Jun 30

How i wound up in Hawaii for a month

Category: Hawaii

One of my tasks at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory is to support field operations for oceanographic research. It is one of my favorite assignments, because I get to travel all over the world and get plenty of free time in between or after my duties are complete. These assignments typically occur once or twice a year, and are part of giant undertakings involving millions of dollars and hundreds of people working for years to conduct a field test that may take several weeks.

This year, my base of operations is in Hawaii. My official duties are interspersed with days of “rest” which means that I get to do whatever I want when I’m not working. I also have used personal vacation time tacked on to the end of this trip to get the most out of my employer-sponsored travel. By the time this is over, I will have been gone for 32 days.

The trip was preceeded by frantic preparations. When you’re going to be gone for a month, there are a lot of things to take care of. It is almost like quitting a job and taking a new one, as miscellaneous assignments have to be brought to a close in order to make time for the massive field trip. Of course, all of the equipment that will be used in the field must be prepared, plans made, and communications with multiple institutions cemented. Add to this the personal arrangements that need to be made when you’ll be gone for a month, and things get complicated. Of course, the reward is to spend a month in Hawaii, doing interesting work and traveling.

My work consists of conducting oceanographic surveys from US navy P-3 aircraft. The surveys characterize the environment under the water, reporting temperature at various depths and other factors critical to understanding the way that sound travels through the marine environment. In order to collect this data, the aircraft flies over large areas of ocean, dropping grids of probes which report conditions to the airplane by radio. This is often done in concert with other research vessels, such as surface ships.

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