SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog
The Robert C. Seamans will board students from class S233 SPICE on January 31. They will sail through the islands of French Polynesia before heading north and concluding their voyage in Honolulu on March 18.
Position information is updated on a workday basis only. Audio updates from the ship are reported periodically throughout the voyage.
Photo Caption: Picture of the whole crew on the bow sprit on our last morning aboard the Robert C. Seamans.
March 18, 2011
Honolulu Harbor, HI
Weather: Beautiful and sunny Hawaiian day, with a light breeze.
It has been a very busy last day for us aboard Mama Seamans. The morning started with both A and B watches bustling on deck to prepare for arrival at the dock in Honolulu Harbor. There was a beautiful sunrise behind the island of O’ahu that revealed to all of us the plethora of large commercial buildings, a sight that we have not seen in many weeks. After some waiting and maneuvering, we safely made fast our dock lines and bumpers and secured the ship in the harbor. Some of us had the pleasure of preparing the galley and refer to clear the Department of Agriculture, while others packed bunks and finished evaluations of the crew.
Today has been our day to reflect on what has happened during the last seven weeks of our lives, and it is difficult to explain. While on bow watch a few nights ago, I came up with a celestial metaphor that I think sums everything up in a way that anyone could understand. At the very beginning of this journey, we were all like stars, scattered all about the clear night sky. As time has gone by, both on shore and here aboard the Seamans, we have all grown in many different ways. I know that I personally have realized my true potential, and have gained a whole new confidence in myself, as both a member of a team and the leader of one. We have all developed a new sense about the world, and what we can each do to change the way we impact the environments around us. There have been friendships made (the best ships, after all, are friendships), and some friends that have become like family. I didn’t believe it when we first started the program, but we really have developed into a close-knit community (or a semi-dysfunctional family, whichever you prefer). Going back to the metaphor, over the last 11 weeks, we have added some new stars, we have all become brighter, and we have become closer to form a beautiful constellation that lights up the dark night sky. A little cheesy, but I couldn’t think of a better, more appropriate way to describe this amazing experience.
We will be leaving the Bobby C. around noon today (Hawaiian Time) and heading to the East-West Center of the University of Hawaii to settle into our new, stationary living spaces. It is a bittersweet moment for many of us to leave the ship; tired of being thrown around by swells and of sea sickness, but we are all going to miss the people and life aboard. Thank you to all the crew for your hard work and patience, and we hope to see/hear from you all in the near future!
P.S. Congratulations to my wonderful husband on getting your black belt in MCMAP! I am so proud of you!
A FINAL NOTE FROM THE SPICE FACULTY:
This has been an extraordinary cruise, but our class is not over yet! Watch this space for updates on our second shore component at the East/West Center in Honolulu, and for the upcoming online atlas of our cruise, through which we will share what we have learned. Thanks to our students, who have been wonderfully enthusiastic through the whole of our adventure, and to the professional crew of the Robert C. Seamans who were steady and reliable when needed and hilarious all the rest of the time. We will miss you in the week to come.
Photo Caption: “Swim Call at Kealakekua” (credit: Heidi Hirsh) Ali Andrews and her colorful swim cap take a leap off the head rig with Eric “Smitty” Smith and Jenny Arndt looking on
Wednesday March 16th
Light and Variable Winds
NE x N Swells
Clearing skies and a waxing gibbous moon
The crew of the Robert C. Seamans awoke this morning, after our first night in Hawai’i, in beautiful Kealakekua Bay. Our day began with an amazing snorkel trip in the cove just off the Cook memorial. The fish here were not as plentiful or diverse as those we encountered on Rangiroa, but the coral cover was vast and spectacular. This particular reef is protected by the National Park Service and serves to protect the coral as well as yellow tang populations, a fish commonly exploited for aquariums. Besides the multitudes of yellow tang, we saw various urchins, fish, eels and octopi.
Snorkeling may have been fun, but the real treat was awaiting us back at the ship. Not only did we get to clean out our bunks (affectionately known as “bunk love”), we got to do an intense deck wash, clean all of the vents and fans, as well as our regular field day scrub down of the Bobby C. Who could ask for more? Afterward we were forced to go swimming in the bay under the setting sun, but rest assured we were fondly reminiscing of the hours of cleaning we got to do this day.
We hauled back the anchor at 2300 and set sail for our final destination of Honolulu. The wind is light and variable here on the leeward side of the Big Island but we expect intense wind and swells in the Alenuihaha Channel between Hawai’i and Maui. If all goes according to plan we should be off Honolulu harbor at 630 Friday morning. Wish your beloved sailors well and we will see what Neptune/Ta’aroa sends our way.
Miss you Mom and I hope your ankle is on the mend.
Photo Caption: Alana, Sonya, and Cloe swimming in Kealakekua Bay
Location: Kealakekua Bay, Big Island, Hawaii
Weather: Cool breeze and cloudy skies
Tuesday, March 15
Dear avid blog readers,
First off, I must inform you that the crew of the Robert C. Seaman’s is officially back in America! Today started for A-Watch (my watch) at approximately 0230 when we were woken up for our ‘routine’ pre-port stop Dawn Watch. I say routine because for every port stop we have made since we left Tahiti seven weeks ago, A-Watch has without fail manned the deck from 0300-0700. As we climbed on deck this morning we were greeted to force two winds and partly starry skies. The first three hours passed smoothly with some striking of sails in preparation to motor along the lee of the island to get to our anchorage in Kailua. For me, the most exciting part of watch was shooting stars (and Venus) with sextants as the sun began to light the horizon at nautical twilight. Soon after, lookouts were posted aloft to get a good view of possible debris crossing our path from the aftermath of the recent tsunami.
We arrived in Kailua at around 0900. Shortly after, we departed the ship to clear customs at the pier and enjoy a couple hours ashore exploring Kailua. Despite minor damage from the tsunami, the town was bustling with tourist, locals, and dozens of shops and restaurants. Sections of the road wrapping around the coastline were blocked off while repair crews worked on the partially damaged sea wall and shirts stating “We Survived the Tsunami, Kona Hawaii, March 9, 2011” were spotted for sale in one of the many touristy shops lining the bay. First orders of business for many of us after clearing customs were ice cream and coffee. Finding both in a short period of time, Amber, Emily, and I continued to explore down the road and found a farmers market with locally grown fruits and vegetables! Before we knew it, it was time to meet back at the dock and return to the Seamans.
After all were accounted for onboard, we departed for our next destination, Kealakekua Bay. Not only does this bay offer a potential snorkeling site for tomorrow, but there is a memorial to the famous Pacific explorer, Captain James Cook who was murdered here. While Mary visited his memorial, many of us jumped off the bow for our first swim in Hawaiian waters. At 1800 the ships company gathered for a delicious barbecue and shortly after we celebrated one of our last nights together on Mama Seamans with a “swizzle” filled of wonderful entertainment and laughter.
Love to friends and family at home,
Figure caption: Chlorophyll a concentrations of the Equatorial Pacific, from 18S to 18N and from 0 to 250m depth as measured during our cruise. Warm colors denote high- , cool colors low concentrations. Vertical dotted lines show station locations where measurements were taken, values between stations have been interpolated.
14 March 2011
Position: Off Hawai’i
We made landfall this morning. Out of a misty, hazy morning the flanks of the Mauna Loa volcano on the big island started appearing, sloping gently up and into the low cloud ceiling. We were escorted throughout the day by a flock of some ten boobies chasing down flying fish the ship startled out of the water as she was surging along in a brisk trade wind.
So there is the land, and with it our voyage is starting to wind down. Still a few days to come to admire the bulk of the Hawaiian Island chain, to take in the sight of the humpback whales here on their winter calving grounds. But most of the miles and most of the work are behind us now. Accompanying this entry to our blog is a little different picture, a picture that stands as a good testament to the remarkable extent of the work weve done during this cruise.
Imagine standing on the equator somewhere east of the Marquesas Islands. Now imagine that a giant knife has sliced across the ocean, south to north, and removed a slice of it for us to see. Much like you can do with an orange, or an egg perhaps, this slice allows you to see the structure of the ocean, the internal variation underneath its restless surface. In our picture, then, the horizontal axis is marked by the latitudes of our journey, 18S and Tahiti to the left, and 18N and closing in on Hawaii to the right.
On the vertical axis is the depth of the ocean, the surface on the top, and deeper water down to 250 meters at the bottom of the axis. The colors of the picture represent the amount of Chlorophyll A present in seawater, and by proxy, the amount of phytoplankton and primary production that takes place in the water column. This primary production is the fuel, the source of food that feeds the whole of the oceanic food web in the area; beginning with the tiniest planktonic grazers, through the small fish and crustaceans eating them and so on to the flying fish, the tuna, the dolphins and the boobies whirling around our ship.
So that sets up the picture, with one exception: the numerous black vertical dotted lines that intersect the image. These lines mark the places where the deck watch hove the ship to (brought it to a complete standstill), and the lab watch prepared, programmed, deployed and recovered our rosette water sampler. This we did twice a day, once in the late morning, once in the pre-midnight darkness. Under the piercing equatorial sun, in the lashing rain and inky darkness of a tropical nights squall, those black lines show the heartbeat of our workdays, and this colorful picture is the result of this considerable labor.
I hasten to add that this picture is but one of a dozen, for we have produced similar graphics for temperature, salinity, oxygen content, phosphate and nitrate concentrations, pH, carbon dioxide concentration and more. You should know that each hour spent with sampling gear in the water produces about six hours of lab analysis. Add all that up and you can appreciate just why the lab has been busy 24/7 for this whole voyage.
But back to our picture - and we are very proud of it and its relatives - and what comes next. Now comes the time to look at it closely and to use it to help answer the research questions we set out to solve. This one holds a lot of significant clues to quite a few of our projects, ranging from a study on seabird distributions (by Alana, Ariene, and Emily) to evaluation of the tuna habitats on the equatorial Pacific (by Eric, Jenni and Joan).
The bright reds, areas of high Chlorophyll A concentration, are centered about 11S and right around the equator and just north of it and encompassing the waters around Kiritimati Island. These two areas of higher production form for different reason, one through the presence of the Marquesas Islands the other because of Equatorial upwelling.
They both have a pronounced effect on the life in the ocean, though. The fishing grounds around both the Marquesas and Kiritimati are very rich and hugely important to the people of those two islands. Different islands, different cultures; in the Marquesas that productivity helps feed the islands, in Kiritimati it is the source of much of the national foreign exchange income for the Republic of Kiribati through the sale of fishing licenses to overseas tuna fleets. These interconnections between the physical environment and human affairs have been at the heart of the material weve been working on these past ten weeks, and it is very gratifying to see the completion of the part of the picture that modern ocean sciences can complete for us.
Science is of course but a piece of the pi. Both good or bad policy decisions can come out of good science, something we spent the class period today discussing. It has been a fascinating, engaging voyage. The opportunity to study the ocean in this way and to meet the people who have to make the choices of how to exploit this resource has been a unique one. I expect the next two weeks to be full of analysis, fevered writing and editing, and spirited debates. And I cant wait to see the atlas project we have started to come to fruition and to tell this story!
On a very separate and somber note, we are arriving here at the time of the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that have wrought such havoc in Japan. You on land will have seen and heard much more than we on the ship, but our thoughts certainly have gone across the Pacific to those who have suffered such losses. Such is the nature of these waves that they cross the ocean basins in a form undetectable to a passing ship, as perhaps a four-foot high wave that is hundreds of kilometers long and moves at speeds of hundreds of miles an hour. We didnt notice the wave, but certainly noticed the various automated alert systems that reached us via satellite mere minutes after the earthquake struck.
Only now are we witnessing any first-hand effects of this tragedy. Though there were no deaths or injuries in Hawaii, there was some property damage in Kailua Kona where we plan to clear in US customs and immigration tomorrow morning. Out of concern for floating debris from some of this damage fouling our propeller, were staying away from shore tonight and will make our final approach to land tomorrow morning in daylight. While not a threat to the ship (were a sailing vessel, after all!), this would be a complication and a hassle wed rather avoid. Besides, there are a lot of people on board right now who are looking forward to a quick trip to an ice cream shop in conjunction with our immigration formalities in town, and any delay would surely be a source of much disappointment
Photo Caption: Massage line with Colleen ahead.
