Friday, June 12, 2009

Thoughts at the Journey's End


The Stanford At Sea 2009 Class Returns

All voyages come to an end, and we have reached our final destination - Honolulu. 38 Students and faculty, crew and Captain have sailed over 3600 nm together. It has been a successful trip, and we’re deeply touched by the strong bonds of our shipboard community and the memories of this voyage across an expansive Pacific oceanography and cultural community. We faculty have a deep admiration for our students, who have mastered sailing and navigation of this tall ship through the strong easterly trade winds which brought all of us back to safe harbor here in Honolulu. We sailed in under the guidance of Captain Phil, with Ethan Estes at the helm and all hands on deck to throw our bow and stern lines ashore.

The end of a passage is always a challenging time emotionally. There are conflicting feelings of wanting to be ashore again-to savor our terrestrial world; but also the recognition that our remarkable time together, discovering a new world for many as shipmates on this incredible sailing vessel has finally come to a close. I know for sure that each one of us who made the passage will think deeply about our time on the RCS, reflecting on our voyage of discovery, the explorations of new places, and the growth one garners from the physical, emotional and intellectual challenges of being at sea for five weeks on a tall ship. I have been thinking about how much of our time is spent outdoors in this program- and how little we experience the natural world 24/7 at home. Some students have decided to remain on board during the “Turn Around” period when the ship is made ready for the next sail from Honolulu to San Francisco. We look forward to seeing the ship again in Monterey, Ca. in the summer.

I recall as a student on Westward (w-49) the challenges at this juncture- the excitement of wanting to tell the story to others- but the difficulty of leaving a ship you’ve called home over a remarkable period of discovery. We gathered the class, and they all received their equator crossing “certificates” along with a “graduation pin” from SEA- and we took moment in this our last class gathering to open an envelope signed and sealed on the first day of class. In the envelope we had put index cards with our thoughts from day one when each one of us wrote about what we hoped to gain from the voyage. I will share below a few of these words from our students, written on day one within the first hour of meeting. It is uncanny how in March, many of us wrote down our hopes and dreams for this particular voyage - and sure enough, I think this particular cruise track truly delivered beyond expectations:

“ I’m here to understand the ocean first-hand, to feel what it is like to move a ship with only human effort and the wind, and to make myself a better, more complete person in doing so.”

“ An unparalleled sense of community. A love of the ocean and its beauty. Awesome memories: feeling of accomplishment for all we’ve done! More knowledge than I could have gained in a classroom in years. An appreciation of sleep and life’s other small blessings”

“I want to swim with a shark, and stay up on watch under the stars. I have wished and dreamed and hoped to do this all my life”

“Appreciate Earth and Oceans. Make Lasting Friendships. Know what I’m going to do with my life!

“Safe Passage, Comraderie, Discovery”

For the students and faculty of S-223, we’re home now and all of us will move on- but few of us will forget what we’ve accomplished together. Passages through expansive portions of the Pacific Ocean across two Hemispheres. A voyage through remarkable places in Polynesia where a moving and deep cultural history was shared with us by experts from Tahiti, to the Tuamotas, the Marquesas and Hawaii. It has been a super trip, and a wonderful group of students. We look forward to seeing everyone on campus, where the research, stories and memories from this voyage will be shared. Aloha and Mahalo to all.

- Dr. Barbara Block

41 comments:

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