K-Axis Day 23: Relentless monotony

Yesterday we passed an important milestone in our voyage. We ran out of fresh milk. This milestone did not go unnoticed by anyone as the UHT cartons suddenly appeared next to the tea and coffee supplies, making us all suddenly feel very far away from home. We do still have fresh fruit and veg, tho the quality and quantity of our options is dwindling.

Now that we’re 3 weeks in, we’ve all grown accustomed to the jobs we have to do and how the only pertinent question on people’s lips is “when’s the next station?” I had one person explain the life on a marine voyage as “relentless monotony” and its a pretty accurate representation of what we have to do. We live and breathe by the station schedule, and for me its when the CTD goes into the water. I have to be there at the start to assist with the decision of what depths to take samples from, from a biological point of view, and then I have to be there at the end to take my water samples and head into the lab for 6 hours of work. I clock on at 8pm and I clock off at 8am, irrespective of where I might be up to in my lab work. Any outstanding work gets handed over at the shift change. Usually we’ve been lucky and have the CTDs go in at the start of our shift but yesterday the CTD went in at 4am and I got my water samples at 7.50am. I felt pretty bad about handing over those water samples after waiting around all night to get them. But it will also happen to me eventually. A couple of us watched the movie Groundhog Day last night, which seemed a little fitting. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you how many days I have been working. It feels like we’ve been doing this for years.

Working night shift has been pretty good tho. Its quiet and there’s a small group of us who are up. I eat breakfast 3 times a day (when I get up at 7pm, at 12am the kitchen serves hot breakfast, and at 8am another hot breakfast) and I get a meal put aside for me from dinner that I eat about 3am. Its pretty well overcooked by then but the veg and meat are a welcome addition to my fairly monotonous meal choices. They have been serving stirfry and veg type offerings at 8am recently as well. That’s been well received by those of us on the night shift who don’t see a lot of veg options. Occasionally I squirrel away a bowl of dessert if there’s some left out, especially if its pavlova.

If you’ve been reading the sitreps you’ll know that we have been seeing lots of whales in our travels, especially at the moment while we’re in the ice. I’ve not seen any. Apparently they only like to appear during the hours of 10am – 6pm (while I am asleep) or whilst I am in the lab working. Occasionally they also like to appear 5 mins after I have stopped looking for them. I’ve given up my quest to see them for now and will continue to hear all about it when I appear for my breakfast at 7pm (or when I appear from the lab, which happened about 30mins ago).

I did get a full shift off two days ago and it was glorious. I’d missed a few hours of sleep over the previous few days and really needed a break to regroup. I spent most of the night working on a puzzle I was given for Christmas (of emperor penguins) and snuck in a much needed 2hr nap. I usually go to bed around 9am and get up at 6.30pm so there’s not a lot of time for recreation, however, we do spend a lot of time sitting in the mess drinking cups of tea, waiting to pounce on our next CTD.

In the next few days we’ll be heading north again and into the open water to take on the Kerguelen Plateau. Its renowned for being the worst ocean in the world so things could get very interesting soon.

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