“Voyaging Puget Sound,” a new camp that was offered this summer by the Seattle Aquarium and The Center for Wooden Boats:
“On this longboat, we are using technology of the 1700s” -Captain Tyson
Today we met our fellow campers/sailors and our fearless leaders from The Center for Wooden Boats and Seattle Aquarium. Jenn and Sean were our science instructors while Captain Tyson and First Mate Lena taught us about sailing. Here we are sitting in an outline of the boat that we will be sailing to Blake Island. Wow, it is going to be pretty close quarters on Wednesday night!
We got our first glimpse of the longboat HMS Discovery today. Captain Tyson gave us an orientation to the boat and some safety training, including the donning of survival suits! We learned about navigation and charted out our plan for our voyage to Blake Island the next day.
Days 3 and 4:
It really did feel like we were in the past as we rowed our way to Blake Island in a 10-foot longboat. But before our departure, we conducted our first survey for our field study concerning Puget Sound. For 1.5 minutes, all of the teens on our expedition looked for marine life as well as human debris and boats. After that, we waved goodbye to Aquarium staff and pushed off the dock for an exciting start to our adventure.
First, we had to learn how to row. Synchronization doesn’t come easily for many, which proved accurate for our group, but we continued to improve throughout the trip. An hour later, we conducted another survey and our results were very similar to the previous one because we were still close to shore. There were a lot of the barnacles and gulls. We used our new skills in animal identification from the day before to determine the animals we saw. Barnacles are fairly straightforward, but the bird identification is where it gets a little tricky. We took surveys every hour after that.
Every so often Sean would stop his rowing duties, sometimes during the surveys, to take pictures and tweet about our location. We noticed that there was less marine life during the surveys near the shipping lanes. On the second-to-last survey, we saw our first mammal!
A California sea lion
Soon we got hungry, but like the diligent rowers we were, two people took a lunch break while the others rowed on. We took breaks like that later in the afternoon as our rowing patience waned. Our persistence paid off though, for as we approached the buoy where our California sea lion slumbered we saw a small pod of harbor porpoises!
After hours of using pure manpower against the current and many blisters later, we approached Blake Island. Before entering the harbor, we had to pass inspection from a magnificent great blue heron, but apparently we impressed him, because we sailed by without the shift of a feather.
When we stumbled onto the dock, we were greeted by a park ranger, many boat-goers, and some curious raccoons. We had to tiptoe past a herd of deer, and if someone walked too close to a tree, the action would trigger a flock of birds to rise from it.
We had dinner on the mainland and then prepared for bed, a complicated matter despite its simple sound. On the boat, we put oars on the seats, which made two bunks, then piled 12 people (mostly teens) into it and the captain read us a sailors’ bedtime story. In the morning it looked something like this:
A fog hugged the island the next day, making it impossible for us to disembark. So, we went on a nature walk, led by Sean, in which we learned plant identification on the island. We saw a number of native and non-native trees and learned what and what not to eat in the small forest of Blake Island. Next, Jenn took us on a beach walk and saw a family of baby killdeer!
At noon the fog lifted and we had to leave Blake Island for the return journey. We did not take surveys because of our late start, but we did see more harbor porpoises and many more birds. Eventually, after hours of rowing, we made it back to the Aquarium dock at last.
Today marked the last day of camp. In the morning we analyzed our survey data and found that the further away from land we got, both the marine debris and animal density decreased, while the boat and plane traffic increased. We saw some cool and unusual animals like a Bonaparte’s gull and multiple harbor porpoise sightings. It was a little disappointing to not be able to include these sightings in our data but we did not see them during a scheduled survey time so including them would have broken our study protocol. We spent the final afternoon at the Aquarium behind the scenes seeing things that most visitors never get to experience. It was a fun and exciting week that we were sad to see end. We are excited to see what next summer brings at the Seattle Aquarium!
This is a link for our boat:
Thanks for reading!