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Voyages

SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.

Jun

14

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Preparing to Enter New York Harbor

Friday 14 June 2013
Position: 40° 25.8’N x 73° 28.0’W
Description of location:  Ambrose to Nantucket Traffic Lane, departing New York City
Heading:  SE
Speed:  5 knots
Weather / Wind:  SE wind Force 2, 4/8 Altocumulus cloud cover

Image Caption: Preparing to Enter New York Harbor.

There are few sights more invigorating than pink streaks across the sky as dawn encroaches upon a rainy night.  That’s the first thing some of us got to see on watch this morning; it was the last thing some of us saw before going to sleep. 

Our first day in New York City was wildly wet: driving, slanting rain caught many of us by surprise during our three hours off in the evening, and we came running back to the boat giddy and soaking.  Our second day in New York City eased us gently into a verdant Northeastern June, as clouds drew away from a buttery sun that warmed the pavement beneath our feet.

This morning, members of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) paid Cramer a visit, squeezing in with us in the main salon and partaking in some fabulous artichoke spinach dip.  They filled us in on their educational outreach programs in the city, as well as their work with tracking sharks in the waters offshore New York City.  They also described some of the methods they use to find eels in dammed rivers in the city.  (A favorite was the eel mop, the offspring of a plastic plant pot and polypropelene rope that looked like an outrageously overgrown black wig.) A watch reciprocated with the leptocephali research group’s findings so far.

WCS is getting involved in protecting the Hudson Canyon, a wonderfully biodiverse area just southeast of Manhattan that happens to have a traffic lane running directly through it.  Cramer deployed two meter nets and one Neuston net in the canyon to gather data for WCS.  The meter nets came up brimming with bright pink zooplankton.  Today, B and C watch presented that station’s data, passing depth profiles, pie charts and jars full of pink copepods from the meter nets around the tables in the main salon.

This afternoon, we set our stays’ls proudly and left Tribeca, the Hudson River, and New York City glittering in the sun behind us.  Now the city glows in the dusk on the pink western horizon.

Next stop, Woods Hole!

Annie O., Leyana, Kat, Rachel, Scott, and Steven of C Watch

Special Shoutout: We had a fantastic open ship last night. Thank you to everyone who visited despite the rain.

Jun

11

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Another creature of the deep we'’ve been seeing in our tows, a phronemid amphipod.

Tuesday 11 June 2013, 1625
Position: 39°19.3’ ’N x 071°27.5’’ W
Description of Location: New England Slope, heading for Hudson Canyon
Heading: 321 T
Speed: 4 knots

Image Caption: Another creature of the deep we’’ve been seeing in our tows, a phronemid amphipod.

Hello from Mama Cramer!

As usual aboard the ship, it’s been a busy few days! Academically, the students have been working hard at getting their project results synthesized for paper drafts and upcoming poster sessions alike. Amid identifying leptocephali (eel larvae), counting microbial colonies, running statistical analyses, and creating figures, the students are beginning to see the fruits of their labor as a cohesive picture emerges of the science we’‘ve been doing the entire trip.

Recently, amid dodging squalls and making miles towards New York, our sampling plan has been scaled back, but in the last few nights we’‘ve been able to deploy a few different types of nets and gotten some awesome results! As we make our way towards land, the continental shelf has been sloping gently upwards, and we have been seeing many different flora andfauna in the lab as a result of the changing oceanic conditions. Two nights ago, the neuston net (which tows at the air/water interface on the surface, and is affectionately dubbed “neusty” by the crew aboard Cramer) caught a whopping 86 phyllosoma, or spiny lobster larva, in just 30 minutes. Almost all of them were no larger than your little fingernail. Last night, we had the chance to tow our meter net at about 15 meters below the surface with the neuston stacked on top, and again were rewarded with quite the catch.

A mere 30 minutes of towing yielded almost 10 liters (you read that right- 10 liters!) of gelatinous critters known as salps from the meter net, amid other gelatinous organisms such as ctenophores and medusae. Among the invertebrates we catch in our net tows, salps (which look a bit like a clear peeled grape) are actually the most closely related to humans, as they possess a notochord, the evolutionary precursor to our spine. However, the real star of the show was a heteropod, which is a pelagic snail with a reduced shell whose soft body actually resembles a tiny gooey elephant. In class today, chief scientist Amy Siuda read a passage from one of our books onboard, Pelagic Snails, which mentioned that because of their low densities, heteropods are considered to be very rare and are typically only occasionally seen by “professional oceanographers.”

So there you go: the sons and daughters and friends you sent off to sea a few weeks ago are not just students, and are not just sailors, but are also oceanographers who are sampling waters and identifying organisms that even professional researchers don’’t often get the opportunity to see. It’s pretty incredible that the science we get to do on a daily basis onboard is stuff that most researchers may only dream of, and Amy’’s reading reminded me of that today- something that’s easy for me to forget as I have been sailing with SEA for the past few years as an assistant scientist. It’s been a really fun trip for me science-wise to get the chance to see all the incredible molecular and sampling work the class of C247 has been putting in, and I am looking forward to their poster presentations in a few days!

Tonight and tomorrow bring some more site-specific sampling as we enter the Hudson Canyon, so stay tuned for more exciting news on the science front! Rest assured everyone is hard at work, but still keeping their spirits high!

Chrissy Dykeman
2nd Assistant Scientist

PS. Hi Mom! Gabe, Tom, Renee- love you, hope to see you soon! Happy belated birthday Renee! Gasket- see you in WH!!!

Jun

10

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Blog

Monday 10 June 2013, 2000
Position: 39°46’ ’N x 70°25’’ W
Description of Location: North West of the Gulf Stream
Heading: 289°T
Speed: 6 Knots

A very eventful occasion indeed since Steven last updated everyone about bioluminescent organisms kicked up in dolphin wakes. C watch had the deck for this afternoon and I had the con (pulls neck of shirt and gulps). We had been motoring for the past day in light winds making up time to New York so, by around 1300 (the time we were on), pretty much everyone was growing weary with the gluttonous chugging of the engine. When our fine Captain pointed out that the anemometer was showing wind astern, we were more than happy to set some sail.

