On Thursday of last week I had the opportunity to venture into the waters of the central Oregon coast on board a research vessel with Oregon State University scientists. For a person whose scientific background has been mostly on organisms that live primarily on solid land or in relatively shallow waters, stepping into a ship was a first time experience. Despite the fact that I consider the ocean a frightening place, I could not bottle up the excitement of conducting a pelagic bird survey. At the end of this 10 hour voyage, I had developed a deeper respect for the people who spend the majority of their lives out on the vast waters of the planet.
My presence on this cruise was merely voluntary, with the hope of learning something new that I could apply to future job searches. Notwithstanding, I was not the only person in that ship feeling this particular curiosity for the ocean and the animals that live and depend on it. Another group of OSU scientists specializing in marine invertebrate ecology, were conducting seafloor sampling, while an additional crew consisting of three people (including me) monitored for the presence of seabirds and marine mammals.
The first four hours of this journey went by really quickly, since we kept busy collecting data and looking into the open waters for any movement that we could quantify. Bird activity levels picked up at a few locations and dropped at others, while the presence of marine mammals was missed for the most part of the trip. It was those enlightening moments in which someone shouted, “mammal!” that everyone’s attention was caught, and the spirit to keep on with this task picked up. Around 3pm when the crew was getting ready to go back to port, I started to feel the effects of being on board for the past eight hours. I was impressed with the tolerance the rest of the people on the ship had towards the rocking movement; I was the only one getting mildly sea sick.