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.

 

Three Cheers for Maritime Skills!

by Christina Moon, F10

Family and Friends weekend is right around the corner so we are frantically getting ready to wow our guests with the brand new things we have learned in our maritime skills classes so far this semester. Here’s a little sneak peek at the demonstrations we have planned:

 

Squad: Skills of the Sea and Shore – There is no shortage of activities to show off here: we’ve tackled climbing aloft, rope making, knot tying, rowing a whaling dory, and sewing ditty bags so far, but we’re going to run a drill called the Breeches Buoy this weekend. Historically this was a way to rescue people from vessels that had run up onto the rocks or were wrecked. It resembles a zip line that is rigged up through a series of steps to the mast and then the people on top hops into a buoy that looks like it has a pair of shorts attached to it and they are hauled down to shore. The goal is to complete it as quickly as possible and we’re hoping to beat the time record set by previous W-M classes.

 

Shipsmithing – So far, I have seen many, many hooks produced by my classmates who spend their afternoons in the blacksmith shop. On tap for later in the semester are letter openers, marlinspikes, and maybe even a harpoon or two!

Chanteys: Music of the Sea – Two of my roommates are doing chanteys as their skill so it’s not uncommon for singing to be echoing through the house. They’ve been learning both songs that were used by sailors as they worked on ships and other traditional folk songs. Instrument lessons are included as well and I believe their performance this weekend will include playing the violin, banjo, and whale bones.

Ship Carving – To learn the basics, my classmates in this skill have been practicing with lettering projects, but once that is mastered, they can go anywhere with what they decide to make next. Each student gets their own set of tools and they are responsible for sharpening and keeping them in good working shape. I’m really interested to see what kind of crazy figureheads or name boards come out of this.

Basic Watercraft Skills – I’ve been really jealous watching these guys sailing around the Mystic River in these past few weeks. They always look like they’re having such a fun time in such a beautiful setting. Of course, to be honest, I also laughed when one friend capsized – luckily no real harm done, he just got a little wet. Here’s hoping for good weather this weekend so they and everyone else can show off the great things we’ve accomplished so far this semester!

 

Being Chased by a Hurricane!

by Christina Moon, F10

Here we are, already in week six, and the semester is chugging along – there’s so much to share! I hope that with these weekly updates, I’ll be able to really give you a glimpse into all of the great things we do here. So let’s start at the beginning…

Opening days were a whirlwind of unpacking into our new rooms, meeting classmates, orientations galore, tours of the seaport…and it was all even crazier because of the anticipation before our first field seminar! Just as soon as we settled down in Mystic, off we went to Woods Hole, MA to meet our new home for the next eleven days – the SSV Corwith Cramer.

It’s nearly impossible to describe all of the amazing experiences our offshore sail brought to us. Our cruise track brought us from our starting point, through the Cape Cod Canal, into Boston Harbor for a night (running away from Hurricane Earl!), up to the Gulf of Maine, and to our final destination, Rockland, ME. Here are a few highlights from throughout the trip: classes held on the quarterdeck where we discussed everything from lobsters to the ins and outs of the ship’s engine room, incredible whale watching, climbing aloft to the tops of the masts, conducting science deployments all over the Atlantic Ocean, delicious food made in the galley, swim calls by the captain and jumping off the bowsprit into the “pool” (the cold waters of Maine in September), the best star-gazing, sunrises, sunsets, and just so much more.

The most memorable thing, however, that we took away from our time at sea was the experience of living like a sailor. We slept in bunks that we shared with all of the gear we had packed in our duffle bags and became accustomed to taking navy showers every three days. Our entire class was divided into three separate watch groups and there was no telling when you were assigned to be on deck or when “all hands” would be called and you were required to report for duty no matter what. We learned the lines and where everything was on Cramer so we could hoist, strike, and furl sails when the wind changed suddenly and we needed to shift directions. Everyone came aboard with different levels of expertise and knowledge of sailing, but we all walked away with unforgettable memories. Good thing our next field seminar is right around the corner…I can’t wait for California on Saturday!

