SEA Semester
  • Like Sea Education Association on Facebook
  • Follow Sea Education Association on Twitter
  • Follow SEA Semester on Instagram
  • Watch Sea Education Association on YouTube
  • Add Sea Education Association on LinkedIn
  • Follow SEA Semester on Google+
Sheet

Voyages

SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.

Dec

20

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Friday 20 December 2013
Position: 17° 32.4’S 149° 34.2’W
Location: Dockside in Papeete Harbor, Tahiti

Caption: Our final gathering on the bowsprit

We docked in Papeete early this morning, gathered on the Quarterdeck to say our farewells, and took pictures of the entire crew on the bowsprit (see photo). Several family members were on the dock to welcome us, and the students have now moved off the ship and headed on to what lies next. A large contingent of them went diving this morning, and apparently had the treat of seeing a tiger shark up close (they briefly returned to the ship this evening to excitedly share their underwater photographs of the event)! Several are flying home soon, to be reunited with their families for the holidays, and to get back to school in time for winter term. Others will spend more time enjoying beautiful French Polynesia before heading home.

Regardless of when each student gets home, they will all return with abundant tales-and many photographs and videos-of our cruise. Their response to the “What was it like?” question will probably first seem to be a stream-of-consciousness response of seemingly garbled impressions. It’s been a busy seven weeks. We have sailed over 4000 nautical miles and collected an extensive set of oceanographic data both while we were underway as well as at 63 discrete scientific stations. The students have worked hard on their science projects and on deck, enjoyed the company of a fantastic group of shipmates, crossed the Equator, visited exotic places they’ve never been before, and sailed on an epic sea voyage. Everyone has been challenged at some point in the cruise, either physically or mentally, or both. There has been much laughter and a few tears, but all have persevered, and found strength within themselves that they didn’t know they had before.  Listen carefully to their stories, enjoy their photographs, and ask questions about what they have learned and what they have experienced. They have much to tell.

Farewells to shipmates are always difficult, and we found this morning’s to be particularly so. We expect great things of this group of talented students as they go on with their lives, and we look forward to hearing of their successes in their many future endeavors. It has been a true joy to sail with each and every one of them!

Fair winds and following seas, and happy holidays!
Audrey Meyer (Chief Scientist)
Pamela Coughlin (Captain)

Dec

19

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Thursday 19 December 2013
Position: 17° 30.8’‘N x 149° 51.1’‘W
Location: Opunohu Bay, Moorea
Course: Anchored
Winds: Light and Variable

One more day. Can you believe it? I certainly can’’t. It feels like yesterday that we were boarding the SSV Robert C. Seamans in San Diego to begin this incredible adventure.

Camille here. This is the last student-written blog of S-250. Tomorrow, you will hear from our awesome Captain Pamela and Chief Scientist Audrey. By then, our adventure will be over and we will be back on land in Papeete, Tahiti.

So where do I begin? It’s all been so incredible. I’‘m not sure that I can pick a single highlight.

We have all come so far since the beginning of this trip. From not knowing what any line was called to being able to set and strike all the square sails in under 10 minutes all on our own. All of us are pretty adept sailors.

Our research projects turned out incredibly well. Some of us discovered new and exciting things about the big blue ocean, while others learned to question commonly accepted facts. Who knew that 18 students could discover so much and collect so much interesting data!

As we wrap up our trip, we are all starting to realize how lucky and fortunate we have been to have had incredible sailing conditions during this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. There are so many people to thank.

On behalf of S-250, I want to thank the following people:

Audrey: Thank you for your immense support both on shore and at sea. Managing the needs of 18 mark-hungry and feedback-looking students isn’’t easy, but you did it with such grace. You have really become Mama Meyer to us all.

Pamela: Thank you for teaching us so much about all aspects of sailing. You turned an inexperienced crew of students into a sailing machine! We are extremely lucky to have had such a wonderful and captivating Captain to guide us across the Pacific.

John: Thanks for all you taught us on land. You have 18 press releases waiting for you after the New Year!

Professional Crew of S-250: Thanks for making sure that we all got to Tahiti in one piece. We couldn’’t have imagined a better crew with whom to sail over 4000 nautical miles.

SEA staff on land: Thanks for all your support while on land. We were so well taken care of. We all wish we had such an incredible support system at our own universities.

SEA: Thank you for making this opportunity possible for all of us. Most of us couldn’’t have imagined that we could get university credit while sailing across the Pacific for over 6 weeks. We hope that you continue to make this opportunity possible for as many students as possible. Everyone should have the chance to experience what we have while at SEA.

Family and Friends: As much as we have had an incredible time here at sea, we all can’‘t wait to get home and to tell you all in person about our many adventures. You may think that we have gone boat crazy, and it is likely the case. Trust us when we say that we have all had such “normal” fun.

Blog readers: Thank you for joining us on our incredible adventure. We hope that our blog provided you a glimpse of the fantastic time we have had at sea.

I also want to personally thank my classmates. Thank you for your jokes, hugs, dance parties, reminders, wake ups, and many more. We have really become a family here aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Sharing this experience with you has been a privilege. I hope that I have made lifelong friends in all of you.

To prospective and future SEA students: SEA has been the most challenging, but rewarding academic and personal experience of my life. I pushed myself beyond limits that I couldn’’t imagine existed before this trip. This adventure will be one of my fondest memories with me for the rest of my life. For those who are still considering SEA, stop thinking about it and sign up now. You won’’t regret it. For those of you preparing for the sea component, bring enough clothes so that you don’’t need to do laundry ever. You won’t want to. Also, don’’t expect to want to bring any of those clothes home with you.

Tonight is the last night. A final swizzle. Some awards. Some final words.

As I sit here writing this, I am starting to realize that I only have one more day left in the best time of my life (so far).

Signing off for S-250,

Camille Pagniello

P.S. To my family and friends: As sad as I am to leave, I can’’t wait to see you all, show you the incredible pictures, and tell you all the amazing stories. This has been the best time of my life. Grandmaman et Ernie: Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année! J’aimerais tant pouvoir passer les vacances avec vous à Los Angeles.

Dec

18

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Wednesday 18 December 2013
Position: 17° 30.8’N x 149 51.1’W
Location: Opunohu Bay, Moorea
Course:  Anchored
Winds: Light and Variable

Landfall in Moorea!  As I write this blog we are anchored in Opunohu Bay on Moorea - our final anchorage of the journey before heading on to Pape’ete. Final drafts of research papers are due in just a few hours and students are diligently putting on the finishing touches.  In terms of locations to be writing a final paper, as we say on the ship: “This doesn’t suck.” 

After some light winds and motor-sailing last night, the day dawned with Tahiti and Moorea on the horizon.  It’s been more than 4000 miles sailed since leaving San Diego a month and a half ago!  Hands are calloused, once foreign terms roll of the tongue - “hands to strike the Tops’l” - “Clew In” - “That’s well, make fast.  Idle hands coil down.”  Not to mention dozens of science deployments all leading to these final papers.  The wind picked up for our last sea watches today, we secured the main engine and set sail for a leisurely sail on the final miles into our anchorage. 

By 1600 all hands gathered for our final approach.  Sails were struck in record time (all the squares in about four minutes), and we came in through the narrow channel in the reef.  I was lucky enough to have the duty of aloft lookout with First Assistant Scientist Chrissy.  High above deck on the Top Yard (don’t worry Mom, I was clipped in of course) we looked for hazards in the water and identified navigational aids to guide Captain Pamela.  The hook was down soon after and what better way to celebrate our arrival than with a sierra charlie (swim call!).  The water now tops 85 degrees Fahrenheit and we enjoyed the dip with epic games of water polo and ‘water soccer’ as well as some feats of strength climbing up the bobstay to the bowsprit - Willie, Mikasa, Elina, Kalina, Rob, and Julia impressed us all!

Tomorrow, with papers done, we’ll turn to the needs of the ship and make her sparkle for our arrival in Pape’ete.  Love to everyone back home - especially Laura on her birthday - hope you’re enjoying some relaxing at home with plenty of Christmas cookies and late night movies.

Cheers,
Andrew Pape
Deckhand

Dec

17

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Tuesday 17 December 2013
Location: 16° 35.8’S x 147° 05.0’W
Winds: ExS Force 2

Photo Caption: (Upper left) Katherine, Michelle, Kit, Suzette, Elly, Robin Alexis, Alice, and Elina holding their crushed styrofoam cups! (Lower Left) A few shrunken cups on the quarter deck. (Right) Ed, Audrey and Kalina preparing to deploy the cups to 2000 meters.

As we near the end of the trip the fact that our days on board are numbered are becoming a reality. People are starting to talk about their plans afterwards, their family and friends that they cannot wait to see, what they are excited for on shore, and most of all, what this entire trip has meant to them. We have had an experience of a lifetime and to reflect back to all that we have experienced reminds us how much we have seen, done and learned. The memories are already being reminisced about the time we spent on bow watch, the watches stood, the sails we set, the stories we shared, and of course the friendships we made.

Today it hit that we are bringing this voyage to an end. On morning watch, since all of our deployments are done, we deployed a styrocast to 2000 meters to lube the wire. Since it was going so deep we all decorated Styrofoam cups with designs reflecting our voyage and attached them to the wire. The pressure shrunk them to mini cups that are really cute. Or in Pape’s case a mini Styrofoam globe and skull! James and I got the luxury of driving the wire during the lengthy 4 hours of deployment while Ed slapped fish oil onto the wire from inside the lab. It really feels like we are wrapping things up in lab as we do different tasks like this after seven weeks of routine deployments.

During class today we got time to work on our projects. With our final papers due tomorrow at 2359, the boat has transformed to reflect that of a college library. Laptops, books, and project partners have spread out in the main salon and library to crank out our papers that reflect the work done over this semester. It is exciting that we have all gotten to this point in our projects and have results to finish our papers with. However, in between standing watches and coordinating with our project partners, time is short to come by and we all have a lot to get done in just a few days.

With only a few more watches to stand on board the Robert C. Seamans, I am trying to take advantage of everything I can, and I think everyone else is as well. Although it is crunch time for our projects, I find it just as important to spend the time and take in what our life at sea has become and appreciate the time left we have. Some have been furiously crafting away with sailcloth and Turks heads while others enjoy the time going aloft, shooting stars, playing music, or simply hanging out enjoying the scenery and people. Sitting on the lab top watching the pink rays of the setting sun light up the clouds over the royal blue ocean, it is hard not feel lucky. We have had an amazing journey with friendships and memories that will follow each one of ships’ company wherever the seas may take them.

From the seas of the South Pacific,

Kalina Grabb

P.S. Love to friends and family! I will be in touch when I am able to in Tahiti. Happy holidays to those I will not be with. I will be thinking of you!

Dec

16

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Monday 16 December 2013
Position: 16° 27.8’S x 146° 19.0’W
Course:  233 True, sailing under the 4 Lowers and the Fore Tops’l
Winds: ExN Force 4

Photo Caption: Alice stands on forward lookout, one of the best places for looking at stars and bioluminescence.

As we near the end of our voyage, I thought I would take a few minutes to list some of my favorite moments from the trip thus far. Almost every day something happens that makes me say “Ooh that is so cool I need to add that
to the list!” or there are the other things that have been happening the entire trip that I can’t wait to tell the people back home about. Anyway, onto the list!

1. The stars/planets/galaxies
I could talk about the stars out here forever. There is nothing like seeing Venus shine so bright that it reflects in the water. Even the Milky Way is bright enough to reflect in the water. That’s just ridiculous. And the shooting stars! I’ve seen at least one each night. Rob says he is up to 31. The stars out here are so great, that we can even cover up the compass and steer by them. Okay. I’ll stop with the stars for now.

2. Bioluminescence!
At night, the water glows. Literally. When I’m on forward lookout, I have to remind myself to look up from the wake. Bioluminescence comes from organisms like dinoflagellate phytoplankton and pyrosomes, and on some nights when you look out, you see lots of random bright bluish-green flashes. My favorite part of being in the lab at night is bringing up the Neuston or meter net and emptying the cod end and seeing the contents glow as they spill into the
bucket. Bioluminescence was not something I expected to see out in the middle of nowhere.

3. The fresh fruit
This entire trip, particularly after our stop in Nuku Hiva, we have had great fruit. I mean completely fresh, local fruit. So far I have tried mangoes, pomplamoose (my favorite!), papaya, passion fruit, and bread fruit - none of which I had tried before. I realize that we have become quite spoiled. Once I get home, there will be no more delicious fruit for afternoon snack. One of many reasons to return!

4. The music
I believe I mentioned this in my last blog post, but there are so many people on this ship that are incredibly musically talented. We have Tom, our insanely talented banjo-playing Chief Engineer; Jay and Ed, our guitar-strumming Chief Mate and Second Assistant Scientist; Chrissy, Pape, and Adrienne, our ukulele-playing First Assistant Scientist and deckhands; Lauren, our singing Steward; Ellen, our mandolin-playing student-I think you get the picture. There are many others, and each one of them is awesome. Relaxing on a Sunday afternoon or at sunset listening to Ed and Tom jam out is pretty special.

5. Shlee’s facial expressions
Shlee, our Third Mate, has some great facial expressions. That’s all I’m going to say about that. You have to see it for yourselves.

This list could go on and on-the color of the water, the inside jokes, etc.-but I have a paper to write and Christmas decorations to put up!

-Caitlin

PS: Lots of love to everyone at home! Miss you and see you soon-leave the Christmas tree lights on for me.

Dec

15

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Sunday 15 December 2013
Position: 16° 03.3’S x 145° 37.6’W
Log: Anchored in Fakarava
Winds: A pleasant and refreshing breeze

Photo Caption: Rob blows ring bubbles to Kalina and Alice while snorkeling.

Well, here we are anchored at Fakarava with four shots of chain in the water.  Tomorrow, we get underway for Papeete, Tahiti! As they say, there’s no way like underway.

These past two days, we have been exploring the coral atoll of Fakarava. Port watch had the day off yesterday and we took full advantage by renting bikes to see as much of the atoll as possible.  Stepping onto the island, the first thing you notice is the abundance of coral.  On the leeward side, the beaches are pure white, comprised of sand-sized grains of calcite, while fossil reefs dominate the windward side: a geologist’s dream. During our island exploration, we found the ‘ancient temple’ which is actually an abandoned lighthouse, met the president of the Lagoon Association and snorkeled in the clear blue water.  We even biked through three squalls over the course of our 40 km adventure - a refreshing freshwater rinse.

As for food, I bought a baguette and felt very French cycling with it in my basket.  After an evening soccer game with local islanders, the Port watch, along with Third Assistant Scientist Matt and Steward Lauren got together for a wonderful dinner of poisson crux and steak and fries.

We had a busy day today aboard the Seamans.  Poster presentations commenced at 0800, in two shifts; each group presented to the ship’s company about their project and got feedback for their final paper.  It was exciting to see the progression of each group’s project, since our first poster session (on our proposed research) was on shore 10 years ago, in relative ship-time.

