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6 Humbling Highlights on Gilavar; a Moment of Contentment

Gilavar Blended with Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
FRC Lifted out of Water; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008

Instantly the Gilavar was in sight; the blue, red, and white exterior seemed to sparkle against the sun’s rays as we approached closer.  When we drove alongside the ship a large hook was lowered towards the FRC. One of the gentlemen grabbed this hook and attached it to the latch. The next thing I knew the water was beneath us and we were lifted onto the Gilavar. I was happily greeted by the Filipino abs; they took my bags to my room almost immediately after my arrival.
Gilavar Front View; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
I introduced myself to the Norwegian Captain Gunther who enthusiastically talked to me about his new found love for Brazil. I also met the bridge officers or mates; both of their names were Khaled – one was a Chief Officer from Tunisia, while the other was a 3rd Officer originally from Syria, but now lived in New Zealand. I never heard of the Captain’s or the mate’s names, but I memorized their names pretty easy since I always had the ability to catch on pretty quickly remembering names. I worked at my grandfather’s’ restaurant as a hostess and bartender for many years; I tend to be really good at recalling the names of the locals and even first time visitors, in fact, they were surprised that I had that good of memory. Which leaves us until now, I was notorious for committing names to memory; if you remember a crew member’s name, it is a form of respect (regardless of his position) – sometimes you meet 10-15 people daily and a lot of names are thrown at you. I have a few helpful techniques on how to remember names better – “Excellent First Impressions; a Guide on How to Give Great, Not Just Good Impressions.” I tend to meet several individuals who express that their highest weakness is not remembering names. It is astonishing how a few tricks can make a difference.

On Top of the World; Alaska: Gilavar 07.2007
My best moment that morning was when I pulled out my Norwegian skills that I was taught – “Embracing Norwegian Culture; Hyggelig å møte deg.” I had a full fledge 20 minute conversation with the Captain and was quite pleased with myself, as he was too. While onboard the Geco Snapper I had made it a priority to keep teaching myself more Norwegian phrases and words.  Though I only had 2 weeks onboard the Gilavar I had an amazing time during my short time there.
Captain Gunther; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
6 Humbling Highlights on Gilavar
1.  Being part of the crew:

I engaged in daily morning Norwegian conversations with the Captain. He educated me in the pronunciations of the harder words in the Norwegian language. He also taught me the basics for the marine life that we viewed in the early mornings. While we were conversing in Norwegian outside the Chief Officer Khaled was inside navigating the ship. After the Captain left to work on paperwork in the late morning, I would talk to Khaled a few times before lunch. Khaled discussed his previous international projects and the countries that he had recently visited, which forced the travel bug to bit me; this time it was excruciating. It so intense that it encouraged me to start making travel arrangements with Jess from the Viking Vision“5 Most Fabulous Recollections of Viking Vision; those would be the Best Memories.” Alas, my third out of the country experience was born (more on this in future post). I enjoyed talking to 3rd Officer Khaled in the afternoons and listening to his stories that he excitedly emphasized. One of the great things about Khaled was that he stayed positive even though he was going through some difficult personal issues at home. It was nice to have the mates to talk to each day – both of their lives were equally interesting.
Chief Officer Khaled – One of My Favorite Pictures; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 07.2007
The coolest girl that I met on the ship was Marilu. This beautiful Venezuelan worked in the seismic department and was so full of life; I remember many fabulous “girl talks” with her. After the Geco Snapper I craved this! Overall she was really fun, outgoing, and had a charismatic personality. Between the bridge officers (including the Captain) and Marilu I felt really comfortable onboard. My two weeks on the new ship were excellent. I remember thinking, “I hope that the project will extend so that I could have a few more weeks onboard.” Even though I was secretly missing Adrian, I would have loved to stay if it meant that I could spend just another day with this crew. It is funny how close you can become with a few colleagues after only knowing them for a few days – “Excellent First Impressions; a Guide on How to Give Great, Not Just Good Impressions.” My time onboard was great, even if that meant that I had to leave the Geco Snapper crew. I realized that in order to make new friends and have incredible experiences, it took spontaneity to push me in that direction.
Marliu and the Posse of Boys; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
2.  Listening to a friend:

One of the mates that I became super close with was Khaled. He was your typical “Syrian” gentleman; he was good-looking, charming, goal-driven, and in general a nice guy. When we had first met he instantly keep smiling, of course smiles are contagious! I recall thinking how genuinely kind-hearted he was. Once Khaled and I started daily chatting, he had begun to quickly trust me and tell me things that he said he normally did not tell anyone. On the second day onboard I discovered that had just got married before he came onboard and now he resided in New Zealand with his wife. Unfortunately, his circumstances were a little different from mine and yours – he had an arranged marriage forced by his parents.
Gilavar Crew Working Hard with Black n White Effect; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
A few days after conversing with Khaled several times a day, he pulled me aside and told me that he was not having a really good day. My friends will tell you that I have a very caring personality and sometimes place friend’s needs in front of own. In this particular situation, Khaled desired someone to talk – I happened to be chosen as that candidate. I have read about arranged marriages, but I never knew anyone personally going through this or being forced into this way of life. I could not seem to grasp the idea that he did not marry for love, which made me realize how lucky I was to have the ability to “choose” who I wanted to marry. In various cultures this is not a considerable option, and unfortunately Khaled was faced with this decision to remain married to a woman who he had only met once before his marriage was arranged.
Golden Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
I was really interested in what arranged marriages were so I had gathered some information on this particular ritual. The concept of arranged marriage may sound impractical to the Western world, but in India, it is a usual norm. No matter how westernized India may have become, arranged marriages are still viewed as the most preferred choice in the Indian families. I have recently watched a movie, “Eat, Pray, Love” and I honestly can say that the movie was phenomenal. I absolutely loved the story line – yes, I cried and laughed throughout the entire film. I noticed in this movie starring Julia Roberts and Billy Crudup that they portrayed a young Indian girl having her marriage arranged by the hands of her parents. In reality, the little girl wanted nothing more than to marry for love, but she abided by her parent’s wishes and went through with her destiny. Regarding the research that I discovered while talking to Khaled, I discovered that this specific marriage has its roots laid to the time, when the ritual of child marriage prevailed in the country. Child marriage was essentially performed, so as to restrict the children from marrying outside their community and social status. The practice was essentially a way of uniting and maintaining the difference between the rich upper class society and the poor lower class society. This practice of caste system gave rise to the concept of arranged marriages.
Now since we have an idea where arranged marriages evolved from let us dive into the positive and negative aspects of this tradition. One of the positive aspects about arranged marriages is that it gives the parents utmost control over family matters and members. Since they are the ones who would decide on the prospective bride and groom, they would get someone, who is the best for their beloved son/daughter. On the other side, arranged marriages are seen as a medium to promote racism and class system. Also, they have proved to be the best medium to take dowry. Over the years, arranged marriages have posed to be more like a trade than a social custom. People find it an easy medium to make money.
While the above negative aspects can still be dealt with, one of the most crucial drawbacks of arranged marriage is that the boy and the girl do not know each other. Two unknown people get married without knowing and understanding each other, as according to the concept, it is not important to know your partner before marriage. As such, chances of not gelling well with the partner are very high. If either of them thinks absolutely contradictorily to what the other believes in, there would hardly be a mutual level of understanding between the two and life would be merely a compromise for the two. The only way an arranged marriage can succeed is through acceptance. One has to accept the other the way he/she is and look for striking a mutual level of understanding.
Idamina Always Grinning; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
Once I was able to comprehend the idea of an arranged marriage, I felt that I was able to understand his views more. Khaled had many restless nights onboard and he was pretty upset about the circumstances that he faced at home. This was his first taste of an arranged marriage and he would tell you that he was not fully happy by any means. I recall a few nights that he would want to talk – not necessarily about anything special, but just to have someone listen to him. I became the perfect candidate for the job. Khaled was able to sort his thoughts out by stating them out loud, while I had developed how to have better effective listening skills. Mainly the most important to the conversations that we were having was that I showed my support and that I truthfully cared about his current situation. In the end, we had become really good friends and a minor high-school crush on his end was formed. Looking back if I could have said one thing to his new wife that would have been, “Even if you do not know each other well, always make sure that both of you listen to one another.” Like communication, I felt that listening was one of the best attributes that you can have in any relationship.

