SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
April 29, 2018
Crossing Lines at Sea
26° 42.7’ N x 066° 16.7’ W
Course & Speed
082°T, 5.4 knots
Four lowers (forestays’l, jib, mainstays’l, mains’l)
SSW winds, 14 knots; sea swells 3-4 ft., overcast
Time at sea is unlike time on land. Life passes in 6-hour, cyclic phases, where some days you work under the sun and others you work under the moon and stars. It is nearly impossible to differentiate between a Monday and a Friday, and time itself has very little meaning. Time simply guides the schedule that keeps the Cramer sailing smoothly and us feeling rested, fed, and happy. As long as everyone's watches and the ship's clocks are synced, life at sea carries on. Whether it's Monday at 16:00 or Friday at 03:00, we continue to use a compass, sun, and stars to guide our way, wake up by the chimes of a triangle and the voices of our shipmates, and study the ocean that continuously grazes our hull.
The Cramer has recently crossed an interesting oceanographic boundary. We have left the Antilles Current and officially entered the South Sargasso Sea. Ocean water properties are noticeably different in the South Sargasso: salinity has increased and chlorophyll-a fluorescence has decreased (a measure of productivity). The Sargasso Sea is formed by the North Atlantic Gyre, which is an oligotrophic zone, a region bounded by circular currents and defined by low nutrients and productivity. Our entry into this region is not only apparent in the oceanographic data we have been collecting, but also in the contents of our net tows. One way we measure biodiversity in the field is through a 100-count of zooplankton in our neuston nets. Before entering the South Sargasso, we had far more than 100 organisms to count, but our last 2 tows did not even have enough organisms for the 100-count. In fact, today, the C Watch lab crew found equal parts plastic to living organisms in their tow. Despite this rather depressing find, our C Watch deck crew was gifted a beautiful rainbow broad on the starboard bow.
Also today, during C watch's time at work, the Cramer crossed another invisible line in the ocean: a time zone. No one is sure exactly when or where, but we all set our clocks ahead 1 hour at 1400 and then continued on, unbothered and untouched by the new numbers on our wrists. Changing clocks on land in the middle of the day when most people are awake and working would be disastrous. That is because time on land is much more continuous and dependent on daylight. Time zones and spring/fall equinox time changes, in fact, are in place so that the traditional, western 8-hour work day is lit by the sun. On land, when the sun sets, we sleep. At sea, when the sun sets, the we continue on course and the scientists are hard at work, deploying the nueston net and retrieving surface water samples to study biodiversity and the zooplankton community. At sea, time is cyclic, and the night is neither ominous nor dormant. We are constantly moving and active at sea, something that makes this experience unlike any other.
- Dani Hanelin
P.S. Mom and Dad, I'm alive and well and so happy to be in the sun and at sea. Kate, Jason, and Illianna, I got the Sea Grant Internship! Illianna, I hope all is well and you have the very best graduation! Miss you all