The Journey West, North, West, North…

Esperanza at Dutch Harbor

Esperanza at Dutch Harbor

At 5:15 am, the rear suspension of the taxi to Washington, DC’s National Airport groaned alarmingly under the weight of my five heavy pieces of luggage: A duffel of dive gear, a pelican case with an underwater video housing, a duffel of warm clothing, a backpack of video and camera gear, and a roll-aboard full of hard disks, cables and other geeky accessories. Alaska Airlines Flight #1 took me west across the country to Seattle, then north to Anchorage. As we pierced the clouds on our descent, the youngster seated behind me shrieked to his parents, “It looks like a big park!” Alaska was as I had remembered it: Big, wild, and beyond beautiful. [Read more…]

When Everything Goes Wrong — and It’s a Good Thing

Divers at Millbrook Quarry (Haymarket, Virginia)

Divers at Millbrook Quarry (Haymarket, Virginia)

As a young teenager, I finally got my wish: Scuba lessons for my 15th birthday! My lessons were in a moldy YMCA pool in suburban Philadelphia, and my first open water dive — my checkout dive — was in a quarry in Reading, Pennsylvania in the balmy month of December. Air temperature 36 degrees F, water temperature 40 degrees. My wetsuit was too big, was full of holes, and to this day I don’t think I’ve ever been so cold. In those primitive days of the early 70s, we didn’t use buoyancy compensators (BCs), vests that you can fill with air from your tank to keep you afloat at the surface or keep you neutrally buoyant at depth. Rather, we used “horse collar” safety vests — virtually identical to what the flight attendant demonstrates the use of for the “unlikely event of a water landing.” [Read more…]

Ginormous Is a Word, and Just in Time

Alaska: The Ginormous State Last week, Mirriam-Webster’ announced that it was adding the word, “ginormous” to its 2007 update of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition. This is great news and comes as a great relief, just in time for next week’s kickoff of the Bering Sea Expedition. For ever since I first visited Alaska, I have found an utter deficit of adjectives to adequately convey the state’s enormity — er, ginormity. [Read more…]

The Sub Pilot Diet

The Sub Pilot Diet Stresses Pleasure

The Sub Pilot Diet Stresses Pleasure

In the 100-degree heat here in Washington, DC, the daily weather reports from Dutch Harbor, Alaska showing highs of 50 degrees seem surreal, yet in just over two weeks, that’s where I’ll be as we kick off the Bering Sea Expedition aboard Greenpeace’s magnificent ship, M/V Esperanza. In recent years, virtually all of my time aboard ships on research expeditions has been in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, so my wardrobe consisted of little more than a couple pairs of shorts and some thoughtfully-selected marine-themed T-shirts. But Alaska is different, and the Bering Sea is different still. The cool temperatures, wind, and damp chill of the fog combine to mean only one thing: Shopping. [Read more…]

Beneath a British Columbian Waterfall?

Greenpeace Vessel M/V Esperanza

Greenpeace Vessel M/V Esperanza

Greetings from aboard the Greenpeace ship, M/V “Esperanza”! We’re anchored beneath a beautiful waterfall in one of British Columbia’s magnificent “fjords” to prepare for this summer’s intensive expedition to the Bering Sea.

Greenpeace’s largest ship, the Esperanza, will be visiting the Bering Sea in Alaska for most of the summer.The expedition will be using manned submersibles and an ROV to survey Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons, specifically to map and document deepwater corals living at depths of more than 1,000 feet. These corals, some hundreds of years old, are vital components of a healthy marine ecosystem. Unfortunately, these corals are at great risk, ending up in trawling nets as “bycatch.” [Read more…]

You’re an Ocean Doctor!

Ocean Doctors Like to Make Housecalls!During our long road trip to the university where my daughter would soon begin her first year, I was recounting that same period of my life and the fact that my parents had really wanted me to be a doctor….an M.D., that is. I hated to disappoint them, but I tried to explain that I wanted to pursue my true passion, marine biology.They were troubled that I’d never be able to make a “real” career out of this passing fancy, but 30 years later, I suppose I have. My daughter chimed in, “But you are a doctor. You’re an ocean doctor!” Funny, but I had never thought of it that way. Yet I have spent much of my career studying and diagnosing what ails the oceans and advocating policies to heal them. So I looked at her and said, “I like that. I think I might use that some day.” So, here it is — please accept my warmest welcome to OceanDoctor’s blog, dedicated to the wonder of the oceans, being true to your dreams, and, of course, my daughter.

David