Cuba has lost its Mother Ocean. Dr. María Elena Ibarra Martín, director of the University of Havana’s Center for Marine Research (Centro de Investigaciones Marinas, CIM) since 1981, passed away yesterday afternoon after a month-long struggle following heart surgery. CIM is the only academic institution in Cuba where marine biologists are trained, and her loss is mourned by hundreds of her students, many of whom grew up to become her colleagues — and friends. Her selfless, tireless dedication goes far beyond words, and the impact she has made on education, conservation, and her unique model of personal integrity will no doubt endure for centuries to come. When I last saw Doctora in February, she was as busy as ever, wrestling mountains of paperwork on her desk while never letting go of her visionary perspective about conservation and education. Nor did she ever let go of her special fondness for sea turtles and her love for and dedication to her students.
I hadn’t seen it snowing sideways with such intensity since I rode out the "Storm of the Century" in Cape May, New Jersey. Of course, I was looking out the window of a Boeing 737 in motion, very definitely a moving frame of reference, so perhaps the "sideways" part was somewhat exaggerated, but the intensity part wasn’t. On our final approach, I was mesmerized by the sight of a buried St. Louis, Missouri slowly coming into view through a milky night sky, blanketed by the blizzard that was on top of it. The Interstate was a broad white ribbon snaking through the tranquil-looking city, with just a handful of headlights and tailights of vehicles making what must have been an incredibly perilous journey. I would soon be among them.
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