Tara Fogleman, May 31, 2007

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Tara Fogleman
Onboard NOAA Ship John N. Cobb
June 1 – 14, 2007

Mission: Alaskan Harbor Seal Pupping Phenology and Site Monitoring
Geographical Area: Southeast Alaska
Date: May 31, 2007

Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea participant, sailed on the JOHN N. COBB while taking part in an Alaskan harbor seal study.

Tara Fogleman, a NOAA Teacher-at-Sea, sailed on the JOHN N. COBB for an Alaskan harbor seal study.

Personal Log 

After a long day of plane travel to Juneau, I found the JOHN N. COBB, located my stateroom for the length of the cruise, unpacked, and quickly fell asleep.  It wasn’t until today that I was able to explore Juneau by foot.  Immediately upon leaving the boat, I could tell that I was a long way from Savannah, Georgia!  The weather in June is still cold and unpredictable here—temperatures can fluctuate from 40°F and raining to 75°F and sunny, so it is important to dress in layers.  The sky here is often overcast or partly cloudy, and today was no exception.

The area of Juneau closest to the NOAA boat dock is a tourist-ridden area because it is a popular drop-off site for people sailing on cruise ships—however, I maneuvered around quickly, enjoying the local art shops, murals and statues, and learning about the history of the area at the local historic sites, such as the Governor’s House and the Alaska State Capitol.

Exploring Juneau and its History— 

A view of the town of Juneau, Alaska taken from the JOHN N. COBB as the ship began its journey.

A view of the town of Juneau, Alaska taken from the JOHN N. COBB as the ship began its journey.

The first residents of Juneau, the Tlingit people, fished and hunted in the Gastineau Channel for centuries. I observed evidence of their culture, including decorative artwork and totems, throughout the city. In the 1870s, a mining engineer named George Pilz offered a reward to anyone who could lead him to gold.  Chief Kowee, of the Auk Tlingit tribe, approached him with samples of gold from the Gastineau Channel, and a search party was sent to investigate.  When the mother lode was found in Silver Bowl Basin, prospectors began to arrive by boat with hopes of finding gold and making it rich.  On October 18, 1880, a 160-acre town site was staked out on the beach, and Juneau was born.  Within a few years, Juneau was transformed from a native fishing village to a large-scale mining industry.

The city of Juneau is located in the middle of the Tongass National Forest, which is the largest temperate rainforest in North America.  This forest, which covers nearly 17million acres, is dominated by the Sitka spruce, which is Alaska’s state tree. The Sitka spruce is identified by its very straight top and sharp-tipped needles, and can reach ages of 200 to 700 years old. The Tongass is a temperate rainforest, which differs from a tropical rainforest in two ways:  temperate forests are much cooler, and they are inhabited by fewer species of plants and animals.  However, though temperate rainforests are less diverse than tropical rainforests, they contain a high amount of biomass.  Animals such as bald eagles, black bears, marmots, and porcupines inhabit the Tongass, and organisms such as harbor seals and salmon can be found in the coastal waters.  After exploring Juneau, I headed back to the boat to speak with Dave Withrow, the Chief Scientist for the mission.  We spoke briefly about the procedures for the study and the major objectives that we will try to achieve while aboard the JOHN N. COBB.

 Mendenhall Glacier is located just outside of Juneau, Alaska.  The glacier is retreating at an alarming rate.

Mendenhall Glacier is located just outside of Juneau, Alaska. The glacier is retreating at an alarming rate.

The Objectives of the Study— 

During this cruise, Dave will be exploring selected areas of southeastern Alaska to: 1) determine population counts of harbor seals, with a special emphasis on which sites are being used for pupping, 2) identify how many pups are born and the approximate age and size of these pups, and 3) identify potential haulout sites for long-term studies, such as sites that are inhabited by large numbers of seals (more than 200).  Identifying critical habitat is an important component of this study, because many of these habitat areas are experiencing a decline.  Harbor seals use the floating ice calved from tidewater glaciers to pup, nurse their young, and molt, because these areas are free from most predators and disturbance. However, these tidewater glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate; in 1983, there were 52 recorded tidewater glaciers, and in 2004, only 31 of these documented glaciers remained, and all but 5 of them were receding.  This reduction of pupping habitat could have a significant impact on harbor seal populations.

