When I tell people that I’m going out to sea, they usually ask: “How big is the ship you’ll be on?” When I tell them (something in the 200 ft range), their response is “I have no idea how big that is, but how do you spend a month at sea on a tiny boat without going crazy?”
So how big does the 277 ft Revelle (the largest ship in the Scripps fleet) actually feel? Here’s one useful way to think about it: At home, if you wake up in the middle of the night and want a snack, how many doors and staircases do you have to go through to get to your kitchen? Probably not more than one or two of each. The Revelle has seven decks (levels) and two main internal stairwells (not to mention 2-3 outside staircases between each deck). The ship is also very compartmentalized to conserve air conditioning and contain potential fires, which means that the main hallway alone is divided into five separate sections. Most of the science staterooms are on the lower deck, which means that a midnight trip to the mess deck (kitchen) entails climbing two levels of stairs and going through five doors. Heavy metal doors. Sometimes tilted sideways in the waves. That part of being at sea could make me go crazy.
Even basic science tasks involve a lot of transit. Getting from the from the back deck, where we do most of our sampling, all the way forward to the main lab can involve four doors and a lengthy hallway, which starts to add up when you’re carrying awkward sample bottles. And with five separate labs plus cold rooms and storage spaces, it’s easy to lose your fellow scientists in the maze!
That doesn’t even include trips up to the bridge, which is the uppermost level where the captain and mates steer the ship and the rest of us spot whales in our sporadic free time, or down to the laundry room, which is an essential destination on a month-long voyage. If you were putting your clothes in the dryer after dinner and suddenly realized that you absolutely must go straight up to the bridge to catch the sunset, you would have to sprint up seven levels and open more doors than I can count. If you forgot your binoculars for whale-watching, you would have to do the whole thing again (or borrow from the bridge). Fortunately the sun doesn’t set until after 8 p.m. these days.
We are grateful for all of the space, though, especially the large labs that allow us to spread out our extensive sampling equipment without bumping elbows. We will be finishing our SeaSoar transects tomorrow morning, after which we will head into Santa Barbara to drop off and pick up several people, before heading back out to sea to begin deploying instruments and sampling. Stay tuned for lots of exciting science!
Posted by: Laura Lilly, SIO