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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans


July 17, 2015

Siren Song

Christina Sun, Brown University ’14, University of Washington ‘17

Position
0° 58.150’S x 169° 42.0’W

Location
Motorsailing across the Pacific.

Wind
Beaufort force 2.

Ship Speed
7.5 knots against a countercurrent

Sail Plan
Under the forestays’l and mainstays’l

Souls on Board

I. Navigation
Course steered: 225˚with Toaea at the helm. He is I-Kiribati, an observer, mostly silent like Wind: Beaufort force 2. Not enough to make Speed: 7.5 knots against a countercurrent,
so under the forestays’l and mainstays’l we again find ourselves Motorsailing across the Pacific. Position: 0˚58.150’S x 169˚42.0’W

By nautical twilight you “shoot the stars” frenetically capturing angles by sextants, remnants of an ancient tradition like the wayfinding of Mau and Nainoa to plot locations using Navigator software in the doghouse, because in the expanse of the sapphire ocean it is far too easy to forget how far away you are from home: “Happy birthday, Dad” and “So he’s a mariner, too!”

II. Engine Room
Day Tank: 225 gallons, last time I checked every hour and on the hour Salinity: 435 psu from the water maker, which tastes like salt on skin left from evaporated sweat drawn from the ocean during “Neptune’s Olympics”, competition among watches to celebrate finally the crossing of the Equator just before midnight.

We discuss the merits of cutting hair and tatau, traditions that keep superstitions and spirits alive like so many before us who have gone- “Want to do a boat check?” into the nestled bowels of the Seaman’s machinery space, like Russian dolls in closer quarters.

III. Weather
“Pitch of 4, at the apex, and we saw some lightning heat in the sky behind us; it’s nothing to worry about now” as I am shadowing my watch officer during an apprenticeship over Seas: 5 ft tall SSE (oh, speaking of water, the Coriolis effect means that the toilets flush in the other direction now). Temperature: 30.5˚C, where it’s much cooler on deck at night just the waves splashing by the taffrail log, port lights from life below deck illuminating hazy clouds, and silhouettes shooting the breeze that keeps company.

“You have 20 minutes before watch starts. It’s nice out. If you want, bring a light jacket.” You are exhausted when woken from your reverie late to turnover and bleary-eyed like the Swizzle passed around Captain Pamela’s toast was grog or rum or whatever sailors drink these days- but it’s not, and you wouldn’t give up anything in the world not to be here, now.

IV. Science
Depth: 5823 feet and changing as we are less than 8 miles away from crossing the Phoenix Islands Protected Area where a scheduled deployment measures conditions underwater  - Temperature: 31.4˚C. Jan tells us to keep an eye out for any traffic, deterring illegal fishing activity unaware that this is a no-take zone. No birds observed. Chlorophyll-a: 2.2 thereabouts and no end to the blue expanse in sight. A vacuum sucks water samples that have filtered through net tows to be processed in frozen cuvettes and data entry.

We’re finally here at the end of the world, just like you said.

- Christina Sun

Previous entry: Anticipation    Next entry: Entering the Phoenix Islands Protected Area

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