Cool Shot of a Crew Member Working; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008

3.  Refreshing Norwegian:

I have to admit after working with an American crew it was nice to have had the opportunity to refresh my Norwegian that I had learned. As my love for the Norwegian language grew I was able to understand the culture a little better as well. The Captain would tell me stories about where he grew up, the difficulties that he faced, and his undying love for Norway. Again, his endless conversations about Norway had developed this passionate craving inside of me to travel. As he spoke longer phrases in Norwegian, I had asked him to teach me a motivational phrase before my departure. I had practiced this phrase regularly – I thought that if I said it enough times in a different language besides English, then it would eventually come true! The phrase was continually stuck in my head and still is to this day: Mitt ultimate mål er å bli anerkjent som en vellykket og respektabel marinbiolog.” Simple translation, “My ultimate goal is to be recognized as a successful and respectable Marine Biologist.” Whether you want to learn Norwegian or another language, I would encourage you to do so – the reward is far greater than you expected.

Captain Sunbathing while Teaching More Norwegian Phrases; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008

4.  Experimenting with new foods:
Learning a new language comes with experimenting new foods. Precisely in this case, on the Gilavar we had a Norwegian mixed with Polish galley crew and they loved to fix oxtail. What is oxtail you may ask? An oxtail is exactly what it sounds like: the tail of an ox. Oxtails are officially classified as offal, along with an assortment of organ meats, and like other offal, the oxtail has a long and illustrious culinary history. You can find oxtails at boutique butchers and sometimes at a butcher’s counter in a large market, depending on the regional taste for oxtail. Once purchased, it may be used immediately or frozen for future use. Oxtail was served once a week while I was onboard – everyone seemed to have a unique craving for it. 
I on the other hand, had never seen it let alone tried it! I was feeling extremely adventurous one fine sunny afternoon. Since it was suggested an excessive amount of times to try this “delicious” source of iron-rich bone marrow, I finally took that plunge! It was not your typical taste like “chicken” – did you ever notice that new foods we sample, we tend to say “it tastes like chicken?” Once I heard a good friend tell me that trying snake tasted like chicken – very interesting indeed! This was exceptionally different from anything I had ever savored. As I took another bite of oxtail, I had a few of the crew, including the Captain explain to me what exactly I was eating. I realized that the terminology surrounding the oxtail was a bit complex. It was explained to me that, “Traditionally, oxtail came from oxen, neutered adult cattle used as dray animals. Over time, however, oxtails had been harvested from any sort of cattle, including steers and veal cows. Some people felt that traditional oxtail had the most flavors, because the longer a cow lives, the more muscle developed in the oxtail, and as a result the flavor in a true oxtail tended to be stronger and more complex.” A braised beef rib with twice the original flavor is my best description of what oxtail tasted like. 
After I finished eating the last few bites of oxtail I had spoke with the galley about this delicacy they had just served. I was intrigued to learn that in order to prepare oxtails, butchers removed the tail of a cow while it was butchered and skinned. The oxtail was typically cut into segments, making it easier to handle – this was how the oxtails came in the provisions that were sent onboard. Within the selection of meats, oxtail was included as part of the meats that were originally ordered. The galley crew emphasized that the oxtail was extremely bony and also was very muscular. One of the girls zealously described to me that the best way to use oxtail was as the base for a stew, soup, or beef stock, because it benefited from long gentle braising. I later learned that oxtail also made a great soup, which tasted a bit gelatinous, as it released a great deal of collagen during the cooking process.
Chief Officer Khaled and Marilu on Christmas Day; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 12.2007
That night while I was reviewing my Norwegian lessons, I made the decision to look up more information on the culture of eating oxtail. I was fascinated to uncover that as with other offal, the taste for oxtail probably arose from necessity. Many cultures have had a long tradition of trying to use every part of every animal butchered, with the offal typically ending up in the pots of the lower classes, since they could not afford the more prized cuts of meat from the animal. Innovative cooks developed all sorts of interesting ways to use offal, and while it was once a lower class food, offal was now included on the recipes of many gourmet restaurants, especially those which offer traditional European cuisine. Who said trying new foods could not be fun? Not only did I introduce a new regional food to my taste buds, but I also educated myself on the culture behind this well-liked dish.
According to Life 123, the best recipe for oxtail stew is demonstrated in “Tender Oxtail Stew Recipes.”

5.  Barbecuing on weekends: 

If you were a vegetarian you would miss out one of the greatest events onboard – a traditional BBQ. There were few vegetables to choose from, but the main portions consisted of an assortment of meats – filet mignons, porterhouses, ribs, hamburgers, chicken, and even your “American” hot dogs.  On the Gilavar, barbecues were a time when most of the crew would mingle, have a non-alcoholic (sometimes 5% alcohol) beverage, relax, take in some sun’s rays, and enjoy a smorgasbord of grilled foods, complete with cold dishes. My preferred cold dishes were macaroni salad, red-skinned potato salad, and coleslaw. This makes my mouth-water just thinking about the foods that we indulged in! Honestly, I was given the opportunity during this mealtime to really get to know the other crew that I did not get to see on a daily basis. Since everyone had a different shift onboard, it was rare for me to see everyone during the day when I worked. For instance, a few of my friends/colleagues would work 18:00 (6pm) to 6:00 (6am) – rarely did I see them twice a week!
Fire Fighter to the Rescue; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008
Gilavar’s barbecues were definitely the topic on the boat and all of us could not wait till this fabulous weekend event! Even though I was not able to be at home with Adrian and friends in Cape Canaveral during the weekend, I still had 2 incredible weekends onboard. Truthfully, barbecuing was the highlight of my week, along with everyone else’s! I cannot wait for the next barbecue offshore!
Gilavar Combined with Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Gilavar 05.2008

