SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
October 23, 2015
An Unforgettable Traditional Experience
Alongside in Fiji
A bluebird day, high 80’s with a light breeze.
What a journey it has been. Life aboard the Robert C. Seamans has been a truly enriching experience for us all. The past few weeks have been filled with demanding labor, hearty laughs and some adverse weather. But alas! Fiji. Just three days prior, Suva welcomed us with rugged green mountains, idyllic beaches, and castaways defining the term paradise. Paradise it has been, as students and crew members have had time to unwind from life at sea.
Yesterday afternoon was spent at the University of the South Pacific, where S.E.A. shared our way of life with students and faculty alike. Ben and Sean gave some detail on the science and sailing aspects respectively, and a handful of students had the opportunity to introduce their research projects. We then broke off and spoke with professors and administration pertaining to our particular areas of interest and project work. Following this, Peter Nuttall, a professor of marine biology, brought us a little ways down the road to a nearby village of transplanted Lau Islanders. This particular village is a very special collective of people who still practice traditional sailing to this day. That night, we joined them in a sacred Kava ceremony where we shared a bowl of kava and synergized our bond through the blood of the earth. With this bond, Chief Vera and a few family members, Toka and Bill, invited us out on their little hand crafted outrigger, a few miles out into the lagoon to a small castaway surrounded by reef. A boat made by the villagers themselves with nothing but their immediate resources and knowledge from past generations.
As planned, the very next morning, a handful of students and villagers set out to the pictured island (if you can call it that) with fishing and snorkeling gear. We got a little wet on our way out, but on arrival, we were all speechless of the beauty of this sacred land. A small sand dune island with a handful of groundcover vines. Nothing but a fire pit and a few spent coconut shells scattered. It was there where we spent the afternoon, swimming, rolling around in the sand and fishing for a fire roasted snack.
Relaxing on the beach, we roasted fresh caught sea urchins and parrot fish, feasting on the gifts of the ocean. This was nearly every day for these villagers, their work, their entertainment, and their livelihood. For us, it was a wonderful and traditional experience that we'll cherish for the rest of our lives.
But soon we'll be back out at sea, working together towards a common goal.
And as great as our experiences in port have been, this is why we're here.
There is something to be said about living in a community setting, with a common intention. Intentional communities don't have to be a bunch a hippies living out in the woods (although it really can be). The class of S-262 aboard the Robert C. Seamans is an intentional community where an ecosystem of students, mates, and faculty make up an elaborate ecology of knowledge, traditions, friendships and lifelong memories. My own experiences here have solidified my values for community and interdependent living. Amazing things can be done when a group of people put their lives together working towards common goals. The Robert C. Seamans is a true exemplar of this concept, not only collecting research around the Pacific, but teaching life lessons and enriching the lives of everybody involved.
At this point, I see myself continuing this journey beyond my semester with SEA. The Tall Ship culture is one of hard work, brotherhood and good ol' fashion sailing. The community it builds and experiences it provides are immeasurable. Sailing is a practice that has been closely integrated with the evolution of human beings, and the subculture is not for the faint of heart. With hard-work, challenges and adversity comes growth, and we've all put some calluses on our hands.
Thank you SEA for a life changing experience.