Monthly Archives: May 2014

CRUISES AND HORSES DRUGS

As I said in the last post, one of the things oceanographers do is going to sea on research cruises. In the maps you can see the ports I have been, either to start, finish or just calling in. In total, there are 16 cities (some of them in different cruises, some of them last several days and some of them only a few hours). Overall, I have been 227 days at sea (that means, almost 8 month of my life!).

Every cruise is different, although they have things in common:

–          They always start after two or three days of complete chaos in the harbour; unpacking and setting up the equipment in the labs on board. If you are fortunate with the equipment and the weather, this chaos will decrease and you will have a pleasant cruise (unfortunately, this does not happen too often, and you normally deal with unimaginable problems of all types).

–          You disconnect from real life: forget about money, about cell phone, about checking email, Facebook, twitter… every two minutes. At the beginning it is hard but then, believe it or not, it’s RELAXING!!

–          You are in a limited space for 24/7, with a completely different routine from normal life. Thus, special relationships are created between people on board. They are not friends (normally) but they become friends with whom you share more than with normal land friends; they are not family but they became part of your family during these days (and in some occasion, for the rest of your life because many oceanography couples begin their relationship during cruises, including mine!)

–          I always get seasick at least once during the cruise. It has improved over the years but I think it will never go away. On my first cruise, I was so bad the crew gave me an anti-seasickness suppository and I used it without thinking anything against it (I think they were military horse drugs because it worked quickly and miraculously. I still have the little box at my dad’s as a souvenir). On the other hand, the last one, in the middle of the Southern Ocean, my day of seasickness was a mixture of hangover and bad mood.

 

On the other hand, each cruise is different, a complete “Big brother season”:

–          There are one week cruises and there are looooooooooong cruises.

–          There are open ocean cruises and there are coastal cruises. In open ocean, you are lucky if you are able to see land in the middle of the cruise. This much-deserved stop comes as you step on land and feel “land-sick”. You see different faces to the ones you’ve been seeing for weeks. Along the coast, (like coastal fisheries) you normally go to harbour every night, although you’ve been working non-stop the whole day.

–          There are dry cruises and there are cruises with different bars on board. When you disembark from a dry cruise, you feel completely detoxed but the first instinct you have is to look for a beer!

–          Normally in cruises you work in shift: some are 4 hours on- 8 hours off (so you can have a “baby” shift from 8 to 12 (am and pm) or you can have the “dog” shift from 4 to 8 (am and pm); some are 12 hours on- 12 hours out. So, at the end of a cruise, a part of you has to adapt to normal life again, taking care about purse and calls, sometimes you feel a kind of rare jetlag.

Cities I visited during cruises

Cities I visited during cruises

What oceanographers do on a day-to-day basis?

One thing I most like of my job is that it has a lot of different task for example:

  • Conferences
  • Meetings (with the boss, with students, with colleagues, with people in the same project…)
  • Cruises
  • Courses
  • Lab work
  • Data analysis and treatment
  • Writing
  • Revise (your own work and other works)
  • Apply for new jobs, new fellowships, new grants…

The problem is that this variety doesn’t happen every week. When I am on a cruise, I am on the cruise for several weeks, 24/7 (and towards the end of the cruise I dream of being at my office desk and my sofa). When I am finished with the cruise, I have a more normal office life (although occasionally, a lot longer hours), and after several months of being in front of the computer I dream on going to sea again!!

In my blog I would like to tell what I do during my days in England. Today I will start with an end of project meeting which happened this week.

My contract is associated to the Sea Surface Consortium (http://www.surfaceoa.org.uk/) of the UK Ocean Acidification Research Programme (http://www.oceanacidification.org.uk/). That means, among other things, that one works and interacts with a lot of people from different institutes. Even in the internet era, all these people have to come together to present their results, discuss what to do with them, split tasks…

So for that reason, during the two years and almost a half that I have been working in this project, I have been to Exeter, St Andrews, Plymouth, London and Southampton. It’s a pity that because most of us are based in Southampton, we have repeated it for at least three meetings and I miss the opportunity to visit Cambridge or Obam.UKOA Cities

So we meet together and after the “hello, how have you been?” “Not too bad, thank you! And you?” we spend some hours in a room doing presentation (most of them prepared the night before in a rush and “saying oh my gosh where is this graph??!!”). Each of us talk around 10-15 minutes and then there is time for questions, comments, feedbacks. Then we break for coffee, tea and biscuits. And the chit-chat continuous: “how long is your contract for?” although some other conversations are more in detail. We reconvene and continue presenting and talking. After a couple of more hours, we stop for lunch. Then again inside the room/coffee/room and at the end, your head it’s so full of new information and new ideas of, try this, try that… that all you want it is a nice break. We have normally a group dinner in a pleasant restaurant. I believe science advance more with a beer in hand. These types of meetings are normally one day and a half or two. So the second day is where, having shown what we have done, we sit down and decide what is left to do and who (and when!) will do what. It is also the time to decide where and when to meet next.

Ribas Ribas

My name is Mariana Ribas Ribas. Hold on, wait a minute… is that your name, double it? Yes, it is. It’s not a spelling mistake with my name, it is my brand! My first and second surnames are the same. In Spain and Mexico we don’t change surnames when we marry (and sure other countries but I only speak for what I directly know), so you always have the same surname, normally the first one from your father and the second one from your mother. So, here it comes the second question that I normally get: so are your parents related? No, they are not. We are from Ibiza and Ribas is a very frequent name. Furthermore, we spell it different from the rest of the peninsular Spain, with “B” instead of “V”. So, since I left home and lived in the main peninsula (for 11 years!), I had to say everytime, “Ribas Ribas with a B”. “And the other”, they ask? “Ribas, also with B!” So then, I moved to the UK and again I have to answer for the spelling; why I have two and why they are the same.

One of the funniest moment about the double surnames was when the Technical superintendent of the School of Ocean and Earth Science, University of Southampton, where I now work, triple checked with IT that that was my correct name and he was still afraid when we put my name on the door that it was a mistake (as my office mates also thought J)

Then it’s my signature, it is Mr2. It´s not mister 2, it’s not that I’m an Einstein´s equation (not even close), or I love math (although I do). It’s m r squared. It is just an easy way to sign. And then it turns out really convenient for my logo because I work on CO2 in the ocean so I can use the 2 for both.

Mr2

I’m sure I lose you when I said where I come from. It’s always happened to me. This will come in another post…