After the command was given to set all of our square sails, I gathered some deck hands and strode to the foredeck confidently, prepared to set the Tops’l, Course and Raffee, …said no Junior Watch Officer ever.  “I want you to set all of our square’s’ls” said Tom to your incognizant narrator.

“Square’s’ls, understood”.

“How many hands are you going to need for that?”

Stall. My mind evokes images of sprouting arms like a Hindu deity. Thankfully, my mouth spits out something along the lines of “I will work that out and confer with the science deck about how many people they can spare.”

After a brief conference with my counterpart Junior Lab Officer in Science and a slightly less brief conversation with my watch officer on the proper way to set the Raffee, I tentatively swayed on the quarter deck (brow sweat and clenched fist) “Hands to set the Tops’l!”

After another few minutes to prepare the lines, I belted “Cast off the brails, inhaul and clewl’n! Haul away on the sheet and outhaul!” The Tops’l slid along the yard arm like a steam locomotive, gliding effortlessly along its greased track …again, if you believed that, I have some coastal property to sell you that sits a foot above sea level at low tide.

After the command is given, the deck is a blur of straining arms and tailing lines. Lost in the frenzy of this clockwork machine, I struggle to see if all these cogs and gears are moving. “Hold your outhaul and sheet!” comes the command from right behind me. A staggering African Elephant collapses on my chest in the middle of the Atlantic. “JWO, I think one of your brails is still made fast,” says the Captain with all of the subtly of that same elephant. “Thank you Captain. Cast off all your brails and then haul away on your sheet and outhaul.” The sail creaks the last few feet along its track, 1 for 3.

The Course goes just about as well; another brail gets caught while hauling the sail out and I silently swear to scour this whole boat for foul lead lines (wound incorrectly on the rail) until the pins that hold them are afraid of my shadow. It is finally time to set the Raffee. We attach the halyard and sheets to the sails and I go through a mental checklist of everything that needs to not go wrong; no lines crossed, downhaul and halyard attached to one another, sail outboard of the forestay, hands on all of the lines, lines still not crossed, sail still outboard of the for Pete’s sake “Ease your downhaul and haul way halyard! Sheet home!” The kite catches wind and flies up Saturday morning at the park picturesque. Our fair lady Cramer is wearing her party hat for the first time on this voyage and she does look lovely in it.

The squares stay up for the better part of our watch and all hands are happy to enjoy a quiet afternoon with a light breeze. Sadly, it got a bit too light by the end of watch and we were charged with striking the square rigging before turning over to A watch for the evening (goodness knows that they could not take them down with the same professionalism and spartan resolve that went into putting them up).

And so ends another rotation here on the high seas. I am not particularly certain of how to finish this entry but it seems like a number of people have given shout outs. I guess I would just like to say hey and thanks to everyone who has been following along with our trials and tales. The crew is doing well and all whom I have spoken with give the best to their friends and family. To my mother of whom I am certain is tending this blog feverishly (for everyone playing at home, that was sarcasm, she has been reading it but she is just a very chill lady and I do not think I could ever describe her actions as “feverish”) I will just give my response to the same three questions I am asked before I go anywhere; I am safe, I have not been arrested and I am definitely having fun.

Sincerely,
Scott Watters
Kenyon College/C Watch

P.S. For everyone who has not sailed on a hermaphrodite brigantine, the squares are all on the foremast and consists of three separate sails none of which are actually truly square shaped but all of which are different than fore and aft sails. The Course is at the bottom,  Tops’l is situated in the middle and Raffee is at the top, one of Cramers highest sails and is referred to as a kite. The Raffee is also triangular which is why, sitting atop the stack, it kind of looks like a hat.

Jun

09

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

The Sciences

Sunday 09 June 2013
Position: 38° 07’N x068° 42’W
Description of Location: In the Gulf Stream!
Heading: 302°T
Speed: 6 Knots

Photo caption: The Sciences!  The watch on observes the sun’s meridian passage to determine the ships latitude while towing a Neuston net in the North Sargasso sea. (l-r 2nd mate Rocky Hadler, student Mariah Haberman, student Taunya Couts)

It was another action-packed day for us onboard Cramer, but first, an Urgent News Update from the edge of the Sargasso Sea: our friend Andrea (formerly known as Tropical Storm Andrea) has delayed our trajectory into
New York Harbor, so we now plan to be sailing in on June 13th instead of the day before.

In other news, after what seemed like days of tremendous, 10 foot swells (most likely generated in the wake of Andrea’s path towards Nova Scotia), the motion of the ship has finally returned to a familiar, gentle sway. But these times are not for tea, cookies, or complacency! We are always alert, whether on watch or off. Such was the case this afternoon when word came from the engine room of a fire and the general alarm rang above
our heads. We quickly shuffled on deck to learn that it was a fire drill. However, this quickly escalated into an abandon ship drill, and without much thinking, each watch went through the motions of securing items for their life raft and donning the heavy immersion suits (Gumby costumes).

After the drill, C Watch (hereby known as Hove To watch) prepared a Cramer Murder Mystery to kick off Field Day. Loosely based on true events, it was a tragicomedy surrounding the suspicious disappearance of Captain Sully and our speculations on how and why a murder on the high seas may have transpired. We thought of all the possibilities onboard: a hydrochloric acid/formalin bomb, hydrowinch wire under tension, staphylococci bacteria, entrapment in the freezer, and even death by spatchy the spatula.

Waiting for us after Field Day is, of course, a deck shower. Most of us rinsed off using the saltwater hose and dried off, while Rachel and Kat decided to wait for the oncoming squall (yes, another one) to rinse them clean with rainwater. Talk about ecosystem services! Let’s add this one to our list of conservation targets in the Sargasso Sea.

I spent the evening before watch working on our Vibrio research project, doing some data cleaning and generating figures for our results manuscript. The second leg of our journey feels much more rapid than when we first began, both academically and in terms of our responsibilities on the ship. I am personally impressed with the amount of academic work we all manage to fit in between watches and sleep. All the other students in the MBC program has been a joy to work with since we are all similarly motivated and have a general science background. Add the dynamic environment onboard Cramer and you can pretty much say that this is one for the books.

