SEA Semester Destinations

Voyages of Discovery to:

CaribbeanWestern Europe & the MediterraneanFiji / American SamoaFrench PolynesiaHawaiiNew ZealandPhoenix Islands Protected Area


Previous port stops have included: Antigua, Barbados, Bequia, Bermuda, Carriacou, Dominia, Grenada, Martinque, Montserrat, 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 over 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. 

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Western Europe & the Mediterranean

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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Fiji / American Samoa

American Samoa

American Samoa is the southernmost territory of the United States and a key naval station. Originally 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.


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.

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Upcoming Voyages

Spring 2015
Oceans & Climate

Spring 2016
The Global Ocean

French Polynesia


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.


Tubuai is the main island in the Tubuai Island Group in the Austral Islands chain in southwestern French Polynesia. The island is surrounded by a lagoon and coral reefs, with two volcanic domes in the center of the island. Captain Cook first mapped the island in 1777, but it was the mutinied crew of the HMS Bounty, led by Christian Fletcher, that first disembarked on the island. Increased contact with Europeans strained the native populations, who had inhabited the island for over 2,000 years.

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Upcoming Voyages

Summer 2015
Aloha `Aina

Summer 2015
Protecting the Phoenix Islands


Previous port stops have included: Oahu, Lanai, Hawaii, Maui, & Molokai

Hawaii is the youngest U.S. state and the only one made up entirely of islands. While each of its six islands has its own personality, they all share the aloha spirit: a sense of compassion and peace. In addition to its reputation for surfing and some of the best beaches in the world, Hawaii is also known for its connection to nature. You don’t have to look far to find the deep and enduring relationship between Hawaiian people and their land and the ocean. Aloha `Aina, a Hawaiian conception of ‘love of the land,’ describes a deep and enduring relationship between Hawaiian people and the land and ocean resources that sustain them.

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New Zealand

Previous port stops have included: Auckland, 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 eighteenth 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. The nation’s reliance on the sea is visible everywhere.

With its two main Islands extending nearly 1000 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.

Using the metrics of the Ocean Health Index (OHI) we will attempt to understand how centuries of seaborne commerce, fishing, and coastal development have impacted and changed the natural environment of New Zealand’s littoral zones and offshore waters. We will look at demands made on natural resources by a growing tourist industry and expanding harbor facilities. What balance can be struck between nature and economic development?  And what role can ancient traditions play in developing a “sense of place” that respects both traditional cultures and natural landscapes?

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

Summer 2015
Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Phoenix Islands Protected Area

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 located in the Republic of Kiribati, a region composed of three island groups – the Gilbert, Phoenix, and Line Islands – just five degrees south of the Equator. 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 world’s largest designated marine protected 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 one of 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.

Sail throughout the last coral wilderness on Earth in order to preserve its future. Join a limited group of students alongside world-renowned experts for an unprecedented scientific research voyage to the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.

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