July 19, 2008
Unfortunately I did not have the pleasure of talking to Kevin, Jimmy and Dave officially but this outline of the mooring team comes from my casual conversations with them over the two weeks they were onboard before they left at St Paul. However, Tom was gracious enough to speak about his guys. In just a few minutes it was obvious he really cares about these men.
Kevin Taylor is from Buffalo, NY. After high school he enlisted in the Navy and spent almost all of those five years underwater as a sonar technician in an attack submarine. Tom made a point to make sure I understood he was in a sub for most of his five years. In those five years, Kevin was under the Arctic and punched through the ice more than once. That was when he knew he wanted to move to Alaska and study physical oceanography. In May 2009, Kevin will graduate from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks with a B.S. in physics and as of now is undecided where to obtain his Master's in physical oceanography. Kevin did a lot with the mooring team but his specialty was the acoustics. He had to make sure the acoustic releases communicated with each other when we dropped the spider moorings.
Here is how it works in a nutshell. We attach the cable from the boat to the acoustic release. The acoustic release is attached to the spider mooring by rope. When the mooring is on the bottom and all is good, Kevin sends the release command and a few seconds later, the buoy was slightly aft of our stern. We then winch in the cable.
I am a quite few years older than Kevin but he still felt comfortable teaching the teacher how the acoustics work and I have enormous respect for him and thank him for that. I can confidently say Kevin has the motivation, personality, and drive to be successful in life. I wish him all the luck.
Jim Johnson is from the University of Washington. He turned 49 on this journey but was humble enough or maybe smart enough not to tell anybody until after his birthday was over. He has over 20 years of experience with current meter/oceanographic moorings. Jim has/had moorings in the Bering Sea, Beaufort Sea, Chukchi Sea, Pacific, South Pacific, Equator, North Atlantic, and North Pole. Every April Jimmy returns to his mooring at the North Pole with 12,500 lbs. of equipment to retrieve the old mooring and deploy a new one. The trip takes 10 days of which six are spent in an ice camp at the Pole! Jim told me some great stories abut his adventures spanning the last 20 years. Tom is proud to say Jimmy has worked for him for the last 12 years. I know why Tom is proud of Jimmy. Jimmy slowed things down for me so he could teach me how he built each mooring to meet Tom's needs. Jimmy had no problem repeating himself three or four times so that I could actually digest what he was saying. Along with Kevin, I am glad to call Jimmy my new friend.
David Leech has 40 years in the business. That says it all. I equate that to my old man doing 38 years in the airline industry as an aircraft mechanic (avionics). That is a long time. Longer than I am old. Dave had his own business doing underwater surveying. He has been with the University of Alaska for almost 20 years and as Tom's right hand man for the last 10. Once again Tom claims to be lucky to have Dave and is thankful for his friendship. I see a trend here. More on that when I talk about Tom. I call Dave an "old salty" but imagine that salty image in front of a nice guy. Dave is soft spoken but his years on vessels commanded respect. I felt more confident in myself when he was on the fantail with us. I loved Dave's description on how the moorings measure currents. He told me the moorings use Doppler technology. When I told him I understood what that meant, he then said I must think it is done by little people in there doing magic also!!
The morning Kevin, Jimmy, and Dave left; I overslept because I was up all evening working. My intention was to wake up and see my new friends off on their lives. I regret the only good sleep I have had on the Healy was the time they left. Thanks Kevin, Jimmy, and Dave for taking me under your wing. You taught me more than you know.
Tom Weingartner is a Long Island boy from Baldwin who wanted to see Alaska before it was too late. After his undergraduate degree, he followed his passion and went to Alaska to earn his Master's degree at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. After earning his degree, Tom took a job at North Carolina State University in 1982 where he did work in equatorial waters. In 1989 he went back to Alaska and in 1990 earned his Ph.D. He currently is a professor of Marine Sciences at the Institute of Marine Science.
For many years now he has been doing research in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Beaufort Sea. When Tom is out in the field doing his research he uses his moorings and satellite tracked drifters. Tom also takes water samples with CTDs that are onboard the vessels. Tom is focusing on continental shelf oceanography. More specifically Tom is focusing on how freshwater influences the oceanography and biology of the surrounding water. I asked Tom what changes he has seen in the last few years in the northern waters of the Chukchi and the Bering. Here is what he said but not to quote him: There is a trend in reduction of ice in extent and duration. It is hard to contribute this to global climate change because of the limited data. For example, this year there was a lot of ice on the Bering.
I asked Tom if he thought he was a smart man and immediately he responded: hard worker. Tom thinks he is about above average on smarts but is lucky to love what he does, which makes it easy for him to work hard. Tom also believes he is lucky to work with such great people in the past and presently with Kevin, Jimmy and Dave. I interrupted him there to tell him I disagreed with him. Tom carries himself in a way that he brings out the best in people around him. The first night I met him, he had me take a sample of water for him so he could go to sleep. He gave me a chance because he saw I was bright eyed and bushy tailed, looking to get involved. When people like me meet him, they want to stick around him. That is why Tom keeps the company he keeps.
Question: Is global warming a debate?
"Scientists can only make suggestions on how to deal with global warming. Politicians and society make the final decisions."
Advice to my students:
The reason why Kevin, Jimmy, and Dave took me under their wings is because Tom set the course. His "forcing" of me to take his sample on the second day got me going. He made a point to say a big hello to me every day and thank me for all my help with the guys even though they could do it all without me. Along with Pat Kelly who is my P.I., Tom Weingartner has made this trip better than I ever imagined.