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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 05, 2015

Land Ho! Nikumaroro.

Will Godsey, Sewanee: The University of the South

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Above: Small Boat returning from Nikumaroro scouting. Below: Dolphin in just off the bowsprit (both photos: Elise Ziemendorf)

Ship's Log

4° 441.933’ S x 174° 35.314’ W

Northeast Force 3

Per Master’s Orders

Souls on Board

Today we reached the last island on our voyage through the Phoenix Islands Protected Area: Nikumaroro. I woke up at around 11:30 and went up on deck to see and island covered with a dense canopy of coconut trees a little over 1 nautical mile away. The sky was overcast and the waves a little choppy but we were all excited to see a new place to explore. Unfortunately we could not go ashore today. After a lot of recon around the island and a staff led small boat shore scouting, it was determined that we could not anchor in the same place as last year, and so Pamela kept us safe on the ship as we made a few close passes closer to the island. Hopefully tomorrow will be a calmer day and we can go ashore so the Rock Jocks can get to work.

The Rock Jocks are a team consisting of Krystina Lincoln, myself, and our mentor Mary Engels. The name was given to us over the radio by someone else when referring to our shore party on Kanton. Hopefully tomorrow we can get ashore and get to work looking at sediment stratigraphy, and maybe find Amelia Earhart too! Well, not alive, but it is believed by some that Nikumaroro is where she crashed on her trans-Pacific flight. One determined group of Earhart fans known as TIGHAR were recently on the island on the latest of their many expeditions trying to find her bones and were (unsurprisingly) unsuccessful.

Nikumaroro has more to offer than the prospect of finding Earhart, it has large coconut forests and from a glance more vegetation in general. The coconut tree is actually invasive and is a remnant of the plantation on the island. People actually inhabited Nikumaroro until the 60’s when the British relocated everyone off of the island.   Another remnant of human activity is the wreck of the SS Norwich that beached onto the island during a storm in 1928. Just from a glance the island has a different look and feel than that of Orona or Kanton; even though they are all close and formed in the same process each atoll is different both in shape and structure.

As we headed out to deeper water away from the island dolphins started following the bow of the ship! At first it was one, and then two, then all of the sudden eight dolphins including a little baby were racing with the ship. At the same time birds were shooting into the water going after fish; I even saw one masked booby flying after a flying fish. I’m hoping this display bodes well for an adventure tomorrow both on the ship and ashore. With afternoon watch and an island to scout, I had a pretty busy birthday.

Setting/striking sails, an island to look at (and not hit), and plenty of sites to see make watch go by quick. I loved every second of it though and can’t wait to share more when I’m home.

Offshore of Nikumaroro aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans,

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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 Judy Godsey on August 06, 2015

Happy 21st birthday.
Love you,

#2. Posted by Kristin Kiser on August 08, 2015

It’s hard to fathom your life on the sea from my vantage point in Chevy Chase Maryland.  All I can think of is “wow” and are you all wearing hats and sun screen?  What can I say - I am a mom and I work for the National Cancer Institute. 

Smooth sailing!

Kristin Kiser (aka Karl’s mom)



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