More Sightseeing Around Juneau— 

Prior to setting sail, I ran errands with the crew around Juneau to pick up miscellaneous gear needed for the cruise, and I even stopped at the Alaskan Brewery to take a tour of their facilities. Later that evening, Dave Withrow took me to the Mendenhall Glacier— this is a glacier located just outside of Juneau.  He told me that the glacier has been retreating at an alarming rate during the past years.  I was particularly amazed at the light blue-green color of the glacial ice that floated in the water in front of the glacier—it is unlike anything I have ever seen.

I’m off to bed for now—tomorrow we set sail for our first study sites.

Jacob Tanenbaum, Kodiak, Alaska, May 28, 2007

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Jacob Tanenbaum
Mission: Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations
Day 10: May 28, 2007


Last night we stopped survey operations and sailed for the Coast Guard Station in Kodiak, Alaska. We went through a part of the island called Whale Pass.

We saw whales blowing in the distance, sea otters drifting with the tide and a spectacular Alaska sunset that seemed to go on forever.


We pulled into port and found another NOAA Ship, called the Fairweather. They were on the pier right next to us. Lieutenant Sean set me up with a tour. Imet ENS Matthew Glazewski who took time from a busy morning to give me a tour. What an amazing ship! They do work mapping the bottom of the sea with allkinds of interesting sonar equipment. I as glad I had a chance to go on board.

This morning, I said some sad goodbyes to the crew on the FREEMAN and left the ship along with the science crew. The scientists departed by plane forSeattle while NOAA Ship MILLER FREEMAN prepared to leave later in the afternoon for a transit south. The crew are leaving for warmer waters off the west coast of the USA. They will spend a few days in transit, a few in port and then pick up more scientists for studies along the west coast of the USA. The crew have had a long spring in the cold Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. I think they all will be grateful for some bright sunny warm days. I wish them pleasant journeys and thank each and every one of them for all their support and hospitality and for a wonderful 10 days.

IMG_8939-721133Today I had a day on Kodiak Island while I wait for my flight out tomorrow. What an amazing day. I tried to rent a car in the airport and was unsuccessful.

I was sad at first, and then set out to make the best of it by exploring on foot. I started with some lunch. What a treat! For Memorial Day, Kodiak had something called a Crab Festival. There were rides, treats, and of course, Alaska King Crab. Take a look a lunch today!

I next set off on a long hike through the areas near the town of Kodiak. Lieutenant Sean had given me a list and guide to the town, and using that, I visited the harbors near town, and then a park just outside of town where I was able to hike through spruce trees covered with moss, and then find isolated beaches full of birds, including eagles.







Next, I decided to hike to the top of a mountain overlooking Kodiak, again, following Lieutenant Sean’s recommendation. I found myself on top of a peak overlooking one of the most beautiful views I have seen on the trip so far. In fact, I took almost 500 photos today and had a very hard time selecting what to show you on the blog. I’ll put more on the gallery when I get back to New York, so you can see more soon.

IMG_9119-724271 IMG_9129-750746

On the way down, the weather started to grow cold. Suddenly the clouds opened up and rain began pouring down. I still had miles to go to get back to town and shelter. And I thought they called this DRY land! Fortunately, I was “rescued” by the Kelly family, who were driving down the gravel road I was walking along. They offered me a ride and then asked if I would like to join them for dinner. When we got to their beautiful house in Kodiak, we found that one of their friends had left a treat for us. Fresh red salmon, caught just down the road. What a feast!

I was also amazed when they brought fresh vegetables out to make salad. I found out that the vegetables are brought to the island by barge from the west coast. We had a great time learning about each other’s home towns. Thank you to the Kellys, and thank you to everyone who made this such a spectacular voyage.

Tomorrow I’ll be traveling, but will check the blog on Wednesday when I get back into the New York area, so please write comments. I’ll see you all in school soon.

