Academia at Sea
February 4, 2013
24 deg. 22.2′ N x 083 deg. 14.4′ W
Sailing under the 4 lowers
It’s a warm Monday afternoon out here on the open waters of the Straits of Florida. Students are busily helping out in the galley in anticipation of dinner, writing in their journals for Literature Lab, and celebrating the halfway mark of their sailing adventure! This is Stephanie, the slightly suntanned Williams-Mystic admissions counselor, writing with an update for those following along on the Williams-Mystic Spring ’13 Offshore Field Seminar.
While standing watch and finding peace in downtime is an important part of life at sea, academics are also an omnipresent aspect of this journey. This morning we completed our third and final superstation, which started with measuring the physical and chemical properties of the water column. The measurements recorded include currents, temperature, salinity, nutrients, and dissolved oxygen. Students also took two samples of the seafloor today using a grab, which brought sediment and a 5 cm brittle star that was still alive! We ended each station with neuston net tows to collect marine plants and animals from the surface of the ocean. After today’s successful superstation, students were processing the data. For example, right now, Miho from Williams College is in the lab filtering water samples for chlorophyll-a, which is an indicator of photosynthesis at the different depths in the water column. Later tonight, students will complete oxygen titrations to determine the amount of dissolved oxygen present in deep waters. In the meantime, students are beginning to choose topics for their upcoming science presentations. They will be giving short research presentations Thursday. We’ll have more on that later in the week, so stand by!
Spring ’13 has been learning in the lab, on watch, and in daily afternoon class. Led by Williams-Mystic Professor Lisa Gilbert and the Corwith Cramer’s professional mariners, students learn about a wide variety of maritime topics: science, marine policy, navigation, and even engineering. Part of class also includes short weather and science presentations from the students standing dawn watch (0300 – 0700). Today Kassandra and Molly from Williams taught the crew about the Sargassum and its ecological importance.
Today’s class featured a highly anticipated rite of passage for the Spring ’13 class: they successfully completed a pin rail chase! This involved learning every line on the Cramer, from the JT sheet to the fisherman throat halyard. Alix from Williams represented C Watch by finding the jib sheet, while Sophie from Red Rocks located the forestays’l downhaul. Students have been studying for this since we arrived and performed marvelously, managing to share a few laughs along the way.
We are looking forward to the rest of our voyage here on Cramer and will say goodnight as the sun sets on the horizon and we enjoy a banjo-ukelele-fiddle (faculty-crew-student) trio.