CATHRINE PRENOT FOX
ONBOARD NOAA SHIP OSCAR DYSON
JULY 24 – AUGUST 14, 2011
(Limited data, as ship is in port)
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:
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.
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,