SEA Currents: Aug 2015
August 09, 2015
SEA Semester® in the News:
“At Sea With Joseph Conrad”
by Maya Jasanoff, Harvard University professor of history
The New York Times | Aug. 9, 2015
The tall ship Corwith Cramer stumbled into the Celtic Sea, engine roaring, 7,500 square feet of sail furled up mute. Its two masts ticked against the horizon like a metronome set to allegro. I joined a row of pallid sailors crouched at the leeward rail. Foam-lathered swell swung for my face, then reeled abruptly away. By the third time I threw up over the side, the “wine-dark sea” of Homer’s poetry just looked like the basin of a billion vomits.
Misery loves blame, so I blamed Joseph Conrad, whose fiction had brought me here. Before Conrad published his first novel in 1895, he spent 20 years working as a merchant sailor, mostly on sailing ships, and fully half his writing — including “Heart of Darkness,” “Lord Jim” and “The Secret Sharer” — deals with sailors, ships and the sea. These loom so large for him that as I have researched a book about Conrad’s life and times, I have felt it essential to travel by sea myself.
I had already taken passage from China to England on a giant container ship, tracing a historic route with the comforts of a queen-size bed, round-the-clock hot water and a mass of steel as big as the Empire State Building between me and the sick-making swell. But the more I read Conrad, the more I realized that I had to get on a tall ship like the ones he knew best, and experience its unique ways of moving, working and speaking.
The brigantine Corwith Cramer, 134 feet from bowsprit to boomkin, is registered as a “sailing school vessel” and offers hands-on courses for college students in seamanship and the marine environment. Its operators, the Sea Education Association, generously let me hitch a ride on the first leg of the Corwith Cramer’s summer cruise along Europe’s Atlantic seaboard, from Cork to Brittany.
By “cruise” I don’t mean a pleasure cruise. For the 12 bright, game students who boarded with me in Cork, this was a floating boot camp. Under the patient instruction of 13 professional crew members, the students plunged into a grueling schedule of round-the-clock watch duty, hauling and heaving lines, setting and striking sails, scrubbing dishes and floors. They were learning the ropes just as Conrad did, 140 years ago.
August 07, 2015
With our journey to Cadiz, Spain complete we say goodbye to our dear students and release them back into the world, perhaps (and hopefully) a bit more experienced, and a bit more salty than when we received them in Cork, Ireland. We’ve sailed more than 1,500 nautical miles by the taffrail log! immersed in the lifestyle of the sailor, the scientist, the historian… the observer, the adventurer.
August 06, 2015
This morning I was greeted with the wakeups of all wakeups.
When you live aboard a ship where everyone has a different schedule, setting any sort of alarm would just result in an alarm ringing every 30 minutes and no one would get any sleep at all. The solution to this is to have your fellow shipmates wake you up before watch or any all hands meeting. Today I was assistant steward, which meant that I got an extra two hours of sleep, and the pleasure of being awoken by my one and only Starboard Watch.
August 06, 2015
Today was our last full day onboard the Corwith Cramer. And our last full day together in Spain. And the last thing any of us felt like doing was returning to the ship at 1630 instead of 2300 to present our final “school project” – a concept map. Our professor, Dan Brayton, had stressed the important of this poster/art project communicating a concept that linked what we had learned – about history, about the ship and how to sail – with our own lives.
August 05, 2015
Today we reached the last island on our voyage through the Phoenix Islands Protected Area: Nikumaroro. I woke up at around 11:30 and went up on deck to see and island covered with a dense canopy of coconut trees a little over 1 nautical mile away. The sky was overcast and the waves a little choppy but we were all excited to see a new place to explore. Unfortunately we could not go ashore today.
August 05, 2015
Looking for beaches in Cadiz, Spain, but instead we happened upon a tree.
Isabella, Jamie, Madison, Avery climbed the tree with me.
Like climbing aloft it was old and fun, the tree was pleased to have us five.
August 04, 2015
We woke up this morning to pancakes (both plain and chocolate chip) prepared by our awesome cook Marissa. After completing various chores, we headed out to Woods Hole for our final field trip. First stop was the Smith building, a part of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). Our tour guide Chad walked us through the halls,where we got to peek into windows and see oceanographic equipment like the remotely operated vehicle, named Remus. Then came the highlight of the day: ALVIN!!
August 04, 2015
Writing this, I realize that time has very much escaped me. It could be any month, any day, even any year and I would not know. Yes, of course I hear rumors of how many days are left and how many weeks we have been on the boat, but the way I think about time, if I even consider it at all, is very different. Time has become a nearly nonexistent, foreign concept.
August 04, 2015
Dear Shore & Co.:
This evening marks the end of our last full day at sea together. Sitting here in the library, the last month seems like the blink of an eye, but when I focus a bit more, I realize how full every day has been. Port arrivals and departures, cities to explore, science deployments, constant learning, supportive camaraderie, and plenty of filling meals along the way have kept every last one of us busy.
August 03, 2015
The day began with the warming smell of breakfast sandwiches and juicy plums and peaches. Our daily watch meeting consisted of a leadership prompt. After watch, we headed up to Madden for our morning lecture. Today we had Career Day led by Maia and guest oceanographers. The three lovely scientists spoke about their career journeys and their current jobs.