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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
The Word on the Bird
45° 11.9’ S x 172° 08.9’ E
(Hove to for science!)
Wind NE, F2; Seas: NNE, 2 feet
It was a dark and stormy night.
Well, actually, our story begins in the morning, around 1100. It wasn’t particularly dark at that point, as the sun had risen several hours before, and it wasn’t stormy either – a little cloudy, maybe, though at that point the morning’s overcast skies were clearing up. But I’ll leave the specifics to our hourly weather log, and get on with it.
So! We were on deck, the members of this morning’s lab team and I, standing by to do some sail handling. Someone brought our attention aloft, to a very small bird perched on a baggywrinkle. It flapped its wings and settled back down.
A bird? A bird! And this was no ordinary bird. This bird was a definite land bird, much unlike the sea birds we frequently observe. A shearwater, a petrel, or even a huge, swooping albatross wouldn’t faze us. But a sparrow in a baggywrinkle? Big news.
It’s hard to say when our tiny friend joined the ship’s company. Some say he’s been with us since we departed Wellington, catching a sweet ride down south. Others might postulate he’s been with us longer: a more persistent stowaway, Moby-Dick style. Me, I think he flew over more recently, as we’ve been just a few nautical miles from land. And how could you blame him? I surely wouldn’t be able to resist such attractions as the smell of Lauren’s food and a whole crew of extremely good-looking people.
So we’ve got this bird with great taste, along for the ride and definitely looking for a good time. He made himself known once again when he swooped in during class time, seemingly intent on making war with Chrissy’s head. He fluttered over to Trevor, who was remarkably unperturbed: he allowed the bird to sit on his lap and share his crossword. Stu named him Rolly. Stu gave Rolly twelve hours to live. Richard, our Kiwi friend and resident bird expert, agreed that our new friend was in danger. A tiny bird with a fast metabolism and no way to get back ashore wouldn’t exactly be your first pick in gym class.
A few members of the crew set to work on beefing our little guy up. We put out water, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and even parmesan – a fan favorite among every bird, according to Richard. Rolly nibbled at our humble offerings, but it appeared he didn’t have much of an appetite; he was probably intimidated by his ever-growing distance from land, as well as the sudden attention from all the extremely good-looking people.
Rest assured, dear readers, that the crew will continue to do everything in our power to ensure Rolly’s health. In the meantime, I’ve got my feet kicked up after a long day, and I’m having a good think on the more traditional significance of the sparrow to the sailor. For years, the sight of a sparrow or swallow has meant the first sign of land for a weary crew of mariners. A sparrow signifies homecoming. While I’d wager that most of my shipmates would agree that we’re not ready to disembark, that day will inevitably come. Once we’ve left, it will be the good times – singing during galley cleanup, laughing as the swells knock us around, or chasing a bird down the deck – that we’ll not only cherish, but long to return to. So, I hope my shipmates will join me in taking moments to appreciate the wonder of this experience while we’re in the middle of it. And, to our readers, we thank you for being the ones who put smiles on our faces when we do think of coming home.