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Science Friday on the water

Joshua Siechen, 6, talks to Captain Rual Lee on the Blue Heron. (Photos by Kier Zimmerman)1 / 2
The Blue Heron is docked near the Great Lakes Aquarium during a Science Friday event in Duluth. (Photo by Clint Austin, Duluth News Tribune)2 / 2

Joshua Siechen, 6, stepped up to the helm of the Blue Heron, University of Minnesota Duluth’s scientific research boat, and asked Captain Rual Lee a question.

“What’s the red rope for on the front of the boat?” Siechen said.

Lee assured the young boat enthusiast that it was for safety, so no one would fall off. Later however, he told the Budgeteer that the rope was there to stop people from doing the “king of the world” scene from “Titanic,” something that drives the ship’s crew mad.

“People who weren’t even born at the time of that movie do it all the time,” Lee said.

Science Friday, a program by the Large Lakes Observatory and UMD, is an event to welcome the public aboard the scientific research vessel and experience what the sailors and scientists see on a regular basis.

“Most people love being on a boat,” said Lisa Sundberg, the Blue Heron’s steward and only female crew member. “It’s a unique experience. A lot of people have never been in a boat on Lake Superior.”

Though the experience of being on a boat is exciting, the program is meant to be educational.

“There’s less and less interest in science,” Aaron Lingwall, the Blue Heron’s Marine tech. “We cover chemistry, biology, a lot of science. I want young people to see how much you can do with science.”

Lake Superior is the focus of the Blue Heron’s research.

“Lake Superior is a good recorder of large scale issues,” Lingwall said. “It’s more of a global indicator than a backyard pond. We work with Large Lakes Observatory, which is global, so we can compare with East Africa, Asia and elsewhere.”

Science Friday was put in place to inform the public about the discoveries being made in their own backyard.

“I think this is a great idea for the public to come down and understand what we do as a research boat,” Lee said. “Understanding what a resource this great lake is, right outside of our door, is huge. We know very little about large bodies of fresh water. We need fresh water. We need to understand what’s going on out there.”

Though the public knowledge is important, Lee and the other crew grasp this opportunity as well.

“We haul scientists around for 90 days or so,” Lee said. “We hardly get an opportunity to hear what they’re really doing and learn about their science.”

Science Friday will continue into the summer and fall. The boat will be parked outside the Great Lakes Aquarium. These family-friendly events are free.


WHAT: Science Friday

WHERE: On the Blue Heron docked behind the Great Lakes Aquarium

WHEN: Aug. 22 and Sept. 26, 12:30-4:30 p.m.