SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
October 25, 2014
Green Flash Aspirations
34°02.5’ N x 12°54.2’ W
On board the Cramer, we students spend almost all of our time together: sitting in class, standing watch, working in the lab, eating meals, playing cards, perfecting our hot chocolate-Nutella-Fluff concoctions. We all love our ship family, but we also all need a little alone time every once in a while, which isn’t exactly easy to come by. However, if we are assigned to bow lookout during watch, we are afforded a nice hour-long period of solitude. When we stand bow watch, we keep our eyes peeled for other ships along the horizon. Leaving Cadiz, we saw many ships, likely coming from or headed to the Strait of Gibraltar, as Elliot mentioned in a recent blog post. As we create more and more distance between us and the Strait, we see fewer ships. This morning, for example, I stood two hour-long lookouts and only saw one ship. I remained attentive to the horizon, of course, but it didn’t take long for me to start trying to entertain myself. It’s an interesting concept – standing alone for an hour, staring at the sea – because I can’t think of any time in my “normal” daily life where I’m not using my phone, talking to another person, reading something, or occupying myself with any other tangible thing. On bow watch, we are occupied by the view of the horizon and our thoughts, and that’s it.
When I’m on the bow, I typically resort to singing the Aladdin soundtrack (which for some reason has been stuck in my head for this entire boat ride) for entertainment. “American Pie” gets a lot of air time, too, because it is long and I usually have to stop to remember verses, so I can pass a solid fifteen minutes with that. Eventually, once I’ve exhausted my repertoire, I like to move on to my bucket list, which contains many items inspired by this trip and the ship’s company. Being on this boat, I’ve met lots of interesting people who have introduced me to a variety of new activities and hobbies, many of which I hope to try. Although it’s not exactly a hobby or activity, this morning I added seeing a green flash to my long mental bucket list, along with riding in a hot air balloon. My goal to see a green flash was inspired by a conversation I had last night, whereas the hot air balloon idea was the result of a long chain of thoughts: I was thinking I would really be able to pass the time if I had something memorized (I guess you could say “memorize something” is on my bucket list now, too), and I got this idea from Sophia Jannetty’s impressive recitation of Dr. Seuss’s “What Was I Scared Of?,” so I was thinking about what Dr. Seuss book I would memorize and I decided it would be “Oh! The Places You’ll Go,” and that’s how I landed on the hot air balloon thing.
But back to the green flash…
Until recently, I never knew what it meant to see “the green flash.” For years I thought that this fabled phenomenon was a reference to the green light in The Great Gatsby, which Gatsby looks at nightly as it burns at the end of Daisy’s dock across the bay. In short, I thought the green flash was an allusion to forbidden love, so you can imagine my confusion I’ve experienced aboard the ship each time the green flash is mentioned.
Last night, as I stood on deck during sunset, I was part of a conversation with some of our wise professional crew who kindly cleared up the definition for me. For those of you with similar green flash delusions and misperceptions – hopefully I’m not the only one – the green flash is something that occurs at both sunset and sunrise and is visible to humans when the horizon is clear. At the moment that the sun sets, it is the last light that is visible, and at the moment that the sun rises, it is the first light that is visible. The green flash isn’t observed at each sunrise or sunset, but under suitable conditions – a sharp sea horizon and a clear atmosphere – an attentive observer will likely see the green flash. Being the attentive observers that they are, the same crew members that educated me on this topic were lucky enough to see a green flash last night, but I, with my untrained eyes, was not quite focused enough to see it.
Starting today I begin my quest to see the green flash before the end of this trip, be it at sunset or sunrise. Although seeing the green flash while on land would be pretty spectacular too, there one particular element to seeing it on the boat that cannot be beat: on the boat, you can stand on deck in hopes of catching the green flash, and if you are quick enough, you can climb aloft after this first sighting, and because you’ve changed your angle to the horizon, you can actually catch another glimpse of the flash. Rumor has it that someone has climbed the rigging quickly enough to see three green flashes during one sunset. You could do this at sunrise too, in reverse order. Although I have not yet heard of this trio flash spectacle occurring at sunrise – after all, I’m still a green flash newbie – I did hear that there was an SEA chief scientist who woke up every single morning of a trip in hopes of seeing a green flash at sunrise, which he did, eventually. Evidently, my mission to see the green flash is some serious business, especially if I want to reach the levels achieved by the aforementioned green flash enthusiasts. Call me biased, but I think its position on my bucket list is a worthy one, and I am hoping to check it off soon, so stay tuned!
While I wait to check off the green flash, I can check off swimming over the Seine Abyssal Plain in the meantime… although I’ll need to add it to my bucket list at the same time that I check it off! The Abyssal Plain is where we are currently located and is over 4000 meters deep. Today, when we were all mustered after an hour of cleaning the ship, Elliot announced to us that “the pool” would be open. It only took a moment before we were all back on deck with swimsuits on and towels in hand. We spent thirty minutes jumping off the boat and swimming around in the water, which is so blue and beautiful. To quote Bex, our poetic steward, “It looks like Pixar water.” When the ship’s whistle rang signaling the end of our thirty minutes, we all waited as long as possible before getting back on board… a moment reminiscent of the foot-dragging that occurred at the end of recess when I was in elementary school.
It was another great day on board the Cramer, littered throughout with moments of awe and disbelief at both the beauty of the Atlantic and our luck as students along for this amazing ride.
To my fam – love and miss all ya crazy kids… bunches!! Xo.