What do you do if you’re miles out to sea and don’t have a pumpkin to carve on Halloween?
Try watermelon! Our creative Third Mate, Kami, came up with the idea and put her skills to work (after first carefully scooping out all the flesh for tomorrow’s breakfast!) and carved up our very own wat-o-lantern.
Instead of a candle, our resourceful sailor used expired glow sticks normally found on our life preservers (she assured me she had replaced them with brand new ones). Soon, our green gourd glowed with a green, toothy smile in the darkened galley.
Our wat-o-lantern did a great job scaring everyone at dinner last night, but unlike pumpkins, he quickly began to collapse in on himself, and I found him lying on his back in a puddle of his own juice, smiling up at the stainless-steel ceiling this morning. It was fun while it lasted, though.
Kami, the ship’s Third Mate, gets creative with a watermelon and some expired life jacket glow sticks.
(Image from: tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/TheMuppetShow)
Put a 63 inch flat-screen plasma TV in a room and fill it with men who sail for a living. What do you think they’ll put on to watch?
That’s right! The Muppet Show!
Tonight at dinner I heard some strange classical music coming from the media lounge next door, so I went over to take a look. The room was darkened and completely packed with guys—sailors and scientists alike. They were quiet, absorbed in the images on the TV screen. They were watching a huge puppet, something that looks straight out of “Where the Wild Things Are” dance with a beautiful ballerina around a stage. I looked at the screen, then looked around the room. Then I looked at the screen again, and looked back around the room. I must have made a face because then everyone burst out laughing—as if I had caught them in some guilty pleasure—it’s like they collectively realized how silly the whole situation was. The bosun especially got a kick out of it; his eyes were still twinkling as he dropped his ice cream dish off at the dish window a few minutes later.
A bunch of crusty guys watching a children’s show! It was still on when I passed by the lounge just now at 7pm.
It’s time to play the music,
It’s time to light the lights,
It’s time to meet the Muppets
On the Muppet Show tonight!
It’s time to put on make-up,
It’s time to dress up right,
It’s time to raise the curtain
On the Muppet Show tonight!
(written in September)
Apparently I had a nickname—or still HAVE a nickname—in the galley (depending on the cooks I’m working with. The other day the cook took me aside and told me he had something to tell me. “We have a special name for you,” he told me. Uh oh, I’m thinking. This can’t be good.
“When we saw ‘K.Eident’ appear on the schedule before you arrived, we had no idea who that may be. We thought the name could be Kenneth or Kevin, or even your name, Katie,” he said. “But we couldn’t decide if you were a guy or a girl. So we settled on ‘Klinkerton.’ We thought it was a nice, ambiguous name, and you’ve been called Klinkerton ever since.
“We even promoted you before we met you. We called you Corporal Klinkerton, among other things” he added. “We still refer to you as Klinkerton when you’re not around.” Today he called me “Klink” as he dropped dishes off in the scullery. Tehee.
(written in September)
Today the transit to the next science station turned into an informal whale watch.
I just happened to be in in the galley (shock!) when it occurred. As I was placing a clean, steaming hot pan on the counter to air dry, I saw a spout of water burst up through the waves outside my porthole. Then I saw another. Today was a crystal-clear sunny day, but the sea is slightly riled with a small rolling swell and some whitecaps, so at first I did not think much of the occasional spouts I was seeing. I looked down, busy with the work at hand, then looked out again, this time seeing clearly the distinct black curve of a fin. Whales!
I ran outside, pausing to yell to the cook, “A pod of whales on the starboard side! I’m going out!”, thinking I was the first to see this wonderment. As soon as I stepped over the watertight threshold, however, I heard the oohing and ahhing of various crew and science members clustered on the bow and the upper deck.
Some, like the chief engineer, had brought out sophisticated photography equipment to capture the sight—brandishing telescopic lenses on cameras I think the pros use. Others had their convenient, handy point-and-shoot cameras. I simply had my wrinkled dish-pan hands, just recently removed from my now-famous lime green gloves I use while washing dishes, but that was OK with me.
There must have been 50 whales. They were huge, and hovering near the surface of the water, feeding on some delight they discovered while traveling along, I suppose. Birds whirled above them, hoping for fragments of whatever the whales were munching on, and groups of seals frisked about, dwarfed by the whales and the waves of the open ocean.
