Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Research cruises humanise us

A post from Chata Seguro

How many times have we heard that traveling opens your mind, makes you more empathetic and – why not? – more intelligent? And the reason is that we get out of our comfort zone and we are “forced” to learn from other cultures just by standing in the middle of a new environment.
What is not so obvious is that it also happens in research cruises. You may be wondering why. How is that possible if you are only travelling with the same group of people that you normally cross in the corridor or in the canteen? There is nothing new with that, right? Well, actually no.  During a research cruise, especially long ones, you are “forced” to interact with complete strangers but also with old colleagues in a different way. You are not the centre of your own agenda: you try to be there where you are useful because on a ship, the word team makes real sense, and that humanises us.
Nowadays, we have everything we need to make our life comfy and independent. That is a double-edged sword, because while, for example, technology makes our life easier it also isolates us. You may think that it is not true because you talk everyday with your colleagues or family, but how many times do you learn something new from them? How many times does somebody’s opinion surprise you and makes you really think? 
There is something magical on every cruise, does not matter how many times have you sailed, every cruise is different, and it is not only because you navigate different seas but more importantly with different people. Here, the internet is slow, you need to take turns to use the computer, calling home is more difficult than just typing a number from your phone and it is these inconveniences that annoyed us so much on the first days that have become part of the routine now. The biggest advantage is that while these technological inconveniences affect our mood less and less, jokes, games, histories and laughs grow to occupy this space more and more.
As a foreigner, I experienced the shock of the polite and friendly but sometimes rather cold urban society. Surprisingly, we all became warm friends (crew, technicians and scientists) while on the cruise. You do your best to treat others well. On land we are not patient enough: why would we waste our time on someone we don’t care about? On land, we lose many good opportunities to hear what others have to say, whilst research cruises bring us many. Research cruises humanise us. I can simply not imagine myself having great conversations while looking at the sunset or the starry sky with a complete stranger on land, but it is so easy on a research cruise, and it feels so good! Life is different floating in a nutshell in the middle of the Atlantic. You discover new things almost in every conversation, and importantly, you also re-discover yourself telling about your life to others.
Time to enjoy conversations and the setting sun
New times are coming: autonomous vehicles, satellite data, buoys and auto-samplers, modelling, all of which will generate much more science-data for the same number of cruises. This is a huge advantage in the name of science, knowledge, the environment and of course for the benefit of the society, but we should not allow technologies and staying in our comfort zone to dehumanise us – or robotics to replace us. I hope we will never loose our north star. 

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