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Sheet

Voyages

SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.

Mobile users, click here to open in the Google Earth App.

May

03

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

Friday 3 May 2013
Current Position: Dockside at Aloha Tower, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawai’i

After nearly 3,000 nautical miles and over 24,000 meters of wire deployed (and returned) for science, the class of S246 skillfully brought the Robert C. Seamans into Honolulu Harbor this morning. Led by capable JWOs, we have enjoyed a spectacular sail among many of the Hawaiian islands over past few days which culminated with last evening’s celebration of the voyage through humor, nostalgia and music. Once the ship was squared away at the dock - sails harbor furled, dock lines secure, the deck given a final wash, stray water bottles and cameras gathered, and the gangway in position - all hands came together for a few moments of reflection. A bittersweet morning for professional crew and students alike, it is the abundance of good times shared that make the goodbyes hard. But the SEA community extends further than one might imagine as a new alumnus and opportunities abound to remain connected and involved.

39 days ago the Robert C. Seamans and her entire company departed the safe harbor of Honolulu and committed themselves to the open sea, to all of the uncertainties, hazards and adventures there associated. Today, S246 students do the same, leaving the comforts and familiarity of the ship and rejoining the rest of the world. There is no going back to the person one was before this experience - no shrinking an as-yet-unrecognizably expanded comfort zone, giving back newfound leadership skills and self-confidence, or dampening the desire to see more of the world. I only ask that each embraces this opportunity despite its unknowns and risks, stepping firmly beyond the limitations of the past to seek and determine their own course, no matter the challenges that arise. At any point along the way, get in touch and share what you’ve learned and where the sea has taken you (cool energy and/or science reports, ridiculous questions and amazing dolphin sightings also welcome!) - we’ll always be eager to listen.

Deb Goodwin
Chief Scientist

May

02

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday 2 May 2013
Current Position: 21° 13.1’N x 157° 22.0’W
Location: In the Kaiwi Channel about 17 nm off Oahu
Course & Speed: 265 degrees per ship’s compass at about 3 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing downwind under the tops’l and course
Weather: Winds and seas out of the NE, force 3 and 2ft with a chance of dolphin

Photo Caption: The afternoon’s downwind run along the north shore of Moloka’i.

Here we are, spending our last night together, about to stand our last watches of the trip. Today we cleaned mamma Seamans really well for almost all day, sailed by the stunning cliffs of insanity, were read “The Ghost Ship” out loud by Katie Lyon from a book she picked up in Martha’s Vineyard, and ended the day with the ceremonious SWIZZLE. The best part was when dolphins rushed over upon hearing Zeal’s song during the swizzle!

It’s hard to believe the end is really here. I can’t say how much I’m going to miss all of you. Thank you for sharing so many memories on this amazing adventure. We’ve learned the ropes, “sneaky-forosed” our way almost to the equator, did ‘the thing’, and laughed until we cried. A lot. We even defeated the MUNG and controlled all the spaghetti on the bus. Maybe we will all see each other again soon.

But who’s to say really?

Love always,
Laura Jack
Northeastern University / B Watch

May

01

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday 1 May 2013
Current Position: Maui, South of Lauriupoko Point
Course & Speed: Anchored
Weather: Calm and Clear

Photo Caption: Palmyra Swimhole Paradise

Time works differently at sea. Here, at the end of our 2,400 plus mile voyage, I look around at a community - one that was built from the bruising that a tossing sea delivers, from counting a myriad of plankton under microscope, from scrubbing the ship top to bottom, and from the pride that comes from feeling your hands callous themselves in anticipation of the next halyard that needs a fair haul. It is hard to measure, or even describe to one who wasn’t here for it all. We have learned each other well, and become sailors together. Victories are shared and defeats avoided by studiously watching out for and helping each other. Knowing how far we have come, it is difficult to know that it will end. In no way has it slowed the joy or lulled our fortitude, but still we brace for what land and the future will mean after all that has been gained aboard.

The Seamans is a boisterous place at the moment. Guitars are out with accompanying singers, dominoes are slapping the tables in the main saloon, and students gather on deck with their eyes to the stars, even though we have anchored close enough to Maui to see the river of cars go by. These are good moments. As a deckhand I play an in-between role, half authority figure, half peer. As the students come to me and describe their hope to set more sails before we tie back up in Honolulu, I smile. Everyone has come a long way. You can’t help but learn about yourself when in such proximity of others. It wasn’t but a few weeks ago when students strained to find the direction of the wind, now they are running the show, and running it well. The structure of this program broadens one’s ability to believe in themselves. It is why I returned for my second voyage, and why many of the
current students will do the same.

The ocean gives to us something that is available in no other place. Even as we look to and navigate by the stars, we rarely stop to think how unique the waters that fill our planet are. They shape our lives, and we must give them the credit they are due. Life began in the water. Almost half of the oxygen we breathe comes from it, and as much as we know there is so much more to be explored. SEA Semester are stewards of this cause, and they add to their army with every class that takes to the water and comes back a sailor and a scientist. Happy to be counted among them. Shout out to O and to my family back in NY. Threw in a picture of the swimming hole at Palmyra, because it’s probably one of my favorite places in the world. Have a feeling that feeling might be shared by a few aboard.

Paul North
C Watch Sailing Intern/General Ruffian

Apr

30

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday 30 April 2013
Current Position: South of Lahaina, off the west coast of Maui
Course & Speed: Anchored
Weather: Calm and clear

Photo Caption: Stryker enjoying an exceptionally shiny helm after some serious polishing by the “Brass Monkeys” of B-Watch.

This second to last full day of S246 provided yet more glorious sailing through the Hawaiian Islands. After departing Kona the previous morning, we have worked our way westward through the various channels and outlying islands to the west coast of Maui. Coastal sailing introduces a whole new set of challenges to our Junior Watch Officers, particularly when the shorelines rise abruptly to volcanic peaks of 13,000ft. Winds twist, turn, howl, and stop abruptly around these jagged pieces of land, and myriad boat traffic keeps everyone on their feet. During this deceptively beautiful but hazardous portion of the voyage, favorite sayings on the ship include “constant vigilance!” and “don’t be lulled!” Also, “it’s easier to change a plan than to make one,” something we did many times today as each wind shift presented itself.

With our final stop in Honolulu looming near, all areas of the program are taking steps to wrap things up. Today marked the final day of class at sea, with students presenting a summary of their energy perceptions surveys conducted at three locations. As usual, the minute class began, winds piped up to over 25 knots as we entered the Pailolo Channel separating Maui and Molokai, but students handled the weather like pros. Tomorrow we will make time for a final “field day” as well as some thorough “bunk love.” While our
personal spaces may not be the cleanest, we have been working diligently to get other areas of the ship in tip-top shape for the next cruise: removing rust streaks, scrubbing teak, patching sails and other contributions which make us all proud of our floating home. While it seems almost unbelievable that this tight-knit community will disband suddenly on Friday, an entirely new one will soon come to fill our place and take up this unique home as their own.

Sam Levang
Sailing Intern / B Watch

Apr

29

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday 29 April 2013
Current Position: Anchored in Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Course & Speed: Anchored
Sail Plan: Harbor Furls
Weather: Sunny nearshore, cloudy on Mauna Loa

Photo Caption: Ari made a new friend!

Another Excellent day ashore on the Big Island!

We had a very early start, 0600 wake ups again. After reaching shore and B-lining it to the nearest coffee shop, we were able to come out of our zombie-esque comas. We piled into the vans once again and made our way to NELHA (National Energy Labs of Hawaii Authority) where Jan War, Operations Manager, gave us a private tour of the facilities. We began the tour in a LEED Platinum certified building air conditioned by passive convection of hot air from the roof that pulled air cooled by deep ocean water into the building. The group then moved down the road and toured an abalone aquaculture farm. We all took turns holding these strange little creatures. They farm abalone for the Japanese market where they are a delicacy.

Next stop was the water bottling facility where they pump 1000m seawater to the surface and desalinate it to sell as bottled water in Japan. We also toured a concentrated thermal solar field as well as a test facility for OTEC energy. It was great to be able to see the facilities that we have read and researched about for the last three months.

On top of the facilities, we were also fortunate enough to hear from Neil Sims, a leading scientist at the forefront of offshore fisheries aquaculture development. He gave us some great perspective on being a scientist and urged us to not be swayed by emotion and opinions but by data and facts. The entire NELHA compound was unique because it allows client companies to come in and make use of the deep water pipes, land, waters, and most importantly, master permits that NELHA holds. I think I speak for everyone when I say this field trip was a great opportunity to see the tangible side of many different career paths within our earth/environmental/engineering majors.

After the tour we were once again set free on the town of Kona to finish our energy policy surveys and make any last minute shopping trips. We are now back aboard the RCS and ready to set sail once again. We leave Kona tomorrow morning and begin our scenic venture through the Hawaiian Islands and back to Honolulu. Four days left!!!!!! That’s unreal.
 
Dennis Claffey
Northeastern University / B Watch

Apr

28

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday 28 April 2013
Current Position: South Point, Kahalu’u beach, and Kailua Kona
Course & Speed: Hopefully our anchor isn’t dragging
Sail Plan: Harbor furled
Weather: A gloomy haze has descended as we slowly realize how soon our trip will come to an end. Or maybe that’s just the noxious volcanic gases.

Photo Caption: Fourteen turbines for fourteen students. Coincidence? We think not.

While at sea, the ability of the wind and waves to enact both physical and psychological change is abundantly clear. At times we are carried swiftly to our destination by favorable winds, while at others must battle a headwind, crashing through the crest of each wave (momentarily counteracting the effects of gravity in the fo’c's’le), our progress slowed to a crawl.

On land, more often than not, our sense of magnitude for the natural forces that surround us is atrophied. We are both sheltered by the physical structures that we impose upon the land and by the buffering forces of society. The South Point of Hawai’i transcends the border between land and sea, once again bringing to the forefront of our minds the awe inspiring forces that have propelled us thus far on our journey. Our first stop of Sunday morning was the Pakini Nui wind farm, a 21MW facility touted as the ‘best location for a wind farm in the US’ by General Electric. Although The Big Island gets 38% of its energy needs fulfilled by renewable sources, we were disheartened to learn that the turbines are forced to cease power generation at night because the utility company claims that as power demand decreases, the input of wind power causes instability in the grid.

As we first spilled out of the cars at South Point, it was quite clear that we truly had become a group of salty sailors, as we immediately gravitated to the spectacular view of waves crashing thirty feet below us down a sea cliff and to the tide pools that were teeming with crabs and rockfish. Standing here, at the southernmost point in the United States, a clear delineation could be seen between the seas to windward, roiling with white caps, and those to leeward, bearing a calm visage.

After finally tearing ourselves away from the picturesque scenery of South Point, we set off to meet with Cornell’s EES Field Semester in Hawai’i (another environment-oriented study abroad program, of which two members this spring are SEA alumni, as well three of our current crew being past participants of that program) at Kahalu’u beach for choke (Hawaiian slang for ‘a lot’) food, snorkeling with sea turtles, and even surfing on some of the best breaks for beginners in all of Hawai’i.  Accompanying the Cornell program was ‘Auntie’ Cindy, a native Hawaiian who works for the Kohala Center and was the one to give the Cornell program their Hawaiian name: Kumu pa’a i ka ‘aina (which means ‘letting the land be one’s teacher’).

