SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
February 25, 2019
VolcaNO Place I’d Rather Be
Tauranga Harbor, 37°39.866’S x 176°10.671’E
Ship’s Heading & Speed
Anchored near Mount Maunganui
Wind SE, Force 2; Seas SE, calm; Partly cloudy, cumulus
According to my watch, it’s Monday, so I hope everyone had a nice weekend. Sunday on the Robert C. Seamans was spent sailing around Whakaari, an active volcano. That morning, having slept through breakfast after midwatch, I woke up to the sight of Whakaari framed by my bunk’s porthole. It looked like an enormous stone bowl looming out of the water. Patches of green covered portions of its rocky slopes and traces of yellow sulphur were visible from the ship. Called White Island by James Cook, the volcano pours out white clouds and, for those nearby, the smell of sulfur. Now uninhabited, Whakaari was used in the past as a sulfur mine until an accident took the lives of ten workers. Today, the volcano’s only human contact is with visiting tourists. C Watch had the lucky opportunity to furl the jib while taking in the awe-inspiring view. It was an amazing moment. We stood out on the headrig and flopped on top of the sail like human paperweights to fold it while looking out over pure blue water to an active volcano.
Stone islands of a bird sanctuary jut out of the sea near Whakaari. From the quarterdeck, we watched lines of gannets fly above the surrounding waters and swoop single-file behind swells before soaring back up. A curious little black-beaked gull also came to visit us. It hovered above the deck, nearly within an arm’s reach, and tilted its head, taking a good look at the inhabitants of the Bobby C. The little guy was particularly interested in Fin, our resident bird-whisperer.
This morning, I woke up to the deafening clanging of the anchor being lowered on the other side of the steel hull. I looked out my porthole and, instead of a volcano, I saw “HAMBURG SÜD” in bold white letters on a red background, the side of a cargo ship. We had anchored in Tauranga Harbor, a port at the base of Mount Maunganui, and the nearest to land we had been in a while. There was human activity all around: cargo ships, tugs, a sailing regatta, a lumber yard, and a truck barge named Skookum, all against the green mountain backdrop. Today was a brief break on our Wellington-bound leg. It was a day of card games, bacon piñatas (hard to explain), journaling, and relaxation. The ship’s company is taking the time anchored in calm seas to rest up and prepare to round the East Cape.
To my family: I miss you guys a lot, but I’m having a great time. I can’t wait to get back and share more stories from the ship. Mom, Dad, and Anne, I’m so excited to see you all in Christchurch. Tell Fosteroo, Jersey, and Levi hi for me. And Grandma Val, I’ll be on the lookout for paintable views.
- Hannah Gottesman, C Watch, Cornell University