By Cova Orejas
Today is day number 12 on board, and I still see it as a miracle – the fact of being here, looking with my eyes and touching with my hands iMirabilis2. The expedition became real! Why did I wonder so much?
In fact back in spring 2018, iMirabilis started to be shaped, and at that time it was clear that if our project was considered to be of interest and earned us shiptime on Sarmiento de Gamboa, the expedition would take place. The appearance of COVID-19 dramatically changed our lives; even being European and living in first-world countries, many of us have been experiencing the dreadful consequences of the pandemic, in some cases even losing family members and friends. I am fortunate that I did not experience personally dramatic consequences of COVID-19, but in my professional life I did. iMirabilis – the original expedition, planned for Cabo Verde-Namibia-South Africa – vanished in spring 2020, and there were no clear indications that the expedition could happen in 2021. Finally, in November 2020, good news arrived and shiptime for the expedition was allocated for August 2021 but in a much reduced shape: the COVID-19 situation required us to avoid port calls anywhere but Spanish harbours, so the dream to explore Walvis Ridge and several locations off Cape Town became impossible.
Like the phoenix, a new period started for the expedition, re-named as iMirabilis2: the spirit of Weltwischia mirabilis was still there, therefore we kept the name….but as the new main target of the expedition became Macaronesia, a Drago tree was added to our expedition logo.
Since the end of 2020 much of my time has been dedicated to preparing and organising this challenging cruise as best I can – challenging not only due to the complexity of having new technology and large equipment (landers, ROV, Autosub6000), but also due to the new rules for everything… indeed COVID-19 became the real expedition leader.
I could write many pages about how the planning happened and how we dealt with this new situation but I prefer to summarise it in a few take-home messages I learned from coronavirus:
- We are not so powerful (at all) as we thought;
- Even if we want to do something and the resources are available, there is no certainty it will actually happen;
- Teamwork and engaged colleagues help keep hope alive to make the expedition a reality and make things possible.
Indeed I believe that without the continuous support received from the iAtlantic community and UTM, the expedition would not have became real, and this spirit is very present on board the ship.
At the end, I believe we all know that to be on board Sarmiento de Gamboa, moving freely (after 10 days of strict quarantine and PCR tests) and making real the scientific ideas we generated almost three years ago, is a small miracle. I never thought that the name of the species I choose to name the cruise – mirabilis – would be so appropriate in the end!