Aunty Cindy talked story with us, imparting a sliver of her knowledge of the local traditions and wisdoms that are pervasive in Hawaiian culture.  She talked extensively about the balance between the land and sea, introducing to us the concepts of Ahupua’a, which refers specifically to the piece of land that can be surveyed from mauka (mountain) to makai (ocean), and Malama ‘aina, a notion of responsibility and care for the land that extends beyond the physical stuff to the mana (spiritual essence) of the land.  If we too took the land as our teacher, taking care of it, then in turn, the land would take care of us. We concluded with the Oli Mohalo, a native chant:

Uhola ia ka makaloa la
Pu’a I ke aloha la
Ku ka I ia ka ha loa la
Pawehi mai na lehua
Mai ka ho’oku ia ka halawa I la
Mahalo e na akua
Mahalo e na kipuna la ea
Mahalo me ke aloha la

With the final line of the chant meaning ‘thank you and I love you,’ I doubt I could ever come up with a more appropriate way to conclude. As we begin, in earnest, to prepare for the final leg of our journey, we can’t help but be thankful for the new love that we have forged for one another on this ship, and for the loving people undoubtedly ready to welcome us home.

So once again, Mahalo me ke aloha la.

Larkin Bernardi
Hamilton College / C Watch

Apr

27

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday 27 April 2013
Current Position: Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Course & Speed: Anchored
Weather: Cloudy with a chance of lava flows

Photo Caption: Volcanic Eruptions (impressionistic views)

SEA students and staff spent the day at Volcanoes National Park on the big Island of Hawai’i. The weather was superb and the vistas spectacular - it was truly a day of glorious geology, agreed by all, sailors and scientists alike.

Reports from Captain B.Dox’s minivan suggest that Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody played an integral role in passing time during the long drive out to the Park from our anchorage location in Kona.

After a morning stroll through lava tubes and giant tree fern fiddle-head, and braving a scorching caldera (surprisingly, without run-ins with Tim the Enchanter himself), we spent the afternoon traversing recent lava flows of ‘a’a and pahoehoe. Eruptions over the last 30 years, which have crossed the southern Hawaiian coast, spilling into the Pacific Ocean and creating new magic island materials, sculpt the geology of the region. The landscape exudes an almost extra-terrestrial motif, jagged and barren apart from scrub brush and grass (and a random palm tree oasis). It makes one feel as though it could be a completely new planet altogether. Food fights between rival minivans ensued as we transited between several locations throughout the park. Our final stop featured a nighttime glimpse from the Park’s museum overlooking the active caldera, which from afar appeared as an enormous red glowing campfire. It was a day full of good times, laughs and truly amazing views of nature.

Ed Sweeney
Third Assistant Scientist

Apr

26

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday 26 April 2013
Current Position: Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Course & Speed: Anchored
Weather: A lovely cool evening

Photo Caption: Dance Party!

Post-project bliss has set foot aboard the Robert C. Seamans. Students and crew enjoyed a chance to go snorkeling this morning in Kealakekua Bay at the Captain Cook Monument, the site where Capt. James Cook, the explorer who ‘discovered’ Hawaii, was killed on February 14, 1779. Everyone saw tons of fish, coral, and some even saw a morey eel! We then picked up our hook (anchor) and headed north along the coast to Kona.

In preparation for several days of adventuring on the Big Island, this afternoon we held our 4th field day! I believe you all have been introduced to field day and that while it is a lot of work cleaning, we manage to have a little fun too. Today field day concluded with an all hands dance party in the galley, and then SWIM CALL! While we were swimming, we saw some dolphins swimming pretty near the boat, and if you went underwater, you could hear them ‘talking’!

Today we welcome Erin Bryant, the Ocean Science and Public Policy Professor for this Energy and the Ocean Environment program, who joins the ship’s company for the last leg of our trip.

Saphrona Stetson
Second Mate

P.S. Jillian wants to say “Happy Birthday Grandma!!! I hope you have a great day!”

Apr

25

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday 25 April 2013
Position: 19° 28’ 26.40” N x 155° 55’ 31.20” W
Location: Kealakekua Bay, Hawaii
Course & Speed: Anchored
Sail Plan: Anchored
Weather: Light rain

Photo Caption: A new species is found in the two-meter net! Dennis finds an ‘Ari Winkleria’ in her natural environment!

Hello family, foes, fingers and toes!

While a blog entry in no way compasses in entirety what occurs on board the Robert C. Seamans, I know readers enjoy a snapshot of what sailing life is like. Well, part of this nautical life is standing bow watch each night. Between the hours of sunset and sunrise, a lookout is posted at the forward-most point of the ship (the bow). For approximately an hour at a time, the lookout scans the horizon repeatedly, surveying for traffic or adverse weather. On calm, clear nights, bow watch becomes a portal for the lookout’s mind to enter and roam free in the abyss of consciousness.

While swimming in my own personal abyss one night on bow watch, I felt a sudden urgency to encompass my thoughts in haiku form. Ahem:

Constant horizon.
Are we sailing in circles?
Hm. Quite possibly.

Day thirty at sea.
No sign of dolphins or whales.
Misleading brochure.*

Pacific sea spray
Graces your face with each wave.
Exfoliation.

Eleven-foot waves.
A marine amusement park.
No waiting in lines.

Fluorescent short-shorts
And overwhelming man-thigh.
Ready for field day.

Candy awarded
For scrubbing soles with toothbrush.
I accept that bribe.

Data collected.
Research manuscripts written.
Science badasses.

*I am happy to report that sightings of dolphins AND whales have been reported since the composition of this haiku.

To the outside reader, these haikus may not be funny or even make any sense, and in truth they are all an inside joke that exists between the 31 sailors of the Robert C. Seamans. I point this out because it exemplifies the bond that has formed over the last five weeks at sea. It’s hard to explain this connection-like describing a color. It has arisen from the tireless nights, callused hands, sweat, sunscreen, determination, accomplishments, and satisfaction that we’ve all shared.

It’s hilarious to see how our senses of humor have changed and what we now find exciting. B Watch today executed the “Sail Handling Olympics,” a race to see who could strike and set the forestays’l the fastest. This is usually a job for 3 or 4 people, so naturally it is amusing to see one person running around deck and individually hauling on lines. Times ranged from 7:34 minutes (Dennis, who went first and mistakenly decided to tend the sheet) to 3:29 minutes (Nikiforos, who’s large arm span allows him to virtually reach the top of the mast). While the rules were “there ain’t no rules,” Katie and Ari chose to practice SAFE line handling and crew members opted to cheat, pushing them minutes ahead.

With only one week left, we’re all realizing how far we’ve come. Tonight is the final deadline of our research manuscripts. As the culmination of our research on shore and data collection at sea, this manuscript represents the evolution of our studies. I am incredibly proud of all the students of S246. We conducted original research-each hydrocast, each neuston net tow, each alkalinity titration, each chlorophyll concentration measurement-was collected by a student. Without Google to help (or cheat) we successfully answered the question we set out to with aptitude and flair.

On an unrelated concluding note, I chose this specific day to blog so I could include this movie quote:

“Describe your perfect date.”
“Hmm. That’s a tough one. I would have to say April 25th, because it’s not
too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket!”
-Miss Congeniality

Sending all my love back home to Ella! If only they’d allow cats at sea.
Mahalo,
Ari Abram
B Watch

Apr

24

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday 24 April 2013
Current Position: 18° 48.7’ N x 156° 16.6’ W - Off the South End of the Big Island
Course & Speed: 030 degrees Per Ship’s Compass, 7kts
Sail Plan: Sailing under the four lowers and JT
Weather: Clear under a mostly full moon, 20kt winds, seas 5ft

Photo Caption: Molten volcano cakes and Captain Beth Doxsee doing impromptu stand-up comedy with a “microphone” made of an eye-splice and seine twine “cord”

Morning Watch (0700-1300):
It is a frenzy of academic achievement below decks on the Robert Seamans! There are papers scribbled over with notes gently fluttering by the library fan, cut up bits of construction paper littering the settees, and the sounds of a million tiny fingers tapping away at keyboards.  There is a crazed look in the eye of an encountered student, meals eaten in a daze, cups of coffee clutched with desperation.  Project presentations are due in class at 1430!

And yet one emerges on deck to the serene backdrop of the Big Island: the RCS floats ethereally on, carried by gentle breezes under a sunny blue sky. Every now and then, someone climbs up from below, stretches, and snags a deep breath of ocean air.  How many others can boast of such a classroom?

Afternoon Watch (1300-1900):
We have sailed out of the lee of the Big Island into dark blue waves flecked with white.  The breeze is up, and so is the good humor, as students have just finished what was a triumphant round of poster presentations.  All the data we have painstakingly picked from our nets, gleaned from our instruments, and tweaked in our spreadsheets has been colorfully glued to posterboard, picked over and discussed and digested.

In celebration, we demolished a dangerous round of volcano cakes exploding with red vanilla pudding lava and molten hot fudge sauce over clouds of ice cream. 

And now we turn our attention to a sightseeing tour of the Hawaiian Islands organized by our fearless JWOs (Junior Watch Officers).  Breathtaking scenery, good eats, and laughter in abundance!

Julia Twichell
Second Assistant Scientist

p.s. Hi Mom!

Apr

23

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday 23 April 2013
Current Position: 19° 46.7’ N x 156° 41.8’ W
Course & Speed: Anchored at Kealakekua Bay, Big Island, Hawaii

Photo Caption: Looking West towards Ka’awaloa

I woke up this morning to the sound of the hook being released from the windless - I knew we had arrived at Kona. I got up and went on deck to look around. After a couple of minutes I located myself in relation to the shore, and a stream of memories from the last time I had been here flooded my mind. Two years ago I had the opportunity to be on the Big Island for a semester studying the Earth system. Hawaii is an extraordinary natural laboratory in which one can observe the dynamics between geology, terrestrial and marine ecosystems. I would never have believed that I would be here again in such a short period of time.

Later in the day we had to go ashore to check with customs and on the dock another pleasant surprise awaited me. My kumu (teacher) from my field program was there, and as we were approaching she yelled at me to sing a Hawaiian chant that signifies canoe voyagers landing at shore and asking for permission to step on land. Being caught off guard, I just smiled speechless and overwhelmed that she was right there in front of me.

Immediately after taking care of business on shore, we set course towards Kealakekua Bay. Early in the evening we anchored in the Bay at approximately quarter of a mile away from the cliff. This area has a long history and as I stand anchor watch I try to imagine how this place would have looked more than 200 years ago. The name of the bay comes from Ke Ala Ke Kua, which means “the god’s pathway” because this area was the focus of extensive Makahiki celebrations in honor to the god Lono. The sheer cliff overlooking the bay is named pali kapu o Keoua meaning “forbidden cliffs of Keoua” and was a burial place of Hawaiian royalty.  On our port side is Ka’awaloa, the area at which the chief’s residence was and the location where Captain Cook was killed.

