I have been spending most of my time with Lin. She is hilarious, non-pretentious. As chief researcher for this expedition, Lin is meant to understand every detail of everyone else’s job. She tells me mine is to reconcile the public perception of scientific exploration as something that doesn’t matter into something that matters a great deal.
“You humanize it,” she said. “Your quest for closure, and even your quest for personal redemption, is a metaphor for what we are trying to do with the ocean. If we can get to the bottom of how our own planet works, we may be able to rejuvenate it. That’s important. And because people care about you, and about your wife, we may be able to get them to care about the planet.”
“You’re exploiting me?” I said in mock indignation.
“Yes. But we’re also giving you the privilege of being on a multi-million dollar expedition into a part of the world that has only previously been seen through remote cameras. You’ll get over it.”
I did. Sort of. I spent the rest of the day trading funny stories with Lin. She told me about Mandarin people. I told her about church people. We were the punch lines in both stories.
Lin is down here for another reason than just the oil and the aquamarine life. There have been numerous reports from this part of the world about a strange kind of super-caviar. Normally beluga caviar is small, maybe the size of an apple seed at best, and the going market rate hovers around five thousand dollars a pound. But there have been tales of giant caviar caught up in fishermen’s nets. These legendary eggs, each one perhaps the size of a volleyball, always seem wrapped in a kind of amniotic sac. The sac is hyper-elastic, viscous, and resists both tearing and burning. Lin mentioned that one of the Atargatis crew has even held some of it, reporting that an infected gash along his arm began to weep and heal almost overnight–after a month of rot.
That’s some caviar.
Of course, it doesn’t taste good, and it almost always spoils before the fishermen can get it back to the shore. But Lin did some research for a favorite professor while working toward her PhD. She has maintained a long-term fascination with these eggs, especially the jellied sac that contains them. Apart from their rarity, no one knows very much about them. The only solid fact concerns where they come from: the Sea of Ohktosk. Lin thinks that her cultural heritage may be of some added benefit here, as the Chinese have a longstanding history of blending naturopathy, folklore, and “real” science. She is hoping to find out more while on this expedition.
What lays eggs that size, I wonder? Especially given that the creature wouldn’t lay one or two in a nest. It would lay thousands.
Thousands of volleyballs sewn up in a sac. That would necessitate a spectacularly large fish. A kraken. Lotan. Ogopogo.
I hope we see it…from a distance.