6.  Fixating over Heroes:

During my downtime as we made our way into Mobile, Alabama to crew change off the boat, a “Heroes marathon” was introduced into my routine onboard. We were not conducting watches or researching cetaceans because our transit was mostly in darkness in the late night. Therefore, we had exactly 1.5 days to do whatever we pleased in the last few hours onboard. Since Khaled and I had become really close, we determined that we would start a Heroes marathon. I had never heard of “Heroes” and certainly had never seen an episode. I recall watching the very first episode and like “Dexter” – “5 Most Fabulous Recollections of Viking Vision; those would be the Best Memories,” I was hooked! What is Heroes you may ask?  “Heroes” is similar to Marvel’s “X-Men,” in that its characters discover they have latent extraordinary powers. But where “X-Men” is driven more by action and plot, “Heroes” is more character-driven. Khaled was infatuated with “X-Men” and other action movies; I think this is why he had become fond of this TV show. 

Speaking of the TV show, it focused on an ensemble of eight characters, each of whom had a different power. Claire Bennett was a high school cheerleader with the power of spontaneous regeneration, DL Hawkins had the power to phase through matter, Isaac Mendez was a brilliant artist who can paint the future, Hiro Nakamura was the office worker who can bend and travel through space-time, LAPD Officer Matt Parkman had the power of telepathy, Nathan Petrelli was the ambitious politician who could fly, his brother Peter was an in-home nurse with the ability to absorb others’ powers when he was near them, and Niki Sanders had super strength. Quite the collection of super powers to have! If I had a super power it would be to instantly “fix” a bad situation. Whether that would be used in the cleaning up of an oil spill while magically flying over the affected area, undo a horrible car accident by seeing the future and preventing the incident, or wiping away bruises from a domestic violence battered woman by a simple touch, etc – all of these would be a selfless act in helping others in a very positive way.  

Oddly enough “Heroes” with its unique flaws in each character still managed to be one of the greatest shows that I watched – you really start to feel a connection to each character, while looking into their remarkable abilities to live in this world with “average” humans. My favorite character was Claire, because she could never physically get hurt – she reminded me of a younger version of myself with her quirky attitude, “Nothing can get in my way!” I felt this way growing up in a small-town, with my goal-driven outlook on becoming a Marine Biologist.

The Incredible Claire Bennett


What was the objective in the show you may ask? Well as ordinary people had begun discovering their extraordinary superhuman powers and abilities they were drawn together to save the world from destruction. This comic book-style adventure with plotting and characters as rich and layered any graphic novel or drama series. Why I really liked the show? Add to this mix a terrific handsome villain – Zachary Quinto’s Sylar, who hunts and kills people with extraordinary powers like our heroes – and viewers have a riveting series that exhibits an almost-perfect balance of cliffhanger thrills (the action and special effects are truly impressive for a network program) and genuine drama that sets the show apart from most speculative fiction.

You never know what types of people you will meet or the life circumstances that they face. Everyone has a unique story to tell – no two people are the same. When embracing other cultures, you tend to come across people that help shape your lives. I never dreamt that I would have been subjected to listen and understand about arranged marriages. I never expected to make really “good” friends with a cool Syrian, Tunisian gentleman, and a sweet Venezuelan girl. I certainly never thought that I would have had the opportunity to try oxtail for the first time. In reality, I did all of these things and because of these experiences I have projected a deeper appreciation for not only cultures, but for the people that live within this society. 
I have always told my friends in high school and even expressed this during my high school graduation speech: “Whether we notice this or not the people that we meet throughout our lives, either negatively or positively affects us; sometimes both. It is those positive influences that we need in our daily lives and should look for in our friendships. These are the individuals who will help mold us into the person that we want to become.” Having the ability to interact with various cultures has given me the gift to see the world in a different light, welcome an assortment of nationalities as my friends, and have the desire to create additional goals for myself. One of the newest goals added to my plans are to travel the world, while visiting each of my friends, and embracing a society different from my own.
A Really Sweet Shot of the Gilavar at Shipyard during Night; 07.2007

5 Best Flashbacks on the Geco Snapper; a Dedication to a Late Friend

Roosevelt (bottom) and Manny with Infamous Poses; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008

Roosevelt’s Favorite Seas – Calm and Tranquil; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008

I want to dedicate this post to a great friend, awesome colleague, and an amazing father – Roosevelt.  I can never thank him enough for the great memories that we had onboard. He really was an inspiration to me. I thoroughly enjoyed the time that we had spent together and he made every moment precious. He was an incredibly sweet guy and he will always be missed. His smile always warmed my heart and his memory will forever remain in each of the crew on the Geco Snapper. May he rest in peace and live on in each of our hearts. 

Jim, Roosevelt, Brian, Tall (Nickname), and Smiley (Nickname); Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008

After spending 8 lovely weeks onboard the Geco Snapper it was time to go home – or so I thought. The boat was headed into Galveston, Texas for some minor repairs; I thought that I was riding in with them. Instead, I was requested to go on the Gilavar (more about this ship in next post). Honestly, it did not hit me until the day that I was getting off the Geco Snapper on how close I became not only to the boat, but also to the crew itself. I had worked with two separate crews during my time onboard. Each crew brought a unique character to the boat and made the Geco Snapper really come alive. Sure, I was locked in the shower on the very first day that I arrived onboard – “How to Cope with Steamy Situations; Helpful Hints to Improve Your Breathing,” but even with its tattered floors, small restrooms, and strangely odd odor it was still home to me. After all, nobody’s perfect and this includes boats! Looking back I can still see the crew’s smiling faces every morning, smell breakfast that was being cooked in the galley at dawn, taste the freshness in the bread that was recently made, hear the crew laughing as they joked with each other, and feel the softness of my comforter as I wrapped myself inside it at night. I really had felt welcomed here and it was very hard for me to leave. Without further ado, I present to you my top 5 best flashbacks on the Geco Snapper

Phenomenal Sunset with Oil Rig on Horizon; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008
Cotton Candy Sunset with a Taste of Orange; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008
5 Best Flashbacks on Geco Snapper

Powerful Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008
Drillship Entering Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008
Bright Clouds Align the Sky; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008
1.  Eating a smorgasbord of American food:

