SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
April 26, 2017
Feeling pretty tropical
23° 19.0’ S x 147° 57.0’ W
23° C; Wind ESE F5; Seas ESE 6 ft.; Sky 6/8 Cu, Sc; Baro: 1016.5
Sailing under the Mainstays’l, Tops’l, Course, Forestays’l, and Jib.
Just one of the things I never imagined I would truthfully say: This morning around 0330 Sammi and I spotted land for the first time in twenty-seven days. We were standing on the science deck after deploying the Neuston net at 0121 (later than usual but science never sleeps). I noticed an amorphous darkness on the horizon directly in front of where we were looking and questioned my own eyesight. Although it was dark outside, the mass appeared too dark to be a cloud and definitely not part of the ocean that we’ve become so accustomed to looking at. I mentioned it to Sammi and we both stood in question for a few minutes until finally she noticed a blinking red light near the middle of the blob! Land! We had been anxiously awaiting its appearance all day but to no avail. It was an exciting treat to wake up to but unreal all at the same time as many of the experiences I’ve had thus far have turned out to be. In the most amazing ways.
The first night at sea most definitely stands out in my mind. It seems as it was years ago as days don’t pass in any conventional way onboard. We left Lyttelton under calm seas, the weather was fair, sunshine abounded; it really couldn’t have been any more perfect. We got right into the watch rotation with myself and the rest of A watch starting evening watch (1900-0100). Talia and I were assigned to the lab. In my regular life I’ve been working on a boat for several years but in generally protected waters so was slightly concerned about getting seasick. I thought this may happen if we got into some weather or seas got rough etc. I did not expect this to happen several hours after taking off. Not to mention that as my position as ‘sailing intern’ I’m supposed to be setting the example of proper behavior, helping out when I can, and supporting the students as much as I’m able. That first night I felt worthless.
I did my best to maintain as well as I could but there’s only so much faking you can do when you’re physically ill and are trying your hardest just to keep your balance and your stomach from turning. I remember trying to pay attention and grasp all of Helen’s instructions about the lab procedures that we were expected to learn and be able to execute ourselves in the weeks to come. At the time it seemed like the most impossible task in the world. I remember in the midst of it Helen making a comment about how some people never got over the seasickness and I feared that I may be one of those unlucky few.
In spite of all the internal fears and physical discomfort we somehow managed to complete the task at hand which was deploying the Neuston net. And soon after we did, magical things happened. There had been dolphins sighted earlier in the watch, coming and going around the boat occasionally. After we threw the net in the water however, they really came. Like twenty of them. And they weren’t just here and there, they seemed to be investigating (what we now affectionately refer to as) Newsty. They were outlined in phosphorescence which made for one of the most beautiful displays of charismatic mega-fauna I have ever witnessed. Glowing dolphins, with glowing trails behind them, seemingly swimming in and out of each other. Amazing. I felt at that point that all the intense discomfort of the past six hours had been worth it. I also felt that it was all going to be ok.
I would accurately classify this trip so far as a roller coaster of highs and lows. The seasick/dolphin experience was just the first of many to come. One of the many lessons for myself has been finding the comfort in the discomfort. Not getting too caught up in what you think may seriously suck right this moment because it is only temporary and chances are something mind blowing is just around the corner.