Thursday, September 14, 2006

Procrastination, taken to the extreme

Free advice for grad students: When you are running late with a chapter draft that you have promised your supervisor, the best thing to do is ignore it entirely and bugger off for a day to the seaside.

Better yet, go to the seaside and get the university to pay for it.

Fortunately, my university has a scheme called "Shower the international students with propaganda about what a great country Australia is so that they will settle here permanently, while politely pretending that there don't exist immigration restrictions that wouldn't let them move here even if they wanted to". But that's too long a name for everyday use, so we just call it "International Student Day Trips".

Today's trip was to the coast for whale watching. And even for poor underprivileged New Zealand students who have more whales in their backyard than practically anywhere else on earth, this was an exciting prospect. Until today, not being the boating sort, my only encounters with whales had been helping pour water over the occasional few stranded on a beach, so it was all new to me too.

The day started with a 3 1/2 hour bus trip, hence the early rising thing. But eventually we arrived at the coast, and got to choose our boat. There were three going out: a huge three-story catamaran with large glass windows, a medium sized enclosed boat, and something the size of my bedroom that barely looked sea worthy.

Well come on, which one would you have picked? I wanted adventure!

Unfortunately, everyone on the boat I chose (a) got badly sunburned*, since there was only room in the cabin for two or three people at any one time (b) got to wear extremely stylish life-jackets (c) had to be insanely paranoid in order to avoid falling overboard.

This was all made up for by the fact that our boat ended up being the only one that saw any whales today, though. Also, even the open sea was completely still** so the risk of falling over the side was (slightly) minimised. You could even see the clouds reflected in the ocean:

Yeah. Dolphins. Hugely uncool though it probably is to admit, I was far more charmed by the dolphins than I was by the whales or any of the other creatures we saw. (Sunfish, seals, pelicans and jellyfish).

The whales were all stand-offish and self-absorbed, and the seals that we saw just lay lazily in the distance rubbing their own bellies and occasionally waving a flipper, but the dolphins annexed our boat as their own personal plaything. And even though I have seen plenty of dolphins before, it's not something that ever gets old.

We had an escort surfing our wake all the way out to sea and most of the way back.

So I guess as in real life, I like best whoever pays me the most attention :)

And now for ironic: We spent two and a half hours in the open sea pootling around looking for whales without spotting a sausage. (Or a whale). Then we gave up, turned around and made the long trip back to the bay, only to find that that was exactly where they were hanging out.

Mostly we saw pilot whales...

...but there were also two humpbacks. Unfortunately almost every time they broke the surface I would press my camera button just in time to get a nice picture of the ripples they left behind. I did get one semi-decent photo, though.

And finally, you might think this isn't a whale, but you might be wrong. It was having a very happy bath in the guttering just before I took this photo, so it almost counts as sea-life.

And now maybe I should see about that chapter that is due tomorrow...


* Geekman's first words on my return home were, "It didn't drown! But it turned a funny colour..."

** Although that didn't stop people throwing up all the way out there and back. I think the other students on the trip had the weakest stomachs of any people I've ever met: someone hurled in the bus every time we went around a corner, five of the ten people on our boat spent the entire trip being sick, and then thanks to the logistic genius whose plan it was to follow the boat trip directly with lunch and then a visit to a rollercoaster park, anyone who wasn't sick on the boat made up for it in the later afternoon.


Publius said...

Wow that looked really fun!

shrinkykitten said...

wait, really? A roller coaster after the boats?

I love dolphins so much. But why no stingrays? I love stingrays. And no pics of jellyfish? I was almost assaulted by a slew of jellyfish a couple of years ago when I was snorkeling. It was scary in hindsight, but boy were they pretty.

post-doc said...

Dolphins?! I'm ever so jealous. It's been so long since I've seen a dolphin. Beautiful pictures - good for you for taking a day for fun (because at least parts of it were fun, right?)

Good luck with the chapter!

turtlebella said...

I agree, dolphins are just plain fun. They make their lives look so good, swimming about, riding waves, jumping...I suppose they have to eat and stuff in there but still!

RageyOne said...

Great photos! Sounds like a good day and a good reason to blow off the chapter. Happy writing today!

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Gorgeous photos! And I love that this unspoken point of this trip was "How many International Students can we make throw up today? The boat ride not enough for you? How about some after-lunch rollercoasters?"

StyleyGeek said...

Shrinky -- yes, really. And I think stingrays tend to stay down low out in the deep water, don't they?

Post-doc -- pretty much all of it was fun. Did I make it sound bad?

LaKisha said...

so cool!!!!

"When you are running late with a chapter draft that you have promised your supervisor, the best thing to do is ignore it entirely and bugger off for a day to the seaside."

by the way-- usually your advisors/supervisors will forget anyway because they are also super busy and behind on something more important than you! :)

StyleyGeek said...

Usually it works that way, I agree, but not when we had a meeting on Monday and she said that she was "really concerned" that I didn't have a draft of the chapter yet and could she please have it by Friday at the absolute latest.

I am avoiding her this morning because if she sees my bright red sunburnt face it will be a bit of a clue that I haven't spent the last four days locked in an office frantically writing.

Morton T Fogg said...

Jealous jealous jealous!!!

I was 5 places too far back in line and so I wasn't able to sign up.

Now I'm sad.

And jealous.

They don't have whales in the mountains. :(

StyleyGeek said...

That's sad, MTF :( It would have been cool to have someone I knew there.

The office opened with the tickets at 9 am, and I was queuing since around 8 o'clock and still one of the last few to get one.

StyleyGeek said...

On the plus side, they are likely to run further trips, and if you had been on this one, there was a high chance you wouldn't have seen a whale at all (given that only our boat found any).

Jana said...

Fantastic photos, StyleyGeek!