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SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

August 04, 2017

Reflections on the Voyage

Cassidy Manzonelli, B Watch, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Protecting the Phoenix Islands

Exploring Nikumaroro Island

Current Position
5°33.8’S x 173°29.3’W

Ship’s Heading & Speed
120° PSC (per ship’s compass), 7.3 knots

Sail Plan
Motor-sailing under the single-reefed mains’l, main stays’l, forestays’l, and jib

Easterly force 5 winds, ESE, seas 4 feet

Souls on Board

As I sat there yesterday on the bowsprit, looking out at Nikumaroro Island as we left, my mind began to wander to the events that have taken place in the last month. We arrived on the ship a month ago today in Pago Pago, American Samoa, knowing only the other students. We were thrown into this crazy community that we have all come to love. One of my favorite experiences happened sometime during the first week, just after we had entered PIPA waters. I was working in the lab for the evening deployment, and I was helping pull one of the nets out of the water. As I was pulling out the net, I realized that the net and the jar I was holding were glowing. As I unscrewed the jar from the net, some of the water splashed on my hands, and they were covered in little, glowing blue specks. That was one of the coolest moments of my life. 

A few days later I was in a similar place I am currently, being the ship’s lookout at the bow. Multiple dolphins danced under the widow’s net as my watch, B Watch, brought us into Kanton Island’s lagoon. When studying this island for the last five weeks as a tiny speck on the map in the Pacific Ocean, I had never imagined how massive it would be once we were inside the lagoon. The other side of the lagoon was just a thin line on the horizon from where I sat. The plate corals in the lagoon were the most impressive corals I have ever seen, stacked on top of each other from the lagoon bottom at 30 feet deep to about two feet below the surface in some places. 

While the coral was incredible in Kanton, each island had its own unique piece that differentiated each one. On Orona, I was able to participate in the lagoon trip to see the giant clams. I was Assistant Steward that day and had to wake up early for breakfast, so I was wide-awake at 0900 when we swam up to the island from the small boats. Once we got to the shore, we walked to the center of the island using the channel that connects the lagoon and the sea.  Neither the lagoon nor the island was as large as at Kanton, but the snorkel was worth the swim and walk to get there. Hundreds of giant clams engulfed the coral inside the lagoon. I never knew that giant clams came in so many bright and vibrant colors. Pinks, reds, teals, blues, purples, and so many more, they were absolutely breathtaking. 

Nikumaroro was the first place that I was not awake for the ship’s arrival to the island. When I woke up that day for a meeting and chores, I walked upstairs to find us moored to a shipwreck that was half outside of the water on the very shallow shelf coral that surrounded the island. The first day was full of excitement as we had “pool time” (a.k.a. a swim call). In the distance you could see the shy reef sharks swimming around, scared of the loud splashing coming from people jumping into the water. The next day, we were able to visit the island and explore after appeasing the superstitious people in our group by rubbing our face with sand, so that the spirits of the island did not think we were intruders. After seeing the lagoon, some baby birds, and many coconut crabs, we headed back to the ship for the night. Just after getting back, a few of us went aloft to see the island from above and watch the sunset from great heights. Yesterday, before we left, each watch was able to go on a snorkel mission on the reef near the ship. While the corals were scarce, the wildlife was not. The abundance of fish and sharks seemed the norm for the area that we were in, while B Watch had a special visitor who soared below us during the first dive, a large manta ray. 

There is so much to say in such little space. From the late night anchor watch to the six-hour watches when you’re completely exhausted, from the hot engine room checks to the chilly lab nights, and from being completely confused when people are talking to you because the Chief Mate is also named Cassie to learning something from every single person on this ship, this journey has been utterly incredible. I am torn because I can’t believe that this life-changing trip is almost over. While I wouldn’t want to change a single thing, I wish we had more time because sadly, there is only one week left before returning to the reality of fall semester. 

I want to give a shout out to my mom and the rest of my family and friends. I love you guys a lot! I can’t wait to tell you all about this amazing trip! To the moon and back. 
- Cassidy

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#1. Posted by GD Tim on August 08, 2017

Sounds like an amazing life experience.  I’m so glad that you’ve been able to take part in it.

#2. Posted by Ginger on August 11, 2017

So proud of you and excited to hear more about this experience! Love you Cass!



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