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, [email protected]

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