Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Remembering Hurricane Bill

Three years ago, I was on an internship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. I worked with Kenneth Brink on topographic rectification and spent nights and weekends exploring Cape Cod. It was an incredible summer, and came to a head the weekend that Hurricane Bill struck.

Bill PERFECTLY lined up to send waves towards the Cape.
Source: Weather Underground
Three years ago TODAY, I was alone in the barn, actually seeing off the final few inhabitants the morning before Bill was forecasted to impact the Cape. Instead of rushing to the office to backup my files (as instructed), I took the ferry to Martha's Vineyard in search of some Surf, both on couches and boards.

Here is the "Facebook Note" I wrote following that weekend.

Hurricane Bill Taught Me...
by Sam Wilson on Tuesday, 25 August 2009 at 20:52 
  1. They don't let surfboards on MVT (Martha's Vineyard Transit)
  2. Hitchhiking is easy on the Vineyard. Go a little outside of town, find a turnout, and stick up your thumb. Look for pickup trucks if you have a board.
  3. Cody the Anglo-Australian, while not a surfer himself, can take you to the best spots.
  4. They close beaches prematurely in Mass, on the order of the governor no less.
  5. Mason has a great couchsurf couch. A shack on a pond, with its own dock, right across from the Obamas (they were arriving the next day).
  6. Skurfing is surfing while being pulled by a skiff.
  7. No governor can close a private beach, with access only by skiff.
  8. How to drive a skiff back to the dock.
  9. Full service gas stations still exist on the vineyard.
  10. A new card trick.
  11. Sleeping during a hurricane is pleasant.
  12. Sneak around the cops and tuna on the beach is the real breakfast of champions
  13. Waves at Squibby curl for miles. 13b. I'm out of paddling shape.
  14. Sunscreen doesn't last 6hrs.
  15. Golden ticket for hitchhiking is a pickup truck with people already in the back.
  16. Vineyard Haven is a dry town. This makes waiting for the ferry take much longer.
  17. Sleep on the ferry home.

As a surfer, I'm constantly worried that I may not be choosing the correct surf spot for a specific swell; I've actually lost sleep over it, especially following a long dry spell (e.g. the ENTIRE summer leading to that weekend). Martha's Vineyard was the place to be for surfing Hurricane Bill.

The following week, I finished my project with Ken, had some creepy nights in the Barn alone (Circa 1890), and returned home. 
Making landfall in Nova Scotia
Cape Cod would be in the middle left side of the image
Source: Wikipedia Image Commons
Somethings Interesting:
--If I were to add anything to this list, it is that this was my favorite weekend that summer. WHOI is a good research facility in a beautiful location, but I belong at Scripps, where surfing is readily available and the research is great.

--Squibby was an isolated point break, and as such had a moderate crowd. The level of surfing, though, was nonthreatening to say the least; San Diego has meaner lineups with thicker vibes. 

--I have a fridge magnet in the shape of a small blue fish from that weekend. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sunset Chasing, Green Flash Finding

I grew up on a West Coast, with sunsets over the Pacific Ocean at dinner each night. I knew that wildfires would create intense colors, that high clouds would reflect pink, and that my dad always claimed there was something called the Green Flash.

Sunset Chasing was a term I coined while studying abroad in Barbados. Even with the countless evenings spent sipping rum and enjoying the sunset with friends, the Green Flash still alluded me.

My first Green Flash occurred at a TG over the Summer of 2008, when I was here at Scripps on an internship. This was back when all TGs were at T29, so the elevation and unbroken horizon helped introduce me to what a Green Flash involves. It is NOT a flash and it does NOT make noise. 

Torrey Pines State Reserve

The sun is white (think midday) and therefore contains all colors of light. Sunsets are orange because the sunlight travels through so much atmosphere when it is near the horizon. As the sun dips below the horizon, green is able to bend around the curvature of the earth SLIGHTLY more than orange. Therefore, a small patch of green, of EQUAL intensity to the orange is the last visible shade of light. You have to be careful, because you can burn your retina while watching the orange disappear. 

Anyways, enjoy these pictures of Sunset Chasing with even a few Green Flashes for good measure.

Bird Rock

Somethings Interesting:
--YOU NEED a clear, unbroken horizon, ideally over water. As the sun begins to set, look away in order to NOT burn your retina. You should watch in a reflection of something for timing (I use my phone screen). As the sun begins to disappear, watch intently for the green light. Binoculars help, but aren't necessary. 

--For some reason, I have gained a reputation as faking Green Flashes. I relate this to the fact that Green Flashing is a skill that not all have (and of which most are jealous). 

--There are rumors of a Blue Flash that occurs because blue light is able to bend EVEN FURTHER than green (and the possibility of a Purple Flash). I have yet to definitively see a blue flash.

--For a more thorough explanation, go here:

Melville, South Pacific

Zanzibar, Indian Ocean

Cuatros Casas, Mexico

Charles River, Boston

Bird Rock, San Diego


Woods Hole, Cape Cod

John Muir Trail, California

Scripps Pier, leaking a little

Nick, near Scripps Pier

The Sun is getting read to Align with the Pier

Alignment Occurs twice a year, for ~3 days each time

Lots of people to enjoy it.

