Surviving the Vomit Comet – Life Aboard the RV Algoa

The Plague at Sea. Present in ancient writings dating back nearly 3 000 years and recorded as influencing the outcomes of many famous naval battles, such as the Battle of the Red Cliff (fall of the Han dynasty) and the defeat of the Spanish Armada by the English (Huppert et al. 2017). Seasickness is an overwhelming ailment affecting mariners sailing in ancient expeditions and marine researchers holed-up in a lovable rust-bucket common to the waters off South Africa’s coast. Due to the serious mid-ship roll, a result of her ice holding capacity as a trawler being replaced with cabins, seasickness features prominently in the stories regaled by researchers and crew who have sailed with the RV Algoa over her industrious 42-year history and has led to her gaining the rather unkind nickname of Vomit Comet. Leading up to an Algoa voyage, the office is filled with discussions of personal seasickness prevention regimes, colourful memories of explosive vomiting, suggestions of obscure remedies and condolences being offered to those embarking on her for the first time. Carrying out research aboard this iconic vessel has become a rite of passage for a marine scientist wanting to cut it in life at sea; the Algoa has become her own marque, an exclusive club with a notorious reputation. And so, hearing the words, “she is being replaced”, filled me with sadness and in part led to this article as a sort of tribute to this grand old lady of the sea.


R/V Algoa.


R/V Algoa.

In my distinct research style, I have become immersed in a world of ghost ships and strange nautical tales, lost in a realm of sea monsters and ancient maritime terminology and completely distracted from the task at hand. I sit here writing at my great-grandmother’s writing desk (with its secret compartments and carved ball-and-claw befitting of a Captain’s creaky old cabin), below a painting of the HMS Nile (on which an ancestor was Third Mate) during a storm in 1850 and know that the call of the sea is strong in my family. While working for the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), I would jump at any opportunity to set sail from the Tavern of the Seas, under the shadow of the imposing Table Mountain, and into the soupy chop of Table Bay, as so many generations have before. With seasickness being such an integral part of most Algoa tales, even the hardiest of seafarers succumbing to the crippling condition; I started my research in the yellowing and musty pages of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (9th Edition 1895) discovering that historic remedies were substantially more hardcore than today’s collection of tablets, with opium being key in most. Hiding earth from the kitchen hearth under one’s hair or drinking the urine of young boys were two rather eccentric solutions to an age-old problem (Huppert et al. 2017). One of my favourites, and a rather romantic notion, is that the Greeks and Romans would wear aquamarine gems around their necks as they believed them to be found in the treasure chests of mermaids and thus wearing them would keep them safe from the perils at sea as well as ward off seasickness (Hunter 2017).


Table Bay Sunset.

Throughout the centuries of navigating the world’s ocean, no one remedy has been discovered to definitively solve the disorder and this, together with the fact that the pitch and roll of the Algoa is second to none, means that those who board her do so at their own risk. I first made the daunting walk up the gangway in October 2016 to participate in the annual West Coast Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) Survey as a marine mammal and seabird observer. I had heard the rumours of burly seamen reduced to feeble wrecks and while I don’t suffer from seasickness, I was suitably terrified at the possibility but still stubborn enough to want to conquer the Algoa and her pitching decks. This resulted in an atmosphere of excited trepidation, if there is such a thing. In the days leading up to the voyage, people offered advice (under no circumstances let the shower curtain in the portside bathroom touch you!) and shared stories of their own experiences. And so; armed with my tub of Vicks (to liberally wipe under my nose to block out the smell) and weighed down with rations of salty chips, ginger biscuits and Coca-Cola; I marched up the gangway, steeled with the conviction that I would not get seasick! The smell does tend to hit you like a warm, toxic wave and that was while she was still berthed. What struck me first were the glimpses of her past; her waterlogged wooden deck, her corroding brass portholes and the solid wooden chart table on her Bridge. Being a converted French trawler (the Ludovic Jego), luxury was obviously not a necessity and yet there were nods to the yesteryear of nautical exploration, little gems from the past that had just lost their shine as focus was shifted to a new class of vessel such as SA Agulhas II with the Algoa being relegated to the “B-Team”.


