SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
March 30, 2015
Sciencing to the MAX!
43° 56.7’ S x 176° 33.6’ W
Docked at Waitangi Harbour, Chatham Islands
Course & Speed
075 degrees ordered, steered 131 degrees into harbor, 3-5 knots
Sailing under the four lowers with engine assist into port
Sunny skies, pleasant winds, 3ft seas
Today marks just our 3rd full day out on the open seas! The Chatham Rise has treated us well, and in my case, has really put the world into perspective. The Pacific is a huge place! We've currently travelled over 400 nautical miles by pure sail and are due to touchdown in the Chatham Islands this evening! Weather has had its ups and downs; last night we cruised right on through a squall with winds/seas of a Beaufort Force 7 (look it up if you don't know what I mean!). It was quite the experience to be at the helm trying to maintain course with rain pelting my eyes and waves rocking and rolling everywhere. But despite last night's adventures, today's conditions have been nonetheless perfect, sunny and calm (for the most part!). We've been under sail with the assist of the engine for the past few days because the winds had not been in our favor. Just last night, after passing the antemeridian, 180 degrees longitude (WOOOO!), winds shifted and we were able to cut the engines and sail Mama Seamans like she deserves to be sailed. 180 degrees marks the International Date Line in the rest of the Pacific, however, New Zealand thinks having the Chatham Islands in a different day is too much of a hassle. Instead they enforce a 45 minute daylight savings, because that's easier right? We will time warp back into the past soon after passing the Chathams.
What has been four days has felt like an eternity, with each nap in between watches feeling like a different year when we wake up. Our watches run 0700-1300, 1300-1900, 1900-2300, 2300-0300, and 0300-0700, and each group rotates through everyday, leaving only a few hours of rest at the end. Watch roles differentiate from deckhands, assistant steward, assistant engineer, dish duty, and labbies (aka lab duty) each watch cycle. My favorite is lab duty, especially when we are deploying our wonderful gadgets!
Today, we completed a morning station at 0930 where we deployed a hydrocast, Neuston net, and phytoplankton net. To get on station, we must double gybe and heave to in order to halt the movement of the ship. Prior to any
sciencing, we must make sure the poop is turned off (we would hate to have our own sewage water in our lovely samples!). The hydrocast, a carousel containing 12 niskin bottles and a CTD, is eased over the ship via a winch
and then lowered to a specific depth. Our station today was at 435 meters, and we sampled up to 400 meters with the hydrocast. Each of the 12 niskin bottles are programmed to close at a specific depth in the water column;
therefore, when we bring the hydrocast back on board, we have 12 water samples from different subsurface water masses. These water samples then get processed for alkalinity, pH, and chlorophyll-a, among other parameters. The Neuston and phytoplankton nets are rigged to float at the surface while the deck crew tries their best to keep the ship at a zooming two knots. While typically we find copepods, euphausid & mysid shrimp, amphipods, and other larval species, today's tows were full of salps! Salps are gelatinous creatures that link together to form floating chains, and our nets were lucky enough to cruise right through one. The next round of labbies had the pleasure of sorting through all the goop to analyze the remaining little critters under the microscope.
These past few days have been absolutely unreal: seeing bioluminescent dolphins, crossing the antemeridian, seeing the southern cross for the first time (queue Jimmy Buffet song), battling our first squall, all leading up to our arrival to the remote Chathams and our journey thereafter. I find myself staring at the ocean around me and ask myself how I got so lucky to be sailing the Southern Pacific. Who else do you know who has done that in their lifetime?! I am so thankful to be here doing what I love, and want to send thanks to all my friends and family for supporting me and helping me embark on this journey.
As of 1600 Chatham time, we have successfully completed our first leg of the trip and are currently docked at Waitangi Harbour in the Chatham Islands. LAND HO!