by Joseph Mastando

On Saturday October 28, a group of students taking courses in the Natural Sciences at Mount Saint Mary College traveled onto an 18th century boat replica known as the Clearwater sloop.

Led by Dr. Margaret Larrousse, professor of the Natural Sciences at Mount Saint Mary College, the students traveled back into the 18th and 19th centuries and experienced what many refer to as “the pirate’s life.” Dr. Larrousse commented on the trip and said, “Bringing the students on the Clearwater gave students a chance to experience another world. They hoisted sails, steered the boat and learned a little bit about what life is like living on the Hudson. “

The students began their adventure learning to hoist a three-thousand pound sail, shouting commands such as “drop the line,” “hold the line,” and “heave-ho.” Then, wide awake with sore arms and tense legs, the students split into groups. Each group was assigned an environmental issue to explore while on the sloop, including climate change, endangered species, invasive species, and more.

With each group identified as a different environmental issue, the students were sent to stations scattered about the boat. The stations were meant to educate the students on different aspects of the boat. Among the stations were the topics of navigation, where the students learned the topography of Hudson River maps and how to steer the boat, water analysis, where the students tested the chemistry of the water in the Hudson River, the history of boats, where the students got to venture into the living quarters of the sailors, among others.

As the students made their way through each station, they were expected to relate their environmental issue to the topic at hand. They were to become further informed and educated upon their issue as the trip progressed. When all stations were completed, each group was to present an argument stating the importance of funding and investigating their environmental issue on the Hudson River.

When the trip concluded, upon request of the crew, the passengers aboard the ship took a moment of silence to admire and appreciate the scenery of the Hudson River. However, the crew quickly broke out their guitars and jammed out to the folk tunes of Pete Seeger, and yes, every crew member could either sing, play guitar, or do an impressive combination of both.

Why Pete Seeger? Seeger, a popular folk artist and environmental activist, funded the construction of the boat in 1969 as a response to the terrible conditions of the Hudson River. Flooded with pollution, the river became virtually uninhabitable. Seeger constructed the sloop in order to promote the health of the river, and the Clearwater soon became America’s Environmental Flagship. It currently stands as one of the first vessels in the United States to conduct science-based environmental education on a sailing ship.

Kristen-Anne Turkovic, sophomore Social Science major with certification in both elementary and special education at Mount Saint Mary College, was positively affected by the trip. She said, “I’m usually not a boat person, but I thought that it was actually very informative and it really helped me think about the Hudson in a totally new way.” However, Dr. Larrousse summed up the trip most eloquently as she stated, “The Clearwater helps remind us all that we are closely connected to nature and knowing nature helps us know ourselves.”

If you wish to learn more information about Clearwater, visit their website at www.clearwater.org.