Ready for an adventure with a purpose? Request info »
  • Search SEA Semester, Summer and High School Programs
SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

July 22, 2015

A Day at Kanton Island

Maddie Beattie, Albion College

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Photo credit: Elise Ziemendorf

At Anchor, Kanton Island

Light winds, sunny skies

Souls on Board

My day today started at 5am with my hour of anchor watch.  When we are at port, pairs of students stand watch for an hour at a time over the course of the night completing boat checks, weather observations, and making sure our anchors hold fast.  Taking an early morning watch meant I had almost seven hours of uninterrupted sleep, a rarity during life at sea.  After watch, I joined Captain Pamela and several other students for a 6 o'clock dawn run on Kanton Island.  It was our first time on the island - and off the boat since we departed - and we all appreciated the opportunity to explore before the heat of the day set in.  It felt nice to be finally able to get out a move after two weeks confined to the 135 feet of the Seamans.  After a breakfast on the ship, I left with the first of our snorkel expeditions around the lagoon.  I'm sorry Claire but I did it, I swam with sharks on purpose.

After a briefing from our first mate Scott about the proper procedure for dealing with sharks in the water (which roughly translated into if the sharks is bigger than you, you should get out), we dove in only to find ourselves directly above a white tipped reef shark.  In case you're concerned, you can Google white tipped reef sharks.  They're not very menacing and this one was pretty small.  Our first snorkel spot - and the location of shark spotting numbers one and two - was a ship wreck from the 1940s.  The ship was an old iron riveted steamship named for President Taylor, and was longer than the Seamans and tall enough to reach from a depth of about 30 feet to above the surface.  Hundreds of fish had made their home within the wreck and could be seen swimming both outside the ship and inside as they swam past cracks in the metal sheets.  

The second location was a shallow coral reef to the inside of Spam Island.  This reef was smaller in size than the shipwreck but was teeming with a diverse range of species in all colors and sizes - it was also the location of shark spotting number three.   My favorite fish was definitely the parrotfish.   Our final spot was in deeper water closer to the ship.  This section of the lagoon had a sandy bottom surrounded by massive heads of coral.   While there weren't as many fish, the towers of coral made this the most impressive spot of the trip.  Wet and sufficiently impressed, we returned to the boat for a quick lunch.  I headed back to Kanton for the afternoon after a quick lunch.

Unfortunately, the heat we avoided during our morning run had arrived in full force.  The path to the village felt long under the midday sun but we broke up the walk with a short trip to the beach.  In the village, we found Toaea - our escort from the Kiribati government - and he showed us several spots on the island including the freshwater well, ruins from a WWII American airbase, and there Tsunami detection center. 

At 15:45 we caught the rescue boat back to the ship for an early dinner with the residents of Kanton.  We had dinner on the quarter deck and, following Kiribati tradition, shared several songs.  They were much better (and louder) singers than us but we tried to hold our own.  Following dinner and after the people of Kanton returned home, we finished our busy day with a short class reflecting on our experiences.  Once class was dismissed, we started to drift apart into groups spread across the deck to relax and enjoy the quite evening.  I started to learn to play a fourth song on the Ukulele, but Scott was playing his guitar on deck (and was way better than me) so we stopped to watch the sunset and listen.  This covers my day up until now as a sit down to write the blog.  Tonight we've been given permission to sleep up on deck below the stars, so as we prepare to start anchor watches I can hear everyone finding a comfortable spot deck.  As much as I crammed into this blog today, I am sure over our next two days in Kanton I will have many more experience worth sharing.  But, you'll just have to wait until I get home to hear about those. 

- Maddie

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,Protecting the Phoenix Islands, • Topics: s261  port stops  phoenix islands • (4) Comments


#1. Posted by Annette Ahart on July 24, 2015

So glad to hear your ship made it to your first island and that you have been able to start exploring the island and the coral & all of the sea life that makes their home there.  We have a couple parrotfish here at the Tennessee Aquarium and I love the them too!

#2. Posted by The Beatties on July 24, 2015

Madeline.  We are so glad you are having such a wonderful adventure but be advised!!!  We have plenty of pets at home already!!!  Whatever they are…Put…Them…Back!!!!  The only thing we need back safe and sound is you and some dirty laundry. The fishies stay in the ocean.  Have a great night sleeping under the stars!


Your Illinois base camp.

#3. Posted by Claire Beattie on July 26, 2015

Hi Madeline, We’ve missed you a lot here and I can’t wait for you to get back home, and I guess if you swam with sharks then I guess I’m going to have to do it some day too. You’ve certainly one upped my experience with sharks of watching them on tv, But I can assure you that you won’t one up me with seeing ghosts. (that will always be for tv only). Reading your blog made it seem like you were living inside of endless ocean and I bet that’s probably even better then Endless Ocean 3. I miss you a bunch and can’t wait to see you!
From Claire

#4. Posted by mary B on July 27, 2015

What an amazing experience.  We can’t wait to hear all about it.  Imagine the star gazing was spectacular!

Keep having a wonderful time!!! We love you!

The Chicago Binders



Add a comment:

Notify me of follow-­up comments?

I would like SEA to keep me informed about news and opportunities.