29 July 2015

Cruise trivialities

All work and no play make 52 people on a ship a dull bunch. So even though some days are pretty full-on, with cores coming in on deck in rapid succession, only beaten in speed by the cores coming in from the core scanning lab, we do have (make?) time for some fun. Sometimes that fun is someone else’s job; for instance, we spent an afternoon helping out our resident photographer and filmmaker with a stop-motion animation of a retreating ice shelf, the sediment that produces, and of a little cartoon boat coming in and taking a core out of these. That was fun! And a mountain of editing work for the poor photographer.

My hand for scale: the protagonists of the stop-motion animation

Making dropstones fall out of icebergs

We also had some visitors; while we were coring in the middle of the North Sea, suddenly a pigeon appeared. It turned out to be a racing pigeon, not doing very well on a rave from Thurso to Dorset. When it landed on deck, it immediately tried to drink from the puddles there, but the water had come out of the vibrocorer, so it was salty. When the bird retreated for a breather in a corner of the aft deck we brought it some freshwater and some breakfast cereals. The next morning it was gone! It may have made it home. 

Chris with the not-so-successful racing pigeon

This pigeon was only the first of (so far) three distracting birds; the night shift was visited by a sandpiper, and we had some sort of finch entertaining us, when we were still in the central North Sea. Far to fly for such a little thing! He got the water-and-cereal treatment too, but he vanished within an hour. I hope he’s well.

The night shift are a sporty bunch; they have a habit of making balls of gaffer tape and playing football with it, and they even taped up a toilet roll to improvise a rugby ball. And they have two ukuleles in their team. Neither of the owners had any idea the other one would bring their instrument! There seem to have been ukulele play-offs on deck. 

At the end of our shift we sometimes get to see a nice sunset, and we’ve also seen some dolphins, albeit not anywhere as many as last year. But we do get oil rigs instead! Not quite the same, but these things van be rather impressive, especially during sunset. 

 Small bird (some googling makes me think it is a chiffchaff) having a rest in the wet lab

Last year I barely visited the bar. We had one night there to celebrate a birthday, but apart from that I tended just to go to bed after my shift. This year is a bit more frivolous! If you sleep during the day you need more sleep, it seems, but as I sleep during normal hours this year I can afford to sometimes have a pint with the team. We had some nice ones on the forecastle deck, admiring the scenery, but these days maybe over; by the time the bar opens it’s now dark, as we’re a lot further south than previously. But a beer in the bar is nice too! And if you have Chris you never run out of weird stories. What a life that man has lead!

I have even seen three movies already; we started with Unforgiven (or the Unforgiven, I can't remember"; it being a shoot-em-up it's not quite my cup of tea but it's nice to do some non-work-related things with your team mates once in a while. The next one up was the Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover; the third time I saw it, but still well worth it. And we saw Black Sheep; a must-see if you have a sheep farmer in your team. It's the silliest movie I saw in years but it was fun! And I hope to see 127 hours before we get back to Southampton. Time is runnign out but we might manage!

And then there are of course the standard activities: reading and running. I’m reading one book in my Read the Classics series, and one Welsh book; the first one I read which is written for the general public and not for Welsh learners, and which I read having A levels in mind. I rely heavily on the dictionary, and I should start having a go at trying to memorise what I look up as I keep getting back to the same words. And I try to run 7k every second day; during the first transects that wasn’t happening as the cores came in thick and fast, but now on Transect 2 I manage. And the treadmill has in the meantime become a battle ground; the nightshift invented the "1k challenge"; a competition in who can run a kilometer the fastest. I'm in, of course. I'm currently the leading lady (of three), but there are still two men in front of me. One is out of reach with 3:38 (mind you, the treadmill starts at 0.1 km/h and you have to crank it up manually), but the other one, Tom, "my" transect leader, is only two seconds ahead. I am keen to overtake him before the cruise is over! And the photographer is only six seconds behind me; I will have to keep fighting him off too.  Watch this space for the final scores!

This seems to be an oil tanker loading structure

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