Jillian Worssam, August 9, 2004

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Jillian Worssam
Aboard NOAA Ship Miller Freeman
July 5 – August 1, 2004

Jillian Worssam aboard the Miller Freeman
Jillian Worssam aboard the Miller Freeman

Hello All, This will be my final visit from Alaska, The voyage on the ship is over, but I am far from done with this journey. It is amazing how much life can be packed into a month, and I feel ever so fortunate to have had this opportunity. My heart is full, my mind has been challenged. I am a bit sad as I miss the camaraderie and new friendships, thank goodness for e-mail. Thank you all for your support this past month, my goodness has it ONLY been a month!….hope you enjoy this last entry. Jillian I have attached a photo, hope it works….Also one of my last poems! As the humpback breaches I see a splash, a tail and then nothing. In the blink of an eye this mighty creature has defied gravity. I am in awe! Again and again the aerobatics continue for what reason I do not know, only that as witness I have been given a gift. A tufted puffin paddles by and I am inspired, so glad to have this moment, and so aware of the fragility of life. Seals lay upon floating pieces of ice, their guards down as they relax in pure abandon. I too am relaxed, enjoying the breeze as it plays against my skin. Loving the boats motion, as swell upon swell try to breach our hull. My heart beats to a new rhythm and I am humbled by the grandeur of this place!

Never in my life has a month passed so quickly, literally in the blink of an eye I have had the experience of a lifetime. So much has happened and I am a different woman. Thirty days ago I was prepared to walk in the shoes of another, to taste a different career and learn. Now that time has passed, and the shoes fit so well that I am tempted, so tempted to change the patterns of a life time. NOAA provides an amazing opportunity for teachers and I urge all educators to take advantage of their generosity, for they have enhanced my world beyond merewords.

One week ago I caught my first Halibut, over 50 pounds, and it was quite a challenge to land. I was then taught how to bleed the fish to improve the quality of the meat prior to my lesson on how to fillet. The tender pieces of flesh have been vacuumed packed and will be sent to me for shared consumption. Two weeks ago I hung from the gantry, thirty feet above the deck removing the cotter pin from the block holding the third wire (scientific equipment that sent data back to the ship while we were fishing).My safety was in the hands of men whom I had not previously known, and I had no fear. The pin was tricky, the pliers slippery in my hand, failure was not an option. I was trusted with a job, so there was no hesitation, I would succeed.

Three weeks ago I gutted my first fish, checked its gender, and measured it for scientific purposes. The stomach contents were preserved for further study and the otoliths removed so that the age could be determined. I saw thousands of pollock, and many other species, and have learned to truly appreciate a new ecosystem.

Four weeks ago I stood in Dutch Harbor, Alaska about to board a 215 foot NOAA research vessel with no idea of what was about to unfold. Here I was a teacher from Arizona, about to spend thirty days on the Bering Sea, to study walleye pollock, a fish I had never previously heard of.

Today I am a new person, I have an enhanced understanding of life, of career and the dedication these men and women have to both. I was the student, eager to learn and wanted to be a part of everything.

I was denied nothing for 30 days.  You want to paint Jillian, here are the brushes. What, you really want to clean the heads, go for it.  Ok, I will explain it to you one more time, the line needs to be taught, then you bring the left over the right, through the hole and there is the lover’s knot. (I never did master any knots, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t an eager study) Once the data is recorded and analyzed, fishing quotas can be established and the Bering Sea can continue to be a viable and healthy ecosystem.

This was my life, and with some melancholy I am sorry to leave. I have made friends expanded my mind, and had an amazing adventure. For many, their days hold no passion, no daily happiness. I have been reminded that life is tenuous, and not to be taken for granted. I want to get up every morning and be pleased with all that I have, and all that I can gain. I want to work with my peers and realize that the little things are not important, the big picture, the smile on my face, the spirit I hold, these are what count.

NOAA, the seventh branch, and least recognized of our military system, has given me a present beyond words, and it is with my every breath that I hope to share this gift with others. Little do my students know what is in store for them this year…as for me the adventure will surely continue!

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