On Monday we continued our work at sites H and I as well as the spatial survey which we are carrying out between the sites. There will be more about the spatial survey later in the blog, as today’s post is focused on the most important person on the ship. Jo Cox is the captain of the RRS Discovery, and indeed the first female captain of any NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) owned research vessel.
Jo has always been a keen sailor and spent most of her childhood sailing in circles round a reservoir at weekends, however she took an unconventional path towards a career at sea spending five years training as an engineering apprentice and test engineer with Land Rover. During her apprenticeship she was given the opportunity of sailing on a Tall Ship (Sail training for children and young adults), spending 10 days sailing on the schooner Winston Churchill.
Jo Cox, captain of the RRS Discovery, and the first female captain of any NERC owned research vessel.
After that, she was hooked and she spent most of her annual leave and most weekends sailing offshore. “I loved my job at Land Rover, but my heart was rapidly over-ruling my head, so I took the plunge and quite literally ran away to sea.”
Since running away to sea, Jo has sailed on a variety of ships from a 300,000t tanker, to an old general cargo ship on a round the world trip. One trip stood out above the rest with 6 months spent on the British AntarcticSurvey (BAS) vessel RRS James Clark Ross (JCR). “I loved the science work that the vessel undertook, the range of people that I came across, and of course, the beauty of the Antarctic was also pretty amazing.”
Following this BAS offered her a 3rd mate position on the JCR, and she spent the following 10 years working for BAS on the JCR and the other UK Polar ship the RRS Ernest Shackleton. In 2012 a change of career beckoned and Jo left the open waves to spend three seasons working as the Government officer in an Antarctic base on the island of South Georgia manned by BAS scientists; however with each passing season her desire to return to sea got greater and this lead her to apply for the vacant Masters position on the RRS Discovery.
“The Masters position on RRS Discovery represented an amazing opportunity to work at the cutting edge of research, on a purpose built vessel with the ability to carry out a fantastic range of scientific activities.”
Coming from an engineering background, Jo has only ever worked in male dominated environments and offered the following advice to other women considering a career at sea.
"The maritime industry offers a fantastic career opportunity for anyone with the commitment and dedication that is required to pursue it. In doing so there are inevitable sacrifices, but the rewards and job satisfaction more than make up for it. Women at sea are no longer the rarity that they once were, and with each passing year there are a steadily increasing number reaching the ranks of Master and Chief Engineer. It’s certainly not for everyone, but if you’re willing to get stuck in and work hard then the opportunities are out there.”
She also offered the following advice to scientists concerned with making her life at sea a little less stressful – “Be organised and be ready on time…..”
Sound advice I think….