Pacific Northwest Adventures

by Shanna Sorrells, S10

February 27, 2010

I love reading about places we are going to…it gives us something to connect with as we see all the sights. And this time around, I have seen some of the sights mentioned in the reader, (a packet compiled by Rich-our literature professor), already, such as Puget Sound, Mount Ranier, Mount St. Helens, and Seattle, so I was able to clearly picture so clearly the sights, sounds, smells the authors share. Reading their accounts of the Pacific Northwest’s beauty made me deeply regret not keeping a journal whilst traveling.

We are about to land in Seattle! (Just passed over Lake Washington.)

Feb 28, 2010

1235: We just finished an hour and a half ride on the Crowley, a tugboat. It was quite interesting seeing the differences in make between that boat and the Cramer. The engine room was HUGE, and so hot (749 degrees F). I was even offered earplugs. I declined, for obvious reasons, and turned off my cochlear implant/hearing aid. It was so loud, I was vibrating from sheer volume.

And from the boat, we saw container ships, loading tons of different colored containers on top of each other. The ships are so large, they can stack up entire trucks on top of each other. One danger though, is crates falling off. We had to keep our eye out for containers during bow watch while in FL, due to a recent spill…otherwise, it would have been Titanic all over again!

The magnitude of HOW MUCH “stuff”…STUFF gets imported and exported on each ship and how far everything travels boggles my mind. We are a world of instantaneous, non-ending appetites. This world has no room for instant gratification. At all hours, of every day, materials, goods, foods, are moving from one place to the next. It shakes me how we are always going going going.

From this side of the continent, most items are exported to Asia; from the East coast, to Europe, and Rich thinks Africa may receive our cargo from the South.

Feb 28, 2010

1945: Today was quite a long day. We crammed a lot of information in. And I suspect every day will be like this. Now I’m glad all my projects/proposals were due last week, before the trip. I want to be able to drink it all in and learn as much as possible without any worries/stress clouding my mind. I shall list out all the things we did today, along with notes about each:

-Pike’s Marketplace: The fish throwers had several of us stand directly under the thrown fishes…I got scales on my sweatshirt, pretty funny.

Throwing fish over our heads. Photo credit goes to David!

-Walking Tour of Seattle with Glenn: The man sure knows how to tell stories. He told us about Ivan and Skid Row. I’ll try writing about these later, much too tired now, and I ought to get ahold of someone’s notes first anyhow.

Glen sharing fascinating info about the statue of Ivan on his right

-Klondike Gold Rush National Park Exhibit: Very cool and a good lay-out of information. I found it concise, and straight to the point. People were spurred into action with the “final frontier” and hoped to strike it rich. Most people failed. Or died. I had a fascination with the gold rush period as a kid, so this certainly fed my former interest. I did remember a lot, which was lovely.

-Fishermen’s Terminal: There were so many boats here…trawlers, gill netters. Most head off to Alaska in search of salmon in mid-March. We also saw the Fishermen’s Memorial. It was sobering. A hushed silence fell upon our group as we read the names of all who had died trying to fish in Alaska’s treacherous waters. Flowers and written sentiments were placed around it. It just made me think about how we romanticize sea life, how people view it as the great escape from responsibilities. Yet, people die for it. We don’t think much about that. Between 2001 and 2009, about 70 men lost their lives. Even boys younger than me. It’s incredibly sad. I left, feeling disheartened. How do their parents feel? Their lovers? Losing a loved one at sea…swallowed up by a cold, unfeeling beast, never to be seen or heard from again. No remains. It is truly the “deadliest catch.”

This one in particular made me sad. Perhaps because it is so recent?

