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SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage

The Robert C. Seamans departed Papeete, Tahiti on 1/3/11 with colleagues from various colleges and universities. They sailed among the Society Islands and returned to Papeete on 1/7/11.

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



SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage

SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage
  • We awoke at anchor in Opunohu Bay, Moorea. The skies were clear and anyone on deck just before dawn could get a simultaneous view of the Big Dipper and the Southern Cross, positioned in opposite parts of the sky. We are now on the final day of the cruise. After breakfast, all participants went below for a Maritime History class and a chance to talk about what we had observed about the cultural and historical landscapes of French Polynesia. We considered some of the factors that have led to modern day Tahiti and contrasted these with the history and culture of the Caribbean Islands.

    While down below, the crew hauled anchor and we got underway for our final leg back to Papeete. The heavy layer of suspended sediment that filled the upper layer of the water column from the previous day's rain had largely dissipated due to the increase in offshore winds overnight. We left the bay just in time to slip past a massive cruise ship that was steaming into the bay. Between the pulses of sediment and the pulses of tourists into the bay it's plain to see that "pristine" is no longer a good adjective to describe the habitat. The reach to Papeete harbor was brisk and the sea got to test the soundness of our breakfasts and our sail-handling abilities one last time. Upon arrival in Papeete, we docked with surgical precision. Shipmates dispersed. Some of us got to savor Jonathan's last supper (ok lunch), while others ventured quickly into the city to experience the sights, sounds and flavors of the market and later, La Roulotte (open-air dining provided by food vending trucks at the water front). We were now firmly on land, although our legs and inner ears would not recognize it for 48 more hours. Thanks to SEA for an unforgettable experience that we can enthusiastically share with our students!

    Craig Tobias, Assoc. Professor of Marine Sciences and Coordinator for Coastal Studies Program, Univ. of Connecticut, Avery Point

    Lorraine Olendzenski, Assist. Professor of Biology, St. Lawrence Univ.



SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage

SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage
  • The day began at dawn on route to Raiatea. We sailed from Moorea all night with clear skies overhead, but storm clouds, lightning, and rain all around us. As a crew, we just finished our first day of 24-hour watch. We are divided into three separate watches A, B, and C. We are both in B Watch, where we have completed both Science and Deck watches. Deck watches involve sail adjustment, manning the helm, and monitoring boat equipment function. We both prefer Dawn Watch (0300-0700), because we can enjoy both beautiful starry nights and wonderful sunrises. Science watches involve dropping equipment over the edge to collect data on living organisms and water quality. The sailboat slows to a stop by "heaving to" which means placing the sails in opposition to one another. After collecting samples, we use the ship's lab and equipment to measure numerous water quality variables and characterize planktonic biodiversity.

    We reached Raiatea at 1400 and we anchored in Opoa Bay. From here, we took launches to shore to visit the Taputapuatea marae. This is a sacred Polynesian burial site and ancient launch point for many voyages. This area holds spiritual and cultural significance to the Polynesians. The photo shows the square burial site with a sacrificial "measuring" stone. According to a local Raiatean, anyone shorter than the height of this stone was sacrificed to the gods, cooked and eaten.

    The SEA Voyage is a fantastic combination of science, seamanship, and sight-seeing. We are loving every minute!

    Dr. Mark Lee, Assist. Prof. Biology, Spelman College
    Dr. Susan Swensen, Assoc. Prof. Biology, Ithaca College



SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage

SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage
  • We spent last night sailing from Raiatea towards Moorea. One of the most fun parts was spending two hours of the deck watch on the bow, strapped in to the forestay and watching for ships in the dark. It was beautiful with lightning all around. We managed to skirt most of the squalls and stay pretty dry. This morning we deployed the Secchi disk to look at the clarity of the water. We could see it down to 36 meters deep. We also towed the phytoplankton net where we collected many radiolarians and other fascinating plankton. We all decorated large styrofoam cups for the styrocast. We sent them down to 150o meters with the CTD/Carousel sampling system. The cups came back the size of shot glasses and in strange shapes. At the time of the deployment we were at approximately 17°20.3' South Latitude and 150°08.5' West Longitude. In the early afternoon we sailed in to Opunohu Bay, Moorea. There had been lots of rain on Moorea and the water had a layer of muddy run-off from land. Our mates Donna and Jeff who had stayed behind in Moorea came aboard for the evening and sail back to Papeete tomorrow. These last few days have gone by so fast with so much to do and learn about the SEA Semester. What a great way to start the New Year!

