I have never been affected by island fever. When I was going to school in Hawaii, people used to ask me, “Don’t you get island fever?” when I got back from a semester at UH-Hilo. “No, although sometimes I do get Hilo fever,” I would respond, referring to the fact that it was hard for me to get out of Hilo due to school, work, and no car. I understand why people would feel trapped on an island but it just never phased me.
I think about that question now that I have been on a ship for close to a month. I guess one would call it Palmer Fever. And the answer is “No, I don’t get Palmer Fever.” I think the reason is we stay busy everyday. The last two days have been up-on-your-feet-for-12-hours kind of days. By the end, everyone is pretty exhausted. However, there are slow days and we have free time when we come off shift. So what do we do? We have found fun and quirky ways to keep busy, on and off shift.
While passing time on a slow shift, most people read, write papers, or help another group with their sampling. Occasionally, someone will post a crossword and passers-by will stop to fill out a word or phrase on their way between jobs. For the students, downtime during shift is a perfect time to write a blog, check email, or peruse papers that our PIs have assigned.
During our time off, there are a surprising number of activities to keep a person busy:
- Sleeping: we are usually falling over by 3AM after a noon to midnight shift (for the day shifters). This counts as fun for a bunch of students.
- Cornhole tournament: there has been a fair amount of smack-talk and off-hours practicing as people are starting to get competitive.
- Movie night: each night after a day shift, a couple of the ship’s mates host a movie in the lounge, which they call Action Theater. Action Theater usually involves comedies/action flicks and high-tech Nerf guns.
- Working out: In addition to individual workouts, we have a sign up sheet for pushups/sit ups. Every time an instrument goes into or comes out of the water, you have to do however many pushups/sit ups you signed up for. I signed up for 10 push ups, so if a core is deployed I have to do 20: 10 for in the water, 10 for out of the water. I think I have done about 450 pushups, with about 100 to catch up on.
- Galley socializing: On a busy day, like today, dinner is a short affair. However, after shift is done, a group will often spend 45 minutes in the galley just hanging out and chatting.
We also love to celebrate:
- Birthdays: the birthday researcher/crew member gets balloons with their name on them in the galley and sometimes a special treat if they ask the cook nicely.
- Holidays: celebrating holidays is a great way to keep track of time. Without celebrating Valentine’s Day, I honestly wouldn’t know it was the middle of February.
- New discoveries: a 1000 m-deep basin is not only scientifically critical to our study of ice shelf evolution, it is also an opportunity to shrink colorful Styrofoam cups (which we decorate with the enthusiasm of kindergarteners).
- Cruise milestones: nothing screams celebration like crossing the Antarctic Circle. No more Pollywogs (those who have crossed south of 66.333 S and not appeased King Neptune) on this cruise; we’re all Shellbacks now!
I will be excited to go home and see family and friends after the cruise (and wear sandals and shorts again!) but maybe all you readers will understand why I don’t get Palmer Fever – I’m having too much fun!