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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer

November 12, 2020

Looking forward and looking back (with six days left)

Olivia Carson, A Watch


Above: A Watch takes timed selfies on Jeff's camera late at night in the lab; Below: Ethan presents his research project on drifting algae and associated mobile fauna; A view of the SSV Corwith Cramer from the small boat.

23 degrees 22.8’ N x 080 degrees 24.7’ W ≈150 nm due south of Miami, Florida

Ship’s Heading, Speed, and Sail Plan
Motorsailing under the Mainstays’l, Fish, and Tops’l, at 7.3 knots, steering 310 degrees PSC

Clear and warm with a lovely sunset, winds from the NE at Beaufort Force 3, waves from ESE at 2 feet high

Souls on board

Sitting on the quarterdeck in the hot sun and listening to my classmates present the many things they've discovered through their research projects, I reflect on a smaller discovery of my own: my favorite sentence in the world is, "Nobody really knows."

Each project presentation is a lesson not only in science, the scientific process, and the subject of the project like sediment or bioluminescence, but also in creativity, determination, resilience, enthusiasm, diligence, and wonder. Each project began with a question that did not have an answer, and it seems fitting that each project concludes now with more questions - questions with answers that we don't know, that nobody really knows. I like to imagine that all our unanswered questions have lives of their own now, and will go on to influence the projects of future SEA Semester students, or projects in our future, and hopefully they will inspire countless more questions in the endless cyclical process we like to call "science."

But "nobody really knows" is my favorite sentence for other reasons too. On the Cramer, every time I wake up, I wake up to unanswered questions. Where are we today? Will it rain? What are we doing this watch? How is the wind - strong or light; steady or variable; forceful and dramatic or more or less missing entirely? What about the ocean - is the current strong or gentle? Are the waves small and glassy or massive and whitecapped? What about the sky? Blue or grey? What about the clouds, and what magnificence will sunset and sunrise show us today? How will I be surprised today, or challenged today? What sails will be raised today? To what strange places will my watchmates' minds go this dawn watch? And, most importantly, what is for snack? Despite the regularity of the watch cycle, every day on board is unique and unpredictable, and every day I am surprised and overjoyed at the many unexpected moments I encounter. I go to sleep wondering what crazy new things will happen next, realizing happily that despite schedules and plans, weather reports and maps, the only thing I can be certain  of is that nobody really knows.

I have come to realize that "nobody really knows" is not a stopping point or a brick wall. Instead, it is a beginning, a jumping off point, an open door. In science and in life, it is not an obstacle but a promise of possibility, wonder, and surprise.

Five weeks ago, when I signed up to write this blog post, I had no idea what was going to happen on this trip. I could never have imagined the many incredible, stressful, exhausting, and exhilarating things that I and my shipmates have done, or the wild and ever-changing beauty that we have seen. Now, as the trip starts to come to a close and Key West draws ever closer, it is leaving that begins to feel like a huge, unanswered question. How will it feel? How will our families and pets react? Where will everybody go next, and will we still feel as close as we do now? How will this experience stay with us, shaping us and changing us, empowering and inspiring us? I guess none of us really know.

But now I am getting ahead of myself. We still have six more days, the sun is setting into a low bank of fiery-pink clouds over the horizon, and I have to be up in a few hours for dawn watch. I'm on deck tonight, so I'll have to be on the quarterdeck at 0050 for watch turnover. What will happen after that? I don't know. And I'm so grateful that however much we plan or think or guess, still nobody really knows.

- Olivia Carson, University of Pittsburgh, Class of 2025

PS. Mom, Dad, Daniel, and everybody back home≈I love and miss you so much and I can't wait to see you soon and tell you all about everything! Give Daisy some pets for me please. Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity and for always supporting me and encouraging me to go on adventures. Love you guys so so much. Also, can we please have ice cream when I get home? 

Editor's Note: In response to the coronavirus pandemic, all SEA Semester students, faculty, and crew aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer boarded the ship after strictly isolating on our Woods Hole campus for a minimum of two weeks, and after repeated negative tests for COVID-19. To ensure the health and safety of those onboard, the ship will not conduct any port stops and will remain in coastal waters so that any unlikely medical situations may be resolved quickly.

Previous entry: Reflecting on (almost) 9000 miles    Next entry: S-299, Summer Session


#1. Posted by Lori Novick-Carson on November 13, 2020

Beautiful writing and so happy to see your smiling face. We love you so much! We hope you all enjoy every minute of these last days.
Mom, Dad and Daniel
Crescent Ridge Double Chocolate is waiting for you.  (:

#2. Posted by Arlene and Alan Novick on November 13, 2020

Olivia, we are so happy for you and your shipmates. You are all having
such a wonderful experience.  In due time we will get to see all your pictures and hear all your stories.  We have missed you and love you.
You make us very proud.  Loved your blog. 

PS. We will miss all the blogs that made us feel involved.

#3. Posted by Debra on November 13, 2020

Thanks for the terrific post and sharing the great photos! Love the lab shot in particular.

The questions you pose are particularly apt for all of us on land during these crazy pandemic times. I continually ask myself the same questions - How will this experience stay with me? shape me? empower and inspire me?

Wishing you fair winds and calm seas for the next 6 days.

#4. Posted by Zia Anna on November 13, 2020

Olivia, I graduated from PITT in 1983 undergrad and in 1984 with an MBA. Two Pittsburgh young ladies on the ship, you and my wonderful niece, Lucia! Give her a big hug from Zia Anna.  Enjoy your last week on the ship! Great blog post!

#5. Posted by Steve Carson on November 13, 2020

Miss you girl. Live your adventure and come tell us all about it!

#6. Posted by Barbara Carson on November 13, 2020

Thank you for a wonderful post. Love you and love following your trip, vicariously.

#7. Posted by Debra on November 14, 2020

Thanks for the terrific post and photos. I’m partial to the great shot in the lab.

The questions you pose are facing all of us on land: How will this experience (Covid-19) shape and change us? Empower and inspire us?

Wishing you fair winds and calm seas as you sail to shore.

Debra (Supi’s Mom)
PS Love to Supi!

#8. Posted by Valerie Tennant on November 16, 2020

These blogs and pictures have been so awesome to read. You all have helped us to feel as if we’re right there with you on the Cramer. Enjoy every minute of the last few days of this incredible experience.  Safe travels home to all! Sending an early birthday greeting to our Sara! Enjoy your 20th birthday with your amazing shipmates! Love and miss you, Sara Bean!! Mom, Dad, Clara and Woody



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