SEA Currents: Jul 2014
07:50 We’ve been sailing in a large circle overnight, waiting for the daylight to begin our approach to Winslow Reef. The reason for this wait is that Winslow is one of those rare unmapped places of our planet, and so we have no good charts to rely on in the absence of daylight. To fix this situation a big part of todays mission is to use our onboard CHIRP sonar system to produce some accurate soundings of this large series of subsea peaks that may or may not pierce the surface of the sea. With the sun sufficiently high in the sky and the CHIRP pinging away we begin our first survey line toward a seamount some 8 nautical miles from what we think is the shallowest point of the reef.
Hello and Welcome back!
You happen to be joining us here on our last night out at sea. And what a night it has shaped up to be! There is a clear horizon unlike any we’ve seen thus far, which means that a green flash at sunset is highly likely. This is one of natures most mysterious and awe-inspiring moments and we have all been counting down the seconds until the wondrous emerald green explosion shoots across the sky like the spidery fingers of a roman candle.
28 days and 3 island sites into our Phoenix Islands Expedition finds the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) fish team with 278 fish sampled, including 57 blacktip and grey reef sharks and 4 manta rays. The rest of the Seamans crew has taken to calling the WHOI fish team the Tweedles, but it remains unclear who is dee and who is dumb. Despite the confusion about
our names, the smell of fish while visiting an island site is unmistakable and is a telltale sign of our current location.
Today marks a full week since we sailed out of the blinding blue lagoon of Kanton, and I am still hearing echoes of Kantonian kindness and generosity, trailing us around the ship as we make our way to our last two island stops in the protected area. Dried, faded flower crowns hang on the tiki in the doghouse, shell necklaces spruce up bunks and cabins, and people constantly pop their heads into the galley to ask me for a coconut from the reefer, where crates and crates of the precious commodity lie in waiting.
Ahoy! This is Laura and Evan from C watch, checking in:
(Laura) After only three days in Lisbon (or Lisboa, in Portuguese), we are underway and sailing the blue waters off the Spanish coast again. As we begin the last leg of C-254 towards Cadiz, Neptune seems rather moody. We are currently experiencing 6-7 ft seas that are occasionally spraying any unsuspecting shipmate who happens to pass by. No worries, though, mom; we have the doglines rigged, we only walk clipped in with our harnesses on the high side, and we are keeping the night lookout posted aft on the quarter deck.
Earlier this evening around 18:45 we bid farewell to the beautiful island of Orona. Orona was a blast, but I am excited to be underway again and start getting back into the swing of things because lets face it, anchor watch + a gorgeous island starts making me (relatively) lazy. Today was one of those lethargic anchor watch days. After dawn watch and a quick dawn clean-up I decided not to join the snorkeling parties and just have a chill day bonding with the boat.
Orona is one of the more recently occupied Phoenix Islands, abandoned as recently as 2002. As far as the crew knows, the occupants left primarily due to mass reef fish poisoning and lack of copra (dried coconut), their primary export and source of income. The settlement initiative reflected a venture by the British Empire commenced some sixty years earlier. Sensing an imminent overpopulation crisis in the Gilbert Islands, British colonial officials planned to resettle as many as 1,100 Gilbertese to Orona once the initial pioneer settlement had become self-sufficient.
After a night of sailing across the shipping lanes along the Portuguese coast, morning fog at the mouth of the Tagus River kept Lisbon hidden for a few hours. We picked up a friendly pilot who, like nearly everyone else in Lisbon, spoke excellent English. The fog lifted as we made our way upriver, revealing one majestic structure after another. First there were lighthouses marking the approach, then a medieval fortress, the Tower of Belem, the Monastery of the monks of St. Jerome (both UNESCO World Heritage sites), the navigators monument, the 25th of April Bridge, and, on the south bank, the towering monument to Christ the King.
Hello world, I (Brendan, a student from C watch) would like to enlighten you to the wonders that are the Phoenix Islands. The ocean holds all sorts of crazy creatures, and today it decided to put on a show. We on the Seamans started our day by anchoring a little bit offshore of Orona, the most recent stop on our trek through PIPA. While we were sitting calmly off the reefs, the local fish and bird populations had a very violent disagreement.
Well here it is, our last day at sea before reaching the bustling port of Lisbon, Portugal. The prevailing Northerlies have really come through for us in the past 36 hours, and we’ve had the distinct pleasure of sailing downwind before a following sea and beneath some lovely altocumulus artwork. As Ryan, Steve, and Elliot taught us yesterday, these winds are a result of the Azores high, also known as the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre. As warm tropical air moves North in the atmosphere to these temperate latitudes, it cools down and sinks, creating a region of relatively high pressure at the surface.