Packing for a large research cruise takes a long time, unpacking can take even longer. To get there, we sent a standard shipping container (the 20-footers you see on cargo ships) loaded with equipment to San Diego ahead of us. Sure, it took a while to plan what goes in the container, not to mention loads of pre-visualization, measuring, and re-organization, Tetris-style to get it all to fit as efficiently and safely as possible.
When we arrived in San Diego, we take the rental van directly to the docks, to get to work on unloading the container, setting up the equipment, and storing the excess away. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. It’s not like coming home after a trip when you dump out a suitcase and put things back from whence it came. For the rest of my lab, this is a new ship, they’ve never been on it before and don’t know the layout of the labs, storerooms, work areas, or bunk rooms. I was on this boat for six weeks in 2003 out of Honolulu (going more than halfway to Japan and back in the first three weeks, then circumnavigating the Hawaiian islands for the remaining three weeks), so I’m very familiar with it.
However, there are four other university-level institutions along for the ride. So that’s another couple of containers full of equipment to pull out onto the docks, which then gets carried by hand or craned onto the ship. It takes thirty people working 14 hour days for three days to get everything onboard.
Here’s the ship, the R/V Roger Revelle. You may recognize the name as the scientist name-checked by Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth.” And the “R/V” has a slash because it stands for “Research Vessel,” while “RV” stands for “Recreational Vehicle.” I doubt you will find a scientist or R/V crew member who would call it anything close to recreational.
Well, I can setup my station rather quickly (under 20 minutes). I know what I’m doing and how to do it. So after this, I go back out to help the community effort of unloading, craning with canvas nets (only crew can operate the cranes), and being basic pack animals.