News - July 3, 2020

‘In Bangladesh, everyone laughed it off’

Coretta Jongeling

Much of Wageningen science is conducted abroad, so the corona outbreak forced many researchers to face the choice: should I stay or should I go? We spoke to one PhD candidate that stayed, one that returned, and one that chose to travel despite the outbreak. How do you research during a pandemic? Today, part 3: Sjoukje de Lange, Bangladesh.

The research team in Bangladesh.

Sjoukje de Lange, PhD student of Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management

‘A few of us colleagues were in Bangladesh, known for its vast delta. I study the shape of the river beds. We planned on sailing across the entire delta to do our research. Our departure was set for the beginning of March when corona had already been discovered, but no measures had been taken by the Dutch government. Of course, we considered whether it was smart to go, but we had everything planned already, and there wasn’t all that much stress at the time. Even in Bangladesh, everyone just laughed it off. “We have worse diseases here”.

Two weeks into our research, we spent some time in an area where there was no phone reception. Upon our return to a more hospitable region, we were swamped with messages. “You must return now!”  Our Bengal colleagues started to make calls and soon discovered that the last flight to the Netherlands was to depart that very night. It was a 21-hour trip from our location to the airport, and, believe it or not; we made it. 

t was a 21-hour trip from our location to the airport, and, believe it or not; we made it.
Sjoukje de Lange, PhD Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management

The atmosphere had changed completely. There was total panic. The steward on our flight wore a hazmat suit, while there weren’t even that many cases at that time, at least not according to the official statistics.  

Fortunately, we were able to collect some data, which I am working on now. And we hope that the colleagues of the Bengal institute we work with will be able to carry out some measurements on location. But I am worried about the long term. At some point, I really will have to return for additional measurements and to finetune. I do hope I will be able to do that this year.’

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