Nagasaki Marine Festival

Today I visited the Nagasaki Marine Festival at the invitation of the Nagasaki Marine Industry Cluster Promotion Association*.

This was an event aimed at the public, lasting for the three-day weekend that is in progress here, aiming (I think) to raise the profile of the Nagasaki marine technology industry while entertaining and informing people. There were a host of exhibits on renewable energy, sub-sea survey, seamanship skills, vessels for oil & gas exploration, etc., and plenty of activities for kids.

Japanese teacher helping Japanese school student with soldering.

A teacher helping with soldering. Photo: Author.

I found myself “helping” (so far as one can via Google Translate) a small group of high school students to troubleshoot a home-made ROV that they had built. I felt very pleased when I suggested a bodge to test something, one of them tried it, and suddenly thrusters started turning. That facial expression is priceless, and is a reason that I enjoy the little teaching that I do.


* Japanese organisational names that are directly translated into English often seem to come out a little long, unwieldy, and formal. They are, however, very precise.

Posted by simon in Working in Japan

Return to Nagasaki

An area of fake grass with food stalls and chairs/tables on it, between a railway station and a busy road & bus station

Plaza at Nagasaki railway station. Note the mist spray to keep people cool. Photo: Author.

I arrived in Nagasaki yesterday evening after a journey about as bearable as any of such length can be (not that this stopped me from moaning to social media about it).

I’ve been here once before, back in March of this year, and much is as I remember: the sprawling port city with a very walkable centre, enclosed by mountains; the proximity of shipyards to the centre, so that they are part of conciousness; the politeness, of course, but also the rule-following (I’m not sure whether jaywalking is actually illegal in Japan, but it certainly causes tuts and disapproving looks). The one thing that isn’t the same is the climate: what was pleasant in March is now a temperature in the high 20s of Celcius, 100% humidity leaving a permanent haze in the air. It reminds me a lot of when I used to work in the Carribean, and my attitude to moderate rain is the same as it was there: There’s no danger of getting cold, and it’s nicer to be wet with cool refreshing rain than with sweat. When I was working there I acclimatised, to a limited extent, after a week or two, and I’m sure the same will apply here.


Tug boat with its name "SHUNYOU" painted in large capitals on the front of the superstructure.

This tugboat appears to have attitude, and to announce it in big letters. Photo: Author.

Posted by simon in Working in Japan

Bon voyage.

Image by Pixabay user Skeeze, licensed CC0 public domain.

After a lot of buildup I’m packed, and I leave in the morning for Edinburgh. Which isn’t so exciting, but will be followed the next day by the journey to Japan. I’m very excited, and also nervous; nervous for many reasons, but I think most of all because I’ll be working with new collaborators who I’ve corresponded with by email, but never actually met. I’m sure all will be fine, but the beginning of new relationships is always a nervous time.

By a strange coincidence, today I found myself talking about my work to a group of “Marine Ambassadors”, undergraduates and high school students from Nagasaki who were visiting Orkney. They were amused to hear that I was going to pass through Nagasaki before they got back there!

While packing yesterday, I reflected that there were some things I was doing a little differently to a normal trip:

  • I have a small stock of Orkney whisky and fudge, because it’s customary to give gifts at the start of a visit.
  • For similar cultural reasons, I have twice as many business cards as usual.
  • I’ve sorted through my amusing T-shirts, and avoided taking the ones that rely on language humour. In doing this, I realised that most of my amusing T-shirts rely on language humour.
  • I’ve bought, and packed, some slip-on shoes. They’re not something I usually wear, but Japan is a place that can require taking one’s shoes off a lot, and re-lacing things gets boring fast.

Stay tuned!

Posted by simon in Working in Japan

Farewell to Pelamis

One of the perks of living in Stromness, just a few minutes walk from EMEC‘s offices, is that I get to see some of what’s going on behind the headlines. Right now, something that’s going on is the decommissioning of one of the Pelamis P2 machines (the one belonging to Highlands & Islands Enterprise).

This most famous of wave energy machines was divided into its five sections, and each section lifted onto a barge. They were then cut into small enough pieces for road transport, and taken from barge to workboat and workboat to truck. I was able to grab a few photos of the last part of this process.

[smartslider3 slider=2]

I perceived Pelamis as the “poster boy” for marine renewables, and I think many others did too. It was the machine that my friends, and sometimes even my mum’s friends, had heard of. The industry was always going to have to deal, at some point, with one of the big companies failing, and there’s no reason to extrapolate from this to the fate of wave energy as a whole. However, it did feel very poignant.

Posted by simon in The wider world

A new blog

A blank notebook.

Image by Domas, licensed CC0.

Many, many, PhD students start blogs during their study. Some do it at the encouragement of their supervisors, and some of their own initiative, but most do it in their first year, full of enthusiasm for the adventure ahead. That is not me. Or at least, parts of it are not.

Hi, I’m Simon. I’m a PhD student based in the Orkney Islands in the far north of Scotland. I’m in my final year of study, working at the intersection of physical oceanography, numerical modelling, and marine renewable energy.

The genesis of this blog was prompted by the exciting news that, thanks to a recent grant, I will be spending some weeks doing research in Japan this summer. I hope that this can be a place to reflect on my experience there, both for my own benefit and to interest others. Perhaps it will be abandoned after that, or perhaps it will grow to cover other topics. Perhaps it will be valuable productive procrastination during my writing up, or perhaps it will be neglected as final-year pressure mounts. Time will tell, but either way, I hope that it will be worthwhile reading for a little while.

If you want to keep up with new posts, you have a few options:

  • You can check back here regularly. I make no promises as to the frequency of posts, so I don’t advise this option.
  • You can subscribe to the RSS feed. Outlook will do this, as will plenty of dedicated software and cloud systems.
  • You can use IFTTT, or similar, to subscribe to the RSS feed for you and notify you when there’s something new (by email, or whatever else you choose).
  • You can follow me on Twitter, where I will announce new posts. You will also have to put up with a modest output of other tweets, mostly around the topics of energy, environment and academia. Who knows, you might find those interesting too!
Posted by simon in Website updates