Traditions

At Pole, Megan used to say, “always” meant two seasons. Something happens two years in a row and it will etch itself into the institutional memory as having always been done that way. Of course, the OAEs* will remember some time in the distant past when “things were different”, but you know how old-timers are, right?

It’s hard to wonder how long some of these habits on the ship have been established. I’m guessing that powering through the end of the last midnight shift with Rocky Horror (dancing, but no costumes) is not one of those that have been handed down from antiquity – you’d be surprised how hard it is to do the Time Warp on a pitching deck.

It’s just a stagger to the left…

But we’re through the Drake and halfway up the coast of Tierra del Fuego, making our way in glorious sunshine through shallow water. The coast itself is shrouded in cloud, but there are signs everywhere: lines of oil rigs ride the horizon, and even I can feel the warmth in the air. That’s not to say that the sea has calmed too much – despite protection of the land, we’re still fighting 35-40 knots of wind on the nose, and the bow is pitching enough that the forward portholes in the galley still see blue from the other side every minute or two..

It’s unnerving the first time you see water over the porthole like this…

Work is effectively done, and everyone’s packing up their microscopes, nets and ECW**. It’s more crowded at lunch now that we’re all dragging ourselves back to a daytime schedule. Me? The dragging is, well, dragging. Been trying to make the transition by taking little naps all day and making sure I’m awake for the times I’m actually needed. But I know I’m not going to make it to the next – and last important waypoint of IT responsibility: at 68 degrees west, we get to turn off Science.

“Science” in this case is a wall of machines (and two walls of ducting and sensors) that measure the air around us, the seawater we’re traversing and what’s beneath it. There’s bottom mapping, Doppler current measurements, salinity, turbidity, organic content – I think 21 different devices all sampling, measuring, recording. That Knudsen? The demonic budgie-chirping sonar that lives behind my bulkhead and has invaded my dreams every night for the past month? At 68 west, I finally get to smother the damned thing. Except, I’m not going to be able to stay awake that long; Sean, who’s sliding his schedule back from noon-to-midnight, will take those honors. Me – I’ve pushed through this time transition as far as I can tonight. I’m going to bed.

Don’t touch that – it’s Science!
* OAE = “Old Antarctic Explorer”. Term of affection and reverence for folks who’ve been working on the ice for substantially longer than you.

** ECW = Extreme Cold Weather Gear.

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