Hurricane Island

Day 2

21 June 2022

Quote of the day - “I love the activities list today.” - Lorelei


Our first morning on the island broke quiet and cool, with only the sound of birds and the distant rumble of lobster boats.  After breakfast, we began our week with a silent hike up to the ice pond.  While Hurricane was an active quarry, refrigeration had not been invented yet, so ice was harvested from the pond during Maine’s long winters for use throughout the year.  Now, it is just a pond where we were now going to learn a little mindfulness, and paint with watercolors.  Mr. Pope and Mrs. Poll proved why they’re science teachers and not art teachers.  The talent of Lorelei, Jaden, and Aniyah though was impressive.

Once our mindful morning was complete, it was time to get to work.  We got changed into our bathing suits and hiked down to one of the few sand beaches on the island for seine netting.  This was definitely a group effort.  Seine netting requires a group to spread out a net in shallow water, and then carefully close it in a circle to capture anything we can. The purpose is to then examine any flora and fauna. We did not catch much, but did catch a couple green crabs and some fish that borrow in the sand.



Those fish were fine.  But the green crabs are an invasive species. The Gulf of Maine is the fastest warming body of water in the world.  Because of this, the green crab has been able to migrate north.  When the temperature is just right, they can release over 200,000 eggs.  These crabs then out compete the native rock crabs.  Hurricane Island is currently researching using green crabs as lobster bait to help address the problem.



After seine netting, we went back to learn about scallops and scallop farming.  Yes, scallops can be farmed.  There is something to be said about fresh scallops.  Not the scallops you get in Giant, fresh scallops, scallops that you just take the stomach off and eat.  Scallops are filter feeders so they are really good for water quality.  Once they reproduce by broadcast spanning, releasing their gametes into the water and hoping for the best, offspring are caught in spat bags.  Hurricane staff then have to sort through the spat bags to find young scallops.  Any that are found are raised to adulthood and harvested.  Scallop farming is VERY sustainable, but because so much is left to chance, can be difficult.  Hurricane does work with a local scallop farmer who is very successful.

“Took a shower outdoors, it was horrible.” - Michael

Lunch was served and we had our first shower day.  Hurricane Island supplies all of its own water from the quarry.  Solar water heaters provide hot water.  Obviously, there is a very limited supply of water and even more hot water.  So, island residents cannot shower every day and are limited to five minute showers.  It does teach you how to mindful about water usage and how much we waste here at home.


Showering was a choice and not all of us chose to shower in the bath house.  Joseph, Khurram, Mrs. Poll, and Mr. Pope decided to take a dip into the ocean.  First we had to pass the swim test, just swimming the length of the dock, and then we could jump off the pier.  When you jump in the Gulf of Maine, it does not feel like it is the fastest warming body of water in the world.  The water temperature was around 50 degrees, but should be 47-48.  It was cold, and really only bearable for a couple minutes, but fun nonetheless.

Being nice and clean, we spent the afternoon getting our hands dirty.  First was lobstering with Kyle.  Kyle and our boat driver Silas took us out to see if we caught any lobsters.  It can be tricky, first you have to hook the trap, bring up the trap, check the sex, mark if necessary, measure for size, and band.  Lobstering is one of Maine’s largest industries and I’m sure a favorite food of many readers.  Once you hook and bring the trap up onto the boat, you have to check the sex of the lobsters.  You can do this in one of two ways, either see if their underside is covered in eggs or if their first two legs are feathery.  Both of these indicate the animal is a female.


If you do find a female, you have to check and see if their tails are notched to show other lobstermen she’s a female.  If you have a female, she has to go back.  That’s right, all lobsters you eat are male.  Briannalynn and Jaden were lucky, they caught an egg covered female and a male big enough to keep.  By the end we managed to catch two lobsters we could keep.



When all the traps were checked it was time to head home, fortunately the dock was full when we got back, so we got a little boat ride.  During our ride, we got to learn some coastal navigation.  Thanks to the Heron’s Neck Lighthouse, Jaden and Aniyah were able to find our location.


And it was a good thing too, because had a huge highlight of the trip when Lorelei spotted a small colony of grey seals resting on one of the islands nearby!!!  So that we didn’t scare them, Silas slowed the boat.  It was difficult to keep from yelling in excitement, especially when there was one in the water periscoping on the other side of the boat.  Yes, we saw seals in the wild.


With our hands dirty from lobstering, it was time to get our hands dirty in the garden.  We met up with Libby, the head gardener who showed us how she grows food on the island.  While she does not grow ALL of the food consumed, she does test out different agriculture methods.  Libby has a challenge ahead of her.  During the quarrying days, Hurricane Island was stripped bear of plants and soil, down to the granite.  Since then, the island has been recovering and now is mostly covered in vegetation.  However, Libbys problem is that the soil is very shallow, so she has to make it by composting. All of the food waste produced on the island is composted.  After each meal, island residents have to separate leftover food into vegetable matter and animal matter.  Both are composted, but the animal matter requires a separate system.  We were instructed in how soil systems work, making soil by composting and then spreading it to be able to support vegetation, and how ALL of our food comes from soil.

            The day ended with an attempt to see bioluminescent plankton.  So we all headed down to the water in the hopes of seeing a true spectacle of nature.  Unfortunately it was not to be.  However, in Mr. Pope’s zeal to show everyone the periwinkles, small algae eating snails, he slipped on the wet granite, landing flat on his back unleashing a roar of laughter from all who witnessed it.  The bioluminescence would have to wait.