Travel on the Horizon

Good morning! It’s a mellow Monday and most of my house is still sleeping. Today’s a big day: after class, we have a short break for lunch and last minute tying up of loose ends before we a board a bus to the airport for our flight down to Louisiana! Right now there’s a high of 78° F in New Orleans, where we’ll be staying the night and exploring tomorrow during the day. Some more road tripping is involved in this field seminar, which means new mix CD’s, new scenery, and new conversations. Both of my parents have spend significant time in the South, so I’ve received specific instructions regarding what to expect, and, more importantly, what to eat. There’s a pile of beignets and a BIG cup of chicory coffee with my name on it waiting down at the Café du Monde, along with a crawfish dinner and a shrimp po’boy as big as my head. I can’t wait!

This weekend my friend Maggie (W-M F’09) came to visit from Bryn Mawr. After a delicious breakfast of Portuguese Fisherman omelets at Kitchen Little, she surprised our Policy professor and stayed for the day’s lecture.  After catching up with the faculty and staff, we headed out for some Lemon Chocolate Kiss ice cream at Mystic Drawbridge Ice Cream and a wonderful 6-mile bike ride along the Mystic River. On Saturday morning we woke up early to accompany two classmates and our Oceanography professor out to Fisher’s Island Sound for research at Whaleback Rock. It was cold, windy, salty, and wonderful. I’ve sailed on the Sound with my family since I was a little kid, and being back on the water was refreshing and invigorating. A typical Saturday night of cookie baking, tea drinking, and movie watching was held at Kemble in the company of some classmates; the rest of the weekend involved delicious pancakes, a walk around the Seaport, chai lattés at the Green Marble Coffee Shop, and a bittersweet departure for the train station.

Things around here have been continuing on as normal…well, as normal as can be for Williams-Mystic! Classes are moving right along, our science research projects are getting off the ground and out on the water, and, after a quick dusting of snow last Thursday morning, the weather is beginning to take a turn for the better. Our house has the sweetest bunch of tiny purple flowers growing at its base, and it makes me smile each time I walk by and find another additional bunch. I can’t wait to see how many there are in a few days when we get back!

It’s been remarkable to see the changes that warm weather brings to Mystic: more people are arriving for the Seaport, the seafood shacks are preparing to open for the season, and the drawbridge will be opening to allow through an endless stream of boaters. I’m going to be sticking around this summer, meaning that all of these things are going to be multiplied and magnified exponentially! Along with another S’11 classmate, I’ll be completing research with W-M’s own Dr. Richard King regarding the maritime influences of Virginia Woolf and nautical references within her books. I’m quite thrilled at this opportunity, as Woolf is one of my favorite authors. Being in Mystic for another 2 ½ months is also an opportunity too good to pass up.

Fair Winds!

Tsunami Watch in the Pacific North West

By Steph Trott S11

Hey there, strangers! S’11 is back from an amazing (and highly memorable!) field seminar in the Pacific Northwest, where we spent a week road-tripping up and down the breathtaking Washington and Oregon coastline. Some highlights include seeing over 150 sea lions at the Sea Lion Caves in Florence, seeing the botanical gardens at Shore Acres, looking at Seattle from the top of the Space Needle, and cruising the Seattle harbor on a Crowley Tug!

Aside from the amazing scenery and events, one of my favorite parts about this field seminar was getting to know my classmates, faculty, and staff on an entirely new level. Spending 10 days aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer was unique in that I was living with and learning about a group of people I had known for approximately one week. In the case of the Pacific Northwest field seminar, we had spent over a month together and were more comfortable as a group. I really enjoyed riding with a new group of people each day; not only did we listen to some pretty excellent mix CD’s, we had time to ask questions to each other and learn more about each others’ backgrounds and goals for the remainder of the semester.

I also loved the spontaneity involved in this experience: I’m someone who likes to plan out every detail of every day, and I had to put my trust into the hands of our fabulous faculty and staff. Some of the best and most unexpected moments include blowing off some steam on a playground in Cannon Beach, swimming in the Pacific Ocean next to Haystack Rock, touring the Tillamook Cheese Factory, and doing the Banana Dance at one of our rest stops.

As you’ve undoubtedly read or heard about, S’11 also experienced the effects of a tsunami while out on the West Coast. We were staying at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology (OIMB) in Charleston, which is about 4 hours outside of Portland. We had settled into the dorms on Thursday evening, only to be awoken by 2 alarms at 1:15am and 3:30am. We mustered in the mess hall at the OIMB where we received instructions for evacuation. Following two hours of not-so-restful sleep, we packed up and left the OIMB in favor of higher ground at 5:30am.

