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Voyages

SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

The Robert C. Seamans boarded students of class S-238 in Honolulu, Hawaii on Tuesday November 15, 2011. They plan to sail south, with potential port stops at Kiritimati Island, Kiribati, and Raiatea, French Polynesia. The ship will then head to Papeete, Tahiti, where students will disembark on Friday December 23, 2011.

Position information is updated on a workday basis only. Audio updates from the ship are reported periodically throughout the voyage.

Mobile users, click here to open in the Google Earth App.

Dec

24

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Aboard Robert C. Seamans, Papeete Harbor, Tahiti.

We have just pulled alongside the pier in downtown Papeete.  Dock lines are across, the gangway still being tweaked in place, and the customs official on board.  Shortly, the crew of S238 will gather one last time on the quarterdeck, this time for goodbyes. For most of the readers of this blog, you’ll be shortly starting to receive the first-hand accounts of the voyage we have just completed.  The inevitable question that the departing crew will hear from many is the “how was it?”  Please don’t be surprised if you get a sort of wide-eyed stare in response, and then, perhaps, a stream of words.  A voyage like we’ve just had is really difficult to distill into a short synopsis.  It’s been a lot of things, different things for different people.  There are 24 different student experiences walking off this ship today. The voyage has been fun.  It’s been hard work.  It has had moments of sublime beauty.  It has had flashes of discovery and understanding.  It has had moments of wet misery.  It has posed challenges, both mental and physical, that were new to people.  It has been all of those things, and a lot more.

Yesterday’s blog, our last full day together in Moorea, has our last group picture in it so I think I can attach to this one something entirely different.  Something the previous blogs, more about the immediate personal experience, perhaps didn’t cover so much.  In the picture you’re looking at are some results from those long, long hours spent in the lab. Let me explain.

This is a figure of the chlorophyll a content of the ocean, from surface to 600 meters (some 1800 feet) depth, and from Hawaii (20 degrees north, on the right) to just outside Raiatea (some 17 degrees south, on the left of the figure).  You can see the depth scale on the vertical y-axis, and the latitude, covering about 2500 miles, on the horizontal x-axis.  The colors, with a color scale bar on the right, code for various amounts of chlorophyll a.  Each vertical black dotted line is a place where we stopped the ship, and for a period of two to three hours made this measurement (together with many others).

Two things you’ll notice right off the bat.  Chlorophyll a, the stuff of life that converts sunlight into living matter, is occupying a pretty thin layer close to the surface of the ocean.  What’s more, that layer is not evenly distributed from Hawaii to Tahiti either, there are some peaks near the equator and some lows at either end of the figure, farthest north and south.  We’ve spent a great deal of time interpreting the ocean currents, the chemistry and the biology of what creates this remarkable pattern, and what it means for how the Equatorial Pacific Ocean influences our atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.

This program is called Oceans and Climate; the Role of the Ocean in the Global Carbon Cycle, and this single figure illustrates in a small way how deep we have delved into that topic.  These students have made first-hand observations about how our atmosphere and our ocean interact that are unique and profound in their extent.  I’m very proud of each one of then, their hard work and the enthusiasm they shown throughout this cruise, and the crop of first-rate research papers that I now have in my possession.  Grading’s going to be easy.

So you back home have a lot to look forward to; stories, pictures, a new skill or two.Perhaps in time you’ll meet new people introduced to you as “shipmates”.  The stories are many, so be patient.  On this end, goodbyes will be sad.  After a great voyage they always are.

Jan Witting, Chief Scientist.

Dec

23

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Location: 17° 29.9’S by 149° 51.5’W At anchor in Opunohu Bay off the island of Moorea

Our last full day on the ship was busy busy busy! Since anchoring in Opunohu Bay off the island of Moorea yesterday afternoon, we have been enjoying all hands meals on the quarter deck and have been preparing the ship for her arrival in Papeete, Tahiti tomorrow morning.  The majority of the day was an “ultimate field day” where we cleaned the ship from sole to deck while blasting music from multiple iPods in every corner of the ship. We also had some bunk love time to clean and pack up our bunks as well as dump/swap filthy unwanted clothing. Everybody’s bags are leaving a little lighter than when they arrived after trashing our nasty t-shirts and shorts that are unfit to see land ever again. It’s not surprising that we collected some dirt after cleaning the ship, so we cleaned off with one last spectacular swim call in Opunohu Bay.

This evening we celebrated the culmination of our trip with a holiday “swizzle” on deck complete with swizzle drank, toasts to Neptune, Christmas carols, and a talent show. We even decorated the deck with Christmas lights and paper snowflakes! It was a wonderful evening of laughter, singing, and reminiscing about our 6 weeks at sea. 

This is the part where I’m supposed to somehow summarize the trip and how it has impacted us and undoubtedly changed our lives, but words fall short. At the start of the trip I thought that I would write down my experiences and thoughts and take loads of pictures and be able to transport myself back to this place and event in my life. I have found, however, that some things in life are impossible to encapsulate.  No matter how many photos I take I cannot capture the stunning view of the ship from aloft on the forem’st, or the way that the sails fill and pull the ship through the water when they are trimmed ever so perfectly.  I have heard the pounding of the bow into the water as it slices through swells every night aboard ship, but I cannot describe the sound and the power you feel from below deck. I have come to accept that these things cannot be captured and saved for later, but must be enjoyed in the moment to the fullest extent. There are so many things that we have come to love about life on this ship and we will carry them with us as we step back into our lives on land.  For now, I am going to go enjoy one last stargazing session on the quarterdeck with my shipmates.
 
From the SSV Robert C. Seamans,
Kelly Speare

P.S. Hi to my family spending Christmas together in North Carolina!!! I’m sorry that I’m missing Christmas again this year (Sorry Aunt Melissa, I know you’re mad). I miss you and can’t wait to talk to you!

Dec

22

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Picture Caption: Dan and Julia after an early Monday morning trip to the Uturoa market on Raiatea.
Position: 17˚29.8’S x 149˚51.5’W. Anchored in Baie D’Opunohu off the island of Moorea. Winds out of the ENE, temperatures in the mid-70s, overcast skies.

Happy first day of summer! Unfortunately today doesn’t really feel like summer. Last night around 1800, soon after we pulled Moorea out of the horizon, the first lightning was spotted by Nicki on bow watch, forcing 2nd mate Jeremy Dann to scramble down the mainm’st and resulting in a very interesting night. Trying to keep your balance on a windy night while also trying to avoid contact with the metal of the ship is certainly a challenge to say the least. Thank goodness the railings are made of wood. The abundance of squalls made for a very complicated night of navigation, as well as a spectacular one of watching nature’s power, though the amazingly bright flashes made it extremely difficult to maintain night vision. A 360˚ view of lightning storms is certainly a unique experience, one of many we’ve had on this adventure. While thankfully the lightning has subsided, this morning has still been full of rain and overcast skies. As Julia said to me, we’ve come full circle from what we were experiencing just after we first boarded.

In a way, today can almost be considered preparation for the impending return up north.  At lunch just a little while ago there was talk of hot chocolate and curling up under a pile of blankets – yet its 78˚F out. I think a lot of us are in for quite the culture shock. I myself have been keeping a double countdown; yesterday it was one day until summer, six days until winter. The procession of seasons resulting from this experience is quite bizarre, autumn back to spring, continuing to summer, then suddenly on to winter after the splitting of the ways.
I’m thankful that today ended up not being a beautiful sunny day, as most of us have been stuck down in the library or main salon finishing up data analysis and writing our papers. Everyone’s hoping to get done tonight so tomorrow we can focus on cleaning and packing and having a good time before our last night on the ship. It’s extremely surreal to imagine what life will be like once we’re off the ship and it’s almost pointless to try to describe how this experience has made such an impression on all of us, and I don’t just mean bruises.
Peace, love, and happiness,
Erika

PS To everyone back home: I’m excited to see/talk to you all; I can’t believe I’ll be back in New York winter in only 5 days.
PPS from Chrissy: Happy birthday Mom!! Miss ya and hope you had a great day!
PPPS from Christina: Happy Birthday Firstie!!! You are finally no longer a teenager! I can’t wait to see you and celebrate  Dad- Happy Belated Birthday!!! (Now you’re one year older raspberry) Love you both!!

Dec

21

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Picture Caption: The view from the peak of Tapioi Hill (Elevation: 294m, Bora Bora left background, Tahaa on right).
Aboard SSV Robert C. Seamans, 19th December 2011. Underway South of Huahine, 17°09.2 02’ S x 150°36.599 ’ W. Winds are at a steady force four out of the southeast with seas of four to five feet, temperatures in the mid 80’s with multiple squalls in the area.

After a trip to the local market to stock up on fresh island-grown fruit, and some heartfelt goodbyes from our new Polynesian friends, we shipped out of Raiatea around 0900 local time. Our next stop is another island paradise, Moorea, where we will get on the hook for the last day of the journey for both to do an extensive cleaning of the boat and celebrate our final night aboard the Robert C. Seamans.

During class today we were given the opportunity to discuss and reflect on our short stay in Raiatea, and it seems like everyone was profoundly impacted by our interactions with the locals. Some of the stories that were shared include: numerous accounts of “presents” being given at the market where a local vendor would approach us bearing fruit and insist we take i for free, a constant barrage of bonjour’s, ia orana’s (hello in Tahitian) and friendly waves, invitations to holiday singing and religious ceremonies, offers to host some of us for dinner, and even offers to join them for some night fishing. The generosity the local Polynesians showed to us came so naturally that it was clearly not a diversion from their everyday lives, but merely an extension of the generosity they show each other daily.

One of the Polynesian stories that was shared with us on our tour of the mare ruins was the story of Maui, the Polynesian explorer/deity that the Hawaiian island was named for. The legend of Maui depicts an old Polynesian belief that as individuals we do not travel around the earth, but instead we are stationary and pull our destination to us. Maui, in his expert navigation, is said to have “fished islands out of the ocean” using a line and fish hook, with his fishing line representing what we refer to as our cruise track. Right now, we are putting the finishing touches on our final projects (due in two days), have hooked Moorea, and are in the process of reelin’ it in.
Merry Christmas to all,
Billy

P.S. Hope everyone at home is well and enjoying the beginning of Christmas break. Mom I’ll text you when I get off the ship on the 23rd. I love and miss everyone and will see you guys in a month.

Dec

20

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Photo Caption: (Right to left) Steve, Dan, Erika, Scott, and Hannah on the boat tour around Raiatea today.

Aboard SSV Robert C. Seamans, 19th December 2011. Docked alongside Uturoa, Raiatea, 16° 43.8’ S x 151° 26.5’ W. Island breeze and blue skies during the day with a few evening showers, temperatures in the high 90’s. Five thousand miles from home, on a sailing ship that recently crossed the equator, docked at a lovely atoll, not too far from the so called most beautiful island in the world, swim calls in 12,000+ feet of water, watching dolphins swim around our hull… many would say we have the life; we’re golden.

