They All Live for a Yellow Submarine
Freelance writer Ari Daniel Shapiro follows Rutgers oceanographers and their ocean-crossing glider
Photo: Gene Smirnov/Wonderful Machine
A journalist need not be an expert, but it sure can’t hurt. And this month we can boast that our feature freelancer’s expertise includes a Ph.D.
Boston-based Ari Daniel Shapiro [above, right], who produced both a podcast and an article for us about the first remotely controlled oceanographic probe to cross the Atlantic underwater, has spent years doing such things as putting electronic tags on killer whales off Norway. For his IEEE Spectrum story, though, he traveled only as far as Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick.
There he found a team of oceanographers studying far-flung spots with a new type of robotic probe, an oceanographic glider. The nerve center of their operation is the Coastal Ocean Observation Lab, or COOL Room, as the scientists have dubbed it.
”I took a late train and arrived in New Jersey around 11 p.m.,” recalls Shapiro. ”I strolled into the COOL Room about a half hour before midnight, and yet the place was just pulsing with all this science energy.”
That’s because he’d timed his arrival to coincide with the final moments of a journey that had begun more than seven months earlier, when the glider left New Jersey waters on its pathbreaking trek across the Atlantic. Shapiro had followed the little sub and the scientists running it pretty much the whole time, so he was able to get a lot closer to his subject than is typical. ”Usually when I do a story, the turnaround time is a few weeks at the longest—often just days,” he says. Giving freelancers plenty of time to do their jobs can be a real plus, for them and for readers, as you will appreciate when you read ”Yellow Submarine.”