Archive for May, 2013

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baby lemons in the backyard

Dissection Obsession

Yesterday we set a long line in a deeper area not too far from shore hoping to catch some big tigers, but the crazy strong current pulled the line from the “sweet spot” of closer to 800 feet, to somewhere closer to 1000 feet we estimated. We only caught one shark, a cuban night shark, who did not survive the process. 

As a slightly hippie environmentalist it was sort of upsetting for the one shark I have seen us catch to be dead. I understand that we are not fully contributing to the over fishing of sharks, and that we actually will use all of it resources, but again, slightly environmental hippie.

Dr. Dean Grubbs is here giving lectures to a class we are currently hosting from Carolina Coastal University, and he led the dissection. I find it pleasing that he is here since the dissection on the night shark actually provides a lot of information that is pertinent for his on going knowledge and research on sharks. So that was one alleviating fact for our dead shark. 

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Being around all these college students and watching the dissection actually reminded me of how much I dislike dissections. I guess I never understood the whole purpose of cutting open animals that have been cut open by a million different people around the world, to show people the same thing we have known for years. The same thing you can see in a text book. But i guess for the class to come to the shark lab and get to partake in a shark dissection was very very exciting for them (they were overly excited geeking out about it).

I am embarrassed and slightly confused by the fact that halfway through the dissection I got the same lightheaded, dizzy, nauseous feeling that I remember experiencing in dental school one afternoon when we were going over tools used to remove teeth, and that i experienced when going through the BODIES the exhibition. (remember when that was the big thing to see). Overall they are all things that I do not have a problem with, but apparently they make my subconscious want to faint and vomit, pretty embarrassing. 

huge luxuries in the most simple of lives

Its pretty interesting to think of the constraints that island life puts on things, and the restraints on life that I seem to acquire with all of the places I live. But all of that aside today left me with a feeling of freedom. I am living somewhere with a window in my bedroom, unlimited free internet, and continuous cell phone service. I was able to sit and enjoy the sunset, without having to worry about serving dinner. The hours are still long, and the work can still be tiring, but can’t complain about getting to work outside and go swimming whenever I get too warm.

I do not believe anyone living on the boat would consider our life there luxurious, but there are a few things that could be up for discussion on changes in luxury. On the boat I share a head with a fresh water shower with 2 other people, whereas I am currently sharing a saltwater head with 7 other people. The boat offers an all you can eat buffet 3 meals a day and access to snacks and fresh produce all day long, food facts that many crew member are wary of for all the obvious reasons, here there is a limit of one piece of fruit per person per day, with a selection of a few apples, oranges, and some polka dotta bananas. There is not that constant looming of too much food, and even more food waste. Even with the constraints on food and especially fresh food here, they seem to understand the easiness of making a simple vegetarian meal. Maybe because they aren’t caught up on the luxury of it all, they understand that a pot pie can be made without chicken in it. A simplicity that continually seemed to be missed on the boat.

There is no same day laundry service, and no prefolded fresh linens brought in twice a week. If you use a towel, get it sandy and covered in saltwater, it is hung on the laundry line until dry, and then used again, and again. Your bath towel can be changed out once every 2 weeks.

All in all I still live on an island, this one is just a little longer than 152 feet, and with a population closer to 300 rather than 90. Luxury and convenience aside there is something freeing about being here, where all belongings are expected to get covered either in sand or fish blood, where you shower in salt water, and are always hungry at the end of the day for whatever meal has been graciously prepared.

A long day today as I fight to

A long day today as I fight to keep the ritual of sun screen application going and fish guts out of my hair. The morning consisted of hanging laundry to dry, drying dishes, practicing knots, and playing with the GPS.

By the afternoon it was so hot and without any breeze that I was interested in partaking in any activity that would get me in or on the water. After axing bonitos, jacks, lady fish, and barracudas into small chunks, and being sufficiently covered in fish blood and guts, we were ready to set some long lines to catch some sharks on!

Heading off of the island the temperature became much more bearable on water. We set 5 different long lines and recorded the data for what was on each hook and its coordinates. Although there wasn’t anything on the lines yet when we double backed to check they were set properly, I am certain there will be something fun to find when we go pull them up in the morning.

