June 5, 2023

Tales from the Deep: Stories of Scientific Ocean Drilling

Posted by Laura Guertin

drill derrick on a shipDo you have a story related to scientific ocean drilling? Consider adding your voice to our StoryCorps community! Explore the existing collection and sign up to schedule a recorded conversation!


In 2016, I blogged about the amazing StoryCorps program and its collection of recorded conversations that captures a snapshot of our lives. People sit down and discuss an adventure, a challenge, or any topic to share an experience that is then publicly available through the StoryCorps website and archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

What motivated me to blog about StoryCorps was my frustration at trying to locate archive recordings of Earth and space scientists. In my blog post, I included a plea: If scientists want to make a broader impact and let a larger audience know who we are and to hear our stories, I suggest we start sharing our stories outside of science-centered and science-focused outlets. I was hoping this would result in an increase in the voices of and stories from scientists, at least through StoryCorps.

And the science community answered the call!

You may remember seeing the StoryCorps recording booth/Airstream trailer at an AGU Fall Meeting, kicking off the AGU Narratives community on the StoryCorps website. AGU continues today to add to this collection the celebrates the people behind Earth and space science. This community of conversations tagged with our science terms makes for an incredibly valuable and accessible archive of our contributions.


A new community starts its exploration

To keep adding science voices to the StoryCorps archive, a new community has been established. Science storytelling was one of the Big Ideas presented at the Advancing Scientific Ocean Drilling IMPACT Workshop held in Washington DC in June 2022. Fresh off the scientific drilling vessel JOIDES Resolution from two months on Expedition 390 as an Onboard Outreach Officer (literally – I was only home from South Africa three days before I turned around and headed to DC for this workshop!), I was thinking of how the stories of my time at sea can be shared post-expedition. I was moved by the questions I received during the ship-to-shore broadcasts that I led while on the ship, and the numerous non-science questions I was asked – questions that focused on life at sea and career pathways, not necessarily what the cores were showing and our scientific results.

With an idea swirling in my mind (and still swaying from not having my “land legs” back 100%), I thought about how the StoryCorps archive might meet this objective. Although the science continues post-expedition and is shared through conference presentations and journal articles for years to come, what about the stories of the “other” pieces of life at sea that are part of our process getting the science accomplished? Onboard Outreach Officer Maya Pincus was present at the IMPACT workshop and was immediately on board supporting the idea that we establish a StoryCorps community related to scientific ocean drilling. We reached out to another OOO alumnae Maryalice Yakutchik, and we began planning the launch of Tales from the Deep: Stories of Scientific Ocean Drilling.

Click here to be brought to the page with Claire Routledge’s conversation.

Have you seen any seahorses? Can you study the ocean if you don’t know how to swim? What if you have a food allergy? These questions and more tap into the topics of sea life, safety, eating/living on a ship at sea, and more. We have begun collecting these stories with conversations from individuals that have sailed on JOIDES Resolution and MSPs, and we seek to include stories from those that sailed on Glomar Challenger and Chikyū. We also want to preserve the narratives of those that have supposed the ship activities in a shore-based role.

We are in Part 1 of this project, collecting the recorded conversations. We are entering Part 2 and are actively seeking feedback from teachers/instructors for the supporting information they may need to use these recordings with their students in classes.

As scientists, we need to be proactive in sharing our stories of the scientific process as well as the scientific results. We want to show our “human” side as a scientist, shatter stereotypes, and engage the broadest audiences. Although JOIDES Resolution will no longer be sailing past 2024, the stories of scientific ocean drilling must be preserved and continue moving forward.

Image of group of people at birthday celebrationClick here to be brought to the page with Yi Wang’s conversation.


A call for participation

If you have participated in scientific ocean drilling in any role (on board or on shore), we encourage you to explore the existing collection and think about a topic you would like to record a conversation about. It is OK to have your story be a topic that is already in the collection (this will provide richer material from which to develop classroom material).

Please complete this form or directly contact me (Laura Guertin, [email protected]) to discuss your ideas and interest! Community participation is needed for a strong community archive.

Person in a research laboratory with hands in a plastic bag

Click here to be brought to the page with Jeff Ryan’s conversation.

Person looking down pipe

Click here to be brought to the page with Mike Widdowson’s conversation.