SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog
The Robert C. Seamans departed Honolulu on March 24 with students in class S234. They plan to sail west towards Midway and the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine Monument. They will return to Honolulu on May 1.
Position information is updated on a workday basis only. Audio updates from the ship are reported periodically throughout the voyage.
29 April 2011
Photo: Chief Mate Johnny O’Keeffe in awe of the cliffs of Molokai
Position: 21° 11.9’N x 157° 15.4’ W; anchored off Molokai in Papohaku Roadstead
Weather: Wind F3 out of the NE, sea 1ft E x N; mostly cloudy and humid
Hello from our final anchorage off the island of Molokai! We got underway early this morning (around 0400) from Honolua Bay off of Maui and spent a leisurely morning sailing on a dead run under the tops’l along the northern shore of Molokai. The cliffs along the north shore rise abruptly from sea level to heights of over 4000 feet in some areas, and provided an awesome backdrop for one of our last sailing legs of the trip, complete with several rainbows and the highest waterfall in Hawaii. Almost the entire crew was on deck to soak in the spectacular views and the great sailing, and with final drafts of research papers turned in by 2359 last night, the students have been enjoying the chance to relax. We’ve been anchored in Papohaku Roadstead since 1430 today, and, after some intense cleaning of the ship and her bunks, will get back underway tomorrow night for our final leg into Honolulu.
Phase III has been winding down these past few days, but the students have still been learning a lot about coastal sailing and the ins and outs of anchor watches. C watch spent the morning today paying close attention to the water depth and our distance from shore as we navigated the coastline, and several course adjustments were needed to stay the required 1 to 2 nautical miles offshore. We also got a taste of the local wildlife, as an 8-foot hammerhead shark was spotted early this morning, and later a pod of 6 bottlenose dolphins put on a display for us off the bow.
Tomorrow we will have a final field day and scrub the ship from top to bottom for our return to Honolulu. It’s our way of saying thank you to Mama Seamans for carrying us safely for over 3000 miles! So sit tight and be looking forward to those calls home on Sunday that I’m sure you’re all anxious to hear.
See you on the other side!
PS. Lots of love to family and friends back home! Can’t wait to talk to you all soon.
28 April 2011
Photo: Zach and Lenny hang their poster during presentations aboard ship
General locale: Hololua Bay, Maui
Weather: winds W/E F3, seas NE 1ft, mostly sunny
Preceding our second night at anchor was a big day here at Honolua Bay. Anticipation ran high for our second and final round of oceanographic presentations. The only way to cool it down was to get into the realm of what we were studying! Two snorkeling expeditions were carried out in a small sheltered cove about 200 meters towards shore. Upon entering the water, one could hear the small clicking sound of Yellow Tang, Parrot fish, and other numerous reef fish eating the corals. The colorful fish and corals were magnificent, and their were many turtles to be seen.
Class today consisted of the final four student presentations, and what a fantastic classroom setting it was! Blue water leading up to small rock cliffs with plush green fields beyond.
Here is a list of the students, when they presented and there areas of expertise:
AprMacroplastics (Kyle and Kevin)
Microplastics (Sam and Nick)
Eddies and Currents (Jay, Hauwen, and Vivian)
DCM (Lenny and Zach)
Phytoplankton (Jon and Kristin)
Phyllos, Leptos, and Stomatopods (Amber and Dave)
Nutrients (Dan and Emily)
Six weeks on shore and 36 days at sea has really made some great oceanographers. Today, as one of the Assistant Scientists aboard the Robert C. Seamans, is one of the best days of the trip for me. I have seen each one of the students perform in lab and now as a presenter. The progress that they have made over the past 5 weeks is remarkable and all of their hard work shows. Congratulations to all of you. Also a special Congratulations to Amber who was voted in, with no contest, as the S234 class representative.
Staff-in-the-galley day, which was also today, was a great way for us crew to show our hidden talents. Some of us needed a little more help from Lillian than others (myself included), but we had fun nonetheless.
Gregory Boyd (2nd Scientist)
PS: Love you to all my family, see you soon.
Photo: Tiny Cups! Shrunk at 2195 m depth (photo credit: Jing Zong)
General Info: Sailing under Main Stays’l and Tops’l
Position: 5nm north of Maui and Molokai, Entering Pailolo Channel
Weather: Sunny, Winds ExS, Force 5, 3/8 Cumulus and Cirrus clouds, 26.5°C
Maui 10 nm ahead and 3100+ nm astern, neuston net in the water. This is the conclusion of our Ocean sailing portion of the trip. This afternoon we will be anchored in Honolula Bay, on the NW tip of Maui listening to our students present their research. Even though it hearkens the end of our time together, this is one of my favorite parts of the trip; finally, those of us working on deck get to know why we’ve been collecting all that scientific data. As they present, and for some time after, these guys are the World’s Foremost Expert in their subject. How awesome is that? I’ve certainly never been able to claim any such thing.
So much progress has been made since day one. We just went through “highs and lows” the other day with A-watch. The universal low was the first few days when everyone was seasick (and I was popping Ibuprophen like it was my job due to a recent knee surgery) and the high was a fantastic mid-watch the other night with the most intense bio-luminescence I’ve ever seen. I personally have made some serious progress on that knee, but even more exciting is the progress I’ve seen in the students. A few folks still get queasy here and there but everyone has stepped up to the plate of “JWO” and “JLO” and I’ve seen drastic improvement even since the first “Phase III” watch. The whole ship’s company is working like a well-oiled machine, helping each other out, communicating effectively and learning, learning, learning about what the ship and the students can do. This is why I love my job.
