Island Updates

An interview with Hurricane Island's resident comedians and rays of sunshine

Sadie Claire befriending the algae on the Hurricane Island dock

Sadie Claire befriending the algae on the Hurricane Island dock

When I first met Julie, Sadie Claire, and Clementine Danehy on our first boat ride out to Hurricane Island in mid-June, I didn’t know who they were or how they were connected to Hurricane. The cookbooks tucked under Julie’s arm gave me a bit of a hint, but I had no idea how much of an impact they all would have on my summer and on the Hurricane Island community as a whole. This summer, Hurricane Island has been graced with the season-long presence of two energetic, wonderful young women. Sadie Claire and Clementine Danehy (13.5 and 12 years-old, respectively) are the daughters of one of our chefs, Julie. Sadie Claire and Clementine take part in our middle school level open enrollment programs, but in their spare time they are always lending a helping hand wherever needed, sorting scallop spat bags with our research team, cleaning up, entertaining dogs and babies. They are endlessly funny and kind and I am happy to call them my friends. They hail from Austin, Texas, but have become completely at home on Hurricane. They have certainly made an impression on our community. Here is a peek into their impressions of their summer on Hurricane Island.

What is a fun fact about yourself?

Sadie Claire(SC): I am the one and only Hippoloptomus.

Clementine(C): I am the queen of the Dragocorns.

What about Hurricane is different than you expected?

SC: I thought the island would be bigger than it actually is.

Clementine shows off the harvest of our aquaculture kelp line

Clementine shows off the harvest of our aquaculture kelp line

C: Well, since it’s an island I didn’t really think there would be a pizza oven so that’s really cool. I also thought there would be moose on the island, so it’s a little disappointing that they aren’t.

What do you like most about living in the Hurricane Island community?

SC: The thing I like the most about living here is that I get to know everyone better than I would if I were only here for a short period of time.

C: I like the people and I like the animals, I like the dogs and it’s just really fun.

What is your favorite thing to do on the island?

SC: Everything is so fun! But I especially love pier jumping, rock climbing, lobstering, the raft challenge, and working with the scallops.

C: I love the raft challenge, it’s really awesome, and I love jumping off the pier.

Where is your favorite place on the island?

SC: Sunset Rock, the Cracks, the intertidal zones, and the ocean.

C: My favorite place is probably the Crack because it’s near the Ice Pond and it’s really neat.

What is your favorite Hurricane Island plant or animal?

SC: My favorite plants on Hurricane are the raspberry and blueberry plants and my favorite  animal is the mink.

C: My favorite animal here is the mink and my favorite plants are the apple trees near the pizza oven.

What is one thing you would change about Hurricane Island?

SC: I wish we had permanent Hurricane Island pets! Like goats, chickens, pigs-not to eat.

C: I also wish we had animals like goats, pigs, and guinea fowl, which would be really good because they eat ticks!

What is something you’ve learned about the island that is interesting to you?

SC: The history of this island is so cool and fascinating.

C: I learned that it was a granite quarry and that was, like, WOW! Really cool.

What is something you’ve learned about yourself this summer?

SC: Something that I have learned about myself this summer is that I am not as shy/non-talkative as I thought.

C: That I love science! I never knew that, I seriously never knew that, but I do!

If you could have one thing come out of your belly button on command, what would it be?

SC: The one thing that I would want to come out of my belly button for the rest of my life (on and off) is a genie because he could grant me three wishes.

C: I would want rolled-up s’mores to come out of my belly button because square s’mores would hurt.

Clementine (right) and Sadie Claire (left) are wonderful dog care-takers!

Clementine (right) and Sadie Claire (left) are wonderful dog care-takers!

I think I speak for the entire Hurricane Island staff when I say that Sadie Claire and Clementine have added so much to our community this summer. They have made me appreciate parts of the island that I would have over-looked without them, and their perspectives are always refreshing. The girls always know how to make us smile and keep the rest of the staff entertained and laughing. A recent visitor to the island described them perfectly by comparing Sadie Claire and Clementine to island fairies frolicking through the meadows, down the forests paths, and exploring the edge of the sea. These girls are full of sunshine and good spirits. We are so lucky to have them on Hurricane!

 

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Notes from Dissection Dana: Middle School Marine Biology and the Mackerel

Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan

Middle school marine biology striking their poses!

Middle school marine biology striking their poses!

