Reader’s note: if you don’t like looking at fish guts or seeing pictures of the reality that is happening to these animals, than either scroll past all photos or skip this blog update.
Monday, Monday. (ba da, ba ba da da).
It had its moments, that’s for sure.
7:30 am. I can only assume I woke up at this time because I got so much sleep yesterday/the day before. Johnny, Matt, and Dr. Wise were up moving about, which is probably why I woke up because they were really enjoying letting their doors slam behind them. They were getting ready to go to Grand Isle early to try and get some samples before there would be other people fishing etc. I got up and went to make some tea and had just settled in to doing some reading when Johnny poked his head down from the pilothouse and questioned, “Are you coming?” I guess so. I poured my tea in a to-go mug and put some sneakers on.
In an ideal world, BP workers wouldn’t have started until about 9 am, which would have allowed us time to try and collect some tarball samples from the beach. Not that I’m touting questionable measures of collecting data, but I’m just sayin’. In an ideal world, that’s how it would have gone down. That not being the case, we spread out to gather samples. Johnny tied off more string to use the cast net over the side of the pier, while Matt was working on dropping a sediment sampler down into the ocean, hoping to get some pieces of tar coming up. I’ll admit to standing around being really chilly in the wind until Johnny started bringing up some samples. I put on some gloves and got a spoon — jellyfish are really difficult to grab with your fingers.
Johnny ended up bringing up a lot of really tiny fish that I was putting into a plastic bag as samples. They were very reflective and had a crazy metallic sheen to them. He also pulled up about 4 mullet fish. I’m not even sure if that is what they’re called, but that’s how he was pronouncing their name. So, as of now, they are mullet fish. What struck me as odd was they came up with suds on them. Later on when we had 2 in a bucket and put water over them, there were a ton of suds that sat on top of the water. Dispersant? Potentially.
We used some of the catch to try and bait larger fish, but that didn’t work out at easily as the other fishermen had made it look the day or two before. Matt was busy pulling up pretty dark looking sand from underneath the pier. Then we looked up and saw 4 people walking towards us. Turns out they were just 4 middle-aged and curious women out for a morning stroll in the “resort town” of Grand Isle. All fleeced up and complaining about the wind, but shooting away with their Nikon DSLR cameras. One of them was super talkative and when she found out we were from Maine, announced that she had summered for years in “Kit-tree.” I thought to myself, Oh, Kit-tree, I’ve never been there. Never even heard of it actually. Definitely can’t get theah from heah. Been to Kit-Er-Ee plenty of times, but never Kit-tree. Of course I didn’t say that; it was too early in the morning to be rude. So, I let her spout off about Maine and her $500 bag from Custom House Wharf and her love of LL Bean. Lady, if you’ve never been past Portland, let alone not know how to pronounce Kittery, you’ve practically never been to Maine. ‘Nuf said.
Anyway, they left and we went back to taking water and sediment samples. Then Dr. Wise came over and told us we should start thinking about packing up in a hurry because there was a mass of people moving down the pier, some in Army fatigues, others in all blue (Coast Guard or Navy, can’t remember), and still others with photo ID tags strung around their necks. They looked mighty important. We hurriedly gathered materials and packed up, but not before we had started to try and process our fish samples. We cut open the bellies of two fish and out came the darkest, black sediment I had ever seen. I don’t think fish insides are supposed to look like that. We put them in bags to finish at the boat. Casually, we walked past the mass of people who parted for us like the Red Sea, all smiling and asking us “Did ya’ll catch anything?” Nothing that you’d like to see, I’m sure. Turns out they were all the bigwigs from BP, there to survey how cleanup was going. Or so the custodial staff told us before we left.
We got back and Dr. Wise headed up to New Orleans to pick up the new recruits from the airport. Oh, and Ian, too. He was coming back from his long weekend in Florida, enjoying real showers and constant, strong internet access. Right as he was leaving, he shouted to us that there were huge schools of fish swimming around near the boat. They had been close enough to capture with the hand cast net, but began swimming away too far. Johnny and I got in the dingy to try and corral some of the schools closer to us in order to catch some with the net. We caught somewhere in the range of 30 fish. Most would go to being used as bait later on, but we decided to sample one and compare it to the fish we had just caught on Grand Isle.
