Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Scavenger hunt

Ah, the life of a scientist abroad. It is certainly never boring!

Before I left for Polarstern, I had a box of supplies for the Norwegian cruise sent ahead to Svalbard. It was supposed to be delivered to the office of an Arctic logistics company, where I could go and pick it up. The box contained the larval samplers and fouling panels that I needed for the cruise, so it was critical to my project that I receive it. Well, friends, unfortunately international science is not that simple. When I showed up at the logistics company's office on Monday morning to pick up my box, I discovered it was not there and not in the company's system. Thus began my scavenger hunt.

Where's Waldo World Championship
It started in the company's warehouse. I described my box - large, black with a red lid, about 20 kilos. Two employees looked, but it wasn't there.

Sometimes packages are routed through the Norwegian parcel service, they said. So we went to check with them. I gave the tracking number. I described the box. Nothing.

Well, the parcel service works really closely with the post office, so maybe my box had been delivered there. I went to the post office. I gave the tracking number. I scanned the shelves of packages behind the front desk. No box.

The paperwork accompanying my box indicated it had been handed over to the Norwegian post, but yet, it was listed as "pending delivery." A couple of phone calls later, I finally figured out why. The paperwork for my box had been sent, but the box itself was in....drumroll please...Oslo!

Obviously, I was disappointed to find my box had been sitting on the Norwegian mainland for over two weeks, but on the other hand, I knew Oslo was just one flight away and my box still had a chance of making it on time. I pleaded my case and got it a spot on the next flight out, with a promise that it would be delivered the very next day.

Impatiently, I waited until all the businesses opened this morning and then called the logistics company to find out if my box had shown up. No, it had not, I was told, but it was probably at the post office (deja vu!). I walked down to the post office and thankfully met up with a very helpful logistics company employee who helped me track down the box.

When I told him it was supposed to be on a flight to Svalbard the previous day, he drove me out the airport and checked in the hangar. No box.

Maybe someone else from the logistics company had already picked it up, he thought, so he made a quick call to ask. Then came the first "yes" I had heard in the whole search. The box had come with the midnight flight from Oslo. It had been picked up early in the morning and brought to...drumroll please...the University Center!

I have no idea how, but my box got labeled for delivery to the University Center in Svalbard, not the logistics company. I suppose it's not that far of an intellectual leap for a box full of science equipment to go to the nearest scientific research institution, but technically that's not how it was supposed to happen. Whatever.

We drove to UNIS and asked the receptionist if any boxes had been delivered that morning. She said yes and pointed up the stairs. I climbed the slick wooden stairs, rounded the corner, and there, sitting in the corridor, was my black and red box.

I've never been so glad to see a black box with a red lid in my life. In fact, part of me actually felt like I had just won the Where's Waldo world championship. It was here. I had found it.

After thoroughly thanking the helpful logistics company employee, I returned home and opened the box. Its contents were all there, undisturbed, ready for me. Let the cruise prep begin!

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