Wednesday, January 13, 2016

White horses

The world fades away in front of us..

41° 48' S, 94° 23' E: we are steaming towards the next station. The ocean calmed down just for a small window of time.. and it's now showing us its power again. The horizon looks dramatically grey (one can wonder what's waiting for us behind that grey thick curtain of mystery..). In just few hours we'll go from winds coming from north, to a low pressure system, with strong winds from west to east. The "Roaring Forties", that's how the westerlies between 40° and 50 ° S are called.. you can even hear that roar! We are "dancing" again and even if the waves are not very high (about 5 mt), they are powerful. We had to put the thick and very heavy cover to the portholes, as the waves are violently smashing against the side of the boat.. 


From the bridge, I admire this infinite train of waves.. so powerful, so free.

I spent most of the day at the bridge, taking pictures, sharing sailing stories, planning the science operations for the following days and talking about what we are about to experience, in terms of ocean conditions, in the next few hours. I'm particularly excited when the weather becomes rougher (unless it's when we have to do our planned operations). Being at sea reminds me of the long path that brought me here.. 

I've always been fascinated by the power of the sea. As a young girl, the best time of the year was August, which for me it meant being on a Zodiac, in the Mediterranean Sea (I'm Italian), to catch waves, explore the sea in freedom and be surrounded by that deep blue. Few years passed, and I found myself enjoying physics and maths (pretty interesting, considering that till that moment I never liked school so much.. LOL!). I took a year-long break after high school to work and do my sport (at that time, javelin was my passion), then decided to take a degree in Physics.. 3 years later, I had finally my first lesson of "Oceanography". I remember looking at a photo of a rogue wave taken aboard a ship in the North Sea, a "monster" something like 25 mt high (!!), and thinking how magnificent it was (yes, I know.. a normal person wouldn't have had such thoughts.. I never said I was "normal" ;-) ). Rogue waves (also called "freak waves") come like ghosts, out of the blue, completely unpredictable. But their immense power is so destructive that many ships have been sunk because of that.. and, sadly, many lives have been lost..

In 2005 a seven-story wave off the coast of Georgia, appeared out of nowhere and crashed against the Norwegian Dawn.

After I graduated with a master in Environmental Physics, it took me few years full of different experiences, multiple jobs, travels, setbacks, before I listened to the call of the ocean again and decided to do research in Oceanography. I moved to Australia in order to do that, where I took my PhD in Oceanography. My project was about modeling the Southern Ocean and soon I became very fond of this part of the planet. I always loved modeling, but whenever I had the opportunity, I was also very ready to jump on a boat to explore the hidden secrets of our oceans. My path brought me to San Diego, where I have the great opportunity to continue to explore the Southern Ocean, both from behind a computer screen and on a rocking boat!

I never complain to be under strong rain or freezing winds or burning sun, if I can have a 360° ocean view from my office window. Few years ago I had a dream.. now I'm fulfilling it!

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