Through some great networking by my supervisor back home, I have been afforded the opportunity to become a Guest Student of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) in Massachusetts, USA. Now i’m guessing that if you are reading this, you probably don’t know much, if anything about WHOI, so let me fill you in.
I’ll start with Woods Hole. It is a small village in the town of Falmouth, on the east coast of America about 2 hours bus from Boston. It was settled more than 300 years ago, primarily by a farming and fishing community. It has since grown and is now home to two private organisations, WHOI and the Marine Biological Laboratory as well as two federal government facilities, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Geological Survey (which is temporarily closed due to the govt shut down).
WHOI, a non-profit research organisation was incorporated in 1930 to study all branches of oceanography. Originally a summer institution, it changed to a year round operation during World War II to gather information for anti-submarine warfare, amphibious landings and other operations. It now forms a broad research agenda that covers aspects such as geological activity, plant, animal and microbial populations, coastal erosion, ocean circulation, ocean pollution and global climate change. It has 3 large research vessels, a deep-diving human occupied submersible, a remotely operated vehicle and a number of autonomous underwater vehicles. At present it holds around 1000 staff and students and continues to work with the government, through which it receives around 80% of it’s funding. WHOI awards its degrees either through a joint program with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) or on it’s own.
That’s basically the Institute in a nutshell, globally a leading organisation in its field. Now about my time here…
I’m only 3 days into my stay here so don’t have an awful lot to say, but I must mention that I am very impressed with everything so far. I was a little nervous coming here, just being a pleb student from South Africa going to one of the worlds best Institutes can be quite overwhelming. But it’s been nothing like that yet. One of the post doctoral students in the group i’m working in has helped me out so much, even lent me the groups bicycle to ride about with. It’s so ideal because that is kind of how you get around here, unless you’re going back and forth between the Village and Quissett Campus (about a 30min walk). Then it would be easier to hop on the WHOI shuttle, driven by a lovely old man Joe, which back and forths every 20 minutes, all day. Quissett Campus is where I do my daily work, I got my own little work space and in no time I was connected to both the WHOI wireless (there are two campuses) internets, which has the names Arctic and Atlantic (I mean, come on. Have to have a little chuckle at that). I managed to have a skype session with my WHOI supervisor, which was probably my most nervous moment since I have been here!
I managed to get out on my bike yesterday and see the village a bit and must say it seems a great little place. Mainly a summer town with a harbour packed of sailing boats, a number of quaint little beaches a quite a few local hangouts like Pie in the Sky and Coffee Obsession. Jim, the owner of the house i’m staying at told me of a few nice places to try out, he insists I go to Steve’s Pizza and Landfall for some of the locals favourite chicken wings, so i’m quite keen for that. So far though I haven’t done any of that, but I did some grocery shopping, went to the local bottle store and watched a baseball game with a Sam Adams Boston Ale. So settling is just fine and looking forward to the rest of this awesome opportunity…
This last weekend I was in Plettenberg Bay, a small town on the south coast where I spent my younger years growing up. In terms of things to do, if you don’t enjoy outdoor nature activities, you probably won’t get much out of my home town. Just one such example is the Cape Nature Reserve of Robberg Point. The 9.2 km trail took us just over 3 hours and left me quite out of breathe at times, but was definitely worth it.
In Riviersonderend, a small town around 140km east of Cape Town lies a little gem, Oumeul Bakkery. After getting new owners in 1994, it has transformed into one of the most well known bakeries on the south coast N2. You can speak to anyone who has been there and they’ll agree, this is where you get some of the best pies known to man. None of that sauce pouring out after every bite nonsense. That’s child’s play.
Another real bonus about this place is how well they’ve developed it. It’s not your average bakery/farm stall that you’ll find on our national roads. There has really been a lot of effort put into it. The result has been fantastic and they have since opened a branch in Long Street, Cape Town. So now you no longer have to wait for that south coast road trip to get your hands on one of their signature pies. A big plus as well, especially for me, is that they have some really good coffee. I’ve even taken a bag of their Bootlegger Coffee beans home.
So if your travels ever take you through Riviersonderend, pull over, grab a pie and a cuppa coffee. You won’t regret it.
It’s out! Love him or hate him Clarkson along with May and Hammond are back along with their usual brash humour, and although mostly rehearsed, still pretty funny. The routine is largely unchanged but oh man, the editing is top quality. Even if you fall into the anti-Top Gear category, you just got to appreciate the stuff those editors are doing. It really highlights how technology, and synonymously with that the Top Gear filming, has improved. It’s great to watch. So go on, download it, get it from a mate, or whatever you need to do, but keep an eye on how the making of the show has grown up, even if the trio never will.