Today in particular was our planned excursion around Raiatea. When I say this I really do mean around. We chartered an outrigger canoe and spent the day seeing the sights of this beautiful island from the water. From crystal clear waters to thatched banana leaf roof bungalows, it really was an amazing time. We traveled up the Faaroa River, the second largest river in French Polynesia, floating past banana plantations and lots of brilliantly colored flowers. Seeing the local boat captain turn his boat around in a foot or two of water where the river was only a few feet wider than the length of the boat was quite a demonstration of piloting for all of us used to seeing hundreds of miles of blue water in every direction. After leaving the river, we traveled further around the island and disembarked at a sacred heritage temple site known as Marae Taputapuatea. This site is the most important marae (traditional temple) in all of French Polynesia, if not all of the Pacific. This was, and is becoming again, the spiritual center for all Polynesians. Its cultural significance and influence is present from New Zealand to the Cook Islands to Hawaii. It turns out that the island of Raiatea was previously known as Havai’iki and that the name for our fiftieth state also comes from here. The marae itself is a group of stones and stone paved platforms distributed around the main platform, on which there is a vertical pillar-like stone called the measuring stone. It has this name because it is said that the king would sit atop this stone and “measure” his people that would present themselves before him, not in terms of height or weight, but in their knowledge and spirituality. From this site Polynesians traversed thousands of miles across open ocean, without navigation instruments, to colonize much of the Pacific. Each canoe voyage took with them a stone from Taputapuatea to build a new marae on a new island, thereby taking a piece of home with them. This reminded me of a watch meeting we had the other day in which we had a show and tell of things we had brought with us from home on our voyage. To me that connection is amazing.

So, we walked around and admired the site for a while, were given a very informational tour by a local traditional navigator, and then went back to the boat for a short trip to a small island in the lagoon. The island has public access and is used by the locals for picnics, swimming and other recreation. Once there, we were treated to a lovely lunch made up of fresh fruits including breadfruit cooked in part by Jerry, our favorite Caribbean shipmate. To say the least this quickly trumped our bag lunches. After our wonderful lunch most of us went for a swim off the island among many colorful fish and corals. We then returned to our Momma Seamans to treat our new local friends to dinner and a tour of the ship. It seemed the least we can do after all the knowledge they passed on to us today. As I’m writing this, I’m sitting in the main salon after dinner, watching our assistant engineer and a local little girl play catch with a Frisbee. It’s pretty funny to see his soft side and how easily we all interact despite significant age and language barriers. Polynesians get their livelihood from the sea and that important connection to the sea has become apparent to us and is now a commonality we share these islanders. Tomorrow morning we depart here and get underway for Moorea and then our final destination, Papeete, Tahiti. Right now though I must sign off to help return galley mats to the galley and tend to some soggy, saggy, baggywrinkles which are in need of a good fluffing. (Don’t worry; it’ll be one of the many things we’ll have to explain to you landlubbers when we get back.)

From a tan, salty, and tired sailor chilling in paradise,
Scott Matus

PS: Lots of love to all my family and friends. Miss everyone so much; it’s funny how five thousand miles can feel so much further.  Sean, you better practice your Français; as soon as I’m home you will hear plenty of my recently renewed language skills. Peeps in cuse, hope you guys made it through any snow and finals with minimal injury. Amanda, here’s your one sentence: miss you of course and can’t wait to hear what you’ve been up to since the summer, not being in school and all. Pops, no cell service but I’ll hopefully contact you in Tahiti. To everyone I haven’t yet mentioned, I wish you early happy holidays and look forward to seeing you soon.

Dec

19

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Aboard the Robert C. Seamans. Docked in Uturoa, Raiatea.
Caption: The crew enjoying some fresh fruits prepared for us by our hosts.

Here we are, docked in Raiatea. I guess we have been waiting this for a moment, two weeks at least. And now that we have actually stepped on land, we can really enjoy what it has to offer. We have been welcomed by Polynesians as if we were their brothers and sisters. Fresh papayas, mangos, lemon grapefruits, bananas, coconuts and more were nicely display and cut for us to eat. We also could enjoy a small exhibition of traditional Polynesian art. Some of us even got invited to spend the evening with locals. This is probably the best way to learn about their culture, their way of living.

Meanwhile, we have our poster presentation this afternoon. Thus everyone is still working quite hard, trying to find a computer to work on. Once these presentations are over, then we will start discovering Raiatea for real. Our arrival in Raiatea marks the beginning of the end of our trip. There is still a lot to see before Tahiti, but less than five days are left to our journey. It is exciting, yet a bit sad. Instead of ending this blog with philosophical sentences that would summarize/represent my thoughts regarding our trip, I will just enumerate some small things that made this semester at sea so great:

-First, and probably the most significant one, the small fan in my bunk: I would not have survived without it.

-Fresh fruits and vegetables for the entire length of our trip. After 4 weeks they are not as fresh and tasty as those we ate this morning, but still, it remains pretty impressive.

-Peanut butter pizza. What is there to add, except a special thanks to Nicki, Katy and Mandy.

-Going aloft. This is freedom!

-Tying the JT or the Jib gaskets on the bow sprit at night when the wind and the waves are great enough to make it a real challenge.

-Co-teaching the “word of the day’. Maybe it seems foolish, but it is nice to share a bit of your culture to others!

I know I am forgetting a bunch of them, but many are included in previous blog entries.

Just want to note that I approve what was mentioned yesterday: I hate the galley mats. I feel much better now.

Julien

P.S Je souhaite dire bonjour a toute la famille, Papa, Maman, Corinne, Simon et Alexandra! Je remercie et je salue tous mes chers ami(e)s qui on prit le temps de lire ce blog. On se voit bientot pour faire la fete ! Joyeux Noel et Bonne Annee! Elodie, bonne chance pour ton exam aujourd’hui! J’ai tellement hate de te revoir!

Dec

18

S238 Oceans & Climate

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On Board Robert C. Seamans, position 16 degrees 42.6 minutes South by 151 degrees 28.7 minutes West.  At anchor in the lagoon of Tahaa and Raiatea, weather mostly sunny with cumulus clouds and occasional light showers.

As we near the end of our journey and the blog posts seem to drift towards the realizations of leaving this place, I must remind the folks at home we learned so much on this trip. Therefore, I asked around and asked the ship’s company what they learned. I compiled a list and picked the top ten.

10 things I have learned from sailing on the Robert C Seamans:

1) If you need to use the bathroom it’s going to be a long swim. Why don’t you use the head instead. One of the major things to get adjusted to at sea is the fact that everyday things have different names. The floors are soles, ceilings are overheads, the kitchen is the galley, beds are bunks, and dining room is the saloon. These are constant reminders that we are living in a completely different world to the ones we knew on land. Even four weeks into this journey we have not yet come to terms with this fact. We are constantly being reminded by the mates that we are pretty far from the nearest bathroom.

2) Constant Vigilance! A little Harry Potter reference for the folks at home. But, in all honesty if you are living on a boat then you are working on the boat. Even if you are not on watch it is the whole ship’s company responsibility to ensure that our vessel stays afloat. Every hour a boat check is done, if the engine is running its every half hour.  Keeping a close eye on the boats inner workings is what keeps us afloat. Now that we have spent a little more than a month on board we can now tell if something does not look, smell, or hear right.

3) Bunk Surfing This new sport was discovered the first night underway when the folks in the foc’s'le. It was found that if you position yourself just right and the boat hits that sweet spot in the wave you can catch major air.

4) How to Shoot the Moon No, we have not spent the entire six weeks playing hearts. We have learned how to navigate the ocean using only a sextant, celestial bodies, and a little bit of algebra. Well, a lot of algebra. Currently, everyone is working on their celestial navigation assignment in which we had to shoot and reduce at least two celestial bodies. The ship has been a buzz of questions such as “What is the point of little d?” or “Do we use GMT or LMT?”. Needless to say the staff has been inundated with celestial questions. 

5) Galley Mats are a sailors best friend Oh, those galley mats. They are the bane of everyone’s existence on board the Seamans. To define them, they are huge black rubber mats that cover the galley floor as a non-skid surface. Why they annoy us? Well, every single night they must be lugged up through the lobby and cleaned on deck. They are huge, unwieldy, and heavy and no matter how much you scrub them they will always leave black smudges all over your body.

6) Always turn the poop off Or the MSD-Marine Sanitation Device. This machine is in charge of pumping our waste into the ocean. But, during deployments it must be switched off to ensure that our water samples do not come back with extremely high nutrient levels. 

7) Sleep is sacred Something that we definitely all found out the first week. Our bodies have definitely learned to survive on less than four hours of sleep. 

8) The strength of the equatorial sun Ever since we sailed out of the ITCZ (Inter tropical convergence zone) the sun has not given us a break. We have all learned the importance of covering up and sun block. Rest assured family and friends, every single one of us is going to come back with a tan (and sun heinous tan lines).

9) Everything goes clockwise even in the southern hemisphere We were all surprised to see that the toilets did not spin counterclockwise when we crossed the equator. In fact, everything on the boat is done clockwise. From coiling to making fast lines, the ship is made shipshape when everything is clockwise.

10) The Importance of self-confidence On a personal note, I have come to realize that self-confidence is the most important thing one can have while sailing. If you lack confidence in yourself then others start to lose confidence in you. When you are on a ship and must be sure and precise of everything, this can be detrimental. Therefore, I have definitely learned that being confident in yourself allows for a better way of living.

I was going to stop my entry there but since we made such great time on our cruise track we were able to come to Raiatea a day early. We were greeted this morning with the islands of Bora Bora, Tupai, and Tahaa. After only seeing blue for so long, the lushness of Bora Bora was a striking sight. The large peak loomed before us as we sailed closer to civilization. The captain took the conn and the students were left to wonder and gaze at the uniqueness of the land before us.  Pamela received confirmation that we were allowed anchor in the lagoon between Tahaa and Raiatea. We struck all the sails and delicately maneuvered our way through the reef. As we motored dolphins escorted us to our destination. We anchored and executed a light field day. We were all surprised when the mates announced a swim call. As we swam and played in the lagoon the whole situation seemed surreal; here we are in the middle of the South Pacific swimming between two paradises with our project due in five days.  Amazing.

Stephanie Bernasconi

Finally, just a shout to my family. To everyone- have a great Christmas! Mom and Dad- I’m not dead. I am doing fine and my project is going great. Lesley- curious about the cat. Is he dead yet? And Jeff- I miss you so much. I can’t wait to see you again. Have a wonderful Christmas. I love you.

Dec

16

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Picture Caption: Joe and Billy out on the course yard
Sailing along in the Bobby C. we have been tacking back and forth for the last 24 hours or so to stay on our track line. Winds: Wind E x S force 3 and 4, Seas: ESE 3 feet, Course Ordered: 140 per ships compass, Course Steered: 030 per ships compass (when on a starboard tack) Position: 14° 18.9’ S X 152° 25.4’ W

The other night I was asked what it was about the ocean that keeps bringing me back to it. The first thought that came to my mind was that it simply is a peaceful place. However, as I thought about this question more, I realized that the answer was a little more complicated. The ocean is definitely capable of being peaceful, however at the same time it can throw you for a loop just as quickly. I think I am beginning to realize that what I understood to be peace was really awe. Here is this large, vast environment that few people can truly say they have experienced that can offer such serenity, and yet it can also throw a large squall your way in a matter of minutes. It is truly a thing of mystery and wonder.
That wonder, awe, and mystery manifests in self in a variety of ways.  I had a wonderful talk with our captain, Pamela as asked here ways to stay calm, as I frequently get flustered on deck, especially now that we have started JWO phase. She gave me some really helpful advice and shared some really great stories that not only helped me, but also allowed the marvels of the ocean and this ship come alive. That advice was as follows: Amidst all the chaos and responsibilities, it is important to take a few precious moments to appreciate what is around you. We are all in a place that few people ever get to experience and, while we are super busy and slightly stressed it is important to remember these little moments, as those moments are likely what we will remember as the years go on.

