Juice for Scientists

Last fall, marine scientists and students at California’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories got some bittersweet news.  The small, old, rickety refrigeration unit they’d been using as a sampling lab aboard their research vessel had an accident while on route to another university: it fell off a truck and was smashed to smithereens.

The news was bittersweet because, while they had nothing to replace it, this particular refrigeration lab was a miserable little space in which to do science.  But their next research cruise was in a month, and their budget for replacement equipment was nil.  Odwalla ShipWhat they needed was a refrigeration box that was big enough and cold enough to do their research,  studying how elements (carbon in particular) are cycled on the ocean floor.

And with that introduction, we’ll let one of the scientists at Moss Landing Marine Labs, Dr. Kenneth Cole, finish the story of how Odwalla came to the rescue…

Following are a few edited excerpts of Dr. Cole’s story:

“The lab space we had used the year before, a field-issue World War II ‘walk-in’ refrigerator, was about five by seven feet and about five feet tall.  Here, scientists would stoop to process their valuable samples in near-freezing, cramped quarters, straddling centrifuges spinning at 10,000 rpm in the light of one dim bulb.  The unit was chained to the deck of our research vessel, and we would spend weeks at sea working inside it.  Fortunately, entropy finally prevailed and the entire refrigeration unit found itself in pieces in the middle of coast Highway 1 on its way back to Oregon State University.  Thus ended one nightmare and began another.

“We started looking at commercially available units, all built for the food industry, all too expensive and none of them seaworthy. . .

“Then one day, while driving down the coast past Davenport, I noticed a fleet of cute little refrigerated trucks and wondered, ‘What geochemists work here?’  This turned out to be the home of Odwalla, and a subsequent call revealed that one of these boxes was to be removed from a truck for flatbed conversion, and Odwalla would be willing to donate the box to our needy and desperate cause.

“It was perfect.  With fiberglass walls, a coved aluminum floor, roll-up and ‘people doors,’ and a recently overhauled cooler, the box was sturdy and well insulated . . . From squeezing juices to squeezing mud, the Odwalla box was outfitted with lights, power, water, benches, core racks, a sink, modified door, and platform.

“As the inside paint was drying, the ship’s crane lowered our Odwalla juice box to the deck of the Point Sur, where it would see plenty of action in its first 45 days, from Monterey Bay to the Southern California Basins, to the Mexican border and about 100 miles offshore.  In all, about 60 sediment cores were processed in our new juice box, at bottom-water temperatures and in bright, spacious luxury.”