Earthquakes, Atlas Shrugs and Ocean Studies
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Earthquakes, Atlas Shrugs and Ocean Studies

Nanaimo : Canada | Mar 12, 2011 at 9:51 PM PST
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Many moons ago I worked onboard this vessel. It is the G.B. Reed based out of the Nanaimo Biological station. It was a classic North Sea Trawler meant to sample fish species.

In the spring of 1979 I made a choice not to return to the well paid logging job up north..but instead..to follow my Steineckian penchant to study the sea. SO..although a fella working on a minor BA in Literature, Theatre and History..I opted to expand my interest in both Oceanography and Biology ( science courses I took that year to satisfy the degree!) and was accepted as a summer student at the Nanaimo Biological Station

And I was glad I did!

I spent half the summer half asleep poring over old collected oceanographic date from previous minions..usually snoring by 2pm from boredom and computing endless delta D cosines on the calculator and putting finicky blots on 1mm charts..Zzzzz.

BUT..in mid July I was chosen to go onboard the G.B. Reed for a 3 week study of pelagic fishes and hunt down the remaining stocks of the Pacific Grey Cod. Finally..the sea! And what a time I had! Dropping old Nansen bottles off rocking shipside stanchions at all hours and letting the lead "messenger" drop down to trigger each flask to a depth of 1500 feet...watching the side-trawl net come up after a 40 min haul and separate each species by bucket & weight...Length & sex each species and investigate what they were eating etc by spilling their fishy guts on stainless steel sampling tables.

Cheap beer in the ship canteen and films like "Àll The President`s Men" in the mess. Camraderie amongst shipmates..good, hearty food on a rocking and rolling vessel sampling from Cape Scott to Queen Charlotte City.

And then..upon my return..being sent out on the Pandora 2 from Ocean Sciences in Sidney, B.C. for 2 weeks of physical studies 200 miles off the West Coast with Dr. Richard Thompson...Dropping sona-buoys..sampling with STD probes and rosette samplers..using computers for the very first time. Huge Dolphin pods off helicopter pads and carrying the Pisces IV submersible for studying ocean seamounts. Exciting stuff!

I finished the year by being hired to study the salmon in the Stikine River prior to a proposed dam and lived in wall tents 200 miles from nowhere..alone with wolves and Grizzly near the Alaska Panhandle.

The next year I was a foreign òbserver`for the Canadian Government on Russian, Japanese and Greek fishing vessels..factory ships. Of course, this was the Summer of 1980..the Moscow Olympics..the ones we ALL boycotted in the west due to Russians in Afghanistan..some stupid, backward country that later no-one gave a shit about..until..? I spent most that summer explaining how we could sell them fish..but NOT wheat? Something to do with BC Packers & George Weston and business as usual. They were losing relatives in the hills outside kabul.. Oh Well..that's another story eh?

I took Oceanography and Biology as ìnterest courses to satisfy the science part of my BA. My love of John Steinbeck and my past sailing experiences with the ocean made these natural for me to pursue. To work for half wages that summer (instead of logging up north) opened up a world I will never forget...and never regret.

Three Quarters of this Earth is water. We sit on tectonic plates that are always shifting and changing. It is not new.. it IS old. We better get used to it..or suffer from our stupidity.

I am amazed how often CNN has to explain both plate tectonics and simple oceanography to their viewing public.

Have you ever moved suddenly in the bathtub?

Now imagine what those waves do as they slowly feel a beach..instead of a bathtub wall!

Rolling..roiling..devastating.

Atlas occasionally shrugs.

Better get used to it.

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The G.B. Reed
Nanaimo Biological Station
Andy Mathisen is based in Smithers, British Columbia, Canada, and is an Anchor on Allvoices.
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