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SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.



C248f - Harvard EPS


Wednesday, 28 August 2013, 2000 hrs
Position: 42° 36.3’’ N x 069°47.5’ W’
Location: Gulf of Maine, leaving Wilkinson Basin
Direction: 270°
Speed: 2.9 knots
Weather: 18° C, dense fog over everything
Wind: NExE

Image Caption: Furling the jib in the fog!

Cecilia here.  There’s something surreal – almost dreamlike – about Midwatch on a foggy night.  The ocean, black, vast, and boiling with stomach-churning waves during the day, just disappears as a gray fog rises off the waters and nudges up against the hull.  Shortly after the watch turnover at 2300 hours, I latched the carabineer on my harness to a metal stay on the bow and planted rubber-soled feet on the slippery steps.  I turned my head and body in a slow 360°, seeing nothing but gray fog on a black backdrop in every direction.  The black hulk of the ship was suspended in amorphous gray – the shadows of the lines draping down from the dark sails seemed to hold the Cramer universe by mere threads.  I held my breath between the fog horn blasts, though I couldn’ ’t tell you why, and strained to hear above the silence.

Out of the gloom, strange lights seemed to dance beneath the ship – pale blue-green and white – whorls of bioluminescent flora and fauna set sparkling by Cramer’s path through the unseen waters.  As soon as I noticed them, they were gone, and I lost precious seconds staring at the fog wishing they would return. In the fog, time stood still, and space disappeared.  Lights in the water, shadowy ropes dangling in still, gray air, attached to nothing and everything all at once…  This was but one of the many surreal and beautiful things my fellow SEA-students and I experienced aboard the Cramer.  Today alone, watching iridescent-blue isopods fight each other to the death in a Neuston tow bucket, kneading rich brown clays from over 290 meters deep through rope-chapped fingers, and squinting to see the dorsal fin of a quick, black shark among the waves – everything drives home the feeling that this is another world within our world.  I have never felt so alien on my own planet – I’m sure Cramer’s crew and the more seaworthy among the SEA-students never feel that way – but I do.

The foggy Midwatch described above was the precursor to a busy day of sailing and science.  The fog was an advection fog, produced when warmer air temperatures and lower atmospheric pressure over colder waters (i.e. the waters of the gulf of main) combine to let vapor rise off the water’s surface, becoming thicker as the day wears on and the temperature difference increases.  I think.  At any rate, it stuck with us the whole day, clinging to our skin and spectacles and dewing on our windbreakers.  The piece de resistance (accents ignored for now) of the afternoon’s science objectives was a gravity core.  Hundreds of pounds of metal and plastic mounted atop a hollow PVC pipe were lowered into the water on the hydrowinch.  Gravity acting on all of that metal and plastic drove the PVC pipe – tipped with a sharp, metal lip – deep into the sediments at the bottom of Wilkinson Basin, the second deepest basin in the Gulf of Maine.  B Watch – my people – spent the better part of the afternoon with the help of some enthusiastic C- and A-watchers dividing the “better” of these cores – the one that made a clean cut into the sediments without overflowing onto the wings or the weights – into jars by 5-to-10-cm-height cylinders.  This was the alien mud – perhaps thousand-year old mud or more – that I squished through my fingers and contemplated my humanity with.  Dr. Ann Pearson – one of our resident oceanographers – will later analyze this mud in the controlled environment of a bioreactor, where microbes will both measure the lability of the mud and release the carbon from it in a gaseous form for radiometric dating.

The fog, a host of seabirds hoping for food scraps, and a hungry shark (which harassed said seabirds for a while) were our only companions within a 10-12-nm radius for the day.  A single vessel sailing 14 nm away from us would make an appearance later in the night – but otherwise, we were alone-made-lonelier by our foggy shroud and calm waters.

Tonight, B-watch will rise at 0230 to see Cramer safely through the dawn. Until then, this blogger is going to sleep – just moving from one foggy dream into another.  Night, everyone!



C248f - Harvard EPS


Tuesday, 27 August 2013, 1630 hrs
Position: 42° 21.8’’ N x 068° 57.5’’ W
Location: Gulf of Maine, no sign of other human life
Direction: 110° (Approximately ESE)
Speed: 0.9 knots
Weather: 22° C, foggy and overcast
Wind: WSW

Image Caption: Staying Safe, Hot n’ Wet in immersion suits!

A watch, or as it is acknowledged by the rest of the ship, the A-team, dominates on board.  It is home to AAAA (Alex, Alex, Ariana and deckhand Anna), Upasna, JT and Jane. Our newest member to the team is Seth, our 10-inch long squid collected in our midnight Neuston tow. The theory behind our catching this fast critter is that he was absorbed in the consumption of an unfortunate fish when the Neuston net was deployed and thus given the special privilege of joining the A-team.

