Here begins the chronicle of my experiences as a scientist who is blind. My hope is that these posts will be interesting to anyone who is curious about how professional blind people continue to follow their passion in a largely sighted world. I also hope to share information that will convince visually impaired and blind students, their parents and teachers that a career in science is not only possible but exciting and fun too.
Today is a day for which my colleagues and I have been preparing forover five years! I am on my way to Iceland to join a research cruise of the R/V Knorr. For 80 days this summer, we will be installing an array of instruments across the entire North Atlantic Ocean from Labrador to Greenland to Scotland. The purpose of the project, called Overturning in the Subpolar North Atlantic, or OSNAP, is to take long-term measurements the heat and fresh water carried by ocean currents from the equatorial to polar regions and back again. This is part of what is sometimes referred to as the Great Ocean Conveyor . I’ll describe this pattern of currents, which is a major player in Earth’s climate system, in a future post.
So here I am flying to Iceland! Normally, I would travel with my guide dog, Abbie. But she would not be very comfortable on board the research vessel, so I’ve left her at home with my husband and daughter and picked up my white cane for this trip. I’m traveling with my colleague Heather, who works on research projects with me and also provides sighted assistance when needed. I like to do most everything independently, but there are some situations where it’s just better to have a good set of eyeballs. After a few days on board the research ship, I should know my way around pretty well. I can’t say I’m not a little nervous about getting around the ship though. It’s an environment that is far from “regular”: corridors are like a maze, fire extinguishers stick out from the walls, water tight doors are heavy and need two hands to open and close. Stairways, or ladders as they are called on the ship, are relatively steep. It will be slow-going at first. On the flip side, I love being at sea, so I’m willing to try to overcome these physical challenges for the chance to travel to the open ocean, where very few humans get to go.
» Listen here to the Icelandic language being spoken by a flight attendant on our flight to Reykjavik, Iceland.
I recorded this snippet of the typical pre-flight announcements before we took off from Boston’s Logan Airport, using my Victor Reader Stream. “IcelandAirFlightAttendantVoice”.