It is 0400, I’ve just finished a boat check and I have some time to relax, enjoy the evening, look at the clouds flow by the full moon and listen to the spinner dolphins breath right next to the hull. Times like these are ideal to stand back and realize where I am, be grateful of the opportunity that has been offered to me, and appreciate all the things we have achieved in our small community.

From Kealakekua Bay,
Nikiforos Delatolas
Cornell University / B Watch

Apr

22

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

Monday 22 April 2013
Position: 19° 40’ 12.00” N x 156° 39’ 55.20” W
Current Location: Off the west coast of Kona, Big Island, Hawai’i
Course & Speed: Hove to, goin’ nowhere fast
Sail Plan: Reefed main and stays’ls
Weather: None to speak of - 4kn SSE breeze

LAND HO!

Saphrona spotted Hawai’i around 1600 this afternoon but it took until nightfall for the rest of us to see the lights. Civilization! We’ve all been missing cafes, smoothies and Facebook, so being this close and not moving is tedious, tantalizing, torturous. The wind died as soon as we saw land. Coincidence? Karma? Perhaps - more likely - the island is acting as a large wind break.

The day has been eventful in other ways, namely that the staff have been manning the galley - each member of the professional crew contributed a meal or snack, so we’ve been eating even better (and more) than usual. (The food is always amazing, thanks to Stewards “I’ll-be-offended-if-you-leave-this-boat-having-lost-weight” Abby and “Just-a-minute-I-have-to-finish-making-today’s-third-snack” Lolo, but each staff member has their special recipes too.)

Also eventful, for me at least, were my first attempts at JLO and JWO! Junior Lab Officer is an easy role when the deployments have concluded, which for the most part they now have, and Junior Watch Officer is also significantly simpler when the boat is stationary. Instead of directing others on my watch to take the helm, lookout, and boat checks, I was instead managing as we went aloft to furl sails, took radar bearings of Kona, and - you guessed it - performed boat checks. (Side note: Boat checks never cease. Ever. The ship lives and breathes whether we are in port, hove to, experiencing squalls or sailing as usual, and every hour we make sure she’s still happy from bowsprit to the nameplate on the stern, from the lines running atop the mainmast to the depths of the bilge tanks in the engine room.)

A shout out to our engineer, Jimmy, whose efforts in maintaining the engines, plumbing, electronics and generators as well as in his secondary role as medical officer keeping us all healthy have been much appreciated, by few others more so than myself (I am seemingly the clumsiest and therefore most easily injured). He’s leaving the ship tomorrow. We’ll miss you, Jimmy! We will always remember to wash our hands and drink lots of water!

Bree Sparre
University of Technology - Sydney / A Watch

Apr

21

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday 21 April 2013
Current Position: 18° 51.7’ N x 157° 52.3’ W
Course & Speed: c/o 051 degrees per ship’s compass (no, really); steering 190 degrees per ship’s compass at a cool 1.7 knots for a 2-meter net tow
Sail Plan: Head-reaching under the four lowers

Photo Caption: Just another day at the office, with Larkin, Abby Stryker, and Paul North.

Dear Land,

So, here we are, sailing along at two knots with a net in tow to scoop us up some of that juicy plankton soup that is part of every nutritious lab watch. The Captain and Chief Scientist have taken the evening watch and, with the help of the engineer, the steward, and the brave B Watchers, they are maneuvering the ship and facing down squalls for four hours tonight while the rest of us play cards and chow down on midnight snack. Why the all-star cast, you ask? Well, tonight is a big night on board the good ship Robert C. Seamans. Tonight marks the final rotation of the watches, and the commencement of the third chunk of our trip. We are several days into JWO phase, and the S246 students are handling it with all the flair and panache that we have come to expect. For us mates, this is a chance to step back, feign amnesia, and see just how much the student crew has absorbed in the past (has it really only been?) month and change.

Of course, the buzz around the ship these days comes down to a single word…. Kona. When will we make landfall? Place your bets! Who will spot it first? Is there really gonna be LAVA? Destinations play a strange role at sea. They come to symbolize all the creature comforts that we relinquish when we take thirty-one people and pack them in a tiny floating world that requires our constant care and attention. Absurd luxuries like, I don’ t know, sleeping through the night, or washing your clothes in a machine instead of a bucket, all get rolled up into this idea of the opulent and longed-for shore life. At the same time, as the student crew is coming to realize, out here it’s the journey as much as the destination that matters. All those shoreside indulgences (for me, it’s take-out Chinese food, hands down) prove just that much sweeter because we’ve sailed over two thousand miles without them.

I, for one, am glad that our Kona port stop is not our final destination this trip. We’ve built a pretty great, weird little community out here, and I’m not ready for everyone to go their separate ways yet. That said, I can’t wait to see Kona! I heard there’s lava. That’s just what I heard.

Hope life ashore is sweet and you all are well,
Ashley Meyer
Third Mate

P.S. Big hug to Momma Meyer! And Stretchy, if you’re reading this, quit pretending that’s who you really are

Apr

20

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday 20 April 2013
Current Position: 17° 44.8’ N x 158° 15.3’ W
Course & Speed: 025 Per Ship’s Compass / 5.5 knots
Sail Plan: All fore and aft sails (mains’l, mainstays’l, forestays’l, jib, JT, fisherman)
Weather: Blue skies, easy breeze (17-21 knots)

Photo Caption: Josh as JLO (Junior Lab Officer) and Laura Page as JWO (Junior Watch Officer) of A Watch, exhibiting the mandatory uniforms of their respective positions.

Good evening!

As Laura Page wrote in yesterday’s blog entry, today was the first full day of the JWO/JLO phase, in which the students take over management of deck and science responsibilities. There is always more to learn, but our mates and scientists have prepared us extremely well to take on these roles, and I’m very excited. It feels good to let the professional crew take a break from babysitting us 24/7 and to really feel and understand how the boat works. All the little things add up and form a bigger picture of trust, interdependence, support, and love for ship and shipmate. Every command ever given has been for the benefit of our safety, health, or happiness - whether it’s a careful reprimand for mishandling a line under strain, or a friendly command to leave the library and eat dinner or go to bed. Everyone is always looking out for everyone else - the two questions I hear at least three times every waking hour are “What can I do to help?” and “How are you doing?” In the case of the first, any request is carried out diligently and with an honest effort; in the case of the second, the question is always asked with true interest for the other’s well-being.

It’s rare to find an environment filled with people who not only have such honest and good intentions, but also the intelligence and ability to understand how to best take care of their ship and shipmates. I’m honored to be a part of this community - to feel useful and needed every single day, to recognize that I’m always making a positive contribution, to help and support my shipmates and know that every one of them is continually there for me too. (To be clear, by “shipmate” I mean not only fellow students, but also mates, scientists, stewards, engineers, interns, and deckhands as well.)

In this kind of nurturing environment, where everyone feels strongly for where they are and who they are with, there is so much learning and teaching and sharing happening all the time, and always with passion and excitement. We are surrounded by stories: people’s stories; stories about the constellations; sea shanties; the stories told by the data we’ve gathered in the science lab; the ship’s many stories of how and where she was built, and where she’s been; stories told by the sky, wind, and waves. It’s difficult to choose which story to listen to next. (Or to make the responsible decision and go to bed instead of staying up and listening to more stories. But when Beth and Deb have found the green laser pointer and are giggling over some of the more ridiculous constellations, how on earth am I supposed to catch a few hours of sleep before my next watch and miss all the fun?)

With this mindset, entering into the JWO/JLO phase of more student responsibility seems natural. We’re ready. We know what to do, and have no fear of asking for help when we need it. (And we are more apt to think we need help when we really don’t, but better to err on the side of caution when sailing in the middle of the ocean.) I have full confidence in my shipmates’ abilities to lead and keep us safe, and in my own abilities to take on the responsibilities required of me.

Chloe Holzinger
Eckerd College / A Watch

P.S. So much love to Mom, Dad, Kyle, and Grandpa - I’m always thinking of you, and I can’t wait to see you again soon. Love you tons.

And Carla gives a happy birthday shout out to Cait Houli!

Apr

19

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday 19 April 2013
Current Position: 15° 14’ N x 159° 12’ W
Course & Speed: Motorsailing roughly North at 6 knots
Weather: A mild night with scattered squalls.

Photo Caption: Handling line has become almost second nature to the students, one of many honed skills that will serve them well in the JWO phase!!

Hello outside world, this is Laura Page, one of the deckhands on A watch. Today is a particularly exciting day on the Robert C. Seamans.  It marks the beginning and the end of different phases in the students’ life here at sea and in the SEA program.  There is diligent scientific work being completed to wrap up the first drafts of their oceanography projects.  All the samples have been collected, the analyses are being finalized, conclusions are being made, and I had to elbow my way in to the library to snag a computer to write today’s blog!

As science is wrapping up the students will begin taking more responsibilities on the sailing side of this voyage with the commencement of the JWO phase (Junior Watch Officer) this evening.  The students are now responsible for making sure all the ship’s routines are carried out; they will man the helm and make the ship steer true, and ensure that life at sea continues to be shipshape on the RCS. 

There is nervous excitement in the air as the students approach this new step in the EOE program.  Josh, on A watch, will be the first to JWO on the trip (go Josh!), although each and every student is prepared to take on the extra responsibilities that being JWO entails (whether they believe it or not!). 

Class today got us all back into the swing of drills we haven’t practiced in a little while and everyone performed their tasks above par (I feel very safe knowing these students have my back in an emergency).  Our MCs for the day were Laura Jack and Alex, who lead us in a particularly funny game of charades where everyone got to show off their skills impersonating velociraptors, Tarzan & Jane, and our very own engineers!  An interactive engineering report got everyone thinking about how fuel on the ship is used normally (sailing vs motorsailing vs motoring) and how it could then be used under unforeseen circumstances.  Class wrapped up with an open forum Q&A session with the Captain about things to expect during the JWO phase. 

Today has been wonderful, this trip has been wonderful.  No matter how seasick anyone gets, no matter how many minor scrapes and mysterious bruises appear, no matter how little consecutive hours of sleep we get, we are still studying/working in the middle of paradise keeping a unique culture alive. I am thankful at least these 14 students share that same thought. 

Much love to family and friends back home,
Laura Page
A Watch Sailing Intern

Shout outs:
Mom - Keep spoiling Ari, Dewey, and Norah.  I’ll be back soon enough to take over that roll again
Dad - Keep your head in the clouds and your feet on the ground, I’m doing my best to do the same.
Eric - I’ll see you soon, I can’t wait to exchange and share adventures with you ;P

Apr

18

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday 18 April 2013
Current Position: 13° 43.5’ N x 159° 45.0’ W
Course & Speed: 020 Per Ship’s Compass/5.5 knots
Sail Plan: Stays’ls and jib
Weather: Most of the day was squall free; now there are a few small squalls on the radar

Photo Caption: Carla, Chloe, Zeal, and Jillian deploying the Argo float.

