S15 visits Vieques

Wednesday 11 February 2015
0830 h

50 nm north of Puerto Rico, sailing in 7,500 meters, above some of the deepest water in the entire North Atlantic

Members of A Watch set the jib as the sun rises. Stella Klema (Smith College) tails the line off the pin, while Kevin Ferreira (SUNY Maritime) and Emily Volkmann (Smith College) work together to sweat the halyard.

Members of A Watch set the jib as the sun rises. Stella Klema (Smith
College) tails the line off the pin, while Kevin Ferreira (SUNY Maritime)
and Emily Volkmann (Smith College) work together to sweat the halyard.

 

A watch has the deck now as the rest of the ship finishes up their science projects or catches a nap before this morning’s science “conference,” during which students will present and interpret the data we collected during our three primary stations during our voyage: one in deep water, one in slope water, and one in more shallow, coastal water. Rani Onyango (Williams) is at the wheel as I write, steering the ship. The other members of her watch, Aramis Sanchez (Williams), Kevin Ferreira (SUNY Maritime), Stella Klema (Smith), and Emily Volkmann (Smith) are up forward with the first mate and their assistant scientist striking, setting, and adjusting sails in order to alter course from sailing downwind, to a more westerly course that is closer to the wind.  As of this morning we have used the engine for only about five hours, and most of that time was coming in our out of port. As we spend more time onboard, standing lookout, steering the ship, and working the sails, the awe of moving this 258-ton steel ship with only the power of the wind is starting to sink in.

This is Richard King, and I teach the “Literature of the Sea” course with Williams Mystic. Yesterday morning we were at anchor in Sun Bay, Vieques. We had done a lot of reading before we arrived to learn about the controversial history of the US Naval presence in Vieques. Much of the island was an exercise ground for bombing practice until a civilian was killed in the late 1990s. We had discussed how the island had been occupied by plantations worked by slaves to grow sugar. Like so many of the other islands in this area, it had been deforested for this labor-intensive crop. We had also read about “Bio Bay” in Vieques, a small inlet that boasts some of the highest concentration of glowing bioluminescence in the world. So when charismatic Mark Martin, a field scientist and educator for the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust joined us for dinner and spoke to the group about his over twenty years on the island, his experience and perspective had particular resonance.

After Mark’s introduction, we went back ashore in the ship’s small boats. Through the dark we rode in a small school bus along an unlit narrow road. Branches clicked into the windows. We came to the launch at Bio Bay. Here we got on an electric boat and powered into the center. We were extraordinarily fortunate to have Mark as one of our guides on the boat. The bioluminescence glowed blue-green in every direction. A strong breeze blew whitecaps and every wavelet glowed. The wake of the boat was brilliant blue-green and every ripple from the hull glowed, too. Bioluminescent darts flickered constantly, revealing the shape of fish skittering away from the ship-some tiny, some large, some lumbering, some like sparks of lightning under the surface. The crew thumped on the boat to reveal still more bioluminescence from ripples and fish skittering out from underneath.  Meanwhile a clear sky above was packed with stars from horizon to horizon.

There was a lot to take in! And this was compounded with the overt complications of an increasing eco-tourism presence in the bay and the discussion of an unprecedented die-off about a year ago, where the bay went simply dark for a few months. The primary organism that emits the bioluminescence, a dinoflagellate the size of pen tip, which normally thrives here within the mangrove shores in fantastic concentrations, had simply disappeared. Fortunately for us and the local business owners, Bio Bay did come back toward the middle of last year. Through public funding and citizen science projects, Martin has been trying to find out the reason for the die-off. He took us around to his monitoring sights, and he recruiting our students to help with sampling.

Before our visit to Bio Bay, Mark Martin of the Vieques Conservation Trust speaks to the ship's company about the intersections between field science and public policy on the island. That's Tom Roseblatt from Bowdoin College in the background.

Before our visit to Bio Bay, Mark Martin of the Vieques Conservation Trust
speaks to the ship’s company about the intersections between field science
and public policy on the island. That’s Tom Roseblatt from Bowdoin College
in the background.