West Coast Sunrise.

Departing on a calm Monday evening and heading up South Africa’s West Coast to document the distribution and abundance of humpback whales in the region, I watched the sun setting across the bow. The scene: I was wrapped up snuggly against the chilly north wind that had whipped up across the bay, a pair of sub-Antarctic skuas (Stercorarius antarcticus) floating on the salt-laden air, their underwings glinting golden in the setting sun; just me and the endless ocean. The moment came crashing to an abrupt halt when the ship appeared to emit a low, growling belch; a stench so strong that you could almost see the swirling tendrils of stink curling up towards you and I came to the horrified realisation that I had inadvertently sat down next to the vent for the sewage tank. This became the theme to my Algoa voyages; me becoming mesmerised in some romantic notion of the ancient nautical realm but promptly being dragged back to the stark reality that life at sea is not all pirates and sea monsters (well it is, but not the Captain Jack Sparrow and the Kraken type) and is actually sometimes rather uncomfortable… even back then (although the use of term “uncomfortable” to describe life below decks back then would probably mean it to be positively luxurious). Like forgetting your towel in your cabin and only realising once you have exited the shower and there is nothing on the towel hook to grab. I hadn’t been onboard very long but I distinctly remembered our Chief Scientist talking about the CCTV cameras around the ship and so spent the next few minutes agonising whether or not I had seen any in the vicinity of the cabins. I stuck my head out a few times calling out to anyone close enough to assist but eventually worked up enough courage to make a mad dash across the accommodation and in to my cabin to fetch my towel.


Enjoying the sunset before being chased back inside by a belching ship!


Sub-Antarctic skua (Stercorarius antarcticus).


Artsy sunset.

The bathrooms, although doused in chemicals and scrubbed just about daily by the Steward, seem to conjure up nightmares for all that sail with her. The open drain in the bathroom of the bow resembles a dark and manky version of the rabbit hole that Alice tumbled down. A second toothbrush was an essential item in any toiletry bag because if your toothbrush, heaven forbid, touched anything in the bathroom, it was dead to you and you would rather spend the rest of the voyage growing a fuzzy science experiment on your teeth than putting that back in your mouth. We all commiserated with (read laughed at) the poor guy who dropped his in the toilet, all thankful that it wasn’t us! There was one conundrum that I have never been able to figure out… what breed of moron paints the bathroom floor (essentially a wet-room) with paint that goes super slippery when wet?? My “Risky Business” impression got some serious work as I continually skidded across the bathroom and trying to get dressed after a shower left you swearing and covered in bruises. Why not get dressed in your cabin I hear you ask… well because we were given facecloths masquerading as towels so it would be a choice of what you would most like to have covered. As much as I was loving bobbing about with no sight of land for days and no real sign of the dreaded “mal de mer” (I just couldn’t stare at a screen for too long), I found myself missing the simple comforts of home; not having to hold the toilet lid back to stop it from scrapping the skin off your spine, not having to execute a balancing act between a bottle of water, your toothbrush and toothpaste, not having to stand and walk like John Wayne with piles and not having to hoist yourself out of bed. There is a difference between lazily rolling out of bed and being chucked out as the ship pitches, get your timing wrong and you would go crashing across the cabin and into the bunk opposite. I learnt early on that my cabinmate did not enjoy being woken up like this.


Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis).


Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae).