Hello everyone,

It’s 20:10. I’m sitting in the library next to Josh trying to figure out what to write in this blog post. Next door in the Main Saloon, Abby, Zeal, and Julia are playing dominos, Chloe is working on her science project and Lolo and Laura P. are sitting next to Paul as he serenades everyone with his impromptu tunes. So much goes on in a day at sea that it’s hard to pick out the moments that will be remembered by those reading this entry. Today, we deployed our second ARGO float; we all signed her before we sent her off to the depths. Before that, we had a great engineering report by Abby Strykerforce who described to us the innerworkings of the Single Side Band Radio. I was on Afternoon Watch (1300-1900) today, so I spent most of my day with Chloe and Julia in the lab, aside from class and the occasional sail handling. That was a lot of fun. I laughed a lot today.

It’s hard to talk about what happened earlier in the day because so many great things are happening as I type. Behind me, Zeal is making up a song as Paul strums away on the guitar. Everyone is giggling and having a good time, and I can’t help but feel like I’m on top of the world. It’s weird to think about not knowing these people. Sometimes, all you say to them is “How ya doin?” and you keep moving, but every once in a while, you have moments like this. Moments that soothe the soul and make you want to smile at how great your life is.

Life on a ship gives you a perspective that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Yesterday, I spent a few hours sitting on the lab top looking out at the ocean, because soon it won’t be there anymore. I was thinking about all the things I’ve learned since being on the boat, noting that what I remember most are the things that people have told me and the different sayings that we’ve all picked up from each other. One person will sing a song, and then the whole ship will be singing it. Larkin has a habit of saying “Who’s to say really” and now you don’t go an hour without hearing that phrase at least twice. On the first day, Jay, the Chief Mate, told my watch that awesome things are never easy. That message runs through my mind every day. Life at sea is hard, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. Another thing that Jay says periodically is “This does not suck.” And he sure is right. Being on a boat, learning things for the sake of learning them, and being surrounded by that big blue thing that makes the world go round, sounds like a great time to me.

I just want to give a quick shout out to my siblings (Gabby, Ethan, and Ellis). You guys would love this! We should go on a sailing adventure one day. Other shout outs: Lolo wants to give a shout out to Linda and Kenny. She says she loves you! Dennis would like to say Happy 4th Birthday to Emma

Much Love,
Jillian Lyles
Cornell University / A Watch

Apr

17

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

Wednesday 17 April 2013
Current Position: 12° 07’ N x 160° 16’ W
Course & Speed: 020 degrees True, 7.5kts
Sail Plan: Motorsailing under stays’ls at 1400 RPMs
Weather: Wind NExE, F5-6, Seas ENE 6-8 ft.

It’s Wednesday. Time here at sea passes differently than back on land, what with multiple watches in a day, naps, class time, meals, etc.

We heard about the bombing in Boston yesterday afternoon, and I’ve spent the time since thinking about community. Our community here, and how sheltered it is from the goings on that continue while we’re out at sea. About how some of us in this community have ties to the Boston area: there are students on board who are from Boston, students who go to school in Boston, and some who, like myself, went to school in Boston.

By now, those at home reading this blog have probably been inundated with the unending coverage of the bombing during the Boston Marathon. Out here, we’re insulated from it - and that’s incredibly difficult to equalize. I believe that the community we build here at sea is something to aspire to, and I hope students and staff alike feel the same way. One of the keys to such a close-knit community is the ability to concentrate fully on what’s happening here - to let the outside world keep spinning and focus entirely on this very finite piece of the world. And while most of the time I think this serves us very well, today it’s especially hard. Hard to know that many of my land-based community may be looking at familiar streets differently. It’s surreal in a way that almost makes me feel guilty - safe and cocooned out here at sea, imagining that Boston is a very different place than it was when the marathon began.

There’s a quotation about time, and how it’s different at sea, from one of my favorite books: ‘Tuning the Rig,’ by Harvey Oxenhorn. “.ship time.the rigid, immutable march of watches and the duties they entail.respects no occasion.” Oxenhorn goes on to say that “.we need routine, not just to run the ship but to sustain ourselves.”

For us on board the Seamans, all’s well. We’re making our way back north, bound for the Big Island of Hawai’i. We’re safe and secure, wrapped in the community we’ve been creating since the students arrived more than 3 weeks ago. Time marches on, by necessity. Just know the 31 of us out here, more than 500 miles SSW of the Big Island, are thinking about those back home.

Jay Amster
Chief Mate

Some notes from students:

Chloe: Hi Mum, thanks for calling and letting me know that you’re all alright. I love you guys so much, and I can’t wait to give you a big hug when I get home. See you soon. Love, Chloe

Dennis: Hello everyone. Mom, thank you for sending along the message that Ally, family, and friends in Boston are all safe. That was a big relief and saved me weeks of worry. I can’t fully grasp what the city must be like right now, I can only hope that it will recover and return to the normal Boston that I know and cherish. To Matt, Erin, Michelle, my roomies, and all Boston based friends, I love you all, be safe. To Ally, I miss you greatly, even more so now. I’m so glad to hear you’re safe especially knowing you were volunteering. I’m sure these event have been unnerving. Stay strong and just know that in 2 weeks we will be together again. I love you.

Apr

16

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday 16 April 2013
Current Position: 10° 21.8’ N x 160° 29.3’ W
Course & Speed: Course ordered 015 Per Ship’s Compass, speed 6 knots
Sail Plan: Motorsailing under a single-reefed main and the stays’ls on a starboard tack
Weather: Mostly sunny with some squalls in the late afternoon, winds force 5 blowing ENE

Photo Caption: Marina, Mary, and Abby enjoying the sunset at the end of watch

Hello to all!

We continue on our way to Kona, making steady progress northwards. Today we pulled out a new plotting sheet to continue plotting our DR’s and crossed the 10 degree latitude line.

Today’s class was all about science! We were treated to a science report during which Sam and Nikiforos taught us about bioluminescence using flashlights and creative demonstrations, and continued the afternoon with a new type of science deployment. Carla introduced this new piece of science by telling us that NASA had given us a set of biodegradable spheroids in five colors. Each watch would receive a set to deploy, and we were to time how long it took to lose sight of each color after they hit the water. After this exciting introduction, we were handed bowls of M&M’s! We spent the next fifteen minutes deploying M&M’s and timing how many seconds it took for each color to disappear into the sea. Fortunately, we only needed to deploy ten of each color, and there were many left over at the end of the deployment. We continued with our science theme by testing the effects of excessive chocolate consumption on willing participants.

The rest of the afternoon with C watch has been pretty quiet. We did some more sail handling and continued with our weather observations, boat checks, engine room checks, and all the other little things that keep life on the ship running smoothly. Alex was really excited to spot a squall on the radar, and we sprang into action to close down ventilation until it had passed by. We had a beautiful sunset, crepuscular rays (new vocab word!) streaming from the clouds, and people gathered on the quarterdeck to admire the view. Zeal started teaching me the words to “Old Maui” (thanks Erin for introducing us to that particular shanty!)-I’ll be singing it during my next stint on bow watch.

To my friends and family who are reading this, I’m sending you my love and my thoughts. To my mom: I’m getting plenty to eat, and more than enough sugar. To my incredible Dan: I miss you and I love you. You’re in my thoughts and in my heart, every hour of the day. Happy anniversary, my love.

Marina Stevenson
Brown University / C Watch

Apr

15

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday 15 April 2013
Current Position: 8° 9’ N x 160° 56.5’ W
Course & Speed: 015 per ship’s compass @ 6 knots
Sail Plan: Motorsailing under the Main and Stays’ls on a Starboard Tack
Weather: Sunny and partly cloudy, warm with winds blowing force 4 from NExE.

Photo Caption:
[Top] The group poses for a picture after another great field day. Sorry to all those who got cut off, technical difficulties ensued on the second take.

[Bottom] Everyone gathers on the science deck for a refreshing hose down. Party on Dude!

Greetings Land Lubbers!

Another fun filled day aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans! B watch was on dawn watch today (0300-0700) and I got the opportunity to pre-compute stars for morning star frenzy so those shooting quickly know where to look in the sky to find their best options. Sam and Nikiforos did particularly well and obtained a tight celestial fix for our charts. This morning for breakfast we had freshly made bagels. (We’re encouraged not to talk about every single meal but I had to bring this one up because they were quite possibly the best bagels I have ever had! Great job Abby!)

The afternoon bell sounded at 1330 and that meant only one thing ..Field Day Round 2: The Return of MUNG! After retreating into the darkness from the battles of Field Day 1, Mung had regained strength and once again invaded the nooks and crevasses of the Seamans. It was up to all of those aboard to band together in a united front and don the most vibrant and crazy outfits we owned in order to defeat this diabolical adversary. Our forces cried out “DEATH TO MUNG!” and those Flash Gordon fans among us responded with “DEATH TO MING!” Needless to say, hard battles were fought, killer tunes were jammed, Queen was sung (with great emotion), and no prisoners were taken. We were victorious! Another great cleaning session on the Seamans meant only one thing - a well-deserved rinse on deck! Bosun Ashley broke out the fire hose from the lab top and all gathered around flocking graciously like the Salmon of Capistrano, waiting for the reinvigoration of a saltwater shower, coupled with a fresh water rinse. There are few things on this boat that are better than a shower.

After being hove-to for the afternoon cleaning, which made it a lot less rocky and a lot easier to clean, we are back to motorsailing North in order to arrive in Kona on schedule. It’s unfortunate that we have to do so much motoring but it would take weeks sailing northeast into these winds. The volcanoes are awaiting our arrival!

Shout outs:
Captain Beth gives a shout out to her nephews Lukey and Jack!

Jays says shout out to JG!

Abby, Lolo, Saphrona, Deb and Carla would like to wish Theophilos Collins a very Happy Birthday with Rainbow Cupcakes!

Carla also says Happy Belated Birthday Mom!

Jillian says I love my family!  ...aww.

I too love my family and friends, and Ally.

That’s it for this episode. Tune in tomorrow to find out what happens next aboard this crazy ship! 

Dennis Claffey
Northeastern University / B Watch

Apr

14

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday 14 April 2013
Current Position: 7° 26.9’ N x 161° 17.9’ W
Course & Speed: 090 per ships compass, approx. 5 knots
Sail Plan: 4 lowers, the JT and the fisherman
Weather: A nice sunny day with a few cumulus clouds and a warm force 4 breeze

Photo Caption:
{Top} Our lovely deckhand, Paul North, sending our messages in a bottle out to sea!

{Bottom} Jillian, Sofia, Josh, Bree (Ashley and Zeal behind the sheet) performing one of the many acts during our south of the boarder swizzle, southern most point celebration.

Hello Again to all our lovely readers!

As you know, we reached our southern-most point the other day and today we had a swizzle (n: nautical party) to celebrate! Costumes were mandatory and skits were encouraged, which led to some very interesting acts; the lower photo highlights some of our top performers. Dennis and Ed performed some moving poetry, Paul had a few songs to share, Katie and I gave a rendition of a Land Before Time song, and Marina played us an Ingrid Michelson tune on her guitar. The swizzle ended with donations of pineapple drink and locks of hair to Neptune. Alex got her hair trimmed into a (polished, don’t worry Mom) mohawk, Laura Page cut her hair with the plan to donate it when we return to the mainland, and Katie and I cut off our ‘dread locks’ to a much shorter hair style. No one shaved their head since we didn’t make it to the equator but the new hair styles show how close we got.

