California Current 2015

I was a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Teacher at Sea, but unlike most of them I never went farther than 50 miles from my house!  Even so, the place I went to was other-worldly and I had never seen it like this before.  I was at sea for most of nine days.  I was with scientists from the Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary, the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and Point Blue Conservation Science on a routine survey.Fulmar small

The California Current is a cold, southward-flowing current just off the coast where I live.   There is a lot of upwelling, which results in cold, nutrient-rich water reaching the sunlight.  Plankton bloom, which gives the krill and small fish lots to eat.  This in turn gives the whales and sea birds lots to eat.  Some of the birds I saw make annual trips here from the southern hemisphere because the food is so good.working 640

However, El Nino was beginning.  The surface waters were unusually warm, which makes trouble for the whales and birds.  They were still there when I went out, though.humpbacks 640

It was windy and rough.  It was wet.  The R/V Fulmar is only sixty feet long.  I am not sure I would have the stamina to  do this all the time. Really, this may be the most rugged trip I have done.  In the Arctic I had to sleep in the sunlight for weeks and go for long periods without bathing.  To get to Namibia I have to fly for 36 hours straight.  On White Mountain Peak I have to get by on two thirds as much air as I am used to.  In the Emirates I hiked on the dunes for short periods when it was  over 120 degrees F.  Conditions in the California Current are more exhausting than all those places.  But I am sure glad I did it now.  I understand our ocean ecosystem so much better.Farallones 640









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Author | Teacher | Scientist