One of the hardest things for those suffering from seasickness, is the fact that they have to decline the meals and stick to toast until their stomachs are ready. This is particularly hard to do when the smell of freshly baked banana bread comes wafting up on deck. There will always be one or two brave souls who are lulled into a false sense of security by the calm seas and attempt to partake (a bit too early on in the voyage) in the lavish spread laid out at mealtimes. It’s all fun and games until the ship rolls and they realise what an awful mistake they’ve made as they try to clamber for the nearest bin, porthole, side or toilet. The food on both the SA Agulhas II and the Algoa is nothing short of “haute cuisine” especially when taking into consideration the conditions under which it is prepared. Chef Baker (that really is his name, I promise) is a favourite; his fresh banana bread and pastries as well as the vegetarian concoctions that he would knock together just for me were always revered and appreciated; also a mean Kabo player! Don’t even get me started on his continental breakfasts and Sunday lunches!! Believe it or not, we did manage to squeeze in work in between our meals. The sightings on this particular voyage were magical; at times, we were surrounded by supergroups of bubble-feeding humpback whales and on one fog-shrouded morning, these awesome creatures could be seen, but mostly heard, launching themselves out of the gloom in something reminiscent of a scene from the recent Life of Pi. At one point, we spent five hours slowly carrying out transects in the midst of approximately 200 feeding whales and I saw a whale poo for the first time. Until that point, I hadn’t really thought about it and I will think again before opening my mouth under water!


The poo trail of a humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)… who knew!?

The conditions played along for the duration of the voyage; calm glassy seas, a warm mid-spring sun and a cool north-westerly breeze lulling me back into a daydreamy state as a giant ocean sunfish (Mola mola) silently glided passed the bow. While researching for this article, I was struck by how few myths and legends are present in the literature for such a peculiar looking creature. How could early seafarers not get freaked out enough by these odd-looking animals to conjure up some ghoulish-style tales? The Encyclopaedia Britannica (9th Edition 1895) summed it up as merely a grotesque fish that enjoys the warmth of a sunny day, I find that a little harsh. The Polynesians at least have recorded lore relating to the “King of the Mackerels”. It was considered bad luck to catch and kill Makua as such an act would render the mackerel incapable of finding their way to the islands and subsequently into the fishermen’s nets (Herdson 2016). The albatross on the other hand finds itself at the centre of myth and superstition, thanks to the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I have always watched in wonder as these birds with their great wings so effortlessly ride the thermals, soaring high above the white-capped swells and disappearing into the deep troughs. Their gracefulness is completely lost however when executing a landing, skiing to a stop and folding up their ruffled wings. The flight of the Cape cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis) is in stark contrast to the majestic albatross; these little fishermen of the sea look like cyclists struggling, in first gear, up a hill into the teeth of the southeaster, a sight common in Cape Town.


Sunfish (Mola mola) sunning itself.


Screeching to a halt with such grace! Black-browed albatross (Thalassarche melanophris).

Life at sea, a group of unlikely strangers thrown together and confined to a tin can bobbing in the ocean instils comradery and definitely has its funny moments. I was on the Monkey Island (Observation Deck), facing the stern, during my watch and was trying to figure out why our wake looked like the ship was being steered by a blind drunk sailor walking home after a run ashore. On radioing the Captain, we learnt that we were apparently testing our steering! While at sea, we have no signal for cellphones (a blessing in this online world) and the TV reception is spotty at best but one optimistic soul decided that it would be good enough to watch the clash between the Springboks and the Barbarians… we are South African after all and nothing can stop us from watching our rugby! Well, remember that game you played as a kid where the picture was broken up into squares that you had to reshuffle to recreate the picture? The screen kept freezing on weird combinations, such as the Beast’s torso on top of Pat Lambie’s legs as they ran down the field to score a try… it had us in such hysterics that I can’t  even remember the score (that probably means we lost). While the comradery is fun, the close proximity does tend to sometimes test one’s patience. After becoming quite ill some years ago; my system can no longer digest certain things and milk is one of them so I took a couple of litres of lactose-free milk with me, placing one in the fridge in the Mess. A few days into the trip and I noticed that the carton felt a little light (I only use it in my tea) and was later muttering about it when one of the scientific crew admitted to having been using it, thinking that it was quite considerate of the Steward to cater to everyone’s needs. Annoyed at having to strictly ration my remaining milk and avoid frivolous cups of tea, scribbling “Breast Milk” all over the carton seemed to deter the curious and became my modus operandi on that and future voyages.


