Soundtracks at Sea

e/v nautilus
Ocean Exploration Trust

By Vincent Johnson 

Living and working aboard the E/V Nautilus for the past 10 days has included many unique experiences. One of the most obvious ones is the lack of cell service and full internet access. Even though I, like many others, rely on the internet every day for entertainment, it’s been nice to disconnect a little bit while aboard. However, one thing I can’t leave ashore is music. 

Thankfully, I was able to download some of my favorite albums, both new and old, so that I could still listen to them throughout my time at sea. As we’ve crossed the Pacific, I’ve started to realize that there is a lot of fun to be had in disconnecting and merely listening to music while doing things aboard the E/V Nautilus. So, in light of that recent discovery, I wanted to take a few minutes to recommend some awesome music that I think accompanies boat life surprisingly well. Below are three albums I’ve had on repeat since sailing from BC, and I know I’ll still be listening to them long after we dock in Honolulu.



One of the coolest things about sailing from BC to Honolulu is how clear the night sky is on cloudless nights. I’ve seen the most stars in one place from the monkey deck at the top of the ship. Sometimes I find it fun to listen to some music while staring at the night sky even though I could only point out the big dipper and nothing more. Lately the album Post by Björk (1995) has been pairing well with gazing at the stars above. Björk’s voice sounds so different from any other singers that it evokes a sense of vastness and otherworldliness like it’s coming from another universe entirely. This feeling is complemented by the music itself having odd dashes of electronic instrumentation that pair surprisingly well with conventional pop beats and beautiful orchestral strings and horns. In Post, Björk lets her imagination run wild with songs inspired by showtunes like It’s Oh So Quiet and electronic industrial bangers like Army of MePossibly Maybe has to be my favorite track for stargazing. Its slow, drifting melody and long, drawn out keyboard lines provide the perfect backdrop for pondering the mysteries of the universe. It’s Oh So Quiet also comes to mind when picking favorite songs for spending time on the deck at night. The song’s narrative about quiet peace followed by an explosion of sound reminds me of sailing through the night peacefully only to be smashed by a sudden powerful wave, creating a startling sound that breaks up a night that is otherwise oh so quiet. In Post, I feel like I am peering into the imaginative mind of Björk from the comfort of the monkey deck aboard the E/V Nautilus.


Gila, Gila, Gila!

Staying awake during the 2 A.M. to 10 A.M. watch can be tough sometimes. With the gentle rocking of the ship and the occasional downtime between data processing sessions, it can be easy to doze off for a few minutes. To prevent this, I’ve been listening to King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s PetroDraconic Apocalypse (2023) during long data processing sessions. This 7 song, 50 minute album gets the blood pumping and the brain juices flowing to keep me awake during the early hours of the morning. Its heavy guitar riffs, bombastic percussion, and scathing lyrics about an apocalyptic future overrun by mutant lizards brings a heat that is only more impressive when you look at the band’s catalog. During their 12 years together as a group, the band has covered a wide swath of genres, including jazz, indie rock, metal, and even hip hop as of recent. My favorite song on the album probably has to be Gila Monster. Frontman Stu Mackenzie effortlessly tells the story of a massive fearsome reptilian beast while a hard-hitting instrumental helps describe the fear this beast instills. Perhaps the album complements disasters and meltdowns a bit too well, considering that it also went well with the stressful air conditioning malfunction that the server room aboard Nautilus was experiencing a few days ago. Maybe in the future I should pick happier music so whales or sea turtles visit the ship? Either way, PetroDraconic Apocalypse has cemented itself as another hit in King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard’s already impressive discography.


Peanut Butter Vibes

The third album I’ve been listening to can’t be related to just one specific activity. Moreso, it’s really just there to get me through day-to-day life because I have such a long and storied connection with it. The album is called Zaba by Glass Animals (2014). I’ve been a fan of Glass Animals since this album came out and even went to see them live at the local concert hall when they were still playing shows in the small cities near where I grew up. It was my first concert and I was only 15 at the time, but I knew afterwards that Glass Animals would grow to be something special based on Zaba. It is difficult to describe the album since it is so varied from track to track. I often settle on the words “fragile” and “delicate” but also “enveloping”. The album is set in a mythical jungle and immediately whisks you away with lucious, layered instrumentals of gentle guitar  and colorful auxiliary percussion. Dave Bayley’s whispy vocals add to the wondrous sound and make it feel almost as if you are drifting on a lilypad in a calm but ever-flowing stream. Pools has to be my favorite track on the album. It is so bright in its vocals, keys, and drums that I listen to it every morning to wake me up and get me ready for the day. Gooey is another standout on the album. It’s gentle demeanor is perfect for when I need to get to bed at 7P.M. while the Nautilus is gently rocking and sailing towards Hawai’i.