Position: Two days before arrival at Kealakekua
Weather: Wind from ENE Force 5, Sea from ENE 7 feet
March 12, 2011
So many things went through my eyes and so many people that I encountered since I became part of this voyage. Thanks to SEA and Keitapu, and a delicate attention to my husband Christian and to my loving kids.
Another beautiful day.
I began the day with B watch. There was no carousel deployment, so during the morning we worked taking care of steering Mother Seamans to a course of 010°, even though our target in Hawaii is straight to 357º, but the wind and the current are putting a hard pressure on our starboard side, so the Captain ordered a course a bit higher to match our destination.
Yesterday, Colleen, Jennifer and Smitty spent half of the morning trying to sew the ripped jib. As we didn’t succeed on repairing it, today, Jackie, Nick and Joe got up to the tip of the bowsprit and finished there, attaching the new jib. The afternoon watch was happy to get to a sailing plan again!
As I know nothing about how to use the sextant, the mate, Ryan explained it to me. After a few explanations upon the rotation of the earth and how the celestial stars rotate above us, what a good opportunity he offered to some of us by shooting the sun. By reading the number on the sextant, you can determine the latitude of the boat. Once you get that number, a calculation later and a reference to the almanac allows you to get the longitude. It was the first time for me to handle one (I loved that!) and probably the last. When you look in the eye piece, what you see first is a broken horizon line; I mean one line above the other. The first thing to do is to adjust to get ONE horizon. The next operation is to turn the rolling pieces and make the sun appear right under that line. It is crazy because the sun appears green and it’s also rolling!
Nearly at the end of our watch, a yummy mahi-mahi got on our B watch line! Joan and Nick pulled the line back and Ryan got it on board. With Jackie’s help, I scaled the fish and cut it into steak pieces. Greg fried and served them with pesto pasta and garlic bread. I was a bit disappointed as most of us put the jelly skin, the inner bone and the delicious meat in the tail aside: it is the BETTER part.
My evening watch was with A team and Jay was our mate. It seemed to me that I haven’t seen the stars for a long time as we were most of the previous nights under rain and clouds. Tonight, it has been a beautiful starry night: Polaris was at our port bow and Arcturus appeared around nine. Orion and the head of Taurus are right above us. Being at the helm of a giant ship like Robert C Seamans, with all sails deployed, on a beautiful starry night makes you feel so, so happy. It reminded me of the good times that I have spent on the ocean on Faafaite I te a’o Maohi canoe, in O Tahiti nui Freedom project and it makes me think about the great opportunity that I have to work on the prestigious Hokulea canoe when we’ll arrive in Honolulu!
HAUATA Judith Tuti
Photo Caption: Mate Jay Amster and “A” watch eat breakfast on a starboard tack.
12 March 2011
For the last several days, in the strong easterly trade winds that sweep the globe at these latitudes, we have been sailing on a starboard tack with a pronounced heel to port. (For the landlubbers among our readers, that means the ship has been leaning to the left.) We have all, after six weeks at sea, become accustomed to the motions of the ship, with rolls and pitches, yaws and shimmies, lurches and twists, and occasionally a sudden vertical drop. We have never been still; even at anchor in a calm harbor the ship stretches and breathes, like a yoga practitioner at the end of vigorous session.
There are a number of ways of accommodating the heel. I have observed on deck that people who are facing the port side bend backward at the ankles until they reach the same angle as the masts, but pointing in the opposite direction. (If you imagine a watch, this looks like it is five minutes to one, with the masts being the minute hand and the person being the second hand.) If facing starboard, the knees also come into play in order to reach this same angle. Looking forward or aft requires that the knee on the uphill side be bent while the opposite leg is completely straight and that foot planted firmly on the deck. The bent knee then moves up and down as the ship rocks.
The ship is built to accommodate both regular and unexpected movement, with railings and handholds positioned at convenient locations for grabbing when a sudden motion threatens to propel you across the cabin or the deck. Our bunks are built into boxes, with a low wall on the open side to keep the occupant from rolling out. (This is also a good place to wedge either your knee, foot or bum when sleeping, so that you are not feeling both the motion of the ship and your separate motion across the mattress.) Flat work spaces in the galley, library, lab and doghouse (our navigation center), have raised edges to keep things from sliding off.
In the main saloon where we eat our meals is the most wonderful adaptation to our world in motion. The tables are gimbaled so that the food will stay on them when the ship rocks. Essentially the tables stay horizontal and the ship rocks around them, but it creates a marvelous optical illusion—that plates and food are miraculously staying on tables that are either rocking or leaning sharply. Sitting on one side of the table, your food is somewhere at waist level; on the other side you can conveniently scoop it directly into your mouth without even leaning.
We crossed this morning into the Exclusive Economic Zone of the United States, so we are back in home waters. We will clear customs in Kona by mid-week and be in Honolulu on Friday. All is well.
March 11, 2011
Photo Caption: Chief Mate Colleen Allard leads students in repairing the jib sail, with laundry hanging in the background.
Position: 12º31’N, 154º53’ W
Weather: Winds ExN Force 5, Seas NExN 7 ft, Squalls in the area
True Life: I’m Assistant Steward
Today I had the good fortune of being assigned to the Assistant Steward Position. This comes with many perks: a full night’s sleep, some control over the menu for the day, and quality time with everyone’s favorite steward Greg. After planning a tentative menu last night, I was awoken bright and early at 0430 by Emily singing me a “Good Morning” song. I trudged into the galley where Greg and I started making quiche. The task was quickly abandoned however, when the starboard tack of the ship created such a steep keel that eggs were spilling out of the pie crust and onto the soles. The menu changed to scrambled eggs, and breakfast was still served hot, delicious, and on time!
We tossed apple rings onto the griddle (literally throwing them like Frisbees across the galley) for morning snack, and then went to work on lunch.. Tomato soup and “Week in Review” were served, giving everyone a chance to relive their favorite meals of the past week (sadly the popular Macaroni and Cheese took an accidental trip overboard and could not be served. R.I.P.).
In class today we learned about how to identify fishes, and took a look at a flying fish that flew onboard. Ryan also led a class about weather, and broke down cloud identification with the help of audience participation and sassy comments. There were homemade granola bars for snack, which are way better than any you buy in the grocery store. During class the crew was hard at work trying to repair our jib sail, where a tear was discovered last night.
Veal with artichokes, polenta, and veggies for dinner concluded my day in the galley. Greg and I stuffed cream puffs with custard and Nutella (and peanut butter for our non-dairy crew) for midnight snack. It was a long day filled with sass, sewing, and stowing and we all are excited to arrive in Hawaii!
P.S. Matthew James and Paige, I cannot wait to see you on Maui!
MESSAGE FROM CAPTAIN STEVE TARRANT:
It is 0700 Hawaii time on Friday the 11th of March. Ship and crew are safe and sound approx 500 miles south of the Island of Hawaii. The Tsunami that was generated by the earthquake off of Japan poses no threat to us in the open ocean. It is only when these waves encounter shallow coastal waters that they can have devastating effects. Ship routines continue as normal here as we sail north towards Honolulu. All is well here. Stay tuned for more blogs.
Photo Caption: From left to right: Tuti, Jackie, 2 meter net, Nick, Heidi, Jenny (T-Payne), Ali, Amber, Ariane, and everybody’s least favorite Packer fan Owen in dire need of some lunch.
Position: 10º N 154º W. Sailing under the fore-and-afts
Weather: Double digit swells, windy, partly cloudy
March 10, 2011
Dear followers of the blog,
Today was just another day sailing (and in some instances motor sailing) across the Pacific Ocean en route to the big island on Hawaii. The significant event of the day was the first deployment of the two-meter net! This large net went about 800 meters into the abyss and extracted many organisms that were not previously found in the other nets. Jan sat down with the class (literally sat down on the quarter deck) and engaged us in “show and tell,” passing around the different organisms that were found in the net. Inter-watch rivalries make me hesitant to congratulate A watch for anything at all, but I have to admit their deployment of the net was pretty awesome. Nevertheless, I cannot go without giving credit to my own B watch for processing it.
I would also like to talk about the variations of Margaret W. Sherwood’s name that you may have encountered while rigorously reading our blog. The gateway name was Monty, which is how she introduced herself to us originally. Since then, many other forms of the name have started to sprout up. It started with people experimenting with nick-names such as Montus and Monster. From there, we’ve been experimenting with more hard-core nick-names such as the Flying Montus, Preying Montus, Montasouras, and Montel.
Well, having said all that, all is good and cell phone service will soon return to all those who are in withdrawal.
All the best,
Nick Morrow ♣
PS. Shout-out to Chief Mate Colleen’s father, who is celebrating a birthday today. Happy Birthday!
Photo Caption: Amber and Heidi in “Santa’s workshop,” Amber holding her hand-made domino.
March 9, 2011
Position: 8º 37.9’ N 154º 09.5’W. Sailing under the fore-and-afts
We are sailing again! Today the skies cleared; we were able to turn off the motor and sail under our fore and aft sails (mains’l, main stays’l, fore stays’l, fisherman, jib and the JT). The day pushed forward, and “Christmas” was on every one’s mind as we had slaved away on our craft projects for so long. Instead of a snow delay, we had a dolphin delay during class where upon Steve’s announcement of, “Mega fauna!” students rushed to the bow to watch the 15-20 dolphins frolicking around us.
Merry Kiritimati! All crew made such wonderful gifts (even working many hours in the engine control room – or known as Santa’s Workshop), and really showed their creative sides. Our engineer’s, Seth and Tom, offered their excellent craftsmanship to us all, many thanks! We celebrated with cookies and drink, and our very own Santa.
All are well onboard and excited for this last leg!
PS. William, EAG. Love to all my family!
Photo Caption: B Watch in the ITCZ rain. (From left: Nick, Alyce, Kate, Ryan, Elizabeth, Joan, Tristan, Emily)
8 March 2011
Ship Position: Motoring through the ITCZ. 6º 7.0’ N x 154º 13.7’ W.
Weather: Turbulent, rainy weather all day.
Greetings from the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone! The ITCZ (Google it) is a strip of ocean just above the equator, which generates wind to all other areas of the planet. The extremely large amount of evaporation that is occurring in the ITCZ makes it a very wet and stormy place. The sun has been hidden behind a thick multi-layered sky all day, and it has been raining nearly the whole day as well. This morning I woke up to Kate telling me it was rainy outside and to bring my foul weather gear. Thank goodness I did because I would not have been able to bird watch without them. We have just finished afternoon class in the salon, rather than on deck, and many different project groups are meeting so that they can get organized for our paper revision deadline, and synthesize everything that we have learned. We are hard workers. Big mahalo to Sonya for apples and peanut butter for afternoon snack today. They were so yummy.
Excitement is in the air. In honor of Christmas Island, it is Christmas Eve on the ship tonight. Many people on board have been toiling over secret Santa gifts for many days—through classes, on the doghouse, in the engine room, in swimsuits, in bunks, in groups, during sleeping hours, skipping meals, and getting finger pricks. The rule was that no money could be spent on a gift, so everyone is revealing their hidden crafting talents, and learning some new ones. We will be exchanging the gifts at our Christmas party tomorrow evening.
It is hard to believe that we will be in Hawaii in just 7 days! It is so exciting to be sailing on the same route taken by the original migrants to Hawaii. The relationship that those navigators had with the ocean must have been extremely intense. Navigation, especially in the ITCZ is anything but easy. Arriving in Hawaii will be a powerful experience. On one hand, I am coming home to everything that is familiar to me, but on the other hand I will be looking at Hawaii with fresh eyes—who knows what I will see!
Photo Caption: View of Nuku Hiva Bay at night.
7 March 2011
Ship’s Position: Somewhere north of the equator, but south of Hawaii.
