Are These The 3 Most Awesome Jobs?

Want to learn how to tag a whale? Or dive into the highest lakes? Or go to the deepest place in the world? Come along!

Science writer Erin Biba has been profiling some of the most epic of gigs we've heard of—from tagging blue whales to exploring Mars (on Earth!) to plunging into the world's deepest point. What's more, the working lives of these extreme scientists parallel our own: from the how individual glories require collective effort to why the
happiest people have the hardest jobs.

Ari Friedlaender, Whale Tagger

"A blue whale is 80 feet long and you have a lot of area to put the tag," says Ari Friedlaender, a whale tagger—that's a thing—and marine ecologist.

Why tag a whale? To track and understand them, of course. But how? Friedlaender says that's "the fun part, the hard part, the frustrating part, and the most exciting adrenaline filled part," for while it's easy to see a whale from a distance, it's another story to get in the 20-foot or less range to tag the cetacean in question.

In whale-tagging, as in business, as in life, many causes need to come together in order to succeed: "It takes patience, weather conditions, whales in the right mood to allow you get that close, a great boat driver, and steely nerves," Friedlaender says.

"When it works it looks beautiful and very coordinated," he continues. "It’s almost like a race car team. There's a driver that’s the very end of everything, but there's also a pit crew and a support team: tag engineers, people that find the whales, measure the prey, drive the boat. Somebody has to put the tag on at the end of the day but that's the very end of the process that involves a lot of people."

Getting a group of people to do something extraordinary? That's the essence of the leadership challenge.

Nathalie Cabrol, Planetary Scientist and High Altitude Diver

"I wanted to be an astronaut, definitely," Nathalie Cabrol tells Biba. "It’s the space program that died on me not the other way around."

So, instead, Cabrol has become a planetary scientist and now dives some of Earth's highest lakes—she holds the record for highest altitude dive by a woman.

Why the high diving? Because humanity will one day be exploring bodies of water that aren't on our home planet—she talks about Mars and Titan, Saturn's moon—so we need to hone our techniques here. Before we can pull an Elon Musk and set foot (or snorkel) on the Red Planet, we need to know how to operate there. Which means, for Cabrol, some epic dives in the Andes—those high altitude lakes are analogs for those on other planets, so you can start building the skillsets here.

But before we send a human to Mars, she says, we need to be absolutely certain of whether or not life is there. Humans are microbial factories, she says, so we need to complete that step of finding life before sending a person. Which, of course, takes a while—so when the time for a manned mission comes, she'll be too old be an astronaut.

Which, with a nod toward the legacy that will follow her, Cabrol says she's fine with.

"I don’t mind being a stepping stone on that process," she says, noting that she's helping make advances toward the exploration of Mars while here on earth and learning about our own planet. "I’ll be an astronaut in my next life."

Kevin Hardy, Deep Sea Submarine Builder

Kevin Hardy is the dude who built the deep sea vehicle that brought our buddy James Cameron down into the Mariana Trench, which, at about 7 miles down, is the deepest spot on earth.

Hardy, as you may expect, finds a lot of meaning in his work:

"We think, from the site that we went to at the Mariana Deep, postulating based on our knowledge, that life may have started down there. We had this whole series of postulations but had no evidence and it was unbelievable the things we saw down there.

The reason I consider it important is the massive forces that come out of there. The beginning of life is potentially down there. We actually found some microbes down there that will help us fight against cancer and Alzheimer’s and improving life in general."

Hardy says that he finds everything interesting, and he has a Buffett-like sense of devotion to his life-long craft. Soon turning 60, he says that he still gets goosebumps on the back of his neck when he learns something new—thus why he's always sticking his neck out into pressurized places.

"The great thing about being an engineer is I get to go to Norway, Antarctica, Australia," he says. "I once landed on an uncharted island that nobody’s been to before except the turtles. It’s lovely to be alive."

What do you think is the most awesome job? And what's the most awesome job you ever had? Tell us in the comments and we might include it in a follow-up post!

Awesome Jobs: Meet Ari Friedlaender, Whale Tagger

[Image: Flickr user Basheer Tome]

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  • Hebbar71182

    Visual Artist
    Shubha A Hebbar is a visual artist from Bangalore.Bachelor's degree in Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts,Karnataka Chitrakala Parishath, Bangalore. For his M.V.A dissertation on Dot & Circle. obtained a Master of Fine Arts degree from M.V.A University, Bangalore University in( Print Making )

     My works are “Conceptual” so it presented a unique way of its (Abstraction of its own Figurative) Juxtaposed to form a transparent of select images net in sense of tradition but to show two heads of
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    Shubha A Hebbar

  • DeepSeaDan

     Deep-Sea Diving! In my years as a Deep-Sea Diver I found myself in a wide variety of diving environments, doing all manner of interesting work. Everything from exploring for hydrocarbons in the frigid waters of the Arctic and N. Atlantic, to constructing producing oilfields in tropical climes, to salvaging sunken cargo in the Straits of Taiwan, to diving amongst chicken entrails in the holding pond of a chicken processing plant! Lots of adventures, great people, and the excitement of anticipating just where I might be making my bed tomorrow. Go hard or go home!

  • Janet Huey

    A one person microbiz, I recycle pet supplies in Houston, Tx and still love my job after 16 years. Pet Stuff Resale saves people money and keeps stuff out of landfills. I'm outside a lot, around animals all the time and live in scrubs! What's not to love?

  • PremiereConcierge

    Some people do dangerous job's for their interest and passion. I think these three kinds jobs are one of them. These are interesting, frustrating and exciting also.

  • Thomas

    Great jobs.
    But as long as you enjoy, I mean really enjoy what you do for a job and can grow as a person then you have the best possible job as it is the one that fits who you are :)

  • Regina Maher

    Yes.  Is this a rhetorical question? 

    You can get a small taste of jobs like these by taking volunteer vacations with groups like Oceanic Society and Earthwatch  -- just enough of a taste to make a humble cube-dweller wonder where she was when the cool jobs were being handed out. 

  • Dana Lynn

    I have the best job in the world!  I get to travel the world and teach others what I do!  There is nothing better.  See the world, make lots of money!  Great combination!!

  • Forever-jewels82

    Agreed. These are 3 pretty "awesome" jobs. Interesting... all 3 involve water in one form or another. Great read!

  • Guest

    I recently had the pleasure of meeting a professional storyteller. Yes, an actual job telling folk tales and stories. Absolutely fascinating person who's travelled the world meeting new people and gaining more new stories.

  • Janet Huey

    I love my quirky job after 16 years. I buy and sell pet supplies, the only biz of its kind in the US. I'm outside a lot, save people money, keep stuff out of landfills, get to be around animals, help educate folks and live in scrubs!
    What's not to love?
    Janet Huey

  • Michael

    In high school, I was a food garnish-er for a large restaurant. Yes, I put lemon and parsley on the plates before they went out to the customer. The pay - $220+/wk for 2.5 hrs a day. Excellent money for a teenager in 1985.