Earlier this morning Alex, Abby, Marina and I did our laundry for the first time on the trip. It was a bit different from the way I wash my clothes at home. We filled one bucket with salt water and a drop of detergent and scrubbed our grimiest clothes. We then rinsed our clothes in a fresh water bucket and hung up these ‘clean’ clothes to dry for the day. I can’t say my clothes are really clean now but I suppose they smell a bit better than they did before.

Overall it was a really beautiful day today and turned out to be a super clear night. We had a star frenzy at twilight to get a celestial fix on our charts and have been learning lots about the constellations. With Phase Two underway we have been taking more responsibility on watch in order to prepare for our JWO (Junior Watch Officer) phase which is fast approaching.

That’s all for now, Lots of love to all our friends and family
Mary McGee
Colgate University / C watch

Apr

13

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday 13 April 2013
Current Position: 6° 11.3’ N x 161° 50.4’ W
Course & Speed: 015 per ship’s compass, 7 kts
Sail Plan: Motorsailing under the four lowers
Weather: 27.0C and rainy, winds NExE force 5, seas NNE 4 ft

Photo Caption: Paul, Larkin and the gang stuffing their faces with cupcakes in celebration of 2nd mate and fellow Mainer Saphrona’s birthday.

In the midst of sail handling, navigating, science deployments, and lab work, there are many tasks that need to be completed every hour on the hour while on watch. One of these duties includes checking our taffrail log, which is basically our nautical odometer. Trailed behind the ship, this antique instrument consists of a rotating torpedo that twists a line that leads up to a dial mounted on the quarterdeck that slowly counts the miles as they roll by. It is the kind of thing I imagine going along with my Uncle Ron’s barometer and rigging knife collection or over a salty captain’s hearth a century or two ago. Only moments after being relieved from a squally watch and sitting down under the companions of Scorpio and the Southern Cross the other evening, we heard an exclamation not far away near the taffrail log as the clock struck 2300: “We’ve gone 1,000 miles!”

In addition to hitting our thousand mile mark, we have also made it to our southernmost point at 4 degrees 14.2 minutes N x 162 degrees 01.2 minutes W! While we have turned north for the Big Island and left behind hopes to cross the equator, I think we have all accepted the challenges that our long up-wind journey will present and acknowledge the impracticality of sailing the extra 250 miles south for a head-shaving party. Regardless, a swizzle will commence tomorrow afternoon to celebrate our exciting landmark (seamark?) with song, dance, and costumes galore.

Overall, it seems that everyone is happy to settle back into the routine and familiarity of life at sea. It has been a much smoother transition this time around as sea legs and stomachs find their way back to us all.

Lots of love to everyone back home,
Josh Sturtevant
Bates College / A Watch

Apr

12

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday 12 April 2013
Position: 4° 18’ N x 162° 3’ W
 
Photo Caption: Photo of sunset looking aft, taken by Dennis

We have been sailing as close to the wind as possible, on the starboard tack under the four lowers, the JT and the Fisherman making on average 6 knots. The course that would get us back to Hawaii is 25 degrees but we are currently going directly north.  There has been a force 3 breeze from the Northeast and the skies are clear. The moon will be setting early tonight so hopefully we will have a spectacular scenery of the stars.

Today was an academically rigorous day. Along with Ari, I presented a science report summarizing water properties and the number of deployments we have done since we left Palmyra. We talked about the diverging currents in this region and the increase in nutrients and productivity associated with them. It was also the day I had to present an engineering project along with two other shipmates, Abby and Dennis. Our goal was to analyze how we currently create the energy we use and propose ideas of how we could make a more efficient system that would ultimately save us fuel. Last but not least we had our lab practical! It was very amusing and fun if we ignore the fact it was an exam. In order to compensate for the limited space for so many people, questions where posted on numbered slips of paper around the ship and we all rotated around spending a few minutes at every location. Through the ship’s microphone someone would indicate in creative ways that we really had to get going on to the next question.

After a hard day of work I was rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen while standing on bow watch scanning the horizon for traffic and squalls.

From the Equatorial Pacific,
Nikiforos Delatolas
Cornell University / B Watch

Apr

11

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday 11 April 2013
Position: 5° 15.1’N x 162°02.4’ W
Location: S of Palmyra Atoll
Course & Speed: Course Ordered: 090, Course Steered: 155, making 5.3 knots
Sail Plan: Four Lowers
Weather: Winds from the East at a Force 5, Seas 7ft swells, passing squalls.

Photo Caption: Rub-a-dub-dub, three men in a tub. Jay (First Mate), Willy (Assistant Engineer) and Ed (Third Scientist) take our sailing dingy “Gene” out for one last joyride.

Departure from Palmyra has been a bittersweet affair.  After a bonfire and extremely successful coconut crab hunt last night, today we had to say our final farewells to the island and its VERY small community that welcomed us just a few short days ago. For our final sendoff, we were escorted out of the West Lagoon channel as manta rays could be seen skimming the surface off the port beam.

While Palmyra may be fading slowly into the distance, the memories and relationships forged here are still burning bright. But Mother Nature gives us little time to reminisce of sandy beaches and lush coral reefs, as we are soon met by seven foot swells and a brisk headwind. There is a saying that ‘ships and sailors rot in port’ and as we shake off the literal sand and metaphorical cobwebs, we too begin to realize this fact as we readjust to life at sea. With that being said, it would take far more than inclement weather to dampen the soaring spirits of the ship’s crew. Conversations crackle with the excitement of past adventures, and anticipation of future ones, as our next port stop in Kona looms in the not so distant future.

Today truly was a day of transition for everyone.  Not only have we departed Palmyra, bound for the deep blue open ocean once again, but we have also begun Phase Two of our time as crew on board the Robert C. Seamans.  Perhaps even more jarring than the geographical change is the rotation of the mates and scientists to new watch groups. In what has been dubbed ‘Shadow Phase,’ in addition to taking on more collective responsibility for the safe operation and navigation of the vessel, each student will have opportunities to follow around their new mate and scientist and be privy to their every thought pertaining to the operation of the ship.  While certainly there will be a period of adjustment, as all parties have to re-learn the ropes of a new set of social rigging, there is great opportunity to be had in learning from different sources and through different teaching styles. As we continue to grow in ways that show both outwardly and inwardly, it is becoming abundantly clear that while our lives may have only converged for a single semester, they have all been spliced together so inexorably that the courses of our lives have been permanently altered.

All in all, today was not a bad way, and certainly was a memorable way, to spend my 21st birthday.

All the best,
Larkin Bernardi
Hamilton College / C Watch

Apr

10

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Position: 5°  53.183’ N x 162°  05.367’ W
Location: Palmyra Atoll
Course & Speed: Still Anchored
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Partly sunny with scattered rain showers; beautiful, clear, warm water

Photo Caption:

[Top] B Watch returns from snorkeling in an underwater wonderland! Dennis and Nikiforos in the front; Katie, Laura and Ari in the back; Aaron, the head of marine operations at Palmyra, drives our boat (he’s a little cut off in the photo). Even though he had today off, Aaron offered to take us to the snorkeling hot spots and snorkeled with us on the outer reefs. It was incredible!

[Bottom] Robert C. Seamans anchored in the Palmyra Atoll’s western lagoon.

Hello, friends!

I am sad to report that our time on the Palmyra Atoll has come to an end. After three wonderful days filled with snorkeling, hiking, informal photo shoots, swimming, and all around adventuring, we said goodbye to this beautiful place and the people we have met here with a bonfire on the North Beach. Amanda, the resident U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge Manager, led a moonlit “crab walk” for us afterwards, guiding us down the palm-lined trails to find coconut crabs (Google them!). We were a bit nervous with the small gap between our sandaled toes and their enormous purple claws, but Amanda fearlessly grabbed them and held them up for us to see. Before making the trip across the lagoon and back to Mama Seamans for the last time, we hung our hand-drawn sailcloth in the Yacht Club, leaving S-246’s mark there for future visitors to see and admire.

Palmyra is incredible. It is a real world, remote tropical paradise. As we swung from palm trees or watched manta rays glide by underwater, it was always jaw dropping to step back and realize where we were and what we were doing. It’s simply amazing that we had the opportunity to be here. Our shipboard family sailed south together from a thousand miles away, taking part in an ocean excursion that most people only ever get the chance to dream of. And we saw, smelled, heard, touched, and tasted what adventure on the Palmyra Atoll can be. Tomorrow we set sail at 0830, leaving solid ground, plants, and insects behind for the remaining two-thirds of our SEA adventure.

Lots of love to everyone we miss at home,
From a tiny strip of coral right in the middle of the biggest ocean on Earth,

Katie Lyon
Marlboro College / B Watch

Apr

09

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday, 9 April 2013
Current Position: 5° 53.183’ N x 162° 05.367’ W
Location: Palmyra Atoll
Course & Speed: Still Anchored
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Partly cloudy with occasional rain

Photo Caption: The swimming hole at Palmyra Atoll with Bree on the rope swing, Alex, Sophia and Jimmy on the floating dock, and Julia, Ashlee, and Captain Beth swimming, with the Robert C. Seamans in the background.

Hello to all friends and family!

We just completed day two of our wonderful adventures at Palmyra.  It is almost impossible to describe all the amazing sights and sounds we experienced, but here are a few high points of the day:

A watch went snorkeling this morning and saw manta rays, sharks, lots of coral and many different kinds of fish.  B watch will be heading out tomorrow for the last snorkeling adventure which promises to be a great trip!

One of the first buildings to greet you to Palmyra is a unique guest book. It is the walls of their “Yacht Club” building.  Inside you find a tv, a small library with books and movies, a ping pong table, and a foosball table.  All of these amenities are simply overshadowed by the walls covered in signatures, drawings, quotes, and stories from previous groups who have visited Palmyra.  All other Seamans trip groups have signed and we will certainly not be the end of this tradition. We will be adding a piece of sail to the wall with our group’s logo thanks to Katie, Larkin, and Ari!

Every day has also included a dip in the swimming hole.  It is probably the best swimming hole you can ever imagine.  Rope swings from multiple palm trees, refreshingly cool water, soft sand, and an amazing view out into the center of the atoll where mama Seamans is anchored. The picture for the blog today is just a small glimpse into our relaxing times here.  You can go and layout on the dock, swing and occasionally face plant off the rope swings, or just float around.  Everyone has found a bit of respite here, and personally this was one of my very favorite spots on the island (although I don’t think anything topped the amazing snorkeling trip!).

Today C watch spent the day wandering around Palmyra to see all places we didn’t find yesterday.  We walked all the way to the end of the airplane runway, which is deceivingly long, and then walked along the north beaches on the island.  There were so many different crabs that seemed to pop out of every crack and tree.  They were super quick to scurry away whenever we approached.  We also saw many remnants of the WWII bunkers that were in surprisingly good shape.  There are a number scattered around the shorelines and the center of the island that you can go inside and find creatures and some have the beginning formations of stalactites. 

