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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans
March 15, 2019
A Rewarding and Complicated Day Ashore
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Today was a sobering entry in an already unique time at sea and ashore. Our day began earlier than usual, with an 0600 wakeup precluding the usual breakfast and set of chores. By 0800 we were off to the famed Wellington cable car, which Eric pointed out was technically a funicular. After pausing to take in the spectacular views, we visited the Metservice for a tour of the weather forecasting systems we on the ship rely on every day.
It's interesting to listen to discussions of science as variable and ever-changing as predicting the weather, an extremely important and difficult task at such low latitudes. After our time there we left on shuttles for NIWA, where we were allowed the amazing opportunity to listen to scientists present on their assorted research topics, which ranged from tracking endemic New Zealand seabirds to measuring the chemical composition of ocean aerosol with a balloon coated in instruments constantly collecting data.
At this point in the day, around 1400, we were free to roam the city once more. I headed straight for a bookstore and devoured a wonderful collection of poetry titled Tightrope, by Selina Tusitala Marsh, before touring the Wellington Gallery, the courtyard of which was so close to the pier I could see the Seamans' mast poking above the pedestrian bridge.
It wasn't before long after this when news broke of a mass shooting at several mosques in Christchurch. As I write this there are few details available, and plans for the remainder of the voyage are to be determined. I felt a deep sense of loss as I overheard the discussions of New Zealanders in a cafe as I walked by. This isn't normal for them, and a cursory search led me to learn that the last event similar to this in scale occurred almost thirty years ago.
All I've learned about this country in my brief time here hasn't prepared me for being able to process the immediate ramifications of this event outside of the all too familiar sense of tragedy. I am reminded of the recent attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue. It is an unfortunate coincidence that the only other time I've been outside the United States coincided with the Pulse Nightclub shooting. Digesting these events so far from home is a harrowing task, but at the same time it has shown me that although people mourn in very different ways, everyone mourns. The days to come will be tinged with both the melancholy of this program's end and the inevitable sense of loss that always accompanies these acts of violence.
Tomorrow will involve a guided tour of Te Papa Museum, and will offer respite from both the rigors of life at sea, and a chance to add to our deepening understanding of New Zealand's place in the world. On a lighter note,I'd like to share a poem I wrote around the time we left Napier. It isn't anything worth writing home about, pun intended, but I felt like it's a necessary inclusion to today's blog entry.
A Bad SEA Semester Poem, Written at One AM on a Thursday
It's a new feeling, being here.
Every day until recently, waking in later afternoon I'd wish,
above all else, to delay the day, a lavish
plushy blanket keeping me warm. Now I feel joy, not
tired fatigue at seeing sunrises and sunsets inexplicably
marching through the sky. I learn such complex things,
Otherworldy things, too. The long white cloud of steam
off a plate of a carefully crafted meal is glimpsed
over and over in my mind's eye between sights of tiny
iridescent blue-green bacteria glowing in morning hours.
Outside is inside, as open watertight doors carry raucous
echoes of seabirds trills mingling with calls from the mates,
experienced beyond their years, patiently deliberating.
Thanks for reading,
- Isaac Ferber C Watch Grinnell College