Marine Biology Bootcamp

Just 49 more days, and I’m totally counting down. Not because it’s not fun, not because I’m not learning a lot and not because it’s not interesting, but because I’m pretty sure that I will in fact die. Soon. I’m sleeping in a big open loft area with about 14 other girls (all of whom are very nice, which helps) barrack style. We each have a bunk bed, where the top bunk is a bed and the bottom bunk is our desk, a cabinet for our clothes and then another set of drawers, and that’s it. From my desk I can see straight down into 5 other people’s “personal” space. We’ve already given our “I sleep naked” or “I don’t wear underwear to bed” warnings.

Perhaps the nudity and the lack of privacy would be an easy enough thing to get over, but the sleep deprivation just makes me grumpy. All the door on everything here squeak, so no matter how quiet you’re trying to be, you’re still making a lot of noise. Then there’s the 15 alarm clocks that go off every morning about 5 minutes apart. I get woken up about six times every morning starting at 5:20 (there’s almost always someone getting up at 5:20 around here because we have to catch the tides – for those of you who are thinking it, the reason we can’t catch low tide later in the day is because the west coast has mixed semi-diurnal tides. This means that we do have two low and two high tides every day, but one of these tides is really really low and really really high and the other two are just sort of low and sort of high. Then with the world being what it is, the lowest low tide is of course ass-early in the morning). Even if I could sleep through the alarm clocks (which happened this weekend – oh yes, there are weekend classes around here), I can’t sleep through the herd of elephants stampeding by my bed. Every time even the smallest of girls walks by, my bed shakes enough that I wake up. Naps are out of the question because we simply aren’t given enough time to take one. Classes are 8-5, with an hour for lunch and 30 minutes between the end of class and dinner. If you wanted to take a nap after dinner, you may as well just go to bed because chances are that you’ll have to be up early in the morning.

To further the boot camp feel of the place, our meals are only served for a 1/2 an hour and they ring a bell to let us know when it’s ready. The food is all right – your typical dorm food – and very white. Scurvy is a very real concern since we aren’t fed a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Finally, if any of you are planning a surprise visit – don’t. According to all the online mapping sites, either a) Charleston, OR doesn’t exist, or the road and address that OIMB are located on do not exist. If you try to get here via directions from the internet, I will probably be collecting your washed up body on my next field trip (a horror I’d like to be spared). This is of course assuming that you manage to drive your car into the ocean.

But like I said earlier, it’s not that I’m not having fun. The people here are nice (strangely though, I am the only one from CA) and really into biology, which is really cool. We had a bonfire on the beach and a few of us just took our beers out to the rocks and started looking at inverts. We’re seeing a lot of cool stuff and learning a lot of cool things. I’ve seen 5 species of nudibranchs and some really nifty sea cucumbers and some GINORMOUS gumboot chitons. I have also learned all the names of all the orders and families for all the marine birds and mammals (I’m told that this information will eventually become useful). A bunch of us in my invert class have already violated a law in the marine mammal protection act – we found a harbor seal pup on the rocks by the tidepools and so we came up close to watch it and the thing freaked out and started flubbing away (since seals don’t really run per se). Apparently, you are not allowed to get so close to a marine mammal that you alter its behavior, which we clearly did.

Despite Charleston being in the middle of nowhere, we did manage to get out to Coos Bay to see a lumberjack contest. It was actually pretty cool – I’ll post pictures later. I have to say my favorite event was the springboard chop, where they hack a notch into a tree and then put a plank in the notch and then hop up on the plank and hack in another notch for another plank. Finally they get to the top where they chop a block of wood in half. It was crazy to see 200 lbs men standing on these little planks of wood taking full-arced swings at this block of wood. The other really cool event was when these guys had to climb what were basically 40 ft. tall telephone poles and saw off the top of one. Pretty intense.

This entry has felt more like a letter than a journal entry, so I’m going to end it like one…

Hope all of you are well, talk to you soon,

Love,

Audrey

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