Fine Dining at Sea

By Charlene Grall

For those of you who have never been on research cruise, I will enlighten you on the great importance placed on meals. When at sea, there are various pastimes available. There is work, sleep, game playing, work, video watching, exercise, yoga, work, reading and some hobbies. But the most anticipated time of day is mealtime. The day revolves around this favorite activity; common topics of conversation include, “What is for lunch?; What did you have for dinner?; When will they have pizza?; Will you wake me for breakfast?” There are four meals served on board the Roger Revelle – breakfast, lunch, dinner and mid-rats. “Mid-rats??” you ask in horror, your imagination conjuring up sautéed rodent a la carte. No, mid-rats (short for midnight rations) are leftovers from lunch and dinner, as well as sandwich fixings, for those crew and science personnel who miss the dinner hour because they were sleeping. No one works a 9-5 job on this vessel. We all work around the clock. Science stops for no one!


The ship’s kitchen is called the galley. The dining room is called the mess. The mess is not large enough to accommodate all the crew and science personnel at once so the rule is “Eat it and beat it” during mealtime. I have clocked some people eating their meals in less than 10 minutes. 

The mess also serves as a communications office. The whiteboard seen in this photo is used to inform all personnel of important information such as fire drills, rough weather and time zone changes.

It is also used to announce birthdays. We have had 5 birthdays on this trip. Birthdays are celebrated by decorating the mess or the science labs, while the cooks bake a birthday cake. No one can escape, but at least they don’t reveal your age!


There two cooks onboard the ship; many consider them as some of more important members of the ship because without a good cook, the journey could be quite unpleasant. Fortunately, we are blessed with fine cooks. Richard, the head cook, hails from San Diego. He has worked on the Scripps ships for eight years and truly enjoys his job preparing meals to keep the scientists and crew full and content. His favorite meals to prepare are ethnic, his favorite mealtime is lunch.

The assistant cook is Marlin; a Texan from Houston. He has been a cook on research and sportfishing yachts, but this is his first Scripps ship. He loves to prepare freshly caught fish, so let’s hope we can give him that opportunity before the cruise ends. Both he and Richard find the rough seas no fun to navigate in the galley.


When travelling down to Antarctica through the Southern Ocean, one can always expect rough seas due to the continual parade of polar weather systems creating high winds and waves. Unless you want to eat dinner on the deck, steps must be taken to secure the galley, the mess and the food. The first sign of approaching bad weather is the sudden ominous appearance of green rubber matting on all the serving surfaces and tables, and the ever-helpful plastic cupholders. The chairs are outfitted with rubber feet so they don’t slide. All the dishes are battened down. Despite all these precautions; during those 30 degree rolls, you will still hear the crashing of metal utensils and see chairs tumbling over. We just get used to it!


“Please, Sir, may I have some more?” – Oliver by Charles Dickens

You will never lack for food on the Roger Revelle. There is always plenty to go around and leftovers for those unfortunate souls (like me) who sleep through dinner. The one exception is onion rings – they seem to be a particular favorite of most everyone. Breakfast is a huge variety of fresh fruits, cereals, yogurts, eggs (fried, scrambled and omelets); hash browns or home fries; pancakes, French toast or waffles; bacon, sausage and ham. Oh, and don’t forget the homemade fresh baked biscuits, Danish, scones and cinnamon rolls!

Lunch is like a mini-dinner with sandwiches, hot foods, salads, cheeses and delicious homemade soups.

Then there is dinner – ah, dinner, where the cooks’ skills really shine. What’s your fancy? Mexican, Asian, Italian, Down-home, Cajun, Hawaiian, German - you name it; the cooks will prepare it! Then there is Fishy Friday and Steak Sunday. On Sunday night, weather permitting, the grill is pulled out on deck and the air smells of barbequed steak. It’s the only dinner I wake up for, eat and go back to sleep. For his own birthday, Richard prepared Beef Wellington along with with his own handmade mozzarella cheese wrapped in prosciutto, and homemade bread. WOW!

Seared salmon with parmesan zucchini and couscous

Wondering which meal is best? Hard to say, because they are all great; but a shipboard survey pronounced Breakfast as the Favorite Meal by most of the participants. If you haven’t gained any weight from the meals, there are always the snacks to lure you. Nuts, pretzels, trail mix, granola bars, candy, popcorn and various ice cream novelties to name a few. I could go on, but I have to run. It’s time for breakfast!

Grilling steak on the "barbie" – photo by C. Nissen

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