The farther north you go in Australia, the thicker the accent you’ll encounter. This was explained to me by the research station manager on Orpheus Island, whose speech resembled more mumbling than an accent. Jimmy is an exceptional guy in an exceptional setting. The small station features dormitories and communal kitchen/bath areas, the entire system runs off rainwater, and shoes are optional. We spent three days on Orpheus, studying wet sand samples (and exploring) to see if we could find any trace of where the Irukandji jellyfish is found during the winter.
We spent the rest of our time exploring the island’s gorgeous harbor, which conveniently boasts an equally impressive coral reef. Jimmy’s skipper piloted out to the reef and we got the opportunity to dive under the water to marvel at the huge variety of fish and invertebrates including sea turtles, jelly fish and sea sponges. Closer to shore, we examined critters in the sand, or, depending on the tide, wading as rays and baby sharks swam at our feet. When the tide was low, we watched a whole garden of giant clams spurt water like geysers into the air.
Even with all the breath-taking scenery and fascinating creatures, some of the most inspiring moments I took back from this trip came from Jimmy’s lectures. Australians are a charmingly sarcastic people. Everyone I met there had an innate ability to make fun of those around them while simultaneously putting them at ease. Jimmy was no exception to this, and it showed even through his orientation presentation on our first day. Shortly afterwards, a few of us trekked out to watch the sunset, and as we sat on the rocks, a figure on a paddle board made its way to us across the harbor. The figure (Jimmy) announced he was, “just commuting home from work.” While he swirled around in the water with the skill of a guy who’s spent months on a rarely-visited remote island, we asked, “How does someone land a gig like this?”
The young man’s answer was simple: “Say ‘yes’ to everything.” Do you want to observe tigers in Sumatra? “Yes.” Do you want to study vipers in Burma? “Yes.” The day we left for the airport he hopped into the boat with us to gather supplies after taking a phone call and accepting a position to research whales in Patagonia. His lack of hesitation made me think of a phrase he used whenever he said goodbye to us. We would thank him for imparting his knowledge and he would say, “Alright guys, it’s too easy.” With his accent it took us a few days to realize what he was saying, but I still think of this phrase to this day. It’s too easy to say, “no” to opportunity. So, the next time someone asks me if I want to go to Patagonia I’m going to say “yes,” and worry about the rest later.