Upon the Return of Your Student from SEA

Author: Brier Ward, C Watch, Johnston Community College

Alec and Aleea teach us about Pete’s Feet

Ship's Log

Noon Position
18°21.8’N x 64°45.0’W

At anchor in Francis Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands

Taffrail Log
3134 nm

Weather & Wind
Wind from the East, Beaufort Force 4. Seas calm. Temp: 31°C

Souls on Board

(To the tune of “Ode to Joy”)

It’s time for our presentations
Let’s hear about what we’ve learned
Zooplankton, plastic, Sargassum
All caught in our Neuston tows.
Schelly loves to collect dip nets,
Will & Shelby fed us all
We’ve worked hard
Let’s wrap it all up
With some graphs on posterboard.

Today was project presentation day! All of us students have been working toward this day for the last five weeks, and we finally made it. We’ve been collecting data with each other over our entire cruise track, and today gave us the chance to celebrate the fruits of our labor. In the morning light we all gathered on the quarter deck of the Corwith Cramer to hear the results of our data collection and analysis. The last five weeks have been some of the busiest ever for us; this morning was an opportunity for us to all sit with each other and listen to all that we learned.

Bec, Brier, Megan, and Steph take their first steps on land in five weeks as staff members Joey, Jordan, and Aida land the small boat

Bec, Brier, Megan, and Steph take their first steps on land in five weeks as staff members Joey, Jordan, and Aida land the small boat

Schelly prefaced our presentations with a reminder: each of us are now experts in our field; others presume, we know. We’ve collected our own samples and processed them right above the waters we were trying to understand. We got this ship here, led our watches, decided on our point of sail, chose our ordered course as we sailed through the night, and now we’re safely anchored in the Virgin Islands. Now that is something worth celebrating.

Our festivities began with Phoenix explaining what we found in our Shipek grabs at the beginning of our journey. Kayla then taught us about phytoplankton distribution in the Northwestern Atlantic, followed by Allen and Robbie going over some very interesting findings about shifts in plastic distribution, amount, and type over the last 10 years. Zuza and Anna wrapped up our first round of presentations by teaching us about what sort of what sort of critters grow on and around the floating pelagic Sargassum we’ve seen so much of on our trip, and how that relates to the age of the Sargassum clump.

Kayla, Steph, Anna, Zuza, Paige, Megan, Bec, Camilla, Brier, Alec, Robbie, Aleea, Ava, Taylor, Allen, and Phoenix enjoying the afternoon light on the beach at Francis Bay

Kayla, Steph, Anna, Zuza, Paige, Megan, Bec, Camilla, Brier, Alec, Robbie, Aleea, Ava, Taylor, Allen, and Phoenix enjoying the afternoon light on the beach at Francis Bay

After breaking for a snack of charcuterie, cheeses, and apples with sun butter, our next batch of presentations began. Taylor explained her work with plastics entangled in Sargassum and the possibilities that might hold in the very near future. Next, Alec and Aleea finally showed us what they’ve been seeing on the substrates in the feet of everyone’s favorite science deployment, Pete the Unicorn. Camilla, Ava, and Stephanie covered their project’s search for a relationship between ocean acidification and the incredible swimming snails, pteropods.

Our penultimate presentation had Yours Truly and my project partner Megan revealing the results of our project’s quest to understand the distribution and change over time of gelatinous zooplankton populations. Last, but by no means least, Becs and Paige finished out our morning by teaching us all about carbon transfer to the ocean’s twilight zone indicated by the daily vertical migrations of lantern fish. All in all, it was a beautiful conclusion to five weeks dedicated to learning, understanding, and asking questions.

These kinds of endings have started happening more and more regularly aboard the Corwith Cramer. We sent out our final science deployment a week ago today, and are now at anchor in Francis Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. As our Sea Semester begins to wind down, we’ve begun to think about our eventual return home. Many of us our torn between a longing for the comforts and rest of home and the deep sadness we feel thinking about leaving the people and lifestyle we have come to love. With this in mind, I wanted use my blog post as an opportunity to explain what our return will be like for those waiting for us. We’ve worked hard, learned much, and had the time of our lives doing it all. Going back won’t be an easy transition for any of us aboard the Cramer, so here’s a few tips for all the folks back home to make things a little easier:

1. We’re gonna be TIRED. Physically, mentally, and emotionally, all of us have had a kind of intensity of experience that’s hard to come by on land. 6 hours on, 12 hours off, and then 6 hours on again for five weeks in a row means our sleep schedules are absolutely bonkers, so don’t be surprised if we wake up at 1 am and fall back asleep at 7:30 am every so often after arriving home. I myself plan to spend my first 24 hours home sleeping, and many of our ship’s company have said the same. At the same time, we’re looking forward to seeing you just as much as you’re looking forward to seeing us, but we’ll need some time to recover before we start to tell you about all of our experiences.

