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"Ocean Doctor" stops in Jackson

By Keith Ruscitti • TOMS RIVER BUREAU • May 22, 2009

JACKSON — Few people in the world have visited ocean depths of 2000 feet.


One of those people, environmental scientist David E. Guggenheim — the "Ocean Doctor" — was on hand at Jackson Liberty High School on Friday morning to give two video presentations highlighting some of his adventures to students from the district.

It was part of the Philadelphia native's "50 Years-50 States-50 Speeches expedition" designed to educate students on ocean and environmental issues. The cross-country journey began on Oct. 6, 2008 — when Guggenheim celebrated his 50th birthday.

Jackson Liberty High School was his ninth stop on the tour and his only appearance in the state this year. Students from Jackson Memorial High School and the district's middle schools were also bused over to witness the presentation.

One of Guggenheim's messages is to call for more exploration of the seas.

"We literally know more about the back of the moon than we do about the oceans," Guggenheim said.

To highlight this point, Guggenheim noted that its been nearly 50 years since The Trieste bathyscaphe — driven by famed oceanographer Jacques Piccard and U.S. Navy Lt. Don Walsh — scanned the bottom of the Marianas Trench, the deepest part of any ocean on the planet.

The Marianas Trench is in the northern Pacific Ocean and is seven miles down or almost 36,000-feet at its deepest point. That voyage occurred in 1960.

"And the sad part about that story is we haven't been back," said Guggenheim.

That is one of the missions of Guggenheim's cross-country journey — to educate and make oceanography interesting.

"When I was a kid growing up, the profession that was most popular among kids was an astronaut," said Guggenheim, about his 1960s upbringing. "But number two on the list was a scientist. That's not the case today."

Guggenheim presented extensive video of some of his excursions to the deepest, darkest portions of the seas. His message was well-received by students in attendance.

"The point that amazed me was how little we know about the oceans," said Jacquelyne Cherko, a senior at Jackson Liberty. "It's hard to believe that we have only explored about five percent of the ocean."

Other students, such as Ahmed Kandil, enjoyed the footage of life near the bottom of the ocean floor.

"I thought it was pretty cool that fish can actually live that far down in the water," said Kandil. "There is no light down there."

Another aspect of Guggenheim's lecture that struck a chord was the strain on natural resources because of the trawling method of commercial fishing and the adverse effect fertilizer has on the various estuaries.

"I had no clue we were running out of fish," said Mark Vazquez, a senior, who will study biochemistry at Ursinus College, Pa., next year. "It's something you don't think about but should be taught. It's a very important (topic)."

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