There’s No Place Like Home

I’m sitting in the Chicago O’Hare airport, one tiny flight away from my man! My flight from Seattle was easy; I slept the whole way (didn’t you read my last post? I am a champion-level sleeper).

Well…here it is, folks: the end of this blog. The end of my summer. I start school again tomorrow.

I don’t need to bore you with a lengthy stream-of-consciousness reflection of how amazing this summer has been. I’ll spend plenty of time reflecting and treasuring it for years to come. Plus, if you’ve been following the whole time, you’ve practically done this summer with me. Wasn’t it fun??

I will say this before I go – this summer has been absolute magic. It’s far and away the best one of my life so far. It’s like something out of a storybook: I slept in castles and sailed the seas. I saw creatures as giant as humpback whales and as tiny as baby sea turtles. I had a week in there where my feet were in the Atlantic on a Sunday and then the Pacific on a Thursday. I pushed my limits and realized I’m capable of more than I ever thought possible. Y’all, I did a lot of LIVING this summer. I packed more living into this summer than some people do in a lifetime.

I am so thankful that God gave me these opportunities and blessed me with these things. I know I don’t deserve them, and I am so full of praise and thanks to Him for giving them to me! More than that, though, I’m full of praise and thanks for what He’s given me on the other side of this tiny, one-hour flight. There is a man on the other side of that flight who can’t wait to see me. There are two dogs on the other side of that flight who will be ready to snuggle and a cat who will be ready to continue hating me while I love her anyway. There’s a job on the other side of this flight where I get to see my students again, where I get to tell them about all of my adventures, and where my life can slow down for a while. (I dare you to find another teacher who looks forward to September as the part when their life slows down). There’s family on the other side of this flight – family by birth and family by marriage, who will have my back no matter what, who will drag me out of bed for 8 AM garage sales, and who will make Sunday dinner meatloaf.

There’s my home, guys. There’s my home on the other side of this flight, and I can’t wait to get there.

Now I have tears running down my face. I’m crying in the airport like an idiot. I could try to excuse it by saying it’s only 5:30 AM and I’m really tired, but nah. The truth is that I’m just so happy. I’m so happy for the gift of this summer and so happy for what lies on the other side of it.

Thanks for being on this journey with me.

Cheers to 2017.

blog8

IMG_20170811_145811978

Advertisements

Last Days of the Voyage!

Confession: I did something that would cause me to lose respect in the eyes of almost all junior high students.

I passed up a double dog dare.

Everyone knows you can’t pass up a double dog dare. It’s practically law that you have to take it. I have students who have never even passed on a plain old dare. To pass on a double dog dare? Unthinkable.

In my defense, Lance double dog dared me to eat the head off of a live herring. EWWWWWWWW.

It was during our last fishing trawl of the trip, and we were all a little loopy. We’d already processed one trawl of hake, and this one was almost all herring. Olivia was holding up dead fish and pretending they were swimming through air. Tracie was dancing around with a jellyfish. Tim (the lab leader) was rolling his eyes and wondering what kind of crack team he was running here.

And then Lance dared me.

It was a pretty quick no. “Dude, I’m not eating that fish. I don’t even like fish cooked, and this is rawer than raw.”

“Come on,” he taunted. “You don’t have to eat it. You just have to chew on it for a second. Plus, I double dog dared you.”

He has a kid in junior high, so he knew the gauntlet had been thrown.

Still, I balked. It was too much. I honestly thought about doing it because I hate to back down from a challenge, but…no. Imagine my surprise when Lance said, “Look, it’s really not that hard,” AND THEN HE DID IT HIMSELF.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I screamed in shock and disgust because EWWWWWW. Blood splattered on Olivia’s face because she was unfortunate enough to be standing next to him when he did it. SICK!

Obviously I didn’t get a picture of it because it happened so fast, but here’s Lance feeling pretty proud of himself afterwards:

IMG_20170824_132048400

That was one of the many things that have happened on the last few days aboard. With the trip coming to a close, we are now all way too comfortable with each other and also getting pretty silly. I don’t hate it. Everyone’s maturity level has dropped, but mine wasn’t very high to begin with. We’re all on my level now. 🙂

One thing that has been awesome is that the weather has been gorgeous. The water is calm (PTL!), and the sky has been sunny and perfect. We had one rough night a couple nights ago, but that ended up pretty funny. When I woke up, it was like those movies where people wake up after a night of binge drinking and try to remember what happened.

I found myself in a nest of pillows (one between me and the wall, one on the bed rail, one behind my head). I also had a bottle of hand sanitizer, a light bulb, a bag of pretzels, a bottle of seasickness meds, and my Nalgene. I woke up, all bleary-eyed with Einstein hair, and thought, “What the heck? Where did all this stuff come from?”

One by one, I remembered all the things: I was rocking back and forth hitting my bed rail and the wall, so I wedged myself in with pillows. Then I started feeling sick, so I grabbed my seasickness meds and the Nalgene. Partway through the night, the hand sanitizer started sliding back and forth on a shelf. It was annoying me, so I got out of bed and brought it back to bed with me because in my sleeping bag it wouldn’t bang on anything.

