Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Life at Sea

Just over 48 hours ago we set off from Auckland aboard the R/V Roger Revelle with our sights set on the Havre Seamount. The saltier members of the team (those who had participated in a few of these cruises) knew just what to expect, while the folks new to life aboard a research vessel are learning through their early experiences. Over the time it has taken for us to transit to Havre, we have accumulated a slough of new experiences and skills.

Seasickness and Sea legs
For many of us, the hardest part of this journey is adjusting to the motion of the ocean. Seasickness is a beast only Dramamine, adhesive medicine patches, and ginger tablets can tame. As many of us congregate in the library outside of the mess, we try many activities to distract us from the rocking of the boat. Reading, working, drawing on cups (more about this later), sleeping lying down, sleeping sitting up—really anything we can do to help.

Meanwhile, the more experienced among us say it will only last a couple days. Maybe it was slowing down and calming of the seas or being active on deck or maybe just knowing that we are close to starting some science, but today was the first day I think everyone is feeling all right.

The more exciting side of the process of equilibrating to the rolling ocean is the slow development of “sea legs.” For those who have never experienced this phenomenon, when you first try walking a straight line aboard a tossing ship, it is not easy. To walk straight you must adjust your center of balance with the sway of the ship (which isn’t always predictable). As you develop sea legs, you slowly progress from the walking capability of a waddling toddler to the occasionally smooth I-meant-to-do-that misstep.

In addition, showering is a very “interesting” experience. I think I’d compare it to trying to shower in a half-sized closet set up inside a tilt-a-whirl. Though it has taken a couple of days, we are all starting to walk straight lines again.

Waiting through transit
For the team leaders, the first few days have been filled with endless tasks and preparation. For most of the rest of us, our days have been filled with a few meetings and some minor tasks, but mostly just filling time as we wait to start our science. Some of the more focused members of our group can be seen eagerly punching away at their keyboards, maintaining high productivity levels even while combating seasickness.

For me, I choose to read. The library set up here on the Revelle is quite stocked with a range of books from Atlantia to Geophysical Fluid Dynamics. Reading is great for seasickness because it makes you focus on the text and not on the shifting room around you.

Aside from reading in the library, I have also spent a fair amount of time wandering through the maze of tunnels and corridors that is the Revelle’s insides. Without much to serve as landmarks, it is easy to get turned around. During my first day aboard, every trip outside of my quarters turned into a small adventure, similar to the game of chutes and ladders, minus the chutes.

The ship’s crew and food
At first, I didn’t know what to expect from the crew. Here are these men who live out on the open ocean more than they do on land. Many are grizzly and tough and bearded, though, so far, they are all extremely helpful and friendly. After many meals with many accompanying conversations, I have learned about the upsides and downsides of life at sea, plenty of maritime terminology, and tidbits of some of these folks’ lives. I look forward to these conversations at every meal.

I couldn’t bring up mealtime without throwing some high praise at Mark and Marc’s delicious seafaring cuisine. I had heard that the food on research vessels could be good, but I didn’t expect what we have aboard the Revelle. Each meal is a feast with fresh proteins and fruits and salads and starches and sides. I will be lucky to not gain ten pounds by the time we get back to land.

The transition to life at sea has been nothing short of interesting, but I am glad the MESH team is starting to get settled and comfortable. Today was Day 1 as far as having equipment in the water, and as soon as Jason and Sentry start gathering data and samples, we will need as many able-bodied (and able-minded) workers as we have aboard!