When I first got on the boat, I felt like a kid. I was overcome with a sense of awe and curiosity. I kept thinking, “What the hell am I doing here, and how am I going to do it?”. That thought quickly left my mind when the bosun asked me to assist with the crane. That task turned into another, and another, and another. Before I knew it, my entire body was sore from the lack of preparing for lifting and moving. That feeling quickly went away when we were given our schedules: 00-12 (AKA midnight to noon).
When Dr. Kelley asked me what I wanted to do on the cruise, I said I wanted to “do cores”. She chuckled when I said that, and I later found out why. Processing cores for 12+ hours at times was pain-staking, but when you have a good group of people that will dance with you as you work, the time goes by fast. One of the scientists on board told me, “my mother told me to stop playing with mud…but here I am playing with mud as an adult”. I was “playing” with mud, but I was doing science. Knowing that I was playing a part in something much bigger was a motivating thought that got me through my sleep-deprived times. I was pushed, and I pushed myself even more than I thought. 12-hour watches turned into 20-hour watches, but there was something worth it during every watch. The sunrise.
There’s an array of different colors when you see a sunrise compared to a sunset. Taking a small break to watch a few minutes of the sunrise every morning was a privilege. I felt I earned the sunrise after squeezing water out of mud for 6 or more hours straight. It was therapeutic and refreshing.
Seeing the ocean floor for the first time is insane. I was overcome with beauty and emotion at something that the people around me see every day. For me, it was a first. I cried. As a 26-year-old…bald…bearded…tattooed man, I cried. I cried because I had experienced so many things in life so far, and will continue to experience things, but the moment where ROV Jason reached the seafloor and the pilot started playing “I Will Follow You into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie was a moment I will never experience again. I had a different type of appreciation for what was happening. That experience is one of the best of my life, and I’m not writing this to try and convince anyone that I had a good time. If you read my journal out of context, you could easily see I enjoyed myself. I’m writing this because if you are reading this and considering going on a research cruise, know that you too will experience something similar. It may not be the exact thing, but you will experience and feel emotions which you never thought possible (all while actually “doing” science).
In a way, I knew I would have a hard time describing the experience. There’s something about being out at sea that is appealing, but you have to be there to know the exact feeling. If you’re considering going out, do it. You may love it, you may hate it, but if you have the right mindset to appreciate where you are and what you’re doing, you’ll get a life experience like no other.
By: Steven Karaduzovic
(Queens College, City University of New York)