SEA Currents: phoenix islands
Musings of a Salty Sailor
Land Ho!..I hear shouted from above as I finish up the last set of breakfast dishes down below in the galley. I make my way onto the quarterdeck and inform my watch officer (Ryan) all the dishes have been completed. Ryan replies by asking if I could relieve the helmsman. A feeling of relief fills me, for I always find great pleasure when being on the helm, a combination of peacefulness and power within the grasp of my hands. With great excitement I grab hold of the spokes and begin to sail us into what we soon discovered to be a paradise.
Ahoy from Orona!
Have we arrived in paradise? I think we may have. We are anchored for the second day offshore of Orona – an island included in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area; a place visited by very few. Due to calm conditions we were able to be some of the few to go ashore. C-watch (my watch) experienced the island first yesterday morning. Climbing into one of the rescue boats, we motored through the crystal blue water to an approachable area of the island.
Haidee, here again! I realize that y’all have probably already heard enough from me, but here it goes, two blog posts in a row! As Hamilton blares from my laptop, I can see miles and miles of Orona, pristine with its white sandy shore and strip of vegetation running down the middle: my version of happiness. Earlier today, I had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go snorkeling on a dive mission: the first of many that we would have at Orona.
Setting Sail from Kanton
After what seemed like such a short time, our 3 days at Kanton had come to a close. I woke up before sunrise at 5am, for one of the last anchor watches. Shortly after breakfast, A watch took the deck to prepare the ship for departure. We removed the sail covers, and stowed the gear on deck. I was surprised how much had accumulated throughout the ship, as we quickly adjusted to the temporarily flat surfaces. We pulled the extra small boat out of the water from our makeshift dock, and stowed it on the roof.
Taking a Breath in Kanton
Today was our final full day in beautiful Kanton. After an entire day exploring the island and last night’s spectacle of food, song, and dance, that we shared with the residents of Kanton, I was left with sore muscles (and vocal cords), burnt skin, mangled toes, and a full heart. After so much activity, most of the Robert C. Seamans crew needed some R&R. When we were told we would be spending half of the day today exploring another part of the island, I was excited but not sure I was up for the task.
I found it most unexpected in my life on the sea is how people get affected by their surrounding environment. From the perspective of my personal experience, we are deprived from internet and news currently. I hardly read anything every day. But I got used to this new life immediately. The thing I contemplate the most nowadays are food, seawater, zooplankton. Aristotle, Descartes from St. John’s College seem to be so far away from me. From a cultural perspective, I realize how such tropical sea is absent in most cultures. Every time when I see moon hanging aloft in the sky, shedding silver lights all over the sea, I recall some Chinese poetries depicting moon and Yangze River, the swimming prisoner from Mount Cristo, several stops on the journey of Odessey, the young man from Kafka on the Shore.
Kanton, past and present.
Yesterday morning the Robert C. Seamans arrived in Kanton, motoring into its massive lagoon early in the afternoon. Today we awoke at 06:00 anchored in the lagoon, with a spectacular view of the strong tidal current, and a shore showing the signs of decades of military use: massive fuel tanks, the outlines of bunkers, and the remains of a WWII era shipwreck. Today we split into two groups, one going ashore to explore at 7:30, and another staying onboard the ship to stand watches and snorkel the coral gardens of the lagoon and the barrier reef outside.
Hello everyone back home, it’s Corinna here, reporting on what your loved ones have been up to for the past 24 hours. Starting at 0100, B watch was in charge when we spotted our first glimpses of Kanton in the dark. It took us a while to see it because of how low-lying it is, but we finally managed to see it just before day break. As per usual at the end of our watch, we were pretty hungry.
Thoughts from the Bowspirit
Two weeks since the forty souls on board this ship have laid eyes on land; not long now until we arrive upon the shores of the island of Kanton.
Indeed, last night we entered the Phoenix Islands Protected Area soon after crossing the equator, leaving behind the oceanic desert of the mid-Pacific and nearing an “Underwater Eden…”
SEA, New England Aquarium collaborate to study Phoenix Islands
Scientists from the New England Aquarium are currently on board the SSV Robert C. Seamans as she approaches the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA) with SEA Semester class S-268. Our students and scientists, together with New England Aquarium scientists, will help gather data to help protect this amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site – one of the world’s last remaining coral wildernesses. Dr. Randi Rotjan, Associate Research Scientist at the New England Aquarium, Chief Scientist of the PIPA Conservation Trust and Co-Chair of the PIPA Scientific Advisory Committee, recently sent SEA President Peg Brandon the following letter, which summarizes our unique collaboration and explains why it’s so important….