We’re back at sea now, though, still processing that experience as we take in brand new ones. “Ready on the jib halyard?” shouts the chief mate to A Watch-and everyone now knows exactly where this is and where to go. Science presentations will be later this morning followed by classes on weather at sea, Melville’s understanding of plankton, and a tutorial on how to splice and whip rope. Tonight will be our last full night at sea under sail before we head back to San Juan to anchor.

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Greetings from the Corwith Cramer!

Saturday 7 February 2015

0900
~18 nm northeast of San Juan

Hello from aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer! We have now been underway and sailing for over two nights. We are currently just north of Puerto Rico and “hove to,” holding stationary with the use of our sails, in about 700 meters of water to deploy a Shipek grab. This instrument is a specifically designed spring-loaded scoop to get a sample of the ocean bottom.

My name is Richard King, and I teach the “Literature of the Sea” course with Williams-Mystic. We arrived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday and quickly dropped off our bags at the hotel and went back out to explore Old San Juan. As we walked, we spanned over five hundred years of history, from Ponce de Leon’s contact in the harbor in the early sixteenth century with the native Taino peoples, to the contemporary contact in the harbor of thousands of cruise ship passengers a day. We walked around the old cobblestone streets, touring a few of the oldest churches and forts in the Western Hemisphere, and had some free time for dinner before returning to our hotel early to get a good night’s sleep and a final long, hot shower.

We woke up early on Thursday and spent the entire day on the ship doing safety drills and learning about our new home, the Corwith Cramer, before we cast off the dock lines and sailed past El Morro at the mouth of the harbor, the same fort we had clambered around the day before. By Friday, most of us had got our sea legs, and by Saturday, in an extraordinarily short amount of time, we feel like we’ve been aboard for weeks. We are “learning the ropes,” literally, and learning about navigation, weather, and how to take care of the ship and ourselves at sea. We’re learning how to steer, how to set and furl sails, and how to stand lookout safely. As we write in our journals, we’ve been talking about how Hemingway sailed in similar waters and converted his decades of experience at sea into fiction, notably his novella The Old Man and the Sea, which we’ll be studying when we return. Now we’ll be able to read his novel with a sense of the marine biology and seamanship background that Hemingway had, which he subtly injected into his story.

On Friday night we had a gorgeous night, with 4 planets visible just after sunset: Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter. These were followed by a bright moon, the moons of Jupiter visible with binoculars, and a light wind enabling us to set our topsail. A few students steered during their “trick” at the wheel with a star or two as a guide.

As I type, B watch, made up of Nicole Nason (UNC Wilmington), Cornelius
Chandler (Williams), Miranda Cooper (Williams), Luis Urrea (Williams), Jane
Jeong (Williams), and Tom Rosenblatt (Bowdoin), are working with Erik
Zettler, our chief scientist, and the other assistant ship scientists to
retrieve the Shipek grab with a sample of the muddy bottom. They are
examining the consistency and geological origin, discussing its color, and
the reason for its grain size. They’ll then deploy a variety of other types
of equipment over the side in order to get a snap shot of this body of
water’s physical, chemical, and biological characteristics, data which the
students will help organize and interpret here at sea, but also bring home
to incorporate into the Marine Ecology and Oceanographic Processes courses back in Mystic.

All’s well, we’re all safe, and learning tons. We’ll write again in a few
days, as we continue to sample these local waters and make our way toward
the island of Vieques.

C Watch
This on deck on Friday morning, with students from C Watch–Darcy Cogswell (Trinity), Sasha Langesfeld (Williams), and Kevin Hernandez
(Williams)-preparing to deploy the CTD carousel, which collects water
samples from various depths. They collected sea water from over 1,500 meters deep!

IMG_5899

This is from Saturday morning’s Shipek grab. B Watch gets their hands dirty,
feeling the texture of the ocean bottom here, as Jane and Luis work with
Professor Zettler to record the color for a standardized data description.
Off camera, Cornelius has taken a sample which we’ll bring back to Mystic
for further analysis. The rest of the students, C and A Watch, are down
below napping, since they were up from 1100-0300 and 0300-0700 respectively, sailing the ship to our station under the guidance of the captain and their individual watch captains.