If you could travel anywhere you wanted to, where would you decide to go? Why?

Jacob Tanenbaum, Final Day of the Survey, May 27, 2007

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Jacob Tanenbaum
Mission: Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations
Day 9: May 27, 2007

Snuggy in the captain’s chair

Weather Data from the Bridge:
Visibility: 10 Miles
Wind Speed: 20 Kts.Sea Wave Height: 2
Water Temperature: 4.7 Degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 6 Degrees Celsius
Pressure: 1010.7 MbsPersonal Log

We reach Kodiak in the morning. I am excited to be seeing Kodiak, but sad to be leaving the ship. It has been a wonderful 10 days at sea. Please check back
tomorrow. I should be able to do a blog entry from the hotel in Kodiak and I can show you this incredible island. My heartfelt thanks to everyone on the
ship who gave me such a wonderful welcome and who gave such support to this project.

Here are a few last photos from around the ship: Snuggy in the Captains chair and Snuggy at the wheel of the ship.

Snuggy steering the ship

Snuggy steering the ship

Science Log:

Today was an important part of the cruise. On section, in addition to thebongo nets, we also deployed an instrument called a CTD array. This array allows the scientists to sample water at different depths. This is very importantin oceanography because the water lower down is very different from thewater higher up in the water column. The chemistry changes as you go down, the temperature changes and the creatures living at each depth may be different from the creatures above or below. Want to learn more about this important research? Click here for a video. We also stopped to have some fun with the CTD.



We attached someStyrofoam cups to the array and watched what happens when the pressure at depth presses in on them. Click here for a video.


Presurized Styrofoam cup


We are coming to the end of the cruise now. We deployed the bongos 125 times and have done 8 CTD’s, and released one drifter buoy. The scientists had
wanted to do more. They had planed 169 bongo deployments, but the bad weather forced us to change our plans. “That is the way things go out here,” says
Chief Scientist Annette Dougherty. Lets talk to her more about what we have learned so far on this cruise:

Tell us what you have learned so far:

On the standardized grid we have been doing, the numbers of Pollock are low, but spread out across the grid. The fish are also small. 4.5 to 6.5 mm. Which
is considerably smaller than last year.What does that mean?

It is a colder year and a very turbulent year, with a lot of storms, and what that can do is flush things out through the strait we are sailing in. The
fish may have spawned late. Or we could be catching the end of the hatching. It is hard to predict how many Pollock return as spawners if you can’t be out
here all the time.

So what does the survey tell us?

This is a colder year, and the growth rate has been slow. They are eating, so it does not mean they will not survive. There is a lot of stuff out there.

The study mainly tells us about the early life history. About what the fish goes through from hatch to spawning. The egg is the strongest stage these fish
have. After they hatch, they have a short time to use their yolk sack before they have to start to feed. If they can learn to feed! Some fish are stupid
and they can’t figure that out and just die. Most figure it out because they have to grow. There is mortality around every corner for these fish. They flow
with this current stream – well what if there is not food where it takes them? What if they don’t develop as fast as the fish up stream? They will be
competing for the same food. There is a lot against these fish, and they manage to survive. Females produce thousands of eggs, but very few survive. There
are a lot of hungry mouths out there!

What happens next in the study:

The database that we have been entering numbers into will go into a centralized database. I will also build a cruise report from that. It will state
general numbers and what grid stations they occupied. The numbers that we put in are preliminary estimates of the population. We wait until the samples
come back from Poland. They will be very meticulously sorted. Those final numbers are what we use for larval abundance (the number of Pollock babies).

How many years has this study been going on?

The study has been going on for 21 years now.

What have you learned in that time?

It is amazing how much things vary from year to year. It is hard to predict, based on a few environmental variables what will happen to these fish. You
have to have patience. This could be a good recruitment year. We could have missed them.

When will you know for sure if it was a strong year?

We will have to wait for 3 to 4 years to decide how many will spawn. Next year in the March survey, we will be able to see how many we catch as
one-year-olds. They go through their first year, which is very hard for them.