We still have a few more days together and some new challenges at the end. Coastwise sailing (so many more things in here!), anchor watches, presentations, and papers due—all these things await. Also upcoming is the transition back to normal society. I’m not sure how many students have thought about it yet, but I know that as excited as I am to make that first phone call, I also dread it. That first phone call opens the floodgates of communication and starts the obligation to plug-in, call, connect and try to describe an adventure that is indescribable, even for me (after a year + of working here and 8 more elsewhere on the water). You will see pictures and they will try to tell you, but please don’t give your student (who is also mine by now) too hard of a time when all you get out of them is “wow, it was awesome” or some variation. Hopefully words will come in time.
Well, I’m off to continue laughing, and maybe do my rig-check. It’s been fantastic, thank you for loaning me your students, scientists and deck crew.
Molly Eddy (2nd Mate)
26 April 2011
Photo: Students and crew aboard our home away from home
General Info: Sailing under the 4 lowers, course ordered 196 T
Location: 22 31.96 N x 155 42.47 W
Weather: Sunny and warm, winds at a force 3 coming from the ExS, 25.9C!
Hello to everyone back home in Iowa!!! Things have been going well on the good ol Bobby C. We are currently headed towards the island of Maui so we can anchor up on the west side of the island. Apparently there are friendly fish to swim with in that area so there are plans to go snorkeling and swimming. After Maui we are going to head to Molokai to anchor and spend Saturday giving the ship a good old scrub down before heading into Honolulu Harbor on dawn Sunday. With the scrub down and a beautiful harbor furl on all of our sails, the SSV Robert C. Seamans should draw some eyes as we dock up on Sunday.
There are mixed emotions about anchoring off of the islands. A lot of people are excited to see land again since we havent seen it since we left Midway on the 9th of April, but when we reach land it means that within a few days our adventure on the Robert C. Seamans will be over. Its crazy to think that this entire trip, shore and sea, is almost over. Its been a grand adventure thus far, and luckily we still have a few more days to go, but personally I think I am ready to get to land and stay there for awhile. Ive had an interesting experience aboard the boat, one that I wasnt expecting to have. Since this experience was unexpected and has had its ups and downs, Im not sure what to think of this trip nearing its close. Im very excited to see land again and not have to gimbal everything from my food to my body, but I know that I will probably never be able to sail on a tall ship again. This trip has given me an interesting perspective on the world, how we use it, and it has taught me more about myself then I probably realize. As we get closer to land, I get more and more excited about exploring Honolulu for a week and eventually returning home to family and friends. But I also know that once I am off the boat and have had some time away from the nautical world, I will appreciate this adventure more. Ive been introduced to a culture that is fairly rare in this day and age. I didnt even know ships like this still existed for any practical use and yet here I am living and working on one, immersed in a culture that I thought died out over 100 years ago. Even though I probably wont continue to live in this nautical culture, the values I have learned from working aboard this vessel will be carried with me for the rest of my life.
Even though I am excited to step foot on land again and eat some delicious Grimes peaches and cream sweet corn back home, I still appreciate the things I have learned and the experience I have had on this vessel. There are things in life that once you stop doing it or working on it you forget it; I think the things I have learned aboard this ship, from the sextants to the stomatopods to the storm trysl, will stay with me for quite some time.
Thank you Bobby C and the mates and crew for giving me a grand adventure on the high seas.
Now, bring me that horizon,
PS Much love to my family and friends back home! I love and miss you guys!!
April 26, 2011
Photo: Abby, Kevin and Zach aloft on the tops’l yard
General Info: 24° 44.4’N x 154° 46.6’W, sailing under the four lowers
Weather: Force 4 winds from SExE, a bit cloudy, and getting warmer at 25.5°C
We had a nice little weekend here just north of the Big Island. Saturday brought another field day. Everyone has down their cleaning routine and is fueled by candy and the crew’s iPods blaring. Saturday evening we enjoyed the most beautiful sunset I believe I have ever seen. Very slight winds gave the ocean a glassy look which reflected sky’s pastel Easter colors. On Sunday the watches participated in an egg scavenger hunt which led to a nice bag of candy at the end. There were egg dyeing and Styrofoam cup decorating activities. The cups were deployed this morning with the CTD to a depth of 2200m where we are able to observe the effects of pressure at depth. The cups start out normal coffee size then, once the air is compressed out, they come back up mini!
Life at sea has become very busy for the students as they are in control of the deck and lab, and at the same time have their research papers to think about. The library is constantly full at all hours of the day, but somehow students still find time to relax up on deck reading, playing music, and going aloft. The reality of the trip almost being over has not yet sunk in, but the days are flying by and pretty soon we will be at anchor!
Much love to everyone at home,
A note from chief mate Johnny O’Keefe:
As we near land after a long and exciting journey, the ship is filled with anticipation and mixed emotions. Today, I would like to say hello to friends and family and Ms. Hughes 6th grade science class who has been following our progress at school. A special message for my Dad who is 65 years young today. Happy Birthday Dad! I love you and miss you all and look forward to seeing everyone soon. GO RED SOX!
April 22, 2011
Vivian and Amber, Junior Lab Officer and Junior Watch Officer for this afternoons watch, wear their JLO and JWO hats with pride.
3002 N x 15345 W, sailing under the 4 lowers and the JT
Winds out of the WNW at a low Force 3, SUNSHINE!!!
