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Life at sea

The realities of life away on an oceanographic expedition ; the Exploring our Oceans team talk about their experiences at sea.
JON COPLEY: What do I miss at sea? My family, my Jack Russell, most intelligent dogs in the world, being able to go for a cross country run, something I particularly enjoy when I’m on land. And, of course, cooped up on a ship, we can’t do that. So I appreciate it all the more when I get back. What do I really enjoy about being at sea? I love the camaraderie. There are 50 of you as a team on a ship in the middle of the big open ocean. And you’re a little community that becomes very quickly close-knit, and you’re all working towards a common purpose.
Being a part of that is an amazing experience and one that I think is very rare in any kind of job. DR.
VERITY NYE: When I’m at sea, I really miss being able to roam around because there’s not far that you can walk when you’re on a research ship. I also really miss fresh fruit and vegetables. We normally have them for the first week or so. But after that, the food starts getting pretty tiresome quite quickly although the people on the ship do a really good job of trying to make it as varied as possible. I miss fast internet. Although it’s sufficient to be able to keep in contact with friends and family back home, it is hard to be able to work and have as much connectivity as you normally would on land.
And I do miss a really nice gin and tonic with ice and lime. When I’m at sea, one of the things I enjoy the most is the camaraderie onboard the ship. You get to work with people you’ve never met before and get to know a lot of people who maybe work in the same building as you on a day-to-day basis, but you’ve never interacted with before. I really like exploring new areas where you don’t know what you’re going to find. And there’s a lot of excitement to see what samples you’re going to get up on to the deck, particularly when it is somewhere new, and are we going to get any different animals?
That’s one of my favourite things to find out.
ANTONIO GATTI: Like me and most seafarers at sea, the thing we miss the most is our family. We’re away perhaps for two months at a time. Within that time, there’s probably an impossibility to see the families, so especially those with small children who live away, then, perhaps, yeah. I would say for most people, the family is the biggest missed. On the other side, we do do very interesting work. We don’t operate a commercial operation here, so the trips vary. They’re different from cruise to cruise, and we get to visit lots of different places, potentially worldwide, and also meet lots of different people. The scientists change from cruise to cruise, and that is part of the enjoyable things we do onboard.
WILL HOMOKY: I think the hardest part of going to sea for me is leaving behind the people you love for maybe a month or more, but modern technology on the new ships does make it easier for us to stay in touch in even the remotest parts of the oceans. I also miss the freedoms I take for granted when I’m on land, say like running and cycling and even swimming. For instance, I was recently working in the beautiful Caribbean Sea. We can’t swim, even in those warm waters, for all the ship operations that are happening 24 hours a day and not least because there was a large shark, an oceanic whitetip, circling our ship hungrily for days at that time.
I think what I love the most about going to sea is working with talented people that are all passionate about discovering how our planet functions. There are special moments that can’t really be anticipated– where someone makes a seemingly mundane new measurement or a new observation, and in that moment, it changes the way we view the system that we’re studying. And those are real moments of discovery which really excite you at the time. They stimulate new ideas, and they keep our minds buzzing while we’re at sea and long after we’ve come back to land.
PROFESSOR RACHEL MILLS: So when we go to sea, it can be four, five, six weeks of away from home, and I guess what I miss the most are my small boys. So they’re 14 and 12 now. And it’s hard being away for seven weeks at a time, but there’s good communication between the ship and shore nowadays so I can talk to them regularly. What do I like best about being at sea? I really like the focus of working on the ship and a team. It means you can ignore everything else that goes on in a job, and you can really just focus on getting some samples and getting the analyses done and working on one project. And that’s really exciting.
MARK BRANDON: What I like most about being at sea is the sky. It sounds a weird thing for an ocean scientist to say, but the feeling of space you get. I live in a city, and it’s very difficult to get some feeling for the wide spaces. But when you’re at sea and there’s nothing in any direction except just the horizon dipping off, you finally get a feeling of space, which you don’t get in the city. What I miss most about being at sea, obviously, is my friends and family. Mostly, my family. I have two small kids now, and I don’t think they miss me, but I miss them quite a lot. It’s nice to come back and see them.
But for things that I miss in life, weirdly, what we’re seeing outdoors now. I miss the colour green, and I miss trees. If you were away at sea or in Antarctica for a few months, you don’t ever get to see that colour. When you come back, that overpowers your senses.

Ocean scientists involved in the course give insights about what they miss and what they love about life at sea.

What do you think you would miss the most?

What do you think you would enjoy?

Do you have any questions for the researchers about life at sea?

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Exploring Our Ocean

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