Maggie Prevenas, April 9, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Maggie Prevenas
Onboard US Coast Guard Ship Healy
April 20 – May 15, 2007

Mission: Bering Sea Ecosystem Survey
Geographic Region: Alaska
Date: April 9, 2007

Personal Log

Yesterday I boarded the ship!

It’s a big ship. And I’m learning.

I learned that many hands make light work. Ned Cokelet, one of the NOAA oceanographers, volunteered to haul us to the boat. The gear of six scientists and two teachers is voluminous. It filled up the pick-up box of a good-sized truck. We topped it off with two scientists who couldn’t fit into the inside of the cab and off we bumped. We bounced pass the airport and didn’t have to wait for airplanes crossing the road (the only stoplight in Dutch). The ride was short and we didn’t get lost.

Unloading the gear was light work. Eight people grabbing bags and shuffling up the gangplank drained the back of the pickup in short time. We learned the names of a few of the crew, essential to the upload process and began the transfer of our gear to our sleeping quarters or berths. Although the stairways were steep, to conserve space on ship, they were easy enough to navigate. Bag by bag I filled the space that would be mine for the next 33 days.

I can do this.

Much of the afternoon and evening centered in the science lab area. I sensed urgency in the scientists securing their equipment and setting up their lab gear. They used bungee cords, duct tape, rope and these little screw wires with eyehooks to secure their areas. We learned that the boat can pitch and sway in the spring seas. Anything unsecured soon becomes a flying projectile. Safety is the top priority. Unsecured gear can hurt you and others. Tie it down, tape it up, or put it away.

We watched and tried to volunteer for jobs that would make their lives easier. After a while we realized that we were taking up space and busied ourselves with our assignment, observing, taking mental notes, and writing about the expedition. We familiarized ourselves with the ships internal computer system and science public log-ins.

We posted and massaged our journals. Soon it was bedtime, but the ships scientists worked on into the night.

The scientists on board are playing in rhythm to their own music. It is a musical symphony! Sometimes one section of the orchestra will break away and so a solo, but for the most part, they play together, in melodies that support and enhance the whole. That’s what this expedition is all about. Doing research to supports the understanding of the whole ecosystem. One instrument cannot play the entire symphony. One scientist cannot do it all. It’s going to take many hands working together, insightful minds interpreting data, all listening to each other.

We can do this.

And after we learn how, I’m going to teach you. And you can tell others and show them how. So what exactly are we are trying to learn?

One ocean, one earth, one people.