In the last few days, I have been to escape and have a few of these precious moments.  Watching a lunar eclipse on dawn watch, closing your eyes on the top of the dog house listening to the waves, wind, and creaking lines, conquering a fear of heights and climbing up the rigging to the spread of the foremast, laying out on the bow sprit talking with a good friend, the way the light hits the sails around 1800, and so many more.
In addition to all the moments that remind me why I am here, we have been participating in other very exciting things. Today a two meter net was deployed with a wire out of 1400 meters. We pulled up several neat organisms and were able to have a great conversation with Jan about all the critters that were found. I personally thought the most interesting was the phronemid amphipod, a parasitic amphipod that uses a salp body as a vessel and place to lay its eggs. Fun Fact: This is also the creature the movie Alien was based on!

Sadly as the days dwindle we are all starting to do everything we can that is unique to this ship. One of the primary activities is going aloft, which I successfully did just the other day. It was exhilarating to face my tremendous fear of heights and experience our little microcosm of a world, as well as the vast ocean surrounding us from a very different perspective.

This has been a fabulous adventure for all of us and we are looking forward to all the exciting things to come with the next week as we make our way to Raiatea and Tahiti.
—Christina Goethel

P.S. Mom and dad I love/miss you lots, everything is great and I can’t wait to share all my stories, well most of them mom. Dad happy early birthday (to you to Doris)! Firstie—Happy Birthday! You are no longer a teen whoop whoop! Miss and love you tons! Shaberstina you are going to be so sick of hearing about everything, but I can’t wait for Smith and to hear all the crazy stories I am sure we have all collected in our time abroad. To my lovely BANANAS- I hope the season is going swimmingly… I thought of you all the other day as I swam some butterfly in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Christmas Island. Andrew- I can’t wait to exchange all of our sea stories, I love you!

Dec

15

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Aboard the Robert C. Seamans, position 1348.2 S x 152 26.6 W,
course 175 true, speed 7.3kts, 175nm away from Raiatea!
Photo caption: Our foremast, forestaysl and jib on a day of smooth port tack sailing.

Sealed inside their tiny craft, beyond the worlds gaze, stripped of any possibility of pretense, the sailors met their true selves. Who they were - not the sea or the weather- determined the nature of their voyage.
- Peter Nichols, A Voyage of Madmen

Cheers from the South Pacific! With a little under 10 days left, most of us aboard the Bobby C. are bewildered as to where the last month has gone. From learning to wield a sextant and determine our position by shooting celestial bodies to frantically finishing our research projects, from remembering the minutiae of keeping a ship functional yet constantly holding in mind the bigger picture during JWO phase to the relentless desire to relax under this beautiful southern sky, either aloft or on the bowsprit - that flighty temptress called Time escaped us once again.

I have a feeling all of us will be hard pressed to describe our lives aboard the Seamans to those back home. I suspect that never again in my life will a small group of complete strangers morph into a coherent, inter- dependent micro-culture; nor have I ever been so aware of the natural phenomenon and mechanical systems surrounding us. I remember friends and family on shore remarking that this voyage will be so great in that we can escape from our addiction to technology for a brief moment. No phones, no internet, no gadgets for a few weeks. Yet Ive never felt so dependent upon technology, so wired in simply because being in such an enclosed, self- reliant community demands a far richer understanding of the systems we use (such as radar, refrigeration, the generator, the watermaker or the engine.) From my experience, few of us have time in our daily lives to understand the details of the multitude of machines that essentially dictate our lives. One great gift of this voyage is the heightened sense of awareness each student has obtained; we are able to note when the wind backs or changes force from the speed and heel angle of our vessel, we can feel a squall coming from a colder wind and reduced visibility on the horizon, we can feel when our shipmates are low or confused so we can step in to help them out. These are the lessons that will remain with us once the voyage is long ended.

Its not important to know everything - a thought that sometimes runs contrary to our system of education and grading - but that we master the tools and resources necessary to solve any question for ourselves. Inside our tiny craft, adrift from the wider world, we have become a cohesive unit, each us learning to weave a delicate web of leadership within the role of supportive shipmate.

Well, my evening watch (1900-2300) beckons. Despite some squalls on the horizon, were hoping to shoot twilight stars and deploy a two meter net this evening. We sail for science!
Peace,
Haley Yerxa (aka Whaley)

P.S. A shout-out to all my wonderful, crazy family and friends. Your perpetual sense of adventure and passion is the sole reason Im out to sea right now. Wherever you are in the world, I wish you well. Oh and Mom, I’m finally reaping the reward of your constant reminder: No elbows on the table!

Dec

12

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Blog Entry: 12 Dec. 2011

Position 13 degrees 18’ S by 152 degrees 52’ W.  Clear skies, winds E force 5.  Steering 165 degrees True, making 6-7 knots under Jib tops’l, Jib, Forestays’l, Fisherman Stays’l, Mainstays’l and full Mains’l.

Photo Caption: The four-square game on the pier at Christmas Island becoming intense.

There has been a very positive vibe on the boat as of recent. Virtually cloudless skies have become an everyday occurrence, we have been able to keep our speed up with steady winds, westerly currents have weakened and even reversed at times helping us stay on track to Raiatea without having to motor to make up easting, the seas have calmed allowing all of us up forward in the foc’s'le to get some sound sleep, and the full moon at night has provided a pleasant post dinner atmosphere on deck.

It feels as though there is so much left to do and learn that it is not possible we will be arriving in Tahiti in 11 days; not to mention it is hard to believe Christmas is in two weeks as well as it doesn’t look like we will be seeing snow (or sub 80° temperatures any time soon). It seems like only a couple days ago Christmas Island was fading away in the distance and we were preparing for the longest open-ocean sailing portion of our trip. This stretch is now flying by and we are busier than we have been all trip. Analyzing data for our final research projects has begun to take up a big portion of free time. However, we are still savoring every moment we have to climb aloft, lay out on the bowsprit, make wallets and other small items out of sail cloth, and play cards with fellow shipmates (not to mention throw a toga party into the swing of things).

As previous shipmates have mentioned, we are currently in the JWO phase of our trip and learning more and more skills to become more independent sailors. I got my first introduction to shooting stars yesterday morning at twilight and with a bit of math following the star frenzy, was able to plot a position on the chart that ended up being 6 nautical miles from our actual GPS location. It was a pretty cool feeling coming up with my star fix position knowing that it could have been anywhere in the world, but that by only measuring the angle of 5 stars, I was able to calculate our location within a very near margin. We are also all beginning to gain a stronger understanding of how to trim sails properly for certain points of sail along with many other important aspects of sail theory that will help us reach our final destination.

I think it would be fitting to fill the remaining space I have here with some smaller highlights of the trip thus far: Giving tours of the Seamans to the students and staff from the Christmas Island high schools we visited. It was very interesting to share stories with someone my age, with similar academic and extracurricular interests in some instances, coming from a completely different cultural background.

The impromptu game of four-square that began when Julia pulled out a bouncy ball while waiting for our tour trucks to pick us up at the Christmas Island pier.

Swim calls. There is nothing more tempting while sailing along on a hot day in the middle of the ocean than to want to climb out and jump off the bowsprit into some refreshing water. So when we finally got to while anchored, everyone took full advantage.

Pizza for lunch today. Food is always high on the priority list. This trip has definitely been an incredible experience so far, already filled with so many awesome memories, and there will surely be many more to come in our remaining time together.

-Stephen Rosenman

P.S. Hi Mom and Dad- miss and love you both a lot. Can’t wait to see you. Tell everyone I say hi and am excited to have a make-up Christmas when I get back. Luke - see you soon man, hope you got us a nice place for next semester.

P.P.S. Vickster- We all miss you and hope you’ve been having a great time in Woods Hole. We’ve even had cereal a couple times for breakfast in your honor.  -E House.

Dec

11

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Picture caption: Blaire, Jerry, Julia, and Haley performing a cologne ad at
the toga swizzle. [courtesy of Dan Roche]

December 11.  Position 10 degrees 55’ S by 154 degrees 55’ W.  Winds E by N force 4, gusting 5.

This week has included the start of phase III of our trip in which a different student takes on the responsibilities of Junior Watch Officer each watch.  So far JWO has been a success; we students have not crashed into anything or tipped the ship over.  Today was my first time as JWO and nothing has been as nerve racking, not even jumping off the bowsprit, or invigorating as those first couple hours.  There are so many thoughts running through one’s mind it is easy to be overwhelmed.  Hourly there are boat checks, weather reports, log readings, and position plots to be completed.  The JWO is also responsible for delegating and rotating who is on bow watch and the helm or who is doing a morning sun line or calculating local apparent noon (LAN). On top of that, the JWO has to manage and give commands for sail handling, after getting permission from Pamela, our captain, of course.

I was on morning watch which meant we had to heave to for a 0930 science deployment and then get underway at 2 knots for a neuston tow and lastly set and trim sail to get going at a desired speed of over 6 knots.  I was so nervous that I wouldn’t remember the right order to strike the fisherman sail I made a list and kept it in my pocket.  Luckily, my wonderful watch helped me out, giving suggestions and reminders of tasks needing to be performed. My watch mates were always willing to do any task even cleaning the decks.  I sighed a huge sigh of relief when I realized I wasn’t alone as JWO, I still had my classmates and watch officer and captain to help.  The invigorating part came when I realized my watch was sailing the ship and carrying out science successfully.  We have learned so much from the first day on the ship. Sometimes there is so much still to learn, we forget how far we have come.

Today was a special day, we had a swizzle! For those of you who don’t know a swizzle is a party and this one was toga themed.  Everyone got dressed up in their semi-clean sheets and enjoyed a little social hour.  We had games and entertainment, as well as swizzle drink and coconuts.  C watch, instead of writing the usual science report, wrote a special cologne ad as a joke that I think sums up life on the Robert C. Seamans pretty well. Here it is below and it was much funnier when performed by Jerry.

Hey S-238! Look at your copepod, now look at mine. Now look back at your copepod. Now look at mine. Unfortunately your copepod is not mine. But if your assistant scientist stopped putting copepods in seawater and started putting them in formalin then your copepod could smell like mine. I’m in my rack, sweltering as temperatures increase as we sail south towards the sun. I’m on the bow, getting sprayed by higher and higher salinity water from the south pacific subtropical gyre. I’m in the lab diving into the best 100 count of my life.  I’m on the quarterdeck watching our westerly current zoom by. Look at my hand, now look at your hand, now look back at my hand. My hand is now a shark, shredding the science report that you have yet to write. I’m on a boat.  I don’t always wear cologne. But when I do, I always use essence of copepod.  Stay nerdy my friends. I hope all of you land lubbers are having a good December and I do not actually recommend the smell of preserved copepod.

-Sarah

P.S. Hi mom, dad, David, and grandpa I hope your December is going great and am excited to see you guys on Christmas.  I’m wearing lots of sunscreen and my dorky wide-brimmed hat so don’t worry.

P.P.S. To all my friends good luck with finals and I hope all of you have a great winter break. Fadi, I miss you and am looking forward to exchanging stories and experiences from our studies abroad in January.

Dec

10

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Picture caption: steph, joe, scott, aaron and hannah set the fisherman as Anna calls out the various commands needed to set the sail (taken by Erika from aloft on the forem’st;  don’t worry Schreibers: she was safely harnessed in).

December 10.  9 degrees 26’ S by 155 degrees 32’ West,  winds East by North, force 3-4.

Since the day has been a long, hot one filled with engine room checks, salp species identification, and serious eating, this girl’s brain may be a bit too wiped out to write a coherent summary of what’s been going on lately on the Seamans.  So instead, here’s a string of unconnected images and that have stuck with me over the trip thus far as well as a few recent goings on.

