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SSV Robert C. Seamans Blog

The Robert C. Seamans will depart Honolulu on May 7th with students in the Stanford at SEA program. They plan to sail to Palmyra Atoll and Christmas Island, and will return to Honolulu on June 10th.

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



S235 Stanford @ SEA

Date: 6 June 2011
Time: 0540

B watch is currently on watch, having taken over the lab and deck from A watch at 0300. We’re spread throughout the vessel, everyone doing their job and watching as the sun, not quite yet up, slowly lights the eastern horizon while the stars fade away. It’s a quiet time as the rest of the ship’s company sleeps. At the helm, Sverre steers the ship, powered only by sails and NE trade winds. Andrew roams between the quarterdeck and the doghouse, checking the radar and chart and fulfilling his duties as junior watch officer (J-WO) this morning. Annie stands on bow watch, no doubt lost in thought about the beauty of the morning. Julia just headed off to perform a boat check, and Laura makes an appearance on deck, taking a brief break from the galley and her job as steward for the day to join in the sunrise appreciation. Good thing she left the personalized chef hat that her watchmates surprised her with when they woke her up below decks.  We would hate to see such a unique thing get blown overboard! After all, it’s not every hat that comes with a homemade medallion featuring a chef cat declaring, “Only you can prevent a galley cat-tastrophe.” Sarah, Aaron, and Josh have also come up on deck from below where they, as the dawn lab-watch team, have been hard at work on their science projects. Josh, this morning’s junior lab officer (J-LO), has been ensuring that all lab work still gets done despite the project focus. Austin and myself, rendered nearly obsolete by the junior watch officers, just finished a morning “star frenzy,” shooting the stars with a sextant in order to determine our location. Everything besides the motion of the ship seems to pause as we wait for the sun to appear above the horizon.

Time: 1905
A posterboard recently appeared in the aft starboard head reminding us to appreciate the small moments. People have added things like, “Discovering your bunk fan has a ‘high-speed’ setting,” and, “Using a head right after it’s been cleaned.” Sunsets, always looked forward to with anticipation, has also been added to the list. Once again, life pauses for a moment as we gather to watch tonight’s colorful sky. As opposed to sunrise, the majority of the ship’s company spreads out along the port rail gazing at the horizon and hoping to see the notorious green flash that sometimes comes with sunsets at sea. You know you’re living in a differently paced world when your whole community gathers for a moment like this. B watch just started the evening watch and Sarah and Julia, the junior deck and lab officers respectively, confer over what needs to get accomplished in the next 4 hours. Laura, basking in the completion of a delicious day of cooking roasted chicken and potatoes, pauses with musical triangle in hand, before ringing up the second dinner seating. She joins the sunset patrol, while Andrew contemplates the dishes and galley clean-up that await. Aaron is at the helm, and Josh, Annie, Austin and myself join in the sunset-watching moment. A hush falls and the sun slowly dips below the horizon. Sadly no green flash tonight, but there’s always tomorrow.

Till then,
Laura Nelson (Asst. Scientist) and Austin Becker (3rd Mate)



S235 Stanford @ SEA

Robert C. Seamans Blog June 5, 2011
N 14°45’, W 158°14’
Sailing North under main, 2 staysails & jib
Winds: Force 4 ENE, squally


As we begin the last leg of our journey, I would like to describe my experience aboard the Robert C. Seamans to you, but I am afraid it is inexpressible. You see, this is one of those moments in life that you have to experience for yourself.

During our journey thus far, the sea-sickness monster had its way with many of us, including me. However, we have gathered as a community and overcame our obstacles. No longer are we eating saltines and ginger ale for dinner (to all you parents, that is not what they serve us for dinner but a great option when feeling sea-sick). No longer are we awkwardly stumbling over our feet as the waves rock the boat by-and by. We have earned our sea legs. We watch each other’s backs. We heave and ho as a unit. We cook for each other. Clean for each other. Care for each other. We have learned that one strand of string can easily be broken, but a rope entwined with many is strong enough to brace a mains’l. We work as a community, not afraid to get on our hands and knees together and clean the soles (floor of the boat) with a sponge and bucket of water. [I am inclined to say that the boat is cleaner that most of the people on the boat! We keep the boat even cleaner than my home in Tennessee. My mom would be proud.] I will spare you the details (you may not know how much you will appreciate this courteous gesture) of the smell that we are acquiring as our journey progresses. It is not the smell of the ship or the oceanic specimens we have collected. My dear reader, it is that of your loved ones. It is the smell of a shirt that remains unchanged—-for days; it is the smell of your child who has not bathed in a week. If you could only see the beaming smile on one who flaunts a freshly laundered shirt or washed hair after a freshwater shower (even if it lasts only a few hours).