Today has been a bright day in terms of both sunshine and spirits. The sun has come out and stayed out for the first time in what seems like weeks, according to Chief Mate, Johnny O. Recent exciting events include the celebration of Earth Day, a class on sail trim, and the passing of another project deadline. As an Earth Day challenge, the engineers posted fun facts about worldwide water consumption and availability in all of the ships showers and heads, challenging the crew to conserve more water than usual. In just 24 hours, we were able to make a significant improvement in both our energy and water consumption.
A sail trim lesson from Third Mate Sarah Herard came just in time for the beginning of Phase 3, during which students will be completely in charge of not only slowing the ship to deploy science equipment, but also ensuring good speed toward Hawaii.
The students are doing a wonderful job of balancing the stress of project deadlines (draft of results are in!) and running the ship while on watch. It is now commonplace to see a student zipping about the ship with either the silly JLO crown or JWO hard hat on, their brows knit together in concentration. While some relish the challenge, others are hesitant to take on so much responsibility. However all agree that its a valuable experience and know that they can count on the support of their fellow watchmates as they take charge.
Id like to wish a belated hauoli la hanau to my pops (Yea fifty) and an early one to Don Don (Be good!).
April 21, 2011
General Info: 30°50.2’ N x 154° 04.8’ W
Sailing under the four lowers and the JT on a STBD tack
Seas SW x W 4ft Wind SW x W BF 4
Picture: Myself and crew on deck shooting sun lines during class
Wind has picked up, the motor is off, and we are headed south toward Hawaii. With strong winds we have been able to cover a greater than usual distance towards our destination. With our science data completed, we turn our full attention to our projects (full speed ahead!) which are as gratifying as they are interesting.
We have an upcoming Earth Day on the boat where the engineers have challenged us to see how much water and power we can conserve, giving back to the great ocean we have come to know and love.
Deploying CTDs, gybing, and getting Neuston tow samples are increasingly being done by us students (who are now all very responsible adults). Using the radar, scanning for traffic, and putting the mates to work are new responsibilities we are all growing into—and growing fast! We’re becoming saltier by the minute and quickly learning from our mistakes.
Much love to my Long Island and Boston homies,
April 20, 2011
Photo: A place where students have gotten quite comfortable-picking through Neuston at the wet lab sink! Here, Giulia removes nekton from a salp-y tow. Look at that plastic piece!
32°15.1’ N x 154°59.5’ W.
Sailing 3 kts under the 4 lowers and the JT. Course ordered 125°.
Winds: SE at a force 3. Seas: S at a height of 3 ft.
Today marks a momentous occasion in my world-we have finished processing the data! Well, the bulk of the data anyways. Don’t be fooled, here on the Robert C. Seamans, your loved ones are not just standing around with their hair ruffling in the breeze, coffee in hand. Well, that’s not true, we’re doing that. But we’re doing lots of other things too. As the first assistant scientist one of the things I work on with the Chief Scientist is the science sampling plan-and all the subsequent processing needed to derive that data for everyone’s project, as well as the world at large. So, here’s a little debrief of what we’ve been up to:
We have (so far) completed 40 Neuston tows of the surface waters between 18° and 33°N. From these tows, we have picked and counted 1,267 Halobates (the only marine insect that exists, which is a little water-strider) and 2,132 pieces of plastic, most of which are less than 1cm long, but one of which was an entire plastic spoon.
We have done 22 CTDs, making oceanic temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll profiles from electronic instruments. During many of these CTDs, we have also sampled the water. We have taken and processed 99 water samples for phosphate and nitrate; 32 samples have been carried through Winkler titrations to determine their dissolved oxygen content, 63 have been run through the spectrophotometer to get an accurate pH, and 20 have been tested for silica.
In addition we have deployed 3 ARGO floats, 11 meter nets, 20 secchi disks, and 27 phytoplankton nets. We have dip netted one large glass bottle covered in gooseneck barnacles and crabs. Our own little ecosystem!
So, as you can see, we’ve all been pretty busy! But, as we begin to conduct fewer deployments so that the students have a little more time to dedicate to their research projects and papers, I’ll be attempting to do a little bit more of that hair-in the-breeze coffee thing and a little less data entry and equipment troubleshooting!
Also, just in case you were curious, Phase III has gotten off to a wonderful start. Students are feeling challenged by the tasks we’ve put forth and are stepping up and getting them done - just like we knew they would!
Wishing you sunshine, Erin Roach, 1st assistant scientist
April 19, 2011
Photo: B Watch for life! (from left to right) Nick, Kyle, Jenny (Deckhand), Daniel, Vivian, Amber, Chrissy (Assistant Scientist), Johnny O (Chief Mate)
General Info: 31º 36.0’N x 156º 04.6’W, Sailing on a starboard tack under
the 4 lowers with a single reefed main and the Jib Tops’l, Wind: ExS Beaufort force 4, Seas: E 3ft
Greetings from S-234 and the Robert C. Seamans. Today proved to be another routine day on the ship. On midwatch this morning (2300-0300) we had the good fortune of catching good winds out of the NE driving us at up to 6 knots on our course of 100º psc (per steered compass). The moon was almost full and there were occasional cumulus clouds floating by scattering the bright rays of the moonlight, making for a very picturesque early morning watch. At 1300 B watch came on watch again, but just before this there was an ARGO Float deployment. Argo floats are devices that are designed to be dropped out of a ship and collected years later. During their time at sea these devices collect oceanographic data that is periodically sent to shore via satellite when the devices come to the surface of the ocean.
