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SEA Currents: SSV Corwith Cramer
May 07, 2021
Would You Rather: Aliens or Mermaids?
37°43.3’ N 074°12.2’ W
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Wind ExS force 3, seas NNE 1ft, sailing on a starboard tack beam reach under the mains’l, mainstays’l, and forestays’l. Description of location: 19nm from Fenwick Island.
I saw undeniable proof of aliens and mermaids last night.
I was sitting in the breakfast nook of the ship's charthouse squinting at star charts under a faint red light and trying to figure out how on Earth (or in space?) the constellation Ursa Major is supposed to resemble a bear when suddenly the starlight twinkling through the doorway darkened. I looked up to see Rocky, our first mate, sticking his head through the doorway as feet pattered behind him. "You have to come see this," he said, "there's something in the-" but I was already up.
Stepping out of the charthouse into the star dappled darkness, I turned towards the sound of incredulous murmuring up near the bow and blinked. It seemed my eyes hadn't quite adjusted to the darkness yet because I could swear that gliding in a diagonal line directly above the ship and covering about a quarter of the sky was a long chain of star-like lights. I blinked again but they were still there. As I stared up at the sky in awe, I suddenly heard a splash off to my right. I turned my gaze from the dark canvas of the sky to the inky black of the sea below the starboard rail and saw a faint green flash of light dance through the water. As I watched in fascination, more flashes appeared, leaving glowing trails as they bobbed and weaved through the black water along the side of the ship. Suddenly, I was faced with an impossible choice: look up at the aliens or down at the mermaids?
Decisions between looking at one amazing or another don't come every day at sea. In fact, there are some days when there isn't much to look at at all. Those are the days when you look out over the rail and see nothing but a rolling flat expanse of blue or green or gray broken by nothing but the occasional whitecap in the distance. No ships. No birds. Not even a flying fish to break the endless plane of sea and sky. Having always been surrounded by trees and hills, the ubiquitous flatness and monochromatic coloring so often found out here was extremely disconcerting to me at first. Over the past few weeks, I've really come to appreciate the subtle changes in the color and texture of the sea, but sometimes I still long for something to break the symmetry. I think that's part of the reason why seeing things out here is so memorable for me. Every sighting takes on a new meaning and a special quality due to its rarity and the way it catches the eye, whether it be something as simple as a passing fragment of sargassum or as grand as alien lights in the sky. That's what I wanted to dedicate my blog to today, some of our awesome observations over the past eighteen hours (because there were a lot!). The alien and mermaid lights were just the beginning (okay, so maybe they weren't actually aliens or mermaids but I'm not going to tell you what they were until the end. See if you can guess!)
The day after my encounter with extraterrestrials and mythical glowing sea creatures, I was in lab on morning watch, which seems amazingly ordinary in comparison, but I was excited because we were set to do some science deployments which I had never done before. I was shadowing Anna, the assistant scientist assigned to our watch for this part of the trip, which meant I followed her as she did certain tasks and had the responsibility of making some decisions for our lab.
Shortly after starting our watch, we went to talk to the watch members on deck about getting ready for our science deployments. It was a brisk but clear morning, and the water was a lovely sea foam green. As we stood waiting on the quarterdeck, I heard gasps and exclamations coming from along the starboard rail.
Suddenly people were rushing and clamoring along the rails. About a minute later, I saw why. Just in front of a handful of ships off to starboard, a small plume of water erupted. As we continued to watch, a few more shot up. Suddenly you could make out a dark back and fin under one of the plumes in the distance. Whales!
There were between three and five of them (with some dolphins mixed in!) and we watched them for about twenty minutes. It was such an incredible moment. I'd never seen whales until that point, and they were truly a sight to see.
After the whales, it was back to work completing our morning station. We did some sail handling, then deployed the shipek grab to collect sediment and microbial samples; the secchi disk to measure water clarity; the hydrocast to measure temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a, and nutrient levels; and a neuston net to collect marine organisms. It was a busy morning, but it was really awesome to finally see how we've been getting all our samples and data in lab.
I've been really enjoying my time in lab, and going along with my theme of observations, night watch collected some really cool things in the two meter net tow (basically a giant net that's deployed about 200 meters down) that dawn watch then processed this morning. There were hundreds of jellyfish, an iridescent squid (that inked!), an eel with needle thin jaws, some scary yet beautiful looking larval fish, pteropods (which look like angelic slugs), and so much more!
After morning station was lunch and class where we ran through safety drills and talked about our next phase of watch rotations which is the Junior Watch and Lab Officer Phase. Basically, our watch officers are changing again and each watch member gets a chance to be in charge of running the watch for the day throughout the coming weeks.
During class we sighted land, and this evening we anchored in Delaware Bay on the edge of Cape Henlopen State Park. As we were pulling in, we saw some more dolphins and lots of birds! We're going to be spending our next couple of days anchored here and everyone gets to go onshore and explore the state park during one of the days.
It was nice to see land again. It was extra special for me because I camped at Cape Henlopen State Park with one of my best friends last November, and it was really cool to reverse my view and look back at the beach. It's also just across the water from my home state of New Jersey.
All in all it was a really awesome day with lots of cool things to see. I'm excited for all our adventures and the things we're going to see in the coming days. If you didn't guess what the aliens and mermaids really were (which I don't blame you, it's a tough one!) the alien lights were actually a line of sixty SpaceX Starlink satellites that were launched earlier in the week and the mermaids were bioluminescent dolphins! Maybe not quite as exciting as actual aliens and mermaids but I think it was still pretty amazing.
(To my family and friends, love you guys and miss you lots! Give Bo a squeeze for me
- Kass Wojcik, A-Watch, Bryn Mawr College