As we embark on our journey, some of us like to imagine ourselves as sailors, others as scientists, and some as pirates. Personally, I succumb to my generation’s media and glorification of a pirate and will hesitantly admit that I find myself every so often singing “A Pirate’s Life for Me” or humming the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song while on lookout at the bow. Epicness in its entirety.

Together, we have embarked on the ultimate adventure. I yearn to describe to you the way the world looks from the bow during a clear starry night. The way the deep velvety waters cloaks our path like an ebony satin sheet. The salty mist of the sea spraying our sun-kissed faces as the sun plays peek-a-boo with the horizon. How the stars sing to us in their own version of Morse code while the night’s shooting diamonds wish us a safe journey home. A photograph cannot capture the electric blue pigment of the ocean or the magnificent bioluminescence as the night waves crash against the side of the Seamans. Words cannot articulate how the moon manifests its mastery over the night sky or the majestic fashion in which the Milky Way transcends the heavens. I wish you could share our joy as we cry “Land ho!” together when we first see the contour of land silhouetted against the azure sky. If only I could bottle up the smell of the sea and bring home with me. If only I could share the feeling of having absolutely nothing in sight for miles or take you along with me on the head-rig as we sail away—with dolphins swimming along our bow. Only here have I been able to watch the sun completely traverse the sky, rising in the east and setting in the west; a recurrent phenomenon I will never forget.

This is a humbling experience, to say the least. The power of the ocean dominates our course and its mystery enchants our intellect. Being one of 39 people on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, I cannot help but imagine the thousands of souls that have sailed this ocean before me and have lost their lives to the high seas. It is far too easy to look over the rail and see the water and the sun (what is viewable to the human eye) and forget about the beauty that lies beneath the ocean surface.

Calah Hanson



S235 Stanford @ SEA

RCS June 3, 2011
N 10°33’, W 157°25’
Sailing North
Wind- ENE Force 4; mostly clear with isolated squalls

haiku moments at sea

a tiny tuna
said “hi” to us fisherman
as I ate its heart

a giant tuna
it wanted to say “hi” too
a shark said hi first

palmyra - pristine
kingman reef - untouched beauty

one double rainbow
then, a ghostly gray moon bow
fluctuating light

swing swing a lone rope
dangling, enticing, calling
jump, jump it’s shallow

row row row your boat
gently on the “Gene” (you see)
life is but a dream

the atmosphere drops
“plitter platter” the sky falls

jig to catch a squid
caught three :“Jesus”, “Bart”, “Princess”
Princess ate Jesus

dolphins are lazy
they dance around the bow wave
frolicking all day

bonfires, dance parties
christmas in may, gift exchange
dancing life away

our watch climbed the mast
overlooking paradise
no comparison

the world is all wrong
small lights speckle the dark sea
while a squall beats us

—Josh Coronado



S235 Stanford @ SEA

Robert C. Seamans
30 May, 2011
3 degrees 37’ N x 156degrees 41’W


Following the Birds Home

I grab a pair of binoculars from the wall of the lab and head out to the quarterdeck with a sometimes reluctant, sometimes excited fellow classmate. For ten minutes we scan the horizon on either side of the boat looking for any possible flap of a wing, every possible soaring bird, any sign of life over the big blue ocean. My classmate Annie and I are interested in where we see birds during our trip because we are working on a project on seabird distribution, and are interested in why we sea birds where we see them. Is it related to how far they are from land? Does it say something about how much food is in the water they soar above? Being some of the only visible organisms in this watery world, birds have the potential to answer many scientific questions about productivity and ecology in the open ocean. Being an ecologist, my interest in seabirds was purely in this ecological frame of mind until, after a chance encounter on a walk through the streets of London, Kiritimati Island, I found out that other people have considered birds important for reasons other than being ecological indicators.

A hand-painted sign along the pot-holed main thoroughfare of London, Kiritimati Island, advertised the “Wildlife Protection and Management” office. I stepped into a room devoid of decoration, save for the posters of the biology and identification of the 25 different bird species that nest and live on the atoll. I immediately wished I had brought a pen to write down all the Gilbertese words for all the birds I’ve been scanning the horizon for since we left Honolulu. The woman behind the counter came up and asked us if we had any questions, and we began to talk. She knew about the SSV Robert C. Seamans from previous trips SEA has taken to Kiritimati, and she knows that students on board are often studying birds on SEA trips.

