• Like Sea Education Association on Facebook
  • Follow Sea Education Association on Twitter
  • Follow SEA Semester on Instagram
  • Watch Sea Education Association on YouTube
  • Read SEA Currents
  • Listen to SEA Stories
  • View SEA Semester campus visit calendar

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


Jul

29

Reflections on PIPA

Nic Rummel, C Watch, Colorado School of Mines
Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Nic Rummel attempts to be nautical while finds our current latitude with a sextant off the sun at apparent noon.

Ship's Log

Current Position
2°0.71’ S x 174°30.88’ W

Location
We are currently approaching Winslow Reef, which is a seamount that comes close to the surface of the water. At its peak, it is approximately 40 feet below the surface.

Ship’s Heading & Speed
The ship is heading due north, 000, at a speed of 5 knots. 

Sail Plan
We are sailing under the four lowers (Jib, Main Staysail, Fore Staysail, and= Main Sail) with the assistance of the motor at 1450 rpm.

Weather
The weather is a tropical 30° C, partly cloudy, with a nice breeze

Souls on Board

Hello all ye land lovers. Things are going well for us out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We have had a good last few days with our fair share of scientific deployments and sail handling. It has been a particular pleasure of mine to finally participate in the full work load. At first, I had an unfortunately severe amount of complications from sea sickness. guess that is what a mountain man gets for trying to be a sailor. Needless to say that sailing is much more enjoyable when you are not nauseated and awake enough to enjoy it.

As of today, we have less than two weeks before we return to Pago Pago and then on to our final destinations. Deadlines, once distant and docile, now seem looming and suffocating. One of the most pressing tasks is the large amount of processing of Tucker Trawl shallow biomass. This biomass is the most likely place to find tuna larvae which holds a special importance to our voyage, because the presence of tuna larvae allows policy makers to argue for the ongoing protection of the Phoenix Islands as a spawning ground for tunas. This processing is both time consuming and tedious. Many individuals are putting time on the microscope for this project regardless of whether it is their personal project or not. In my mind, this really goes to show how tightly knit our shipboard community is becoming.

I am truly enthralled by seeing our work in progress. Slowly, methodically, we are contributing to a greater cause for understanding the world around us. I feel like all the tools in my metaphorical tool box are being called out. Just the other day, I parameterized a curve, numerically integrated along its arc length with some MATLAB code, and boom, a circumference of our elliptical mast head. The engineer got bored with me during the process, and he used a string. Our calculations yield similar results.

Still, I do feel in part conflicted by the experience. Here is a short creative peace I wrote after leaving the island of Kanton.

The shades of isolation starkly contrast across the island of Kanton. A visible history of the people and place plays across my eyes as I sail into the lagoon, walk through the island, and snorkel in the waters. The piles of coral stack into an atoll that houses the lagoon, giving evidence to the generations that have lived in this place which still retains a level of separation from the outside world. A distinct culture and language, so foreign, proliferates an aura of being separate from the outside world - from me. The fishes, among a thousand-year-old corals, swim. All preserved by a solitary existence.

And yet, there is also another narrative of the stripping of sanctity, independence, and control. Ruins of a non-Kanton infrastructure litter buildings, tanks, piping, boats, fencing, and wires across this place. The plastics of American and Asian sugar drinks, lucky enough to withstand the decomposition of the sea, float onto the shores and into the shrubs. The severity of outside influence comes to a head as the soft, wavy smoke comes out of the woman’s mouth as her daughter orates “Welcome ladies and gentleman”. I notice their ‘correct’ enunciation in my native tongue. Her hand cigarette rolled in the native Pandanus leaves, filled with the nicotine rich tobacco from our land. All the while, I sit cross-legged as my tribe stares into the eyes of theirs in a welcoming ceremony. Willingly, they allow us to break into their sacred abode, and my heart twinges with conflicting emotions of gratitude and guilt.

The next day, the teacher’s whispers of “i-Pads” and internet coming to the island transport me back to a basement apartment in Colorado. Lines of black and white code scroll across a home computer as I attempt to grasp concepts new to me. I hope that one day the work I am doing will positively affect the world and open doors for my future. Here, on Kanton, technology promises similar hopes for these people. Still, wariness creeps into my heart. With the rusty history all around us, these dreams of a world away almost are an affront, but the teachers eyes light up as she tells of her daughter’s ambition to leave this place, and walk in the stars as an astronaut, a dream of NASA.

Perhaps this time is different. Maybe these people are more fortunate than those who came before. In times past, we could not hope to congregate in a communion such as the welcoming ceremony. Today, the common tongue of English unites us. We promise a lasting partnership as we research their land, and our intentions vastly differ from our ancestors. The island slowly reclaims equilibrium as rust heals the scars of times past. A new equilibrium is being found, letting go of the protective isolation, while hoping to retain some sanctity.

I thought I would share a poem with you that I have written on the boat. It is a bit sappy, but sometimes that is what our feelings demand of us. I now can truly commiserate with sailors across time who yearn for their partner who they desire to be near when they are so far from everything they know. 

Pointed moments call for a duet

sleepless, my spine
curls into a familiar form
creates a cavity in my
chest, hallow, where you should be

when the glowing ocean
kissed into day-lit dawn
forces an involuntary reach of a hand
grasping for a partner not there
only to circle my thumb for 
the absent hand, palpating air as
I come to terms with
what is

Gilbertese daughters
cry out to the crowds
“Welcome, Ladies and Gentlemen”
and the rehearsed motions of
dark skin turns white
in my mind’s eye, their facial features
morph into familiar cheeks
soft motions of a woman I know.
perhaps she is a ghost
of you, in full too-too, or
maybe the prophesy of a youth
who mirrors the mother

there is this space in my chest, empty
my hand falls to my side, searching
I would dance if only I had my partner

Signed to my beloved Katharyn and others,
Nic

Previous entry: Lessons from Night Watch    Next entry: Birthday at Sea

Comments

Leave a note for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Katharyn Peterman on August 04, 2017

I love you so! So unbelievably excited to see you next week. So happy to hear your thoughts about what you have been seeing and learning - can’t wait to sit and talk and drink tea with you. I am immensely proud of you, Nic!

With all of my heart,
Kat


Name:

Email:

URL:

Add a comment:

Notify me of follow-­up comments?

I would like SEA to keep me informed about news and opportunities.