A Few Words on Seasickness

The SS Independence was built in an era before stabilizers (giant gyroscopes that minimize the motion of a ship).  As a consequence, when the ocean moves, so does the ship.

Some people, ourselves for example, find the motion soothing; others find it mildly to very distressing.  This phenomenon is called seasickness.

The root of seasickness originates in two organs that help tell the brain about the body's position in space: (1) the eyes, and (2) the "inner" ear, specifically the semicircular canals, which are balance organs.  When the messages each sends to the brain are different, the result (in those susceptible to it) is the subjective feeling of nausea and resultant vomiting.

For example, if you are sitting in your cabin in a ship on a rolling ocean, your eyes see your cabin as standing still relative to your body.  However, your inner ear detects the fact that you are moving.  When these conflicting signals reach your brain, the result is nausea.

How can you tell if you get seasick if you've never been to sea?  Well, if you get carsick, airsick, or any other kind of motion sick, you may be more likely get seasick.  Likewise, if you have an inner ear problem, or are taking certain medications, you may be more likely to get seasick.

If you are an older individual with balance problems, you may be more likely to get seasick.  (Older individuals who are unsteady on land should be well-attended and assisted while aboard to reduce the risk of falls.  In addition, transferring to the shore shuttle boats at some ports of call may be a challenge for disabled or elderly passengers.)

How do you prevent seasickness?  One answer, and perhaps the best, lies in the mechanism that causes the problem.  Since seasickness is caused by disagreement between your inner ear and your eyes, you want to get them to agree again.  To do this, you need get your eyes to "understand" that you are moving by having them look at a distant object (a cloud, an island, a far away boat) that is relatively stable.  Go outside and do this, the nausea should pass quickly.

Those who prefer to try a natural approach can use ginger (available in capsules, tablets and powder).  One gram of ginger in these forms has been shown to be effective in dealing with motion sickness in double-blind studies.  You can also try ginger ale, gingersnap cookies, or pickled or candied ginger.

Of course, there are also pharmaceuticals available off the shelf, over the counter, and by prescription.


The clinic on board the SS Independence has a supply of seasickness remedies, including intramuscular injections for the severely afflicted.