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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

April 18, 2021

Stars on the Sea

Ryan O’Hara, B-Watch, University of Arizona


Above: Ariana and Julia bring in the Neuston net. Wonder if they caught anything exciting? Below: Leanna, Ryan, and Daviana get some help from Jordan, one of the Cramer’s science officers, in order to set a sail. A frigate bird is sighted above the Cramer! Bet the bird research team was happy about that.

Ship's Log

Noon Position
26°04.818’N, 82°15.907’W

Ship Heading

Ship Speed
2 knots (slowed for Neuston net deployment)

Taffrail Log
298.5 nm

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Fairly strong southwest wind, 1 ft waves, clear skies, sailing under the four lower sails

Description of location
Gulf of Mexico, clear skies, minimal ship traffic, dark blue water.

Souls on board

Until yesterday, I’d never really seen the stars.

Feels a bit odd to say that as an astronomy major, but it’s the truth. Sure, I’ve spent hours at my school’s observatories, and I’ve taken numerous trips out into the desert to get a better look at the sky, but, no matter where you go, it’s nearly impossible to escape light pollution. I think that’s why my first dawn watch (the Cramer’s 0100 to 0700 shift)—or, in other words, my first chance to stargaze dozens of miles from civilization—was such an incredible experience. For the first time ever, I was able to truly see all the different celestial bodies I’ve spent many a course learning about.

Let’s back up a little bit. I’d be lying if I said I was excited going into yesterday’s dawn watch. See, one of my favorite hobbies is sleeping; if I’m not getting my 8 hours, I’m not going to function at 100%. You can probably see the issue: last night’s dawn watch wasn’t exactly conducive to a full night’s sleep. Of course, I wasn’t going to be a no-show so, after a short midnight nap, I grabbed my safety harness and windbreaker and joined the rest of my watch out on the quarterdeck. And then… well, you know the rest.

There’s no experience on Earth quite like being on the open ocean at night. The stars stretched every which way through the sky above—the Scorpion off starboard and Orion somewhere off port, all silhouetted by the distant, glimmering spread of the Milky Way—weaving a divine tapestry that was mirrored by scores of teeming, bioluminescent algae (and the occasional dolphin) dancing through the otherwise pitch black waters below. And as heaven and earth came together to turn our world into a kaleidoscope of light, I think I came to truly understand why we’re going on this expedition. Our world and its countless facets—every sea and star, every bird and bacterium, every single organism populating its remote corners—is beautiful. As far as we currently know, Earth is the universe’s one shot at life, and we simply cannot afford to throw that chance away. We are all stewards of our planet, and we owe it to ourselves and those that’ll come after us to protect it.

- Ryan O’Hara, B-Watch, University of Arizona

PS: Happy early birthday, Mom!

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Marine Biodiversity & Conservation, • Topics: c297  mbc  life at sea • (6) Comments
Previous entry: Dolphin Heaven!    Next entry: Birthdays and Benthic Sediment


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 Valerie Tratnyek on April 19, 2021

From Lucy’s Mom: Love this! I remember seeing the night sky from the desert of the Canyonlands when I was your age…..Have cherished that memory of what it really looks like away from light pollution, all my life. I feel such joy that SEA’s students have this experience too…..Valerie T.

#2. Posted by Mary Swope on April 19, 2021

Your description of the lights in the sky and the sea at night tally with some of my most cherished memories of sailing with my in-laws up in Maine and of several Atlantic crossings on various cruise ships, from the “France” in 1950 (!) to the Sea Cloud in more recent times. I am so glad you are experiencing the bioluminescence of the jellies and the flying fish that leap out of the water as the prow of the ship moves forward!  And dolphins!  So great, day or night!  I used to sit watching the water for hours.  Thank you for sharing your experience.  Oh.  I’m Fiona’s grandmother and today, April 19, is her 21st birthday!  Yeah Fiona!  Bon Voyage, everyone!
Mary Swope

#3. Posted by Lynn Owens on April 20, 2021

Thanks Ryan! I love your description - I can only imagine how magical it must be to experience that in person.
We live in Central Oregon - Sunriver- which was recently designated as Oregon’s first official Dark Sky town, and we can often see the Milky Way but, to have the entire sky (universe above and below in the sea) spread out ALL around you is a whole other kind of wow!

Anna Wietelmann’s mom- Lynn

#4. Posted by Jim Bilger on April 20, 2021


Thank you for sharing your experience and raising our collective awareness of the environmental challenges we must face.

#5. Posted by Christine Wertheimer on April 20, 2021

Beautifully and poetically written.  I could truly see it in my mind’s eye.  Bioluminescence is to me the most magical phenomenon - I’ve seen it swimming at night in the waters off Savary Island in British Columbia.  Every kick, every stroke generates a green sparkled flash, then when you get out, the water drips off like tiny sequins.  Thank you for the imagery and wishing you all continued good sailing!  Chris Wertheimer (Alex Albrecht’s mom)

#6. Posted by Patrick and Cinde O'Hara on April 25, 2021

Ryan, so glad you are able to experience this and as always am amazed by your ability to bring this to life for us readers in your writing. Stay safe and enjoy this amazing adventure. Love, Mom, Dad, Dylan, Evan and Darby



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