My past and current selves are very happy. I'm on Falkor, the Luck Dragon of the Neverending Story, though he is currently in the form of a sizeable research ship. The RV Falkor is fed / funded by the Schmidt Ocean Institute, a private foundation dedicated to ocean research, and I'm honoured to be the artist-in-residence of the latest expedition in the Gulf of California.
However, Falkor's flight has been tempered. Currently we are still in port at Manzanillo, waiting for a few affairs of containers, customs, and scheduling to click into place so that we can start the expedition. This is day 3 of my experience on board Falkor, and so far the rumours are true. The crew are warm, the scientists are friendly, and the food is amazing. There will be no scurvy here and in fact I plan to put on a few pounds. You know, just in case. Thus far I have read Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle, James Nestor's freediving book Deep, and precisely two pages of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. The gentle listing of the ship from side to side is peaceful rather than nauseating and makes for fun navigations of various corridors. Have you ever tried to overtake a drunk person pinging from wall to wall as they march down a narrow passage? It's like that.
Falkor is so-named to bring luck to its unique missions. Funded privately by the Schmidt Foundation, Falkor is free to pursue exploration and research outside the typical constraints of public funding. That is to say, when there's a limited pot of research council funds to go around, it's usually the research proposals most likely to produce useful - or profitable - results that get the funds. In effect, it helps if a scientist knows what kind of results they're going to get, before they've even done the research. But Falkor can take the risk of going places that have scarcely been explored, to allow researchers the freedom to just try and discover, to collect, to find out. Falkor provides the time and the opportunity, and researchers just need to apply to take part, bringing their ideas and projects.
When we set off there will be some 30 days of sailing the ocean so that our assorted company of geophysicists, biogeochemists, microbial ecologists, genomists and ecophysiologists can discover what lies below. There will be new discoveries and plenty of science to communicate. I'm going to help by creating some art, animations, and apps. I will also be perfecting the quietest way to enter and exit a top bunk so that my cabinmate Professor Monika Bright does not eventually strangle me, and looking eagerly for blue whales in the ocean horizon. Please follow my journey and hound me with questions.
Not quite a blog, but things that I have written.