Examining the mackerel

Examining the mackerel

Last week Middle School Marine Biology was fortunate enough to catch SIX mackerel while fishing with Oakley on Fifth Generation. Mackerel are a migratory schooling fish which reach the coasts of Maine in the summer. They are beloved by many a Mainer, and well known for their iridescent skin and dark patterns on their backs. These patterns are schooling marks, which can help a fish know to adjust their speed and align themselves with the rest of the group by looking at the marks of their neighbors.                                        

Two years ago, I worked as Coral Reef Ecology Intern at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. A major aspect of my job was filleting and dissecting Lionfish to collect data on their stomach contents. While I had never dissected a fish before that summer, I quickly became extremely familiar with the ins and outs of dead fish. This is a skill I have brought with me to Hurricane Island and I have enjoyed sharing with different Hurricane Island programs. If you dissect a fish for someone else, then they have seen a fish dissection. But if you teach someone how to dissect a fish they can dissect fish for life!

Dissection discussion

Dissection discussion

Before breaking out the scalpels, Middle School Marine Biology had a conversation about what it means to dissect a fish. Why would we want to dissect a fish in the first place? What can we learn from it? Students went around, bouncing their ideas off each other. One student answered, “Through dissecting a fish we can see what’s inside of it!” Another responded, “If we look in it’s stomach, we can see what it’s been eating or if there are microplastics inside.” This is true! Dissections can be a really important way to learn about a species through observations and data collection. You can collect data through measuring its size, looking at a fish’s stomach contents to learn about its diet, and even find out its reproductive development through looking at a fish’s gonad stage. 

Mack-daddy!

Mack-daddy!

Through our dissections Middle School Marine Biology and I learned two things about Mackerel. Firstly, they don’t have swim bladders. Swim bladders are internal organ in bony fish that help them control their buoyancy, allowing them to stay in place without having to swim. If they are not punctured when captured, swim bladders can look like little bubbles filled with air in a dissection. Mackerel are some of the few bony fish that do not have swim bladders. They swim so fast and frequently that Mackerel do not need to float in the same way other bony fish do.

The second thing we discovered in our dissection was what looked like two centimeter snippets of hair wriggling in the guts of the fish. Our mackerel were infected with “herring worm” or Anisakis, a parasitic nematode whose larvae are eaten by crustaceans. These crustaceans are eaten by fish like Herring and Mackerel, in which Anisakis encysts in the fish’s gut before being ingested by marine mammals where they develop into adult worms. For Middle School Marine Biology, the herring worms were a particularly disgusting and fascinating part of the dissection.

Hannah and Serafin making the first inscision

Hannah and Serafin making the first inscision

Fish dissections are gross. They are messy and stinky. Your fingers get covered in fish blood and guts, and the smell will remain on your hands even after washing them multiple times. But I love that fish dissections are gross. I love the excitement students’ have sticking their fingers down a fish’s mouth to find it’s stomach. I love how much information you can learn about a fish from looking at its insides. Dissections are extremely educational, extremely hands on, and extremely engaging. My hope is that Middle School Marine Biology left Hurricane Island not only a little fisher than when they arrived, but also that someday in the future, they could teach someone else how to dissect a fish.

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Mink Slinkin’, Bugs Crawlin’, Mackerel Runnin’

Guest blog post by Facilities Manager Oakley Jackson

Of the many wonderful aspects of Hurricane Island I have to say that my favorite part is how closely we get to live to the elements and the marine environment. I relish the constant flux of island life. Our watery world is ever changing: tides coming and going, puffy clouds flying by, and of course the abundance of marine life that is thriving all around us. In twenty-eight years I have found that there is never a dull moment.

When I move back to my summer cabin, a mere twenty feet from the ocean’s edge, I like to think I become a sea creature again. This belief was reinforced a few mornings back as I was mentally preparing myself for an early plunge. As I made my way down to the water’s edge I noticed a sleek little mink (Neovison vison) doing the same. I was honored that my timing for a dip matched that of one of my favorite local mammals. In years past I have been lucky enough to witness mink pulling their prey up the shoreline. Amazingly they are dexterous enough not only to catch sizable lobster (Homarus americanus) and ground fish but also to drag them ashore and devour them on the rocks. The lobsters do not go out without a fight however, on several occasions I have come across body carapaces stained with the blood of their assailants.

