This news release describes past events and should be used for historical purposes only. Please note date of release.
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield Hall 218
Eau Claire, WI 54702-4004
UW-Eau Claire Professor
Teaches on Ship
phone (715) 836-4741
fax (715) 836-2900

MAILED: July 9, 1997

EAU CLAIRE -- A 20-foot wave crashed on the side of the Corwith Cramer, a 135-foot sailing vessel, causing the ship, Kent Syverson, and all others aboard to tilt at a 35-degree angle.

"It made eating and walking difficult," said Syverson, assistant professor of geology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. "The tables stayed in place because they were built on pivots but the benches moved with the ship. The dishes fell off the tables and created a big mess."

Syverson spent eight days on the ship sailing in the Atlantic Ocean from Bermuda to Woods Hole, Mass., as part of a 12-week course offered to 25 college students from across the United States. The purpose of the course was to teach practical oceanography. The course was offered through Sea Education Association of Woods Hole, Mass.

Syverson was a visiting scientist aboard the ship, helping students with their research projects, giving a lecture about the deglaciation of the Gulf of Maine region, and working with the student crew on the ship, which included cleaning up after that 20-foot wave.

Scrubbing floors became a two-person operation, he said. One person had to hold the bucket while the other cleaned the floor.

The students spent six weeks on shore learning about sailing the ship and preparing data for their research projects.

SEA takes students who are academically strong and adventurous, Syverson said. "Once on the ship, there's no way to escape any hardships that are encountered," he said.

Syverson said there were seven days when they saw no land. The students were in charge of the ship, and since Syverson joined them at the end of the 12 weeks, the students were running everything.

The day was divided into categories, Syverson said. There was always a student crew running the ship. The crews raised and lowered sails, watched at night to make sure no ships crossed their path, cooked, collected samples for their research projects, and cleaned the ship.

Students did about four hours of research some days and little other days, Syverson said. When they finished their projects, they presented them to the crew and students. "They (the projects) were impressive," Syverson said.

Syverson said students towed a net at 2,000 meters below the ocean's surface to see what types of organisms lived there. What they discovered were brightly colored red shrimp and many other organisms, he said.

The shrimp don't have the ability to produce black pigments but can produce red pigments. Because red light doesn't penetrate to a depth of 2,000 meters, red looks black at great depths, he said.

One time when the net was pulled out of the water, bioluminescent organisms were emitting a bluish-colored light, Syverson said. "It's exciting to be on board when they bring the net up and it's glowing," he said

Syverson said he had been trying to teach on the ship for two years and this year it finally worked into his schedule. He also was able to attend classes at the SEA campus in Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. He later traveled to Maine and did glacial geology field work and presented an invited lecture at the Maine Geological Survey, he said.

Syverson teaches "Oceanography" (Geology 102) at UW-Eau Claire, a class which attracts about 200 students each semester. He will use this experience on the Corwith Cramer in his lectures, he said.

"They said I experienced the heaviest seas of the trip and the most calm seas," Syverson said of his time on board the ship.

For more information about SEA, contact Syverson at (715) 836-3676 or


UWEC [Administrative Offices] [News Bureau]

Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 218
(715) 836-4741

Updated: July 9, 1997