Life on Board of the Meteor

Luisa Sarmiento (right) and Christin Jahr (left) about to test survival suits in the pool. Photo by Martin Visbeck Luisa Sarmiento (right) and Christin Jahr (left) about to test survival suits in the pool. Photo by Martin Visbeck

It has been more than two weeks now that we started our research cruise M159 from Recife to Mindelo. I am surprised how quickly I got used to living and working on board of the Meteor. After only a few days, it feels as if I have been on the research vessel for weeks because everything was new, everything was and still is exciting. I learned a lot and got to know my colleagues and the crew very well in a  very short period of time. Life at home and at my normal work does not compare to life on board of a research vessel. Right from the beginning, my body had to get used to the permanent ship movements. The first day, I did not feel well and was unbelievably tired, that is what we call “sea sick” apparently. Luckily, it did not take me long to get used to these new circumstances. But I have to admit, I still have difficulties to walk properly in a straight line in the hallways, and to get dressed without tripping! It is getting better though. I also learned that you should secure and fasten your belongings, especially during the night, if you do not want to be woken up many times by falling and rolling objects. A few nights ago, the ship was rolling so much, and it seemed that the things in our cabins had come to life. I heard a suitcase rolling from one side to the other, the doors were squeaking, and the next morning we saw that a chair had tipped over completely. 

In order to be safe in case of emergency on board, indeed falling objects are not the only hazards, we regularly attend safety drills. So far, we had two safety drills. The last one was particularly interesting. As soon as the alarm went off, we had to put on warm clothes, a cap, proper shoes and our life jackets which are stored below our beds in the cabin. Everyone gathered on deck and one of the crew members checked if all scientists were present. That day, they showed us how to wear a survival suit which is not only important to know but also quite a lot of fun. Some of us volunteered to wear the survival suit and to test them in a pool filled with sea water. Squeezed into these bright orange suits we looked a bit like the Teletubbies. I was just waiting for someone to start singing “Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa, Po”. It was a bit difficult to move in the suits, especially in the pool where we were floating immobile bumping into each other. Good times !

Two people on survival suits in a pool onboard RV METEOR. Photo by Martin Visbeck
Photo by Martin Visbeck

As soon as we managed to get out of the pool and out of the survival suits it was so good to feel the breeze. Of course, when it is 28° it gets very hot in a suit that is designed to protect you from hypothermia. Basically, your body temperature will not drop below 35° in the cold sea water of the ocean in case of sea evacuation. What I find very interesting about living and working on board of the research vessel Meteor is that for weeks we live in our own small world. Basically, everything we need is on board. For the length of the cruise this vessel combines home, workplace and a place for leisure activities. Before or after work we can use the gym, play table tennis or sit on the monkey deck which is directly above the bridge. Furthermore, you completely lose track of what day of the week it is. Every day is basically like any other: You have the same shifts, you see the same people, but also breakfast, coffee, lunch and dinner are always at the same time. Back home, I can barely manage to have two proper meals. All in all, I can say that I am glad that I had the opportunity to see how it is like to be on a research cruise. I learned a lot about physical oceanography, got to know my colleagues very well, made new friends and experienced the life on board of the Meteor.

Written by Christin Jahr, GEOMAR 2019