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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

February 17, 2015

Greetings from Russell

Maravilla Clemens, A Watch, Colby College

The Global Ocean: New Zealand

Students and some staff with the performers at Waitangi. Photo by Claudia Geib

Anchored in Russell Harbor

Clear and warm with a colorful sunset

Souls on Board

I have the good fortune to be writing this from the bow of our ship the Robert C. Seamans, nestled down with some tea and overlooking the sunset. The boat is blanketed in the kind of quiet that only follows a full day of adventure and excitement. This morning we rose before the sun to catch the ferry to Waitangi across the bay. By the time we arrived the sun was out and shining for our stroll to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where we reunited with two of our dinner guests from last night—Mori Rapana, a man who has vast knowledge concerning Maori history and tradition, and his mentor Matua Wiremu Williams, a Maori elder whose openness and insight never ceased to amaze us. Having such wonderful guides and teachers with us made the experience exceptionally remarkable. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds hold much history, as it is the place where the British presented the Treaty of Waitangi to a number of the great Maori chiefs in 1840. While the Treaty was only signed by a handful of chiefs in Waitangi, the signatures of many prominent chiefs served as a catalyst for the signatures that would follow as the Treaty travelled from north to south. The Treaty of Waitangi remains controversial even today, namely due to the differences between the English original and the Maori translation, making it unclear as to what both sides were agreeing to. One of the largest arguments is over whether the Maori forfeited sovereignty as stated in the English version, or merely allowed for some British governance to have influence in the area as was depicted in the Maori translation. While many Maori rights have been restored, there is still a long road to travel towards bicultural unity. Today, our guide Mori described the Waitangi Treaty Grounds as a space that is rich in both Maori and British history, and therefore a prime spot for collaboration as well as for educational lessons of the history of New Zealand (Aotearoa in Maori).

After learning more about the social impacts of the Treaty of Waitangi, we were brought to a beautifully carved open-walled shelter that covered four waka, the traditional canoes of the Maori. Unlike the canoes that we use back at home, which may fit three people and potentially a cooler for lunch, these canoes are magnificent and larger than any we ever could have imagined, with one weighing just under 12 tons. While these are not the great wakas that carried the Maori across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand, they are hand-made replicas constructed using the old methods. No power or steel tools were used to make these vessels, only traditional blades of stone and shell. We had the enormous pleasure of viewing these while listening to Matua Wiremu Williams tell us stories of how they were made and the traditional navigational methods Maori used. He explained how the great head of the canoe, which reaches towards the sky in intricate carvings, provided both physical and spiritual balance against the head winds and the gods. He also told us how the Southern Cross constellation can be utilized as a compass, giving us a better understanding of the new and different sky of the southern hemisphere we have been seeing nightly. Perhaps the most incredible methods he shared with us involved the reliance on marine mammals. Birds were often followed near sunset as they travel towards land at night, and the “trail of the whale” (named Pikopikowhiti), created by an oceanic river of krill which whales followed and fed on, was often used as a pathway as it passed near Waitangi. As sailors and students of the sea and its navigation, it was enlightening and interesting to hear how others have historically traveled these same waters.

After viewing the wakas we were told the story of how Waitangi gained its Maori name. As the story goes, a beautiful Maori princess once lived in the lands. Her beauty drove men from all over to pursue her until her father hid her in a cave offshore. With only dolphins to befriend her, it is said that her lonesome wailing could be heard at night as she cried, leading to the name of Waitangi, which translates to “crying waters." Our historical education continued as we walked upwards to an outlook over the bay, where a marae is contructed. The marae is a traditional Maori meeting house, and I cannot imagine a better setting and place to see one up close for the first time. We were greeted at the entrance by Maori performers, who demonstrated a greeting song and dance before welcoming us in. We were then treated to a number of traditional chants and songs, all in Maori, as well as the more recent “action songs” that include guitars and incorporated movements. Each performance was preluded with an explanation of its meaning and purpose to Maori, including the usage of poi balls and sticks to enhance balance as well as taihas, club-like Maori weapons. It was engaging, entertaining and educational, and all of the students gained a greater understanding of Maori music. At the end, they requested that we share a song from our homeland as well, and Professor Mary Malloy led us all in a booming rendition of “Cape Cod Girls”, a sea-shanty that has become very popular aboard the Robert C. Seamans. Afterwards we were treated to a delicious lunch that had been prepared in a hangi, an underground stove in which Maori customarily cooked their foods. We left the Waitangi Treaty grounds with very full bellies and
heads stuffed with knowledge.

After a heartfelt goodbye to both Mori and Matua Wiremu Williams, the group split up on various adventures around Waitangi and Russel. After hours of exploring we gathered back on the ship to discuss our various discoveries over yet another delicious meal and snacks provided by our steward Lauren. Stories described hikes to mangroves, ideal swimming spots, delicious ice-cream shops and even oyster farming. While we will be sad to depart from the Bay of Islands, it is with great joy and anticipation that we look towards tomorrow when we will begin our thirteen day passage to Wellington on our new home, the Robert C. Seamans.

