SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
October 13, 2014
36°01.3 N x 03°13.1W
Happy Columbus Day everyone! In honor of this nautical-based holiday it seems like Neptune has decided to be especially kind to us this day. The weather has significantly improved from yesterdays gushing winds and thrashing waves, leaving only a nice light breeze and calm seas. Even the wake up at 0230 for our dawn watch from 0300 to 0700 seemed almost natural as our bodies have begun to adapt to the new routine at sea. Then again it could also be the simple fact that we have gotten better at throwing our bodies out of our bunks upon hearing the soft calling of those on watch or the anticipation to see what new poem Chuck has in store for us in the lab night orders. While the poem in itself is a great feat, the best part of it is the clear Chuck wittiness and humor emanating from them. I mean writing about science at sea in a poem is no easy task, but Chuck one ups that by being able to make everyone who reads it inevitably chuckle each time. He‘s simply a magician when it comes to poetry.
Upon looking over the night orders my shipmates, Amie and Greg, and I realize that unlike the normal directions to perform a neuston tow or surface station there instead were instructions for the Creature Feature. This fun little activity, a classic of Chucks, involves picking an animal and presenting them in a form of infotainment through poetry, dance, song, or anything save sock puppets, a specific note from our dear Chuck. As none of us were too keen on performing in front of everyone, though only a grand total of 34 people, there was immediate consensus to write a poem. Then after a long time discussing and attempting to use various decision-making skills, including rock-paper-scissors, we finally chose Salps.
Following a little bit of research, the process of writing the poem became quite funny and entertaining. Though some people may not have realized the small references we made to Arrested Development or Gregs strict attention to the syllables in each line, we all got a kick out of adding in those little notes.
Following a little more science in the lab, looking at phytoplankton under a compound microscope and learning how to make a map on Excel, we went on deck for some astronomy lessons from Scott. Its truly amazing how all the stars are interconnected, even when they are part of various constellations there may still be an even larger one pulling individual stars from each. Unfortunately the names of these wonderful constellations are not completely dedicated to memory yet, a few more nights under a beautiful and clear Mediterranean sky with Scott leading the way will hopefully make me remember some names for those stars we are constantly staring up at. Even without knowing too much astronomy, the night sky is a magnificent sight to see, with more twinkling lights than I have ever seen before and even the occasional shooting star, which still provokes a kiddish joy.
After a short four hours we are relieved from our duty and enjoy a wonderfully simple breakfast of oatmeal, thanks to the assistant stew of the day, Mags. Next we bust out a quick Dawn Clean-up and take that nap we have been longing for. Most of us will continue to sleep till lunch time, which was an absolutely delicious chili, and maybe even a second nap before dinner. We love our sleep!
At 1430 everyone gathers on the quarterdeck for our daily class. Honestly these classes should be a model for how all classes are taught. Sitting out in the open air, sailing, light on your face, and wind in your hair, there is no better way to learn. Yet the best part is still the pre-lecture talk when everyone is welcome to share their best and favorite jokes, usually oceanographically centered. In fact anyone who has not heard one of Captain Elliots jokes is truly missing out. After a quick count off to ensure everyone is present, class begins and first off is a Creature Feature from B watch. Oh my gosh was this entertaining! All of us could not help but laugh through most of the presentation. Not only was it a well-written and educational poem about copepods, but it included a live performance with ingenious props. One of particular note was the bright red sparkly sequin dress worn by our own Rudi. Who knew he could pull off such a great hermaphroditic copepod or that he was so good at twirling with Alex? B watch definitely did a great job at creating a memory none of us will forget.
The next highlight of the day was by far the cutting of the Spanish ham. Yes, it finally happened. The long awaited moment to dig into the masterpiece of a chandelier we had hanging in our galley, the pork leg that caught the U.S. Ambassadors attention, was finally brought to us as a delicious afternoon snack. This jamón ibérico was incredible and only lasted a mere ten minutes at most once it was set out. Sure we may be on a boat, but there is no lack of great food.
Later that afternoon there was no lack of entertainment on the boat as people gathered around the starboard side of the quarterdeck to catch sight of whales. Cameras were out and people were pointing at what seemed like just water upon first arriving, but after a few moments staring at the waves a sudden shout of excitement would raise from the group as someone spotted the black fin of the whale. They seemed almost like a wave themselves, so subtle and hidden in the motion of the sea; within another half hour there was a crowd again this time at the starboard bow of the ship as dolphins played around our ship. At the time A watch was having a meeting in the netting at the very fore of the ship right on top of where the dolphins were swimming, no doubt an incredible experience.
I will even admit to being slightly envious of them as they looked straight down to these magnificent creatures. Yet Neptune must have noticed and taken pity for during our next watch from 1900 to 2300 there was a sight even more incredible. By the time C watch was on duty it was dark out. As first lookout at the bow, Greg had already been admiring the bioluminescence as the boat splashed into the waves and told me about it as I relieved him. This night lookout must have been the best job on deck as both the sky and sea glittered and shone with such unequivocal beauty. When I stole a peek down below at the hull of our ship, there was the unmistakable shape of a dolphin outlined in bioluminescence. Apparently the plankton light up whenever they are agitated, including around the dolphins as they swim with incredible speed through the water. In total there must have been at least six dolphins playing in the waves created by the bow of our ship, all of them swimming and jumping around each other as they raced in front of us, despite our speed of already six knots. A crowd quickly formed and people laughed as they admired the dolphins, which almost looked like torpedoes with tiny little Christmas lights all around them. Then if people were quite enough it was even possible to hear them splashing into the water or speaking to each other with the softest little squeaking.
Sure daytime on the boat is incredible for its own great qualities like getting to read, sleep, or play guitar on top of the lab as we soak up a little sun, but I believe night watches are the best. Each one always seems to hold a small secret or wonder to be found, almost as a reward for being up that late. Seeing those dolphins swimming in the night water, shining from the bioluminescence around them is a memory I will treasure forever.
The oceans are vast and occasionally dangerous, but they also hold so much splendor and wonder that it will steal your heart in an instant. Within these few days at sea it makes sense why people have always loved to sail. Not only is it exhilarating to command a ship, but it truly is a whole new world on the water ready to amaze anyone daring to explore it.