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Dispatch 3: Under Way

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Peter Lourie

September 22, 2016

We’re told to shut doors quietly, inner and outer, and to keep our voices down in the corridors since someone is always sleeping, someone always working.

4 a.m. The halls are empty.  Then a voice behind me.  Leading Seaman Gillian Annable says Good Morning.  I haven’t seen her for two days since she told me everyone gets lost when they first come aboard.  I say, “It’s good to see you.”  She says, “It’s good to be seen.”  To which I reply, “Better than not being seen, eh?!”  She laughs and says, “That happens sometimes on a big ship.”  Then she vanishes into thin air, below, or above, or around a corner, maybe to retire to her cabin after night watch, and I wonder when I’ll see her cheery face again.

On the way to breakfast at 7:30 I get fleeting glimpses of faces I’ve seen before. I’m working on the names, as I do when I teach the first day of class and try to learn my students’ names by the second day, but memorizing these more than 80 names is going to take considerably longer.

Sarah and Rick had the idea of getting photos of everyone onboard and putting it up somewhere.  I’m taking portrait photos of each scientist and the nurse Amelie Francoeur has offered to take photos of the faces of the crew.

The science staff is setting up their labs and drifters and instruments, disinfecting collecting bottles for sampling.  When the water is sampled, there’s an order to what is sampled when.  Unstable gases like Oxygen have to be distributed first.  A bustle of activity and anticipation all around the ship.


Lunch at 11:30 comes so fast on the heels of breakfast one wonders where the time went.

Rick Krishfield, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, who has been on all 14 Beaufort Gyre trips, says to me in the mess hall, “Meals at 7:30, 11:30 and 4:30.  Before I started working out on the ice (stationing buoys) I couldn’t imagine eating dinner so early.  Afterwards, whenever it gets to be around 3 p.m., I’m wondering will they ever serve dinner!”

A number of scientists like Adam Monier say they worked out in the gym this morning; it was practically empty.  We joke that with meals like the ones we’re having, we’ll all need to do extra workout time. I have yet to start!


Some sea journeys have a little better Internet than we have. The whole Canadian Coast Guard fleet uses the same satellite bandwidth, so the Wi-Fi might spit out a text or email in the middle of the night when few are using the system.  But many of the ones we send get clogged in the pipeline and there’s no telling when or if they’ll be sent.  Often the digital message on my cell phone is “Try again.”  What’s so bizarre is that every cabin has a television in it with satellite connection, and I can watch hockey or football games in real time, but I can’t send emails.  I’ve chosen not to watch any TV.

We’re going to get a ship email address which we can use on the ship computers.  But attachments and photos? Ha!  Right!  Accessing the web on our own computers? Impossible. Rick Krishfield and Sarah Zimmermann have an Iridium sat connection so they actually have ways to get updated ice information and to send out items like these dispatches and low-res photos; they can communicate semi-normally with the world.

Finally the tanker heads off and we’re under way.

It’s such a solid ship when we begin to move forward there are small rolling, gently undulating sways.  When you stand you feel mildly inebriated, the good kind, before the kind that throws you to the floor or a chair. 

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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