Tonight is a very special night for all students aboard the Seamans because it marks the beginning of phase 3: the JWO and JLO phase. Junior Watch Officers and Junior Lab Officers are given the responsibilities formerly held by the mates and the assistant scientists, although both the mates and assistant scientists will still be present to ensure safety. In class today the captain prepped us on this change and told us to expect to be “stretched.” Although everyone is nervous, there is a great sense of excitement as well. I’m sure there will be more entries regarding these new-found responsibilities. Gotta go now because its getting late (2045)!
I send my love to everyone at home, and I am pleased to say that I am quite well (now that my sea legs are under me).
Photo: Chelsea Apito holding one of three fish caught since entering the Transition Zone (vs. none caught the rest of the trip). One of the distinguishing characteristics of the TZ is high productivity meaning it can support a lot more fish!
1400 DR: 32º 46.1’ N x 158º12.9’
Weather: Winds NxE, force 3. Waves NW, 4 ft. Temp 20.4º C-beautiful and just a bit nippy.
Sailing a course ordered of 115 under mains’l, mainstays’l, jib, course and tops’l
Eh, howzit? Hard fo’believe we been at sea arready 3 ½ weeks-jus’ two mo’ til pau!
Sorry, that’s just the Hawaiian pidgin slipping out. For those who might need translation, it means “hello all, how are you? Hard to believe we’ve been at sea for three and a half weeks already.” Today we officially have only two more weeks until we touch down in Honolulu. Yes, sadly we’ve now passed the halfway point in our trip and the signs are everywhere.
For starters, today is the first day we have steered south since week one. We officially reached the Transition Zone (a body of water distinct within the North Pacific Gyre for mixing subtropical and subarctic conditions) two days ago. Taking measurements in the TZ was a major scientific goal of our cruise track and, having achieved it, we’re now slowly moving back to warmer waters as we continue east towards Hawaii. And none too soon, we hit 14º C last night! Personally, my packing wasn’t particularly geared towards these temperatures.
Another major change coming up is the start of the JWO phase tomorrow night. Although the students have steadily been taking on more and more leading roles on the ship, from tomorrow night on the crew will more or less only interfere with our command of the ship if we’re about to hit an iceberg.. Or more likely if we forget to do an engine check. So ready or not, people, it’s time for the final leg!
Looking forward to the challenges ahead and some warmer weather.
April 15, 2011
Photo: Robert C. Seamans under Jib, Jib Topsail, Forestays’l, Mainstays’l,and Mains’l. Sarah heroically going aloft.
General Info 32°50.9’ x 164° 01.6’ W, motoring
Weather: Not sail-worthy wind from the North with some stars and a happily manageable sea height of about 2.5 ft.
Today was another unique and exciting day aboard the Robert C. Seamans. We completed an old school Hydrocast, learned about the propeller pitch system aboard, had some tasty meals, witnessed a gorgeous sunset, and perhaps most memorably all partook in a small boat photo-op!
With our carousel offline, we are launching our hydrocasts by putting Niskin bottles on the wire one by one—acquiring important nutrients and utilizing our CTD so we can identify the frontal zone in the Pacific Gyre. We hope to reach this frontal zone on our trip for our science projects, but it appears to be further north than expected.
Today during class, all of the students and some of the crew had the incredible opportunity to witness the Robert C. Seamans under sail from afar. We took teams of four out in the small boat to circle the RCS with ready cameras, poised for action. One of those photos is the one for this blog post! Majestically and gracefully cutting its way through the massive expanse of the Pacific Ocean, the RCS was looking grand today. The day ended as well as it started with a memorable sunset and then with a delicious chicken curry that was hard to walk away from. With only 4 days to go until JWO phase we all have a lot to learn. Also looking forward to getting a sea worthy hair cut for the JWO phase!
Shout out to fam and friends- hope everyone is doing well and I can’t wait to hear about terrestrial things soon.
April 14, 2011
Photo: dolphins playing in the bow wake
General info: 32 3.823 N 166 31.208’ W, motoring
Weather: wind (lightly) coming from the NNW, a bit chilly on deck!
Greetings from your neighborhood assistant steward!
Weve had a pretty exciting day here on the Robert C. Seamans: we deployed our first ARGO float today! It will roam the Pacific (yes, without supervision) uploading salinity, temperature, and depth information each time it surfaces from a dive into the depths. These floats are in all of our oceans, tracking data every day through satellites. We deploy them in areas less frequently traveled by other ships, and were glad to perform the service. Also, a pod of Hawaiian spinner dolphins joined us for class today!
Along with the countless skills that the students acquire on SEA cruises parents: don’t let them fool you, they’re becoming impeccable cleaners!they also spend two days in the galley (that’s boat lingo for kitchen), assisting in providing three meals and three snacks for the entire ships company. A typical day in the galley commences at 0400, when the steward (or assistant steward) begins breakfast, dinner, and midnight snack prep. The student assistant of the day joins them at 0500 and makes breakfast for the thirty-two people on board (imagine how many eggs we go through on a trip!). We serve breakfast at 0620 and 0700 (two seatings to accommodate the entire ships company). We have morning snack, which usually involves fruit, at 1000. We then begin lunch prep so we are ready to serve at 1220 and 1300. Our afternoon snack, typically something savory, is served after class (1530), and dinner hits the tables HOT at 1820 and 1900! Midnight snack (some sort of dessert) is put out after dinner remember: there is always a watch on duty, meaning at least 8 people are awake at all times throughout the day and night. A day in the galley doesnt usually end until 2000!
