Tag Archives: San Francisco

AGU Poster Presentation

The last day of the American Geophysical Union fall meeting ended up being the day on which I presented my research poster. Here’s a link to my poster if you are interested: AGU poster. Audrey and I headed down to the Moscone Center near Union Square early Friday morning to put up our posters in the poster hall. Throughout the morning we listened to numerous lectures (two of which were given by our supervisors from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution) and stood by our posters talking to people who were interested in our research. One thing I learned about conducting research is that once you start a project you are never really finished….It spawns other topics and new directions in the future. After a hectic morning, Audrey, Michelle and I, along with our university teachers and WHOI supervisors, enjoyed lunch at Lefty O’Doul’s sports bar and caught up on our experiences from the past week. All in all it was a busy day and week, but it was a very rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Later that afternoon we headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Bellingham but not before Audrey and I did some luggage shuffling since the weight restrictions on baggage changed from 50 to 40lbs. I have a strong feeling that staying in a hotel only two blocks away from the Ghiradelli chocolate shop helped put my suitcase over the limit, haha. After being away from home for fourteen out of the past seventeen weeks, I must say that it feels good to be back home among family and friends. I am, however, nonetheless thankful for the fantastic experiences I have been blessed with over the past few months.

Tagged , ,

Alcatraz and the AGU

One of the main tourist attractions in San Francisco is Alcatraz Island. Best known for being home to Alcatraz, the infamous federal penitentiary, the island was originally the site of the first US-built fort and lighthouse on the West Coast. The 22-acre island is located 2.4km off the coast in San Francisco Bay. Often referred to as “The Rock”, we nicknamed the prison Azkaban. The federal prison was in operation from 1934 to 1963 and was home to numerous notorious American criminals, the most infamous being Al Capone. In total there were fourteen escape attempts made by 29 men. It is said that no successful escapes were made; although, five men were presumed drowned but remain unaccounted for.

The solemn history of Alcatraz seems to permeate every part of the island, and having the opportunity to view it first-hand is quite overwhelming. We took a fifteen minute ferry ride to the island and spent a couple hours walking around. As we walked through the cell house, dining hall, library, recreation yard and parade grounds, it was difficult not to feel impacted by the events that occurred there and the people that lived there. Each person was given an audio headset which guided them through the buildings on the island. The intensity of the experience was heightened as the narrators were the actual officers and prisoners who lived on the island. We were taken past the cells where escape attempts occurred. Holes dug by metal spoons in the back cell walls still remained. Bullet holes scarred doors and grenade impact marks marred the floors….Evidence of lives lost over the years.

After spending a while touring the buildings, we ended the excursion by walking through the island gardens. Originally planted by those living on the island while it was a US fort, the gardens were maintained by prison guard families. Once the island closed, the gardens became overgrown and acted as nesting areas for different birds. These bird habitats are being maintained and the gardens are presently being restored. This part of the island stands in stark contrast to the imposing cement structures that make up the prison. Throughout the year, hummingbirds, cormorants and herons mingle amongst succulents, geraniums, roses, and sweet peas. It was a great way to end our tour on the island, tempering the harsh reality that is Alcatraz.

In the afternoon we spent time at the AGU browsing through rows upon rows of posters covering topics from hydrology to education to seismology. It was astounding to see how many people are doing research on topics that vary as much as the people themselves! After browsing through the poster hall, Audrey and I spent a couple hours listening to lectures. We ended the day with one of our favourite things to do: a cable car ride through town.

Tagged , , , ,

Sights in Sunny San Francisco

Two must-see sights in San Francisco are the Crookedest Street and Golden Gate Bridge. We ended up taking a cable car to get to the crookedest street in the world. Eight sharp turns and red brick compose this street which was built in 1922. The main reason for designing the street as such was because vehicles at the time were not made to handle such a steep grade, and adding the switchbacks reduces the grade. Be warned, it is a little bit of a climb to reach the street from either direction….We had to walk two blocks uphill from the cable car stop, and we were definitely feeling it! In between all the switchbacks are flower beds which I’m certain are spectacular in the Spring and Summer when all the flowers are in bloom. It was entertaining to watch everyone in cars driving down the street at a snail’s pace. All the drivers looked cautious and concerned while every person in the passenger seat had their cell phone up to record the trip on camera.

After a full day of seeing sights and eating lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp at Fisherman’s Wharf, we topped the day off with a spur of the moment trip to the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset. This iconic bridge is a suspension bridge which spans the Golden Gate strait linking San Francisco Bay with the Pacific Ocean. Construction of the 8,981 foot bridge began in 1933 and ended in 1937 costing $35 million. Until 1964 it was ranked as the longest suspension bridge. We took the city bus directly to a viewing area and enjoyed the picturesque view as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Walking onto the bridge also gives you a great view of the city and surrounding area. But nothing beats seeing the Golden Gate Bridge cloaked in golden light!