I love various cultural foods; since my time on the Viking Vision I had an assortment of Norwegian dishes (including rice pudding) to choose from – “Embracing Norwegian Culture; Hyggelig å møte deg.” I enjoyed trying different foods, but nothing beats a good ole American hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. Since I was working onboard with an American crew and on an American boat I had my fill of plenty dishes of American food. Most of the guys lived in the South and they added their own flavor of Cajun to the mix. I had the best gumbo onboard; I never had gumbo until then. The guys were really serious about their cooking and it definitely showed in the preparations of their meals. The taste was wonderful; I do not recall ever a bad dish! One of the ultimate meals that I thoroughly enjoyed were the “once a month” King crab legs! I was that girl in elementary school that would get excited if my mom decided to take me to “Red Lobster” for my birthday dinner. Maybe it was the “small town mentality,” but I absolutely loved this tradition. Of course, most individuals will tell you this is imitation lobster or not really your “typical” seafood restaurant. I never really knew what I missing until I started working offshore. Working offshore definitely has many perks, but the best one in relation to food is that it is, in fact, the freshest that you have ever tasted. The boats and ships are able to have fresh produce or provisions as sailors call them, come onboard. If I am really lucky I will have the chance to fish for our dinner that night (seems to only happen in international waters; more on this later). At that moment as I was excitedly eating my King crab legs and dipping them slightly in butter, I knew that I could totally get used to this lifestyle! Kudos to them for making the best American dishes that I have ever tasted; it simply was a great experience onboard. For this reason alone, they will always be remembered as, “the Awesome American Boat.”

Golden Sunset with Supply Vessel Pegasus; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008

Pink Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008
2.  Having the best birthday surprise:

As luck had it I was getting off the Geco Snapper in the early morning to transfer to the Gilavar. That particular morning happened to also be my 25th birthday. The first week that I was onboard the galley guys, Dave and Keith, had asked me to try the dessert that they created before dinnertime. I remember that it was vanilla cake with colored icing and sprinkles on the top. I do not favor the original “birthday cake,” but I did sample a small piece in the common courteously that I was asked to. It was okay, probably would have better if I actually liked cake (exception Dairy Queen Ice Cream Cake). Afterwards, the guys asked me what I thought of their dessert. Without hurting their feelings, I told them that it was good, but that I preferred apple cobbler any day of the week. I did not think much of this conversation until we fast forward to the morning of my birthday. It was like any regular morning, but then I noticed the date and instantly did a “happy dance!” It was my birthday and I was able to view an incredible sunrise to welcome the joyous day. Like every morning I walked downstairs and greeted the galley as I filled my mouth with a couple of Cheerios. The guys were grinning from ear to ear, more so than usual. They told me to wait right there for a second as they had to go check on something. As I stood there waiting a delicious aroma of cobbler tickled my nose. All of a sudden a cobbler in a pie dish was presented right in front of me. I knew exactly what it was at first sight and I was tempted to take a piece. The guys enthusiastically expressed that they were not able to get me a “gift,” but thought that I would settle for apple cobbler instead. Of course, I quickly agreed that this was a far better choice. The guys asked me for me to take the entire apple cobbler with me on my voyage to the other ship if I could not eat it this morning. Long story short, I had a several pieces, offered the rest to the crew (which they willing took), and saved one piece for my trip to the Gilavar. Material objects like presents do not matter when your friends are there to accompany you. I would have been just as happy with or without the apple cobbler made for my special day. My stomach definitely thanks them.

Calm Seas with Vast White Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008

Absolute Bliss; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008

3.  Being part of the crew:

There is nothing better like the feeling that you fit in somewhere. In this case, I was part of the crew. I could tell you a funny story about every single one of the guys onboard. Earlier I had mentioned Roosevelt. I would love to share his funny story with you. Roosevelt grew up with 3 older sisters and in a small town in Louisiana. He was the only boy and his sisters reminded him of that every day. He was a tough kid who looked up to his sisters and fought off the boyfriends that tried to steal his sister’s hearts. He was really protective and cared about their decisions in life. He tried to be a good role model, like they were to him. He and his sisters always played outdoors, even in the middle of winter. Roosevelt’s favorite drink was apple juice. His sisters decided to play a little prank on him. One day while he was walking home from school he was exhausted and wanted something to drink as soon as he got home. His sisters knew that he would be really thirsty once he arrived home (this was his normal routine). His sisters told him that they had fixed a glass of apple juice for him as he approached the steps to his front door. Excitedly he asked for it and they handed it to him. As his sisters sat there loudly laughing, he was slightly oblivious to what was going on. As he was about to take a huge chug of the apple juice, his sisters screamed, “Ewww that’s our pee!” He quickly dropped the glass as it shattered onto his hard concrete porch. To me this shows how great of a guy he really was, his response to his sisters – “You girls were going to make me drink your urine, yuck! I guess I have to figure out some way to get you all back! Thanks for telling me before I drank the “apple juice;” I maybe would have told you if you were in my shoes!” I absolutely loved Roosevelt’s witty sarcasm and his contagious laughter. I was happy to have shared his last few memories together. I was lucky to have had the chance to meet him in my life. He became one of my best friends on that boat. Every time I reflect of the memories on the Geco Snapper, I think of him.
Ryan and I at Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008
Hot Abercrombie Model (My Personal Nickname) Winking at Me (He Always Did This!); Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008
Dustin, Ryan, and Captain John (from Maine); Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008

Roosevelt was a great asset to the crew and so were all of the other guys onboard. Manny and Roosevelt were inseparable; both of the guys were equally awesome. Manny was on the path to become a record producer, while Roosevelt wanted to eventually get his sea time in and become a mate or officer to work on a boat similar to the Geco Snapper. Both of the guys loved the boat, the crew, and the general atmosphere. Quite frankly, I grew to love it too; maybe not as much as them though! Captain John from Maine was amused at my small hand-writing and decided to call my notes “the Benford Chronicles.” He had a great sense of humor and a refreshing perspective towards life. He would tell me stories about his travels, which, in return, would entice my desire to travel more. The galley crew was always in good spirits and as you read earlier, were amazing cooks onboard. Another Captain John (he was from Arkansas) was really cool; he joked around with me quite a bit. He loved to read and would tell me about his current books that he was reading onboard. He had a drive to work on the sea, like I did as well, which is why we got along so well. The seismic department was really laid back. I enjoyed having nightly conversations with the guys, especially Dave and Shaun. These guys would make me laugh for hours; it was nice to have great charisma on the Geco Snapper. We even watched Jeff Dunham’s comedic session of “A Spark of Insanity” several times; which made us uncontrollably laugh – “Swept to the Geco Snapper; A Spark of Insanity.” I met a really awesome medic named Nikki, who would love to tell me about her nomadic international adventures. She and I became really good friends at the time; we still remain in touch to this day. There were a lot of other crew members to mention, but these were my favorite memories with these individuals. I thoroughly adored my time with the crew and thanks to facebook we still remain in contact. 

