Kelly Dilliard: Still Before the Cruise, May 15, 2015

NOAA Teacher at Sea
Kelly Dilliard
(Almost-Almost) Onboard NOAA Ship Gordon Gunter

May 15 – June 5, 2015

Mission: Right Whale Survey
Geographical area of cruise: Northeast Atlantic Ocean
Date: May 15, 2015

Personal Log

Well, as you can see we are not quite on the ship yet. Today is the day, though. We are heading from Woods Hole, MA to Newport, RI to get on the Gordon Gunter and we are to set sail at 5 pm or 17:00. On Wednesday, I traveled to Newport and the Gordon Gunter with one of the scientists, a marine mammal specialist named Suzanne Yin (she goes by Yin). She was extremely helpful in making the shuttle to Newport and the Taxi to get onto the Navy base where the Gordon Gunter is docked.

Once there we met up with many of the other scientists and helped to unload all of the scientific equipment and two small boats that will be deployed off the stern. Antennas were installed for acoustic work and the science labs were organized. I got to meet many of the scientists who will be on board and some that are not travelling. The project involves personnel from NOAA Fisheries and from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). There are full time workers, contractors, and student interns. All of them are extremely nice and welcoming.

Equipment loading

Loading equipment onto the Gordon Gunter (photo taken by Yin)

Gordon Gunter

Standing alongside the Gordon Gunter in port. (Photo taken by Yin)

After loading the ship and getting a bit organized it was determined that the ship would not make a good place to stay until Friday. One of the scientists, Chris Tremblay offered up a guest room and I headed back with them to Woods Hole. Yesterday (Thursday, May 14th) while everyone continued getting ready, I headed on the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard where I rented a car and drove around the island.

Martha’s Vineyard is actually composed of two islands to the south of Cape Cod. The island, similar to Cape Cod is the remnant of glaciers. The island marks the location of a terminal moraine and consists of sediment that was pushed there by glaciers and then left behind as the glaciers receded. It is an island now as sea level increased and separated this part of the moraine from other parts. The island is covered in glacial erratics, large rocks left behind by the receding glaciers. Many of these smaller rocks have been turned into rock walls all over the island.

Martha's Vineyard

Map of Martha’s Vineyard

An interesting geologic feature of the island is Gays Head Cliffs. The cliffs are also referred to as the Aquinnah Cliffs and they are located on the western most edge of the island. The Gay Head Cliffs are composed of series of white, grey, red, and black clays that are Cretaceous in age (about 75 million years old). These beds once formed the coastal plain of North America but were pushed upwards by the moving glaciers to form part of the moraine. The top of the cliffs are composed of glacial deposits, including boulders, some of which have tumbled down to the beach. A viewpoint above and a walk on the beach provided a really nice view of the cliffs.

Gay Head Cliffs

The Gay Head Cliffs, located on the western edge of the island.

I continued my tour around Martha’s Vineyard by heading east to Edgartown and the Katama Beach. I walked for a while on the beach trying to see the spit, but had to give up in the interest of time. Still, the beach was very spectacular especially since I seemed to have it all to myself. I found all sorts of seashells and dead crabs along my walk. The beach itself is bordered by vegetated sand dunes.

Katama Beach

Katama Beach, located to the south of Edgartown on the eastern side of the island. The beach is bordered by vegetated sand dunes.

From Edgartown, I headed north to Oak Bluffs to see some unique architecture including The Gingerbread Cottages, a colony of more than 300 small, unique decorated homes around a central park. This area started out as a Methodist meeting place with families setting up tents around a central park in the late 1800’s. Over the years, the tents were built on platforms and then the platforms had porches, and then they became these small, elaborate cottages. They are very cute, but I am not sure I would want to take on the task of repainting one.


One of the Gingerbread Cottages in Oak Bluffs.

From Oak Bluffs I returned to Vineyard Haven to return my rental car and to board the ferry for Woods Hole. I had a wonderful day touring Martha’s Vineyard.

Reference: Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket: The Geologic Story, by Robert N. Oldale, 2001 (revised), published by On Cape Publications.  (you can download the book from the author’s website:

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