SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
Alongside Cádiz, Spain
When I was 18, I received my first cell phone. It was a fairly basic flip phone, but it had the essentials - you could actually call someone (lame), or text them (cool), which meant mashing at least a thousand buttons to spell out one medium-sized and predominantly misspelled sentence. “C u l8er” became a perfectly acceptable thing to say, and every self respecting purveyor of the English language collectively threw up. These were dark days.
Then came Steve Jobs, and the world rejoiced.
Suddenly we were plucked from scratching in the mud with sticks and Nokias, and the iPhone was thrust into our eager, dirty hands. It brought us civility in the form of a touchscreen keyboard and the App store. Seemingly overnight, we were given a thousand new ways to communicate with friends, families, and complete strangers. Not only that, but we were given access to an endless stream of information in the form of news, entertainment, sports, gossip, and pictures of cats. One glance at our phone enlightened us that the Tigers had lost, the stock market tanked, Ryan Gosling looks unsurprisingly good in a daring new sweater, and my ex-girlfriend had eaten an artistic looking quiche for breakfast. Surely we had reached the pinnacle of human existence.
It became normal so quickly, that I hadn’t realized just how overwhelming all this can be - to be plugged into the world in real-time, and only limited by the number of browsers I have open. For me, it took going to sea to understand just how deeply this has been engrained, and how indescribably refreshing it is to be momentarily unplugged from the rest of the world.
We have been underway in the Mediterranean Sea for the past nine days - nine days far removed from Wifi connections and the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat feeds they facilitate. As a crew, we have a lot of work to keep us busy - sailing and operating the ship, performing an endless amount of maintenance, and facilitating the scientific research, maritime studies, and cultural immersion that our students are constantly engaged in. The students have even more work - learning all aspects of sailing and living aboard a ship, classes and assignments, research, oceanographic sampling and lab work, etc. But when all of the work has been done for the day, or during a rare free moment in between, we can’t just turn to our phones to keep us entertained. We play games, read books, talk (actually talk), paint, practice rope work, or even knit (heck yes I knit). Our concerns are limited to the 134 feet of ship we occupy and our surrounding span of sea. We worry about the weather that will affect our course and the other ships passing nearby.
I know that we can’t stay at sea forever, and eventually we all have to return to the reality of life on land. And while I do admit that being informed and engaged in the world around us is essential, I do consider it a great gift to momentarily step outside the seemingly constant stream of information, and clear our minds at sea.
C u l8er,