Tahiti was great. Moorea was beautiful. Rangiroa had some excellent snorkeling. Nuku Hiva is one of the most amazing places in the world. Christmas Island has a lot of palm trees. And yet, let us not forget the galley. The galley has 2 port lights, through which you can see the horizon sometimes, or only the blue of the water other times. It is with a view like this that the students help produce each of the three meals and three snacks that we eat every day. The following is a brief description of a student’s day in the galley, as told by me, Gregory Robert, the ship’s steward.
Every student’s day in the galley actually begins the previous day at 1930, when I sit down with the student and plan out his or her day in the galley. He or she usually comes prepared with ideas and an open mind to modify them based on what is available onboard (we haven’t gotten much new food since Tahiti- although we have received generous quantities of pamplemousse, pineapple, mangoes, and bananas since then). Once a plan is hammered out, we part ways for the evening, only to be rejoined at 0430 to begin the day’s work. Today I had Monty (The Great Montus, Montel) in the galley and we made fried eggs served on tortillas with cheese and tomato and a side of baked cinnamon apples. After breakfast the real work of the day begins while we make all three snacks for the day so that they are done and out of the way. Today we made strawberry banana smoothies, soft pretzels, and chocolate cupcakes. If you’ve never made homemade soft pretzels, I highly recommend giving it a try. you’ll never look at those pretzel stands at the mall the same way again.
Lunch today was an array of sandwiches- we had hummus, salami, roast beef, and tuna salad, with coleslaw and potato chips that were similar to, but not quite as good as Pringles. Usually all meals contain a hot item, but today it had to be all cold so that the oven and stoves could be cool enough to clean for field day. Field day is what we call taking apart the whole ship and cleaning every crevice, but I’ll let someone else talk about that at some other time.
Lastly, for dinner, we made spaghetti with meat sauce, garlic bread, and spinach- a good hearty meal to recharge ship’s company after a hard day’s work.
But we weren’t the only ones having a feeding frenzy, We motor-sailed past thousands of dolphins also having a feeding frenzy. a rare sight these days to see dolphins from one side of the horizon to the other, but pretty epic nonetheless.
Photo Caption: The Robert C Seamans at sunset (taken from the Christmas Island Pier)
Sunday, March 6th
Noon Position: 2°18’ N, 157° 18’ W
Motoring at 1400 RPM
Weather is mostly sunny with an occasional squall
This morning the Robert C Seamans hauled back from her anchor in the waters of Christmas Island. The sailing plan is actually more of a motoring plan for the moment. Currently, we are gaining some easting which will allow us to sail most of the way to Hawaii and hopefully get us to the Big Island around March 15th. Due to the currents, wind and weather of the ocean closer to the Big Island we are creating this easting now in calmer waters. There is a very noticeable difference in the way the ship moves when motoring as opposed to sailing. Let’s just say sailing is good for the stomach. As of yet, we have proven our sea legs for no one has “fed the fish” on this leg of our journey.
Visiting a place like Christmas Island, a place so stark and different from any other place many of us have visited, leaves an impression. The topic of our afternoon class discussion was sustainability and Christmas Island. The conversation began with some observations of the island. Issues pertaining to clean water availability, economic opportunity, education, and quality of life were all mentioned. One of the overarching issues that seemed to be a common factor was the remote location of the island. Islands by nature are remote; however Christmas Island may be in a league of its own. Christmas is part of the nation Kiribati, however the location of the island lies closer to Hawaii (about 1000 nm away) than it does to the capital Tarawa. Christmas provided a simple example in which to study sustainability.
As our discussion progressed, thoughts of possible remedies and aid projects were thrown around the main salon. As you may have read previously, the location of our classes is usually the quarter deck. However, today our academic efforts were interrupted by a squall. The rain was described as “a moderate constant downpour.” Squalls may, but hopefully won’t, become more common as we are sailing into an area named the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone. The ITCZ is known for its inclement weather.
As our last leg at sea begins its hard to believe how far we have come since our first day at Woods Hole. Steve has been reminding us to contemplate what we want to accomplish as our time at sea dwindles. Whether it’s climbing aloft to the top of the for’mast to look around and see the endless blue that surrounds us, or maybe it’s chillin’ in the headrig with a book or a journal. Between papers and projects, deployments and data, steering and sail handling, there is definitely no lack of work or overabundance of time. However, making the time to see the stars at night shine over the Pacific with no land in sight and absolutely zero light pollution is worth the little less sleep tonight. After all, this truly is a once in a lifetime experience.
Just wanted to say hey to the family and friends see you guys in a few weeks.
Photo Caption: Me, David, and Heidi, along with some local guys who helped us fish. (Please notice how Heidi was able to trade hats with the guy in the middle!)
Saturday March 5th
Day 3 on Christmas Island
Weather: beautiful, no rain
The last day of Kiritimati Island was a day off for everyone to experience the island in their own way. Alana, Emily, Montus, Joan, Ali, Alyce, and Kelsey went on an excursion to Cook’s Island with Jan to view the magnificent birds that call it their home. Because the populations of these birds are drastically declining due to introduced predators, such as cats and rats, they witnessed many traps throughout the day. They ended the day snorkeling and everyone came back at the end of the day really enjoying the outing. On a side note, later in the night a bird came on deck and Jan was able to pick it up!
Everybody else spent the day roaming around the island and for the most part ended up in London. David, Tuti, and I broke off from the crew and went to the home of a very nice family that allowed Tuti to use their kitchen to cook us some dinner. David and I met the woman’s husband at the pier nearby and went fishing with him. As you can see in the picture, I caught one sturgeon fish and David caught about three fish. By the end of the day he had reeled in about 10 total, which resulted in delicious fish tacos tonight prepared by Heidi.
After fishing for a bit I met up with everyone down near the pier where Owen, Tristan, and I proceeded to start a fire to cook the fish (with a lot of help from Tuti!). We cooked the fish on the fire and had it for lunch, along with rice covered with the secret, amazing sauce that Tuti makes. A couple kids, Sariya, William, and Cris, from the house where we stopped earlier had come to hang out as well and enjoyed lunch with us. Shortly afterwards a lot of people went back onto the pier and jumped off into the ocean. It was about a 30 foot jump!
After lunch a bunch of us headed back to London and stopped at the convenience store to quench our thirst. We were able to get there quickly by hitching a ride on the back of a truck, one of the features of coming to these islands. Allison, Nick C., and Heidi drank multiple juice boxes while Smitty basically destroyed their whole stock of ice cream.
Afterwards we all headed back to the ship for the night and finished off the remaining leftovers in the reefer. Jan then put on a semi-documentary about voyaging and how the first Hawaiians made it to the islands. It was very interesting considering that is what we are doing now!
I just got off watch and it is 3:30 AM. Happy B-day Father and Ally! See you all in April.
All the best,
Saturday March 4th
Day 2 on Christmas Island
Weather: beautiful, no rain
Photo: Alyce and local girl
Today we loaded into the back of three pickup trucks and embarked upon an epic journey around Christmas Island, guided by island native Rasta, some other locals, and our new friend Allen, an English botanist. Our tour began in London, a village with several small stores and a variety of palm tree huts. In passing, we were greeted with shouts of “Hello!” “Maohi!” and “Aloha!” from a slew of young kids, welcoming us in the same way that we have noticed throughout Polynesia.
Leaving the island community behind, we entered the lagoon floor, a plain of coral covered with various shrubs and scattered palm trees. The oxidized earth, dark grey and cracked, looked like a vast expanse of old pavement. After winding through the narrow road for a while, we parked in front of a long row of shallow rectangular salt ponds the size of large swimming pools. I looked around and spotted a body of water to the right. I thought that my sunglasses were deceiving me, as the water was not the typical blue, but instead several shades of pink and red. The shoreline was piled with some kind of snow or cotton balls that jiggled and rose up in little puffs as the wind blew. It felt as though we had entered some magical realm, and I half expected to see a glistening sea monster rise from the enormous bubble bath. Shortly after, Allen informed us that we had come upon the first of many Hyper Saline pools, and that the red hue was due to mass quantities of bacteria, which were also creating the piles of foam.
Back in the trucks, we made our way around the atoll, weaving through many other shallow lagoons, each with their own sunset-like tones. Next we stopped at a bird sanctuary, where various boobies and tropicbirds nested in low trees and under leafy shrubs, hardly intimidated by the presence of almost thirty noisy humans. I think Heidi definitely got the closest, but was amazed that all of us were able to stand mere inches away from many of the nesting birds, something that I have not been able to experience previously with wildlife. Further down the road, we also stopped to observe a massive congregation of frigate birds. Male Frigate birds have vibrant red balloons dangling from their necks, which is quite a site to see swinging around as they fly.
Long Beach, the final destination of the tour, was truly epic. White sand, turquoise water, and huge waves perfect for body surfing seemed endless in both directions. Some of us immediately dove in for a dip, some combed the sand for cowries and other shells. We were the only people there, and it really did feel like a little slice of paradise.
Heading back to the pier in the relentless sun and out of the sanctuary, we were brought back to the reality of living in an extreme island environment. Unlike French Polynesia, Kiritimati gets no support from a wealthy nation like France, and only receives imports four to six times per year. While beautiful and pristine in its most natural state, the clear lack of resources for infrastructures, a sanitary sewage system, and fresh water, and most noticeably the amount of trash on the ground was a reminder of how difficult it can be to live in such isolation. It is evident that the concept of sustainability bears a great deal of weight here, if not more so than elsewhere we have visited.
The epic day ended with 21:00 boat rides for those of us who didn’t have watch, and a surprise visit from a pod of dolphins who had been circling the Seamans. They came right up along our dingy and stayed with us until we reached the ship. We have gotten to see so many new and amazing things in just one day, and I can’t wait to find what’s to come!
P.S. Love to the Fam, Woof! To Winnie, and Happy Belated Birthday Dad!
Thursday, March 3rd 2011
Christmas Island, Kiribati
Weather: scattered showers throughout the day, but generally glorious
Photo: The sailing canoe jets off to pick up the rest of the student, framed by the beautiful Christmas Island landscape.
Although I did not wake up for our official breakfast, I snagged a delicious nutella crepe on my way to morning watch. Up the ladders I stumbled out onto a busy scene, people were hustling and bustling around, preparing the boat to pull into our Christmas Island anchoring site. Looking up I saw the sun was still rising, and the sky had turned delicious creamy coral color. Sooty terns, white terns and black noddies swirled in elegant arcs around the boat as we set and strike sails, tacking the boat into its metaphorical parking spot in nearly empty Christmas Island Harbor.
Once the customs officials had cleared us, from the salon dining tables, we started to pack up for the day. We were escorted to the island by a large sailing canoe, with of course, a motor strapped on the back. Stepping onto the white sand and looking around the island was so gorgeous, turquoise, aqua, and light blue waters extend into the horizon. There were beautiful shells beneath our feet. A turquoise pick up truck-esque vehicle transported 10 of us to the KPC School. Driving down the road, I noticed trash, especially old car shells, everywhere. Many houses had tin roofs, and cinderblocks as walls. Toddlers roamed nearby mothers sitting under palm trees. The islanders seemed excited to see us and I exchanged many a wave.
At the school we were treated to a formal welcome. Three students hula danced as an opening ceremony. We were crowned with flowers leis, made with both fresh and plastic flowers. Then we ate a mish mash lunch of a bunch of different dishes, one of which displayed whole grilled fish next to Oreos. We could not have had a warmer welcome and I really enjoyed visiting the school. I especially enjoyed the after-lunch activities, which involved just moseying around the school yard chatting with students; some played a game like baseball but without a bat or a pitcher. After that we headed back to meet the boats which were to ferry us back to the Seamen’s. After some great but short-lived shell hunting an outrigger power boat brought us back home. On the boat there were students and two teachers from another school on the island, a Catholic school called St. Francis.
So started the afternoon portion of the day, there was lots of socializing with people from Christmas who came onto the boat for a little BBQ situation. Mainly these were people from the two schools, although some dignitaries came on as well. There was a barbeque grill set up that hung precariously off the side of the boat. After an exhausting but exciting day we had a movie night under the stars. Sooty terns lulled me to sleep with their strange cat-like squawks in the distance.
