Well, first off, night watch is a bit of a misnomer, as our shift starts at midnight (12 am) and ends at noon (12 pm), so actually we only work during the morning hours! But waking up at 11:00 PM to pitch black skies is enough to warrant its name!
The science team on our cruise is split between two watches to allow us to continue our work 24-hours a day: noon-midnight and midnight-noon. The night watch starts the day with ‘midrats’ (short for ‘midnight rations’) at 11:30 PM. We devour some combination of eggs, cereal, oatmeal, or left-overs from the day’s dinner. We are supposed to report for duty fifteen minutes before our shift starts to get briefed on what has happened by the day watch, leaving us only 15 minutes to eat. For slow-eaters like myself, this is quite the challenge!
Although we are forced into bizarre sleeping patterns, there are a lot of benefits to being on the night watch. One of the great things about being on night watch is that, in general, it is a quieter watch. There are fewer people awake during our hours, and so the hustle and bustle of the ship is not as pronounced as it is during the day watch. The quietest hours are between 2 AM and 7 AM, after the energetic day watchers have retired to bed and before the early-risers wake up. This stretch can be a long one in the rare instance when we are transiting and don’t have dredges to sort or water to analyze. But regardless of how busy we are during this time period, we inevitably find everyone sneaking back to the mess hall for a snack at around 4 AM (see blog from May 18 for a description of the lovely treats we have on board!). This cake-break is never planned, and never really even discussed. Rather, this serendipitous gathering of night-watchers is met instead with knowing glances of shared hunger; there is a marathon stretch between our first two served meals of 11:30 PM midrats (breakfast) and 7:30 AM breakfast (breakfast #2 of the day - we eat a lot of eggs and bacon)!
Another great aspect of night watch is that during the wee hours of the morning, to keep ourselves awake, the jokes start to appear - funny dress and glowsticks, singing and dancing on deck while we await an upcoming dredge, and just general silliness all around to break up the tiredness.
But by far the absolute best thing about night watch is the sunrises. Rumor has it they are WAY better than the sunsets!!
Weather: temperature 32 ºF; windchill 10 ºF; wind speed 10 knots; glorious sunshine!
The night-watchers. Back row (from left to right): Eric, Shannon, Kais, John, Andrea, Michelle, Kathy. Front row: Rhian, Sebastian. (S. Alesandrini)
Figure 2. Fashionista. Kathy dons a pair of glowsticks as earrings. (R. Waller)
Figure 3. Becoming one with the corals. Kais appears to have grown a pair of primnoid horns. (R. Waller).
Figure 4. Safety-first, style second. Eric wears a stylish pair of safety goggles. (R. Waller)
Figure 5. Jazz hands! Singing and dancing as we wait for a dredge to come up. (R. Waller)
Figure 6. A perk of the job. Sunrise in the Drake Passage. (K. Falcon)