Sleep. I don’t mean to say it is taken for granted, but it is dependable. Dependable in the sense that after the day’s activities, we go to sleep. Each and every night. That’s how it works at home at least. Here on the ship, work is being conducted 24 hours per day to get the most out of our short 26 day cruise. The detailed happenings of each day are different and a “full” night’s sleep generally comes in two or three (or more!) segments and is not necessarily during the nighttime hours. The daily challenge becomes fitting these sleep segments around the required work. And regardless of the sum total hours slept, two 3-hour segments is never equivalent to one 6-hour stretch.
The scientists and crew onboard R/V Atlantis have all manner of daily schedules. For many, including me, the day begins by waking around midnight in order to be ready for the first water sampling by 1am. Work begins in earnest and continues throughout the day until later in the afternoon. Thankfully, some days are a little lighter than others, but there is always more work to do. If not collecting or processing samples, then recording and transcribing sample logs, analyzing data where possible, helping others, troubleshooting problems, and preparing for whatever comes next. The Plan of the Day (POD) is posted each day and provides the necessary structure for the day. When things are going well, the POD is predictable, thus sleep is predictable as well. However, any changes to the POD often require changes to sleep schedules. Imagine not knowing when your sleep will come in the ensuing 24 hours!
We force ourselves to take a nap when it fits. This is not always successful because of a racing mind, daylight hours, interruptions, or the constant bump and buzz of the ship. Of course, sleeping becomes even more difficult during rough weather. Luckily, we have had great weather on this particular cruise, excepting our entry into the North Atlantic in the wake of Tropical Depression Ten (it didn’t develop into a named storm, but still provided some exciting weather right out of the gates).
One critical decision that those who share my schedule are faced with toward the end of each day is whether or not to stay up for dinner! Going without allows a bit of extra sleep, but also means no real food until the following breakfast. Yet, while it can be satisfying eating a big meal moments before lying down to sleep is the greatest idea either. Well, you can see how even simple decisions like this are more difficult than they should be after long, oddly placed work hours.
Of course, there are some benefits to being awake more and during the wee hours. A sense of comradery exists amongst those who work the “night shift”. We see each other in all states of being: bleary eyed, unshowered, bed-headed, half awake, etc. Sunrise viewings are a daily affair (when not cloudy) and always provide new energy. Early morning baked goods taste better than ever after working up an appetite all night.
Sigh …….Despite all that, you’ll have to excuse me because I’m going to try and get some sleep now …
Written by Toby Westberry
Tags: NAAMES-III 2017