Holidays @ Sea

CORSACS, being a cruise to the Ross Sea, necessarily involves field work in the austral (southern hemisphere) spring and summer from November through February. Due to the timing, we often miss some holidays that are celebrated at home. For example, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's— our group has at various times in the past years missed all of these while at sea.

What are holidays like on the Palmer?

This year we will be at sea for Thanksgiving. The routine on Thanksgiving is only slightly different from that of any other day. We do have a turkey dinner, with mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, pies, gravy, cranberries, and stuffing, but as we all know, Thanksgiving has an individual and special meaning for each. For me, I love the cooking involved with such an elaborate meal— the smells, the sounds, and the tastes. I enjoy my own dressing (no bag mix for me), and everyone has their own traditions that they grew up with, and incorporate into their adult holidays. So while we do share a special meal with our friends and colleagues, it is nothing like what we would experience at home. And to accentuate the difference, we still work on Thanksgiving. The ship costs around $40,000 per day, and not to use it wisely would represent a serious loss of valuable science time.

Another holiday my group has missed in recent years is Christmas. As part of the IVARS project, we had five consecutive years of Christmas at sea. This year, however, I will have Christmas at home, a rare event for me.

Birthdays are another "holiday" that some have while at sea. This year I have a birthday at sea; in fact, it is my birthday today as I send this. We get a nice cake baked for us, candles, a badly sung birthday song and wishes, and a few selected gifts. Some were bought before the cruise; others are made out of lab supplies (Benchkote© being a popular item), but all are appreciated. But again, work proceeds no matter how special the day is. This year half the CORSACS PIs have had birthdays during the cruise. And to make it even more special, the wind today reached more than 56 knots; one for each of my years!

Finally, we also make our own "holidays," and celebrate a crossing ceremony. This is a simple break in the routine, and provides a means to "initiate" those who have never sailed to the Antarctic before with the knowledge of those that have. Today's photo shows one of the comely mermaids of King Neptune's harem during the crossing ceremony.

So, while the science is serious and important, oceanographers also celebrate the traditional holidays while at sea, albeit in a slightly different manner. And please hold those presents until I get back!