11 things I learned from my first season of gill nets.
Well readers this week marked the end of another chapter of my life. Now that I’m out of school and working life is no longer counted in semesters but gill net seasons. And this rookie has a single notch in her belt after 10 weeks of hell (not counting my notch as an intern).
Once again I’d like to begin this post with a disclaimer that although I am an employee at TPWD they are NOT associated with this blog post or with the views contained in this blog post – these are my thoughts as an individual.
So many of you are probably wondering….what the hell is a gill net? Gill nets are our way of assessing the adult fish populations in our bay systems (along with fisheries surveys at the boat ramp). The data that we obtain from these nets is critical for making management decisions. Much of the bag/size limit of our fisheries is dependent upon this data. For 10 weeks in the spring and the fall we deploy 4-5 nets per week to sample different locations within our system. These nets are 600 feet long with meshes of differing sizes (6 to 3 inches) – they soak from sunset to sunrise and then we pick them up. From there we measure and count everything that comes up. Lively fish are returned to the water and for fish that cannot be saved they are utilized for research – age and growth studies, feeding ecology, genetics, physiology, and much more.
So now that we have some background – without further ado here comes the 11 inevitable truths of gill net season:
1. Are you a morning person? Because you’re going to be.
It’s not often that I sit in bed for the first 5-10 minutes after I wake up and question my every life decision…but when I do it’s probably gill net season. Gill net season means waking up between 0330 and 0400 every morning to be at the nets by sunrise. My body wakes me up at 0400 every single day now. Thanks gill net season! I never wanted to sleep in again. Extra bonus points for being coupled with a set the night before (I usually got home around 9-10 PM).
2. The sun. The tan lines. So bad.
When the sun finally peeks it’s little sleepy head over the horizon it only takes about 30 minutes for it to be boiling hot in Southeast Texas. Coupled with the general lack of wind and a slicker/deck suit you’ll soon be descending into the pits of hell. After about 2-3 weeks you’ll begin noticing your Columbia shirt tan come in nicely. This is how you know that you’re part of the cool kids club. Sometimes the sauna that is your slicker suit helps you drop that extra, pesky 5 pounds!
3. Fish guts. Fish slime. Fish ‘errything ‘errywhere.
If you don’t like fish guts then you probably picked the wrong job. Fish guts and slime will cover your entire being. How many times this season did I get, “Hey Katie, what’s that in your hair?” only to respond “Meh, probably fish guts.”
4. Your clothes will never be the same.
This goes back to my last point of fish guts. Fish slime. Fish everywhere. One time my stench and clothing was so bad that David wouldn’t even let me come in the house. Pro tip – Get yourself a large bin, some water, and Oxi clean.
Let that shit soak. Literally let it soak off. Friends don’t let friends put fish guts in their/their wive’s washing machines.
5. That smell…it’s probably me.
Has the wind ever blown and sent a whiff of something horrible to your nostrils only for you to discover…damn that’s me. Every day. What’s that smell? It’s me…I can smell myself. A mixture of sweat, sunscreen, fish guts…
6. Butt sweat. It happens.
By far…my *favorite* part of gill net season is when the sun has risen over the horizon, I’m elbow deep picking fish out of the net, and then I feel it. The river of sweat from my back – straight into the valley. Butt sweat. It happens, it is the disgusting truth. When those bib pants come off it’s like a river running straight into my boots. Alright…probably too much imagery for you.
Anyone remember the Juicy Couture track suits from our adolescence? The ones with writing on the ass? I think I need writing on the back of my bib pants that says “Butt Sauna”.
7. Can I push my coworker off the boat yet?
About three fourths of the way through the season morale will be at an all time low. The combination of getting up early, being trapped with your coworkers, and having the shittiest sets of nets to pick up will put even the cheeriest person in a bad mood. While picking nets at the front of the boat you’ll question the legality of pushing your coworker off the boat. The short answer – don’t do it…no matter how annoying they are.
8. Pro tip – close your mouth.
I mean this in a dirty sense. Like literally. When you’re going to town picking through that 3″ mesh at the end your brain will stop working. Then the next thing you know you’ve eaten about a teaspoon of hard head catfish slime that’s ricocheted into your open mouth. Go ahead and throw up – that’s a legit reason. Never leave home without your buff neck gaiter. It may just save your life. Spoiler alert – it tasted horrible – don’t swallow it – no one will call you a quitter.
9. Go before you leave home.
If this was a blog where you think everything is sugar coated then stop reading. Go before you leave home or you’re going to be taking a marsh poop. Pro tip – don’t eat Taco Bell the day before a pick up and always pack toilet paper in your field bag. Once you take a marsh poop your coworkers will never let you forget. No marsh or land to poop on? Enjoy pooping off the back of the boat where your coworkers will hear and smell everything.
10. Watch out for snakes.
Got a little story for you – about a girl named Katie who decided to eat some dewberries for dinner while waiting to set a gill net. She almost picked the wrong berry. Please remember while picking berries or taking marsh poops to always check for snakes. I needed a good marsh poop after stumbling upon this.
11. If you haven’t quit by the end of gill net season – you probably chose the right career.
This is the gauntlet. The weed out. Only the strong survive. Just remember you didn’t choose the fish life, the fish life chose you. We get to witness the best sunrises and sets. Pat yourself on the back, keeper of the coast, this was another one for the books.
There it is – the 11 inevitable truths of gill net season. If you need me I’ll be sewing gill nets for next season in the shop and catching up on 2.5 months worth of sleep.
The 10 do’s and don’ts of launching your boat at the ramp.
Now that the warmer months are upon us I’d like to share a little informative piece about how to not be “that” asshole at the boat ramp.
After a painful Memorial Day weekend of working at a couple of boat ramps it’s time that the general public be made aware of some serious boat ramp offenses. I’d also like to say that this blog post does not represent the views of Texas Parks and Wildlife or the Coastal Fisheries Department – this is wholly my opinion outside of my khaki shirt (if you’re watching big brother, there’s your disclaimer).
1. Consider practicing your trailer backing skills BEFORE you get to the boat ramp.
It’s okay. We’ve all been there – and everyone has to learn at some point. Just please do so in the comfort of your own driveway or at an empty boat ramp or parking lot. Do not try to learn at the busiest boat ramp in the county on a Saturday morning. You’re going to piss everyone off.
I’d suggest setting some cones out and remember when backing a trailer…less is more! Use your mirrors!
2. For the love of all that’s holy PLEASE load all your gear and people in the boat in the parking lot (out of the way) and not in the actual slip.
Please do not be that guy who PARKS in the slip while folks are lined up down the road/parking lot ready to launch that wants to slowly load items one by one into your boat. And if I’m waiting behind you…you’ll feel my eyes glaring literal holes through you.
3. While we’re on the topic of gear…put life jackets on your children.
Nothing quite upsets me like watching your Darwin award winning self drive away with those sweet babies and no life jackets. Your children shouldn’t be punished for your stupidity. PUT LIFE JACKETS ON YOUR CHILDREN. End of conversation.
4. Don’t be that person who sinks their boat in the ramp after launching.
I’ve watched this happen in my two short years of working at the boat ramp. TWICE. Two times too many. Seriously don’t forget your plugs and actually look around for ship traffic if you’re launching near a busy shipping lane (I’m looking at you fools at the Samson Yarbrough Ramp).
5. Don’t be that person who wakes everyone out while leaving/coming to the ramp.
You’re not the Vin Diesel of the boat ramp – stop acting like it. If you want to waste a bunch of gas then go practice in open water. You’re responsible for your wake so try not to put other people in danger.
6. Check yourself before you wreck yourself. Trim that motor up when you’re leaving the ramp.
Wanna know what’s worse than nails on a chalkboard? Hearing your brand new Yamaha 250 scrape against the concrete at the ramp. I’ll be in near physical pain just for your sake.
7. Leaving your boat in the slip while you talk about how giant your fish was with another dude at the ramp is just as bad as #2 on this list…
Seriously….just move your boat out of the ramp – that’s the main take away from this post. I don’t care if you’re “pro staff”….move your crap. The rest of us waiting don’t care about all the dinks you took photos with. I don’t care if your boat is brand new. Take your Sperry wearin’, Columbia shirt clad self out of everyone’s way. Seriously…I don’t even care if you’re the Pope. MOVE.
