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 22, 2011: Jen Herting's Typical Day at Sea
A typical day on the Thompson is pretty different than a typical day on campus. Most days, I wake up at 10:45 a.m. to shower and get ready for the day ahead. Lunch is served at 11:30 a.m., but I prefer to have a bowl of cereal because it is breakfast for me. Matt, Rachel, and I leave lunch early to go on our watchstanding shift at 11:50 a.m. The group we relieve tells us our geographic location, what is currently happening on board (e.g., if the surface magnetometer or seismic systems are in the water), and they brief us on the daily operation schedule. My first shift of the day is from noon to 4 p.m. During that time, I have a couple of duties such as keeping an up-to-date ship log, processing data, and visually checking on whatever equipment is deployed at the time. That might include making sure there is no tension in the surface-towed magnetometer line, plotting Sentry’s location, and making sure the gravimeter doesn't have any flashing red lights.
After my shift is over, the fun begins. There are a variety of things to do on the ship, which was a surprise to me when I first came onto the Thompson. You can watch a movie or play video games in the TV lounge, hang out in the library, etc., but you have to find what you like to do. I usually like to relax after my “morning” shift, so I lay out and take a nap on one of the forward decks (which we like to call the “steel beach”) for an hour until dinner is served at 5 p.m. After dinner, the crew and some of the science team get together on the bow and play cornhole. Cornhole is a beanbag toss game, similar to horseshoes. We play in teams of two, and the goal is to get the beanbag into the hole of the opposite board, which is about 20 feet away. Playing cornhole on a rocking ship is extremely difficult, but a few have managed to get a turkey (three in a row). When it gets too dark to play cornhole, I often go to the hammock and watch the sunset and the stars come out as night settles in. Being out there with clear skies is so beautiful, because you don’t get to see as many stars and sunsets in suburbia (I’m from New Jersey). Unfortunately, for the past few days the bow was closed due to bad weather, so I have been catching up on my movies. The night before last I watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail for the first time.
At night, people are more confined to inside activities unless you are working on the aft deck. I check my email, and sometimes Facebook, to make sure people know I wasn’t thrown overboard. I work on botany and geophysics homework and labs with Tom and/or Nick. When we get bored and tired of school work, we often play some Ping-Pong. Playing Ping-Pong on a rocking ship is not as difficult as you might think, but it does make things more fun and interesting for both players and spectators.
When most people begin to go to bed, my group and I usually meet in the office to get ready for our second shift at midnight to 4 a.m. Personally, I feel as if the night shift goes by faster than the day shift. It may be because of the people I work with or because there tends to be more equipment changes at night. Sometimes, during my shift, I like to do laundry because the majority of people are sleeping. We are supplied with towels, sheets, and pillowcases, but we are all responsible for washing our linens and clothing on one assigned day per week (my laundry day is Friday). Doing laundry here is the same as doing it at home, except it’s next to a CHIRP sonar on the bottom of a boat and not on the first floor of an apartment complex. At 4 a.m., when next group relieves us, I quickly check my email one more time. After everyone at home knows I’m alive, I then go to get ready for bed, and pass out at around 4:15 am until my alarm goes off again in the morning.
For me, it took a lot of adjustment to get used to my watchstanding schedule. But now that we’re almost three weeks into the cruise, I think I’ve got the hang of it. ♦