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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

November 29, 2020

Dolphins, and Science, and Sails, Oh My!

Megan Dear & Emma Bowman, Mount Holyoke College & Hamilton College

Above: Dolphins off our starboard side; Below: Megan and Emma deploying sediment grab.

Ship's Log

Noon position
24°47.36’N 083°08.02’W

Ship Heading

Ship Speed
averaging 3 knots

Taffrail Log

sunny, very light air, and partly cloudy. A cold front is coming so we had to change our sail plan and go West instead of East towards the Bahamas. We are still waiting to see what the weather will do to determine where we go next.

Description of location
We are NW of the Dry Tortugas

Marine Mammals Observed last 24 hrs
20 dolphins, 10 seabirds (not mammals, but still cool)

two large buckets full

We have also seen a lot of plastic marine debris coming up through our science deployments. It has been disheartening to experience it instead of just learning about the problem.

Souls on board

Today started at 0620 when B watch (dawn watch) woke us (Megan D and Emma Bowman –  C watch)  for breakfast and our watch starting at 0700. Morning watch was pretty slow on deck, but it was fairly busy for Emma in lab.

I, Megan, was on deck where I was the helmsperson, completed boat checks, helped out with lab deployments, and set and struck sails. Of the multiple things we do on deck, being at helm is hands-down my favorite. Touching the wood of the wheel makes me feel so connected to the boat and it acts as a reminder that this experience is actually happening because it gets surreal sometimes. You also get an amazing view of the entire ship and water surrounding us. When I wasn’t at the helm, I completed other tasks. Boat checks are done once an hour every hour and the students on deck rotate shifts for them during the six hours on watch. We go around the boat making sure everything is “ship shape” and that the engines / generators are functioning as designed. Don’t want the boat to blow up! Today was our first morning watch which is when we do the majority of our science deployments (Emma will elaborate more), but I was lucky enough to be a part of it. I was in charge of controlling the wire attached to the gear. Basically, when Emma yelled “wire lower,” I moved a lever to lower it and when she said “wire raise,” I then raised the wire moving the lever in the opposite direction. It was very taxing work if you couldn’t tell by my description. During our watch on deck we set the tops’l, struck the tops’l, and then set it back up again. I am really enjoying the physical tax of working a ship and my hands are getting tougher with callouses. That work was actually taxing - I’m not being sarcastic.

While Megan worked on the deck, I, Emma B, was assigned to the lab. After my breakfast of biscuits and eggs and grapefruit, I climbed up the ladder and onto the science deck. On the science deck, we have several devices that are used to collect data, which is then uploaded to a system where professional scientists can access it! Most of our scientific gear is deployed in the mornings, so whoever is on morning watch has the pleasure of leading the deployments. Today that was me! Our first deployment was the Secchi disc, a white disc about the size of a dinner plate. The Secchi disc is used to measure the visibility in the water. This disc is lowered into the water via the J frame, a metal pole that leans off of the ship to prevent science gear from hitting the hull. A metal wire leads from a giant spool on deck, up the J frame, and then back down, where equipment can be attached. Once the Secchi disc is secured, it is carefully raised up by the wire operator (which happened to be Megan!) and is slowly lowered through the water. From here, several crew members watch the disc intently, and the moment we cannot see it anymore, we signal for the wire to halt. We record the depth, and move on to our next deployment.

The next piece of equipment that we deployed was the sediment grab. This device is a very powerful, metal scoop. Once it is attached to the J frame wire, it is lowered all the way to the seafloor, where it is triggered to snap shut and collect the sediment. As soon as the wire has some slack (which occurs when the scoop is resting on the floor) we pull it back up, and empty the sediment into a jar for later observations. Our final device is the Neuston Net. The Neuston (affectionately referred to as Neusty) is a 10 foot long net with a plastic jar screwed on at the bottom to collect organisms. The Neuston Net trails along the side of the boat for 30 minutes while we travel 2 knots. The opening of the net rests half in and half out of the water to collect organisms at the surface. After the net is pulled back onto the deck, the contents of the jar are emptied into a bucket and studied. Today we caught a moon jellyfish, 3 juvenile puffer fish, 2 juvenile pipefish, and hundreds of blue copepods.

Today’s watch was so beautiful. We saw the sun fully come out after the first few hours being low in the horizon and behind clouds. We also saw a few pods of dolphins come play on our starboard side. They were Atlantic Spotted Dolphins and they were ADORABLE!! It’s always a scramble to run and see them when someone screams “DOLPHINS” from the other side of the boat. After watch, we had some delicious chili and homemade baked French fries. We are definitely eating well here. Emma and Megan have become an unstoppable team in C watch, taking multiple selfies on Emma’s camera and writing ICONIC haikus during dawn watch.

- Megan Dear, Mount Holyoke College ’22 & Emma Bowman, Hamilton College ’24, C Watch

P.S. (Megan) - To my friends and family: HIIIIIII!!!!! I am having the most AMAZING time. I honestly don’t think that I have been this happy and excited (which says a lot coming from me). I don’t want to ever leave this boat, which I can say that because I haven’t felt any kind of seasickness this entire time. YAY! I love you guys with all my heart and I am so appreciative of your continuous love and support. I think about you every day (especially when I see the dolphins @ mom and dad). I also have found Captain Jack Sparrow’s ghost (@ Philip and Adam).

P.P.S. (Emma) First things first: Happy Birthday Joey!!! Yes I did choose the 29th to write because I thought it was your birthday like I do every year, but the important thing is that I remembered later that I was wrong! Sophia, I wanted to tell you that working on a ship is HARD but it’s worth it because now I am basically Luffy. Hello Mom and Dad and Sophia and Connor and all other participants of the family face time calls!! I am having an amazing time but cannot wait until I can see all of your tiny faces through my phone once again.

Editor's Note: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all SEA Semester students, faculty, and crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer boarded the ship after strictly isolating on shore, and after repeated negative tests for COVID-19. To ensure the health and safety of those onboard, the ship will not conduct any port stops and will remain in coastal waters so that any unlikely medical situations may be resolved quickly.

Categories: Corwith Cramer,Caribbean Reef Expedition, • Topics: c295  life at sea  study abroad  megafauna • (4) Comments
Previous entry: Reflecting on (almost) 9000 miles    Next entry: S-299, Summer Session


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 Charles Dear on November 30, 2020

Megan and Emma, fantastic update.  Megan, we miss you very much and love you, but our spirits are buoyed with the knowledge that you are reaching and not sitting at home head to wind. So keep up the good work, stay safely up to windward, and keep your eyes on the instruments.

#2. Posted by Pamela Dear on November 30, 2020

I love imagining you at the helm of the ship! So glad you are having a good time and not feeling any seasickness. Enjoy every minute and take tons of pictures so that you can share the experience with us when you get home.
Love you. XOXO Mom

#3. Posted by Phyllis and Don Freeman on December 02, 2020

Megan and Emma, we love your commentary! We happened to have used the Secchi disc right here in Chatham when we used to test the Frost Fish waters for clarity.

Megan, you are a fine helmsman, and we are very proud of your sailing ability.

Grandma and Grandpa

#4. Posted by Grammy & PapaTom Bowman on December 04, 2020

Emma and Megan,  Ahoy!  we loved reading your log.  Yo Ho Ho
You are true Hearties learning the environmental scientific modes checking water visibility & sediment levels! 
Emma,  we missed you at our Family FaceTime.  And .... look forward to hearing more about your adventure. 
Love,  Grammy& PapaTom.



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