Hey there! My name is Becky Smoak and I am a 2021-22 Malouf scholar, finishing up my Master’s thesis this fall. I have been participating in at sea research since my undergraduate studies. So far I have gone on 7 at-sea voyages, with each ranging from 5-13 days.
Before I ever went to sea for science, I spent weekends as a kid on a 30-foot fishing vessel in the Pacific ocean with my family. I knew from this experience I was one of “those”, you know, the type of person that gets seasick. The hard truth is that everyone gets seasick, whether it’s from 30-foot seas with a cross swell or just simply being on a boat. What will set you apart from the rest, is your ability to manage your motion sickness. Managing motion sickness is challenging and can be mentally exhausting – actually, IS mentally exhausting. The first step towards management is a plan: for instance, over the counter and prescribed medications can be a lifesaver. Heck, there’s even slang associated with this issue: you may hear “sailors cocktail” thrown around on a research vessel (referencing a mix of Dramamine and pseudoephedrine). My personal favorite option is “the patch”; the patch is a topical circular patch the size of a nickel that is placed either behind your ear, or even under your arm.
However, no cure is a miracle cure. Often these remedies come with consequences including (but not limited to) headaches, blurred vision, drowsiness, dry mouth, etc. The list goes on and on. This problem plaguing scientists may sound scary, but I promise, it can be managed. I came from a background in terrestrial wildlife ecology and one voyage at sea changed my perspective forever. On most vessels, there is an overwhelming amount of support from your colleagues when it comes to seasickness. The key idea onboard is to help when you can and more often than not, if you’re not feeling well, taking a rest in your stateroom may be just what you need.
Conducting research at sea is a unique opportunity and can set you apart from others when applying to school, internships, and/or jobs. If getting seasick is holding you back, don’t let it! Because in the end, no one is impervious to motion sickness. Being prepared and compassionate for others will go a long way in this field.
Great post, Becky! Being sea-sick can truly be miserable, but the experience that you get after managing or powering through can indeed be amazing! What kinds of science were you doing on this cruise? Or previous cruises?
I’m so glad that I read this on dry land… :-) that queasy feeling is the worst. This is a great reminder that seasickness shouldn’t be a barrier for fieldwork.