In the afternoon, the watches went snorkeling at a small reef just a 5-minute swim from our anchor point.  We saw parrot fish, angel fish, clams, crabs, rays, needlefish, corals and more!  My favorite branching corals, Acropora, dominated, along with massive corals like Porites and others.  We also saw sea cucumbers as long as my arm and twice as wide.  Sea cucumbers have been near to my heart since I studied them for a 5th grade science fair project.  My dad and I (hi dad!) cooked up some sea cucumber to serve to the bravest of my classmates.  Fun fact about sea cucumbers: when threatened, they can expel their internal organs, making their bodies soft and allowing them to escape into very small spaces.

I finally finished ‘Two Years Before the Mast’ by Richard Henry Dana.  This quote came early in the book, and I’ve been waiting for the right moment to use it.

“.a lad.who came out in the ship a weak, puny boy.‘no larger than a
spritsail-sheet knot’ nor ‘heavier than a paper of lamp-black’ and ‘not
strong enough to haul a shad off a gridiron,’ but who was now as long as a
spare topmast, strong enough to knock down an ox, and hearty enough to eat
him.”

While I have no plans to eat an ox, I think this quote accurately sums up how we students have changed on this cruise, at least physically.

-Maddy

P.S. Happy birthday Anita!  Don’t stress too much over finals.  Just imagine you’re with me on a tropical island sipping Tahiti Drink and know that I’ll see you and Eleanor in two short weeks. Also, D House says hello and happy birthday.

P.P.S. Mom, you’ll be happy to know that I shared our challah recipe with the ship’s company on my first day as Assistant Steward, made latkes on my 2nd, and am planning on making a kugel for my 3rd round tomorrow.  And to Joanna, did you know the Chief Mate’s nickname is also Jamster?

And now, a few words from Suzette:

Greetings Family and Friends!

I’m sharing this special double blog post with my friend Maddy to let you know just how special Fakarava is. Imagine a tropical, mystical, small paradise.and you have a Fakarava.  We arrived on shore in the morning and set about securing the basics: baguettes, ice cream and sodas before finding the best beach. Of course, finding the best beach was as simple as leaving the road and spreading out one’s towel under the coconut tree.

The Polynesian people are so kind and welcoming. I felt “at home” as soon as I got here. Joyous!

As we head into the last hectic week of our journey, Fakarava will remain in my heart.

P.S.  Hi Mom, the Howell clan, A.D. Williams Bible class, Debra & Coco! Hope you all are well. Miss and love you much!

Dec

14

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Saturday 14 December 2013
Position: 16° 03.3’S x 145° 37.6’W
Log: Anchored in Fakarava
Winds: Delightful breeze

Photo Caption: Taking a break to jam out between snorkel sessions on Fakarava.

Hello from the air-conditioned lab of the Robert C. Seamans! First Scientist Chrissy Dykeman reporting here from the only respite from the heat (except the water itself). It is our second day in Fakarava and it has been a pretty epic port stop if I do say so myself. This is the second time this year I’ve had the opportunity to visit Fakarava, and I have definitely enjoyed my time here. Between sailing around in our dory Gene (named after Robert C. Seamans’ wife), and snorkeling at every opportunity, I must admit that as far as atolls go, Fakarava is pretty sweet.

What exactly is an atoll, you may ask? An atoll is actually a type of coral reef system, specifically a sub-circular reef that encloses a lagoon. Typically, atolls are about 40m deep and have no island associated with them (unlike fringing or barrier reefs) and are most common in the Pacific Ocean. Atolls form around subsiding volcanic or non-volcanic islands when the rate of coral growth is sufficiently high to keep up with the subsidence rate of the island. What this means for us is that within the lagoon, we have prime opportunities to snorkel on some awesome coral heads with little current or wave action.

Don’t worry, though, we’re keeping your sons and daughters busy with academics as well! In between our time off exploring the island and swim calls, the students have been hard at work preparing their poster presentations for two poster sessions tomorrow morning. Having mentored a quarter of the students myself through this process, and worked closely alongside the rest, it’s a pretty exciting time to see their data come together after months of hard work. The rest of the professional crew are also looking forward to seeing what exactly we’ve been doing with all that data that we’ve been collecting in the lab and from our deployments on the science deck.

Monday morning we haul back anchor and set sail for Tahiti, our final destination. It’s crazy to think about how far we’ve all come, both literally and figuratively, on this amazing trip. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time onboard with this crew and I can’t believe the trip is almost done. Here’s to making the most of the next few days onboard! Be prepared for lots of fun stories when we all get back to land!

I’ve got to go snorkel some more.
Signing off,
Chrissy Dykeman

PS. Hi Mom! Tell Tom and Renee I say hi and can’t wait to talk to you all when we’re in Papeete. Don’t worry, I’m wearing lots of sunscreen. To my friends back home or at sea, can’t wait to catch up, I’m having a blast. Happy holidays to all! Love you!

Dec

13

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Friday 13 December 2013
Position: 16° 03.3’S x 145° 37.6’ W
Log: Anchored in Fakarava
Winds: ENE, Force 2

Photo Caption: Working hard on projects by sailing in Gene

Bonjour!

After an exciting night of navigating the ship to arrive at just the right time for a favorable morning tide, today we arrived smoothly at Fakarava atoll.  Captain Pamela conned the ship with Kit at the helm as we made approach to the atoll.  Third Mate/Bosun Ashley and First Assistant Scientist Chrissy watched for shallow reefs from halfway up the mast and Second Mate Chris manned the radar navigation.

Once again splitting ship’s company into Port and Starboard watches while at anchor, those on Starboard watch went to shore to explore the atoll for the day.  Port watch stayed aboard the Seamans to get project work, naps, and two swim calls taken care of in anticipation for Sunday’s poster session. We saw our first black tipped reef sharks (don’t worry, they don’t bite).  A few people even rigged up our small dory ‘Gene’ and went for a sunset sail in the lagoon to top off the day.

We have only two more days here and then we are off to Tahiti for the end of our voyage.  With our three sea watch system, which cycles every three days, time seems to pass languidly in the moment, and yet surprises me every time we’re back on Midwatch and get to look forward to extra sleep after we turn over to the next watch.  As a result, it seems in many ways surreal that we only have a week left. While I cannot wait to see friends and family back home, it will surely be strange to not spend every waking moment with the close-knit company we have created.

Salut!
Alex Kovell
University of Wisconsin-Madison

P.S.  M and B, miss you both.  All my love!

Dec

12

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Thursday 12 December 2013
Position: 13° 33.0’’S x 145° 14.5’’W
Location: ALMOST TO FAKARAVA
Course: The Not Shallow Part (223 True)
Winds: Squally (North, Force 4)
Log: Really long (3740.0nm)

Photo Caption: Alone On the Robert C. Seamans, Part II: Bow Watch

There is a very real isolation from the rest of the world here out on this boat.  Tonight is a feature of the hours we’ve all spent alone on bow watch.

Mama Seamans is required to post a forward lookout at all hours while underway.  We rotate through positions on deck every hour – helm, standby, and forward lookout.  For the lucky watchmate sent to the bow, this is an hour (or three, if your JWO forgets about you) of quiet contemplation and regular scanning of the horizon looking for squally looking clouds or other things of concern.  In daylight it’s a constant struggle to stay sunscreened and unburnt, and at night it’s a struggle to look out instead of up at the stars or down at the bioluminescence.  But it is an hour all to yourself, so what do we do?

*For those who forgot to respond to our poll or we didn’’t ask, we’’re guessing*

- Kit writes to-do lists and letters to friends and then immediately forgets them.
- Lauren sings to herself ‘Pretty Fair Maid in the Garden.’
- James thinks about his future and whether or not to live at sea.
- Rob works out, perching by the rail doing pushups (don’‘t worry, he’’s securely clipped in!).  He also thinks about people back home, and has now counted 84 shooting stars.
- Maya thinks about what will happen after college, does Elina-calf-exercises, and wonders where in the world she would like to go. She also thinks about her Mom and her Dad.
- Julia drinks tea, does a rigorous workout routine, and sings ‘Bella Noche’ from Lady and the Tramp.
- Suzette sings her church songs from back home.
- Michelle sings ‘Adele’ and tries to remember different types of leg stretches.
- Katherine has conversations with herself.
- Maddy practices her stars and tries to think about how to describe things to people back home, like how when you look at the horizon you can see the shape of the waves that are 12 miles away.
- Adrienne sings her feelings, such that whatever mood she goes onto forward lookout with is amplified by the time she goes off.
- Elina* does her namesake calf raises.
- Robin Alexis* sings operatically about gastropods.
- Mikasa* contemplates the transition between student and pro crew – should she get a Hawaiian shirt?
- Alex says he thinks about how to take over the world, but we know he rewrites lyrics to songs so that they are about squeegees and mung.
- Camille* sings ‘O Canada’ backwards.
- Pape* tries to remember the names of obscure movies such as King Pin with the one-armed Amish bowler and his protégé.
- ‘Shlee* has premonitions about what lines will get Charlie Foxtrotted on the boat.
- Chris* considers the many pleasing features of the dromedary.
- Jay sings ‘30,000 Pounds of Bananas’ by Harry Chapin.
- Matt* <3’s on science.
- Seamount thinks about sediments and seamounts. 
- Chrissy* awaits her next bowl of oatmeal and peanut butter.
- Audrey sings Christmas carols and thinks about what would happen if she falls overboard (again, not possible, as she’s clipped in).  She also considers alternative interpretations of the scientific data we have been collecting during our cruise.
- Pamela is the Captain and doesn’’t stand forward lookout these days.  She’’s busy calculating moon rise and set times to determine tidal currents in anticipation of threading the ship through the needle of reefs at Fakarava.
- Tom* thinks about lighthouses.
- Willie* combs his moustache.
- Alice sings ‘Lucky’ by Colbie Callait and tries to summon dolphins.  She also practices her stars and plays the water bottle game, where you hold your water bottle to the wind and drink exactly enough water to make the tone go down by one whole step.  She then has to pee like a racehorse.
- Kalina tries to do a different exercise every minute, sometimes talks to herself, and sings sea shanties.
- Caitlin swings around on her harness clipped to the forestay and pretends she’s on a horse or something.  She had this one moment where she was looking at Venus’ reflection in the water and thought of how small we are in the universe.  She also stretches.  Doesn’’t get much deeper than that.

So author’s privilege - here’’s what Ellen does.  As time goes forward, my mind wanders backwards. Personal reflection takes on a whole new dimension here.  Logging 35 hours with just me and the horizon, I have to wonder if this kind of daily calm is a big reason why I’‘ve grown so much in just six weeks.  Will I clean stuff this often when I get home?  Is this what prayer is supposed to feel like?  How can I improve my relationships with people back on land?  Mom and Dad, I think about you guys a lot.  Thanks for being great.  Also you taught me great kids’ songs – I sing ‘Green Grow the Rushes Oh,’ ‘The Fox,’ and ‘My Father Shot a Kangaroo’ almost every time I’m up there.  Mar and Madz, lots of people ask about my sisters and I love talking about you.  Em, you should see these stars!  I’’ve never seen anything more incredible, you’‘d love them.  I sing a lot of our stuff too, mostly ‘Shady Grove.’  Finally I’‘m learning to remember lyrics. 

While Ellen has been slaving away over this blog post, I, Elly, have been making a Turk’s Head. This is my public apology to Ellen about that. My bow watch ponderings are all over the place, from singing the chorus of ‘Tennessee’ by Gillian to contemplating higher powers and cumulus clouds. I think a lot about how I have changed over the course of this voyage – have I grown, do I know myself any better, etc. I don’t think I have come up with any answers, despite my many hours at the bow. It doesn’’t matter. Our days at sea are numbered…and out of all the unique experiences on the Seamans, standing at the bow as the sun rises on dawn watch fills me with unmatched joy and gratitude.

Tomorrow, we arrive in Fakarava. And so we beat on, a boat borne back ceaselessly into the Pacific archipelago.

When winds take clams in their paws, the universe is still,

-Elly & Ellen

Elly’s PS: Love you all at home. I need toothpaste! 
Ellen’s PS: Me, too.

Dec

11

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Wednesday 11 December 2013
Position: 14° 02.9’S x 143° 49.1’W
Course: 237 True
Winds: ENE Force 4

Photo caption: Mikasa injects Alice with sea fever; there’s some mad science going on here.

How many days have we been back at sea? Three? It’s hard to say, as the time warp is back in full swing. Either way, land already seems like a distant memory and the crazies have officially hit. I suppose over a month at sea with the same 32 people and the increased squalls (especially on A watch) gets to people a little bit. We’ve begun impersonating people we’ve never met, making videos of talking fish, and finding ourselves inadvertently picking up our shipmates’ behaviors. Then there are the things that seem completely normal but when taken out of the ship context would be absolutely ridiculous: people stumbling around through the main saloon or up the ladders, tables at 45 degree angles, the list goes on. Every hour someone pops up on deck, spins around looking at the sky, stares at the compass for a bit, and then wordlessly goes below. This is the weather dance. Then at twilight every day the aptly named star frenzy begins and people run around the quarter deck, sextant in hand, searching for stars and shouting out ‘mark’ to determine our position. Today, a typical day at sea, we experienced all these things and more. During class the A watch deckies gave a presentation on welding. Did you know the Seamans’ hull was welded using arc welding? Thanks to our engineers, Willie and Tom, we all do now! We also saw some dolphins swimming along beside the ship during afternoon snack (frozen chocolate-covered bananas! Thanks, Lauren and Caitlin!). Hopefully this means we’ll see some stirring up the bioluminescence at the bow tonight!

It’s unbelievable to think that we have just over a week left. I can’t quite wrap my head around it. There’s been a lot of reminiscing lately and it’s weird to think that we came aboard not knowing the names of the lines and now we’re (more or less) confidently creating sail plans, avoiding squalls, and calling the setting and striking of sails as JWOs. The transition to this phase was pretty sneaky; turns out we were learning a bunch without even realizing it. It’s also really amazing how supportive we’ve become as a watch. The list of responsibilities seems endless but somehow, with everyone working together, we seem to get it all done most of the time.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to sleep without the ship rocking beneath me, or what it will be like without having a ship full of incredible people no more than 135 feet from me at all times. Luckily I’m staying onboard for another month after this cruise ends, so I have more time before I have to figure that out!

Cheers!
Mikasa Quaife
Squall (A) Watch

P.S. Shoutout to my SAR crew, miss you! The stars out here make me think of you guys, I sing the Keji cup song at the bow all the time at night. Tanya, wish you could be in the lab here with me, you would love it! Remind me to show you the myctophid video when I get back. To everyone else: I miss you all and I can’t wait to see everyone in BC in February! For those of you who haven’t heard yet, I’m staying on as a deckhand until then. xoxo

Dec

10

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Tuesday 10 December 2013
Position: 12° 13.1’S x 142° 12.9’W
Course:  222 True
Winds: ExN, Force 5 and 6

Staff in the Galley Day, Part 2! Today featured an assortment of fantastic dining options put on by the professional crew of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Meals included (but were not limited to) breakfast banana bread, squidalicous squid bread, Pamela’s famous walnut-rich afternoon amazing snack bread, midnight snack attack ginger bread. SO much bread!! We need the carbs for hauling on lines! A few members of the crew decided to stray from the bread theme and put together feasts such as a delicious Tasty Tacitto (Taco/Burrito) Tuesday lunch and the Long Limbed watch’s Lebanese dinner, featuring Falafel and Kibbe (which somewhat resembled meatloaf) on pitas. It was all pretty delicious. 

