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
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a fair wind
02° 00.3’ N x 157° 29.3’W
Anchored off Christmas Island
SExE Force 3
SE 2 ft
Christmas really is the most wonderful time of year, and my time in Christmas Island has definitely been some of the most wonderful of 2016. Having started my voyage with SEA Semester in New Zealand with class S265, I have quite a few nautical miles under my metaphorical belt, including quite a few from bumming around Tahiti. Seeing Christmas Island as we made anchor yesterday, however, I was blown away by its beauty. The island, rather than towering above us with mountains clad in tropical plants like Tahiti did, sits low on the horizon. Being an atoll, Christmas has been around longer than Tahiti and the sea has taken a toll (ha, get it?) on the landscape. The island is actually a ring of land, with the ocean outside and the lagoon in the middle, a landform I’ve only ever seen in Oceanography classes and once for myself in Rangiroa. We anchored outside of the lagoon yesterday evening and stood a more relaxed form of watch (called anchor watch) throughout the night.
Waking up at anchor is always a nice change of pace after a week of sailing; instead of instantly hustling to relieve the watch, we are given slightly more time to complete our morning chores and start our day. For today, that entailed getting ready for our final reef surveys. Reef surveys today involved more clothing than they have in the past. In Christmas Island, it is considered polite for the women to cover themselves more than we do in the U.S. of A. Having spent my last few years in Charleston, sweltering heat always means athletic shorts and a tank top, or if I’m going to the beach, a nice two-piece swimsuit. That doesn’t fly in Christmas. Already, we wear rash guard while snorkeling to protect ourselves from the inevitable sunburn that accompanies two hour stints in the water, so our bikini tops are already covered. Our bottoms, however, proved to be a different problem. Girls scrambled to find something to cover us below our knees. Some of us borrowed swim trunks from the guys on board, others threw on leggings, and still some others had to settle for athletic shorts in an attempt to be modest. I settled on some long underwear pants, (ironically) by far the thinnest pants that sailed with me from New Zealand and continued on my impromptu voyage across the Pacific.
After our reef surveys, we came back to Mama Seamans to prepare for our guests this evening. A variety of environmental government officials from Christmas Island joined us for dinner: Minister of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) – Mika Tite and his wife Faioa; the Officer in Charge of PIPA – Bwereti; the Marine Patrol Officer – Kaititi; and four representatives of Kiribati Wildlife Conservation including the director Ratita Bebe and Takewa who has sailed on the RC Seamans as a Kiribati Scientific Observer in the past. After a quick tour of our lovely floating home, we all shared a meal on the quarterdeck and spoke about our love for the ocean and our desire to protect it. Lit mostly by the nondenominational white fairy lights (aka white Christmas lights), our meal and conversation was shared happily by all until it came time for our guests to leave. It was an amazing experience to speak with people from somewhere so remote. I find that no matter where I go, there will always be environmental advocates and managers who want to help protect the world we have already taken so much from.
I will definitely be sad to leave Christmas tomorrow, but I will never forget the beautiful landscape and people I have met here. Just like my memories of all my Christmases past, I know that the memory of this Christmas will always be one I treasure.
P.S. An amazingly happy birthday to both my Mom and sister (who are turning 30 (again) and 19 respectively). I know your special days will be as wonderful as you are and sorry I can’t be there to celebrate with you. Eat some cake for me and I promise to bring you some gifts from abroad!!!