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SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.

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C241e - Science at SEA III

Thanks to all aboard SAS 3!  Corwith Cramer is now safely alongside at Dyers Dock, in Woods Hole.  All students have departed the ship and the crew has secured the vessel for our time alongside.  Fair winds to all and best of luck, shipmates!  Until we sail again! 

Captain Beth



C241e - Science at SEA III

Date: Sunday, 19 August 2012
Position:  Anchored securely in Menemsha Bight
Wind and Weather:  Gentle breeze, partly cloudy, lovely sunset.

Photo caption:  A busy Main Saloon as students prepare their oceanography poster presentations. 

As another day draws to a close on the Corwith Cramer I listen contentedly to the sounds of music, song and laughter drift down the hatch and meander through the below-deck companionways.  No worries, anchor bearings and boat checks continue, the safety of Mama Cramer is still in the able hands of the Watch on duty, but for the moment the sails are tucked away for the night, the lab is quiet, and books and academic journals have been stowed away in bunks.  The students and crew are enjoying some well-deserved down time. 

Earlier today marked a major milestone in our voyage - oceanography poster presentations!  In small groups the students were responsible for summarizing major trends in the various oceanographic data we have been collecting during the cruise.  With each presentation the students began to see the larger relationships among their separate patterns. “Interesting, the pattern of phosphate in the water matches up with the position of the thermocline”, or “even though that bloom of salps offshore seems to contradict my original hypothesis it seems to be related to the low abundance of phytoplankton”, or “the larger sediments on the shelf break may be related to the currents described in an earlier presentation”, etc.  As a teacher there is no better reward than to watch as your students teach one another as they relate their individual experiences and discover the broader connections themselves.  In a mere seven days these students have learned so much.  It has been a challenge to become accustomed to life aboard the ship, to learn the new language and how to handle the sails and science equipment, to keep detailed records in the logbook so that you can observe patterns in the data, and finally to reveal those patterns and make the connections. Physically, intellectually, emotionally this has pushed each student beyond their comfort zone, but all have succeeded admirably.  It has been a pleasure to teach, work, and live alongside all of them as shipmates and scientists.  So, I would say they have all earned a bit of time to relax and celebrate. 

All enjoyed a late afternoon swim call and many spent the last few hours of daylight climbing aloft and taking in a wonderful view of our anchorage near Martha’s Vineyard.  And finally to round out the day, time spent with shipmates, strengthening that bond of community that comes with shared experience and overcoming challenges together. 

Cheers and a good evening to all.
Jeff Schell - Chief Scientist



C241e - Science at SEA III

Date: Saturday, 18 August 2012
Position: 40 44.9’N x 071 09.5’W
Speed: 4.5 knots
Wind and Weather: 22.8 Degrees Celsius, NNW Winds (Force 5), 8/8ths cloud coverage, 6 foot waves

Photo caption:  A Watch celebrating their victory!

Narrative Idea:

Every day, regardless of watch groups and their schedules, the crew of the ship congregates on the quarter deck of the ship for class time. Class time is a good time for shipmates to catch up with each other, and to hear announcements of the day. After a few minutes of updates, group activities commenced.  Some days, these activities revolve around subjects like proper line handling, whereas on other days, topics range from information about the ship’s storage capacity to lectures on light and color in relation to the depth of the ocean. Today, following detailed explanations and updates on weather systems and scientific deployments, the Cramer shipmates re-centered their focus on the long-anticipated “Line Chase”.