P.S. Dear family hopefully you read this from whatever continent you’re on and I love you all dearly! Give the kittens some lovin’!
Photo Caption: Second Engineer Thomas Howland shoots early morning stars under Venus and a waning crescent moon.
March 2, 2011
Location: 2° 56’N, 157° 09’W About 15 nm east of Christmas Island
This morning we woke to a sign in the main saloon declaring “Christmas is almost here!” More accurately, we’re almost there. Christmas island has just made its first appearance on our radar, and we’re enjoying a beautiful downwind sail under the reefed four lowers and tops’l. As we near our next port of call, the rhythm of life on board continues. Watch follows watch, and students and staff members alike continue to grow and learn from one another here at sea.
In celebration of our upcoming exploration of Christmas island, the students on board have organized a “Secret Santa” gift exchange. The only pre-requisites for gifts are that they are created, not purchased, by the giver. Gifts will be exchanged next week, following our departure from Christmas island.
This afternoon Kelsey, Amber, Jenny, Nick M., Cloe, Heidi, David and Ariane gave the ship’s company an overview of the history and physical characteristics of Christmas island. Their half-hour presentation was a great way to jump-start our thinking about this remote outpost of humanity here in the equatorial Pacific.
The other big excitement of the day was the line chase! Students have been studying up, working hard to ensure that they can correctly identify all of the more than 70 lines that we use to set and strike sail. A bit of friendly competition amongst the watches made for a great show, and the students celebrated completing their line chase with a “conga” line. Just a bit of tall ship humor for all of you at home…
It’s easy to lose sense of time as one day melds into the next, but I’m happy to be posting today’s blog so I can wish one of my closest friends Liz Usowicz a happy birthday looking forward to celebrating with you in April.
Hoping you’re all doing well at home - Love to you Popsicle, Dan, Rach and Jed. Say hello to the family
Photo Caption: Engineer Extraordinaire Jackie checks the oil in the main engine with Seth, as part of the daily engine room walk-through
1 March 2011
Position: 45’N 155° 05’W
Sail Plan: Broad reach, main and squares, no motoring since Nuku Hiva!
Weather: Mostly sunny and equatorial, with a chance of the doldrums
Hello folks at home! Greetings from the Engine Room. We’ve been hearing about the loads of snow being dumped on New England this winter, and I would like to remind any Northern Hemisphere vernal optimists that the days ARE getting longer. I am sending warm Equatorial thoughts your way. Our shipboard days were getting shorter up until 2100 last night, but we have rejoined the right-side-up half of the world, it’s winter again, and soon Polaris will be peeking over the northern horizon.
As the ship’s Chief Engineer, I feel compelled to write a little about the engineering program. Robert C Seamans sails with two engineers, and the students spend on-watch time down here with us on the orlop deck hiding from the equatorial sun, learning about the ship’s systems, helping out with preventative maintenance, repairing broken equipment, and enjoying elementary-school-level humor in order to ensure that fixing heads isn’t all work and no fun. There are also six voluntary engineering research projects underway, with class time reports detailing particular systems - thus far we’ve heard about refrigeration (Allison and Jenny) and watermakers (Kate and Nick C), and more will follow. Thomas and I have been having a blast working with everyone; we’ve got ourselves a stellar group of students and staff and a great cruise track to boot.
Kiritimati (Christmas Island) is our next port stop, and is only two days away. Though Kiritimati is only about 157°W, it is part of the Republic of Kiribati which is otherwise on the other side of the International Date Line: one could say that we will be arriving the day before the day after tomorrow. While we’re on the subject of things happening at the “wrong time,” it came to light that some of our students (and staff) were apparently not able to satisfy their insatiable love of Christmas back in December, so we are therefore having another Christmas in honor of the so-named island. Secret Santa projects are in full swing, and worn-out old sails are finding new life as ditty bags, notebook covers, and other secret projects which have yet to be revealed. I’m sure the excellent shell-scavenging on Kiritmati will yield earrings and necklaces as well.
Snack time is upon us once again and I am going to go stuff a muffin in my face and have a mug of coffee. Best wishes to all at home, and here’s a special shout-out from Tom and me to engineers’ dads named Mark (and a Happy Birthday from Heidi to her sister).
Photo Caption: Crossing from one hemisphere to the next.
The Equator! 0 00.00 S x 153 50.7 W
We awoke this morning after a particularly quiet and restful night aboard Mother Seamans to greet the day we all had been anticipating for the last week, our equator crossing day. The festivities began at breakfast and from there we all watched the GPS slowly descend to 0. We had a lovely picnic on deck for lunch, hosted by the previous equator crossers who served up a fantastic mix of new concoctions as well as some of our favorite leftovers from this week. Mary did a reading that discussed traditions on old sailing ships concerning the first crossing of the line for pollywogs and we all pondered what Neptune might have to say to us as many of us were in that same situation. During the late afternoon, many people used the beautiful weather as a chance to shower and freshen up on deck so as to have a fresh and clean face for the line and the new hemisphere. We crossed the equator itself at about 2100 and most gathered on deck to share the moment and a cheer under the stars.
Surprise, an hour later were back in the Southern hemisphere having hove-to just north of the line and drifting back over it while we did our nightly carousel deployment. After some net tows we headed back north and crossed the equator for the third and final time for the night.
Congratulations to all the new shellbacks and keep your eyes peeled for Polaris.
Photo Caption: Emily and Sonya birdwatch during squall conditions.
27th of February
350 miles ExS of Kiritimati Atoll. Steady trade winds persist. Chef Gregbob’s birthday. Steering by stars.
Picture caption: Equatorial sunset
February 26, 2011
As of 2100 (9:00pm) our position was 1 23.025 S by 150 45.552 W. We are currently sailing under the mainsl, and the stack. The stack refers to the three square sails; the course, the topsl and the rafee.
The morning and early afternoon saw rain showers which eventually gave way to a beautiful sunset for B watch. During these last couple of days we have seen a subtle drop in temperatures. However, none of us are complaining. The cooler weather is a welcome change from the sweltering humidity we have all become accustomed to. Blankets and jackets during the evenings are becoming common.
Today was a milestone for the students of the Robert C. Seamans as today was our lab practical which was essentially our midterm. The lab practical tested our knowledge of laboratory procedure and the proper test equipment deployment as well as knot tying. Extra credit was given to those of us who could tie a bowlin behind our backs. We all felt confident that we did well on the practical.
As we approach the equator the sea god Neptune has already begun delivering warnings via his followers (the shellbacks on board) to us mere pollywogs. A shellback is one who has previously crossed the equator and is in the good graces of Neptune, while pollywogs are those of us, like myself, who have not yet crossed the equator and must soon prove ourselves worthy to Neptune. What the equator crossing will hold for us pollywogs we shall soon find out. I for one am very excited.
Elizabeth I. Davis
Photo Caption: Cleared for Landing! A Booby makes a dramatic approach to
the bowsprit of the Robert C. Seamans in this picture by Jan Witting.
We are just a bit more than three degrees south of the equator and mysterious messages from Neptune are appearing around the ship, threatening the peace of mind of those of us who are “crossing the line” for the first time. Watery threats appear on mirrors, and rumors are rampant about the secret rituals that will bring us into the world of seasoned shellbacks. We can feel the approaching equator in other ways as well: the wind and seas are both increasing, evidence that we are coming into the tradewinds.
Though we check in with our campus in Woods Hole every day, we have otherwise no evidence that the earth has any other occupants than ourselves. We have seen no vessel or plane of any sort since we left Nuku Hiva a week ago. Our ship is like an isolated island, surrounded by sea and sky, birds and flying fish (that sometimes hum along the surface by the hundreds!).
The moon is now rising late enough to give us a period of darkness so deep that the Milky Way is brilliantly clear-a smear of stars that stretches across the sky and drops into the sea beneath the Southern Cross and Alpha Centauri.
It is lovely here in the South Pacific. All are well on board, and all are missed at home.
Photo Caption: Alyce, Tristan, Sonya, Kate, and Ryan aloft on the fore top
and tops’l yard
As we approach the half way point of our transit from Nuku Hiva to Christmas Island after 5 days at sea with about 5 days remaining I have noticed a few things out here on our small floating island home called the RCS. These things are of the type that only show up when I find myself isolated in the middle of the ocean surrounded by an amazing group of people. The simple fact that we are sailing and working in the lab 24 hours a day sets up a rhythm and cycle in our lives that cannot be replicated anywhere else. There are no more days, just a blend of spectacular sunrises, stunning sunsets, sail handling, lab work, sleep, class time, eating, cleaning, laughing, story telling, music playing, hauling, 100-counting, chopping vegetables, napping, coffee drinking, reading, steering, keeping lookout, writing essays, deploying oceanographic research equipment, sleeping again, eating some more, singing, navigating by stars, and before you know it 3 days have passed and it is time to start the watch cycle all over again. Days blend into this ocean time continuum that demands all your attention and energy, but rewards you with so much you keep coming back to watch even more excited than before. There is nothing like an open ocean voyage that I have found in this world that has the ability to create the positive energy, genuine trust, goodwill, and hard work radiating out of each individual out here in the vast ocean world.
The sun is setting and dinner smells are entering my cabin, these are clues in my internal ship clock that I must be off to watch the great fireball descend once more in to the horizon and spot the stars bursting onto scene. I cannot describe how amazing the night sky is out here thousands of miles from any light pollution. There are so many stars it is a challenge to find the bright, easy constellations we all know back on land. The cycles and rhythms of the ship and the ocean continue unabated for another 5 days, I can’t wait to be sucked further into the universe of Neptune.
Love ya, Mom, Dad, John & Jill, see you real soon Liz.
Nicholas Koenig Shonka
Photo caption : David, Liann and Kelsey present the daily science report
Today is the 23rd of February.
It’s been three days since we left Nuku-Hiva in the Marquises and Paul also twenty days since Papeete. We sailed about a thousand miles since and so many discoveries have come thru my eyes and my soul. To many of us in the ship, many places are unknown like Rangiroa, the Marquises, and the upcoming stops at Kiribati and Hawaii.
It’s the middle of the day. I just had this yummy lunch that Smitty prepared us (green peas, a sort of cheesy noodle with meat and tomatoes, and grilled bread with banana and peanut butter).
This morning, I was on A watch managed by Ryan. At 7am, the position on the chart was 5° 41’ 04 South and 144° 38’ 69 West . If you had been a bird flying in the sky at that moment, you would have seen the “Robert C Seamans” with its beautiful sails out main, course, topsail and raffee.
Today, Jenny has the opportunity to be the assistant mate. Encouragement to her!
During the morning class, we had some very interesting papers read by their authors. Amber gave us a very close-to-the-reality synopsis of the political history of French Polynesia oops, Tahiti nui! since 1797. Owen enlarged that view by offering us the history of the colonizing of different countries. IF ONLY the Polynesians can listen to those students !!!! they would be so proud and inspired to lead the country to a process of independence.
I’m leaving you; the bell has rung! It’s time for the afternoon class.. Let’s meet tonight
It’s 10 pm : I have just finished my second watch of the day from 7 to 9 pm. Tonight was the first night steering by the stars. Kelsey succeeded as when Jay, our watch captain for the night, lit up the compass again after thirty minutes, she was straight on the course ordered: 310º. If you could have heard her cry of happiness !
There were two reports today in the afternoon class. Liann, Kelsey and David gave us a better idea of the equatorial currents. Cloe, Allison and Monty offered us the list of the latitude of a few stars, as we will be using more and more the stars for guiding us at night. After that, Jan, our scientist, gave us information on the loss of oxygen of the ocean. The idea that I retain is about the Kelvin wave, which is moving at a level just under the thermocline (from under 20 meters), from the west side of the Pacific to the east. It can take a few months to reach from one side to the other. The very interesting point for French Polynesia is that at its latitude, there is an effect of upwelling which brings new planktons and animals very profitable to the marine fauna.
After class, Thomas pointed out a booby stopped at the head of the boat, who decided to rest a time with us and clean his plumage. What a pleasant transition for snack time!
Now, it’s late at night. I’m going to rest also and I wish to my kids and husband “sweet dreams.”
