SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 14, 2015
Otago Harbor is a broad estuary formed behind a steep hilly peninsula of the same name, far down the east coast of the South Island. It's shallow and muddy. You could walk across most of it in a good pair of waders, save for the long sinuous ship channel that runs up its length to the wharves at Dunedin. Stone walls were built on the mudflats to hold back the silt, long ago and at great human cost, and at low tide you can still see their grown-over green spines bordering the shallows. Now the channel is marked by scores of red and green beacons, close enough together that they remind me of the stakes we use to mark our driveways, back at home when it snows.
It's cool and bright and windy, in what would be mid-September back at home. We're at 46 degrees south latitude, just past halfway to the south pole. With no continent nearby, the air has a different feel to it, and the sky is in more or less constant motion, pushing long skeins of cloud around the hilltops as it goes.
Dunedin itself is a college town, with historic stone buildings crowded around students on bikes, teaching hospitals, and cheap Asian restaurants. It's a down-under version of Ann Arbor, or Gainesville. We've made friends at the marine lab here, and after a great reception at their facility on Friday, we opened the ship up for public visits the next morning, hosting nearly 500 people in 3 hours.
We've chosen to stay an extra day, here at the top of this bay at the bottom of New Zealand. Tropical cyclone Pam is forecast to pass about 600 miles northeast of us tomorrow on her way towards the southern ocean, and with luck, the passage will leave behind a band of more moderate southerly winds for the sail back to Christchurch in a day or two. The time gets put to good use, as all hands turn to for a particularly ferocious "field day" of scrubbing the ship. Everyone is in good spirits, moving with the willful synchronicity that emerges in the latter stages of a good cruise. I clean the mirror in the aft cabin, and look back at its spotless reflection for the fourth time in as many weeks. I make a mental note to clean my own mirrors at home, when I get back there.