Sunday, June 20, 2010

Day 3/4: Living on a Ship

Song of the Blue Ocean... the Bering Sea
Copyright (c) 2010 Wendee Holtcamp

I've been at sea a few days now, so thought I'd give an update on life on board the R/V Thompson. It's been pretty smooth sailing but today the winds got kicked up a bit and we're rocking and rolling. Not so bad - it definitely could be worse. Yesterday one of the scientists told me the NOAA forecasts were for a big storm with 12-foot swells and 35-knot winds in 24-48 hours and so I had to ask around to make sure that was really true! I asked Captain John this morning and sure enough there is a storm forecast in the area, but not for around 96 hours. But we all know weather forecasts.

My first blog post went up on Nature's Great Beyond blog, you can read it here. The next one will be up Monday UK time, whenever that is! You can also just bookmark this link and it will display all my blog posts on the Bering Sea at any time.

Overall things are going great! Everyone is really nice, and the food is really tasty and there are lots of fresh veggies and salad stuff and vegetarian options, even. There is a ton of snack food around, from Lorna Doon shortbread to M&Ms to coffeepots always on, hot cocoa mix, tea, and leftover desserts from the earlier meals, and fresh fruit. Breakfast is at 7am, lunch at 1130am, and dinner at 5pm. Scientists work night and day, and during my waking hours I spend time talking to everyone, taking pics, editing pics, writing my blog, and doing other miscellaneous stuff.

A lot of experiments are taking place on board now, which is pretty amazing. In fact it's day 5 and I've talked to nearly every scientist on board but I still keep learning about new projects and new equipment! This morning Jessica Cross showed me the flow cytometer that takes constant readings of the ocean water as we cruise over it. I didn't even know about it before then. Yet it's a key piece of equipment on board.

Everything seems to take forever to accomplish on the boat for some reason. Maybe because there are doors every five feet, and you have to open and close them constantly, and there are several levels, and some things are up and some things are down. So it takes time to get to your room to go to the bathroom, then back downstairs to the labs on the main deck or out in the back where most of the big equipment goes down to measure water, mud, and critters. It takes time to get your rubber boots on, and your orange life vest and hard hat on - mandatory for going out on deck (especially if equipment is being hauled around). That's just life on the boat, I guess.

Most of the scientists have a 'space' in one of the labs on the main deck but being the journalist on board I don't really have a space. I kind of float through, talking to people, roaming around. I think I feel less seasick in the library. It's like a big conference room. Maybe because it's a large room? So I've been working in here. I haven't gotten too seasick actually. I didn't use the patches I bought because Nancy Kachel, the co-chief scientist warned me they would make you feel freaky! That scared me off them. I used Bonine, and took 1 pill, then 1/2 pill then no pill yesterday. Today I took one because I started to feel queasy after lunch with the boat going crazy.

I got my laptop wired to the outside world so despite my initial fears (or hopes?) I am not disconnected from the internet. But it goes on and off constantly. If the boat faces southwest, it goes out. So there you have it - are a few random thoughts about life on board a boat. And now, I'll leave with you some pics of life on the boat...

This is my very small "stateroom." It has bunk beds - I'm on top - a sink, a desk, some storage lockers (which include our Gumby suit and lifevest for emergencies). I share a room with Diane Stoecker, an environmental science professor at the University of Maryland.
Another view of the room - the grey cabinets/storage lockers are on the left.
We share a bathroom (toilet and shower) with an adjoining room. The showers are teeny tiny (left of the toilet) but the most important thing... they have hot water! Boats desalinize water so there's an ample supply.
Doors, and stairs... doors, and stairs... these are very common on this ship. The doors are for fire protection/safety.
Chef Steve with the nightly dinner buffet!
This is where everyone eats - scientists, crew, etc.

This is the big library where I have been working. Sometimes I work at the desk in my room too.
The computer lab on the main deck. My room, and the mess hall are one floor above the main deck.
I worked out today for the first time. I am proud of myself! Not that many people work out on board, and I'd been in sort of a no-workout-mode right before the trip because of the insane busy-ness. I'm back on track, and my workout partner Elise would be proud.
Here's a boat's solution to weights rolling around... make them square.
The laundry room! This is 2levels below the main deck, in the bowels of the ship. We get assigned days to do our laundry.
And some more shots of life outside the ship. Ebett Siddon, a grad student at University of Alaska-Fairbanks (Juneau) holding a lion's mane jellyfish. This creature lives only one year, and the largest ever found had tentacles longer than a blue whale. That makes it the world's largest living animal.
Colin Smith making a mudpie... (It's a pretty nice one if I don't say so myself). This is a sediment core hauled up from the ocean floor and they slice it up for processing. David Shull is studying nutrient exchange between the overlying water and the sediment.
I was so excited for just a few hours of sunshine and blue sky yesterday so I took some pics (that's the moon in the top right quadrant), and I had a brilliant idea to stay up and watch the sunset. Sunsets out here are reportedly gorgeous, but since most of the time it's cloudy, gray, foggy, you don't see them often. Unfortunately it clouded up by 12:30am when the sun finally went down. As someone on board the ship joked, sunset usually means the clouds turn from gray to darker gray.
And here's a shot of that foggy grey lack of horizon we often see. This is Alexei Pinchuk (from University of AK Fairbanks) setting out his Calvet net over the starboard (right) side.
There are some "cold rooms" and isotope labs on board the ship (they stay around freezing temp). This is Greg working on David Shull's research in the cold room. Those are sediment cores taken from the sea floor, stirring gently with a magnet. Greg takes readings on oxygen level every day for about 4 days, until the oxygen gets depleted.
Another shot of Greg in the cold room.
Until we meet again, I'll leave you with another shot of the blue waves in the Bering Sea today...


JeannieML said...

Wow, Wendy! Your pictures tell an onboard story. And goody for you to be on such an exciting assignment. Thanks for posting this; your adventure brightens my day.

Jeannie ML

saVi said...

verrrrrrry nice! i like the wave pictures a lot. don't get seasick!!! ;) *hearts*