Polynesian teacher and student
O Tahiti Nui Freedom
Photo Caption: Booby’s-eye view of the Robert C. Seamans
Position: Nine Days Until Christmas Island
For those of you regularly reading this blog, it is probably very clear by now that the start of this class has been very busy. We’ve have hiked, toured and snorkeled on four different islands. We’ve spoken to municipal leaders, fisheries officials, students and pearl farmers. And somewhere in the midst of it all, we’ve made the Robert C. Seamans a home and have begun our investigation of the great Pacific Ocean itself. All this activity has made time fly, and so the arrival of the mid-point of our journey has managed to catch us all by not a small amount of surprise.
But those are the facts. Behind and ahead of us an equal number of days, but that is where the symmetry ends. For behind lies all four of the Polynesian Islands we’ll visit, while ahead is still the bulk of the mileage we’ll cover. Tahiti and Hawaii are roughly on the same latitudes, one north the other south, but we have yet some four days before crossing the equator and changing hemispheres.
As we sail away from the Polynesian world and all of the fantastic experiences and new friends we made there, the ocean is starting to pace our progress. Closing in on the equator we’re starting to see subtle but significant changes in the ocean under our keel. Were discovering these changes by stopping (or heaving to in nautical parlance) the ship twice a day and deploying a variety of plankton nets and instruments to sample everything from the biology to chemistry to the physics of the ocean. Among the things we’re seeing: An increase in the abundance of the tiny planktonic animals at the base of the oceanic food chain. The cooling of the surface ocean as we close in on the great equatorial upwelling system. And responding to this an increase in abundance of flying fish and the open ocean seabirds hunting for them.
Sailing too has changed. Gone is our need to buck the trade winds and travel east, and arrived are the days of milk and honey of wafting westward with the easterly trades in our backs, a pyramid of sails drawing us closer to our next stop in Christmas Island. The tempo of shipboard work is settling quickly to the routine we barely had time to learn on route from Tahiti to Nuku Hiva. Watch follows watch, much of that towering canvas has to be struck before science station, (fantastic) meals are prepared and served, dishes cleaned. Looking down on the ship from aloft, she serves as a wonderful metaphor of our voyage, in the middle and between the line of our wake astern and the broad and blue unbroken horizon ahead.
Much of the work of our voyage happens here, in the middle. Morning classes with Mary to forward the thinking and writing of the island visits behind us, the science stations to forward our understanding of the sea, the mastering of the ship and how to sail her. It is hard to imagine how the first half of the journey could have gone any better. The ship is full with stories and pictures from the past days; there is a sense of purpose, of joyful discovery on board. Ahead lie yet more discoveries and surprises in the form of a changing ocean, a different culture and language, and different winds to sail by. So we all continue working together and learning together. All’s well on board the good ship Robert C. Seamans!
Picture caption: Tristan, Captain Steve, Alana, Jackie, Monty and others participate in the Field Day pump up dance the Hoe Down Throw Down.
Noon position: 7° 47.35’s x 141° 56.1’w
Currently we are sailing on a starboard tack under a single reefed main, mainstays’l, jib, tops’l and course. The trade winds are from the east at a steady force 4 with 4ft swells rolling in from the east by north. The sky is fairly clear with a few cumulus clouds.
I am excited to be back at sea! Our four day stop in Nuku Hiva far exceeded any possible expectations, but it is nice to return the familiar routine of the ship. I am glad to get a chance to rest, do laundry, stand watch, catch up on work and reflect on the past few days. The ships motion is a gentle sleep inducing roll, and the sail configuration and heading allowed for a wonderfully shady afternoon on the quarter deck, for which my sunburned back was very grateful.
Today started at 0300 for B watch. It was a gorgeous morning, with a clear sky, big moon, bright stars and eventually a welcoming sun rise. We had a few exciting firsts on our dawn watch. The tops’l was set when we came on watch, but due to the very broad nature of our reach (a point of sail), about half way through the watch we got to set the course—one of our square sails. For the past few weeks we have all been memorizing the names of the lines on the forward fife rail, and it was exciting to see them in action. We led the sheets and tacks, undid the brails, let go the inhauls and clewl’ns and sheeted her home. The big sail slowly unfurling above us was quite dramatic. We also attempted to set the raffee sail, but with less satisfying results. Hauling the stubborn weather sheet over the jib stay twisted the starboard clew of the sail and we were unable to clear it by hauling the halyard. We brought it back to deck in time to go do the boat check and weather log and meet C watch on the quarter deck for the watch change. The raffee was later set solo by our very own “Captain Caviar,” though it did not stay up for long.
This afternoon was marked by the third Field Day of the trip. Everyone met on the quarter deck at 1400 for a rousing rendition of the Hoe Down Thrown Down, a Miley Cyrus dance made famous on youtube, led by Sonya, Kate and Jenny, which they endeavored to teach the whole crew. We all stumbled around the quarter deck for a few minutes, enthusiastically attempting to “Pop it, lock it, polka-dot it,” after which everyone scattered around the ship to their various Field Day tasks. The whole ship got swept, mopped, scrubbed, wiped down, organized, and in general made ship shape. I spent the afternoon on top of the science house with Jay, Smitty and Alana, bending on the newly patched fisherman sail and giving it some TLC as we found numerous little nicks to patch. Everyone wrapped up their jobs at 1600 for a “gear adrift” auction. Owners of the lost gear had to perform in an attempt to win back their misplaced possessions. Smitty did the hula for his raincoat and Heidi sang the potato song and mimed jumping rope on a pogo stick to reclaim two of her wayward shirts.
All are well and happy aboard.
21 February 2011
Photo caption: Mermaid Emily Leshner soaks in the sun (and reads Typee!) with a beautiful backdrop.
7°53.1’ S x 141°44.4’ W
Course 305 psc, sailing under mains’l, main stays’l, jib, coarse, and tops’‘l Easterly winds, force 4, swell ExN with 4 ft waves, partly cloudy skies
Yesterday was our first and last day of complete freedom aboard the Seaman’s. Our last day in Nuku Hiva, we students were free of watches, cleaning, and lecture for an entire day to roam around the island as we wished. As I trudged from my bunk to the quarter deck for 3 AM anchor watch, I have to admit that I was prepared to spend this precious day curled up in my bunk catching up on much-needed sleep.
Taking the advice of a friend from home, I dragged myself out of that sleepy slump and decided to “seize the day,” starting with Nuku Hiva’s Saturday market. The market, like most business and activity on the island, is for morning people only if you get there at 8 AM, you’ve missed it. Thanks (ironically) to my anchor watch wake up, I was treated to the cool temperatures of Nuku Hiva at dawn and a morning of perusing gorgeous island produce and nibbling on fresh-baked croissants. Once everyone was ashore our crew collectively “seized the day” in various ways David was lucky enough to spend the day fishing with a local fisherman, some shopped around the town or hiked in the lush valley, and many of us went canoeing in the bay and enjoyed a beachside Marquesan lunch with new friends.
In the afternoon we embarked on a quick hike along the beach and rocks to a few tide pools on the edge of the bay. I felt like a mermaid swimming in the tide pools, collecting shells, and watching crabs and other critters scamper about our camp. Far from the busier beaches close to town and sheltered by the rocks on all sides, we appreciated the rare moment of quiet (hard to come by in the close quarters of the Seamans) and the contented disconnect that makes Nuku Hiva so peacefully beautiful.
The night ended with a delicious dinner, a breathtakingl view, and a gloriously bright moon as we dined in one of Nuka Hiva’s only hotels (tourism is a smaller industry here than on the other islands we’ve visited). Reflecting all the things we’ve experienced since we’ve been in Nuku Hiva, it’s hard to believe that we were only there for four days. As we sail out of our last French Polynesian port stop, we will take a little piece of Nuku Hiva with us.
The constant movement of life aboard a ship means that your eyes are pointed to the bow, and as we settle back into the routine of life at sea we are looking forward to our next adventure. As we sail away from Nuku Hiva we begin a new challenge 12 days at sea and I’m excited to “seize the day” on the second half of our voyage.
20 February 2011
Photo caption: Marquesan carver Fara signs his work and carves SPICE on thestone adze he presented to us.
Location: Just northwest of Nuku Hiva
Latitude/Longitude: 8 41.6S X 140 39.0W
Today is a bittersweet day for the crew of the Robert C. Seamans as we are forced to say goodbye both to the beautiful island of Nuku Hiva and to our fantastic Teaching Fellow, Paul Niva. Paul was brought on board as an academic, as he was educated at the Sorbonne and was an invaluable resource in helping us to understand Polynesian society and especially archaeology as we explored maraes on both Moorea and Nuku Hiva. However, after only living with him for three weeks, it would be difficult to overstate how much Paul added to our group. He quickly learned the names of 24 strange American kids plus faculty and crew and participated enthusiastically in all shipboard activities, from secret valentines to learning to steer to filleting the large mahi caught off the quarterdeck a few days ago. Our port activities would not have been the same without him either, as he was quick to talk to whomever we may find on the street, opening some incredible doors for us. Some of these were people he knew (his brother lives on Rangiroa, we discovered) and some he did not know at all (the copra farmer who generously showed us his land and allowed Paul to demonstrate his prowess cracking coconuts with an axe) but in any case, his friendliness seemed to open up opportunities we would never have discovered on our own. Despite many attempts to kidnap him so that he can continue on with us to Hawaii, Paul had to leave this morning to go back to his real job as a hydrographer and GIS analyst with the Tahitian government (we think sailing is more fun). Steve and Mary sang a departing tune and we presented him with some parting gifts, and there were a few tears as he sped away with Jan in the rescue boat. We will certainly miss Pauls humor and his evening ukulele playing and the next few weeks will be quite different without him.
We had a truly incredible day off in Nuku Hiva. For starters, it is safe to say that none of us will be getting scurvy thanks to the generosity of this islands people; there are now at least 2 pamplemousse per person on this ship, each about the size of our heads, in addition to mangoes, pineapples and what looks to be approximately 100 limes. Since we had each already spent an evening and an afternoon exploring Taiohae, many people had slightly more ambitious plans to hike or explore a bit further. However, we could not possibly have planned for the way the day turned out, thanks again to some truly generous people. Paul had asked Tutis cousin, Fifi, where we may be able to rent an outrigger canoe, and she gave him the name of a man named Henri. When we arrived there, expecting to pay for an hour or so of canoe time, not only did they allow us to use their canoes for free and take us out with their staff to paddle around the bay, but when told that we had packed sandwiches for lunch, quite unexpectedly cooked an enormous feast for us. We ate delicious poisson cru, breadfruit with beef, rice and Tutis special sauce, and goat on the grill with our fingers off huge leaves, cooked by Fifi and Henri.
The surprises just kept coming; Tuti announced that a carver, Fara, would be coming soon, perhaps to sell the whale-bone earrings he makes. He demonstrated carving for us and made a few students custom carved pieces, again refusing payment. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day was the presentation of a 4 foot hand-carved adze, which was given to us by the carver himself, Fara. He explained the symbolism used: the top carving represented the warrior ancestors, who are thinking carefully about the present; the middle represents the younger generations; and the bottom represents the Catholic church, which is an important part of Marquesan life, but not the most important part. At the very top, the stone is attached to the rosewood with glue and twine, which are Western imports, and Henri explained that this is something that must be critically considered; Marquesans need to decide, he said, how and to what degree they will allow Western culture to become part of their society. The adze will now travel on the Seamans wherever she goes and will serve as a reminder of the incredible experiences that the first SPICE class has had here, as well as our commitment to continuing to work with Polynesians in general and Marquesans specifically.
We were also honored with the opportunity to plant two mango trees in honor of the Hokulea, which was a pioneering outrigger voyage that sailed from Hawaii to Tahiti in the 1970s and 80s using only celestial navigation, a symbol of the resurgence of traditional Polynesian culture. It was really amazing as crew of the Seamans to be symbolically part of such an important event. A few people took turns breaking the ground with a pickaxe and when the plants were safely in the soil, Fara performed a traditional chant to mark the plants as an offering to the god Taaroa, god of the sea.
