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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 03, 2014

Alien Ocean

Erik Marks, A-Watch, Hamilton College

The port side of home for the coming six weeks. Assistant Scientist Matt Hirsch obstructs the view of the hydrocast carousel, one of our most important scientific instruments.

Ship's Log

18° 51.5’ N  x 159° 05.0’ W

While acting lookout during today’s morning watch, I thought of the late journalist and author Christopher Hitchens, who pointed out that a planet which “…supports life on some of its surface some of the time,” was probably not made with humans in mind. Standing on the bow of the Robert C. Seamans as we motor-sailed across an empty Pacific on the second day of our voyage, I could not help but agree. Even in the relatively warm waters of the mid-Pacific, the Seamans carries extremely awkward neoprene survival suits to ensure the survival of its crew should we end up in the water. The water, of course, poisons us if we drink it, and its motions trick our brains to believe that we are poisoned. So far, many of the crew have found the illusion to be quite convincing.

While most terrestrial mammals would probably agree that the high seas are both alien and hostile, I always assumed that the startling varieties of marine life do not find the oceans quite so unwelcoming. The two preparatory weeks preceding our voyage confirmed this suspicion of mine, but the long line of lecturers also impressed upon us students how little we know of most oceanic environments, and how poorly we regulate human activity in these environments. On its own, the unbroken vastness of the Pacific seems to rule out the possibility of significant human impact. I can imagine neither its scale nor the masses and forms of life beneath its surface. However, the effects of pollution and overfishing are there for anyone to see.

The call to action requires no appeals to any principles but the most material and pragmatic. If we do not end our abuses of the oceans, they will eventually be of no use to us at all. Perhaps nobody realizes this better than the denizens of low-lying Pacific islands. By the turn of the next century, likely every last atoll and island of Kiribati will be uninhabitable or submerged beneath the Pacific. Knowing this, President Anote Tong created what is still one of the largest marine protected areas in the world, and agreed to ban all industrial fishing within it starting next January. President Tong clearly recognizes the necessity of conservation, and his leadership in the Pacific Oceanscape evidences a hope that the rest of the world will catch up. PIPA constitutes one piece of this international effort, and we aboard the Seamans go there to observe and document what we can, while we can. Our findings will be used to better manage and to better understand changes within this unique area. Hopefully, I will have stopped hanging over the leeward railing by the time we get there.

Grannare än grannens gris,

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,Protecting the Phoenix Islands, • Topics: s254 • (0) Comments


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