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Daily Log: Friday, October 9th

0700 hours

Current Position: Moored at Atlantic Salt on the Kill Van Kull, Staten Island, NY.
Latitude: 40˚ 38.7' N
Longitude: 074˚ 05.8' W

Day Five of the 2009 Masters Voyage of Discovery.

We will spend the entire day moored here on the northern shore of Staten Island, along the swift currents of the Kill Van Kull. Lacking the distractions of weighing anchor or sail handling, this layover gives the students their prime opportunity to focus on collecting data for their presentation projects. In fact, for teams, data collection has already been going on for at least 12 hours when we rise from our bunks.

Note that this photo was actually taken much later in the day; throughout the morning, the skies were blanketed with thin cloud cover, to the point that Ben and Brandon's planned experiment was increasingly imperiled. Did the skies clear in time for them to track the Sun? Read on!

0745 hours

Captain Reynolds begins the day with a briefing for the students, laying out the rigor of the work that will be required to collect ample data sets.

Before we delve into river science, however, the captain pauses for a look back at the Half Moon's history, reading selections from Robert Juet's journal. (You can read the same entries at the end of each of our daily logs, or by downloading the PDF here.)

0815 hours

The crew fuels up with a banana pancake breakfast before diving into their research schedules.

0930 hours

By mid-morning, research is already well underway. In between taking current speed readings, Grace and Abigail review their notes, including the readings collected for them by Anchor Watch overnight.

0945 hours

The research teams are typically taking readings once every half an hour. Between readings, they have time to pursue other interests, including advancing their rank through the Crew Rating Log. We join Jason as he's approached the captain for his first review.

Check the Student Crew page each day to see the latest ratings!

1000 hours

We find Isis and Sofia relaxing on the fore deck. Having already collected all of their salinity data on Days Three and Four, now they have time to sit back and analyze their data.

1045 hours

Throughout the day, the senior crew -- typically Mr. Berg, Ms. Laufer, or Mr. Collens -- run the small teams of students out in Zodiac expeditions to explore the Kill Van Kull. These trips take about half an hour, and provide an exciting break from the students' day.

Mouse over to set the fender in motion.
A massive fender churns in the roiling surf.

1100 hours

The Kill Van Kull is a heavily trafficked industrial waterway, and the frequent wakes of passing tugboats or freighters can churn the current at a moment's notice. Anyone wondering what was so exciting about Captain Reynolds stepping across the fender yesterday should take another look at that fender now...

1115 hours

The next Zodiac expedition is getting ready to depart. Only one member of each research team can go out in the Zodiac at any given time; their partner must remain on the ship to continue collecting data.

In the case of the comparative temperatures team, Taylor will hold the fort while Izzy goes exploring. (Later in the day, Izzy will return the favor.) Before anyone goes anywhere, however, it's time for another reading.


For his part, Captain Reynolds is encountering a steady stream of student sailors looking to climb the ranks. Sofia's climbed up to the Quarter deck for her first review -- how will she do?

Mouse over to
Captain Reynolds gleefully stamps a student's Rating Log.

Passed with flying colors! Of course, no promotion's official without the captain's rubber stamp.

The next Zodiac expedition has loaded up and is ready to head out. With lunch preparations in the able hands of her galley helpers, Ms. Daley takes a break to take a look around for herself.

Of course, the Zodiac expeditions aren't just sightseeing tours. For the students, they're also opportunities to explore the marine environment. While they're out, the Zodiac teams collect specimens of local flora and fauna; you can see some of their finds displayed on the Wildlife page.

1130 hours

If they aren't in the middle of a reading, students who aren't out exploring or approaching the captain have other ways to occupy their time. Here, a large group gears up to climb aloft and take in the view.

1200 hours

As the Zodiac team returns, they bring back something else with them: sunlight! Just in time, blue skies break through, allowing Ben and Brandon to jump into their research project.

Ben and Brandon's celestial tracking project can now proceed as planned. They came so close to having to cancel this project that Mr. Hansen had already set up a rig to study mechanical advantage.

