Life, reality, and change. These three matters are the unavoidable and the uncontrollable road blocks that are sometimes thrown into the center of our paths… and manage to completely shatter our plans, and our chances to achieve our goals.
Unfortunately I have had to return home from campaign (Operation Zero Tolerance). I guess you could say that I am one of those people who never grew out of motion sickness. I”m not sure why I thought I could live on a ship at sea, seeing how I get extremely car sick (always have) and have problems scuba diving because of my ears.
Let me start at the beginning…
We left port in Melbourne with a small, but sweet, sendoff. I remember there being a few kids running around with stuffed whale toys. I want whales to be around when they are my age and older. I don’t want cetaceans to be something that future generations read about in a history textbook. They can’t be another animal driven to extinction by greed driven human interests.
That was pretty much all I was thinking about while we slowly pulled away from port.
That night, I got off my watch at midnight and tried to fall asleep. But I woke up at 4am feeling woozy and decided to take a walk, hoping it would distract me. It didn’t.
Later I managed to fall back asleep, but when I got up… all I wanted was ginger ale and crackers. I was on a seasickness medication as well (but this stuff wasn’t very good).
I remember going to the mess and eating two apple muffins while laying on the floor. The mess is where there is usually the least amount of movement. So it helps to lay in there while you’re feeling sick.
We saw a pod of dolphins swimming off of the bow that morning, though. It was amazing. I’ve been close enough to touch them before, but never like this. They were dancing between each other and jumping, twisting, spinning etc. Just surfing the waves off our bow. They stuck around for several minutes just watching us watch them… and then like a ballet they all turned off quickly and disappeared. Pretty incredible.
Over the next few days I started to feel worse, not better. At first the seasickness was different from the transit I did from Sydney to Melbourne… instead of being nauseous all the time, I felt like all my energy was resting in my shoulders and that nothing I ate was settling. It was uncomfortable… but I could live with uncomfortable. Sad to say it got exhausting, painful, and torturous.
Every time I walked into a companionway I thought I was going to projectile vomit all over the floor. I cannot even remember what I did some days… outside of my watches… because I was either so sick I A. did nothing, or B. so drugged up when I was off my watch that I couldn’t stay awake. I slept almost every night on the floor in the mess… because every time my cabin moved I looked for the waste basket. I can pretty much count on one hand the amount of days I was able to hold down food…
But honestly I will spare you the details of my two week spew fest, and just explain to you why I chose to leave the campaign.
I really don’t think I could describe to you all how sick I was, and how horrible I felt every day without completely grossing you out. I didn’t even let anyone on the ship know how sick I was until week 2 at sea… but I was getting exhausted pretending to fell better than I was.
I think for those of you who have been following my blog for a long time, you know that I’m willing to sacrifice a lot of this cause and that comfort is not my priority. However, sometimes you have to think about your limitations.
If you know horrible seasickness, you know that at your best, you think you’re going to die. And that at your worst, you think you are going to have to live in that state for the rest of time because you don’t see yourself ever being able to escape the misery.
It is exhausting feeling like you need to spew almost every hour of every day. And those seasickness pills are not okay to be on every day, either. I changed medications part way through the two weeks I was at sea, and those pills were great! I didn’t feel woozy at all while I was on them. But they make you VERY tired. I mean I couldn’t barely keep my eyes open sometimes. That’s not a safe state to be in while working on a ship and learning safety drills etc.
The ship was going to dock to bring on more crew. And I came to the realization about 4 days before we reached port that I needed to seriously think about whether or not I was going to get over that motion sickness.
It was extremely frustrating. I didn’t have the patches to try, and it wasn’t like we had been at sea for a month or so and I KNEW for certain that I probably wasn’t getting over the seasickness. I had two weeks… and while some days I was okay, the others made it hard to justify attempting to do it for three months.
Especially considering the fact that the weather was only going to get worse. The Antarctic seas are not calm… they are some of the roughest waters in the world. I didn’t see myself being able to function in them.
Honestly I think there was a 50% chance I would get over it and a 50% chance I would never. I didn’t like those odds. Especially when negative meant my having to be drugged up to even function (and again that is not a safe way to be working on a ship everyday).
It wouldn’t have been fair to the crew if I either so sick I was taking watches off to rest (which my watch officer had me do a few times) or if I was drugged up and sleepy and couldn’t do my job to my 100% ability.
Also my health. I know of past crew who have lost up to 20lbs at sea because of the motion sickness. I lost a few pounds myself. I weigh about 113lbs. I don’t have 20 to spare. Also I was getting pretty weak. I was afraid with my not being able to hold down much of anything that my immune system wouldn’t protect me like it should.
I was not once myself during those two weeks. And after two days of emailing with my family and getting advice from my fellow crew… and lots of tears… I decided that the responsible thing to do would be to come home and fight this battle from land.
This was really hard for me to do. And hard doesn’t even begin to describe it honestly. This campaign is so important to me. You all know how I feel about cetaceans… but it’s also Antarctica. It’s one of the only untouched places in the world (with the exception of illegal whaling) and I want to see it left alone and kept untouched. I’m tired of people destroying our home. I want greed driven interests out of Antarctica.
Staying would have been dangerous… I would have ended up a liability. It would have also been incredibly selfish. This is a fight I will have to help with on land and not at sea.
Which is too bad because I really loved being at sea. I liked not being able to see land. There was something remarkable about being at the mercy of the elements. I was never once scared of the fact there was approx. 9000ft of water below me, in fact I found it pretty cool. I loved seeing stars without any light pollution. I loved going outside at night and seeing the phosphorescence bouncing off the side of the ship with the waves. I loved that there were no sirens, or airplanes, and nowhere to spend money… I just really loved working and being at sea. I loved having the opportunity to physically intervene with whaling.
But I can be home and proud of the three and a half months I put into getting the Steve ready for campaign.
This isn’t the end of my work. It’s just a reality giving me a road block and now I need to find a new way to help the Antarctic whales… and of course other projects as well.
I am really lucky to have such a supportive family and group of friends. I love you guys!