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Hollin Meadows Students Ask Questions to Educators at Sea

Hollin Meadows science teacher Jason Pittman is a crew member on the E/V Nautilus.

Yes, the E/V Nautilus, currently sailing off the southern coast of Cyprus, has a freezer full of ice cream bars.

About 100 students from were delighted by these facts and others about the ship during a live question-and-answer broadcast Thursday with Hollin Meadows science teacher Jason Pittman, who is on board the ship as part of the Educators at Sea program, and oceanographer Bob Ballard, most noted for his discovery of the Titanic in 1985.

Crew members also see sharks daily and pop popcorn during night watches, the students learned. The Educators at Sea as Part of 2012 Nautilus Exploration Program, which offers teachers the opportunity to explore the geology, biology, archaeology and chemistry of the Black and the Mediterranean seas.

“I love discovery, but I know the hard work that has to go into it,” Ballard told Hollin Meadows students via teleconference. “Were been looking at a lot of mud. We’ve been looking at a lot of mud -- and you have to pay your dues. To do something good and important shouldn’t come easy. You need to earn it. And we’re earning it, standing our watches, looking at mud for days and days and days, then then there’s the discovery.

“It’s all about understanding life and that if you want to accomplish something in life, and if you want to accomplish something important in life, you’re going to have to put a lot of energy into it.”

Pittman told students the E/V Nautilus is a 212-foot long ship with two remotely operated vehicles, the Argus and the Hercules. Both are equipped with cameras, among other special gear.

“Science is incredibly fun aboard the Nautilus, and I think students at Hollin Meadows know that science is a lot of fun,” Pittman said.

A half dozen lucky students getting a chance to ask a question via satellite phone to the explorers. What is life like on the ship? Busy, the scientists answered. Pittman described how he took shifts watching the cameras’ discoveries and answering questions from students and fans.

Another student asked, “What do you eat on the ship?” Ballard said the day before they dined on shrimp and lamb sausage with french fries and salads. And the ice cream and popcorn, of course.

Another question: “Are you seeing any sharks?” Ballard said the scientists see them every day.

“They haven’t bit us yet,” he said. “They’re probably a little afraid of us, because we’re a pretty big monster they’ve never seen before, with bg lights and it sort of blinds them.”

The crew has also seen what they believe is an ancient fossilized whale on the ocean floor.

Students also asked about shipwrecks. The crew recently found one they think is from the time of Alexander the Great.

Another student wanted to know about what fish crew members have seen. Plenty, Pittman and Ballard answered, and photos of fish and sharks on the photo gallery on the program website.

Hollin Meadows Principal Jon Gates said the interactive broadcast was designed to help inspire students to think about their future.

“If there is a future scientist in this room, someone who’s looking at this and thinking, like Dr. Ballard said, ‘You can do this,’” Gates said. “This is something that you can grow up to do. Have a goal. Have a passion. That type of thing. So someone sitting in this room today could be the next scientist, 20, 30 years from now, exploring oceans, exploring something, so iI think to inspire kids is what this is all about."

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