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My Trip To The Moon Essay

What made A Trip to the Moon such a popular film? An innovative psychological study offers a few clues. Stephan Schwan and Sermin Ildirar were interested in understanding what happens when someone watches a video for the first time. They found a group of adults in remote regions of Turkey who had never seen a video before. The researchers studied their responses to watching edited films and compared the results with people who were more familiar with video. People who watched film for the first time understood the basics of what is happening onscreen but were confused by some of the editing and misunderstood details of the story. However, people who were familiar with the ideas of a video (cooking a meal, preparing tea, or transporting wood) could understand the story and weren't confused by the edits. People who had more prior exposure to video understood everything, even if they weren't familiar with the ideas in the video.

To sum it up, the only way to fully understand a visual story is by either watching a lot of television and movies or being very familiar with the ideas in the story. For A Trip to the Moon, most of the audience didn't have much experience watching films, but they were VERY familiar with the ideas in this film. Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon, released 37 years before this film, had popularized the idea of space travel. H. G. Wells's The First Men in the Moon expanded on Verne's work by introducing a race of insect-like moon aliens called "Selenites". The tone of Méliès's film mirrors that of Jacques Offenbach's A Trip to the Moon operatic parody of Verne's novels while the structure of the film follows that of an attraction at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in New York.

Life on a ship can be stressful when half way across the Indian Ocean, like us, you’re still waiting for your permits to enter Indonesian Waters. So let’s spend some time talking about fun stuff and let’s get a break from politics, international coöperations and ever-changing plans. Let’s talk about what you bring to the moon when you’re one of the lucky guys to go there.

This is my first trip across the equator on a research vessel (we don’t count airplanes and terrestrial vehicles), the first time I’m out on a cruise for so long (from Dec 28 to Jan 19, it’s about three weeks!) and also the first time I can use the ocean observations for my own research. So this cruise is special to me. I feel I’m a passenger on a trip to the moon! The ocean is pretty much a desert and we can’t go out of the ship and stay alive for very long, like outer-space travel. You follow me?

So what do you bring with you on a trip to the moon? What is it that you definitely want to have available with you for three weeks to keep you sane? That should reveal a lot about you, right? Let’s see. I brought my own pillow: I care about quality of sleep because we don’t get a lot of that. I brought many cameras, 12mm and 55mm wide-angle lenses, a GoPro. That’s because in my experience if I don’t record what happens, I don’t remember it much. One year from now I’d be like “oh yeah, I crossed the Indian Ocean last year…” like it’s a distant thing I did when I was young. That’s because there’s so much going on in life that I usually don’t have enough time to fully enjoy what I’m doing. For example, a couple months ago I was in Hawaii to train on operating the Wave Gliders, but simultaneously, I had to prepare a presentation for the American Ambassador in Manilla a few days later… Always doing stuff and preparing the next. So cameras are for that: remembering. The 12mm is good for portraits and I don’t use it much.

The wide angle is great to capture action on the ship. You can have people doing their work and the background in the same shot. The GoPro is also very useful. I usually set it up at a corner to have a full view of a room and I set it to a shot per minute. People rapidly forget about it and they look natural in the shot.

Diego and Sylvain chat and enjoy the ocean breeze


I also brought tea with me (and my own tea mug). I can’t drink coffee – makes me sick although I love the smell and taste – and I’m picky about tea. You know, you enter a Starbucks and you have 15 selections of coffee, but still they serve tea in tea bags? That drives me nuts. But turns out I’m also picky about the water I use for my tea, and the ship makes its own water from seawater. It’s not briny water, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not the purest. It doesn’t help that we warm water in the same pot that we use to make coffee. In the end, what does it reveal about me? Well, I’m a food snob. That’s it. I must say that on the food front, we’re doing well. We have a different menu at every meal. Lots of fruits. Banana scones. Meat lasagna. And it’s always a three course meal. Pretty lucky on that one.

Along the other things I brought is a small ball with the world drawn on it. It’s fun to have because you can discuss about tectonics, oceanography and travel plans. The world fits in your hand. And you can play ball with it too. This is the kind of object I’ll have laying somewhere in my office and if someone ask: why this ball? I’ll say, Oh this crossed the equator line with me in the Indian Ocean. Hopefully, that’d be a way to start a nice conversation.


Following bathymetry and CHIRP acquisitions in the ship’s computer lap

PS: just another shot to show we’re working some times!


— Sylvain

Marta and Deepa being silly in the computer lab

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