SEA Currents: Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures & Ecosystems
Days passed on the trip..the crew began to worry that no whales would be found before the breading season came to a end. As we sailed through the many islands of Tonga, a crew member spotted the blowing of a whale dead ahead! All the crew gathered on deck to spot it, and all around the ship, near and far, whales we appearing. Every time one was spotted, I would point in its direction and yell, “THAR SHE BLOOOWWSS!!!!”
Today was another exciting day in Neiafu. The day started off with another opportunity to work with VEPA (Vava’u Environmental Protection Association). We headed to Keitahi Beach this morning. The beach was gorgeous upon first glance, but the trash up and down the beach soon caught our attention. In only about an hour, we filled 47 bags of trash. We also had a few students filtering sand through mosquito net filters VEPA made to sort microplastics on the beach from the sand.
Today was our first full day in Tonga! We spent the night tied up at the harbor in Neiafu after getting a chance to explore the town. Students stood hour long watches throughout the night, which was our first ‘opportunity’ to monitor the ship without the supervision of the staff. A.K.A the staff finally got a full night’s sleep.
This morning we were able to sleep in!
This morning we wove through a series of narrow channels and brilliant green islands to find our new home on the docks of Neiafu, Vava’u. The Robert C. Seamans grabbed the attention of the harbor as its two masts walked proudly into the town’s waters. As triumphant the ship seemed, her crew’s pride surpassed her by ten-fold.
This morning I woke up around 0600, hearing mention of this thing called “land” from the quarter deck. I went up on deck to check it out, and, sure enough, there was the faint outline of Tonga in the distance! (Sierra claims the title of being the first person ever to see Tonga.)
Whoever said time travel was impossible surely underestimated the power of the Robert C. Seamans. Last night the Seamans crossed the International Date Line, meaning for all of us aboard, the date of October 1st never happened.
The International Date Line runs in between American Samoa and Tonga, and arbitrarily runs through the Pacific Ocean from the North Pole to Antarctica.
I am happy to say that S-275 is officially at sea! We are just wrapping up an eventful first day out on the water. However, it doesn’t exactly feel like the day is through as we’ve quickly fallen into the routine of rolling 6-hour watches. Myself and the rest of C-watch, for example, are expecting a wake up at 0040 so we can be out on the deck at 0050 for dawn watch.
It was a very exciting morning aboard the Seamans. In order to be a fully functioning ship, every member of the crew (including all twenty-one students) participates in a rotating six-hour watch schedule. This means a group of people is always awake to be on lookout, do boat checks, stand at the helm, and make sure everything is working smoothly. Today was the first day of our regular watch schedule, and there was certainly a lot to see.
Welcome to SEA Semester aboard the Sailing School Vessel Robert C. Seamans. We’re in American Samoa, some 14 degrees south in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 21 students and 13 staff are about to set forth on a voyage to Tonga and Fiji, before eventually making landfall in
New Zealand, 2000 miles to our south, six weeks from now.
For our last full day ashore at Pago Pago, American Samoa, S-275 went to a traditional Samoan umu at Reg and Su’a Wilson’s beautiful home. They are good friends of SEA Semester and are educators here on the island where they grew up and currently live on Reg’s family land. An umu is a feast that Samoans prepare typically every Sunday, and it’s kind of like our Sunday dinner or Thanksgiving, depending on how big your Sunday dinners are.