The sunsets never get old!

While onboard, you are exposed to the many different disciplines in the field of marine science. On this particular trip, I was given a lesson in marine chemistry and I have to say that if we had this type of equipment when learning how to titrate in high school, I may have enjoyed the subject a little more! During my time between watches, I learnt how to estimate swell height, distance to an object (in this case a breaching whale) and the length thereof… all of which I’m still rubbish at, as evidenced by my size estimations of white sharks (Carcharodon carcharias) off The Point of the Robberg Peninsula in Plettenberg Bay. Time spent on deck with the wind at my back, the sun on my face and the salt crusting my hair as I watched breaching whales, porpoising dolphins, soaring seabirds and frolicking fur seals; I felt true contentment. I felt it too in the few snatched hours sunk into a beanbag and reading as the ship dipped and rose with the increasing swell, I had found my place and I had survived my first voyage on the Vomit Comet relatively intact.


The calm after the storm!

My next encounter with the Comet was in February 2017 for the Integrated Ecosystem Program: Southern Benguela (IEP) of that quarter. These surveys monitor the chemical, physical and biological elements of the highly productive Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem by carrying out sampling along four transects off the country’s West Coast (Kleinsee, Namaqua, St Helena Bay and Scarborough). I boarded this time with a little more confidence, it was like meeting up with an old friend and I was armed with my extra toothbrush so what could possibly go wrong? We were scheduled to sail at 12:00 but everyone knows that when it comes to the Algoa, that’s just a suggestion. The breaker blew, and fried two of the batteries so we weren’t going anywhere in a hurry. Because she is so old, it’s difficult to find parts that can be used as an effective replacement as even the original parts are no longer manufactured. Supper was served and the power promptly went out. The Mess is in the bowels of the ship and has no windows so we all just sat there in the pitch-black darkness trying to find our plates and not spill peas all over the floor. I hauled out my phone and with the torch on, placed it under a blue bottle of water; many followed suit and it suddenly turned in to a cosy, romantic dinner swathed in a soft blue hue (no photos taken as our phones were otherwise engaged… see what I did there?!). No spare parts could be rustled up until the following day and so we were released from the ship at 19:30 with a promise to sail the following day at 12:00. Well 12:00 came and went in true Algoa style, still with no power so the Captain treated us all to a Debonairs and KFC inspired picnic on the deck. We eventually sailed out of the harbour at 14:40 and I spent the remainder of the afternoon on the Monkey Island watching the land slip away. A pod of breaching humpback whales bade farewell to the setting sun and I could feel all the stresses of the previous few months dissipate, their insignificance becoming clear as the vastness of the ocean opened up before me.


Before the “Seasickness” hit. L-R: Me, Yolanda, Janine. Photo Credit: Janine.

Those stresses were however quickly replaced by new ones; like how does one actually get into the sardine-tin-inspired top bunk? As I do not possess the skills nor the figure of a Russian gymnast, I dragged the mattress on to the floor, orientated it Port to Starboard (a decision I would later very much regret) and wedged it between the two bunks using my bag and the desk to stop me from rolling off. Looking back now, it’s rather endearing that I thought that that would stop me from flying across the cabin and landing in a crumbled heap next to the bin. The following night, as the swell started to build, our quaintly creaky cabin began to sound like a washing machine loaded with rocks on a spin cycle. After reaching the first station at approximately 23:00, sampling was continued until the 06:00 station was closed. The decision was then made at 07:00 to shut-down the decks, batten down the hatches and heave-to. For the next 24 hours, in swells reaching 6 m, we were tossed around like a little rubber ducky in the bath of an enthusiastic ADHD child. After a night spent levitated above my mattress, listening to the bow crash into the swell and the deck above being swamped in water, the morning did not start well when someone came running out on deck and threw up next to my foot. I was man-down for the next couple of days and could only start eating again two days after that. If I didn’t feel like I was going to die, I would have been very disappointed to have finally fallen prey to the Vomit Comet and her evil powers (I still maintain that it was just the spinach quiche I ate at supper, I still can’t look at one without feeling slightly queasy). I crawled out on deck a while later in an attempt to pull myself together. I had a brief moment of respite as I watched a small pod of dolphins swimming alongside but all I could muster was a short “aww” before a violent “bleugh” overpowered me and I began my wonky run back to the toilet.


Dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus).

Too dizzy to stand; I lay on my wrongly orientated mattress with my legs on the desk and my arms outstretched, to stop me from headbutting the bunk, and listened to the storm rage as the ship shuddered with every looming swell. The fact that the engine had not been working prior to our departure only fuelled my already vivid imagination as it churned out scenarios at an alarming rate and I found myself wishing that I had paid more attention during the safety drill instead of watching a bird fly past and wondering what was for supper. A few people slept with their lifejackets that night and I ended up snuggled in a beanbag, wedged into a corner, under a desk in the Ops Room where I enjoyed a night of dead-to-the-world sleep. An angry sea does tend to make even the simplest tasks mammoth-like. Working in the lab and gargantuan Pelican boxes breaking out of their tie-downs to skim across the floor, wiping you out at the knees and pinning you to the counter. The Captain announced at lunch that the use of crockery should be banned for the duration of the rough weather as we were down to only two mugs and going through plates like a lively Greek restaurant. At that moment; the ship rolled sending someone’s lunch flying off the table and into the glass fridge, decorating it and the walls with tomato sauce. One wave hit us broadside and everyone (and their lunch) ended up in a crumpled heap in one corner. Except of course for the Captain who remained dignified and in place, still clutching his knife and fork… his lunch however flew off to join the rest on the floor.


While the SA Agulhas II flattens the swell; the Algoa rides it, feeling every trough and crest, the looming swells often jumping up to meet her mid-descent and showering her bow with spray.


What storm??

Rough weather really makes you realise how fragile a situation already is and how quickly it can change for the worse. As the ship turned at the close of station, during one particularly bumpy nightshift, a huge wall of water breached the deck and knocked one of the scientific crew off her feet, washing her to the edge where a quick-thinking crewman grabbed her before she went over. With everyone already in the lab cataloguing and processing samples, she would have been lost to the dark night and raging storm had that crewman not been present and alert. When something goes wrong onboard, be it equipment failure or an accident, you have to be prepared to fix it, or at the very least improvise, with what you have onboard as help tends to be very far away. Losing a bongo net at a depth of 200 m can mean the end of plankton sampling for the remainder of the voyage and so carrying spares is obviously crucial, you learn quickly that cable ties and masking tape can be used to solve any and every problem (it often felt like the ship’s seams were held together with tape, a cheerful thought when battling through angry 6 m swells). MacGuyver would have been proud. A well kitted out medicine cabinet is also of utmost importance. While working alone in the lab, preserving microbe samples, I managed to get formaldehyde in my eye. I raced across to the chemistry lab (I say raced but it was more of a one-eyed waddle on a slippery pitching deck) in search of distilled water. Upon hearing my predicament one technician quickly grabbed a squeeze bottle and enthusiastically emptied its contents in my eye, successfully drenching me in the process. Bedraggled but very thankful, I headed back to the biological lab to finish processing the samples. I began to develop a blinding headache and blurred vision in that eye so asked the Chief Scientist how bad getting formaldehyde in one’s eye actually was. Looking at me as if I could not have uttered anything more incredulous and, muttering a few exasperated expletives, he sent me in search of the Chief Mate and access to the hospital. Now, I used the word hospital in the broadest sense of the word! After waking up a very disgruntled Chief Mate, he led me on a maze of dingy corridors and cramped stairways ending at a rickety, albeit heavily padlocked, door behind which were two cupboards of medical supplies. We managed to find some eyedrops in amongst the seasickness tablets and haemorrhoid cream and I spent the remainder of the trip tending to my pickling eye, drops every three hours or something.


