Big Blue Live!

Wishing I had a tv with PBS access right about now! I’ll be trying to stream it but for those of you with real live television – check it out!

Big Blue Live will be a 3-night event on PBS starting tonight, and going until Wednesday night. It is going to be live in Monterey, CA and all about amazing marine creatures. Happy viewing!

BIg Blue Live!

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Sunrises and Sunsets

“The only thing different between a sunrise and a sunset is what happens next.”

This quote was spoken often in my summer. A favorite quote of our Conservation Director, it was poignant during many a sunrise sendoffs. A tradition within many parts of the department, as well as others at Philmont, watching a sunrise here never gets old. The grumbling thoughts or heavy eyelids I have right before I roll out of a tent or my base camp housing unit are always forgotten and forgiven when I get to watch another beautiful picture unfurl over the Sangre de Cristos.

On the Nautilus, sunrises were a little harder to get up for. Having gone to bed no earlier than midnight each night because of my watch shift, I couldn’t always convince myself to roll out of the bunk and climb two sets of stairs on a swaying ship to get to the best view. One of the mornings I demanded my body cooperate was this one, the sun rising over Catalina Island.

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Now – sunsets, those were EASY! Another benefit of the 8-12 shift meant I always got to catch some colors in the sky as the sun sank over the Pacific. 25 sunsets for 25 days! Below are a smattering of my views.

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So. What happens next?

This question can be weighty. I’ve answered it enough now that I should have a stock answer after these years of seasonal work, going contract to contract, with travel and time off in between – always talking about where I was and where I’m going. Sometimes, I feel like the asker of this particular question is testing me, or secretly envious, so no matter what answer I give, it’s not enough or is flawed. Sometimes, I am the one picking apart the answer, stuck in my own head about what I think I should or could be doing. It always comes back to purpose for me. That and a good phone chat with some of the best people who I see the least. I know these people are genuinely interested in what happens next for me, because they have joy for my adventures.

It still doesn’t make the answer any easier or any clearer. For now, I go with a plan I made a couple months ago and make a new one a couple months from now. Season to season, sunrise to sunset, every day with purpose. I believe in all the past “what happens next?” that I’ve faced, which have led me here. And being here is a pretty excellent feeling.

For those of you I know are still curious, I’ll tell you what’s next. One more summer evening watching the best damn sunset in Colfax County. Some long solo drives in the Silver Bullet with the music blaring and windows rolled down. A stomp-your-feet kind of live bluegrass concert. Some good brews and good eats with the best of friends. A trip home to the Lake. Some damn good times, that’s what’s next.

TV Alert for tonight!

Turn your eyes and channels to your local CBS Broadcast TONIGHT!

On 60 Minutes tonight Bob Ballard will speak about the adventures of the E/V Nautilus! This is a story, “Unknown America” which aired back in May. This special times especially with our upcoming dive on the USS Macon on Tuesday, August 18th.

Preview: Unknown America

The USS Macon is an airship wreck just outside Monterey Bay, California. We have special permits to dive on the 18th and currently have aboard the Director for Archaeological programs for Ocean Exploration Trust as well as a PhD student from Texas A&M’s Nautical Archaeology Program (Gig ‘Em Aggies!) who represents NOAA in this joint venture between NOAA, the Naval History & Heritage Command, and OET to photograph and map the wreck. This wreck is very unique – the Macon possesses some of the oldest aviation equipment submerged in saltwater, but because of the depth and temperature of the site where the wreckage lies, there is still fabric from the airplane’s wings visible.

Diving all day on Tuesday, the 18th, so tune in for the adventure! Until then, get your fix on Nautilus Live and with 60 Minutes tonight!

banner image credit: NOAA/MBARI/Wiley Collection

Scenes from the Sea: Under Pressure!

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These cups used to be regular 8 oz. styrofoam cups. Then I put them on Argus during a 16 hour dive to 700 meters deep in the ocean. The pressure pushing down on them pushes all the air out and yielded them this size when they came up!

For every 10 meters below the ocean’s surface, 1 atmosphere (atm), gets added in pressure. 1 atm = 14.7 pounds per square inch. So, at 700 meters, these cups had about 1,022 pounds per square inch of pressure on top of them!

Science Party Line

You know you’ll love your job when you hear about one of the requirements daily is to “get on the Science Party Line.”

SPL is what E/V Nautilus uses to connect its public audience viewing from home, work, lunch break, school, cubicle, couch, airplane or park bench – to the live exploration going on each time the ROVs are in the water diving. Questions, comments, jokes, musings – anything can be typed into the chat box below the camera’s live feed on Nautilus Live. If the green button is illuminated, someone like myself, an SCF (Science Communication Fellow), will be on the other end to receive and translate out to the team in the van on watch at the time.

This facet of Nautilus is what sets us apart from other expeditions such as NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer. We bring the whole experience to the audience live, adding experts and scientific conversation led by the SCF and putting deep sea exploration in your hands.

Each watch team stays for 4 hours (12-4, 4-8, 8-12), twice a day, at the top of the ship in a control van – essentially a Conex box that looks like a miniature NASA Mission Control. I have a watch from 8-12 (so tune in then and send me your questions! and hellos!). Watch teams consist of 7-9 people per shift with one SCF, one video engineer, two-three ROV pilots, one navigator, one chief scientist, and one or two data loggers.

