ocean terrain. Very much at the core of these graphs is the ability to make scientific decisions at sea and in lab. I learned that the unpredictability of the seas, combined with an unrelenting attitude of carpe diem, provide some of the best lessons in decision-making, in learning the how and why of every step in marine chemistry.