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SEA Semester Destinations

Adventures with Purpose to:

Caribbean New ZealandPolynesia


Previous port stops have included: Antigua, Barbados, Bequia, Bermuda, Carriacou, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Martinque, Montserrat, Puerto Rico, St. Lucia, St. John, St. Maartin, St. Thomas, Trinidad

Few places on Earth can compete with the natural beauty and rich, cultural diversity of the Caribbean Islands; and yet the Caribbean of today bears little resemblance to the islands encountered by Christopher Columbus more than 500 years ago.

Known now as a vacation destination, what is lost on many visitors is the complex and often devastating history of exploitation shared among all Caribbean Islands. That fateful day of “discovery” and the waves of European expansion and colonization that followed represent one of the greatest environmental and human transformations of all time. The conquest of indigenous cultures, the exploitation of natural resources, and the development of slave plantation systems have left a legacy still visible today in the environment and identity of each island.

Tourists are encouraged to view the Caribbean as an unvaried and homogenous experience. In reality, each island, despite being stymied by centuries of colonial rule, encapsulates a unique community striving toward responsible economic growth, social justice and sustainable use of valued natural resources.

Through SEA Semester voyages, you’ll sail the SSV Corwith Cramer among off-the-beaten-path port stops on multiple islands. Along the way, you will explore diverse sustainability issues, both cultural and environmental, through first-hand accounts from local experts and your own field research.

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Western Europe & the Mediterranean

Upcoming Voyages

Fall 2016
The Global Ocean

Fall 2016
Oceans & Climate

Previous port stops have included: Barcelona, Cádiz, Canary Islands, Cork, Douarnenez, Lisbon, Madeira and  Mallorca

The historic seaports of Ireland, France, Portugal, and Spain all have stories to tell. Celebrate their past, present, and future as you explore each one from the platform of a traditional sailing vessel. Learn about the rich maritime traditions of these ancient cities and address how they have evolved over time as the result of globalization. Visit distinct nations for a taste of their unique, vibrant cultures, drawing comparisons from each to create a truly global experience.

The marine environment has had a major historical role in shaping the human experience of Western European ports. Examine the major historical transformations in European maritime activity in the eastern North Atlantic, paying particular attention to the development of fisheries (late medieval to the present), trade (early modern to modern), and nautical technology. Cork, Ireland, is a port city that maintains a long history with the sea. France, Portugal, and Spain offer first-hand interactions with communities intricately tied to ocean resources and maritime trades both historically and today. Each port visited will be a focal point of regional maritime history, where we will explore social, political, economic, environmental, and cultural changes.

The state-of-the-art laboratory onboard the SSV Corwith Cramer  allows us to study the waters through which we will sail, and to discuss the resources that have supported the economy for centuries. Some voyages include visits to two Atlantic island groups: Madeira, where almost two-thirds of the area is protected habitat, and the Canary Islands. Both have active fisheries (and fish markets!) and are ancient stopping places between the Old World and the New.

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New Zealand

Previous port stops have included: Auckland, Bay of Islands, Christchurch, Dunedin, Wellington, Hauraki Gulf, Lyttleton, Bluff

Among Māori people of New Zealand, ancient genealogies are described in terms of the voyaging canoes that brought their ancestors to the islands. When the English explorer James Cook arrived in the late 18th century, he opened the door to European expansion and colonization in the South Pacific. Today New Zealand is a complex modern society tied by historical connections and a global trading network to Asia, Europe, both American continents and other islands in Polynesia.

With its two main Islands extending nearly 1,000 miles from north to south, New Zealand offers starkly contrasting natural environments. To the Northeast on the North Island, the Bay of Islands offers a lush sub-tropical landscape and climate similar to the Hawaiian Islands. The rocky steep hills, seascape, and damp cooler temperatures and earthquakes make the capital city of Wellington seem cut from the same landscape cloth as San Francisco. Crossing into the South Island, the sparsely populated west coast, hemmed in by the Southern Alps, transitions into Milford Sound where glacial fiords and brisk temperatures seem more like Norway or Alaska than a southern Pacific Island. Indeed, introduced northern species such as trout and Pacific salmon thrive in the clean colder waters of the Island lakes and streams.