-Burke Museum: This was at the University of Seattle. It was a fantastic, small museum, summarizing much information you might find at the Museum of Natural History in D.C., (in which you could spend a month and still not have read or seen everything). We had pizza and a lecture from a W-M alum of S97. He has accomplished SO much and is now the Executive Director of the Yakima Basin Fish and Wildlife Recovery Board. I thought he was a much better speaker than the first. He raised many interesting thoughts about saving the salmon, including how they have evolved to human impact. If we try to restore the rivers to what they used to be, will that actually harm them? They have changed their way of life around our dams. Would it really help if we were to remove them? Could they evolve back to the way they used to be? Or is the old migration pattern still embedded in their instinct? We really don’t know.

We met some other alums as well. It is wonderful to meet others who have graduated from this program. It’s fascinating seeing how W-M has impacted their lives; in some, W-M has made a small impact, but still in notable ways, while in others, the impact is life-altering. No matter, W-M makes a mark on everyone. I have absolutely no doubt that it will make one on me as well. I’m already feeling it, actually. I am feeling fresh inspiration and I want to do so much with my life now!

Tuesday Morning, Stonington Point

by Amy Shmania, F09

The tide is coming in.  I jump off my bike in the dirt parking lot, pull a plastic bag out of my backpack, and scramble down the slippery rip rap to the water.  It is already deeper than I had hoped—if I were wearing the requisite Williams-Mystic boots, the water would come pouring over the tops, filling them with the November ocean.  But, clad in my gym shorts and sandals, a little more water makes little difference.  I grab a clump of Fucus from a rock, and stick it in my bag.  Wading through the water, I squint to see the purple shimmer of Chondrus.  It’s a treasure hunt.  Somewhere, beneath the silver and red light reflected from the sky and my sweatshirt, a patch of Chondrus is hiding.  Somewhere near my feet, a little bit of Chondrus is clutching a rock against the pull of the tide.  Up in the parking lot above me the people in their winter coats walking their dog pause to look out across the water.  They probably wonder if I am planning on going swimming.  And why.

The tide is coming in.  Seaweeds wake up and stretch.  Patches of Fucus and Ascophyllum rise up like forests, brushing against my legs as they dance in the gentle breeze of the waves.  A pod of red algae floats back and forth above the seaweed grove.  The snails on the rip rap prepare for the spray tickling their shells to gain power, crash against them, and settle into a gentle lull around their bodies.  Sifting through the algae with my fingers I see an iridescent glimmer, and pull up some Chondrus.  The Ulva I need is holding onto a rock, intertwined with some Fucus.  My bag filled with seaweed, I wade back toward the rocks below my bike and scramble up.

The tide is coming in.  The wind blows forcefully out to the open water, making little waves on the surface, but the tide pulls faithfully towards the rocks.  The sky and the water are covered in low, flat clouds which glisten silver, gray, blue, yellow, in the morning light.   A gull sits on a rock piling, facing away from the wind.  Out in the bay, buoys—red and white, yellow and green, blue and orange—fight against their tethers.  Maybe in the traps below lobsters are contemplating the meals that tempted them to tiptoe in.  Maybe they are thinking that it really wasn’t worth it.  From the parking lot, safely removed from the waves, the water is calm; the water seems empty, drawn by the invisible tide and pushed by the wind.  But in the water, everything is coming to life.

Shipsmithing

By Amy Shmania, F09

Walking across the green, I can smell the shipsmithing shop. Its thick and gritty odor oozes out the doors, up the chimneys, and through the skylights, sending tentacles down the sandy streets, around the shops and houses, past the horse and carriage, and into my nostrils. Inside the shop, coal is burning on the forges—deep down a bright white-yellow, fading up through orangey-red to black.

