Thursday, October 22, 2009


Things which have amused me this morning:
that German research vessels specify their length to the centimeter! I have never seen any vessel length more accurate than the foot or the meter, but it fits precisely with my (facetiously held) idea of German-ness. There are certain running jokes amongst marine scientists about research vessels of various nationalities and how this reflects the character of the nation (American boats are dry - alcohol-free*, French boats have wine-holds and dancefloors, Japanese boats have communal baths and serve flying-fish sushi, should the misguided suckers land on the deck). The stereotype about the German R/V Sonne is that (say, unlike Canadian vessels where there are a series of skilled helmsmen who hold station with a combination of luck, skill and magic**) if they need to hold station to do some science, there is a large red button on the bridge, which is pushed by the authoritarian Captain, and through the magic of German engineering.... *poof* ...boat stops even in a gale.***

Things which have not amused me this morning:
Despite their claim that they would send out a serviceperson last night, we still have neither heat nor hot water. I haven't been able to bathe since Tuesday and thus have so far been working from home, not feeling like going to the office feeling slimy. At least it is only autumn. However a cold shower in a freezing apartment is not tempting.

Things which make me wonder:
I went and translated all the items in my shop, so that posting are in both official languages. I had a purchase earlier this week from someone with a French name in Québec, so I debated whether I should write back in French. I decided to send a standard (your loot is in the mail thank you so much) email in English and a brief thank you in French with the item. Today I have a purchase from France. The funny thing is that I had just been wondering at my own sanity for having put all this effort into translating everything, since Google Analytics told me I had very few visits from people whose operating systems identify them as francophone.

*When I casually mentioned I had never previously been on a dry vessel, after a week long cruise on an American boat, the jaws of all the American scientists collectively dropped. Though Canadian vessels are stricter than they used to be; when I was a student, you could buy yourself a duty-free beer for 50 cents from a vending machine on a well-known research vessel. The crew used the proceeds to buy a hot tub. They are a clever bunch.
**In my experience, it is wise to go up to the wheelhouse, now an again, particularly at about 3 am, to give the Officer on the bridge a pep talk, and maybe a butter tart with a coffee. I tend to do experiments which require a lot of station-holding, which is not the sort of thing which is popular with Officers.
***I should make clear that I have never been aboard any German vessel. I have been on many many Canadian research cruises, a couple of American research cruises, and one month-long Chilean research cruise and I have toured a variety of research vessels when they've come to port. I can say that each of these did indeed have a distinct flavour.

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