Signing off,
Steven Houang
Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts

PS: I’’m editing this to add that I saw dolphins for the second night in a row! Seeing these swimmers rip through the waters teeming with bioluminescent zooplankton is almost shocking. Their illuminated, ghostly figures dart in and out of the trajectory of the ship and are gone as soon as you see them.

LMS: I love you guys and can’t wait to see you! If you make it to Pier 25, please bring me something delicious (fiddlehead fern salad?) from Biang!

Friends: I’’ll be back on land soon!

Jun

07

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Posing with our new (and clean) Bermuda Blue Halo shirts-inside the Blue Halo

Friday 07 June 2013
Position: 35°55’N x 66°00’W
General Location: North Sargasso Sea

Photo Caption: Posing with our new (and clean) Bermuda Blue Halo shirts-inside the Blue Halo!

The second half of the game is always the most exciting.  My (Andrew) background in cross-country ski racing has trained me to dig deep during the final stretch and this voyage is putting that practice to a whole new scale. In a ski race however, you don’t have to change your course to avoid a tropical storm.

Now that we are taking more ownership of the big picture operations of this sailing vessel, the weather reports released every six hours are examined - with an obsession reminiscent of Facebook— - a distant memory now.  These days our most recent notifications have included a weather system so severe it actually has a name: Andrea.  The first half of our voyage was uneventful weather-wise, while now if you follow our GPS tracker you will wonder if we have decided to make for Greenland. Really we are giving tropical storm Andrea a wide berth to be safe.  Now we are bobbing around in the North Sargasso Sea in some of the choppiest water we’ve seen yet waiting for our path to New England to clear.  Though our progress may appear to be taking steps backward on the chart, on the ship we continue to progress forward with the JWO experience and many other goals to accomplish and challenges to overcome.

For instance, B watch (Squall Watch) was the first watch to go aloft. This involves climbing up the entire foremast (and sometimes out onto the yards). Obviously, this is no light accomplishment as all students were required to complete a safety checklist prior to attempting the climb. Additionally, the climb itself took a level of courage as you are only able to clip-in to standing rigging when not climbing- and therefore much of journey is a free-climb. This was especially difficult as the motion of the boat is amplified aloft like a great metronome.

Also, on a lighter note, today was a very special occasion. We had visitors. That’’s right, dolphins. This experience was especially significant as some of us have never seen dolphins in-person before. We observed a group of three to four common dolphins following and circling Cramer. We speculated that our on-board sonar device “Chirp” that measures sea-floor depth might have drawn the pod to us. This sighting was a nice break as it occurred in the middle of our lab-practical exam- putting everyone in a better mood. Overall, the past few days have been an exciting and challenging whirlwind-and there is more to come. We hope you keep following our progress.

Squall Watch reps Andrew and Mariah signing off.

Shout outs:
Mariah: Hi mom, dad, Garrett, gran, gramps and everyone! I’m learning tons and miss you all! In case you didn’’t know from reading the above, I went aloft! I don’’t think I’’ve ever held on to anything so tight in my entire life! I was also JWO for the first time today- it was exciting and I learned a lot. Can’t wait to tell you more! Love you! – Mariah

Andrew to the Denver Pioneers: Hope you guys are behaving without your girls’ team captain and have fun at graduation! 22!

Andrew Dougherty
University of Denver

Mariah Haberman
Stanford University

Jun

06

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Matt at the helm (thanks to EZ for the photo!)

Thursday 06 June 2013, 2000
Position: 35° 20’N x 066° 48’W
General location: North Sargasso Sea (not that you could tell by our Neustontows)
Wind: SW F5
Course: 100°
Speed: 4kts

Image caption: Matt at the helm (thanks to EZ for the photo!)

Dear landlubbers,
Today began for A watch at 0000, during midwatch. Ethan did a great job as first-time JWO (Junior Watch Officer), fearlessly leading us through a complicated triple-stack net tow as we sampled using the engine for the first time on our watch (first the entire trip). After watch (at the totally-normal-at-sea hour of 0300) we all sat down, ate cookies, drank tea, and decorated Styrofoam cups for the morning’s “styrocast.”

Around 1000 this morning, the science team of C watch led us through our first and only styrocast, sending out 2000 meters of wire with our decorated cups attached along with a CTD. The cups returned to the surface in miniature, crushed by the pressure of the water. After a quick watch meeting and lunch, we were on watch again at 1300 to finish our noon science deployment under the storm trys’l and the stays’ls.

As JLO (Junior Lab Officer), I (Manasi) had to direct the noon deployment of the neuston net, something I hadn’t ever been in charge of before. Thankfully, Bethany had the knowledge to help me through it and save the day.

Unfortunately, today’s weather and navigation report brought some less-than-ideal news: Tropical Storm Andrea will be passing our intended cruise track to New York City, so we are currently sailing east northeast to avoid bad weather - into the open ocean and away from our planned port stop. Hopefully we will be able to safely bypass the storm and still make it to New York on time. But if not, we will see you in Woods Hole on the 17th!

Shout-outs!
Hi Mom, Dad, Grammy (I’ve got a few souvenirs for you!) Boo, Teddy, all the cottage folks, Devin, Troy, Courtney, and the Eckerd crew (Colby, Sasha and Elliot, we’ve got a lot to talk about)! SOOOO many stories for you! And so much sailing of the JY to be done in CT! PS Courtney: we may be sailing into NY on the 12th, so if you are there maybe pay us a visit? Bye for now! -Matt

Hey fambly (and assorted others) - hope you’re all doing well! Miss you SO much, but I’ll see you all so soon! I’m excited for the next couple of weeks! Love, love, love, Manasi

Today’s blog by:
Manasi Malik
University of Kentucky

Matt Flynn
Eckerd College

Jun

05

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

The members of C Watch

Wednesday 05 June 2013 16:15
Position: 34° 27’N x 066° 23’
Heading: 330°
Wind: SW, Beaufort Force 1
Speed: 5.5 kts Motor sailing to the NW

Image Caption: The members of C Watch (Leyana Romain, Rachel Green, Steven Huang, Kat Lipp, Annie Osborn, and Scott Walters) pose in immersion suits with Gordon and watch officer Jeremy Tagliaferre during an abandon ship drill.