There are also a few shipwrecks scattered around that look to be straight out of the movies.  We found out later that the management from Palmyra is currently working with a company to remove these wreckage sites.  As the ships degrade they send nutrients into the water that has been causing certain organisms to artificially thrive and then suffocate the surrounding corals.  Who knew?!

At the end of the day we were lucky enough to share dinner with the folks working at Palmyra and the crew of another visiting vessel sharing our anchorage.  We were all very excited to give tours of the boat to our visitors, and then to share in a delicious meal made by Lolo, Abby, and our guest chef flown in from Greece, Nikiforos! The company was fantastic!  We heard stories about sharks, the process of rat eradication on the island, research of corals, fish, birds, and just about everything else you ever imagined. We are so thankful that they came and shared their stories and experiences with us.  It gave Palmyra have a whole new life, seeing it through the eyes of the researchers and staff who live in this wonderful place.

After such a full day, everyone was off to bed to dream of adventures to come on the last day. We are all so blessed to be in such an amazing place like this, and are all taking tons of pictures to share with everyone when we return home. 

Miss you all, and wish you sweet dreams from the land of paradise!   
 
Abby Stryker
Muhlenberg College / C Watch

P.S.- Dennis wants to give a shout out to Ally, Mom and Dad, family and friends. Miss you. Gone swimming..with sharks.

Apr

08

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday 08 April 2013
Current Position: Palmyra
Course & Speed: Anchored
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Lots of sunshine!

Photo Caption: Dennis, Ari, Sam, and Katie compete to be the first to open a fresh coconut from Palmyra! See below to find out who wins.

Today B watch enjoyed exploring Palmyra together on our day off, C watch went snorkeling, and A watch stayed aboard Robert C. Seamans taking care of business. Sam found some tasty coconuts and tied for first place with Katie in the race to open the first coconut. Shortly after enjoying our first taste of the Palmyra coconuts, we saw a pair of peppered moray eels prop themselves up on a rock, completely out of the water, and attack a crab! The eels were just one of many creatures that we saw, but I think they were the most interesting. Then Katie and Ari climbed to the top of a palm tree like tree frogs and Dennis did one of his signature hand stands for some fun photos. Then Nikiforos mastered the back-flip from the palm tree rope swing and we all enjoyed the clear, cool waters of the beautiful swimming hole.

For those of you who think Palmyra is tiny, yes, it is small, but it’s large enough that we didn’t get to explore all of it in one day. We plan on exploring the rest of the part of the island on which we are allowed on our next day off, making sure to leave enough time to re-visit the swimming hole, too, of course. Tomorrow we will be on the ship working on maintenance, beautification and science projects, as well as cleaning so the Seamans will be in ship-shape for our guests when they come over from the island for dinner, but we can’t wait to go snorkeling the next day!

In short, our first full day in Palmyra was everything we hoped and more. The biodiversity here is amazing.

I just want to say thanks mom, dad, grammy, Lizzy, Teri, Taylor Ann, Lori, Jazzy, and Dave for pushing me to go after what I want. I love you all so much and wish you could be here to enjoy the journey too.

Josh sends his birthday wishes and love to his little sister Emily. HAPPY 17th BIRTHDAY! Miss you.

Cheers,
Laura Jack
Northeastern University / B Watch

Apr

07

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday 07 April 2013
Current Position: Palmyra Atoll
Course & Speed: Anchored
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Calm

Photo Caption: Alex Simpson tries to have a conversation with a passing bird as she leaps off the bowsprit into the blue lagoon below.

Palmyra!

After several days of sailing in strong winds and “sporty” waves posed some interesting challenges (for example, “How do I get from this side of the saloon to the other without a) landing back on my seat, b) running full-speed into the opposite wall, or c) falling flat on my face?”), we anchored today in the calm, bright blue lagoon of Palmyra Atoll.

At first the distant coconut palms on the hazy horizon under the midday equatorial sun did not seem real. Yet as we approached, I increasingly felt like an excited little puppy that didn’t know what to do ‘cause it was so excited! We were all giddy to finally see this place that we had heard so much about and worked so hard to get to. When we reached the middle of the lagoon and anchored, a great wave of calm washed over the entire crew, and many of the students promptly fell asleep on deck.

After a brief nap and quick presentation on how to observe and respect the atoll’s environment and wildlife, we went for our first swim! For the next three days while we’re anchored here, this is how we will be bathing. A quick hop into the salty waters of the blue lagoon, and presto! Squeaky clean! (Soap and shampoo is for after we leave the wilderness refuge, and can flush our soapy water back into the sea and use our fresh water makers again.)

Over the next few days we will take turns in watches snorkeling on the near-pristine reef just outside the lagoon and exploring the shore and coconut forests of the atoll’s public islands. Everyone has that one animal that they want to see most, whether it be shark, sea turtle, purple coconut crab, or manta ray (my personal favorite)- stay tuned to hear more about all the fantastic creatures we encounter in the coming days!!

Lots of love and hugs and kisses to Mom, Dad, Kyle, and Grandpa. and happy 19th to Kyle!!!

And Jillian says, “Hi Mom, Dad, Ethan, Ellis, Gabby, and Grandma, I miss you!”

Chloe Holzinger
Eckerd College / A Watch

Apr

06

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday 06 April 2013
Current Position: 7° 17’ N x 161° 41’ W
Course & Speed: 185 degrees per ship’s compass, 6 knots
Sail Plan: Mainstays’l, forestays’l and storm trys’l
Weather: Sunny skies, strong winds, 10 ft swells!

Photo Caption: Josh, Jillian, Bree, Abby C.  and Will hauling away the halyard to set the mainstays’l.

Hi Folks!

This is Alex Simpson, student aboard the Robert C. Seamans. The great big blue decided to throw some added excitement our way today. Swells of 10 feet arriving from storms far across the Pacific have been sending our cozy home on quite the roller coaster ride! We spent the majority of the early morning hove-to (sails and rudder all set to counteract each other so we stop moving) to ride out the swells and a few squalls. The inclement weather reminds us that this is “real life sailing!” And of course, safety is our #1 priority. We ran a line from forward to aft called a “jackl’n” to clip into while walking on deck. Trailing our tethers behind as we roam about makes it look like we’re walking ourselves like dogs. The occasional “woof” made us giggle in the wee hours of the morning.

A rhythm has definitely taken shape on board. We gauge our time in watches - namely, when we’re working, when we’re eating, and when we’re crashed out in our bunks (not forgetting the sunset ukulele hour, of course). It’s easy to focus on what is immediately in front of us. Lines are hauled on, sails are set and struck, hot sauce is passed across the table. Today’s exhilarating swells have made it easy to change our focus, like the lens on a camera, to the background instead of the foreground. Vast blueness surrounds us. It is one thing to see that we’ve travelled over 700 nautical miles on a chart, but it is another to understand physically that our home has been in constant motion across a deserted ocean. When the sun sets, we’re the only 31 people out here catching the glimpse.

It is also easy to forget that we are a research vessel! Science surrounds us! We had some great presentations this afternoon from our scientists about the instrumentation on board. Breaking down the research into basic elements: the principles of light allow us to test water for things like ion concentrations, pH and chlorophyll, and the principles of sound allow us to determine the depth of the ocean beneath us. One instrument, the CHIRP sub-bottom profiler, is constantly sending out “chirp” like sound waves - our resident pet bird can be heard best from the engine room! The afternoon presentations were interrupted by a fish on the line! How cool is that?! It’s our third catch of the trip, and the first tuna. Really looking forward to dinner..

GUESS WHAT?? Palmyra Atoll is within reach!!!!!!! Our ETA is tomorrow afternoon. Stay tuned for more stories and good cheer.

Lots of love to family and friends,
Alex Simpson, Cornell University / C Watch

PS Julia says “HI MOM!”

Apr

05

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday 05 April 2013
Current Position:  8° N’, 161° W
Course & Speed: 185 degrees per ship’s compass, 6.5 kts
Sail Plan: Stays’ls
Weather:  Windy!!!

Photo Caption: Sofia, Laura and Josh rinsing off under the fire hose.

Aloha to all of our followers! This is Carla, the first assistant scientist aboard the RCS. The theme of this post is FUN! We have been building a wonderful community here at sea, laughing hard along the way. In my opinion, one of the most captivating elements of being at sea is the ability to create our own fun. With no cell phones, internet, or other ‘land’ distractions, we have the occasion to focus inward - on our exceptional group of shipmates and the mission at hand. Camaraderie makes everything more fun, which we certainly demonstrated today during our weekly deep-clean of the ship (affectionately known as “Field Day”). We spent three hours on our hands and knees, sweating, scrubbing, washing, and rinsing every single nook and cranny of the Seamans. We were simultaneously singing, chatting, pranking, and laughing (especially every time one of those 13ft waves ‘bijed’ over the science deck). In typical RCS fashion, we concluded field day by charging the fire hoses and taking turns showering under the highest-pressure showers anyone has ever experienced.

With a clean ship and happy spirits, we are cruising our way towards Palmyra under just the stays’ls. It is rocking and rolling on the Seamans tonight, but rest assured we’ll all sleep well after a hard day’s work.

Stay happy,
Carla “Secchi Disk”

Sending lots of love to the maine-land, and to all friends and fam. Mom and Cait Houli, happy early birthdays! Mingles, B.D. cannot wait to send you her PM sheet, and we have been making good use of the dominoes.

Apr

04

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday, 04 April 2013
Current Position: 9°  40.99’ N x 160°  52.67’ W
Course & Speed: 185 degrees per ship’s compass at 5.7 kts
Sail Plan: Sailing on a port tack under the four lowers and the jib tops’l
Weather: A clear night with beautiful stars!

Photo Caption: Chloe’s Galley Day included coconut macaroons and freshly baked sandwich bread!

Greetings from the Galley of the Robert C. Seamans!  The chief steward, Abby, and I have had the pleasure of feeding the amazing students and crew of S-246 for the past week and a half.  Each day, with the help of a student assistant, the galley turns out a variety of offerings in the form of three meals and three snacks.  It may surprise many of you at home when you hear how well we eat here, and what we are capable of carrying and preparing on board! Let me give you examples of the fun things we have turned out thus far: fresh crepes (with the help of Alex), chocolate chip banana bread french toast (Dennis), ANZAC biscuits (an Aussie treat from Bree), falafel with quinoa tabbouleh (Abby Stryker), and even parmesan focaccia bread (Laura J), just to name a few! Cooking on board while underway is a unique experience (to say the least!)- and our student assistants are handling the challenge like culinary champions.

Each day, a new student assistant joins Abby and I in the galley. On their galley days (each student gets two), the students do not stand watch for the entire day. Today we spent a fantastic day with Chloe! She and I worked on Nutella-filled croissants for breakfast, and after breakfast moved on to preparing chocolate chip and almond macaroons for midnight snack. Lunch was “Week in Review,” which is a great lunch of leftovers featuring favorites from the past week! Abby made refreshing key lime pies with fresh whipped cream for afternoon snack, and then Chloe joined us both in the galley after class to turn out a dinner of fresh caught Wahoo (courtesy of C-watch!) with a ginger-soy marinade, brown rice and sugar snap peas.

