We are slowly getting closer to the Scottish coast, the eastern end of our “line”. We have just 2 or 3 more moorings to deploy before we turn back west and re-trace our steps, or maybe more accurately, our wake. The air and water temperatures are warmer here – almost 60F! A heat wave! It will be sort of sad when we turn around and head back toward the colder waters to the west. As we move westward, we will be lowering the CTD package down to the sea floor at about 60 locations between Scotland and Greenland. With this instrument, which is sort of a “package” of several sensors, we will measure the temperature, salinity and other water properties from sea surface to sea bottom. We use the water properties to help us understand better where the water is coming from and (perhaps) how climate changes are affecting the ocean.
Early this morning, we had our “fly by” of Nick Hancock, the fellow who has set up camp on Rockall, a rock that sticks up by itself about 200 miles from the Scottish coast. He is trying to set a new record for the longest stay on this rock (yes, as amazing as it sounds, others have done it too!) to raise money for war veterans in the UK. You can google his name and learn more about his adventures since he too is writing a blog.
Even though it was going to be a rare event, visiting someone who has stranded themselves on a remote island, I didn’t get out of my bunk for it. I had slept poorly – my lower back was bothering me quite a bit. It was also going to be mainly a “visual” event, with a little bit of chit-chat with Nick on the ship’s VHF radio. I find I don’t get very excited about sight-seeing anymore, now that my vision is so diminished. I like to go along sometimes with my family just to share the experience they are having gazing into the Grand Canyon or the like. Out here on the research cruise, I really miss being able to see the swells sweeping by the ship and the birds meandering over our wake. This is when I really feel the “loss” in vision loss. I was diagnosed with Macular degeneration first, then retinitis Pigmentosa a few years later, almost 30 years ago. Since then it’s been just a slow but relentless decline in vision. I still have some useful sight, but for how long, I don’t know. It has been quite difficult, practically and emotionally, to constantly adjust to a new state of (always less) vision. Sometimes I wonder if it would have been easier in some ways to have lost it all at once, go through the adjustment and be done with it. I’m guessing that those who have gone through that process might argue against it. It’s also true that I’ve been able to take advantage of developing technologies as they have become available at a similar rate as my vision has declined. I’m sure this has helped me stay on top of my career as a scientist.
A few friends have asked me if I think there is a silver lining in the gradual vision loss experience. That’s a tough one. It’s pretty hard not to keep saying to myself, “If I still had good vision, I could have …” Yankee blood, and the independent streak that comes with it, runs strong in my veins, making it difficult to ask for help when I need it. On the positive side, I’ve certainly met many people and made new friends that I wouldn’t have if I had not myself been facing a life-changing disability. But I think the best lesson related to my vision loss has been the realization of the limitless potential of humans to persevere under difficult circumstances, and the opportunity for personal growth that this allows. People sometimes say to me, “Amy, I couldn’t do what you do.” I say, “”Hogwash! You just haven’t had to so you don’t realize what your potential is.”