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Nov. 24, 2009

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Liz before with the flu.

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Liz after the flu. (Liz on the right and Karen on the left)

I'm a stowaway

Liz Burakowski

I left New Hampshire on Tuesday November 17th in a state one would describe as a picture of perfect health.  Yet somehow I awoke in Brisbane on Friday November 20th feeling worse than a sack of koala droppings.  My worst fear had come true.  The disease that had been rippling through UNH[1N1] had quite possibly followed me halfway around the world.  I asked my fellow travelling buddies, Mimi and Jack, “Do you think they will make me go home?”   There was only one way to find out.

On Friday evening, I cautiously boarded the R/V Melville, refusing to shake hands with anyone as they met me.  Alison quickly retired me to my quarters and I fell asleep immediately, while the rest of the crew went out on the town for one last hurrah. 

Alison woke me at 7:30 am on Saturday, the day we were to set sail and offered  to put me up at a hotel until I was well enough to fly home.  I had considered the option, but ultimately decided I’d be in better hands on a well-equipped ship rather than cooped up alone in a hotel room (would any hotel staff in their right mind take care of a sickly foreigner?  No).  Quarantine on the ship was my remaining option.

Quarantine.  For the first 48 hours on the Melville, I remained curled up in my bunk with a face mask, achey limbs, a phlegmy cough and a throbbing headache.  I wasn’t even sure where I was on the Melville, but I had a view of the container ships and cranes on our transit out of Brisbane from my porthole.  Captain Chris Curl came in around 8:30 on Saturday donning a mask and carrying a med kit.  My blood pressure and pulse were strong, but my temperature read 100.1F, and that made me  feel nauseous (but that’s between Cpt. Chris and I).  By noon, it had elevated to 101.4F.  I slept fitfully for the next  24 hours, often waking in a pool of sweat and shivering.  Mimi, my roommate, was a superb caretaker bringing me soup and crackers and keeping me up to date on the ship’s position and key notes from meetings. 

By Sunday morning, I broke my fever and Cpt. Chris released me from quarantine.  I stumbled down to the lab where I saw a half dozen unfamiliar faces hovering over strange machines and beeping computers.   My face mask both concealed and revealed my identity as Liz, the ‘quarantine girl’. 

By Monday the coughing had subsided and I was finally free to join the rest of the healthy population free of my mask.  At first, few people recognized me without it.   “Wait, who are you?  When did you get here?”

 “I missed the boat, so they flew me in by helicopter last night.”

“I’m a stowaway.”  Even illness couldn’t cure me of my sarcasm.

But ship life for me is normal now.  Community outbreak averted, thanks to quarantine and face masks.  Many thanks to Captain Chris Curl and Dr. Alison MacDonald for the many emails sent to the shore physician and for allowing me fight through the illness rather than return home to UNH[1N1].  I’m looking forward to a fantastic voyage across the South Pacific!

My view of the ocean

Mimi Szeto

I got a kick out of how the water went from brown to turquoise to cerulean blue as we started moving away from shore (My specialty is in ocean color). Right now, everywhere around me is pure cerulean blue underneath a clear blue sky. The seawater is almost like a dark Gatorade blue. And depending on where the sun is overhead, there are rays of cyan emanating to the surface from one point, like how rays of sunlight pierce through clouds during a sunset or sunrise, only up-side down. The sunrises and sunsets, of course, have been breathtaking, and they're definitely a nice break for some who have been processing samples (ss,dd --same sh*t, different day, as I was told).

My nerdy view of the ocean

Currently, I am trying to observe and understand the ocean's color at different angles, which changes with the solar zenith angle (direction of the sun). I've noticed that at dawn, the light scatters with an uniform spectrum (grey) when I look towards the sun, and scatters blue when I look directly away from it, which makes sense. Then bands of blue and grey alternate around me between the to and fro directions, and they change directions as the sun moves overhead. There are also diamond-like specs everywhere, which is the strong scattering with a uniform spectrum (white), at the tops of waves before they break. I presume this is the stuff that is normalized when a satellite measures the radiance (the ocean's color). Or perhaps it is not even a problem since they do not observe the ocean from such a small angle. I realize from this experience, that I never actually tried to do materialize all the ocean optics theory I've been learning. It's having me question my current understanding, which is good.


Currently, I'm on Station 19 out of 151 stations on the CLIVAR P6 transect. Yesterday night, Rachel (pH bottle sampler) and I went up on O1 Deck to see the stars. It took about half a minute for our eyes to adjust but they started popping up everywhere. We think we have been staring up at the Milky Way

Last updated: December 1, 2009

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