My favorite reoccurring image:  Standing on the bow under a bright starry sky, looking straight up. The fores’ls are bathed in the faint glow of our navigation lights (and sometimes some pretty fierce moonlight).  Turning my face to the night sky as the boat rolls from one side to another, the white sails and black stays (the wires that stretch the sails diagonally from the masts down to the deck) sweep from side to side, massive against the far away stars, erasing great swaths of sky and then giving them back like giant windshield wipers.

Magical moment from Christmas Island: When we arrived at the second high school, we were greeted with song, as previously reported. What I especially loved about the experience was the student conductor, a smiley kid who bounded up to the front of the room and started bouncing wildly around, feet tapping, arms flying, the picture of self-confidence.  Whereas I was weird and self-conscious throughout teenage hood, this kid was brave in front of his peers and a bunch of strangers, totally unselfconscious, and pretty much magic. It was inspiring to watch and I hope to take a little bit of his spirit (along with the kindness and generosity of the rest of the people on Christmas Island) with me. 

Other nice moments: Yesterday morning I watched a giant orange moon dip below the horizon to the west out of a dark sky. Not twenty minutes later, I watched the most perfect pinky cotton candy sunrise begin to reach across the sky from the east.  Also, regarding the moon, we attempted to wake up in the middle of the night to watch a lunar eclipse of the full moon last night only to realize that lunar eclipses take a lot longer than we thought. A few lucky dawn watchers got to see the full eclipse some four hours later than our original “moon the moon party.”

Learned lots about the boat’s various dewatering mechanisms being the engineering shadow today; Dad, you’d enjoy all the tinkering and ingenious solutions and adaptations this boat has. It’s like a clown car full of supplies and back-ups for those supplies and backups for the backups. Also, Erika let me know that we hit 10 degrees south this afternoon, putting us, for reference, between the Galapagos and Papua New Guinea (with lots of room to spare on either side, of course), which I think is pretty nuts.  We’ve also been learning a few words of French and a few words of Reo Maohi (Tahitian) each day in preparation for the ultimate landfall we’ll be making in about two weeks.

To all my meeverest meevers (that includes you, parent meevs!)back in the various places I call home (e-town, Houston, chile), I love love love and miss you guys. From my wonderful shipmates, I’ve heard lots of utterances of love and good vibes sent home to family and friends, so I’ll pass their greetings along too!

-Hannah Whaleshark

P.S.: From the middle of one pond to a Spanish gal crossing the other: safe travels, I love you! -Aaron

Dec

09

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Photo caption: Sara and Ted changing the oil on Generator #1.
Position: 8 36.0 S x 155 54.5 W
Course: 160
Wind: E Force 3.

Hello from the engineering department which consists of myself, Ted Fleming (chief engineer), and Robinson Yost (Assistant Engineer).  Each morning and afternoon watch, a student is assigned to the engine room.  While their classmates are counting phytoplankton and pulling on ropes, this student engineer is getting things done, providing the tenants of civilization most people take for granted.  They help us operate, maintain, and repair all of the ships systems.  These systems include the main engine, two diesel generator sets, two reverse osmosis water makers, a fuel centrifuge/transfer system, the MSD, the small boat outboard motors, various pumps, and other machinery.  The student engineers learn about these systems, how they fit into the ships overall mission, and then pass this information along to their shipmates who’ve been up on deck in the fresh air.  Of recent note; Dan learned the ins and outs of reverse osmosis, Haley delved into the stern-tube cooling and sealing system, Sara completed the 250 hour service on one of the generators and then figured out refrigeration (see picture), and Blaire came up with an innovative caloric value for our main engines power output.  Today Allison figured out that thus far we have produced 10,828 gallons of potable water and provided on average 17 kW of power an hour.  In our spare time, the engineers also take observations of the celestial bodies in order to fix our ships exact position out here on planet earth.  Ezra, Nicki, Hannah and I collaborated in such an endeavor this morning.

That’s all from engineering.  Just like to say hi to my Mom back on the Cape, my sister out in San Diego, and friends out on Cramer.  I don’t think Robinson has any friends to say hello to.  Just kidding! I’m sure there are plenty of people who love you buddy.

-Ted Fleming C/E RCS.

Dec

08

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Photo Caption: Hot coals on the grill off the starboard quarter at anchor, Christmas Island.
8 Dec 2011
Position: 6 52.5S x 156 52.4W
Wind E x N, F3
Sailing under all fore and aft sails

Hello from the dream team, watch officers Dan Stone (3rd Mate) and Chrissy Dykeman (2nd Scientist) here reporting from the lab of the Robert C. Seamans. We are on the transitional night into Phase III, or JWO (Junior Watch Officer) phase. Our Captain Pamela and Chief Scientist Jan are standing watch this evening to allow the watch officer teams to get some rest before we rotate watches starting at 2300 tonight. Phase I’II is an exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking time for the students as they assume the roles and responsibilities of the mates and assistant scientists.  This includes reporting directly to the Captain and Chief Scientist on all matters of ship operations, and leading their watches through all that needs to happen to carry out our data collection, as well as getting us the rest of the way to Tahiti. Details like timely wake ups, shooting morning and afternoon sun lines, and sending weather faxes are now the students responsibility to keep track of on top of all the big picture items like approaching weather systems and getting the ship hove-to for science deployments. On the science side of things, students are now assuming more of a leadership role in running deployments, keeping data organized, and making sure that all lab procedures are carried out efficiently and correctly. Though the students have expressed some qualms about these new roles and responsibilities, we have no doubt in our minds that they will be able to pull together as watches and grow as leaders.

Despite a slight increase in stress levels, everyone aboard the Mama Seamans is still in high spirits and having fun. As we came on watch this morning, we were swept up in a Clue-esque mystery regarding galley cleanup, a burgled pork loin, and a narrow timeline. The thawing meat mysteriously disappeared from its sink, where it later reappeared in just as puzzling a manner after a ship-wide interrogation by the stewards. Speculation abounded during the evening game of Whist (a card game that students and staff alike play almost every night), but no culprit was ever identified. Some errant laundry this afternoon also prompted a man overboard drill, in which the students demonstrated their capability in getting the ship hove-to, deploying the rescue boat, and keeping a keen visual on the items in the water in a timely manner.

On the staff side of things, the end-of-cruise responsibilities (updating inventories, summary reports, etc.) are already creeping up on us as we are fast approaching our final destination. It is amazing how quickly the time goes by and its easy to get caught up in the small details and forget to step back and appreciate where we are. Phase III is also a rewarding time for us to step back and see our students take charge and put into practice all that we have been teaching them throughout these past few weeks. We are all excited about what comes next, and we know that everyone back home will have plenty of stories to hear from our adventures.

See you on the other side,
Chrissy and Dan

PS. (Chrissy) Hi back home to upstate NY! Hope you aren’t too cold yet, I’ll be back to help shovel snow in February. Miss and love you guys, I’ll be thinking of you at Xmas.

PPS. (Dan)  Hello friends and family in Marion, Boston, Seattle, and others out on the water!  Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, and will have a great Christmas!  Miss you all and can’t wait to catch up in person come February.  Please have a beverage ready to warm me up.

PPPS (Annie)  Happy birthday, Dad! I love you SO much and hope ya’ll have a wonderful celebration (wish I could be there!).  I miss you and am looking forward to some quality time in February; save a weekend at the ranch for me!

Dec

07

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Onboard the Robert C. Seamans, position 5 degrees south (!) by 157 degrees west. Steering 170, wind SE at force 4 and 6 foot waves from the southeast. Mother Nature has been oh so kind to us!

Picture Caption: A few of the Kids jamming out to Old Crow under a double rainbow- just another average day on the Seamans.  Now as we have finally begun to find comfort in the basics of ship-living and operation, we have also begun to see just how much we do not know. The delicacies of the many details are fascinating, however can be very overwhelming, especially with each nuance with its own clock and must be checked and tuned appropriately.

One of these underlining maintenance issues going askew can wreak havoc on our fragile ship ecosystem; therefore much stress is placed on hourly boat checks and keeping a sharp eye. This morning the jib (one of the forward most sails) was found to have come apart therefore had to be striked, removed from its stays, and fitted with the spare “Australian” jib. One could think it almost fitting, paralleled with our recent decent into the land of the south.  However, this shook up most of the morning’s watches regular routine, as more hands were needed, and to make sure all regular procedures were appropriately delegated and completed fully. It was just a reminder how our journey is a delicate balance and how everything must be properly maintained as to make the direction we intended (only so many “coat-hanger” sailing days we can afford). We are now up and running thanks to a dedicated and efficient crew!

In addition to our past navigation techniques of dead reckoning and GPS (becoming used less and less) we have also begun to use celestial navigation. I have been long awaiting celestial practice- I think I particularly am just captivated by how practical these age-old techniques are still today in this technological world. We take a measurement of the sun angle in the sky from the horizon (which we call shooting the sun) and then using some trigonometry and finding copious values and corrections in the almanac and associated books (usually proving the most difficult of all the tasks) we are able to deduce a line of position, so we are able to say “we are somewhere along this line”. This is only helpful when paired with another line of position, therefore this process is repeated at least 5 times a day- morning sun line, local apparent noon, evening sun line, and morning and evening stars. Call me a romantic, but I love this method as it puts you much more in tune with the elements and maritime history. I am excited to become more and more reliant on, and confident in, celestial navigation during the coming days and weeks!

As noted in many other blogs, each day we have a class period after lunch where in addition to the regular science report, French lesson of the day (no, sadly we do not get extra language credit for this) and daily announcements we usually have one focal lesson. These past two days have been exceptionally fun. Yesterday, Mitch gave an enlightening presentation/lecture on seabirds and their conservation- I think this may have been due to us constantly nagging him as to what seabird we have observed. Today we took part in the “Retrieve Oscar” race, by which each watch had the opportunity to retrieve an overboard life-ring and I think everyone agreed it was the best class yet. Each watch voted a “Con-Man” (the person in charge of the watch) and delegated positions so that we could turn the ship around and save Oscar. It was awesome to see how well each watch worked together and demonstrate how much we actually do know as a team. I may be bias, but I think C Watch really has something to be proud of!

During this voyage I find I am continually reflecting on how fortunate I am to have been surrounded by vibrant, boundless souls both here and throughout my life. Huston Smith said that the in addition to the eightfold path to achieve Nirvana, there is a 9th factor which is right association- who you surround yourself with. This I believe is the greatest of them all, for it is through a healthy community/base from which positive introspective realizations and positive larger scale advancements are able to occur and larger truths become clearer. The Seamans crew 238 could not be a better example. Again, I cannot thank everyone enough for being such a positive influence in my life both here at sea and back on land. I am truly blessed. Just letting all the parents out there know your children are lathering on that sunscreen (I have officially reached my freckle max), still eating their greens, and keeping their ears clean (well actually maybe that one is not so true). Regardless everyone is very happy and healthy!!

Happy Holidays!

Cheers,
Danielle

P.S. Congrats K-Kid on his latest hockey goals, and Niki-Ole on her uni stuff!! Who would ever think that an older sister could look up to her younger siblings so much? I am so proud of you guys- even if you are a little weird. Moms and Pops, I miss you guys a lot and cannot thank you enough for preparing me so well for life. You are great role models and I am constantly reminded how lucky I am to have all the opportunities I have, with the backing of parents who really believe in experience. I miss you guys tonnes!!

P.P.S. Marty, I think you need to read Gibran’s “The Prophet”. I know I have mentioned it before, and would like to direct your attention to page 88. My favourite used book store is a few blocks West of Mother’s Cupboard on the South side of the street, if you don’t find the book it still won’t be a waste of time to check it out. Currently reading/loving “On the Road”. I miss you babe. Good luck in SF!

