By Mary Cook, Teacher at Sea, Scammon Bay School, Glacier Bay National Park, AK
March 28, 2016
Way back in November, when I found out the NOAA Teacher at Sea Program was going to invite alumni to sail again in celebration of their 25th Anniversary, I knew I wanted to do it again. My first experience with the program was in 2004 on NOAA Ship Ronald H. Brown as part of the launching of the Adopt a Drifter program. I also knew that if I was going to back to sea, I wanted my Native Yupik students in remote Scammon Bay, Alaska to feel personally connected to the science work and the scientists on board the ship. As their teacher, I want to provide opportunities for education and enrichment that will stay with them throughout their lives. I also want to help them value and preserve traditional knowledge as they gain and appreciate new knowledge gained in new ways. So, after being selected to be the NOAA Teacher at Sea for the Deepwater Exploration of Glacier Bay National Park expedition, I began to brainstorm ways to give my students ownership of this voyage. Someone suggested taking a mascot along to participate as a representative of our school. Thankfully, our school counselor, Kerry, happily loaned her stuffed eagle to be our traveling mascot.
The first thing we needed to do was name our mascot. I took the stuffed eagle from classroom to classroom, introducing him as our mascot in need of a name. We had a community-wide naming contest and had many names submitted. Some of the submissions were Eddie the Eagle, Smeagol the Eagle, Spot, and Superman. But one submission stood out as unique and special. It was Qanuk. Qanuk (pronounced ka-nook) means snowflake in Yupik and is the name we've given our mascot. Today, as I look out at the big fluffy snowflakes falling into the ocean water of Glacier Bay, it is a very appropriate name for our traveling mascot.
Qanuk and I left Scammon Bay on March 15 and headed for Juneau, Alaska. Our flight plan took us through Bethel and Anchorage then on to Juneau. It was a long day of travels but well worth the late night viewing of the Aurora Borealis out our plane window!
We settled in to our hotel for a couple days of orientation. Qanuk and I were also able to get out with the scientists to see a few of the sights around Juneau. Mendenhall Glacier was so impressive! And Gold Nugget waterfall roared as it cascaded down the mountain nearby. We were hoping to find a gold nugget since Juneau had once been a gold-rush town. We had no luck with that but had a fun day of hiking and exploring!
Finally the day we'd been waiting for arrived. We got our first glimpse of the research vessel Norseman II, the ship that would be our home for the next two weeks. It was beautiful to see it coming into the docks of Auke Bay!
The ship's crew welcomed us warmly. They gave us a tour and showed us to our stateroom. Introductions were made and Qanuk has been “Mr. Popularity” since day one! Our long awaited voyage was about to begin and Qanuk and I could hardly wait!
Wow! Since our voyage began, Qanuk and I have witnessed some phenomenally beautiful sights and awesome science in action! We have learned about ship operations, beautiful Glacier Bay National Park, and scientific procedures for exploring, collecting, and processing data. We have learned more about how all living things are interconnected and give us important clues about the conditions of our Earth. We even made a few new friends along the way. Qanuk and I are ready to get back to Scammon Bay to see our students and share all these experiences with them!