“We are interested in birds, too, because historically, Polynesian navigators used them for navigation,” she tells me. “The greater frigate bird, for example, is always found near land. This is because they are lazy, and like to wait around for other birds to come home, and then they steal food from the birds that are returning. Polynesian navigators who saw frigate birds in the sky would follow them because they would always lead their boats to land.” 

On the journey home over the next ten days, I’ll be madly trying to input and analyze data to see if any of the trends in bird distribution Annie and I hoped to see are real. But while I’m doing that, I won’t forget to scan the horizon from time to time, looking for those frigate birds that are going to be leading the Seamans back to Hawaii.

-Ana Miller-ter Kuile



S235 Stanford @ SEA

May 27, 2011
Palmyra to Christmas Island

We left Palmyra on a glorious sunny day-sailing through the deep cut of the Palmyra channel with an escort of boobies, and a few Mantas. We’re carrying a new passenger, Dr. Joe Bonaventura, from Duke Marine Lab, a professor who served as one of my mentors, along with Dr. Mike’s who brings aboard boundless energy, and a unique view of marine biology.  Joe, and the “first blood” team attempted at Palmyra to get one of the first oxygen dissociation curves of reef fish in warm waters so that we could examine if, and how these fish bind oxygen more tightly in their warm, lagoon waters.

For all of the sailors on this ship, Palmyra and Kingman lived up to expectations, and gave us more- a week of adventure, research and sheer spectacular beauty. I love Palmyra for its mystical qualities, the gorgeous emerald colors you only see only in the tropical Pacific, lush greens and smell of the earthy Island, the spectacular North beach where cone shells, and blacktip shark pups abound in the shallows, and the super facilities that the PARC consortium and TNC have created to allow scientists to better understand the structure of undisturbed coral ecosystems. Our students had fantastic access to unrivaled undergraduate research projects on coral reefs, snails and birds, manta ecology, and shipwrecks. We adventured throughout the protected atolls with zodiacs and our own sailing dory called Gene, and had a fantastic time. We moved on for two days at Kingman Reef- always the highlight for me of this trip. Here one feels as remote as you can in the Pacific realm, an ominous V-shaped reef greets you- waves breaking over coral shelled spits you can barely see, a place with a powerful yet mysterious quality. Beneath the sea,  there is a remarkable vibrance of colors with clams, corals, fish.  My favorite here was the abundance of sharks.  As if carrying a tuna attractant, every time I got in- I saw grey reef sharks, white tips or black tips. A few were a bit more than curious,  potentially attracted to the shine of my weight belt- we safely negotiated our time underwater in the region with the sharks- and had a sense of their control over this spectacular reef. 
We’ve sailed for the past three days into the trades easterly gusts, to get to our next island stop in Kiribati -Christmas Island. It was tough at times beating into 6-8 ft seas- I took a photo from my port window on stormy wake up. Squalls at night reminded us of the challenges of taking sails down in powerful winds, students performed flawlessly, and the drenching rains cleaned the decks and felt refreshing to our often salt drenched skin and clothes. We had a first class play on board (Picture shows the cast) about “winkling”, from the science watch - that helped us learn the chemistry of measuring oxygen in the water.  We preformed a series of “stations”, casting meter nets and Tucker trawls acquiring the final data for some transect projects looking at the oxygen minimum layer, and deep scattering layer organisms in relationship to the physical properties of the water column. Now we’re about to enjoy three days in our final port of call before turning the ship North to sail home to Honolulu.




S235 Stanford @ SEA | Audio Podcast

Phil Sacks




S235 Stanford @ SEA

May 24
100 miles south of Palmyra Atoll

“I’m going to swim underneath Manta rays and photograph them.”

When Laura Cummings presented her project to the Stanford @ SEA class during the shore component, I think everyone felt she was a little delusional. “It’s not the easiest thing to swim under a 14 foot Manta in a deep channel” warned professor Barbara Block, “you might not want to base an entire project on your ability to do something so difficult”. Laura was unphased, and we would all soon find out why.

I offered to help Laura with her project because I was intrigued by 1) the confidence behind her audacious claim and 2) the obsession this girl has with sharks and mantas- Laura often came to class sporting Manta ray earrings and toting a laptop adorned by a large vinyl Whale shark. I was far from convinced that she would be able to photograph the underside of one giant Manta (much less enough of them to draw comparisons for her research) and I didn’t necessarily share her enthusiasm for rays at the time, but I did admire her passion. One can’t help but admire such conviction. In retrospect, I’m sure glad that this crazy project idea did draw my interest, because it led to some amazing moments in the channel of Palmyra that I will not soon forget.