The close of the already amazing day was a congregation of many of the faculty and students at the hotel restaurant, where we spent a very pleasant few hours swimming in the pool and having dinner and dessert. We will be very sad to depart Nuku Hiva, a really beautiful island with amazingly generous people.
18 February 2011
Photo Caption: Taiohae Bay, Nuku Hiva
In exactly one month from today the Robert C. Seamans will be sailing into Honolulu Harbor, full of tan sailors. Time is passing strangely on the Seamans. On one hand, it feels as if I have been here for three months rather than three weeks because of the sheer amount we have learned, seen, and accomplished. On the other hand, it seems just a few days ago that we were all walking around the market in Papeete. But here we are in the Marquesas with over 1000 miles under our belts.
Today was our third day on Nuku Hiva, and we all had the chance to venture out of the most populous valley of Taiohae. The students and faculty were loaded into five cars, and were driven up the steep and winding road leading out of Taiohae. Before we knew, it we found ourselves descending into the legendary Taipivai valley, where we passed a large coprah production operation, and a dramatic waterfall. Another steep ascent and descent took us into Hatiheu valley, which lies on the northern side of the island. In Hatiheu, we stopped at one of seven massive archaeological sites. Stones were stacked upon stones to create pa (walls), paepae (sleeping areas), and sacred spaces. It was a very powerful place that reminded me of the quiet mana (power) that can often be felt in such ancient tapu places. Lucky for us, we also had a Marquesan archaeologist with us, Pierre Ottino, who has been working at the site. He was able to explain to us the significance of each area of the site, who would use each area, and what it was used for.
My favorite part of the day was finding a perfectly ripe papaya growing from a tree that was rooted in one of the rock walls. We plucked the papaya, and as a gift in return, I left a customary offering of a green leaf with two rocks stacked upon it, and a red berry. On the drive back to Taiohae we had some extra free time, so the occupants of our car (Heidi, Kate, Allison, Elizabeth, Monty, Liann, and Jan) were taken to the very top of Taiohae valley. At this point, our extreme fatigue began to set in, and we all got the extreme giggles. We laughed all the way back to the dock.
As a part of Starboard Watch it is our group’s responsibility to be on the ship tonight while the other half of the crew is on shore. So far we have been entertaining ourselves with a big meal of leftovers, and a casual game of charades. “Mutiny on the Bounty”, slippery hitch, magic carpet, and “ghost ride the whip” have been the best things acted out so far.
Our brief stay in the Marquesas has already been a very powerful experience for me. I have met people who welcome me as a sister or cousin because I come from Hawaii, and it has made the deep connection Polynesian people have between each other all the more palpable. A woman I met last night, Sylvana, told me a wonderful thing: she said she is so happy to see that we are coming to the Marquesas from all around the world to learn about the problems they face, and to learn about the honua, or earth. She told me that we are all connected, and it is up to people like us to rediscover our connection to the ocean and the land.
Photo Caption: The Crew & Friends
Taihoe Bay, Nuka Hiva
Our trip at sea has been a constant progression of learning and adventure since we set foot on the Robert C. Seamans, today certainly did not differ.
Having arrived at Taihoe Bay last night at 1930, we have been surrounded by one of the most picturesque scenes of tropical paradise. The valley itself is more populated and developed in contrast to the little houses in Haukai Bay, with a decently sized market, several little shops, and paved roads. Taihoe Bay, also known as Nuka Hiva Bay in Herman Melville’s Typee is the stereotypical remnant of a volcanic crater with high mountains dramatically encircling the majority of the bay. Waves gently broke upon the iron enriched red beach. Coconut palms, mango, and breadfruit trees lined the streets, interspersed with colorful flowers. The air was laced with the delicate fragrance of the white gardenia flowers associated with the French Polynesian image of paradise. It’s become increasingly clear why Melville chose to abandon ship to live on one of earth’s most beautiful treasures. Hopefully, none of us will follow suit.
Upon landing ashore, our group was formally welcomed by the Nuka Hiva Tourism Office. It was a quiet affair in which Jan Witting (our Chief Scientist) and Paul Niva (our Polynesian Teaching Fellow) received necklaces. This simple act of hospitality has become synonymous with the people of Polynesia. As our group meandered through the little town up the main road, we were constantly being greeted and waved to by curious bystanders. After a brief talk at the local church, everyone split up into different groups. While some had a class at a small café with Mary, others prepared for a small presentation at a local middle school and the rest were set free to explore the island.
After our free time, everyone made their way to the dock and made it back to the ship. We were quickly followed by 15 teenagers from the local agricultural school, where Alison, Sonya, Cloe, Tristan, Owen, and Monty had previously presented. As everyone crowded aboard our ship, endearingly nicknamed “Momma Seamans,” we were graciously treated to several songs. The performance was unforgettable with their voices, guitars, and drums filling the entire boat. With some cold lemonade and brownies in hand they quickly became our friends and they left after many goodbyes.
If that was not enough, we had yet another guest aboard our ship who very generously answered all our questions regarding sustainability in Nuka Hiva. Although the mayor of Nuka Hiva had intended to welcome us, he was ironically heading back to Papeete where our journey began and sent one of his assistants. After she left, the students on starboard watch went back to shore to spend the night on their own, while the designated port students conduct anchor watches tonight.
Aside from all the formal activities, tonight has also marked another important milestone for my life at sea. Along with Jenny, Eric, Amber, and Alison, I went aloft the forem’st. Climbing 90ft+ above the ship. It was extraordinary as it was just about dusk when we spotted an eagle ray gliding through the water.
With so many memorable experiences today, this trip has quickly become one of the most action packed adventures of my life. As I sit writing this blog entry, the moon is full, the stars are bright, and the sea is calm. There really is no other comparison for the beauty of French Polynesia. The people are sincere, genuine, and friendly, and the landscape is unparalleled in its tropical beauty. There is no other place I’d rather be in February than Nuka Hiva with its tranquil 82° nights.
Photo Caption: Heading back to Seamans after our hike with gifts of fruit in hand
February 16, 2011
Arrival at Nuku Hiva
Since working with Keitapu in Woods Hole, we have all been slowly building our Tahitian vocabulary, bringing iaorana (hello) and mauruuru (thank you) into conversation rather fluidly in our first three port stops. Our arrival in Nuku Hiva brings with it a new local language, a few words of which we have been practicing on board for several days now. After the day we had today, one I doubt any of us will ever forget, I was daunted by the task of sharing it here. Where would I find sufficient words? But then it occurred to me that this would be the perfect opportunity to share with you my very newest word, for I think it captures the essence of this day better than any other. Today was simply kanahou (good, beautiful, and delicious).
I held Dawn Watch this morning with my fellow A-Watchers, which treated us to a Marquesan sunrise over our much-anticipated destination. After dropping anchor in the harbor and packing our lunches, we loaded into the inflatables and went ashore. It took some time to soak up our stunning surroundings before embarking on a hike inland. Right away we were greeted by the residents of three houses along our path who waved and smiled and called out hellos in many languages. They were all outside tending their gardens of luscious fruits and vibrant flowers. About an hour into our hike we stopped to do an archeology activity Paul had organized for us, giving us a taste of his work and allowing us to explore and interpret the remains of ancient structures on the island. Our final stop was an incredible swimming hole at the base of a waterfall. Within
seconds of our arrival we were all in the water, seeking the best rocks to jump from and absorbing the surreal moment we all shared. Refreshed and rejuvenated for our walk back to the ship, we encountered several surprises before reaching the shore.
As we neared the end of our first day of adventures on Nuku Hiva, one of the women we passed on our way in was waiting for us with an enormous and beautiful basket of limes she had prepared for us. We thought she was asking if we wanted any, but with Tuti’s translation we learned that she insisted that we take all of them. She then began waving over any of us with big backpacks and stuffing every last lime inside of them and sending us on our way. Still smiling from our first encounter, we were called out to from the couple living in the next house. They invited us all on to our porch and poured lemonade for each of us and passing around a giant bowl of bananas. As we said our thank yous and good byes, they handed us a bag of mangoes they had packed for us. Overwhelmed by generosity at this point, we were more touched than surprised when the man in the third house poked his head out as we passed and told us to take the things he had left for us. At this we saw, where his yard met the road, a pile of breadfruit next to a box packed full of limes and star fruit. This is the kind of pure thoughtfulness and generosity that we have encountered at every island so far. Reflecting on “the island way,” as Tuti tells us it is, with Jenny earlier this evening, she said it just right, that this is something we all need to take home with us.
I was surprised when I discovered this word, kanahou, in a French Polynesian guide book in the Seamans library. I could not imagine how one word could suffice to describe all things good, beautiful, and delicious. After spending a day here though, I must say it makes perfect sense. In a place where so much of the landscape is all three, of course the local language has an adjective prepared to rise to the challenge.
Happy Birthday Mom! Enjoy your day and be ready to celebrate all over again when I get home. Love you!
Photo Caption: Mates Ryan Shamburger and Jay Amster flank Paul Niva and a big Mahi Mahi.
February 15, 2011
44 nm east of Nuku Hiva
Sailing under jib, stays’ls, main
Wind E Force 5, Waves ExN 6ft, blue skies
“FISH ON!” cries B watch at sunrise, rushing many from below to the quarter deck in time to witness Paul “Etoa” Niva haul up a healthy bull Mahi mahi! This fervor, from our first fishing line action after nearly 300 miles of trolling, sets the tone for our very lively day aboard.
During the filleting/dissection practice of our gift from King Neptune, East wind and seas build to steady Force 5 conditions; this is the strongest consistent blow our crew’s met thus far, and RCS has an exciting heel throughout our cloudless day. “LAND HO!” cries C watch at noon as Moto Iti rears its head over the eastern horizon. For the majority of our crew, the sighting ends their longest stretch of time at sea, and such a small rock is a welcome sight as it heralds our anticipated destination, Nuku Hiva.
What a lunch feast the Mahi makes!
“FISH ON!” cries A watch in the middle of group discussions on the quarter deck. Another Mahi is lured in, this time from a feeding frenzy of schooling fish and diving seabirds. With a few pointers from Paul and Ryan, Jackie fights the female aboard, fillets her, and delivers the goods to the galley.
Spirits high and bellies full, several crew members take to the quarter deck with ukulele, drums, and vocal chords; we share songs in English, French, Hawaiian, and Tahitian as we wind down another grand day at sea Come morning, many of us will awake to the sound of our anchor letting go in the protection of Taioa Bay, Nuku Hiva!
Photo Caption: C Watch group meeting on the bowsprit
February 14, 2011
Location: 8°39.4’S, 141°53.3’W
98 NM to Nuku Hiva
Sailing under all fore and aft sails
Weather Conditions: Wind ExN Force 4, Waves ENE 4ft, beautiful day with a few clouds.
Monday marked our sixth day underway after leaving Rangiroa. We are all finally finding our sea legs and settling into the rhythm of life at sea. This morning C Watch was treated to a picturesque sunrise over the ocean. Clouds on the horizon were slowly painted soft shades of pink, orange, and red until the sun finally appeared. An elegant seabird glided gracefully ahead of the ship and flying fish jumped out of the waves. It was an incredible moment that got the day off to a positive start.
It was a festive Valentine’s on board the Robert C. Seamans. Secret valentines were exchanged throughout the day and many crew members were seen sporting their finest pink attire. Today was an especially memorable day for me as it was my twentieth birthday. Shipmates began wishing me a happy birthday as soon as I got out of bed at 3:30 in the morning. My bunk was decorated with various streamers and christmas lights. Everyone’s enthusiasm made it a birthday that I will never forget. For our afternoon snack, Greg (our beloved Steward) created a marvelous Valentine’s Day/Birthday cake. Thanks to Tutti and Paul, I was serenaded with both the Polynesian and English version of Happy Birthday. My classmates also presented me with a signed birthday card which is a meaningful memento.
In the place of afternoon class we had our weekly Field Day, which is an extensive clean up of the boat. After a rousing pump up song, we all got to sweeping, scrubbing, and mopping. It was hard work, but good music and candy kept our spirits up. Cleaning becomes extremely important when living in such close corridors.