Juvenile Brown Pelican Rested on Fence; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008

The Boys Waving Goodbye; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008

4.  Watching a juvenile Brown pelican on helideck:

For exactly a week, there was a friendly encounter by my definition of “the coolest bird!” I have never viewed a pelican in close quarters, as I did when he rested on the fence located on the helideck. He was quite a photogenic species and seemed to love our attention. He was pretty far away from land, which made me think that he flew hundreds of miles to say “hello” to us on the Geco Snapper. He did hunt at night briefly, which guaranteed that he would survive without our assistance. We were tempted to feed him bread, but we did not want to have him rely on us for his prime food source. Within nature, it is a good rule of thumb to not feed the animals (I am sure we have all seen these signs at the local zoo); however, if you are rescuing a bird from oil or exhaustion then it is okay to provide some nourishment for the avian species. In this particular case, it was best to leave this juvenile Brown pelican alone and let him rest. Consequently, this did not prevent us from taking loads of pictures of him. He was a beautiful bird – after all I had to add this species to my avian collection.  

Juvenile Brown Pelican with Streamer in Background; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 05.2008
Golden Sunset with Almighty Oil Rig; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008

A few cool facts I learned about Brown pelicans: A) Brown pelicans can live for 15-25 years; B) It can hold approximately 3 gallons of water mixed with fish in its pouch. The air sacks beneath their skin and in their bones helps makes them buoyant; C) Unlike most birds, which warms their eggs with their breasts, pelicans incubate their eggs with their feet. They hold the eggs under the webs that stretch from the front toes to the hind toe, essentially standing on the eggs to warm them. This practice was detrimental to the species when the pesticide DDT was in common use. This pesticide caused thinning of the eggshells resulting in so many broken eggs that the species became endangered; D) A group of pelicans have many collective nouns, including a “brief”, “pod”, “pouch”, “scoop”, and “squadron” of pelicans; E) While the Brown pelican is draining the water from its bill after a dive, gulls often try to steal the fish right out of its pouch. They sometimes even perch on the pelican’s head or back and reach in; and F) Nevertheless, pelicans are often victims of fishing hooks and lines, oil spills, pesticides, guns, arrows, cars, boats, and power lines.

Rough-toothed Dolphin Breaching out of Water; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008

The Beautiful Creation of a Mixture of Dark and Light Clouds at Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008
5.  Sighting a Rough-toothed Dolphin for the first time:

Before each project I research which cetaceans I will be encountering during my time offshore. All of my preparations could not have warned me that I would see a Rough-toothed dolphin for the very first time – “The Unexpected Surprise; First Encounter with Rough-toothed Dolphins.” These creatures are definitely unique, but it was because of this specific project that I was able to view numerous pods. After I witnessed my first sighting of this specimen, I gathered some online material and started examining details about this marine mammal. I will never forget the crew’s reaction as I was explaining about the sighting – they were so intrigued to learn more as I was too. I self-taught myself everything there was to know about Rough-toothed dolphins on the Geco Snapper. After the first approach of the Rough-toothed dolphins, I was prepared for the quick identification of the second sighting and so forth.
Violent Clouds Encompassing Oil Rig; Gulf of Mexico: Geco Snapper 04.2008

I will never forget the friendships that I made on this project and the memories that I had with Roosevelt. It is caring individuals like Roosevelt who remind me on a daily basis why I love my fabulous, but unique lifestyle.

5 Most Fabulous Recollections of Viking Vision; those would be the Best Memories

Wispy Clouds; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 01.2008

In the words of David Guetta, “All the crazy sh*t I did tonight, those would be the best memories,” I can definitely relate to this song. My revised version would be, “All the crazy stuff I did in the last 2 months, and those would be one of the best memories.” Honestly, with all the fabulous recollections I had on the Viking Vision, I could not have asked for a better start in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). The most important lesson that I learned on this rotation was to never judge a book by its cover. Let me elaborate, since I worked with a majority of Filipinos and Norwegians onboard it was at times difficult to communicate. Some of my first few conversations I had with the Filipinos did not go that well, not because they gave a bad first impression, but simply because we had a language barrier to break through. Once they were used to me and became more relaxed, then they started practicing their English around me. If I would have been judgmental in the very beginning, then I would have not met some really cool guys that still on occasion facebook me with their broken English. I know good first impressions are really important, but when it comes to communicating with another culture it is important to remember to be patient. Do not be so quick to judge someone – after all, you would not want to be judged, would you?
5 Most Fabulous Recollections of My Time on Viking Vision

Birds Flying during Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 01.2008

1.  Being part of the crew:

Along with excellent first impressions – “Excellent First Impressions; a Guide on How to Give Great, Not Just Good Impressions” that I was given, I felt like part of the crew. I remember the first few days when I came onboard how curious the crew was about me. On various occasions during the first week that I was working outside, I had a daily visit from 5 different crew members. I felt like Ms. Popularity! The shocking news was that I actually started becoming a lot more comfortable once I was introduced to more crew members onboard. It is funny how a simple introduction can really brighten your day – I had this on a daily basis for the first week. Once I was going into my second week onboard, I already knew everyone. Jess, Jodie, Olga, and Silje were the first individuals that approached me when I first stepped foot on the Viking Vision – “Helicopter Ride to Viking Vision; the Quest for Sperm Whales.” Within the second day onboard, I started watching movies at night with the girls. Between their daily visits and our movie nights, I quickly had the opportunity to get to know each of them fairly well. Perhaps, this is one of the best things that I like about working offshore; you have the chance to interact with different cultures in small settings and get to witness their “true colors.” Thus, the closed quarters bring you closer together, especially when you see each other a few times every day. It is definitely hard to find people that you connect with really quickly, but when you do find that connection it is absolutely sheer brilliance. When I was accepted as part of the crew, I was able to live in the moment and appreciated what friends/colleagues surrounded me. I felt at ease, relaxed, and fortunate to have these positive individuals in my life. Most importantly, I was able to just be me.

Lost in Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 02.2008

2.  Learning Norwegian:

I learned a great deal from Jan, especially when it came to learning Norwegian from him during the 2 months that we shared onboard – “Embracing Norwegian Culture; Hyggelig å møte deg.”  One of my favorite quotes that Jan taught me in Norwegian was, “veldig kul;” which was defined as “very cool.” I adore learning other languages; working offshore is the perfect opportunity for me to do take full advantage of learning not only the language of the respected country, but also the historical significances of that country. I feel blessed to work with a beautiful mixture of nationalities – I love listening to stories about their country and why they respect and love their country. If you want a mind-twisting endeavor, I would recommend learning a language. I have always wanted to travel to Norway – now here is my chance to not only take the title of the typical tourist setting foot in Norway for the first time, but I also have the opportunity to actually mingle with the locals. Once I arrive in Norway, I am going to try my best to speak their language. One of the most considerate gestures you can make while traveling in another country is to speak their language. Even if you pronounce a few words incorrectly, the locals will still respect you and admire your strength to try. There is nothing worse than an arrogant American who sets forth to explore a country and refuses to not use the local language. Must you be reminded that you are in their country? People are much more receptive if you make an effort to speak their language – this can turn a frustrating experience into the trip of a lifetime.