Laura’s side of the story:
I would first like to preface this story by saying that I am and have always been a little bit of a fish nerd.  As a child I traded good grades for trips to Sea World and constantly practiced my dolphin moves at home in the pool until I was sure I was becoming a fish myself (likely the impetus behind joining the swim team later in life).  But while most little girls may favor the bright fish of the tropics, I always held a soft place in my heart for sharks and rays.  By far my favorite exhibit at Sea World was the touch tank with stingrays, where I could sit for hours and excitedly inform anyone within earshot about their mucus coated skin (snot, cool!) or the optimal way to get them to approach you (always remain calm).  So a few years later when I heard about the existence of giant swimming rays, I knew I had found the love of my life.  With wingspans over 7 meters and incredibly curious and peaceful personalities, Manta rays are the most beautiful and dynamic creatures of the sea (in my unbiased opinion, of course).  In planning for this trip, I knew I had to seize the incredible opportunity to better understand their relatively unknown life history.  While some doubted the possibility of capturing individual Mantas on film to get an idea for population size, my heart told me otherwise.  I had perseverance and a love for Mantas on my side, and there was no way I was going to give up.

The Adventures of Team Manta

The day we arrived at Palmyra atoll, excitement abounded on the Robert Seamans.  Those with island-based projects checked through their equipment for the umpteenth time, preparing themselves for the unknown wonders soon to be discovered.  After lunch, Team Manta gathered and went over the strategy for the mission before loading up into the rescue boat-turned-science vessel and heading out into the channel.  Skepticism was still on the minds of all but the mission leader Laura.  As soon as we entered the channel, the first Manta appeared.  Laura was immediately in the water, and with adrenaline pumping she swiftly approached her idol, filming from above, before diving down to capture the underside, just as she said she would.  From that point on, all doubt was thrown out the window and over the following four days, Team Manta went on to photograph over 30 mantas, planting satellite tags on 2 of them!  However, the success of the missions cannot be attributed solely to the data brought back to the shore.  By far the proudest moments came from the seamless use of teamwork, honed through the course of our time on Palmyra.  With Austin at the helm and Barb spotting with her magic “manta glasses”, students trolling from the side of the boat could be expertly guided to a manta, at which point a complex water ballet ensued involving Julie as manta herder, Laura as photographer, and Nick on shark watch and back-up camera.  Even the most accomplished of sports teams would have been impressed by our synchronization.  By the end of our days at Palmyra we had sighted over 70 mantas, including a feeding aggregation of over 25 at once (Unfortunately no photographs of this experience were captured as all in the water were a little too stunned to function) and an extended play session with one curious Manta who was especially interested in what we were doing.

As we write this blog, the ship has returned to its swaying momentum on its way for Christmas Island.  Although our manta time at Palmyra is over for this trip, the memories of seeing and swimming so closely by such magnificent creatures remain fresh as ever in our minds.  I think I speak for the entire team when saying I cannot wait to return someday to finish what we started.

-Laura “Manta Lady” Cummings and Nick “Converted Manta Devotee” Mendoza

Ps.  I would also like to make a quick shout out to Mary, Phil, and Austin for their expert driving; Julie, Julia, Sarah, Caleb, Rick, and Nick for their invaluable assistance in the field; and of course Barb Block for sticking with me throughout the project even when she thought it may be an impossible task.  You guys rock!



S235 Stanford @ SEA


At Anchor- Palmyra Atoll


Greetings again from Palmyra Atoll, to which we have returned after a very successful two-day trip to Kingman Reef! When I tried to imagine Kingman - one of the remotest bits of land in the world - before visiting, I pictured a single wave breaking in the middle of the ocean. After 36 hours anchored in the middle of the reef, I decided that my analysis was pretty correct. A couple of grains of sand form island strips (one of which we discovered and named Thursday!) to break up the horizon, but other than that, it’s all waves and sky. The real magic happened underwater, as vista after vista of corals, reef fish and beds of hundreds of giant clams spread out before our eyes.

