Semester at sea

Dr. Daniel Horns, chair of the Earth Science department, recently returned from a nine-week summer semester abroad teaching geology for the University of Virginia’s Semester at Sea program.

Complete with wireless internet, an 8000-volume library, a faculty lounge and even a merchandise store, the MV Explorer is a passenger ship that circumnavigates the globe twice a year for fall and spring semesters and explores a world region each summer.

Professors from around the U.S. are brought to teach students a variety of topics from art history to women’s studies and even poetry writing. Daniel Horns was brought in as the first sea voyager from UVU – professor or student – to teach Dynamic Earth (an introductory-level geology class on earth processes and hazards), and Physical Oceanography. Beginning their route in Canada, the first six days of the voyage were devoid of any land sightings apart from a few islands. Their first stop was Cadiz, Spain, then moving on to Civitavecchia/Naples, Italy; Dubrovnnik, Croatia; Athens, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Varna, Bulgaria; Alexandria, Egypt and Casablanca, Morocco, followed by another long voyage at sea totaling nine days to return to the U.S. Formal classes were only held on the ship, moving at 12 knots (approximately 14 mph). During the rest of the time, students were engaged in field-based learning in the ports or inland cities.

“It was amazing to take students to see Mt. Vesuvius in Italy, which famously buried Pompeii in the year AD 79 and to the North Anatolian fault in Turkey which shifted by up to 15 feet in a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999,” said Horns.

“Living and teaching in Utah, I am used to taking classes to see examples of great geologic phenomena. The difference on Semester at Sea, however, was being in the Mediterranean, which is so much more geologically active than Utah is.”

Horns, like all teachers in the Earth Science Department, incorporates a lot of field-based learning into classes, even the ones taught at UVU. “Students absolutely react differently to seeing things in person.”

Horns found his Semester at Sea to be successful and said it was “a great experience.” Possibly the greatest achievement of the summer, and certainly something every professor of geology strives for. Horns felt that, “every student in my Semester at Sea classes came away understanding that the Earth is not a cold, dead ball of rock.”

If you have questions about Semester at Sea or other study abroad opportunities, please contact the International Center (WB 147) at 801-863-8709 or You can also visit the Semester at Sea website at

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