What is next for you?

I have a whole lot of otoliths (ear-bone samples) to read from another survey. I come back in September with Mat Wilson to see these same fish as what we
call age-zero. They do a lot of growing between now and then. They don’t have a vertebra right now. They can’t swim against the current yet. At about 12
millimeters, they will begin to grow bones. That is the beginning of juvenal transformation. They will look like miniature adults in September. They are a
beautiful golden bronze.

Jacob Tanenbaum, A Tour of the Ship, May 26, 2007

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Jacob Tanenbaum
Mission: Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations
Day 8: May 26, 2007

IMG_8576-791393 (1)

Calm seas are a great time to see whales


Weather Data from the Bridge:
Visibility: 2 Miles

Wind Speed: 3 kts

Sea Wave Height: 1 Foot (Whew)

Water Temperature: 5.7 Degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 7.2 Degrees Celsius

Pressure: 1007.2 Mbs

Personal Log

The sea finally calmed down. Calm seas are a great time to look for marine mammals, like whales and dolphins. In calm water, they are easier to
spot. The picture above is a fin whale. Here is some video of a few Dall’s Porpoises that came by.


Ships like this are very different from our homes. First of all, everything is made of metal. So be careful. The walls are very hard. The ship hasa lot crammed into a small space. So it may seem small in some ways, but there are lots of places to go and explore. The ship we are on actually has 5 decks. Would you like to take a trip around the ship? Click here for awalking tour. Tell me, is the ship larger than you thought? Smaller? Write me a comment and let me know.

Science Log:

We are continuing to wait for data from Excalibur. It may have flipped itself over during the storm a few days ago. Come on, Excalibur, let us know
where you are!

In the mean time, the survey continues. We have deployed the bongo nets over 100 times so far on this cruise. Here is a photo of Chief Survey
Technician Phillip White and I bringing in a bongo. Take a look at some of the creatures we are finding:

Jelly Fish

Jelly Fish

 An arrow chaedognath (brissle mouth) eating the larvae of a krill

An arrow chaedognath (brissle mouth) eating the larvae of a krill


We think this might be a salp They are tiny creatures made of what looks like jello.

We think this might be a salp They are tiny creatures made of what looks like jello.

Copepods. You can really see what they have been eating. It is the green line running through its body.

Copepods. You can really see what they have been eating. It is the green line running through its body.



We saw one of these yesterday. It is called thecosomate pteropods, or winged foot. Here you can see the foot extended. It really does look like a wing.

We saw one of these yesterday. It is called thecosomate pteropods, or winged foot. Here you can see the foot extended. It really does look like a wing.


 This is the larvae of a krill.

This is the larvae of a krill.

Question of the Day:

How would you like to live on a ship? Write me and let me know what your thoughts are.

Answers to Your Questions:

The water temperature yesterday was 41.18 degrees Fahrenheit. The air temperature was 42.8.

Hello to Ben and family in California. Great to hear from you. Thanks for your kind words. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog.

Jacob Tanenbaum, The Survey Continues, May 25, 2007

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Jacob Tanenbaum
Mission: Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations
Day 7: May 25, 2007
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Visibility: 8 Miles
Wind Speed 11 Kts:Sea Wave Height 4 Feet:
Water Temperature: 5.1 Degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 6.0 Degrees Celsius
Pressure: 1004.2 Mbs
Personal Log:
The low pressure system over our heads just will not let up. The seas are a little flatter today and I could sleep last night without feeling like I was going to wind up on the floor. In any ship, the sections at either end, the bow (front) or stern (back) move up and down the most with the heavy seas. I’m way up in the bow. My cabin really moves. What does a cabin look like on a research ship? Well here is mine. Tomorrow we will take a tour of the entire ship.




I am also including some unique views of the ship while out at sea. As you can see from the photos, the weather just does not want change.

Science Log:

The work on the survey continues. The ship is moving in a kind of search pattern around the northern section of the Gulf of Alaska. We are looking for Pollock larvae and we are finding many. We are also finding lots of other cool creatures in our nets. Here are a few:

We are still waiting to hear more data from Excalibur, though it has returned some. Keep watching the drifter site for more information. In the mean time, here are some intersting creatures from today’s catch. You can double click the photos to make them larger.

