SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans
September 27, 2016
Welcome to American Samoa
14° 16.5’ S x 170° 41.5’ W
Pago Pago Harbor
Ship’s Heading & Speed
A cool and unusually cloudless night for this rainforest of a South Pacific island
Family and friends of S-269 SPICE students and crew,
Day one of life aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans has come and gone!
Since arriving in American Samoa, students have experienced quite the plethora of shipboard activities. For the first couple of days, we as the professional crew throw a hopeful handful of spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks in their brains. The day started with wake ups and breakfast in two seatings of C watch and Others (non-watch standers) and A and B watches.
Sleepy and jet-lagged the night before, students were bright-eyed and action-eager this morning. Following our first S-269 program meeting, which included crew introductions, the newly formed watches jumped into watch standing orientation. All hands then reconvened for a yummy lunch.
After lunch, more fun ensued. Program time consisted of a bus ride to American Samoa Community College, where the group met Professor Reg Meredith Fitiao, M.F.A. and her husband, Su’a Wilson T. Fitiao. Su’a is a title of respect as he is a master of tatau, traditional Samoan tattoo.
Both spoke beautifully on the power and importance of cultivating and perpetuating one’s culture. Not only are Reg and Wilson masters of their respective crafts, they also live this mentality by teaching others, particularly the next generation. Their presentation articulated this passion and the beauty of Samoa with pictures of the vibrant environment, impressive tatau, and the gorgeous art of tapa, painted tree bark canvas. As the lecture progressed, it was simple to see the deep connection that these traditional art forms carry for Reg and Su’a Wilson. They each elaborated on the symbolism and mana or earthly energy associated with the designs and characters used in every piece, whether that be flowing through seed to bark canvas or boar’s tusk to skin.
We returned to the ship at approximately 1700, in time for boat check and lab orientation stations. These stations, which continued after dinner, are crucial to our success at sea as they highlight safety measures and precautions in every space of the ship. As assistant engineer, I’m consistently amused at the students’ surprise about how hot and/or loud the engine spaces can be. I look forward to teaching them more about the numerous systems and machinery that essentially allow us to be our very own Pacific island between port calls.
Earlier in the day, Wilson described his work, his and his wife’s art, as having an omnipresent identity, an evolving personal story, not only of his life, but also the lives and culture of his people. Working aboard this ship, in many regards, feels much the same way. This community we are building day by day lives and breathes. The ship and the sea become a part of you. The students may not realize this yet, but with some luck, they will come to discover it readily. We have a wild ride ahead of us and I know I’m not alone in my excitement to get underway!
Here’s to fair winds and following seas,