Saturday, September 20, 2014

Foiled by the Navy

"The best laid plans of mice and men
Oft go awry"
- "To a Mouse," poem by Robert Burns

We tossed my settlement plates in the truck. Daniel and Peter put on their dry suits. We loaded tanks, boots, flippers, hardware, the communication cable. We commissioned someone from UNIS to serve as lineman. We drove out to the dock...

...and discovered that it was occupied by a Norwegian Navy ship.

The Navy ship that delayed the start of my experiment. Alas.
You're not allowed to dive next to military vessels. They're afraid of sabotage, and they need to keep their engines on to generate electricity and fresh water for those living aboard. We spoke to the captain - a man probably younger than all of us - and received the most polite "no" in the history of humanity. Because the conversation was in Norwegian, I actually thought it was a "yes" by everyone's body language - until someone translated for me.

This doesn't mean my experiment is off. This just means we can't deploy the plates until Monday, when the ship is scheduled to leave the dock. Only one problem: Daniel, Peter, and a lot of other UNIS scientists are supposed to leave on a research expedition Monday afternoon, and I am also scheduled to fly out on Monday.

If the ship is gone on Monday morning, we're set, but if they don't leave until afternoon, we may run out of time and have to deploy the plates after the expedition. Settlement plates are supposed to be deployed at a variety of locations during the expedition, but we wanted to put them in Longyearbyen first as a trial run.

I'm feeling quite powerless right now, first of all because I'm not able to dive myself, and second because our plans have been way-laid by the presence of a ship that I have no control over. I am continually reminded that even the best-laid plans can be thwarted by simple outside forces, and that science is often an exercise in relying on others.

For now, all I can do is relax, wait, and trust that it will all come together.

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