SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
November 15, 2017
Arrival in Carriacou, Grenada
Hillsborough Bay, Carriacou, Grenada
Small squalls blowing over, hot and sunny otherwise.
In the words of Anna yesterday, "Here we are." This evening, however, that phrase has a whole new meaning, and we aboard have the firmest sense of where we are yet. Land! Sighted early this morning as distant flickering lights 38 nm away, then rising out of the gloaming as the sun comes up and gives us colors to behold; then we are between two islands and in the lee and the smell of the land is overwhelming. Wet dirt, fresh wood smoke and an entirely new array of ocean smells not encountered in the open ocean. Sand and sea-grass, algae on docks and rusting boats, drying fishing gear and gasoline outboards. The new colors and smells thrilled the crew this morning as most crowded the rail before breakfast, even some of the lazy watch (those not required to be awake). None are disappointed to see land; to have the promise of ice cream and a swim, but most are realizing the best of the trip is over; our long ocean cruise (25 days, 2600 miles) is done, and we'll not be out of sight of land again. Most aboard are feeling the weight settle in of what we have all done together. Or, they might be, if their final papers weren't due at 23:59 tonight.
Not only is the land a firm sense of distance having been covered, the student research presentations the past few days have given everyone aboard a richer understanding of just how varied, diverse and ever-changing the waters we sailed through are. From microscopic pelagic snail populations raising, falling and raising again; to old water masses from the Mediterranean moving 600 meters under our keel, this ocean was telling us every step of the way that we were moving, and moving fast. The open ocean has a monotonous first-glance is last-glance look, and one chunk can look pretty much the same as any other. Unless, that is, you know how to look. These students all picked a topic, and all the crew worked day and night to gather pertinent information on the waters of the North Atlantic and Sargasso Sea for them. We saw basics like temperature and salinity go up, or chlorophyll go down and Sargassum go up, but we saw nuances as well.
We found phytoplankton delving deeper; we found surface insects popping up suddenly, then tapering off; we watched as Sargassum formed small windrows of Sargassum natans VIII, then large clumps and aggregations of Sargassum fluitans, then massive mats of several species floated by. We found fish here, but not there; Nitrates deep, but not shallow; Sargassum large and small; Trichodesmium doing their important work. All told, we knew we were moving down the Atlantic, even if at first glance we wouldn't see it. All told, the ocean was telling us quite a lot.