I am hungry. The pitch and the roll of the ship on the high seas take a toll on your energy. I climb down the narrow staircase towards the galley (kitchen). I smell spices in the air. Tandoori chicken, rajma, rice and daal. 9,000 kilometres from home. Indian food in the Arctic. Yes!
That's Babu Pillai from Kerala. He is, as most sailors say, the second most important man on board after the captain. Nobody messes with the chef, is the motto in the Galley. The lunch looks divine and diverse. Garlic bread, roasted chicken, fish, rajma, spinach and fruits in the end.
There are people from almost 15 countries on board - German, American, Italian, Russian, Irish, English, Swedish, Dutch, Australian, Mexican, Indian... cooking to everyone's taste is not easy. But our man from Kerala has been performing this remarkable feat even at 79 degrees North near the Petermann Glacier. He has to choose carefully - what to cook and when. Eyes eat first - so not only should the food be tasty, it also needs to look good.
''Food goes a long way in lifting spirits when people are down. At times when the ship pitches and rolls a lot and people feel sea sick, they do not feel like eating. But if the aroma is good and the food is tasty, they are drawn towards the food. And it lifts their spirits'', says the 51-year-old, father of two. The kitchen is nice and warm. No open flame on board. A number of hot plates to cook on. There is also another corner where you can deep fry food, a large oven. I have tasted the lovely cake Babu bakes.
But Babu is not the only Indian connection. There is also Faye Lewis. The 29-year-old Bandra girl working as a deckhand. Unique! I have never seen women sailors on board ships but there are three here. Sarah Watson is the Bosun (team leader of deck hands) from England, Faye Lewis from India and Yohena from Mexico. Penny, an engineer is from Canada.
Faye drove an inflatable boat to Tasiilaq village on the east coast of Greenland to pick us up. She handles the boat efficiently guiding her through icy waters. Her tasks on board the Arctic Sunrise include maintenance work on board — paint what ever is static, grease what moves — first rule of sailing. That is to prevent sea water from corroding metal. Lifting anchor, wear the fireman's outfit and be ready every time the helicopter comes in to land. And that's a lot of work.
Faye Lewis has a Bachelor's Degree in History and Sociology from the prestigious St. Xavier's College and has been working as a deckhand on board Greenpeace ships since 2003. "My work on board is to maintain record of the ship's hull, decks and superstructure. Plus mooring, cargo handling and driving the inflatable. I also have watched duties on the Bridge,'' she told me. Is she uncomfortable - working as a deckhand? ''Not at all. Not on board Greenpeace ships. They respect women and we know our work,'' says the 'hardy sailor'. She has moonlighted as a DJ in Mumbai and often has the sailors rocking to her beat.
Work for Faye begins early. Lifting anchor at the crack of dawn. Then it is her task to keep every thing ship shape and also assist in scientific work. Along with Sarah and Yohena, Faye lowers the inflatable boat in the icy waters and then drives the scientists negotiating menacing icebergs. The two Indians are a part of the core team of 28 on board and are fascinated by their Arctic journey. The two go out of their way to make my stay on board the Arctic Sunrise comfortable. Masaala Dosa and Tandoori Chicken are the two new national dishes on board the Sunrise. Bon Appetit.