Orange Kiss; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 02.2008

3.  Sighting pods of Sperm whales:

Before I went on this project, I made an effort to learn about what I would be interacting with in the wild. I remember reading several great articles on Sperm whales, which flared my enthusiasm and intensified my fascination for these magnificent creatures – “The Pursuit for the Sperm Whale; the Great Legend of Moby Dick.”  In all of my readings, I translated that Sperm whales were simply deep sea leviathans. For decades scientists and researchers have been trying to understand the mechanisms behinds their deep dives, the communication of patterned sounds that they create, and their great impact on the oceans. One of the articles that I read emphasized, “there is one question that overshadows all the others: is there any other being that bundles together so many extremes? Sperm whales are the largest-toothed animals in the world, have the longest intestines, the biggest brains and the largest noses. Their dives may be the deepest and longest of any mammal – and even with their numbers drastically reduced by whaling, they still take as much food out of the ocean each year as all of mankind’s fisheries put together. They live in the deepest oceans, ranging from the equator to the edges of the ice caps (the females live mostly in the tropics and the males, which are three times larger, at the poles). And such is their impact on the planet that the iron in the feces of Antarctica’s sperm whales fertilizes enough phytoplankton to slow the impact of global warming.”

A New Day Will Come Tomorrow; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 01.2008

Out of all the creatures of the deep ocean, the Sperm whale enjoys most legendary status for its immortalizing in Moby Dick. Some of the remaining mysteries of the Sperm whale will soon become clear, but it may take decades to accomplish this task. Sperm whales significantly sized large brains and cultures present a greater challenge – which has humans scratching their heads. We need to probe their learning, their thoughts and values – and, in the process, give humanity a glimpse of what Moby Dick’s motivation really was.

A Penn State Sky; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 02.2008

4.  Visioning a planet of such beauty, intertwined with sunsets:

I have always liked clouds and sunsets. Now since I work on the ocean and view daily sunrises and sunsets, I have fallen in love with these beautiful displays. I seem to not get enough of them – definitely a highlight of my day! Plus, they make excellent photographic subjects! Though land was not in sight, the sunrise and sunsets were not a disappointment over pure vast ocean. One of my absolute favorite things that I love about photographing and witnessing these blessed miracles is that your 5 senses take you to a new level of tranquility. Imagine the warmth of the ocean breeze running through your hair, the taste of saltwater on your lips, the overwhelming smell of fresh fish mixing in the ocean breeze, the sight of an empowering body of light kissing the horizon goodnight, and the touch of your cold camera pressed up against your face as you are taking the last few photos of this incredible moment. Honestly, sometimes I cannot explain in words why I love the offshore lifestyle; however, this moment that I just described is a clear representation on why I love working on the water.  

Golden Sunset; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 01.2008

Sexy Dexter Morgan; Popular TV show, “Dexter”

5.  Obsessing over Dexter Morgan:

I have never heard of the TV show “Dexter” until I first started working on this project. The instant that I watched the first episode I was literally hooked – it was almost like I could watch the entire first season in 1 day if given the opportunity! I have never felt that way about another show at that time – Dexter pulled me in by the absolutely intoxicating complexity of his character. Meet Dexter Morgan, the protagonist of the series, he is a sociopathic serial killer who targets other killers. By day, he is a forensic blood spatter analyst with the Miami Metro Police Department. He is the biological son of Laura Moser and Joe Driscoll and the biological brother of Brian Moser, also known as the Ice Truck Killer. This show grabbed my attention, because Dexter is not your average serial killer; he is best described as Batman cleaning the bad guys off the streets, in this case he is killing the bad guys and putting their remains in the harbor. Slightly different approach to the Batman series, but the reason behind it makes the show worth while watching. For instance, Dexter only kills individuals who fit a prolific and precise “moral code” taught to him by his late father Harry Morgan, and developed very thoroughly throughout each kill.  Mostly all of his victims have specifically committed murder and have not showed any remorse for their actions – he seeks this sinner and puts matters in his own hands. Maybe I enjoy this show, because there is a dark place in each and every one of us, as Dexter calls it his “Dark Passenger?” Maybe few of us can actually keep this inside of us and others well, let this mind-controlling demon out to play every once in a while? Whatever the case is, this show is the epitome of sin and a lack of impulse control that some of us are born with.  

Serenity; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 01.2008

I would suggest if you have not watched it yet, definitely put it on your list! I have successfully introduced this show to every project that I have worked on. This show has become the topic in our daily conversations – there is a reason for this; definitely watch an episode, you will not be disappointed! 

Cloudy Skies; Gulf of Mexico: Viking Vision 02.2008

Thanks for the Memories; My Recollections of the Boston, Massachusetts Project

Whitney, Kyle, Taylor, and me on Helideck with Boston in Background; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007
My 8 Greatest Memories – Boston, Massachusetts Project:
Texas Horizon; Massachusetts Bay, Massachusetts 09.2007

1. Awaiting my first time on a ship:

Instead of asking the question, “Where do I go from here?”“The Chosen Path Revealed; Epic Spring Break Adventure;” the question now remains, “What expectations do I have for my first official project?”

My Uncertainties:
What should I bring? I was coming to Boston during the warmer months, but the colder days seemed to be creeping in a lot earlier than anticipated. Do I bring my warm gear or my cold gear? Should I carry both or leave a set of clothes behind?

A. How long will I be on the project for? I realized as I was packing the night before my plane departure the next morning that I was never given a time frame of how long I would be on this project for. I was unsure about set rotations – if I worked a month on and had a month off? Bottom line: I had no exact date when I was getting off the project. Which brings us back to the question, “What should I bring?” Now factor in the undetermined time when I will get off the boat – now you have what I like to call, “A large shamble!” Many undetermined factors does not equal any glimpse of certainty!

B. Limitations on what I can carry with me on the ship? During the Protected Species Observer (PSO) and Safe Gulf training I was briefed on arrivals to the ship in helicopters – “Welcome to a New Chapter; Shaping My Future as a Marine Biologist.” I was informed not to bring over 20 pounds of equipment and personal belongings when I would crew transfer via helicopter; however, I was never given proper instructions on arrivals to the ship at dock or in chase boats. Since this was my first project, I had purchased binoculars, steel toes, and a hard hat before my departure to the Texas Horizon. These items were all needed to work offshore and maintain a safe environment – the steel toes and hard hat mainly only had to be worn during safety drills onboard. As far as a camera is concerned, fortunately, the Ecoes office had supplied me with a small compact digital camera to take on the project with me. Would you believe that I never owned a camera until almost a year after this project? If you are one of my close friends and/or family member, this may shock you! Currently, I am notorious for taking pictures and have a deep appreciation for photography! Anyways, with all the business equipment that I had to transfer, this did not leave me a lot of space for my personal possessions. Regardless, I definitely over the 20 pounds, but lucky for me it did not make much of a difference because there was never a set amount of weight that could be taken onboard at dock or when you were transported by chase boat. Thank goodness, I do not know what I would have done if I was told to decrease my bag weight! 

