SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
Progress along the Cruise Track to Gran Canaria
31° 13.1’N x 15° 54.5’W
Heading south towards Gran Canaria
Speed and heading
2.5 knots, SSE
Westerly winds, F3; clear skies
I want to start out this blog with an apology to my mom. Sorry Mom, I haven't made it into any of the blog pictures and today's is no exception. We'll be in the Canaries soon though, so I will send you some pictures then, and I will even call you on the phone!*
I am torn now on what to write about, as the students are showing off and testing their skills in so many ways. Yesterday marked the beginning of Phase III, when a student Junior Watch Officer and Junior Lab Officer largely assume the roles formerly played by their mate and assistant scientist. The two JOs are responsible for ensuring the safe and efficient completion of all the ship's duties during their watch, by leading and organizing their team of fellow watch mates. It's an immense task, and they are all crushing it. (crushing it, verb: early 21st century slang for doing amazing things). Just a few short weeks ago, these students didn't know a halyard from a sheet or a copepod from a siphonophore - and now they are running the show. The staff stands back and watches everything happen, instead of micromanaging every little thing. The process is amazing to me! Simultaneously, they are finishing final papers in both the social and natural sciences. Each day in class this week, a group of students are presenting the results of their research to the class and continuing to, naturally, crush it!
To set out on a journey such as this one is to make a bold and daring choice to do something completely different. The watch schedule alone knocks everyone out of their comfort zone, no matter how much time you've spent on boats or in laboratories before. At the beginning of the trip, the whole crew sets off into terra incognita, just as mariners have for centuries. Not literal terra incognita, of course (that would be unknown land, and we are at sea, after all),and we aren't the first sailors to see that the world does not end on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltor or the first ones stumble across Madiera - but a terra incognita of situation. No one knows before the ship starts moving what it will feel like or how the trip will turn out. Going out to sea is making a choice to become lost.**
We are cognizant on the ship of how easy it is to get lost in this world: to lose track of time, a sense of place, or connections with the outside world. Days run together and your whole world becomes 135ft long. In some ways, you lose yourself, becoming a shipmate and friend first, with your personal needs becoming secondary. You get up to relieve your shipmates even though you are tired and you take pride in cleaning in a way that would surprise your mother.
Shipboard life is not terra incognita forever. As we are seeing now in Phase 3, the crew has found its way into the rhythms of this life and learned the skills to bring us safely into Gran Canaria. But to be found you must first be lost; and it is that journey that reveals the strengths we didn't know we had before we left the dock. We find in ourselves endurance, self-confidence and a great capacity for friendship and teamwork. At the end of the trip, we feel a great sense of belonging.
3rd Assistant Scientist
*To all the moms out there, your children can't wait to talk to you when we get to the Canaries, I promise.
**To the SEA Office and parents: this is a metaphor, no one is literally lost!
PS. I must give credit where credit is due. This post is dedicated to my BFF Dan Miller, who recommended that I read Rebecca Solnit's A Field Guide to Getting Lost on this trip because he thought it would resonate with going out to sea. I can't wait to call you on your birthday from the Canaries, D, and tell you how amazingly right you were! Some ideas from the book are on my brain as I write this post.