And here we are, a month later. My time at sea was filled with struggle, puke, lots of sweat, but also many moments that made the whole experience worth it. I’ll try to summarize my voyage in a few late blog posts.
…And we’re off! The first week of the voyage, we sailed from Lyttelton, New Zealand to a small spit of land known as the Chatham Islands, one of the more remote places I’ve ever been to.
The first week was hard adjusting to life at sea, but also full of amazing moments. My watch had the first dawn watch, meaning we were woken up at midnight, and stood watch from one to seven in the morning. Aside from the exhaustion of being awake at those hours, we were learning to assume our responsibilities on the ship: Standing lookout, being at helm, sail handling, deploying science gear, processing lab samples, and cleaning every inch of the ship before our watch was done. This was all done in the dark, and in varying degrees of seasickness. It was a tough transition, to be sure.
And yes, to answer everyone’s question, seasickness is a thing. Medicine helped most people, including me, but for some, seasickness was a real struggle of the early leg of our voyage. Although I didn’t throw up (or “donate to Neptune,” as Cap liked to refer to it), I certainly wasn’t feeling peachy. Seasickness was worse the more time you spent down below, say on your knees scrubbing the ship’s floors for an hour while your water buckets slid around the hallway as we rolled.
While we were busy either puking or consoling those who were, the ocean was busy celebrating for all our seasickness. As vomit hit the water, bioluminescent sparks would flare up and leave smokey trails of light as all the critters enjoyed our dinner secondhand. Our ship was soon surrounded by dolphins, who flipped and played through the nutrient-rich waters. Dolphins are naturally attracted to the ship because of the sounds that it makes, but gifts in the form of vomit can definitely encourage them to stick around. One of the most magical moments on the trip for me was seeing the ghostly shadows of dolphins flit through the water, as they stirred up bioluminescence around them. Such set the theme of most of the trip – suffering and struggle that lead to absolutely unforgettable moments, making everything worth it.