Alethea Mountford Archive

Preparing for your first research cruise

By Alethea Mountford

On the 16th November, I travelled from Newcastle to Cambridge, from Cambridge to Brize Norton airport in Oxford, and from there I flew to Mount Pleasant airport in the Falkland Islands. After a few days in Stanley, I boarded the RRS James Clark Ross, and so began my first research cruise (JR17001), travelling south from Stanley with a stop off in Rothera, and back to Stanley towards the end of December (or at least that was the plan). I had little idea what to expect, or what to pack, so in the months and weeks leading up to my departure I spent a long time on the Internet searching for packing lists and other people’s experiences. These are a few things I wish someone had told me before I left, and things that I learned while I was away…

  • Make a packing list and actually stick to it – I made a list, but ended up doing the majority of my packing a couple of nights before I left and realised when it was too late that I had no idea what I had actually packed 

  • Seasickness tablets can make you feel really awful – I took a couple of seasickness tablets when we first started steaming, as I wasn’t sure how I would fare at sea, and I wasn’t prepared for how out of it I would feel because of the tablets. It’s obviously best to take them as a precaution but be prepared for the side effects!  

  • Things will most likely not go to plan, try to be as flexible as you can – bad and unpredictable weather can lead to changes in plans at a moment’s notice leading to changes in timings, direction and science schedules.  

  • Be prepared for every eventuality, particularly when it comes to your journey home – I had anticipated getting back to Newcastle a few days before Christmas, so had a train ticket booked from there to my parent’s a couple of days after I was scheduled to get back. I ended up arriving back to Heathrow on Christmas Eve, so ended up having to book new train tickets back up as I hadn’t taken my train tickets with me.  

  • Speak to as many different people as you can – you never know who you may end up on a cruise with; people from other disciplines may be able to offer a perspective on your work that you hadn’t considered, people from the same discipline may be able to offer advice on your methods or make you aware of new pieces of work.  

  • Take earplugs and an eyemask – depending on if you’re bunking with other people, you may have very different shift patterns (I was working midnight-noon and my cabin mate was working noon-midnight), so getting a decent amount of sleep might be a challenge! 

  • Don’t spend the whole time looking through a camera – of course taking photos is important, particularly if you’re somewhere beautiful, but make sure you spend time in the moment appreciating what’s around you. 

If you want to read more about what me and the rest of my team got up to on JR17001, check out the Drake Passage blog

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