Kelly Dilliard: Before the Cruise, May 12, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kelly Dilliard
(Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

May 14 – June 5, 2015

Mission: Right Whale Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: May 12, 2015

Personal Log

I got into Providence, Rhode Island from Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Sunday, May 10th. The ship, the Gordon Gunter was not in port yet, so I decided to take a bit of a tour around the area. I rented a car on Monday and headed for the New Bedford Whaling Museum located in New Bedford, Massachusetts. The museum is located in the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park and includes exhibits, several whale skeletons, a model whaling ship, and lots of artwork. There are three whale skeletons, a right whale, a blue whale and a humpback whale hanging from the initial gallery. The right whale was accidentally killed while 10 months pregnant by a boat propeller cutting off her left fluke. The other two whales were also killed accidentally.

Right whale skeleton
Right whale skeleton including baby.

One thing I found interesting was how international the whaling industry was. Many people immigrated from Portugal and territories that belonged to Portugal, like the Azores and Cape Verde. Many whaling boats from New Bedford traveled all the way to the South Pacific and the Arctic. The main reason for whaling was for whale oil that was used to light houses and businesses. But other parts of the whale were also used including the baleen, which was used in corset stays. New Bedford is known as the “City that lit the world.” Whaling started in the area around the 1700s. New Bedford is also known for Herman Melville, a whaler and an author.

Another thing that was interesting was how small the boats were that went out to hunt the right whales. They were basically rowboats. Once a whale was killed by a harpoon, the whalers would either tow the whales back to shore or to larger ships. Whalers would then cut off the blubber and boil it in large cauldrons called try-pots. Try-pots could be used on ships and held 140 to 220 gallons of oil.

Try-pots used to boil whale blubber.

After going to the Whaling Museum, I then headed to Newport, Rhode Island to see The Newport Mansions. I took a walk on the Cliff Walk, a 3.5 mile trail that walks below many of Newport’s mansions and along the rocky eastern shoreline. Mansions on the route include The Breakers and Rough Point; both were built by Vanderbilts and represent architecture of the gilded age. The houses were magnificent, but so was the geology. The trail traverses over metamorphosed sedimentary rocks and granite, the Newport granite. There are locations on the trail that were destroyed by Super Storm Sandy.

Cliff Walk
Google map of the Cliff Walk. The Breakers and Rough Point are marked.
Rough Point
Rough Point, from the Cliff Walk, Newport, RI.

Today, Tuesday, May 12, I decided to head further east traveling to Woods Hole and to Cape Cod National Seashore. I drove down to Woods Hole to see the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute for myself. I have heard of WHOI since I was in elementary school and Robert Ballard was looking for the RMS Titanic. My elementary school principal was a Titanic buff and he involved us in the Jason Project. I toured the aquarium and even meet up with the Chief Scientist on my cruise, Peter Duley or NOAA.

I then traveled to the Cape Cod National Seashore. I had no idea that Cape Cod is considered a large barrier island, actually the largest in the world. A canal to west separates Cape Cod from the mainland. Cape cod was originally created by glacier that pushed sediment along as they flowed south and left that sediment when they retreated. One interesting feature I saw today was Doane rock, a large glacial erratic. This sediment left by the glaciers is constantly reworked by wind and waves. At Coast Guard Beach there are some spectacular beach cliffs. The last place I stopped was to view the Nauset Marsh, a spectacular salt marsh and tidal channels.

Coast Guard Beach
Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod National Seashore
Nauset Marsh
Nauset Marsh, Cape Cod National Seashore

Tomorrow I head back to Newport and onto the Gordon Gunter. We are scheduled to depart on Friday.

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