As mentioned in “Lesson Eight: The Great Flood,” ocean currents form a continuous worldwide pattern of water circulation. Similar to air currents, surface ocean currents are also effected by heating from the sun and the Coriolis Effect, but are driven by wind. Ocean water retains heat longer than air does, and so serves to control the temperature of air. Wind-driven surface currents move from the equator to the poles as do global wind patterns, and are similarly deflected right in the northern hemisphere and left in southern hemisphere by virtue of the Earth’s rotation. Because of the Coriolis Effect, surface currents do not exactly flow in the exact path of the winds driving them, but are deflected slightly to the right of the wind’s path. The ocean, like the atmosphere, also has layers, which become colder and therefore, denser as they descend—making surface currents move more rapidly than deeper layers of ocean water. As a surface current pushes forward (slightly to the right of the wind driving it), the next deeper layer of water also pushes in the direction of the surface current, deflecting slightly right. And so does this layer effect the layers of water beneath it with each subsequent layer deflecting slightly to the right of the one above it. To visualize this phenomenon called The Ekman Spiral (from “Circulation and Atmosphere,”
Global Environmental Change,
Turekian, page 92), students will be directed to think of a spiral staircase, but with a difference. Our spiral staircase not only has steps turning clockwise as they descend, but becoming increasingly shorter in step-width as well, with the bottom step almost nonexistent. In this example, the top step represents the wind direction; the next step is the surface current; all subsequent steps circularly descending represent deeper and deeper levels of the ocean until there is no movement at all. Students will be instructed to sketch this “diminishing staircase” and to label the steps accordingly with respect to the Ekman Spiral.
The Gulf Stream is one of eight major surface currents—or rivers since they span several thousand kilometers in length—that make up the pattern of worldwide circulation: As described by Dr. Turekian:
“Consider the northern hemisphere of the Atlantic Ocean. The prevailing westerlies and easterlies blowing across the ocean cause surface water to ‘pile up’ in the Sargasso Sea as the result of the Coriolis force acting on the surface ocean layer and its resulting Ekman Spiral. As water piles up it flows downhill as the result of gravity. This flow results in the development of a gigantic oceanwide clockwise gyre. The current is intensified on the western side of the ocean because of Earth’s rotation. As this water has come from a tropical zone where heating of the surface ocean is the most intense, the intensified boundary current transports warm water northward at a high velocity in a narrow ribbon we call the Gulf Stream.”
(“The Circulation of the Atmosphere and Oceans,”
Global Environmental Change,
Turekian, page 92.)
As in the examples given thus far of nature setting the stage for fiction (or belief)—Noah, Deucalion and Pyrrh, Odysseus—The Gulf Stream also sets the very real story of Cinqué in motion. (Steven Spielberg will be releasing his film version of this story,
around January, 1998, starring Anthony Hopkins, Morgan Freeman and Matthew McConnaughey; screenplay by Steven Zaillian, who also wrote
Cinqué—who has become a hero of civil liberties, and whose statue appears in front of Town Hall in New Haven—was a Mende from Sierra Leone (a country on the northwest coast of Africa). Captured by Africans and sold to Portuguese slave traders, Cinqué, along with approximately 600 other men, women and children, was shipped to Cuba. There, José Ruiz and Pedro Montés bought him and 52 other people, four of them children. Having contracted an American-built schooner especially designed for slave trade, the Amistad set sail for Puerto Principé (about 300 miles from Havana). After three nights at sea—and in view of the tremendous hardships and indignities he and his countrymen had suffered—Cinqué got free of his chains and led a revolt to take control of the Amistad. The Captain (Ferrer) and one of his personal slaves (Celestino) were killed by the Africans; the sailors jumped ship; Montés and Ruiz were wounded; several Africans died, although it is not known how many. The Africans knew well enough that they must sail toward the rising sun to travel east toward their homeland. But night-time traveling posed a problem since they did not know how to navigate by the stars, and so they had to place their trust in Montés and Ruiz to sail at night. Two months hence, the Amistad—with Montés and Ruiz surreptitiously maneuvering her north at night, carrying the schooner at a clip of approximately 1.5 meters per second along the Gulf Stream—anchored at Culloden Point (the northern peninsula of the eastern tip of Long Island).
In 1841—three years after his capture—Cinqué and 35 survivors were able to return home, but not until five court cases had been conducted. While the law of the land served eventually to set them free, the moral issue of slavery had yet to be addressed since their case had depended upon determining whether or not they were legally property or, in fact, human beings. As Jeannette Rogers so eloquently puts it:
“The story of the Amistad Affair is a confrontation on the national and international level of law, morality and treaties . . . It is a very important case in the history of slavery and abolition. It is also a very important story in the history of the relationship between those people whose ancestors were brought to this country as slaves and those whose ancestors came here seeking freedom.”
Students will share in an oral reading of an account of of this story titled
The Amistad Affair
by Jeannette Rogers, which is a condensed version from her original work under the same title (published by YNHTI in 1990,
Learning Through Drama,
Vol. 2, under the name Jeannette Gaffney). When discussing this story, we will take a look at how the Gulf Stream, in part, was responsible for Cinqué’s thwarted escape attempt and eventual arrival in Connecticut. Furthermore, we will discuss the American judicial system in relation to the court cases that took place and students will work on improvising court room scenes related to these cases.
Lastly, students will receive their folders back to review their answers thus far to the questions
“Who are you?”
“Where did the world come from?”
They will be given approximately five minutes to add to their answers in relation to the Maya Angelou quote at the beginning of this section.
As a final note with respect to YNHTI, it should be noted that Josiah Gibbs, linguistics professor for Yale University at this time, was instrumental in locating a translator for the case in the person of James Covey—a Mende and a sailor at New York Harbor—by using the numbers one to ten in Mende.