A semester at SEA

19 Feb 2016


Environmental studies major spends six weeks sailing the Atlantic with Sea Education Association (SEA)
Climbing the foremast, conducting oceanographic research, and navigating by the stars during six weeks at sea —Jamie Dalgleish’s (’17) study abroad experience was far from typical.

Semester at SEA student Jamie DalgleishDalgleish, who hails from New York, NY, participated in the Sea Education Association’s (SEA) SEA Semester: Oceans & Climates program this past fall.

Based in Woods Hole, MA, the SEA program provides students with six weeks of intense scientific and policy coursework on land, then six weeks of hands-on research experience aboard a tall ship on a transatlantic crossing.

“I think we went for 39 days without seeing land, but you get used to it. It is beautiful out there and we were so lucky. We had ideal conditions the whole way across,” Dalgleish says.

She and the other 11 members of her class sailed from the Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean aboard the SSV (Sailing School Vessel) Corwith Cramer, a 134-foot brigantine.

“The boat is 134 feet long, the deck is 90 feet long and there were 30 people on board,” she says. “You get to know everyone really well and make lifelong friends.”

Sailing is a 24-hour-a-day job, so all of the students were official, legal members of the crew and took turns standing watch on a continually rotating schedule.

“It was super cool learning nautical science. It’s not something academic in the traditional sense,” Dalgleish says. “We did what is called a ‘Polynesian run’ for 48 hours, during which we didn’t use any instruments, not even the compass. We sailed using our celestial knowledge of constellations and Polynesian navigation — how the Polynesian people in the islands traditionally sailed, based on where the waves are and the direction they are coming from and the wind, stars, and sun.

Semester at SEA student Jamie Dalgleish ship“It was amazing. By the end of the entire crossing, from our Polynesian run we were only 20 nautical miles off, having sailed roughly 3,000 nautical miles.”

The experience of sailing is not the only goal of the voyage. Each student also carried out an original research project they developed during the shore component of the program.

“I got really good lab experience,” Dalgleish says. “And I got a good taste of research and what that was like, first-hand, hands-on, which was really exciting. My partner and I looked at water masses and oxygen minimum zones in the Tropical North Atlantic to track changes over time in response to climate change.”

While Dalgleish’s interest is in the environmental sciences, she says she would recommend the program to anyone.

“They have so many different academic programs and not just in the sciences. You can do social science and humanities and anthropology or study coral reefs,” she says. “I think the best part about it was how immersed you are in it. It is so intense, but in a good way.”

Read more about Dalgleish’s voyage on the SEA Currents blog and her blog post on Nov. 26, 2015

Photo captions:

Jamie Dalgleish operates the wire, part of the science equipment aboard the SSV Corwith Cramer.

The Sea Education Association's 134-foot brigantine, the SSV Corwith Cramer, which serves as floating classroom and laboratory for their SEA Semester program.


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