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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer

November 11, 2020

“Planet, Planet-mates, Self”

Aileen McDonald, A Watch


Above: Aileen presenting her Oceanography project; Below: bright pink sunset taken from the bow

Present Location
22° 49.47’ N x 078° 41.63’ W

Ship’s Heading, Speed and sail plan
Motoring 7.8 knots heading on a course of 305° PSC.

Winds coming from East by North at a Beaufort force of 3; Calm seas with wave heights of 1ft; Sunny and warm; Temperature of 30.5° C.

Souls on board

Today has been a phenomenal day aboard the Cramer! It was our first day of Oceanography presentations to share the research we have been doing throughout the trip with the entire ship community. Before we began presenting, Jeff talked about how all of us should feel confident about our work, as we have been researching and collecting data throughout the trip and know more about our specific data sets from this time than anyone else in the world, which felt greatly empowering. There were awe-inspiring and insightful presentations from Sara, Nora, Campbell, Olivia, Raechel, Ethan, and myself. I had so much fun presenting as well as learning from all of the other presenters! I look forward to all of the other presentations in the next few days!

After our Oceanography presentations this afternoon, Captain Sean made an announcement to ask if people would be interested in having a swim call, and there was unanimous cheering! The water was a beautiful bright blue and looked so clear. Swim calls have such an amazingly special energy to them: it is a time when everyone comes together and purely enjoys the moment we are in.

Later during watch, I went to the galley with Lucia to help with dishes, which was so much fun! I have found that whenever I am in the galley doing dishes, my mind wanders and I often think about various parallels between the ship and our world as a whole. My favorite concept recently has been based on our motto here of “Ship, shipmates, self.” I love this motto because it expresses the importance of caring for the ship, our shipmates, and for ourselves. We must care for the ship to ensure a successful journey (boat checks every hour, field day, morning chores, etc.) We must care for our shipmates because we are strongest when we all work together and take care of our community (checking in with each other, making announcements at class time, taking time to get to know one another, etc.) We must take care of ourselves because it is important that we are able to do our best when standing watch and to be able to enjoy our time here (sleeping enough, eating well, making time for self-care, etc.)

When I was in the galley doing dishes, I had a revelation while filling the sink with soapy water as we do to limit the amount of water used for dishes. It occurred to me that here on the boat, we work to conserve water and fuel, knowing that we have a finite amount of fuel on board and can only make so much water a day with the water maker. These  conservation efforts are a smaller scale of what we should be doing for our planet. Earth is our ship throughout this journey that is life, and our sustainability efforts on a global scale would be much more successful if each of us thought about our use of resources and sustainability as that of a ship: “Planet, planet-mates, self.”

Connections between the ship, ocean, and our world seem to come so naturally here. The feeling of being disconnected from the world while connecting deeply to our experiences and ship community has made me feel connected in ways I never imagined. I have learned so much about the ocean (I had no idea copepods were so abundant at the sea surface!) as well as so much about myself (Learning to trust myself more about the knowledge I have obtained and to leave my comfort zone often!)

As I wrote the blog this evening, Olivia came and told me that I should take a break and go on deck to look at the bioluminescence. There were beautiful sparks and flashes in the waves as the water crashed along the sides and bow of the ship. Bioluminescent organisms are like fireflies of the sea!

Looking at the bioluminescence with Olivia made me think about the meaning behind the light those organisms give off. There is so much value in wondering and wanting to explore more, in which we should all embrace “Planet, planet-mates, self” into our lives both from an environmental perspective and the perspective of making the most of our precious moments here on planet Earth.

- Aileen McDonald, American University 2025

PS (from Aileen):  To my family, I love and miss you all so much! Thank you so much for encouraging me to do this program, I have loved every moment and can’t wait to tell you all about it! To my sister Elise specifically, I love you so much and I can’t wait to give you the biggest hug ever a week from today! I’m looking forward to meeting your new hamster, Anna! <3

PS (from Lucia): Mom and Dad – I reread your response to my email when I’m feeling homesick and it makes me happy. I’m relieved to know that Luna is doing well and I can’t wait to see you all. I can’t help but count the days until I’m home. Today I had to do dishes during watch which I always dread, but Aileen helped me and we talked and got it done together and it really wasn’t so bad. I feel really supported by the people here and I’m so grateful to have met them. We also had a swim call today which I loved – the water was calm and warm. I couldn’t get the thought of sharks out of my head though as I jumped in (haha). I worked on my project a lot today and finished identifying 39 myctophids. I’m presenting on Friday. It looks like my hypothesis isn’t supported and there aren’t any significant trends, but I’m trying not to be disappointed by that. I learned valuable skills working on this project and realized how much I love identifying! I think I did the best I could considering the watch schedule and just everything going on all the time. Can I please have pesto pasta when I come home for dinner? And pumpkin ice cream for dessert? Say hello to everyone for me! See you in a week! Love, Lucia

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 Rochelle Kruger on November 12, 2020

Aileen, your report is so beautiful, so emotional, and so informative.  Of course, as your Gram, I am biased, but I am sure others reading it will agree.  I don’t know who is more excited about seeing you next week but a good guess would be your sister, Elise, who says her best friend is coming home.  Have a wonderful last week.  My best to all others on board for making this adventure such a good one.  Gram

#2. Posted by Renee on November 12, 2020

Loved your blog Aileen! From the PHENOMENAL to the fireflies. When I read your opening line, I was so happy! That is your word! We all can’t wait to hear more when you get home. Miss you and Love you!!!

Love, Mom

#3. Posted by Miki Fato on November 12, 2020

Dear Aileen
Thank you for the wonderful blog and for allowing Lucia to append at the end.
Lucia we are so excited you will be home soon. Luna and all of us miss you so much. Yes we will have pesto pasta, ice cream , pumpkin bread and lots of goodies. We are so proud of all that you have accomplished. Good luck on Friday!  We may also have castagne as they are in the stores now.
Enjoy your last few days at sea.
Sending so much love. Mamma.

#4. Posted by Christine Sullivan on November 13, 2020

Dear Aileen and crew mates,

I am so impressed with your program and the experiences you are sharing. It takes a strong and courageous will to endure your adventures so far away from home and out at sea no less! I am very proud of you, you should be so proud of yourselves.
I shared your blog with Caitlin, and I think this adventure and learning experience would be something Shealeigh would like to do. We’d love to hear more when you return home. 

Safe travels,
Christine Sullivan

#5. Posted by Amy Belmore on November 13, 2020

Aileen! Reading your blog makes me want to go back in time! I love that you’ve embraced this incredible opportunity to explore, reflect and learn about yourself and the world around you!  I remember our chat pounding the pavement before you left and still picture you climbing those masts smile  Have fun & stay safe out there!

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

Great post, Aileen!  Thank you for helping my Lucia with the dishes and letting her write too!  Enjoy your final week on the ship, lots of lessons learned and great memories to cherish!  Big hug to everyone, Zia Anna



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