New Science Onboard the RV Connecticut and Old Maritime Trades

RV Conn Group

October is off to a great start! Guess what F’15 did the first day of October? From Avery Point, we motored out to the mouth of the Thames River and down past Electric Boat in a 76 foot steel research vessel to collect sediment and water samples. Why is this exciting? Well, on the brig Niagara we collected similar data, but used ‘high tech’ buckets, line, and m&m’s. On the RV Connecticut, temperature, salinty, and depth were updated automically via computer screens. I was excited to use the carousel water sampler instead of a bucket! This machine is mechanically lowered into the water. Twelve metal tubes, nearly two feet long each, are ‘fired off,’ or closed shut, at twelve different depths to collect water by the click of a button. All we had to do was release the water from a spigot into labeled plastic bottles when the machine came back on deck. Our class was split into Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie watch like on the Niagara – so every aspect of the data collection was covered by rotating watches. Success! What a great way to compare scientific methods. Having sampled water the hard way, it was refreshing to step into the modern world of marine science. Earlier this week, I stepped back in time by indulging in my maritime skill class.


Electives in high school or college entail ceramics, a physical education class, or some creative outlet that breaks the academic schedule. At Williams-Mystic, we get to choose our fifth class from a variety of maritime trades taught in the seaport. Canvas work in the old Mallory Sail Loft, sea chanteys on the Charles W. Morgan, blacksmithing in an authentic shop, and sailing on the river are what my friends spend four hours a week doing.

Maya Sailloft

I chose blacksmithing because where else can I stand in an 1885 New Bedford, Mass blacksmith shop and create four beautiful hooks within four classes? My first class with a seasoned blacksmith affirmed that I made the right decision. Three of us stood around the smoldering fire and watched our teacher turn a rod of steel from flaming cherry to a glowing yellow. He demonstrated how to bend the metal to our liking using a hammer and anvil. “Use your elbow to lift the hammer, not your wrist,” is one of his many reminders. When I couldn’t grasp the motion of hammering a flat flame finial onto the end of my hook, he brought out clay for me to practice hammering. By the last hour, I could mold the metal to a flame-tip shape. Without a doubt, my classmates who were sailing at the same moment, were having similar ‘a-ha’ moments. I have left every class with sooty palms and black finger-tips. My housemates see the hooks when I return at 5pm and put in requests for what they would like. I think I know where my source of Christmas gifts will come from!


So much occurs in one week here in Williams-Mystic that it is nearly impossible to put it all into words. I could have talked about our science trip to Weekapaug Point or how we held sea stars and sea urchins from the intertidal zone. Nonetheless, I think the picture is clear. We are a busy group, but loving every minute of the diverse places we go! Did I meniton where we are bound for next? CALIFORNIA!

Author: williamsmystic

A one semester interdisciplinary ocean and coastal studies program integrating marine science, maritime history, environmental policy, and literature of the sea.

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