The Galley is a very special place onboard. One of the reasons I love cooking is that food brings people together. It’s an extremely rewarding experience to cook for people that you care about, and nowhere is that more true for me than cooking for my shipmates. Each day, Abby and I get to know the students as we plan and prepare meals together, and many students bring recipes and ideas from home. In this way, each student shares a little bit of themselves and their story in the food they prepare. Abby and I are eagerly looking forward to working with all of the students, and giving them increased control and responsibility on their second galley day. Right now, we have super-secret plans in the works with Larkin for tomorrow. (Shh! It’s pizza!!)

Endless love to everyone at home!

(In particular, a very Happy Birthday to my beautiful mother who I miss all day, every day! I love you, Mawma!)

Lolo, Assistant Steward

Apr

03

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday, 3 April 2013
Current Position: 11° 26.2’ N x 160° 06.0’ W
Course & Speed: 185 degrees per ship’s compass, 6 kts
Sail Plan: Sailing downwind under the Mainstays’l, Tops’l, and Course
Weather: Mostly cloudy, 30C, Winds force 5 out of the NE, Seas 5-6 feet

Photo Caption: Ari leads B Watch in a conga line victory lap following today’s line chase competition.

After six days underway, we have patched together a thorough understanding of the lines under which we sail, and have many blisters to prove it. The measuring stick of this great achievement is none less than the highly anticipated line chase. This nautical relay race called for watches to identify the nearly 90 lines (ropes) on the RCS (which ranged from the gantl’n to our tan lines). One watchmate at a time, students and deckhands made their way from the quarterdeck to the named line, and then back before the next watchmate was off and (almost) running. Actual running was penalized with a mandated crab-walk for the rest of the race. Although B Watch reined in the glory, it certainly was a point of realization of the transformations that we have all undergone after not even a week at sea.

It’s not all fun and games aboard the Seamans, however! In addition to our daily net deployments and hydrocasts, we also participate in volunteer scientific observations and deployments as a “vessel of opportunity.” Today we deployed the first of three Argo Floats as a part of this work. Argo Floats are cylindrical devices with CTD instruments (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) that spend their lives floating up and down the water column collecting data on the structure and circulation of the deep ocean and transmitting it via satellites. The international Argo project is comprised of over 3,500 floats and, by deploying these devices along our cruise track in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, we are helping fill some gaps in the array. Other work that we conduct alongside our own independent research projects includes four-times daily weather observations for NOAA and many samples that contribute to the decades-long SEA archives.

Other exciting and miscellaneous news: the labbies caught and preserved a baby octopus along with a jabba-the-hutt parasite, we are currently sailing over a seamount named the “Sea Dragon,” and during my duty as Assistant Engineer today we managed to change two light bulbs over the course of over an hour. While everything may be more difficult and a bit slower at sea, the heightened sense of self-sufficiency and accomplishment is forever rewarding.

Much love back to Maine and the other far-reaching corners of the world.

Josh Sturtevant
Bates College / A Watch

Apr

02

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Tuesday 02 April 2013
Current Position: 13°  44.6’ N x 159°  25.6’ W
Course & Speed: 190 degrees per ship’s compass and averaging about 5 to 6 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing downwind under the mainstays’l, the tops’l, and the course
Weather: Sunny with some cirrus clouds, 30C (86F), wind is on our quarter at a Beaufort Force 5 (pretty strong, lots of white caps)

Photo Caption: During class today the engineers (Will and Jimmy) gave us a run-down of the ship’s energy users and suppliers. A comprehensive whiteboard diagram and a unique classroom setting aided their presentation.

Hello All!

This morning C watch greeted the sun on Dawn Watch. Those of us on deck rotated on bow watch, steering on the helm, and completing hourly boat checks. I learned how to identify the constellation Scorpio in the sky and used the stars as a steering guide, rather than relying on the compass. At 0700 we were relieved by A watch and enjoyed a delicious meal of breakfast burritos and fresh grapefruit. Then we did dawn clean-up before we could
shower and catch up on some sleep. Each morning after Dawn Watch that watch performs dawn clean up. During this cleanup we scrub the soles (floors) of the below deck area, clean the heads, and clean the showers. A clean ship is a happy ship! After this is also when you get to shower, once every three days, so it is really quite a treat.

During class today we continued with the rest of our Creature Feature presentations, hearing a song by Alex and Dennis, a fashion show by Ari, Katie, and Bree, and a poem by Laura and Chloe. The rest of class was the engineer’s presentation about the ship’s generators, engine, and main power users (shown in the picture). During class time tomorrow we will be having a line chase - a competition between the three watches to test our knowledge of all the ship’s lines. We have been studying and quizzing ourselves to prepare. C Watch has been working really hard and I’d say is the favorite to win this one!

It is also Zeal’s, one of our sailing interns, birthday today so we had yummy chocolate raspberry cupcakes as our afternoon snack to celebrate!

We miss all you land lubbers and hope everything is going well back home. Shout out to the McGee family and all my other loyal followers!

Remember: Weather is everything, but safety is first.

Mary McGee
Colgate University / C Watch

Apr

01

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Monday 01 April 2013
Current Position: 15°  06.6’ N x 158°  50.7’ W
Course & Speed: 185 degrees per ship’s compass at 4 knots
Sail Plan: Sailing on a port tack under 4 lowers with a reefed main
Weather: Partly Cloudy

Photo Caption: Creature Feature presenters show off their costumes [From Left to Right: (back) Nikiforos (Ostracod), Larkin (Heteropod), Jillian (Phronemid Amphipod), Abby (Gammarid Amphipod); (front) Marina (Hyperiid Amphipod), Josh (Isopod), Mary (Copepod)].

Aloha from S-246,

Happy April Fool’s Day! We all had a lot of fun with this holiday. Most notable fools: Fake Log Book Entries, False Whale Sighting (that was a huge bummer), and a unibrow painted on someone’s face!

On a more serious note, this morning I welcomed the sun during my first Dawn Watch—it was truly a remarkable sight. I don’t believe anyone has talked about how the watch schedule works onboard the ship yet. Someone/a group of people must always be in charge of “watching” the boat to make sure everything is running smoothly and that science data is being collected and processed. The watch schedule is broken up into five distinct watch periods and split between three watch groups (A, B, C). This means that it takes three full days to stand all five watches. The first watch of the day is Dawn Watch (0300-0700). During Dawn Watch you are greeted by the sun’s early light, in our case off the port quarter; before that, if we’re lucky, we’ll shoot a few morning stars to obtain a celestial fix. Next come the two six-hour watches: Morning Watch (0700-1300) and Afternoon Watch (1300-1900). During Morning Watch, you shoot the sun for LAN, collect SPAR data, tow Neuston and Phytoplankton nets, and deploy the Carousel. We have class every day at 1430 during Afternoon Watch. After class, Afternoon Watch gets back to work sailhandling and processing data from the earlier deployments. The final watches are Evening Watch (1900-2300) and Mid(night) Watch (2300-0300). These night watches both help with Galley clean up, sailhandling, and data processing.

In class today, we had our first round of Creature Features. On shore, we completed a Zooplankton Lab and we were each assigned a “creature” to become an expert on. Here at sea, we formed small groups and presented several ways in which to tell each “creature” apart from the next. Larkin and Nikiforos reenacted the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet between the Heteropod and Ostracod, two star-crossed pelagic snails caught in divergent currents. Next Josh and Mary explained to us the difference between Copepods and Isopods through song. The final group consisted of Abby, Marina, and me (Jillian). We acted out the 8th day of Creation, in other words, the day God created Amphipods. Everyone did a fantastic job and we are excited for what the last three groups will come up with.

We’re all still learning the ropes here, but I think it’s safe to say that we all have our sea legs and we’re loving life. A special shout out to Katie’s wonderful dog Libby—the crew wishes her a Happy 10th birthday!

Until next time,
Jillian Lyles
Cornell University / A Watch

Mar

31

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Sunday, 31 March 2013
Current Position: 17° 07.1’ N x 158° 47.1’ W
Course & Speed: 185 degrees per ship’s compass at 6.0 knots
Sail Plan: Tops’l, Course, Mainstays’l, Jib
Weather: 8/8ths clouds, Cumulus & Cumulostratus

Photo Caption: Easter egg hunt! B watch finds an egg atop the science lab (from left to right: Laura Jack, Nikiforos, Sofia, Dennis & Sam).

Happy Easter everyone!

Heading into Easter morning, we found a young traveler on the boat. Fortunately, Chief Scientist Deb Goodwin saved Abby from the attacking sea chicken (we were not able to identify the bird, so opted to call it Albert instead).  We believe that Albert became tired and was attracted to the navigation lights on the boat.  Albert was looking for a little respite from a long flight (aren’t we all?). We believe that Albert (or Alberta?) laid the Easter eggs we found around the boat.

This morning C watch deployed the carousel to 1200 meters and later deployed the phytoplankton net. Today we also found LAN (local apparent noon) for the first time. We predicted the time LAN would occur using the Nautical Almanac, and then shot the sun using our sextants.  With a few corrections, we are then able to find a line of position on our charts!  We know that our ship must be somewhere on this line; how cool is that?! 

But enough about science and celestial navigation! The best part of today was the surprise Easter egg hunt left by Albert.

Right after lunch, all hands met on the quarterdeck. We split into our watch groups and received instructions for the hunt. Each watch had 12 eggs to find, and each egg contained a whimsical, rhyming clue about where to find the next one. We raced (at a walk) around the ship, and found eggs in dry storage (below the main saloon), on the science deck, in and above the science lab, in the doghouse and engine room, in the foulie (rain gear) locker below decks, and in one of the lifeboats! The final clue sent us to the quarterdeck where we shared in some Easter candy joy.

The winds have finally picked up and we are sailing at about 6 knots, almost straight downwind and right towards Palmyra. Because we are sailing downwind, we set the course and tops’l, two of our square sails. In order to set the course, we had to strike the forestays’l. We also took down the mains’l, which wants to turn the ship upwind. Today is smooth sailing, but the ship is rolling a bit from side to side and submerging portholes because the waves are coming from behind us. It’s a wonderful sight from below! After striking and setting the sails, all but A watch were stood down to complete outstanding oceanography, lab, and nautical science assignments. Check in later in the week to see how these turned out!  Some of us also caught up on some much needed sleep.

Once again, happy Easter (and happy April Fool’s Day eve)! Love to our family and friends back on land. We are doing well and having a blast!

Abby Stryker, Muhlenberg College / C Watch
Katie Lyon, Marlboro College / B Watch

Mar

30

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Saturday, 30 March 2013
Current Position: 18° 37’ N x 150° 29’ W
Course & Speed: 185 degrees per ship’s compass, four knots
Sail Plan: Four lowers and tops’l
Weather: clear skies, light winds

Photo Caption: Josh, Dennis and Nikiforos learn to shoot the sun with sextants.