We spent Thursday and Friday snorkeling around the pristine corals and clam gardens on Kingman, checking out colorful fish and locking gazes with curious grey reef sharks. A couple of us also studied the damaged reef around a teak-hulled shipwreck that washed up on Kingman in 2007. The wreck has spawned the growth of a ‘black reef,’ an area of reduced coral growth and cyanobacterial takeover, which looked like a pool that hadn’t been chlorinated in months. In addition to cyanobacteria and metal debris from the wreck, however, there were still many beautiful corals, and hundreds of colorful wrasses, parrotfish, unicornfish and butterflyfish, as well as clownfish guarding their anemone homes (think Finding Nemo). I was reluctant to sail away from the reef last night - Kingman has a mysterious quality, at once familiar and completely other-worldly. Breakers washing over submerged corals are reminiscent of waves crashing along the California coast, but the deserted land seems somehow like a last, lost bit of earth, saved from all outside touches except for our very lucky eyes.


We have returned to Palmyra for three more days, to finish our reef-based research projects, where we have been greeted by a series of insta-showers: bursts of rain and squally weather intermittent with sunshine. The weather won’t stop our missions, though (most of which are in the water anyway!). We’ll be sending out boats to study coral color and diseases, the shipwreck on Palmyra, manta ray ecology, parasitism in corals, and hopefully some recreational snorkeling and island exploration as well. We all feel incredibly lucky to have this opportunity to visit two beautiful, remote Pacific islands, places that most of us would probably never be able to see otherwise.

We were fortunate to acquire the temporary company of Amanda Meyer, the US Fish and Wildlife Service agent in charge of Palmyra and Kingman, on our trip north to Kingman. She has been a fun addition and a wealth of knowledge about the islands and their coral and fish communities. We’ve also taken on Joe Bonventura, a professor at Duke and Barb Block’s Ph.D. advisor, as company for the rest of our trip. We have appreciated a little new blood to shake up the ship, as well as the chance to talk with Joe about his research in fish respirometry, and we look forward to his continued company. Next, we sail on to Christmas Island! But first, a few more days of science and relaxation in this tropical, coconut-and-azure paradise.

- Laura Lilly



S235 Stanford @ SEA


May 19, 2011
At anchor Kingman Reef


Title: Kingslands on Kingman Reef
From: Haley Smith Kingsland, Earth Systems master’s candidate
Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011

On his thirtieth birthday, in a hospital bed in snowy New England, my father resolved to build a sailboat. He was recovering from a gruesome skiing accident, imagining palm trees and warm water in the South Pacific. Lofting, plating, and welding commenced before my parents even met. How blessed I am that fifty-feet long, fourteen-feet wide steel sailboats designed for serious world cruising do not grow in the backyards of most children. When I was a little girl, my dad would lift me up against the hollow hull of our nameless “big boat” to the spot of my future bunk on the port side of the forward cabin at the bow.

Yet faraway islands soon became a dream deferred not only to balance a fierce commitment to family and daughters’ educations, but also to develop the finest piece of floating sculpture my father’s hands could shape. Zero square corners. Marble galley countertops. A cedar closet. Bullet-proof pilothouse windows for sunbeams to stream through at anchorage. Rounded corner by rounded corner the boat progressed through my childhood until three decades later we launched Restless in Scituate Harbor, Massachusetts to the colored kazoos of more than five hundred people.

I knew Stanford @ SEA would prepare me to finally circumnavigate with my father after his impending retirement. But on his sixty-fourth birthday, the second day of the SEA shore component, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Our lives are terminal upon birth, I console myself, as I am uplifted by my dad’s dogged determination to fight far beyond his prognosis. And so I sailed to the North Pacific, bringing with me part of him. Halyards clanging in the night, skipjack tunas hauled onto the quarterdeck, arching palm trees on Palmyra, the complexities of the Seamans’ engine underworld - all make me smile thinking of him.

Today, a shipmate poked me at 6:20 AM for a tranquil but tense morning watch. Not many of us were awake as Captain Phil and third mate Austin Becker navigated meticulously into the Kingman Reef lagoon - an isolated atoll of submerged corals spread between just ten minutes of longitude and four minutes of latitude on an inaccurate map unfurled across the chart table. We entered in more than 800 feet of depth where the charts read 42. I felt an unsettling sense of eerieness in a place that more sharks have seen than humans - an electrifying dose of the world’s vast unknowns, as mysterious as a cancer prognosis.

We passed by a low-lying island Captain Phil discovered on the 2007 Stanford @ SEA cruise, a tiny strip of white sand and brown boobies wedged between grey cumulus clouds and Kingman’s sapphire lagoon. I scanned my telephoto lens to the waves breaking on the left. Something within their frosty horizontal linearity seemed amiss - a tan speck I knew the charts said did not exist. The islet appeared larger and larger as we approached, and voila - we named it Kingsland Island in honor of my father. Approximately 06°23.1’N x 162°22.5’W. It may not have palm trees, Daddy, but it’s enough for me to keep the dream alive of sailing Restless myself to the South Pacific.