It was wrenching to watch the earthquake’s destruction happening in Japan; we were experiencing something that happened as a direct result of the earthquake, yet there was little we could do to help. Being together as a group not only provided safety, but also forged a bond among our class that few others could understand. Our class has stood dawn watches aboard Cramer, and now has the distinction of saying we’ve stood a Tsumani Watch!

Right now I’m sitting in the library at the Marine Science Center, which we lovingly call the MSC. Oceanography, the science class I’m taking this semester, has just finished and my classmates enrolled in Marine Ecology are beginning to stroll in for their class. One of the great things about the MSC is that there’s always something going on – students do their work here, hang out on the amazingly comfortable couches, work in the lab, or check out bikes from the garage. It’s also about a stone’s throw from my house, making the MSC a prime retreat for my housemates and me.

Other places students can be found around the Williams-Mystic campus include the Keener Room in Labaree House and Sturges Cottage. The Keener Room gets a ton of natural light and contains several daily newspapers along with boating and maritime-related magazines, making it a prime place to go if you’re looking to quietly unwind. Sturges Cottage contains exercise gear, a bunch of board games, a gaming system, and a large-screen television. We’ve had a few movie nights in there, along with some pretty epic foosball games!

Today we had a guest lecturer speak in Marine Policy about wetlands and their vitality for coastline communities. I’m looking forward to the weekend, which along with some downtime will involve some paper writing for Literature of the Sea along with research for my Oceanography project. I’m also hoping to head into town on Sunday for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, but we’ll see how much work gets done by then J

Fair Winds!

First Month!

Hi Everyone! Steph here, the student blogger for the S’11 class of Williams-Mystic! If you haven’t had a chance to read my bio, here’s a brief bit about me: I’m a third-year student at Bryn Mawr College studying English and Creative Writing and hail from the fabulous state of New Jersey.

While this may be my first blog entry, the Spring semester has been underway for about a month here at Williams-Mystic. My classmates and I returned to home base two weeks ago and have been thrown once again into the “real” world of deadlines, technology, and chaos. I’ve definitely found myself wishing on more than once occasion that I were standing the 3a.m. bow watch!

Speaking of which, here are a few highlights from our cruise: climbing the foremast and yards, smelling the sweet and smoky winds of Havana, losing track of the number of shooting stars seen in one watch, successfully completing Winkler Titrations (a meticulous process in which we tested for the presence of dissolved oxygen in sea water), being fed every 120 minutes, sharing class time with a pod of dolphins (twice!), listening to spontaneous acoustic jam sessions held by my crewmates, eating fresh Mahi Mahi caught by my literature professor…the list goes on.  If you’re looking for a more detailed account, check out the blog from our trip at here.

Returning to darkness and snow after 10 days of sunshine and warmth was difficult, but knowing that the Cramer is giving others the opportunity to discover new places and learn about themselves is enough to keep me warm until the first crocus pokes it’s head through the snow.

While in Mystic, my classmates and I have been busy between attending class, working on research proposals, and taking in everything the community has to offer. I’ve fallen into a comfortable routine of daily trips to the gym, completing work in one of two local coffee shops, and walking through the Seaport when the sun’s beginning to set on the river. I particularly like living in a house (I share a double with another student in Kemble House) and being able to cook for myself. After a long day learning about anything from mercantilism to Ernest Hemingway, it’s a pure treat to come home and share a meal and good conversation with my housemates.

Our schedule is about to be shaken, though, as we’re leaving for another field seminar in the Pacific Northwest early this Saturday morning. I’ve never been West of the Mississippi River and am particularly excited to simply see the Pacific Ocean. I’ve been told that it’s very different from the Atlantic, and that’s something I’m looking forward to experiencing myself. Other things I’m hoping to do include walking through Powell’s Books in Portland, looking at the city of Seattle from the top of the Space Needle, and sleeping on the lightship Columbia in Astoria.

Right now it’s quiet in our house; we just finished having dinner with our house advisor (veggie lasagna and an apple crumble for desert…yum!) and are bunkering down for a bit of Oceanography reading. It’s a little bit nerve-wracking to think that in just five days I’ll be on a completely different coast…but for now it’s time to focus on reading about coastal sediments and beach erosion in preparation for tomorrow’s lab at Napatree Point.

Fair winds!