This past week line identification has been a subject of great importance as we continue to become more adapted to and familiar with the ship as a research vessel and as our home. Our ability to recognize every line that qualifies as part of the “running rigging” is essential to our safety, navigation, and learning process. Today, our identification skills were put to a test, as the three watch groups competed against each other in a relay race to locate lines on the ship, from the “Jib Jigger” to the “Raffee Sheet”. This relay race, known as the “Line Chase”, not only boosts and challenges our knowledge of the running rigging, but it strengthens our bonds as separate watches and as a community. Our watch leaders had been preparing us for this contest, motivating us with promises of glory and friendly rivalry. A Watch, the longtime champions of the line race, fiercely squared off to B watch and C watch, two teams equally set on earning the coveted title of line chase champion. All three teams started out strong: A watch, with a determined haste, moved at lightning speed, which consequently brought penalties upon them and some of their teammates were forced to crab walk their way around the ship. B watch dominated the quarter deck with cheers and clapping, providing support for their quick-witted watch members. C watch harnessed the energy and electrical-charge of the game, something which manifested itself in their cool and steady perseverance. The match was a nail-biter, but in the end, it was A watch that partied first, forming a conga line, and touting their victory around the Cramer. B Watch came in a close second, and C Watch, cheered on by shipmates from A watch and B watch alike, made their way to the finish line in third place, not too far off the lead.

The Line Chase was a good way to solidify our knowledge on the workings of the ship, while reaffirming our ties as a group and a family. Often times, it may seem stressful to remember locations and functions of certain lines and sails, but activities like the Line Chase turn seemingly rigorous duties into a great way to spend an afternoon.

-Ronnie and Kay from the “Brilliant and Brainy B Watch” 



C241e - Science at SEA III

Date: Friday, 17 August 2012
Current Position: 40 16.12’N x 70 46.31’
Current Speed: 3.6 Knots
Current Wind and Weather: Southwest F3, Partly Cloudy and Warm

Photo caption: Aidan Strayer and Mary Ruth Ngo go aloft on the fore yard, while Jack Gilmore is high up on the mast.  Deckhand and Resident Assistant onshore, Patrick Lynch, keeps a close watch. 

Today was the day. We had reached a water depth over 2000 meters deep and we were going to deploy some very high tech gadgets in able to show the effect of increasing pressure change. These gadgets were Styrofoam cups decorated by everyone on deck, even Seth the Engineer. The entire crew of the Corwith Cramer took their technology and creativity to the next level by personalizing their own cups. The process took a very long time and was very strenuous but we all came out with some fantastic looking pieces of art/superior equipment.

The morning came and while some of us were sleeping A Watch deployed their Super Station including our state of the art Styrofoam cups! Now since the ocean floor was very deep at the time, it took 45 minutes for the Styrofoam cups-stacked delicately in panty hoses-to make it to the bottom of the ocean and then another 45 minutes to bring it back up. This Super Station, which also included a hydrocast, phytoplankton net, CTD, and secchi disc, took up the most time and left a majority of the sample processing and water analysis to the rest of the Watches.

For our class in the afternoon, Seth the Engineer pleaded the Captain to talk to us about what he does. For the most part, he told us what lies beneath our bunks and where some were relieved to know it was just chains, ropes, or fresh water, others were a tad worried about the diesel fuel and waste water tanks that lived a few meters below their bunks.  After that, we all gathered in our Watches for a breakdown of our upcoming oceanography projects which was short, sweet, and to the point with C Watches Awesome 1st Scientist Carla Scocchi.  Afterwards the entire ship’s company enjoyed an on-deck ‘shower’ using the fire hose and a quick freshwater rinse!  Working the fire hose was Chief Mate, and fellow Pittsburgher, Dutch-who got soaked in the process because of the wind direction.

After our cooling hose down most of us relaxed before our next watch while others went aloft. Now to go aloft means you have to pass certain deck checklists such as knowing proper procedures for Lookout Patrol or even knowing all the lines on the Cramer. It can be tricky but a handful of us got to go aloft. Once people saw the select few-who passed-go up onto the rigging, everyone was scurrying around trying to pass their checklists so they too could climb aloft for the great view.  Almost every student onboard has been cleared to go aloft which makes it all the more exciting to have company.

Now that we have deployed our Styrofoam cups and other equipment in the deep waters off the Continental Shelf, we have gybed the Cramer and are heading back towards Woods Hole.unfortunately.  The days on board the Corwith Cramer are decreasing and leave us all wanting to stay even more but hopefully we will all come back for the Sea Semester Program . . . in Tahiti!

Wish us luck to those who need to go aloft and to C Watch for the Line Chase tomorrow!

Aidan McKean - C Watch!!



