A deeply buried memory clawed into my consciousness earlier this week – a recollection of confusion and frustration, a younger me struggling to grasp meaning from Beckett’s absurd play Waiting for Godot, thrust upon me by a (sadistic?) high-school English teacher. The prompt for the burst of memory was laughably simple. The image of a recovery team waiting for the surfacing of an OBS in the surrounding expanse of the night-time ocean and banter in the main lab on witty names for the science-party watch teams (e.g. “Team No-BS”) led to my own comic tagline for our primary activity: Waiting for Godot-BS (hint: “Godot” is French). Pretty good, huh? I even saw a thematic connection: Beckett’s play (as I recall) centers on uncertainty and yearning by two characters (and the audience) as they await the ever-impending arrival of Godot. Waiting for the emergence of an OBS from a full year on the seafloor beneath nearly 3 miles of ocean recalled, for me, the characters’ angst-filled wait. Unlike Godot, however, our OBS do arrive – all 30 of them, very good indeed. Furthermore, my wittiness was lost on the rest of the science party, as apparently Godot was not part of a millennial’s high-school curriculum. With the arrival of the OBS, my Godot analogy fizzled, and we moved on to the next site, my tagline forgotten.
After we wrapped up our science activities and turned onto our long (7.5 day) transit back to port, however, the analogy continued to nag at me. True, we have all of our OBS, but now I have new questions and new uncertainties. What data do the OBS hold? Will our analyses support the ideas on small-scale convection that motivated the experiment? Would they lead us down new paths of discovery and highlight the need for new observations? The OBS are not Godot, but maybe the answers to those questions are? I can’t wait to get the data back to shore and start finding out!
— Jim Gaherty, in this case NOT representing the Young Orca recovery team