It’s 2100 and has been raining since we got on watch three hours ago. It’s the kind of rain that would be refreshing in these hotter days as we creep towards the equator, but now that I’m at the helm trying to navigate the unruly seas, I want nothing but for it to stop.
Our Watch Officer, Krista, adjusts the ships heading to get us out of this squall to no avail. In the distance we see lightning illuminate the cumulonimbus clouds we had observed in the daylight, and all of us gather on the quarter deck for some coverage and to stare in wonderment. Olivia and I decide this is the best time for us to update our reality TV show, Below Depth, with a weather report under the lighting of our red-light headlamps. Our overdramatized bits keep us laughing until the next watch relieves us at 0100.
Today we learn that we have entered the ITCZ, or the atmospheric equator.
This line separates the North and South Trade Winds, with weather conditions we could have guessed from the previous night’s conditions that include frequent squalls and unpredictable winds. What we didn’t get to see on our dark night-watch were the beautiful sunsets and sunrises these squalls create. The layers of clouds create a depth and a mirage of colors unlike any other. I could sit and watch them forever.
I frequently have to remind myself as we learn about atmospheric conditions firsthand that this is school. When we identify organisms from a Neuston Net tow at 0100, I think of the alternative classes I could be taking back at my home university. How funny it seems to me that I could be sleeping back in San Diego when I’m at lookout in a squall in the middle of the Pacific. I also think of my family in these moments and wonder what they’re doing. I think of my mom and dad and their busy schedule, and hope they are taking time to enjoy a sunset for me. I think of my sisters hard at work in their first year of Undergraduate and Medical School, and hope they know I’m cheering them on always. And I think of all the love and appreciation I have for my family and friends. These are the thoughts that remind me that I can make it through any squall.
Katie Power, A-Watch, University of San Diego