Then, later, a loose light bulb started rolling across a metal shelf. I remember hearing glass roll….CLINK!….glass roll….CLINK! as it rolled back and forth. That was obviously driving me nuts, so I climbed down again and brought that to bed with me too.

And the pretzel bag? Well, that one was just because I fell asleep eating pretzels.

Clearly the night wasn’t too bad because I ended up going back to sleep in between all of those events, but you can ask Rex: I’m kind of a champ at sleeping. The next morning, my friends asked, “Were you able to get any sleep last night?” and I said, “Oh yeah. Plenty. I just woke up with a weird rat stash of stuff in my sleeping bag.” Ha ha!

Now it’s our last day, and there’s a party going on out on the fly deck. The corn hole tournament finals are going on, and the engineer guys in the finals literally live on this boat. They practice A LOT. They’re against some of our science team. I’m obviously cheering for our guys, but they’re major underdogs. Plus, one of the engineers is wearing his lucky hat, and how do you mess with a lucky hat?? I offered our war paint, but the guys turned it down. That’s probably the real reason why they’ll lose.

The lady scientists have been having our own fun. We’re painting marine creatures on each other’s faces (I told you we’re getting loopy). Tracie is a phenomenal artist, and if you don’t believe me then check out this Octopus on my forehead:

IMG_20170825_143629984_HDR

Here’s the full team together:

IMG_20170825_170106707_HDR

It’s quite the party. I’m going to be sad to leave these awesome people, but I am excited to be back with my husband and in a bed where I don’t wake up with all kinds of mystery items that I accumulated in the night. Oh, and I’m also back to my school world where a “double dog dare” is something like “jump in that fountain outside the library.”

Zoops, Soups, and Puffins

Let’s see…where did I last leave off? I’ve been packing so much fun into my last few days that I’ve hardly had time to write!

Looks like I left you at zoops.

Zoops (zooplankton samples) were fun. Getting out of bed at 3:45 AM…wasn’t, but I was suited and ready to work by 4. Julia, our chief scientist, is a superhuman or a robot. I’m not sure which. She got up an hour before zoops because she wanted to get her workout in before the day started. Whaaaaaat? So here’s Hilarie (one of my fellow scientists) and Julia at 4 AM. I bet you can guess which is which:

IMG_20170823_040328586.jpg

Julia describes herself as an extreme morning person. I wish she could bottle that up and sell it to teachers everywhere, because she’d make a fortune.

Here are some pics of us snagging zooplankton from the depths of the sea:

IMG_20170823_053652071.jpg

IMG_20170823_053943428.jpg

After zoops, Hilarie and I watched the sunrise on the top deck. Then we had a delicious breakfast: breakfast burritos, chocolate chip pancakes with peanut butter topping, fresh fruit, and juice (that’s what I chose, anyway. There were lots of options. We’re totally spoiled). Have you met our chefs, Dennis and Larry? They’re awesome. Here are Dennis and Larry:

IMG_20170825_092912579.jpg

I told them I wanted a picture of them “to show people our hardworking cooks,” and Larry said, “Then you’d be lying! We don’t work that hard!” and Dennis said, “Quick – take the picture. I can only suck my belly in for so long.”

Hahaha…I really like them (and for more reasons than just “they make good food,” I promise). Yesterday at breakfast Larry said, “Christine, I have to make a soup to go with lunch. What do you want?” I asked for my options. He said whatever soup I want.

SO MUCH POWER!!!!!!

I picked chicken tortilla because it’s my favorite. Joao (a survey tech) brought a sample of it to me in a paper cup with a plastic spoon about an hour before lunch. It needed my approval, haha! I was covered in fish guts and wearing all my lab gear at the time, but I totally took a break to try the soup. Yummmmm!

That afternoon, I played in the corn hole tournament again (which Tracie and I lost…but the game was epic and lasted over an hour). While we were playing, Hilarie was looking over the side of the ship and said, “Hey, look! Puffins!”

WHAAAAAAAAT!? PUFFINS?!?!?

I love puffins! I had no idea we were far enough north to see puffins. I ran to the side of the ship and said, “PUFFINS?! Seriously?! How far north are we?” Then I looked around to see if I could see Santa or some elves.

Tee hee.

The puffins were so cute, and I went into my “aww” mode that is usually reserved for puppies, kittens, and other fluffy creatures. It went something like this (sorry in advance for the excessive capital letters, but I was definitely talking in caps):

“AWWWWWWW! LOOK AT THE PUFFINS! Oh my word they’re so adorbsy. HI PUFFINS! GAHHH! THAT ONE DOVE INTO THE WATER! IT’S FISHING!! AWWWW! *starts singing* Puffins, puffins, doing puffin things…swimming around, being puffiny. *stops singing* LOOK AT THAT ONE! Oh wow he is so cute. I LOVE HIM! I will name him Puffy the Puffin!!”

