Close to Land, Not Close to Landing

by srosengard

Sunday, February 26 was a belated celebration of one week on the Revelle. The waves have undulated from less than 10 feet to more than 20 feet to less than 10 feet again, from green to blue to gray to blue, while our bodies have undulated between fatigue and energy, between faint seasickness and sharp clear-mindedness.

With one week behind me, I recall how the more experienced travelers on board have recounted to me what five at-sea weeks might feel like. Some statements have been contradictory. There are those who are wary of being with the same crowd of people for 35 days, and they forecast that five weeks will take a special toll on social tolerance. At the same time, however, there are some that are all the more optimistic that we will remain a cohesive and bright group. For now, I agree with the latter; we make a good group of thinkers, talkers, laughers, jokers, doers, eaters, cleaners, helpers, problem-solvers, teachers, students, and friends.

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Numerous birds landed on the water beside the Revelle as we skimmed past the Crozet Islands in the Southern Ocean.

I have noticed, however, one statement of consensus among the seafaring experts. By the end of week 5, they say, you will want to get off. I can believe that. The need to stretch your legs on anchored land, on a ground that isn’t swaying, must be innate for those who come from the terrestrial animal kingdom, which happens to be all of us. And the cardio gym that we have on board cannot replace this desire for level space; it is hard for your legs to forget that you are on water when you are on water.

Almost as a test of one week’s endurance, the Revelle was very close to land today, the closest we have been since we first departed Durban one week ago. They were the Crozet Islands of the Southern Ocean, discernible by binocular and only through sheets of atmospheric haze to be a mass of angular rocks on the sea. The islands are likely uninhabited by people, making our vessel the closest human population. Yet flocks of seabirds—mainly albatrosses and petrels—gathered around us as we set up station, hinting at some community of wildlife that these nearby islands might harbor in the austral summer. But we focused on the water, not the land. We stayed on the Revelle, collected a lot of seawater, and did very rewarding research.

We will pass at least two other island clusters over the next four weeks; perhaps then we will feel a greater need to land and stretch our legs.

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