Life at Sea
Life at sea is so different from my everyday routine. Every meal is at the same time and there is enough for everyone: eggs cooked to order, pancakes, waffles, bacon, sausage patties and links, and spam! There are usually two main courses and vegetarian choices. There’s a fruit salad, apples, pears, oranges, bananas while they lasted, salad bar, desserts, hot and cold cereal, a pot of soup practically all the time, leftovers in the fridge, ice cream, coffee and espresso, juice choices, Kool-Aid and Gator-Ade.
Laundry is free, including the soap. A change of sheets can be had at any time from the linen closet. There is no use for money, identification, credit cards. My normally stuffed pockets hold a camera, a pen and a notebook. There is a soda machine and a change machine for dollar bills, but I have never seen anyone use them. Downstairs are sofas, chairs, and 500+ movies with an HD TV and surround sound. Next door is an extensive exercise room with weights, treadmill, and other machines I don’t recognize.
There is little reason to lock the cabin door. Computers and cameras lie strewn about waiting for the return of their owners. Everyone’s computer got a virus check before it was allowed to connect to the wireless. My smartphone has been reduce to playing music and waking me up; no reception bars or 3G, no text messages. With internet access, there is still the opportunity to spend money, and I confess my weakness in this regard. Email keeps me in touch with work, friends, and family, but any problems or issues cannot be resolved easily. There is nothing to do but wait until the boat returns to land.
The day crew where I spend my waking hours has had its fortunes tied to the ROV, which has been acting up lately. Somewhere in the miles of wires, something is not happy, and an alarm is going off, indicating a stray electrical current. Is it a water leak in the sensitive electronics? Is it a gas bubble trapped somewhere? There have been two dives terminated early, the one yesterday did not even reach the bottom before turning around and heading back up. We keep busy using the CTD while the ROV is down for repairs. We often see schools of pilot whales and dolphins.
Launching the ROV is fairly routine, but capturing it is always more nerve wracking than anyone wants. With the aft deck bobbing up and down like a cork, the crew, trying to hook a line to the bracket on top of the thing, is glad to be tethered to the boat, lest they plunge over the back. At least twice, that I know of, the ROV has disappeared underneath the back of the boat, taking whatever punishment the sea has decided to meet out. Perhaps the Atlantic wants to keep her secrets.
The night crew has been throwing the Box Corer over the stern relentlessly. The other night they managed 11 drops. The amount of data they are collecting about the sediments and the animals that live in them will keep scientists busy for quite a while. We had safety drills again and the night crew was dragged out of bed in the middle of the day. While the ROV is down and they are trying to sleep, the dynamic positioning system keeps the bow thruster and z-drives busy, holding the boat steady. I hope they brought ear plugs.