8. If you’re that person who yells at your wife/significant other/buddy while docking your boat…don’t.
I’m going to judge you if I’m sitting at the ramp. One of my favorite stories is about a guy who was yelling and cussing at his wife while she was backing the boat trailer (pretty well in my opinion for someone who didn’t do it often). She’d had enough of his bull so she just took off with the truck and trailer and left him at the ramp. Dude was fuming but I literally rolled out of my chair laughing.
9. Going along with #7 when you’ve successfully trailered your boat and pulled it out of the ramp KEEP GOING.
Really move your damn boat out of the way of people trying to trailer and launch. Find a nice piece of parking lot out of their way to unload your gear and people. Also I don’t think trailered is a word but I’m making it one for the sake of this blog post. Sue me.
10. Women are perfectly capable of boating, driving, and backing a trailer.
Y’all it’s the 21st damn century. If I get stopped one more time at the ramp and asked if I need help simply because I’m girl…I think I may snap. Not that I’m trying to be cocky but I probably back a trailer better than most grown men (I do it a lot for work and have a lot of practice). So when you approach me at the ramp and ask if I need help or tell me I do a good job for a girl…I’m going to throw you one of these:
Finally a little bonus to this list…..please be nice to anyone conducting a survey while you’re at the ramp. We’re just trying to do our jobs – it’s hot and most of us wish we were the ones on the boat instead.
So with that – here’s my tips on how to not be “that” person at the boat ramp. If you violate any of these you’ll make me pull one of these:
Take it easy y’all. May your stringers be full and your lines tight. Drink and boat responsibly.
The Girl with the Big Bass sheds her waders to go wedding dress shopping and shares ten tips for landing the one!
On my last post about our not-so-mushy, blunt, tell-it-all love story I promised you a post about wedding dress shopping. So without further ado here is the journey of how on several cold weekends in January I shed my normal daily wear of waders to pick out a white dress.
For any bride out there – your journey usually begins on Pinterest. I know mine did!
But let’s be honest. Most of those dresses are not made to fit this cornbread fed body or cost more than my truck.
I started my journey at a consignment shop in Houston. I figured that a used wedding dress is a lot more cost efficient! But when we walked in I figured out my first point…
You have to have an appointment to try anything on. This is the rule almost anywhere you go.
2. Your size in wedding dresses is usually anywhere from 2-3 sizes bigger than your normal size.
I started browsing for dresses my normal 12-14 size and was quickly corrected with, “Um you need to be looking in the plus size section because you’re like a size 20 or 22.”
That was actually completely false – all of the size 20 and up wedding dresses they brought me fell to the floor when I stepped in them. Also putting a bride in a corseted dress that’s like 5 sizes too big doesn’t work either. “Oh look it fits.” Yeah and you can’t even tell it’s corseted because it’s all the way tight….
But don’t be surprised that if you’re a curvier bride you’ll be looked down on at “higher end” places…
After drowning my fat shamed sorrow with some sweet tea and some mexican food we decided to give classic ol’ David’s Bridal a chance next. Luckily they gave us an appointment on the spot for 30 minutes after we’d shown up.
While waiting for an appointment, we got free reign of the dress racks to look at everything which brings me to my next point…
3. Actually looking at dresses and pulling things you want to try on is super overwhelming.
Like the control freak’s nightmare. Hundreds, thousands of all white dresses in static-y plastic covers, smooshed together. The store’s already a million degrees and you’re wondering why you’re even here.
My consultant, Jan*, was nothing like you’d watch on weekend mornings on TLC. It seemed to be a re-occuring trend everywhere I had been. This brings me to my next point…
4. Not every consultant is Randy from Say Yes to the Dress. Some of them really suck. Some of them are better than Randy. Getting a consultant is a lot like a box of chocolates.
They’d tell you anything you wanted to hear to put you in a dress (some SUPER unflattering) just to sell it and get you off the floor. Jan wanted to shove me into every size 12 and 14 dress they had on the rack, stunt my breathing by zipping them up, and tell me that they fit like a glove….yeah because I didn’t want to move or even sit on my wedding day…..This brings me to my next point…
5. Bring that super blunt friend with you who cares about what YOU want but also cares about the amount of back fat gapping out of the back of that beautifully detailed dress.
The first dress Jan put me in from David’s bridal barely even buttoned to the point where I couldn’t breathe and it made my back feel like a busted can of biscuit dough that had rolled out the grocery bag and under seat on a July day in Southeast Texas (was that enough imagery for you?). Jan couldn’t get over how beautiful it was but I looked at my friend Meagan who gave me the stank face. I made her promise at the beginning of my journey to always say no if I had back fat and the face said it all. I took one look in the floor to ceiling mirrors and nope’d right back into that dressing room.
I’d also like to take a moment to thank my dear friend Meagan for performing the task of “button bitch” and insisting to every consultant that EVERY single button on the back of my dress better be buttoned before they let me walk out of the dressing room.
The next dress Jan put me in brings me to my next point….
6. If you’re a bride about utility you think of everything before you make a decision on the dress of your dreams.
The next dress that I slipped into….HAD POCKETS.
As much as I tried to love the pocketed dress….it brought a lot of things to my attention like the 5 years of college done the right way and the many cracked cold ones after a long day on the water at work. But me being the type of girl I am walked out and exclaimed (loud enough for half of David’s Bridal to hear) “It has pockets…for not one but TWO flasks of whiskey.”
Jan looked at me like I had just exited from the trailer park.
But if it’s one thing I took away from dress shopping it is that you want to be comfortable and feel like a million bucks in whatever you pick out. I want to take a minute to say I’m sorry for any consultant who had to deal with me. I probably made some comments that they weren’t used to hearing. Some of my favorites were:
“Can we pick something that hides my beer belly a little better?”
-Flops on couch next to friends- “Yep this one definitely passes the sit test.”
“I’m a simple girl but the train of this dress needs to be super extra.”
“Nope this one is not extra enough for me.”
“I feel like I can eat BBQ and get down in this one.” -does small dancing jig on the platform-
Consultant: “How do you want to look and feel on your big day?” Me: “I want to be super extra…but comfortable.”
“I feel like I could definitely hide a flask or two of whiskey in this one.”
-Picks up arms in sleeves- “Nope still won’t affect my ability to chug whiskey out of the bottle.”
“Yup this one is bringing a LOT of things to my attention that no one wants to see.”
“I promise there’s a waist in there between my boobs, my beer belly, and my butt.”
While we’re on the topic of brutal honesty while dress shopping, it brings me to my next point….
7. A lot of dress consultants are pretty much going to see you naked so you better get over being shy.
Luckily for me my first few appointments at lower end dress stores we pushed all of the “Jan’s” out the dressing room and I had least had my girls who’d seen everything. But once I began shopping at the higher end boutiques the consultants were required to go in. But me being me – I didn’t care. I felt pretty much like Amy Schumer in her new “I Feel Pretty Movie.”
To all the brides out there – my advice to you is to bring nude colored lingerie. Some of the dresses they put you in can be see-through. I’m sure that you don’t want half of the bridal boutique seeing your hot pink thong – not that I’d know from experience or anything. Or your consultant for that matter. Also don’t show up in a sports bra on that same day – make sure you have a strapless.
This rolls me into my next point….eventually when you go to the right shops – consultants are actually helpful. At the tail end of my journey I’d already narrowed down what I had wanted.
8. A good consultant will know what body types look good in what dresses. Trust them and you may be surprised at what you end up liking.
I never wanted to be that girl who picked a ball gown. I thought I had the right figure to pull of something that was more form fitted.
But my beer belly ruined it all. Even towards the end of my dress shopping journey I let consultants put me in things that I didn’t necessarily choose and needless to say…I was impressed. Go in with an idea of what you want but don’t be afraid to compromise. I was totally willing to compromise on the silhouette of my dress so that all of my assets were highlighted and the things I wanted hidden stayed hidden below a corset or layers of fabric where they belonged.
But the thing that plagued me the most during my hunt for the dress was my next point…
9. If you’re a girl who likes sleeves…good luck.
Although the duchess supposedly brought sleeves back for the masses, they’re still hard as heck to find. The main struggle of my dress journey was finding a dress with sleeves. And sadly, I never found the one, which brings me to my next point…
10. They can do a LOT of things in alterations. Don’t throw out a dress you love because it’s missing one of the things on your wish list.
The dress I ended up picking actually needs enough alterations to keep any seamstress busy for a couple months. But hey….I’m getting my sleeves!
After a month long, exhaustive search, I was convinced that I’d be wearing a burlap sack down the aisle. I’m not an emotional person by any means but I never got “that feeling” in any dress I had tried on. My friends had (Meagan cried at nearly everything I tried on). But I hadn’t.
