SEA Currents: Colonization to Conservation in the Caribbean
Right when I’d begun to feel competent! That, of course, is the moment the sea chose to humble me.
Make no mistake about the skills we’ve developed. Call out a line and any one of us students can find, haul, make fast, and coil it in under a minute or so. Tell any of us to conduct a boat check and you can bet your salty butt we’ll scurry into the depths of the engine room and return with the current exhaust temperature and number of gallons in the day tank. Break the coffee machine (god forbid) and we’ll engineer a fix with just a toothbrush, some fishing line, and a teaspoon of seaweed.
If I had to come up with a personal slogan it would be “take time to listen.” As a marine mammal scientist and acoustician at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northeast Fisheries Science Center in Woods Hole, MA, just down the street from SEA Semester, it is my job to take time to listen to the ocean and use listening as a tool to learn about marine animals including marine mammals. But in my time interacting with people of all ages through various outreach and teaching opportunities, I have realized that too often people don’t take time to listen and that this important part of our environment can easily be lost or forgotten.
The day began at 1 AM with a misunderstanding. A disembodied voice chimed outside the curtain of my bunk cutting through the half-thoughts dreams make. The voice is telling me that it is time to get up, that it is 1AM, it’s a little chilly outside, and that my watch begins in thirty minutes. Normally I would say okay or yes or thank you or any sort of acknowledgement and the voice would quiet once more and find its way to the next bunk, the next curtain to hover outside. Ruefully, I would find shorts, a shirt, the safety harness, the water bottle, and whatever else I needed to begin (albeit a very early one) the morning. But this was not a normal day.
After leaving Samana, Dominican Republic yesterday, we got underway and began motor sailing, which quickly became sailing (yay!!), towards Silver Bank. Lots of things are different with this section of our voyage.
Hello internet world, family, and friends!
It is day 16 of our trip and it has been a rollercoaster of a time! Today is our last day anchored in Samana Bay, DR and also the official start of Phase II for the student crew. Phase II is when students are given more responsibility in lab and on deck during watches. Out watch leaders will start taking small steps back and show us how they make decisions and why those decisions are necessary.
I am not going to lie when I say that I don’t know where to begin with this post. So much has happened on the Cramer and at port stops that it is difficult to focus on something super memorable. So I’m just going to write about my initial impressions about being at sea for such a long period of time. I also want to write this post in honor of our visiting artist Peter Stone, who sadly was not able to join us for the rest of this trip.
Today has been an exciting day aboard the Cramer, with whale sightings, whale calls, music and an art gallery. The day started during my night watch (2300-0300). It was a lovely watch with the usual bioluminescence under the bow and a great deal of shooting stars. After a bit more sleep I went on deck to discover there had been a large number of humpback whales and Heather our resident whale sound expert with the help of Molly and Amina had gotten recordings of their sounds.
The Freshness of Dominica:
When you find yourself in the natural harbor of Portsmouth you cannot ignore the dense wall of green the volcanic mountains created by Dominica. They scream to the weary sailor, “YOU ARE HERE AND YOUR TOILS HAVE PAID OFF!” Dominica is not the kind of country I was expecting at all. It was so lively; within five minutes of being on land I saw a scooter doing wheelies in the street. A small insignificant event to probably everybody around me but for some reason it warmed my heart.
When I realized that it was my turn to write the blog, I will admit that I felt rather daunted as to what I would write about. There has been so many different moments throughout this trip that anyone would be hard pressed to figure out what to say. While my parents would probably love for me to wax on about all of them, I feel that the best option would be to keep myself limited to the most manageable of them, as this would also keep me from talking too much.
Today as I start my blog post, I think back to our amazing port stop in Dominica. This was not an island I had heard of before I came to SEA Semester, but while on it I fell in love with its mountainous terrain and natural wonders. I was walking with a group of friends, Michaela (Big Mike), Maddy, Lukas, and Will, when a man came up to us and offered us a tour to go see a waterfall. Maybe it’s the atmosphere of being in an entirely new place, but on a whim our group accepted the tour of this licensed guide.