Segmented Worm

Segmented Worm

Segmented Worm

Segmented Worm

This segmented worm usually stays near the bottom. When it is ready to lay eggs, it swims up into the water and scatters its eggs in the water as it goes. We must have caught this one as it moved up off the bottom to lay eggs. Can you see the eggs in the photos?

Crab Zoea

Crab Zoea

These are crab zoea. They will become like the crabs we think of later in their lives. The long spines may prevent preditors from eating them.


A smiling face

A smiling face



This little copepod hasn’t been eating crabbie paddies! You can see its dinner both before and after it has been eaten in this photo.

Thecosomate Pteropods.

Thecosomate Pteropods.


The shell fish here are called thecosomate pteropods. Theco means shell and somate means body. ptero means wing and pod means foot. So they look like
shelled winged feet when they move. They eat phytoplankton (tiny plants).




The long white creatures are larvaceans. They move their tails to make a current that moves food into their bodies. Look how many different kinds of
creatures there are in these samples we are bringing up!

Question of the Day
I gave you the water temperature and air temperature in Celsius. Can you find them in Fahrenheit?Answers to your Questions

The ship was pointed at 51 degrees and moving at 355 degrees because the wind was blowing against the side of the ship.

Yes, Morgan, we do experiments 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Work continues today as always. Toby, I’ll be back next week.

Marty. Great to hear from you. I will say hello to all. Thanks for the great information.

Hello to Mrs. Bolte’s Class, Amanda and Ms. Stern’s Class. Great to hear from you all.

Mrs. Freeley’s Class, we catch only baby fish, but have seen many other kinds besides Pollock. The scientists, however, are mainly interested in Pollock.
We eat lots of different kinds of fish. Last night, we had halibut. Tonight, we are having shrimp. And I’m hungry.

We do take showers, but you have to hang on when the ship moves or you wind up leaving the shower a little before you planed on it.

How do we sleep? In a “rack,” which is ship-talk for a bed. It is kind of fun in high seas to lay flat on your rack and look at your feet going way up
above your head as the ship rolls over the waves. It takes a little getting used to. There is a picture of my cabin on the blog today for you. There are no
animals on the ship this year.

Thanks to all for writing.

Jacob Tanenbaum, What are we seeing?, May 24, 2007

NOAA Teacher At Sea: Jacob Tanenbaum
Mission: Fisheries Oceanography Coordinated Investigations
Day 6: May 24, 2007
Weather Data from the Bridge:
Visibility: 3 Miles
Wind Speed: 23 Kts.Sea Wave Height: 6 Feet
Water Temperature: 4.2 Degrees Celsius
Air Temperature: 6.6 Degrees Celsius
Pressure: MbsScience LogLast night around 2:00 AM Alaska Time, we reached the point in the cruise where we were in the right position to deploy our drifter buoy. We stood
on the back deck and gently lowered it over the side of the ship and watched it disappear into the Alaska night. Bon Voyage, Excalibur! Click here for the video. We heard from the buoy several times overnight
and now are having trouble reaching the website. I will download data as soon as I can.

It was wonderful to see Excalibur in the water. I’m proud of each and every student in Mrs. O’Brien’s Class who worked so hard to put this buoy
together. I can’t wait to get back and see the data from the buoy with you.

Another gale has blown in and we are again facing winds above 30 kts. And heavy seas. The work has been tough but we have been able to continue.
Well, you have seen how the nets work, you have seen how the lab works. Today I would like to show you some of the incredible creatures that have
come up in our tiny nets. The little bowl of reddish liquid you see here holds an incredible array of creatures which make up the plankton
community in the Gulf of Alaska. Lets meet a few. We will need a microscope to do it. All of the pictures you see here were taken with a camera
mounted to a microscope. But first, will the real Sheldon Plankton from Sponge Bob, please stand up…

Sheldon Plankton

Sheldon Plankton

This is what Sheldon Plankton really looks like. He is a copepod. And he eats phytoplankton (plants), not crabby patties.
Baby Crab

Baby Crab

This is a baby crab. The female carries the eggs. When they hatch, the float around for a few weeks eating phytoplankton. They go through 3 major
stages. This is the last one. At this stage, the crab settles to the bottom and starts to begin life as a bottom dweller. At each stage, these
creatures shed a shell, swell with water, form a new shell and then expel the water they absorbed before they grew the new shell. They use the extra
space to for real grow before they have to shed again.

