Scarpa North America Blog

Adam U’s Summer at Sea

Oct. 30th 2012

SCARPA athlete Adam Ü seems to have found the perfect balance between work and play. A marine biologist by trade, he spent the summer touring around islands in the South Pacific doing marine mammal surveys. He arrived home to the Pacific Northwest just in time for some late season marine mammal surveys near Juan de Fuca Plate. Now that the weather is changing, he will put on his ski boots and spend the winter touring around the Cascades. Rough life, we know.

Adam Ü + summer = sea time.

Every spring I make a transformation from Adam Ü: professional skier to Adam Ü: marine biologist. This year the transformation was especially abrupt; in mid-April I bid my skis adieu and flew from snowy Mt. Baker to American Samoa to join a research expedition on the NOAA ship Oscar Elton Sette.

There was plenty to see in the month it took us to sail from American Samoa to Hawaii. Here’s a Red-tailed tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda.

Here is a nice group of Fraser’s dolphins Lagenodelphis hosei.

One highlight of the cruise was crossing the equator. Line-crossing ceremonies are the nautical equivalents of climbing the Seven Summits and the equator is the Mt. Everest of the bunch.

I had a few days of R&R in Hawaii and then hopped on a plane to work on a six-week marine mammal survey of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. This region is relatively unstudied so almost everything we learn there is new.

Instead of working from a large ship we work from small sport fishing boats.

Pantropical spotted dolphins Stenella attenuata are one of our most commonly seen species.

We were working around Saipan on the 68th anniversary of the U.S. invasion during WWII. There is still a lot of evidence of the battles around the islands, including this Sherman tank in the lagoon.

One of the perks of working from small fishing boats was the ability to fish while we worked. The goal was to bring home a little aku or ahi for a fresh sashimi dinner, but every once in awhile we’d hook something slightly bigger (catch and release for these guys!)

Finally, after almost three months in the tropics, I was able to return home to Washington. By now the summer was in full swing, but instead of going climbing, surfing, and biking like everyone else, I headed back to sea. This time I was monitoring for marine mammals during a geologic survey of the Juan de Fuca Plate, and there was a lot of marine life to see out there.

Humpback whales Megaptera novaeanglidae were everywhere along the 100m curve.

Pacific white-sided dolphins Lagenorhynchus obliquidens (on the left) and Northern right whale dolphins Lissodelphis borealis (on the right) often travel together in the California current.

The weather was a bit colder than the tropical heat I was used to but I managed to deal. Flippies all the way!

Our average survey speed for whales was the same as trolling speed for the albacore tuna that just happened to be running so just like in the CNMI, we dragged some lines. Seems a shame to waste a good trolling speed!

After two weeks off the Washington coast I finally had some quality time off to enjoy the North Cascades.

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