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Night Watch Perspectives

June 14, 2011

By Veronica Holton

How long does it take until you hear the same song repeated on satellite radio? Just ask a person on night watch and they’ll tell you, “Not long.” Here on the night watch we’ve gone through pretty much all the genres: oldies, alternative, French, rock, classic rock, hip-hop and, when the going got really tough, electronic. Nothing puts me in the mood to “kill dots” more than the latest club hits. And that’s what I spend a majority of my time doing, killing dots.

Veronica and Megan are main players on the night watch

Veronica Holton (left) and Megan Prescott (right) are main players on the night watch.

As long as we’re mapping, we’re processing. When the multibeam collects bad data, there is always a willing student to lasso those bad dots and put them where they belong (a.k.a. killing the dots). This is an important task, and requires a little bit of thought. There are geologic features such as ripple marks and maritime marvels such as shipwrecks that can look like bad data, but with the help of a 3-D image, the suspect pings can be left alone. Once a survey area has been processed, Megan and I produce an image using ArcGIS and Adobe Illustrator. As a first-time user of both of these programs, it was a struggle at first, especially with an ancient mouse, but in the end we made some magnificent maps. Fledermaus, another software new to me, brought you the thrilling 3-D images of Baltimore and Washington Canyons. The 3-D images of these canyons really show how amazing these geologic features are.

It seems impossible to pack so much excitement into a 24-hour period, but once the sun comes up the impossible becomes a reality. We watch the sunrise from a monitor, showing the true beauty and splendor of Ma Nature. Megan and I might go outside a little before breakfast, and discuss how chilly my Kansan-turned-South-Carolinian self is, and how warm her Washingtonian self is. We will never agree on this one. When the clock reads 1100 GMT, we turn to each other and say, “It’s time.” For breakfast that is. When I would love to jump into my bed, eating a delicious meal on top of the many cups of coffee consumed during the night wakes me up, and sleeping becomes unlikely. Some mornings I  continue to kill dots until my eyes can no longer see. Yesterday, I watched the cable of the CTD from the back deck, communicating to the bridge when the cable angle became too great. Much to the surprise of those around me, I actually enjoyed doing this.

I try to sleep when I can. I have to split it up into two sessions: one in the morning, which causes me to miss lunch, and one in the night, before my watch. After dinner we usually watch a movie. The other night we watched the classic, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. It’s a ship favorite, where Bieber Fever runs rampant. Everyone joined in for the viewing. Everyone being Caitlin and I. Another added excitement in my day is exercising. There is really nothing like running on a treadmill on a ship. Visions of myself falling off the back of the treadmill play through my head as the ship rocks back and forth. Despite these horrific scenes, I know I must get some exercise given the amount of food I am consuming. (Large meals are something foreign to me as a college student.) It’s all part of the amazing experience I am having here on the Nancy Foster! In a few days I will be back on land, and I will miss this. The night watch included.

Veronica and Megan get ready for the night watch

Veronica (left) and Megan (right) get ready for the night watch.

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