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Welcome Spring 2015 Class!

On Monday, January 26, the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program welcomed its 76th class for Spring 2015. Our 18 students come to us from 9 different colleges, represent 20 different majors, and hail from 12 different states and 2 different countries.

The start of the semester is always exciting for students, staff, and faculty alike, but this semester proved extra-exciting: S15’s arrival day coincided with the arrival of Winter Storm Juno! The students were incredibly resilient during their first few days in Mystic as they endured and made the most of  Juno’s heavy snowfall: sledding and snowball fights kept S15 occupied as they enjoyed a day off before orientation.

After weathering Juno and a number of smaller snow and ice storms for the past week and a half, the students packed up their bags and headed to San Juan, Puerto Rico for their offshore field seminar aboard the Corwtih Cramer. Prof. Rich King and Teaching Assistant Catie Alves will guide S15 through historic San Juan before they board the Cramer. The ship’s progress can be viewed online at: http://bit.ly/1F5Pmef

We’ll keep readers posted with updates via our Facebook and Twitter feed. All the very best to S15 as they explore, enjoy, and learn in Puerto Rico!

 

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Applications still being accepted for the Connecticut College/Williams-Mystic Fellowship

There’s still time for any interdisciplinary adventurers to apply to The Williams-Mystic and Connecticut College Study Away and Research Fellowship! Any interested student should apply to the Connecticut College Office of Study Away by February 13, 2015.

The Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport is partnering with Connecticut College through the Goodwin-Niering Center, the Study Away office, and CELS to provide a unique study away and research opportunity for undergraduates of any major. One or two Connecticut College students will be selected based on their application and their advisor’s recommendations to join Williams-Mystic’s interdisciplinary ocean studies semester. This scholarly and outdoor adventure includes living within the museum at Mystic Seaport and three substantial research trips: to sea on a tall ship, to the Pacific Northwest or California coast, and to the delta of the Mississippi River. In addition, fellowship students will conduct paid research work toward their area of interest, both during the semester and for a ten-week CELS summer internship.

For full description: WilliamsMysticConnCollegeFellowship.2015-16

For more information contact:

Shirley Parson (Director, Office of Study Away, Fanning 113)
sapar@conncoll.edu, 860-439-5390

Doug Thompson (Physics Chair and Goodwin-Niering Center Fellow)
doug.thompson@conncoll.edu

Richard King (Literature of the Sea at Williams-Mystic and Goodwin-Niering Center Fellow)
richard.king@williams.edu

Mauro Diaz-Hernandez (Williams-Mystic Director of Admissions),
mauro.diaz-hernandez@williams.edu, 860.572.5359, x2

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Announcement of the 2014 Winners of the Williams-Mystic/Joseph Conrad Ocean Essay Contest

Press Release:

Announcement of 2014 Winners of the Williams-Mystic/Joseph Conrad Ocean Essay Contest

15 January 2015
Contact: Mauro Diaz-Hernandez
Director of Admissions
Williams-Mystic:
The Maritimes Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport
md11@williams.edu
860.572.5359 x2
www.mystic.williams.edu

 

Williams-Mystic, the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport, is pleased to announce the following recipient and honorable mention of the 2014 Joseph Conrad Ocean Essay Contest:

 Nikki Fisher ’18 of Southern New Hampshire University has won $500 for her short story “Solitude of a Siren,” commended by our guest judge as “a refreshing take on the classic myth of the siren.”

Agatha Fenech ’15 of Cedar Falls High School earned Honorable Mention for her scholarly essay “A Sea of Perspective: The Many Roles of the Sea in Lord Jim” and has been awarded free passes to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT.

Hannah Glaser ’15 of Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale earned Honorable Mention for her essay “Divide” and has also been awarded free passes to the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT.

 

Williams-Mystic: The Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport is a study away semester for undergraduates. The curriculum is composed of four classes for Williams College credit: Literature of the Sea, Maritime History, Marine Policy, and Marine Sciences.  Students spend the semester living at Mystic Seaport, the Museum of America and the Sea.  As part of the semester, students attend three week-long field seminars. The first is offshore on a tall ship; the second is to the Pacific Coast; and the third is to coastal Louisiana.  Students of all colleges and majors are welcome.

