We are in the last mad dash of writing and editing our Site and lab reports here on our long transit to Hong Kong, while the IODP technical staff puts their labs back together after our frantic last Site on the flanks of Fantangisna seamount. The iterative process of writing and reviewing creates tension and anxiety, (as do rapid-fire calls of “Core on Deck!”), so eventually you need a little time to decompress, to be apart from the work, to recharge the batteries, so to speak.
This leads to some questions I’ve gotten asked a few times (even once by my own students on a Zoomcast back to my campus): What do you do for fun at sea? What do you do for holidays?
On the JR “fun” comes in a variety of forms from the traditional (football games on the ATV US Army TV network; movies in the movie room; barbecues on the bow) to the somewhat avant-garde.
The decorating of hard hats was a particular flavor of fun that a good number on this Expedition have favored (for whatever reason, more of them on the night shift than on days…). Some became quite elaborate, seemingly growing between each call of “core on deck”.
Birthdays are another, more formalized break in the action on the ship. The Yeoperson maintains a record of all scientific and technical staff who have birthdays while on the Expedition. For each there is a handmade card signed by all the staff, and a birthday cake made by the caterers (somewhat to order), with candles to blow out and “Happy Birthday to you!” sung. Most of the birthday celebrators endure the attention with quiet good humor, enjoy the cake and the break, and get back to it. Others make more of an event out of it…
Holidays are, of course, a means to down-time as well. As I’ve noted already, we did Christmas and New Years at sea on this Expedition, with formal and less formal celebrations for each. We’ve also done Chinese New Year and Burnsday (a Scottish traditional holiday honoring the poet Robert Burns, in which his poetry is read, Scottish traditionals are sung, and a haggis is serenaded to the table by bagpipes (and we actually had a haggis, and the pipes!).
Sunrise (or sunset) watching is another regular down-time event that is popular. It’s a regular habit for me and about a half-dozen of my night shift colleauges – a 1/2 hr break to watch the night sky burst into color and think about nothing else while the wind is pelting at you with variable vigor. Actually seeing the sun rise is not central, but recording the event (communally, often multiple times, posing for and/or shooting several different versions of the sun over one’s shoulder) is. And sometimes you see unexpected things at sunrise, which keeps it interesting.
Just at the moment, however, fun is sort of a secondary thing, as we are feverishly tying up our work and anticipating (more and more eagerly) getting off the ship. I’ll have a few last words to say here about the Expedition, I promise, before the clock strikes zero….
[Coda: so as not to distract from the work of those blogging Expedition 367, I’ll add those last words here.
I am finishing up a quasi-working holiday in Hong Kong before departing tomorrow for Guangzhou, to work with an Expedition 352 shipmate of mine. It was “quasi-” working because the first couple days involved getting past what has been described to me as “land-sickness”: it was literally difficult to stand and walk on ground that wasn’t moving under me (a testament to how much rougher the seas were this Expedition!) and it didn’t go away all that quickly. I chose to hang around both to get over to Guangzhou, and to be available to a student of mine who is now headed out on Expedition 367 – we did our own particular “crossover” meeting at the hotel and thereafter via email (all is well with him, I think).
After Exp. 352 I was often asked “would you do it again?” And… well, I did it again. That question may be more relevant now, as this was “the” cruise I had originally hoped to be on. And I think the answer is even more definitive – yes, I’d do it again, despite the difficulty of being away from my wife and friends and the disruption of life it all entails. I’d do it again because the science is always going to be excellent and exciting whatever its, and more importantly the science team you get to work with is exceptional, and the Expedition 366 team was/is no different. Having said that, I figure I have a couple years of work ahead of me on these samples (and on connecting the dots between these samples and those we recovered in the Izu-Bonin forearc on Expedition 352) before I’ll actually be ready for another cruise. In the interim, I’ll enjoy the science, and the scientific camaraderie of my former shipmates when our paths cross again.]