I made an appointment at an upscale boutique that had most of the designers I’d been “pinning” and when I walked in – it was a treasure trove of lace ball gowns. I picked a few to try on and was beginning to lose faith. I just knew I was going to just “pick one” so I could get it over with. I was afraid I’d have dress regret. But finally my last option came up on the hanger. It was something my consultant had pulled for me – I scoffed at the fact that it didn’t have sleeves but I agreed to put it on any ways. I was so exhausted at this point with this being the third dress shop we’d walked into that day. The reality was that no dress until this point had overwhelming comments from the group I’d brought with me.
I was pinned in and walked out to show it off for the entire group. I made the remark “I think this might be a little too poofy for David…I’m not too sure.” And that’s when I turned around and saw Meagan crying.
I sat in front of the mirror for a while feeling nothing. Sometimes the magic doesn’t happen until they show you what they can do in alterations.
I felt like the same fat little dumpling that had been in every other dress store. Standing in a dress that was too big – like an outsider swathed in layers of tulle and not polyester and neoprene. Would it be legal to wear a white Columbia shirt down the aisle? For a girl who is comfortable in her own skin most of the time, I felt like such an outsider to this entire world. I was out of my element.
Sometimes it takes someone with vision to come along and show you that you don’t always have to be the girl in the marsh covered in fish guts – the plain Jane that no one would ever think of being anything more. The owner of the boutique came and yanked the fabric around my waist to show me what it would be altered to look like and the consultant gathered lace and tulle around my arms to show me that sleeves could be added to the dress. Another consultant added a veil that fell gently over the train of the dress. And at that point I turned around to see my mother crying on the couch behind me. My best friends all with tissues in their hands.
Then I started crying. And we knew I had finally found the one. After some quick measurements – the dress was ordered and I was on my way.
I finally found my dress.
And just for everyone reading – I’ll slip in a snapshot of one of the many reject dresses that I tried on during the journey:
But unfortunately for the rest of you who weren’t there you have EXACTLY 6 months to wait until the real thing is here.
From waders to a wedding dress – this has been quite the journey but I’m excited for our big day – thanks for reading y’all!
–The Girl With the Big Bass (in the white dress and not the waders this time)
P.S. for all my Houston gals getting married – The Princess Bridal in Spring deserves all the praise in the world! I’m so glad that I went to them to find my dress – make sure to add them to your list!
In honor of a year of being engaged, sit down and read all the juicy details of my proposal that have never been shared!
It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to sit behind the screen and write something for all of you to read – but I’m back.
A lot has happened since we last talked. We’ve moved (and moved again) and I got my first full time job out of college. However, this blog post is a back pedal to last year. We’re going to go back to February 4, 2017 to talk about my favorite story from the Antarctic, so buckle up readers….it’s story time.
I’d like to begin with a little informational fact. Now I know many of you are penguin lovers. How many of you asked to be on the penguin mailing list last year? At least 50 of you….
Approximately 17 species of penguin collect pebbles or rocks to present to their mates. One of the species (Magellanic penguins, these are the ones found in South America) are even monogamous. Male penguins work to collect these pebbles to construct a nest in order to woo their female counterparts. Once the female enters the nest she is presented with the pebble(s) as a sort of penguin proposal.
Pretty damn romantic for some penguins right? You guys could learn something from these birds.
I hope you’ve all learned something today about the penguins – the Adelies and Gentoos that I saw when I was in Antarctica last year were pebble penguins, too. But I digress – the real reason I’m writing this post is to talk about my favorite memory of Antarctica. To talk about my awkward little penguin. First we’re going to take a little blast from the past…
A little over five years ago I walked into the Buckshot Saloon in Galveston, Texas with some friends. It had been a real tough week – tests and really bad break up. We were just looking to dance and have some fun. We sat at a table with some mutual friends who had brought along some friends and that was the first time I’d really ever paid attention to him. Across the booth from me sat a jolly, bare faced guy named David. I’d met him before but all I really knew was that he refused to come to game night in our dorm and was from Chicago. He tried to keep talking to me but my face was buried in my phone, uninterested. Finally our friend Andrew suggested that we (David and I) should dance together for the night (for non-Texas folks this was a country and western bar). I agreed…..what could it hurt?
He was a terrible dancer. “What did I get myself into?”, I thought. He asked me questions, what was my major, what did I enjoy doing in my spare time…small talk. All I could think about was how hairy this dude’s knuckles were. Actually all of him was pretty hairy except for his face that had a 5 o’clock shadow. Answering his questions were difficult as I had to keep up with the fact that he was literally hopping across the dance floor as we danced.
As the night went on, friends had fun, and we had both offered to play designated driver. I drove my car and friend to her house, and he drove her car to her house. It occurred to me on the way there that I did not know this man. He could have been an axe murderer for all I knew. After all it was nearly 3 AM and we did live in Galveston. Panic set in as he got into my car after dropping our friend off…he needed a ride back to campus. I had a hunting knife stashed in my side pocket. I figured I might be quick enough to hit an artery if he tried any funny business. It was only about 5 miles back to campus.
The car ride was spent in near uncomfortable silence as I thought of all the ways he might try to murder me. Finally we crossed the two lane drawbridge to Pelican Island (seems pretty murder-y to you, right?) I asked him where on campus he lived….and he replied to me, “The corps dorms – Albatross.”
Never had I ever wanted someone out of my car so bad. If there was one rule I’d learned after starting at Texas A&M – it was that you stay far away from corps boys. And I had planned to do exactly that.
And now dear readers……..I am marrying that very same corps guy in less than a year.
Life has a very funny and mysterious way of working. For weeks this boy followed me around. He held doors for me, carried my books, asked permission to “escort” me to class, and even got me lunch on Wednesdays between my back to back classes. No one had ever been this nice to me. I eventually turned to my mom and explained all the nice things this boy was doing for me and she replied with, “Tell him to go away!”
And so I did. I told him that I refused to date him. His only response, “Well can we at least be friends?” And so we were. He listened to me talk about my classes, my family, my future career plans. He held me on the really hard days following my break up and listened. He also knew that pain. We watched Disney movies together, we went to the beach just to walk and talk about life. Never once did he ask for more than to be my friend.
A month went by and we became part of each other’s routine. Doing homework, getting Taco Cabana, watching movies, friends’ game night. Then came Thanksgiving break – he went to Waco, and I went home to Dayton. It occurred to me while lying in bed, bored out of my mind one night that I actually missed his presence. It became clear to me at that point…..I had caught the feelings.
The more I thought about it, the more I knew. In today’s day and age, it is rare that you find someone who genuinely cares for you (I’ve hijacked my friends’ Tinder accounts before to see what all the fuss is about and NOPE…it is a COLD world out there, ladies). This guy liked me so much that he was willing (and not mad in the least) to be blatantly friend zoned. Not to mention, there was some real potential there for lumberjack beard growth.
A week after Thanksgiving break, I made the decision to take poor David out of the friend zone. Male readers – please take a moment to clap and rejoice for another man exiting the friend zone.
Our favorite thing to do at the time was to walk on the beach (cliché I know but sue me). When we finally got close to my car to leave (I’d gotten over the murderer phobia now, no worries) I made my move. I had to because I’d already friend zoned him so hard that he was probably scared to.
I made him turn his back to me, and I took a minute to write “Be more than friends?” in the sand. He looked so happy that he might cry when he turned around.
-Nicholas Sparks style interlude where narrator is focused back into the main frame, telling a story to his grandchildren who excitedly ask, what happened next-
Well readers, this story is far from over, in fact…it has just begun, but I’m going to skip forward to February 4, 2017. It’s an important date. Don’t forget that.
So for those of you who have somewhat kept up with my posts, or my life for that matter know that I had the chance to sail to Antarctica on a research vessel to participate in scientific research for a little over 2 months last year. It just so happened that the boat I was on was the same one that David had been an engineer on for a couple years, and we ended up on the same cruise rotation with each other. I’d suggest reading some of my other blog posts if you get the chance to get an idea of exactly what we were doing down there but I digress…
On February 4, 2017 I was extremely pissed off. I was fed up with life, homesick, facing writer’s block, and most of all mad as hell at David. We’d been together for 5 years, lived together, I’d even had to pretend to be his wife to pay his bills over the phone while he was gone offshore all the time. We’d been through the roughest and the happiest times together in life and gave the #couplegoals people a run for their money. AND STILL NO RING. Can I get a holla from my sisters in the back who feel that pain?