C241e - Science at SEA III

Date: Thursday, 16 August 2012
Position: 39 44.7’ N x 70 34.5’
Speed: 4.1 knots
Wind and Weather: balmy breezes with a bit of cloudy overcast
Photo caption: Martin and Carlo prepare to deploy their Light Attenuation Spheroids!

Class this afternoon was a series of stations about the ship. In one station, Mitch taught us all about sea birds. We learned about their feeding patterns and flight techniques, which was very cool. Albatrosses, for instance, are so specialized long-term overseas traveling that they actually expend less energy flying than sitting on the water (due to the energy they have to use to keep warm.)

Next we heard “So NASA donated a series of small, disposable light attenuation spheroids that are specialized for differentiating between specific color clarities in the ocean water; today, we’ve decided to let you use them”, Carla told us. Wow, we all thought. Real NASA disposable light attenuation spheroids with highly specialized technology just for us! To the dismay of some, and the delight of most, we discovered that these spheroids were not sent by NASA and were most definitely disposable. We spent the next 5 minutes throwing a few M&Ms into the water and the remaining 10 happily consuming them. We concluded that red M&Ms were least visible at depth.

We then learned how to make eye splices. By unlaying an end of a rope and elegantly shoving the three unraveled sections into another section of that rope, a very strong, permanent loop is formed and is used all over the ship in the rigging. Tristan, Nicole and Dan, our trusty deckhands, were very kind to take us through that grueling process. Believe it or not, elegantly shoving pieces of rope into each other is actually quite a difficult task.

Last, but not least, Anne gave us an interesting lecture on the physiology of fish. We discussed the several forces pushing against a fish’s body and learned about the different musculature, fin shape and body shape that allow different species of fish to rule their respective niches.

All in all, a successful day of learning.
- Mary Ruth Ngo, Aidan Strayer, Alyssa LePera - A watch



C241e - Science at SEA III

Date: Wednesday to Thursday, 15-16 August 2012
Current Position:  40 09.7’N x 070 44.3’W
Current Speed: Motor-sailing at 6 knots
Current Wind and Weather: WSW wind, F4

Photo caption:  A Watch and B Watch learning how to furl the jib and forestaysail. 

At 0300 (Wednesday, 15 August), members of B Watch assembled on deck. Carlo, Eliana, Eli, and Sam then reported to lab while Martin, Kay, Roni, and Emily reported to the deck. The members of the A Watch had notified the B Watch deck members of sightings-boats and buoys could be seen off the bow of the ship, on the port and starboard sides. The most notable sighting of the evening had to be the flashes of lighting off of the stern of the boat. Because these flashes were present, the members of the deck watch had to listen carefully for thunder. Watch members in the lab (AKA “The Labbies”) did a surface station and kept track of any changes in weather.

After the dawn watch, the members of B Watch participated in “Dawn Cleanup”, which involves cleaning the whole ship. When the job was done, the members of B Watch slept until lunch time, to rest up for their next turn on watch. The rest of the day was sunny with clear skies which we could enjoy at our leisure since we were not on watch again until 1900 (7pm).  That afternoon we met for our first Ship’s Meeting (or class time) to here students report on trends in the weather, science observations, and the navigation plan.  We learned how to set-up and deploy the neuston net which collects critters at the sea surface and also practiced furling sails with our mates.  Later that night 1900 (7pm) B Watch had the deck and lab responsibilities and quite a few things had changed.  We passed through a squall (small thunderstorm) with high winds, lightning, and some thunder. Members of the deck watch could not stand on deck, so they worked on journal entries and surface stations until the watch was over. The squall didn’t seem like a big deal at first, but soon enough, the lab computers had to be turned off and hourly reports in the ship’s logbook could not be completed. After some indoor boat checks were made and the watch was turned over to the C Watch at 2300, the members of B Watch could rest up for their next big watch at 0700. Evidently, we’re all fine now, and the computers are up and running as we prepare for our big science SuperStation:  we will be deploying a shipek grab, a secchi disc, a phytoplankton net, a hydrocast to collect water at different depths and the neuston net we learned about yesterday.  So no more time for this blog we have work to do! 
-Kay, Sam, Carlo, and Roni-B Watch



C241e - Science at SEA III

Date: Tuesday, 14 August 2012
Position: 41° 18.35N 070° 57.1 W
Speed: 6 Knots (with motor)
Wind and Weather: Nighttime, breezy, cool temperature, some cloud coverage,
but stars are still visible.

