Rainbows, Science and the Pin Chase

Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Time: 1706
Position: 18° 33.47’ N by 065° 43.82’ W
Image Caption:
Course Ordered: 120°
Speed:  0.4 knots
Weather / Wind: Bright and sunny (once again!), few clouds, winds at 7 knots
from the E
Description of location:  10 nautical miles off the NE coast of Puerto Rico
heading towards Virgin Passage

Yet another gorgeous morning on Corwith Cramer, with Puerto Rico’s mountains
to our west and the seemingly infinite Atlantic stretching out to the east.

A brief rain greeted B watch this morning, but students—under the direction
of the watch captain—struck the JT and began a slow gybe to create optimal
conditions for science deployments. Drenched, yet smiling, laughing, and in
high spirits, all on deck had the opportunity to see a double rainbow off
the port side. We eventually hove to – essentially “parked” – for our third
and final science super station.  B Watch mustered on the science deck and
students were taking turns deploying various pieces of equipment off the
port side.  First, a secchi disk was sent out, measuring the depth of light
penetration in the water column (giving us an indication of how much
photosynthesis is occurring).  Any guesses how deep the students were able
to maintain sight of the white disk?

Hint: It was way more than when we sampled in San Juan harbor (a mere 3 m)…

Answer: 38 m!

Next, students further experimented with light attenuation using our highly
scientific and extremely delicate Light Attenuation Spheroids (LASs),
otherwise known as Skittles and M&Ms.  This consisted of deploying the
various colored candies overboard and timing how long they could see them
before disappearing.  Of course, any extra LASs, with the permission and
encouragement of the Chief Scientist, were quickly consumed–always a
popular scientific method!

To finish out their superstation, B Watch deployed a carousel, used to
measure various aspects of water quality (temperature, nutrients,
chlorophyll, etc.) at 10 different depths selected by students, and a
Shipbek grab. Our grab descended to 708 meters below the surface, hauling up
a sediment sample that students had no qualms about digging in to with their
bare hands. [Thomas (SFSU ’16) discovered a variety of spines in the sample,
while Sarah examined sediment composition, all while Rachel (Wesleyan ’17)
took notes {we can’t formulate proper results if our data sheets are
muddied}]. C Watch deployed a Neuston net tow to capture and later examine
surface plankton in lab.  All in all, a very exciting morning for science.

Our 1430 lectures began with Virginia and Sophie discussing the Acoustic
Doppler Radar Profile (ADCP), a method of measuring the distance of objects
and waves. Professor Lisa Gilbert followed this up with a policy lecture on
creeping jurisdiction, or boundaries at sea, and the establishment of the
3/12/24/200 nautical mile limits since the 16th century.


Following class, a stillness swept over the deck at approximately 1515.
Captain Jay stood up, asked us all to stand with him and stretch out, then
began to explain the rules of the pin chase. Students glanced at one another
and towards the deck, their eyes tracing sail to line to pin. The time had
come to showcase four days’ worth of scrambling around deck learning lines.
Split into their watches, students were handed a card with a line name on it
by the science crew and speedily walked to that line, had it confirmed with
the Cramer crew, then made it back to the quarterdeck, tagging in their next
two teammates. Always mindful of our safety training, there was absolutely
no running allowed in the pin chase. The penalty for running: one had to
crab walk across the deck while out searching for pins and returning to the
quarterdeck for their turn.


Even with a record 3 penalties, C-watch emerged victorious and enjoyed a
conga-line victory dance. Congratulations Amanda (Pacific ’18), Kenny (SUNY
Maritime ’18), Nicola (CUNY Hunter ’16), Chelsea (URI ’17), and
Athanasia(Illinois U-C ’17)—winners of the 2016 Cramer Pin Rail Chase! But,
truly, congratulations all around to all of the students for learning the
names, locations, and functions of over 100 ship’s lines in just under 4
days—what an amazing accomplishment!


Our super station completed, our pin rail champs announced, and our stomachs
contentedly filled with Light Attenuation Spheroids, we are currently making
our way to the Virgin Passage with our course ordered roughly 120°.  Upon
crossing the Virgin Passage we will officially be in the Caribbean. Land
once again fades behind us as we continue our journey. It’s hard to believe
that 5 days have already come and gone, and our voyage is almost halfway

Until next time.

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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