Life aboard the R/V Revelle: February 20th to February 27th

Abroad the R/V Revelle

It’s confusing to find your way around at first, but it’s easy to grow familiar with the layout. All of the hallways look the same, but you can tell what level you’re on by the color of the floors. Above the First Platform is the Main Deck where the main lab, computer lab, wet lab, electronics shops, and cardio gym are indoors. Out on the deck is where the bulk of the ship’s operations occur, facilitated by the fantastic crew, and the amazing research technicians of the Revelle, Amber and Andrew, in coordination with the scientists on board. This is where equipment such as the MOCNESS and the DPI (deep plankton imager)  deploy from the stern. Equipment like the bongo net (two large circular nets connected via a frame) and the CTD (conductivity, temperature, and depth—-reads salinity and temperature-depth profiles) are deployed from the starboard side of the ship. There are always operations happening on the main deck, so there’s always something to watch, see, help with, or people to talk to about their projects and research.

Upper left is the Main Lab, upper right is the Computer Lab, bottom left is the Wet Lab, and bottom right is the Cardio Gym.

Above the Main Deck is the First Deck where the ship’s galley/cafeteria, library, lounge, weights gym, and crew staterooms are. In the galley, three meals are served each day by the phenomenal chefs—I may eat better meals on board than I do at home—Jim and Richard, who make sure no one goes hungry. Some of the highlights have been flank steak, pork loin, jambalaya with red beans and rice, tuna poke, cornbread, fried okra, apple fritters, tiramisu, and fresh bread, to name a few. Outside of the meals, coffee and leftovers are available 24/7 for the crew and scientists working around the clock. The Second Deck houses more staterooms, winch controls, the crane, the ship’s hospital, and liferafts. The Third Deck holds the captain’s stateroom, the chief scientist’s stateroom, and more scientific staterooms. And finally, the Fourth Deck is the bridge.

Upper left is the Galley, upper right is the Library, lower left is the Lounge, and upper right is the Weights Gym.
Different views from the bridge of the Revelle. The bridge is the place where the ship is navigated, maneuvered, and managed.

Waking up every day to the rocking of the ship can take a bit of an adjustment period, especially in rougher waters, but there’s no better way to fall asleep than the sound and shaking of the sea and no better view to take in than being on the main deck. I sleep on the top bunk in a stateroom on the first platform, below the water line, hearing the sloshing of the sea and being rocked to sleep each night.

It’s easy to lose track of time while aboard. Most days I have to check my phone to know what day of the week it is, let alone the date. You’re always busy and on a routine that stays largely the same, so the finer details, like what day it is, start to fade away a bit. So far, we haven’t encountered much of any rough waters except for maybe the day after we left port. That was the only time I was acutely aware of just how much the boat was moving. Typically I don’t get seasick, but that was the one day where I had to take some meclizine. I was sitting up in the galley, trying to eat breakfast, and I could just feel waves of nausea washing over me. I figure it’s better to have something in the stomach than nothing when feeling sick, so I finished my meal anyway before making my way to my room to lay down for a bit. If you’re going out on a cruise and aren’t sure how you’ll deal with motion sickness, make sure you bring either meclizine or dramamine and be sure to eat and stay hydrated. If you end up puking, it’s better that you at least have something in your stomach when you do.

In the downtime between operations or when you aren’t supposed to be either working or available for your shift—-I work the day shift for my lab, 7 AM-7 PM—-there are always people to spend time with, or at least be near if you want to be around people but don’t want to socialize, in the library and lounge on board. People are either playing card games like cribbage (which everyone knows how to play) or board games like Seven Wonders or Settlers of Catan. The crew also plays poker every other night on board, but I have no idea how to play and don’t want to lose any money. I spend my free time either sleeping, reading, playing Solitaire, playing Bananagrams, or playing cribbage (I haven’t won once).

Day shift of the Zooplankton Team playing Settlers of Catan. Right to left: Annie Effinger, Jameson Morrin, Ali Appelgate, and Marco Moriel.

The lounge has a communal guitar that I used to play in my downtime, but I somehow broke the E-string (sorry Gomez) and couldn’t fix the thing after a couple of hours of trying. There are no replacements on board, so on top of learning new zooplankton processing methods and how to deploy a range of sampling equipment, I may end up having to learn to play the ukulele, or maybe the spoons.

Being out on the ocean is beautiful. There are a million ways you could describe the experience of being at sea more eloquently, but there’s no other way to put it than the fact that it’s simply breathtaking. Any cliche that can be and has been used to encapsulate it is true and false at the same time. It’s gorgeous and it’s terrifying. It’s treacherous and it’s comfortable. It’s lonely and it’s full of community.

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