By Karin Lochte and Karen Wiltshire| Being at Sea as a scientist on the RV Polarstern is a kind of surreal experience – one works all hours. Night becomes day and day becomes night. The ocean is the horizon and time is ship time. The crew is expert in helping in all situations and makes suggestions as to how deploy any gear. One has the feeling that nothing we suggest is too much bother. The crew watches over our safety, our food and our comfort: from the sea water supply in the lab. to the dispensing of sea sickness pills….
In return scientists have to learn to organize themselves as a team and the Chief scientist mediates and moderates every station and between scientists and crew. Every drop of water, cm3 of sediment, every m² of lab. or container space is precious and needs to be negotiated and doled out fairly. Everyone works terribly hard.
When one crosses the Equator, in a well-orchestrated piece of theatre, traditionally the Neptunists take control of the RV Polarstern and conduct a very elaborate ceremony of baptism (using coffee grounds and jelly pudding). In the lead up to this, all the “normal” persons on board (normal being the surrogate word for those baptized previously), become the butt of gentle teasing. Pamphlets, e-mails and telexes “arrive” on the ship and pretend to discredit the credentials of those in charge. Of course, on the RV Polarstern this is a difficult exercise, with the immense proven credibility of the crew and scientists on board. And this time the Neptunists had much more work than usual as they had to baptize 47 new arrivals from the Northern Hemisphere.
Yesterday the ship was back to normal. The mischievous rumours spread earlier by the non-baptized people about the illustrious crew of the RV Polarstern were proven to be completely unfounded. Now peace has returned to the ship and everyone got over the turmoil of the ceremony in good shape. The 32 students on board are baptized and marine science is again their accepted mainstay. Neptune has left for the Ocean.
We are back to spending hours organizing samplings and deliberating the stations en-route. We are back to standing on deck in heavy safety gear practicing hand signals with the winch driver- communicating succinctly with the deck crew, watching over our sampling of the Deep Blue.
Greetings from the RV Polarstern
Karen Wiltshire and Karin Lochte