“Whāia te iti kahurangi Ki te tūohu koe, me he maunga teitei”
Pursue excellence—should you stumble, let it be to a lofty mountain

- Maravilla

Previous entry: Bay of Islands Welcomes Us    Next entry: Heading to Sea


#1. Posted by Rick and Trine Clemens on February 18, 2015

Maravilla, thank you for the detailed descriptions. Every aspect sounds amazing!  What an incredible experience you all are having (even if you didn’t get to carry the 12 ton wakas down to the sea).  And what a wonderful way to end your exceptional day…. On the bow watching the sunset.  I was moved to read that on the other side of this incredible planet you continue to find comfort and bliss in your favorite places grin

“Mā te rongo, ka mōhio; Mā te mōhio, ka mārama; Mā te mārama, ka mātau; Mā te mātau, ka ora.”

Through resonance comes cognisance; through cognisance comes understanding; through understanding comes knowledge; through knowledge comes life and well-being.

Much love from all of us to all of you, and may your passage be filled with following seas, fair winds and wonderful experiences. 


#2. Posted by Papa on February 18, 2015

Maravilla, I always enjoy reading your writing. You have no limitations in life’s adventures if you allow your imagination to be in control.Look forward to hearing from you.  Love Papa

#3. Posted by Papa on February 18, 2015

Maravilla, what beautiful and informative writing .I am so pleased that you are learning and enjoying your adventures at sea. Love Papa

#4. Posted by Cathy geib on February 18, 2015

Good luck to all on your 13 day sail. Claudia we miss you but are so excited for this next part of your journey!
Mom and Dad

#5. Posted by Valerie Adair on February 18, 2015

Jill, This is turning out to be quite the adventure.  I am sharing your adventures with my middle schoolers and they are fascinated too.  Enjoy your 13 days on the water.  Hope the experience is everything you expected and more.
Love you, Mom and Dad

#6. Posted by Pendy Colman on February 18, 2015

Hello Emma,

I love reaffirmed by the posts and can only imagine all that you are learning. The canoes sound exquisite and how lucky for you to meet people from Russel and hear the stories first hand. It’s very cold in Iowa and I envy the sun and sea that you will be sailing in your next leg of the journey. I’m going to go watch Charlie and Dad plat Tennis inside of course and then home for a hot bowl of chili.All is well at home with everyone and I keep them updated on your adventures. Safe travels and I love you so very much EC <3

#7. Posted by Peter Jones on February 18, 2015

As I was reading the opening sentences of this post, my music shuffled onto Kiri Te Kanawa singing from her 1986 recording of South Pacific. This prompted me to download her album Maori Songs. Cleveland is blanketed in the kind of quiet that follows a forecast of -11 overnight temperatures, but thanks to this descriptive blog and Kiri’s music, I can almost imagine how it is down there. Bon Voyage.

#8. Posted by Suzy Akin on February 18, 2015

At the risk of boring you all, just so you know, it’s still snowing in New England. How well planned was this trip??  Snow or not, though, I have to say, everything you are writing makes me wish I were traipsing around sea and island with you.  So great to hear about your adventures.  Send us reading recommendations!


#9. Posted by Maureen Daley-Maravilla's Mom on February 18, 2015

Yes.  I am OFFICIALLY jealous.  This looks like it could be a scene from Whale Rider!  Did the wakas look like the one they made for Pai in the movie?  New Zealand is now on my bucket list for sure.  Maravilla, I am wondering how you are doing brushing all that hair with codfish bones?

The world is so small.  Two teachers I work with took a voyage on the Robert C. Seamnans in 2005!  It was an overnight voyage from Long Beach California to San Diego California.  They sang its praises although they said they got in trouble for winding ropes badly.

Have a safe and glorious voyage to Wellington!!

Have a safe and glorious voyage

#10. Posted by Kim on February 19, 2015

What a great and informative blog! And thank you so much for the picture! We were starting to wonder if Kyle was actually there on the voyage with you as we haven’t seen him in any of the other pictures, so again thank you for that one. All of the smiles on your faces is very comforting! Yes it is still snowing here in RI. Bruce is in Minnesota for a work/play trip, and there is little snow there which is putting a damper on his much anticipated snowmobiling adventures. Kyle, you will be missed as we celebrate Jenna’s 16th birthday on the 24th but I will share your blog with everyone that day, as it should be posted on or the day before the celebration! Love and miss you! Mom xoxo

#11. Posted by Lenore Kriteman on February 19, 2015

#10. Posted by Lenore Kriteman-Maravilla’s Grandmother on February 19th, 2015

Hi Maravilla,  How wonderful to hear from you and read about your exciting and educational adventures. We are so
happy that you are having this extraordinary journey.

We look forward to hearing more about your voyage.  Have
safe and fun sailing.

Miss you lots.  Love, Bubbe



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