Prayers, Rituals, and Superstitions

Sediment core sectioning by Melissa Madison and Ben Temperton on deck of the New Horizon.

No matter how many times you throw an instrument overboard, there is always a chance that it’s just not going to work.  Whether it’s ripping a hole in a net, a misfire on a bottle trigger, or any of hundreds of other scenarios, there are many ways in which oceanographers try to deal with these problems.

Typically, scientists will first try logic and reason to determine what might have happened to make the instrument malfunction beneath 1000 meters of water and suggest a feasible “fix” for the possible problem.  Sometimes this “fix” works wonders and the instrument responds, but many times the “fix” just doesn’t seem to work.  In all cases we can always come up with ideas for new gadgets or toys that we just know will fix all our future worries, but alas we are restricted to items that we have on board.  In terms of the multicorer (my personal flavor of instrument used for sampling ocean sediments) we try adjusting impact speeds, line settling times, adding or subtracting weights from the frame (etc..), but sometimes no matter what we do things just don’t always go our way and samples are just unattainable.

So as logical, brilliant scientists that we are we eventually resort to the old adage of prayers, rituals, or superstitions.  When all hope seems lost and we are in desperate need of a success and have no further ideas to better our sampling events sometimes we just have to send up a prayer, create some good luck ritual, or wear a certain piece of clothing to tempt fortune in our favor.  On this particular voyage, after 22 casts of our trusty multicorer, only 7 have come up successfully and we have tried every fix we can come up with to improve the success of our coring attempts.  Therefore, we have started to look to other powers that be to help us collect our samples.  For this sleep deprived crew we have developed our own multicore dance to go along with every cast and recovery for the teams on deck to perform. Does this ritual work??? Well on three casts accompanied by this new 2:30 am choreography, we still only had one successfully recovered set of cores.  So not any improvement yet, but for the sediment group we have here on the Horizon, we still have hope of better coring rates in our upcoming stations.