All posts by Kalen Ferris

Heading into the Gulf of Mexico

Back at sea again, and this time we aren’t even within site of land. We did pass an oil rig in the distance, and I suggested we do a dive around it, but Captain Anderson didn’t see a need for it. So we’re on our way.

I did spend some time talking around to the other teams. Dr. Stepherson was busy but Dr. Perimala was quite willing to talk to me. She dragged me to the back of the Arkham to show me her equipment.

They looked like buoys to me. Yellow barrels with masts extending above them. There were a few dozen of them sitting in racks above deck ready for deployment, and she told me that there were dozens more waiting below.

“I’m afraid I’m probably taking up most of our space,” she said with a laugh.

I pointed to the minisub my team had brought, currently strapped in the middle of the deck but under the crane ready to deploy it.

She shook her head. “I’m still ahead.” She seemed excited. “Do you know that the South Pacific is one of the least explored areas of the planet? Yes, there are standard freight and air traffic routes across it, but outside of that no one goes there. There’s no reason to. That makes it a prime area for research.”

“And what is your research?” I asked.

“Gravitational mapping!” she said, gesturing towards the nearest buoy. “Each of these contains a sensitive gravimeter, paired with an inertial unit to compensate for the movement of the buoy. We hope to get the most detailed gravitational map of the South Pacific ever created. The most detailed anywhere in the world, actually, since we’ll be making measurements away from the continental plates.”

“So you’re… measuring gravity?” I had barely any idea what she was talking about.

She nodded. “Yes. We should get a much better idea as to what the inside of the Earth looks like. The geologists would love that. And, what I’m hoping to find, we’ll find any variations in the local brane.”

“Brain?” I asked, tapping my head. “What?”

“Not brain,” she laughed. We aren’t zombies. “Brane.”

I shook my head. “Sorry, but I’m in one of the squishy sciences.” I smiled. “What are you talking about?”

She shook her head but smiled. “Brane. B-R-A-N-E. As in ‘membrane’.” How much do you know about Physics?”

I shrugged, a bit embarrassed. “I had basic physics in undergrad?”

She did laugh at that. “OK, what do you know about String Theory?”

“I’ve… heard of it?”

She shook her head again. “Well… that’s something. Anyway, a lot of current physics is working on the theory that everything is ultimately made up of tiny, vibrating ‘strings’.” She held up a hand. “Don’t ask, it takes an entire semester to explain beyond that; just go with it.”

“Anyway, these strings are attached to the surface of a ‘brane’; an 11-dimensional construct. And that’s an extreme simplification so don’t worry about what it means too much.”

“Now, all the basic particles and forces are made up of looped strings. Again, just go with it. Except gravity. Gravity is an unlooped string.”

“OK…” I said, slowly. I had no idea what she was talking about. “So what does that mean?”

“Other particles are constrained to the Brane,” she said. “Our brane. But Gravity? It might. Might be able to interact with other Branes! And with these sensors, this far away from the continental interference, we might be able to detect the influence of other Branes on our own.”

I was completely lost by this point. “Meaning?”

“Other universes!” she said, excitement spilling over. She grabbed my arm. “Other realities! We, we might be the one’s who prove their existence! Isn’t that exciting?”

I looked down at my arm. She winced slightly and took her hand away. “Sorry.”

“It’s OK.” I shrugged. “Do you think you’ll be able to find the reality of these… other universes?”

She nodded, slightly subdued. “Yes! If we can find gravitational fluctuations that can’t be explained by local phenomena, then we’ll have it.” She frowned, excitement draining. “But first we’ll have to make a detailed map of the Earth’s own Gravity, and account for all of it. Then, and only then, will we be able to know for certain that we have something.”

Her smile returned. “But this is the groundwork. We need this before we can proceed. That’s why I’m so glad to be here. Most everyone else? They reject the idea immediately. Miskatonic was the only place that would even consider my research. They gave me this chance! I have to take it!”

I nodded slowly. “Yeah, we’ve sponsored a lot of research at Miskatonic. Not all of it has… ended well.”

She shook her head. “The Saudi Arabia expedition to Irem couldn’t have known a war would break out. And the Northwest Passage Expedition last year? They couldn’t have expected that weather.”

I frowned. “Yeah, they sent the Miskatonic up there this year. Supposedly they’re monitoring sea ice levels, but you know they have to be looking for any trace of Dr. Kanda and his team.”

She looked away. “Yeah, that made all of us look bad.”

“Well, we’ll make it up this year.” I reached out and patted her shoulder. “We’ll show them that Miskatonic isn’t just the local Arkham branch of Boston University!”

“Right!” She took my hand for a moment, then shifted it to a handshake. “I hope I gave you what you needed for your posting, Dr. Ferris!”

I nodded in return. “Thank you, Dr. Perimala.’

Marathon Key

Today was a good day.

We docked fairly early and, while I’m used to being on the water, it was good to be on dry land again. Or, at least somewhere with a better variety around the bar.

About an hour after we got in I took one of the tenders and took my students out on a group dive. It wasn’t much; the reefs off of the Keys aren’t in that great of a shape and the visibility is fairly poor, but both of them were well ahead of anything we normally saw; most of what I did was in Boston Harbor or off the coast there. Warm water with any kind of visibility? Sign me up.

I just realized that I haven’t said that much about who I am and who all is here with me. Or why we are here, even. I’m glad I got all the instructions I was supposed to have before I agreed to do this. THANKS DR. PICKMAN! Sigh.