Philosophy and History of the Prize:  Williams-Mystic and an anonymous donor wish to encourage writing about the world’s oceans or major water bodies. We wish to reward promising writers with the opportunity, as part of their college career, to study about and travel on the ocean and live at Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea, the largest maritime museum in the world.  Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was one of the greatest of our maritime authors.  He wrote both fiction (Typhoon) and nonfiction (The Mirror of the Sea).  Mystic Seaport owns and maintains the tall ship Joseph Conrad (1882), which is a historic ship that circumnavigated the world with young people.  The prize deadline is in October of each year.

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Welcome Fall 2014 Class!

The 75th semester of the Williams-Mystic program began last week when students arrived on August 25th.  Members of the class of Fall 2014 hail from 8 different states and 2 countries, come to us from 11 different colleges, and represent 9 different academic majors/disciplines.

The Fall ’14 class will soon have a chance to earn their sea legs: they will be flying to California in less than a week to board the SSV Tole Mour, the first of three field seminars this semester.

To see what our students are up to this semester please follow our Blog (http://williamsmystic.wordpress.com/) and Facebook page (facebook.com/williamsmystic).

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Announcing New Fellowship between Williams-Mystic and Connecticut College

SEEKING INTERDISCIPLINARY ADVENTURERS!

We are pleased to announce The Williams-Mystic and Connecticut College Study Away and Research Fellowship!

For the first time, the Maritime Studies Program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport is partnering with Connecticut College through the Goodwin-Niering Center, the Study Away office, and CELS to provide a unique study away and research opportunity for undergraduates of any major. One or two Connecticut College students will be selected based on their application and their advisor’s recommendations to join Williams-Mystic’s interdisciplinary ocean studies semester. This scholarly and outdoor adventure includes living within the museum at Mystic Seaport and three substantial research trips: to sea on a tall ship, to the Pacific Northwest or California coast, and to the delta of the Mississippi River. In addition, fellowship students will conduct paid research work toward their area of interest, both during the semester and for a ten-week CELS summer internship.

For a full description: WilliamsMysticConnCollegeFellowship.2015.

 

For more information contact:

Professor Doug Thompson, Chair of Physics and Goodwin-Niering Fellow
doug.thompson@conncoll.edu
860.439.5016

or

Shirley Parson, Director of Connecticut College’s Office of Study Away
sapar@conncoll.edu
860.439.5390

or

Richard King, Literature of the Sea at Williams-Mystic and Goodwin-Niering Fellow
richard.king@williams.edu
860.572.5302 x5262

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Spring 2014 Semester Begins!

The 74th semester of the Williams-Mystic program began this week when students arrived on January 20th.  The diverse Spring 2014 class represents 8 states, 3 countries, 10 majors and 12 colleges.

During their semester, the Spring ’14 class will become shipmates and close friends as they live and study on their campus at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, CT. Tomorrow they will fly to Puerto Rico, where they will board the SSV Corwith Cramer and begin the first of three extended field seminars.

To see what our students are up to this semester please follow our Blog (http://williamsmystic.wordpress.com/) and Facebook page (facebook.com/williamsmystic).

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Glenn Gordinier’s Latest Book Receives Multiple Awards

RRG

Williams-Mystic is proud to announce that history professor Glenn Gordinier’s most recent publication, The Rockets’ Red Glare: The War of 1812 and Connecticut, has received several prestigious awards at both the state and national levels.

During a recent award ceremony, the spokesperson for the Association for the Study of Connecticut History stated that, “The Betty M. Linsley Award  is awarded to The Rockets’ Red Glare: The War of 1812 and Connecticut. Under Dr. Glenn Gordinier’s expert guidance, this well-researched and beautifully illustrated and printed volume represents an important contribution to our understanding of the history of the often overlooked War of 1812 in Connecticut.”

The book and its associated exhibit and website also won an American Association for State and Local History’s national Leadership in History Award, the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history, as well as an Award of Merit from the Connecticut League of Historical Organizations.

Congratulations!

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