Then I turned around and all the scientists were staring at me like I just lost my mind.

“Sorry guys…I really like puffins.”

They started cracking up and said they hadn’t seen me so excited the whole trip. A couple of them were smoking, and I said, “You guys are so cool! You’re puffin with the puffins!” *starts singing* Puffin with the puffins! Puffin with the puffins! I almost want a cigarette so I can be puffin with the puffins!

(Calm down, Squitty. I didn’t smoke one).

Of course I get excited about all the marine creatures we’ve seen, but rarely are they cute. I mean, have you ever seen a cute humpback whale? Exactly. So the scientists hadn’t really seen my excitement over cute things. Now they have. Do you want to know what my scientist friends think are cute? PYROSOMES.

Not kidding, y’all. They do a very similar “oh my gosh it’s so cute” squealy dance when we find pyrosomes. They love them because…I don’t know…because they’re dedicating their life’s work to them or whatever. Pyrosomes are NOT cute. Look at them (disclaimer: I did not take these photos):

pyrosomes

Puffins, however, are very cute:

puffins_on_the_farne_islands_copyright_national_trust

 

Not cute:

pyrosomes2

 

Cute:

puffin 1

Got it? Good. Puffins look like a penguin’s awkward second cousin. Pyrosomes look like…well, never mind. Nothing appropriate.

I’d better sign off for now. Before I do, let me show you a picture of where I am while blogging today. My lobster socks are courtesy of Julia, who bought all of the scientists cool socks. My dad would love them.

IMG_20170825_131535755.jpg

IMG_20170825_115924743_HDR.jpg

Almost time for dinner…steak and shrimp for our last night (go Dennis and Larry!). I’ll try to write later and catch you up on the rest of what we’ve been doing. 🙂

Corn Hole and Styrofoam

Today I had one of my rare “huh” moments. A “huh” moment is when I think, “Huh, this is a bizarre thing I’m doing right now. What the heck kind of life choices led me to this moment?” Today’s huh moment was when I found myself playing in a corn hole tournament (and winning, I might add) on the top deck of a government research vessel while watching a pod of humpback whales.

That’s really a weird place to find myself, when you think about it.

It was a pretty high-stakes game of corn hole. If you throw the bean bag too hard, it ends up in the ocean. Luckily, I’m not that bad of a shot. Also, you have to judge all your shots with the rock of the boat (which can be unpredictable and made the game pretty funny). Tracie and I won our game, so we’re on to the next round tomorrow! We credit our victory with our baller war paint.

corn hole victory

IMG_20170822_153718727.jpg

Today was pretty chill because we didn’t have any fishing to do. I spent quite a bit of time working on my styrofoam cup. The science team is decorating styrofoam cups because the cool marine biologist thing to do is to sink them to very low ocean depths (3000+ meters). Apparently the pressure at that depth compresses the styrofoam and shrinks it, making the cup tiny and misshapen but still showing all the designs that were put on it. I’m not kidding: this is a thing that all the marine biologists get really excited about. Tracie even decorated a styrofoam head (the kind that cosmetologists use) in advance of this trip and brought it with her to sink. There are shrunken heads in the lab already from other people who have done this. Sinking styrofoam is a legit marine biology hobby. As the saying goes, “When in Rome…” so I worked on a styrofoam cup today. I’m making a hake tessellation, which takes longer than you might think. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

IMG_20170823_051528993.jpg

While I was working on my cup, our acoustics tech came in and told us that a pod of Pacific White-Sided Dolphins were playing in the waves by our ship. We hurried out to see, and it was so amazing! There were bunches of dolphins on both sides of the ship, jumping in and out of the waves. Some of them would pop up in pairs or in groups, sort of like an aquarium show except infinitely better. I fear that all aquariums are ruined for me after this trip.

IMG_20170822_102919076_BURST009

Now I’m watching a movie (Pirates 2) in my recliner chair in the lounge of the ship. It’s kind of like a movie theater – a giant screen in the front, and leather recliner chairs fill the rest of the room. I got an ice cream cone out of the (free!) ice cream treats freezer to eat while watching the movie. You know, sea life might not be that bad after all.

Gotta go to bed, though: zoop stations start at 4 AM.

That’s “zooplankton,” in case you didn’t know. The other scientists seem excited about this, so hopefully it’s cool! This is like when Rex gets up at 4 AM to hunt, but I’m hunting zooplankton instead of…all the things Rex hunts. Also, I can get out of bed at 3:58 and be at my hunting spot by 4, so that’s a definite plus.

Talk to you tomorrow!

Ship Life

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

It was life on this ship.

Okay, full disclosure: I spent a few full days on this ship being sick, and they were the longest days OF MY LIFE. I was so miserable, and all I wanted to do was see shore. As in, I was willing to give up all other goals in life to just go home, sit with my husband and my dogs, and never set foot on a boat again. I told Rex that I’m all done with adventures, and he said, “Well…we’ll see how long that lasts, but I support you in whatever you want.”