Leading up to and during our week long port stop in Bermuda, the students of C247 had heard the terrors of the affliction known as “port stop stupids.” A condition that causes a sailor to quickly forget all the routines and information learned prior to a port call. The week long adventure in Bermuda was filled with unforgettable history and field trips, beautiful pink beaches and a fair amount of “me” time that we easily grew accustomed to, while making Cramer a little jealous. But as we motored away from Pennos wharf in Bermuda it didn’t take long before we fell back into our routine of being alert and ready to set sails as we said our final good byes to land. We were back on mama Cramer and she now took first precedence. Our world was now the ocean as Bermuda slowly disappeared into the horizon. We were greeted once more with full, ripe, dark blue swells that rocked us back and forth, even to sleep sometimes and a fresh breeze that smelled like salt. Many things now crowded our minds we would be headed to New York in just a few days and we were about to enter phase 2 of our trip where we would each have the responsibility of being JWO, short for Junior Watch Officer. This title holds a great deal of responsibility including being in charge of our watch and having good judgment to make the right decisions with regards to sail plans and the overall safety and efficiency of the ship, (of course with the guidance of our dearest captain and watch officers). We also thought about the data we had to analyze for our research projects and began to think about the bigger picture and how we were going to merge our scientific discoveries to policy making and conservation. Most notably we didn’t forget the cold front that was waiting to greet us within
24 hours and began to prepare mentally for that as well, checking out the weather forecast and making our own analysis of what was to come. Turns out the front brought with it some winds of about force 4 and a deck wash for mama Cramer, we managed to pull through this one without much hassle.

Leyana Shout out : Hi mommy!! Happy Belated birthday!!!, hope it was good. Hi daddy!! nuff luv!!! Kijana, Kino, Ernesto, Keisha big up allu’ self (Y) Shout out to all my aunties and uncles, also all my friends and school buds, miss you guys ..xoxoxo.

Jun

04

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Departing St. George’s Harbor

Tuesday 04 June 2013
Position: 32° 43.5’‘N x 064° 51.3’’W
Description of location:  North Sargasso Sea, near Bermuda
Heading:  315° True
Speed:  6 kts
Weather / Wind:  SxE wind Force 3, scattered sun showers

Image Caption:  Departing St. George’s Harbor.

It’s great to finally be at sea with the C247 crew.  I was reunited with the class in Bermuda and will serve as Chief Scientist on the second leg of the cruise.  And, there is nothing like Field Day to welcome one back to the ship!  Field Day is our weekly deep clean of the Cramer.  This week the event was especially important, since we brought a lot of Bermuda (e.g., sand, dirt, crumbs, etc.) aboard during our week-long visit.  The ship’s company divided and conquered, cleaning from overheads (ceilings) to soles (floors) in all living and working spaces.  This is also a time to tackle the housekeeping chores that do not get attention during the daily clean-up by the morning watch.  On Field Day order is restored; bookshelves are tidied, brass gets polished, and gear adrift items are returned to their owners.  Now, we are ready to make our way offshore for the next leg of the voyage.  I look forward to this time at sea.     

Dr. Amy Siuda
Chief Scientist, C247 Leg 2

Jun

03

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Manasi Malik and Mariana Mata loading electrophoresis gels to check for successful PCR products

Monday 03 June 2013
Position: 32° 22.7’N x 064° 40.9’W
Description of location:  Pennos Wharf, St. George’s, Bermuda
Heading:  docked
Speed:  docked
Weather / Wind:  SExE wind Force 1, overcast

Image Caption:  Manasi Malik and Mariana Mata loading electrophoresis gels to check for successful PCR products.

Today we are doing the final packaging of the precious samples that the students have been preparing to return to Woods Hole for sequencing at the W.M. Keck Sequencing Facility in the Josephine Bay Paul Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory. These include the genomic DNAs of spiny lobster larvae (Phyllosoma) and adults, eel larvae (Leptocephali), hydroids growing on Sargassum seaweed, and bacteria growing on plastic marine debris, Phyllosoma, Leptocephali, and Sargassum, as well as the amplified DNA from these organisms.  For the last two weeks MBC students have been busy collecting samples, extracting DNA and amplifying DNA of target genes of interest to answer questions of importance to both biodiversity science and policy.

These include:  How similar are the commercially important spiny lobster communities in the tropics versus the subtropics and where do their sources originate?  How many different kinds of eel larvae can be detected in the Sargasso Sea in addition to American and European eels? What different species of hydroids make Sargassum their home? Are there distinct species of bacteria that live on biotic (larvae and Sargassum) versus abiotic (plastic) substrates and are any potential pathogens? Each project targets a separate gene appropriate to answering these questions.  When the SSV Corwith Cramer arrives back in Woods Hole the DNA sequencing data will be ready for the next student challenge:  learning how to process and analyze their molecular data and summarizing their results for the upcoming symposium during the final week of the semester. 

Linda Amaral-Zettler
Marine Biological Laboratory, MBC faculty member

Jun

02

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Students Steven Houang, Greg St. Auben, and Mariah Haberman observe a variety of jelly organisms collected in a net tow from 200m depth

Sunday 02 June 2013
Position: 32° 22.7’N x 064° 40.9’W
Description of location:  Pennos Wharf, St. George’s, Bermuda
Heading:  docked
Speed:  docked
Weather / Wind:  SExE wind Force 1, sunny and clear

Image Caption:  Students Steven Houang, Greg St. Auben, and Mariah Haberman observe a variety of jelly organisms collected in a net tow from 200m depth.

