Sea Us

By Ariel Polakoff, a student of MA program in Maritime Civilizations, the cohort of 2015-2016.

Sara Lantos (left) and myself (right) on the sailing yacht on our final afternoon at sea. 

Just off the coast of Israel, the Mediterranean Sea is a clear blue with small rolling waves continuing their endless pattern heading towards the shore. Divers are floating in a circle at the surface of the water preparing to go under, while the boat bobs above the rolling waves. This picturesque scene describes part of my experience at sea as part of a Research Cruise that I participated in as part of my studies in the University of Haifa’s Master’s Degree program in Maritime Civilizations.


The sailing yacht on my final day at sea.

Known as the Research Cruise, the annual event is conducted to perform serious research as well as orient students to the changing nature of the sea. The experience was also filled with moments of bliss in which I realized that we were sailing along the brilliantly blue Mediterranean Sea amidst rolling waves – a long way from my home in the United States.

Placing the ROV in the water from the stern of the research vessel.

The Research Cruise is a week-long excursion at sea in which students, professors, and staff all participate in various research projects. It’s specifically designed to give students our own opportunity to conduct research projects, participate in other students’ and professors’ fieldwork, and experience a week living at sea. The research activities included scuba diving at Caesarea to survey cultural materials, scuba diving around Haifa to survey and count various biological organisms, sailing along the coast on a yacht to practice seamanship and sample algae levels, and working with the ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) for a further detailed survey of the coastal sea floor. My own research project was to study the small finds from the Caesarea underwater survey. This was conducted in the outer harbor of the ancient Caesarea port. The Research Cruise divers surveyed the area and recorded what they found. My project was to then research further the small finds, such as tesserae, that were found during the survey. It was a great opportunity to learn more about one of the most important historical sites from antiquity, and to gain important fieldwork experience.

Divers waiting in a circle at the surface of the sea.

While at sea we all spent time on two boats — a research vessel and a yacht. Each boat offered a different experience, with distinct boating rules, living arrangements, and research opportunities. The research vessel was larger, and while working on it we had the opportunity to scuba dive off of it and work with the ROV. The ROV allows researchers the ability to view the sea at very deep depths. We learned how to both operate the ROV from the controls inside the cabin, as well as how to manually care for the ROV from the deck to ensure the equipment is properly handled and safe. While smaller, the sailing yacht, offered its own opportunity to learn more about sailing and seamanship. I particularly enjoyed sailing along the coast of Israel my entire final day and night at sea, as we sailed from Haifa to Herzliya. It was breathtaking to sail from morning to night and instructive to learn the skills of nighttime navigation.

The Research Cruise lives up to its name. It’s a hands-on, academically oriented, and unique adventure of living at sea, and enjoying blissful moments of the beautiful Mediterranean. I loved it and can’t wait to sign up again!


“Sea US” is a series of posts featuring students from around the world who are taking part in International Maritime Civilization master’s program. To read the previous “Sea us” post click here


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