I figured if he was going to do it, it would have been the day before when we had the chance to both go on a zodiac (the little rubber boats) ride to do some up close and personal whale watching.
But alas, it did not happen. I had lost all hope at that point for any sort of romantic, grand proposal. So there I sat in the bridge, pissed off, and alone. None of my friends in the lab would even speak to me that day. I was convinced that I was the biggest garbage human on the planet.
Eventually I came downstairs from my corner for dinner. I was forced to sit across the table from my traitorous boyfriend. I was less than amused with any of his conversation that day.
Eventually the marine projects coordinator, Lindsey, sat down with us. She told David that there was a weather station on land nearby that needed fixing. Since he was the engineer on duty she wanted to know if he could hop on a zodiac and go with them to make the repair. We were sitting in Andvord Bay, at the time while our whaling crew completed some sampling and photography work with the local inhabitants.
Me, being me, and taking any chance to get off the main ship for a zodiac ride spoke up, “So I think David might require an assistant to hold his tools or something like that…is there enough room for me on the zodiac?”
To which she responded, “I don’t know…if you go it needs to be a secret from the rest of the boat, and you need to get permission from Debbie first.” Debbie was the P.I., AKA boss lady for our little lab group. I was instructed to hurry and get ready to go and to find Debbie. I looked everywhere for her but couldn’t find her. I figured it was the end of the cruise and if I disobeyed her, that I’d be back home in Texas next week anyways. Little did I know – she was actually hiding because she was so giddy that she couldn’t keep the secret.
I raced to my room to layer up for a zodiac ride. Nike pros, yoga pants on top, two pairs of thick wool socks, undershirt, overshirt, buff, hat, gloves, glasses, steel toes, waterproof pants, float coat….y’all get it right?
My roommate at the time asked me where I was going…I just responded, “Perks of being a ship girlfriend I guess?” and with that I grabbed my camera for all the cute penguin pictures I’d snap and left to hop on the zodiac. Not a stitch of make up on, no fancy nails, no hair did, ready for adventure.
We pulled away from the ship, David tool bag in hand. I was bouncing with excitement because we’d be the only people our entire cruise to step foot on Antarctic continent (everything up until that point had been an island). We were headed to Duthier’s Point to fix a weather station. Our little crew consisted of us, an electronic tech named Julian, Matt the marine tech, and Lindsey, our marine projects coordinator.
The sun was “setting” about as much as it could in the summer time at the bottom of the world (it never really gets dark once you hit a certain degree down there). Penguins, seals, and even some very rare whales passed us on our journey to the point. Of course we were greeted by some beautiful scenery that I’ll share:
Finally we arrived at the point where tied up our zodiac and got off to repair the weather station.
Now I’m not going to sugar coat this next part and tell you it was the thing of dreams. The entire point smelled like sun baked penguin poo. All of those white things you see on the rocks above? Crispy, dried penguin poo. The wet, brown/red, gleamy looking stuff? Fresh, slippery penguin poo. And now some informative memes about penguin poop:
We scaled the slippery rocks carefully keeping our distance from the Gentoo penguin colony and their babies that inhabited the land. David made his way up to the weather station with Julian while I lagged behind appreciating my time with all of the penguins. He’d seen plenty of penguins in his day so he and Julian left me be while they went to make a satellite phone call to figure out the logistics of the repair.
Julian encouraged me to follow after David to the large rock below the antenna because it had a really nice view of the mountains and the ship that would make for good pictures while David was working on the weather station.
The cliffs here were pretty rocky and covered in poo so for a Texas girl used to flat land (with an expensive as hell camera in hand), David stuck around to help me up to the rock. We snapped a couple of pictures along the way to document our first time stepping foot on actual continent. Check out these nerds in their float coats who think they’re cool:
Finally we got up to the rock, which did in fact have an amazing view.
Then I thought to myself, wait a second, where is this asshole’s tool bag? As I was caught up in my moment of thought, Julian caught this great picture of David who looked back to make sure we were lined up in the shot that would capture the moment.
Let me just preface this with the fact that I HATE surprises. I spoil everything. You must work diligently to hide any sort of surprise from me. After 5 years with me David realized that nothing was safe and that I was clever enough to figure out even his most elaborate plans. But this time he’d duped me.
If you wanted a fairy tale story where people cry and scream yes and then kiss in the sunset then you walked into the wrong story time, my friends. So this is your fair warning.
He got down on one knee, and I remarked “You shit head, we’re not fixing anything are we!?” I was genuinely upset as a handy girl who likes to fix stuff. To which he replied, “Well actually I’m fixing something right now.”
Katie, did you cry?? How romantic! No dear readers, I did not cry. My brain was still making calculations and overheating from shock factor that someone had finally surprised me. Had fooled me. I had walked right into this trap!
Okay back to the mushy love part before I start losing readers who came here for the juicy details.
-Cue romantic music crescendo-ing in the background like some legit Nicholas Sparks shit-
“We’ve been together for far too long for me to not fix this, I’ve been waiting for years for this moment. I love you so much, Katie Michelle, will you marry me?”
To which I responded, “Yes, you asshole.”
Then we kees.
And this is the story that we’ll someday tell our children, and their children, and so on. This is the story of my awkward penguin and how I finally got my pebble. A very shiny pebble that apparently my penguin had been sitting on for over two years waiting for the perfect moment to give it to me.
Guys – apparently hiding a ring box in plain sight of the office, laundry room, etc. works for hiding it from your girl.
So back to the story. These guys got me GOOD. Oh man did they get me. This proposal had been in the works for nearly 3 months, it was in the works before I had even gotten on the boat. Nearly the entire boat had kept it a secret from me. They all worked to help David and to plan the perfect moment for both of us.
We weren’t fixing anything. We had come out to Duthier’s Point for us. The zodiac trip? That was the hardest part for them. How were they going to get me on that boat as a skeptical girl who would know something was up? They didn’t have to. As fate would have it, I walked right into it. The satellite phone they dragged along on the zodiac to call about fixing the weather station? It was to call home to tell my mom that I was engaged. All the cameras? Weren’t for penguin pictures. They were to capture our moment. These guys should be certified professional proposal planners. They thought of EVERYTHING. I had never felt so special in my whole life as I did that moment. I was dumbfounded and shocked, at a loss for words.
We finally headed back to the ship, where I learned that the entire ship was in on this plot. They greeted us with signs that spelled out “Congratulations!” How much more perfect could this day have gotten? This part may have made my eyes prickle a little bit.
WordPress wants to make me pay to upload videos so you’ll just have to listen to an accurate description of the video our friend Naomi made as we approached the ship:
Debbie (in drill sergeant voice) – “GET YOUR SIGNS UP HIGHER, KEEP THEM UP!!”
-woooo and yelling noises ensue-
Me (holding up hand) – “Can you see it from down here??”
Naomi (to self) – Holy crap you can see it from down there.
Naomi (to me) – “It looks awwwwwwweeeful!” (An inside joke on the ship.)
And thus concludes the story of how we got engaged in Antarctica. It may not be your ideal fairy tale but it was mine. I even stuck my brand new engagement ring in penguin poop and dinged it climbing down the rocks (the engagement ring store couldn’t even buff that one out….). To the crew (ship and scientists) who helped David plan this and to all my friends on LTER – I will never forget y’all and will always be thankful for the time we spent together and I am so glad you were there for our moment. Y’all are some of the coolest and kindest people I’ve ever met in life.
I want to say that this has been a really crazy year of my life: travelling overseas for the first time, going off the grid, getting engaged, writing a thesis, graduating, moving, getting my first job post-graduation, hating that job, Hurricane Harvey, depression from being denied for nearly every job I applied for, accepting my dream job, moving again, planning a wedding. You get the point. All of this has been so much sweeter with David by my side. He’s always come to my rescue when I’ve needed him and always lends an ear when I need to vent. He works hard to provide for us and to make sure we have a happy and comfortable life. I couldn’t have picked a better partner for this crazy journey.
He is my penguin in life. And I finally got my pebble. I took a chance on the guy I said I’d never date and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
I hope you guys finally enjoyed the full story and I am so happy to finally be back in the blog writing game after a long hiatus of trying to work out all the kinks in life.
Who’s ready to talk about wedding dress shopping next?
–Katie AKA The Girl With the Big Bass (and the pebble)
Let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of what’s happening in Texas right now.
