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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

August 02, 2017

Believe in the Unbelievable

Adrielle Cailipan, San Francisco State University

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Will M. and myself with Nikumaroro Island in all of its glory behind us.

Ship's Log

Current Position
4°39.6’S x 174°32.8’W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
Moored at Nikumaroro Island

Sail Plan
Sails struck

Force 1 winds and calm seas coming from the east

Souls on Board

When I applied for this program, I knew I’d signed up for doing research on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I never would have believed, however, that I would be moored to a shipwreck off a deserted island (rumored to be the island Amelia Earhart crash landed on, no less) talking to my friend, Nic, about how to do statistical regressions on my ocean productivity data while reef sharks and tropical fish splashed and prowled in the waters 5 feet below us…

Greetings from Nikumaroro Island! I’m really excited to finally have my chance to communicate with the outside world about our activities and whereabouts; I regret not signing up for an earlier date! Today, we had the chance to set foot on an island which possibly may not have seen any human life for the entire past year since the Seamans last visited on 2016’s summer PIPA voyage. Amber, the Assistant Engineer with a spirit half her age, cut open some coconuts for us, sweeter than anything you’ll find at your local Safeway. Our small pack, including my friends Will, Carmen, and I, trekked through the thicket in an attempt to reach the lagoon at the center of the atoll. After crossing paths with swift coconut crabs and angry territorial terns (a type of sea bird), we thought we’d reached it but found we had only made it back to the beach. JBer (Janet) and Gabi, talented Assistant Scientists, greeted us as well at the channel from the ocean into the lagoon; our treacherous journey was not for nothing. The water changed colors, and the turbidity limited our views of the fish and the shark traffic in and out of the channel. We came upon a baby sea bird, a brown boobie, closely guarded by protective parents and gave the family a wide berth. After exploring the lagoon (which did not even come close to being as cool as the Orona lagoon), we headed back to the channel and took a short dip in the refreshingly cool waters before we had to report back to the rendezvous point where Captain Chris (Commodore, more appropriately) and Second Mate, Snark, would pick us up in the small boats.

Back on the Seamans, we set to work on the final discussion sections of our research projects after a hearty lunch of sandwiches on Steward Nevin’s famous baked bread. I was astonished as I reviewed the notes from my Biology of Algae class that I took just this past spring back home in my beloved San Francisco Bay area. As I read up on photosystems and the Calvin cycle, my friend Claire (whose pirate name is now “Flaire”) tapped me on the arm and urged me to look at her computer. We reminisced as we perused the photos of our class back in our cottage at Woods Hole. I couldn’t believe how much we had all changed and even how much I’d changed in such a short amount of time. Physically, my complexion was very pale compared to the “chocolate bronze” (as described by my descriptive friend, Vronsky, who proudly hails from UC Berkeley) my Filipino skin was adapted to turn into. My dark hair had lightened a few tones by no means of hair bleach, and my carefree demeanor in those pictures contrasted the multiple bruises and callouses on my hands, newly formed by hauling lines and tying bowline knots.

I’ve learned a number of new knots and retrospectively, I couldn’t believe how much I’d learned about sailing and the world and about people in general aboard the Seamans. I learned about celestial navigation and new and old constellations. I learned about how blue the ocean really was (it’s this brilliant shade that when you look at it, you wouldn’t even believe was just saltwater). I learned about pyrosomes, bioluminescent tunicates, never thinking I’d be able to see bioluminescent organisms in my life (I get bioluminescent plankton all over me every time I have night watch in the lab; life goals achieved)! I’ve heard people’s stories and experiences and learned about their worldviews.  I learned about an entire island nation I’d never even heard of until our first class back in June. I learned about things I didn’t think I would need to learn or in some cases relearn such as life lessons on cultural respect as well as diversity and inclusiveness. I also learned how to play the ukulele, finally fulfilling my dad’s wish for me to learn an instrument (NOTE TO DAD: if you wish me to continue to improve, please have a ukulele, on my bed, tuned, and ready for me to play when I come home – I’m so serious). 

After dinner this evening, Rich King – our Conservation and Management Professor for the sea component as well as frigate bird enthusiast – performed a dramatic reading of the Wikipedia page on the USS Norwich City, the shipwreck to which the Seamans is currently tied. The intense tale of loss and rescue left everyone in a pensive mood and left us to ponder our own lives as well as those who’d been here before us: foreign sailors, nomadic islanders, and SEA Semester students alike.

The stars are out tonight, dimmed by the bright quarter moon, and the waves crash dark on the shallow reef shelf only about 75 meters from us. The warm smell of sand and sea spray float in the air, and I’m working hard to make sure I don’t forget a thing about this special place. Tomorrow, we set out to swim with parrotfish and sea turtles, and I’m excited for the next 8 days to learn and explore and believe in the unbelievable.

To my Mom, Dad, Ga, Bao, and my homegirls –I miss you and your voices. Don’t worry about me too much; I still have plenty of clean undies. Thank you for helping me get here. I’ll talk to you soon, and I love you.

- Adrielle


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Leave a public comment for students and crew to read when they reach their next port and have access to the internet!

#1. Posted by Rose on August 06, 2017

We are so worried, we have not heard from you. I trust you are making good decision in staying past your finish date and fly back at a later time. DO be careful
out there. DO your homework thoroughly about this extra days you are spending there. But this is your mother talking. I will always worry regardless. We are very proud of you. Good command of your writing style and and impressive vocab.Keep up the good work. We miss you. We love you .Be safe always.
Dad, Mom and Ga



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