jk. We found crabs.
Allen Island!! What. a. trip. For 3 days, the crew + our professors explored this lovely island, collecting data for the annual marine debris survey. I initially wasn’t very excited for the 2 lectures & 2 labs that were scheduled during our time there, but I also was not prepared to realize how much fun they would actually be!
After a very frustratingly long drive (we got stuck behind some very slow drivers) and a boat ride to the island historically owned by a generation of famous Maine painters, we were greeted by Cody, one of the resident dogs. The sun was just beginning to set, creating the most beautiful backdrop for our move in to the residence. I can see why the Wyeths would want to keep this view to themselves (which apparently they do: you’re technically not allowed to draw anything while on the island).
As soon as we settled in, we were given a brief, impromptu lecture on the impacts on cod and whale migrations due to Maine’s rapidly warming waters over the past couple of years. I then, with Asha’s help, made dinner: my ‘gourmet’ 3-cheese mac & cheese which was 100% inspired by my middle school’s version and also taken from the internet, along with some of Paty’s extra green beans. It can be sort of a hit or miss, but it turned out to be a pretty great hit this time! Thank god.
After dinner, we ran through the rain towards the dock to collect a sample using a net tow. It was really dark so you could see some of the bio-luminescence from the phytoplankton in the water. We then gathered in the basement lab space of the residence to observe some of the organisms under a high-intensity microscope. Derek, Nico, and I spent at least an hour trying to grab one of the extremely fast shrimp larvae (?) but it was well worth it to see it so big. Here’s a gif of a polychaete dancing!! bioluminescence
Inspired by the rain and our trip to the dock, half the group went for a dip in the water while the other half stayed in the kitchen and ate the rest of the cheese. It was delicious. We all eventually went to the beach, watched 3 people almost get hypothermia, and were ambushed by green crabs. Seriously, they were everywhere. It was honestly pretty scary. These are the invasive species that killed the blue mussels.
The next day, we woke up bright and early to take a tour of the art museum featuring some of the Wyeths’ art and an assortment of antique fishing material left over from the Native American tribe that used to inhabit the island. There were a couple canoes made out of birch wood and skins, containing a headpiece/mask that the chief would generally wear. It was incredible to see the level of detail and craftsmanship that went into making each of these exquisite items. When you stepped onto the porch, you could see another island with what I remember to be an untouched sacrifice (as well as a giant clamshell). The second floor was lined with 3 generations of Wyeths’ art. It was cool to see the stylistic differences between each painter in the family, if not mildly surprising to see more technical pieces from the younger members. We found another crab outside.
The marine debris survey officially began on Bunkhouse Beach. All 6 of us paired up and tallied up the amount of different types of debris found along our “transect” which spanned a 10m width along the beach. We would take into account debris ranging from the smallest piece of seaglass to large lobster traps and wood panels. Bunkhouse Beach was a breeze and definitely did not prepare us for the overwhelming amount of trash found at Station 3 & Betsey’s Beach. I think I almost cried when I had to try and distinguish and keep count of how many planks of wood were in a giant pile in our transect. Most of the debris was washed up further in shore, and when we found a leaky but unused bottle of dish soap among the rocks, I couldn’t help but wonder how long that item had been sitting on that island. We had no way of knowing if the same things were counted in previous years, and we also unfortunately had to leave the debris where it was because it would be too large of a clean up with no real value. But I digress; for the most part, the process was really engaging and I did enjoy myself (as much as one can when counting trash that they can’t pick up). The view, if I hadn’t mentioned already, was incredible so I didn’t really mind. (It was actually so nice that I didn’t even feel terrible waking up early)
Dinner featured Paty’s special: curry & rice along with a nice side of “lecture” numero 2 in which each of our professors talked about their life trajectories and how they found their way to Bigelow. For someone who’s been freaking out about her future since freshman year of college, I found it rather comforting to know that college isn’t the end-all, be-all and I learned a lot to keep in mind. We rounded out the night with a couple games: namely BS & a couple rounds of silent football moderated, in part, by our resident COOT mom, Asha. We were laughing so hard at one point that our professors seemed concerned with what we were doing. Stakes were high: if you lost the round, the rest of the group would vote on your punishment. By the end of the night, Tay ended up having to eat a soft apple & Derek had *made a promise* to fully submerge himself & stay in the freezing water for a full minute.
The sun was shining & the Hannafords brand crispy hexagons were calling my name. With one last goodbye to Cody and an adieu to the view, we left the island. In all seriousness, Allen Island was absolutely the best field trip I have ever been on with fantastic people, meals, lectures, and labs. Writing that lab the next weekend however, … maybe not so much, but hey! We were mentioned by Paty herself in a government hearing on marine debris! So that makes it all worth it.