Next time, Mr. Hansen; next time.

Captain Reynolds jumps in to get the team up to speed, lending them his own directional compass to track the Sun's azimuth.

Ben and Brandon get to work right away.

In the meantime, our rig climbers are on their way back down to the deck to relieve their teammates.

1215 hours

Taylor and Izzy are united once more as they continue their comparative temperatures readings. With the sun out, they're starting to notice a spike in the air temperature.

As the next batch of climbers heads up, Abigail is in the midst of grabbing a banana peel for a current speed measurement. We're experiencing intermittant, brisk winds today, which can interfere with lightweight flotation markers, such as apple peels or our standard wooden biscuits. Hopefully the banana peels will have enough mass -- and will float low enough in the water -- that the wind will not affect their performance.

Meanwhile, the celestial tracking team has picked up the pace. This is the crucial period for their experiment; true noon could, theoretically, occur anytime between now and 1400 hours. For maximum accuracy, Ben and Brandon start taking readings every few minutes as the Sun nears its zenith.

1230 hours

While we wait on lunch, Ms. Daley sends up a snack of freshly baked banana bread. It vanishes in moments.

Mr. Gans and Mr. Hourigan have been hard at work on their own project as well. Currently, they're sewing Mr. Hourigan's grommet into the canvas bucket; this will give its bottom a semi-rigid shape, allowing it to stand upright.

During our layover here at Atlantic Salt, Erin and Dante been selecting distant fixed objects (such as the top of a flagpole or smokestack), and determining their coordinates with a quadrant and directional compass. We'll check back in with them later.

Before students get back to their work, Ms. Laufer brings out the Task Matrix and invites the students to update it with their latest accomplishments. Click here to see the current state of affairs.

1245 hours

As the afternoon winds on, the research teams have generally either already collected their crucial data, or have settled into an easy groove, leaving the crew feeling relaxed.

1300 hours

Some of our students are particularly motivated to advance in the ranks, but to do so they need a full understanding of the Half Moon's traditional navigational tools. Ms. Laufer happily gathers them on the fore deck for a look back at the history of nautical navigation. For a wider view of this scene, visit the Half Moon History page.

Mouse over to pass Mr. Gans the painter line.
Ms. Bruijn tosses the painter line down to the Zodiac crew.

Meanwhile, the latest Zodiac expedition is ready to set out.

Climbing aloft remains a popular way to spend free time as well.

1330 hours

We've mentioned that with the risk of clambering across the fenders, the only the senior crew is cleared to step on shore, and even then only when necessary. Well, it's never been so necessary as right now! Fifty feet never felt so far before.

The local ice cream truck picked up the habit of pulling into the Atlantic Salt parking lot during the Half Moon's last visit in August. Now that it's returned, Captain Reynolds steps over to pick up a bundle of ice cream sandwiches for the crew to enjoy later.

1345 hours

As the ice cream truck leave, the latest Zodiac expedition returns, with no idea what they've missed.

1400 hours

Ms. Daley serves a hot lunch on the weather deck. The students take a break from their research for their choice of chicken patty sandwiches or veggie burgers, served along with tater tots.

Speaking of research teams, let's catch up with Erin and Dante. They're about to gather the crew for a third time, recruiting each crew member to sight the landmarks they've chosen just, as they've done earlier. They'll study the variation in the crew's findings for their presentation on statistical analysis.

1415 hours

In the galley, Sofia and Taylor are well into the process of preparing three dishes of lasagna for tonight's dinner.

1715 hours

Snack break! As a reward for working through their projects, we break out the ice cream sandwiches. Some crew prefer to eat their ice cream in the relative warmth of the orlop deck...

...while others prefer it in fresh air and sunshine.

In the fading light of late afternoon, the new canvas bucket is nearly complete! We'll try it out tomorrow morning.

1745 hours

Toward the end of the day, the students are beginning to shift their focus from collecting data to analyzing what they've found. The students cluster on the orlop deck to start drafting their initial graphs.

1800 hours

A rosy dusk settles over distant skylines of Manhattan and Brooklyn as the day winds down.