After playing around in the dingy, we set to work sampling the fish. I admittedly was pretty anxious to see what was going on inside of them after having just a glimpse of what looked like oil inside. When we cut them open, they were filled with the same thick, black, sediment and it was just covering their stomachs and intestines. I guess the mullet fish usually have somewhat of a black lining along where the fillet is, but not to the extent that these two fish had. We saved the fillets, stomachs and intestines, gills, gonads, and eyeballs. We usually try and save the brain if we can retrieve it from underneath the hard piece of bone that protects it. Johnny managed to get it out of one of the fish.
Once we finished, we placed them all into the bottles and/or bags so they could be sent back to the lab later on. I then spent some time reading and trying to work on a paper. I must have done other things that are escaping my memory right now, but that just means they weren’t of much importance. Time can pass by surprisingly quickly even when you’re not doing too may things that feel productive.
John and Sandy came back close to around sunset with the two new crew members, Jane and Sho-Ping, who both work in the Wise Lab at USM. Jane’s a non-traditional student with a husband and couple of kids. I honestly don’t know much about Sho-Ping or his story other than he’s working on improving his English skills (He actually communicates just fine). Jane brought us a plethora of candy that we all dove into immediately. There were some chocolate toffee covered almonds that I really wished hadn’t made their way to being placed in front of me. Once you eat one, you’re done for. Sandy was saying she was going to Grand Isle to do some laundry, just sheets, blankets, and some towels for the new people. I had some personal items I really wanted to get washed (read: everything I have with me needed to be washed) and Bailey packed up some of his laundry out of his probably 4 month supply of clothes. We both went with Sandy, Jane, and John and find the laundromat, which turns out to be called Landry’s Washateria.
A washateria is, unfortunately, not a laundry place that you can also get cafeteria food at. Instead, it’s a little hole in the wall with maybe 6 washers and 6 dryers, each costing $1.50 each. We went to the Sureway and stood in an atrociously long line to exchange cash for coins. Sandy and I had tried to wait in line at a check out to just get a couple dollars in change versus handing over a $10 and getting $10 in quarters, but the check out lady didn’t have enough. Of course, Bailey got away with going through the line. Us girls were stuck behind every BP worker on the planet looking to cash their checks or send money orders home to Mexico (Is that mean? That’s probably mean. But, is it still mean when that’s legitimately what was occurring?)
Back to the laundromat, we piled everything into their machines and then left Sandy there while the rest of us went to find dinner. They had intended on Subway, but I suggested the Starfish restaurant since I remembered that it wasn’t so bad. Bailey whined about it being greasey dive food, but my grilled chicken po’boy was just how I remembered it: warm and delicious. When we went back to bring Sandy her food, there were two other people who had waited with her. I noticed them get in their truck once we arrived, but not before giving her a hug good-bye. Already making friends with the locals, it seemed.
Well, kind of. She quickly told us that the other two people refused to leave her there by herself because, apparently, Grand Isle has been having a huge problem with violence and petty crime since BP moved to town. Go figure. Therefore, they refused to leave a petite white woman by herself right next to the rows and rows and rows of BP trailers. She also told us a very unnerving story that a woman had come in to do laundry while we were gone. Sandy had been talking to the two locals and the new lady tried to join conversation, asking Sandy what she was doing down here. Sandy said, “Oh, well I’m on a research vessel.” The new lady quickly said, “You better watch your back. All those trailers right over there? That’s BP security. So watch your back. Cause I’m one of them.” Dun dun dun. Enter dark music here.
So, I found her story kind of crazy, but we all moved on and ate. Before we knew it, who came waltzing back over but the lady of Sandy’s nutty story. Now, I really want to paint an appropriate picture of this woman for you, and how I wish I had had a camera with me when she showed up. Oh man, I really wish I had conned my way into getting a photo of her. I looked online and this is the closest thing I found to what she looked like.
