December 10, 2006
Joy and sadness are two strong and contrasting sentiments that characterize my feelings at the end of most cruises. Satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, occasional frustration, and definite tiredness are other feelings I have after more than six weeks at sea confined on a 300-foot vessel with 65 other people.
Joy and relief are given by the knowledge of having accomplished the project's mission and having successfully finished all the planned measurements and experiments with no major breakdowns or losses.
The sadness is due to having to part ways with all the people with whom, over the past 45 days, I have become close, my new and old friends that I have spent so much time working, chatting, and playing with. Living and working in close quarters often creates incredibly strong bonds between people. I got to discover details of many of my shipmates' lives, got to know what they do and don't like, what makes them laugh, and what upsets them.
I can definitely claim some new good friends. I know that it is likely that we will meet again at conferences or on cruises. And, with some, I will definitely be collaborating for a while. And, as with all my friends, all are welcome to my house. My sadness is also given by the loss of 24 hours of sunlight and the always-breathtaking view of endless ice plains and big icebergs.
Joy is given by knowing that soon I will be back home, sleeping in my own bed, cooking and eating the food I want, and having access to all the fresh groceries that at sea rapidly disappear. Joy at the end of the cruise is also given by knowing that soon I will get to see my loved ones: my family and my friends.
Work at sea is often intense and can be physically taxing. It produces loads of data that will need to be processed and interpreted; in fact, they will keep me and most of the other scientists onboard busy for part of the next year. But the remaining work will be mostly at my desk on a computer. For some there will be time spent in the lab analyzing samples that could not be analyzed at sea. With the end of the cruise a way of life ends; I will soon be back to my home, the institution, and the "mainland routine."
We are now five days from Lyttleton, New Zealand. We are a few days ahead of schedule, as the captain was quite conservative with his estimate of time required to cut our way through the icepack and apparently he was also concerned we would be hit by a big storm that we were luckily able to dodge. However, we have hit the tail of a different low-pressure system with wind gusts up to 50 knots and fairly high waves—Just a little reminder of being at sea before we get back to our immobile desks.