Archive for the 'Ship’s Doctor' Category
This has been a great week! Our first task was to open up the base at Signy Island. Since it impossible to berth the ship at the small jetty on the island, so the adventure began with trips to shore in the small boats:
Once ashore we all got to work with various tasks; starting up the generators, fixing broken fences, taking down shutters etc. I was kept occupied helping to shovel snow to expose the path so that cargo could later be carried to the stores. All this frenzied activity was presided over by somewhat disinterested Elephant Seals – I must confess I was pleased at their apathy towards us — I should not have liked to pick a fight with one of those giants!
Posted by: Kelly-Marie Davidson on Monday, 24th Nov, 2008
Apologies for the absent diary entry last week – it’s been far too busy! The Atlantic science cruise has come to an end now that we have reached our first port of call Stanley, in the Falkland Islands. Sadly this means that we have had to say goodbye to many of the scientists who have by now become part of the furniture. After the farewell dinner and dancing, we said our goodbyes from the deck, as the Falkland Islands came into view:
Posted by: Kelly-Marie Davidson on Monday, 17th Nov, 2008
This week, I shall provide you with a glimpse of the social side of life on-board. Whilst the scientists and crew have to work hard and for long hours, they usually manage to balance the work with less arduous activities from time to time. For example, on our journey through the tropics, some have made the most of the fine weather by doing circuit training out on the deck. It is amusing to watch people struggle with sit-ups and press-ups; as the rolling of the ship mocks the unwary exerciser it becomes near impossible for them to complete the task, then suddenly you see them shoot up easily against gravity, as the ship rolls to the other side.
An alternative to working up a sweat in the evenings, was to chill-out in the paddling/swimming pool which was thoughtfully provided by the engineers. We’re hoping that the weather will settle soon, allowing us to indulge in an evening dip again.
But it is once the sun has gone down, that the excitement really begins: This week, it started with a game of Twister. As the doctor, I have a vested interest in ensuring that nobody gets hurt (so that my evening is not interrupted by having to run off an treat patients); whilst it is difficult enough to avoid injury when playing this game on terra firma, you can imagine the challenge when the floor itself is moving. Apart from a few minor bruises here and there, we did well!
To tempt fate further, the evening then progressed to people’s attempting various physical feats. These included a game in which the winner is he/she who is able to collect (using their teeth) a piece of cardboard from the floor, without bending their legs nor touching the floor with any body-part other than the soles of their feet. Unsatisfied with the ease of this challenge, some upped the stakes by standing on a raised platform.
The traditional bar-stool race, in which the contestant snakes in and out of the stools without touching the ground, was another example of a means to prove a high pain threshold and the true extent of one’s foolishness! I would like to point out, once more, that my involvement in such antics is purely from the perspective of journalistic curiosity, and of course, I would normally refrain, preserving my modest professional dignity!
Given that the people around me are thus far managing to evade major injury, I have taken up a bit of hair-dressing in my spare time. It provides me and the victim’s colleagues with a great deal of amusement, and those foolish enough to offer themselves up for my experimentation with their hair don’t yet appear to be too psychologically scarred by the experience. My first two volunteers were Paul and Ben:
The face paints come as an optional extra In fact, they set off a trend, and on 31st October, many could be spotted sporting a similar look.
It was on Halloween, in fact that Ash (chief cook), managed to catch me out: From time to time, I have offered my assistance in the galley (trying hard but probably not succeeding to avoid getting in the way) and on this particular day, Ash was teaching me how to make pickled onions. Demonstration over, I was sent to ask the Purser if he could give me the “long stand for the lamb burgers”. Oblivious to the set up, I duly headed off to the bridge in search of the purser. Fortunately he was not there and by the time dinner was served I had twigged and so did not have to stand for a long time waiting for my burger.