I’m going to take a break from the re-telling of my Antarctic adventures to talk about a current topic that is near and dear to my heart. I just want to shed some light on the current events that are unfolding in Texas because apparently the news media and the rest of the country aren’t really sure what’s happening down here. Y’all we are devastated down here. I’m afraid words in my blog post can’t even translate my feelings.
But nonetheless here we go….a tale of Harvey and how he needs to get the hell outta Texas. We’re going to break this thing down: The good, the bad, and the ugly. But we’ll give all the bad and ugly first because I’d like to end this thing on a good note.
Harvey began as a teeny-tiny tropical wave off the coast of Africa. No one was really worried, either these things fizzle out or they head up the eastern seaboard. It headed towards Yucatan where it hit as a weak tropical storm and crossed into the Gulf of Mexico where it turned from tropical depression to tropical storm (for all my friends who don’t experience hurricanes – their power comes from sucking up moist, warm air over the ocean, land weakens them). We knew at that point it was most likely headed for Texas.
Coastal Texans are tough people. I’m a dirty coastal person…I have been my whole life and have invested my life long career into being a protector of this coast. We are prepared for tropical storms at the drop of a hat. And that is what the meteorologists told us to plan for so we did…
For most of us that includes a strip to the liquor store (whiskey, beer, and margs!):
The grocery store for sure, case of water, some bread, Chef Boyardee, more beer perhaps?
Also don’t forget that ice for margs, go quick before all the Houston Texans coolers sell out – otherwise the store is simply out of coolers:
For many of us it’s that last chance to get your fill of Whataburger, TexMex, or even a big bowl of gumbo:
As the queen of memes in this blog….let’s not forget about the DANKEST hurricane edition memes….here’s a few featured ones I pulled for this blog:
For days we were told to expect a tropical storm to make landfall in Corpus Christi. They took all the precautions of warning citizens. People began stocking up, making plans, doing normal things that any coastal Texan would have.
However, Harvey slowly became a category one storm.
A category one storm is nothing a tried and true coastal Texan couldn’t handle, that just means buy more beer and some candles ’cause the lights are going to go out.
It didn’t stop there. Within hours Harvey began stalling over the Gulf sucking up more and more warm, moist air and frankly just got even uglier. Before the Texas Coast knew it – he became a category 3 storm OVERNIGHT. But that wasn’t the worst….within hours of landfall he mowed right over an extremely warm water eddy and became a category 4.
Our friends in South Texas did what they could. They began boarding windows, collecting their things, and getting the hell outta Dodge. Most people leave for a 3….everyone leaves for a 4 or 5. They did everything they could.
I want everyone to take a minute and put yourselves in their shoes….if you had a single duffle bag to load your most prized possessions and things you needed to survive on what would you take? At that moment in time you have to prepare for the worst…you never know if you’re going to come back to a standing house. As someone who has had to do this…it rips your heart into a million pieces and it’s harder than you think. The family photos hanging on the wall, great grandma’s dining room table, your child’s crayon art on the fridge…it gets left behind. Just let that sink in.
Harvey made landfall as a strong category 4 storm. Like a coward he came under cover of darkness. You don’t know terror until you can’t see the thing attacking everything you love and hold dear around you. Like Jon Snow, I know nothing as the only storm to that degree I have ever weathered was Hurricane Ike back in 2008 – much weaker than Harvey.
I sat and watched in terror all night long as this thing made landfall. My heart ached and I grieved. No one would see the full extent of the damage until morning came. I spent my entire summer working out of Port Aransas and Corpus Christi…for the short time I spent there it holds a dear place in my heart along with Rockport and Port O’Connor…
I cried as I knew that despite being tough coastal people – that these towns with such little warning were in big trouble. I thought back to the small business owners, boat owners, and people that had lived in generational houses. How was it even fair for me to watch from the comfort of my apartment as they endured the night.
I woke up in tears…seeing the place where I spent a lot of my this summer nearly leveled. There were no words. These are just a few pictures of the devastation in Port Aransas and Rockport….
There are more aerial images showing just the extent of damage online.
Harvey continued to make his trek inward like a tortoise through molasses he began hovering over Victoria where he dumped inches and inches of rain. The devastation in Victoria was just the beginning of the flooding.
At this point – I want you guys to think back to how fat and ugly Harvey was…his devastation did not stop with our friends in South Texas, he began kicking up moisture off the coast and band after band of heavy rain, lightning, and tornadoes because hitting the greater Houston area and the coastal plains in between Rockport and Freeport.
See each one of those fragments to the right hand side of the main storm? That’s what refer to as the “dirty side”. This is the side containing heavy rain and tornadoes.
While it doesn’t have the same wind that the main storm has – we were getting gusts of up to 100 mph.
Each one of these bands began hitting the greater Houston area in waves. The first night – there was no space between these waves and that’s when the flooding began.
Readers – I have lived on this coastline my entire 24 year life. I have never been so scared by a storm in my life…even Ike. These bands dumped rain like I had never seen. Five to six inches per hour. From midnight until nearly 7 am it poured in League City. Every 15 minutes the emergency alert system warned me of flash flooding and tornadoes. I gathered Orange Julius (for those who don’t know him, that’s my demon spawn cat) and we sat in the closet as wind shook our whole apartment. During that time I knew that I could only begin to feel a fraction of what folks in South Texas could feel.
I want you to know that I woke up that morning, and it felt very much like a scene from some apocalyptic movie. Residents slowly creeped out as light broke to assess the damage. What I woke up to shocked me.
Our road had become a river. 4-5 feet deep. Cars trapped. People sitting on the median. By the grace of some higher power….my apartment complex had been spared. After walking around for a bit and clearing some storm drains to ensure our complex continued to drain – I fired up the computer to see how everyone else fared.
These are just a few images of Houston, TX
Tears. Dickinson had flooded. Babies and elderly being rescued from rooftops after being stranded, people getting stuck on the road ways. Downtown Houston was underwater. Areas that historically had never flooded – submerged. We had surpassed 500 year totals….experts have even began referring to this as a 800 year storm.
Suburbs of Houston were flooded, east Texas, south of Houston, even our friends in Louisiana felt Harvey’s wrath. And this was day two. As I type we begin day 3 and it is STILL raining.
These are images from Dickinson, TX
As rain continues to fall and Houston’s many bayous come out of their banks, reservoirs flood, lakes begin pounding at the walls of dams, water has to be leaked into our cities.
There is no escape. More homes continued to flood – thousands of outsiders flocked to our cities to aid those who were trapped….and for most of us we watched in horror. The anger I feel of being stuck in my apartment watching my neighbors be rescued…being “safe” when I watch so many others around me suffering – it is simply not fair.
Just to put things into perspective – this storm is NOT moving. It is sandwiched by a nice high pressure keeping it over the Gulf just gobbling up warm, moist air like a fat kid eating a chocolate cake. It is headed back for the Gulf where it is expected to make a third landfall.
My little hometown of Dayton, TX alone is breaking records at receiving over 40 inches of rain. The National Weather Service has had to start adding colors to their traditional maps just to keep up with the amount of rain we are receiving.
Most of this post will relate to Houston – because that is where I am from but guys…do NOT forget that South Texas was hit harder than we were….I want to share this post with you as well to give you an idea of the extent of damage:
Things are very, very bad here folks. Which brings us to our next section – the UGLY.
The first thing I want to discuss are all the crazy ass hazards that exist in flood situations. Like alligators, chemical spills at huge refineries that become damaged, huge floating mats of fire ants, giant snakes slithering up walls and fences….as if this situation wasn’t nightmarish enough let’s add all this to the mix!
Oh and not to mention all of the lovely looters who deserve to shot right between the eyes…come on guys it is TEXAS – I have not heard a single good outcome of the lootings.
SPOILER ALERT – Y’all are getting shot. This is TEXAS. You knock down my door and you’re gonna get rambo dual wielding AR-15’s… mmmkay?
Also please pray for us as most Whataburgers are currently closed. Is it now appropriate to pronounce it “Water-burger”?
So here comes the ugliest part – if you get your panties up in a twist easily I advise you skip this section I am going to get about as colorful as a 64 pack of crayons (with the sharpener).
I am about to get very emotional and throw some solid logic at your feet (come on guys this is a brutally honest blog…you already got to read about me peeing my pants so did you expect any less??).
Let me just share what a small subsection of the rest of the world has to say about this….
Taking a deep breath and cracking my fingers real quick.
WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!? I hope you never need rescuing. I hope you never have to feel the pain and anguish that we feel in Texas. You get to sit behind your safe little computer screen and make all sorts of opinions about us don’t you? If I could reach through the screen and slap the shit out of you I would. People are DYING. LOSING EVERYTHING THEY OWN. I hope you feel this pain for the crappy things you have to say.
Let’s talk a little bit about evacuation….since my friend at the top (this is someone I personally encountered) thinks she’s knows everything about our situation. Since CNN thinks they know.
How many of y’all lived through hurricane Rita in 2005? Did you watch it on the news? Were you actually one of us who spent HOURS evacuating?
It took my family 17 hours to make a normal 2 hour trip. Taking back roads. People DIED evacuating…HUNDREDS died. Even worse? Thousands became trapped on the road in their cars as the storm made landfall. I am scared to death weathering this storm in my apartment do you know how bad that would feel in a small car?
Let’s also talk about how BIG Houston is. We’re talking a population of over 6 million. and that is Houston itself. I’m not including all the surrounding area (Katy, Rosenberg, Pearland, Webster, people in between on the coast, Baytown, my little hometown in Dayton…you get the point. Here’s a post that sums up what I’m trying to say pretty well:
OVER 6 MILLION PEOPLE. We only have a handful of roads going North could you imagine this flood with thousands of us being trapped in our cars? The mayor of Houston absolutely made the right call by not evacuating the city. He saved lives that could have been stranded and lost. The last I heard the death toll was in the teens. Sitting here calling our citizens ignorant for doing as authorities told them is like a slap in the face after they have lost everything and I’d like to physically slap you in the face girl at the top for sitting here and insulting all of the victims of this storm.
Girl at the top wanted to argue with me about how she went through Sandy, etc. I just want to you to realize what a drop in the bucket these other disasters were compared to Harvey (not that they were any less devastating to the victims…but I just want you to get an idea of scale before you apply conditions to us):
Bottom line is – if you don’t know what’s going on here and haven’t ever had to participate in a mass evacuation of the Houston area…please kindly shut up. You do not get to form an ignorant opinion on this nightmare.
Here comes the next one…race and politics. Houston is not the rest of this country right now. I have seen whites, blacks, hispanics, asians, people of all colors of the rainbow helping each other out. We are all Texans and while the rest of the world may be divided I have never seen such a sense of community here.
I don’t care what entity you believe in, what color your skin is, who you voted for, ANY of it. Disasters DO NOT CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS, so why should I? If you need my help I am going to be there…bottom line. I am so happy to see everyone helping their fellow man and sharing my view.
So you twats or tweeters or whatever you’re called…I think I liked the first one best…you can shove some thumbtacks under your toenails and kick the wall.
Also do you people realize how much this state does for you? You’re going to.
Texas owns 1/3 of the nation’s oil refineries, guess where most of them are located? Corpus Christi, Houston, and its surrounding areas. I’m sure our twitter friends will be the first ones complaining about the hike in gas prices. I’ll sum it up quickly with a short quote taken from a friend of mine:
You are going to feel this. Gas prices are going to skyrocket. Oil refined products, everything from PVC pipe to dry cleaning fluid, will rise in price. The stock market will take a hit. New Orleans is a fantastic city, but it’s not a major economic force. Houston is the center of the nation’s energy industry. It’s home to dozens of Fortune 500 companies. And 85% of it is under water. It may be this way for weeks. The aftermath of Katrina captured the world’s attention. The aftermath of Harvey is going to grab you by the lapels, and shake you ’til you’re cross eyed.
I am done with the ugly now. I just can’t write anymore. My heart cannot bear to write about this anymore. I’ve already had to crack open a bottle of wine to write this.
Here comes the good (this is my favorite part of this post) get ready to have your faith in humanity restored. God Bless each and every one of the people I am about to mention (and the many more who I haven’t…there are thousands upon thousands helping).
We are Texas proud. We are Texas strong. It does not matter if this damn storm dumps an ocean on us we will pull through, help one another, and build an even better Texas.
To kick this section off check out this post….it does a good job explaining our ways in the south and how we’re trained from a young age to be helpers. I could not agree with it more! I’ll always remember my Nana pushing me to “do at least a single good deed for someone else” daily…whether it was unloading groceries for a lady in a wheelchair cart at the grocery store or helping my mom cook dinner. All these small acts translate into our innate ability and nature to help everyone around us in the event of large scale disaster.
Before I move into mentioning specific folks I just want you guys to read some really great posts and positive outlooks that I had to screen cap from my Facebook and share…this section is going to be a huge sharing of things I’ve seen on Facebook all week:
Guys this is just a drop in the bucket of the amazing people I know and have seen on Facebook…the first group I want to start out with are all the Sea Aggies down at Texas A&M University at Galveston . I spent the last 5 years of my life at that school and as a recent graduate…my peers never fail to make me proud of the amazing things they do. Even the little things during this disaster like coordinating boat pick ups, warning other students of road hazards, or starting a thread on our student page so that we could offer housing for students in need.
One of my best friends from college is a manager at Petsmart on the island, his store even donated several crates and items to help out with all the fur babies being rescued!
I also have some ties to our Islander friends at TAMU Corpus Christi (they are Aggies, too!) and they are doing some pretty amazing things. After traveling a whole day from being evacuated to San Antonio, my friend Ashley Ferguson went to Port Aransas the next morning to begin helping victims clean up.
This next group of Aggies (I hope I have all their names) went out and about in Dickinson, League City, Houston, and surrounding areas with their own personal boats and began rescuing people who were stranded. I want to personally say thank you to:
Austin Seth, Kyle Holmes, Hunter Woodcock, Paul Thorburn, Alex Nelson, Tommy Edwards, Elizabeth Schneider, Justin Leason, Wyatt Frehe, Bryndin Hartman, Andy Moffet, Parker Meek, Nick Lamb, Colton Lewis, Brett Stepanski, Avery Fuller, and Michael “Sharky” Marquez.
I wish I had pictures to represent each one of these brave and selfless Aggies. You are part of the reason why I am so proud to have graduated from TAMUG.
In addition to my Aggie friends so many other entities are performing boat rescues…I know a handful of folks who I went to high school with, local authorities such as our Texas Game Wardens, the Texas National Guard, local (and not local like the New Yorkers who came down) police and fire departments, and even the Galveston Island Beach Patrol came on jet skis.
This video shared below brought literal tears to my eyes…a shiver ran down my spine within the first few seconds – when a local boat owner was asked “What are you going to do?” and he responded “I’m going to save some lives.”
I also want to recognize the Cajun Navy – a group of duck hunters, fishermen, and all around good ol’ boys from Louisiana. These guys left the comfort of their own state to come and perform boat rescues. Once again, truly amazing. They saved so many lives in the past couple of days….and they have even given rise to our very own Texas Navy (which I hope to become a part of as soon as we buy a boat).
Countless food banks and churches have also been housing flood victims but one particular one that I’d like to mention is Emanuel Church over in Houston….not only have they been helping members of the community…they DROVE into the flooded areas to rescue people. The Garcias and Julian Macias are truly remarkable people who deserve a mention for the work they have done with their church.
While the rescues of our fellow man have been in the news…some overlooked stories include the rescue of man’s best friend and other assorted creatures. There are so many people working to help all our fur babies whether it’s my friend Corbin at Petsmart donating crates or these folks in Houston rescuing bats:
Also, this is literally me in the future. For those of you who don’t know…it is my dream to retire to the Hill Country and own a donkey ranch. I just love donkeys. This lady in Katy (ironic huh?) opened up her yard to several donkeys who were refugees from the flooding! David you better be glad we don’t have a back yard….
A friend of mine from high school even took his boat out and started rescuing dogs left behind in the floods (this is in addition to SEVERAL people he rescued). Thank you Casey Hicks:
By far one of my FAVORITE animal rescues in this whole ordeal came from my hometown in Dayton, TX where local farmers and ranchers drove cattle pastured in the river bottoms across town (down our main highway) to higher ground. Yes, I am from a little town in East Texas, and no, we don’t ride horses to school.
For this next section I want to take a minute to recognize the many local businesses in the area that are helping out! These folks will forever have my business for all the things they’ve done for us:
Y’all my blog’s name is Girl with the Big Bass….I’m super proud of the next place. I spend a lot of money there and boy am I proud I do….Bass Pro Shop is donating boats to rescue efforts and $40k worth of protein rich foods (jerky, meal replacement bars, etc.) to the American Red Cross…check out the article here.
