Girl Scouts is all about trying new things, broadening a girl’s horizon, and building courage, confidence, and character along the way. Last year, when I applied for the Science Communication Fellowship with the Ocean Exploration Trust, I was stretching myself for two big reasons: one was to further develop my own courage, confidence, and character. More important was to take girls with us on the journey, to inspire them and enable them to see themselves taking on new challenges and embarking on journeys of their own.
Last summer, I traveled to Panama, where I met up with the E/V Nautilus. It had just entered the Pacific Ocean for the first time, after journeying through the Panama Canal. (You can view a video of that journey here.) I was incredibly excited and nervous, exhausted from all the travel to get down there, and overwhelmed with the many differences between Panama City and home. Once aboard the Nautilus, I sailed to the Galápagos Islands, where we explored a place at the boundary of creation, a crevice deep under the sea that marked the divergence of the Nazca and Cocos plates.
Here, we sought the hydrothermal vents that were first discovered by Dr. Robert Ballard (founder and president of the Ocean Exploration Trust) in 1977. We discovered a stark and forbidding landscape, a place wrought by water and fire and pressure, a territory inhabited by fantastic creatures, worthy of wonder. And I had the tremendous privilege of communicating that wonder to the world, through the portal at www.nautiluslive.org, where I could interact with the global audience fascinated with our exploration, and through live interactions with audiences around the world in schools, museums, aquaria, and more. The cutting edge technology known as telepresence makes it possible; discovery in real time is a revolutionary event that we can experience together.
The experience was, in so many ways, so much richer than I could have ever imagined. I tried many new things, met a lot of new and interesting people, and created stories and memories that I could then bring back to audiences at home. Once home, my job shifted to sharing the experience and the wonder of ocean exploration with the public. From kindergarteners to the elderly, people are fascinated to learn what’s underneath all that water.
So when the opportunity arose to apply once again, to return to the sea this summer, I leapt at it.
As a lifetime resident of Southern California, I have logged many, many hours in and on the ocean here. And I have always been fascinated myself with what’s underneath all that water. Boogie boarding, surfing, and kayaking give you a glimpse from the surface. Snorkeling immerses you in the environment, your breath whooshing noisily in your own ears as you explore. Diving allows you to explore the sunlit reaches of the realm, which means in this place, mostly sandy bottoms, rocky reefs, and kelp forests. But what about the deep sea?
What about the land of shipwrecks, of deep sea faults, and mysterious seeps from the ocean floor? What manner of creature swims or crawls or drifts in the darkened places of the deep?
In a couple of weeks, I will be returning to the E/V Nautilus, boarding in San Diego, and trying to answer some of these questions as we make our way through a region off the coast of Southern California known as the Borderlands. I will be blogging here on the GSCCC website, and contributing weekly columns to the Ventura County Star, in the Sunday edition. Please join me, and share your comments. Girl Scouts, there is still time to sign up for the Nautilus ship tour in San Francisco on August 17. And please join me through the Nautilus Live website as we explore the deep sea alongside the Corps of Exploration!
What are some things that you have done that have scared you? Did they somehow promote growth? Please share in the comment field below!
The above is the beginning of a multi-part series to run over the next couple of months. Melissa Baffa, Vice President of Program and Volunteer Services for GSCCC, will be joining the Corps of Exploration again this year, exploring the deep sea aboard the E/V Nautilus. This blog series will chronicle her dive into the Unknown.
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