Dec

06

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Caption: Kelly and Steve jumping off the shipping pier on Christmas Island, the SSV Robert C. Seamans in the background.

3˚ 43.7’S by 157˚ 07.1’W Winds out of the East F5, Seas 5 ft. from the East, hove to for hydrocast deployment

Today marks our third week aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans and we are all well-adjusted to our dynamic home on the sea.  We have learned to eat our meals on gimbaled tables and are cautious not to lean on them and send food flying across the main salon.  Many of us had lab experience prior to this trip, however, we all quickly realized that lab work at sea is a whole new ballgame. With much practice, we have become proficient at conducting titrations, performing 100 counts of zooplankton, and processing net tows. We have even learned to brace ourselves against the shower walls to keep from tumbling out the door when we hit a swell.  Because of the southeasterly trade winds, we’ve spent the entire trip on a port tack or hove to for scientific deployments. In both cases, the ship is heeled over to the starboard side and we have become accustomed to walking on the port side of the ship (the high side on a port tack), bracing our belongings so that they don’t move downhill to the starboard side, and learning how to position ourselves perfectly in our bunks so that we don’t roll around all night long.
As we moved south over the equator we passed over the south equatorial current that roars westward across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. By our calculations, the current was 120 nautical miles wide and moving westward at up to 3 knots. That’s a big current. It carried us westward, making it necessary to make up some “easting” when the conditions are favorable. Our captain decided that tonight is a good opportunity and now, to our disbelief, we are sailing on a starboard tack!!!  We have become so conditioned to life on a port tack that everything feels backwards. The high side of the ship is now the starboard side, the gimbaled tables tip the opposite way, and everything in the lab feels awkward.

Even though we have adapted to the moving ship, we still find ourselves surprised by the occasional swell that causes us to lose our balance and topple into our shipmates (we’re all sporting a collection of colorful bruises to prove it), or by an unexpected change to a starboard tack. In the time it’s taken me to write this blog we hove to to deploy the hydrocast and are once again heeled to the starboard side. In our first few days at sea we desperately wanted something to just stop moving and stay still, but we have now learned to live with the movement and to enjoy it.  Several days ago our captain, Pamela, showed us a game called planking. Everyone stands with their feet parallel to the planks on the deck. We all start with the same number of planks between our feet and are challenged to see who is left standing as we move our feet closer and closer together.  The real fun is when our balance is tested and we feel an unexpected roll or are unaware that we are about to gybe. I’m the current A watch champ….any challengers?

From south of Neptune’s line,
-Kelly Speare

P.S. Hi Mom, Scott, Lauren, Dad, Trey, Laurel, 503A Ladies, and everyone in lab, I miss you all and can’t wait to swap adventure stories in the spring! Zena, your bunk and the foc’sle are treating me well and certainly living up to your stories; I’ve spent quite a few nights periodically airborne in my bunk and I have a feeling tonight will be another one. Mom, I miss you and love you so much. Tomorrow is my day as assistant steward and I’m making your chicken pie with sweet tea for dinner!  You have always told me that I have the scent of the sea in my soul…now it’s in my hair and clothes too.

Dec

05

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Monday, December 05, 2011
Robert C. Seamans

3 S x 157 W

Photo Caption: Danielle and Anna, right after officially crossing the equator, and right before being sent back to finish our field day cleaning activities. We may have just crossed the equator, but we were still Pollywogs with chores at this point!

The cure for all things is salt water: sweat, tears, and the sea.
-Isak Dinesen

Growing up as a child my bedtime stories were not found in books or tales of old. They were instead my parents stories of safaris in Kenya and climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, racing across sand dunes in Saudi Arabia or sailing a small boat across the Atlantic. Adventure was something I learned to crave at a very young age, and it is something I have grown to orient my life around. When it came to the issue of sailing, in my mind, the question was never IF I would go sailing, but simply WHEN I would go sailing.

Now I find myself 19 days into a Pacific sailing adventure and I am almost frightened at my complete lack of surprise or disbelief of my current habitat. Being aboard the SSV Robert C Seamans has felt like one of the most natural things in my life. While I’m slightly saddened by the way my days sometimes bleed together and how my memory sometimes fogs to the previous days events, I am comforted by the underlying, all-encompassing sense of peace provided by the ocean. Out here on the open ocean I have found something that had been lying in wait for me for the past twenty years, The clarity that is to be gained from standing on the bow clinging to a stay of the sail, riding the waves is something that transcends all else.

As you know, we are recently regaining our sea legs, after a short stint with feet firmly planted on Christmas Island. For me, our time on land was anxiously spent. I was hesitant to even disembark from our ship on my days off. The land, even one as beautiful as Christmas Island, was not where my soul wanted to be at that moment. But experiencing the absolute graciousness and appreciation with which the Christmas Islanders greeted us profoundly affected me. The perspective which three afternoons on shore afforded me will remain with me for quite some time.

The past two days have been different to say the least. We recently crossed the equator and paid our dues to King Neptune. We are now all bonded through our Shellback ceremony and many of us are sporting shockingly shorter hair-dos which may prove to be a blessing or a curse, only time will tell. (I may or may not be missing of my bob, a very Ellie Griffiths-esque style.)But the exact events of the past 48 hours will forever remain a secret between us and King Neptune.

As if this adventure was not already full of awe inspiring memories, in the wee hours of this morning my watch got to see the Southern Cross as it was rising above the horizon. This is a constellation only visible from the Southern Hemisphere; it is just one more reminder of our line crossing and one more remarkable experience to add to countless others.

It is hard to talk to anyone onboard without some remark about home or loved ones being made. Our families and friends are most certainly cherished, missed and on our minds, but for the class of S-238 a sense of family is brewing daily on board. Ten weeks ago these people were complete strangers and now they are our life lines in every sense of the word. To each other we are roommates, dinner dates, tutors, and friends, but also life guards and lookouts. We’ve bared our souls and laughed until we cried. Here it is easy to form ceaseless friendships, because on the ocean we are all truly exposed. I am thankful to the fates for aligning so many beautiful and vibrant energies in one space and time.

Be well. Do well. Live well. Love well.

Always,
Anna MC

It’s out there on the sea that you are really yourself.
-Vito Dumas

P.S. This day was chosen specifically to submit the blog so I would be able to wish a wondrous day of creation to my best friend and MG. You are a daily inspiration to live an accomplished and meditated life full of wonder and appreciation for all things. Sorry that I couldn’t be home for this weekend, but I hope the surprise went off without a hitch and you had an amazing time at Camp Lloyd. Also a huge thanks to my Dude, I owe you for this unfaltering stomach, burn resistant skin, and my insatiable hunger for exploration.

And also to wish a belated Happy Birthday to Lottie Jane, my companion on so many adventures to date and sister, you are sorely missed on this one. Begin planning where we are off to next in celebration of your graduation.

Dec

04

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Onboard the Robert C. Seamans, position 1 degree 35 minutes south (!) by 157 degrees 57 minutes west. Steering 104 true, wind and 5 foot waves from the east, beaufort force 4. A beautiful sunny day!

Caption: the mainm’st from the view of a fisheye

We are here reporting from the Robert C. Seamans as a group of newly-appointed shellbacks! This is a time-old tradition (maybe? It’s unclear) where, upon crossing from the northern to southern hemispheres, one must pay tribute to the sea and to King Neptune. You can then move from the position of pollywog to that of a shellback. The tales of today’s endeavors will remain within the ship’s crew, but let it be known that we had a fantastic, albeit uncommon, day here at sea.

But what is a common day at sea? Is there such a thing? While we are settling into the routines associated with living on the ocean, we are realizing that a multitude of events that occur in the day-to-day just do not fit into our well-oiled machine. This can be anything from troubleshooting in science to trying to remember that it’s your day to write the blog. These exceptions are not planned into the watch schedule, boat checks, or science hourlies. This prompts us to not only understand the functioning of the ship’s systems and where we fit in, but to also have an awareness of the big picture of what we’re doing out here. As we are moving daftly through phase II, we are becoming more comfortable in our abilities to handle sail and perform lab duties. With this new level of understanding, we are being pushed further to look outside of what is happening in the next five minutes, to try to anticipate and be aware of potential future situations.  We are making smaller adjustments in our techniques to increase efficiency and accuracy. The basics are understood, so we can extrapolate what we know to both a smaller and larger scale of comprehension. Keep the big picture in mind!

I always thought that, while out here at sea, I would have a compilation of short memories of specific events. I would record them daily in my journal and would be able to look back in twenty years and attempt to regain the feelings and attitudes I had at this time. Instead, I think I will end up remembering the storyline arc of this trip: the big picture. For once, we’re not trying to divide the day into discrete sections and events. We’re attempting to create seamless transitions between a plethora of different tasks. What I’ve realized is that the ship is a huge system. There are people on deck and in the lab 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We, as individuals, are just a part of its functioning. We aren’t going to be rewarded or chastised for each minute task throughout the day. There are no grades assigned for each boat check or bow watch. The difference between the Robert C. Seamans and university is that the feeling of accomplishment comes from knowing that you did your best to contribute to the ship’s well-being, rather than an exam. This leads to an ecosystem of sorts consisting of 36 individuals, a bunch of food and water, some science, and a steel ship. Out here, we are truly a part of nature. What I will remember is not necessarily the time that we played Uno or when we set a bunch of sails at 2 in the morning, only to strike them 40 minutes later. I will remember the emotions and feelings associated with just being here on the open ocean. The relationship between individual, ship, and nature is awesome and really, quite empowering. What a crazy journey this has been indeed.

Peace to all,
Julia Stepanuk

P.S. mama and papa and L I miss you so much! I made some gingerbread the other day in an attempt to fill my senses with that cookie smell. Happy first Sunday in advent. Hope the iphone learning process is going well! XOXOXOXOXO JS. McGillians I cannot wait to once again stroll through the streets of our crazy snowy city with you all! Mols get ready for our cooking endeavors and weekly snowboard adventures. Boat folk, I would not be here without you guys. You have always pushed me to follow my dreams and chase that horizon! Can’t wait to unwind at the windowless. Vicky and Elliot, we miss you!

Dec

03

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Saturday December 3, 2011
Robert C. Seamans
A smidge south of the equator

Photo Caption: Ezra practices his PVC pipe organ with an old pair of flip-flops while a talented young lad oversees (looks like he approves). Steph in the background hands out knickknacks to the kids.

Kiritimati is behind us, but the memories of those days and nights at anchor will remain with us for quite some time. Now we sail on, bound for Raiatea and soon after, Tahiti and our final departure point. But that is a little over 1000 nautical miles south, and there is much to do in waning time.

Today the Robert C. Seamans admirably sailed from the northern to southern hemisphere. We watched as the 0° latitude appeared – a short-lived cheer breaking out on the quarterdeck. There was no band playing, no welcome party, and no visible line of demarcation of any kind. Only the GPS signaled our arrival. Even King Neptune has yet to formally greet us pollywogs, though some of his minions have made their presence known.

“We sail for science.” I’ve heard this phrase a dozen plus times since coming aboard at Pier 9, and there is no denying that the Robert C. Seamans is a gallant sailing research vessel. What my peers and I have come to realize, however, is that there is so much more to gain out here on the edge of the Earth than just scientific data in a spreadsheet. Many before us have experienced the open ocean as we are now, and though we may have perused our predecessors’ written accounts, nothing could have prepared us for this. There is a reason that the majesty of the sea and sailing among its crests and troughs are recurring themes in many a written work.

