As I reached the end of April, I realized that too much of my time was getting consumed by zoom calls and email in a bid to over-compensate for not being able to interact with people on-site at WHOI. So starting this week, I have annexed our guest bedroom to set up a quiet reading location, away from my phone, iPhone and computer connections to the outside world. There, unplugged, I have set to work on a 2-week mission to spend my mornings reading the whole of a 500-page book on Enceladus, one of the top two Ocean Worlds on NASA's list for future missions to explore for life beyond Earth. I am still spending my afternoons back here on Earth (I had 71 fresh emails waiting for me when I logged back in today at noon) but after 5 mornings’ effort, I am halfway and have distilled out 14 pages of notes. Since both my dogs are scared of stairs, the only company I have is the polar bear on the cushion that I brought back from Svalbard last October—a souvenir from our cruise with Nereid Under Ice to the Arctic.
I was inspired to do this after I remembered that I did the same thing while on a sabbatical living on a farm in northern Germany in 2015 when I read the earlier volume on “Europa” in the same series. The knowledge I gained then, while shut off from the rest of the world for different reasons, is what lead me to conceive of oceanography beyond Earth—which I then pitched to the WHOI Catalyst program when that came into existence.