[Insert Photo: On right, the newly discovered Kingsland Island on Kingman



S235 Stanford @ SEA


Robert C. Seamans at anchor Palmyra
We arrived Palmyra on schedule this morning at 0900. We doused sail and motored through the narrow cut in the reef to enter the atoll’s western lagoon.  After a few morning squalls the afternoon has brought back blue skies, cumulus clouds and a beautiful breeze blowing across the decks.  We have reduced to half watches and everyone is either too busy, too excited, or too tired (or all of the above) to write today’s blog. We have three boats exploring the lagoon and the western terrace filled with students beyond excitement to begin their research projects.  Those neither on the boat missions or on watch are enjoying a walk on shore that no doubt will end at the swimming hole.  With the azure water and multi-colored reefs beckoning it may be a few days before anyone is ready dry off long enough to sit at a computer and blog!

Philip Sacks
1445h, 17 May 2011



S235 Stanford @ SEA

Robert C. Seamans May 15, 2011
Position: 9 degrees 7’N x 161 degrees 35’ W
Wx: Force 4, N x E

C is for Charming
Sunday May 15, 2011

AHOOOOY!  This is Kevin Chow, on deck.  Today I’ll be writing a bit about what it’s like to be part of a crew - to work as a team, to forge new friendships, and to adapt to the culture of the ship - which, for me, has been the most challenging, yet rewarding aspect of the trip so far.

Onboard the Seamans, we use a three-watch system (A, B, and C) to divide the day and its duties into manageable parts.  I am a member of C Watch, which also includes Laura Nelson (Assistant Scientist), Austin Becker (3rd Mate), Sverre LeRoy (TA), Lauren Kubiak, Ana Miller-ter Kuile , Haley Kingsland, Nick Mendoza, Calah Hanson, and Sabina Perkins.  Although we have only been a team for little more than a week, working and eating with these charming, calm, collected (and remarkably good-looking) individuals day in and day out has really brought us close together into a family/team/elite squadron. 

Adhering to the relentless schedule of the ship can certainly be a struggle. Time, on the Seamans, seems to melt away - it is harder and harder for me to separate when one day starts and another begins.  The mantra of SITUATIONAL AWARENESS dictates that we remain constantly vigilant of fire, men or women overboard, and Kraken attacks.  But, I have found that ship life is all about taking the bad with the good.  For instance, today for dawn watch we had to wake up at 0300 and scrub the heads and soles (toilets and floors) after breakfast, but oh my gosh just look at this morning’s sunrise! 

(Insert sunrise photo here.  Caption:  I think one time I heard someone say something like “the price of enjoying the sublime is a voyage into the banal…”  I guess I agree with that.)

When we gather with the entire class each afternoon, the culture of the ship’s company as a whole is on display.  We share stories, act, recite poems, laugh, reflect, dance, and feign cardiac arrest.  Afterwards, there are wonderfully prepared snacks to enjoy together before the rhythm of the ship resumes (the science must go on!).  There are lines to sweat, boat checks to perform, nets to cast, samples to process.  The ebb and flow of ship life, like the ocean itself, is alive with opportunities to learn from and to teach each other.

-K. Chow
Over and out.

Today, at 15:49 ZT, we also launched 10 messages in bottles from a location of 9° 19.8’ N x 161° 33.9’ W for a group of students from Capt. Derek Esibill’s seventh and eighth grade classes in Kailua, Ohau.



S235 Stanford @ SEA


Robert C. Seamans May 14, 2011
Position: 10 degrees 45’ N x 161 degrees 21’ W
Wind - Force 4, E x N
Sailing under 4 Lowers and square topsail, course 185 degrees, speed 7 knots


Wow. This day marks the end of our first week at SEA. It has been a wondrous mix of rigorous science and ship handling, as well as the breathtaking beauty and adventure of sails against stars and ocean sunsets. To address the latter, we have decided to read a poem before each of our daily ship’s meetings. I offer one now, to share a bit of the spirit we are feeling on board the Seamans.