Things were extra exciting in the realm of science after we recovered our 2-meter net tow late last night. The large 2-meter diameter net was towed at roughly 400 m water depth (or about 1200 ft), and it recovered deep water shrimp, viper fish, and many gelatinous organisms that reside in the deep. Students sorted through the net with great care, logging sea creatures larger than 2 cm in length and measuring the ‘biovolume’ of the zooplankton. The biovolume was then used with the length of the tow (measured using a flow meter attached to the net frame) to calculate the density of organisms through the water. A small sample was also set aside from the zooplankton biovolume to be analyzed under the microscope for what we call a ‘100 count’, where students identify and record the first 100 organisms they find under the lens. The 100 count is used to help understand the species diversity in the water.

Geologically speaking, water depths have ranged from roughly 4500 to 5000 m throughout most of our cruise track. Bottom and sub bottom profiles have been showing a seafloor of marine sediments and seamounts, which are undersea volcanoes that have not breached the surface. These seamounts are mostly about 1000 m in height (from base to top) and likely composed of volcanic basalts with sediment veneers, still, just a bit out of the convenient reach of our sediment sampler. What I would give to be able to sample these features!!!

Otherwise, it was a pretty typical day on the Seamans. In afternoon class, students worked on star charts as we sailed under ‘the stack’ - all the Square sails: the Raffee, the Tops’l and the Fore Lower (Course). They will use these star charts as bearings to sail by on our way to Tahiti.

Hey ho, we’ll go, anywhere the wind is blowing! Sailing for adventure on the big blue wet thing!

Hi Dad, Ruth, Mare, Liz, Catherine, family and friends! I miss you all and hope everyone is doing well! Nyarr!!

Love,
Dwardo
Second Assistant Scientist

Dec

09

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Monday 9 December 2013
Position:  11° 05.5’S x 141° 30.8’W
Weather: Occasional splashes of water through the port light, exhaust fan on high, lots of steam coming off of boiling rice.
Current conditions: Four burners on high, oven secured and dishwasher on standby.
Activity: Pamplemousse actively being sliced, curry cooking down, stewards hydrating and thinking about plating.

Caption: Assistant Steward Alex beautifully plating lunch.

Welcome to the Galley.

Do you ever page through a Bon Appetit/Food Network/Martha Stewart magazine and think “Man, it would be fun to try that” but never have the time/ingredients/enough people to cook for/are worried you’ll have too much leftover?  Well this is my job, and it’s awesome.  We have almost every imaginable ingredient onboard, all the time in the day to do fun stuff with it, and as for leftovers, that’s not a problem on this boat.  These people can pack in the food, especially if there is cheese or fresh bread involved.

Do you ever watch Iron Chef/Chopped and see those crazy tropical fruits with their bright colors and odd shapes?  We are loaded down with that stuff now and it is FUN!  After buying as much as we could carry in Nuku Hiva, we have fresh pamplemousse, passion fruit, avocado, papaya, mango, soursop and a new one for me, breadfruit.  Which actually tastes like bread when cooked. 

Every student has spent two full days in the galley menu planning, chopping, and cooking 6 meals a day for our crew of 32.  The places we have taken the crew on our culinary adventures are as vast as this ocean we’re sailing across.  We’ve had naan, gyoza, latkes, sorbet, roasts, fresh fish and poutine, and I know tomorrow our future holds a tour of Lebanon and “squid bread.”

I’m a little bit jealous of our readers’ chestnuts roasting on an open fire, mulled wine and pomegranates, but we are still having gingerbread, stolen, and miniature bananas!

Sending love to all of the families and friends thinking about us out here,
-Lauren, the Steward

Dec

08

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Sunday 08 December 2013
Position 09° 13.0’S x 139° 34.5’W
Course: 217 True; Log: 3160 nautical miles
Wind: ExS Force 4; Waves:  ExS 5 feet

Photo caption: Squall line approaching our position as seen by radar.

Hey there!

Just a slight warning: I am running on little amounts of sleep; deepest apologies for any misunderstandings in my post.

Today we hauled anchor and left Nuku Hiva to set sail for the 5.5-day journey to Fakarava. It was an amazing “vacation” from the normal chaotic ship schedule. I began to think about what it will be like upon arrival back in New England for Christmas; how alien life on land feels right now. We all joke about how no one back home will understand when we repeat any command given to us, tell them to “stand by” instead of “hold on a minute,” or say “hands to pass the ham” at the Christmas table. I imagine some transitions being welcomed and others not so much. The whole walking in a straight line and not randomly getting flung into a wall or shipmate will be nice but also missed. Receiving daily personal wake ups instead of an annoying alarm that I’ll probably just hit the snooze button to anyway is something that’s grown on me. The thought of getting into my bed at home without having to limbo into it only to hit my head and realize I forgot to brush my teeth and do it all again is going to be so nice.

I know for a fact I will struggle to stay awake on land; we have all grown accustomed to six-hour shifts and some serious power naps to follow.  I will dearly miss seeing the sunrise, the sunset, the moon reflecting off the waves, and the countless stars. Flying fish by the hundreds taking to the air as they try to avoid the ship’s path is something many people will never see. I will miss the simple pleasure of a good sturdy breeze on a hot day, the amazing aromas spreading from the galley, and the amazing food from every corner of the Earth. And having my own personalized 3-gallon jug of log house syrup because only Chris, Ed, and I like it.

I realized on this trip how much extra junk I have at home and I plan to cut down on that severely. I realized that traveling over 3000 nautical miles to a speck in the middle of the ocean such as Nuku Hiva by boat instead of flying there gives a sense of fulfillment, like you earned the destination. Sometimes I wonder what is happening back home, what’s going on in the world, did it snow yet? I keep saying to myself, I could be in a small classroom in New England, in an elective I probably don’t care for, with a professor I don’t understand. But hey! I just left freakin’ Nuku Hiva! We hiked to the most incredible waterfall, explored ancient ruins, sat in on the local drum festival rehearsal, and I have a pretty mean sunglass tan to boot. I still can’t understand the language of the Marquesans though. they speak a combination of French and Marquesan. It is different from Hawaiian and Tahitian.

We are truly lucky. We have come so far and already accomplished so much. In the crazy schedule I think it’s important to still remember to take time to appreciate the little things. I think it is incredible how we all adjusted to this environment, how we focus on what is necessary. It’s awesome to think how much we have learned after 4.5 weeks on board, as now we are overseeing entire watches in this JWO phase. We do our laundry in a bucket.

How little I miss technology, and how I could instead spend hours watching for shooting stars (my count is up to 79 for the trip so far!). The sunsets will never get old, especially from aloft. How the iPod has been replaced by the live music performed on board. I never get tired of staring at the water, and just about every time there’s something new to see (I have currently logged 41 hours as forward lookout.) The fact that we navigated here with the stars. Insane. That my pants are loose on me now. How something so small as fresh fruit can lift everyone’s spirits on board. The stories shared; everyone here could be one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. To think of the small town I came from and how much more of the world is out there. We just got out of a mini paradise/ jungle book/ volcanic hotspot with towering cliffs and vast diversity in animals and plants. Next we visit a coral atoll which is no higher than 6 meters above sea level and some of the best snorkeling in the world. I’ve already done so many things I would have never imagined. I will truly miss the bizarre dreams I hear about/ share at the breakfast table. Most of all, I love the feeling of being part of such a great community.

You know the job has its perks, the commute’s not bad, the only traffic is when the heads are all taken, good gas mileage; snacks are available on the way to work and throughout the day, nap time, good views, and the people! It has been brought to my attention that everyone on board “looks good, they sound good, as for smell, could definitely use some work.” But you can’t win them all right?

So the big event of the day was a major squall passing through on the afternoon watch. I was snuggly tucked away down below going insane trying to use Excel for my project, but Alice was nice enough to give us her firsthand experience on it:

‘This afternoon, we experienced the largest squall we have come across so far on our cruise track.  The squall, which showed up on the radar as a thick line with distinct edges (see photo), was detected when it was approximately 14 nm to windward of us. After tracking it for 6 minutes, its speed was determined to be 50 knots. A Watch, who had the deck, took the appropriate time to methodically strike the Mains’l and the JT, close hatches and watertight doors, and rig jacklines (so that we could be clipped in at all times when walking on the deck) before encountering the squall. We had never seen a truly nonexistent horizon before today, and the water underneath the squall took on a different shade as it was jostled by the squall’s high winds.’

But don’t worry! A watch handled it like champs and struck and re-set just about every sail on board. Everyone was safe just a little wet, and we continued on our journey.

Rob Hollis
University of Rhode Island

PS. Thank you to the Grabb family for the amazing hospitality before the trip! I never did get a real chance to say how much I appreciated it!

PSS. To everyone back home, family and friends, this trip is beyond words and I wish I could do better to recreate it for you. I’m having a blast! No more Mohawk, to much of the crew’s disappointment. Miss you guys and hope all is well back on cold, snowy land! Much love.

Dec

07

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Saturday 7 December 2013
Position:  08° 56.7’S x 140° 09.9’W
Location: Anchored in Baie de Taioa, Nuku Hiva

Well, here we are in the South Pacific, anchored in Baie de Taioa on Nuku Hiva. We moved anchorages this morning to our current location, a cove surrounded by basalt cliffs over 450 meters high. The cove is extremely isolated; except for the thin cloud of wood smoke rising from behind one of the nearby rocky outcrops, there is no sign of human habitation visible from the deck of the Robert C. Seamans.

We’ve come to this beautiful bay for the sake of a hike. As we have for the rest of our days here on shore, we split into two groups so one group may keep the ship while the other goes ashore.

From our anchorage, the black sand beaches are a short boat ride away, hidden just behind a rocky outcrop. After landing and wading through waist-deep ocean to get to shore, we wound our way along a two-track dirt road between rocky canyon walls. The track is lined with flowers of every color and runs through plantations of bananas, pomelos, coconuts, mangos, and soursop. The few inhabitants we pass are incredibly welcoming, offering fruit to everyone in the group and asking us about our ship.

The road brings us to a stream, which we cross, and continue along a little-traveled hiking trail. From here, the trail is shaded by trees, the light filtering green through the leaves. Eventually, we reach an open glade, turn a corner, and there it is: a waterfall cascading down a crevasse in the cliffs, tumbling into a pool below, in a setting so beautiful it feels like a scene from a fantasy novel; it hardly feels real. The water flows through a tumble of fallen rock and out into a wide, sunlit basin. The base of the fall is deep, the cliff walls forming a crevasse at the bottom too narrow for any of us to explore.  For a few glorious minutes we fill the rock walls with splashing, smiles, and laughter before it is time to return to the ship.

Although we’ve had numerous swim calls aboard ship, far more than most trips according to Chief Mate Jay Amster, I’ve never felt anything as refreshing as immersing myself in fresh water after a month at sea. Clearing the salt from my skin and the crystals from my hair has never felt so good. The opportunity to do so, and to do so in such a gorgeous setting, was incredible. And if you are ever in Nuku Hiva, I have a place you simply have to go.

Love to all my family and fond regards to everyone else reading.

-Robin Alexis Byron

P.S. Elizabeth, happy birthday! I know the blog won’t be posted until the 9th or so, but you’ll have to believe me that I actually wrote it on the 7th. I hope you had a fantastic time celebrating (on a Saturday, no less) with friends; I wish I were there to celebrate with you. Don’t freak out too much about finals (although freaking out a little bit is okay) and best of luck. Mom and Dad, sending hugs and kisses your way, and happy early anniversary! I love you all bunches and think of you lots. XOXO, -R

Dec

06

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Friday 6 December 2013
Position: 8° 55.2’S x 140° 06.1’W
Location:  Anchored in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva
Winds: NE Force 3

Photo Caption: Some fancy crewmembers showing off their new pareos (aka sarongs), with our excursion leader, Marie-Jean

Good Evening to all from the crew of the Mama Seamans! We, the starboard watch, had a wonderful day here on board while our shipmates enjoyed the spectacular sights of Nuku Hiva. We worked hard today: aloft, in the lab, and on deck, but we were reminiscing about the fabulous day off we enjoyed yesterday.

After we packed adventure bags and adventure lunches, we hopped in the small boat and awaited our first steps on land in 30 days. With smiles all around, we jumped onto the dock and stumbled around on a flat piece of concrete that didn’t move. It’s quite a surprise, but there’s no heel angle and no swells when you’re on an island! While this amount of sensory overload may have been enough for some, there was much more in store for us. The Seamans, which has anchored here many times before, is well known by the people of Nuku Hiva. The great relationships formed by crews past provided a gateway for us to experience this island with the assistance of local tour guides!

We piled into four cars and were immediately swept away into the history, culture, and social aspects of the Marquesan people. We saw modern Christian churches with gorgeous woodwork and Polynesian influence. We hiked to ancient tikis in the hills that marked sacrificial sites and ancient Polynesian communities. We drove through seemingly endless switchbacks, peaks and waterfalls, experiencing a part of the world usually only seen on the Discovery Channel. The smells, sights, and sounds were drastically different from those of the Seamans, and I’m pretty sure most of us spent the day in slight shock, but with grins on our faces!

Not only did we experience some awesome nature and history, we got to interact with the people who live on this island. Today’s social climate here in French Polynesia is very unique and fascinating, and we are only just beginning to grasp what these places, and the people who live here, are all about. Fortunately, we have a few more weeks to learn and communicate. We invited the organizer of our excursion, Marie-Jean, to supper on board tonight, and had a unique opportunity to have conversation over a delicious curry (by Mikasa! You go girl!) and a beautiful sunset. With the addition of some French-English translation (thanks to Camille, Mikasa, and Suzette), we were able to learn about everyday life on Nuku Hiva, pareo tying, and some family histories. It has been a stellar evening indeed!

We will move to another anchorage tomorrow, situating ourselves perfectly for a waterfall hike. I don’t know much more about it, but I can only guess that our shipboard legs will be sore and our cameras will be full after another crazy adventure here in French Polynesia.

Until next time!
Julia Stepanuk
Deckhand

P.S. Hi mom and dad! Long time no talk. Those pareos are still serving me well! Everyone else at home, miss you loads. Save some snow and cold weather for me please! Sending hugs.

Dec

05

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Thursday 5 December 2013
Position: 8° 55.2’S x 140° 06.1’W
Location: Anchored in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva
Winds: NE, Force 2

Photo Caption: Last Candle on the Menorah

Bonjour!