My other culinary embarrassment this week, for which I have been teased mercilessly was with the production of high quality Welsh-cakes: Pleased with the delicious little cakes, I thought all on-board would appreciate a warm, fresh Welsh-cake. I therefore took a tray around, knocking on peoples’ doors and offering them to all. It was only later that day that the etiquette with regards to doors was explained to me. Apparently those who are happy to be disturbed leave a curtain across their doorway, whilst those who are indisposed, showering, sleeping etc. keep the door closed. It is understood by all (including me now!) that a closed door means “do not disturb”. I had wondered why so many people had opened the door in various states of undress and of consciousness. Oops. But the Welsh-cakes went down well!
We have finally altered our course from due south, so that we are now heading direct to the Falkland islands. Along with the change in direction has come a change in the weather – it is now significantly cooler and more choppy. I am delighted to report that my sea-legs are holding up thus far, and unlike my first few days at sea, I am actually rather enjoying the movement of the ship – it certainly makes walking/showering etc. a lot more fun. With the change in weather, we have also met and are currently being chaperoned by many birds, including the Grey-Headed Albatross.
Hopefully as we progress closer toward our destination we should see more and more wildlife. I’ll keep my eye out for any good photos to show you next week.
Thanks to Mario, Ben, Jo and Mike for the photos in this week’s web diary.
(Diary and images courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey)
Posted by: Kelly-Marie Davidson on Sunday, 2nd Nov, 2008
At 2am on Friday, this good ship carried us over the line. I was a little disappointed to learn that there are no flashing lights, steps in the sea nor traditional song and dance for the watchmen to perform as they drove the ship into the southern hemisphere, and I hope that my arrival on the bridge dressed in a fake sailor’s hat, proclaiming “Ahoy there sailors!” and making the tea, will prompt more of an effort in the celebrations for next time.
It became clear however that the festivities had merely been postponed until later in the day, and they commenced with the Captain’s welcome aboard to King Neptune and his wife:
Once the formalities had taken place, it was time for Neptune’s police (“trusty shellbacks” as are called those who have previously been through this initiation) to begin their search of the ship. They were hunting for “pollywogs” – people who have never sailed over the equator.
From my hiding place in a cupboard on the bridge, I could hear giggles from those on watch as they witnessed (from a safe distance) the arrest of the first pollywog. Though, I hear, she put up a good fight, poor Manuela was overpowered and brought before the court of King Neptune for judgment.
Once the charges had been stated, and the pollywog in question given opportunity to plead innocent (an unwise move I later discovered), judge (Tom) would invariably then proceed to declare said pollywog as guilty.
Punishment began with a ceremonial shave by the barber and then the hair was washed and trimmed. The haircut was followed by being anointed and washed of sin (using a vile smelling concoction made up of last week’s food waste) by Neptune’s doctor (Riff):
Meanwhile, up on the bridge, I was feeling rather smug that I had found such a good hiding place whence I could hear the commentary from the watch keepers and learn that I was amongst the last to be caught. I had even started to think that I may not be found at all, and had made myself comfortable with a pillow in anticipation of a long night ahead. Little did I know that my trusted watch keeper colleagues were in cahoots with the police: I heard the bridge door open and the police were straight on to me. Resistance was futile (but attempted), and soon it was my turn to face the judge. I cannot understand why I had twice as many charges as the other pollywogs; perhaps it was my opening of the “charges suggestion box” with a scalpel and removing charges against me which antagonized the shellbacks?
Medicine consumed, the pollywog proceeds to “kiss the kipper” as demonstrated by Carolyn and Ross:
An important lesson was then taught to Johnny (chief of police): “trusty shellbacks” are clearly not to be trusted. They turned on their leader (because he had not brought his certificate and was thus unable to prove himself to be a shellback) and dressed him with the remainder of the truth serum:
This year the pollywogs had planned a counter-attack and it was judge Tom who got to taste his own medicine first followed by “Doctor” Riff. Tom seems to be blaming me for instigating this attack because it was I who shouted “pollywogs revolt!”, however as is evident from the photo, we were a united force. Days later Tom and I are still negotiating some form of truce.
