SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
4° 28.23’ S x 172° 22.63’ W
Ship’s Heading & Speed
340°T and 2 knots (for science deployment)
four lowers – main sail, main stays’l, fore stays’l, jib
Mostly cloudy, windy, comfortable temperature (28.8 °C). South-easterly winds and sea and sea height of 4 feet.
When our story left off we were anchored in Orona, one of the numerous (relatively) untouched island atoll oases comprising the Phoenix Islands. Today we are back underway, sailing under the four lowers towards our next terrestrial target, Winslow Reef. While I’m feeling slightly woozy from seasickness induced from being back underway, I will attempt do justice in recalling the beauty and wonder of snorkeling with the giant clams in Orona’s lagoon...
Yesterday, as you know, we went snorkeling. Students had the option of signing up for one of two snorkel missions: outer reef or 100-meter dash/lagoon snorkel. Perks of the outer reef snorkel included favorable chances of witnessing reef sharks and sea turtles. The benefits of the 100-meter dash and lagoon snorkel included stepping foot onto the island and swimming with colorful giant clams, exclusive to the lagoon. Initially, I had chosen the lagoon swim, partly for the challenge that was posed from fighting the swells in the 100-meter dash to shore, and partly because the giant clams sounded really cool. I received affirmation of my decision at the first sight of these glorious giant clams, ranging from a couple inches to a couple feet in length. Their mouths came in bright neon hues of magnificent blues, greens, and purples. They were truly a rare and incredible sight to behold. The multicolored parrot fishes, the baby black-tip reef shark, and the giant brain coral were among the other many unique and awe-inspiring organisms we had the honor of admiring within the lagoon and its thriving coral reefs.
Following my snorkel mission, the students and crew on board, and the next team of snorkelers out on the small boats, witnessed two sea turtles… biologically expressing their love; just your average day on the Seamans. I then, with two of my shipmates and fellow watch members, climbed the shrouds and sat aloft admiring the panoramic view of Orona. From this vantage point, I could truly appreciate the ringed shape of the atoll island and the lagoon that lay in its center.
Later on in the day, I was fortunate enough to have that sweet relief of the heat that only the ocean can offer, for a second time – a night swim. The crew staged the emergency light near the Seaman’s small boat to lure and illuminate the fish. Students took turns climbing down the swim ladder, swimming over to the small boat, and appreciating the fish while safely holding on to said small boat. I saw many fish with long slender shapes, and fins that stuck straight out at their sides, as well as a couple small comb jellies. The effect of the light reflecting of the dorsal side of the fish, contrasting darkness of the pelagic ocean at night, was beautiful. They almost looked bioluminescent, as if they were naturally glowing. Two students had been “chosen” by baby octopi, which were found stuck to various body part as they emerged from the water. Other students found cute little crab larvae.
Yesterday and today have been busy academic work days for the students, with two semi-major deadlines approaching tonight for the two elective courses: Advanced Ocean Policy Research (AOPR) and Directed/Practical Oceanographic Research (DOR and POR). I am in DOR and my group is looking at the effects of ocean acidification on calcifying zooplankton. Our calcifying zooplankton of focus are those who produce calcium carbonate in building their exoskeletons – the ingredient found in antacids. The dissolution of these
shells occurs under overly acidic conditions. These conditions also reduce the amount of carbonate in the water column, meaning less of what these organisms need to build their protective shells. This study could also hold implications for larger calcium carbonate producing organisms, such as shallow water corals. Because ocean acidification is more of a concern at temperate and polar latitudes, our study will be spatial, looking at how the water acidity variations at different stations correlate with abundance and diversity of surface zooplankton, specifically the calcifying ones, from these locations. YAY, SCIENCE.
Yesterday was absolute perfection. Between the amazing snorkel adventure, panoramic views of Orona from aloft, night swimming, and taking a first look at data trends for my project – I couldn’t be more grateful and excited to be here on this wild and wonderful science and sailing adventure through the Phoenix Islands Protected Area!
Ahoy, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, Phoebe, Steve, Siri, Kinsey, and any of my other friends or family members reading this – I love and miss you guys. I’m safe and living the dream. I can’t wait to tell you about all my other salty sea tales when I return to you land-lubbers in a couple of weeks!