Livin’ it up on the JR!
I get a lot of questions from students, family, and friends about what life is like out here on the JR in the middle of the rolling sea, so I thought I’d take a moment and tell you about it. Of course, a picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ve included a few here. That means that a video must be worth about 10,000 words, so I’ve also included one of those (don't miss it...it's all the way at the end). I hope this gives you a good idea of what we do for fun (other than science, of course)!
Eat: One of the easiest things to do on the JR is eat. There are 4 main meals every day: 0500-0700, 1100-1300, 1700-1900, and 2300-0100. This ensures that no matter what shift you’re on, you’ll always have three meals available. It also means that sometimes you’ll get breakfast for dinner, or dinner for breakfast, but the galley crew tries to mix it up so everyone gets what they want. The camp boss does a great job of planning a variety of menu choices, so that 120 people can find food that they enjoy. We have lots of meat, fish, pasta, rice, soup, and vegetables; dishes like satay and curry, sweet & sour, and casserole. In between meals, there are cookie breaks every day and night at 9:00 and 3:00. Even when they’re not serving meals, there’s always cereal, bread, buns, cheese, juice, yogurt, and coffee and tea available. Oh, and ice cream. There’s always ice cream!
Play: After reading about all that food, it’s time to hit the gym! There are lots of different ways to stay in shape onboard: treadmills, elliptical and rowing machines, free weights, stationary bikes, and a stairmaster. There are TVs in there, too, so you can watch a movie or the football game while you sweat. Just about the only thing you can’t do onboard is walk more than 30 feet in a straight line!
Once you’re done working off that extra ice cream cone, there are games to play, books to read, and movies to watch. You’ll often find a group of scientists and techs in the lounge or galley after their shift, playing a friendly game of poker, Apples to Apples, or Cranium. There are lots of books in the library—everything from science fiction to Oprah’s Book Club—for people to borrow and read onboard, and a lot of people bring e-readers filled with their reading list. It’s not hard to find a nice cozy place to read…one favorite is up on “Steel Beach” (the top of the bridge) during a nice sunny afternoon. Once the sun goes down, though, people most often gather in the movie theater. We’ve got well over a thousand movies and TV shows onboard, so it’s just a matter of finding one that everyone wants to watch! We’ve already watched horror, comedy, drama, and even some that were comically horrifying (or horrifyingly comic, for that matter). Now we just need a good chick-flick to round everything out!
Sleep: Once the movie’s over, it’s time to head to bed. Our rooms are cozy little things that sleep two (for the most part…some people luck out with their own room) in bunk beds. Each bed has a curtain around in so you can sleep in private. The rooms have a sink, a desk, and a small closet for clothes and other personal items, and two rooms share a bathroom. It’s not much, but then again, we’re only there to sleep, so it doesn’t need to be much. Generally, you share a room with the person who’s on the opposite shift as you (so if you work noon to midnight, your roommate will work midnight to noon), so you have the room to yourself when you’re off-shift. There are stewards who clean the rooms and bathrooms and do all the laundry (towels, sheets, and our personal clothes). My room is definitely cleaner here than at home!
Because we’re at sea for so long, we try to schedule fun events along the way. We have a kite-flying contest, dance parties and special meal nights. We’ll be out here for Halloween, so people will put together crazy costumes from whatever they can find onboard, bring out secret stashes of candy for trick-or-treating, and we’ll have a Halloween horror movie marathon! We celebrate each birthday onboard with an awesome cake made by our fabulous catering staff and a traditionally off-key rendition of “Happy Birthday!”
The JR is a crazy fun place to live and work! It’s hard work…sometimes even longer than the 12-hour shifts, but it’s very rewarding knowing that we’re on the cutting edge of science making new discoveries with every expedition. Being away from friends and family for two months is a tough part of the job, but by the time we pull into port, the friends we’ve made on board are just like family.