Well, It’s finally over. I’m back at home from all my adventures-at least for now. However, the last bit of my stay was quite a trip. I got back this weekend, but the weekend before I went on a trip up the California coast. I took a lot of pictures, so this post is going to qualify as enormous.
We started off on Wednesday, leaving the Island on the ferry. Not much to tell about this portion of the trip, except that I saw a guy feeding a pelican, and had a pigeon land a foot away from my shoulder. Once we got to the mainland we went up the coast to Santa Barbara, to visit the University of California, where our teacher Gretchen Hoffman is from. This is a nice place, and the university is just beautiful and sits right on the coast.
The picture below is the building we spent most of our time in.
It has a nice view off the balcony! It and it’s sister building are also very environmentally friendly in their construction.
The view was a nice break from our main purpose here, which was to work on posters. We all made posters of hypothetical research projects relating to our class. I like making up data, it’s always significant and you can do lots of crazy expensive things. Maybe I will have to remember this in my future career (just kidding!). But I had fun making the posters, and so did everyone else. Mine was on ocean acidification and long term pteropod survival, and it involved a kriesel tank! Below are pictures of us working on some of the posters and another shot of the final product with Sal included. My poster is the one all in black and white-I got compliments on the color scheme.
We did a bit more on campus, including visit their aquarium (yeah, they even have a small touch-tank aquarium building-I am so jealous!) but soon enough it was time to head out. We took the inland route north to Monterey Bay. They do a lot of agriculture in the middle of California, and our travels took us past approximately 500 miles of lettuce fields. You yourself have probably eaten lettuce from a field that I saw. Some were interspersed with these giant plywood board farmer cut-outs (sorry, no pictures of that). It wasn’t all lettuce though…we saw advertisements for the big artichoke festival coming soon. Anyway, here is the lettuce, with an unintended-but-cool rearview mirror portrait.
We finally reached Monterey, just in time for bed. We stayed in this shady Travel lodge hotel. Not all travel lodges are shady, but they do all feature this weird bear on all their stuff. I will let the picture speak for itself.
Anyway, we survived our night at the hotel (although Carmel did have some hookers mistakenly show up at her door) and went to the Monterey Bay aquarium, on cannery row. Downtown Monterey is a nice place, with some historical charm.
But we were really there for the aquarium. It is among the best aquariums I have seen, and I have seen a lot. It sits right on the seashore and has lots of balconies to look off of.
The aquarium is noteable for several things: Jellyfish, the open ocean tank, the sea otters, and the kelp tank. They were also doing a special on sustainable foods that day, and Alton Brown (my favorite TV chef) was there. Sadly, I didn’t get to see him in the kelp tank, because i was eating. Ironic, eh?
The aquarium pioneered the keeping of jellyfish, and they have a diverse collection of the critters. As usual, they make good pictures.
The open ocean tank was pretty impressive, but the lighting wasn’t good enough for my camera. This tank is pretty much an enormous three story oval of water, with nothing in it but fish. Open ocean fish are the theme here-enormous tuna, amazing schools of hundreds of anchovies, Mahi-mahi, even a silly Mola mola. Look up mola mola if you don’t know what they are. We saw one get knocked over by a passing stingray, and slowly do a complete somersault in a very comical manner. Sometimes they have a great white shark in the tank, but there wasn’t one when we were there.
Most people liked the open ocean tank, but my favorite was the kelp forest. This tank contains a fully functional patch of kelp forest (with live kelp and everything). It’s beautiful and it also looks exactly like it would in the wild. They can manage this because they pump water in straight from the bay itself, which carries in all sorts of little critters to colonize the rock walls and feed the planktivores.
The aquarium also has sea otters. They spend all day floating around on the water-it looks like a pretty good life to me. One of the otters is named Maggie, like one of my friends in the program. When you see the description you will see why I was amused.
I saw some other things at the aquarium too, of course. It’s a big place. There way one circular room with a continuous tank going around it. Inside the tank was a continuous school of small silver fish, just swimming. I also learned that when penguins excrete waste, they first lie horizontally, then squirt out a white jet of guano–like 5 feet! That was not expected! I also saw some humpback whales! This was in the far distance through a scope (which was free, not one of those stupid pay 25c ones). I also got a picture of this harbor seal, which spent a good 5 minutes chasing around this loon. The seal would swim behind the loon, finally get close, at which point the loon would fly a few feet away and the cycle would repeat.
In the end we returned down Hwy 1, as beautiful a route as it is reputed to be. It drove me kind of crazy that we didn’t stop for pictures. I tried to capture what I could out of the window.
We did stop in a few places. One was for breakfast in a little diner in the redwoods. A nice place, even if the redwoods were pretty short (only as big as a large normal tree). A scrub jay kept stealing jam and cream packets off one of the tables in the patio, which was pretty funny.
Our other stop was to see the Elephant Seals. These sluglike pinnepeds haul out on certain beaches every year for a month or so to shed their skin. During this time they don’t eat or drink at all, but as you can see, they have plenty of fat to live off of. There were also a bunch of ground squirrels hanging around the parking lot, trying to steal the show (and your food) by acting cute and coming really close (my photo was not taken using zoom). Also noteworthy-elephant seals smell just as much as you would expect from that many large mammals.
And that was about it for the trip, except for awful LA traffic and a two hour stop in a clothing outlet mall, neither of which I really want to talk about.
We had one last week after that, which didn’t involve any official school work. I did have to work on a presentation, but that went well. I also did one last dive. The water had gotten much warmer, which was nice. I also did a chamber dive. This is when they put you in a hyperbaric chamber (it holds about 8 people and looks like part of a space-station) and increase the air pressure to simulate diving to a certain depth. They have one at the lab to treat decompression sickness, but we used it for fun. At 135 feet (our equivalent depth) the air is much thicker (you can feel the difference moving your hands) you talk in a high-pitched voice that sounds funny, and you might get narced. Narc, aka. nitrogen narcosis, is a side effect of increased nitrogen partial pressure and is supposed to feel like being drunk. I never felt any effects, however.
Finally, it was time to leave the island. It was cold and actually rainy on the day we left. The one day it rains is the day all of our bags are outside to get soaked. I said goodbye to everyone, and it was sad. I spent the night with a few other people in an embassy suites hotel. Sweet suites are the right word here, that place was NICE. And not too expensive either. Finally the last few people left, and it was just Kimmie and me remaining. We both flew out on the red eye with American Airlines, so we spent the entire afternoon and evening hanging out in the airport. It is a lot better with someone else.
Anyway, that brings us up to the present. The only question is, what will I do with this blog now that I am no longer adventuring all over the place? I guess I will think of something…