SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
December 11, 2015
Blue, blue, blue, blue, blue
13° 52.8 ’ N x 60° 21.1’W
Description of location
30 miles off of St. Lucia and closing!
I think in almost every blog, the crew has mentioned the slipperyness of time out at sea. How six hours can feel like twelve, but three days blur together into one. And now, suddenly, startlingly, we are anticipating sighting land after almost a full month at sea. Land will bring green back into our lives, after a month of blue, blue, blue, blue.
Earlier this trip someone asked me what my favorite color is. I responded by pointing to the shirt I was wearing: ice blue. I have many shirts that are this shade, one that is simultaneously rich in color but almost white. I said at the time that this was kind of the color of the ocean. I realize now that I was wrong.
The color of the ocean far from land, the purest water, is a deep cobalt blue. This blue is all the light that touches the surface of the ocean and is scattered and reflected and sent back to our eyes. With nothing in the ocean but water, mostly, the color is deep and dark. In areas with lots of productivity, the green phytoplankton turn the ocean into an aquamarine color. It is startling to see when you pass such an area, but on our trip we have not seen that as much. Instead we have been surrounded; out in the middle of the Atlantic it has seemed as if the deep blue water, cut by the white caps on the swells, goes on for eternity in all directions, both towards the horizon and down towards the depth. The light doesn't penetrate all the way down, of course - if it did the ocean would be the color of the seafloor. Instead the deep blue reflected back, hiding what is below the surface.
At the horizon, the color changes from deep cobalt to a pale white-blue. This blue is much lighter than the color of the sea, and it the color of my shirts. As you look up, the sky the blue becomes deeper and richer. At the top of the dome, the sky is the pure, classic sky blue. The blue at the the top of the sky is often interspersed with puffy white clouds here in the
tropics, further accentuating the purity of the color. The color of the sky out at sea changes wildly as the sun sets. As the light of the sun dips below the horizon, the longer wavelengths - reds, oranges, yellows - are refracted and reflected and last much longer in the sky. The sky can be lavender, magenta, orange, tangerine, yellow, hot pink, red, eggshell, rose and deep purples all at once.The blue disappears first, loosing saturation quickly to become an exquisite lavender, and then a dark navy-purple as the sky darkens into night.
But the blue of my many blue shirts, I've realized, is not my favorite color. My favorite color is a distinctive blue I have only ever seen out at sea, hundreds of miles from any civilization, on nights when the moon has not risen. This is the blue of the stars. The night sky is not black and white, as us modern, city-dwelling folk might believe. The background color is closer to a deep navy, but it shimmers, eluding a normal vocuabulary to describe color. Clouds that block the light from the stars appear black, which is the only way to know that the sky itself is indeed colored. The Milky Way is a green-white speckled streak across the northern portion of the sky. The stars themselves are a variety of colors, including pure white. Some stars, however, are reddish, some are yellowish, but my favorites are an electric blue-white. They are barely blue, but it's there, I promise. That is my favorite color, one you cannot see anywhere else.
The sighting of green land is just one of many signs that this trip is coming to a close at what feels like an exceedingly rapid pace. Today we also completed the styro-cast, sending Styrofoam cups down to 1800m below the surface to shrink them (and do end of trip maintenance on our hydrowire), one of the last scientific deployments we will complete on this trip! The students are also 48 hours away from completing their independent research projects and in the thick of the JLO (Junior Lab Officer) phase.
Wake-ups are getting harder as everyone is getting sleepier and the galley is completely out of lettuce. We are counting the days until we return to our families but savoring every minute, every shooting star, every sunrise, every watch in between now and then.
Janet: HAPPY BELATED 24th to Zoe Parker and 25th to Cody Gohl. Love you two to the moon and back, can't wait to see you the next time I'm in Brooklyn. Dan - can't wait to have a proper phone call when my phone works again, sorry our chat in the Canaries was so brief! Mom, Dad and Edgar - enjoy your winter and Christmas break travels, can't wait to see y'all in January.
Morgan says: Hey Mom and Dad!