The Seamans spent the day anchored in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva.  Ship’s company split into two watches (Port and Starboard), Starboard to spend a day exploring the island and Port to address the needs of the ship. Tomorrow we will switch, but today Port Watch had a long list of responsibilities.  From splicing lines to greasing block and tackle to fixing the all-important coffee maker to processing nitrate/nitrite samples, everyone put in a lot of effort.  We work hard and then we play hard. Extended swim call was a blast and the perfect way to cool off in the 90 degree heat.  Our Bosun Ashley even free dove to look at the coral at the bottom of the bay. 

While we all miss being at sea, nobody can deny how great all the fresh fruit is here in Nuku Hiva.  With an abundance of passion fruit, papaya, pineapples, and citrus, we have been gorging as much as we can. 

In the evening, Port Watch helped crew member Maddy and First Mate Jay celebrate the last day of Hannukah. It was a pretty special moment in the chart house; with a menorah made from a 2x4 board, hand-dipped candles, and Jay making do with the best coconut shell yarmulke the ship had to offer. It was definitely one of the most touching celebrations I’ve ever been a part of.


Fortitudine Vincimus!
Alex Kovell
University of Wisconsin-Madison

P.S.  Sending all my love to my sweetheart and son, who sent me on this amazing adventure.  Together ten years today, and many more to come!

Dec

04

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Wednesday 4 December 2013
Position: 8° 55.2’S x 140° 06.1’W
Location: Anchored in Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva
Winds: NNE, Force 2

Photo Caption: Swim call in Taiohae Bay!

Hello all!

We are currently anchored in Taiohae Bay, surrounded by the rugged terrain of Nuku Hiva! We started off the morning with two Shipek Grab deployments—we grabbed sediment from the ocean floor at two different stations as we approached Nuku Hiva. Our first station had a depth of 80m and yielded “sandy” sediment, whereas the sediment from our second station, which had a depth of 35m, had a thicker, muddier consistency and contained many worm-like organisms.

Approaching Nuku Hiva required careful navigation - the watch’s JWO, Elina, did an amazing job leading the watch and she stayed calm despite the looming land mass that got larger and larger every minute.  Once anchored in the bay, the entire ship’s company went about making the RCS look her very best. This included re-furling sails so that they looked neat, scrubbing the ship’s painted surfaces, and assembling the “Station Wagon”, which is the small boat used to go ashore. The RCS also welcomed two customs officials from the island, who came aboard to check everyone’s passports and clear us so that we could go ashore. This afternoon, after tidying up the ship, we had a swim call and swam in the warm waters of Taiohae Bay, while throwing around a frisbee, water polo ball, and football (see photo). Maya, today’s assistant steward, served us her famous Key Lime pie for afternoon snack, which was off-the-charts delicious.  Starting tomorrow, the ship’s company will be divided into port and starboard watches, and the starboard watch has the day off tomorrow to go explore Nuku Hiva, while the port watch has Friday off. Pamela and Audrey were able to organize a day trip for each watch to tour the island and see its archaeological sights - what a treat!

It is shocking to be so close to land after seeing nothing but blue for 29 days. We could tell we were close when we started seeing frigate birds, and also when people started sneezing more (weird huh?). The air smells different here; you can definitely smell the vegetation of the island and it is strange to see people other than the ship’s company.  More to come on the island excursions and learning to walk on land again!

This evening, we had an all hands dinner, which highlighted some of the exotic fruit that Lauren, the Steward, bought earlier today from the market (papaya and pineapple)! After dinner, we had a “Swizzle”, or a party on a ship. The Swizzle festivities commenced with a beautiful toast by Pamela, which was then followed by a lineup of gigs and acts and a dance party. The Swizzle’s MCs were Rob and Suzette, who did a great job of spicing up the lineup with their own games. The lineup showcased the ship’s company’s wide array of talents, which included ukulele-playing, singing (plus meow-singing), rapping, reciting poetry, a skit, a comedy act, and interpretive dancing. I don’t remember the last time I laughed that hard. The Swizzle is definitely one of the many moments of the trip that I will never forget.

Cheers,
Alice Chapman
Williams College

P.S. Sending all my love to family and friends - miss you all!

Dec

03

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Tuesday 3 December 2013
Position: 9° 22.5’ S x 139° 18.7’W
Location: 50 nautical miles southeast of Nuku Hiva
Course: 316° True
Log: 3134 nautical miles
Weather: winds NExN Force 4, waves NExN 3 ft

Photo caption: Can you see it?

Hello fronds, far and near!
First of all, we on the Robert C. Seamans apologize for missing a day of blogging yesterday.  Fear not, we are fine!  In fact, the last 48 hours have been a whirlwind we never would have imagined.  An out-of-order recap is as follows:

You should know the most important thing first.  Yep, you guessed it.  Land.

Several people on board could smell the earthy aroma hours before it came over the horizon.  We’ve been seeing frigate birds.  Captain charted that we would be within sight of it by 0600 this morning.  All signs were there to prepare us, but when we wandered on deck just after sunrise, we weren’t expecting the towering cliffs of Mohotani and Hiva Oa to pop out of the horizon haze like that.  Our first rock sighting in over 3,100 miles!

(I’m noticing geologists on board getting that crazed look in their eye.)

We have officially entered the Marquesas!  Captain and the professional crew have been busy with the formalities of international relations, including regular updates to the French Polynesian government as to our position and course.  The fair winds recently have put some extra miles ‘in the bank’ before our expected arrival date.  Instead of dilly dallying, our industrious crew has plotted a new course that winds through the islands windward (Southeast) of Nuku Hiva.  This, of course, means spectacular sights for all.

Some of the islands we seeing on the horizon are just blips of rock popping out of the water, some are craggy eroded cliffs with fuzzy green tops, but there is even more rock rising dramatically out of the ocean just below our hull.  The volcanic bathymetry below can change from 3000m to 80m in just half an hour of sailing.  We have No-Go areas marked on our charts where the water is as shallow as 18m.  That means that deck crew have a new challenge of navigating around shallow waters and around the variable winds in the lee of islands.

Now that we have finished the longest leg of our trans-Pacific voyage, the science on board is in full gear.  We’re in a science hot spot now - the bathymetry southeast of Nuku Hiva isn’t well mapped, so we have been making transects and regular depth soundings to get an idea of what’s going on down there.  Can we send our hydrocast down to 550m as usual?  Or will we dash it into the underwater labyrinth below us?  This is also one of our last hydrocasts before our arrival in Nuku Hiva, so last night we had two casts back to back in order to bring up enough water for all the projects.  We also had a meter net tow, a Neuston net tow, a phytoplankton net deployment, chlorophyll-a samples to process, projects to work on and paper sections to write, so everyone has had their hands full.

I personally haven’t been on deck watch yet so I can’t speak to the new sailing challenges we are facing.  But I can speak to the skill with which we are beginning to lead each other, the tight and supportive community that has formed on this tiny floating speck, the strength of muscle and of character that I see in each of my shipmates, and the unique importance of this experience for each and every one of us. 

Check back soon for a special edition of the ‘Elly and Ellen Newsline’: What We Do On Bow Watch.

Ellen Bechtel
Wellesley College

Shout-outs and congratulations to James, Suzette, and Chris who conned valiantly in our second round of “Chase the Buoy,” but special congrats to Alice who managed to land it on board.

PS Hello and love to everyone back home!  I am so supremely happy here, don’t you worry for a second about anything.  Bechtels, I absolutely cannot wait to see you, I think about you a lot and am really, really looking forward to holiday shenanigans.  Big warm hugs to you, Kegels, Em, Scoopies, Kat, and Abbie.

Dec

01

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Sunday 1 December 2013
Position: 07° 48.1’S x 137° 27.5’W
Course: 218° True
Weather: Winds ExS, force 4, seas ExS 4 feet

Photo caption: Elly enjoying aloft!

Did you know that bioluminescent pyrosomes are thought to be the cause of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident? Or that President Grover Cleveland used to pee out of a window in the oval office? How about the fact that the Star Wars character Chewbacca is voiced by a camel?

Prior to this afternoon, I certainly had no idea. Today is Sunday, and in lieu of our normal class period, Deckhand Andrew Pape organized a game of trivia during which these facts (among many others) were revealed. The ship’s company was divided into four teams, and over the course of an hour, a fierce competition was held. Great fun was had by all, and after four rounds of questions, Bob Ghandi and the Sometimes Non-violent Protesters (a team composed of Maya, Ellen, Camille, Alice, Chris, Tom, and myself) were pronounced the winners.

As some of you reading this may know, I love lists. I make lists for EVERYTHING. This habit has by no means diminished while I’ve been onboard. I constantly find myself making lists of the things I have to remember during my time as Junior Watch Officer, the academic work that I need to complete, and potential menu ideas for my day as Assistant Steward. Yesterday I even outlined what days I plan on showering between now and Tahiti.

Inspired by my love of lists and today’s trivia game, I decided to provide you all with a list of facts that may offer some insight into our life onboard.

On average, we use 14 gallons of water per person per day while onboard (this includes water for dishwashing, deck washing, science work, as well as personal use). On land, most people use approximately 60 gallons of water each day.

We provisioned 30,000 pounds of food onboard for use during this and the next two SEA Semester programs. This means that there is plenty for the 32 of us to consume during this voyage. We enjoy three meals and three snacks a day, and Lauren (our Steward) consistently prepares delicious food for us.

Believe it or not, we still have fresh produce onboard. Despite having been at sea for close to four weeks, we are fortunate enough to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables at most meals. Amazing!

The Robert C. Seamans has over 8,500 square feet of sail area. This (among other things) enables us to sail approximately 100 nautical miles each day. As of this evening, we’ve traveled over 2,800 nautical miles since departing San Diego. Nuku Hiva, our upcoming port stop, is only 160 nautical miles away!

Last night while on forward lookout, I saw 7 shooting stars over the course of a single hour.

I also spent some time this afternoon asking my fellow shipmates to describe today using one word. The following is a sampling of the responses I received: scatterbrained, FUN!!!, trivia, successful, trivial, hilarious, relaxed, fantastic, serene, camels, chill, glorious, summery, tranquil, stressful, idyllic, judgmental, informational, zesty, delicious, mellow.

While sailing along in the sweltering heat of the tropics, it’s hard to believe it is already December. While we’ve already passed the half-way point of our voyage, much excitement lies ahead before we’ll be forced to adjust to the brisk winter air many of us will return home to. We’re due to arrive in Nuku Hiva in a few days, where exotic fruits, waterfalls, and solid ground will be enjoyed. I’m so excited!

Here’s to more lists, more trivia facts, and more exhilaration to be experienced!
Cheers!
Elina

To my family and friends that may be reading this: I think about you guys all the time and can’t wait to be reunited in a matter of weeks! I am still loving my time onboard, and can’t wait to tell you all about it soon. Hope everything is great at home. Miss you and love you!

Nov

29

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Friday 29 November 2013

Position: 4° 10.1’‘S 137° 03.4’’W
Course:  210° True, steering Full and Bye
Weather: ESE wind, Beaufort force 4

Photo caption: Camille testing out the time lapse option on the GoPro.

Hi again! Camille, here. I can’t believe that we have already completed half of our incredible journey. It seems like yesterday that I was writing the first student blog post.

Another great day here on the Seamans! Today, I was Assistant Steward. It was a fairly easy day in the galley. We had leftovers from yesterday’s American Thanksgiving Dinner. Breakfast was Thanksgiving 2.0, lunch was Thanksgiving 3.0, and dinner was Thanksgiving 4.0. We had some great snacks: apples, smoothies, and my new invention, Ginger-Os. Ginger-Os are two gingerbread cookies with cream cheese icing in the middle. I’‘m sure that sails will be set faster on the crew’s sugar high tonight!

I can’’t believe that I love living on the ocean as much as I love being in the ocean. I don’’t remember what it feels like to stand up on a flat surface, to take a shower with the water running, to not be woken up when I am needed on deck or for class, and even what Googling something is. I also don’‘t know how to use a clock that is not a 24-hour clock. Life at sea is incredible. I really do not want this to end. Going back to “real” school will be hard. Going back to winter, snow and any temperature below 30 degrees Celsius will be even harder.

Today it was announced in class that we will no longer be steering the ship using a compass. Parents, don’’t freak out! It turns out there are other ways to find your way on the open ocean. We will start tonight sailing like the Polynesians because we are in the tropics. We will be creating our own star compasses! And we will also be using cloud color (yup, that’s right), and the wind to find our way to Papeete, Tahiti.

Tonight, I am preparing for my first opportunity to be Junior Watch Officer (JWO) tomorrow during the morning watch. I am a little bit nervous because there is so much to do from 0700 to 1300. Here’s a sample:

•- Send a dishwasher to the galley
•- Confirm weather FAX reception over SSB
•- Shoot celestial morning sun lines
•- Calculate and observe LAN/running fix
•- Deck wash
•- Prepare NOAA weather message for transmission
•- Wake next watch
•- SCIENCE: Double gybe, heave to for hydrocast, deploy neuston net at 2 knots

These are just some of the things that need to be done on the morning watch. Each watch has its own set of responsibilities that the JWO (pronounced J-wow) is responsible for under the close supervision of the Mate on watch. Learning has accelerated exponentially.

I’’ve been reviewing the double gybe and heaving to maneuvers all day, and I think that I am ready. Luckily I have an awesome supportive watch. There will be lots of round table discussions (minus the round table) during our watch to make sure that we accomplish everything that we need to do as a watch.

Tomorrow is the next-to-last of the engineering presentations. I will be presenting the basics of the four-stroke cycle of a diesel engine. I can’’t wait to go over the “seasick” history of the diesel engine.

I’‘m now off to my bunk, to take advantage of some extra sleep. I can’’t believe that land and the conclusion of our voyage to Nuku Hiva is approaching.

-Camille

P.S. Hi Maman, Daddy and Céleste! I’m still alive. All limbs are as they should be. Having the time of my life. I’‘m sure there are things that you want to know that I am not writing here, but all you need to know is that I’m loving it here. It’s equally as good, and maybe better than Woods Hole. That should say everything! LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

Nov

28

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Thursday 28 November 2013
Position:  01° 19.1’S x 136° 05.5’W
Course: 170° True
Winds: ESE Force 3

The bell rings: ‘All hands Thanksgiving dinner in the main salon!’

This is the first, and likely, only, Thanksgiving dinner the family S-250 has become will all share together. The main salon bulkheads are full of turkeys, drawn on construction paper by tracing your hand as you did when you were in grade school, that show what we’re thankful for.

A sea voyage is all about transition. From landlubber to sailor. From green student to solid hand on deck, a member by necessity and by right, of the crew. From chilly weather, complete with jackets, hats and wool socks in the northern hemisphere, to the warm winds and summer season of the southern hemisphere. From Pollywog to Shellback.

Today was the first full day of JWO for students on board, where they become the ‘Junior Watch Officer,’ standing a watch as a supervisor, making sure we continue to achieve our navigational and scientific goals. This transition, and the responsibility that comes with it, is what we’ve been working towards since the students stepped on board more than 3 weeks ago.

By its definition, a voyage of this length is isolated. The 32 souls on board, our crew for this 7-week adventure, have become a community – a kind of family. And despite the incredibly inward focus we’ve developed as we’ve sailed more than 2,500 nautical miles together, I know that we’re all thinking of who and what we’re thankful for, knowing that most all of those things and those loved ones are far away.

