SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
July 22, 2015
A Day at Kanton Island
At Anchor, Kanton Island
Light winds, sunny skies
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.