SEA Currents: Protecting the Phoenix Islands
My day started at 00:30, when I woke up to Veronica whispering my name. Twenty minutes later, I was standing on the deck in the moonlight ready for dawn watch. On the northern horizon, we could barely see the dark stripe that was the island of Nikumaroro. There is a particular spot by the island where we wanted to do our scientific sampling, but we planned to approach it during the day. So we had a pretty unusual watch, in that we were hove to (stopped) all night, drifting slowly with the wind.
Watching my conceptions of space change as I have spent the past three and a half weeks onboard the Robert C. Seamans has been interesting to say the least. In the beginning, I felt that my world would inevitably shrink down to a mere fraction of what it used to be, in many ways. There is the obvious physical constraint of having only 140 feet of space to walk up and down on any given day, but there was also the fact that my spheres of interaction were minimized to the 37 others on board with me and, for a few days, the people of Kanton.
Just now, I went around and asked the staff if they had one sentence to share with the outside world.
Here is what they had to say to you, the dearest outside world:
Hello all ye land lovers. Things are going well for us out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We have had a good last few days with our fair share of scientific deployments and sail handling. It has been a particular pleasure of mine to finally participate in the full work load. At first, I had an unfortunately severe amount of complications from sea sickness. guess that is what a mountain man gets for trying to be a sailor.
After a particularly damp and dreary night watch, I thought I’d spend a few minutes sharing my newly acquired nuggets of wisdom on…
Life Lessons Learned on Night Watch: Tips and Tricks for Surviving 7pm to 1am
- Memorize the lines before dark – Knowing which ropes to haul or ease is imperative for smooth sailing. If you don’t know which line is which when you can see them, imagine how much harder it is when you can’t. Memorize your lines before the sun goes down.
When our story left off we were anchored in Orona, one of the numerous (relatively) untouched island atoll oases comprising the Phoenix Islands. Today we are back underway, sailing under the four lowers towards our next terrestrial target, Winslow Reef. While I’m feeling slightly woozy from seasickness induced from being back underway, I will attempt do justice in recalling the beauty and wonder of snorkeling with the giant clams in Orona’s lagoon…
I’m holding my breath, because I have been asked to find the green orb and place it on the horizon. I’m holding my breath, because I’m navigating through an endless-blue-nowhere by the light of the star that is mine, because I picked it; I know its name, and it’s the only one I can see out of the black waves stretching a thousand miles in every direction and the black sky stretching millions of miles in front of me.
I don’t think there is an adequate way to write a blog that encompasses all of the events and emotions that have happened over the past few weeks. The SSV Robert C. Seamans doesn’t take her company through the middle of the Pacific Ocean without some testy moments and times of utter confusion. Coming from someone who has only sailed a small Sunfish boat and almost crashed it into a jet ski (hehe love you, Hannah), I never thought that in only two weeks I would be able to understand and sail a 134.5 foot brigantine vessel which is comprised of 86 lines; all the while living with 38 shipmates whom I’ve mostly just met.
I want to begin this blog entry by wishing belated but nevertheless enthusiastic HAPPY BIRTHDAY wishes to my mother (I love you and miss you very much) and my dear friend Julia (omg hi).
Now the real stuff.
We talk a lot about the idea of sense of place here on the Robert C. Seamans, in Conservation and Management class, as well as in Oceans and Global Change class. I hadn’t really thought about this concept before coming to SEA, but it’s become more prevalent in my mind as this trip goes on, and as I think about life when I’ve gotten back to the “real world”.
Nothing about SEA Semester is easy. From memorizing all 54 lines of the ship, dealing with sea sickness while still expected to complete your responsibilities, to doing daily clean ups in steaming hot weather after 6 hours of dawn watch, every task pushes me beyond my limits. There are days I feel incapable, times I’m upset, moments I miss home incredibly, but what encourages me to face new challenges during the start of every morning is what Cassie, our Chief Mate who was our Watch Officer, said to my watch the first day: