Running a kelp business that is all about involved learning

Long Line Kelp Growers students (and teachers) on their first day at Herring Gut Learning Center

Two days a week eight students from the St. George School make the trip to Herring Gut Learning Center in Port Clyde to be part of the Center’s Long Line Kelp Growers program. They signed up for the program to learn how to run an aquaculture business—from what it takes to produce a quality product to marketing it to consumers and selling it at a profit.

“‘The Long Line’ program was specifically designed just for grades 6 through 8 from the St. George School,” explains Holly Merrow, one of the program’s teachers. “It’s a program the kids ask to be a part of, so they have to make up the school work that they miss when they are here.”

While the St. George School doesn’t consider the Long Line program an academic substitute for elements of its middle-school curriculum, learning what is involved in farming kelp does require an understanding of the marine science involved. Late September and October is the nursery season, when the students are learning how to “seed” the kelp. This involves stimulating the sorus tissue of mature kelp to release spores that can attach to seaweed string that has been wrapped around pvc pipe and placed in indoor fish tanks that comprise the nursery. Once the attached spores have gone through their reproductive process, they will produce tiny baby kelp plants. When the young kelp is an adequate size, the students will then place them in the Learning Center’s lobster pound which will host the students’ kelp farms. Here the plants will grow throughout the winter. Harvest season is in the spring.

Students identifying seaweed with St. George School Herring Gut Coordinator Leslie Ferguson looking on

Sarah Redmond, the owner of Springtide Seaweed, an organic seaweed aquaculture company located down east in Frenchman Bay, began helping the students with the seeding process last year. “Bringing seaweed aquaculture into schools is a great thing,” she says, “because this industry is pretty new in Maine and we need to encourage familiarity with seaweed science as well as innovation in developing the industry.” Redmond adds, “There is tremendous interest from the fishing community and our coastal communities in how seaweed aquaculture can fit into our existing waterfront economy, but the big challenge is building the processing infrastructure needed for this new seafood industry. So Port Clyde is a great place, where if you could build the infrastructure here there are a lot of fisherman here looking for ways to diversify. Building the processing infrastructure is key—you can grow all the kelp you want, but if you can’t process it you’ve got a problem.”

Redmond strongly believes “kelp is the future,” and she and others, such as the folks at Ocean Approved, the first commercial kelp aquaculture company in the U.S. founded in Portland in 2006, are helping the Herring Gut students learn why. During a recent seeding session in the Herring Gut kelp nursery, Redmond and Leslie Ferguson, the Herring Gut Coordinator at the St. George School, prompted the students to itemize the positive reasons for growing kelp. For one thing, they noted, kelp is a crop that combats ocean acidification which helps prevent, among other things, shell disease in lobsters. But perhaps its foremost positive quality, student Madison Barbour noted cheerfully, is that, “Kelp is the new kale!” This is because it is a crop with great health benefits. As Redmond points out, the fact that kelp is naturally salty makes it a great substitute for table salt.

“If you think about it, the leading causes of death and disease tends to be nutrient-related or diet-related disease and a lot of people are aware of that. So they are trying to cut down on things like sodium, table salt, processed food. But we still need salt, we need mineral salts, so seaweed can provide that. What’s been happening is that people are trying to get away from table salt but now they are missing iodine since table salt is iodized, so their diets are becoming unbalanced. Seaweed can restore the imbalance.”

Another reason that kelp is attracting commercial interest is that it can be used in so many different ways. While the kelp is growing in Herring Gut’s lobster pound this winter, in addition to periodically taking measurements and recording farm data, the Long Line Kelp Growers students will be investigating some of those applications in preparation for choosing which products they want to make. Last year, for example, the Long Line Kelp Growers students used their kelp to make kelp seasoning that they used on french fries, popcorn and bagels as well as in smoothies. They also made fizzy bath “bombs,” lotions and even nail polish.

“The students run the program like a business,” says Georgie Burress, who is also one of the program’s Herring Gut educators. “They all have different roles within the business—there’s the company spokesperson, the secretary, the treasurer. They’ll apply for the different roles, interview for them, and be elected to those positions. And they will hold monthly business meetings in which they will make decisions together.”