    Donna Brown Coordinator, Marine Option Program, University of Hawai`i-Maui College

    I had the dawn watch from 0300-0700, which turned out to be one of my favorite times to be on duty. As we were sailing on our way back to Moorea, it was a partly cloudy night revealing patches of star clusters so thick you wanted to scoop out a pocketful to take home as souvenirs. As dawn approached, Chelsea gave Jennifer and me a primer on how to use the navigation books to plot the approximate positions of stars in our region that are used as references for celestial navigation. What a thrill is was to peer through the sextant and record the declination of several stars in the morning twilight in the same way those who sailed with the great Pacific explorers, the New Bedford whalers, the sleek clipper ships, and countless others had done for centuries in these same waters. I felt an almost spiritual connection with those intrepid souls that transcended time and pulled us all together as part of a great procession of mariners gliding across a timeless, unchanging continuum of past, present, and future. As twilight was broken by the sun's awakening, we were all treated to a breathtaking beginning to a new day. As we sailed into Opunohu Bay that afternoon, we passed by the battered and stripped hulk of an unfortunate cruising sailboat that had recently wrecked on the reef near the entrance to the bay. It reminded me that in addition to its beauty and serenity, the sea can be intolerably unforgiving and capable of devastating forces that must never be taken lightly. As I considered how much I learned and experienced in my short cruise, I can only imagine the personal and professional growth that occurs in addition to the enduring friendships that develop among students in the SEA program. What a life-changing opportunity for young people!

    Allan Belovarac, Professor of History, Mercyhurst College



SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage

SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage
  • Led by a wonderful, skilled SEA crew, the Tahiti Colleague Voyage is all smooth sailing. We continued our orientation today while anchored in majestic Cooks Bay, Moorea. The water is a deep blue color and we can see the waves wash upon the nearby reefs. Examples of things we've learned, heard and done:
    "Ready on the Top Sail Sheet"
    "Steady at 280 degrees"
    Neuston Tow and Analysis (Copepod Found - see image!!)
    UC Berkeley GUMP Lab and Tahiti Cultural Center Tour
    Man Overboard Rescue Drill (..'volleyball overboard')
    Tonight we are sailing through the night for the first time. While squalls can be seen in the distance, we are guided by clear, starry skies above. The combination of a good sleep from a rocking boat and energy from amazingly-prepared fresh, local food assures us that all 3 Watches (A, B, and C) can get the SSV Robert C. Seamans to our destination, Raiatea, by tomorrow afternoon.

    Heather Kerkering, Prgm.Manager Central & Northern CA Ocean Observ. Syst., MBARI

    Jeff Howarth, Assist. Prof. Geography, Middlebury College



SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage

SSV Robert C. Seamans S232a - Colleague Voyage
  • A clear sunny day in Papeete, Tahiti. Small groups of locals gathered on the waterfront chatting and eating breakfast early in the morning; workers swept and raked clean the area under trees bearing fragrant white flowers. With all hands aboard by 0900 we gathered on the quarterdeck of the vessel SSV Robert C. Seamans for short introductions and a safety briefing. Then we were split into watches and helped handle lines to get the boat off the dock and underway. The wind having shifted to the west was pushing us onto the dock, so the Captain was forced to back us out of the narrow space between two piers until he could swing the bow around and head us out of the harbor. With help from all hands, we quickly raised the mainsail, main staysail, forward staysail, and jib and motor sailed under the four lowers out through the cut in the outer fringing reef where some young men were surfing.

    Outside the wind was force 5 and made for good sailing toward Moorea. The science team quickly had the lab instrumentation running including Chirp, ADCP, and data logger to monitor depth, currents, and a myriad of other measurements. Wildlife observations included some large schools of 20 or more flying fish leaping from the water and gliding over the waves, red-footed boobies, brown noddies, and white tern-like birds. After a couple of tacks we headed in to Cooks Bay, a spectacular spot with dramatic volcanic peaks, lush green vegetation, and an aqua fringing reef and lagoon. We anchored off the UC Berkeley run Gump research station and were lucky enough to have a tour organized by participant Hannah Stewart. The station personnel went out of their way to be accommodating, giving us tours of the facilities including the Biocode effort to barcode and describe every macroorganism on the island. At the cultural center next door we were shown the traditional Tahitian cooking pit and they explained a bit about Tahitian culture. Erik Zettler, Chief Scientist