Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sea Camp day 4

Sea Camp 2012 Day 4

Group B: Boat trip

The fog that greeted us this morning came straight out with a scene more out of a Wes Craven movie not the Endless Summer we were hoping for.  The city and Fiesta Island were completely overrun a thick blanket of clouds and a light wind that hinted of a swell rolling in to test the fortitude of the sea camper’s stomachs.

Breakfast was the usual delicious affair with trays full of doughnuts, sausage, eggs, and pancakes.  Once the bags were packed, team B shoehorned themselves into the familiar white and silver Sea Camp vans for the ten minute drive to the marina.   While group A prepared to kayak.
Once all seat backs and tray tables were in there up right and lock positions and all carry-on luggage was securely stowed in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of us, the Sea Camp crew explained where all of the emergency exits were located (over the side of the boat once donning a life vest), that any unplanned feeding of fish (throwing-up) was to be done OVER the side of the boat, not the ships head, and that should the oxygen masks be deployed that you should place the mask your own face before assisting a small child, or someone acting like a small child.  Hum, I guess that would mean I would be the last one on the boat to get an oxygen mask.  The safety instructions were so interesting that a huge male sea lion came and popped his head out of the water to listen, pose for photos, wish us well, and remind us to write our parents frequently.  So far the winds didn’t change the marina’s water typically glass surfaces.  Perhaps things out past the breakers things wouldn't be bad.  

The first thirty minutes of motoring was uneventful unfortunately yet the staffs predictions of a mad dash to the gunnels didn’t happen either.  The seas were angry my friends, but we were headed with the swell which helped keep breakfast where it belonged.  This season’s boat trips have yielded precious few animal sightings and at first we feared that the dolphins had performed so much for yesterday’s group that they would have nothing left to show us.  As luck would have it, a pod of common dolphins was spotted by the Sea Camp owner, Phil, from his office window at Scripps Oceanic Research Facility and radioed to the ship’s captain so the chase was on.  The Sea Watch streaked through the water thanks to the strong tail wind and friendly currents that pushed us towards the commons and in no time we had caught the pod who very kindly jumped and squeaked for pictures. When the captain rendezvous with a pod he will slow to their preferred bow surfing pace and chart a course that matches that of the dolphins.  The dolphins were headed in the opposite direction of our intended snorkeling spot which headed us into the swells so everyone on the bow watching the show had to endure the bow spray that soaked even the counselors who normally are able to avoid getting even a drop on their clothes.  The change in direction was the first real challenged for campers and I’m happy to say they passed with flying colors (although one camper managed to feed the fish four times).  It also made taking pictures impractical and staying warm impossible. In addition to the bow surfing commons, we also saw two blue whales who were more boat shy then their friends yesterday, but still the sight of the largest animal in the world is an impressive sight.

Once our marine mammal viewing ended, we motored back to La Jolla Cove where we dropped anchor and snorkeled.  The water was as clear as yesterday so we were able to see and pull up a bunch of marine life for the students to see, touch, and taste.   We saw an ocre sea star, leopard sharks, a baby habor seal, as well as having several face to face Garibaldi encounters.
To finish our water time, the students had a battle of king of the raft which was won decisively by the Kyle and Julia.  In a Slavens Sea Camp first, Kyle, Trajan, and Blake all  successfully went fishing for squid.

As soon as everyone got back on the boat and changed, we were treated trolling in the mission channel.  This is something that I have never done and I am pleased to report that it was really exciting. The bottom scrapping net caught two California Spiny Lobsters, Calico Bass, Giant Kelp Fish, and Pipe Fish.  After a brief description of the specific adaptations that have evolved to allow survival, the students were able to pet and hold everything that was liberated from the bottom of the sea.  Don’t worry, the the lobsters behaved themselves.

Even though the boat trip wasn’t the epic whale adventure of yesterday, the yield by the end of the day far exceeded our optimistic expectations.  The kids did great, learned a ton, and had the time of their lives.

Kayaking, Plankton Lab, and Sea World (group A/B)

For group A most of the Marquee Sea Camp activities were either ahead of behind us so the mood among the students was one of relaxed anticipation.  Who needs snorkeling, boogie boarding, or whale snot blown into your boat when you have kayaking, plankton lab, and Sea World on to look forward to?

In years past, Kayaking mostly filled the space in between the plankton lab and the departure for Sea World.  This year the activity took center stage in the morning schedule.  Everyone made it on to their red hard plastic double kayaks without flipping which is a real feat and glided into the middle of the bay outside the Camps front doors. 

After forming a ‘kayak raft’ we discussed the adaptations and hardships that animals must overcome to survive in the man-made bay just north of downtown San Diego.  Due to the shallowness, large surface area to volume ratio, and storm run-off, the temperature and salinity of the bay will vary widely.  The species that use Mission Bay as a home and nursery must be hardy enough to withstand all of these constant changes to thrive.  Once understanding how humankind’s actions affect the habitat for these animals, we played an animal adaptation simulation game called evisceration.  One of the adaptations that the fascinating sea cucumber has when threatened is to eviscerate(expels) it’s intestines so that the predator becomes distracted by the lure of a free meal so the sea cucumber can escape.  In our adapted kayak game, students attempt to get a blue ball from the water and into one of the two counselors yellow kayaks for a point.  There were two teams and kayakers could pass the ball from one team member to another.  The defending team without the ball tried to block passes and they could force the boat carrying the ball to eviscerate the ball if they rammed the ball carriers boat with their own.  Once the ball was in the open water, boats scrabbled to take possession and start the process again.  The kayaking star in group B was the tandem of Julia and Heidi.  They were by far the fastest crew in the sea. For group A the real game wasn’t about getting the eviscerated food into the counselors kayak, but to see which boat could capsize the most.  I believe the top team at capsizing managed to walk the plank so often that it was easier to swim onto the beach instead of paddling.

The Plankton lab was riveting, despite the enticing name of plankton lab.  For instance, did you know that 50% of the world’s oxygen comes from plankton in the ocean?  Also, the average life cycle of a tree is in the teens while plankton’s life cycle is a mere three days which means that plankton is easier to regenerate much quicker.  The most fun part of the lab is the plankton Olympiad.  Students designed a plankton character that had to be able to stay near the surface to absorb the sun’s rays for no more than 10 seconds, then sink to the bottom of a cylinder of water to avoid being burned by the sun’s rays.  To win the gold medal, your model had to have the longest time to sink to the bottom.

I am afraid that my words can’t do the wonders of Sea World justice.  To see an Orca up close is truly awe inspiring.  Their size, strength, and intelligence is unfathomable and watching the shows and the animals during their break times only scratches the surface of these top predators.  In addition to orca tanks, there is also Shark Encounter, Turtle Rescue, Penguin Encounter, Wild Artic (beluga whales, polar bears, and walruses), bat rays, sea lions, otters, bottle nose dolphins, and a top notch aquarium.  The shows are the real attraction.  You have the Shamu’s One World, Blue Horizon (dolphins and divers), Sea Lion show (the most entertaining), and the pet show.  Finely, if the animals don’t float your boat, then you always can cool off on the water coaster Atlantis, air out on the roller coaster Manta, or just get soaked on the Ship Wreck Rapids.  I can’t possible write about all the things to see and do.

As I write this report, the kids are engaged in the Sea Camp end of trip rite, the camp fire.  I hope they left some s’more for me.

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