Mackerel caught just off Hurricane Island

Mackerel caught just off Hurricane Island

Now is the time of year that there is no shortage of prey for mink, and humans for that matter. I have had five lobster traps set close to Hurricane’s Eastern shore since early May and only in the last few weeks have the keeper bugs started to show up in shallow waters.  I get a big kick out of taking students that are new to the Maine coast out in our lobster boat, Fifth Generation, and seeing their looks of awe as a trap breaks the surface and it’s contents come into view. I have also started bringing hand lines with us when we haul and after we are done letting students drop a hook in and try their luck at catching mackerel (Scomber scombrus). We hit a school last week and were rewarded with our first catch of the season, six shimmering macki dogs! These fish were later laid out in trays and used for dissection with the oversight of one of our science educators. I am forever grateful for this slice of the Atlantic Ocean and the incredible organisms I get to share it with.

 

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Ecological Escapades: High School Island Ecology

Guest blog by Teaching Assistant Katherine King

Students practice leaf identification through observation of various leaf characteristics.

Students practice leaf identification through observation of various leaf characteristics.

High School Island Ecology is here and Isabelle and I are psyched to be kicking off our very first open enrollment program of the summer. With students ranging from freshmen to seniors in high school we have a group ready and excited to learn this week. I have been really enjoying this week and the opportunity to share my love and knowledge of all the ecosystems and interactions in the Penobscot Bay, and particularly Hurricane Island. Our students arrived on a clear, sunny day and we got to enjoy a peaceful full moon hike after our lively game of Salad Bowl.

Students transition from the land to the water in teams during our rainy day raft challenge.

Students transition from the land to the water in teams during our rainy day raft challenge.

The past few days have been packed full of exploring the various ecosystems we have here on Hurricane Island including the Ice Pond, Forests, Intertidal zone and more. Students also enjoyed listening to our Research Technician, Bailey, talk about the scallop research going on through HIF and what it means for the surrounding community. We even got to throw in a lesson on wild edibles upon request and forage for some yummy additions to our dinner and beautiful decorations for Phoebe’s birthday cake. Even a little rain didn’t stop this crew as two teams faced off in a raft challenge filled with teamwork and some good laughs. Of course, it wouldn’t be the full Hurricane Island experience without hauling lobster traps and marine debris.

By the end of the last day here on the island we got the chance to reflect on the wide array of activities and topics we explored throughout the week. Looking back on all the great things we were able to accomplish this week I am grateful for our curious and willing high school students from across the country. I am going to miss “getting sciency” and having fun with this great group of young people!

The full, red moon rising over Heron's Neck lighthouse on Greens Island on the other side of Hurricane Sound.

The full, red moon rising over Heron's Neck lighthouse on Greens Island on the other side of Hurricane Sound.

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Sustainable Ocean Studies: A New Nation is Born

Blog post written in collaboration with Teaching Assistant Sammi Clark.

Within a three week exploration along Maine’s coast, ten high school students visited Hurricane Island for five days. Their three weeks in Maine were dedicated to Sustainable Ocean Studies, (SOS), in which they examined ocean sustainability through ecological, economic, and cultural lenses. During their five days on Hurricane, the SOS group aimed to contribute to our research initiatives, investigating juvenile scallops populations, in addition to scallop and kelp aquaculture, keeping busy with an ambitious schedule that would allow them consider the ecological, economic and cultural lenses of the applied, community-based research we are doing here on Hurricane.

Sorting spat bags on the pier...looking for baby scallops!

During one exhausting afternoon measuring kelp in the heat of the day, the SOS students were reawakened by an unexpected force. A student known for her remarkable ability to fall asleep anywhere, during breaks as short as 5 minutes or as long as two hours, was re-energized by tossing seaweed over the dockside. Suddenly, she yelled, “SWEEEEEEE!” as the marine algae fell back to sea. From that moment on, “swee” was the exclamation of choice for the group. It was used as a chant, featured in songs, and peppered into conversations and puns. The students began inducting each other into what they called, “Swee Nation,” until every student was included. It didn’t matter that everyone was tired from deploying green crab predation lines at 3AM, the team was united in, “swee at sea,” and any low energy students would quickly awaken at the sound of the cheerful call.  

Dog whelk egg cases found among the seaweed and rocks

By the end of the week, Swee Nation had investigated kelp anatomy, the intertidal zone, scallop spat, kelp and scallop aquaculture, and invasive green crabs. They concluded their time on Hurricane by analyzing raw data from the various research projects and presenting posters of their findings. Moving on from their five days of Hurricane, Swee Nation was excited to take their ecological understanding and apply it to sustainable fishing solutions. As they departed Hurricane, the students cheered and let out one final “Sweee!”