Now just add some long blond hair with dark brown roots and a cigarette and we have our woman. Probably standing at about 4’11 and 190 lbs. Wearing tight shorts and a tight shirt that wouldn’t forgive her bulging stomach for going over her pants. It’s like the shirt gave up trying and didn’t want to be seen on that stomach anymore so it retreated up under her boobs. Either that or she bought her clothing in the child’s section, greatly underestimating her physique. The t-shirt design did look a little juvenile. To add to it, she was also wearing Crocs that had fleece lining and a huge chain necklace, from which hung “rare” rocks that she collects and fuses together and then wraps in chicken wire. I’m not joking.
Here’s where the story gets good. She comes strolling over nonchalantly and we’re all looking at each other thinking, What now? Or maybe more along the lines of, That is who threatened you? AHAHAHAHAHA. She started yakking about how the cure for the “BP Flu” is pure lemon juice. That you should drink lemon juice once a day, if not several times, but it can’t be that crap you buy in a grocery store. It needs to be legit pure lemon juice. That’s the cure, she says. I didn’t even know what the “BP Flu” was, or is. I asked her and she stopped straight, looked at me dead in the eye, and muttered something about it being a joke, yet continued on about the importance of lemon juice and how it detoxifies your body. But wait, it gets even better from here.
She then continues on to say that while we should watch what we eat and drink, what we really need to worry about is what we’re breathing in because there’s so many toxins in the air. She says this straightfaced as she takes huge drags off her cigarette. How I kept it together without busting my gut laughing, I will never know. The grace of God, I suppose. That was such a kicker.
I asked her about her crazy necklace then, for the sake of her not continuing to offer us health advice, and she goes off about all the different rocks in her necklace. One from a volcano in Hawaii and another one from this exotic location and this one and this one. All these rocks glued together and wrapped up in chicken wire, hanging from her neck. Uh huh, I say. Uh huh. Interesting. “It’s amazing the power of our minds,” she muses. Then she launches into a story about how her acupuncturist takes measurements of her body (body fat? Maybe she should have that looked at) and how he asked her to take her necklace off to get a “true” reading but she refused. He took the reading, then she decided to give it up and – oh my gahd – the readings were different. THEN, unbeknownst to her, the acupuncturist had his nurse come in and out of the room with the necklace and her body “could sense when it was close to her.” After that, she said she’d come back in a half hour when it looked like we’d be done with the machines. I think she noticed the glazed over look in my eyes. As soon as she was out of earshot, we all bust out laughing.
Now, during all of this, Bailey had taken off to the Pirate Cove Daiquiri bar across the street. He extended an invitation to everyone, but I obviously was the only one who took him up on the offer. I got a text message from him that simply read, “Jayzus this is awesome! Get over here!” I walked in to find him glowing in the blacklights with an orange and white lei around his neck. Typical. He’s sipping on a daiquiri called the “Cut Throat” and it tasted a lot like a Hurricane to me, so I asked for one. 24 ounces on special for $8, you can’t go wrong. So, Bailey starts telling me about why the place is so awesome. The fellas next to him had bought him a shot of a liquor called Diesel, which he described to me as “what they put in their cars to get around here.” Yeesh. 190 proof? I never believe that stuff, but I asked Paco, the owner/bartender, to take a look at the bottle and it simply read “Diesel. Grain alcohol. 190 proof.” Alright, well, the good ole boys bought us both shots and now I believe it. I think the universal reaction to that is “Woo!”
We were there for about a half hour before the call came that our ride back was going to head out. Went, folded laundry, and laughed about the ridiculous nature of Grand Isle at night. We came back to find the boat had just started the DVD version of Rocky Horror Picture Show; I was thankful to not have yet missed the Time Warp. Between Cpt. Bob and Dr. Wise, I think every line in the movie could have been covered had there been no audio.
Ah Monday. You were a very entertaining day.