Today, I’m thankful for new shellbacks. For stringed instruments and voices singing on the doghouse top.  For the shipmates who pitched in to pull off a first class Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of all kinds of other shenanigans.  For a good breeze, stars to steer her by, and the first night of Chanukah coinciding with Thanksgiving – something that won’t happen again in our lifetimes. For star-shine on the water, for glowy dolphin torpedoes, and a warm breeze in the moonlight. For ship-shipmate-self, and the genuine students and the amazing crew on board who have made that a reality.

For a nephew I haven’t met yet.

For Jill.

To all of you back home, know that out here on the big, wide ocean, we’re thinking of you tonight.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Jay Amster, Chief Mate


Thanksgiving Messages from S-250:

Alice:  お母さん、お父さん、エミリちゃん, GrannyーHappy Thanksgiving!! I wish I could watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with you and bake pies for you like I always do! Hope you all are doing well and I’ll be thinking of you today. お母さんはもうすぐまた日本に行くんでしょ?気をつけてね!

Alex: Mary and Boo, Happy Thanksgiving!  I am missing making Turkeyday dinner with the two of you! Hope you are having a great holiday with grandma and grandpa.  Boo, I have been thinking about you a lot these days.  I bet first grade is even more fun than kindergarten last year.  Love you both, Dad.

Maddy: Happy thanksgiving to my family!  I wish I could be there to watch the Westminster Dog Show.  Wherever you are celebrating tonight, I miss you (and ice cream pumpkin pie), but I am thankful for this amazing opportunity.  Also, happy Channukah, SEA is worth 8 days of presents and then some!  To the Peebles and Eleanor– I can’t wait for Thanksgiving in January!

Caitlin: Happy Thanksgiving to my wonderful family! I miss watching the parade but I’ll just have to watch it when I get home on Christmas. No fried turkey this year but plenty of other amazing food to make up for it! Thanks again for allowing me to go on this crazy adventure and have Thanksgiving in the middle of the Pacific Ocean a few degrees south of the equator. I love and miss you all dearly and I’ll see you in a few weeks!

Michelle: Happy thanksgiving to my family! I’ll miss sitting down to good family and good food, and wish everyone a merry Thanksgiving Eve. Love you, and I’ll see you in December!

Julia: Happy thanksgiving Mom and Dad! I hope you are having a wonderful day. Hi to Uncle Scott and Aunt Karen and the rest of the gang too! We’re a few short days from land, and are having an amazing time out here. The people are great, and the sailing is unbelievable! No sunburns yet! The spice cake and 6 pies, yes 6, turned out great! Thanks for the great Turkey Day card. Love you loads! Talk to you soon.

Maya: Happiest of Thanksgivings to my family and friends back on land! I’m sad we won’t be in the same place for mashed potatoes, pecan pie, and (most importantly) football, but know that I’ll be thinking of you today! Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for me. Love and miss you oodles, and see you in a few weeks!

Camille: Allô Maman, Daddy, Céleste, Étoile, Minuit et amis! Je m’amuse beaucoup! Chaque jour est une nouvelle expérience incroyable. Vous me manquez beaucoup. Maman, Daddy et Céleste: J’ai tellement hâte de vous voir à Los Angeles. Céleste : Bonne chance avec tes premiers examens d’université. Je pense à toi quand j’essaie de trouver où je suis avec la navigation céleste! Je ne peux pas croire que je suis ici! Je vous aimes beaucoup. <3

Elly: Hello! I can’t believe it is already Thanksgiving! I guess time flies when you’re stupid. To dad and Jane, I’m thinking of you (and Harry, too). I miss you all very much. I know every day is Thanksgiving, but I hope you have a nice time anyway. Much love, Elly. 

Katherine: Hi everyone! Happy Thanksgiving! I hope everyone is having fun at home today and that maj is doing whatever she is planning for tomorrows crazy.  I don’t actually know if Sara is at home or not, but wherever she is I hope she’s having a good time too, first really empty holiday.  We’re having a big thanksgiving dinner here and it’s been cooking for 3 days and smells incredible.  Miss you all so much, pet the doglets for me! Love, Kathdre

Ed: Hi Dad, Ruth, Mare, Liz, Arnold, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins! Happy thanksgiving!!! Thinking about everyone in Windsor and the rest of fam in the States as we sail the Pacific… I’m definitely missing AC’s great feast and watching CS, GOM, Slapshot, etc. Don’t worry I’ve taught the crew how to do the Sweeney whip cream shot. Good luck in Manchester to anyone running!!! Much love! Here’s to those who wish us well, and all the rest can go to you know where….

Willie: Hello everybody, Happy Holidays!  Hope you are all having fun, I wish I was with you riding bikes around the neighborhood and tossing the football around.  We will be in Nuku Hiva in a week so hopefully I will be able to communicate more then!  Love, Willie

Kalina: Hello all! Happy turkey day and happy birthday Grandma Cozy! Thinking about all of you in AA and all of the delicious good, family time, and of course endless laughs… just wondering what you will be pinning on grandma this year! I miss you all so dearly, but this year I am thankful to have this amazing experience and can’t wait to share it with everyone in the New Year! Love to all! Wo ai nimen. P.S. I made postickers with homemade skins and peanutbutter noodles during my day in the galley.

Robin: Dad, Mom, and E, Happy Thanksgiving! I know you are all scattered all over the place, as per usual, and we’re as far apart as I think we’ve ever been, but am thinking of you all. I’m counting down the days until I’m home. And Mom, tomorrow I can officially start singing Christmas songs! Send grandparents, Katie C., and everyone else my regards. Love and hugs, -R

James: Happy Thanksgiving (and belated birthday Mom)! Thinking of everyone in their preparations, I hope it all goes well with plenty of food and laughter. We’re preparing for our own thanksgiving and equator crossing festivities now. Say hi to Dolly, Honey and Luca for me. Love, James

Elina: Mamma, Pappa, Nisse, och Linus – hej! Hoppas att ni har det toppen! Allt är bra här (Pappa du skulle älska livet på båten!). Saknar er och längtar tills vi ses i Zermatt om en månad!  To friends and loved ones near and far, happy thanksgiving! I think about you often and can’t wait to see you soon! With love, Elina

Tom: Happy Thanksgiving, family and friends! Hope you are well and having a great day, and there ain’t no snow! Things are good here, I’m well and staying busy, the days go by quickly. I’ll be in touch when I can!

Matt: Happy Thanksgiving Mom, Dad and the rest of the family. I’ve been having a great trip so far!

Suzette: Happy Thanksgiving , Mom! (Please don’t forget my DEC 1st transfer wink Hi to Debra, and Coco, Deacon Howell, Maria, Mac, Rosie and MichealDavid!  Having a wonderful time at sea. Much love to you all! Will contact you on EC 20th.  Xoxox

Ellen: HI BECHTEL/KEGEL CLAN et al!  Ahh just you guys wait until I get back on shore, I absolutely cannot wait to see you.  Love and kisses to Mom, Dad, Mar, Madz, Pup and Marvin. I’m having such a fantastic time, I’m sure you had a great time too at gangbusters and again today at Round II.  Thinking of you lots today, I’m so thankful I have such a great fam to come back to.  Shoutouts to Em, Kat, Abbie, and Scoopies past and present!

Kit: Happy Thanksgiving family and friends! I’m having a great time and can’t wait to tell you all about it! Mom, you probably wish you had stowed away with me. Love you all much.

Rob: Hey back home, thinking of you all on this trip and especially this holiday. I hope you all have a great thanksgiving, were having a pretty special one here, it’s about 80 degrees and sunny. I want to say thank you for actually letting me come on the trip and overcoming those worrying boundaries…. (Mom). This trip has been chaotically amazing so far, but still taking the time to appreciate the little things. We caught a Mahi! I know, I’ll write my blog post soon don’t worry. Pass on the good word to everyone else following this adventure. Love you guys

Adrienne: Happy Thanksgiving Mom, Dad, Lil’ Sis, and all Sitka family near and far. It’s a whirlwind day on the RCS today. I just pulled two turkeys out of the oven and I’m mid gravy, but it was time to send this note out. Thinking of you all so much, missing home and making turkey with Dad and grating orange zest for Mom’s cranberry sauce. I hope little Sis is making some amazing pies. All my love, say hello and hugs to the Wilburs/Liz and everyone for me.

Andrew: Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  I’m doing well and have been thinking of you all especially as we get together and share meals together as a crew – I made some baklava the other day and sweet potato rolls today with the rest of the feast.  Can’t wait to tell you about all the other adventures when I get back.  I’ll lift up a kernel of corn for you all tonight at dinner.  Love you all.

Ashley and Audrey:  Happy Thanksgiving, to the entire Meyer and Wright family clans – and anyone else who is following our adventures on the S250 blog. We’re having a blast out here in the middle of the Pacific. Thanksgiving feast, Equator crossing ceremonies, wonderful shipmates, great sailing, and interesting science. And that was just today. What more could one ask for? Well, only that we wish you were here to enjoy it with us. Our thoughts and love are with you all!

I am very thankful for the eternal vigilance of each and every one onboard. 
Fair winds, Captain Pamela Coughlin

Nov

27

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Wednesday 27 November 2013
Position: 00° 42.3’N x 136° 03.2’W
Course:  135° True
Winds: ESE, Beaufort Force 4

Caption: GPS for equatorial crossing! (Courtesy of Alex Kovell)

Phew! What a day! Today was the day we were all waiting for. At 0520, the Robert C. Seamans crossed the equator at the longitudinal line of 136 08.7’W. We are now sailing in the Southern Hemisphere and it feels so weird. Everything feels so… southern? Most of the ship’s company made estimates on the exact time and the longitudinal line the ship would cross for the equatorial crossing. Katherine’s time estimate of 0400 was the closest, as was James’ longitude location estimate of 136 10’W! The rest of us were pretty off target because after the deadline for estimates passed, our course ordered changed abruptly from 190 True to 135 True so that we wouldn’t overshoot Nuku Hiva (we were too far west!). Although we didn’t have any sort of ceremony today, I have a feeling that we may have one tomorrow, since we have no class due to Thanksgiving!

In other big news, JWO/JLO phase begins tonight! Not only do we switch watch officers again, but from now on, for each watch, one student from the watch will be in charge of everything on deck (JWO) and one will be in charge of everything in lab (JLO). Sail-handling, deployments, hourly boat checks and weather, sample processing, conversations with the Captain, NOAA weather transmissions, wakeups, etc. etc.! This is a lot of responsibility for one student, but it is important to remember that a watch succeeds and struggles together. One student may be JWO/JLO for a certain watch, but all of the watch members need to put their heads together to make sure that the watch goes smoothly.

Finally, Thanksgiving is tomorrow! The main salon is decorated with various hand-turkey designs and people have already started cooking for tomorrow’s feast. Earlier today, I spied Andrew Pape baking croissants and I also saw a beautiful pie cooling on the countertop!

I know I can speak for everyone on the ship when I say that although we’re not celebrating this Thanksgiving with our families, we’re glad that we have such a warm family here on the Robert C. Seamans with whom we can eat to our heart’s content and talk about what we’re thankful for!

Cheers to Neptune!
Alice Chapman

PS: Love and miss you Masha, Fash, Mirch and Granny! Genkini shite imasu-yo.

Nov

26

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Tuesday 26 November 2013
Position: 00° 29.6’N x 136° 16.8’W
Course:  Southish (190° True)
Winds: Good (E Force 3-4)

Caption:  A successful nitrate day in science lab, witnessed by the GoPro time lapse camera!

Ahhh. another glorious day on the Robert C. Seamans. Sailing. Science. Salps. Sunsets. Seamounts. Spectrophotometers. Sinistral coiling. Southern hemisphere? Soon.

As we approach the Equator, the ship has begun to buzz with gossip and speculation. When and where will we cross? What fate awaits our lowly pollywogs? Is there really a line? Who’s to say.

In the meantime, we distract ourselves with science. Today we deployed an Argo float! This is a drifting device that measures conductivity, temperature, and depth as it makes its way, bobbing like a coconut, around the big blue, sending back ocean data via satellite. So cool! It is part of a network of floats that report from all over the world. In grand nautical tradition, we personalized it with a silver paint pen and then chucked it in!

Also on the docket today (seriously, was that TODAY?) was a scientific marathon fondly referred to as nitrate. Tuesday. Yep, Nitrate Tuesday. This is a day where, according to the deck department, the scientists disappear into the lab for approximately 18 hours and do black magic science to give students some data. This seems to be because they like doing magical science things. But really, they do some awesome chemistry that is pretty difficult to complete when you’re heeled over in 5 foot swells.

As for the deck department, we spent the majority of the day screaming along on a port tack under all fore and aft sails at around seven knots. Even the science folk had a chance to get out of the lab and spend some time on deck as a break from the nitrate analysis, acting as lookout while the students learned nautical science in class. I’ve heard that most of the crew sing to themselves while acting as eyes for the ship when on the bow, but what do scientists do/think about when they’re on lookout? Do they imagine themselves as zooplankton floating through the water column? Or parcels of water churning under the mixing forces of the surface winds? Are they perplexed by the nearly 5000 meters of water that lies beneath the hull as we speed across the salty warm equatorial ocean? Or maybe they think even deeper, pretending to be a buried grain of sediment, trapped under thousands of years of accumulated stratigraphy. once again, who’s to say for sure.

Onboard the good ship Robert C Seamans we are also changing more than our hemisphere this week. Tomorrow we enter JWO/JLO phase! This is when students begin to take control of their watches as Junior Watch Officer and Junior Lab Officer. They’re taking over the ship! Run for your lives! (Only kidding.) Further to come on this topic.

Shlee Meyer
Julia Stepanuk
Ed Sweeney

P.S. Hi family and friends on land!! Hope everyone is well!!

Nov

25

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Monday 25 November 2013
Position: 2° 24.6’N x 134° 46.4’W
Course:  190° True
Winds: SSE, Beaufort force 5

Picture Caption: A watch cleans up the galley for field day!

Today is the end of our third week on the ship.  It was another Monday, and another field day. C watch provided a great start to field day with rewritten lyrics to ‘Make a Man Out of You’ from Mulan, clear evidence of time spent on bow watch. Since we have started heeling a lot more and the waves are making everything more challenging, the galley underwent modified cleaning. Usually we take everything moveable up to the deck and clean around it, but today we only took a few things out and cleaned much more conservatively. We still got a shiny boat out of it!

The Robert C. Seamans sure gathers a lot of dirt for getting cleaned so often. Four of the five watches do some sort of cleaning every single day, plus field day every week.  Dawn watch cleans below decks, soles (floors), heads (bathrooms), and showers. Morning watch cleans the deck, while Evening and Mid watches work on the galley. Mid watch gets the dubious pleasure of wrangling the floor mats up to deck in the middle of the night, scrubbing them, and lugging them back down after cleaning the galley sole.

