Current position of the SSV Robert C. Seamans. 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 Robert C. Seamans
July 17, 2018
0 degrees North, 0 degrees South. The Equator!
Current Heading and Speed
165°, 5.4 knots
Motorsailing under the four lowers - jib, fore stays’l, main stays’l, and deep reefed main
Force 4 SE winds under persistent cumulus and cirrus cloud cover
The ship's company gathered on the quarterdeck today a little before 0700, with C-Watch bleary-eyed but excited from their dawn watch. Captain Rick gave the order to throttle back on the main engine, slowing to a steady 2.7 knots under sail power. With our four lowers and Brian at the helm, we watched the GPS tick down, down, down to 0°00.00'N, hold for a moment, switch to 0°00.00'S, then begin tick back up in latitude. We cheered! My name is Andrew Chin, and together with my shipmates, we sailed 1546 nautical miles to reach the Equator, a place of unique importance for both oceanography and mariners.
The Equator is a fascinating place in the global ocean, as it where the southern and northern hemispheres meet. The southern hemisphere is a place quite unlike the northern. The northern hemisphere has an abundance of land, the southern mostly vast ocean; the seasons are flipped; even the ocean moves differently. The Northern and Southern Equatorial Currents flow in opposite directions from each other (east and west, respectively), allowing deep, nutrient-rich water to rise to the surface. This creates an area of high primary productivity, supporting an abundance of life. In the days leading up to the crossing, we observed this richness firsthand: sighting flocks of seabirds feeding on forage fishes, peering into diverse 100-counts of zooplankton, and numerous hookups of tuna on our handlines (though sadly landing none of them). In order to directly examine this amazing
productivity first-hand, we maneuvered back into the position over the Equator and deployed our sampling equipment. As I watched the hydrocast descend to collect water samples at different depths, it was humbling to know we were taking a hard look at such an important, but under-studied part of the ocean.
Crossing the Equator has tremendous significance for mariners as well. Charts are changed over, the stars to steer by and pinpoint latitude change, and the plain fact remains that we are a long way from home. Therefore, crossing the Equator is a milestone; those sailors who have crossed the line are known as "shellbacks." Those who have not crossed the Equator are deemed "pollywogs"; these pollywogs must "pay tribute" to Neptune and his court and pass his trials to prove their worth. As all of the students (and a few of the crew) were pollywogs, we wrote poems, sang, performed, and cut our hair, to celebrate the crossing. In the end, we proved ourselves to Neptune and tucked into a delicious shellback cake prepared by our steward, Sabrina. Don't worry parents and loved ones: haircuts were optional, and all are very stylish.
Tonight, as I am writing this entry, the Robert C. Seamans marks another momentous occasion: we cross into the borders of the Phoenix Islands Protected Area, our long-awaited destination. Now, we begin our work in earnest, hoping to draw valuable data and first-hand experiences from one of the wildest and untouched places on Earth. The crew is excited to see land and beautiful coral reefs, but there is some apprehension. In the aftermath of the short-term climate shift known as El Niño, when sea temperatures rise dramatically, coral reefs can be greatly degraded and the life-giving upwelling nutrients can be cut off. Previous voyages have seen dramatic changes in PIPA in the wake of El Niño, (which occur on an irregular basis, from decadal to multi-year time scales), and the 2015-2017 event may have some lingering effects. However, PIPA has bounced back from previous El Niño events, reflecting a healthy, resilient ecosystem. Whatever we see, we will be among special company; few humans have the opportunity to give first-hand accounts to the beauty and changes in this slice of the tropical Pacific. Stay excited, and we'll see you on the other side!
- Andrew Chin, A-Watch, University of Washington
Shoutouts to the family! Mom, Dad, Allison, Andrea, Alex, I'm having the best time of my life right now and I couldn't have done it without your love and support. Thank you for letting this fishboy sail off into another amazing adventure. Happy birthday Allison, from fellow black sheep to another...hope you don't feel too old yet. For my Adventuress shipmates, especially Arthur, Sam, Laura, Lena, and Zeal: thank you so much for
encouraging me to do this program! It's more than I could have ever dreamed of. For friends back home, and further abroad: thank you for reading, and I'll see y'all soon!!
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