Since arriving in Bermuda the students have had a very full schedule visiting museums, aquaria, research stations, and archaeological sites. They’ve snorkeled on historic shipwrecks (including the vessel ‘Constellation’ that inspired Peter Benchley’s novel “The Deep”) and spoken with local students, researchers, and people who are organizing local conservation initiatives including the Sargasso Sea Alliance, the Bermuda Aquarium/Museum/Zoo, and Blue Halo. Talking with conservation organizations has made the students realize that the data they are collecting has real value to inform conservation policy. While the academic emphasis ashore has shifted from biodiversity to conservation, they are still completing final preparation of the DNA from samples collected during leg 1 of the cruise from St. Croix to Bermuda for their biodiversity projects.

During the first leg I’ve watched students grow from a green group struggling to absorb a huge amount of new information, to a crew beginning to work as a coherent and confident team to help operate a 134’ sailing research vessel. I’ve heard comments about how being at sea simultaneously expands and contracts time; on the one hand they feel like they’ve been on the boat forever.on the other hand they can’t believe that in just two more short weeks they’ll be in Woods Hole. I’ll be departing the ship tomorrow and handing over operation of the science work to Amy Siuda, the Chief Scientist for Leg 2. I’ve enjoyed sailing, living, and working with each and every student, and by the time they arrive in Woods Hole I expect they will be running the boat!

-Erik Zettler
Chief Scientist Leg 1

Jun

01

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Dr. Mike Jarvis, University of Rochester

Saturday 01 June 2013
Position: 32° 22.7’N x 064° 40.9’W
Description of location:  Pennos Wharf, St. George’s, Bermuda
Heading:  alongside
Speed:  alongside
Weather / Wind: ESE wind Force 1, sunny

Image Caption:  Dr. Mike Jarvis, University of Rochester, describing life in 17th century Bermuda close to the location that the Sea Venture was wrecked and the first English came ashore.

May

31

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

David Freestone, Executive Director of the Sargasso Sea Alliance

Friday 31 May 2013
Position: 32° 22.7’N x 064° 40.9’W
Description of location:  Pennos Wharf, St. George’s, Bermuda
Heading:  alongside
Speed:  alongside
Weather / Wind:  ESE wind Force 1, overcast

Image Caption: David Freestone, Executive Director of the Sargasso Sea Alliance, meets with students to discuss efforts to protect the Sargasso Sea.

May

30

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Kat Lipp holding juvenile sea turtle while Dr. Ian Walker, Curator of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, describes the rehabilitation process

Thursday, May 30 2013
Position: 32° 22.7’N x 064° 40.9’W
Description of location:  Pennos Wharf, St. George’s, Bermuda
Heading:  alongside
Speed:  alongside
Weather / Wind: ExS wind Force 3, clear

Image Caption:  Kat Lipp holding juvenile sea turtle while Dr. Ian Walker, Curator of the Bermuda Aquarium, Museum and Zoo, describes the rehabilitation process.

May

29

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Lionfish dissection during a field trip to Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.


Wednesday 29 May 2013
Position: 32° 22.7’N x 064° 40.9’W
Description of location:  Pennos Wharf, St. George’s, Bermuda
Heading:  alongside
Speed:  alongside
Weather / Wind:  ESE wind Force 4, clear

Image Caption:  Lionfish dissection during a field trip to Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.

May

28

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

A day off to explore

Tuesday 28 May 2013
Position: 32° 22.7’N x 064° 40.9’W
Description of location:  Pennos Wharf, St. George’s, Bermuda
Heading:  alongside
Speed:  alongside
Weather / Wind:  ExN wind Force 2, sunny

Image Caption:  A day off to explore!

May

26

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Afternoon musical interlude (l-r Patrick Lynch, Ethan Edson, Allison Weinstock, Annie Osborn)

Sunday 26 May 2013
Position: 31° 34.3’N x 064° 23.1’W
Description of location:  SE of Bermuda
Heading:  NNE
Speed:  4.0 kts
Weather / Wind:  SSW wind Force 4

Image Caption:  Afternoon musical interlude (l-r Patrick Lynch, Ethan Edson, Allison Weinstock, Annie Osborn)

A class in a lecture hall can do very little to prepare you for the amazing show that Mother Nature can display out at sea.  The students of C-247 learned basic weather forecasting skills in the few weeks spent ashore in Woods Hole, and continue to refine those skills out here in the North Atlantic.  I can honestly say that nothing makes me more proud as a sailing ship captain, than to know that all of my newest crew can read, interpret and react to the weather around them.

Today was a perfect example.  This morning found the ship bounding north under stays’ls and tops’l with the wind over our quarter, by noon that wind had veered (moved clockwise around the compass) to the South West. At the afternoon ships meeting the watch presenting the weather forecast warned of an approaching cold front, possible thunder and lightning and a dramatic wind shift to the north west.  That student forecast was at 1430, by 2000 a long low line of clouds with the tell tale signs of an approaching cold
front was low on our Western horizon. What more could I ask for?  Just a month ago many of these students didn’t know anything about weather, this afternoon they have sailed the Corwith Cramer over 800 miles based on their own forecasts!  My mind swells when I think of all they will learn in the time we have left sailing together.

After the evening passage of the cold front that brought some patchy showers and very light winds, we found ourselves becalmed 15 miles to the south east of Gibbs Hill lighthouse on Bermuda, over a thousand miles sailed since we departed the safe harbor in St Croix.  Monday morning a Bermudian Harbor pilot boarded the Cramer and assisted her alongside a safe berth in the town of St George Bermuda.  Students have already began to make observations on what Bermuda has to offer, and anticipating the adventures to come in our next week here on island.

Thanks to all of you that are following our voyage.  To my wife and little girl, all my love.
-Tom Sullivan, Captain

May

24

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Sargasso Sea Sunset

Friday 24 May 2013, 1926
Position: 29° 19’N x 064° 7.0 ‘ W
General location: Middle of the Sargasso Sea
Heading: 030°
Wind: SE, Beaufort Force 5
Speed: 6 kts

Photo caption: Sargasso Sea Sunset

Do you remember when you’re a child, and you believe that you can fly?  Well, here on Mamma Cramer, that dream comes true.  Whether you’re at the helm or on bow watch in the middle of the night, the bow moves up and down in a way that feels surreal – the sensation of flying comes not only from the movement of the ship, but from the boundless infinite ocean spreading around us.  The skies are so vast and blue, dotted only by puffy white clouds.  And at night, the sky is illuminated by an almost full moon – that lights up the night as though someone had failed to turn out the lights.  We can see out to the horizon, watching the waves crest and peak in white horses, no other illumination is required during this fantastical night. 