Floating atop the world’s largest physical feature, we are but a microcosm of land animals slogging unnaturally through the lifeblood of our planet, stimulating our senses in ways foreign to us. Unhindered for thousands of miles, the wind and waves buffet the ship and move stoically on, as if we were nothing but another trivial piece of flotsam. As the rain clouds slide past, the heavens show themselves to us for the first time. Without civilization to illuminate the nocturnal realm with artificial sunlight, the stars and other celestial bodies dazzle us with their abundance and clarity. Breathe in deeply and you will not only smell, but taste the saltiness in the air around you. Our skin, drenched in ocean spray, soon dries in the prevailing wind leaving a dusty layer of white crystals. Devoid of most cluttered distractions of the modern world, we are able to listen to the flow around us. The creaking of lines taught against the rail, the cry of a seabird as it circles the mainmast, the luffing sound a sail makes when the ship is turned too close to the wind. In such an unfamiliar place it is easy for the mind to wander on the contemplative side of things – philosophical pondering is a fact of life in the middle of the Pacific. When surrounded by such vastness, sometimes in order to remain sane it is necessary to be introspective.

Taking a moment away from daily routines and tasks you remind yourself to look around – you are in the middle of an ocean, miles and miles separate you from anything you are familiar with. Take it in, hold onto that feeling – it is unique and special, something not to be had anywhere else. It is OK to be nervous, to be unsure of the present – you know what lies in waiting beyond the horizon, it is only a matter of time until the sun rises on a new day.

Best,

Aaron Heimann

P.S.  To family and friends back home: love and miss you all… how’s the weather? To Lauren: que aproveche, sweetheart; I love you!

P.P.S.  To my amazing half marathoner sister Nicole- I’m so proud of you. I hope you had a blast! I can’t wait to hear all about it. Love you, Colleen. (Same goes for you prom queen Monica - miss you guys )

Dec

02

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Onboard Robert C. Seamans, 0 degrees, 30 minutes North by 158 degrees 56 minutes West.  Clear skies, winds ESE 20kn, speed 6 knots,  course 220 degrees True.

The little delay you may have noticed in the posting of the blogs has reflected the very busy schedule we’ve had the past few days.  Our port stop on the mid-ocean coral atoll island of Kiritimati is now behind us, as we departed this morning and headed south toward Raiatea, our intended landfall in French Polynesia.

I think you’ve got a good idea of the port stop from the previous three blog postings, and I do think we managed to get a good look at the island and her people in four short action-packed days.  I was again struck by the open welcome and generosity of the people of Kiritimati, something many of our student crew remarked on as well.  The students we visited in the local high schools have no further educational opportunities on their Home Island and limited access to the world beyond the coral reef that circles the island. Our students were a voice from afar, and many email addresses were exchanged between the visitors and the hosts.  I think these moments spent together opened eyes on both sides.

And now we are back on the ocean, settling to the shipboard rhythm spoken of in many of the early blogs.  Four short days spent ashore and at anchor is enough to make many a hard-earned sea-leg a little wobbly, but everyone should get the hang of it pretty quickly, certainly much more easily than on departure from Honolulu.  Other things have changed as well, as the soggy and squally Intra Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ), our climatic equator, is now firmly behind us and sunnier south seas ahead.  It is striking to see Christmas Island shimmering in the heat of the equatorial sun and chronically receiving very little rain, located as it is only some 120 miles south of a region with some of the highest rainfall on the planet. This is but one facet of this absolutely fantastic piece of the ocean. There are fast-flowing currents below the ship right now, one moving to the west at two knots at the surface, the other to the east at similar speed but some 150 meters below the sea surface.  What follows is a lot of turbulent mixing, bringing to the sun-lit surface waters nutrients from the deep sea and so fueling a lot of primary production.  These are all phenomena we are studying on board, the surface currents and the mixing, the nutrient concentrations and their variability, the distribution and diversity of plankton.

So it’s back to deploying our instruments into the sea, bringing in water samples and plankton for on-board analysis.  Doing this on Robert C. Seamans is now a ship’s crew, as the boundaries between the students and the teaching crew has started to blur.  For sure, the mates and the scientists have their watchful eye on the safety of all operations, but increasingly the responsibility for making it all happen is being transferred to the students of S238.  They are still learning the ins and outs of some lab techniques and sail handling skills, but as they learn, so we notch up the expectation of their independent application of those skills. So all’s well aboard our ship, though the (larger) part of the crew that have not crossed the equator yet are starting to hear some strange noises about the impending visit of King Neptune when we cross the line.  Look to hear more from us from the Southern Hemisphere!

Jan Witting, Chief Scientist.

Dec

01

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Onboard the SSV Robert C Seamans, anchored 0.25 nm away from Christmas Island, 200.5N x 15729.5W.

Today is our last full day at Christmas Island, and were making the most of being anchored and stable. The tables and all of our gear and instrumentation are staying still for one last day, so people are working on projects, doing the last of the nutrient measurements (difficult to do on a rolling ship) and enjoying the beach. Were also trying to fit in a few last swim calls, giving everyone a chance to dare to jump off of the bowsprit before we head out into the open ocean again. I, for one, am very glad that we aren’t constantly moving because today is my first time assisting the galley. Cooking is a lot easier when you don’t have to bungee cord your pots and pans to the stove to keep them from sliding around.

Christmas Island is a beautiful place, but many of us are very ready to head back out to the open ocean. Life at anchor is relaxing, with all hands dinners, no sail handling, swim calls and even movie nights (we’ve watched Animal House and The Prestige on the quarterdeck). There’s also been a lot of singing and playing of guitars while watching dolphins swim by. Although were having lots of fun, were excited to make way for Raiatea and Tahiti and get back into the rhythm of things. Well be rotating watch officers as we continue our shadow phase and move onto the Junior Watch/Lab Officer (JWO/JLO) phase. Were slowing moving from being shown what to do to being the ones in charge, and its new and exciting. I cant wait to be back out on the open ocean under sail and with the wind on my face. Ive been taking the chance today to take some resting time on the ship, and its been a lot of fun. Ive been cooking in the galley, looking at everybody’s pictures of the ship and we found the secret stash of ridiculous romance novels in the library. I finally mustered up the courage to jump off the bowsprit, and it was loads of fun. Its funny, but the water feels cold, even though I know its way warmer than the frigid water off the Oregon coast that I brave during the summer. On top of that, I was cold enough last night to put on my wool pants when it got down to 25 C. Just thinking about how cold it is in Minnesota is unimaginable. I love the cold, but Ive gotten used to being in this intense tropical heat with a nice sea breeze.

Even while in the tropical paradise of Christmas Island, I’m still thinking of my friends and family back home. I love you and miss you all, and I hope that youre reading this blog. Im looking forward to telling you all about my experiences when I get back.

With love,

Allison Einolf

Nov

30

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Picture: Celestial navigation with Christmas Island in the background!

Onboard Robert C. Seamans, Anchored 0.25nm away from Christmas Island,  Position 2°00.5’N x 157°29.5’W.

Christmas Island Safari! Today we had an amazing tour around Christmas Island.  The day started with a 0600 wake-up and we headed to Christmas Island with our rescue boat and station wagon. We then jumped in our two cool trucks that took us around the island. We visited lots of great places including:

Salt ponds: It is where salt is produced on Christmas Island. Salt crystals are manually collected and crushed using glass bottles. It is a very labor intensive process and we enjoyed crushing salt crystals.

Bird Sanctuary: Close contact with Frigate birds, Tropic birds and Boobies!! We also got to see their chicks as it is currently the breeding season. Frigate birds are certainly an aerodynamic masterpiece (although they steal fish from the others rather than catching their own!). A curious Frigate bird also came close to check us out.   

Poland: Not to confuse this with the “real” Poland in Europe. In fact lots of places on Christmas Island are named after European cities and this confuses us a lot. There was an awesome beach in Poland and we enjoyed jumping into the big waves there.

We had a couple of fresh coconuts today and they were so good. We also took a few coconuts with us to the boat (they will probably be our emergency water supply in case we run out of fresh water).

We also had some time with Kiribati kids. They were so lovely and they kept collecting beautiful shells for us. Our anchor watch was great. There were dolphins jumping up right next to our boat! =] A dolphin is now swimming next to me as I am writing this blog entry.

Interesting thing yesterday during the school visit: When the school principal was asked about the elevation of the school, he replied “about two coconut trees.” It seems like coconut tree is a height unit on the island.  Looking at Robert C. Seamans from ashore gave me a different perspective about her and life at sea.

We are missing Vicki and Elliot and we are sending our best wishes to you.. 

To my family: I’ve been enjoying my journey and everything has been good. Life is rough at sea but I love it. I am thinking about you and wishing to share my joy with all of you. I was the assistant steward the other day. I hope grandpa would know that I am continuing his legacy at sea. 

To camel: There was a ring of Cu around Christmas Island today and that reminded me of you and gliding.

With Love from Christmas Island,

Wing Chan

Nov

29

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Photo Caption: A group picture with the students of the Saint Francis High School holding the books we gave them.

Onboard Robert C. Seamans, November 29, 2011.  Position 2 degrees 00.4 minutes North by 157 degrees 29.4 minutes West.  Anchored at Christmas Island (Kiritimati).

Today was our first full day at Christmas Island.  We arrived yesterday at 0900 and were given the afternoon off after several hours of customs.  It was a great opportunity to explore land after two weeks of pure ocean.  I could still feel the motion of the boat as I took my first steps on land.

This morning we visited two high schools.  At the first school, we met with the students studying science.  The rest were not there, as it is their break until February.  We shared stories about the research we do and learned about what it’s like for them.  They greeted us so graciously and even gave us food, including fresh coconuts.  The second school was just as incredible.  They greeted us with songs.  Their singing was some of the most beautiful I have ever heard.  Then we were asked to perform as well.  Our song of choice was Lean On Me.  We continued to exchange songs and stories with one another.  Blaire sung a beautiful Irish blessing and several others joined in to sing one of the group’s favorites, Wagon Wheel.  (This song can be heard about every day here on the ship)

We were also able to help the schools out by donating hundreds of books and several computers.  A special thanks to the Citron family for organizing the fundraising of the books.  The students and teachers really appreciated them and I know they will be put to good use.

After the school visits, C watch went back to the ship to give tours to the students from the high schools while the other two watches had the opportunity to explore some more.  Most of us who were exploring made our way to London, the neighboring town.  We’re not sure where exactly it starts and ends, but we found a few scattered shops to buy shell jewelry and some sweets.  (Much needed for some of us).  The shops aren’t what you would think about in the U.S.  Usually they don’t even have a sign to advertise. It was interesting to seek out these places and see what we could find. Some of us stayed on shore for dinner as well, not sure what we would find. We were fortunate enough to find a restaurant, possibly the only one on the island.  It was a cute place that served delicious food.

Overall it was such an amazing day.  I think all of us are appreciating our time on land, especially in such a unique place that we would otherwise never make it to.  The people have been so friendly and it was great being able to give back to the community that is allowing us to have this opportunity.  It truly was a touching experience today.

From stable ground,
Nicki

P.S. Mom, Dad, Jason, and the rest of the family: Love you and miss you! Can’t wait until make-up Christmas!  Jase: Happy 8 month smile  I love you so much and think about you often.  To all my friends:  Sorry I can’t name all you guys, but that does not mean you are forgotten.  I miss you all and can’t wait till next semester!  Good luck with finals and enjoy the time off!

Nov

27

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Picture caption: Blaire, Haley, and Erika furl the jib out on the bowsprit (while safely clipped in).