As the year progresses, the students will also be chronicling their work through photographs, illustrations and written pieces that they will use to collaborate on a book-length manuscript that will be published next May. “Expeditionary learning is about making a product that shows what you’ve learned and that you can present to the community,” Merrow points out. “That is what the book is all about.”

If Merrow and Burruss will not be grading each student on their work from an academic point of view, they will still be providing their teachers at the St. George School with an evaluation of each student’s participation in the program. “The school wants work habits evaluations and behaviors evaluations”, Merrow says. “We hope that at the end of the year they’ll really be working together and that they’ll be able to communicate well about what they have learned to do. A big part of our objective with the program is to work on making them much more involved learners. Our platform is marine science, but those are our real goals, that they get those soft skills that they need.”—JW

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Three Long Line Kelp Growers students reflect on their experience of the program

Long Line Kelp Growers students Breannah Morris, Madison Barbour and Leah Darling prepare kelp for seeding as Sarah Redmond (l) of Springtide Seaweed supervises their work.

When I get to Herring Gut I am really happy…

My name is Madison Barbour and I have been working with Herring Gut Learning Center for over three years. Over the years that I have been with Herring Gut I’ve learned a lot, including some soft skills like talking in front of a crowd and respecting everyone. I feel motivated to do more work now because of my success at Herring Gut. I was chosen to be in Herring Gut because I’m more of a hands-on kind of learner. It was very fun getting to get in the boat and checking on the kelp and pulling out rockweed. We pull the rockweed out because the rockweed blocks the kelp from photosynthesizing.

When the students, including myself, arrive at Herring Gut we start off with a check in, as in seeing how everyone’s doing. Once that is done, some of the time we play a game that has to do with kelp using facts about the kelp for the new students to learn.

We have to find “sorus” in order to grow the kelp. Sorus contains microscopic seeds that we release from the kelp and let attach to a line. We mainly focus on making sure that when we prep the sorus, we don’t contaminate the kelp. Once the kelp has grown to about an inch or so, we attach the line onto the kelp farm. Around once a month we do water quality to make sure that the water doesn’t have anything wrong with it and it’s not hurting the kelp.

When I get to Herring Gut I am really happy because there is always a fun project to do that is hands-on. Herring Gut has boosted my confidence and I have been getting more interested in school because Herring Gut has made me more interested in learning.
—Barbour is an 8th grade student.

This year I can’t wait to make the products.

My name is Leah Darling and this is my second year at Herring Gut Learning Center. Our company is called LLKG, which stands for Long Line Kelp Growers. Our business is about learning about kelp and making products from kelp.

Last year we designed our own kelp farms. I was in a group with Maisie to make our kelp farm. Then we seeded the spools and put them on our farms.

While we waited, we took the kelp we had grown last year and made products. I made bath bombs. This year I want to make smoothies. I love smoothies. This year I can’t wait to make the products. Making products is one of my favorite things to do at Herring Gut. We had a few sales at the school. We had the Valentine’s Day sale and other sales. We sold kelp bath bombs, paper kelp hearts with seeds embedded in them, cookies and nail polish.

Near the end of the year we took our kelp off of our farms. Maisie and mine was pretty big. We hung it up in the shack to dry. I really liked going in the boats and designing the kelp farms.

Also last year we gave a lot of tours. We had to show teachers and students around the place. At the end of the year last year we took the 7th and 6th graders on a tour through Herring Gut and told them how it works. It was like a step-up day almost. We showed our products and gave out samples. We did the same for the 5th graders last year, too. Now we have eight students in grades 6-8 doing Herring Gut this year. I hope they have a fantastic year working at Herring Gut Learning Center and being a Long Line Kelp Grower.
—Darling is an 8th grade student.

I have learned a lot of skills…

My name is Breannah Morris and this is my third year working at Herring Gut Learning Center. I have enjoyed my time down here. We have done lots of cool things, such as growing kelp. Growing kelp is very fun and interesting. And it’s very hard work, especially when I had to go out in a row boat during a snowstorm and pull up a very heavy kelp farm, to see if we were making progress.

Once the kelp is all grown, we pull it up and go through the process of rinsing the kelp off and hanging it up to dry. Then we start to create products. Some of the products LLKG (Long Line Kelp Growers) created are: “Kelp SEAsoning, Kelp bath bombs, Kelp cookies, Kelp nail polish, and many others products. The money we make from selling products goes right back into our student-owned business to buy more supplies, go on field trips and to improve our business as well.

