A part of the marine science gig has always been spending weeks or even months away from home in isolated environments, but COVID-19 has added a new twist. To ensure that no one boarding the ship has the coronavirus, each of us had to quarantine at least 2 weeks in a hotel room in port before joining the ship and receive daily healthy checks and a couple of COVID tests.
Due to unanticipated delays, the twenty-two of us in Ketchikan have actually been quarantining for 3 weeks, and other members of our shipboard team quarantined even longer in Newport, Oregon. We have been allowed to go outside each day for socially distanced exercise, but otherwise we have stayed in our hotel rooms. All of our meals are left outside of our rooms. Serving sizes were generous….
I surveyed our group on how they passed the time during this long quarantine. Getting out for hikes helped many of us stay sane. Ketchikan is a cute town surrounded by rugged mountains covered in a temperate rain forest, so we were treated to great views, a few bear sightings, and frequent rain. A couple of us tried to learn new skills, from using Excel to playing mandolin. Others binged on the national political conventions and/or Shark Week (similar???). We made phone calls and video calls to loved ones; one person video-called a friend at dinner time each day to have company while eating, but had to call from the bathroom to get a good internet connection! And we did some work.
One way or another, we all made it through and will finally depart Ketchikan tomorrow on the R/V Langseth, and start our westward journey to the Aleutians. We are very grateful to everyone for undertaking this quarantine (and the associated hardship of being away from home even longer) and to everyone at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory Marine Office, Ocean Bottom Seismic Instrument Center (OBSIC), NSF, and many others who have been working hard to make this expedition possible!
Donna Shillington, NAU