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Week 2: Life on board the Tangaroa

Imagine 44 people confined to a small hotel for 50 days, attending a science workshop that ran 24 hours a day. This sums up life on board. Add the sea motion and the sub-zero temperature factor, and you get the full image. Cold and snow meant staying indoors until work took you out on deck, apart from short visits to look at the view of icebergs and the wildlife, of course. To counteract the confined environment, life was made as comfortable as possible with three cooked meals a day at 7am, 11.30am and 5pm, with plenty of snacks in between. There were TV/DVD lounges and quiet areas, a large DVD collection, library, gym, sauna, single or double berth cabins with ensuite, and email service home (and work of course). Unfortunately, there was no internet available and all communications were satellite based.

Since the Tangaroa is a research ship, all on board had specific tasks. Everyone worked watches – the majority on a 12 hour on 12 hour off cycle, the deck officers 4 hours on and 8 hours off and others such as the engineers on day work and night call-out. All personnel were kitted out with cold weather work clothing from thermal underwear and socks, gloves, balaclava, thermal boots and a thermal/flotation worksuit. As in all institutional type environments, there was a set hierarchy. The captain was in charge of all ship operations, navigation and safety, and the voyage leader had overall control of the research programme.

IPY blogs week 2

Cold fingers on a warm day

We crossed the Antarctic Circle and I was soon reminded that operating cameras and keeping fingers warm can be a challenge. With a temperature around 0 degrees considered a warm day, I set my camera up on deck to record entering the pack ice for the first time. Soon, the polar chill began to penetrate my gloved hands. While dexterous fingers are needed to operate the camera, hands need to be covered in about 3 layers of glove, mitt and windproof outer in order to respond to commands. It's one of the great curses of filming here but a small price to pay for the privilege of recording the work of scientists 50 years after the last International Polar Year.

Written by Max Quinn, Film Maker

Galley and mess room or, for landlubbers, kitchen and dining room

If the bridge is the brain of the ship, the mess is its heart. Here, crew and scientists come together for meals, to meet as a group, to chat and enjoy each other’s company. Everyone is looking forward to the daily dishes the cooks have created. If the food is good, everyone is happy. Careful planning is essential. Once you sail and you forgot something, you can’t go back. There is one down side to working in the galley – on bad weather days, the rolling of the ship causes equipment to move around and pots can jump off the stove, which means staying alert to avoid being injured and having to cook something new!

Written by Brian Samuels, Cook

Get video: The ships galley

Getting into a routine

As we edged closer to the ice, everyone got into the routine of the watches, to set their sleep patterns. The ship seems emptier and quieter now, with only half the number of people up at any one time. Everyone still gets together at the regular emergency drills. Meetings are taking place more frequently, to plan for difficulties that may arise once we arrive at the sampling stations and to prepare for sampling. In the colder temperatures, the hot food the galley team prepares is much appreciated and hot drinks are now a staple diet. Everyone is dressing for the cold, with multiple layers of thermals, woolly hats, scarves and gloves.

Written by Stacey Mulgrew

Get video: A guided tour of the Tangaroa

A student’s life on board the Tangaroa

Life on board has been great, and it is easy to get into a routine of yummy meals and evening movie sessions. Since setting sail a week ago, I have set up my lab space and prepared some work. As we carefully wind our way through the pack ice, it feels like we have finally arrived in Antarctica. This is especially apparent when I have to put on all my cold weather gear to help with the incubators outside. Well looked after with a never-ending supply of ice cream, cheese and choccy biscuits, I am looking forward to seeing all the weird and wonderful Antarctic animals.

Written by Matt Knox, Student, University of Waikato

The ship’s surgery

I did not need to think twice to join the Tangaroa as the ship’s doctor, to set up a surgery in the world’s most stunning scenery. While our hospital facilities are limited, we have medication capable of treating everything from athlete’s foot to indigestion. We have a range of surgical instruments, some basic dentistry gear, dressings, plaster for fractures, a defibrillator and emergency resuscitation gear. Hopefully, none of it will ever be needed! One potential risk is hypothermia (the body’s core temperature drops below normal). To treat this, we have a 'Bair Hugger', a large baffled blanket that fills with heated air and cocoons the patient, allowing slow but safe and steady reheating of the body’s core.

Written by Jenny Vissor, Doctor

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