Anyway, as I said, I’m Dr. Kalen Ferris. I’m a marine biologist. My specialty is genetic diaspora; I analyze the DNA of marine organisms and attempt to determine what regions their ancestors originally came from. This helps us better understand what the marine environment looked like tens of thousands, or even millions of years ago. If what is now a tropical species is genetically linked to something that lives under the ice sheets in Antarctica, then that tells us a lot about how the climate has changed between then and now.

I’ve got three graduate students with me, assisting me. The first is Reiko Mitoshika. I’ll have to admit, the first time I saw her I was incredibly dubious. I know you shouldn’t judge people by their appearance, but I had never seen someone that tattooed in my life. Now I have nothing against ink, but she literally had most of her body covered.

I was wrong. I’ve never seen anyone as natural as her underwater. I’m pretty good as a diver, but when I come up with only 600 pounds in my tank she’ll follow me up with 1800. I’ve accused her of having gills and her response has always been “not yet”.

And sea life? She’s the “crocodile hunter” of the sea. I remember one time I and another researcher had been doing everything we could to get close enough this asdfasfas to get a sample from it. We rarely saw those around Boston so we had been working at it for a while, trying to trap it. She swam up to us, gestured that she could help, then just held her hand out towards the pile of debris it was hiding in. It immediately swam out and literally sat in her hand while I took gill swabs. When I was done, she leaned forward, kissed it, and it swam away.

I asked her about it back on the boat and she said something about just having to respect the fish and their habitat. Still, I’ve never seen anything else like it.

After Reiko I have Darrin Thomas. Darrin is a good student. Really good. But he doesn’t have a whole lot of field experience. Outside of Boston Harbor anyway, though I understand he’s done some night dives in the Miskatonic River.

Want to tell me about those Darrin?

Anyway, this trip should give Darrin the fieldwork he needs.

Finally, my team rounds out with Patti Rodregez. Patti has been working with me a couple of years now. She’s my lead assistant. She transferred in here from the University of Miami. I’m pretty sure she’s after my job, but she can’t have it. Yet.

So that’s me, my team, and my project. We’re going to be collecting samples as often as we can, and in the water as often as we can, to try try to build up a better genetic signature of the area. Yeah, I realize that we’re taking a very small sample of a very big ocean, but what we are lacking in volume we are making up in area. This will be one of the widest swaths of the Pacific that anyone has taken a single-season sample of. And the season is important, because it means that we won’t be sampling animals that have just migrated in from somewhere else; they’ll be in their winter habitat, their home habitat, and that means the data will be more valuable.

As for everyone else, I’ll talk to them over the next few days and get a better idea of what they are planning.

Somewhere around Orlando?

Not much happened today. I went through all of my equipment and made sure it was stored safely and ready to go.

I did get a bit unhappy that I was off Florida and wasn’t doing any diving. I talked to Captain Anderson and he said we would be making a stop in the Keys tomorrow to refuel and resupply before crossing the Gulf, and that maybe we could get a quick checkout dive in then. Sounds good.

Off of the Outer Banks

I don’t know what I was expecting when I signed up for the expedition, but I guess I didn’t think about how far away the South Pacific is by ship. The Arkham here cruises about 25 knots, that’s about 30 mph for the rest of you, so it’s going to take us a few days to get down the east coast. Then we’re across the gulf, through the Panama Canal, and on out to the Pacific.

I’ll take us several weeks to get there, and another few weeks to get back. I suppose we could have just stayed home then flown down to meet the ship in a few weeks, but we’re going to be starting research as soon as we enter the Pacific. Well, Dr. Perimala and I are. Dr. Stepherson is an anthropologist and is planning to do a study of the original inhabitants of the South Pacific. The rest of us may be almost done by then.

Anyway, today we spent most of our time going over shipboard procedures and drills, Captain Anderson, our captain… I guess that was obvious, wanted to make sure that all of us knew how things worked on board and to make sure that all of us knew what to do in the event of an emergency. Even pitching in to help where needed.

It took all day. I’m sore. I guess I’ve spent too much time in the classroom and not enough time in the field. Hopefully this trip will fix that.

Somewhere off the coast of New York

I’m Dr. Kalen Ferris, Marine Biologist for Miskatonic University, and welcome to our Expedition blog.

And that sound horribly formal, doesn’t it? I’m really not sure what I’m supposed to be doing here. We were actually in the process of boarding when Dr. Pickman came up to me –he’s the head of our social media program here– and asked if I would be willing to document our expedition on-line. I said sure and just grabbed the laptop and folder he was handing at me; I was actually more concerned about getting my equipment on at the time.

Then tonight, as I’m sitting here in my cabin after having the going away party on shore then our second going away party on-board with the diving team, and really wanting to just go to sleep, I see the laptop, read the folder, and realize that I’m supposed to be giving a daily report on our expedition. Starting today. THANKS DR. PICKMAN!

Anyway, here we are. The Miskatonic University 2017 South Pacific expedition. Me, Dr. Stepherson and Dr. Parimala are going to spend the next three or four months sailing around the south Pacific. It’s winter there, so it should be calmer seas, and we should be back home before things get rough.

And early enough to start classes again. Groan.

That’s a joke, future students. We love having you here.

Anyway, this is the Miskatonic University 2017 South Pacific Expedition. Glad to have you with us.