Adjusting to Life at Sea
Latitude: 16° 24.73' N Longitude: 110° 25.05' W
A little about me: I am a first year PhD student at Central Michigan University working in the Mahon lab. My research focuses broadly on phylogenetics of Antarctic Pycnogonids (aka Sea Spiders). When I decided to study biology, I never thought I would be lucky enough to participate in a research cruise to Antarctica! It still seems unreal to me that I am on the way there and I will admit to pinching myself to make sure I am not dreaming all of this.
Although we have been living on the Nathaniel B. Palmer since September 23rd, 2020, our crew has officially been out at sea for a little over a week now. This week has been full of adjusting to life at sea. Some of these adjustments include gaining our sea legs and getting used to the continuous motion of the boat moving with swells of the water, adjusting to the temperature changes as we continue to head south towards the Equator, and adjusting to life with a set amount of daily data (and soon to be almost no data). Most of us are used to having unlimited WiFi to connect our devices to and then going about our workday. This is the first time in many of our academic careers where we have had to worry about the amount of data that we are using. Many of us are learning how to ration out our data throughout the day so we still work efficiently during the day and be able to communicate to family and friends back home.
One of my favorite parts of being out at sea is the lack of light pollution in the sky. The stargazing on the bow at night is incredible (as long as it’s a clear night). It’s hard to put into words how beautiful the night sky is, but it is definitely something I know I will never forget. I can (and have) sat outside for hours looking at the sky and watching the stars without getting bored. Along with stargazing at night, I had my first experience with bioluminescent organisms! When we look at the waves coming off the bow of the boat at night, we are often able to see little blue flashes of bioluminescence in the water, which is pretty neat to see in person!
I also want to mention how cool the Nathaniel B. Palmer is to live on. The boat is 308ft long, with four decks, a Bridge and Ice Tower. There are five different lab spaces on the main deck, so there’s enough space for all the science work. The vessel also has a decently sized Galley and kitchen space (with many snacks and ice cream!), a gym, sauna, a conference room, a lounge on the 02 and 04 decks and multiple laundry rooms! We have two person cabins that each have their own bathroom and shower. We get three meals a day prepared for us, and the food has been really good so far. When it comes to field research vessels, the NBP one is an ideal one to spend a semester at sea aboard!
Central Michigan University
10/22/2020 07:47:35 am
I love what all you scientists are able to experience and learn! I know you have worked so hard to get here, and I keep track of your travels each day! Wishing safe travels, and I can’t wait to see all the pictures you bring back.
11/11/2020 06:04:57 pm
Hello Ms. Zehnpfennig. Agree with your blog to escape to another world your Exploration to Antarctica is pure excitement for all. Love hearing all about all the fun areas on the Ship, the Galley is the best; good food is all the best part when you are traveling. Thank you for sharing such a fun blog to read. Mary Roberts
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