America Day, Afloat!

July 6, 2024

Author: Natalia Sawicka, A Watch, Boston University

14_RCSBlog_Natalia Sawicka_Jul4Lab_small

Natalia and Marine Tech Ed Sweeney, sciencing in the lab with an uncharacteristic burst of American spirit from the both of them. Ed is an official member of Team USA Bodysurfing, hence the jacket, and Natalia brought her special 4th of July shirt (which she wears every year) specifically for today. (Photo Credit: Deckhand Posy LaBombard)

Ship's Log

Thursday, July 4th, 2024
(Side Note: the "Thursday" designation is for all you land people. Who even knows what Thursday is anymore? Not I, that's for sure.)

Position at Noon (Lat and Long): 17 deg 03.7'S x 165 deg 06.2'W
Ship Heading (degrees): 190 deg
Ship Speed (knots): 2 knots (slow for science!)
Log (nm):  1228 nm
Weather, Wind // Sail Plan: BF-6 winds and 13+ foot seas, sunny, and a steamy 28 deg C // Mainstays'l, Forestays'l, Tops'l, and Jib
Description of location: The Samoan Basin, Cook Islands EEZ

To the casual observer not well-versed in international maritime law, it might seem that we, the crew of the Bobby Sea, are quite far from America. However, if you are familiar with the concept of flag state jurisdiction (shout out to our policy prof Beth), you would know that we --- living aboard an American flagged vessel --- in fact, inhabit a tiny floating piece of American territory, subject to American jurisdiction and authority. So technically speaking we ARE in the US. Kind of. Beth can check me on the accuracy of that statement, politically speaking.

You also wouldn't know that we are, as of 2100, about an hour away from crossing into the American Samoan EEZ, which is about as ironic of a location for American Independence Day as you can get. Anyways, Happy America Day from the center of the South Pacific!!

Image Caption: A sampling of today's all-American main saloon menu whiteboards. Shout out to Stewards Brooke and Sean (and today's assistant steward Sydney). We quite literally would not survive without you. <3  (Photo Credit: Natalia Sawicka. Menu Design Credit: Brooke Murphy-Petri and Natalia Sawicka)

I wouldn't describe us all as a particularly patriotic bunch, but here we are, with a heck of an all-American menu for the day, including: eggs, bacon, and potatoes freedom fries for breakfast, all-American chicken nuggets for lunch, all-American freedom rolls (cinnamon rolls with a quantity of red, white, and blue icing verging on excess, i.e., absolutely delicious) for snack, and burgers for dinner. We also had watermelon for morning snack, which was sweet red, pure, refreshing bliss that was the kick that single-handedly got me through a particularly difficult morning watch.

If you think STEM is hard on land, you have NOT attempted STEM in a small lab on board a vessel rolling in 13+ foot open Pacific seas. We ended up having to cancel half of our typical morning science station deployments due to the rolling seas. Notably, this included our fine mesh net for phytoplankton sample collection and our hydrocast, a carousel of bottles lowered on a high-tension wire that are programmed to close shut and collect water samples at different depths down to about 800 meters below or so. The hydrocast is also equipped with a CTD (Conductivity Temperature Depth sensor) and devices to measure dissolved oxygen and chlorophyll fluorescence, aiding us in creating a continuous profile of various variables in the water column! Disappointing to forgo these today for sure, but it was the best call for the safety of the equipment with regard to the current sea state. (Don't worry, families: no cause for concern, I promise. We are perfectly safe, in excellent hands, and doing well.)

I personally am a big fan of 4th of July fireworks displays, which disappointingly do not spontaneously occur in the middle of the Pacific just for us. We do, however, have bioluminescent plankton sparkling in the ship's wake at night, which I spent some time happily observing from our porthole windows very early this morning.

And WE HAVE WHALES.

WE SAW A MINKE WHALE YESTERDAY EVENING (JULY 3rd). HUNTER AND I (each standing lookout for an hour or so during our deck watch shift) THOUGHT WE SAW IMAGINARY WHALE BLOWS IN THE WAVES BUT THEY WERE IN FACT NOT IMAGINARY AT ALL AND WE WERE NOT TRIPPING AND THEY WERE VERY REAL AND WE SAW THE MINKE JUMPING AND PLAYING IN THE WAVES AND BREACHING RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE BOAT FOR ABOUT AN HOUR OR SO.

(AS AN ASPIRING WHALE BIOLOGIST, I ABSOLUTELY ADORE WHALES, IN CASE THAT WAS NOT IMMEDIATELY OBVIOUS FROM THE WAY I WROTE THIS. :P)

Overenthusiastic, completely-capital letters aside, it was a magical sight. My heart was filled with pure joy as I watched our blubbery marine mammal friend splashing, leaping, and breaching in the sunset. There is something about whales that can bring out the gleeful inner child in even the least emotive of people, and our bow was crammed full of the Seamans squad pointing, shouting, and "WHOA!!"-ing with delight as the whale played in the waves by our ship. The cetacean was likely interested in our CHIRP technology, a device that sends out sound waves to the ocean depths to map the seafloor as we sail over it. I couldn't tell you what the acronym CHIRP stands for, but it sounds like a chirping bird, hence the name. To the whale, I'm sure it sounded not all that different from one of its own.

As a behavioral insight: minke whales are not as acrobatic as some of their relatives (like humpback whales and dolphins), so the repeated breaching was a semi-unusual and beautiful sight. Minke whales typically breach in sequences of two or three jumps, but we observed this one breaching at least ten times or more.

Wishing all whale-filled dreams in their near future as I sign off to sleep (i.e. take a 2 hour nap) before my dawn watch,

Natalia Sawicka
A Watch, Boston University Marine Program

Hi Mama, Tata, Bubu, and Sebe!! I love you!! I have many thousands of photos to show you (including lots of blurry ones taken by my seven-year-old Palmerstonian friend) and a maybe slightly unreasonable quantity of Pacific atoll shells. ? Will figure out how to get them on the plane somehow, haha. Give the Tygs kisses from me!!  so!! Some of us were able to capture good footage of this on video ask us to show you when we get home!  <3

P.S. Talia requested I say hello to her family for her. She's a wonderful deckhand and a pleasure to be on watch with. 🙂

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