PITCHING AND ROLLING, LAST YEAR’S VIDEO AND OUR FIRST ICEBERGS

by Melanie Duchin

February 4, 2007

On Sunday the ship started to roll and pitch again.  It started at 4am, or at least that’s the time that the movement woke me up from a sound sleep and kept me up for the rest of the night.  The wind and waves increased for much of the morning so that by 11am, the ship was being pummeled by 10m/33ft swells coming from the starboard side, and the wind was regularly clocking in at the high 40 knot range with gusts into the 50s.  A lot of us were in the bridge hanging on to railings or permanently mounted objects, leaning to the right and then shifting to the left as the ship rolled 30 degrees.  I’ve finally gotten over my ridiculous fear that somehow the ship will capsize when it rolls, so I quite enjoyed it.

At around 11am Gavin, the videographer, fastened a camera (lens facing the ship) to the foremast. Once he was back inside Captain Frank turned the ship’s bow right into the waves so Gavin could get some good footage of the ship plowing through some rough seas.  The ship stayed on that course for about an hour, and every so often the ship would ride up on a swell and then slide down into a deep trough, sending tons of water (literally) spraying up and around the bow of the ship, filling the entire deck of the ship’s bow with water. It looked like a white water river flowing toward the stern and out the scuppers on deck.  Daniel, the photographer, was out on a bridge wing (the small decks on each side of the bridge) taking photographs and he got drenched by a wave… and that’s 10m/33 feet up from the waterline!

The ship continued to pitch and roll all day yesterday.  It’s tough to do much of anything in that kind of weather, which leads to a wee bit of boredom. I didn’t mind it that much because I know that once we find the whaling fleet we’ll be working full-tilt for days or weeks without stopping.  I also managed to get through the day without getting seasick, so perhaps maybe this is my first trip where I do indeed "get used to it" with time.

Last night we gathered in the mess to watch crew videos from past expeditions. The last one we saw was from last year’s Southern Ocean expedition.  It included very disturbing footage of a minke whale that had been harpooned, had a huge gash in its tail and was thrashing in the water, spewing blood everywhere. It was really, REALLY tough to watch, and after a while it just got to be too much and I had to leave the room.  I can’t believe the Japanese government has the chutzpah to call that "research."  It is so wrong on so many levels.  I mean, just what part of "Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary" don’t they understand?  But I can’t direct all of my anger at the Japanese government since its governments like the U.S. who have stood by for the last thirteen years, failing to defend the Sanctuary, as well as failing to hold the Japanese government accountable for violating it. Surely the United States can do better than that.  It’s high time for the U.S., and other pro-conservation governments, to put their money where their mouth is and put an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. What are they waiting for?

This morning we saw our first icebergs – big tabular giants that looked like they had just calved off an ice sheet or glacier. They were stunning. And it just started snowing outside, which makes me feel more at home! Time to break out the woolly hat…

More soon,
Melanie

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