1845 hours

The lasagna dinner prepared by Sofia and Taylor is served on the weather deck after sunset. The senior crew eats above decks while relaxing and chatting away.

The cooks, on the other hand, have retreated to the orlop deck along with most of the student crew, avoiding the deepening chill in the air.


Abigail is still hard at work, however. Having qualified for the rank of Able-Bodied Sailor earlier today, she's now intent on making it to Watch Captain.

At the moment, she's learning a few more knots from Mr. Berg.

1900 hours

And now Abigail feel ready to face the captain for her third review. The captain usually ends the review process at sundown, but he can't bear to stand in the way of such enthusiasm.

Of course, she passes with flying colors. For Watch Captain Abigail, there remains only one rank and a day and half... will she make it?

1930 hours

Captain Reynolds ends the evening by pulling out his laptop and declaring mail call. We do indeed have a stack of e-mail for the students, and everyone's glad to hear from home.

Mail call rolls straight into tonight's Anchor Watch briefing, in which it is decided to continue collecting data through the night.

2200 hours

After hours, the Anchor Watch does its duty, monitoring the ship's dock lines and collecting readings for the current speed, height of tide, and comparative temperatures teams.

Next Time: Palisades and Presentations!

Robert Juet's Journal

The VOC Halve Maen spends the morning sailing through the Hudson Highlands. The passage through these mountains takes the ship out of Mahican territory and back into the lands of the coastal Lenape. The Lenape, unlike the Mahicans, have had a century of experience with European traders (generally Basque fishermen working off the coast), and are far less welcoming. In fact, Captain Hudson and his crew have already undergone a series of ominous encounters on their way into the river. On September 6th, 1609, the Halve Maen expedition suffered its only casualty when English sailor John Coleman was shot with an arrow while exploring the Kill Van Kull; later, the crew took two Lenape hostage, holding them on board for several days before the pair escaped at Newburgh Bay. The Halve Maen is now re-entering this territory, leading into a bloody series of repercussions.

It begins quietly, with the crew setting anchor near modern Peekskill and trading with locals who come out to investigate the ship. However, one man lingers in his canoe by the ship's rudder, eventually using it to climb up into the great cabin -- the officers' quarters -- and stealing several items from Robert Juet himself: a pillow, two shirts, and two bandoleers (ammunition belts for muskets). For sailors of this era, theft was a major crime, carrying grim punishment, and the first mate shoots the fleeing thief, killing him. The rest of the Lenape flee, though some panic and leap from their canoes into the cover of the river. The crew launches the sloep to recover the stolen goods, but one of the Lenape swims up and grabs hold -- according to Juet, with the intention of tipping it over. The ship's cook kills this man, presumably for fear of drowning, since these sailors likely did not know how to swim. The crew returns to the ship and weighs anchor, continuing another six miles downriver before anchoring again in the wide expanse of Haverstraw Bay. The night passes, but the encounter is not yet over.

On October 1st, 1609:

The first of October, faire weather, the wind variable betweene the West and the North. In the morning we weighed at seuen of the clocke with the ebbe, and got downe below the Mountaynes, which was seuen leagues. Then it fell calme and the floud was come, and wee anchored at twelue of the clocke. The people of the Mountaynes came aboord vs, wondring at our ship and weapons. We bought some small skinnes of them for Trifles. This after-noone, one Canoe kept hanging vnder our sterne with one man in it, which we could not keepe from thence, who got vp by our Rudder to the Cabin window, and stole out my Pillow, and two Shirts, and two Bandeleeres. Our Masters Mate shot at him, and strooke him on the brest, and killed him. Whereupon all the rest fled away, some in their Canoes, and so leapt out of them into the water. We manned our Boat, and got our things againe. Then one of them that swamme got hold of our Boat, thinking to ouerthrow it. But our Cooke tooke a Sword, and cut off one of his hands, and he was drowned. By this time the ebbe was come, and we weighed and got downe two leagues, by that time it was darke. So we anchored in foure fathomes water, and rode well.

-- Robert Juet's Journal.

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