April 8, 2022 by Dr. G
I’m heading out on an oceanographic journey, a two-month journey at sea with an international team of scientists, technicians, and crew members aboard JOIDES Resolution for Expedition 390 (South Atlantic Transect I). But first – I need to get there, and not get COVID along the way. I was required to be in a period of significant reduced contact for 7 days and have a PCR test 72 hours before flying out. That became the first period of panic, as I still didn’t have the test result back the morning before I was to fly out, so I headed out for another test. Fortunately, both eventually came back negative, and it was time to start the adventure!
It was the longest travel time I’ve had in my career, partly because of the 9-hour layover in Munich. But I had pre-purchased a one-day pass to a Lufthansa Airlines airport lounge – and wow, that was one of the best travel decisions I have ever made. There was free hot food, comfortable chairs with plenty of outlets, and a nice, quiet atmosphere to rest and get some work done.
After a very long trip and long wait to leave the airport, the shuttle took me to the hotel. I eagerly looked out the window of the van shuttle, as I knew it would be the only glimpse I would get of the city, beyond what I would see out my hotel room window.
Despite being exhausted from traveling from March 31 thru to April 2, I was still able to generate a huge smile when I found this while channel surfing that first evening…
We had a day of recovery with a chance to adjust to this new timezone (which is six hours later than my normal East Coast time). Then, the multiple Zoom meetings began! So much ice-breaking, orienting, training, and presentations… jet lag connected with Zoom fatigue very quickly. Some of us had limited views outside our hotel room windows (some of us had balconies to step out on). I had this view across the other wing of the hotel, and looked down onto the hotel swimming pool that no one ever used.
Part of the presentations this week were each of us sharing our research plans. As I’m on the ship for education and outreach, I was happy to share my present plans for blogging, audio recording (my voicemail project), and profiling scientists. I also shared my future plans for expedition-related quilts! I have two completed already (Quilt #1 and Quilt #2), and more will be done after I return.
As we are not able to leave our rooms, and we need to make sure we are all safe before boarding the ship, we had two PCR tests during the week. Since we couldn’t go to get the test, the cheeriest nurses you will ever meet came to us, door to door, down the hallways of the hotel. They were so quick, and it was such a relief to receive that negative result.
Some of the best times during this week of quarantine has been the community building. We have had a virtual coffee hour every morning and virtual happy hour each evening – both via Zoom, of course. We mostly discussed the view out our hotel room windows and experiences with food, from the hotel room service to Uber Eats. Honestly, these sessions were an excellent way to get to know some of my fellow scientists that I would be sailing with ahead of time. As we will be distanced from each other on the ship and all wearing masks for the first two weeks, having the start of this social, supportive connection will be key for me to make this transition from hotel to ship.
When the JR came in to port, just a few days before we were scheduled to leave, it was time to start my duties! I worked on and made “live” my first blog post for Expedition on 390, a tribute to The ships that sailed before us.
After a week of washing my clothes in the shower and bathroom sink, of ordering out for all my meals and not being able to reheat leftovers (there’s only a small fridge in the room – no microwave), and not being able to engage in any exercise (typically, I walk outdoors every day), I am ready to board the ship! The ship will seem significantly bigger than this hotel room, which was nice, but one week of never leaving the room, and I’m ready for something with a different view…