Reflecting and Disconnecting, Halfway through F’19’s Offshore Voyage

There is much to look at with fresh eyes: small, silvery fish pulled from a midnight Neuston tow; rocks older than the Atlantic hauled up from the deep ocean floor; dolphins weaving back and forth in front of the bow; a finback whale in the near distance.

 

September 26, 2019

Dear Friends and Family,

It’s Thursday evening, and our journey offshore is nearing its halfway point. Over the last day, we’ve passed Georges Bank, the historic cod fishing grounds east of Nantucket, and are currently sailing across the northern end of Gilbert Canyon, just east of Oceanographer Canyon, neighboring features of the North Atlantic floor that only seem to have been named for Williams-Mystic oceanographer Lisa Gilbert. (Anyone following along from home can find us by tracing a line east from Asbury Park, NJ.)

We’ve had our queasy moments. Some rough seas a few nights back sent most of us to the rail. But the sea has settled, and our bellies with it, and there is much to look at with fresh eyes: small, silvery fish pulled from a midnight Neuston tow; rocks older than the Atlantic hauled up from the deep ocean floor; dolphins weaving back and forth in front of the bow; a finback whale in the near distance. The teaching crew, meanwhile, points high to a sail and asks us to tell the luff from the leech. Then they pass around a sextant, a centuries-old navigation device that one might at first mistake for an old-timey movie camera, and coach us in celestial trigonometry.

A listener overhears students talking. One talks about how free he feels not carrying his cell phone.

“I don’t know,” he says. “I feel more connected because I’m not connected, like I’m living in the moment for the first time in years, like I can just pay attention to what I’m doing.”

Another imagines describing life on the Cramer to someone who has never been to sea. It wouldn’t be enough just to list the day’s activities, she says. They wouldn’t communicate what life offshore is like.

“What — am I going to say that I woke up in a tiny bunk and couldn’t find my socks, and then I picked tiny shrimp out of salps for six hours? That’s not it. The ship is a machine that just keeps running, and what’s interesting is how you get absorbed into it.”

Until next time,

Williams-Mystic F’19

We will share updates straight from the Cramer as they become available. In the meantime, you can track the vessel’s progress here:

https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:426493/mmsi:366724450/imo:8617445/vessel:CORWITH_CRAMER

Please note that vessel tracking information is NOT updated continuously and the Cramer isn’t always able to provide updated location information. (Good reception isn’t a guarantee at sea!) If you notice that the Cramer appears to be in the same location for an extended period of time, it simply means the website has not yet been updated.

You can also look back at blog posts from previous Offshore Field Seminars here: https://williamsmystic.wordpress.com/category/field-seminars/offshore-field-seminar/.

A Day in the Life Offshore

Offshore, life follows a recurring rhythm of standing watch, attending class, eating, and sleeping — and spotting dolphins along the way.

September 6, 2018

2030 h.

41° 31′ N x 070° 39′ W

A week into our offshore voyage, F’18 has adjusted to shipboard life, with its rhythm of watches, classes, meals, and sleeping.

Take today, for example, when A Watch stood watch in the morning. Today’s morning watch included a “science super station” dedicated to collecting water and data all the way from the surface to the seafloor of southern Georges Bank. In the middle of the station, we spotted dozens of Atlantic Striped Dolphins jumping in the distance. We paused our measurements of light attenuation (how quickly light dims and dissipates as water deepens) to delight in the antics of these charismatic megafauna.

After lunch, A Watch took a nap, attended classes, and saw more dolphins — this time, Short-Beaked Common Dolphins. Then, they had dinner and headed off to their bunks to sleep before waking early for dawn watch, to repeat the cycle over again.

Every afternoon, the whole ship’s company gathers for a meeting and class. We begin with announcements and then hear a weather report and a science report, both of which are led by students from the dawn watch. The class itself is often interdisciplinary, integrating maritime history with oceanography. Today’s class focused on citizen scientists at sea, from Benjamin Franklin’s 18th-century account of the Gulf Stream to Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind. 

6Sept_s1
Historian Alicia Maggard leads class on deck.

We followed class with a snack — blueberry shortcake — before diving into a hands-on, nautical class. Students set all three of our square sails — the course, the topsail, and the raffee — so we could sail downwind toward our final super station.


TRACK OUR PROGRESS!

You can follow the Cramer’s journey at this link: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:426493/mmsi:366724450/imo:8617445/vessel:CORWITH_CRAMER

Please note: The information on the location of the vessel is not always updated regularly. If you notice the vessel staying in the same location for extended periods of time, it simply means the website has not updated recently.

On F’18’s First Day Aboard the Corwith Cramer, an Exciting Journey Awaits — and Lots of Mud

It’s day eight of our semester, and we’re embarking on a ten-day sailing voyage in the Gulf of Maine: an opportunity to experience life out of sight of land, and to learn about the ocean by living on it.

Monday, September 3, 2018
At anchor, Menemsha Bight, Martha’s Vineyard

It’s our second day aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer — and the eighth day of our Fall 2018 semester. Last Monday, our 17 students — representing 19 majors, 13 colleges and universities, and 12 US states — had just arrived on campus. Today, they’re embarking on a ten-day voyage in the Gulf of Maine: An opportunity to experience life out of sight of land, to work as part of the crew of a sailing ship, and to learn about the Atlantic firsthand, in the lab and on the deck.

We — the F’18 class, oceanographer Lisa Gilbert (S’96), historian Alicia Maggard, and lab manager Laurie Warren (S’89) — left Mystic on Sunday morning. We boarded the Cramer in bustling Woods Hole just before lunch.

After a brief orientation from the ship’s professional crew, we cast off our dock lines and headed for our overnight anchorage in quiet Menemsha Bight, Martha’s Vineyard.

We plan to be sailing through the night for most of our 10 days aboard Corwith Cramer, taking turns sailing the ship, running science operations, and sleeping. Three groups, or watches, take responsibility for the ship for four or six hours at the time, under the direction of professional crew members acting as watch officers.

At anchor on Sunday, we continued orientation and safety training until sunset. Then, the stewards delighted us with a hearty meal of spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. Soon after, we tucked into our bunks for a rare, full night of sleep at anchor.

This morning, we continued our training. We learned to furl sails on the bowsprit and practiced deploying scientific gear. C Watch even brought back a sample of the seafloor: some black, Menemsha mud, a quahog, and dozens of slipper limpets. It was our first glimpse into the world we’re passing through and over — a world we’re just beginning to discover.

3Sept_s2
Oceanographer Lisa Gilbert (S’96) digs into sediment samples with students Alejandro Flores Monge (Williams College ’21) and Dionna Jenkins (Smith College ’20).

TRACK OUR PROGRESS!

You can follow the Cramer’s journey at this link: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/details/ships/shipid:426493/mmsi:366724450/imo:8617445/vessel:CORWITH_CRAMER

Please note: The information on the location of the vessel is not always updated regularly. If you notice the vessel staying in the same location for extended periods of time, it simply means the website has not updated recently.