Today was Kyles second day in the galley, which means he was responsible for planning and spearheading the making of all of our meals and snacks. The stewards act as assistants for the rest of our voyage, which allows the students to be creative and share some of their favorite meals with the rest of the crew! Kyle brought us a little southern comfort today; here is the menu:
Breakfast: porridge, corned beef hash, grapefruit, and scrambled eggs
Morning snack: Goldfish crackers and apples
Lunch: falafel, tabuleh, and pita
Afternoon snack: cheese, crackers, and hummus
Dinner: chili, southern cornbread, salad, and homemade sweet tea!
Midnight snack: pumpkin pie!
Hope that all is well at home. Go Sox!
Hugs and loves,
April 13, 2011
Photo: Sunset over the Pacific. Clouds behind us, blue sky, and sun on the way!
General Info: 31 25.8’ N x 168 45.2’ W, course 060, motoring
Weather: Wind N x W force 2, calm seas with clearing skies
Greetings from the Pacific! Spirits are high tonight as the sun may finally become a regular fixture again. This morning brought clouds and intermittent fog, which showed signs of clearing this afternoon and finally giving way to a spectacular sunset. The winds have been light and shifty all day and our previous sail plan—four lowers and the topsl, has been reduced to only the engine and main staysl.
However, we have discovered that not all days at sea need to be action-packed. Sometimes a quiet, calm day is just what you need to unwind out here. Throughout the day, those off watch could be found on deck with books, playing a round of cards, or even checking out the view from up in the rigging.
We are well into Phase II of the trip, in which we (the students) begin to take on more and more responsibilities both in the lab and on deck. This is in preparation for Phase III (JWO Phase) when each student will be given the opportunity to run the ship during their watch. During each watch students are assigned to shadow the Watch Officer and learn effective methods to manage the deck of a tall ship. For many of us this seems a daunting task, but fortunately we are learning from the best, the fantastic crew and officers of the Robert C. Seamans.
In other news, we have recently seen several whales, including one that showed up during last nights watch. Hopefully there will be more to come!
Stay tuned for more action!
April 12, 2011
Photo: Sam, Jason, Hauwen, and Emily aloft
General Info: 30° 43.8’N x 171° 08.4’W, motoring with the main stays’l set
Weather: Slight wind from the SSE, calm seas, fog
We’re well on our way away from Midway and have been doing science deployments as usual. Taking samples from the water column has been more difficult since our computer-automated device broke and we instead have to do it the old-fashioned way, which involves a lot of math and a much higher possibility of error. It’s really neat to understand the entire process since we are actually doing everything ourselves.
We’ve also had the new challenge of fog cover, which blew in last night and has been on and off since. This means that we have to post a second lookout, leaving one fewer person on deck to take care of all the hourly boat checks, weather logs, and positions to plot. It’s amazing to realize how much we can each accomplish in an hour after only a few weeks at sea ; what used to take a few people half an hour can now be done by one person in five minutes.
The seas have been generally calm, and today many people took advantage of this and the warmer weather and climbed aloft. Two of the three watches have been cleared to go aloft (everyone in the watch has to pass a series of tests), and today was the first day C watch went up! It was extremely exciting and also a bit scary ; the boat rocks much more as you get higher up. But the view from above is totally worth it.
That’s all for now, stay tuned,
April 11, 2011
Photo: The doghouse at night under red lights.
General Info: 30° 10.397’N x 174° 56.627’W, sailing under the mains’l, main stays’l, fore stays’l, and jib
Weather: winds at SSE, full cloud cover, 20.5° C, calm seas
Greetings from the Robert C. Seamans! We have abandoned the idea of the international dateline due to weather which did not favor us proceeding any further to the west. Most of the students and crew wish that this was not the case, but are none the less happy to see calmer seas and blue skies.
We exited the Papahanaumokuakea National Marine monument at around 28° 11.6’N x 177° 18.2’W and immediately began science deployments. It was good to finally have some new data and lab work to occupy our time in science watch. A Neuston net and 1- and 2-meter nets were deployed as soon as we crossed the boundary.
My morning began at 0300. Dawn watch. I was assigned to lab but spent the bulk of the watch on deck sail handling. The winds picked up around 0500 and we had to strike the mains’l, jib and JT. On top of that, Dan and I processed a Neuston net and prepared a 100 count for the next watch. After dawn cleanup, I was able to catch a few hours of sleep before class. In class we presented on the status of our oceanography projects up to the present. Every one of the students seems to have made good head way on processing their data so far. In addition we received our third celestial assignment (plotting sun lines and getting a running fix) and learned about salps, small gelatinous creatures that plagued our nets with their goo the previous evening.
Tonight B watch will stand watch from 1900 to 2300 where it will hopefully be dry and clear. We’ve been making a solid 7 knots towards the south east for the last day or so. It would be awesome if we could keep up this pacing for the rest of the trip.
Much love to everyone back home and at school.
Kyle Thaxton Plummer
April 8, 2011
Photo: Laysan albatrosses in a field on Midway.
General Info: 28º 12.9’N x 177º 21.8’W, docked at Sand Island in Midway Atoll
Weather: Light wind and seas from SE, full cloud cover, calm at the dock.
