Life on the open ocean

On 16 May 2015, I set foot on an ocean-bound ship – a ship I’d be living aboard for an entire month – for the first time. I had no idea what to expect, save the stories I’d heard from others. We were in port for just over three days before getting underway, and that gave me a time to size up my environment and get used my new schedule.

The co-chiefs split the geophysics team into two 12-hour shifts – noon to midnight and midnight to noon. We did not start those shifts until we were closer to our first waypoint, but our time in port gave us a chance to get on a good eating and sleeping schedule; this is much easier said than done. Meal time are very regimented:  breakfast at 07:30, lunch at 11:30, and dinner at 17:00. There is food available 24/7, however, since not everyone is around for mealtime. In the galley, there is a fridge marked ‘LEFTOVERS’ that is free game. Snacks abound also, should munchies occur at any time. Our port time was a breeze, even though I was in the beginning stages of acquiring my sea legs (the ship is very stable in port, but there is still movement, and my landlocked state noticed every to-and-fro). We ate breakfasts and lunches on the ship, but took advantage of the great food in Auckland for most dinners, especially a great brew pub (Brew on Quay) that was about a five-minute walk from the harbor. Their food was fantastic and they boasted 102 beers and a deep scotch list. Needless to say, we stopped in almost every night (did I mention it’s a dry ship?).

Aside from acclimating to the strict meal times, the transition to ship meals was an easy one as our ship chefs are top-notch. I have heard many tales about ship food – the good and the not-so-good. I would rank this experience so far as very, very good (check back in three weeks). Breakfasts are a spread of eggs (fried, poached, scrambled with cheese), a variety of morning meats, oatmeal, pancakes, and pastry selections such as scones or muffins. Lunches have varied greatly, from soup and grilled cheese, pasta salad, and Salisbury steak. Dinners… Where do I begin? Seared Ahi tuna with wasabi butter, grilled flank steak, sweet and sour chicken, roast pork loin, and prime rib… the list goes on. Every lunch and dinner includes fresh fruit and an ample salad bar – for now. They always put out some sort of dessert, too – the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies were a particular favorite. Marc and Mark have been spoiling us rotten.

It took most of the team and me a few days to get a good night’s sleep. If you are sensitive at all to noise or movement, being underway definitely takes some getting used to. I found that when I was not feeling well, lying down was the best position for me. There is a comfort in the heave, pitch, and roll of the ship – to a point. It’s not uncommon to wake when conditions change, or when the ship begins or ceases a transit. For the most part, I feel very well rested and am thankful. As one of the least experienced scientists aboard, I’m doing my best to be a support and help keep up morale. Running scientific operations in the field is a challenge, and performing it on the open ocean adds another level of stress and intensity. Thankfully, we have an incredible ship crew along with our adept science team. Troubleshooting on the fly is an invaluable skill, and our guys are all skilled problem solvers. Drew Cole, the Revelle’s resident technician, is worth his weight in gold.



View of the bridge from the bow as we get underway.


Auckland at sunset from the bay.



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