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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

May 24, 2017

Stanford@SEA: Happy As A ...

Sierra, Stanford


Photo: Stanford@SEA

Despite its bad reputation among the student crew, dawn watch has provided me with some of my best memories on board. Most of these memories have come after I learned that a cup of coffee makes the 0100-0700 block significantly easier. During my second dawn watch en route to Ile Maria, my mind had some time to wander while I was scanning the horizon at the bow. The ship swaying beneath my feet, I realized, is not unlike horses or fire. All three are integral to certain human activities and require a kind of unspoken communication with nonverbal entities.

With horses, it takes time and practice to display the confidence that the animals will respect and respondto. The art of fire-building requires a similar attention to details, like the flame's response to added fuel. I am just beginning to understand the Bobby C. and her peculiarities, but watching the professional crew has convinced me that the ship, too, sometimes requires a well-timed, nonverbal nudge to set everything in order.

More broadly, humans also have this kind of nearly one-sided relationship with the ocean. The swells that move me up and down ten to fifteen feet at a time at the bow, for instance, are barely changed after they move from one side of the ship to the other. At the end of the day, the ocean is supremely unconcerned with the actions of any one individual or even a ship full of people. The bruises on my shins from being thrown off-balance by rogue waves are definitely testament to that. Despite the ocean's indifference, humans are bound to the big blue through commerce, transportation, and our dependence of extracted resources.

Horses and fire are a fine comparison to make to the ship and the ocean, but my initial thoughts at the bow and later reactions to what I saw on Ile Maria, I think, are rather lacking. Why do I immediately compare everything I see at sea to something it vaguely resembles on land? To a certain extent, my tendency to think of exhibits at the zoo when I smell guano from tropical birds or to think of cornmeal when I roll the beach sediment between my fingers makes sense based on my life experiences. Still, it seems inadequate to rely on the land to understand the geographic majority of the world.

On the other hand, the marine environment does inform much of how I interpret the world. Phrases like "like a fish out of water," "crabby," "plenty of other fish in the sea," and "happy as a clam" come to mind only a little less frequently than do terrestrial comparisons. I learned perhaps my favorite ocean-related expression, "not much to speak of at high tide," from my housemate last summer when she was talking about small islands. I haven't used it as a creative veiled insult, but it seems to beg to be used that way. Hopefully, I will bring some salty language back to land to remind myself that the ocean is out there, working much as it always has, regardless of what we think or say about it.

Categories: Robert C. Seamans, • Topics: stanford@sea  life at sea • (0) Comments


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