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SSV Corwith Cramer Blog

Position information is updated on a workday basis only.



C-254a Colleague Voyage


Monday, 11 August 2014, 1215
Position: 37° 35.83’ N x 0° 58.65’ W
Location: Alongside in Cartagena, Spain

Photo caption: Final group photo for C-254 A

Sitting dockside at Yacht Port Cartagena at the close of our transit from Cadiz offers the perfect opportunity for reflection. I find it hard to believe that only six days ago, a group of 21 colleagues joined the Cramer as her new crew. It seems we’ve been a community for much longer than that. Last Wednesday, excitement was in the air as bags were loaded on board, bunks were discovered, and the ship was explored. Today, our colleagues left the ship feeling bittersweet. I always marvel at the massive shift in confidence, knowledge, and interpersonal relationships that occurs in such a short period of time on board our ships. The community formed at sea with an SEA program is unmatched by any other.

Last night as we approached the end of program, we introduced our new crew to the longtime SEA Semester tradition of swizzle - a time for all hands to come together to celebrate joint achievements, offer a toast to Neptune for our safe voyage, and exchange potentially unknown talents. For example, last night offered the debut of a most impressive Nose Flute Orchestra. Marty’s question-only game, during which two people have to act out a skit in a given location using only questions, had everyone laughing and joining in.

It was a great memory to cap off our experience together. On behalf of the professional staff and crew aboard Cramer, we thank all of our colleagues for taking time out of their busy lives and schedules to join us here in Spain. I hope we’ve made 21 new friends and have 21 new advocates for SEA Semester at campuses across the U.S. including Cornell University, Colby College, Marist College, UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, University of San Diego, New College of Florida, Trinity College, University of Connecticut, New York University, Wellesley College, Oregon State University, CUNY Brooklyn, College of Charleston, and the University of Washington.

We wish you all fair winds as you begin your journey home - or to your next destination - and we hope to see you this fall as we visit your campuses!

Katharine Enos
Dean of Admissions & Marketing, SEA Semester



C-254a Colleague Voyage


Sunday, 10 August 2014, 1345
Position: 36° 36’ N x 2° 13’ W
Heading: 080°
Weather: WSW force 3, 26 deg C, clear skies

Photo caption:  Teamwork!

As I reflect on our experiences as faculty participants these last few days, I am awed by the many skill sets that are actively employed aboard the S.S.V. Corwith Cramer and I delight in knowing that our students who participate in SEA Semester are honing these valuable skills.  In particular, I am thinking of.

* the quantitative reasoning skills required in calculating the bio-volume of a net capture in the oceanography laboratory;

* the critical thinking skills necessary in planning and plotting our navigational course and figuring out when to make changes or corrections;

* the oral presentation skills that participants employ in the afternoon reports on how the ship uses reverse osmosis to create our drinking water, on the physics and chemistry of weather patterns, and on the beloved “Creature Feature,” highlighting an interesting marine animal caught in our Neuston Tow;

* the communication skills utilized while carrying out tasks while on watch (J-Frame Out. J-Frame Out.  Strike the jib topsail.  Striking the jib topsail.) and when transferring between one watch to the next to ensure a clear understanding of current conditions and mission;  and

* teamwork, which is to me, the skill that the SEA experience develops to an extraordinary degree.  Whether it is hoisting the mainsail, deploying the carousel for collecting water samples, cleaning the ship each morning, or preparing for a fun group swim in the sea, teamwork is the key.  What a pleasure it has been working with my fellow A Watch members and with everyone on SEA Colleague Voyage!                 

Corri Taylor, Director, Quantitative Reasoning Program, Wellesley College



C-254a Colleague Voyage


Saturday, 09 August 2014 17:06
Position: 36° 28.8’N x 3° 3.9’W
Heading: 97° at 1.4knots
Weather: Mix of sun and haze, becalmed winds

Photo Caption: Aaron and Rebecca test the benefits of a deep-sea Mediterranean mud mask (retrieved from 700m with a Shipek Grab)

Our watch (B) began at 0700 today with a cool and very damp morning as we were sailing through the fog on the Alboran Sea. Aaron occupied the “science watch”, examining alien creatures that the night watch pulled out of the deep ocean (400m) with a 2m net and from the surface with a neuston net. We titrated water samples from six different depths in the water column to measure dissolved oxygen (DO), using the Winkler method (amended by the SSV Corwith Cramer to include wearing silly fish hats!).

Measuring DO is like wizard alchemy, adding a sequence of chemicals to sea water, causing snowflake-like crystals to fall, then dissolve into amber, then become purple, and then become clear. The amount of the final chemical added to clarify the water translates to the amount of DO. Along with temperature and salinity profiles, this data gives us a vertical picture of the water column.

Meanwhile, Rebecca was sent to be the bow lookout, tethering herself to the very front of the ship (the bow) and leaning out to peer into the foggy darkness. Every 10 minutes, Cramer’s eerie foghorn was sounded, alerting other ships in the area to our presence. While no other ships were sighted, we were treated to a beautiful show by a pod of 20 common dolphins, who danced, leapt, and undulated through the bow waves.

As the sun rose, we optimistically set the jib and jib topsail, hoping to catch some wind. Instead, we were becalmed, essentially staying still in the water, carried only by the current. By mid-morning, the smooth surface provided ample opportunity to examine our own reflections and, eventually, we started our engine to make a few knots. All hands mustered on deck at 1430 for class where we learned about the many pressure gradients responsible for the weather, the ship’s systems, and our scientific observations.

The facilities and community aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer are impressive, facilitating a rich and enjoyable learning experience. This ship is easily the most fun classroom we’ve been in! From Mediterranean mud facials topracticing nautical science with the crew, we are grateful for this opportunity to share in the camaraderie and learning that thrives aboard this fine ship.

