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Expedition Update

As many of you know, this summer I will be going on a fifty-day research cruise to study the Ninetyeast Ridge, a 5000 km long chain of volcanic seamounts in the Indian Ocean. I’ll be flying to Thailand in June and boarding the R/V Revelle, a large research ship owened by Scripps Institute of Oceanography.

My advisor is the head scientist for the petrology and geochemistry of this research cruise. He is in charge of making all of the preparations for dealing with the rock samples we’ll be collecting. That is, he is in charge of recruiting workers (postdocs, grad students, and slaves interns), organizing lab supplies, shipping lab supplies by air freight to the ship, planning for the approximately 10,000 lbs. of rock sample we’ll be dredging off the ridge, booking tickets for everyone traveling, figuring out how to find the ship in various exotic ports, et cetera. Since my advisor needs to do all of these things, that means that I am in charge of many of them!

Planning an expedition of this scale is no easy undertaking! One cannot go to the store when at sea, so my advisor and I want to ensure that we have everything we need when the ship leaves port. We can’t miss anything important that will keep up from doing as much work as we can on the expedition. Why not? Because it’s costing about $1 million dollars for this expedition. That’s $1 million National Science Foundation dollars, which are taxpayer dollars, which are your dollars, if you’re a U.S. Citizen. By the way, thanks for sending me on vacation to do important scientific research, all you taxpayers!

Recently, there’s been a major change in the plan for this expedition. There’s some good news and some bad news and then some more good news.

Good News #1:

I just booked a flight and hotel room in Phuket, Thailand. I depart from Boston on June 14th and will have two lovely days to sun myself on the beach before I need to get to work finding the ship and organizing all of our supplies. The ship departs from Phuket on June 20th.

Bad News #1:

Originally, our expedition was supposed to have an end port of Colombo, Sri Lanka. Unfortunately, the Tamil Tigers have made this end port impossible.

Just two weeks ago, my advisor said to me, “Well, I think that we’ll be okay in Sri Lanka as long as we are in Colombo. Worst case scenario, we can just book flights from Colombo. If we end up at another port nearby, we can book a short flight to Colombo. After all, the Tamil Tigers aren’t bombing the airport or anything.”

Well, actually, the Tamil Tigers are bombing the Colombo airport.

The recent airport bombings as well as the inability to obtain port insurance for Colombo have convinced Scripps not to use Colombo as an end port. I agree with their decision, but I am a little sad not to be going to Colombo. Sri Lanka is supposed to be beautiful, and I was hoping to track down Arthur C. Clark!

Good News #2:

Instead of going to Colombo, we’re going to Male, Maldives instead. For those of you who don’t know, the Maldives are a gorgeous chain of islands south of Sri Lanka. I think I can handle the sudden change of plans.


Evelyn is a geologist, writer, traveler, and skeptic residing in Cape Town, South Africa with frequent trips back to the US for work. She has two adorable cats; enjoys hiking, rock climbing, and kayaking; and has a very large rock collection. You can follow her on twitter @GeoEvelyn. She also writes a geology blog called Georneys.

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  1. I'd rather my tax dollars went to research than certain other purposes, anyway :p Have a blast! :D

  2. What Beren said, doubled. Whatever portion of my tithes went into that million, you and your fellow researchers are more than welcome to it.

    Please continue to fill us in on details of the expedition as you can; it's fascinating stuff.

    Diverted to the Maldives?? Poor you…

  3. Dammit! Why do people have to keep reminding me how cool other scientific fields are. I'm begining to lose the immense sense of joy I had when I found I got my own computer in the office!

  4. Have a great holiday – er fieldtrip. the Maldives are beautiful, but Male is a bit of a hole. Try to get to the other islands and don't forget your scuba/snorkelling gear. But watch out for those cute picasso fish. The little buggers bite.

  5. Ok, as an experienced salt in the US Navy, I can advise you to bring a few extra things. Obviously, you'll want to talk to someone who has made these cruises before.

    Saltwater soap (when the desalination plant breaks)

    An extra week of skivvies (when the desalination plant breaks)

    Shower shoes (some shipmate will probably have some funky foot growth)

    Find out if they have automatic man overboard transponders. If not, you'll want loose fitting denim pants (if you fall overboard you'll need to get them off in a hurry before they drag you down, then you can tie off the legs and use them for flotation).

    Something for motion sickness (ginger, dramamine)

    Cool! We can track the Revelle when she is underway:

    All about the Revelle:

  6. OK, the Maldives, in case people want to drool some more – look at Google Images. I recall The Travel Channel a few years ago doing it's Top 10 beaches in the world, and the Maldives was tops (if it wasn't #1 it was in the top 3, though I can't remember the specific beach name).

    Shoot, maybe I should have stuck with the Oceanography track. However, as a taxpayer for a major portion of my life, I feel you should include some public outreach, namely reaching out to those unemployed citizens who have nothing better to do in June. Especially those who like rocks and marine life, and have given whatever meager parts of their salary they could afford to the preservation and study of the environment. Forget that I didn't work for it – I'm just a stowaway of life. ;-)

    Seriously, though, it's going to be an awesome experience – can't wait for pictures. And what medical (vaccinations) requirements are there? I like Chew's reply; I know I never get motion sickness on boats/ships, but it does take a while for the ground (or your bed) to ""when you've been on one for a long time (at least in my experience sailing).

  7. Messed up my tag. The word "settle" should be in there. IOW, it takes a while to stop "rocking" on land.

  8. Hey, Evelyn, have you seen this? It's a pretty good story of some geologists in Montana trying to get John Baumgardner from AiG to have a substantive, informal discussion with them about how the Flood story explains Montanan geography.

    I think it's pretty cool because it shows the geologists as both polite and interested in hearing the young-earth perspective and evidence outside the polarised atmosphere of a theatrical debate — which of course no creationist is interested in, since all they have at their disposal are rhetorical tricks with no scientific merit.

    I guess there's not too much specifically geological there, but still it seems more down your alley than the other Skepchicks'.

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