Check out some photo’s from episode 1…
I am not going to lie here, i’m not a very big music person. I’ve never ‘discovered’ a cool band. I just kind of wait for my friends to find one and then latch on. What usually happens is that a friend puts a heap of new stuff on my iTunes and I wait for him to tell me whats good. This time it’s different, well sort of. I found this dude Newton Faulkner on my iTunes. He’s been around since 07 so he isn’t anything new, but he sure breathes some fresh air into my somewhat stagnant composition of music. His folk rock/guitar percussive style is rather catchy, I tend to find myself looking a bit crazy swaying around in the office with my headphones in. He’s been on near repeat over the last week or so, already second in my plays count. So give him a chance or two, you never know, you just may well be singing his praises.
Studying the ocean and variability within it is kinda what my field entails and one of the new exciting ways we collect data is through the Wave Glider. This thing is similar to a remote control toy, just a crap house more expensive and it records data. It sits on the ocean surface and you control its direction through a GPS while these wings 6-7m below propels it in a wave-like motion. Pretty neat. Now because CSIR (research institute) recently dropped a load of dollar on two of these, you don’t want to just chuck it into the harsh Southern Ocean with swells that can reach well over 15m, which is where they’ll be used. So they did some ‘sea-trials’ on them in Table Bay first. I was lucky enough to go with to drop one off. It’s just one of the perks with what I do.
So my parents came down to Cape Town for the weekend. Having recently returned from a motorbike trip from Tanzania to South Africa, they brought with them many funny stories and some lekker beer. It’s great to hear all the cool things that they are still doing. They definitely share my enthusiasm for travelling, or I share theirs, whatever. I’m just so chuffed about the beer I got, apparently they had to go thirsty for a while and still didn’t drink it. Good looking out, Mom.
Hout Bay Market
Saturday morning I decided to take them to the Hout Bay Market. This was my 3rd time in 4 weeks. The reason I have such an affection towards it is that it’s not over-crowded like you’ll find at the Old Biscuit Mill and it offers a great variety of things. It’s not too big and includes sections for craft, small businesses, food and drink. Perfect place to go with some mates, boyfriend/girlfriend or even you’re parents, which is what I did. They loved it. The whole atmosphere is so inviting and makes you want to get some food, drink some beer and buy stuff. Which is of course is why I went straight to Darling Breweries. My dad wasn’t too keen on the ale and preferred his lager, but not me, I love that Native Ale. At least we both like chilli poppers, but who doesn’t? With a band going and so much to try out and buy, it’s just one of those places where you go once and you get so drawn in you want to go again and again.
Visiting an old friend and some casual stalking
Having had a Father’s Day lunch, we decided on a lazy stroll around the Waterfront. I wanted to show my parents the ship I did a research voyage on just last year: SA Agulhas II. After a bit of convincing, the guard eventually let us to go walk along side South Africa’s most advanced research vessel. My dad was very chuffed to check her out, being in the Navy is his army days and all that. I didn’t take any photo’s of her yesterday but I still have one from last year so you can see what she is all about.
The Mitchell’s Ale House at the Waterfront is highly rated amongst things to do in Cape Town. It’s very popular for bikers on Sunday’s and I believe it’s home to the Chelsea supporters club, at least it was when a Chelsea fan and I used to go there a few years back. Yesterday though we only stayed for one drink. An interesting observation I made whist stalking the table near us is that you can order a beer tasting. It’s definitely something I want to try out (when i’m not driving). For R50 you get 6 different beers in these mini glasses (enough to get you a little sauced up). It kind of reminds me of a Hudsons’ Slider where there you get 3 mini burgers, perfect for the indecisive type. The one thing that did kinda sucked though was that there was no sort of material explaining anything. Would be nice if there was like a sheet of paper explaining a bit about each beer. Could then become a little educational as well as enjoyable. Although one thing that I bet attracts a lot of people is that the menu advertises you get a free gift. The table I was shadowing got a bottle opener. That’s most likely the standard gift you get so I wouldn’t get too excited. Nonetheless it looks like quite a cool thing to do, especially with a few mates, where you can all pretend you actually know anything about beer.
Whenever I go, i’ll be sure to get some photo’s of the beer tasting. I just didn’t want to be the ultimate creep you know. Although if you look in the background of the picture below you can get a taster (pun intended).
So this is my first ever blog and hence blog post. I’m not really an expressive person who does cool things all the time, but I do like to share stuff that I do for whoever gives a crap.
Being an aspiring photographer I like to take lots of photos. This picture I took on the way back from the Hout Bay market last weekend. At the time I looked at it and thought, ah cool photo, but now looking at it again (with being a scientist I tend to analyse things), I can kind of see a depiction of life in this image. For me it shows how we tend to focus so much on our road ahead that we blur out most of the cool pretty stuff. So read into that whatever you will, but it just gives us something to think about.