PS: We sure hope our daughters, Lili and Chloe, are future SEA Semester students. We send them so much love from the salty Mediterranean Sea.

Rebecca Vidra, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University

Aaron Moody, Department of Geography, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



C-254a Colleague Voyage


Friday, 08 August 2014, 2130
Position: 36° 15’N x 4° 49’ W
Weather: NNE force 1, 23°C

Photo caption:  Gibraltar behind Rob Wheatcroft at helm (Professor and Program Head, Ocean Science and Earth Systems, Oregon State Univ.); Marty, Erika, and Sarah in background.

Today was a very exciting day on board the SSV Corwith Cramer.  Those of us aboard watched the sunrise over Cabo Trafalgar as we made our way into the Strait of Gibraltar (a.k.a. “the Fretum Herculeum of the ancients” and “the Bab-ez-Zakak of the Arabs”).  The Straight is a swath of ocean blue-73/4 miles wide at its narrowest- where the Atlantic waters marry the salter (and hence denser) waters of the Mediterranean Sea.  The Straight witnesses some 70,000 shipping vessels pass through its shores each year.  As we made our way, there was a bit of tension on the deck as we successfully sailed through the traffic, avoiding small fishing vessels and “Humungo tankers”-a term coined by Tom (the ship’s engineer)- that carry millions of tons of goods to various parts of the globe. 

In the course of our voyage, several pods of dolphins spectacularly escorted us along the way, at times displaying their beauty and grace under our bow.  As we neared the end of the straight, we sailed past the Rock of Gibraltar, a huge chunk of limestone that sits in the sea.  It serves as one of the two Pillars of Hercules, which in ancient times was thought to be the location where the earth came to an end.  Even with hectic nature of Gibraltar’s passageway, our scientific sampling did not take a rest.  We sent the carousel down several times throughout the day, measuring salinity, temperature, depth, light level, and oxygen. We also collected water samples and sediment from the sea floor.  At approximately 780 meters, the depth of the Mediterranean was far deeper-by some 700 meters- than the Atlantic shelf waters we sampled yesterday.  As the sun began its descent, the Mediterranean was still and quiet, very unlike our remarkable day.

Kevin McMahon, Professor of Political Science
Trinity College



C-254a Colleague Voyage


Thursday, 07 August 2014, 21:38
Position: 36° 3.6’N x 6° 23.9’ W
Weather: WSW force 2, Air temp 23.4 deg C

Photo caption:  Cori Taylor (Director, Quantitative Reasoning program, Wellesley College) with sediment sample from continental shelf off of Cadiz.

A good night sleep for all (staff anchor watch only) for the Cramer’s last night on the Cadiz dock was the captain’s order for our first night on the colleague cruise.  This was a welcome order for those of us who were jet lagged after travelling across multiple times zones to participate in this unique opportunity.  After a hearty breakfast, we got to practice our fire, man overboard and abandon ship drill and try on our stylish immersion suits (aka gumby suits).  Finally, we cast off and watched the beautiful cathedral and skyline of Cadiz fade into the distance.  Once we were underway, the watch system started and we set the sails.  After lunch we heard about the exciting new academic programs at SEA from Kimberly and Katharine and then the whole group participated in our first science station.

Erik explained that our track through the Strait of Gibraltar was totally new for SEA. Our first Shipek grab in about 80 meters of water on the coastal shelf of southern Spain collected muddy sand with cool microfossils we viewed under the microscope.  CTD and neuston net deployments followed.  Once the wind picked up we shut down the motor and were finally under sail!  We sailed past Cabo Trafalgar where the famous naval battle took place in 1805.  We are anticipating an exciting passage (and lots of traffic) through the Strait sometime tomorrow morning.  After a Mediterranean themed dinner we ended a gorgeous day with a sunset over the Atlantic and the green flash!

Sarah Gray, Dept. of Environmental and Ocean Sciences
University of San Diego



C-254a Colleague Voyage


Wednesday, 06 August 2014, 2300
Position: 36° 32’ N x 6° 17’ W
Location: at dock
Weather: WSW force 1, air temp 25deg C

Photo caption:  Image of Cadiz cathedral.

21 participants from 19 institutions boarded the Sailing School Vessel (SSV) Corwith Cramer in Cadiz harbor, Spain, one of the oldest cities in Europe. Most are faculty and advisors at U.S. colleges and universities, but we are lucky to also have two Spanish colleagues (from Cadiz and Madrid) and one Italian colleague from the Anton Dohrn Zoological Station in Naples. Building international collaborations at academic and research institutions is important as SEA Semester launches our new Global Ocean semester program in Europe and New Zealand this year. After stowing their gear in bunks below and briefly exploring the vessel, everybody gathered on the quarterdeck for introductions and our first safety briefing. With the towers of Cadiz cathedral in the background and surrounded by cruise ships, Spanish Fisheries and Coast Guard vessels, and a visiting Greek naval vessel, participants began a thorough orientation to their home for the next week.

All watches cycled through sessions to orient them to the lab, the engine room, galley, boat check, and watch station responsibilities. It was a long day as they began learning some of the skills they need to fulfill their role as the newest members of the Corwith Cramer crew.  Snacks, an all-hands lunch of falafel pockets, and a dinner of pasta and chicken parmesan kept the energy levels high enough to get through the day. A thoroughly oriented, tired, but still excited group of participants then slept through the night while crew stood anchor watch.

Tomorrow, we will get underway through the Straits of Gibraltar for our 4-day transit to Cartagena.

Erik Zettler
SEA Chief Scientist