Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’…

by Hannah Donald

The spectacular array of bruises I’ve collected over the past few days is attributed to the larger waves we’ve been experiencing, having left the safety of the ice near Greenland. Even the simplest task becomes challenging when the swell increases: you’re making a cup of tea on a 20 degree roll – every ounce of concentration is required to not hit your head/not burn yourself/save the tea as you’re pitched forwards/sideways/backwards… However, as someone who loves rollercoasters, I am still enjoying that feeling of weightlessness at the top of a wave.

Walking down corridors turns into Inception-like staggering along the walls. Eating without a non-stick mat on the table is a hilarious spectator sport, but less funny when you’re trying desperately to inhale soup from the shallowest bowl in the world before it ends messily. The shower is practically a death trap. Sleeping becomes a battle with…pretty much everything in (and out) of your cabin. Some of the reasons I have woken up include accidentally punching the ceiling rolling over (I’m on the top bunk), dreaming about falling out of said top bunk, a stray chair sliding around the floor, jumping awake not being able to remember whether my laptop was secure, and my barrier of pillows moving enough so I hit my head.

I’m working in the nutrients/oxygen team with Mark, Sinhue and Carolyn, and Mark has described what we do in a recent blog post. Making up a lot of the reagents requires accurate pouring, which is another challenge in a lab with no windows! At least when we’re doing oxygen titrations and working on the AA3 we can anticipate the rolls. I’m very lucky to have a great view from the oxygen workstation, especially to play the all-consuming ‘Whale or Wave?’ game. Occasionally something comes loose in the lab, but everyone’s done a great job with securing everything.

Some of us have been using the gym and doing push-up and ab challenges to try and counteract the tasty (3-course) meals we’ve been eating. I think I’m going to have killer abs by the time I leave simply due to having to balance constantly! Try standing on one leg (not that easy on land!) in the swell and I pretty much guarantee that you’ll fall over.

Having said all that, we have been incredibly lucky with the weather so far (touch wood!) and have even managed to enjoy some sunshine recently. It definitely makes a change from the fog that seemed to be the norm around the Labrador Sea. Plus, some teams seem to be using the rolling as an excuse to sunbathe – after all, lying down is the safest thing to do when it’s rocky, right?!

There seems to be quite a few of us ‘first-timers’ on board this cruise, but the people who’ve been to sea before have really helped settle us all in quickly, and get to know each other well. Now we’re over halfway, and the daunting task ahead of us is dwindling – especially now there is a real “second wave” (excuse the pun) of enthusiasm after our midway celebration, and we are officially heading back towards the UK. I’ve seen whales, been through ice sheets, seen Greenland, seen breathtaking sunsets, done around 1000 titrations, apparently sung a lot (see various blog posts..!), met some new people, and made some great friends. My advice to anyone who hasn’t been on a cruise before, but has the opportunity to participate in one, is absolutely go for it. Being in a confined place for seven weeks with the same people working 12 hour shifts can be difficult at times, but that pales into insignificance compared to all of the incredible experiences that can be gained. And maybe bring more than one bar of chocolate with you – I think one was a bit optimistic.

Images (all by Hannah Donald).: saying goodbye to Greenland (Lilo, Hannah, Jen, Carolyn), attempting to stand on one leg (Alex and Jen), sunbathing (Marie-Jo and Lilo), a cold Midsummer’s Day sangria on the deck (Eithne, Ian, Alex, Becky, Hannah, Gary, Lilo, Jen, John, Tobia), sunset.

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