Photo caption: Onboard the Cramer, with beautiful blue skies and a perfect day for sailing.

Today was another long, but exciting day for the crew off Corwith Cramer; we got up around 0600, which was all too early for most of us, but after a great night sleep (thanks to the crew for taking the night watches), we were refreshed and ready to go. After a yummy breakfast of pancakes, we went over safety procedures: man overboard, fire, and abandon ship; putting the emersion suits on was by far the most fun part, and we all looked like lobsters with hands and feet. Today also was also a special day for one of our shipmates! Carlo turned 17 today, and to celebrate, for morning snack we had chocolate cake with a mint frosting (thank you so much Shelby and Mickey for making it. It was delicious). Then, finally, we set sail and have been underway since. The sail plan for today was: the four lowers, the fisherman, and the JT, but on evening watch, when we had just barely passed Martha’s Vineyard, we turned the engine on to make some time.

The first amazing experience of the trip happened tonight as well; we saw dolphins off the port and starboard rails of the bow. As we were typing away on this blog entry, a shipmate informed us that there were dolphins swimming alongside the ship and we immediately stopped our blog entry and ran to the bow, clipped in, and were amazed at the number of dolphins swimming towards the stern. Because of the bioluminescence in the water, every tiny movement triggers an almost eerie fantastical glow. Each dolphin left a sparkling trail behind their tail; they were jumping off of the waves around the ship and swimming in pairs perfectly synchronized. It was so amazing and such a beautiful experience to see.
So now it’s about 2148, and after munching on a midnight snack of zucchini muffins, we are headed to the science deck to discuss our plan for tomorrow’s lab.

Personally, this time of night is such a strange time on the ship, because everyone, but your watch is asleep, and for me sharing experiences with this certain group of people and no one else, creates a sense of family almost, I know it’s only the first true day of sailing on board, but I can definitely feel a great bond building between our watch members, and it will only get stronger as the trip goes on.

Dyson and Ian – C watch!!



C241e - Science at SEA III

Date: Monday, 13 August 2012
Position: Tarpaulin Cove, MA
Speed: securely at anchor for the night
Wind and Weather:  winds SW x W at a comfortable 10-12 knots (Beaufort Scale
2).  Clear skies waiting for the sun to set!

Photo caption:  Members of C Watch (Emmie, Garrett, and Aidan with 1st Scientist Carla) learning how to properly adjust their safety harnesses.

Welcome Aboard to the new crew of Science at Sea III 2012.  The adventure has begun with no time to waste!  No sooner had we let go the dock lines and motored around the corner of Naushon Island that we began setting sails.  We spent the next few hours at sea enjoying a lovely sail upwind through Vineyard Sound.  With the main, mainstaysail, forstaysail and jib flying we tacked our way toward Tarpaulin Cove; our secure anchorage for the evening. After dinner the students participated in a thorough shipboard orientation- lab safety, line-handling, and proper boat checking- to familiarize themselves to their new home.  It was a full day’s work packed into one busy, but wicked fun afternoon and evening.  No surprise there was little resistance when the call for ‘quiet ship’ was announced at 2130 (9:30 PM). As things settle in for the night, the professional crew takes the Watch, students crawl into their bunks to record the day’s events into their journals, and the Captain and I talk about what lies ahead for the Corwith Cramer and her new crew. 

Tomorrow will bring another round of orientations and safety drills - man-overboard, fire/flooding, and abandon ship- before we haul back the anchor and head south, away from the sight of land, toward the deep waters off the continental shelf!  Personally I can’t wait to start our science sampling!  As Louis Agassiz famously said, now is the time to ‘Study Nature not Books’.  And that is what we intend to do. We look forward to sharing this adventure with you in the coming days so please follow along. 

Sweet Dreams
Jeff Schell - Chief Scientist