So what's the trickiest thing for each scientist to transport? I asked around ...
For many, the most difficult thing to pack up and move is their samples. "Cultures have to be kept at 4º C," says Barbara Campbell. "Samples have to be kept on dry ice at -80ºC."
Barbara, who's returning to the University of Delaware, carries a big Coleman cooler and keeps things cold with dry ice. "You have to use less than five pounds to put it on a plane," she says.
Michelle Phillips, returning to the University of Oregon finds it cumbersome to carry a Styrofoam cooler full of samples.
Tom Niederberger has to carry his samples all the way back to New Zealand, a 12-hour flight. He'll carry a cooler, too, but because he's traveling internationally, he needs permits to carry microorganisms into the country.
"We don't call it a cooler," he corrects me. "In New Zealand it's a 'chilly bin.'"
Tom also has to bring fragile things, including glass tubes. "I don't know how I'm going to pack them yet," he says. Luckily there is some extra packing material around. Dr. Horst Felbeck's troublesome item is glass, too -- the glass homogenizers that are an important part of the processing of tubeworm samples. (Check my journal on December 9.) Fortunately Horst just has to get his equipment from the dock in San Diego to the lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, the town next door. He has pressure chambers to transport as well as all his samples.
Dr. Astrid Schnetzer only has to get as far as Los Angeles, a two-hour drive from San Diego. She'll keep her filters with DNA on them at -80º C with dry ice as she carries them to the lab.
Dr. Shannon Williamson and Shellie Bench have larger things to deal with. Shellie describes a 100-pound refrigerated centrifuge. "It's difficult to move around as you're packing it. The centrifuge travels in the bottom of a metal box."
Another heavy item is the "M-12," a peristaltic pump. Shannon says, "It's really heavy, and it's so critical it has its own box." All of their things will be strapped onto a pallet and shipped, including a $1,500 liquid nitrogen "dewar" with glass insulation inside, so it's fragile and expensive.
In addition, they, too, have samples to be kept on dry ice. "It's a complication," says Shellie, who must fly back to Delaware. "You're allowed to carry it on, but it becomes one of your checked bags, so you can carry less of your own stuff."
Many of the scientists with oodles of equipment will be doing as Shannon and Shellie will and strap their stuff onto pallets that can be loaded up by professional shippers and moved on out. But others will be responsible for science boxes full of small equipment -- and if some of the fragile things get padded by their extra socks and sweatshirts, that works out for everybody.
Kevin Portune will carry the Sipper home in pieces, packed in a box, along with his duffle bag and laptop computer. Mike and I are already discussing who will carry what from our pile of things: he's got the video camera and the CDs with copies of all our journals and photographs, and his laptop computer and his duffle; I've got the still camera, a laptop, and all my notebooks, my Sponge Bob backpack and my orange suitcase.
I feel as if I'm jumping the gun talking about all this stuff now. There's still plenty happening on the ship. Eric DeChaine, Alison Kelley, and I saw dolphins today, and Kevin and Ky Hacker saw whales.
Dr. Monika Bright gave a talk on the life cycle of Riftia
pachyptila today -- and explained more about the babytraps. (See my journal for December 2. And watch for more tomorrow.) Ordinary Seaman Kevin Threadgold gave us boxing lessons tonight.
And Dr. Craig Cary tutored some of us in the fine art of swing dancing, out on the fantail this evening. We had the Stray Cats on the CD player, and a fierce easterly wind blowing us around. While dodging in and out of Alvin's tracks, some of us cut a rug - you should see Kevin do the pretzel! - and we found out that Ky can rock and swing at the same time.
After all this time, everything seems to be drawing to a close very quickly. I feel sad at leaving the ocean behind and heading back to the Connecticut woods. But then I think of something that happened yesterday when I was out on deck. Down at my feet I noticed something oddly familiar -- but oddly out of place, too. It was a leaf.
I dove for it, thinking, "How on earth --?" and then realized it was a part of the bloom of one of the poinsettia plants that crew bought in Manzanillo to decorate the ship for the holidays. It reminded me of something I noticed the first day in the Main Lab: silk autumn leaves were scattered over the table where Ky's video station sits. It seems that I'm not the only one who's torn between the ocean and the land.