Every few seconds a whale would spout, “PFOOOOOSSSSH!”, water rushing into the air out of its blow hole, and then the whale would sink slowly above the waterline. Once I even saw a long, curvy, black whale dive slowly down, waving its black and white, barnacle-encrusted tail at us before disappearing entirely.
The seals, which seem so loud and fat and big when they are lazing about on the piers of San Francisco, were comical in their smallness at sea. As the ship cautiously drew closer to them, they would dive away en mass, throwing their chubby, round little bodies up and through the waves. Only when they were a safe distance away would they stop and feed, their little brown heads barely visible above the water. The whales never seemed to mind us, though. They kept on blowing, and hovering, then swimming laconically, as the ship sailed by. It was amazing.
Later a scientist I had oohed and ahhhed with at the bow stopped by the dish window to tell me that we had seen rare blue whales in addition to the black-colored whales we had spotted. I have never seen a whale at sea before, never mind 50 of them! Watching them swim and feed was beautiful and awe inspiring.
An engineer on the Oceanus once said the galley is the heart of the ship. It’s true; any room that centers on food will naturally be the place of warmth and community in a home, including a ship.
The messdeck is not only a place to eat, it is a place to get to know your shipmates, hear the daily gossip, pick up the now well-worn and out-dated newspaper that never seems to get too old to read, play Texas Hold ‘em or Scrabble, or even watch the Alvin dive on the closed-circuit TV. The messdeck is the room you cruise through to see who’s hanging out, what’s cooking for the next meal, and if the pot of coffee is new or needs to be refilled (and grumble about it, while you’re at it).
The galley can be the ship’s eyes and ears, too.
From my position behind the dish window in the scullery, a room attached to the main cooking area, I see everyone on board, some of them multiple times a day. Calculate the number of smiles I must give, with three meals per day for 56 people, plus snacks and other clean up, and how often do I smile? Suffice to say I wear a smile a lot—even when I don’t particularly feel like it (I learned long ago that honey goes MUCH further than vinegar, and my days are tedious enough as it is without the added drama of a snubbed shipmate).
As I lean over a particularly greasy pan, scrubbing at burnt food and trying not to splash myself, I see the ordinary seaman making faces behind a goofy scientist while he waits to deposit his dishes. I see the Bos’n (deck boss) reprimand a seaman for not stowing a tool away correctly. I see two scientists who seem to have hit it off, sharing a moment they think is private (but then they have forgotten they are on a ship—there are no secrets here!). I see shipmates who’ve just woken up, eyes all puffy and hair askew; I see the Captain absent-mindedly drop his dishes in the wash bucket, his mind off in some bureaucratic plane, reminding himself to double-check the arrangements with the agent for the next port stop.
I also hear things, too. In the morning as the Chief Mate pours his coffee, he plants little seeds of rumors, telling me “Did you hear we might get in [to port] a day early?” I hear Alvinites (the guys who maintain and drive the sub) grumbling to each other about how the dive went yesterday, or which Alvinite forgot to charge a battery. I listen (though I may not understand), as a group of scientists talk excitedly about some theory they are applying to their latest experiment.
Often as a rumor spreads, a shipmate caught in the throes of channel fever will stick her head in the dish window wanting to know if I’ve heard any news, who I’ve heard it from, and if I’ve bothered to confirm this story with anyone else of a good-standing reputation (ie: not the mid-to-six oiler!). Most of the time I have no news of substance, only whisperings, and this sorry shipmate will eventually wander off, muttering to herself just exactly how many days are left on this trip until she can go home (eight and a wakeup! six and a wake-up! ONE and a wake-up! We’re going in today!)
If you do not know what channel fever is, let me explain. It is a terrible malady, an illness for which there is no cure but to come alongside the dock as soon as possible and find the nearest beer. This is an illness whereby a person can not WAIT to go ashore, and results from spending too much time on a ship at sea. It’s a common affliction at WHOI, especially for those in jobs where there is no one to relieve them, requiring them to stay on board for seemingly endless months at a time without going home. There are a few of my fellow shipmates suffering from this affliction at this very moment.
So it is with a certain sense of responsibility that I wash the ship’s dishes, listen to the ship’s rumors and do my best to assuage my shipmates’ channel fever.