For those of you at home still curious about the outcome of our Moot Court, the judges decided in favor of the town (arguing against private landowners for greater legal recognition of public rights to access the intertidal zone). However, it was always less a matter of competition than of making sure we all had our arguments prepared and got out of there alive—which we did. In fact, everyone did well and we were feeling pretty good afterward. Katy was great in putting everything together and helping us through it, and I think we felt we’d lived up to her hopes.
We were also flattered by the company of the two judges: Derek Langhauser is a Williams-Mystic alum who has been counsel to a U.S. senator, the Governor of Maine, and the Maine Community College System, and co-founded Williams-Mystic’s Moot Court with Katy. Our second judge was Susan Carney, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Both of them were very gracious and encouraging toward us, both during the session and afterwards.
Last week was Whaling Week, coinciding with our reading of Moby-Dick. We learned about whales and whaling in various ways throughout the week, concluding with the whaling seminar on Friday, in which Jim, Lisa, Glenn, Rich, and Katy all presented (Rich even arrived decked out rather flatteringly as the White Whale himself). We covered whaling historically, as well as current policy issues concerning the ongoing whaling practices of countries such as Japan and Iceland.
One of the highlights of the week was an evening at the Spouter Tavern with Don Sineti, who teaches the Chanteys class and is something of a whale expert. In fact, as we learned, Don and some of his colleagues were partly responsible for the sperm whale becoming Connecticut’s state animal. Only a couple of weeks before meeting with us he had attended the annual Whalefest in Sitka, Alaska.
Don sang for us several classic sea chanteys that whalemen might have sung, accompanying himself in most cases on the banjo. Between these foot-stompers he spoke to us about different types of whales and passed around several artifacts including a whale vertebra, some examples of scrimshaw, and a container (provided by Jim Carlton) of real whale oil. Had a curious smell, not quite what I’d expect.
Several of us have been taking advantage of our nocturnal Seaport privileges to read Moby-Dick on board the Charles W. Morgan, the last wooden whaling ship in the world, which is currently nearing the end of its refurbishment and is preparing for a voyage in the spring. It’s a unique feeling to read Melville’s words while lounging below decks on an actual whaling vessel, especially at night with only your fellow readers around you—the creaking of footsteps above as someone comes to join makes you try to imagine that the creaking is of someone else a long time ago, but then it’s really impossible to get your head around all the souls that may have passed along those planks (or planks similar to them, since the boat has been rebuilt in various sections several times).
We are now embedded in the dreaded Week 13; lore has been related to us, but we’ll have to find out for ourselves. This is the week in which drafts of final papers must be made real…
A couple of weeks have passed since our grand Hawaiian expedition came to a close, and it seems that the adventures from now on will be purely intellectual. In other words, the days of stress have arrived.
After such a packed schedule on our trip, we had a long weekend and some days of respite that were well appreciated. Just a week later came Family Weekend, where we students got the chance to show our folks around and gain a new appreciation of Mystic through our visitors’ eyes (and maybe get a free dinner or two).
But for the most part, it’s been back to business. Now that our field seminars are finished, final projects are becoming reality. One of the first things to attend to as we shifted back into gear was the Marine Policy research paper. The first step was a proposal submission, which we completed before heading to Hawai’i; the next step has been to contact people who are involved or know about our subjects. We have a pretty wide array of topics, with coastal land rights, invasive species, and protection of endangered species among the issues being explored.
Policy has been on our minds even more this week, because it’s Moot Court week. Every semester, students receive a briefing on an actual case and are assigned to one side or the other for a simulation of Appellate Court procedure. This year’s case is between private landowners in Maine and the town of Wells. In most states, private beach property does not reach below the high water mark, but in Massachusetts and Maine, it extends to the low water mark. The town of Wells in this case argues for the public right to recreate in this intertidal zone, whereas the landowners consider the allowance of such recreation a taking of their property. It’s been a somewhat rigorous week of preparation. In addition to readings, we’ve had evening meetings to work on our arguments, guided by Katy and fellow Rhode Island lawyer Brian Wagner. The court meets Friday morning—I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Unfortunately we haven’t had any more lab field trips for Oceanography and Marine Ecology. That time instead is now reserved for independent research, to be used in our final projects for those classes. Oh, the samples to be taken. And we can’t forget the other two final projects: History and Literature. We’ve just selected topics for our final history papers, which will draw from primary sources in the Mystic Seaport archives. For Literature we’ll each choose a book to read and compare with the material we’ve covered together in class. But that will have to wait just a little longer, because our reading assignment this weekend is none other than that spectacular tome of cetological brilliance, Moby-Dick. Buckle up, baby.
