SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
April 13, 2015
Up in the Rigging and Down in the Lab
34° 46.3’ S X 150° 11.8’ W
Just entered the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre
Course & Speed
Heading north at about 6 kts with the course ordered 000 and course steered 320.
Motor sailing with the fore and main stays’ls center lined.
A beautiful day out here on the water, with partly cloudy skies and the temperature hitting 23° C. It finally feels like we’re heading for the tropics! Winds have been light and variable, but that is expected to change with some incoming weather over the next day or two.
When I applied for SEA Semester back in early 2014 I knew that I was signing up for a semester unlike most study abroad programs. What I did not expect was to have my entire world turned upside down by a plethora of new and exciting experiences. Even with a hundred more blog posts I do not think that we could tell you all of the amazing things that we have been able to try for the first time, so I will just tell you about a few that were perhaps unique to me.
Yesterday afternoon I was able to do something that I have been waiting to do ever since arriving at the ship in Lyttleton. I was able to climb to the top of the rigging and look out across the vast expanse of ocean that lay on all sides of us. I had been aloft before for training, but only to the first mast platform. This time, I was able to climb all the way to the top of the foremast. Normally there is something to be said for a nice view, but this one simply took my breath away. It is easy to forget our place in the world, but up there, I was able to see just how small Mama Seamans really is in the middle of the South Pacific. The sun was just beginning to sink lower, behind a bank of clouds that was turning the sky a burnt orange. At over 100 feet above the water, swinging back and forth with the gently rolling waves, and the wind whipping past, was simply exhilarating. This was one of those feelings that you can only get in one place on earth.
Upon returning to the deck I switched gears completely and went into our lab to continue with my oceanography project research. My groupmates and I are working with a family of organisms called pteropods, looking at how they are affected by climate change. Pteropods are also known as sea-butterflies, but the most apt description I can provide is that they look like tiny snails with wing-like swimming appendages. Just about all of us here have done some sort of scientific research in the past, but I think it is fair to say that a few new aspects of the process come to light when doing research at sea that might not be immediately apparent on land.
For example, my group’s research involves a lot of microscope work. This does not sound overly complicated, but takes on a whole new dimension at sea. I never thought that I would have to tape my petri dish to the microscope to prevent it from sliding across the lab as we roll over a large swell. We also have to be careful with how much water is in the sample that we are analyzing, otherwise things will slosh and float around, making identification and analysis nearly impossible. All this considered, it is still thrilling doing this research where so few scientists have been before because it means that every discovery has the potential to be a first.
Out here at sea our little family on board Mama Seamans has grown closer than I would ever have thought. I would still like to thank all of the people supporting us on land and at SEA. I would also like to say hi to all my friends in Connecticut and New Jersey. A special shout out to my parents and brother in New Jersey; I miss you guys a lot, and thanks for always supporting my adventurous nature. Finally, to Jess; I love you and I miss you more than ever. I think about you every day and especially when I look up at the stars.
From the other side of the world,