2. Speaking of that, our time onboard is not the kind of thing that is easily conveyed. The last five weeks have been filled with beautiful moments wrapped up in every kind of emotion. From being hove-to in 25 ft waves, to being on watch 1am to 7am every three days, to learning constantly at breakneck speed, to being so inextricably part of a whole, these weeks have been filled to brimming, and we’ll need some time to process this experience for ourselves for a while before we’re able to give you the whole story. To be honest, you’ll probably never hear the whole story. You really had to be there.

3. We’re also going to be grieving a great loss. Going home will be a big shift in lifestyle for all of us. We’ve been working hard, eating well, laughing constantly, and under the sun and stars everyday. There’s a reason people have gone to sea for hundreds of years. We’ve been on such an emotional high for the last five weeks that the comedown is going to be steep and a little painful. Don’t be surprised if we’re a bit melancholy, a
little cranky, or a touch terse. We’ll come around—it’ll just take some time and space to re-adjust.

4. Here’s a few quick suggestions:

• Fresh sheets would be lovely
• Every single one of us plans to take a very long shower when we get home—a clean tub would mean the world to us
• All of us have repeated so many sail handling commands along our journey that repeating things has become second-nature to us.
• We really are going to be excited to see you; have the time set aside to sit with us and hear our stories. We’ve got a lot to tell you.
• Don’t be surprised if we’re ready for our next adventure soon!

5. Finally, all of us are now accustomed to six meals a day, every day. We’re gonna be HUNGRY. Be prepared and stock up on snacks. All of us are looking forward to our first meal back home, so I’ve compiled a list of first meal requests (along with some messages) to help prepare you. (Feel free to skip to your loved one’s name, or read them all to get an idea of the kind of people we’ve been around the last five weeks!):

Alec: “Really, really good fancy sushi. P.S. Hi Jordan’s dad”
Aleea: “Chicken Alfredo, watermelon, hot Cheetos, and cinnamon rolls. Zachary-dachary-doo, I love you”
Allen: “What’s up Mary, Mom, and Dad. Miss you loads. See you soon”
Anna: “Einstein’s plain bagel with cream cheese. Get Buster a doggy bagel. Also I found a lot of cool rocks”
Anne: “Prepare me brownies”
Ava: “Schnitzel"
Bec: “Dad, make chicken dinner with all the trimmings”
Brier: “Ribs with baked Mac and cheese, sweet potato dumplings, butter beans, and chocolate pie”
Camilla: “Sushi, avocados, and Ben + Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream”
James: “Spicy ahi poke and go surf with my niece”
Jenna: “Hi Mom! I hope your foot feels better”
Jordan: “Tell them I love them”
Kayla: “I’m looking forward to pizza and French fries, also sleeping for a week”
Katherine: “Hi Mom and Dad, I miss you. Tell Claire to get all her clothes out of my dresser”
Matt: “Hi Mrs. Wilson”
Megan: "Pesto pasta with grilled chicken, a big family hug, ice, and an orange all to myself”
Paige: “My grandmother’s lasagna with chocolate milk and a solid three days off work”
Phoenix: “Fried chicken, then I honestly want to hit a creek for some fossil hunting”
Robbie: “Homemade hamburgers, and I want to hug my dog”
Schelly: “Sweet dreams everyone”
Shelby: “Waffles with my Ollie and Addie”
Stephanie: “Avocado toast, Annie’s White Cheddar Mac ’n Cheese, and a pint of Scoop coffee ice cream”
Taylor: “Broccoli beef casserole. Dad, let’s go sailing”
Will: “Hi Zoë from Will and Brier”
Zuza: “My 3 sizes too big purple hoodie and pierogi”

I sit writing this on the deck of the Corwith Cramer, surrounded by people I now know better than almost anyone else in my life. After our presentations and an afternoon spent ashore, followed by a BBQ and dinner on deck as the sun set, we’ve come together once again to sit under the stars and feel the cool breeze blowing over the water. Some are putting the final touches on project reports, while others wrap up their last few sketches in their sheet anchors. A few of the crew are quietly singing and strumming a guitar, playing the kind of songs you don’t have to hear the lyrics to understand. A few scattered raindrops have started falling on us, and I’m overwhelmed with nostalgia for the moment I’m in right now, my heart filled with the kind of emotions I’d fill the rest of my life with if I could. I’m so thankful for all this semester has given me and all the opportunities the few days we have left hold for us. I promise we’ll make the most of them.

May we be happy. May we be healthy. May we be at peace.

- Brier Ward, C Watch

P.S. Love to my family always, but especially today. Thank you to those who encouraged me to be here. I know you’re here with me.

Contact: Douglas Karlson, Director of Communications, 508-444-1918 | dkarlson@sea.edu

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