Ready for an adventure with a purpose? Request info »
  • Search SEA Semester, Summer and High School Programs
  • View SEA Semester campus visit calendar

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

November 21, 2019

Reggae, Sea Turtles, and Counting Corals: A Typical Day in the Caribbean Reef Expedition Program

Francesca Whitecross, Middlebury College


Above: Cane Bay featuring Dan; Below: Quick selfie with Julian; Sea turtle speeding by; Trying to be graceful like a jellyfish - and not get stung!

Hey! My name is Francesca and I’m part of the class C-289. I’m also a member of Middlebury College’s class of 2023.5. In fact, unlike my classmates, I haven’t started college yet! It definitely was daunting at first to be surrounded by college juniors and seniors who seemed so much more mature and experienced, but I quickly felt like I fit right in, and that’s mostly due to my amazing classmates/shipmates.

Today, we did our second reef survey here in St. Croix. We woke up bright and early to get a delicious breakfast before loading up the vans and heading to Cane Bay. On the way there, as we often do on car rides, we went through a bunch of riddles and listened to local radio stations (our favorite one features plenty of reggae and soca music). Once arrived, we briefly met as a team to go over the plan of the day, then grabbed our swim buddies and jumped straight into the water to find a reef to survey. The weather was perfect: cool breezes, a bit cloudy, and, most importantly, warm water!

I’m a part of A-watch (the best watch), and my swim buddy is Julian. We all have group and individual research projects at the reef to complete, as well as collecting data for SEA semester. My project is studying fish behavior in coral reefs with Julian. Specifically, we are measuring how comfortable the fish are with human presence in various reefs. In my watch, each pair has several jobs to complete. For instance, today Julian and I worked on our project and then ran a CTD (conductivity temperature and density measuring tool) across our transect (a lot more tiring then you would think!).

But, of course, once the work is complete, there is so much to see and do! Some fun encounters of the day included: swimming with a small hawksbill turtle, spotting a huge southern stingray, admiring some beautiful moon jellyfish (and getting stung), and finding a massive color-changing octopus (it was purple when I saw it). As a group, we also swam to the end of the reef, where there was a 3,000-foot drop-off! It was kind of scary to look down and see nothing, but also the best kind of adrenaline rush and excitement at what could appear from the depths.

When we got back (and tried unsuccessfully to get rid of the sand in our hair), we gathered together and had a reef debrief. In other words, as a class, we discussed what went well, and what could be improved to help us do better at the next reef survey. Then we split into our individual watches and worked on logging in our data (identifying corals, for example) while munching on some grapes. It was a pretty amazing day: a good mix of hard work and plenty of fun.

Captain Greg has decided to try out something new with our class: a leadership exercise called talking partners (TP). Some of us call it a social experiment, others a successful forced friendship. Your TP was your dedicated listener who would also help you come up with solutions to any issues. It has been a really positive experience overall for me, and I am looking forward to continuing to TP once on the ship. My first TP was Dan, and we quickly got along. Our TP sessions would usually include talking in a mix of French and English and drinking lots of peppermint tea. We would debrief about our day, give each other constructive feedback on any problem that was occurring in our life, and come up with practical solutions. While very different from me, Dan and I have shared some similar life experiences, allowing us to form a truly deep connection as well as a very fun friendship. My new TP is Courtney, and I am so excited to get to know her better!

Personally, I think coming to SEA semester has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. While the schoolwork is challenging, it’s so interesting and engaging that it hardly feels like homework (unless, of course, you have to read 500+ pages about herring). In all honesty, I have never seen time fly by as fast as it has during SEA. Studying at Woods Hole feels so far away. Making crêpes with my roommate Izzy, stargazing at the beach, playing volleyball as a homework break, watching Finding Nemo during the power outage, or testing each other on fish identification seems like one very vivid dream. Possibly the best dream ever, though.

- Francesca Whitecross, Middlebury College

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Caribbean Reef Expedition, • Topics: c289  coral reefs  winter start  winter admit • (3) Comments


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 SJ Whitecross on November 21, 2019

Fantastic (ok I might be a tad biased!)

Looking forward to hearing more on the TP progression & fish behaviour patterns

Fair winds ahead

#2. Posted by Rochelle Screeney on November 21, 2019

Love following the blog to enjoy the wonderful experiences as Liz’s Nana

#3. Posted by The Libraro Family on November 24, 2019

Francesca, we love this update!!! More please! Enjoy the sailing! Love c c m



Add a comment:

Notify me of follow-­up comments?

I would like SEA to keep me informed about news and opportunities.