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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

October 02, 2016

Science Under Sail

Jeff Schell, Chief Scientist, Sea Education Association

The Global Ocean: Europe

The crew maneuvers the ship for scientific deployments. The first of many shipek grabs returning with sediments.

Ship's Log

North of Mallorca

Souls on Board

It is 1600 (mid-afternoon) local time and we are sailing with the four lowers (Main sail, mainstaysail, forestaysail, and jib) making 3.6 knots good on course 063 degrees thanks to a SSE wind at Beaufort Scale 2; a lovely sail in a sunny Mediterranean Sea; a pleasant way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  The mood throughout the ship is relaxed and content with A Watch keeping the Cramer ship-shape.  However, 8 hours ago the scene onboard was very different. 

At 0800 we were a mere 24hrs into our voyage and approximately 65 nautical miles SW of Barcelona sailing along the Spanish coast near the Ebro River delta.  The mood throughout the ship was electric; you could feel it in the air.   A mix of excitement, anticipation, and yes, perhaps even a bit of anxiety. 'will I do a good job, do I know my stuff?' 

Our first major scientific station of the voyage was scheduled for this morning, the first of many planned for our six-week voyage and we hoped to set the bar high from the outset.  For weeks onshore in Woods Hole the students planned for this moment as they devised the particulars of their oceanographic research projects, those very same projects that dictate the scientific mission of our voyage.  In fact planning for this moment goes even further back if you consider the many months that have passed since the captain and I submitted the required research clearances to various countries whose waters we are sailing.  And we could go further back in time if we considered years of training by the professional mates and scientists who are responsible for training our new student crew how to handle the sails, maneuver the ship and prepare the scientific equipment.  And all of this rests upon the decades of tradition; the millions of miles sailed in pursuit of scientific and academic endeavors that is the hallmark of SEA Semester. 

Weeks, months, years, decades of ideas, effort and tradition culminating in this moment, the start of our scientific mission for cruise C-269 - Global Ocean - Europe.  What will we discover today? 

Today the plan was to collect seafloor sediment samples from three different depths, collect water samples to measure nutrients, pH, chlorophyll-a and bacteria levels from 12 different depths, and deploy the secchi disc to determine the depth in the ocean below which sunlight never reaches and organisms live in perpetual darkness.  No small set of tasks for the first day at sea. 

A successful scientific deployment is a well-choreographed dance requiring innumerable small steps that need to be completed just so, otherwise the sample or data will not be useful.  This is a classic example where the whole is certainly greater than the sum of its individual parts.  "Haul this line, tighten that shackle, clip in here for safety, record that number there, Wire Raise, J-Frame out, Wire Stop, don't let the gear hit the ship, etc".   The preparation, the deployment, the recovery, the processing, each has its necessary steps.  The bustle about the ship during a deployment may appear at first glance chaotic, yet every step has been planned, rehearsed and tested through years of expereince.  And in the end, we have our we have our DATA!.. our first glimpse behind the curtain of the ocean's grand mystery.   These observations, once replicated in a thoughtful manner along our cruise track will eventually reveal patterns in nature.  And with these patterns in hand our students will come to discern a greater meaning and
arrive at a deeper understanding of how the global ocean works.  Simply put, they will have discovered something new.  Indeed, the whole is greater than the sum of its individual parts. 

So, how did we do?  Well, looking back on our busy morning I find myself still smiling. Proud of all that was accomplished and optimistic of what is to come.  Onboard we have quite the cast of crazy characters; competent, eager, hard-working, enthusiastic, silly souls one and all.  A unique crew that defies any classical convention of salty sailors and scientists, and I for one am genuinely excited to sail with each member of the crew; students and professionals alike. 

Today we successfully collected our first round of data!  We now have sediment samples in the lab to sieve and sort, water samples to filter and analyze, and gear to clean and prepare so that it is ready for use tomorrow. And of course, we need to sail to our next destination. There is much work to be done. 

What have we learned, what will we discover on our adventure across the Mediterranean Sea?  Well, we don't know..yet! 

So please stay-tuned and follow along in our voyage.  We look forward to sharing our discoveries with you. 

- Jeff

PS: Sweet dreams to family, friends, and my darling little rose.

Categories: Corwith Cramer,The Global Ocean: Europe, • Topics: c269  science  research • (1) Comments
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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 Rose Sword on October 04, 2016

Thanks for this! Great piece.



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