Team members: Shaun Henderson
Hometown: Tacoma, WA USA
Race vessel: Peapod
Human propulsion: Fixed seat rowing
Moon landing, not dying of smallpox, electric lights, fracking, solar panels, oat milk—since right around the time our species correctly diagnosed the cause of falling apples, science has pretty much been running the show. Sure, God’s still top ten, but compared to the big-religion heydays when burning heretics was a hobby and Pilgrims fled entire continents out of the fear of not being religious enough, these days it seems like He’s definitely flying co-pilot.
The bumper sticker is right.
Compared with the inquisitions of the good old days, at least conceptually today’s faith seems relegated to the Middle East, a few southern states, and a day at the end of the week where everyone tries to sleep in. Not science. From the engineered fabric of your clothes to the thing you are using to read this right now (on whatever the internet is), science is everywhere. Sure, anti-vaxxing, flat-earth creationism seems to be having a moment, and now and then we still kill a Galileo or heckle a Swedish teenager for being inconveniently truthy, but other than the occasional heretic burning cheat-day, on the whole civilization is eating an increasingly science-based diet.
Who isn’t glad to know our stomach can be doused by Pepto rather than Hailing Mary and swallowing a leech, but where’s the wonder? Where’s the magic? Plus, aren’t you a little suspicious that science’s answer for the unknown is that we haven’t scienced enough?
Science: “Science hasn’t worked so far? Double down, more science.”
We didn’t study much past E=MC Hammer, but anything needing that level of faith and ongoing investment usually falls somewhere between religion and a pyramid scheme. Because of all/none of that, the R2AK has remained largely science-free, until now.
Team Oceanus is an honest-to-God test lab for the hypothesis that “science is everywhere,” even in low-tech rowboats entered in the overly analog Race to Alaska. The sole crew of Team Oceanus’ 15’ Peapod Dory is a science professor so dedicated to his field of study that he has convinced his dean that the best way to teach science is to use the R2AK as the subject for his students, and that the best way to fully engage his class in the science of R2AK is to cut class for the last few weeks to do the race.
We’ve never heard of a teacher cutting class before, but what’s more important than science class? Science itself.
We are not making this up.
Shaun’s decided on an adorable 15’ rowing and sailing double ender, not an orthodox lapstrake wood and bronze affair but a bit of space age heresy; fiberglass in the form of a traditional wooden boat. Then convinced the college he works for to not just let him go on the trip but to make it his job to do so. Usually at this point we’d talk about his qualifications, how he (science-word trigger warning) evolved his skills from Sea Scout to southern ocean delivery skipper by the time he was 22, then worked first as a whitewater then sea-kayak guide until the science dragged him out of the water and into the classroom—but all of that seems secondary to his accomplishment of getting paid to R2AK, for science. That’s groundbreaking. Got to be worth a Nobel Prize in something. That, and the fact that if he finishes he’ll be the smallest boat to complete the full race.
Not since the Gilligan’s Island breakthroughs in coconut technology has a professor accomplished so much with so little.
Welcome to the R2AK, Team Oceanus. We look forward to reading the syllabus for R2AKology. We might ask to copy.