“I Must Go Down to the Seas Again”: My First Few Days at Sea

Whenever I’m near the ocean, a poem by John Masefield comes to mind, “I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.”  I have always loved the sea and felt drawn to it.  What I’m learning now aboard the Melville is about life at sea, which is vastly different from that on land for several reasons.

Firstly, time is an interesting concept aboard the Melville.  Throughout the course of the trip, we will travel through five

different time zones.  Time of day is irrelevant to research aboard the ship and data is collected at all hours.  For example, CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) casts are deployed at all hours of the day, whether it be 0300 or 1630, and deployment requires both a team to operate the equipment, and people to run tests once water samples have been collected.  I am working with three other people on a research team with Barney Balch, a Senior Scientist at Bigelow.  The members of our team divide our time into shifts and I am responsible for working 1400-0200.  As a morning person, this requires some adjustment of my sleep schedule, but that’s part of life at sea, and it can be exciting deploying equipment overboard in the dark.  Although it may seem odd that our staterooms don’t have any windows in them, this is useful when I finish my shift and go to sleep “for the night” at 0200.

The sounds aboard a ship also differ from those on land.  There is always a source of white noise aboard the Melville, whether it is from the engine, scientific equipment that’s running, or waves hitting the boat.  The Melville has a unique occurrence known as the “Melville shake,” which feels like the boat is bouncing on the water for several seconds, and at first I thought might be caused by some sort of equipment malfunction on the ship.  The shake is actually due to the 30 feet that were added to the Melville during renovations years ago, which altered the boat’s balance so that when the thrusters are in a particular position, the boat smacks against the waves causing a shake.

Being awake and fully functional at all hours of the day and hearing things in my dresser move side to side as I fall asleep are becoming the norm.  I’m even getting better at reading the meniscus in a graduated cylinder while the ship is rolling.  It’s only day 4 of our cruise, and I can’t wait to see what more the next 32 days have to teach me about life at sea.


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