I had never really thought about writing a blog before, but as I am on-board of a near-ending cruise and am in the middle of writing a report for summarizing this cruise, I realize how much this cruise has been valuable under many prospects, not only as a scientist and a teacher, but also as a person. So, I decided to write this blog, and explain to you all the many great experiences, emotions and feelings that this cruise brought me.
Text and photos: Giuliana Panieri, AKMA project leader and co-chief scientist of the AKMA cruise.
The AKMA project had a rough start, it was granted by the Norwegian Research Council at the beginning of 2019, and with the partners (WHOI, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) we began discussing and planning the course and the cruise we wanted to develop for the students. Our ultimate goal was to develop a course that would focus on a multitude of aspects related to methane in the Arctic. Little did we know that our newborn project would be completely halted by a global pandemic. We all remember March 2020, and one thing I clearly remember was in fact one of the first meetings we were having to plan this cruise. All of a sudden, all of the participants of the meeting (which were all gathered in an actual physical room with walls at the time, not a virtual room like on Zoom) were basically kicked out of the department because everything was starting to close down.
Cruise planning meetings.
This is why I say that the project had a rough start, but this rough start gave it tough skin and resilience. Although this pandemic made us distance ourselves from each other, I believe that it also brought people closer. I started thinking about ways in which, with our science, we could touch a broad audience to inspire and share knowledge in these times of darkness and uncertainty. From colleagues and scientists to adolescents. So, me and the team had to think differently than usual, we had to think creatively and diversely because we would not give up and we accepted the challenge. These challenges had to be transformed into solutions and we came up with ideas that were developed through a Polaroid project, a virtual cruise, a short video to inform people about our work and we established social media platforms for our project. And finally, during May and June of 2021 we were given the green flag to have our AKMA expedition in the Arctic Ocean and in the Barents Sea.
Andy Bowen giving a seminar from WHOI for the students on board of KPH.
We involved all the colleagues that could not join from the U.S., hosting them every evening on Zoom calls, we shared our discoveries and daily experience on social media and on video calls, which we had with our younger audience from all over Europe. I am not going lie, I was quite skeptical about the social media aspect of the project, until one of my colleagues told me something beautiful: “for the first time my family sees what I am doing at sea looking at the live video feed from the ROV, and they are asking questions… this is the first time they really understand what my work is”. Our jobs are not easy, and what we do is not simple to explain. But via social media we were finally able to truly show everyone back home what it is that we really do on our cold days in the middle of the Arctic Ocean miles and miles away from land.
Although this is a big part of my job, I can tell you that being at sea is not always easy… Seasickness and being homesick become your best friends, but this time, my best friends changed. I was thrilled by the enthusiasm and curiosity of the students, their drive to learn and their thousands of questions made it such a remarkable experience! This happiness of mine was not only limited to the students, but equally to the professional and friendly behaviors of my colleagues on-board, the availability from the colleagues ashore, the support from my university and the many EGU friends and volunteers, and lastly the crew: all those women and men that spend their days at sea, navigating in the waters of the unknown, science and knowledge always seeking, imagining and with an open mind, always learning.
AKMA cruise Participants.