This next kid may not be a business owner but he’s going places.
Check out this young man selling sweet tea and lemonade for Texas all the way up in Pennsylvania right here.
There are so many countless acts of charity and goodwill going on right now that it’s so hard to document all of them. I hope you’ve had your faith in humanity restored at this point.
The next group of folks I want to talk about in the “good” section are the Texas tough ones – the resilient bunch who no matter what hits them – they get right back up and stand their ground.
The first one I want to share is one of the most important men in my life – my sweet Grandpa:
And check out these Aggie engineers who thought quickly to keep their car from flooding:
Most of us who braved the roads once flood waters began receding were after staples like bread, milk, eggs (for me chicken strips)….check out these ladies who made their OWN bread when the going got tough and store shelves were wiped clean:
The next section of folks I’d like to highlight are the ones who have brought some serious sunshine into my life….the ones who’ve made me laugh until my sides hurt! These are the folks who are making the best of things and finding a way to smile even during the worst disaster we’ve ever seen.
I’d like to start with this adorable video of kids playing in the rain…their parents had the chance to make a hilarious home video:
Don’t kids just say the darnedest things?
The next video I want to share is of a man rocking out in his garage and reminding the rest of his neighborhood what it means to be an American. Watch it here.
The next group of people took the floods and time off work to participate in one of my all time favorite hobbies: FISHING. Check out these avid anglers!
In case you were wondering….they’re all my family! Left to right is cousin Keith with his bowfin, Uncle Ned taking advantage of Lake Conroe being at his doorstep, and baby cousin Carter fishing in the puddles.
The next rowdy bunch are all my beer drinkers and flood water floaters! Check out some of these posts and videos from people that did not let hurricane Harvey stop them from having a good time and making the best of things!
These guys had some company over at Brews Brothers earlier in the week – I am beginning to believe that Galveston is giving the Hill Country a run for its money…Shotgunning on Strand St….I’ll take it!
Speaking of Galveston…this reporter got a firsthand taste of Southern Hospitality and Galveston culture when he scored a six pack of Tiki Wheat!
What goes well with all that beer you ask? How about five boxes of macaroni and cheese and some battery operated flamingo lights…check out my friend Ashley making the best of things down in Galveston!
This next video shows some rescuers sharing a big blue bottle of water with some of the flood victims – I’m pretty sure everyone involved could have used a drink!
Now that we’re done with all the fun and games….
I want to end this with a video clip from two brave men who came here from Kentucky to help with boat rescues…he says he’s never seen so much love in a place in his life. Sir, I am so glad that you got a taste of what my Texas is like – even at the worst times.
That’s it for now folks. I’m headed out the door to see what local shelters need my help. Y’all let’s get out there and help each other out…find someone in need, a shelter, let’s get Texas back to normal.
I’ll be back working on another post of some of the MANY ways you can give back or donate to this catastrophe. I am friends with some awesome business owners who are helping out!
Some tunes to get you through the rainy day blues.
I’m currently working on cranking out a really long post about hurricane Harvey but in the meantime I wanted to put together a playlist. Most of these songs were requested by my Facebook friends but a lot of them are my own personal favorites!
Without further ado… here is the dope ass hurricane Harvey playlist:
Glacier hiking, whiskey over glacier ice, and a little light penguin stalking makes for an awesome time at Palmer Station.
After a smooth as butter crossing across the Drake Passage and the most scenic views I’d ever seen (read and see them HERE) in my life, we arrived at Palmer Station, Antarctica which is located on the Southern tip of Anvers Island. The first thing we were greeted with after leaving the Neumayer Channel and entered into the realm of Palmer was the smell. Some complained, but others like me relished in the smell of hundreds of penguins perched upon high rocks in the heat of breeding season. Although not visible, proud parents stood guard of tiny penguin chicks on several of these rocks surrounding station. We watched a few awkward Gentoo’s and Adelie’s slide and waddle around on the rocks.
As we approached the station, we were greeted with two VERY large icebergs that were taller than the ship. In order to dock we even had to sail right next to one. We were so close you could feel the cold coming off the berg. If you had a broomstick, you could have touched it. Don’t worry – since I’m here writing this…we didn’t share the same fate as the Titanic.
Folks at Palmer Station all walked out of the station to greet us with waves, excited to meet new people and receive a shipment of goods (and freshies! Remember talking about the freshies HERE?). We arrived at station a whole half a day early which was amazing because we had more time to explore and get to know the scientists living and working there.
Palmer Station itself sits at the bottom of a very large glacier, and for those willing to make the climb – it offers the most breathtaking views of the station, Arthur Harbor, and the back side of the mountains lining the Neumayer Channel.
My inner Texan panicked at the words “glacier hike”. I’ll just preface this with the fact that everyone around me is either East Coast or used to the snow or has been coming to Antarctica for years. Then you’ve got me. Little Texas girl who has maybe seen snow three times in her life and walked in ankle deep snow once. Yet I was brave enough to go along with this glacier hiking. After asking around and gathering as much advice from the rest of the scientists on board I finally figured out what to wear, bring, etc. Dressing in a single layer of long underwear with short sleeves and yoga pants on top I was ready (it’s really not THAT cold here guys). I layered two pairs of wool socks under the world’s largest and clunkiest “hiking boots” that I obtained from gear issue back in South America. Remember the last post where we talked about gear issue being completely cleaned out by the folks on the other research vessel (if not read it HERE)? That was the case here. These boots were HUGE and HEAVY. You’ll see where this ends up in a bit.
Grabbing sunglasses and my Mahi buff (I refused to leave that at home!) I was out the door, across the gangway, and joining my lab group to go on a hike. The first portion of the hike is through what is called the “backyard” behind Palmer Station. It is a very rocky pit underneath the glacier, which can get quite slippery when covered in snow and ice. A flock of Skua (really ugly and vicious brown birds, like angry ravens) settled in the rock a few hundred feet away from us. I made sure to keep my distance because they are notorious for attacking anything in their path.
After making it out of the backyard, that is where the climb began. First we climbed over dense ice that had been carved by melting snow (remember it is summer time here). After making it through this portion of the hike, came the hard part: the white fluffy shit. As a native Texan, it is engrained in my DNA to hate the white fluffy shit that is referred to as snow. Very pretty to look at, but we are not physically adapted to handle it.
My first step into the white fluffy shit landed me knee deep. It was at this moment in time that I began to think about all those skipped gym days and how actually pushing myself on the elliptical would have been a good idea. The initial hike through this white fluffy shit was not as bad as I thought. I kept pace with my group. Then came the fall.
Those damn clunky boots, like extra lead weights strapped to my feet betrayed me on this uphill hike. I felt my ankle twist below me and then searing pain. I said a few choice words and continued to try and keep pace with my group. The effort was in vain as I was left alone to enjoy the view and endure the white fluffy shit. Mind you, this is a glacier, a nearly vertical climb upward. The promise of the view kept me going as I struggled to drag my bum ankle through the snow. With the sun shining brightly above me, I wanted to strip down to shorts and a t-shirt. I began feeling like Chevy Chase in that scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation after they had been stranded in the desert.
After arriving at the top of this glacier looking like a war torn victim with even more hate for snow…it was worth it. In combination with being out of shape and making this climb…the view completely took my breath away.
Silence. You could hear nothing. No cars, no planes above, no chatter of other human beings. Just silence until the loud rumble of thunder in the background broke this silence. We listened as we heard the wind blow around us and glaciers cave into the sea below. I have a really hard time conveying to my readers just how pristine and beautiful this place truly is. Being off of the grid for the most part has been an amazing experience. You have a lot of time to just sit back, relax, and enjoy how great life truly is.
While others hiked down the other side of the glacier (and had to eventually come back up). I opted out with my bum ankle. I also wanted a few moments alone at the top of this glacier to just sit and reflect and not think about papers, deadlines, bills to be paid, and any other daily worries. This was probably one of the healthiest moments I’ve had lately with the amount of stress I had been under the months leading up to this voyage. I was truly grateful for it and I hope that by sharing my pictures and stories that my readers can draw off some of that positive energy.
After spending some time on top of the glacier, it was time to make my way back down which was a MUCH more enjoyable experience as my back was no longer turned to the view and that I did not have to struggle through thigh deep snow on an upward incline.
Once I returned to the ship….I showered and slept because it had been quite the day. Tomorrow’s adventure? A game of speed dating (David approved).