Beaked whale bits

Flight in

Flight in

Life has been treating me well over the past few years as I have blindly followed the whale migration from mild climate to mild climate. Although I have started to gain an appreciation and love for whales that did not exist before, I find it necessary to explore the roots of my magnetism to the ocean, sharks.

I took a puddle jumper from Florida this morning and have since arrived in Bimini at the Bimini Biological Field Station where they specialize in shark research! Specifically lemon sharks.

Within thirty minutes of being shown around the station and the property I was out on a boat preparing to jump into the water with about 15 to 20 different sharks, big ones and little ones alike. There was none of the nervous anticipation, fear, or anxiety that one might expect to experience when planning on swimming with a few of mother nature’s top predators, just simple magnificent awe to watch them feast on some bait treats we provided for them in return for their company (some of which included beaked whale, a rarity that washed up recently).

The current had a pretty decent pull to it and we switched locations for more snorkeling. Although there were no sharks at the new location, there was a shipwreck large enough to swim through. The cherry on top being flamingo tongues! I feel like it has been years since I have seen any, and it was exhilarating!

How nice it is to be in warm water again. No wetsuit. No drysuit. No problem.

sigh of happiness making way into Alaskan waters

Lucky for me our salt water filter on our water pump is broken, meaning we have to stop to take on water more often than we normally would. Our surprise stop of the morning to pick up water today… ( questionably sunny) KETCHIKAN ALASKA! How wonderful to be in Alaska again, and how refreshing to be in a familiar place… and with familiar faces, Greg and Gill from the kayak shop came over to my boat this morning, and it was so wonderful to see them, really REALLY wonderful. Greg had enough time before work to come on the boat and come down for a cup of coffee in the lounge :o)

After all this time living on this little boat I have now been able to share it with two friends in less than one week!

Today was spent in the incredibly unmisty, Misty Fjords. A national monument which stands on the back side of Revillagegiedo (the island Ketchikan is on), and main land North America. The misty fjords are breath taking glacially carved fjords whose extreme landscape on land is completely mimicked underwater as well, reaching deep depths only a few feet from the shore.

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A beautiful picture of the garden of underwater sea pens, Photo taken by Justin

The importance of the underwater landscape here is significant mainly for the fact that I was able to go diving today! I have now experience my first successful Alaskan dive, and no, for some reason or another, I wasn’t even cold. I can only give full thanks for the success of this dive to my new dive buddy Justin, who ensured that there would be gear my size purchased and available on the boat this year, since unfortunately most fun stuff come in sizes made for full grown men.

Things are going well, and it is strange to see all these little familiar towns again knowing I won’t be coming back again next week. Next week I will be in another time zone, smiling about another adventure.

 

spoiled alert:alert bay

Spent the afternoon today sitting on the beach of Alert Bay, “home of the killer whales”. It is amazing to be in the northern pacific again, listening to the unique squawks of the bald eagles, the ornate calls of the ravens, and even watched an otter that was swimming in the shallows pull itself out of the water to eat something.

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I am not nearly as excited to be part of this 12 day photo expedition as I should be. It has been amazing to find teeny reminders of why it is so wonderful up here. The huge frilled anemones hanging off of all the pilings, the brightly colored lichen attached to the docks, the silly awkward juvenile bald eagles, and perhaps that is all almost as exciting as the killer whales we watched during sunset last evening.

But truth be told, I have been here for some 15 weeks now, and I am not sick of being here, I am not exhausted, worn out, irritated…. And maybe if I didn’t have my plane ticket home in my hand things would be more exciting here, but I don’t feel like I belong here anymore and I am finding myself counting down the days till I get to leave. It is silly and I am in a funk, because it is amazing here, it is beautiful, and I have been asked to go diving in the Misty Fjords this week, which is another amazing thing in an amazing place, but my head feels clouded, and my heart distant. I wish the magnificent breathtaking surroundings here would make my heart smile as they have in the past, but the past 5 days being able to get off the boat in real cities, with real coffee shops and paved roads has made my heart yearn for a slice of the real world, even if just for a minute. The grass is always greener, but Alert Bay, Canada is about as lush a green as you could imagine. Missing you all and probably mainly companionship. Wish I could share these places with you.