Welcome to Deep Sea News at Discovery. If you don’t know me already, I’m Peter. I study deep-sea corals, particularly the gorgonacea, sea fans that thrive in the darkness down to 5600 m. I use echosounders, satellites, submersibles, and robots to find and retrieve them. But it wasn’t always this way. I used to be an English major.
Late into my freshman year a fraternity brother asked me “what do you want to do with your life?” I had just dropped out of pre-med. I was swimming in new academic freedom. “I’m gonna write for National Geographic,” I said. Discovery Channel didn’t even exist then. If it did, I would have said that. It’s the only thing that might have sounded cooler.
Fifteen years pass, and I’m back in school, on a research trip aboard MV Minerva with World Wildlife Fund. We’re studying ocean circulation, island-hopping in the Philippines on a a 100’ twin outrigger through the Sulu Sea. One night we meet an old man watching sharks swim on the television. “Discovery Channel,” he says smiling. What a trip. It’s the middle of nowhere. Village lights go out at nine.
In the harbor the next morning, Alanis Morissette is blasting from loudspeakers in a belfry across the bay. I awake to the sound and the sight of the boats surrounding us. Fishermen wear “Mr. T” shirts. Coke and Nike logos are hand-painted on the hulls of panga boats. Kids are wearing Cartier. Before that moment, I simply did not realize how much America exports culture.
The point being that the most important progress in Ocean Science may not be bound up in peer-reviewed journals. “It’s in the ether”, a friend told me, “in the media”. Science culture is multicast, worldwide. That’s why I blog for Deep Sea News, to stretch across the world for an hour or two. Blogging also helps me avoid my dissertation. It’s quite useful for that.
Naturally, I miss those times sleeping under the stars, dangling my feet in the water. Now, the research vessels are too big to touch the water. So, I reminisce a little at DSN, and then get back to work finding deep sea corals. Join Craig, Kevin, and me each week as we search the ocean for another mystery to share. It’s just too much fun to keep to ourselves.