Well now, I hope you haven’t been too heartsick going without a W-M blog for the past couple of weeks. Hawai’i turned out to be even busier than I’d expected and those in charge instructed me to drop the communiqués until things had settled down. And settled they have: this week we are getting back into normal Mystic life, attending classes, and gearing up for our various projects. But let’s turn back the clock, all the way to October the Fifth, and try to uncover the Hawaiian experience.
Unfortunately we did so much on this trip that it will be impossible for me to recount all of it without losing considerable steam, so we’ll aim for the highlights. Three Saturdays ago, in the early morning of Oct. 5, we hopped a bus for Hartford where we flew to Chicago, then on to Honolulu. Not a bad trip. On the plane they showed Monsters University (I’m covering the important bits here, folks), which made Garrett and me laugh heartily.
Once in Honolulu we literally jumped right in as we ran straight into the water when we arrived at the beach, only to discover quite a lot of coral and rocks. The excellent faculty and staff brought us dinner to eat at the beach, and then we headed to the East-West Center of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where we’d be staying for the week. It was a nice set-up, something between a dorm and a hotel. We also had several meals on campus at two of the dining halls. Eloise, who worked at the breakfast one, always seemed delighted to see us.
(A brief sidestep here to point out which faculty and staff were on the trip: professors Jim, Katy, Lisa, and Glenn, as well as trusty staff members Steph, Ali, and Morgan. Our beloved Mary O’Loughlin and Megan Flenniken were doing a lot of coordination from back home, and Prof. Rich had also arranged with many of our guest speakers for the trip. Cheers all around.)
We got a really wonderful beginning to our first full day in Honolulu. At Diamond Head Beach Park, we met with Dr. Sam ‘Ohu Gon III, a practitioner of traditional Hawaiian ceremonies, who led us in a welcome ceremony on the beach. He mixed Hawaiian waters with the Atlantic waters we had brought with us; we all wet our feet in the surf, and Sam sang a Hawaiian chant of welcome. He was very friendly and we talked with him afterward while we ate some breakfast on the shore. One thing we learned from him, which we recalled several times through the trip, is that according to traditional Hawaiian belief as well as good common sense, “you never turn your back on the ocean.”
Next we hiked to the top of Diamond Head (Le’ahi) for an excellent view of Honolulu and had our first series of lectures from the faculty before heading back down. From there we drove to the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, which holds some of the world’s best exhibits on Hawaiian culture. Then a brief stop at ‘Iolani Palace, which served as a royal residence from 1882 until the U.S. overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893; Queen Lili’uokalani was later imprisoned in the palace for eight months. We had dinner in Honolulu’s Chinatown at the Little Village Noodle House, then returned to the East-West Center and turned in a little after 8:00 PM.
That was just our first day—and we didn’t slow down after that. To describe each day in full would take forever, so here I’ll list just some of the excellent experiences we had:
- Toured the Honolulu Fish Auction: definitely some people’s favorite tour of the trip, we got to see heaps of all kinds of fish freshly unloaded from the boats in the early morning, and observed while the auctioneer at one section began calling out for bids at light speed. A lot of the fish, once bought, goes straight to an airplane for export. Later in the day we saw a very different kind of fishing business when we visited He’eia Fishpond in a more rural part of the island. This pond was created about 800 years ago and recently has undergone restoration to counteract the effects of various invasive plants.
- Toured Honolulu Harbor on the research vessel of a W-M alum
- Visited two shipping companies, Horizon Lines and the smaller Pasha Group, and toured one of Pasha’s massive roll-on/roll-off cargo ships.
- Pearl Harbor was closed due to the governments shutdown but we did get close, and we took a tour of the USS Missouri, a legendary battleship and site of Japan’s formal surrender at the end of WWII.
- Walking tour of Waikiki Beach, the heart of tourism in Oahu; later in the day, Glenn led us in a sweet surfing session here.
- Waimea Falls, a gorgeous park on the North Shore that holds great significance in traditional Hawaiian culture; some folks took a dip here, others just walked the trails and enjoyed the peace
Now on to the Big Island, the one that’s actually called Hawai’i. It’s a newer, larger island, and a very different scene from Oahu, with fewer tourists.
- Walked, and crawled, through Kaumana Cave, a lava tube formed in 1881 by lava flow from Mauna Loa, the largest of the island’s five volcanoes.
- Threw in a morsel of public service, picking up marine debris at Ka Lae, the southernmost point of the U.S. Some of the debris that arrives here is thought to have originated in the Japanese tsunami of 2011.
- More lava stuff: spent some time at a beach made of hardened lava from a 1990 flow. Then visited Lava Tree State Park, where past lava flow has left rocky moulds of trees.