Chatham Islands

Our past voyages that sailed from New Zealand to Tahiti have included a port stop in the Chatham Islands, a Pacific archipelago located about 420 miles southeast of New Zealand. They were first occupied by Polynesians about 800 to 1000 years ago and are the birthplace of the peace-loving Moriori culture. The islands were discovered in 1791 by Europeans aboard the English ship HMS Chatham, making them the last major Pacific Islands to be settled. Much history remains today including Moriori settlement sites, ancient tree and rock carvings, and remnants of whaling and sealing stations.

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Upcoming Voyages

Spring 2017
Ocean Exploration

Spring 2018
Oceans & Climate

French Polynesia

Previous port stops have included: Fakarava, Moorea, Nuku Hiva, Rangiroa, Raivavae, Tahiti, Tikehau, Tubuai.

French Polynesia is divided into five groups of islands: The Society Islands archipelago, composed of the Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands; the Tuamotu Archipelago; the Gambier Islands; the Marquesas Islands; and the Austral Islands. Among its 118 islands and atolls, 67 are inhabited. The islands of French Polynesia have a history of demonstrated environmental and cultural sustainability despite the fact that they have been profoundly shaped by European colonization.

In SEA Semester voyages to this region, you’ll examine what the future holds for these islands, and whether they can give us answers that apply to other regions of the globe as well.

Rangiroa is the largest atoll in the Tuamoto Archipelago of French Polynesia—and, with about 3,500 inhabitants, is also the most populous. Like other islands of French Polynesia, it is semi-autonomous and designated as an overseas territory of France. Its economy is largely dependent on fishing, pearl cultivation, and coconut processing. Tourism, including rich opportunities for scuba diving, also forms an important part of the economy. 

Raiatea, which translates to “faraway heaven,” is the second-largest island, after Tahiti, in the Society Islands. This locale holds significance in Polynesian history and culture, as many cultures believe it is where the great Polynesian migration began, in which sailors set off in large canoes to colonize Hawaii and New Zealand. With a population of about 12,000 people, it is the largest and most populated island in the Leeward Islands. Today, its economy depends largely on agriculture, with vanilla, pineapple, coconut, livestock, and pearl farming among its most important industries. Its tourism industry is smaller compared to others in the archipelago, but its shipbuilding and yacht maintenance sector is growing. 

Tahiti is the largest island in the Windward Group in the Society Islands. It is the cultural and political center of French Polynesia. The island is volcanic, with high peaks, and is surrounded by coral reefs. It was first settled in 200 BC by Polynesians and was declared a French colony in 1880. Tahiti was a key stopover island for whalers, fisherman, and other Pacific voyagers. Today tourism and the black pearl trade dominate the economy.

Fiji / Samoan Islands

Previous port stops have included: Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, Wallis & Fatuna.

The remote islands of Oceania in the South Pacific are some of the most special and significant places in the world. Their coral reefs and tropical forests are oases of biological diversity, and their human populations possess an equally rich diversity of histories, languages, and social practices. Western colonization brought about disruptive changes in the economies and cultures of these societies, which had thrived for millennia on self-sustaining practices.

As a SEA Semester student in this area, you’ll confront challenging questions of colonial conflict, cultural identity, and environmental justice. You’ll also examine relationships between political structures, culture, and the natural environment in a variety of diverse island nations.

American Samoa

American Samoa is the southernmost territory of the United States and a key naval station. Settled by French explorers and British missionaries, the Samoan Islands became a hotly contested whaling and coal-fired shipping port in the 19th century and was eventually split East/West by the United States and Germany in 1899. American Samoa is a series of volcanic islands and coral atolls, including Vailulu’u Seamount, an active submerged volcano.


Samoa is an independent state in Polynesia, located south of the Equator about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand. This volcanic island group, with a land area slightly smaller than that of Rhode Island, composes the western part of the Samoan Islands. After many years of rule by Germany and New Zealand, Samoa gained its independence in 1962, making it the first small-island country in the Pacific to do so. Despite centuries of European exploration and influence, Samoa retains its historical customs, social and political way of life, and language. Today, its economy depends largely on agriculture, fishing, and, to a growing extent, tourism.


Fiji is an archipelago of over 300 islands that covers 200,000 square miles of ocean. Called “the crossroads of the Pacific,” Fiji is a multicultural nation with a population made up primarily of indigenous Fijians, Indians, Chinese, Europeans and South Pacific Islanders. As with many other Pacific islands, Fiji was discovered by European traders and whalers in the 17th century. Today it is best known for its idyllic beaches, diving, and pristine surroundings, and a thriving ecotourism business.

Wallis and Futuna

Wallis and Futuna are a group of volcanic islands located about two-thirds of the way from Hawaii to New Zealand. After “discovery” by Dutch and British explorers and many decades of subsequent French colonial rule, residents voted to become an overseas territory of France in July 1961. Today, the population is about 15,000, with a limited economy heavily dependent on subsistence agriculture, livestock, and fishing. Environmental challenges include deforestation, erosion, and lack of freshwater.

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Upcoming Voyages

Summer 2017
Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Republic of Kiribati

The Republic of Kiribati is a remote Pacific Ocean region located just five degrees south of the Equator and composed of 32 coral atolls in three major groups – the Gilbert, Phoenix, and Line Islands – as well as one isolated island, Banaba. Kiribati is the only country in the world that falls in all four hemispheres. Twenty-one of its islands are inhabited, with a total population of about 100,000 people. One of the least developed Pacific Island countries, the country has few natural resources and benefits from international aid. Fishing licenses also form an important part of the economy.

With SEA Semester, you will have the opportunity to sail throughout and investigate this last coral wilderness on Earth and develop insight to help preserve its future.

Phoenix Islands Protected Area

Previous port stops have included: Birnie, Enderbury, Kanton, Nikumaroro, Orona

At 157,626 square miles in size, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) is one the largest marine protected areas in the world. PIPA is one of Earth’s last intact oceanic coral archipelago ecosystems due to its remoteness and lack of a permanent human presence, and was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010.

The biological density in this area is nothing short of extraordinary. Despite rather limited exploration, more than 500 fish species are already known here, and species like surgeonfish and parrotfish, rarely seen elsewhere in huge numbers, are found in enormous aggregations.

PIPA’s reefs include at least 120 types of coral. Dolphins are among the 18 marine mammal species found in these waters—where large whales were once hunted with regularity. The site also sits astride key migration routes used by turtles and some aquatic species. Uninhabited islands are mobbed by dense flocks of seabirds.

Line Islands

The Line Islands comprise 11 coral atolls and low islands in the central Pacific Ocean and, at 2,350 kilometers in length, represent one of the world’s longest island chains. Formerly colonized by the United Kingdom or claimed by the United States, eight of the Line Islands became part of the independent Republic of Kirabati in 1979, while three remain U.S. territories.

Some SEA Semester voyages visit Kiritimati, also known as Christmas Island, in the Northern Line Island. At about 100 miles in circumference, it has largest land area of any coral atoll in the world and composes about 70% of the total land mass of Kiribati. Both the United States and Britain used the island for nuclear weapons testing in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and controversy remains over the health implications of their failure to evacuate residents while doing so. The entire island was designated a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1975, with limited permits available for research and ecotourism. Today, the island houses about 5,500 permanent residents, port facilities, a small airport, and a large government-owned plantation for processing coconut meat.

Some SEA Semester voyages also anchor offshore of Caroline Island, sometimes known as Millennium Island because it was among the first places in the world to witness the first sunrise of the year 2000. Located in the Southern Line Islands, it is the easternmost uninhabited island of Kiribati and is considered one of the few remaining pristine tropical islands on the planet. Covering only about 1.5 square miles, Caroline Island consists of nearly 40 highly vegetated islets with coral beaches surrounding a long, narrow lagoon. It is an important breeding site for many seabirds, most notably the sooty tern, and hosts one of the world’s largest coconut crab populations on Earth.

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