Ahoy! Students gather to sing sea shanties in Communications Residential College


Photo courtesy of Riley Boksenbaum

A group of about six students plans on gathering weekly to sing sea shanties. They call themselves the DrNUken Sailors.

Hannah Feuer, Reporter

Sailors used to sing sea shanties to synchronize their labor. Now, students are singing these same tunes to will away the quarantine blues.

At 9 p.m. on Saturday in the Communications Residential College’s lounge, you can find about six masked and spaced-out students singing these rhythmic folk songs.

These are the members of the DrNUken Sailors. Weinberg senior Soren Campbell loves “all things nautical.” Carolyne Geng was a member of her high school choir. Riley Boksenbaum, the Weinberg freshman who founded the group, knew shanties before they were cool.

Shanties have gone viral on TikTok in recent months, sparking both a meme and an esoteric pastime. As the tunes gained popularity, Boksenbaum wanted to sing with others, so she made a GroupMe and scheduled a meeting. The group has met just once so far, but plans to meet weekly.

“Life on a sailing ship, I think, is kind of similar to life in a pandemic,” Campbell said. “You are in the same space all the time, and your day-to-day life is very repetitive.”

Campbell said his favorite sea shanty is called “Four Hours,” referring to the length of a sailor’s shift. But the group sings a range of songs — tunes like “Haul Away Joe” and “Drunk Space Pirate” are just two more examples.

Geng, who has always loved music, said the pandemic has given her more time to sing for fun.

“(Sea shanties) are very simple and addictive, in your head constantly,” she said. “So it’s really fun to sing with other people.”

At meetings, Boksenbaum encourages participants to lead the group in their favorite sea shanty. Those who know the song best will sing the verses, and everyone else joins in on the chorus.

Boksenbaum isn’t on Tik Tok and was first introduced to sea shanties through a friend. She said she would sing sea shanties regardless of the pandemic, though she’s not sure everyone else would.

“I am taking advantage of the recent growth in (sea shanties) popularity, which I do believe comes from the pandemic, because we’ve all been so isolated,” Boksenbaum said. “Collective singing really does give a sense of community.”

Boksenbaum said the group is currently recruiting members.

“Singing ability is entirely optional, but pirate vibes and enthusiasm are not,” Boksenbaum said.

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Twitter: @hannah_feuer