Yesterday, when I went to the beam of the boat on the port side where we usually do our science, I was there to do our hourly six minute observation, watching for various animals and sargassum in the area.  But my attention was completely absorbed by what I saw immediately before me.  In a circle in front of me, the water was still and flat with the waves starting at a boundary of at least five feet away.  Inside this circle the rays of the sun penetrated into the water like arrows pointing, gesturing and encouraging me to plunge into its center for a cool swim in its depths.  It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night, if the waves are active or calm, but in every moment, being in the middle of the sea is amazing.  The ocean is so beautiful and there are not enough words to convey how deeply it moves me.

Today was a wonderful day for viewing wildlife.  We saw our first Portuguese Man of War, a jellyfish that floats with a bubble on the top of the waves.  We have been seeing flying fish most days we are out here, sometimes alone but today they were often in groups of twos or threes.  They are so beautiful to watch as they leap from the water, a flash of bluish silver that glides unbelievably far only to skip its tail in the water and push that flight further still.  Today we also saw several mahi mahi leaping from the water, a flash of green and yellow plunging up through the waves and falling back to the depths.  We never seem to tire of watching to find animals new and old around us.

We really love what we’re doing and seeing, but the closer we get to Bermuda, the more our excitement grows.  We find ourselves a mere 195 nm away and the worry at this point is that we will arrive too soon.  We have been fortunate in how favorable the weather has been.

Taunya and Mariana
(B watch!)

Shout outs:
From Taunya to Rusty, Annika, Linnea, Fiona and Lara – Hey guys! I miss you all SO much, and love you double!  But I am learning tons, I can use a sextant now – and navigate, and haul sails… Can’t wait to take us all on the ocean together.

From Mariana: Estar en medio del mar es maravilloso e inigualable; los ratitos que el trabajo deja para sentarse, contemplar el basto azul que me rodea y dejar los pensamientos irse lejos hacia el horizonte son indescriptiblemente disfrutables. Pero ver el mapa y ver el puntito donde estamos es algo aterrador ¡tan lejos de todo! Estoy feliz, me encanta este viaje, me encantan los barcos de velas y me enamora profundamente el mar; pero eso si, ¡los extraño!

May

23

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

A watch all together off watch

Thursday 23 May 2013, 2354
Position: 26° 20’N x 064° 29’ W
General location: South Sargasso Sea
Heading: 030°
Wind: E, Beaufort Force 5
Speed: 6 kts

Image caption:  “A” watch all together “off watch”

Time doesn’t seem real. It’s been nine days since we joined the ship; while it seems the time has flown by, it also feels like we have been on this ship for weeks. With the rotation of the watch schedule, we sleep in short, frequent intervals, so the decision about when to nap or brush our teeth can be tough. Since the watch schedule repeats every three days, it almost feels like three days is one very long day. But as we get more comfortable with our responsibilities, on deck, in the lab, in the engine room or in the galley, Cramer feels more like home. Classes are held on the quarterdeck (by the helm at the stern of the ship) every afternoon, and the past two days have covered ship traffic and collision regulations. They couldn’t have come at a better time, as in the middle of class we had a cargo ship pass down our port side, almost as if it were planned as a demonstration.

Today has been a great day for A watch, after dawn watch this morning it was our day for a shower (once every three days) and tomorrow shall be our night of the sleep of kings (from 0330 until as late as 1100!!!). To top it off, Lauren’s dream about hamburgers came true when Ethan took the role of Steward’s Assistant and inspired an awesome cookout (as he has been known to do on land and now also at sea!).

We’re past our halfway point to Bermuda, and a very very long way from land.

SHOUTOUTS
Lauren: Hey, little shout-out to the family: Mom, Daddy-O, Katie, Beannie, and Grammie! Missing you guys. Tell the rest of the family it is going great and I say hi!!! Love you all. xoxo LB

Matt: Hey Mom and Dad! I’m having an awesome time and can’t wait to teach you how to heave to on the JY15! Gaga, thanks for the chai tea, and Grampa, you’d better practice your knots because there may be a new knot board up at the Big Cottage soon

—Lauren Nickerson, University of New England
—Matt Flynn, Eckerd College
—Claudia Villar, Bowdoin College

May

22

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

All of C watch forming a Conga line at the conclusion of the Line Chase

Wednesday 22 May 2013, 1830
Position: 26° 14’N x 064° 41’W
General location: South Sargasso Sea
Heading: 040°
Wind: NExE, Beaufort Force 4
Speed: 4.2 kts

Image caption:  All of C watch forming a Conga line at the conclusion of the Line Chase

A little before twilight, the ocean running past the hull takes on a palpable deep blue hue.  When you see it, you feel like you can scoop your fingers through the water and bring up clay. These are the sorts of delicate details of the seascape a person notices, when that person is clipped in and hanging headfirst over the leeward rail in that position most conducive to vomiting (Figure 1).

C Watch, led by the inestimable third mate Jeremy Tagliaferre and the wisest of all second scientists Chrissy Dykeman, may have set a record for number of seasick SEA students bent double over the quarterdeck rail at one time during one watch.  While this was, perhaps, not the best of scenarios, we quickly realized that there was truly no better place to boot in the whole world.  And so we rallied!

Once the rocking had faded from the center of our queasy universe to the gentle background of a much steadier one, we started to hear SSV Corwith Cramer.  She spoke to us, just like our captain promised:

Leap, bound, plunge, and plow.

As we sail further north, the swells rocking our ship back and forth begin to grow.  Each time Cramer encounters one of these waves, she leaps up off the peak and bounds forward before plunging back into the water.  Then she plows a wide foaming wake on and on until she leaps again into the air. On and on, to Bermuda.