Tagged , , ,

Let the AGU Meeting Begin…

We explored the Moscone Center where the American Geophysical Union 2013 Fall Meeting is being held this week. Audrey and I were a little overwhelmed with the size of the center as it is spread out over several blocks in numerous buildings with several floors each. We got a little (or a lot) lost along the way. What I was also excited about was that I was able to pick up a t-shirt from the AGU marketplace which had my winning design on the front! The sales of these t-shirts at the AGU meeting raises money for the student AGU travel grant fund. I entered the t-shirt design contest this past summer on a whim with only a few days left in the competition. After being narrowed down by judges at the AGU, it went to a Facebook vote. Thanks to all of you who voted! My original design was for the design to be printed on a white background so as to see the graphics more clearly; however, they printed it on a grey shirt (not my first choice…but that is just my perfectionist control-freak side showing through, haha). I picked up my t-shirt from the AGU marketplace which was located in the Exhibit Hall where the Icebreaker reception was being held Monday evening. Rows and rows of booths lined the vast room providing information on companies, new products, graduate schools, ongoing research, publications and so much more. The majority of them were also handing out freebies.  The Dutch roots in me took hold, and we came back with a goodie bag of posters, pens, puzzles and pamphlets.

We also had our first experience riding the San Francisco cable cars, and it was a great one! The smell of hot metal, the rhythmic clunking of the wheels, the wind blowing through your hair, the up and down of endless hills, and the blurry images of passing buildings all combine to make it my ideal kind of transportation to see the city. There is something so much more culturally immersive about riding in a cable car compared to a public bus. We also had a chance to ride a cable car at night on our why back from the Icebreaker reception. There was a magical feel about the ride as the streets were lined with twinkling Christmas lights and the energy of downtown was palpable.

Tagged , ,

San Francisco: The City by the Bay

Only three weeks after arriving home from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), the travel bug has beckoned me down the west coast to the city of San Francisco. Audrey, Michelle and I are travelling with Sharon and Steve (our university teachers) and attending the American Geophysical Union 2013 Fall Meeting. We are presenting our posters composed out of the research we conducted at WHOI.

We flew out of Bellingham airport Saturday morning leaving behind unseasonably cold -15 degree Celsius weather. We arrived at Oakland airport an hour and a half later and were welcomed by 9 degree weather. It didn’t sound too warm for sunny California, but I’ll definitely take it! Since the meeting does not officially start until Monday, we had the weekend to explore parts of the city. Once we settled into our hotel located at Fisherman’s Wharf, we decided to check out the Wharf as well as Pier 39. Loads of street entertainers and performers lined the docks and the shops were bustling with tourists.

This morning began with a trip to Ghiradelli Square where we were literally like kids in a candy shop. Shelves and shelves of chocolates lined the walls of the Ghiradelli market. I must admit that we didn’t survive the allure of a room full of chocolate. Audrey and I gave in just a little or maybe a lot.

After purchasing our week-long transit pass, Audrey and I made our way across town to the Palace of Fine Arts. I saw a photograph on the internet of the site and just knew I wanted to visit it! The Palace of Fine Arts was designed by Bernard Maybeck and built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. As it was intended only as a temporary structure for the duration of the exposition, it needed to be rebuilt to ensure its permanence (which occurred in 1965). The integration of architecture and nature is one of the palace’s most notable features. The natural elements tend to soften the buildings hard edges. The style of architecture made it feel as if we were transported to a far-off place in Europe. It was fun place to relax and explore away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

We perused our way through Chinatown on our way to Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill. Unfortunately we found out that Coit Tower is closed until Spring 2014 due to ongoing construction. With plans changed, we diverted to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park on Hyde Street Pier. We walked along the pier and passed historic ships including the Balclutha and CA Thayer. It was on this pier that I was approached by a student who was interviewing people around Fisherman’s Wharf for a school project. He asked me several questions and videotaped my answers regarding the recent granting of a little boy’s wish to be Batkid. You might have heard about the story as it was on the news where the Make a Wish Foundation turned San Francisco into Gotham City. I was quite taken off guard and am pretty sure that I forgot everything I said just as soon as the words left my mouth. Audrey was lucky and escaped the snare of the video camera, haha.

In our attempt to follow signs to Fort Mason, Audrey and I made our way along the Municipal Pier where we were bombarded by icy winds and accompanied by countless seagulls perched on railings. We continued on along the shore and made a second (fruitless) attempt to find Fort Mason. We made the assumption that we could see the roof of the Fort, but we really had no idea. We were, however, rewarded with beautiful golden light as the sun was beginning to set over the Bay. I must say that the location of our hotel just a block away from Fisherman’s Wharf makes it the ideal location for sightseeing away from the bustling downtown area.

Tagged , , , , ,