SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
First day of shadow phase
29° 16.0’N x 060° 16.0’W
S. Sargasso Sea, Southeast of Bermuda
2 knots (Towing Neuston Net)
Forestays’l Main Stays’l, Mains’l
Wind direction: ExS, Beaufort force: 4, Cloud type: Ac, St, Barometer: 1017.6, Temp: 25.5 C
Dear Family and Friends,
First of all, I would like to start by explaining how surreal this experience truly is. With seasickness long gone, we can now experience and understand the wonders of the sea. The ability to walk on deck at any hour of the day and see nothing but deep blue sea and perfectly clear horizon is an incredible unprecedented experience for me. With no light pollution for hundreds of miles, you are able to see everything from ships in the far distance to a perfect celestial sphere in the night sky. I have become slightly fascinated with the other boats that we encounter in the high seas.
When I see a light on the horizon, I immediately rush to the dog house to check the AIS system. This informs us the ship’s name, the type of ship, the speed, the size, the destination and the CPA (closest point of approach). If the CPA is any less than 3 nautical miles, we must get in touch with the other ship and figure out who will change course in order to increase the CPA. As for stars in the night sky, there is nothing better. When I am standing bow watch, I search for my favorite star, Sirius. Sirius, among other stars, does much more than just shines bright in the night sky, it also helps us with navigation. This morning at 0535, A watch (my watch) had star frenzy. This is where we use our sextants and the stars to find our location! It is truly fascinating how it works. I am eager to show everyone when I get home! Thank you so much Grayson and Cassie for getting A Watch settled and informed about Cramer. You have put us in a prime position for the commencement of phase II, shadow phase. Special thanks to Anna for putting up with my lack of nautical knowledge and striving to teach me a new thing every day. You have been an incredible mentor to me. Also, kudos to Isaiah for teaching me the sail lines for the great pin rail chase even though he was on a different watch. What a team player!
Today was the first day of our shadow phase. This is the name for the second phase that occurs on board the Corwith Cramer. This means an increased amount of responsibility is bestowed upon us. This morning A watch had dawn watch, which we have every three days. I was woken up at 0100 and I was scheduled to be in the lab with Zoe and our new scientist for the shadow phase, Gabo. Gabo is from France and is extremely knowledgeable about marine biology. She can identify a species of a sargassum in a matter of seconds!
It usually takes me a few minutes. The major difference between phase 1 and the shadow phase is that the first week is basically one long orientation. We are bombarded with massive amounts of information about procedures on Cramer in order for us to familiarize ourselves with mother Cramer. Now that we are familiar with the specific procedures, we are given the opportunity to execute them on our own with little input from the mates or scientists. This morning in lab, Zoe and I split the 6 hour watch into two 3 hour chunks where we each took the lead. For the first 3 hours, Zoe guided Gabo and me through the alkalinity testing procedure and the neuston net procedure. Zoe led us through what is called the 100 count which is part of the neuston net procedure. This is definitely my favorite thing to do in the lab. We take a 1ml clump of what looks like grey clumpy jelly to the naked eye, and put it under the microscope. Here we are introduced to an entirely new world of different zooplankton. We go through and identify each species, some may be crab or lobster larvae while others can be copepods (there are always tons of these) or amphipods. We even look at tiny shrimps or mysids. We learn about specific biological traits in order to successfully identify each species.
After Zoe successfully lead us through the first 3 hours, it was now my turn. “What’s next for us Jack?” asked Gabo. With butterflies fluttering through my stomach, I gave my first order. I asked Zoe to begin counting and
organizing the plastic fragments and pellets that we extracted from the neuston tow. After the plastics were organized, I peered at my watch which read 0500. “Time for the surface station!” I announced. This is where we use a bucket to extract water from the surface, and test its PH, alkalinity and chlorophyll. I am pleased to announce that I successfully lead my lab team through the chlorophyll testing before it was time for star frenzy. The
independence given to us is addicting! I am counting down the days until I am in the lab again!
As our watch drew to a close, Zoe and I were preparing the end of watch summary for the oncoming watch at 0700. We were discussing how excited we were to crawl into our beds after this long dawn watch, when Sonia burst into the lab belting “Dolphins on the bow, I repeat dolphins on the bow!!” We drop everything we were doing and run to the bow where we lean over the front of Cramer. There, swimming at lighting speed in front of the boat were TWELVE dolphins! Zoe turns to me with tears in her eyes, “This is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.” It was such an incredible end to our first shadow phase watch. People are very superstitious aboard tall ships so this must be some sort of good luck/fortune!
P.S. HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESSICA!! I am thrilled to have been able to write the blog on your special day. I love and miss you tons. Mom, Dad and Winston, I cannot keep you guys out of my thoughts. Love you guys so much. Also Mom and Dad you will be pleased to know that my knots are improving and I know all 50+ sail lines! Nicole, we passed Charleston’s latitude two days ago, missing you more than ever. To my 13 boys, miss you crazy dudes every day. Till Thanksgiving!