SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
May 14, 2021
Signs of Spring
40°42.4’N x 068°32.6’W
Weather / Wind / Sail Plan
Sailing on a port tack close reach under the four lowers. Wind NW/1, seas NW/1 ft. Clear skies with a visibility of 5-11 nm.
Description of location
72 nautical miles ESE of Nantucket
As I was sitting on the quarter deck today, a yellow warbler flew from port-side and perched on one of the shrouds. With its butter-yellow belly and rich sweet-sweet-sweet call, the bird would have been a marker of spring back home, alongside bright pink azaleas and thunder. Over the past week, similar small reminders of spring have appeared, all swept away from land: patches of pollen floating by while we met for class, a single mosquito perched on the nozzle of a Niskin bottle.
Time has an odd way of passing on board. In the middle of the North Atlantic with everything in constant motion, there is no familiar progression of spring. 18-hour days blur together in a wonderful mess of learning curves and good food. With the ocean as vast one day as it is the next, I have found my own way of keeping track of time over the last month and a half: by the birds.
There was the week of the frigatebirds: large black birds with dragon-like silhouettes that hovered by the dozen over the fort at Dry Tortugas. Then there were the three brown pelicans that cozied up on the top yard. At the advice of a friend, I laid on top of the forward deck box to watch them fidget along the beam that night. There were the flocks of cormorants in Delaware Bay and the odd assortment of sparrows along the coast of New Jersey. There was the weather system that brought in a flock of barn swallows, leaving one puffed-up and shivering on top of a porthole in lab. And then today-- today was marked by northern gannets. I saw them right before lunch as I was preparing to deploy the hydrocast during a morning science station. As we shuffled the carousel down the deck, I saw a pair fly past the bow. The thick-billed, grayish birds were a first for me, adding to a growing list of firsts from that morning: my first time leading a hydrocast deployment, my first time running a morning watch, my first time collecting a sediment sample.
I’ve been seeing signs of spring recently—little marks that show up unexpectedly and remind me how differently time passes outside the Cramer. As we approach the end of May, it is interesting to consider how I’ll distinguish these final days from the ones that came before it: certainly by the nerves and excitement that accompany leadership and the unmatched support of my watchmates, but also by a pair of gannets and a stray finch that found a temporary home on the headrig.
- Sydney Marie Jones, B Watch, Carleton College