5 things I didn’t know as a first time voyager

Inessa Corney
Institute for Marine & Antarctic Studies

Inessa Corney sorting salps. 📷 Lisa Woodward

1. Sea sickness

Before coming onboard the RV Investigator for the SOLACE voyage I had not spent more than a few hours on a boat at one time. Understandably, I felt nervous about about how I would hold up once we were out in the open ocean. I won’t lie, I asked a lot of different people advice on how to prevent sea sickness, as I did not want to come unprepared or spend the whole voyage feeling awful. As it turned out, I did not need to be too worried. I felt horrendous or the first two days, but I only discovered that I had in fact overcome the seasickness when I forgot to take a Travacalm tablets another two days later. It had been a number of hours before I realised what had happened, and I was surprised to discover that I was feeling fine. I was worried that this might be a once off and that I would wake up the next morning feeling unwell again, but that was not the case and I have been fine ever since. I got quite lucky with the sea sickness, but others on board were not so fortunate. I think it took at least a week for everyone on board to feel 100% again.

If you are interested in seeing what the current weather conditions on board are like, then check out the live stream on the MNF homepage at https://mnf.csiro.au/.

2. Accommodation

The accommodation on board is so nice! Each cabin holds two people and includes a bathroom, two bunk beds, a desk, an armchair and a double doored wardrobe for each person in the room. Most people that share rooms are on opposite shifts, so essentially you have a room to yourself for the 12 hours you are not working.

The cabin I am staying in for the duration of the voyage. If you are interested in a full tour of the ship, then follow this link.

3. Work Shifts

2am-2pm Micronekton crew taking a breakfast break from sorting a trawl. 📷 Annabelle Erskine

Whilst on board, the science crew work a schedule of 12 hours on 12 hours off 7 days a week for the whole voyage. So, I am on from 2am to 2pm every day and then I hand over to someone else who covers the other 12 hours of the day. I have never done shift work before and let me tell you, going to bed at 4-5pm each day in order to get enough sleep to then get up again in time for a 2am start is hard. The first week was especially difficult as I was definitely not tired when I was going to bed and I was waking up more tired as I wasn’t used to waking in the middle of the night. Three weeks in and I am slowly getting used to the new sleep schedule, but I will admit I have had a few naps during my shift when we have had a few hours to spare. Successfully sleeping for consistent hours is definitely still a work in progress!

4. Food

There is absolutely no chance of going hungry on this ship, food is always available in the mess and on top of that, there are three cooked meals a day. I would say you have more of a chance of overeating rather than going without. The three cooked meals essentially follow the format of breakfast, lunch and dinner, although not everyone will eat at the same time. This is partly due to Covid restrictions but also because everyone is on different shifts and are not necessarily having meals at the designated times. For example, as I am on the 2am-2pm shift, I eat breakfast at 2am when I start, then I have lunch at the breakfast meal and the lunch meal is my dinner. I don’t tend to go to the dinner meal as I am usually in bed. Morning tea and afternoon tea are also included and vary from mixed nuts or beef jerky to cookies and cakes. Not to mention the dedicated ice cream freezer that lives in the mess.

5. Exercising on a ship

If you are an exercise lover like me then you will be happy to know that there are two gyms on board the RV Investigator, there is the main gym and the science storage room gym. Due to Covid restrictions there is a booking system for the gym and it is restricted to one person in the gym at time. Although these restrictions were only put in place because of Covid, it has been so good to be able to book the gym for yourself and know that you will be able to use everything within the gym. Gym bookings are restricted to a maximum of 1 hour in order make sure everyone gets to use the gym. I usually use the exercise bike when I am in there as I tried to use the treadmill a few times and quickly realised that running on a treadmill on a moving ship is quite difficult. One minute you could be falling off the back of the treadmill and the next minute you desperately trying to hold yourself away from the front of the machine in order to not run into the front of it. The exercise bike seemed like a more secure option when trying to work out. My balancing skills have really been put to the test during this voyage!

Three weeks in and I think I have settled in pretty nicely into the ship life routine and I finally know my way around the boat. It feels great to be getting used to the shift schedule, to get my sea legs and I am really looking forward to the second half of the voyage.