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Dispatch 12: Weekends of Work and Play aboard the Louis

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Peter Lourie

October 1, 2016

Weekends aboard the Louis have a different flavor from week days, but not by a whole heck of a lot.  Work goes on round the clock, ship work, science work, the night people and the day people doing the rosette casts and collecting samples.  Other scientists running water samples through their labs.

Sarah Zimmermann, Director of Science for the trip gave the crew two tours of the science operations aboard.  At each station people were able to explain what they’re doing in the Beaufort. Michiyo, Mike, Steve, Tamara, Kelly, Adam, Arthi, David, Mark, and Marty talked a little about data collection and about the science behind this.  It was great for a non-scientist like me to hear things encapsulated.

Communication with the outside world is a bit primitive even in this day of high tech.  Some of the crew admit the Louis could have high-speed internet if the CCG moved as quickly as it really should in order to attract and keep young people who have grown up with social media.  We do have an odd combination of a few t.v. channels (I get ABC through Detroit! Plus a few sports channels and an internal streaming movie channel), but we can’t access a single web page and therefore can’t do what most of us normally do every day back home – Google a fact, check spelling, cross reference some history.  I understand from veteran scientists that former trips were a bit more web-accessible; perhaps some piece of equipment isn’t working.  One very good reason for having reliable internet aboard, however, might simply be the time (and money) it would save when engineers need to cross reference a broken part, something that happens more often when the Louis is working on all five engines against thick ice.

Being left to my own devices is a good thing.  Finally I understand the warning that I’m getting too dependent on my Garmin Nuvi, that I’m becoming a zombie, that I need to pull out an actual road map to keep my brain from going numb. How many times a real paper map might have saved me from wrong turns and wrong routes. A paper map can exercise your brain.  But I’ll probably never use one again ever since my email/google brain is already mush. Here aboard the Louis I feel like I’m getting in touch with old-fashioned maps.

Ran into Gillian again at 6 AM (she’s everywhere, as are the other Seamen).  Gillian was doing a nightly “fire round.”  During the day the officers and the crew roam many parts of the ship and if there is a fire or smoke or any smell that isn’t quite right, it’ll likely be found.  In the day the Bosun walks the ship to make sure that everything is secure and lashed and prepared for sea.  But at night when few roam the Louis, the Seaman on duty, in this case Gillian, has the job of walking the ship every hour on the half-hour, standing in places for a moment, sniffing, and moving on.

She also talks about when she’s watching the ice on the bridge.   She says she loves to navigate through ice.  When we first hit ice on a trip, it’s just avoidance, she says.  Avoiding all ice if possible, but once we’re in it, it’s like reading a river, watching for rapids and finding the best channels.

In the computer lounge early today Clerk/Storekeeper Mike Goodwin showed me videos he made on his iPhone of the Louis helping the Newfoundland/Cape Breton year-round ferry break out of the ice.  He just happened to be on the back deck that day in bright sunlight and got incredible footage of the Louis backing up to a few feet of the ferry’s bow then the propellers on the Louis revving up and bubbling the water down near the ferry’s bow.  That’s what the Louis does in addition to ferrying scientists around the Arctic; it rescues ships in need and brings supplies to ice-bound Arctic villages.  Mike then showed me a spectacular video of three polar bears close to the ship.  Polar bears can get curious about the ship when it’s sitting still.

As with every Saturday night, there was a spirited game of bingo in the mess hall, scientists and crew alike. Lots of laughter and old-time ribbing and fun.  After bingo, many gravitated to the bar.

Tomorrow the game of Murder begins and lasts for a week.  There’s a sign-up sheet in the canteen.  One person draws the murderer card and he/she can “kill” someone but not at their place of work, not in large groups, and only in a room that has more than one door, for escape. If you accuse someone of being the murderer and he/she is not, you’re dead.  Actually there are three pages of rules and I haven’t read them yet so I might be getting this wrong.  And probably will be murdered soon.

To learn more about Peter Lourie click here.

Last updated: October 7, 2019

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