Sue and Amy remove basket starfish

Sue Doenges and Amy Baco-Taylor remove basket starfish from a branch of paragorgia (a deep-sea coral) collected from Warwick Seamount. Click image for larger view.

Perspective from a Midwestern Teacher

July 13, 2002

Sue Doenges
Fifth Grade Teacher
Mill Street Elementary School, Naperville, IL

When Dr. Randy Keller, a geologist from Oregon State University, called to offer me the opportunity to accompany him and several other groups of research scientists to the Gulf of Alaska on board the R/V Atlantis, I couldn't get “yes!” out fast enough. I live so far from the realms of the ocean in Naperville, Illinois, that I had no idea what I might experience on an oceanic research cruise, but I certainly wanted to find out.

For the past 23 days, I have lived and worked with a fabulous crew on the Atlantis, and they are very different from the stereotypical views that exist of scientists and sailors. There are no wild-haired Albert Einstein's nor any Popeyes and Brutus's. I have met some very interesting people with incredible stories to tell of their lives and of their scientific passions, and they relate to their world much the same way I relate to my love of teaching. I feel their depth of knowledge and their love of learning when I speak with them.

Sue with Atlantis Captain George Silva

Sue Doenges and Atlantis Captain George Silva on the fantail of the Atlantis after an Alvin recovery. Click image for larger view.

The scientists and crew have been wonderful, and their willingness to include me in their work has been remarkable. I have observed the extensive precision with which Dr. Amy Baco-Taylor collects her biological specimens sitting in a 32-degree refrigerator for hours at a time, and she has allowed me to participate in her very cold work! When Dr. Tom Guilderson talks about the study he is conducting on deep-sea corals, he loses me in pedantic gobbledy-gook, but he always manages to rethink what he is saying and pull me along so that I can understand. I love the way he gets me involved by letting me help with the corals when they come up in the Alvin basket after a dive. Today I was able to assist Dr. Tom Shirley with a deep-sea spider crab dissection. As I took notes while watching the dissection, I was struck by the need for our students in elementary school to learn the importance of recording their own observations. My experiences with the scientists on this research cruise have certainly helped me understand how my students need to be engaged in hands-on learning to cement their own experiences. I can't wait to share these incredible at-sea experiences with my students back in land-locked Illinois! Who knows which of them may want to join the maritime world someday because of what I tell them of my own experiences.

Chief Mate Mitzie Crane and Ed “Catfish” Popowitz

Chief Mate Mitzie Crane and Ed “Catfish” Popowitz on the bridge of the Atlantis. Click image for larger view.

The Movers and Shakers of the Atlantis

The Atlantis crew is made up of a microcosm of adventurers, academics, seamen, and risk takers. All are hardworking people with incredible experiences to relate. Imagine the life of Chief Mate Mitzie Crane, making her mark in a man's world. When she started her maritime career 20 years ago, she entered a world that included very few women. She attributes her ability to move up in rank to her Dutch grandmother's stubbornness. “When someone said no, I wouldn't give up,” she told me. Mitzie's determination is remarkable, and I am impressed as I see her standing at the helm of the ship issuing orders.

AB (able bodied) Seaman Jerry Graham

AB Seaman Jerry Graham in the throes of continuous maintenance of the ship. Click image for larger view.

Atlantis crewmembers Rob Hill, Uriel Carpenter, Patrick Hennessy (bosun), and Paul Shute

Crewmembers Rob Hill, Uriel Carpenter, Patrick Hennessy, and Paul Shute pause following a recovery of the Alvin on the deck of the Atlantis. Click image for larger view.

Then there is the crew of the Atlantis, many of whom have been devoted to the sea for their whole lives. Their stories range from those who are children of sailors to those who are graduates of maritime academies, and from histories as shore dwellers to those who spent former lives on ranches or in big business. It amazes me how content they are, how much fun they are, and how incredibly learned they are. These are people who have traveled to places in the world many only read about in books. They are readers, singers, spoofers and thinkers. They are engineers, mechanics, and artists. I have marveled at what it must take to live eight months at sea each year, and to have only four short months at home. In many ways, the wonders of this at-sea experience and the peaceful moments I have had gathering my thoughts while standing alone on the stern of the ship, have caused me to view their world as ‘just right.'


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