Ha ha. He knows me well.

Now, after a veritable pharmacy of medications and mercifully calm water…I’m okay today (knock on wood). I thought I was okay a few days ago, but then we hit some rough swells and – NOPE – no longer okay.

The thing is, when I’m not sick in bed I’m doing some of the coolest stuff! Some of it is sciency, like designing earrings out of fish otoliths. Otoliths are these bony things in the inner ear that help regulate dizziness and balance. It’s kind of ironic to keep some since I’ve spent so much of this trip feeling dizzy, ha ha. They look cool, though! I can’t wait to get compliments on them and then say, “Oh, thanks. I pulled these out of a fish brain.”

The earrings were Tracie’s idea. Yesterday she taught me to do my hair using only a pencil (like she does), and then Olivia got this picture of us twinning.

IMG_20170820_165355607.jpg

I continue to see AWESOME marine wildlife out here. Whales are so common now that they’re almost not cool (except they’re still totally cool). We’re off the coast of Vancouver Island in Canada today, so we’re getting pretty far north. I’m hoping maybe we could see the Northern Lights – it happens up here sometimes. Yesterday I saw my first shark. It was slicing through the water all Jaws style, which was awesome. I’m also getting much better at identifying jellyfish. I really like when sea lions swim by us because they’re adorable (whales, sharks, and jellies are cool, but not adorable).

Last night my friend Hilarie and I watched Pirates of the Carribbean on the flying bridge (the highest deck on the ship). There’s something about watching an on-screen pirate ship come in through fog while your ship is going through fog and feeling sea spray on your face while pirates battle that adds a lot to the experience of the movie. Like, a lot. I’ll probably never watch it the same way again. Also, good news: Hilarie has all the Pirates movies on her hard drive, so we can make this a nightly thing if we want!

IMG_20170820_174605473_HDR.jpg

Also, we’re working with a ship named…. Well, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you the name. I’ll just tell you that it has “pearl” in the name, and people around here refer to it as “the Pearl.” Multiple times a day someone will say something like, “Look! The Pearl is visible about a mile off the starboard side!” And there’s a piece of me that’s always like, “THAT SEEMS LIKE A VERY BAD THING. WE’RE ABOUT TO BE TAKEN OVER BY PIRATES!!!” But we never are. It’s just a friendly government research ship. Don’t worry, though. I’m ready to call “parlay” if I need to.

Today the buzz on board is THE ECLIPSE! I’m writing this right after breakfast, so we’re still waiting. I’m going to head up to the flying bridge to see what’s going on in about ten minutes. We’re still about an hour and a half away from the main point of the eclipse (projected to be around 10:18), but everyone is so excited. It’s fun being on a ship full of scientists today. My chief scientist asked us all to wear black and gray today to dress in “eclipse theme,” and we’re going to take some “eclipse theme pictures” once we’re all up on deck. What’s an eclipse theme picture? I’ll let you know after we take them. Hopefully everyone just stands in front of me. I haven’t worn make-up in a week.

Also, we had pancakes for breakfast that could eclipse each other as we ate them. Not sure what’s for lunch, but I’m hoping pizza eclipsed by pepperonis.

As I said: everyone’s pretty excited.

AHHHHHH! THE CAPTAIN JUST CAME OVER THE P.A. AND SAID THE ECLIPSE IS STARTING! GOTTA GO!

*

*

*

*

Okay, I’m back. It’s now just over an hour until dinner (the day got busy). I’m pretty tired, but let me throw some highlights your way:

1. The eclipse was awesome! We got to see about 85% of it from where we are in Canada. The best was when the engineer dudes let us use their welding helmets to look at it. That worked waaay better than the cheapie glasses we had.

IMG_20170821_091709694.jpg

IMG_20170821_095408750_HDR.jpg

IMG_20170821_100819772

2. We pulled in a Methot net (don’t ask me what that is, okay? I’m still not entirely clear. It’s different than our trawl nets, though. A lot smaller). We wanted to check how some small animals were reacting to the changes in sunlight during the eclipse. I measured a jillion krill. We found a baby octopus, so that was awesome!

IMG_20170821_125553193_HDR

IMG_20170821_131649146.jpg

IMG_20170821_145225093.jpg

3. While we were processing the stuff from the net, someone came over the PA system and said, “There’s a pod of orcas off the port bow if anyone’s interested.” A WHOLE POD OF ORCAS? Uh, yeah. I’m interested. We went and watched those for a while. It was so awesome – we could see five or six surface at a time!

Now I’m kind of tired…I’ll try to get a little of my work done before dinner, though, because I don’t want to nap! Now that I can stay out of bed, I want to be out as much as possible.

Also, shout out to everyone who’s been supporting me! Today I opened my e-mail inbox to find e-mails from everyone in my immediate family (INCLUDING CARA), Rex, and my friend Lynn! Plus, Rex’s mom posted a pug video to my facebook wall. So I was feeling the love. Thanks for the support – I’m hoping that I can have more healthy days and fewer sick days now that my cocktail of medicines seems to be working. 😊

Three Cheers for Health!

