The ‘GACHINKO Cruise’: Educating, Empowering, and Enthralling the Next Generation with Real Cruise Experience

[from Deep-Sea Life 15]

Hiromi Kayama Watanabe¹, Chong Chen¹, Junichi Miyazaki¹, Takashi Okubo², Ken Takai¹ and YK19-10 cruise participants

¹X-STAR, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC),²Department of Human Resources, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC)

Deep-sea research is a comprehensive (and expensive) field requiring enthusiasm from not only scientists but a wide range of stake-holders. Motivating the next generation to make career choices related to ocean research is critical to ensuring its future prosperity. To promote this, we organised the ‘GACHINKO Cruise’ project in JAMSTEC where undergraduate students could apply to join a research cruise to Suiyo Seamount vent field with the manned submersible SHINKAI 6500 – and contest for a dive with scientists. ‘GACHINKO’ means ‘serious confrontation’ in Japanese, signifying our aim for the undergraduates to experience being actual members of the scientific party and candidates for limited, competitive dive opportunities in a genuine research cruise.

In August 2019, seven undergraduates from five universities, selected from 224 applications, boarded R/V Yokosuka after three days of pre-cruise tutorials. The students had diverse backgrounds and career interests. During the cruise, a key topic of discussion was “Do we really need manned submersibles?”. Opinions were initially split with many favouring unmanned solutions in the light of limited budgets. After completing the cruise and three selected students diving to Suiyo in SHINKAI 6500, they agreed that diving in person is a unique experience and it is something that can only be achieved through the existence of manned submersibles, which can also act as beacons of inspiration leading people to ocean research. We are sure that the cruise has made lasting impacts on the students’ future, and we hope to repeat this success with more ‘GACHINKO Cruises’ in the coming years.

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