Three years ago when I was still in high school, I embarked on my first truly remarkable summer adventure.
First, I spent a week at Naval Academy Summer Seminar (NASS) following around a 3/C midshipman who seemed to embody everything I wanted to be two years later.
Immediately following NASS, I began a seven-week internship called the Honors Research Program. HRP included five weeks working on a research project ashore and two weeks embarked on the Exploration Vessel Nautilus in the Mediterranean Sea.
|MIDN 2/C Julia Arthur, left, and MIDN 1/C Rachel Berger on board Nautilus |
(Photo by Katie Bryden)
Nautilus is owned by the Ocean Exploration Trust, established by Dr. Robert Ballard – former naval officer and best known as the man who found the RMS Titanic and German battleship Bismarck, countless other shipwrecks, and discovered oceanographic breakthroughs such as hydrothermal vents.
By the time I returned home for my senior year of high school in September 2012, I had decided a few important things: USNA was my top choice of colleges, I wanted to study some form of oceanography, and I wanted to find a way to get back aboard the Nautilus at some point in the near future.
It is now September 2015. I am beginning my second class year, working through my major in oceanography, beginning my own research, and have only recently finished a five week internship back aboard Nautilus through the Oceanography Department – this time as a navigation intern beginning in the Galapagos Islands and transiting to San Diego, CA.
|The Nautilus navigation and bridge teams with MIDN 2/C Julia Arthur and|
MIDN 1/C Rachel Berger (Photo by Katie Bryden)
Now, if you told my 17-year-old self what exactly I got to do while aboard Nautilus this summer, I might legitimately have lost my mind. Over the course of the few weeks spent on Nautilus around the islands, we discovered potentially new species of fish and extremely rare corals, explored 14-meter-tall hydrothermal vent spires, and took enough biologic and geologic samples to fill multiple shipping pallets.
And while science was the focus, these highlights don’t even begin to cover the time spent on the islands visiting lava tubes, swimming in “Las Grietas” lava fissure, touring the Charles Darwin Research Station, watching the eruption of Wolf Volcano, and enjoying the ubiquitous fur seals, birds, lizards, and tortoises native to the islands.
|MIDN 2/C Julia Arthur with Dr. Robert Ballard|
on board Nautilus
(Photoby Katie Bryden)
My second tour aboard Nautilus was not only my favorite summer training thus far, but also one of the most beneficial. My five weeks aboard gave me a great deal more than just experience in the navigator’s seat. Nautilus taught me what it takes to coordinate the position of a more than 200-foot ship with two large remotely-operated vehicles thousands of meters underwater; how to manage the completion of dive objectives while also understanding the dynamic and unpredictable nature of exploration; and adaptability, communication, and a type of real-world management and leadership that is difficult for the academy to provide to a 2/C midshipman during the school year.
The friends I made on Nautilus as a high school student have also taught me the unparalleled importance of quality mentorship. Nautilus’ “Corps of Exploration” is truly filled with men and women who are experts in their respective fields, and since leaving Nautilus in 2012, those men and women have provided ceaseless guidance, encouragement, and support.
This type of mentorship is exactly the “4,500 training 4,500” mindset the academy strives for, and I hope to have the opportunity to use my successes and failures as a student, athlete, explorer, and midshipman to mentor someone who hopes to find themselves in a position similar to mine one day.
For now, you can follow along with what Nautilus is exploring live on NautilusLive.org.