SOS students field questions during their final presentations.

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11 Boys, 2 Science Educators, and a Parker Gassett: The Penobscot Bay Leadership Collaborative on Hurricane Island

Guest blog post by Science Educator Dana Colihan

11 Boys and a Parker Gassett washed ashore on Hurricane Island’s granite coast ready for adventure. They came as a part of the Penobscot Bay Leadership Collaborative, a pilot program between the Hurricane Island Foundation, the Apprentice Shop, and Hurricane Island Outward Bound. The 11 students were all local boys going into 8th and 9th Grade from the Penobscot Bay. Some of the boys had been to the island before, for others it was their very first time, but they were all excited to experience this place anew as a team. Parker Gassett, a current graduate student at UMaine, dynamically lead the group.

This was a program of firsts: our first collaboration with these two organizations, as well as our first all boys program. Something that you should know about the Hurricane Island Staff, is that it mostly made up women. 77% of our year round and seasonal staff are women. Bringing 12 boys out to Hurricane Island? A lot could go wrong.

However, as they stepped onto the island and passed each other their gear from the boat with grins on their faces and twinkles in their eyes, I immediately feel in love with this program.

Penobscot Bay boys on Sunset Rock

Penobscot Bay boys on Sunset Rock

What so impressed me about this group of boys was their camaraderie, engagement, and endless energy. This group of students was a seamless cohort. They all enjoyed being together and approached individual challenges as a team. As members of the group took on climbing the rock wall, their peers supported them with cheers, hoots, and hollers. They were genuinely engaged and curious about the island and environment they were in--asking questions about the artifacts we discovered on our walks, the plankton we observed under the microscopes, and the wild edibles we found while foraging. Finally, the Penobscot Bay Boys were versatile. They were able to be energetic and innovative in the Raft Challenge (creating some of the most ingenious and structurally sound vessels I have ever seen), to being thoughtful, contemplative, and considerate during solo time.

Contempative Elias during solo time

Contempative Elias during solo time

While a group of 11 teenage boys might theoretically seem like a recipe for disaster, the Penobscot Bay Boys, my teaching assistant, Lilla Fortunoff, and I proved to have an incredible four days together on Hurricane Island. I believe each participant went home knowing a little bit more about wooden boats, a little bit more about sailing, and a little bit more about Hurricane Island’s unique coastal marine ecology. Most importantly, each went home having shared a transformative experience with 10 other peers, comrades, and partners in crime. I am so incredibly excited to see the environmental stewards these 11 boys become.

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Summer in the Hurricane Island Galley

Guest blog post by Kitchen Assistant Phoebe Little

I arrived on Hurricane Island on a stormy day in early June. I carried with me a small bag filled with warm clothes, a sleeping bag, a pair of rainboots, my red headlamp, and a cookbook containing my favorite recipe for lemon scones. It was the beginning of my summer adventure working in the Hurricane Island galley as the kitchen assistant.

Phoebe in the galley with a big tray of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Phoebe in the galley with a big tray of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

Now, five weeks later that cold day I arrived on Hurricane seems an impossibly long time ago. The paths that once felt so foreign to me are now familiar and well traveled by my feet. The brisk June weather has warmed into sweet, sunny, July afternoons complete with ocean swims and island hikes. I’m a frequent traveler on the local ferry from Vinalhaven to Rockland.

I remember washing dishes after my first dinner on the island and having to ask other island staff members where each dish, piece of silverware, and equipment was stored. Now I’m so familiar with the contents of the galley that I help direct our program participants in putting away dishes after every meal (all while dancing and singing to the tunes of Michael Jackson and Beyonce).

Yellow Watermelon Salad with radishes and pickled onions

Yellow Watermelon Salad with radishes and pickled onions

I’ve enjoyed cooking in the beautiful Hurricane Island galley this summer. The kitchen is warm, bright, and spacious, it has a wall of windows that look out at the ocean and nearby Greens Island. The room is rarely quiet because we usually cook while listening to music. I happen to think that food is the tastiest when made listening to Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album.