The day ended as magnificently as it began. We had quesadillas for dinner, one of my personal favorites. As the sun was setting, whales were sighted about a mile away. Excitement is definitely building for our port stop in Nuka Hiva, but in the mean time we are having some unforgettable experiences on the ship.
Photo Caption: B and C Watches Eating Dinner
February 12, 2011
Now that we are in the middle of our first significant stretch at sea, we
are finally getting into the rhythm of the ship. At any given time,
approximately one-third of the ship’s company is on watch. The students are
split into three watch groups-A, B, and C-and each watch is assigned a mate.
The day is split into five sections, also know as watches. These are: Dawn
Watch (0300-0700), Morning Watch (0700-1300), Afternoon Watch (1300-1900),
Evening Watch (1900-2300), and Night Watch (2300-0300). Each watch group is
on for one watch period and then off for two.
For example, today my watch, B Watch, had the Dawn Watch and Evening Watch.
While we were only on watch for eight hours today instead of the normal ten,
this was made up for by the fact that we had dawn clean-up, or a through
cleaning of the salon (where we eat), the heads (the bathrooms), the
showers, and all of the soles (floors) below deck. Also, we will be
responsible for cleaning the galley (kitchen) tonight during our evening
While on watch, our group is further divided into smaller groups. Three to
four people are on deck and are responsible for steering the boat, doing
hourly boat checks and weather reports, and posting a lookout at the bow at
night. Another three to four people are in the lab, deploying the carousel
and plankton nets twice a day and spending the rest of the time preserving
and processing samples, doing hourly reports, bird watches (during the day),
and working on our individual oceanography projects. One person from each
watch is the dishwasher and another person is assigned to help out the
engineers with any projects they may have. Finally, one person each day is
the assistant steward. They plan and help to cook three meals and three
Each meal is split into two seatings, both due to limited space and due to
the fact that one watch is always on duty. The tables in the salon are
gimbeled, which means that they stay relatively flat even when the boat
pitches (rocks from side to side). However, this means that we can’t put our
elbows on the table otherwise we will prevent their motion and end up with
our food in our laps! Meals are easier when we are sailing, because the
sails help to balance out the ship and minimize the motion of the tables.
This schedule means that the only time the entire group is together is for
afternoon class, which occurs at 1400 every day. Class begins with
announcements, then reports or presentations from various staff and
students, and ends with a lecture or group work.
Photo Caption: Laura Nelson, Nick Costantino, and Ariane LeClerq deploy the
carousel to collect information about seawater at different depths.
February 11, 2011
Location: 12°29.4S, 145°16.9W
200 NM from Rangiroa
362 NM to Nuku Hiva
Motor-sailing under the mainsl, forestaysl and jib.
Weather Conditions: Wind NExE Force 4, Waves NExE 5ft, partly cloudy.
After a wet and stormy night for all of the watches, A watch was happy to
find that the weather had cleared significantly by morning watch at 0700.
The lab deployed the carousel and Neuston net, which meant that the deck
crew had to heave-to by setting the mainstaysl. At that point, they
noticed a small tear in the sail and it was quickly struck. In the Neuston
net we found a small man-o-war and plenty of zooplankton and halobates.
After a lunch of vegetable soup and pasta salad, we had a quick class with a
navigation update from Heidi and Owen, and a science update from Jan and
Nick (Shonka). We then had group meetings where we discussed how we will
put together our on-line atlas of Polynesia, which will be the main product
of the course. For each of our six port stops we are examining the
interaction between people and their environment and hope to be able to draw
conclusions about what makes a place sustainable.
As we make our way to Nuku Hiva, we have begun to fall into the routine of
our watch schedule, get over our seasickness, and have even gotten used to
the slanting tables and washing machines outside the portholes.
Photo Caption: Ali Andrews, Tristan Feldman, David Siu, Cloe Bushnell, Alana
Bryant and Eric Smith learn about a marae on the island of Moorea from Paul
February 10, 2011
Position: 13° 33 S x 146° 41 W
Weather: Overcast and squally
We are a happy crew aboard the Robert C. Seamans as we plow through the
South Pacific from the atolls of the Tuamotu archipelago toward the high
island of Nuku Hiva in the Marquesas. In addition to twenty-four students
from twenty-one different U.S. colleges, and our dozen professional staff
and faculty, we are very fortunate to have two shipmates who joined us in
Tahiti. Paul Niva is an archaeologist and hydrographer who has made himself
invaluable to us as a teacher, guide and translator (for both Tahitian and
French). Judith Hauata is a school teacher and a member of the organization
Otahiti Nui Freedom, that builds and sails traditional voyaging canoes.
Both have entered into our company with joyous enthusiasm and we have
already learned a tremendous amount from each.
Paul has worked on archaeological digs at every place we have stopped so
far, and has been able to give us insights into both ancient and modern
Polynesian culture. In formal classes and casual conversations, at the
railing of the ship or standing beside an ancient stone marae on the island
of Moorea, Paul has shared his wealth of knowledge in a warm and accessible
manner. He will stay with us through our stop in Nuku Hiva and will be very
much missed when he departs the ship after three weeks.
Judith (Tuti) began to make friends with members of the class on Facebook
before we left Woods Hole, picked students and faculty up at the airport,
hosted them at her house the evening before our cruise started, and has been
a wonderful cheerful presence on the ship. She is equal parts teacher and
student, with a curiosity about everything around her, and a source of
information for us about all aspects of life in Tahiti. Tuti will stay with
us until our class ends in Hawaii on March 25.
We have taken advantage of having Paul and Tuti on board and have peppered
them with questions about the history and culture of French Polynesia, of
politics, colonialism, resource management, the educational system, climate
change, religionincluding personal questions about their own backgrounds
and experiences that they have answered generously and frankly. (All the
things you are told not to talk about at dinner parties have already been
talked about!) Their perspectives, and that of Keitapu Maamaatuaiahutapu,
who spent two weeks with us in Woods Hole and was waiting for us when we
arrived in Papeete, provide an essential point-of-view for our study of the
region through which we are traveling. They have also become treasured
Photo Caption: Jackie Conese, Ali Andrews, Amber Hewett and Nick Costantino
collect plastic trash from Mareto Beach on the island of Moorea
Jeudi 10 février 2011
Nous sommes parties de Rangiroa depuis hier, mercredi 08 février. J’ ai
donné un cours sur l’ archipel des Tuamotu le même jour dans l’ après midi.
Les élèves ont montré beaucoup d’ intérêt sur l’ organisation administrative
des îles de la Polynésie Française. Le développement durable des îles ainsi
que les premières préoccupations des communes restent leurs objectifs
premiers des élèves. Les questions très pertinentes sont posées sur
l’ environnement, la religion, le social ou encore les retombées économiques
sur l’ arrêt des essais nucléaires.
La formation sur la navigation hauturière sur le voilier occupe également
les journées. Steve Star-rant le formateur présente la navigation d’ une
manière ludique simple et dans le même temps très technique. L’ équipage
participe à la formation pendant les quarts.
Une partie des étudiants explorent les fonds marins (océanographie) avec
différents appareils, tel que bathycélérimètre et sondeur. Pour cela le
bateau est mis en position de géostationnaire. Les données relevées
exploitées dans le laboratoire pour les courants, le fond marin et les
échantillons sont prélevés et analysés avec un microscope (ptéropodes).
Sur l’ île de Moorea, nous avons visités la vallée d’ Opunohu et suivie le
chemin des ancêtres. Les étudiants ramassent les déchets plastiques..
Paul Moohono Niva
February 9, 2011
Location: 14°19’S, 147°23’W
Sailing under the Mainsl, Mainstays’l, Forestays’l, and Jib.
Weather Conditions: Wind ExNE force 6, Waves ExNE 6ft, partly cloudy.
We left Rangiroa today. It was a sad departure from the lagoon of the atoll
that had been so accommodating to us, but prospects of a longer journey on
the open ocean towards Nuka Hiva kept spirits high. It is hard to believe
that we have already visited half of the Islands on our itinerary. Luckily,
we still have five and a half weeks to go so we are not yet in danger of
questioning where the time went. We also now have a fully functioning
mainstaysl! which is a pretty exciting prospect for sailing in the coming
Last night the Starboard watch held anchor watch but after navigating the
channel out of the lagoon this morning we fell into a regular watch schedule
with C watch taking the morning shift and A watch the afternoon. Overall
there was much less seasickness today despite a somewhat rough start. It
seems that a couple days at port did not completely rob us of our sea-legs,
and Im sure by the end of this week-long stint we will all be pros at
moving about and handling the ship.
As today marked our return to sea, it also kicked off a return to regular
class time. This afternoon the whole crew gathered on the quarterdeck to
reflect on the last few port stops we have made. It was really great to get
the whole crew together and debrief the last couple weeks. Hearing what
each member experienced and took away from our three port calls helped bring
many different views into an interesting perspective of our trip thus far.
The issue of sustainability (whether that be environmental or cultural) in
this area of the world is still at the forefront of our discussion, but we
are beginning to see a larger, more complex picture of French Polynesia.
Already many views have shifted since compiling research at Woods Hole and
it will be interesting to see how our perceptions have changed when we
arrive in Hawai’i at the close of the program.
In all it was a pretty great day with the afternoon group discussion
definitely being the high point of this first day at sea to Nuka Hiva.
February 8, 2011
Location: Passe de Tiputa, Rangiroa
Photo Caption: A visit to the Gauguin Cultured Pearl Farm
We started our day on Rangiroa at the Gauguin Pearl Farm, where we learned the various steps in culturing pearls. We observed each process of pearl cultivation and later visited their store where we saw multitudes of pearls in many shapes, sizes, and colors.
The day continued in a pearl-inspired fashion when we visited a pearl aquaculture school established by the Service de la Perliculture, The Pearl Culture Service, where students study for two years to prepare for jobs in the pearl industry. We spoke with the students there, who were just as shy about answering questions as we were at asking. They learn how to clean,perform surgery, and harvest the pearl. Yes, surgery. They told us how they cut the oyster at its appendix and insert a ball made of oyster shell, around which the pearl is formed. The pearls are harvested between two and seven years later.
After the pearl farm, our class visited with the Assistant Mayor of Rangiroa, Teina Maraeura, and our Teaching Fellow’s brother, Manua Niva, who has been active in local politics. Mr. Maraeura spoke on the subjects of fishing, marine protected areas, water use and waste disposal, and answered our many questions about issues unique to life on an atoll.
Yesterday and today, our class split into two watches and each had one afternoon to explore the local culture. A friendly local generously offered a ride to our desired places of interest. Our first order of business? Ice cream. After double scoops of various flavors, we continued on our way to a local art store, the ocean, and finished with a delicious dinner. To end our near perfect day, off the docks, we saw a few lemon sharks, a black tipped shark, many small fish, and a few stingrays.
Each group made the best of their time, and as sad as we are to leave port,we will continue on our track tomorrow morning, on our way to Nuku Hiva.
February 7, 2011
Weather: Cloudy, on and off rain
Photo caption: Amber, Nick M., Allison, Jenny, Monty, Kate, David, Jackie,Elizabeth, Ali, Cloe and Tristen snorkeling in Rangiroa.
We (and 1,500 of our closest friends) arrived in Rangiroa this morning!
As we are beginning to realize, our days aboard the Robert C. Seamans do not start and end but rather spill continuously from one watch to the next. So, I will describe this Monday from as early as I can remember, when A watch relieved C watch at 0300, in a warm breeze and under a dark cloud cover.
In the lab, C watch had deployed a Newston net from which they showed us an unfamiliar friend. He was about an inch and a half long, completely colorless save his eyeballs, and kicking his little legs and snapping his forearms in anger at being trapped in a vial just a little larger than himself. The feisty fellow is known formally as a Stomatopod but more commonly as a mantis shrimp - he looks like the preying mantis’s invisible cousin - or a snapping shrimp - for his loud and forceful forearm snaps.