The job of the SCF is to field questions and comments from the chat box and create conversation in the van between all parties, each person lending knowledge and answers related to their field of work or operations on the ship.

Every watch brags they have the “best” watch, and I’ll do the same. My ROV pilots consist of a veteran pilot who was one of three people on the 3rd descent but 1st successful! of the Titanic wreck, and some rising star Engineering Interns who exhibit calm and collected skill in piloting Argus as well as the mainstay vehicle, Hercules. Our navigator had a previous career in the Navy and a degree in Anthropology. My right hand counterpart, the video engineer, spends his days not on Nautilus chasing a sports and entertainment broadcasting truck around the company. In the back row, we have a fountain of knowledge, from our Chief Scientist who studies hydrothermal vents thousands of meters beneath the surface and considers these 700-1000 m dives lately “shallow.” Our science intern is a rising senior at UC-Davis and knows equal parts about deep sea biology, evolution, oceanography and making up his own jokes (claiming the good AND the bad). On this most recent leg we have a Honors Research Program student data logging as well – one of 8 impressive rising high school seniors we have had on board this leg and last who will log data, write dive reports and deploy homemade ocean drifters – 2 are out and floating in the Eastern Pacific, zoom in on the Channel Islands and check them out here!

Quite the party, if you ask me. Add in a curious, worldwide audience and you have a pretty quick 4 hours go by at a time. So what are you waiting for? Logon NOW – if you’re good you could catch ALL 3 watch times in one dive!

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Hercules in its ready position

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Going Big

I am almost halfway through this adventure aboard E/V Nautilus. From the beginning of my selection I have asked myself, how will I convey what I did out here and what it meant to me once it is over?

So I got this blog going for me. Which is nice.

I have met incredible people in the first two legs of this California Borderlands expedition. Scientists at the top of their fields in hydrothermal vent geology, benthic ecology, microbes existing at methane seep communities and more. I have meaningful conversation about ocean science, conservation and education at every sit-down across from someone at a meal or a lounge session on the social deck. I work alongside an incredible teacher whose passion for her students inspires me and an extremely talented artist whose “doodles” are more like masterpieces. I feel fortunate to keep diving into these adventures in my life which situate me around some of the most interesting and dedicated people I’ve ever met. They go all in for their passion, just like I do. “Go Big” says a tattoo on a person onboard, to “remind himself to always go big for his dreams and never let up.” When you’re talking about living the dream of sailing with Nautilus, exploring the deep, making a case for the good of the world’s oceans and for where they stand in our health as a planet – Going Big is the only option.

We have an excellent team, already just within the first week, we had crew change in San Pedro. It seemed we had all just become a well-oiled machine of watch shifts and close friends with jokes and laughs and then it was time for goodbyes (and tacos!) on the dock.

I am working on one of my deliverables for this fellowship now on the ship. I will be filming (with the help of excellent video engineers, a documentarian and willing subjects) short answers to interview questions about oceanography careers as a lesson upgrade for my old stomping grounds at Catalina Island Marine Institute. Students will be able to view an iBook in the lab as part of a rotation in learning oceanography so they can see themselves diving into similar careers one day.

In the fall, I will visit with friends who are teachers, in their classrooms from Colorado to California, and hopefully inspire their students to reach higher and dream big.

Connecting my former and current communities to E/V Nautilus is my ambition to have this fellowship. I was fortunate this week to do an interaction with Philmont participants and staff, even catching the STEM Trek kids who I met with before I left, but was unable to be there for their final day off the trail and banquet. Taking questions from familiar voices (without seeing the crowd) was wonderful and I even had a sidekick from the boat, a data intern and Eagle Scout who took a trek at Philmont several years ago. I connected with about 100 National Order of the Arrow Conference at their gathering of 15,000 Arrowmen at Michigan State University in their celebration of 100 years of service and leadership in this honor society of Scouting. Tomorrow I’ll connect one more time with Philmont in an evening Q&A session.

What good will come of keeping these experiences, these days, these learning opportunities to myself? Thanks for being a part of that journey with me. Feel free to leave comments below on what future blog posts should be about!

Just off the coast of Palos Verdes, CA

Just off the coast of Palos Verdes, CA

Tepid Tub Live Interaction with Exploratorium in San Francisco

Tepid Tub Live Interaction with Exploratorium in San Francisco

Sunset near Catalina Island

Sunset near Catalina Island

The clouds are always the best part

The clouds are always the best part

Obligatory sunset photo

Obligatory sunset photo

Catalina Martinez, NOAA OER Representative interviewing for my deliverable

Catalina Martinez, NOAA OER Representative interviewing for my deliverable

Catalina Island in the background!

Catalina Island in the background!

Taco Truck!

Taco Truck!

Up close with the grill

Up close with the grill

Intern group #1

Intern group #1

Hercules in its ready position

Hercules in its ready position

Fresh squeezed every morning!

Fresh squeezed every morning!

Whale Fall Watch Party in the Lounge

Whale Fall Watch Party in the Lounge

Sunset on the Pacific

Sunset on the Pacific

The Satellite which makes all telepresence possible!

The Satellite which makes all telepresence possible!