Research funding, an important part of any academic's life but I am not exactly sure how I am going to get any. I have a limited amount of funding for my research in Namibia, but the good news is that the Geological Survey of Namibia has just said that it will sponsor me with a four-by-four vehicle in June, which is an opportunity I cannot refuse. It is great when you get emails like this, and here is another - asking me if I want to take part in a Lufthansa advertising campaign. They want the face of a volcanologist.
I feel a bit silly standing here, a friend taking close-up photographs. Do I have the right look? One-hour photo developing is required if I am going to get these photos to the courier in time for them to be sent to Lufthansa's advertising agents in Hamburg. I wonder which other volcanologists are in the running?
As I sign the modelling contract, I wonder what is going to happen. Now though, I have the opportunity to advertise Lufthansa and advertise my science, and that cannot do me any harm. The advertising agents Springer & Jacoby have mentioned the possibility of an article in the Lufthansa in-flight magazine, so I have a photo shoot coming up in Munich. Lufthansa has also agreed to give me a free flight to Namibia. A June trip is looking more and more likely.
Late January 1999
Munich. I have been in make-up, had my hair cut and tried on a number of jackets before getting "the final look" for the advert. The photo will be superimposed on the side of a volcano. The lights feel hot as the photographer reels off another roll of film.
Namibia, in the field. The fire is difficult to get going this morning, after a cold desert night and amid winds that seem to come from nowhere. I must formulate my plan for the last few weeks of fieldwork.
The four-by-four is bouncing around a bit as we make our way across the Ugab River crossing. It is difficult to imagine what these dry river beds would be like in a flood, but the debris on trees above our heads stands as testament to a raging torrent that came through here in the wet season. I have come a long way since my photo shoot. Still, two more weeks in the desert and we will be shipping off, along with our rocks, back home.
Frankfurt Airport. Arriving back from the field is always a mixed time. On the one hand you want to get home, on the other you are leaving a special place.
Still, there is plenty left to do back in Africa, I shall just have to try to get more sponsorship for the research.
I look over my shoulder and there I am, covered in dust with a volcano erupting in the background - it is the Lufthansa advert! The poster is up on a billboard in the train station. Tentatively I look around to see if anyone recognises Dougal Jerram is a research fellow