Thanks for Nothing (and other final thoughts)

November 17, 2020

Jeff Schell, Chief Scientist

‘Fan Club’, my favorite task on the final Field Day:

‘Fan Club’, my favorite task on the final Field Day:

Ship's Log

Ship Position
Alongside Stock Island Marina, Florida Keys

NE Trades starting to pick up. A nice breeze on deck for our final Field Day

Souls on Board

All blogs from C-294

This blog post is a recounting of the events of 17 November 2020. The final full day of C-294 onboard the Corwith Cramer.

The final days of a voyage are always busy and full of mixed emotions and feelings. We are ‘almost there’ in so many ways, but as Captain Sean reminded us all, you can’t let your guard down until the very end. Bringing Cramer alongside the dock in Stock Island Marina was no easy task, boat checks are still important, and the ladders on the ship remain steep and now no longer rock and sway as we had become accustomed to. Safe and vigilant until the end was on my mind as the final hours ticked away.

Hang up those harnesses and give them a good rinse

Hang up those harnesses and give them a good rinse

On this final full day of C294 we give back to the Corwith Cramer by cleaning every nook and cranny we can find. It begins with ‘Bunk Love’ where everyone empties their bunk and cleans down to the base boards, the shelves, the overheads, all the spaces, including the all-important fan that many have cradled in their sleep during the humid, tropical nights of the past few weeks of the voyage. So much hair!! Over the years I have learned to identify a fan’s owner by the amount of hair caught up in the blades! It is also a time to clean those harnesses that have kept each student safe like a warm hug, full of sweat and sunscreen. But after a thorough scrubbing they were ready for the next crew of students. The afternoon was dedicated to an epic field day full of foxtails and dustbins, Envirox and Murphy’s, wipes and sponges, and plenty of freshwater from shore to rinse things off. Oh, and with this group of students, plenty of music, singing, and random moments of dancing!

Swizzle set-up on the quarterdeck

Swizzle set-up on the quarterdeck

The galley treated us to a wonderful dinner of Americana – burgers (meat and veggie) and hot dogs, thick cut fries, beans and slaw with a special dessert from shore coming later in the evening (you guessed it, ice cream!). But the highlight of the evening was our final cruise celebration - Swizzle, a tradition at SEA where the crew show off their talents and often reflect upon the voyage. I am unable to recount all of the many talented ‘acts’ and contributions made by students and crew throughout the night, it would take too long. However, I did try to get pictures (and some video) of each one so students can access that archive when the cruise is over. However, for this final blog entry I do want to share with you the final message I had for the students and crew of C-294.

Final Science Report and a tribute to the number zero

Final Science Report and a tribute to the number zero

The C-294 Final Science Report

As Chief Scientist I am given the honor of presenting the final science report of the voyage. A responsibility I welcome. For me this is what the cruise is all about… the Data! What deployments occurred, what samples did we collect, what did we learn? - thanks to the dedicated efforts of the students. Using charades, drawings, and plenty of help from the audience we made sense of all the numbers and recounted the details of our numerous scientific accomplishments; and they were many. It was a nice way to relive the memories of all the hard work and dedication, the late hours during lab watch rinsing nets, counting copepods, filtering for chlorophyll-a, entering data, etc. In the end I thanked the Corwith Cramer, the Captain, and the crew for safe passage; and I thanked the students for their tireless efforts making sense of all the data and sharing their scientific discoveries during their informative oceanography presentations just a few days earlier. We all applauded each other’s efforts, patted each other on the back. It was a grand time. But this science report was far from over.

The crew of C-294.

The crew of C-294.

To conclude I wanted all of us to consider one more number of significance, one last bit of data that was relevant to our cruise, C-294. That number was zero.

Zero is often an under-appreciated number, particularly in science and especially environmental field studies when zero means you did not see something. ‘How many whales did you see today? None.’ Sometimes difficult to get excited by that bit of data. But in the sciences zero is a number, it is data. You looked for a phenomenon and did not observe it. That is important information.

We tallied a big zero during C-294 and I needed help remembering what that was for.

Was it…

The number of lobster larvae collected for Ethan’s project? Nope, the students correctly remembered, though we did not find any American lobster larvae we did find plenty of Caribbean spiny lobster larvae, so technically, that was not our zero.

The number of times we correctly recorded bioluminescence observations for Alexis’ project? Nope, though that did draw a bunch of laughter because this was a new SEA project and we did have to work out some of the details during the course of the voyage.

The number of times Dr. Craig Marin, Chief Historian received a wake up on the voyage? Close, but not quite. Craig is an early riser and has gone many trips without ever needing a wake up, but on one occasion Nora did find Craig still in his bunk and gave him a nice wake up. For her efforts she received a small token of appreciation from Craig.

But we still had yet to figured out what that important zero was. Was it…

The number of times Logan sieved his own sediments? Much laughter for this one, but still not true. Eventually Logan ended up sieving many of the sediment samples for his project, but he had many helpers.

Was it the number of gold medals won by B-Watch during Cramer Olympics? Oh, that was a low blow… competition was tight, and there had been some controversy, but B Watch indeed won at least one gold medal during the festive Olympic competition!

So, what is was this zero for?

The number of COVID cases during C-294. ZERO!

That zero was responsible for all the other numbers I had shared that night. All the data, all the deployments would not have been possible if that zero had been anything higher. More importantly, the entire cruise, the experiences shared, the friendships made, the eternal bonds formed among shipmates would not have been possible without that zero.

All the laughter, and the tears; all the random singing and dancing and moments of frustration, and ultimately all the moments of triumph would not have been possible without that zero.

So thanks to all of you, for nothing! Thanks for the big fat glorious zero!

That zero represented all of us overcoming the odds and achieving what very few thought was possible.

For the parents out there who joined the very first Zoom call for C-294 may remember the argument made by the faculty for why SEA should be trying to run SEA Semester programs right now. Our answer was – because now more than ever the world needs good shipmates and that is what SEA does, helps foster and nurture the good shipmately behavior that is inside each and every one of us.

That zero represented every member of the C-294 crew putting their trust in the hands of strangers and believing that they would follow-thru on the plan to keep COVID out of our community.

That zero meant every member of the C-294 crew did their part, made the personal sacrifices, shouldered their responsibility and played their role in keeping our community safe.

That zero was a demonstration of the maturity, responsibility and self-sacrificing nature of the crew of Corwith Cramer. A crew that was also thoughtful and kind, talented and creative, relentless and determined, and a little bit silly and crazy in the best of ways. What I am trying to say is that on that final night on board the Corwith Cramer I shared the quarterdeck with 35 of the finest shipmates I have ever known.

It was truly a pleasure and an honor to sail with each and every one of the students and crew of C-294 and I hope we are able to sail together again very soon.

With so much love and thanks and gratitude to you all.


Jeff, Chief Scientist, C-294

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