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SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

November 12, 2015

Making Sense

Avi Vigdorchik, Muhlenberg College


Erin and Erica going for a mid-afternoon dip in beautiful Leigh

University of Auckland Leigh Marine Lab


Souls on Board

Secluded on a beautiful coastal waterfront campus only feet from the beach. Overlooking the pristine crystal clear water and untouched lush scenery of the islands around us. Being fed three gourmet meals and two delicious snacks with unlimited complimentary lattes to go with it. And limitless fresh fruit! Something that was scarce and hard to come by on the boat. However, much of our time at Leigh Marine Laboratory has been spent in front of a screen, whether it is skyping our parents or friends, catching up on events that we missed in the last few weeks or synthesizing the information that we collected. Essentially, we are attempting to understand the adventure that everyone, in their own way, values; and I can’t imagine a better place than New Zealand to try and do it.

Science is the easy part. You look at a bunch of numbers gathered from the countless neuston tows, bucket samples and CTD casts, plug them into Ocean Data View and get a pretty graph to extrapolate information from. But although data collection was a huge component of our cruise there was so much more to what we learned than simply the workings of the boat and patterns of the ocean. But what? Like many of the other students, I am lost for words when asked to explain why this was such a powerful experience. Explaining how gaining perspective from hauling on lines aboard a 135ft brigantine constantly surrounded by blue is a harder feat than one would imagine. Yet everyone on the other side of the phone expects and assumes that somehow this adventure had a meaningful life impact, whatever that impact may be. So now it is our goal to understand it.

Intermittent with hard work digesting the gathered data, many students find solace on taking walks within our beautiful environment. Some enjoy climbing cliffs while others stroll the beaches, and on these walks discuss the moments they found meaningful. Everyone learned something. Whether it was how to live in a community, what they wanted to do with their lives or why traditions matter the journey had significance. Tonight we had a “SPICE Moth” in which each student who wanted to was able to share what this trip meant to them specifically in the form of a story. Although the stories varied the themes did not. Almost everyone drew connections between how this voyage related to an experience earlier in life, helping them understand the concepts in a tangible and relatable ways. The importance of community and dependability, sustainability and conservation were no longer hypothetical ideas discussed in a classroom, but a real thing. Perhaps in college we would have been forced to cram our minds with more knowledge, but with the experience of living in a microcosm of a tall ship juxtaposed with island life, we were able to open our minds to new concepts, new ideas and new perspectives. And that makes us all better people. As Bex, our steward on the Seamans, says, “We are all measurably cooler people after leaving the ship.”

- Avi

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