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Sea Education Association | SEA Currents

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans


Aug

01

Nikumaroru Atoll

Claire Bradham, B Watch, Kenyon College
Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Ships company at Niku

Current Position
4°39.6’S x 174°32.8’W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
Moored at Nikumaroro

Sail Plan
All sails furled

Weather
Partly cloudy, some squalls on the horizon, 31°C. Easterly winds and 2 foot seas.

Souls on Board

My day started at 00:30, when I woke up to Veronica whispering my name. Twenty minutes later, I was standing on the deck in the moonlight ready for dawn watch. On the northern horizon, we could barely see the dark stripe that was the island of Nikumaroro. There is a particular spot by the island where we wanted to do our scientific sampling, but we planned to approach it during the day. So we had a pretty unusual watch, in that we were hove to (stopped) all night, drifting slowly with the wind. I spent a lot of the six hours stargazing with Maddi and Kareati, looking for constellations and trying to remember the stories behind them. Once the moon set, we could see the Milky Way more clearly than I’ve ever seen it, and I saw more shooting stars than I could count. Maddi swears she saw aliens, and we also saw an airplane – a rare sight in this remote corner of the world. Once there was just enough light that we could see the horizon (nautical twilight), Adrienne brought out the sextant, and she and Aidan used it to calculate our position based on the stars. By the time the sun was fully up, C Watch was out on deck ready to take over the ship, and B Watch was ready to eat breakfast and go to bed.

I woke up again at lunch time, and we were right next to the island this time. In fact, we are moored to the shipwreck of the SS Norwich City, which crashed on the reefs at Nikumaroro in 1929 en route from Australia to Hawaii. After lunch, we had class, and then went for a swim. We jumped off the bowsprit of the SSV Robert C. Seamans, and as I stared down into the water, too deep to see anything but blue, I saw a shark (it was only 3 feet, Mom!) circling below me. Frigate birds and boobies chattered above us and (supposedly), ghosts and spirits watched us from the forests of Nikumaroro. As we’re moored for the time being, we had a break from our normal watch responsibilities, and I spent the afternoon learning some chords on the ukulele from Adrielle and reading in the shade. As we ate Assistant Steward Isaac’s Jamaican jerk chicken for dinner in the gathering darkness, we watched sharks investigate the ship, attracted by our lights.

Nikumaroro is a long way from anywhere and probably not somewhere you’ve heard of, but actually it’s quite significant. If you take a few minutes to read its Wikipedia article, you’ll find some pretty convincing evidence that the famous aviator, Amelia Earhart, crashed here. We’ll get a chance to explore the island tomorrow, and maybe we’ll find more evidence of Amelia’s presence. It seems a little far-fetched, but I would have been pretty skeptical too five months ago if you told me I’d find myself living on a ship in the South Pacific. Every day has little, unexpected surprises, and I don’t think there is any way I could predict what else this adventure will bring. I’m going to shore tomorrow at 09:00. I have no idea what it will be like, and I could not be more excited to find out.

To my friends and family keeping up with this blog – thank you for helping me get here, I love and miss you.

- Claire Bradham

Comments

#1. Posted by Kim McCormick on August 02, 2017

Thank you for that wonderful description of your day (and night)! I hope you had a great time on the island. It was such a nice surprise to see you had written one of the posts today. Enjoy every moment of the rest of your voyage, and say hello to the sharks for me - Mom


#2. Posted by Claire on August 03, 2017

Hi, Claire, it sounds as if you are having a great time. You’ll always remember this trip and how many new interests you have. I look forward to reading more of your adventures.


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