Finally came the clean-up.
The day ended with a delicious Thai curry on the deck and dancing for those who were clean enough to be within sniffing distance of a dance partner. As always, a grand time was had by all – but I am relieved that as a new shellback, I will not have to suffer this ordeal again on the trip home!
(Diary and images courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey)
Posted by: Kelly-Marie Davidson on Sunday, 26th Oct, 2008
I promised to write about the scientists this week; my intention had been to try explaining the science that goes on on-board, however, as was pointed out to me, if people want to know about BAS science, they go to the research pages – people reading the web-diaries apparently want to know about everyday life. So that’s all you’re going to get: the everyday (but fascinating!) life of a ship’s scientist.
This rare breed of scientist chooses to begin each day at 4am (I sincerely hope, dear reader, that you appreciate my getting out of bed at an un-Godly hour one day this week all in the name of accurate journalism!). Dressed in a boiler suit (pajamas underneath as I had every intention of returning to bed as soon as my work was done) and fur-lined hard hat (for which I have been teased relentlessly – the fur is a little warm for the tropics, but I’ll be laughing when we get to the Antarctic!), I went down to the deck to see what these scientists really get up to. Expecting the deck to be teeming with scientific activity, I was a little disappointed to see only one or two scientists about. I wondered had they been exaggerating (as, I believe, scientists have a tendency to do) their start time? I am assured that they were all in one of the labs preparing for the retrieval of samples. On the deck, the ship’s crew were busy launching various collecting/measuring instruments into the sea.
It is only once the apparatus returns from the deep sea onto the deck, (circa 5am!) that the swarms of scientists appear, armed with little bottles to take their share of the collected sea water. The scientists then disappear back into their hiding places to play with the water samples. At this point it was time for me to return to bed, after all, I have a duty to remain on top-form, what good is a tired doctor? I do sympathize with the scientists and crew who are getting up so early each day, and I implore them not to have any accidents or illnesses until at least 9am!
Now I should hate to mis-represent these world-class scientists and lead you to believe that they are very serious, square types. Indeed they are hard-working, and are fascinated by data which most of us don’t appreciate nor understand, but they do like to have a laugh and be silly at times too: Take for example, the deep (5150m sampling station). On the day before this extra-long stop (positioned right in the centre of the North Atlantic), there was a palpable buzz amongst the scientists. As the day wore on I realized that the reason for all the excitement was more to do with the traditional production of decorated miniature polystyrene cups than it was to do with sample collection. By attaching (in a sock) a polystyrene cup to the equipment to be submerged, the cup becomes subjected to such high pressure at these great depths, that it returns to the surface having been miniaturized. Whilst, of course, I would ordinarily not partake in such silliness, I thought it necessary (for your sake, reader) to illustrate the technique, hence the web-diary cup:
At the end of a long and busy day, the scientists unwind (the rest of us do our best to assist this process) with a barbecue and discussion about the day’s findings.
Finally (just to make you smile), I’ll tell you about couple of my antics this week: Mike, the lovely Comms Officer, asked me to help by keeping an eye on him and communicating via walkie talkie as he climbed the mast to repair a light. I keep making a hash of radio communications by forgetting to press the button before I speak, turning off the volume etc. Whilst Mike was dangling precariously from the top of the mast, he had evidently tried to say something to me, but I didn’t receive (I suspect that on this occasion, it was he who was at fault for the failure in message transmission, but I maturely accept the blame). So when he sent the next message, by now sounding a little hot under the collar, I was baffled by the message. I was supposed to go and flick a switch but, not having received the message telling me to do so, was instead just sitting in the window staring at him through binoculars. Consequently Mike thought I was just messing about, leaving him stranded at the top of the mast! It all got quite confusing.. then amusing. By the time he got down, he was certainly in need of something to calm his nerves – as was I!
