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 23, 2018
Multispecies Entanglements, Petrel Friendships, and Chasing the Rainbow
31°3.7’ S 178°54.5’ E
Course & Speed
Course 000 at 6 knots
Main Stays’l & Fore Stays’l
Winds NW at force 5
Today we are sailing happily out towards the Kermadecs. Out on the open ocean with no land in sight, we are experiencing something that most people can hardly even imagine. This fact is not lost on me, nor on my shipmates, and as we cruise ever farther from the North Island of New Zealand and towards the Kermadec islands, we live in awe of the incredible ocean-scape that surrounds us. I'm constantly struck by how lucky I am to be out here, experiencing this incredible world that is only accessible to me by boat, and by all the things I'm learning from the creatures that we share this place with.
For days, we've been followed by a group of petrels, from anywhere from 2 to 15 individuals. While none of us can really say if it's the same petrels every day, I like to think that it is. Rich King, professor and resident bird enthusiast, has provided us with some theories about why these guys are so interested in our ship. It's possible that they've learned that fishing vessels in these waters often leave behind scraps of fish for them to eat, or perhaps our ship is stirring up kelp for them to feed on. I'm interested in these things, but I also don't think that it matters exactly why they spend so much time around our ship. To me, it seems that we have garnered their interest, and so we travel together, stories intertwined for the time being. In the space of these intertwining stories, I like to think we learn from each other.
A few days ago, my dear friend Mia was in the lab doing six minute observations, which happen every hour to observe what's going on in the ocean around us. We count marine mammals, marine debris, any other organisms we can see, and, most pertinent to my point, birds! When I was asking Mia about what she thinks about our friends, the petrels, she said that they were really hard to count as they flew around, in and out of swells. At first, she felt frustrated by how hard it was count them, but then she thought "maybe they don't want to be counted, maybe they're just here to hang out." The petrels can teach us something about patience, or about letting go of stress. They can teach us to literally dive headfirst into things we believe will bring about good results for us in the end, no matter how scary it might feel at first (for them, maybe its food, for me, something along the lines of spending 6 weeks living on a sailing vessel).
Life on board the Seamans can be super regimented, and in some ways it has to be. To keep the boat moving we need to account for all shipmates, conduct regular navigation, keep a lookout, and make sure everything is in working order. I hope, however, that our non-human animal friends can teach us to not carry that regiment too far over into the rest of our lives. Sometimes you have to stop for a moment and take a breath, like the petrels who land on the ocean surface and get carried by the waves. Sometimes you have to lean on your friends, like the salps we pull up in our Neuston tow, who form chains in the water. Sometimes you have to let go and just play, like the 21 (!) dolphins who jumped and spun and swam in our bow wake just the other day. I like to think that our multispecies friends learn something from us too, but exactly what I couldn't say. I am grateful for the friendships I have formed so far, multispecies and otherwise, and I look forward to many more in the weeks ahead of me.
- Sal (Sarah) Cosmedy, A Watch, Mount Holyoke College
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving everybody! I think I timed this right so you'll see it on EST Thanksgiving. Pearl, I miss you and I'm thinking about you, I hope you get to eat a biscuit today.
Mom, Dad, Joe, Grandma and Papa, I miss you so much but I hope you're having a happy Thanksgiving celebration. I can't wait to hear all about it. I love you!