LLKG will be publishing a book at the end of the school year so the community can learn more about what our company does. Being able to be a part of this wonderful program means a lot to me. I have learned a lot of skills, soft skills like speaking and being respectful in my dealings with others, and hard skills, even big things like how to row a boat.
—Morris is an 8th grade student.

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Eggs in the neighborhood

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Autumn is one of the best seasons to go outside–top four even! (Just try to argue against that one!). After the heat of summer, the cool fall weather is incredibly refreshing, migratory birds are passing through on their way to wintering worlds, and leaves are changing colors in styley ways. To make things even better, ferns and other ground covers die back and allow light (and human eyeballs) to reach the forest floor and light up an incredible diversity of mushroom and slime mold treasures. Yes, the hills (and flatlands!) are alive with the sight of mushrooms! Fall is where it’s at, and it’s literally where we are at right now. Happy fall everyone!

“Never know what you might find” is the way it goes when poking around for ‘shrooms with a couple of awesome mushroom hunters like my wife Amy and son Leif. And you don’t have to go far in St. George to see all kinds of mushrooms—Boletes, Amanitas, Russulas, Milkies, Corts, Corals, Inkies, Polypores, Puffballs and Horse Mushrooms to name a few. They seem to be everywhere—along every trail, in every patch of woods and in big numbers in seemingly every front yard. This is truly the most wonderful time of the year.

A good mushroom “hunt,” one with fresh mushrooms (pre-insect egg-laying),takes some discipline. This often means returning to the same areas multiple times over the course of days, or maybe weeks or more. On these “hunts” we (the family “we”) usually leave the vast majority of mushrooms we come across, not only because we are not going to eat those particular species, but we also don’t have room to spare in our Bolete basket! That said, as these repeated visits are made, one can become familiar with the “other” mushrooms in an area and get a chance to watch them change over time (welcome to mushroom watching).

Some species don’t change much once they get to the surface—Russulas, for example, look like mini-Russulas when they arrive on the scene (they are very cute when they are new). Other species may change a little, like a King Bolete that stretches out its baby bulbous stalk over a few days as it grows taller and attains a sleeker appearance. Their pores also change from white to yellow. Meanwhile, Cort mushrooms (Genus Cortinarus) have a thin, cobwebby membrane, called a “cortina” that extends from the edge of their cap to the stalk/stipe. The Cortina covers the gills until the cap grows so large that this protective layer is torn. The remnants of this covering may stay attached to the mushroom’s stipe/stalk, resulting in a “veil” around the stalk. These kinds of changes are fun to note and photograph.

There are some mushrooms species that rise from the ground completely covered in a protective layer, like a capsule. These “eggs” look nothing like the mature, spore- releasing mushroom it will be when mature. These are super fun to find, and fortunately “eggs” of a few species popped up along our mushrooms routes. Watching these go from egg to adult has been extremely rewarding to observe.

Members of the Amanita family (Amanitaceae) rise from the earth in such a protective layer, a stage usually referred to as “amanita buttons.” Maybe they look like clown buttons but for me “eggs” seems more descriptive and appropriate. Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) is an Amanita species commonly seen at this time of the year and their yellowish eggs have been popping up all over. As the Fly Agaric mushroom grows within the egg, the “egg shell” breaks into pieces, many of which stick to the cap of the mushroom. This results in the striking “Alice-in-Wonderland effect”—a mushroom cap covered with remnant scales. The red mushrooms in the classic Lewis Carroll story are actually a red “variation” of the Fly Agaric. While being a mushroom that should not be eaten, the scales on yellowish/orange cap are cool to see, especially when the mushrooms are in little gangs.

When Ravenel’s Stinkhorn “eggs” (Phallus ravenelii) first appear they are whitish, wettish and soft—somewhat reptilian egg-like. As the mushroom grows within, the protective layer covering the Stinkhorn is stretched and becomes more and more transparent and the Stinkhorns’ greyish cap (with its distinctive white, donut-like hole in the middle) can be seen. Eventually the “egg shell” splits, leaving behind a cup-like sac at the base of a hollow stipe holding up the slimy grey cap. The slime is filled with spores and has a rather pungent odor. As the stipe grows and the cap rises, insects attracted to the smell eat or simply get the slimy goo on them. The insects then act as a spore-dispersal agent as they move on from the mushroom. The process from egg to full-grown mushroom can happen within a day (or quicker) and the disappearance of the slime can be even quicker, depending on the level of insects attracted! Kinda gross in some regards, but still a very cool way to disperse your spores, which is the name of the game!

