SEA Currents: phoenix islands
Reflections on the Voyage
As I sat there yesterday on the bowsprit, looking out at Nikumaroro Island as we left, my mind began to wander to the events that have taken place in the last month. We arrived on the ship a month ago today in Pago Pago, American Samoa, knowing only the other students. We were thrown into this crazy community that we have all come to love. One of my favorite experiences happened sometime during the first week, just after we had entered PIPA waters.
The Adventures of Smew
This afternoon we, the crew of the Robert C. Seamans, departed our anchorage at Nikumaroro and set forth back into the deep blue expanse of water someone named “The Sea” or “The Ocean” quite a few years before I was born. We waved goodbye to Nikumaroro as our view became shrouded by an oncoming squall and our attention shifted to the path ahead, rather than the port stop behind.
Believe in the Unbelievable
When I applied for this program, I knew I’d signed up for doing research on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I never would have believed, however, that I would be moored to a shipwreck off a deserted island (rumored to be the island Amelia Earhart crash landed on, no less) talking to my friend, Nic, about how to do statistical regressions on my ocean productivity data while reef sharks and tropical fish splashed and prowled in the waters 5 feet below us…
My day started at 00:30, when I woke up to Veronica whispering my name. Twenty minutes later, I was standing on the deck in the moonlight ready for dawn watch. On the northern horizon, we could barely see the dark stripe that was the island of Nikumaroro. There is a particular spot by the island where we wanted to do our scientific sampling, but we planned to approach it during the day. So we had a pretty unusual watch, in that we were hove to (stopped) all night, drifting slowly with the wind.
Reflections on PIPA
Hello all ye land lovers. Things are going well for us out here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We have had a good last few days with our fair share of scientific deployments and sail handling. It has been a particular pleasure of mine to finally participate in the full work load. At first, I had an unfortunately severe amount of complications from sea sickness. guess that is what a mountain man gets for trying to be a sailor.
When our story left off we were anchored in Orona, one of the numerous (relatively) untouched island atoll oases comprising the Phoenix Islands. Today we are back underway, sailing under the four lowers towards our next terrestrial target, Winslow Reef. While I’m feeling slightly woozy from seasickness induced from being back underway, I will attempt do justice in recalling the beauty and wonder of snorkeling with the giant clams in Orona’s lagoon…
Holding my Breath
I’m holding my breath, because I have been asked to find the green orb and place it on the horizon. I’m holding my breath, because I’m navigating through an endless-blue-nowhere by the light of the star that is mine, because I picked it; I know its name, and it’s the only one I can see out of the black waves stretching a thousand miles in every direction and the black sky stretching millions of miles in front of me.
I don’t think there is an adequate way to write a blog that encompasses all of the events and emotions that have happened over the past few weeks. The SSV Robert C. Seamans doesn’t take her company through the middle of the Pacific Ocean without some testy moments and times of utter confusion. Coming from someone who has only sailed a small Sunfish boat and almost crashed it into a jet ski (hehe love you, Hannah), I never thought that in only two weeks I would be able to understand and sail a 134.5 foot brigantine vessel which is comprised of 86 lines; all the while living with 38 shipmates whom I’ve mostly just met.
Nothing about SEA Semester is easy. From memorizing all 54 lines of the ship, dealing with sea sickness while still expected to complete your responsibilities, to doing daily clean ups in steaming hot weather after 6 hours of dawn watch, every task pushes me beyond my limits. There are days I feel incapable, times I’m upset, moments I miss home incredibly, but what encourages me to face new challenges during the start of every morning is what Cassie, our Chief Mate who was our Watch Officer, said to my watch the first day:
I do not get homesick.
I was raised to be independent. My younger brother and I were given every opportunity to flex our self-reliance. From very early ages, we were encouraged to follow our passions and seek out new experiences-no matter how far from home they took us. We didn’t have to worry or fret; we were secure in the knowledge that our parents were at home, patiently waiting for us to return to them.