Pollock larvae

Pollock larvae

This is a pollock larvae. That may be the yolk sack from the egg under its mouth! It absorbs the yolk and then must begin to look for food on its own. You
are seeing this pollocks first real meal.

Baby Sculpin

Baby Sculpin

This is a baby Sculpin. At this stage, the fish begin to settle to the bottom. It now begins to have the colors it needs to hide from predators above.
The don’t have fins quite yet. They are not really able to swim against the current. Right now, since it is too young to swim, it is considered
plankton. Look how large they eyes are. Why do you think they need such large eyes?

Hatched Shrimp

Hatched Shrimp

This is what shrimp look like, when they first hatch. Shrimp like this look red to us, but in deeper water, where there is less sunlight, the red looks
black, not red. What great camouflage!

Pollock larvae

Pollock larvae

Another pollock larvae. You can clearly see the eye and mouth. This pollock does not have a yolk sack, so it has been eating on its own. Do you see the
food in its stomach? I wonder what it has been eating. Take a guess and write a comment. There are no real fins at all on this fish, yet. See how small the
stomach is? These fish have to find food and find it fast. They cannot store energy in their bodies yet.

Zooplankton and Phytoplankton

Zooplankton and Phytoplankton

hyperiid amphipod

hyperiid amphipod

Several different types of zooplankton gather around some phytoplankton. Here is the beginning of the food web. The algae in this photo serve as food for
many little creatures in the sea. The copepods and other small creatures eat the tiny phytoplankton, and in turn are eaten by small fish.

This is a a creature called a hyperiid amphipod. It is related to a sand flea. They live in plankton. These particular ones will borrow into the surface of
jellyfish and ride around on them. They are tiny hitchhikers. They have plates on their abdomen are where the babies stay when they are young.

Personal Log

The storm is really raging now and the seas are getting bigger. I am NOT seasick! That is because of Lt. Sean. He gave me some medicine which seems to
be working. Now it is kind of fun to be out her since the waves don’t’ bother me any more. I kind of enjoy the ride now. We are REALLY moving up and
down.Question of the DayThis is a complex one, but an important concept if you ever sail. The ship was facing 51 degrees (North East) when we let off the buoy, but the ship
was moving 355 degrees (almost true north). Why would the ship face one way and travel a slightly different way?

HINT: Think about how the storm affects the ship

Answers to your Questions

The answer to yesterday’s question was 12.5 x 24 or 300 kts. or about 345 miles. Congratulations all who got this one correct. Of course, we stop a lot
here to take measurements, so we do not go that far in a day.

Many of you asked how much we are finding. I’ll tell you about that in a day or so when the scientists have a better idea of what the data is showing.

We have not seen any sharks. That’s OK with me.

Was it scary to be at sea in a storm? Not really. You get used to the waves after a while. They are really rolling along right now. But people here are
used to it and go about their lives as people do.

What was the deepest ocean we have sailed over so far? 240 meters. We will sail over deeper water in the days to come.

Josh, I’m not getting sea-sick anymore, and there are not many people on deck right now because of the storm. Most of us are inside unless we have to

Amanda, good question. I don’t really feel the tides, but I know they are there. They just move us around a little, but what I really feel are the
waves from the storm.

Hello as well to Lt. Sean’s family. Thanks so much for writing. I’m glad you are enjoying the blog.

Hello to Nazilla and Earnest in Seattle. Thanks for writing.

