Posted by: adorsk | January 14, 2009

Atlantic Transit

The Oceanus left Gibraltar on the 15th of November. We would transit across the Atlantic to arrive at the U.S. Virgin Islands on the 28th.

At first I was apprehensive about the transit. The North Atlantic is generally a wretched place to be in mid-November. Would we get walloped by storms? We opted to take Southerly route that would keep us out of the weather.

We were very fortunate. We had great weather for most of the transit. It was still fairly warm for most of the ride and we avoided big seas. A few days were eerily calm, almost mirror-smooth. Each day the clouds made a new pattern in the sky. Rainbows shimmered in and out.

Rainbow over the bridge controls

Rainbow over the bridge controls

Atlantic clouds

Atlantic clouds

A pacific Atlantic day

A pacific Atlantic day

There were flying fish everywhere. They continued to amaze me. Every few minutes a handful of fish would shoot out of the water as if launched by slingshot and glide for tens of meters.

Transit Musings: A Highly Meta Section

There was a definite mental shift during the transit. There had been times during the previous cruises when I really thought about how far away from home I was. Sometimes I felt like I would never get home. I thought about how awful it would be to be stuck in the Middle East. But now it felt like we were in the homestretch. If the ship had to get back to WHOI we could be there within two weeks, it would be a straight shot. There were only two cruises left.

Time kept flying by. One night I had been listening to a RadioLab show about how people perceive time. The show mentioned types of exotic clocks: smell-clocks that released a different spice for every hour, or bird clocks that played bird songs appropriate to each season. I thought about how I perceived time passing by on the ship: the shrinking of a toilet paper roll, the opening of a new bag of tea, the start of a new bag of bread. The renewal of small cycles marked the days.

I also thought about how my environment shapes what I think about. On the ship I had much more control of what went into my head. There were no flashing signs or talking heads crashing through the doors of my mind. I only granted access to the things I chose to read or listen to. ‘Yes, Guy D’Maupassant, please enter. Yes, NPR podcasts, the cerebellum is right this way.’

This controlled environment was both good and bad. In some ways it was refreshing. I found myself much less anxious not having The Media?s issues d?jour flying around my head. But it was also stultifying. I found myself having fewer and less diverse thoughts; my journal entries during the transit were almost all the same: ‘woke up. It was (cloudy|sunny|rainy). Coded. Read (Guy D’Maupassant|An Old New Yorker). Listened to (RadioLab|This American Life|Fresh Air). Played guitar. Now to bed.’ I don?t know what I thought about, if anything, during the day. It was a state of near-mindlessness.

In this near-mindlessness I found primordial memories drifting up. I would be typing away at my computer and from out of nowhere would come visions of summer camp in Wiscasset, or a swingset, or Mr. Wilkinson, my third grade teacher. ‘Where did that come from? I haven’t thought of that in years…’

Perhaps the mind does house-cleaning when nothing new is coming in. Or maybe it?s a kind of cognitive leaking that?s always been there, a constant trickle of old memories that is usually drowned out by the daily flood sensation and novelty. Only at sea does the world become quiet and simple enough for the trickle to be heard.

I found that I developed a subconscious ship sense. A few times during the transit the ship slowed down in the middle of the night. Each time I woke up, and could immediately tell that the pitch of the ship was different. I could tell how big the waves were from bed, and which direction they were coming from.

Thanksgiving And To The Islands

We had Thanksgiving on the ship one day before we reached the Virgin Islands. It was nice. JA the steward and JH the messman cooked up the whole thanksgiving spread. Turkey, stuffing, yams, it was all there. We lingered a little longer after dinner before going back to work.

It was a good time to take stock of the past few months. I really had been very lucky. I had been healthy and provided for. I had gotten to see new parts of the world and meet many great people.

The next morning we arrived at the islands.

Other Pictures

one day the engineers were cleaning out old barrels.  I took advantage of the opportunity to make a self portrait.

Self-portrait in oil: one day the engineers were cleaning out old barrels. I took advantage of the opportunity to make a self portrait.



  1. […] Atlantic Transit […]

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