# Meeting Paul | Swinburne

Yesterday morning, we didn’t quite know what was in store for us. Working towards better utilizing our weekends and trying to visit the lesser known areas of New York; Meena found a great deal for a four hour cruise on Groupon. We were supposed to reach Riis Landing in Queens by 02:30pm. A snow storm was predicted later in the day and we weren’t quite sure if the cruise would happen. However with no change in plans reported from the organizers, we left home for the 1.5hr commute to Riis.

But for a couple of missed connections, we were well in time for the cruise. On the way and just before we left Riss landing, we happened to meet quite a few interesting folks from Mercy’s college. Only later would we know that this particular cruise was possible because this online cohort of the teachers college was meeting for an assignment to study the water quality and the American Princess, the team that organizes these tours in the Atlantic was facilitating their work.

The weather is pretty good with a faint hint of a looming snow shower and a teasing wind. We leave just about in time from Riss Landing and Paul – the lead naturalist on the American Princess clearly explains the possible sightings we may have for the day. In about half an hour we reach Swinburne Island and the American Princess comes to a standstill just about 30ft from the man made island.  Right by the edge of the island we see a colony of seals bobbing around. Possibly sensing human presence around, they dive into the waters and swim at a safe distance. It truly was a mesmerizing sight to watch such a huge colony right in New York’s backyard. After a good 3o minute halt the captain navigates closer to breezy point and we have a decent sighting of a snowy owl perching on the dunes.

Here’s a short video of the seals:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u-rk5FDUlOQ&feature=youtu.be]

While the American Princess, gets us back to shore I grab a quick moment with Paul to discuss his work. Paul has been a curator in the New York and New England aquariums for the past 40 years. Though currently retired, his latest project is to record and keep track of the seals, dolphins and whales in NY waters with the help of the Maritime center at Kingsborough community college. It’s probably a bit too early to distinctly say this, however preliminary data that the team’s collected so far indicates that seals have been increasingly migrating to the Swinburne Island over the last few years. As with every other project, financial constraints regulate the number of trips his team can make to the Island and it is only with commercial partnerships such as the current one with American Princess, it is possible for them to truly pursue their tasks.  It was an absolute honour to meet someone just so involved in what he truly cherishes doing and it is chance encounters such as this, I believe is what truly defines our experiences and I eagerly look forward to being more engaged with the work they’re doing.

If you happen to be around here in the city, Irrespective of whether you find a connect with seals or marine life; this is one tour you should definitely make. Lookout for those Groupons or just reach out to Paul!

On another note, We found this idol by the banks. Wonder how and where this popped out from!