When you walk into the shop, you might expect it to be dark and grimy, the air thick with smoke, but the dirt floor is neatly swept and the smoke goes up the chimneys quite happily. The sunlight pouring through the windows illuminates piles of scrap metal, unfinished hooks and rings, buckets of hammers, a wall of metal rods. Bill, our instructor, is always pulling out new things from the piles of metal: buckets of possible projects, wrenches, unfinished hooks to be cut off and started again, a box of letters to punch into finished work. The more time I spend in the shop, the less random the buckets, stacks, and oddly assorted piles seem to me. The hammers, files, drill bits, and finishing wax all have their places in the chaos of metal.

Start with a piece of iron, not too thick. Heat it in the fire, taper the end into a point. Heat it again, and curl the tip back before bending the metal into a hook around the horn of the anvil. Heat. Cut the metal to size. Heat. Flatten the top with several hits of the hammer. Cool, drill a hole, adjust. When Bill makes a hook out of iron, it is just that simple. He holds his hammer with ease, swinging it up and down to use the least amount of muscle and the most force. The metal stays bright with heat, and it rounds or flattens or squares just right under the touch of his hammer.

Miranda, Lucy, and I do our best. The staff members in the shop like to tell visitors that working with hot iron is like molding clay. I have my doubts. Sometimes the metal gets too hot in the forge and the tip melts or a thin leaf gets holes burned in it. Some days, no matter how hot the piece you are working on looks, by the time you’ve fished it out of the coals, gotten a good hold on it, and brought it to the anvil, it has lost its colorful heat. Despite these minor frustrations and my doubts on the clay-like qualities of hot iron, the shipsmithing shop is my favorite place in the Seaport. Inside, Bill makes his famous hot chocolate (Swiss Miss plus Ghirardelli, and are ten mini marshmallows enough?), the coals send off a cozy heat, the four of us work in rhythm—metal in the fire, metal out, stop to chat, to watch, to admire—visitors come and go, the sound of pounding iron fills my head, and the metal below my hammer behaves better every day.

California Field Seminar

California

by Amy Shmania, F09

Day One: Travel

They didn’t warn us about the minivans.  Before the trip we had talked about van cliques and co-pilots.  We had seen the schedule with all of the places that we were going to drive.  But we could not anticipate what the van caravan really meant until, standing outside the San Francisco Airport, we watched four minivans pull up to the curb in unison as Rachel’s walkie-talkie announced: “We’re pulling in.  Load ’em up.”  As we piled into the vans, put in the first mix CDs, and listened to Glenn announce over the radio that we were moving into the right lane, we realized we were part of our own little minivan mafia.  There was no turning back now.

That was a good thing, because I don’t think any one of us had any intention of turning back.  There were too many things to see and do—a schedule so packed that to follow it seemed an impossible feat.  Yet, in all the commotion of zooming from place to place along the coast, this adventure would have ample time for soaking up the views from rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, for dance parties, for morning swims, for Ghirardelli ice cream, and for midnight walks across the sand dunes.

Day Two: Point Lobos

Look out from the cliff, down the slope at the kelp beds, at Whaler’s Cove, at gray and black and tan cliffs covered in vegetation, at Monterey.  Pick up a shell left over from a Native American’s dinner and watch a sea lion bark where whalers used to drag their catch.  Sit here and think, but not just what comes into your head.  Think about the rocks you sit on.  Think about the use of land and water.  Think about the people, and the plants, and the animals which have been here before you.  Ponder the sublime.

Day Four: The Crowley Tugboat

I don’t think that many minivans drive into the Oakland container yard.  I don’t actually suppose that many people whose work doesn’t involve container ships would ever consider visiting the commercial port or be invited to do so.  Looking through the van window as we drove in, I saw more machinery than I had ever seen in my life.  There were massive container ships and huge cranes made to load cargo, which loomed tall and white across the sky.  Even though I had driven past the container yards near New York City several times, I had never taken a moment to think about why all of the containers were there.  Now, here we were, watching ships get loaded with cargo from and for other countries, the east coast, our wardrobes, our backpacks, our kitchen sinks.