The changes some mushrooms go through after they first reach the surface makes mushroom watching (and photographing) fun and different. These changes, however, can also make identification tricky. Recognizing the various growth stages of a species can require little more than a repeat visit or two. It’s another great step in “getting to know your neighborhood”—recognizing members of the Fungus kingdom that remain out of sight for most of the year (and, thank goodness, out of smell!). The learning about mushrooms in the fall can be intense, especially when multiple senses are involved! See you out there!

 

PHOTOS: KIrk Gentalen

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Trail re-dedication, tree planting and hike to honor Les Hyde on Oct. 20

Leslie Hyde inspired us to care for the earth!  On Saturday, October 20 at 10am please join his family, friends and colleagues at the Jackson Memorial Library for a trail re-dedication, family hike and tree planting to celebrate his ongoing legacy with the local environmental organizations he cared so much about.

The St. George Conservation Commission will re-dedicate the St. George School Nature Trail in Les’ honor and then we’ll head down the trail for a fun family nature hike led by Tanglewood 4-H Camp and Blueberry Cove staff and alumni. Be part of planting a mighty oak tree with the Georges River Land Trust, and afterwards enjoy delicious light refreshments provided by Maine Coast Heritage Trust. Come share your stories, become re-inspired, and celebrate the memory of this father, friend and true environmental activist.

—Lily Hyde Sytsma

PHOTO: Steve Cartwright

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‘Our dear Cherie’

St. George residents received the news of Cherie Yattaw’s unexpected death on October 2 with shock, sadness and a deep sense of loss.

The daughter of Harold and Marguerite Stairs Pratt, Cherie was born in Rockland in 1949 and graduated from Rockland High School in 1967. Shortly after graduation she married Kip Yattaw and together they raised two sons and a daughter in Port Clyde and in recent years enjoyed the arrival of four grandchildren and a great granddaughter. For 28 years Cherie was employed at Outward Bound School. She joined the staff at the St. George Town Office 12 years ago.

In the days that followed her death, encounters between friends, neighbors and co-workers prompted many personal reflections on Cherie’s most memorable qualities as she carried out her responsibilities for the town—early on as assessing clerk and secretary to the Planning Board and most recently as Office Manager: Her open-hearted smile of welcome when a person, any person, arrived at the front counter of the Town Office seeking assistance. Her penchant for providing holiday-appropriate decor in the front office. The warm hug that signaled her pleasure for the chance to reconnect if she hadn’t seen someone in a while. Her ready willingness to find the answers needed to questions large and small. Her commitment to making a day-long holiday shopping trip an event laced with thoughtful surprises and cheerful foolishness designed to foster a spirit of festive camaraderie (think Cherie wearing reindeer antlers or snowflake glasses or a Santa’s stocking cap). And not least, her experienced competence which made her so invaluable when it came to providing staff support for town boards and committees and to ensuring that the town’s administrative functions were carried out smoothly and efficiently.

Cherie’s upbeat and outgoing personality, the friendly atmosphere she created just by being herself and the commitment to service she embodied were her great gifts to St. George. It is why, when residents speak of her now, more often than not they speak of “our dear Cherie.”
—JW

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Launching a new school fund aimed at ‘Gee, we wish we could do that!’

Cecil White programs the movements of a SunFounder PiCar-V Smart Video Car Kit in the St. George School’s Makerspace. From left to right: Adrien Williams (8th grade), Paul Meinersmann (Technology/ Makerspace Director), Cecil White (7th grade), Amy Palmer (STEAM Educator—STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics).

It was a fortuitous circumstance that when, three years ago, Mike Felton accepted the post of Superintendent of the new St. George Municipal School Unit and moved his family to St. George, the family didn’t immediately have a place to live. Fortuitous because otherwise Martinsville summer residents Tom and Cathy Tinsley might not have been inspired to take leadership in creating the new St. George School Fund administered by the St. George Community Development Corporation (CDC).