Chief Scientist, Marco, on his beloved Algoa.


The sea was like glinting glass, so calm, and then a heavy fog rolled in – a total white out.

Even with the seasickness (I’m maintaining supposed here) and the rough weather, I rated this as my best Algoa voyage but maybe that’s just me looking back with rose-tinted nostalgia and blocking out the dehydration, the nosebleeds, the stomach cramps and the blinding headaches (hmmm… now that I think about it…). I’m not sure that I remember how to process microbes, operate the CTD or titrate what-not, but I do remember the laughs and the people who made this trip so memorable. The group of people that you get lobbed together with become your family for the time you are at sea, you get to know each other intimately and attitudes often make or break a unit; especially when things aren’t going according to plan. This became glaringly apparent during my next encounter with the Algoa during the Voyage of Storms in March 2017. The trip was set to be 25 days long as we explored and documented the canyon system off the West Coast and worked through conditions of 45 kn winds and 8 m swells (I did not get seasick so it must have been the quiche last time!). For the first time, I was to work nightshift and was a little apprehensive as to how I would cope. As it turns out, not seeing the sun for nearly a month does make one slightly depressed although I should have been accustomed to that having lived in Scotland for four and a half years; not seeing the sun, not being depressed. It’s a whole different dynamic working the nightshift, you often get forgotten and retraining your body to conform to different mealtimes is difficult. I say mealtimes but there was no set menu for nightshift; you ate supper for breakfast and breakfast for supper with a whole ten more hours in between that we seemed to fill with Rice Krispies and Melrose cheese-spread on copious amounts of toast. Oh, and tea and rusks… lots of tea and rusks (I brought extra milk this time, mandatorily labelled “Breast Milk”).


The CTD being deployed.

The CTD being brought back on board.

The CTD being brought back on board.


The bongo net being deployed.

The Chief Mate happened to have his birthday while we were at sea and because he doesn’t eat cake (totally unacceptable behaviour I know!), his Cadet and I formulated a grand plan to surprise him with a multi-coloured, multi-layered jelly concoction. This plan was quickly thwarted by the stubbornly frugal Chief Steward who would not have copious amounts of jelly cluttering up the Galley. He did however become enthusiastically involved in the decorations, hauling out tinned fruit and ancient looking cream. This frugal steward was also in charge of the tuckshop which he controlled with an iron fist and whimsical opening times, much to the chagrin of the rest of the crew. The banter between the crew and the scientific team was always good fun. The crew were always cheerfully professional, knowledgeable and always ready to help, eager to see what had been hauled up in the dredge or snapped up in the grab, their spirits never faltering… even during nightshift. Time spent on deck at night has an otherworldly feel to it. Watching lightning dance across the inky black water in the distance and seals hunt pipefish in the pools of light surrounding the ship sent me back to thinking about oceanic exploration of centuries past and how terrifying some phenomena must have been to experience for the very first time. I was brought abruptly back to the present when the mud I was sifting through moved and I got punched in the palm by a mantis shrimp, something that is equally painful and amusing.

