ecology and literature
of the sea

Course Description

Since the earliest records of human civilization the sea has played a significant role in culture and history, as a source of food, a mode of travel, a boundary to the world and as a cause of fear and inspiration. Acknowledging that this planet "Earth" is 2/3rds water, more recently the role of the seas and oceans in global ecology has become more and more apparent.

This course will examine the Western hemisphere experience of the sea, dating from Ancient Greece to the present and will provide students with the opportunity to make a voyage on a Tall Ship to several islands in the Caribbean Basin. During the regular academic term students will be reading and discussing, with course instructors and a several guest speakers, a number of classic works of fiction and non-fiction in addition to key papers in Oceanography, Biogeography, Marine Biology, and fisheries.

During the Winter break, the class will culminate in a sea voyage in the southern Caribbean on the Spirit of Massachusetts, a 125 ft tallship. Based aboard the ship, we will spend two weeks sailing among the Virgin Islands, examining issues of marine biology, island biogeography, park planning, ecotourism, and regional architecture, simultaneously learning how to crew the vessel. We will explicitly contrast different solutions to conservation issues exhibited by different islands within the archipelago, and attempt to synthesize general lessons that can be applied to other island settings.

It should be noted that because of the physical and mental demands of spending time at sea in a sailing vessel, the instructors will screen all students interested in taking the class. Evaluation will be based on class participation, short papers during the regular term, and a field journal during the sailing portion of the course.