Onboard Robert C. Seamans, November 27th, 2011. Position 3 degrees 40.3 minutes North by 157 degrees 05.8 minutes West. Winds at 20 knots from the southeast with a beautiful blue sky. Sailing on a port tack at 6 knots under the JT, jib, stays’ls, and fisherman; steering full and bye to the wind, about 205 degrees towards Christmas Island. ETA to the island: 0630 tomorrow.

You can tell that today has been our first really sunny day with no threat of squalls when buckets become a hot commodity on deck. Everybody’s trying to get some laundry done. We are now officially through the ITCZ so everybody’s hoping that this reprieve from constant dampness will continue. Last night wasn’t quite so nice. We had a pretty decent day, including a beautiful rainbow off our port beam in the afternoon, but after the sun had set we had a squall come in very quickly, sending B Watch scrambling to get the mains’l down just before it was time to turn over to C Watch. The rain continued for a while, thankfully letting up right before it was time for the nightly science deployment, allowing the boat to be hove to quite efficiently without forcing us to strike the jib.

Unfortunately, even with all the rain, enough wind to keep up our schedule has been hard to come by in recent days. Because of this we’ve had to do quite a bit of motoring to make sure we get to Christmas Island in time for our Captain to make her appointment with the Kiribati officials tomorrow morning. Thankfully the wind has picked up today, and this morning C Watch added some canvas so that we can take advantage of the free energy. The JT (jib tops’l) and fisherman have not been used much this trip and it’s really great to see everything set together, even without the mains’l up.

The past few days on deck and in lab have seen greater responsibilities placed on individual students, as we each get chances to shadow our mate and assistant scientist in turn. This shadowing period will end tomorrow morning completing our preparation for Phase 2 on the ship which will begin Friday morning as we leave Christmas Island. For the second phase the watches will be swapping to a new mate/assistant scientist pair and becoming more independent from their help and instruction. This first phase has hopefully taught us enough that each watch as a group will be able to function more cohesively and without as much direction from our (new) watch officers as we have needed in the past. Having completed both of my shadow watches yesterday, I am one part nervous and one part excited about the next phase. It can be very difficult to keep track of everything going on, whether on deck or in the lab, but it all needs to get done. At the same time, getting to experience the bigger picture rather than just your own individual tasks really brings the ship to life.

During one of our recent classes Pamela reminded us how on the first afternoon she had asked us to close our eyes and listen to the sounds of the ship. Back then they were mostly drowned out by the sounds of the harbor around us: car, ship, and people traffic. Now it’s just us and the sea. Now we listen for the luff of a sail, for the creak of a sheet, for the crash of a wave, and for the hum of our fans on really hot nights. Though the number of copepods I counted under a microscope this morning may seem to contradict my point, and though we are now only miles from Christmas Island, we have traveled over 1000 miles out to the middle of the very big and very blue sea and we are all that is here. Thoughts like this are easy to come by when looking out at the constant horizon, but at the same time this has become our norm and it is easy to lose sight of how much of an adventure this really is.

The coming week will bring quite a change of pace, as we will be spending four nights anchored off of Christmas Island and getting some time to explore and learn in a totally different setting. During this stretch we should have some more opportunities to really get started on our research projects, rather than just focusing on the twice daily data collection and subsequent analysis. Our time aboard is already flying by and I expect it will only speed up.

Peace, love, and happiness,
Erika Schreiber

P.S. I hope all my family and friends in New York (and everywhere else) had an awesome Thanksgiving. To Mom, Dad, Lorelei, & Dylan: I’ll be home before you know it and tell Sirius happy birthday for me! To my favorite people at 210 Williams: I hope the hot water has been cooperating and I miss you, too! To my dear Vicky: I wish you were here but I hope you’re having a magnificent time in Woods Hole! Good luck on finals to all it applies, and I’ll see you all after Christmas!

Nov

26

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Caption for pic: securing the carousel after successful trip to 700 meters, right Chrissy, middle Jerry and right Chief Scientist Jan.

Onboard the Robert C. Seamans, C-Watch, November 26th, 2011.  Position 5 degrees 8.7 minutes North by 156 degrees 27.5 minutes west, 189 nautical miles north of Christmas Island.

Right! So after a significant amount of time at the rails and not being able to keep down any food other than the delicious taste of saltines and water, yeap who would have thought saltines would be so tasty. The ill effects of motion sickness have worn off just as the captain said it would. With that out of the way, the intended objective of the adventure began to manifest itself in the form of sail handling lessons by our captain Pamela and watch officer Dan, and in deployment of scientific equipment, overseen by Chief Scientist Jan and the second assistant scientist Chrissy.

We no longer keep our regular land-loving schedules, class from 8-4 or 9-5, instead we have watches which can be from 0700 to 1300, 1300 to 1900, 1900 to 2300, 2300 to 0300 or the ungodly 0300 to 0700. While it took some time to adjust to these watches we are all now in the groove. The daily life onboard the Seamans is a constant learning process, on any given watch you can be in the engine room, doing a boat check or in the galley assisting Mandy prepare meals. Speaking of galley, on November 23 I got a chance to prepare the main meal for that day so I choose to cook a green peas soup which got some rave reviews and we had to prepare a second emergency batch for second sitting.

In a typical day you may find yourself deploying a carousel to 700 meters to collect water samples for the various projects or working with the most recent addition to the deployment routine, the Mclane Pump. This device used for a few projects resembles a small generator that pumps sea water through a small filter that collect diatoms (microscopic planktons) throughout the water column for later identification and cataloging.

Life onboard the Seamans can be a lot of hard work but we do have some time for fun and games. We had a line chase (you are given the name of a line and you had to identify on deck) on November 20th which we all enjoyed, team C-Watch was the winner. The vastness of the Pacific Ocean can make your mind drift when you’re on forward lookout at 2am and there is nothing between you and the occasional ocean spray or flying fish and most recently the frequent squalls of the ITCZ (Inter-tropical Convergence Zone). These are the moments when I would reflect on life and what can be achieved through perseverance, who knew that when I started at St George’s University Grenada in 2008 I would be in the middle of the Pacific Ocean in 2011 part taking in this adventure, on this note I would like to say thank you all who made this possible the folks at SEA, St George’s University and my friends and family.

P.S. message to my peps home, well you done know anyway me dey is Gouyave me say in the middle of the Pacific Gouyave Town to the world, just hailing up everybody on the topside me dey bout, Gaby Nydan, Yao, Gina me Trini side and not forgetting me dupps Gizzy miss you soon time we gonna link up.

Jerry Mitchell

Nov

25

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Onboard Robert C. Seamans, November 25th, 2011.  Position 6 degrees 13.9 minutes North by 156 degrees 36.9 minutes West.  Winds variable 5-15 knots with occasional squalls alternating with brief periods of sun.  Motor sailing at 7 knots, steering 175 degrees True toward Christmas Island.

Friday Nov 25th

Post turkey coma. After an amazing Thanksgiving dinner last night and equally amazing leftovers for lunch today, the journey continues. According to the science deck we are now in the North Equatorial Counter Current! (oceanography nerds will understand our excitement). We are also in the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) aka “the doldrums.” Science may be excited about the increase in marine life, but the deck watch (and the galley and everyone who hates to sleep at multiple angles every minute) are a little disappointed that we have to motor our way south for a while until we’re back on course to Christmas Island with favorable winds. It was a little squally on dawn watch this morning (0300-0700) but at least A watch won’t have to shower today! I have to say that I spent much of the daytime in my bunk catching up on some sleep; but the few hours I went on deck off watch were sunny and pleasant. Today we saw schools of flying fish, flocks of seabirds, a double rainbow, and an incredible sunset.

Today was our lab practical in which we had to test our newly acquired fieldwork skills. These skills consist of data analysis, deployment of equipment, knot tying, and most importantly, candy processing (question 25 was the most difficult candy jar many of us have ever been tested on). Now that seasickness is a thing of the past, we are taking on more responsibilities on the Seamans.  We have recently started the “shadow phase” in which two people from each watch are chosen to shadow our deck and science watch officers.  This shadow phase is a time to ask as many questions as possible to prepare for the upcoming JWO and JLO (junior watch and junior lab officer) phase of our trip. It behooves us to ask these questions about things like rotating jobs within our watch now, because we won’t be able to ask these questions in the JWO phase.


From the middle of the Pacific Ocean,
Dan Roche

P.S.  I hope everyone at home had a great Thanksgiving! Much love to Mom, Dad, Kimberly, Michelle, Grandma, Mary, Nanny and everyone back home (too numerous to list here).
P.P.S. We are all alive and well (no scurvy reported yet).

Nov

24

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Image caption: Thanksgiving gimbled tabletop paper football. Fieldgoooaaalll!!!

On Board Robert C Seamans, Thanksgiving day, 2011.  Position 8 degrees 10..4 minutes North by 157 degrees 03.0 minutes West.  Weather overcast with occasional squalls, winds SE 10-15, making 4 knots, steering 220 True.

They went to sea in the Seamans, they did,
In the Seamans they went to sea:
In spite of all their parents could say,
In the afternoon, one November day,
In the Seamans they went to sea!
And when the seas rolled and the mates all cried,
“If you get ill, heave over the side!”
They called aloud, “our ship is small,
But we don’t care, no not at all,
In the Seamans we’ll go to sea!”
Far away, far away,
Are the homes of 238;
Their watches were three, and their stomachs were ill,
But their food all tasted great!

They sailed away in a brig, they did,
In a brig they sailed so fast:
With a strapping crew of 36,
Who handled the sails that had been fixed,
To the Seaman’s tall steel masts.
And everyone said, who saw them go,
“Their stomachs will soon upset, you know,
For the waves reflect the ocean’s might,
And everyone knows that it is not right,
In a brig to sail so fast!”
Far from home, far from home,
Were three-dozen daring crew;
Some felt quite ill, and some were fine,
But they all had plenty to do.

The students were soon deprived, they were,
Of the sleep they held so dear:
So they did their plyo to energize,
On the quarterdeck, under cloudy skies,
And they wished the horizon would clear.
And they stood their watches in sailor’s fashion,
And everyone ate their own snack ration,
“For despite the heat in the galley below,
They feed us quite well, we’re lucky, you know,
And we hold our stewards dear!”
Far away, far away,
From the Islands of Hawaii;
As they sailed along under threatening skies,
They hoped that the squalls would pass by.

They learned to tend the sheets, they did,
And how to sail through the squalls:
By taking in sail, and reefing the main,
Then regaining their speed by heaving again,
On the halyards and outhauls.
“Now ease out your lines!” the mate did shout,
“For quickly we must bring her about!”
And as the torrential rain fell slanted,
They kept their feet all firmly planted
To avoid any slippery falls.
Far they were, far they were,
From fireman doctor and nurse;
So they tended to all their injuries,
And hoped they would get no worse.

They sailed on toward the equator, they did,
Toward the deep water upwelling zone:
And all the while they scrubbed and cleaned
The dirt and grime. A beautiful sheen,
Gave they to the ship they called home.
They scrubbed the heads and scraped the floors,
And sanitized the cabin doors,
In tidy shape each kept his bunk,
With such limited space, no room for junk,
In the halls where their shipmates did roam.
Far at sea, far at sea,
Sailed the Robert C. Seamans ship;
And although their foul-weather gear never dried,
The sunsets were a trip.

And all the while, they sought to answer,
Scientific questions:
All thoroughly researched on shore,
In Woods Hole, where the students had
Considered Jan’s helpful suggestions.
And now aboard the Seamans they -
Hove-to amid the battering spray -
Deployed the carousel off of port,
For data to which they would soon resort,
The success of their projects was destined.
Far from shore, far from shore,
The science carried on;
Their captain Pamela ordered the course,
And their scientist was Jan.

