August 17, 2012 Preparations
Although his will be my eighth trip to the Arctic on board a science research cruise, it still takes time to get organized and to pack. Because we'll be sailing into Russian waters, the first order of business for this cruise was to obtain a Russian visa, a multi step process, involving an application for an invitation to apply, the receipt of the official invitation, an application for the visa, mailing my passport, and three trips to the Russian consulate in Washington, DC. Fortunately, Dr. Jackie Grebmeier, the researcher with whom I'll be traveling, is at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Maryland, and she and Monika Kedra, the woman who will be working with us on the cruise, were able to travel to DC and complete the process. As of two days ago, we all have our visas and our passports have been returned to us.
My next step is to begin trying to fit my mustang suit, large steel-toed boots, and warm weather clothes into my rolling duffel. The mustang suit is designed to provide flotation and hypothermia protection, and it has reflectors that increase visibility in case of water immersion. I don't expect to go overboard, but the suit will keep me warm and dry while on deck working with Jackie. The suit and the boots take up so much room that I'll have little space left over for long underwear, gloves, a warm hat, and other cold weather gear. When traveling on a US or Canadian ship as I've done in the past, there are mustang suits available on board and packing is much easier. For every trip, however, I have to wrap my mind around the fact that it really will be cold. Packing in August, when it's been so hot and humid, makes it tough to even find all of my winter clothing.
The ship we'll be on for this cruise is the Russian ship, Professor Khromov. At 72 meters long (about 236 feet) and 32 meters wide, (a little over 42 feet), it's big enough to hold the crew as well as 45 scientists and all of their gear. Space will be tight, as the ship wasn't designed for research. As a matter of fact, when it's not being used for research, it's an ecotourism vessel, The Spirit of Enderby. When I was on the ship in 2009, it seemed strange to see areas labeled lounge, library, and restaurant. With 45 scientists and their equipment and lab set ups, there wasn't a spare inch for anything else on board. On that cruise, Jackie and I shared our 'lab space' (a small food storage locker) with three other teams. I'm sure we won't have any more space on this cruise, but scientists are creative, and I have no doubt we'll make it all work.
(credits: 2009 RUSALCA expedition, RAS-NOAA)
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