“Rob Snyder from the Island Institute called us to ask if the Feltons could stay in our cottage for six weeks while they arranged for housing, so we got to know them,” Tom Tinsley explains. “They also became friends with our oldest daughter who had also gone to Bowdoin at about the same time as Mike. So we started following what was going on in the school because otherwise, as summer residents, we would have been less likely to get engaged in that.”

Still, both Tinsleys have a history of caring about quality education, which made them particularly receptive to learning about Felton’s ambitions for the newly independent school district.

“My father was a university professor and my mother served as an elected official on the school board in Houston,Texas, during the time of court-ordered desegregation and so public education has always been important to how we think about things,” Tom Tinsley explains.

In Cathy Tinsley’s case, education has been her volunteer focus for many years. “I’m pretty passionate about innovative education,” she says. “My personal passion has to do with international education, international experiences as you’re getting educated, but basic education is what you build on.”

What particularly interested both of the Tinsleys was Felton’s desire to make the kindergarten-through-8th-grade school experience in St. George “world class.”

“That’s important to the people living down here whether they live year round or are summer people,” Tom Tinsley says. And St. George, the couple felt confident, couldn’t be better suited for such an enterprise.

Cathy and Tom Tinsley

“The things that have impressed me about St. George are the number of very high-quality non-profit community organizations here that focus on this community,” Cathy Tinsley says. “And when Mike was staying here I took him aside and said, ‘If you don’t bring to bear what Herring Gut and Trekkers and the library and the people here who are so motivated to make this a better place, then you’re really missing an opportunity.’ But, of course, since Mike had this experience of teaching on an island, on Vinalhaven, he understood it’s an all-hands-on-deck kind of project.”

It was the formation of St. George’s CDC last year that prompted the Tinsleys to explore the possibility of benefitting the St. George School in some way—an early idea was setting up something on the model of Donors Choose—because it seemed the new entity might provide an ideal vehicle through which to work.

“So I went to Mike and said, ‘If we raise some extra-budgetary money that you could ask for for the school, would that be helpful?’” Tom recounts. “And Mike told me the story of Wick Skinner who had come to him and said, ‘I’m going to give you $15,000 and I want you to choose a project where you think there’s a 50 percent chance of failure. So I don’t want this to be gas money for the bus, I want this to be something that might change what you do at the school and you wouldn’t otherwise do it because you can’t afford the risk.’”

Skinner’s grant to the school, which came via Skinner’s Mainstream Fund at the Maine Community Foundation, launched the school’s “Makerspace Initiative.”

“Wick originally approached the school in the spring of 2016 to discuss innovative education ideas,” Felton says. “He was interested in ideas that would stretch our collective imagination as to what was possible in public education. We had started our Makerspace with a 3D printer that was donated by the Perloff Family Foundation in late April of 2016. With less than two months of school left in that year and no prior knowledge of 3D printing, we were able to successfully complete projects with students in the second grade (hand-drawn lobsters) and seventh grade (designed and tested the strength of different types of bridges). This experience got a lot of people excited about the potential to do more Makerspace activities and incorporate them into existing classroom plans. The funding from Wick’s Mainstream Fund, along with matching funds raised within our community, has allowed the St. George School Makerspace to grow and adapt to opportunities and challenges.”

Acquisition of a laser cutter, for example, opened up new areas of creative exploration by both students and staff. In addition, the purchase of Sphero SPRK+ robotic balls has made it possible to introduce students to algorithmic thinking and problem-solving. Other purchases have helped support individual students who benefit from more concentrated time in the Makerspace.

Excited by the opportunities for innovation the Makerspace Initiative illustrated, the Tinsleys began working with Rob and Margot Kelley, founders of the new CDC, on a school fund that would be overseen by the CDC.

“It took about a year for the CDC to work with Mike and the school board on the parameters of how this would occur,” Tom Tinsley explains. “So now there’s a three-person board that includes Rob and Don Carpenter and one other person. The objective is to have about $50,000 in the fund each year. We chose $50,000 because that is 1 percent of Mike’s budget, which is $5 million. So it’s not a lot of money relative to what he normally spends, but it is the $50,000 that you don’t have. And then Mike will identify projects and then go to this little board and the board says yes or no.”

