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Musings from the bow

November 20, 2010
Another beautiful sunrise at sea

Another beautiful sunrise at sea. Photo by Mike Dunn.

A couple of days ago it hit me how much time I had been spending in the confines of the main science lab. I have been in the lab almost constantly since arriving on the ship either photographing specimens or trying to write and post blogs through the temperamental Internet connection. I decided I need to get back in touch with who I really am- the guy that likes to walk in the woods, to observe nature. The logical thing was to go out on the deck, especially the bow of the ship. I remember before going on the Arctic research trip several years ago, someone asked me if I would get bored looking at ice all day. The answer was a resounding no. One of the scientists on board that trip explained it best — he compared it to watching a campfire, something that almost everyone seems to enjoy. It is mesmerizing, always changing. Time spent on deck here is similar…no day is the same weather-wise, no two waves alike — the weather, wind, and light are always changing.

So, now I am a regular at sunsets (usually a few folks out) and sunrises (never crowded). Guess that is one reason I like sunrises so much. It gives me some time to think. What better way to set the tone for the day and to be thankful for whatever the day brings.

This deck ritual has become one of my daily routines here on the ship. Others include food, attempts at sleep, performing Ninja style moves to get in and out of the top bunk, and the one phrase we all can’t wait to hear, “ship’s stoooooorrrreee is open!”  The ship’s store is a small closet stocked with all the essentials of life at sea  — canned nuts, toiletries, and clothing for the discriminating (ship t-shirts, socks, patches, and hats). And as important as the goods are, the store is also the best source of change – for the quarters and dollar bills necessary to get sodas, candy, and chips from the vending machines. These provisions are the staple of late night science-at-sea when samples are brought on board.

The food on board has been great. It is amazing the variety of food that the incredible kitchen staff prepares for us — last night was pork, seafood paella, and roast duck as the main entrée choices. There is always salad, veggies of some sort, rice or potatoes, and dessert. The meals are served at regular times: breakfast 7–8; lunch 11–noon; dinner 4:30–5:30 with accommodations made for those on the night shift. And since there are more people on board than there are seats in the galley we are encouraged to heed the words on the straightforward sign above one of the tables, “eat it and beat it.”

Night before last I went out on the bow after dark. We were advised to let someone know if you go out on deck after dark as they keep lights to a minimum to make it easier for those on watch on the bridge to see the ocean and horizon. And indeed, when you first go out, it is really dark.  But the moon was bright and my eyes soon adjusted. I laid down on what seems to be the favorite perching spot on the ship — a large “box” covered in lines used in docking. It was incredibly peaceful. I found myself watching clouds passing in front of the moon. Thoughts of woods and waterways back home drifted into my head. I started looking at the sky, at how bright Jupiter is, even with the bright moon sharing the sky. I watched the clouds change color as they passed in front of the moon. Then I noticed one of the clouds had a strong resemblance to a Squat Lobster and the ocean wave patterns reminded me of the swirls of icing on the carrot cake. Hmmm, perhaps I have been on the ship too long….

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