So the challenge of writing the last blog for the NASA NAAMES field campaign has fallen into my hands and I have to admit that I don’t know what to write. There is a ton of exciting science to share and many stories of adventure, but regaling upon these discoveries and outward experiences seems inappropriate for this final entry. I think it instead better to try and capture the deeper personal aspect of seeing this long journey come to an end. And it is here that I find myself at a loss for words. Perhaps a path for describing this experience is to draw upon one of the final scenes from Peter Jackson’s filming of the Lord of the Rings…
After a tumultuous journey, our four heroic hobbits, Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin, finally find themselves back in the Shire at the local tavern, each with an ale in hand. All around them, Shirefolk are laughing and carrying-on, but the four hobbits quietly sit around a corner table looking at each other and saying nothing. They are experiencing the loneliness of a profound shared experience that leaves nothing left to be said between its participants and nothing that can be told to an outsider that will adequately convey the events that have taken place. Each has seen the strengths and weakness of the others and themselves, and this knowing tightens the bonds of friendship. It is a moment that needs no spoken words, but it is also a moment that cannot last. Eventually, the time comes to raise the glasses at the unspoken words and re-engage. This moment comes for the hobbits and each is soon following their new paths in life, but not without the lasting bond of their shared adventure.
Fortunately, NAAMES has not required us to cross middle-Earth, fight impossible battles, and cast a cursed ring into the fires of Mount Doom, but I believe that, beyond the science accomplished, it has created bonds of friendship linked by a common experience. Perhaps it is here that the greatest value of NAAMES can be found. Like the hobbits, we will soon arrive at the shire of Woods Hole and meet together for a final celebration. As at the end of the first three NAAMES campaigns, I expect this final celebration will once again be similar to the above described scene from Lord of the Rings. We will be a group of friends celebrating a common adventure that those outside our group cannot fully understand. We will share stories, relive particular moments, appreciate each other’s company, and raise a glass to a wildly successful cruise and mission before we all depart to reintegrate into our separate lives back home.
Beyond this, I believe there is little left to say other than to extend my personal and profound gratitude to all the loved ones back home who have follow our blogs and waited for us to return safe from the sea, to the captains and crew of the Atlantis and the shore support at WHOI who have made the NAAMES campaigns possible, and to all the scientists involved in NAAMES who have enabled this mission to be successful beyond my wildest dreams. I simply cannot wait to see and read about all the new insights gained from our work as it emerges over the final year and a half of the NAAMES project!
My deepest thanks to you all,
Written by Michael Behrenfeld