Thursday, October 11, 2007
Pirates and Plankton

Back to shipboard life after Thailand. All three of the classes I teach had their first exam so I have been grading over 100 exams and am done. Very strangely, all three had identical averages, a whopping 80% class average. I am so proud, and the librarians say my students are in there all the time using the binders and other resources I have brought for them as reference material.

Yesterday we arrived with the sunrise to the waters off of Singapore. I took a photo of the very modern skyline, and then went to do my daily exercise on the elliptical and then some weight work. The inside of the ship is air conditioned, so when I go to the aft 7th deck for weight work, which is outside, the humidity of the tropics at 1 degree above the equator, steam up my glasses and its warm, but not at all uncomfortable. We anchored off a lighthoused island and a pilot and customs came on board. None of us got off. It took from 0700 until 2200 hours yesterday to bring the oil, fuel and other provisions on board. Classes went on as usual, and it was strange to teach without swaying. Two days ago, between classes, they had a man-overboard drill while underway and many of us went out on deck to watch. The ship did a full 180 degree turn at speed and we all had to hang on or fall down. I was timing the rescue and from the “Exercise only” call to lifeboat recovery of the victim was 14 minutes. Not bad in a boat this size. Then we turned back and continued on my way, so I have officially done a donut in the South China Sea.

I gave my Grand Canyon Human History talk last night as a community college lecture and it was well attended. In the meantime, many of us are hoping that one of our economics professors is okay in the hospital. She is only 50-years-old and has a family history of cardiac issues and was sent ashore in Singapore with her spouse and son for further evaluation after she developed chest discomfort. If she doesn’t return, we will all pitch in and pick up her coursework. I can do many of her classes in poverty and the environment and will see what the plan becomes.

So now, we are underway for a most critical part of out voyage. We are about to go through the Malacca Strait, notorious for the most modern day pirate attacks in the world. The captain plans to run all 4 engines (we normally run on one) and may hit speeds close to 32 knots. He says speed is our best defense. Should we need to, we have water cannons on deck we can use to repel boarders. It’s pretty weird to be talking about repelling pirates in such a “modern age,” but he wasn’t kidding, and we all will be keeping a weather eye out as there will be an increase in security rounds and deck patrols by the ship’s staff. Actually, it’s all pretty exciting.

This morning I went with security to the aft 3rd deck, which is closed to passengers. I was able to deploy my plankton net and get two samples. My digital microscope was acting up so I went to the clinic and used theirs. I saw neat larvae and plant material.

Next stop…India!

Posted by Nancy @ 07:52 PM pst