Dispatches from the Deck: Dawn Watch

October 3rd.

Dawn watch. In my fog of sleep, someone stuck their head into my bunk. “Paige. Paige. It’s Olivia. It’s 0040. You have twenty minutes till watch.” This was my wakeup. These are normal on the ship. You sleep at odd hours. Or your watch starts at painfully early hours. Someone’s job is to make sure you make it to watch on time.

I was groggy. Despite going to sleep just after dinner about six hours previously, it felt like I’d only just shut my eyes. Eventually a pulled myself out of bed, a combination of ducking, crouching and jumping to extricate myself from my oddly shaped bunk. Tonight, I was going to be in the lab, helping to process samples gathered form a deployment earlier in the night.

Unfortunately, lab is a tough place to be in a starless night with rougher seas than I’d yet experienced. Especially when I was still feeling the vestiges of seasickness. Before the end of our six hour shift, nearly all of A watch clung to the side of the boat, sea sick. Me included.

The next day (or more accurately, later than same day, just after several hours of sleep), during our evening watch, our chief scientist asked me if I remembered how to process certain samples, which he had showed us during that cursed dawn watch. I didn’t. Actually, I barely remembered most of the night; all of it swirled up in a fog of pitch black motion.

When we first left the calm of Pago Harbour, I spent several days stumbling around. Without sea legs, most of the students moved with the grace of someone several hours into a Friday night party.

As we hoisted our mains’l, someone called out that there was a pod of dolphins behind the ship. We all turned to look, only to see a grey whale break the surface of the water. American Samoa a green vision behind us.

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