Boston, Attleboro, and the Deep sea

The recent welcome of Attleboro H.S. has me reflecting on time spent in Boston as a graduate student. Boston is a wonderful town with great latke, Guinness, and tobaccionist. In the words of Fred Allen

“I have just returned from Boston. It is the only sane thing to do if you find yourself up there.”

Boston also provides numerous opportunities to increase your deep-sea knowledge. The MIT Museum currently is running an exhibit in the Hart Nautical Gallery titled Deep Frontiers: Ocean Engineering at MIT. The exhibits includes multimedia and several autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) for you to explore. I wouldn’t miss the ship model exhibit either! The Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard not only has a coelacanth but Alexander Agassiz was the MCZ’s second director. Louis Agassiz’s the founder of the MCZ, died and the helm was turned over to his son in 1873 who held the position until 1904. Louis is largely responsible for the modern concept of a museum having a double role of both public outreach and research. Interestingly, Louis was opposed to the recently proposed ideas of Darwin and Wallace, a view his son did not share. Alexander, bolstered by doctor’s orders to stay away from Boston winters, began a series of winter scientific trips. These winter trips lead to 30 years of oceanic expeditions including the voyages on U.S. Coastal Survey Steamer Blake in the Carribean and the Albatross in the Pacific. Agassiz was particularly interested in two questions: 1) is there life in the intermediate depths, and 2) is the fauna of the Pacific in any way related to the creatures he collected from the Caribbean abyss? Much of the original deep-sea collections from these trips are still housed at the MCZ.

Of course on finding yourself in Boston, grab the commuter rail at South Station and head to the Cape for trip to WHOI. If you’re extremely lucky you may catch a view of the Alvin. Though more likely the Alvin will be in use at sea. Before you head out of South Station, walk down Atlantic Avenue to one of my absolutely favorite places in the entire city, the Lannon Ship Model Gallery. You can round out your day in the common reflecting on how hydrothermal vents are more common than pigeons in Boston.

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (, a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.