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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

May 03, 2018

O-fish-ially deep into the Sargasso Sea

Helena McMonagle, Lab Hand


Above: One juvenile flying fish, below: two Sargassum frogfish, and bottom: three types of Sargassum seaweed. Can you spot the two buckets that look alike and contain the same exact same form and species (Sargassum natans I)? And can you find the bucket that doesn't belong with the rest?

Ship's Log

Current Position
26°54.0, 065°12.0

Course & Speed
105°, 4.7 knots

Sail Plan

Almost raining

Souls on board

As our second week comes to a close, I already feel like our community aboard Mama Cramer is gelling. You can get used to almost anything: flushing the head (aka toilet) with a hand pump, showering about once every three days, and eating on gimbled tables that continuously tilt to counteract the ship's rocking. But one thing I've never been able to fully get used to is looking out and seeing nothing but the seemingly endless, wild, changing, living landscape that is the ocean.

One thing that strikes me about the sea surface is that, whether it looks smooth as glass or powerful and choppy, it doesn't appear to host all that much life at first glance. I guess this is the view of the oceans that we as humans usually see. But then you throw on a mask and snorkel and dunk your head in, as we'll do in Bermuda, and see a landscape of corals teeming with a diverse population like an underwater metropolis. Or you dip a net just a foot beneath the surface and bring up a clump of sargassum filled with fish, crabs, shrimp, and other critters that you can't see until you look close. Or, if you're an SEA student, you cast a plankton net hundreds of meters down to the mesopelagic or "twilight" zone in the ocean (it's almost too deep for sunlight to penetrate to these depths), and you can't help but ogle at other-worldly creatures that live in that alien space. The ocean is, upon closer examination, living. From the surface to unimaginable depths, it is filled with organisms ranging from those longer than this ship to some so small you can't see them in a droplet of water without a microscope.

Here are a few photos as examples of what we've seen out here:

1) In this top photo is (we think) a juvenile flying fish. So tiny, and so beautiful. Once reaching adulthood, he or she will be able to break the air-water interface and fly into plain view to the human eye. These flying fish really do look like low-flying birds at first, until you see them plunge into a wave without coming back up.

2) The photo at left, if you look real close, shows two Sargassum frogfish in some sargassum seaweed, all of which we released back into the sea. Like many residents of the floating sargassum, these frogfish are deceivingly camouflaged to match the golden fronds that make up their home.

3) The lower photo shows 5 buckets, each of which contains one morning's dipnet samples. (The dip net is pretty much what it sounds like: a net that we dip over the side to catch cool things for some of the student research projects). Four of the buckets contain native sargassum, and one contains something non-native, you might even say invasive, in this otherwise natural environment. The students have written poetically and thoughtfully in their blog posts about the juxtaposition between the blue wilderness and the plastics problem, so I'll refer readers to their writing for more on that.

Anyway, time to wrap it up. Can't believe we have just one week to Bermuda-time is flying! Grateful to be on board with everyone here, and thank you readers for checking in on us.

All the best,

P.S. To loved ones back home: Grayson (sitting next to me) and I miss you so much, but we love you even more. Many of you have come up in conversations here in the middle of the Sargasso Sea, and I'm thinking about you wherever in the world you are!

Previous entry: Sargy Success!    Next entry: Words from a Sailing Intern


Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Liz Gill on May 07, 2018

O-fish-ially!!!  Punny! Love it! Say hi to Geoffrey for me!



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