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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans

July 30, 2018

Swim call

Nate Johnson, C Watch, Amherst College


Above: Captain Rick Miller and AB Spranger taking measurements using sextants. Below: Nate jumping off of the bowsprit, although it is in Kanton lagoon, not the middle of the ocean. Photos by Nate Johnson.

2º38.3’ N x 173º51.6’ W

Heading and Speed
320º, 7.5 knots

Clear skies, no wind and hotter than you can imagine

Souls on board

Hello everyone, it is I, Nate Johnson, back to bring you another blog post!

As we sail further from Orona, the ocean around us begins to grow and consume the horizon once more. There are no more reefs to snorkel at, and the ocean floor has once again dropped to 5000 meters below us. We are currently sailing towards the northwest corner of PIPA, where we will find Winslow reef, a seamount that lies just below the surface. After we have reached Winslow reef, we will again sail south, this time towards Nikumaroro, our final island destination, before hightailing it to American Samoa to bring this wonderful voyage to an unwanted end.

During afternoon watch yesterday, Brian Desrosiers and I were about to start our daily deck wash with the fire hose, when our watch officer, Foretek, called us off and told us to store the hoses. I was searching for a reason why we would be stopped so suddenly, until the general alarm began to ring, and the shouts of "Fire in the galley, this is a drill!" began to ring out around me. Students and crew alike began to bustle about, closing vents and water tight doors, taking in the sails and securing the galley as we would in the event of a real fire. The two saltwater fire hoses began to shower the ocean, as there was no need for their spray anywhere on the boat.
In just about six minutes, the boat had been secured and all crew accounted for, and Captain Rick gave us the all clear to restore the boat to normal operating conditions, except for the sails and helm.

Captain decided to give us a swim call, as we had set the sails to be 'hove to' during the fire drill, which is a method for stopping the boat by countering sails so that they try to turn against each other. After allowing everyone the time to change into swim suits and set up the ladder off the port side, Captain Rick called down from the quarterdeck to say "The pool is open!" Some of the more impatient people on deck jumped off the side immediately, while the more adventurous among us climbed out to the bowsprit as we had grown accustomed to while in Kanton and Orona.

The mid-ocean swells brought us to new heights, literally, as the rolling waves not found around the sheltered atolls rocked the bow up and down, allowing us to jump from much higher above the clear blue water below. Although this was not our first swim call, it certainly felt much different, for with the nearest atoll miles and miles behind us, we could truly appreciate the magnitude of bobbing in the swell of a seemingly endless ocean. Charlie Schneider probably summed it up best, as he turned to me and said "this is probably the biggest pool I've ever been in." He's probably right.

On a less relaxing note, our chief scientist, Jan Witting, decided that it was time for our scientific skills to be assessed as part of our Oceans and Global Change class. Earlier today, all of the students on board worked through a lab practical exam, designed to show him what we had learned through all of our deployments and analysis. Along the way we were asked to interpret graphs of temperature, salinity and chlorophyll-a, and use the information to guess where those measurements were taken in regard to one another.

We also did our best to remember the differences between the Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler, the In-Situ Fluorometer, the Thermosalinograph and all of the other high-tech equipment on board. We were asked to identify zooplankton, tie knots behind our back (although that was for extra credit), recall the steps for deploying the hydrocast, and figure out what was wrong with a Neuston net setup, among many other things.
Although there was much stressful studying, last minute cramming and frantic answer writing, I'm sure the rest of the students on board would agree with me in that we have learned an absurd amount in the last few weeks and it really points to the sheer amount of meaningful data we are collecting on a daily basis and the determination of the students and crew to process and analyze all of this information.

Today also marks another milestone for the trip; only two weeks left! There's still so much left to do that the end seems impossibly far off, but it does start to set off alarms in the back of my head saying 'You need to finish the methods for your research project! When are you going to edit your paper? What are you going to put in your policy addendum?" For now, I will send those thoughts to the backburner, because I can smell Sabrina's fresh-baked focaccia from the galley!

- Nate Johnson, C Watch, Amherst College

Hello Family! I'm still alive, only slightly sunburnt and just one Portuguese Man O' War sting under my belt. I'm making the most of my time and my slideshow grows ever larger! I'll have so much to share with you when I get back. Love you all!

Categories: Robert C. Seamans,Protecting the Phoenix Islands, • Topics: s281  pipa  research  polynesia.  swim call • (2) Comments
Previous entry: “Did you see anything cool?”    Next entry: Winslow Reef


#1. Posted by Julia Baker on August 01, 2018

Thank you for the wonderful picture of Annabel (AB)!

I think of you all lots. Fair winds and following seas, Seamans souls.

#2. Posted by Mark Johnson on August 01, 2018

Hey Nato - thanks for the blog.  Awesome photos and stories from you and all your shipmates.  Your bowsprit jump made the SEA Instagram post today.  Have a great time over the last two weeks.  Can’t wait to see you soon - I can tell you the story of how I saw man-o-wars on the beach in FL when I was a kid, and I thought they were grape bubble gum bubbles! smile



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