SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
December 06, 2018
New Routines and Rhythms
15 degrees, 57.2’ N x 62 degrees 06.4’ W
Winds from East by North, clear skies and a pleasant 28 degrees C.
When I was a young girl, I used to feel lonely when I woke up in the middle of the night. Night was a time to be sleeping, and I would spend hours trying to force sleep to come even when it couldn't - counting the minutes and hours impatiently. But here on the boat, we are asked to be up at odd hours. Whether you are on watch or falling asleep in your bed, it is reassuring to know that someone else is also up and about. From my bunk in the squalor (which used to be a much less comfortable place to live but is now quite pleasant thanks to a new vent bringing fresh air below) I can hear the engine room door open and close when those on watch do an hourly check of the boat. These night noises have become both familiar and comforting. I'm also right next to the library, which is also where we do a lot of the lab work for our project on the reactive oxygen species dynamics of corals. I usually hear our reef specialist Kalina puttering around in there at unusual times. The repetitive beeps of the spectrofluorometer are a reminder that science never sleeps either.
Last dawn watch, like a lot of days, began at a time when I would never normally be awake. It was a rocky and roly-poly watch for my team. Some of us were in lab trying not to be seasick while combing through buckets of critters, and the rest were trying to keep their footing while managing the slippery deck amidst squalls of rain. We processed the sample from the midnight Neuston net tow. It held some treasures, including our chief scientist's favorite find - Sargassum, a type of seaweed which provides a microhabitat for all kinds of other organisms. The oncoming watch met us as the sun rose and we worked together to set the mainsail in the rain. Our watch ended with delicious banana pancakes. As odd as it still feels to be going to sleep as the sun rises, my watch crawled back to our beds and tried not to bring the sogginess with us.
It has been an odd experience trying to resist the rhythms that my body is used to. I can't walk on a rocking boat like I walk on land. I can't sleep the hours that my body would normally sleep. But the practice of adjusting to a whole new rhythm of life on the Cramer - one which relies not on night and day but moves along like clockwork as we rotate through our watches - has been a beautiful challenge. The outcome of 36 people committing to something which initially feels out of our comfort zones is remarkably harmonious. Our days here are packed with new experiences that can occur at any hour and for that I am so grateful.
- Laura Blum, Middlebury College
P.S. Much love to my family - thank you for always encouraging me to explore!