To be honest, I love abalone and have always been fascinated by this most unusual of snails. In college I truly began to “chase the abalone” which led me to become a field biologist. So these are my confessions; some of my adventures while chasing abalone. Things I normally wouldn’t admit to but looking back were just part of the lore of being a field biologist.
On our first date we walked the beaches of Oregon. In was Valentine’s Day 1987 and we both instantly knew we had something special. I still remember the feel of the brisk salt air on my face, the sand blowing down the beach, the call of the gulls, and the smell of the sea that day. But most of all I remember her smile. It was like a walk in the clouds.
As a marine biologist and surfer I have spent a lot of time on and in the ocean. And while surveying the shore, riding waves, scuba diving, or being underwater in a submersible, I have developed a great respect for the sea. She is all-powerful, magnificent, unpredictable, inspiring, and terrifying all at once. And there are moments you face the realization that you are helpless, the sea is in control, that you may die; all you can do is surrender to its power. It is a completely sublime, humbling but ultimately a life changing experience.
During the summer of 1986 we embarked on the ultimate surfing ecology road trip. Combining my interests of surfing and marine biology we set off looking for abalone and good, uncrowded waves. I had just established study sites and tagged black abalone in northern and southern California. Baja was next.
The year was 1987 and I was searching for a place where black abalone were largely undisturbed so I could complete my dissertation. The island was the perfect location: isolated, difficult to access, federally protected, and surrounded by seal- and shark- infested waters. During my first low tide on the island I was ecstatic: blacks were common and it was the perfect place to conduct a study but there were elephant seals everywhere.
First contact between humanity and a sentient alien race is depicted as either a hallmark moment with enormous benefits for the planet (e.g., Contact, Star Trek) or the beginning of a hostile take-over and the end of humanity (e.g., War of the Worlds, Independence Day). Under either scenario the aliens are seen as more advanced, with superior technology, and…
Standing there today you can imagine it. Just walk outside the Seascape Restaurant near Trinidad Pier and you are on hallowed ground. Ground consecrated by the blood and guts of thousands of magnificent whales and a few brave whalemen. Here, for six years in the 1920s, whales were brought ashore and butchered by men for their oil, their baleen, for their very bones. And lest we judge these men for their actions, back then it was no different then catching fish. Of bringing a commodity to market; a way of making a living; albeit a hard one with many risks.