Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers.
SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
You enter Lyttleton Harbor through a deep slot in the tan brushy hills of the Banks Peninsula, on New Zealand’s South Island. This was all a volcano once, and now the flooded crater reaches inland as a series of long sheltered bays. We’re just short of halfway to the south pole. That’s a latitude similar to Boston, but with no continents nearby, the feeling is different. There’s a lot of motion in the sky here, with the hilltops alternately visible and obscured by folding patches of cloud. It’s possible to feel several seasons’ worth of weather roll by in an hour-bolts of warm sunshine, blasts of sharp wind, sudden sprinkles of rain from some non-vertical direction.
After arriving on deck to begin afternoon watch I learned, from a reliable source, that we were sailing in a whale sanctuary. To some this fact would be described as “cool” or “exciting”, but to me this information was life altering. I love whales. I admit it. Maybe a little too much, but I have dreamed of one day seeing these majestic creatures up close and personal. Yet the sea, at least what was visible on the surface, was absent of whales.
Mattias, the Chief Scientist, and I were sitting in lab the other day idly chatting and, after a lull in the conversation, Mattias turns to me and asks what I think the theme song for the Neuston should be. With some thought and discussion, we decided it should be some kind of power ballad from the 80s. Perhaps Styx’s “Come Sail Away” or Journey or something like that.
Since we’ve left Wellington, reminiscence that starts like “I’m really going to miss.” has begun to filter into our everyday conversations. The other day, sitting on a port-side deck box, Elsbeth and I couldn’t stop talking about how much we’re going to miss good old steady Bob, our uncreative yet endearing nickname for the Robert C. Seamans. When you live on a 135-foot boat and it’s your job to attend to the details it’s easy to become hyper-familiar with every nook and cranny.
Reporting live from the Robert C. Seamans! Guess who is leading the troops this dawn watch as J-WO (Junior Watch Officer)? THE SAVAGE as my fellow teammates like to call me (it is also my last name). This entails overseeing the deck and wellbeing of the ship along with making sure hourly checks (boat checks, engine check, navigation) are being done. Who knew that this would be the most challenging part of this program for me personally?
New Zealand is a country with a very active geologic history. The country sits at the convergence of the Australian Plate and the South Pacific Plate. The movement of these plates over time created the mountain ranges and geologic features that New Zealand is famous for. Another result of this movement is that the country experiences almost constant seismic activity. Last November, an earthquake near the Kaikoura Peninsula changed the bathymetry and topography of the region, raising portions of the land and seafloor several meters along the fault.
A sunny day yesterday gave us time for one last cone of gelato and the opportunity to catch up on school work before taking on busy life at sea again. I think it’s safe to say that we all had more than enough time to do and see what we wanted in the city, and a lot of us were anxious to get back out to sea for our last week together. Between visiting Te Papa museum (multiple times), the McGuinness Institute, climbs to Mount Victoria and cable car rides to the botanical gardens, we were able to cover a lot of ground.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since sailing, it is that time is undefinable. Hours of watches meld into one another, days bleed into weeks; you blink and the semester is over. How can that possibly be? The sun rises, sets, and the stars set in as night comes as it does every day, and yet time seems to slip away in our ship’s wake faster than on land.
Our final day in Wellington shaped up to be, for many of us, one of the best. People woke up still gushing about the film we saw last night, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. To anyone at home looking for a movie recommendation, definitely look into it. The movie was particularly endearing to A-Watch as it featured haikus which have somehow become our main form of communication. Anyways, today, after free time this morning, our flock took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens to visit the meteorologists at Met Weather. They taught us some basic weather concepts and gave the play-by-play of the past couple weeks’ worth of weather.
Well, we’re back to the city of windy Wellington after 24 hours with some crazy waves. What better way to start off being at port again than cleaning the ship, so we kicked off today with field day. We all swept and scrubbed and scraped our designated areas of the ship until it was shining clean. We then had a fire drill before sitting down to a couple of hours of study hall. Some of us had procrastinated with our projects when we were docked here the first time and promptly forgot how it felt to try and do work when were underway.