Saturday, June 1, 2013

At Anchor off London, Kiritimati Atoll, Kiribati

On small wonders –

Over the first three weeks of this voyage, I’ve found that the sensory and emotional panoramas with which we’re blessed are a product of countless details. Having chosen to observe at nose’s length for most of this voyage, I’d like to train a microscope on life out here and give some consequential tiny things their due.

Several of us aboard S-247 have been geeking out on the miniscule. Projects range from fishes’ blood cells to tiny mollusks called pteropods to plankton’s daily vertical migration, sinking organic particles called marine snow and medically valuable cyanobacteria (formerly blue-green algae.) Sub-centimeter phenomena like these act on a global scale; they represent livelihoods for millions of species and affect the contents of our larders, our medicine chests, and the air we breathe.

Grand implications aside, we temporary inhabitants of the Pacific feel the effects of small wonders daily. Some are intentional: when walking the deck, one notices sharp corners padded or filed down, hooks and latches to tame entropy and expertly stitched leather shields to keep lines from wearing through. These thoughtful touches keep us intact. Many small wonders are whims of nature to which a scientist must respond: swarming zooplankton means applying zinc oxide war paint, winding miles of hydrographic wire and jigging for squid in the dead of night. Others are a confluence of artifice and chance: this afternoon, taut fishing line sang in the wind, making music for a placid day at anchor. Most small wonders just are: somehow, waking to bioluminescence swishing by my portlight redeems all four hours of dawn watch and ship cleanup after breakfast.

 Such brief thoughts and stories are the drifting fodder for each whale of a day that passes at sea. Though they don’t all make it to the blog, small wonders will continue to stack up, stick with us and shape our mindsets on the return leg.

There’s nothing quite like the open Pacific and its sky to remind one that we ourselves are tiny and that size is so relative it ought not be tied to significance. With this in mind, the tiny creatures aboard the SSV Seamans begin their migration north, bringing with them all the experiences we can carry.

Thanks for reading,


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