Wednesday, June 3, 2015

A Day of Firsts

This morning I had my first live interactions. The very first one was with my daughter’s kindergarten class. What a delightful way to start the day!

Practicing our Socktopus banter.
They had some awesome questions, and I got to talk with both of my kids. (By the way, for those of you who asked how long it takes for the ROVs to get to the bottom, I found out: they descend at about 20-25 meters a minute.) My favorite part was when we introduced my friend Socktopus, who has now been outfitted with a tiny headset of his own. The roar from the kids when he made his surprise appearance was priceless!
Me with Socktopus in the studio.

The next two interactions were with the Titanic Museum in Belfast, Ireland and the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Both went really well – thankfully Allison was at my side for the questions I did not know the answer to! They went surprisingly fast, and I had so much fun talking with the audience and sharing stories of where we are headed and what we are doing.

Me with Neptune's Queen (AKA Allison) after the ceremony.
After the last interaction of the day, the ship drew to a halt just short of the equator. All of the “Pollywogs” (people who had never crossed the equator before) were gathered (or should I say herded) to the gym, and the Line Crossing Ceremony resumed. As is the case with other initiation ceremonies, I am not permitted to share the details, but the final result is that King Neptune permitted us to cross the equator, and I am now a “Shellback.” It was a lot of fun, I laughed the whole way through. It helps when you like and trust the people putting you through the initiation.

The mood on the ship was festive the rest of the day. After dinner, one of the crew members pulled out a large keyboard and performed songs from his native Ukrania. Although I could not understand the lyrics, it was fun to gather and watch him lustily belt out his favorites, while we clapped along.

The end of the evening was much more sedate; the full moon climbed high in the sky, and the air was warm and moist enough to be called sultry. The birds that have been repeatedly visiting our ship at night appeared, about 20-30 of them. Commonly called swallow-tailed gulls (Creagrus furcatus), they swooped and soared and dove at the ocean, making a guttural clicking sound when they dove at the water. A flock of about half a dozen brown birds, possibly brown boobies, joined in occasionally, making striking silhouettes against the full moon that hung overhead.

I sat on the social deck with several members of the Corps of Exploration and marveled at the birds, snapping photos until my battery gave out. One of the Ukranian crew members joined us on the deck, and he had very little English with which to express his wonderment. Despite our lack of ability to communicate verbally, we exclaimed over the birds and how close they swooped to the deck, how they dove at the water and sprung up like athletes into the air again. With gestures and noises we shared our mutual delight.

It was a day of firsts, and as I drifted off to sleep, I smiled, as tomorrow is to be another day of firsts: we would arrive at the Galapagos in the morning! I could not wait!

Skip to the next blog post by Melissa: Land Ho!

This is part of a multi-part series . Melissa Baffa, Vice President of Program and Volunteer Services for GSCCC, is part of the Corps of Exploration aboard the E/V Nautilus this year on the adventure of a lifetime. This blog series will chronicle her dive into the Unknown.

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