Okay, my praying people – please keep it up! Yesterday I made my goal to stay out of bed all the way from breakfast until dinner, and I DID IT!

I know that doesn’t seem like that great of an accomplishment, but it is. Trust me.

Also, good thing I did, because there were all kinds of things to see. AND I finally took a shower, which means I cleaned all the fish scales out of my hair (I think). My roommate probably really appreciates this.

Actually, my roommate might not care. She’s super hard core and low maintenance. It’s a weird disconnect because she’s gorgeous – like, a truly beautiful specimen of human (see how sciency I am?) but she doesn’t even brush her hair. Nope, she just throws it up in this bun thing, sticks a pencil in it, and it lasts all day. IT’S AMAZING (see picture). She has to teach me how to do that. Also, she loves hunting grouse, which means that occasionally my before-bed conversations are just like they would be at home. Lol. She also loves animal rights. Her t-shirt today said, “BE KIND TO ANIMALS OR I WILL KILL YOU.” She has a unique perspective on animal rights, though. She says, “Okay, people shouldn’t kill elephants for ivory. That’s stupid. But like, hunting and fishing? Come on, people. Of course you should hunt and fish. It’s how an ecosystem works. It’s called a food chain.” She’s awesome.

IMG_20170817_081818382.jpg

Yesterday we saw a lot of wildlife. My favorite was probably the orcas. We saw two swimming right next to each other, and we think the smaller one was probably a baby. We also saw humpback whales and dolphins. Being sick for a few days is almost worth all the amazing wildlife we saw today. It’s especially worth it if I keep feeling healthy. How many people get to see all that stuff in the wild!?

I mean, WOW.

I also saw a lot of dead fish in my lab, but hey – that’s kind of the norm at this point.

IMG_20170818_153044071.jpg

IMG_20170818_153105610_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpg

At lunch, Larry the cook insisted I try his soup. I didn’t want to eat a lot because I didn’t want to risk feeling sick again, but he was all, “Try the cauliflower soup! You will like the soup!” It was the opposite of Seinfield’s soup Nazi: SOUP FOR YOU! I took some just to be nice, and it was absolutely delicious. When I get home, I’m going to learn how to make it. Also, it didn’t make me feel sick. Cheer!

I went back to my room shortly after dinner because I was exhausted but so proud of myself for making it through the whole day not being sick (which, yes, I understand it’s not me that made myself not sick. Praise the Lord for a healthy day! No, really. PRAISE THE LORD!!!). I decided to watch a movie to pass the time until I fell asleep. The best thing on was Titanic, so I watched that for a while. Turns out that watching Titanic while sailing in the middle of an ocean is a little creepy. Who knew? So now I’m watching a documentary about UFOs. Also. I’m feeling thankful for a TV to help pass the time (PRAISE THE LORD AGAIN!). I brought some projects that I really need to get done, but all of today’s energy has been spent. I will try again tomorrow.

Shout out to Rex for e-mailing me multiple times a day and being husband of the year. Whenever I feel down, I check my e-mail, and nine times out of ten – BAM! – e-mail from Rex. Very often there are pug pictures or pirate references involved. Today two of the scientists were talking about true love and what really IS true love, and I teared up while talking about Rex. Then, after hearing about what he’s been through with me, one of the other scientists started tearing up too. REX IS MY HUMAN, PEOPLE. And he’s making people on my ship cry. The ship loves you, Rexo. Can’t wait to see you again.

Phew! Gotta go to sleep. Goal tomorrow is to stay out of bed until 7 PM. Think I can do it? E-mail cheers are accepted. 😊

***edit*** I wrote that post yesterday and am just now getting around to posting it. It’s now 6:50, so I am TOTALLY going to make my 7 PM goal. I think I might even make it to sunset, which is supposed to look really beautiful tonight. I AM SO THANKFUL TO BE FEELING HEALTHY.

I just got out of a really long shift at the wet lab, though, so I smell reaaaaaalllllyyy bad. A shower before sunset is happening.

Life at Sea!

*Note: This is yesterday’s post, but the WiFi was down last night. Hopefully I will put up today’s post later today*

This post is coming to you from the chem lab in the middle of the ocean!

It’s tough to type because I keep rocking back and forth, and also the seasickness meds make my vision a bit blurry.

I’ll be honest – I haven’t been feeling well the past few days. Super dizzy, super tired, and I couldn’t even read or write because the letters in front of me were too blurry (please excuse any typos – I probably can’t see them).

Last night I switched to a new seasickness med because my chief scientist thinks that my body was reacting badly to the one I was on. Unfortunately (or fortunately?), she says that happens a lot with that particular medicine. It was pretty miserable. I’m feeling a bit better today, but pray that I keep getting better. At least I can type now – hooray for that!