Today, just like yesterday, the students and staff split up again to volunteer on the island and to work on projects on board. The on-shore group removed invasive plants, planted new ones, and got to see many sites of historical significance on the island. The on-deck group did a variety of projects, such as repairing torn sails, engineering maintenance, cleaning, and some individual science project work. After these activities, both groups had time to explore the island. We biked around everywhere ; the island is really small, so nothing is too far away. Several of the beaches are off-limits to people because turtles or monk seals frequent the beach and can be scared if people get too close, but there are lookout spots where you can see everything from a safe distance away. There is also a snorkeling area near one of the piers, and a beach for swimming. The shallow water is a beautiful shade of turquoise, and a great temperature for swimming ; maybe a little on the cold side, but it was refreshing.
There is an amazing amount of wildlife here for such a small island. At night, looking down at the water from the deck, we have seen fish and small sharks swimming around near the stern, and occasionally a turtle or two. Walking or biking around on the island can be interesting; there are always birds sitting on the ground and flying overhead everywhere. Often what appears to be a large clump of dirt in the middle of the road turns out to be an albatross chick, and the birds tend to walk into the road a lot, so you have to be careful when biking.
We’re leaving Midway tonight; we have only been here two days but I’m really glad we came here. It has been fantastic to see such a remote and beautiful place (and after the stormy weather the week before, a little break on land was very welcome!) Back to sea tomorrow!
April 7th 2011
Photo: (from left to right) Emily, Mackenzie, Amber, Greg, Leonardo (albatross chick), Snapper (albatross chick), Nick, Dave
General info: 28 12.9’N x 177 21.8’W, docked at Sand Island, an island in the Midway Atoll
Weather: mostly cloudy with some showers, light winds, calm at the dock
Greetings from the Robert C. Seamans. The day got off to a beautiful start with blueberry pancakes and BACON!!! Many people commented over breakfast on the amazing sleep that they got last night.something about actually sleeping on a stable platform that doesn’t throw you from side to side. This sudden change from sea to land has also created some other strange side effects: you swaying gently from side to side while standing, because land just seems a little too stable and it feels more normal to sway; maneuvering around the boat has become increasingly disorienting because you walk around bracing your self against the bulkheads, but nothing happens; I myself even indulged in the unthinkable and rested my elbows on the table for lunch (you have to keep in mind that our dinning tables are gimballed - it’s like a pendulum with a weight on the bottom so the table stays level no matter how much the boat rocks around it - thus resting one’s elbows on the table would normally send all the plates and food flying)!!!
Today, half of the students and staff went on shore to volunteer and explore, and the other half stayed on board to work on various maintenance projects. The shore peeps spent the morning with Greg, a wonderful and knowledgeable representative from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). We spent time learning about the native plant species in the area, and the FWS’s efforts to restore more native plants on Midway. We then got out our shovels and pickaxes and went to town replanting dune grass, and pulling invasive weeds.
Oh, and did I mention the birds! This entire island is just covered with them. Everywhere you turn, you’re sure to bump into a Laysan albatross chick, or a Bonin Petrel, or even some highly endangered Laysan ducks. The Laysan albatross laid their eggs around November, and now the fledglings are almost as large as the adults, but still covered in their brown fledgling fuzz. We even saw an albatross chick feed: the adult throws up the brown and gooey partially digested fish oil and the chicks eat it right up…yummy! And on that note, I’m off to eat snack, so that’s all for today from the Robert C Seamans.
April 6th 2011
Photo: Students of the RCS enjoying land for the first time since setting
sail in March.
28 12.9’N x 177 21.8’W, docked at Sand Island (a.k.a. Midway Atoll)
Weather: Wind and seas SW, mostly cloudy, calm at the dock
Land ho! I’m sure everyone reading will be pleased to know that we safely made it to Midway Atoll today. As we steered towards the dock we were greeted by many seabirds, a few playful dolphins swimming around our bow, and a green sea turtle in the harbor. Once the boat was secure, a representative from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gave us all a briefing on what daily life is like on the atoll. Here wildlife is top priority and people are only allowed to travel on specific paths. Almost everyone rides bikes and vehicles (golf carts and maybe a few work trucks) can only travel 10 mph. (The bikes in the photo are set aside for us to explore with soon!). The respect shown to the environment, the Battle of Midway Memorial, and the Marine National Monument are very evident and could be felt immediately as we approached Midway today.
Tonight everyone is getting a good night of sleep before our land adventures begin tomorrow. Half of the students and crew will spend tomorrow morning volunteering around the refuge and will then have the evening off to bike around, explore, swim, snorkel, and maybe even play some beach volleyball! Everyone else will remain on the ship to process samples for their projects or will help with maintenance around the boat. On Friday we’ll switch it around to ensure everyone gets a free day outside. All is well and spirits are high- since we’ve had some rocky days and nights, I think students are excited to walking on stable solid ground for a few days!
April 5, 2011
Photo: Engineers of the Robert C. Seamans
General Info: Sailing under the stays’ls, the tosps’l, and the jib. Course ordered 315. GPS: 26 degrees North by 176 degrees West.
Weather: Wind: East. Beaufort Force: 5. Sea: E x S at 8 feet. Cloud Cover:
full. Stratocumulus. Temperature: 22.7 degrees Celsius.
Hello World! It is nice to know that somewhere out in the world there exist people, i.e. you, who have a solid piece of land to hang onto. The seas are rough. The last few nights the Pacific Ocean has been rocking our world and yet we are all in happy, if tired, moods. The food is good, thanks to Lillian and Abby, our wonderful stewards, and the beds feel wonderful after long night watches.wait.they feel great after any watch. Two weeks ago I would never have been able to take naps at any hour of the day. When I step back on land I will be one of the 33 people on the Seamans that can now do this consistently—just one of the many skills that SEA semester cultivates!