And they spent their time in the lab and below,
Working on all of their projects:
They measured pHs and thermocline,
And searched through net samples, hoping to find
Myctophids and plastic objects.
After many a net and hydrocast
Were deployed off port, with lines made fast,
With the data collected they searched for trends
In the various ways that the pycnocline bends,
Using all of their knowledge and logic.
Far removed, far removed,
From their emails and facebook pages;
They resorted to singing and playing cards,
Things they hadn’t done in ages.

Their will it never wavered, no,
And they sailed all night and day:
For it behooved them to guide the keel,
Because of the lift, which caused them to heel,
From the sails upon each stay.
And they learned to navigate by the sun,
For GPS use would soon be done.
And they sailed the ship on a portly tack,
And to the nautical almanac,
Attention they did pay.
Far from home, far from home,
Are the crew on this thanksgiving;
Their families are missed, and their friends are too -
Elliot, Vicky, and Woods Hole crew -
But the ship life they are living!

(Based on “The Jumblies,” by Edward Lear)

To my family, teachers, professors, and buds in Bellingham and back East, happy happy thanksgiving! I’m thankful for your presence in my life and all of your support on this trip, and I hope everybody is healthy and well – see you in 2012!

Peace and love, Ezra C.

On behalf of all of us aboard the Robert C. Seamans, happy thanksgiving to all of our loved ones back home!!

Nov

23

S238 Oceans & Climate

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On board Robert C. Seamans, position 8 degrees 57.8 minutes North by 157 degrees 10.5 minutes West.  Winds ENE around 25 knots, seas 8-12 feet.
Mostly sunny day with some squalls around.  Steering 170 True, making around 7 knots.

The science deck.

These last couple days have been my favorite with animal sightings increasing and science taking off.  Yesterday we saw a pod of what turned out to be false killer whales.  They were about 15ft long and swam 10ft off the boat.  Today during the turn over from dawn watch to morning watch a Wedgetailed Shearwater landed on the Robert C. Seamans.  I was lucky enough to be coming on watch and our assistant scientist Mitch, a bird expert, picked up the disoriented animal and showed it to us before releasing it back into the ocean.

In the lab, animal interactions have increased as well with more small organisms being found in meter tows, neuston tows, and plankton net tows. Finds range from shrimp to man-o-wars to snails with plenty of copepods thrown in.  All of us are starting on our independent science research projects now that we have had a week to adapt to the ship and learn our way around the lab.  The new equipment and techniques we have had to learn include doing deployments with the carousel, which includes bottles for collecting water at various depths and a CTD profiler.  The people who help guide the carousel into the water are said to be dancing, to me it is more like wrestling with a 400lb. piece of equipment that always wants to roll away from you.  Another technique we have been learning is Winkler titration, more affectionately known as Winkling, which is done to measure the concentration of dissolved O2 from water samples at various depths.  The name winkle is in itself exciting and the fact that when you winkle you wear a funny hat just increases the fun on the science deck.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I hope for more cool animal sightings to be thankful for.  On a personal note, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, especially Mom, Dad, and David I know it will be the first time I’m away for Thanksgiving.

Enjoy your fall weather,

Sarah

P.S. Fadi I hope you have a great Thanksgiving with your sister. I miss you.
P.P.S. Vicky I learned how to filter for bacteria and thought of you!

Nov

21

S238 Oceans & Climate

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On board the Robert C. Seamans, November 21.  Position 12 degrees 25.4 minutes N by 157 degrees 58.6 minutes W. Heading 170 degrees True, speed 7kn.  Weather overcast with frequent squalls and rain, winds ENE 15 to 30 knots.

For most of last night and all of today, we have been sailing through a line of squalls.  These scattered storms make life rather interesting.  On land, when there is a storm, you put up an umbrella if you’re outside and if it’s raining really hard, you close the windows for your house and that’s about all that changes.  At sea, a lot of things change. If you have time, you change clothes.  You put on your foulies, which usually consist of a bright colored waterproof jacket and pants.  A lot of my ship mates have the same rubber duck yellow foulies. Because it is warmer here in the tropics, boardshorts are often substituted for pants.

One of the most noticeable changes is how much more things start to move. There are periodic clashes from the galley when dishes and pans collide. When people are in their bunks, they often end up sleeping wedged between the side of the ship and their mattress instead of actually on the mattress. The people on watch have to employ various sailing tactics to safely ride out the storms, such as striking sail and turning on the main engine.  The motion of the ship makes working in the lab harder as well.  Trying to stay balanced on a surface moving 4 different directions and to count zooplankton under a microscope is awkward at best. 

Sometimes, the weather can prevent us from deploying instruments over the side as well.  For all the difficulties associated with squalls, there are some positive things as well.  Because we are learning in rougher weather, tasks such as deploying nets and simply walking around the ship will be a lot easier when sailing is smoother.  If you can avoid rolling around too much in your bunk, the rocking motion of the ship makes falling asleep even easier.

Happy late birthday Mom!

From a boat close to the middle of nowhere,

Blaire

P.S. Shout out from Scott: Lots of love to the landlubbers back home including Pops, Sean, T Rex, Mikey, and the dogs!

Nov

20

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Aboard Robert C. Seamans, 14 deg. 08.5 min. N by 157 deg. 59.1 min. W.
Winds from E, steering 170 degrees True

Photo caption: Wahoo! We’ve caught our first fish, a wahoo (ono in hawaiian). After a masterful fillet job by Jerry we were treated to this beauty for dinner. Foot modeling courtesy of Billy.

November 20, 2011

Hello my distant readers. It is nearing the end of another day in the Pacific and I’m sitting here contentedly after yet another fantastic dinner. The group, as a whole, is beginning to settle into the somewhat hectic schedule that a rotating watch system entails. I personally will be woken up in a few short hours for what we call dawn watch. Here’s hoping the sunrise is spectacular.

Life on this boat is defined by rhythms. We live within an imposed routine: watch schedules, cleaning schedules, boat checks, hourlies, science deployments, and class. There’s a reason everyone on the ship is wearing a watch - it takes coordination to keep our ship sailing safe and our lab busy during all hours of the day.  We maintain an orderly trip around the clock, but this is not what defines the experience. We can divide up the day however we please but there is no escaping the whims of the sea around us. There are constant reminders that we are not here in control - a rogue wave wakes us in our bunks, salty spray comes at an inopportune time, the sun sets a little too early, a squall forces a course change. We must organize ourselves because the sea that envelops doesn’t stop at five-o-clock. Our surroundings are relentless and we must collectively rise to the occasion. Before this trip I’d never taken a weather observation at three in the morning, but never before had it seemed as important as it does now. Being constantly prepared is hard work, but rewarding; it feels good to look with purpose. To be completely focused on something other than a computer screen (blogging aside). The metronomic rocking of the ship can be relaxing in bed, frustrating at dinner, and catastrophic in lab, but it always helps to keep things in perspective.

In our general goings on, today was pretty eventful. We caught our first fish (check the pic), had our first fire drill at sea, and raced - well, speed-walked - around the boat in a competition to see who knew their lines the best. What seemed, just a few days ago, a tangled mess is quickly becoming a logical arrangement of all the lines needed to handle the many sails of the Robert C. Seamans. It’s amazing how much we’ve all learned in just a few days.

Signing off,
Joe

P.S. Hello friends and family I hope everything is going well. Mom and Dad:I really enjoyed our brief afternoon together. Sarah: I hope your trip is fun and successful, say hello to everyone for me. Clare: I’m glad we got to talk in Hawaii; I can’t wait to see you finally in January.  I love and miss you all.

Nov

19

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Aboard Robert C. Seamans, 17 deg. 20.6 min. N by 158 deg. 13.7 min. W.
Winds from NE 25 kn, steering 175 degrees True


November 18 2011
Aloha from south of Hawaii! We have been sailing now for a little over 48hours and things are going swell (get it, swells.)  Although many of us,including me, have been battling sea sickness (nutrient enrichment of the Pacific Ocean) we have been powering through and taking in all that our crew is teaching us. There is no such thing as a normal day here as we have watches at different times each day. One consistent aspect of our day is class where we continue to learn more about the lab and sail handling. Lab-wise we have learned how to deploy the carousel and tow a neuston net. In addition to learning the lab equipment we have learned to how to handle the sails in order to stop the ship for stations. During the station it behooves us to have the ship sailing at two knots.  This is described as the bagel walk, and for the past two stations I have really wanted a bagel because of this. We are also in the process of continuing to learn where all the lines on the ship are located. Our knowledge on lines will be tested during a team competition on Sunday.

Watches are usually split into folks on deck and in the lab, as well as one person helping in the galley and one person assisting the engineers. Deck watch includes steering at the helm, bow watch, boat checks, weather observations, and charting. Bow watch is my personal favorite. Being up onthe bowsprit looking out at the open ocean looking for weather, cool things(birds, whales, etc.), and other ships is so relaxing and a great time to reflect.

Lab duties include all sorts of things. We are quickly learning to do 100counts, identification of what we pull up in the nets, pH measurements,collection of water samples for nutrients from the bottles, and chlorophyll a filtrations amongst many other things.  On watch last night from 2300-0300I was able to deploy a neuston net with Kelly, Sarah, and Mitch (A Watch Assistant Scientist). It was awesome to see all the bioluminescence as we rinsed the net and collected all the critters in the cod end (jar at the end of the net).  The net was filled with several things including squid and myctophids. It was a great way to start my time off in the lab.

Everyday things continue to get better as we sail further south and toward the Equator. We are learning lots and beginning to truly obtain our sea legs.
Cheers!
Christina Goethel

Nov

18

S238 Oceans & Climate

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Aboard Robert C. Seamans, position 19 23.7N by 158 02.7W or 120 nm WNW from the southern tip of Hawaii.  Course 178 True, speed 2kn (Towing a net)

We have been underway for the first full day of the Oceans and Climate class S238!  Six weeks of hard work in Woods Hole, some 4500 miles of air travel and a really busy first 24 hours of dockside safety orientation later, we departed Honolulu harbor yesterday, 16th of November at 4:30 pm.  The initial 24 hours presents a steep learning curve for everybody.  The first goal of giving all the students fresh crew the basic skills to safely function on board a 138 sailing research vessel has been achieved.  The first meals have been eaten, the first watch rotations experienced, the first sleep in this big rocking cradle enjoyed Much, of course is still to be learned.  This afternoon we started the science sampling program, but to be able to deploy any gear we naturally have to learn how to handle the ship, so the new crew got a good lesson in gybing, heaving to (maneuvering the ship to a controlled stop) and getting going again.

The weather has been overcast with moderate but variable winds giving us some steering challenges in the night.  A couple of small squalls helped to remind everyone that the miles under sail dont come free - sails must be reefed and trimmed, close attention paid to the helm.  In the lab the instruments have been collecting information on various properties of the water around us, and we are now towing our first plankton net! Seas have been moderate as well, some swell and 4 to 6 foot waves.  As is natural and to be expected, some people adapt to the motion more quickly than others.  Though there was some sacrificing to Neptune on the leeward rail in the night, everyone is starting to feel better already and gain their sea legs.

In short, we have gotten off to a terrific start.  Please continue reading the blog, as I just posted a sheet for all the crew to sign up to write their entries starting tomorrow.  Alls well aboard our ship as we follow our southerly course toward Christmas Island, the Equator and Tahiti.

Jan Witting
Chief Scientist

Photo caption:  Crew of S238 on the quarterdeck for the first daily meeting.