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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

October 05, 2016

Gleaning Day

Heather Sieger, C Watch, College of the Atlantic


Will, Addy, and Heather watching a woman shuck an oyster, Makave village.

Ship's Log

Current Position
18°39.2’ S 173°59.1’W

Docked in Vava’u, Tonga

Hot and humid, light breeze, partly cloudy

Souls on Board

Our first full day in Tonga was filled with much excitement as we explored parts of Vava’u and met with people from the Vava’u Environmental Protection Association (VEPA)! Today began with a 0800 pin rail chase in which the watches competed against one another, relay style, to find each line we were told. All of the watches did great, all finishing around the same time, but C Watch won by just a hair!

Getting onto shore, we met with Karen, Courtney, Seini, Meredith, and Lisa from VEPA. VEPA began as a small grassroots organization in 2009 and has since grown in the communities. They do community education outreach, going to schools and community groups to teach about invasive species, climate change, coral reefs, agriculture, and mangroves. We heard about their efforts to suppress the Crown of Thorns invasive sea star on coral as well as the research being done in regards to whale watching and its regulations.

Following the VEPA presentations in the morning, we ate our sack lunches and split into three groups: tourism, Mount Telau hiking, and gleaning. The tourism group wandered around the downtown Neiafu area with Courtney and went to a fish market and a fruits and veggies market. The hiking group went with Meredith to the top of the mountain to learn about the invasive rat control in the national park and to listen for the endemic bird that is recovering as rats are being removed. I, along with nine others, followed Karen, Seini, and Lisa to meet with three women from the village of Makave to learn about gleaning.

Gleaning is harvesting intertidal organisms including sea cucumbers, crabs, and oysters. It was incredible to watch the women find these animals so easily in the sand and to watch their harvesting techniques. They collected three kinds of sea cucumbers, taking different parts of each species. The crabs were often buried in the sand, and I did not spot any, but the women knew just where to dig for them. The oysters were on rocky substrate, and when harvested, the shells were thrown back and only the edible parts were collected. In Tonga, regulations for intertidal harvesting are not enforced, so it is up to the women of the village to decide what size animals and how many they harvest. The practice of gleaning is done by women in the South Pacific and knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation. Tongan history is primarily oral, so fishing knowledge is passed down within the villages.

Karen, Seini, and Lisa go out gleaning with women from the village to record how many organisms and their sizes that are harvested. They compare the data with previous data looking for trends in increase or decrease in size and numbers of each species caught. The day ended with dinner on the ship with Karen, Seini, Lisa, Courtney, and two of Seini’s friends from the University of the South Pacific, Ana and Sisi. It was a day full of laughter and learning; I look forward to spending more time with them tomorrow.

- Heather


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 Heather Sieger on October 08, 2016

Hi Heather,

Hope the sailing is still going well as you make your way to another Tongan island (?) before going on to Fiji. The news in the states has been about hurricane Matthew that battered the Bahamas, Haiti and Cuba before heading up the southern U.S. coast - Florida, Georgia, S. Carolina. At its strongest, it was a Category 4 storm, which is pretty rough. No crazy weather over here though. The other noise dominating the news cycles is the election, especially the candidacy of the misogynist sociopathic con man trump, who is even more obnoxious then ever if you can believe that, now trying to float a non-apology before going on the attack after an exceedingly crude video from 2005 hit the airwaves. It’s so horrid it really should be the end of his candidacy, but then he never should’ve gotten anywhere in the first place, and in his so-called (non) apology(s), he managed to say that Bill Clinton has done and said far worse, and that Hillary’s a bigger problem for women. UGH! Hilary’s as big a piece of work as the whole broken two-party/electoral college system, but trump’s ascendancy is beyond comprehension.

On the bright side, though, I came home from school on Friday the 7th to find an amazing birthday package waiting on the doorstep! Lots and lots of amazing apples, plus a couple of sweet looking bottles of cider, along with a beautiful cherry bowl which Laura said you two sweet girls picked out at the Common Ground Fair! (Probably seems like a long time ago now!) In any case, it’s beautiful and it was so good of you to get it. Unfortunately, Laura’s jar of homemade tomatillo sauce didn’t quite survive the trip, but the bottles of cider and the bowl sure did. Some of the apples got bumped around a little too, but I made some incredibly yummy applesauce that night so all is good!! Yum Yum!

Hope you all are doing well on the Seamans, and are learning lots and having tons of amazing, memorable and inspiring experiences. Will be in touch some more!

Love ya,


p.s. Mom and Abbey are at a baby shower here in Austin as I write, while Daniel went to look up his best man Alex. Not sure what all we’ll do later, but the weather’s great today and we should have a nice time. And barely two months till due date!



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