“C Watch,” or, “Boot and Rally”
by Annie Osborn and Scott Watters

May

21

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Yesterdays line chase

Tuesday 21 May 2013
Position: 24° 21’ N x 064° 30.5’ W  
Heading: North
Wind: ExN Force 5

Image caption: Yesterday’s line chase

Today Greg and Alice reminisce on some of the thoughts that cross one’s mind while standing bow look-out. These thoughts tend to be more intense during the Stars-a-sparkling and bioluminescence-a-blinking darkest hours of the night. Looking out into the blue darkness, we piece apart the universe. What is the meaning of life? Are all microbes living everywhere? Is love in everything? When does laundry become laundry? When does laundry become not laundry? If happiness is a scale of color, what is the color to express my greatest happiness and my greatest sadness? Should I get Michael Jordan’s face tattooed on my body?

But for our actual watch in the wee hours of the morning, we faced a number of squalls that tested our sail handling skills. In preparation for the chance of increased wind from one squall that crossed the ships path we struck the main stays’l, fore stays’l and mains’l.  As the squall approached within one mile of the ship (and had very little increased wind speed) our watch then set all three back again with the addition of the jib. In looking back on our experiences, our whole watch agreed last night was one of the
better moments of the journey so far. One might say we worked like a well-oiled machine.

We analyzed spiny lobster larvae, prepared hydroids for DNA extraction, and tinkered with celestial science. We ate and slept like kings. Fiddles and mandolins made an appearance on deck. We shot sun lines, and now we prepare for dawn watch. Bunks are becoming less sweaty as we move North, and the sleeping bags might actually get some use soon.

Over and out,
Squall Watch (B)

May

20

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

The Mahi Mahi

Monday 20 May 2013, 18:30
Position: 23° 21.04’ N x 64° 28.8’ W
Heading:  N
Speed:  5kts
Weather / Wind:  ExN Force 4

Image Caption: The Mahi Mahi

Today was the much anticipated “Pin Rail Line Chase” a chance for the class to participate in a sailing tradition that goes back centuries.  In the old days, green hands would scamper about the decks demonstrating their knowledge of the lines used to work the ship.  The lines called out one at a time by the grizzled captain, egged on by the entire crew and perhaps tailed by the yapping jaws of the captain’s dog.  In our case, it marked the culmination of our first week learning about life on the ship.  By the ships meeting today, we now know all 72 of Cramer’s lines, some lines with names as ornate as the “starboard forestaysl traveler outhaul” and the “mains’l shallow reef clewline.”  Our modern variation of the Pin Chase had the crew divided into three watches,  in a relay race to the right line.  The race ended with a rush of enthusiasm and relief, as the last line the watch needed to find was a “conga line” around the deck.

As the pin chase came to a close, there was a sudden tug on one the line that we had all forgotten-the fishing line!  We hauled in a beastly Mahi Mahi (dolphin fish) and had an impromptu anatomy lesson on deck.  We isolated the Mahi’s heart and aorta and got a good look and some still living nematodes inhabiting the gut.  Finally, we learned the proper way to clean and gut a fish, and stripped off some enormous tasty fillets for dinner tonight!

A Watch signing off
Bethany and Ethan

May

19

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Gordon and the wheel

Sunday 19 May 2013, 17:00
Location: 21° 39.1’’ N x 64° 37.3’’ W

Image caption: Gordon and the wheel

The familiar becomes unfamiliar becomes familiar. I am a guest faculty member from Ithaca College, aboard for the St. Croix to Bermuda leg of the voyage. I study the nature of human learning experiences, particularly those that are experiential and potentially transformative. The SEA reputation drew me here, and I have graciously been given the opportunity to study the MBC program.

I interviewed MBC students and faculty in Woods Hole during the first week of the program, and I will do so again at the conclusion. In between, and in order to experience things from the student perspective, I am participating in part of the voyage. Just like the students, I am standing watches, which means doing everything from cleaning to soles to steering the boat.

I have been sailing for 35 years, and I thought that experience would translate well. The principles are largely the same, but I have learned quickly that a tall ship takes the challenge of sailing a small sloop to a completely different level. I recognize some of the terms, for example, but coordinating the actions of 32 people at sea is enormous. I have been on the edge (often over the edge) of my knowledge for a week now, which is a great experience for a teacher, and my respect for the faculty, professional staff, and students - —my crewmates - —could not be greater. The students are learning how to sail the boat, taking classes, and conducting field research simultaneously. Their enthusiasm is terrific and keeps our spirits high, through what for me has involved the familiar instantly becoming unfamiliar then gradually becoming familiar again in a new and deeper way. Perhaps that process is a piece of the puzzle that makes SEA programs work so well.

Gordon Rowland
Ithaca College

May

17

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Student Bethany Kolody

Friday 17 May 2013, 4:25pm
Position: 18° 49’’ N x 64° 47’’ W
Heading:  N
Speed:  5.0 kts
Weather / Wind:  E wind Force 4

Image caption: Student Bethany Kolody, 3rd Mate Jeremy Tagliaferre, student Andrew Dougherty, Sailing Intern Laura Cooney Furling the Jib on the bowsprit.

It was a productive and exciting day here on the Cramer! This was our last day in the Caribbean before we fully entered the open ocean. We completed and processed our first samples, collected by towing three nets at different depths (at midnight). In addition to plankton, we also collected several eel and lobster larvae. We are all getting better at identifying different plankton, which was especially challenging at three in the morning on a moving ship. Afterwards, we passed through the Sir Francis Drake Channel located in the Caribbean around the British Virgin Islands on our way north to Bermuda.

The channel has strikingly beautiful views including island cliffs and unique wildlife such as huge Loggerhead Sea Turtles. Once through the channel we got extra practice working the sails. However, we are still far from sail mastery. In particular, we had a class on furling (i.e. stowing) the “Jib” sail (located at the very front of the ship). This was very exciting and a bit scary as it entails climbing out onto the “bow sprit” (as can be seen in the picture). As of now, most of us have our sea legs and are excited for the open ocean. The authors would like to give personal shout-outs.

