Calan Taylor is a high school teacher participating in the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on board the R/V Atlantis. See other posts in this series using the navigation tools at right.
DAY ONE: July 14, 2019
By Calan Taylor
First day on R/V Atlantis is coming to a close and I’m settled in. I showed up early and tried to check in to the wrong boat (an OSU research vessel that was docked next to the Atlantis). My wife was convinced that had to be the boat because, “The Atlantis is too nice and too big…it’s got to be the smaller one.” So I walked out the dock and introduced myself to the wrong crew who looked at me a bit bewildered… “We’re deadheading to San Diego,” they said, and pointed me in the direction of Atlantis.
I had expected to encounter a strict set of codes/restrictions/protocols while on the boat, but the reality was much more relaxed. The crew showed me to my cabin which was nicer than I expected and then invited me to explore the ship on my own. I spent the next hour wandering around and getting lost. There are 6 levels on Atlantis and a maze of corridors that are a bit confusing. Eventually I ended up on the back deck talking to Will and Megan about their work. Will studies rockfish development and recruitment and is looking at how environmental conditions affect individuals with different growth rates. Apparently rockfish have their babies near shore but they quickly wash out to sea as larvae where they eat plankton for about a year until they are big enough to move back to the coastal regions and start preying on small fish. By counting and measuring the rings in its ear bone, he is able to see how old a juvenile fish is (in days) and how fast it is growing. Megan specializes in Ling Cod and may have some opportunities for my students and I to help her collect data from a SMURF (which is a buoy-like data collection device) that they have anchored off shore in Port Orford. Apparently she has trouble finding volunteers to work in “remote locations like Port Orford”, so we can potentially add value there. The work would involve taking a small skiff out to the offshore buoy and then free-diving on the smurf to collect samples. Sounds like some serious aquanaut stuff right? Sign me up.
I ate lunch and dinner on board and was really impressed with the food. I had lunch with Kelly (a University of Oregon Professor) and Andy (the other RET Teacher). At dinner I sat with Bob (who is the director of the Hatfield Marine Science Center) and Sue (who runs the lab that Will and Megan work for). I was pleasantly surprised by the warmth and cordiality I received from everyone I met today. Although I had thought the boat was leaving today, it turns out we will stay in port until 7am tomorrow. We will then run south to Trinidad California and start our first transect.
After dinner (which was served at 5pm) the boat got super quiet. Most of the scientists are local so they went home to sleep in their own beds another night. I was about to head to my cabin and get back into my book when Will asked me if I wanted to go surfing. He was nice enough to loan me a board and suit and we paddled out at South Beach for a couple hours. Small summer fun, with whales spouting just off shore.
When I returned to Atlantis, I struck up a conversation with Lance, an able-bodied seaman and deckhand. He had worked in the same Southeast Alaska Salmon fishery as I had so we found we had a lot in common. He gave me a brief tour of the ALVIN submarine. Fewer than 10,000 people have ever dove in it, and he is one of them. Lance told me some cool stories about deep sea octopus, sea pigs, and other strange creatures he had encountered at 9,000 feet. We also talked a lot about his job as a deckhand on the vessel. 3 months on 3 months off…Not a bad gig. It’s always fun to find out about careers that you hadn’t considered, or even known existed.
Looking forward to tomorrow…and the open ocean.
Calan Taylor teaches Physics, Chemistry, and Physical Science at Bandon High School and is part of the Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) program on the R/V Atlantis cruise taking place July 13-27, 2019.