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Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the layer tools, top right, to change the map style or to view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).

SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer

October 31, 2014

All Hallows Eve

Becky Block & Sophia Sokolowski, University of Rhode Island & Wellesley College

The Global Ocean

The main saloon on Cramer, empty on Halloween night.

Ship's Log

32° 44.2’N x 16° 43.9’W


This story comes a few days late, but only because it took us a while to mentally process and articulate the scarring series of events that have transpired.

On the night of October 29th, as our boat sailed around a few miles off the Madeiran coast, we enjoyed the view of myriad tiny lights shining on the island, reminding us of Christmas decorations. As beautiful as the view was, we couldn’t let thoughts of Christmas distract us from preparing for Halloween. Rumors of the costume collection on the boat fueled our excitement, as we all whispered about how we might dress for the holiday. Eager as we were, we were blind to the first omens preceding a series of strange occurrences about to happen onboard SSV Corwith Cramer.

The first sign we missed occurred during the routine neuston tow at midnight. Renee, Rudi and Jennifer collected a pristine sample from the net. They were pleased to find high numbers of myctophids for Alex’s directed oceanographic research project. After their watch had come to a close, they were excited to tell Alex about their find. No one could tell at this point that these shimmery little blue fish could wreak so much havoc. The next morning while Alex was processing the myctophids, he noticed that one fish was still squirming in the formalin.  Although it looked as though it was still alive, this is impossible, since formalin automatically kills and preserves organisms.  As he removed the specimen from the jar to inspect it further, bioluminescence oozed from the fish onto a rope burn that Alex had from hauling lines.  His burn immediately intensified, and he thought it was weird but just brushed it off. A few hours later, our medical watch officer, Abby, noticed Alex’s burn was getting worse and looked almost like it was glowing.

She did her best to treat this strange burn, and the glowing disappeared with a simple iodine soak. Heading into the galley to make her famous bread for lunch that afternoon, Abby thought nothing more of his cut. Without realizing that she had been contaminated by the same strange myctophid as Alex, she kneaded the dough and transferred the infection into her irresistible soft bread.  At 1220, the lunch triangle rang to signal that it was time for C Watch (Devin, Ali, Greg, Amie, Sophia J., Maggie, and Mih) and Others (Elliot, Chuck, Bex, Willy, and Abby) to eat lunch.  First seating demolished the rolls, leaving none for second seating.  With her aversion to mushrooms, Maggie decided not to eat any rolls that had their prominent flavor, which worked in her favor.  Mickey and his assistant engineer of the day, Amie, were too engrossed in fixing the water maker, a machine that takes salt water and uses reverse-osmosis to create fresh water, so they too missed the bell for lunch and Abby’s rolls.

Docked in Madeira, the whole class headed to the whale museum to learn about the history of whaling off the coasts of the Macaronesia Islands, but were unable to leave the gate once they realized that the land was strewn with wandering zombies and stray dogs.  They quickly returned to the boat to avoid infection, and found that Alex and Abby were straggling behind with a characteristic zombie swag. Realizing that these two were victims of the apocalypse present in Madeira, everyone backed away. Before his disease took over his brain, Alex desperately thought back to the past few days, scouring his memories for what the source of contamination might be.  “Myctophids!” he exclaimed.  It became clear that it was the myctophids that caused their demise, and when Abby had treated Alex, she acquired and passed the disease to everyone who loved and devoured her bread.  C Watch and Others were at the mercy of the disease.  Sophia S. panicked, when she remembered that she and Scott had climbed aloft with Alex earlier in the day and were possibly infected.  Becky, too, had braided Sophia’s and Isabel’s hair before departing for the museum, so she, too, could have contracted and spread the disease from scalp to scalp.  Merry had mistaken Alex’s morning coffee for hers, and Courtney had taken a sip from Merry’s water bottle while on watch duty.  Now it was a matter of quarantining potential victims in the storage room below the quarter deck before their symptoms began to surface.

Matt and Gabo ran to the lab to gather the specimen, with the hopes of creating an antidote.  Chief Scientist Chuck was beginning to show symptoms, so he was only able to provide guidance during the first stages.  Maya asked Mickey how feasible it would be to try and outlive the apocalypse aboard the Cramer.  Mickey dishearteningly admitted that there was not enough fuel or food to sustain the crew for more than two weeks.  A team was formed to sneak into town to collect resources with nothing more than the moonlight of October 31st illuminating their path, while Gabo and Matt continued to concoct a formula.  The group quietly tiptoed into town, while Ryan, Jennifer, Maggie, and Amie secured and guarded the boat perimeter.  Adam and Veronica gather gallons of water, Renee and Maya sought out medical supplies, and Rudi patrolled, pocket knife in hand.  One stray dog, with white paws like mittens, took a liking to the rescue mission and ran throughout the town with the team, barking at any zombie who came too close for comfort.  As Alyssa was hauling heavy bags of black scabbard (Portugese delicacy) back to the boat, a zombie appeared.  She fought him off, but left with a scratch.  She knew she would soon succumb to the infection and volunteered herself to science.  Gabo and Matt had been arduously working in immersion suits for protection, in case an infected Cramer crew member broke free.  At last, they developed a final product.  With Alyssa’s devotion, they injected her with a full dose of antidote, to which she responded positively.  One at a time, each crew member turned zombie was coaxed from the storage facility with the trusty ham leg from Barcelona, nicknamed Greg-Bob.  As the cure pulsed through their undead veins, each individual was brought back to life.

While the warm sun slowly rose just beyond the horizon, Elliot ordered the crew to prepare the ship to sail to the United Nations.  The UN radioed to any vessels that had not been overtaken, informing any survivors that they were quarantined and in desperate need for a life-saving cure.  While approaching their destination, the SSV Corwith Cramer called all hands to duplicate the cure so that it could be administered world-wide.  The crew cheered with sangria and flamenco-danced the night away.  Sophia S. and Sophia J. tried to initiate the crew to dance to Thriller and The Monster Mash, but everyone had had quite enough of Halloween.

Stay safe,
Becky & Sophia

P.S. This did not happen. We actually hiked to the top of one of Madeira’s mountain regions for a breath-taking view, ate a delicious lunch near the dock yard, and emptied our wallets at the exotic, fresh, and dried fruit market in Funchal.  The children of Maderia happily raced through the pouring rain past us to stuff their satchels with candy, we befriended a kind stray dog who still comes to visit the dock we are ported in every day, and Bex treated us to candy, costumes, decorations and, as always, laughter.

Becky would like to wish her parents a happy anniversary and congratulate her brother, Harry, and his fiance, Brittany, on their engagement!

Categories: Corwith Cramer,The Global Ocean: Europe, • Topics: port stops  c255  portugal • (0) Comments
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