From Taunya to Rusty, Annika, Linnea, Fiona, and Lara: “Love you lots! I’‘m doing great!”

From Mariah to mom, dad, and Garrett: “I’m having tons of fun and learning a lot! Can’’t wait to tell you about it!”

From Andrew to the fam: “I’‘m saaaailing!”

This is B-Watch signing off. Thanks and keep following our progress!

Representing B-Watch:
Taunya Couts, Portland State University
Andrew Dougherty, University of Denver
Mariah Haberman, Stanford University.

May

16

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

C watch members

Thursday 16 May 2013
Position: 18° 06.5’N x 064° 37.‘W
Description of location:  NE of St. Croix
Heading:  N
Speed:  4.0 kts
Weather / Wind:  E wind Force 4

Image Caption:  C watch members (L to R) student Annie Osborne, student Kat Lipp, Asst. Scientist Chrissy Dykeman and student Rachel Green ready to get underway from St Croix

What a busy time the last 24 hours have been!  Since leaving Gallows Bay we have been working the Cramer East into the trade wind.  Since we can’t sail the ship directly to windward, that involves sailing as close to the wind as possible in one direction, then the watch on gybes the ship around to the opposite side of the wind.  That process takes us many miles through the water, but only a few miles each leg in the direction we want to go to windward.  Over the last 24hrs we have sailed close to 100nm but, have only gained 35 miles to windward.  All in all its great practice in shiphandling and giving all of the “green” hands a chance to see the challenge of making a tall ship sail into the trade winds.  We have already had our first all hands class at sea.  The topic of the class was a demonstration of how to heave the ship to for a hydrocast.  The students got to sit back and watch the staff perform a double gybe, then had a chance to ask questions to help understand the theory and concepts involved.  After the ship was on station the staff then demonstrated a deployment of the carousel to 500 meters. Class ended with an all hands snack, and the watch on got the ship back underway.  The routine of the ship is starting to become less of a foreign language and more a part of life for all hands, sea legs are quickly being found and spirits are high.  We hope to make our way north through the BVI tomorrow and into the Sargasso Sea.  Wishing all the best to all of you following us at home.

May

15

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Students prepare to set the mainsail for the first time

Wednesday 15 May 2013
Position: 17° 53.8’N x 064° 41.2’W
Description of location:  7 nm N of Gallows Bay, St. Croix
Heading:  N
Speed:  3.0 kts
Weather / Wind:  ExS wind Force 3, overcast

Image Caption:  Students prepare to set the mainsail for the first time

After 24 hours of orientation and drills, class C247 headed out of Gallows Bay in St. Croix trailed by several Magnificent Frigate birds overhead. Instruments in the laboratory were turned on as soon as we cleared the dock and students began learning to interpret data from the ADCP (Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler), Chirp sub-bottom profiler (sonar to determine water depth and sediment layers), and the logging system recording temperature, salinity, chlorophyll fluorescence, and other environmental parameters. As soon as we were clear of the channel students set sails and soon the engine was turned off.

The ocean bottom drops off dramatically on the north side of the island and we are already in 3,800 meters of water (coincidentally the average depth of the world ocean). There is a steady gentle swell and some aboard are feeling the effects of the motion, but everybody is enthusiastic to finally be at sea. We’ve already seen flying fish, Brown Boobies, and our first clump of the brown alga Sargassum, the seaweed that the Sargasso Sea we will be sailing through is named after. 

The learning curve is very steep as everything is new and students begin to put into practice the ideas and theory they learned ashore: hauling on lines to raise sails that before were just names, completing their first boat/engine room check, observing the waves and clouds and feeling the wind as part of a weather observation, steering our 134’ brigantine by compass under sail, recording data for lab hourly observations, walking safely along a rolling deck, even using a marine head (toilet). Within weeks these strange new challenges will be mastered and become second nature as everybody aboard learns to work as a team to accomplish our goal: Safely navigate the Corwith Cramer over 2000 nautical miles to Woods Hole. As if this were not enough, they will also be collecting scientific data for group research projects and using this information to frame conservation policy for different regions of the ocean they are sailing through.

Erik Zettler
Chief Scientist

May

14

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Tuesday 14 May 2013 1600
Position: 17° 44.8’ N x 064° 41.9’ W
Description of location:  Alongside, Gallows Bay dock, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
Heading:  NE (moored)
Speed:  0.0kts (moored)
Weather / Wind:  E wind Force 4 Clear skies

The students and crew of class C-247 have all arrived safe and sound aboard the Corwith Cramer.  The entire crew will be spending much of the next 24 hours participating in safety orientations before our planned departure for sea at 1400 on Wednesday. It’s an extremely busy time, charged with the anticipation of sailing, and full of all the information best processed before we undertake the larger challenge of taking the ship away from this protected harbor and out to sea. Topics covered in the next 24hrs include things like, how you check the fuel level in the day tank, how to adjust your safety harness, why we never coil a line counterclockwise, where is the computer screen that you read data from the acoustic Doppler current profiler.

Once we depart St Croix, our route will take us North East through the British Virgin Islands, then North into the Sargasso Sea towards a planned stop in Bermuda.  Upon departing Bermuda we will sail North West for a quick stop in New York City, before sailing East to Woods Hole.  The weather looks favorable for the next few days, which should help folks get their sea legs amidst relatively settled conditions. Scientific work will begin as soon as the ship clears the harbor.

Keep checking here for updates from our voyage and please share this blog with friends and family.  We wish we could take all of you along on our exciting trip, however we hope this blog is the next best thing.

Wish us fair winds and great sampling!

Captain Tom Sullivan

May

09

C247 - Marine Biodiversity & Conservation

Thursday 09 May 2013

The students of C-247 have finished their shore component in Woods Hole, MA. They are scheduled to board the Corwith Cramer in St. Croix, USVI by Tuesday May 14th and will finish their voyage in Woods Hole, MA around June 17th.