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The 23 undergraduate research students and 12 crew sailed into Otago Harbour aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans yesterday.
The 134ft steel brigantine tall ship, operated by the United States-based Sea Education Association (Sea), was on its first visit to New Zealand waters.
Chief mate Dan Stone (31) said the ship served as home and classroom for students participating in Sea's semester study abroad programmes.
The courses focused on oceanographic research, leadership and maritime history and culture, and the vessel had operated in Alaska, Mexico and Polynesia since 2001, he said.
Its latest sojourn began in Auckland on November 14 and students from the United States, France, Germany and Mauritius had flown in for nearly six weeks of sailing around the New Zealand coast.
Two New Zealanders - one a student and the other a volunteer deck hand - were also on board, he said.
Much of the students' research was carried out during stopovers in Wellington, Dunedin and Lyttelton, while the ship's crew caught up on maintenance, he said.
The students would spend time in Dunedin visiting penguin colonies and the Puketeraki marae, in Karitane, as part of their research activities, he said.
The vessel was due in Dunedin yesterday afternoon, but arrived early, after trying unsuccessfully to anchor off the Aramoana mole, at the entrance to Otago Harbour, in strong winds, he said.
Mr Stone, a professional sailor for seven years, said the South Island's coastal scenery had not disappointed, but the weather had also lived up to its reputation.
''It's not called the Roaring 40s for any lame reason.
''When it's nice, it's spectacular, but, like any sailing, when it sucks, it sucks.''
• The vessel would be open to the public from 2pm to 5pm today, before departing on Thursday.