We’re all learning that everything at sea is more of an adventure than we expect. There is obvious excitement, such as furling the Jib at night when the wind wants nothing more than to fly it across the Pacific, waking up for watch to learn there’s a shark in the aquarium, or shooting the sun and plotting the latitude you calculated on the chart. More mundane moments also contain surprising adventure, mostly related to living with different and changing gravity - showering, lab work, and eating soup are just a few.

Now that we’ve all turned in the draft ‘Methods’ sections of our research papers, it’s time to go to bed for a nap before mid watch. To my family, love you much, and best wishes to everyone back home!

—Kit Pavlekovsky
Carleton College

Nov

24

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Sunday 24 November 2013
Position: 04° 03.2’N x 133° 54.9’W
Course:  205° True
Winds: SE, Beaufort Force 5

Caption: Assistant Steward Elina (back) keeping ‘Shlee (front) on track with midnight snack preparations.

Days of the week, and dates of months blend together underway. Watch rotations create our only meaningful schedule. Today though, the 24th of November, I looked forward to.  This day is my little sister’s 22nd birthday.  Spending most of my time at sea for the last few years, being away from my family for special occasions like holidays and birthdays is the norm.  This year I’m missing her birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas. probably Presidents’ Day.  But life continues on the ship as normal. Tropical waves crash against our hull, and the SE trades from the southern hemisphere are filling our sails even though we’re not across the geographical equator yet.

Sunday on the RCS is a special occasion. Since we do not gather for our usual mid-day class, afternoon hours are whiled away with music, projects, chess, rigorous (heh heh) bosunry,  and this week, Staff in the Galley day! Our fantastic steward Lauren keeps us well fed with three meals plus three snacks every day, no small endeavor. Today the professional crew teamed up to give her a day off.

Menu of the day:
Breakfast of grilled cheese, French toast, and Monte Cristo sandwiches presented by our Engineers Tom and Willie.

Morning Snack courtesy of Captain Pamela and Chief Scientist Audrey: homemade biscotti and iced coffee.

Lunch by Chrissy, Chris and Pape: Moroccan Bean stew with a multitude of sides, including much commented upon camel butter.

Afternoon Snack of Fry bread snacks from Chief Mate Jamster.

Matt and I made Honey Mustard Chicken and fancy Beets for dinner.

Midnight snack. still a mystery as I write this, from Ed, ‘Shlee, and Julia.

And special thanks to Elina for being Assistant Steward for the day and keeping us all on track!

Even though I can’t wish her happy birthday in person, the music and good food energy coming out of the galley still made today feel like a celebration. Today’s blog goes out to Berett, and anyone else with loved ones on this ship who won’t be there to hug them on their birthday. We’re thinking of you.

Adrienne Wilber, Deckhand

Nov

23

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Saturday 23 November 2013
Position: 05° 50.5’’N x 132° 58.0’’W
Course Ordered: 204° True
Winds: S x E, Force 3

Caption: The view from up high.

Alone on the Robert C. Seamans, Part 1*

On a 135-foot boat with 32 people, things can get cramped. The boat is always humming with activity, and sometimes it can be hard to get some alone time. Worry not – after almost three weeks on the Robert C. Seamans, we have got it figured out.

The first and most dramatic reprieve for the introvert: aloft.

““Lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature…In this enchanted mood, the spirit ebbs away to whence it came; becomes diffused through time and space” .” - The Mast-Head, Moby-Dick.

Can I really express this better than Melville? Profundity is not my strong suit. Aloft is where it is at. From the top of the foremast, you can feel the boat’s gentle and not-so-gentle shifts and rolls. The Pacific spans out for hundreds of miles in every direction, complemented by a sky dominated by dramatic, picturesque clouds. I kind of just want to spend my whole life up there. The air feels the freshest up there.

The logistics: to go aloft, you need basic training, a full body harness, and permission from the on-duty watch officer. Don’t worry –it is really safe! Make sure your pockets are empty! After that, head to the high side, mount a shroud, and head on up. While you climb, your footholds bounce a little, the boat rocks a little more, and then wind whistles by your ear. While ascending or descending, be sure to “hold on like a baby koala.” Best advice ever from our Third Mate, ‘Shlee.

There are three great places to sit up on the foremast. One is great for reclining and reading, the next, slightly terrifying and triangular, and the highest you share with a sailing light. While all are nice, the topmost is the most exciting and my personal favorite. Hang on to the top of the forestay and put your feet on the ladder rungs beneath you. Then you are good to sit indefinitely.

Going aloft offers you copious amounts of alone time, the best vistas, and a healthy amount of thrill. It is really the primal fear of heights that makes sitting up there that much more powerful. Ah, the sweet juxtaposition of the Pacific and my clammy, tightly-clenched hands – nothing better.

The highlight reel: boat things include going aloft, deck showers, and being apprentice-wizard to our watch officers (it’s a time of prodigious learning).

Contentment’s quiet clam,

Elly F-Ø
Carleton College
*There is a 50% chance of a part 2, featuring interviews and info graphics.


PS. Hello family and friends who are reading the blog! Thank you. I am thinking of you all fondly. It is weird that life is still going on not on this boat. It legitimately feels like the center of the world. A question for Jane – is it possible for a couple shipmates (1-2) to stay in our hotel room for a single night? I don’’t expect an immediate response. Thank you for your consideration!

Nov

22

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Friday 22 November 2013
Position: 7° 38.6’N x 132° 15.3’W
Course: 200° True
Winds: ExS Force 5

Photo Caption: Chris, Chrissy and Pape protecting the quarter deck from a squall, while James oversees.  Image by Kalina Grabb

Hello on land!

Today was a great day.  At the end of dawn watch this morning, Second Mate Chris taught me how to plot a celestial fix on the chart.  I shot Jupiter and Sirius just as the sun came up, washing them into the obscurity of daylight.  For my first time, I was only about 15 nautical miles off Chris’ more accurate fix.  With practice and patience, I will improve!

Thinking of twilight reminds me of a surreal moment I experienced a few days ago while at the helm.  On our starboard quarter, a lightning-filled squall brewed, while on the port quarter a red moon rose like fire through the clouds.  I was steering the course ordered while Tom, the Chief Engineer, played appropriately wistful songs on the banjo.  It was a magical moment and one I hope to relive time and again while sailing on the Seamans.

I would like to take a moment to highlight our fabulous engineers.  Chief Engineer, Tom, and Assistant Engineer, Willie, work tirelessly to keep the ship running smoothly; fixing minor problems to prevent major ones.  As I stated before, Tom is a gifted musician and can frequently be found on the quarter deck playing banjo or guitar.  He is also a treasure-trove of interesting facts.  For instance, did you know that a group of foxes is called a leash or that a sharks travel in a shiver?  I’m still waiting to find out what a group of lizards is called.  Willie carved the set of dominos, or bones, on board and usually has an inexplicable bolt or two in his pocket from some recent engineering project.  He also has fabulous hat hair.

As machinery is so integral to our daily lives on board, we were assigned, in pairs, a machine to study and present to the crew.  These include: water makers, refrigeration systems, the main engine, the MSD (our sewage management system) and more.  Kalina and I will be presenting on the ship’s generators in a few days and we are hard at work understanding the basics of electrical engineering and power distribution.  Needless to say, the ship’s company would not be quite as happy or comfortable without the power supplied by the two generators on board.

I hope everyone is enjoying the stability of life on shore.  I can’t wait to join the ranks of those who can walk in a straight line when we reach Nuku Hiva!

-Maddy

P.S. Hi mom, dad, Joanna and friends! I’m alive and not too seasick!

Nov

21

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Thursday 21 November 2013
Position: 8° 57.8’’N x 132° 00.3’‘W
Course: 200° True
Winds: E by N Beaufort Force 5

Photo Caption: Kalina and Elly, our resident Adventure Eaters, contemplate a pre-breakfast snack of medusa as Elina steers.

Ahoy!

Maya here, reporting from the main salon after a delicious dinner of loaded baked potato soup, salad, and dangerously good braided dinner rolls. Thanks, Lauren and Alex! Today I spent most of my time on science, both in lab on Afternoon Watch and working on my barrier layers-tropical cyclone research project with Elina. Things are slowly moving along on the project front, as we’‘ve still got a lot to work out before we can start any hardcore data analysis.

In other news, we passed the 10°N latitude mark today! Captain Pamela and Chief Scientist Audrey have challenged us to predict the exact time and longitude at which we will cross the equator. Check back for the contest results and any crossing stories!

The weather is getting weird as we approach the equator. My watch, C Watch (C is for Crushin’’ It) handled its first squall last night at around 0200. I stood lookout for a good part of it, and I’m still regretting my rushed decision to wear shorts with my fuzz-lined foul weather boots. Yikes. Our abs and gimbaled tables are definitely getting a workout as we encounter rougher waters. It is hot in our bunks—even with fans in our faces —and sleeping is a bit of a struggle. It certainly feels a lot like Miami….

Time passes by so strangely at sea. Sometimes I feel totally overwhelmed and exhausted and as if I just boarded the Robert C. Seamans, but other times I feel like I’‘ve been here for years. It’s hard to believe that we’re over halfway to Nuku Hiva and only a few days away from the Junior Watch Officer/Junior Lab Officer (JWO/JLO) phase of the voyage. I’’m a little nervous to take on the lead responsibility on deck or in lab, but I feel good about the progress we’’ve made. Plus, I’‘m comforted by the fact that we’ll have our watch mates around to help each other out. Wish us luck!

Till next time,
Maya

P.S. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad! Love and miss you so much. Smooth sailing to everyone at school, abroad, and at home!

Nov

20

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Wednesday 20 November 2013
Position: 10° 57.6’N x 131° 17.0’W
Course:  204° True
Winds: ExN, Force 6

It is 1744 and we are wrapping up our 15th full day at sea on the Robert C. Seamans which is crazy. It seems like so much more time has passed than that, with everything we have accomplished and learned so far. 

We had a busy day today, which isn’t anything new. We had great winds and have been sailing beautifully as a result. As the crew say, “she’s had a bone in her teeth” for much of the day. My watch, B Watch, started out on dawn watch from 0300 to 0700, which is my favorite watch. Everything is quiet, we get to watch the sunrise, and it’s mellower. I was the deck apprentice, which means that I shadowed our watch officer Chief Mate Jay around as he talked to the Captain and made decisions. It was good practice for our Junior Watch Officer phase of the trip, where we are essentially responsible for running the entire watch. I also got to shoot some morning stars with the sextant, which was more good practice for determining our location.

After watch it was shower and laundry time. Let me just say that as we get further into the tropics, the salt water deck shower gets nicer and nicer. At 1430, we had class, and heard some interesting presentations on what would happen if the ice on Greenland would melt and how our water system on the ship works. My morning deck watch group gave a presentation on all the
different ways we use mechanical advantage to help us sail; I learned quite a few things, including why a few of us can lift 400 pound sails. At the end of class, we had a man overboard drill. Drills are stressful, but this one went well I think and I am getting used to sail handling under some pressure.

Late this afternoon, I went aloft for the first time since we learned how in the first few days, and I got to watch the beginnings of a beautiful sunset. It’s pretty amazing to be able to look down on the ship that is our entire world for the next four weeks. Schools of flying fish also look pretty sweet from so high up.

Science is moving along and we have tons of data from our morning and night hydrocasts and neuston tows. I got my first batch of data last weekend! We have seen some awesome stuff in our tows, like our tow the other day which was full of bright blue copepods and Man-o-war jellies. 

That’s about it for now-we have dinner in a few minutes prepared by our absolutely amazing steward Lauren and then it is back to watch from 1900-2300. Between swimming in the Pacific Ocean 1400 miles away from land, seeing planets so bright they reflect in the water, and learning how to sail this beautiful ship, I am having the time of my life.

Caitlin

PS: Lots of love to my family, including the zoo.

Nov

19

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Tuesday 19 November 2013
Position: 12° 44’N x 130° 42’W
Location: The Pacific Ocean
Course: 204° True
Winds: Present (NNE Force 4)

Photo Caption: Normalcy, as demonstrated by ‘Shlee, Ed, and Julia

Hello everyone! We have now been on board the Bobby C for two whole weeks. Seeing as we are a company of 32 people all coexisting on a 134’ vessel, who are waking up at “weird o’clock” to handle sail and do science, it feels as though we have been here for much longer. Each day it’s clear that the students are becoming more acclimated to shipboard life, by their competence on deck and their shipmate mentality. We’re currently in the “apprentice” phase of the trip, where one student on each watch shadows the mate or scientist in charge and learns how the show is run. Here, students are learning to see the big picture, transitioning from the idea of “oh hey I should pull on this line now” to “how would the setting of this sail help us achieve the goal of getting to Tahiti?” All of our sailing maneuvers and scientific deployments are happening more efficiently and effectively, allowing us to fine-tune the trim of the sails or the accuracy of our 100 counts.

When we’re out here in the middle of the big blue, things can get a little weird. Song lyrics are re-written on ship’s lookout. Games, including “Gotcha” and “the Batman Game,” which is ridiculous and results in many push-ups performed by the loser, become very intense. We stand many hours as the ship’s lookout, where stationary physical exercise, performances of shanties and pop songs alike, thinking about our place in the world, or contemplating other inexplicable aspects of our journey are executed. It’s all fair game on ship’s lookout, because who doesn’t love doing calf raises while tethered to the forestay and keeping a watchful eye, singing Lady Gaga, and pondering if those 50 bow-riding dolphins below you have ever seen a human before? And it is 0426 and raining.  Also, you’ve been smelling bacon coming from the galley for 20 minutes already, but won’t get to eat it for another 2.5 hours. This is BoatLife.

We have crossed many milestones on this trip already, but the two I am looking forward to are Thanksgiving and the Equator Crossing. The former, because it will consist of almost a full week of turkey prep and pie baking. I love food, autumn, pumpkin, and stuffing, so naturally T-give is a favorite. I’m excited for the latter because it’s about time we hail Neptune and turn some Pollywogs to Shellbacks!

From the DoD (Department of Deckhands),
Julia Stepanuk S-238
Deckhand

P.S. HEY PARENTS! I love you and miss you! Talk to you in less than 2 weeks. Pie baking and spice caking skills will be put to the test for Thanksgiving!

Nov

18

S250 Oceans & Climate

Monday 18 November 2013
Position: 13° 56.6’N x 129° 29.0’W
Course:  205° True
Winds: E, Force 2

Today, at around 1114, I looked down at my arm and found a tiny crystal of salt growing right on my skin about seven inches up from the crook of my elbow. Fascinating. A few days ago we were bundled up in sweaters and wool caps, and today the heat evaporated sea water off of my skin in minutes. But also, since when does plain old water evaporation leave big salt crystals on everything? Apparently one answer is when you’re surrounded by seawater for hundreds and hundreds of miles.

It’s things like that, things as small as little crystals of salt, that remind me we’re a long way from land. Most of ship life’s (wonderful) little absurdities we’ve grown used to: eating off of gimbaled tables that rock back and forth with the swells as we try to eat lasagna, getting up at 0300 to haul in long nets filled with blue sparks of bioluminescence, swimming in water that extends down past our toes to 4000m. All amazing, all bizarre, and all things that seem almost routine after only two weeks.