Never passive observers, our foray into the cargo world did not stop in the shipyard.  Our destination was a tugboat owned by the Crowley Maritime Corporation, which operates the most tugboats and barges of any company in the world.  The boat was red and white, with large black tires on the sides.  The main deck was wide and open both fore and aft.  In the middle arose the three story cabin area.  The first floor housed the kitchen (as big as Carr House’s), a dining area, storage, and a head, among other things.  The next floor, which was smaller, held a few sleeping rooms, a head and a small office.  The top floor was walled-in by windows and contained computers, compasses, controls, and steering wheels for getting the boat where it needed to go.

While watching a classmate steer the boat, I learned that the tugboat is propelled by two “eggbeaters” which, when held at different angles, move the boat in different directions and at different speeds.  I also took a trip to the engine room, which was massive.  Located below decks, it took up more space than the downstairs of our house.  We could see where the “eggbeaters” were housed, and look at the engines, the generators, and the fire safety system, all brightly painted and humming noisily.

Crowley Engine Room

Back on the deck I watched a container ship get loaded from the shore.  A man in the operator box of one of the giant white cranes would reach down with a magnetic claw, pull a container off of a truck, lift it up and carry it to a new resting place among hundreds of other containers on the container ship.  Each container was moved with precision from place to place, the transaction only taking a few minutes.

Containe Ship

For a couple of hours, we had free reign of a commercial tugboat, something very few people get to do.  We got to see in action how it’s possible that my t-shirt is from El Salvador and my computer power supply was made in Taiwan.  And they gave us hats.  Which were made in China.

Day Seven: Point Reyes Lighthouse

There are over three hundred steps to get down to the where the Point Reyes Lighthouse sits overlooking the ocean, but the view is worth the hike.  To the south, lost in the fog, are the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate Bridge.  To the north are Bodega Bay and giant hills covered with brown, yellow, and green, cows and scrubby plant life.  Directly below are tan cliffs, a few lost hats, seals, seabirds, and rocky stacks.  To the west are the Farallon Islands, ocean, and fog.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes is one of the foggiest and windiest places on the Pacific Coast.  It is isolated by the ocean and rocks and rolling hills.  It would be a lonely place to be a lighthouse keeper.  The wind on the descent to the lighthouse could be dangerous, deadly.  I wonder who would want to live there with no company but the ocean and the rocky cliffs.  Maybe the staggering beauty of the place and the purpose of saving ships from the rocks was enough.

Day Nine: Home

Walking back across the Seaport’s parking lot to Carr House, it feels good to be home, to see the leaves turning orange and red and to feel the crisp fall air.  In my pocket are rocks from a beach in Bodega Bay and in my bag are sand and dirt and salt and notes and diagrams of plate tectonics and clothes still damp with the Pacific Ocean.  It feels good to be back, carrying little bits of adventures among my socks.

To see videos from our California trip visit: youtube.com/thewilliamsmystic

Constant Observers

Maybe the dock guys think we’re a little strange, but I’m willing to risk my reputation in order to spend a little quality time dangling my head over the side of the dock, looking.

It’s not that when I walk on top of things I completely ignore the surfaces beneath my feet.  I certainly look down at the sidewalk when I’m running to avoid tripping over weathered areas and to make sure I crunch every available dry leaf.  But wandering around with Jim makes me realize just how much I don’t notice.  How much time do you spend lying on your stomach or lifting up rocks or sticking your hand in rocky crevices just to see what’s there?

For Jim, I have a suspicion that the answer to that question would be, now really, how much time don’t you spend doing these things?  In Marine Ecology lab, we are constant observers.  On Thursday, we spent the afternoon observing fouling communities on some local docks.  The docks were deceivingly clean and sterile from the perspective of someone who does not look under things.  But Jim soon had us lying on our stomachs looking at the underside of the dock.

