"We're off!" The Captain Shouted

Finally onboard the IBRV Araon and departing Lyttleton

Everything Finally Comes Together

Loading Day

After my final test (which I excitedly took just after midnight on Jan 4), I was ready to board the IBRV Araon. Our departure schedule continued to shift and adjust as the logistics team worked hard to find the closest port with enough fuel, so now we were planning to load the bus to the ship right around noon. I packed up and said goodbye to my quarantine and headed out to meet up with the group. As the bus pulled away, I had the most overwhelming feeling of anticipation and excitement and…I have made a huge mistake! What was I thinking coming on this expedition by myself, representing SOCCOM and GO-BGC, with a group of scientists who didn’t speak my language? Impostor syndrome settled over me like a wet blanket, but I quickly pulled myself up by my bootstraps and realized that I DO have the skills and knowledge, creativity and determination necessary to carry out all of my tasks, so let’s get this show on the road!

selfie of Jenn onboard the bus taking 38 scientists to the ship

 Me and 38 scientists on board and ready to head over to the ship.

First Impressions

After a short bus ride that took us through a very long tunnel, we ended up at the port in Lyttleton. A variety of ships were docked that day—mostly cruise ships and cargo ships, and we finally got a peek at the distinctive red and white hull of the IBRV Araon between them. I wondered how many of my shipmates were seeing her with excitement for the first time like me and how many of them had come on this voyage so many times it felt like they were seeing an old friend.

view of the RV Araon at the dock

Our first view of the ship that would be our home for the next two months.

photo from the bus of the Araon with scientists in the foreground

Old friend or new adventure?

Selfie of Jenn on the dock next to the RV Araon

So excited to finally be here!

When we arrived at the ship, our luggage was loaded onboard while we submitted our passports for customs and took one more COVID test (although it turns out there would be many more). Then I practiced my adaptation strategy of following the crowd to find my bunk assignment and figure out where my cabin was. I’m on deck 1, just one deck above the main deck, right in the middle of the ship (sadly, no window—or ‘scuttle’ as they call them). The cabin is a nice size and seems even bigger since I don’t have a roommate! They supply basic necessities like soap, shampoo, and toothpaste, and there’s a desk, refrigerator, hair dryer, and TV (although what I would be able to watch, I’m not sure). 

Image of Jenn's cabin

Lots of space in the accommodations.

image of Jenn's cabin from inside looking towards the door.

My home away from home.


My first few meals have been small successes. The first night we had (what I think was) fried chicken wings with spicy sauce on the side, plus rice, soup, and a variety of side dishes. The menu for the week has been posted (and with English translations!) so I know that I can look forward to things like beef bone soup, stir-fried duck, and porkbelly BBQ. The next morning, I had a very western fried egg and bacon. Plus, I made my first “white chocolate mocha!” OK fine…it was a coffee with white chocolate mocha sauce and microwaved milk, but it was delicious. There are lots of snacks available and the things I have chosen (I can’t read most of the labels) have been delightful. The bottom line is: I am certain I will not starve!

A photo of the first night's dinner plate.

There is always a variety of things on offer so everyone is sure to find something they like.

A photo of a snack bar.

A little something to satisfy a sweet tooth!

Leaving Lyttleton

We departed Lyttleton (with little fanfare…I didn’t even realize we had left until my cabin started rocking) at around 9am local time on January 4, headed for Hobart in Tasmania, Australia to refuel before heading South to Antarctica. Late that night we were all called down to complete our applications for Australian visas so we could clear customs when we arrived. There are so many logistical details that go into a complex expedition like this…I’m glad the team has everything well in hand!

image of A frame on back of RV Araon as ship leaves dock

Good-bye Lyttleton!