In Between Work and Science

by srosengard

Now that we have completed nearly the 5 full weeks of this cruise, I can begin to reflect on how much I have learned about the proper usage of free time at sea. It is both a treasured and telling type of time. When work happens every day, possible at any hour, and when Saturdays and Sundays are just another work day, free time is not to be taken for granted (although it is still to be taken lightly).  At the same time, when the resources of fast internet, Youtube, and real-world space are virtually non-existent, creativity becomes a very important surrogate.

Ping-pong brackets

The massive family tree and scoreboard of contestants in this year's ship-wide ping-pong tournament on Revelle.

One of the greatest creations has been the Revelle ping-pong tournament. It has now mustered together most of the science and ship’s crew, forging allegiances and adversaries that would have been unfathomed otherwise. The ping-pong table is situated at the center of the Main Lab on the ship, and at all times of day a passer-by just might hear the sounds of bouncing balls, cheers and groans amidst the drones of filtering pumps and seawater chemistry analyzers.

In the tournament, there are two brackets: one for advancing winners and one for advancing losers. For the first place of the winners tier, Mike, a graduate student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, is slated to take on Eddie the oiler (an engineer’s companion). As both are highly adept and reputable players within the Revelle league, it is difficult to predict who will take the final victory for first place. These tournament games are not short of their own twists and turns. The losers’ bracket has its share of talented players, as well, who just had one bad day or just could not cut it against their first opponent. Among them are Phoebe and Patrick. As the eldest female and male ping-pong players on board, Phoebe and Patrick have banded together in challenging the entire ship in team tennis outside the Tournament.

While ping-pong goes on, several other things happen as we alternate through different breaks. Every other night is poker night, where I have learned the complexities of reading people, memorizing the rules of cards, and adopting new traditions. I would say that there is slightly more stress and more at stake (5 dollars, to be precise) at the poker table, but then again, there are some who really, really want to win ping-pong, too.

Finally, there is no shortage of board games here. Sometimes rolling waves make it impossible to survive a game of chess or Scrabble. But cards are popular, and far more manageable. I notice that people’s different passions come out with cards, for there are so many different games and so many strange games, for that matter. For some, the best kick comes out of the Bean Game, which is reminiscent of Go Fish, but at its heart a game of farming and trade, capitalism and communism. For others, the classic 52-card deck makes for a good afternoon or evening. Most importantly, there is always someone else around, so solitaire is almost never the likely choice.