SEA Currents: new zealand
George Washington Students take Science to High Seas
SEA Semester in the News
Practicing Science on the High Seas
GW students combined oceanography research on environmental threats with the rigors of seamanship during a 12-week journey aboard a tall ship in the South Pacific.
By John DiConsiglio
Somewhere in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, about 200 nautical miles east of New Zealand, Lily Anna Segalman got her sea legs.
An environmental studies major at the George Washington University, Ms. Segalman held steady to the rail of the tall ship as 20-foot swells sprayed her head to toe with salt water. For the first time since setting sail 10 days earlier, she stumbled across the wooden deck of the 135-foot Brigantine named the Robert C. Seamans in 25-knot winds without getting seasick.
“I considered that a major victory,” she laughed. “I wouldn’t say I was a sailor yet. But it was a start.”
That winning moment for Ms. Segalman came in the middle of a 12-week journey at sea. Along with 13 other students from 12 different schools, including Turi Abbott, a rising senior at GW, she was participating in the Sea Education Association’s SEA Semester, a study abroad program that combines oceanography research with basic seamanship.
Welcome to the Robert C. Seamans
The staff has been working hard for days to get ready for the students of class S-272, and today at 1430 they began to arrive! All the cleaning, fixing, mixing, meeting and general business has now settled down to getting the students ready to go to sea, the program has started to roll and it will not stop until we finish in Tahiti. This afternoon after all were aboard we had our first ‘muster on the quarterdeck’ as introductions were made and watches assigned.
You enter Lyttleton Harbor through a deep slot in the tan brushy hills of the Banks Peninsula, on New Zealand’s South Island. This was all a volcano once, and now the flooded crater reaches inland as a series of long sheltered bays. We’re just short of halfway to the south pole. That’s a latitude similar to Boston, but with no continents nearby, the feeling is different. There’s a lot of motion in the sky here, with the hilltops alternately visible and obscured by folding patches of cloud. It’s possible to feel several seasons’ worth of weather roll by in an hour-bolts of warm sunshine, blasts of sharp wind, sudden sprinkles of rain from some non-vertical direction.
Time at Sea
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since sailing, it is that time is undefinable. Hours of watches meld into one another, days bleed into weeks; you blink and the semester is over. How can that possibly be? The sun rises, sets, and the stars set in as night comes as it does every day, and yet time seems to slip away in our ship’s wake faster than on land.
Fifth Time’s a Charm
Our final day in Wellington shaped up to be, for many of us, one of the best. People woke up still gushing about the film we saw last night, Hunt for the Wilderpeople. To anyone at home looking for a movie recommendation, definitely look into it. The movie was particularly endearing to A-Watch as it featured haikus which have somehow become our main form of communication. Anyways, today, after free time this morning, our flock took the cable car up to the Botanic Gardens to visit the meteorologists at Met Weather. They taught us some basic weather concepts and gave the play-by-play of the past couple weeks’ worth of weather.
Wellington: The Sequel
Well, we’re back to the city of windy Wellington after 24 hours with some crazy waves. What better way to start off being at port again than cleaning the ship, so we kicked off today with field day. We all swept and scrubbed and scraped our designated areas of the ship until it was shining clean. We then had a fire drill before sitting down to a couple of hours of study hall. Some of us had procrastinated with our projects when we were docked here the first time and promptly forgot how it felt to try and do work when were underway.
Our journey along the NZ coast has been shaped by the diverse perspectives, aspirations and experiences of SEA Semester students, crew and faculty aboard the Robert C. Seamans (RCS). We’ve found some common threads – an all-encompassing love for hot chocolate, for example (almost to the point of needing to ration said beverage – tragedy of the commons anyone?), or our general appreciation for swim calls a stone’s throw away from an active volcano.
NIWA - National Institute of Water and Atmosphere
Yesterday was one of the best field trips yet, especially for the science nerds! NIWA, New Zealand’s version of NOAA, invited SEA Semester to tour their research vessel, RV Tangaroa, and their facilities in Wellington. NIWA was super generous, and a new connection for SEA was made.
A Rose’s Point of View: Zooplankton, Plants, and Souls
First off, I’d like to say a huge I love you to a rather wonderful man named Brett Phinney, as this marks our two year anniversary. I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to find you. I’m sorry we can’t spend this day together, but know that I’m still loving you and missing you from the other side of the world.
Now, on to the blog post.
Donuts, Tea and Clean Water
It is now Day 3 in Wellington and I am becoming quite attached to our temporary home here alongside Queen’s Wharf. Elliot chose a great place to dock the Seamans because we’re right next to a playground with a slide that must have been built for adults. It’s so tall. I was honestly scared to go down it at first but thanks to Sophie2 and Ben I finally conquered my fears. Our prime real estate got even more prime today when a mini-donut food truck decided to park on the sidewalk right by our boat. We’re all really hoping that it’ll stay a while.