Mission & Objectives
Scientists & Crew
Interviews: Geologist Ben Grosser
Ben prepares the dredge for deployment with the sun setting below Fernandina volcano in the background.
How did you become interested in geology?
Ben ties a bowline knot in the tag line, as he prepares to recover
I've always been interested in rocks. When I
was a kid, growing up in Pennsylvania, I would wander through the
woods pick up rocks and bring them home. It drove my parents nuts,
because they would often find the rocks later in my pockets while
they were doing the laundry. I never actually studied rocks until
college. I was thinking of majoring in business at the University
of North Carolina in Wilmington when I went to a paleontology seminar
on the mass extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. I was fascinated
by the shear power of the suspected meteorite impact, which scientists
believe killed the dinosaurs. I found it really amazing. I took some
basic geology courses and then changed my major.
How have you enjoyed the cruise so far?
Im hearing people talk about how they want
to be back on land, but Im in no hurry. Its really nice here.
Seeing all the wildlife and the different islands is amazing. The
only islands Ive ever seen have been barrier islands in the Outer
Banks of North Carolina, but they have bridges connecting them so
they don't seem much like islands. Its weird to be out in the middle
of the ocean and have land pop up.
What homework have you been working on while
youve been out at sea?
Im missing a month of graduate school at the
University of Idaho so Im going to have to do some catching up when
I get back. For homework, I have three problem sets. The first one
took me about an hour and then the second one took me about four hours.
Both were for my introductory course in geochemistry. The third one
is for Denny Geists class in physical petrology. Ive spent about
eight hours on it so far and I still have more to do. Most of the
problem sets require making graphs, analyzing the data and looking
watching for pilot whales on the starboard side with Josh Curtice
and Bob Reynolds.
What is it like working on the 4 to 8 shift
When Dennis first told me the 4 to 8 shift is
the best shift, I didnt believe him. But its true. I watch the sun
set and rise every day. We have meals - dinner at 5 p.m. and breakfast
at 7:30 a.m. - to break up the shift. I usually dont go to bed until
11:30 p.m. so I can watch a movie if I want or read. I just finished
reading The Hobbit for the second time. I usually wake
up at up at 3:30 a.m., and I amuse the 12 to 4 watch. Theyve been
up drinking coffee for four hours so when I stumble in at quarter
to 4 a.m. its quite entertaining. They will all wave and say Hi!
with bright cheerful smiles and Ill usually just wave back. Denny
said yesterday, Ben doesn't speak for the first half an hour
in the morning so just leave him alone. We have a friendly rivalry
with the other watches, too. When we first started dredging by luck
we were the only group getting rocks. And we had the first two biggest
hauls, because the teeth on the dredge were still really sharp.
Where else, besides the Galápagos and
Costa Rica, has geology taken you?
Ive done mapping projects and fieldwork in
North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, West Virginia, Virginia,
California, New Mexico and Colorado. I worked on fracture studies
in North Carolina and as an undergraduate student was working with
Dr. Blake making thin sections. I have to thank both my parents and
my professors, because without them these trips wouldnt have been
possible. Ive enjoyed a lot of freedom in my work. For the past five
years I have supervised others and havent had anyone hovering over
me telling me what to do. And when I know that the people Im in charge
of understand what they need to do I trust them to get it done correctly.
fellow Los Primos (the 4 to 8 watch) Rhian Waller
and Joe Licciardi, Ben poses with the exceptionally hard basalt
from dredge 58.
What has been some of the more challenging experiences
I spent six weeks at a geology field camp this
summer. A little more than half of the time was in New Mexico where
the temperatures reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit. The rest of the time
we were in the high elevations of Colorado where it would drop below
freezing at night and we would wake up with frost on our tents. We
were mapping rugged terrain and I was constantly falling down and
getting scraped and bruised. At one point we ran out of trail on steep
hill we were crossing laterally. I blocked another student from falling
down the face of the cliff by wedging my body down slope of where
we were crossing so she could crawl behind me. Before that trip I
thought everyone had a limit to what they could do and learn. But
I dont believe in setting limits any more. I believe now that you
can push yourself further than you might think it possible.