A Volcanic Journey

October 9, 2018

Mariah Reinke, A Watch, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

Standing on Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai.

Standing on Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai.

Ship's Log

Current Position
Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai

Ship’s Heading & Speed

Overcast, scattered sprinkles

Souls on Board

All blogs from S-290

Greetings from Mama Seamans!

It's not every day that you get to wake up next to a volcanic island after a wonderfully full night of sleep and prepare yourself to go on land, but that certainly was our morning. Departing from our good ship, I climbed down into the small boat along with a few others, ready to make the short voyage to the island that is best described as a landmass similar to Mars. Henry, our excellent head engineer and talented small boat driver, strategically maneuvered the boat, timing our exit with the waves to ensure a safe arrival. As I jumped out onto the pebble-like black sand beach, I questioned how I would later describe this to others. How do I explain that class today consisted of exploring and collecting data for NASA from a new landmass in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, created by volcanic activity? As my team made our way across the flatter land towards the caldera, a crater created by the volcano that now holds water within, we were amazed by each pumice-y, speckly, and sulfuric rock as they all looked extraordinarily unreal. The eruption occurred in 2014 and scientists were sure that the land would erode away within months. Indeed the island did erode some, but not as predicted. Four years later, the crew of Robert C. Seamans takes a stroll on such island.

However, this is where the story darkens. At first, it was a single glass bottle and then a lone buoy that were spotted. Rounding the corner, there was more-over a hundred plastic bottles, nearly 30 buoys, assorted hard plastics, and countless Styrofoam pieces. Let me illustrate how absurd this is: Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai has existed for only 3 years and far fewer than a hundred documented humans have set foot on this land! This means that all of this trash has come from the ocean and washed up on land. Absolutely ridiculous. Thankfully, we have a caring and determined crew who began picking up the trash. We are unsure of what we will do with this trash at the moment, as we do not have enough space on the ship to carry it all, but will do our best to remove it.

I would highly encourage you all to Google maps for 'Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai' and look at the change from 2009 to 2014 and imagine your children having the opportunity to visit this wonderful place.

Last night, I lay on top of the Dog House with Olivia, one of the knowledgeable sailing interns, gazing at the southern stars and enjoying the sweet serenade from a mandolin, ukulele, guitar, and harmonica. Since we were anchored, the watch on deck was doing a Anchor Watch which is checking to make sure we aren't moving by looking at our location based upon relative bearings. Typically, these consist of landmasses during the day and lights during the night. Here, the horizon was complete darkness: no lights, no buildings, no signs of human existence besides our own. It is incredible, and quite crazy, that this is our life. It comes with hard work as well as consistent learning and improving, but undoubtedly worth it. Removed from civilization, we are here living the life and most certainly loving the life.

- Mariah Reinke, A Watch, Hobart & William Smith Colleges

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