On deck, we watched the atoll of Rangiroa change from a couple of far off red blinking lights and a stretch of green on the radar screen to an opening, Pass de Tiputa, in the pencil thin tree line on the horizon through which we would enter Rangiroa’s lagoon. As Rangiroa became clearer, so too did the sky and B watch woke to a warm sunrise over the sight of land.
A less fortunate development of the morning was the discovery of a cruise ship, the Balmoral, heading simultaneously to Rangiroa. After the Balmoral slipped through the channel before us and took our parking spot, we were tempted to tell them, “Go find another atoll, this one’s taken,” but that is not radio appropriate. Once anchored inside (begrudgingly near the Balmoral,) the sight was unexpected: no enclosed circle of land, rather expansive waters all the way to the horizon to the south. Apparently, the whole of the island of Tahiti could fit within the confines of the thin strips of land called Rangiroa.
This land is broken up into over 130 smaller motus, or atolls. The near motus, Avatoru and Tiputa on either side of the channel, are home to the majority of Rangiroa’s population and tourist activity. The farther motus, mostly out of view, host Coprah and black pearl farming.
After our first 2 days on the big blue, a field trip from the ship to a nearby snorkeling sight was well received despite the gradually graying clouds. We were not the only ones to have this idea, however, so we were joined by many of our friends from the Balmoral. Them on their floaty foam noodles and in their glass bottom boats, us in our mismatched masks, we encountered a great variety of marine creatures: flabby free-swimming morayeels, scissortail sergeants and snappers by the hundreds, a couple of shy unicorn fish, trigger fish, parrot fish and wrasses, to name a few.
The graying clouds could no longer help themselves an hour into our snorkeling trip and rained down on us. We put up with the cold and rain for another half an hour to get the last glimpses of the mouth-gaping morays - it seems we could not help ourselves either - and headed back to the ship for warmth and snacks. The first chills since we left Woods Hole!
With emotions that I am sure you can imagine, we waved goodbye to our 1,500new friends aboard the Balmoral at 1800. The lagoon is ours! As tonight rolls into tomorrow morning, we will share the watch of the boat and the stars, if they can make it through the clouds.
February 6, 2011
Photo Caption: “Superbowl at SEA?” Owen Daniels, Nick Morrow (Ali Andrews,Tristan Feldman and Liann Correia looking on) Photo by Heidi Hirsh
Location: 15° 34.65’S x 148° 33.15’W
137 NM from Moorea; 60 NM to Rangiroa
Today was not exactly Super Bowl Sunday for the Robert C. Seamans. This morning most of the crew was a little anxious to test their sea legs on thedeck. However, today the crew made a full recovery, with everyone able to carry out his or her respective duties with a smile! No longer feeling queasy, we threw ourselves into a full day of sailing and science!
Today was also a day of firsts. For “C” watch, it was our first day watch.We climbed out on the head rigging, hauled the fore staysail while looking out on a double rainbow, and deployed both the carousal and the neuston net to collect data for our oceanography projects. Nevertheless, the mostsignificant first of the day was our first “field day.” Field day on theSeamans is an epic cleaning of the entire ship. EVERYTHING. The entire galley was transported to the deck as every single pot and pan received athorough cleaning from Sonya and Eric. Asking Jackie about her day she remarked, “What did I do today that was exciting? Let me think, I chloroxedthe head trash cans and scrubbed the shower curtains.” However, the mostvicious of cleaners were in the galley. Monty, Emily, and Amber emerged fromfield day victorious in their battle with the oven, but were quite filthy.Despite the almost three hours of intense cleaning there are several positive aspects to field day. These include, but are not limited to: candy,music, and spending time with people not on your watch–all things missing from our daily life at sea.
Additionally, there were some fun and games in the “butt wrestling” betweenOwen and Nick–the two boys most upset about missing the Superbowl, and whowill be rushing to the nearest internet café to check the final score duringany free moment in Rangiroa tomorrow. Butt wrestling is a test of balance inwhich each person holds a line in their weak hand and attempts to make the other person lose their balance by tugging the line. You had to be there.Anyways, from our butt wrestling the Packers are predicted to win the game.
All in all today was a busy (yet vomit free) day. And we had Mexican food for dinner! It’s the little things.
Photo Caption: “At the Helm” : Alyce Flanagan, Kate Kelly, Judith Hauata
The Robert C. Seamans has bid adieu to the Society Islands and is currentlymotoring northeast toward the Tuamotu Archipelago and our destination ofRangiroa. Although Moorea is just about the most beautiful place you willever see, it was time to move on from the high islands to the atolls. Wecaught our first glimpse of one this afternoon to starboard and could evensee the greenish glint of the lagoon painted on the low hanging clouds.
The ocean was a little rougher today than it was on our brief sail fromPape’ete to Cook’s Bay and seasickness began to take its toll on the crew.The crew responded admirably though, encouraging each other and taking overcertain responsibilities for their stricken shipmates. We will most likelyarrive in Rangiroa just in time to get over our sickness and our time on
land will reverse any progress our stomachs and inner ears have made. Ohwell, such is the life of an inexperienced seaman.
Today marked the first time we were on a regular watch schedule, and
everyone is working to adjust to the schedule. Each of the evening watcheswas treated to clear skies and spectacular stars; including Orion, theSouthern Cross and later on Scorpio and Venus. Our afternoon class consistedof a demonstration of ‘heaving to’ (more or less stopping the ship withouthaving to strike the sails) and deploying the carousel.
Wish your beloved sailors well and trust that the ‘mal de mer’ will pass asquickly as it came. Looking at the computer screen is making this authorextra queasy. Just one more day and then we’ll be snorkeling in the coolgreen waters of Rangiroa!
Photo Caption: SPICE class hiking through a pineapple field in OpunohuValley.
February 4, 2011
Location: Cook’s Bay, Moorea
Weather Conditions: SW wind, clear night
Today was our one and only day on the island of Moorea, and we made it
count! We began the day with a pancake breakfast, and then left the ship inshifts in the “station wagons,” our inflatable boats. Once we got to Moorea,Paul Niva, our Teaching Fellow, explained to us the history of Moorea andtold us that the name Moorea means “yellow lizard.” Then we all piled into abus to take us to the archaeological sites.
After a brief stop at a beach to collect plastic trash, Paul led us on a
hike through the forest, showing us archaeological sites of rebuilt marae.Marae are sacred places in Polynesia, where the people could communicate
with their ancestors. While hiking, Paul explained to us that the regionwould have had far fewer trees when the marae were built. Introduced
plants, brought by both Europeans and Polynesians, have caused heavyforestation in the area, and demonstrate how humans are always changing
After a picnic lunch on the beach, we went to the botanical gardens where welearned about the traditional medicinal, artistic, and dietary uses ofplants. We were able to encounter the infamous noni, a medicinal plant thatsmells like dirty socks. Our guide, Maono, also showed us a house that wasdesigned to be sustainable and withstand the storms that hit Polynesia. Thehouse remains empty and unused because the builders did not take into
account the cultural preferences and needs of the people-an important aspectof sustainability.
Once we got back to the ship, Captain Steve surprised us with a swim call!
We took turns jumping off the ship into Cook’s Bay, and took saltwatershowers. It was a great end to an amazing day!
Photo caption: “A” Watch in our “Gumby” Suits: Owen Daniels, Amber Hewett,Heidi Hirsh, Nick Costantino, Ali Andrews, Ariane LeClerq, Jackie Conese,Jenny Arndt, and Paul Niva (our Teaching Fellow from Tahiti)
February 3, 2011
Cook’s Bay, Moorea
Last night was our first night on watch. We each took a one-hour shift fromdusk until dawn. This morning we fueled up (about 5,500 gallons!!!) and wentthrough safety drills. We had to try on the immersion suits just in case wehave to abandon ship in the next few weeks - we hope this does not happen!The suits, also known as “gumby” suits, were sweltering hot, not to mentionwe looked ridiculous.
We set off for the island of Moorea at 1200. My watch (“A” watch) was on
deck for the entire sail to Moorea. While underway, we had a fire drill andpracticed using the fire hoses, which was really cool. I had the
opportunity to take the helm as we approached Cook’s Bay. Maintaining thecourse was more difficult than I had imagined, but I learned how to steerwith both the compass and by picking reference points - either peaks onMoorea or clouds in the sky. Everyone on deck was involved in raising andstriking the sails. It was awesome to do such hands-on work.
Upon our arrival in Cook’s Bay, we set anchor and “A” watch began an anchorwatch to ensure that we did not drag the anchor. We took bearings on threefixed points and monitored the distance between the ship and three
additional fixed points on the shoreline. The afternoon was exhausting butour steward, Greg, kept up morale with great food. Even better, no one gotseasick on the trip today! After a long day in the sun, I am more than readyto shower on deck under the stars and then get a good night sleep beforegoing ashore to explore in the morning!
February 3, 2011
Photo Caption: Students on the black sand beach of Tautira, with the Vaitepiha Valley in the background. We received a warm welcome here and a banquet of local foods.
Today we embarked on a Tahitian tour, after a lovely breakfast of homemade bagels and our first show of DC(Deep Clean) love for Mama Seamans. An air-conditioned bus took us around the entire
circumference of the island, with stops along the way. Our first stop was the Musée de Tahiti et des Iles where curator Tara Hiquily showed us around the museum. Highlights included a wonderful collection of traditional carved fish hooks, the Mormon Bible in Tahitian, and authentic voyaging canoes from throughout Polynesia.
On the bus, canoe champion Richmond Teraupoo regaled us with tales of sailing canoe competitions. Richmond continues to win because he uses the traditional Polynesian navigation methods: stars, clouds, birds, even the feeling of the swells under the boat. He learned from his father and is one of the few remaining traditional navigators, though efforts are being made to resurrect the tradition.
The icing on the cake was a feast prepared for us at Tautira, a lagoon on Tahiti’iti. We drove up on a wide, aquamarine lagoon with black sand beaches dotted with coconut and breadfruit trees. Keitapu Maamaatuaiahutapu, our lecturer during the shore component, greeted us. He had arranged a full feast for us, tama Tahiti style. We watched
as our food was pulled from the fire pit and the table was set with pua (roast pig), taro, umara (sweet potatoe), fafa (similar to spinach), iifa (papaya), meia (banana), ipo (a coconut milk cake), uru (breadfruit), aura (shrimp), aia ota (poisson cru), painapo
(pineapple), mitihue (coconut milk), fei (cooked red bananas), and fafaru (pickled chad). The food was delicious and we returned for seconds, even thirds. Only a few of us were brave enough to try the fafaru, which meant a mouth full of little bones and eyeballs.
Our final stop was Venus Point, where Captain Cook watched the transit of Venus in 1769. The next of the infrequent transits will be next summer, so plan your trip, now!
We set sail tomorrow for Moorea. We do so with the memories of the beauty and hospitality of Tahiti and with the blessing of Papa, the Tahiti’iti local elder, who prayed for fair winds, safe travels and our eventual return home, to the only home there is, Tahiti.
February 2, 2011
Class S-233 is off to a fine start, all hands arrived safely with theirluggage! We have quickly made the transition from the dead of a cold andsnowy New England winter to the height of the tropical summer in Tahiti. Our course is “Sustainability in Polynesian Islands and Ecosystems” (SPICE),and we will spend our first three days here, meeting local people andlearning about the interaction of people and their environment.
We could not have had a better start than our visit yesterday with OscarTemaru, the mayor of Fa’a, the largest city on the Island of Tahiti, andleader of the independence movement in French Polynesia (which Oscar callsTahiti-Nui, or “French-occupied Polynesia”). We were warmly welcomed at theFa’a counsel house, a traditional building that incorporates materials fromall of the archipelagos of the country. Oscar spoke passionately about theproblems of being one of the last European colonies, governed from a distance by France. We got a local perspective on the French nuclear testing programs here, which began in 1964 and only ended in 1996 to violentregion-wide protests. Since that time, a growing population of Europeans, amove from rural areas to urban centers, and an increasing reliance onimports, has created a situation that has brought issues of sustainability to the forefront. It was a dynamic and thought-provoking conversation.
We are off today for a tour around the island. We will be at the dock hereuntil mid-day on the third. All aboard are well.