In the kitchen with me is our head chef Philip, and our cook Julie. We prepare delicious restaurant quality food every single day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. However, the Hurricane galley is unlike a restaurant because we don’t work off of a set menu. We provide our participants and staff with a wide variety of healthy and delicious meals. When I was younger I did a lot of cooking in my own home, but I hadn’t experienced making food on a large scale until this summer. Unlike cooking for my family of three, on Hurricane we usually have between 25 and 45 people present at each meal. Although, sometimes on special occasions, we have as many as 100 people on the island! Cooking for a large quantity of people with a variety of dietary restrictions has made my work in the galley challenging and exciting.

An appetizer of tuna tartar with lime zest

An appetizer of tuna tartar with lime zest

Another unique part of the Hurricane kitchen is the offshore aspect. Our little island is 9 miles off the coast which means that all food deliveries need to be planned well in advance. Twice a week Philip orders food that is later dropped off at the Hurricane office on the mainland. We transport the food by boat to the island. On Mondays and Fridays, our island staff members await the radio notification that the food run boat has returned. We all make our way down to the dock where we form a fire line style chain and pass boxes of food from the boat up the ramp to the island. Opening those cardboard boxes filled with delicious ingredients is possibly even more exciting than opening presents on your birthday.

Each night before dinner is served the everyone on Hurricane joins hand in a circle. It’s a moment to come together as a community and reflect on the day. More and more I find myself taking this time to reflect on how grateful I am for the opportunity to live and learn on Hurricane. I’m originally from the greater Portland Maine area but now go to school in Western Massachusetts at Smith College. When I was looking for a summer job I knew I wanted to work near the Atlantic ocean that I miss so much when I’m at school. I wanted to find work that would challenge and inspire me. I love baking for my family so was hoping to work in a kitchen where I could improve my cooking skills. At school, I study environmental science and government so I was hoping to work with a nonprofit organization doing environmental research I admired . At The Hurricane Island Foundation, I’ve been so lucky to find all that and more. My summer on Hurricane has been a summer of growth, community building, and so much learning and I’m so grateful to be here.

We often make delicious pizza in our gorgeous outdoor pizza oven! There's nothing more fun than enjoying dinner outside as a community

We often make delicious pizza in our gorgeous outdoor pizza oven! There's nothing more fun than enjoying dinner outside as a community

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Staff Orientation Week

Guest Blog Post by Teaching Assistant Sammi Clark

Hurricane Island is the type of magical land featured in Disney movies. When I arrived last Sunday with the other interns, I felt completely enchanted by the strange geology and forest vegetation blanketed in fog.

It appeared the sunrises and sunsets were competing in a beauty pageant.

Hurricane staff from the island and mainland dedicated this week to gather on the island and bring the new staff up to speed on how the island runs. We started with safety training and staff bonding where, after traditional emergency training, we reviewed the importance of learning about each other’s strengths, interests, and life experiences. Not only did this create a welcoming atmosphere but it also prepared us to use each other as resources in case of a situation.

Next, staff lead us through the trails for a history tour where we pointed out foundations and slabs of granite left from the quarry workers who were past inhabitants of the island (ghost stories included). Hiking around the island really got everyone working up an appetite. The cooks created meals with local ingredients and always had artfully crafted garnishes on the salads. Halfway through the week my notebook was already half full of facts and stories to share with future island visitors.

A brittlestar found in the rocky intertidal. The stars in the sea were just as fascinating as the stars in the sky.

A brittlestar found in the rocky intertidal. The stars in the sea were just as fascinating as the stars in the sky.

We were given an in-depth sustainability tour of the facilities and were surprised to learn there was no backup generator necessary due to the amount of power the solar panels could store. Sharing their projects on kelp and scallops, the research team sparked a discussion on the challenges and benefits of aquaculture. To end the week, we explored the intertidal zone while swapped teaching strategies and knowledge on marine ecosystems.

The end of a long week marks a good time to review the highlights and lessons of the week. Hurricane Island is an unforgettable place. It is where all my interests and aspirations intersect whether its ecology, marine science, or sustainable living. The year-round staff’s dedication to orienting the new staff emphasized to me that the magic of the island is created by the people that live there.

We came out to the island in an incredible thick fog, enjoyed some incredible sunsets midweek, and then the sun swiftly slipped into fog again by Friday. The sun shines on its own schedule.

We came out to the island in an incredible thick fog, enjoyed some incredible sunsets midweek, and then the sun swiftly slipped into fog again by Friday. The sun shines on its own schedule.

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