The Tinsleys sent out a letter inviting contributions to the new St. George School Fund at the end of July. By mid-September donations had amounted to $28,000, more than half of the $50,000 goal.

“The school is educating about 200 kids from the community and then they are transporting 90 kids to high schools, so that’s what the budget covers,” Tom Tinsley notes. “So key is identifying things that are within the K-through-8 curriculum where they need a little extra push. To fund three or four things a year—the ‘Gee, I wish we could do that!’ sort of projects that they otherwise couldn’t fund—should be fun to watch.”

Cathy Tinsley agrees, returning to her point about public education being an all-hands-on-deck proposition. “These things that bring the CDC, the school, people from away and the local people all together has just seemed like a natural thing to support. The impetus is coming from the local crowd, but the opportunities to plug into some very sophisticated stuff seems like a fresh possibility.” —JW

(Anyone wishing to make a contribution to the St. George School Fund should send a check payable to the St. George Development Corporation and memo it for the St. George School Fund. The CDC address is PO Box 160, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860. Felton will provide the community with updates during the year on how the funds are being used on behalf of the school.)

PHOTOS: Top, St. George School; below, Julie Wortman

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Historical society to present program on businesses of Port Clyde Sept. 27

On Thursday, September 27th at 7pm, the St. George Historical Society will present a program about the businesses of Port Clyde at the Port Clyde Baptist Church. It will be a general overview of businesses and should provide a foundation for more programs in the future about more specific businesses, such as the factories, fishing industry, stores, etc.

People attending the event will hear questions, and hopefully some answers, about the best place to get penny candy, the local places to eat, the favorite menu items, the boat builders, the ship builders, who cut hair, were there gas stations, AND where did they park all the cars when the factory was running?

Do you have some stories and maybe some pictures of Port Clyde businesses to share? What is your favorite story about the General Store, Alma Heal or the Seacoast Ramblers playing at the Driftwood on weekends? We learn about and preserve the history of our town by sharing these stories and pictures.

Hope to see you there!—John Falla

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Requests for energy-saving window inserts due Oct. 1

The St. George Grange chapter of the statewide Window Dressers program will be accepting requests for energy-saving window inserts it will be completing at its community workshop up until Oct. 1.

The window inserts improve heat retention during the winter and help keep interiors cooler in the summer by preventing the draft of warm air seeping in and allowing the cool air from the evening to last longer.

Contact Barbara Anderson for more information at 975-5967 or pbpanderson@gmail.com.

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A taste of the pelagic

Nature bummin’ with Kirk Gentalen

Greater Shearwater

There’s a whole ‘nuther world out there. Out there on the water, past the islands—Metinic, Matinicus, and Monhegan—and further than the sunrise horizon. It’s the “pelagic” world of the Gulf of Maine and beyond, where animals are adapted to an oceanic lifestyle and sightings of land are less frequent than visuals of whales.

I recently joined Captain John Drury on board his boat, “Skua,” for a 12-hour voyage to get just “a taste of the pelagic.” We headed out from Vinalhaven Island for “11-mile ledge”—an underwater, topographical ledge system located south of Matinicus Island and Matinicus Rock. And while the pelagic world is vast—a little too vast for some people—ledge systems such as the “11-mile ledge” create habitats very attractive for pelagic wildlife. And it’s all about the food!

Oversimplifying a little, “upwelling” is a phenomenon that occurs when deep, cold, nutrient-rich waters riding underwater currents hit ledges (such as “11-mile ledge”) and are re-directed towards the surface. The cold water rises, bringing the nutrients with it and inspiring food chains from plankton blooms all the way through predators such as shearwaters, gannets and whales. The waters above such ledges become feeding stations for wildlife as well as a destination for those humanoids hoping to observe pelagic wildlife—and Captain Drury and I were not disappointed on this fine September day!

The most numerous sea birds we observed (other than herring and great black-backed gulls) were two species of Phalaropes—both the Red-necked (Phalaropus lobatus) and the Red (Phalaropus fulicarius). Living oxymorons—pelagic shorebirds?—these two phalaropes are Sandpipers (Family Scolopacidae), that breed in the northern reaches on North America. They take to the ocean once breeding season is done, overwintering at sea. To help with this pelagic lifestyle, Phalaropes have partially lobed feet for swimming and dense plumage for warmth. They are also known for their classic behavior of literally “spinning in circles” on the water. Through the spinning, Phalaropes create their own small currents which bring food closer to the surface where they can get it. It’s always fun to see shorebirds floating in the middle of nowhere!

