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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The sea, the ship, and I : stories, things and objects from oceanography during the Cold War Ford, Denzil Lee Dawn


This dissertation examines how and why men on oceanographic research vessels in the middle of the 20th century used storytelling as part of scientific practice. I weave scholarship on literature and science together with the history of oceanography and demonstrate that oceanographers constructed their social world through narration. To begin, I look closely at a diary, memorandum, cartoon, and motion picture and then illuminate how the process of creating these narratives formulated collaboration, persuasive strategy, friendship, and community. Each author used the process of narration to make sense of expedition life and determine how best to proceed as a member of the oceanographic community. I argue that storytelling was not merely a pastime: it formed an integral part of social functioning of science at sea. Inspired by scholarship concerned with things and objects, the study also uses the content of the stories to investigate the ways in which things and objects at sea did four actions: influenced the oceanographic gaze on the Pacific, altered the patronage relationship between oceanography and the U.S. Navy, facilitated the construction of a shipboard ecology built upon collaboration, and came to represent Scripps as the dominant creator of knowledge in the Pacific. While historians have explained how elite actors created the geopolitical arrangements that determined ocean science in this period, this project argues that non-elite scientists, graduate students, Navy crew, and medical doctors recorded everyday experiences on expeditions in stories because their contributions to shipboard life and work were also a crucial component of the development of oceanography at sea during the Cold War.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 Canada