- Snorkeling in Kealakekua Bay: we swam around observing fish and coral within sight of the monument to Captain James Cook, who was killed here in 1779 in what we might call a communication breakdown with the Hawaiians.
These are just samples from a really packed week-and-a-half. Throughout all of this we had lectures from our professors, as well as experts in all kinds of fields who agreed to donate their time and meet with us to share their knowledge of Hawaiian culture, ecology, literature, and policy. Also worth mentioning is that a significant portion of the original itinerary had to be scrapped because of the government shutdown. We were meant to spend our nights on the Big Island at Volcanoes National Park, but as that was closed our wonderful Mary O’Loughlin back in Mystic found us a hotel in the town of Hilo instead, which turned out to be perfect. Several activities/meals had to be reworked within a few days and it all came out great, so all of us students feel pretty impressed by, and grateful to, our faculty and staff.
After our return we had four days free, but now it’s back to business. This week, we’ve had a historical walking tour of nearby Stonington Borough, along with our first sessions of data collection for our science projects. This weekend is Family Weekend, then who knows?
F’13 Student Blogger
When last we met, the Williams-Mystic gang was still settling into the routine of maritime studies. In the past week, things have picked up quite a bit: we’ve had a literature paper due, as well as final project proposals for Marine Ecology, Oceanography, and Marine Policy. With daily readings thrown into the mix, it’s been a somewhat stressful week at times; fortunately, there’s usually something to pick up your spirits if you’ve been spending too much time at a computer. So far, that autumn weather has brought all its beauty without much of the chill, which has made for some lovely outings in the area.
Last Thursday evening, we all went aboard the steamboat Sabino, which took us on a tour of the Mystic River out toward Long Island Sound, returning just after sunset. Over the weekend, several students took a break from reading about Hawaiʻi to go apple picking at a nearby orchard.
A highlight of the week for this blogger was Tuesday’s lab, which included the Marine Ecology and Oceanography students. We drove over to Barn Island Marsh, around fifteen minutes away, and the weather was perfect. We put our knee-high boots to good use walking out to the very edge of the marsh where it meets the water. Professor Jim Carlton introduced us to some of the life there, such as Saltmarsh Cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and the marsh mussel (schadium). We could also hear the crickets, though we didn’t see them. At the water’s edge, Professor Lisa Gilbert had us extract (with some difficulty) samples of the soil to examine deposits over many decades, looking for evidence of past hurricanes.
On Thursday afternoon, we all met to go over the itinerary for Hawaiʻi and talk about things to keep in mind while we’re there. We’re a little nervous at the moment, as the plan has been to tour—and stay at—Volcanoes National Park, which may prove impossible if our government continues this shutdown business. But we’re not due there for a week or so, so we remain hopeful.
The next time you hear from me, my cohorts and I will be about halfway through our Hawaiian adventure. We are all, to say the least, pretty excited to get going on that.
F’13 Student Blogger
Greetings, everyone! Our dear admissions director Morgan is off the hook; from now on you’ll be hearing from me, blog-wise. My name is Bennett and I am a senior at Oberlin College, where the official papers tell me I major in History. Williams-Mystic is an exciting thing for me, not only because of the romantic longing for the sea that I share with so much of the human race, but also because after nearly four collegiate years without touching a drop of scientific analysis, I suddenly find myself surrounded by students majoring in all the -ologies you could wish for and plenty of chances to renew my appreciation for the workings of the natural world. (Still, as a humanities kid, I hope all these budding scientists don’t think for a moment that I will pass up any opportunity to convert data into musings on the mysteries of the soul…)
We hadn’t been in lovely Mystic, CT for much more than a week before we were whisked off to San Diego for our offshore seminar. If you’ve been following the blog, then you know that Morgan was posting from the ship and already covered a lot of that ground, but even so it seems like a good place to start.
To refresh: We were ten days voyaging on the SSV Robert C. Seamans, starting and ending in San Diego Harbor. Along with the nineteen F13 students were Morgan, our literature professor Rich King, and the ship’s professional crew, comprised of three mates, four scientists, two cooks, two engineers, and one captain. An excellent bunch, to say the least. We sailed West away from land and all we’d known, and proceeded North. We became quite familiar with San Clemente Island, which we passed several times to the sound of the US Navy distantly testing ammunition. We had a look also at Santa Barbara Island and Santa Catalina Island, where we anchored for a night near the end of the trip and even had a nice swim. We also collected samples throughout the trip and eventually put together reports based on our data.
