The whole science party was out on deck to watch as we left port Saturday morning, but for many of us, excitement changed to dismay as soon as we got past Point Loma into open water. As we had learned in our pre-cruise workshop, the New Horizon’s design is top-heavy; even with concrete ballast below, whenever the seas are at all rough, the ship still tends to roll. And roll. And roll. With predictable results. Clare Reimers, one of our mentors on this cruise, has an iron stomach, but just about everyone else in the science party got walloped by seasickness for a few hours. A few of us had trouble for longer; I started to feel human again about 18 hours after we got underway, when I could keep water down for the first time, and I was relieved to be up and around again in time to collect and process my samples early Sunday afternoon.
We’ve heard a lot on the ship about the importance of safety in all our operations, both in the lab and out on deck, but I got a new perspective on the commitment to safety when I was sick. If you need to stand at the rail, you’ve got to have a buddy the whole time; goodness only knows how much work I kept our restech Robb from getting done on Saturday, because I was at the rail for hours. It’s not just concern about man-overboard situations, either; the restechs, the co-chief scientists, and the captain all kept tabs on me, making sure I had enough water to drink and enough Saltines to—well, not to eat, but to imagine someday being able to eat.
By now, the haze of seasickness has long since been replaced for most of the science party by the haze of long and unpredictable hours. As Cameron mentioned, we’re divided into two 12-hour watches. But we also all have samples coming in from a number of stations; nearly all our samples demand immediate attention, often requiring many hours to process and log, and nothing says we’ll reach your station during your watch. So the days blur together, and our progress through time has already come to seem much less relevant than our progress through the cruise plan.