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
April 18, 2018
Star Frenzy at Sea
36°14.3’S X 162°06.1’W
Ship’s Heading & Speed
040 per ship’s compass at 6 knots
Mainsail, forestays’l, and mainstays’l
Partly cloudy, light breeze, 20°C
The past three nights or so we have been blessed with clear skies and the new moon, which, coupled with our remote location in the South Pacific, means that we have had unrestricted access to the night sky above. With such a clear view of the stars overhead, we have begun taking celestial sights - i.e. using sextants to measure the angle of celestial bodies in the sky relative to the horizon - in order to plot our geographical position on a map. This can only be done during a short window of time at twilight, when there is just enough light in the sky for both the horizon and stars to be visible at the same time. We call this period "Star Frenzy," because everyone is out on the quarterdeck with a sextant in hand and an eye to the sky, shouting things like "Standby on Procyon!" and "Mark!" to a scribe who jots down the precise time and angle at which a star is shot on a sextant. I think this would be a pretty amusing and somewhat confusing scene to the uninitiated landlubber.
Last night, while I was on dawn watch from 0100 to 0700 and when the sky looked magical, I made preparations for the star frenzy that was to happen at 0532 this morning. Snark (our Chief Mate), Lila and I spent about 45 minutes on deck in the dead of the night with a celestial book and laser pointer in hand trying to locate the stars that we were supposed to shoot during this morning's star frenzy. We looked up at the sky and down at the celestial book, trying to figure out where our navigational stars were among the hundreds that we could see with the naked eye. We managed to identify Acrux, Antares, Vega, Raselhague, and a couple of other stars, while having a humorous time finding less well-known constellations like the Dividers, the Northern Crown, and the Line, which seemed to us like just very arbitrary lines drawn in the sky that someone then called a "constellation."
When the time for star frenzy came this morning, however, a huge bank of clouds came rolling through the sky, blocking out almost all the stars at dawn. Our meticulous preparation for shooting the stars thus came to no use, and we were unable to take any celestial sights with our sextants to plot our location. It was unfortunate, but nevertheless, I was glad to have learnt so much about constellations and star names that night. It was also truly humbling to behold the night sky in its full glory - the freckling of quiet pulsating stars against the darkness, the gentle brush stroke of the Milky Way through the middle of the sky, the transient presence of the Magellanic clouds, and the occasional shooting star - the vastness and beauty of it all was at once acutely liberating and lonely.
To my friends and family back home, I wish you guys were here to experience moments like these with me. But I'm keeping these memories in my heart, and can't wait to share them with you all when I'm back. In the meantime, stay safe and happy back home - I miss you all so much!
- Rachel Tan, B Watch, Yale-NUS College