Twisted Time

When I first went to sea an old hand at research cruises told me that whatever I thought I ought to be able to achieve in a day, I should half it when at sea. This was pretty good advice. In part it is because the working conditions can be physically difficult – it can take a lot longer to do a simple job when the world is moving up and down and side to side. But it also results from the difficulty in maintaining focus and motivation.

After nearly 6 weeks at sea, when every day is pretty much like every other, the tedium of doing the same thing every day – the same routine instrument checks, the same backup jobs, the same routine of meals (and as supplies of anything remotely fresh run down the same foodstuffs*) – can take its toll on motivation. The fact that we’re usually tired doesn’t help. It’s often hard to sleep soundly – too much noise and ship motion. On this trip our sleep pattern is getting more and more out of sync with the ‘day’ as we go on. Although we’ve sailed half way round the Arctic Ocean – we crossed the international date line a day or two ago – the ship has stayed on UTC time. Early in the cruise this didn’t matter much; the sun never set, so day and night had little meaning. Now, however, the sun is below the horizon for about 4 hours in the middle of the day – it was setting as I got up (late) this morning; the darkest time of day is lunch time, and the brightest time is the middle of our ‘night’. This screws up your body clock – we feel sleepy in the middle of the day as it gets dark, and wake up at night when the sun is brightest.

Next week we will arrive in Barrow, Alaska, and have to make the switch to local time. Some of us seem to be drifting that way already.

*The peppered cabbage salad is really very good…but I don’t want to see it again for a long, long time after I get off the ship!

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