When people hear I am heading to sea for a month I am regularly asked: “What is the food like?” Often this is accompanied by a pained expression, as if the questioner is concerned I will waste away being fed like Harry Potter when he is home for the summer holidays. There is no cause for concern – the food is always good. On the Woods Hole ships the food quality has moved beyond good and is now “so good it’s bad”. I am a serial offender when it comes to overeating. A good example was today at lunch. I queued up (this totally satisfies my British nature!) and observed the options:
Black and red bean with roast carrots and beets soup
Turkey meatball and cheese sub
Smoked salmon and avocado sandwich
Roast cauliflower/broccoli and cheese quiche
Hummus and pitas
In my head I tried to limit my intake. “OK, I’ll just have the salmon sandwich and some quiche.” This was before I arrived and actually saw the wonders on offer. Suddenly my brain wants me to try everything and I’m confused by what to choose. About 50 hungry scientists and crew are patiently waiting for me to make a decision. Panic sets in and I end up with a plateful of everything I intended plus the Manicotti. It tastes gooood though. Failure has never been so wonderful.
With limited self-control over my eating, exercise is the only weapon with which to fight back against weight gain. Some people walk all around the ship, up and down the many stairs. Some use exercise videos and weights. Crewmen Ronnie and Neumann do Muay Thai, an impressive if somewhat terrifying kickboxing spectacle. I just try to use the running machine. Running while the ship moves around is best described as like running on a very poorly-maintained and undulating track…….but with your eyes closed. You get minimal warning that the lovely descent you began a few seconds ago is about to turn into a challenging ascent. The treadmill is not your friend – it is oblivious to the ship’s rolls and keeps you running at the same speed irrespective of the pain inflicted. This machine has an ‘incline’ setting, I assume purely to help define the term ‘irony’.
As you may have gathered, by this point in the cruise we have settled into our routines in sleep, food, exercise and science. Everyone has already collected a good amount of data and/or samples. Our group is looking at DMS, a sulfur gas produced by the biological community in the ocean that plays an important role in atmospheric particle formation. Our group’s custom-built mass spectrometers have been working well, analyzing water and air samples. They’ve been running with minimal issues (unlike last time out!), which has allowed us to look at the data and tweak the setup to ensure optimum results. There’s nothing worse than getting home and realizing that we should have done things differently! The weather forecasts for the next few days suggest we will catch a big storm so we are excited to observe a large transfer of DMS into the atmosphere – fingers crossed!
Written by Thomas Bell