Hello! Alex and Ari reporting here from the Seamans. To our port, blue vastness; to our starboard, blue vastness! We’re happy to announce that all aboard are well, and recovering tremendously from small bouts of seasickness brought on by yesterday’s departure. The top four notable sunburns of the day are Ari’s shoulders, Alex’s farmer’s tan, Nikiforos’s nose, and Laura Jack’s rosy face (though she’s always pretty rosy). Some folks are gaining their sea legs, and others may even be sprouting fins - but more on that another day.

The sea was very calm today, which made for a little less sailing than we all would have hoped (though we appreciated the reprieve from the yack-inducing swells). During our afternoon class, we practiced setting and striking a few sails. With nine people on each sail, we set both the tops’l (the squares’l on the foremast between the two yards) and the mains’l (the triangular sail on the main mast, the aft-most sail). Following the mates’ commands of “all hands to set the tops’l”, “haul away the halyard,” “ease the sheet,” and many more, we’re grasping the basics of sail handling. Literally grasping - our hands are forming blisters, with many more certain to come. The tops’l and mains’l are particularly difficult to handle. The tops’l has many more lines than we’ve learned thus far because it is a squares’l. The mains’l requires a great deal of control because of its size and because of the risk of the large boom swinging across the deck. We have a contest coming up this Wednesday between each of the watch groups to see who are the ultimate sail and line location masters. “Vote for B watch!” says Ari.

After this sail handling lesson (nothing like learning by doing), we broke out the sextants for the first time. We practiced finding the index error, which allows us to calibrate for the error unique to each sextant. Then, we practiced shooting the sun! We didn’t mark our positions today, but hope to practice more celestial navigation soon.

Let’s not forget that we are a research vessel! A-watch deployed the first hydrocast of the trip. By lowering a device called a carousel over the side of the ship, we collected 12 water samples from the surface to a depth of 1200 m! While A-watch got the glory of pulling them up from the deep, B-watch did all the work of processing the samples. Ari and Laura measured the alkalinity and pH of each sample. There were A LOT of samples. We also looked at our first CTD cast. This equipment displays a vertical profile of the ocean. We examined temperature, salinity, oxygen, chlorophyll-a, light content, and more. By observing trends in this data, we identified physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of the water below us. Really cool stuff!

Yesterday, the chief engineer Jimmy and deckhand Paul reeled in a good size Mahi Mahi! Just a theory, but the fish bit the hook right after a student yacked overboard - maybe a sacrifice to King Neptune is the best bait! A few students looked at the contents of this fish’s stomach and found a little fish. Inside of the little fish’s stomach was a worm! The circle of life. Continuing the circle, we ate the Mahi Mahi for dinner! The stewards and Alex (who was Assistant Steward today) whipped up a fun fiesta of fish tacos. It was a party in our mouths!

Right now, C-watch is up on deck standing the first night watch. We have someone stationed at the bow as the lookout, two folks in the lab taking our nightly measurements, and someone on the helm making sure we are steering towards Palmyra Atoll. Every hour, someone of the watch performs a thorough boat check, ensuring all is well on board. Tonight, the crew happen to be playing a rowdy card game in the main salon, and laughter and good cheer fills the air. Oh! And a bit of bioluminescense is being spotted off the port side.

Signing off at 2041,
Yours truly,
Ari Abram, University of Toronto / B Watch
Alex Simpson, Cornell University / C Watch

Mar

29

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Friday, 29 March 2013
Position: 21° 18’ 24.00” N x 157° 52’ 00.00” W
Location: Off the west coast of Oahu
Course & Speed: 140PSC, 6kn
Sail Plan: Port tack, sailing under the 4 lowers
Weather: 6/8 cloud cover, cumulus clouds. ENE breeze at Beaufort force 6

Photo Caption: Paul, Will and Lolo (left to right) with the man overboard ring on the starboard quarter.

Aloha!

Today is our first day under sail! We departed Honolulu at 0830, immediately assuming our watch schedule and heaving lines to get the Seamans moving at a reasonable pace. Whoosh! Up went the mains’l, as soon as we left Honolulu harbor (inside of which we are only permitted to motor), followed by the two stays’ls and the jib (which were a sight to behold, being set simultaneously). B watch, under Saphrona’s command, had the honor of being first watch under sail and Alex looked a little nervous but very excited at the helm. The ship moved with alacrity (word of the week, meaning more speed, less haste) as did the crew until the call came to heave to. Being already on port tack, we ideally wanted to gybe twice to have the stays’ls backed whilst being on a port tack, and this went smoothly. We practiced our positions in case of a fire in the galley. On to the second drill.

“Man overboard! This is a drill!” came the cry, and we moved immediately to our emergency stations as dictated by the Watch Quarter Station Bill. My watch, A watch, hoisted the small rescue boat onto the hip (side of the Seamans) and then lowered it to the water, allowing Chief Mate Jay and Assistant Scientist Ed to don PFDs and motor to and retrieve the overboard life ring. Another mostly-smooth procedure.

Finally, we practiced our routine for abandoning ship. (Hopefully our readers will be reassured, rather than concerned, at our consideration of all these eventualities.) If the time comes to abandon Mama Seamans, as Jay calls her, we all don buoyant immersion suits, grab extra items like food, water and a GPIRB (like an EPIRB but with improved positioning capability), trigger the release of three life rafts and wait together for rescue. This won’t ever happen, mums and dads. Stop worrying. The third drill went as smoothly as the others and we found out small details that will help in case of an emergency - for example, I need a knife to disconnect the water container from the deck, and I now know the location of at least two within arm’s reach.

Now that we know how to handle situations when things don’t go right, it’s time to learn how to make things go right and start making tracks for Palmyra. Stay tuned!

Bree Sparre
University of Technology, Sydney / A Watch

Mar

28

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Thursday, 28 March 2013
Current Position: Aloha Tower, Honolulu
Course & Speed: Docked
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Partly Sunny with light drizzles on and off

Photo Caption: 3rd Mate Ashley (2nd from left) oversees Katie (3rd from left) performing a proper flop-flaking of the forestays’l downhaul. This technique ensures lines do not tangle when taken in. Nikiforos (left) and Dennis (right) look on with zen-like concentration.

Ahoy!

Last night was everyone’s first night on watch! We had a modified 3-hour watch schedule to ease us into the routine. Once underway, our night watches are split into 4-hour shifts. Our first very important order of business was to read the night orders. This is a logbook with notes from the Captain and mates telling us anything important we need to know while on watch. This includes what our sail plan is, our course ordered, weather, and any other items of importance. During the first watch, we familiarized ourselves with wet and dry lab procedures on the science deck. We also learned how to complete a boat check. Boat checks are performed every hour on the hour. During this check a person is to walk the deck to examine lines, sails, emergency equipment, vents, etc. to make sure everything is functioning and in its place. The boat check continues below deck and into the engine room, where a specific checklist for all the important gages is completed.

Once dawn broke, breakfast was completed, and the caffeine was coursing through our veins, we broke into groups again to continue our sail training. On the science deck, we continued to learn deployment techniques, specifically how to attach a neuston net to the neuston boom. We deploy this net alongside the ship to collect zooplankton at the surface. On the foredeck, we continued to learn proper sail handling techniques as well as how to set and strike the forestays’l. Arguably everyone’s favorite station, and certainly mine, was learning how to go aloft! This was our introduction to how to safely climb to the cross-trees (where the mast and the horizontal yards meet). We took turns climbing the shrouds along the sides of the foremast and learning how to hook our harnesses in upon reaching the top. This experience is a privilege and not a right so we will still need clearance from the mates before we can go aloft freely. And by freely I mean when conditions are safe and we have permission from our mate on duty. Don’t worry, Mom!

This is our last night in port. Our watches are back on again tonight until dawn, and at 0830 we are scheduled to depart! I speak for everyone when I say we are totally stoked!!  Time for bed now. Cease transmission.

Dennis Claffey
Northeastern University / B Watch

Mar

27

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

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Wednesday 27 March 2013
Current Position: Pier 9, Aloha Tower Marketplace, Honolulu, HI
Course & Speed: Docked
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Light rain in morning, sun in the afternoon, light rain and heavy clouds in evening. Three rainbows were gleefully identified throughout the day!!!

Photo Caption: (Left to right) Marina, Ari, Chloe, Jillian, Mary, and Katie don their hard hats and safety glasses for a tour around the Hawaii Responder, the oil spill response vessel pictured in the background.

Aloha!

Today was the S-246 students’ first full day aboard the Robert C. Seamans! Upon waking at 0630, we enjoyed a breakfast of pancakes, bacon, fruit, cereal, and yogurt before mustering on the quarterdeck for a briefing of the days’ activities. The three watch groups divided to perform daily cleaning and maintenance tasks such as scrubbing the deck from heads to soles (toilets to floors for you landlubbers) and swabbing the deck (simply means washing).

At 0830, students and some of the crew departed for an educational field trip to the Hawaii Oil Spill Response Center, one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in the nation. This organization trains and prepares for every (and we mean every) conceivable scenario regarding oil spills. We were given a tour of the office before being transported to the Hawaii Responder, the vessel specifically built to facilitate the eradication of oil in the ocean. Fun fact: the skimmer that mechanically removes oil from the water is tied for the largest in the world, rated at 15,000 barrels per day. Wow, that thing can suck! We were excited to explore the ship’s control room, operational deck, crew facilities, and engine room. After a humid stroll back to the Robert C. Seamans, we indulged in a late lunch of pasta salad, mixed green salad with apricots and red peppers (très gourmet!), and buttered bread.

After this delicious meal, prepared by our lovely steward goddesses, the watch groups once again divided to conquer today’s lessons: deploying and recovering lab equipment, furling (folding in a super nautical way) the sails, and proper technique of securing lines (the ropes that hold up the sails). After a deliciously refreshing snack of watermelon and goldfish (the snack that smiles back, not the actual fish), each watch learned about their assigned responsibilities during times of emergencies (just like the Oil Response Center! Such an applicable fieldtrip!).

Following a luxurious dinner of steak, rice with kale, portabello mushrooms with goat cheese, and steamed green beans with slivered almonds (jealous?), the students were free to get as much sleep as they could before the first overnight watches began. Upon writing this blog, we are being ordered to retire to our bunks as, and I quote 2nd Mate Saphrona, ““You’’re going to have a loooong day tomorrow.””

Stay tuned for our next nautical activity update, and remember, always wear sunscreen!

Mahalo!

Ari Abram, University of Toronto / B Watch
Larkin Bernardi, Hamilton College / C Watch

Mar

26

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

Tuesday 26 March 2013
Current Position: Pier 9, Aloha Tower Marketplace, Honolulu, HI
Course & Speed: Docked
Sail Plan: None
Weather: Partly cloudy

Aloha, World!

Our Energy & the Ocean Environment students boarded the Robert C Seamans this afternoon.  All are happy, in excellent form, and delighted (beyond belief) to have joined the vessel.  They are all now bona fide crew and have begun learning the ways of their ship. 

S-246 is officially underway! 
More to follow tomorrow.
Captain Beth

Mar

21

S246 Energy & the Ocean Environment

Thursday 21 March 2013

The students of S-246 will finish up their shore component in Woods Hole, MA tomorrow. They are scheduled to board the Robert C Seamans in Honolulu, HI by Tuesday March 26th and will return to Honolulu, HI around May 3rd.