Crew Member Shoveling Snow; Atlantic Ocean: Atlantic Horizon 12.2007

C. How are the weather conditions offshore? Any person that works in the offshore environment will tell you that there is a huge fluctuation of temperature changes offshore vs. onshore. I may have not needed a winter jacket onshore, but in the Boston harbor I could have easily used one. There really was no definite answer to whether or not heavier clothes were required – I had to make the decision based on what I felt was comfortable or not. To this day, I still pack both cold and warm weather gear – it is best to be prepared for all sorts of crazy weather conditions! You never know what to expect!

D. Did I bring enough toiletries with me? I will never forget when I started packing that I actually decided to place an entire bottle of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash – do you know how much weight this is? Good thing my first project was not a basket transfer (more on this later in this post) and it was done by chase boat or alongside the dock – the amount of toiletries that I had was a bit overkill! Reflecting back on what I threw in my Nike duffel bag, I feel embarrassed to say that I worked offshore. It is amazing how much weight is added solely by your personal toiletries. I never thought of the idea of using smaller 3oz bottles (the kind that are airport security approved) that potentially could last for a month or two. If only I was given a check list on what to bring! Lesson well learned!

E. I will be working with an assortment of crew members, will we get along well? There is nothing more intimidating than walking into a situation where you not only do not know anyone, but you also have no clue what to expect. I was unaware of if there were any other females working the project – maybe this is a little more intimidating than the previous statement. I have heard of miscellaneous stereotypes, but I have never heard of one about someone who worked offshore. Even the commercial fishing industry, I did not know what type of men worked on these boats. One thing was clear, I was about to be left on a ship for x amount of weeks (you probably had a better time frame for me than I did!) and placed into friendships that have previously been formed because they have already been working together.  This young girl fresh out of college was about to find out what type of people work offshore, especially within this specific project – it was a shame I did not have a head’s up or any warning what to expect. I guess in the end, this is how I began the career filled with spontaneity, mystery, and adventure!

F. Will I be able to maintain communication with my good friends and family? I never regretted moving to Cape Canaveral, Florida and never once looked back; however, this does not mean that I wanted to lose my connection with my dear family and good friends – “Last Destination Florida; the Road Trip down The Chosen Path.” One of the biggest concerns I had was managing to maintain these great relationships that I have formed throughout the years – the only way to cleverly do this was to be able to have a daily or weekly conversation. During my PSU years, I had begun really communicating with all of my hundreds of friends through facebook and email. At least if there was no phone connection available, I would have the chance to log onto facebook and chat with some friends through this social network. Honestly, thoughts of having a good internet connection and using facebook made me feel a lot better before leaving.

Sailboat Passing; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007

My Certainties:

A. This is a step into the right direction on my chosen path“The Trek to the Unknown; First Footprint on a Ship.” Reflecting back to the previous years, no matter what happened or what obstacles managed to strategically place themselves in front of me, I still was able to push through and arrive where I am today. I have come a long way of educating myself on saltwater organisms all throughout high school, and taking the initiative to involve myself in water based courses at PSU – “Trip into the Past; Icthology Lab: Favorite College Course.” Most importantly, I moved out of Pennsylvania in pursuit of accomplishing my goals. I, Jessica Renee Benford, traveled to a location that I have only been to once before and made the plunge to dive into my new career. I have always tried to set a good example for my younger brothers, be a positive influence on my friends, and demonstrate my independence to my family members with respect. This was the moment where I wanted to show everyone how one person can not only pursue their goals, but how they can successfully accomplish each one. I was taking this chosen path where I was driven by my own dreams and now I have the chance to prove to myself that I can be recognized as a successful and respectable Marine Biologist.
My odds were not very good, but the self-assurance that I kept seemed to push those uncertainties away. Sometimes a walk into the unknown or a ride on a mysterious path will present a journey for a new adventure and provide an award far greater that you can ever imagine. Risk-taking enables you to develop confidence, self-acceptance in the face of setbacks, learning from mistakes and the chance of achieving important goals.  Decision-making also involves being creative, which invites you to suspend temporarily your critical faculties while you let your imagination soar. Goals are the desired outcomes or results that you want for yourself. With risk-taking, decision-making, and goals these all led me on my chosen path. My chosen path directed me to this particular ship – this was all I needed; my uncertainties vanished!
2. Observing the North Atlantic right whale:

There are some moments in your past life that you tend to forget, while others remain close to your heart. This particular moment when I first observed the “v” shaped blow and the lack of dorsal fin was one of the best moments that I have had in the Marine Biology field – “My Favorite Bostonian Cetaceans; Dive into a World Different from Our Own.” I observed hundreds of cetaceans, but that one moment that I viewed the North Atlantic right whale for the first time was indescribable. Have you ever had that moment in time when you realize at this particular second everything leading up to this moment was worth it? Many bad things could have happened, but for that instant none of that mattered; what mattered was that at this moment the world was on your side and you were untouchable. In all honesty, that moment when I first looked at the North Atlantic right whale – that was the moment when I realized the entire 4 months that I spent on this project was well worth it! The purpose I was on the Texas Horizon was to carefully observe the North Atlantic right whale when it was sighted. With only 2 sightings of the NARW during the full length of the project, I was extremely lucky to have seen it when I did! 
3. Identifying my first Humpback whale:

Every Marine Mammal Scientist will tell you about their very first sighting. A few of us ever remember all of our sightings or have logged them in our own personal journal at sometime or other – I would fall into this category. I can still remember the time of my day that my sighting happened, what side of the ship I was on, and who was with me at the time that it happened. I had no idea what to look for at first, I was strategically placed on a side of the ship and told to look for “white splashes.” I must have carefully examined every little ounce of activity that I had witnessed, but still no sign of marine mammals. It was not until a few days later that around sunset I recognized some white splashes on the horizon – “The Humpback Whales in the Sunset; a Mission for Marine Mammal Preservation.” I will always cherish my first sighting, along with future sightings to come!
Common Nighthawk Sitting; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007

Pine Warbler Sitting on Steel; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitting on Rope; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007

Bat Resting on Step; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Herring Gull Soaring Over Water; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007

Red-breasted Nuthatch Resting on Rope; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Pine Warbler Sitting on Rusted Fence; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Red-breasted Nuthatch Sitting on Pole; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007

Bat Hanging on Step; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Butterfly Sitting on Pole; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Butterfly “No Hats”; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Butterfly Sitting on Steel Rope; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Barn Swallows Sitting on Rusted Fence; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007

Northern Saw-Whet Owl Sitting on Steel; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007

Spooked Northern Saw-Whet Owl Sitting on Steel; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007
4. Surrounding ourselves within avian species and insectivores:

