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SEA Currents: SSV Robert C. Seamans

October 05, 2018

Crown of Thorns Starfish, Here we come!

Therese Ohman, B Watch, Suffolk University


Allison and Malika ready for snorkeling.

Ship's Log

Current Position
Neiafu, Vava’u, Tonga

Ship’s Heading & Speed

29 degrees, Light winds, Stratocumulus clouds

Souls on board

Early morning here on the Robert C Seamans with a full morning of activities ahead of us. 'A-Watch' started early swabbing the deck (regardless of the fact it was pouring rain) and morning chores were in full swing. This morning we mustered on the quarter deck to gather snorkeling equipment and flippers. At 0845, the rain had cleared and the sun was shining bright as S-282 made their way to the wooden "ferries" that were taking us to a local island 15 minutes from Neiafu. We arrived and below us were coral reefs hosting dozens of small fish and more importantly, the Crown of Thorns (COT) starfish.

The COT starfish are an immediate threat to coral reefs due to their size, reproductive rates and desire for hard coral. Their enjoyment of hard coral is extremely harmful because it is the skeleton of all corals reefs. Without hard coral, the rest of the habitat would be decimated (imagine a bulldozer going through a rainforest). These beautiful ecosystems were clearly being affected by this natural predator. All together, VEPA volunteers and our class put our gear on and jumped in. Heads down and snorkels up, we all witnessed the beauty of coral reefs. This was my first experience snorkeling and visting a coral reef!  Twenty minutes in, Lauren spotted an adult COT starfish. It was massive. The bravest VEPA volunteer, Vaka, carefully swam over and gently removed it. We all had to be extremely careful and not disrupt the starfish because it has a defense mechanism in which releases hundreds of eggs.

After about an hour and a half, we collected six starfish and started to head back to Neiafu to hand them over to VEPA's office. Thoroughly exhausted we were relieved to hear we had the rest of the afternoon off. It was our last full day in Tonga and everyone is out to complete their last minute to-do's (for some it was laundry).  Myself and Glenn made a direct b-line to the local ice cream shop that piled amazing amounts of passion fruit and chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone. At 1800, we were accompanied by a Tongan woman and her grandchildren for dinner. The kids sang for us songs for good passage and sound seas. In return we gave them reign of the wheel for a bit and they loved it! It was such a treat for us and them, putting a happy end to our stay in Tonga.

Hello and hugs to everyone back home! (and Happy Birthday Ollie!) xo

- Therese Ohman, B Watch, Suffolk University

Previous entry: Pow-wow in Vava’u    Next entry: Flowers and Bombs


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 Nattie on October 09, 2018

WOW! Sounds like your first snorkeling experience was a memorable one! It’s surprising to hear that COT Starfish are such a threat to coral reefs - you always hear that it is the trash and pollution in the ocean that is destroying it all, while I’m sure that plays a large factor - it strikes me that the animals of the sea contribute to it as well… Did you get to touch any once they were delivered to the VEPA Office?

I was babysitting the boys this weekend and on our way back from Salem, I asked Oliver to tell me who and what we say and instead of expecting him to say witches and pumpking, he said Jasmine, Uncle, Therese and Claire so he’s certainly thinking of you! Funny because none of the people he mentioned came to Salem LOL. Anyways - I’ll keep checking in to read the rest of the stories posted (with envy) Lots of love!

xx Nattie & Bacchus

#2. Posted by Mum on October 09, 2018

Antony posted a pic of a massive COT starfish on los Ohmans,I am impressed.Wish that was me beside you in the pic having the same adventure.Passion Fruit ice cream to boot!!! lots of hugs from 19 Breedxxxxxxxxxx

#3. Posted by Madeleine on October 12, 2018

So nice to be able to ‘hear’ from you…. my favorite part is singing songs with the family. Hope you’re writing this all down someplace else for yourself!

Love from London


#4. Posted by Todd Callaghan on October 31, 2018

This is fantastic Therese! I’m glad you are getting into the water and seeing some of the threats to marine life first hand. I hope you are wearing gloves! A word of advice: don’t ever pick up anything you don’t know, especially a fire worm (a mistake I made when snorkeling in the Bahamas when I was in college)! How about marine debris and plastics? Have you seen any floating garbage patches? Keep up the good work!



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