I’ll be honest: I was expecting some green slime, a few dark barnacles, maybe a fish or two.  I had no idea that under that regular dock in the estuary were bright orange sponges, patterned seasquirts, shrimp, little yellow anemones, baby barnacles, big barnacles, and bryozoans, all swaying together in the water.

Move down six inches on your belly, as the men who work on the dock glance at you out of their peripheral vision, and the whole underwater world changes.  There are all the same players, but now the anemone gang is rising up and the orange sponge is on vacation and the neighbors are noticing that the barnacle family is getting quite large.  If you watch for long enough, you can start to get an idea of the routine of the place.  The barnacle sweeps its cirri in time with the seasquirt’s wave, and the shrimp look on from the water, waiting for a tasty meal.

Maybe the dock guys think we’re a little strange, but I’m willing to risk my reputation in order to spend a little quality time dangling my head over the side of the dock, looking.

Trawler Trip

As many days do around here, yesterday dawned with “warm layers, a waterproof lab notebook, and rubber boots; foulies required.”

The truth of the matter: you have to be comfortable in your foulies.  In fact, it’s really best if, when you don them, you feel powerful and protected, like you can do anything.  After the five minute shower test and a stormy night aboard Cramer, I’d be surprised if you hadn’t cultivated some mutual trust, or at least felt a connection to the layer of grime that you added to your foulies, contributing to the layer of salt and dirt from students of semesters past.  But, if this feeling does not come naturally, it’s worth it to take some time to really appreciate the wonder of your yellow rubber overalls—they work better that way.

Williams-Mystic Foulies

As many days do around here, yesterday dawned with “warm layers, a waterproof lab notebook, and rubber boots; foulies required.”  The eighteen of us, along with several faculty and staff members, climbed into a bus, cameras in tow, ready for a day of fishing.  We headed north to Rhode Island where we spent the first part of the day on an educational fishing trawler and listening to a fisherman speak about fishing sectors.

Once on board the trawler, we watched as the crew members let the net out.  It was large and green, rolled around a spool that was controlled by a motor.  One of the crew showed us how to measure the size of the netting, an important method of regulating which types of fish get caught.  After a twenty minute tow, the crew began to bring the net back in.

As the net spun back around the spool, I watched starfish and crabs find a new home nestled in the green rope lattice.  Finally the cod end of the net came into view and was lowered onto the deck.  It was filled with bluefish, fluke, sea robins, several types of crabs, lobsters, squid, a couple of wooden traps, and various other ocean creatures.  We sorted the catch into buckets and threw the seaweed, shells and some of the crabs back into the ocean.  The lobsters were too small to keep, but not too small to be angry at their removal from their watery homes; one of them foamed at us as we examined its underside to see if it was male or female.  We looked at the blue crabs’ swimmer legs and the flat eyes of the fluke.  My favorite was the decorator crab, which picks up particularly nice bits of algae from the ocean and sticks them to itself, perhaps thinking, “Oh this piece of green algae would look so becoming next to my brown algae area.”  If only it had a mirror to see its handywork.

On returning to the dock, we watched with interest or disgust as a crew member showed us how to fillet each of the three types of fish we had brought in with us.  These skills would be useful later that evening, as our grandfathers could only explain so well what to do with the whole fishes staring at us from our refrigerator shelves.  We were enthusiastically informed by our Policy professor that Williams-Mystic tradition mandates a fish potluck the night after the trawler trip, so the evening found us hurrying to create different fish dishes.  Caroline and I pulled on our foulies to protect us from any stray fish particles and carried our fluke into the backyard to fillet it on Caroline’s desk chair.

Seven o’clock found Williams-Mystic students in the kitchen of Albion House, surrounding a table covered in six or seven varieties of fish entrees.  We were ready to eat the creatures that drive the characters in the novels we read, whose remaining populations mark the history of fisheries and are battled over in the world of policy, and which are integral to a healthy ecosystem in the ocean.  Sometimes it’s hard to escape class.

by Amy Shmania, F09

How to Fillet a Sea Robin