Maggie Prevenas, May 15, 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: May 15, 2007

Science Log

I waited until most people had left the airplane before I gathered up my gear, treasures, and technology equipment. So many people, in such a hurry, and my senses were overloaded; the bright lights and loud sounds of rush hour in a huge international airport shook me to my toes. I continued through the terminal as I had approached my entire journey, one step at a time.

I realized there were only one or two airlines in this terminal so I knew I had to do some investigating. Walking, walking, walking past many, many, many people, gosh that was something! I had to kindly interrupt a Security Guard, an airport cleaning staff, and a sky cap before I even approached the terminal of my last flight.

Los Angeles airport is set up like a big horseshoe with the terminals like nails in the hoof. In the center is the giant Star Wars Air Control Tower that looms over the site like Darth Vader. Everything is concrete, or blacktop, or steel, or glass. The cars, and taxis, and police vehicles zoom around the loop at racecar speeds. No lie, I ran into the same police motorcycle three times as I walked from one end of the terminal complex to the other.

I got into my home terminal and had to check through security once again. Since my breakfast yogurt was ‘safe and under control’ in the wastebasket in Anchorage, I had to purchase my protein and calcium from yet another vendor. I found my gate and a good wall with an outlet and floor space . I sat down, plugged in my computer and stretched out my legs. Leg room would be precious on the flight.

There was a layover of at least an hour until the gate began to fill with excited tourists getting ready to go to the vacation of their dreams. So I worked away on my computer, updating images, and cleaning up photo files. Even though the flight was delayed, then delayed again, and then delayed indefinitely, I wasn’t upset. One step at a time I got here, and one step at a time I’d get home.

I saw a grown woman throw a temper tantrum. I saw another man talk in a mean voice to the airline check-in lady. I saw a baby child take wobbly steps around and around the gate. “Would you please watch HIM!” the mother hissed at the father. The father rolled his eyes and opened his cell phone, attempting to reschedule a flight that may or may not be cancelled due to repair. “What is the hurry?” I thought and then I realized that if I lived there I would be desperate to go to paradise as well.

Finally, whatever had been broken, was fixed. The pilot gave her thumbs up, and I was on a plane bound for my home on an airplane that was full, full, full of people. Five short hours later, I was home, the air full of honey sweet plumeria and humidity. Without rain there are no rainbows.

I saw my husband before he saw me and I choked up, just a hitch. I was home. I was really home. He had kept the house clean, and fed all the animals, had done all the yard work, and managed everything while I had spent 38 days in a galaxy far, far away. For that and him I will be forever grateful.

But there are so many to thank.

My risk-taking principal who believes in his teachers.

My uber substitute student teacher, who taught ME about fighter planes and MY STUDENTS so much more.

My mumma, who gave birth to more than just me. She kept an entire binder of my journals and questions.

My sister, who kept me in the dark, so I wouldn’t slip into a crack.

My daughter, who is a source of constant interest and growth.

My students who delight in learning from me as much as I do from them. Their warm Aloha from the boots they signed always kept my feet and my heart warm.

My Inupiat Eskimo friends, who gave me so much more than I could ever offer. All I had to do was listen with my eyes.

PolarTrec support staffers who make it all look so easy but know that it’s not.

NOAA and the Teacher at Sea program. Now it’s my turn to tell stories and inspire the next generation of marine biologists, waitresses, gardeners, truck drivers, and the homeless not hopeless.

The kind Fed Ex shipper, Ed, who gave me a box, wrapped up half my cold weather gear and offered to take me to the post office because it was too expensive to ship it from there.

All the researchers on the Healy for having so much patience with me and my questions, and tolerating me. But especially the bird men and women, the ice seal team, the algae population explosion experts, the nutrient decoders, the fish stalkers, the lovers of marine mammals when they aren’t studying plankton (a life style). Heck, everyone who had to put up with me and my eternal enthusiasm. Thank you.

The Coast Guard women and men of the Healy, I was never afraid because I knew you’d keep me safe. Look for an increase in enlistment from Hawaii in about 5 years…

And thank you, for following my mission. I hope you will continue to check back as I will continue to post and share what I am doing with what I heard when I listened with my eyes.