Most importantly, we kept busy. There is no feeling quite like being woken up in the middle of the night, rising from your bunk and feeling your way through the tilting cabin and corridors to the galley, where you claim a snack and a few sips of coffee before ascending to the deck where someone you can’t quite make out stands quietly at the helm, and the stars crowding overhead with a few hours left until dawn, when breakfast, and the end of numerous boat checks, will start to seem like real possibilities. We were often tired but it was entirely worthwhile for the peaceful time alone standing lookout at the bow, or the incredible meals and snacks prepared by the galley, or the assistance and knowledge of the professional crew, or the sense of community you’re bound to find when you have no choice but to work together, or the singular feeling of being on an actual sailing vessel surrounded by nothing but the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
Near the end of the voyage, we felt like we’d been sailing on that ship for a very very long time, but of course as soon as we stepped off and onto hard ground it seemed like it had hardly happened. Arriving in Mystic felt like a return to normalcy, but in fact we had spent more time on the SSV Robert C. Seamans than we had in Mystic and knew each other much better than when we’d left. I’m sure a lot of us still felt like we were rocking back and forth as we walked around our houses that night!
We had several days off before resuming classes on a little over a week ago. By now we are getting used to the basic schedule, although there’s always variation: Mondays and Wednesdays we have Literature of the Sea (with Rich King) and Maritime History (with Glenn Gordinier). Tuesdays and Thursdays, half of us take Oceanographic Processes (Lisa Gilbert) and the other half have Marine Ecology (Jim Carlton, also the program director). Both of those classes are followed some hours later by a lab. And Friday is the territory of the fearless Katy Robinson-Hall, our Marine Policy professor.
Of course there’s always plenty happening aside from classes. Last week we all signed up for maritime skills, and work-study jobs for some, which commenced this week. The skills include blacksmithing, canvas work, watercraft (small boat sailing), squad (doing cool stuff on historical vessels at the seaport), and sea chanteys. These all meet on Mondays and Wednesdays.
This has been our first full week of classes so far. On Tuesday afternoon the oceanography students visited Rhode Island’s Napatree Beach, while the marine ecology folks explored the waters right here in Mystic and got some quality time with the plankton.
As you’ve probably noticed, this post has been a long one; there was a lot to cover. Next week should be a breeze. Meanwhile, we’ll be starting preparation for Hawai’i . . .
F’13 Student Blogger
Day 9- Catalina Harbor, Santa Catalina Island, CA
Wednesday, September 11, 2013
We began science presentations this morning at 0900. In pairs, students presented their unique findings related to the biological, physical,chemical, or geological features of the ocean along our cruise track. In the above picture, Bennett from Oberlin College and Alana of Smith College present their findings from sediment samples collected from the seafloor. They examined sediment grain size variability as it relates to measured currents from our three Super Stations. Their presentation was particularly interactive with samples from each testing site available for audience members to observe.
Following student presentations, we paused for snack and then enjoyed a quick splash in the waters of Catalina Island Harbor! The crew allowed the students to swim in a designated area and afforded the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of jumping off the bowsprit of the SSV Robert C. Seamans!
It is about noon here in Catalina as we weigh anchor and get underway to San Diego Harbor. This afternoon will be further discussion of Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s 1840 narrative, Two Years Before the Mast, especially in relation to some of the historical elements of the ship we’re sailing on ourselves. Students will then learn some marlinspike seamanship—splicing and whipping rope—so that each will understand how to use a traditional sail palm and a needle.
We hope to sail through the night, enjoy the stars and ship for one last set of night watches, and then come to anchor off San Diego.
Day 8 – 33° 17.7’N X 118° 32.1’W
Tuesday, September 10, 2013
As we sailed toward an anchorage beside Santa Catalina Island, students buckled down and completing their science projects. Each watch has been divided into pairs that will analyze certain biological, physical, chemical, or geological trends and properties of the waters in which we have sailed over the course of our voyage, based on the data they collected themselves with the ship’s extraordinary equipment. The pairs will then present their findings to the ship’s crew and the WM staff/faculty aboard the ship on Wednesday morning.
Afternoon class was a reading from Moby-Dick and a discussion on what Melville and natural historians understood about plankton and productivity at sea. During the day, we pulled up pieces of kelp, watched sea lions “porpoising”–leaping out of the water, and dolphins swimming off in the distance. We practiced for emergencies with two drills: a man-overboard scenario and as if there were a fire in the engine room.
We came to anchor in Catalina Harbor, between two dramatic cliffs, where our two stewards thoroughly outdid themselves with a mock Thanksgiving dinner, replete with stuffing, cranberry sauce, and four types of pie! To prepare the feast, a few students, the engineers, and the first scientists all helped in the galley, too. After dinner, back to work preparing for the science presentations and rotating through “anchor watch,” to make sure the ship is safe while the rest of the ship’s company sleeps.
Look out for pictures from science presentations in tomorrow’s post!