This morning (Tuesday) A watch had dawn watch (0300-0700).  We were awoken (somewhat unhappily) thirty minutes before the hour, after which we dutifully attended our stations.  Male Alex, JT, and Jane worked in the science lab while Upasna, Lady Alex, and Ariana stood watch on deck under Anna and Sarah’s (our Chief Mate) supervision.  In the science lab, Alex performed a phytoplankton count (dinoflagellates galore) while Jane “winkled” (titrated to determine dissolved oxygen) wearing an impressive hat. On the deck, we felt fairly over seasickness which had been hindering our functions the day before (Jason, our Assistant Scientist, as well as the other mates had been delightfully accommodating of the same when we worked with them), and we were looking forward to appreciating the serene beauty of the upcoming sunrise (which the Dawn Watch is famous for). Alas, it was too overcast, and instead each person on lookout was instructed to alert our Chief mate, Sarah, immediately if we lost the ability to see the horizon as this could mean showers ahead (and we would want to be adequately prepared for that beforehand).

Today we had a particularly fun class where we went over the names of all the sails and learned what science report each watch has to complete. Our watch has the most exciting one (duh)—analyzing the sediment samples we’ve collected over the past three days. Today, another watch found a sample with bigger granules than yesterday, which raises eyebrows because as we go deeper, we should technically be getting finer sand! We have also been going over skills we are required to master in order to climb aloft. The tasks include memorizing all the lines, boxing the compass (Lady Alex invented this adorable poem for this…which is now stuck in my mind), doing relative bearings and the radar fix!

Alex Sandra Morgan, Harvard 2014, Geological Society Empress:
Shout out to Cindy Cinds, Dad, Mary, the EPS department, and C-fish for waiting beside me as I finish my blog before our net-time nap-time—the net at the bow of the ship. Look for us DEAD AHEAD! #learningshipvocab

Alex Hem, Harvard 2016:
Hello to Mom, Dad, Charles and Warren! The bunk is bigger than expected- my toes don’t quite hit the end.  The food is great and the sailing is awesome. The Gulf of Maine is a whole lot chillier than the Gulf of Mexico.  Miss you guys!

Upasna Sharma, Harvard 2015, Muddled Muggle:
Firstly, a belated many happy returns of the day to my Mother! To those not updated with international lingo, that’s a “Happy Birthday!”, Indian style. Also, a hello to nanaji, nanima, mamaji and the two mousis and their families! You guys are gonna freak out when I tell you about crazy times on the boat.

And a quick shot out to Mama and Jennie Happy Birthday!!!!! Love Anna



C248f - Harvard EPS


Monday, 26 August 2013, 13:50
Position: 41° 38.64’ N x 068° 32.65’ W
Description of location: Western edge of George’s Bank, 63 nautical miles east of Chatham, Cape Cod
Heading:  120°
Speed:  4.7 knots
Weather / Wind:  Overcast 8/8th Sc (stratocumulus) / Wind SWxS beauforce 5,
Waves SWxW 4ft swells

Image Caption: from left to right:  Alex Morgan’14, Ariana Saxby’13, Carina Fish’13 on the bow of Corwith Cramer.

Hello from the SEA-Harvard cruise C248F!  We’ve been aboard since Saturday the 24th and have been underway since the 25th during which the weather has transitioned from a balmy sunny day to our current windy, overcast state. Our first deployment was a Secchi disk reading of only 4m; Tarpaulin Cove is quite nutrient rich!  After several rounds of orientation, Fisher scoops, Neuston tows (NT), drifters, shipek bottom grabs, and a CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth) carousel were all deployed.  The only piece of equipment we have yet to deploy is the gravity core. 

Orientation consisted of emergency trainings including fire/flood, MOB (man overboard), and abandon ship.  The immersion suits were quite a feat to get on and to think that every mariner with a coast guard license has learned to pull one on in under 60 seconds!  Orientation also included a round of stations in the doghouse, science lab, engineering room, and partaking in the first dawn cleanup. Watch B - lovingly known as B-haus - had the privilege of the first afternoon long watch, followed by galley clean-up, followed by dawn watch, and concluded the first day at sail with dawn cleanup.  Needless to say, the chance to get some shut-eye in our cozy bunks was welcomed.  On our watch, the NT brought up a jellyfish, two [baby] lobsters (one was missing a claw!), and lots of seaweed.  Class time on the quarterdeck is one of my favorite parts of the day as all hands are on deck to learn a little bit about navigation and oceanography from the captain, the chief scientist and/or Prof. Pearson. Prior to class, updates from the dawn watch and morning watch bring the whole crew up to date with the science conducted and a weather/navigation update.  Some folks were feeling a bit under the weather today, but sightings of two sunfish and a few whales brightened the day.



C248f - Harvard EPS

Friday, 23 August 2013

The students of C-248f, Harvard EPS, are scheduled to depart Woods Hole tomorrow, aboard the Corwith Cramer. They will finish their voyage in Woods Hole around Saturday August 31st.