SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
January 29, 2020
Williams-Mystic S20 over the Puerto Rico Trench
Greetings from the Williams-Mystic S20 class aboard the Corwith Cramer, where we are heading toward the Puerto Rico trench on calm water under a sky full of bright stars.
Tuesday afternoon we held classes on deck, in which Professor Kelly Bushnell led a discussion on the "greenhand" (nautical terminology for a newbie on a ship) experience in literature, such as Herman Melville's Redburn (1849). In the finest tradition of maritime literature, many of us are also keeping a journal of the voyage, and when not on watch you can find us relaxing on deck pen-in-hand.
In our nautical science class, Captain Heather and the mates taught us to set, strike, and furl sails. Some were so heavy it took many of us to haul the line. Throughout the days and nights, we are standing watch on deck and in the lab, to sail the ship and collect oceanographic data, respectively. Students are quickly learning the onboard routines and becoming valuable members of the crew.
In the onboard science lab, students are analyzing hourly surface samples for pH levels, microplastics, and more with the help of three assistant scientists. We learned how use the ship's hydrowinch to deploy scientific equipment, and each watch completed a Neuston tow yesterday to collect whatever is drifting at the very surface of the water: Sargassum is easy to see from the ship, but tiny zooplankton also end up in our net for analysis on board. In particular, we had some beautiful siphonophores, which Maggie from Carnegie Mellon and Casandra from Bryn Mawr reported on in class Wednesday.
Much of Wednesday we were accompanied by a curious minke whale. Because it was so calm, and because she was so close, we could hear her breathe and then look to see her fin. She showed us her underside and criss-crossed under the hull multiple times, while we watched in awe.