Adventure Song
By Tara Smithee, SEA Earth Systems masters student

And now my feet shall pass away
Ere killdeer call the close of day
My good friend, tis my back you see
I’ll come not home to ease with thee    
Though sun be dappled on the road
And barley in the fields be sowed
And horses lay in straw so sweet
Still these things can’t stop my feet
Though love be warm in friends so dear
Whose laughter still my mind can hear
Though milk and honey wait for tea
I cannot pause to stay with thee  

The world ahead, it calls me there

Wondrous adventure if only I dare
The clouds and stars of another sky
Shall be my company by and by
My feet go on to choose a track
Not hindered by my heavy pack
They jump ahead like fleeting hare
So glad this land is wide and fair
Alone at last I’ll find my way
Where night unfolds to show the day
The stars give way to morning sighs
In fields of mist and soft sunrise
Where rocky cliffs look over sea
The gulls careen and call to me
I’ll ride the waves and follow the wind
And sit with creatures gilled and finned

My wanders through won’t end this soon
For calm night seas can mirror the moon
There in the glass beneath our prow
I see a lady with furrowed brow
Millions of stars lace in her hair
She laughs and I see a challenge there
She watches whether I turn back
Or forge ahead to face the black
Unknown except for those who heed
The wanderlust and aching need
Of souls that know ahead there are
Blue mountains rearing high and far
Waterfalls of silver steel
Over cliffs where great birds wheel`
Or landscapes made of frozen ice
Strange with cold and wind’s device
These souls know ahead must lie
The wine dark end to the evening sky

So I continue on ahead
Away from candle, home, and bed
The darkness folds as I go on
Lovely as the earth I walk upon
I’ll stride ahead for years or days
Round countless corners, hills, and ways
And then one morning I may see
Beyond these wilds and into me
When there at last myself I’ve found
I’ll then decide to turn around
And these same feet shall carry me
Across those hills and back to thee

-Tara Smithee

In addition to poems (sometimes amazing poems written by shipmates like Tara), at ship’s meeting, we share reports from the different areas of the boat - the engine room, science lab, and navigation room. Today’s most exciting report came from the science crew, because Josh Coronado led our watch in a successful squid jig. Josh caught two squid and I caught one, who I immediately named Princess (Princess is quite the aggressor as it turns out - just a few hours ago, she bit a huge chunk out of another squid’s mantle). These squid led our dawn watch to research and learn about photophores for our science report, because these photophores are the source of bioluminescence in the squid. Not much compares to reading about photophores and bioluminescence in a textbook, the physiological and biochemical mechanisms, and then seeing the grand result in our live squid. Everyday we look forward to these exciting applications of textbook science and everyday we look no further than the Seamans.

-Julie Koenig



S235 Stanford @ SEA

May 13
Position: 12 degrees 21’ N x 161 degrees 07’ W
Wx: fair with Force 4 trade winds
sailing course 185, 6.5 knots

Greetings from the central Pacific, where the Seamans has passed our halfway point to Palmyra, and the Southern Cross rises higher each night! The past 24 hours have been filled with clouds and a strong breeze, but the lack of blue sky hasn’t dampened the boat’s bright enthusiasm. To mark our first week in, we declared today ‘Fluorescent Friday,’ meaning that everyone showed up for their watch periods in highlighter green, pink and yellow clothing, complete with vibrant sunglasses and orange socks. I’m amazed we all had a similar inclination to stuff bright clothing into our duffles before the trip!

Yesterday we deployed two Tucker Trawls, nets that are designed to open at specific depths in order to collect a sample of the biology at those depths, as part of our scientific mission is to track the biodiversity of the region we sail over. When we brought the Tucker Trawls back on board, we found lots of exciting deep-sea organisms! Some of the notable finds were a juvenile snipe eel, red shrimp, baby squid and a juvenile hatchetfish. The biology continued this morning with a sighting of pilot whales splashing in and out of the waves around our stern. We’re still working on the mahi mahi catch - hopefully we’ll land some fresh fish soon! 

We are using the navigational techniques we learned at Hopkins, combined with authentic brass sextants, to mark the sun’s position above the horizon in order to calculate our ship’s latitude and longitude.  We are beginning to feel like true sailors and are finally getting our “sea legs” as we learn the sails and lines of the boat.  Time passes quickly, woven seamlessly into the pattern of the ship’s watch schedule, daily afternoon classes, and snatches of sleep between moments of excitement. We can’t wait to see what comes next!