Despite the havoc that the Pacific is wreaking on our sleep schedules there is hope for our future. Not only is the gale backing off but we are also about to dock at Midway soon! According to Captain Terry we will make port by tomorrow. He seems quite sure that we will do so and from the looks of our incredible engine room staff, “Daddy” on the left and “Lord Jim” on the right, we will. Midway sounds like it will be a blast. Chuck keeps hammering on about how we are required to do some community service by counting the number of albatross eggs on the island for the Fish and Wildlife Service; however we all still expect to have a lot of fun. I feel confident saying that we are all extremely excited to see the supposed “thousands” of birds on Midway, not to mention land!
Thanks for checking up on us,
April 4th, 2011
General Information: 24 50.7 N x 174 34.6 W, Course Ordered 310,
Sailing under Forestays’l and Mainstays’l
Weather: Mostly cloudy skies, intermittent rain, winds ENE at BF-6-7, seas 9-12 feet.
Photo: B Watch Deckhand Jenny and Chief Mate Johnny O
Greetings from the library of the Robert C. Seamans! These past few days have been a compelling reminder that the Pacific Ocean does not always live up to its name. The grey-blue of the sea is churning up quite a froth today, and the swells have made everyday life more of a challenge. Just walking the few feet from bunk to head is an athletic event, and mealtime has become something of a spectacle. The sporty weather isn’t the only change to hit the students and crew of S-234, however.
Yesterday evening, all three watches transitioned from Phase One to Phase Two, and marked the progression with a change of mates and scientists. With the new designation comes new responsibilities, and we are doing our best to live up to the challenge. Navigation has taken on a particularly important role, as we steadily approach the boundaries of the Papahaunamokuakea Marine National Monument. We are permitted to enter the sanctuary only on our way into and out of Midway, so our deck watches have been very careful to track our position. The overcast skies have prevented any celestial fixes for the last few days, and we’ve returned to the GPS to insure our compliance with the rules. B Watch has also improved our sail handling and knowledge of the rig, tools that well continue to draw on as we move further into our sailing adventure.
Just before class today, B Watch had the deck, and we were greeted by the continued presence of a large and mysterious sea creature that made laps of the ship. Some thought it was a shark, others a dolphin. Immersed in the land of Melville’s Moby Dick, I thought about whales and the footsteps that we continue to tread in. Only a few days ago, we passed the French Frigate Shoals, where many New England whalers met their watery fate. In many ways, we are well detached from those heady days of sailing commerce and exploration. In other ways, though, I think our lives are a least a bit entwined with the crews and ships that came before us. After all, it still says Woods Hole on the back of the boat. Food for thought, I suppose.
Id like to wish a very happy birthday to Mom, and my love to her, Liza, Dad, and Dana.
April 1, 2011
Photo: Forward fife rail of the Robert C. Seamans.
General Info: 22 34’ N x 167 56’ W, course 285, motoring at 8 knots with main staysl set.
Weather: Calm, warm, and sunny. Wind F2 SE, seas 3ft SE, high temperature of 28 C.
This lovely April fools day marks the end of our first week at sea! Unfortunately, the winds felt like getting in on the joke and our standard means of sail propulsion have slowed us to a crawl. With a deadline set to make Midway Atoll in less than a week, our engineers have fired up the main engine to keep us on track.
Nobody enjoys motoring, so to spice things up, all students today participated in a competition between watches known as the line chase.. The Seamans has over 80 pieces of running rigging arranged in, at best, a semi-logical order, and it is critical that everybody know their lines in order to quickly strike and set sails when the need arises. In the line chase, each watch lines up relay style, and the first person is given a card with the name of a line and must walk but not run to put their hand on it and then make it back. Traversing the deck is complicated by gleeful crew members wielding hoses.
In the last few days, we have transitioned entirely away from the GPS and are now fixing our position solely based on celestial observations, using our course steered and distance travelled through the water to keep a rough idea in between these measurements. At both morning and evening twilight, a short window arises in which stars are still visible and the horizon remains distinct enough in order to mark sextant observations. These times are known as star frenzy on board, and it certainly can get hectic with multiple students rushing around the quarter deck and calling out angles. During the day, we take several measurements of the sun, advancing each given line of position through the hours for what is known as a running fix. Every sextant observation we take must be brought below decks and taken through the ritual of a reduction, in which a variety of astronomical tables and corrections are applied to the raw data in order to finally tell us something about our position. As novice navigators, mistakes are common and we have become used to the disappointment of a calculated position hundreds of miles from where we expect. However, the satisfaction of two lines crossing right on top of the GPS is greatly satisfying and certainly worth the effort.
Thats all for now; stay posted!
March 31, 2011
Photo: The dolphin fish, Mahi mahi
General Info: 22 22’ N x 165 11’ W, course 285T, speed 8 knots under
Weather: Wind E force 4, seas 5’ E, sunny 25.3C
Life at sea is much tougher than I expected. It has been about a week since we left Honolulu Harbor. Personally, I feel like that the most difficult thing on the boat is to wake up for the watches. We have to “stand by” (be ready and waiting) for changing sailing plans when on deck duty, and we also need to be ready to process the sample collections when we are on lab duty. It is both physically and psychologically challenging to me to learn all the things while mentally trying to adapt the life style at sea.
