Looking forward and looking back (with six days left)

November 12, 2020

– Olivia Carson, University of Pittsburgh, Class of 2025

A Watch takes timed selfies on Jeff's camera late at night in the lab

A Watch takes timed selfies on Jeff's camera late at night in the lab

Ship's Log

23 degrees 22.8’ N x 080 degrees 24.7’ W ≈150 nm due south of Miami, Florida

Ship’s Heading, Speed, and Sail Plan
Motorsailing under the Mainstays’l, Fish, and Tops’l, at 7.3 knots, steering 310 degrees PSC

Clear and warm with a lovely sunset, winds from the NE at Beaufort Force 3, waves from ESE at 2 feet high

Souls on Board

All blogs from C-294

Sitting on the quarterdeck in the hot sun and listening to my classmates present the many things they've discovered through their research projects, I reflect on a smaller discovery of my own: my favorite sentence in the world is, "Nobody really knows."

Each project presentation is a lesson not only in science, the scientific process, and the subject of the project like sediment or bioluminescence, but also in creativity, determination, resilience, enthusiasm, diligence, and wonder. Each project began with a question that did not have an answer, and it seems fitting that each project concludes now with more questions - questions with answers that we don't know, that nobody really knows. I like to imagine that all our unanswered questions have lives of their own now, and will go on to influence the projects of future SEA Semester students, or projects in our future, and hopefully they will inspire countless more questions in the endless cyclical process we like to call "science."

Ethan presents his research project on drifting algae and associated mobile fauna

Ethan presents his research project on drifting algae and associated mobile fauna

But "nobody really knows" is my favorite sentence for other reasons too. On the Cramer, every time I wake up, I wake up to unanswered questions. Where are we today? Will it rain? What are we doing this watch? How is the wind - strong or light; steady or variable; forceful and dramatic or more or less missing entirely? What about the ocean - is the current strong or gentle? Are the waves small and glassy or massive and whitecapped? What about the sky? Blue or grey? What about the clouds, and what magnificence will sunset and sunrise show us today? How will I be surprised today, or challenged today? What sails will be raised today? To what strange places will my watchmates' minds go this dawn watch? And, most importantly, what is for snack?

Despite the regularity of the watch cycle, every day on board is unique and unpredictable, and every day I am surprised and overjoyed at the many unexpected moments I encounter. I go to sleep wondering what crazy new things will happen next, realizing happily that despite schedules and plans, weather reports and maps, the only thing I can be certain of is that nobody really knows.

A view of the SSV Corwith Cramer from the small boat.

A view of the SSV Corwith Cramer from the small boat.

I have come to realize that "nobody really knows" is not a stopping point or a brick wall. Instead, it is a beginning, a jumping off point, an open door. In science and in life, it is not an obstacle but a promise of possibility, wonder, and surprise.

Five weeks ago, when I signed up to write this blog post, I had no idea what was going to happen on this trip. I could never have imagined the many incredible, stressful, exhausting, and exhilarating things that I and my shipmates have done, or the wild and ever-changing beauty that we have seen. Now, as the trip starts to come to a close and Key West draws ever closer, it is leaving that begins to feel like a huge, unanswered question. How will it feel? How will our families and pets react? Where will everybody go next, and will we still feel as close as we do now? How will this experience stay with us, shaping us and changing us, empowering and inspiring us? I guess none of us really know.

But now I am getting ahead of myself. We still have six more days, the sun is setting into a low bank of fiery-pink clouds over the horizon, and I have to be up in a few hours for dawn watch. I'm on deck tonight, so I'll have to be on the quarterdeck at 0050 for watch turnover. What will happen after that? I don't know. And I'm so grateful that however much we plan or think or guess, still nobody really knows.

- Olivia Carson, University of Pittsburgh, Class of 2025

PS. Mom, Dad, Daniel, and everybody back home≈I love and miss you so much and I can't wait to see you soon and tell you all about everything! Give Daisy some pets for me please. Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity and for always supporting me and encouraging me to go on adventures. Love you guys so so much. Also, can we please have ice cream when I get home?

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