This salt crystal, though. Wow. Out at sea, a lot of what we talk about is the beautiful moments shared as a group; sunsets and fish catching and sail-handling under moonlight. But I guess I just want to give a quick shout out to the small stuff as well. Because that salt crystal, hanging onto my skin with all its salt crystal strength, was as strange and wondrous as anything I’d seen so far.

This is Michelle Muth- signing off.

P.S. Sending love to all of my family and friends back home! Happy Birthday, Mom!

Nov

17

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Sunday 17 November 2013, 2000 UT+9
Position:  15° 06.4’N x 128° 28.6’W
Course Ordered: 206° True
Winds: East, Force 2
Seas: East, 3ft
Log: 1348.5 nm

Photo Caption: Kit at the helm immediately following the mini-squall

C-Watch stood evening watch last night under the full moon. The winds diminished at the start of our watch, so we quickly struck the stack of square sails (half an hour including coiling the deck) and motor sailed under staysails for the remainder of the watch until heaving to for the deployment. In any case, it was a beautiful night despite the lack of wind, and the deployment went smoothly with plenty of moon to help with the rigging and retrieval of the gear. The ukulele band on the house top added some lyricism to the already quaint evening, and some dramatic cloud cover blew in towards the end of our watch completing the evening. When we took the deck again in the morning we were sailing along nicely under the full stack, Mains’l and Main Stays’l which we carried all morning! I shot the sun this morning, and calculated a morning sun line which ended up on our plotting sheet, proof of our slow but steady progression towards Nuku Hiva. There is more celestial navigation to come.

We passed 127.5 degrees W last night, a notable longitude only for its time travel properties, signifying the shift from GMT -8, which we’d been on since leaving San Diego, to GMT -9. We can’t simply set the clocks back an hour and enjoy the extra sleep when the ship runs around the clock, so each of the three night watches stood an extra 20 minutes and we shifted the clocks back at 0800 GMC -8 to 0700 GMT -9 when C-Watch took the deck for morning watch.

The sea surface temperature rose above 25 degrees C a few days ago, signaling the possibility of squalls, and we sail ever close to the ITCZ, where we can expect more frequent squall formation. We got a taste of that this afternoon with a mini-squall. It was just enough rain to prompt A-Watch, who had the deck, to grab their foulies to brace against the drizzle, but we did strike sail and motor-sail to avoid the worst of it.

Tom, our chief engineer, broke out his banjo again today continuing his regular contributions to the ship’s background music.  His renditions of Springsteen interlaced with classic banjo tunes always draw a crowd.

We switch watch officers for real tonight, and in a few hours I will stand watch with Second Mate Chris and First Assistant Scientist Chrissy and Deckhand Andrew Pape. I’ll miss working with Shlee, Ed and Julia, but I look forward to working more closely with the rest of the professional crew as well.

Sailing is a blast, and the science isn’t all that bad either.

Wishing everyone the best,
-James Crawford

Nov

16

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Saturday 16 November 2013
Position: 17° 25.8’ N x 127° 09.0’ W
Course:  206° T
Weather: winds from the NE, Beaufort force 4

Photo caption: Assistant scientist Ed with a plate of freshly caught mahi mahi!

Well hello there!

After 10 days out at sea we are now approximately 1,200 nautical miles away from San Diego, California. Sailing along our great circle towards Nuku Hiva, we are currently very far away from land. Few people traverse this portion of the Pacific, and we’ve only seen a handful of ships in the past couple of days. Out here in the middle of the ocean, there is no TV, no cellphone service, and no internet. Our world is defined by the 135 feet of the Robert C. Seamans. While this may seem to be rather isolating, there is never a dull moment to be had with is S-250 group on board!

Throughout all hours of daylight, a fishing line runs off of the vessel’s stern. Much to the displeasure of many students and crew members, few fish have been attracted to this line. Today we finally caught something though - a three-foot-long mahi-mahi! Rob was ecstatic, and enthusiastically hauled the fish onboard. Shortly thereafter, fresh sashimi was served on the quarter deck.

Following this feast, we had a lab practical during class. Over the course of an hour, we were tested on the various skills we’ve learned while working in the science lab onboard. Questions included deployment procedures, how to label sample bottles, and data analysis. We were also asked to tie a bowline knot in less than 15 seconds (extra credit was given to those who were able to tie it behind their back!).

It is now getting close to dinner time, and wonderful smells are emerging from the galley. The sun is about to set, and I ought to go about preparing for my watch tonight.

Sending lots of love to family and loved ones - I miss you all!

Out,
Elina Berglund

Nov

15

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Friday 15 November 2013
Position: 18° 38.6’ N x 126° 59.7’ W
Course: 207° True
Winds: ENE Force 4

Picture Caption: C watch singing sea shanties out on the head rig before watch.

Hello from the high seas on the Pacific!

Today was a great milestone. 1000 nautical miles! We are averaging about 100 nautical miles a day and recently there has been plenty of wind to sail under. It is really exciting to watch the miles tick away as we advance through this vast, wild and adventurous ocean!

Along with the increased wind and miles, our hand callouses are also building by the day as we set and strike sails nearly the entire time we are on watch. Our fearless “shleeder” prides herself in teaching us how to set, strike and furl sails in timely fashion. We have definitely improved in our speed, strength and knowledge. Today we set the entire stack (three square sails that let us sail down wind). Then during class we did an activity to learn the points of sail and how the sails should be set depending on where the wind is coming from. Because of this, we struck the stack and set the four lowers (the fore and aft sails we use to sail closer to the wind). Luckily, after class we got to strike those and set the stack again (gett’n buff)! We are learning through repetition and it really is fun to have all hands to work together and haul the lines!

In class we also learned how to shoot the sun in order to determine our exact position in latitude and longitude. It is exciting to learn celestial navigation and be able to practice it here with the immediate results of locating our position on the nautical chart. Today we practiced shooting what is called LAN (Local Apparent Noon). You have to take a sight of the sun exactly at the time of day when the sun is at its highest peak. And then through a few calculations and bit of magic (or so it seems) you are able to determine your exact position! We have been working with the sextants and practicing our shooting of the stars and sun.

Life on the boat has also come to suit us all well and we have instated a sort of game within our Robert C. Seamans community. Under Mikasa’s direction, we are each assigned one person to “get you” In order to win a round,  you have to say “gotcha” to the person without anyone else noticing (with a few extra rules to make sure we are not sacrificing our duties on watch). This adds a bit more excitement to our life at sea as we start to wonder if it is safe to use the head or if someone really wants to spend time with you or just wants to get you alone to GET YOU. All in good fun, it is day two in the game and many have been crossed off. there will have to be updates to come on the winner!

Tomorrow also marks another big day! We switch watch leaders! As C watch, tonight’s realization that tomorrow’s dawn watch is our last time with our shanty masters made for a sad howl at the full moon. Our watch, which consists of Maya, Elly, Maddy, Katherine, James and I, with Shlee, Ed and Julia in charge, has come to work together very well and enjoyed every moment. We have been learning sea shanties and to the annoyance of the other watches go around hauling sails and singing our tunes day and night! We will miss our original C watch, but it will be good to learn from all the professionals how they run the watches and con the ship. Looking forward to see what the next weeks bring. So many fun, exhilarating, tough, confusing, relaxing and amazing times have already been shared and I expect nothing less for the coming weeks!

From the Seamans,

Kalina Grabb
Harvard University

P.S. Smooth sailing Dad and Ah! Good luck in Russia, Mom. Love to all friends and family

Nov

14

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Thursday 14 November 2013
Position: 20° 04.0’N x 126° 08.2’W
Course:  206° True
Winds: NE Beaufort Force 4

Photo Caption: Some days are just perfect like that. Image by Caitlin Russell

Life aboard the Robert C. Seamans is going great, as you might have gathered from the previous blog entries. Apart from a few bouts of seasickness, myself included, we are all in good health, well-rested, and very well-fed, thanks to our fantastic Steward Lauren.

One of the more interesting things aboard ship, at least to me, is the language-immersion experience. Although we speak English on the ship, shipboard vocabulary is very different from what we speak onshore. Unfortunately for the sake of my curiosity, although we have multiple lexicons of sailor-speak aboard, none list the etymology of the vocabulary we use; suffice it to say, I have a lot of things to find out when I return to shore.

However, I can tell you some of the vocabulary, even if I can’t tell you where the words come from. Perhaps it will prove useful when your children return to the fold unable to refer to the “bathroom”, “refrigerator”, or “kitchen”, using instead head, reefer and galley, respectively.

Onboard ship, we have no walls, ceilings, or floors. Instead we have bulkheads, overheads, and soles. There is no upstairs or downstairs, instead on deck or below, unless referring to the lowest level of the ship-the engine room and storage holds, collectively called the orlop deck (deckhand Adrienne, a.k.a. Heartbreak, loves to say the word “orlop”). Actually, we don’t even have stairs on the ship. Instead we have ladders.

We don’t have forward and backward; instead we refer to moving fore (toward the bow) or aft (toward the stern of the ship). Similarly, we do not refer to left and right sides of the ship, instead using port for the left side of the ship and starboard for the right if facing forward.

We have no rope to speak of on board, although you may notice the seeming miles of line. We don’t say “wait”, instead saying hold. Nor do we say “forget it” or “ignore what I just said”, using the catch-all phrase “belay my last” in place.

Finally, my personal favorite: mung. Mung refers to any type of dirt, grime, grunge, dust or scum onboard ship and is our archenemy aboard ship. The battle against mung rages continuously and is marked by the battle cry Down with Mung!

Love to my much beloved family and friends (for whom I’m already singing Christmas songs), and fond regards to everyone else reading.

-Robin Alexis Byron

Nov

13

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Wednesday 13 November 2013
Position:  21° 46.4’N x 124° 55.7’W  
Location: South of the Tropic of Cancer!
Course: 207 True
Winds: NW Beaufort Force 5

Photo caption: Maya learns to use a sextant

The winds have filled in and we are now able to make our 100 nm per day under sail! We’ve been sailing with the square sails a lot, which allows us to keep the wind behind us. It also means lots of sail handling because we strike all the squares for science deployments twice a day. The swell has picked up leaving some people feeling a bit queasy but a little fresh air on deck seems to cure most of it. The bigger seas made science deployments last night pretty challenging but we successfully deployed and recovered all our equipment. Some big milestones today were entering into the tropics in the wee hours of the morning, and achieving the 800 mile mark around 1100. It’s a little strange hitting these milestones without any noticeable difference. Since we left San Diego our view has been nothing but blue around and above us; 30 miles offshore or 800 miles offshore, it looks pretty much the same. We also recently entered the North Pacific Sub Tropical Gyre, which would have gone completely unnoticed if it wasn’t for our scientific equipment.

Tonight I have mid-watch, from 2300 to 0300, and although it seems an unlikely choice I think it’s my favorite. There’s something pretty unique about standing at the bow while it plunges into the swells with brilliant stars above and in the water seeing dolphins lit up by bioluminescence keeping you company. It’s also neat trying to steer by the stars rather than the compass at the helm. Yesterday we started learning celestial navigation and soon we will all be shooting the stars and planets to find out where we are!

Behind me in the main salon B watch is eating dinner, which means it’s bedtime for me. I’ve mostly adjusted to ship time and it seems completely normal to go to bed right after dinner, or even after breakfast. Goodnight to everyone back home! See you in January!

-Mikasa Quaife
Dalhousie University

Nov

12

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Tuesday,  November 12, 2013
Position:  23 13.2’N 124 22.0’ W
Course:  207 True
Winds:  NE, Force 5

Caption: Scientists working in the lab

Today was a quite full day of life, sailing, and the pursuit of science aboard the Robert C. Seamans. For me, on the A-watch, the day began at 0230 with a wake up for dawn watch.  For a change of pace in the laboratory, our only task was cleaning some sampling bottles and conducting a 100-count from the neuston tow done earlier in the evening. In the neuston tow we found a couple water striders (Halobates), a polychaete worm, a jellyfish medusa, and a large salp! The students in the lab, Elina and Kit, were tasked with the dawn watch question of explaining our bottom profiler, aptly named ‘Chirp’ for the audible signal it produces. With dawn watch under our belts, we were treated to a diner breakfast of scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage and honeydew melon, followed by a thorough dawn cleanup (DC).

I did a bit of reading in the morning and took a nap before lunch (chili and buckwheat corn muffins), and then I did some more reading and took another nap before class at 1415. Something was different when I went to the quarterdeck for class. we had wind! Instead of a normal class today, the students either learned about using sextants, or had one-on-one meetings with their assistant scientist mentors. Now that the students have been on the boat for a week and are getting used to life at sea, they are able to devote a bit more time to their research projects. After we had our meetings, it was time for a fire drill! We do fire drills, man overboard drills, and abandon ship drills so that if we do have to act in a state of emergency, we will be well trained on what each crewmember is supposed to do.

By the time we got done with drills, it was dinner time, and A watch was ready for a very full evening watch. Tonight we had one of our bigger stations, and we were able to do a hydrocast (collecting water samples from depth as well as chlorophyll-a, oxygen, salinity, temperature, turbidity and CDOM data), a phytoplankton net (catches phytoplankton that drift into it) and a meter net before turning over to B-watch who are currently doing a neuston tow (a net that skims the surface). It was a lot to do, with some night-time sail handling thrown in there, but we accomplished quite a bit and learned many things along the way. Now I should be off to my cabin to get ready for morning watch tomorrow, where we’ll have another station with a hydrocast and a neuston tow!

-Matt Hirsch, Assistant Scientist

PS: Hi to Mom and Dad, Kristi, Kyle, Dan, Melissa, Greyson, Bella, Ben, Susan, and the rest of my family and friends. All is well!

Nov

11

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

Monday,  November 11, 2013
Position:  26 07.0’N 123 05.0’ W
Course:  207 True
Winds:  NExE, Force 2

Caption: 4000 meter swimming pool

As I sit down to write this, it has already been quite an eventful day here aboard the Robert C. Seamans.  In the salon behind me, B watch (Camille, Ellen, Rob, Michelle, Suzette, and Caitlin) are pouring over the weather maps we receive daily via SSB radio and creating a forecast for the next few days.  Out here - just over 500 miles run so far - we rely on keeping a close eye on the changing conditions and always anticipating what comes next.

The day began as usual, well before dawn as the students and professional crew motored along southwards steering a course of 195 Magnetic (207 True). Sextants were out and ready as a beautiful Veterans Day sun began showing a horizon and soon broke above the clouds.  A star fix by Second Mate Chris set us off for the day, as we rolled into the daily routine.  Today is our first Monday aboard and our first Field Day as well!  Field Day on the ship is not quite the same as the games of elementary school, but still manages to be lots of fun.  The entire ship’s company turned out this afternoon to clean the ship stem to stern - pulling everything out, cleaning high and low and in all the places we don’t get to during our morning daily cleaning routines.  Field Day was accompanied by plenty of neon clothes, pump up music and a great puppet show put on by Chrissy and ‘Shlee - with backup support from Captain Pamela. “Up with Humans - Down with Mung!” 

