How to pack for a cruise – with a twist

Icebergs in the Weddell Sea near the Antarctic Penninsula

A large tabular iceberg in the back ground with medium sized iceberg in the foreground. Taken around dusk from the RRS James Cook Jan 2009.

When I tell people I go on cruises I always have to preface it with the words ‘scientific research’. However, when my boss tells says ‘get packing you are off on a cruise’ there is, of course, some excitement, even if it is for work. The locations are at the very least interesting and usually quite exciting, if not exotic. At some point on the trip there will be very good weather – I will explain that one a little later. Of course during the cruise I will spend plenty of time at sea, which is one of the reasons I like my work so much.

Safety kit

Me in my usual cool weather - cold water attire for sampling

First and foremost on my mind when I find out I am heading out to sea is the eternal question ‘what to pack?’ If I was packing for a holiday cruise I would just have to think about that other eternal question ‘what to wear?’ Luckily I don’t have to worry so much about that one for a scientific research cruise 😉

With the UKGEOTRACES cruise date (20/12/2011 – 27/01/2012) fast approaching it is time to send everything needed on the cruise to South Africa to meet the ship. Everything that is sent needs to be listed on the ships manifest for the cruise. It has been a busy time here in Manchester ordering and packing all the equipment that will be necessary.

The manifest is composed of three different types of cargo: 1) scientific equipment, 2) safety kit and 3)personal belongings. The first on the list is the most difficult to get ready. All the equipment needs to be checked and tested to see if it is in proper working order. It then needs to be repacked so it is safe from damage on the way out to South Africa. Other items that will be used during the cruise need to be ordered and then prepared before packing can commence. Safety kit includes things like a hard hat, steel toed working boots, lab coats, goggles and gloves. Once you acquire this once you can use it again and again on all your cruises. It is essential as you will not be allowed to work on the dockside or the ship if you do not meet the safety regulations. I also pack a box with of work clothes, running gear, books, coffee, biscuits, shampoo etc. It is not essential that I do this but it means that I can bring a smaller bag on the airplane and that I have some clothes if my bag goes missing somewhere along the way!!


All the equipment that will be shipped to Southampton and then to South Africa next week.

Right now most of what we are doing for the cruise is considered logistics. All the logistics for JC068 (James Cook – cruise number 68, our cruise) are being taken care of by Malcolm and Julia at Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML) in Plymouth.  Everything from flights, passports, yellow fever documentation and medicals has to be organised, collated and checked well before the beginning of the cruise.

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Port Elizabeth, South Africa

Everything on the manifest has to be transported from the University of Manchester to the National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton to be unloaded and packed into containers. These containers will be shipped form Southampton to South Africa in time for our arrival in South Africa in December. Mobilisation, where we unload all the cargo from the containers and load it onto the RRS James Cook, will take place in Port Elizabeth a day or so after we leave the UK.

Just like waiting to start a cruise, there is a lot of preparation to do before we can get to the science bit, I hope to get to some science in my next blog. I  hope to explain the scientific rational behind the work that we are planning to do. This should gear us up for the blogs that will be coming from the ship, this one and the lead UKGEOTRACES blog. You can see that blog here.


About Roisin Moriarty

Postdoctoral Research Fellow with the Isotope Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry group at the School of Earth, Atmospheric and Environmental Science at the University of Manchester, UK. I work with noble gases and tritium in seawater samples from the south Atlantic and the Southern Ocean. I participate in research cruises in order to collect the seawater samples that I analyse. I am now working as a chemical oceanographer/noble gas geochemistry but I have a background in ocean biogeochemical modelling and zoology.
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