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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

January 03, 2015


Kim Stapleton Smith | Siobhan Fennesy, Program Coordinator, CGE at Kenyon College | Prof. of Biology and Environmental Studies, Kenyon College

C-256a Colleague Cruise

Left to right: Daniel Diaz, Guilford College Colleague and C Watch bud; Sasha, Intern and deckhand; Captain Pamela Coughlin; Travis, Engineer; Erik Zettler-Chief Scientist.

Ship's Log

1600 Position (Lat and Long)
17° 53.2’ N x 64° 49.9’ W

Description of location
Just NW of Christiansted, St. Croix

Ship Speed (knots)
~2 kt, towing Neuston net

Taffrail Log (nm)

Weather / Wind / Sail Plan

Saturday--2nd day on the SSV Corwith Cramer, preparing to get underway

OK--Our first day dockside on the Cramer allowed us to meet our “cruising colleagues”, the crew, become familiar with the layout of the ship and (we hoped) develop our sea legs, and get a taste of Steward Nina’s and Assistant Steward Jenny’s fabulous cooking.

Now, on our second morning, divided into our Watch Teams, we were about to perform the  safety drills that we learned about on Day 1. Only then could we get underway and start our voyage to Puerto Rico.

Under the direction of Captain Pamela Coughlin, the various scenarios were announced: “man overboard”, “fire”, and “abandon ship”. I am pleased to report that our group of 18 Colleagues performed very well which, I believe, created a sense of camaraderie, confidence, and excitement about our first day sailing.

As we headed out of Gallows Bay, we watched the water turn from turquoise to deep navy blue, the wind steadily picking up as we headed north.  Everyone had the opportunity to watch the crew at work as Captain Pamela relayed her orders to hoist the two foresails (jibs) and the square sail. In fact, the wind was so strong that the square sail came down and we ran on two sails for the rest of the day. (The main sail was not deployed once during the cruise!)

The winds were high and the sea was in motion!  One treat this afforded us was a great view of Langmuir spirals.   What we actually saw were long, regularly-spaced lines of ‘stuff’ on the ocean surface that were primarily made up of Sargassum, the brown macroalgae common to these waters.  The rows are oriented perpendicularly to the direction of the waves, and are caused by currents set up by the winds that cause the surface water to circulate in rotating vortices.  Each spiral has two neighbors that rotate in the opposite direction.  Where the spirals meet it creates areas of downwelling (where both spirals have water moving down from the surface) and upwelling (both moving up).  Where downwelling happens, creatures such as Sargassum, zooplankton and phytoplankton, and even bubbles accumulate on the surface of the ocean, making regularly spaced lines that can stretch for miles.  In fact, Langmuir spirals were first described in the Sargasso Sea, perhaps not far from where we were sailing!   Many of us commented on how fascinating it was to see them up close and personal immediately upon getting out into the open water.

The day was full of wind, rolling seas, the deployment of several scientific instruments to gather samples from the ocean bottom, different strata of the sea, and contents from nets towed alongside the Cramer. Fascinating!  The crew kindly invited us “newbies” to help raise sails, assist with moving the various scientfic equipment around as well as procure the samples and transfer them into the proper receptacles--tasks to which we were introduced the previous day.  The deployment of instruments was a bit complicated by the winds and waves, but the crew was expert and the training we had done paid off.  Throughout we could hear the ‘ping’ of the depthfinder, relaying information on the sea floor so samples could be collected at the proper depths. 

In addition to the planned gathering of scientific samples, we had the wonderful experience of seeing some of the ocean’s creatures fairly close-up. The Corwith Cramer stirred up flying fish which caused “boobies” to fly along with us at times in order to grab a bite. We also watched as dolphins ploughed alongside of us, playing and swerving along with the ship. Good luck for us! 

Late afternoon, we gathered on the quarter deck for class, led by Captain Pamela, with various crew members presenting information from the various stations--weather and science, for instance. This is a daily event on all SEA voyages and all aboard the ship take turns presenting on different days. It is clearly a great source of learning and sharing of information and stories.

A note from Kim:
I have sailed on much more modest boats in my youth. Much “coming about, hard to the lee!” One of the things I noticed on our voyage was that we gybed almost exclusively which, I guess, made for a much more direct navigation of the tossing seas.

Speaking of tossing seas...Yep! After starting out from St. Croix in fairly strong fashion, all Colleagues suffered some seasickness at one level or another. Personally, I got worse in the late afternoon and continued into the evening, which made it difficult for me to participate in my Watch C duties from 1900 to 2300.  Let it also be noted that for some unfathomable reason, I became a “wave magnet” on Saturday--receiving the brunt of three separate waves which washed over the starboard side of the ship. I went below to dry off and change into dry clothes after the first assault, only to be met shortly after returning topside with another drenching. The final blow occurred while I was lying down on the quarter deck on my side, luckily clothed in foul weather gear but feeling quite ill. My Watch Captain, Kevin, said he had never seen anyone get so bombarded so frequently in such a short period of time on one of these cruises. Nice to be known for something!

As the Program Coordinator at the Center for Global Engagement at Kenyon College, my mission was to make sure the SEA Semester program offerings and structure would meet the kind of criteria we expect for our students who are looking for OCS programs. There is no doubt in my mind that the programs offered by SEA Semester can not only serve to give “hard science” students a valid OCS opportunity but also social science students, as well with more interdisciplinary offerings for those including global and cultural studies.
By the way, our crew was “The Bomb”!!!

A note from Siobhan:
The science done on the SEA semester voyages is rigorous and gives students and their faculty alike, a tremendous opportunity for research.  One thing about research is that you can never be quite sure how the data collected may be used.  SEA semester, with their amazing crews and science officers has contributed to our understanding of human impacts on the oceans through the long-term data set they have collected on plastic in the ocean waters, which came about through regular plankton tows and other sampling.  This is cruicial data that is being applied to help find solutions.  Students working with the SEA semester scientists and crew have the opportunity to make real contributions to ocean science, quite a thrill!

Categories: Corwith Cramer, • Topics: c256a  colleague cruise • (0) Comments


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