Currently we are sitting in a backpacker in a rather damp Durban, the boat moored and covered in all manner of paraphernalia- just hoping we will be ready to set sail on Monday, our d-d day for heading out to try and avoid hurricane season up past Mozambique. Our team is scattered far and wide, from Cape Town, to Durban to the US.
Expeditions are never an easy, no matter how much it is slightly romanticised. One comment we often get when we talk about what we are doing is “oh boy, sound’s like a amazing adventure/you are going to have so much fun/I wish I could come along “- and this is all only partly true.
Do you remember a while back, on Facebook, there were these pictures going around saying – what my mom thinks I do, what my friends think I do, what I really do?
Well I wish I had seen an expedition one because what my mom thinks I do is head out and tackle pirates, wired dangerous diving conditions and sea monsters without a proper shower or brushing my hair. My friends think I spend days sitting on a boat deck, diving with whale sharks and dolphins and sipping a light mojito in the African Sunset.
What I really do is rush to wait. And wait, and wait, and wait.
Just to put it into perspective here’s what our team did in the past two weeks;
-Fly to Johannesburg, get off the plane and right into a car and drive it back down to Cape Town in two days.
-The next day pack up an entire expedition into a van and a trailer.
-Drive from Cape Town to Durban over three days, peppered with one University presentation that the guys were working on two hours sleep from the night before (but still did an amazing job)
-Arrived in Durban to pick up another team member, only to find out the boat will only be ready in six days time, so having to unpack all the kit that comes from an entire mini van and a trailer into two backpacker rooms, effectively sleeping on top of the kit.
-Team member number six getting a last minute visa to be able to catch a flight from the states, arriving very jet lagged and leaving behind a newly married wife.
-Dash around downtown Durban, where no one has any experience or sense of direction, locating all the things we still need for the expedition.
-Still not be able to move onto the boat but run out of money for the backpacker so move everything into the boat club. On the floor,everywhere.
-Slept on the boat club floor, with a million mosquitos as bed mates.
-Waited for the boat to be ready to sail for another three days while living with some kit on the boat and some having to be moved around the boat club lounge, that we have now taken over.
Luckily our team is a very diverse, and committed bunch of young people. Mike heads up the expedition. A fisheries scientist he now roams the East Africa with the Smart Fish program, attempting to combat illegal fisheries along the East coast.
I’m his wife (recently married just over a month ago) and in control of the media and a self confessed twitter nut and Tanith, a GIS guru and M.Sc. Zoology and we make up the only two ladies in the core team.
Rhett is head of our Science and Research and studies Ichthyology ( fisheries science) at Rhodes where he met Mike, who also studied Ichthy and together they make up what we have affectionately fish nerd #1 and #2 and then our token Australian Dr. Caine, who’s method of stereo imaging we will be using on all the dives to collect the data will also be working on the science and research.
Justin, the man with the plan when it comes to fundraising and generally just spreading the vibe of what we are trying to do rounds off the main six team members that will be living on the boat for the full four months. For some stretches of water there will be a few experts joining in on the expedition- and as we go we will get them to write their experiences along with ours.
We also have the crew of Lo Entropy with us – who we will introduce to everyone as we get to know him or her better.
This trip is not just about exploration- it is about looking at the relationship between humanity, our marine environment, science, technology and cultures in order to shift in the way we build or begin to build our conservation networks on coral reefs.
It’s going to be a mad dash for the starting line with everyone working overtime to get the team and the boat ready- hold thumbs and hope the weather takes a turn for the better.