Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Venter's Sailing Sorcerery

A good friend of mind used to crew as chef aboard Craig Venter’s yacht “Sorcerer I” out of Annapolis and so when I saw the San Francisco Chronicle story yesterday about Craig, a brilliant scientist who led the project to sequence the human genome, I read on. The piece is about Craig's expedition to identify and catalog as many new genes as possible from microscopic organisms Luckily for him he can conduct this exercise from the deck of the 95 foot Sorcerer II, most recently anchored off Hamilton Island, Australia. According to the article this voyage was inspired in part by early scientific explorations, including Charles Darwin's voyage on the Beagle. As the author points out, Darwin and the men who accompanied him on his original journey (began in 1831) would have been impressed at the style the modern-day explorers have become accustomed to – air conditioning, brunch tables laden with fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, warm pastries, surfboards at the ready and Bob Marley piped through a state-of-the-art sound system. Regardless, it sounds as if Craig and team are making a strong case for the scientific utility of a leisurely round the world sail. "We're looking for life on Mars, and there is still so much diversity on our own planet that we don't even know about," Venter said, tacking into the wind. "I like to tell people, the next time you're in the ocean and you swallow a mouthful of water, keep in mind you just swallowed 10 million to 100 million organisms."

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