There are also many good things about our trip. Today, we caught a mahi mahi on our fishing line, and it is really as colorful as the picture shows. I’ve never seen a fish like that in my life before, and it is really interesting. I also have to give a big hand to our galley crew. I would say the past seven days were the only time in my life that I do not have to worry about cooking and great meals are just served in front of us. Other than breakfast, lunch, and dinner, we also get snacks in the morning, afternoon, and at midnight. Although I was sea sick for the first few days and did not have a good appetite, I still thought the food was great and I wished I could eat more. Second, during this trip, I have seen a lot of stars, sun rises, and sun sets that I do not usually get to see in my life. I also have learned a lot of wonderful marine organisms that are just amazing, and it has truly risen my horizon in the invertebrate world. I think these are my rewards that pay off all the hard work at sea. Seven days have past already, and there are five more weeks to go. I will not say that I am a hundred percent in love with the life at sea, but the experiences I have here will definitely become some of my most precious moments in my life.
March 30, 2011
Photo: S234 and crew on the quarter deck
General Info: 20° 15.08’ N x 162°52.7’ W, course ordered 290°, log 407.8,
under sail, jib, mainstays’l, forestays’l and tops’l
Weather: 25.5 °C, Winds E x NE, force 5
Hola gente del planeta tierra!!
Directly from the Robert C. Seamans, the class and crew of S-234 is working hard to make things happen! We are headed to Midway Island and have been setting and striking the right sails in order to get there on time. Each day we are getting to know more about each other, the boat, the sailor language, and how to come about life on a sailing boat; maritime life on the Pacific Ocean!
We have been enjoying very good weather, although Monday night, A and B watch were surprised by rain and strong winds. Everybody knew what to do and stood by their posts, no questions asked. The science aboard the boat is getting to be richer everyday. Launching the carousel for water column data and doing 100 counts of zooplankton are teaching us how field research is done. Thanks to our chief and assistant scientists we are able to continue with our individual projects and learn more about the ocean. The watch routine is getting to be easier for each one of us and getting to wake up fellow crew members with treats (chocolate chip peppermint cookies!) has been fun. On a different note, we have to say that one of the strangest things about boat life is the unusual dreams that everyone has. Every meal we get to share new, strange and rather unusual dreams from psychedelic lizards to falling asleep on watch. Keep reading, more strange dreams to come.
Also, we have started to get into class and presentations such as creature features, Engineering system chases, and weather reports.
Stay tuned and see how it all continues onboard the Robert C. Seamans!
La aventura continua
Vivian Ruby Torres Palomo
March 29, 2011
Photo: Emily Neal shoots stars
General Info: 19 26’ N x 160 10’ W, course 285T, speed 4.1kts under course, main staysl & jib
Weather: Wind NExN force 4, seas 5’ E with, mostly sunny 25.3C.
Today was a great day for sailing! Everyone is having a great time and moral is high as seasickness seems to have finally passed. We are all now getting into the groove of the sea and sailing by getting used to our new sea legs and lifestyle.
We began the day motoring but quickly switched over to our sails once the winds were in our favor. The seas were cooperative today and we did a full deck scrub-down. We quickly learned the annoyance of Bobbies though as a group of seven Boobies flew over the ship and defecated on the decks only moments after finishing the scrub-down. The lab also had an eventful day as they deployed equipment such as the Secchi disk, hydrocast, and neuston and phytoplankton nets to obtain samples and data for our projects. Many interesting things have been seen in lab; during a 100 count from the neuston net I identified interesting critters such as pteropods, zoea, vibrant blue copepods and many more.
Our day has also been productive as we all have been practicing our new skills with the sextant. We were able to calculate our Local Apparent Noon (LAN) and with the sextants we found the height observed of the sun to help pinpoint our position in the Pacific without using tools such as the GPS.
Much love to everyone back home!
General Info: 18? 56.3’ N x 159?? 26.3’ W, course 280T, speed 3.5kts undercourse & tops’l
Weather: Wind E x S force 3, seas 3’ E with, mostly sunny 26?C.
Greetings from S234! Spirits are high and the weather is pristine! Flying fish, dazzling stars and excellent camaraderie have started this trip off marvelously. Although we only began our journey on Friday, we are quickly becoming adjusted to a pelagic life. Today we completed our first watch cycle. We are learning fast, which is important, because there is a ton to learn! Thanks to Lillian and Abbey’s wonderful work the, food is spectacular, chock full of fresh fruit!
Already we have had rough, perfect and slow sailing and are learning the terminology and basics of sail handling and helmsmanship. Science has gotten underway smoothly. Neuston tows have brought up numerous pelagic, sometimes glowing, critters and plants. We have sent the CTD down to 1000m! Yesterday we had a frenzied attempt at retrieving bottom sediments from the giant Cross sea mount. It failed, presumably due to the existence of a hard carboniferous sea mount top, but was nonetheless exciting. In preparation for our trip to Midway we have been studying the birds of Hawaii. Today Hauwen and Jason presented on the different varieties of Boobies that live in the North West Hawaiian Islands.
Today Captain Terry held a class on the use of the sextant. We all practiced calibrating the instrument and bringing the sun down to the horizon. The exercise was immensely exciting. We cannot wait to delve into celestial navigation.
We hope all is well on the home front! Having a Blast!
p.s. from Jing,
Dad- I just wanted to wish you a very happy 50th birthday. I love and miss you (and mom) very much, and I’ll see you both soon. Shen ri Kuai le!!