Riding the Southern Ocean and 'Driving the Porcelain Bus'


Things are flying around the cabin, leaving me in no doubt that the ship has left the protection of the pack ice and and has hit the Southern Ocean, or more appropriately, the Southern Ocean is hitting the ship ó over and over again! Due to the shape of the shipís ice-breaking hull, she is often referred to as ĎThe Big Orange Bathtubí and is notoriously uncomfortable in rough seas, pitching and rolling in a constant corkscrew-like motion. Making the brave (or foolish) decision to forgo the anti-seasickness medication this voyage, I am basically confined to my bunk, able to do nothing else but lie down and try to sleep.

But not for long. A ĎBing-Bongí advising of an Emergency Muster drill shatters this idea. I canít believe it. I know that as soon as I get up I will be sick. I decide the Master must hate us all. Too rough to muster outside, I join the rest of the 80-odd expeditioners in the mess for the roll call ó barely audible over mass groaning and occasional vomiting sounds. Finally we are dismissed and everyone makes a frantic dash back to their cabins. I donít make it. Sitting in the stairwell (wearing my pajamas and a lifejacket) vomiting into a sick bag, expeditioners rush past me, looking rather green around the gills, and crew pat me on the head, offering what they think are comforting words. I am so embarrassed but more than that, I really, really wish I had thought to tie my hair back.

Back in my bunk I spend the rest of the day trying to sleep, unable to do anything else, but by late afternoon my sanity is threatened by the sound of some loose items banging around the cabin and I get up to stow them away. Just this 30 seconds of activity has me rushing to the bathroom. The cabin bathroom is a dangerous place to be when the ship is heaving and rolling like this. One minute Iím kneeling on the ground, 'driving the porcelain bus' (wishing I'd tied my hair back) and the next moment Iím being flung backwards to hit my head on the sink and fall to the ground where I lie dazed and confused for a few moments before I realise Iím required back at the wheel again...

Deciding it is just a case of Ďmind over matterí I bravely (again, foolishly) venture down to the mess at dinner time for a few bites to eat ó all I manage before Iím suddenly aware that this is not going to end well. I make it to the public bathroom in my corridor, but unfortunately not actually to the 'driving' position, more like as if I was still boarding the bus. Five minutes later, sitting on the floor, crying, still vomiting whilst trying to clean the walls, floor, everywhere, (again wishing Iíd tied my hair back) I give in and decide to take just one little anti-seasickness tablet before going to bed....

The next morning it is obvious that the calm-water fairy has not arrived but I can stand the stench emanating from my hair no longer and have to have a shower. Knowing that in my present state I would never survive having a shower on the ship in these kind of conditions, I take an anti-seasickness tablet, promising myself it will be my last, and wait for it to do its magic.

Half an hour later, drugged up and filled with a false sense of bravado it's me vs the shower! I wind my arm through the rail in the cubicle and hold on tight so I get flung from side to side but not actually out of the shower. As the ship rolls and pitches the water sloshes in the tank and the shower water alternates from boiling hot to freezing cold. The rest of the bathroom gets drenched as the curtain flies out of the cubicle on every roll. Itís a bit like a theme park ride, one where after itís over you concede it was actually kinda fun.

Now, with those 2 days of trauma behind me, Iím feeling fresh and am well enough to read, eat a little, socialise and enjoy shipboard life. I decide to keep it this way. I have learnt my lesson ó I will never again forgo the anti-seasickness medication! (Although I am keeping my hair tied back just incase...)



C Alford

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