Antarctic voyage: Everyday life on the ship

By Guest Author 11/02/2013

The experience of a student, Courtney Derriman (Macquarie University, Australia)

Date: 8/2/2013
56.880228°S, 155.005036°E
Weather: Cloudy
Sea state: Calm

Courtney Derriman. [Helen Bostock]

I have to say that life on the ship is not what I expected at all. Maybe one too many pirate movies, but I was expecting grumpy sailors, the same awful meal three times a day, and to be sleeping in a dorm style room with ten other people and no privacy whatsoever.

I am exceedingly pleased to tell you that this is not the case on the RV Tangaroa.

The crew are amazing and the handiest people you will ever meet. Without them our science would be impossible (or at least extremely difficult). They work the winches, deploy the gear, fix machines and come up with solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had.

The food is delicious, thanks to the cooks Kim and Kris. That is when you are capable of eating it. Most of the scientists have been suffering from sea sickness and it is hard to eat after a day and a half of being thrown around and losing pretty much every meal you have eaten.  There is so much variety: last night it was grilled chicken, smoked salmon rice paper rolls, multiple salads and sautéed vegetables and then cake for desert. Not to mention the various cookies and slices that are always available during the day to snack on and the freezer full of ice cream. I think I may go home expecting the range of foods that I get here – I wonder what my chances are?

While my cabin is tiny – what can you expect with 40 people, insane amounts of science gear, a dozen different labs and the ship only being seventy metres long – I basically have the cabin to myself…and it’s ensuite. Yes, technically I share with one other student, but she is on the alternate shift to me, so we have an overlap of about twenty minutes when she is going to bed at 12:00am and I am getting up to start my gruelling 12 hour shift.

Kate Berry and Anne Waterhouse knitting on the bridge. [Helen Bostock]

In my free time so far I have been sleeping – it is exhausting being on the ship with the constant rolling and pitching movement. A few of the dedicated PhD students have been trying to get some thesis work done while we have been in transit. Other people read books and watch movies. There is a large selection of DVDs on the ship to choose from. There are a bunch of scientists, including the doctor, that sit on the ship’s bridge after their shift and have formed a knitting circle. When it is a little calmer some brave souls have even been seen in the gym – working off some of the great food.

Then of course there are the regular ship safety drills, where we practise putting on survival suits, using stretchers and putting out fires using the fire extinguishers and hoses.