Stories at Sea

Welcome to Stories at SEA

Tune in to Stories at SEA to join students and crew from Sea Education Association who completed a 4,700 mile voyage, sailing from San Diego, CA to French Polynesia while conducting oceanographic research onboard.

Nora Jackson, host and producer of Stories at SEA, spoke to students underway about daily life on the ship, research projects, and why it’s meaningful to be studying the ocean.

Episode 3: How did you lose your hair?

Listen Now: Episode 3
Nora, Paloma, Brighton on the yards):


Welcome back to Stories at Sea! This week at sea was met with lots of anticipation as we neared the Equator. We placed bets on what time we’d arrive at the line and Olivia Chiota won the bet and was awarded a very fine, handmade boxing-looking belt. The morning of the crossing felt like New Year’s Eve, countdown included. Something I was very excited for in the Southern Hemisphere were the new constellations that we might get to see, including the Southern Cross. Crossing the Equator made it clear just how far we’d come and it was great for group morale.

We had a fairly ordinary day on October 19th until around 3 pm when King Neptune’s court was convened. Like I mentioned in the episode, I won’t reveal the specifics of the trials we underwent to prove our worthiness. I have to leave some mystery at 0°. The barbershop opened up after we were all granted our new fishy names, and 14 people shaved their heads with many more donating some lesser portion of hair to the sea. After just a few days, it was difficult to remember what people looked like with long hair! Needless to say, we made it safely into the Southern Hemisphere and King Neptune allowed us to continue on our voyage.

Throughout the third week we continued to deploy scientific instruments. In this episode, we hear from Dr. Sarah Kingston and Matt Birhle about some of the continuous data logging that goes on 24/7. There’s the flow-through system measuring all kinds of variables like salinity and dissolved oxygen, chirp (which I still can’t find what it stands for) which can profile the seafloor, and the ADCP (acoustic doppler current profiler) which measures currents and as a lucky bonus, can record the daily migration of zooplankton as they move up and down in the water column. The Seamans is basically constantly doing science. I asked several people including Sarah and Kelly Morgan, why do this kind of science on a tall ship because as Sarah once said, the Seamans is “not your most ergonomic design for doing science, if you were building your dream oceanographic vessel it might not be the Seamans.” The truth is, everyone gets so much more out of the trip because we get to sail.

That being said, doing oceanographic research on a tall ship especially requires everyone to stay constantly flexible. After spending lots of time planning a project, it can be really difficult to switch gears but sometimes that’s just the way it goes. Paloma Cestar, Emily Rogers, and Aster Van Dyke were all going to be sailing on the Corwith Cramer in the Atlantic, but a change of plans brought them to the Seamans and the Pacific. They looked at zooplankton biodiversity as it relates to pH, nutrient concentrations, and microplastics. Microplastics, fragments of plastic that are less than 5 mm in length, are an unfortunate human contribution to the oceans and this group wanted to see if these tiny plastics could be affecting zooplankton abundance or biodiversity. Olivia Chiota and Keeghan Ryan were looking at the size distribution and amount of phytoplankton in relation to nutrients and salinity. They also planned to compare their data to past data to find correlations between climatic patterns and phytoplankton trends. SEA has a growing database of information from every cruise track over the last 50 years that is often shared with scientists around the world.

Our Ocean Moments segment was interrupted last week for the swim call splashes, but we return this week to five moments that Paloma, Sarah, Matt, Morgan, Kelly, and Diego all experienced by the water. Matt asked me prior to the interview if he could share a memory of being at a lake and of course that was okay, because the larger point is really to share with listeners some of the magic that people experience in nature. Just a note about Diego and Kelly’s stories. I interviewed Diego on October 6 and twenty days later I talked with Kelly; hearing her talk about swimming in a kelp forest in the Northern Channel Islands, knowing how Diego described it, gave me goosebumps. It was as if they had secretly conferred to tell the same story. It was probably the most magical moment I had during this project.

The third week ended with a big announcement that we’d be making other port stops besides Moorea and Tahiti like originally planned. We were all extremely excited because it meant getting to explore more of French Polynesia with newly made friends. What’s more, we were getting very close to land and, with the equator behind us, we all started making new bets about when we’d first spot land. That’s all in the next episode of Stories at SEA. Thanks for listening and fair winds! Many thanks to Parker Rehmus for doing the intro to this episode, Calvin Lucido, Brighton Hedger, Ali Fox, Emily Rogers, Aster Van Dyke, Rikki Held, Dr. Sarah Kingston, Matt Birhle, Paloma Cestar, Olivia Chiota, Keeghan Ryan, Kelly Morgan, Morgan Hayman, and Diego Fernandez for sitting down to chat with me for this episode, to the entire crew of the Robert C. Seamans for letting me take time each day to interview in the aft cabin, and to Dr. Sarah Kingston for her photograph that was the inspiration for the podcast cover art.

Nora Jackson

Crossing the Equator at 6:40 a.m after counting down the latitudinal minutes.
Photo 1_ At the Equator

Crossing the Equator at 6:40 a.m after counting down the latitudinal minutes.

Parker Rehmus’s second bowl haircut in progress the day we crossed the Equator.
Photo 2_ Haircut in Progress

Parker Rehmus’s second bowl haircut in progress the day we crossed the Equator.

Fourteen bald eagles onboard.
Photo 3_ Bald Eagles

Fourteen bald eagles onboard.

Head shellback was Olivia Chiota because she most accurately guessed the time we’d cross the equator.
Photo 4_ Head shellback

Head shellback was Olivia Chiota because she most accurately guessed the time we’d cross the equator.