For the past two days I’ve been working in the wet lab processing hake and rockfish. I have come to a point where I legitimately wonder who has gutted more fish – me or my dad. Never thought I’d see THAT day. I’m doing hundreds in a single trawl, so I am getting used to the routine. We have to find gonads, stomachs, and otoliths. The gonads allow us to sex the fish, the stomachs…okay I have no idea why we’re taking stomachs…and the otoliths tell us how old the fish is. It’s kind of cool, really. It’s an “ear bone” in the middle of the fish’s head that develops over time. It’s sort of like looking at rings on a tree: you can tell the age by how much they grow.

I would love to show you pictures of all of this, but the WiFi on board is seriously bad.

Anyway, the fish can be as small as my hand and as big as a meterstick. Huge differences. We scientists joke around with each other by giving someone a big fish if they’ve been working on tiny ones for a while. The big ones are so much easier.

People say to take joy in the little things in life…I just never knew that the “little things” would be “I get to dissect a giant fish!  WHOOPEEEEEE!”

Hold on – I’ve gotta go do marine mammal watch.

Okay I’m back. Marine mammal watch is pretty fun. I sit up on the fly deck (the highest deck on the boat), and I watch for whales and dolphins. If I see one too close to the ship, we have to postpone our trawl. I guess one time a net caught a dolphin, and that’s bad news. So we marine mammal watch.

On this particular watch I saw one whale, but it was waaaaay too far off to be caught by our nets. It was still cool to see it! The trawl proceeded, and now we’re waiting for the fish to come aboard.

That’s all for now! Please pray that I keep feeling better and that we get some good solid data. I’m learning a TON about marine biology. Adios!

Weekend in Port

In just over an hour, our ship will officially set sail.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I’m pretty nervous about it for a myriad of reasons, but I’m also excited. After all, I finally get to do what I came here to do.

I was worried that the weekend stuck in port might be super boring, but I had a blast. On Saturday morning, I rented a bicycle. When I went to the place to get it, they only had one left! There are a bunch of people already in town for the solar eclipse next week.

The man in the bike shop told me that I could either take the one he had, or I could wait for an hour and get a better one. I took at look at the one he had. It was old and a bit rusty, the kick stand was a little wonky, and pretty much it was the bicycle version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. I named the bike Charlie and decided we would go out for a fun day together. Who wants to sit at a bike shop for an hour? Plus, Charlie didn’t look like he’d been out for a while. He needed an adventure.

There’s a beautiful road that goes around the bay (about thirty miles), and I took that track. I had a wonderful ride, but I was definitely missing my padded bike shorts and my camelback and my bike gloves and my padded bike shorts and my travel companions and my bike bell and…did I mention my padded bike shorts?

I need to add those shorts to the list of things to pack with me everywhere just in case.

Speaking of that list, when I was a kid my mom taught me to always pack a swimsuit and a dress whenever I go on a trip because you never really know when you might need one of those things. It’s such a habit now that I do it even if I’m going to be on a ship for two weeks and definitely in no way will need a dress.

Wellll…except when my ship gets stuck in port and I get a free ticket to a fancy seafood festival. Our officers were all wearing their dress whites, so we were supposed to look a little fancy if we could.

Guess who’s the only scientist who brought a dress?

Thanks, Mom.

Sunday morning I went to a church in town, and then my new ship friends picked me up for a day at the beach.

Have you ever gone to the beach with marine biologists? DO IT.

It was so much fun. Tracie and Hilarie were stopping all over the place to talk about marine things. They loved to debate what species of jellyfish we found onshore. They looked at me for my input, but I just laughed. I couldn’t come up with five species of jellyfish names, let alone identify them.

Then, randomly, Tracie picked up the jellyfish and threw it at us. I screamed and ran away because – HELLO – jellyfish. But apparently this was a non-stinging species, and my friends said jellies are way more fun and environmentally friendly than throwing water balloons.

Noted. Still not ever going to get in a jellyfish fight when I’m on my own.

We found some Kelp, and Tracie used it as a jump rope. Then we spent some time looking for fossils. Tracie was freaking out excited. She’d say things such as, “LOOK! A CLAM FOSSIL! THIS IS CLAMTASTIC!”

That’s an actual quote. Tracie’s awesome.

Once I knew what I was looking for, I found a few fossils too. It made me feel very sciencey. Then we went and saw some sea lions. They were loud but super interesting. My new marine biology friends taught me a lot about them.

That night, we did one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. We found DINOFLAGELLATES!

Oh, you don’t know what those are? I didn’t either. They’re awesome. They’re a marine phytoplankton, and under the right conditions they bioluminesce (that means “glow”). Tracie, our phytoplankton expert, found a place where the conditions were perfect. We put on boots and stomped around in the water, and there were blue glowy sparkles everywhere we stepped. One of my friends said it looked like unicorn footprints if a unicorn was traipsing across a rainbow. That’s spot on. I can’t describe it well, so here’s a video of someone else stepping on them. It’s only thirty seconds…take a look. Seriously. It’s so cool.

