One of the things that I find so cool about these types of cruises is that they bring together a group of people with radically different backgrounds and allow them to get to know one another very quickly. You are spending every waking hour with the same group, and they’re people that you might not otherwise have the chance to meet, or to really take the time to understand. This atmosphere encourages a lot of lively, interesting, and fulfilling conversations.
For me, it’s been very different being the only American aboard. With all these accents (though I guess I’m the one with the accent here) I become overly self-conscious of my haRsh AmeRican Rs. We’re constantly overcoming a major language barrier here. There are the few things that everyone thinks of – lorry (truck), boot (trunk) – but spending so much time on the ship together, we’ve just about run the gambit of conversational topics and have met quite the array of linguistic idiosyncrasies. There’s the bonnet (hood) of a car, the nappie (diaper) on a baby, and a lovely collection of curses too colorful (colourful) to be transcribed. My favorite (favourite) expression that I’ve learned is “to blank someone,” which, for all you Americans out there, means to ignore them. I’ll be taking that one home with me.
We’ve also taken the opportunity to really suss out our cultural differences by getting down to the hard-hitting topic of food. Ryan still won’t forgive me for revealing that in America, corned beef is a common Sunday dinner. On the other hand, I find it a bit odd that it’s commonplace to cook and eat a rabbit in the British Isles, so I can’t really begrudge him his shock.
In all sincerity, though, I really enjoy the cultural diversity part of the gig. The technical challenges and immense scale of deep-sea research provide unique opportunity and incentive for international collaboration. This collaborative energy is one of the things that attracted me to HADEEP and that really makes me excited to continue working in deep-sea science. Torben Wolff, one of the fathers of trench research, said it better than I can. “When frontiers are closed scientific research stagnates… No science can thrive without foreign contracts. And oceanography, concerned with the physical conditions of the oceans, their flora and fauna, and the utilization of these for the benefit of hungry man, is surely one of the most international of all the sciences. The sea affects us all, at once separating and uniting us.”
1. Nielsen, K.H., Postcolonial partnerships: deep sea research, media coverage and (inter)national narratives on the Galathea Deep Sea Expedition from 1950 to 1952. The British Journal for the History of Science, 2010. 43(1): p. 75-98.