SEA Currents: Corwith Cramer
February 02, 2020
Williams-Mystic Students Visit St. John
The first day of February, Saturday, aboard Cramer was full of science and sail handling. The trade winds allowed each watch had the opportunity to practice gybing the ship as land was once again on the horizon. To prepare for a field trip ashore on, we diligently struck the sails and dropped anchor in Francis Bay on the island of St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
In the afternoon, students had to opportunity to go "up and over:" climbing up the port side rigging of Cramer's foremast and down on the starboard side. Many said it was a highlight of their time at sea so far! Students are also busy working in pairs on their science presentations, preparing reports and posters which interpret the incredible amount of scientific data we have collected during our time aboard. When they're not working on their poster presentations they are rotating through small group tutorials in which they interpret these data (along with their newfound life at sea) through the lens of the humanities for a truly interdisciplinary learning experience.
Students stood Anchor Watch overnight, taking twice-hourly anchor bearings (in addition to the usual weather and boat checks) to ensure that the ship held its position. Excitement was high as we thought about what might await us onshore the next morning! Sunday after breakfast we loaded Cramer's small boats and headed ashore for a wet landing on a pristine white sand beach. Unlike the busy cruise ship port of its neighbor St. Thomas, St. John is a smaller, quieter island (just twenty square miles), mostly covered by the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park.
We hiked through the park, observing and sketching the tropical flora and fauna, to the ruins of Annaberg Sugar Plantation. Students learned about the Triangular Trade, Middle Passage, and environmental degradation caused by sugar plantations in the Caribbean. It was especially moving to read aloud Alphaeus Osario Norman's poem "Amina Negros," which chronicles the 1733 uprising of the Africans enslaved at Annaberg, where the events of the poem took place.
After Annaberg, we made our way down and along the shore to Waterlemon Cay, where students were briefed on coral reef biology and safety. Then it was time to snorkel! Students who had never snorkeled before got the hang of it quickly and were soon cruising the reef like pros, spotting a variety of corals, urchins, baby barracuda, grey snapper, and lots of tiny colorful reef fish. We returned to Cramer, weighed anchor and by dark we were sailing, this time westward on a broad reach as the sun went down on another incredible day of the Williams-Mystic Offshore Field Seminar S'20.