Wow. Another long day watch has finally come to an end. I’m watching the light of sunset slowly fade from brilliant orange to pink and finally to the deep purple that signals nightfall. For once, with the changing of the watches the deck is relatively quiet, a brief pause in the hectic scramble of deployments and processing that has characterized the cruise so far.
I’ve really learned a lot since boarding the ship only four days ago, most of which has nothing to do with science. Instead, I’ve learned more about what life on a research vessel is like, and how important it is to be flexible when things go wrong. As Day Watch leader, I’ve learned how to manage my time and people resources more effectively so that everything gets done in as effective a manner as possible.
Starting the day at 5am makes you feel like you should be able to accomplish anything. With so many different projects on this cruise, however, our schedule is very tight with little room for relaxing between deployments. Science is happening 24 hours a day, even during mealtimes (people often have to eat on the run or not at all). Add in mechanical problems or failures, and it becomes highly unlikely that everything planned actually gets accomplished. Even with advance preparation, I’ve learned that everything will take longer than expected, and if someone tells you they only need 10-15 minutes, you might as well just give them an hour, because that is how long it ends up taking.
It’s frustrating, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. Time at sea is so valuable that you really have to make the most of it and collect as many samples/data as you can. It’s difficult to make everyone happy, and sometimes you can’t. Night watch may encounter delays that run over into the day watch, and sampling efforts for one person may have to be delayed to accommodate for that delay. Planned deployments are often rearranged or postponed when something goes wrong.
As a result, being responsible for helping things run smoothly can be a challenge. At the beginnning of the cruise, there seemed to be a thousand things to remember to do before and after each deployment, and there was always something I managed to forget. A shy person by nature, at first I also had a difficult time stepping up to take charge and address members of the watch with authority. This cruise was really helpful for me in that respect. Even though I am still learning, I feel much more confident in my knowledge of shipboard operations than I did when we began. I have to admit, however, that at the end of the week I will be relieved to step down again into the familiar role of ordinary graduate student.