Razorbill dad and youngster

And while the phalaropes are unique within the shorebird universe, we also had great sessions with members of a couple of classic sea bird groups. The Alcidae is a fun bird family that locally includes Atlantic Puffin, Black Guillemots and Razorbills. These birds, called Alcids, “fly” underwater, flapping their wings in graceful pursuit of fish. In the air, Alcids flap like “crazy” in order to keep their rounded, hydrodynamic bodies alight. Above the 11-mile ledge individual adult Puffins could be seen with fish in their bills for this year’s young. For another Alcid, Razorbills, it’s the dad that takes the lead in raising the youngster once it leaves the den. This favorite Alcid parenting technique was easily observed as several father/youngster Razorbill pairs–floating together for over a month at this point–were bobbing their way in search of the next feeding opportunity.

Members of the avian order Procellariiformes are (lovingly) referred to as “tubenoses,” in reference to the nostril tubes these birds have on top of their bills. The birds use the nostrils, called “naricorns,” to smell (an uncommon sense in the bird world) and to release salt after drinking ocean water. That’s right, Procellariiformes drink salt water (ain’t no fresh water in the pelagic zone!) and with the use of a salt gland just behind the bill, can extract the salt from the water and then release the salt through the naricorn. Salty boogers for sure, but a wonderful adaptation for the pelagic lifestyle.

On this day we “bagged” (not literally) four tubenoses, a trifecta of shearwaters–Sooty, Greater, and Cory’s–and many Wilson’s Storm Petrels. For a little more perspective, the Sooty and Greater Shearwaters, as well as the Wilson’s Storm Petrels, all breed on islands thousands of miles away off the southern tips of Africa and South America. They truly have come a long, long way to feed above the 11-mile ledges.

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin

Plenty of Harbor Seals and Harbor Porpoise were also to be seen and we crossed paths with a Minke Whale as it steamed away to different waters. The marine mammal highlight, however, was the 30 or so Atlantic White-sided Dolphins (AWSD) we hooked up with in the earlier part of the day. Calm, clear seas made the session exceptional as both humans and dolphins bombed towards each other upon first long-distance sighting. The AWSD made pass after pass by the boat, so close and so often we became familiar with individual dolphins, identifying them by nicks and cuts on their dorsal fins. Several calves were mixed in the group, which seemed to spend as much time watching us as we spent freakin’ out about how awesome this experience was. Nice to get this out of the way early, the rest of the day was a bonus as far as we were concerned.

Those with boats or who work on boats are undoubtedly familiar with the pelagic zone, or at least have crossed paths with some of the players out there. You are the lucky ones, because I for one can never get enough of the pelagic lifestyle, where life can be thick and I am always a visitor. If you have a boat and ever need a spotter–let me know! And then we’ll see you out there!

PHOTOS: Kirk Gentalen

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Colson gives town additional funds for scholarship fund

Ralph “Bud” Colson presents a check for $50,000 to Town Manager Tim Polky to further endow the Ralph and Frances Colson Scholarship Fund on September 12. Colson also presented the town with the seagull sculpture by renowned decoy and relief-carving artist Carl Malmstrom that Malmstrom had given Frances Colson when she opened The Seagull Lunch restaurant in Rockland in the early 1970s. Kevin Solsten (right) built the wood display shelf and Peter Achorn (left) lettered the dedication.

On September 12, Ralph “Bud” Colson, 89, presented St. George Town Manager Tim Polky with a check for $50,000 to further endow the scholarship he and his late wife Frances created 15 years ago.

Colson, who was born and raised in Rockland, met Frances, a native of Long Cove, while he was playing the jukebox at Rockland’s Paramount Restaurant. He was 17 and she had just graduated from St. George High School. “She asked if I would give her and her girlfriend a ride home to St. George,” Colson happily recalls. “I said, ‘Sure, I’ll give you a ride home,’ and that was it!”

