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SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

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Jan

15

S244b Colleague Voyage

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Tuesday 15 January 2013, 7:30pm
Position: 17° 32’ 19.20” S x 149° 34’ 09.60” W

Image Caption: Final crew (staff and participants) photo

As I write the final entry of our January 2013 Colleague Voyage blog, I can’t help but feel that our trip was quite a success. Eighteen friends - new and old - joined SEA faculty, staff, and crew for this firsthand site visit of our SEA Semester® program. If you’ve been following our earlier blogs, you read all about our multiple adventures both on shore and at sea. But what may not have been clear even to our participants, let alone our readers like you, until our final swizzle (goodbye party) last night, was just how much they had learned along the way.

Like SEA Semester students, our colleagues were welcomed into a new environment not knowing much about tall ship sailing, nautical science, the rich maritime history of the south Pacific (except Kevin, perhaps), or the process of conducting first-class oceanographic research aboard the platform of a sailing research vessel. Also like SEA Semester students, our colleagues disembarked today after only a short time aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans with a shiny new toolbox of skills, meaningful friendships and professional networks, and a sense that they had accomplished something great individually and as a team.

We are grateful to all of our friends and colleagues who made the trip to Tahiti, and are hopeful that they will carry their SEA Semester experience back to their campuses to share with others. As we discussed last night at our swizzle on the quarterdeck, as the moon rose over Mo’orea and the breeze provided much-needed refreshment, SEA relies heavily on the word of mouth of those who know us best. We are glad to say that we have eighteen new friends, and bid them safe travels home. We hope to see you all again in the very near future!

Katharine W. Enos
Dean of Admissions, SEA

Jan

13

S244b Colleague Voyage

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Sunday 13 January 2013, 9:40pm
Ship’s Postion - Lat. 16 degrees 56.2 minutes South, Long.151 degrees 08.1 minutes West
Heading - 100 degrees true
Speed - 7 knots
Weather-Overcast with rain squalls

Photo caption - Fisherman’s Shack at Teavamoa Pass, Raiatea

Today we heaved anchor at Raiatea and proceeded out through Teavamoa Pass. Our destination, Opunohu Bay, Moorea. Raiatea has been fabulous, such a beautiful island with such friendly people. I admired with envy the small sail boat anchored just inside the barrier reef, alone surrounded by turquoise blue with lush green mountains projecting up behind them. We plan to bring our own sailboat here from Vancouver, BC, Canada in the Spring of 2014.

Once out at sea Captain Elliot ordered the fore and main stay sails to be raised as well as a double reefed main. On deck, Maritime Studies instructor Carl Herzog discussed a reading from Bougainville’s 1772 description of Tahiti with the watch group while we were proceeding to a science station. Heading inside I found Katharine had pulled out some Styrofoam cups and felt markers. She had started the trend for others to decorate their own cups which would later be lowered to fifteen hundred meters with the CTD/ water bottle carousel. The underwater pressure causes these cups to shrink to a much smaller size, a perfect memento to commemorate our voyage. Having decorated my own cup, the swell was causing me to feel a bit sleepy. Knowing I had a couple of hours before lunch and then my 1300 hour watch, I decided to crawl into much bunk for a little shut eye.

Waking up to the lunch bell I pulled on my flip flops and headed for the mess. Lunch was a delicious vegetable stir fry on brown rice with a salad on the side. The food has been filling and most nutritious. I think for the most part all of our appetites have been bigger than usual. They must be working us hard.

Out on deck it was now raining so I grabbed my weather gear and headed out. I assumed the position of lookout as instructed by my officer of the watch (Third Mate Ashley). We were now on station hove too. After some instruction my watch (the C watch) under the direction of First Scientist Carla Scocchi deployed a Secchi disc, followed by the carousel and Phytoplankton net. Chief Scientist Erik Zettler stands in the rain at the emergency stop and oversees use of the winch, and Captain Elliot appears on deck on a regular basis. He too in his weather gear we talked weather for a while. Weather happens to be one of his passions. I took the opportunity to pick his brain on various methods of attaining weather information via single side band radio and he had some great tips for us and our own boat for when we make the passage. I have admired the level of information sharing that has taken place on this voyage. Each and every crew member has been so patient and willing to teach what they know.

With the science gear aboard and our Styrofoam cups miniature versions of their former selves we set course again. As we set the jib I could smell the aroma of pizza coming up through the galley vent. Ending my watch by drawing water from the water bottles for oxygen, phosphate and chlorophyll (after being taught how to do so by Carla, the First Scientist), I know my watch partners would agree it was a full day. We all enjoyed the six varieties of pizza and salad. Crawling back into my bunk I am rocked back to sleep as the bow cuts through the swell. Good ni-zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Ian Copping
Canadian Coast Guard

Jan

12

S244b Colleague Voyage

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Saturday 12 January 2013, 9:40pm
Position: 16° 49’ 57.60” S x 151° 21’ 50.40” W

Image Caption: Charlie, a remarkable farmer on Raiatea Island, who is growing vanilla for income and a bounty of tropical fruits and vegetables for sustenance on his 1-hectare farm.

