The Quest for the Great White Whale

by Christina Moon, F10

It’s Whaling Week here at Williams-Mystic and we are diving headfirst into our interdisciplinary studies of this great topic. In literature class, we’ve finally reached Melville’s classic Moby Dick on our reading list and are making our way through his complex and masterful novel. We spend three weeks in total with Ishmael, Queequeg, Captain Ahab, and the rest of the crew aboard the Pequod and now in week two, we’re just about to break through to the action packed chapters that we’ve all been building up to. Even better, we have two events coming up that will really bring the story to life.

First, on Thursday we head out on our New Bedford field seminar where we will be able to see one of the communities that Melville illustrates in Moby Dick. One of the most important whaling ports in the world during the 19th century, it is a can’t-be-missed spot while we’re learning about the history and background of this book. We’re excited to see the church and pulpit encountered by Ishmael and Queequeg at the beginning of their journey and also sing some whaling ballads with Don Sineti, the chantey man at Mystic Seaport.

Then next Tuesday night, F10 presents “Moby in Labaree’s Belly”. Usually held in the Charles W. Morgan whale ship located on the grounds of the seaport, we’re relocating this year because of the restoration work that’s currently going on. All students will perform a dramatic reading of a selection from Moby Dick complete with costumes, a set, and perhaps some creative interpretations of Melville’s original work. We’ve even heard of some Star Wars-themed scenes done by past classes so who knows what this year will bring.

Lots to look forward to! Happy Whaling Week everyone!

Policy Class!

by Christina Moon, F10

 

Here’s an inside look at what we’re tackling in our marine policy class…

 

Since we’ve completed all three of our field seminars for this semester, it’s time to buckle down here in Mystic and start looking towards our final weeks here. I can’t believe it! The time has flown by so quickly.

 

If we backtrack a bit to last week, policy was on everybody’s minds because it was time for Moot Court! F10 was the 14th class to tackle the case at hand: a dispute over private property ownership and public access rights on Moody Beach in Maine. Our class was divided into two sides, landowners and town representatives, and we got down to work, learning the ins and outs of our respective side’s arguments and preparing for any questions we might receive from our presiding judges, Mr. John Kelly and Mr. Derek Langhauser, both attorneys from Maine. After just a handful of late night sessions discussing our points and practicing our delivery, the big day had arrived. With everyone dressed to impress in his or her professional lawyer-like attire we headed into moot court and I can confidently say that there wasn’t anybody who wasn’t nervous. It was an unfamiliar experience and we weren’t quite sure to expect going in since none of us had ever participated in a moot court before. In the end we all survived, of course, and maybe even had a bit of fun in the meantime. The night ended with dinner for all of the students and faculty and a feeling of accomplishment for making it through moot court.

 

Marine policy is still on our minds this week because our first drafts of our final research papers are due next week! Everyone is busy hitting the books and tracking down contacts to interview. What kind of topics are F10 students looking into?

–       Chesapeake Bay’s Blue Crab Fishery

–       The Proposed Lobster Ban on Long Island Sound

–       Shipwreck Claims in the U.S.

–       Balancing the California Sea Otter with the Shellfish Industries

–       Offshore Wind Farms around Block Island

–       and so many more, there are endless possibilities!

 

Who dat? It’s Williams-Mystic F10 in Louisiana!

by Christina Moon, F10

 

Day 1: We have our first classes sitting on a levee right on the bank of the Mississippi then head across the street to an old plantation with gorgeous old live oaks and Spanish moss everywhere. Next stop – Zam’s Swamp Tours in Thibodaux, LA. It’s hard to describe the scope of things you will find at Zam’s. We take a pontoon boat ride down through the bayou, spotting gators lying in the swamps on either side of us. Back at headquarters, there are pythons, goats, rabbits, geese, snapping turtles, and more gators to look at! They let us hold some of the smaller guys, but beware of their oldest and by far largest “pet”. One of their experienced trainers hops in to give us a demonstration, but I’m fine staying behind the fence and being awed from a distance. After such a full day, some yummy chicken and sausage gumbo and a good night’s rest at our home for the week, LUMCON (the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium), is just what the doctor ordered!

 

Day 2: Grits and biscuits for breakfast – we are eating authentically down here. And we need the energy for a canoe expedition to the marsh to check out the ecology and geology of this area. Everyone and everything gets a little muddy in the process, but we manage to take a sample of the core of the land here. The probe sinks down about 15 meters, which is equivalent to around 3,000 years of history! A field trip to a local shrimp distributor is the highlight of the afternoon and we watch the catches being offloaded from the boats and travel down a long conveyer belt to be weighed and packaged. After dinner, tonight is for dancing! The Jolly Inn, located in Houma, LA, has a live band playing Cajun music that is lively enough to get all of us up on our feet for a little waltz, two-step, or line dance.

 

Day 3: Our first stop on the way from LUMCON to Grand Isle is a quick look at Port Fourchon. Usually a bustling seaport with significant petroleum industry traffic from offshore Gulf oil platforms and drilling rigs, today it is quiet and there is little activity in the area. This is our first hint of the changes that both 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and this summer’s BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill have had here. Our host in Grand Isle is Mr. Chris Hernandez, a senior town official with strong ties to the community. He shares personal stories with us and even invites us to visit him home – he is a truly incredible and generous man. We also meet the mayor of Grand Isle, Mr. David Camardelle, who tells us about what kind of actions are taken each time a devastating storm hits Louisiana. We learn that these occur quite often and that rebuilding is the theme of the town. We head down to the beach, shovel in hand, and start digging in search of oil. It doesn’t take long to find it – only about one foot down you can see the stains on the sand. You can smell it, too, and also pick up tar balls that have washed ashore and have a tacky, sludgy texture. Oil rigs are visible in the distance and right in front of us is the harsh reality that the oil spill troubles continue. We end our day on a festive note, however, with a delicious blue crab dinner! They are piled high on the table and accompanied with lots of sausage, corn on the cob, potatoes, hot sauce, and napkins!

 

Day 4: On our last day we head to New Orleans! A walkabout reveals the rich history of the city and plenty of character. We have some free time to explore the French Quarter, Bourbon Street with its jazz halls and nightlife attractions. There are flags hanging from nearly every storefront, many displaying the symbol of New Orleans, the fleur-de-lis, and boasting of the Saints’ recent Super Bowl victory. I suggest the legendary Café du Monde for a quick snack – their menu offers coffee au lait, hot chocolate, and beignets – that’s it! Beignets are square pieces of dough, friend and COVERED with powdered sugar, and they make Café du Monde famous. Then it’s time for a trip down the Mississippi River aboard the Natchez, a steamship. Watching the great wheel churn through the water, it’s amazing to think about how many people used to travel this way. We, on the other hand, are headed back to Mystic tonight by way of airplane, but our trip to Louisiana has given us a glimpse of what seems like an entirely different world, even though we have only traveled south within our country. There is a unique sweetness to the lifestyle down in Louisiana, a strength and passion among its residents. They are resilient and forever hopeful, even amidst the hardships that have hit them recently. This trip serves as a reminder for us that the difficult times still continue, but Louisiana will survive as they always have to stand as a beautiful and inspiring place.