The next morning after sleeping in (until 10 AM!) I had a late breakfast with my favorite bearded sailor and we made plans to go walk around the station for a bit and hopefully get a tour. One of my lab mates showed us around. We explored the lab areas, galley, and then were taken to the recreational building. There was a fully stocked gym, cabins where scientists stayed, a lounge with a big tv, movies, etc., a bar (woohoo!) and a deck located on the other side of the bar (with amazing views of the harbor, of course!).
The best part was a tall, slightly rickety ladder that led to a crow’s nest on top of the rec building and guess what was at the top…..EVEN MORE AMAZING VIEWS!
The folks at Palmer are truly blessed to live in such a beautiful, ever changing environment. We were showed where the store was afterwards (it only opens for a half hour at a time and usually only when there are guests in town) and a really neat closet called “SKUA” but unlike the bird, there were no surprise attacks. It is simply a closet where station off-going occupants can donate items like clothes, costumes, etc. for others to take. There is no shortage of crazy costumes in the closet. We found a mullet wig, a flamingo hat (which I took as my lucky MOCNESS costume), a mermaid tail, and a whole stack full of sweaters fit for the rack at your local Goodwill.
After a tour, we were left to explore the station on our own, which resulted in some heavy penguin stalking. Yes readers, I did squeal in delight as I saw my first Gentoo penguin up close. There was even more shrieking as I watched it awkwardly slip and fall into the ice cold water. These awkward little tuxedo chickens will quickly work their way into the hearts of whoever is watching.
For those asking me for feathers, rocks, whole penguins (greedy bunch you are) it is strictly forbidden! In order to keep this continent pristine and healthy, the Antarctic Treaty states that you’re not allowed to bring any part of it back and you’re only allowed to be within 5 meters of any animal, or farther away if their behavior becomes altered due to your presence.
A quick lunch followed, and reading a book while sitting on the deck and basking in the sunshine. We got word that the station store was set to open at 5PM for thirty minutes. Everyone impatiently waited outside as this is the one chance in the cruise to buy alcohol since we have a dry ship (all alcohol gets labeled with your name and left at the Palmer Station bar). Oh and t-shirts and all that good crap for your family, of course. Spoiler alert: You’re all getting stickers!
At 6PM we suited up to go for a zodiac (smaller, raft looking boats) ride in Arthur Harbor. Donning a couple base layers, float coat, hat, gloves, water proof pants, and boots feeling much like Ralphie’s brother from A Christmas story, we hobbled into zodiacs from the floating dock next to the ship.
Brash ice (really flaky, thinner ice) from the two icebergs that greeted us when we docked at station now littered the waters around the ship and dock. Our zodiac tore through it easily as we made our way into Arthur Harbor. We got a close up view of two different penguin colonies (and smell). After checking the penguins out and watching them awkwardly hobble and slide into the water, we cruised over to some really cool icebergs. There’s something really special about the beautiful, turquoise blue ones that just captivate everyone who visits. Iceberg blue, as I have been calling it, is one of my new favorite colors.
We were able to see a few elephant seals snoozing lazily in the late afternoon sun on some of the bergs. Our zodiac captain even brought us next to a small, rocky piece of land (located right between the two penguin colonies of course) called “Seal Island” where most of the Palmer seals could be found.
We ventured a little further into the harbor checking out some icebergs when another scientist pointed out seeing a whale surface in the distance. Excitedly we began heading towards the whale. We must have found the most curious whale in the harbor because as we headed towards him, he decided to surface within feet of our zodiac. We all screamed, some out of excitement because whales are awesome, but in my case because A) I thought that whale was going to flip our zodiac B) The water is cold as a witch’s titty and C) For the second time in the past six months, I didn’t want to pee my pants again.
Luckily another passenger in the zodiac was quick enough to take some amazing pictures of the Humpback whale, so what I’m sharing on this blog is his work, thank you to Tyler from the Ducklow lab for sharing your pictures with the rest of us and catching that beautiful moment in time!
Sorry readers, I was not brave enough to bring my camera into the zodiac (I did have my phone though). We slowly puttered around this whale for at least 30 minutes as he put on a show for us, surfacing, waving, spewing water from his blowhole. I will say it again…I am not a mammals person, but realizing how small you are next to a creature that large and beautiful…it is really a humbling experience.
We rushed back to station to change and get ready for speed dating. David approved, of course! The game was much more like speed friending, it was a great opportunity to spend 4 minutes getting to know each of the scientists and what brought them to Palmer Station. There were no fellow Texans, sadly. We had score cards to score each of our dates, either you loved them, wanted to get to know them better, meh, or disliked them. Everyone was pretty interesting and only two people got dislikes. One was a crotchety old man, and the other was a lady who said she hated all Texans and donkeys. I can’t be friends with anyone who dislikes donkeys. That’s just a deal breaker. By far my favorite “date” of the night was a guy about a foot shorter than me whose name was “Hot Mike”. Anyone who shares whiskey with me out of a nalgene sample bottle gets a heart on the speed dating score sheet.
After spending some time getting to know the Palmer Station folks, we all took our purchased booze from the Palmer Station store (they had a REALLY extensive selection) and headed to the bar. Tonight was DANCE PARTY NIGHT!
On the porch of the bar was a large block of glacier ice older than your great grandparents. Probably sounds like some fancy city slicker bar, but it was just collected from the harbor via zodiac. We all spent some time socializing and asking about research, and how the hell did you get to Antarctica and then when everyone began feeling it…the dance party began.
To be in the Steinberg Zooplankton Lab…it is a requirement that you like to dance. Our advisor, Debbie was front and center on the floor. The party continued until 12:30 when the station bar shuts down. We all walked back to the ship, admiring penguins and seals along the way. There’s something to be said about having so much fun in the most desolate place on Earth.
The next day we spent some time on deck building our MOCNESS net. MOCNESS for all my non-fisheries folk stands for multiple opening and closing net and environmental sensing system. Pretty much it’s 9 nets that are strung on a frame and a scientist at a computer tells the net when to open and close each one. It allows us to sample and catch critters at different depths. This is really useful since we usually see quite a bit of diversity between the ranges of depths. The net will also give us a read out of environmental data such as temperature and salinity (how salty the water is).
We spent our morning adding the nets to the frames and what we call the “cod” ends. It’s a PVC pipe with mesh covered holes that all the animals get collected in as we pull the net through the water. They have to be fastened to the net with clips and then…duct taped for extra security. Duct tape is a staple in our lab!
After building the MOCNESS we spent some time discussing how all of the lab work and deck work would be done and did a few mock run throughs. Believe it or not…studying the zooplankton is so much more than just putting nets in the water. It takes a team to ensure that there is a successful net tow. We have an MT (marine technician) and another lab member on deck who are responsible for putting the net in the water, making sure flowmeters (they record the total volume of water that has gone through the net) are attached, communicating with the winch operator, bridge (where the captain and mates drive the ship from), and the lab. Inside the lab is another person who must record data pertaining to the net tow such as water temperature, salinity, wind speed and direction, sea ice coverage and wave height, GPS coordinates, time, specific tow and event numbers, and much more. Communication between all the parties via ship radio is key in this whole process! Not to mention in the rolling seas the deck is a VERY dangerous place. It can be slippery, objects such as weights, nets, frames, etc. can cause operators to trip. The ship has a large gate at the stern which opens up so nets can be deployed. A steep drop leads to the abyss below which on average is about 3000 feet deep (Usually it ranges from 600-9000 feet deep). A fall into this water would kill you within minutes as hypothermia and shock set in. However, if you’re working deploying nets (which I do most of the time!) you have to be tethered to the ship with a safety line that prevents you from falling overboard. The part that concerns me the most is that the nets are made with large, steel frames. A simple miscalculation by the winch operator or shift in the wind could cause the net to knock out or crush a person to death. A hydraulic A-frame at the stern aids the winch in lowering these nets into the water. You’re probably realizing by now just how large they are….they have radii of ~3 feet and ~6 feet and are probably about 30-50 feet long. I’ll stop here with describing the logistics…for more info you’ll have to read my next few posts about life on the ship and doing science at sea!
After building nets and getting some lab work done before leaving port (guys I actually science-d INSIDE the Palmer Station lab!) I decided to take a much needed nap after dinner. When I woke up, I realized I had missed trivia night at the station. I did happen to catch a great photo of an oddly shaped iceberg.
Early the next morning we pulled away from the station. I was nervous at the fact that the real deal was about to begin. I had already shared a week’s worth of time with all the experts on this boat…and now it was time to perform.