It just so happens that at the same time that we were stomping around in glowing water, the Persied Meteor Shower was going on. So there were shooting stars flying above our heads and shooting glows flying under our feet. THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE WAS SPARKLY. That’s my kind of universe.

Now we’re getting ready to set sail. I’m so nervous! We just had an announcement over the PA system that said last call: all visitors ashore, all members aboard.

Here we go!

 

*UPDATE* We did, in fact, leave. The WiFi on board won’t let me post pictures, so you’re only getting text and video in this post. That’s too bad, cuz I have some REALLY COOL pictures. I’ll go back and edit pictures in if I can ever figure out how to do that.

Grounded

Good news: I have not yet gotten seasick.

Bad news: I haven’t been out to sea yet, so that makes my good news a bit pointless.

I’m supposed to be out at sea as I type this, but instead I’m sitting in the ship’s lounge while the ship is in port. Here’s a picture I took yesterday:

IMG_20170811_145811978

The brown leather plushy chairs in this lounge are awesome – I sink right into them. There’s a big-screen TV in here where people can watch any of the hundreds of DVDs on board, but it’s off right now because it’s 9 AM and we all have better things to do.

I’ll venture off the ship at some point today and go see what’s around Newport, but first I thought I should check in and say hello to you.

When I found out that our ship was delayed due to generator issues, I was pretty bummed. After all, what was I supposed to do all weekend if we’re not doing science?

Well….I went to the biggest dog and beer festival in the world, that’s what!

IMG_20170811_175103879_HDR

*Side note: I have a hunch this might be the only dog and beer festival in the world, but I didn’t ask*

There was a tent set up, lights strung across a huge parking lot, and a bunch of people hanging out with their dogs and drinking local beers. What a cool event! I went with my roommate and the girl who lives in the room across from ours. When we arrived, they were doing the “musical sit” event. It’s like musical chairs, but when the music stops playing the owners have to get their dogs to sit. The last dog to sit is out, and then the rest of them keep going in a circle.

IMG_20170811_191424897_HDR

It was fun. If treats were legal, Elvis would have done well. Without treats, he would have been out first. What a weird dog. I rooted for a bloodhound, and he got second place. Not bad at all.

Oh, and I met this pug named Chewy. Chewy didn’t participate in any of the competitions because pugs have basically no skills except for snorting and looking like aliens.

IMG_20170811_194045169

There are going to be more competitions today, so I might go check those out.

My friends and I had dinner at a local place that overlooked a million boats. It was beautiful, especially in the fog. It made me almost happy that food service on the ship has been suspended until we leave (but only almost).

IMG_20170811_175552394_HDR.jpg

Here’s a picture of Tracie and Hilarie: my dinner/dog festival friends. Tracie (on the right) is a harmful algal blooms specialist, and Hilarie is working on hake with me but really loves jellyfish and pyrozomes. She’s hoping to do some side research while we’re at sea.

IMG_20170811_175636915

Living on a ship is still confusing, but I think I’m getting a little more used to it each day. For example, if someone talks about a “ladder,” they actually mean stairs. A “head” is a toilet. Oh, and don’t get the galley confused with the mess. The galley is the kitchen where food is made, and the mess is the dining room where we eat.

Also, they’ll say things like, “In drills, you’re on lifeboat two. It’s starboard aft.” Then I sit there thinking, “Hmmm..starboard means right, aft means back…I think…so now I have to figure out which of these zillions of passageways leads up to the correct deck, and then I need to find the right side and make sure I’m at the back of the ship and not the front…okay basically I’m screwed if we ever need the lifeboats.”

I’m not totally doomed, though. I can put on my immersion suit in less than sixty seconds, so that’s a positive.

Does this immersion suit make me look fat?

IMG_20170811_125429955

Another problem I ran into is that I packed all wrong. It’s freezing here. The coast is literally thirty degrees colder than the inland parts of Oregon. When my plane landed in Eugene, they’d had weather in the nineties all week. Two hours away in Newport, it’s currently 58. It’s going to get even colder when we go out to sea. I brought two sweatshirts, but that’s basically it for cold weather gear. I went shopping yesterday at Fred Meyer and found another sweatshirt to take. It was out of the men’s section, but it’s huge and warm and was on clearance. Too bad it’s probably going to smell very strongly of fish when this is all said and done, because I kind of like it. I also have gloves and a hat, so hopefully I’ll stay toasty. We’re hoping to head up the coast of Canada toward the middle/end of this cruise, so I’m going to need lots of warm things. We’re not going quite as far as Alaska, but that’s what I should have packed for!

I’d better go see what’s around to do today. There’s a seafood festival tonight on the pier where our ship is docked, and I think our chief scientist got us free tickets. They’re pretty expensive, so that’s kind of a big deal.

Don’t tell anyone I hate seafood, okay? It will be our little secret. I’m sure I can choke down a crab leg or something. I can’t be a marine biologist who hates seafood. That would be like a teacher hating the smell of new crayons and freshly sharpened pencils. It’s simply not done. How much do I have to eat in order to be polite? Where’s my Nana to tell me these etiquette rules??

