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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

July 22, 2018

Snorkeling in Kanton

Lee Fenstermacher, C-Watch, Dickinson College


Above: What science looks like underwater featuring Jacob (left) and Andy (right). Below: Photo taken 7/22/18 on an outer coral reef. Photos by Lee Fenstermacher.

Ship's Log

Current Position
2°48.4’S x 171°42.8’W (Kanton Island)

Sail Plan
Currently docked from 7/20-7/22

31°C, a light breeze, and the sky is clear

Souls on board

It is our third day in Kanton and snorkeling is in full swing. This morning at 08:30 myself and 11 others took two small 8 person rescue boats to a reef on the outer edge of the atoll. On our way there we were greeted by a pod of dolphins who swam under our little boat, not more than two feet below us, leading us to our destination. On the snorkeling outings I've been on so far, there have been sightings of four turtles, a few sharks, a plethora of reef fish, an eel, and three different octopi. Considering that combined, the professional crew and the student crew have about 40 sea themed tattoos it is not difficult to imagine our excitement. I can understand why the reefs in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area have been dubbed "Underwater Eden." In fact, it's difficult to imagine how they could be called just about anything else. However, the magic of this place isn't limited to under the sea. In fact, I'd argue that the people I've gotten to meet, both my shipmates and the people of Kanton, are more extraordinary than what is under the waves. (Those of you who know me know that's about the highest praise I could ever give.)

The people of Kiribati have been unyieldingly kind. There are no natives to Kanton, the ~30 people who live here are primarily government officials and their families. They nod, smile, and stop to ask you questions in English as they pass you on the gravel pathways. There is always room to spare for any of us who want to join them in a game of soccer, the goals marked by large rocks on either side. And despite the limited resources available to them on this island, the people of Kanton always find a way to be the most gracious hosts possible. Our first night we were gifted four lobsters, each just shy of two feet long. The next day, my friend Lucas and I got a chance to attended a Protestant Sunday service (their time) in a small structure held together on the sides and overhead by correlated sheet mental. We took our shoes off, went in, and sat on beautifully woven mats.

The service included passage readings and hymns in their native language, and then in English, I suspect at least in part so that Lucas and I could understand. A nice gentleman also lent us his hymnal, so that we could join in some of the most marvelous singing I've ever heard. Many of the people of Kanton have invited my shipmates into their homes and they have even slaughtered one of their pigs for a welcoming ceremony tonight, allowing us to cook half of it in our preferred style.

These wonderful people, the people of Kiribati, are looking to us for help to gather scientific data and provide informed policy options. And I can say without hesitation that myself and my shipmates are more than willing to oblige. Among my shipmates I've never met a more passionate group of people. Shout out to Charlie, Andy, Jacob and others for using their time on the reefs for collecting data, which is less than easy to say the least.
For those of you at home, we're fine. In fact, we are so much more than fine. The work may be difficult but it is also so very rewarding. We are all among amazing people, giving all we can to protect what we love. What else can you ask for- I certainly can't think of anything.

P.S. If you're ever given a chance, I definitely recommend jumping off the bowsprit (front with the netting) of a ship. Sorry mom.

- Lee Fenstermacher, C-Watch, Dickinson College

Now time for shout outs! To my parents: I cannot thank you enough for supporting me this experience has been everything I could have dreamed and more. Also if you were confused I have a nickname now and I love it. Mom: All of my gear has worked so well thank you, thank you, thank you. Dad: I'm doing regular engine room checks (me and technology, crazy I know) I've learned so much and it makes me think of you extra often. Abby: Wow I miss you so much. I'm pretty sure this is the longest we've gone without talking in over 10 years- I don't like it. But I'll be back soon and I think of you all the time. You know you have my eternal support. Also I myself have seen a shark, dolphins, a turtle, an eel, so many amazing fish, and YES AND OCTOPUS. Colby: I miss you a ton. I was able to swim out and snorkel by the WW2 shipwreck. Yes, it was amazing, yes I took pictures, and I can't wait to tell you all about it. The only thing that would have made it better is having you there too. I think of you often and cannot wait to see you again soon. To all of you I love you so much. And to everyone reading this post on my behalf your support means the world to me and I cannot wait to tell you more when I get back.

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,Protecting the Phoenix Islands, • Topics: s281  pipa • (3) Comments
Previous entry: Exploring Kanton    Next entry: Welcome to Kanton


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 Julia Baker on July 24, 2018

This is so exciting! It’s so great to read about your experiences from all these different perspectives.

Annabel, I miss you a bunch and can’t wait to hear your voice. Everyone sends love. xxxooo

#2. Posted by Todd Lutz on July 24, 2018

Emily, loved your blog. We miss you and can’t wait to see you. I’m so glad you’re having a great time. I know the boy misses you! - Todd

#3. Posted by Lorelei Fenstermacher on July 27, 2018

So excited to hear from you!  We will have to talk about jumping off the boat after your home lol.  You gotta do these things when the opportunity arises. Miss you so much.
Love, Momma



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