Cathrine Fox: Issue Nine: Pycnopodia phobia

NOAA TEACHER AT SEA
CATHRINE PRENOT FOX
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011


Mission: Walleye Pollock Survey
Location: Kodiak, Alaska
Date: August 4, 2011

Weather Data from the Bridge
Air Temperature: 12.5° C dry/10.8° C wet
Overcast, Fog and Rain
Latitude: 57.44° N, Longitude: 152.31° W

(Limited data, as ship is in port)


Personal Log:
There is a scene in the 1979 movie Alien, with Sigourney Weaver, that still makes me duck under an afghan, even though I have watched it many times and I know what is going to happen. (The scene takes place within the first 30 minutes, so I haven’t spoiled the ending for you if you have never experienced Alien.) Scene summary: The spaceship Nostromo is on its way back to Earth with a load of ore when it receives a transmission from a nearby planetoid. Of course, the crew land their ship on the planetoid to check it out. They find an abandoned spaceship transmitting the signal. Of course, they go inside to explore. One of the crew members (Kane) finds an immense room lined with pods…that look suspiciously like eggs. (Here is the point that I start inching under the protection of a blanket.) Of course, one of the eggs hatches… …and Kane leans in to “check it out.” Out leaps this multi-armed creature that attaches itself to Kane’s face. It all goes downhill from there, but I won’t spoil the how.

Picture, now, a Sunflower Starfish, Pycnopodia helianthoides, in the starring role instead of a face-sucking alien. I don’t think it is that much of a stretch of the imagination:

Kane from Alien with "Facehugger"
Kane from Alien with “Facehugger”
Bowdoin College student with Sunflower Starfish
Bowdoin College student with Sunflower Starfish

See what I mean? And really, you don’t have to imagine this animal as an Alien to fear it. These animals eat just about anything they can on the sea bed, and can grow to be a meter wide. Although they move too slow to capture a human and attach themselves to their face (1 to 2 meters per minute, the Maserati of the phylum echinodermata) I would not put it past them to snack on anything that was too slow to move out of their way. They are certainly a terror for sea urchins, clams and scallops.

Need I say more? I’ll let Issue 9: Pycnopodia phobia speak for itself. (Cartoon citations 1, 2, 3 and 4)

Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 9
Adventures in a Blue World, Issue 9

These creatures are under the dock and on the pier where we are right now, in a wide array of sizes and colors. As long as they stay there, I won’t be ringing any abandon ship drills (more on that later), but be wary. Be very wary.

If you get a chance, check out my fellow Teacher at Sea blogs! She has a TAS wordpress and personal blogspot, and both are informative and hilarious. I’ve also included a few more photos of various trips around Kodiak if you scroll down. We are scheduled to leave tomorrow at 0800 hours, so play some Styx for us (Come Sail Away, thanks Kim!) and keep your fingers and toes crossed.

Until our next adventure,
Cat

I have always said: "keep your friends close, and your enemies closer."
I have always said: “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”
"Safety Stand Down Day:" Staci and I don orange gumby survival suits... ...and jump off the side of the ship into the water...
“Safety Stand Down Day:” Staci and I don orange gumby survival suits… …and jump off the side of the ship into the water…
...then paddle out to life rafts and do relay races to shore with our teammates.
…then paddle out to life rafts and do relay races to shore with our teammates.
Staci wins the scavenger hunt for ships from The Deadliest Catch (including the Cornelia Marie!).
Staci wins the scavenger hunt for ships from The Deadliest Catch (including the Cornelia Marie!).
Shocker: Cat with binoculars.  Miller Point.
Shocker: Cat with binoculars. Miller Point.
Fort Abercrombie: wildflower hike,
Fort Abercrombie: wildflower hike,
...historic World War II bunkers,
…historic World War II bunkers,
...and birding.
…and birding.

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