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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 16, 2016

It happens every day…

Sara Martin, A Watch, Chief Mate


Hard to take pictures of star frenzy in the dark, so here’s one of Emma K shooting a sunline (Thanks to Paige for the photo)

Ship's Log

Current Position
19° 16.8’ S x 176° 29.6’ W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
210° PSC, 2 kts for the neuston tow

Sail Plan
Four lowers (Jib, Fore & Main Stays’ls, and a Full Main recently set by A watch)

S winds, F3 and building, sun and cumulus clouds

Souls on Board

Since departing Tonga we’ve seen some beautifully clear skies, and therefore had opportunity for the first few star frenzies of the trip.  You—dear reader—might well ask, “What the heck is a star frenzy?” and you would not be alone; many students were asking the same question mere hours ago here aboard Seamans.  Some of those students are now veterans of two star frenzies, and already eager for more.

Star frenzy happens twice a day, at the dawn and dusk twilights, when the light of the not-yet-risen or recently-set sun is illuminating the horizon enough for us to see said horizon, but there is not so much light that the brightest celestial bodies are obscured.  In this window of time, we can use our sextants to bang out a whole bunch of celestial sights in a short period of time.  By measuring the angular distance between a star or planet and the horizon, and comparing that measurement to a calculation of how high that celestial body would be if we were at a particular “assumed position” (chosen to make the arthimatic easier), we can find a line of position on which Seamans must be.  If we can do multiple shots and thereby get multiple lines of position, we can obtain a celestial fix and know precisely where we are, no GPS required.

The situation gets frenzied when multiple people are all trying to obtain these sextant shots at once.  Times of shots must be recorded to the second, and so one harried scribe with a clipboard and a watch is trying to keep up with a constant barrage of calls from sextant wielding celestial navigators: “Standby Nolan on Vega!” “Standby Ashley on Rigel K!” “Mark Ashley…” “Standby Paige on Venus!” “Mark Nolan…” etc.  The scribe then needs to record all the times at the moment the navigator says mark, and immediately thereafter the angle measured with the sextant, so that our navigator may move on to shooting the next star.  It’s fast, fun, and somewhat overwhelming when you’ve never held a sextant in your hand before and your mate is simultaneously calling out her own shots to the scribe while coaching you on what star you’re looking at, how to hold the sextant, and what on earth index error means.  Good times.

But as with so many things here aboard Mama Seamans, once one has experienced the controlled chaos of a star frenzy, the rush to shoot as many stars as possible before either they or the horizon disappear can become a thrilling challenge.  As students master each individual skill, their capacity to synthesize those skills into the big picture of operating and navigating our brigantine across the South Pacific also expands.  So whether the task at hand is a star frenzy or a topsail set, a neuston processing or a hydrocast set-up, the students of S-269 are continually braving initial experiences of chaos and confusion as to what the heck is going on and charging full steam ahead toward understanding and responsibility.  And in the case of a star frenzy, very literal knowledge of just how far we’ve come.

- Sara

A very happy birthday to my Aunt Kathleen, whom I know to be an avid follower of this blog!

Previous entry: Farewell Tonga    Next entry: Midships


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