Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Busy Time

It’s Tuesday, June 2nd, and in a week we will be approaching Honolulu. It’s been quite a journey aboard the Robert C. Seamans, and it’s hard to believe that our time together will soon come to an end. The thing about being on a ship for five weeks is that it’s enough time to really get into a routine, and our lives have been filled with personalized wake-ups, hauling on lines, snorkeling in remote places, and walking with a wide stance to accommodate the motion of a rolling ship.

It’s a very busy time. Students are collecting their last few samples, analyzing their data, and preparing for final presentations and papers. Sometimes it seems like we’re spending more time with our spreadsheets than with our pillows. But even though our hours of sleep per day are diminishing, the big picture is finally coming together – taking a very close look at the mountains of data we’ve been accumulating over this entire trip and trying to draw some conclusions about this understudied and very intriguing portion of the ocean.

Since Fanning Island was our last port stop before we end the journey in Honolulu, we are now on the longest open ocean leg of the trip – 10 days at sea, which are filled with lots of sailing, science, and weather. This is the most wind and swells we’ve seen all trip, and I was certainly reminded of this when I was on lookout last night and got completely doused by a wave that came over the bow and into the ship. Not to worry though – I was smiling the whole time. In addition, the ship has been heeling about 30 degrees to the left for the past day, which makes all of us look very funny as we’re walking, leaning sideways in order to stay upright. A few of us are trying to stage a protest against the law of gravity.

As we approach American waters, we are starting to encounter a bit more traffic, although there are still days when we don’t see anyone. One of the most interesting interactions we’ve had with another vessel occurred yesterday, when during Dawn Watch Erica spotted a small sailing ship off our port bow. Kevin, our Watch Officer, made contact with the vessel and talked to the captain, whose name was Yoda, and in his words, had a “very large crew of one”. We were very excited to hear more about this guy, and crowded around the radio as Kevin asked him questions. We learned that Yoda was sailing by himself for six months from Honolulu to Brisbane, Australia, with many stops in between. Yoda was from Israel and gave us some good information about the weather ahead – some more wind, but not too much rain. You really meet some fascinating people out here on the high seas.

Tomorrow, we are beginning a new “phase” of our academic journey on the Seamans: JWO, or Junior Watch Officer, phase. During our time on the ship, we’ve been working under our Watch Officers Scott, Ryan, and Kevin, and our Assistant Scientists Maya, Laura, and Kelsey. As we have become more and more familiar with ship operations, we’ve been given more responsibility, and have been in a “Shadow” phase for the past two weeks. During the Shadow phase, we followed our Watch Officers and Assistant Scientists around, taking note of how they communicate with the Captain and other leadership, how they make decisions, and what regular responsibilities they have during watch. In JWO Phase, we will be the ones in charge of making sure that everything gets done on deck and in the lab. It’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s so exciting to think that it’s only been a month since we started and we’re now ready to take this big step in leadership.

Overall, things are running smoothly on the Robert C. Seamans, and even though we’re all buckling down on our projects, we’re also becoming quite sentimental in this last week on the ship. Living on board has truly become a way of life for us, and it’s hard to believe that we’ll soon be back on terra firma, with tall buildings, cell phones, cars, and fresh fruit all around us. For now, we’re maximizing every minute, squeezing everything we can out of this truly unique experience.

Fair thee well,