We’ll see how this goes. Have a great Saturday!

Wait, Did I Say Rhode Island? I Meant Oregon.

Hello, friends! I haven’t chatted with you since Ireland. I hope you’re doing well.

As for me, I’m gearing up for my NOAA research voyage. If you signed up for e-mail updates partway through my Ireland trip, you’re probably thinking, “What NOAA voyage? Why is Christine haunting my inbox again?” I would direct you to my first post (click HERE) for that story. This is a two-part adventure summer. Biking? Check. Boating? *gulp*

If you don’t want to follow this blog while I’m trolling around the Pacific Northwest, I won’t be offended. As a matter of fact, I won’t even know (probably). You can unsubscribe, and – hand on heart – I’ll still be your friend.

Still here? Want to hear about adventures at sea? Well then buckle up, because THERE WILL BE STORIES.

Here’s one to get us started: I was supposed to go to Rhode Island for a ten-day voyage, and now I’m going to Oregon for a sixteen-day one. Because…I don’t know, the government.

The ship I was supposed to be on in Rhode Island suffered some maintenance difficulties, so that research cruise got cancelled. I was a bit bummed, but I didn’t have license to be too sad about it. After all, I’ve had quite a phenomenal summer even without the research trip. I figured I would spend the rest of the summer hanging out at home, cleaning out all those drawers I’ve been meaning to clean out, and gearing up for the school year.

Then, last week, I got e-mail that said something to the effect of, “Wanna fly to the Pacific Northwest and spend the rest of your summer dissecting fish?” And I was all, “YEAH!” (Why did I do that?)

Now they’re sending me diagrams like this with no explanation, and I’m thinking, “Ummm…I’m in a bit over my head here.”

IMG_20170803_134843850 (1)

The captain/project manager/head honcho person sent a mass text to the five guest scientists (out of a total eight scientists on board), and want to know what was so disconcerting about it?

I’M ONE OF THEM.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ummm…I don’t think I’m an idiot (usually), but I also don’t think I’m qualified to be a lead scientist on a government vessel taking important data about our Pacific Northwest fish populations. The last science class I took was nine years ago, and I’ve never taken any classes in marine biology. I do teach science during the summer…but it’s things like, you know, the water cycle. This is a bit of a level up from that.

But by all means, bring on the fish. I’ve gutted a fish…that’s sort of like dissecting it, right? So I’ll be able to take measurements of their stomachs and ovaries and all the other stuff I’m supposed to be measuring? (Those are literally the two examples they gave me: stomachs and ovaries).

Can I even find a fish ovary? Can you?

I should go to Meijer and practice on some unlucky goldfish.

Don’t worry. I’m not really going to do that. Put the phone down – PETA doesn’t have to know I said that. Also, even if I wanted to do the Meijer thing…I wouldn’t be able to tell a lady goldfish from a man one.

I wish fish grew beards. This would be so much easier, and also fish would look awesome.

So basically, I’m in trouble here. I received a list of things to pack, and I don’t know what a bunch of the things are. They told me not to worry, though: they’re providing PFDs and PLBs. That’s a relief. Oh, except no it’s not, because I DON’T KNOW WHAT THOSE ARE. Well, I do now. They’re personal flotation devices and personal locator beacons, in case you didn’t know.

Looking at what I have to provide for myself, I was still confused. I texted Rex, “Hey, what’s a ‘ditch kit'”? When I looked on Amazon, I found something for teeth whitening. I don’t think that’s it. Rex fishes a lot…which takes place on boats…which are kind of like ships…I thought he might know. Want to know his answer? He said that a ditch kit is probably a shovel and some dirt. Ha.*eyeroll*

Oh, and I found out my roommate is an HAB specialist. Wow! Cool! (What’s HAB?)

For your information, it’s “harmful algal blooms.” Make sense now? Yeah, me neither.

Are you starting to get an idea of how in trouble I am?

And how much there will be to BLOG ABOUT?!

I’m visiting my grandma right now, and she knew a lot of the things on the list. She used to go on ships with my grandpa. She said, “Oh here, I have a lot of old sailing clothes. You can have some.” Then she dressed me in this:

IMG_20170802_121410014 (1)

I have to admit, it almost looks like I belong on a ship. Or possibly on a fish sticks box. I sent the picture to Rex, and he said it made me look like I belonged on a NOAA vessel. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. I want to fit in, but I don’t want them to trust me with anything, you know, important.

I’m wildly nervous, but I’m also excited. The ship sounds awesome. It has its own Wikipedia page, which somehow makes it feel very significant: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NOAAS_Bell_M._Shimada_(R_227)

Here is a picture:

NOAA-Ship-Bell-M.-Shimada-underway_Photo-courtesy-NOAA

We sail in six days. If you’re ready to come along for the ride, then thanks for sticking with me (or subscribing now – there’s a link at the bottom of this post).

This should be interesting.