Alumni Weekend 2016: Panels, Pub Quizzes, and More!

Join us this September 16-18 for our 39th Annual Alumni Weekend! Events include whaleboat races, children’s activities, a scholarship silent auction, and much more.

North CA lect spot

We are especially excited to welcome four alumni for this year’s panel: “The Future of Our Coasts.” In addition to moderator Carrie Selberg F95 of NOAA Fisheries, the panelists include:

Alanna Casey F09, University of Rhode Island

Alanna’s research uses qualitative and interpretive humanities methods to assess the changing uses and meanings of historical and cultural resources such as historic forts, ships, and archaeological sites in climate change planning.

Betsy Nicholson S94, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

As North Regional Director, Betsy Nicholson addresses ocean and coastal management issues across the Great Lakes and North Atlantic. Based in Gloucester, MA, she works collaboratively with government and other partners to advance coordinated ocean management through the development of regional ocean plans, and to promote strategies for improving resilience of coastal community in the face of a changing climate.

Cary White F10, The Nature Conservancy

Cary uses his landscape design background to conceptualize nature-based approaches to protect people, property, and infrastructure.  He is currently working on a community resilience visioning process with the municipalities of southeastern Connecticut.

Check out our full schedule below. And make sure to reserve your spot soon; the deadline for late registration is September 12 at 10 am!

Alumni Weekend 2016 

Friday, September 16

8-9:30 pm: Pub Trivia Night at the Carlton Marine Science Center

Saturday, September 17

9:30 am-5:30 pm: Registration at the Main Gate outside VRC

10 am-7 pm: Swag sales and general information at the tent outside the Boat Shed

10 am-4 pm: Get out on the water with a boat borrowed from the Boat House!

10 am-4 pm: Children’s activities (time varies per activity), including Games on the Green, Children’s Museum, Discovery Barn, and Toy Boat-Building

10 am-6 pm: Scholarship silent auction at the Boat Shed. All proceeds go directly toward student scholarships.

11:30 am-12:45 pm: Lunch at the Seaport Village Green, hosted by the Alumni Council

12:45-1:30 pm: Tour of campus with Maritime History Prof. Glenn Gordinier, departing from the gazebo at the Seaport Village Green

2-3 pm: Alumni panel on The Future of Our Coasts, at Greenmanville Church

3 pm: Whaleboat races at the Middle Wharf. Sign-up at registration required.

4-5 pm: Alumni Council Reception at the Carlton Lounge

4:30-5 pm: Reunion class photographs and reception at Spouter’s Tavern

5-6 pm: Alumni Swizzle at the Boat Shed

6-7 pm: Riverside dinner at the Boat Shed

7 pm: Program welcome and live auction at the Boat Shed

Sunday, September 18

9-10:30 am: Alumni breakfast at the Membership Patio (rain location: Boat Shed)

Student sailing F15

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Williams-Mystic Biannual Lecture Series welcomes Dr. Henry Art

Join us this Friday, April 8th at 2 PM in the Greenmanville Church at the Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT, as Dr. Henry Art, the Rosenburg Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies at Williams College, presents “Dynamics of Fire Island (NY) Ecosystems.” All are welcome!

More information can be found on our Biannual Lecture 2016 flyer, or by contacting Professor Michael Nishizaki at: 206-310-7585

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2015 Williams College – Mystic Seaport Ocean Essay Contest Award Winners Announced


JANUARY 28, 2016

Impressive prose from Colby College senior suggests great things to come from its author. The first prize for the 2015 Williams College – Mystic Seaport Ocean Essay Contest in honor of Joseph Conrad has been awarded to Colby College senior, Chloe Geffken for her short story “In the Absence of a Telephone Ringing.” The contest awards the best essay of any genre with the ocean as the setting, open to any major. This year, we received more entries than ever before and the highest quality in the history of the prize, welcoming entries from well over 50 colleges, universities, and high schools.

This year’s guest judge for the contest was Dr. Edward D. Melillo, History and Environmental Studies professor from Amherst College. Reading blindly, he selected Ms. Geffken’s essay and wrote the following about her piece:

“This short story is a haunting account of a seaside community, swept up by a maritime tragedy. In this place where ‘news doesn’t happen,’ a child narrates an unfolding disaster. Although we never learn the particularities of this calamity, the author gives us its shadowy outlines: whispers, busy media crews, an empty mooring at the docks, a candlelight vigil along the shoreline. The story derives power not from grand rhetorical flourishes but from subtle touches, like the refrain that ocean water ‘is cold, even in July.’ This is an impressive piece of prose that suggests great things to come from its author.”

Chloe Geffken is from a small town in Midcoast Maine, a place that stays in her heart wherever she goes. She is in her last semester of studying Anthropology and Biology at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. Ms. Geffken will receive an award of $500 and guest passes to the Mystic Seaport.

Two honorable mentions for this essay were also selected. They were awarded to Nikolas Oliver, an English major from Randolph College for “The Water Birth of Jay Gatsby” and McKayla Whitley who will be attending Arkansas Tech University for “Riding out the Wave.” Nikolas is an English major with an emphasis in Literature at Randolph College. He lives in Lynchburg, VA with his girlfriend and their three cats. McKayla attended J.D. Leftwich High School and spends most of her time hanging out with friends and family. She also loves to read.

Williams-Mystic, the country’s premiere maritime studies program, is the sponsoring entity for this contest and award. This world-renowned accredited study away semester hosts students from around the world with a rigorous curriculum that is based on an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary hands-on course of study focused on the world’s oceans and coastlines. Together, students of all majors study the history, literature, policy and science of our oceans and coastlines.

For more information about Williams-Mystic:

For more information on the 2016 Ocean Essay Contest, please visit our contest site.

Thomas Van Winkle, Ph.D., Executive Director,

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Cape Cod Fisheries Trust seeking Director

The Cape Cod Fisheries Trust (CCFT) Director oversees all aspects of the Cape Cod Fisheries Trust on behalf of the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance. The Cape Cod Fisheries Trust has become a national model for fishing community stability and growth through its ownership and management of a diverse portfolio of quota for high value seafood commodities, including scallops, clams, cod, haddock and flounder. The Director is responsible for leasing this quota to the local fleet to stimulate economic development and ensure long-term fleet profitability and environmental sustainability. The Director is also responsible for building the program and developing innovative solutions to advance the Trust’s mission to support sustainable fishing businesses.

For more information, please see the CCFT Director Job Description.

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F15 offshore near Pelee Island

NiagaraOffshore_8571smThe Williams-Mystic F15 class is midway through their voyage aboard the SSV Niagara, led by the captain and crew and Professors Rich King and Mike Nishizaki and TA Hannah Whalen.   This morning they finished their second science Super Station, collecting water, sediment, and two kinds of mussels from the bottom: zebra and quagga mussels, both invasive species from Europe.

Now they are heading east toward Buffalo, NY.  To continue tracking their progress, go to

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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

~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!


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:

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), 860-439-5390

Doug Thompson (Physics Chair and Goodwin-Niering Center Fellow)

Richard King (Literature of the Sea at Williams-Mystic and Goodwin-Niering Center Fellow)

Mauro Diaz-Hernandez (Williams-Mystic Director of Admissions),, 860.572.5359, x2

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