Thursday, 14 December 2017

Kia ora New Zealand!

We’ve been in transit for ten days now! This is epic by any standard! We’ve been steadily covering about 250nm daily and we had some 3500nm to get to our first site when we started, east of the north island of New Zealand. We are currently in the Tasman Sea and we feared it would be rough, but the weather has been really friendly to us and pushing us from behind, we’re doing really well and we are not feeling a thing. It was rough for a couple of days after we turned the southwest corner of Australia but it’s all been good since then.
You’d be surprised but we manage to fill our time even without having started operations yet. Everyone has their own work to do anyway, but we have a lot of meetings, within our respective groups (I’m in the Sedimentology group), we all had to start writing our reports and at least decide on the approach we would use for our work. This took a few days. Then we had to get training on some of the equipment and software. But, apart from all the serious work, we’ve been having a good time too; Clay is the Electrical Engineer on JR and he offered us lessons on making stuff! Stuff like getting sensors to respond and give us light or sound or turn a wheel when you hook them to a sensor of some sort. We’ve been playing with programming and boards and circuits and tiny little cables and Arduino is officially my new favourite word, say it, it rolls off the tongue, Arduino, Arduino, Arduino... I can keep going…

Besides Clay’s fabulous EE workshop we’ve been keeping fit. We formed a nice little group of fitness-minded people, which worked really well because it meant we dragged each other into the exercise. If you don’t you’ll end up sitting all day and while there are a lot of decks to go up and down from one place to another it’s not nearly enough. As a result we haven’t missed a single day of training since we boarded, even when the weather was not good, we did some form of exercise on a daily basis, whether it’s circuits on the deck by the lifeboats, yoga in the movie room, or weights in the gym. Unfortunately our group of six recently had to be dismantled as a few days ago we had to start going into our shifts (12 to 12, day shift and night shift), so the six became three and then there were two, me and Judith.
Don’t forget we’re preparing for Christmas too. Suffice to say that we’re doing it American style (this is an American ship). One morning after we started sailing, I woke up and walked through the conference room and a Christmas tree and boxes with decorations and a sign to help decorate were there. A (fake) fireplace, made of wood, cardboard and a monitor that shows a flame was also there. Garlands, bobbles, bunting appeared everywhere. More Christmas trees in every deck, small and big, and plans for the Christmas party are being made. I won’t reveal a lot yet, I’ll just say there will be singing, live singing, and carolling and I’m in it (as if I wouldn’t be)! Learning all the Christmas carols that I’ve heard in the movies!

Now I wish I could photograph the things I see when I walk on deck at night to share with everyone! My descriptions couldn’t possibly do them justice but I’ll try nevertheless. During transit we have very few lights on, so the minute you step outside it’s pitch black, you need a few minutes for your eyes to adjust to even take a step. But when they adjust can you imagine the sight?! Used as I am to the sky in the Northern Hemisphere it felt weird to look up and not recognise the constellations that my dad taught me when I was little, lying on the sand on our holidays. I turned this way and nothing, turned the other way and thankfully I saw Orion and then a little off next to it, the Pleiads. Good, I thought, at least I know those. Josh showed me the Southern Cross and the Pointers and then I downloaded a star map and I’m learning the rest. You must be able to see the meteorite shower that is happening these days, the Geminids. I read it’s a better spectacle if you’re in the northern hemisphere but we get a pretty good show of it here too. I saw a star slashing the sky last night. They are meant to reach their peak tomorrow night and I fully intend to spend the night on deck counting falling stars and making wishes, maybe one wish again and again. Is it more likely to come true if you repeat it multiple times? We also saw a moving speck of light and thought it might be the International Space Station. I later checked online the ISS position and it had indeed just passed above us! It would be a big mistake to not turn your eyes down too though, and look at the water as the bow thrusts through the ocean. Again you must let your eyes adjust to the darkness of the water and the greyness of the froth, but keep staring and the froth starts glowing blue, a mesmerising turquoise blue and little flushes pop up here and there; the more you look the more fluorescent it becomes. Bioluminescence is one of the most magical sights! Little organisms that glow when agitated, phytoplankton, specifically dinoflagellates if you want to be scientific (and we are scientific here, that’s what we’re about). But if you want to be poetic, artistic, and imaginative what I see is stars above and stars below, the galaxy in the sky and the blue glow in the water. I really wish you could see it!

Land ho! This morning we woke up to see land on the horizon, New Zealand is in front of us and by afternoon we were in the Cook Strait. My cousin asked for a map to show you where we are. Cuz, your wish is my command. We are the red circle, this is our current position as I’m writing this entry and you can see the rest of our way points. We have this display on many monitors around the ship with the weather and the programme of activities for the day. During the night we should be passing outside of Wellington (hey Suze!!!!) and then we’ll turn NE to head to our first site of investigation.

 And I'll leave you with the sunset behind the south island of New Zealand. Beautiful skyline!

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