During much of his working life Colson was employed by the O’Hara Corporation in Rockland, although he also tried his hand at fishing, scalloping, carpentry, masonry and electrical work. “I like to work,” Colson says, “just like my wife. She worked just as hard as I did.”

In the 1970s Frances Colson started a restaurant on Tilson Avenue in Rockland called The Seagull Lunch. To mark the opening, the renowned decoy and relief-carving artist Carl Malmstron, a friend and neighbor from Long Cove, gave her the sculpture of a seagull which Ralph Colson also presented to the town on September 12. Frances ran The Seagull Lunch for 10 years, then converted it into a shrimp-processing business which she ran for another five years or so, processing 30,000 lbs. of shrimp a day.

Together the couple bought Wildcat lobster pound in 1985, where Frances ran a seafood takeout window. That same year the couple moved from Long Cove into a house on Haskell Point where Colson still lives. The couple was married for 71 years.

The idea for setting up a scholarship fund came to the Colsons about 15 years ago, Colson says. “We’d done well, so we talked and we thought we might do something nice so we decided on the scholarship. Education is good and I didn’t get the chance although I don’t think I could have done any better. We certainly had a lot going for us—it’s been a good life.”

With this gift, the principal of the Frances and Ralph Colson Scholarship Fund now amounts to $116,000. The scholarships go to successful applicants who are St. George residents who have graduated from an approved secondary school and will attend a technical school, college or university. Recipients must take a minimum of two classes per semester while maintaining a minimum of a C average. An Award Committee appointed by the Select Board makes the awards.

PHOTO: Betsy Welch

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“What’s in a name?” 6th grade poets respond

“What’s in a name?”
by Anya Felton  (Anya, Russian, “Bringing Goodness”)

My brother thinks my name means, “Annoying sister who tattles on me.”
My mom thinks my name means, “Mini me.”
My dad thinks my name means, “Girl who likes weird music.”
My cat thinks my name means, “The girl who brings me food” and “My
warm pillow.”
My rabbit Snooper-Pooper thinks my name means, “The one who grabs
me one minute and is petting me the next.”
The boys in my class think my name means, “The girl who doesn’t like
gym and sports very much.”

I think they forgot some things.
I think my name means, “Dreams of living on a farm in Vinalhaven” and
“Loves nothing more than to sit and read by the fire with my family
on a cold winter night.”

“What’s in a name?”
by Natalie Gill   (Natalie, Greek, “born at Christmas, sunrise”)

My mom thinks my name means, “Mag.…Moll…. I mean Alis…..
NATALIE!”
My dad thinks my name means, “Save all the chatter about the play
until after the game.”
My sisters think my name means, “Nice, but needs to work on her temper.”
My cat thinks my name means, “Person who doesn’t care if I walk on her
in the middle of the night.” (Believe me, I care.)
My other cat thinks my name means, “Person who opens the door for me
and sweeps up all the food I spill.”
My friend thinks my name means, “Very creative and has an open mind.”
My other friend thinks, “Can’t get to school on time.” (All of my teachers
agree.)

I think they forgot some things.
Like, “Mermaid on the inside,” and “Loves to draw and write.”

“What’s in a name?”
by Hannah Leavitt   (Hannah, Hebrew, “Favor, Grace”)

My mom thinks my name means “One who loves math and
doesn’t like to get out of bed.”
My dad thinks my name means, “Builder of robots and the sibling
who is better at chores.”
My sister thinks my name means, “One who bothers me while I am
trying to sleep.”
My Nana thinks my name means, “Youngest of all the cousins, but
the smartest.”
My Guapo thinks my name means, “Grand-daughter who laughs at
my jokes even when they’re not funny.”
My puppy thinks my name means, “The human who scratches my
belly.”
My dentist thinks my name means, “Child who needs braces, but
does not want them.”
My friends think my name means, “Creative, good at math, and
very good at ponytails.”

There are so many things they’re missing about me, like, “Loves sports” and “Likes to cook” and “Not a big fan of reading” and last, but not least, “One who needs everything to be perfect.”

“What’s in a name?”
Acrostic Poem
by Julian Davis  (Julian, Latin, “Youthful”)

Just a junk magnet
Unique
Loves to collect
Interesting stuff
A collector of many things
Nothing more than me!

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