Current position of the SSV Corwith Cramer. Click on the vessel to view position history. Use the tools, top right, to change the map style or view data layers. Dates and times use GMT (Greenwich Mean Time).
SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
July 07, 2015
PIPA, S-261, Gets Underway
20° 41.0’N by 158° 03.9’W
Winds NE 20 knots
The start to our voyage could not have been more propitious. The wind blowing down the mountains overlooking Honolulu was of right direction and strength to allow us to set a topsail while only ship’s length away from the pier and sail out of the busy harbor in high style. The chain of Hawaiian Islands act like rocks in a river and squeeze the moving air so that, like fluid water, it spills between the gaps in jets of faster winds. We caught one of these jets formed between Oahu and Molokai, and as I’m writing this at twilight we have been making a steady 7 knots with the wind on our quarter since our departure soon after lunch. We are steering straight toward our destination and our progress could not be better.
This is very good, since we have quite a distance to cover to get to our destination, the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, or PIPA. A large expanse of blue Tropical Ocean dotted with seven small spectacular coral atolls, it covers an area roughly the size of California and is one of the largest Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the world. As such it is also a vast laboratory, an experiment in our nascent efforts to protect and manage our oceans. The nature of the experiment is this: How different will this ocean wilderness look like from the adjacent waters now that it has been set aside from any direct human activity?
We began working on this question last year, when SEA’s first voyage to PIPA was also the first oceanographic research expedition to target the MPA. The data collected last year on board the Robert C. Seamans with our coming work this year will help form a baseline of observation of the biology of the open ocean within PIPA. As of first of this year, the Government of the Republic of Kiribati, in a forward-looking act, closed all the fisheries within PIPA for commercial exploitation. Will things change as a result; will the tuna stocks in the area recover? How might the recovery of the big predatory fish affect the whole pelagic ecosystem? Our work, the data we collect, is all designed to help answer such questions.
On board our ship is a crew of students, scientists and professional mariners. In the coming weeks you’ll be reading about their experiences as we go about this mission. I expect their stories will be as multifaceted as is the experience of taking a sailing research ship into the remotest corner of the Pacific. For students, the preparation for this experience has been fast-paced. During a short two-week study on SEA campus, they learned about the Pacific, about PIPA, about ocean conservation and management and, of course, about our ship. While short in time, the presentations from our colleagues from the New England Aquarium and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution made sure that this preparation created a common sense of purpose and mission.
For now, we will continue to sail through this first night afloat, with the wind speeding us along under the Topsail and the Staysails. Through the night, the fresh crew of Robert C. Seamans will be busy learning the ropes, the watch standing tasks and the many bits and places of the ship they have yet to encounter. And I’m sure they’ll enjoy the starlit skies. Tomorrow afternoon, we’ll maneuver the ship to our first oceanographic research station, where they’ll start learning the practical aspects of our research work. We still have almost 1500 nautical miles to go to PIPA, and some 11 days in which to learn and hone our skills in preparation of the work to come. I look forward to those miles, to the work and our discoveries, and to the many different stories you’ll hear about it all.
On Board the Robert C. Seamans,