And I Saw Sparks.
Santa Barbara Travel Blog› entry 15 of 17 › view all entries
I just realized that I never actually described my most-fantastic-weekend-ever on the NOAA boat a few weeks backâ€¦ to sum it up real quick like, I wrote out this little list of some of the more amazing moments:
- (As you already know from my earlier entry) Swimming in the middle of the Pacific. Still just as excited about this one as I was in that moment.
- Watching a bald eagle chick fly past Santa Cruz Island, and land in a tree to chill out for a bit. The chick hatched in April, and was the first successful nesting on the Channel Islands in over 50 years. They actually set up a web cam so people at home can see the little guy (not so little anymore, actuallyâ€¦) Go to http://chil.vcoe.org/eagle_cam.htm to check it outâ€¦ you canâ€™t tell from the video, but that nest is 5 feet wide. Holy moly.
- Riding on a little, tiny skiff through some pretty big waves - just plain fun. And donâ€™t worry, I was wearing my personal flotation device the whole time :)
- Passing right by two dolphin feeding areas. Dolphins get their food by traveling in large groups, and encircling big schools of fish. They work together to herd the fish into a small, dense mass, and then take turns charging through the pack with their mouths wide open, swallowing the fish that they come by whole. Because of their feeding style, you can see a dolphin feeding area from reeeaaally far away - all the sea birds know whats up, so hundreds of them flock to the area, just hoping for the chance to pick off some of the fish when a dolphin isnâ€™t looking. Basically, this was a pretty amazing site to seeâ€¦ there were tons of dolphins jumping all around, and the coolest part was the way their jumps out of the water were perfectly coordinated, so you would see six or eight dolphins popping up between the waves in perfect synchronization.
- Learning some knots - Although Iâ€™m still working on the double figure eight, I am now an expert hitch, half hitch and bowlin knot-tier. What is a bowlin knot, you ask? Only the most dependable and secure of all the simple knots! Clearly Iâ€™m on my way to becoming the next great boater.
- Boarding a few multi-million (â€¦billion??) dollar yachts. The study we were doing involved asking private boaters about what areas of the sanctuary they use most often, and for what activities. We used GIS technologies to pull up maps of the sanctuary, and then weâ€™d draw shapes around the areas they use (yes, very confusing - hence the long training session we had to go through to be a part of this project). Anyway, the boaters were always invited aboard the government research vessel to participate in the survey, if they wanted, but some of them didnâ€™t want to (or couldnâ€™t) leave their boats, and instead would invite us onto their yachts. All I can say is â€śwowâ€ť. Honestly, those boats have got more going on than any real houses Iâ€™ve ever seenâ€¦ nothing like being offered cocktail shrimp and Pate while at â€śworkâ€ť.
- Spotting a blue whaleâ€¦ we were heading back from the islands and there it was, right in front of us. Anja, Dez and I were riding up on top of the boat, and as soon as we saw the spout, we jumped up and literally started screaming and dancing around because we were so excited. Then we realized that we probably shouldnâ€™t be screaming because Captain Terrance might think one of us fell overboard. But luckily, he saw the whale too, and stopped the boat so we could take a look. The blue whale didnâ€™t put on a show for us like the gray whales that I saw back in March, but it was still incredibleâ€¦ the largest animal in the world, nearly 100 feet long (so big that the spout we saw shot about 40 feet into the air)â€¦ all just a few hundred feet from me. We stuck around for about fifteen minutes and got to watch two breathing cycles. I still canâ€™t believe itâ€¦ there are only between 1,300 and 2,000 blue whales on this entire planet, and I saw one of them.
And those are just a few of the highlights. So here comes my nerd spiel (and yeah i dictionary.com'ed that one. its right.) After all that, I believe even more strongly that first-hand experiences in nature are the key to solving the countless environmental problems that we are facing right now. Iâ€™ve had this incredible opportunity to see all of these things that I otherwise would never have experienced, but for a variety of reasons, so many people will never have these same chances. And its a shame. Imagine how passionate people would be about protection and conservation if they could see this.
I have never been more inspired than I was that weekend, being out in the middle of the ocean, looking out the window and seeing nothing but miles and miles and miles and miles of water (and a few sea lions and sea birds, of course). All I could think about was how MASSIVE this planet is. How much of the ocean is still unexplored, yet we are doing things each and every day that are ruining our chances of ever understanding whats really down there. That blue whale I saw is an endangered speciesâ€¦ that means that it is quite possible that my kids will never have the same opportunity that I did, because by the time they come around, there might not be any more blue whales.
Howâ€™s that for motivating?? So, here comes my future non-profit organizationâ€¦ Iâ€™m going to combine my passion for kids and for learning and my love for being outside and for protecting the environment and my desire for equality in education and Iâ€™m going to do something meaningful - start a non-profit that takes underprivileged kids from the confines of the city and takes them out into nature to do hands-on environmental learning activities.
Yeah, its all a fairly new plan for me, but Iâ€™m excited.