Semester at Sea®

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During the fall semester of 1984, when I was a senior at the University of Colorado in Boulder, I participated in a program called Semester at Sea®

"Semester at Sea" is a registered trademark of the Institute for Shipboard Education®

which consisted of travelling around the world on a ship named the S.S. Universe and taking college classes, most of which had something to teach us about the cultures we encountered during the voyage. Our ports of call were

*We never made it to India since Indira Gandi was assassinated while we were in Sri Lanka. We spent extra time in Sri Lanka and one day in Crete instead.

Once we arrived in a port, classes were adjourned for the duration of our stay and we were free to travel wherever we wished and could afford to go. There were pre-arranged trips which cost varying amounts which we could sign up for, a certain number of which we were required to take, but most of the time our travel was entirely up to us. I tended to focus on points of cultural, historical, archeological, and naturalistic interest. The following lists some highlights from my experiences.

Classes were interesting and the faculty were very good. A new faculty was hired every term and there was fierce competition for the faculty positions. I took elective classes in ethnomusicology, cultural anthropology, and marine biology. All students were required to take the core course which gave cultural and historical information about the ports of call. The professors were quite well-known in their fields. I took cultural anthropology from Ed Norbeck, who was one of the founders of the field of the anthropology of play, marine biology from Lorus and Margarie Milne, a husband and wife team from the University of New Hampshire who had done photographic work for National Geographic, and ethnomusicology from Ted Solis, a specialist in the field. The courses were very engaging. By working very hard while we were at sea, I made sure that I didn't have any school work to do while we were in port. Working hard while we were at sea also helped pass the long days of confinement on the ship.

It didn't take long to make friends on the ship. I met Jeff in Boulder in the few weeks before leaving and, after the first week or so, I met Luke and Chris. Most of my travelling was done with these three or with subsets of our group. Occasionally, other people joined us and sometimes I travelled alone. We'd usually plan where we were going before arriving at a port using the extensive schedules and travel books available on the ship. Sometimes it was important to book flights or other modes of transportation from the ship before arriving in a country. As you might imagine, we had many adventures, some incredible, some less than inspiring, and some incredibly embarrassing. Follow the links below to read about some of the more notable examples.

Some of Mark, Luke, Chris and Jeff's Adventures
Up in Seattle I visit my first mysterious city.
First Contact: Arrival in Japan We make our first landing in a foriegn place and have a little trouble reading signs.
Exactly What You'd Expect Tokyo, Kyoto, and Luke and Chris experience fine dining in Japan.
What's This?!? Luke and Mark enjoy coffee in Istanbul.
The Way Home We head for Florida and home.

Below are a few of my favorite photos from this trip. (And, "yes", I did take all of these myself.)

This picture was taken early in the morning in Hangzhou, China on the way to a tour of the silk factory.
[Reflections of people through the mist]

These shots show the S.S. Universe docked in Hong Kong Harbor. They are essentially the same shot taken from across the water on Victoria Peak a few hours apart.
[The ship during the day] [The ship at night]

King's Concubines in the Palace at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

This painting was part of the dwelling of the King's concubines in the palace of the first king of Sri Lanka in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. It was painted in the neighborhood of 10,000 years ago on the side of the cliff that served as the foundation for the palace. The palace was constructed in the shape of an enormous lion and visitors entered through the mouth. The paintings endured the intervening centuries due to their placement underneath a rock overhang which protected them from rain. A British soldier spotted the paintings around the turn of the century as he was riding by on horseback and the British colonial government began excavations soon after.

Man fishing in the harbor at Istanbul on the misty morning we arrived.
[Man and boat in a sea of light]

Sunset over a Mosque in Istanbul
[Sunset over the mosque]

This sunset in Istanbul was one of the many spectacular sunsets that we experienced on our journey.

Greek Peloponnesus looking Southeast toward the Greek Islands
[Islands in the distance]

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Mark A. Martin <>

Last modified: Tue Jul 25 17:13:58 CDT 2000