Tuesday, August 16, 2011


There are several thousand times more fishers in boats at sea than pelagic birders (a topic for a future post). Yet birders seem much more vocal about their emetic experiences at sea.

It is very doubtful that birders are more susceptible to seasickness than fishers.

No one has studied seasickness more than the Department of the Army. The research concludes that anyone can be made motion sick with the right stimuli. A vertical motion of 0.2 Hertz produces the highest incidence of sickness. Guess what? That's one wave every 5 seconds--just what you might get traveling into a slow swell, or the frequency of wind waves that might be produced by 20 mile per hour winds.

An extensive study of navy sailors found that about 4% sometimes got seasick even in calm conditions. In moderate conditions 4-28% of sailors sometimes got sick. However, even in rough seas, 34% of sailors never felt ill. Women are more susceptible to motion sickness than men, by a 5:3 ration. (Benson, A.J. 2002. Motion sickness. In: Medical Aspects of Harsh Environments, Vol. 2. US Dept. of the Army. Washington DC.)

What does this mean for birders?

Well, be prepared. There are motion sickness medications available. Probably the best is the Scopolamine "patch" worn behind the ear and administered at least 8 hours before getting on the boat.

Stay amidships, in the fresh air, where you can see the horizon. Standing and riding the swells, keeping your head level, is better than sitting and rocking with the boat.

Those fishers probably keep going out and get used to the "motion of the ocean." Birders are more likely to give up after one bad experience. "Habituation offers the surest counter measure to motion sickness." (Golding, J.F. 2006. Motion sickness susceptibility. Autonomic Neuroscience: Basic & Clinical (129):67-76.)

So, don't give up. Try again!

1 comment:

  1. When you are heading offshore, it’s important to also ask your doctor for a prescription anti-nausea drug suppository. If all else fails and you cannot swallow a pill, the suppository could save your life.


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