Monday, September 18, 2017

I will be back

"You made me swear I'd never forget
I made a vow I'd see you again
I will be back one day
And I'll find you there by the great big lake"
- "I will be back one day" by Lord Huron

Returning home from a trip to the Arctic is always a surreal experience. The climate in the high north is so different that I feel disconnected from whatever's going on at temperate latitude. I'm completely out of touch with American news. Especially after long trips, when I return home to a different season than I left, it doesn't just feel like I've been away; it feels like I've been on another planet.

Even though it's mid-September, it still feels like summer in New England. Temperatures are in the 70s (Fahrenheit), and I'm walking around in T-shirts for the first time in a month. Thankfully, most of the vacationers have gone, so the traffic in town is actually manageable. I'm settling back into my WHOI work, spending time with my boyfriend, and making sure we're prepared for hurricane José.

You know, on my first trip to Svalbard in 2011, I thought I was getting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I thought I would never get a chance to go back. It wasn't until I had been to Svalbard 5 times in 4 years that I started to think of myself as an Arctic biologist. At the time, I declared that I would be back even though I had no solid plans. I had a head full of ideas and just knew in my heart that I would find a way - a project, a collaboration, some grant money. Well, I designed a project and found the funding that I needed, and this time, I don't just know that I'll be back. I know when.

If all goes as planned, the larval samplers and fouling panels that were just outplanted on moorings for me will be recovered over the next 1 - 2 years. I'll return to Svalbard for the recovery cruises, and if I know myself, I'll have other projects to start too. Every time I come up to the Arctic, I go home with new ideas, and this time is no exception. It's taken me 6 years, but I'm comfortable saying it now: I am an Arctic biologist.

In the meantime, my samplers are underwater, swaying gracefully on the mooring lines, collecting larvae and recruits of hard-bottom benthic invertebrates. I leave them in peace.

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