Following Field Day we found ourselves experiencing an unusual and particular set of conditions-hot, sunny, nearly flat seas and low winds.  As Pamela announced: the perfect syzygy for a Swim Call!  Minutes later the whole crew was on deck in bathing suits and ready to jump into the ocean. Quite the pool at just over 4000m deep!  Dinner is upon us now and it smells delicious already. Thanks to all following along at home; here onboard we’re thinking of you (in between sailing and swimming of course).

-Andrew Pape, Deckhand

P.S. Love to my family, especially Dad today - Happy Birthday!

Nov

10

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

10 November 2013
Position: 28⁰ 03.5N x 123⁰ 00.6W
Course:  212⁰ True
Winds: Light and Variable

Caption: Sailing with the wind well abaft the beam

So, here we are, motor sailing under the four lowers, making steady progress south and discovering new plankton, stars, and deck skills along the way. On A watch today we pulled a solid morning watch. Assistant Scientist Matt and the students working in lab were flexible enough to take advantage of our stately 2 knot pace to deploy the Neuston net as soon as we got on watch, saving us time down the line. With a hydrocast still to go for morning station we struck the stack (all three square sails: the Course, the Topsail and the delicate Raffee), and set the Forestays’l in only 18 minutes. It was mighty impressive. Sailing under the Forestays’l and Mainstays’l made it easy to heave to (bring the ship to an almost stop by putting the effort of the sails at opposition to the effort of the rudder) for our morning station. Once our science equipment was safely back on board, we set the rest of our fore-and-aft sails (Jib, Jib Tops’l, Forestays’l, Fisherman, and Mains’!
l).

Though new to our floating home, our intrepid A-watchers Kit, Elina, Alex, Robin Alexis, Mikasa, and Alice are adapting to life at sea with determination and enthusiasm. They worked really hard to learn all their lines for a pin chase yesterday (which they won! Though Mikasa’s pick up line was lost in dried fruit).  I was proud of each of them yesterday, but even more so today when all of their knowledge was put to a real world test.  This is why I like going to sea. We learn things we need to know in the here and now about the ship, the ocean, and ourselves to keep our tiny community safe, happy, and fulfilling our purpose of sailing for science. 

-Adrienne Wilber, deckhand

P.S. All my love to Mom, Dad, Sis and loved ones near and far.

Nov

09

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

November 9, 2013 2000

Photo caption: C Watch prepares for battle. And someone said something funny.  Engineer Tom on the quarterdeck.

Position:  29 degrees 23’ N, 120 degrees 39’ W
Course:  212 T
Winds: NE, Beaufort force 2

Welcome to our 4th day underway! Only our 4th day or already our 4th day - I really can’t tell. It seems as if we’ve been on the Seamans for months. In fact, to confirm that we have been sailing for four days, I had to ask five different people. Boat time, as they called it on shore, is very real. A day beginning with dawn watch (0300-0700) and ending with evening watch (1900-2300) feels likes three different days. Who knew?

Today, between watches and during class, we had the Line Chase. On the Seamans, there are nine sails. In order to set and strike these sails, we need lines! Lines! For example, to set the Main Stays’l, we need the downhaul, the sheet, and the halyard. In all there are.a lot of lines and they are everywhere. So, when Ashley (“Shlee”), the Third Mate, calls for us to set or strike a sail, it is of the utmost importance to know where the appropriate lines are located. Our task for the first couple days on the boat has been to memorize the lines, in preparation for an epic battle between the good, the bad, and the ugly, otherwise known as the line chase.

The Line Chase, the big showdown, and the day we’ve all been training for. It was a relay in watches (A, B, C).  It went down like this: the watches stood in lines on the quarterdeck , the first person in the line received a card with a sail line name on it, fast walked to the specified line, touched it, and walked back to the line of humans. Fast walking was key - if you were found running, you had to crab walk back to the quarterdeck, sacrificing speed and dignity along the way. After that review of the rules, we were off! Excitement was high. The other watches were yelling temperature-based directions, cheering for their watch mates, and reviewing lines in their heads. C watch, my watch/the best watch, was doing all of the above.and also singing Eye of the Tiger. And so after rotating through our line many times, finding everything from the Jib Downhaul to the Fish Throat Halyard, we got the penultimate card: pick up line.

Kalina was up and it was a close race. After walking a couple steps towards the bow, she realized that the pick-up line was not a real line. Duh? Kalina’s first attempt was, “You’re hot.” That was a no go. After some mutterings about angels, she settled on “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” Still not a good line, but workable. Finally, after minutes of hard thinking and walking, our last line was of the conga variety. It was our Everest.

We struggled down the ladder and by the rescue boat. We nearly collided with A watch’s conga line. In the end, WE WON! Members of A watch may disagree. They would say that it was a tie, or maybe even that they won. There are no A watchers here now as I write this - C watch won (if anything they JUST beat us because of their slightly faster conga line). For our dear readers out there, champion watch (or cat watch) consists of myself, Kalina,  Maya, Katherine, Maddy, and James, with Shlee, Julia, and Ed as our fearless leaders.

All and all, today was a good day. As our hands become more calloused and core muscles less sore, I expect tomorrow will be even better.

Elly

PS.  Much love to Dad, Jane, Rosie, Katie, Joey, Raikou, and Entei. I am doing well! Yesterday I saw eight dolphins swimming in bioluminescence. Also, the food is great and there is a lot of sriracha to make it even better. Also, I just finished the Chapel in Moby-Dick (methinks we are like clams in considering all things spiritual?). I miss you all very much and I am thinking of you.

Nov

08

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

November 8, 2013

Position: 31 18.8N 119 05.1W
Course: 212 T
Weather: Wind WSW, Beaufort force 2, 3ft seas

Photo Caption: The tables in the main salon are gimbaled.  As the ship rolls in the sea, the tables and the food on it stay level and the happy diners rotate around them.

Hi all!

With the lights of San Diego and Tijuana behind us, we now set out to see the watery part of the world.  By 0000 tonight, we will have spent our first day completely out of sight of land, with about 2500 nautical miles ahead of us until our next “Land ho!” in Nuku Hiva.

All on deck and down below was great today.  We have been hearing Navy warship communications on the radio, and even saw an aircraft carrier off the starboard beam midday.  The calm day at sea was topped off with our first class in the afternoon and a demonstration from the professional crew on a gybe, setting the fisherman, gybing again, and setting the jib topsail all in under 12 minutes.  The students watched this well-oiled machine of a crew work with alacrity and deftness, and we realized just how much there is for us to learn over the next seven weeks.

However, I cannot give you the intimate details on the happenings above deck because I was assigned duty as assistant steward for the day!  After yesterday’s afternoon watch, I was lucky enough to get a full night’s sleep (I was not woken up for B watch’s dawn watch from 0300 to 0700).  Instead, I was woken at 0515 to begin breakfast in the galley with our incredible steward, Lauren.  So, get ready all you foodies out there - here follows a day in the life of a ship’s steward!

After a sunrise deck walk, I entered the galley to find Lauren already flipping sweet cornmeal pancakes on the huge industrial griddle.  As she lined them neatly on a platter, I whipped cream and filled bowls with chopped apples and raspberries, then rang the bell at 0620 for the first breakfast sitting.  After cleaning up dishes from the first and second breakfasts, I began on my choice of morning, afternoon, and midnight snacks which I would set out for the crew throughout the day.  I mixed (lots of) butter and candied ginger into scones for a morning snack to ward off seasickness, I cut carrots and celery into sticks for hummus and ranch dippings for the afternoon, and lined saltines on cookie sheets for what are now my famous Loser CookiesC; Not Just For Losers.  Actually, this treat is my mom’s recipe for toffee bark with chocolate and a butter/brown sugar crisp, and they are already a hit on board as a way to keep the mid-watchers awake until this midnight snack comes around.

Lauren and I chopped away to make tacos for lunch (we named our menu E.L. Taqueria), and are currently preparing chicken piccata, pasta with roasted summer squash and beans, and fresh salad for dinner.  Assisting Lauren today has been incredible.  She is a master at whipping together three delicious meals and three snacks for 32 people every single day.  Before we arrived, 30,000 pounds of food were loaded onto the Seamans, and the dry stores are intended to last her for the next three SEA Semester classes.  Fresh vegetables - each pepper, cauliflower, and head of lettuce - are individually wrapped in newspaper to keep dry, and for our class alone Lauren has allotted 118 pounds of butter and at least 5 large bottles of Sriracha.  The freezer is packed too full to even slip in a tray of Loser Cookies to cool. 

World, have no fear - we (or rather, our stomachs) are in talented hands. Dinner cleanup in nigh, and at 0700 tomorrow I’ll return to the regular watch.  Here’s to a great day in the galley, and looking forward to another day of sailing!

Heading to warmer waters,
Ellen Bechtel

PS - Hello to lots of M’s!  Mom (and Dad!), Marian, Maddie, Muppeh, Em.  No seasickness at all yet, sending a bajillion hugs.

Nov

08

S250 Oceans & Climate

The SEA Semester office will be closed on Monday, November 11th in observance of Veteran’s Day.  While the ship blog will be posted through the long weekend the ship position will not be updated until Tuesday, November 12th.

Nov

07

S250 Oceans & Climate

pic

November 7, 2013

Position: 32 40.9N 117 54.5W
Course:  211 True
Weather: WxN wind, Beaufort force 1

Photo caption: Sailing into the sunset off the coast of California.

Hello World!

It has been an eventful first three days aboard the Robert C. Seamans! While we were still anchored in San Diego Bay, B watch [Caitlin, Rob, Ellen, Michelle, Suzette, Second Mate Tom, Deckhand Andrew, First Assistant Scientist Chrissy, and me (Camille)] began mid-watch at 2300. This was our first official watch, and we split our time between the deck and the lab.

On deck we completed boat checks every hour, looking in all the nooks and crannies of the ship. You really need to know your way around the ship in the dark, as it is quite difficult adjusting to the variable levels of light above and below deck. Boat checks include looking carefully around the deck, making sure that all the lines are properly coiled, and checking all safety equipment and general hazards. It also includes checking below. You need to make sure that there is nothing on the soles (the floor of a ship) of the passage ways so that nobody trips and falls, that there is water in the head (the toilet), that everything is secure, and much more. We also look in dry stores (aka where all the dry food is) to make sure that everything is A-ok there. Checking the engine room is by far the most fun. There is an extensive check list that includes the generators, main engine, water makers, etc. Crawling around to get to everything is challenging, but it is rewarding to know that all is secure. Boat checks are taking a long time (almost an hour each), but we hope to eventually get them down to 15-20 minutes. As we get used to the ship, this will get faster. It’s great to know that you are in a safe environment.

In the lab, we learned more about zooplankton identification. We will collect samples of these free-floating animals with neuston nets twice each day. Many of us will use these organisms for our research projects. However, before the research groups get their hands on the samples, people who are on science watch count and identify the first 100 organisms. This is an ongoing SEA data collection project. So everyone, including the geologists onboard, will learn to identify zooplankton. I hope we catch lots of pteropods, a type of free-floating marine snail, for my project.

At 0300, we were relieved by C watch. By then, my watch was super tired and I ran to my bunk, where the rocking of the ship lulled me to sleep.

Now for the exciting stuff! We woke up again at 1030 for aloft training. All of B watch made it up to the course yard (the lower one) on the fore mast. Brave souls including Catlin, Rob and myself went all the way up to the top yard (the highest one) and hung out there for almost an hour. The view of San Diego and the bay was breathtaking. We saw a sea lion swim by our ship. Watching my classmates learning all the names of every single line on the ship and the assistant scientists calibrating the winch gave some perspective to where we were and what we are doing. I know that I’ll be spending as much time as possible aloft. What an incredible view!

A note about the food: Wow! I can’t say enough. It is amazing to eat so well and not have to cook it. Our steward Lauren is incredible. Today, James was assistant steward. He is also a great cook, so we ate delicious food. We eat three meals, plus snacks three times a day. It might seem like a lot, but it is much needed as we work quite hard. I already have blisters from handling the lines for the sails.

This afternoon, all hands were called on deck to get underway. With well-coordinated effort, we sailed off the “hook” (anchor) and out to sea bound for Nuku Hiva. We are now into our sea watch schedule. B watch was on watch between 1300 and 1900 today. Some of us were assigned to the deck while others, including myself, were assigned to the lab. It has been a great first underway watch. I am learning so much so quickly.

Highlight of the night: biluminescing dolphins on the bow of the ship! So cool!

I want to assure all parents that everyone is safe. You can stop worrying now. (Not that you will). We are having the time of our lives.

Off to bed for a nice and early wake up at 0300.
-Camille Pagniello

P.S. Allô Maman, Daddy et Céleste! Tout va très bien. Je suis si contente d’être ici. Une aventure incroyable! Le mal de mer n’est pas tros mal. Je vous aimes beaucoup!

Nov

06

S250 Oceans & Climate

November 6, 2013

Position:  32 39.5N 117 12.2W.
Anchored off Point Loma, San Diego, CA.
Weather: N wind, Beaufort force 4

It has been another full day of orientations aboard the Robert C. Seamans. There is much to learn and much to do before heading to sea, and the students threw themselves into climbing that steep learning curve with good cheer. This morning featured classes on line handling, furling the jib, and deploying science gear on the hydrowire. Then, after a series of emergency drills, we got underway for lovely afternoon sail down San Diego Bay.

We are anchored for one more night near shore, to give everyone a chance to gain some sea legs before heading out into the open ocean tomorrow. We have an ambitious science program planned for this cruise, and that will also begin tomorrow. The students put a tremendous amount of effort into researching and preparing their science proposals during their shore classes in Woods Hole, and I can’t wait to see how those projects work out. The rest of the crew and I are all looking forward to working with the students during our time together at sea. They are a wonderful group.

Please continue reading this blog to hear about our adventures over the coming weeks. I just posted a sheet for all the crew to sign up to write their entries starting tomorrow. All is well onboard the Robert C. Seamans. What a great place to be!

Audrey Meyer
Chief Scientist

Nov

05

S250 Oceans & Climate

November 5, 2013

Position:  32 43.2N by 117 10.9W. At anchor.

Having completed their shore component courses in Woods Hole, the student crew of ‘Oceans and Climate’ cruise S-250 boarded the Robert C. Seamans at 1400 this afternoon. We departed the dock shortly thereafter, and are currently anchored for the night in the calm waters of San Diego Bay. It is a beautiful calm night, with the lights of the city skyline twinkling close by. Following a delicious chicken parmigiana dinner, the students have completed an initial round of ship orientations, with more to follow tomorrow. All is well, and everyone is excited to be onboard.

Chief Scientist,
Audrey Meyer

Oct

31

S250 Oceans & Climate

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Class S-250, Oceans & Climate, is due on board the SSV Robert C. Seamans in San Diego by Tuesday, November 5th. They will complete their voyage in Tahiti around Friday, December 20th.