Oh – and just before that event, I had again caused much hilarity: The crew occasionally use arm signals to inform officers on the bridge of things happening outside. I had not realized this, so when one of the crew started gesticulating to one of the officers standing behind me on the bridge, I assumed he was just being silly, so did the same and then waved back. All rather embarrassing really – and another one, no doubt, to be added to the ever-growing list of charges against me for the “crossing the line ceremony” which is due to take place this coming week – I’ll let you know how that goes if I survive to write next week’s web-diary.
Posted by: Kelly-Marie Davidson on Sunday, 19th Oct, 2008
When approached earlier in the week to be asked if I would take on the responsibility of maintaining the JCR web diary, I felt quite honoured. I was told that the ship’s doctor always writes the web diary because the doctor is on-board for longer than everyone else, is always enthusiastic about the new environment in which they find themselves, and is perceived (incorrectly, I hasten to add!) to have ample free time. It is only now as I sit in front of the computer, for a considerable length of time, re-writing this first paragraph again and again, that I realize why nobody else offers to do it: how does one capture, in an interesting, humerous and accurate manner, and in just a few paragraphs, all the goings on aboard this vessel? As you see, I am stuck at the very first hurdle!
Nonetheless, I shall give it a go: I arrived to join the ship on 1st October. Somehow I managed to wangle getting my luggage delivered to my cabin by crane,which saved a lot of carrying up and down stairs, so my family (the would-be pack horses) and I were most grateful – though I suspect I may pay the price for having been spoiled like this when it comes to dishing out charges at the “crossing the line ceremony” (more about this in a few weeks). I did, however, regret balancing my cornet on the un-netted pallet as I watched all my worldly goods make their way precariously high above the dock and then on-board, but happily, such is the skill of the people involved that I need not have been alarmed, and all was delivered intact.
The next day I proceeded to make myself hugely popular with the crew and officers by sticking needles into each and every one of them. Sorry guys – this was not my idea. I was forced to do it! Again, I’m sure they’ll have their own back as we cross the line.
Our journey began on 3rd October in a cold and windy Immingham dock. Aware that the ship would take us through some of the roughest seas on earth, including Drake’s passage, I had been a little apprehensive about seasickness. What I had not anticipated was that the nausea and vomiting would begin immediately as we sailed out of the Humber into a severe gale force 9. Despite having access to various pills and potions, I did not escape. Suffice to say, after a week at sea I am fast becoming something of an expert in medicines and remedies to cure mal-de-mer!!
For those who (unlike me) were able to function in the rough weather, there was much work to be done. In addition to the general running and maintenance of the ship, its being a research vessel means that a lot of scientific work takes place. For this first leg of the journey (Immingham to the Azores), this includes testing of equipment, collecting samples of sea-water at various depths and times, mapping the ocean floor etc etc. More detail to come in next week’s diary entry (by which time I hope to understand a little better what it is that the scientists are doing!).
And for those of us who needed to spend a lot of time staring at the horizon (helps the nausea), our look-out has been rewarded by visits from dolphins and whales.
On Friday 10th October, we arrived at the Azores where five of our scientists deserted us (we’re very sorry to see them go, but look forward to seeing some of them again later in the season). I had until this point, not considered the at-sea-disembarkation technique; ignorance is bliss. When I learned that I too would, in Antarctic waters, have to climb down a rope ladder and jump backwards when the little boat is at the top of a wave, I was not best pleased.
I wonder if it is my position as doctor (whose job it is to sort out the aftermath once accidents have occurred) which is making me increasingly neurotic about any degree of risk-taking. I would be much happier if I could clothe everyone on board with a thick layer of cotton wool. This was exemplified yesterday when everyone on the monkey-island (top deck) was issued with a handful of factor 30 sun-cream, to be applied liberally, like it or not!
So, we’re now making our way down to the tropics, stopping twice daily in the name of science, and generally enjoying ourselves as we go. In next week’s diary I shall concentrate on the life of the ship’s scientists.
(Diary and images courtesy of the British Antarctic Survey)
Posted by: Kelly-Marie Davidson on Sunday, 12th Oct, 2008