The R/V Thomas G. Thompson left Honolulu on November 5, 2011 heading toward the Western Pacific. This expedition journal was written by cruise participants and uploaded about once per weekday, depending on internet availability.
November 17, 2011: Seasickness
"It’s not easy being green." A statement once said by the beloved Muppet character, Kermit the Frog, had never held much significance to me before I boarded the Thompson. Motion sickness is a feeling many are familiar with, the nausea, headaches, and knots in your stomach, and usually it’s something that can be cured quite easily. I can remember quite well asking my father to pull the car over on long road trips so I could recover before continuing on our journey. On a research vessel such as the R/V Thomas G. Thompson, relief from a bad bout of seasickness isn’t as easy. While our crew is always helpful and gives tips on getting rid of the nausea, asking to stop the entire ship as well as the work being done just so I could feel better wouldn’t be a very reasonable request. There is also the fact that even if we were to "pull over" the waves would still move our ship in sickening ways that make my stomach lurch.
I’ve probably painted a pretty bleak outlook of life on a ship that makes it seem that I’m over the railing sick for most of our journey. The truth is seasickness has only showed its ugly green face for only a couple of days so far during my time on the Pacific. We were blessed with pretty calm waters when we started off, and I didn’t get sick until almost a week had passed. It was also my own doing that caused my early seasickness. For some reason I thought I could process data for two hours straight and look out the porthole, as the sky and ocean swung in and out of view, without feeling sick. My lesson was quickly learned and for the following days things went pretty smoothly. I was feeling pretty good about myself thinking, “Oh this is easy, I can handle this for 42 days, no problem!” As if some unknown force heard my thoughts our ship’s path went through a rough patch of water.
Seasickness affects people in different ways and at different times with different results. Within fifteen minutes of hitting stronger waves I was sent running to the nearest bathroom, turning greener with every step that I took. After repeating this dash a couple times during the first part of my shift, I was soon sent to bed to try and sleep off the green. Not everyone has such sickening reactions to rough waters, but they aren’t immune to the awful feelings that seasickness can bring. Dr. Oakley was able to withstand the lurching motions for a little while longer before she too took some medicine and went to bed. There are also the blessed few that do not feel any type of seasickness such as our resident zombie, Tom.
While I had said that relief from seasickness on a ship in the middle of the ocean was a little more difficult than relief from car sickness, it is not impossible to find. The first thing that one does to get some relief quickly is to step outside in the fresh air. Spending about ten minutes out in the fresh air is a quick fix if you don’t want to run straight for the meds. While out there one particularly rocky afternoon I was told to focus on the horizon to better adjust. I must say that it did help for a short amount of time, and it’s something I like to do before resorting to patches and pills. Prescription motion sickness patches are very effective and during a time of rough water can be seen behind most of the science team’s ears, but they can leave your mouth feeling pretty dry. The patch lasts for three days and at that time you can choose to stick another one on or do without. The motion sickness pills such as Dramamine and Bonine are also quite effective but often leave the user feeling drowsier than before. Lots of people on the ship use ginger (e.g., ginger gum), but I got sick of the flavor pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, seasickness is not a one and done type thing, even half way through a long cruise the weather can get rough and send you towards the medicine cabinet. As I write this, a storm is on the horizon for this weekend and we’re expecting three days of rocky rides. And the days of running green will be coming again. ♦