SEA Currents: SEASCape
An Average Wednesday
Our second Wednesday and ninth full day at SEASCape began with a standard 7:30 wakeup and breakfast. We went outside for watch meetings, where we checked in with our RAs as a light drizzle began to fall. The rain was quickly replaced by sun as we headed up to the Madden Center for morning classes. Before our Oceans & Society period, we heard a 30-minute presentation from Julia and Jordan (two admissions counselors) about SEA Semester and other ship-based programs we could consider in the future. Afterward, we began O&S by reflecting on our trip to New Bedford yesterday. The general consensus was that the Whaling Museum had interesting artifacts, including some really cool scrimshaws (Banjos? Pie cutters?), and a half-sized model of a whaling ship, the Lagoda. Hayley then generously gave us time to work on our group podcasts, which have begun to really take shape. They're due at the end of the week, and once we turn them in, you'll be able to find them on the SEA website. We took a short break for a snack (mmm, Cheez-Its) and relaxation, and then it was right back to the classroom for Oceanography.
We were lucky enough to have a guest lecture from NOAA’s Dr. Heather Heenehan on marine mammal acoustics and noise pollution in the ocean. We learned that odontocetes (toothy whales and dolphins) use sound for echolocation in addition to communication, while mysticetes (baleen whales) do not. Heather showed us some recordings of different whale sounds, as well as human-made sounds that can affect the whales. She shared a story about making many phone calls to determine the source of a particular loud sound in Hawaiian waters (it turned out to be an aquaculture farm power-washing fish tanks). We did an interactive activity where we were given noise patterns to make, first with buzzers, and then with our voices. The goal was to try and identify other people making the same sounds, much as killer whales do to find their pods. It was a difficult process, and we all agreed that ambient noise from boats and sonar would make it nigh impossible.
After we read and discussed an article about how the Port of Vancouver is enacting voluntary boat slowdowns to reduce noise (very cool!), Heather said good-bye and Maia took over again. She reminded us about our Q&A with a NASA astronaut scheduled for Friday, and assigned each of us questions to ask during the downlink. We broke for a delicious lunch of sausages, and at 2 p.m. departed for Surf Drive Beach for another round of data collection. My group (Jeremy) took physical data, including wind speed and direction, water temperature and salinity, wave height and frequency, and cloud cover. My group (Bryce) was in charge of the beach profile, where we measured the slope of the beach to the ocean and the geology of the beach, such as if it was rocky, or sandy, et cetera. Other groups worked on chemical analysis, hunting for flora and fauna, and examining humanity’s effect on the beach by looking for trash. Several groups finished early and had time for some beachy fun before the end of the period. Some people chose to stay at the beach for their free time, while others of us came back to campus for a relaxing afternoon (or a tense one if you happened to be watching the England-Croatia game).
After a dinner of chili, we headed to the Madden Center to hear about the RA’s college experience and how they enjoyed it. I enjoyed hearing about all of their college experiences ranging from Whitman, Union, Mount Holyoke, Stony Brook, Mount Allison, and Smith. Learning about their experience and how they decided on their college will help me a lot when applying and looking at college in the next few months. We then had study hall where the groups put final touches on their podcasts and worked on other assignments (like this blog). We’re all looking forward to going on the research vessel Zephyr tomorrow (a rescheduled activity from our rainy Woods Hole field trip). I think we all have mixed feelings about having passed the midway point of the program, but we’ve made so many memories and friends already that we just can’t wait to see what comes next!
- Bryce Menichella (Charlotte Country Day School)
- Jeremy Green (Edmund Burke School)