In preparation for this article, I asked around for people’s impressions of their time spent with the Algoa and as I’ve hopefully illustrated, two themes quickly emerged; seasickness and comradery. An Algoa stalwart, Marco, maintains that this ship has become an acid-test to whittle out those individuals not suited for life at sea. He recounted how a new recruit, fresh and determined to start his budding career, felt ill while still alongside and lost his first meal outside the Mess before they even hit the Breakwater. He spent the remainder of the trip in his bunk, being fed small pieces of dry bread, biscuits and water and never again returned to sea. He isn’t the only one, one individual couldn’t handle it and caused a mass exodus from the Mess when he vomited in his colleague’s hair at the table. It’s the stories of the experiences, the memories and the laughs that stick with people. The thought of this iconic character being mothballed is heart-wrenching, she has spent so many years at sea that she should now deserve to become a part of it. She should be scuttled and made into an artificial reef, it’ll be the cleanest her toilets have ever been! If you are lucky enough to sail with this legend before she is replaced; you will need a good sense of fun, a strong work ethic, more than one toothbrush and copious amounts of Vicks. It will be the end of an era when she finally crosses the bar and I’m happy that I got to experience life at sea with her.

Explore. Dream. Discover.


There are a number of people that I would like to thank for making my time on the Algoa so memorable and for making this article possible:

The Captain, Officers and Crew of the R/V Algoa for looking after us, for always getting us home safely and for putting up with our nonsense… I’m sure there were a few of us who deserved some keelhauling!

WC Humpback Whale Survey: Thank you Jean for the support and for teaching me so much. Thank you, Chef Baker, for going out of your way to make scrummy veggie meals for me.

IEP: Yolanda, what can I say?! We survived! Thank you for looking on the bright side of “seasickness” with me. Thank you to Daluxolo for saving my eye! This cruise was made up of an awesome team of people so thanks to Joint Chiefs of Science, Marco and Keshnee, for making this such a lekka trip!

Cape Canyon: The Nightshift Crew – Gavin, Laurenne, Mohamed and Patiswa… thanks for the laughs and keeping me sane. You guys rock! Ryan and Talisha; thank you for offering me sanctuary on the Bridge… good times!

Thank you to Marco Worship for supplying the technical info and a couple of stories from his time onboard, and to Darrell Anders for putting up with my constant reminders for Marco to please send me the info.

Thank you to everyone (yes Grandpa, you too!) who answered my never-ending questions and requests for synonyms.

Thank you, Andrew de Blocq, for assistance with a last-minute ID… was tearing my hair out!


HERDSON D. 2016. Molid Ancient History and Folklore. [ONLINE] Available at: .

HUNTER L. 2017. Secrets of Birthstones: We Associate our Birth Dates with Special Gems… Superstition or Something More? Sunday Post. [ONLINE] Available at: .

HUPPERT D, BENSON J & BRANDT T. 2017. A Historical View of Motion Sickness – A Plague at Sea and on Land, also with Military Impact. Frontiers in Neurology 8 (114): 1-15.


  • IMO: 7410369
  • Name: ALGOA
  • MMSI: 601045000
  • Vessel Type: Pre-1993 – Wetfish Stern Trawler and Post-1993 – Fisheries Research Vessel
  • Gross Tonnage: 759.38 mt
  • Length: 52.55 m
  • Breadth: 10.80 m
  • Draft: 3.75 m
  • Power: 1 472 kW
  • Cruising Speed: 10.0 kn
  • Maximum Speed: 12.50 kn
  • Range: 6 000 Nautical Miles
  • Endurance: 20-30 Days
  • Compliment: 19 Crew and 16 Scientists
  • Build: 1975
  • Flag: South Africa
  • Home Port: Cape Town

8 thoughts on “Surviving the Vomit Comet – Life Aboard the RV Algoa

  1. Fascinating read Sally -it felt like I was on board! Really great tribute – I’m sure that all past crew & passengers will identify with your tale – Congratulations on a job extremely well done!


  2. A great read, Sally. It brought my time on the Algoa back to life. I almost felt seasick at my desk the memories were so vivid 🙂


  3. Gosh! Sally what an extraordinary and accurate approach to the behaviour of the sea to venturesome seagoers. You sum up so well how all humans do not react alike. Some suffer because they have to, others overcome the suffering through experience, others just never meet the extreme violence of seas against totally unsuitable seagoing vessels. You’ve hit all the nails on the head. Your Gonx aka Rear Admiral junior grade Silberbauer retd.


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