June 10, 2007. Aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans. We're within a day of seeing land. It's hard to imagine we've sailed 3,000 nautical miles in a triangle from Hawaii, through the Line Islands and back.
The sail home has been a good one, complete with periods of strong winds, a few squalls, some head seas that made things slightly uncomfortable, to times where we've had very little wind and had to turn on the motor to make sure we'd get back on schedule.
During the last days of the voyage, each student takes on the role of a Junior Watch Officer. This is the pinnacle of the nautical science portion of the program. The JWO is in general command of the ship, and gives commands to her or his peers. I hear students, not mates, calling out all maneuvers.
In addition, the students have all been busy preparing and presenting their scientific results from their research projects. We've heard terrific results, from a report of the phytoplankton diversity along our cruise track, to an explanation why white sharks and sea turtles might hang out in cyclonic eddies south of Hawaii or along frontal boundaries where jellies abound.
The Line Island projects showed fascinating results on predator and herbivore diversity. This year's data allows us to fill in some gaps from prior cruises. Over three cruises, we've biologically sampled all the Line Island atolls (Kiritimati, Tabuaeran, Teraina, Palmyra and Kingman).
For fun tonight, we're conducting a "styro cast". Everyone's drawing pictures on a regular coffee-size styrofoam cup. We put them all in a net bag, send them down to 3,000 meters (9,000 feet), where the pressure shrinks them -- and the illustrations -- into demitasse-size. -- Barb Block, chief scientist