Reflections on my first research cruise

Well, I quite successfully managed to forget to update you on the rest of my cruise. It got very hectic and busy, and I grew increasingly sleep deprived. As such, I had little time to write anything that wasn’t related to my work! It was a shame, for sure, but I can at least do a “reflections” entry now.

We made it to Liverpool on Saturday (9h July), a little ahead of schedule. After that, all that remained was to get off the boat, grab a taxi and get to the train station. Since then, I’ve been catching up on sleep, and with the friends and family I hadn’t seen for 5 weeks. I had an amazing experience, both personally and professionally. I was able to see things that not many people get to see. So, here is my list of things I will never forget, what I’m missing about life at sea, and what I missed the most while I was out there.

What I will miss:

  • Waking up somewhere new everyday. It was really cool to go to bed in the middle of the North Sea and wake up to find Norway outside the window.
  • Not having to cook. I didn’t have high expectations for the food, but the two chefs on board are amazing. And they put out quite the spread, you could have three cooked meals everyday if you wanted. I’ve actually had to forego some meals because there’s just been way too much. As the main cook at home, it’s been nice to have my meals already made for me everyday!
  • Warning signs everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I guess working on a ship comes with fairly high risk factor, so to diminish that, or at least tick some box on a health and safety form somewhere, they have put warning signs everywhere. Some of them are sensible, telling you areas you shouldn’t go in without a hard hat, for example. But others make me chuckle everytime I see them. My personal favourites are “Please do not leave the toaster unattended” and “To avoid scalding in the shower, please check temperature beforehand.” I’ll miss the laughter they bring to my day.
  • The beautiful scenery. Truly the British Isles are a stunning set of islands! To watch the sunrise over the Irish coast, or see the Shetland Islands through a haze of mist was an incredible opportunity. We saw interesting cliffs at Lulworth, where sedimentary rock had jutted out of the Earth at odd angles. And the sea in general can take on so many forms. Sometimes it was a brilliant oceanic blue with white frothy crests, or it could be bottle green. Sometimes it was steely grey, and off the Norwegian coast it was almost black. When we passed through a big coccolithophore bloom, it was turquoise. It always seemed to mesmerise me, when it was eerily flat as glass, or when the swell caused huge mountains of water to form. And the sunsets weren’t too bad either!
  • My feathered friends. We saw so many seabirds! Many of them are rarities from land, and truly sea-faring birds. Sometimes we only had a few, other times we had a whole flock of them, but always we had birds following us. The most incredible bird-related incident was off the Shetland Islands. We were up at 4am, and the water was as still as glass. Surrounding the boat were literally hundreds of birds, all sitting on the water, and in the background, through a haze of mist, was Foula island. It was surreal.

What I was missing the most:

  • Being able to talk to my friends and family. Five weeks is a long time to be cut off from the people you know and love! I very rarely had phone signal, and the internet connection can be very patchy sometimes. At times, I felt very lonely, purely because I wanted to talk to one of my friends, or my dad. I live with my boyfriend, so I’m used to seeing him, being in his company every day. It was tough because I missed his birthday, and our 3 year anniversary. I missed the first wedding in my group of friends from high school too. Yes, I think being out of contact with my friends and family was probably the hardest part, and they are what I miss the most!
  • Being able to run/ride my bike/walk more than about 10 meters. Five weeks is also a long time to be confined to one small area! Okay, the ship wasn’t exactly tiny, it’s 90m long, but compared to, you know, the world in general, it’s a pretty confined area. I just wanted to stretch my legs, run for more than 10m, go for a bike ride… Thankfully I’ve done all those things now! But that was something I missed quite a lot.
  • Seeing new/different faces. Everyone on the boat was very nice, and we all got along. But what I didn’t realise is quite how much your brain likes to see new and different faces. It’s an odd feeling, I don’t know if I can describe it. I mean, whenever a ferry passed by us, I’d get excited because of the thought that there were lots of people on it. Even the thought of going to Tesco seemed exciting because there are new people there, different people. The world seems like a pretty big place after being on that boat for so long!
  • Silence. Seriously. There was not a silent spot on the boat. In my own little cabin, I could hear winches whirring, engines humming, the walls creaking… there is always some kind of machinery going, or a fan is blowing, or the wind is howling. You get used to it after a while, but I was so looking forward to just lying in my room and hearing… nothing.
  • My own bed. Standard travel woe I think! The beds were fairly uncomfortable, mainly because they were small. I mean, I’m only 5ft 5in, and when I stretched out fully on my bed there was only another inch or two before my feet hit the wall. I can’t imagine how some of the taller people on the ship got to sleep. I guess I was also used to sleeping in a double bed with a very nice mattress under me. In fact, the reason we got the nicer mattress is because our old crappy one was giving me back problems, which came back for a brief period of time on the ship!
  • Not being up before the sun is. Apart from a few precious days, the latest I got up was 4am, and some days we had to be up at 2am. That was tough both physically and mentally, and after a while of sustaining that, I felt so ground down. My co-ordination, or what little co-ordination I have, left me, I became increasingly unable to focus on something, and I was always so sleepy! Needless to say, I have been sleeping in every day this week and it feels amazing. Even my normal 7am wake up time when I get back to work seems like a breeze compared to the hours I was doing on the boat.

That’s about it, really. I will have a photo entry soon, and an art entry as I drew quite a bit as well. I really feel like I should have more to say, but I think I’m still exhausted from the whole thing. It’s probably why I lost momentum on keeping the blog updated during the cruise.

I should wrap this up, so all that remains is for me to say I will be back soon with photos and drawings!

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