A Successful Meeting with Japan!

For the last few days my Japanese colleagues, Norihito Kawamura and Yasuhiro Taguchi, have been working very long hours with many people to coordinate a live marine geology lesson from the JOIDES Resolution with their junior high school students in Japan.

Marine Computer Specialist, Matt Nobles, assisted the teachers with the technology and offered his support throughout the meeting. Thanks, Matt!

There were two practice rehearsals before the actual lesson. We all crossed our fingers with hope that the connection would be strong enough for good communication. According to Matt Nobles:

” We are connected to shore by a 512k bit satellite. That is about the speed of 10 normal modems.  We have about 40 computers on the ship that have internet. So that works out to 12.8k bits per internet computer.  Or another way to put it about the same connection speed as a modem that was used in the late 80’s early 90’s. We have 2 dishes on the ship that we use for connection.  One is on the front of the ship, and one is on the back of the ship. This helps us ensure connection to the satellite no matter where we are drilling, or the orientation of the ship.”

The lesson was structured very efficiently as to maximize quality time with the students. The theme of the lesson was to discuss ocean ridges as divergent boundaries and to look more closely at evidence for volcanism and hydrothermal vents using real data from JR expeditions.

After introductions, the teachers in Japan reviewed key concepts with their students while we watched and listened to them. IOPD Research Specialist, Kazuho Fujine, quietly translated a few things to those around us who were sitting close to her (I must add here that I am really going to miss Kazuho Fujine. If I was to sail for 8 weeks on this vessel, I would hope she would be on the same expedition). Those of us who could not understand Japanese had an outline of the lesson in English, prepared by Norihito and Yasuhiro. That was thoughtful!

After the review session, Leslie Peart, the Director for Deep Earth Academy (also Principal of SOR!), introduced herself and enthusiastically welcomed the Japanese teachers and students. Norihito and Yasuhiro took turns teaching the concepts and showing students slides of the instruments used to acquire and analyze the data. They also had on display the actual cores they had sampled and photographs of the foraminifera they had prepared earlier in the week.


Katie Inderbitzen, SOR instructor, wore her black smoker dress and introduced herself (in Japanese) before delivering more information to the students about hydrothermal activity along ocean ridges. Hèlder Pereira, SOR participant from Portugal, and Jean-Luc Berenguer, SOR participant from France, also had a chance to speak to the Japanese students to welcome them on behalf of their countries.

Communication glitches were few and minor, and the lesson was incredible! It was evident to everyone involved that Norihito and Yasuhiro are master teachers. It was interesting for me to witness the mutual respect between the Japanese teachers and their students. It was wonderful to watch the students express their excitement and ask questions of their remote teachers.

After the lesson, everyone was ecstatic. It really was a big success. Kudos to everyone involved, especially Yasuhiro and Norihito for working so hard for the enrichment of their students.