One of the most often questions I’m asked when someone finds out I spend almost two months at a time out “at sea” is “what do you do with all your free time”. Usually I chuckle a little, because there is very little free time to do anything. The ship operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Everyone on board works 12 hour shifts (two teams in each specialty). So after you subtract another 6 or 7 hours for sleep, and a couple hours for meals/coffee, another hour for showering and getting ready, that leaves only a couple hours “free” each day. And we cherish these!
That said there’s actually quite a variety of things we do to keep ourselves entertained in the few hours we have available each day. One of the most popular activities is something we’re all pretty good at… chatting we each other. With so many different cultures out here (on-board right now we have U.S., Japanese, Indian, Sri Lankan, French, Dutch, English, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Portuguese, Swedish, and I’m sure I’ve missed some in there somewhere). It’s easy to spend hours asking questions of each other about life back home or what they think of U.S. politics, or what their home institution is like. And with such a wide variety of scientific specialties, it’s just as easy to spend hours discussing what we’ve been doing, what we’re studying now, and what we all want to examine from the sediments we’re collecting.
But of course, there are other things to keep you entertained too. The ship has an extensive video/DVD library and an amazing projection room. A regular movie showing is held after each shift ends so you can catch up on all those movies you’ve wanted to see in theaters but never did. I tend to go the other direction and read all those books I’ve wanted to read but never seem to find time to do at home.
And lastly, there’s “the gym”. With the galley open almost 24hrs with snacks and serving 6 meals a day (most don’t eat at all of them!), the gym is someone of a necessity! It’s compact, but has a nice variety of equipment to keep you sweaty. I prefer the rowing machine. I figure that if there’s ever a need to abandon ship, rowing is probably a much better skill to have than biking!
So there you have it… now you know what we do with our “spare time”.