When there were no marine mammals in sight, the avian species and insectivores were plentiful. We had an assortment of avian species ranging from warblers, sparrows, cormorants, gulls, owls, and nuthatches. When it came to the insectivores we had an ongoing supply of horse flies, beetles, moths, butterflies, and grasshoppers. One of the most amusing stories had to be right before Meghan departed the vessel in early September. I was going about my daily business outside on the port side of the ship when I noticed a Red-breasted nuthatch landed on a rope below me. It was chilly day and I had my trusty American Eagle beanie on. Meghan came outside to head over to the starboard side of the ship; I stopped and asked her if she could observe a particular patch of water because I kept viewing white splashes. I wanted to go get my camera inside so I made my way to the door. As I opened the door I heard this small thud, not thinking anything of it I went inside. Meghan came in excitedly and told me that a Red-breasted nuthatch just darted into the window where my face would have been. Slightly confused about the situation, I came back outside to find a stunned Red-breasted nuthatch sprawled out on the concrete deck. I felt horrible for the poor guy so we grabbed him some crackers and water for when he woke up. Would you believe that he did not come out of his “coma” until 45 minutes later? Good thing he was not able to aim for me, he could have done some severe damage! Maybe he was attracted to my colorful beanie or maybe he was having a bad? Whatever the case was, that Red-breasted nuthatch had quite the surprise! 

Harbor Seal Swimming Towards Ship; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007

Harbor Seal Up Close and Personal; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007

Harbor Seal Saying Hello; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007

Harbor Seal Resting; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007

Harbor Seal Sleeping; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007
Harbor Seal Swimming Near Propeller; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 09.2007
5. Watching a Harbor seal playing:

One of the coolest mammals, that were not a whale or dolphin were the Harbor seals. When the project would get into much shallower waters, the Harbor seals had swum around us in pursuit for catching their food for the day. The hodgepodge of food consisted of fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. The Harbor seals were really entertaining to watch; especially when they would sleep with their eyes closed and head out of the water. Harbor seals were super adorable – at one time I contemplated in bringing a seal home with me! Not that I would ever do this, but for a second I imagined what it would be like to have one as a pet. Humans have monkeys for pets, why not a Harbor seal? Throughout the sunny days when I had watched them play, I had begun a greater appreciation for the Marine Mammals in the Massachusetts Bay. 
Renae and I during Snowstorm on Helideck; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 12.2007
6. Being part of the crew: 

When I had given my passport and work certifications to the captain when I first stepped on the Texas Horizon, he stated, “Welcome onboard, you are officially part of the crew here.” I did not know what “part of the crew” actually meant until that following evening. I was approached by some of the guys onboard before dinner and asked to watch a movie in the mess room with them later. To be quite frank, I had no clue where the mess room was yet! As I got lost on the ship searching for the infamous mess room that night, I thought to myself that this was really sweet of the guys to invite me to chill with them for the evening.  At that time I was positive that this was going to be a good rotation – I could not been more right! Though there were only 2-4 females onboard at any given time, the ratio of 200 men really was not that bad. There was your usual “flirting” that they guys did with us girls, but they were neither aggressive nor obnoxious about it. Most of these guys were very respectful and created a positive environment for me to work in. Various ages were onboard, ranging from 18 to 65 – the majority of nationalities were American and Filipino. I will never forget the moment when I was transferred to the Megan Miller and how upset the guys were to see my departure from the ship – they were uncertain when and if I was ever coming back. I ended up coming back a month later and our reunion was onshore – my night onshore was free of charge! Free beer for me! I guess you could say I was accepted as part of the crew! Along with the crew, I also had the privilege to work with some fantastic colleagues, friends, and Biologists offshore. When I first begun working with Whitney, we never actually felt like we were at “work” – “New Friendships Created; Reuniting Old Ones.” I felt like I was hanging out with one of my good friends from back home – we had amazing cetacean sightings, fabulous girl talks at night, and incredible sunsets. I never had felt more comfortable than I did working on that project. Whitney defined the value of a true friendship – whether or not we were bonded by our sisterhood in Phi Mu, I believed that our paths would have crossed eventually in life. We were/are too good of friends and individuals to never have met. Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed working with her! Not to mention that Kyle, Renae, and Annya were a good mix to the group as well! 
7. Viewing a world of brilliance and color:

The sunsets over Boston, Massachusetts were absolutely stunning. I had begun waking up early to view the sunrises every morning. Your first ocean sunset is magical – the vivid colors mixed with the countless clouds were quite a spectacle. Here is a review of some of the most fabulous vibrant scenery that was shown – “A Compilation of Cool Oceanscapes on the Water; a Glimpse into a Effervescent World.”
Personnel Basket Transfers; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007

Personnel Basket Transfers Close Up; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 10.2007

8. Surviving personnel basket transfers:

What is a personnel basket transfer you may ask? A personnel basket transfer or basket transfer are used to transport a worker to or from a crew boat or supply boat to a jackup oil rig, offshore platform, semi-submersible or other structures. I was being transferred via personnel basket transfer from the Texas Horizon to the chase boat. These specific basket transfers occur on every oil rig or vessel around the world, whether is intended for routine transfers or reserved for emergencies. The main issue with these special transfers is that they need to be completed in a safe manner without unnecessary risk of injury or death to the worker. With this being said, most of my transfers were done in calm seas with low swell. Occasionally we had medium swell, but we were still transported with high safety precautions – this made one heck of a bumpy and scary ride! There is nothing like a good flowing of adrenaline pumping out of your system in the early morning as you are moving above the water and over the ship! The reason why I said “surviving personnel basket transfers” were for the following reasons: Crew members are often injured in falls, drops and impacts during transfers in personnel baskets. Various injuries include serious back, neck, spinal cord injuries and even deaths from falls and from heavy or hard impacts onto the dock or deck of the boat or vessel. Some workers are injured as a result of an impact occurring when the basket actually swings or rapidly falls into another stationary object and structure. Other workers have been trapped, crushed, and struck by the falling or swinging personnel basket itself. In conclusion, this personnel basket transfer has made grown men terrified – I was there to witness it!
I have probably hundreds of memories about this specific project; writing all this down would be difficult. The top 8 greatest memories are only a taste of what I experienced.  I have had the pleasure to not only build a professional reputation in the Marine Biology world, but also establish many great friendships along the way. It has been a little over 3 years since I was last on that project and I still remain good friends with many of the crew members, colleagues, and locals. This project exceeded my own expectations and had given me the confidence in the identification and research of cetaceans.
Kyle, me, Taylor, and Whitney with Superintendent Mike; Atlantic Ocean: Texas Horizon 11.2007
One of the best lessons that I learned on the project is entitled “Foundation of Friendships.”  When you place a group of mixed nationalities living on a ship, confined to small quarters, and the same situations are, well, experienced – this is a great foundation for a friendship to start. I noticed that while working on this project, I had become close with colleagues in only 2-3 weeks time. When you are onshore, you tend to not really get to know someone until a few months into knowing the person. There is something magical about working on a ship in tight quarters and making new friends that you have to experience for yourself. It really is life-changing!