I am from Tennessee, a land-locked state. We have boats and lakes, not ships and seas. This is my first time aboard any type of ship at all. I never imagined that I would be here off the coast of Turkey. I am so lucky to get a ride on a ship, and it isn't just any ship. I am on a super-cool exploration vessel. One of two such ships in the world. Once I found out that I was selected as an Educator at Sea, I cheered, smiled for hours, and then panicked. What do I know about being on a ship? Um, nothing. So for those of you who might be new to ships, I thought I would give you the perspective of someone who is learning, well, pretty much everything. Here are some of the questions that I was asking before I came here.
1. Where do I sleep and when?
We are assigned to our rooms when we board. There are rooms set up with 2 sets of bunks or with one set. So most rooms hold either 2 or 4 people. Storage is adequate but not large. Nautilus can berth 48 people at one time. This includes scientists, educators, engineers, students, and various other people. With all these people working on various tasks, someone is always busy, so finding type to sleep can be, um, interesting. There are 3 watches in a 12 hour period, and each person serves on 2 watches a day. Most people work for 4 hours and then are off for 8 hours. So if they work from 8 am to 12pm, then they will work from 8 pm to 12 am. There are 3 people who do the same jobs and rotate. Other positions work different schedules. My position , for example, is currently made up of a 4 hour watch and 2 sets of 2 hour watches. There are also duties outside of watches for some positions. Someone might have to process data, preserve specimen, write up reports or fix equipment. Sleeping is done in pieces whenever a person can snatch the time. It works fairly well. The only trouble with this is that I seem to fumble around in the dark (even with my flashlight) and bump into everything. Trying to be quiet seems to make me noisy. Good thing they didn't put me on a top bunk!
2. Can I shower and do laundry?
The answer to this one is, joyfully, yes. Being on a ship for weeks without a shower would stink. Literally. Showers need to be short because we don't want to run out of water, but we do have hot water and can use soap. Laundry loads need to be large for the same reason. We use more water than we make on the ship. But we do produce much of our own water. For me, laundry is an adventure. I have to remember that the soap goes into a different drawer and to empty the water from the dryer's bin. There isn't outside venting like our dryers have at home. Good thing Krystal is here to help me. So the moral of the story is, ask someone who has been here longer where things are and what to do. I owe her one, or maybe even 12.
3. Can I contact the shore?
Of course, this is an amazing vessel. We use telepresence to share information with the world. We talk to scientists and have live interviews with different schools and with the Mystic Aquarium. We also have the internet- although we avoid streaming video so that we can share data. There are emergency phones and audio skyping is done by many people on the ship. So, "we are not alone" and that is a good thing. This is the way to sail.
4. Will I look silly or get lost?
Of course you will. Or, maybe that is just me. I have uploaded the same pictures multiple times the wrong way. I have fought closed and closing doors, and wandered around looking for the correct room. When the waves are up, walking and keeping balance can be a bit tricky. I feel like I am a newborn foal learning to stand. The experts move with a grace that I can only envy. Then there is the doing of my new job. I have to learn everything over again. The good thing is that there are people here who know what they are doing and will help. I might amuse them with my mistakes or occasionally annoy them, but they are supportive. And amazingly enough, you will get better at your job and at walking during waves. And after a few days, you will not get lost. No comments on fighting with the doors. I am not sure if that improves or not.
5. Should I do this? Is this worth it?
Absolutely. This is an experience of a lifetime. The people are intelligent and helpful. There is so much science going on all the time. People are working together in wonderful ways. And the views both on ship and under the water are fantastic. The ocean is beautiful! Best of all, I actually saw a tubeworm in person....really! That is about as cool as it gets.