- Laura Lilly

8516 - examining the contents of a net trawl
8524 - an anglerfish from the depths
8539 - Julia marks the sun’s position with a sextant
8546 - Sarah and Andrew present on deep-sea net creatures

“For whatever we may lose (for a you or a me) It’s always ourselves we find in the sea” -e.e. cummings

I was at the helm a few nights ago.  It was two in the morning and it was my first working night on the boat.  Rain beat down on us from the southeast while lightning lit up the otherwise pitch-black night sky.  The boat was rocking hard as we made our way across the sea and falling overboard become a very real reality.  It was silent, except for the winds, as more than thirty people slept below the deck. And yet, I was at peace.  There I was, staring out into the ocean steering a massive ship in those comparatively intense conditions in the middle of the night and reflected on who and where I am.  I’M ON A BOAT.

- Josh Coronado



S235 Stanford @ SEA

Robert C. Seamans Blog May 12, 2011
14 degrees 55’N x 160 degrees 34’ W
Wind Force 4 E x N
Sky overcast


Life on the Seamans: A Snapshot in Time by Lauren Kubiak

There is never a dull moment on the Seamans.  From navigation to sail handling, oceanographic instrument deployments to engine maintenance, and cooking to cleaning, there are many moving parts to the voyage, all which must be handled in an efficient, timely manner.  The rotating watch schedule ensures that people are always at hand to keep the ship running smoothly, and the decks are seldom not teeming with activity.  The following photos, all taken today between the hours of 10 and 11 AM-10 and 11 hundred hours in nautical speak-illustrate a snippet of this activity: a snapshot of life aboard one of the greatest research vessels to ever grace the waters of the Pacific.

1. In preparation for our daily instrument deployment, A Watch Team hauls the main sheet.
2. Adrian Archambault takes a sight with the sextant to determine our location. (Don’t worry, we also have GPS on board).
3. The CTD instrument, deployed by student Laura Cummings and scientist Annie Scofield, collects water from different levels in the water column to determine how salinity, oxygen, and temperature change with depth.
4. The oceanographic instruments on-and deployed from-the ship return a wealth of oceanic data.  In the on board lab, student Tara Smithee examines bottom (left) and current profiles.



S235 Stanford @ SEA


Robert C. Seamans Blog
May 11, 2011
16 degrees 55’ N x 159 degrees 57’ W
Wx: fair, trade winds Force 3, ESE


Hello! Today is our fourth day on the ship and we’re already well on our way to becoming excellent scientists and seamen. This morning, as we were processing our plankton tows, we were overcome with inspiration from the creatures we were finding. We caught everything from deep sea anglerfish to baby puffer fish-and, of course, a million copepods! As part of the daily ship’s meeting, the dawn watch answers a question and presents the findings to the awaiting shipmates.

Today we presented on a magical creature: the heteropod! A member of the snail class, heteropods make their home in the open ocean. These snails are a little different from your garden variety; their shell is reduced and their foot has evolved into an undulating fin, allowing them to thrive in the deep, blue sea.

As poetry has been a theme of our ship’s meetings, we thought we would share a poem we wrote, inspired by this fantastic snail.

Song of the Heteropod

I was swimming in the ocean blue
enjoying a midnight snack
When I was captured by the Seaman’s crew
in a Neuston net attack

I was hauled upon the salty deck
and hurled into the tank
There the man of war had me a nervous wreck,
and from his stinging grasp I shrank

“What could it be?” I heard the mammals ask
“This creature is quite odd.”
Then under the microscope light I did bask
‘til they exclaimed, “It’s a beautiful heteropod!”

Over and out!
Bri, Caleb, and Laura C.
A Watch



S235 Stanford @ SEA


Robert C. Seamans, Blog
Position: 19degrees 15’ N x 158 degrees 15’ W
Hove to, on Station
Winds Force 3, SEly, Clear sky


After a safe departure from Honolulu Harbor, masterfully orchestrated by Captain Phil, the Seamans is 24-hours underway on its southerly course. The enthusiasm of all on board has endured through a first day that was dizzying both in terms of information volume and the steady rocking of the ship, which generated more than a few green faces and lost lunches.

Despite the intensity of the first day, I am overcome by a deep feeling of serenity after my first dawn watch (0300-0700), a feeling that I have never been more at home. Manning the ship’s helm last night on a course that
seemed to be marked by the overhead glow of the Milky Way is a memory I will treasure. The highlight of my first morning, though, had to be the hour I spent on bow watch leaning into the warm breeze and gazing down at the twinkling sea of bioluminescence swirling vibrantly from the ship’s wake.

Our first sunrise brings the promise of many more memories like these and
the opportunity to carry out some exciting science in the days to come.Hopefully, somewhere along the way, we’ll all find our sea-legs as well.

Nicolas E. Mendoza
Class of 2012



S235 Stanford @ SEA | Audio Podcast

Mary Engels