Rough seas require the crewmembers to tie themselves into their bunks.
Photo: Chris Johnson
February 10, 2002
This is Genevieve Johnson speaking to you from the Odyssey.
After having found and collected tissue samples from sperm whales directly west of Fremantle in the Perth Trench, we are now embarking on our next research leg. This trip will see the Odyssey and her crew sail 200 nautical miles north toward Geraldton.
Over the last couple of weeks, we have been experiencing a sizable swell that is not at all unusual for this time of the year in Western Australian waters. Unfortunately for several of the crew, this has meant succumbing to a condition that is the dread of any mariner - seasickness.
Seasickness is caused by stimulation of the nonauditory sense organs of the inner ear that discharge patterns of nerve impulses to the brain. Some people never succumb to seasickness, others grow accustomed to the roll of the boat with increasing exposure. Other rare individuals, some of whom have spent time onboard Odyssey, are never able to adapt to even the most subtle rolling of the boat. Those who have endured it will agree, there is scarcely a more contemptible condition where the sheer despair and lack of respite is almost unbearable
Great sailors have suffered from seasickness since man first put to sea, while many a whaling boat crewman has jumped ship at the first sight of land never to be seen again in order to avoid the wretchedness of being seasick. Herman Melville made his first whaling voyage aboard the Acushnet in 1841, gaining the experience which was to lay the foundation for writing Moby Dick. Melville only lasted six months before jumping ship, he could not stomach the gloomy, cramped conditions below deck. Frank T. Bullen gives us some insight into the life onboard a Yankee whaler in his book 'Cruise of the Cachelot.
"As night fell, the condition of the non-sailor portion of the crew was pitiable. Helpless from seasickness, not knowing where to go or what to do, bullied relentlessly by the ruthless petty officers - well, I never felt so sorry for a lot of men in my life."
While working of the coast of Perth, the seas have been so unforgiving at times that almost our entire ship's compliment, except the Captain and First Mate, have fallen victim. Huge, rolling swells abeam has meant those of us in top bunks have been forced to use lee clothes to tie ourselves in. The pleasant aroma drifting from the galley, often the highlight of a day without whales, only serves to prompt many a crewmember to run for the pilothouse door and fresh air.
Suddenly life on board is filled with complexities of incomprehensible proportions, everything is difficult…cooking, walking, standing, sitting, drinking, and sleeping. In the end, attempts to accomplish any of these basic tasks are simply abandoned as we wait in misery for a change in the weather.
Fortunately, every day at sea is different. Last night we heard whales on the acoustic array and this morning we awoke to a gentle 10-knot breeze, a comfortable 2-foot swell and a glorious blue sky. On days like today, memories of yesterday are quickly forgotten and cast adrift.
Log by Genevieve Johnson