SEA Currents: The Global Ocean: New Zealand
The first navigation stars now open their bright eyes. The fading embers in the sky die down and the ship is becoming quiet below deck. Students now dedicating time to study and sleep. The galley is getting a spruce up, as it does every night after a hard day of work. It needs it! In the good hands of the evening watch it will be shining again at 4:15 when the steward and student assistant get up to begin breakfast.
It has been merely 34 hours since we shoved off on our 13-day passage from Bay of Islands to Wellington and the days are already beginning to blend together. Our first night voyage closed with a bow wave glowing with bioluminescent star streaks, met by a “sky that resembled a back lit canopy with holes punched in it” (as described in a song by Incubus). We have been following the Southern Cross that outshines the Milky Way cast in a band around it.
Today marked our last day in northern New Zealand. Normal wake up calls sounded below decks at our anchorage in Russell followed by our first all-watch, ship-wide field day. Field day is the crew’s weekly battle against the unending tide of dirt and grime on the ship, where all three watches combine forces to maintain cleanliness onboard for another seven days. Having filtered the solids out of our cleaning grey water and dumped it overboard into the bay there was obviously only one way to unwind after our victorious battle against grime - a swim call!
I have the good fortune to be writing this from the bow of our ship the Robert C. Seamans, nestled down with some tea and overlooking the sunset. The boat is blanketed in the kind of quiet that only follows a full day of adventure and excitement. This morning we rose before the sun to catch the ferry to Waitangi across the bay. By the time we arrived the sun was out and shining for our stroll to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where we reunited with two of our dinner guests from last night—Mori Rapana, a man who has vast knowledge concerning Maori history and tradition, and his mentor Matua Wiremu Williams, a Maori elder whose openness and insight never ceased to amaze us.
Hello from our anchorage at the Bay of Islands town of Russell, a former Pacific whaling hub once known as the “Hellhole of the Pacific”! Thankfully for us it looks a lot more like paradise, with turquoise water glittering in every direction and rolling volcanic islands we’ve come to know and love at every point of the compass.
We woke this morning at our anchorage in a cove just outside of the Bay of Islands, a lovely place to sleep after the previous night of adjusting to the roll of Mama Seamans beneath our bunks.
This was the first full day we sailed underway without anchoring at night. This means that we had full watch rotations with a complete watch group on deck and in the science lab at all times starting with A-watch from 1900 to 2300, followed by B-watch from 2300 to 0300, C-watch from 0300 to 0700, A-watch again from 0700 to 1300, and B-watch from 1300 to 1900.
My last day in Port Fitzroy began with a wonderful 0014 Happy Birthday wake up from Jenny, a traditional apple vinegar birthday shot with our wonderful Steward, Lauren and a birthday hongi from Scoop.
After breakfast and the first happy birthday singing of the day, we took advantage of the nice weather with a “Family Fun Excursion” on land led by Sarianna and Stu. After packing up our pumpkin muffins and water, Will and Willie zipped us over to land in the rescue boats. We first did a transect of the intertidal zone, led by Adelle to observe rocky shore marine species.
Although we have been working within our watch groups since day one, today was our first taste of “real” watch life. At 0600, the Morning Watch (C Watch) was woken up for the first breakfast and began their first 6-hour watch! Following Morning Watch began another 6-hour watch called Afternoon Watch. Then three 4-hour watches are held throughout the night until Morning Watch begins again.
On this first Morning Watch, the mains’l, the main stays’l, and the fore stays’l, were set
First and most importantly, Happy Birthday Mom! Since we are one day ahead here you get two birthdays! I hope you have a great day and that the snow isn’t piling up too much.
After another calm night of dock watch alongside Princes Wharf in Auckland, we at long last prepared to cast off and hit (somewhat) open water. First in this preparation was a series of safety drills—the highlight of which was an opportunity to once again don our immersion suits (a.k.a. Gumby suits)—to make sure we all know what to do in the case of an emergency.
Today we were accompanied on our bus tour of Auckland by Joseph Fagan from the University of Auckland, who shared with us his knowledge about the local geology, geography, cultural sites, and tourism industry. Our first stop was at Mt. Eden, a volcanic cone (one of many) protruding from the surrounding city. After a short walk to the top we were gifted with a beautiful panoramic view of ocean, the harbor, buildings, and surrounding topography. Joe had plenty to add on the site’s history as a Maori fortified village and its role as a tourist attraction.