As a researcher investigating deep-sea and cold-water organisms, a large part of my life is spent at sea collecting samples and data to be analyzed once we head back to shore. In fact, by the end of this cruise I will have spent 685 days at sea since 2000, the year I started my Ph.D. at the Southampton Oceanography Center in the UK. That’s just shy of two whole years I’ve spent on the rolling ocean, and a long time to be away from home, friends and family. Because most of my cruises go to remote places, they also tend to be long, just a small handful of the 31 cruises I’ve been on have been less than 3 weeks, and 5 weeks is more the norm. This is nothing compared to the Raytheon Polar Services Technicians we have out here though, or the crew of the ARV NB Palmer, many of whom spend many months at a time down here.
So how do people stay connected at sea and what reminders of home do they bring?
For me it’s pictures. On the wall in front of me right now are pictures of my little niece and my dog, and a drawing my 6yr old neighbor drew and emailed out to me (Hi Karter!). On my computer I frequently wander through photos of my last trip to the UK (where i’m from), my nephew and niece, trips with friends and photos of my new home in Maine.
Marshall (who often spends more time at sea than on land!) brings along his coffee maker and mug for down in the lab and a personal throw rug and folding chair for up in his bunk-room. “Just something to make the space more personal and cover the cold floor” he says.
For George it’s not so much things, but phone calls that keep him in the loop (and who could expect less from our Electronics Technician). Reliable satellite phones are often still rare at sea, but we’re lucky on the ARV NB Palmer to have a “moral phone”, for those times you just need to check in. George calls his daughters and mother to keep in touch with what’s happening in the ‘real world’.
As we start to reach the homestretch of this cruise, it certainly makes me think more of home and wondering what’s been happening back there the last 3 weeks. Is it warm in Maine now? Are the black flies gone? What is under all those snow piles I left behind? How much paperwork is piled on my desk awaiting my return? I guess some things I’m more excited about than others…..
Weather: temperature 33 °F, windchill -4 °F, wind speed 30-40 knots, cloudy with some sun
|Rhian’s ‘desk’ in the dry lab. Nestled amongst the shift and berthing lists, paperwork, daily plans and notes-to-self are photos and drawings from home. (R. Waller).|
|Sometimes creating a little levity in an ordinary day helps everyone when away from home for such long periods of time. Over the map table, Rhian calls the Bridge with the coordinates for the next dredge. (K. Scanlon).|
|Coffee break in the cold room! From left to right: Sebastian, Kais, Melissa, Shannon, Eric, Michelle and John (R. Waller).|
|Andrea doing some arts and crafts (R. Waller).|
|Mercer looking for biology in a photograph taken by the Towcam (A. Margolin)|
|Laura and Skip running the dredge again, after a few hours downtime due to bad weather (A. Margolin).|