Seafaring suffering


Blog, Coastal & Marine, Conservation, General

Matt returns to the Queen Mabel after sampling. -CDF/GCMP

On board the Queen Mabel, I’ve had another chance to commune with Charles Darwin, famed one-time explorer of the Galapagos.  Though, this one I could have done without.

Darwin is famous for participating in a five-year voyage on H.M.S. Beagle, which circumnavigated the globe and visited a number of coastlines and oceanic islands rich in natural curiosity, including the Galapagos.  Though Darwin relished his chances to explore these exotic lands and their inhabitants, he was not so thrilled about the time aboard ship getting from one to another, which was evident in his letters to family: “I hate every wave of the ocean, with a fervour, which you who have only seen the green waters of the shore can never understand.”  “I loathe, I abhor the sea and all the ships which sail on it… not even the thrill of geology makes up for the misery and vexation of spirit that comes with seasickness.”  I’ll never say that I abhor the sea, but as we rounded the SW corner of Isabella Island, which is exposed to the open Pacific and the swells that pulse across it all the way from the Southern Ocean, one of the few coherent thoughts in my seasick head was that on a ship on the sea was the last place I wanted to be.  Fortunately, we eventually reached calmer waters, I uncurled myself from the ball of desperation into which I had shrunk over the past few hours, and staggered to bed, and, by the time we visited our next mangrove site the next day, I was as excited as ever to continue the research.

The Queen Mabel – CDF/GCMP

It was a harrowing experience.  I feel your pain Darwin.  But, hey, maybe seasickness serves its own purpose.  Maybe Darwin wouldn’t have spent every minute of the voyage he could on land, if he hadn’t been so reluctant to get back on the Beagle.  Instead, he was keeping busy making the observations of geological strata and finches’ beaks that allowed him to develop theories that revolutionized biology.

As for me, well… maybe I’ll take a few extra samples before heading back to the ship this evening.


Author: Matthew Coasta

PhD student, SIO

Matthew Costa is a Regents Fellow 2013-4 and NSF Graduate Research Fellow 2014-present, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in biological oceanography as part of the Gulf of California Marine Program. He is interested in community ecology, biodiversity and functional diversity, and coastal ecosystem processes and services. His research focuses on carbon storage in sediments of the mangrove forests in the southern Gulf of California. Prior to study at SIO, he completed a B.A. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Princeton University studying mangrove species zonation in Bermuda.

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