After being away for over two months, I feel strange being home again. I feel somewhat anachronistic in my own life, if that is possible. I feel as if I have traveled back in time. While I was away for two months traveling, the places and people of my life here in Boston stayed more or less the same. Sure, my landlord planted flowers in front of my apartment and a friend of mine now has a new girlfriend, but more or less everything is the same. I feel, however, that I have changed greatly in the last two months.
In essence I am still the same, but the experiences I had traveling and working and living at sea have left a strong impression on me. I have a new perspective on, appreciation of, and enthusiasm for my life and work. I have a new group of friends and colleagues from the ship and the countries I visited. I have a new base of knowledge about the ocean, ships, and marine geology. I know a little more about the outside world. I am sure that I will settle back into my life here in Boston with time, but for now I feel like a guest in my own life.
As many of you know, this past summer I spent fifty days aboard the R/V Roger Revelle studying the Ninetyeast Ridge, a chain of volcanic seamounts in the Indian Ocean. I worked hard those fifty days, taking no days off and often working long days or working through the night. I traveled more than 5000 km by sea and did not see land for forty-seven or so days out of those fifty days. Along with the team of petrologists, I helped dredge up, describe, photograph, weigh, and catalog about 3000 kg of sedimentary and igneous rock from the seafloor. The geophysics group on the ship also mapped hundreds of miles of the seafloor with multibeam bathymetry and collected magnetic, gravity, and seismic data along the ridge. In the coming weeks I plan on writing more about the expedition and describing some of our initial discoveries about the volcanoes.
In addition to the time I spent at sea, I spent four days in Thailand, a week in Singapore, and a week in Jordan. The last two weeks in Singapore and Jordan comprised my much-needed vacation. I had a great time and many adventures. I had too many wonderful experiences this summer to describe them all here, but to pick a handful:
I ate delicious pad thai at an ocean-side restaurant in Phuket, Thailand.
I helped watch for pirates off the coast of Sumatra with night-vision goggles.
I watched sunrise over the volcano Krakatoa.
I wrestled thick, warm, messy chunks of black pepper crab meat from the shell with my hands in Singapore’s Chinatown.
I hugged many large, manganese-encrusted boulders of basalt and shrieked eagerly when I found plagioclase crystals.
I drank endless cups of mint tea and chatted in Arabic with the Bedouin in Jordan. During these teacup conversations, I had to graciously turn down two marriage proposals.
I took a hike through a rainforest nature preserve in Singapore and sat in the jungle watching baby monkeys and giant monitor lizards.
I watched sharks swim in circles off the fantail of the ship, wondering what might happen if I slipped and fell off the nearby edge of the ship.
I explored the rose-red city of Petra in Jordan by foot, periodically emptying the red, red sand out of my shoes.
I crossed the equator and became a shellback after successfully being admitted to King Neptune’s southern realm.
I carted many large rocks around in the lab, partially counteracting the three delicious meals a day I was served on the ship.
I trekked a good distance: on seven airline flights, during fifty days at sea, by car, kayak, foot, four-wheel drive jeep, and camel.
All in all, I had a great summer. Now, I’m returning to a slightly less adventurous but still great life here at MIT and Woods Hole. After I sleep off the remaining jet lag and re-adjust to my life here, it’s time to get to work analyzing a fraction of that 3000 kg of rock samples!
As I prepare to start work, I feel very fortunate. I feel very lucky to work with my advisor and to have been given the chance to go on this expedition, which is the start- hopefully!- of a long career in volcanology and geology in general. I feel very lucky to have traveled so much this summer and to have met so many wonderful people and seen so many wonderful places. In addition to feeling fortunate, I also am now resolved to continue exploring the world. I refuse to become bogged down by ordinary expectations. Life is too short and the world too vast and interesting for ordinary. That said, I have a lot of ordinary, monotonous labwork ahead of me this year. However, that ordinary labwork will hopefully lead to some extraordinary conclusions about the nature of volcanism along the ridge. And during those long hours in the lab, I’ll have time to plan my next overseas adventure…