Tuesday, 24 May 2016

A Packing List for Life Offshore

The topic of “my first offshore science expedition” is nothing new in the blogging world. I personally have read a couple as they are common topics on the JOIDES Resolution blog, and is anyone surprised? It’s an exciting experience that potentially only happens once-in-a-lifetime. With this in mind I’m going to talk about the week preceding the expedition and what it is like to prepare to go offshore instead.

The formalities:
Expedition: IODP Expedition 364: Chicxulub Impact Crater
Position: Multi-Sensor Core Logger Operator
Length: 1 week, maybe more with good behaviour

The streets of Merida, Mexico, city stop on the way to
the platform
Now let’s get on with it. First and foremost, it’s unusual and involves a different mind-set from holiday packing. Preparing for a holiday usually involves thinking: “what do I want to do in all my free time?” whereas this was closer to: “what do I need to be comfortable and keep me busy during downtime so that I don’t get on everyone else’s nerves”. I’m good at that.

So the first things to go in the bag were essentials of course: clothes, toothbrush, sunglasses, etc. Then followed by more unique items, steel toe capped boots, insect repellent, work stuff. Fieldwork is part of learning to be a geologist so this isn’t entirely my first rodeo, but this is not a typical kind of field that I am going to work in. You really don’t need to pack all that much in terms of clothes either, thanks to the Mexican climate. It is between 26 and 40 degrees at this time of year, day and night. Also, overalls are part of the compulsory PPI so there isn’t much choice beyond which pair of shorts and which t-shirt to wear underneath it. Inspiring I know.

The Lift Boat Myrtle: home for the next week or so
What to do in downtime was a bit of a head scratcher: I’m a Millennial, the internet is where I get most of my entertainment; so how is this going to happen when 30 km offshore? And what about exercise, it’s a 42 m platform with virtually no hull and 33 people on board, where am I going to find the space to even swing a rope? Well, spoiler alert! There’s wifi, although it is pretty slow, and an exercise area outside with free weights so there was no need to worry. I had already settled on music for entertainment though. Plenty of varied music and several sets of headphones (along with a couple of good books obviously). Again, you really don’t need that much because there isn’t much time when you’re working 12 hour shifts.

In fact by the time I was done packing I could fit everything into a large backpack if I had tried really hard, and I think I will if I have the opportunity in future. This was my final packing list: Shorts? Check; t-shirts? Check; undies? Check; steel toe-capped boots? Check; toothbrush and stuff? Check; a couple of good books? Check; done.

So that’s it, nothing too complicated. All that was left was to finalise flights. For those of you who don’t know, exploratory scientific drilling is not an exact science because you never know exactly what you are going to find; and this makes judging the rate of expected progress tricky. So I had to work a bit of leeway into my schedule; flying out a bit earlier and booking flights back for a bit later than expected because there was no way that I was going to be responsible for delaying this multi-million dollar expedition! But, more on the expedition itself and whether I enjoyed the experience or not next time.