Mission & Objectives
Scientists & Crew
Captain Eric Buck and Dr. Maya Tolstoy talk
in the galley of RV Melville.
What did you want to be as a kid?
It wasnt really that clear in my mind what I wanted to do until I actually
got to college. I knew I wanted to do something that would let me travel. Having
traveled a lot with my parents I knew that I really enjoyed it.
How did you end up making the decision to go to maritime school?
My last two years in high school I was interested in architecture. Then I found
out about the California Maritime Academy, and the more I learned about the school,
the more interesting it sounded. I found out that you got to go to sea for three
months a year on the training ship, which sounded like a great opportunity to
travel, and the more I got into it, the more I liked it. I signed up for the
engineering department at first, not really knowing what I was getting into.
At some point along the line I switched over to the deck department.
Buck on the Bridge of RV Melville.
What are your main responsibilities on board during this cruise?
My main responsibilities on this and other cruises are to operate the ship and
manage the crew in such a way that we have the maximum possibility of achieving
the scientific goals, as well as monitoring compliance with all the legal requirements
for operating a ship. I have overall responsibility for the safety of everyone
on board, general oversight of the day-to-day operations and making sure that
all my people do what they have to do to help out the science party.
What do you do on a typical working day at sea?
A typical day starts early in the morning, spending a couple of hours on the
bridge, checking on the navigation, whether we are on schedule and what the plan
of the day is. I consult with the chief engineer, the chief mate and the chief
scientist to see what the particular needs of the day will be and to make plans
accordingly. We schedule the crew to help out the science party where needed
and coordinate the work in progress. The daily routine also includes planning
for the next port call, communicating with the office on shore, working on logistics,
writing reports from the last trip, looking ahead to repair work that might be
necessary for the ship in the future, and working with the cook to figure out
the grocery list for the next port. There is a lot of behind-the-scenes work
that is not very obvious that has to be done for the long-range, smooth operation
of the ship.
I also stand a navigation watch (0400 to 0800 hours) on the bridge--by choice,
because I enjoy it. If I'm not careful the captains job can turn into
a desk job, and standing a watch gets me out practicing the trade. The other
thing I have found is that equipment on ships has become very technically sophisticated
over the years, with computers controlling everything from navigation to engines
to data collection. If I don't stand a watch I don't keep up on all the technical
How did you end up working at Scripps Institution of Oceanography?
When I graduated from maritime school I had no prospects and was looking for
work with other employers. While I was looking, I heard of a temporary job that
was available at Scripps. The Melville had
just returned from a long voyage, and was going into a shipyard, and all the
regular crew had gone on vacation. I signed on as an able-bodied seaman and basically
scraped paint and cleaned the lifeboat bilges. One thing led to another, and
here I am today as a captain. I have also worked on other Scripps ships such
as the RV
Thomas Washington, the RV
New Horizon and a few trips on the RV
Buck uses a sextant on the flying bridge of RV Melville.
What do you like the most about your job or being at sea?
The thing I like most about my job is the opportunity for travel and adventure
in remote and exotic places. I think that is the absolute highlight of going
to sea. My favorite places are probably the South Pacific islands and Australia,
and particularly Tasmania. I also really enjoy the tranquility you can get at
sea when the weather cooperates, and not having to commute and spend several
hours a day driving in traffic!
What do you like least about your job or being at sea?
The thing I like the least about it is the long separation from my family. Before
I was married, it was the greatest job in the world with all the travelling,
but it gets really tough when you have a family.
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