The Beauty of the Southern Atlantic

© Martin Visbeck

Imagine. There are no people. Apart from us, on the RV Meteor in the middle of the wide ocean. Around us the endless Southern Atlantic with all its beauty. The remoteness is unprecedented.
The beauty of the Southern Atlantic? The winds blow strongly and come from the West, meaning a hell of a headwind. Waters are splashing up high when they crash against our bow. The sea seems to be stirred up, three meter waves are splashing, smashing and banging against the ship. Clash! A wave hits the main deck and floods it for a moment. Water is splashing all over the railing, we’re jumping back. Surprised and impressed at the same time. The wind seems to simply play with the RV Meteor as if she’s a toy heavily bouncing up and down. And you can feel it. You can feel the echo of the waves’ unforgiving power when they crash on the hull of the ship. Feel its unexpected strength – in your stomach!

Headwind. Huge splashes when waves hit Meteor’s bow.
© Martin Visbeck

There is this feeling slowly evolving and propagating from down there. We had around three days of this heavy weather, certainly a beauty as such. But those were also the days when my teint probably changed to a greenish faint. I felt like I had a really bad hangover. It starts with…being very very hungry! Cheese spaetzle with tons of ketchup followed by christmas chocolate, going back to salty food…mmmh and going back to chocolate. It makes you feel better, really! For 5 seconds…! But the fact that there was no party last night makes the whole thing quite ominous. No matter how hard I try to focus, my brain just feels like wobbly jelly (if you don’t know what those words mean exactly just listen how they sound  – that’s exactly what I mean). The more I try to clear my view – the picture in front of my eyes keeps shaking without mercy! I felt my pupills must have went alone to that party I apparently missed, now hung over too.
Well, I guess this was the moment where I welcomed the first sea sickness of my life. An experience I won’t have missed but since it is such a…special one – I neither want to withold it from you.

Waters stirred up by the strong westerly winds. Seem way too small then they actually were… or felt?! © Martin Visbeck

Sleep, you just want to sleep so badly. Whenever there is the opportunity you just collaps into your bed, being in seastar (all extrimities stretched) or foetus position, depending on your stomach’s opinion on that. It makes you just so unbelievably tired. Do you remember how it feels to be in bed with a hangover? Certainly there is a lot of movement where there is no. And now just imagine how it feels if the world around you truely is uncontrollably moving!!! All my energy seems to be fed into my bodys attempt to position itself in space, desperately trying to find its balance. All my capacities and reserves seem to be exhausted by that. Thus, coming after my duties were my only goals for the day: Like getting the shift responsibly done, loading up blog posts and transferring data of aerosol measurements in front of a screen, dancing as if it’s still on that mysterious party my pupills went to last night. And my pupills try to catch up – chanceless. The stomach finally takes over control (well, in a more or less controlled manner).
I could only hope there is no science talk, lecture  or weekly science seminar on the plan. Otherwise it means you have to sit in the most frightening room of the ship in terms of sensitivity to movement. The conference room. Weekly science meetings likely take about 1,5 hours because every single science poject and all measurements are introduced and discussed. It is an important part of the cruise program as it always helps to clarify measurement protocols, reveals error sources and increases your understanding of the overall picture, which is actually fun! But it also means there are a looooot of physical parameters and oceanographical plots shown. And where? Right – on a screen! All those screens everywhere! Plus, for me as a biological oceanographer plots of current velocities (Phew, it’s about movement…) plotted in every imagineable orientation are still complicated to read. Especially when your stomach keeps interfering. No matter how hard I try to be strong:

“Phew, ok Hanna, just…pull yourself together. Just listen, you don’t have to do anything else. It’s really easy. No worries! Come on!!”

… Nope! Just vegetating. Glad to survive somehow. It feels as if the waves lift up this particular room, to then delight us with a free fall of three meters. My stomach says hello again: I feel it slowly crawling up… it waves and gently reminds me of its existence. Grateful –  and obedient – as I am I’d provide him another piece of chocolate – and it’s crawling back to where it belongs. More or less satisfied.

© Hanna Campen

By now my sea sickness of course is gone. The sea calmed down and so did my stomach. And as always when there is a bad side, there is also a good side of it: I got to realize what a great job my body does every single second on this moving ship and what a gift it is to be balanced.
So, I hope I could take you with us on the RV Meteor, letting you take part in an experience what the beauty of the Southern Atlantic can also do to us when being on a ship.
However, it could not change my mind. Those waters still are a beauty to me.


One thought on “The Beauty of the Southern Atlantic

  1. Hi Hanna,

    thanks for sharing this experience with us. Surely those who have never been to sea can imagine now how it feels to be seasick. And those who have been to sea before vividly remember their seafaring days 🙂
    Nonetheless, I think you are right. There is a beauty at sea which is worth paying for with some days of fighting with your stomach.

    I wish you calmer days for the rest of the journey. And even more magic (besides scientific discoveries, of course).


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