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
Smelling the Big Island
Description of location
~160 nm SSW of the southern-most tip of the Big Island
000° Per Ship’s Compass
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Trade winds and big seas / ExN 25 knots, 10-15’ NE’ly swells / Jib, Staysails, Deep Reefed Main
As we approach the Hawaiian Islands, spirits are high in anticipation of our first tall, volcanic islands since Tahiti disappeared astern four weeks ago. Elaborate calculations are being performed in secret, as various members of the ship's company try to pin down exactly when we might be able to see the heights of Mauna Loa peaking above the northern horizon. Others are excited about the prospect of experiencing the smell of the islands-Hawaii's ongoing volcanic activity can be sensed on the breeze as the NE trade winds carry remnants of volcanic ash and gases out to sea.
As we approach Hawaii, particularly with our three previous islands stops-all low coral atolls-as points of comparison, I am put in mind of the Polynesian voyagers who first made this journey to the northern-most reaches of the Polynesian triangle centuries ago. I love to imagine what those navigators felt, following the unique fixed point of the North Star as night after night it appeared higher and higher above the horizon, feeling the swells' refraction and watching the birds' feeding patterns, and eventually smelling and seeing the enormous bulk of the Big Island rise out of the horizon ahead. It must have been the most incredible thrill, redoubled as island after island of the Hawaiian chain appeared and towered up into the northern and western sky.
Our thrills are not those of first discovery of these islands, but they are thrills of immense accomplishment all the same. We have journeyed almost 2500 nm (as of this writing), collected crucial data on the status of coral reefs in the central Pacific, steered the Seamans by the stars and the wind and the swells, and learned an immense amount about sailing, science, and ourselves in the process.