After our overnight passage complete with stars and rain squalls, dawn revealed the island of Huahine on the starboard beam and our destination Raiatea ahead. After breakfast we entered the lagoon through Teavamoa pass and dropped anchor in 40m of water in Opoa Bay. After being shuttled ashore in the small boat, participants all had a chance to explore Taputapuatea, one of the most important Marae, or ceremonial sites in Polynesia. Some chose to snorkel to see coral reef, fishes, turtles, giant clams, and other organisms in the clear warm waters while others walked to visit a vanilla farm in the Avatao valley.  Below is an entry from our visit to the vanilla farm:

“It takes a strong pair of reading glasses to hand pollinate a thousand flowers a day. The flowers become pods that lengthen over months and are picked green before the seeds within ripen. Months of drying produce a vanilla bean sold round the world.  Charlie and Desiree Gomph produce 250 kilos of beans annually from their 1-hectare farm Opoa Valley on the island of Raiatea.  The beans provide income but sustenance comes from taro, papaya, chickens, mango, pompanoose, coconuts, and many other fruits and vegetables.  But the biggest challenge on this farm is cutting back the weeds.  Charlie wants a sheep to replace the lawnmower.”

Marianne Moore, Prof. Biological Sciences, Wellesley College
Nick Rodenhouse, Prof. Biological Sciences, Wellesley College
C Watch

Jan

11

S244b Colleague Voyage

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Friday 11 January 2013, 7:15pm
Position: 17° 29’ 28.80” S x 149° 49’ 28.80” W

Image of Kevin sailing out of Cook’s Bay, Moorea

Today the crew went ashore to tour the Gump scientific and cultural facility in Cook’s Bay, Moorea. The director gave us a presentation of some of the projects completed and underway, and then we went up the hill for some spectacular views of the shallow reef passes offshore. Afterwards, Hinano, the director of the cultural center, told us of the difficult but rewarding process of getting local elders to commit to the project of passing on traditional oral histories and local knowledge to the younger generation. With some dedicated work, they have been able to convince many of the elders the importance of the mission, and to date she has been able to get some 8,000 of the local school children involved in the process-amazing!

After another delicious meal (they feed us a lot-it’s hard work sailing this vessel!), we weighed anchor out of Cook’s Bay to begin our 18 hour journey to Raiatea, with rotating watch. My watch, Group B, led us out of the harbor-I had the great pleasure of steering the Seamans for about half the watch (almost 2 hours), and we were finally able to set some of the sails (despite relatively calm winds, 6ft aquamarine seas). Other watch duties include boat safety check, including the engine room and entire vessel; sentry watch from the bow to alert for vessels or other activity; and science! We tossed the nets off the side and collected a lot of really cool sea life from the surface, and unfortunately, a lot of plastic, even in this ultra-remote part of the South Pacific. All data is input in a database that has been ongoing for 40+ years. The weather is hot and tropical, with blazing sun and intermittent rain showers, heavy at times.

The crew is content, well fed, and jolly-a lot of interesting conversations and friendships have already been made. Sleeping quarters are tight, but rest is critical and comes eventually. The voyage so far has been very rewarding, with breadfruit, double rainbows, schools of dolphin, and incredible vistas, sunsets and southern stars.The only downside is missing Jen and Fletcher-xoxo, see you soon!

Kevin P. McDonald, Assistant Professor of History, Loyola Marymount University
B Watch

Jan

10

S244b Colleague Voyage

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Thursday 10 January 2013, 7:15pm
Position: 17° 30’ 04.80” S x 149° 49’ 16.80” W

Image of Robert C. Seamans at dock in Papeete Harbor, Tahiti.

Eighteen participants representing eleven institutions boarded the Sailing School Vessel Robert C. Seamans in Papeete Harbor this morning by 0930. After stowing their gear in bunks below and briefly exploring the vessel, everybody gathered on the quarterdeck for introductions and our first safety briefing. At 1100 we pulled away from the dock and headed out of the harbor and through the pass in Tahiti’s fringing reef. During the short transit over to Moorea, we saw red footed boobies and a water spout while watches met and began to learn about lines, sails, and deck watches. Once off of Moorea, the Seamans moved carefully through the pass to enter Cooks Bay, and headed up toward the head of this spectacular harbor where we dropped anchor for the night. All watches cycled through sessions to orient them to the lab, the engine room, boat check, and watch station bill. Following the orientation, all hands were treated to a swim call off the boat in the refreshing waters of the bay. People continued to meet over a delicious all-hands supper of pad-Thai, rice, bread fruit, salad, and poisson cru. The final activity of the evening was a brief introduction to the six SEA Semester programs including descriptions of Nautical Science, Oceanography, and Maritime Studies. A thoroughly oriented (and very tired) group of participants then slept through the night while crew stood anchor watch.

Erik Zettler, SEA Chief Scientist

Jan

10

S244b Colleague Voyage

Thursday 10 January 2013, 12:10pm
Position: 17° 32’ 19.20” S x 149° 34’ 09.60” W

S244b departed Papeete Thursday, January 10th. They will return to Papeete on Tuesday, January 15th.