SEA Currents: Protecting the Phoenix Islands
It is our 6th day on the ship, with 720 nautical miles behind us, we are seeing parts of the Pacific that many never will. The vastness of the sea has become apparent in the lack of human contact we have experienced since leaving Hawaii. In fact, we have yet to see another ship out here and, to my knowledge, there have been only two airplane sightings. Yet while there is very little human life out here, we (the students of S-254) are just beginning to explore the great abundance and diversity of life around the Seamans in her lab.
Hour after hour, mile after mile, the horizon remains a flat blue constant. Clouds and some rain pass by overhead intermittently throughout the day and night as swells rock the Seamans back and forth. It seems as if the surrounding world is stuck in the same loop while life on board moves forward. The ocean is a big place. And by big I mean really big. Standing at the helm of the Robert C. Seamans for a few hours, it hit me today how much of our world is covered by blue.
I am actually writing this blog entry a couple of days following the fifth of July. What with all of the commotion aboard the ship there was a gap in the entries, but I am retroactively unfolding the crease.
I had the pleasure of having the fifth be my weekend, which allowed me to see the bookends of the day. The “weekend” as it pertains to the Seamans and her crew is not a fixed point. Instead, the weekend occurs every three days and it is when one’s watch schedule is for dawn and dusk, freeing the twelve midday hours for rest. The fifth was B watch’s weekend. Dawn watch began at 0300 hours following a choppy night. I was given the opportunity to stand as the first lookout on watch.
Today is July 4th, the day the United States of America celebrates her independence from Britain. Similarly, the Robert C. Seamans is celebrating an independence today, and her crew are glad to help with some festivities (string-poppers and apple pie, yum!) For today, the Seamans and her crew are finally independent from the shadow of Hawai'i and into the mighty Pacific Ocean.
While acting lookout during today’s morning watch, I thought of the late journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who pointed out that a planet which “…supports life on some of its surface some of the time,” was probably not made with humans in mind. Standing on the bow of the Robert C. Seamans as we motor-sailed across an empty Pacific on the second day of our voyage, I could not help but agree.
We are on our way to the Phoenix Islands! The island of Oahu and the lights of Honolulu are fast receding in our wake as we are heading into the night and toward Enderbury Island (our next landfall) in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA). Still some 1500 nautical miles to go and an equator to cross before we get there, but we are on our way.
Our mission on this six-week voyage is to make the first comprehensive oceanographic survey of PIPA, a vast marine protected area about the size of the state of California.
The students of S-254, Protecting the Phoenix Islands, will join the SSV Robert C. Seamans in Honolulu, HI by Tuesday, July 1st. They will end their voyage around August 11th in American Samoa, after an extended stay during their cruise in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area.