Pretty Neat

GREEN!! Through the Pier


Sunrise at Torres del Paine, Chile

Aussie enjoying Uyuni Sunset



Machu Pichu Sunrise, about a month before the Solstice

Rio Paraguay

Rio Paraguay

Cayucos, CA


Sunrise, Sea of Cortez

Cape Cod

Sunrise, Uyuni


Forest Fire in Sequoia



New York, NY


Beginning of my South America Trip

Thursday, August 9, 2012

DotGreen Roots

As a graduate student at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, I have chosen to devote my life to the study of Physical Oceanography, with specific regard to Oceanic Carbon Cycle dynamics and the physical controls of biology. I am also a Graduate Research Fellow with the National Science Foundation, and work and volunteer with students, underrepresented groups, and foreign researchers in developing countries. With these experiences, I have witnessed the environmental and humanitarian benefits that come from the effective application of time and resources to organizations and problems in need.

I am writing this to support DotGreen Community, Inc's application for the new .green TLD. There is no single answer to the problems that face our planet, and DotGreen realizes this. Through online discussion and branding, they will develop a community whose sole focus is furthering sustainable practices. Simultaneously (and in my opinion, more importantly), the grassroots beginning that introduced DotGreen to the TLD stage will help shape their implementation of time, energy, and resources to those problems.

Throwing money at a problem does not solve it. It takes clever understanding to define a plan, and a driving passion to achieve the solution. In addition to possessing these traits, I think DotGreen's leadership will be able to recognize the grassroots campaigns which will take projects through to completion. I believe DotGreen's non-profit goals in particular, speak towards devotion to ideals in-line with the Green Movement.

I am excited to be a part of the Green Community they develop.

For more information, visit the following.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Reunion in Shasta, Post Party Report

The trip as a whole was great. There's no real need to give a blow-by-blow of the weekend, mostly because it all blends together in a delicious mesh of barbecue, beer, and boating. Rather, I'll comment on a few topics and give a few pictures.

Jeri and Jerry live in style up in Shasta. They have a main 2B/2Ba house with a couple of toolsheds, and for the weekend had two small trailers and a tent. It's located just across the freeway from a handful of boat ramps, walking distance from a reunion-overflow hotel, and stumbling distance from the Basshole Bar and Grill. 

Uncle, Aunt, and Cousin prepping for the Houseboat
Attendance from my perspective (Connell blood is capitalized):
--My girlfriend and I flew from SD. 
--My Two Sisters drove from SF. 
--My Aunt/uncle live there.
--My Cousin/husband drove from their new home in Palo Alto.
--My Uncle/aunt, Cousin/fiance (newly!!) flew from LA.
--My Cousin/girlfriend flew from DC/LA.
--My Cousin/boyfriend, Second Cousin/Pregnant wife carpooled from LA, SD.
--My Cousin/wife, Second Cousin/friend, Second Cousin, SD second cousin's friend drove from KANSAS (25.5 hours, straight).
--My Cousin and his mom/her boyfriend drove from SF.
--My Cousin/wife, Second Cousin arrived by jet ski from SF (we were impressed).

Aunt Jeri hosted us in style. Breakfasts included quiche, bagels/etc, fruits, sausage, eggs, and coffee. Dinners were barbecue style, with me acting as Sous-Chef on the grill. Jeri was also able to provide some delicious squash and tomatoes out of her garden; Alisha (the aspiring gardener) was duly impressed. 

We had two speedboats on the weekend; one belonged to the cabin and another came from a friend from Redding. I tried everything that was available (tube/kneeboard/wakeboard) with varying degrees of success. ALL of these use a very different set of muscles from surfing; suffice it to say, I am still very sore.

Saturday, we rented a giant houseboat; two decks, a bathroom, two grills, a waterslide, etc., provided us a base camp to float/speedboat around. Interesting to note, freshwater does not provide the same float as salt water; a couple of times, I was able to achieve negative buoyancy and get below the lake's thermocline. It's ~20degC at the surface and MUCH colder down 3m; <1m visibility. Relaxed barbecuing provided the food, and a Connell Cooler provided the beer.

My sisters and I make up the youngest of our generation, with one cousin preparing for a grandchild. Our parent's would never hold us back, but with their absence (Olympics, they're awesome), there was no expectations on us in any way. It's been awhile since any Wilson was at the kid table, but now that we're all of age, we were able to relax, drink, and bullshit with the best of the Connells. I love my parents and missed them immensely at the family reunion, but their presence would have changed this dynamic a little.

Somethings Interesting:
--The fire (previous post) only provided some slowing and smoke on the drive there; I didn't notice it the rest of the weekend.

--This was my first experience with the Southwest boarding process. While approaching anarchy, it worked out in the end, especially with our emergency row on the flight back.

--The lake was created during WWII with the construction of the Shasta Dam. It provides agriculture with water in the valley below, and therefore allows for swimming (as opposed to man-made lakes for drinking water). During peak season (i.e. now), it drops at a rate of 30-40 cm/day.
Sacramento has a HUGE airport

She's with me.
That's our Friday Camp in the background.


First time wakeboarding.

Phil killing it on the Wakeboard.

Looking good.

Cousin as the Co-Captain for her Husband

Lots of Porch Time

Relegated to the Trailer

Two Wilsons

I liked this bridge a lot

Floating around

Friend of Second Cousin

I'm trying!

Lots of floating.

Attending Connells


Little Sis at the Sundial Bridge


Plane home.