Blog: Sailing off towards the ice

Sailing off towards the ice by Julia Rulent

Julia Rulent is currently taking part in the JR18002 cruise in the Southern Ocean as part of the ORCHESTRA project. Here she tells us about life onboard ship.

After our first few lucky sunny days exploring the Falkland Islands, enjoying the unexpected warmth of this bright southern hemisphere summer, and trying to befriend as many penguins and sheep as we saw to make the most of last few days on land, here we are, finally moving on board of the RRS James Clark Ross.

Melanie Leng (BGS) and Julia Rulent (Bangor and Liverpool) on board the RSS James Clark Ross.

This impressive research vessel reaching almost 100m length will be our home, our workplace, our leisure space, and essentially our life for the next few weeks on board. After settling in our cabins, mobilization started straight away. Mountains of equipment boxes are sorted and all labs were built in a couple of hectic days of drilling, tying, nailing, or calibrating, in order to secure all kit and get ready for science at sea. We celebrated our last evening in Stanley with a few beers at the local pub (which was actually a shipping container…!) and we are ready to go!

Very soon after we sail, the Southern Ocean welcomes us with stormy weather and high waves, but sea sickness aside, isn’t that part of the adventure? We should have guessed by the “seat belts” we found on our beds that the ocean might get a little choppy. Here, between the furious 50’s and the screaming 60’s, the wind really does shout as if ghosts were haunting the ship at night. Despite the rocking and rolling that somehow makes walking around the ship feel more like a rollercoaster ride, we are all enjoying the great meals served on board by the crew and the sharing of quite a few laughs, and  with way too competitive board games. There are also guitars to play, a lot of films which we can enjoy while having a drink at the bar onboard the ship. Being on the ship can feel like being in a different century, maybe part of a ‘Master and commander’ film scene. At times when the agitated sea runs under the grey sky where somehow seabirds persist flying in, both the ship and the waves seem to move in slow motion and time freezes.

The view from the ship in slightly choppy waters in the Drake Passage.

A few technical problems meant that the work on board didn’t start straight away, but I have been spending my time staring at the horizon from the “monkey head” (the highest part of the ship) and the bridge, searching for whales and icebergs, which we all wish to see at some point during our journey. I think we are all looking forward to the rest of this expedition, I will update you in a few weeks!

Julia is currently a PhD student at the Universities of Bangor and Liverpool, and is on the ORCHESTRA cruise across the Drake Passage to gain experience of science at sea.

One Comment on “Blog: Sailing off towards the ice

  1. Thank you very much for your kind words. The blogs really do help set the scene as to what it’s like taking part in fieldwork out on the oceans. More blogs to follow! Thanks for your support. All the very best with your novel. Kind regards the ORCHESTRA Project Office at the British Antarctic Survey.


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